Saturday, October 31, 2009

a nap is fine enough

Zoned out & napped this afternoon, which was fine enough. Walked up the street to feed the cats & run a small load of wash, wind blowing drizzle into a more unpleasant weather. Ballgame. Ordered Brahms three string quartets, inexpensive used set popped up on Amazon wish list. Brahms is mostly a genial, companionable composer, Beethoven without the angst. Brahms' personal hangup was knowing he wasn't Beethoven, although his more fanatical supporters called him the natural successor to Beethoven, which was good for business. Brahms was a popular composer in a music-crazy city, Vienna, & enjoyed his celebrity. He sold a lot of sheet music. The longing in his music is more for intimacy than for passion. Performed poorly, it can be sentimental.

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I have doubts about sola scriptura

Thinking of dropping by Immaculate Conception Church this afternoon, I'll be by that way later. This is not some sudden conversion experience. I often have an urge to sit in a church for awhile. The UMC a few blocks away has an 11 am Sunday service & small congregation, & it's impossible to slip in & out of a protestant church like that even if I could pull myself together on a Sunday morning to go. A guest would be the event of the day. The Russian Orthodox Church around the corner is beautiful, dim & inviting on late afternoons when the old priest leaves the doors open & the icon wall at the front is faintly in view. He wouldn't mind me sitting inside for awhile. But I'm usually headed to or from the supermarket. Don't need to wait for a Mass. Catholic Churches are open when they're open, & the attitude is that you have your own reasons for being there. A Catholic may just be stopping by to light a candle, say a prayer, & meditate for a few minutes. Larger historical Catholic churches are interesting because some people are quietly walking around enjoying the art & ambience while others are actively engaged in a spiritual practice; there might be a Mass or novena.


Friday, October 30, 2009

$2.20 fine

Librarian: You owe $2.20 fine on this book.
Me: I renewed it online.
Librarian: We advise patrons not to renew online.
Me: At 10 PM your website doesn't advise me that.
(I paid the fine. In fact, the website had let me renew a book that was already overdue. It was a pretty good novel. )
DVDs are $1.50 for two day rental, $2 per day overdue fine. Noncompetitive.

Xtras: Plastic drop cloth; four Woodland Wreath scented candles; cheap TV antenna; Frozen french toast.

Beautiful day & shrink is not in today & available for a "walk in." Said he's in Monday. He used to be in Fridays & out of office Mondays, I'm sure of it. I should have toughed it out & gone yesterday. So that changes the downtown journey. If I held up well on the way back I was stopping by main library & then buying a cheap pair of jeans. Instead, do a swing through branch library, dollar stores, & supermarket & I can stay close to home over weekend.

Last night, Hideki Matsui out guessed wily Pedro Martinez, got hold of a breaking ball nearly in the dirt & lifted it over the right field wall. The Japanese World Series broadcasters must have gone nuts. Pedro shook it off. It was, after all, an unhittable fair ball pitch for 95% of hitters. Johnny Damon, a good hitter oft tempted by those, would've whiffed it on six inches of empty air & spun completely around.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009


I've been slacking. Ought to have hauled my butt cross town this afternoon via taxi & waited as long as necessary to see shrink for ten minutes, hand him some forms to fill out, receive Ambien refill. But I got up late, made a slow start & then a big mess, cellphone battery was signaling low & since the phone proved its value last week I should always have it with me now. Bathing is time-consuming. Had to do a load of laundry while the machine was available. I know the heavy lifting begins next week.

I so need to gain some weight that I'm almost compelled to eat a packaged 99 cent glazed honey bun from 7/11. High in fat & calories, low in anything good, incredibly tasty dunked in hot coffee & reduced to a gooey, dripping, finger-licking mess of dough. I got through 1/2 of it, 295 calories. Stick some granola & raisins on it, price it $3 as an energy bar.

Ken Burns' National Parks documentary is a yawn. Peter Coyote's somnolent narration; the predictably melancholy "rustic" music; mostly lacking in suspense & nearly devoid of the wonderment & ecstatic emotions the scenery inspires; the obligatory nods to revisionist history; the expected digressions into peculiar side stories. The subject itself wasn't desperately in need of an epic, PBS historical telling. In the past few months, I've seen two other excellent documentaries on national parks; one on the linking of the western parks by improved roads, spurred by wealthy tourists with cars; the other on the design of national park buildings, both drawing on Ken Burns style.

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Wayward manatee Ilya is rescued near Linden oil refinery, flown back to Florida

A wayward manatee is headed back to Florida aboard a transport jet after being rescued from murky waters near a Linden oil refinery.

Ilya was loaded aboard a plane that took off from Atlantic City International Airport for an undisclosed military base this morning.

The sea cow was pulled from a creek at a Linden oil refinery Monday and recuperated at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine.

Federal wildlife authorities kept the rescue a secret, fearing a crush of media and well-wishers could stress the manatee.
Surprising because of the journey the animal had to make to reach here, although they have been known to wander this far north. It's late October, not late August. There's a lot of wild beauty & wildlife in Jersey's "brownfield" marshes & estuaries, but I don't recall a manatee ever becoming lost in them. Some of the creeks are quite safe & sheltering, there's no boat traffic & human access is difficult. Arthur Kill, the waterway between Jersey & Staten Island, is busy with tugs & barges.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

St. Cecilia

Wanted to walk to CVS for a few items, three very long blocks, so took it slowly. They wouldn't refill my Ambien, & i didn't get straight whether or not they would call the doctor for approval. I can't even get through to the guy on the phone, & I have to see him soon anyway. But they did print out some necessary records I have to submit, & I had gotten that deadline extended earlier. Decided to walk on to Pathmark, pushed on by a combination of essentials & cravings. As I left the store, I knew I was exercising more than I ought to have permitted myself today. Chatted with my sister on the phone (A few of you will be surprised & glad to hear that). She has laryngitis & expects to recover enough by Sunday to hit a high note in choir. As a Reform Church protestant, there is no Saint to whom she can appeal - it's Saint Cecilia, I keep a portrait of her on the wall here, playing harmonium as an angel holds the music. I take a more ecumenical view of early saints.

