Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

I went out my front door today — surprise surprise — and I was thrilled to see that last week’s flood gave our bushes a new lease on life. Look what all that water made them do!

after the flood 001

I got so excited, I stepped out into the street to take a couple shots from a different angle. after the flood 003


after the flood 004

And then I looked down and saw that Buck’s new friend Mario left that freaking beer bottle right in front of our house. This after Buck specifically asked him not to! So he’s a litterbug as well as a stalker.

after the flood 006

after the flood 008

Why God why?! No good deed go unpunished.

Read Full Post »

Suburban Confessions


Buck gives off an aura that promotes confessions from strangers.


Buck: I forgot to tell you about this. I’ve made a new friend in El Paso.

Me: No suh. Who?

Buck: I only know his first name. It’s …

Me: What. His name is…?

Buck: ….it’s…it’s right on the tip of my tongue…

Me: This is like Witches of Eastwick when Jack Nicholson moved to towneastwick and no one could remember his name even though it was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. And the harder they tried to remember it the more illusive it became and it turned out he was the devil and knocked everybody up.

Buck: No, my friend’s name is …

Me: Come to think of it that’s what Jack Nicholson did in real life, isn’t it? Isn’t it?

Buck: My new friend’s name is…

Me: Did you know there’s no record of Jack Nicholson ever being born? True story. I’m not lying. He didn’t even know til he was an adult.

Buck: It’s…hold on…I think his name’s Mario.

Me: You already have a friend named Mario.

Buck: It’s a new Mario.

Me: Really now. What’s his story. How’d you meet him?

Buck: Last Saturday night Stella wanted to go for a walk. You’d already been sleeping for a couple of hours —

Me: I doubt it, but go ahead.

Buck: No, you’d been asleep for a couple of hours. I made a point of looking at the clock. It was 1:30.


Buck: Yeah–

Me: Well no shit I’d been sleeping for a couple of hours —

Stella eyes Buck: — but I was still awake watching TV. And Stella was standing on my chest and staring into my face, using her mind powers to demand a walk.

Me: You’re a fool to let her control you —

Buck: Well she wanted to go, she doesn’t care about time. So we went out the door and it was a beautiful night out. Very bright, very warm, it wasdodge 95-degrees according to the ACU-RITE. So I go out front and take her to her first pee-mail stop and I notice that in front of the house was a silver Dodge Charger.

Me: People are always parking in front of our house.

Buck: At 1:30 in the morning?

Me: How would I know?

Buck: Well they don’t. Not at that hour. It’s rare to have cars on the street here at night. They just don’t park out there overnight … So I see this car and I’m thinking Shit, what the hell is this? It was parked behind the high bushes out front.

Me: Was someone in it?

Buck: I couldn’t see in because the windows were tinted dark, but I had to walk past it because Stella had already booked, she was way past the car so I had to go after her. And as I’m next to the car on my way back with her, I see a little phone screen light up.

Me: Did you turn and run back into the house?

Buck: I wanted to, but I kept walking…old man walking, look out!

Me: [laughing]

Buck: I’m walking past the car when all of a sudden the door opens and this very short, squat, heavily-built guy gets out wearing a full tux and goes, Hey, have you got a light?

Me: I would have pretended I didn’t hear him.

Buck: I know. I was thinking this is how people get robbed. I did have a light on me, but I thought it was weird that he didn’t use the lighter in his car.

Me: Maybe he didn’t have one. We don’t have a lighter in ours.

Buck: Only ‘cuz it’s broken. We used it so much it broke. Anyway, I go over and give him a light and start to talk to him.

Me: The first words out of my mouth would have been Whatta you doin’ in a tux, Mistuh Weirdo?

Buck: Yeah. And then you would have said Here’s my husband. If I say anything wrong it’s him you’ll have to fight, not me.

Me: True.

Buck: He said What are you doing out? and I said I’m walking my dog. Then he goes, I don’t see any dog. I had to tell him she’s a tiny white chihuahua and he goes, Oh.

