Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Funny Story...Or Not

Social anxiety is no laughing matter... but it sure can lead to some humorous outcomes... sometimes.

I knew that my beautiful bride had social anxiety before I knew the name for it. I guess we all change our behavior to suit what we think is appropriate for whatever social situation. For me, I tend to get more quiet, more alert, as if waiting for some threat to emerge, for the tiger to leap out of the darkness. Must work cause I've never been cornered by that tiger. Although I have had some nasty confrontations with occasional assholes... another story. Not this one.

My wife, of 41 years yesterday, does just the opposite. She starts to chatter and talks and giggles her way through every situation. How do you know when Connie is nervous? Her lips are moving... She talks to everyone; people in lines, people in stores, receptionists, waitresses, police officers, TSA agents... And that's where this story begins as we embarked on our journey North on JetBlue for a baby shower. We parted the car at the discount, long-term parking lot, got on the van and she started talking. The Russian van driver loved the chance to practice his English and to hear the most intimate details of his passengers lives.

At check-in she informed everyone that our daughter was having her first baby and that we were going to a baby shower. Most people are kind. They smile and engage, especially when the talk involves grandkids, babies, puppies, kitties and rainbows.

We proceeded through the security lines. I asked her to relax, to stop talking. I would sooner have asked the tides not to ebb and flow. We got split up in different lines approaching the X-Ray machines and I could hear her anxiety cresting.

"Oh...Oh... Wait. I'm with him. Can I just get over to that line?" she babbled as she turned around and walked into the oncoming flow of people cueing up to remove laptops and bags of 2.5 oz beauty products, removing shoes and belts and jewelry, preparing to pass through security, like herding hogs to slaughter. The snag in the process attracted several TSA agents. They escorted her to my line and provided her with the gray plastic trays in which she was to place her personal effects for the x-ray screening. She never missed a beat and proceeded to inform them that when she went trough the x-ray machine all the alarms would go off, because she had a new knee and a new hip put in this past summer, and this was her first time flying since then, and, now that she was bionic, she was sure she would have trouble going through airport security.

I was in quiet mode on one knee removing shoes just listening to her stream of consciousness rant when I heard her say, "And one time, HE WAS CHECKED FOR EXPLOSIVES!"

It was true that on one occasion the technology at Reagan International Airport decided to flag me for detected explosive residue. The technology was subsequently found to be faulty and taken off line. But for her to relay that story, at that time, just blew my mind.

I slowly stood up and placed my shoes in the tray. Several TSA agents busied themselves around me and Connie was escorted through the gate, happily telling everyone about her surgeries and how good the outcomes had been.

I was directed through a different gate and halted.

"Please go back through the metal detector" said the huge black man who had just materialized out of nowhere. I complied, once, twice and then a third time.

"Please step over here," he instructed.

He pulled out a wand with a swab on the tip which he rubbed on various parts of my clothing and then placed it in a machine for evaluation. "BEEEP" went the machine. Still not satisfied he approached me closely, face to face, actually my face to his chest. Biggg black man!

He didn't make eye contact as he recited the prescribed words. " I am going to conduct a thorough body pat down using my hands. I will be touching your groin and buttocks. I will do this with the back of my hands. I will wear rubber gloves." I nodded.

At this point he made eye contact. "Do you want this pat down to take place in a private room?"

"Hell no! This is fine." I blurted.

I was cleared and instructed to gather my belongings. Finally I stumbled out to the security gate and found Connie talking to a maintenance woman pushing a cart filled with cleaning supplies and trash. "This woman is so nice. She's from Afghanistan. I told her our son-in-law was from Azerbaijan... where have you been? They were so nice to me. I told them I had a new hip and a new knee. The machines went off... beep, beep beep. Why are you smiling?"

I started laughing. All to way to our gate.

Funny story.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


“You are immortal; you’ve existed for billions of years in different manifestations, because you are Life, and Life cannot die. You are in the trees, the butterflies, the fish, the air, the moon, the sun. Wherever you go, you are there, waiting for yourself.”
― Don Miguel Ruiz

Love you, family.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Messing with the Press

The media is wacked. Freedom of the Press is a fundamental Constitutional right. But what happens when the press shows all the symptoms of out of control ADHD? Should mandatory Ritalin medication be legislated? Yeah, let's just pass another law. That usually works... Or maybe we should just mess with their heads. It's definitely more fun.

