Winter to Spring


We are in the winter of our lives.  It is dark and dreary and spongy wet.  The air is cold, almost freezing and the chill penetrates the skin, bores in a blanketed assault on the warm core.  And we are inside the crusted walls of what was called home.  You might imagine that outside is worse, and it is.

The spindly woods of trunk and branch and twig, craggy and derelict in the fading light, filter the alien winds that come from the empty fields, mud choked and rutted and encased in a dingy crust of frost.  If there was sunlight forecast, it might burn off, but the fog that clings to twigs is not wet enough and we expect freezing rain in the afternoon.

The weather is coincidental to the bleak outlook for our town.  Shipments of food are a memory and a steady diet of deer meat is taking its toll.  Everyone is undernourished and weak.  Hollow sunken eyes bear witness to failed desires and lank hair falls out in patches.  The uneven sporadic static from the radio waves of fading volume reveal a mirrored wave of suffering that extends down the coast, across the plains and infects the entire planet.

A decade ago the elite decided what was best, and they dictated to the huddled masses.  They had the power and the glory forever.  But verbose and fanciful words strung along in eloquent speeches did little to stimulate the production of needful things, because you cannot dictate production when there is no incentive to produce when it is all stolen away and spent by others for the benefit of others.  And staples evaporated like solvent on the skin.  There was little and then less and less and then nothing for anyone.  Death came among us as aspirinic relief, we awaited in envy without the energy to hasten the inevitable.

I waited to freeze to death.  But in the depths of my soul, through and across my stupor, I sensed an inkling of warmth, a front of thaw.  It was a mirage; I was sure, perhaps the harbinger of the relief of death.  But I did raise my head from my crooked knees, back to blue ice wall and withered ass on hard wood floor.  I lifted my nose in the air, like my remembered dog, and sifted through the scents of damp death and decay, and caught a whiff of clean.

My four companions in the bleak midwinter room remained statue still, knowing that a movement would only bring a renewed feeling of ice.  But I came off the floor and went to the window and rubbed a circle into the pasty grime and rime crystals and put my eye to the glass.

To the east under the layer of low stratus underclouds was a band of blue and a hue of sunlight, a harbinger of hope, which, quite frankly, I refused to accept.  I stood there with my Cyclops’s visions of a future in which I had no faith.  There would be no salvation or miracles.

But I did crack the door and widen the gap and pull it full open.  I faced the east and dared to watch the brightening of the morning.

And then this happened: The bad gave way, the dark was engulfed and consumed and gorged by the sun, and the barren hills of wooden sticks took on a tinge of blush as the sugar red and scarlet maples budded out and the birches came into forgotten shades of neon lime green like breaths of blossoms, and the earth filled out and closed in, buds to little leaves to riots of long forgotten shades of green brought lush and vibrant in the aching sunshine.  The noises returned and song birds bounced on limbs and heralded a new beginning. The gentle renewal swept before my eyes, lush and full and hot bursting with rejuvenation.

The evening came and it remained warm and the peeper fogs serenaded my ear drums and I was not worried about the return of winter’s death.  We had turned the corner and left the disastrous experiment behind and now we could be true to our own natures again and remake mankind as kind man without the pretentious progressive falsehoods of the slipshod elites.

And I could see into the future.  The collective know-it-alls faded and wilted to the strength of the individual men and women who took matters into their own hands, and scraped and gouged dents into the earth and found seeds to push with fingers deep into loam, warmed by the spirit of awakening and possibilities.

The world started to move again, people came out of huts and  hovels and blinked at the brightness and stirred their limbs, sweeping arms in circles and limbering knees to chest and shedding the outer layer of damp woolens so the sunlight could spread the glow of life across the pallid skin.  And they looked to neighbors and ventured a touch of hand then an embrace of arms in celebration of future.  Unbelievable?  I think not.

Turbo Encabulator


Welcome to the test lab.  Today we will reveal our newest invention.  We have developed a new line of heavy duty transmissions and created a new standard for reliability, durability and quality, with customer service being our primary focus.  Work is proceeding using crude ideas for an instrument that would not only supply inverse reactive current for the use in unilateral phase detractors but would also be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters.  Such an instrument is the Turbo Encabulator.

