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Max’s Experience

Max had the opportunity to host a video for Experience.com, a very cool website that provides tips and internships for college students. I wish they’d had something like that when I needed it. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing about motorcycles right now; I’d most likely be sitting in my office on Wall Street ordering my assistant to pick up my lunch, and phoning Buck to make sure he’d packed the SUV for our long weekend in the Hamptons.

I know what you’re thinking right now. Knock it off.

Anyway. Experience hooked Max up to interview Uzay Tumer (you may remember Uzay from the reality TV show The Restaurant), who is general manager of Gaslight Brasserie – a hot new restaurant in Southie. They brought Max up to Boston and gave him a fabulous hotel stay on top of it all. He had a great time. Here’s the video.  

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Here is Buck as a Boy Scout, a child in the 1950s and 60s.  Dusting off my Freudian background ( I was a psychology major for three months in 1980), I have made my diagnosis and surrounded him with all the things I believe have influenced his dreams in adulthood. (The photo of Miss Atomic Bomb 1957 in her mushroom cloud bathing suit  is copywrighted by the Las Vegas News Bureau.)

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 Me: What is up with your dreams? Mine are inexplicable, but what’s up with yours?

Buck: My dreams are just ugly. I’m either being chased, or a nuclear bomb has gone off, or snakes are all around me —

Me: You’re always claiming you have the worst dreams of anyone, ever. How do you know?

Buck: Well what the hell does it sound like to you? Snakes and atomic bombs, snipers and —

Me: And how does that make you feel?

Buck: Shitty. And tired in the morning.

Me: Surely you have normal dreams on occasion. 

Buck: I never have a good one. Not like you. You’ll wake up in the morning and tell me [in a stupidly high voice meant to be mine] Last night I was flying! Me and this kitten were flying through the air giving out balloons and Moonpies to baby squirrels.  

Me:  I do fly a lot in my dreams. But look at it this way: At night when I’m not dreaming, I’m screaming, so it kind of balances out. Plus I have plenty of boring dreams in which I’m just typing, which sucks because it’s like real life. During one issue of the magazine, every night I dreamt that I was reading bad copy on the computer screen at a size 10 font, just looking for misspelled words and trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.

Buck: The closest I had to a good dream — the closest I’ve ever had was when I was like Burt Lancaster in that movie where he’s swimming through all the swimming pools in his neighborhood, swimming his way home

Me: It’s called The Swimmer and he [spoiler removed].

Buck: I’ve never done the flying like you, or any of that, but in that one dream I could run the way Burt Lancaster could swim.

Me: Which almost nobody can do in a dream. Most people run in slow motion in their dreams. That’s always been the case for me, anyway. That’s why in my dreams I don’t even bother with it anymore. I just fly everywhere. That’s my preferred mode of transportation, on account of it being way better.

Buck: Well I could run, and I was just running through the neighborhoods talking to people, running and running, and I was such a good runner. And because I can’t run in real life, that was my equivalent of flying. I still remember that, being about the only good dream I’ve ever had. 

Me: Well that’s just pathetic. But please go on.

Buck: I still have this same dream that shows up from time to time, from way back when I was a little kid.

Me: And what the hell might that one be?

Buck: Snakes.

Me: That’s easy, it’s from when you got bit in the face by a snake when you were 4 or 5 years old.

Buck: No. It goes back before that. I was still sleeping in a crib — which really isn’t saying much, because back then they made us sleep in a crib for lack of bed space, but I wasn’t tall enough to reach the head and footboard yet, so I guess it was technically acceptable — but in the dream I watched the animals come off the wallpaper, and there were snakes just piled up on the floor all the way to crib, piling up and pulsating. They were pulsing, AND I HATE THAT.

Me: This might be … beyond my psychiatric training to handle  a case such as —

Buck: I really hate that dream because it always ends the same … with me running out into the street where the whole street, the whole world, is crawling with snakes about two-feet deep, then four-feet deep, then —

Me: Yeah, I get it. Well this is probably a smidge deeper than anything I learned during my three months as a pysch major. For me to really get to the root of what’s causing this reoccurring dream would possibly require me to return to school for a month or so, possibly a whole semester, just till I could but see, the problem is, and you know this,  every time I step foot on a college campus as a student, I become knocked up.

Buck: I already know what caused it. I blame the Catholic Church.

