Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Month: August 2009 (page 1 of 2)

Lumbricus Terrestris

Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, late night, morning people

I am not, I repeat, not a morning person.
Never have been, never will.
Ask my wife.
Ask my kids.
Hell, ask Bill the conductor on the 6:30am train I take into Boston.
He checks my ticket and says, “Have a nice nap, sir.”
Bill would honestly say, “Definitely NOT a morning person.”
(*should be, “Not a person at all. He’s more of a thing at this time of the morning.”)
Some of you are ‘morning people’, happy, cheerful and ready to greet the new day with vim and vigor.
Sorry, you people suck.
You probably do 800 sit ups before your first cup of coffee too, right?
“Good Morning!”
If this phrase is spoken to me and shouted from the fiddler on the rooftops with verve and effervescent happiness,
it makes me want to do one thing:
punch the face that’s brave and stupid enough to utter it.
My God, what are you thinking?
I’m still sleeping for Christ’s sake and you are seriously getting on my nerves.
I need about 4 hours to wake up.
Why the hell can’t you ‘roosters’ get that?
I need coffee, juice and a personal five-minute sitdown on the porcelain throne before someone thrusts the ‘happy’ shit on me, okay?
Ease the hell up, all you happy morning people.
You’re messing with my head.
I just choose to burn the candle at the other end (as I do a blog post at midnight).
You, on the other hand, have been sleeping for 3 hours.
But do I call you and say, How are Ya! Good Evening!
I don’t.
I may send a totally incoherent email or two but that’s another story.

We all have trolls inside of us that make us act as we do.
You morning people have Richard Simmons.
Us nighthawks?
We have Ed Asner (Lou Grant) from the Mary Tyler Moore show and he hasn’t taken a decent shit in 2 years.
(click on Lou up above for a classic MTM moment)
Take two steps back until my green light comes on, okay?
That’s all I’m saying.
This morning I poured orange juice into my coffee.
Mr. Grant was not real impressed.
I’ll try again tomorrow morning but it will probably be the same.
Epic Michael Fail.
My brain is chemically challenged in the morning is all.
As Huey Lewis once sang, “I want a new drug . . . “

Two Flowers

flowers, gardens, Impatiens, odd, impossible

There are things that happen in our lives that occasionally defy space, time, gravity and logic.
While we experience these types of phenomena on a daily basis
we are sometimes too busy to see and embrace it.

There are two areas that require attention in my backyard: the lawn and the flowers.
I generally mow the lawn while Pamela tends to the flowers.
The flowerpots lining the yard and hanging from the shed looked especially good this year
but the garden looked like some fat lady sat on it.
The poor appearance of the garden had something to do with the amount of rainfall we had in June.
It rained 28 days out of 30 and the garden flowers suffered.
Pamela hates weeds and is constantly plucking them from the garden and the mulch that surrounds the outside of the yard. I tell you this so you understand that she has a keen awareness of all things growing in the backyard.

As I said before, all of the Cape Cod goodbyes were difficult but nothing could have prepared me for August 2nd,
the day Maureen and Mark left.
Pamela & Hannah went with me to the airport that afternoon.
The skies were greyslate over Boston and the tone in the truck was a bit somber
compared to the first drive to the Cape two very short weeks ago.

We somehow managed the ‘goodbyes’ and went our separate ways, more difficult than I ever could have imagined.
I was walking and wearing my Akubra, my arm around Pamela.
She took my arm and placed it over Hannah’s shoulder who was hurting more than Pamela.
This would be our hardest and saddest goodbye.
We got home and tried to keep busy straightening up and getting the house back in order for the work week ahead.
I poured a few fingers of Maker’s Mark and made Pamela a Rum Swizzle.
I was in the kitchen on my laptop when I heard Pamela yell from the backyard, “Hey Michael! Come here!”
She was standing by the enormous hostas (so big I call them Jimmy Hostas) staring at the ground.

“Look at those two flowers.”

“Yeah,” I said, in that low to high tone I use when questioning her.

“They weren’t there before. I swear. I’ve never seen them.”

“Then how did they get there,” I asked.

“They’re Impatiens. They need to be planted.”

“And you didn’t plant them?” I asked.


She got teary and said, “It’s Maureen and Mark. They didn’t want to leave. They didn‘t.”

What do you say to a woman crying over two mysterious flowers
that have grown out of nowhere?
You don’t argue, for one thing.
You shake your head, agree, and give her a huge hug.
As a dear friend of mine once said of wonderful and mysterious things in this life, “Sometimes, it just is.”
I’m also thinking that those plant roots run quite deep.
Now that’s something I can definitely relate to . . .

2,592,000 seconds

time, blogging, trains, writing

I figured out that I spend approximately one month a year riding the train back and forth to Boston.

