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27 November 2010


On the one hand there’s Buddy Rich. U.S. Marine, well disciplined, and the fastest drummer that ever lived. On the other hand is Keith Moon, British buffoon known for sleeping off hangovers for days and not showing up at his own concerts, and the fastest drummer who ever lived. Both are dead because of things they did, Rich smoked cigarettes and got a brain tumor and Moon drank a tad too much. Both were the best at what they did and will never be duplicated as much as people try. They both were the darlings of talk shows, Rich bashing pop stars of the day and Moon bashing politicians. Although there is more than enough material to compare the two drummers, it is their respective musical genres that will be examined here, as the drummers are the embodiment and product of them.
Jazz was being born in 1919, and so was Buddy Rich. He died in 1987, long after Jazz died. Moon was born in 1946 and died in 1978 which pretty much parallels the rise and fall of rock as well. Would either genre exist without the men or the men have existed without the music is anyone’s guess. While Jazz was born in the southeast United States, Rock and Roll was reared in Memphis, also part of the southeast, so that makes them cousins. Both cousins were the bastard sons of Black and White music and so were embraced by the Negros and vilified by the Whites. Saddled with the Satan brand they provoked fights and religious exorcisms and started family rifts that time would never heal. Jazz became the refuge for poor blacks and whites, while Rock and Roll appealed to those who could afford records and players. This little difference drove their infant tour busses on different roads.
So begins the growing years of adolescence. Jazz was never jealous of its more commercial cousin, preferring to simmer in the smoke-filled clubs and basements of urban areas while Rock played in the sand in California. There was a new mode of transportation available, so Rock took an airplane over to Europe, only to find Jazz was already there. As was so often the case, the lads came back to the states with Rock, leaving Jazz in the dark but giving it a nod as an influence. Cousins being cousins, they shared things freely. Janis and Jimi were sacrifices for rock, while Chet and Miles took the spike for Jazz. The religious zealots were backing down at this time in history because this was the sixties, and being square was passé, so music began to reach places it couldn’t before. There were Christian rock bands and Jewish Jazz groups and sometimes they commingled (remember, it was the sixties) and produced Fusion. Fusion is sort of like a mule; a strange but interesting offspring of two distinctly different breeds, and sort of like the grotesque pink eyed deformed child who is the product of two close cousins. Experimentation over, Rock and Jazz went again to their respective corners to grow up.
If you are old enough to remember Kennedy, you still mourn for rock. Rock went out like a light, but at different times for different people. Might have been when the British lads said farewell, might have been when your old faves went disco, might have been a plane crash, point is there was a specific moment. Jazz on the other hand lingered, spitting up an occasional piece of what once was that would make you think it would come back, but it petered out so silently you never saw the death notice. Every now and then you might see a cheap imitation pop up like an ill-fitting Halloween costume, but it’s soulless, hollow. Both cousins died in their prime and were laid to rest near each other, with their grandpa Country giving the eulogy after he and grandma Blues drove over from Mississippi in Hank’s Cadillac.
So if Buddy and Keith were to meet what would they say to each other? Certainly not anything about drumming, neither one ever practiced and refused to take or give lessons. Would they argue over which type of music was better or would they smother each other with admiration? Both these men were ugly and short, but well loved by everyone they touched, just like their music. Both died too soon, like their music, and both were the backbeat to the soundtrack of my life. Jazz and Rock and Roll were so different, yet so similar. They were interdependent, relying on each other for inspiration but original in what they did with those five basic chords. No comparison when it comes to what to listen to, though; Nighttime is Jazz time and daytime is Rock and Roll.


There are plenty of sports out there that will get you up and out, and some that will keep you inside as well. There’s bowling, darts and pool for the indoor crowd. If you’re more of an outdoorsy sort you can climb mountains, play rugby or go hunting. Motorheads have auto racing, snowmobiling and jet skiing. There are even indoor-outdoor sports like basketball and tennis. In short, there’s a sport for you no matter what your fancy. I have friends in the Special Olympics and friends who play wheel chair rugby, so there really is no excuse not to do something. I myself have quite a few sports I enjoy, but my favorite is a borderline sport, not one that requires pads or training and one you’re never too old or young for. I like fishing. There are different types of fishing, fresh water, salt water, even frozen water. You can fly fish, troll, surf cast or just use worms and bobbers. Fishing is an excuse to go someplace quiet and just be, or it can be a group activity involving beer and boats. Here are a few examples of fishing trips I have enjoyed.
My friend Alex had a twelve foot homemade boat with a twenty-five horse Nissan outboard. I knew how hard it was to get parts in St. Lucia so I had shipped down a lower unit a few months before when I found it in Florida (Nissans aren’t very popular in the states) and it had cost about eighty bucks to get it to him. Of course for the ten days I was down there we fished all but one, and caught more Barracuda than I thought possible. As a thank you for the parts, Alex and his father fed us breakfast and dinner each evening, and showed us places very few people have ever seen. We saw St.Lucian mountain men, used a zipline in the rainforest and climbed the Pitons. We had the best vacation anyone could ever ask for, and my wife even discovered she liked fishing or at least being on the boat.)
My brother lives in Massachusetts and is able to fish more than I because he lives around Gloucester, where the lakes hardly ever freeze completely. Once in a while I visit him and we fish the surf with bloodworms, hauling in Stripers and chucking them back. The water is warm there, and shallow and sandy so you can wade out twenty or thirty feet and still be knee-deep. The moon was out and we had caught quite a few fish, small-talking our way to a larger thing, something he wanted to say or ask. My wife had recently passed away and we talked about loneliness and how to fill the void and I still couldn’t figure what he was getting at. I finally said something to the effect that I was fairly thick and couldn’t understand what he was getting at. I remember the Hollywood timing when he simply said “I’m gay” just as his reel sang out with a fish. I’d like to tell you it was the biggest fish either one of us had caught and it was glowing with a golden light, but it was just a fish.
In Columbia Falls there’s a big old camp that was once Arthur Godfrey’s, but is now owned by the Downeast Salmon Federation. If those walls could talk they’d cough and mutter. Once upon a time Ted Williams fished there with Jackie Gleason. That’s in the logbook. We usually go two or three times a year and do some serious fly-fishing. Last summer there was a visitor who came down to check on his eel traps. I went over and struck up a conversation and found he was a Maine Guide and specialized in fishing trips on the river, having lived here all his life. I told him I’d like to hire him for a day to point out my family’s old camps, I remember them from when I was young but they got sold a long time ago. All but one he said. Turns out he was my cousin Dean I hadn’t seen since I was about five. Dwayne at the Downeast Salmon Federation had told him I was there when Dean asked who was using the camp. For her birthday my mother got copies of pictures from her youth to her twenties. She cried tears of joy and we visited some graves afterwards.
Some people say fishing is a Zen experience. That is a fact, when you fish you aren’t anything other than a man holding a stick hoping food will come to you. But fishing is also Gestalt. Consider the scenarios described and decide if the wonderful results are the result of fishing or part of fishing. A man holding a stick can have more happen to him than a shot at dinner. Because you go places and meet people you may not otherwise, fishing becomes a door to a wonderful world of opportunity. Or a darn good chance for a good nap.

