Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Recipe

My good internet friend, Stu, gave me a recipe for jambalaya. I was going to make it this weekend, but due to a number of reasons (laziness chief among them) I didn’t get around to it. I’d like to return the favor anyway, so here is a recipe for Stu.


“Enchilda?” I hear you say, but I refuse to recycle the ‘hearing voices’ joke yet again so that was a waste of time. Stu, being a connoisseur, will have no problem with this recipe. However, there may be a few of you who are unfamiliar with the main ingredient.

The Enchilda (misspellicus enchilada) is the only mammal native to the continent of Antarctica. It was discovered in 1995 by the brilliant yet extremely alcoholic zoologist, Kenneth Van Vechten. Until that time, he had been best known for his work in the field of animal husbandry. Then, one day they caught him at it (see Lehrer for details) and he had to skip town, so he headed to Antarctica.

While in Antarctica, Van Vechten stumbled upon the enchilda, literally. In a blind stupor one evening, he went to take a whiz behind a handy iceberg and tripped over the only known colony of the creatures. He estimated that there were 2 million enchilda in the colony. Later (sober) counts put the number at 403.

The general consensus among the scientific community, upon being informed by Van Vechten of his discovery, was one of disbelief. This was because he had previously “discovered” giant pink rabbits. This time, though, he had taken pictures that actually showed something more than his disheveled living room strewn with tequila bottles. Upon seeing these newer photographs, the general consensus among the scientific community was “Yuck!”

The full-grown adult enchilda weighs about 75 pounds, most of that weight being in the legs. This is because it has 12 legs, each approximately 30 inches long. It has been postulated by some that it developed multiple legs in an evolutionary response to its environment. It has been postulated by others that the original postulators are full of shit and that God just has a tremendous sense of humor. In either case, the legs do aid in locomotion over ice and snow.

A thick pelt of white hair covers the body of the enchilda. This is the reason for its not having been discovered sooner, since it blends into the Antarctican background so readily. Either that or every scientist who visited Antarctica prior to Van Vechten must have been on the crack pipe to have missed these hideous creatures.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the enchilda is its reproductive cycle. All enchilda are bisexual and hermaphroditic. They are born with five each of male sexual organs and five each of female sexual organs. They do not become sexually mature until they reach exactly six years of age. At precisely midnight on the day of their maturity, they indulge in a gigantic community orgy. Each enchilda copulates with ten other enchilda in an amazing daisy chain that ends with an explosive group orgasm at dawn.

Following copulation, the gestation period is three hours. At 10 am, every pregnant enchilda makes its way down to the sea, dives into the water, gives birth, and then dies. They all give birth to one new enchilda, thus the population is static.

Until Van Vechten came along, the dead enchilda were all eaten by whales. Van Vechten, having done a miserable job of planning for his food needs (he had packed 15 cases of tequila and two jelly donuts) decided to see if the enchilda were edible creatures.

As it turns out, the answer was both yes and no. Fully mature enchilda, having given birth and died, become both completely edible and utterly delicious. However, the non-mature-yet-to-have-sex-and-give-birth enchilda are extremely poisonous. Thus, since the only edible enchilda is one that has died of natural causes, the enchilda is the only animal approved for eating by PETA.

Since enchilda mate and give birth once - and only once - every six years, the window of opportunity for eating enchilda is limited. Due to their severe physiology, it is impossible to freeze an enchilda; they all must be harvested and eaten fresh. In addition, they rot in less than twenty minutes once exposed to warm-weather bacterial forms, so it is impossible at this time to eat them anywhere on Earth except their native land. The next enchilda orgy will occur on March 19th of 2008, so the following recipe is useless until and unless you plan on being in Antarctica on that date.

(It should also be noted that the enchilda-eating whales are so intent on their once-every-six-years feast, that they will actually pursue onto the ice sheet anyone who tries to poach “their” enchilda. Unfortunately, this is how Van Vechten met his demise. After eating an enchilda, he was eaten by a whale.)

So, on to the recipe. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 Fully Matured (Dead And Sexually Satisfied) Enchilda
1 Very Heavy Cast Iron Frying Pan

That’s about it.

The frying pan is for fighting off the whales. Whack the suckers over the head with it if they get close to you.

As for the enchilda, they taste just like Steak Au Poivre when raw, so that’s the best way to eat them. When you cook one, it tastes like Spackle. The only exception is the spleen, which after cooking tastes like licorice bubble gum. And nobody in their right mind eats the liver; even the whales spit it out. The middle toe on the fifth left leg is considered a delicacy, but nobody knows why.

Bon Appetit, Stu!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

George Bernard Golf Club Leans To One Side

Today, I am going to share with you one of the things MY WIFE and I do to keep a bit of fun in our marriage. I am going to show you how we make out our shopping lists.

"Shopping lists?" I hear you say, and I wish I hadn't because it means you're nearby and spying on me typing, so now I must find you and kill you.

(Sorry. Just be quiet for a little while and I'll probably forget about you.)

Yes, shopping lists. Our shopping lists are unlike any others. They are unique to the bizarre yet lovable world of us. For instance, what would you be inclined to buy if someone showed you a shopping list that included the following item?

What You Pay A Crow To Deliver A Speech.

You might be inclined to buy a straightjacket and a one-way ticket to Bellevue, but that isn't the correct answer. The correct answer is coffee.

"Whuthfuh? Coffee?!?" you say, even though you risk your life by doing so.

Yes, coffee. How does a crow vocalize? It caws. And if you were paying a crow to speak, it would be a caw fee. Get it? Caw Fee. Coffee.

If that doesn't do it for you, try this one.

Sophia Loren Has Big Ones And She Can Actually SEE You With Them!

