Featured Post

LGBTQtie Pie

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Love Lost, Such a cost."

It was a sobering day in Muskrat Flats. It was warm in the afternoon but in the morning there was quite the chill, even for late August. Gomer Eckstien reported an early morning temperature of 46 degrees, from the Muskrat Flats Municipal airport.

He took the time out of his busy morning of repacking parachutes for the First Step is a Doozy Jump School, to give us an official reading as the regulars sat down for our coffee, freshly baked blueberry muffins and organic peaches at the Oddfellow's Hall. The day had come to prep for the Labor Day weekend Picnic. The temperature didn't break the record. Back in 1953 the 6 am temperature was recorded at 39 degrees.

Everyone at the Hall was so concerned about the early morning temperature, because all of the school age children were going to be meandering out to their bus stops to await their ride in for the start of the new school year. Fashioned in their brand new school clothes and new backpacks with an arsenal of school supplies, they obediently waited for their ride to come, trying not to dwell on the fact that it was three days shy of the labor day holiday, and their first weekend back to the world of academia would afford three days off in a row. It just seemed silly, why not just start on the following Tuesday?

The old timers told tall tales and gossiped as they enjoyed the coffee and muffins.
The peaches were at their optimum ripeness, "Leaners" as old Sid Bartleby described them. They were so ripe and juicy, if you did not lean forward as you bit into them. You would have precious streams of peach nectar running down your chin, soiling either your freshly laundered shirt or the floor. The Oddfellows did not want peach juice on their floor, that would be an invitation to the yellow jackets, who undoubtedly woke up pretty ornery due to the ever lowering temperature. They knew their time was coming to a near and they were ready to sting anyone who got in their way, even if it did mean that stinging the perpetrator would sacrifice the life of one, for the good of the colony.

There was a ruckus in the kitchen as a stack of four muffin tins clanged loudly on the ground. The two kids in the back doing dishes, Paul and Don, were shucking corn for the Labor weekend. Charity Run picnic. They were busting each others stones and getting a little rambunctious with their hand gestures, one of them knocking the stack of pans to the ground. Having smoked a little of the local harvest at the dumpster during the last trash run, the conversation was quite silly.

They had been arguing about what to do if you encountered a UFO.

"If you encounter an alien you don't show any fear and you definitely don't think about what they might do to you because they may be telepathic."

"Dude, if you see a UFO and an alien comes out what you do is open your coat and make your self look bigger, " Paul said.

"If I were an alien I'd open my coat and then shoot you." Replied Don.

"No, wait that's not an alien - you do that if you see a mountain lion. Yeah, that's it, a mountain lion ... if you see one you open your coat and it makes you look big."

"Paul, a mountain lion is going to attack you no matter how big you look.

"But if you open your coat ..." Don just sighed. Paul continued.

"Well, it could work." Don just smiled and shook his head, no. Paul continued.

"Besides a mountain lion could be considered a UFO, so ... if you did open your coat and the UFO went away, I would have proven my theory. " Don was getting agitated.

"HOW is a Mountain Lion a UFO, PAUL?"

"If you are walking along. wearing a long trench coat, and you see something golden brown flying through the air at you, you don't know what it is, therefore it is a UFO. " Paul asserted.

"Yeah, but you will eventually figure out that it is a mountain lion."

Sure, but for a brief moment you don't know that, so, it is totally a UFO, dude." He then pretended to open an imaginary trench coat and the muffin tins went sailing.

Ernie, one of the Oddfellows ran back to the kitchen door and cracked it open wide enough to yell for then to "knock that shit off." As they began to giggle hysterically and began to badger each other repeating the phrase to "knock that shit off."

A few blocks away, a young mother waved to her child as the school bus pulled away headed for Muskrat Flats Elementary. Vanessa, who weathered the stress of the long summer, was finally free, even if it were for a few hours.

She went back inside the house and told her boyfriend, who had already situated himself in his "spot" on the couch that she had to run a few errands and had to meet a couple of clients. He didn't respond. the silence just shot another dagger into her already wounded and aching heart.

Why did she end up in relationships like these? And why was it so difficult to leave? She looked back at him before she walked out the door. He would be in the same position when she got home, and that pissed her off even more.

She had a date. It was the brother of one of her co-worker's clients. She had seen him in the office a few weeks ago. She found him on social networking website and invited him to a chat.

She was surprised to find that he was funny, cute and most definitely her type. He was divorced had a young child and was working on picking up the pieces of his life, A life second to none.
His name was Jeff.

