Here begins a discursive, disorganized summer reverie that someday, in some other summer, I may unjumble a bit. It’s a river going over falls and around sand bars and debris with some serendipity, some hidden rocks. I scrape bottom now and then. The metaphor at times dries up completely, leaving cracked mud flats and dried out gullies (to continue with yet another, equally lame river metaphor).

Even my apology is beginning to ramble.

Read this if you’ve ever sat in accidental visitation of a resonant place. Who hasn’t? Pretend it’s you, not me. Go on your own river ramble. Empathize, identify, ignore. Enjoy, maybe. I just had to write it all down — and it’s far from complete….

Skipping it altogether might be best, until its complete and perhaps completely rewritten or deleted. Or, drop in at random places, read a paragraph or two if you’re up for a slice of someone’s recent and past life, that someone being me. And try not to be annoyed by the constant ( ) and –. That’s a lazy writer’s way around cleaning up a personal narrative, as one thought and memory overlaps another (you know (what) –I mean?

Late in June — June 28th, to be exact — of this summer that is quickly rolling by, I had memories stream out as if they were a river. Image and faces floated on the water; they opened like blossoms, still floating.

This river began to flow — by the side of a river. Let me explain:

I attended a funeral in Fort Myers, Florida that day. For Myers, as it happens, is where I began my broadcast news career — at WINK-TV. The father of a dear, long-time friend and former Cambridge, Mass roommate had passed away at the age of ninety-eight. He’s been a longtime resident of Fort Myers. He’d lived nearly a century. We’d become friends.

Ernie Gudridge — I’d once called him, Mr. Gudridge, then, finally, Ernie — had been a Midwest broadcast executive and had about him an enormous sense of dignity, a sense of humor, and great intelligence and affability that stayed with him to the end of his long life. What also stayed with him was a memorably deep and dulcet voice and the clear diction of a professional broadcaster . It is the voice that, early on in his career (if I’m not mistaken) had been heard for some period of time on the airwaves when he worked as an announcer/disc jockey before graduating into management and civic activism.

I began my broadcast television career — with my okay voice and face — in Fort Myers and had stayed ,initially and for just a few days, with Ernie and his wife Marian at their condo on Fort Myers Beach before getting my own place.

Before I forget to mention it – Ernie had also served as a bombardier aboard a B-17 during the American air offensive over Truk in the Pacific during World War II. He rarely, if ever, spoke of it, typical of that generation of citizen-soldiers/ airmen and Marines. He was the last surviving member of his crew of the Army Air Corps. That generation — great and radically dwindling in numbers — has dwindled by one more stalwart soul.

Ernie kept a relatively young look for much of his life, perhaps because he was blest with a full head of hair. And, as noted, kept his wits about him.

I saw Ernie G. rarely in person in recent years and spoke with him infrequently on the phone. But he never seemed to have lost an ounce of his mental acuity. He always stayed tuned in to topical matters, especially national politics and he occasionally politely, constructively and paternally critiqued by broadcast diction when I was working in his area — and on his TV screen — as a rank broadcast beginner, which criticism, therefore, I welcomed and valued. He loved to play golf. Having begun life as a Republican; he became at some point a dyed-in-new-wool G.O.P.-disdaining, decidedly liberal Democrat whose knowledge and grasp of the workings of Congress and the world was such that I challenged him to any topical discussion or debate only at my peril. He had once been director of Radio Liberty.

I loved the guy and will go on talking to him for all eternity.

I did the second reading at the funeral Mass, from 2nd Corinthians, and, at one point afterwards, was asked by the church administrator to lift the small, square urn containing his ashes and insert it into a cloth sack to be borne from the church for later burial in the family plot up in Indiana. In that moment, I thought, feeling that surprisingly heavy urn but also thinking of the man in full who was no longer on this earth — my! How is it that someone so grand in this life can be boiled down, to put it indelicately, to so little, materially speaking? I’ve had that thought often in this age when so many opt for cremation, including my late sister and brother-in-law — often for purely practical reasons. I guess it reminds us that we should make little of the passing material things in this life. But, then again, we must not neglect the material, either. Body and soul remain inextricable while we remain embodied souls. What we do to one, we do to the other. Therein lies a piece of rock-solid counter-cultural Roman Catholic Christian doctrine. I believe it.

But, enough of that!

Ernie’s funeral was — unavoidably, given that so much of his family and peers were long gone — a quiet, lightly attended rite at a small Catholic Church. We called down the angels for a man who, after moving to Florida from Louisville with wife Marian — a beautiful woman, by the way, who died of a heart-related ailment and whom Ernie survived by well over a decade — ultimately wound up living out his life within a ten mile box. First there was the Gulf-front condo, then ( after losing Marian) a townhouse he shared with daughter Kathy; then in an assistant living facility — along with Kathy who has some health struggles that made that arrangement ideal for both of them.

There was a small gathering of family and friends after the funeral at a place on McGregor Boulevard, a lengthy, well-known Fort Myers byway lined and overshadowed by Royal Palms that, if memory serves me accurately, are part of the lasting heritage of Thomas Edison in For Myers. The genius’s splendid winter residence is on McGregor and is a tourist destination.

So –this visit back to the city where my broadcast career began in the fall of 1979 was an opportunity for old memories inevitably to surface, most of them good. Or only bittersweet. People — phantoms — would begin to flock my mind with my memories of them.

One such memory grew out of the place where I stayed for the occasion — the four-story motel right at the entrance to the north side of the bridge from North Fort Myers over the Caloosahatchee River, which forms a very wide, harbor-like basin at that point. I was on the ground floor in view of the bridge with its incessant sound of traffic. I had a great view of the river.

Thinking back, I was a little lonely and somewhat culture-shocked when first moving to the busy subtropics and to a fast-growing metropolitan area (the fastest-growing census tract in the nation was Fort Myers and Lee County, Florida in 1979). I’d spent summers in California, spent fourteen months in Korea in the service, but had never permanently lived outside Boston before. I wound up dating a few woman, including one who, after I moved to Tampa, would visit me and eventually become the mother of my only son. She is a great woman and I am privileged to have been given the gift of staying in touch with her and not losing that tender association — with her, and with my son who will be forty in September. Her name is Renee. My son’s name is Barrett. Renee is married and has a daughter named Ashley as well as our son.

Meeting Renee in Fort Myers and going back there from Boston right after my son’s birth was most memorable. There was, for me, some guilt, some shame; some joy, too, that I only slowly registered. I think of that time when I drive past Morrill Memorial Hospital on Cleveland Boulevard (U.S. 41) in Fort Myers. This is where Barrett was born in September 17, 1981.

This , above all reasons, is a very good reason for me to keep visiting Fort Myers. (Barrett lives in Charleston , South Carolina now. Renee lives on John’s Island, South Carolina. I can’t say it ever made me happy to be having a son out of wedlock to a woman who cared for me but whom I could not see my way clear to marry. But she is happily married and a loving mother. Nonetheless, Fort Myers will be a place where I received the grace of God even as I selfishly resisted it. May I forever be grateful.

And I will wondeer what, in all instances, past and in the future to come, I would not marry — or let myself enter circumstances where that was possible. Was I hiding?

Ultimately, I mostly just had and only sought friendships in that time and place known as Fort Myers. I was lonely. I was, in a sense, immature, despite being over thirty. There were important friendships, male and female. I’ve made a point of staying in touch with my last roommate, a broadcast time salesman like two, and, for a time, all three of my brothers. He is a devout Christian and we share, joyously, talk of faith matters. I must call him again soon. He was so much younger than me — by ten years — when we moved in together. There were times, seeing my depression, which was little more than an occasional sour disposition and desire to be alone, that he worked to cheer me up. He was selfless. I was selfish.

