The alchemy of tears

They were the best of friends during the best of times and it was the same for the worst times.
Wally, Ginny, Ray and Joanie were so close I always thought of them as “The Inseparables”; and how inseparable they were.

Ray and Joanie were our neighbors across the street from where my sister and I grew up as children; they were a second mother and father we never realized we had until several years ago.
And they really were the best friends my mother and father ever had.
Right up until the very end . . . thick and thin.

But Ray and Joanie are moving next month to the Midwest to be closer to family and my sister and I couldn’t let them leave without saying a very special goodbye.

This story is about their love, their patience, the passage of time and all the little things we as human beings hold so dear.

This story is for Mr. & Mrs. P . . .

Last Sunday night, we had two longtime friends over the house for supper.
It was a happy gathering overall while on another more subconscious level it smacked of something sad, albeit bittersweet because we were ultimately gathered to say our goodbyes.
Ray and Joanie lived across the street from us for what seems like forever and I feel we’ve known them our entire life.

I always considered them to be something of a second mother and father to my sister and me even though they had two daughters of their own who are now married and off raising their own families.

At every significant event in our lives they’ve both been there.
They were also the very best friends to my mother and father refusing to let Alzheimer’s come between them regardless of how difficult their visits to them would someday become.

Believe me; I understand the difficulty and frustration involved in sitting with a person that no longer knows you.
There would come a day when it seemed that no one really cared about my mom and dad and the bewildering fog they were both passing through.

But Ray and Joanie did; day by day, week by week, month by month, year by painful year with their seemingly endless reserve of love and compassion.

Yes, these two were special. And still are.

My sister and I decided we needed to get together and give them something unique and deeply personal not only to remember my mother and father but us as well. After a brilliant suggestion from my wife, I think we had the bases covered.

We ate Chicken Shish-kabob from the grill, Caesar Salad and Rice Pilaf and sat reminiscing on the deck and laughing about the many better days long since past.

With the evening winding down, I gathered everyone on the deck and presented Joanie with a pretty decorated box.
I looked at my sister and could already see the storms brewing in her eyes.
Funny thing was this felt good and so right.

Joanie opened the box and reached in, pulling out something small and wrapped in emerald green tissue paper.

That’s for you, Joanie, I said, from my mother.

Inside the tissue paper were two of my mother’s Hummel’s, a young girl holding a butterfly and another of a little boy smoking a cigar.
Judging from her expression, she knew these two figurines well.
(*as we hoped she would)

She reached back into the box and pulled out something wrapped in royal blue tissue the size of a roll of paper towels.

That’s for Ray
, I said.

Here, Ramie, this is for
you, she said.

Ray tore the royal blue paper off to reveal a German beer stein, something from my father’s collection that I know Ray had seen gracing their hutch for years.
When you lift it to drink, it plays music; kind of cool and totally Ray.

All of us (9) were a bit teary at this point but it seemed so utterly natural.

The tears we cried were the alchemy of many wondrous things: sweetness and sentimentality, happiness and sorrow, loss and regret for the people, places and things of our countless yesterdays past; but most of all they were tears of hope for ourselves, our families and the future of our precious lives and possibly of a world we seldom understood.

Maybe crying was what we were supposed to do at a time like this.
Granted, it was a tender, almost “Walton Family-like” moment but it was sweet nonetheless.
And my God, it was real; real people, real tears.

We said goodbye that night accepting of the fact that for as much as we feel rooted in the mundane routine of our daily lives, we must move on to new journeys and adventures. . . like the one Ray and Joanie are currently undertaking.
I wish them both peace, health, laughter, good times and endless games and conversations with their grandkids.
That’s the very least I can do.




Ed Sullivan + The Association = A really weird kind of magic.
Happy 24th to my sis Maureen and her husband Bill.
Love you guys.
Go another 24, . . .


Vegemite Man

I received a care package the other day compliments of my dear friend Maureen from Australia. What began as a comment or two regarding the mystery and intrigue surrounding the Aussie staple, “Vegemite” turned into a package of many wonderfully Australian things.

It’s quite difficult for one to describe vegemite. Maureen says it looks like axle grease and I have to say she’s right. But the taste, ahh, the taste is unforgettable.
Malt, yeast and salt dominate this black paste and for some odd reason it reminds me of beer.
Then again, many things remind me of beer.

I was forewarned: don’t use very much.
God, I’m glad I read that little nugget of information.
Honestly, I think I could grow to like this stuff. Aside from using it as a spread on crackers or toast what the hell else can you use it for?




I’ll report back on how well the axle grease works out.

I was also sent an authentic boomerang. From the looks of it, if I had to feed my family using this thing as a hunting weapon, they all would have perished weeks ago.
I am, however, quite good at throwing it in such a way that it comes back and hits me.

Maybe I deserve it.

I also now own (and wear) a very cool red baseball cap from a golf course called
The Willows (courtesy of Mark, Moe’s better half.. Thanks, Mark!)
And I love the Australian flag on the back of the cap.

