Sunday, May 30, 2010


The boxes and boxes of books are gone as are the sofa, the leather chair, my bed, and almost all of the other major pieces of furniture...

All that's left to do is to break down the kitchen and to figure out what to do with the bits and pieces that remain. And as always, its the bits and pieces that are the most difficult with which to deal. When I decided to move I thought that as I had moved here a mere year ago that I did not have the opportunity to accumulate much in the way of stuff, of scattered remnants, of things...I realize that I could not have been more wrong.

I have come to the realization that I believe that things hold memories...I know its a superstition...I know its illogical...and I know that the object merely triggers a series of chemical reactions in my brain, allowing me to recreate the event in question. These things I know...but I believe that it is the object itself that holds the memory.

So as I go through the scattered remnants in my soon to be former home, I am paring down, cutting ties, and throwing out. I have no need for the electric bill from last July that I found in my dresser...I have no idea how it ended up there. Nor do I have need for two pairs of pants three sizes too large, last worn too long ago. These are among many items that have ended up in the dumpster.

But there are some things that are too important...too powerful to banish the memories they contain to the uncertain realm of intangible thought...the memories these items contain must remain least for now...the paper "blizzard" given to me by a certain then four year old, a book a matches from a favorite watering hole in Plymouth, a pass to a particular museum of natural history, a hospital ID wristband, a depleted Charlie Pass...these I will these were the sign posts for the road I have traveled during my time here in this place and these sign posts I need.

My sentimentality comes as no surprise to me...but the power of my superstition does...its illogical, unreasonable, and makes me feel a little guilty and a little foolish. On the other hand...a little illogic and unreasonableness never hurt anyone...besides...these are the things that help make us human.

Things hold memories...this I believe.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Papers Please

On the way to school this morning we were listening to a story about the new Arizona illegal immigrant know...the one where police can ask for proof of citizenship of anyone they think might be here illegally....

From the mouth of Oliver Pierce, age 13.."there is nothing more fascist than a police officer going up to someone for no reason and asking for their papers."

As least 13 year olds know the makings of a police state when they see one.

Maybe I am just cranky from packing all day or because I got a ticket this morning or maybe Oliver is right.

We had a Republican administration that was intent on running the Constitution through the shredder and its Democratic successor had done nothing to repair the damage. We are subject to full body scans at airports, our emails and phone conversations are sifted, filtered, and scanned. In public places we are filmed, taped, and watched. The authorities have access to our every movement through the interaction of our cell phones with cell phone towers. We detain people without according them the rights of prisoners of war while denying them the protections once offered by our Constitution.

Coercive interrogation is another phrase for the word torture. Rendition is another word for kidnapping. We have secret courts, we have secret warrants, we have secret trials...

Our government tells us that these measures are needed to keep us safe. There is now a bill poised to go before Congress that would strip the citizenship of anyone "affiliated" with a foreign terrorist organization as defined by the State Department...(see link). We used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave...not the cowering and cringing.

My son doesn't want to be safe...he would rather be free...and so would I.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rites Of Passage

There are, in my fridge, 15 ounces of delicious, grass-fed, porterhouse goodness. This beautiful piece of meat is waiting for me, calling to me, wantonly beckoning me to lay it on my sizzling hibachi and then, once ready, to devour it's beefy deliciousness...

Perhaps I have been spending a bit too much time pondering torridity...

Usually, my steak eating escapades are quasi decadent affairs done on weekend nights in the privacy of my own home. That I can consume of a pound of USDA beef, a baked potato with an eighth of a pound of butter, and a salad in one sitting brings with it a particular type of shame. A, lets do this again and again, week after week kind of shame....

Anyway...I digress....because I had a friend who had a lonely beer sitting next to her last night, I had to go out, leaving my porterhouse friend to languish. So even though tonight is Monday, a kid night, a dad night, a family night...I have to grill my steak. And thus, I now have an opportunity to turn this quasi decadent, semi shameful ritual into something wholesome...

