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Rainy Morning

It rained hard yesterday and was still coming down in sheets last night as Toby and I drove to the airport to meet ML's plane from Detroit.  It's great to have her home, I feel lucky to have her as my companion, a reason to sleep at one side of the bed. 

This morning it's still raining.  I woke up with a Dylan song in my head, the other side of my coin:

They sat together in the park
and watched the evening sky grow dark.
She looked at him, he felt a spark
tingle to his bones.
It was then he felt alone
and wished that he'd gone straight
and watched out for a simple twist of fate.

They walked along by the old canal,
a little confused, I remember well,
and stopped into a strange hotel
with the neon burning bright.
He felt the heat of the night
hit him like a freight
train driven by a simple twist of fate

A saxophone somewhere far off played
as she was walking by the arcade.
As light burst through the beat up shade
where he was waking up,
she dropped a coin into the cup
of a blind man at the gate
and forgot about a simple twist of fate

When he woke up the room was bare -
he couldn't see her any where.
He told himself he didn't care,
pushed the window open wide,
felt an emptiness inside
to which he just could not relate
brought on by a simple twist of fate.

He hears the ticking of the clocks,
walks along with a parrot that talks,
hunts her down by the waterfront docks
where the sailors all come in.
Maybe she'll pick him out again.
How long must he wait
once more for a simple twist of fate?

People tell me it's a sin
to know and feel too much within.
I still believe she was my twin,
but I lost the ring.
She was born in spring,
but I was born too late.
Blame it on a simple twist of fate.

April 28, 2005 in Music | Permalink | Comments (1)

C is for Cooper

My wheels:


Fresh off the boat back in October 2002.  What a great ride she has been!

April 25, 2005 in C is for... | Permalink | Comments (0)

C is for Cat

Let me be perfectly clear - I am not a cat person.  I wouldn't say I hate cats, but I am not particularly fond of them.  If cats can sense at all this distaste of mine, they have a funny way of showing it; usually they will pick my lap out of a group of stranger's laps to leap, purring, upon.  Cat people have suggested to me that this shows the cat's wonderful sense of irony.  To me it's another example either of their stupidity, their disdain for humans, or both. 

People who love cats seem to me to have a not too subtle masochistic streak or inferiority complex.  They love to be disdained and disobeyed.  Dog people prefer to be revered, even worshiped by our, I mean their, pets.  Sure, one might make the argument that dog people have a little bit of a God complex, but , hey, don't the enlightened tell us that God is within each of us.  Cats certainly believe so.

There were no pets to speak of in the home of my youth, neither cats nor dogs.  My first experience living with cats probably had an influence on my subsequent regard for the creatures.  The summer after my senior year in college, I arranged to live in a house with seven women.  If images of a three month idyll of sexual dalliances occurred to you when you read that last sentence, let me tell you we were both wrong.  My role in this harem was closer to eunuch than sultan.  I was relegated to the worst room in the place, a glorified broom closet right next to the only bathroom in the house, without a real bed - just a mattress on the floor.  I had thought my college roommates were slobs, but these women put them to shame.  They did have the miraculous ability to emerge from bomb craters they inhabited perfectly put together, but when it came to any communal cleaning chore, it was pretty much up to me.

Our Cambridge neighborhood

Fortunately, I didn't really have time to feel regret for my lack of success with these women.  It was the summer of '69, and I was chiefly concerned about the Draft.  My student deferment had expired, and I had no intention of getting drafted or serving in the military in any capacity, but I hadn't the courage of my convictions to run away to Canada, and I wasn't sure that fear of death was an adequate foundation for conscientious objector status.

I was pinning my hopes for a deferment on Digital Equipment Corporation which had tentatively offered me a job and promised a deferment as part of the deal.  To keep them happy, I was spending the summer programming interrupt routines for the time-share operating system for a new PDP 9t that was being installed in a laboratory on the 13th floor of the psychology department building. (Those were the days when the customer supplied all the programs including the operating system, which in this case wasn't surprising, because they were inventing the PDP 9t as they went along.)  I was not really doing much of anything, but, wanting to impress the Digital reps, I had to spend most of my waking hours in my office, polishing little snippets of machine code.

Meanwhile, one of my roommates decided to acquire a couple of cute little kittens to entertain herself when she wasn't hanging with her (to hear him tell it) mobbed-up boyfriend.   She was not however of the mood or temperament to exercise any responsibility for these animals.  She did set up a litter box for them, hoping that somehow or other they would intuit its purpose.  Perhaps they did use it for a while, but cleaning it was not on their owner's agenda.  The kittens quickly decided that they wanted no part of no stinkin' litter box and started searching for other corners of the house to do their business. 