Basically, the only new principal involved is that, instead of power being generated by the relative motion of conductors and fluxors, it is produced by the mobile interaction of magneto reluctance and capacitive diractors.  The original machine had a base plate of prefabulative amulight surrounded by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that the two spurving berrings were in a direct line with the panametric bam.  The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzel vanes sole fitted to the amberpatient lunar rein shaft so that side fumbling was effectively prevented.

The main winding was of the normal Lotas O Delta type placed in panendurmic semi-boloid slots of the strator, every seventh conductor being connected by a nonreversible D Tremmy pipe through the differential girdle spring on the up end of the grammeters.

The Turbo Encabulator has now reached a high level of development and it is being successfully used in operation of no-for trems.  Moreover, whenever forescent score motion is required, it may also be employed in conjunction with a drawn recipricator dingle arm to reduce sino-soidal depleneration.

Now that we know how the Turbo Encabulator works, let’s take a closer look at its diagnostic service.  For the purposes of obscurity, we have removed the casing to expose the heart of the Turbo Encabulator – the magneto reluctance modial interactor.  Since little or nothing is known about the principles involved in magneto reluctance, diagnosing faults can be a problem.  Connect a DRV2 to the aft end of the moxy interpreter using the special adaptor WUPD4, making sure that the osmolality of the phase detractor in not extrapolated.

Begin the test by selecting model year, transmission system, and Turbo Encabulator test run.  If there are any system faults, they will be displayed in secret code on the DRV screen.  It is a simple head code.  Anyone can catch it.  The most common fault is sigmoid rumbling below the belt line, which the customer would refer to as a burping or even a hiccupping noise.  To service this fault, refer to the Turbo Encabulator diagnostic procedures manual and song book and perform test TE 10.  Using the Geiger scale on the DRV2, measure the wrenchin output of the capacitive reactor flux muster.  If it is above 10 rgs, replace the unit.  If it is below 10 rgs, you will be directed to perform a series of tests that will effectively raise the billable hours for the service department but will perform no other useful function.

All other faults should be treated as if they do not exist and customers should be told that the burping and hiccupping noise is normal, caused by too much gas in the fuel system.

Please be sure to tune in next week for the revealing instruction on how to cleanse a martingale using a eupheraneous bath.

(* I am not the author of this piece. I don’t know who is. I am passing it along as a service to all good nonsense.)

The Common Cold

Journey Of The Common Cold (masculine)

Stage 1:

Slightly congested, a little runny nose, increasing sinus build-up, reaching for the Kleenex, still with vigor.

Stage 2:

Confirmed head cold, sinuses filling, blocked nostrils, when horizontal (dread bed) post nasal drip and tickled throat and superficial cough.

Stage 3:

Annoying cough, maybe sore throat, weak and fragile, 2 hankies, maybe 3, you sound like Darth Vader, body aches and chills.

Stage 4:

Cough moves down to your bronchial tubes, initially unsuccessful attempts to get purchase on phlegm (what a great word!), cough becomes a full body blow, a seismic eruption, you become aware of all your torso muscles, sneezing with extreme vigor, dread bed continues, cannot sleep horizontally, lower nostril blocks up and drips onto pillow, mouth breathing turns lips and everything else to crusty parched desert, slides into slumber are interrupted by wracking cough. fragile, partner moves to another bedroom.

Stage 5:

Head begins to clear, slight headache due to residual congestion, urge to cough slackens, still fragile, move slowly so as not to awaken the monster within.

Stage 6:

Finally able to return to work. Milk the absence. Exaggerate the experience. At any stage, bronchitis, strep throat and/or pneumonia may be invited to participate in the ravaging of your body. You are a hero.

Journey Of The Common Cold (feminine)

Stages 1-6:

Feels like shit, powers through, gets job done (and takes care of sick spouse and children). She is a hero.

Sitting Ducks



So my buddy Bob and I are in my little car headed up one-way Preble Street, T boning on Congress in downtown Portland last Friday, early afternoon, first at the light to turn left, to head down to the boat show.  But the lights are all out-of-whack so when mine is green, my target lane is crammed with cars stopped for their red.  There is no room for me to advance, so Bob says, “Let’s go right.”

