William Goldman was an optimist

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite screenwriters. William Goldman, who wrote such brilliant scripts as “The Princess Bride”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, and “All the President’s Men”, among others, once summed up his opinion about the state of affairs in the film business by saying:

Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess—and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

He was talking about Hollywood’s ability (or inability) to predict which movies would be hits and which bombs. His wisdom has proven accurate over the years.* Supposedly sure things with well known commodities as subject matter and bankable stars have soiled the proverbial bed. (Think “Jungle Cruise”, for just one instance.) There are several every year, just as there are several surprise hits. All this in spite of the focus groups, market research, and billions spent on advertising.

Let me suggest that Mr. Goldman, as much as I respect him and his acerbic opinions, was an optimist by limiting his comments to the film industry. Here are a few more fields where his insight applies just as well:

  • Medicine
  • Sports
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Publishing
  • Weather forecasting
  • Religion
  • The list goes on and on…

Go ahead. Check “predictions” about what college quarterback will be a star. (Tom Brady? No way! That’s why he was drafted in the sixth round.) Ask ten economists how to solve some financial crisis and you’ll get a dozen plans. You can’t even get doctors to agree on whether a patient has multiple sclerosis, never mind how it will progress. (They don’t even know what it is.)

Even a field such as technology where there a lot of smart people (although I spent my professional career in high-tech, I wasn’t one of them) has had its share of gaffes. Check out this curiously entertaining list. The folks making those predictions were no slouches but they still got it wrong.

This is why as a child of the 60’s (okay, Boomer) I still abide by the motto, “Question Authority”. Especially in medicine. Especially in neurology. Especially in multiple sclerosis.

Your mileage may vary.

But probably not.


*With the possible exception of the pre-Disney Pixar, which produced hit after hit after hit… etc.

[Goldman photo by Bernard Gotfryd, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

Ultimate Christmas time-saver!

Like many of you out there, I’m addicted to Hallmark-style Christmas romance movies. They’re awfully acted, wretchedly written, dreadfully directed Christmas-cookie-cutter calamities. Yet, for reasons I can’t identify, I watch them anyway. (Admit it, you watch them, too.) I already wrote about my addiction in a post from a few years ago.

Other than “A Christmas Kiss”, the “Citizen Kane” of Christmas romance movies (from a non-Hallmark source, more recently and inexplicably renamed “A Kiss for Christmas”) they are a complete and total waste of time during a season when time is at a premium. We’re fortunate they’re all almost exactly only 90 minutes long or some people might never leave the house for the whole month of December.

This year, however, I’ve come up with the perfect time saver for addicts like me. As a public service, I’m passing along my findings to you, no charge. (I know, that kind of selfless anti-capitalist behavior isn’t in the modern Christmas spirit.) First, I found the following video at my local library: a collection of nine of these dogs on three DVDs in a single package.

Now here’s the tricky part. Hook up your DVD player(s) so they can read and play all nine movies at the same time! (How? You’ll have to work it out. Hey, I gave you the idea; I can’t do everything for you!) Once that’s all set, sit down and watch all nine movies in parallel. You just watched 810 minutes of miserable movies in 90 minutes, a time savings of 12 hours!

When I did this, other than a few scenes where characters seemed to have multiple shadows and the colors were a little funky, you can’t tell you’re watching multiple movies. That’s because, in reality, you aren’t! They really are all the same movie!*

There. My Christmas gift to you. You’re welcome.


*Seriously, two of the movies had the same actor as the male protagonist with the same irritating personality in the same job: a workaholic advertising executive. I’ll admit to giving up after that revelation. That’s another approach to the problem: go cold (Christmas) turkey.

Thanx Redux

Back in my old Limping in the Light days, I had a series of posts named “Thanx#<insert installment number here>”. The series lasted 5 years. The first entry, Thanx#1, explained the motivation and meaning behind the series. The final entry was posted 7 years ago this Friday. Like this one, that was the day before Thanksgiving, appropriately enough.

