Archive for the ‘Cape Cod’ Category

When I was a nail tech I had a client come in with her hand bandaged up. She’d been to the hospital. She told me she’d seen this big “interestingly prehistoric”  bird in her backyard just sitting on her picnic table so she went outside, walked right up to it, and tried to feed it some lettuce. Turned out the thing was a Great Blue Heron and it nearly took her hand off.

Yes, her freaking hand. By the way, herons look like this

Nice, huh? Well my nail client was understandably upset about it and angry at the bird, but I couldn’t feel all that bad for her because I mean, c’mon. You see this giant bird and you try to feed it? I’m not a fan of big birds anyway, I prefer chickadees and robins over giant birds. I got dive bombed by a pair of osprey once when I was walking my dogs through a marsh in Sandwich and I actually had to run for my life. I was running in my LL Bean Wellies (it was a marsh after all) screaming my head off, my dogs were barking, the birds were out for blood…Oh it was a scene, man.  What’s an osprey you ask? Think giant eagles on crystal meth.

Yeah yeah yeah, they were defending their nest. But I say hey, nobody said raising kids is easy. Don’t take your bird rage out on me. I’ve never met an osprey I liked. I wouldn’t have gone near their nest even if I was in an Army tank. 

So when I saw the news about the latest discovery by scientists that they believe they’ve discovered the true color of this hideous dinosaur bird, Anchiornis huxleyi, I took one look and shuddered from the mental image in my head of  my client trying to feed it lettuce.

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Worst Haircut Ever

      In the comments to my last post I was telling readers how I keep an album of the worst photos ever taken of me. Actually, my last post came about because I’d wanted to run a photo of the worst haircut I’ve ever had but I couldn’t find the album.

     Well, as you can see, I found the album. The great thing about this photo is that it’s more than just a bad haircut — my chin is all broken out also.

     I was 20 or 21, and that’s my adorable daughter there in my lap. No, I didn’t make her sleep in curlers. She went through a phase where she’d suddenly insist on having curlers in her hair, then just as suddenly insist on having them out.

     But back to my hair. I got this haircut at The Clip Joint in, I think, Brockton. Maybe it was Randolph. Either way, this haircut was so awful it has to go down in my own personal history as my worst one ever, and possibly the reason why I don’t get “haircuts” now. I just grow my hair long and wear it up with a chopstick.

     While I had this haircut I was tending bar at The Way Station, in Bourne, and a guy came up to me early in the night and very sincerely said, “I just want to tell you that you’re really brave to have a haircut like that, and I have a lot of respect for you, you’re really an individualist.”  I remember thinking What the fuck! and shutting him off for the rest of the night. His friends thought it was hilarious he’d been shut off and wanted to stay. I think it was a very long evening for him.

     I think I started wearing a Red Sox baseball cap to work after that.

     This isn’t a meme and I’m not tagging anyone, but if this photo inspires you to post your worst and most traumatizing haircut ever, please let me know.

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Weird Santa

     Believe it or not this is an actual movie and I own it on DVD. It’s called Santa Claus and was made in Mexico in 1959, directed by Rene Cardona.  I bought it long before I ever knew I’d be living in El Paso.  Sometimes I wonder if that’s why I live here now, as karmic punishment for finding it hilarious that Santa teams up with Merlin the Magician to battle Satan for children’s souls on Christmas Eve.

     The film is dubbed in English, which is good because I don’t speak Spanish. In English, I thought Santa kept calling the devil “Bitch!” I ruined my hearing long ago — I tended bar in a rock and roll nightclub during the 1980s (The Way Station on Cape Cod, for anyone who remembers it) back when live bands were ungodly loud, and it ruined my hearing. I’m often incorrect about what’s actually being said. So the first five or six times I watched this movie I thought Santa was calling the devil “Bitch!” I kept hearing, “Okay, Bitch! How do you like that?” But it turns out he was saying “Pitch.” That’s the devil’s nickname, I guess. Pitch. But I wish I never found that out because Bitch was funnier.

     I’m the only person in my family who likes this movie. Everyone else thinks it’s insane, nonsensical, boring, or a combination of all three. If anyone wants to critique it for themselves, they can get it here for $2.95. I’m not encouraging you to do this. I just needed something to blog about, looked around the room and saw the DVD on the counter, and here it is.

At this site you can see some good clip from the movie, and hear Santa call the devil “Bitch!” or “Pitch” depending on your hearing.

