My son Barrett is getting married this Saturday in Charleston, SC. A beautiful couple, a great moment. I planned to wear my old blue pinstripe suit. But style-wise companions and associates convinced me that my suit is outdated and that it would make ME look outdated. So I bought a new up-to-date blue suit and had a nice seamstress at the mall take up the too-long pants. Trying the suit on later, I discovered that the pants still broke well over my shoes. Ugly! The old-guy-at-the racetrack look. I took them back to the seamstress She smiled and insisted they were fine, that if taken up any more, they’d be too short when I sat down. I did plan to sit down once in a while, so that made sense to me. But thereafter, it made no sense to all those style-conscious sartorial advisors of mine who, when consulted, told me my seamstress, God bless her, seemed oblivious to fashion advances in the pages of GQ and Esquire. The style, they said, is to be sleek and not too capacious (i.e., baggy) in the pants with the cuffs barely touching the tops of the shoes. All I can say is, they haven’t seen my shoes — black, bulbous things worthy only of Mickey Mouse. Perhaps it’s best if they get draped over like dead bodies. What this all comes down to is – I’m sadly out of date for such a cool guy. I must work on that. Meanwhile, my up-to-date, fashion-savvy handsome son – who was just a mere boy when I bought my antiquated formal wear – is having the biggest day of his still-young life and everybody will be looking at him and his lovely bride, not at the father of the groom. I’ll ask the photographer to crop me at the knees. And I’ll probably spend most of the wedding sitting down anyway. Apparently I have the right pants for that. And for the occasional dance number, I admit I’ll be a little self-conscious. So I’ll be dancing in the dark, while the new couple dances out into the light.


It was a Florida warm day in which, in the mid-afternoon, I sat by a friend’s pool in the city of Palm Harbor. The sky was blue and cloudless, probably in deep contrast to the threatening storms of the north.

Suddenly, overhead, there were crows, a wide trail of them straggling, probably, over a mile or more, for just when I thought I might have seen the crow that was bringing up the rear there came another disordered fleet of them, now and then a few circling away from the main body for some reason known only to God, nature and the birds involved. But ultimately, they, too, joined the movement left to right, high, so very high overhead. Continue reading “AS THE CROWS FLY…”


…and it is raining where I am. But the Winter Solstice has always inspired in me a warm, cossetting sense that we have learned to value and comprehend the light only because we have, through life, come to know darkness, in every sense. Robert Frost comes to mind — his poem “Stopping by Woods” in which his narrator has stopped by woods to watch them fill with snow “on the darkest evening of the year…”  That wold be December 21st. We are farthest from the sun, but nonetheless, “the woods are lovely, dark and deep…

Then there is Frost’s poem, “Aquainted with the Night.”

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right
I have been one acquainted with the night.

I, too have walked out in rain and back in rain. I shall look for that watchman. There must, somewhere, be a  watchman. But I, too, will be unwilling to explain.





I’m casting a cold eye, down here in warm Florida, on two highlighted (essentially, therefore, “front page”) items in the on-line edition of a recent Globe.

Some families are being challenged by the new requirement that their au pairs must be paid minimum wage. Who hires these imported “nannies” but the reasonably well-to-do? Or, in fairness, parents both of whom work — but, again, usually fairly high-end parents. Tell me if you disagree. Therefore, does this signal the upper class’s secret discontent with one of the Democrat’s signature policy items, i.e., the endless push to keep hiking the minimum wage? Albeit, in this case, is was a federal requirement that merely forces families to pay au pairs the state’s current minimum wage. Nonetheless, is this, then, a story to file under irony-of-ironies, or the hoisting of many residents of Newton and Wellesley by their own mostly liberal Democrat petards??

Then the other item:
I was unaware — why, I don’t know except that as a reporteer I was never assigned to cover it, thank God  — that in this new millennium, Boston now features a pre-Christmas “Speedo Run” in which scantily clad men and women charge down fashionable Newbury Street in defiance of seasonably cold temperatures wearing only very skimpy bikinis or, for the men, skimpy Speedo-manufactured variations of St. Nick’s red and white. It’s all for charity, of course. ( I’m constitutionally skeptical of any alleged Christmas event that could not be replicated in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, charity or no charity. If that doesn’t “suit” one’s secular sensibilities, then a Santa Clause look-alike Run could, I bet, raise as much money.)

