Conceptual Irregularities

The modern composer refuses to die – Edgar Varese




Met a woman last night at yoga who was telling me she just took her daughter looking at colleges and one of the colleges was Marlboro.  I told her I had gone to Marlboro.  Her daughter decided against it because it was too small.  She was thinking more like 6000 small, not 300 small.  That’s cool, it’s not for everybody.  Her son is 15, meditates and plays the violin.  He might be a better candidate.

Riding the Bus Through Malden

Young man gives his seat up to a little boy who is traveling with his mother. I’ve seen them before on this route. She is thin and does odd things with her mouth. She is poor and has to search for money before boarding, letting others pass before her. She has been waiting for a while and has had plenty of time to get her money out but has probably been avoiding looking in her purse, fearing the desolation there.

Rain on a Vermont Tin Roof. 

Tony, my erstwhile roommate, drummer and the originator of this blog’s name, picked up his sister Donna from Logan at 5:45 Friday evening. After growing up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Donna and her husband moved out to Fairbanks, Alaska, where she has been for the last God-knows-how-many years. She got on her flight at 1:00 AM but flew first class, a trick she learned from Tony, who just did that when flying out to Fairbanks. Now, Tony is the cheapest guy in the world but when he flew out a few years ago, he got sick out there and had to fly back coach, so this time he said, “I’m gonna fly first class, because if I get sick, I don’t want to have to deal with that.”  When he came back, he raved about it, and Donna had some frequent flyer miles from her husband, so she used them. I want to fly first class now but Tami ain’t buying it. 

We love Donna, so we insisted that Tony bring her through Melrose on the way home. We got a table at a new restaurant called Giacomo’s which is packed every night. A second location to the original in the north end, it is very reasonably priced and has great food. They don’t have stuff like this in Alaska so she was thrilled. We were proud to be able to present Melrose in such a positive way. 

We love Melrose, but Tami has been generally unimpressed with the restaurants here. But, she loves Giacomo’s. However, this always happens to Tami: she orders a beer or something and they inevitably don’t have it. This time she ordered one of the beers they had on the menu, but they had replaced it with Shipwreck Pumpkin. She literally said, Ewww! And the waiter was a little taken aback, I could see. But this whole Pumpkin fall in New England thing doesn’t fly with her. 


The next morning we took a drum set over to Dewayne, our godson. It was his and his two sisters’ eleventh birthday on September 2nd. I’ve been dowsing them with musical instruments this year. Dewayne has been noodling on the drums in my studio for years, but this the first grown up set that is his. He immediately started playing along with the metronome on his mother’s iPad and was right in the pocket. I see a bright future. 


Matt hit the big 6-0 (or the big white-white as he calls it because he has synesthesia and sees numbers in colors, both six and zero being white (5 and 9 being beige and purple.))  Matt and I have been playing music together since 1979 when he started a new wave/post punk type band called Special Children at our college, Marlboro. 

We went up to Vermont to celebrate. His wife Annie was also in Special Children and is a sweet woman with a big personality and she and Tami have hit it off well. They live in a house I helped build in 1997, one of the endeavors in my life of which I am most proud. 

I slept until ten this morning, lulled by the rain on the metal roof outside the guest room window. Matt and I played music out on his huge porch with the rain falling on the pine trees and the field behind him. We do a two acoustic guitar/vocal thing which has probably been the apex of my musical life, technically. I honestly think that some of the stuff we do is the most beautiful music I have ever heard. And, yet, we rarely play out, so nobody gets to hear it.  His writing is very personal, honest and intricate. I play my best guitar when I am accompanying him. He brings a perspective to my songs which I would never be able to capture on my own. 

On the way home, driving through Putney, we stopped so Tami could drop off some books at the free library box in town and leave 3.50 at the General Store to reimburse them for hen they sent Tami back her credit card a few weeks ago. We had left it there as a deposit on a coffee pot, but that’s a whole ‘nother story….

Jazz from Eric In The Evening

Most Fridays we sit out back and listen to Eric In The Evening on WGBH. I have been listening to Eric for longer than I can remember.  It used to be that every week night at 7, you turn on 89.7 and you would hear Peace played by Tommy Flanagan.  It was such a reassuring way of ending the day.  But all things must change and ‘GBH had a change of format a few years to mostly news.  Eric got moved to the weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.  I suppose that now it seems more special to listen to it since there is only 75% of the opportunity we used to have.  Also, it occurs on weekends so that makes it easier to relax and enjoy it.