I must get to the library.

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Yankees versus Phillies

I'll watch & enjoy this series. I'm not certain if I care who wins. Leaning toward The Phillies. For me, it isn't the matchup arranged by Beelzelbub as claimed by Mets Heads. That would've been Boston vs. Rockies.

The sentimental, media, & Fox Sports fantasy was Yankees-Dodgers, who haven't met since 1981.

What we have this year are the two best teams.

I grew up in a non-fanatical Yankee home, the sort of white, middle class family where the Yankees were the default team because they always won & so made few emotional demands. This was before they entered the wilderness that led to the Zoo teams of the 70's. Those teams were not worth the absurd, angry emotions they generated, so I walked away, over to Shea, as I became more of a baseball fan. Jersey was & still is, a two market sports state. Used to be defined approximately by the original 201 & 609 area codes. 609 South Jersey was The Phillies (& Eagles & Flyers). TV & radio broadcast most clearly from Philadelphia (You could pick up Yankee radio games almost everywhere on the Jersey shore), The big newspapers were delivered fresh from Philly & the Atlantic City Press emphasized Philly teams. From Long Beach Island south, the proportion of vacationers from Pennsy went way up. But you found Phillies fans as far north as Asbury Park.

So a Yankees-Phillies series is a Jersey Turnpike (& Parkway) series. It's hard for me to blame the Phillies for late season collapses when The Mets blew their own chances & the Phils just happened to be there, next in line. I like a lot of the Phillies players, though they insult The Mets. My favorite Yankee is an aging samurai-for-hire with bad knees & a beautiful swing named Hideki Matsui. He'll probably be looking for another team after this season.

I admit I'm not the type of hardcore Mets fan unable to watch or follow this Series in any shape or form.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

still home

Gina brought her laptop to the hospital but was unable to pull in a wifi connection. So much for blogging from there. If I'd had a netbook, I would've stashed it in the hospital safe. A blackberry or expensive cellphone would've been taped to my arm. I was in four locations, & taken once to the basement for ultrasound tests. Every location had its own cast of characters, many just passing through to take blood pressure, empty garbage, sweep up, drop off & pick up food trays. The proportion of personal trustworthiness is probably about the same in every hospital, city or suburb. I jokingly asked Gina to bring in her best lap cat, a thin long-hair named Meanie (this mature kitty takes an unexpected swipe once in awhile), & Gina said she could have walked past security with her cat carrier. The celebrity scandal tabloid disappeared but the Daily News remained.

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Slept all day

Had to. Gray, rainy, quiet. Things I could be dealing with, but sleeping, then getting clean, a good shave after a week, eating, puttering, reading, watching TV, going to sleep at an earlier hour, seemed like the essential projects & I'd do phone calls & etc. on Wednesday. Visiting Nurse left a message, service becomes available when you live alone. I wondered at Trinitas pushing them over other similar services in competitive market for the insurance dollar. Some of their services are very basic, just a brief visit every few days until you get back into routine. My apt needs a thorough cleaning; it is dirty. I also have to explain that much of this clutter is bachelor mess, some is the landlord's fault (hasn't fixed the ceiling in the other room), & some is how I like my lifestyle - common for writers, artists, musicians, DJs, etc. but just mess to anyone unaccustomed to it. I'm the kind of person you're more likely to encounter in Jersey City & Brooklyn.

I remember a photo of composer John Zorn's small apt. He had thousands of records on shelves & scattered around, assorted musical instruments & sound & recording equipment, & a mattress in the middle of it all. He was indifferent to any other amenities.

The contrast is that I always have a supply of laundried clothes, & I'm personally clean when I go out into public. I hand washed two pairs of boxer shorts before I went to bed last night. There's a man in a basement apt here who is literally stinking up the hallways. There's probably no legal way of preventing it. I don't know if he has a medical problem or just doesn't care.

I do not like the new My Yahoo daily comics content box. Comics are displayed even smaller, & they dropped Ted Rall.

Home again

That was a pricey one hour. A little before midnight I realized a simple piece of apparatus I wore home from the hospital wasn't working correctly. I called the hospital emergency number, described the simple problem that could not wait until morning, was informed I'd have to go to the emergency room. Oy.

Called cab, 10 minute ride at most at night, went to ER (the section set up as a walk in clinic, wasn't crowded), filled out a little triage slip, was looked at like I was a moron. But a nurse, Filipino man, came out of his office & took me right away, measured my blood pressure for umpteeth time today, also was sort of disbelieving - until I showed him. Turned out the day nurse on 8th floor, a distracted young guy who - in my observation of him today - was not very experienced or a good manager & prioritizer of his time (serious combo of weaknesses for a floor nurse) had installed it wrong. It was fixed in ten minutes. Leaving, I encountered a familiar homeless woman hanging out in waiting room for the night, chatted with her about how I also can feel like a piece of crap only to have people seem to agree with that self-estimation, gave her a few bucks, called a taxi, friendly Hispanic driver who'd seen me give the woman some money (she tried to hit me up for more of course), mildly admonished me for being too generous. I said she was only panhandler in town who ever asked me for coffee & donut money & then proceeded to buy coffee & a donut with it. He had good music on his cab radio, Marvin Gaye "What's going on?". So I gave him a decent tip. Was back home in an hour. It could have been a long night. Shouldn't have happened, but worth the money.

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Monday, October 26, 2009


How does what ought to have been a three night hospital stay become 6 nearly 7 nights & what sent me there still isn't taken care of to the basic degree I was hoping for?

