Saturday, June 16, 2018

On Fathers Day


This is Fathers Day. I've published these photographs, and the thoughts that go with them, a couple of times before this. Can't think of a better time to do so again.


My Dad died 24 years ago. He was 62 years old (just one year older than I am now, which is somewhat sobering.)

At the age of 56, My Dad suffered a heart attack while he was in the hospital for something else. The doctors who examined him determined that he had had multiple previous attacks, but had probably passed them off as an upset stomach or perhaps a muscle spasm. Shortly after this diagnosis, he underwent triple-bypass surgery.

He was never quite the same afterwards. That isn’t to say he never had any good days again, or that he never laughed, but the bad days far outnumbered the good, and the laughs were less numerous than they had been before.

The main problem was this: before the surgery he carried an inner sense of utter invincibility. He had been a boxer earlier in life, so he feared few men when it came to physical encounters. He served in the navy during the Korean conflict, so had discipline and grace under fire. He had briefly attended seminary, so had a rock-solid belief in God. He also had innate inherited intelligence. He wasn’t some pug with a cauliflower ear, ducking imaginary flocks of birds. He was erudite, had a great memory for jokes, and trained his somewhat pudgy fingers to do amazing things with cards. He also trained himself to become a very decent amateur chef. So, he was extremely independent, with a belief that he could accomplish almost anything to which he set his mind. He asked others for help on occasion, but he always knew that, when push came to shove, he could do it himself if need be.

After the surgery? He was as weak as a kitten. He became exhausted from a walk around the block. Just getting dressed was a chore. He did almost no exercise because he feared another attack. As a result of the no exercise - and by not giving more than a cursory nod to changing his diet - his heart went from bad to worse. He was regularly in the hospital with congestive heart failure.

He had almost always been a bit overweight during the years that I knew him, but heavily muscled. As time passed following the heart surgery, his weight went up and he lost muscle mass. I recall trying to make him feel better, on a visit to his house in New Hampshire, by giving him a nice backrub. I was shocked when I felt bone under my fingers where once there had been thick slabs of muscle.

Before I go on, I’d like to make sure that you know My Dad wasn’t some pitiful character. He had a pretty rich life, overall. He traveled to exotic places, made love to beautiful women, ate high off the hog, and got to realize more dreams than most. One of his favorite expressions, usually spoken about some poor unfortunate soul who never even had a chance to realize his dreams, was “He never got a kick at the cat.” Well, My Dad had enough kicks at the cat to cost it all nine lives and then move on to another cat altogether. This is the anniversary of his death, however, so despite the abundance of good times, that’s what I need to get to.

On the day he died, he was in the hospital - again. I had taken the day off from work, and I planned on driving from Boston up to Plymouth, New Hampshire, where the hospital was, and visit with him. Then I’d go to his house in Thornton, about 15 miles up the road, to mow the lawn and do a couple of other housekeeping chores. I was going to get an early start, perhaps 6am or so, to avoid traffic and to give myself plenty of time.

At about 4am, our phone rang. It was My Dad. He told me that he wasn’t feeling too good, that the doctors were going to have him doing some tests, and that I should just enjoy my day off and not make the ride, since we wouldn’t be able to spend much time together. I asked him if he was sure about it. He said that he was. I told him I loved him, he said that he loved me, and I left it that I’d call him the next day, or maybe the day after, to re-schedule a visit.

At about 8am, the phone rang again. It was My Dad’s primary physician, calling to tell me that he was dead.

If I had taken the ride up there as scheduled, I would have arrived at about 8:30 or 9:00. He would have already passed. And there I would have been, alone in Plymouth, crying. In addition, MY WIFE would have gotten that hideous phone call and then would have had to wait in dread to pass the news on to me. Instead, I was home and MY WIFE hugged me as the tears came. MY WIFE gave me that hug, God bless her, but being home to receive it was My Dad’s last gift to me.

He died on Thursday, June 16th, 1994. His wake was on the following Sunday.

It was Father’s Day.

These are some pictures of My Dad, from infancy up to the year of his passing. I hope you enjoy them. If your own father is still living, even if it’s a few days before or after Father’s Day, do yourself a favor. Give him a call. If he's near you, and he likes such things, give him a nice backrub. I guarantee you won’t be sorry. Ask anyone whose Dad is no longer around. Being sorry only happens if, while you have the chance, you don’t take advantage of the opportunity.