Me: Why the hell do you bother with these people?

Buck: I said to him, What, are you just enjoying the night out here? And he says to me, Do you live around here? Do you always take your dog out at this time of night?

Me: SEE? Even the weirdo thinks it’s odd to take her for a walk at that hour–

Buck: So, he was so short he was standing in the street but leaning out his open car window to talk to me.

Me: And you liked this? The way he was leaning out the window?

Buck: No, I thought it was really odd that his head was sticking out through his window while he was standing there. He was about five feet tall, 250 pounds. And he says to me, Do you know Valerie?

Me: [laughing]

Buck: I tell him no, I don’t know her. And he says, How long have you lived here? I told him I’ve lived here long enough and I don’t know Valerie. Then I asked him if he was a cop, because the cops use Chargers in this town, and he says No, I’m TRAINING to be one.

Me: Doesn’t surprise me. They all say that, all the weirdos. They’ve got cop envy.

Buck: Then he says, So you don’t know Valerie? You live in this neighborhood and you don’t know Valerie?

Me: Is she the Avon lady or something? A drug dealer? Should we know her?

Buck: No, apparently Valerie is his girlfriend and she lives about four houses up from us. She’s 46 and he’s 21. He thinks she’s cheating on him. He wanted to know if I’ve seen her with other guys. With three other guys to be exact. He thinks she’s seeing three other guys besides him.

Me: Valerie sounds like a whore. [laughing] [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] [laughing]

Me: A tremendous whore, you know? Because she’s sleeping with four guys and one of them is young enough to be her son!

Buck: Yeah, I get it. But they’re all his age–

Me: WHAT? [laughing]

Buck: Yeah, they’re all his age. And he wanted to know if I’ve seen her with them. And I said, I don’t even know her, how could I see her with other guys? I said, When you’re a cop you’ve got to keep your line of questioning straight…

Me: [laughing]

Buck: He and Valerie are both school bus drivers.

fitness time Me: Go bus lady! [laughing] She must work out or something. Valerie you old whore, you go girl.

Buck: Then he says, You’ve never seen me here before? I’ve been here the past seven nights in a row.

Me: HE is going to make a terrible cop if he can’t catch her after seven nights of stalking her. And how’s he going to run with all that fat? The perps will all get away.

Buck: Well I don’t know where he’s training for this. For all I know he just taking a couple of cop classes somewhere–

Me: You mean he’s majoring in law enforcement at a college?

Buck: That’s what I said, cop classes. Anyway. He started getting real serious about this whole Valerie thing and how he loves her and she’s cheating on him–

Me: And he’s stalking her.

Buck: When he made me guess his age I guessed 25 and he was so insulted. He kept saying, Really? I look 25? I’m only 21! And I couldn’t say well you’re really fat, balding, and you’re in a tuxedo–

Me: He sounds like The Penguin, poor thing. penguin_devito

Buck: — but I started talking to him about what the hell he was doing. I came right out and said You’re not gonna do any shooting or beating-up here, are you? And he was taken aback because, you know, he’s training to be a policeman and all. I told him if he did that they’d throw him out of the police academy.

Me: Get real. Aren’t you listening to me? He’s too fat to be a cop —

Buck: I know. He’s probably just taking cop classes here and there —

Me: Jesus. I hate this conversation. Did you tell him you have a 21-year-old son and he doesn’t act anything like this? He’s out being 21 and not stalking some old whore  —

Buck: As a matter of fact I did tell him that. And I also told Mario to shape up because he had the world by the balls, he has a cool new car, he’s gonna be a cop, he’s a good-lookin’ guy who can have any chick he wants —

Me: What? Ugh. You lied to the stalker!  I’m surprised you didn’t invite him in for a beer.

Lone Star Buck: I brought one out to him. I brought him a Lone Star and a handful of Doritos.