Last month the press in Maine went absolutely spastic when it was discovered that an Iranian refugee who had lived and worked in Portland and Freeport had joined ISIS.  He had abandoned his wife and children, traveled to Turkey, crossed the border into Syria and was killed in a terrorist attack in Lebanon. 

The right wing went nuts that our immigration process had not weeded him out. The Governor was outraged that our welfare system had supported him. The left wing went ballistic that confidentiality of welfare recipients had been compromised. And the hyperactive press responded like a classroom of 3rd graders in insulin shock the morning after Halloween. 

I didn't know anything about Adnan Fazeli. I certainly didn't know that in 2014 he and his family had lived across the street from our little rental house here in Freeport. 

The day before the Big Story broke the press was working overtime. The light blue Prius (of course) pulled up to the end of my driveway. I was working in the garage with the door open and watched the professionally dressed young female journalist exit her car and walk confidently toward me. She had her expensive brown leather folder clasped firmly under her left arm and a cup of Starbucks Mocha Chi Latte with cinnamon and a shot of espresso in her left hand. 

She extended her right hand and spoke. " Good afternoon. I am Emily Dickinson, Investigative Reporter from the Portland Press Herald." She flashed me her press badge.

Here eyes kind of rolled back in her head as she continued. Reminded me of the crazed look in my dog's eyes when I would take him to the vets for a shot. She was clearly stressed... on a deadline... anxious to receive her Pulitzer prize.

"I am speaking with neighbors on the street who might have known Adnan Fazeli," she probed.

Like I said, I didn't have a clue who the guy was. But why pass up a chance to mess with the press. 
I laid down my tools and looked her dead in the eyes. "Oh no! What happened to my good buddy Adnan."

Her reaction was Pavlovian. Her eyes glazed over. She dropped her folder. She spilled her Latte. She seemed to have lost her ability to speak as she groped for a pencil. A major rush of adrenaline surged through her veins. Finally she had her reporter notepad and a writing utensil, ready to capture my every word.

She answered my question. "Adnan Fazeli was killed in Lebanon while fighting for ISIS. So how long did you know Mr. Fazeli?" She moistened her lips nervously.

It was borderline sadistic what I was doing to this poor kid, but it was just too much fun to pass up. After decades of the press pushing my buttons (before I had sworn off the news on TV and had cancelled the morning newspaper) with overblown, inflammatory, untruthful  reporting and reactionary weather forecasts, I was enjoying pushing theirs. I suppose I could have fabricated stories about Adnan beheading chickens in the back yard, or carrying an AK-47 in his truck gunrack. Kinda wish I had. But I am not a cruel person. So I said, "Oh, we just moved here. I never met the man."

The confusion in her eyes took a minute to dissipate as her balloon, the story already half written in her mind, deflated. She gathered herself and her latte before wandering back to the Prius and drove away. 

I felt bad...but only for a second.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

You Can't Make This Shit Up...

I wandered down to Custom House Wharf this morning to meet up with my cousin for a cup of coffee. It felt strangely comfortable returning to this place where I had spent several summers working at his lobster and bait business. The road down the wharf had received some much needed maintenance; a new layer of tar on the section closest to Commercial Street near Harbor Fish and the Port Hole Restaurant, but the condition degraded quickly to pot holed dirt and cobblestone near the lobster shop and the fishermen's shanties. The road at the end of the wharf was unchanged; craters, mud and pools of fetid fish waste.

The cast of characters on the wharf seemed the same at first glance. Lance sat on a milk crate outside the Port Hole kitchen smoking a cigarette. The Port Hole had reopened since being shut down by the Department of Health for sanitation and vermin issues which had resulted in a rash of food poisoning. Still the tourists and the fishermen love the place as do the bait shack workers. It's one of the few places left in town where a man smelling like rotten fish wearing slime covered skins and boots can be served coffee and breakfast at the counter.

