Thursday, May 31, 2007

This TB story's getting interesting. The guy who has it turns out to be a personal injury lawyer whose father in law is a microbiologist for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. His specialty at CDC? TB research.

Who Robin Cooked this story up?
Speaking of music, violence and guys sporting face lifts and toupees...

Consider the recent trials and tribulations of one Phil Spector. Spector has been around since I first started listening to music on the radio. His " Wall of Sound " sounds were the sounds I listened to on the first transister radio I ever had. The Ronettes, The Sherelles. Be My Baby.

Back then Spector was a hitmaker. Now he's on trial, accused of being a hitman.

Spector, not to be confused with U.S. Senator Arlen Spector ( Although they do have this separated at birth kind of thing going on ) is accused of shooting Lana Clarkson, a tall, blonde actress who had starred in two " Barbarian Queen " movies.

Live like a Barbarian queen, die like a barbarian queen. That's what I've always said.

There's a new book out about Spector and the bizarre life he has lived. It's called Tearing Down The Wall of Sound. It was written by Mick Brown. McCartney's probably hoping his next book's not about him.
Former Providence mayor Vincent " Buddy " Cianci made his first public appearance in five years yesterday, arriving at the half way house in which he'll be living like Brad Pitt slips into a restaurant.

Wearing a blue Polo baseball cap and dark glasses, Cianci walked past a few reporters who'd guessed which entrance into Coolidge House he'd be taking. It was the one in the back alley whose walls were thick with grafitti.

Whadja expect? Him to use the front door? That won't be happening anytime soon.

Cianci will stay at Coolidge house for a few weeks. He'll be doing a work-release tour of duty at a Boston Hotel ( Marketing and Public Relations ) then return to his East Greenwich RI home where he'll be under house arrest until July 28.

That's when he'll be totally free.

Rumors that Cianci might return to his old job as radio talk show host on Providence's WPRO resurfaced today. WRNI, the NPR station down here, reported that's what he would be doing come July.

That remains to be seen ( or, more accurately, heard. )

Buddy's return was greeted by the media here in Rhode Island like he was McCarthur going back to the Phillipines. His pictured was splashed all over the front page of the Providence Journal. Interstingly enough the grainy picture was attributed to WPRI-TV.

The Journal can't afford to send a photographer to Boston? No wonder I'm having a hard time getting my essays onto its op-ed page. But that's another ( news ) story.

The scoop du jour was WPR radio's Ron St. Pierre's. St. Pierre is a " friend " of Buddy's. I'm not sure if that's something I'd want on my resume if I were a newsman in Providence. St. Pierre had an " exclusive " interview with Cianci this morning.

How newsworthy was it? Not much. Didn't get much past:

How ya doin'?

OK, how YOU doin'?

Glad to be out?

Whaddyou tink?

So there you have it: Buddy's return. The story is breaking. There's gonna be more late breaking stuff. It's developing. There's gonna be lots of " This just ins. "

Stay tuned.

YouTube - Paul McCartney - Ever Present Past

One more off the new CD. I guess we can all relate to the lyrics on this one, eh mate?

YouTube - Paul McCartney - Ever Present Past

YouTube - Paul McCartney & Michel Gondry - New Video

This is recent. Song's off his new CD, which is due to be released Tuesday...

YouTube - Paul McCartney & Michel Gondry - New Video

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

There's a terrific profile of Paul McCartney in The New Yorker this week. It was written by John Colapinto. When asked who's your favorite Beatle, I've been pretty consistent in saying " It's Paul. "

Even though I know it would be cool to say, " John. "

John was the dark side of The Beatles phenomenon. Paul was the light. After founding Wings, he morphed into his Lite period.

But I've always been drawn to Paul. I've had dreams about him. About meeting him at parties and seeing him boarding a train. In the New Yorker profile, Colapinto writes of the role Paul played during the filming of Let It Be.

" McCartney is shown repeatedly trying, and failing, to inspire comaradarie and excitement in his bandmates. "

Joseph Campbell, who wrote about myths and gods, wrote that John Lennon was ( and probably still is ) a god. But for me? Paul is that, too. He has a new CD on the shelves next Tuesday. I'll be buying it.
A few posts back I wrote about driving over that bridge from which a woman had jumped to her death. This morning, in the writing workshop I facilitate, I steered one of the writers towards this blog. Said I'd like her to check it out ( Like a book from a library ) .

She emailed me a while ago. Said she'd perused Fence Post. She liked the Red Sox piece. Wasn't crazy about the rap stuff. My story about driving over the bridge, out of the blue and into the fog. That was hard to read, she said. It hit close to home.

Terry ( Yes, another Terry. They seem to be all over the place. Jacksonville, Lakeville, upstate New York and Narragansett ) said she knew the woman who jumped from the bridge. She was a friend and a neighbor.

That's what I call a Rhode Island story. One that has someone crossing a bridge. One making it over the bridge. One not making it. And the one making it over is the one who's nervous crossing bridges. That would be me.

One and a half degrees of separation. Someone knowing someone who knows someone. Or something. Yeah. That's a Rhode Island story.

Terry brought a book to class. The Beloit Fiction Journal. Spring 2007 edition. She wanted me to see it. Her son Ehren's short story was among those in the book. I asked Terry of I could borrow the book and return it to her next week.

She said yes and I did that. Brought the book home and opened it up this evening. Found, between two of its pages a letter from the literary journal's editor-in-chief.

Part of the letter reads: " Your story was one of thirteen selected from a pool of more than 600. Your story was read and re-read - often aloud - by our editorial group. We chose to publish it, because of the pleasure we had reading it. "

That's another Rhode Island story.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

YouTube - Baseball and Football

If I were the manager, I'd have Carlin batting cleanup...

YouTube - Baseball and Football
The Red Sox are 35-15. They have an 11 1/2 game lead over the second place team in the American League East. As I write this, Josh Beckett is on the mound. If the Hose win and he gets credit for the W, Josh'll be 8-0. And it's still May.

This is the best start in Red Sox history. There's some kind of magic being perpetrated on the manicured lawns on which these boys are playing. Reminds me of 1986, the year my father died. We buried him on opening day of the Red Sox season. Sox played Detroit. Bruce Hurst was the starting pitcher for the Sox, who lost that first game. But went on to win the pennant.

That was a magical year, and Dad just missed it. Or maybe he didn't. Maybe he was there, sitting in the skybox seats. The only one up there not fingering the strings of a harp.

The Sox are fun to watch this spring. Take last night for example. Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who has a hit streak going ( Not just any streak; he gets two or three hits a game! ) hit an inside the park homerun.

That's a magic trick rarely performed in big league parks like Fenway. Youkilis hit a line drive to straight center. It bounced off the fence. ( Off the fence? Yes, Off the Fence. Attach whatever meaning you will to that, dear reader ) )

The Cleveland outfielders looked like city slickers chasing a headless chicken in a barnyard. By the time they caught up with the ball, Kevin was rounding third, heading for home.

How can you not love a game in which the ultimate reward is going back to the place where you started - home.

Youkilis crossed the plate standing up. Didn't even need to slide. Youkilis of all players, notching an inside the park homerun on the bed post of his career. He has a busload of talent, speed not being among the skills on his resume. But he did it.

Most homeruns are hit by guys who stand at the plate and watch the ball's parabolic flight. Like golfers standing next to the broken tee. They watch as the ball leaves the park. Then they trot slowly around those bases, heading slowly for home.

Youkilis, the slow guy - he ran!

Giving the homerun the meaning it deserves.

It was magical. My father? The guy who brought me to my first Red Sox game back in the 1950s? The guy who introduced me to that green cathedral in which I have worshipped so many times.

A quiet man, a typical Irishman, he would have had a difficult time showing what he felt about what this Jewish guy ( Name of Kevin ) did with his turn at the plate.

Then again, maybe not. Maybe he would have done what he did back in 1967. I was 20 and a month or so from being shipped off to Lackland Air Force Base for basic training. The Tet Offensive ( An inside the park homerun hit by an AA farm team called the Viet Cong ) was coming soon. Dad and I were watching the Sox on TV. This was long before NESN. Televised Sox games were as rare as Red Sox wins in previous years. A Sox game on TV was an event ( A word that has lost all meaning, now that the weathermen are calling " drizzle " an event. )

The Sox won the game they had to. They were on their way to the World Series. Dad sprung from his perch on the couch and started waving his arms. Started yelling, " They did it. They DID it!!! "

It was the happiest, and most animated I'd ever seen him. A close second was the day I got married, ten years later.

Youkilis hitting that inside the park homer? Damn! He woulda loved that. And I have a feeling he'd be happy with the way this season is going. And might go.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I'll be looking for you when I watch the next Sox game. Looking up I'll be, at those skybox seats where you'll be. Sitting next to the guys with the harps.
Not sure if regular commentista Jennifer's hubby is still experiencing flu like symptoms, but if he is...

And maybe I shouldn't apologize for writing this stuff. Who is it - 50 cent? That Rap star who bought that multi million dollar mansion in Farmington, Connecticut? The one the realtor said is unpretentious, " except maybe for the stripper pole in the living room. "

Maybe a lucrative career as a rap star looms on the horizon. That said, here's the encore everyone's been waiting for. Did I hear, " Yeah, right " out there in da crowd!?

It’s day 2 a da flu
And that got me thinkin’
I’m in da bathroom right now
And it be still stinkin’

24 hours they say
is the course a dis bug
But I’m still wid da mop
And where be da big lug?

He still in his crib
Says I’m not goin’ ta my job ‘n
He be not eatin’ too good
And what he chews he be lobbin’

Tried everything now
Alka Selzer to Bromo
Nothin’ seems to be workin’
Including my homme , Bro!

Forget Terrence. Just call me Run TMC.
The cardinal eggs have hatched!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Father's Day looms. Which explains what follows. Sort of.