Me: Oh, me too. I think the church did this to you. I wonder if there’s been any precedent of the Vatican dispensing monetary compensation for psychological damage manifested in a dream environment as hostile as yours?

Buck: In our church the gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary, which was like as big as Godzilla —

Me: That’s gotta be worth two million right there … I want a pool and a gazebo.

Buck: — the Virgin Mary was standing on a globe crushing a snake with her foot. And at the end of every pew were wood carvings of two snakes wrapped around a bunch of grapes. Their heads were poised at each other like they were about to fight.

Me: Jesus Christ, thank God my family wasn’t Catholic. I know you make fun of my relatives and their spiritual beliefs, but at least they never exposed me to any scary crap like that. 

Buck: [laughing] Well, I wouldn’t [laughing] your relatives

Me: [laughing] Were not Catholic.

Buck: [laughing] Correct. Your relatives were not Catholic.

Me: Catholic stuff, even though I collect it  now and I’d kill for one of those Godzilla Virgin Mary Snake Killing Statues, would have really scared me when I was a kid. Seriously. My grandmother was afraid of rosary beads, and she made me scared of them too.

Buck: [laughing] Yeah. Just as the stuff that you and your family take for granted might possibly scare normal people who happen to be in their right minds —

Me: No. That’s wrong. Totally wrong. My family is way, way off-topic so I can’t get into this now. Let’s get back to your dreams.

Buck: [laughing]

Me: [laughing] Stop it! Stop laughing about my family. [laughing] Say what you want, but at least none of them were ever Catholic. That alone makes them good by default. And by good, I mean mentally superior.

 Buck: [laughing]

Me: HEY.

Buck: [laughing]

Me:  [laughing]  My family were not witches! Goddamn it all to hell! Stop. Laughing. At. My. Relatives. 

Buck: Anyway.

Me: Yes, anyway. Your dreams sound awful. They’re fucked.

Buck: They are.

Me: Now tell about your other reoccurring dream about your high school girlfriends.

Buck: That one is very strange because it opens up like a play. There’s a big stage and the curtain opens with a big table up there. And it looks like the Last Supper, everybody is in the same pose as the Last Supper, except that seated at the table are all my old girlfriends. Then I realize I’m bound and gagged in my seat in the audience. Basically I have to listen to them talk about me and how bad I suck, and I can’t even dispute anything because I’m bound and gagged.

Me: [silence, frowning, ensuing disapproval]

Buck: Well, you asked But the majority of my dreams involve nuclear annihilation. That’s why I’m so fascinated with you know me and my atom bomb problem.

Me: You grew up when all that atom bomb talk was new, and people were just obsessed with it. The Cold War, bomb shelters, Duck and Cover. It’s embedded in your psyche.

Buck: It’s a hell of an explosion, I can tell you that. I’ve felt it.

Me: How could you feel it?

Buck: How could you not? I always survive, that’s part of it.

Me: Are there zombies?

Buck: No. Just me. [laughing] It’s not like that. Somehow I always survive, which is like worse than taking the bite.

Me: Why?

Buck: Because there’s nobody left. And, basically, [laughing]  if there are people left they either don’t like me or I don’t particularly care for them.

Me: Well I love that in a movie. When there’s nobody left on earth except for like five people and they have to run from zombies. I don’t know how you avoid the zombie factor in your dreams.

Buck: Zombies are easily killed.

Me: I know. It seems fun. 

Buck: Well …

Me: I’m hoping that will happen one day. I’m counting on it happening.

Buck: … my dreams involve everything but the zombies. But from now on, I’ll try and incorporate them for your sake.

Me: Where are you in time when The Bomb goes off?

Buck: There’s no permanent time element. It goes from when I’m a kid to being an adult. It just keeps popping up in my dreams, like a way to resolve a dream. It’s a way to end a horrific dream that’s going nowhere. All of a sudden The Bomb goes off.

Me: OH. It’s like dropping a cow. On Saturday Night Live way back in the day, if they couldn’t figure out an ending to a sketch they’d drop a big plastic cow from the ceiling. Monty Python did it with a pig. You drop an atomic bomb.

Buck: Yeah, it’s sort of that way. And then the dream goes off in a whole other direction.

Me: Like nuclear holocaust.

Buck: Yeah. Then I deal with that for a few hours. [laughing] 

Me: This is all because of those Duck and Cover drills when you were a kid in school.

