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?

Like “Don’t Look Up”? You’ll love this!

In light of the nomination of the film “Don’t Look Up” for Best Picture at a certain awards ceremony that must remain nameless or I’ll have to put ®’s and ©’s all over the place, it’s time to point out that the production company I’m affiliated with filmed a very similar epic (the screenplay for which I humbly admit authorship of) ten years ago.

The film, entitled “Worst Case Scenario” predates some of the issues that gave rise to the newer film, concepts such as climate change denial and an insane cult trying to overthrow the American government, but it deals with other foolishness, just as topical now as it was then. Let’s see if “Don’t Look Up” remains as relevant in ten years as ours is today.

Want to see how the two films compare? Watch “Worst Case Scenario” here.

Announcing: The Next Innovation in Blogging!

Let’s face it. The only consistent characteristic of this blog is its inconsistency. The last post was over two months ago. I estimate the average time between posts for the past few years has been over a month. There are two primary reasons for this lag:

  1. When I write a post, no matter how trivial or how brief, I tend to overthink and overwrite. That takes time, time I can’t always spare. As a result, I don’t even try to start a post until I have a solid topic and adequate time to devote to it. I hate to shortchange my deepest reflections… or (more often) goofy scribblings.
  2. I’m kinda busy. In addition to life, which takes up a lot of my time, including weekends, I’m trying to finish my documentary (details to come) and publish my next book before April. Chances of achieving both goals are slim. Still, I need to give it my best shot, which means there’s precious little time to give this blog the attention it deserves.

To solve this dilemma, today I’m announcing a new concept in blogs:

Blog Snax©

These are short blog posts suitable for a quick bite (and a quick write) so that I can be more consistent while not putting in more effort than I can spare. The concept comes from the world of exercise, a field near and dear to my central nervous system. For people who need to exercise but lack the time and/or energy, “exercise snacks” are recommended. (q.v.) For writers who want to devote most of their time to their highest priority projects while not completely ignoring their blogs (e.g. me) Blog Snax© are the way to go.

This post was supposed to be an example but I’ve already spent almost an hour on it. 😦

Maybe next time. Stay tuned…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Science (which we all know is Real) has in recent years discovered what Judeo-Christian adherents have known for millennia: Gratitude is good for us. In that vein, I wish you a Grateful Thanksgiving and share with you this cartoon, which will hopefully give you a smile to start your celebration.

(As you can see, this is a Golden Oldie, but still timely. Profound thanks to my multi-talented friend Scott for his wonderful illustration here and accompanying other works of mine.)

An Amazing Post!

Tears for Fears once sang “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. A great song and an audacious claim. I believe there’s some truth in it, though. Few would admit it but I believe there’s a little part of everyone that wants to control everything. Maybe it’s the frustration of knowing we actually have very little control over anything in our lives. Controlling something would be a step in the right direction. Or so we think.

I’ll confess that more than a little part of me wants to control more than just a little part of the world. I’ll start right now with my first decree:

The word “amazing” is banished from use forthwith!

Yes, “amazing” is the latest in a long line of words that have been so misused and overused that they’ve ceased to have any meaning. Thus, it must be removed from the lexicon. It has joined the rogues’ gallery of words and phrases that are mutilating our discourse. Others, such as “awesome”, “like”, “literally”, “actually”, “just”, “really”, as well as beginning sentences with “so” for no apparent reason, will be dealt with over time. They must all go and they will when I’m in control.* (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m guilty of leaning heavily on all those verbal crutches.)

Back to “amazing”…

Listen. You hear it everywhere. This movie is amazing. That restaurant is amazing. Some team, book, or blog (!!) is amazing.

Worst of all is when someone calls you amazing. After all, what is being said about you? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Assuming (and this is a huge stretch) the speaker is truly amazed, it says one of two things. Either they have a low level of amazement (I vote for that one) or something about you is truly amazing, for better or worse. And that’s the key point. There is no value judgment in the word. It’s not saying anything positive about you. Kind of like the doctor in the Seinfeld episode who calls both Elaine and an ugly baby “breathtaking”.

The subprime mortgage debacle was amazing.

“New Coke” was amazing.

Hitler was amazing.

Donald Trump is amazing in his own way. (And it’s not a good way.)

So, I literally think we should just… Ignore that. Let’s dispense with the word altogether.

While we’re at it, how about the current addiction to swearing? When I was in high school, there was a poster on the wall in the guidance counselor’s office. It read, “Profanity is the attempt of a weak mind to express itself forcefully.” That’s the only thing I remember from any guidance counselor, but it’s a maxim worth thinking about. Because they’re so ubiquitous, those words have little or no shock value remaining. There was a time when dropping just one of them in a routine guaranteed a favorable reception for a comedian. (Just ask Albert Brooks about his experience in San Antonio.) Not anymore. They fall with the frequency of snowflakes in a blizzard and with the same effect. One alone simply dissolves into nothingness. Pile on enough and conversation comes to a standstill, buried in inanity.

Rather than be heavy-handed about this whole thing, I propose making it into a game. Everyone in the US will be issued a buzzer from the game Taboo. Just like in that game, anyone will be allowed to buzz anyone else who utters one of those verbal pariahs. Speakers will stammer and struggle to avoid the rejected phrases as they do in the game, beginning every sentence saying, “Um, this is a thing that you might, um, literally…” BZZZZZZ!! How much fun will that be?

No more meaningless words, lots of buzzing. Win, win!

Vote for me.


* The alert reader will note that my list doesn’t include the verbal tics we hear and use constantly: I mean, kind of/sort of, really, y’know, um, uh. Stamping those out would cripple most people conversationally, including me. There’s no need to do that.

Yet.

