The Granary

I gave the guy with the booklets two bucks, just because. They were cheap, amateurish photocopies of grave sites at the Old Granary Burying Ground on Tremont Street in Boston, and this guy stood at the gate, asking only that they be returned on our way out. There was a note inside, though, suggesting donations to pay for the pursuit of history, or heroin maybe. I opted for history; he looked like maybe he could like history.

And there was history, if a little dusty. Over 2000 graves are in the Granary, and maybe twice that many, who knows? Samuel Adams. John Hancock. Benjamin Franklin’s parents. Victims of the Boston Massacre, including Crispus Attucks. And Paul Revere, who had a nice marker that I posed by while Cameron took a picture, which I can’t load onto this site for some reason. You’ll live. See update below.

Paul Revere wasn’t particularly famous during his lifetime, or for 50 years following his death, until Longfellow immortalized him, and his ride, in verse, giving him the lion’s share of credit for what was really a community project, although he certainly rode and did his part. Props to Paul, then, but I’m just saying. Poetry and history; something’s going to give with that combination.

(And surely he never said, “The British are coming!” He was British. But these are little things.)

The graveyard was a little spooky; it looked like The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, and the clouds had started to make an appearance by the time Cameron and I walked through the gate. And I wonder how much of Paul Revere remains anyway, after two centuries, although I haven’t researched this. Still, it was awesome, reading the stones, some from the 17th century, and imagining. I see dead people, etc.

I highly recommend it, if you’re in the area. It set the mood for the rest of my afternoon, a long walk that ended in the North End, home to a million Italian restaurants and Mr. Revere’s house, which apparently has been painted. The cobblestone has buckled in places, but the buildings look in amazingly good shape, and it was only a short walk to Christ Church, the Old North Church, where sexton Robert Newman carried two lanterns to the steeple at the direction of a silversmith and patriot, a little light at midnight, signaling that the soldiers were crossing the river to Lexington, letting history know that things were about to get lively.

(more to come)

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In Search of Sam Malone

You’ll be glad to know, I think, that I didn’t succumb to temptation and climb down the steps of the Cheers bar, hoping to find Norm and Cliff in the middle of the afternoon. I knew, of course, that it didn’t exist, that it was a Hollywood set and that the facade was all I got, that down those stairs was disappointment and despair and a tourist trap, but I still was tempted to go. I wanted to believe.

But I didn’t. I was too busy seeing Paul Revere’s house, and other stuff. There was enough reality in Boston without finding out awful TV truths.

Sleep was the casualty of this trip; I sacrificed gladly, but I’m just now sorta recovering. I slept seven hours out of 72, which left me functional but sort of odd, talkative but not making, maybe, a whole lot of sense, and now things are starting to stabilize again. Aside from two hours on the runway in Philly, a side effect of the thunderstorms that covered a swath of the country this weekend, it was an easy trip home, just long and boring and not helped by “The Devil Wears Prada,” which I didn’t watch anyway (I brought my own movies, thank you very much, and podcasts and music and memories).

Now I have a column to write and weight to lose and money to make, and that’s just this morning, so I’ll have more thoughts later. I will say that it was about as perfect a trip as I’ve had, or think about having, from the weather to the company to the sights and sounds, to the amazing ice cream I was introduced to (Oreo cookie cake batter, if you must know), to the deli in Brookline to watching “The Departed” on Friday night, to achieving my secret goal of getting everyone in the house to talk like Christopher Walken. Just about perfect, and if I didn’t find Sam Malone tending bar, well, I wasn’t really looking for him in the first place.

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Planes, Trains, Ladies, Lots Of Caffeine

I’m having some problems uploading photos at the moment, but let’s just say I’m conscious and leave it at that. After a smooth cross-country trip and 38 straight hours of, you know, not sleeping, it’s apparent that spring has come to Boston and I have, too.

After a glorious afternoon in this lovely city, we had a wonderful visit with Liz and Linda; pictures to follow. And it just now occurred to me that I actually changed my computer clock to EST last night, so instead of 7 hours of sleep I got 4. No wonder nobody else is up. I have the entire eastern seaboard to myself. I’ll take it.