A year and a half after I was discharged from the Air Force, I played left field for a slow pitch softball team sponsored by a company called Trico Vendors. Trico stood for the three counties the company served: Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin. All of which are located in western Massachusetts.

I played basketball and soccer in high school. The games I played used to define me. This was back in the 1960s, before "soccer moms " crawled under the flap of the vocabulary tent. I cannot recall my father or my mother ever attending a game in which I played. And that was OK. Playing those games was a " step " or two out of the nest, from which we'd soon be flying.

But after I got out of the service, after I survived those four years, the worst years of the Vietnam War...

My father couldn't get enough of watching me play.

I'd be out there in left field. Waiting for the ball to be hit my way. I'd look over my shoulder, and there he'd be. My dad. Watching me play left field. I was good. I was very good. I had an arm like a cannon. Threw guys out at second and third.

It didn't hurt that my father was out there. I played better when he was out there. Impressing your dad. It's something we sons did, and do. Still.

Happy Father's Day you fathers. Watch your sons every chance you get. And remember - They're watching you back.
The weather's been great this Memorial Day weekend. Warmer here on the coast than it's been inland. We've been eating like royalty. Soft shelled crabs and asparagus Saturday. Rib eye steak and asparagus Sunday. Shrimp scampe tonight.

This morning I threw a kielbasa on the grill. The plan was to head out to Jamestown. Jamestown is an island located between Narragansett and Newport, Rhode Island. Beavertail's a park at the west end of the island. There's a lighthouse there. An old military bunker, manned back in The Good War: WWII.

And a great view of Newport. With a pair of binoculars you can see Jackie Kennedy's place: Hammersmith Farm. Where she and JFK had their wedding reception.

Our plan was to picnic. When we left the mainland, it was sunny and hot. By the time we'd crossed the Jamestown Bridge , the weather had taken a turn. It was cloudy. The temperature was 20 degrees colder than it was when we left home. The sky was turning dark off to our north.

Donna had forgotten to bring a sweater. I scolded her. " Be prepared! "I said. Like some idiot boy scout bucking for a merit badge in I Told You So's.

We set things up. Planted our chairs. Started eating the keilbasa and drinking the lemonade. But we didn't last long. Packed it all in. Drove back over the Jamestown Bridge, from which a woman had just jumped to her death the day before...

She was an " activist. " Served on boards. Worked for the mentally ill. Victims of domestic violence. Did good. For others. But that's another story.

Donna and I were in Memorial Day picnic mode, and it had rained on our parade.

I'm not so sure I'd want to live on an island. You need to fly to get out there. Take a long bridge. And the weather's always bad. If it's not rain, it's fog.

" No man is an island. " John Donne wrote that. Long before the Jamestown Bridge was constructed. Long before she stopped her car, got out, and leaped into the fog.
Four spotted eggs were spotted in the nest in the bush next to our deck. Here we go again. Here they go again. The cardinals are expecting.
It's Memorial Day.

Easthampton, Massachusetts. 1959. The late May air is thick with the smell of flowers and new mown grass. The 12 year old kid that was me is standing at parade rest waiting for an unseen bigler to hit the last, sad note of taps. Taps ends and the silence is punctuated by the metallic sound of rifles of being cocked.

Three legionnaires take aim at the clouds. Pull triggers. Kids in the crowd cover their ears. I want to, but parade rest wouldn't look right with one of the troop's hands stuck to the sides of his head.

The shots are fired. The fat lady's sung. Another small town Memorial Day parade's history...

The uniformed men and boys break ranks, drift slowly away. Rejoin their families. As the crowd disperses, a veil of gunsmoke falls gently onto and around around the granite monument bearing the names of the troops who lost their lives in battles past.

As I walk away from the scene I see an old man. His hand is outstretched. He's touching the chisled letters of a name on the stone.

Back then I didn't grasp the meaning of this. The monument on the library lawn was just another monument. The names were just names.

When I'm up in Easthampton these days, I see that monument in a different light. When I see the names chisled in stone, I think of the names on the chevron shaped Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. That monument on which the names of more than 56,000 of my generation are carved.

At the far end of the walkway next to the wall there are directories that guide visitors to the section of the wall on which the name or names they are looking for are located. I visted the wall a few years ago. The name I was looking for was John Rabideau.

John Rabideau and I had gone to high school together. Played on the same varsity soccer team. After high school, he had joined the Army. I joined the Air Force.

Rabideau was killed in action. I didn't know John Rabideau well, but I knew him. He is the only person I knew who was killed in that war.

As I was walking to the area where the directories are located, a strange thing happened. I looked up at the wall and there it was. The name: John Rabideau. My eyes were drawn to the name. I was startled. The directories are there because it would take forever to find one name among the more than 56,000 names chisled into that wall.

Yet I had found it. Or had it found me?

I stopped and looked hard at my reflection in the mirrorlike surface of the wall. Then I reached out and I touched the name.
Regular commentatista, Jennifer, has requested that I write a rap song about her husband, who has the stomach flu this Memorial Day weekend. I know I said stop me, if I start doing this again. But she's a regular. So here goes...

It be Memorial Day Monday
And I ain't havin' no fun day
Got nothin' ta do
My man's got da flu

Boyz in the hood out paradin'
Maybe I'll trade in
My mop and my bucket
Stand up and shout " F--k it! "
Build a float and get on it
Get away from this vomit...

I think I'd better stop there. Hope he's feeling better real soon. Don't show him this. His stomach's already churning...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Well, now that I've lost the few readers and commentistas I've garnered since I started Fence Post in March...

Stick with me. It'll get better.

Which isn't a bad thing to remember. Whatever you're going through. No matter how high the waves or strong the turbulance. It'll get better. Trust me on that. It's one of the few things I know.

Where the hell was I?

This is from Colin McEnroe's memoir My Father's Footprints:

" Hughes is within walking distance from my parents' apartment, so I bundle up my dad, blanket, parka, hood and wheel him over. The whole thing feels like an afterthought following the Breaking of the Covenant. The people at Hughes greeet him as if his arrival was ordained at the hour of his birth. " Oh, there you are! " Big smiles.

They take off the hooded parka and lay him down on a bed.

" I'm Anna, " says a beaming nurse.

" I'm Santa, " says my father. " But they took away my suit. "

" Is he joking or disoriented? " she asks me.

" That's sort of the basic question I've been asking myself for thirty-five years, " I tell her.

McEnroe's memoir is about his relationship with his father. I read it a few years ago and I'm rereading it now. You don't have to be Irish to love this book. It helps. But you don't have to be a McEnroe, an O'Malley or a Ryan. You had a father? Have one now?

Read this book.
I am completely responsible for the lyrics in the previous post. They are my words. I wrote them. I wasn't, as one commentator suggested, " drunk " when I penned the words. Nor was I high. Don't give me no lippin' _ I wasn't trippin'...

How long did it take me to write that song? About a minute. Sixty seconds.

Funny thing. Once I wrote 'em. My attempt was to float 'em. Out dere on the web. Where folks they be surfin', and land on my turf and...

See what I got, watch my ass as I take a shot at the fame that eludes me, the spotlight that intrudes me, the nerves that unglued me...

I know, I know. You hate this shit. You'd rather be listening to Tony Bennett Unplugged. Or Harry Coniff Jr. Or whatever the hell his name is. But you - YOU - start writing this hip hop stuff. Once ya start, it's hard to stop. It's fun, and when you're on your run, diggin' the pun...

You know what I'm sayin'.

Here's a promise. That's my last Eminem riff. Honest.
I just responded to my old friend, Fred's opinion re: my liking Eminem. It's in the comments section of yesterday's blog post. Or, you could read it here:

I be down wid Eminem
Sittin' here in my crib
Cranking up da music
Readin' da Trib

Lots a news on da page
Some I'm not likin'
Maybe I'll drop this rag
And go out bikin'

Slap me around
You don't like my taste
Go listen to the late great Jimi
( What a f--kin' waste )

Or Nat King Cole
Cole Porter, one
Go crank up those tunes
Have ya some fun

I'm stickin with my man
His name sounds like a candy
At least I'm not listenin' to Barry
Singin' that Mandy!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

YouTube - Eminem Mockingbird

YouTube - Eminem Mockingbird
Some short takes on what's been happening down here today...

Donna and I went to " The Transfer Station. " Remember when they used to call these places " Dumps? " I see the people who work there. They seem like nice, hard working folks. And I'm kinda happy for them. They go to a party, or are sitting at a bar. Someone asks:

" So. Whaddya do? "

" I work at the transfer station. " Or " I'm in the transfer industry. "

That's so much better than having to say, " I work out at the dump. "

But you know how language evolves. The English language is a living, breathing thing. Ever changing. You can almost hear some parent in the future, walking into his or her kid's room, strewn with dirty laundry and stuff. And saying:

" This room looks like a transfer station! "


There are times when I think my wife wonders: Why me? Why, of all the womens' lives back in the 70s, did this jerk have to walk into mine? I thought that this morning as we pulled into the transfer station. It was warm. The car windows were down. I slid my Eminem CD into the CD player. The first track started playing. As we waited in line to get into the area where we were going to dump, er, transfer our trash...

I turned up the volume. Eminem was doing his thing, making his rhymes. You might think: Cole Porter he's not. You might be asking yourself: How much talent do you need to come up with a word that rhymes with motherf---er.

All I ask is that you listen to Eminem's stuff. I do think he's talented. Very talented. And I think an argument could be made that he is, indeed, as good at songwriting as Cole Porter was.

