We are simply not worthy of the joys of crab cakes at Joe’s Boat House, on a winter’s afternoon.

No, I have misspoken myself. We are totally worthy of such delights, as are we all. We had a great time and we wish all of you had been there.

At another table, of course.





Dock hand on Monhegan, the Elizabeth Ann coming in through the frozen mist, and a view of the “swimming beach”.





Always wanted to be out there in the winter. I’m reconsidering.


Photos by Barbara Hitchcock, who is out there.

I have counted 20 ready lights on various machines, appliances and devices within just a few feet of where I am sitting. For just one person, I think that would appear to be a high state of readiness. Bring it on. I am ready. But these lights do more than just indicate readiness.

On the darkest of nights they serve as navigational aids to guide me as I find my way to the bathroom and back. They provide some “night light” effect without being distracting, or too bright.

On first getting out of bed on my nocturnal perambulations, I see the blue light on my USB interface for my microphone that indicates I should take a hard 90? right hand turn for two steps. Then I look to my right to see led’s on the Airport Express and DVD player and Pre Amp. These beacons tell me to veer to the right about two degrees until the ready light on my telephone amplifier is directly on my right shoulder which tells me to take two steps and hang a hard left. At that point the ready light on the coffee pot eight feet ahead on the right tells me that that the door to the bathroom is right there. I usually hold up an arm as a bumper just incase I have miscalculated.

Occasionally I have woken to find no lights at all. Then I know the power is out and I am not ready at all. Nothing works and I need to get up and check the wood stoves and light lamps, find flashlights and check the generator. So even no ready lights constitute a readiness warning. How about that? Even unlit they serve.

I got to wondering about the power they consumed and wondered how much it costs to run them. I am told it is negligible. Of course the power company is who told me that. As in all things: consider the source.

It’s a shame we don’t have ready lights on ourselves. It would have been such a good touch if the Creator had had the forethought to add a tiny LED say, between the eyes, or on either temple. Or maybe on the tip of the nose.

Without getting too specific, I can think of numerous times when a lot of energy would have been “conserved” if, when I had cast an amorous eye toward the other side of the bed only to see NO ready light shining, I could have used the time for some good reading or perhaps much needed exercise, and felt better about myself.

Some gloomy winter days I’d like to get on the phone and call everyone I know and say things like: I was thinking about you, and whatcha doing and what’s the weather like, and is everybody well, and stop by the next time you’re in town. But I don’t. You know? I carry out my ashes instead.

I was chatting with an old friend this morning. I say old, but he is actually a bit younger than I am. We have known each other over 30 years. We were friends back in the old country before we came to Maine together.

Now and then, we slip into that jargon of the elderly wherein we begin comparing notes to see, I am sure, who is further down the slope into oblivion. Nobody wins these “contests” but it is a shared experience which in it’s own way offers some consolation.

Somewhere along the way, we tacitly agreed (I hope) not to take each other too seriously as we offer each other dubious advise about life or make some snap assessment of the other’s character and this principle has helped to preserve a kind of stasis in our relationship which could be a model for all old farts.

Navigating this slippery slope, with its ruts, drop-offs, dead ends, (no pun intended) and mounds of false hope, is not fun, or easy, or desirable. But there it is. I’d rather spend my time lazing about on some tropical beach (wireless Internet of course) watching exotic creatures frolic in the dunes but I choose instead what is actually possible over the phantasmagorically implausible.

What is actually possible are a few housekeeping chores, a trip to the library, a pot of tea and an electronic chat with an old friend. Life is where you find it. Sometimes happiness is there as well.

However, since we can, it is permitted to think, from time to time, about the phantasmagorically implausible. We’d be fools not to.

There is a moment, at the beginning of the day
when first stoking my fire and sitting back in my chair
when light has not fully formed in the eastern sky
when doubt arrises that I should be out of bed at all
when that first cup of coffee nudges my consciousness
into wakefulness that for a fleeting moment
I entertain the thought off eternal life and if not that
then that other fiction of being the master of my day.

