Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My Baby

I held Jenna in my arms.
She's been fed and changed. It's time for bed. I select a cassette, slide it into the play deck and close the door. I press "PLAY".
With Jenna cradled in my left arm she sucks contentedly on a pacifier as we silently move around the living room. My right index finger gently taps the beat on the base of the pacifier. Inexplicably, this soothes her. Soon, her eyes are closing...then opening with a start! Closing...opening!
One song ends...another begins.
"Be My Baby" announces its arrival with one of the most dramatic introductions in all of rock & roll. The drums are the Morse code of the music gods — and somehow it just keeps getting better from there. I start a swing step around the room, slowly twirling my daughter around as I softly sing along:
"The night we met
I knew I needed you so
And if I ever had the chance
I'd never let you go"
Jenna exhales softly yet firmly. Her eyes close again.
"So won't you say you love me
I'll make you so proud of me
We'll make 'em turn their heads
Every place we go
So won't you please

Be my, be my baby
Be my little baby
My one and only baby
Say you'll be my darling
Be my, be my baby
Be my baby now
My one and only baby"
Looking down at my daughter, I realize that there is nothing I want more than to make her proud of me. Recently separated, we're dancing in her mom's living room because I do not have a home of my own yet. At the moment it is hard to imagine that I will someday. But I will - for her. A soft turn, a two step and we sway along to the music. Her breathing is more regular now. I continue to croon.
"I'll make you happy, baby
just wait and see
For every kiss you give me
I'll give you three"
This is my world. This moment, with my daughter, is everything. She can't understand what I'm saying. She doesn't get the lyrics and she will never remember this dance. All she has is in the now - the support of my arm, the warmth of my body, the sound of my voice and the tap tap tap of my finger on the end of the pacifier and the music that envelopes us both.
"Oh, since the day I saw you
I have been waiting for you
You know I will adore you
Till eternity so won't you please"
Yet, to me, here and now, this is my bond to her. That I will always be here for her, for my "baby"; for my little girl who has given my life a depth and meaning that it never had before. I slow the tempo our dance and bend down to kiss her cheek. Her breathing is deep and regular. I softly finish the last chorus.
"Be my, be my baby
Be my little baby
My one and only baby
Say you'll be my darling
Be my, be my baby
Be my baby now
My one and only baby"
The music fades out. I turn off the stereo and the house is silent. Quietly, we climb the stairs to her bedroom. I gently lay Jenna in her crib and walk away slowly and softly, with only the sound of her breathing in my ears and the Ronettes on my mind.
This became our nighttime song and my silent bond to her was found in these lyrics.

