MAY 30th

My father’s anniversary. William Douglas Wayland, only 54, nearly 55. Such a long seige of cancer surprising such a young man. It was, I’m now realizing, so terrible for us, who have now lost our sister and have a brother languishing in a nursing home, the very brother who came out of the house as I was clipping the hedges and said, “I think we’ve had it. They can’t find a pulse.”

It was the day after my triumph, a speech, a big speech. Dad never knew about that, me in front of 2000 people 69 years ago.

This day, this May 30th, a Tuesday, is waning. That was a Friday.

I’ve talked to Doug and Ron today. I’ve been told Bill saw a priest for communion. I saw to that. I’m so glad.

Family thoughts and all manner of thoughts going through my head.

I gave my speech in front of all the city, state and national dignitaries and with the assassinated President’s mother at my elbow as I spoke. Had his tragic death not occurred that November day in Dallas, there would have been no occasion for this speech, and so much in the world might have been different.

But it was, it did happen. I’ve wasted 42 years of my life drifting in a quasi-world of non-marriage marriage, of dissipation, of wasted talent. I’m 76 and can’t quite fathom that. Frozen in life, that must change. No pity, self or otherwise.

The following noon, 24 hours later, the bells were ringing at noon at the Mission Church down the hill from the hospital. My mother heard it. He went to God at noon. So much to think about.

That still, small voice, we must hear it, and those bells.

Dad, we are thinking of you. I’ve thought of you all this mostly idle day of my seventies.

It is 10:34 p.m. in Florida.

You were never here, Dad. But — you are here now….


I drove by The Last Mile Lounge the other day. There was a guy standing there, taking a smoke break outside, leaning up against the Perma-Stone exterior, the little window with the Blue Moon neon sign behind him. (How many bars feature Blue Moon, such a neat name, so nice to see those coils of lighted neon in the spring day. Okay, not as nice as as a blooming lilac, but on that sterile corner, it’ll do.) The sunlight was variable, the temperature New England cool. I see this guy from time to time at The Last Mile. I wish he’d stop smoking, but there he was. Maybe it’s just a couple of times a day that he smokes. I don’t know who he is or what he does, but he stops in now and then.

He is, the person himself, just there, in light tan jacket over blue jeans, checkered shirt showing at the neck, hand in pocket. I went by slowly. I waved, why not? He did not hesitate to wave back, though I don’t think he knows me. He looks like the kind of guy that could be a Bruins fan and be sad about their collapse. He could be Celtics fan and plan on being around The Last Mile tonight to see them play the 76s in Game Two of the semifinals and hope they do better than the last time.

Or he might just be a guy with no particular affiliation or distinct interest. I never, when I’ve seen him at the Lounge, spoken with him, found out where he works, why he comes to the Lounge alone, whether he has family. whether he’s married, how old he is, whether he’s ever been to war….just a person before me. A subject, like all of us, of attribution. A singular, unrepeatable mortal.

So imagine my surprise when Deano, the night bartender, told me this guy was a poet. And though he does not drink excessively and might nurse a LaBatt for an hour while reading and scribbling in a notebook, he suddenly swung himself around on the barstool one night (I wasn’t there to see it), and commenced to recite a poem to the perplexed gathering of about a dozen people. He later taped the neatly printed poem up over the sink in the washroom.

I read it as I washed my hands today:

It goes….

Wind made me from carelessly disposed

Ashes stood me

A paragon of flesh and bone where

History wriggles vermin-like behind

The honored stones in distances of sandstone and

Marble and I hear evening laughter falling

Yes I see strands of orange laughter falling out of

Windows high windows those bright strands brush against me, entangle

My feet, yes they brush dead

Against my feet. And I am alive.

No title. If I happened to see him, I think I’ll tell him to call it…


Why not?


I call it a bar more than a lounge. I’m not sure if what’s-his-name, the guy who owns it (I should know that name, just having an intermediate senior lapse) gave it the name, The Last Mile. And I guess from the name you know it’s not primarily a restaurant or sandwich bar or ice cream shop. Maybe a funeral parlor. LOL. The Last Mile — chills.


I stopped by in the daytime. As I told you before, it’s right on the East Boston/Revere line, not a whole lot more then one mile from the airport, 1887 miles from the farthest place visited by any of its patrons in its century existence. ( I just remembered where the name came from: the original owner had once–before his commutation and aquittal based on new evidence in a murder case back in the early 1900s — sat for a while on death row at Sing-Sing, or was it the old state prison at Charlestown? I think it was a New York crime, hence, Sing-Sing. Hence the “Last Mile” name.)

There was an Australian WWII vet who used to be a regular who fought in Borneo in 1945, the last campaign of the Pacific War. They once wrote a tribute to him on the wall: Aussie Phil Wantuck came 1887 miles for a drink at The Last Mile when it was over over there. And, of course, there was a picture of him, a substantial, golden-haired, moustachioed man, smiling and holding a pilsner of Narragansett lager (he drank cheap) in the Last Mile doorway. I think he died in 1992, but his kid used to come in here and when I was still drinking I spent a night chatting with him at the bar right up til closing time. He was a pressman at the Boston Herald. Haven’t seen him in a while. A fun guy to talk to with lots of stories about his father.


This was a rare daytime stop for me, just thinking I’d catch up with regulars like Jackie the Crow and Stickie Sammartino and the daytime bartender Tashtego Silva, a full-blooded Wompanoag Indian. I met Kenny Foy coming out the door, smiled and shook hands with him. Kenny is Chinese American and he’s always having to smile through a session of rabid international political sound and fury from Jimmy “Jibberish” Jamin, a drunk who starts talking politics, loudly, the second he walks in the door. Kenny warned me that the place was unusually busy because the women who attend the dance and aerobics class down the street decided to drop in that day, about seven of them.