It is time to teach my oldest son Oliver, the manly art of grilling. He is ready to learn the essentials of cooking steak over fire; That charcoals need to be a certain shade of gray before they are ready to receive the steak. That a fine piece of meat, aside from kosher salt and pepper, requires no additional adornment. That a one inch thick steak with a bone requires four minutes on one side, three on the other, to arrive at grilled perfection, and most importantly of all, that once done a steak requires patience and must be left alone for a least five minutes....which means no hacking, no cutting, no sampling...simply leave the steak the hell alone....

I have taught my sons how to fish, how to throw a curveball, and tonight, I shall teach Oliver to cook with fire. Bit by bit I am sharing with him and with Aidan, the rituals and habits of manhood...and that along the way I hope they learn to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of life. Because as in grilling a steak, life is not meant to be lived charred on the outside and blood raw on the inside.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Moving moving.

I resist change, I hate packing, and I grow attached to places.

I hate moving.

This move will entail a major disruption in my family life, smaller accommodations, and a less comfortable home. However...if last year taught me anything, I learned that there are times when you need to take a step back in order to take two steps forward.

Last week a received a gift from someone whom I used to date. She and I are in fairly regular contact, frequently commenting on the insanity that comes with managing the comings and goings of everyday life. Our relationship is such where I can be genuinely pleased that she has someone in her life with whom she is happy and where she can freely offer me the advice that only someone you dated can give.

She told me that I needed to find my future, not my past. I had known this for sometime but I needed my friend to help me crystallize this feeling into a plan of action. It was a gift I needed, it was the right size, and it came at the perfect time.

So...moving out...even to a smaller, less comfortable place, is a step towards the future...and a step I am looking forward to taking.

It should be fun.

But I still hate packing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baking Bread

This was our second date...and as picked at the remnants of our pad Thai and Thai spicy squid, we looked at each other, knowing that it was time to leave. As we made our way our to the car, she turned to me and gave me one of the most precious things someone can give...a recipe for bread. And off into the night she went...what a tease. was a link....and here it is...recipe for no knead bread.

You can trade a lot of things on a date; information, stories, experiences, spit, and in my case, looks of sullen resentment over another misspent evening...but I digress...However this was a first for my checkered dating career, receiving a recipe on a second date...usually you have to wait for the fifth or sixth date for that to happen.

I am pretty fearless in the kitchen, but bread making has always intimidated me. I was...and as my loaf is, as of this writing, still in the oven, afraid that my efforts will yield either a charred cinder or doughy creature that will engulf me apron and all.

Bread baking used to be a local affair and was something sold fresh and bought daily. It was not stuffed full of preservatives as store loafs currently are. Even the so called artisanal breads come with a certain price...the ones at my local market are shipped in from New Jersey. Talk about a carbon footprint.

Fresh baked bread is...if all goes well...relatively easy to make as well as cheap. I did the math and figured that my loaf will cost me less than fifty cents to make. And while this is a twenty four hour process it takes only about ten minutes of actual work to make a single loaf. As far as I am concerned its time well spent.

So, I remain on the lookout for the doughy, yeasty creature that I am sure is lurking in the oven. Meanwhile, I am incorporating into my dating strategy a tactic for extracting new food ideas on the first or second date...hey...its a way to get something out of a misspent evening.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Believe In Butter

You hang around long enough and you will encounter people who believe in all sorts of things...I have lived with Jewish guys, have had Hindu roommates, and lived with someone who believed that God can be found in fire. I've dated someone who believed in a "presence," and someone else who did not believe at all...heck...I even dated a Congregationalist...

Frankly...I did not and really do not care what someone believes in as long as they are kind and decent and loving...but there are certain deal breakers...let me find a tub of spreadable margarine or vegetable spread in your refrigerator then all bets are off . I will summon the food inquisition and will lead the mob to your doorstep with torch and pitchfork in hand.

Because I believe in butter.

I also believe in whole milk, all natural ice cream, sugar, farm fresh eggs, and locally raised produce, dairy, meat, and poultry. I believe in eating seafood caught off of our own coast and processed locally. I believe in real food.

But back to butter...the ingredients for butter; cream, salt, milk...period...that's we could discuss what the cows that produced the cream are fed...but that is for another posting for another day.

