Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Category: coincidence (page 1 of 2)


face, beautiful. life, love


I saw a woman on the train tonight that had a seriously disfigured face.
It wasn’t a subtle flaw but one of great magnitude.
We’re talking Hollywood magnitude.
I stole glances as she carefully applied makeup to her face, eyes and lips.
I couldn’t help but wonder who she was meeting.
My heart felt sad as I watched her painstakingly apply her ‘mask’, knowing that make up can only do so much.
What does she go through in a day as far as strange looks from passersby?
I wanted to go and sit next to her and tell her she didn’t need all that crap on her face because inside she’s beautiful.
That’s what went through my head anyway.
For all I know, she could have been a total asshole.
But I don’t think so.
Suffering with psoriasis I understand the ‘look’ you get from people that don’t understand your condition.
I see people looking at my elbows, the patches and scales that sometime accumulate making my arms a virtual stomping ground
for questions and unknowing observations.
I can deflect comments on  my skin easily.
I have herpes. Deal with it.
But her?
This flaming red-haired girl had a face that would stop anyone in their tracks.
I am not saying that to be funny because this is in no way a funny post.
I  wanted to say something, anything to this girl to give her some affirmation that she is a beautiful woman.
She got off the train two doors down from where I was negating any sort of confrontation.
I just wanted to tell her that she was beautiful.
Maybe I’ll have another chance someday . . .

1,000 words

Boston Marathon, photojouirnalism, John Tlmacki, Boston Globe


They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words.
I say that it’s worth much more than that.
Now and then the events of a single day subtly dovetail.
Like today.
I have been an admirer of photojournalism for as long as I can remember.
Seeing images that were most likely seared into the retina’s of said photographers would give me pause.
The past few weeks in Boston have produced some images that I can’t seem to ‘unforget’.
I want to rewind the organ of soft nervous tissue contained in my overcrowded skull of vertebrates and bring it back to April 14th when life
seemed idyllic and almost normal.
My bad.
Not gonna happen.
And I didn’t even take the pictures.

Last weekend my future son-in-law, Jonathan, showed me the cover of SI.
On the cover was a picture of an older runner that had been literally knocked down by an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Behind him were three Boston Police officers seen drawing their weapons and running in three different directions.
It was a photograph of a surreal moment in time.
It was also a photograph courtesy of a 30 year photojournalist for the Boston Globe called John Tlumacki.
Little did I know that my own personal path would intersect with that of Tlumacki.
I’ve never met the man but I am sure he is deep.
Read a glimpse of him HERE.

This Sunday morning I sat in a sunny living room reading an article in the T&G.
Read it HERE.
(and look at the photo credit below)

As of this morning I had no clue as to who took the pictures that had moved me close to tears.
In my last post here I used a photo of a woman found on her knees, crying and praying fervently to the heavens above.
She was completely devastated in every possible way, beseeching the blue sky above to take back what had just happened only moments before.
This was the picture I chose to use for my last post.
The picture spoke to me, plain and simple.

Fast forward to me Googling “photojournalist Boston Marathon 2013”.
There were many results but one stuck in my craw because it gave a preview of the photo I had used in my previous post.
I was gobsmacked in learning that the picture was actually taken by Tlumacki.

In my mind, I began to juxtapose many images while thinking how difficult it must have been to take them.
I will never know how these folks do their job.
It was then that I realized that it’s not unlike what I do when I write a song or a post.
I go into something of a trance until the job is over.
It’s a phenomenon that just happens.
The biggest difference for me is that I don’t have to worry about my head getting blown off in the process.
I have a new found respect for these graphic soldiers that visually time stamp the complexities of our lives.

I contacted John via email this afternoon after realizing I had used one of his photos for my ‘Boston Strong‘ post.
I asked for permission to use his photo after finally realizing how much courage and balls it must have taken
to capture an image as haunting and visceral as what it was.
He replied to me 20 minutes later;
“You can keep the photo on your blog, this is my Boston, your Boston, let’s not forget that.”
This is from a man that found himself on the front-line of the battle and chose to do his job.
I am honored that he gave me the okay to use his photo and blessed that he took the time to reply to me.
I pray that the ‘Man Upstairs’ keeps a special eye on this guy.
He’s paid his dues.
If this guy doesn’t garner a Pulitzer this year, I will be shocked.
Thanks, JT for doing the daunting task that you do.
The blood you found on your shoes tells me all I need to know about your integrity.
Time to find some rainbows . . .

A Giant Sleeps

peace, love, life, Kirkland

Kirkland Oliver  was a regular on Friday afternoons at the cigar store where I work  in Boston.
He was an affable and enigmatic man still living life like it was 1969.
We hadn’t seen Kirk in over three weeks, a rare thing for a guy that you could count on like clockwork
to show up and get some rolling tobacco and papers  (6oz of 3 Citadels and 17 Modiano Club Papers).
On a dark whim, I Googled ‘Kirkland Oliver – obit- Boston’ and came up with a result that broke my heart.
Kirkland died July 29th at 66 years of age of prostate cancer.
What follows is a personal obituary and tribute to a gentle soul many people have never had the good fortune to meet.
This was written in part by myself but a more substantial portion was written by my dear friend and associate, Will Marks.
Enjoy our candid view of a man that truly knew who and what he was.


Kirkland used to make collages out of stuff most folks would discard.
He would make stuff featuring his pals’ names featuring all kinds of symbols and references.
The message was pretty much the same: Kirkland was telling us that we were cool by his calculus.
These works of art weren’t made for everyone.
Just the people that Kirkland let into his cosmic circle.

 Speaking of calculus, one time a fellow was in the store going on and on about his math ability.

Kirkland asked him what he did and the fellow said, “I’m a quant!” then he shared some detail in a condescending tone to make sure Kirkland got it saying, “I’m into heavy math for the investment industry.”
The store got quiet and Kirkland looked at him and said, “Yeah, I was into math too, used to make my dick hard in 3rd grade so I got into making shapes and artwork all based on math.”
Sizing up the quant he added “…but I outgrew that stuff, if you dig.”
KO had an unmistakeable ‘jazz’ quality about him.
From the way he walked (with a huge wooden walking stick) to the way he talked he had a rhythm and undeniable groove.
It was his ‘groove’ and his alone as he walked to the beat of his own personal drummer.

There was nothing quite like Kirkland striding into the store with the overpowering scent
of a double dose of patchouli oil announcing his arrival.

He’d flash that winning crooked smile and say “Peace” and get into the discussion always leading it back to the tenants of his homespun philosophy (equal parts Hendrix/Shakespeare/McLuhan/Grateful Dead/Health Food Store Chatter/Cantab lounge misinformation) with detours along the way typically including the night Sun Ra played Slug’s when he was blitzed on Owsley acid or how Mingus tore it up another night, his recent favorite band Girls On Top,
or how the Boston Public Library’s address was proof of dark plots.
“You know what the number of the Boston Public Library is, man? 666! It’s the sign of the ‘Cipher’, you dig?”
Kirk would chuckle and say, “Peace . . .  peace.”

Naturally, Kirkland bragged about his family and how he played the violin.
Then there were his cosmic rants about people who were too uncool to be friendly.
When Kirk would get rolling papers (always 13 until the size changed and it went to 17)
he always challenged me to grab the correct number of papers.
Sometimes I would and he would smile and say, “Nice, man. Peace.”
And he always rolled one menthol cigarette on Fridays.

Kirkland’s Friday pronouncements—“All the world’s a stage”, “What goes around comes around”, “Ain’t nothing new under the sun”, “Can you dig it?”, “It’s the Illuminati man they are controlling everything these days”, “Man I was checking out the internet you know where that is man?”, “Did you know I was in a coma man? Yeah, didn’t even know my wife when I woke up!”, “I love the smell of that cigar it’s getting me high.”, “I’ll take some menthol and 17 packs of rolling papers.”—are now a thing of the past; part of the store’s hallowed lore.

Kirkland has joined the pantheon of greats who went before him.
No sweat, Kirkland the larger than life friend to all who were willing, who put the “hep” in hepcat,
will live on in the hearts of all who were lucky enough to have been touched by his friendship and love.
I know many things about this man but some I can’t share here.
These were his gifts.
I know he always made me smile in his own and original hepcat way.
And although the sun was shining in Boston today, the city for me was just a darker shade of grey without Kirk . . .
Sleep well, my friend.
Oh, and Peace . . .

Hail to Kirkland for he knew who and what he was:

~m & Will Marks

When tomorrow comes

love, family, Alzheimer's Disease, memory


I read a post on Facebook from a ‘friend’ tonight.
I have no idea if he wrote it or found it on the interwebz.
That said, it moved me to tears reminding me of my Mom and Dad’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.
It’s called ‘When Tomorrow Starts Without Me’ and is a simply beautiful epitaph and message of hope that should be shared.
I’m missing my Mom and Dad tonight the way they used to be . . .  more than usual.
I’m over remembering the bad stuff.
Moving on.
Please share this . . .
Thank you, JohnD for posting!

attributed to David M Romano

When tomorrow starts without me
And I’m not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me.
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
The way you did today;
While thinking of the many things
We didn’t get to say.

I know how much you love me
As much as I love you;
And each time that you think of me,
I know you’ll miss me too.
But when tomorrow starts without me
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name
And took me by the hand.

She said my place was ready
In heaven far above;
And that I’d have to leave behind,
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye;
For all my life, I’d always thought
I didn’t want to die.

I had so much to live for,
So much yet to do;
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad;
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.

If I could relive yesterday
Just even for awhile,
I’d say goodbye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized
That this could never be;
For emptiness and memories
Would take the place of me.

And when I thought of worldly things
I might miss come tomorrow;
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates
I felt so much at home;
When God looked down and smiled at me
From His great golden throne.

He said, “This is eternity
And all I’ve promised you;
Today your life on earth is past,
But here it all starts anew.”
“I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last;
And since each day’s the same day,
There’s no longing for the past.”
“But you have been so faithful,
So trusting and so true;
Though at times you did do things,
You knew you shouldn’t do.”
“But you have been forgiven
And now at last you’re free;
So won’t you take my hand
And share my life with me?”

So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don’t think we’re far apart
For every time you think of me,
I’m right here in your heart.

The Memory Palace

Now and then someone comes into your life and changes it.
They improve and inspire it, smoothing out the rough edges and pushing you towards
your own personal creative and artistic dreams.
For me, the writer, I have been blessed to have met Mira Bartok, a gifted artist, musician and writer.
How we met is a long story and not fodder for this particular post.
Mira has a memoir coming out this January [1.11.11] called, The Memory Palace‘,
a story about growing up with a gifted, incredibly talented but schizophrenic mother.
I was honored that Mira sent me an ARC [advanced reader copy] of the book
which I devoured in less than a week.
Mira’s words and images took me on a journey I won’t soon forget.
For me, the memoir confirmed the idea and thought that, ‘Love conquers all.’
I refuse to give anything away except to say that this book literally took my breath away.
It’s about love and forgiveness, music and art, memory and the present tense, home and the homeless.
This book changed the way I feel about the many panhandlers I walk by every day in Boston,
a city filled with sad stories and sadder characters.
Watch the promo trailer and please, please, please leave a comment.
If you could pass the Youtube link on to several friends, I would be forever grateful.
When someone does something wonderful for my writing and creative life, I need to return the favor.
This book is incredible, as is Mira . . .
[and her husband, my dear friend and multi-talented colleague Doug Plavin]
just watch . . .


I stumbled upon this video and have become somewhat obsessed with it.
It was an entry in the 2010 Cannes Film festival.
I’ve  no idea how it made out but I will tell you that the genre it was submitted to was, ‘End of the World’.
This is good stuff, IMHO
Stygian, just like this dark little river . . .



I saw Orion this morning (6:15) while retrieving the morning paper.
The constellation told me/reminded me of several things;  Autumn has arrived here in New England,
and there is one more constellation I need to see before I die [Southern Cross],
and that another year has passed and my wife is one year older.
Happy Birthday, to my always.
From your forever.
And the stars continue to sparkle.
Just like your eyes . . . [green Orion]
Love you.
See you for Indian tomorrow night . . .



christmas, gifts, spam, holidays

The text below was a spam comment on my blog that absolutely floored me.
It went into moderation (go figure) but I decided this was not a ‘bot’
but an actual person spamming me.
A very funny person, truth be told.
Sorry to say I will not be posting any Christmas links. (boldface text=meta tags)
They commented on a post written for Sarah before she started out on her current venture.
Funny stuff.

“I’m currently being held hostage by the Russian Mafia  [-xmas, christmas, santa]
and being beaten to post spam comments on public forums!
If you don’t approve this they will maim me. [-jingle bells, christmas music-]
They are coming back now. [-one horse open sleigh, christmas gifts, christmas music-]
Please save me! [-xmas jokes, christmas morning, christmas carol]
but seriously, just trying to make a buck.
Help me out if you know how/can.
Hope this one was at least a bit entertaining.
Original credit to a much more original hustler.”

Hells yeah!

Welcome to the cerebral gas exchange

It has been a crazy few months around here (hence, the reposts)
and I am still
desperately trying to get caught up and back to square #42.
By the time I reach ‘Square #1‘  it might be the name of a new high fiber breakfast cereal
that enables you to ‘pass’ wicker furniture out your keester like soft butter.
That said, thanks to all that have continued to stop by.
I have come to a turning point here at Smoke & Mirrors and can’t quite figure
out how to navigate the current seas. (hence, the current rambling post)

My original intention was for this place to be a ‘cyberpad’ to collect my many thoughts and
emotions as I watched both of my parents battle Alzheimer’s.
It was just that and so much more, truth be told.
I am still estimating the casualties physically and emotionally but have temporarily closed the door.
I will re-open said door at some point but for now it’s off limits as I’m still too close to it.
The Alzheimer monster is never far away though as it currently sinks its sharp teeth
into the life of my father-in-law.
This time things feel different if only because I know exactly what to expect.
It doesn’t make it any easier to watch the scenario play out but I’ve learned where
to store the emotional carnage.
I still fully expect to have the occasional  ‘son of a bitch, I hate this disease’ day but this time at least
I’ll be prepared.
Maybe even overqualified, IMHO.

I am still sorting out in my head the three weeks we spent with Maureen and Mark.
I have no idea where to even start;
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents–
except at occasional intervals,
when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets . . . “

That would never do.
Check out the Wordle at the top of this post.
It is a very good rendition of not only my current state of mind but of three most incredible weeks of my life.
And it may explain just how crazy things have been around here.
Pamela and I now have our eyes solidly set on a 2 week vacation next July.
My boss gave me a thumbs up today on an extended sojourn to Australia so the planning can now begin.
As far as the blog is concerned, for now I’ll just play it by ear.
Lord knows as a musician I’m used to that . . .

The Bridge

It used to be so easy years ago – this blogging thing.
Most people know this blog was my own personal bridge to an understanding of a disease that
has all but consumed the better part of the last 12 years of my life.
Writing used to be so easy, life was the hard part.
Now everything has changed.
The bridge is permanently closed and my journals have been painfully empty.
Empty can be a real painful place for a writer.
I write every day but much of what I write now is too personal and heavy for blog posts.
Many will say that the bridge never closes but for me, this one has.
My reasons for needing it in my life have changed.
I have changed.
My mind is currently like a dark grey and forbidding sky that appears to be swiftly moving yet
still appears the same.
Enigmatic, much like my grey matter.
I need to find a way to connect with my insides again.
The entrance was emotionally sutured in late March of this year.
So where do I go from here?
I’m really trying to find my way back in.
Or out.
Sorry for my absence, if you missed me.
I’m hoping you have.
I’m praying for a light to go on any day now.
And I’m thinking I’ll be alright.
But time will tell . . .


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