Each post consisted of a list of people, events, objects, and concepts for which I was grateful at the time. For those that remain extant, I’m probably still grateful. For those that have passed the way of all flesh, I’m grateful for the memories. In the first few posts, I listed at least 10 things I was thankful for. After that, I had 20 or more items in my lists. Estimating, that makes for well over 300 objects of gratitude. (I confess there were repeats in there. My wife, children, and grandchildren deserved and received multiple mentions.)

I’d barely scratched the surface.

I won’t necessarily repeat the series, but there is always room for gratitude, especially in this season. Science is finally catching on to what the Bible has been telling us for eons, gratitude is a path to peace and joy and away from anxiety and depression. For those of us with MS, it can be a more difficult exercise, but it is also more important. It’s therapy.

Here’s a new list for this year, in no particular order… except the first two:

  1. Jesus. (A given.)
  2. My wife, children, and grandchildren. (You had to know that was coming.)
  3. 30,000 miles of cycling.
  4. My bikes.
  5. Two new books this year, this and this.
  6. Five repaired doors.
  7. King’s Cribbage.
  8. The Vineyard Square Wheelers.
  9. Biking NYC.
  10. Bark Thins.
  11. Healing and successful surgeries.
  12. MSSG, or whatever we’re calling ourselves these days.
  13. Cafe 12 and the Java Room.
  14. The late Paul Farmer and his legacy at PIH.
  15. Reunions.
  16. Baby laughter.
  17. The lives and work of Frederick Buechner and Fran McKendree; I miss them so.
  18. Freshly baked bread.
  19. Generous friends and family.
  20. Eggroll Cafe.
  21. Martha’s Vineyard.
  22. “Who Is MS?”
  23. Acadia National Park.
  24. Crossing guards.
  25. You… for reading.

Look, I could go on and on (…and on (…and on and…)) but you get the idea. This Thanksgiving, for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, I suggest you make a list for yourself. If you can’t quickly come up with at least 20, you’re not trying hard enough!

Scenes from a novel…

The following photos capture locales in Boston that serve as settings for my newest novel, “Only Love Can Break Your Leg”.

If you’ve read it, I hope you enjoy the background. If you haven’t, maybe this will pique your interest. Enjoy.

Autumn on the Bike Path*

[This post was originally published on my other blog, Limping in the Light, ten years ago. It’s every bit as relevant today as it was then. Timeless writing is the best writing.]

Fall is a two-edged sword.  Yes, there is the the spectacular foliage.  Yes, the dreaded three H’s – hazy, hot, and humid – succumb to the three C’s – clear, cool, and crisp. But it also means the end of vacations, beach days, and a carefree attitude that summer always seems to beget.  If spring is the season of new life, then autumn, like George Harrison, reminds us that all things must pass.

The local bike path captures all the highs and lows of the autumnal equinox.  For example, there is no better place to appreciate the colorful pageantry of deciduous trees. They’re right there, at hand.  No need to fight the tolls or endless line of leaf-seeking SUV’s crawling up route 3.

On the other hand, the very same leaves that are a joy to behold can be a nightmare to navigate.  With the path’s edges obscured by decaying flora, if I’m not attentive to the track of my tires, there’s a fair chance that I could end up in a ditch.  Stopping and turning on wet leaves is a hazard every bit as well known to four-wheeled vehicles as it is to the two-wheeled variety.  The leaves also cover the mile markers painted on the path.

The air is indeed less humid and more crisp; the memory of the humidity that is the bane of some folks is as hazy as a sultry summer sky.  But that also translates to cold on my unprotected ears and nose… and fingers and toes.  A moving bike brings its own “wind chill factor” along for the ride.  I confess that I don’t like the cold.

Whereas in summer the path was carpeted with sunlight, the lower angle of the sun casts visually arresting zebra stripes of light across the path.  Luminous to be sure, but dangerous in that it camouflages obstacles in the path.  Speaking of which…

There are plenty of obstacles in the fall, some inducing falls.  For some reason, with the leaves come small branches whose radius seems to be magnified when I feel the thump on my posterior.