Then they wanted to put me out the door at 8 pm tonight, I was fighting to stay until morning, could have, but thank heavens for Gina & Glen driving over in the Big Man's Crown Victoria (great ride), rescuing me, & taking me around to CVS & Pathmark on some essential errands.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Bound Brook NJ

Fetterly and Loree Drug Store, Bound Brook NJ

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A true fall day

at last. That was a miserable weekend.

To get better

I have to put the anger down. Thank you Edie, Joe from The Burg, Rosemother, Carrie, Barbara, Gail, & Sara Rain, Sheron, Jeff, Gina, & some of you late night online wanderers for reminding me of what you value. I'm a lot of words, contradictions, & too prideful to reach out. The joy I find in words is not just for me. Or the peculiar postcards, or the music. I studied & set out to be an avant garde kind of artist (& there is something about blogging, just like free form radio, that can be a daring art just for being the form it's in). But I wanted to be understood, too.

I recall a short piece I wrote for a community newspaper, nothing deep, just heartfelt, about Italian immigrants that was read by the sons & daughters of those immigrants. & later went to an Italian-American picnic - the real deal, with the bocce court - where it had been widely read by the folks there, & I was treated like a local celebrity. I was brought beer & maybe the best grilled sausage I ever had, offered a seat, even some politicians shook my hand. There's the guy wrote the article everyone liked. Me, protestant Anglo-Irish guy, only saying something those people always need to hear. & I thought, this is what a poet is supposed to do, too. Joe, my friend & editor, had reached out to me to put those sentiments into words & I had succeeded, he was so proud of me. I was an honorary Italian. Which is an honor you get to keep in your heart.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009


2004: The lady with the van & crew from homeless preverntion aborted a second trip, she didn't like what I was moving, It's a bigger space, I want to sort & toss out there.

Jim brought the futon. Edie some clothes & kitchen stuff. Joe offered help anonymously but I didn't pick up the cues. Unsure of our relationship, he could've finished it an afternoon with a couple of union guys. Jeff loaned me his old station wagon, & so began three days of short trips all by myself. Yet I was grateful.

I was glad my sister wasn't involved. Tho she would have organized it better than anyone. But not one part of the move would have amused her. It was freaking me out. I couldn't say it was a better place (it was), only that the rent would no longer be a problem. Sister would not have to save my ass on that matter anymore. So maybe, free of the economic crap, we could reconnect. Been only a year estranged at that point, not yet an abyss. Of course my niece was corrrect, that I had no better a friend. As family. as a screw up brother. But I still had a few who knew me well enough & a little differently.

So here I am 2009, hardly bother a soul, landlord likes me, gets my part of the rent check, which I can afford, reliably around the first,

Now I won't move unless I have to or someone points me to a better place. I'm ready to buy cheap rugs, even a small bed fur here, . Make the other room an office with storeage. Get a printer for recalcitrant correspondants, back in business, business being the amateur writer you know.

But the real reason is I am chonically ill I want a more comfortable conventional space. Being nicer to oneself isn't selfishness.

Unless one is in it for the view, an apt is always a gamble. All it takes is the tenant below you boiling a goat head. Twice a week.

I know what happens third day off ciggies cold turkey. Angthing, Nothing positive except money not spent,
Knock atuff over.

Slpping & slidding,

Lakewood NJ

Sunny Blossom Inn, Lakewood NJ

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

October Baseball

supposed to be. But every year, screwed up bad weather, poorly scheduled games, this year even worse, all baseball fans know MLB goes too deep into football season. We should be in the World Series now.

Typical of sports commentators to say Dodgers were "lucky" beating Phillies 2-1 yesterday. But it's a knock. I saw it the other way. It's the team ahead of Dodgers 1-0 after 7 innings, using Pedro Martinez, that's lucky. Dodgers were one run better. This is championship level play.

I'd like to stay in bed today but prostate & bladder won't let me. Not that I can satisfy them. Loose tooth.

Stumbling around at 7:45 am, semi-hallucinatory stoned on too much Ambien, stumbling, knocking stuff over, weird thoughts, I read that could happen if you took too much little by little & didn't sleep it off. I'd expected to sleep until noon. But that's how it is when you pee by the tablespoon.

no ciggies if I stay inside.

Friday, October 16, 2009

stalling & scared

Trouble concentrating. No ciggies. Don't jump in & pat me on the back & all that other rah rah crap. It's not like that. Last night, taking out the garbage & getting the mail from outside box, wearing winter coat, no umbrella or hat, the weather was so bad. so much worse than I expected, that I knew no way was I walking up to 7/11 for overpriced Pall Mall ultralights. Smoke butts or nothing, tough it out. A night isn't difficult. But you know you'll wake up with a problem.

Ultralights are the anxiety-smoker's ciggie. We know they're just as unhealthy. But our pyschological dependency is so strong, as we discovered in our failures to kick it, that we don't require a strong nicotine addiction to stay addicted. I've lifted long ciggie butts out of public ashtrays, when I was broke & also when I thought one or two puffs would get me past it, I knew people saw me do it. In-your-face smokers scoff at us. Enjoy the drug, they say. Sure. They buy cartons, name brands or Indian. They rarely run out. I'm the nervous, keyboard tapper type. We do most of our smoking in one place. We might be out & about for hours without a pack, pushing past the triggers, because the nicotine doesn't call for awhile. But at home, at the keyboard, is something else. Cigarettes are the paragraph spacings, the punctuations, the turn of phrase we sit back & mull over. The long TV commercial, the phone call, replying to an e mail, an instant message screen from an aquaintance we're glad to see, these are the ciggies we really crave & relish. If we had self-discipline, we'd cut out all the extraneous, unneeded ciggies we don't even notice we're smoking. It's why ciggies aren't sold in packs of ten. There's so many smokers whose smoking routines are attuned to the number of ciggies available, minus one to begin for tomorrow. Last night I was all out. But if I'd had three or four left, minor annoyance. For an anxiety smoker, that's a bunch of little smokes. No cause for anxiety. We're feeding a terrible compulsion, not a heavy drug addiction. We have all sorts of awful reactions to deprival before the nicotine thing kicks in, & it's the simplest to knock down. Couple of quick drags, put it out, save for later. The Marlboro regular smokers need a fix. But then they're done. They're honest smokers. They'll bum a Nicorette gum & twirl a pencil rather than bother with a bullshit ultralight.

