RedHead Re-Tread

This is a familiar story. For those who know me this will be a re-tread. For those who don’t, feel free to make fun of me.

I love redheads. It’s that simple. Something about red hair can redeem almost anyone in my eyes. Some strange primal and somehwat superficial part of my personality always gives preference to a woman with auburn locks.  I’m not sure when this started. At some point in my life, I fell in love with redhair.

I think I can trace it back to my first crush all the way back in 1st grade: she had strawberry blond hair that gradually grew a darker red as we grew up. That must be where it started. And throughout my life since then, every conceivable incarnation of red hair has caught my attentions: dyed, natural, it didn’t matter. I’ve actually hopped onto the wrong train in Boston on more than one occassion because I was distracted by some red hair. Lost in the moment, I would step up to the wrong platform and next thing I know, I’m on an express train to Braintree when I had intended to catch the train to Harvard….:)

Today, I almost died because of redhair. Ok, thats an exaggeration, but I did almost crash my car.

Driving through downtown Portsmouth this morning, I saw a woman I recognized as a frequent customer of the service center. Dressed in a long warm black coat, she was standing on the side of the road in the cross walk, waiting for her moment to cross. She has shoulder length dark red hair that was poking out from underneath a a black woolen cap.

So, being the gentlemaan that I am, I stopped and waved her across. She looked up and smiled and waved at me, recognizing me from the dealership. I smiled back as she crossed in front of me. “Shouldn’t you be working?” she said as she hopped onto the sidewalk, waving again as she ran into a bookstore. I realized as I crossed into the next intersection oblivious to the red light, that I was lost in the moment.

Luckily for me, I hit the interesection just between two crossing cars. My heart was racing as I gunned my car forward to get out of the way of any more cars and pulled over in front of the Music Hall. There I sat for 10 minutes sipping my coffee and laughing at myself. What an idiot I am. Strange that a lifelong fascination with a particular color almost led to me getting smooshed in an intersection.

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Counting Breathes : For Pam (Fall 2006)

Counting Breathes

“What do you think her wishes are?”

“Are we doing the right thing?”

“How do we live with our decision?”

My sister Pam died friday afternoon at 1:20 pm. It wasn’t sudden. It wasn’t unexpected. We just weren’t ready.

Pam had a hard life. At the age of 12, she fell off of a bicycle my uncle had shown her how to ride. She fell head first over the front of the bike and fractured her skull. Although she would heal from this injury, it wouild lead to lifetime of seizures. Random moments that would erase her memory temporarily and required a day or so for her to be herself again. Another result of this condition was hydrocephalus, a problem that would come back to haunt her later in life.

I was born when Pam was in her late teens. My mother worked full time and as a result, Pam took over the responsibilities for me in my early childhood. My father, during my early youth, was in the final stages of his cancer. He died in 76 when I was 4 years old. Pam became like a second mother for me, helping raise me while mom worked.

All of my best childhood memories involved Pam. Even my first kiss was her fault: she left me alone in her car with a little girl called Randa. We were in kindergerten at the time and when she pulled into the Star Market parking lot to run inside and grab cigarrettes. We pretended to be asleep and when Randa put her head on my little shoulder, I stole my first kiss.

Pam stood all of 4 feet and maybe 9 or 10 inches. By 4th grade, I was taller than her. She had an old Plymouth Fury, a huge bomber of an old car that she drove by staring through the steering wheel. If you saw the car from a distance, you would swear there was no driver. Whenever I was taken clothes shopping as a kid, she would grudgingly come along because she bought most of her clothes in the kids section too. She had long straight black hair, a throwback to our Native American heritage. She was always proud of her waist length hair, something she had til her dying day.

Many times, my sister would take me on road trips. I had seen her use checks before and with no concrete understanding of how money worked, whenever she said she couldn’t buy me a donut or a soda, I would pipe up and say,”Just write a check for it!!” She thought that was hysterical and would tell that story over and over. We would take day trips to the white mountains, hang out with her biker friends and spend long days just driving. She had a little red portable 8 track player that she kept on the front seat between us. When we would get someplace where we couldn’t recieve her favorite stations, she would pop in an 8 track. I remember “Bat Out of Hell” getting alot of airplay one summer.

When I was 9, I went with her and a bunch of other people to my first concert. I remember several bands playing that day but the one that stood out was The Clash. I did not understand their importance then, but this one concert changed my whole view of what music was and what it did for me. I thank Pam every day for that, whether she meant to or not, she profoundly shaped my tastes in music.

In the mid 80’s, while my sister and her future husband were living out in Kittery Point, she had a car accident. The accident shattered the passenger window next to her face. Tiny shards of glass became embedded into her cheeks, pieces so fine that for years afterwards, a piece would occassionally surface over and over again. Her complexion changed from this experience. Due to the accident, her cheeks had the appearance like she had bad acne: she wasn’t disfigured, but in her mind, she no longer considered herself pretty. She would get upset whenever someone took her picture, doing her best to hide her face. This went on for years until her wedding day to Richard. I was in 8th grade and for the first time in years, she allowed me to take her picture. She was beaming and happy that day, something I had not seen years. I look at the photos now and remember that day like it was yesterday.

When I was the first person in the Parnell family to graduate from high school, she cheered the loudest. I remember being up on that stage and staring at the blank faces of my fellow students. They had all been cheering and applauding everyone before me but when I hit the stage, dead silence. My heart sank: people I spent 12 years with and even then, at the moment of our departure from that wretched experience we call high school, even then they had to play the popularity card and shun me as they had done for 12 years. For a moment, I wanted to grab the mic from Principal Zito’s hands and scream “GO FUCK YOURSELVES!!!!” at my classmates. Just then I heard a loud “WOOHOO!!!” coming from the bleachers, and there was Pam, jumping up and down with her arms in the air, waving to me. I smiled, took my diploma and never looked back.