Here’s a video clip of it from YouTube, but for some unknown reason that only adds to the bizarreness, they’ve made it black& white and removed the dialogue and replaced it with ukulele music.

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Mountain Time Is A Total Rip Off


    Here in this part of Texas, we’re on Mountain Time and that’s …. what is that exactly? Besides inconvenient, besides witch time as I have come to  refer to it. Seriously, what the hell is it? Because I have no idea.

     To me, who had never even let the thought of Mountain Time enter my head much less consider practicing it, Mountain Time has always been none of my business. I would have been more willing to believe that putting a plate of thumbprint cookies out on the doorstep is a good way to catch fairies than to think that Mountain Time was a reality. If someone had said to me, “Set your clocks so that time is relevant to nothing, and then you’ll be able to bottle fairies and sell them on eBay,” I would have thought that sounded about right.

     Even after we moved here and I found out we’d have to live by it, I tried to fight Mountain Time with denial. “No thanks,” I said when told about it, “I’m just gonna stay on Eastern Standard Time. Me and the FCC, we go way back, so that’s where my loyalties lie.” And that worked for a little while, except for when it didn’t work.

    My family and friends live two hours ahead of me, and they have no sympathy because they figure it’s my fault for moving here in the first place and Mountain Time is something I should have taken into consideration when we put the house up for sale. Some people deal with our time difference by never phoning me at all. Others just pretend it isn’t happening, like when an aged uncle turns into a raging drunk while everyone buries their head in the sand and pretends he’s still capable of bringing the homemade lasagna to the Christmas party.  

     My mother passed away not long after I moved here, but before she died she did address the whole Mountain Time difference by flat out refusing to observe it. A native New Yorker, she’d lived in Massachusetts for decades, so basically she’d lived her whole life in EST. She proved to me that you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks, not if they don’t want to participate. She’d call me at 5:30 AM, which was 7:30 AM where she was, and when I’d tell her for the umpteenth time that it was only 5:30 AM for me, she’d say, “I know and I can’t help it. It’s a stupid thing you’re doing with the clock.”  

     And it was hard for me to argue, because I wholly agreed with her. When her health took a sudden nosedive, my brother would call to give me the medical reports at 5 AM my time, which was 7 AM his time. And I couldn’t argue that either, because it was our mother we were talking about. But the problem was that hearing the details of your mother’s declining health at 5 AM jump-starts your body and mind with such an electrical current, there’s no chance of calming down and going back to sleep for an hour or two till you can think straight. You’re up, man. And being wide awake and helpless before the sun comes up really messes with your head, not to mention your skin. By 7 AM my time, I had lines in my face that I’d never thought possible and enough caffeine in my system to make my heart explode.

     But that’s all over now and I’m left with nothing but a screwed up internal clock and a lot of resentment. It’s bad enough that I’m two hours behind everyone else in my orbit, but why does the TV schedule have to be so impossible to figure out? Shows that begin at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time begin at 6:40 PM Mountain Time. What the hell is up with that? Everyone laughs when I say I live by TiVo, but I’m-not-kidding. It’s no joke. If it weren’t for the fact I can hand the whole mess over to TiVo to solve for me, I’d never see a bloody thing. How could I? Where would I find it? When the hell is anything on?

     And shows that broadcast results? Forget it. Just don’t even go there with me. American Idol, Dancing With The Stars,  Big Brother, and the best of all: SURVIVOR. (Me and Rupert are totally tight; here we are practicing for Dancing With The Stars). All my shows are totally fucked up now. Even if someone does call me to discuss show results, I can’t answer the phone for fear they’ll blurt out the name of whoever got kicked off the island, the dance floor, the stage, etc. Same thing with the Internet. I can’t go on the Internet till after the Mountain Time Gods have deemed it acceptable to run the show here in El Paso. If I were to go online AOL would undoubtedly have the disgraced tribe member’s name in the headline on my home page.

     So now comes Daylight Savings, which has never sat well with my family anyway. Now that I’m living in the Twilight Zone (as far as my family is concerned), there’s no chance of them ever getting it, so they’ve given up. After Daylight Savings last year, my sister kept thinking I was now four hours ahead of her. For her to comprehend that I was still just two hours behind her was like asking her to learn Russian in those two missing hours that were never there in the first place. “What about those other two hours?” she demanded. “Where are those missing hours?!”