Sure enough, I walked in and Tash Silva at the bar is having to try to figure out the exotic drinks they were ordering. He was too proud to have them stand at the bar coaching him with the jigger and shaker, so he had the Mr. Boston barside handbook out, first time I’d seen that in years. (Deano, the night bartender, know how to make all those silly concoctions. Tash looked like a guy sneaking studious glances at his lawbooks while on the job.)

It looked like the a few guys from the book club were there, too. They usually meet up in the evening up the street on Wednesday nights, either at the branch library, under cover at Revere Beach or at one of the guy’s apartments around the corner. But I guess a few of them had evening conflicts, so they met for lunch — and there they were. But a guy I don’t see that often, Bill Kirner, a younger member, told me they’d paused reading some novel they were working on to read a book about mass shootings. “Topical,” said Bill, ” guy’s a lefty who wrote it but he has some good ideas about seeing these things coming, figuring out who the next perpetrator might be, at home or on the block, if you know what I mean.”

That caused me to take a quick look around the room in paranoid fashion. These were regulars, none looking morose or suspect. The women had just been dancing and exercising and showered off and looked clean-smelling and at peace. I’m a firm believer that anybody who dances and showers works off any desire to shoot anybody. But then, I’m an idealist.

I realized there was a guy in the corner, sitting at a table by himself near the old, still-working relic of a phone booth ( that thing’s going to be in a museum someday). I believe his name is Joe. That’s all I know. I’m on good enough terms with Tash Silva, believe it or not, to go behind the bar, pour myself some tonic, spike it with a splash of cranberry juice, drop a lime wedge in it and go find myself a seat. I chose to go join this Joe. But first I said,

“It’s Joe, right? Mind if a join ya?”

(I knew from past experience that he — and nobody — comes to The Last Mile excpecting to sit alone.) Joe, didn’t say a word, just pulled out the seat near the phone booth for me. That’s the best way ever to be affirmed in a request to give somebody company. If they give a weak smile and say, “sure” or “no problem,” I feel less welcomed.

We chatted about stuff for a minute. He works for a sheet metal shop in Lynn. He knows I go around calling myself a writer. Then he told me what was bothering him.

“I just came back from a visit down in the Florida Panhandle. Real peaceful down there, not like Miami or Tampa. Quiet, remote, peaceful.”

“Great, I said. And now you’re back at work and back in the madhouse?”



Joe ( I think his last name is Cassidy) got real thoughtful and, yes, morose.

“It was the kind of peace that makes you hear noises more, out in the world and in your head. Down there, the birds — chickaees, house wrens, cardinals, doves, and this woodpecker — funny as hell, coming back and back for the seed at my friend’s feeder. And you could see out into this little quiet bay and the house was at a point in a little canal among other houses up on stilts to protect them from hurricane surges. I mean there were boats lifted out of the water but ready for the summer, thought you can boat year round down there. You could fish right off the dock, too. I caught a nice redfish, let it go, but snapped a picture. What to see it?”

He pulled the picture out of a breast pocket. I looked at it. Very nice fish, probably fourteen inches.

“How do you know these people?”

“Children — grown children — of a guy I worked with when I first started at the shop. We used to fish together, boat together off Nahant.”

He got quiet again, like he was down there on the Panhandel again in all that peace.

“The only sound was some hammering from people buiding there dream house across the canal. You build solid stuff down there, but there’s always the hurricanes. They can wreck that area. The Gulf was sparkling down the street, but still, there’s that danger.”

“Yes,” I said. “That’s a danger.”

Now he was really quiet, didn’t say anything for a fu ll minute. Then:

“There were no storms, not even a cloud. My plane flew into Logan and I look out the window. Okay, the weather is nice here, too. Spring is here, I guess. But it was crowded and ordinary-looking down below.I swear I saw a patch of snow.”

He looked at me. I guess I probably looked ordinary, too.

“You know — your Greg, right?”


“Well, it’s not about geography, Greg. There are lots of peaceful places — the mountains, the seashore, by the Gulf or by a lake. Down the Cape — the parts that aren’t built up which are few and far between — or, at the right time of day, right in the Boston Public Garden. No, it’s how I need peace and right now I have no peace, no matter where I am. I’ve been in a relationship over forty years, never married, kind of feel like we took each other hostage.” He looked at me. “You’re a single guy, right?”


“I’m with somebody, but I’m not with them, if you know what I mean. And suddenly her and me — we’re having a little trouble hearing and we yell at each other even when we’re not mad at each other.”

“Did your…’friend’ go with you to the Panhandle?”

“Yeah. And she’s a good person, don’t get me wrong. In fact she knows these people we were staying with better than me. Much better. Everybody was great. They made food. I tried to help but mainly they just treated me like a king. Treated her like she was a queen. But I felt like a slave just the same. A slave to conditons I made in my life. Only when I got off by myself, or when I was with them but NOT really with them and they let me be quiet and kind of alone, maybe picking up a magazine, or –I don’t drink like you it got to be a problem — but I might have had a glass of water or ice tea or a ginger ale. I was at peace.

“But it was just the birds and me, and the wind chime. And the wind, and the view of the water. And I could imagine being free.”

He smiled, then laughed. “Like the birds.” He laughed some more.

I said what was on my mind after a minute when he was quiet again. “You sound depressed.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Nothing serious. Nothing you medicate. Just that longing for freedom. Peace and freedom, like people feel after a war and that they can’t feel while they’re in the war. I’ll feel better, and maybe feel a little of that freedom when I get back to work tomorrow, get working in the noise and with the sheet metal. Sometimes noise is good, I guess. And maybe I get talking with the other guys and the few women who work there. It’s a good place. We work hard. It keeps my mind and my hands occupied. You don’t like it, though, when the only way you can be at peace and feel free is when you’re isolated by noise.”

He looked out toward the door, which Tash, breaking away from his complicated bartender duties, had just propped open. It wasn’t warm enough for air conditioning, but an open door might let in an April breeze with the car exhaust from the fairly busy street out there. Of course, it’s dark in The Last Mile.

Now I said something that was on my mind.

“Joe, it’s a real nice day out. Spring time. Why do you suppose guys like us or any of the people here come into a dark place like this in the middle of a nice day full of sunshine?”