College years and my 20’s are a bit of a blur for me. I started to build a life for myself and relied on my mom for updates about the family. Slowly, I started to realize all was not well with my sister. She hidit well from me.

Since the car accident, she had steady pain in her back and neck, pain that would periodically creep up on her. She saw many specialists over the years but none of them knew what was wrong. And then the seizures started increasing in frequency. Thats when we found out that, due to her hydrocephalus, there was an excessive amount of fluid in her skull and the pressure was beyond a tolerable threshold and they were forced to put a shunt into her skull that drained fluid into her stomach. She had many operations to do this because, due to her accident as a child, her brain had healed abnormally, clinging to the sides of her skull in places, leaving little room for the fluid and even less room for them to safely put in a shunt. During this time, she started to lose weight.

When the shunt was finely successfully implanted, the doctors found another problem. With the countless mri’s she had to endure, several showed damage to her spinal column in her neck. Another round of operations to try to correct her neck. More weight loss. The final operation was the worst: they removed tendons from the front of her neck. Without the tendons, she could no longer hold up her head on her own. She walked around with her head slumped over and to the side. She lost more weight.

Then 3 years ago, she had a stroke. We all thought we were going to lose her then. In the hospital room, she was surrounded by friends and family who loved her. She was mumbling to herself alot, like she in a conversation with someone. Nobody knew what to make of it. She was unconscious that first day but the second day was different.

I don’t know why, but as I was racing up to visit her in the hospital. I stopped off and got her favorite coffee: reg coffee, extra extra. No flavors for her. As she told me once “Hazelnut and french vanilla are for pussies!!!!”. She was never one to mince words. Armed with her coffee, I entered her room to what we all thought was her deathbed. I put the coffee down next to her and she opened her eyes.

“Boy that smells good!!” she said, much to everyones shock. We got her a straw and she happily sipped her coffee. She had no idea what day it was but she explained to us that she had spent what she thought were days arguing with Grandma. Grandma had come to visit her and told her it wasn’t her time and she needed to go back and no matter what Pam said to her, Grandma refused to listen and told her she was needed elsewhere and reluctantly, she had come back. At this point, I should add that Grandma had been dead 33 years. Whether this all happened in her mind or what, I would not begin to guess.

Her rehab was slow, painful and for every step forward, there were several steps back. She was confined to a wheelchair but was resolute about walking again, managing to get herself upright in a walker and around counters. Her body was wracked with pain 24 hours a day and as a result, she had an oxycontin pump installed. This cracked me up to no end because the thing was on a timer. She would be in midsentence telling you about something important when the drug would kick in and she would stop and just giggle for a minute and forget what she was talking about.

Due to the stroke, not only was her mobility limited but so was her short term memory. She would forget little details at first, which was no big deal, but as time went on, she couldn’t recognize names right away or voices. I always had to add “your brother” when I said my name to her. Then she would perk up and say “Hi Brother Dear!!” The memory loss also resulted in the police breaking down the front door of the house on three seperate occassions. She had an emergency alert button on her phone that immediately summoned the police to her house. She would forget what it was for and press it, reulting in the police showing up at their downstairs door and since she had no way of answering, the cops would just break in. Three times this happend and three times, poor Richard would have to install a brand new door.

She was a fighter. She was stubborn and refused to give up on herself. And her husband Richard was a saint and a half! He took care of her so well. A truly remarkable man who did what none of us could have done and when he couldn’t handle things, he had caregivers who would look after her while he was working or away on a training trip for work.

Tuesday morning. This week.

I wake up to my cell phone ringing. I grabbed it and ran outside in my bathrobe so I could have a signal. Richard never called me unless it was important. I flip open the phone and all I hear is hysterical crying. From Richard, the saint, the man who could handle anything. I knew it was bad. He said they were at the ICU at Frisbie hospital and the doctors told him to get family there as soon as possible.

She had been taken to the hospital because she was running a fever. In the ambulance ride over, she began to complain about her breathing. Suddenly she wasn’t breathing and she asked for them to insert the tubes into her lungs so she could breathe. That was the last thing anyone ever heard her say. Her fever spiked, her breathing now dependant on a machine, she slipped into a coma. When we got there, my tiny little sister was covered in tubes. Her breathing caused her body to heave up and to the left. Every breath looked labored and painful. Occassionally, she would grimace, but as those first few hours went on, all expression stopped.

My mom was ashen wehn we first entered the icu. I thought she was going to fall over so I led her to a chair next to the bed where she held my sisters hand. Richard was in the corner of the room. I had never seen him like this. I think he knew then. Pam was still fighting but her body was losing whatever war it was raging.

Wednsday

I had to work all day but kept my cell phone close by me. Richard called to let me know she had stabilized. The doctors also had a good idea what was causing this. In the past year, Pam had been permanently cathaterized since she could not control those functions. An infection from the cathater had spread to her bladder, to her kidneys. Her tiny body was fighting a massive infection.

Thursday

Things got worse. Just when she had been showing signs of some minor improvement (returned warmth to her extremities , lowered blood pressure) the infection spread throughout her entire body. Her kidneys were shutting down. Sitting in the icu, the doctor explained about DNR. I didn’t want to listen. I wanted some sign from Pam. I wanted her to open her eyes. I wanted her to see me, smile, hear her make fun of my weight, my hair, something. This mass of tubes that shifted with every single wracking breathe was not my sister. My sister was no longer there.

