September 2002 - The Anniversary Waltz
RayzRealm (c) September, 2002

The Real heroes, America's Firefighters

Sunday September 1

This was a quiet Labor Day weekend. Friday I just relaxed and listened to some of my long neglected and forgotten favorite music CD's. Yes indeed rock and dance from the 70's and 80's is far superior to the cookie cutter drivel the big record companies push as hits.

Saturday I visited Warren. I had not seen him for a while so we went out shopping then to the Firehouse for dinner. The Firehouse is one of my favorite inexpensive places to eat when I'm up in his neck of the woods. It's decor is of course fire fighting historical memorabilia.

Today I drove into Boston early and attended the K-Street AA meeting. A note to Boston visitors: on Labor Day weekend just about every rental truck and van from the Eastern seaboard is double parked along many of Boston and Cambridge's streets; the college kids are back in town. I sat by the War Memorial for a couple of hours, drinking coffee and puffing away on cigarettes. Aside from college kids, the Fenway seemed deserted. There was not even a single bush bunny spotted. I had an early dinner at Thorntons, which is one of my other favorite eateries; very good food at reasonable prices. I had never had their rib eye steak sandwich, so decided to try that. As with everything else I've had there, it was excellent and more like a steak dinner than sandwich, and with salad for under $10.

I also sent in my application to attend a retreat up in Maine during the third week of September. I attended two years ago and found it to be a very enjoyable and relaxing time. Barring any personal or national catastrophe, I will be hanging from my feet with a large group of pozzums out in the middle of nowhere once again.

Tomorrow, I just plan to veg out, but I seem to do that every weekend. I should also to the latest e-mail I received from Doug in Thailand. I always enjoy hearing from him and miss the multi-hour phone conversations we had when he was living in Chicago; one of the very few people I seemed to hit it off with right from the start. Lastly for today, here are a handful of thought provoking articles I bookmarked over the past few days.

Monday September 2

I watched a program on NBC last night about a firehouse in NYC. Many Americans never really knew or appreciated firemen until after 9-11. I've known this for most of my life; you see my Dad was a fireman and I grew up immersed in the culture. Being a fireman was the only thing my Dad ever wanted to do; he loved his job and the people he worked with. I've learned that it takes a very special breed of person to become a fire fighter. It's almost in their genes to want to save lives and property, thoughtlessly putting their own lives on the line to save others. If Dad were still alive and working today, I know he would have been on a bus to NYC with a lot of his friends to help out after 9-11. So here is a Labor Day Area51 salute and tip of the hat to America's fire fighters, may God bless and protect you all.

Friday September 6

I had not borrowed a movie from the cafeteria at work for quite a while, and noticed "American Beauty" was back on the shelves. I took it home on Tuesday, and to be honest it registered a Richter 9.5 in my subconscious; in other words, I loved it! So OK, I'm weird and enjoy films that 99% of other Americans would never dream of watching. Doug (then from Chicago) had also suggested it. It ranks right up there with Magnolia, Pleasantville, Jacob's Ladder, The Man Who Wasn't There, Repo Man, The President's Analyst, Dr. Strangelove, Ordinary People, Save The Tiger and a host of dark cerebral cinema. American Beauty is definitely a must have for my growing DVD library. As much as I liked Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, they were one viewing films.

I received confirmation for the pozzum retreat up in Maine on the third weekend in September. This will be a 4 day event, and I'm planning on taking the following week off as vacation. It's in a beautiful remote setting and I need to get away from it all for a few days. So I hope and pray some medical, work or other emergency doesn't make me have to cancel out. I was planning on attending last year, but 911 emotionally and spiritually knocked me for a loop and I wuss'd out at the last minute.

It's looking more and more like Iraq is on our prez's dance card soon. I don't trust Dubya and his band of corporate far right wing pirates as far as I can throw them (actually don't trust many politicians and powerful elite at all, no matter what country they come from). Now If! Saddam does have nukes and other weapons of mass confusion, and decides to attack Israel or another neighbor with them just to make a point, then I fear we will be entering Act I of Armageddon, unless we're already there.

