documenting the fall of Man (and Mena)


I took an ungraceful ride down my first-floor stairs on Friday night. As I don’t remember anything about the actual fall, I can only say that I was performing a routine chore just before taking my dog for a walk in the backyard. Every night, I gather up the recyclables that pile up in the kitchen and bring them downstairs to a large plastic container in the basement. I clearly remember walking with a small plastic container toward the top of the steps. The next thing I remember was the wail of a siren and the flashing lights of an ambulance pulling in front of our house.

I don’t remember the EMTs rushing in, the ambulance trip to the hospital, or my arrival at the ER. I do remember being told that I was being taken for a CT scan, and remarking that I had visited the same Radiology department earlier that week for x-rays as a follow-up to my back surgery.

My wife Mary, who has been my rock throughout this whole ordeal, tells me I never lost consciousness — and in fact kept telling her “I’m okay”  — when it was pretty clear to her that I wasn’t. Evidently I had traveled the length of my steps and hit my head against the front door frame of the house, further complicating matters by cutting my forearm on broken glass trying to sit up. By the time Mary had come to my aid, blood and glass was all over the place, and she alertly called 911.

The Wayland Fire Department should be commended for their swift response, not that I remember any of it. So too the emergency room at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where I had my back surgery a year ago nearly to the day, and where Mary also spent some time in recent years. I didn’t have to wait too long for the doctor to come in and patch me up. All in all, it was 10 staples in the skull, 8 sutures on the forearm, and an adhesive on my eyebrow. As the EMTs had cut off my clothes, I left with the gift of a hospital smock and matching pants.

Less than 48 hours later, I haven’t experienced any headaches or dizziness, so I consider myself extremely lucky. My secondary injuries — the contusions on my shoulder, arm, chest and upper back — actually hurt more, and have left me very sore. But it could have been much, much worse.

The moral of the story? Be green — but be careful.

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scraping the sky


I was already living in Massachusetts on 9/11, but my horror brought me right back to New York — to that view of the lower Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn Bridge, to the view from the tenth floor of the Hofstra library some 20 miles away, to the view looking straight up from the foot of the tallest building in the World.

I suppose there is a certain arrogance that comes with building a tower tall enough to reach heaven. It’s the same hubris that drives us to land on the moon, to ride Niagara Falls in a barrel or to jump out of an airplane. It’s that persistent denial of our own mortality, our inherent limitations, our collective common sense.

A cat will climb a tree only high enough to escape the jaws of a barking dog. We, ostensibly the more intelligent species, must climb as high as possible.

Was it 15 years ago, or was it yesterday?

thunder —
another dream
about the Towers

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farewell to summer


Yes, I know, the autumn equinox is over two weeks away, but make no mistake — the unofficial summer season ends when Labor Day ends.

Every year I view the passing of summer with a particular nostalgia. Having an August birthday, I always remembered returning to school a year older than when I last opened a book. Nearly 40 years after graduating from high school, I still view September as moving from one chapter of that book to the next.

Even though this summer has sped by, it’s been especially challenging. So much moving — so much moving on. I want to grab the sun with both hands and clutch it tightly, begging it not to set, and yet knowing that it must.

trading sighs —
the last breath
of summer

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I have a complicated relationship with the month of September. Two weddings, one divorce, the beginning of the school year and the final crushing of several adolescent crushes are the highlights and lowlights.

And I would be remiss to leave out 9/11. As a native New Yorker willfully exiled to Boston, I was profoundly affected. Back in ’83, I spent a week cleaning carpets on the 59th floor of the North Tower. Sometimes I absent-mindedly expect to see the Towers when I look at the Manhattan skyline.

I’ve tried to write poems about my experience with September, but have never been able to capture the essence of our uneasy alliance in words. The realist in me knows that September is an arbitrary bundling of 30 days taking its name from the Latin word for “seven”. The surrealist in me sees a bird flying upside-down.

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hours we can’t have back


I’ve had a life-long aversion to commercial music, seeking solace in types of independent radio stations that have sadly gone silent in recent years, even in historically music-friendly places like Boston. In times like these I’ve turned to college radio. When I lived in the Albany, NY area, there were WCDB and WRPI. In Boston, there are quite a few colleges with a strong radio presence, but none quite like MIT’s WMBR. I listen to some programs obsessively, enriching my sonic palate with indie obscurities and dusty garage treasures.

So it was natural for me to support the station during its annual one-week fundraiser. While MIT provides the station physical space, WMBR relies on the contributions of listeners to purchase music and maintain equipment, all curated by a staff comprised entirely of volunteers.

As is the case with many fundraisers, WMBR offers premiums as a way of saying thank you to its donors. Based on the level of donation, it could be a bumper sticker, a t-shirt or a surplus CD. Imagine my surprise when I learned that a donation of a certain level would score an hour of air time on the show of my choice! Already a big fan of the James Dean Deathcar Experience, it was an easy sell. And having just completed my seventh show last night, you might say I’m an addict.

I’m also infamously obsessive-compulsive, so of course I’ve saved archives of all seven shows.

The first few years, I concentrated on old favorites.

Here is the archive from August 14, 2010, and, of course, the Playlist.
Followed by August 13, 2011 and its Playlist.

In 2012 I went local, with a Playlist focusing on New England-based musicians.

In 2013 I played “Stump the DJ” and came up with a Playlist of songs never played on the show.

In 2014 I decided to move away from short, jangly pop songs and instead offered a Playlist of long songs – 5 in one hour, to be exact.

In 2015 it was back to short, punky pop songs – 19 in an hour – with all songs on the Playlist having been played on the show at one time or another.

Then there was Yesterday’s show, featuring a Playlist more on the pensive, melancholy side. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of punk and power pop left in my collection, and as long as WMBR is on the air, I’ll continue to be on the hunt for more.

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as good as lost


Sometimes I know exactly where I am, but it isn’t where I want to be. That elusive destination is often in plain view, rendering me literally an outsider looking in.

I had a dream like that this morning. I was trying to get into a large ballpark, and from the sound of the crowd, it was clear that the game had already started. I had already circled the perimeter of the park once and saw no obvious entrance. Without an entrance how on earth did everyone else get in?

To ease my panic, I bought a sausage sub from a street vendor. I asked him if he knew where the entrance was. He smiled.

“I have never been inside the park.”

Then, a dramatic pause.

“Nobody has.”

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the unseen darkness


In my dreams I keep a sealed, unlabeled envelope tucked away in a secret place. Only I know its contents — no one else is aware of its existence, let alone the darkness inside.

Once or twice I’ve thought about destroying it, but the notion of it no longer being there terrified me even more than the prospect of its discovery.

Tattered and yellowed, it’s made several moves over the years. There was a period of a year or two in which I thought I’d somehow lost it in transit. Resigned to continue without it, it mysteriously showed up exactly where I’d looked for it without success dozens of times.

Sometimes I wish it had never existed. Then I wake up.

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