That only went on for a couple of weeks, but it felt longer. Until she could prove to me that she understood the Daylight Savings/Time Zone concept by passing a verbal test in which I concocted all types of scenarios involving time and circumstance, I blocked her phone number so she wouldn’t call me in the middle of the night.

Question 1: “Okay. It’s 8 AM where you are. A talk show host has just turned to a fellow host and hilariously referred to Britney Spears as Unfitney Spears. What time is it where I am and is it acceptable to call me and tell me this?” (The correct answer is: 6 AM and No.)

 Question 46: “Okay, now it’s 11 AM where you are and Court TV has just aired footage from a previously unknown video tape of Howard K. Stern trying to sell drugs to a teenage starlet in the Viper Room. What time is it where I am and is it acceptable to call me?” (The correct answer: 9 AM and Yes, call me immediately and if I don’t answer, try my cell phone.)

She eventually scored high enough to pass and I removed the phone block. She will deny all this of course, but just ask Buck. He is acutely aware of my family’s problem with anything related to numbers unless there is a dollar sign attached to it. Compared to his family, mine comes off looking like that family in Deliverance with all the banjo savants, only instead of banjos my family’s proficiency is restricted to monies owed.

 “Why is it,” Buck asks, “if you owed anyone in your family $3 for a cup of coffee they could calculate the interest rate in accordance with the going rate for major money lenders, but they can’t figure out the time difference between New England and this corner of Texas?” And my answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”

     My kids get it, however. They’ve never had any problem with the time difference and, as a matter of fact, they’ve tried to explain the reason for it to me so I could embrace it. But that never works out because I just can’t accept it as a viable way to live, and they become frustrated and start yelling at me. Then, in order to win, I start reaching back in time for personal snowballs to hurl at them, like this one’s refusal to eat green beans, or that one’s bloody noses, or somebody’s fear of the dark, and we have to end the conversation before they say something they’ll regret. And they WILL regret it. If there’s one thing I can do, it’s hold a grudge. And if there’s one thing they can do, it’s choose their words carefully to avoid any unpleasantness coming back to bite them in the ass when they least expect it.

     So, to sum it up, time is just awful now. And while Mountain Time has always been on my list of things that are none of my business, alongside mail, weather, and baseball teams other than the Red Sox, having to live in it has not endeared it to me in any way. I don’t like Mountain Time, don’t see any point to it, and I wish it was dead. And I of course mean that in the most upbeat,  happiest, smilingest way possible.


This is the watch Buck gave me for Christmas last year. Without my glasses on it’s virtually impossible for me to tell what time it is, which is perfect for me because I don’t care.



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Coffee was on sale this week, obviously. In what he calls part of his allure,

 Buck refuses to label the coffee and if I ask him to do it he just

draws his picture on the bag. 



Me: Yesterday I was transcribing an interview I did with DP, and because he wanted to do it in a Thai restaurant, on the tape you can hear the waitress bringing our food, we’re commenting on the soup and the dishes and everything. And it was fully maddening because hearing the memory of that wonderful meal, and reliving all the dishes as they arrived at the table, made me realize how badly I miss good Asian food. I should have taken photos of my food that day. But I didn’t want to freak him out.

Buck: Did you get the mail yesterday?

Me: No. The mail means almost nothing to me. Not really. Not unless I’m expecting something good, which I’m not. All my catalogs are already here, and I haven’t ordered any books lately. So I don’t care about the mail. Were you listening to me?

Buck: Yes.

Me: So anyway, when I heard myself eating that delicious food on that tape, I started thinking about Chinese food and Thai food, and wonderful-wonderful sushi and all the other things I didn’t think I could live without. But apparently I was wrong because here I am totally deprived of good Chinese food and I’m still alive somehow. I like the Chinese food buffet, but they don’t make Peking ravioli like at Way Ho in Buzzards Bay. They don’t have supermarket sushi here, for some reason.  I can’t even run out and get emergency lunchtime sushi at the supermarket, have I ever told you that?

Buck: Yes. I’m hyper-aware of it. 

Me: Well, my point is that I didn’t think I could live without Peking ravioli from Way Ho … but I have indeed lived. So my question to you on this Q&A Sunday is, what do you think you can’t live without?  Please name three things and they can’t be Stella, or water or a computer or a car, none of the stuff that’s part of life’s necessities. And you can’t name me no matter how much you want to. It has to be the peripheral crap.

Buck: [sighs]

Me: I already know one thing. You can’t live without hundreds and hundreds of car and motorcycle magazines within reach at all times.