One month.

30 days.

720 hours.

43,200 minutes.

2,592,000 seconds.

I write, read, sleep, text message, eat, drink
and look out the slightly opaque windows and think.
I’ve been doing this for over 4 years and if it weren’t for my writing stuff and my
Ipod Nano (thank you M), I think I would have thrown in the towel years ago.

I will say that it endlessly fascinates me when I look back and read some of the things
I’ve written on the train; the original thought process with my cross outs and all.
It’s the true ‘me’ that not too many people see.
Pamela and the girls have seen much of it and one other special friend
but my journals tend to get sequestered soon after they’re filled.

The journal I’m currently writing in has
Beginnings, mishaps & didgeridoos’, ‘Akubra’, ‘Communion’ and ‘Serenissima’.
The corrections and edits are actually quite funny in a way; silly things,
inconsequential explosions of neurons misfiring and my internal editor trying to patch it up.
It’s a literary ER of sorts going on in my mind 24/7.
Though I’m very proud of much of my work, there’s so very much more to do.
Tough pill to swallow when I look at the stacks of yellow legal pads & journals filled with my thoughts, blues and dreams.
I currently have 7-8 stories waiting to see the light of day.
It makes me sad because I just don’t have the time to devote to editing them and finishing them in the fashion they deserve.
When they’re ready, the will let me know.
I honestly think that what I’m trying to do here is keep myself sane as I think about those 2,592,000 seconds.
You know what my commute needs?
A 20 minute neck massage times 2; into the city and out.
Maybe a rub or three on the soles of the  feet on the way home.
Hey, a writer can dream, can’t he?

My Didj

Most of you know that I received a didjeridoo of the highest order
from Australia when I was at the Cape.
(thank you Maureen and Mark)
(especially Mark, for the packaging . . .  thanks, mate)
I have, in all honesty, devoted myself to playing it.
Although I’ve yet to master the art of circular breathing, I can play the didj now.
When I first blew into the beeswax mouthpiece the first thing I thought was, “Wow, this thing tastes funny.”
It was the beeswax.
No worries.
No more chapped lips either.
The first sound I got was something similar to what would come out of my ass after 13 bowls of kidney beans.
Yup. It was shit.
Sounded like a blunder under water.
Since I’ve been reading and practicing, I can get the fundamental drone (sweet spot) and actually make this sucker growl.
I do promise to put up a YouTube video when I feel proficient enough to
not look like a total American asshole trying to play an authentic instrument from another country.
I’ve so much of Australia in my blood right now (Vegemite, too)
that it’s only a matter of time.
Stay tuned folks.
This is going to get interesting.
The short video below is an aboriginal playing the didj.
Pretty amazing in my opinion.
The dude can blow.
Don’t look for me wearing the makeup though . . .
As far as the hair? I might get a wig just to be funny.
Stay tuned.
Check it out, y’all


peace, serenity, God, stars, moon

the setting sun burns its shadow into the ever darkening horizon
as the cool and soothing breath of your whisper
reaches my ear
and I say a small prayer for you,
Serenissima . . .

second by second, star by falling star, night by night,
you heal me
and I have to ask the magnificence of the heavens what I did
to deserve the ‘blessing’ of you
the crescent ivory moon sighs,
Serenissima . . .

rising ruby sun chases the silence of lunar incandescence away
and in my heart,
you are still softly sleeping
it’s in the wee virgin hours of dawn when I hold onto
the very thought of you,
the music forever in my soul
my Serenissima . . .

Happiness is a warm cheeseburger

food, Dad's Diner, recipes

I’ve wanted to keep a record of personal recipes for my daughters to cook
when I’m someday reduced to a room temperature dish of Fettucine-al-Dead-o, or Face-Planting the Meringue maybe even pushin’ up the perpetual parsley.
Something about food that’s familiar is quite simply
comforting with a capital C.
I began thinking about a small book of some sort but that idea fizzled.
A blog made more sense as it’s something I can just keep adding to as the years go by and I come across more recipes.
Click on the picture above and check out Dad’s Diner.
Eat at Dad’s where you’ll live forever and the cheeseburgers are to die for.
As always, I’ll leave the lights on for ya . . .  😉

Ralph's Diner, food, cheeseburgers

ps. special thanks to Maureen for helping me get this up and running.


