January 27th, 53 years later

Some days life seems to arrange itself into recognizable structures, familiar patterns.  This is not one of those days.  Today, past pain, present strife and future dreams are colliding, decomposing and blending into a melange that stops thought, stops feeling, defeats understanding.

Grief, like uranium, has a half life.  It diminishes over weeks and months and years but is never gone.  Never really gone.



By an unofficial count, I have had 15 different jobs, from supermarket stock and whipping boy through freight elevator operator (aka ‘vertical engineer’) to my current jobs as a technology consultant.  Each has been a universe unto itself, complete with stars, gravity and unique laws of physics.  I have learned something from each, not always things positive, and they have, in large part, been the hammer that has battered me into my current shape.  I have quit in a huff, been fired for what I now recognize as good reason, and struggled to hang on to jobs I knew were wrong for me.  I have walked to work, been stuck for hours in a traffic jam going to work, and forced myself into an overcrowded subway car to get to work.  I have worked with people I admire, and with some that I could tolerate, and with some that I actively disliked.  Some were brighter, more motivated and more focused than I am.  Some didn’t seem to have the mental capacity to ride an escalator, although that was just my youthful arrogance.  I’ve worked in cities and towns, in offices, schools and peoples houses, but no matter what the setting, when you’re at work, you’re always ‘at work’.

Work is a number of things: It is a contract between an employer and an employee, which generally does not extend to photocopying his or her rear end during the Christmas party.  In physics, it is the product of a force times the distance through which it acts, although I don’t think that the distance involved in carrying your third cup of coffee from the break room counts in this equation.  In scientific terminology, work can be expressed as F = ma, even though it doesn’t seem appropriate or necessary to bring motherhood into this.

Studs Terkel wrote a book about working, which was popular enough to be turned in to a Broadway play.  The concept of working is not that popular, but the book was.

John Henry was a steel drivin’ man whose heart burst while he was trying to prove that a man could do more work than a machine.  I appreciate the sacrifice, John.  However, my appreciation is tinged with hypocrisy, as I am typing this on a computer and, if I ever finish it, will send it to scores of potential readers by pressing a few buttons.  I’m not exactly a steel drivin’ man.

The brilliant writers and essayists of antiquity don’t have much to say about work, perhaps because they didn’t do all that much.  There are a few comments from people like Plato, Aristotle, Montesquieu and Ben Franklin, but most of them sound like they were cranked out by whatever sentence machine they use in the basement of Hallmark, Inc.  Back when Queen Victoria was busy not being amused, some toff said that ‘drink is the curse of the working class’.  But Oscar Wilde managed to get real about that relationship by saying that ‘work is the curse of the drinking class’.  It may be relevant here that Oscar was Irish, but in any case, thanks for clarifying that, Oscar.

Other than Oscar’s bon mot (I don’t care how the French pronounce that, for me ‘bon mot’ will always rhyme with ‘tater tot’), there aren’t a lot of good work quotes from famous dead guys. So, I have resorted to the joke page to find interesting, and true, quotes.

If you are good, you will be assigned all the work. If you are really good, you will get out of it. 

To err is human; to forgive is not company policy. 

And one final reference from the Ebenezer Scrooge School of Employee Relations;   Beatings will continue until morale improves

 But work isn’t all negative, not really.  It just feels that way on Monday mornings and when your boss drops a pile of papers on your desk.  I had a supervisor once who put them on my chair, so I could absolutely not ignore them.  So, for a while, I used two chairs.  I won’t delve into the realm of cliché and write about the social aspect, or the sense of fulfillment that works provides.  Society and fulfillment can be found in a lot of other places, and can be enjoyed with your feet up and a beer in your hand.

I am glad to have work, especially in an environment when so many don’t.  I just wish I had less of it, or at least that I could make the rules of how it gets done.  I think that 10 to 2 are good hours for work.  I think paychecks should come every two days, instead of every two weeks; reinforcement is a wonderful thing.  I think you should be able to take vacations when you need them, as long as you bring back trashy and pointless gifts for your friends to put on their desks.

I’ll bet you wish I made the rules too.