But the most unusual gift I received was a pouch.
This isn’t your average everyday pouch—this one is special.
It’s made out of genuine kangaroo scrotum (is there any other kind?)
Maureen says that downunder they use the entire Joey.
I guess she’s not kidding.
We’ve joked about what to put in it (my nuts?).
Those disappeared the minute I saw the actual lettering on the bag.
(genuine kangaroo scrotum)

I have a little something for Moe and Mark that left today.
I think we will soon have a budding Red Sox fan in Australia . . . I hope.

I’m sure you noticed the {huge} picture at the top of the post of yours truly sporting my new baseball cap.
I spent a beautiful sunny day in Boston with a beautiful woman, had a wonderful lunch at the Rattlesnake on Boylston Street and wandered breathlessly through the Hopper Exhibit at the MFA.
I’m not even going to try and describe all that I saw because I’d fail miserably.
I really would.

I will tell you a few things though; “Nighthawks” is a massive piece of art and much larger than I originally thought it would be.
I stared at it for 15 minutes taking in the detailed brush strokes of one of my favorite artists.
I kept thinking ‘His hand actually did this’ . . . I was gobsmacked being that close to a work of art so creative.
And though I’m no painter, Hopper has an uncanny ability to re-create light on canvas.
I’ve no idea how he came to possess this talent but this picture gave me the chills.
Online it looks fairly blasé but standing in front of it makes one want to kneel.
I’m not kidding.
It was an all around wonderful day and I feel so blessed.
If a Hopper Exhibit comes anywhere near you, please do yourself a favor and go.

Thanks, Moe for the package.
Look for the mailman late next week.

And yes, I want pictures . . . :0)



Hopper at the MFA in Boston

I’m finally going to the Hopper Exhibit at the MFA tomorrow.
Anyone notice my banner?
I thought someone would mention it.
btw, it’s called “NightHogs”, an obvious parody of Hopper’s “Night Hawks”
Lunch in Boston with my wife afterwards.
I gotta tell you I’m an excited little boy.
Look for a future post on the trip.



I brought a journal on vacation and didn’t write a damn thing in it but I did read a few dated entries. They were written in 2001 when ironically, we were on vacation.
I wrote mostly about my girls and the mounting sense of personal disappointment in my ability (or lack thereof) to understand them and their changing lives.

Things have changed dramatically in six short years as this journal entry
from today shows . . .


My wife and I went out to dinner last Wednesday night.
It had been a crappy day weather-wise on the Cape and the girls wanted to stay in for the night. They ordered some cheesy Chinese and picked up a few DVD’s to watch with their orders of Boneless Ribs, Crab Rangoons, LoMein, Chicken Fingers and buckets of Duck Sauce.

Pamela and I hardly ever go out these days so quite happily off we went.
Vacations can be unusual in some ways because you rarely spend that kind of time together during a normal week.
It’s agetting to know you {again} kind of scenario; not painful in any way, just different.
We talked about drinks, appetizers and entrées, the place we were staying in, our tentative plans for the next day and numerous ‘remember when’ type memories.
Pamela ordered baked scallops and I had to smile when she tried them and made a face.

What’s the matter?

Your scallops are so much better than these. Why is that?


I shrugged my shoulders in my best ‘I don’t know’ fashion.
But I knew. I make them much better and always have.
We finished dinner and decided to take a walk when we noticed the day’s rain had stopped.
I had a cigar and she, her thoughts.
We walked past a Mini-Golf place that had soft-serve. (don’t they all?)


You wanna get an ice cream?


Sure, she said.


A kid-sized twist for the blonde and a regular sized for me, the old guy.
We retreated to our own thoughts as we usually do when we eat ice cream when we saw an older couple drive into the parking lot.
I nodded towards the car and said,


That’ll be us in like 20 years.


You think so?


Sure, I said.


I don’t know if I want to come back here without the kids; too many memories.


But that’s what this place is all about for us . . . memories . . . and some real good ones too.


I don’t know, she said. It makes me sad . . .

The Cape has been a very special place for us over the years.
We’ve watched our daughters grow from diapers and playpens to young and beautiful women that can now drive and pick up their own Chinese food (which they did).

Our lives are changing and that’s a difficult pill to swallow sometimes, especially for a mother that loves her girls as much as I know she does.

I tried to convince her that the girls will never really leave the Cape.
They’ll be at every ice cream stand from Hyannis to P-Town that we visit, every beach that offers up a sunset like the one we all saw years ago in West Dennis; they’re everywhere we could ever need them to be.
Somehow, I got the feeling she didn’t quite believe me.

I will say I now have a deeper understanding of a women’s love for ice cream.

We walked back to the hotel holding hands while the earth continued to spin and the stars continued to blink on.




10 Voices

Heard these “a cappella” guys the other night in a quaint little church in Brewster
and I gotta tell ya, they can sing.
10 guys.
Absolutely amazing voices.
And they sing in tune!
Click on the cover above to go to their website.
Wanted to include a link to buy one of their CD’s but nothing was available.
If you like what you hear, send them an email and maybe you can pick one up.
Their name is The Hyannis Sound.
I’ll be returning by early next week.
I think.
Once again, I sincerely thank you for all the comments.
Check out one of their vids below.