Spring’s Coming


Driving home from work, the face of my son popped into my head and I cried for the years gone by. There was a song on, Sloop John B, and I cried for him and me and the passing of time.

Later, waiting for soccer practice to end, I sat in a Starbucks and watched a few teens, one with green hair, drink their drinks and caper in an artsy way. They languished on couches, taking up too much space, limbs all stacked and crossing, like fallen trees in a forest. They didn’t laugh (uncool), but they talked earnestly and glanced around. They glanced at me but didn’t see me. A boy said something about the snow and moving to a tropical island.   The girl with the green hair said, “Brett, you would die on a tropical island. You love this shit.” And they all laughed without smiling, nodding and glancing around, peering really, to make sure no one was listening. I looked away just in time.

I moved the kids’ bed last weekend and found all these toys we hadn’t seen for years. A monkey named Boots, a glow-in-the-dark ball, a foam sword covered in dust. The kids unearthed these lost items like archeologists, dusting them off, and discussing their uses like they were the implements of a vanished civilization, which they kind of are.

This is the thing. Sadness is upon me a lot these days. Even when I laugh, there is a hole, just above my gut, that doesn’t get filled.  Spring is coming.


Broken-in Boyfriend Jean in Abbot Wash, $168.00

Dear Dave is a series in which I address poor reviews of pricey consumer goods in the advice column tradition of Dear Abby or Dear Sugar.  Aren’t most online reviews a cry for help, anyway?


Dear Dave,

Great style, but a bit too ‘destroyed’

I have purchased two pairs of these jeans because I love them so much. With the first pair, I noticed that after just a few uses and a couple (gentle cycle) washes, the deliberate and stylish “holes” and tears in the jean were becoming bigger and weakening. After just a few months, the shredded fibers/material across each tear was getting thinner and thinner, and they quickly broke apart completely leaving huge gaping holes that were originally supposed to be stylish shreds – not gigantic holes. I thought perhaps I did something wrong and shouldn’t have washed the jeans much, so I’ve now tried with a second pair. I truly hope this pair lasts longer than 3 months and about 8 wears.

Torn-Up, Wellesley, MA

Dear Torn-Up,

So you like guys who are a little rough around the edges? A little frayed, stylishly beaten up by the world? You think you can freeze that downward spiral at a certain point when his descent compliments your style? I can assure you that people do not get that “broken-in” while thinking of attracting someone like you. They are usually torn and shredded by a crappy childhood which guaranteed they would make poor choices which would necessitate more bad decisions to weave the fabric of self-destruction. That thinning denim is sure to smother you. My concern is for you, Torn-up, and why you keep seeking out someone with exciting stylish shreds (mischief, party drugs, likes to fight) which are certain to turn to gigantic holes (stealing cars, heroin, jail). Are you hoping you could fix him? Are you some kind of angel seamstress? I doubt that. Also, why do you want to wear them like pants? Do you try to keep them close with what’s below your waist? That will only go so far before the whole skintight arrangement gets worn out. Plus, eight times in three months? I think you may overestimate your wiles. My suggestion: sensible jeans worn for a long time, gently fading and softening, fraying naturally. And it wouldn’t hurt to “wear” them a little more often. Say, a couple times a week. Maybe every day. Ok, every other day.




Thank You, Putin


Two recurring dream segments I had growing up, one just returned last week.  Both are culminations of zany and menacing pursuit dreams, with me fleeing through forest, farm, and city.  The reasons never mattered as much as the absurd settings and hazy foes. Some of these from my life, some from history, some from the news, some from fantasy.  The chase always ended at one of two places, never both.

The first place, from my earliest dreams, has me hurrying along the edge of a newly plowed field. There is a man with a hoe and a brimmed hat working in the field, silhouetted black against a blue sky. I am in the trees, watching him, and I know what’s about to happen.  The man is working the hoe, ignoring me, until the moment he rises up and the hoe is a rifle.  He raises the gun, shoots me in the leg, and I stumble off, the chase resuming.  I usually wake soon after.  He always shoots me in the leg and I always know he’s going to do it.

But, this is not the dream segment that came back last week.

That dream segment has me running again. Same fleeting places, real and imagined. Same undefined foes. But, this time I end up on a balcony overlooking Red Square in Moscow.  Naturally, there is an NFL game going on down there where the Red Army used to march for review.  (Will probably march again.)  The Dallas Cowboys are always playing.  Don’t ask me if the quarterback was Tony Romo, Troy Aikman, or Roger Staubach.  The crowd roars and I stand where Stalin stood, where Putin stands, and watch America’s Team play forever.  I had this dream last week for the first time in maybe 30 years.  I am a child of two cataclysms of the 20th century, the Cold War and the Dallas Cowboys.

Thank you, Putin. 

Left Behind, For the Best


Do you know the feeling of some artist being intimately yours?  And then they are everywhere and they are everybody’s and it’s not so special anymore?  Did you ever love a writer or musician, obscure and fresh, who then becomes popular and remote?  I’m thinking of the band, Wilco, right now.  I was onboard from the breakup of Uncle Tupelo in 1996 and I’ve watched and listened to Wilco grow in popularity with pride and dread.  Were the hipsters always there?  Was I blinded by love?  Now our relationship is strained and we are apart.  They have moved on into the world of aficionados and curators.  I occasionally hear Wilco songs at CVS on the pleasant-retail-experience channel, (“Spending Trance”, channel # 266).  The gulf between us is permanent and un-crossable.  I still go to shows but there are no smoke-filled rooms and no pushing to the front anymore.  There are theaters and seats and artsy people at well-organized festivals.  Not my thing.  So I watch and listen from a distance, still in love, but realistic about the future.  Of course I wish them the best, all the success and prosperity I would wish for any old lover.  Meaning I won’t lose any sleep if they fell back to the herd a little.

Here’s a cheesy 90’s video.

Hey! Share a band or writer who has sadly moved on beyond your grasp.  Do it, whydontcha.

Thanksgiving Plans, JJ Style

“It’s pretty late notice,”  JJ’s brother Brian said.

“It’s three weeks from now,” JJ said.

“These things are planned months ahead.  And it’s two weeks from now.”

“You haven’t even been out to see the place.  The girls will love it.”

“I’m sure they will but it’s not easy to change plans like this.”

“You just said you didn’t have any real plans.”

“I have to talk to Jane,” Brian said.  “She wants to serve the meal at the shelter.”

“Plus, Kari and the boys are coming.  I saw them at a soccer game.”

“I thought they were going to the Cape.”

“No Cape.  Betty and Barry are going on a cruise,” JJ said.  “I actually sent them on the cruise.”

“Over Thanksgiving?  How did they agree to that?”

“I said I booked it for myself and a friend but that fell through and they could take it or leave it.”

“Brilliant.  But, wait, were you really going with someone?”

JJ paused.  “No, it was a whim.  But then it seemed perfect for getting Betty and Barry away from us for Thanksgiving.”

“Are you still seeing that girl? Lily? Lori?”

“Lila.  No.  It looked like we might get back together but then a deer got impaled and that seemed a bad sign.”

“Umm…ok.  Well, I’ll talk to Jane but I’m leaning towards coming out.”

“Really? Great.”

“Do you know how to cook a turkey?”

“Turkey?  Don’t you have ham on Thanksgiving?  Or lasagna?  Just like the pilgrims.”

“This oughta be interesting,” Brian said.  “I’ll text you later after I confirm with Jane.”

JJ hung up and looked out the window and down the hill toward the road then up to the hills across the valley.  The leaves were all down and things were revealed, the bones of the earth picked clean and exposed, cold and gray.  William Bradford, a real-life pilgrim, once said of the New England fall, “All things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country full of woods and thickets represented a wild and savage hue.” JJ liked those pious badass Pilgrims and their savage new world.

He dialed the phone and asked Carl, “How do you cook a turkey?”

“It’s gotta be dead first.”

“I’m having Thanksgiving.”

“We’ll come over and help you.”

“Both of you?”

“Yup.  We’ll be there at 8:00 to start cooking,” Carl said.  “That’s 8:00 in the morning.”

“No shit,” said JJ.  “But were you invited?  I don’t recall…”

“No.  But that doesn’t matter.  We’ll go shopping next week.”

“Ok,” JJ said and hung up.  He stood and looked out the window.  He felt like he was on his own pilgrimage, navigating a new world of family and friends who actually wanted to be with him.  But he couldn’t shake the feeling of something lurking in the thickets, some savage, some Wampanoag maybe, ready to strike with spear or arrow.

The other shoe, ready to drop.