Buck: I wish they could come on a daily basis.

Me: I don’t think anyone in the world could write fast enough or well enough to keep up with your reading needs.

Buck: That might be true.

Me: The stuff you read must be very boring by now. I mean … what? You’ve been reading about this stuff since you were a kid. Don’t you know everything by now?

Buck: No. No I don’t. I don’t even come close.

Me: Well whose fault is that? Maybe you read too fast. But okay, that counts as number one.

Buck: Some of what I read is just fun to disagree with.

Me: Do you think that’s why they keep writing it? Knowing that someone like you is reading it and going, no no no, this is ALL WRONG.

Buck: Of course they know. It’s just like what I do.

Me: What exactly do you do?

Buck: I write my opinion, and I try not to write mad.

Me: You mean angry?

Buck: Yes. That’s my advice to new writers: don’t write angry.

Me: Alright. Magazines, that’s number one. What else can’t you live without?

Buck: Coffee. Good, dark, coffee.

Me: That’s rather snobbish of you, because really all you’re looking for is caffeine.

Buck: No. I love the flavor. I love the smell. I love the whole thing. It’s very addictive and it’s very good.

Me: You know all that coffee that you brought in the house yesterday?

Buck: Yeah?

Me: You didn’t label it. I don’t know what I’m drinking.

Buck: [silence]

Me: Don’t start this. I don’t like mysteries. Is it Italian coffee? French Roast? Did you mix it all up together?

Buck: [silence]

Me: HEY. I’m talking to you. What have I been drinking all morning?

Buck: I make my own blend right in the store.

Me: I think it’s Italian. Am I right?

Buck: I blend it myself.

Me: Just keep saying that. I don’t care. Whatever. It’s very good. I like it. But without knowing what the hell it is, I can never duplicate it.

Buck: You never buy coffee. Which is weird, because if we were out of it, you’d be the first one to hurl a crock pot through a plate glass window.

Me: True. I just don’t like to waste my money on it. But I did buy that Don Imus Coffee at TJ Maxx when it got marked down to $1.

Buck: True. And it wasn’t awful. It was acceptable emergency coffee.

Me: I didn’t like it. But what kind of coffee are we drinking now?

Buck: I will say that you know it’s a dark roast. I don’t go for any of the medium blends, those are just a waste of time, throw it right in the trash. And BREAKFAST BLEND … my God, that should be outlawed.

Me: Why?

Buck: Because it’s the weakest coffee there is.

Me: Yes. Why do the coffee people do that?

Buck: I don’t know. You’d think the breakfast blend would be some sort of high test. But you know, you’ll have to edit that out because a lot of people don’t know what high test is.

Me: Are you insane? I use that term all the time. Every day, probably.

Buck: I know. But I think that’s a New England thing. I think everyone else calls it premium gas.

Me: So high test is a word like packy?

Buck: Packy, and dungarees. And chinos.

Me: People don’t say chinos?

Buck: No. They call them khakis. And dungarees they just call jeans.

Me: I don’t like this.

Buck: Jeans sounds like I’m trying to show my ass.

Me: The crack in your butt?

Buck: Oh look at me in my jeans, can you see my butt? [laughing]

Me: [laughing] I am a foreigner in my own country. I am lost. Let’s go home now so I can stop at a packy and a sub shop . [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] Listen, we’ve now made it so we’re foreigners wherever we go.

Me: [laughing] I don’t like it, but whatever. What difference does it make now that my life’s just about over.

Buck: That’s true. We could be the couple in a bubble. The bubble couple.

Me: I don’t understand.

Buck: Because we’re so out of it, we’re like that boy in the bubble.

Me: He wasn’t out of it, he was ostracized. [laughing] Because he lived in a bubble.

Buck: [laughing] Yeah well, we’ve been ostracized and asked to live in a bubble. [laughing]

Me: So coffee, magazines, what else can’t you live without?

Buck: Newspapers. I have to comb through the papers for that one article that makes my day. And at least one bathrobe. I have to have a bathrobe. And hair gel.

Me: Hair gel? Do you still use hair gel?

Buck: Yeah.

Me: I hadn’t noticed that you still use hair gel.

Buck: I’ve modified my ways.

MeI guess. You’ve gotten it to where it’s so natural looking, I don’t even notice it. What else?

Buck: Tools. I can’t live without tools.

Me: So what are the three things you can’t live without?