But try telling that to the guy who gave me that look just after I cranked up the volume. It was a classic double take. Joe E. Brown couldn't have done it better. He expected, I think, to see some dumbass street smart wannabee sitting there in his car. Instead he saw a middle aged guy in a Hyundai. A woman sitting next to him, giving the middle aged guy behind the wheel a look twice as dirty as the one he's giving me.
Cape Wind, the subject of the recently published Cape Wind ( Co-Authored by the Providence Journal's Robert Whitcomb ) is scheduled to complete the permitting phase of the project in the summer of 2008. If all goes according to ( Cape Wind's ) plan, 130 windmills will be up and running in Nantucket Sound in 2010.

There is much opposition to the Cape Wind project. A very Un-Don Quixote like crowd, reportedly led in a low key manner by Senator Edward M. Kennedy D-Massachusetts, has been tilting at these planned windmills for years.

This project is all about saving energy. In average winds, the 130 turbines will produce three quarters of the electricity used by Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard. The project will create nearly 1,000 jobs, , offset the need for fossil fuels and make for cleaner air in the region, according to Cape Wind officials.

Those who are for the project claim that many of those who are against it are well to do folks, many of whom have summer homes on The Cape and The Islands. This camp also claims that many such opponents to the project are liberals who, for years, have been advocating alternative energy sources.

In other words, they're NIMBYs. People who say, " Sure, I'm for that, but Not In My Back Yard. "

I live pretty near where the Cape Wind project's 130 windmills might be contructed. On the south coast of Rhode Island. We're close - as the seagull flies, of course. If I had a boat, or a small plane, I could be there in no time flat.

I'm pretty liberal. I've been mouthing off for years about the need for alternative energy sources. What would my position be if I lived in the area that would benefit - or not, depending on your point of view - from Cape Wind? It might just be as follows:

My wife and I have four TVs, three stereo systems, seven radios, two computers, two refrigerators, two stoves, a washing machine, a dryer, a dishwasher, two microwave ovens, a garbage disposal, two ceiling fans, ten lamps, an electric toothbrush and an electric can opener.

Where exactly does this electricity come from? Out of the wall is the only answer I can give you. I don't really know, but I do know that it doesn't come from windmills. But given the number of appliances and conveniences we have in our house, I think it's only fair that I should be tilting TOWARDS and for windmills, not against them.

Where should these windmills go? I'll take one. Yes, they can construct one right here:

In my back yard.

Why? Because I have reached a point on life's nautical chart where the line representing what I have consumed and am consuming meets the line of personal responsibility. I have listened to both sides of this debate. Here's where I stand:

Smack dab in the middle of the acre on which my home sits. Let the groundbreaking begin. This is where the windmill or windmills should be planted.

How many of them should be in my back yard? Base the number on the amount of electricity my wife and I use. Take that figure and factor in the amount of yard space we have. Then start building the windmill or mills.

Right here.

Yes! In my back yard.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cape Wind - Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb -Book - Review - New York Times

Cape Wind is co-authored by Providence Journal Editorial Page Editor Robert Whitcomb. We're going to be spending some time in North Truro and Provincetown this summer. I'm planning on reading this one while we're there...

Cape Wind - Wendy Williams and Robert Whitcomb -Book - Review - New York Times

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here's a rework of a previous post. It's what I just shipped off to the Providence Journal's editorial page editor. Congressman. Op-ed piece in a major newspaper. Couple of straws to stir this drink.

If You Are Frustrated and Confused by This ( Filing for unemployment benefits ) Process – Press Seven

By Terrence McCarthy

When I was a kid my mother worked in a mill: United Elastic Products. She was one of the last ones hired, so she was among the first to be laid off when work slowed down.

I can remember going with her to the unemployment office in Northampton, which is the town just north of where she worked and we lived. That was Easthampton, Massachusetts, also known as " Web Town. " The web being the product, the elastic material produced in the red brick mills that lined the Manhan River.

" Signing up. " That’s what my mother called filing for unemployment benefits. Lining up was more like it. I remember the lines were long. I recall seeing young mothers with crying babies in their arms. This was in the 1950s, an era in which nearly everyone smoked. The room was thick with second hand haze. It was a line in which we waited, but my recollection of the experience I shared with my mother conjures another image: A circle. Drawn by a guy named Dante.

Waiting in line was bad, but “ signing up “ was worse. Once my mother got to talk to one of the unemployment office clerks, she was asked to name five places where she had tried to get a job during the past week. I was talking to her the other day about this. I asked her what it was like back then to apply for benefits. She said she recalled one time when she gave the clerk the names of only four places, she was told to leave, walk around Northampton and find a fifth place at which she should ask for a job. She did this. Then walked back to the unemployment office, went to the end of the line, and started the process all over again.

Signing up then was a dehumanizing process, to say the least. These days, the process is far removed from the way it was back in the 1950s. But it's still dehumanizing. Take it from someone who knows.

Back in January, on the last day of my vacation, I got a call from the supervisor of the psychiatric group home where I’d worked part-time since 2004. She told me that my position was going to be eliminated. Just about everyone I talked to, including people whose job it is to help Rhode Islanders who have just lost their jobs, told me that I should have no problem getting benefits.

As I write this, it has been three months since I last worked at the group home in North Kingstown. I now find myself in the midst of a Kafaesque process, much of it involving me( Trying ) to communicate with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. I’ve tried to communicate on line and by phone. Yes, I've spoken to a few human beings in the past two and a half months, but that is not the rule; it's the exception. And the " conversations " have been curt and unfriendly.

At first things went well. I started receiving benefits. I got them for a few weeks, then I got a letter telling me that “ We have received information “ that might disqualify you. The letter did not indicate what that information was, nor from whom it came. I spoke with an “ adjudacator. She determined that I was not “ able and available “ to work. I appealed her decision. A hearing was scheduled in Providence. And oh, by the way. I was informed that I must pay back the more than $800 I'd received in benefits.

I went to the hearing. I expected someone representing my former employer would be there. I’d heard from someone, I can’t remember who ( I’ve spoken to what seems like scores of people) that if “ they “ don’t show up, you win by default.

For decades I’ve believed that Woody Allen was right when he said, “ Ninety percent of life is showing up. “

I showed up. They didn’t. I lost the appeal.

I take whatever Woody Allen is saying these days a lot less seriously.

A few days after I got the letter notifying me that I’d lost, I called my former employer, the company that eliminated my position. I spoke with the Human Resources Director. Told her about how surprised I was that no one from the company was there at the hearing on Westminster Street in Providence. I also asked her for a copy of some paperwork I needed.

“ Who would have been there? “ I asked. “ Who goes to these things? “

“ Oh, “ she said. “ That would be me. “

I asked her why she wasn’t there. She said she was never informed that a hearing had been scheduled. And she hasn't gotten back to me concerning the paperwork I requested.

The latest in a series of maddening experiences happened a few days ago. The referee, at the end of the appeal hearing, said I should refile for benefits. I did that. Was placed on hold for an hour. I finally got to speak with someone. Then I was disconnected. I called NetWORK Ri, an organization that is supposed to help Rhode Islanders cut their way through the thick, bureaucratic underbrush in which I have become tangled. The person with whom I spoke said I shouldn’t be calling anyone to refile.

“You have to do that in person, “ he said. “ Drive up to Cranston. “

I drove up to Cranston. Walked into the DLT office. Mosied on up to the information desk. Said, “ I’m here to refile for unemployment benefits. “

The guy looked up at me and said, “ Ya can’t do that here. We don’t take walk-ins. Ya have to do that by phone. “

I've been working since I was 18. I spent four years in the Air Force. I've had three careers. Journalism, Advertising and Mental Health. Never abused sick time. Worked hard for the money. Now I’m asking for benefits, and being denied for reasons I can’t understand.

Am I whining? Nope. Am I saying it isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair? Yeah. But at the end of the day, as far as my relationship with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is concerned - I have to say this:

I’m feeling like I’m at the end of a very long line. There’s a human being on one end. Who or what’s on the other end? Your guess is as good as mine.

Terrence McCarthy is a writer who lives in South Kingstown
I won't bore you with the details, but I said I'd keep y'all ( Fence ) posted.

I called Congressman Kennedy's office today. Got right through. Talked to a human being. He was nice, but said as I lived in southern Rhode Island, the proper thing to do would be to talk with someone in Congressman James Langevin's office. Langevin represents us down here in South County.

I'm a tennis player. I've played some doubles matches and I know what it is to " poach " on your partner's territory. Go after a ball hit into his patch of the hard court. I thanked the guy and closed the phone.

I called Langevin's office. Got right through to a human being. Explained briefly the bureaucratic maze I'd been meandering through for the past few months. The woman said she would connect me with the Director of Constituent Services. She was out. I left a message and hoped she'd get back to me soon.

An hour later the phone chirped. It was her. I explained. She listened. She said she was going to make some calls and would get back to me.

" It's a long weekend, " I said. " Talk to me next week. "

I closed the phone. Ok, I said to myself. I've got the freakin' U.S. Congress working on this now.
When the Strother Martin character reported back to his boss about why Luke was on the ground and bleeding, he's rumored to have said, " What we had there was a prisner ( sic ) trippin' over a Woodchuck hole. "

YouTube - Failure to communicate - Cool Hand Luke (1967)

YouTube - Failure to communicate - Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Journal Inquirer - Death sentence: Guards, inmates, PETA, outraged over trapping, killing of woodchucks on prison grounds

What we have here is a failure to communicate. The Woodchucks AKA Groundhogs AKA Little Weasels, need a public relations mavin to clean up their image. Who better to hire than Vincent " Buddy " Cianci, former mayor of Providence, Rhode Island. Buddy, who gets out of prison next week, has experience living and working in a correctional facility. He has experience with little weasels. And starting next week, he's going to be working for a marketing and public relations firm in Boston. He's gonna be looking for clients.

Be patient you Woodchucks! Buddy Cianci to the rescue. Hang in there ( OK, poor choice of words, given your precarious situation ) ...

Before I get angry comments from PETA people, I love animals. I'm still reeling from that mouse drowning incident I wrote about a few days ago. I kid the Woodchucks. But I'm on their side. Honest.

