Are You Trapped In An Echo Chamber? (And Why You Must Immediately Find The Nearest Exit)

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We’re building a detached garage. Since the time I bought my home, I had dreamed of building a detached garage. It was a dream Betsy quickly adopted, if only to create a massive storage vehicle for a lifetime of research, source material, and memories that have consumed much of the living space in our house. Soon, we will have a living room again. And a dining room. And maybe a couple of other rooms (and closets), too.

While the garage isn’t yet complete, we do have a roof and the building is adequately enclosed. A few weeks ago, we had Catarina’s birthday party in it. This weekend, we held Cesidia’s birthday party there.

Both parties were excellent. And instructive.

We had bare studs-and-plywood walls for Catarina’s party. By Cesidia’s party, the insulation had been installed (but not the drywall).

For Cesidia’s party, the garage was a nearly perfect sound room. The paper backing of the insulation absorbed all ambient noise. That didn’t mean it muffled our voices. No. When everyone was talking, it sounded like everyone was talking. You could hear each voice very clearly, but when the voices stopped, there was a dead silence.

It really perked up your attention. It also made you quite aware of everything around you. It was a full-bodied experience. Ironically, at the same time you were more attentive, you Continue Reading “Are You Trapped In An Echo Chamber? (And Why You Must Immediately Find The Nearest Exit)”

My Grandfather’s Garage

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More than a half century ago, at the dead end of a not quite rural road, a garage was built. It was a plain but sturdy garage. Made of concrete block. With a solid concrete floor. And a peaked roof high enough to form a spacious second floor. Perfect for storing planks, loose building materials, and a few other odds and ends that existed in that limbo somewhere between trash and treasure.

It was my grandfather’s garage. My father and his father built it the way you’d expect bricklayers to build something. More masonry, less wood. They used concrete block because it was less expensive than brick. It also took less time and work to build with Continue Reading “My Grandfather’s Garage”

Which Way To The After-Party?

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Following the last show of a performance, everyone involved in the production gets together and celebrates. The “cast party” has long been an entertainment tradition – from high school musicals to Saturday Night Live. It’s an opportunity for all to release the tension and anxiety that comes with acting in front of a live audience.

Other events have a similar tradition. It’s called an “after-party.” As the name implies, it’s Continue Reading “Which Way To The After-Party?”

When Did You Start Your Rosebud Quest?

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In the opening scene of Citizen Kane, the titular protagonist breathes his last breath. “Rosebud,” he whispers as he releases his last grasp of a snow globe that falls to the floor and shatters.

We then spend the next two hours reliving the life of Charles Foster Kane as reporters vainly search for the meaning of his last word. Why would the world’s richest man, a collector of antiquities galore, a prominent citizen, say “Rosebud”?

What did “Rosebud” mean to Charles Foster Kane?

More importantly, what does “Rosebud” mean to us?

In the interest of avoiding revealing a movie’s ending, I won’t tell you what “Rosebud” represents in Citizen Kane. If you’re one of the rare people who have not seen what many Continue Reading “When Did You Start Your Rosebud Quest?”

The Dog Days Of Coronavirus

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On April 21, 2020, the New York Post ran a story titled “Dogs could get extreme separation anxiety when quarantine ends, experts say.” That was four months ago. Back then, we expected the whole matter of Covid-19 to have been a memory by the summer.

We were wrong.

And the dogs of the world rejoice. (For those asking, cats don’t care. If anything, our physical proximity tends to grate on them.)

It’s almost as if this master/pet thing has been turned on its head. The dog is now king of Continue Reading “The Dog Days Of Coronavirus”

In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Summer) Evening

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It was about thirty years ago that I threw in the towel. After a little more than three decades of roughing it without central air conditioning, I broke down.

I have to admit. There’s something sweet about swimming in the hot muggy midsummer air. Like the reassuring aroma from your mother’s kitchen, you can smell it. Like the snuggling comfort of your favorite blanket, you can feel it. Like the glittering neon signs of the exciting night, you can see it in the twinkling above.

Yes. All the radiating vapor creates waves of transparent turbulence, only visible through Continue Reading “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Summer) Evening”

Yes, I Was Wearing Pants

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I admit it. I’ve been itching to write this column for more than two months. But other things needed to be said first.

There’s a time to be serious. There’s a time to be funny. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, much like the sudden nature of the coronavirus crisis, everything shut down abruptly. Serious people took over doing serious things. It offered a calming confidence.

Then, one day – one night actually – the time for non-stop seriousness ended. On Saturday night, September 29, 2001, nearly three weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Reese Witherspoon stepped onto the stage at NBC Studios in New York City’s GE Building for the airing of the season’s first episode of Saturday Night Live.

Only she wasn’t the first one on the stage. In lieu of the standard cold opening, Mayor Rudy Giuliani appears on stage with members of the New York City Fire Department, the New York City Police Department, and the Port Authority Police Department. In a quiet and Continue Reading “Yes, I Was Wearing Pants”

A Bothersome Burden Has Just Been Lifted From My Shoulders, Did You Just Get the Same Feeling?

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A terrible bothersome burden has just been removed from my shoulders. Did you just get the same feeling?

The last time I felt this weighed down was, well, maybe a half century ago. For those of you who think “half century ago” must refer to ancient times, do the math. I’m talking about the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s a very uncomfortable feeling. It’s a drag. And I don’t mean “drag” in the sense that was used in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but “drag” in the sense of physics, specifically as engineers use it in automotive design and aeronautics. It a gnawing downward pressure that prevents you from moving faster or soaring higher.

Like so many others, I am free of that burden now. I didn’t do it alone. I have Hal to thank. Continue Reading “A Bothersome Burden Has Just Been Lifted From My Shoulders, Did You Just Get the Same Feeling?”

Home, Sweet Home: The Joy of Our Return to Space

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I sat fixed in front of what seemed a massive TV screen, my eyes glued to the shreds of white steam shooting from the rocket’s body.

My own body remained tense. “Would the mission be scrubbed at that last minute?” “Would there be an in-flight ‘anomaly’?” “Is there any Tang left?”

What year is it?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

1968? It was a terribly bad year.

1969? It was a joyful year of ascending achievement.

Today? Well that’s an interesting idea.

Let’s return to the beginning. If you’re a member of the “space age” generation (like me), you’ll enjoy (and reflect) on this brief trip down memory lane. If you’re too young to remember the 1960s, you’ll appreciate the eerie similarities that might have you question Continue Reading “Home, Sweet Home: The Joy of Our Return to Space”

The Torch Is Passed

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Like a bright beacon, Jack Leckie stood as a steady torch light, forever illuminating our lives, our community, our very essence. In his remarkably demur way, he reminded us of where we came from, why it was important to embrace that past, and how those previous travels help guide our future.

I was the new kid on the block when I first met Jack. Literally. I had just moved to Mendon (well, technically, it was a permanent return after an earlier short residence at my parents’ new home). I was also a “kid.” I was only 26 years old when I moved into my home.

You get the picture. Definitely the new kid on the block.

So you could understand why I might have been nervous when, shortly after moving in, Jack invited me to his home on Boughton Hill Road. Imagine my thoughts. There was me – a newbie – and Jack – the Town Supervisor.

I was in awe. I was unworthy. I was a mere peon of youth compared to this big man of Continue Reading “The Torch Is Passed”