Buck: I just told you. My magazines, my motorcycles —

Me: You never said motorcycles.

Buck: Well I’m saying it now. My three things I can’t live without are my  my motorcycles, magazines, coffee, newspapers, hair gel, and tools. But not in that order.

Me: [laughing] Tools? Why can’t you live without tools?

Buck: ‘Cuz I like living the fantasy that I can fix stuff. What are three things you can’t live without?

Me: Well … I can’t live without Vanity Fair magazine. I live for those two good issues a year. That’s why I keep my subscription, for those two issue that are actually good. But I still have to keep every issue I’ve ever read, even the bad ones. ‘Cuz you just never know. And that’s about it. I can’t live without Vanity Fair. And The New York Times. That’s it.

Buck: Soda.

Me: Right. I need Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke. And ice. Ice for water, ice for soda.

Buck: Lots of ice.

Me: I need an inordinate amount of ice or I’ll die.

Buck: You also can’t live without mail order catalogs for the silliest things in the world. Stuff that is just insane

Me: I do like those.

Buck: Yes. Catalogs with things like wind-up teeth and origami frogs. And you seem to like catalogs featuring promotional items, for some reason.

Me: That’s because in the back of my mind I have a fantasy of becoming a marketing promoter for a big company like IBM. I’m not even sure if that’s what my fantasy job is called, but it’s the job where you go to work in a beautiful office every day and order gift baskets for your company to send to celebrities at Christmas.

Buck: What will you fill these celebrity baskets with? Wind-up teeth and dashboard Jesuses?

Me: Yes, totally. Everything cool I can find, plus a live puppy. I’d fill the baskets with everything I’d want. And IBM will pay for it all.

Buck: Do you think IBM will mind if you nap every afternoon from 1 to 4 PM between filling baskets with puppies and dashboard Jesuses?

Me: No. They won’t mind at all because my baskets will be so damned good.

Buck: So that’s it for you? You can’t live without Vanity Fair, Diet Pepsi, ice, and promotional catalogs?

Me: Pretty much, yeah. I’m very low maintenance.

Buck: That’s so false, it’s not even funny.


Buck’s 3 Things                                       Wendy’s 3 Things

motorcycles                                               Vanity Fair

magazines                                                 Diet Pepsi or Diet Coke

coffee                                                         ice

newspapers                                              catalogs featuring junk

hair gel                                      


What are your 3 things?



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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.


Wendy @ Life With Buck


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Buck is on the Sun Bridge of The State Lunatic Asylum at Taunton, as it was named when it was built in 1854. Listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, it is of neo-classic design by prominent architect Elbridge Boyden. Yes, Elbridge. Later the psychiatric hospital became known as the less-insane sounding Taunton State Hospital. Several of the buildings were abandoned in 1975, and a fire caused a lot of damage in 2006. But today much of it is used to house juvenile offenders and branch offices of various state agencies.


Me: I’m sick of this shit you’ve been pulling with the batteries in my tape recorder. Quit taking out the brand new ones and sneaking in your stupidass recycled ones —

Buck: No. Those batteries register just fine in the battery tester.

Me: I don’t care how they register, Mr. Scientist. I don’t want used, half-dead batteries in my freaking tape recorder. You’re obsessed with getting a second life out of them. Give-it-up. I only went along with it in the first place because you said you would put them in clocks. I don’t even care that the clocks are always wrong, because time means nothing to me. Now that we have TiVo,  time is none of my business. But my tape recorder —

Buck: The clocks run just fine.

Me: — well now you’ve gone too far. You’re sneaking dead batteries in all my tape recorders and they suck.

Buck: They don’t suck.

Me: They do! They do suck! When I went to transcribe an interview this morning it was so creepy it made my blood freeze in my veins. It sounded like that telephone recording in 12 Monkeys that goes all haywire at the end and says MmmmeRRY ChrISTMASSSS . . .

Buck: No, no, no. That’s just how all your interviews sound. Like the recording in 12 Monkeys. [laughing]

Me: [laughing] It’s true. But this morning it was because of dying batteries and I know it.

Buck: You’re insane. Used batteries that REGISTER IN THE BATTERY TESTER AS GREEN are just as good as new batteries that REGISTER AS GREEN —

Me: I’m insane? Listen. I wanna tell you something. Your little battery experiments are so boring they REGISTER AS RETARDED.

Buck: [laughing] So what exactly is it that you want again? I’m in the middle of doing something.

Me: Testing fucking batteries is not doing something. I’m so sorry I ever bought you that thing. I hate it. But since you’ve brought up 12 Monkeys . . .

Buck: You brought up 12 Monkeys.

Me: You, me, who cares? But it’s rather fortuitous that you should bring it up, because I wanted to talk about the Lunatic Asylum.

Buck: Which one?

Me: Well, the real asylum that’s haunted, but both of them really. 

Buck: Why?

Me: Because in that movie Accepted, the kids moved into an abandoned insane asylum and found an old electroshock therapy machine that they kept zapping themselves with. For fun, you know? And that reminded me of that kid you went to school with. What was his name again?

Buck: Well . . . I don’t want to say his name.

Me: A legitimate hesitation on your part and I’ll accept it. So just refer to him as Winky Hooterstein . . .

Buck: No. I will not refer to him as . . .  that word . . . or whatever the hell you just said.

Me: Then come up with any name you like.

Buck: I’m starting. Got your stupid tape recorder on? . . . He was transferred to my school in about fifth grade, and he had Tourette Syndrome. So all of a sudden, this new kid in school would rise up out of his seat and slowly but surely raise both hands giving the teacher both middle fingers and yell, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

Me: That probably wasn’t Tourette’s. He just said it was Tourette’s to get out of detention.

Buck: No, it was Tourette’s. When he’d come out of it, he didn’t understand what was happening or anything. Anyway, then he disappeared for two weeks. And when he came back, he was like half the kid he was when he left —

Me: The poor little thing. He was like McMurphy.

Buck: Who?

Me: What the hell is the name of that book? It was a movie . . . it was a book . . . Ken Kesey wrote it . . . Jack Whatshisname starred as McMurphy . . . What’s happening to my brain?

Buck: It was Cuckoo’s Nest. And you have raging A.D.D. like no one else on this earth.

Me: Yes, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Thank you. And yeah, I’m pretty sure I do have A.D.–

Buck: So the kid came back and he wasn’t the same, so I asked him what happened. And he told me that basically they had taken him to the nut house and strapped him into a thing that looked like an electric chair and they electroshocked him. They electrocuted him, really. While he was strapped to a chair. And that’s how they handled it back then.

Me: That’s how they treated Tourette’s? 

Buck: Yeah. What was really bad was, he was half-bald in grammar school from all the electroshock. 

Me: Well that was an uplifting story.

Buck: You asked me to tell it to you.

Me: Well, what the hell? I thought you’d tell it funny —

Buck: What the hell is so funny about a little kid getting zapped to livin’ shit in an antiquated electric chair?

Me: Absolutely nothing!

Buck: Well nobody asked you to blog about this —

Me: What I wanted to blog about for cry eye, was the fact that even though Taunton had the insane asylums, it was the so-called normal people such as yourself —  me, too, I’m not letting  myself off the hook here — who acted so insane about them. When I was in school, kids were obsessed with Taunton. And the adults didn’t help any, because even the teachers referred to the mental hospitals as nut houses. That’s what I wanted to talk about. You know, like piling into some kid’s Mustang and driving around in that awful maze out at Paul Dever, getting lost and shrieking for help, and you’d all be so stoned that the shrieking would sound like ten times louder than it probably was? And then you’d all laugh hysterically, like a bunch of nuts. Were there kids taking acid out there when you were in high school?

Buck: I think I’m on acid right now. How the hell did I know what you wanted to talk about? You asked about the electroshock therapy and the only thing I really know about it is what happened to the little kid with Tourette’s!

Me: That’s true. I did. Okay, let me start over. Taunton housed the state’s two biggest and scariest mental hospitals. Except for the one over in Bridgewater, but you had to be criminally insane to get in there, Titicut Follies and all that. But in your hometown of Taunton, The State Lunatic Asylum was similar to the one where Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis met in 12 Monkeys. Back in the day, people were scared of them and they were spooky. 

 Buck: Well, I suppose if there were gonna be any actual spooky stuff going on, Paul Dever would be the place where it would happen. It doesn’t have a very happy history. Not that either of them do, they’re both pretty sad places, but Paul Dever was worse, I suppose.

Me: This is fascinating. Please go on, and try to tell as many lurid details as possible.

Buck: Before it became a mental institution, it was 1,200 acres of land they used first as a military training camp and then as prison camp. It’s where they kept the German and Italian POWs, but mostly the Italians for some reason that I don’t know, so don’t ask me. But it was still called Myles Standish back then, it wasn’t called Paul Dever Mental Institution until the late Fifties. WHY THE HELL DO I FEEL LIKE YOUR HISTORY TEACHER?

Me: Well . . . truthfully . . . I already know all this crap. I had it in Local History when I was a senior in high school. I needed the credits and Local History had the exact amount I needed, so I took it even though I really didn’t think I’d like it except for all the field trips, but they started taking us to all the really old cemeteries, and they also took us to this old house where in like 1885 this lady had thrown up out the window of her second floor bedroom, and all these chickens in the yard ate the vomit, and it turned out she’d had Smallpox, and when everybody in town ate the fucking chickens

Buck: Jesus. If you know this crap, why are you asking me?

Me: When my sister was in high school they used to take them on field trips to Paul Dever. Isn’t that disgraceful? They would parade the kids through the wards to look at all these poor people strapped into their beds and just totally out of it. They also took them to Walpole State Prison! You guys graduated the same year, did you go on disgraceful field trips like that?

Buck: Some kids did, but I opted for the vomit and Smallpox tour like you. I needed the credits.

Me: [laughing] Now talk about the pigs.

Buck: What the hell sort of photographs are you going to run with this?

Me: Don’t you worry about my photographs. Photographs are none of your business. I’ve got millions of them, I’ll never run out. Talk about the pigs.  

Buck: There were all these ruined old barracks or whatever, and the state leased them out to people who raised pigs. Like, giant pigs. There’d be tons of these huge pigs living in swill, just lying in the mud with seagulls on their backs. My father always threatened me if I was bad that it was where he was gonna send me to live there with Charlie Flabbergaster —

Me: God. I hate stupid, made-up, asinine names.

Buck: Well what was that bullshit you wanted to call the kid I was just talking about?

Me: I don’t remember. Go on.

Buck: And my father said that Charlie Flabbergaster kept a girl as his pet, and her name was Frischy Frischette. He said Charlie kidnapped her, but then he ended up keeping her as a pet.

Me: Oh, it was a bedtime fable.

Buck: And Frischy had to cook for the pigs and eat with the pigs and spend her days cleaning up after the pigs, and her only friends were pigs. I think he got the idea for the story from Pinocchio, when the little kids were getting kidnapped and turned into donkeys or pigs or something.

Me: Didn’t you feel sorry for that little girl?

Buck: I was more scared for myself. It loomed big on my horizon that I could end up there. I didn’t doubt my father would send me to live there.

Me: Let’s jump to the fact your whole town was a magnet for people who were mentally ill.

Buck: Yes. We had a lot of cast-offs from the state mental hospitals.

Me: Living in the woods and stuff.

Buck: Well you could get away with that then, apparently. You’d tell people you were from Taunton, and they’d go, Oh yeah, you’re all nuts down there.

Me: Well being from Easton, I believed it. That was the word on the street. Taunton was the nutty town where all the nuts lived. And to prove it, they took the kids there on field trips just to look around. That’s why when you were a teenager driving around with a carload of high teenagers on a Friday night, everybody drove over to Taunton to get even more stoned and run around Paul Dever or the Insane Asylum. It was spooky-fun-for-every-one. 

Buck: We always went up to the nut house during a full moon. We’d sneak through the grounds and you’d hear people howling. There’s always been that thing about them using the basement for like, I don’t know, satanic rituals or something. They were probably just torturing people.

Me: You could hear them?

Buck: Yeah. We would run around and sneak up to the building and stuff.

Me: How old were you when you did that?

Buck: Right up till graduation from high school.

Me: Yeah, me too. It’s funny I never ran into you out there.

Buck: Now THAT would have been scary.

Me: WHY?! [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] Because when you were 17, I was 27. That would have been very weird, don’t you think?

Me: [laughing] Oh, that’s right. And when you were 17, I was 7.

Buck: [laughing] That’s even scarier. If you were running around out there under the full moon, stoned and 7-years-old, I would have run the other way screaming. I’d probably be running still.

Me: And still screaming.

Buck: Yes. I’d like to scream right the hell now.


LINKS: Taunton: The Cursed County A site of paranormal activity dedicated to keeping alive the creepy ambiance exploited by generations of Bristol County teenagers, including Buck and myself.  

Titicut Follies, which I accidentally saw in an art house movie theater once. Horrific.

History of Massachusetts insane asylums, as well as those from other states.

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