Friday

Richard calls us at 8am.

“Come up now.”

When my mother and I arrived, we knew that what we didn’t want to face was finally here. My sister could no ,longer breathe on her own at all and her heart was still beating due to a complex solution of drugs that I did not understand. I crashed into a chair. One of my sisters hands was sticking out from under the blanket, swollen, mottled, the tips turning purple. Looking at her face, her pallor had become a sort of yellowy waxen appearance. Every breathe still caused her body to heave to one side but there was less a sense that it was bothering her. I started to cry. The doctor came in.

“What were her wishes? Did she wish to have these extraordinary measures taken for her benefit?”

Richard looked at me and then to my mom then back to me.

“What do you think? Would Pam want this?” Richard asked me, the tears rolling down his face into his long beard.

I didn’t know what to say. How was this my decision? Why did my opinion matter? I said, “look, I’m not making this decision. Either we all make this decision together or none of us make it. I can’t be the one to do this alone.”

The doctor slowly explained our options to us. First of all, they could keep going with the current treatment until her heart gives out. Her body, in an attempt to fight this infection, had raised her core temperature to 103 degrees and her heart was racing at a pace that was causing other functions to shut down. To prolong this treatment would still leave her in a coma and when her heart failed (not if, but when…) the means they would have to resuscitate her would fruther damage her body and only end up weakening her further and she would more than likely never come out of the coma.

Our second option was surprisingly simple: stop treatment. Stop the drugs, stop the breathing machine, administer morphine and, as he put it, let nature take its course.

We chose simplicity.

First they stopped the drug treatments. We sat and watched. We watched and shared good stories, talking to Pam and each other. We kissed her forehead and thanked her for the happiness she brought us. Then several nurses came in to remove the breathing tubes, the tubes for draining fluid from her lungs, her stomach, her chest wall. Suddenly, as the nurses left the room, I could see my sisters face again. She looked peaceful finally. No pain, no tubes, just Pam asleep on the pillow. Her breathing without the machine became far less labored. I smiled through my tears.

We watched the monitor and Pam. The room became very quiet. The monitor slowly started to show the reduced heart rate, reduced oxygen saturation and reduced breathes per minute. We watched. I found myself counting her breathes, watching each rise and fall of her tiny chest.

1

2

3

They administered morphine. The rising of her chest became shallower.

4

5

6

Mom said goodbye through the tissues she had wrapped around her nose. Richard clutched her hand. I felt like I was going numb, my voice sounded distant to me like it came from down the hall, not part of me at all but some echoey hollow meaningless noise.

7

8

I think I said goodbye.

The nurses came in to shut off the machines. We sat with her for an hour, discussing everything from cremation to what kind of remembrance ceremony we should have. We all cried together and finally, after every nurse had paid their respects and expressed their condolences, we left.

In the parking lot, there were talks of phone calls and appointments. Promises to get in touch soon, exclamations of concern “If you need me for anything, just call me!” I told Richard. We parted ways. I took mom home, I cooked her dinner and fielded a few phone calls from well meaning relatives who wanted all the details. After the fifth phone call, I couldn’t take it anymore and my mom took over. I found myself going to Boston. I needed something to distract myself. Sirsy were playing at the Kinsale in Boston and I decided I had to go. I had no choice. I needed to be away.

Meeting up with Mel, Rich and Jessica and helping them set up a little was like therapy: keeping myself busy. H finally arrived. She had been a great help through all of this since she had been part of similar circumstances involving hard choices like mine. She ran up and gave me the biggest hug I have ever gotten from such a tiny person and I broke again. I started crying but this time it was good. Made me feel better than I had all day. I felt alive and the numbness that had taken over drained away. I enjoyed a wonderful nite of good music, good food and even better friends. I found myself with something I didn’t know I had: support. I was humbled by my lack of perception of the importance of these people in my life.

At the end of the evening, after many drinks (mostly ice water, right J?) I headed back home. Promises were made to hang out again soon. Hope was there that it would all work out. I smiled, genuinely happy for the first time that week,being with these people I have chosen to have in my life. Or did they choose me???

On the drive home, I thought of my sister Pam and how she would have enjoyed that show. She always loved live music and would dance up a storm back in the day. She had so much spirit and life, even when her body failed or betrayed her, you still felt her fire. I know she would have approved my going out last nite. I felt her with me, laughing at my friends jokes, in the car with me on the long ride. Think she was poking fun at my new diet and my lack of progress on my gut. She always teased me.

Finally, at home in bed, I found myself drifting off to sleep. My mind concentrated on my own breathing, counting off the moments until darkness finally took me. I can only hope that my sister drifted off as peacefully.

1

2

3

…..

Bad Food experience

I wrote this silliness this afternoon while being bored at work. It was for a forum about dining and tipping that I read when there is nothing to do. Now I ran restaurants a good chunk of my life and take pride in the fact that I tip well when I’m dining out even when service is not that great. This experience was by far one of the worst ever. So I have never stiffed someone on a tip, until the other day.

I plan on blogging about this on my myspace blog, but I had to share this on this thread: I stiffed someone the other day, for the first time ever. I feel horrible about it, but feel I was totally justified.

For starters, I made my first mistake when I walked in: instead of going to the bar, I took a table. I had a book with me and wanted to read a little. It was late morning and the place was busy. The crowd was shifting from late breakfast to the lunch crowd. I skimmed the menu, found an omellette to my liking, and put the menu down and started reading my book. This is so unlike me, but I lost track of time and after about 20 minutes I realized a waitress had not come to my table yet. I looked around and saw the woman who wore the name on her shirt that I remembered was supposed to be my waitress sitting at a table chatting with someone. I waved to her and she took no notice (women never notice me, story of my life…).