20 November 2010


If you throw a stone in the pond does it always cause ripples? Not during ice fishing season. There is an unwritten rule with us that what happens on the ice stays on the ice, except if you bring fish home, then you just plain lie about what you did. There’s a huddle of us (if Larks can be an exaltation we can be a huddle) any given day on the pond, sharing stories and thoughts on life and generally solving all the world’s problems. We catch fish as a by-product of our interactions, not as an end goal. The effect of the “code of the White Eskimo” is that we have grown together as a group. The result of this cloistering is that we have learned about things ranging from Erectile Dysfunction to cooking tips, we have indirectly influenced the political landscape in our region through our discussions and actions, and we have directly contributed the wellness of some community members. I like to think of us as the good part of the Masons combined with the Three Stooges.
Because we can’t talk about what goes on (outside a few vague references) to others off the pond, we are free to discuss our deepest secrets with each other. This freedom is sometimes uncomfortable, as you might expect a group of males to talk mostly about sex, and you’re right there, just not the way you think. R. had a prostectomy a few years back, so we share his joy when he tells us about his occasional successful efforts. L.1 has high blood pressure, and the medication that keeps him alive also makes him wish he were dead sometimes, so we all checked the computer under secrecy of darkness when the wife was out of town and made damn sure we erased our tracks. He got his doctor to change his meds and is happier now. L.2 is a man’s man, and would never admit to something as sissified as cooking, but we share recipes on the ice that he’ll probably use when he’s alone. Oh, sure, we also talk about cars, guns, movies and all the other guy stuff, but it’s different, almost sacred when you can talk about things that actually matter.
There’s always an upcoming election in one of our towns, or a town meeting to decide if so-and-so should be allowed to build a garage. The effect of our closeness is that we become above the law in our minds. We are the deciders. We don’t mudsling or lie, but all of us are or were involved in local politics, and some of our group still have a little sway in the warmer confines of a town office. This is a fairly central pond in our county, and certainly not the only one we fish, so opinions can be spread to other ponds for the more important issues as we see fit, or we don’t have a consensus we agree to leave it to die on the ice. It stands to reason we can be accused of fixing the vote, but we really are just saving other fishermen the trouble of thinking about such things so they can catch more fish.
Another effect our closed membership has is seen throughout the Downeast area all year round. It’s impossible not to notice the poverty around here, but sometimes the need is hidden from view. We usually have a budget of about a hundred bucks apiece we put in a coffee can and decide who needs it the most. Last year M. and L.2 hid in the bushes with a camera when the lady we built the ramp for got home. She’d gone to the hospital in Bangor to get her leg amputated and while she was there we built her a wheelchair ramp and put in a wider door. She and her husband just stared at it for a while. She’ll never know who built it. We’ve bought refrigerators for people, had their cars fixed, even got a few jobs, all without them ever knowing who did it.
There you have it, a little story about how a huddle of ice fishermen were affected by a seemingly arbitrary rule established two generations ago. Not quite a butterfly effect, more of a centralized action-reaction type idea. Because of our actions, others have been affected as well, and they affected others, and so on. So if you ever stumble on to a group of men on the ice who are talking quietly remember, what they are doing is probably affecting you.