Here are the ingredients for a popular spread; veggie-oil blend, (including corn oil, flax seed oil (flax seed oil?), and cotton seed oil (again WTF), water, whey (milk), salt, veggie mono & diglycerides, soy lecithin, citric acid, artificial flavors, vitamin A, beta carotene (for color, because I am told that this shit is "naturally" gray)...and this is an abridgement of whats in this stuff (check out this link to see how this stuff is actually made). They are damned right that this is not butter.

I believe in butter because its the not so secret ingredient for my roast chicken and my mashed potatoes, as well as my homefries. The aforementioned foods appear to have the magical ability to placate my children and to make women this works I have no idea I just know that it does. I am convinced that a former girlfriend kept me around just for my homefries...and for that I have butter to thank.

My ex wife as well as my parents use vegetable spread...perhaps my relationships with them would improve if they converted to butter.

That we would rather have something conjured in a lab rather than something made from cream, salt, and milk tells you how messed up our relationship with food really is.

But I am OK because I believe in butter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Atheism, farts, and other inappropriate topics of dinnertime conversation

Saturday afternoon, during Mass....I found myself thinking about atheism...

The other day my ex wife called the middle of the day...and announced..."we need to talk."

I hate when that happens.

She went on to express her concern about the books that my oldest son was reading and about some of the topics the kids and I discuss during dinnertime...

(Note to self....explain to children the concept of "code of silence")

Specifically...she was upset about a chat we had earlier in the week concerning atheism....and here I thought she was going to express displeasure about Wednesday night's chat about different kinds of farts...

I went on to explain to her that what happens at my table is my business and she need not worry about the kids...but I did share with her what we talked about...

For a while I have been concerned that I am raising my kids in a Catholic bubble. As they go to parochial school and live in predominantly Catholic state I am a little worried that they will be unprepared for a wider, more diverse world. While I am content to leave them in their bubble for as long as I can...I have taken the approach that its best to expose them to different ideas and faiths now...rather than later. I have been leaving books out for the kids as well as my single volume encyclopedia, strategically left on the coffee table "accidentally" opened to selected entries in the hopes that they will do a little investigating.

So far so also helps that I keep a dish of candy on the coffee table.

Anyway, the other night at the dinner table we were talking about a program we had been watching about Tibet when Oliver asked about atheism. He knew I recently read for a second time a book whose protagonist was an atheist...after briefly talking about atheism, Fiona asked how can atheists be good if they do not believe in God.

Oliver rolled his eyes....meanwhile we talked about how goodness, kindness, friendship and love are virtues that anyone can and should practice because its in our human nature to do so...and not because God will punish us if we don't. Resisting the temptation to wade too far into deep philosophical waters, I drew from examples from my and their lives where people of different faiths...or of no faith at all...showed us goodness, kindness, friendship, and love and that anybody can be good because its the human way to be...While beliefs (or lack thereof) are a person acts and treats others is far more important...and telling.

Today I am leaving out a few books about Russia...lets see what happens...meanwhile...I can't wait for the phone call that will surely result from tonight's dinnertime activity...Aidan wants to stage a belching contest...

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I spent about an hour yesterday chatting with a friend. We talked about the usual things that two single parents talk about; kids, schedules, ex spouses, as well as our social lives...she has one...I have HBO...

Anyway...we were both having bad days...neither of us were dealing with anything of great import, just a series of little things that were dragging us both down. We were having a bitch fest...and then my phone rang. It was my brother.

My brother-in-law, a man in his mid fifties, was suffering from small cell lung cancer. He was a biker, and he very much looked the part. A big man, chemotherapy and radiation had made him a shell of his former self. I last saw him at a family gathering in March. He told me that the end was soon.

My brother called to tell me that our brother-in-law died the night before.

My sister is now a widow and my niece lost her father....

The universe force fed my friend and me a very large does of perspective.

When I used to complain about something very trivial an ex girlfriend used to ask me "is anybody going to die?" (it seems sometimes that what wisdom I possess has been gleaned from the women I have dated...)..anyway...she believes that if you use death as a standard anything else is manageable...and so it is.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old Friends

Today I am going to meet my dearest friend for lunch. I knew from the day I met her that she would always have a special place in my life. That we were both seven at the time probably helped bolster my certainty that we would be together for the rest of our lives (the young are very good at being certain about a great many things).