Buck: The only time I really remember having those was during the Cuban Blockade. That’s when the Russian ships were headed to Cuba with the missiles, the United States was sitting there waiting, and there were days in between. Everybody just figured this is IT. People didn’t talk about it in front of kids, it was like, don’t tell the kids they’re about to get their asses blown into the next universe. [laughing] Duck and Cover wasn’t a big-big thing. What they did was tell us to get under the desk if we had to, and warned us to stay away from windows and the flying glass that was gonna come through and stab us. [laughing] 

Me: [laughing] 

Buck: They told us not to look over at Mulcahey School’s left field because that was the direction of Boston, where they said the blast would be. They said if you do look over there, your eyeballs will melt. [laughing] Like it would matter at that point.

Me: So … what were your parents doing at this time? I

Buck: During the Cuban Missile Crises my mother was in a corner saying the rosary. That probably scared me the most. People didn’t really talk about it, everybody was aware of it and wanted to keep up on the news, but nobody was doing anything about it. I remember when Nikita Kruschev , who I really liked and admired, was banging his shoe on the table at the UN. After that I figured he was capable of anything. Presidents didn’t take off their shoe and bang it on a table. I couldn’t picture Eisenhower or Kennedy doing that. I knew we were really playing with the bad boys at that point.

Me: Obviously, all these things are scary for a kid, not to mention a sensitive adult like me, and that’s the crux of your bad dreams: exposure to the horrors of nuclear attack when you were at an impressionable age.

Buck: I never understood why we had to hide under a desk instead of going to any of the zillions of fallout shelters in town. There were signs up everywhere in town. I always wanted to know, why can’t we go to them?

Me: Interesting.

Buck: The shelters were stocked with water and crackers. You were supposed to live on Saltines.

Me: Television, when I was little, was always running that test pattern and telling you there would be no TV in the event of an attack.

Buck: It would be all Conelrad.

Me: MY GOD! CONELRAD! [laughing] Now there’s a blast from the past. No pun intended.

Buck: The threat of  American TV going Conelrad was scarier than anything. [laughing] 

Me: Oh yeah, definitely. [laughing] I agree.

Buck: The Commies were going to ruin television. [laughing] 

Me: [laughing] My God.

Buck: My father’s favorite TV show was I Led 3 Lives, and that was a cool, disturbing show. Gene Roddenberry — who’s from El Paso, by the way — was one of the writers, and J. Edgar Hoover had to approve the scripts. It was about a real guy from Boston whose job was to infiltrate Commie cells. My father loved that show.

Me: What about the air raid sirens that used to go off all the time?

Buck: Those would scare ya to death. The first one was just a long wail, but the second one was short blasts and if you heard the short blasts you knew that in a few seconds you were about to get creamed.

Me: Why bother with the short blasts?

Buck: To give you time for Duck and Cover, I guess.

Me: With Duck and Cover I suppose you at least had a chance of becoming a zombie.

Buck: Well there’s that infamous kid’s movie where the kid is riding down the street —

Me: Little Tony.

Buck: What?

Me: I think the movie is about Bert the Alert Turtle, and I know you’re gonna talk about a kid whose name is, I think, Tony.

Buck: Well the kid — TONY —  is riding his bike down the street when the short blasts go off, and he throws his bike down and Ducks and Covers in a rain gutter. [laughing] As if that’s gonna help.

Me: He shoulda pulled off the road and stuck his head in a mail box. [laughing] 

Buck: [laughing] 

Me: We’ve been talking about dreams and sleep problems for three days now. Do you think it’s gonna help you to not have any more bad dreams?

Buck: No. It’s probably only gonna remind me to have them. I will try for the zombies, though. For you.

Me: Thanks. I’d appreciate that.

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LINKS

Conelrad is alive and well at this fascinating site. All Cold War, all the time. Even has info on the mysterious Godfrey Cambridge PSA (known as the “Doomsday PSA”) that was “to be unspooled on national TV only in the event of a nuclear war.”

Bert the Turtle’s “Duck and Cover” film shown in elementary schools. An outrageous children’s film explaining what will happen when an atomic bomb goes off, including the “really bad sunburn” you’ll have to deal with as a result of it. “Little Tony” seems particularly misinformed.

Enthusiasts of The Swimmer movie gather at “Jeremy’s” MySpace Group. 23 members and growing.

One blogger’s theory that The Smurfs were Communists. After reading it, I have to agree.