05 November 2010


The perfect pizza is not easily replicated in the home kitchen because it is a Gestalt kind of thing, a food miracle that combines all that is good and beckons a frosty malt beverage with its come hither aroma. Some folks are quite content with a frozen pizza or one from a gas station, and that’s great. They can have it, but it’s a pale imitation of what could possibly be the greatest achievement of mankind. A real pizza is baked at an extremely high temperature, with fresh Mozzarella and aged Provolone and Romano, and maybe some meats and vegetables. It has a sauce made of fresh Basil, dried Oregano and blanched Tomatoes. The crust is thin, yet has a distinct inner layer. There is no oil on the bottom like a Greek pizza, nor is it filled with Cheddar like those Chicago deep dish pies. The toppings are purely individual, but there is a rule to follow when putting them on. So let’s deconstruct a pizza and see if we can identify what makes it our raison d’ etre.
Looking at it from above we see the toppings. If you like an onion that’s what you see first. Onions are mostly water, like all vegetables, but usually are placed on top to get the proper color and texture. If there is Hamburger on your pie, it sits directly under the Onion in order to brown up. Ditto for uncased Sausage. Under the onions are other vegetables, but the ones on the bottom are the biggest and most stable, like Green Peppers. Some pizza men grate a layer of Romano under the vegetables to absorb and redirect the moisture and keep the crust from getting soggy. If you are a carnivore, this next layer is where you’ll find your meats, mostly Ham, Salami, and the occasional cased Sausage.
True pizza is not so much a vehicle for toppings, but a medley of cheese and sauce. The next place we get to in our journey to the heart of the pizza is the cheese. In some areas of the world the cheese is fresher than others. Because Mozzarella is not aged and has very few ingredients, this is the cheese of choice for traditional pies. It melts well, slices or grinds easily, and tastes great. In with the Mozzarella you’ll likely find some aged Provolone, that being the smoky flavor that complements the golden crust. The Romano may or may not be here, depending on whether or not you ordered veggies. Under the cheese is the sauce, which by all accounts makes the pizza great or merely good. Usually Plum Tomatoes are used, after they are blanched and their skins removed. Sometimes they are cooked in a pressure cooker to reduce them to a paste, other times just chopped into fine bits. Common ingredients in the sauce are minced or sliced Garlic, fresh Basil, dried Oregano (fresh is too heady) some sugar or honey, and sometimes some grated Parmagean cheese. The true pizza has little sauce and a light layer of cheese, relying instead on the crust to make it flavorful.
Underneath all that, you find the crust itself, the holder of goodness. A crust is made simply, but with love and pride. It is a miracle of chemistry and physics, soft and chewy inside and brown and crispy outside. Not too thin, but certainly not any thicker than a nickel. The golden bottom is flecked with cornmeal and little black bits from the floor of the oven, where it has been placed without a pan and spun at least once. The water used in the crust gives it its flavor, and a true pizzaman will use ice cold water when making it, preferring to let the yeast rise at room temperature. The water is the reason pizzas don’t taste good in places like Kansas or Key West, not enough Lime. The oven itself does a lot of crust flavoring, as they are usually about seven hundred degrees so the flavors are sealed in and the pie cooks in about ten minutes. The crust/oven relationship is a fickle one, each particular oven calling for a different crust recipe. For the purpose of this essay we have grouped them together as they are inseparable.
So now you have your pizza in front of you, steam curling off the toppings, crust all golden brown with a halo of red around the geese to hint at the sauce buried there. You understand what it is, how it’s put together, yet something’s missing. The finishing touch, a frosted mug of beer. This is the true illustration of “sum is more than the parts”, a shining example of what things can be if put together correctly. The next time you have pizza; ask yourself if any mere mortal could have dreamed it up. I’ll bet the answer will be no. Just as humans are composed of about eleven dollars worth of chemicals put together just so, the superstar of the food world is constructed of ordinary materials with a heavenly touch.


Nothing can be more frustrating than a bad haircut. If you have a hot date or a job interview and go there thinking you look like an eighties T.V. newscaster you’ll lose your self-confidence and with it the date or the job. Face it; we live in a society that judges us on appearance alone. No one cares if you can cure cancer if your head looks like two gerbils are mating on it. Why do you think Mother Theresa wore that cloth on her squash? That’s right. Bad Hair. My point here is not that you shouldn’t make fun of people with bad hair, but that you should strive not to be made fun of because of bad hair. To that end, let me tell you a sure-fire way to get the haircut you need to succeed in today’s superficial society. First, you’re going to pick a style. Then you’ll be going to the stylist or salon. Of course you will have to recreate this new look at home later, so that’s another step. If you follow these directions in order you will be the belle of the ball.
Why do we have hair anyway? It’s to pledge allegiance to our favorite celebrity! You really should get a favorite celebrity with the same size and shape head as you so things don’t look so out of scale. For example; if you are a big Dolly Parton fan and happen to be a forty-something male gym teacher, you should think again about your taste in music. Perhaps you should listen to more Mitch Miller. Once you choose your follicle leader you may or may not have to grow or cut your hair to match them. Cutting is discussed in the next step, but growing is time consuming and boring, so my suggestion is just not to do it. Find a style more like yours already is, only shorter and more socially accepted. Don’t lose sight of the goal: acceptance through imitation. If the only celebs you can find with your head shape are in rehab or jail, make sure they are at least on a reality show about their “struggles” or you’ll lose all social cachet. Before you go on to step two you have to have a picture of your idol to take to the salon. Make sure the pic you cut is from this week’s magazine so as to be “fresh” and “exciting”.
The next phase involves finding the right establishment to do the transformation. A helpful hint: don’t go to one with faded photos in the window! These places may have been around for a while, but they definitely aren’t riding the razor’s edge of fashion. Maybe your mom got her hair cut there, but who wants to look like your mom? Not even your mom does, that’s why she gets her hair styled like someone else. Try the newest place you can find, even if nobody there speaks English and they all wear leather shirts. Look for this salon with your nose; chemicals equal science equal progress and progress is what we’re after. Once you find the right place, you need to pick a stylist. Don’t accept the first one available, but look for the one with the worst hair. This is because they all cut each other’s hair, so you know she’s not the one who did the hack job. Show her your picture from the magazine and trust her to do her thing. Remember, barbers go to college and colleges are favorite target groups for celebrities. Settle back in the chair and let the magic begin. When she’s done she’ll helpfully suggest a line of hair care products made especially for you. Buy them. I know they’re expensive but remember: barbers go to college…they’re smarter than you.
Sporting your new look will bring you untold confidence and swagger…until tomorrow morning when you look in the mirror. This is not the time to be alarmed, remember the bag of hair care products? Use them now to bring your hair back to factory new! Pour those bottles of progress on your scalp and let them do their thing. With your hair now submissive, you should carefully (using your photo as a guide) place every strand back the way it was yesterday. Don’t worry about how long it takes or if anyone’s waiting, remember this is progress. A little known fact about hair styling is that a mirror will actually reverse the image. This is key to remember in case your picture (or you) has a misshapen head or one ear you need to cover, or a tattoo. When you get to work (late as is the style) don’t read anything into those looks from your fellow employees. It’s awe and jealousy, plain and simple. Recreating these steps is only necessary as long as you have hair care products. After that you start the process over again.
By now you have learned how to choose a hairstyle, how to pick a salon and stylist, and how to keep your hair from being the reason you’re not invited to parties. Remember, this is a repeatable process and not a permanent cure for bad hair. With your new hair style comes renewed prowess, both on the job and at home. Be prepared to be treated differently, as all celebrities are. It has been said that the difference between a good hair cut and a bad one is two weeks, but we both know the difference is social validation. The Prince Valiant will come back in style, and with these easy to follow steps you are ready!

