Throwing a (World) Party

In lieu of substantive blogging material, I’m planning to throw up random thoughts and ideas for awhile. That should suffice for fresh content until something big shows up at my doorstep. I’m actually fine with transitioning the JBE into a poor man’s Pitchfork if need be. I’ve never been shy about sharing my opinions on music (past and present).

Years ago, I read an article by some music journalist. He was speaking with Karl Wallinger (former member of the Waterboys) and at that time (in the 1990s), Wallinger fronted World Party. I don’t recall the publication. I do remember Wallinger being articulate about his music, however. He was talking about the Beatles, and their influence on his writing and song structure, as well as a host of other things that the British singer-songwriter was weighing-in on at that moment.

Like most things from my past, I boxed up Wallinger (and his music) and stuffed them back into the subconscious recesses of the soft tissue that is my brain’s roomy central archive.

Funny thing about music (at least for me), this material dating back half a century seeps out at unexpected times. With Wallinger and World Party, it was on Sunday, in the early afternoon. This followed my Sunday-morning-coming-down filled with trying to recall everything I’ve been studying from the NFHS Volleyball Rules Book. I had to pass their online exam in order to become certified, and become legit with the Maine Association of Volleyball Officials (MAVO). Continue reading

Writing Questions

I’ve been writing for a long time. Well, it seems like that to me, and for most people, 14 years isn’t anything to sneeze at. That’s a quarter of my life.

If you’ve been a reader of my various blogs, then you are somewhat familiar with my story. If you haven’t heard it before, here it is in a nutshell. At the age of 39, after dabbling with writing on-and-off for a couple of years, I got serious about my craft. Much of this newfound motivation was a result of reading Stephen King’s well-known book about writing, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I followed his advice in establishing a routine and adopting discipline. About a year later, I had an essay published. Three years later, my award-winning first book, When Towns Had Teams, came out. That was in 2005.

I continued on through two Moxie books, the period I called “the Moxie years,” and in 2012, decided it was time to move on to something more personal—a book of seven essays touching down on my life experiences, with several centered on my hometown of Lisbon Falls. That book was a failure from a sales standpoint, even though it contained my best writing to date.

During the last decade-and-a-half, I’ve also spent extended periods freelancing for local newspapers, regional magazines, alt-weeklies, and a few websites. I’ve gathered a file of clips, with my most recent ones posted here. Continue reading

What’s the Call?

I am a baseball umpire. I enjoy telling people that and I’m proud of my development over the past four years.

Baseball is a sport that I’d say is “in my blood,” one I’m intimately familiar with—I played it, then served as a coach and later—ran a summer college league (one of the oldest in the country) for five years. I can say with authority that I know the game of baseball. I think that’s played a role in helping me advance as an umpire. This spring and summer, I’ve done 65 games and save for a couple of miserable games in the rain, enjoyed every experience of being on the field and calling games.

Several weeks ago, I learned from one of my umpiring partners that volleyball is growing rapidly in Maine and that there is a need for new officials. He had begun attending rules classes, and he encouraged me to check it out.

I asked Joe if he had played the game and his answer was, “no.” That piqued my interest because like him, I have never played volleyball, save for the backyard-variety version of the sport that many of us have dabbled in at a party or family gathering. I’ve also been interested in picking up a “second sport” to officiate. Perhaps volleyball could be added to my repertoire? A secondary question could be added;  “Do I need to add yet another task to my already loaded list?”

I'll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

I’ll be calling a brand new sport this fall.

Continue reading

Travel Day

Last Thursday, I got on a plane headed to Omaha, Nebraska. On the way, we had to stop in Charlotte because the airline said it takes two planes to make it halfway across the country.

My travel companion was headed to Omaha to swim, bike, and run. This was for the 2016 USA Triathlon National Championships in her age group. She had qualified at last summer’s Challenge America Triathlon held in Old Orchard Beach.

Initially, I wasn’t bullish on going to Omaha, Nebraska. But a vacation is good once in awhile, even if I think they’re overrated. Plus, Warren Buffett lives in Omaha, and maybe he’d give me a pile of money if I saw him on the street.

Miss Mary (my travel companion and wife) swam in some water on Saturday morning. This was Carter Lake, and I think it was actually in Iowa, but I’m not sure. Iowa is really close to Omaha—it’s just across the river, truth be told.

After her swim, Mary biked. She did really well. Mark (our son, who met us in Omaha after coming down from Vancouver, headed to Providence, RI) and I cheered every time Mary went by us. We took lots of pictures, too. Continue reading

A Bit More About John Gould

[I’m “off the air” for a few days, holed up at an undisclosed location. It’s what guys like me call “vacation time.” While I’m away, I’ll leave you with the transcript of my talk on former Lisbon writer, John Gould, held at the Lisbon Historical Society, Wednesday night.–the j(b)e.]