Me: Well that was good, encouraging him to drink and drive–

Buck: He wasn’t driving.

Me: Yes, that’s right. He was on a stakeout. Oh I mean stalkout. A stalking free-for-all, basically, with beer and food included … Now we’ll never get rid of him.

Buck: I don’t think he’s been back since, but I really have no idea. I don’t go out there anymore.

Me: And neither will I. But I will definitely be looking for the house with the school bus parked out front.



If you’d like to learn more about Jack Nicholson — and who wouldn’t? — or stalking laws just follow these links:

Read Full Post »

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.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Read Full Post »

A Literary Lunch

An Old-Fashioned Literary Lunch At Barbara’s House

     I’m three days away from flying back to Buck and El Paso, and I’m quite excited about leaving here, because I’m flat-out exhausted. My working vacation has been more of a New England Odyssey than I’d planned. I’ve hung out at a biker gathering with 300 people smelling of leather and lube, where a 20-something bike builder told me he’d be a great feature story in the magazine because, “No offense, but I’m young.” From there, I’ve stood up to my knees in low tide while having a screaming match with tourists over a Playskool toy. And I’ve been hopelessly lost on back roads driving through miles and miles of cranberry bogs and bee hives, where it crossed my mind that I might never see another human being again. But in the middle of all that, I had lunch with Barbara and her sister, Joan, and it felt so good I stayed for six hours and we talked non-stop the whole time. 

 Barbara: Remember that story we wrote together?

 Me: I remember we couldn’t sell it.

 Barbara: Was it Ellery Queen that rejected us? I saved the rejection, but I don’t know where it is.

 Me: I used to save all my rejection letters with the plan of one day making a giant paper sailboat that I could sit in as it sank to the bottom of a lake. I almost had enough, but then we moved and Buck made me throw them away.

Joan (Barbara’s sister) : What story got rejected?

Me: It was a Halloween story. Barbara and I would take turns writing a couple paragraphs, then email it back and forth. It was about a teenage girl who was killing her friends and putting their heads on stakes at the end of the driveway, or someplace like that.  I don’t remember where she displayed them.

Barbara: She staked them along the side of the road. It tied in to roadside memorials and the way some are decorated for the holidays. I think one one body was disguised as a scarecrow.in one of the memorials. [laughing] Or maybe they all were.

Me: Something happened and the girl’s mother came home early one day and found a head in the oven.

 Barbara: And there was a pumpkin involved somehow.

Joan: [laughing]

Barbara: No, Joan, we were dead serious.

Wendy: If I sent it in someplace, we must have been serious. Or maybe we just wanted the stupid rejection, hoping they’d say We’re sorry, but your story is in such very poor taste and is so repulsive —

Barbara: I’ll look for the rejection. I saved it because it was hilarious, they sent the whole thing back in a plain brown envelope.

Joan: How long ago was this?

Me: Ten years, maybe more. God I love that lamp. It’s maddening how much I love it.

 Barbara: I know, don’t you love it?

 Me: I told you, it’s maddening how much I love it. I can barely sit next to it knowing it’s yours and not mine. I once spent three-hundred dollars on a desk lamp. There’s definitely something wrong with me. That’s why I’m not allowed to touch money anymore, because whenever I see a really great lamp, like that one over there —

 Joan: Maybe you could sell the story now. As a screenplay.

 Me: You know, that SAW bastard is the only person who comes out with a movie right at Halloween every year. He’s cornered the market. Maybe we should invade his territory. If only our story didn’t suck so bad —

 Barbara: It should have been a sign when we were killing ourselves laughing about the cooked the heads.

 Me: The hair was burning and it smelled. Hey, let’s write another one. With pictures! I want this to be a picture story. I wonder if I could get Buck to dress like a dark angel with big black wings from Wal-Mart and ride around in front of the house on a motorcycle so I could take photos.

Joan: That’s a great idea, because I wanna read it.

Wendy: And see it.