Work is such a deep and broad and rich topic that a writer could make a book out of it, or a shelf full of books.  Unfortunately, I am not that writer.  I’m too busy working


Chip: Welcome, folks, welcome!  I’m Chip Sunshine coming live to you from the Red Carpet, that’s right, I said the Red Carpet, just outside the Crossroads Hotel/Motel and Brushless Car Wash.  Alongside me is my charming co-host and runner up in the 1998 Miss Ain’t I A Peach contest, Rosemary Gitaklu.  How are you this morning, Rosie?
Rosie: I’m just rarin’ to go, Chip!  I’ve been looking forward to this moment since just before I got here this morning!
Chip: Well, me too, Rosie.  This is the Third Annual Sign Makers and Content Contributors Award Show.  It would have been the Fourth Annual Sign Makers and Content Contributors Award Show, except for last year’s hairdresser strike that blocked traffic all across the downtown area, and forced the cancellation of this much-ballyhooed event.  However, the hairdressers are back, standing proudly next to their dryers, and we are ready to go!
Rosie:  As you know, Chip, the Association of Sign Makers And Content Contributers, A-SMACC for short, awards a snazzy little statuette of an open hand to those sign makers and content contributors that it feels has best represented this vibrant field of commerce during the past year.
Chip:  Yes, Rosie, like the Oscar represents the best in the movie industry, and the Grammy represents the best in the music industry, being acknowledged by A-SMACC means that you are at the top of your craft.
Rosie:  Look, Chip!  Here comes our first nominee!
Chip: Yes, Rosie, and I would recognize him anywhere.  He is Impala de Cervantes, who created the popular “Fines Doubled in Work Zones”.  His work is up for an award in the Hold Onto Your Wallet category.
Rosie: And coming up behind him is a new face to the Sign and Contributor industry, Lincoln Tolstoy, up for a SMACC in the Best Supporting sign painter category.  Many critics have found his work muddled and difficult to understand, but the general public seems to love it.
Chip:  I thought his “No Cellular Phones Beyond This Point” was a work of genius, Rosie. And I think few can argue with that.
Rosie:  Yes, notice the use of the complete adjectival referent “cellular” rather than the more pedestrian “cell”.  I wholeheartedly agree, Chip.  A work of genius.
Chip:  And here comes last year’s winner in the Natural Disaster category, Toyota Hemingway, renown for both his “Bridge Out” and “Emergency Exit Only:  Alarm Will Sound if Opened”.
Rosie:  I read that he had a team working for months on that one, Chip.
Chip:  And it obviously paid off, Rosie.  Its become an instant classic.  I think he is a shoo-in for an award this year, and in my opinion, if anyone should be SMACC’d, it’s Toyota.
Rosie:  While we have a few moments between the nominees’s, Chip, lets tell the folks about some of the categories that are up for consideration this morning:
Chip:  Great idea, Rosie.  In the Eye Strain Category we have ‘Alternate Side Parking Tuesday And Thursday 8-11, Fridays 10-6 Except October Through April.’
Rosie:  In the Tell You Where To Get Off Category we have ‘Exit’, ‘Exit Left,’ ‘Right Lane Ends’, and ‘All Traffic Must Exit’.  I think that last one is my personal favorite.
Chip:  In the Obedience to Authority Category we have ‘Yield’, ‘Stop’, ‘No Littering’, ‘No Turns’, ‘Line Forms Here’, ‘No Stopping’, ‘No Standing’.
Rosie:  And finally, finally she said, in the Oh, Thank God, Just In Time Category we have ‘Men’, ‘Women’ and ‘Handicapped’.
Chip:  What a great line-up Rosie.  It just seems to get better every year.
Rosie: Well, except for last year during the hairdresser strike.
Chip: Yes, you were affected by that, weren’t you, Rosie?  Didn’t I hear something about you having to do your own hair during the strike?
Rosie:  I’d rather not talk about it, Chip. Do we have another nominee moving toward us on the Red Carpet?
Chip:  Yes, Rosie, it’s Ford Madox Thurber, and he’s coming over this way.
Rosie:  Well, Hello Ford, and thanks for joining us.
Ford:  Hello Rosie, and hello, Chip.  What a wondeful event!
Rosie: And congatulations to you on your nomination for your newest contemporary hit “No Texting While Driving’.  A brilliant piece of work.
Ford:  Thanks, Rosie, but you know it really is a team effort.  As the front man, I get a lot of the credit, but it take a lot of work by a lot of people.  The sheet metal guys, the riveters, the post-hole diggers, paint mixers … the list goes on.  It really is a group effort.
Rosie:  Well, that really is true, Ford.  And it takes a big man to admit it.
Ford:  Thanks, and by the way, your hair has almost completely grown back.
Rosie:  But I really don’t want to talk about it.  Perhaps we’ll see you inside at the award ceremony, Ford.  Thanks for stopping and good-bye now.
Chip:  Well, Rosie I think that may be all the celebrities we’ll get to see this morning.  It’s almost time for the award ceremony to begin!  We should be getting inside. It’s time for someone to get SMACC’d!
Rosie: Why, you’re right Chip. Time sure flies.  Well, so long everybody, from the Red Carpet outside the Crossroads Hotel/Motel and Brushless Car Wash.  It’s time to begin the Third Annual Sign Makers and Content Contributors Award Show.  We’ll see you all next year at the Fourth Annual Sign Makers and Content Contributors Award Show!  I hope!



