Monday, February 29, 2016

Moving in Together

Moving in together hasn't been much of an adjustment. We spent so much time together before we made this step, it hasn't seemed like an earth shaking or life changing event. Even though I was nervous about it and so was she.

The most noticeable change is in our living environment. Since she moved in my surroundings are much nicer, a bit feminine, but definitely much nicer than they were. My things have been moved to new spots. We've purchased some new furniture, some antiques and added some of her things. Some of my furniture has gone to Goodwill. I have less closet space than I had. We have a 12 foot wide closet in our bedroom, her things take 8 feet of it. She has 42 pairs of shoes in there. Her coats and jackets take most of the hall closet. Its summer, my winter things are in the storage area of our brownstone, hers aren't, when fall comes my winter things will make the move back upstairs.

I'm surprised, amazed really,  at how handy she is. I came home from work and she was on her knees on the living room floor hemming the new drapes by hand. Drapes! I've haven't had drapes for years. The levelor blinds seemed to work just fine. She made a trip to a pillow store on Newbury Street and hauled home new pillows for the sofa and the bed. I've never seen so damn many pillows. There are 4 on the sofa and 6 on our bed, 4 for sleeping, 2 for decoration and she added a round thing called a bolster. She also bought a duvet set for an impossible amount of money. She had to buy it, it was on sale. She mentioned that she has more pillows at the store but she couldn't carry them all home. I picked them up and made another stop for some fabric for bedroom drapes on the way home. I'm also surprised at how quickly she gets all this decorating done, the transformation has taken just 4 days and now we're settled in. It looks good, it's comfortable and the best part is she's happy with it to a degree. She constantly changes things, moving a framed picture or adjusts a vase an inch to the right or left. She always has fresh flowers in every room. We have a large burgundy Persian rug on the living room floor. It looks nice and the dog enjoys it. In fact he thinks he owns it.

I do the cooking, I've got two chicken breasts marinating in the fridge, I'm going to grill them up on the roof deck tonight. We share the deck with the people who live in our building. We seldom see any of them since we are on the boat most weekends. We bring our food and the wine up to the roof. Our view is great, we over look the Charles River, across the river is the dome of MIT, down river we see the Longfellow Bridge and further down the Science Museum and on this side, the golden dome of the State House, we can see the Prudential Tower and the Hancock Building and the lights of the big buildings in the Financial District. If we look up river we see the curve of the Charles up stream, the Harvard Bridge and the buildings of the campus. During baseball season we can see the lights of Fenway in the night sky. And the Citgo sign.

After dinner we watch the sun go down and finish the wine. I suggest we take a walk and stop somewhere and have a dessert. The three of us walk down Commonwealth to Arlington Street and then back up Newbury, we window shop along the way. We buy ice cream cones at P J Licks and walk back home.

She has to fly tomorrow, we go to bed early. The dog and I take her to Logan at 5 in the morning. Her day will end at 3, she'll ride the T home, take the dog for a quick walk and then nap. When I get home she'll have everything ready and we'll drive to Marblehead and spend the weekend on the boat.

After all the worries about commitment, adjustment and logistics, living together is working out fine. It agrees with us and it probably helps that we love each other.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dog People

We live in an old brownstone in Boston’s Back Bay. There are 60,000 people living in the Back Bay. Geographically the Back Bay isn’t big, it runs from the Charles River to the South End, from Arlington Street to Massachusetts Avenue. The neighborhood is, if you like city living and we do, one of the country’s best places to live. It has everything you need and you can walk to get it when you need it. It's a good way to live.

The Back Bay is not only a good place for people, dogs like it too. 16,000 licensed dogs live here. There are two fenced dog parks, one on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall a block from Mass Ave, another one, the newest, is on a piece of land alongside and just below the Mass Ave bridge. But most of the dog people, from early spring to late fall prefer to take their dogs to the Charles River Esplanade. There the dogs can run off leash, play, fight and fuck (or at least try to) to their doggy heart’s desire.

We are dog people and over time you get to know the other dog people. You see them every day. You say hello, some of them become friends, good enough friends to have drinks with after work, sometimes even dinner.  I’ve seen dog people meet over their dogs, begin to date, fall in love and get married and create a 2 dog household. I’ve also seen dog people get divorced and fight over custody of the poor, confused dog.