Barbara: Okay, let’s do it. But you have to start it, you’re better at starting them.

Me: I do love to start stuff. And finishing it. It’s the middle part I hate. But we’ve only got a little more than a month to do it in time for Halloween.

Barbara: You’re right.

Me: Let’s not put any thought into it at all. 

Barbara: Right.

Me: I’ll get on that this week. I need to make a note to myself to do this.

Joan: I have notes everywhere. Notebooks, sticky post-it notes, lists.

Me: I do too, but I don’t read them.

Barbara: You used to write on your hand. You had lists on your hand.

Me: I still do. That’s the only method that truly works for me. But I rarely leave the property, so I don’t even need to make lists of things to do anymore.

Joan: I don’t leave the house, either. It’s a freaking scary world out there and I’m sick of it.

Me: I never go out alone at night anymore, but that’s mostly because I have night blindness and can’t see well enough to drive. I see stuff in the road that isn’t there. I’ll see a big white cat in the road up ahead, but then it turns out there’s no cat.

Barbara: Remember Dad saw tenements for awhile? He saw tenements lining the streets, like the kind we lived in as kids in Woonsocket. But they weren’t really there. It scared the shit out of me when he told me. He figured it was the glare from his glasses at night. 

Joan: Glasses do create a weird glare. Shadows.

Barbara: Maybe it’s Shadow People.

Me: Yes. Thank you. Buck thinks I’m the only person who believes in the existence of Shadow People. Maybe your father’s tenements really were there. Maybe that’s where the Shadow People live.

Joan: Yeah, a netherworld of Shadow People. They’re there, but we don’t always see them.

Barbara: Yes. There’s a place online with photos of them. I sent you the link about five years ago.

Me: I know, I kept it and I look at it about twice a week.

Barbara: I’ll send it to you, Joan. Somebody set up a camera to take photos all day when no one was home. Except the Shadow People. They were home, and they’re terrifying.

Joan: Send it to me. I’ll write it down so I remember to remind you.

Me: But who are we to think we’re all there is? That’s so pompous of us.

Joan: Exactly. This is a little weird, but I wake up at night — and I know I’m awake, there’s no question, because I sit right up in bed — and I see these little crabs crawling along across my skylight. I’m not scared of them, because I know they’re not there, but I see them.

Me: You’re preaching to the choir. I have night terrors, I’ve had them all my life, and I see amazing things that aren’t really there. And I’m awake. I stand up and walk over to them. About a month ago I woke up at three o’clock in the morning and saw a guy in our courtyard. He was smiling at me. I told him to go away and he did, very slowly. Buck HATES IT when I see these things. He says it’s how he will die, of a heart attack from waking up to me yelling at a Shadow Person at the foot of the bed. Because I did that to him once. I shouldn’t say once. I’ve been waking him up that way regularly, ever since I met him. Yet, he never seems to get used to it. He’s probably been sleeping really well ever since I came out here.


Me and Barbara, Satisfied That Shadow People Exist


Barbara’s favorite Shadow People Photos.


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Read Full Post »

El Paso


69-degrees on the patio


Me: So I told Tommy that today for Sunday Q&A we’d be discussing your neighbor Russ from when you were kids, as per his pseudo request. Do you have any photographs of Russ that I could scan?

Buck: No.

Me: We should give him a fake name for this, since it’s going on the Internet. Let’s call him Russ Cleary.

Buck: But that’s his real name.

Me: So this Russ Cleary . . . he sounds fascinating.

Buck: He was cool, he was a free space for me when I was a kid. He wasn’t my father, and he wasn’t a priest. Everybody liked him. He was a 350-pound fat guy who had a body shaped exactly like an egg, a giant egg.

Me: And you have no photographs of him? 

Buck: No. He had two insect-thin legs at the back of his body. When he walked, he’d put his hands in his back pockets to try and balance himself back, because his gut was so big, and he couldn’t bend his legs so he had to lean like this from side-to-side [stands up and demonstates the walk]

Me: Like a Weebl, if a Weebl had legs.