I don’t know just when it happened, but I one day realized I never check the tire pressures any more. I used to check them at least every week or so. Carried a pressure gage right in the car. It was important. My dad always said so. Of course, that was in the dark ages of automobile history when trips were measured in the number of flats you had.

Then I realized I hardly ever – no, I NEVER check the oil either. I had to laugh: I remember when guys got together they always got around to talking about gas milage and how many quarts you used between 1000 mile changes.

I mean I’m a machine type of guy. I know machinery. I know what it is, how it came to be and what to do when I find some. I love fiddling with machinery. All I can figure is that the tires hold their air better these days and as far as oil is concerned, I don’t even carry an extra can anymore. Are cars that much better? Do they not need me like they used to?

The car culture is a wonder of the modern world. At least in my neighborhood. I think it is funded and promoted by the Auto Parts Enterprise Stores of America . (A.P.E.S. of America) I think their ultimate goal is “An Auto Parts Store on Every Corner”.

I miss going into those places filled with things you need if you love your car and country. It seems that every time I visited my local auto parts store, there was a customer at the counter covered with dirt, grease and sweat purchasing a muffler, an engine block, a drive shaft and a set of new socket wrenches. Usually all I wanted was four spark plugs, a point set and condenser, and a new feeler gage. If you don’t know what those things are, it won’t help to explain as there are no modern automobiles that know what they are either, except for the spark plugs and most of the time you can’t even see them anymore.

Every once in a while I look beneath the hood of my VW diesel and look for something I can do. I can check the oil but it’s always the same: full. I could check the battery. Same thing: full. I can go find my old tire gage and check the tire pressures. Same thing: full. After a while, I begin to feel – well not unneeded, but more like tolerated.

My heart skipped a beat the other day during a rain shower when my wipers began leaving streaks! Oh no! This means a trip to the auto part store near me soon. And I know how to install them too. I am already feeling more manly. That’s a big deal at my age.

I’ll never forget when Paul Peneda said, after a meeting we had attended, “Why don’t we go home get online and chat?” And I told him it would be easier just to use the telephone, if we ever had something to say to each other when not at work. I wasn’t even online at the time. This was in 1977 or so. Let’s see, that would be 34 years ago and hundreds of hand written notes, letters and documents ago, and a few innovations in the digital world.

These days I prefer digital communicating. I enjoy sending emails to friends and family. I have always held that composing a letter to a friend is one of the highest forms of communicating. It is both a communication and a record, and it provides the opportunity for thought. The ease of emailing is so seductive and it tells me when I spell incorrectly.

I am also a micro communicator on Twitter, FaceBook and iChat. I can text from my phone and get instant replies from my children! I have never been as “in touch” with my kids as now. I can post a blog via email and within 15 seconds it is there and available all over the world. You know what I mean. The world is not waiting to read that stuff but If there was someone out there who actually wanted to read it they could do it that quick.

Even voice communication has changed so much now that using the actual telephone is a matter of choice for many people who can choose between Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) on cable, or SKYPE on a computer, which is pretty much the same thing, a cellular network or perhaps a wifi application on their iPhone or Droid.

Some of us are old enough to remember watching as a telephone was installed for the first time in our home. That would be me. I even remember the number. 4881 – one long ring – four parties. That’s less than half the numbers you need to make a long distance call these days.

I don’t have a clue where Paul Peneda is these days but we could have a good laugh about that conversation we had 34 years ago. I wonder what will happen in 2011 to make communicating more exciting? I’m not sure it could be faster. I wonder what a digital hug would feel like?

I just accidentally turned on my laptop camera and got glimpse at the reason video calling probably won’t be the favorite early morning thing to do – ever! God, that looks awful!

Don’t forget that number – 4881. I’ll be waiting by the phone.