Like any sane northeasterner, I look forward to the coming of fall each year, because I like everything about fall: the fresh pancakes and maple syrup with fruit shipped up from Chile; the air conditioners I get to pull out of windows and return to their homes two floors down via tight stairways, testing my back (fun!); the rains that cause riverbanks to flood and replenish the moisture and nutrients in our basements.
Bring it on, all of it! I love the way my bicycle brakes work intermittently in the rain, because that adds excitement to my otherwise boring commute. I love the increasing darkness! Pumpkin bread and pumpkin beer!
Okay, I don’t like pumpkin beer, actually. That’s where I draw the line with fall. Rain, fine, but pumpkin beer? No, I’m sorry.
Back when I was almost still Catholic, I met a man who, I was told, would be the music leader for the kids in the parish CCD program I somehow found myself teaching in. This man came with his wife from Mexico – they were a lovely couple – and he was studying at Berklee College of Music.
It sounded perfect.
My then-wife was Costa Rican and she and I struck up a friendship with the couple, inviting them over for dinner one night. I had just finished working on a radio play and was using a new sound tool that was software-based, and I really couldn’t sort out how to use it. I showed it to my Mexican friend and asked him to explain what the tool was doing to the sound. All I knew how to do was use the mouse and keyboard to bend the sounds and make funny noises and so forth, but not what each effect tool was actually doing.
My new musical friend, who was going to Berklee because he was a highly skilled musician, played around with the software too, but his silence and bemusement indicated he didn’t know much more about the tools than I did.
One Sunday, the couple stayed after mass and came into the parish hall, where this new musical genius from Mexico would play songs for the kids – Catholic singalongs – while his lovely wife sat beside him or next to my wife and me (can't recall those exact details). He had a guitar on a strap and a pony tail, as you might imagine a Mexican Catholic troubadour would have, so we were all waiting in anticipation for him to sing Jesus-themed songs of freedom to us. He strummed a little, started, stopped, strummed again. We all waited for him to stop strumming aimlessly and start playing songs we could all sing to.
It never happened.
If he actually was a musician, he was under some kind of temporary spell that rendered him incapable of playing music, but I began to think that he was not a real musician after all, just a guy who had gotten into Berklee.
You might imagine that I often think back to those days and reminisce, as I just did here in a publicly available and highly-read blog, but the truth is that if I hadn’t just now remembered this series of events , I perhps would never have recalled that memory , and it would have been lost to history.
I’m sure you’ve been wondering what my summer camping experience was like, when I recently went into the woods with my son and battled the elements.
Let me tell you, the woods had no chance against us. We came with every tool known to man, plus a power cable that was about 250 miles long, which we fed out as we drove from home to the Moosehead Lake region of Maine so we could have access to electricity while out there in the wild. Because when you’re out there in the woods and it’s hot, it helps to have a small air conditioner for the tent. And incredibly, despite the human race’s ability to solve every thorny social ill known to man except how to prevent mass murders via military-style weapons, no one has yet figured out how to make a wireless a/c.
The extension cord also helped us charge up our electric knife, making it a breeze to carve up trout while out there in the field.
My reputation as something of a history buff distinguishes me from very few men in the critical 51-110 year old age group that history advertisers target. And yet I tend to train my lens less on major world events, like wars and tsunamis, than on the mundane and commonplace.
For instance, what about urinals? There must be history there. It’s not like God gave us urinal-producing trees to pluck our urinals from. (Yes, I’m aware, if urinals grew, they would do so on the ground, like cabbage or watermelon, not in trees!).
Well, with the internet allowing any old fool to publish anything he wants, the blogger can quickly pivot from a treatment of the history of urinals, the bait so to speak, to an anecdote about this one time when, en route to the west branch of the Penobscot River in Maine, he stopped at a brew pub for his last bit of sustenance before heading into the wild, and the men’s room urinal was actually a repurposed beer keg!
What a hoot.
There is some synergy here, as beer makes the average blogger (not me) need to pee, and also I’m going to be in the woods, where basically everything is a urinal.