This would be Jeff''s first time venturing back into the dating game after his divorce. They met at the mall. He was pleasant. She was pretty, funny and had a great laugh. She told him all about herself, after all she knew much more about him than he knew of her. She told him what she was looking for in a man and from a relationship.

He told her all there was to know about him, his strengths and weaknesses and his hard road struggling to recover a productive life previously lost to the depths of addiction.

She asked him, "What do you want from a woman?" Jeff simply replied.


Then he added. "I want someone who doesn't view me as a project who is going to try to change or fix me. I have a hard enough time dealing with those issues myself. I want someone to love me for who I am." He was intrigued, He was very interested. She was, too. But something he had said jarred her. Honesty.

As they continued to walk through the mall, Vanessa told him,

"I have to be honest ... I have a boyfriend and we live together. " His ears burned as she offered this information. He had been on the receiving end of that equation, before. Now, here he was, walking hand in hand with a woman he was interested enough in to "give it a try."

She continued to talk to explain herself, to justify her actions, she was unhappy and had made a mistake. She couldn't see a future where she was. All he could think about was the lies and the deceit and the sneaking around and manipulation his ex had put him through in order to to be with her true love - her new husband.

He kissed her anyway, his long dormant body responded. "Oh yeah, I remember this," he thought.

He could have gone down that road, he could have been the back door man. After all it fit his old lifestyle, the lifestyle of dishonesty, deceit and manipulation. He just didn't know his ex- who he truly loved, was just a little better at those three things than than he was.

In the end her, conscience got the better of her, Vanessa apologized and begged off saying she could not go through with the physical attraction which was taking place. He agreed ... relieved that a decision had been made on his behalf. Just, as decisions had been made on his behalf so many times before. He found himself once again climbing into the passenger seat, exactly what he is NOT looking for in a relationship ... after one very special, soul fulfilling kiss.

As they parted ways, he hung his head in shame, how could he have been so weak. Any credibility he had, any good impression he had made was eradicated. It was lost. His disease had taken over. The right thing to do would not have been to lead her to think that he may consider taking the position she desired for him in the ensuing drama; to disrupt lives who had already been disrupted and hurt before; the lives of boyfriends, children, parents and in-laws. Avoiding this scenario at all costs would be the right thing to do.

Instead he enjoyed that kiss, he harbored that thought. If he was going to do this he might as well be back to square one in his recovery. If he did this, he might as well have been using. He might as well have picked up a bag and a needle drawn up a water droplet, left over from a recent rainstorm, off of the hood of his car and shot that dope right into his arm.

That is the extent to which he was about to compromise his spiritual principles, and his freedom.

They both learned a lesson that day. Hopefully they both grew from the experience. Maybe this chance encounter will give her the strength to get out of her problem relationship on her own, without having to invest in the comfort and security of a man, allowing her the time to grow and not feel pressured to settle, perhaps even to find the true love she deserves, the one who is surely out there waiting for her.

Perhaps Jeff took away from this experience how easily he can be swayed by his disease. His addiction to ... More. If there is something to be had, he had always wanted more. More food, more alcohol, more drugs, more sex, more money, more, more, more. Perhaps he will now take the suggestion that he not get involved with a relationship until he has a year clean and has done some serious step work.

She went home to her boyfriend. Jeff got into his car and went to meet his uncle at the Oddfellow's Hall. Along the way he called a few addicts to tell on himself.

As he walked into the banquet hall, near the kitchen where the coffee club meets, he encountered giggling and laughter as Paul, who had found a trench coat, was standing in front of a dejected looking Don. The Oddfellows were whooping it up watching Paul, with his lanky arms fully extended holding the coat open, demonstrating how to ward off mountain lions and aliens. The Oddfellows had taken to arguing amongst themselves about whether or not the technique could work.

"well, he does look bigger, It could work."

"Bullshit, a mountain lion would just pounce on him and go for the back of his neck!"

"I was talking about aliens, not the mountain lion ..."

Jeff, looked around and he smiled. He had an exciting afternoon, dangerous, but exciting. Not as dangerous as dodging mountain lions or aliens, but it was pretty damn close.

From the basement of the Oddfellow's Hall on Petersen St., you will always find me ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Rumer Has it ...

Thing have settled down a bit in Muskrat Flats. All of the commotion, rumors and speculation pertaining to the events which occurred during Silver Days, last week, have simmered down and have been relegated to the dark and dusty rooms of the bars and taverns, where such matters belong.