The other pandemic

We’re all about coronavirus for the past year and a half. Something most of us had never heard of or considered before 2020 is now the fulcrum on which everything in our lives turns. Our conversations invariably revolve around the pandemic, the Delta variant, masks, and vaccines. Yet, there is another pandemic sweeping through our land whose effects are equally tragic. I’m talking about…

The Obliviousness Pandemic!

Yes, obliviousness has taken our country, and possibly the entire world, by storm, leaving death, destruction, ignorance, and oppression in its wake. I see the symptoms of this deadly condition everywhere I look.

  • The person who hears “Black lives matter” and scornfully replies “All lives matter!”
  • The one who doesn’t believe in vaccines even though vaccines have effectively wiped out (or at least ameliorated the effects of) some of the most deadly and contagious conditions the world has ever known: smallpox, polio, measles, chickenpox, influenza, tetanus, hepatitis A & B, and many, many more. And yet they suddenly fear the Covid vaccine. Can you spell o-b-l-i-v-i-o-u-s?
  • If you’ve disabled the muffler on your car, motorcycle, SUV, or pickup truck thinking it would make you (1) cooler, (2) safer, and/or (3) more of a man (sexist, yes, but what woman would be foolish enough to do such a thing?), seek professional help right away. You’re a victim of the oblivious epidemic. And everyone else within earshot (i.e. a mile or so) of wherever you drive is a victim of your obliviousness.*
  • Anyone who thinks Donald Trump gives a flying fig about anything but himself and wouldn’t slit their throat if he thought it would add to his bank account and he could get away with it. Or that he’s a conservative.
  • If you never considered the possibility of a pandemic hitting us, as so many have throughout history, you’ve been struck with this condition.
  • Smokers.
  • The billionaire who thanks the people he has exploited for financing his insane space boondoggle. Oh, and the people he exploited who don’t recognize it.
  • Anyone with a “Coexist” bumper sticker who runs red lights and cuts off people in traffic.
  • Me, much of the time.
  • Then there are the obvious, longstanding examples, such as the person hauling a month’s worth of groceries through the 10-items-or-less line, the clown going below (or even at) the speed limit in the left lane of the highway, and the Jeopardy contestants who always start at the top left of the board instead of intentionally trying to find the “Daily Double” by choosing higher value clues early in the game.

There are millions of examples, at least as many as there are people. I’ve expounded on this general topic before but realized I could create a whole new post by repackaging it. 🙂

Where have you seen obliviousness? Or are you oblivious to it?


*One of the most heinous aspects of this epidemic is that it doesn’t cause the victims any ill effects. It only harms others! Imagine if contracting Covid didn’t hurt you at all? What if only other people, some of whom you might never come in contact with, who might even live half way around the world, had to go on ventilators? (Right now, the oblivious among us are thinking, “That would be great!” sigh)

FAQs

(Any web site worth its salt has an FAQs page. Mine has never done so. That could be an inhibitor to its growth from a platform for a curmudgeon trying to unload his lame scribbling to a viral social media giant.

Or not.)

  • Why do you bother with this blog after seven years of almost complete reader indifference?

A fair question, one I’ve wrestled with many times. The most obvious is ego. Having a blog allows me to pretend I have something of import to say, when it’s highly doubtful I do. That’s a self-defeating concept since, as you so clearly and painfully point out, no one appears to be reading it. Ouch! (Thank you for not noting my other blog, “Limping in the Light”, which experienced a similar lack of impact for 10 years. Oh my.)

Another, more reasonable excuse is the desire to sell books. I have seven out there as of this typing (2021) with one more in the works. There’s an infinitesimal but non-zero chance that Oprah will happen on this site and discover that my novel about Haiti, “A Slippery Land”, is perfect for her book club… which it is.

Finally, I just like writing. It’s enjoyable and it’s therapeutic.

  • Have you read the new Andy Weir book, “Project Hail Mary”?

Yes, and it’s great. Similar to “The Martian” in both style and entertainment value. Highly recommended.

  • Can I borrow ten bucks?

No.

  • What’s the deal with that guy in the commercial who points at all your junk and it just goes away?

Nothing is more annoying to me. Our stuff doesn’t just “go away”. There is no “away”. Living under that delusion has brought this world to the predicament it’s in today.

  • How many Frenchmen can’t be wrong?

Last I checked, it was 1,000,000. That might have changed.

  • Is it true that Dick van Dyke was originally cast as the lead in the old movie, “The Omen”?

That’s what I heard. It would be a very different movie with him instead of Gregory Peck, don’t you think? It might have been a musical.

  • Why do people say “dial the phone” when there hasn’t been a dial on a phone in decades?

The same reason my father used to tell us to turn off the gas on the electric stove.

  • How about five bucks?

Okay.

  • Why do motorcycles make so much noise their riders can’t hear themselves think?

They aren’t missing anything.

  • Then they turn up their music above the sound of the bike?

Go figure.

  • Is my call important to you?

Yes, and it will be recorded for customer satisfaction purposes.

  • Where can I get your awesome books?

On Amazon or from me directly.

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have no intention of growing up.

  • What’s the meaning of life?

The Westminster Catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That works for me.

  • Who are your favorite actors?

For some reason, my favorite actors tend to be more commonly in supporting roles as opposed to carrying a movie. Among those that come to mind at the moment are Stanley Tucci, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Zahn, Michael Pena, and a bunch more I can’t think of right now. I appreciate people like these folks who (1) are humble enough to take smaller roles, (2) flexible enough to play anything from drama to OTT humor, and (3) make every movie they’re in better.

  • Have you heard the one about the…

Yes.

  • What does “clockwise” mean?

You were born after 2000, weren’t you?

  • $7.50?

Give it a rest!


(Let me know if you have any more questions you need answered.)