My Dad, with his Mom & Dad.



With his cousins, Patty & Dorothy.



Confirmation, probably at Saint Andrew's in Jamaica Plain, the neighborhood of Boston where he grew up.



Wedding to My Mom, 1955.



With Democratic presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, during My Dad's run for Congress, 1956.




I'm in this picture from early 1957, but you can't see me. I'm hiding in my Mom's stomach.




Years after his death, I bought the same tie My Dad is wearing in this photo, independent of knowing My Dad had once owned its twin. The pattern is the same as used in dress kilts for the MacPherson clan of Scotland. That was his mother's (My Grandmother's) maiden name. Our family has since found out she was adopted by the MacPhersons, so that blows my Scottish heritage out of the water.


Me, My Grandmother Sullivan (MacPherson), My Dad - Hialeah Race Track, Florida.
I was such a snazzy dresser in those days.



With My Dad in Monaco.



With Mom and Dad in Amsterdam.



My Dad with My Grandfather Sullivan, London.




The realization of a lifelong dream. My Dad's thoroughbred race horse, More Now, winner of the first race on April 15th, 1971, at Suffolk Downs, East Boston, Massachusetts.
He owned a minority share in the horse. It was the only horse he ever owned any part of, although he had money invested in many horses throughout the years...

He and My Mom were divorced about a year later. Not the only factor, I'm sure.



My Dad was Tony Soprano before Tony Soprano.
Note the now mostly-defunct brands of beer - Schlitz and Schaefer. The Schaefer would be My Dad's.
He wasn't much of a drinker, but when he did drink it was Schaefer
 ("The one beer to have, when you're having more than one", according to their jingle.)



One of My Dad's lovely culinary creations. He crafted this bird from an apple, using his Swiss Army knife, while on an airplane. Nowadays, you could get arrested for such a thing.



Always a well-dressed man.
He took many cruises in his later years. No doubt, this was just prior to one of them.



On one of his many trips to Singapore.
He worked for Singapore Airlines, so attended many meetings there.
It was a long haul to go to a meeting.



My Dad and I in Thailand. I'd say circa 1977, from the clothes and my skinniness.



Hong Kong, same trip as above. I was so skinny then I wore my wristwatch halfway up my arm.



My Dad in Teheran, Iran, prior to the Shah being deposed and Khomeini coming into power.



As I said, always a well-dressed man. Not his car. He looks right at home with it, though, doesn't he?



In the press box at Suffolk Downs.
Note the carrot/pepper palm trees on the table, which were no doubt his creation.
Everybody else in this photo worked there, either for the track or as newspaper reporters.
My Dad, on the other hand, just liked to hang out there and the professional handicappers considered him their equal. He really was quite good.



With his friend, Sidney Yeung, on the occasion of their joint 55th birthday party.



My Dad's street sign. He petitioned the town of Thornton to have the name of his dirt road in New Hampshire changed. They said OK, as long as he had a sign made. He did, and there it is.
He was mighty proud of it.
After his death, the bastards changed the street name back and took down the sign. I wish I had it. So far as I know, it was just taken to the dump. Fuck Thornton, New Hampshire.


*****************************************************************

This is what I said to My Dad every night I was in the same house with him at bedtime. It was said as it is written here, without what would seem to be some necessary punctuation; no pauses, like a magical incantation. I haven’t said it to him in 24 years, but here again, for good measure.

Good night God bless you.


Won't You Be My Neighbor?





MY WIFE and I just got home from watching the new documentary about Fred Rogers, Won't You Be My Neighbor?

It was magnificent.

Lots of good background about Mister Rogers, with interesting commentary from family members, co-workers and others. Many tears were shed in the theater, including quite a few from my eyes. I highly recommend seeing this movie.

Here is a nuanced review of the film.

Since Fred is "hot" right now, here are some thoughts I wrote concerning him a few years back, with a few slight edits to reflect the current day.

************************************************

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 60 years now.

He planned on becoming 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 Rogers' Neighborhood. It was - and remains, if you are lucky enough to find it still airing in your vicinity - 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 believe Fred Rogers was 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 was 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 20-some pages of printout material concerning the show, as well as an autographed photo personally inscribed to both MY WIFE and me (as seen at top of this page. I had told him that we both watched the show, even though we had no children. This was the truth. MY WIFE and I found the show 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.