“Well, I’m not staying long.”

“Neither am I.”

Joe turned thoughtful. “But it’s company I guess. Human voices,” he said. “Close quarters. This place is intimate in its own crazy way.”

“That must be it, I said. And it’s familiar.”

“But I have this vision of peace,” Joe said. “Nature — maybe a place where God can talk to me.”

I took that in.”That’s heavy,” I said. “I suppose it’s a little like a church in here. Or a chapel.”

“Yeah, I guess. Or maybe it’s not heaviness of it, it’s the lightness. And the company, the voices make a kind of — light. Light in the darkness.” He looked at me. ” What are you drinking?”

“Tonic, a little cranberry, bit of lime.”

“Nice. Sounds refreshing. Can I guy you another one? ”

“No. No thanks. I’ve got to be going after this.”

It was then I noticed he was drinking ice water. Tash had given him one of those blue transparent cups. “Just water for you, eh,” I said.

“Life,” Joe said. Water is life.”

We left it at that — and left about the same time.Outside I watched him walk off toward his car. It was noisy. I walked all the way up to Revere Beach, each street a little quieter as I approached the cold April sand and the surf. I felt like I needed to see water. And maybe find some more peace up there, even without human voices. Just the gulls and me. Those gulls, I figured, were distant cousins to all those wild birds down in the Panhandle that became Joe’s friends. I’m sure there are gulls and sandpipers down there.

As you can see, my occasional bar friend Joe had got me to thinking — about everything; mainly about how you hold onto a vision of peace. How to find that peace.

I guess you pray for it.


March is speeding to its end. In Florida one cannot usually exerience the “in like a lion, out like a lamb” effect. I can say that I miss the seasons in all their varigated harshness and unpredictability — and langorous summer days or colorful autumnal glory and moods of mortality and early gloaming, or snowy, icy midwinter beauty and chilled, sparkling distances and warm isolation. I miss the degree to which climate invests life’s passages with their own character. I recall, too, how so often the anticipation and longing for spring and her flowers goes unrequited when winter seems to go seemlessly into summer and springs temperate, moderate interval is blighted by cooler than normal temperatures — or rain. I recall serial Junes in which rain seemed constant, only to end in July’s dank or scorching discomfort. Then, all too soon, the earth’s rotaton was plunging us back into fall.

But, seasons are life. And life often feels more like life if there are those external passages we feel against our skin and within our souls.

Then there is Christmas — the Yuletide. Joy for many, torture for many. Emotions are at their apex or their nadir. Darkness, either cosseting and comforting or alienating and unbefriending. The colorful lights festoon the world — and make January all the darker and colder.

Summer in New England can offer variations unlike anything anyone will ever experience in Florida or the southeast or subtropics, at least so far as I know and based on my own long exposure to the subtropical seasons. In New England, it can be blisteringly hot and humid one day, up into the nineties, then, the next day, be cool and dry. I recall mid-Julys that felt, at least a little, more like a green October.

Haven’t all of us experienced a curious sense of sweet disorientation in those periods of the fall known as Indian Summer? For one thing, they occur only periodically. Sometimes, chilly autumn descends and never looks back. We have felt resignedly the natural shift into cool temperatures, said goodbye to summer, braced ourselves for the coming winter — then, suddenly, though the golden leaves lie redolently all around us and the branches have become partially bare — it is summer again and the dry calm or the warm breezes can plungeus unexpectedly into a confused, complex moods of longing — and, longing for what? Not, I would suggest, for the lost summer but for all that has happened in our lives, all hopes, all fears. (And it is sad to know that this name we gave to this lingering breath of summer has its origin, at least from what I read, in Native American raids of settlers’ farms when good weather continued into fall. It makes it, then a very insensitive, politically incorrect term. And even more insensitive term, still used apparently, in England, is Old Wives’ Summer . Frankly I love the term Indian and am sorry the current long winter of grievance and retribution that has descended on us has staged a raid on terms that have long lain neutered and harmless. But so it goes.)

I recall that the early days of November have through the years been a time of sudden temperate days, even a little humid. I recall a terrible, accidental death of a child in my neighborhood one November 9. And I recall that the early darkness was warm. And every early November day of damp, dark warmth takes me back to that evening I’d prefer to forget.

And, living in Florida, where the seasons are subtle though seemingly seamless and the emotions and temperments the weather evokes and the sense sometimes of being in a room where the lights are never out, like a prison cell and the topography is flat and the vegitation vivid or scrubby and rough and the earth sandy and the weather always threatening to be electric and violent and destructive but also simply “nice” and inviting to half the nation half the year — here I’m inclined to write a whole long, different meditaton.

But now I am thinking of the metalic reality of northern climes where there has been both horrors and delights and, in the case of New England, remarkably mostly mild weather. ( Perhaps winter and snow-lovers are sorrowing). But my brothers lie aging and ill up there, and my grand nephew is several months gone at only twenty, and the mourning is unrelenting.

And as I move toward the end of this sponteneous Friday morning meditation, I go looking for something by the late Hartford insurance executive who also enjoys the reputation of being one of our nation’s greatest poets, though I might find Robert Frost more accessible, especially on the subject of weather. But I’ve taken down, instead, Wallace Stevens who, the short poem, “Of Mere Being”, writes,

The palm at the end of the mind,

Beyond the last thought, rises

In the bronze distance,


A gold-feathered bird

Sings in the palm, without human meaning,

Without human feeling, a foreign song.


You know then that it is not the reason

That makes us happy or unhappy,

The bird sings. Its feathers shine.


The palm stands on the edge of space.

The wind moves slowlyi in the branches.

The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

(end of poem)

Yes, I’ll conclude saying, it is not the reason that makes us…whatever.

Perhaps, it is –the season.

It is the end of March.

Yes, I’ll end here, though, of course, I could write on endlessly –through season after season comes,and goes.

But I’ll end.