Buck: Sort of, yeah. My father told me Russ had strings in his back pockets that he pulled to make his legs go, and I believed him.

Me: How old were you?

Buck: Probably five, or three, I don’t know. But it looked like it, it was easy to believe. Russ was a bachelor, he had no kids or wife or anything. He lived on the first floor and his brother and sister-in-law lived on the second floor. Russ was a big man and he had skin like an alien. He had some sort of strange white skin with like all almost-connected liver spots.

Me: [laughing]

Buck: And he had half an ear, which he told me his mother had bitten off one time when she was mad.

Me: Is that really how he lost it?

Buck: I never questioned it. Sounded fine to me. Back then you get tortured by your parents, or by anybody really, and it was perfectly legal. I figured Russ must’ve done something really bad.

Me: Why did everybody like him?

Buck: Because he was a nice guy! He was really good to kids. Back then nobody ever said anything about hanging out with the old bachelor nutty guy who was always loaded, and we always hung around him because he spent his whole life sitting on his front steps looking straight out into the street and just telling us stories. He was loaded. You’d look into his trash can and it was beautiful, all PM whiskey bottles, and it was brighter inside that trash can than it was out. It was just beautiful.

Me: What’s PM?

Buck: Some cheap ass brand of whiskey. Russ would sit there on the big, wide, front step right off the sidewalk, with his legs spread way apart to make room so his gut could hang down in the middle. He wore his pants high, which was the style at the time. [laughing] The zipper on his pants went about a mile curved around his huge gut, and when I was a little kid I used to try and figure out where is his dick? Is it up high where the zipper is?

Me: Is that who you’re imitating when you do that disturbing pose to scare the kids? And me too, quite honestly.

Buck: No, that’s just something I like to do.

Me: Well I don’t like it, never did. Is the Red Sox hat part of it?

Buck: No. Russ used to wear straw hats to keep the sun off. [laughing] Kept his skin nice, I guess. [laughing]

Me: A barber shop quartet hat?

Buck: At certain times of the year he wore those, but he had all kinds of straw hats. He’d sit there like that, smoking Salems all day and when a cigarette was done he’d fling it into the street. My father used to make me go pick them all up. Not that my father gave a shit, but he figured it was something for me to do.

Me: Gross.

Buck: They all landed right near the sewer grate in front of his house. That was the same sewer grate where my father gave me the lessons on pouring oil down there after he’d change the oil in the car. The good part, my father said, was how it kept the mosquito population down.

Me: Did it?

Buck: Well motor oil on water will, yeah. That was also when we’d be sitting on the porch step with Russ when the DDT planes would fly over head and spray us with DDT to kill all the mosquitos because we lived right near a swamp.

Me: [laughing] Oh my God that’s true, I forgot all about that. I vaguely remember that as a kid.

Buck: Yeah. We’d be outside and they’d be spraying all the time, so we had DDT burning down on us and didn’t think twice about it.

Me: I vaguely remember that, but I was more the generation where the big trucks with tanks of DDT came and sprayed down the neighborhood all the time. We used to run behind it. Was Russ effected?

Buck: No more than any of the rest of us. But he was really cool. Back then we didn’t have two-cents, nobody did, and Russ would give you a nickel to go buy a Popsicle or to Girlies to buy penny candy. He used to work down at the family market part-time, and to get there he’d do his long weird walk down past the church, which took him forever.

Me: God.

Buck: He used to show me his old pictures from when he had red hair, but he had none left at that point. He had like three strands that were seven feet long. They were always under the hat, so it was only every blue moon that you’d see them. Actually, he could have starred as Ray Milan as Darth Vader, when Vader took off his helmet. He had that same look. He used to show me his ID from when he worked for the OSS, that was the predecessor to the CIA, and he said he was a spy. I believed him, but now I don’t know what that ID was for.

