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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hard Labor

It has been a very busy year in Muskrat Flats. I am chagrined to look at the date of my last post, since writing, theoretically, is one of my passions. I seem to be visiting Muskrat Flats with the frequency that I'd go to church earlier in life - only on the BIG holidays.

In some ways I have been flourishing in my life, moving forward with the passion and tenacity of a gifted teenager who can't decide upon which of the numerous summer internships I have been offered. Each one of these, most assuredly would be a stepping stone to bigger and better things and a guarantee to future success.

In many ways, in fact, too many to count, I have all of the tools in front of me, all of the necessary equipment and raw materials I need to produce the same results as I had described in the previous paragraph. But, for whatever reason I am stuck on stupid. One thing is for sure. I can't linger where I am much longer. The results - well, I can't say they will be disastrous, because there will be NO results.

My Grandfather used to say, "Work Hard it is good for you."

My faults lie in the fact that I am not afraid of physical labor, I just seem to be incapable of preparing myself mentally and organizing myself in such a way that there will be no labor pains.
The fact that I am writing about it indicates to me that I have come to the end of the road and must seek a way to overcome the unfounded fears and trepidations which are preventing me from moving forward and succeeding. But I must digress and flash back many years and a few months. Leaving the chilly crisp fall mornings behind in favor of the warmer dew dipped mornings of late spring.

Labor Day has always been an odd holiday for me. I recall my early years around 1971-72, when my brain was really starting to wake up and process my surroundings in a more advanced cognitive capacity.

Labor Day much like Memorial Day was a sad event.

I recall many a Memorial Day as being somber, especially after my Grandmother and Grandfather had passed on. I recall my observing all of the flags at half mast. I knew what that signified after having read a scouting manual. World War II was still a not so distant memory to the adults in my family, and the US was still entrenched in the Vietnam War.

One of my Memorial day memories recalls a trip I took to a cemetery along Berkshire Ave. with my childhood playmate, Jackie and her family. Her Father, a National Guardsman put on his dress uniform with all of his medals and accoutrements, complete with a saber, and took us to visit his parent's grave site, where he lovingly placed a wreath of flowers. I think that was the first time I'd ever seen a grown man shed tears. Mr. Laurino was larger than life to me. He was a good neighbor and family man. I felt really bad for him. That experience definitely put a damper on MY day. (even then it was all about me)

My Birthday.

I was born into a semi-silent world on May 29, 1964.

Having your birthday fall on a holiday like Memorial Day is an odd pairing for a person as sensitive as myself. I'm sure my my brother and sister can identify with where I am coming from with this thought. My brother's birthday is earlier in the week on the 24th and my sister ... I stole her her thunder as I was born on her 10th birthday. Poor kid. I'm not sure I would like me for a birthday present.

Being born on a holiday like Memorial Day does put a damper on things like planning a birthday party. It is not quite the same experience as if you were born the third week in September. Everyone was either going to a picnic with their families or heading up North to go camping in the mountains or to the coasts of Northern New Hampshire or Southern, Maine.

I recall many Memorial Day picnics at my Uncle Rudy's house. His property was a secluded semi-forested sprawling landholding which used to be owned by my grandfather. Even though the house itself was situated on route 20, the property had a very spacious and welcoming feel. there were tall Ponderosa pines and other types of conifers, birch trees, maples and oaks, There was a little pond and wetland area which filtered into a little stream. If you went up the hill behind the house near where the high tension wire power lines had been placed - The reason my Grandfather had to vacate that portion of the property, you would find wild blackberry, raspberry and blueberry bushes.

It was great place for a picnic. Everyone chipped in with various picnic foods. A guy whose name I only recall as Rosie, perhaps he was a Harrington, from my aunt's side of the family. Rosie would man the grill. He was cooking over white hot lumps of charcoal in a brick fireplace my uncle had built back there. Rosie only had one arm. Perhaps he lost it in the war or some awful industrial accident. But he sure as shit could flip a burger with that good arm.