I can't be flip. I'm a sick, scared man & I'm stalling. Nobody knows how sick, not even Gina with the cats up the street, a creature of routine like her cats. Without a cigarette it's taken hours to write this, on & off. I didn't intend not to smoke today. But it's raw outside, gray, awful, not October. Same weather & worse until Monday. The heat is on. I can hide under the covers. One more day. I'm a sixty year old unmarried male. We're the unhealthiest demographic in America.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Up Up & Away

The bizarre story everyone was following of the little boy who wasn't in the homemade weather balloon. Something so not right about the Heene family. I wasn't aware they were a reality tv bunch.

I didn't travel across town today for an appointment, weather too miserable no matter which way I got there & back. They were having a day over there anyway, receptionist wasn't answering, voice mail was full, I couldn't even cancel properly, reschedule, & ask a simple question about something.

My sister is in North Carolina chasing down a centenarian uncle who likes driving too much. Not so amusing to her, but it has sitcom potential. Jeff Jotz is Facebooking from an airport where he's trying to get to the Notre Dame - USC game. But there's good baseball weather in Los Angeles. Even the Phillies must be glad to be there rather than at home.

A woman outside managed to get a fire engine to come & unlock her car for her, the firemen took care of it in minutes with no damage, & didn't look put out by it. So if you have an older car, remember it if you're jiggling a coat hanger.

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accidental phone call

Very early this morning - late late last insomniac night for me, I was keying a phone # into the cellphone memory when I fumbled & hit dial for another number, I didn't check to see who. It rang once before I could disconnect. A few minutes later, trying to input the new # again, my phone rang its short jingle. The sleepy voice at the other end, someone I haven't talked with in awhile & owed a call, didn't know who she was returning the call to, had just hit call back without looking at number. Easier for her than turning on light & putting on her glasses. I identified myself & said I was sorry I messed up & quickly explained it. She sounded unsurprised, not annoyed, because she doesn't believe in coincidences. "It's alright, " she said, "you were supposed to call me." & we had a brief sleepy chat, then agreed to reconnect soon at a better hour. I'm relieved she let me off the hook. I had heard the little voice telling me to read a book, not get out of bed & fool around with that gadget in the middle of the night.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Let's try "Waltzing Elephants"

My best quality, probably, & a slight one, is for spotting where to place a brief, sincere compliment or word of encouragement simply because no one else thinks to do it. It's not much different than holding a door open, or waving at a driver backing out of a driveway when there's no traffic coming that you'll stop & wait for them. It takes no effort, & it's not charity, to be sure, but it can be a small, memorable act for the recipient. It can make somebody's day. The world's small, unintentional indifferences pile up. I learned it from insecure children, or rather they reminded me how important it might be. So it's a pleasant duty I recommend to non-perfectionists.

I wasn't a very good piano teacher because I wasn't a very good piano player. But I was good for a certain kind of student, child & adult, who wouldn't have benefited any better by studying with my girlfriend, an accomplished teacher. Wrong notes & skewed rhythms didn't offend my ears, & I knew the difference between an errant finger & a misunderstanding. I could point out the finger spot when the song was done. Getting through to the end was the achievement. A misunderstanding was worth stopping for. My girlfriend instructed to master the music. That's a proper thing & great skill. A lot of beauty came out of her studio. I taught not to be afraid of music, because I can listen to almost anything for a little while at least. That's all some people needed, & it could be beautiful, too.

I appreciate my online friends

I appreciate my online friends, but I sure could use a friend right here, right now.

My shrink will be alarmed tomorrow, but I doubt he'll know what to do. The weakness of the clinic is that although it's part of the large Trinitas medical services system, yet has qualities of a quasi-governmental agency, it's unintegrated, an appendage, symbolized by its location. It doesn't treat the whole person. & it ought to.

I don't know if such a place even exists anywhere. But all the parts & pieces for it are there, in this city. & the idea itself. & it would be more economical. The huge county college is organized more thoughtfully, an advertisement for what government can do to weave together purposes & needs including, ironically, Trinitas School of Nursing. I think government would run the psych clinic better than the private Trinitas system does.

The clinic probably reports me as a "success," by some absurd measurement.

Oh well, I can do something important & necessary right now, a large load of laundry in the basement machine. I have quarters.

Let him snore

The small guy in the next apartment earns his sleep & his snores. He's a young working man with two kids. He snores out of proportion to his size. The wall transmits low frequencies like a sub woofer speaker. I've had problems with his music, & complained when it went on too loud & too long, & it rarely happens anymore. What pisses me off is that he's sleeping in his living room, & I didn't notice his snoring until this year. Which could mean his wife finally kicked him out of their bedroom because of his snoring. So by solving her problem, she made him mine. Only there's nothing I can do about it except try to mask it with the TV, the clock radio, the AC fan. When he really starts up & gets it going, I lose the reason I like staying up after midnight: the quiet.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Girl from Pearl

Pleasant surprise, young co-worker from the office at Pearl Arts & Crafts store popped out of nowhere & found me on Facebook. To show I remembered her, I posted this snapshot from Rahway River Park, which she had liked so much she took it away from me & tacked it up by her desk.
That was long ago in technology years, toward the end of Clinton era, when some of younger employees left their PCs online all night to download a single rock song, then still a novel way to get music, dial up was common & broadband prohibitively expensive for many. This photo was cheaply processed by Kodak to print & floppy disk, a nice convenience despite the lower picture quality, it's always been in the pc photo folder. What we have now are impressive but recognizable improvements on what existed then, we're not much surprised by anything. But the Internet sits smack in the middle of the 90's, a geek topic at the start of the decade, revolutionary at the end.
I was at least one layer of clothing short of comfort outside when the wind kicked up tonight.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

we return to regular programming

Broke moving van partly blocking the street, cars can get past it but it's slowing traffic down. I don't mind the honking horns, those are the jerks that drive 50 mph trying beat the light up the block.

