Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Party, or The Enders Island Sea Monster

One of the great traditions of my MFA program's winter residency is the New Year's Eve party. We all dress up (I'm not much for dressing up so I'm usually one of the more casually dressed people there). It's a great way to enjoy the ringing in of a new year.

Of course it's a little bittersweet for me this residency, being my last one in the program. I'll have to try to pace myself, since I don't want to be a puddle of emotion and consuming large quantities of alcohol can do that to a person.

But there's something more ominous on the horizon -- The Enders Island Sea Monster, otherwise known as Mystie. The sea monster lurks on New Year's Eve, keeping a careful eye out for unsuspecting and inebriated MFAers to stumble out of Enders House to ambush them. It has an appetite for fiction. Grainy footage shows it to have teeth the size of a scimitar, 6-foot-long fins and a tail thicker than a tree trunk. Some say it has tentacles, too.

Mystie has claimed a laundry list of victims. Many poets and fiction and nonfiction writers have never been seen again after the New Year's Eve party. They were not the first to see a sea monster on the shores of Long Island Sound, nor the last.

Thus, this may be my last blog ever. I pray that I'm not among the victims.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Hotel Room

We've had a septic system emergency at our residency. Thus, we're not allowed to use the bathrooms in the dorms anymore.

There are other buildings on campus where we can do certain activities that one would normally do in a bathroom. But we're on our own for showering. Thus, the program and folks at Enders have generously reserved rooms at other hotels in the area, including the Taber Inn.

That said, our rooms are fine and there is no need for me to move, outside of needing a place to shower. So, my friends Linsey and Erin allowed me to shower in their hotel room.

Kinda felt weird, when you're in a program at a Jesuit school that holds its residence at a Catholic retreat, to be showering in a room that two females are staying in. But, of course it was all on the straight and narrow. These are my friends and they wanted to help me out. I still get to stay on the island, but a shower is a 5-minute drive away.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Seminar and Reading

Things get magnified when your seminar and reading, required for graduation in the MFA program, are scheduled for the same day.

I woke up at 7:30 with a headache after a curious night of drunk blogging. I couldn't go back to sleep because my seminar was in an hour. I went to breakfast and, for one of the first times ever, they did not have the Enders staples, bacon or sausage, instead opting for waffle day. I clutched an apple and people said they were concerned about me.

At noon, I was informed I had to find an introducer for my 20-minute reading from my novel, so I tapped my former mentor Da Chen. He was already intorducing someone else in another room. We had to coordinate schedules so he could run from room to room.

Both seminar and reading went well. Both were heavily attended and I got very nice compliments. And now I'm finally relaxing after months of thesis stress.

The rest of the residency should be great. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Final Workshop and Seminar

Right now, it's 1:15 a.m. I'm tipsy. And by tipsy, I mean "really fucking hammered."
I attended my final workshop in the MFA program yesterday. Everything went well. I have a novel that is decent but flawed but flawed in a way that I feel like I know how to change it for the better.

Now I'm waiting on my graduate MFA seminar, which will be today at 8:30 a.m. I have a few people I already know who have said they will attend. Wish me luck. I will be much less stressed after that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Night Of Last Residency

For the past week I've been an emotional puddle. I've completed all my coursework for the residency. But this is my final residency. I graduate in a week and a day. So this residency is bittersweet for me. I will have all the fun of residency, but with the knowledge that this is the end.

One thing that has helped is that, with most of the excess work done for the last residency, I'm much more laid back now after a week (or a month) of stress.

The other thing that helped was, when I left home today, I dropped my New England Patriots cup (which I use to drink vodka and other mixed drinks) down two flights of stairs. Potentially traumatic.

When I picked it up, the cup was completely intact. No crack. Not even a scratch. I take this as a good omen.

Bring on the final residency.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Secret Santa

Residency is fast approaching, and I've been stressed out. I still have a lot to do.

I have eight workshop samples to read. (It could be worse. Two days ago, I had all 13 left to read.) I have to prepare for a seminar. I have to write a faculty introduction. I have to write a speech. I have to pack. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, maybe a couple of things.

Luckily, some of my Masshole friends had Secret Santa on Tuesday night. It was very relaxing. I got a nice new book, some Chinese food to celebrate the holidays, and some quality time with good friends.

I'm a little less stressed now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Last night I blogged a little earlier than usual. I was kind of tired and the Monday Night Football game sucked and I wanted to go to bed early.

The next morning, Blogspot notified me that the blog had received 175 page views in the hour after I posted my blog.

175. I've never received that many in an entire day, let alone one hour.

I, of course, appreciate the support. I'm very confused, though. I mean, unless there's a huge, latent contingent of people who hate being told to bring water to the gym, it doesn't seem that so many people would be as impassioned as me about this. Is Blogspot's tracking software defective? Did I put some magic buzzword in my blog to get noticed on the search engines? Would more people read my blog if I posted it at 10 p.m. instead of midnight?

If I were smart, I would've blogged early again today so that I could see if this is a trend.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Spin Class Discount

As part of my efforts to get back to the gym more often, I decided to go to a spin class.

I haven't been to spin in almost a year. There was a really good spin instructor but she left because her real life got in the way and she couldn't reconcile classes with her work schedule. About the same time I began working with a personal trainer and it didn't seem as necessary to spin.

There was a new instructor when I walked in. Normally I never bring a bottle of water to the cycle room. I'm a lousy multi-tasker. I find it awkward to try to spin and drink water at the same time, and there are plenty of water bubblers in the gym than I can use afterwards.

"Where's your water," the new instructor, Linda, asks me.

"I don't have any," I say.

She reaches into her pocket book, grabs a dollar and gives it to me so I go out to buy a bottle of water at the cooler.

The problem is, a water bottle costs $1.25. I return to the spin room and drop the dollar at the instructor's feet.

"Where's your water?" Linda asks.

"The water costs $1.25," I say.

"I can't let you spin unless you have water," she says. "Go back out there and tell the you're getting the spin class discount."

This is ridiculous. Someone probably joined my gym, went once, overextended him/herself, nearly passed out from exhaustion and sued the gym for his/her trouble. Now I have to pay the price by having spin class run like a dictatorship. I go back out and get the spin class discount. It's not worth making waves. Besides, Linda said I had to have water to spin. She didn't say I had to drink the water.

Class starts as normal. The water sits in the bottle rack, untouched. I wonder if Linda will stop class and order me to take a sip of water. It never happens. She seems oblivious that I go through the whole workout without drinking.

Everybody wins. I get a good workout. Linda gets to run class the way she wants. I get to avoid drinking water until after class. I'm drinking the water as I write this. Best of all, I got the gym class discount.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Great Scheduling

I've always said, the NFL is the best sports league in the world. It's financially stable. For the most part, they do things right. This has been a season full of exciting games and record-breaking accomplishments. Almost every game is worth watching.

And when they're not, the NFL makes sure there are contingencies.

Last Monday night, the NFL made sure a dull game with little playoff implication between San Diego and Jacksonville was on the same night at A Charlie Brown Christmas. So I could watch Charlie Brown without worrying about missing anything.

Tonight is an even worse Monday night clunker -- St. Louis at Seattle. The Rams are mathematically eliminated, the Seahwaks could sneak in as a wild-card team if about six other NFC teams lose all their remaining games.

But lo, ABC comes to the rescue again, with my fifth-favorite Christmas special,  I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown, is on.

It's a Christmas miracle. Thanks, NFL.

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Semi-Triumphant Return To the Gym

It had been building up for 97 days.

I hadn't been to my gym since Sept. 3. I know this because it's been so long that I lost my swipie-card for the gym, and when the guy behind the counter ran my information the screen showed Sept. 3 as my last visit.

The past three months have not been good for my physical fitness. Some personal turmoil in September and my thesis in October and November conspired to keep me away. Sometimes in life you have to prioritize, and I had to put the gym on the back burner. The unfortunate side effect is that I'm much flabbier and fatass-ier than I was Sept. 3. It was all the more disappointing because I'd lost a decent amount of weight over the past year.

Friday I made my return to the gym, at which time I discovered that I couldn't find my swipie. They gave me a new swipie, but I was still nervous. My gym has a cool program where I can work with a small group of fellow gym members and a personal trainer for free. I didn't know if the others at the gym would judge me, and didn't know how long I'd be able to work out before fatigue got the better of me. Five minutes into the workout, my right tricep began to ache.

But everything returned to normal. I got through wind sprints, crunches, manmakers and a bunch of other exhausting exercises with only a couple of 30-second breaks. I'm sure I wasn't as good at them as I was Sept. 3 (and I'm already a little sore, which usually doesn't happen until a day or two later), but to a certain extent it'd like riding a bike. Most importantly, I didn't die.