Hell in a handbasket

America’s rugged individualism makes it hard for us to accept this prospect: that the many may have to provide for the needs of the few. Those less fortunate get thrown into poverty over an unavoidable and unplanned-for medical bill. In the twenty-first century the unfathomable maze of healthcare and finance make it impossible for the American individual to be an informed actor in any life-or-death economic transaction.

While the ACA may impose responsibilities upon citiZens which are unprecedented, it is important to remember that this was originally a conservative proposition, conceived by The Heritage Foundation and implemented in Mass by Republican governor, Mitt Romney. I remember listening to him on a Q&A one afternoon telling a woman why it was her responsibility to buy insurance lest she saddle her fellow citiZens with the bill for medical care she incurred. I remember thinking he sounded so harsh.

But that is the essence if the ACA: you are required to pay your way for your medical care. There are subsidies and requirements placed upon insurers that sweeten the deal, but the bottom line is that you gotta buy insurance. And this works out so well for insurers. They essentially get to play the role that governments play in most other developed countries. They are the payer. But since there are several of them, they will be unable to negotiate the best price from providers. That can really only be done by a single
Payer because the provider’s product is so precious that they will always be the dominant negotiator against multiple entities.

Businesses are on the losing end in this proposition because they are still expected to provide insurance as a benefit. It always puzzled me that American business didn’t get behind single payer. One would think that would get them out from under this onerous responsibility which befell them after WWII when they implemented it as a means to compete for scarce employees. It became an American institution which is increasingly taking up a larger piece of the pie.

I would think they would jump at the chance to abdicate this responsibility. I suspect they are more concerned with the higher personal taxes that are inevitable in any single payer model. So we get back to the primacy if the individual in this culture holding us back from true progress. Rugged individualism is at the core of every Titan of industry’s psyche. That personal greed trumps the company’s best interests every time.


This weekend was both our twelfth anniversary and the Perseids Meteor Shower. We sat and stared out into the universe and oo-ed and ah-ed as streaks appeared in the sky for an instant and were gone. Sometimes all three of us saw them; sometimes only one or two of us, leaving the others slightly disappointed.

On Saturday night we saw one that made a big thick streak across the eastern sky and lasted for a couple of seconds. All three of us saw it and it felt like a great success.

A Quick Trip

We were only supposed to be gone for an hour. We had been sitting in the Adirondack chairs in the shade on a beautiful day that was the first break from humidity in a while. I was lying in the hammock with a dog and a cat. A couple of Turkey Vultures circled continuously waiting for some poor critter to pass.

I had talked about going to the music store in Hudson but we didn’t really want to leave this idyllic scene for that long. Tami needed to go to Passiflora in Hillsdale to get a wedding present and that seemed much more manageable.

We thought we could combine it with lunch, pizza. Neil wanted a slice. Two slices, to be precise. No, we couldn’t get a pizza and slice it up, it had to be a to-go slice. Apparently, the reheating makes a difference.

So, shortly after 1:00, we headed up to Hillsdale and stopped at the IGA for dill and beer, like you do. There was some amusing banter in the beer aisle while Neil and Tami assessed the wares. I got some oatmeal raisin cookies and a Budweiser Strawberrita. That was about 15 minutes.

We then drove next door to Passiflora and poked around in there for another 15 minutes. We went across the street to the liquor store for Gordon’s gin but it was $27 so we passed.

So we sashayed over to Four Brothers Pizza, about a half mile down the road. We went in and sat down but when we found out they didn’t have slices, Neil opted to drive to Millerton to go to Taro’s which he knew had slices.

Now, Millerton is about 11 miles south along one of the most beautiful drives in the country. You go down Rte 22 through a valley at the foothills of the Berkshires and pass farms and hamlets off in the distance across rolling hills and tucked amidst meandering rivers and an old rail bed. Old farms scatter the way, many of which have found a way to survive through the demise of local agriculture by cashing in on the locavore movement which is so popular amongst the rich New Yorkers who have made second homes in Columbia County.

Millerton was hopping when we got there. As we pulled into town the fire siren was going off. As we were parking, a pickup truck with flashing lights rushed past, closely followed by a fire engine and ambulance.

The girl cleaning up the patio at Taro’s didn’t know what was going on and bemoaned the fact that the emergency vehicles always pass by but she never finds out what the problem is. We waited for her to clean the four tables and then sat down under an umbrella which we had to play around with before it would block the sun.

The waitress came out and took our preliminary orders. Tami ordered the one beer they were out of, which always happens to Tami. We were joking around and the waitress said,”I think you may have broken the curse out here.”

“What curse?”