I got up and walked to the front of the restaurant. I was greeted by the same smiling woman who had seated me.

“Hi, I’ve been sitting there for 20 minutes and my waitress hasn’t come to take my order.”

“Oh, we’ll send someone right over.”

I smiled “thank you”.

I plopped back down at my table and picked up my book again, peering over the edge of my book at my gabbing waitress at the table across the room.

Five more minutes, still no waitress. Now I was frsutrated. I walked to the front again and saw the smily girl.

“Excuse me, but I have to be at work in an hour or so. I don’t mind hanging out here, but I would really like to get my order in and the waitress has still not come to my table”

“oh don’t worry, I’m sure she’s just busy” she said with a smile.

“I don’t think so…” I pointed her across the room at the table where my waitress sat, still gabbing.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I’ll get her right over to you” and she hurried off.

I sat back down at my table, closing my book. Despite my betteer judgement, I decided to stay…I really wanted this omellete. I looked across the room and saw the gabbing waitress, after being alerted to my existence, finally getting up and trudged across the room to my table.

“Sorry we are so busy, what can I get for ya?” she asked, not making eye contact.

I laughed. “Um, well the restaurant is busy, but you were sitting over there chatting for the past 20 minutes”

She looked at me coldly. I guess I didn’t impress her by calling her out on a lie.

I ordered my chili and cheese taco omellette and without a word, she stormed off. Soon afterward, she stomped back to plop a glass of water on my table, spilling it slightly then storming off to sit and gab with her friend again. All I could do was laugh at this point. This woman, by far, had no idea how to serve customers. I watched as orders came up for other tables she was *serving*, and I use that term loosely and they were all having the same frustration. Finally, my omellete came up and to my amazement, she was actually up moving around when it came up and promptly brought it over. Of course, this one saving grace was spoiled by the fact that she literally dropped the plate in front of me, splattering my shirt with bits of chili and without a word, went away again.

The omellete was amazing: folded 3 egg fluffy omellet stuffed with steak and bean chili and jack cheese with shreds of crispy taco shells mixed in,folded over and on top was fresh tomatoes, cheese and little shredded lettuce. And next to this monstrosity was a heaping pile of homefries. I was in heart attack heaven!! The food was absolutely incredible. But, as my water ran out, the waitress would walk right by me and purposely ignore me or my pleas for a bit more water. Finally, I walked over to the waitress station myself, grabbed a pitcher of water and hauled it back to my table. A couple in a booth near me started laughing and showed me their pitcher: they had done the same thing.

I leaned in conspiratorily and whispered “They should make this place self serve and be done with it.”

They smiled and nodded in agreement.

After managing to get through most of my omelette, I decided to take the rest to work with me and have for dinner that nite. I went to the restroom to wash my hands and clean off the little splatters of chili that were now decorating my shirt and came back to an empty table. My plate with my leftovers, my drink glass and my pitcher were all gone. Curious, I walked over to the waitress.

“Did you clean my table?”

“well, weren’t you done?”

“Yes, but I expect you must have wrapped up my leftovers, correct?”

“How was I supposed to know you wanted them?” she said with a smile, first time she had smiled the whole time I was there.

“Maybe if you were doing your job, you would have known the answer to that” I snapped and walked to the front again where the little manager was sitting, still with the same plastered smile she had when I first got there.

I explained to her what had just happened. She apologized profusely, still with the same grin on her face and offered to only charge me for half my meal, which to me was fair since I had thoroughly enjoyed the food and I had actually eaten a little more than half.

I went back to my table and the surly girl came stomping up with my bill which had been amended to show my new price: $4 even. I reached into my wallet and as fate would have it, there were 4 one dollar bills in there. Usually, I pay everything on my debit/credit card and use the cash for silly things like tolls or whatever. For the first time in my life, I put the bill on the table with the exact amount of money. Then I started searching my pockets. I new if I looked long enough, I would find what I was looking for and sure enough, in the little change pocket was a stray penny. I placed that on top of the bill, grabbed my book and walked out. On my way out, I heard something that completely made my day:

“F*ck you!” came the voice of the surly waitress as I headed to the door.

I turned and smiled. “have a nice day”.

Punk Sell Out

I would not have believed this if someone had told me about it. I had to hear it for myself.

We always worry about our heroes selling out. Nothing disturbs me more than seeing an aging former star, musician, etc, out hawking some god-awful product or service or whatever. For some reason, I feel a certain amount of empathy for these poor former stars who just want their name back in the spotlight, any spotlight.

But what I heard today completely caught me off guard.

I listen to WTKK occassionally, not because I’m into right wing doctrine, but because I like hearing what the other side has to say. It keeps me balanced to hear all sides. And to be honest, Jay Severin (spelling) actually makes me laugh. He is the right wing version of Henry Rollins in the way he speaks and it cracks me up. So on my break today, as I was racing to Loco’s for my burrito, an ad came on. At first, I wasn’t sure I understood what was being said. I knew I recognized the voice but I couldn’t connect to whom it belonged to.

Then the first half of the pitch ended and the voice over came over a little louder : “Hi, I’m Steve Jones calling you about Virgin Atlantic.”

I apologize now for anyone that was behind me as I slammed on my breaks in front of the Rusty Hammer and pulled over. I could not believe my ears. Steve Jones. STEVE F****** JONES!!! For those who don’t know, Steve Jones was one of the Sex Pistols. Now I know, Johnny Rotten is now a self promoting parody of himself and the image of Sid Vicious was bought and sold ages ago. But Steve Jones has always been a rock of no sell out punk rock attitude. The only thing I had ever seen him do a commercial for was an anti drug commercial in the 90’s about Sid dying and making a crack about the glamour of heroin.