Journal Inquirer - Death sentence: Guards, inmates, PETA, outraged over trapping, killing of woodchucks on prison grounds "

YouTube - Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down

If I could write it, I would. If I could sing it, this is what I'd be singing...

YouTube - Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down
Once a newspaper reporter, always one. This unemployment benefits story I've been telling lately is a good one. Problem is, I'm right in the middle of it. Jennifer Warner Cooper's recent comment ( A few posts back ) about all this was very interesting, and has me thinking. Is the system that's now in place, ostensibly for the " convenience " of those who are filing for benefits, designed to discourage people from sticking with the process?

The " story " is driving me. At this point I couldn't care less about getting the money. If the system is designed to force people off the road, I'm staying behind the wheel. What I'm going to do today is contact Congressman Patrick Kennedy's office. Tell them the story. See what they think. Kennedy's strong on mental health issues here in Rhode Island. The position I had, the one that was eliminated, was worker in a psychiatric group home.

I will, of course, keep y'all posted on all this...

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dick Cavett - Opinion - Times Select - New York Times Blog

E.B White warned us that analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. You learn a lot about the creature, but it dies in the process. That said. The following was written by someone of whom I've been a fan since the 1960s. Anyone who's written humor for Groucho Marx and Johnny Carson...

He can slice up that frog. I'm standing behind him, looking over his shoulder...

Dick Cavett - Opinion - Times Select - New York Times Blog
The big news down here in Rhode Island is that Vincent " Buddy " Cianci is being released from a New Jersey prison next week. He's been serving five years on federal corruption charges. There was a rumor that Buddy might be rehired by WPRO, an am radio station in Providence. He was a drive time talk show host there before he started doing another kind of time in 2002.

Rumors involving Vincent Cianci are like rumors of war; most of them aren't true. Turns out Cianci is not going to be working as a radio talk show host. He's going to be working for a marketing and public relations firm in Boston. The company, by the way, is within walking distance of the Massachusetts state house.
Good writing workshop this morning. Gale did her thing; her forte is humor. She majored in Spanish and was, for years, a counselor. Jane read her piece, based on The Hurricane of 38, which devasted Watch Hill when she was a kid. I've learned a lot about the history of the south coast of Rhode Island from what she writes. R.J read a poem. A former Hartford cop, his beat was the Asylum Hill section of the Insurance City. Does that make him a " beat poet? "

Guida's been going through hell trying to sell her house. Hasn't been coming as regularly as she had been. She's one of the originals, there when I first started facilitating the workshop in 2003. She didn't have anything to read, but she listened and provided some valuable feedback.

Monica read some memoir stuff: her recollections of 9/11/01. She was living and working in New York City on that day. She's read in the past her recollections of being a kid growing up in London during World War II. She was living in Kensington during The Blitz.

I asked her this morning to compare, if she could, her feelings about being in London then, and being in New York City sixty years later.

" Nine eleven was worse, " she said.

" How so? " I asked.

" With The Blitz, we knew it was the Germans. We knew who the enemy was. "

These people I " teach. " They teach me so much.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

There's a link on the last post to the X Files. One of those shows had a reference to Herb Philbrick. The X Files hero was FBI agent Muldur. In the show, his mother lived on the south coast of Rhode Island. About three miles from where we live, as the herring gull flies.

I know. I know. Ideas of reference. Seeing stuff in fiction you connect to your life. It's not a good sign. I Led Three Lives. An ad executive. The X Files. Connecting that series to what's happening in my neck of the woods...

Crazy? Yeah. But ya gotta admit. It's more interesting than Bob Barker and The Price Is Right.

I Led Three Lives: Information from

When I was a kid, I vacationed with my parents on the coast of southern New Hampshire. This was in the 1950s, before the interstate highway system was built. Dad drove. Mom rode shotgun. I was in the back seat. One of the things I remember seeing as we headed up to Hampton Beach was Herb Philbrick's place.

I didn't know he was in the advertising business before he crossed that line and became a spy. Interesting. Very interesting...

I Led Three Lives: Information from
Forgot to thank the gentleman from Jacksonville for the amber alert story. Thanks Terrance!


Last seen wearing a diaper? You cannot make this freakin' stuff up...

You start the day by drowning a mouse and you might just think things would go uphill from there.

Not if the next thing on your to do list is call the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. I was up early. Did my ADLs, made the bed and went downstairs where things were quiet. Nothing stirring, except a mouse in the cabinet under the sink. I heard it. Opened the cabinet door and there it was - stuck to the glue trap. I hate glue traps, but when there's mice in the house, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. Bing budda bam and all that. The alternative are the traps that snap shut and break their little necks. Trouble is they don't seem to catch them. Someone did, indeed, build a better mouse trap: the glue trap.

Once you catch a mouse with the glue trap you can let the mouse just lay there on the trap, struggling to get loose. Which he won't. That's a long, slow, terrifying way to die ( I'm assuming ). Better to put the mouse out of its misery quickly. Hence the drowning.

Enough already with the mouse you're probably thinking. What's the latest with the quest for the benefits? Like you care, right? You do? You're just being nice, but I'll continue...

Yesterday I drove to Cranston. I won't repeat what I wrote. If you don't know the story, it's in the archive, a few posts back.

Here's what happened today. I'll keep it short. I called the DLT, just as the guy told me to do yesterday. I was on hold for 50 minutes. Then I got to speak with a " representative. " She asked me two questions. When was my last day of work, and when did you return to work? Then she put me on hold.

I'd figured she put me on hold to check my file, which includes the date of my final day on the job that was eliminated. She needed to ask me that? And " When did you return to work? " What kind of question is that, I thought. If I returned to work, I wouldn't be refiling for benefits.

I answered her questions. Then she told me I couldn't refile.

" It says here you're not able or available for work, " she said.

I told her I was. I told her that was the point I had made again and again at the hearing in Providence two weeks ago. Didn't do any good.

" I'm going to have to set you up to talk to an adjudacator, " she said. I talked to an adjudacator more than a month ago. I'm going around in circles here. I feel like a mouse stuck in a trap. And I get the feeling nobody in the Department of Labor and Training is going to have the decency to do what should be done.

In other words, I can't look forward to being drowned any time soon.

Lester Bangs on "Astral Weeks"

Here's that Lester Bangs piece on Van Morrison and Astral Weeks. Bangs died young. Too bad. I'd love to know what he thinks about the music scene these days...

Lester Bangs on "Astral Weeks"

Monday, May 21, 2007

You reach a certain age - someone you've loved for years up and dies. You lose your job and you start to feel like what the bastards are calling Jimmy Carter.


Your dog dies. You open the cage to clean out the cage and your parakeet flies out the window. You stop reading the obituary page, because every other day you see someone you know, getting that 15 seconds of fame.

Unsolicited advice never asked for is given by fools. Here's mine.

You're felling depressed? Like your terrier just got run over by a Toyota? Pick up Van Morrison's Astral Weeks. Then Googel the late rock music critic Lester Bangs. Read his review of Astral Weeks.

I guarantee it'll change your mood. Might make it worse than it was. But if you fancy yourself some kinda writer - it'll give ya something to shoot for.
Arcade Fire. The National. Rock groups you 40 and 50 somethings might know nothing about. I'm not quite sure how I stumbled upon them. And I'm not so sure how I stumbled upon Lou Reed in the 70s. Talking Heads and Dire Straits in the 80s. Cowboy Junkies in the 90s. And the Be Good Tanyas and Yo La Tenga post 9/11.

What connects us to the music? What hits that responsive chord? Who knows?

The National's latest CD is Boxer. I like it. A lot.

The New aYork Times today reviewed it.

" The National's songs embrace a frame of mind that may be more familiar from movies than from daily life: a bleary urban predawn in which a deadpan antihero drifts among alienation and yearning, cynicism and vulnerability... "

The Times review, written by Jon Pareles, goes on...

" Ominous ambiguity fills The National's fifth album... In ' Brainy ' Mr. Berninger sings: ' Think I'd better follow you around/ you might need me more than you think you will. "

I have no idea what that means, but I like the lyric. The music hits a chord. And if I weren't as shy and self conscious as I was and still am. I might even be dancing.
An update on my quest for the Grail, the Grail being the unemployment benefits I believe I'm entitled to as a result of my part-time job being eliminated.

Last week's episode in this saga saw your hero calling the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training to " refile " for benefits. That's what the referee ( He wasn't wearing a striped shirt ) told me to do at the end of my hearing two weeks ago. The first time I called I got a recording that kept repeating itself. I heard and understood the English version. Then it started saying ( I assume ) the same thing in Spanish, Ukranian, Laotian, Farsi and some other language I've never heard of. Probably a language spoken on some other planet.

After that I was placed on hold for twenty five minutes. I finally got to speak to someone ( She spoke English ) She asked me for my social security number, then uttered two words I did not want to hear:

" Hold please. "

I was on hold for about ten minutes when I heard a weird beeping sound. It took me a minute to realize that my call had been dropped. The next thing I did was call something called NetWORK RI. It's an outfit that " helps " people who find themselves in my position. I explained to the guy what I was trying to do, refile.

" Oh, that's easy, " he said. " Just go to the DLT's Cranston office. You talk to someone there; it won't take but a few minutes. "

" You don't call or go online? " I asked.

" No. Refiling's gotta be done in person. At the Cranston office. "

I thanked him. Drove up to Cranston this morning after putting some gas in the car. A gallon of regular cost me $3.10. It's a 45 minute drive. Cranston's almost in Providence. I found the place pretty easily. The office is in the same complex as the state mental hospital. I think there's a reason for this, and I'll get to that...

I found a parking spot. Collected the paperwork I brought with me and walked towards the DLT office. I passed some people on my way there. They looked kind of frustrated and confused. I hoped they were mental patients and not people who'd just walked out of the place I was about to walk into.