Dog people wear dog clothing, old, versatile, weather appropriate clothing with big pockets for treats, brushes, extra leashes, collars and plenty of plastic poop bags. Dog clothing is, fashion wise, only one small step above homeless clothing styles. I used to see a woman and her Huskie every day, month after month. One day I was eating lunch on the sidewalk of a cafĂ© on Newbury Street. I heard my name and felt a hand on my shoulder. There was a beautiful, sophisticated, sparkling woman, great clothes, great shoes, perfect makeup and hair. I stared and finally she said, “I’m Igloo’s Mom.” Christ, I was stunned at her transformation. I was speechless.

Back Bay Dog people always pick up after their dogs, if they don’t pick up the shit. They get plenty of shit from the other Dog People. After a couple of vicious tongue lashings, they always fall in line and do the right thing.

One of my favorite things to do on a Sunday morning, while she sleeps in, in good weather of course. Is to walk our dog from Mass Ave to Charles Street along the river. On Charles Street, I pick up a fresh loaf of bread from a small bakery along with a cup of coffee and a donut, usually a plain, sometimes I get chocolate covered or if I’m in the mood a croissant.  I buy a Globe from the old mick selling the papers on the corner of Charles and Beacon, walk through the Public Garden, across Arlington and find a nice bench in the sun on Comm Ave. I wrap the dogs leash around my thigh, he sits next to the bench, I drink my coffee and read the paper. Since she loves to sleep in on Sunday and I get up early no matter what day it is, she gets her undisturbed sleep and the dog and I get our walk and fresh air, it’s a perfect trade. One Sunday morning, a dog person I knew only by sight came by my bench, she said hello and asked, “Are you going to see your mother today?” It was Mother’s Day. I said, “No, my Mom is in the Midwest.” She asked me where in the Midwest, I told her the town. The Dog lady laughed, “That’s my mother in law’s home town.” She told me her mother in law’s name. Her mother in law was my Mother’s best friend when they were kids. Sometimes the world is very small.

On the corner of Hereford Street and Comm Ave, there’s an old, 4 story mansion converted to a very expensive assisted living home. The old Brahmins who live there love the dogs, they watch them from their mansion windows while they play in the dog park. Some of them, the healthy and spry ones (even the ones in walkers and wheelchairs) come out of the old mansion, sit on the benches and pet and love up the dogs. Almost all of them are retired dog people and our dogs make them smile and make their eyes light up. For their effort, they get doggie kisses and the dogs get treats. Everybody has a good time.

Our dog is a German Shepherd. His best friend is another German Shepherd named Phoenix. I’ve become a good friend of Phoenix’ “Dad”. We meet most mornings on the Charles. We talk and throw balls for our boys. Phoenix’  Dad is a civil engineer, he’s the lead engineer on the new Portland, Oregon water system. He had to leave Boston for Portland for a couple of months when construction was getting underway. His baby sister, a student at Boston University, moved into his condo and doggysat Phoenix while he was gone. The baby sister is a varsity lacrosse player at BU and rather than throw a ball for the dogs, she brought her Lacrosse racquet and flung the ball for the boys. One morning Phoenix got to the ball first and the dogs raced back for more. Phoenix was about 30 feet from me and he keeled over. The sister and I ran up, the dog was out cold. I could see the Lacrosse ball stuck in his throat and he wasn’t breathing. I lifted him up between my legs and gave him the Heimlich maneuver. The ball popped out. Phoenix took a deep breath, shook his head and was ready for more. I handed the sister a tennis ball to replace the smaller Lacrosse ball and the dogs were back in action.

Most of the Back Bay dogs get along as well as their owners do, but our dog has one mortal enemy. The dog is a big, black New Foundland named Teddy. They’ve never had a fight, but if our boy spots or smells Teddy from a block away he goes crazy, Teddy the Newfie responds in kind. The two of them make more noise than an entire pack of dogs. On the other hand, in addition to Phoenix, his other doggie best friend is little, fluffy, black and white Molly. Molly is blind and he treats her with great gentleness, kindness and love. Molly likes to snuggle up next to him. I wouldn’t suggest anyone try to harm Molly when our boy is around, you’d get your ass whipped or at minimum a nasty bite. And you’d deserve it.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Sad news this morning, Jim "Taz" Taszarek passed yesterday. I used Taz as sales consultant and attended his great sales and management conferences over the years. I loved the guy.