Yet here he was, doing a promotional ad for Virgin Atlantic. I know the Sex Pistols as a group will do anything for money. Hell, their reunion tour a few years ago was all about the money. When asked why they agreed to get back together and do a tour, Johnny said, quite bluntly, “because of the money”.

And a few months ago, the whole band had given a collective middle finger to the entire music business by refusing to show up for their rock n roll hall of fame induction. (something, by the way, I think the Clash should have done too) I had laughed at that. Such a purile gesture but so punk rock. Gave me hope that they still remembered where they came from.

I couldn’t help but wonder who this ad was geared towards. I mean, this was afternoon drive time on a conservative talk radio station. Who listening besides me would even know who Steve Jones was? And by having an old punk rocker doing an ad on their station, what were they trying to say? Were they trying to equate conservative talk radio with the punk rock movement? Somehow, I doubt it was as deep as that. The only thing I can think is that maybe, just maybe, someone in the control pulled the wrong ad.

As I sat on the side of road in front of the Hammer, I could feel my stomach in knots. I know I should not be surprised seeing one of my heroes selling out. Happens all the time, to people far more famous than Steve Jones. But for some reason, this felt like a sucker punch. In my mind, I saw an old poster I used to have. I had it on my door at the first apartment I lived in at Keene State College : PUNK IS DEAD! It was meant as an ironic statement on the state of punk rock music in the late 80’s, right before its huge re-emergence in the 90’s. But for once, I saw that poster and I thought, maybe, punk is dead.

The real, old fashioned, f the establishment punk is gone, replaced by a slicker marketing campaign that makes all the tattoos and weird clothes and hair appear normal and venerable old grandfathers of the punk rock movement are wheeled out to give it some legitimacy.

So whats next? We have Steve Jones for Virgin Atlantic, how about we get Chrissie Hynde for shampoo commercials? Elvis Costello for contact lenses? Siouxsie Sioux for nair? Exene Cervenka for tylenol? Deborah Harry for Paxil?

I shudder to think about the possibilities……

Same Complaint Every Summer

So I spent the afternoon on North Hampton’s public beach on sunday and made some interesting observations. For one, there seems to be some sort of social amnesia that takes place when someone goes on vacation. And I think we have all been subject to this: we find ourselves on vacation and suddenly, nothing matters. We are first and thats it! No exceptions, I have no time to waste, I’m on vacation! I understand that mentality, I don’t approve of it, but I can understand it and how it comes about. We go on vacation and suddenly the needs and wants of those around us are trivial compared to our comfort.

As I sat on the rockwall, facing the water, enjoying the sound of the waves as the tide was slowly rolling in, the sounds of kids and parents playing in the surf, suddenly a stereotype pulled up behind me. A huge honking suv with *shudder* New York license plates came screeching to a halt directly behind me. I always try to think the best of people and that stereotypes are merely someones preconceived notions about a person or a type interfeering with their interaction with the person in front of them. Unfortunately, what emerged from the suv was a stereotype run amok.

First, three teenage white kids, who looked like they just came off the set of Growing Up Gotti: gold chains, wife beaters and baggy shots. Immediately, I get a bad impression. One whips out his phone. “MOTHERF*****!! No signal in this f****** hick town!” and for once, I’m glad my town shot down building a cell phone tower near the beach. The three boys stand there unloading their coolers and beach chairs, charmingly swearing up a storm, when their mother emerges from the front of the suv.

I don’t even know where to begin with her, but man, she was the epitome of the ugly american on vacation: extremely overweight, squeezed into a tiny bikini (!!!!!!), hair that was a throwback to the 80’s and skin that had seen so much sun over the years, it now looked like it had the consistency of leather and there was an unhealthy orangy brown look to her. “Joooooey!! Don’t go tooooooo farrrrrr!!!! This f****** town doesn’t believe in in lifegaurds on a sunday. Why your faddah brought us here, I’ll never f****** know.”

Her daughter emerged from the otherside, a girl of about 9 and I thought, hah, someone normal in this bunch. “Mom, where the f*** is my f******* sodaaaaaaa?” she screamed at the top of her lungs. How could I be so wrong?

So anyway, this seething pile of humanity plopped down on the sand directly in front of me, opening their coolers, eating their lunches and allowing their trash to be taken away by the breeze. I just sat there in amazement. Then, to top it all off, one of the boys pulls out a huge boombox and places it up on the rockwall next to me, like I wasn’t even sitting there and turns it on, full blast to some rap cd. As the beat got more and more annoying, the trio of boys and the mom lit up cigarettes.

I realize that when we go on vacation, we always tend to bring a little bit of home with us. Its comforting to be in a strange place and have a little something to remind of us of where we are going back to. Whenever I go out of state, for me, its something intangible: finding a decent cup of coffee, if I find the right cup of coffee, I feel like I’m back home. For the family sitting in front of me, what was comforting for them was recreating any given street corner in brooklyn. All we needed was some honking horns and the illusion would be complete. I got up from my comfy spot. I didn’t want to leave this section of the wall, its the middle of the beach and from a people watching perspective, a great vantage point. But, unlike these people, I came down to enjoy the ocean not the city. As I walked away, I flipped the power switch on the boombox. I heard one of them swear at me as I walked away…but I also saw several people applaud.

100 Things Challenge from 2006

My friend H made one of these so I figured I would give it a shot and see if I could get to 100. This will be a totally random list of facts about me, so be prepared to be bored out of your mind. These are all true statements, some are very random, others have a theme.