I walked into the DLT building. There was an information/security desk there. Three guys were sitting behind it. I walked up to the desk. The guys gave me a look like the look on that kid's face. The kid in Deliverance. The one on the porch, playing the banjo.

" How y'all doing? " I asked.

The guys looked at me like I just asked them what the square root of 189 is.

" I'm here to refile for unemployment benefits, " I said.

One of the guys says back: " Ya have to do that by phone, we don't take walk-ins here. "

" But I..." I started to say. Then said screw it. Ain't worth it. I said " Unbelievable. " Then I said thank you.

Then I walked over to the state hospital and signed myself in.

I made that last part up. Everything else is, unfortunately true.
Two years ago two robins built a nest in the bush next to our deck. One morning we went out there and saw four blue eggs. The eggs eventually started to crack open and soon there were four tiny birds in there, with their mouths wide open. The small robins grew bigger. One morning there were only three birds. A few mornings later there were two.

We didn't see those three birds leave the nest.

Then there was one.

I was washing the car and Donna was standing on the deck. Suddenly the bush came to life. The last robin of the four flew out of it. Winged its way into the woods to the south of our property.

" I can't believe we just saw that! " I yelled to Donna. " We saw one of 'em leave the nest! "

Donna and I never had kids. But after that last robin took off, we knew what it felt like to be empty nesters. We'd watched the nest for more than a month. We'd seen the blue eggs start to crack. Watched the young birds grow. Seen that last one fly away.

Last spring we looked to see if the robins would return to that bush. They didn't. But this spring we've been noticing two cardinals who have been spending a lot of time in the bush next to the one the robins claimed. We walk out onto the deck and one of the cardinals flies out of the bush. Lights on a branch in the yard and looks down at us, chirping away as if to say, " Be careful with that bush! "

Donna got down on her knees yesterday and said, " There it is! " A nest. We'll be looking for eggs.

This morning I saw a blue jay on the rail of the deck. He was eyeing the bush. The female cardinal chased it away. As I write this I hear the cardinals chirping away. They're watching that nest, another one that'll be empty before we know it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I was in the passenger seat of the Chevy Malibu driven by the lieutenant stationed at Cherry Point. He was a pilot, so I felt pretty safe sitting there in the co-pilots seat. It had just started to rain as we approached Hartford. I think he was thinking of getting off I-91 onto Route 2. That's what he started to do, then realized his mistake and spun the steering wheel, hit the brakes.

The Malibu hit the bridge and spun out. I remember sliding to the left, hitting the pilot real hard as his head slammed into the side window. Neither one of us were wearing seatbelts.

The Malibu came to rest in the middle of I-91. How we didn't get thrown from the car I'll never know. The Malibu was totalled. The cops arrived. The pilot and I were taken to Hartford Hospital where we were treated and released.

I've thought of that crash a lot over the years. Especially as I'm driving through Hartford on I-91. That's what I was doing yesterday when a tractor trailer truck jackknifed in front of me. A light drizzle was falling, as it was back when the pilot and I were traveling south on our way back to the bases where we were stationed.

I hit the brakes and started to skid...

Kept the car in control. Sped past the truck and copped a look in the rear view mirror. This all happened about a quarter mile from where the Malibu got totalled. Another close call on that same stretch of highway. Another close call.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Major League Baseball Commisioner Bud Selig was asked yesterday if he planned to be present in the stadium in which Barry Bonds is likely to break Hank Aaron's home run record. Aaron hit 755 homers. Bonds is closing in on that number.

Selig fielded the question like Attorney General Alberto Gonzales handles queries from Congressmen.

He didn't say yes and he didn't say no. But his ambivalence and the code words he uttered spoke volumes about how he feels about Bonds. Selig's a politician. Fly balls caught by the breeze, that drift to the left or right of the foul poles don't mean nearly as much to him as those other polls, the ones that indicate which way the political winds are blowing.

The conventional wisdom is this: When ( Not if ) Bonds breaks the record, the crowd will cheer. If he hits number 756 in San Francisco. If he hits the big one in any another city, he'll be booed and/or ignored. You might spot Selig warming a seat in that stadium in Frisco. But if Bonds is on the verge of breaking Hank's record in Atlanta, or New York, or Boston...

Don't look for Bud to be there. You're as likely to see Hillary Clinton at an Eminem concert.

Am I rooting for Bonds to break Aaron's record? Yes. And no. Why the Seligian answer? Maybe because I couldn't care less. What! you say. You're not outraged at his obvious cheating?

I am not outraged. Are you? If you are, let me ask you this:

Have you cheated lately? Do you know someone who has cheated, and said nothing?

Have you, for instance, driven at a speed a few miles per hour over the limit? Have you used a cell phone in the car as you're driving? Have you failed to report some income that came in " under the table? " Did you ask that pretty young secretary out for a drink? Then tell the wife that you had to work late because your boss imposed some kind of last minute deadline on your sorry ass. Do you play golf? Have you ever moved the ball from a lousy lie to a lie to die for?

You haven't done any of that? Good for you. Feel free to have an opinion about Barry Bonds.

George Will had a pretty good column in Newsweek last week. It was about Bonds' quest for the record. In his column he mentioned that baseball's a strange game. The very best hitters fail 70 percent of the times they step up to the plate. Hitting a baseball thrown by a major league pitcher just might be the most difficult thing an athlete's expected to do. Hitting the sphere over the fence? Seven hundred and fifty six freakin' times in a career that's not yet quite over?

I gotta tell ya. That is pretty fucking impressive. And I don't care if you have jumper cables wrapped around your arms and your legs. Those numbers impress me.

Has Bonds been cheating? Maybe. Have you? Maybe. Have I? Certainly.

Can you get through this life without cheating? That's the question I throw at ya now.

It's yours to hit, or not hit, outa the park.
Xchanger ran a good race. Was ahead half way through the contest. Then Street Sense made her move. And Curlin said to herself: You won the Derby. This one's mine. And it was.

I lost $20. Donna lost some money. Sarah? Sarah, who is Donna's 86 year old mother, the one who had Street Sense to win in the Derby. She had Curlin to win in the Preakness. Sarah's two for two. The Belmont Stakes is three weeks from today. Sarah picks the winner of that one and she's Miss Triple Crown.

How the hell does she do this?
Post time is 45 minutes away. The Preakness. This race has an interesting history. Between 1985 and 1997, nine Kentucky Derby winners lost at Pimlico. Street Sense won the Derby a fortnight ago. Will she win today? The track is dry as I write this, but the Maryland sky's mood today is as labile as it is here in New England. Who knows? It's the question that makes horse races interesting.

Horse racing's big in England. The Queen paid a visit last week. She was at The Derby. She's back home now, but I'll bet she's watching what we're watching this evening.

Horse races in England are different. Horses line up. There's no gate. When I was stationed over there a guy I knew had some money on a horse. The gun went off and the horses started running. This guy's horse started running in the opposite direction of the others. He lost some money, but we had a laugh.

My money's on a horse called Xchanger to win. Twenty to 1 shot as I write this. My expectations are low. I'll be happy if she runs in the same direction as the other eight horses in the field.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I'm watching the Suns/Spurs game. San Antonio leads by a bucket with a shitload of minutes to play. The spotlight's focused on Nash. A six foot one white guy who reminds me of Maravich. Pistol Pete. Remember him? LSU. Celtics. Dead at the age of 40. Died after playing a game of pick-up basketball. Someone asked him, after he played that half court game:

" You all right? "

Pete said, " Yeah. I'm fine. "

Then he dropped dead on the floor.
Sometimes in the process of looking for work, the work comes looking for you.

Since 1991 I'd been working as a counselor in the mental health " industry. " Worked eleven years as a counselor/human rights officer in the psychiatric department of a large teaching hospital in western Massachusetts. Worked part-time for three years at a psychiatric group home a half an hour's drive from here. That job was eliminated recently.

I'm not exactly in a position to listen to folks with issues now. Then again...

An old friend emailed me the other day. Said he was in the midst of a " mental crisis. " Sucked into a " black hole in his soul. " Another friend said she was in a foul mood, getting into verbal altercations with neighbors and co-workers. Someone else I'm friends with wanted to meet with me. Share a beer and a few thoughts about the decision he was on the verge of making. A good friend just had heart surgery. He opened up his shirt the other day and showed me his stitches. I've been trying to make him laugh. Making bad jokes to keep him in stitches.

A cousin I love just lost a friend. Her mom's not doing real well...

The creative writing workshop I facilitate lost one of its members last summer. Another writer's having a rough go of it. Hasn't been to class lately. He hasn't been calling out sick, but if he was, this is what he'd be saying:

" Can't make it in today. I'm having chemotherapy. "

When I first started teaching the writing workshop, I had no experience whatsoever teaching writing. The experience I had with groups like this was experience running therapy groups. Psychotherapy Group. Focus on Recovery Group. Groups like that.

When Jane died, I knew that writing wasn't going to be as important as grieving. When Norm stopped coming ( Calling in with that ridiculous " I'm having chemo excuse ) I knew that the writing wasn't as important as...

You know what I'm saying.

I've been in the process, since losing my job, of searching for work. The powers that be are suspicious. The state of Rhode Island doesn't seem to think I'm working full time looking for work. Maybe they're right.

But I'll be damned if it's not looking for me.
It's Friday night. Nearing 10 p.m., the time, when I was a kid growing up in Easthampton, The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports came on. The sport was boxing. Don Dunphy was the announcer. ABC knew what it was doing. They chose an Irish guy to mouth off about two guys beating the hell out of each other. Between the hour of 10 and the 11th hour on a night that was the period at the end of this sentence:

I worked my ass off all week and now I'm gonna have a few beers and relax, but I'm not real happy how that moron at the end of the bar is looking at my girl.