Now he, too, is approaching retirement. He married a beautiful woman who was a director at WINK. I must reach out to him.

Some of my friendships, male or female, eventually ended when I moved; or when they moved away, sometimes before I left Fort Myers. There are many who I will not think to mention here — or cannot mention unless I intend to write far too much, which I’m doing already.

(Let me say, I never intended this riverside memory to turn into this endless river. But It’s bearing me back, like Fitzgerald’s Nick Carroway, ceaselessly, relentlessly, against the courant, into the past….what can I do but be swept along?

When I ultimately got my ultimate job in my hometown of Boston, a major TV market, I’d come back to Fort Myers visit and meet with a few people — my old colleagues on and off the air. Those visits eventually stopped. There were fewer and fewer people to visit. I’ve lost touch with many if not most of them. One, Kerry Sanders, actually started at WINK long after me — and went the farthest. He served an apprenticeship there and ultimately — speaking of ultimate jobs — became the Southeast correspondent for NBC news, appearing often on the nightly national news and now and then making appearances on major network shows such at The Today show. The first time I met Kerry, he picked my brain bare about how I’d made it to a major market. He made it to Tampa, then Miami, then NBC.

I guess I should have aspired to those heights, financial and professional. I didn’t. (Kerry was on Facebook today with a pensive picture of himself before going live and thinking about how he’s been thirty-two years with NBC. He’s much younger than me. He’s done well, and simply “wanted” it more than me. Maybe I should have “wanted” it, too. Too late now.

Congratulations, Kerry. I think my primary calling is as a writer. But I loved my broadcast career — every minute of it. And you are making the most of yours.

After my time at WINK (also, like my time in Korea, just fourteen months), I was off to a new job in Tampa (where I was Kerry Sander’s across-town colleague); that was for two years, then to Boston for four years. I didn’t leave voluntarily but made a soft landing in Providence as a noon anchor — until my contract was up, new owners came in — and I was replaced by a female blond.

Meanwhile, life had become painfully complicated for me. (I’ll say something odd here, given how I’m blathering on about the past with Proustian elan. I must say: I don’t want to talk about it, the complicated stuff. Not now. Not here. Maybe someday. )

But sitting on the little concrete patio outside the sliding doors of my motel room on the Caloosahatchee that evening, I was close to the crescent of river bank where I once spent time with a broadcast colleague named Nancy Dewer (then employed as a reporter at WBBH-TV, the NBC-affiliate in town). It might make you laugh, if you are considering the romantic possibilities of a boy and girl together by the riverside, when you hear what we were doing. As I watched and, when possible, helped, Nancy spent about an hour or more netting copious blue crabs from the river waters by a technique I, being essentially ignorant of crab-fishing, never knew of. It entailed the use of raw chicken necks attached to strings and staked out in the shallow river waters — and to my amazement, the crabs came flocking within reach of Nancy’s net in search of that bait. I did little more than watched, as it happened — as did a guy a little older than us (there was a time when there were more people older than younger than us). He was in Fort Myers for a job interview and was staying at the the very same riverfront motel where I was now staying — possibly — who knows? — in the same room, given that he’d taken a short walk and, out of curiosity, came upon us. (I don’t know why, remembering him now, that I get the sense this stranger may not have been planning on taking the job for which he’d interviewed, or was conflicted about the decision before him. So perhaps taking a little walk and joining a couple of younger folks fishing for blue crab on the river bank might have seemed a healthy mental diversion before he flew back to wherever he’d come from, anguishing over his choice. ( I suppose If he loved blue crab, this might have helped swing him toward a “yes” to his prospective employer. Doubtful, I suppose. Silly, actually. )

Nancy was a little taller than average, attractive but uninterested in me, as I was essentially uninterested in her, as a romantic partner. (Was that true? An unpleasant thing about my time in Fort Myers was that I was being a bit of the deplorable male-on-the-make. Were we, perhaps, sounding one another out just a little? Or, were we both just lonely, and on the conservative side. Nancy didn’t seem to have an abundance of friends, in or out of work. Nor did I, at that point. I knew sheattended an evangelical church. That would, happily for her sake, rule out a lot of morally dubious things. And she was intelligent, which, in the best of all worlds, rules out those same things.)

She lived in a four-or-five story high-rise near downtown and would invite me back to her apartment the following evening to dine on the crabs. (I can say that eating blue crabs seemed a mild exercise in masochism– cracking and pulling apart nearl sharp-as-glass shells, squeezing lemon onto already irritated and stinging fingertips and yielding precious little meat as the reward. I haven’t dined on blue crab since.)

After I left Fort Myers, I saw Nancy only one other time. These were the days well before cell phones but somehow I must have told her I’d be in Miami where she, either permanently or temporarily, had re-located. This may have been after I’d re-located to Tampa. She must have wanted to see me and have enjoyed my company during those few dates in Fort Myers. I don’t know why she was in Miami, nor, for that matter, do I recall where she came from originally; where she called home. I don’t think it was Florida.

I’d obviously given her the phone number of my friend who lived there in Miami, he being Ernie Gudridge’s son Pat. She called and I agreed to rendezvous immediately, before the night got too advanced, at the top-floor lounge of a hotel somewhere in that sprawling wilderness of motels and office parks out near Miami International Airport.

We shared a drink, we chatted — about what I forget. It soon became obvious that she was getting very drowsy in the wake of whatever professional or familial activity she’d been engaged in that day. She laughingly excused herself for almost dozing off at one point. At that less-than-auspicious juncture, we settled up with the waiter, left, said farewell — and I never again heard from her.

In fact, I’ve heard from very few people I’d known during those early Florida days of my career. That brief association with Nancy was not obviously the most important one I made in Fort Myers, considering, especially, that I’d have a child by Renee whom I met for the first time subsequent to meeting Nancy.

But as I sat looking out at the very nearby riverfront that night, it was that memory of Nancy crab-fishing that naturally came to mind, and seemed suddenly, after so many years, a very acute, perhaps transformative moment, because life in Fort Myers had finally become less lonely.

Nancy and I had also taken a trip to the beach down in Naples. So we were friends, however briefly. How sad, then, that I have no memory of what became of her. We were NOT destined to be “lovers” (that over-freighted word). But I think we meant to stay friends. We didn’t.

While I’m thinking about this — a confession: I almost didn’t want to move back here to the Sunshine State( for however long) for the precise reason that I wanted to leave intact the sense of place that made those early months of my fledgling television journalism career an inviolate, nostalgia-tainted memory book, tucked safely away in a mental closet, uncomplicated by any new pages.

I haven’t lost that feeling. I may move again.

But in Fort Myers, the good times — there were many — came to outweigh the bad. I’ve managed to soften or laugh at the memories of the “bad.” And, as I write, I realize I might have to think –and write — about some of those other memories, including one of a woman, the mutual friend of my roommate and his fiance, who I dated twice and who subsequently worked a number of years in New Orleans before moving back to Florida, long after I’d left the state, and who I’d learn, again years later, had died in her early thirties of cancer, leaving a husband and a small daughter who would be a grown woman now.

This lost soul’s name was Carol Kissel. She was a great person. We got close — too close — and one rainy night, had our only real date after spending time together at a party. I was a drinker, and drinking more. She aimed for a sane life. And true love. And Marriage. I wasns’t the guy. We both knew it.

And then, because — as noted — I liked to drink in those time (and, again, perhaps had begun doing so too much while also coming to like it less), there was a bar waitress who, seeing me on TV, called me at the television station, realizing I was the same guy she’d seen and chatted up a few times at a popular new pub where she worked and which I’d begun to frequent. She was attractive but was not, I’d say, quite my type. I see her with brown hair to the shoulders, Spandex pants. But I was flattered by the call, liked her looks, expected to see her at the pub again. I see her in my mind now, by herself, looking and seeing me on TV in my seersucker jacket, microphone, instead of drink in hand, although she might have had a drink in her hand. when she called. I don’t know. She sounded find, a pleased.

She had issued me a card — I still have it somewhere — that declared me a V.I.D. (okay to laugh here), which stood for Very Important Drinker and which, after about the fifth punch (i.e., drink), entitled me to a free drink. A gimmick, and now, a memory talisman tucked away somewhere — a reminder of those times of that false glow given off by alcohol.

I can still see her validating signature on the card. Her name was Connie Nelson and she came from up north. I’d learn, only weeks later (how, I forget) that she had committed suicide, shooting herself in the head. I called the police for information. A boyfriend had been questioned and foul play ruled out as a possibility. Powder burns on her temple were “consistent” with suicide, the police told me. Presumably there was other evidence. To this day, I don’t know. But I’ll sadly remember and pray for her now — and whenever I see that card, and her signature. I haven’t seen it in a while.

Back to last month again — there I was sitting, on that little nicely situated concrete patio on a sultry Southwest Florida June evening( flash forward four decades) within eighty yards of where Nancy (flash back) moved about, tall, thin, tanned, dark brown hair cropped below the ears. She was wearing a bikini — was making repeated forays into the river shallows, repeatedly returning with a large net laden, to my astonishment, with blue crab, depositing them in a Syrofoam container next to a separate container of chicken necks ( which, though memory does not serve me, she must have gotten from some butcher.) Our third party observer — from this very same motel — stayed and watched in admiration of Nancy’s crabbing prowess but was likely more preoccupied with the professional decision he faced as his wife waited for him back in the motel. (He left at some point. Then it was just Nancy and me again.)

That same area astride the bridge where all this happened has been developed. It was nothing but grass and mangrove and assorted bushes then. Now there is a park with picnic tables and benches and frequent visits by families on an expanse of neatly-trimmed and maintained bahia grass and there is a very solid railed wooden rampart leading out to a sheltered octagonal pier where a few people, morning and night, look out at the river at sunset or dawn or feed the birds or come with their rods and cast their lines and reel in what, on this night, looked to me like bass, as pelicans, seagulls, assorted other seabirds and ducks — mallards and muscovy –alight, fly off or, when fishing is going on, gather on land and on water waiting for handouts.

One is seldom alone in that spot now, as Nancy and I were alone that day. For a period in 2016, I owned a place just north of this little park in the Pine Lakes development off U.S. 41.(I wish I still owned it). I would, occassionally, during that summer, come down to that place with a cup of coffee and sit by the river –and, of course, think about the evening of the blue crabs as if it were an old movie playing out in front of me. (flashbacks, as I said, in a rather sad, faded-with-time color.)

On the evening last month, an Asian woman wearing a name tag — designating her, presumably, as a motel employee — and wearing a straw hat and a loose purple short sleeve top and gray capris was picking up liter with a pole and bucket along the concrete abutment bordering the river bank property of the motel with its restaurant and pool. ( I hope they pay her well.)

I watched her as a diversion for a good long while.

The Caloosahatchee is a brackish, tidal water body so far as I know as this point where it flows and mixes in its last mile or so with Gulf of Mexico waters. It was darkly silky and calm that evening as one looked across — over a considerable watery distance– to the edge of the downtown Fort Myers area with its five broad, expensive and, in all respects, huge riverfront high-rises that weren’t even dreamed of when I came to live and work in this once-much smaller town forty-two years ago. That’s the story of the 21st Century development of Florida far and wide and on both the Gulf and the Atlantic coasts. Many see it as an excessive and rapacious land grab. But it can’t be stopped — although much truly sensitive and otherwise undevelopable land is being preserved. Some would say, not enough.

At 7:20 p.m., it was still daylight, but dusk was coming on. The setting sun shone hard and bright orange on the otherwise low Fort Myers cityscape across the way. It would sink below the Gulf horizon, out of my view. The long, arching bridge out to Cape Coral was visible farther up the river, steadily full of traffic. In 1979, Cape Coral was an over-drained desolation of shaggy yellow grass and cracked and potholed streets and, canals and on many streets, devoid of houses. On others, it was sparsely marked by relatively newly-constructed houses. It was said if everyone who owned property in 1979 moved in, it would be the second most populous Florida city after Jacksonville. Its corporate developers had gone bust, if I recall.

But now, Cape Coral is a thriving populous city –and, indeed, gives any other Florida city a run for its money. It has made Fort Myers/Cape Coral one ever-expanding metropolitan area — and a much more sophisticated television market than it was when I arrived for work. (I watched a little of the local TV — just a little. Nothing great. It’s not really great anywhere anymore. )

(A final thing about Cape Coral: I visited a couple in 2016 who’d rented a luxurious house along a canal with a birdcage pool and boat dock. There was nothing like that in 1979 Yes, Cape Coral is quite a place now. It’s grown and changed. It has arrived. There’s still plenty of land; plenty of room for growth.

But…to speak of time….

Forty-two years since I’d worked in that area! Add that to my age and Nancy Dewer’s age when we were down there at the river’s edge. I was relatively old — thirty-two. Nancy, wherever she is, if still alive, was younger; still in her twenties. She’d be in her 60 or 70s now — like so many of us boomers.

I hope she isa live. I hope she’s married, a mother, a grandmother….teaching those children how to fish for blue crab. But, given her somewhat independent, Evangelical church-going nature, perhaps she has stayed single. Did she stay in television?

Wherever you are, Nancy, God bless you.

And Lord rest the soul of Ernie Gudridge, Carol Kissel and Connie Nelson.

And perhaps it’s time I visited Jim McLaughlin, an esteemed and retired WINK colleague, still living in the Fort Myers area. And I’m in touch with Pat Malloy, another WINK colleague, but only now and then. She’d be interested to know that Ernie Gudridge has died. She knew him. She lives in Fort Lauderdale. I alway hoped to date her; did so just once after she’d come out of a marriage.

There was a woman I dated who worked at a rival station. She was an anchor. Here name — a married name (she was divorced) was Deborah Nolan. She would marry a disc jockey and become Deborah Ferraro and work in Jacksonville — and then one day, as my contract was not being renewed in Providence, I learned that she would soon arrive as an anchor there. I did not get to meet her, just talk, one last time, on the phone. ( But I happened to know, though we spent some intense time together, that she did not, before that phone call, remember me from Adam.)

For my part, I don’t know where Chere Avery is. I last saw her at the retirement party for Jim McLaughlin. We dated, even though she was, secretly, eager to get back in the the life of a local state attorney whom she would ultimately marry. Divorce would follow. She was a local star and I allowed myself to get wrapped up in her. We went to Miami for New Year’s Eve ( I think, in retrospect, she was just trying to get out of town with someone and make her true love jealous. At any rate, I began the 1980s in the company of Chere Avery on Dixie Highway in Miami. (When we met again at Jim Mc’s party, she did not seem to remember me at all.)

And all of us knew Harry Horn who was, briefly, our news director, a WBBH air talent — and then died much later of cancer. Another face, gone.

I now realize that perhaps my most sustained Fort Myers friendship was with Kathy Phelan who was a bold, free-spirit, very much in love with a WBBH photographer. But we spent some good times together, even went to the movies together, just her and me.

Then there was Marla Weech who joined me at dinner with my cousin Jack Wayland and his wife in Naples. Marla was raven-haired and beautiful. She was starting her career as an anchor. Her boyfriend was in Jacksonville. I’d met him. So we were just hanging out together — and I did enjoy her company. In fact, one of the happiest nights of my life was when Kathy Phelan and her photographer boyfriend and Marla and I doubled up, borrowed (without permission — and that could have been a big problem) a news car from WINK — and went to a county fair, dancing and generally enjoying ourselves. Yes, that was one of the freest, most self-possessed nights — but I was probably drinking rather freely, too.

Kathy went off with her boyfriend to Salt Lake to work as a reporter, then to Houston, where the relationship fell apart when the boyfriend/ photographer moved on to Denver. The last I heard of her, she was a producer for a CBS national magazine show called West 57th, and she was living in New York — and then, somebody said, in Portland….I don’t know. I’d love to know, because we had fun together. When I talked with her on the phone in Houston, I got the sense she’d been crushed by the break-up. I think, thought seeming a wild, free-spirit, she wanted love and marriage. I hope she found it.

Mary Cicarelli was radio reporter for WINK, new when I was new to the station. What’s become of her? We arrived at the same time. She went back toward her home turf — Virginia, I believe. Gone.

Then there was Kathy Fountain, a WINK magazine show host. This felt like love; a real relationship. Happily, I’m, still in touch with her from those WINK days. She lives nearby in Tampa, happily married to Frank. Maybe I’ll see them again — if this pandemic ever abates. I had nothing to offer her that I knew other men could and would. And I knew my Catholicism was a mystery wrapped in an enigma for her – and it was nothing I could change.

She and Frank are in love and have a beautiful home. I guess I could have had something like that.

(One thing Marla Weech and I did was go see the movie Urban Cowboy, with its theme, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Marla had, I understand, a traumatic break-up with her boyfriend (whom I met once), went off to become a long-time, well-known anchor in Orlando. I did a live shot from flood waters in Punta Gorda after my second (this is my third) return to Florida to work for Channel 10. I did a live shot for an Orlando station — and Marla was the anchor; surely saw me out there in the rain. the producer said he’d send her my greetings (he was a bit of a wise guy.)

But we never actually spoke, Marla and me. And — has she forgotten me, too?

I knew, to the extent that I knew myself (and that was an open question in those days) that my religion had come to define me and that, if I was looking for someone, that would be a factor in the search. But the search ended. Here I am, wherever “here” is.

There will be other visits to Fort Myers. Again, I will think of the people I’ve known and still know who I met there or who came out to see me wherever I was staying during a revisit after winding up in Boston. (Kerry Sanders actually organized a very nice WINK reunion once. Perhaps I should suggest he organize another one. He’s good at it.)

Boston and Channel 7 would not last for me– to my considerable sorrow (though I worked four years there and consider myself a a proud alumnus and attend reunions.)

I worked in Providence — two memorable, productive years and new friendships. I’ve attended one reunion there. I was noon anchor. But it was such a short tenure. Still, a welcomed time in my life.

After Providence came, as noted in this cross-woven narrative, Channel 10 and Tampa/ St. Petersburg again. Six more years of Tampa Bay area TV. Then came pay turmoil for everyone; management chicanery. I left, as did others.

After a stint — a fascinating one — doing radio in the hills of North Carolina (long story how I got there), and realizing how my career had gone in circles — I compled the circle back in Boston: freelance for a short while for Channel 4 , then a seventeen-year career, the best years of my working life, at necn — until there was a change of management and I and others felt the value in which we had been held slip away, even on the part of middle managers who had been our biggest boosters. Perhaps I’d become complacent — too certain, against all wisdom, that I would survive. But I was getting up in years, anyway. Street reporting isn’t forever. It felt like the end was upon me, finally.

But I wanted there never to be such a turn of event where people again attacked my confidence — especially so late in my career. I wanted to feel uncomplicated support and esteem to the end. It was there — sort of. Only sort of…..I was older, did long-form, thoughtful stories. But TV news was changing — desperately changing. Still is, as it competes with the internet. It’s an asymmetrical battle.

Is there, somehow, still a place on the air for me?

Or should I be nothing but a writer, in search of that elusive discipline and productivity, facing that unavoidable obscurity and diminished returns.

For my retirement, I got a cake and an Amazon Fire tablet and a box with the essential Otter Box rubber protective case. I think it was just a promotional copy that had landed in the station, nothing special. Come to find out, the cover was gone. The box empty. I’ve yet to use the tablet — in six years. I got no real money. I plugged in the tablet last night. Maybe I can get some use out of it.


There are some broadcast colleagues, along with Kerry (and some B.U. Com School graduates, too) whose careers thrived in a national way. Their ambition and determination and daring was greater than mine, apparently, and perhaps, but not necessarily, their talent — not that they were without talent — and, among reporters, their on-air skills that got better and better. Television takes hard nerves, ambition, talent – and practice. I’ve counseled many interns most of them female, all of them doing very well, all of them saying I taught them a great deal. That makes me happy.

The night and darkness slowly came on that June night last month after that day of the funeral. I went indoors through the sliding door to my motel room. I went on thinking about the past. I wanted to think like that Oxford, Mississippi genius-storyteller and quirky laureate and drinker of too much bourbon, William Faulkner who made much of memory and said, “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”

A creative way to think about it, for sure.

I know the past was present to me that June night along the Caloosahatchee, in the bittersweet light of the death of a very old mentor who was more than ready to enter the next life and in light of a lingering memory of all my lost or still embraced friendships — called to mind in this summer of 2021 that does, like every day and every month now, seem to be passing into the endless universe of summers. There will come an end of summers, and all seasons.

Just what madeleine did I bite into that brought on this river of memories and sketchy , rambling recherche le temp perdu?

Whatever is was, night and darkness got deeper that night nearly a month ago in June. And it’s coming on now at 7:16 p.m., July 30, 2021.

Time to stop. Whoever will read this?

Pretend it’s a long note stuffed in a bottle — that you found on a river.


“….this martial resurgence (of urban violence, etc.) has to do with the slow disintegration of the ‘little platoons’ in religious and civic life that once imposed discipline and order in local communities. Which, in turn, explains the longing in some quarters for a Big Man to re-establish order in their stead.”

Philip S. Gorski. Professor of Sociology and Religious Studies, Yale University

From: The Long, Withdrawing Roar: From Culture Wars to Culture Clashes

The Hedgehog Review/ University of Virginia/ Summer, 2021

Critical Reflections on Contemporary Culture


“To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavor.” – Samuel Johnson.

+ + +

“Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom. The night is dark and I am far from home.” – Saint John Henry Newman

+ + +

“Didn’t see her go out?”

There was only a trace of Rivera’s Hispanic accent. He was the youngest officer, new to the island. They stood together in the rain.

“No, sir,” said Clayton. “I was asleep.”

“She ever do this before?”

“Yes, sir.”


“Four or five times, sir. After the snows melted.”

“You’ve known her that long?”

“Yes, sir.”

Rivera paused, glanced back toward the body lying rain-soaked by the farmer’s shed.

“Ever say where she was going?”

Clayton paused as well, reached for words, settled on one word.

“Home, sir.” he said.

Rivera, hands on his hips, dropped his stare to the brown mud coating his polished black boots.

“So she’s the one,” he said, to the mud.

-From “Satin Doll”, a short story by Gregory Wayland


On May 30, 1962, the writer Flannery O’Connor wrote the first of three long letters to a Georgia college freshman who had written and told her he was losing — or had lost –his Christian faith. He was looking for counsel. He was a budding writer (a poet) and obviously admired Flannery (if I may speak of her in such personal terms). He obviously knew that, in addition to being a fellow Georgian, she was, based on her essays and literary output, unapologetically Catholic, a fact which did not notably detract from the high esteem in which most critics held her, or her two novels and several short stories. She herself insisted she was a better artist by virtue of the unwavering Christian certitude that informed those works. She also knew that she’d be held to a higher standard as a Christian writer, since so much of contemporary Christian “literature” was mere treacle.

There was nothing didactic or pious about her — hardly. She wrote in ways that often shocked modern sensibilities. Her stories about simple rural Georgia folks were unsentimental, sometimes violent, often humorous and took a loving but unsparing view of human nature in the light of the eternal. She skillfully traced the hidden working of divine grace, as she perceived it. She was forever, in the words of Yeats, casting “a cold eye on life, on death” — and here she was writing only two years before her own death at the tender age of 39, as her health steadily declined from the disease of Lupus.

She also never, or rarely, had characters in her stories who were Catholic. They were products of the snake-handling, fundamentalist deep South. And she was, as a Catholic, an outsider, despite being born in Savannah and a long-time resident of Milledgeville, Georgia. She always maintained that the South, while Christ-haunted, was not Christ-centered. Her “haunted” characters wrestled like Jacob with the God of revelation, self-deluded, and afflicted almost invariably with the sin of pride, the deadliest sin of all.

The young college freshman and correspondent’s name was Alfred Corn. He was at Emory College in Atlanta, heard Flannery speak to his English class, “was much taken by what she had to say and by her presence,” according to the editor of her collected letters, but was too shy to approach her, so wrote her instead.

Flannery began her first letter to him, I think that this experience you are having of losing your faith, or as you think, of having lost it, is an experience that in the long run belongs to faith; or at least it can belong to faith if faith is still valuable to you, and it must be or you would not have written me about this.

A few sentences later (all her letters are collected in a volume entitled, The Habit of Being), Flannery writes, Peter said, ‘Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

It is the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith, she said.

There must have been a response from her young correspondent, because she wrote a second long letter on June 16, 1962 that offers an overtly religious diagnosis of the modern malaise and, again, to her mind, its tragic misdirection:

One of the effects of modern liberal Protestantism has been gradually to turn religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention. This seems to be about where you find yourself now.

And where did Flannery’s correspondent ultimately “find” himself later in life? He became a famous poet — speaking of poetry — and, based on the evidence, never regained anything like an orthodox Christian faith but rather liberated himself to contemporary secular mores. Art, specifically poetry, seems to have become his “religion”.

More about the poet Alfred Corn later — because what did ultimately happen to him is significant in light of my thesis here that we are, as a culture, caught up in a faithless, agonizing acts of modern misdirection — and confusion — regarding matters of the spirit. Many of us, like Alfred Corn, seem to be living according to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s famous dictum in the Supreme Court’s Casey decision on abortion:  “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” That essentially crystalizes the modern creed of radical human autonomy embraced by multitudes and, in Flannery’s diagnosis, “make truth vaguer and vaguer and more relative.” It’s also likely to make any religious creed we adopt “our own sweet invention.” Justice Kennedy made that pronouncement exactly three decades after Flannery wrote those words.

Meanwhile, Flannery’s heartfelt catechetical intervention on behalf of Alfred Corn would seem to have been a failure, though, in her short life, she likely remained unaware of that — unless Alfred Corn kept in touch (not likely, since there were no subsequent letters from him).

Flannery affirmed her unflinching Catholic orthodoxy to Corn in that letter in a way that might induce cringes among 21st Century moderns.

Of course, I am a Catholic, she wrote, which she acknowledged was always a counter-cultural, even back in 1962, when Catholic culture had enjoyed, at least superficially, a decade of comparative cultural affirmation, especially on the silver screen. I recall around1960 attending a technicolor Bing Crosby/Debbie Reynolds movie in which, Bing as a priest, approaches a beautiful, candle-lit marble alter to a swell of organ music. It was time for the movie to end, but instead of the traditional THE END, the words, THE BEGINNING was magisterially superimposed over the alter and tabernacle. Only then did the scene shift to a final shot of the New York cityscape along with the words, THE END.

Hollywood was affirming Christ — and the Church — as the alpha and omega. It’s what the moguls thought many audiences wanted to see. Those days would soon be gone and Catholics, especially Catholic politicians, would begin conforming themselves to an increasingly secular culture, contorting their former creed to fit their newly adopted lifestyles and political beliefs. The more honorable among us simply left the Church.

But not Flannery.

I believe what the Church teaches, she wrote Alfred Corn. – that God has given us reason to use and that it can lead us toward a knowledge of him through analogy; that he has revealed himself in history and continues to do so through the Church and that he is present (not just symbolically) in the Eucharist on our alters. To believe all this I don’t take any leap into the absurd. I find it reasonable to believe, even though these beliefs are beyond reason.

Beyond reason, not unreasonable — a distinction pointedly rejected by the unreligious.

But then the letter takes a helpful, but slightly dubious ( at least to my mind) turn — which is also helpful to those of us who have suspected that Flannery the artist, along with the young freshman and future poet, were being buffeted by the winds of the wild contemporary marketplace of modern ideas. Flannery made an odd choice.

Sensing her correspondent’s spiritual and intellectual hunger but perhaps also his desire to cast off what he thought of as dusty old religious notions, she recommend a book that, all these decades later, might betray the undercooked nature of some of the late 20th Century Catholic theological and scientific dabblings among nonetheless devout, sophisticated contemporary souls eager to bring the Church “up to date.”

The recommended book was from among the many volumes of renowned (and controversial) Jesuit French scholar Teilhard de Chardin. Teilhard still has his Catholic intellectual defenders. But in most orthodox circles, his theological and scientific capital has been devalued, if not entirely ruled null and void.

Flannery’s religious reading tastes, in addition to the Scriptures and Thomas Aquinas, often ran to the metaphysical and abstruse and the challenging but orthodox. She was intrigued by Teilhard’s curious and novel theological “take” on old questions. She was open to those who found Teilhard problematic. She was an intellectual wayfarer but nonetheless saw the justification for the Church’s long-ago-abandoned Index of (forbidden) Books.

Teilhard notions of a universe in evolution towards spirit and that spirit being realized in the form of personality, and the supremely personal being the Universal Christ all sounds fairly harmless to me. But other Catholic scholars began to cast Yeat’s “cold eye” on Teilhard’s speculations and conclusions.

Among the greatest of 20th Century Catholic philosophers was the Gereman Dietrich von Hildebrand, a vigorous anti-Nazi who barely escaped to America with his wife as the Reich swept over Europe. In 1949, he was introduced to Teilhard and attended one of his lectures. His reaction was highly negative.

He wrote:

Teilhard’s lecture was a great disappointment, for it mani­fested utter philosophical confusion, especially in his conception of the human person. I was even more upset by his theological primitiveness. He ignored completely the decisive difference between nature and supernature. After a lively discussion in which I ventured a criticism of his ideas, I had an opportunity to speak to Teilhard privately. When our talk touched on St. Augustine, he exclaimed violently: “Don’t mention that unfortunate man; he spoiled everything by introducing the supernatural.” This remark confirmed the impression I had gained of the crass naturalism of his views, but it also struck me in another way. The criticism of St. Augustine, the greatest of the Fathers of the Church, betrayed Teilhard’s lack of a genuine sense of intellectual and spiritual grandeur.

I’d call that a slam. What very little I’ve read of this charming, long-departed French cleric struck me as inoffensively and sweetly — poetic. Maybe, in retrospect, I was reading entertainingly poetic theology. I don’t know and am not qualified to say. And I suspect Flannery didn’t know, either, and though she was made of sharper cerebral and discerning stuff than most, was quick to admit her intellectual limitations.

She plainly had an pedagogical motive for recommending something like this to an eagerly searching mind and soul. But she simultaneouslky offered the pastoral equivalent of the universal counsel, “keep it simple.”

One result of the stimulation of your intellectual life that takes place in college, Flannery wrote Corn, is usually the shrinking of the imaginative life….Students get so bound up with difficulties such as reconciling the clashing of so many different faiths such as Buddhism, Mohammedanism, etc., that they cease to look for God in other ways. (Robert) Bridges once wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins and asked him to tell him how he, Bridges, could believe., he must have expected from Hopkins a long philosophical answer. Hopkins wrote back, “Give alms.” He was trying to say to Bridges that God is to be experienced in Charity (in the sense of love for the divine image in human beings). Don’t get so entangled with intellectual difficulties that you fail to look for God in this way.

Simple advice, just as things were getting complicated.

The year 1962 was the threshold of all the mid-to-late-20th Century turbulence and confusion in the world and in the Church. The Second Vatican Council was about to convene in Rome and bishops were poised to make many pastoral adjustments to the Church’s outreach to the modern world. That was the stated purpose of the Counsel, in a nutshell. But in opening itself to the modern world, the Church was also about to open itself to all the moral and spiritual pathologies and intellectual novelties that were then regnant in the 1960s cultural revolution, including voices far more disorienting than that of poor Teilhard de Chardin who died an earnest son of the Church. There was a degree of theological chaos at the Council

In fact, there seemed a kind of subterranean clerical cabal intent on making dogmatic as well as pastoral adjustments to ancient Church beliefs and practices once that epical Council was underway. The result has been lingering decades of theological turmoil and conflict.

The barque of Peter seems to have slowly righted itself. Or, has it? After three very orthodox papacies, we have the seemingly deliberate, historically unprecedented ambiguities growing out of the pastoral style of Pope Francis I. God has sent His children a challenge in the form of a very personable pope — a Jesuit — who himself or his mischievous minions are always suggesting that 2 + 2 can equal 5 when it comes to religion. Flannery would ultimately be dismayed, I fear. She valued clarity.

This is all important stuff. Why? Reject the premise if you wish, but I submit that the condition of Catholicism and of the Church in the modern world has implications for all of civilization. It remains the ancient, unyielding ” wall” against which the culture bangs its head. It is the ‘institution” whose status millions in and out of the Church regard as an indices of spiritual ,civilizational progress or decline. It is forever countercultural. Its enemies are mounting.

“Modernity’s heart is, when finally exposedl skeptical and nihilistic,” wrote the late Jesuit theologian and educator James V. Schall in the June, 2007 issue of Homiletics & Pastoral Review. He went on to suggest that, the intellectual position of Catholicism in the modern world has never been stronger, but is cultural position has never been weaker….

Strong new and young theological voices are easy to find. But those who identify as Catholic or claim any religion are dwindling alarmingly.

Nietzsche ( and nihilism)provided the basis of a new or “post-modern” world, Father Schall wrote. He continues to function as the real and most logical alternative to a failed liberalism that refused to return to metaphysics and revelations for foundations in the real. He is also the alternative to Christianity in the culture, though outside it, there is Islam.

No alternate and consistent grounding on which to organize one’s life and society, Nietzsche thought, could be found in any system, particularly not in liberalism in its various and changing forms. Nor could it be found in Christianity, which latter he rejected not so much because he did not think it true, but because he did not think Christians, in practice, thought it was true — hence “the last Christian died on the Cross.”

Whatever might be said of Vatican II’s effort to bring Catholicism “up to date,” the fact is that it did not understand clearly what it was that was in fact motivating the culture.. It was not merely a question of debate and ideas, but of habits, institutions, laws, and philosophies that implicitly guides people in explaining how they lived according to modernity.

In an August 12, 1962 letter to Alfred Corn, Flannery, indicating she was aware of the coming Vatican Council, and professed her faith in the Church’s reasonableness and future survival. I don’t believe Christ left us to chaos, she wrote.

So what path did Alfred Corn eventually follow in the wake of his encounter with Flannery’s orthodoxy?

Well, according to what biographical material I’ve been able to obtain, he would go on to considerable academic and literary achievement, write many books of poetry, marry a classmate, then divorce, then come out gay and be regarded as a “gay” poet. He would edit a book I once owned (don’t know what happened to it) entitled, Incarnation, in which a number of prominent writers interpret books of the Bible in decidedly heterodox ways. The fact that he edited such a volume suggests that he remains — he is now 77 — absorbed with religious questions but, by Flannery O’Connor’s Catholic standards, has gone into a dark, confused place morally and artistically. (Flannery’s longest, most voluminous and lively correspondence with a woman named Elizabeth Hester whom Flannery, to her delight, brought into the Church. But the conversion did not stick — to Flannery’s dismay. She had already seen her friend Robert Lowell quickly abandon the faith following his conversion. She was evangelizing in Gomorrah, a disheartening business. Elizabeth Hester was an especially tragic figure — very bright, very private, a wonderful writer who rarely published and worked all her life as a water department clerk — a lesbian who’d been flushed out of the military on moral grounds ( a painful revelation she made to Flannery who did her best to reassure her of her dignity and worth as a human being.) She was apparently bipolar, suffered from depression and, decades after Flannery’s death, committed suicide by blowing her brains out. She ended life mocking the Church, as did Lowell.

But Flannery’s faith in the Church, her embrace of all it taught — about homosexuality, the natural law, abortion, birth control, love, death, resurrection — never wavered. She endured her illness serenely and heroically and went on writing.

Flannery’s prayer journals were published in 2013. She never intended that it see the light of day, being, basically, pages of soul-searching, devout jottings in a speckled black 5&10 notebook. It dates to the late 1940s, when she was just starting out as a writer.

In a May 4th entry — year unknown — she wrote:

Freud, Proust, Lawrence have located love inside the human & there is no need to question their locations; however, there is no need either to define love as they do — only as desire, since this precludes Divine Love, which, while it too may be desire, is a different kind of desire –Divine desire — and is outside of man and capable of lifting him up to itself….

Perversion is the end result of denying or revolting against supernatural love….The sex act is a religious act & when it occurs without God it is a mock act or at best an empty act. Proust is right that only a love which does not satisfy can continue.

And thus in her brief life did tough-minded Flannery O’Connor — novelist, unmarried, Catholic, American, Southerner — buck, chastise, love, support and attempt to correct in here small way the modern world on its wobbly course – and those souls she encountered along the way who seemed open to what she and her Church had to offer the troubled times.

Is anybody lisening?

I half want to write Alfred Corn to ask him why he ultimately found Flannery’s case for religion — not to mention the natural law — so unpersuasive. Why did he revolt, if I can use that word, against what she called “supernatural love” –and, for that matter, “natural” love? What do he and the world make of love these days? I’m afraid I know. I’m afraid the evidence is everywhere. Where is it taking us?