01 November 2010

bad poetry

Ode to a Process essay
You sit with writing as your intention
Yet nothing is born of your comprehension
The goal is an essay
That was due yesterday
This will surely take some invention

The words in your thoughts are mired
And tho you’re quite assuredly tired
The keys you must pound
And the cursor goes round
Until the process idea is acquired

You’ve tried to describe delicious dishes
Building garages, catching fishes
You’re getting antsy
Not tickling your fancy
These are not your writing wishes

You’ve played with iambic pan
Tameter isn’t for you, man
How about some haiku
To see you through
Until you have process in the can

Thought about riding and golfing and dancing
Of drawing and painting and romancing
Of fixing and making
And growing and baking
About anything but prancing

Why must my ideas always fight
Like children crying “I’m right!”
None’s going pop
None’s on top
I guess I’ll give up tonight

27 October 2010

works cited II

Pillay, S. (2010, august 3). 7 Fears That Hide in "Falling out of Love". Retrieved from The Huffington Post:
This is a different take on falling out of love. Any web site that quotes Shaky ("love is not love when it alteration finds,") is okay with me, even though I don't believe some of what is written here.
Rase, J. (2010, january 15). How to keep love and sex in your life after 50. Retrieved 2010, from Let Life In:
A lot of trite nuggets, most of which you've heard, but there must be truth in repetition.
Robinson, M. (2009, sept 6). The Lazy way to stay in Love. Retrieved from Psychology Today:
Don't really care for the magazine, but this is as close as you can get to biological nuts and bolts.

26 October 2010


Uncle Artie came calling a few years ago, and left me in pain. Actually, he’s still here but I’m in pain anyway. I’m talking about arthritis and what it did to cause me to research. I dropped the funnel while I was putting oil in the bike because my nerves had been pinched in my shoulder. I was a boat builder at the time and had been steadily losing strength and sensation in my right arm. Not knowing anything about anatomy I went to the library and looked up everything I could. Feeling as though I could understand the language, I called a Nurse Practitioner friend, who loaned me some books on shoulder ills and some helpful suggestions about where to go next. With my daughter’s help I used the internet to find the best shoulder surgeon around. One was highly recommended at Johns Hopkins and one right in Ellsworth. Money wasn’t an issue because I would probably go through bankruptcy anyway. I checked with the AMA and the Osteopathic School of Surgeons to compare their success rates, infection rates and overall patient satisfaction. After a nerve test I had all the information I needed to make my choice. I opted for the surgeon in Ellsworth just because I found a classical violinist right here in Hancock who had gone to him and spoke highly. So here I am, years later with a fully repaired shoulder and a surprising amount of anatomy knowledge.

annotated references

Yeats, W. B. (1983). Collected Poems of W B Yeats, a new edition. NY: Macmillan.
I found this tome to be time consuming, ponderous at times yet infinitely delightful at others. I especially liked the shorter poems. I also like it because it's a book.

Hamburger, Robert. “The Official Ninja Webpage” Google, 26 October 2010
This website was informative on many levels and is highly recommended for my lowbrow friends.

Beale, Lewis “Who’s that Masked Man and Where did he Learn to Wrestle Like That?” Google 26 Oct 2010
Actually a neat little blurb in here about Adolfo Guzman Huerta the folk hero. If you like masked Mexican wrestlers this is a good jumping off point.