It's Friday night. There's a boxing match on ESPN 2. But I'm watching the Phoenix Suns beat up on the Spurs. I'm watching basketball. Professional basketball. The playoffs. Which is to the regular season what a walk in the park is to roller derby.

And I'm reading some old columns written by the late sportswriter, Red Smith. In one of these columns, the late Red wrote about the late sportswriter Jimmy Cannon.

Red wrote: " He ( Cannon ) could begin a column about a boxing match: ' Once, dreaming with morphine after an operation, I believed the night climbed through the window like a second story worker... The night had the dirty color of sickness and had no face at all as it strolled in my brain... ' "

You read stuff like that - if you fancy yourself some kind of writer - and you think: What's the use? Writing doesn't get any better than that.

Does it?

YouTube - Waiting for Godot

Look behind and above him. The clouds hang thick over the Irish moonscape. But he manages to speak his lines, and if you look real close, a smile starts to form on his face.

YouTube - Waiting for Godot
I've been noticing lately that peoples' moods are like the weather today. A rain storm is hugging the coast. Low, dark clouds cover southern New England like a wet, wool blanket. Three to four inches of rain are expected between now and tomorrow morning. On a scale of 1-10, this Friday in May is starting to look like a minus three.

It's been a long winter, and folks are ready for spring. The calendar tells us it's here, but the calendar lies. What's to be done? How best to improve those moods? Maybe today would be a good day to read something written by an Irishman. Beckett perhaps.

Beckett, whose works, according to the novelist William Kennedy, are about " Prolonged and profound suffering. " Take those two tramps Estragon and Vladimer in Beckett's Waiting for Godot. They who cannot go on, but do go on.

Like Sam Beckett himself. Beckett's first novel, Murphy, was rejected by forty two publishers and sold only six copies in its first year of publication. When Beckett was asked how he could continue writing after that initial failure, he said, " I couldn't have done otherwise. Go on I mean. I could not have gone through that awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence. "

Ah. That should cheer ya up, ya moody bastards. Pick up y'er fookin' umbrella, that black one. Grab a book and take a walk. Hold the umbrella with one hand, the open book in the other. Read y'er way through the rain. Go on!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This is a rewrite of a previous post. I'm about to ship it off to the Providence Journal.

If You Are Frustrated and Confused By This ( Filing for unemployment benefits ) Process - Press Seven

By Terrence McCarthy

When I was a kid my mother worked in a mill: United Elastic. She was one of the last ones hired, therefore she was among the first to be laid off when work slowed down. She was laid off often.

I can remember going with her to the unemployment office in Northampton, which is the town just north of where she worked and we lived. That was Easthampton, Massachusetts, also known as " Web Town. " The web being the product, the elastic material produced in the red brick mills that lined the Manhan River.

Signing up. " That’s what my mother called filing for unemployment benefits. Lining up was more like it. I remember the lines were long in the second floor office located on Pleasant Street in Northampton. I recall seeing young mothers with crying babies in their arms. This was in the 1950s, an era in which everyone smoked everywhere. The room was thick with the second hand haze of Camels, Pall Malls and Winstons. It was a line in which we waited, but my recollection of the experience I shared with my mother conjures another image; A circle. Drawn by a guy named Dante.

Waiting in line was bad , but “ signing up “ was worse. Once my mother got to talk to one of the unemployment office clerks, she was asked to name five places where she had tried to get a job during the past week. I was talking to her the other day about this. I asked her what it was like back then to apply for benefits. She said she recalled one time when she gave the clerk the names of only four places and she was told to leave, walk around Northampton and find a fifth place at which she should ask for a job. She did this, she said. Then walked back to the unemployment office, went to the end of the line, and started that part of the process all over again.

Signing up was a dehumanizing process, to say the least. These days, the process is far removed from the way it was back in the 1950s. But it's still dehumanizing. Take it from someone who knows first hand what’s it’s like.

Back in January, on the last day of my vacation, I got a call from the supervisor of the psychiatric group home where I’d worked part-time since 2004. She told me that my position had been eliminated. Just about everyone I talked to, including people whose job it is to help people who have just lost their jobs, told me that getting benefits should be no problem.

“ Change in working conditions. “ Elimination of position. “ Lack of work. “ These were a few of the terms that were tossed around, all of them spoken to me with confidence – confidence that my filing for unemployment benefits would be a process that would end successfully.

That was back in March, a week or so after my last day of work. That was then. This is now.

Now I find myself in the midst of a Kafaesque process, much of it involving me ( Trying my best to ) communicate with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training ( Note that the word " Unemployment " isn't in the name stenciled on the office door these days ). I’ve tried to communicate on line and by voice message. Yes, I've spoken to three human beings in the past two and a half months, but that is not the rule; it's the exception.

The process started auspiciously. I filed. I started receiving benefits. Then I got a letter from the Department of Labor and Training informing me that they had received information that might disqualify me from continuing to receive the benefits I’d been getting. There was no indication in the letter from whom or where that information had come from.

I had filed for benefits online. I had made calls once a week to a “ Teleserve “ line over which I spoke to a computer. After getting the letter informing me of my possible disqualification, I finally got a chance to speak to an “ adjudacator. “ I explained to this human being what had happened to me. Told her that I had been working 20 hours a week and that my position had been eliminated. She asked me if I was looking for work. I said yes. She asked me some more questions. I answered them. She thanked me and I thanked her. I thought this part of the process had gone well.


I got another letter from the Department of Labor and Training. They weren’t going to be giving me any more benefits. And they wanted the money they’d paid me sent back. They also said I could appeal, which I did. I wrote a letter. They scheduled a hearing.

The next step in the process was a hearing in Providence. I was given a time and date to attend. I expected my former employer to be there. Some people I talked with before the hearing told me: If they don’t show up, you’ll win the appeal. They didn’t show up. I lost the appeal.

A few days after I got the letter notifying me that I’d lost, I called my former employer, the company that eliminated my position, the company that changed my working conditions, the company that lacked the work I had for nearly three years. I spoke with the Human Resources Director. Told her how surprised I was that no one from the company was there at the hearing on Westminster Street in Providence.

“ Who would have been there? “ I asked. “ Who goes to these things? “

“ Oh, “ she said. “ That would be me. “

I asked her why she wasn’t there. She said she was never informed that a hearing had been scheduled.

For decades now, I’ve given much weight to an old Woody Allen line: “ Ninety percent of life is showing up. “ I don’t believe that anymore.

I've been working since I was 18. I spent four years in the Air Force. I've had three careers. Never abused sick time. Never lied about being injured on the job and collected workman's compensation. I know this kind of thing happens. I’m not just talking about hearing about these things happening. I know. Just as most of the folks reading this know. It happens everywhere. Including right here in Rhode Island.

I've worked hard and I've played by the rules. Then a part-time job I had was erased. I found myself unemployed. Signed up. And am getting nothing but confused and frustrated. Am I whining? Nope. Am I saying it isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair? Yeah. But at the end of the day, that time of day when, when I was working - and feeling pretty good about that -

This is how I’m feeling. I’m feeling like I’m at the end of a very long line. There’s a human being on one end of it.

Who or what’s on the other end? Your guess is as good as mine.

Terrence McCarthy is a writer who lives in South Kingstown, Rhode Island
I don't know what Pat Conroy's been doing lately, but I hope he's working on a novel. Conroy's the author of The Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, Beach Music, The Water is Wide, My Losing Season and The Pat Conroy Cookbook.

The Pat Conroy Cookbook?

Yes. That's the last book of his I read. It was great, and since I've been doing a lot of cooking lately, it's been giving me some ideas. Still. I long for Conroy's next novel, and I hope it's set in South Carolina, the state with which I've had a love/hate relationship since the late 1960s.

Conroy is a South Carolina boy. His first book, The Water is Wide is about the time he spent teaching black kids on an island just south of what is now the resort island of Hilton Head. Around the time he was doing that, I was a young airman stationed about 80 miles north of where he was teaching school. Myrtle Beach Air Force Base was a great place to be, especially since the alternative was Viet Nam. But I wasn't crazy about living in South Carolina. I didn't like the southern boys with whom I was stationed. Billy Ray and Bobby Lee were guys I lived and worked with. Charming boys with smiles as wide as the mouths of hungry gators.

But I think I would have liked Pat Conroy. He graduated from South Carolina's Citadel in 1967, two years before I reported for duty at Myrtle Beach. He played point guard for The Citadel, a military college like the one I went to. In his book about his glory days on the basketball court - My Losing Season - he mentions a guy he played against, Roger Walazsek. Walaszek was on the starting five of Columbia University. Prior to that he played varsity ball for Easthampton High School when I was a sophomore playing for the JV team. Walazsek was good buddies with Bobby Dubiel, whose brother Dick was my best friend in high school. We all played hoop in the Dubiel's driveway.

Dick now lives in Hilton Head, which is a stone's throw from that island on which Pat Conroy taught those kids. Dick and I reconnected recently. Hadn't chatted since the early 1990s. Donna and I are planning on going back to Hilton Head in the fall. We stopped there in January on our way down to Florida. Dick and I may get together then.

I wonder if he's read any of Pat Conroy's books? Dick's a nuclear physicist and his reading tastes probaby differ from mine. But he's a South Carolina boy now, and was a pretty decent basketball player himself way back when. Maybe he'd like Conroy's stuff.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When I was a kid my mother worked in a mill: United Elastic. She was the last hired, therefore the first to be laid off when work slowed down. She was laid off often. I can remember going with her to the unemployment office in Northampton, which is the town just north of where we lived and where my mother worked.

Easthampton. AKA " Web Town. "

" Signing up " is what she called it. Lining up was more like it. I remember the lines were long in the second floor office located on Pleasant Street in Northampton. Waiting to sign up wasn't a pleasant experience. But it got worse. Once she got to talk to one of the unemployment office workers, she was asked to name five places where she had tried to get a job during the past week. Once, she gave the bureaucrat the names of only four places and was told to leave, walk around Northampton and find a fifth place at which she should ask for a job.