I need to post this

It's been a long, gradual slide downhill for me for years. Some temporary struggles upward. But there were key positions - relationships - that needed to be filled to make this work, & never were.

Even my therapist wasn't enough, & I would complain to her about it.

Ten years ago I was handed a new set of circumstances. Basically, they were this: You can't have the screwy life you were trying to have. You're not well enough, mentally stable enough, to continue what you were doing in the way you were doing it. You need a different platform. The one you have doesn't hold you up.

Drugs & booze weren't part of the problem, thank heavens.

So began a series of changes, some of which I resisted. Others I went along with. But I wasn't quick to adapt, or use opportunities & services offered. When I was feeling stable, of course I felt that I reached equilibrium.

I'm fine today, thank you.

You feel good, so it's good time to take care of that other stuff.

But I was shifting between two separate outlooks, & expectations, & one never fully understood or connected with the other.

There were the mental health professionals, testing me & talking with me, & advising me generally. & then there was almost everyone else.

I can't say I wasn't warned about this. I was advised repeatedly that I had to literally educate any key people in my life to the new realities, & that it could be a very difficult task. Many of them would strongly resist, because we had shared histories, good & bad, & in their various ways they would try to make me deny what I was experiencing & what I had to do. The most common would be evading the matter altogether. Why aren't you like you used to be? You seem alright. How come you won't talk on the phone for hours? How come you don't do a weekly radio show anymore? Why aren't you back at the art supply store, you used to talk about new art books all the time. Those were the friends.

From a few others, it was worse. Accusations that I was engaging in some kind of elaborate ruse. Which gives me way too much credit.

Everyone was so sure they knew me. They knew my "history." What else did they need to know? But that was my ruse. Which history they drew from depended upon how they knew me, & how long. By the late 90's, nobody else was really inside my world, experienced it, saw the dimly opaque bubble it had become. I just decorated the bubble & painted various faces on it. A few observant, insightful people sensed it, usually because they themselves had dealt with my kind of mental illness, were familiar with it. They were, in fact, the people who initially talked me into seeking professional help.

I was an outgoing public artist, & I was solitary, reclusive, extremely insecure.

I was compassionate, encouraging to others, & I was coldly indifferent.

I was lazy, unfocused, unreliable, & I was focused, responsible, trustworthy with routines.

I was all those.

Your challenge, my therapist tried to tell me, is not some distant goal to be reached, but is the process of adjusting yourself now to your changed circumstances, from which you cannot turn back. & to meet the challenge I needed " an emotional support structure." Because she was only one piece of that structure. She wasn't family, personal friend, or social worker.

Yes, I could keep much of what I had. Some of those things were good, valuable, useful. . Continue to write, find new outlets. Do a radio show once in a while for fun. If I thought about it, she said, it doesn't have to be that much different, since I had always struggled just to maintain the modest lifestyle I had come to prefer. "In your own way, you've always had a vocation, a career," she said. "So keep having it in the ways it is possible to have it."

What the hell happened? How did I trip up so badly. I've explained avant garde music to 12 year old piano students, & Jersey boardwalks to midwesterners, but I couldn't explain my form of mental illness to anyone, although I have a document of several pages filed somewhere explaining it to me. How would anyone know what to do if I couldn't explain it?

In 2004, after my therapist had to order an "emergency intervention" & I went back into the hospital for two weeks, some of the most serious basic problems were taken in hand & settled. It should have happened a few years earlier.

But another problem was not settled; the lack of "an emotional support structure." My therapist left the clinic before we tackled it, & since I was "maintaining," she was not replaced. When there are seriously dysfunctional households with children at risk, a single client is not a high priority for a clinic with a heavy caseload. At that point, the "emotional support structure" is supposed to take over.

If one can have emotional support only by saying one doesn't really require it, then it isn't emotional support. It isn't even support with conditions.

The conditions of emotional support are usually easy to negotiate: Don't miss your shrink appointments. Don't despair. Pay your rent on time. Return personal phone calls. Eat something. Take walks. Go back to that art class. Write, because you're good at it & makes you feel better when you do.

Not: You're a big fake. You're stupid. You're wasting my taxes. I'm ashamed of you. How does one deal with those conditions? By refusing to accept them & walking away from them, if possible. That's all one can do. Although one loses an actual, important person by doing so, & all the potential understanding. It's not love. Not even close. Not even the beginnings of love. Healing is impossible. I csn't bridge that divide even if I carry with me a box filled with all the requests for forgiveness, & all the regrets & apologies I owe.

Some very unpleasant experiences, failures, angers, resentments, memories, can be smoothed over, can be tucked away. Not everything must be exposed. If I believed that, I'd be writing about all kinds of unpleasant things just because I could. But that kind of personal writing is a stretch for me, always was. By temperament, I'm a middlebrow.

Just never tell me this isn't real, & put me down for it.

So I kept on pulling into myself, a turtle.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

No 40 thousand buildup, next suggestion

Whenever I'm uncertain about some weighty national issue, I wait for what Sen. John McCain has to say on the matter. Because John McCain is always wrong. He's the weathervane of wrong direction. His reliability for being wrong began after he said something shockingly true during the 2000 presidential primaries, lost his bearings in the stormy reaction from his party's whacko base, & never found them again. I may not immediately understand why he's wrong, & the opposite of what he says isn't always right, but I can cross his solution off the list.

Absecon NJ

Black Steer Ranch Restaurant, Absecon NJ

I'll have the, ah, steerburger deluxe.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Apartment life

Don't expect really hot, steamy water for a shower late on Saturday afternoon.
If Rutgers football can play Howard & Texas Southern, why don't they try to schedule Princeton? Some tradition in that mismatch at least. Oh yeah, beating Army at old Michie Stadium might not be a sure thing this season. & I'm an Army fan from way back.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize

Jill at Brilliant thinks it's well-deserved. I first thought the Nobel Committee was screwing around with us.

An honor, & one more problem the Prez didn't need.

We elected Barack Obama in part to change the tone of our relations with other nations, & he did. We immediately needed better relations with Great Britain & European countries, since almost everything else depended on their involvement. & our border nations, Canada & Mexico. We had to smooth out our friendships. Israel & the Mideast, who knows? The security of Israel is a fixed star here. Our dealings with China, Russia, India, complex & ambiguous. We expected Obama would gradually rethink Africa. Africa has many nations & many problems, there's no Unified Theory of African Policy.

We're having internal fights over health care & the economy. We're just getting around to Afghanistan. Secretary Clinton is flying everywhere keeping a lid on things, mostly she seems to be saying, "You're on our to-do list."

Obama's election stirred up loonies & their loose, dangerous language. This only makes them loonier & more dangerous.

Perhaps Obama is deserving of some other Nobel Prize that doesn't exist, a special category. He's a wonderful symbol of both "Yes We Did" & "Maybe We Will." Why weight him down with more expectations when he has plenty to handle now? This President doesn't need more distractions. He doesn't need another trip to Scandinavia for a quick speech then home again. He has to serve us first. He tried to bring the Olympics to Chicago & failed. Apparently, he didn't lobby at all for the Nobel Prize, & received it anyway. Committees!

I won't say he shouldn't have received the Prize, but I wish he hadn't .

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Radio baseball

Chris Berman, calling Phillies-Rockies for ESPN radio, is a more accurate & detailed describer of action than the Yankees' John Sterling. Sterling uses broad strokes & sometimes you don't know where a fly ball has been hit until it's caught, falls in, or lands in the seats. Sterling's strength is in situations & conjecture, what he thinks might or ought to happen next, which is alright because he has a long, familiar relationship with listeners. Berman tells you which direction an outfielder is moving to reach a hit ball, you get a picture. Berman's analyst sidekick, Rick Sutcliffe. mostly sounds like he's reading from a stack of cards scripted by committee before the game. Suzyn Waldman, with the Yankees, sounds like she's struggling to decipher her own scratch notes until she gives up & wings it.

I'm a fan of radio baseball because it's radio, & has a long tradition of individuality in announcing styles. & it can play in the background. But TV baseball also has too many graphics, too much emphasis on useless & confusing computer-generated statistics, too many cutaways from field action, & too much redundant chatter. TV baseball has lost its sense of pacing, of ebb & flow, the uneventful innings, the slow build up of what become scoring threats. Radio baseball is allowed to be dull when it is dull.

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Ives: Variations on America

Charles Ives: Variations on America / Old Home Days / The Alcotts

The "President's Own" United States Marine Band
Conducted by Colonel Timothy W. Foley.


A wonderful album, great Ives, great fun, great patriotism. Ives was a great American; he was genuinely patriotic - an exemplary homegrown citizen - & made fun of it at the same time in his music. The music, so rooted in his era yet sophisticated & visionary, never gets old.

Doesn't matter that these compositions are are mostly arrangements, transcriptions, & imaginings. All of Ives' large, mature orchestral works (& most of the other instrumental pieces) are creations of scholars & editors. Ives' "finished" very little of his music because performance opportunities were so rare, & he had the temperament of a New England inventor-tinkerer, the oddball with the perpetual motion machine in his backyard, or his own father's microtone-tuned piano.

It's proper that Ives is compared to Sousa in the liner notes. Although very different in ambition & style, they were both 19th Century band guys. Ives performed enthusiastically in community & college wind bands as a young man, composed music for band. His dad was a bandleader & fine musician. Band music is prominently featured throughout his orchestral works, integrated or marching out front, sometimes two bands, out of step & out of tune, just like local parades now. This album features two marches later folded into "Putnam's Camp" from "Three Places In New England." Also my favorite Ives march, " The Circus Band," which reminds me of Nino Rota's skewed band music for Fellini films. Rota (who composed several operas) & Sousa shared Ives' disregard of differences between highbrow & lowbrow music. That's not a big deal now, but it was in snobby Boston & New York City when you wouldn't see "respectable" upper class people dancing in the ragtime beer gardens everyone else enjoyed. Some of Sousa's best marches are beer garden dances.

This album has serious music: the moving "Fugue In C Minor" from the 1st String Quartet, later used centrally in the 4th Symphony; the first part of "Decoration Day." But it's mostly for fun.

Liner note writers never mention the possible connection between Ives' youthful "Variations on 'America'" & Beethoven's " 7 Variations on 'God Save the King'". Beethoven was played & idolized in the Ives household.

The United States Marine Band is terrific, a polished, professional ensemble with a broad concert repertoire. But if our military bands play Charles Ives this well, why don't they perform him during 4th of July fireworks? I can't imagine anything that would've delighted Ives more.


Rangel’s friends say he was just sloppy, but it’s more likely that he just feels he’s too important to be bothered with the rules.
Gail Collins on Congressman Charles Rangel, the elderly, ethically-challenged Chairman of House Ways & Means. In ways it's difficult to explain, Rangel is beyond hubris. It is hubris when a smaller man behaves like Rangel. A Tom DeLay, for example. Some politicians at all levels become Rangels when they're easily re-elected, consolidate their power, & do what they do for a long time. They still show up at events, express opinions - angrily when called for, shake hands, kiss cheeks, schmooze, affable enough - if detached. But they no longer "represent" the people who elect them, even when they continue to reside in the same neighborhood. Washington politicians are worse because they relocate, & their city digs or homes in Virginia or Maryland are superior to the ones they own back in their states & districts. They move their families, buy vacation homes even farther away.

They're not concerned with mere details. They don't experience the common anxieties of constituents anymore, or relate to them. because their true constituents are the people they know & deal with every day. They're secure. They figure nobody is checking up on them, & it could be true for years, even decades, without serious opponents waging strong campaigns in close elections. If Rangel faced those, he'd likely have closer relationships with his tax accountant, lawyers, & various financial advisors. He might have some vague idea of how distant he is from the folks back in New York City whose votes for him are cast one at time.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

If you keep telling yourself you're a worthless piece of crap, & you do it for many years, & you don't find enough people near at hand who really make a point of disagreeing with you, & a few people important to you actually agree with you, it takes a toll on you after awhile. You treat yourself like crap.

new equals promotion

Steve Martin, Martin Short, & a sex scandal probably nudge Letterman's ratings up a tad on Monday night. News equals promotion on Channel 2.

Says Craig Ferguson, "If we are now holding late-night talk show hosts to the same moral accountability as we hold politicians or clergymen, I'm out, I'm gone."

If some women are troubled by the sordid, too-familiar male power aspects of Letterman's affairs, & stop watching, I can understand that. I hope his marriage survives, they've been together a long time, built a home together, had a son, then got married. If a lover, cohabitant, spouse expects sexual fidelity, & trust is betrayed, what happens next is up to the aggrieved party. Letterman can make all the jokes he wants, but there's a real wife at home who protects her privacy more than even Dave.

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Monday, October 05, 2009

His price was right

Wasn't feeling well, didn't need library books (always incentive), but I ran out of coffee, bananas, & peanut butter today so there was no getting around a walk to supermarket. The guy front of me had bought a lot of family type groceries but the scanner had not run up the two cans of coffee at the half-price sale he insisted was on the shelf tag. The cashier, one of the store's veteran battle-axes, was giving him a real hard time. I happened to know he was correct. It was an odd Entenmann's brand, had been on sale for weeks as a closeout, probably decent, I'd considered trying it when it first went on sale except it's a light roast & I'm committed to dark roast. I'd just been in the coffee aisle & noticed it was still there. He did the right thing. He had the coffee taken off the bill, paid for the rest of the groceries, left his shopping cart filled up with bags nearby, & as I was finishing paying for my stuff he returned & handed the sale shelf tag to the cashier. Glory be, the scanner is wrong! A wrench in the gears. Was it worth it? Yeah, they had to give him the price, he saved himself six bucks & went home without the annoyed feeling you get when you surrender the high ground on some minor matter only because it's too much of a hassle to defend it.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

The sorry season is over.

The sorry season is over. The Mets ended the season 70-92, with a three game winning streak. I admitted it was over at All Star Break. Too many injuries. More fanatical Mets fans don't give up so easily.

We were spared the collapses & failures of the past few years. The Mets simply couldn't put a strong lineup at the plate to win all summer & underacheive for us in the fall. Opponents pitched around David Wright, or it was something else, but he didn't hit with power this season. He wasn't the same anyway after he got beaned in August. The poor guy needed a longer vacation.

They still put together some snappy ball here & there, to make Howie Rose get excited on radio, like he does doing hockey play-by-play. The Mets actually put up some good offensive stats as a team. Inexcusable were the too-frequent boneheaded defense & base-running mistakes - that stuff is instinctual. We're not fans of a minor league club. Manager Jerry Manuel deals with these lapses behind closed doors, but there were games where he should have teed off on the team more in his post-game press conferences, they deserved it.

Maybe Citi Field also needs a closer fence at the corners. Move infield out 10 feet. That'll be debated all winter.

The Mets require some work, some changes. They have to find a few big league position players, & another full-time slugger, a scary 5th or 6th guy in the lineup. Management has to handle injuries with more caution. Jerry can stick around, he'll feel the pressure next year. It was a dismal season, but at least this team doesn't have to be broken up & reassembled to be a contender. There were worse failures in the majors, teams with far fewer excuses.

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Point Pleasant Beach NJ

The marina area off Manasquan Inlet.
Coast Guard still maintains seasonal small boat unit at the classic station center right.

The USCG used to encourage unit webpages, some of them were entertaining, with photos of crews, boats , & USCG public events.

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Born to Tour

Wasn't cold here last night, around 60 outside. but the combination of wind from southeast & oceanic dampness had me unpacking the spaceheater from the closet, a little blast furnace (with a reliable tilt shutoff), It's not for heating a room or running all night, but for exactly how I used it. Place it on the floor in front of where you're sitting, at PC or watching TV, aimed slightly up, & turn it on. Medium heat, low fan will do. Takes the chill off.

Springsteen's fans should savor his stand with E Street at Giants Stadium this week & next, featuring entire classic albums, room for everyone. It could be Bruce's last worldwide mega-tour with E Street. I don't think they're splitting. Springsteen's revenue-sharing arrangement with the band makes these tours extremely profitable for the musicians, & they travel first class all the way. But they're getting on in years, & the world tours are huge committments of time & very hard work. Springsteen took the act to the Bonnaroo & Glastonbury music festivals this time around. He wasn't a festival guy. Bonnaroo was a little risky, but it worked out swell. I think Springsteen was testing out a way to bring E Street on the road for shorter periods, more conveniently, at less expense, for more diverse audiences. He can show up anywhere he wants with just a guitar. He may be doing more of that, too. There are positives & negatives to carrying an enormous book of songs dating back to "Greetings from Asbury Park."

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Friday, October 02, 2009

You can't silence us

Bible verses banned from Ga. school football field

FORT OGLETHORPE, Ga. – The Warriors of Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High took the field on Friday night without any Bible verses written on the cheerleaders' banner.

Instead, the football team ran through a banner that read "This is Big Red Country" before each bent on a knee to pray on the field of Tommy Cash Stadium.

The spirited display comes after the school district banned the banners last week over concerns they were unconstitutional and could provoke a lawsuit, angering many in the deeply religious north Georgia town of Fort Oglethorpe.