The housemates sophisticated response to this behavior was aversion therapy - when a kitten makes a 'mistake', shove its face in it and swat it (the cat, not the mistake) with a newspaper.  The kittens quickly figured that the best way to avoid this unpleasantness was to do their business in a place no human could get to.  The perfect spot was underneath the old claw-footed bathtub that graced our bathroom.  The odor was mild at first, but increased daily.  Housemates recriminated at volume, but no cleanup ensued.

In the end, the cats sickened of the bathtub latrine before the humans.  I discovered this by coming home from a late night pizza and programming session, tiptoeing to my darkened closet, and exhaustedly flopping onto my mattress - right into a steaming pile of cat shit.  Needless to say, I was not happy.  I knew that I had only one course of action, which I plotted while washing my clothes, my bedding and then myself in the bathtub - breathing the while through my mouth. 

The next morning when my housemates had left for their day jobs, I snatched the kittens, installed them in a paper grocery bag, and split.  At the time I had a metallic green Corvair coupe, which was quite reliable except when driving between 45 and 50 miles per hour when it would shimmy violently, sort of like passing through the sound barrier.  In retrospect, i was probably in as much danger driving this machine as I ever was from the Vietnam war, but that morning I cranked the AM radio in the dashboard and whistled happily as I headed for the country. 

I had heard stories of dogs traveling thousands of miles back to their homes, but I didn't really believe them, and i figured thirty miles would be more than enough to keep those kittens from finding there way home, if they were as stupid as I thought.  If they were any smarter, they would head in the opposite direction.

In those days, 50 miles out of Cambridge could be pretty rural.  I found a somewhat dilapidated but still working farm with a couple of big barns and no dogs in evidence.  I parked a ways down the road, hopped a fence, and placed the paper sack under an apple tree in sight of the barn.   The kittens had it open by the time I got to the other side of the fence, but they weren't looking my way and I never looked back as I crossed the sound barrier on that country road.

It took a couple of days for it to sink in to the kittens owner that they were really gone.  She tearfully accused each of the roommates of leaving the door open and allowing them to escape, but kidnapping never occurred to her, and she got over the loss remarkably quickly, probably secretly overjoyed to be relieved of a responsibility she wasn't up to. 

We used a lot of air freshener in the bathroom and went our separate ways at the end of August.  Nowadays, I have friends who are cat owners, even fanatical Friends of Feral Felines, and, as far as they know, I think no less of them.  I'm not sure, though, that I wouldn't have been among the majority in Wisconsin last week who, according to the Economist, voted that feral cats were fair game for hunters.

All in all my view of cats has not changed a whole lot since that idyllic summer of my youth.  I'll keep my distance if they'll keep theirs.

April 17, 2005 in C is for..., Personal | Permalink | Comments (0)

First Flowers

Today was the first real warm day of the season here in Pownal.  Well before noon the temperature passed 70, and the first blossoms opened in the garden...


April 17, 2005 in Personal | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

B is for Brother Ben

My only brother, Ben is the middleman of my family.  I am the second and he the third of our parents five children.  We share three sisters (about whom more under 'S' perhaps).


As two outnumbered boys, you would have thought we'd have been close growing up, but early in his life, my elder sister and I used to gang up on brother Ben and make his life pretty miserable.  Moreover, because we two were good at school, he decided at a young age that it was a no win situation to try to compete with us academically.  It took him well into adulthood to figure he was really a very smart guy.  Late though he was in turning to the academic life, he has embraced it wholeheartedly, with a PHD after his name and a tenured teaching position.

He is married to a strong, artistic and attractive woman, Sarah.  Together they have one son and one daughter.  (see 'N')

The thing brother Ben and I share most together these days is music - he and I play together and have for almost 40 years.  Musically, I am happy to defer to him in most matters.  For one thing, I owe him for any contribution I made to messing up his youth.  But, more importantly, he is both more talented and dedicated than I am.  He likes being front man and works at it.  I provide support.

Of course there is a great deal more to our history than I have room or inclination to share with you, blog readers.  I think we have both grown enough to know no purpose would be served by revisiting some of the hurtful behavior we inflicted on each other in our impetuous youth.

So Ben is a good brother to me.  Although you may have gotten some taste of him from his eulogy to our father, I thought it was time I introduced him.

April 17, 2005 in B is for... | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

B is for Boat

Boats are an important part of my life.  Since I'm a sailmaker, you might have guessed that already.  They are my vocation and my avocation.  If you were ever bored enough to explore my dream blog you would, not surprisingly, discover that they are fixtures of my dream life as well.

I had my first boat at the age of six.  It was a nine foot Turnabout class catboat called Swallow after the one of the boats in Arthur Ransome's children's classic Swallows and Amazons.  From that book I learned that boat names should have seven letters and also repeated letters - for luck.  I can only fix my age from the fact that Swallow met her end abruptly under the fist of Hurricane Carol, a category 3 hurricane that struck the Maine coast at the end of the summer before my seventh birthday.

Boats are too much of a topic to cover in one post.  I may get back to Swallow and her successor, Swallow2 , (and their successors) in other posts.  At the moment, for instance, I have four boats.  This post is about one of them...

B is for Batard.  She is the boat I have owned the longest.  As you probably know, or can guess, her name is French for a child born out of wedlock, a bastard.  I did not choose her name.  She had it when I acquired her, carefully lettered on her inelegant transom.  Her antecedents are appropriately obscure - she was abandoned by her previous owners in a boatyard where I once worked, and I adopted her.  She is, frankly, an awful boat.  She's an undersized dinghy, clearly designed to be tender to a very small cruiser, and so she was perfect for me at the time, or so I thought.  But, though the concept was good, the instance was not.  She is just too small to work.  She can barely carry one adult, is dangerously unstable and hates to be rowed.  I'm sure her name was bestowed with appropriate bitterness after she unceremoniously soaked her owner, and I'm equally sure her abandonment was no accident.

In fact, I have not floated her in more than 20 years.  She has a small hole in her skeg, from being dragged up a rocky shore too often, and she is missing her tiny thwart, but those would be easy enough flaws  to fix.  Truth is I haven't really ever cared to tackle these little problems.  She was a fixture in the rafters of the garage of my previous home for years, and when we moved here 12 years ago, I dragged her along and stuck her in the basement, where she gathers dust to this day.  On those occasions when I happen to notice her, I tell myself I will fix her up someday and she'll come in handy, but realistically that will probably never happen.  Still, she is a boat, is Batard, and she is mine, and here she stays...

April 11, 2005 in B is for... | Permalink | Comments (0)

B is for Bass

As in Bass Guitar.  My instrument of choice.  My musical life is not nearly well enough connected to the rest of my life, but that's the way it has to be.  Fortunately, bass is the perfect instrument for that condition.  It is both rythmic and melodic, but it is relatively undemanding, technically, so that even someone like me who doesn't have the time (or the discipline) to practice regularly can carry the load in an R&B band such as the one I play in.   Actually, not being too proficient is an advantage, because the best bass playing is unobtrusive, though not without power. 

The time I do get to spend making music with others is satisfying all out of proportion to its fraction of my life, so I will keep doing it.  I am fortunate to play with friends who share music as an avocation and  grateful it is not my livelihood.  I spent a little time in college in a band that was actually trying to get gigs and earn money, and it was a stressful experience. 

April 5, 2005 in B is for..., Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

B is for Bad

Bad is one of the dozen or so words Toby, our 13 year old golden retriever, knows.  It was a word we never had to teach.  He knew it well by the age of one and a half when we acquired him fro the Westbrook Animal Refuge League.  (Other B-words is his vocabulary:  bath, bone, and boots)

As I understand is the way of his breed, our Toby's most ardent desire was to please his people.  We never needed corporal punishment to deter him from any behavior we didn't like - a couple of applications of the B-word was lash enough.  He would lower his head guiltily just as though he had been hit.  Then a few minutes later he would come lean up against your leg, trying desperately to re-ingratiate himself with affection.

Now, he is pretty much stone deaf.  He could no longer hear "bad dog", even if we ever felt he deserved such censure (which we wouldn't).  Of course he would still respond to the body language - the frowning glare and the wagging finger, but the word bad will never trouble him again.

I perhaps flatter myself to believe that as a boy I had a pretty much a golden retriever's aversion to be thought of as bad.  I was told the importance of being good, and I believed.  By the time I realized that there might be certain advantages to being perceived by my peers (especially those of the opposite sex) as being just a little bit bad, it was already too late for any convincing readjustment of my persona - I was pretty much stuck, at least in my own head, with being a good boy.

Not, of course, that I was incapable of bad behavior.  I certainly was guilty of plenty of that.  ML asked me the other day whether I ever thought back with regret on any relationships I had ended.  I agreed that I certainly did - that I know I was not just dishonest, but positively cruel to at least a couple of women who did not deserve it.  But, back then, I still felt comfortable thinking of myself as basically 'good' at some core that was above and beyond any temporary lapses.

Now that I, too, am getting old, I have acquired a certain deafness myself, a moral relativism.   Rather than weakness, though, I find it a strength.  Not that I believe I can't distinguish between good and bad behavior, in either myself or others.  But looking to judge people as good or bad with absolute moral authority is, to me, horribly diminishing.  Some will judge me for saying that, but I will not hear them...

April 3, 2005 in B is for... | Permalink | Comments (1)