Signing up was a dehumanizing process, to say the least. These days, the process is far removed from the way it was back in the 1950s. But it's still dehumanizing.

Back in February, the part-time job I had at a psychiatric group home was eliminated. I considered signing up for unemployment benefits. Everyone I talked to said it would be no problem. My job was eliminated. Seemed pretty clear cut.

Yeah, right. I am, two and a half months after my last day of work, in the midst of a Kafaesque process, much of it involving me communicating with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training ( Note that the word " Unemployment " isn't in the name now) on line and by voice message. Yes, I've spoken to three human beings in the past two and a half months, but that is not the rule; it's the exception.

At first I received benefits. Then I got a letter stating that they were going to stop giving me benefits. If I wanted to appeal, I could. I did. I spoke with an adjudacator by phone. That got me nowhere, and the letter I got following the phone hearing painted an inaccurate picture of what I'd said to the adjudacator.

The next step in the process was my attending a hearing in Providence. I was to be there. My former employer was to be there. I drove to Providence. I was there. I showed up. They didn't. I presented my case, recalling what someone had told me. If they don't show up, you win.

I lost.

I've been working since I was 18. I spent four years in the Air Force. I've had three careers. Didn't abuse sick time. Didn't lie about being injured on the job ( Even when I was assaulted on the psych unit where I worked ) then try to collect workman's compensation.

I've worked hard and I've played by the rules. Then a part-time job I had was erased. I found myself unemployed. Signed up. And am getting nothing but grief.

I feel like I'm waiting in a very long line.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Terry Cowgill's blog today has an interesting post on a subject Donna have been talking about lately. First off, let me say this: We don't have kids. Spielberg wasn't a fisherman when he made Jaws, but that doesn't mean he didn't know anything about sharks.

How's that for an association? What would Freud have said about that one? Maybe " Sometimes a big white fish is a big white fish. " Whatever.

What Donna and I have been talking about is these thirtysomething moms we've been seeing pushing their seven and eight year old kids up and down the aisles of the local supermarket. In shopping carts. You haven't see this yet? Maybe it's a Rhode Island thing. But I wouldn't be surprised if you start seeing it happening in a market in your area.

Maybe it's just me, but wouldn't it be helpful if the kid walked up and down the aisle? Helped his mom pluck stuff off the shelf? Is this too much to ask? And even if the kid doesn't help with the shopping, why can't he walk? Why does he need a ride?

Again, I'm not a parent. I'm not a father. But if I had a seven year old kid who rode around in a shopping cart, I'd expect him to be pushed around...

A lot. In junior high school. In high school. In whatever career he chooses.

" Hey, Tony! Ain't that the little creep we saw a few years ago being pushed around by his mommy at the Stop and Shop? "

" Dat's him, Bluto. Dat's him. "

Dumping your kid into the shopping cart next to the ketchup and the six pack of Diet Cola isn't a good idea, parents. I know, I know. Who am I to say? But c'mon. Where's this kind of parent/kid dance gonna lead? I'll tell you where it's going to lead. You're going to raise a kid who's used to taking the path of least resistance. And expecting to be pushed or driven down it.

It seems like more and more parents these days are driving their kids damn near everywhere. If the kid takes the bus to school, mommy drives the kid to the bus stop, and picks him/her up at the end of the day. A lot of parents whose kids could take the bus, drive them all the way to school, then pick them up in the afternoon. Schools these days look like gas stations back in the early 70s. But all those people lined up in their cars aren't waiting to pump gas; they're waiting for Jason and Brianna.

Jennifer Warner Cooper had a column in the Hartford Courant recently in which she described the behavior of so called " Helicopter " parents who hover over their " kids, " some of whom are well into their 20s. Parents go to job fairs with stacks of their kids resumes. Looking for work, as anyone who has ever done it knows, is a full-time job. These days, it's a job being held down by the parents of the kids needing a job.

In this post 9/11 world in which the next generation might be expected to serve and protect us from evil doers and such...

Imagine this: An army of soldiers, sitting in tanks, humvees and armored personnel carriers - all being pushed into battle...

By their forty and fifty year old parents.

Monday, May 14, 2007

For those readers who have not read the comments on the last post...

I few posts ago I mentioned Ursula Andress. Just learned from the gentleman from Jacksonville, who lived in L.A. once upon a time, that he knows a guy well - who was Ursula's lover for eight years. Talk about one and a half degrees of separation.

Terrance also reminded me that the woman I went gaga for, the woman who emerged from the sea in that tiny bikini, is pushing seventy. That's 7o. Not 007.

He stays in his 30s and will stay there forever. Ain't fair is it?
From the Off The Fence Post Department of Corrections:

The gentleman from Jacksonville, Terrance Maxwell Perkins Collins, reminded me this morning that:

A./ It's Bette Davis, not Betty Davis


B./ It's Ursula Andress, not Ursulla Andress

Good eye, Terrance Collins. And impressive indeed, given the atmospheric conditions down there. All that smoke from those fires.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

If you haven't hopped on the Boston Red Sox band wagon yet, you might want to do just that. As Betty Davis said, " Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride. "

Or something like that.

The Sox were down 5-0 today in the bottom of the 9th. Josh Beckett took the mound at 2:10 p.m. and struck out the side. That was the good news. The bad news was that he gave up two runs to the Birds. By the end of the second frame, Beckett had five Ks. But the Hose were still trailing two zip.

The Sox were batting in the fourth when Jerry Remy noticed that the bullpen had come alive.

" Uh, oh, " Remy explained.

Sox manager Terry Francona marched to the mound and there he was standing next to a guy named Beckett. There they stood, like those two tramps wondering whether something should happen, or not.

I'm trying to read Francona's body language. Attempting to pick up the signs. What I wouldn't give to be a flyball on the wall, hearing what was said out there on that stage.

" You ready to go? "
" I'm not ready. "
" You're not ready, maybe you should, ya know, go. "
( No one moves )
" You sure you're not, ya know, you sure you want to stay out here and... "
" My thumb. "
" What? "
" My thumb. I think it's a blister or... "
" Your gone... "

( The pitcher exits, stage right )

That was in the fourth inning. By the bottom of the 9th the Sox trailed 5-0. The ended up scoring 6 runs in the ninth and won it 6-5.

Beckett? He didn't get the win. But he didn't get the loss either. His record? Seven wins. No losses. At this rate he'll win 25 games this season. May be the starting pitcher for the American League in the All Star Game in July. Might even be MVP, if the Sox win it all.

Name's Beckett. Remember the name. By October, ya might fookin a forgotten it, lad.
We're back from the Cape. We had a great time. We camped. Very primitive. No WiFi. Yes, we had a cable hookup and watched cable TV. But the channel selection was limited. We did have NESN and watched part of the Sox game. Also watched a movie on our Winnebago's entertainment system ( Not exactly the Donner Party in their covered wagon ): Casino Royale, which was billed as a " prequel " to the myriad Bond films I've seen since 1961 when Ursulla Andress emerged from the sea in that bikini. Talk about memorable moments in film history...

So what I was expecting was a flick whose action took place in, say the late 1950s. But Bond had a cell phone and GPS and M. was a woman, and there wasn't a single Russian character...

Prequel? This all happened after everything I've watched over the years happened. Wouldn't that make it a sequel? Wouldn't that make it like every other Bond film I've watched? One thing after another, etc.

Whatever. We liked it. Donna liked especially the part where Bond, played by Daniel Craig emerged from the sea in that bikini...

If it sounds like all we did was watch TV, we didn't. We hiked. We started campfires and sat by them and warmed our feet and talked. We read. We did things that Sean Connery and Ursulla Andress did ( Or acted like they did ) , and Daniel Craig and Eva Green did ( Or acted like they did ) . We had a great time, and we're planning on going back to the Cape in three weeks.

I guess you could call it a prequel to what we did this weekend.

Friday, May 11, 2007

YouTube - Warren Zevon - Splendid Isolation

YouTube - Warren Zevon - Splendid Isolation
I had Allen Shawn's book Wish I Could Be There on reserve at the local library. I asked the librarian for the book weeks ago. Six or seven weeks ago. Shawn is the brother of the actor and playwright Wallace Shawn. He is the son of former New Yorker editor and literary legend William Shawn. Wish I Could Be There's subtitle is " Notes from a phobic life. "

Allen Shawn is a man who suffers from many phobias. He's also a man who has a life, and an interesting one at that. He's a composer. He teaches at Bennington College in Vermont. But the life he leads is complicated by the " irrational fears " that define him. He's afraid of elevators, tunnels, bridges, subways. He gets panicky in wide open spaces, yet dreads isolation. He hasn't flown in fifteen years.

He turns down myriad invitations, including those to concerts at which his work will be played.

Why did I want to read Shawn's book? Because the title of his book could be the title of mine. As I get older, my phobias are starting to get the best of me.

I was a nervous kid. A shy kid. Did real well in school, until my junior year in high school when I was giving an oral report in front of the English class ( On Shaw's Major Barbara ) I stopped in mid report and said, voice cracking, " I'm too nervous to do this. " Then slunk back to my seat.

From that day on, the A student I was morphed into a kid who couldn't stand the thought of sitting in a classroom. High school was hell. Thank goodness for extracurricular activities. I played basketball and soccer. Served on the student council. My best friend was the president of his class and the captain of the basketball team. The best looking girl in our class had a crush on me. Everything about high school would have been great, if I didn't have to sit in a classroom.

I graduated from high school and went to college. I lasted two weeks. I gave another school the old college try. It was the University of Hartford. I failed miserably there. Dropped out and joined the Air Force. The Viet Nam War was raging. I thought I'd be safe up there, above it all. In a plane. I flew a lot in the four years I served in the USAF.