No, I'm not suggesting that she has some sort of weird mammary extra-sensory perception. It's another clue! What would you buy now?

Italian Ice. The answer is actually "Italian Eyes" and you just have to make a small linguistic jump from that to the food item.

(Of course, in the above instance you might need some knowledge beforehand about what food items we often buy. If you never buy Italian Ice yourself, then you might never figure that one out. We do, though, so it works.)

Some of the clues are rather mundane, since it's nearly impossible to be original and witty all the time - as is proven almost daily by this blog. Anyway, take this for example:

Musical Fruit

That would be Baked Beans. If you were raised in a polite family, you may not know why. Allow me to elucidate.

Beans, Beans, the musical fruit
The more you eat, the more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
Let's eat beans at every meal!

(There's an alternate that begins "Beans, Beans, good for the heart", and you can no doubt fill in the rest.)

Let's see if, given the following short list, you'd come back from the store with the proper items. Some are easier than others, of course.

Already Married.

He Died On The Cross For A Neutral European Country, But Not The United States.

Dorsey's Pedal Extremities.

What A Baby Goat Says To Multiple Grandmothers.

Bluto's Downfall.

What A Philadelphian Says To Get Ederle's Attention.

Here's what you should have bought: Cantaloupe (Can't Elope), Swiss Cheese (Swiss Jesus, without the "US"), Tomatoes (Tommy Toes), Bananas (Baa, Nanas), Spinach and Yogurt (Yo, Gert!). Of course, you'd have to be familiar with quaint old-timey marriage customs, European political history, Christianity, big band music, animal sounds, Popeye cartoons, Olympic swimmers and Philadelphian idiomatic expressions. If you weren't, you'd have no chance whatsoever. The list has to be customized to match education and background. For example, you might have said Chong's Pedal Extremities, if your partner were a stoner from the 70's, or That Cheese With All The Holes In It, Man, if your partner were actually Tommy Chong.

After a while you have to become very creative. If you buy the same thing every week - milk, for instance - you have to come up with more and more convoluted ways of describing it. You could just write "Moo Juice" every time, but it's more fun to see if your partner can figure out First Person Singular Within A Slain Civil Rights Leader or Third Vowel In The Alphabet Near The End Of A Backwards Dutch Airline.

(In all instances, it helps if your partner is as insane as you are. Luckily, mine is.)

Well, that's all I've got for now. Go forth and confuse the hell out of your Extended Period Of No Food Confederate General.

(That would be Family. Get it? Famine Lee? Aw, skip it.)

(And not that you care by now, but the title of this piece translates to Shaw Ping Lists. Yes, shopping lists. Feel free to have a stiff one.)

The Morning Of The Last Day Of My Mini-Vacation

6:48am - It is Monday. This is my fourth and final day off. I am feeling refreshed and much less psychotic than I did on Thursday. The funny thing (or maybe the sad thing) is that I've gotten up at about the same time as I would have for work, every day. However, I can take a nap - a glorious uninterrupted totally guilt-free nap - during any portion of the day I wish, so getting up early is almost like investing in a good time later.

I have a cup of coffee heating in the microwave for MY WIFE. I am going to bring it to her in bed and wake her up. She has to go to work. I will offer her a ride to Harvard Station on the Red Line of the T, Boston's public transportation system. Normally, she takes a bus to there.

(It wouldn't do to drive her all the way to work. She works downtown and it will actually be slightly faster for her by taking the T from Harvard. Cutting out the walk to the bus, the waiting for the bus, and the actual ride on the bus to Harvard, is the best I can do.)

OK, I'm going to go get the coffee and bring it to her. When she actually comes out of the bedroom and goes about her getting-ready activities, I'll be writing about her. Let's see how long it takes for her to figure that out.

6:59am - "Thag you," she said, as she took the coffee from me.

I said, "Just bringing you coffee. I'll give you a ride to Harvard."

"Thag you. Whar you doog up?"

"Just bringing you coffee. I'm doing a bit of writing."

"Mmmmmphh", she said, putting the coffee mug on the floor by the bed. She slipped her head back under the covers

7:01am - WROR is now on the radio in the bedroom. She likes to listen to the Loren & Wally Show in the morning. WROR is a classic rock station and Loren & Wally are the morning team. She has almost always listened to Loren & Wally in the morning since the time I first met her. The interesting thing is that the station has gone through a complete metamorphosis twice since that time. The call letters were originally WVBF and the station played middle-of-the-road stuff. Then they switched to a country-western format for about a year. Then they changed the call letters to WROR (which were the call letters of a top 40 station in Boston during the 1970's) and began playing classic rock.

MY WIFE likes Loren & Wally and she adjusts to whatever music they play. They could probably play Tuvan throat singing and it wouldn't matter to her. There was a very brief interlude of Don Imus listening a couple of years ago, but when she tired of hearing him bitch about the same things day after day after day, she went back to Loren & Wally.

7:12am - I just went in the bedroom to give her a second wake-up. She almost never gets up on the first attempt.

I gave her a slight shake and said, "You should be getting up."

"I am gettig ummmhmmh", she said, and then stuck her head back under the covers.

I will repeat the procedure in a few minutes.

7:20am - Third wake-up call.

The radio just finished playing My Best Friend's Girl by The Cars. Ugh.

I can't listen to more than fifteen or twenty minutes of any classic rock station. They play music from the time period I like, but they hardly ever play anything I'd really like to hear. When they play Led Zeppelin, it's almost always something like D'Yer Maker and never Communications Breakdown. Bachman-Turner Overdrive is usually represented by You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, which is their most annoying song. Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper? Hush, not a damned thing, and School's Out, but only in June. Where is the station that plays Highway Star, Paranoid and Under My Wheels? Nowhere except in my imagination, and what you get instead is an endless parade of The Police, Phil Collins, and Boston. Why don't you just drive roofing nails into my ears and be done with it?