Then I read that this Run actually originated under boozy circumstances at the old Sevens bar on Charles Street. I know the Sevens, and know it to be an innocuous, mostly serene place of dart-throwing, bibulous roustabouts; the kind of dim, cozy watering hole where boredom, once the booze has “lost its kick” (as it did in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Commeth), might give rise to a plot for various forms of public hijinks that, given some benevolent and charitable overtone, cold potentially meets with municipal approval.

So this, I guess, is a land-bound equivalent of a polar dip, but a little closer to a skinny dip. I guess the tide’s in on Newbury Street.

What nearly naked fools we mortals can be. But all for charity.


It is Friday, November 22nd. For my generation, that is a date that will live in infamy. It was a Friday as well, that date. May there be no more infamy, no such black Fridays, nothing today or forever to unsettle us. Let us, Lord, be at peace doing Your will. Let us hope and pray for this.

There have been better prayers at dawn. This, my little prayer before the sun comes up on this day,  will have to do.



There, up there, on the high, high wire strung across the gray Florida sky sit , like little nobs, swarms of birds. Migratory, no doubt, refugees, travelers. Hello, birds. The northern birds have come to Florida. Out of the cold. Grackles, perhaps. Do they migrate? Will I see robins?

All around me, below, cars, speeding. We are in a river of steel and vinyl. I am sad. Homesick. Birds, I know why you’re here. Why am here.

And a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square

I imagine some chanteuse singing below the Samsung flat screen in the Iron City Sports Bar. As I speed by in the river of vinyl and steel, I imagine a nightingale up there on the utility wire, singing. Oh, singing….



Quid Pro Quo: Something for something.





Read this midnight ramble, or I’ll sulk in my tent. That’s my quid pro quo.

There was rain at sunset, heavy rain. a spasmodic Florida rain as the nation freezes. Someone — some creatures — have been digging these recent overnights in my little backyard.  Possums, perhaps? Raccoons, perhaps?

Or, Little Green Men, perhaps?

Many believe we’re due for a visit from them. Little Green Men, bulb-headed E.T.s, surreptitiously digging in the dead of night for clues to the nature of this Blue Planet, choosing my grubby little back yard for their excavation, thinking we might have something better than what they’ve got back home.  I’ll bet they’d be very “green”, these Little Green Men. Martians with trowels, scooping up and examining clumps of  this Earth and my yard’s green bahia grass and dog poop before being beamed back up to The Red Planet with their specimens.

It’s November 12th for a few more minutes, the birthdays of Grace Kelly and Charles Manson.  Light, perhaps false lights and images, collide with the darkest of realities at every waking hour in our world.  “Stars” and fiends are born, neither, perhaps, exactly what they seem. They dissemble “reality” long enough to entertain, beguile or kill us. Do any of us know who they are? Do we know who we are? Do we pray every moment to be spared The Dragon?


Could that be who is digging in my backyard? The Dragon?

The day has drawn to a close. It is dark. There is too much darkness lately. On the brighter side, it is the eve, perhaps, of YOUR birthday. It is, as I write, the eve of many birthdays, of many deaths, of many things.

On the darkest side of our planet, it is the eve of the day many rodents will begin nibbling at the poisoned biscuit of Impeachment. Can you hear them? Nibbling?  It’s on the air, on the internet, in the papers, for those of us still reading papers. It’s news. News is noise.

Are we no greater than the noise we make?” wrote Edward Arlington Robinson in ” Man Against the Sky”

For the record, by November 8, 2021, I’d come to loath Donald Trump for his horrible, rampantly egoistic de-railing of our political norms and his lingering impact likely to make persons such as me more vulnerable, i.e., nearly naked, to our ideological/political enemies. But, still….

I’ll trade you a Latin biscuit of Quid Pro Quo for a French cruller of Que Sera Sera.

*    *   *   *   *

It will be the 13th or well after by the time you read this. ( At the time I am re-reading it and re-writing this, it is the eve of the date, i.e., November 9th, that has so many resonances that I have written of it here in this block. And and the time I originally wrote this rumination — and now,  the world is still raging like a crazed soul on a doorstep….raging, raging, raging.

The Dragon will be prowling. And most likely, you won’t read this, quid pro quo or no quid pro quo.  So, Que Sera Sera. 

