Today, I am 40…

I often thought that hitting 40 would be so much more of a big deal. I was expecting a little fanfare, balloons and cake and hey, maybe even a parade! (I can dream right)

But in reality, I greet this day with a smile, the well wishes of my loved ones and friends and the expectation of a great night out tonite with amazing people and good music. No big deal. No pressure. No soul searching melancholy on the meaning of my existence as I reach middle age. No, just acceptance, a smile and looking forward to this new chapter in my life. I’m happy and but not content and that makes this birthday so much better than all the rest. New opportunities, new friendships, new loves (or maybe even an old one), I’m looking forward to what is to come. Forward, with no regrets.

Ah 2009, you will be missed….

Why hello! Fancy meeting you here. I know it’s been awhile. I have no excuses. I wasn’t sick, there were no major catastrophes either meteorological, financial, familial or sociological. Let’s just call it what it is: I’m a lazy ass.

Since June, I have been writing and keeping notes on life, but to be honest, I really haven’t sat down in front of the computer to bring those thoughts to a public forum because, well….I’m lazy. And even with some gentle prodding from other bloggers (Cas, Allison, Romi, Pam and Natalie, to name a few) I just couldn’t find the motivation. The computer screen had become another blank canvas for me.

Let me explain: In the spare room in my house, there sits a canvas. About one year ago, I set it up on the easle, broke out some paints, poured myself a huge cup of coffee, set up some music and I went in with every intention to start….something. Unfortunately, when I sat down in front of the canvas, I realized I had no idea where to begin. All I saw was white. No direction, no thought, no emotion. Just a blank field of white. I remember sitting there for several hours, listening to the music, sipping my coffee. Nothing changed. I got up, shut off the music, put away my paints, shut off the light and left. Every few days, I would wander in, stare at the canvas again. I don’t know if I was looking for divine inspiration but the motivation was eluding me. I couldn’t even get started. The canvas sat on the easle for 6 months before I finally gave up and put it away. And I think I did the same thing here.  I gave up.

This past year has been a wild roller coaster ride of emotions. I worked 2 jobs for awhile which nearly drove me insane. I travelled to Texas, fell in love and had my heart broken more than once. (That story is still on going and I definitely plan to write about that at another time…there may be a happy ending to that tale). 

2009 was a year of being caught in an emotional holding pattern. Afraid to move forward, refusing to go back and no chance for finding some firm ground to hold on to. I felt like my life was circling the airport, waiting for the word to land and finally find some peace.

I saw my best friends lose their jobs and I realized I was more worried for them than they are. They are happy and content with their lot in life. Found myself wondering: why wasn’t I? Could I be so centered and happy if life threw me a curveball like that? I can’t even be happy with my life as it is.

My mother’s health improved as mine kinda deteriorated a little. Nothing to worry about, but certain things in my life that I put on the back burner were becoming more and more of a problem. Stress from the two jobs, lack of sleep and a chaotic life had sent my blood pressure through the roof, resulting in some weight gain, lack of motivation, etc. Since losing the second job, my health and outlook has improved. I’m on a more positive path to wellness and health. By the way, I have stories to tell about that second job…..

It wasn’t a year of all doom and gloom, however. Amazing friends, loving family always make everything easier. I recconnected with scores of old friends from high school through Facebook. This strange phenomenom seems to be the norm for almost everyone. People reaching out across the internet to find each other once again. I love it. I love seeing what other people have done with their lives since the hellish days of Winnacunnet High School.

Music once again dominated my life with shows all over New England. Some I worked for the band, others I was there just to support the music. I fell in love with Pandora and LastFM, both introducing new music into my life while reminding me the of the joys of my musical past.

There was amazing food and food that should never be mentioned again! I’m looking at you, chicken fried bacon! The Texas State Fair may classify you as food and you may be delicious, but you are sooooooo wrong! Wrong on every level that is wrongness.

So many more things I could mention here, but I feel I have prattled on long enough. So without further ado, here is my official list of New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Find a healthy weight. (you’ll notice I carefully avoided the cliche of  “lose weight”)

2. Let my heart heal. Allow myself to finally just get over the hurt and find the happy again. Love has entered my life, crashing in, demanding and I want to explore this without the regrets and hurt of the past.

3. Yard sale!!!! Yes, I’m finally going to have a yard sale. I’m working on minimizing in my life (read: cutting out the unneccessary crap) and the first major hurdle will be to have an epic win of a yard sale. Need some books? Come talk to me, I’ll hook you up….

