virtual age


Every so often I feel older than my calendar age. While I know I’ve lived a healthy, privileged life, I sometimes suspect that the sun has gone up and down more than the 21,480 or so times some simple math would try to tell me to be the case. On these occasions, I add the ages of my 5 children and my 9 grandchildren to my own to arrive at my “virtual age”. Having just gone through a very busy April and May, that number now stands at 270.

Admittedly, there is zero science behind this musing, but I’ve always preferred math.

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dream sequence – part 70


We were waiting for our flight to leave from a small regional airport. Departure time had come and gone, and there had been no announcement of any kind. All of our fellow passengers began milling near the gate, waiting for some sign of progress.

Finally a woman in uniform approached the gate. Her first action was to dramatically draw a curtain in front of it.

“As you all know by now,” she began ominously, “no one is going anywhere today.”

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none of my business


According to Google Maps, our home in Cochituate is just under 600 feet from the nearest Starbucks. On a clear day, we can pick up its WiFi signal better than our own. Given my love of coffee, you would think this would be idyllic; but while I’m not above spending $4 for a soy latte, I just don’t care for the taste of most of their coffees. I think they’re every bit as over-roasted as they are over-priced. Fortunately there are many talented coffee roasters out there, few with tastier offerings than Tandem Coffee Roasters in Portland, ME. I order coffee by the bag from their website and have it shipped to me here in Cochituate. So yes, I prefer to buy my coffee from a place 120 miles away versus 600 feet away, knowing that I’m not only patronizing a business belonging to personal friends of ours, but also knowing that I’m getting a higher quality product.

I offer this as full disclosure in light of the news that a Philadelphia Starbucks had two black men arrested for allegedly trespassing. Starbucks has apologized profusely for the incident, while the Philadelphia police department has defended the actions of its officers. With many family members in law enforcement, I know that this is a no-win scenario. The racial optics of the situation speaks to issues far deeper than whether or not the police had acted within a “legal obligation to carry out their duties”.

Rather than get into an argument about who was or wasn’t in the right, I’d like to suggest a radical idea: rather than boycott Starbucks in protest, why not seek out local coffee and tea establishments as an expression of support and solidarity? Shoppe Black offers this list of 47 Black-Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses as a start. It’s a positive message with a caffeine kick.

And if you like Starbucks, that’s fine by me. I’ll make the 600 foot walk to meet up with you at any time, mindful that we may have some unexpected guests.

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My parents grew up across the street from each other in Williamsburg, Brooklyn before marrying and moving out to Farmingdale, in Nassau County, where my brothers and I grew up. It was relative stability for decades, but once we became adults, we scattered.

My brothers are in California, while I lived in New York, South Carolina, Alabama and Minnesota before settling in Massachusetts nearly 22 years ago. My wife Mary has been here for over 35 years, having moved to the Bay State from Michigan.

Three of my children were born on Long Island; one in Alabama, and the youngest in Albany, New York. They currently live in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Garissa, Kenya, although all of that is subject to change. While some of this could be attributed to geographical restlessness, it’s become the new normal.

And while I don’t think it’s bad to follow one’s sense of adventure, I also like to think that one should eventually find a place to set up roots. After all, seeds will only scatter from a tree that is firmly planted.

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I write a lot of haiku, but when I’m in the mood to stretch out, I’ll experiment with longer forms, such as the five-line tanka or the six-line cherita. A cherita unfolds like a very short story, beginning with a single line that effectively serves as either a title or a setting for the remainder of the poem, followed by a two-line couplet and concluding with a three-line stanza. The last three lines can often double as a stand-alone haiku.

There are many exceptional poets who have mastered the cherita and have made it their own. I’m not in their league — nor do I pretend to be — but sometimes I like to dabble in the form when I’m in a storytelling mood, which admittedly isn’t very often.

My grandparents have been gone for a long time. My father’s father and mother died six years apart in 1979 and 1985, respectively. My mother’s parents died 55 years apart. I never met my grandfather Julio, who died in 1946. And I’ll never forget my Grandma Fairchild’s arroz con pollo.

“he was so handsome”

abuelita would say
about her late husband

preparing arroz con pollo
she would chop a bag of onions
without shedding a tear

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dream sequence – part 69


I was traveling with an ex-girlfriend — who over the course of the dream would be a mash-up of multiple ex-girlfriends and an ex-wife — and were waiting for a shuttle bus to take us to the airport. I sat at a bench in the waiting area, but she chose to cross the street so that she could smoke a cigarette — something she never did in real life. We also never traveled together in real life, but that’s a story for another dream.

At length, a work colleague heading for the same airport accosted me, and we sat down and chatted. My ex-girlfriend paced nervously across the street, and I tried to determine whether this was impatience over the tardiness of the shuttle, or some sort of jealousy that I actually had acquaintances beyond her orbit.

My friend handed me a music CD, and via the magic only possible in a dream, the music began playing all around us.

“This is good,” I observed. “Who is it?”

“It’s me,” he replied, “from quite a long time ago.”

“Before you started working for Fidelity?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, a little embarrassed, “it’s really just a hobby I’ve picked up.”

Meanwhile, my ex-girlfriend’s pacing accelerated to a point where it was noticeable to anyone who cared to look. A shuttle employee coyly hung a sign next to her that read “Next shuttle: 40 minutes.” She freaked out.

At the top of her lungs, she began singing in a strangely accented, off-key voice “Just tell me you’re coming at midnight so I can say goodbye to my sanity…”

She sang this nonsensical refrain over and over again, at increasing volume, until everyone within earshot stopped to stare at her. Naturally I was dumbfounded, but I didn’t know how or if to respond.

“Do you know her?” my friend asked.

“No,” I replied.


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Lucille (dream sequence – part 68)


For reasons that were never explained, my brother, one of his friends and I were walking around in a residential section of Memphis. I recognized the street as belonging to one of the city’s more famous citizens.

“That’s B.B. King’s house” I said matter-of-factly. Neither of them was overly impressed.

The fact that this was a very ordinary neighborhood, not the kind that would have been home to such a musical icon, didn’t seem to be relevant in the context of the dream. Nor did the fact that B.B. King had died nearly 3 years earlier, a detail that became very relevant when he walked out of his front door toward us on the sidewalk.

“Mr. King” I said nervously, “We apologize for lingering in front of your house.”

“Call me B.B.” he said warmly, extending his right hand. “What do they call you?”

I introduced myself coyly. Meanwhile my brother and his friend conveniently disappeared from the dream.

B.B. was suddenly brandishing a pair of cereal bowls and a box of Wheaties. “I was about to have some breakfast. Would you care to join me?”

Unsure of what to say, I nodded. He handed me a bowl and poured a generous portion.

“Oh, that’s plenty” I said, trying not to be greedy.

“I’ll have none of that false modesty” B.B. replied sternly.

It was the same when he poured the milk, completely covering the cereal in its cavernous bowl. He headed off any objection I might have had with a glare.

And then we ate, right there in B.B. King’s driveway. It was the best bowl of Wheaties I will ever have.


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