I'll try my best to get to the gym four or five times a week in the next two weeks before my residency. Life is returning to normal, and it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2 1/2 Pages

Readings are always nerve-wracking. Partially because I always kind of wing it and wait until the last minute to figure out what part of my novel I'm going to read. Partially because it's a long drive to Fairfield.

Yesterday, I also drove a long way in a pouring rain. I got to the Fairfeld bookstore, drenched, and hen I dug out my piece I realized it. I had decided to read 2 1/2 pages and I only brought 1 1/2 of them with me.

Luckily, I also brought the second copy of my thesis down too (I was supposed to bring it down last week and forgot). So I took out the missing page, trying to be extra neat since it is a thesis page, and was able to perform my reading as normal.

We almost got hit by a car after the reading, but other than that little miscue it was great to catch up with everyone again.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Club Millionaire

So I joined Club Millionaire at the beginning of the fall TV season, which earns me points for answering Who Wants To Be a Millionaire  questions correctly. If you collect enough points you can win stuff (which I don't really care much about) and possibly be invited to be a contestant on the show (which is more interesting).

I've collected 650-some-odd points and today I tried to get more when I got the following email:

Dear Club Millionaire Members,

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are sorry to announce that, as of Tuesday, December 6, 2011, all activity related to Club Millionaire will be discontinued.  We apologize for any disappointment this may cause and thank you for your participation of the Club.   In the coming months, we will be exploring other options related to development and operation of a new Millionaire rewards program.  Should a new Millionaire club be launched, please be assured that any points you've accumulated, thus far, will be transferred into the new program.

We appreciate your loyalty to "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and hope you will continue to be an active viewer of the program.

What the hell happened? How do you mess this up? What are "circumstances beyond our control" when you're giving away free prizes. I mean, the only other club I'm in is Club Penguin, and that's because my friends' kids asked me to join, and Club Penguin has never had these problems.

This is the kind of mystery that keeps me up at night.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Best of the Holiday Specials

Last year around this time I blogged about the 10 best and worst songs of the holiday season. This year I'll switch it up and do the five best Christmas specials.

(Before you complain, in this case it'll be all Christmas, since none on the list are Hannukkah or Kwanzaa of Festivus-oriented, though it's about time someone writes a screenplay for "A Charlie Brown Festivus.")

Here goes:

5) "I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown" -- The obscure little brother of the Peanuts made-for-TV-special franchise, it appropriately follows Linus and Lucy's obscure little brother Rerun as he goes on a quest to get a dog for Christmas. Coincidentally, Snoopy's skinny bro Spike just happens to be up from Needles for the holidays. It's a Christmas miracle!

4) "Prep and Landing" -- ABC seems to roll out a new P&L episode every Christmas and the first one (2009) was the best, but it's good shit. Nice to see a new special that's well done. Wayne and Larry have to get Timmy's house prepared for Santa's arrival. Wayne, who got passed over for  promotion, is sulking and it jeopardizes the arrival. I know it's a cartoon, but this was actually really suspenseful.

3) "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." -- Stop motion animation at its finest from the old Rankin-Bass folks. Like Rudolph and the dentist elf Hermey, I think we've all felt like we were part of the Island of Misfit Toys at one point in our lives. Add to that the stress of making sure Christmas doesn't get canceled, being chased around by the Abominable Snowman, and this is funny and suspenseful. Some of the musical numbers were a little iffy, and I always felt like Yukon Cornelius was a little creepy, but this timeless classic is worth sitting through the whole hour.

2) "Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation" -- I mean, Phineas and Ferb are so well done anyway, but it's a stroke of brilliance to take them out of the usual setting of summer vacation and into winter break. They try to save Danville from being bypassed by Santa thanks to a misunderstand. Meanwhile, Agent P and Doofenschmirtz battle over figgy pudding and bad Sal Tuscany records. Again, some of the musical numbers are a bit goofy, but a great way to spend a December evening. (Ad, actually, there is a Hanukkah reference in this one.)


1) "A Charlie Brown Christmas" -- I mean come on, did you think it was gonna be anything else?

That's what Christas is all about, Charlie Brown.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


In all the chaos associated with my thesis, I forgot that I'm giving a reading of my novel-in-progress Wednesday at the Fairfield University Bookstore (the bookstore formerly known as Borders).

It's 1499 Post Road, Fairfield, Conn., and it begins at 7 p.m.

Now to figure out which passage I'll actually read from.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Ambulance Chaser

I get some weird suggestions on Twitter. Last night was one of the weirder ones. Twitter suggested, in my "Similar to you" box, that I follow a personal injury attorney.

I decided to tweet about this. Aside from forgetting to use an apostrophe, I thought it was a good expression of my disdain at the accusation levied against me.

Apparently not. A few hours later I got followed by a divorce attorney. Now everybody will think there's a smarmy side of me. Plus, I'm not married, so I'm not in the market for a divorce attorney.

I'm dying to see how long this attorney continues to follow me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bobby Valentine

I'll give Bobby Valentine credit -- at least he's a New Englander, though he's from the part of New England (southwestern Connecticut) that tends to root for the Yankees.

Bobby V. has a reputation. It's a reputation for taking bad teams, turning them around to the point where they're competitive and then flaming out before they become good enough. It happened in Texas. It happened with the Mets.

Then he went to Japan and won a Japan Series. And then he came back here and became agonizing as color commentator for ESPN, to the point where, whenever the Red Sox played on Sunday night, I had to mute the TV and listen to the radio color commentary.

He's a smart guy. And he knows he's a smart guy. That's the problem. Eventually teams tuned him out.

He's now the manager of the Red Sox. I'm not a fan of this move. It smacks of the Red Sox trying to make a splash again after their epic September collapse, rather than selecting a good manager.

In 2000 I wasn't a fan of the Patriots hiring Bill Belichick either. I wanted the Pats to make a run at Mike Martz, who was the hot coordinator at the time. I'm happy to say I was wrong (really wrong. Barely two years later Belichick and the Patriots beat Martz and the Rams in Super Bowl 36).

I hope I'm wrong again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Driver's Ed Redux

I got the notice in the mail a few weeks back: attend a driving retraining course in the next three months of my license would be suspended.

Until recently, I had gone 12 years without a moving violation. But this year, the law of averages caught up to me. I got dinged for driving with an expired inspection sticker and two speeding tickets. The second speeding ticket was the most frustrating; it was right before my moving hell and a police cruiser nailed me once the speed limit dropped from 35 to 25 mph because I was doing 40. Thus, with three within the span of a year, the state of Massachusetts requires me to attend a driving course. (It used to be five, but apparently Massachusetts has a reputation for not having the most courteous drivers and the state is trying to crack down.)

I had to get up this past Saturday at 7 a.m. to go to a hotel and attend the course. Not fun. There were better uses of my time. That said, some of the questions were amusing.

We each filled out a survey asking how we felt about the following statements:

"Other drivers are opponents who are trying to slow me down."

"I force my way through groups of pedestrians when making a turn at a crosswalk."

"I scare pedestrians by revving up my motor at intersections."

We watched videos of bad drivers bitching each other out. We watched another video of people driving drunk and (presumably) getting into a four- or five-car accident. We were asked "Do you want to keep your driving privileges?"

But the most bizarre part of the day came near the end, after a break, when the guy next to me and the guy behind me almost got into a fistfight and had to be separated. I have no idea what it was about (I was out getting a snack when it happens). Defensive driving, indeed.

I went home that afternoon and drove pretty much the way I normally do. Now life has returned to normal.

Just watch yourself if you're on the road with me. Because you are my opponent, and you're trying to slow me down.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Computer Back

Tuesday afternoon I got the callback from Geek Squad.

"Come on out, your computer's ready."

I didn't realize how naked I feel without a computer. Luckily I have a friend who generously loaned me her computer during times when she didn't need it.

I drove to Best Buy and tested the computer out first. Virus -- gone. Computer -- back to normal. It doesn't appear that I lost anything. The computer runs like new, which is good because it more or less is new.

That's one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Dancing With the Pats

Monday night the Patriots game pre-empted the final night of competition of Dancing With the Stars on Channel 5. The station broke bad the news to everyone so they'd be prepared, but it didn't sit well with everyone. One DWTS (and maybe Kansas City Chiefs?) fan posted on the WCVB website:

"Here's a comment, Channel 5. You suck! Our viewership suited you all season for DWTS, now you replace it with football on the finale! And you have the nerve to say on your ad, "because you deserve it." Deserve what? Staying up all night because Ch. 5 is another good ol boys club. Hope it pours buckets because you deserve it."