February has been light on entries. In fact, I believe there’s only one, being my visit to the Last Mile Lounge.

So, with apologies for offering something so slight to my phantom readership — this recollection came to me today: how after returning to Massachusetts for my junior year in college after a summer in the Sierra Nevada Mountains working at Kings Canyon National Park, I had brought a Sierra stone back with me. Just a nice little stone that, over many years, maybe centuries, had formed in the California wilderness. It wasn’t gold, it wasn’t precious. Just an ordinary stone — but special to me because it came from the land of the Sequoias. And one day in the woods of New Hampshire — I could not tell you exactly where — I came upon a stream. Alone, reflecting on the massive continental distance between the California mountain woods and these New England woods, I took the stone out of my pocket and dropped it in the stream bed.

I assume it’s still there, that little California stone that crossed the country — still there in that stream. Stones don’t wear away for generations, right? Perhaps even for millenia. And this was deep in woods where few have visited regularly or construction would seem unlikely to displace anything.

I just got thinking about permanence. I could go on — permanently.

No, I couldn’t. And the stream, flowing water, has been known to wear the earth down to canyons — grand canyons!

Well…that’s enough of that. For now. I’ll probably go on thinking about my stone — occasionally. This February Friday night Florida, with light rain expected and a beautiful gray cat spotted in the back yard, seemed like a good night for it.

I hope it was for you, too. Think of that stream, still flowing. Think of the tall, deep forests from which it came — a National Park. (And, of course, you really aren’t supposed to take anything out of a National Park, are you. Oh, I’m in trouble now. It was 1967. Is there a statute of limitations? Yes: death.)

And I hope that’s not a kidney stone I feel coming on. I pray not.

Once again, let this stony meditation end here.


It’s been a long while since I dropped into The Last Mile Lounge on that stretch out of Boston (where my imagination put it), roughly the East Boston/Revere line. I dropped in recently.

There had been weather, there was a lull now. It was Friday, mid-afternoon. A few folks, men and women, have dropped in after work, probably the end of their work week. There would be more later, after five. Deano, the night bartender is already on duty.

I’d forgotten about an occasional patron named Jerry Krause; don’t know him well –not as well as I feel I know Sticky Sammartino who’d dropped in at this odd hour for a single draft. Jerry Krause, the same. These guys, believe it or not, have a book club at a place around the corner where some of the regulars live, an old apartment complex. I think they meet in Pete Garafola’s place. Occasionally they’d meet in the branch public library; occasional out on Revere Beach when the weather’s real nice. They’ve invited women to join, but so far, no takers. And they were spending about a month reading From Here to Eternity. They like military-related stuff, some of them being veterans. They surprised me when one of them told me they’d read Anna Karenina and plan to tackle War and Peace this summer. But the weather — chilly but clear — had lately pushed the Club back indoors and they meet on Wednesday nights, if I recall, probably after some of them grab a bite at a place they like over in Lynn. Pete G. provides beer, soft drinks and nuts for the actual club. What a bunch. I swear I’m going to drop by some night.

Anyway, Stickey nodded a greeting to me, Jerry (they call him Jerry K, I understand) also nodded, though I’m pretty much I’m a stranger to him.

Jerry was obviously kind of in the dumps, from what I could observe. I don’t drink, just come around The Mile, as they call it, because (inexplicably) I like the place — and I can tell you about all I hear and behold there. Deano knows me well and sets me up a tonic and a splash of cranberry. I don’t even have to ask. I’m personally thinking about how a grand nephew of mine was laid to rest last summer after overdosing on his depression medication. An absolutely terrible event in the lives of everybody who knew him. I told Stickey about this. I believe Stickey had told his Friday night drinking buddy Jackie the Crow (who’s been in the hospital for something). Jackie must have told Jerry (though I didn’t know Jerry knew Jackie, but, then I remember — they’re both in book club.)

I wasn’t sitting at a table very long when Jerry came over –made a special point of it — to express his condolences about my grand nephew. “Really sorry to hear about that,” he said. “Jesus, that’s heartbreaking.”

“It was months ago now,” I said, ” but the hurt remains — in the family, especially the parents, the grandparents… very bad.”

“It’ll never go away,” he said. And he seemed like he knew what he was talking about. He looked like a man, as the poet says, acqainted with the night. I invite him to sit for a minute. Stickie was busy talking to Deano at the bar. “You know,” said Jerry, ” I wonder when we’ll figure out what the pandemic did to us, the isolation and stuff, to the kids especially. I mean there are probably other things, other factors, but I know it got to me, the isolation. It’s why I came here more often, because Jake, the owner, kept bucking the state health people. ” He looked at me intently. “Stickie told me you’re a writer and used to be a reporter around here.”

“That’s right,” I said.

He said, “Like I say, I was coming in here a lot during the lockdown, at least when this place was fighting the lockdown– I’d come off hours, like early in the morning when the place opened up and I could get an egg sandwich from Jenny, the Sunday bartender. I liked talking to her. I’m single, you know.”

“So’s Jenny,” I said. I must have done something like wink, because Jerry proceeded to say, “I’m single but I’m a confirmed bachelor. I just like talking to people and I wouldn’t be talking to a woman who was married and I wanted Jenny to know I wasn’t flirting with her and that I hoped she had a boyfriend.”

“She’s got a few,” is said, and thought how unhappy Jenny, knowing Jenny, must have been when a guy told her he wasn’t flirting with her, because I was guarantee she was flirtiing with him — though he was obviously older than thirty-something Jenny. Men and women like to flirt. I do, anyway. But Jenny’s a tough girl, don’t get me wrong. She just likes men, which isn’t a crime yet.

“Good,” Jerry said. “I’m glad to hear she has a boyfriend.”

“Probably several,” I said.

He finally sat down at that point, but didn’t act like he intended to stay, just to get off his feet. But he also seemed especially eager to engage another human being who might, I suspected, be a little more receptive to his tender observations than old Stickey.