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Eastern Promises

For a guy who almost never travels, this feels like a long trip looming. It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere. I just hope they have bathrooms on airplanes.

(Oh, just joking. As I recall, they’re back by the smoking section.)

I’ll check in at some point. Sorry I didn’t talk to you, Mom, before I left; things got wacky, what with packing and a haircut. But you know how I am.

On a totally unrelated subject — didn’t Hillary have to win Pennsylvania by double digits or else her campaign was over? Looks to me tonight to be about 8 points, and it seems awfully victoriousnessish to me. So the fun continues.

Anyway. I’ll take pictures of Concord, Lexington and Liz, hopefully. Wish me luck, no delays, and no damn propellers falling off the planes. Gosh I hope I get a sleeping berth…

UPDATE: Also, Beth? You see that picture of me over on the right side? That’s EXACTLY what I’m wearing. So look for that.

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Name Recognition

I’ve recently been on sort of a private tear (i.e., I complain to my wife) about the New Atheism and some of its proponents, particularly Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and one of its cheerleaders (Bill Maher; I’ve been listening to podcasts of his HBO show).

I’m not upset at the subject matter, or the fact that they’re getting lots of publicity, or the discussion or even the general philosophy. Some of this, actually, has been fascinating and illuminating. For many of these guys, particularly the two I’ve mentioned, though, their intellectual arguments are so shallow, short-sighted and stupid that it irritates me. They see, apparently, spiritual journeys as truncated intellectual growth; if you would only think harder (or if you were as smart as me!) you’d get past all this God crap.

Even that’s fine with me, dumb but at least an argument (I’d love to see one of the world’s leading theologians, and I can think of several, in a debate with Dawkins or particularly Hitchens). It’s the hypocrisy that drives me crazy. Both Hitchens and Maher, for example, recently spent a fair amount of air time expressing their admiration for Martin Luther King, Jr., and conveniently never mentioned that the man was a Baptist minister who infused his entire social and political movement with his faith and its tenets. WTF? He was either one of these dumb shit Christians believing in their “imaginary friend,” or he was a charlatan, giving lip service to religion but not really buying it. Sheesh.

At the same time, though, I have to remember what drives these guys to go ballistic on God, and so today we have case in point, a church in Jonesville, South Carolina, with a provocative sign:

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(If you can’t read it, it says, “Osama Obama Hmm Are They Brothers”)

Sigh. You can read about the church and its mission here. Me, I have to go get a haircut.

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The Tortoise And The (Pun Deleted)

Of all the characteristics that mark me as odd and different from my contemporary brothers and sisters, or really just most North Americans — including having a real job, saving money, knowing who Alicia Keyes is, having watched “Law and Order” at least once, etc. — the most striking has to do with hair and hair-cutting activities.

I don’t like to get my hair cut. Wait; that’s not true. I enjoy it, I just procrastinate. Well, no; it’s worse than procrastination. It almost never crosses my mind.

That’s not it either.

Whether it’s a phobia or a fault, it’s real, and it embarrasses my family. And even though I can make lots of excuses — I find someone great to cut it, then she leaves/moves/has complications from surgery/stops taking debit cards — it’s really gotten to the point of neurosis, if not bad manners. And even though one could attribute it to working at home for nearly 20 years and so being sort of eccentric in general terms, that really doesn’t wash because I’ve always been this way.

I’ve decided it’s immaturity. I was a teenager during a time when young men of the male persuasion wore their hair long and unruly, and even though this fairly quickly passed, fortunately for global aesthetics, I never got the memo. So while the style for men has varied from short to shorter, I’ve stayed the same, looking for all the world like somebody who should be carrying around Scooby snacks in his pocket and saying “like” every other word.

This drives my family crazy, and I can’t blame them. There are all sorts of looks for men, ranging from casual to professorial to metro to age inappropriate, but for a guy who’s so close to 50 it might as well be 96 days away, adopting the hairstyle of the late Michael Landon (minus the “style” part) is a questionable fashion choice. I’m serious: homeless people have better hair.