4. Take a real vacation. Ya know, one that involves real rest and peace…maybe camping on a lake someplace….

5. Spend more times with the crazy people I call friends and less time with the computer.

6. Paint. I bought a new set of watercolors, some good quality paper and a few new brushes. Now, just need to get my ass out there and do some real work. Watercolors are not my normal medium, but I figure trying something outside my comfort zone may motivate me more.

7. Finally commit to blog all the stories I have rolling around in my head and incomplete here in my drafts.

8. Finally read the manual for my new camera and figure out what it can really do rather than just winging it all the time… 🙂

9. Appreciate my mom more and remember to tell her I love her every day. It’s tough taking care of mom, this is not how I pictured my life to be, but she is my mom and my responsibility. Sometimes I feel burdened and sometimes I wish my life were different, but she needs me and this is what I have to do.

10. Find some peace and contentment, the kind we all dream about….

So Happy New Year everyone! Kiss 2009 goodbye and bring on 2010! I can’t wait…..

Another Interview, Another Challenge

Trisha asked and I answered the call! And I really have to thank her because I needed something to write about and I am in a rut….

1. You’ve been chosen as a contestant on Survivor Devil Island. What skills would you bring to the island to help your team and then ultimately yourself?
scan0022 As you can see by this example, I’m more than adept at building houses out of available materials…
Ok, actually, this a “Fairy House” I came across on my first trip to Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine. And it’s made from twigs, bark and moss and not mighty branches and logs from the massive trees in the woods…and yeah, did I mention I didn’t actually build it? Yeah, so I really have nothing to offer when it come to survival in the wilderness.  Besides watching “SurvivorMan” or “Man VS Wild”, I have no experience with surviving in the wilderness without basic camping gear. Give me a tent, some cooking gear and maybe a gun, and I might make it 24 hours….So I think the first camp council on my season of Survivor would involve the rest of my tribe voting off my sunburnt (yeah, the native american genes did not involve my pigmentation at all!) and crying ass.
2. You’ve just won $28,000,000. in Powerball! What will you do with all that money?
66-5So after everyone in my family has been taken care of…and after I’ve quit my job…and after I’ve moved in to my new seaside villa…and after I’ve whipped myself into shape with my 24 hour on call personal trainer…and after I’ve taken care of my good friends needs…and after I’ve bought my friends bands new gear and funded their next album…and after I’ve set up a scholarship foundation for underprivileged art majors…after ALL of that, I would load up the car and fullfill a lifelong dream. I would drive out to Chicago and find Old Route 66 and drive cross country. I have a fascination with all the old kitschy stuff that cropped up along this once major highway that runs from Chicago all the way to Santa Monica. One of the purest joys in my life has always been just hopping my car and just driving and seeing all the old Americana, being able to experince a truly “American” experience (the fabled love affair with the automobile and all the road side attractions that helped build) and maybe writing a book about my experience or at the very least, do some photography and painting along the way. One thing I would have to add to this experience would be stopping along the way and visiting with the many amazing people I’ve met online over the years. 🙂
Then after all that, I would open up the restaurant I mentioned in my last post and hopefully somewhere in my travels, I would have met the woman of my dreams. But thats a post for another time…
3. Giada DeLaurentis asks you to audition for her show. What dish would you prepare for her and give us the recipe , please!
giadaI have to admit, the idea of being featured on a cooking show would definitely intrigue me. Whenever I cook for my friends, I have this tendency to talk out loud about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, how long something takes to cook and how to properly dice something. Aparently, this is an unconscious habit that I do even when I’m alone. Ok, I know that sounds like I’m a little nutty, talking to myself while I cook, but you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t enjoy some of my eccentricities. 🙂
I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that Giada would ask me to audition for anything, but lets say she wanted me on to feature a recipe from my restaurant (you know, the one I would open after I win Powerball…) so I’m thinking I would have to make something slightly italian so I would probably make a cold cut and italian sausage omellette.
4 eggs beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsely
a sampling of italian deli meats chopped roughly equalling about 1/2 lb : prosciutto, mortadella, capicola are some good examples.
1/4 lb diced pancetta, pan seared
2 italian spicy sausages, grilled and chopped
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
2 roma tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped roughly
roasted red pepper, chopped
one cup mozzarella
1/4 fresh parmesan, roughly grated
juice of one lemon
In a large bowl, combine the eggs with the milk and whisk to combine. Add oregano, basil, salt and pepper to taste. In a large non stick pan, grill the onions till they start to carmelize and combine with the green and red peppers, garlic, pancetta and sausage.
On a large flat skillet that has been either buttered or at least had some non stick spray applied to it, pour on the egg mixture. Make sure the skillet is piping hot before tossing the egg on there. From here, this all comes together rather quickly. I’m a big fan of the tri-fold method of omellette making so the egg spreads out thin across the skillet, giving you a rather large middle area to combine your ingrediants. As the egg starts to firm up, put down a handfull of mozzarella and then layer on the deli meat followed by the pancetta/sausage/veggie mixture. Squeeze on top a little juice from a lemon, add another handfull of cheese and fold together the omellette. Remove the pan from the heat, layer the sliced tomatos across the top of the omellette, then smother with remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Then take entire pan and set in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes to further melt the cheese and fuse the flavors. After the cheese has melted and appears golden brown, remove from oven, garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with your favorite hash or a mixed green salad.
4. If you could make a home for yourself anywhere on the planet where would you live permanently? Can you describe your home in detail? Money is, of course, no object.
scan0007scan0047scan0012Monhegan Island would be somewhere near the top of my list. I loved this place from the first moment I set foot on the island.  I wrote about my first experience there here, here, here and here. That one experince made me a fan. Sadly, I’ve only been back there twice since and only on the same kind of day trips. Eventually, when I get the free time, I plan on spending alot more time there. It has long been a refuge for artists, the Wyeth family had a home there, Hopper painted here and countless other artists have immortalized this tiny little slice of heaven.  Isolated as it is in the Gulf of Maine, it would take alot of committment to want to live there year round. A healthy love of all things seafood and a stronger set of sea legs would be a start. But the idea of living and breathing art for the rest of my life? Yeah, thats pretty tempting….And if I had a house on the island, I would want an ocean view (not hard to do on an island) with a large studio space custom built with huge bay windows facing the ocean. All the rest would be details, but a massive kitchen to cook and entertain in and of course my own mini  movie theater. 🙂
5. You’re dissatisfied with the work you do. If you could do only one thing for the rest of your life what would you do?
sirsy7joey-sarah-and-lourdsI think I would be the happiest man in the world if I could help my friends in Sirsy and Lourds. I would love nothing better than doing photography and and promotional work for them and helping in some small way. And I would definitely do this on breaks from living on Monhegan Island. 🙂
So heres the rules again in case you forgot already:

1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Moments of Joy and Other Sublime Silliness


I have been feeling way too adult lately.

Deadlines. Meetings. Quotas. Bills. Taxes. Registration of my new car. Spring cleaning looming on the horizon.

It’s all been adding up to a whole heck of a lot of stress thats been bearing down on me for the last two weeks. I need a reason to be happy.  Surfing the blogs the other day, I came across the beautiful Miss Shepherds entry and felt a little inspiration. My mind started it’s own list of natural highs and moments that bring me joy.

1. Walking along the beach on a warm night, my toes sinking into the wet sand, the waves around my ankles.

2. Lying on the sand on a summer night, listening to the beat of the waves.

3. Making an elaborate meal for my friends when they are down.

4. Planning and cooking a huge meal for an event (Thanksgiving) and having it all come together perfectly.

5. Sinking into the couch on a cold day, wrapped in a warm blanket with a huge mug of coffee and a stack of dvd’s.

6.  Stealing a few minutes on my break to drive down to the beach and watch the waves for awhile and let my mind decompress a little from the stresses of the day.

7. Planning a road trip with my fellow ‘road warriors’ to see the bands we love.

8. Having a total geek moment and walk into a comic books store and talking all things X Men and Dark Knight and all things in between with fellow recovering geeky nerds like myself. Once in awhile, the nerd has to be let out!

9. Walking through the toy section at Walmart and seeing all the neat and highly detailed toys, secretly wishing I was a little kid again….

10. Picking up a book I haven’t read in a long time and falling into it’s pages like putting on an old sweater: comfy and warm.

11. Losing 8 hours of my life wrapped up in a video game. I realize some would see this as a waste, but sometimes getting lost in a little fantasy land is what my brain needs. And before you say “Go read a book”, I do read darnit and nothing compares to seeing your character run through that fantasyland and directing the action yourself. Don’t hate. 🙂

12. Having some song from the 80’s pop on the radio that I haven’t heard in a long time causing me to dance joyously. Melt With You and Rock Lobster are two songs that always make me giddy.

13. Having the lead singer dedicate her next song to me. I always get a little weak in the knees when that happens.

14. Being a dj and playing the music I love and actually having listeners. I truly miss this. When I was a dj at Keene State, I loved knowing people were listening.

15. Music Geek moment: going into a record store and ending up in a conversation with a total stranger about whether Trent Reznor sold out, or if the latest Ani Difranco album rocked or sucked or who was on tour and what shows we have been to, etc, etc, ad infinitum.

16. The smell of fresh brewed coffee.

17. The smell of my kitchen when I have been cooking up a storm.

18. The smile of a stranger who caught me glancing their way.

19. Playing with my camera and photographing the little things in my life.

20. Giving and recieving a hug when I least expect but when it was most needed.

21. When my rockstar friend tells me I’m one of her favorite photographers. I’m humbled that anyone would consider me a ‘photographer’, but for that to come from my friend who has been through professional photshoots for magazines and her own promotional work, I think I must have blushed three shades of red. Makes me want to take photography a little more seriously….

22. A moment of silence with friends. Not an uncomfrotable silence, but a sort of silent soldarity where there is nothing to say and we are content and comfortable with each others company and don’t have to fill each moment with talk.

23. Seeing a band for the first time, the thrill of hearing new music and a new voice.

24. The smell of laundry fresh from the dryer.

25. A clean house.

26. Getting in my car, loading up on music or books on cd, hot cup of coffee in hand, picking a direction and just going. No destination, no cares, no worries. Just me and the car driving as far away as possible.

27. The experience of a ‘destination’ restaurant. Picking a cuisine or restaurant from a review either online or on a Foodnetwork/Phantom Gourmet/Travel Channel reccomendation and going for their signature experience. I have a list a mile long of everything from greasy spoons to haute cuisine that I want to experience. Anyone up for a little road trip???

28. Sucking out a flush or a straight on the river and cleaning out my friends at the poker table when I was sure I had made a mistake by going all-in on Jack/Ace suited. Yup, I play way too much poker…..

29. Waking up to find my cat nuzzled into the crook of my arm.

30. Las Vegas! I loved that town when I visited in 1999 and been dying to go back ever since. I felt like a kid in a candystore there! A very adult candystore, but nonetheless….

31. Holding hands with someone for the first time, that fumbling of fingers and palms, finding how your hands fit together.

32. A first kiss, melting into each other for the first time.

33. The unspoken dialogue of eyes and movement, knowing someone so well that you know what they are thinking without ever speaking a word.

34. Hugs that linger and last too long, conveying more in that moment than words can capture.

35. WordPress Geek: Checking my stats and seeing what people are reading…I do this all the time. Makes me smile to see what people like.

36. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate.

37. Going to a wine tasting and being suprised by some obscure shiraz,  merlot or pinot noir that I had never heard of.

38. Catching up with an old friend and laughing about how much time has passed and how old we are getting.

39. Realizing how much your friends and family really care about you.

40. Successfully writing out 5 more moments of joy than Pam. (Couldn’t resist putting a little competitive spin on this)

Year of the Gut – A New Blog Coming Soon

It starts this friday.

I’m not going to abandon this blog. On the contrary, I think I will need this blog more than ever as an outlet. But but but…I need something that will keep me honest, keep me on track and keep me in mind of my goals. So ready or not, the Year of the Gut is coming.

One of the best tools reccomended by most nutritionists and trainers I have spoken with is to keep a daily log of what you eat and how you exercise, including days of rest and any cheats you may have throughout the day. The Year of the Gut will feature a starting photo (due to popular demand, there will be NO photos of me in a speedo with no shirt on like the Biggest Loser), weekly weigh-ins and a comprehensive list of my daily bad habits and how I am going to work towards making them healthier. I’m not that strong with the whole calorie count thing, but I plan on noting what I eat, how often I eat and I will welcome any suggestions on how to make it all healthier.

I can’t garuntee how entertaining or even interesting the new blog will be, but I would love your support and feedback as I work on changing my life and improving my health. The Year of the Gut is going to be a tough one, full of temptation, frustration, but most importantly, it will be a year of hope. I want to change and I know I can do this.

A special thanks to the Amazing Miss Romi for inspiring the title for my new venture. I certainly hope she doesn’t mind me using her former blog title and sees it in the humorous light as  it was intended. 🙂

Dorkiness or Why the hospital staff knows me so well….