I was leafing through Hampshire Life, the weekly insert produced by the Hampshire Gazette. Even though I do not reside in Hampshire County, I occasionally check out the Gazette for news of what is happening up North and in the Hill towns. I always find something interesting I enjoy reading in Hampshire life, whether it is a article about my favorite band, written by Sheryl Hunter or most recently an article about a subject I have written about, a resurgence of people who raise chickens who not only do it for the entertainment value the fowl offer, but to get to closer to their food source, namely the eggs these bird can provide.

As I was rooting around the Gazette Website I saw an ad for "Tell Us A Story" Their 17th annual Short Fiction Contest.

I knew what was coming. I scanned down the list - No more the 1500 words, double spaced, you don't get you manuscript back, blah blah blah, and then the clincher ...

"Employees of New England Papers or immediate members their Families are ineligible."

Garry Brown - Sportswriter for the Springfield News Papers since 1950.

So, this guy is MY immediate family member and has basically restricted me from entering this contest for the last 17 years, not to mention various other contests or surveys in which membership in a family of someone who works in a media outlet is restricted from participation.

The phone rings.


"Hi, Dad."

"Hello, Paul. What's up?"

"I was just sitting and wondering ... when are you going to retire?"

He gets this question all the time.

"Not until I pay off the new car." I get a little agitated.

"New Car?! When did you get a new car?"

"We're getting it next year."

Dad is 77 years old. So that means he is going to keep writing and keep me from entering these types of contests for at least another 5 years, the average length of a car loan. Hey, who can blame him. If I got paid to write, I'd get all Charlton Heston on your ass and keep writing until you had to "pry my laptop, out of my cold, dead hands."

OK, I'm being a little self-centered here. It's just a stupid writing contest. The top prize is $250. I write every day. I have a readership on the internet which is growing every day. If it keeps growing at the rate it is, I should have enough of a circulation to approach some advertisers, sooner than later. Who needs more validation that?

I DO! Just like anyone else, I want attention, My Ego wants validation. Look at what I do?

I am a chef - Instant validation. "Oh, Paul ... this is so gooood," She says. You would think I did something other than give her a small morsel of my cooking to sample.

I am a glass artist - Constant and never ending validation. I've been written up in the local press, every where I go people are awed by my stuff. And compared to others, based on skill and experience, I have a lot of room for improvement. That skill and experience is forthcoming. I am not about to stop what I am doing.

And you are here, reading this. Thank You very much. Hopefully you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoy writing it.

Back to the contest ... I understand there are other contests out there for which I am eligible to enter, but Hampshire County, those folks are my Peeps. It would be nice to get that county wide recognition.

So ... New England Papers, eh? Does that mean that the "Pros from Dover" can enter the contest? Someone like Andrea Peyser, perhaps? She doesn't work for a New England Paper. Sure, she probably wouldn't enter the contest, she has bigger fish to fry. Howie Carr would probably enter if he could, I know he would want the 250 bucks.

What is the point of imposing such restrictions on a contest such as this? Do the editors of the Gazette really think that Garry Brown has time to sit down and edit my writing; to polish it enough to enter in a contest? I think not.

Why is it that this kind of rule applies to a contest like this where every where else in the world, nepotism abounds?

Rumer Willis, Bruce and Demi's daughter, born with good looks and natural acting ability? Perhaps ... but I'm sure her ancestral line will not keep her from getting acting jobs just so the "unknowns" have a fair shot. Cal Ripken Jr., Kate Hudson, Shelly Duval, John Gotti Jr., George W. Bush and the list goes on.

All of the next generation kids who have made it in the field of their parents; are they really truly talented and deserving of the position they have acquired? Well, baseball stats speak for themselves, but in the end all of these folks and many others have gotten
to the point that they have, through nepotism.

What about on a local level? It doesn't stop with acting, sports, organized crime and National politics. What about all of the folks who have brothers, nephews, cousins and in-laws in the State House or other forms of Local Government who have 6 figure salaries working for the MBTA, MassPort, or the Springfield Parking Authority? Or, the little guys and gals who work for their brother-in-laws or their parents? Nepotism is how it works. Unless you are about to enter the local yokel writing contest.

I want my piece of the action, baby!

For now, I don't think that is forthcoming. I can wait until that car loan is paid off to enter your ridiculous little contest.