On a personal note, Taz, after meeting Jan over breakfast one morning always called her "Miss America".

Taz encouraged her to take a sales aptitude test, she did and scored in the top 1%. Taz then encouraged her to take early retirement from US Air and start a new career, she did and she's never looked back.

A few years ago, I was chatting on the phone with Taz and told him Jan was a VP of Marketing in the furniture business. He said, "I always knew "Miss America" had it! Give her a hug from me and tell her I'm proud of her."

A great man, a good friend and a mentor to hundreds of broadcast professionals.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Day In the Wind

She’s flying today, I’m sailing, the dog is with me on the boat, he’s along for the ride.

I like to sail by myself. It’s called single-handing. I like to sail in all kinds of weather. The weather today is perfect for me. It’s windy, there’s a small craft warnings out for Massachusetts Bay. The wind is from the Northeast at 20kts, gusting to 25, the seas are 8 to 10 feet. If this wind continues they’ll get bigger. I’ve got three rolls in the genny and a single reef in the main, we’re on a close reach heading south east out of Marblehead. The dog and I aren’t going anywhere today, although we could if we wanted to, just punching holes in waves. I’m sitting on the high side of the boat. The tiller is balanced in my hand. The knot meter reads 6.8 knots, I can feel Air Time surging off the tops of the waves, I could squeeze some more speed out of her and I do by pulling on a few strings on the main to flatten it a little more, then I squeeze more speed by tightening the slot between the genny and the main with a half turn on the primary winch. This work produces a tenth of a knot. I’ve got Air Time in a groove now.

Sailboats are funny machines. They have sweet spots, the sweet spots change depending on the conditions, waves, wind, currents, tide. Sailboats make sounds, those sounds can tell you, if you’ll listen, whether the boat is happy or not. Air Time is happy at the moment, but that could change so I have to pay constant attention to her. She is content for the moment, but could change her mind, like any female, she often does.

I like her, enough so I wrote a letter to her designer in Ireland. He responded with some suggestions, modifications to her rig and keel and after I took his advice and made them, I loved her even more. I wrote him again, told him I was happy and he was pleased. His design is built in three countries under license and there are less than a 100 on the water, only four of them with his suggested modifications. Air Time is the only modified one in US waters and for a 30 foot boat, 9.2 meters long, she is very fast. She’s more Corvette than Impala.

There is an old sailor’s saying, it goes back hundreds of years, maybe even the Phoenicians said it too, “She’s got a bone in her teeth.” Air Time has the bone in her teeth today.

The dog is on the cockpit sole with his head pressed against my leg. He’s been sailing since he was a pup, he’s grown up on Air Time. At home in the city, in the middle of winter, if either of us say, “Want to go on the boat?” he gets excited. Like Air Time, he is happy and content and so am I. He’s a good crew member, he obeys the Captain’s orders, he learned there is only one skipper right away. It took her much longer than that. I miss her when she’s flying, but I like to sail alone and when she’s gone to work in the air, I indulge myself in it.

Earlier this summer she was flying for 4 days and I sailed all the way to Newport and back, 19 hours down and 21 hours back, on the way home we hit the Cape Cod Canal early and had to wait for a slack tide. We killed the time ashore tied up at a bayside restaurant, I bought the dog a plain hamburger and took him for a walk, I drank a beer and ate a box of fried clams and French fries. We both took a good pee and then motored through the canal, on the bay side I hoisted sail and we made it home, sailing most of the way in the rain, me outside in foul weather gear and the dog curled up on the settee down below. Every once in a while he would stand at the top of the companionway stairs and look at me and when he was satisfied I was okay, he would go back to his spot on the settee. If I could have trusted him to hold our course, I would have changed places with him. That day I was glad I spent the money on quality foul weather gear. I was as warm and dry as he was, but my face was wet and his wasn’t.

I don’t listen to music when I’m sailing alone. The sound of the wind and water makes all the music I need to hear. As we sail on I hear a diesel engine in the distance, it’s faint and far off enough that I can’t see the boat yet, I know I’ll see it soon, as it gets louder by the minute. I think about getting the glasses and taking a look in the direction of the sound but I don’t have to, the dog’s German Shepherd ears pick the sound up and he looks in the direction of the diesel and I know now exactly where the boat is, thanks those ears. 10 minutes later I can see the tug laboring with its two barge tow. The barges are well behind the tug when at sea. The tug is headed for Boston and as they get closer to the city, the tow lines will be drawn up and the barges will be up tight on the stern of the tug as they approach the harbor. My guess is the barges are carrying construction equipment, equipment much too big for trucks to carry on the highway without taking it apart. When the tug gets closer I’ll find out if I’m right.