Back in my corporate days I remember I was in Portland for a meeting with the lawyers about some moronic labor relations issue, dressed in my suit, power tie and wing tips. I was early and tried to stop by to see my cousin but he was not at the shop and I walked into the Port Hole looking for him. Lance was behind the counter.

“What do you want,” he asked. His eyes seem to look in different directions so I didn't know if he was talking to me or the fisherman sitting at the counter. After a pause I said “Seen Pete around?”

He cocked his head so that his left eye focused directly on me and shook his head slowly, warily, side to side. Of course he knew Pete. Pete had loaned Lance money; Lance and half the other characters on the dock.

There was nothing else to say so I turned toward the door. He called after me, “You with the IRS?”...

Further down the wharf Sam and Harold, the scruffy guys who maintained the dock, were carrying pieces of rotten timbers to a job site. Sam's arthritis was clearly getting more problematic and he hobbled along like an old dog with hip dysplasia. Harold, the younger man, was wearing the same dirty, grease covered clothing he always wore. He looked like the picture of Saddam Hussein when they dragged him out of his hidey hole.

Mick was standing outside the lobster pound talking with a truck driver and I enjoyed catching up with him on this years lobster catch and the family. Another cousin walked out to the shop and put me in a friendly bear hug. And the catching up continued.

Pete had yet to show up on the wharf so I walked toward the bait shop trying unsuccessfully to keep the fish gore off my good sneakers. The bait shop was, as usual, a circus of activity with forks trucks delivering pallets of poggies and herring in blue and white, 55 gallon barrels to the truck dock and salter. Several men I didn't recognized were loading bait onto fishing boats on the wharf side of the building. Several more were loading a truck. I shook hands with the foreman and three of the old crew and felt the water which flowed across the work floor from hoses and leaky pipes as it soaked my feet.

Pete came around the corner and we entered the fly infested office so the foreman could download his daily issues. Nothing had changed. The fly paper strips hanging from the falling down ceiling were covered with thousands of insects. The tools were rust covered. Bait slips hanging on nails covered the walls. I listened as they talked about the supply and demand and quality and location of bait. And then I listened as they talked about the comments and behaviors of their customers.

The new truck driver, Henry walked in the office. He was late for the second time this week and the foreman and Pete took him to task. Henry begged forgiveness and tried to explain.

“I've got this new girlfriend.” he began. He dropped his voice and said in almost a whisper, “I'm afraid she wants to kill me.”

Pete said, “Well that sounds like a problem, but what does that have to do with you being late for work?”

Henry explained. “Well I've hidden all the kitchen knives and I wait for her to go to bed and then I sleep on the outside of the bed and throw my arm over her... so I will wake up if she tries to get out of bed... so she won't stab me... but I'm not getting much sleep... so I'm late for work...”

Pete said, “Henry, have you thought about getting another girlfriend? One who doesn't want to kill you?”

Henry said “Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Thanks Pete.”

As we walked down the wharf bound for the Irish breakfast at Ri' Ra's, I noticed new stenciling on the side of the big box truck.

Coastal Bait. Don't Call Us. We Don't Want Your Business.”

Kind of counter intuitive marketing. But business is up 35% this season, so, guess it's working. Of course, it's better than the last truck stenciling put there as a joke. It remained on the side of the truck for five years.

Coastal Bait. Maine's Only Homosexual Bait Dealer.”

You can't make this shit up...

Monday, February 29, 2016

Kenny's Work Camp; The Trailer Edition

Just spent a week helping our friends Ken and Beth relocate and install a 68 foot, single-wide Horton house trailer. It's 10 years old and needed some loving attention, but the first challenge was to hire a professional relocation and installation crew. Not as easy as it sounds.

The trailer seller turned out to be a crook and refused to deliver on his relo/install services. He has yet to return the fees paid. A real snake. Thankfully, you don't run into those kind of people too often. I'm not a vengeful kinda guy, but I admit I'll find some satisfaction when the Universe kicks him in the nuts. Just sayin...

Ken must have worked for a week finding someone who could do the job. He finally hired Uncle Norm and his nephew Ricky from Moultre, Georgia.