1. I like to photograph the little things. When I go someplace, I think it is more exciting to photograph a bottle sitting on a windowsill than the beautiful view through the window.

2. I’m an excellent cook.

3. I’m not an excellent cook of desserts.

4. I eat way too much meat.

5. I miss the idea of my father.

6. I have a tendency to expect the best from everyone, even when they have proven that they are not capable of that standard.

7. Sometimes, I really want to kill some of my co-workers.

8. I’m a snob…I don’t mean to be a snob, but when I meet people who are less educated than myself, I act differently.

9. I have a childish crush. Or is it lust?

10. I love red hair. Not sure where this came from in my life. Some time, long ago, I had a crush on a red haired woman and the color stuck. Strangely, I’ve never dated a natural redhead.

11. I prefer dark hair to blondes.

12. I spend way too much time online.

13. World of Warcraft is sucking the life out of me. Why am I obsessed with levelling up an imaginary character?

14. I miss the idea of high school. I didn’t have a normal high school experience and I envy people who talk about the good times they had growing up.

15. I had a gun held to my head once for a mistake I never made again.

16. I kinda like some chick flicks.

17. Driving for hours makes me happy.

18. I’m a history junkie. If I could, I would stop at every history marker on the side of the road.

19. I’m convinced my cat tries to talk to me.

20. I lost my virginity at a church camp.

21. I used to be a leader of a church youth group.

22. I have dyed my hair almost every color of the rainbow.

23. I had a mohawk for ages.

24. My right nipple was once pierced, then got infected and blew up to the size of a baseball.

25. I fall in love easily.

26. I fall in lust even easier.

27. My heart has been broken more times than I can remember, each time vowing that will be the last….

28. I speak enough french to bullshit my way through a conversation.

29. There is someone I really care about and worry about.

30. Dark colored eyes hypnotize me.

31. I have a tendency to have a slight case of road rage when I’m behind a slow poke in the passing lane.

32. I’m addicted to music.

33. I can’t get out of Bullmoose Music or Newbury Comics without buying something.

34. Part of me still thinks I’m in high school.Part of me is still that insecure little kid…

35. I know I’m an adult.

36. I definitely do not feel like an adult.

37. I bought two tickets to see the dropkick murphy’s knowing I had nobody to come with me.

38. When I was young, I thought Horton Center was the most peaceful place on earth.

39. Last year, a good friend showed me a new place of peace and serenity: Monhegan Island.

40. I haven’t sat down in front of a canvas in months.

41. I eat sometimes when I’m depressed. Then I punish myself for it by going to the gym for hours.

42. The stupidest things can remind me of bad times in my life.

43. A smile can make my day.

44. I consider eye contact a sign of intelligence. If someone won’t look me in the eye, I immediately judge them.

45. A hug can make up for almost anything.

46. I cried last september. I cried alot.

47. I love sitting in the window of a coffee shop, drawing the people around me and catching snippets of their conversation.

48. I will do pretty much anything for chocolate.

49. I have an addiction to caffeine. If you cut me, I bleed espresso.

50. I get headaches alot lately. I’m a little worried about it.

51. I have a tendency to giggle uncontrollably at stupid crap.

52. One of my favorite movies of all time is Airplane…why? see above.

53. I started running and I feel better.

54. I started running and I have a feeling I’m turning into one of these people who needs to run.

55. I started running and I love the silence and just hearing my breath and my heart.

56. I try not to be a stereotypical male, but I find myself staring at breasts alot lately, staring like a thirsty guy who just crossed the desert would stare at a glass of water.

57. I can’t relate to anybody at my dealership. If I talk about art, they want to talk about sports. If I mention politics, they are not interested unless there are naked women involved.

58. I will do anything for my friends.

59. My heart is not in my job. I need to find a new place to be.

60. Part of me still holds onto that fantasy that I may win powerball, no matter how improbable, part of me still insists on dreaming that dream.

61. I think I was in shock when they tore my house down. The house I grew up in, never knew it would hurt so bad to see it torn down.

62. I loved living in England. I loved the history, the people, the culture…every aspect felt right and it broke my heart to leave.

63. I have a fetish for glasses. Next to red hair, glasses are a huge turn on.

64. I worry about the silliest crap. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because I forgot to pay (name of random bill here).

65. My choice in music is influenced greatly by whether I can reach the cd as I’m heading to work.

66. I love beer, the more micro the brewery the better.

67. I have an impossibly high tolerance for alcohol. It really takes hard liquor to get me buzzed. Beer has little to no effect, even in mass quantities.

68. I’m inspired by the simplest of kindnesses from my friends.

69. I love my family and hold them more dear than anything else.

70. Part of my job is to pretend I like everybody who sits in front of me and it kills me everytime. I’m always worried someone will see through the smile and see the FUCK YOU behind it.

71. I have a tendency to shoot my mouth off about something that is on my mind, just to get it off my chest. Its nothing personal, but I feel better after I’ve said it rather than bottle it up.

72. Even though I’m not religious, I do consider myself spiritual. I believe it is possible to find a spiritual awakening without involving anyone’s god.

73. Part of me believes there is something after this life…

74. Part of me is terrified that this may be it…

75. I think I saw a UFO when I was 7. My mom and my neighbors swear by this too and it was the same nite of a ‘documented’ ufo sighting all along the seacoast of NH. My first thought in retrospect is: why would they visit NH?????

76. One of my guilty pleasures is watching the food network. I think I have a crush on Rachael Ray.

77. One of my dreams in life is to be a world remowned artist.

78. I’m one of the few men who WILL ask for directions when I’m lost.

79. I can’t follow a map to save my life but I usualy end up where I need to be.

80. I think the word supercalifragilisticexpealidocious should be used more in regular conversation.

81. I envy the surfer boys and girls on north beach. Surfing was the one thing I wish I had given more of a chance. I tried once…took a header into some rocks and that was the end of my surfing career.