Me: Maybe he did really work for the OSS.

Buck: As what?!

Me: As a spy.

Buck: [laughing] Why would a spy need an ID?

Me: Good point

Buck: He had a lot of guns around.

Me: What’s this controversial thing he said?

Buck: He was gentleman, he really was.He’d ramble on with his stories with a kid or two on each side of him, and I’d just sit there and listen. I don’t know why but it was very comforting. He was loaded, but he never drank in front of kids, we didn’t know he was loaded. And he was always polite and nice. But there was this one time when we were sitting there, hot summer day, nuthin’ to do. Russ was sitting there, he took a puff off his cigarette, and he looked straight ahead into nothing and said, “I’m so horny, I could fuck a rat.” Then he took another puff and added, “A dead rat.” I was like six. I was just choking, and I didn’t even know what it meant.

Me: [laughing] That is just terrible.

Buck: He died when he was in his seventies, at 350-pounds of malnutrition. I only ever saw one empty can of beans in his trash.

Me: Why were you in his trash?

Buck: It was there, so I looked in it. All the time.

Me: It’s a journalist thing.

Buck: Who are you taping over this week?

Me: My brother. It was a very boring conversation, he kept talking about car polish or shoe polish. . .To be honest, I can’t tell you what he was saying, I wasn’t really listening. I was watching Lucha Libre.

Buck: The movie or —

Me: No, the actual Lucha Libre. The Luchadores. Triple A wrestlers. Hoods and face masks in Mexico. It’s scary as hell, and it’s on for four hours every Saturday. I can’t get enough of it.

Buck: Four hours? This is a very weird side of you.

Me: There’s nothing weird about it. There’s nothing else on TV in that time slot between mid-morning and afternoon. It’s how I’m learning Spanish. And they have just women Lucha Libre for the first hour.

Buck: Will that be your new hobby? Wrestling?

Me: Do you think they’d take me even though I’m Irish? I would like to wear a scary devil mask —

Buck: I’m sure they’d love to get you in the ring. But you’re not Irish.

Me: I am totally Irish. On my father’s side. My grandmother said I’m Irish.

Buck: [laughing] Well there you go.

Me: What?! [laughing] Why are you picking on my grandmother?

Buck: Because she used to pee on people’s lawns.

Me: That was only on the lawns of people whose houses she was thinking of buying, and she was insane. [laughing]

Buck: [laughing] I think she was insane when she told you you were Irish.


Me: [laughing] It’s true, she was insane for a long time before we knew it.

Buck: [laughing] No shit, she had fifteen dogs and a husband who took photographs of UFOs.

Me: [laughing] Well at least he was successful! He was very good at it, and a lot of people read UFO magazines back then. He had a big readership. Your grandfather ate whole sticks of butter and died on top of you so I don’t wanna hear about it.

Buck: He didn’t die on top of me, he died on top of my cousin. [laughing] And my cousin was napping at the time. I think he was four.

Me: Well at least my grandmother died alone in an insane asylum in the middle of Nowhere, Maine.

Buck: That’s how everyone in Maine dies.

Me: That would appear to be true in the case of my family, anyway. That’s why I’d never move to Maine.

Buck: Me neither. I’m afraid of guilt by association.


Buck bought a new used Miata

                                   and I got a new swimming pool. (From underwater I look muy flaco excelente!)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Read Full Post »

Today In El Paso

I’m still limping towards deadline and must fall back on action photos and promises.

Wishing I could set up a time lapse camera for you — because I had an inkling how this day would go — I had to settle for the next best thing: Buck.

Here I am first thing this morning, all happy, orange (as per my psychiatrist’s suggestion), and bright eyed despite being awoken for the day at 5:45 AM by an anxiety attack brought on in a dream where I opened the magazine and there was literally a hole in the middle where the fucking feature bike should be. 

By 2 PM I was feeling a bit peakish and had moved outdoors to the construction area to work among the cement bags and drop cloths for a change of scenery.