As we drove the 3 hours to Lake City Florida at 4:30 AM to help with the tear-down Kenny said "We're gonna hear some real Georgia speak today..." If ever an understatement.

We arrived first even with Ken's Garmin taking us 10 miles out of the way eventually running us down a dead end dirt road. It was not the first time that particular piece of technology waylaid him, but it was definitely the last.

The duel axle, mud covered pickup truck pulled into the yard hauling a flat bed with bald under inflated tires. It was loaded with cinder blocks, sewer pipe, chains, all manner of implements of destruction. Three men dressed in worn and dirty clothes climbed out of the cab. Handshakes all around. Not many words.

The sign on the truck said Ricky's Trailer Installation. Ricky (pronounced Reeeky) did not make eye contact. I found it hard to not stop looking at him. His face and his hands were entirely covered with scar tissue and skin grafts from some earlier terrible injury. His second in command, Jimmy, probably 30 years old, shook hands and nodded silently.

There is always a pecking order, in the barnyard, in the wild, among men. The last man neither spoke or shook hands. He, too was around 30, but it soon became clear that his job was to do whatever anybody else told him to do. After working side by side with him for a couple hours I said to him," I didn't catch your name."

"The name's Earl... but everybody calls me Turtle... because I'm so slow."

I said "No you're not. I been watching you work. You're a hard worker. You all are."

His eyes shown. I think it was pride. Shortly thereafter he smashed his finger with a hammer and howled like a banshee. He made a point to show me the quarter sized blood blister. "It ain't nuthin. Been hurt worse." A while later he was up on a ladder with an electric saw trimming branches off a Live Oak tree and cut off the branch  that the ladder was resting on narrowly missing a nasty fall.  Ken and I watched. He turned to me and said," Who woulda thought THAT could happen."

Ricky and Jimmy were busy hauling 5 foot anchors out of the ground with a chain and the pickup. Clearly they had done this many times,, but we were shocked at the violence of the operation. The truck would have to make 2 or 3 hauls for each anchor, wheels spinning, chain straining. Each pull, Jimmy would call the same directions, "Mon back Reeky, Mon back. HO!", before reconnecting the chains for another haul. The chain  snapped twice. Kenny and I stayed clear.

The boys did watch with rapt attention when Ken took a framing hammer to his Garmin. Never uttered a word. Just watch with perverse interest as he smashed it beyond recognition and I stood by laughing insanely. I think they felt more comfortable with us Yankee boys after that. Yup, those boys are crazy, too.

Six hours later we had disconnected power, water, sewer, heat exchanger, pulled all 36 tornado anchors, installed the tongue and wheels and  stacked the existing cinder block piers and pavers on the trailer. It was then that Uncle Norm called to say there were issues with the haul permits and that the transport wouldn't take place until the next day.

Among men, whether from the North or the South, respect has to be earned. Hard work paid that bill. We stood around smoking, drinking a Coors Light and made plans for the delivery the next day. Ricky' clear gray eyes peered out from behind his ruined face. I told him that I was impressed with his crew. He said "Their ok. Hard to find workers who can cut it. They don't last long. 2 other boys supposed to be here today. One is laid up with burns. His wife was cooking french fries on the stove and caught a pot of hot oil on fire in his trailer. He yarded it outside and spilled it on his leg and hand. Said it hurt like hell. I said tell me about it. I know burn."

I probed. "What happened?"

The boys were all ears. " It was 38 years ago. I was 13 and we were installing a propane water heater in a trailer. The guy who hooked it up stepped over to the door and lit a cigarette. The blast blew me through a wall and burned me over 75% of my body. I walked home and passed out. My folks drove me to the hospital. I don't remember much after that. I spent a year in the Shriner's Burn Hospital. If I had a million dollars I would give it to those people. They saved my life."

I said "Most people with that kind of injury don't survive it. I'm a Mason. I know about those men. They do good work."

He shook his head. "Damn straight."

The trailer arrived on the island early afternoon the next day. They backed it into an impossibly narrow slot just inched from a huge Live Oak tree first shot. Real professionals. The boys got to work hooking up all the utilities and we began demo-ing the interior. The rugs and linoleum came up, walls were repaired and preped. The next day we oil base primed everything and started laying floating flooring.