* * *

Years later, Jenna and I were driving somewhere in the car. She was six years old. I was scanning through stations and the familiar drumbeat rocked the car. I stopped scanning, lost in the memory of dances with my daughter.
Suddenly, Jenna leans forward in her car seat and says, "Daddy, I KNOW this song. I don't know how I know it it but I know it...don't I?"
"Yes, honey; you know this song."
My baby; sixteen today.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I boarded the morning train, eager to resume the sword fight that Captain Alatriste unwittingly found himself a part of when Ellie quickly passed me in the aisle going in the opposite direction, concern clearly etched across her face.
I paused momentarily before continuing to the seat at the front end of the car, trying to figure out what was wrong. A brief greeting to my seat partner and I was once again trolling the back streets of Madrid in 1624.
"I arrest you in the name of the king."
This did not augur well at all. Guadalmedina and Quevedo looked at each other, and I saw the count wrap his cloak around his body and over his shoulder, revealing his sword arm and his sword but taking care to cover his face.
"I can't believe that I did that."
I looked up from my book. "What did you do, Ellie?" I asked as she sat down in the double seat adjacent to mine.
"I left my wallet at home. Oh my god don't know what I'm going to do." When Ellie gets excited her accent gets a bit thicker; right now there was more Spanish to her tone than Bostonian. "I thought if I got off the train I could run back home but we're too far out. Does this train go back out to Needham or will it change?" She looked around with a panicked countenance.
"Ellie, don't worry about it. When we get to South Station we'll hit an ATM and I'll give you whatever you need for the day."
"Oh, no...I couldn't..."
"Of course you can. Its no problem."
"I wouldn't want to be a bother."
"You're no bother, Ellie. Just let me know how much you need for the day and I'll take care of it. It's not like I don't see you every day."
This is true. I do see Ellie daily - along with a few other people.
I started taking the early train so I could walk to the office. For a while I enjoyed the anonymity of this commute. I didn't want or need to make acquaintances on this run. I was enjoying the solitude. No one knew me. I could read in silence at my leisure. However, the Aubrey/Maturin series brought me to the attention of a fellow passenger - whose name I forget - who loves the series more than I do. This conversation led me to a dialogue with Eric, who one day asked me "You sure read a lot of books, don't you?" Frank, the conductor, has greeted me warmly every day for months now, and he is genuinely personable. He always has a quick story or a funny anecdote at the ready and for any occasion. Finally, Ellie - the Hispanic woman known for her smile, her headphones and her outfits. She is a mother who has the figure of a very young woman and for some inexplicable reason she likes the color pink. Therefore, usually, she is wearing pink somewhere on her person. Today it is a pink scoop neck blouse with black dress pants and a worried frown. However, she's smiling now.
"Thank you, Andy," she said as her cell phone rang.
"No problem," said I, returning to the captain. Ellie answered her phone as the sounds of steel against steel clattered in my ears.
"You're not going to believe it."
"Believe what?"
"My daughter has to come into the city this morning before she goes to Six Flags today so she's going to bring me my wallet."
"That's great, Ellie. What a stroke of luck."
"It sure is. Whew! What a relief."
"Good for you!"
She is quiet for a moment, then she asks. "You really would have loaned me money for today, wouldn't you?"
"Sure, why not?"
"Because not many people would do that."
"Oh, well..." I stammer, a bit flustered. "Of course they would."
"No, they wouldn't."
A pause, and then "You're a very nice man, Andy."
Apparently, I have my moments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Departed

The house is empty now.
Echoes of familiar voices that once filled the hallways is now muffled by the heavy footfalls of strange feet. The morning sun shines through the living room windows and falls on unfamiliar furnishings.
The wind that once swirled through the greenery that climbed the garage and back porch to lightly touch upon the bistro set now finds only an empty spot in its place.
The green hedges that surrounded the immaculate gardens have stifled their last intrusive noise as they mutely surrender to the saw and the axe of the new owners.
Dinnertime laughter will still be heard, but it will come from different voices gathered around a foreign table.
No more late night coffee and early morning rides home after saving the realm from invaders. Gaming dice which mean either victory or defeat at the hands of monstrous hordes will no longer fall on this tabletop in this place on another Saturday night.
The house is sold.
My friends have parted and departed.
Separate, their lives start anew.
Soon, someday, their new homes will echo with familiar voices and the morning sun will shine upon familiar furnishings at new addresses. Friends will gather and laughter will again be heard. Late night coffee will stave off exhaustion and dice will once again bounce across the tabletop.
Someday...not today.
For now, today is a new beginning.
But every new beginning is another beginning's end.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Mark's small, private backyard wedding had been wonderful. Now the party was winding down. The sun was setting over Kingston as I walked with Jenna and Wes toward the cars parked out front.
I hugged my daughter and told her I loved her. "I love you, too," she replied.
"Call me when you get back to your Mom's. Let me know that you're safe."
"I will, Dad."
Jenna went around to the passenger side of the car, opened the door, sat down and adjusted herself accordingly. I smiled inwardly as she reached for the seat belt.
"Goodnight, Wes. Thanks for coming..." I said.
"No problem," he replied with a slight smile as he got into the car.
A quick turn of the key and the engine started. From the middle of the nearly dead-end street I watched Wes put on his seat belt and adjusted his GPS. The two were talking, topic unknown. Finally, with everything in place, Wes and Jenna drove away as I stood on the sidelines, waving after my daughter and her boyfriend.
Waving as I watched another piece of her childhood drive away into my yesterdays.