A regular feature on Loren & Wally is Men From Maine. It is playing now. It is a short skit about, yes, men from Maine who are incredibly thick, the general idea being that everybody from Maine is a dumb-ass hick. This morning's entry went as follows:

(organ music fades up and then down to background)

Announcer: Time now for another installment in the exciting adventures of Men From Maine. As we join today'’s action-packed episode, Eephus is walking down the street when he runs into an old friend.

Eephus: Why, Carl Lumford, look at you. The last time I saw you, you had a full head of hair, but now you've shaved it all off. Looks like you've lost about 50 pounds. And you had a mustache, too, but that's gone.

Other Man: Eephus, I'm not Carl Lumford. I'm Ferd Johnson.

Eephus: Why, Carl, you've changed your name, too.

Announcer: Join us tomorrow for another episode in the exciting adventures of Men From Maine! Ay-yup.

MY WIFE gives out with a giggle and sticks her head back under the covers.

7:35am - Fourth wake-up call.

Now they're playing That's The Way I Like It (uh-huh, uh-huh) by K.C. And The Sunshine Band. If I hadn't just bought this radio for MY WIFE's birthday last month, I'd shoot it (if I had a gun.)

"Get up."

"But that's the way uh-huh uh-huh I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh. I like to sleep."

She is actually awake now.

She says, "I had a very busy dream."

"A very busy dream?"

"Yes, it took all night. Lived in a shanty on Tremont Street and was watching parades."

"We lived in a shanty on Tremont Street?"

"Not us. You weren't there. Just me and (unintelligible)."

"Just you and who?"

"The Greeleys. The people who lived next door in Duxbury."

There is no further elucidation as she goes out to the kitchen to re-heat her coffee.

7:41am - The coffee is re-heated and she is now sitting on the couch with a blanket wrapped around her, drinking the coffee. Loren & Wally are still on in the background, now talking about the Red Sox.

"So, what's this blog about?"

"This morning", I say.

"This morning? About how I didn't get up?"

She has caught on quickly.

"Mostly", I say.

She says, "But you're not supposed to write about me. Tell me what it says."

"Just a minute", I say, as I type this last bit of conversation.

And now I am going to read it back to her. I may not survive. If I do, I'll see you tomorrow.


8:02am - Actually, she laughs like hell as I read it back to her. And that's why I love this woman.

Soon, with more better stuff (but I don't know that it gets better, really.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Why Ice Cream Doesn't Have Bones, But You Do

Did I ever tell you about the time I lost my wallet in Moose Jaw, Canada? No?

Well, no time like the present, I always say - unless I'm saying "Beans! Beans! Beans!", which I rarely do, so let's move on.

Anyway, there I was in Moose Jaw, which is one hell of a thing to name your town. I suppose it's better than Gopherguts, Nebraska, but not much.

I just made that up, of course. There is no Gopherguts in Nebraska. Or should that be there are no Gopherguts in Nebraska? Whatever. There's not much of anything in Nebraska, especially my wallet. So, let's get back to Moose Jaw.

(Wouldn't it be way cool if there was a Gopherguts, Nebraska? Then this could be their town song, sung by a chorus line of grizzled old Gabby Hayes lookalikes:

Big green globs of greasy grimy gopher guts
Mutilated monkey meat, trampled on by dirty feet
One quart jar of all-purpose porpoise puss
Swimming in your pink lemonade
Welcome to town, stranger!

No, I suppose not. There actually is an Oil Trough, Arkansas, as well as a Hell, Michigan. And who can forget Truth-Or-Consequences, New Mexico? Not me, that's for sure. And I've tried. I sure as Hell, Michigan, have tried. However, that's another story. This is about me losing my wallet in Moose Jaw. And so far it's not much of a story.)

Well, there I was in Moose Jaw with my buddy, Jeff O'Connell. I had known Jeff since we were little kids. An interesting thing about Jeff was that he only had four fingers on his right hand. He had lost his index finger in an unfortunate childhood accident involving a lawnmower, which begs the question of whether or not there's such a thing as a fortunate childhood accident involving a lawnmower. Anyway, the loss of that particular finger made for some odd hand gestures by Jeff. For instance, whenever he flashed the peace sign, people thought he was flipping them the bird, so it had the exact opposite effect of that desired. And when he played cops and robbers as a kid, his imaginary gun just told everybody "Way to go!"

(Now, you might ask why he didn't just use his left hand. Good question, troublemaker. Shut up.)

Jeff had a sister named Goldie who had all of her fingers. That wasn't her real name. Her real name was Jennifer. Everybody called her Goldie because she resembled Goldie Hawn, except that she weighed 390 pounds and stood about 4' 6", which in and of itself wasn't necessarily an insurmountable social handicap but when the wind was at her back, you didn't want to be at her front. She had body odor that would have driven a buzzard away from a rotting corpse. It was unfortunate since she had a real sweet personality, but not too many folks ever found that out because she was a grossly obese stinky dwarf.

Goldie married a trumpet player from Mobile, Alabama. If you're a jazz fan, you might remember him - Elroy "Skillethead" Jones? Yeah, him. He stood 6' 11", which was good for Goldie because his nose was so far above her he didn't get a whiff of her until the honeymoon but by then it was too late. He got his nickname because of an unfortunate accident in a waffle house, but I won't go into that here since it has nothing at all to do with the story. Beans! Beans! Beans!

(Huh. Seems I say that more often than I would have thought. Sorry.)

So, we're sitting in this bar in Moose Jaw and in walks this guy with a dog. He goes up to the bartender and says, "I have here the world's only talking dog. If I can prove it to you, will you give me a beer?"

The bartender says, "Sure."

The guy says to the dog, "What's on top of a house?"

The dog says, "Roof!"

The guy says to the dog, "Who was the greatest ballplayer of all time?"

The dog says, "Roof!"

The bartender comes out from behind the bar and throws both of them out into the street.

As they're laying there on the sidewalk, the dog turns to the guy and says, "I guess maybe I should have said Joe DiMaggio, huh?"

Now, Jeff and I are taking this all in and Jeff turns to me and says, "That joke doesn't really work as well on paper, does it?"

"No, some of them don't," I said, "But try walking up to someone and actually verbalizing all of the goofy crap I've written here so far and see how long it takes before they cart you off to the cracker factory, which isn't a bad place to be so long as you have an ample supply of cheese and, brother, I've got one of the biggest supplies of cheese around."

"Damn straight!" he said, holding his open hand above his head, so I gave him a high four and said, "Beans! Beans! Beans!"

It was at this point that I realized I needed a short vacation, so I took one and it lasted until next Tuesday, so see you then. If you find the wallet, you can keep it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stories Of, By, And For Sick People

Magazine Man recently related some Hospital Stories. He asked if any of his readers had some to share.

I do. One of them may be found here. I wouldn't feel right to just re-print it in its entirety, but it is worth a visit. After you're done there, come on back for two new stories.

You're back! And here, just like magic, are the two new stories! Both concern my Dad. He passed away almost 12 years ago (12 years - where the heck have I been?) and I still miss his sense of humor.

Story Number One:

My Dad was at the Deaconess for bypass surgery. Prior to the surgery, he was sharing a room and the other fellow was wearing some sort of monitor that made a Godawful noise whenever his heart rate would go below a certain level.

I was visiting my Dad and he told me about the monitor on the other guy and how every time it went off, he thought he was going to have a heart attack from hearing the thing. Just then, the thing went off. It was a hideous noise; loud and grating.

Suddenly, my Dad got this terrible look on his face, dropped his head to one side with his tongue lolling out of his mouth, and his eyes closed shut.

While we were talking, I had been sitting on the side of his bed. I now jumped up and shouted for the nurse. My Dad then opened his eyes and said, "Jesus, be quiet! I was just kidding!"

Scared the living shit out of me.

Looking back, it was a damned funny thing to improvise like that, but Good God! He was there because he DID have a bad ticker. Took me ten minutes before I was sure that I wasn't going to have a heart attack myself...

Story Number Two (which isn't really a hospital story, but it hinges on having been in the hospital, so...):

My Dad was visiting some friends in New Hampshire. This was shortly after he had been in the hospital for a bout of congestive heart failure, a couple of years after the bypass surgery.

Since he had recently gotten out of hospital, the conversation naturally turned to his confinement and the treatment plan he was following. He outlined to his friends - a married couple - that he had been prescribed a number of diuretics. He went into great detail about how they made him piss like a racehorse - which was pretty much a spot-on description, since one of the drugs was Lasix, which they DO often give to racehorses prior to running them.

Anyway, at one point my Dad excused himself to use the bathroom.

The bathroom was just off of the kitchen where they had been having their conversation. From past experience, my Dad knew that anything you did in this bathroom was highly audible to everyone in the kitchen. As he unzipped, he noticed the opportunity for a joke.

It seems that his friends stored bottled water in a corner of the bathroom. There were maybe four or five one-gallon jugs there. So, before he began peeing, he reached over, grabbed one of the jugs and opened it. He put it within easy reach on the counter of the sink. Then he started to pee.

The Lasix was doing its job and he peed long and loud. Just as he was finishing, he made an exaggerated "Aaaaaahhhh!" sound, to cover his grabbing the water jug. He then proceeded to S-L-O-W-L-Y pour the water from the jug into the toilet, making the same approximate sound as he had from peeing.

After a minute of this, he made another "Aaaaaaah" sound and stopped pouring. Then he went "Oooops!", and began pouring the water again. He repeated this twice.

After the second time, the woman (a nurse) said to him, through the door, "Tom, are you OK?", to which he responded, "Oh, yes, it's just the Lasix, I... Aaaaaaaah!" and he poured the water again.

After about four minutes, he finally flushed the toilet and came out the door.

Both of his friends stared at him with great concern on their faces. The nurse asked if she could see his prescription. At that point he couldn't keep a straight face any longer and he burst out laughing, confessing what he had done.


I wish I had a capper for this, but I don't, so I'll just reiterate how much I miss having someone around who had the ability to make jokes like that during times when he was extremely ill. He wasn't all jollity and jokes during his final years - there were many days of melancholy and self-pity - but, damn, if you can kid about your sicknesses like that, you deserve a bit of slack on the sad side of things, too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mom's Birthday

First, an explanation.

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 somewhat 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 of 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. 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. Now, I'm almost willing to guarantee that 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 really were not terribly fond of, 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, you know, 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 is the absolute stone cold truth.

Thanks, Mom. Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Comfortably Numb

The lyrics are by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. This one has always spoken to something inside of me.

The stream of consciousness is by me. I have laid out the lyric in portions and will fill in the spaces between with type-as-I-think-it ramblings. I might get at what makes the lyric talk to me. I am going to start with an image of me during my cocaine days and see where it leads. It might get hairy. I am going to publish it as soon as I am finished typing.

Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?

Line after line after line, up my nose and then washed down the back of my throat by huge gulps of vodka straight from the bottle. Why?

Come on, now.
I hear you’re feeling down.
Well I can ease your pain,
Get you on your feet again.

When I played in bands, it wasn't so much the music as it was the performance - the being in front of a crowd and the adrenaline rush. It's the same rush that can get me into trouble gambling. Or sexually. Playing ball, too, but on a much smaller scale. I'm always attempting to fill the same void.

Cocaine filled that void for me. Cocaine was applause in a baggie. When I did it, it felt like everything I did was a bravura performance. There was a constant standing ovation in my head.

I need some information first.
Just the basic facts:
Can you show me where it hurts?

This writing thing is totally different. There is little immediate gratification. I can imagine the reactions of certain people (for instance, sometimes I imagine my Mom fainting dead away, unfortunately) but there is no way to feel the moment with another person or group of people as there is with the other things I've mentioned. I could hover over someone's shoulder as they read, but that's too creepy. Anyway, it changes the reaction.

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re sayin’.

Always something. Always a need. This fills the need for now, but when will I go off the tracks again?

MY WIFE is it for now and for as long as she lives. She is just herself and that is enough for me. Without her, I would have killed myself years ago. Not intentionally, but through some stupid thing I would have done if I didn't have her to come home to. Leave me alone for too long and I'm looking for something to connect the dots in my subconscious; I'm fucking up in one dangerous way or another.

What is the solution? What is the secret? Why do I need to look over the edge?

Is my fear of heights a part of this? Roofs, fire escapes, bridges; I'm afraid I'll end up over the edge somehow. Am I afraid of heights or am I afraid of me?

I can't quite grasp it.

When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I got that feeling once again.
I can’t explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.

More lines. Every cent I have and then as much credit as anyone foolish enough to give it to me is willing to extend. I can't get enough. I am running away running in place. I am trying to escape by moving closer. I am consolidating my psychoses.

That was then. Now I am blowing up every day, cursing, swearing, obscenities just blasting from my mouth like some poor Tourette's sufferer, except I can stop it. Except I can't stop it. This job is driving me apeshit fucking insane lately. I am not a nice person to be around for much of the day. And the people here don't deserve it. They are way too nice.

I want the feeling I get from the white powder, without actually taking the white powder into my body. It has to be out there somewhere. Where is it?

Just a little pinprick.
There’ll be no more - aaaaaahhhhh!
But you may feel a little sick.

Love. I have plenty of it. My parents loved me and gave me what I needed, including education. So did many other relatives and friends. And I'm not a stupid person. It isn't because I don't know what the risks are. And I can be very happy just reading a book or having a quiet dinner or listening to music or watching some lovely silly cartoon with MY WIFE.

Music. I search out fast beats and discordant arrangements. Sure, I appreciate some mellow stuff, but I come alive when the music matches the tempo of the cocaine experience. More adrenaline. More. I play the bass and I can't play fast enough. I literally can't play fast enough. I hear notes in my head that I can't play because I can't play fast enough, damnit. I've been playing for close to 30 years and I could play for another 600, but I can't play fast enough.

Can you stand up?
I do believe it’s working. good.
That’ll keep you going for the show.
Come on it’s time to go.

I've been clean of cocaine for about 17 years. The void is still in me. I will not fill it. I cannot fill it. Nobody else can fill it for me, though some can make me forget about it for long stretches. I live with it. I'm OK.

There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re sayin’.

I've been given way too many good things in my life to complain. Way too many. I've thrown away a lot of them without realizing until they were gone just what I had. Whenever I've needed something, I've gotten it. Sometimes not as fast as I would have liked, but I got it before it was too late. God takes care of me for some reason. I am a Sullivan. We do not hit lotteries, but we never starve.

I can't fill the void. I want to eliminate the void. I have to eliminate the void without filling it. I have to rip out an empty space and throw it away. How does one do that?

Don't send out the medics. I'm not going to rip out anything.

I am happy, overall. But... what?

I can't quite grasp it. I want dreams, but I also want the numbness that comes with acceptance of loss of dreams. Above all, I don't want to be forced into one or the other. I want choice, always. I am getting older and I fear that I have less choice as the years pass.

I can't quite grasp it.

I am Jim. I am OK. If you love me, you should not worry. This is just opening up the valve and letting off some pressure. I will type happy tomorrow.

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Softball Season Begins

For how I feel about softball, go here.


Softball season has begun and it’s a good news/bad news kind of thing. The good news? This gimpy-kneed 49-year-old catcher is batting .400 with an on-base percentage of .667. The bad news? The teams I play for are a combined 1 and 2. I’d rather the teams be 3 and 0 with me striking out every time up.

I guess that’s the part of my make-up that goes towards making me the manager of one of the teams. I will always take the win over personal stats. I suppose in its own way that might sound self-serving – I’m such a good fellow that I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the good of the team – but it’s the truth, so why should I apologize?

The weekday team started play on Thursday with an easy 17 – 4 win. Is there such a thing as a tough 17 – 4 win? I guess not. In any case it was over after 5 innings, there being a 12 run “mercy” rule in that league. I played the game at first base, going 1 for 2 at the plate. I also had 2 walks, 3 runs batted in and a run scored. In the field, one good play and one bad play stood out.

The good play involved a bit of luck. With a runner on second, a hard shot to third was corralled by the third baseman, but his throw was wild and in the dirt. I kept my body in front of it, but had turned my head reflexively. The ball slammed into my calf and died. So, no advance beyond first for the batter and no runs scored.

The bad play was one of those things that happen when you’re out on the field for the first time in the year and you’re getting older. A left-handed batter popped up to the right side. His swing was actually coming down on the ball, so I instinctively broke in. As soon as I took the first step, I knew it was a mistake. Now, if I was 29 instead of 49, I probably could have recovered quickly enough to go back and get it. Instead, I felt like some Hanna-Barbera cartoon character. It seemed like I stopped and, after turning, I ran in place for a second or two until my body would go the other way. The ball fell for a single, about ten feet beyond the infield. Luckily for me, no runs scored that inning so no harm done.

The Sunday team – the one I manage – began play this week by dropping a doubleheader to a team called The Moe Howard Club. As much as I like the Stooges, I would rather have beaten them. And we should have beaten them, at least once.

The two games included some of the best pitching I’ve seen. Jason Atton, my starter in game one, had 11 strikeouts in the 7-innings that comprise a game in our league. 11 strikeouts! The league doesn’t have an official record book but if that isn’t a league record, I’ll lick a pigeon. It was as dominant a game as I’ve ever seen thrown at my level of fast-pitch softball. And we lost, 8 – 6.

How did we manage to lose a game like that? Defense. Jason had four errors behind him Two of them were easy fly balls dropped by his outfield with men on base. Only two of the eight runs were earned. And I shouldn’t discount the other team’s pitcher. He had us no-nit through four and compiled 7 Ks of his own. We came back from 8 – 0, but too little, too late. We had the winning run at the plate in the seventh, but no go.

When your team wastes a pitching performance like that, you wonder about the effect it will have on the team psychology. You also wonder if your pitcher will become suicidal.

Well, there was a second game to be played. Jason’s uncle, Jack Atton, was my game two starter. Amazingly enough, Jack went out and threw no-hit ball for the first three innings while striking out five batters. He was on a pace to beat Jason’s performance in game one. And we got on top of them this time. Charlie White, who had made the two outfield errors in the first game, clocked a two-run homer in our half of the first. We scored three more in the third, for a 5 – 0 cushion.

Jack was hurting, though, and wanted to come out. Normally, if a guy says he’s hurting and needs to come out, I won’t argue with him. What am I going to do? Tell him he’s not in pain? However, Jack wasn’t aware that he had a no-hitter going. I felt it might be doing him a disservice to not let him be aware of this fact, even though it’s considered bad luck to mention such a thing to a pitcher. Well, if I didn’t tell him, what good would it do? I told him he had one going and that he might like to try continuing, at least until they got a hit off of him. I left it up to him to tell me what he wanted to do when we were ready to go back out on the field.

(I should mention that it wasn’t his arm that was hurting. I wasn’t going to let him destroy himself.)

Jack decided to give it a go. In the meantime, I warmed Jason on the sideline. He would go back out on the mound if his uncle couldn’t continue.

Jack walked the first hitter and gave up a single to batter #2, so that was that. Jason sucked it up and went back in. He picked up right where he had left off in game one, striking out the first hitter he faced.

The next batter hit a soft, but curving, liner to third. Andy, who is a really good player but having a really horrible day, had it go off his glove for an error. So, bases loaded, one out, instead of first and second with two. A single followed, scoring two.

Jason now struck out his 13th batter of the day. No error and he’s out of the inning with a 5 – 2 lead. However, a team can’t keep giving up extra outs like that and expect to survive. Jason had done everything that could reasonably be expected, and then some. He was running out of gas, and by the time the dust had settled we were trailing 7 – 5. We lost 10 – 6.

I’m glad I have a blog on which to write about this. It will keep me from collaring perfect strangers and asking them to listen to my tale of woe. You, however, have been my sounding board and I thank you for your patient endurance.

One more thing of note. I have a new player this year who may turn out to be something quite special. Her name is Cara. Yes, her name. Male or female, she’s a player. To the best of my knowledge, she is the third female to play in this league and from what I remember of the other two, she is by far the best. She went a solid 4 for 7 and made every play at second base. I was so impressed with her showing in the first game, where I had her batting tenth, that I gave up my leadoff spot to her in game two. Heck of a nice surprise and I hope we men can play up to her level next game.

Tomorrow with no whining. See you then.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Me Am Professional Writer Guy, II

Here is part one.


A quick note before we go on. I have no idea why I gave this piece the title I did. I suppose I was going for a gentle bit of self-denigration concerning my skills as a writer. Instead it just sounds idiotic. Oh, well. So does much of the piece itself, so maybe it does fit.


I sat in the Catalog Publications office - my office - a can of Sprite in one hand and a cigarette in the other. It was 1988. Smoking in the office wasn't forbidden yet. Neither was drinking Sprite, of course, but while it was a Sprite can in my hand, that wasn't all that was in the can.

It was Friday afternoon. As was now my custom on Friday - payday - I had scored an eight ball at lunch. That is, I had acquired a decent amount of cocaine; enough to get me through the weekend if I showed some self-restraint. In other words, it was barely enough to get me into Saturday morning, where I would wake up around noontime with a vicious hangover and curse myself out for having blown my entire paycheck in one night. I had also purchased a pint of Smirnoff vodka, which I was mixing with the Sprite so that I could have a steady buzz while walking around the offices of Blake & Rebhan.

It all sounds extremely degenerate, doesn't it? It was, no doubt. However, I wasn't the only one at B&R who got through the workday with chemical enhancement. Out of the hundred or so who worked there, I'd estimate that at least one-quarter of them were on something. This included the four owners. One of them kept a bottle of Tanqeuray handy at all times.

(His office was right next to mine. Every so often I'd hear him open his desk drawer, pull out the bottle, and have a gulp. He no doubt heard me snuffling up the marching powder. Neither one of us ever said anything to the other.)

I'll grant you that I was on the high end (high end - hah!) of the scale when it came to ingestion of foreign substances, but I was far from alone. Three martini lunch? Kid stuff at B&R. One of the guys in the warehouse would buy a half-pint of root beer schnapps, every day at lunch, and down it in one gulp. Another, whose taste ran to vodka as mine did, had a quart hidden in the pile of pallets at the back of the warehouse and would pour himself a stiff one every half-hour or so. There were a good ten or twelve others who did lines at every available opportunity and if you couldn't find a joint anytime you wanted one, you were just lazy.

The amazing part of all this was that it was pretty much an accident-free workplace and the work got done on-time and correctly. We were substance abusers, but we were all functional. And it wasn't a stupid group of humans, either. I'd be willing to bet that the median IQ was quite high. We all had problems of one sort or another, and we were all self-medicating, but it wasn't just because of stupidity. A case study of that workplace would have been very interesting reading, I'm sure.

It was interesting how my own addictions worked. If I had the opportunity to do some blow, I'd do it. That is, if it was Monday and someone said, "Hey, Sully, you want a line?", I'd be on it like white on rice and wouldn't stop until the last tiny dot of it was gone. But, if nobody was offering me a freebie? I had no real itch to do the stuff, at least on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Thursday would roll around and I'd start to want it, but I could resist the temptation to buy on credit. Friday, though, was another story. I had money in my hands and I couldn't get rid of it fast enough.

Around 10:30 or 11:00, I'd put in a call to my dealer, to make sure she had a supply for me. At lunch, I'd drive over to her place and get it. On the way back to work, I'd stop at the liquor store and buy the vodka. After smuggling the bottle into work - either under my jacket or in my gym bag - I'd buy a can of Sprite from the vending machine in the warehouse and start my personal party, pouring out half the Sprite and replacing it with vodka and chopping a few lines on top of my desk.

Another thing I feel I should mention before I forget: I drank like a fish while I did coke, but I never became an alcoholic. I liked the combination, a lot, but alcohol by itself has never been something I'm tremendously fond of. I've always been able to take it or leave it, and I've usually left it. I probably have twenty drinks a year now, if that, mostly wine. And it never triggers a desire in me to have more. Just an oddity, all things considered.


I started writing this piece as something a bit more humorous than it's become. That's the way it goes sometimes.

This is the first time I've ever actually written about this in detail and I've got to tell you, it isn't easy. I've spoken about it before - a goodly portion of my broadcasting school valedictory was a recounting of what an ass I had been just prior to attending - and I've written bits of it in letters and whatnot, but this is actually knotting my stomach. I'm glad.

You see, nobody becomes addicted to something that just plain sucks. Cocaine was a lot of fun, as long as the money and the supply held out, but remembering what I felt like on Saturday morning (or any other "after" time) when the money was gone and my nose might be bleeding and I had a wicked headache, is what kept me from going back once I quit. It's good to know that I'm feeling sick when talking about the "good" times, too, never mind the bad. I'm way over it, thank God.


Well, the idea was to relate to you the details of my first writing gig - which is, to date, my only real one because what I'm doing here sure isn't bringing in the bucks and my time as a lyricist earned me about enough to buy a set of strings for my bass. So, let's get back to the subject.

Despite being wasted half the time, I did the job and that's why I didn't get fired - even though most everybody knew I was high. The Sprite can wasn't fooling anyone after a while. They weren't blind or deaf - or dumb. And, as I mentioned, there were a lot of "Sprite cans" in that office.

However, I knew that after the catalogue was actually published they had nothing else for me to do. I was being paid to write, but there would be nothing else they needed written. They would most assuredly scrap my one-man department and put me back into customer service.

And so they did, even though I tried to stretch it out as far as possible. Well, after you've had the kind of autonomy I had, that was a major bummer. I was expected to actually deal with people. I no longer had my own private den in which to drink and drug. And I had to report to somebody. This sucked mightily.

After two weeks or so of half-hearted effort on my part, the writing was on the wall. I had no desire to stay there and they had little choice but to let me go. I was laid off, so I went on unemployment for a couple of months. And that was the end of my true-actually-earning-something-for-putting-words-to-paper writing career.


I did have some fun writing that catalogue. Every chance I had to put my own personal touches on it, I did. For instance, we sold some briefcases. A photo needed to be taken of a briefcase for inclusion with the text concerning them. These briefcases came with a personalization kit of sorts - really just stickers with numbers and letters on them - so the photo had to show the dandy way you could make the briefcase your own. I made it my own. In the space provided for the owner's initials, I put "JSS". And that's how the briefcase appeared in the photo - with my initials. Similar touches appeared throughout the Blake & Rebhan catalogue.

That sort of stuff was just fun and I don't think anybody really cared if I did it. It didn't hurt anyone and nobody would really notice it. However, I did another thing that took a bit more planning and would never have been allowed if anyone knew what I was doing.

I mentioned before that, in addition to writing the text and taking the photos and choosing the illustrations, I was also responsible for the physical layout of the pages. I did the cut-and-paste on everything and delivered the proofs to the printer. For $8.25 an hour. Wow. No wonder I did drugs.

Anyway, this gave me an opportunity to play around with the layout of the text upon the page. Once I figured out that this would probably be my only published work, I decided to include something within the text. I don't have the original, but I rearranged the order of words within an introduction I had written and the result was something similar to this:

Everyone needs to know they can count upon their supplier to
adequately fill needs on a timely basis. What good is it to have
the stock, but not be able to deliver it when you need it?

So, B&R makes this promise to you. If you ever place an order
here that isn't delivered when we promise, you will receive
it absolutely free! That's right - on time or you don't have
to pay a single penny!

You'll like the way we do business! We don't beat around the bush
or give you a song-and-dance. We pride ourselves on honesty and
unwavering principles. Don't you deserve to be treated
royally? When it comes to business with us, you're the king!
Start an account today and see what we mean!

Turn to any page in this catalogue and you'll find some
remarkable bargains. We come through with pricing you need and
usually, if you order in bulk, we'll knock off a bit more. But
let us show you what we can do - don't just take our word for it.
You'll enjoy seeing what we mean by "the customer is king"!

Staples, paperclips, pens - these are the things that every
unremarkable company stocks - a dime-a-dozen;
lots more open every day; there isn't much difference between
doing business with them or us - if you consider
only the stock. What makes us different is the service
good employees provide.

Just boring copy, right? Try reading the first letter on the left of each sentence, going down.


That's about it for the job. I'll be the first to admit I was a total jerkwad. They treated me well, all things considered, and I repaid them by pulling an asshole move like the above.

As for the substance abuse, I could just say that I cleaned up and lived happily ever after, but that would be doing a disservice to you and to the people who helped me along the way. I'll pick up that part of my life on another day and go into detail.

Thanks for being my unpaid analyst. See you Monday.

Me Am Professional Writing Guy

Today, I am the tremendously polished writer you've come to know and love, earning upwards of $3.46 a month by blogging - not to mention saving tens of thousands a year by not having to have psychiatric sessions or the psychotropic drugs I would no doubt be severely abusing right at this very moment - but, in days of yore...

I was 27 years old and finally coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn't be a gazillionaire rock 'n roll star. Or a gazillionaire athlete. Or even a gazillionaire medical-study participant, which was where I had made my most recent buck by allowing myself to be injected with what they told me was a penicillin substitute but could just as easily have been nuclear waste that would sprout a third arm in the middle of my back, in which case I could have become a gazillionaire circus freak. However, that didn't happen, so I came to the painful realization that I needed to get an actual job.

Having no marketable skills other than the ability to be a paid human pincushion, I looked through the help wanted section of the Boston Globe. There were the usual assortment of driving jobs and janitorial positions which I had successfully filled at previous times in my life, but I was looking for a challenge; something to give me mental stimulation and make use of my marvelous Boston public schools education. And that's how I ended up applying for work as an order picker in the warehouse of Blake & Rebhan.

Blake & Rebhan (or B&R, as everybody who worked there called it) was located on D Street in South Boston. It was an office supply company in the days before Staples, which is to say back in the time when that type of business could actually turn a profit. Nowadays there are few such operations, Staples and their ilk having driven the great majority of them into the grave. That's pretty much what eventually became of B&R, but that was a year or two after I left the company. At the time of my employment there, it was a going concern with a hundred or so employees.

Anyway, I cut my hair, shaved, dressed up in a suit and tie, spoke intelligently, and got the job five minutes into the interview.

I started out as an order picker, but I moved up quickly. From order picker I moved into shipping. From shipping I was promoted to the purchasing department. From purchasing they shuffled me upstairs (literally upstairs) into customer service. Three promotions in fairly rapid succession. Finally, after having done all of that in less than two years, some bigwig in the front office saw the write-ups I had been doing concerning the company softball team (which I managed and played for, natch) and decided that I was the best person in the company to head up (read: be) the new catalogue publications department.


We will now take a short break from this Frank Merriwell story to flesh out some background details.

I first tried cocaine while working in the warehouse. It was such damned boring work, pulling pens and paper and cellophane tape and paper clips off of the shelves while compiling orders, that I welcomed any diversion. Somebody (well, I know who, but he may still be doing stuff, so I won't mention his name) asked me if I wanted go in with him on a quarter. Having no earthly idea at that time what constituted a quarter, I asked him what the hell he was talking about. He explained that it was a small packet of cocaine costing $25. Since I was never one to demur when the occasional mind-expanding opportunity presented itself, I said sure. So, he bought it during lunch and we went into the bathroom at B&R to do it.

Mind you, I was no virgin. I had done plenty of drugs before this. Cocaine, though, was always considered a "rich man's drug" in the neighborhood where I came from. So, all of my experience had been with things you either smoked or ingested in pill form. I didn't inject anything unless I was being paid to do so. This was the first thing I had ever been presented with that was supposed be put up your nose.

I watched my buddy lay out the white lines. He used a credit card to chop the powder finely, on the edge of the sink, and he rolled up a dollar bill to use as a straw. He stuck one end of the dollar bill up his nostril and, while dragging the other end along and through one of the lines, snorted mightily. He then handed me the dollar bill with the implication being that I should do the same with the other line.

OK. I did. And about five minutes later I realized that I was really really enjoying just about everything associated with order picking. And I was picking orders more quickly than I had ever previously done so. Conversation of any sort was engaging and fun. I felt like everything I said was tremendously witty and someone should be writing it down for posterity. Good stuff, this cocaine.

That was the beginning of about three years of blowing every last cent of what I earned up my nose.


So, here I was, almost two years into my three year sojourn in the land of blow, and I was being asked to write a stationery catalogue for the princely sum of $8.25 an hour. I said, sure, why not?

(I should note here that $8.25 an hour doesn't sound like much, but it was more than I had been making in customer service, so I had no complaints.)

I was given an actual office that I didn't have to share with anyone, complete with word processing equipment and a big bulky heat printer and a noisy fax machine and a typewriter and all sorts of other stuff that nobody uses these days. I was given another stationery company's catalogue as a template and given more-or-less free reign to design our new one. I would do all of the writing, pick the illustrations, do the layouts, take additional photos as needed - I was the one-man catalogue department.

I needed more coke.

(continued tomorrow)