Seeing this new movie has re-energized my own sense concerning what a Christian should do, what actions he or she should take. I like to think I might try harder 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 - heck, just a few minutes after leaving the theater, I was cursing out another driver on the way home. I'm ashamed of that. - but I hope I’ll hold on tighter to some of the lessons that Mister Rogers has taught me, even at this advanced age for childhood.

(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.)

Anyway, please see the movie. It is a beautiful thing. Bring tissues.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Sunday, June 03, 2018

Keep Your Hat On


We may end up miles from here.

(That's the punch line to some joke or another, but I can't remember the set-up. I recall it as being a dirty joke, so it's probably just as well I don't remember it all.)

This is an exercise in... well, I'm not quite sure. I'll start with an explanation of sorts.

I've become somewhat disenchanted with writing. Since losing my spot as a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of the Boston Herald - see HERE for a partial explanation of that situation, although since then I was published some 9 or 10 times more, and paid, and also had some pieces published elsewhere - Anyway, I just plain don't have an urge to subject myself to the rejection notices, at least for a while. So, what to do?

This space has always been a safe place wherein to write whatever in hell I feel like writing. The rejections are rare. So, I'm going to just let my train of thought chug along until it derails. I'm going to write about the first things that pop into my mind at any given moment, then write about whatever that might suggest to me, then another thing that may or may not interest anyone but me, and so on.

It may go on for months, years, until I die or it may peter out any moment. The moment it becomes uninteresting to me (to you, that may occur sooner) I will stop. As soon as I find myself feeling that it's a chore, no more.

Today, that moment has come. Tomorrow, or the next day, or who knows when, I'll jump in again. In other words, this blog may become what it once was; a place of entertainment, rather than someplace to flog what I've written elsewhere for money. We'll see.

If you bear with me, you may like it. Who knows? Could be an utter waste of your time, though.

Soon, with more better stuff, used to be my sign-off because I usually believed that to be the case. Time will tell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Mom!


May 16th, which may be the date as you read this, is My Mom's 85th birthday. I hate to think how old that makes me. I must be at least 28 by now; maybe even 29 or 30. I''ll ask My Mom when I see her this weekend.



This is a rerun, of course. You faithful readers have seen it 5 or 6 times already. If you're new here, however, ignore those previous two sentences. It's all brand new and spiffy and surprisingly delightful! Anyway, whether you've seen it before or not, I expect you to read every word of it. It's My Mom's birthday, damn it, and it's the least you can do.




Being the crummy son that I am (despite being a very sharp dresser, as seen above) this is pretty much the best present she will be getting, although there will be dinner (and she asked for donations to St. Jude, so if you want to help, go here - https://www.facebook.com/donate/1353361448129323/1353361451462656/.) However, one of the reasons I adore My Mother is because she's OK with my seeming ingratitude. And, if she is, I don't expect any guff from the likes of you.

Cripes, I'm really not being very nice to you. You probably like me a lot less than you did when you first got here. Oh, well. My Mother loves me. And that's the point of this.

No, wait. The point is that I love My Mother. Even if I don't make it readily apparent (Ha! A parent!) by doing anything more than re-printing the same damned tribute to her that I've published several times before, except I threw in a few different photos this time and also polished up this hideous introduction. Happy Birthday, Mom! With each passing year, it becomes more obvious why I'm an only child, and the world thanks you!




My Mom always goes out of her way to have eclairs for me on my birthday. Meanwhile, I... Did I mention she always has eclairs for me on my birthday? Yes, she does. Someday, I'll let her eat one.




My Mom and My Stepfather, Bill, both getting stoned, as they usually did. No, no, no. This was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding of MY WIFE and myself. Knowing the two of us, they had every good reason to get soused, but they didn't. Bill was a wonderful man and I miss him dearly.




My Mom, showing off the acting skills that have won her numerous Tonys, Emmys, and Bills. Hah! She was married to two guys named Bill, see? It's like I almost made a joke there, if any of you knew. I won't embarrass My Mom by talking about the Tonys, and the less said about the Emmys, the better.





That's My Mom on the left. I wasn't born yet.


I'll shut up now. Here's the stuff I wrote a few years ago and which I'm trotting out here again.



[My Mother, left, and her sister, Jeanne, Easter 1950]



You know how some people have a birthday on or around Christmas and it kind of gets lost? It just sort of gets melded into the larger holiday and that person gets a little cheated out of two special days? My Mom's birthday is like that. She was born on May 16th, so her birthday always falls within a couple days of Mothers Day. As a result, some people believe she gets the short end of things from me.