82. I have a tendency to really get angry at parents who don’t know how to parent and expect the world to parent for them.

83. My political views are heavily slanted to the left, but I believe in a dialogue with the right. Polarization dos not a political discourse make.

84. I think I have done every drug I could get my hands on. Some of my college days were a blur, but now I have no wish to do any drugs at all. I won’t turn down a doobie being handed my way, but thats about it. I have no wish to try anything else ever again. I don’t regret what I tried in college, just never going to use them again.

85. That being said, acid was a hell of a lot of fun.

86. Last 2 years of high school, I was diagnosed as manic depressive and used that to exploit people. I’ve never forgiven myself for being weak and using people.

87. College allowed me to come out of my shell and become the person I am today.

88. I wish I was in college where my only worry was how we were going to Northampton or Boston for a show.

89. I trust people even when I know I shouldn’t.

90. Sometimes, I need to be completely alone. At these times, I completely close up and am incapable of talking to anyone.

91. I saw Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers throw up right in front of me and then start playing their 1st song. (UNH concert…who else remembers that???)

92. I played Double Dragon with Joey Ramone…I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

93. I miss being a dj. I really wish WUNH wasn’t so stuck up about who they ‘allow’ on the air.

94. I have been to a strip club 11 times in my life. I enjoyed the nudity, but didn’t enjoy myself. Felt like shopping at the mall when you have no money: nice to look, but after awhile, you get bored and its time to go home.

95. My opinions are strong and you cannot sway me.

96. My opinions can be swayed by pie. (read into that what you will).

97. I’m never the life of the party, but I usually know everyone by the end.

98. I go to concerts so I can feel like I’m a kid again, without the stage diving, pits and bar fights.

99. I still need to learn how to be happy with and love myself.

100. I have alot to learn and I’m always open for a lesson.

Boston, Boiled Dinners and Sirsy, Part 3

 

So after the frozen desserts we enjoyed, we did our Rocky impersonation up the stairs to Government Center. For anyone who has never been to Govt center in Boston, there is a massive set of stairs leading from the Faneuil Hall area up to the large open public space that is Govt Center. Every time I hike up those stairs, you can’t help but hear the Rocky theme going in your brain, even though I’m usually out of breath at the top of the stairs and not able to jump around. Though I have been known to throw out a “Yo Adrian” from the top of the stairs….much to the worry of other passerbys.

We cross the street and finally, we were at the Kinsale. I sincerely love this place: it’s a small irish themed restaurant and bar, great food, good choice of beers, a little refuge amidst all the the offices along this road. The people there seem to be sincerely pleased to see anyone wander in and the door man acted almost embarassed to be asking us for money to come in. ($5 cover to see Sirsy) When we first parked, Dawn and I had run in just to use the bathrooms and so I could show her where it was before heading out to dinner, and as we were leaving, the doorman thanked us for stopping in. Dawn looked at me and said “did he just thank you for coming in and peeing?” I laughed.

We rounded the corner of the restaurant and there was Mel and the gang setting up. Grins and hellos were had, but I knew they were busy, so I quickly introduced Dawn to the band, then made a hasty retreat to the far end of the bar to sit and relax and enjoy a drink. I am always paranoid of being a pain in the ass and getting in the way when they are setting up their equipment. To be honest, I could probably help with all that since I used to do the sound whenever a band played at my college station or the folk music/open mic nites at the pub on campus. (Note to self: Apply for roadie job with Sirsy…heeehee) But Rather than offer my assistance, I leave them be and Dawn and I find two stools to hang out at. The waiter, a guy with long hair who, ACCORDING TO Dawn is a dead ringer for Mitch Hedberg, even though I don’t see it. Anyway, this waiter, the last time I was here, was good at picking the right beer for me. Whenever there are too many beers on tap, I like putting it on the waiter to pick something for me. This time, he picks an ESB and Dawn has a jack and coke. Mine arrives and I tell Dawn that I like this beer, very hoppy nutty and bittery flavor. She laughs and says she loves her jack and coke because its very jacky and cokey.

As the band gets ready, we survey the crowd. Because this is a business district, there were a lot of stuffed suits. The kind of people I work with, the sports and boobs crowd. As we are drinking our drinks and making fun of the people, Dawn notices that people keep looking at her then looking above her with concern on their faces. Getting more and more paranoid, she informs me that people are staring at her. I point up above her head….there was a tv with a basketball game on. Dawn then turned a lovely shade of red.

Finally Sirsy start their first set. We make a beeline for a table right in front of Sirsy. That familiar feeling of joy I get whenever I hear Sirsy is aparent when a big grin pops up on my face as I sing along. Dawn looks genuinely surprised at this transformation in me. She happily mocks my singing along with the band. But I notice she is rockin out too. After the second or third song, Heidi comes skulking around the corner…..She had told me she wasn’t sure if she was coming tonite due to her appointment with an old friend. But sure enough and true to form, H had brought her friend along for the Sirsy festivities. Surprised and happy, I gave h a big a hug and introduced her to Dawn, whom she had heard so much about during the Kate Chaos but had never had a chance to meet.

This was the high point of the evening for me. Two friends who had stood by me through all the chaos of the past few months in one place with a band we all loved. As a side note, I realize this is what I wanted all along but the ex would never allow: hanging out with ALL of my friends and having a good time, not just the ones that she approved of. The week before at the Parting Glass had the same feeling and putting Dawn into the mix just made it alll that much sweeter.