There have been many days in my life when I wish I had chosen a career at sea, I can imagine myself at the helm of that big tug bringing two, big barges into Boston Harbor. Now I can see the tug and her barges. I alter our course to pass to the south of them, I put Air Time on a broad reach by dropping off the wind, doing that requires some sail adjustments, I make them, we add another tenth of a knot and then it drops back again. I try the tiller pilot on this course. It searches for the course and finds it.

I go below and get another cup of coffee from the thermos. I find a small, one serving can of fruit cocktail, pop the top and eat it out of the can. The only time I ever eat fruit cocktail is when I’m sailing, I’ve thought about why, but I don’t know why it’s true. I give the dog a cookie and get the handheld VHF radio out of the navigation station where it’s been charging off Air Time’s main battery. I check the weather, no changes. I put the radio in my jacket pocket and go back on deck. I sit with my back against the cabin bulk head. I put the VHF on the hailing channel to see if there is any chatter. I hear some fisherman yapping back and forth but nothing from the tug. Commercial boats at work, seldom if ever acknowledge pleasure craft and I don’t blame them a bit.

I started sailing the summer I was 11 years old, on a Sunfish, on a Minnesota lake. I’d been running boats since I was a 6 year old, first a 12 foot aluminum fishing boat with a 5 horsepower Johnson out board motor, then after a few years I was running an 18 foot powerboat with an early Mercury 65 hp engine. I was limited to one tank of gasoline a week and it was almost always gone after one day of water skiing and going for boat rides around the lake. Our lake neighbor’s daughter had a Sunfish, she was grown now, she’s teaching school in Minneapolis and the Sunfish is hanging from the ceiling of their boathouse. The neighbor said, “Why don’t you learn to sail it.” He was of no help, the neighbor didn’t know anything about sailing and said his daughter lost interest in the Sunfish shortly after she discovered boys. It was up to me. I learned to sail in the way I now believe all kids should learn to sail, on their own, in a little, simple sail boat with a life jacket on, a little wind and a piece of open water big enough to figure things out on. It didn’t take me long and I was getting the little boat up wind, downwind and could move her nicely on every point of sail. If you asked me then what I was doing, I had no idea, but I could do it. That winter I read sailing books from the library and found myself thinking, “I get it now, that’s how I did that.”

One of the books I read that winter was “Sailing Around the World Alone” by Joshua Slocum. It’s the story of the first solo around the world voyage made by Slocum on his sloop Spray in 1895. I reread the book every couple of years and I’m as fascinated now as I was the first time I picked it up. I have a copy on board Air Time. Slocum is the reason I like to sail alone.

The tug, a big one moved past us. The barges were loaded with big sections of tunneling for the Big Dig. I was right about the cargo, they couldn’t have moved it on the highway. Without a handy ocean and those big barges they would have had to build them on site. We were downwind of the tug now and I could smell the diesel fumes from her stack for a while. The fumes were out of place out here on the bay.

We sailed for another hour on our course. The Tiller Master was doing its usual fine job as helmsman. I went below, turned on the GPS, while it unscrambled itself, I made a salami sandwich with provolone and hot mustard, rather than slice the tomato, I ate it like an apple. I checked our course and speed on the GPS, when I finished my sandwich, we would come about and head back. I took my sandwich and a cold Sam Adams on deck with me. As I ate I gave the dog pieces of salami from my sandwich. Lunch finished, I turned the boat around and headed back, I made the sail adjustments and Air Time went back to the work she was born to do. After the beer I had to pee, I stood at the stern rail and peed over the side. I felt better when I finished. The dog peed in the scupper.