process essay

Writing a Poem
Large wastebasket
2 pens (different color inks)
Paper (approx. 7 raw for each finished)
Small figurine
Masking tape
Comfortable chair
Rocks glass
Settle in to the comfy chair and adjust your position constantly until no lumps are left in the cushion (approx. six minutes). Remove self from chair, place wastebasket within paper throwing distance. This varies with writer’s coordination and arm strength. Settle back into chair, repeating first step. Again remove self from chair, add paper and pens to chair and reseat self. Using capped pen, scratch head and scalp thoroughly until red marks appear. Remove self from chair; turn on television to see how Celtics are doing. If satisfied, return to chair. If unsatisfied scratch head and scalp again, return to chair. Rise from chair, add masking tape and figurine. Take small piece of masking tape (larger if figurine is larger) and place on base of figurine. Write “Erato” on base of figurine on masking tape and reseat in chair, repeating first step. Let sit.
At this point, mind should be focused on poem subject. If not, turn on television again and check Celtics score. If game is out of hand or over, check the Home Shopping Network to see what’s for sale. Re-seat, re-scratch and ball up one piece of paper, rolling in a circular motion in palms until tight. Toss in general direction of wastebasket. If unsuccessful repeat. If successful remove “Erato” label from figurine, replace with “Larry Bird”. Repeat head scratching with second pen and let sit.
Remove from chair and add ice to glass. Slowly pour one jigger scotch over ice and re-sit. Repeat step one. Using one colored pen write “It was a dark and stormy night” on top sheet of paper. Chuckle silently to yourself and repeat the balling rolling motion. Toss at wastebasket. Sip scotch. Repeat scratching of head step. On second piece of paper write “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times on the bipolar ward”. Repeat chuckling step. Repeat sipping step. Repeat balling and throwing step. Repeat sipping step. Re-check Celtics score if still on, if not order something from Home Shopping Network for neighbors. Repeat chuckling step. Repeat sipping step. Remove from chair and add more ice and scotch. Let sit.
Holding paper the long way fold into airplane. Repeat sipping step. Toss airplane at wastebasket. Repeat sipping step. Remove label from figurine and replace with “William McGonagall”. Repeat sipping step. Repeat chuckling step. Check wastebasket for fullness. If not full reserve one sheet of paper and alternate between balling and tossing step and airplane step until full. On reserved sheet write “note to self…Must write poem in A.M. before school!!” Place paper on counter by coffee machine. Repeat sipping step until liquid is gone and ice hits nose. Go to bed.

I-search what I know

Some answers to my questions I suspect, others I have no clue. Since I have already started research, I will not cheat and look at those answers. These are my guesses and thoughts in the bulleted order of the previous post.
• I think falling out of love is something that evolves, not really for a particular reason. Most people don’t want to fall out of love, but just think the relationship has run it’s course. I don’t believe they were in love to begin with.
• In my experience love has flourished without any effort on my part. I’m hoping I’m right on this because I’m lazy and don’t like to work at anything.
• I think apathy and taking the other person for granted are the biggest obstacles.
• I believe some time apart is necessary, but so are shared interests. Not that it’s P.C. to admit it, but I think everyone has hidden something, or not told the whole truth. I’m willing to bet there’s one thing that will really cause sparks to fly.
• I’m on a limb here, but I think sex and love are tied together, with the caveat that quantity not quality changes over time. I bet it hasn’t caused as many arguments as money.
• I think arguing is natural for some, and for others is just not something they do. I bet more arguments are about money and I bet they last longer, too. Most older couples will say they haven’t gone to bed mad. I’m hoping that’s key because I never will either.
• I think the most important thing to keep in mind is the secrets that you share, and the promise of more to come.

I-search why

I search why
My reasons for researching this topic are purely selfish. I have found it hard to hang on to love in the way I want. I want to keep the magic alive forever (or as long as we both shall live) and not fall into that rut most couples do. I want to go to my grave with my deepest regret being that I can’t have my wife in the casket with me. I love being in love, it is what gets me out of bed in the morning and the reason I shower on weekends. I want to stay in love forever. In order to do this there are some questions I need answered.
• How do you know when you’re starting to fall out of love?
o Are there warning signs or does it just happen?
o What specifically causes it?
o Did you want to fall out of love?
• How much work is involved with keeping love strong?
o Some people say it just comes naturally, are they lying?
o Who do some couples always seem to be on the cusp of breakup?
o What is your greatest sacrifice for love?
o What is your spouse’s?
• What are the biggest obstacles to love?
o How did you overcome them?
o In hindsight, are they obstacles or just blips?
o Does everyone face the same challenges?
o What made you decide to overcome them?
• Out of X years of marriage, how much time have you spent apart?
o Do you have separate hobbies or interests?
o Have you ever lied to your spouse?
o Is there one issue that causes discord?
o Have you ever hidden anything from your spouse?
• Is sex tied to love?
o Are there “routines” or is it new and exciting sometimes?
o If you could no longer have sex would it be the same love?
o Has sex caused a rift?
• How often do you argue?
o Who gives in first usually?
o How long do the spats last?
o How often do you argue about money?
o How long do you hold a grudge?
o Have you ever gone to bed angry at each other?
• What’s the most important thing to keep in mind?
o Are there unwritten rules?
o How much advice were you given, and how much of it rang true?
o What should you never, never do?
o What should you do more often?
There are more questions I have asked, but I found them to be more ice breakers than relevant to my research. Not all the questions were answered by all the subjects interviewed.

I-search background

I search background
The personal history I have of love is long and convoluted. As it is the basis for my paper, I’ll fill you in on my dealings with love from the start until recently. I started out as most do by loving my mother. I still do. I loved my dogs, cats, even my sister. These were the comfortable loves born of closeness and familiarity. I loved Gillian in the second grade in the way second graders do. This love was not enduring because her family moved away and I was too young to pine for long. In junior high, high school and the first year of college I discovered a different, more glandular type of love. These were, in hindsight, not so much love as a pheremonal response. I thought I could build love, so I picked out a fine female specimen and married her, but that dissolved quickly when I realized I couldn’t force love. I found love when I wasn’t even looking for it, and learned what it really means to be in love. I felt like I was living in a ripped bodice novel with the combined physical and emotional passion. I wanted this to last forever, but she died. Again I wasn’t looking, yet love jumped into my face like a big Newfoundland. I have been with my wife for eleven years now, and still have weak knees when I see her. I’m not going to describe love to you, you either know it or you don’t. I’m going to find out how to keep love.