So I made an appointment to get it cut tomorrow before my trip, but that’s only a temporary fix, I know. I’m either going to have to shave my head, find me some Agent Orange, or seriously change my ways. Because hair grows, thus proving Professor Irwin Corey’s famous theory, to wit:

“if we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.”

And that would be, as it turns out, looking like Prof. Corey.

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(He’s alive and well, by the way, at age 94, and still working)

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Mark Your Calendars

As you surely know, I’ll be making a quick East Coast swing this week, and while my time is short and I’m scheduled to within an inch of my life, I have so many fans and admirers that I want to make accommodations as much as possible. Therefore, an itinerary (all times approximate):

Tuesday, April 22, 9-10pm: I’ll be making an appearance at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, musing on the intricacies of Homeland Security and giving an abbreviated version of my famous lecture, “Patience Is Not A Virtue, So Shut Up.”

Wednesday, April 23, 6-8am: You can find me in Charlotte, North Carolina, sharing my hilarious adventures (“Redeye Ruminations”) and talking about my upcoming book, “Can Really, Really Fat People Fly? (Yes, But They Shouldn’t).”

Wednesday, April 23, 7pm-10pm: I’ll be sharing the stage with the fabulous Liz Ek of Lizardek fame (and her equally fabulous mom), talking about blogging, family, and why Swedish people talk so funny. Note: Invitation only, sorry.

Wednesday-Friday: I’ll be all over Boston and environs, riffing on the weather, the food, and my aching feet. Stop by and say hi!!

Saturday, April 26, 1-3pm: I’ll be in historic Providence, Rhode Island, lecturing on “Why This State Doesn’t Technically Exist.” Laughs all over.

Saturday, April 26, 5-7pm: A quick stop in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, PA. BOOK SIGNINGS ONLY.

Saturday, April 26, 9pm PST: Back in Seattle. You can find me outside the US Airways luggage area, waiting for a ride. Don’t talk to me.

Looking forward to meeting you!

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Snow Falling On Sigars

I had a short IM conversation with a business associate last night as I geared up for my long shift of moving commas around. She lives in Indiana and so mentioned that she’d felt the earthquake in the morning. I mentioned that I currently had 6 freaking inches of snow in my yard. We both agreed that this was a sign of the End Times, that Armageddon was nigh and the Rapture just around the corner, and we had, of course, work to do.

So I guess my Weather Channel desktop gadget was not just being annoying. It’s been warning me since Tuesday, and it was very right.

There’s nothing all that earthshaking about snow in April, although it’s not normal, either. And certainly I’ve never seen it at this level. It snowed from around 1pm on, and I mean on as in on and on. It was sleetish and freezing rainish and then just snowish and finally snow, relentless and beautiful and lots of it. I’m guessing we ended up with 7 inches or so, and even though it’s warming up now a bit it’s not going anywhere soon.

The roads are fine, though, and Julie actually ventured into Seattle last night to see a play. This was a classic convergence zone phenomenon, the Convergence Zone being the mysterious area between Seattle and Everett where a combination of wind, water, mountains and magic can produce odd weather stuff, like me having 6 inches and you having none.

At any rate, I’m not sure a record was set, since even though I remember snow in May one year it has to occur at the airport, and the airport is considerably south of my house in snow terms. This doesn’t really matter, since my sidewalk doesn’t care about records, just about being cleared, and as George Carlin pointed out 30-plus years ago, who lives at the airport? Which is sort of a joke, and sort of a talisman, considering I’m taking a trip on Tuesday and may have an answer to that soon, but in the meantime it’s white here.

Also, it’s Meg‘s birthday. Just saying.

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Not That I'm Bitter

In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.

“Screw ’em,” she told her husband. “You don’t owe them a thing, Bill. They’re doing nothing for you; you don’t have to do anything for them.”

HuffPo, completing the Bittergate circle.

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