Feel free to surprise me, as I ramble at 10:11 p.m.

Listen: and here commences the first installment of the occasional saga of an obscure (and entirely fanciful) edge-of-Boston watering hole….

Two guys are the last patrons of a Revere, Massachusetts bar called The Last Mile. They are talking.

They are talking about bricks.

“You ever been to Europe?” asks Jackie the Crow of Stickie Sammartino. Jackie is a brick-layer. “Back in the day, they started making bricks and then making things out of bricks. I guess they ran out of drywall, huh, Stickie?”

Stickie chuckles. They are side by side at the bar. Noise from the street has faded. There’s a juke box, but it’s broken. Joe Barron won’t fix it. Joe owns this joint. Fix it for what? Joe would say. It’s a nice antique, just sitting there in the corner. All glass and tin and plastic. All silent. Bless Joe. He likes silence.  Who’ll use it? A jukebox. That’s his argument. No one wants it, none of the regulars. They forgot about music. They sing sometimes and they drink and they talk. Or they play Kino and dream of getting rich.

Joe Barron is in Florida. Some people say he’s rich. I don’t doubt it.

Yes, it’s last call, Tuesday night at The Last Mile and it’s just Stickie and The Crow. Presently, they both sip their drinks, first from the highball, then the beer chaser. They are, as noted, alone, save for Dean, the bartender, who is cleaning up.

“I’m talking way back, ” Jackie the Crow says. “After Jesus and before they came up with the bricks for Fenway Park.”

“You’re funny, Crow,” says Stickie.

“They ran out  of stone,” Jackie says. “I’m talking along the Baltic. You been to Europe, Stickie?”

Stickie head-shakes a no. “I stay away from the airport,” he says.

“The Baltic’s my roots, Stickie. Me and the ex took a tour. I  ever tell you that?”

“Stickie head-shakes a yes. “You and her still talk?”

Jackie sips first his ball, then his beer. “Christmas Eve, Fourth of July, maybe Easter, we talk. Thanksgiving’s coming up. We’ll talk.”


“Her and my people are from Poland, you know.”

“I know,” says Stickie. “You get any good food on that tour?”

“Tons,” Jackie says. “But the bricks were the best part. They  took us around in a bus, showed us churches and stuff, all brick. It was interesting.”

“You sure you didn’t dream this?” Stickie says.

“Positive,” Jackie says. Even he doesn’t know when everybody started calling him The Crow. Or why.

“I told them I was a brick-layer soon as the bus pulled up and we’re getting back inside the hotel. They says them bricks got put down by guys like me, way back in the day.”

Jackie’s in the brick-layer’s union. Plans to lay bricks until he drops. Stickie Sammartino was a carpenter. Now he’s retired, sick of driving nails. They’ll  finish their beers and balls and go home. Guys they used to meet here or on the benches under the pavilion at the beach have already gone home, one funeral at a time.

“Some of them brick churches went down when the Nazis come through,” Jackie says. Just like that, Jackie the Crow is, all of a sudden, talking about The Dragon. They’ve both seen the dragon, many times.

Sticky’s thinking of his grandfather, back in 1919 at the famous molasses explosion in Boston. Piles of bricks. Downed people and horses. Everything sticky and smelling of molasses. Somebody had built something wrong, and knew it. So, molasses everywhere. You could smell it for years, like sweet death. Everything sticky, or so they said.

Sticky’s grandfather told Sticky and everybody else that story a million times. After the millionth telling, they started calling his grandfather “Sticky”. About the millionth time Sticky told the story, they started calling him “Sticky”, too. His given name is Sal, just like his grandfather. But at The Last Mile and on Revere Beach, he’s Sticky.

It’s near closing time, but Dean the bartender will let the regulars stay for a while, finish their beers and balls and their stories. It was raining out before. Now, it’s actually snowing a little. Snow in November. The big freeze is pushing east, making history. Sticky and The Crow walked here, for God sake. They live in this rooming house Joe Barron owns. It’s a good little walk in the snow or rain.

“All goddamn Europe got broomed in the war, ” Jackie says.

Sticky sees Europe, like one long street, deep in molasses.

“You know how you talk about the molasses?” Jackie says to Stickie, like he was reading Sticky’s thoughts.  “You sure you’re not dreaming that?”

Sometimes, Sticky isn’t sure. So he doesn’t answer. Silence is better. But then he says, ” it was in all the papers.”

Tomorrow Jackie the Crow will be laying bricks for a new sewage treatment sub-station in Lynn. He can hardly bend, but he likes picking up that trowel and spreading a  nice, smooth layer of cement and laying down those bricks, one at a time. Plus he gets paid for it. He’s trusting that the sub-station walls that he and his fellow brick-layers rise up tomorrow will survive wars, fires, broken pipes, explosion of molasses —  and all the depredations of time, as long as there are people around to take a crap.

In the November night, I see Stickie Sammartino and Jackie the Crow on their bar stools, chasing daylight.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Let us pause, as we leave The Last Mile, head out the door into the chill of the outer world, and consider the holy mystics who first came looking to save souls on our continent — before any white man laid a single brick. Before everybody had a warm indoor place to take a crap.

(I know. This is all crazy. Yes, I am sober. No, I can’t stop.)

I dreamed of a very beautiful place. Here there was a man garbed in white, wrote Blessed Marie of the Incarnation,  surveying the harsh lands and savage souls all around her in 17th Century North America. She had a mystic vision, grand enough to overcome this wild darkness —  which, she wrote, aroused as much compassion as fear…

She had vision of Christ.

I said to him: You understand, Oh Love, You understand.

Then, words failed me completely and I remained in this silence. 

Let us, God, remain in silence, not noise. And let us save souls.

I think I will rise in the silence of the dead of night to see what or who is digging those holes in my back yard. Little Green Men, I must confess, I don’t believe in.

So it must be possums. Or maybe raccoons. Or maybe The Dragon. I believe in The Dragon who prowls about the world, seeking souls to devour.

Back at The Last Mile, Sticky and Jackie have left their bar stool. Protect them and all of us from the Dragon, O Lord. They shall be walking these dark streets where I am walking just ahead of them.

I won’t pay attention to politics tomorrow, just as, two years ago, I didn’t pay attention to the Impeachment Hearings.  Here in November, the Trump despisers are consumed by another date, January 6th. So be it. On and on it goes.

I don’t know what I’ll be doing tomorrow, actually. Maybe I’ll see if a neurologist can tell me why I can’t shake this — shake, meaning what is defined as “an essential tremor.”  And I’ve been a little dizzy lately. But then, who isn’t dizzy these days?


In my life’s story, from newspaper reporter, then television reporter, to full-time writer — is there something to be learned in that journey —  through fading light — from the scientific process of fermentation?

Fermentation is defined by Mirriam-Webster as an enzymatically controlled transformation of an organic compound.

I love the idea of transformation. But all I knew about fermentation, prior to getting an assignment to write about it,  was that you can’t have a good beer or wine without it.

So — fermenting in the fading light. When I refer to “fading light” I have in mind a coming birthday and the relentless march of time. Aging, like fermentation — occurring sometimes in darkness, sometimes in light — is an equally relentless natural process. I  “brewed up”  that particular metaphor because in recent years, I’d been assigned writing projects dealing with fermentation and related technical subjects for M.I.T.. I made some money, too; enough to stay afloat in retirement, along with the help of some income from radio work.

It was fun and enlightening being a non-scientific person learning about obscure but important areas of modern technology.  For instance: have you ever heard of  tribology? It’s the study of wear-and-tear affecting, among many other things, engine parts and contact lenses. Tribology, fermentation technology, design thinking, machine learning — I was having a field day reading and writing about such things, mostly for in-house MIT organs, and on at least one occasion for an outside technical journal.

Then, on account of human and economic processes, this free-lance employment evaporated. I’d been working as an independent contractor, i.e., writer,  for a former television producer/colleague who’d begun her own public relations company. MIT was a client. She was good enough to throw paying assignments my way. But her client-related priorities had, of necessity, shifted away from writing jobs toward the non-verbal side of PR campaigns. I was disappointed, but grateful for the work while it had lasted — and for the fascinating subject matter. But I was also suddenly without a fortuitous and accidental source of income.

