Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Month: July 2005

Jonathan Franzen

Several months ago a dear friend suggested that I read something by Jonathan Franzen (thanks, Joanie). I tucked the suggestion into my back pocket until the next trip to the public library (a favorite place of mine).
I found myself scanning the book shelves a few weeks later looking for anything that caught my eye.
How to be Alone: Essays by Jonathan Franzen sat on the shelf, silently whispering, "Take me! Take me!" Something gently pushed my hand towards the book and I took it.
Upon opening the book my eyes froze on the table of contents.
The title of the first story was "My Father's Brain", a story that chronicled Franzen's own personal ordeal and inner thoughts about his father's fight against Alzheimer's Disease. I was amazed by Franzen's astounding talent and sadly credible insights into this insidious disease.
If you have a bit of time and are remotely interested in reading the story, click the link above. I found it floating around in cyberspace and thought that the best thing I could do was to share it.


I put out a copy of this little missive at my Mom's wake tonight.
My daughters asked if it really happened.
I'm happy to say that yes, it did.

I was on my way to a 9Teen gig in Groton, Ct. on Friday afternoon when the skies suddenly opened up and the rains fell.
I had just left the Saint Francis Home after seeing my mother for what I instinctively knew to be the very last time. She was not doing well.
As the downpour pelted the roof of the truck I somehow understood that my mother had just died.
My cell phone rang seconds after the thought came to me.
It was my sister, Maureen, calling to say that indeed our mother’s long journey was finally over. Though the world seems a bit less vibrant to me now that she’s finally gone, her shattered life is once again pure and unmarred by the tangles and plaques that grew in her brain like the weeds in some long forgotten garden. I’ve come to realize that she didn’t have Alzheimer’s, it had her.

About a year ago, I was visiting her at Saint Francis, her home for the past five years. At that time, basic verbal communication had all but ceased.
Anything that she said back then came out in short blips and stutters; she was now fairly adept at talking ragtime. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to receive a small miracle.
I bent down to kiss her forehead before leaving and I said, “I love you.”
Her bright blue eyes steadily held my gaze and prompted me to ask, “Do you love me?”
At that moment, the hands of God must have touched my mother and enabled her to speak because she clearly whispered, “You know I do.”
The surging waves of emotion filled my longing soul and I was unable to stop the flow of tears.
Those four simple words were a moment of crystalline clarity for her as she pierced the vapid fog of dementia giving me a gift I’d waited for, for so long. It was the perfect justification that love is stronger than all the diseases in the world, combined.
Here in the quiet chambers of my heart I’ve reserved a special place for my Mom. After all, she was the one that taught me what love was really all about. And though I’m profoundly sad to lose her, I’m eternally greatful that she found her wings. She is finally home.


Goodbye, Mom

I said I wouldn't do this – but here I am.
My mother died this afternoon.
Her passing was almost peaceful.
Nothing like I thought it would be.
I'm sure the Morphine had alot to do with that.
Thank God for strong medicine.
Virginia is home at last, hopefully resting her all too weary mind…
See you on the other side, Mom

3.30.1928 – 7.15.2005 (la)



I was going to post an unusual journal entry from the train ride into Boston this morning but life happens. I'm an unhappy writer right now.
Then again, maybe there's no such thing as a happy one…

5:45PM Journal

I took the early train home tonight because I'm going see my mother. She's had a terrible day today. Alzheimer’s has once again reared its ugly head and lashed out at a woman too frail to fight the beast anymore. If I could see this invisible monster, I would fight it myself.
It’s a neurological possession of the highest order that can’t be cured by modern medicine much less exorcised by any religious order. Frustration is bubbling below the surface of my tired veins.
The phone call came this morning, a most inevitable call; a call that I’ve expected and in some small way have actually hoped for. I want this to be over for my mother. Her battered CNS has seen enough neurological decay for 10 lifetimes. She has suffered for long enough, God! Why the hell can’t you hear me?!
The nursing home said they found her in bed this morning totally unresponsive to any type of stimuli. A vigorous chest rub couldn’t wake her. They had her dead and buried until they searched frantically for some vital signs. She had a low BP, a bit of paralysis on the left side and pupils that were fixed and dilated. It was time for a phone call.

I’ve played out this final series of phone calls over and over in my mind but they never quite go the way I think they’ll go. I spoke with a nurse a few hours ago that had examined my mother earlier this afternoon. She thinks my mother suffered from a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack), a condition that deprives a particular portion of the brain from oxygen for a short amount of time. The TIA’s present much like a stroke with some paralysis and sometimes a temporary cessation of involuntary muscle movements that control bodily functions such as swallowing and dilatation of the pupils.
These little TIA bastards are sometimes precursors to what could be called the beginning of the Alzheimer endgame.
I don’t know what to expect when I get there tonight but I’ll pray that she knows I’m there. Maybe God can at least give me that. Then again, maybe not.
I only know that, for my mom, this is no way to live. Anymore…


What Constitution?

(taken from an email)
The government keeps talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq.
Why don't we just give them ours?
It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore.


My achin’ Dakota (2)

While waiting for my truck to be brought in, I decided to walk around the dealership lot and look at some vehicles way too expensive for me to ever own. Not that I'd ever buy another one from these dingdongs. I wasn’t out there for more than 30 seconds when I heard, “Nice truck, huh? Can I show you…”

Wrong day to try and sales pitch me.

“Don’t go there,” I said, “Just don’t even ask if I want to look or test drive or anything, ok?”

He didn’t say anything and just looked at me, totally bewildered by the blatantly gigantic hair across my ass.

