Monthly Archives: October 2012

Image Source: Ray K. Metzker

She had the most marvelous whistle, an’ it exploded through the courtyard every Monday. Mondays were wash days in our building, see? So every Monday she’d be at the window, dragging her whites out to hang dry an’ whistling to beat the band.

Mostly she whistled tunes from them great old orchestras: Benny Goodman, Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra, all like that. “Little Brown Jug” an’ “Pennsylvania 6-500” an’ them. Her whistle would bounce against the walls of the courtyard, almost, but not quite, drowning out the squeak of the pulley on her laundry line. Got to be so I could count on it every Monday.

Well, I’ll tell you somethin’, I don’t know nothin’ about music. You put me in a room with Toscanini conducting the orchestra, an’ I wouldn’t know nothin’ about what songs they was playing or how they was all staying together or nothin’ like that. But that crazy whistle? It was like the most beau-tee-ful music you ever did hear. It sounded like the birds chirping an’ the sun shining an’…well, like everything good in life. I don’t know how she done it, but she made every Monday like the greatest day of your life just by whistling.

She was in the building behind ours, an’ I don’t know that I ever saw her on the street. I seen her in her window once, an’ it surprised the hell out of me, ‘cause she looked like an’ old maid! She had her hair pulled back in a tight bun, an’ she had on them iron-frame glasses like old ladies wore. But there she was, whistling like crazy an’ making the day beau-tee-ful. Guess you can’t judge a book by its cover!

So that was what wash days were like in that building. That old maid lookin’ woman an’ her whistle became a part of it all, like the smell of coffee on the percolator an’ the sight of the super hauling the ash cans up to the sidewalk. We moved to another building, an’ I never heard that whistle again. But I still hear it in my head every Monday, an’ because of that, Mondays are still my favorite day of the week.



Image Source: Fred Herzog

She never showed. Said she’d meet me at the White Lunch Cafeteria at 5:30, Arlene said, and she never showed. So I spent an hour and a half huddled under the marquee of the Capitol waiting for nothing in the pouring rain. And now I’m back in my room at the Empire working on a fifth of Crown.

Should’ve known…should’ve known. Girl like her would never give a guy like me a break. Don’t know what I was even thinking asking her out. I was so scared, thinking she might say no. I almost wish she had said no. At least that way I wouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

Like said before, I just don’t understand this world, and I don’t get along so well with so many other people. I try, but I just seem to screw the deal every time. I think it’s easier to keep to myself. Keep the circle small, don’t let anyone in. Much less maintenance that way. Less hurt.

Cold night. Cold and wet. It’s nice to look out at it, now that I don’t have to worry about being stood up anymore. Now that I know it’s just me, in service of the Crown tonight. Now that I know that I’m alone again.

Maybe this is how it’s supposed to be. Maybe I’ll never see anyone else again…



I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Memoir re-run.

brian westbye

It occurs to me just how much my passions in life were informed by shapes and colors, specifically signs. Growing up in Brunswick, ME in the 1970s and 80s, I was treated daily to great living examples of American advertising.

On Rt. 1 there was a sign for MaClean’s Restaurant, a gigantic vertical sign with


in block neon letters. I loved how the apostrophe kicked the S over to the side a bit. The MaClean’s sign was near a similar Texaco sign, thus giving me twice the visual joy.

In town on Main St. was (and still is) J&J Cleaners, with its canopy and butterfly sign with “j&j” in classic script. I seem to remember the j&j having flashing bulbs, but I could be imagining that.

Out by the Naval Air Station is Fat Boy Drive-In. Recently they replaced the classic neon…

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I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Fiction re-run.

brian westbye

Hennepin Avenue Bridge
Image Source: Notsuoh Photography

Rick Nillsen walked half-way across the Hennepin Avenue Bridge clutching a business-size envelope against the chill October breeze. He walked the bridge all the time, often stopping in the middle to take in the sweep of the Mississippi toward St. Anthony Falls. Even with the traffic hurtling by it was a peaceful spot, a place to gather his thoughts and find his balance. But today it was all different. Rick’s entire life was different thanks to the arrival of the envelope.

The hand-writing on the envelope was achingly familiar

2541 Nicollet Ave

Nothing more than that. Nothing more was needed. Rick opened the envelope and pulled out five Polaroids and a piece of lined notebook paper. In the same script was written

funny how every photograph is a LIE

Nothing more than that. Nothing more was needed. Rick looked at the photos:…

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I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Memoir re-run.

brian westbye

This is where it all began. Image Source: Zillow

This week I will be returning to northern Florida for the first time since September 12, 1986, my 14th birthday and the day we moved back home to Maine. What do I remember over the last quarter century? What is going through my mind? Let’s find out…

My dad was a travel agent in Brunswick, Maine. At some point in 1982, before I turned ten, it was announced that he got a job in Jacksonville, Florida. We had visited Orlando and Disney World plenty of times thanks to his work, but now we were moving to Jacksonville, a mere two-hour drive from Orlando. Okay, then.

I don’t recall being upset or excited. I don’t really remember any of the dirty business of moving, saying goodbye to friends, or any of the rest. I vaguely remember a Paul Arpin moving truck and…

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I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Poetry re-run.

brian westbye


St. Augustine, FL
10:24 PM

The first line arrives
then the next, at a 45 degree angle
then another, 180 degrees from the last

Layers of surf, like brick and mortar
broken down by its own crushing weight

The third and second lines retreat
the sand under my feet collapses
no purchase in the shifting silt

Lines of breakers
crashing, diminishing
reaching a logical conclusion and

Timeless, perpetual lines
always advancing and
always there



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I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Fiction re-run.

brian westbye

Image Source: NYPL Digital Gallery

She was meant to be a shadow. Nothing more than looming black across my light. That’s all she was and all she’ll ever be.

I first saw her in winter. Back table against the wall. She was pure, raven-haired seduction. Alone, reading an early afternoon edition of the Herald Tribune. I came in without my hat, and the snow in my hair melted and ran down my neck, onto my collar and down the small of my back, and there she was. Instant sensory association. I wanted to marry her on the spot, but I couldn’t even say hello to her.

The winter went on and on, and I always hoped for snow, so I could feel the drips down my back and thus feel her. She almost always got the same table, and I almost always got the same table, one in the middle…

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I’m taking this week off to re-charge. Here’s today’s Memoir re-run.

brian westbye


It begins as a notion in the afternoon.

I’m deskbound at a call center, listening to irate and distraught insurance policy holders and informing them of their limited rights under the settlement of a class action lawsuit for $11 an hour. I have a 70 page script of legalese before me, and not one page bridges the gap between the answers that exist and the answers they want. I feel like a monster and want to visit every last caller and kick puppies in their presence, for all the good I’m doing them. 200 calls in queue throughout my floor. No let-up.

The Globe sits on my desk. I scan the box scores from last night, the news and notes, the predicted starters for tonight.


I step out of the air-conditioned nightmare into blissful east coast summer humidity. Gonna be a beautiful night, the kind you want to…

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