After giving up our table to some women who were ordering food and needed a place to sit, we hovered around Guario’s table o’stuff. The First set ended and we hung out with the band and H and Dawn chatted with each other as well as the band. Virgil and I got into a conversation about music involving Jon Zorn, Mr Bungle, Naked City and various artists and musical styles. He turns out to be a fan of experimental music and I was pleased to have someone to talk to about this stuff. When I used to do my radio show, I would play stuff by Praxis and the Boredoms, not to mention John Zorn,Naked City, Mr Bungle, etc and a lot of people get confused when they hear this glorious noise. The mixtures of styles and influences all melded usually into one song was baffling to some listeners, but I eat that stuff up…I love the musicianship of being able to do a full on punk rock noise song then stop on a dime and turn it into a jazz odyssey, then stop again and turn it into a blues song, then funk,then back to punk. I love that. And ultimately, I think that’s what I love about Sirsy: there is no definable style to their music, it’s a mixture of everything. Put simply: They sound like Sirsy. There are elements of jazz, funk, alternative rock, indie aesthetics, its all there. That’s why I have become such a fan. The mixture of styles and influences coming together for one coherent and original sound without coming across as derivitive or imitative. Music that moves you without sounding like anything else. I love it.

During this Break, Greg was working the crowd with the set list, asking for requests,. I told him I wanted to hear Fine. That song gives me chills every time I hear it. Greg asked if I was staying through the third set to which Dawn gave me a look and I responded “well, up to Fine, then we have to leave” Greg smirked and added it to the list.

The music started up for the second set and I fell in love with These Are Days all over again. Mel and the band have mastered and reworked this song to make it their own. I used to drool over Natalie Merchant when she would dance around on stage singing this song and I never thought anyone could make me love the song more.  As my friend Dawn said later in the car, Mel’s voice on that song is similar to Natalies, but she manages to do so much more with her range and vocals than I have ever heard Natalie attempt. As a side note, I have to agree with Heidi, I’m not sure people are listening to the lyrics of Lie To Me when they start slow dancing to it.

At some point during this set, Dawn and I were talking about something, probably her making fun of me for singing along again. When I talk, I do tend to be a little expressive and make hand gestures and it was during one particularly wild gesture that I backhanded a waitress. Right into her chest. Whoops. Now, this was not a bad backhand, wasn’t like I pulled a karate move and knocked her on her ass or something, just my hand connected with her boobs. I was embarassed, I never saw her coming up behind me as she was, so it was totally unintentional. I was expecting the waitress to be upset, but instead, she just laughed and without missing a beat said “That’s the most action I’ve had all night…” I smiled and said “Geez, I feel like I should tip you now” to which she just laughed and went about her merry way. I guess working in an environment where people intentionally grab your ass all nite, having someone unintentionally backhanding your boobs is a pleasant change of pace. I was still embarassed though.

The second set ended and Rich came over to me. Out of the blue, he suddenly asks me why my screen name is glassowater. I smiled. This was a well worn story that I have related over and over again since 1997 when I first used that as a login for yahoo. The first time I sat down in front of a computer at the now defunct Cybercafe in Portsmouth NH, I needed a login to start my internet adventures. So I tried all sorts of names. I wanted something original and provocative. Something that would make people think and smile and perhaps, a name that could change the world. However, no matter how many times I tried, they were all taken. All my usual logins were all taken: Riff Raff, Pugsley, FrankNFurter, all were taken. I tried for hours for something original and exciting, to no avail. They were all taken. Then, in the midst of my despair, I saw it. In the dim glow of the computer light, there, illuminated before me was….a glass o water. My heart stopped. Could that work? Would it be taken???

I went to the yahoo page and entered Glassowater….and yes, it was approved….The hallellujah chorus started up in my brain and from that day forward, on any system I log into, I’m always glassowater or a variant thereof.

Rich looked amused by this. I guess he liked the embellishments I made to a simple story of finding a login…Then Mel comes over and asks the same question and in the retelling, she giggled at my silliness. I informed her that I would have to leave during the third set, probably after Fine to which Mel gave me a big hug and thanked me for showing up.

The week before at the Parting Glass, Heidi had been very upset with me. After the gig, I didn’t go right home ( a four hour drive) but instead, I stuck around and chatted with the band and everyone else. This annoyed her because she was worried about me having an accident on the ride back, knowing that I would not get to sleep properly since I was going straight to work. The feeling of doom coming from her was palpable. This week at the Kinsale, she was happy and smiling. She told Dawn and I how she felt so much better about me driving around late at night with a co-pilot in the vehicle. And Heidi wonders why I call her Mom now…heehee. We let her know we were leaving during the third set and got big hugs from her and her friend. The set started up and I settled in for the final few songs I would get to hear.

About four songs in, a huge grin comes across Mels face and she looks at me and says “this is for glassowater”. And Fine started up. This song kills me everytime. I love the imagery (someone having a bit of a meltdown in a grocery store in the middle of the night), the musicianship is masterful, the antics are hysterical and it is the best example of Mel going through her entire range in one song. And the middle, I can’t tell you how many times she has gone into that and the entire room has completely stopped. People milling around at the bar, watching sports, suddenly turn wondering what was that? Every time I get goosebumps. This song is a great example of the power of this band that will never be translated onto cd. This song is my main reason to see them live. It’s overpowering and wonderful and you don’t want it to end.

I was happy now. I had heard the song, even had it dedicated to me (swoon) and my friend Dawn was now a fan. We gathered up our coats and made our way to the door. Smiles and nods from the band as we exited to Virgil singing Fire, I bowed to him as we exited the Kinsale out into the cold night.