Christ, breaking bread, communion, religion, Alzheimer's

Sarah and I went to visit my father yesterday to feed him lunch and sit with him for a while.
Lately, he’s been overly emotional for reasons I may never be privy to.
The minute he saw us, he broke down completely.
I feel terrible saying it but I’ve almost gotten used to it now.
I had to.
My empathy for him that once seemed to be an impossibility to avoid feeling
has now turned into an acceptance of sorts that boggles my mind.
He was in the rec room that overlooks the city waiting to be fed.
I wheeled him to his room where I know it’s quiet and had Sarah get his lunch.
He’s a finicky eater these days around everyone except my sister and me which makes total sense.
His diet is now 100% pureed making his meals look more like and artist’s palette than a meal.
I learned yesterday that spinach makes my father cry.
On his plate were potatoes, spinach and something that would resemble pasta and meatballs in the ‘baby food’ format.
20 years ago, the thought of drinking an Italian meal through a straw had never occurred to me.
My father’s daily nutritional needs are now thrown into a blender ala ‘Bass-O-Matic’.
And I wonder why he cries?
I can’t get away from the feeling that a small part of him is frightened.
Not of me or Sarah or Maureen or Pam and the kids but he seems almost Fear Factor scared.
My sister says he’s a tortured soul and I would have to agree.
There are so many things that run rampant through my mind as I feed him, spoonful by blessed spoonful . . .
(I’m looking at a rainbow hovering over Boston as I write this. Truth)

there was the day we brought my mother to assisted living and took my father back to our house for a BBQ.
That may have been one of the last times that I actually ‘had’ him.
He was making sense and I could talk to him and he could understand me.
He was profoundly sad about bidding farewell to his wife for two weeks but at least he still liked the taste of beer (something he’s since lost long ago)

Spoonful by blessed spoonful . . .

the soft, cool grass beneath my feet in the backyard as we played catch after he got home from work.
We never talked when we played catch but there was conversation that he and I understood.
Especially when he threw a ball with some mustard on it, smiling as I caught it.
That was my own personal field of dreams.

Spoonful by blessed spoonful . . .

the Christmas night I went to the facility he was staying in and found him in a self-induced sugar coma after polishing off an entire bag of Dove’s chocolates that someone had given him.
There were candy wrappers everywhere, discarded like wrapping paper on Christmas morning.
He seemed ready to do jumping jacks, for Christ’s sake

I keep praying for a rainbow in his future but he’s having one hell of a time seeing through the gauzy reality he’s currently living in.
I finish giving him lunch and to my surprise he’s eaten everything save for the Popeye spinach soup.
I’m happy because he has a belly full of food but he’s the farthest thing from a happy ending because he knows it’s time for me to go.
I kiss his forehead and say, “I love you, Dad,” to which he replies, “Yeah.”
Sarah and I walk to the door and she says, “Bye, Grampa.”
More Wally tears.
We walk down the corridor to the elevators in silence as I allow myself to cry a bit on the inside
wanting badly for the seemingly inconsequential goodbyes to finally end.
It’s then that I have an small epiphany; as I feed him lunch, he’s actually feeding me.
It’s a Communion of sorts between my father and I.
I change my mind then and there.
And all of a sudden I don’t want the goodbyes to end.

Taze me bro

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Henry Louis-Gate – Race Card
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Spinal Tap Performance

Regarding the controversy over GatesGate, I’m siding with the neutral guy.
God only knows who the hell that is.
Munch on the video for a bit
Love this guy
And don’t forget your f***ing keys . . .


Cape Cod, Hyannis, Baxter's Boat House, seafood, Akubra Hats, Aussie stuff

One night at the Cape all of us went to Baxter’s in Hyannis for dinner.
It was a beautiful night as we sat watching the ferries come and go in the harbour.
Not sure what everyone ordered to eat but no one was talking and I’m assuming it was all good.
I do remember that Mark got an enormous Fisherman’s Platter that looked incredibly good,
no, it was ‘call your cardiologist before eating’ good.
He gave me a fried scallop that was roughly the size of an Aussie cricket ball which I split with Pamela.
It was so good I had to go back up to the counter and get a side order for us to split.
I’ll never learn.
It was such a beautiful night that I suggested we walk Main Street in Hyannis and check out some of the shops.
While the womenfolk were looking at Cape Cod jewelry,
Mark and I wandered over to a leather store across the street.
The rich, earthy aroma walking in was almost narcotic.
I love the smell of leather.
Mark and I were immediately drawn to the hats hanging on a wall in the back of the store; there were porkpies, fedoras (ala Indiana Jones), top hats, baseball caps and one very special hat that I somehow missed.
Mark asked to see a now familiar hat on the very top row.
“Check it out, mate. It’s an Akubra made in Australia,”  He said,
as he showed me the inside label of his hat by the same maker.
I loved the hat he was wearing when he first showed up at the house and now I knew why.
He asked the price ($85) but by now Pamela and all the girls were standing next to us ready to go.
I wanted to buy the hat because I really liked it and I wanted to offer a showing of solidarity to Australia.
Alright, the solidarity part was my brain making up bullshit but I really loved the hat.
I could hear Pamela in my head saying, “You Have Enough Hats!
I’m thinking now there was a reason I didn’t get it.
Move forward in time to Logan Airport on the Sunday Maureen and Mark were leaving.
Pamela, Hannah, me and M&M were standing at the gate, all of us knowing what was coming next.
Mark patted Moe on the bum and said, “Alright. Let’s go. Let’s get this done.”
Probably some of the hardest words my friend has ever had to say.
The Tear Factory was now open for business but before it closed, Mark took off his Akubra and placed it on my head and gave me a huge bear hug.
“Take care of this for me until the next time, buddy.”
Translation: How Michael got his very first Akubra.
You never forget your first.
I don’t know much about the road ahead of me but I do know this; the next Akubra I put on my bald noggin won’t be from some leather shop in Hyannis, Ma.
I’m thinking someplace much more exotic . . .
Like Queensland, Australia