At the end of her second and last novel, Flannery’s character Tarwater, having accidentally drowned an impaired child in the process of baptizing him, wandering in the wake of a homosexual rape by a truckdriver, emerging from a line of burning woods ( I told you her stuff was harsh), suddenly ceases to resist the promptings of grace and is determined to spread the word of God’s mercy available even to the likes of him.

He may be ignored, jailed — or killed.

His singed eyes dark in their deep sockets, seemed already to envison the fate that awaited him but he moved steadily on, his face set towards the dark city, where the children of God lay sleeping.


I put seed in the feeders out back. They hang at various heights. There were no birds up on the wire. Up high there is a cell tower, an osprey nest on top on a little platform that that large bird shares with all the electronic equipment. I can see the osprey up there, probably the mother, queen of all she surveys. That’s why I say “she”…She’ll go fishing in the eight little ponds in this complex. Maybe there are babies up there.

The mowers have come by, but there is no scent from the grass. During much of the day, I heard their mowers.

There is nothing. It is mid-July in Florida, hot and sultry. The clouds pile up massively. They are mountains. You can hear the traffic out on the main road. There is always a late afternoon chance of thundershowers. Yesterday, they were heavy, with sharp, frightening cracks of thunder, then lightening.

I kind of like the drama of Florida summers.

The weathered stockade fence along the back sags in places, has open slits. The Brazilian pepper is growing up again on the other side; thick branches pushing against the fence. Some day they’ll have to be cut back again. An old fellow did it for me last year, charged me only $100. It was a great deal of work. I was busy with other maintenance. He saved me the extra trouble. God bless him.

The birds will come, maybe at evening as it’s darkening. It’s summer, July. The days are long. I’m not in a great state of mind. But that’s because I need to plan a future.

That was earlier– all that talk, all that ruminating. Now I am at my desk.

I live here with a woman and two dogs.

I was thinking for just a moment, I need to be away, alone. Well, here I am. Alone, for the moment. People shouldn’t be alone, and I’m not. I am grateful. I need to pray. My late mentor J.L. Donovan said, “If I leave you with anything, it’s that you must pray.” Words to that effect. I pray he’s in heaven — with all the other folks we’ve lost. Nobody’s lost. That’s the hope. Heaven. Purgatory, Hell. The brain doesn’t process what an Army buddy, in an email this year, called “all that supernatural stuff.” We were on an island in Korea once, fifty years ago. There was a Maryknoll Missionary out there. We became close. I’ve lot track of him.

I think I will read about the Outermost House in the famous book by the same name — by the man named Henry Beston, born in 1888 in Quincy, Massachusetts, a World War I veteran who went out to a little house on Cape Cod, alone. Two rooms. He wrote about everything he saw and felt as he responded to nature. I didn’t know until just now that his given name was Henry Sheahan (Irish). He was a fine writer. He died in 1968, the year everybody’s life and everything else in America seemed to be up for grabs.

He wrote, “Majestic and mutilated, the great glacial scarp of Cape Cod’s outer beach rises from the open Atlantic….”

Henry Beston’s little outermost house was washed into the sea during the catastrophic Blizzard of ’78. I remember that storm. I’ve seen a still picture of the roof of the house sinking below the water in the aftermath. They built a replica. But replicas…well, I guess they have to do.

Fr. Eugene Boylan, monk, linguist, confessor, wrote:

“For there is no moment, no depth of sin or of failure, no loss or no disaster, in which we cannot still find all that we might have been, all that we would like to have been, all that God wants us to be….”

Boylan died in 1963, another year we recall for trauma and transition.

I’ll stop here. I have a great deal of writing to do. I must get busy.

I hear thunder. It is 4:40 p.m..Tuesday, July 13, Largo, Florida.

More thunder. Perhaps a storm is coming….

4:57 p.m. It is raining hard. There was just a startling crack of thunder close by.

It is mid-summer, 2021. I need to plan for a time beyond the storms. I must write. I must remember.

5:05 p.m.


It is July 9th.

There are no woods, really. This is a little ramble through a forest of words.

Words don’t work all the time. They can’t hide you like trees.

Mid-summer. We’re here already. Am I lost in the woods?

I was going to walk but it’s very hot and humid. So, for now, I’ll sit and think. And write a little. Make words. Try not to hide among them.

I need to keep occupied. I need to plan.

I don’t know what I’m thinking. I’m not sure what I’m going to plan. But I’ll have to figure it out. I should pray, too.

Sometimes you’re afraid to think where you are in life’s woodlands, and where you aren’t. You sit at our desk or in your easy chair, hoping you find your way back into life. Alone, you don’t have to fake congeniality.

The hall clock just struck one o’clock. The iPhone says it’s actually 1:02. Now it’s 1:03. On and on it goes — time, that is. It is a sin not to grab life and work free of the things that imprison you. There are bad habits, there are people. We must love them, but we aren’t always good for them, or them for us. You know that old story, I suspect.

And there is always that failure to love. It is the worst failure of all.

But what is love? Well, it’s there. I feel it — for life, even for the people I thought I didn’t love.

There is fear, always. Don’t ask me why. Ask God.

And the difficulties. We balk at the difficulties. I’ve been taught to recall the words of Saint John Henry Newman:’ a thousand difficulties do not constitute one single doubt.’ Or words to that effect.

Words still aren’t working well here. They aren’t killing off the doubt. But what’s a stupid blog without words?

I’ll stand up and start moving again. And I’ll be grateful for life and for limb. We must always be grateful. And that’s regardless of who or what you believe to be the author of all this. It’s easy to believe there’s nothing.

Back in 1983, I wound up in a Lanham, Maryland hospital with my first kidney stone. ( I’ve had more episodes, very physically painful.) I was traveling and found myself stopped in mid-travel.

That was so long ago now! So much has happened in my life — and not happened that should have happened. You don’t get time back. But you DO move forward. (Stop this kind of thinking in its tracks.)


While in my hospital bed, I was reading a thin little book called (believe it or not) The Experience of Nothingness by the Catholic theologian Michael Novak. A male nurse who’d come to bring me pills or something saw the book with its wild black scribble cover art and asked me about it. I don’t remember what I told him. I guess I was feeling all kinds of intellectual reading that book. But this male nurse, who in his rounds among people in pain and despair and perhaps now and then feeling some pain and despair of his own, seemed intrigued by the book’s title. I wonder if he ever went out and bought it. I wonder if it helped him — because the book is ultimately (I believe) about identifying, understanding and overcoming the existential blahs that can beset a human life in God’s universe. It’s philosophy, not psychology, but it nonetheless might help one through the “experience of nothingness.”

It’s also possible the nurse was thinking, “what the hell is this young guy doing reading that damn thing? Maybe I should fetch him a good thriller out of the hospital library.”

But, no.

I sensed that his sense was that this might be a book that addressed the problem of having those dark holes open up before us every so often. He might have known — or might himself have been — a person trying to climb out of such a hole. In that case, I do hope that that chance bedside encounter thirty-nine years ago was a bridge across a dark chasm (which is worse and deeper than mere “troubled waters”), or, at least, that it gave birth to a salutary intellectual curiosity of the kind that makes life interesting and wards off the nothingness.

Sometimes, let’s face it, you feel tested to think it’s all just sound and fury, or whatever you want to call pointlessness. Or, you fail to take the action that would temporarily plunge you into darkness, even a kind of mourning, but all the while knowing brighter days are ahead.

I’ve been at that crossroads. Unfortunately, I’ve pitched a tent there.

The terror I feel is that time will run out before I get the gumption to push past that crossroads, get beyond those barriers, or, finally pushing past them, find very little life left to live. I must not let that happen.

And I must NEVER think like that. You shouldn’t, either. No one should. Life every minute (what time is it now?) counts.

You feel like life is good but that you’re wasting it. So — stop wasting it.

It’s simple, really. “Take arms against the sea of troubles…” Or a little pond of troubles in my case. All of my own making. ( Funny how often Shakespeare pops up in the phrases one uses to describe life’s passages. And yet he was the author of the phrase “chronicles of wasted time…” )

The poet stopped by woods on a snowy evening. I’m stopping by the same woods on a hot, midsummer, noontime. They aren’t lovely, dark and deep. They are green, full and sunlit. But the mystery is still there. Those woods will deepen as it gets darker as night comes on….

Thank God for the crickets!

It’s 1:44 p.m.. Must get moving.

But thought is movement. I need to think….

But I must move on, too. It’s the old “promises to keep” thing.

But I’m still stopped by those woods.

It’s 1:46 p.m….


July 1st.

It is raining, a tropical-seeming rain in a dank and sprawling latitude — subtropical, actually, and often sunny but not now– where clouds are heaped up high against the blue to the west. The sun is getting through over there.

Actually, the sun is very far away. But it will get through, then go away. Or, to be precise, WE will go away from IT. It happens every night.

Clouds full of water. Big white and gray clouds. They are drifting about, and that’s fine. You can love rain. I love rain right now. You can love clouds. But I’m anxious from the emptiness all around. I will go for a walk if the rain stops, or even if it doesn’t. Or will I? Well, I’ll be anxious if I don’t. Or even if I do.

That’s my problem.

Right now there is a cloud or two overhead. It will drift off, sadly, go where clouds go.

Rain is in this one little place. That’s what I’ve got right now. A little place in a little rain.

In fact, I think it has stopped. I miss it already. There is only a little sun. Like soft gray paint.

It is stiflingly sultry and gray. That’s okay. That’s life. This is a small universe where, nearby me, souls are together, uneasily. Two, to be exact — the two that I see through my window. I see everything, hear everything. No glass, no walls. Is it a dream?

For them, there is nothing to look forward to, or so it seems from here. So they dream a future. Of course, that’s foolish. A foolish way to deal with the damp and gray.

Rain is okay. It cleans things. It has been rainy a great deal in this little place. Fiercely rainy. There is a large puddle outback, slowly draining. The air is soaked. The grass is soaked, bog-like. That’s okay. That’s life.

Sometimes you think you’re dreaming. Like the man I see next door. Leaning against his inner wall, and dreaming.

It is now what is known as The Month of July, hours into it. A summer month. Mid-summer; almost already there. Mid-summer, that is. It will be hot, like all Julys.

Thursday. 2:21 p.m.. July 1st. The man out my window whom we’ll call “A” feels everything slipping away just as the month of June slipped away. I can tell that from here as I look at him. Well, he’d better wake up, grab something. Not just lean and dream.

Now he’s outside, in the gray, warm open air. From the patch of coarse grass that is his particular backyard, he searches for dog feces to clean up. He glimpses the postman pulling up in his truck out front. I see him glance that way, poor solitary soul. He will check that mailbox. It will be empty. That’s alright. Mailboxes are always empty these day, except for bills. Emptiness can be good. Or not. Make of emptiness what you will. I, for one, am having trouble with the emptiness.

Was not June just yesterday? Shouldn’t it still be June?That’s how it feels for “A”. So he must be remembering July 1st last year, which seems like just yesterday. Which was June 30. June has become July which will become August. Then September. Maybe fear, almost a kind of paralysis, has taken control of “A”‘s life. I know how he feels.

What does he feel? He feels everything slipping away, into the warm, wet gray, just the way June slipped away.

Stop time, please. That’s what he must be saying in the sanctuary of his little house and the open retreat of his back yard. Can you do that? Stop time? Of course not. Who’d want to. He really doesn’t want to, I’ll bet. But someone once wrote that time past and time present are both present in time future. Stretching before and after, they wrote. They wrote: in my beginning is my end. They wrote of “the soundless wailing.” They wrote of “the intersection of the timeless moment….’

The woman, “A”‘s companion, named “B”, has gone to buy frozen dinners. She wanted “A” to go with her. I know this, not because I am spying, though I have been watching (the emptiness drew me there), but because he has come to the backyard fence to tell me this. I tell him, confess, actually, that I’ve been seeing him through his window. He says he doesn’t mind. I only now notice that windows, walls, fences have vanished. We are on a darkling plain. I’m kind of company for him in this dark place, and he for me, even if I’m just watching. We must watch for one another, we humans.

But I read today, in this summer when so many have gone beneath the waves, that we must never enter the water to rescue a drowning man. They will pull you under. “A” warns me: “I might pull you under.”

“A” hates driving around this part of the world where he and “B” find themselves– unless the trip is absolutely necessary. Sun-blanched roads full of steel auto bodies, engineered beasts, speeding. Deadly, potentially.

It is raining again. “A” is feeling far away someplace, but he still wants to live. He has hope.

So “B” has gone alone for those frozen dinners. “A” is guilty for not going with her. Perhaps she just wanted company. Perhaps she would have felt safer around all those speeding steel bodies. Why don’t these two separate, or why don’t they get married, or why don’t they dream up some way to be “together” — connected and out of the rain — that does not cause such pain. That does not have them clinging and therefore drowning together.

A frozen meal, bedtime. They will awake again on July 2nd — and drown again.

There are money issues, “A” tells me. He brought up those issues to “B”. (It is increasingly clear that there is no formal bond between them. Is there a need for formal, legal bonds anymore? Have we not all just fallen together in the same deep shell hole? Did not something crash into this earth and leave a very big hole?

“A” wants to be bonded at any cost, even the cost of drowning, and everything that comes with bonds, meaning joined-ness.

It dawns on”A”. His Aunt “C” died on this day. A peaceful death on a July 1st. Is he right? Did he not suspect that “C” actually died before midnight that July 1st and therefore it was still a June day in a far-off land after he and “B” visited her? They were taking a trip together, trying to get out of the hole.

Days like that, away from the rainy gray details of one’s personal geography, can revive the soul, if there is a soul.

“A” has been anxious in a world in which he is not what he seems. So he tell me. He says “A” and “B” are both not what they seem. Time rushes. And they, always and forever, are not who or what they appear. It will be the same tomorrow.

They have dogs. The dogs make “A” sad. But they are bonded to the dogs. “A” and”B”. Bonds =joinedness. Responsibility. The dogs use the back yard and, happy for them, have no responsibility. But “A” has the responsibility of cleaning up after them. You do that for things you love.

Aunt “C” was what she seemed, love, home, the familiar, gone now in this land of unlikeness. It’s good that “A” thought of her. He sees her, in a dream. It is a good dream.

It’s something, a memory, to build on….at the beginning of another July for “A” and “B”.


Memories can be good or bad. But it’s good to have them.

“B” tells “A” after she arrives back to their little place and after she has put the frozen dinners in the freezer, that she has stowed the teabags in a round tin in the cabinet.

Maybe, “A” thinks, he’ll have a nice cup of tea someday. Ward off this emptiness.

I go back inside my place. It has stopped raining. I wish it would rain. Now, it is just another July 1st. Dry, dank and hot.

I, too, think I’ll have a cup of tea.

Perhaps “A” And “B” will join me.

Away from the emptiness.