Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Bill Cosby robbed my mommy.

Okay, the Cos’ didn’t travel to Maine and ransack our Brunswick home, or pull a strong-arm hold-up on my mom on the street. But still, Bill Cosby took money away from my dear hard-working stay-at-home mom.

I am still, to this day, waiting for my Picture Pages puzzle booklets and Mortimer Ichabod marker.

Remember Captain Kangaroo? Of course you do. Then you also remember Picture Pages with Bill Cosby, which was a regular feature on the show. I still know the theme song by heart:

Picture Pages!
Picture Pages!
Time to get your Picture Pages!
Time to get your crayons and your pencils!
Picture Pages!
Picture Pages!
Open up your Picture Pages!
Time to watch Bill Cosby do a Picture Page with you!

Yeah, it would have been time to watch Bill Cosby do a Picture Page with me, if he had ever sent me my goddamn Picture Pages puzzle booklets and Mortimer Ichabod marker. But he never did.

Thirty-odd years later, I have no idea what happened. My mom sent in our order (I’m pretty sure), having carefully filled in the order blank (I’m pretty sure). Our order blank went out in the mail (of course!), and…

All I know is that I spent many an afternoon hearing the voice of Bill Cosby and the robotic squeaks of Mortimer Ichabod on my TV as I stared out my living room window, hoping to see the mailman pull up with the coveted package: a squeaking Mortimer Ichabod marker of my own. And I spent many an afternoon being comforted by my mom after the mailman failed to deliver.

I’m sure Bill Cosby himself had little if anything to do with this malfeasance. (I can imagine the Cos’ mirroring Krusty the Klown’s mea culpa about putting his name on the disaster that was Kamp Krusty: “They drove a dump truck full of money up to my house! I’m not made of stone!”) I’m sure he was preoccupied and totally unaware.

Still, it was Picture Pages with Bill Cosby, not Picture Pages with Some Nameless Schlub Who Likes to Steal Money From Stay-at-Home Moms.



Image Source: Boston Real Estate Observer

Late afternoon summer sun fights through the gray, the beams landing on the garbage bags that hold my possessions and clothes on the floor. Clouds of nicotine float across the room, desperate to waft out of the open screen and into the courtyard. The landlord is in her basement apartment, and she has no idea that I’m home: if she did, there would be trouble, since I bounced my last $300 rent check for the sublet.

I’m 24 and living in Apartment 3, 39 Rutland Square, Boston. My roommate is a Swede studying in Malmö for the summer, so the place is mine. Mine alone.

It’s a typical Saturday. I’ve called in “sick” at the call center (“food poisoning”: better be careful and stick to that story if I call in on Monday), and am in bed working on a 12-Pack of Rolling Rock and two packs of Marlboro Mediums. Depression is taking a major toll, on finances and general quality of life. But at age 24, I don’t know its depression, and I have no idea what kind of resources might exist, if any. All I can do is sit around and wonder what is wrong with me.

I stare blankly at a Sox game on the tube. The sun pours in and diminishes, and the Sox game gives way to COPS reruns. I fade out, nap for a bit. The twilight slides into dark. I wake up, recover my bearings, crack another beer, light another smoke.

I know that I’m looking at another all-nighter of coffee, cigarettes, writing and trying to get my life in order. This is my life. I’m 24, and I have no idea what is wrong with me or how to fix it.

All I can do is write in my journal and tell myself that it will get better…



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Of the four years we lived in Jacksonville, FL – from the summer of 1982 when I was nine through my 14th birthday, 09/12/1986 – the only year we did not return to Maine for Christmas vacation was 1985. That year I transferred my homesickness to a familiar stand-in, living my dreams of a white Maine Christmas through Frogtown Hollow, home of Emmet Otter.

Christmas in Florida, even northern Florida, was depressing for a Maine boy. It was chilly – maybe in the 40s or at most 30s – but nothing like the pure Maine winter cold I wanted. There was certainly no snow. And my only lasting impression of Jacksonville Christmas cheer is an aluminum tree with the most garish lights imaginable on the roof of Jax Liquors. Bing Crosby had not visited my neck of the woods.

But we did have HBO, and with that came salivation. Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas had been a favorite since it premiered in 1977. The Jim Henson special, adapted from the 1971 Russell and Lillian Hoban book, came along at exactly the right time over Christmas 1985. The Frogtown Hollow inhabited by Emmet and Ma Otter served as a virtual Maine Christmas at my grandparent’s farm as I sat in my Florida apartment.

The fire-red sunset as Emmet and Ma row home from running errands made me dream of the sunsets I knew from the living room window at the farm. The sound of the snowmobiles driven by Chuck and the River Bottom Boys echoed the sound of snowmobiles heading up our path and into our woods. And the brilliant full moon that shone over Ma, Emmet and his jug band as they walked home in defeat from the Waterville Talent Contest was the same moon that shone over my brother Eric and I as we played football in the snow or went tobogganing by the barn light.

I suppose I’ve always had this ability to adapt to circumstance and try to improve my lot, and it certainly served me well over Christmas vacation 1985. And Christmas Day wasn’t all bad that year, in spite of being in a small Florida apartment rather than a snowbound Maine farm. We got our first VCR that day (the remote control was attached to the console by a wire), and our first VHS movie: Gung Ho with Robert Mitchum. And I got my first blank VHS tape, with which I taped Celtics/Knicks at Madison Square Garden and, later that day, Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas



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“Oh, here we go!” Ray said. “Friggin’ Black Friday again!”

Ray and Clem were looking through the flyers that were spilling out of the New York Times as they sat at their window table at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Their band, The Dickweeds, was playing the night after Thanksgiving, and they were killing time after sound check with a few PBRs and some snark.

Clem flipped the Macy’s flyer open and laid it on the table for their mutual perusal.

“I take it you didn’t partake in any Black Friday action?” Clem said.

Ray was distracted scanning the incoming crowd and hoping for adulation, or at least recognition. He turned a sideways glance to the flyer and threw out his best sneer.

“Bah!” Ray said. “No way I’m going in for that shit.”

“It is cheesy,” Clem said. “I guess if you’re in to that kind of thing, you can get some deals, depending on how much the stores mark stuff down after jacking up the regular retails.”

“Yeah, and then I’d be the type of mouth-breather that actually goes to the Garden State Plaza,” Ray said. “I wouldn’t do that at noon on a Saturday, let alone midnight on a Friday.”

With those words Clem connected a pair of dots that had been hovering in his head.

“Woah!” he said. “Didn’t I see that PBR t-shirt you’re wearing on sale for $50 in a Garden State Plaza store window, ya hipster doofus?!?”

“Yeah,” Ray said. “But I didn’t go there myself. I got dragged out with my sister, fachrissakes. “

“Ah, yeah,” Clem said. “That makes a huge difference.”

“Damn straight!” Ray said.

They ordered another round as the beautiful people filled in for the first act on the bill and, eventually, them.



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It was a brilliantly cold, brilliantly clear and sunny morning, and Chris Wightman wanted to experience it all. First Thanksgiving in New York, finally! Chris opened the window in the kitchen to let in the glorious New York morning. The air carried a fragrant lilt: the rush of fresh, brisk New York air; a good bit of Thanksgiving cooking from all over the building; a hint of garbage from the sidewalks; coffee and burnt toast and donuts from the Chock Full ‘o Nuts around the corner…perfect. And all the roommates out of town for the holiday! Could it get any better?

Well, of course, it would be better being with family. But this was the next best thing. A turkey sandwich from the delicatessen two blocks over and an empty apartment was as good as it gets for the first Thanksgiving in the big city. Besides, the family would call on the telephone. For now, it was all about enjoying this amazing holiday in New York.

Chris sat at the open window, inhaling the chill, fragrant breeze like it was life itself and thinking about the steps that led here: summer; driving down from Vermont to walk around the neighborhood and scope out “For Rent” signs; having just enough in the bank to be able to sign the papers; being just young enough to be able to do it… You can’t move to New York when you’re middle-aged, Chris thought. You have to do it when you’re young and ballsy enough to believe you can handle anything.

Just like I did…

The faint strains of the Thanksgiving Day parade wafted in from 8th Ave. Chris had never had any desire to have anything to do with the parade, but now, in the empty apartment, with the most introspective holiday of the year and the rest of the day in glorious New York ahead, it was the most beautiful sound ever. The sound of a marching band became the first of a long list of reasons to be thankful in a small New York kitchen with nobody around.



Sorry, all! Between the day job and getting ready to host Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to get anything new done for today. I’ll be back, probably for Friday, but in the meantime here’s a little seasonal love from last year. Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, all!

brian westbye

Photo Source: Vivian Maier

I used to hate Thanksgiving. Used to be all alone, nobody to see, nothing to do but get a turkey sandwich at some sleazy diner, no family to go home to… well, I have family, downstate, but they don’t want nothing to do with me, you dig? And that’s ‘cause of the troubles I got in a few years ago. I don’t blame ‘em. I mean, I was in bad shape. But that’s another story.

Anyway, like say I used to hate Thanksgiving, and being all alone. But wait’ll you hear about my Thanksgiving THIS year!

So I got on at the Greek’s place a few months ago. Mostly washing dishes, but some line cooking here and there. That kind of thing. I’m doing good, checking in with my PO, taking my prescriptions, showing up early at the Greek’s and staying late…doing my best, you know?…

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My greatest claim to high school infamy? (Cover your ears, mom) I actually smoked a bowl in English class. Not going to lie: I’m still pretty amazed at this little bit of bad-assery.

How did I get away with toking up in a classroom in the middle of a school day, you ask? Perfect storm of happenstance.

1. My class was in a trailer, and I sat by the um, “living room” door, which was open on a warm day.
2. No wind.
3. This class was lead by Ms. Grant, who was, shall we say, a little slow on the uptake.

Conditions were perfect.

My “chum” Ryan, a metalhead stoner with a mullet and bad teen mustache combo and about 500 functioning brain cells, sat next to me on the other side of the open door, and he produced the pipe from his jean jacket. We both figured – okay, I was the brains of this operation, so I figured – that with the door open and Ms. Grant at the helm, we could probably get away with it. He leaned out first and blazed up, to the tittering amazement of the rest of the class. My turn!

I took the hot metal bowl, leaned out and got a good solid hit, then passed it back. The feeling of the weed spreading through my body and the amazement of the rest of my class was magic. Most heads were craned in my direction, and there were a few audible snorts and titters, but overall it was like nothing was happening.

At one point the (exploding plastic) inevitable happened: Ms. Grant looked up from whatever she was teaching, twitched her nose and said, “Class, do you smell something funny?” Of course nobody smelled a damn thing. Nothing to see here, folks. I think Ryan was holding the bowl in his hand under the desk as we both stared straight ahead, a couple of red-eyed church mice. We both barely stifled a hyperventilating-laugh, because of course, this was the funniest thing ever. And that was it: back to the pipe we went, with total impunity.

I’m still amazed that I pulled this one off. Not only for the brazenness of the crime, but also because I was such a paranoid straight-and-narrow kid. I knew that if I ever tried to pull something like this off, I would get caught, and all of my co-conspirators would skate. But knowing Ms. Grant, I just knew I’d be able to pull it off that day. And isn’t that really what high school is all about? Leaving your comfort zone and taking risks?