–People worry about Sam (is a dog) and me in the Tiny White Box in this terrible cold. Really, there’s nothing to be concerned about. Gavin (the God of Custom Building) Beland, who did all the work foresaw any challenges. We are well-insulated, well heated and well-ventilated. With an electric radiator set on medium-high and one of the windows wide open, it stays at 70 degrees in the Tiny White Box. (Full disclosure: that 70-degree temperature varies by 10 or 15 degrees in either direction depending on where the thermometer is placed. If on the ceiling, it’s closer to 80, and lying on the floor, it’s more like 55. Practically what this means is I need to always wear slippers and when writing I put my feet up on a milk crate to keep them off the floor.) As a backup, we’ve got a propane heater, although that provides heat that is too hot—any physicists want to explain hot heat to me?
–I first heard the songs from Bob Dylan’s Street Legal (1978) live in concert at Nuremburg Stadium, with Eric Clapton sitting in on some of them. I then purchased a copy of the record on the street outside the concert, and ended up sleeping under a bridge since my ride was too drunk to drive us home. Seeing that little Jewish man on the same stage Hitler had stood 40 years earlier added huge resonance to the songs. All that said, this album is incredibly neglected and, other than one truly horrible song (“Is Your Love in Vain?”) this is one of my five favorite Dylan albums. The other four? Time Out of Mind, Blood on the Tracks, Desire and, quirkily, Planet Waves. No sixties, no eighties—I wonder what a friend 10 years older or 10 years younger would think of these choices.
–I had a dream last night I was wearing bright yellow knee socks and people kept looking at my feet.
–While in Manchester this past week, I ate a lot of vegetarian food—Indian for lunch, salad for another meal and a dinner I made for Becca of wild rice, mushrooms and mixed greens. Funny thing, but no vegetables magically appear in the Tiny White Box, and I can only eat so much canned spinach.
–The first five podcasts on my phone right now: The 40 Year Old Boy, The Christian Humanist Podcast, The Complete Guide to Everything, Ear Hustle, and Heavyweight. I can highly recommend all of them—please bear in mind this is alphabetical and on a Saturday at 3:09 pm. By tomorrow, all will have changed.
–Having no Internet means I don’t see Facebook on anything like a regular basis. If I’ve forgotten your birthday, not consoled you at a breakup or failed to recognize the cuteness of your baby, please accept my apologies.
–I know it’s early, but I’m already starting to look for a presidential candidate to support and work for in 2020. Among the folks I’m interested in: Ben Sass, John Kasich and Kelly Ayotte (really). Please, please, please—can my Democrat friends help me identify a smart, clever centrist I could support (e.g., Bruce Babbitt, Bill Clinton of 1992)? I understand my vote in either primary is a kiss of death, but I’d like my murder victim to come from a bipartisan pool.
–Finally, some notes to my mom from a 1989 journal, occasioned by her 60th birthday. I saw that milestone as the beginning of her dotage, and yet I’ll pass it in 10 months.
* * *
Not major insights, just some pictures from my childhood flashing by:
o Having you read “Uncle Wiggly” stories to me while I was in the first grade on Emerson Road. Even today, when I look at those stories, it is your voice they seem to have been written in.
o How careful you were to pass on good things you’d heard about me from Mrs. Fullam, my second-grade teacher, when you saw her in the bank. After all, she was the only teacher who seemed to see me as more than a smart-aleck.
o When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I was home sick on the anniversary of the day you got me from the adoption agency. You brought me a baseball magazine and made it a celebration.
o Standing in the living room on Beard’s Landing and singing as a family while you played old chestnuts from the teens and twenties. “Who Put the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder,” “I Don’t Want to Play in Your Yard,” “Little Playmate.”
o For that matter, “I’m New Hamper born and New Hamper bred . . .”
o How often you told me that Dad was the smartest man you knew, and that he could have done anything he wanted to, but that he really liked working with his hands. I’ve not found many mothers build up their husbands in their children’s eyes.
o How regular you were about coming to my baseball games, soccer matches and track meets. Even though I was never very good, your presence made me feel like an all-star.
o Your driving of me and the Cilley boys to the MUB. Regularly.
o How much you tried to help your friend, Minnie McDonald, with her drinking. That tortured phone call from the hotel in Portsmouth still resonates for me.
o How you always tried to fight anti-Semitism, whether because of your friendship with Marie Myers or out of a larger sense of justice.
o Your love for Carl Yastrzemski, Mike Andrews, Rico Petrocelli and Jim Lonborg in the Impossible Dream year of 1967.
o How upset you were when the Sox got rid of Hawk Harrelson.
o How you always encouraged me to read, and never said a word about money spent even on comic books.
o More seriously, how during times of crisis in my life, you and Dad have always appeared to help pick up the pieces. With drugs eleven years ago and depression three years ago, you and Dad helped me put my life back together. Thank you both. I love you.
o Less seriously, how you managed to feign enthusiasm for my short-lived tuba infatuation. (What would you have done if I’d actually liked it?)