James Rhio O'Conner Scholarship Essay

James "Rhio" O'Connor died from Pleural Mesothelioma. I am sure if given the chance he would have chosen another way that was less painful and had a longer course to run. Mr. O’Conner worked with asbestos, which was not unusual then just as working with fiberglass is not unusual today. Because of its physical characteristics, asbestos was used in everything from children’s pajamas to cigarette filters. It was known since the ancient Greeks that asbestos was harmful; the Roman naturalist Pliney the Elder pointed out that the lungs of the miners were ruined when they spent too long mining asbestos. In this country asbestos was known to be harmful at the turn of the last century, but it was difficult to find an affordable substitution. The fibers are inert, therefore safe to eat, but when inhaled they become lodged in the lungs, irritating the pleural membranes. As the body tries to absorb them it sets off a series of events that eventually lead to cell mutation and cancer. When the body tries to envelop these cancer cells, the pleural membrane thickens and produces secretions. This in turn leads to a pressure buildup that reduces the body’s ability to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide. The patient will experience chest pain when breathing, shortness of breath, and the inability to tolerate exercise. He’ll start sweating, maybe coughing up blood and start to lose weight. Sometimes the cancer will undergo metastasis, moving to the bones. This was fairly common with Mesothelioma because it usually wasn’t diagnosed until it reached a higher growth stage. With the strangulation of the lungs and the bone pain, this is not a good way to die. Perhaps some took solace in the fact the life expectancy was only six to twelve months after diagnosis. There have been the rare few who found a way to continue and enjoy life. (See: Paul Kraus Surviving Mesothelioma by clicking on the title of this essay.)
“You should take your wife on a cruise, and then come back and we’ll have your Hospice care ready to start.” When Mr. O’Conner heard that he was a little shocked. I say this with some insight because my wife was diagnosed with an Astrocytoma and given six weeks to live. They told me to take her to the Bahamas. Like Mr. O’Conner, my wife thought there was a little more to life than just rolling over and dying. They both took matters into their own hands and beat the odds, Mr. O’Conner for seven and a half years, my wife for seven. I can’t speak to Mr. O’Conner’s attitude and outlook, having never met him, but I can tell you a little about my wife’s: Any Day Above Ground Is A Good One. She also employed dietary changes, vitamins, Reiki, meditation, relaxation, and relied heavily on her spirituality. It is true that the force is within us, to paraphrase Hippocrates, to make ourselves well. Perhaps the greatest tool she had was laughter. We would sit for hours some days with tears rolling down our cheeks which distressed the doctors to no end, but deeply amused the nurses.
My wife was diagnosed a year before Mr. O’Conner, and I was amazed at the willingness of the doctors to discuss alternative modalities. As with any cancer, single modalities are ineffective on their own, so there are often multi-course treatments, until the stage of palliative care. We were referred to acupuncturists and aroma therapists who were employed by the hospital in the oncology department, driving home the fact that there is no such thing as false hope. Like Rhio’s battle with M. Meso, my wife called hers “Astro” and chose to think of herself as living with Astro, rather than dying from it. They both chose to buck the trend and do what they thought was best, regardless of what conventional wisdom dictated. My wife was a nurse and had taken care of oncology patients and knew firsthand the cost and effectiveness of conventional treatment yet chose the path less taken. This is not surprising given her willingness to try new things with an open mind, and I get the feeling Rhio was cut of the same cloth. The pills my wife took for her seizure control were the only ones that she couldn’t do without, thusly her dietary plans modified to exclude certain herbs that either potentiated or negated their effect. She was wise enough to understand plants are drugs just as drugs are plants for the most part.
Linus Pauling, Wilhelm Reich, Copernicus, Galileo and others were scoffed at and branded as heretics because their beliefs flew in the face of the weak-minded followers who were afraid to step out of line. Rhio stepped out of line, and I’m fairly sure he took some flak for it. My wife was fortunate enough to have progressive doctors who encouraged her on her mission. They took great pride in showing her off to their colleagues during our hospital visits as if to say: “Look, it can be done!” It was the church who burned the first heretics, then the government, now it is insurance companies that mete out the punishment. Some doctors don’t get paid if they suggest or encourage alternative or complimentary therapies. According to the Republic Broadcasting Network there will be fifty BILLION dollars spent this year on cancer drugs in this country. The average price for twelve week’s worth of cancer drugs is over twenty thousand dollars. The American Cancer Society budget is less than one billion dollars, with total research estimated at less than ten billion dollars. It is not financially responsible to fund a cure for cancer when drugs like Avastin ($9,000/month) can prolong life by almost twenty-five days. In 2004 the total spent on marketing was estimated at $57.5 billion, while R&D was estimated to be $31.5 billion. To be fair, that research by The Organic Consumers Assn. included cancer drugs in with the top 100 prescribed drugs. The insurance companies control the pay rate per procedure in the hospitals, dictating what choices you have as a patient.
No one owns my attitude or outlook any more than they owned my wife’s or Rhio’s. I can believe what I want, as could they, and I can choose whatever methods I see fit to help me if I need help. I am sad Rhio is gone and I’m sad my wife is gone, but I am not sad they met life head on and stole the better part of a decade from death. I am encouraged by the acts of the few strong individuals who stand up and fight on their own terms, refusing to submit to linear thinking and extrapolated scenarios concocted by financiers. I take heart knowing there is more than one way to do things and maybe the simpler way is the best. I am glad Rhio got the word out about complementary and alternative modalities and truly believe he will be responsible for more people living better, longer.