The original cast of Saturday Night Live relied on a plastic cow to signal them that a sketch was going badly and they should just end it immediately.

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Temporary Insanity

This is not my Q&A Sunday, but a temporary distraction I have run into.

Dear New York Times,

While reading today’s paper at 5:30 this morning (by flashlight in my backyard), I stumbled across a problem that has made it impossible for me to continue on with my day without first pointing it out to you.

I am writing in regards to a major error in your story “Sold on a Property Despite Its Past” which appears on Page 21 of the October 14 Sunday New York Times. The story attributes The State Lunatic Hospital at Danvers as having been largely designed by “Thomas Kirkbride, a 19th-century doctor renowned for his designs of mental hospitals …”

Essentially, that is incorrect.

While Thomas Kirkbride was indeed a 19th-century doctor, The State Lunatic Asylum at Danvers (now the AvalonBay condominiums and apartments) was in fact designed by Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, a prominent 19th-century architect who designed more than 500 buildings in Boston, including several townhouses in the South End. (With that in mind, it is rather ironic the asylum would ultimately become a condo and apartment complex.) It is unfortunate that the name of this highly accomplished architect is all but forgotten.

Beth Greenfield, author of the article in today’s newspaper, mistakenly attributed Dr. Kirkbride, who was in fact a Philadelphia psychiatrist, as being the architect of the Danvers compound. He was not, but the confusion is understandable as Dr. Kirkbride was the architect of a system for running asylums. Known as The Kirkbride Plan, Dr. Kirkbride’s recommendations were adopted by most asylums in the United States, Canada, and one in Australia. The Kirkbride Plan was a recommendation of long, rambling wings built in a staggered design so that each received sunlight and fresh air. It was believed this would provide a semblance of privacy for patients, and the exposure to sunlight and air would have a curative effect. Several of these asylums dedicated buildings to Dr. Kirkbride, which I believe is where the confusion comes into play.

I do not profess to be an expert in the field of architecture or asylums, or anything really; nor do I hold any ill regard for Ms. Greenfield as a result of her error. I am only pointing this out because this mistake was one I nearly made myself (God forbid!) this week while writing about the State Lunatic Asylum at Taunton, Massachusetts, in my blog: www.LifeWithBuck.com. In my research I found several examples of this error, most pointedly in the book, Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum (Great Lakes Books) by Heidi Johnson, which is focused on the former Northern Michigan Asylum. It seems this institution also dedicated its “interconnected wing” buildings to Dr. Kirkbride, and Ms. Johnson did not clarify this issue to my satisfaction. (Dr. Kirkbride’s family must be quite proud, while the family of Michigan architect Gordon W. Lloyd is undoubtedly quite disappointed.)

It’s an honest mistake and, as I said, one that I nearly made myself.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to an enormous clarification in tomorrow’s New York Times. It would be best, I feel, if you were to run a feature story on Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, which I would be happy to write for a byline (of my choice) and nominal fee.

Sincerely,

Wendy @ Life With Buck

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The Friendly Skies

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El Paso

100-degrees on the patio

 

 

     I wanted to go home to Boston and see our family and friends, and I wanted to be on the Cape for a least a few fall days. We’re actually from the Massachusetts peninsula of Cape Cod, and I miss what the board of tourism has spent millions re-naming “The Shoulder Season.” It’s the only time you can get a parking space at the beach, or the mall, or any place. The campaigns to get people to the Cape during the summer have been successful; The Shoulder Season campaign, not so much. For me, that’s a good thing.

     Buck is in charge of making all plane reservations, because he flies so often for the magazine and is totally plugged-in to the cheap fares. So I told him I want to go home for a visit, and the next thing I know I get an automatic-response email from the airline that says:

Good News! Your Flight Is Confirmed For 9/11

     As I was careening down the hall to Buck’s office, I tripped over a Chihuahua sleeping in the doorway and fell, landing hard on one knee and I started crying. (There’s nothing unusual about this,  I trip over dogs all the time and it always makes me mad enough to cry.)

     “What the hell are you doing?” Buck wanted to know, but not bad enough to look up from his keyboard.

     “I don’t want to fly on 9/11,” I said from the floor.

     “That’s the cheapest day by like $375. And I was even able to book it mid-morning, so you don’t have to be at the airport at fucking dawn — “

     “But it’s 9/11 —

     “Yeah? What’s that, oh yeah, is that the day Sunny In Philadelphia comes back on TV? I can’t believe you’re crying about a TV show — they’ve got cable TV in Boston you know .”