But it doesn't end there. 98.5 FM The Sports Hub is the flagship radio station for both the Patriots and Bruins, which created a problem Monday night when the Patriots played Kansas City and the Bruins had a big game with the Montreal Canadiens. Something had to give. And it was the Bruins, who got their game moved to 100.7 WZLX, normally Boston's Classic Rock but also 98.5's sister station and, on his night, the home for hard checks and power plays.

WZLX and 98.5 made the announcement in advance. But this also made a few enemies.

"bruinsfan867, So that just means that 98.5 is not the Bruins home hockey station! The Bruins should have remained on WBZ anyway! Can’t believe the stupis [sic] frauds from foxboro force the Bruins to move. That is BS!"

Oh well. The Patriots always were a bunch of troublemakers. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cable Outage, Conclusion

While I'm still on my friend's computer...

Saturday, once the cable was fixed without any gunfire, I called Comcast and explained that my cable, phone and internet had gone out twice in the span of seven days.

"So what can you do for me," I asked.

They told me they will give me a $20 credit on my next bill. I also requested my next statement be sent in the mail so that I can keep an eye on this. But I was happy to take a stands and get some results.


My computer has a virus. It's at Geek Squad right now. I'm at my friends' right now, using hers to type this in exchange for a little babysitting of her son, who is sick and home from school.

I know I left people hanging with my last blog. I'll try to be online for as much as I can while my computer is in the shop. Geek Squad may be a couple days.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cable Outage, Part One

Friday night, as I was scrambling to finish the revisions on my thesis, my Comcast went out. It's the second time in as many weeks that I've had a cable outage, but that's tomorrow's blog. I needed to get the thesis done and sent out and this was going to create a problem. I went out to Barnes & Noble for the wi-fi and tried to conduct business as usual.

I stayed at B & N until closing time. When I got home there was stll no internet. I called Comcast and bitched. They tried having me do the things I already tried (unplugging and plugging back in the modem) and again it didn't work. They scheduled a technician to come in Saturday afternoon.

The technician never had to show. Around 12:30 Saturday morning I looked out my window and saw a Comcast van pulling into the driveway. I went downstairs and the guy told me he's the emrgency outage guy and pretty much our whole block was out. He fopened up the cable box and began fiddling with it.

This was good -- it seemed like it might lead to the return of phone, cable and Internet. But it dawned me...

...and apparently it dawned on my landlord (who lives downstairs and has FiOS) too. He came outside.

"Excuse me, what are you doing?" my landlord said to the guy.

"The block is out," the guy said. "I'm trying to get the cable fixed."

"And you need to come out here?"


It struck me at that moment, as I watched them go back and forth, that this is Fitchburg. And if a stranger winds up wandering around behind you house, it generally isn't the cable guy. Even though he lives in the same building, I've only had a handful of interactions with him since I moved in about two months ago. Luckily he seems low-key. Given this scenario, some people would emerge from their apartment with a gun.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Sequel

I made some last-minute changes on my thesis and turned them in today. So we're back on the anxiety train.

I'm pretty exhausted. I will probably do a lot of sleeping now. I'm not sure if this is the end or if there will be additional last-minute, 11th-hour revisions. All the heavy lifting is totally worth it, but it also makes me skittish and jumpy and not myself.

I haven't been myself for awhile. Hopefully I'm about to go back to normal soon. I don't want to be this way forever.

Regis Philbin's Last Day

Today was Regis Philbin's last day as host of Regis and Kelly. The audience was a who's-who of New Yorkers. Kelly Ripa got choked up a few times. There were the usual accolades and reminiscings and flashback scenes and dance numbers.

I had heard the name "Regis" for years, but never really knew who he was until the late 90s, when I got swept up in the mania of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and then I learned he also hosted a morning talk show. He's a fascinating phenomenon to me. I admire anyone who can still be a high-energy person at the age of 80. I'm not a morning person, and on most days I don't have the energy to rant and rave like he does until around 11:15.

I wanted to see what he would say at the very end of the show. Not because I was waiting for something profound, but because I heard he bet Katie Couric $10 that he wouldn't cry. And he didn't. His final speech was pretty understated.

Still, it's definitely the end of an era.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cellphone Twins

I got together with a couple of writer friends last night. As we walked into the restaurant, I noticed one of them playing with her phone, and I almost snatched it from her.

Not because I was annoyed at her for paying more attention to the phone than me (let's face it, I can be kinda boring sometimes). Because I thought it was my phone.

It turns out that she and I have the exact same model phone. This is more of a coincidence than you think. I'm one of those types that always has a cell phone that's two or three models below state-of-the-art, one that most people haven't had for years. At the rate I'm going, I'm scheduled to have an iPhone around 2017.

It was pretty hilarious that we had to have our respective phones huddled next to us at the table, so that we wouldn't accidentally take each other's phones home with us.

It's kind of like we're cosmic twins.    

Monday, November 14, 2011

Solid B

I've been reading a novel of late. I won't reveal the name. (If you're a savvy Internet surfer, you'll be able to figure it out.) The novel is a fun read yet at the same time disappointing, like a highly touted baseball team that underachieves and bows out meekly in the MLB Divsion Series (another hint).

Thus, I'm very torn about it. If someone were to ask me, "Phil, should I read it?" I'd probably say yes, because it's good enough. I'd give it a solid B (again, though, when you're expecting an A+, a B sort of loses its luster). I've definitely read a lot worse. I've definitely read a lot worse recently. But I also don't want to lead someone astray.

As a hopeful novelist, the thing about reading a novel like this is that it dawns on me that a novel doesn't have to perfect to get published.

Not sure if that's good or bad.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Triple Murder

Crazy shit happens when my cable and internet goes out.

On Friday, I hung out with a friend and her two kids and briefly returned home around 4 p.m. to discover that my cable, internet and phone were all out. A call to Comcast didn't solve the problem, and thus I waited it out for a day. Two Comcast technicians arrived around 5 p.m. Saturday and fixed the problem.

I checked out the Internet to see what I missed in the 25 hours I was offline, and the first thing I stumbled upon was this. It's a story about a triple murder next door to the home where my grandparents lived when they were alive (they passed away in 2005 and 2008), and where my cousin lives now. I exchanged a series of text messages with her (I don't really like to text but it seemed less intrusive at this particular time) and she's shaken but safe.

Even though I only lived there for a total of a year -- maybe a year-and-a-half -- much earlier in life, because of Thanksgivings and Christmases and family gatherings I very much grew up next door to the crime scene. I knew the family only casually but you can imagine how chilling it is to know that someone I waved and said hi to dozens of times has suffered this fate.

This is going to be one of those nights where you think about the important things in life, and not do a lot of sleeping.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno

I always hated Penn State football growing up, but it was that benign hatred because they were a natural rival of BC and Syracuse and schools for which I had a rooting interest.

There's more of a reason to hate the Nittany Lions now. Allegations of sexual abuse and cover ups will sour you on a program. Head coach Joe Paterno was just fired (which is good, because letting him play out the final few games of his contract would've been a copout). School president Graham Spanier was also fired. Penn State students and fans are being meatheads, chanting outside his house in a sick display of hero worshop and rioting around campus. A few years ago, when the Penn State football program was down on its luck, they were probably the same people screaming for his head, complaining that he was an 80something geezer whom the game has passed by.

It appear that Paterno didn't break any laws. But he certainly didn't go the extra mile to make sure this got reported to police, and that's sad. The center of the controversy, his ex-defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law but even if he is ultimately exonerated, if there was an appearance of sexual abuse you'd think Paterno would want to make sure it isn't swept under the rug.

Paterno and Sandusky went to battle together for decades. With someone like that, it's easy to do the bare minimum required of you, even if it means allowing someone to destroy another person's life.

So a couple of days ago I was talking to one of my best friends about the scandal. And the difficult question came up. And so I said it. "If I caught you sexually abusing someone, no question about it. I would call the police. You've been my friend for life. But I would be disgusted by what you did and wouldn't want you to get away with it."

And he said the same thing about me. My friend and I may be lifelong friends. But we also both want to be able to sleep at night.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving Day was the official kickoff of holiday season. This meant that would be the day that the Christmas and holiday commercial would begin airing on TV, and radio stations would weave holiday tunes into their playlists.

Times have changed. Retailers slowly pushed and pushed past the traditional Thanksgiving start for their commercials. Now you start seeing Christmas ads around Halloween. (It could be worse. One year, when I was in high school, I remember a Christmas commercial running on Columbus Day.)

For years I really hated that. I was like, one holiday at a time, people! Poor Thanksgiving got shafted. And no, I don't want to think about holiday gifts with 60 more shopping days 'til Christmas, thank you very much.

I've had a change of heart. I still think that Columbus Day is too early. But I like the commercials starting at Halloween now. I bring this up today because I got a couple of comments on my new Facebook profile picture (scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas), critical of my choice to give in to the Christmas cyborgs.

I'm a free person with free will, and seeing a Christmas commercial on Nov. 10 doesn't bind me to buy anything. My family grew up solidly working class anyway, and we don't go crazy with gifts. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Two months of holiday buildup is great ambiance, and allows us to put life in perspective, rather than fight over silly stuff that isn't worth fighting over. I do agree that the radio stations that go 24/7 with the holiday music are a little much, but I can always change the station.

So I'm not going to complain when Target starts putting a Santa Claus hat on Bullseye the Dog. I'm going to enjoy the 16.67 percent of the year when we celebrate holiday cheer. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Election Day

I just moved to Fitchburg a month and a half ago. One of the first things I did when I moved to town was register to vote, because, like other Massachusetts municipalities that don't use the town meeting form of government, yesterday was Election Day in Fitchburg.

I almost forgot to vote, not remembering it was Election Day until I woke up yesterday morning. There was a contested mayoral race in town. I knew precious little about the candidates, the issues. But I can literally see my ward's polling station from my apartment. I would've felt like a total chump if 'd skipped out.

So I went online to the sites of both mayoral candidates, to see what they stood for and their positions on the issues. In my mind, one candidate clearly stood out as the better choice. I did the same for the city council and school board positions (there weren't many up for grabs). And then I walked about 200 feet to the polls and voted.

Too often we're fixated on the "big" races (president, governor, senator) and we forget what Tip O'Neill once said, that all politics are local. I feel more informed today as a result of my participation in democracy. I feel like a citizen.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I'm trying to catch up on life now that the thesis  is out of my hands. This includes blogging.

It's weird how writing can be a barrier to writing. I had to put the blog down (or at least slow down the pace) for awhile so that I could polish the thesis as best I could in the time I had. I started blogging every third of fourth day instead of every day.

And I felt bad. I felt like I let people down when they would ask, "Hey, you all right. You haven't blogged anything lately." I feel like I let myself down. Blogging is a great exercise in freewriting. It's great when someone says, "I loved your blog," or even, "I hated your blog."

Anyway, it'll be a process to transition back into normal mode again. It begins today.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thesis: The End

After a long, two-plus year road, filled with many twists and turns, I completed my MFA thesis -- i.e., the novel -- over the weekend.

My mentor asked me how it feels. Honestly, I don't feel much different that I did Friday morning. I think the MFA culture drills into our heads that it's supposed to feel like angels will appear overhead as a choir begins to chant.

In reality, though, it feels like another step in the process. The real stressful part of the thesis semester was looking at chapters I wrote a long time ago and haven't touched since and saying to myself,  "Wow, this is bad. I'm embarrassed to have written this." It's an imperfect work. It's still far from agent-ready. But it's closer to being agent-ready than it was and that's the important part, that there's progress toward the ultimate goal of getting it published.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Popular Demand

I'm scheduled to graduate and get my MFA in January, at the upcoming residency. More and more people are requesting that I "stay in the program" after graduation.

One person yesterday suggested that I continue to TA (I'm going to be a teaching assistant for a workshop at residency) for subsequent residencies, and that if I didn't agree to it, that this person would go to the proper authorities and make sure that I am forced to stay on. Others, in recent weeks, have suggested that I purposely flunk my thesis semester so I can come back, or that I just take an extra semester just for kicks. This popular demand seems to have taken on a life of its own.

I'm slightly humbled and very curious and amazed at how many people have suggested something along these lines in the past couple of weeks alone.

FUMFA, you've created a monster. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Sometimes I believe in omens. I had a really good birthday. We got 11 inches of snow. Which doesn't sound like a fun birthday, but it encouraged me to not overdo it and spend more time working on my thesis. The snow was telling me, "You don't wanna go outside. You wanna sit in front of your computer and write." It was a special storm for a special day.

The extra writing has come at the expense of my blog. This will not last much longer. I miss my blog and will get back to daily updates soon. I was getting some folks asking about me lately, so I thought maybe it'd be a good idea to come up for air.

Talk soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Phil vs. RMV

My driver's license expires in a few days. The way it works in Massachusetts, every other time you get your driver's license renewed you have to physically show up to the RMV and have a new picture taken, and unfortunately this was my every other time. So I printed out all the information I needed and headed to the Leominster RMV, less than a 10-minute drive from me.

The parking lot was empty, and I was excited. Then I tried walking in and the doors were locked.

Crap. I forgot.

The RMV doesn't open until 10 a.m. on Thursdays.

I ran some errands to kill a half-hour of time. Of course, when I returned, there was a line wrapped around the sidewalk.

We all herded in like cattle at 9:59 a.m. when they opened the doors. As I waited for my number to be called my mind wandered (How come you can get a Patriots, Red Sox or Bruins vanity plate but not a Celtics plate?)

I got called up. I gave the woman my paperwork. I kept expecting there to be a snag. The woman asked me to look in the viewfinder to do the eye test. I recited one line, then the computer that runs the eye test stalled.

"Eh, you're good," said the woman.

Then she took my mug shot and after a minute or two spit out a temporary license for me. No overdue excise bills or any bullshit. The real license should be in the mail in a couple of days.

It still took 40 minutes, but it could've been worse.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Barbecue Sauce

I was with some friends Tuesday night for a writer's retreat. Of course, this place is also a restaurant/bar, so we ordered food.

As the waitress came around with the sandwiches, I felt something brush by my side.

The waitress panicked.

"Oh my God," she said to me, "I just spilled barbecue sauce on you."

I looked down. There was a spilled cup of barbecue sauce on the floor next to me. I look at my pants. They look dry.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry," she said.

As best as I can tell, the brushing was the bottom of the cup of barbecue sauce. Lucky for me. Better than the other end. My cohorts, Erin and Linsey and Trueblood, are laughing.

"Just let me make sure you didn't get any on you," the waitress said. I get up. I don't see any sauce on me.

"Just turn around real quick," the waitress said. I turn around. There is apparently no sauce on my backside.

The retreat continued. I dodged a huge bullet. The waitress came by every few minutes and makes sure we're OK. Service with a smile.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


The people demand to know: Phil, what's up with your blog.

I'm in mad thesis mode right now. I'm trying to get it done and to my mentor and then second-reader so that I can fulfill the requirements for my MFA. (Of course, my upcoming birthday has to interfere with my plans, too.)

I will try to do quickie blogs when the idea strikes me. But this is why I haven't been blogging as much of late, and this trend will continue for the next couple of weeks. It dawned on me that I owe this to my readers to let them know.

Until the next idea strikes me, I will talk to you intermittently.

Friday, October 21, 2011


There's been this +1 button on my blog for awhile. set up by Google. I'm wary of it.

Part of me wants to click on it and see what happens. Part of me feels like I'll be sucked into a world of indentured servitude to Google. I'm already on Gmail. Google is trying to force-feed me Google Chrome. There's that Google+ thing that apparently wants to be like Facebook but seems to have fizzled. Or maybe it'll scream out to all my friends about how I'm a +1 or something.

Or, maybe it'll secretly unload a stash of nuclear weapon and destroy the world.

Oh well. Here goes nothing. Apologies in advance for whatever happens.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Meet the New Triceratops, Same As the Old Triceratops

This came out a year ago, but my friend called it to my attention again a few hours ago. Some paleontologists now believe that Torosaurus was actually an older specimen of Triceratops.

Makes sense on some levels. The skeletons are almost identical, except that Torosaurus had a longer frill. No juvenile Torosaurus specimens have ever been found. And Tricertops frills tend to become longer and thinner as they get older.

But those paleontologists are a feisty bunch. I'm sure some of my dinosaur-loving friends will be passionate about this one way or another.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bottle Bill Redemption

I was at Market Basket this morning and redeeming some bottles and cans. The machine reported back to me that "This store does not sell this container," which would make it ineligible for redemption at Market Basket under Massachusetts' bottle bill. This actually was not true, but oftentimes you just need to slide the bottle into the machine just the right way.

But instead of spitting the bottle back out, the machine ate it.

It's only 5 cents I missing out on. It's not gonna kill me. But when these things happen to you it's frustrating. I tried to talk myself out of being pissed.

And then I looked behind me and there was an empty bottle of Coke.

Bingo. I got my 5 cents.

Monday, October 17, 2011


The silver lining on a really, really bad Monday Night Football game between the Jets and Dolphins (24-6) was that it ended early. I was fired up. I could switch over to Channel 7 in time for Jay Leno's opening monologue.

Then I discovered the truth. Leno is a repeat.

Sometimes even when things work out perfectly, they don't work out.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I keep getting these Facebook invites from people who don't keep their invites private. Thus, if there is one Facebook friend invited/attending, I get these invites for birthday parties, weddings, funerals, for people I don't know.

I've decided what I'm going to do.

I'm going to RSVP for one of them and say, "Yes! I can't wait to attend! It will be great to see everybody!"

I'm dying to see what the reaction will be.

Friday Night Wedding

When I left yesterday for the wedding of my cousin Dan and his fiancee Samantha, it was pouring, though not as heavily as the last wedding I went to, which took place during a hurricane.

By the time the ceremony began, the sun was trying to peek out. I'm a big believer in good omens. There's something about Friday night weddings that always appealed to me. I wasn't intimately involved in the plans but everything else seemed to go without a hitch. And this time I wasn't put on the spot to give another impromptu toast.

I got to talking to the father of the bride before dinner and the conversation inevitably gravitated toward the usual topics -- what a great moment this is, how weddings are symbolic for letting go of one's daughter, and the groom. Dan is the first of "the grandchildren" to get married. If you had asked me years ago I never would've pegged him as the first.

"Samantha's good for him," I told her dad. "He needs someone like her."

Congratulations to Dan and Samantha. Here's to many years of happiness.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The thing I love about October is that AMC and SyFy Channel always celebrate my birthday and Halloween with a month-long tribute to cheesy horror movies.

For example, right now on AMC, Silver Bullet, 1985's best bad horror movie, starring Gary Busey, is on. I was first initiated to this movie one night in college when I stumbled home drunk from the bars and flipped it on in my dorm room. Best bad werewolf movie ever.

And next weekend on SyFy, we'll be treated to the Pumpkinhead franchise.

It's a great month to be me.

The Forgotten Blog

About a month-and-a-half ago, before my life became crazy, I wrote a blog about how I had a good blog idea and then forgot it. Now that my life is slowing down a bit, I thought I'd take this opportunity to write about it.

I was getting an oil change. It was a nice, sunny day and I was standing outside. Suddenly the ugliest dog I've ever seen began to wander toward me. It looked like a deformed coyote. But it was big, which was a greater concern of mine.

It continued running right up to me. This would be a really crappy way to die, mauled by the world's ugliest dog.

It stopped a few inches from me. My adrenalin kicked in. Fight or flight. I did what I had to do.

"GET LOST!" I shouted.

Just like that, the dog took off as quickly as it came. I wish I could b that persuasive in everything in life.

There. If that wasn't worth it, I apologize.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

GChat Beep

My GChat stopped beeping Tuesday morning. This is a problem because I usually have four or five windows up, and the beeping lets me know someone is pinging me.

I checked the volume to see if I had muted it. Nope. Volume was on high. I checked the gear thingie in the upper right-hand corner to make sure my settings did not mute the beep. Nope. They were normal.

This was pissing me off. I dont want to have to check my GChat window every couple of minutes to make sure nobody's pinging me.

I was bemoaning this to a friend when she suggested I x out of GMail and trying calling it up again.

Worked. GChat was beeping like a rock star again. The tyranny of mundane Internet issues is over -- at least for now. 

Hurricane Phil

The World Meteorological Organization has developed a rotation for all its hurricane and tropical storm names. So, unless a name gets retired, like Katrina, all the storm names are recycled every six years.

This year one of the storm names is Philippe, the wussy French version of my name. Six years ago the 2005 edition of Hurricane Philippe stayed well out in the Atlantic, the biggest impact being gusty winds and .15 inches of rain to Bermuda.

Over the past two weeks the 2011 Hurricane Philippe has had a nearly identical track, causing virtually no damage to land. It's been such a nonfactor, it doesn't even have its own Wikipedia page, being forced to settle for a mention in the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season page.

I'm glad there was no significant damage in either storm. That said, I wish the WMO would anglicize the name. Hurricane Phil sounds a little more badass, if only by default.  

Monday, October 10, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I went to a birthday party for my friends' two kids, aged 12 and 10. Ice cream cake. Presents. You know the drill. I won't go into details, but they come from somewhat of a disadvantaged background and it was nice to see them have a great day.

This past week I got a card in the mail from the kids, thanking me for being there. And one of them concluded it by saying:

"You are like a father to me. You do fun things with us."

There's more to being a father than having ice cream cake with the kids and doing fun things. That said, this was one of the nicest and most touching things anyone has ever said to me.

I will probably never be a real father. But it's nice to know I've made a difference in the life of a couple of kids.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I Am Not Timmy

At the CVS checkout line, I'm swiping my card and the creepy guy in line behind me gets closer. It's been a few days since his last shower, and when he gets to the point where he can whispers into my ear I can practically feel his scruffy 5 o'clock shadow against me.

"Are you Timmy?" he asks.

I try to create space between him and myself, but since I'm at the front of the line there's only so much I can do.

"No," I say.

"Oh, OK. 'Cuz you kinda look like Timmy."

For future reference, just because I "kinda look like" someone named Timmy doesn't mean you can violate my personal space.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Computer Table

I have a computer table again.

A friend of mine whose father is downsizing generously donated the computer table to me. It's the perfect height for me and my computer and printer.

This is my life now. I downsized a few months ago to shack up with roommates, and now that I've discovered I'm really much better at living alone I need furniture again. The computer table is the beginning of my upsizing again.

I will now go onto Craig's List and to try to pick up some new stuff. I don't need a lot. A sofa would be nice. Maybe another table for eating.

Then ups and downs of the Philloverse continue.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Big In The Netherlands

Blogger sends me info on where in the world my pageviews come from. Obviously most come from the United States.

In the past month, though, I've had 29 page views for my blog from The Netherlands. That's quite a lot from another country.

I have no idea why. None of my blogs have had Dutch-oriented themes. I can only name three cities in the Netherlands -- Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. I don't know anyone from The Netherlands. I'm not even sure I know anyone who's Dutch. According to Bear v. Shark: The Novel (my Bible), the Dutch don't even have a culture.

I would like to see more Australians and Ecuadorians follow my blog. But I'm not complaining. I'm happy that people are following. 

The Story Behind the Status

My MFA Little Sister, Erin Corriveau, is in her third semester and is required to complete a critical thesis (in other words, a project) this semester. Her topic is pretty cool. I'll link the web site for it here.

Think about it, we all have stories behind our Facebook statuses and our tweets. I've been asked so many times about what my numerous Facebook statuses mean that I've begun to default-answer "If you don't get it, it wasn't intended for you."

Here is my chance to be less snippy, and your chance to participate as well. Now you can write a little blurb (up to 1,500 words) about the story behind the status. Send it to Erin (submission info here) and you can be a part of this project. Who knows, it may end up being published as an anthology.

Come on, help a girl out.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Yesterday I looked out my window and there was a squirrel hanging from the gutter. It managed to climb up and scurried onto the roof.

It's a 30-foot or so drop to the ground from my apartment. I certainly wouldn't want to be hanging from the gutter.

I'm amazed at how unafraid of heights squirrels are.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Terry Francona

Friday was a sad day, as the Red Sox and manager Terry Francona parted ways.

Francona was the best Red Sox manager of my lifetime. He led the Sox to two World Series sweeps over the Cardinals and Rockies in 2004 and 2007, respectively. He helped break a 86-year World Series championship drought. In the years they didn't win, he got the most out of the team.

Until this September, when the team limped home with a 7-20 record and squandered a 9-game lead in the American League wild-card. He clearly lost the team by season's end, and you can't let that happen and still expect to stay on as manager, though that's not to excuse the team for playing without any heart or sense of urgency, because that's inexcusable. It would also be nice if Theo Epstein would develop better talent and sign better free agents.

No doubt it would be difficult for Francona to continue managing spoiled players and unsupportive management. But it's sad it had to come to this. I wish Francona could stay. It feels like the end of an era.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Settling In

So far, so good. The new place has been good to me for the first few days.

There is ample closet space.

There is ample room. The bedroom is kinda small and has no closet space, but the living room and kitchen are both huge. We're talking ginormous. I've discovered that all my extra books fit nicely in the kitchen pantry.

This may actually be the largest apartment I've ever lived in.

It's ridiculously quiet in here. I live in a building with nine apartments, yet I feel like I'm the only person in the building. Living on the third floor probably helps. And I'm somewhat camouflaged from the rest of the building. If you weren't specifically looking for it, you would never know my apartment exists

Of course, now tat I'm back on my own I could use a sofa. But whatevs. Knock on wood. A lot could go wrong. The place could burn down tonight.

But the first week has been good. I'm happy here.

Sox Collapse

One of the things I largely missed thanks to my recent moving predicaments was the Red Sox' collapse. I knew they were losing games and their wild-card lead shrank but I wasn't in a position to watch the games.

Now that I'm moved in, though, the cable guy arrived just in time for the collapse to be complete.

I'm bad with timing, huh?

Last night I was IMing with my friend and fellow Boston fan Trueblood, who has now been transplanted to just outside New York. As the rain delay came in the Red Sox-Orioles game and the Rays scratched out some runs in the 8th inning to pull to within 7-3 of the Yankees, I had an eerie GChat premonition.

10:25 PM me: watch, sox will lose 4-3, rays come back and win 8-7
                trueblood: pretty much

Of course, about 90 minutes later both the results and the exact scores came to fruition. The combination eliminated the Sox from the playoffs. Four weeks ago today, the Sox were 9 games up on the Rays.

(It could be worse. Imagine if the Braves still played in Boston? The Braves had an 8 1/2 game lead on the wild-card on Sept. 5, and also were eliminated from the playoffs last night.)

Everyone's deciding who to blame now. The blame should be spread evenly. I blame Theo Epstein for putting together a team that looks more like a fantasy league team than a real team. I blame Terry Francona for not adjusting to a younger team that may have needed more prodding. And I blame the players for sucking when it mattered most.

But there was a good story in today that basically echoes my thoughts. I'm disappointed at everyone in the organization, but blowing the whole thing up won't be the answer either.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wireless Printer

I bought a wireless printer a couple of weeks ago, and now that I've moved I tried to hook it up in my new place.

I had some issues but I seem to have successfully connected it. I tested two prints and they both came out perfect.

If this keeps up I may call myself a pseudo-techie.

All the Best Deals

Yesterday I swung by the Comcast office on the Fitchburg/Leominster city line and complained that nobody's called me back to schedule an appointment.

Apparently nobody has ever had Comcast in my new apartment. So they had to do some sort of serviceability check. But it shouldn't take five days.

Got a call back in the afternoon. Some super-secret Comcast guy who has all the best deals scheduled an appointment for this afternoon. I'm paying less for cable (all movie channels included), wireless internet and landline than I did for the basic package at Charter, the bastard child of cable companies.

The technician just left. Now I'm all hooked up at the new place.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cable Blackout

I'm trying to schedule an appointment to have the cable guy show up at my new place.

I called them Thursday. They told me they would call back with a timeblock.

They have not called yet.

I can't go without TV much longer.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Top Ten

I'm pretty much all moved in. So now I have to figure out how this new living situation will disintegrate.

My top ten ideas:

10) The house explodes
9) Kim Jong Il makes good on his promise to invade Fitchburg
8) Locusts!
7) Chad Ochocinco moves into the building.
6) I sprain my ankle again falling down another flight of stairs
5) Fitchburg city council bans cable TV.
4) The September Blizzard of 2011
3) New Fitchburg $1,000 novel-writing license fee
2) The house becomes a shrine to Britney Spears
1) Rioting at Market Basket spills over into my neighborhood

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moving Day

My day:

8:41 -- Wake up.

8:43 -- Piss break.

9:00 -- Head over to New Braintree post office, which opens at 9, to fill out change-of-address form. It's a sunny day, unusual of late.

9:09 -- Arrive at post office, which is still closed. Someone peeks out the window and has a "Shit. We got busted" look on her face.

9:10 -- Post office opens.

9:24 -- Return to the farm to start packing my car. Tell myself to be careful on the stairs.

9:27 -- While carrying the first box down from the attic, I trip and fall down the stairs, spraining my left ankle. I throw f-bombs about how this is the last thing I need right now and it takes my mind off the pain. I try to walk around, and after limping for 30 seconds, my ankle seems to recover and I can walk normally again. Continue packing.

10:19 -- With the first carful loaded, head to new apartment in Fitchburg.

12:12 -- The adrenalin is beginning to wane and my ankle starts to become sore.

12:23 -- With the first carful unpacked, I head back to New Braintree for second go-around. It's beginning to cloud up.

1:00 -- The sky opens up and it begins to pour. Perfectly bad timing.

1:01 -- My ankle is becoming more and more uncomfortable.

1:30 -- I can barely walk in the door in New Braintree because my ankle is in such pain. I crawl upstairs and reach for aspirin.

1:41 -- While trying to get the second load in the car, the pain in my ankle gradually dissipates.

3:30 -- The second carload is in, I've pulled out of the driveway and headed back to Fitchburg. Better yet, my ankle feels great. In fact, I'm barely aware that I even have a left ankle. Holy shit, aspirin really is a miracle drug. Does cocaine work like this?

3:31 -- It's raining harder than ever.

5:00 -- After getting stuck behind a school bus and fighting rush-hour traffic, I'm back in Fitchburg to unload the second car, all the while mindful that I have a writer's group meeting at 7 in Cambridge. Trying to rush.

5:30 -- I've successfully unpacked the second load. I jump in the shower, mindful that the second I take my left shoe off the ankle will swell up like a watermelon.

5:46 -- Miraculously, my rain boots still fit around my ankle, though it's definitely a tighter fit than normal. Prepare to head for writer's group meeting.

5:50 -- Seconds after I pull out of the driveway, low-fuel light goes on. Pull into gas station.

6:00 -- Hit the road for Cambridge, Still pouring.

7:00 -- Pull into Alewife T Station to catch Red Line to Porter Square.

7:27 -- Get to writer's group.

9:22 -- Writer's group ends. We walk outside and torrential downpours like nothing all day are pelting us.

9:51 -- Back to Alewife to pick up car.

11:37 -- Pull in for what will hopefully be only one final night on the farm. Prepare to do it all again Saturday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Leaving the Sandbox

I don't play well in the sandbox.

I'm an only child, so I'm not good at sharing. Growing up, every present under the Christmas tree was mine. At times it can make me come across as selfish and self-centered, but I like things my way when possible.

I bring this up because over the past three months I've lived with roommates, first in one place, then over the past couple of weeks on a farm. After five years of living by myself, in June my lease was up at my old place in Worcester and so I thought I'd give the roommate thing a shot again in an effort to live a little more frugally.

After three months, I've decided I can't do it.

Thursday afternoon I signed a month-to-month lease to live in a one-bedroom apartment in a historic Victorian house in Fitchburg. I'll begin moving as soon as I wake up Friday morning -- my third move in as many months, and second move in as many weeks. Moving sucks. But I've come to the realization that I'm happier and more productive when I live alone.

The apartment is on the third (i.e., top) floor of the house, and because of that the ceilings are kinda low and the windows are situated on the floor. It's oddly quaint and cute, unlike a lot of Fitchburg. (But hey, I survived Worcester, right?) Going forward I'm calling it Fitchburg Gothic, an homage to a line in a friend's novel-in-progress. The house is surrounded by lawyers' and doctors' offices. It's the only residential building on the block. It's only $100 more per month than what I'm paying now, and I've decided I'm willing to make that trade-off.

I've been hinting of late that this blog was coming. Many of you have noticed that my blog and myself have been a little darker of late. Not a coincidence. (This is a suck thing to have to go through, but also all this is  happening during my thesis semester, which sucks even more.) Many of you know that there's more to this story than what I've discussed here. Many of you have also reached out with words of support, often unsolicited, and I can't tell you how much it means to me to realize that I had more friends than I thought. I feel like I alarmed a lot of people, who sent me emails and called me and told me that they were terrified that my life was in danger. I apologize. I never meant to imply that. I was in a dark place and I felt trapped. And when you're in a dark place, sometimes you have to say something but you talk in cryptic code because it's just too painful to say what you really want or need to say.

So we'll see what happens at this new place. Of course, I've said "quaint and cute" to describe places in the past and it hasn't quite worked out. Maybe this place won't work out either. Maybe I'll be moving again in another couple of weeks.

But for now, I've left the sandbox. I get to live by myself again. And I've realized how important that is to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Riv

Last night I hung out in Fall River with a few of my closest friends. Fall River is a city like any other city in America, with its nice and its problem areas, but as a general rule I like hanging out in southeastern Massachusetts. It's my kind of place.

It's been a tough week or so and it was really good to take my mind off of things. We talked about many things:

*Casual encounters
*Cheesy curly bacon fries
*Gas stations
*Magic: The Gathering

I feel like they helped me take my mind off of things. I appreciate having friends like this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


I had a really good weekend. Cookout on Friday night, birthday party Saturday, hangin' with writers followed by Patriots game Sunday.

Things are starting to look up. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Just so people know (since I've gotten lot of responses of late), I'm not in any danger. I'm generally fine. I've done some soul-searching over the past week and things will sort themselves out soon.

I don't want to get into details until the time is right. Some of you know what's up and I thank you for the support, etc.

More soon. Be patient, and thanks for your support.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bad Week

This has been a horrible week and I have a lot on my plate right now.

I will try to continue to blog daily or as often as I can but this is notice that if you don't see a blog from me it's because I'm busy putting out fires.

I hope to be back at normal blogging speed soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

RIP MIKE-FM: 2006-2011

On Monday, 93.7 MIKE FM went to that studio in the sky. Now 93.7 simulcasts WEEI sports radio's AM feed.

It's a smart move for WEEI, which sorely needs to do something to re-energize itself after spending the past six months getting its ass kicked by 98.5 The Sports Hub in the Arbitron ratings.

However, two things:

1)  I'll miss MIKE FM. It came on the air five years ago as part of the trend of stations that "play everything." And, as someone who likes a little bit of every music genre myself, I like the unpredictability of hearing Duran Duran followed by Jay-Z followed by The Band Perry. It's too bad that WEEI's FM presence comes at the expense of that.

2) For WEEI, though this is a smart move it's only one small step in the battle to regain lost footing. It was only a few years ago that WEEI was the highest-rated sports talk radio station in America. But, in keeping with Glenn Ordway's rotund build, WEEI got fat and lazy and complacent. It was like the station never thought anyone else would try to challenge them, and got caught flat-footed when 98.5 The Sports Hub mounted a serious challenge.

(Shameless "I-told-you-so" plug: Back in March, I predicted that WEEI was about to lose the ratings battle to 98.5. And sure enough, in the six months since 98.5 has clobbered WEEI.)

It certainly hasn't helped that 98.5 is the flagship station for the Stanley Cup-champion Boston Bruins, since WEEI has largely ignored the Bruins throughout its history. That was justified from the late 1990s through 2007, when the Bruins sucked. But for the past three years it's been pretty obvious that the Bruins were building themselves into a championship contender and WEEI was in denial that it was happening.

Still, Bruins aside, WEEI has made some bad management and personnel decisions the past couple of years that have given 98.5 a huge opening to take over as the king of sports talk radio in Boston. The station needs to do better, because, by itself, gaining an FM presence only means more people will hear why 98.5 is better than WEEI right now.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On the Farm

I've moved again.

I've moved to a farm in the little town of New Braintree (2010 census population: 999 -- perhaps I am the 1,000th resident and as such will win a prize). In terms of population, this is by far the smallest town I've lived in at any time in my life -- a few years back I lived in Holliston, which clocks in at about 13,000 and was the previous smallest town. I've been moving over the past five days and tonight is my first night sleeping here.

There are goats and chickens and ducks and geese and cats on the farm. There are wild turkeys. There are apple and pear and peach trees. I see evidence of grapes, too.

There's a gravel driveway and a hammock in the front yard.

A cool breeze is blowing  through the window as I type this. I can see what looks like a nearly full moon out the window, brighter than I've ever seen the moon.

This could be one of the more interesting experiences of my life..

Monday, September 12, 2011

Philloverse: Age 1

One year ago today, I wrote my first blog.

I didn't think too much of it at the time. I figured I'd write an occasional blog. But the bug hit me. I kept writing and writing. It felt like a therapeutic thing to do right before bed. Freewriting. Fooling around with creative nonfiction (though some of my blogs have been pure fiction).

Some of the blogs have been silly. Some have been serious. A lot of them are stupid. Some have been controversial.  Sometimes I freak people out when I don't post one over the course of a day, or not at the usual time I post. But it's been an interesting experience.

As my friend Ioanna said in response to my first blog, thus began the Philloverse. I appreciate everybody's support.


Last weekend, I ran over some weird cryptid creature on my way home from a cookout.

Today I did not do the killing, but I was behind an SUV, and couldn't help but notice some small creature -- it could've been anything from a lizard to a squirrel -- bound into the road. Why did it cross the road? I don't know, but it seemed as if it really had to get somewhere fast.

I'll never know.

It successfully dodged the traffic on the opposite lane but once it came into my lane it crossed the path of the SUV in front of me, wasn't a pretty sight.

To the animals, I'm quickly becoming the Grim Reaper.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sept. 11, 2001

It started as a normal day.

I woke up at 8. At the time I lived in New Britain, Conn. I was working the night cops shift that night for The Hartford Courant., so I wasn't scheduled to be at work until 2. I was beginning to be disillusioned with newspaper employment, and that morning I was scheduled to have a phone interview with someone from American Express Financial Advisors about becoming a stockbroker.

I ate breakfast and showered. Then I went into my room and checked the Internet shortly before 9 and saw a headline.

"Plane Crashes into World Trade Center."

And I remember thinking, Wow, what a horrible, tragic story. And then I thought, That's awfully low for a plane to be flying.

About 15 minuets later, the second plane hit. And then I figured out what was happening.

I got a call informing me that my AmEx interview was canceled. I watched the news for an hour and then called into my bureau chief. I didn't work in Hartford but in the satellite bureau in Avon, smack dab in the middle of the Farmington Valley, a high-net-worth area where there's hardly any crime. There were notable exceptions, but night cops for me usually meant a night off.

I called my bureau chief.

"Do you want me to come in early or do anything special tonight?" I asked.

"Don't you now what's going on?!" he said.

"Of course I know what's going on. Do you want me to come in early or not?"

"No. Come in at the usual time. Just look for a local angle when you get in."

I went to the gym. I needed to do something to take my mind off of it. Nobody was there. When I got home my dad called, thinking that New Britain was close enough that I might have had reason to be in New York that day and praying I wasn't. Then I tried calling a few friends who lived in New York to see if they were
OK. The phone lines were dead. Then I called my ex-girlfriend. We both needed someone to talk to.

I showed up for work and around dinner time that angle came in. An Avon school board member's daughter had been in one of the towers that day for a job interview. They were waiting to hear from her. They had heard nothing.

This was not a school board member I got along with particularly well. A few weeks earlier I had written a story with quite a satirical bite to it about how he and the rest of the board spent an hour at their last meeting trying to write a mission statement for the school district. He wasn't happy. Now I was sent to go knock on his door. It was the last thing I wanted to do.

He told me to get the fuck off his property and slammed the door in my face.

I wrote that night that he was waiting to hear from his daughter and did not want to comment further. It was the extent of my contribution to the Courant's coverage.

A couple of days later his daughter's body was found. He called back a day after that and apologized to me, and I told him that I totally understood why he was upset at me and didn't take any of it personally.

After Sept. 11, I realized that I hated the newspaper business more than I thought. Five months later I left the Courant to take a job as a stockbroker, not for AmEx but for a different company that would allow me to move back to Massachusetts. After Sept. 11, I realized I wanted to be closer to home.

That's all I have. Obviously I'm not a New Yorker or a Washingtonian or a Pennsylvanian and don't have any stories from Ground Zero. I wasn't at Logan or Dulles or Newark airports when the planes took off.

But this was how I spent Sept. 11, 2001. It was deeply personal to me and still is, 10 years later.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Census Bureau -- One Year Later

One year ago today was my last day working for the U.S. Census Bureau.

It was a fun ride. I oversaw (OK, worked on) the Payroll Empire, a wide swath of about 50 square feet of the Worcester bureau -- three or four desks, us working frantically when there were 1,400 employees, in three shifts trying to make sure the enumerators and office personnel got paid. We worked  lot more leisurely toward the end, when the field people all got laid off. In my last week there were just five employees.

We interviewed and hired people, sometimes fired them, kept personnel files on all of them. We sometimes tried to fingerprint people.

It was not an easy job -- at its height I was working 55 hours a week. But it was a simple job in that I never took my work home with me. Once I left 67 Millbrook St., I was free to think about more pressing matters, like my novel.

I learned a lot about myself and what I was capable of (for example, managing a couple dozen other people). I leaned how to deal with bureaucracy. It was 20 of the craziest months of my life.

I'm glad I've moved on, but it was a great experience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Simply Put

Simply put, I have a lot of stuff going on right now.

Some of it is the usual (thesis, etc.). Some of it is extraordinary and I'll have to sit on it for awhile longer before discussing it publicly.

Luckily I do have some good ideas in the hopper for a few days. But if I write some short blogs in the coming week, now you'll know why. More soon.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mentor Meetup

I went down to Norwalk, Conn., on Wednesday to hear from my mentor about the first draft of my novel.

It's always an anxious experience. Combine that with crappy, rainy weather, Norwalk's limited parking and the fact that Nalini is a no-bullshit type of mentor and that makes it downright petrifying.

But it was a great experience. She had some creative suggestions to some of the problems I've been struggling with. And, she turned me onto the Fat Cat Pie Co., which has some great thin-crust pizza and some cola with cane sugar.

Good food, good advice, good drink. Well worth the trip.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Four hours ago, I had a really good idea for a blog.

I remember thinking to myself, "Hey that's a really good idea." I mean let's face it, sometimes as writers we just throw spaghetti at the wall and hope it sticks. But this was legit, I remember thinking.

Now it's close to midnight usually around the time I write my blog, and I can't for the life of me remember what this idea was that I had in my head.

Am I getting old? I'm trying to retrace my steps from Tuesday to see if I can jog my memory. I'm pretty sure it had something to do with writing. So at least I have a clue to guide myself.

Alas, I have a long day tomorrow, so I have to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Thus, I will have to hope that I remember this great idea for another day.

I'm so sorry, I feel like I've failed you. And now I'm left with more spaghetti.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Today I was trying to get a sample out to some of my fellow writing friends. It involved a lot of cutting and pasting and I pasted one last thing and it'd be ready to email.

And then it happened. Somehow I didn't paste part of my story but a section of some fiction that isn't even mine.

Eighteen pages of some fiction that isn't even mine.

That erased the entire rest of my sample.

Thankfully a few years back I remember someone telling me about Control-Z, which basically undoes the last thing you typed. I make a lot of mistakes typing but I've never done something so radically erroneous that I needed it.

It worked.

Glad I was paying attention that day.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Writer's Retreat

Saturday I got together with my friends Christine and Emily for a writer's retreat. We've been trying to schedule it for months and it finally happened.

These retreats are a good opportunity to get in some sorely needed revisions. I also learn some valuable life lessons.

In addition to revisions, they were also able to help me revise an email I needed to send out.

We learned that you have to ask for food if you want to be served food.

We learned that the trains don't run on certain commuter rail tracks on the weekends (or something like that).

And we learned that we definitely need to try to make this a regular occurrence.

Your Browser Is No Longer Supported By Blogger, Part Two

I have a way of fiddling with stuff that I don't fully understand, and somehow making it work.

It happened once with wireless Internet. And now it's happened with the browser for this blog.

The other night when I was blogging the folks at Blogger sent me a message saying they no longer support my browser and that I'd have to switch to Google Chrome. Nothing wrong with Chrome but it's a hassle unless I want to make it my default browser, which at this time I don't.

A few minutes of searching and I found a way to make my blog work again on Internet Explorer. Everything is back to normal

I would say, take that Blogger, except that I don't want to piss off the cyborgs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Just Killed a Mysterious Creature on I-295 In Rhode Island

I'm coming back home from a cookout. I'm driving home on I-295 in Rhode Island. I'm cranking Led Zeppelin's The Battle of Evermore and it's shortly before 1 a.m.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch movement in my direction. I look and it's some creature, about the size of a raccoon, but looking nothing like one, heading straight for my car.

I swerve out of the lane but not fast enough. It tried to scurry under my car but I hear "THUMP!" I look in the rear-view mirror and see this thing tumbling across the roadway. It's lost the battle with force and momentum.

I have no idea what this thing was. It didn't look like anything I've ever seen before, like an opossum crossed with a cat crossed with an armadillo. Could it have been a small dinosaur? The Jersey Devil? I didn't stop and check, partially because I-295 is an interstate highway and not conducive to stopping, and partially because I've seen enough cheesy monster movies to know that stopping to check on a mysterious creature never ends well.

I wish cryptids would look both ways before crossing the street.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boston Cannons -- 2011 Major League Lacrosse Champions

BOSTON (AP) -- Chaos erupted once again along Comm Ave. as rabid Boston sports fans celebrated the Boston Cannons' first Major League Lacrosse championship.

The Cannons’ 10-9 victory over the Hamilton Nationals in the MLL championship game adds to Boston sports lore and further cements Beantown’s reputation as City of Champions, following in the footsteps of the Boston Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and New England Patriots. The victory ends an interminable 10-year drought which began when the franchise was founded in 2001.

A phalanx of Boston police officers spent a long and grueling night combating an unruly crowd of six people celebrating the Cannons’ championship in Kenmore Square. A Boston cable access television crew sent an intern with a camera to film the festivities.

The fans chanted, "WE GOT THE CUP," holding up makeshift replicas of the Steinfeld Cup, the MLL’s championship trophy, before switching things up in favor of the more familiar, “Yankees suck!” The group of hooligans then leaned against a parked SUV outside of Eastern Standard, before police threatened them with arrest if they didn’t get off the SUV.

“This is the greatest night of my life,” said 27-year-old Joe Sullivan, a lifelong fan dressed in a Boston Cannons #99 jersey, though he admitted he couldn’t name the player who wears 99 for the Cannons. “This is for my father and my grandfather, for the ghosts of….umm…well…I’m sure the Cannons have been close to winning the championship before.”

An irate Boston mayor Tom Menino lashed out at the height of the craziness.

"What? When did Boston get a pro lacrosse team?" Menino said. When informed that Boston actually has two professional lacrosse teams – the Cannons, who play outdoor lacrosse, and the Boston Blazers, who play in the indoor National Lacrosse League – Menino threw a punch at a reporter. “What a pain in the ass this is. Now we have to organize those damn Duck Boats again.”

The Duck Boat victory parade will be held tomorrow from 12 noon to 12:15 in the Boston Beer Works parking lot.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Your Browser Is No Longer Supported By Blogger

I was toying around with an idea for a new blog, hit the new post button and this came up....

Your browser is no longer supported by Blogger. Some parts of Blogger will not work and you may experience problems.
If you are having problems, try Google Chrome. | Dismiss

I tried fooling around with various aspects of Internet Explorer to try to continue to work, but let's just say it's unwieldy at best.

WTF? Really Blogger? Has Google taken over the world? Is Google Big Brother/Goliath Corp. now?

I downloaded Google Chrome strictly for the purposes of continuing this blog and, to be honest, there are a few aspects of Chrome that make Blogger a little easier to manage (better spell-check).

Still, I hate it when I have to give in to the cyborgs. Also, I feel like Blogger is doing this to fuck with me. I like to be able to choose which browser I use, just like I like to be able to choose which soda I drink or which sports team to cheer for.

After almost a year or blogging, I finally found someone who hates my blog. Blogger.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Learned Today

What I learned Tuesday:

I learned that I’m a lousy writer at 8:45 a.m.

I learned that narcissists thrive on Facebook.

I learned that the cable remote control will stop working in the middle of a Red Sox-Yankees game, after I change the channel during a commercial break, forcing me to watch an episode of NCIS. And then, mysteriously, the remote will start working again an hour and 15 minutes later, for no apparent reason.

I learned that I didn’t miss much by missing the Red Sox game.  

I learned that Piers Morgan buzzes pretty much every act on America’s Got Talent.

I learned that Tropical Storm Katia is rumbling through the Atlantic, and though I don’t know if it’ll head our way yet it looks like it’ll become a hurricane soon.

Twitter Cyborgs

OK, this Twitter thing is out of control.

I've been trying to get into the habit of posting a couple of things a day on my Twitter account. My blog is easy. That's one. Then I have to try to get creative.

So this morning I just tried to get cute:

"#Redsox #Yankees game scheduled to begin tonight at 7:10 and end Sunday morning at 9:15"

Within seconds, I get an email. "LiveMLBCha​t (@LiveMLBc​hat) is now following you on Twitter!"

How the hell did they see this instantaneously and decide to follow me?

It's the cyborgs, man. They're out to get me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Four Weddings and a Hurricane

In the midst of Hurricane Irene was the wedding of my friend Masha.

Unlike most everything else, you can't really postpone a wedding. Invites have been sent out, people fly in from out of town, etc. So off I drove to Sherborn yesterday. The road weren't too bad -- a downed tree here, a lake of water forming in the road there, but nothing too earth-shattering. As I got closer, though, I saw traffic lights that weren't working. When I pulled into the church, a guy rapped on my window and said the power was out and everything was being moved to Masha's parents' house.

We pulled in and the power was out there too. But Masha and Eddie walked down the aisle (actually, down the steps to the living room) and, outside of Irene the wedding went off without a hitch. We used candles and flashlights, set up a fire pit outside, and played music, the first time I've ever heard Pink Floyd's Pigs (Three Different Ones) at a wedding. And we drank (in my case a little too much vodka, I hope I didn't piss anyone off, things got a little fuzzy after awhile). And all the while outside the wind blew and it rained stormed.

Masha has been a big influence on my life. She was the person who, four years ago, introduced me to yoga. She also re-ignited my passion for writing. I wouldn't be writing a novel or pursuing an MFA if it weren't for her.

When I woke up this morning, Irene was gone, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Despite a little rain, it was one of the best weddings I've ever attended. I wish Masha and Eddie all the best.