Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Plan A, Plan B

(MQMurphy photo)

On another topic – have I mentioned here about how I went out on a Friday or Saturday morning in August of 1969 to the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia? 

I had a piece of cardboard with “Woodstock” written on it. Don’t remember if I had a bag with me, or just what was in my pockets. I went down to the bridge – why? No plan in particular, except to head north to hear some music. 

Plan A had been that a friend and I were going to get a ride with a friend of his. We waited up late the night before, but the ride never appeared (materialized?). 
So – no Plan B. Well, actually I guess that no Plan B would’ve meant that I stayed home.
Plan B was “Figure-it-out-as-you-go”.
It took more than a few rides and quite a bit of walking, but it turned out to be worth it.

Some damn thing . . .

(MQMurphy photo)

From the "Lunchbox" journal - something about the book that I've been telling myself that I will write:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ideas for chapters and metaphorical devices.

For example: plumbing.

I’m remembering the time that I soldered together the pipes for a new sink in the upstairs bathroom. The floor was out – I was running pipes through the joists. There were elbows and angles and couplings and valves. I remember counting the number of separate joints that were soldered – perhaps more than forty. When I connected the water and turned it on, there were no leaks. It was like I’d taken and passed a major exam.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


(MQMurphy cameraphone image)
Today – this beautiful August the twenty-fourth – has the feeling of a tipping point. 
It’s almost as if there is a current, or a stream of biology deep inside of me that feels or knows this. 
As though the year is a ball tossed into the air and today is the day when the momentum slows, slows to a halt – there is a pause that is 
eternal and only a millisecond – and we fall

back towards the contracting and condensing of the year from which we’ll need to be hurled up again to air and warmth and light.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I Am Vivi Nevo

(Image found at NYTimes.com)

Okay, it’s true . . . I am Vivi Nevo.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the firewall between my high-flying international media-investment-schmoozaroo and my private life here in quiet Cape May County.

After lunch at San Pietro today I pushed my chair back from the table – too tired to fight with Spielberg for the check – and tried to remember if I’d ordered that sheet of birch plywood for the Pinto’s bookshelf.

Mystery Schmystery!
It was that damned Times article that killed the ride for me.
All that stuff about being a ‘Zelig-like’ character. And he’s not even a real guy.
Hey – I’m just me, trying to be me . . . and a normal guy, too. Is that too much to ask?
Can’t a guy have a little privacy when he’s not zooming around the world moving the shakers and schmoozing the movers?

I just like to be able to kick back in the workshop with my router and throw a little sawdust around – makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.
Not to mention – don’t even mention it – that I get some of my best ideas while pushing the old Bosch 1 3/4 hp around the edges of a door. Pretty sure that’s what I was doing when I came up with the MS/Yahoo/Google thing.

Lenny Kravitz commented the other day “ . . . is that cat hair on your suit? Man, I didn’t know you had a cat!” Nine of them, Lenny. And four dogs, too.
(So now the nine cats and four dogs are out of the bag, bro.)

And no, for all you clever types out there, this is not one of those “I am Spartacus!” things. I considered that briefly, but concluded that instead of being able to escape in the cloud of confusion I was just as likely to be caught up in it. Can you imagine the mess that 50 or 60 bloggers could make out of that plan?

Weinstein and his girlfriend were staying in the loft over the workshop last week and he gave me this look – like “. . . you can’t keep this up, Viv. It’s gonna blow up in your face like a glued-up slab of birdseye maple in a planer!”

Yeah, Harv – maybe you’re right. Let’s let a little of the air out of this thing before it gets really crazy.
See you down at the Wawa.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Aw, please - just go away.

(Image found at NYPost.com)

More than ever, I am checking the NY Times online (and then all the other news outlets) hoping I'll see the announcement that Hillary Clinton has quit.
The only purpose she is serving now is to show us a pure example of naked, unheeding ambition.
If we needed it, her latest is sufficient proof that she is a single-celled organism and she makes Schwarzenegger's "Terminator" look like a pansy.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lawnmower Years.

(Image found in a box of old stuff)

I bought this house thirty years ago this month. How long is that in lawnmower years?
There’s a Polaroid photo of one of my early lawnmowers somewhere around here. A cast off, a hand-me-down. Big-ass stamped red body with a white motor. I might’ve even repainted it in the process of its revitalization. New plug, new paint, fresh gas. So proud of it that I took a picture of it.
A. Photo. Of. A. Lawnmower.
An icon. A symbol of normality. If I recall correctly, I wanted to send the photo to my aunts in Peabody, Massachusetts. Owning a lawnmower was my ticket to respectability. You wouldn’t have a lawnmower if you were just some slacker guy. It was an emblem of my property-owning, upstanding citizen self.

I actually like mowing the lawn. It satisfies an 'Ozzie and Harriet' yearning in me. We had no lawns at the houses I grew up in. Not that I remember wanting a grassy yard, but when I bought this house it came with grass. At some point I realized that it had to be dealt with.
I think mowing has a calming effect on me, not unlike the feeling I used to get from ironing shirts. You pass the tool over the work and the result is so visible – so tangible. Smoothed cloth, a tamed wilderness. Man’s handiwork – evidence of civilization.

The simplest of machines, the lawnmower is. The inevitability of the sickle harnessed to the vast potential of internal combustion.
How many of these wonders had I dragged home from trash heaps and yard sales? How many Frankensteinian creations did I put together with each others’ hearts, handles and wheels?

Back in the early days, the machines were often no match for the yard if I didn’t establish a routine early in the season. When the grass got knee high the only way to attack it was to rear the mower up on its hind wheels, surge it forward by its own length and let it drop on the thicket from above. Progress was slow, of course – measured in blade shadows. Impatience on my part inevitably led to biting off more than the machine could chew. This resulted in the stalling of the machine.
The process of rear-surge-drop and rear-surge-stall would finally defeat me. Soon enough the grass would grow sufficiently tall to hide the mower and ease my shame somewhat.

Prosperity enabled me at some point to buy a brand new lawnmower. Maybe from Sears – maybe from our local hardware store. Some assembly required, of course, but I was an old hand by then. I’ve never been proud enough of the store-boughts to take a picture of one.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Phrases pop into your head.

(image found at the Official Website of Mark Twain)

Just this morning, for no reason that I can discern, the phrase
" . . . turtle on a fence post" popped into my head. I'd sort of heard it before - I'd read a reference to someone having used it. So I Googled it and came up with a couple of hits - 9,800, actually. Here's a great explanation and example of the phrase, which is formally credited to Mark Twain.

Ed. note: I couldn't seem to make that link work. You might still want to check out variousmiseries.blogspot.com and in the meanwhile here's the text that I was trying to link to:

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to former Texas Governor George W. Bush and his going to the White House.

The old man said, "Well , ya know, Bush is a "post turtle".

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a "post turtle" was.

The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."

The old man saw a puzzled look on the doctor's face, so he continued to explain, "You know he didn't get there by himself, he doesn't belong there, he doesn't know what to do while he's up there, and you just want to help the dumb shit get down and move on"

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cleaning the back of the Saint's head.

In March I worked for a few days for a company that restores stained glass windows. They needed a carpenter at a job over in Lewes, Delaware. The real restoration craftsmanship was done back at their studio in north Jersey. In Lewes they were installing a clear plexiglas protection layer against the window jamb. To prepare for the plexiglas we had to remove the old exterior protective layers. Some of these were weathered plastic; some were glass. After they were removed - which involved dealing with old, hardened caulk and glazing compound - the old pieces were used as patterns for the new plexi protection.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous for the three days that I worked there. The building was a slate-roofed brick church in the oldest part of Lewes, which bills itself as the first city in the first state. The church was in a property that covered an entire block and included a churchyard with the graves of the early congregants.

We worked on the building from small aluminum scaffolds that were moved from window to window.
Church volunteers paused to thank us - the work crew - for the transformation of their windows. 
After the old glass and glazing compound were removed, the jamb was caulked and given a coat of paint. The last step to be performed before installing the new plexiglas was to sweep off any dust and spray a glass cleaning solution on the outside of the stained glass.

I didn't ask which Saint's head I was cleaning from the top of the scaffold. When I went inside on the last day to see what I'd been working on, he was just beaming.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

When I'm ninety-four.

I'm the little guy in this picture. The big guy behind me is my Dad. I was about nine months old when this was taken, and that would make him just shy of 39 years old. He lived for about 15 more years. He died just a little over 40 years ago, on New Year's Eve 1967.

But - I've only given you a photograph and some basic math. I'm told that I am the little guy in the picture. The big guy is defintely my Dad. He looks happy. I'm guessing that my Mom is taking the picture, so there I am - sandwiched between two people who loved me.

I wasn't even nearly a human being when he died - I was still a blob of some sort. Didn't know who or what I might turn out to be, and didn't really have much to talk to him about.
I can see him clearly in my mind, on that wicker chaise in the background. He'd have a terrycloth jacket and a Phillies cap and a transistor radio and maybe a beer, and he'd sit back on that chaise and listen to the baseball games in the summer.
He gave me that wonderful right hand of his to grip. When I got older he told me about the importance of having clean hands - clean, well manicured fingernails. He told me a secret about how he'd punched a man once. He was ashamed and proud of it and he wanted me to understand. I think I did.
Another thing I understand now is how quickly fifteen years can go by.

I put this post up and took it down more than once. On one hand, I felt that I was charmed by the photo and sort of wrote something just to justify posting it. On the other hand, children and families and the crazy passage of time are still relevant. Maybe more than ever.
To quote Jackson Browne " . . . they say in the end, it's the blink of an eye."