Making Stories

A year ago in August, I was contacted about writing an article. The woman who emailed me read my Biddeford article for the “big city paper,” The Boston Globe. She liked it and thought I had what it took to tell her story. It was about a town that had stopped making paper.

In 2016, I was in a funk. I told Mark that “maybe I should quit” the writing game.

Part of this was self-pity. But part of it was also feeling like my writing was going nowhere. At the time, it wasn’t.

Mark’s response was, “keep doing what you’re doing, dad.”

I told the woman that I couldn’t do it.

Then, Mark was killed.

In January (and February, March, and April), writing didn’t seem to matter. Yes, I was blogging. This was more about simply pouring out my pain associated with loss and grief. I was shocked that people actually read my posts.

A decision was made to reconnect with the woman who reached out to me in 2016. She was pleased to hear from me. She was also sorry about Mark.

One year after she first contacted me, I made my first trip down the coast. I’d make several more.

I talked to people in the town. The town had lost a mill. A mill that had been making paper since 1930. I also met a man with big ideas about logs not needed for making paper. Continue reading

The Real Corporate Candidate

A week ago, I received an invitation to attend a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. It came from a relative on my wife’s side of the family. Apparently she figured I’d be an easy target, simply assuming I’d be supporting Clinton because of the alternative, Donald Trump.

This kind of thinking has galled me for months. The idea that we must vote for Hillary because of the specter of a Trump presidency is typical either/or thinking that I’ve been subjected to ever since I first started voting in 1980. It’s also more of the usual reasoning that you get from spineless liberals. More on that further down in the post.

Two pathologically-damaged choices for president.

Two pathologically-damaged choices for president.

I don’t run around touting faux socialists for president like some of my friends did prior to Bernie Sanders going in the tank for Mrs. Clinton. I’m also clear on Clinton’s neoliberal policies designed to further dash the hopes of working class people across the U.S., something that so-called working class advocates from Maine that I’ve written about on this blog seem to have missed. Democrats will be Democrats, however.

Oh, and do I need to do the usual kabuki dance and list all the Republican’s political peccadilloes? They should be fairly obvious, but then again, given the drivel I’m reading about “Hillary must win, no matter what,” I’m not so sure.

Hillary Clinton has long been seen as the heir apparent to an ineffective, two-term president. Mr. Hope and Change has delivered little and dashed any hopes thinking people may have had about America. What passed for change was negligible at best. Continue reading

The Last Righteous Man

Righteousness has entered an anachronistic phase. Duplicity seems all the rage at the moment.

I have been watching reruns of CSI Miami. The Jerry Bruckheimer-produced show, which had a successful 10-year run on network television, is now in syndication on WE tv every weekend. It’s been my summer guilty pleasure.

If you remember the series, or have watched more than a smattering of episodes, you’ll be familiar with the show’s protagonist, Lieutenant Horatio Caine. Caine, played by veteran actor, David Caruso, is the rare alpha male on television these days. During our season of conflict and ambivalence regarding wrong and right, there’s little doubt where Caine comes down on any issue during the series’ hour-long story line.

Give 'em an hour and the CSI Miami team will always get the bad guy.

Give ’em an hour and the CSI Miami team will always get the bad guy.

Continue reading

Progressive Revelation

To value truth in a world that demonstrates at every turn that lies and false narratives are preferred, leaves seekers with a steady diet of dissonance.

Last week, I visited the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community in New Gloucester, a mere 20 miles from my home. This was the first time I’d ever ventured on the grounds. My experience (and subsequent return visit) was much different than I expected.

Like many things in this world, when you make time to push past surface information and often, a false understanding, you are sometimes rewarded. Rather than relying on only the internet and Google for my “Shaker 101” brief, I’ve been reading materials acquired at my local library, as well as information provided by the accommodating staff.

Shakers believe in something called “progressive revelation.” In reading about this concept—the idea that there is a constantly spinning center at the very core of their faith—allowing them to reshape their beliefs when necessary, I was struck by how similar this is to my own current way of seeing the world and the ongoing education and I’d even say—deprogramming—that I’m engaged in, as I attempt to break free from the lies and disinformation stream offered up by traditional sources.

The Truth is Out There!

Is the truth out there?

Continue reading

Crumbling Down

It’s tempting to look at the world, at least the world as it gets filtered through our digital imagery, and feel like the globe we’re sitting atop is spinning out of control. I’m sure part of this is by design—people in the midst of fear—rational or irrational—are much easier to corral and control.

At the same time, there is a corresponding tendency on the part of 21st century humans to believe (irrationally, I would add) that technology, that amorphous term that gets tossed around willy-nilly at every turn, will bail us out of every single one of our problem patches. I’m a contrarian when it comes to this technological salvation app.

America’s infrastructure and the upkeep required to maintain it is trending in the wrong direction—to borrow a term from a popular series that curried favor with the Tee Vee watchers out there—it’s “breaking bad” and has been for decades. When the American Society of Civil Engineers released their report card on the condition of the nation’s infrastructure, the overall grade was a D+. This was relative to our roads, bridges, dams, waste water facilities, airports, and includes the electrical grid. Continue reading

Another Year and a Bunch of Books

Nothing says “Happy New Year,” looking out with hope and expectation towards a brand-spanking-new calendar of virgin reading territory than my end-of-the-year book wrap. It’s become a JBE blogging tradition.

In past years, I’ve summarized the previous 12 months and the books I’ve read. This year, I’m opting to hit the highlights rather than reviewing every single book simply, because in 2014, I ended up reading 65 66 books! (You can see the complete list, here.)

This year-end synopsis offers me a chance to reflect back over the previous 12 months of reading. I also get to take note of the books I enjoyed and found benefit in reading, and offer a few of the ones that were disappointing. Keep in mind that reading and what I like to read is highly subjective.

I don’t begin my reading year with any grand plan. However, I do set a goal to end the year on the plus side of 30 books. Having done this now for more than 15 years (with many of these coming pre-blogging), it’s not unreasonable to expect to read 3-4 books per month. In fact, that’s generally been my output at the end of the year when the numbers have been tallied. Continue reading

Too Busy to Think

I’ve had a subscription to The New Yorker for years now. It was a gift from my son, as he knew that I was a fan of long-form narrative nonfiction. I still am. Most stories are impossible to capture in a few sentences, let alone 140 characters.

The New Yorker still offers information and stories that I find worthwhile. Often lately, I find the urban, smarter-than-thou orientation of many of the writers somewhat off-putting. It seems like many of the issues taken up in each issue are often predictable, at least predictable in a liberal, elite sort of way. Continue reading

Crashing the Party

My sister is a writer and a blogger. If you haven’t checked out Julie-Ann’s site, I highly recommend that you do so. She brings the goods, which translates into fresh content on a regular basis.

One of the features that she’s developed over the time she’s been blogging is a series of posts she calls, “Lady Alone Traveler.” These are some of my favorite posts that she’s been laying down over the past two years. Continue reading

The Truth is Stranger than Fiction

David Foster Wallace's final book, "The Pale King."

David Foster Wallace’s final book, “The Pale King.”

My last “big books” post was at the end of March when I covered Richard Russo’s memoir. I intended to do one of these each month, as my reading, even at this year’s slightly less robust pace, has yielded intriguing reads in April and May.

Actually, what I intended for April was a review of David Foster Wallace’s, The Pale King, which I finished reading near the end of the month. This was Wallace’s final book, published posthumously, from the remains of a manuscript he left behind. Continue reading

Dusting up over WalMart

Apparently last week, there was a major dust-up online between two seemingly disparate forces and writers. Gary North (more to come further down the page) took issue with James Howard Kunstler, peak oil iconoclast, anti-WalMart crusader, and writer. I respect Kunstler, I’ve read his books, and I even reviewed his latest book in January. That’s not to say that I hang on every word of Kunstler’s because I don’t. Continue reading