By 4 PM I had spoken to a friend from home who had spent the day at the beach adding to her seashell collection. I, on the other hand, had since abandoned all computer contact and just stood around indulging my own hobby which I stumbled upon about 18-months ago: smoking. 

This is the part where I fulfill promises and dreams.

For Theresa: My waffle sundae from a DQ somewhere in New Mexico


For Moonbeam: The Theda Bara clock I got on eBay


For Andy, who technically didn’t ask for anything  but I could hear his thoughts across the city: 

 Buck in the early 1990s wearing the hospital robe he stole

 from Children’s Hospital in Boston in 1971. When I took this photo on my back porch

on Cape Cod, little did I know it was actually for you.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Read Full Post »

The Edited Version


El Paso

89-degrees in the shade of the patio

     Buck is my editor (we write for a motorcycle magazine), and he’s excellent. He’s always been a great editor, and I’m saying that from years of dealing with editors.  I’ve known some editors who were careless, ham-fisted jackasses who would change the whole tone of a story because of, well, I don’t even know why they do it. Who can know what goes on in their diseased minds? I just know Buck never does this. I truly feel that any draft he’s worked on has benefited from his thoughtful and insightful editing. Which is why I was horrified when he rejected the lead on my Hollister motorcycle rally story. Here was my lead: 

Hollister: Motorcycle gangs, Life magazine, Marlon Brando, yada yada yada. Gag me with a spoon. The collective mind of Hollister must be so burnt out on this exhausted saga. I know I am. The residents of this modern city moved on from this subject long ago, but nobody else will because, apparently, it’s just too titillating. I realize that re-hashing old news about Paris Lohan and Britney Hilton is a pretty popular pastime, but “Hollister”? It was SIXTY years ago. It was in 1947 to be exact and Harry Truman was president, Hoagy Carmichael was number one on the radio Hit Parade with “Old Buttermilk Sky” and most people were just happy that sugar rationing was finally slowing down. Buddy, can you spare a dime so I can use it as a down payment on my new $5,000 house?

     “You can’t say that,” Buck told me in an email when he returned my draft. “Please fix it.” 

     I‘m always telling young writers they have to develop a thick skin. I remind them they’re producing a product, same as any other business, and they have to trust their editor and not respond as if their secret diary were being criticized. Present your case if you feel that strongly about it, but don’t be combative with your editor or you’ll be perceived as a difficult writer.

     “FIX IT?” I shouted from my office. “You are completely insane. Nothing is broken, there’s nothing to fix.”

     “I can’t hear you, but if you’re talking about Hollister, just fix it.”

     “I can hear you, so how come you can’t hear me?”


     Under my desk a Pomeranian growled at a poodle. Something to do with a speck of bacon the Pomeranian didn’t want to eat but didn’t want anyone else to eat, either.

     “Shut up!” I told them, and opened a new Word document.

Anybody who goes to Hollister, California, must be prepared to listen ad nauseam to stories about “the good old days” from people who weren’t even there. Most of these storytellers weren’t even born yet, and if they were, they were something like two-years-old, maybe three . . .

      “What’s going on in here?” Buck was suddenly behind me, having crept into the room with the stealth of an adult mongoose.

      “Nothing’s going on in here, are you spying on me?”

     “There’s a dogfight under your chair, can’t you hear that? I could hear it from all the way down the hall.”

     And I’ll be damned if there wasn’t a dogfight going on. I looked under my desk and saw a Pomeranian had a poodle pinned to the floor. The pomeranian was sitting on the poodle’s chest, making a noise like a gerbil and  curling his little lips back to show his miniscule fangs. The poodle (who’s a lover, not a fighter) had lost all the color in his face and looked like he was going to be sick. 

     “Get the hell off him.” I ducked under the desk and pushed the Pomeranian off the poodle. Then I righted the  Pomeranian (he’s overweight built peculiarly and sometimes needs help to become upright, like a turtle that lands on its back) and I said, “What’s wrong with my Hollister lead? I think my lead is hilarious.”