Mid-afternoon the wind began to drop, I shook the reef out of the main and we lost only a little of our boat speed. We past Marblehead just after 4, we sailed west to Peaches Point, after we passed the point, we turned to port. I rolled up the genny on the furler and sailed to our mooring under the main. This side of the harbor is very sheltered by the town of Marblehead in a northeast wind and it dropped to 5 knots. I sailed Air Time just past our mooring and turned her up wind. I grabbed the mooring pennant with my right hand, slacked the main with my left I stood up and the dog and I walked the pennant to the bow, I secured the harness while he watched. I went aft and furled the main and covered it with its red sail cover. I secured the boat and shut her down. I drank a cold beer, finished the beer, called the launch service on the radio. I locked the companionway. We boarded the launch at 5:45. The girl driving the launch loved the dog, she rubbed his ears and talked doggie talk to him when he got on board. We were in our old, green Range Rover by 6 and we picked her up at Logan at 6:45. We were glad to see her and she was glad to see us, we kissed and hugged as the dog pushed between us.

“How was your day?” She said.


“Wasn’t it too windy? The pilot said there were small craft warnings, it was bumpy when we took off this morning and even bumpier when we landed, did you sail?”

“All day and it was perfect.”

“Where did you sail to.”

“We could have gone to the Canary Islands but we came back because we missed you too much.”

“Well. we’ll have to go together in that case, won’t we?”

“Yes we will. Should we get something at Santarpio’s on the way home?”

Sunday, February 21, 2016

                                                                UR FACISM by Umberto Eco

                                                            This essay is well worth your time,


Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Shitty Way To Make A Really Good Living.

Sonja Tengdin is grossing (!) $175,000 a year scooping poop in suburban Minneapolis and she's has a branch in Phoenix. On the other hand I'll bet her kids hate being dropped off at school in that Mini.

Friday, February 19, 2016

                                                         Found Dead in the Desert

Living in Phoenix was an interesting experience. We lived in Mesa, in a new development called Las Sendas. There were about three models, maybe 4, of houses. We lived in Model B, tan with a tile roof, three bedrooms, three baths, tile floors, a 2.5 car garage and a gas fireplace. We never used the fireplace because it was placed in a completely unusable location in the living room. We did like the pool in the backyard and the natural landscaping. All of the houses had 7 foot walls around the backyards. Unless you happened to see your neighbor while you driving into your garage, you never saw your neighbor. On occasion you could hear them, but you’d never see them.

Every night we would walk our dog down to the little community park, it was a 4 block walk. All of the houses along the walk to the park faced in the other direction, so the walk was on a sidewalk with 7 foot walls all the way to the park. After we’d lived there for a month or so, we noticed a nasty smell coming from one of the backyards, this was summer and it was hot, even at night. Day by day the smell got worse, after a couple of weeks the smell was enough to make you gag and water your eyes. Even the dog, who is routinely interested in any and all bad smells, started stepping up his pace when we walked behind this house.

One night, my wife said, “What do you think it is?” Not wanting to alarm her, I lied and said, “Who knows.” What did I really think? I thought there was something dead behind the wall. I’d seen a rotting carcass or two in my life and I was convinced something had died and was rotting behind the wall. Maybe a coyote killed something, maybe it was a coyote, a Javelena, a dog, the smell was too big for a small animal like a cat, could it be a person? A guy, tired of his wife, kills her and leaves her to rot in the backyard while he goes off to a Minnesota lake for the summer? Maybe a disgruntled woman knocked off her husband and didn’t have the strength to bury him in the hard baked desert soil. She gets in her car and drives off to visit friends in Montana while the old man’s body cures in the hot dry Arizona air?

Day by day it got worse. The house was empty. The owner was off to cooler climates for the summer. The house on the left was empty as well for the same reason, on the right the house was for sale. I wondered what perspective buyers would think of the smell, probably the reason it was still on the market.

One Saturday, I put my step ladder in my Explorer, drove down the street to wall the behind the house, put on my flashers, dragged the ladder over to the wall. I climbed to the top and looked over. On the ground, in the backyard, was a 15 foot Saguaro cactus with three arms, black and rotting, crawling with ants and other desert insects.  Standing on the ladder, the smell was so bad I was gagging, my eyes were watering. I got down, put the ladder back in the car, cranked up the AC and drove home. I called the home owners association. They sent three guys over to take a look. They put on respirators and went to work, the cactus filled a dumpster and they sent the owner a bill for $900.00.

The residual smell lasted for a few more weeks and finally it was gone. I wondered for a long time why we were the only ones who smelled it and then it dawned on me, we were the only people in Las Sendas who ever walked.