I guess I will have to continue to tell my stories here, or if you care to hear them in person, we can chat outside the only meeting we have in Muskrat Flats. It is at 7:30 PM in the basement of the Odd Fellows Hall on Petersen St, every Thursday night. We are celebrating next week, so bring a Hot Dish.

Thanks for reading!

Until we meet again, you will always find me ...

Running Hard Out Of Muskrat Flats.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Tommy played piano like a kid out in the Rain, but he lost his leg in Dallas, He was dancing with a train!" The Butthole Surfers

There was quite the commotion in the center of town, yesterday as most of the local gentry wandered out to participate in Silver Days, the annual event which marks the incorporation of the town Muskrat Flats. As always when there was a commotion in the Flats, it usually happened in grand form, with a large audience.

Silver was the precious metal which brought this town together. When the silver was discovered folks traveled from far and wide to get a piece of the action. Before anyone knew it, the work camps turned into rooming houses and apartments. The moonshine still turned into a saloon where two-bits would get you drunk as well as enjoying the comforts of one of the ladies upstairs.

Then, there was the mercantile set up by the owners of the mine, the appropriately named Silverstein Brothers. How unlikely that they would find their fortune in a product spelled out so clearly in their last name. The mercantile was the company store. You could purchase items on future earnings from your paycheck. How convenient.

Further down the road was the forge built by Mordecai Donaldson the blacksmith, right next to Addie Johnson's Cooperage and Sabatier and Yves' Livestock and Feed. All of these buildings have been preserved and presently function as part of the Muskrat Flats Agricultural Archive and Farm Museum.

The information which is unavailable to the tourists is that the actual archival documents themselves, are filed in the same location which once housed the opium den run by the Chang sisters Chen Mei and Beatrice (she changed her name). That house of ill repute was felled one night in 1864, as well as the saloon . They were both firebombed by the zealots in the local temperance movement from the First Congregational Church. Also a victim to the self righteous zealotry that night was the Buddhist shrine frequented by the Chinese laborers. Muskrat Flats wasn't always as forward a thinking and progressive place we now know it to be. The saloon was rebuilt. However the Civil War era invention of the hypodermic needle and a quick visit to local apothecary for some morphine was quickly rendering the need for smoking opium obsolete.

The crown jewel of this boom in the formation of the town Muskrat Flats was finalized when the railroad came through, and a brand new ornate railroad station was constructed in the Victorian style of architecture, in the center of town. The Railroad station, has been refurbished. Long ago the trains stop running through Muskrat Flats. But the Station has been preserved none the less with the most modern and up-to-date amenities inside, still it is an ornate and opulent reminder of the gilded and exciting age in which it was constructed. The main focal point of the Farm Museum boasts an exterior you would not expect from a town named Muskrat Flats.

In 1865, shortly after the saloon was rebuilt, the Sheriff of Muskrat Flats, a fair minded man who had a penchant for the practical joke and notorious lip for the bourbon set into motion the plans for what would become Silver Days. Sheriff Coleman Hawthorne III was a Beacon Hill bred and Harvard educated lawyer. He was a visionary who liked to make money and he knew he could make more money as a wheeling and dealing sheriff of a frontier town than as a partner in a Boston law office. He would have made a fine president for the growing Union, had it not been for his hedonistic ways. Besides, being Sheriff was infinitely more exciting and molded to the lifestyle he chose to live.

People looked to him oddly when he went with the Victorian Style for the new transportation center in town. But that was his style. He needed a draw. He knew that importing people into your town from the surrounding area was a very effective method of relieving them of their hard earned cash.

It was a surprise to no one that Sheriff Hawthorne had a fondness for Mark Twain, one of the greatest contemporary writers and humorists of the day. Silver Days would be a celebration of every day life in Muskrat Flats. This every day life almost seemed as if it had been written by Twain himself. Paying homage to Twain, The first Silver Days featured a Calaveras County style Jumping Frog Contest as well a life sized chess match with human pieces dressed as Connecticut Yankees versus the traditional chess pieces adorned with a Camelot Flair.

The modern day celebration re-enacts both of these events as well as a re-creation of reading of the articles of incorporation for Muskrat Flats and the declaration of Silver Days as delivered by Sheriff Hawthorne, dressed as he was that day, back in 1865, as Mark Twain.

