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.



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?

Give chance a chance

I recently had the pleasure of covering former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s appearance at Lesley University’s Boston Speakers Series in Symphony Hall. Since my days living in Portland, Maine, I have been a fan of the Pine Tree State Republican. Her several decades as an elected official were a showcase of that rare politician exhibiting the ability to hew to one’s stock-footage-rolling-dice-in-slow-motion-with-numbers-two-and-fiveconvictions, while still working effectively and without acrimony.

Olympia Snowe was a true Capitol Hill maverick — she didn’t just play one on TV.

She is also a true believer in the possibility of a bipartisan Congress and  the ability of citizens to demand a better government than they’re getting, and that’s where we disagree. I believe no amount of legislative finagling will override the influence of big-money special interests, the true constituents of contemporary congressional representatives.

But one thing can keep them in check, at least to some extent: the cold hand of chance.

The U.S. House of Representatives, or at least a significant portion of it, should be selected at random. Does that sound reckless or irrational? Jury pools are constituted this way, except for the several individual jurors removed by prosecutors and defense attorneys through challenges before trial, and their replacements come from that same randomly selected pool.

Society has no problem with ordaining a dozen people pulled from the ranks for registered voters to decide on the life or death, the liberty or incarceration, of a convicted criminal, and the guilt or innocence of the accused. Are not these decisions as important as the power to tax, allocate highway expenditures or hold hearings on the malevolent influence of comic books, popular music or television shows?

We could start small by designating one representative from each state to be chosen at random. That way, we can count on at least 50 members of Congress to be free from the need to curry favor with campaign donors, often at the expense of the interests of the people.

Give chance a chance. We just might luck in to a better government.

Back to work

End of winter break is here. Didn’t write or read as much as I wanted, and one long-overdue get-together was thwarted at the last minute. But, in general, solidly in the win column.

Got to visit with a friend’s new family, embarked on a volunteer gig, caught up to two excellent movies long after their first run (“American Hustle” and “Wonderland”), the weather cooperated and I was able to hunker down with my girlfriend for plenty of needed relaxation. Plus, a fun and ridiculously bountiful Xmas, with minimal Sturm und Drang.

Ready to face an incredibly busy season at work, with the opening of a new arts center and four-day “creativity forum” to publicize, commencement to prepare for, faculty experts guide to launch and all sorts of day-to-day blocking and tackling ahead.

Like 2014, I expect 2015 to teem with challenges, opportunity and joy — and maybe a beer or two in Boston. Cheers, prayers and best wishes to you all!

The enemy inside me

An enemy lives inside me. At least I think he’s the enemy.

He thwarts my ambition. He leads me into temptation. He criticizes my efforts, but then quickly salves my ego, telling me everything’s all right. Not everyone is meant to create, to participate. The world needs readers and observers, an audience for the actors.

That’s what the enemy says. At least I think he’s the enemy. spy_vs_spy

Maybe that guy’s the champion of my true nature, and the enemy is the one occasionally shaking me from my slumber. The enemy grabs my lapels and shakes me out of sweet complacency. Don’t smoke so much, he says. Cut out the sweets and crap food for just one month and see how you feel. Get your ass in the chair and write, numskull!

I’ve written it down for you, he says. Just give it 15 minutes a day, for crying out loud! Remember what I said a couple years ago about an overarching resolution for the new year? What the hell happened? I had such high hopes for you!

One thing is clear: The prospect of peace at my internal borders is grim.