John Gould is one of a handful of Maine authors that once were known statewide and beyond for their literary contributions. Today, few people outside of a demographic that is likely to be weighted towards card-carrying members of the AARP know who Gould is.

So, who was John Gould?

A thumbnail bio reads like this:

  • Between 1942 and 2003, he wrote more than 30 books.
  • He also maintained a weekly syndicated column for The Christian Science Monitor that ran for 62 years, which makes him America’s longest-running syndicated columnist.
  • He wrote a best-selling book, the book that put him on the map for many, Farmer Takes a Wife. That book reached best-selling status 71 years ago.
  • Gould’s final work, Tales from Rhapsody Home, or What They Don’t Tell You About Senior Living, was released when Gould was 92-years-old. For his efforts to put the spotlight on how many seniors were being mistreated in the twilight years of their life, and paying for that “privilege,” he and his wife Dot got booted out of the home where they were living at the time.

You could say that Gould was the Garrison Keillor of his time and generation. His wry observations, mixed with a contrarian streak, offered a portrait of small-town Maine that few others have been able to capture—Ruth Moore (another forgotten Maine writer) is someone that comes to mind. Ironically, Moore’s book of letters contains several between her and Gould, as he was also fond of corresponding in a fashion that once marked how we kept in touch, long before social media made button pushing the bomb.

Nice turnout at the Lisbon Historical Society to hear about John Gould.

Nice turnout at the Lisbon Historical Society to hear about John Gould.

Continue reading

Vacations are Overrated

I rarely take vacations anymore. The main reason is that freelancers don’t get paid when they’re not working.

On the other hand, many people that I know that work a traditional job with vacation benefits seem to be on vacation all the time, or at least several times a year. I was at a family party on Saturday and I asked where some people were—the answer was, “they’re at the Jersey Shore.” I wasn’t surprised because these are people who seem to live to take vacations. To each his own, I guess.

Once you get into a certain rhythm for work, you actually don’t require as much downtime as the traditional 6-week-a-year vacation types insist that they must have. A day here or there seems to suffice.

Old school vacationers playing golf.

Old school vacationers playing golf.

The best vacation I’ve had in recent memory was when Mary and I rented a camp in Steuben, sight-unseen. That was back in 2007, when our Sheltie, Bernie, was still alive. Mark and his girlfriend-at-the-time drove up from Boston. It was a bucolic week spent frolicking along the seashore, walking the neighboring nature preserve, biking off-the-beaten path, and eating clams that we bought each day from a local digger—we even visited the site where a baby whale had washed up on the beach. Continue reading

One Week, in One Year

Our lives are made up of minutes that become hours that run into days that eventually become years. Then, it’s over. There’s an announcement in the newspaper, or a Facebook update mentioning an obituary. Maybe there’s a visitation, a funeral, or simply the memories of a life lived out across a small ripple in a sea of time.

I’ve lived out more than half of my ripple. Will it leave even the smallest of marks on the water’s surface after I’m gone? Nothing’s certain on that front. I hold the belief that how we live and what we do while here matters—at least that’s the hope, lacking any guarantee.

Last week offered perhaps the most representative summation of the freelance lifestyle from my vantage point. Equal parts enjoyable, even empowering, intertwined with a stretch that left me uncharacteristically weary, requiring tapping into a reserve that I wasn’t sure I had. Every segment of my puzzle-piece work life was represented.

Back when I was running laps around the usual five-day-a-week labor track, I complained that my two-day weekends weren’t long enough. Now, finding a 48-hour stretch of time to step away from wage-gathering happens so infrequently for me that I sometimes resent those who have it so good—and yet find the need to voice their displeasure in my presence or via social media—not knowing that it irritates me (although I try to overlook it).

The world of work continues evolving.

The world of work continues evolving.

Writing is a passion of mine. If I have to name what it is that I do, I’ll always self-identify as “a freelance writer.” It took me nearly 40 years to recognize a talent (some might even qualify it as “a gift) that remained hidden under layers of work, family obligations, and even romantic notions about what constituted “the writing life”—as if there’s one defining frame for being a writer. Runners have different strides, just like pitchers rely on their own style and array of pitches in getting batters out. My writing experience is probably different than yours (if you’re a writer), as it should be.

I began the writing journey back in 2002, with 2003 being the year that I set my face “like flint” towards a goal to make writing central in my life. By 2006, I recognized that writing didn’t automatically deliver riches, but rather (at least for me) required creativity and supplemental income—at least if I didn’t want to end up foreclosing on my house, or worse. I turned back towards a more traditional, 40-hour way of making a living, while still continuing to write. In fact, it was during this stretch that I released my two books on Moxie. Continue reading