The most interesting bit of natural detritus is the lowly acorn.  Out of tiny acorns come mighty oaks, yes, but hit at the right tire angle, a tiny acorn becomes a mighty projectile.  They don’t endanger the rider, but woe to the one who stands nearby as one of these bullets shoots sideways from my bike.  I’m sure I’ve taken out one or two squirrels or other wildlife in my travels.

Those selfsame animals can prove another nuisance.  While they’re out gathering their winter store, I’m riding along simply trying to stay erect in this virtual minefield.  Watching out for them is more than I can deal with while self-preservation is foremost in my mind.

Reflecting on it all, there are a lot of similarities between spring and fall: increased animal activity, more debris to deal with, cooler temperatures.  But where spring means a new biking season is imminent, autumn augurs its end.  Soon, the path will be better suited for cross-country skiing, an activity for which I am ill-suited.

See you in the spring!**


*I was going to call this post “Fall on the bike path” but that would invite a catastrophe that I’m not interested in tempting… or repeating.

** Truth be told, my cycling season has no limits. I’ll see you on the bike path(s) all winter, too.

A BlogSnax© post about a snack

BlogSnax© are quickie posts I write occasionally to keep the momentum on this site. Read all about them here. This one happens to be about a snack, one of my favorites.*

I love potato chips. I eat way too many of them, be they plain, barbecue, sour cream & onion, or salt & pepper. (Note: Pringles don’t count. They are not potato chips. They’re overpackaged compressed industrial waste.) Barbecue chips are my flavored chip of choice. Among those, the primo brand, IMHO, is Route 11.

However, there’s nothing like a plain and simple potato chip, unflavored and unadulterated. After all, they already have a flavor: potato chip flavor! In that category, one brand rises above the rest so supremely that it stands in a class by itself.

Utz Kettle Classics Potato Chips Dark Russets

As we say here in New England, they’re wicked good. And look at the ingredient list:

It doesn’t get any simpler than that: Potatoes, oil, and salt. What else do you need? Nothing! And the flavor is incomparable. If I could only eat one kind of chip for the rest of my life, this would be my chip of choice, hands down.

*I should be more discreet in naming my favorite foods. Whenever I do that, they seem to disappear. See this post for ice cream examples. I’ll take my chances. I think Dark Chips, as we call them in my house, have staying power. At least, I hope so.

A Playlist for “Only Love Can Break Your Leg”

Some readers of my new book, “Only Love Can Break Your Leg“, might have noticed that there is a theme for the chapter titles. Most* are based on titles of songs by renowned Boston area recording artists. Here I humbly present you a playlist drawn from those titles to inspire your reading of the book. (I beg your indulgence for shamelessly citing my personal connections to some of these.)

  • When Things Go Wrong – Robin Lane and the Chartbusters (Ms. Lane is a local legend. I once had the privilege of meeting her and checking her daughter into the children’s Sunday School class I was leading at the time.)
  • Same Old Song and Dance – Aerosmith, Boston’s original bad boys, from their second LP
  • Love Stinks – J. Geils Band (Mr. Geils himself briefly attended my almost mater, WPI.)
  • Freeze Frame – J. Geils Band
  • City Lights – Livingston Taylor (This is a little known gem by an underappreciated Taylor; his brother James sings harmony on the song.)
  • Just What I Needed – The Cars (They hit it big while I worked for WEA, the parent company for their label, Elektra. I worked with the wife of one of the band members, who attended my wedding. I actually got a ride home in the couple’s car, which was THE car from the album.)
  • My Best Friend’s Girl – The Cars
  • Dream On – Aerosmith’s breakout hit from their eponymous first album
  • Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers (This song, like the band, was decades ahead of its time. Members of the band went on to play for The Cars and The Talking Heads. I used the band name, not the song, in a chapter title.)
  • Dirty Water – The Standells (This is a classic one hit wonder… but what a hit!)
  • Musta Got Lost – J. Geils Band
  • I’m Shipping Up to Boston – Dropkick Murphys, featured in the Academy Awards’ Best Picture and Boston-filmed “The Departed”
  • Rocky Mountain High† – John Denver
  • More than a Feeling – Boston (The ultimate air guitar anthem. While I was working for another record label, the now defunct ABC/Dunhill, one of the salesmen brought in Boston’s demo tape. We rocked to it for weeks. Unfortunately, the label didn’t sign them. The album—eventually released on Columbia—went on to become the biggest selling debut LP ever.)
  • Let the Good Times Roll – The Cars
  • Happy Together – The Turtles (This song wasn’t drawn from a chapter name. The book contains a scene at an “oldies” concert, i.e. a concert for people like me. In my first rendition of the story, that was the artist playing. The story’s original name was a paraphrase plucked from the song: “Me for You”. I still like the ambiguity of that name but it was too close to the name of a book and movie released around the same time.)
  • “Big Night” soundtrack – To enhance your appreciation for the North End setting of some of the book, the sumptuous soundtrack to this magnificent movie—the greatest foodie movie ever—is highly recommended.

And, of course, I’d be remiss if I neglected the twin songs that inspired the current book title:

Rock on! And read on!


* It wasn’t practical to name all the chapters after local songs. It would have required either extensive research involving even less well known songs or changing the content of the chapters. Neither prospect appealed to me.

† Okay, so it has no connection to Boston. But I did I use it in a chapter title. Besides, I like the song. 🙂

New book: “Only Love Can Break Your Leg”

(Apologies to Gene Pitney and Neil Young.)

My new book has just been released on Amazon. You can find the paperback here and the Kindle version here.

This novel is a straightforward romantic comedy. Don’t expect any messages, life lessons, or philosophy. Instead, I hope you find romance along with a few laughs… all accompanied by a series of minor mishaps by our protagonist. This was intended to be light summer reading but it was delayed. However, summer is not over as I write this so there’s still time to sit on a beach (maybe in a sweater 🙂 ) and get lost in someone else’s romantic misadventures.

Who couldn’t use that these days?

In Memoriam: Frederick Buechner

(JUL. 11, 1926 – AUG. 15, 2022)

This world has lost a giant. A giant of writing, a giant of speaking, a giant of faith. Frederick Buechner was a teacher and a preacher, a memoirist and a novelist, a wit and an intellectual, a man of God and what Mark Heard might have called a “profane saint”. There isn’t enough room here to list all his honors, never mind his prolific written output. (You can read his Wikipedia page for that.) It’s enough for me to say that his writing changed my life. I’ve never read anyone who was more honest, more challenging, more comforting, and more eloquent while doing all that.

Pulitzer prize winner Annie Dillard called him “one of our finest writers.” She’s absolutely right, but that’s just part of the story. His authenticity about his struggles with life and faith and God set him apart from other writers, thinkers, and theologians. He was a modern-day Jacob, wrestling with God but sharing the experience with anyone who was wise enough to listen.

The great thing about the written word is that it survives long after the scribe is gone. Mr. Buechner’s words were no “scribbling in the sand.” They will be set in stone and read by many for as long as time endures because we will always need them. I commend those words to everyone’s attention.

I trust that upon his passing, he heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

AI Addendum

Little did I know when I posted last week’s column on the dangers of AI running our lives that I’d experience the most egregious example of genuine AI stupidity this week.

I was visiting a friend where there was an active Alexa unit nearby. We told it to play a couple of songs we wanted to hear, which is about all an Alexa unit is good for IMHO, although that feature isn’t worth the pitfalls it presents in terms of loss of privacy and security, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

When it was time to leave, I thought I’d let Alexa bid adieu for me. I said, “Alexa. Play ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’ by Groucho Marx”. Well, Alexa is a young thing and might not be familiar with the brilliant Marx Brothers, nor with “Animal Crackers”, the film whence the song came. She said in no uncertain terms that she didn’t have access to that fun little ditty. Fortunately, she had a another number she was sure we’d find a perfectly suitable replacement.

What did she play for us? Johnny Cash’s rendition of the old hymn, “Were You There?”:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

I’m failing to make the connection, either between the hymn about the crucifixion of Christ and the song I requested (unless a blasphemous reference was intentional) or between the estimable man in black and the outrageous man in the greasepaint mustache, but that’s Alexa for you.

Sleep well knowing she’s listening and AI is in control.