And in a sense, we have been together ever since that first meeting. We were in the same class throughout elementary school, shared many of the same classes throughout junior and senior high school. In fact, we would often run into each other during the my first two years of college. We hung out together during the summertime. Our birthdays are a mere 16 days apart. Her son shares the same name as one of my boy's.

However, as these things often happen, we fell out of touch. For much of our 20s and some of our 30s we did not hear much from each other. About ten years ago we were accidentally re-united at South Station in Boston. She was returning to work after taking maternity leave for the birth of her daughter and I was running late to work. We chatted a bit and met for lunch a few times....and since then we were in sporadic contact and had a few lunches together along the way....

Over the last several months we have been in weekly, if not daily contact. We have discussed the challenges of raising children, joked about our respective parents, and have kept each other up to date on our mutual friends. We have talked about how our youthful expectations have had to yield to middle age realities. Earlier this year, when I was sick, I learned that I could count on my dearest friend...

While ours was not and will never be a romantic relationship, we share an intimacy that only old and dear friends can share. When with her and the handful of other friends who were in our circle it feels less like a reunion of friends but rather a gathering of cousins. We are related by our shared formative experiences and by bonds of friendship that have lasted more than 35 years.

So I am meeting my dearest friend today for lunch. I am excited to see her. Besides, its her turn to pick up the bill.

Sunday, May 9, 2010


The last few days I have been thinking an awful lot about my grandmother. She died more than sixteen years ago and I still miss her.

Each summer, my brother and sister and I would spend about five days at my grandparents. These days would begin with the sound of my grandmother making us breakfast and the smell of cooked bacon drifting through the house. After breakfast, my grandmother would make a lunch for us and she and my grandfather would take us on a day trip somewhere. We would go to the Cape or to the zoo or to Plymouth. In the evening my grandmother would make us dinner...something simple but always delicious. And at night she would tuck us in and tell us that she loved us.

More than the smell of bacon or the day trips I remember how I felt when I was with my grandmother; safe, loved, cared for, secure...all of the things a little boy should feel all of the time.

When I moved to Massachusetts in my mid-twenties I made it a point to see my grandparents a few times a month. On most visits I shared a meal with them. I remember down to the detail the last meal my grandmother made for me.

More than the smell of dinner being made or the times spent chatting in her living room I remember how I felt when I was with my grandmother; affirmed, loved, and supported...all of the things a young man should feel when he is with his family.

In a manner of speaking, my grandmother is still with me, I use her pots and pans to cook with, I grill my steaks on her hibachi, and I listen to her radio in the evening. But more than the artifacts of her life, I have with me her example of how people should be treated...with kindness and with respect...and the example of how children should be made to, loved, cared for, and secure...all of the time.

She died more than sixteen years ago...and I still miss her.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Dirty Dirty Car

You know things have gotten bad when your mild mannered, soft spoken ten year old looks up at you with the biggest brown eyes in the world and screams "DAD CLEAN YOUR CAR!."

My car is a mess.

Its always a mess.

And I am being kind when describing my car as a mess. Years ago, an ex girlfriend got into my car and said "this is awful." From that point on we took her car. I dated someone off and on for more than a year and she never saw the inside of my car. Yes...I have car shame. My car is a combination work space, lunch room, warehouse, office, reading room, and kennel...oh yes...I also haul my kids around in it. Its a multi functional vehicle and it shows.

Admittedly, I am not the neatest person in the world. Visitors to my current home may not know this...this is because I spend two days tidying and cleaning before they show up. I have always been this way, my fifth grade teacher used to regularly tip over my desk because it was so disorganized.