I feel the peer pressure. ‘Everybody’s doing it man! Come on!” But I have to ask a simple question here: Why oh Why is dorkiness equated  with self inflicted injury? Everyone has these lists about dorkiness and all have involved some horrific stories of near maiming and death due to silliness. So rather than mask this as just a list of dorkiness, I’m stating upfront: I’m surprised I’m alive sometimes when I think of the crap I’ve done to myself. This is a list of maiming and mutilation. Yea of weak stomachs, turn away now.

  • When I was 6, I watched an episode of the old Superman tv show (in re runs for the smart asses who come up with any age jokes). Immediately inspired by the daring-do of our hero Superman, I immediately went outside, climbed on top of the picnic table. Now would be a good time to point out that the picnic table was situated over a cement patio. I looked in through the kitchen window at my mom and with arms outstretched I yelled “Look MOM!!! I’m SUPERMAN!!!” And with that, I took a flying leap. Gravity is a cruel mistress and one I hadn’t been properly introduced to until that day. I landed face first onto the concrete slab. All of my baby teeth broke in half and literally blew out of my face through a lovely gash in my cheek. I was unconscious of course, and don’t remember anything of that day or the rest of that month. I suffered a severe concussion and I think the count was 60 stitches to repair my face. The only thing I have to remind me of that old scar is a tiny portion of it on my upper cheek.
  • When I was 7, I decided it would be a fabulous idea to ride my bike barefoot. Ah, the joy of feeling the cool breeze between your toes as you cruise around the neighborhoood. I really do reccomend it, but be carefull. Don’t go popping wheelies like I did. I popped a wheelie in my friend Justin’s yard. He had been daring me and daring me all night, so finally, I pulled an epic wheelie, going fully vertical with the bike. Unfortunately, the bike didn’t want to stay upright and own I crashed. As I was heading to the earth, my bare foot caught the spokes of the front wheel which were still spinning away. I felt a slight tug and I looked down in time to see the ball and heel of my right foot get sliced off. They spent 2 hours scraping rocks and fressh cut grass from the wound. Maybe it wasn’t two hours, but certainly seemed that way.
  • Also when I was 7, I started experimanting with cooking. I would help my mom prep veggies, roast chickens, boil pasta. I was a fast learner but the one thing I didn’t learn right away was technique and proper equipment for the job at hand. So one night, I’m skinning carrots with a paring knife. I was holding the carrots out in front of me and slicing away with the knife. Suddenly, the knife mistook my left forefinger for the carrot, a common mistake, I’m sure. The blade easily sliced through the finger and into the knuckle, breaking the bone and severing the nerve endings. I remember the pain was so excrucutiating that I ran around the house uncontrollably, shaking my hand to and fro hoping the pain would go away but all that did was redecorate portions of the house with a splat of color here and there. They re-attached my finger and it still works, but I have no feeling in it. This one finger has been the source of the most hospital visits since that day. It has been broken 4 times, sliced or cut so deeply as to require stitches at least 7 times and dislocated 10 times.
  • When you are a kid, your best friends can come from some of your worst experiences. My best friend in elementery school was Jerry. But he wasn’t always my best friend, in fact, the way he introduced himself to me, well, you would think we were enemies. On a dare, someone asked him to load his lunchbox with rocks and hit someone with it. So he went out into the shoolyard, found the biggest rocks he could find and jammed them into his Battle Star Galactica Lunchbox, the one with the Cylons on the front and when you opened it up, the inside had, written in red, “Intruder Alert!” and “By Your Command!”. As we were being let out for the day, he spied me in the hall in front of him. Without a second thought, he hauled back and then smashed the back of my head with the loaded lunchbox. Severe concussion later, we were best of friends.
  • On a hot summer day when I was just going into 4th grade, I decided to make stovetop stuffing for myself, an easy meal to make and I was pretty confident in my cooking abilities at that point. The problem is, nobody had every explained heat stroke. With no A/C and a temperature of 90+ degrees, I started boiling the water for my stuffing. One of the symptoms of heat stroke is disorientation and loss of consciousness. Standing in front of the stove, with the boiling water in front of me and the heat of the day all around me, I got a bit woozy. I remember not being able to stop myself as I fell forward. I reached out for the first thing I saw, which was the boiling pan of water. The pan flipped over spilling its contents of boiling water, butter, bread crumbs and seasonings (mmm, can almost smell it just thinking about it) onto my right foot. Skin does a funny thing when its boiled and I don’t reccomend anyone trying this trick to find out how funny. Second and third degree burns later, I was still hungry.
  • I’m skipping lots of other dorky injuries here and going straight to high school. My freshman year, I used to play with knives. Now, don’t panic, I’m not a weirdo. And for those with a wee bit of a fetish, no, I’m not into ‘knife play’. Someone had given me a butterfly knife and I became obsessed with being able to open and the close thing with lightning speed. I didn’t feel like a bad ass, I wasn’t being macho. I have OCD and when someone showed me how to use that knife and the steps involved in opening and closing it, well, I just had to learn that for myself and it became a repetitive habit. Opening and closing, flicking it around my hand, tossing it half opened from one hand to another. I like to say I was quite good. Then one day, I slipped. The phone rang while I was juggling this thing around and I got up to answer it. Funny thing about coffee tables, they are never in the way unless you have something breakable, hot or dangerous in your hands. I tripped and fell face first, strecthing out my hands to stop myself, I forgot the blade was in my right hand. I didn’t notice until I got up that my arm was all wet and my hand felt strange. I looked at the back of my hand and there was a large bump sticking up and to the outside part of my hand, slowly turning purple. I turned my hand over, it felt heavier somehow and thats when I saw the hilt of the blade sticking out of my had, the blade itself buried in my palm. I laughed, I couldn’t feel a thing. I wrapped my hand in a towel and called my mom at work to let her now I was going to the hospital. The pulled the blade out and 12 stitches later, my hand was good as new, just a patch of scar tissue in the base of my palm to remind me and to remind all you kids out there: Never Play With Knives!!!!