I said, “I’ve been waiting for my truck to be fixed. I brought the f%#!ing thing in at 7 f#@&ing 30 this morning and they haven’t even taken it in yet! So I’m a bit pissed off. Not your fault.”

He looked somewhat concerned, not so much because of my truck not being brought in but because I looked not entirely unlike Jack Nicholson in the final epic moments of The Shining (sans axe, of course) but Lord knows, I could go berserk at any time.

“I’m sorry sir. Let me go in and see what the hold up is.” (translation: get me the hell away from this goofball)

He was off for the repair door leaving me with my own thoughts of torture and dismemberment to be lovingly performed on my now untrustworthy Dodge Repair Department.
It was 10 minutes later that I noticed my truck was gone inside. Ahhh, progress. Maybe there is hope. Nope.

One hour later, my “Dodge Professional Repair Coordinator” came to sit with me in the cozy, magazine strewn waiting area.

“Well," he began, “we found the problem with the fan. There were some leaves or something in there. That’s all set. We changed the oil, too. The brakes are where we found some problems.”

Here we go, I thought. Bend me over the sofa gently please, I have a bad back.

He said,“The pulsing you feel when you press the brake pedal is because the front rotors are rusted out and need to be replaced. We checked the back brakes and we suggest (I loved that line) that you have them done as well. They’ll need to be done soon anyway. Two birds with one stone, you know?”

You know how the hair stands up on the back of your neck sometimes? Mine was at full military attention.
“This truck doesn’t even have 20,000 miles and the front rotors are rusted out?!? What the hell caused that? I have to pay for that? This is ridiculous. How much? How much is this going to cost? Jesus!”

Cool as a cucumber, he says, “About $850. Front and rear. We can’t do it today though.”

No shit, Sherlock, I thought, you close in about 15 minutes. You've had my truck all day, remember?

I said,” Just forget the brakes for now. Is the truck done? I want to get outta here.”

“Yeah, they’re washing it right now. I call you out in a minute. If you want to, we can set up an appointment for the brakes too.”

He left me sitting on the sofa, agape as an ape eating a banana. Hell, at that point I was bananas. $850 for brakes on a fairly new vehicle?

“You’re all set, sir! That’s going to be $33.48.”

“You’re not even going to give me the oil change? You made me wait for my truck all day for cripes sake!”
I was half laughing, half not, but he knew damn well I was serious.
I did end up paying for the oil change, which was a bullshit call on their part, and I left.

My wife called me on my cell as I was pulling out of the dealership and told me she’d just called a brake repair place in our town and that the guy there said he would take a look at the truck to see if the (wonnerful) folks at Dodge were messing around with my Johnson & Johnson (my words, not my wife’s). Turns out, they were.
This does get better. Stay tuned…



~copy of the Metro found on the commuter rail into the Boston edited in ballpoint by an anonymous rider.

It's quite simple, really. Why do the innocent suffer?
If you were late to work that day, you lived, if you rode the train, you died.
End of story. Go figure. Al Qaida? Not Al Qaida!
When are we gonna learn?
Perhaps, never. I say send all these ragheaded extremists to the Supreme Truffle Inspector and see what he has to say.


My achin’ Dakota

Sometimes even "yours truly" has to go postal.
Yes, I'm venting here, sorry.


I recently went to a Herb Chambers car dealership to have some work done on my Dakota; I needed the brakes checked, the oil changed and the blower fan fixed.
Know that the current mileage is @20K. (brakes gone?, huh?)
I dropped my truck off at 7:30 in the morning and told the putzbag behind the counter that I would be back around 3:30pm or so.
He said, "You should be all set." Excellent, I thought. I am such a dumbass.
My wife dropped me off at 3:30pm that afternoon and I was stupidly assuming that my truck would be ready. To my astonishment the truck had yet to be taken in! Needless to say I was livid.
"Glad I made an appointment," I said, pissed off.
"Oh, we're sorry, sir," Mr.Goodyear/Dickhead said, "but vehicles aren't brought in based on the time you drop them off. I thought we told you that." No, you didn't. Let me get into my waders.
I make an appointment and go out of my way to get my vehicle to these guys at 7:30am on my only day off, I figure the least these money-hungry, slimebag, piece of dogshit, whores can do is get my truck back to me– somewhat fixed. Any idea what a Dodge Dakota costs? Waaaaayyy too much. You would think the price alone would justify a certain level of service. Yeah, right, in a perfect world.
Do I sound perturbed yet?
My truck did get fixed, so to speak.
The story is a bit lengthy for the blog so I'm going to post Part 2 of this saga sometime over the next few days. As you will learn, never will I visit, nevermind buy, another vehicle from these skuzzy dingdongs. I'd rather stick 10" needles into newborn puppies.
I've one thing left to say to my poonface Herb Chambers dealer, thanks for such great service (and HONESTY!) You guys ssssuck.
Oh, and btw- bite me.
I feel better already. The story does have an upside. Just wait until Part 2…



Gosling’s Black Seal

Follow the link below to find out how to make a Rum Swizzle. I made a batch for a party we had yesterday and they were very well received. Great 4th of July drink. And be sure to use Gosling's Black Seal Rum. It's simply the best tasting black rum on the market today (and less expensive than Myer's, which IMHO doesn't come close to Gosling's)
Click here for a taste of the island of Bermuda.
I wish I was there right now.


Lawyers, guns & money

No Warren Zevon to be found but a very interesting link.
It's amazing what you find when you're not even looking.
Click here.

Happy 4th all!


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