I pull over to the other lane and the light changes.  I stare at the sign that says, “NO RIGHT TURN ON RED.”  Bob waves me forward.  To my left there is a diagonal car blocking oncoming traffic.  “Go, nobody will see you.”

So, I pull out, and two seconds later there is a whoop whoop and a carnival display of alternating flashing high beams and rotating blue and a shiny grill that fills my rear view mirror.

There’s not much room on Congress Street to pull over, but I ease to the curb with him behind me and we are blocking most of our lane.

Bob shakes his head, “No way.”

The cop comes to my window, full of caution, and stands even with the post between the front and back seats.  I become a contortionist to get a good look at him.  He is all deep blue with lots of dangly chrome and bronze paraphernalia hanging on his chest.  His name is Scott McKenna.  He is my age, no hat, balding, with an open and friendly face.  We are sitting ducks.

“Do you know why I stopped you?”

“Yes sir, I do.”

“May I see your driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance?”

My knees are shaking and I cannot shed a crushing guilt complex and my words are getting scrambled in my head before they get to my teeth.  I fumble around for the license from my front pocket and the documentation from the glove box.

He looks over my papers.  “You’re from Lincolnville.”  He looks in the back seat and sees the golf clubs.  “Down here to play golf?”

“We played this morning, and now we’re headed to the boat show.”

“I’m working the show tomorrow.  Maybe I’ll see you there.”

Things are going well and I get a flash in my head.  It’s worked once before.  So I blurt this out: “I have a good joke.  If I tell it to you and you like it, will you consider giving me a warning?”

Scott stands up straighter and relaxes enough to stand full in the window.  “Go for it.”

I’m still nervous and I don’t want to blow it.  I take a deep breath.

“There is this guy who’s just bought a brand new Ferrari and he’s been driving around town, doing the legal speed limits and it’s making him crazy, all that performance and power going to waste.  He decides to take her out, 3AM Sunday morning, no one on the highway.

He’s out there, no one in sight, and he tags her, gets up to 90 miles an hour and she is sweet.  He glances up and there’s a cop car on his tail.

Hey, he thinks, it’s a Ferrari.  He punches her up to 120 miles an hour, looks in the mirror, and the cop is still right behind him.  Now thinking about all the trouble he’s in, he lets off the gas and coasts into the breakdown lane.

The cop comes up and he’s mad.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?  Do you have any idea how fast you were going?

The guy wilts. “Yes, officer, I know.”

The policeman takes off his hat and runs a hand through his hair.  “Sir, this violation is a felony.  I’m at the end of my shift and if I run you in, it’ll take hours of paperwork.  Can you give me any reason that you failed to pull over and in fact attempted to out run me?”

The guy looks down on his steering wheel, the little Ferrari emblem, and thinks a second.

“Yes sir, well, last week my wife ran off with a police officer, and I thought you might be trying to bring her back.”

The officer chuckled.  “Good one.”

I wait.  The officer asks, “Do you have a current registration?  This one has expired.”

“Expired?  When?”


I’m getting flustered again and my mouth is spitting out fractured words and I bobble through the envelope of important papers.

The officer looks on.  “Tell me you’ve got the stickers in there.”

I cannot find a thing.  “No, sir.  That’s all I have.”

He looks down at me.  “And those straps, they’re called seat belts and the law requires that you are buckled up.”

He hands back my paperwork and says, “I want you guys to have a good, responsible weekend.  Obey the law and get this car registered when you get home.”

“Thank you officer.  I’ll tell my wife that you want us to have a good time.”

“Tell her Officer McKenna says Hi.”

No Room For Error



I worry about taking the boat across the water, with the ice in the bay and the sea smoke.  I am unfamiliar with the vessel, its quirks and feel, and am apprehensive about signals I may misinterpret.  I am comforted somewhat because the ferry is running, out in the bay with me, so I can raise them on the VHF if there’s trouble.  I am concerned that I’ll not be able to operate the radio.

I think that all my concern is speaking directly to what we want to market as a boat yard – selling peace of mind on the water, so the operator knows who to call, what help to seek, if things go wrong.  I am an example.

I am soothed somewhat because I’m qualified. I have experience.  I know boats and how they run, single screw or twin engine.  The docking shouldn’t be a problem.  You go slow, let the wind do its work, and nestle up to the float.  Come in upwind and get blown to a perfect landing.

I’ve been instructed about the peculiarities of running in such cold weather.  The intake, sucking salt water, cannot freeze and starve the engine of cooling fluid.  There is ice in the bay, but it is new ice, slushy and in lily-patch pieces, not hard enough to pierce the fiberglass hull.

When I row out to the boat on the mooring I am careful to dip the oars into water, not onto the patches of ice.  The waterways on Justin time are covered with accumulated ice from spray frozen on contact.  I am careful of my footing as I board, so as not to slip into the killing water.

The key is in the ignition.  That means that the engine has not been laid up and the through-hull intake valve is open.  I go below and check, to make sure.  It is open.

The engine starts hard, and the alarm beeps intermittently as the engine warms up.  I watch the temperature gauge and wait for the needle to register some warmth.

I walk the narrow port waterway up to the bow, one gloved hand sliding on the hand-rail, the other pulling the row boat along behind me. I struggle to unwind the pennant from the forward cleat because it has frozen itself around the bit.  I tie in the row boat then toss the whole mess off the bow and the boat drifts away.

The boat, named Justin Time, pushes chunks of ice out of the way as I approach the dock.  The dock is covered in packed snow and is ringed by a skirt of ice, splashed and congealed in the chop.

I concentrate on all the little things, and work the controls with forethought.  My passenger comes slowly down the incline, both arms spread out to grasp the railings.  The tide is almost low and the incline is very steep and slippery.  He comes aboard and I back the boat off the dock and spin her around and head towards Islesboro.

February is a private time to boat in Maine.  The summer riff-raff is months gone and months to come, and only we serious boaters are on the water – the boat yard boats and the occasional scallop dragger.  The prevailing wind is from the north and the skies and sea are slate gray, and the water is cold enough to kill you in five minutes.  If anything goes horribly wrong on this three mile stretch of water, and the boat sinks, there is no hope for rescue.

Travelling across the bay is more special because there is no room for error and you are alone.  The boat is like an arrow head and cleaves the waves and lays down a carpet of wake.

This is serious business and you are in control.  The rolling of the waves and the drone of the engine pull you towards complacency, but you fight that and pay special attention.

I pick up the other two passengers on the Islesboro side and we all huddle in the warming pilot house as I maneuver Justin Time through the mooring balls and out into open water, around Spruce Island and into Cradle Cove where the boat yard sits.

The northerly wind has driven ice into the little cove and around the front pilings and the floats.  Here it is a solid mass.  I slow the boat and we cut a path to the dock.  The fiberglass pierces the ice crust and it sounds like chewing.

All goes well with the meeting, but I am concerned that the wind has freshened and this may complicate the return across the bay.  We leave the island and the bow hits the chop and raises spray that freezes on the windshield and reduces my visibility.  I work the wiper toggle switch and fresh water washes some of the ice to the side.  I can see enough through the lower quarter of the windshield pane.

My passenger speaks to me about the meeting, but I am annoyed that he is diverting attention I am trying to pay to the coming landing and then putting the boat back on the mooring.  I plot my technique to catch the mooring buoy and tall pennant stick.

But all goes well. I drop my passengers at the float and when I am finally secured back on the mooring, and the rowboat is tied tightly to the stern, I breathe a sigh of relief.  As instructed, I lay up the engine.  I close the intake value, drain the hose, then restart the engine and pour two gallons of antifreeze into the strainer.  I shut down the engine and close the engine box.  I row back to the dock and realize I worry too much.



The origin of the stadium wave –

So, I’m sitting in the bleachers out beyond left field.  I’m bored.  The sky is blue.  The sun is bearing down and hot.  The grass is green.  The beer is cold.  The game is in the late innings, a pitcher’s duel and no baseball has made it out of the infield.

The Red Sox are up.

I stand up to stretch.  I raise my arms.

The good looking redhead three seats to my left stands up and puts her arms in the air.  She looks over and winks.  She sits down.

I sit down, puzzled.  I stand up and put my arms in the air.  The redhead immediately does the same.

What looks to be a clump of drunk fraternity boys in a center field section all stand up, scream and wave their beers in the air.

Cause and effect?

I repeat.  They repeat, and several people over in the right field bleachers get up and wave their hands.  We are getting the attention of other bored fans.

It starts small, a suggestion.  Then there builds a sense of expectancy to participate, so as not to disappoint.  Even the reluctant ones give in and stand up and wave their hands.  They didn’t think they’d like it, but they do.  It brings a smile and then they laugh.  Everyone watches to their left and cheer as more and more people become part of the phenomenon.

Left field, across to center, through the right field bleachers, down the first base line, around home, screaming out the third base line and veering right at the foul pole and coming again.  Now the whole stadium is involved.

The wave is born.

Why participate?  What’s in it for me?  It’s to be part of something bigger, a collective power that takes on a life of its own.

Literary Wave Making 101 (call to action):

Re: Vacationland  – buy/review/share with all your friends, and have them share with all their friends, ad infinitum.

Let’s get this literary wave going, and see what happens.  It’s the New Year.  Let’s GO!

Eating Disorder


I’ve got an eating disorder, know what I mean?  Of course you don’t, but stay with me here.  I’m sitting on the sofa in the kitchen, like six in the morning and the wife has got the ice box open, takes out a tub of yogurt and sets it on the counter, pops the lid.  I’m deep into this good book. Jack, my terrorist dog, is leaning hard on my leg, fast asleep.  You get the picture – home-fire bliss, kids still got a half hour before the wake up drama, all quiet on the eastern front.

So she turns on me, brittle, harsh words spit out between those fangs, dripping venom.  “Did you eat the cream off the top of the yogurt?”

“What?”  I’m still half in the book.  What the hell?

“The top cream, did you eat it?”

I got a small recollection of the thought that, hey, this is good stuff, late at night, me slicing the soup spoon sideways along the surface of the yogurt, squeezing a trail of honey on the top, sliding it into my mouth and letting it sluice down my throat, tickling the taste receptors on my tongue.

But hey, now I’m like, where did this attitude come from?  I might need to get to the emergency room, have the stab wounds stitched up, she comes on any stronger.  She’s right on track.


“I had some yogurt last night.”  Now I’m like, I don’t deserve this!  And I’m drawing into myself real quick, getting freaking angry, thinking “back off.”

She comes on stronger.  “And you didn’t mix the top in with the rest?”  She’s aghast with incredulity.

I’m getting really short now.   I can lash out with my own sword play, let me tell you.  But, from past experience, I know it’s best to seethe in silent fury, no eye contact, she isn’t worth it.  And then, we all know, if I’ve got an eating disorder, it still pales to my anger issues.  Injustice does that to me, and I can get volcanic.

I manage to spit this out: “I didn’t see any instructions on the stuff.  What?  It has to be turned over?  Then put a post-it on the top.”

I retreat into my book and silent rage fills the kitchen from two sources.  Jack is sound asleep on my leg.  He should be up and growling at this assault on his master.  Damned dog, where is he when you need him?

And I know, can’t you see, that this little episode – the yogurt incident – is just going to be added to past indiscretions.  I can count them on two hands – the school oranges, pizza for the kid’s lunch, the box of granola put back in the cupboard with a thimble full of crushed cookie dust in a corner of the cellophane.

The food in my ice box is too good to eat, don’t touch it.  And if hunger calls, then for God’s sake don’t eat what I am not supposed to eat, what am I thinking?!  Never the good stuff, leave it alone.

I’m thinking I just about got the woman’s talk down pat, all meaning between the lines.  “If you have to ask what I mean, then you don’t care about me.”  You know what I mean.  And now this!  I need a freaking guide book, maybe a GPS, whenever I get the urge to open the damned ice box door!

I get it, whatever.  So what if I have an eating disorder?  I think I’m going to write a book – the disorder diet.

I got the kids out of bed then took some meat out of the freezer.  The roast thawed faster than the marital iceberg.

My ten year old daughter thinks we need two ice boxes, their food and then what I’m allowed to eat.