Sippican Cottage

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Do Nothing For Pity. Do Nothing For Love

I’ve had too much. Shivering by the dumpster. A little whiskey is the only cothamore we’re likely to get, pa always said. Too much is a hole in the roof.

My pa was always waiting on something or somebody under a big hole in his roof. Tugged his forelock and averted his bleary eyes like a peasant for ward heeler or bank teller alike. I thought I’d be a man of action. Not waiting on anything, or anybody. There’d be cannonfire and blood running hot and a furnace of action at all times. But here I am hanging at a dumpster at two AM like any rain dog.

Some men have to make up their minds and screw up their courage time and time again. I don’t get it. With me it was a switch you throw and that’s that. You decide to go this way or that and the road rambles off into the distance but you’ll never see that fork again. What’s the point in trying to back up and read the signs after you’ve blown through the red light in the first place? But the nervous nellies are my bosses, still. I would have stayed at the shipyard and blasted rust forever if I wanted that.

The car will come when my tallow is good and frozen and we’ll roll on over to Mehfeh and take out the trash. No courage needed.  Pa told me, “Do nothing for pity. Do nothing for love.” The bundle in the trunk has to go into the Mystic. Why wait?

Engineering School

I’m always on the lookout for vitality.

The rest of the world might get tired of watching us do nothing but shop for shoes online at work and make plus-sized Star Wars costumes for ourselves even though we’re forty-ish and Halloween isn’t for seven months. We should at least acknowledge that it’s unlikely we’ll be allowed to leave the table while we’re way ahead.

Being a prominent society requires a certain vitality. Endless schemes to ration, or import, or even extinguish vitality, lead to one place.  The Roman Empire is a pizza joint now. The barbarians wanted it more. I won’t weep for it. My people were dyed blue, after all.

Fellow Traveler

My friend Gerard had a little essay about the repair of Red Wing boots. I hate to admit it, but I’ve got a pair of Red Wing boots. The part I hate to admit is that they’re my good shoes now, not my work boots. I found a video that shows the process, which I love. I love to see people with hand skills. Doesn’t matter what sort of skills they are, either. Chef or glassblower or hod carrier or guitarist; whatever.

I remember watching slackjawed as my mother typed nearly a hundred words a minute on a
manual typewriter. Without errors. Literally awesome. She was like Cassius Clay confronted with a midget wrestler when electric typewriters showed up. I could go really fast on that.

I mixed mortar for my uncle and watched him butter a block perfectly, every time, with two deft swipes of his trowel. He never missed. I couldn’t even get the mortar to stay on the trowel, or place the blocks in a row as fast as he could use them. I worked with men that could drive finish nails all day with a hammer and never leave “elephant tracks.” I find manual dexterity, distilled by repetition to fluidity, fascinating.

I’m not alone in that. As society gets more complicated, people become farther removed from the physical production of anything. They often get the same thrill I get when they encounter someone that can do something with their head, heart, and hands really well.

Factories are important, and many things should be made in a big faceless building filled with robots and drones. I don’t really need an artisinal flatscreen TV. But I need to see artisans, and feel like one, too.No one’s holding a gun to your head and forcing you to shop for everything at WalMart and IKEA and patronize no one locally except a trash hauler. Some of your neighbors make things and do things. Do the neighborly thing and seek them out.

Are You A Q Head?

The New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, or quintet, depending on how old you are. You probably know them as plain old NRBQ. What’s that? You don’t know them at all?

I always think of them as Massachusetts folk, even though they’re from all over. The bass player, Joey Spampinato, still lives on Cape Cod, and his brother Johnny — a sometimes member of NRBQ — is a member of The Incredible Casuals, who played at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet every Sunday for thirty years or so.

The music business seems trivial on its face, but it’s as grim as the Cosa Nostra on the back end. You can never get really famous unless you’re as serious as a heart attack about getting famous all the time. Some people are just too good-natured about the whole thing to ever become a household word. They just become household words in other musicians’ households. Exhibit A: NRBQ

How To Rattle That Stick In The Swill Bucket

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.
-John Wanamaker

I lived in Los Angeles back in the early eighties. I have a soft spot in my heart for Fred Rated. Fred Rated is semi-well known as Shadoe Stevens, a disc-jockey game show host voice-over dude. According to Wikipedia, he’s currently the announcer for Craig Ferguson’s late night show.

He’ll always be Fred Rated to me. LA TV and radio was fun just then. Cal Worthington and Elvira and Fred; The Plimsouls and Oingo Boingo and Wall of Voodoo. It was all cheesy garbage and I loved it. I loved the west-coast flavored The Gong Show just as I had adored the execrable east-coast Community Auditions because it was crap and didn’t pretend to be anything else, and you could just watch the fat majorettes drop their batons while jitterbugging to disco versions of Sousa marches and enjoy the hell out of it while nursing a hangover.

Fred Rated became a sorta star by making those commercials. If the purpose of advertising is to make the public aware of the product then Fred was a smash, if I’m anything to go by. It’s thirty years later and I remember him, and fondly. If the purpose of advertising is to get you to part with money, I make it a miserable failure, because I never set foot in a Federated store and never got the urge to, either.

Advertising has gotten very, very creepy. The Stasi crossed with a peeping tom keeps track of you, online and elsewhere, and mines it for all its worth. Funny that guys like Fred played a creep, and yet their appeal was simply to amuse while barking out the phone number.

This blog is advertising, I guess; I try to be charming, and let you know I exist. I know the charming part is thin on the ground now and then, but I try to exist as hard as I can. Maybe it’s the only half that matters, anyway.

Bleak House

The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart

ALL things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

–William Butler Yeats

Dios Mio, Mang

So you wanna be a roofer, huh?

I was once at the top of a forty-foot ladder, laden with tools, with the ladder leaned against a house where one rake board transitioned into another rake board at the spot an addition met the main house. Forty feet is plenty high to be lethal, and give you the feeling it’s lethal, too.  Without any warning, a bat — one bat — came out of the seam and hit me square in the face, thrashed around a bit, and fluttered off.

In theory, no matter what, you’re never supposed to let go of the ladder. Earthquake, fire, gunshots, surprise parties, whatever — your natural inclination to wave your hands around must be countered. It’s hard to override a bazillion years of fight or flee, but it’s easy to see who can manage it. They’re not blogging just now.

The bats are just a lark for these fellows. Watch out for the histoplasmosis, guys! It’s more painful than marriage, but less deadly in the long run.

Month: January 2012

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