“I don’t know what going to happen to the world when somebody so young can be so down in the dumps,” Jerry said. (And wasn’t it interesting that he used the same adjective that had floated into my mind when I beheld him and his somewhat sorrowing countnance on the bar stool.) All at once his whole complexion went dark. Really down to the dumps, which he, plainly, intended to sift. He had reddish blond-to-gray hair, with a scumble of wiry gray hair at the brow, blue eyes and freckles and some wrinkles you might see on a guy in his late forties who’s putting on hard years. I didn’t ask, but I learned later from Sticky that Jerry works overnights at the post office and always seemed to like the isolation that overnight work can afford a person. (Now, isn’t that strange! Here was a guy concerned about how isolation might have affected kids during the long lockdown — and he (allegedly, anyway) prefers isolation.) He liked nights, too. Sticky wondered if he slept hanging upside down during the day, like a bat. He laughed when he told me that (this was a month ago, after Christmas, when Sticky was talking about Jerry before I finally met him. And he told me more about him in this particular day day after Jerry left, which he plainly was getting ready to do, in a little while. But he wasn’t going to leave until he leaned on the table, looked at me earnestly and told mehe prays for the world, the Whole WORLD, especially for young people.

“I grew up in Lynn,” he said, on Chatham Street. I’ve seen the city change. I love it just the same.”

“Where do you live now?,” I asked him.

“I’ve had an apartment in Saugus for about a year but I’m not going to renew the lease. I used to come here to this place after I finished my rounds — I used to deliver mail tostreets around here and delivered packages. This was when I was first working for the the P.O. I got to know Jake, the owner. He used to serve more food then. Sometimes he didn’t charge me. I heard he was going to start serving more food.

“The license says he has to,” I said. The city’s been on him about that. Jenny, some of those people, they can make sandwiches, cook burgers. out back. They’ve got a kitchen,as you know. Deano and the owner just had it remodeled, fireproofed, all that. They had to put sprinklers in here, too,.”

“I know that,” said Jerry. But he was clearly wasn’t folling my mind into the kitchen. He was pondering his life now. “I guess I’m thinking I could retire pretty soon with a little pension at some point in time.” He’d been looking around the room. Now he looked at me. ” Stickey tells me you’re retired. Your name is Greg, right?”


“My brother’s name was Greg.”

“Not living?”

“Died like your grandnephew, an overdose.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Oh, it was years ago, way back in the eighties when we were young. Same stuff going round and round.”

“Yeah, but, like you said, you never….”

“No, never,” he said. You never get over it. How old was your grand nephew?”

“Twenty. It was the day after his birthday.”

Jerry shook his head. “So your grandnephew wasn’t even born when we started going through so much stuff in the world, 9/11 and all that.”

“No,” I said, “he wasn’t.”

He had me thinking now, pondering this tragic episode in my family and how there’d been a young guy, millions, probably –especially Iraq and Afghanistant war soldiers and Marines, who’d come, then gone. And as I said, “Born in this century. Gone in this century.”

Jerry sat back. I said, “Can I buy you a drink of something?”

“No, I’ve still got my beer at the bar. I don’t drink much, really.” He’d grown noticably morose with the information that my grandnephew’s entire life was enclosed in this still-young century.

“I’m thinking about just how sad things can get,” he said. That seemed like stating the obvious, maybe a little shallow. I wondered, his this guy a little weird? But ultimately, no, I decided — not weird, but intensely and simply human. That thought also seemed shallow and trite as it rolled around my head. But, I thought, so what? Then Jerry said,” I work in this big, big noisy, bright room overnight with a lot of good guys and I’m making people’s loveletters and bills and packages go on their merry way like life going on its merry way and sometimes I think I can see these people who are sending this stuff. I mean people don’t write love letters or anything like that anymore, they just send emails.” He folded his hands, like a kid at school. He spoke like a kid at school, young — simple. Perfect. He was looking up toward the TV where there was no sound but images of a fire, storm destruction. I knew this, because I’d swung myself around a bit when Deano arrived with my tonic ( he didn’t have to bring it out to the table, but Deano’s good to me) and I kind of wanted to see what Jerry was looking at so intently. But disaster just seemed to be a backdrop for everything that was pouring out of him. Something to prime the pump of sentiment and fond reflection.

“It’s really a good place to work, the Post Office,” he said. ” I just wish there was more handwriting and not labels, more handwrapped packages, more handwriting on letters coming down the conveyer. Not plain gray cold typed stuff….and, y ou know, the Fedex and UPS guys, they get to do a lot of the delivering of good stuff. Maybe no letters, but packages. I envy them.”

“Why don’t you go back to delivering packages,” I said, sensibly. He smiled. Something came rushing into that forty-something head– though actually I now realized he had to be fifty-something — fro that face, and if he had a brother who died of an overdose in the Eighties.

“Christmas, I love Christmas in the Post Office.,”Jerry spouted. The room almost seemed to light up when he said it. (The Mile did have some Christmas lights and a tree, but they’d come down in the first dreary days of the month. “It makes me sad that it’s January, that it’s over,” Jerry said. I guess I had to agree with that.

So that was it. That was what was making him sad. A Post-Christmas World.

“I mean they bring in extra people at the P.O., so you get to meet them and get extra help, but you can see all these packages coming down the conveyers that you know are gifts trying to get to somebody across the country someplace. And then all the cards — people still send cards, not as many as when I started at the PO.. But they send them — and they are in these colorful envelops sometimes. You see them coming. It makes me happy. “

I decided to ask him something that was at the back of my mind. “Jerry, how old was your brother when he died?”

“My age,” he said. “We were twins. Identical twins. We were eighteen.”

So — this Jerry WAS older than he looked. Weren’t we all, I thought. No, I thought, again. Some look positively whipped and ancient at fifty. But I took in the news that Jerry Krause had a twin…..I took it in, knowing now that I was looking at the face of another man who never made it to this century or this year of 2023, except in the identical face of the sanquine, pensive twin soul across the table from me.

“He was a very beautiful person,” Jerry said of his brother.

“What was his name?”