The pageantry also includes one of Hawthorne's most notorious and public pranks, the nailing of Deputy Sheriff Waldo Robertson's pants hem to a railroad tie. As Robertson sat in his chair below the main grandstand, drunk and distracted, by one of the ladies from the Double Life Saloon, the deputy was an easy target for his mischievous superior, as he had an acquaintance nail the deputy's pants leg to a railroad tie. Although he was drunk and distracted Robertson knew that he was among the Muskrat Flats elite who had to get up and move to allow a steam locomotive to make a pass through the station at high noon. History tells us as everyone else got up to move at the appointed time. The deputy flopped onto the tracks and became somewhat hysterical as he realized his predicament and the slow moving train bore down upon him. He managed to free himself in time, much to the delight of the laughing masses.

This year's celebration was one of the finest to date. Judge Evelyn Thompson's wife, once again won the blue ribbon in both the landscaping design competitions as well as in the competition for best homemade fruit pie. A myriad of foods were available, most of which were fried. Some of them have no business going into a fryer in the first place such as batter dipped chocolate bars, and cheesecake. A daily farmer's market featuring local organic produce brought a healthy alternative for the more discerning palate. Along with these foods was the Midway staffed by lecherous carnies hawking their rigged games of chance and their amusement park type rides lashed together with bungee cords and stressed out cotter pins.

The Odd Fellows hosted their annual land preservation trust fund raiser, The Muskrat BBQ featuring fire roasted chicken, skillet potatoes, corn on the cob with cilantro lime butter and mounds of Potato Salad, Broccoli Slaw, and Strawberry Shortcake and of course a large colorful caricature of a barbecued muskrat. Their dinner is always a hit.

Saturday night witnessed a performance by the jam band, PRY. During their set Waldo the Ill Tempered did his famous donkey trick.The trick entails Waldo mounting a lively donkey (not like that, you weirdo) Then, as the band played Mexicali Blues, Waldo dug in his spurs and the donkey began to gallop around in a corral. Then, a large cloud of dust was kicked up as Waldo brought the donkey to a sudden stop. When the dust cleared, two donkeys were in the corral, much to the delight of the crowd. He did this one more time and this time a baby donkey appeared ... awwwwwwww.

Waldo demonstrated what his donkeys did best as he also regaled the crowd Sunday afternoon with 6 1/2 innings of Donkey Baseball as his Ill Tempered Radicals defeated a team made of up local celebrities 6-5. But that spectacle wasn't as entertaining as the one that had occurred the previous afternoon.

The mayhem began during the re-creation of the reading of the articles of incorporation. The Hibernian Flat Landers had just finished playing their drums and pipes. They were quite a sight, Tie dyed t-shirts and tartan kilts are not the softest color combination on the eyes. providing the entertainment previous to the re-enactment of the Sheriff's Silver Days Declaration.

One of the pipers, James Benoit, he would call himself "Benwah ... you know, like the balls," was playing the part of Deputy Robertson. Anyway, Benwah was a little more inebriated than Deputy Robertson was so many years ago. His breakfast had consisted a shot of Irish Whiskey, and a pint of Guinness with a raw egg cracked into it. His mid morning snack was another couple of shots followed by another couple of pints of the dark stout. He needed to grease the skids a little when he was going to be piping. Perhaps he used a little too much grease. This was apparent as he stumbled and staggered trying to get into his Deputy Robertson outfit, repeatedly mis-stepping into the baggy brown Dickies.

His reddish complexion reflected the midday sun like a mirror as he finally lounged in his chair. As onlookers gathered around, he was vaguely aware of the goings on behind him, more concerned with his fellow Flat Landers who were enjoying the joke of his drunkenness just as much as he was and trying to get him to crack up during the re-enactment of the ceremony.

The speech was finished and the steam locomotive, parked about 300 yards away blew it's whistle and began to pick up steam for it's stop at the station and a scenic ride around the perimeter of the Flats ... the inaugural run of the newest attraction at the Farm Museum, a working steam locomotive.

The Hibernians were obviously distracted and didn't notice everyone else getting out of the way as the locomotive began moving toward them as they continued to taunt Benwah. They moved back and let him do his thing. He got up, stumbled and fell and wouldn't you know Benwah really got his pant leg caught in one of the railroad ties. As quickly as he began his part on the re-enactment, it turned into a life and death struggle. He was screaming and hollering for help and everyone just laughed and guffawed along with the joke. It wasn't until the train was dangerously close that onlookers realized he really was stuck and hysterically trying to free himself.