Like the miscreants we were when we would get together sometimes, my brother and I would endlessly amuse each other by tucking one arm behind ours backs and pretending to flip burgers with one arm. One thing that sticks in my mind about Rosie and something I still use today when I'm cooking, was a relish he used to make. All it is, is a mound of caramelized onions with ketchup in it. Take a couple of quarts of that, pour it over some beef short ribs and cook them slowly covered in an oven for about three or four hours and you will not believe the results from starting with such simple, nondescript ingredients.

Underneath another pine tree, not too far away from the grill, you would find my grandfather, his patriarchal equal from the other side of the family, Mr. Harrington, and various male uncles and cousins sitting in folding chairs. My Grandfather would cup his ear and lean forward straining to hear the transistor radio which had been tied to a tree branch as his beloved Boston Red Sox made their way through nine innings. Those were the days of Carl Yazstremski, Cecil Cooper, George Scott and Rico Petrocelli, Pitchers like Bill Lee, Jim Lonborg and Sparky Lyle kept us on the edge of our seats hoping that this season would be the big one. The last time my grandfather saw the his team win the World Series was in 1918. He would never again see his team win the World Series as his 90 plus year life came to an end.

Those picnics were unpredictable. You never knew what was going to happen. I remember one time someone broke out a shotgun and My MOTHER firing the gun at the urgings of her not so particularly sober brothers, into a dirt cliff across from the pond. Yes there was not a shortage of alcohol at these events. "Handle" bottles of Vodka and Seagram's 7 with mixers such as O.J., bloody Mary mix and Ginger Ale adorned a sloppy and wet card table. My extended family took their drinking seriously.

One thing I especially remember was at this very young age, if I could have gotten away with it, I probably would have been sneaking a drink or two because it sure seemed like fun. Little did I know this type of lifestyle with the inclusion of drugs, prescription, street and otherwise would be my cross to bear later in life. It is a cross which is still presumably carried by two of my estranged cousins and one surviving Uncle.

OK, back to the Fall, 38 years later. Whew, what a time warp!

This year, Labor Day and the subsequent weekends were spent rocking out with the Glenwood Mills Bands at various recovery based events such as Sober In The Sun and Recovery Jam 2011.

The band is flourishing, that is due to the help of a very dear friend, whose wisdom and vision and tenacity have been a catalyst for great things. If I haven't said "Thank You!" enough, I am saying it again right now.

Sometimes I ruminate about those days gone by, days like the picnics, the sad reality of the passing of loved ones, the sting of regret after fights with friends and lovers and associates which could have been avoided had I taken an extra moment to think.
These thoughts cause me to be overcome with grief and pain. The pain, sometimes, seems unbearable, to the point where rational thought is somehow obscured and a detachment between the physical and mental and the spiritual sides of my life occur.

It is at these times that I think using is not such a bad idea. Prayer and meditation do help as well as keeping connected with a network of good people who can hold me up when I begin to falter and get bogged down in the stagnant quagmire of my obsessive thoughts. I got some good advice last week. Simple and to the point ...

"Stop Thinking."

Today life is good. I woke up at 5:30 AM. I got up, made the coffee and a couple of plates of pancakes which my daughter and I shared before I drove her to school for 7:15.

It is a perfectly normal fall day as I sit and wait for the colorful and vibrant foliage to brighten the horizon, surrounding mountains and hilltops.

The Sun has had a long hard summer. It had to do some catching up after a brutal winter. It was further hampered during the summer as Muskrat Flats was visited by a debilitating Tornado, a micro burst and a near miss by a category 3 hurricane, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm as it approached these parts, but wreaked havoc in other parts. We caught the eye of the storm, so to speak, so we were spared a good amounts of flooding that our neighbors to the the east and west had to endure. But things look different around here. You can see more sky as the tree tops had been snapped off by the recurring high winds. But today, we go on.

Labor Day just doesn't seem the same without Jerry Lewis, but I don't own a TV, so even that wasn't too much of a burden to bear as I pack up my gear, tune the guitars and look forward to the next gig. The best reason I have encountered, to date, to be ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

1 comment:

F. Alex Johnson said...

You're a good man, Paulie Brown.

Thanks for writing. I missed you.

~Chef Al