Do you want a job?

Do you want a job?

That’s what she asked me on that languid night so many years ago when we met for drinks at the late, lamented Rosa restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. But it doesn’t really matter.

The question is what was important. It wasn’t an offer, but a challenge. I was jobless, but with some money in the bank. I had been fired from a job, and probably a career, I hated, and I was biding my time, and slowing the pace of sapping my savings, laboring part-time on the copy desk of a local newspaper.

I parlayed the gig into a weekly column for pay, and managed to secure a somewhat remunerative assignment writing copy for one of those lackluster tourist magazines that litters newsstands and convenience stores. And I was writing feature stories for something like $35 a pop. I was establishing myself as an underemployed, under-compensated freelance writer, but paying more than I could afford to maintain my health insurance from my previous job.

And, of course, there was the meager unemployment check to round things out. I was (barely) keeping the wolf from the door, having reunited with a great roommate and drinking much of what I earned. Same old story, I guess.

I believed I needed a full-time job, back in the newspaper business, perhaps. We talked and drank, eventually kissed, but that eventually led nowhere. Then she asked: Do you want a job?

I began writing a novel in earnest, and then landed a job, owing to the largess of a former competitor and current friend, who put in a good word for me with the copy chief of a Pulitzer-winning daily paper. I had no idea what was afoot, but when the call came, I answered, tried out, and landed on the payroll, which led to a different, though related, and better payroll. And the novel began to die.

It was revived, briefly, but then neglected again. It remains in the 200-or-so rough draft stage, where it has languished for well over a dozen years. That is, it is buried.

But a layoff led to another somewhat lucrative contract, then a tidy salary in a field I’d never imagined entering, and where I’ve labored comfortably for six years, now.

Novel is still dead. Dream or fantasy on life-support, at best. The prognosis is not good. But the money is.

Do you want a job?

Returning to this

The shocking news of a friend’s death came yesterday, a good 2 1/2 months after Dayna J. Browne breathed her last. A casualty of cancer.

“Dayner” was glamorous, buoyant, brilliant, kind, supportive, large in size and spirit, and larger-than-life, a gourmet chef, a fine writer and a lawyer for the public good, first for Housing and Urban Development, and later for the U.S. Patent Office. She was my friend. I really loved her.

We spent plenty of time drinking bourbon we could scarcely afford, talking about all manner of things friends talk about. Except she frequently said to me, “Don’t sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.

She was raised a conservative Christian — she even attended Bob Jones University briefly — but that never seemed to quite fit her, but I believe she maintained her love of the Lord. But I don’t know, really.

She loved her dog, Tavish, and I think another one, Bentley. But, as happens, we lost touch, only to sort-of reconnect on social media. That was insufficient, of course, and today I am feeling the guilt and loss over not visiting her in Washington, D.C., where she carved out her career and, it appears, a community of close friends.

Again I have returned to the Island of Grief, and burned the ships behind me. It might take a little while before we rebuild for the voyage back home. But this is terra cognita.

Adieu, dear friend, taken for granted as I too often do.

Lobster and wine

Come out for lobster and wine. You deserve it.

Best friend calls, you go. After some hesitation.

You’ve got to. The lunch of a too-short lifetime. You’ve got to go.

Not yet, but you must. Understandable. All things end.

That time, too soon. Glad you went then, sorry you went later.

But it was time to go.

Raise a glass to the drinker!

If you can read this, thank a booze-bag.

This is going to sound like madness, but America — nay, the world — owes an enormous debt to people who have at least made a hobby of drinking, especially drinking beer, as it turns out. You can read written English because of drinking, perhaps. You definitely, however, owe your American liberty and ability to drink safe milk to those whose preferred libationbeer-cat-8 springs from the sublime and divine fermentation of barley, hops, yeast and whatever else is in beer: I’m not an expert, just a fan.

That is to say, drinkers make things happen. Tipplers get things done, often when they’re elbow-deep in their tipple of choice.

A ragtag group of tax-hating merchants, farmers and artisans fomented rebellion over tankards overflowing with spirit-lifting foam at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, the favorite watering hole of the Sons of Liberty. Read more about this here or, if you’re in the mood, head down to the Beantown Pub on Tremont Street and, as they say there, enjoy a Sam Adams across the street from Sam Adams (or, more accurately, his grave).

But you don’t like the taste of beer? Bet you like the taste of dry cold cereal even less. Sure, you can chow it down by the fistful right out of the box — if you’re a savage. Civilized people, though, eat it in a bowl only after soaking the stuff in milk. Before you climb on that high-calcium high horse, however, be sure to thank the American beer industry for letting you enjoy those Apple Jacks without running to the bathroom in paroxysms of nausea.

Yep, that kiddie breakfast staple doesn’t spoil so fast because of beer drinkers, and the desire of beer makers to truck beer across the grand old US of A to beer drinkers. French chemist Louis Pasteur decided to heat wine and beer to destroy the microbes that lead to spoilage, and soon that technique was used for cow’s milk, which is a particularly harmful-microbe-friendly environment. So, the history of safe, tasty milk came about because adults love drinking beer (and, I suppose, wine). So, just as with the American Revolution, I suppose we owe at least a grudging show of gratitude to the French for this, too.

Just as beer enriches the drinker, so this blog, rendered exquisitely in English, fills each reader with indescribable glee. And since English is the only language I write in, I owe thanks to the Irish monks who in the Middle Ages copied and protected English-language manuscripts, and preserved the literature and legends of ancient Greece and Rome. While I don’t have any direct evidence of ethyl alcohol’s role in this enterprise, come on: they’re Irish monks. Anyway, Thomas Cahill’s book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” discusses this a whole lot more authoritatively than I ever could.

So sisters and brothers — or Brothers, if you’re an Irish monk — join me in raising a glass to the love of beer, booze and wine. Please drink responsibly.



Not what we’re looking for


Got to face facts: This is the worst excuse for a blog ever. I missed all of “meteorological summer” and, frankly, am only blogging in actual summer by dint of this anemic aside. I might rectify this sloth, but I know better than to make promises. Even my own 15-minute Commitment was too much for me to stick to.

Less talk, more rock, as I used to say from the night editor’s desk. Let’s see if I’ll ever practice what I preach.


I stood by and watched a man drown in North Station

The other day, I saw a man hectoring people in line at the North Station McDonald’s for some spare change so he could get something to eat.

Because I, apparently, am an expert in human nature and the struggles every other person faces, I summed him up quickly. He was young, able-bodied, good-looking, white and almost certainly drunk. He didn’t deserve it, I told myself, but without so much as a glance I gave him the change I got back from my transaction and moved to the other end of the counter to wait for my order.

He then resumed his panhandling and I got pissed, growing ever angrier with each person he bugged for change.

Then I received my burger, fries and Coke and, eventually, took action: I took to Twitter called out the MBTA Transit Police and the Commuter Rail staff presumably in charge of North Station for their inability to take care of business and keep bums like this guy from harassing my fellow passengers. For good measure, I “copied” the governor on my complaint. That is, I included the governor’s Twitter handle in my 140-character tirade. I soon forgot about the whole thing. Until today.

A few years ago, I gave my life to Christ. Then something terrible happened. Then I made things so, so much worse. My closest friends and more than a few strangers can probably surmise what I’m talking about, but I don’t care to go into details. Trust me, though, it was pretty bad. With the Lord’s grace, I’m starting to come out of it and have actually emerged from the crisis increased in spite of, or perhaps because of, the experience.

That won’t be a surprise to anyone who has read the Bible, who remembers and understands how the God of Abraham repeatedly led his people — even (or especially) the transgressors — out of the wilderness. That same book, and an abundance of spiritual music inspired by it, also talks about the amazing grace and freedom that comes from Jesus through his death on the cross, his Resurrection and one’s acceptance and acknowledgement of the price he paid for our sins.

There’s a sentiment or a meme or whatever you want to call it that goes something like this: A man meets his maker and, once in front of him, decides to ask why, with all the suffering in the world and with all God’s ability to change it, he lets it continue. But the man never asks the question.

He’s afraid God will ask him the same thing.

Back to the other day. I have been blessed professionally and financially and, on the day in question, had plenty of ability to help this man — well over $100 — in my pocket. Yet, instead of helping, I merely bestowed less than a dollar in change, as well as my silent scorn, on a fellow person who Christ called me to help.

I have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior, yet I continually fail every test he confronts me with. On this day while waiting for my train home, I saw a man desperate and drowning in front of me, yet I didn’t throw him a life preserver, though it wouldn’t have set me back one iota. Rather than ask him what he thought he needed, given him the money and means to solve the problem in front of him, and tell him that he could be reconciled to God and could trust the Lord to break the chains of whatever is enslaving him, I let him go under. I have to live with that knowledge.

I’m going to keep trying to walk with the Lord and, knowing myself as I do, I will certainly keep getting lost along the way. But maybe next time I’ll start being a Christian, rather than just calling myself one.

Life saving time

Daylight Saving Time, jokingly dreamed up by Benjamin Franklin but embraced by Europe and the free-daylight-savings-time-ends-clip-art-2 United States in the early 20th Century, might have outlived its usefulness.

But I’m using it as an opportunity to save my life or, more accurately, improve my life. Call it a not-quite-New Year’s resolution.

In broad strokes: drink less, smoke less, weigh less.

Also: write more, risk more, live more.

My roadmap to this ideal is sketchy, at best, but at least I have begun sketching. Thanks to the Zen masters (whether you know it or not) whom God has placed at various points of my journey.

See you along the way!

George Washington and winter


George Washington rides into Boston, in a manner of speaking.

Yeah, we’re gearing up for another blizzard, but also in sight is George Washington’s Birthday. And my grandmother Honeybee always insisted that when you’ve made it to George Washington’s Birthday, you’ve made it through winter.

Global climate change and the Boston meteorologists be damned: I’m sticking with Honeybee’s wisdom, and that wisdom holds that winter will soon be an unpleasant memory.

Stay safe on the roads, lift with your legs and watch yourself on the ladder.

A purposeless-driven life

What are you meant to do? What is your purpose? Do you ask yourself these questions?

I do, probably too often.

You can have a terrific job, make more money than ever and believe the work is important, yet still feel at sea. (Of course, if you’re a merchant mariner, at sea is where you need to be, but I’m not one of those.)

Who is your authentic self? That is, who is my authentic self? When you’re nearly 50, you should know, right?

What if you don’t?

Anemic encomium

It’s wonderful to be reminded of someone you haven’t thought about in years, unless that reminder comes via some terrible news.

The old Portland Press Herald building

This thing’s a hotel now, I think. I don’t know. The paper’s no longer there but, then again, neither am I.

Bill Nemitz gave me my first daily newspaper job back in the early 1990s. I think he’d only been sports editor of the Portland Press Herald for a couple months at that point, perhaps explaining that rare lapse in judgment.

My job title was sports assistant. My duties at that time mainly consisted of quickly and more-or-less accurately writing up two- to three-paragraph summaries of high school and small college sports contests based on phone calls from the winning coaches. Basketball season was when the calls came in rapid fire, and the challenge was trying to write up each of them a bit differently, as they’d be stacked on the sports pages next to the “agate,” or scores, standings, transactions and other athletics arcana. I remember often trying and failing to get “thwarted” past the raptor-like and crusty copy editor Paul “The Commissioner” Abramowitz on the “rim,” and trying to keep pace with the demands of the witty and irascible “slot man,” Jeff “Snake” Hannon, who constantly joshed with copy editors Hal Madsen and Bob “Blackie” Smythe, a stoic and solid catcher in an over-40 hardball league.

Today I’m remembering not just the quiet and enigmatic Nemitz, who I believe soon left the sports department and became the paper’s chief editorial columnist, but the other impressive characters in the Press Herald building.

Editorial Page Editor George Neavoll personified grace and rectitude, as well as helpfulness. Having struggled to get my resume and clips from weeklies past the personnel office, I approached him for advice. He responded by giving me Nemitz’s number and alerting me that the sports department was hiring.

The talented and generous self-professed former party girl Martha Englert (who I believe is an Episcopalian priest or UCC minister now) paved the way for my first daily reporting job, at the Dover, N.H.-based Foster’s Daily Democrat, where she had been a star and about which she told me the truth: It will be an extremely tough job for no money, but in a year you’ll have more than enough clips to go somewhere else.

The elegant and kind Tess Nacelewicz, who lavished quiet words of encouragement and provided an uncommon example of serenity in the newsroom.

Alan Clandenning, a scrappy and game reporter straight out of central casting, who showed me the way the work should be done.

Metro Editor Dave McNabb, who took me on as a news assistant when the regular guy, the universally beloved Ed Perrotta, was recovering from a heart attack. “Cut the shit” was a typical example of his coaching and writing advice to me. My favorite, though, was City Editor Joe Michaud, one of the true gentlemen of the newspaper business, or any business, whose only prejudice was against inserting “What a long, strange trip it’s been” into any story about the Grateful Dead. He’d be known as a “good clubhouse man” if newspapers were sports teams.

I could point to other Press Herald editors, as well as reporters whose stories I contributed to (occasionally with an “endline”) and who contributed to my developing love for and competence in the craft of journalism, but I’ve already larded this post with sluggish extranaeity.

My year at the Portland Press Herald was insignificant to the organization, but it was crucial to me. The place provided numerous examples of journalistic professionalism and excellence in personal comportment that I have too often failed to attain, but which I continue to cherish. And Bill Nemitz was the exemplar of what a professional journalist and great man could be.

Now the cancer I never knew he had has come back with a vengeance. I’ll be praying for him every day. I hope you can spare one, too.