Friday, August 08, 2008


The plastic cup is covered with condensation. I absentmindedly wipe my hands together after placing the cup down on a napkin on my desk.
The see-through container shimmers as the ice cold, caramel colored coffee chills inside. Ice cubes slowly melt allowing the cream, sugar and coffee blend together in a cacophony of flavor.
It has been over one month since I had a cup of coffee.
A recent stomach irritation caused me no end of trouble. Finally, after two weeks of intermittent nausea I went to the doctor. Through a process of elimination I had narrowed down the likely source of my problem - caffeine. After a lengthy question and answer period (and some on the spot blood work) my doctor concurred with my self-diagnosis. Her prescription - a daily dose of Prilosec and no caffeine for two weeks. This meant I could still have chocolate but I was to have no coffee, tea or dark sodas. "No problem," I thought, eager to be rid of my stomach ailment.
For the last two weeks I have been completely without caffeine.
I have concluded that I did not miss soda.
I did miss coffee and tea.
I found that I do not need caffeine in the morning to start my day. I never suffered the dreaded "caffeine headache" or any other withdrawal symptoms. However, I missed the social aspect of coffee and tea drinking. Gone was my early weekend morning walk to Starbucks with Jenna or Vic. I could still go with them for the company, but I was forced to drink chai tea or water if I did so. Chai tea is a little too sweet for me. Water is, well, water. As I sat in any coffee house for the past month, my taste buds were betrayed by my sense of smell. I do enjoy the smell of a fresh brewed pot of coffee. I like a mug of coffee or tea as I read the Sunday Boston Globe. Mostly, I enjoy my iced coffees from Brueggers every workday morning.
All gone for the past month.
Yesterday I spoke with my doctor. I have had no stomach-related issues for over two weeks. its time to reintroduce the possible offender to my diet. For now I am allowed one caffeinated drink a day and I am to report my progress to the doctor. Future medical plans depend on the success or failure of one coffee a day.
Today I am having my first Brueggers iced coffee in over a month.
My medium iced coffee is here before me. The straw is in place. The napkin beneath the cup is wet with slight perspiration. It calls to me..

Thursday, August 07, 2008

All Aboard

As all of you know, Toni and I wrote a very funny sitcom pilot - "The Six Fifty-Seven". You also know that it was shot on an MBTA commuter train on December 10, 2005. It was many months (nearly a year) before we even saw an edited version of the film.
The verdict - unusable.
Half-hearted efforts to re-edit (and possibly re-shoot) the script were derailed. Finally, hands in the air, our dreams of sitcom success were abandoned.
I was crushed.
Really crushed.
I put on a brave face. I waved off the setback as a "Well, shucks, shoulda seen THIS coming" attitude but really, this bothered me. A lot.
So much effort had been put into the writing, casting, producing and shooting that it was heartbreaking to see that it was all for naught. We let down our flawless cast. We disappointed friends and family who had invested their own time and energies into letting us work on this project. Toni and I, like countless others before us, were destined to become yet another "failed writers" story, cast unto the dung heap of broken dreams.
Time passed. Whenever I thought about our sitcom it felt like a death. I missed Jack, Liz, Jenn and Tim but I couldn't talk about them. It was "too soon" and my head was definitely not in the right place about it. When we did discuss it, we always thought that it could work as an Internet series. Webisodes of "The Office" and "Battlestar Galactica" proved that there was a growing presence of TV viewers on the Internet but, since these are known properties, they already had a built-in audience. Later I found Felicia Day and her wonderful web series "The Guild". "There's potential here," I thought, "but its too soon for me."
Flash forward a year and a half later and Joss Whedon fills the Internet with "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog". While, obviously, Joss Whedon brings both his name and bank account to a project like this it was not a slam-dunk story. This had to be good. It was. The writing needed to be quick and witty. It was. On the day of its release the Internet crashes from people trying to access the site. When they saw it they told their friends. Word of mouth drove this thing into the stratosphere. It is, literally, a smash hit.
And I thought to myself, "We can do this."
Now, I'm not sure as to why I had this thought at this moment in time. But I did and I can't let it go.
Maybe we can do this and maybe we can't. But we have to try to do something with "The Six Fifty-Seven".
Time to get busy.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Peanut Butter & The Sploo

It was early one morning in Jamaica Plain. The sun was just coming up over the Arboretum. It was a beautiful day. I had just prepared myself a plain toasted bagel with peanut butter on it. However, I had to scrape the bottom of the container as the JIF was nearly gone. Finally, after minutes of painstaking removal, I had enough peanut butter to slather all over the top of my breakfast bagel.
With my warm bagel on a paper towel in one hand and a glass of cold milk in the other I walked from the kitchen into the back room, which overlooked the Arboretum. Behind me, a rambunctious chocolate lab pranced expectantly.
"This isn't for you, Malcolm."
He jumped up from the floor, eagerly sniffing the air.
Peanut butter! Peanut butter! Peanut butter! Peanut butter! Peanut butter! Peanut butter!
"Malcolm, this isn't for you. Go away!"
I placed my milk on the glass tabletop and began to sit down in the wrought-iron chair. Malcolm leaped once more. His head smacked into the bottom of the hand that was holding the bagel. I watched in silent horror as my peanut butter-laden bagel began to turn end over end as it made its way towards the sky. I was waiting to catch it on its way back down when suddenly, a brown blur appeared from under my field of vision. Like a shark coming up from under a seal-lion his jaws clamped down on my bagel and, in one swift gulping motion, it was gone.
With peanut butter still pasted on the side of his muzzle he sat down and looked at me anxiously: More?

To this day, he drools over peanut butter on warm bread. And, every time I make myself a folded, toasted peanut butter bread I make a little for him, too.
Don't tell anyone.
Happy 11th Birthday, Malcolm.

Monday, August 04, 2008

"Who the Hell is Dave..."

"Yes. Hi", I said, peering closer at the woman who just stated my name as an expectant question. I knew the face but I couldn't place it.
My mind was instantly filled with memories - good memories - from a long time ago.
"Maura! Oh my God! How are you?" We reached out and hugged each other while we laughed together.
We spoke quickly, staccato-like. "How are you?" and "What are you doing here?" prevailed over the cacophony of questions designed to explain our lives for the last twenty years. As it turns out, Maura is one of the best friends to my wife's cousin, Elizabeth. We were both here for her wedding.
The last time I saw Maura was a lifetime ago. She was once the best friend to a girlfriend of mine. The summer of 1988 was a great one for us. It was filled with nights on the beach, movies, music and just long drives with nowhere to go and all-night to get there. "Who the Hell is Dave..." refers to a long-standing joke between the four of us that started in a motel room on prom night and lasted long afterwards.
Maura and I stayed in touch after my girlfriend and her boyfriend went away to college. In fact, Maura and I remained great friends even after my relationship had ended. We attended parties together, dressed up in costumes together, danced together and laughed together - a lot. We always spoke honestly with each other. We would hurt each other with the truth (when necessary) then console each other for having to do so. No matter what, I could count on Maura to be a great friend and I assume that she could do the same with me. I assumed that we would be friends forever.
Then, life happened. I got busy; she got busy. You know the drill.
Now she was here - nineteen years later.
We talked at the reception. We gave each other the reader's digest version of our lives. Maura married her boyfriend from so long ago. I spoke to him and he is exactly the same, too. A little older, a little wiser, but still the same guy. He mentioned that he and Maura had just spoken about me last week. A strange, wonderful coincidence.
Later Maura and I danced together and we laughed together. Nineteen years later and here we are again.
It's good to know people who knew you back when and not just in the now. When I look at Maura today I can still see the vivacious, intelligent and funny young woman that I knew so long ago.
Who knows what she sees when she looks at me?
An old friend is always a good friend, no matter how much time passes. I marvel at the possibility of getting to know this old friend all over again. It's quite possible that life will happen again but, somehow, hopefully, I doubt it.