“Well, all day long, on that side there have been really nice people at those two tables. But on this side the people have been positively evil. But when I looked out and saw the beards on you guys, I thought, ‘Guys with beards are nice. Maybe the curse is broken.’ And now I see you are really nice, so I think the curse is broken.”

She was really nice and noticed that Tami asked if she could have a third of my sandwich and she’d split her slice with me. When our food came out the slice was cut in half and Tami got her own plate with a third of my sandwich. Great service!

The patio sat right on the main street. Behind it was a stand of yews and then a parking lot. Through the trees we could hear a couple returning to their car and the man saying, petulantly, “No, I don’t want to walk, Maria! I’m done!” We were laughing at him but I have to admit, I’ve felt that way myself. Low blood sugar, fatigue, being touristed out.

We ate, paid, and walked around a little. Tami got soft-serve at an ice cream place. Then we drove over to the CVS so Tami could get some cash. While we waited in the car, Neil and I discovered that it was past 3:30 and that we’d been gone much longer than an hour. By the time we got home after stopping at a farm stand for chocolate milk and two milkshakes made by the slowest person in the world, it was almost 5:00.

Smoky Mountains

It rained like hell today. First time in a long time. A truck crashed on I93 North and was hanging off the overpass by Exit 28. All the lanes were closed. I wondered what was going on as Kimberly gave me a ride home from work and we got on the highway just upstream of the accident and it was traffic free.

A half hour later when Tami and I left traffic was a little thicker. Then with all the rain it just kept getting heavier and heavier until the sign just before we got on Rte 90 said that it was 18 miles to 495 and it would take us 61 minutes.

You hope it’s wrong but these days they have the technology down so well that it never is. While accuracy is good for planning, it takes away hope. We used to be able to beat the GPS but that never happens anymore.

It took three hours to get to Worcester, a trip that normally takes an hour. I was trying to keep a zen attitude, listening to Club D’Elf on headphones while Tami slept or listened to NPR.

We switched drivers at the Taco Bell in Ludlow. We walked the dogs and I got a burrito while she got nachos. We filled up the dogs’ water.

While Tami drove, I read the paper. Karen Black died. Woody Allen has a new movie with Cate Blanchett. She steals it.

As we crossed the Housitonic to start the long climb up the Berkshires, fog wafted up from the valley. The mists enveloped the hills like gossamer shawls giving us our own Smoky Mountains.

Missional Training

I’m at a three day Lutheran training about missional work, which I guess means going out in the community and doing good works. This is such a different experience from what I’m used to. I am so uncomfortable with talk about God outside of church. I want to become comfortable with this throughout this time.

Who were the people who nurtured me in my faith. Fr Rosseau had a big effect during youth ministry. And I struggled with the very concept of faith. I couldn’t really understand what he was talking about. To this day I still consider faith a firm belief in something you know couldn’t be true. Yet I have no doubt God is with me all the time. Fr. Rosseau tried to explain faith to me and I never got it. But in Catholicism there was no tradition of scripture. Maybe if the bible was involved it would have illustrated it better.
I’m not comfortable talking to people and I am particularly uncomfortable with evangelizing. Spirituality is a very inner thing for me. I am pretty much okay with whatever people want to believe, within reason. I guess that where I can help here is by being able to offer people a spiritual home if they need one.

On the first day, a woman from Chile by way of Mexico told us about her first call in the US, in the South Bronx. It was getting to be Easter time. They had Good Friday services and only a few people showed up, whereas on Easter Sunday, the church was packed. It occurred to her that this was the opposite of South America, where Good Friday was packed but Easter not so much. It was like the south was able to embrace the burden of the cross whereas the north was more interested in the resurrection. She wondered if this was reflective of the economic differences between the two hemispheres; that the struggle under the cross kept the south from success while the optimism of resurrection gave the north the attitude to make more money. But moreover, the inability of each society to recognize the other’s day belied a breach in the integrity of whole spiritual identity of the society.

Maybe if we made a bigger deal of Good Friday we would be better able to empathize with the struggles of the poor. However, it is interesting to note that one of the last American institutions that still treats Good Friday as a holiday is Wall Street.

Would South America gain some hope and confidence if they were able to embrace the resurrection? Is that what they need or do the need to emerge from under the cross?

Today we went to a church in Baltimore that was the product of a white parish and a black parish coming together. When they merged they were 50/50 but now they were mostly black. Again and again I have seen this: white flight. Black folks really scare us.

After the end of the conference when we were waiting outside at the airport having a final cigar I saw this twenty something hippie chick driving along in an old blue Volvo firing up an already half smoked joint. Had she just dropped off her parents and was just embracing the moment of freedom?

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