Beginnings, mishaps & didgeridoos

Ayers Rock

*I have no clue as to how many chapters are waiting to be written regarding this incredible time in my life.
As sure as the Akubra hat on my head, this will be far from the last.

I’m not entirely sure where to begin because my grey matter is still processing all that’s gone on these past few weeks. If I haven’t stopped by your blog it’s simply because the last month has consumed me both physically and emotionally leaving very little of me left to visit.
As most of you know already my family and I vacationed for a week with Maureen & Mark (M&M), Annie
and Evyl & Joyce down on Cape Cod.
The week after, M&M stayed at our home and rode the train into Boston with me most days.
I worked and they did everything from walking the Freedom Trail to taking a Trolley Tour all over the city. I was blessed on one night with a surprise game at Fenway Park. (saving that for a later post)
M&M also had their own personal city guide, my daughter Hannah,
who has found a new best friend in Morky (Moe, as well)

Akubra Hats, Australian products

Cut to Day 1:

The flight carrying M&M, Annie and a very special present for yours truly landed late the Saturday they arrived.
No worries, right?
Planes land late all the time.
Little did I know that this was the proverbial tip of the holiday iceberg of mishaps.
I expected a phone call from Maureen when she touched down in Boston and assumed it would be her when the phone rang.
The phone did ring and I was surprised to hear Annie’s voice. (cue the bah-da-dum-dum)
All I remember from the conversation was Annie saying,
“They lost the didj. Don’t worry they will find it and hand deliver it to the house on the Cape tonight.”
The ‘special’ present was a custom made Australian Didgeridoo just for me. (click the link for a description)
I had already known about it for months because Moe had sent me pictures.
This instrument was special; sacred, actually.
I realized that Annie had made the call because Mark was physically restraining Maureen
from committing her first murder on American soil.
This didj was unique as a constellation in the sky, a one and only; a present that M&M held so dear.
My heart broke knowing how upset they both were.
Thank God Annie was there as the voice of calm and reason.
It seems she quelled the impending riot and got everyone to the van that would bring them to my house.
We made it to the Cape and got settled and began our wait for the didj.
Saturday night, no didj.
Sunday night, still no didj.
Monday, no didj.
496 phone calls later (by Moe and Annie) told us to expect it Tuesday night around 5:30.
Guess what?
No didj.
More phone calls and a promise that said instrument would be delivered by 10:30PM.
Things were getting surreal now.
A firepit was lit, many drinks were poured, cigars were lit and we all sat around the fire playing ‘Celebrity Heads’  laughing and listening for the courier to pull up in front of the house with the long lost precious goods.
It was at 10:30 that a van finally pulled into the driveway.
Like children on Christmas morning, all of us ran out to the front yard of the house totally freaking out the driver. He could tell that we were all very happy to see him
(* a bit pissed as well).
I high fived the guy and took the didj into the house as Mark and I began opening the nuclear war-proofed package.
Mark took the black padded sleeve off, handed it to me and said, “Here’s your didj, mate.”
Holding this incredible instrument was not unlike holding a newborn baby.
I knew how much it meant to Maureen and Mark and the moment overwhelmed me.
I then did what all father’s do when they hold their newborn . . .
I cried.
Like a baby . . .
Still learning to play it and getting close to an actual didj sound.
Stay tuned.
Annie, thank you for your relentless pursuit and urgent phone calls to the courier.
And Maureen?
Thank you for not ripping the head off of an innocent American body. (she’ll be right, mate)
(below is a pic of the actual didj)

*slightly intoxicated . . .   :mrgreen:
** btw- this didj is a low F# drone (sweet spot/fundamental tone)

didgeridoo, Australian musical instruments, Aboriginal

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