     “I’m crying about the fucking dog, but I’m talking about 9/11. You booked me to fly on  9/11, 9/11, 9/11 –“

    He looked up from his keyboard and had the same look on his face as Jimmy, our German Shepherd, when you’d ask him, “Who’s the handsomest young dog in the world?” 

  

     So I looked into his Jimmy-face and said, “Jesus, Buck! That’s the day we were attacked by suicide bombers! They used planes to -“

     “Oh, geeze. Wow. WOW. When I saw how cheap the flight was, I just jumped on it. The date didn’t ring any bells at the time. But you know what? I bet it’ll be a great day to fly. I bet there’ll be hardly anyone else on the plane, and you’ll be able to stretch out across the seats and sleep –“

     “I’ll be napping in a pit with vipers, I’ll be sleeping with members of a sleeper cell –“

     “No way. It’ll be a good day to fly.”

     A good day to fly. This time bells did go off, but they were in my head. I was five-years-old standing in a terminal at Logan Airport with my parents, and we were saying goodbye to my grandmother. She was flying TWA home to New Jersey, and she was nervous about the weather. My father gave my Mimi a hug and said, “Nonsense, Gladys, this is a good day to fly.” Her jet collided in mid-air with an Eastern Airlines jet over Danbury, Connecticut. This happened during pre-Internet days of course, even CNN was decades away, and we didn’t get the message until the middle of the night. I woke up in my bed to the sound of screaming and people running up and down the staircase, my mother was wailing (it was her mother) and people kept saying, “It’s flight 853! It’s flight 853!”

   My grandmother did survive. She broke her arm when she fell out of the sky and landed in a field. Her mink coat cushioned her fall. But she never flew after that. I think TWA credited her on the plane fare, and kicked in another $200.

     I’m not afraid to fly. As a matter of fact, I’m so comfortable flying that I find it boring and I hate it for that reason alone. I hate the tediousness of it, the confines of the middle seat — which I inevitably get stuck with — and I hate the flight attendants, whom I consider to be the Catholic nuns of the sky. But I don’t like thumbing my nose at terrorists, and I’ve already had too close a call with post-9/11 bullshit.

     In 2003, Buck had Max on a plane leaving Boston the same day the Shoe Bomber was leaving Boston. I know Buck, of course, didn’t know the Shoe Bomber even existed at the time he made the reservation for our beloved kid, but the thing is I was watching TV when the Shoe Bomber news came on and I was then put in the position of calling Logan Airport and screaming at some operator that MY 17-YEAR-OLD SON IS ON A FLIGHT OUT OF BOSTON TODAY. She had no information for me despite the fact I told her I’M A REPORTER FOR A POPULAR NEW ENGLAND FISHING MAGAZINE, GODDAMMIT! PUT YOUR SUPERVISOR ON THE PHONE! But I couldn’t get anywhere with those people.  And Buck kept saying, “He’s fine. He’s sixteen,” as if his age would keep him safe. And even though he was actually seventeen, in my head he was seven. This was the mental picture I had in my head: 

     Then Buck adds, “Besides, he can take care of himself. He’s tough. Nobody would mess with him. He can be dangerous to mess with if he has to be.”

     Okay. Now the mental picture switches to his dangerous look:

     And then I just burst into tears, crying and railing. “This is bullshit. I hate being a parent. I HATE IT! I had no idea this shit was going to be so taxing, that it would suck THIS BAD! Being a mother is sucking the life outta me. It hurts my fucking brain. It’s killing me, man, IT’S KILLIN’ ME! What the fuck? Why did I do this to myself? My God, why did I have kids? WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING?! The world bites and I’m so sick of this shit I can’t even tell you — If anything happens to that boy, I will get a machine gun and I will climb a tower and — “

     And then Max called from Texas and I had to tell him about the Shoe Bomber and all he said was, “Ma, that is some crazy shit. I gotta go  –“

     And that was that. I clicked over to a Seinfeld re-run and life went on. And now I’m flying on 9/11 and I want everyone to pray to the Virgin de Guadalupe for me. And if anything should happen, I’m going on the record here and now to say that I better have had an awesome seat on that plane and been totally asleep at the time, and the fucking airline better be ready to cough up more than $200 for my kids.

If anyone’s interested, here’s some info on Flight 853, my grandmother’s plane. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

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