Death by SUV

[Due to my site being hacked, I’ve had to repost a couple of pieces I wrote about Mark, as I was processing my grief in the aftermath of his death. The world is truly a cruel and heartless place at times. This was originally posted on Jan. 25.–jb]

As a late-blooming writer, I’ve maintained a commitment to working on my craft. Along the way, I’ve read a myriad of books that spoke about the writing process. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book that talks about writing through grief, or possibly, how to put words on paper when your heart’s been ripped out and run over several times.

That’s a pretty shitty metaphor, I know. I’m just trying to paint a word picture of what I’ve been feeling since 10:30, Saturday night, when the trooper from the Maine State Police knocked on our door and delivered the news to Mary and me that our beloved son, Mark, had been hit by an SUV in Fort Walton County, Florida, and killed. Our lives as they’d been up to that moment were forever altered. Continue reading

Our New President

We’re barely 24 hours into the term of our 45th president and it’s clear to me—the next four years are going to be one wild ride! It’s possible that life as we know it in America will have disappeared, with no guarantee that there’s a pathway back to restoring it.

I had to work yesterday, so I only caught snippets of Inauguration Day. I did see the swearing in of Pence and Trump. And then, I got to watch his address during lunch.

I’m not sure what I expected. Perhaps naively, I held out some glimmer that our new president was going to offer his plan for bringing together a divided people. Not even five minutes in, it was clear that Trump had no interest in unity.

No unity here.

Granted, as one commentator said, for followers of Mr. Trump, he serves as a “kind of Rorschach test” in that they tend to see him in whatever way they want to believe about him and various issues. I’d concur with that. Continue reading

Plans for the Near Future

Last week my insurance license arrived in the mail. You can now find me on the State of Maine website for insurance if you do an agent search. I now feel “official.”

I once held an insurance license for both life and health back in the mid-1990s, but I let it lapse. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about sales and in hindsight, the company I was selling for really didn’t have a very strong stable of products. Part of that was due to insurance laws in Maine at the time. However, other reps did very well because they kept it simple and worked their plan.

Passing my insurance exam was the first step for me. To be honest, I hadn’t thought beyond simply getting a passing score. I was tunneled in—selling our house, moving 26 years of belongings to a new location, and fitting work, study, and freelancing into what was a roller coaster three month ride. That was all I was capable of carrying to the close of 2016. Continue reading

This is not a Movie Blog-Manchester by the Sea

In this time of fake news, depressing politics, and the melting of the polar ice caps, compartmentalization might be the only way to live and not to go nuts (or postal). Drugs are another option that increasing numbers of people are turning to in order to deal with pain, isolation, and a myriad of other social ills enhanced by capitalism run amok. Might I suggest a third way?

Finding an avenue of escape from the cares of this world (while waiting for Jesus’ return) by locating that rare local theater that hasn’t been boarded up due to the interwebs is getting harder and harder to pull off. Luckily, we now live in a town that still has one of these wonderful, big screen places hearkening back to the day when all movies were projected onto big screens. Seeing a flick in a theater—sharing sharing that experience with other human beings simultaneously—is still how I prefer to watch my movies. Not on off the face of my smartphone or screen on my laptop.

Winter time is movie-going time for Mary and me. Once we come out of the cave in the spring, we rarely step back into darkened movie auditoriums. It’s not like we see a ton of movies, but December to March is when we watch the bulk of our films for the year.

Last Saturday, we saw Manchester by the Sea at Brunswick’s Eveningstar Cinema. I love this space. It has a nostalgic feel partly because it’s a place that I’ve been watching Hollywood fare since the late 1970s. Fans of in-person viewing should thank their lucky stars for owner Barry Norman. There aren’t enough people like him keeping old-school escapist entertainment alive here in the 21st century. Continue reading

Less Dreck

When you begin your journey hosting a blog, the experience is a heady one. You—just a solitary individual armed with a keyboard—think the world and your readership will sit at your feet and hang on each and every word. Actually, you probably don’t have quite those lofty aspirations, but there is a certain confidence (arrogance) that what you set down for content matters. It usually doesn’t.

The start of a brand new run through spring, summer, fall, and then, the close of yet another year, offers a chance to revisit how/why you do things. I’m reconsidering my own blogging schedule and what passes for content.

For awhile now, posting twice a week—on set days at that—seemed like the best plan. I’m not certain that convention is necessary any longer. Since I no longer really care to serve as anyone’s paragon of a writer these days, self-imposed deadlines have become a bit of a drag. Continue reading

Restaurant Food

What makes Americans fear their kitchen stoves so much? Huh?

Well, it appears something is at the root of the rise in eating out. Just last year—for the first time, ever—Americans spent more on restaurant food (and bar fare) than they did on food from the grocery store. The data reflects a pattern hearkening back to our “halcyon” days in America, the 1970s.

Perhaps the paucity of exciting food from the decade when things began unraveling drove a generation to seek their sustenance outside their home kitchens. Experts tell us that much of this is due to females now working somewhere other than where they’re domiciled. I think one assumption that’s safe hold is that Johnny is pretty useless in term of opening a can of beans and throwing some rice into a pot. Or maybe, we haven’t evolved as far as we think we have and it’s still a woman’s job to cook (and clean), while bringing in half of the household income, women’s lib be damned!

Cooking doesn’t have to be a comedy routine.

Continue reading

Selling Insurance

Not much of a “ring” to insurance salesman. Writer is more romantic and sounds better. The latter doesn’t always deliver and leave you flush with ka-ching—or with any cash at all, for that matter.

The fall has been a blur. Readying a house for sale and then closing on the domicile that was your home for half of your life is a big change. So is acclimating to a new town. Of course that’s just part of the story. I also decided in August to become a volleyball ref, followed by enrolling in an online course designed to prepare me to pass the state exam leading to getting licensed to sell insurance. Yes, the cares of this world have been right there in my face each and every day for the past three months. Sorry if I haven’t returned an email or your phone call.

Can I be totally honest here? There were many mornings during the past three months when I just wanted to stay in bed, rather than get up and turn off the alarm clock when it went off at 4:00 am so I could shoehorn studying into what was my usual get-out-of-bed and brew some coffee period of the morning before shuffling of to work time. But as they say, sometimes perseverance pays off.

Driving into Westbrook yesterday prior to my scheduled Maine Life, Accident & Health Producers exam set for 8:00 a.m., I tried to steer my mind clear of any craters of negativity or sinkholes filled with anxiety. WMPG playing some vintage John Coltrane kept me focused on the road and task looming ahead.

Whole life, or term?

Continue reading

Life Isn’t a Movie

If you’re a sucker for what some consider a better time in America, especially viewed through the lens of nostalgia, then arguably, there may not be a better movie at this time of year than It’s A Wonderful Life. The final 8 minutes could be one of the best holiday segments of any movie ever made.

But life lived in the real world rarely follows the tried and true formula of a Hollywood script. As much as we adore George Bailey and root for him each and every year when we watch the movie, yet again, people these days are rarely that concerned about others in their own families—let alone someone from their hometown—like the people gathered at the Bailey residence in Bedford Falls.

It’s easy this time of year to become wishful, longing for a time that we might consider better than the America we’re living in today. That was surely part of the appeal of Donald Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” even if it’s looking more and more like it will be nothing but empty words for most. Continue reading

People and Corporations

We hear a lot of lip service paid to cracking back on corporations. People generally seem to dislike corporations—except when they’re supplying a paycheck, or often, cheap, substandard products manufactured offshore, by exploited workers.

Corporations have more rights now than ever before. In fact, the Supreme Court has broadened the concept of “corporate personhood” considerably over the past decade.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Candidates for president say the darndest things.

Mitt Romney, when running for president in 2012, actually came out and said explicitly, “corporations are people.” Justice John Paul Stevens would disagree, as he did in his dissent in the Citizens United case:

[C]orporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires. Corporations . . . and their “personhood” often serve as a useful legal fiction. But they are not themselves members of “We the People” by whom and for whom our Constitution was established. Continue reading

Learning About Tides

I doubt most people pay any attention to tides, both low and high. Until about three weeks ago, I rarely consulted a daily tide calendar. Perhaps if you dig clams, or work along the waterfront, tides are old hat to you.

A mere three years ago, Mary schooled me about the Maine Tide & Everyday Calendar (probably available at one of Maine’s finer local bookstores). She started keeping one in her RAV4, in order to know when some of the various local tidal bodies of water would be experiencing high tide, so we could do some open water swims to prepare for that summer’s OOB triathlon.

Spending your life lived away from the coast save for an occasional beach outing renders you unprepared for that day when you wake up a mere stone’s throw from a picturesque cove, a tidal one at that.

Love my cove at high tide.

Love my cove at high tide.

Continue reading