Here is good.  Safe and bright.

Here is warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

I know where things are here.  I know where the bathrooms are.  And the clocks.

Here is comfortable.

But, often, there is where I want to be.

There is shiny with the future.  There is potential.

A closed thing waiting to be opened.

There is an atom waiting to be split.


I can be happy here.  I can wrap up in something soft and take the time to think about anything I want.

What I think about is there.

Just Something To Write About

       Since the financial boondoggle of the Dodger’s former owner Frank McCourt, the Los Angeles Dodgers (nee Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers) are up for sale.  Several “ownership groups” are vying to purchase this successful and very lucrative franchise:
A group including Joe Torre
A group including former Dodger players Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey
A group that includes Ervin “Magic” Johnson
A group that includes Larry King
Mark Cuban (Mark is not actually a group but probably has enough money to qualify as one).
      This seems like enough, but what the media, darn them, are not revealing is that there are several other groups interested in purchasing the Dodgers:
A group including Han Solo and Darth Vader (they made up after the whole ‘freezing in carbonite’ episode.  Vader said recently, “It’s tough to hear with this bulky helmet.  I thought they were just going to tease him on a dark night.”)
A group including Howdy Doody, Phineas T. Bluster and Paddle the Gnu.  Their show has been running in syndication since 1961, mostly in Indonesia and sections of Cleveland, and the puppet/stars have enough money to challenge for ownership.  Unfortunately, Buffalo Bob and Clarabell the Clown are not welcome in the ownership group, mostly because they are real.
A group including former U.S. presidents Carter, Ford, Bush 1, Bush 2, and Clinton (not necessarily in that order)
The citizens of Budapest, Hungary.  All of them.
The Justice League of America.
The Mormon Tabernacle choir, except the third woman from the left in the eighth row.  No one likes her.
The New York Yankees.  This is unusual for the Yankees, because they are used to buying a complete All-Star team, and the Dodgers are just not that good.
There are unconfirmed rumors about Kukla Fran and Ollie, and a group headed by the Geico gekko, but as this is a serious journalistic report, I won’t speculate on that until there is more evidence.
Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball has said publicly that every effort will be made to analyze the financial integrity and commercial viability of each of the groups, and then he will choose the one with the coolest logo.

Blogging is a form of:

a)         Conservation.  If writers weren’t blogging, they might be self-publishing novels that deserve the ignominy of self-publishing.  That would lead to a lot of wasted paper, which comes from trees, which transform oxygen from carbon dioxide.  So blog, and we’ll all breath easier.
b)         Zen meditation.  When you are blogging, the universe stops its cataclysmic expansion, satori is at hand, and your navel (yes, I spelled that right) may become interesting.  Or it may not.
c)          Mental gymnastics.  I prefer the wide open, run and leap of the floor event, but also enjoy the vocabulary and grammar challenges of the uneven bars.
d)         A clever way to avoid whatever writing project you have half finished.  As Dorothy Parker once said to Oscar Wilde at a party given by Mark Twain in Ernest Hemingway’s hotel room, “I hate writing.  I love having written.”
e)         Therapy. Too obvious to even discuss.  Sorry, our time is up.

Saratoga First Night

To start the new year off on the right foot, I went to the First Night at Saratoga, kind of a winter street festival, on Saturday night.  Great fun.  Crowds of people in the streets, all sober as far as I could see, lights, chatter, music everywhere. A ballet troupe, a magician, an improv group, even an Irish Kilt band.
I even met a Shirley Jones look alike, and a designated driver that couldn’t find her car keys.
I found a couple of acoustic folk/ blues acts, one in a hotel lobby and one in the library, and sat quietly and listened.  I enjoyed it so much I didn’t even feel envy that I can’t play the guitar nearly as well as they did.  Well, some envy.
I won’t try to dredge up any wisdom about the new year. It would be insincere, and you would be bored. I don’t make resolutions, and I don’t think that noisemakers, champagne and kissing right on schedule really change much.  But things have to end, and things have to begin, and January is as good a time as any.
Life is short, find a reason to party.