He looked at me a little quizzically. In fact, a lot quizzically. “I told you,” he said. “Greg, like you.”

Boy, did I feel stupid. “Yeah, sorry, I said, and then wondered how I could forget my own name. “My folks told me Greg was named for a Church. I was named for a prophet. ” He smiled broadly at that.

“Jeremiah,” I said.

“That’s me,” he said.

Stickey was suddenly standing over us and putting Jerry — that is, Jeremiah’s– half-drunk pilzner of beer in front of him. ” It’s getting worm, my friend.”

“Join us, Stickey,” I said.

“After I go to the boy’s room, and I gotta make a phone call.” He had his cellphone in hand as he walked off toward the hallway leading to the bathrooms.

“You know, please apologize to Stickey when he comes back,” Jerry said, and took another drink of his beer, leaving a full finger of amber. “I’ve got to get home and get ready for work. Plus I’m at a meter. ” He got out a dollar, stood, walked over to the bar, slapped the dollar down as a tip for Deano who smiled at him and picked it up as he was coming back from dropping of a draft in front of a guy who’d just walked in. Dean’s suave and polished that way. Jerry came back to the table and said, “You know, I’m planning on moving back to Lynn. It’s got problems, but it’s home for me.” He sat and, it became clear, had one more piece of information for me. But it came as kind of an odd wind out of nowhere.

“It was like demons came down upon him, darkness,” he said. He was talking about his brother — Greg. ” It was the drugs, but it was life, too. No pandemic to bring it on back then in ’85. . Just that big darkness. “He looked around the bar that had only two other patrons at a table nearby. I hadn’t noticed that about four people had walked out while we were talking. I was looking over toward what must have been one of the last phone booths in the country — wooden and vintage — that Deano told me still got used regularly once a month by a well-known bookmaker.

“It’s nice meeting you and it’s been nice talking to you,” Jeremiah (after the prophet) Krause said to me. “I’m going to pray for your grandnephew. Is he laid to rest near here?”

“Not far . In Winthrop.”

“Someday maybe you and me can go pay a visit, drop some flowers and a few prayers. And you know what?”

“What?” I said. Since I wasn’t going to be seeing him in a few moments, I took note for the first time of his clothes — his blue pull over V-neck sweater, a gold chain and some kind of medal around his neck. His coat still hung on the back of his stool at the bar. It was maroon and had some kind of a patch on it. It looked well worn.

“Now, Greg, I’ll tell you what I was telling Stickey and that is, that I’ve decided I actually WILL be retiring soon. I’ll have a pretty good pension. And you know what I’m going to do?”

“What’s that?”

” I’m going to get a job delivering flowers. Packages are great, but I love flowers. That would make me very happy – flowers for wedding, flowers for funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, flowers from lovers, delivering them to other lovers. That’s how I’m going to spend a rest of my life, as long as I can drive or walk. I’ve never had a garden, either. I may get one. But I’ll deliver flowers. What do you think?”

“I think it’s a great idea.”

“Brighten up the darkness,” he said. He stood up. “See ‘ya again sometime, ” he said, and offered his hand, which I took and which he shook warmly. Then he grabbed his jacket off the back of the stool and was out the door. Stickey was behind me, under the TV, talking to somebody on his cell phone. He had loads of people in his life. I was hoping he’d tell me more about this Jerry when he was done. (And, as indicated, he did.)

I guess Jerry Krause seemed “down in the dumps” just from the look about him — the look on his face. Okay, like a kid, he missed Christmas. But maybe he’s just a serious, solitary kind of guy who occasionally, having no wife or kids or any prospect or desire for such things, feels obliged to take on other people’s loads from time to time. I felt I knew him better now, and, thanks to him, I suddenly knew all I needed to know to make my January afternoon a little warmer and brighter, as if somebody had just delivered flowers to my table.


It is January 4, 2023. I have that January feeling. It’s not a great feeling. Forgive me if it’s your birthday or anniversary month, but anxiety and a creeping sense of the blahs always overtake me on the morning of January 1. It’s the feeling you get when you get in your old car (mine is a 2015 and I’m reminded that 2015 once felt new) and you prepare to crank the ignition, and hope the old bag of bolts starts up. ( It starts, but the air conditioning has failed. In Florida, no air conditioning in the car amounts to a grand a sweaty case of blahs-on-stilts — i.e., the malaise.

Now for my metaphor: As with my car, it’s that time of year when you turn the key and hope the new year starts. You hope it take you where you want to go. Pretty good, eh? Yeah, just pretty good.

I just read last January’s posts. Very depressing. I hoped for change. It all depended on me. Nothing really changed. But, on the deeply sad end of things, a beloved nephew died suddenly July 13. Then, very, very far down the scale of concern and sadness from that catastrophe was that one of my dogs had to be put down (May 15). This year, some of those I love are very ill and very old. I’m praying.

So, on this early January day… I pray, pray, pray….

I just went out to Lowe’s to buy a new filter for the refrigerator. My Veteran’s discount didn’t apply. It cost me $64. But a new filter was long overdue. There was a little red light giving me that message. Red lights tell us things. And loud buzzes and whining alarms. I’m supposed to change the filter every six months. The packaging for the filter says I am now reducing twenty-eight contaminants and, potentially, they include Atenolol, Carbamazepine, Estrone, Neproxen, Phenytoin, Timethoprim….

And those are just the pharmaceuticals. Funny things — I looked up carbamazepine and it’s used in treating seizures and bipolar disorder. I guess the chemical hasn’t been concocted in the world’s labs that doesn’t start out having great uses before it becomes a poison. It’s like the worst things we ever did when we were young — they all started out as fun. (What kind of fun were they having when they cooked up COVID?)

Back to my filter. Waterborne stuff being filtered out might include assorted micro-organisms, or metals, including, of course, lead. The sort of things that have given me kidney stones. Then, the pesticides. Oh, my! By now, reading the packaging for that filter, I’m feeling resigned, as I take my first long sip of water, to let grace and nature take their course. I’m hearing Doris Day singing, C’est sera, sera….whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see…. ( that’s from a very old Hitchcock movie called, The Man who Knew Too Much. Never in my life have I felt I knew too much.)…

What I feel about the water is what I feel about the year. But if I’ve got ickies in my water, well, the pesticides I’ve allegedly filtered out include Atazine, Carbofuran, Endrin, Lindane……and on and on….

I’ve gone my whole life never having heard of any of these things, much less knowing I might be drinking them. We live immersed in dangerous science. We are hypostatic organic systems, in the mind of a future Harvard moral philosopher I once dated. We were in our twenties. I took her for Chinese food ( I believe she was eating vegitarian). I’d been happily, luckily “fixed up” with her by old, distant friends met during a summer working in the Sierra Nevada while a college student. (Ah, times lost, memories….etc.) Speaking of luck, the future philosopher and I dined at a place in Cambridge called, The Lucky Garden.

For much of our lives, we dream of living in a Lucky Garden. We don’t necessarily think much about heaven, and sure as hell don’t think much about hell. We just hope we’re lucky. (I believe the current MegaMillions jackpot is at $940 Million. Imagine a couple of folks in a little woodframed bungalo on Main Street coming into that kind of dough? Or you? Or me? The total budget for the city of Largo, Florida (where I currently reside) is $309.7 million, up 18% from last year. The population (last year, anyway) was 82, 381. I’ll bet that will rise, too, especially after this winter. But just think, I’m just a digit and still feeling very much like an alien in the subtropics. Like a roaming hypostatic organic system. A white Anglo-x. Three years ago, I reduced the population of Lancaster, Mass by one. (Did they miss me?) But I’m a restless digit, a restless hypostatic organic system. I’d like to re-increase Lancaster’s population — and Largo’s population only in the cool months.

Now, if I could only kill off the January mosquito that has somehow managed to spawn and commenced to whine about my ears. Where’s a little Atazine or Carbofuran when I need it? It would be ironic, right?, if pesticides in my water got me and the mosquito went on happily whining about. But my bug guy tells me mosquitos only live twelve hours. It seems like, in the eleventh hour, they always manage to bite me, then, like Simeon, go happily to their death with a load of my Type O blood in their tank. And every night, a barely visible little — I mean little — cohort of sugar ants can be found floating in the tank to my Keurig. Not in the sugar bowl, mind you, but in the Keurig. Go figure. Water again. Where’s the filter in my Keuric?! Or, here’s where a little poison in the water might help. The average cup of coffee probably brings us micro-chemicals out of Brazil, just for taste. Who knows?

My next purchase must be an evapcore for my failed car air conditioner. Even in January, you don’t want to be without air air conditioning in Florida. (Temperature today, 82 degrees, and, damn it, a trifle muggy.)

I’ve been quoted a price of $1230 to fix the A/C. Now, if I could just win the lottery….It might ease the blahs. Or maybe they’ll invent a filter to filter out the blahs.

But I’m guess I’m bound to confound all this snarky January ruminating and say the only times I succeed in filtering out the blahs is by praying. And the only lottery I really want to win is the one that brings me –and the world — peace. True peace. In January, and the whole year through.

I’ll end on that preposition. (Or, is it an adverb?)


I woke at 2 .a.m..Silent night, Holy night….a cold breeze is gently playing the wind chime in the carport.

Darkness. A cossetting darkness one could welcome for the grace and the memories at the heart of it; an easier time to remember that “Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day (I’m singing it within, that traditional carol, so seemingly politically incorrect and exclusive in our divided time, “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen…” Rest us all).

It might, in fact, have been April that He was born, the same season in which He died, and this merely the solticial period when the sun was at it nadir and the pagan’s brightened with their torches and their ceremonies to penetrate and enliven that darkness before He came, and so the feast of our deliverance seemed a light-giving substitution in human hearts and minds. Traditionals will give you meterological and other reasons to believe December 25 is, in fact the day. But it does not matter. He is born everyday — and dies for us everyday. But there needs to be THIS day of our joy and remembance.

Of course, the other kind of darkness is always with us, that “heart of darkness” — and it was with me even as my sleep was interrupted and I rose in the heart of Christmas darkness. It was time to fight off that darkness and recall that He came “to save us all from Satan’s pow’r when we were gone astray….O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy…. ”

It is colder than it’s been in decades on this morning in Florida, the thirties, freezing. But I welcomed it, freedom from the sultry, endlessly sunny and sticky months.

Did I pray? I go soon on a Christmas Day journey, (having attended the holy sacrifice of the mass last afternoon). It will be, God willing, an easy five hour journey in a country that is tortured by severe, paralyzing, dangerous weather. Thank you, my Blessed Lord, for sparing me that challenge. Protect and comfort my family. May we never forget you, the whole day long, or ever. And I do, so often.

I did go back to bed for that “long, winter’s nap…”

Merry Christmas! To young and old, the living and the dead, to all God’s children, as we seek and so easily forget, “the wonders of his love….”

Another carol, that. Let us sing.


Don’t recall my age, don’t know where I and my parents were coming from, or how it happened that we were listening to classical music, but something came on the radio that enthralled me. It was after dark, that I recall.

I was, perhaps, ten years old. I asked to stay in the car in the driveway listening to the piece — and, no, I don’t recall what piece of music it was. But I lay across the seat listening. Then my father came out to say he’d found the radio station on which the piece was playing, but I said, no, Dad, I’d like to stay here, listening to it. (Was the engine on? Was I wearing down the battery?) Dad said, okay. It must have mystified but perhaps delighted him that I should love a piece of classical music so much — he who’s taste in music ran almost exclusively to Lawrence Welk and who liked only “nice, smooth music…” but who loved the “Warsaw Concerto” and owned it on a red, translucent .45 disc and listened to it repeatedly and hated it that, in the Hitchcock movie, “The Man Who Knew Too Much”(one of the very few movies we saw together) the attempted assassination inside the opera house interrupted the beautiful music in progress….

No, I don’t recall the title of the music or anything about it. But I can see my father, in his kind tolerance, walking out of our house and coming out to the driveway to the youngest son who came seven years after the other children and who mystified him and with whom he had an overly formal and perhaps distant relationship. I see him before that, inside our house, going to the trouble to find that radio station, only to have me say I’d rather stay in the car, of all places, and keep listening.

Thank you, Dad. For that moment, Forgive me for not loving and appareciating you more during your too short life. And how I wish I had gone on developing, truly developing that love of the greatest music, not the pop idyles of the pedestrian hours over all the years, and stayed with the piano, sunk down into life’s riches where all things truly worthy of loving and learning live.


This is about the woman, a young woman, that I saw on the Tokyo commuter rail taking me from busy Tokyo station to the station where I would catch a taxi back to Tachikawa Air Base. That’s where I was staying in a pleasant little, single-person dwelling on the base during a two-week temporary duty leave. In truth, “temporary duty leave” was merely the technical designation for the trip a military member might make from their base in Korea to Japan for, essentially, a vacation. For some it might be for duty. For me and others, it was just a two-week vacation, a break.

As I recall it was rush hour. I’d gone into Tokyo just to look around. I could not begin to recall just where I went or what I did on that particular day. It was September, 1970. I was a standing strap-hanger in a nearly full, though not jam-packed car. Japanese trains were clean, in my memory, and commuters polite, perhaps especially to a non-Japanese visitor. But I did not interact with anyone on this particular trip. I was glad it wasn’t more crowded.

Meanwhile, the train sped through the sprawling miles of densely packed fringes of metropolitan Tokyo, all fascinatingly terraced or stacked to accommodate one of the most populous cities in the world. I don’t recall, on that particular trip –standing in the middle as I was — much of what we passed. None of it, really. My eyes were fixed on the people and I only recall that young woman

She was sitting right before me. She was wearing a light top coat. She was somewhat heavy set, had long black hair. Her eyes were downcast. Never once did I see her look up. She was pressed in between other commuters and they would rise to get off, others would sit down — at least I seem to remember that. That would be the likely flow of traffic on a commuteer train.

The point is that she never once looked up, paid no attention to the movement around her — not at every stop where her body and the bodies of those beside her might sway barely perceptibly with the inertia of the train slowing, stopping, then starting up again. She was unmoving; she just stared down. There might have been a purse on her lap, her hands folded around it.

Then I noticed a tear streaming down her cheek. Then another…and another…. She did not wipe them away. She was immersed in a private sorrow and did not wish it to be known or to be observed. But, of course, I was observing this and wondered, why — why was she crying? I didn’t get the sense anyone on either side of her noticed that she was crying. (Perhaps they did and, in polite Japanese fashion, ignored the fact.) What was laying on the mind and heart of this young woman, perhaps a little older than me, perhaps headed home from work in Tokyo, for whom this commute might have been a daily routine while for me it was part of a joyous, solitary, exotic adventure in a strange land? I would not pass this way again, not likely. I haven’t been back to Japan….I recall and certainly have forgotten many details about those two weeks, visiting monuments and famous streets. I have not forgotten this small moment.

I could only surmise at the cause of her sorrow: trouble at work, trouble at home, broken romance, a death in the family, or of a friend, a bad medical diagnosis….

Of course, for some, a nameless but intense melancholy can come unexpectedly and overwhelm every other emotion unexpectedly. Like a tsunami…

In overly idle moments before this same laptop, I have recently watched on Youtube wobbly, terrifying cell phone video of a tsunami overwhelming Japanese seafront neighborhoods, people in shock, shouting and running for their lives, boats, cars and houses being swept away. Massive catastrophe, massive terror and sorrow. It is not, please God, likely that most of us in America will experience that particular character of catastrope in our lifetime. Such hazards are most often a potential reality for people living in South Asian regions where many of us Americans could only imagine living. But then — earthquakes that trigger tsunamie could strike either coast, especially the California coast….

And here in America, this summer– and even in the last couple of days — there have been sudden, extraordinary, deadly wild fires to the west, cutting through neighborhoods, consuming houses in minuters, trapping and killing people. And the floods! Horrible flooding in Kentucky. Shocking, unexpected, life destroying and mind-altering misfortunes that change lives forever. …

But I feel this was no grand sorrow I was witnessing on that Tokyo train. Just one of life penetrating small sorrows. But enough to make this young woman sit quietly crying on a public conveyance.

On that Tokyo train, where east was meeting west in that moment, everything, including the way people interact or register joy or sorrow, might well have been conditions by culturally distinct conventions and therefore be different from anything I might have recognized or expected. But here I felt sure I was seeing a quietly crying woman who could have been any one of us.

Should I have tapped her shoulder, given a wordless, trans-cultural expression of sympathy? No, that plainly would have been wrong. She clearly did not want that attention — would have been embarrassed.

When the train reached my stop, she was, if I recall accurately, more alone on that long train seat, eyes still cast downward, unmoving. Wherever she was going, it was farther out in the suburbs than where I was going. What if I’d had a sprig of flowers! (Ridiculous notion!) What if I could have dropped it in her lap before I moved to the door? Seen her glance up at my departing form, smiling…? This is almost vanity to think such things!

But again…

What if I had spoke Japanese –many westerners in Japan do — and could have leaned over and uttered some consoling word in her ear?

For all I know, this normally laudable American entiment might have violated some Asian shibbolith — who knows? Whatever…

This was fifty-two years ago this month. I didn’t mean to write so much about it. A simple sorrow, simply observed would have been better.

But I hope that was the most transitory of sorrows for that young woman. Who knows? Perhaps it had lifted and vanished by the time she reached her destination. A good little cry, and it was over. I hope so. I hope, if she’s still alive, she has had a happy, fulfilling life.

Living or dead, I’m thinking of her, obviouly. And praying for her. And while I remember the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, The Ginza…I will also always remember the young woman on the Tokyo train.