     “It’s not hilarious, but it’s kind of amusing and that’s why you can’t use it. Too many people think of that Hollister fight with the same reverence as the Nativity. Reign yourself in.”

     An editor once told me years ago that I was like a runaway stagecoach that she could only stop by leaping onboard and pulling up the reigns. The specific incident to which she attributed this reference was my having “disrupted the newsroom” when I upset  a dog loving copy editor (this was long before I was a copy editor) by showing her this photo I had taken of my own dogs and told her, “Isn’t this awful? These two dogs are eating that other poor dog” :

     I went on to say, “And sadly, it was all for nothing because this one dog actually threw up the remains of the big dog right after eating it! Then it went berserk and killed that other little dog and left her dead on the lawn:

     To this day, I cannot fathom why that copy editor believed me. I mean, the photos were obviously from two different rolls of film. Standing in the publisher’s office with my editor, I argued that she must have secretly wanted to believe me. Otherwise, how could any anybody think that these two Basset Hounds had eaten a 150lb German Shepherd? Or that I had stood around snapping pictures of it and even took the time to reload the camera? 

     Even though a certain person had called for my being fired, they couldn’t fire me (that came later, over something really stupid ) because the incident had nothing to do with publication. Still, I knew my editor was using the stagecoach as a metaphor for our entire relationship. She’d been forced to defend me too many times after the fact: 

  • The selectman who threatened to sue after I ran a photo of the Toyota he’d driven right through his own house in an attempt to run over his wife who was standing at the front door at the time, accompanied by a series of action shots of him on the perp walk.
  • The congressman whom I (accurately) reported as lumbering around the children’s Easter egg hunt on the village green like Big Foot and was snatching up the eggs for his own kids. (I thought his behavior was shameful and voters deserved to know)
  • The Nobel Prize-winning scientist I quoted as saying, “Slugs? What are those things made out of anyway? They’re gross.” (He knew he was on tape, for crying out loud.)
  • The new cheerleading coach at the high school whom I quoted as saying, “Most of my cheerleaders are dumb blondes, and I’m really hoping to change that.” (She was on tape, too, and she still denied saying it even after I had to play it back to her in the publisher’s office.)

  • My editorial titled, Daughters Of The American Revolution: These Woman Are Irrelevant In Today’s Society (which I still say was  an opinion piece, and it was my opinion so what’s the big deal?).
  • The time I reviewed a local theater production of Death of a Salesman as being “worth going to see for the mere fact that this is the worst bunch of actors ever assembled on one stage. It’s worth the $6 because you-will-laugh-your-butt-off.”

     Surprisingly, the list goes on. But a week after the cannibal dogs incident, this same editor got fired for always being drunk and she and I lost contact somehow. She was at The Wall Street Journal last I heard. But to this day her words come back to me, because despite the fact she was probably smashed when she told me I was a runaway stagecoach, there was undoubtedly a little truth in what she said. Maybe a lot of truth. From that incident on I attempted to reign myself in. I had to, because she’d been fired and wasn’t there to do it anymore, and I was the new editor. It was a job I didn’t even want but took anyway on account of the pay increase. 

     Anyway. As soon as Buck used the phrase “reign yourself in” I knew that I was having a stagecoach moment. And I rewrote the Hollister lead in a way that wouldn’t (hopefully) alienate a sizable portion of our readers.Because all readers are important, and I don’t mean to alienate anybody, even old guys who are living a fantastical legend that exists only in their mind. And even if [EDITED FOR CONTENT],  I hope they will always take it the way I meant it, which is in the happiest, smilingest way.                          

Note: The dog photos used here are all old photos. One by one the infamous cannibal dogs June and Audrey, and their victim Jimmy, have left us for heaven where they now force Jesus to throw that filthy tennis ball for them again and again.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »