Filet of Soul

Oh, I don’t know. We have our apple watches. We’re measuring our heart rate. We measure our oxygen levels. We have our Fitbits or whatever and measure our steps or the miles we ride alone on our bikes. We’re doing a lot of exploration of what’s going on inside ourselves. We meditate. We turn inward. 

Maybe that’s all good. Maybe that’s the way even. Maybe if we fix—that is to say ‘improve’- every individual the whole gets better as well.

What do I know? I’m just a guy. Just one of those individuals.

I know we’re searching. We’re wanting. We’re trying. 

But I’m just not sure. I don’t know. Not sure every individual getting better—even if that did happen and was possible—do we all get better? If each of us gets better do we all– everyone here– get collectively better? Think about water. A tide is connected water. It’s a nearly infinite amount or water all moving in the same direction at the same time and same rate and pace. 

I just wonder if we spent more time—any time really—on others, if we might not all start to feel better. All of us.

There’s an old fella– Jamaica I think it is– who’s like 110-years old or something like that. Smokes who knows what, eats what he wants, has most of his teeth, walks the beach. I want to have a beer with that guy. How does he do it? Is it his attitude? Is it genetic? Is he wearing a Fitbit? Does he meditate? Or is he just out and about, always moving like some old Jamaican shark, just kind of sliding through the water of life.

I think I can learn from that guy. I might be able to steal a page. Who knows? I’d like to find out. 

Who’s the young Nordic storm trooper. Greta? How in the hell does she do it? I’m not even sure what she’s talking about half the time. But at the same time, how come most of us couldn’t stand up and read a poem in sixth grade in front of the whole class? Remember that? How come most of us—maybe I’m projecting—avoid conflict like the plague? We smile and nod and go along with our business muttering to ourselves about what we should have said to the other person—that loudmouth at the bar, the jerk from work, the in-law who won’t shut up… How does this little girl find the pluck to poke the bear over and over again? I’m amazed. Part of me wants to put a finger up to my lips and say “Shhhhh” to her. Still got a lot to learn. But then I think, maybe it’s me that’s got a lot to learn.

I think of me sitting there at her age just accepting what they were feeding me. In the little school I went to. ‘How the West was won!’, right? No mention of how many died. How many we killed. How we stole what was not ours. Don’t worry. This is not a sermon. I sat through too many of those to count. ‘Do unto others’. That’s what they said. Meanwhile they were doing things others did not want done to them. There were Christmases where we got less so my father could keep up his Sunday collection. Where’d that money go? Wish I knew. Suspect I do.

One time when my son was 15 or so he got caught buying beer. It’s beer right? Where does he come up with it? So the cops brought him home and told us what happened and we assured them we’d handle it. I didn’t know those cops personally, but they more or less knew me. Knew the family name. Knew the block. Figured this would not require much conversation even. Looking back, I think the assumption was if they didn’t know me they didn’t need to know me or my kid buying the beer. I’m not on Twitter or any of these things, but I still read the Sunday paper– the paper paper– cover to cover. I watch the 6-o’clock news three or four times a week if I’m not out and about. I’m not the smartest guy, far from it, but I can see that we have a problem. In a lot of places, 15-year olds that get caught buying beer are not dropped off at the front door for their parents to deal with them. I’m just smart enough to notice that a lot of these kids that get a rough ride don’t look like me. They don’t look like my son. They don’t look like most of you here packed into this little gym politely waiting for this old man to shut up so the party can start. In most cases they don’t look like the officers that nab them either. They’re blacker. That’s right. I say ‘black’. Some are other things—I don’t know if they’re Mexican or Peruvian or whatever. They’re darker and therefore they’re different. I’m not a psychologist by any means, but I think we’re sort of wired to be suspicious of anybody different than us. I don’t know. That might not be it at all. But I do know my son wasn’t afraid of the cops. He was afraid of me. He was even more afraid of his mother if I’m honest.

So, I don’t know. Do we understand how the Hoover Dam was made? Forget the Inca Pyramids. Forget Stonehenge. Next time you’re in Vegas, check out the dams when you’re nursing your whatever. How did they do that? How did we do that?

I talk a lot about things men did. It’s not because I’m a man—or I don’t think it is anyway. It’s because we were taught, usually by women, about things men did. Betsy Ross made the flag. That’s about all I’ve got. It’s a shame. For most of us, we know damn well it’s women who make the whole thing work. They’re the ones that make the trains run on time and almost always have. Men wrote the books and women read them. Hardly seems fair.

Back then we did stuff. We made things with our own two hands. And you know what? Most of it was a lot worse than what we have today. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Bumpers don’t fall off anymore. You can’t put your foot clear through to the pavement when the floor rusts out. Things used to break that just don’t anymore.

Do you know I never had an avocado in my life until I was 57 years old? That was a good day I can tell you.

Now we have these machines and factories that make things so precisely no human could ever do it. Each thing is identical to the last. They’re stamped out almost literally. They’re more consistent. More reliable. Forget cars that don’t rust or break down. Cars that drive themselves! Can you imagine? Well, I guess you don’t have to. They’re here right now, cruising down some California street I suppose.

I think one of the things that’s really hurting us today is we don’t believe in ghosts. Not God. Ghosts. God is something you can believe in or you don’t. Could be a little fat guy sitting in a field beneath a tree. Could be a skinny hippy-looking guy nailed to a cross. Might be a cow. Could be anything is the point. 

But ghosts are different. Ghosts are down here with us. They might be in here right now for all we know. I hope they are. The ghost is that little thing inside the thing that gives it its feel. I’ve got an old Amish rocking chair they made down in Pennsylvania. I swear it makes a sound that seems like a sigh. When I touch it, I see a field. There’s corn in the distance. The sun is low like it might be Fall. I don’t know what it means. Might have been made in a garage for all I know. It’s just what I feel. It’s the ghost in it. My friend has a 1964 Corvette. It’s kind of a purple color. Beautiful. The year after the split-window in the rear. When we ride in it, we don’t say a thing. But I hear music. I hear laughing. I smell things like fields and cookouts. I feel like myself– an older and better, stronger version of myself. Not my body. My soul. Like I’m complete. I don’t remember those things. They’re there at that moment I’m in that old Corvette. The then and the now. The that guy and this guy right here. We’re all one. One moment. One era.

Today, there are dozens of cars you can get that are ten times faster than that ‘vette. I’ve never been in one, but I wonder if you hear a thing. I wonder.

So my advice to you as you set about on your journey is to spend more time studying others—people here and now and those that came before. I’m not saying don’t tend to your own knitting and try to be the best yous you can become. Everyone should do that. But by studying others, seeing what they became, how they became it and why they became it, you may put your own journeys in context. You’ve brought your carbs way down. Good for you. Shackleton lived on seal blubber for two years—only after he ate his dogs. Context. 

And don’t reject technology and science and advancement in both. But don’t forget about ghosts. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a time and place for slower and less reliable and worse. Damn watch loses about thirty seconds a day. Had it cleaned. New battery. Still losing half a minute every day. You know my father and mother gave me this when I graduated high school. Back then, that was high cotton. You probably bought your Apple Watch or whatever yourselves. Bet it’s perfect at keeping time. Never loses a second. So how will you tell someone about your parents and what they sacrificed to get you a watch that doesn’t even tell time that great? Maybe write a little letter explaining that one. Do it on a sheet of paper too. How you were going to baseball practice and put your foot right through the floor of the car and your mom called it the Fred Flinstone mobile from that day forward. How are you gonna remember? What’s gonna trigger that in you? What will haunt your memory in good ways and bad?

No ghosts. But we got a lot of monsters. So now it’s a race. It’s man versus machine. Remember Henry’s Hammer? Who can make the cage and put the other in? Will we cage the beast or will the machine beast cage us? And if the machine wins, everything will be perfect. No highs. No lows. No lost time. Nothing to keep track of. Just the white noise of a people who can’t remember how to make or do or think or feel a thing.

Isn’t that right, Alexa?

I wish you luck. We’re toes on the edge. No pressure. But don’t look down. I won’t be here to see how the movie ends and this all plays out. Or will I?


Bed’s Too Big Without You

I made something new. It’s essentially a novel, but it’s got a different kind of form-factor. It’s something like a multi-media blog that’s designed and built for how people consume content now– mobile and tablets.

It’s at and I hope you like it. It’s sad and sweet, tragic and inspiring.

It’s life. My little slant on it, anyway.

Infinite Jeb


“Good morning everyone. Good morning.”

He doffed the cap he wasn’t wearing to the woman pouring fresh-squeezed, Florida-grown orange juice for those assembled around the large oval table.

“El zumo de naranja, por favor,” he said with exaggerated exactitude of pronunciation.

“Si, señor,” she said concealing the slightest of eye-rolls. She was third-generation Greek.

“You’re smart to have her pour it now, Jeb. When I’m el presidente she’ll be back in Mexico growing smokus pokus on the family marijuana plantation. And not the medicinal kind, Doc. The real stuff.”

She never lifted her eyes as she poured Carson’s juice.

“So the media has had a field day with my soon-to-be-validated theory that the Pyramids were grain stores created by Joseph. Jeb, ask Conchita there who created those smaller pyramids in the Mayan Riviera. I can tell you one thing, it was not the Incas. Those savages were too busy offering up human sacrifices the Sun Gods. They didn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. That’s why they’re no more. Smote. To build something like that, you’ve got to be on team Carpenter— get it?”

“As the only Jew at this table,” Sanders paused dramatically for effect, holding his hands wide open without evident reason, “I can tell you CONCLUSIVELY, that no Jew would use the pyramids to store Grain. Salt yes. But not grain. That’s more crazy talk from the heart surgeon who ironically has none.”

“But now, if you’ll ALLOW me to tie these two stories together— Trump’s xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic and arguably moronic plan to kick more than eleven million hard-working residents of America to the curb, with Carson’s baffling, bewildering, anti-science, ahistorical, fundamentally fundamentalist gibberish, I’ll say this: have you ever been SO STONED on Mexicali herb that LITERALLY every SINGLE fuck left your body? Have you? Rubio, don’t tell me you haven’t.  Anyways, I was walking down the Burlington Mall when a homeless guy— who deserves as much dignity as anyone else, I might add— offered me a hit of his blunt. WHO AM I to say no? You wouldn’t, Cruzer, I can tell you that much— not being a fucking Canadian in the first place. So I hit off this thing, which BASICALLY looks like French baguette wrapped in toilet paper— it’s this big, Carly, I’m telling you. So I hit this thing like it’s Woodstock and the next thing I know something deeply profound happened. Now, I am ONE HUNDRED PERCENT COMMITTED to the separation of Church and State, but I tell you, this level of being stoned was religious. Talk about ‘feeling the Bern.’ And it was at that precise moment, on that beautiful Burlington Mall just in front of The Gap, that every SINGLE fuck left my body. And with no more fucks to give, I made the decision that legalizing marijuana would be JOB ONE as soon as this old Jew’s tuchus gets tucked behind the big desk in the oval office.”

“Bernie, I may be from Texas by way of Canada, but I know a batshit crazy American when I see one. You do the nation of Israel, our single greatest ally in all the wide world that God himself made in just six glorious days, I might add, you do that fine and noble nation a great disservice with your loose morals, socialist and scandalous beliefs, and heavy, heavy weed consumption. Not only do I not like green eggs and ham, said Sanders I am, I do not like green cards, border fences, or even sensible marijuana legislation. Nooo, it’s no rules for Bernie. Bring your weed. Bring your guns. Rape our women. Soak up all our resources. Drive up the cost of wages for hard-working American whites.”

“You fucking dog, Cruz. You stole my stump speech. I was looking all over for that.”

