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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I wish all of my dreams were linear narratives, but the truth is that most of them are fragments and vignettes, unrelated imagery and seemingly nonsensical conversations. Needless to say, I don’t subscribe to the belief that each dream has a meaning, or even an explanation. I prefer to think of them as random fabrications of my imagination taking a stroll in my subconscious.

With that in mind, sometimes I don’t wake up remembering enough to justify a blog post. Sometimes my dream fragments end up in a haiku.

not far away
a boy throwing stones
at soldiers

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the end of an era


I’ve lived in Massachusetts for just over 20 years, and for 16 of those years, at least one of my children has lived here as well – either here in Cochituate with me and Mary, or somewhere nearby. That all ended today, when my youngest son struck out on his own, hoping to find happiness and independence in North Carolina.

While I’m surprisingly wistful about finally having a truly empty nest, I realize that it really is what a parent strives for – to raise children who can make their own decisions and plot their own courses. Always the pragmatist, I can hardly think of a better gift.

leading me home
a trusty old greyhound


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dream sequence – part 51


It was a familiar beginning – a taxi dropping us off at a subway entrance in an intimidating urban setting, but that’s where the similarities ended. For one, I was traveling with a work colleague and not wandering alone as I’ve done in so many dreams. Both of us decided in an instant that we needed to run as quickly as possible from the taxi to the uncertain sanctuary beyond the broken doors of the subway station to what we hoped would be our destination.

On the other side of the door, a pair of long escalators descended into a vast, luxurious subterranean complex that included shops, a hotel and a huge convention center. Since we were early, we stopped at a supermarket to find something to eat. Not noticing anything I wanted, I opted to find my seat at the conference, while my colleague continued to shop.

It turns out that the seating was by assignment. Instead of being seated next to my work colleague, I sat next to a distinguished gentleman in a military uniform who I immediately recognized as a well-known retired general whose name I couldn’t quite remember. He, on the other hand, was clearly expecting me, calling me by name and very anxious to engage in conversation. It became abundantly clear that I wasn’t going to be able to catch up on Facebook or otherwise be allowed to disappear into the anonymity of a crowd of strangers. In fact the General wasn’t a stranger at all – he knew much more about me than I would have ever expected.

Much of what the General shared with me was deeply personal, so much so that I don’t feel comfortable sharing it in a blog post. I will say that it was an interesting perspective on my professional career, things I already knew, of course, but events and experiences I had never quite framed in a single narrative. I’ll take that over getting lost in a strange town any day.

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work dreams


One recurring theme in the fragmented dreams I’ve been experiencing for the past few years has been work scenarios. They rarely possess a meaningful narrative that I can capture in words, but rather everyday situations attending meetings, commuting, interacting with co-workers, etc. Last night it was the annoyance of having my desk relocated – twice in one day – without any notice or rationale. Just the subconscious reminder that I’m another cog in the wheel.

A decade or so ago I experienced frequent night terrors, waking up from a sound sleep screaming as if I was about to die. These episodes were often preceded by a work-related nightmare in which I’m paged (remember pagers?) in the middle of the night; and indeed, I would bolt upright in bed as if convulsing from an electric shock. After going through some sleep studies, I was prescribed anti-seizure medication, which clearly made the situation worse. I stopped taking the medications, and the night terrors eventually went away on their own, although I will occasionally startle awake as if to remind me that I’m still alive.

In many ways, the humdrum work dreams are worse than the night terrors because they tell me that my subconscious can’t focus on the things that relax me and bring me joy. They instead remind me that as much as I try to leave work at work, it follows me into the quiet places of my psyche, chasing me into a 90 square foot cage of quiet compliance.

Please tell me this isn’t how the world ends.

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