However, I'll tell you that my mother isn't all that worried about it. A shallow person she is not. She is very intelligent and she understands the situation. This is not to say that she wouldn't want two parties or two bunches of gifts or two of whatever; everybody likes twice as much good stuff if they can get it. But she understands. And I love her all the more for understanding that I love her just as much, even though I sometimes may not show her how much twice in the same week.

This is my birthday card to my mother. You may or may not "get" everything I write here, but she will and that's what matters. These are mainly just short fond memories of times I treasure; times I had with my mother and things we did together. The greater parts of them are from my childhood. So are the pictures, which look the way they do because I only barely know how to use a scanner and photoshop. If I waited until I knew what I was doing before publishing, this space would be blank for about a decade.




I suppose it makes sense to start with the usual Mom-type stuff.

She wiped my tears and bandaged my scraped knees and kissed my boo-boos and made them better. She vacuumed and made the beds. She did the laundry - early on with an actual washtub and scrub board and wringer - and she hung the clothes to dry on the clothesline in the backyard (or, in the winter, on a clothesline we had strung in the cellar) and a bit later we got a dryer. She did the ironing while watching Loretta Young and Mike Douglas. She was almost always ironing when I got home from school, it seemed.

She nursed me through all the usual illnesses and gifted me with my first copy of MAD magazine during one of them, and thank you for trusting me at such a young age with such revolutionary material, Mom. She put patches on my pants, as I needed them.

(Does anybody put patches on pants anymore?)

She gave me eggnog to drink for breakfast - an actual egg stirred into a big glass of milk, perhaps with chocolate syrup. Those were the days when it was considered healthy to feed your child eggs and milk every day, even raw eggs - maybe especially raw eggs. She gave me vitamins.

(One time, I decided that if a single vitamin tablet was good for you, then taking a whole bottle might turn me into Superman. Mom was the one who called the doctor.)

She packed my lunchbox with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, slices of apples or oranges, usually a cookie or two, and always a thermos of milk.

(How many thermoses did I break? Many. You'd drop one of the things and hear that shattering of the insides and you knew without checking that your milk now had big shards of glass in it. Mom always bought me a new one.)

She made dinners of swordfish or fish sticks or tuna casserole. My Dad did much of the cooking, and he hated fish, but when he wasn't around Mom made sure I got enough of the seafood that I loved. She would buy salmon and tuna just for me to eat straight from the can - something I still do often, although now I might spoon it out onto a plate first. She made me macaroni and plain tomatoes, still one of my favorite simple dinners - and one that, as it turns out, is quite healthy.

We would do some cooking together. We made peanut butter cookies. We made bread pudding. She would bake a cake and I would graciously help out by licking the bowl clean. I was always glad to do my part.

Sometimes, we would go out to eat, just Mom and me. We might go to the Liberty Deli in Lower Mills, or perhaps we would end up at a restaurant called Colstone's in downtown Boston. Both of these would be places we visited after we had been to church to say a prayer and light a candle. The Deli after Saint Gregory's; Colstone's after Arch Street. She would put a coin in the poor box at church and let me light the votive candle. She taught me to pray and she taught me reverence for holy places. She gave me a great sense of God as benevolent and likely to listen to me. It was, and is, a good thing.

She sang, always. She loved to sing; still does. She sang standards around the house. She had a lovely voice; still does. She and her sister, Jeannette, actually had their own radio show when they were teenagers, on WJDA in Quincy. The story, as I remember it, was that they had spoken to the station manager and complained that there wasn't enough programming for teenagers. He told them that if they thought so, maybe they could come up with some themselves. They said, "OK" and went on the air. Pretty gutsy stuff, that.

I owe my livelihood to my Mom.

[2018 Editorial Comment: Oddly enough, even with losing my job as a voice-over artist and producer in 2013, this next paragraph still works. I have gone from one job with which it fits - announcing, and voice-over work, and producing commercial recordings - to another that I'm trying to make a go at - writing, fact-checking - that requires most of the same skillset.]

Even before I went into kindergarten, she was teaching me to read. I was always the best reader in my class in school. I am still one of the best readers I know and I work with professional readers every day. Without that early acquisition of knowledge, provided by Mom, I wouldn't have the job I have today. I am very grateful for that.

She taught me an absolute love for the written word and she taught me that acquiring knowledge doesn't have to be a drag. She would buy me books at every possible opportunity. I still have a half-shelf of Golden Library Of Knowledge books, which she bought for me - one at a time - from a store downtown every two or three weeks. I learned about dinosaurs and the planets and insects and the elements and animals from far off lands, and learned about them before I had to learn about them in school. I glided through much of elementary school because my Mom gave me such an enormous head start.

While I was in school, she kept a scrapbook. It is in my possession now. Entitled "Jimmy's School Years", it is an amazingly embarrassing collection of inept crayon drawings, declining-in-quality-as-I-moved-into-high-school report cards, class photos (who are half these people?), and other assorted ephemera from my times at the Gilbert Stuart, Boston Latin, the Woodrow Wilson, Boston Latin (again), and finally, Boston Tech. Grades K through 12 wrapped up in one overstuffed segmented package. While it is embarrassing, even for me to look at in private, I am so very thankful she did it.

I remember something I wasn't thankful for and which non-thankfulness I have been ashamed of ever since. One day, when I was perhaps four or five, Mom came home from a trip downtown and she had a small present for me. It was these two small replicas of phonograph records, one reading "YES" on the tiny label in the middle, and the other "NO". I don't know what their actual purpose was, but I suspect they were part of some advertising gimmick. I seem to remember that they came from Filene's Basement, but I may be mistaken.

Anyway, she had had a small little nice thought when handed them by whomever - "I'll bring these home and maybe Jimmy would like to play with them". My Mom came in and handed them to me, saying something to the effect of she wasn't sure if I wanted these but, if I did, I could have them. I behaved like a bratty little shit and said I didn't want them; why would I want them?; something entirely ungrateful. Maybe I was expecting something else from her for some reason? I don't know.

(Silly thing to remember, but I do. And I am ashamed about it. I was ungrateful for a gift given with love. I'd almost guarantee my Mom doesn't have the slightest idea what I'm talking about. She remembers good stuff about me and forgets bad stuff. Well, I apologize anyway, Mom, and now I feel better.)

Well, you see, I'm getting into small weird things here and, if I keep on like this, it will be a book before long and even then it won't feel like enough. In the interests of getting this thing published by her actual birthday, I'm going to just list a few things now, things that - if you aren't my Mom - may well sound bizarre or psychotic or both. She'll read each and every one, slowly and lovingly, and have memories - perhaps many memories, and strong - conjured by each.

*******************************************************************

You were the savior of Davy and the unfortunate bearer of bad news concerning Tippy.

You were Sugar's midwife, twice, and every cat's best friend, always.

You were the teacher and player of Fish, Casino, Rummy 500, Chinese Checkers.

You were my pass to the cafeteria at Prudential and then to shuffleboard in the employee lounge afterwards.

You are the gatekeeper of the "For Now" room.

You were the grower of the rose bush, the tiger lilies and my willow tree.

You gave me a box of kitchen matches and a bowl of water.
You were the magician who made stars appear on my bedroom ceiling.

You allowed my jumps down the stairs and piled the pillows to land on.

You put up with marbles in the bathtub.

You made me believe that the second half of The Wizard Of Oz was in glorious color even though I was watching it on a black-and-white television.

You came to see me play at McCarthy's and you actually stayed through the second set.

You were the buyer of South Station bowling.

Your room had the jewelry box filled with shiny things and a Kennedy/Johnson campaign button, the atomizer, the radio that played Jess Cain every morning, and sunbeams that never were as warm after you left.

You were the person with me as I watched The Flintstones, The Addams Family, Camp Runamuck, Hank, Bewitched, That Girl, Fractured Flickers, The Hathaways, It's About Time and I'm Dickens, He's Fenster. At the very least, three of those were shows you could barely stand, but you watched them with me anyway.

You brought me to a brave radical church and I gained a new circle of friends.

You introduced me to MY WIFE.

You were the saver of newspapers - "Kennedy Assassinated", "Man Walks On Moon", "Red Sox Win Pennant" - and I wish to hell I had been the saver of them, too.

You were the person I reported the Dow Jones to every night. Why? I haven't the foggiest notion.

You were the person who brought me the news of a death of a person I knew; the first death I actually felt and understood the finality of. "Ma died", you said. And you held me close and I knew that in this world where people I had imagined as permanent were not, your love was.

You are possibly the fairest person in the world. At the very least, you always listen to everybody and give serious consideration to their thoughts and feelings. I've inherited some of that, but not nearly enough.

You were my traveling companion on the railway in the sky that took us to Ma and Pa's for Easter.

You are the child at heart who played miniature golf and skeeball, took swings in the batting cage, ate ice cream sundaes and candy bars, and did assorted other young things with great relish and panache, on your 65th birthday.

All things considered, you're probably the best mother I've ever had.

(Hey, I got some of this sense of humor from you, so stop rolling your eyes.)

Something like this could go on forever, but I'll close with this:

I've described a large number of idiotic episodes of my life on this blog and will no doubt relate many more. I've done things that were illegal, immoral, stupid, and that otherwise seemingly reflect badly on my upbringing. Every single one of those things came about through my own volition.

Meanwhile, every good quality I possess - and every good thing I've ever done - came about as a direct result of how I was raised. That may sound like hyperbole, but it's the absolute stone cold truth.




Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday!



Monday, May 14, 2018

The MSSL


It's possible you won't find this of any interest, but it's been a long damn time since I've put anything new in this space and I figured I'd like to at least keep it on life support.

Ever since I lost my outlet for columns at the Boston Herald - long story short, they declared bankruptcy; editorial staff was let go; new staff apparently don't care for my stuff - I've been in a state of semi-depression. I counted on that not only as a source of income but also as an outlet for creativity. I could have come here and written some stuff, but I felt like a failure after all of your support through the years.

Now that softball season is once again here, I'm bringing in some cash via my usual involvement with the M Street Softball League in South Boston.



I'm the official scorer, somewhat of an assistant commissioner, and I also umpire a game or two here and there. One of my joys is writing a column on the website each week, detailing the previous week of play. What can I say? I love the sport. It isn't writing that would make me eligible for a Pulitzer, but it's writing about something I love. That's always worthwhile.


 [Upper left is a bird's-eye view of the field]

So, here's a link for my latest over there.

http://www.sbsports.com/softball/default.asp

A select few of you will recognize some of the people I mention. Most of you will have little idea why I care or, more important, why YOU should care. That's OK. I understand the limited appeal, so if you read it and start to snooze, I won't be angry.

Anyway, yes, I'm still exploring other places to write, I'm at least thinking about things to write even if I'm not actually writing them yet, and I'll land on my feet because God always takes care of me. I'm mostly out of my depression because watching, playing, and writing, about softball, does that for me.

Thank you for all of your kind words in other places such as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jim.sullivan.1654, if you care to find me there) and I'll be back here on Wednesday with something about My Mom, so I hope you'll be back then. You wouldn't want to disappoint My Mom, would you? Of course you wouldn't.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

@*!@#$%@!


[original artwork by Jim Sullivan, as if anyone else would claim it.]


The title, and the artwork, should give you some small hint about my newest column in the Boston Herald. Or not. I don't know. The art isn't very good and doesn't really give you the idea. It's supposed to be of someone encountering the sort of things I sometimes write here, which used to be strewn with obscenities on occasion. But this isn't obscene and neither is my column, which you can find at...


... but the column is about obscenities, if that helps.

As always, thanks a shitload for reading me.

Soon, with more, bitch.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

If You Don't Find This Amusing, Have A Cookie


[This last appeared on these pages in 2010. Since nobody in his (or her) right mind would have dredged through my backlog that far, and since I got a kick out of re-reading it myself, I figure you might enjoy it. If not, see the title above for good advice.]




I once owned a cat who adored watermelon. Any time I would have a slice, he would sidle up next to me and meow for some. The first couple of times he did so, I more-or-less ignored him. I said, "Silly cat! You don't want watermelon! I'll give you some mackerel after I'm done."

Finally, perhaps the third time he jumped up on the table and meowed for the watermelon, I said, "Okay, dopey, I'll give you a little piece, but you're going to be disappointed."

I broke off a tiny bit of the fruit and held it out for him. He gobbled it up, then meowed for more. I sliced off a couple of larger hunks and proffered them. He chomped on them greedily, even licking up the juices after the solid stuff had disappeared down his gullet. It was so much fun to see a cat lusting for watermelon, I gave him half of my slice, rind and all. He attacked it, devoured it down to the rind, and then he gnawed on that for a while, too. When the watermelon was completely gone, he seemed to be as sad as I was (and I was pretty sad, too, because I had given half of my watermelon to him.)

After that, whenever I had watermelon, I would cut him up a small bowl of it, and he'd dive into it with the sort of fervor usually reserved for female cats in heat. I've never seen another cat with such a taste for watermelon.

***********************

Speaking of cats, I once tried smoking catnip.

This was during my more experimental drug days, as you might imagine. I was temporarily out of the sort of weed I usually smoked, and the catnip was handy. I figured, what the hell; cats seem to have a great time with it, so maybe I'll discover something really excellent and a bargain besides. I rolled a small catnip joint, lit it up, and took a cautious toke.

After waiting a minute, and seeing that I didn't die or go into a fit, I took another draw on it. The taste wasn't entirely unpleasant - nor was it something I'd do again just for that aspect of it. I checked all of the usual suspects for signs that something useful might be happening - paranoia; obsession with small details; unfunny things becoming hilarious; the delights of music multiplying exponentially. I came up blank. Nothing.

Well, I shouldn't really say "nothing." I had the strangest craving for watermelon...

*************************

Speaking of watermelon, you're familiar with Murphy's Law, right? In case you need a refresher, here it is:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Since the time when Murphy first uttered those words - probably after downing eight or nine pints, and then finding that his zipper was stuck - there have been a multitude of additions, addenda, and analyses from other philosopher types. For instance...

O'Toole's Commentary on Murphy's Law - Murphy was an optimist.

... which has always been my favorite.

I recently unearthed a few more.

Klink's Theory of Relativity - All tragedy, no matter how horrendous, will eventually become comic material.

Ramone's Law of Reduction - Everything can be simplified, and usually to good effect.

Moe's Dictum Regarding Free Speech - Just because you're free to say whatever you want, that doesn't mean you won't get a ripsaw dragged across your noggin for having done so.

Curly's Corollary to Moe's Dictum - N'yuk! N'yuk! N'yuk! Ow!

Fluffy's Valid Observation - There's a reason they call it CATnip, Jim. Hey! Is that watermelon? Yum!
*************************

Speaking of segues, I don't have one. However, let's finish with...

Sullivan's Suggestions for Happy Living

Never stand if you can sit.

Never sit if you can lie down.

Never run when you can walk.

Never walk when you can ride.

If somebody is perfectly happy pulling your wagon, it makes little sense for you to get out and push.

Cookies make everything better.

And, if you find yourself with the opportunity to take a pee, what are you gonna gain if you don't? Of course, if you ate less watermelon, you wouldn't have to pee so often.


******************************

Speaking of Google, if you enter "Cat Watermelon" in a search for images, you will come up with an amazing assortment of photos. Who knew? The one I chose to adorn the top of this page came from Epic Pics Of Win. I would have assumed LOLCATS, but I smoke catnip. What do I know?

Soon, with meow better stuff.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Open It Anywhere


If you read my column in today's Boston Herald, you'll soon find that I'm all over the place. Why? Because, while writing it, I opened my almanac and wrote about whatever was on the page I landed upon. Open an almanac to anything and I'll enjoy something on that page. I love almanacs.





For my birthday a couple of weeks ago, MY WIFE bought me the World Almanac for 2018. I have been engrossed in it ever since. I sit in the room where I smoke and read about such things as average mean temperatures, gross domestic products, all-time leaders in passing yardage, and top-selling fiction of 1965. The book is 1007 pages and crammed with fuel for my thought mill.

Anyway, you'll find some of my ruminations on this Almanac...

HERE

... and I thank you in advance for going there and reading.

Soon, with more better stuff.

  



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

19 Inches




According to a reliable local weather map, that's how much snow we got in the Watertown area today. For those unfamiliar with the exact location, look west of Boston; somewhere near Natick and Concord, more or less. And it is still lightly coming down.

Here's something I wrote about it.

I hope your weather has been more delightful. I'm not complaining, though. After all, it gave me something about which to write and that's always welcome.

Soon, with more better stuff.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

What Time Is It?



I don't know what time you're reading this, but it's possible you don't know either. If you need a clue, there may be one in my column in today's Boston Herald. Here's a serendipitous link!

Serendipitous Link!

As always, I thank you for showing up in this barren wasteland of a blog. No matter what time it is where you are, it's always a time of appreciation from me to you.

Soon (relatively speaking) with more better stuff.