So I guess I had a funfilled childhood and I didn’t even mention the life threatening asthma, the fights, the bullying, being kicked by horse, almost drowning, electrocuting myself by peeing on an electric fence….ah, good times.

Christmas Kitchen Rockstar

I realized something important today. I’m a rockstar in the kitchen. I’m a certified, club filling, multi-million cd selling, crowd pleasing rockstar when it comes to cooking. I may not be arena rock level, rock n roll hall of fame inductee or legends of rock on VH1’s Where are they Now? but dammit, I am a hell of a good cook. I chop, slice, dice, bake, baste, braise, broil, sautee, whip, chunk, stir fry, chill, blend and boil with the best of them.

Ok maybe not the best…I’m sure if I was in the same kitchen as Gordon Ramsey, I would be reduced to a crying little heap in the corner, but the food I manage to create kicks some ass.

Today was Christmas, and, as has become a tradition with my family, it was my time to just go wild with the menu and cook up a storm. The menu was simple enough:

Steak Roulade: pounded out a 3lb piece of steak, layered it with garlic, spinach, feta cheese, parsley, green onion, mozzarella, salt and pepper,then rolled it up, tied it together as a roast, seared the outside and then baked at 300 degrees for 90 minutes or until thermometer reads rare (I know, real precise, but its the only meat thermometer I could find). Cover completely with tinfoil and let rest. Any carryover heat should continue to cook the meat to medium rare or medium.

Mixed veggies roast: sliced various veggies: carrots, red onions, green pepper, sweet red pepper, summer squash, zucchini, fennel, garlic, added some basil, oregano, salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil, mixed and placed in large roasting pan to cook at 400 for 40 minutes,then finished under the broiler for 15 minutes.

Garlic smashed potatos: an old standby. 5 lb bag of red potatoes, 2 sticks of butter, one small container of half and half, chopped parsley, chopped green onion, several large heaping tablespoons of diced garlic, salt and pepper. (I know how fattening this one sounds, but damn its good…)

Gravy: made from the left over juice from the roulade. Bring to boil and sift in 1/2 cup of flour, whisk until thick.

Cranberry Sauce: from a can, nothing special.

So seeing all this on the table in front of my mom and my brother in law, I began to think “I wish I had a bigger audience” and just as that thought popped into my head, my brother in law looked up and said “You should have stayed in the restaurant busines because I would pay for a dinner like this.”

Today was a great day, full of good memories, family and some damn good food. I can think of no better way to connect with family and friends than sharing over a meal that has been lovingly prepared. But I realized, I need to expand, I need a broader audience. I’ve outgrown the band and need to experiment more with my style. I don’t know if I want to open a restaurant, with no formal training in cooking other than just years of experience running restaurants, not sure how qualified I am….but it would be fun to try.

If you are reading this, then you are my friend and we need to cook together sometime: whatever you want to cook, I’m down with it. Barbeque? Hell yeah! Italian? No problem? Hot and spicy latin food? Ah, you know me too well….

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.


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.


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.


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.




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




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.



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.