23 October 2010

contrast essay

Two peas in a pod. That’s what everyone called me and Stephen. He’s my cousin and he puts ketchup on everything. I prefer Pickapeppa sauce. Stephen (never Steve) and I grew up together and were almost indistinguishable when we were younger. There was a time when he was in Hawaii for a few years and I was in Florida and we hadn’t laid eyes on each other for a while when we literally bumped into each other in Logan airport. We both had grown beards and packed on a few pounds, and were the only ones wearing shorts and flip-flops that December. He was headed to Portland, I to Bangor and on to Bar Harbor for the holidays. I was a door to door encyclopedia salesman; he was a cable layer for AT&T out of Pearl Harbor. We talked while waiting for our flights, and I smiled at the ketchup stain on his shirts. That’s why we both wore loud patterned tropical shirts, we were slobs.
Uncle Steve had died a few years earlier, and Stephen had inherited a few apartment buildings in Portland. They provided a steady stream of income but it wasn’t enough. Stephen worked double duty on the boat, shacking his money until he could afford to buy real estate. He has houses in Maine, Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, and a few small construction companies. I have one house, and am barely keeping it while in school. I worked a few jobs here and there, with no real plan of keeping any of them more than a month. Stephen had a brand new Harley FLH (read; BIG bike) and I had a ratty old Triumph. As I listened to him talk about the old days, I noticed his flip flops were really $50 Tevas, whereas mine were from Reneys and probably were two different sizes. My Goodwill shorts were like his, just a little more broken in and stained. He got around to mentioning what a drag it was to see his mother and that’s when I realized how much I missed mine.
For my part I told him about snorkeling off Eleuthera and Belize. He wanted to know if this was at an all-inclusive resort. I started to tell him about the tent sites, but thought better of it. Luckily his cell phone went off, and he was absorbed in that for a second, letting me reload my mind. Stephen had a bottle of imported light beer, which he’d poured into a glass, while I had whatever beer came out of the wall even though it cost five bucks. After his call, he showed me pictures on his phone of him heli-skiing in Telluride, where Cousin Jane works in the winter. I’d been there, but could never afford to do that, I just went skiing with her pass. He showed me pictures of his bike in its own garage that had a tile floor. I told him Victoria slept in the basement. He remembered Victoria, having been on the losing end of a race against her even though he had a new Ducati. He said he’d been to Skip Barber’s racing school and learned to race IROC and open wheeled cars. I told him he was probably still a lousy bike rider.
When the conversation turned to kids, we found our common upbringing to be the reason we did what we did to, and for our kids. Stephen always was a doter, but in my eyes he spoiled Tom and Dennis by buying them crap as a way to get out of parenting. Brian earned what he got, or at least made an attempt at it. His boys came with us about ten years back on a camping trip for four days. Brian showed them how to catch bigger fish and skip rocks further, while they showed him how to get to level ten on their Game Boys. Now my son is married and I’m a granddad. Stephens’s boys went to Brian’s wedding, and in the pictures they look like three peas in a pod. When I asked about Tom and Dennis, he said he hadn’t heard from them in a while, they were probably “poisoned” by their mother.
The rest of the conversation was non-remarkable, just two cousins talking about sports, cars, bikes and women. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Stephen; in fact that was the last time, right at Logan. Our lives have been running a parallel course, and probably will continue to do so. That course has minor corrections along the way, and if I weren’t in an observational frame of mind I probably would have missed the differences between us. Maybe we are two peas in a pod, maybe the contrasts are not as big as I make them, but I can’t help but think we’re as different as we are similar. Having said that, I will probably be calling his mom this weekend to say hi, and she’ll still think I’m Stephen ‘till the third sentence.

20 October 2010

I-search What

                I know what love can do to a person.  I know it is indeed fleeting for a lot of people, but I don’t know if it’s because they choose not to hang onto it, or it chooses to leave to find a better host.  I have heard the trite adages; let it go and if it comes back…, it’s a two way street, you can’t buy love, love is eternal, blah blah blah.   I know these exist for the sole purpose of selling greeting cards.  I know love is supposed to take effort and be its own reward.  Some people try so hard to find love they miss it, while others have it fall into their laps.  The focus of this paper for me is not defining love, I don’t think I own those words yet, but in discovering how to keep love once it finds you.  I know couples still deeply in love after more than half a century together, and I know people who love more than one person at once.  Some are serial lovers, with a predictable staccato series of relationships.  I know there is hate involved with love, because every action has that equal and opposite, ying-yangy thing.  Where does the hate go?  I have heard the love songs, and heard the writers of the good ones explain they were in a bad way at the time, so I guess love is a muse when you don’t have it.  I know there is a balance between head-over-heels lusty love where the buttons on your shirt get resewn every Thursday and the more sedate, holding hands is O.K. for now love.  I guess I know a lot about love, except what it is and how to keep it.

17 October 2010

I-search why

I have been in love many times in the past, some with disastrous results, and some with incredible outcomes that still give me goose bumps.  I am not looking for lost love, nor do I care about the tepid or tempestuous relationships of the past.  The first time I actually knew love was, of course, when it was on its last legs. I didn’t know what I had until it up and walked away.  I was left with those feelings we have all had, emptiness, despair, pain, etc. for a while, and I didn’t like it.  I liked the loopiness of love much better.  I grew up without a father, and was weaned on the television shows that illustrated the undying romantic love of husband and wife.  In my eyes love is indeed eternal, but it is not free.  I had the requisite girlfriends and the odd pelvic affiliate, but never really understood until I met Mary.  I had been serious with a few women, even married one in an attempt to force love.  It fell apart within a year.  Mary made me feel like Cocaine was supposed to.  She had a way to make me tongue-tied and clumsy, like an overbred inbred puppy hit by a baseball bat.  She made me feel like I was the smartest, best looking, most important man on earth.  Every morning I smiled, thinking I was so lucky to have her as my wife.  Then she was gone.  I didn’t wallow, and I had enough time to think about the inevitable, so I was satisfied with what I had in the end.  I counted myself among the fortunate few on earth to have found love, real love.  I never had any hope of matching that, and was settling into my new life alone when I met Cindy.  Here I go again.  Now I wake up with that look on my face again, and a feeling in my chest like it’s Christmas and I’m going to get everything I asked for.  I’ve been positively giddy for a dozen years with Cindy, and I want it to last forever.  Off I went, in search of 1: Couples that are in love, 2: Couples that have been married forever, and 3: A combination of both.  This is a fact-finding research mission that I hope will bolster my marriage and maybe intensifies our relationship.  Cindy has no idea I’m doing this, but she’ll be my guinea pig (She’s actually Scottish and quite good looking) for any suggestions that are not absurd.  I am aware everyone is different, all relationships are not based on the same principle, and there is a wide age gap as well with some subjects.  This is part of the scientific process to account for variables.  I am fully aware if I am found out I may suffer the wrath, but I need to know why our relationship requires very little effort to stay dynamic.  I have always thought you needed to work at love, but I am finding this is not the case.  I also am aware I cannot compare our love with others in the same boat, because all I wind up doing is gloating.

