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Urban Critters

Recently while we were saying goodnight to a friend in our driveway, a possum ran across the other end of it, briefly breaking into the open as it hurried along the lines of the apartment buildings around us. After that cameo, and after hearing fiddlers Julie Metcalf and Andy Reiner perform a rendition of the folk tune “Raccoon’s Got a Bushy Tail (Possum tail goes bare),” I marveled again at the number and variety of critters we’ve seen or have seen evidence of in the midst of a city that is at times noted for being the most densely populated (with people) municipality in the US.

The urban critters we’ve seen around (and rarely in) our house include:

"Cat Found"

  1. Said possum. Or more correctly, said opossum, or more specifically, said Virginia opossum. Technically a possum is a whole other although related marsupial found only in Australia. But try telling that to an opossum who you’ve frightened into “playing possum” or feigning death. He won’t be able to hear you because he’s involuntarily fallen into a coma-like state and is secreting a dead-animal smell in the hopes that you don’t eat dead animals—which you do but even you don’t like them to smell like rotting flesh.
  2. Read more…

The Escalade Honks for Occupy Boston

Friend, writer, and adventurer Anne Bowman was in town for the weekend. She went with us on our first foray to Occupy Boston in Dewey Square. We wanted to feel the vibe of this nascent movement for ourselves. Is it just children playing in the sunshine? Anarchists and discontents merely littering the lawn? Or are they doing, as the Rev. Dr. Robert Allen Hill (chaplain of Boston University) suggested is critical for our survival, “the foundational work that this era requires?”

We arrived in the lull between afternoon rallies, the air clear, the sky blue, and the temperature warm enough that we doffed our jackets. We stood for a while across the street in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Building. A young woman held a sign that said, “HONK FOR OCCUPY BOSTON.”

A black Escalade (is there any other color?) with Jersey plates honked. Anne said, “The Escalade? Really?” I stared through the open windows at the driver and passengers. On their faces I saw some amusement but not irony or sarcasm or worse. And yes, they’re the 99% also, perhaps further up the food chain, but not at the top.

After a few minutes we crossed the street and took a stroll down Main Street in the tent town of Occupy Boston and then stood on the sidewalk facing the Fed Building during the rally. We had cameras but didn’t use them; we wanted to be aware but not worried about curating the moment. News reports focus on yang qualities of protest–size of rallies, confrontations, flashpoints, demands, he said, she countered.

Here’s what I observed about some yin qualities of Occupy Boston. The women of a certain age who staffed the information table and passed out fliers and gently directed enquirers to people or places that they sought. The young man in a black mask who supported something strapped behind his back while he ran across the street, which in another place may have been an automatic weapon, but which was in fact a water bottle holder. He ran back to the rally with a case of Poland Spring water. His outfit suggested an element of playing at protesting, but his presence and role suggested that foundational work that Dr. Hill identified.

Other evidence of foundational work: the makeshift boardwalk across the muddy parts of Main Street. The Library. The Meditation Tent. The young man strumming a guitar who was showing another a chord progression. The man of a certain age whose two-sided placard (three lines on each side) offered a concise economic analysis and pinpointed doable economic reform. The man with dreads that gathered a small group for an educational session. The Logistics Tent that took in and distributed real goods and kept an updated list of needs. The logistics people who immediately showed up at the curbside when a car pulled over with donated blankets and such. The overheard conversation about planning for winter since most of the tents there wouldn’t stand up to a moderate snow.

That planning conversation impressed me the most, as it reflected the conviction, foresight, and faith in gathering together that can lead to fundamental change. A text I recently read talked about the yin qualities of water and how the relentless flow of the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon. I have faith in the stream of change being channeled by Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together as observed in the tributary of Occupy Boston. I’m not worried that direct political action has not yet coalesced. “First in the mind, then in the body.” First in individual minds, then in the body politic.

Honk if we are you.

“First Frost” crystalizes around leaving and returning home

My (very) short fiction, “First Frost,” appears in the October 2011 issue of Portland Magazine. A mother gives us a glimpse of the soft appearances and hard realities of her daughter’s first visit home to Maine after leaving for college. It’s a Fall piece. Geese and their shadow metaphors fly freely. Or at least waddle about.

Issues are available on newsstands and from the website of Portland Magazine. Portland Magazine, October 2011

Missing Missoni

Last week Target and Missoni perpetrated a marketing coup on the American public. I’m late to the game in commenting on it, but then, I didn’t wait outside the doors of the Watertown Target at 7 am to be able to grab odd-sized Missoni boots to sell on eBay. I’m not that type. So I’m writing this now.