And I was back thinking about myself as just a writer —  a “creative” writer. I’d been blessed to win awards for my broadcast writing during a four-decade career. Those were fact-based, incident-based “news” stories. Now, I’m trying to write “story” stories. “Once-upon-a-time” stories. Some of them, through a process of creative fermentation, have been good enough, in my mind, to submit to outside literary journals. They were rejected — but that’s all part of the creative process. It’s one of those labors of love — but a labor no less. I don’t always love it. No writer does. Quotes abound among writers about the challenges of the daily grind of filling the blank page. But, as mom said, use what talents  you possess….”

Only rarely is there any money to be made in most writing work, much less creative writing. Not that we shouldn’t try.  The late Pulitzer-winning, TIME magazine theater critic William A. Henry III claimed to believe that only a fool writes for anything but money.  He and I were colleagues at the Boston Globe when he was the Yale-educated, 20-year-old newsroom wunderkind and I was a glorified copy boy.  He wrote pure, confident, grammatically flawless simple as well as compound sentence. But his light faded suddenly when he died of a heart attack in a London hotel at the age of 44.

For writers, time is of the essence. We cannot always wait for the fermentation process to begin before we put pen to paper or finger to keyboard.

Stephen King, to cite one famous example, makes lots of money. But I truly don’t think money was ever his motive in setting out on a writing career. He is to be admired for his seemingly obsessive and prolific pursuit of multiple story lines. Sure, he makes money as his books sell and get made into movies and TV series. But I believe he is simply driven to tell stories, and is lucky enough to love writing  in the wildly popular genre of horror. And, though I’ve read little of his work, I get the sense that he never lets the perfect be the enemy of the good. He’s prolific because he’s not in search of the mot juste. He just lets his imagination fly onto the page. (Extending the fermentation metaphor, I sense that he sells many narrative bottles of wine and lager before their time — and millions eagerly drink them down, just fine with the taste.)

Summing up, I would like to remain a television or documentary performer in some fashion while I still have a voice, on-camera skills and an abiding love of the world of the media and the people who labor in it. Perhaps I could make a little money that way. I need the money. But I’m primarily a writer. I don’t write RETIRED on my tax forms. I write — WRITER.

So, wish me luck.

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s an excerpt — a quick sample — of something that appeared in an MIT news release a few years back encouraging people to enroll in a course on Fermentation Technology. It was being offered in the Institute’s Professional Education division, an extensive and popular post-graduate curriculum of on-line or on-campus courses for technology professionals seeking to get up to date on new developments in their industry. Did I write it? I think I wrote some or most of it, or fashioned it out of existing course catalogue material, sometimes admittedly lifting whole phrases. This was safer than adjusting words and risk changing the precise technological meaning some tech-savvy catgalogue writer had crafted before me.

It reads:


“If you’re going to borrow ideas from nature, the first step is to understand how nature works.”

That laboratory rule-of-thumb has guided MIT Chemical Engineering Professor Dr.Kristala Jones Prather in her groundbreaking work on bacteria.           Dr. Jones Prather will be one of your instructors if you sign up for the MIT Professional Education short program, Fermentation Technology

Dr Prather Jones will be a principle lecturer in the course being offered July 29-August 2 on the MIT campus.




What are the clinical implications of bioprocesses?

          What is the biological basis for industrial fermentations and cell cultures?

          What are the economics of bioprocess simulation?

  • You’ll examine bioractor operations in bacterial and mammalian cell systems.

         The aim of the course is to review fundamentals and provide an up-to-date account of current knowledge in biological and biochemical technology. The lectures will emphasize the place and perspectives on biological systems with industrial practices.

More than half of the lectures are currently working in industry or have industrial experience.


The course is intended for engineers, biologists, chemists, microbiologists and biochemists who are interested in the areas of biological systems in prokaryotic and eukaryotic hosts. If you are generally familiar with general aspects of modern biology, genetics, biochemical engineering and biochemistry and have a general knowledge of mathematics, this might be the course for you.


Professionals who’ve previously taken this long-running course say it’s given them real-world tools for dealing with day-to-day challenges in their workplaces:

          “Í’s a great overview of fermentation theories incorporating all aspects from research down to manufacturing functions.”

–Associate Scientists, Glaxosmithkline Biological, North America

“The instructors provided a broad range of experience both in industry and academia. They went beyond the curriculum and provided real-world examples.”

–Sales Operations Manager, Finesse Solutions

          “This course allows me to ask better questions when I develop automation control solutions for my manufacturing science counterparts.”

          —Automation Engineer, Genentech