05 October 2010


Metacause is really just because.  I had no right unloading that story on anyone, but it’s a catharsis.  I’m trying to think about Professional Issues and the test tomorrow, but the text is whirling and dancing.  Gonna be one of those “I can study in the morning” nights.  My mind jumps to the shitty job I’ve done on my English assignment and how easily I am read but my papers are not.  Cas was just here for the weekend, and the conversation turned to Mary.  I tried to explain that I still miss her every waking hour and most of the ones in between, but found it hard to tell him I am also madly in love with Cindy, and have been for about twelve years.  The idea of loving that much twice in one lifetime is incomprehensible to Cas, being a Lothario.  We’ll be in St. Vincent this coming fall, the place Mary and I called our getaway, not thirty miles away from where Cindy and I were married, in St. Lucia- our getaway.  I thought about how far I’ve come as far as not having to make excuses or reason it out with myself.  Sort of Zen enlightenment.  I realized I was okay with a naked soul, and wondered when that happened.  I’ll never know when but I know why.  Thanks Mary, and I promise I won’t write about you again.  Cindy’s fair game though.

cause essay

am content.  Not just because I have recently eaten or had relations with my wife or had a martini.  I mean I am really content to the point of beyond happy.  There comes a time when a person suddenly realizes they fit in their own skin and don’t have to be concerned with the warts or cold sores covering said skin.  I attribute this to three basic principles: Humility, Open mindedness, and Humor.  There may be others involved but I’m not bright enough to pick them out.  Coming to the realization I am okay is like a latent epiphany, it’s something I just realized that probably happened a while ago when I was too busy thinking about other things to notice.  Maybe I was wondering why humans look like their dogs and not the other way around.  Spare me a minute and I’ll tell you how I became satisfied with me.
                I lived most of my life believing I was the center of the universe.  Copernicus was wrong in that he said the earth revolved around the sun…it revolved around my mother’s son.  I took what I wanted when I wanted and did what I wanted where I wanted when I wanted.  The world was built for me.  I could build anything, ride anything and fix anything.  Then there was something I couldn’t fix.  My wife was diagnosed with a rather aggressive brain tumor.  All the money, cars and businesses I’d built didn’t mean squat.  There was nothing I could do but give it all up as the creditors came and my social cachet fell.  I found work because it had insurance not for prestige.  People I scoffed at months earlier were now making me dinners so I wouldn’t have to cook.  My world became inverted and my wife became the center of the universe.  I begged God or Allah or Jah or Bob or whoever to please forgive me and give her more time.  It worked for seven years.  We were both happy with that.
                In that time I learned about Rakhi, aromatherapy, acupuncture, reading the scriptures, and so many other modalities I can’t list them here.  I am far too pragmatic to be clutching at straws, so I researched them with a passion, not to prove them wrong but to prove them right.  My wife kept her faith and I, being agnostic, opened up to it.  I learned there is no such thing as false hope, only hope.  Although the scientific imperial data seeking me was still there, it was muted as we put hot rocks on her back to ease the pain while we talked of the fate in store for her.  She was a nurse, well versed in science and knew her facts from fiction, yet she was okay with what was happening.  It took years for her to teach me to just let go and let it be.  At the end of it, she had convinced me to accept things for what they are, rather than bitch about them because they aren’t what I wanted them to be.
                We were in the cafeteria at Eastern Maine Medical Center, she with her half-shaved head with staples in it, a Johnny and an I.V. pole and me with the clothes I’d worn for about 96 hours.  Her doctors wanted her to ambulate, so we went to get custard.  The cashier asked if she was a patient there.  She looked at him straight faced and said no, she was with the band.  We had fun with haircuts over the years, never stooping to wigs unless she could sculpt them into garish cartoonisms or tres chic masterpieces.  Walker time came, and so did the 12 volt air horn that played Dixie.  She put a ½” nut in her mouth for her x-ray and tried to smuggle a bag of microwave popcorn into the MRI.  She was truly a sick woman, but liberated of the society’s need to conform made her healthier.  Norman Cousins locked himself in a hotel room and played Three Stooges videos after he was diagnosed, and he lived a good long life because of it.  My wife hated the Three Stooges and hotels, but taught me the importance of humor nonetheless.
                So you think this essay is about my wife and not me?  You’re wrong.  I was the most miserable person on earth, wanted to just die.  I think anyone would.  My wife taught me how to be okay with what was happening, how to use humor, open-mindedness and humility to get through.  These lessons I learned I impart to you, because I am all right with my life, and I want you to be too.  Humility brings you back down to earth, open-mindedness lets you know why, and humor puts you back up.  I have been talking about this journey like it was mine, in reality I was just a passenger who learned a lot on the ride.  Life is good now, and I am “come to terms” with that.