But I do love pop cultural moments, and this was one. Especially when we received a special invitation from Miss Patti, who has been awarded black belts in several shopping arts, to attend to the Missoni moment. Unfortunately for the acquisition side, the moment was a Tuesday morning, which meant first training in T’ai Chi Ch’uan at the gym for this ageless group of zig-zag seekers. By the time we arrived shortly before 11 am, the end caps had been laid bare to the point that Miss P. hoped they had not yet been stocked. But the display of one left rubber rain boot (size 5) and the gloating of an ash-blond woman who had seven Missoni shoe boxes in her cart told the frenzied tale.

Miss Patti and Madame Kim

As expert marketing strategists, Target had scattered the Missoni merchandise across the entire store. “You just have to look for it,” was the bored reply from clerks we queried. What we found was one colorful bed linen bundle that had been dumped on a random shelf, and a display of boring beige bed bundles that had the feel of a Motel 6 bed spread that had seen too many washings. Oh, and we stumbled on several items that had nothing to do with the mission but we picked up as long we were there. Congratulations, Target, win-win on your part.

Thankfully, a shopper we accosted who had a delightful Missoni rug not only told us where she found it but followed us there to make sure we got to the right place. In true Miss Patti fashion, Madame Kim and I were enlisted to consider all of the remaining candidates. A rug was chosen and a friend was detoured from the disappointment of Missoni to an al fresco lunch. And the band played on.

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Morning for the Birds

The melody playing in my head is neither hip nor hop but rather the soothing soundtrack of obsession. There are no uplifting words of hope and happiness but just the simple “rebel L’s” [thank you, Sesame Street] of “I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?” Yet the one who sings that is anything but a loser and in fact is a winner because I know his name but he doesn’t know mine. I know what he looks like but he couldn’t pick me out of a crowd.

Even on a bird sanctuary among the elite flocks our one robin appears perky in the dew. We don’t know if he’s happy but he’s certainly perky as he pulls worms from clumps of grass. We think he says, “See? There’s nourishment everywhere and you don’t have to be a rare endangered species to partake of the abundance and beauty that’s within you and without you.” And in fact without you there is no beauty.

The rising sun’s light trumps the waning moon’s light. Straight, strong rays versus diffuse reflection. Nonetheless that bluish ghost is what we see when we look away from the sun and into the heart of the sky, whose vastness holds us. Every breath, every moment the same/not the same. We go to ground in its boundless embrace.

But how can we go to ground in the sky? Or is that the point? The robin flies, but he hops around a lot, too. Not hip, but hopping.

Possessed by Mary Poppins

I knew what I wanted when I walked into the store but didn’t think I would find it, not in my price range, anyway. I wanted that cool, black, hip, leather bag that fits my old-school, college-ruled notebook and the iPad I don’t even own yet. Unfortunately, today’s version of that bag often looks like a bike messenger bag (done that) made out of some material with no natural hand and in a color that is emphatically not black. Or it’s shiny with brassy chains and loud logos.

Radley Yellow pocket bagThe Radley London display waited, eyes discreetly trained in the middle distance, poised to introduce its seductive yellow shoulder bag. The style drew me in, but I already have a cool black shoulder bag (although it is aging) made out of hi-tech, man-made something or other. The yellow purse, while attactive, didn’t quite have the functionality I needed. As Suze Orman would say, can you afford that AND the bag you came in for? No? DENIED.

The bright young thing stayed on the rack, but a black, shapely, understated leather bag with double straps awaited. This sophisticated aunt whispered, “Mary Poppins.” Remember why you loved her? Capable and beautiful. Open and mysterious. Proper and bannister-riding. Prim with a gentleman friend. You never knew what would come out of that bag. Umbrella? Lamp? IPad??

In five days my friend Anne Britting Oleson will travel to the UK. She will see the Oysterband on an adventure that started  in part with a spoonful of sugar I fed her on her way to see them for the first time in Sydney, Nova Scotia. And exactly one year ago today, she started the blog Anne’s Awesome Adventures to document what happens when you take your medicine out into the world. It has since been linked to by the New York Book Review, the band the Saw Doctors, and even obscure but necessary sites such as this one. She may or may not make it to a Radley store. This time.
Black Radley London work bag
Meanwhile, I’m possessed in two senses of the word, when Boo Radley of London and I go out and about on our own adventures. Calm and capable with a self-assurance that rivals that of a seven-year-old. We have fun and get things accomplished. You should join us. Come on now. Spit spot!

Faces from the NYS Sheep & Wool Fest

A woman caught me petting some wool in a basket, which was nothing compared to petting the live alpaca. The fairgrounds were mobbed. I loved seeing the African American knitting club with their matching orange ruffle scarves, the herding dogs waiting for their demos, the sky-blue tweed alpaca hat I got from a company from Maine, the well-behaved red wine from the Finger Lakes region, the sips of ice wine and mead.

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Off-line Adventures

It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve been doing things off-line (or on-other-lines). Like signing Jeremy Lyons and Yoko Miwa to my artist roster. And working on a spring tour for Members of Morphine & Jeremy Lyons. And working on Kerri Powers’ first European tour on which she opened for Fred Eaglesmith. And dream sailing with Dharma Voyage. And visiting new nephew Matty in San Francisco. Of course he’s the most beautiful baby you have EVER seen, according to me and niece Molly. And SO smart. And cozying up with writer friends and Tracker the beagle and finishing a draft of a short story (much work left—see above for reasons for slow progress).

And encouraging my friend Anne in Maine on her solo adventure to Sydney friggin’ Nova Scotia to see her favorite band, the Oysterband. Anne is an astonishing poet, soon-to-be-discovered novelist, and as you’ll see from her post, an astute music reviewer. She is the kind of fan any performer would kill for. I will just observe that her love affair with the Oysterband began with a copy of songs downloaded from iTunes from Tommy Shea. Lost revenue? I don’t think so: it goes on with Anne buying all of their CDs, infecting others with her enthusiasm, and being responsible for additional sales of band merch. Seems to me that the “lost revenue” of the initial copy from Tommy could be filed under marketing expense. And should be considered quite effective, as you’ll see from this post on Anne’s Awesome Adventures:

April 11, 2010

Off to Cape Breton for the Oysterband

I have just returned from a whirlwind trip to Sydney, Nova Scotia–a trip in which I spent 21 of 36 hours driving–to see a concert by the Oysterband.

The Oysterband, from their website

I’ve been telling everyone that this is my all-time-favorite band no one has ever heard of.  Which, of course, is not quite right, as they have been busily playing in Europe and Canada for more than thirty years, and have released that many albums and CDs in that time.  Sadly, though, here in the U.S., they have been flying under most people’s radar since the late ’70s.  In fact, when I crossed the U. S./Canadian border at Houlton early on Friday morning, two hours into my ten-hour drive, I had to explain my business in Canada to the agent as “attending an Oysterband concert in Sydney, Nova Scotia.”

“Blue Oyster Cult?” he asked.  I told him no, the Oysterband.  “Never heard of them,” he said, then cocked his head.  “All the way to Sydney, Nova Scotia for a group nobody knows.”  And he laughed.  But then, so did I, because the joke was on him, after all.

When I first heard the Oysterband–thanks to sportswriter and music aficionado Tommy Shea, who introduced me to their songs after hearing a piece I wrote about my friend Lowell Oyster attempting to teach me to play ukulele (very long story there)–I was horrified to realize they’d been playing for all those years and I had been ignorant of them for most of that time.  However, I’ve done my best to make up for that ignorance.  Tommy sent me a CD of songs he’d downloaded from iTunes, which he’d labeled “The Best of/Sort of the Oysterband.”  He’d included nineteen pieces he thought I’d need to hear in order to understand the ethos and evolution of the band.

Read more.

My song is your song

Check out this MSotD (My Song of the Day) post that features Kerri Powers’ “Tallulah Send a Car for Me.” It starts with one of my favorite lines: “Can’t wear my alligator boots in church. . .”

Kerri Powers – “Tallulah Send a Car for Me” (2009)


This is good stuff from Kerri Powers. Good stuff you need to hear!

On a totally unrelated post, my friend posted this song in the comments. I didn’t have a chance to listen to it until this morning, but now I’ve listened to most of Kerri Power’s album. I am intrigued.

See more here.

News from an artiste of fine living

The proprietor of UttonBay, that artiste of fine living on a budget, reports on her adventures in Paris. Here’s an example:


Chalked on the sidewalk of the Pont Marie today: Life is beautiful, as are we. A message from the mysterious Mlle. 2Nuit.

Our cameras caught a glimpse of the elusive JoeY reflected in a shop window outside the district near Contrescarpe. Fresh bread and M&M candies are always a good combination, however sharp-eyed JoeY has sussed out a real bargain: 1 cafe 1 croissant – 1 Euro 90.

More at The Uttmost from UttonBay.