Now? I have a fear of flying. The last time I was on a plane was back in 1999.

My wife and I travel a lot. It's not easy. There are certain bridges I cannot go over. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge for example. Tunnels? No way. Elevators? If I can take the stairs, I do.

I love baseball games, but I don't like crowds. Noise drives me crazy.

You read this and probably think: How'd this guy live his life? He must have been curled up in the fetal position, under a bed for most of it. Hardly. I graduated from college. Went on the GI Bill. I wanted to be a newspaper reporter and knew I needed a degree. I sat in those classrooms. Majored in English. Much of the work I had to do to get the degree from the University of Massachusetts was in the form of essays. The professors liked my work. By the time I was a senior I had a 3.8 grade point average. I was starting to worry that I might be valadictorian and have to give a speech at commencement. I didn't have to do that, but I graduated cum laude.

I did get to be a newspaper reporter. That job helped me get over some of my shyness. Then I landed a job as an advertising copywriter and was pretty good at that job. Got promoted to creative director. Was the one responsible for presenting campaigns to clients.

The first ad agency I worked for was located on the 18th floor of the Gold Building in Hartford. Writing was easy. Taking the elevator at 8:45 every morning - that crowded elevator. That was hard. Taking my walks at noon - all that noise on the street. Honking. Yelling. Screeching bus brakes. That wasn't easy.

Why am I telling you this? For years I was ashamed. I was fearful. I was phobic. I didn't talk all that much about my fears. But now I'm reading this book, Wish I Could Be There, and I'm thinking: I wish I could have been there, said yes to that invitation to that luncheon where I'd get to meet Gloria Steinem. That opening night in Cambridge to which a performer had offered me free tickets. I wish I could have been there, too. And there's London. I'd love to go back. But I'd have to get on a plane.

Allen Shawn's written an important book for those of us whose lives are often ruled by our fears. I haven't talked much about this, and neither had Shawn. He's out of the closet now. So am I. And you know what? It was dark and very closed in in there. It was scary. Now that I'm out?

I'm still scared shitless. It's anxiety, but it's situational. A lot of things " normal " people are afraid of doing, I do easily. Some people are anxious about everything. They have what the shrinks call generalized anxiety disorder. You might not want to be me. I wouldn't like to be them. We are who we are.

I gotta go. This is starting to make me feel nervous.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Don't be too concerned if you don't see any Fence posts for a few days. Donna and I are off to the Cape and will return Sunday. Have a good weekend.

RAF Chicksands - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thanks for the idea, Fred. Click on RAF Chicksands and learn about the ghost, the Priory, the code breakers, the RAF base where Fred and I were stationed... RAF Chicksands - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I had a 9 am meeting in Providence Tuesday. Drove into the city and parked across the street from the Capitol. It was a perfect May morning. Nary a cloud. Calm. I walked down the hill into what's called DownCity. Strode past Providence Place, the mall that sits like a beached Queen Mary on the banks of the river that runs through the city. My meeting was in an old building on Westminster Street, which is in the heart of the Arts District. Across the street from the building is the Symposium Bookstore. In front of the store, they were making a movie. Cameras, cables snaking through the streets. Actresses standing on the sidewalk reading scripts, practicing their lines. I asked someone what it was they were making.

" 27 Dresses, " a guy said. I asked a few more questions of a few more people standing around. But didn't learn more than the title.

I went to my meeting. Walked back to the car and drove home. Googled " 27 Dresses. " It's going to be a major motion picture, starring Edward Burns and Grey's Anatomy star Katherine Heigl. There was a photo of Katherine Heigl on the preproduction website. She was the actress I walked past on my way back to my car. She was the drop dead gorgeous blonde I saw reading the script.

All in all it was a pretty nice morning in Providence. I don't get into the city all that much. I don't get into cities all that much. Too much manic energy for my tastes these days. But my morning in Providence reminded me of London. I was stationed in England back in the 70s. The RAF base was located about an hour's train ride from London. I went down there a lot. Got to know the city like the back of my hand. I recall May mornings in London. Walking through the streets of Soho. Up Greek Street, down Frith. Out onto Charring Cross Road. Past the theaters in the West End.

The Arts District in Providence reminds me of that. Maybe I'll go back...

To Providence real soon.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

" We tell ourselves stories, in order to live. "

From The White Album by Joan Didion

Among the books I'm reading is Joan Didion's Where I Was From. I think Didion is an astonishing writer. I read her stuff, happen upon a sentence. I read the sentence. Then I read it again and again before I move on. I read that sentence like it's a poem within an essay within a story, a narrative that is, ostensibly, about Joan Didion. But what that sentence says isn't just about Joan Didion. It's about you and it's about me. There it is, in so few words, the story of our lives.

In Where I Was From, Didion writes about where she is from. The state of California. It's a book about Joan Didion. It's a book about California. But it's more than that. It's a book about you, and me. It's a book about Easthampton, Massachusetts, Holyoke, Massachusetts, Hartford and Waterbury.

Where I was from. Talk about a motherload of material. Didion knows how to mine it.
The late Arthur Miller was fascinated by how easily we Americans are manipulated. I was reminded of that today as I listened to an interview with the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Seinfeld said he loves the role of stand-up comic. The comic has control over the audience. Here's what I think is funny and I'm going to make you think it's funny and you are going to laugh.

You ARE going to laugh.

Seinfeld also talked about how aggressive comedians are. It's in the language of comedy, the proof of this. I killed them. I bombed. You're gonna die laughing. Don Rickles is on one end of the spectrum. You don't want to be sitting in the front row at one of his gigs. He'll rip you apart.

But even the kinder and gentler comedians have their mean streaks.

Where was I? Funny you ask...

Manipulation. This story about the six guys arrested in New Jersey. This sleeper cell, named perhaps after the Woody Allen flick, Sleeper. This story could have been written by Woody. These New Jersey guys, armed and dangerous. Armed with...


When I was a newspaper reporter, we ran stories on page one every now and then. The words, " Big Drug Bust " were always in the headline. The local gendarmes, after months of surveillance, arrested X number of bad guys who had been doing bad things, which would have gotten worse, much worse, if it weren't for this...

Big Drug Bust.

It was public relations. It was bullshit. The cops could have made that Big Drug Bust at any time. The timing was based on how much good PR the department needed at the time.
The assignment I gave for the writing workshop I facilitate was this: Imagine you knock on the door of your favorite writer. He/she opens the door. You hand him/her a stack of stuff you've written. Say: " I'll be back in a week to talk about this. " Then you race away.

The assignment was based on something the young Edward Albee actually did. The writer whose door he knocked on was W.H. Auden.

One of the students this morning imagined she knocked on Graham Greene's door. What did Graham Greene say to her a week later? After he had read what she'd written?

" Continue to write this stuff, if you must. "

Monica has a Dorothy Parker like wit. She made a name for herself in the fashion industry, had a whole department named after her at Bergdorf-Goodman. She's known a lot of rich and famous people, but by looking at her, you'd never guess how she survived in that Big Apple, Big Ego cutthroat world. She's tiny. She's soft spoken. But then she lets go with one of those zingers, and you say to yourself:

That's how she survived.

Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey wrapped up his American Repertory Theater gig in Cambridge last night. He had some things I thought were worth sharing on his blog this morning. Click on his name below if you want to read what he wrote. Daisey's off to write in a cabin in the woods at the McDowell Colony for awhile. Congrats on a successful run at ART, Mike Daisey.

Mike Daisey

Monday, May 7, 2007

A couple of months ago I was writing about how well Donna's 86 year old mother was doing with her NCAA college basketball bracket picks. Well, it seems it's not just basketball. Sarah picked the winner in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Street Sense was her horse, and it won.

I've always known I married well. And from the very beginning, when Donna introduced me to her parents back in the 70s, I knew Sarah was something special. What I didn't know was that she would grow in the job, the job being mother in law. The mother in law of yours truly, a sports nut if there ever was one. And what I never would have guessed was that she'd turn out to be another freakin' Jimmy the Greek.
Gee Sgt. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

The governor of Kansas, in the wake of an F5 tornado that leveled a small town in her state, is saying that the Kansas National Guard would be useful now. Unfortunately most of them are deployed in Iraq. The good news is that none of these troops will likely be in the path of a tornado any time soon. The bad news?

Oh I don't have to tell you the bad news. You know that, don't you?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I mentioned a few posts ago that blogs are like neigborhoods. That's not my idea. It's an idea I got from the writer Jennifer Warner Cooper. I think she's right. They are. I think. But I'm not really sure. That won't come as a surprise to anyone who's been reading The Off The Fence Post. I'm nothing if not agnostic. About damn near everything. In that sense, the name of this blog is ironic. Or downright dishonest. It should be The On The Fence Post. But that blog name was taken.

The one I chose is the next best thing. Which might be a terrific name for a blog.

The Next Best Thing.

I'm sure it's already been used. Strike that. I'm almost sure.

Blogs are the new hoods? Maybe. But what makes them different from, say, radio talk show hosts and their listeners? Or newspaper columnists, and the folks who respond to what they have to say by sending letters to the editor? Is this really different? Or the same old same old in a slightly different form?

My next door neighbor, Pete ( He's the deer hunter, the fisherman I mentioned in a previous post ) mosied on over the other day.

" Read your piece in the Providence Journal this morning, " Pete said. We talked about that for a few minutes. Two old boys in the hood, shooting the shit. Making eye contact every now and then.

Eye Contact. Might be a good name for a blog. Irony being in vogue these days.

YouTube - Lucinda Williams........Right In Time

Blame my friend Fred for all this music. Every time I try to write something, I wish I were Warren Zevon. Or Fred. Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be songwriters. YouTube - Lucinda Williams........Right In Time