The other day, I was listening to a story on NPR about people who appear to be disorganized. Whereas most people organize things by category and will neatly file things away, these folks organize things visually and other words...they have a pile for everything and everything has its pile. I am one of these folks...I know where the electric bill is not because its in the bill folder...but because its underneath the cable bill next to the the picture of my kids on my desk on top of a book of English poetry... I organize my universe is no excuse for a car that is on the verge of becoming a Super Fund clean up site. So...after this morning's game, with bucket, cleaning rags, and assorted cleaning supplies in hand...I am going to clean my car. Wish me luck.

Friday, May 7, 2010



Its never a good thing when sh*t is the first word you utter in the morning.


The other night, as is becoming my habit, I fell asleep in my alarming trend to be sure and one I hesitate to disclose here lest any future ex-girlfriend reads this and finds unappealing my pre-bedtime napping habits...anyway...I have gotten into the habit of dozing off in my chair...

So I fell asleep the other night thinking that I had a good Dad day...I showed Oliver how to use hedge trimmers, played ball with the boys, went for a walk with Fiona, and made pizza and brownies to put in their lunches. As I fell asleep I thought to myself..."put today in the win column."

The next morning I woke up...made coffee...sat outside for a for a other words I putzed around for an hour and a half before waking the kids.

As I walked passed the laundry I saw Oliver's uniform floating in a washing machine full of water...I had forgotten to turn on the washing machine the night before...


And that was that the first word I uttered yesterday...that was the first word my children heard yesterday.


I wrung out Oliver's clothes as best I could and tossed them into the dryer...finally...they were dry enough for him to put on...and off to school we oldest son in wet clothes...

While the guilt only lasted for about 30 seconds....there is nothing quite like being scolded by a 13 year old boy for poor time management skills to cut you down to size.


Monday, May 3, 2010

At The Little League Game

A week ago Sunday Aidan pitched. He threw well, however his team, an amalgamation of 9 and 10 year old boys with varying ability and experience, was...well...shall we say...shaky in the field. As a result Aidan gave up a bunch of runs and barely made it out of the second inning. After the game I bought him an ice cream treat.

This Saturday, Aidan pitched. He threw well and his team, with some additional experience, played well in the field. As a result, Aidan gave up two runs and pitched four innings in a six inning game. After the game I bought him an ice cream treat.

In both games Aidan pitched well. He prepared for both games the same playing more Xbox than I ever thought I would allow a child of mine to play. In both games he threw strikes and in both games he was able to adjust to the hitters and to the umpires. He continues to learn the difference between throwing and pitching...which is sort of like the difference between preparing food and cooking...

After Saturday's game, Aidan and I sat at the snack bar and discussed the game. He asked me if I had ever done my best and did something really well and have everything turn out poorly. I told him yes....I then asked him if he had ever done his best and did something really well and have everything turn out great....he said yes.

We decided that beyond doing your best there is only so much you can doing his best...Aidan decided...was a perfectly acceptable outcome...and that while winning and loosing was important...that he can only do his best and hope for the best.

I have always felt that Aidan was the wisest member of our family.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Mundane: A Tribute

Up before 6:00...thankful that I passed on a second helping of Thai spicy squid, I stumbled pass the bathroom, into the kitchen, and filled my coffee pot with cold, clean (relatively anyway) tap water....

I paused by the radio, and deciding it was too early to listen to the news of the day, I flipped on the CD do not have an iPod...and as I pulled myself together, listened to the rest of last night's musical accompaniment, Aida.

Not for an instant did I think about the engineering marvel that is electricity...of how it is generated at some far off location and carried via wires over what could be hundreds of miles into my home. Nor did I think twice about running water. I take for granted that will be clean and will always be at the ready when I need it. I don't have to go to a well to get it and I don't have to boil it to make it drinkable...

After being up for a while I decided I was ready for the news of the day and flipped on the radio...the lead story was about a major rupture in a pipe that brings water into metropolitan Boston. About two million people in the Boston area will will have to boil their water before it is drinkable. I immediately thought of my good friend north of Boston, hoping that she heard about this before she made her morning coffee...I also found myself wondering if you should let boiled water cool before making needs to know such things as the unraveling of civilized life continues.

So here is to the mundane, the run of the mill, the's to refrigeration, electricity, and to the other basic things in life we take for granted. Here's to clean, running water...which is sort of like don't miss it until you don't have enough.