The boys jacked and leveled the trailer three times, ran sewer line and installed tornado anchors. They worked like dogs, crawling around in the dirt and sweating like hogs. Jimmy and I talked about playing the lottery. He perked right up. "I figure somebody's got to win it. Could be me."

I said, "If there's a God in heaven, I'd a won it by now." He grinned.

Turtle talked about being a foster child and being placed in 170 homes in a one year time span. He told of the beatings he had received.  At one point there was a loud crash outside as we were laying floor. I said to Ken, "They must have just dropped the tongue." He said, "Naw, don't think so. Turtle's not screaming."

And then they were gone. I didn't even get to say goodbye.

The next days were filled with pressure washing, bathroom installations and building steps. And then Ken was gone, back to the Caribbean to get his 47 ft. catamaran ready for four charters. The boy operates on a different level. If you look up "multitasking" in the dictionary, you'll find his picture. Never met anyone like him. Proud to call him my friend.

I've worked on dozens of Kenny's Work Camp jobs; house jacking, speed hump installations, porches, sheds, fences, floors and tile jobs. Some were more strenuous than others. This one was "the best of times and the worst of times". It came out great. Beth is happy and working hard to get all moved into her new home. Her good friends, Kevin and Jim, are busy painting and setting up furniture. It takes a village. As the Beatles wrote "We get by with a little help from our friends."

Glad it's over. It will take me awhile to get rested up. Skin of a nightmare.

Kenny's Work Camp. Can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

A pause

Saint Simons is a great place to breath and rest up. Been here a couple weeks and will spend at least six more in this sweet little condo with a marsh out the front door and a beach out the back. We even have our own lemon tree. K&E will come down for Christmas and that will be fun. Got to see many of our friends as they travel hither and yon (just like us...). Ken went to NYC and back to St Maarten, Pete to Milledgeville, Karen to the Bahamas, Beth has plans to spend some time in AZ. But we all seem to filter back through this wonderful place and find each other. (Murphy's is always a good place to meet up and shoot a game of pool). Good friends. David and Sherry, Dan and Cookie, Sue and George, Perry, David, Russ, Mimi, Jay and our Mary Helen. It's nice to be back.

December 8th was a beautiful day from sunrise to sunset. Thanks for the calls. Here are some pics.

Next adventure in February is 2 weeks on the 47 ft catamaran, Sunshine with Capt. Ken, Beth and other friends who we have yet to meet...

Merry Christmas, friends. Hope to see you/ meet you in 2016.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Passage

The kids are moved into their new house. Walls and ceilings have a new coat of paint. Rugs are gone and hard wood floors look great. All moved out of Pine Street. We are so glad we were able to "add value" and help them achieve their dream. Now all they have to do is pay for it...

Our rental on Lennox Street was such a blessing. Close to the new house project and to family. Close to Casco Bay with access to our own beach with lots of "beauties" for the pickin. Two gallons of sea glass! And our landlords were just the best. Thank you Kara and Zeb.

On to DC for Thanksgiving with K & E. Then on to SSI for a few months of R&R.

Life is good.



Saturday, October 24, 2015

Arundhati Roy

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
Arundhati Roy, War Talk

.hmmm..made me think. Empire; ie.unregulated capitalism or consumerism... all the isms, the military/industrial/education complex, oligarchy, political parties, religious dogma... deprive them of oxygen and watch them wither. Live with less. As Socrates wrote "The secret to happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less." Eat healthy, not what the profiteering advertisers brainwash you to eat. Censure/control corrupt TV/internet/Hollywood. Paraphrasing Mother Teresa, we can do no great things, only small things with great awareness. Our parents told us, "Pay attention!". Attention is the intentional channeling of awareness. the antithesis of mindless consumption and violence .

Although we be many and they are few, THEY keep us fragmented and fighting among ourselves so THEY remain in power/control. The Republicans and the Democrats are blatant examples. The media/news outlets do it, too.

OK, enuf. Time to focus on painting a ceiling...