The military is enlisting the help of advertising firms in promoting itself, "It's not a career, it's an adventure", "Be all that you can be", "Learn valuable career skills", "Earn money for college", "Visit exotic far away lands and kill people", "Get to kick Osama in the butt". In retrospect, I am very glad I served for 4 years in the US Navy. It took me years after the fact to realize this fact. You do learn a lot of invaluable life skills that are hard to find from civilian life, and it teaches discipline, teamwork and responsibility. Plus I got to visit 18 foreign countries around the globe, but never got to kill anybody; Sailors are lovers, not killers. I always found that when I was polite and respected local customs in other lands, people were usually always very nice. I'm not sure if I would feel comfortable wearing a US military uniform in a foreign country today.

I enlisted in 1967 when we still had a draft, and since it was at the height of the Viet Nam conflict, Uncle Sam was body snatching any stout hearted man who didn't have serious medical problems. The way to beat this form of roulette, other than not being medically fit, was if Mommy or Daddy had political influence, you could get a gummint deferment job, wear women's underwear to your induction physical and kiss the medic who checked you for hemorrhoids, or run to Canada. So I shopped around, skipping the Army and Marine recruiters. The Coast Guard had a waiting list, so did Air Force. My Dad had been a sailor, as had most of my uncles. Lucky for me I had an electronics background and the Navy was looking for a few good geeks, so I spent my enlistment (after almost a year of specialized training) troubleshooting airborne communications and data systems and globe trotting on board aircraft carriers, when we not back in home port. Carriers are really incredible ships (never say boat in the Navy nor gun in the Marines). Enough romanticizing about bell bottom living on the high seas. Actually I have an unfinished, half baked articles about my 4 year military experience. If I ever get around to editing it, I might put it on the Flight Recorder page.

Another Friday and another "do nothing" weekend. At least the weather is supposed to be splendid. Today was perfect, cool and dry with a deep blue sky, a day almost identical to September 11 of last year. Here are this week's crop of web surfing article finds, enjoy!

Sunday September 8

Saturday I drove into Boston since it was such a totally perfect day. As I sat on the patio of Au Bon Pain in Copley Place, I recalled that this was a day just like 911 of 2001. Before September 11 of last year I never paid much attention to the fact that I was sitting in the shadow of the Hancock tower, with the Prudential tower behind me and two high rise hotels boxing me in on the remaining sides.

It was mostly a pleasant weekend, spending most of it with a guy I began chatting with at the Living Center lunch. I picked up a DVD copy of American Beauty for cheap at Newbury Comics, which was well worth the $18.99, with additional behind the scenes footage and other stuff. The guy invited me to come to the beach with him on Sunday. He lives right on the water at Revere (or as some call it Severe Revere) Beach. Revere is what Miami would be if you stripped away all the glitter and palm trees, dropped the temperature a notch and an army of muscle car driving Vinny's colonized it; it's not a pretty sight. Revere sits in the shadow of Logan Airport.

Aside from carefully stepping around broken beer bottles and not venturing any deeper than my waist I got way too much sun. The water had a pretty foul smell, although we are told it's safe to swim there. We laid out in the sun chatting as a never-ending procession of arriving and departing jets loomed overhead, almost low enough to grab onto their landing gear. I watched one jumbo jet approaching and thought, 'God, something that big slamming into a skyscraper at full throttle.'

I thanked Bob for inviting me to the beach, then headed home to get ready for another week in the squirrel cage. I hope we can develop a lasting friendship since he is a pleasant, down to earth guy to be around, which I do not encounter that often. I sat up watching a couple of programs on PBS, looking back on a year ago. I thought I was over it, but one program triggered a crying spell, as police, fire, witnesses and survivors rehashed their experiences on 911.

Wednesday September 11

Today's national alert color is paisley

Last night I replied to a long e-mail I got from Doug in Thailand. He's enjoying his visit and meeting some nice older fellow American visitors to tour Southeast Asia. With the East in general being a tinderbox, I hope he remains safe. I told him to come back home, since we're all having a swell time here.

This morning we gathered in front of the building to sing "America The Beautiful" and spend a moment of silence by the flag pole as the flag was lowered to half mast. I can imagine how residents in the Big Apple must feel, along with friends and families of those who directly lost someone a year ago. It's like today we pulled the Band-Aid from a wound suffered a year ago to see if it had healed, and pulled the scab off, causing it to bleed all over again. I spent more time than I should have surfing news and blog sites today, just as I did a year ago on this date. I have a brief lull in workload while some final decisions are being made for programming changes.

I'll end today's entry with a moment of silence and quiet prayer for those who were killed a year ago and for their friends and families, many of whom, are still trying to make sense of and heal from their losses. Also a prayer to God that the insanity end here and now, before Dubya gets us and the world in deep water, way over our heads

Friday September 13

Over the past year, on a scale of 1 to 10, my current stress factor is 100. People seem to be getting dumber and dumber, more self absorbed and clueless. Also there seem to be triple the number of cars on the road now than there were a month ago, and many more Titanic SUV, mini-vans and monster trucks, and of course half the drivers are busily showing the world how important they are buy yakking on their cell phones. Little things, and minor annoyances are getting under my skin much more than 1 to 2 years ago.

Whew! Friday at last, and after next Thursday, I'll be on retreat and vacation for 9 days. Here's today's bloated list of alternative news and views from around the web, enjoy!

Wednesday September 18

Nothing much to say except I've been very stressed out over a lot of things. I'm almost beginning to look forward to being on vacation next week. Now I know it's not my imagination, traffic seems to have tripled since Labor Day weekend, with all the college spawn back in town. A lot of drivers must have attended the "Al Qaeda School of Driving for Terrorists" over the Summer; they seem to be even crazier and more homicidal than normal, but that's Massachusetts drivers for you. Gather up all the Boston drivers on cell phones and air drop them over Baghdad in Titanic SUV's filled with explosives and Saddam will be singing a different tune.

I still feel so-so about going up to Maine for the retreat, but know I need to get away from it all, to a town with one building that serves as gas station, general store, church, town hall, police and fire station.

Why is it that whenever I plan to go away the shit hits the fan just before departure. Today my car began acting up and it sounds like the power steering pump is on it's last legs.

If that was not enough, when I logged in to my account after getting home today, was greeted by an e-mail from a company, notifying me they were filing suit against me for carrying a link to their site and using a name in link description that was copyrighted. I removed the "offending" link and sent them off a reply of deepest apology, not knowing that just carrying the link was hurting anybody, and that Bigboote's Area51 is "not" a commercial or for profit web site, merely a personal hobby site. Now this is helping feed my post 911 paranoia. Perhaps I should just 86 Bigboote's Area51, pull the blinds, lock all the doors and turn out the lights. Now all I need is for some automotive startup to call itself "Trendia" and announce a new SUV called the "Titanic" and file suit. Well I made up the name "Trendia Titanic", so perhaps I should copyright it and start up my own car company.

A late breaking sigh of relief on one front.

Just as I was getting ready to upload this entry I got an e-mail thanking me for my quick action, and that they understood now that I meant no harm. This makes me want to really evaluate the billions and billions of sites that are linked to on the pages of Area51 for any future gotchas!

Here's a bunch of articles that you can mentally chew one for this week, enjoy!

Monday September 23

I am glad now that I decided to attend the retreat this past weekend. The weather could not have been better. It was also nice to have someone to accompany me on the 3 hour drive up to the retreat center. Bob is a very pleasant guy to spend time with.

Thursday was a settling in day for early arrivals, and good for just relaxing and meeting people. The retreat officially began on Friday, when the bulk of the other attendees trickled in. I did not attend the late evening ceremony the last time I was there, but decided at the last minute to walk up into the woods to the bonfire in a clearing. The "Fire Circle" was a place where everyone had a chance to off-load baggage; fears, doubts, past hurts and losses. I was not prepared for how powerful a ceremony this would be, and in some way it dredged up a lot of deep feelings I thought were long buried. I left feeling a bit lighter and wound up at the main lodge until after 2AM discussing the experience with others.

I hardly slept at all that night, but it was mostly due to having a richter 9.5 snorer in our cabin. There always seems to be at least one person in a cabin who can wake the dead with their snoring.

Saturday was a splendid day as far as weather went. The neuropathy in my feet and legs was bothering me a lot, so I didn't do any hiking, canoeing or swimming. I mostly vegged out, sun bathed down on the dock and talked with others. My emotional state also took a nose dive, so I maintained a low profile. I hate it when this sort of thing happens, but I could not fight the feeling of alienation from everyone else. My vestigial sense of insecurity took over, and I avoided the talent show and dance, but did feel compelled to walk down to the lodge to at least make an appearance.

Now here I was, a terminal dancing fool from the 70's and 80's, who would walk on the dance floor at 9PM and never leave until last call at 2AM. I was afraid to dance, but wanted to. Everyone seemed to be having such a wonderful time, then someone asked me to dance. I felt like I was walking the green mile as I got on the floor. The music was really hot, and as soon as my brain attempted to get my body in gear, I froze up, and told my partner, "I'm sorry, I can't do it", scurrying off to the back porch to drink coffee and puff away in cigarettes. My reaction truly scared me, which showed how long (about 13 years) it had been since I had danced, and how alienated I have become from the dance of life since my medical diagnosis in 1985 and sobriety shortly afterward.

My traveling companion, Bob and I walked back to the cabin at around midnight and talked. On Sunday morning at breakfast I learned that the dance went in until almost 3AM.

Sunday was day for saying good-byes, sharing warm hugs and preparing for the ride back into the real world. Bob and I did not stay for the final closing ceremony, "The Walk of Spirits" which I did participate in two years ago, and was just as moving as the "Fire Circle" but in a different way. We made one last round of bidding farewell to people we had gravitated toward over the weekend then left the camp ground.

As I pulled onto Route 95 South, I felt a sense of sadness. For one long weekend, there was warmth, fellowship and a feeling of not being totally alone. I will probably not hear from any of these people until next Spring, when the next retreat is held.

I dropped Bob off at his apartment; we sat and talked for a couple of hours then I headed home to do laundry, crashing at 7PM. I had 3 of the most terrifying nightmares I have had in a few years, more night terrors than dreams. I was also awoken a few times by house shaking thunder and torrential rain beating against my bedroom window. Thankfully this weather front stayed away during the entire weekend.

I'm on vacation this week and it is pouring out as I write this. We do need the rain, but I hope it clears up soon. I have no plans for the week, and like my vacation in July, will probably stick close to home.

Friday September 27

September and my vacation are almost over; I don't know where the time has gone. Monday is a total blank; I cannot recall at all what I did on Monday. Either old age is setting in, or the aliens abducted me to replace the batteries in my nasal implant and perform the regularly scheduled anal probe. I think I slept most of the day on Monday, at least I think I did.

I was off to visit Bob Tuesday morning, packing extra meds, and a change of clothes, just in case this visit wound up in another 2-3 AM gab fast. Bob is seriously considering a major career change, and although he is a very bright software engineer with awards under his belt and over 20 years of experience, like myself, he is feeling very burned out by the industry, and is looking into culinary school. Like myself, he is quite aware of the rampant ageism in IT

We took a ride up to Portsmouth to wander around town, browse the many little shops, had dinner at Molly Malone's (YUM!), walked around some more, played the sidewalk cafe yuppie sipping a latte's, then returned to his house. Bob asked me if I felt like taking a ride into Lowell to check out a little basement bar in he center of downtown.

I grew up in Jack Kerouac's "Strange Dark Lowell", and it is a strange and dark little mill city, the kind of new England town that H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King would use as the center of one of their stories. In the eyes of Republikan America, it's always been a third world poor side of the tracks kind of place. The gummint and a few big businesses have poured zillions into Lowell to make it a historic landmark; one of the birth places of industry, row upon row of old textile and other mills fed the city at it's zenith. It's become a "desirable" spot for yuppies to establish a weak beach head, although it remains at it's heart, a poor and tough town. but as gritty as the "Spindle City" is, that is where my biological roots lie.

The Downstairs Cafe was a pleasant little place, clean and cozy with exposed brick walls. Typical geeks we are, began chatting with the handful or mid-week patrons about personal computers and IT stuff. It was nice of the bar keep to refuse payment for the sodas, since neither Bob or I drink, but we slapped down a buck tip for each one anyway. About 12:30AM we headed back to his house and sat up gabbing over herbal tea until about 2:30AM. Yes, it was a good thing I decided to pack some clothes and got to try out his new futon sleep sofa.

Wednesday morning we sat on the patio and had coffee, then headed into Nashua to do some shopping. I needed a few things at Costco, and to replenish my coffee and chocolate stash at Trader Joe's. Since I was on vacation and Bob's been out of work, I told him I'd spring for dinner at the Fire House in Tyngsboro. We returned to his place and chatted until 8PM. I was bushed so headed home and crashed.

Thursday I woke up with a sense of impending dread, like there was going to be another 911 or something. The weather was beginning to take a downward turn with a tropical storm headed our way. The sky was battleship gray, the air feeling heavy with moisture. I grabbed my umbrella and caught the bus into Harvard Square to play cafe potato and browse book and music stores.

I picked up what looks like a fascinating book, "The Matrix and Philosophy", a collection of essay edited by William Irwin. I also picked up a DVD of "1 Giant Leap" a 2.5 hour videologue of world culture and ideas, a beautifully filmed trip around our little rock. This would be an ideal DVD to place inside a deep space probe, to show anyone out there who finds it, what we're all about. I sat up and watched a few chapters then went to bed.

Today it was pouring when I woke up at 5AM. I went online to terrorize a few early risers in chat, then called Warren.

Warren and I went out window shopping in the rain. I'm seriously looking at a screamer of a new PC at Micro Center, 2.4 GHZ, 512M ram, 100 GIG drive, 128M video card, etc, etc and for a very good price. The only thing is the case is black and I want a 19" flat screen CRT monitor, preferably Sony, NEC of Viewsonic, but everywhere I look they only come in putty beige. When Bob and I were at the Downstairs Cafe, one of the guys we were talking with said he picked a black one up at Best Buy.

We stopped at Best Buy and sure enough, they did have a really nice NEC flat screen CRT monitor in black. I can never go there without looking through their vast video department and picked up "Big Trouble in Little China" on DVD for $14.95. This was a deal, considering I almost dropped $24.95 for it in Boston not too long ago. I also found episodes of the new "Outer Limits" on DVD for only $9.95 with lots of extra footage, so picked up a couple.

Warren, who was also in IT, has been out of work for over a year now with no prospects of finding a job in that field. I told him, "I'll treat for an early dinner" and asked where he felt like eating. A Longhorn Steak House recently opened in Nashua. We got there in time to still get the lunch menu. He had salmon and I had a sirloin that was pure heaven. When out waitress passed by to ask how everything was, I said, "can I have seconds?" Deeeelightful!

It seems like I just left work yesterday, and although I didn't do anything exotic, I managed to go on the retreat and get in visits with the only two remaining living friends I have, plus I had a lot of time to think. As much as I enjoy my job and programming in VB and SQL, the general feel of where the industry is headed gives me the willies. I thank God each day I'm still working; that could all change in a flash.

Monday September 30

I'm settling back into my comfortable rut of almost total social isolation again. Yesterday I got an email from a stranger informing me I misstated Bob Dylan in one of my monthly rants. In 7 years on the web, I have received 3 or 4 complaints or gripes of any kind. I deleted the irritating statement and uploaded the corrected rant. Now at least I know that at least one person out there has been reading these rants.

I was going to make this final entry for September a lengthy rant, but after writing and uploading it on Sunday, decided to edit out the spleen venting upon re-reading it today.

Today it's back to the normal grind. This concludes September's log.

Shalom, Ray