“You left it in the shitter, DT. Sloppy. Not very Presidential. You’re no Simon Cowell. Just another reason you’re not fit to be the leader of the free Christian world.”

“I’ll fit my Bruno Magli, not made in the U-S-A incidentally since we can’t make anything here any more, I’ll fit it right up your ass. You know what you are? You know what we call you on The Apprentice? We call you “Bread Face”. You’re born up north and look like you’re from Mexico. You’re like the bread top and bottom. I’m THE FUCKING MEAT!”

“I have to say, as the son of Spanish-speaking immigrants, I find this entire breakfast highly offensive. From offending the staff, whose name is ‘Rosa’ incidentally, to judging the Cruz book by its admittedly Mexican sounding cover, to speaking offensively about the older folks and Jews who are every bit as American as you and me…”

“Even an old hippy Jew is more American than you, Rubes. You’re like eleven, and seven of those years were probably spent rolling cigars in Havana.”

“Donald. I’m going through my old blackberry emails from you, and in this one dated January 14th you say you think Rubio would be an ideal running mate for you. I quote, ‘he’ll bring out el vote in the South where they don’t speak English anyway’. And the best part is, it’s a PS in a note you sent asking if you could develop a golf course resort inside the Kabul green zone.”

“It’s a great idea and could make you millions, Dragon Lady. Millions you’d then give away to every lazy dog that lines the street all the way do your door— starting with your skirt-chasing husband (whom I like a great deal, incidentally). Hillary, I knew Margaret Thatcher— very small teeth– and you’re no Margaret Thatcher. Doc, you’re good with your hands. So’s my masseuse. So’s Eddie Van Halen. None of you will be President. Carly, I’m genuinely sorry I made fun of your face. Truly. I should have definitely just focused on how you cut the value of HP in half virtually over night. ‘You’re Fired!’. Rand— the closet called. It wants you back. Kasich- a moderate Republican is an oxymoron. You’re the only Moron who doesn’t see that. Marco, you seem like a nice, earnest kid. Not get your fucking shine box! Gramps— I mean Bernie— I love that you just love weed. I just hope you don’t die skiing stoned when I’m in the White House. I hate Vermont in the winter. Or summer for that fact. Terrible Ted. You’ve got game. You could win on The Apprentice. You can look people dead in the eye and smile as you turn the blade. Don’t make plans for the next four years. You’re riding shotgun.”

“Who have I left out? Oh, yes. Hillary. Not sure what says more about you, that fucking Benghazi— a place I could not find on a map if my life hung in the balance and you circled every place that begins with a ‘B’ and ends in ‘azi’— brought you down or that you still rock a Blackberry! You’re pathetic! You know what else is pathetic? That me or even Cafe Cubano Rubio will get more of the women’s vote than you will. Sleep tight thinking about that fact.”

“Last but not least, dear Jeb. To shit the bed even more than your brother… Wow. I don’t have anything to add. If your heart wasn’t in it, you should have stayed retired in Florida with all the other zombies.”

“To you all, let me remind you—this is not a test. It’s just a game. Play the goddamn game! Look at this hair. Not one of you has had the balls, including you Hillary, to call me out on it. ‘Shut your hole, Uncle Fester. Eat shit cue ball.’ Nothing. I’m ridiculous. It’s teed up for you. And all you can do is stutter about itemized deductions and shit nobody really cares about. It’s a game. Give the people what they want. They want shock and awe. Fire and brimstone. Loudmouth soup. Name calling. Finger pointing. Back biting. This is political Survivor and I’m the only one pulling in the ratings. My back’s killing me from carrying you around. Get with it. Release the hounds! Come out swinging. It’s earnings time. Maximize. Marginalize. Trivialize. Snap-to. It. Is. On.”

“That criticism aside, it’s been a blast. A few housekeeping notes before we adjourn. One, this is on me. My treat. I’m putting it on the production company tab. Second, all of this has been recorded. All of it. The guys back in the truck will work something up and I’ll get you a link to a roughcut and the teaser. Sorkin’s looking at optioning it as a ten-part series. You won’t believe this, but the Koch brothers are scoring it. One plays viola. The other plays congas. Can’t remember which is which. Should be interesting.”

“However much loot you thought you’d make in office pales in comparison to what fucking Rainn Wilson makes each season on The Office! The Donald is going to make you flush with cash— all for getting a little flushed in the face.”

“That’s a real fair trade agreement. Am I right?”

“You’re fucking gross. I hope you die,” Rosa said, dropping the OJ pitcher as she left the room.

She gets it. What’s wrong with you people?”


There was a little old Jewish lady who lived down the hall and was kind to me as a child.

We went to Canada often to visit relatives. We’d stop for Chinese near the border. Canadian Chinese is a favorite.

I have a great friend who is black, gay, and looks exactly like Kermit the frog.

Food I’ve had in the North End of Boston is better than most I’ve had in Italy.

A close family friend from Germany became a nationalized citizen yesterday.

A colleague brought Mooncakes to work for the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival.

My son has a Mormon friend at his Jesuit school.

A neighbor was born in China, raised in Germany, and now speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, German and English.

Our parish priest is damn near a scratch golfer.

My mother loves all things Irish. And the Queen.

Chicago’s Greek Town can do magical things to a lamb. PETA forgive me.

I have Jewish friends who like Ham&Cheese, oyster shooters, and weed, not necessarily in that order.

Our President is black. A leading candidate to replace him is a geriatric socialist Jew from Vermont.

I like it here. This is America. In some places, particularly Europe, the people are a part of the soil almost like crops. Here, other than the Natives, we’re all foreigners. The land isn’t sacred. It’s just what we stand on. We’re all interlopers. What being “American” is changes with the generations, if not the seasons. There is no constant. It’s always changing shape, color, and tone. If you don’t like it, wait a minute until it changes.

The idea that there’s a white Christian America is bunk. It’s a melting pot. It’s the whole world put in a blender and served straight up. Grasping to what never was is the new definition of insanity. Folks have been passing through the turnstiles from the beginning and that won’t stop.

And that’s what’s so cool. There aren’t two parties. There’s a million going on at once. Check one out. Loosen up a little.

The War on Terrible


None of us is perfect. Some of us (sadly more of us than we’d like to admit) are simply terrible. For every Jared, surfing kiddy porn (allegedly) while scarfing down impossibly tasteless five-dollar foot-longs, there are thousands if not more just like him. For every Bill Cosby who only drugs women because hitting them over the head and dragging them back to his cave (allegedly, but come on) is too conspicuous (especially in his Jesus and the Amazing Technicolor sweater collection), there are thousands more— and they’re not all on college campuses despite what you’ve heard on NPR.

So, let’s take 1% of the funding of the “War on Terror” and fund the “War on Terrible”.

I’m not talking about every hopeless, heartless, witless Dylann Roof out there. They’re a different category. I’d like to think they’re insane because to do what he did and others have done before him while sane is unthinkable. Regardless, let’s put their ilk aside.

But rapists and pedophiles (and there is a bit of a leap to go from child porn to pedophilia, but it’s not a world-class leap) are irredeemably broken. They need to be detected, isolated, and studied before more harm is done. It sounds harsh and draconian. It also sounds fraught with risk. Every boy or man who looks different or is different is not dangerous. Further, there are sick people who can be made well through medicine, counseling…

That’s where the funding comes in. What precisely is broken in these specific predators that either allow them or make them (depending on your perspective) do these horrible things they do? (As an aside, a friend of mine works in the penal system and has gotten to know a convicted child molester well over the years of his incarceration. She swears he’s witty, intelligent and fundamentally decent. Yet he knows that he cannot ever leave custody. He knows what he’d do. Yet, he knows not why.)

That’s where research comes in.

We can’t save every sinner. We can’t catch every bad guy. Let’s narrow the net and focus on these slippery fish before more of our rivers and lakes are fouled and overrun by them to the point that nobody goes there any more.

The Great Misdirect

A plane crashes. We spring to life.


The airwaves fill with callers. Tom Ashbrook leads his followers through a chorus of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Wolf Blitzer commissions experts on the topic. Anderson Cooper digs for the human interest angles about the children, the soon-to-be-wed teacher, the mother’s only son.
Worrying about death by plane, like death by ebola, Muslim or cop, seems so big because it’s really so small. We can get our arms around it, unlike the things that really kill us.
One of my kids recently said that ‘older’ people dying of cancer was the same as dying of ‘old age.’ A new name or a timeless thing. Cancer: normal. Heart Disease: normal. Inner City Murder: normal. Climate change: irrevocable if not normal.
Is it factory farming, pollution, genetic modification…that’s causing tens of millions to die unnaturally? Don’t now. Is is social policy, education, job availability or something other that’s bifurcating society like never before? Unclear.
It hurts our heads to think about the grey, insidious, creeping deaths that await most of us. We sense it’s avoidable, or at least can be pushed further out, but we’re unclear how. So we perseverate on that one in a million fate that almost certainly will not befall any of us. We glom onto media accounts of the fantastic because thinking about our ordinary fates is just too depressing and overwhelming.
Bummed out? Look! A shiny thing!

Liars Poke Her

“Big Brother is watching you.”

-George Orwell


Orwell’s clear implication is that we will be a docile, good little herd if we know what’s good for us. I have co-opted his dystopian view to my own ends often. From Halloween until Christmas morning, “Santa is watching…” is likely the most oft repeated phrase in the household.


In truth, I think Orwell only got half of it right. Someone is watching you, but it’s usually not Big Brother.  Sure the Government and its NSA arm are in the news for snooping into what we’re watching online, searching for on Google, and even who some of us are calling. What’s far more pervasive, and potentially insidious, is the little sister, nondescript neighbor, or casual passerby not just watching but listening, recording, vining our every move.


The surveillance state we’re unofficially living in raises some interesting questions. At a macro level, the point of constant surveillance is to deter bad behavior in our society. At a more personal philosophical level it’s said that character is ‘what we do when no one is looking’.


So ring in the death of character? Someone’s always looking.


It’s tempting to think that where we might lack character we gain sense with the knowledge that our every move, our every word is being recorded both for immediate distribution and for posterity.


Evidently not. Both character and common sense are in critically short supply if headlines are any indication.


Take the recent admssion by V.A. Secretary Robert McDonald that he lied to a fellow veteran about being in Special Forces. The V.A. has had very persistent and vexing credibility issues. Six months into his term he’s caught in the kind of lie that Veterans and non-Veterans alike cannot abide by.


With all due respect to the Secretary, there simply is no explanation for overstating your valor to anyone let alone a fellow Veteran. No amount of spin cycle can erase the stain from the former Procter and Gamble Tide brand manager.


Why did he do it?


I’d like to think it was innocuous. He’s a salesman. The key to sales is establishing a rapport and some common ground. The Vet he was speaking with was in Special Forces so McDonald said he was too. I get it. I don’t agree with it or condone it but I get it.  If the person of your dreams accidentally bumps into you in a bar wearing a Patriots hat and Tom Brady jersey you might make like you’re Pat the Patriot even if you’re from Buffalo. That’s the storied “white lie.” At the Secretary of the V.A. level, however, it’s the unpardonable black and white lie.


To me the answer to the question of why we misbehave is self-evident. It’s in our DNA. The more interesting question is why we do it knowing we’ll get caught. Why isn’t the thesis that oversight leads to control panning out?

Toronto Star

Toronto Star


You cannot tell me Brian Williams did not know full well his tall tales would come back to haunt him. He’s no fool. Nor is Bill O’Reilly. The police officers who choked a man to death in broad daylight in Staten Island or the ones in Washington state just this week, knew they were being filmed by many.


Getting away with it is off the table, yet they did it any way. Rob Ford, Anthony Wiener and Eliot Spitzer were both politicians at the highest level (Spitzer was even a District Attorney!) These are men who understand evidence, yet they not only committed the “crime” but also left a trail of digital breadcrumbs as evidence leading right to their doors.




Cornell’s Jeff Hancock has written brilliantly about this. One of his beliefs is that digital lying, that is writing something not true as on a resume or plagiarizing someone, is going the way of the dinosaur. Everything is verifiable— and quickly. Makes sense, though there are still dolts that do it.


I contest that living under a million points of spotlight has actually made us more craven and depraved as opposed to the “with increased media coverage we just see more” line of explanation. The pressure for perfection has built to such a level that people are acting out their demons writ large and small in ways they know to be wrong but cannot rein in.


I think Orwell was closer to the truth when he proclaimed, “On the whole, human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.”


All these cameras are not catching terrorists or criminals so much as they’re catching us at our weakest points. Surveillance leading to accountability and the death of lies is the biggest lie of all as it turns out.

Off Label

A tragedy of judging and getting it all wrong. A defense of satire. A work of fiction.

The boat is packed this morning— mostly with Protestants of all flavors. (Can anyone really tell the difference?) I suppose the fact that it leaves from a town called “Hingham”, named after a tony Puritan-founded village in the English country, tells the whole story. That people think of the South Shore as the “Catholic Riviera” is as outdated as it is preposterous.

I got on and assumed my position in the corner (do they all know I’m a lapsed Catholic and former altar boy?) dutifully staring at my phone, trying to blend as best I can. A big guy with somewhat doughy features stands beside me, a bit too close for my liking, doing the same. Of course. My guess is Presbyterian, but could be any one of those clannish sects.

In front of us sits a tallish, thin man. With a camel-colored pea coat, Burberry scarf, watertight boots, and brown hair slicked back and parted with a precision even a dreadlocked Rastafarian would have to appreciate, he is the Episcopalian’s wet dream. If he isn’t an Episcopalian, then there are no Episcopalians left in existence. He came directly from Oxford Street to the boat this morning by all appearances. Should any tragic circumstance befall the boat on this trip, surely he’ll rise from his seat, receive total calm and quiet from both commuters and crew without even having to ask for it, issue a few orders in a somewhat nasally voice, before heading to the wheelhouse, grim faced and determined. (If the ship does go down, he would almost certainly be the first to be saved, coincidentally.)

Then there are the other Catholics. An Italian woman, shortish and a bit ‘hippy’ but undoubtedly a fantastic cook and a passionate lover. There is no shortage of Irish Catholics. The white haired thirty-two year old lawyer archetype chatting away with the red-nosed, stocky, wire-haired McSomething the probable bond trader. They likely prefer tea, but choke down coffees with two skim and three sugars to keep up appearances.

The head door slid open a minute ago and a Germanic looking (or was it Scandinavian?) twenty-something woman hurried out. 3-2-1…There it is— the smell only blonde-haired woman can make in public and get away with. If she were Czech or Polish the crowd would have tossed her overboard for her ill-timed Lutheran log. But her black boots and blonde hair sashayed right through the crowd as we held our breath and plunged our noses into scalding hot coffees.

Bringing us to Jews. There are some curly haired women who push their glasses up their formidable if not enormous noses repeatedly while reading paperbacks. Does the Torah forbid mobile? But I’m not so confident in my Oyveydar to accuse them in public. I do, however, have my suspicions.

It’s a statistical anomaly that there are no Asians or Hispanics. Then again, this is the early boat. There is one black. He works on the engines or something and is usually in the boiler room or whatever it’s called. There, he probably sings his negro spirituals in the Southern Baptist tradition begun when his forefathers ran away from their mostly Methodist slave masters.

As we disembark, white Protestants, a few Catholics and possibly a couple of closet Jews, the air is sharp and stinging. The WASP next to me shoots me a glance that says, “You thinking what I’m thinking?” I am and give him a knowing grin.   Time to find a Paki or Ethiopian cab driver. It’s freezing out here.