As the train bore down on him, the conductor was getting anxious, he knew he was supposed to move, "he should have moved by now." He thought. The conductor had already eased up on the throttle and began braking but there was only so much he could do about the momentum he had.

One of the Hibernians leaped across the tracks and tackled Benwah. His pants ripped away as if they had been designed to do just that. They missed getting hit by the train but fell upon the table where a majority of the Flat Landers had laid their pipes. Both of their bodies crashed on to the table and pipes. As the residual air in the bags was released two things happened. An awful droning whine could be heard followed by the sharp rap of wood hitting bone and flesh as the once flaccid air sacs tightened up and whipped the resting drone pipes to a horizontal position hitting Benwah square in the face as he and his rescuer crashed to the ground.

There were gasps of horror, but just as it had been 143 years ago with Deputy Robertson, the gasps of horror were quickly drowned out by raucous laughter. Yes another one for the history books folks. Just another day in Muskrat Flats. Sheriff Hawthorne would have been proud.

"With the Hail on my back like a shotgun blast." - You will always find me ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Failure As a Friend ...

The rains have ceased and the winds have stilled, leaving Muskrat Flats in a somewhat soggy and humid state. The sump pumps are idle as they were working overtime to offset the daily influx of afternoon rains brought about by the thunderheads. Dark, billowing, airborne mountains, which worked their way up from the Valley. Being the higher ground, you would think there would be no problem with run off in Muskrat Flats, but not so, not so at all.
Foundations were compromised and the water seeped in. The water seeped in as easily as the insanity can creep back into your life, if you let it.

We were experiencing what I describe as Florida weather. Sunny and clear skies with a little humidity in the morning, followed by afternoon Thunderstorms. Short, vicious micro bursts which took down tree branches and power lines. As the rains and wind crashed into the Flats, radios, televisions and refrigeration units were stilled. The only sound available to me was either from an old acoustic guitar I picked up in the sun shrouded darkness or the dissonant rhythm of the rain, the wind and what ever sounds the electrical flashes provided as they cracked and rumbled across Muskrat Flats.

Eventually the power was restored and the sun re-emerged. One day, it did so in glorious fashion as the rain persisted. There is nothing quite like a sun shower to further extend the wondrous natural panorama as the light and heat of the sun interacts with the water falling to earth.

Sun showers don't happen often in my world. when they do they are spectacular. I remember one fine day in Providence, RI being caught in such a freakish weather event as I walked down Atwells Ave. I was tripping on mushrooms when the sun shower headed into town. It was brief. But it left a double rainbow in its wake and Both the sun and the moon were visible in the summer sky. For the rest of the day I had the best of luck. I couldn't have been luckier had I found two pots of gold.

From the back Porch, I saw a couple of beavers waddling out of the swollen brook further along down the Flats, just past the Odd Fellows' Hall. They seemed determined not to let the banks of that brook return to their normal state as they busied themselves following their instincts.

The lights had come back on but I was not heeding the call of the electronics vying for my attention. I preferred to sit in the aftermath of the storm and soak it in as I strummed the acoustic. I fiddled with various chords until I hit a familiar progression and went with it.

Then the words came, and I began to sing.

"Failure as a Friend, your worn out words which go no further.
Time is at an end, you've got a handful of broken hearts.
It made you feel small, made you feel, Not quite at all,
It made you feel ... not quite at all."

Failure was a song which I listened to extensively. Often, as I left Muskrat Flats and headed to the city, with my good timing girl. We were running hard. We were on a mission. The day had offered enough. Between my physical ailments and another surgery looming on the near horizon coupled with her issues concerning her on again off again, oft incarcerated or institutionalized boyfriend, it was time to say enough is enough. But this time, enough is enough meant it was time to check out for the day. We would get what we needed, get off E, and nod out, watching the "40 year old Virgin" for the 50th time.

I listened to Failure often as the Hard Run ensued, maybe it was because that is how I felt, like a failure. Perhaps, the driving guitar solos gave me the courage to continue with the Hard Run as we once again pulled into the cop spot. I know I went there twice a day, how many other cars did? It was only a matter of time before the Sheriff caught us, trapped behind that apartment block, like the Odd Fellows who would eventually corner their new neighbors, the beavers.

Maybe I listened to that song, over and over because I was convinced Steve had written it about me. I'm sure he wondered where I was, we had hatched some plans and he had given me some assignments and I simply disappeared.

That's what drugs will make you do as you sink into paranoid and senseless thinking. During this time frame I had three sets of locks which I kept handy. It was not unusual behavior for me, after a particularly active day to start spinning paranoid scenarios and obsessing about events which had transpired. The logical solution is to break out the tools at 4 AM and change my locks, just in case that n'er do well that showed up with my girl, earlier, grabbed the spare key off the table, you know, that spare key, which was in my pocket the entire time ...

Failure. I was a failure in the regards that I was unavailable to show up for life. I'm glad I never asked Steve if the song ... was about me. It turns out that a few others had beaten me to it. I could see why they would ask him that having been there myself. Who knows who that song is about, the only two folks I could think of that may have fit that role are the ones who vocalized that query.

I don't feel like a failure today. As life has gotten increasingly less insane, I feel like I am making the difference I had always hoped I would. I find comfort in the simple things such as the beavers engineering their pond, and the wind, rain and thunder providing me with various time signatures and fodder for works such as this.

How much simpler can life be as I sit in Fenway Park trying not to giggle like a five year old as my daughter repeatedly tried to tickle me behind my ear or my knee? I am blessed to be alive to enjoy such events. Living life on life's terms ... It really doesn't get much easier, and certainly can't get much better than it already is. When it does, I will gladly let you know.

As always, you will find me ... Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats


Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Never mention the word addiction, in certain company ..."

I pushed the little green phone on my cellie. I was kind of laughing to myself and just HAD to share. The phone started ringing. Two rings.



"Pablo! What's up buddy?" I begin to laugh.

"Did you see what I posted on the message board?"

"Oh boy! What did you do?"

"Nothing really ..." I laugh a little more.

"WHAT did YOU DO?"

"Well, it wasn't about you, really" By now, he has gone on the board and checked the most recent post.

"You just couldn't leave it alone, could you?"

"Am I wrong? It is pretty funny."

"arrrrghhhh! Oh ... Paul Brown! Do me a favor, keep me out of it."

"Oh ... comon, where's your sense of humor?"

"I get into enough trouble on my own, I don't need your help. Keep me out of it."

Okay, so you get the idea? That is the nature of our relationship. I'm sorry buddy, but I can't keep you out of it, not this time.

F. Alex Johnson and Jim Armenti

You see, yesterday was a rite of passage for both of us. It was huge. And we won. it was like the 2004 World Series, The Celtics beating the Lakers and all of the Pats' Super Bowl rings wrapped up into one. If you want to compare yesterday to where we had been, We just beat Ted Turner's ass and won the America's Cup.

In fact, I have made a conscious effort not to read Freddy's Blog today, in fear that I will be swayed away from documenting our shared experience. I am positive he wrote about the Newport Folk Festival. I doubt he used a song quote for the title of his post. That is my schtick, And I am sure that he is sticking more to his experience of performing at one of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals around and voicing a similar opinion in his unique and insightful brand of prose.

The Newport Folk Festival. Yeah, sure Bonnaroo and the Gathering of the Vibes are noteworthy. But they are new. They don't have the history that Newport has. JFK probably enjoyed the music and the company of Marilyn on the deck of his sailboat anchored within listening distance of Fort Adams State Park.

Apparently, Jakob Dylan joked about breaking family tradition by strapping on an acoustic guitar for his set. That is some funny shit, and I thought I was the clever one who came up with that one.

I got to Fort Adams right around 11:30. As I headed to my music tent of choice I heard my buddy ripping out Purple Haze as the Young @ Heart Chorus was hypnotizing the very enthusiastic crowd. The first people I see in the crowd of 15,000 are two friends from the home turf, James and Rachel. How could the day get any better?

I checked out the music and then found some sustenance, a yummy falafel. But, not before making a new friend in the vendors area. Cynthia from FireCat Glass had some wonderful jewelry for sale. It is always nice to meet a fellow lamp worker.

I went back to the tent for Dylan's set and then met up with Freddy. We hung out for a few minutes and then I was off to see Trey.

Everyone noticed he was drinking water! When people hear you are clean, they have a tendency to look in your cup to see what you are drinking.

I love Trey, he was good. Not quite the left hand pyrotechnics I was expecting to see. He played an acoustic guitar. He looked happy and healthy. He treated a surprisingly small, but devoted crowd to a good set. Let's not forget most of the hippies were further down the coast at the Gathering of the Vibes. Trey played many of Phish's "hits" - Bouncing Around the Room, Water in the Sky, Bathtub Gin, Sample in a Jar, Chalkdust Torture and, an odd choice in my opinion, Wilson.

He also played some of his solo tunes, Shine, Heavy Things (okay I guess it is a Phish tune but it's debut was on a solo tour) and Sleep Again. Good Stuff, Trey. Thanks.

Three things were re-affirmed watching Trey. The first being that I hope the murmurings created by Phish bassist Mike Gordon regarding the band getting back together for a tour are true, because I sure could use a Phish show.

The second, no matter what the gig is, Trey could have been up there humming through a comb with a tissue wrapped around it and there would be at least one kid in the front row, so fucked up and tripping that even a belch or a fart from Mr. Anastasio would be a profound, earth shattering event.

Third - There will never, ever be a shortage of blonde, dreadlocked and bra less twenty something hippie chicks seductively gyrating to aforementioned farting, belching and comb humming.

Shortly after Trey's set, I was forced to drag out my .99 cent emergency poncho and hid beneath it as the crowd was pelted by sheets of rain. This was just outside the tent as She and Him featuring M. Ward and Zooey Daschanel were performing. Great set of music. The rain had no bearing on what was happening on stage. I was mesmerized.

I met up with Freddy again and headed back stage for a cup of coffee and a pilfered sandwich from the press tent. We sat down in the artist hospitality area as he brought me up to speed regarding the gig he played with his other band Drunk Stuntmen, in Brattleboro, VT, the night before.

We then went and checked out Jim James of My Morning Jacket. What a voice on that guy.

Then it was time for the Black Crowes. We headed over to the main stage, and went back stage, into the VIP viewing area. The performance was flawless. There were two red apples on either side of the stage speared with multiple sticks of burning incense. The way the band builds into a groove was amazing. The crowd was loving it. I was loving it, and it was a perfect day.

Nice View from the side of the stage, eh?

We had both seen the Black Crowes before. Once we saw them together at the Riverside Park Speedway about 11 years ago. The last time I saw him at that show, was right before the Crowes hit the stage. I saw him passed out against the armco barrier in turn three of the high banked 1/4-mile oval track. I was glad he made it back to the van. He actually missed most of the concert because he knew getting back to the van was a priority and it would take him at least an hour in his current state.

The last time I saw the Crowes was a couple of years ago at Pearl St. in Northampton, MA. They were billed as Mr. Crowes Garden for a couple of word of mouth gigs to warm up for a national stadium tour. I was a mess at that show. I was injecting dilaudid, drinking and smoking weed. When I got home that night, I listened to an urgent call, on my answering machine, from my primary care physician. I was oblivious to the warning signs being given to me by my abused and pickled body. Fortunately, I had a blood test the day before, a routine thing. Due to my filthy little habits, I was diagnosed in the very early stages of sepsis, a blood infection. I showed up at the ER and gave them my name. They were ready for me. Despite the fact that I was drunk, stoned and opiated, they admitted me immediately and hooked me up to a week's worth of IV antibiotics.

Needless to say our last two Black Crowes shows were not very memorable other than being gross reminders of where the disease of addiction had taken us.

But here we were, backstage at the Newport Folk Festival, clean and sober, thoroughly enjoying a day's worth of live music without the desire to use. Without the uncomfortable feeling of not having a drink in our hands. At one point, as a cloud of kind bud smoke wafted our way. We looked at each other and silently made eye contact. Eye contact and a few raised eyebrows was all that was needed, no words were necessary. We both knew that was some dank ass weed which was being puffed. And someone was really going to enjoy it. But that was not us, not today. That look simply said, "Yep, we can't do that."

Seeing the way the band interacted with each other, the singing and dancing crowd and to have just as much fun, and even more fun since it wasn't a horrifying drug and alcohol induced nightmare, was the icing on the cake.

Being there and having that wonderful experience gave us hope. He expressed his hopes for the future and he will make it because he already is doing it, he is well on his way.

It gave me hope for the future in the respect that I can be whomever I want to be. My habits can't limit me If I don't pick up. I will finish my book, I will achieve notoriety as a glass artist because I am good and can only get better. I will know my daughter as an adult and continue to be a positive force in her life.

As far as the music goes. who knows? unlike Freddy, I'll never be a rock star, even though I felt like one yesterday. Someone has to sit in their living room strumming their guitar by themselves, it might as well be me. Meanwhile, I've got bigger fish to fry.

With the hail on my back, you will always find me ...

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.