"I'm just kind of unnerved about it," said 18-year-old Cassandra Cooksey, a recent graduate who often prayed with her fellow marching band members before football games. "It seems like the majority of people in our community want this and they don't have a problem with it, so I think they should be allowed to have the signs if they want to."

The move has galvanized the community. Hundreds of people attended a rally this week supporting the signs, which included messages such as: "Commit to the Lord, whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Many students attended class Friday wearing shirts with Bible verses and painted their cars with messages that read: "Warriors for Christ."

During the game, several other messages were visible in the packed stadium. Some people stood with signs that read "You Can't Silence Us" and some young men had Bible verses painted on their chests.
I grew up in town & an era with a lot of religious - specifically Christian - expression in public schools & ceremonies now considered slippery when not unconstitutional. I don't think many people were bothered much by most of the forms it took, although reciting the Lord's Prayer along with the Pledge of Allegiance was totally wrong. But Fort Oglethorpe must be a town without any Roman Catholics in it, because this is oppressive & completely conservative protestant exhibitionism; it's tasteless, obnoxious, unneighborly behavior. Red state or blue state, North or South, these folks are messed up & nasty.

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Screwing the Boss

Dave Letterman had no choice but to tell the story of the extortion attempt, & it was either on his show or in a press release. He did so awkwardly. The 11 o'clock news reported the story. The live audience didn't know.

We don't know the details of his sexual encounters with staff members, how many there were, when they happened. I hope they were not coercive. I hope the birth of Letterman's son ended the affairs. If so, then it's just a matter between him & the woman he married last March. It must have been an open secret around the Late Show. But those kinds of things are kept in-house in show business. No one has filed a sexual harassment suit.
The suspect is Robert Joel Halderman, 51, an Emmy Award-winning producer of “48 Hours Mystery” on CBS, according to two people who requested anonymity, including a CBS employee and a law enforcement official.

Mr. Halderman was, at least at one time, living with one of Mr. Letterman’s longtime assistants.

According to local records, Stephanie Burkitt shared a residence in Norwalk, Conn., with Mr. Halderman.

Ms. Burkitt is well known to fans of the show because for a long period several years ago Mr. Letterman brought her on the show often. He regularly joked with her about subjects like what she had done over the weekend. He gave her the nickname Monty, which she said she hated.

Stephanie ain't exactly a sex kitten. She was uncomfortable in heels, wobbling up & down the center aisle of the Ed Sullivan Theater. She was rather young for Dave. Quite a contrast to Dave's flirtatious interviews with Drew Barrymore & Julia Roberts, his self-deprecating hooker jokes, & when he acts like he wants to grope Martha Stewart & Barbara Walters.

Letterman is not hypocritical. Yeah, he mocks the sexual escapades of politicians, particularly those who preach family values & then go hiking on the Appalachian Trail. That's his job. He's not a politician or a preacher, he's an entertainer. He doesn't even have strong axes to grind on major issues. He seems less concerned that politicians be liberal or conservative than want elected officials not be stupid or bigoted, but needing the stupidity for his nightly monologues. He only seems liberal to the wingnuts because he thinks (like most America) Sarah Palin is a borderline lunatic, & he doesn't lose sleep over the stuff that gives Glenn Beck's fans insomnia.

Relax. This scandal has a ways to go.

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Thursday, October 01, 2009


Here's an incredible video of the tsunami hitting American Samoa. Relentless. Tsunamis are terrifying & fascinating, Weather science now provides advance warning of most river floods & storm surges, so most of the deaths outside of third world nations are people who refused to exacuate or the fools who drive into floods. Tsunamis are something else. not meterological. But even the tsunami warning systems being installed around the Indian & Pacific Oceans would not have helped the Samoans, or any coast only minutes from an earthquake epicenter. How fast a tsunami advances after it hits a coast, how deep the flooding is, depends upon the coastline itself, the rise of the ground, the rivers & estuaries. In one of the videos from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the water from the first wave rose slowly enough for people to outrun it to high buildings, & the outgoing current when it retreated, after it had picked up debris, was more destructive. The second & third waves were worse.

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In my dream I'm sleepy when I get on the subway & I fall asleep. I wake up as the train pulls into a station I think might be a safe neighborhood in the Bronx, & I get off the train intending to walk around to the other entrance, pay the fare, & go back to wherever I was. But it''s like some of the street exits in Manhattan, where you come up out of the subway , you're confused at first & have to orient yourself to uptown & downtown, & you're a block away from the entrance to the trains in the other direction. I need directions to those other trains. I ask a guy also leaving the station. He's friendly, but he treats me like I'm harmless crazy. Apparently I was saying crazy things in my sleep on the train. He thinks I need money. He reaches in his pocket & hands me some wrinkled paper money, gladly. It looks like fives & tens. He's generous. must be more loaded than he's dressed. But I don't need the money. I just want to know where the entrance is. He walks aways. There I am, in a not unpleasant but strange neighborhood, no subway entrance in sight. I don't recall where I intended to go in the first place, which doesn't seem to bother me, I only want to get back to where I started, should be easy enough if I could find the darned station.
All week I've been writing current event blogposts & leaving them in draft. Could use a shot of heat in the apt tonight, not gonna get it. The shower water wasn't hot enough today, though not low enough to complain. It wasn't at full steamy warm-the-lizard temp. I should have hiked crosstown this evening & left a standard form for my shrink to fill out. It's a form he completes every year, wish it was sent directly to him. Next scheduled appt is two more weeks, have to complete form before them. & there's a staff nurse who will have an considered opinion on swine flu shots. I also need to wander through downtown, buy some underwear, a pair of cheap jeans, a watch battery, & check out the sneakers at Payless.

When I tried installing my beloved Slam Tilt pinball on this PC, the game software threatened replacing existing drivers with the ones on the CD without offering a don't replace option & I couldn't risk whatever that might have done.


"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Thomas Jefferson

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