(RIP Charlie Hebdo. Our labels aren’t working. Can’t we all just get along?)

My New Year’s Wisholution

  1. Less disruption. I’m looking for confluence. Things that make things better without making other things worse by definition.
  2. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We will not be saved by angels, but by the devils of our nature bending toward the light.
  3. Grab a shovel. There’s lots to work on. Let’s apply some of our talents to the greater good and put a “dent in the universe” in a good way.
  4. Life is sweet. So more cookies. Preferably peanut butter.
  5. Throw open the windows. Be more mobile. Windows down, windy-road sort. Peek beyond the wall. Get some fresh air. Take the long way home.
  6. In the flesh. Being more social. Doing less social. Irony intended.
  7. Show some teeth. More emotion. Fewer emoticons.
  8. Put away childish things. More talking on the phone. Less time sucking.
  9. Step into the ring. More daring action. Less biting commentary on others’ actions.
  10. S/He who threads the most together wins.

A Friend, Indeed.

The New Year always gives me occasion to pause and reflect; to look back before charting the course forward in the upcoming year. Here’s this year’s big insight:

I don’t know what the question is, but the answer is relationships. Relationships forged in the workplace have brought me more success than I could have reasonably hoped for.

As a lowly publisher rep at the University of Buffalo, I hastily decided to seek fame and fortune in Chicago. My bosses, Kim Bollinger, Tom Russell, and Mark Litzsinger created a role for me there—a better role than I had before. Thank you for getting the ball rolling. You all opened so many doors.

I wanted to see if I could be a young Darrin Stephens and make a name for myself in Advertising. I started at a little agency in River North, Jordan-Tamraz-Caruso. There I met the hilarious and vivacious Rose Fauster. When Rose moved over to the legendary agency DDB, she put in the good word for me, and after eight interviews (not hyperbole) I joined her there. Thanks Rose!

At DDB I had the great fortune to work for Mike Sheehan. When Mike got the nod to return to Boston and Hill,Holliday as CEO and eventually Chairman, he brought me with him. So began my life in Boston. It is not overstating it to say I cannot thank Mike enough. Still I try!

After a great run at Hill,Holliday I decided to stretch my wings a bit and try life on the West Coast in Seattle with Publicis. When homesickness eventually prevailed, it was Hill,Holliday’s Karen Kaplan who made the board-level endorsement I needed to return to Boston as CMO of Tweeter. Thanks Kappy!

At this point I was now a “boss” as well as an employee. My first hire at Tweeter was the incredible Stefanie Geddis, whom I worked with at Hill,Holliday. Convincing someone of her stature to join the cause put tremendous wind in my sails. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Stef.

From Tweeter I went to Carat— a deal orchestrated by former Hill,Holliday HR exec Melissa Rose. I’ll always be thankful to Melrose for throwing a lifeline when the Tweeter ship was sunk.

At Carat I had the pleasure and luck to work with Kelly McSheffrey, the most organized and disciplined coworker I’ve ever been around. So when I joined startup Ando Media and sized up that we needed some order amidst the chaos, Kelly was the first call I made. She helped get Ando buttoned-up, off the ground, and on to much success. Thanks for doing what you do, Kelly.

When Ando was purchased by Triton, I needed help. Former client Ken Kimmel was comfortable enough to give me his first-born. Literally. That greenhorn kid right out of school is now all grown up and well into what will be a very successful career in her own right. Thanks for the trust, Ken.

So, I guess it goes without saying that the virtuous circle of relationships based on trust, respect, fun and affection has been “berry, berry good to me!” as ‘Chico Escuela’ might say.

Oh, yeah, I forgot one. My very first job out of school, the “Repo Man” for M&T Bank, netted me a wife, two kids, and a life. Thanks for the introduction to your sister, Kristin Cavalieri.

For those of you I didn’t mention by name, you know who you are.

So do I;)

Happy New Year! Let’s do great things together in 2015!

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them!”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson