Monday, January 29, 2007

Since I'm in the Mood to Discuss Politics

Or perhaps I should say: A good week gets better.

Brad Koplinski is a dear friend of mine. He was one of the first people I met on day one of law school, and we ended up as close friends.

We won the New England School of Law Jeopardy! Tournament right before we graduated. Brad had business in his birth state of Illinois, in Springfield to be exact, and made a mad dash from Springfield to O'Hare to fly back for the tourney. He entered the room 30 seconds before the judges were going to disqualify us, and then he and I systematically demolished the competition. It was such a blowout, in fact, that I was ringing another team's buzzer to boost the score for them. (Brad has also been on the actual Jeopardy! but I won't tell you how he fared. Perhaps if Alex Trebek had allowed him to have a partner, our student loan balances would be considerably lower than they are now.)

Brad, who tends to be more modest than I am, is also a writer. He took on an ambitious project in the late 90s, interviewing nearly every living person (at the time) who had mounted a presidential campaign. The result was Hats in the Ring, a really well-written, beautifully-researched book that came out about seven years ago. We had drinks one weekend in Boston when he came up to interview Mike Dukakis. His story of breakfast in Dukakis's kitchen is priceless. If my memory serves me correctly, he also scored a decent interview with John Schmitz, the right wing nutjob better known as Mary Kay LeTourneau's father, before Schmitz died.

Brad toiled in Washington for the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and with the Treasury Department. He also spent a bundle of time working on President Clinton's re-election. He was heavily involved in the 2000 campaign, and ran central Pennsylvania for John Kerry in 2004. He liked Harrisburg so much that he stayed there.

And now he's running for City Council.

I worked in politics for ten years, but I'm a campaign operative, not a candidate. Brad's my friend, and he's the real deal. Go check out his site. I'll be making a contribution shortly. And if he needs a weekend volunteer, it's not that long a drive. We just did Hershey and Gettysburg in July, so I even know the route.



Saturday, January 27, 2007

Current Events

It's been a good week. Two friends from my prior life are injecting wit and wisdom into cyberspace. Seth Gitell has a few great posts up on his blog in the past few days alone. Dave Guarino has rejoined the blogosphere and landed a new job (and kudos to you, my friend, for keeping the blog up).

I used to pitch Seth and Dave and take their calls when they were covering my clients, and now they've spent time in the crucible doing what I used to do (and what some would say I still do). Seth managed to climb out of the crucible, I should add, but Dave seems to like it in there. Never having been a reporter, my two cents is probably worth less than that, but: life inside the crucible is more fun. Those two blogs are already must-reads for anybody who likes Massachusetts politics. So be sure to stop in and see them often. Things are always interesting with New Hampshire only about 9 inches away.

I've been pretty adamant about not mentioning politics on this blog (this post is an exception to that general rule, but I couldn't resist when news broke that Sam Alito is a Springsteen fan). However, you'll never read the names of any of my former clients up here, because that's the call I made when I launched Random Thoughts. But with Seth and Dave showing such erudition... you might see me chime in on politics a little more. I also have to give them credit for frequently defending their former bosses on their blogs.

On a semi-related note, another friend who remains a reporter, Matt Apuzzo, is breaking all kinds of news for the Associated Press. In the past few days, he's provided stories on Bob Ney's sentencing, and some of the most cogent analysis I've ever read about the Scooter Libby fiasco. His latest, on Ari Fleischer's immunity deal, is here.

On a semi-unrelated note, Elizabeth Krecker is still blabbering on about the Suns. Basketball is no longer my cup of tea (and honestly, it hasn't been since Bird, McHale, Parish, DJ and Walton retired), unless I'm watching Oldest Son play it, and on the rare occasions I watch it on TV, it's to see my Celtics snatch defeat from the hands of victory. Hey, Elizabeth: When do we get to read a post about your black pickup truck?

I'm seeing Bob Seger on Tuesday night with another old friend from my past life. Seger's first tour in years, and even he admits it may be his last.

Finally, I'm happy to report that the end of the manuscript is in sight. No, I haven't hit 80,000 words yet, but I'm very close. I might even be done with the first draft by the end of February.

In a few minutes, the Saint and I are packing up 2 of the 3 kids and heading over to see Kelly Malloy and her hubs, along with our usual crew, one of whom just got back from perhaps my favorite place on Earth. I'm not sure what the Saint just cooked in the kitchen, but it smells delicious and I hope she's bringing it with her.


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Another Great Addition to the Blogosphere

Dave Guarino, former chief political reporter for the Boston Herald (and before that, a reporter at the Lowell Sun, where I first met him), left the Herald a couple of years ago to work as a flak.

Flak, of course, is a term of endearment, since I used to be one-- some would say I still am. Guarino proved to be as skilled a flak as he was a reporter. As a scribe, he was always smart, tough and fair; as a flak, he remembered what he'd learned as a reporter.

One more cool thing about Guarino: He's a Springsteen fan.

And now, he has a blog, full of great politico-journalistic insight. Go check it out... it's worth your time. Guarino's only been up for a few days, and already he has a wealth of terrific analysis.

Thanks to my friend Seth Gitell for, um, heralding Guarino's arrival in the blogosphere.

In more writing news, another friend, author J.A. Konrath, announced on his blog that he has another blog (sort of). Konrath launched The Anonymous Publishing Vent Club, where everything is, well, anonymous. J.A. reiterates that he's just hosting this, not providing the content, though we'll never know because it's anonymous, will we, Joe?

To my Catholic eyes, this is like confession. Without the penance, remorse, or human interaction with the priest. I think all of this is good. The vent club will not be good, but it will be good fun.


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Monday, January 22, 2007

I Make my Way through this Darkness

I blasted through my latest plot clot and I'm firmly out of the Horse Latitudes. I'll hit 75,000 words tomorrow night, and if I'm lucky, 80,000 by the weekend.

The characters have left Albany. Everyplace else in the book is somewhere I know well and have recently visited. So I think the research phase, at least for this draft, is closing, too.

I'm very happy because the end is now in sight. That last 40,000 words should roll off the keyboard very quickly.

The only downside is that I haven't been able to listen to much Springsteen lately (but I've quoted him in the title of this post, so now I feel better).

My protagonist needs outlaw country. Bruce at his best lets us hope. There's no promise that everything will work out in the end, but there's always that chance.

This story... has less hope. Lots of things in the protag's life are broken, and they're not getting fixed any time soon. He can hope for tomorrow at this point, but that's about it.

So, in the rotation: Johnny Cash's prison albums (Folsom and San Quentin), plus a lot of dark, dark Merle Haggard, and a liberal dose of Kristofferson's early stuff that he wrote while he was drinking... about lost love and dead people. When my protag is about to pick himself up off the floor, I switch to Waylon Jennings or Hank Williams Jr. or George Jones... and like one of Pavlov's dogs, my protag wallows in misery.

The plot is flying now, so that depressing country music is magic.

One final note. For those of you keeping score at home: Daughter and the Saint no longer have strep. But Oldest Son does.


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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shh, Don't Tell Anybody

But it's the Saint's birthday today.

If you do tell her Happy Birthday, keep me out of it.




Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Updates, or Lack Thereof

I've been busy with work, busy at home, busy with this writing project (70,000 words and counting, with the Horse Latitudes in the rearview mirror).

Aside from that, you're well aware that the Saint is prone to strep. She's better now, and so is Daughter (who also caught it). We took the weekend to recover and recharge.

There was, however, one rather large casualty: The Albany research trip.

I need to reschedule. No big deal. There's a long weekend in February and another in April.

Albany's lovely that time of year.


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Sunday, January 07, 2007

Does This Look Harmful to You?

Click here.

Does that little bacteria seem like it could bring down a Saint?

Right. Not possible, is it?

But the Saint has strep. Again. She's getting a throat culture right now. The doctor on call has already ordered up the antibiotics, which I'll pick up as soon as the Saint gets home. I've dipped all the toothbrushes in Listerine.

Scary, how well-oiled this machine is.

Oldest Son, the new teenager, is playing PS2 with Daughter. Get this: Middle Child didn't want to miss Mass two weeks in a row, so he called one of his friends and asked if he could go with his mother.

So now, we wait.


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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

With Thanks

Happy Birthday to the late, great Nick Alicino... the guy who made me a writer and a Springsteen fan.

I'll meet you Further On Up the Road.


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Limping into 2007

I'm fine. The Saint is fine. The kids are fine. (Daughter got her first haircut this afternoon, and she's ecstatic, not fine.)

When I said, "limping," I meant literarily, to coin a new word.

Remember your high school history classes?

Okay, I mean: Pretend you remember your high school history classes. I majored in History and wallowed in inane details.

All that crap about European explorers sailing from Spain and Portugal to the New World? Any of that ring a bell? Ever read the translations of the explorers' journals? They all dreaded the Horse Latitudes. Near the Equator, where the winds died.

The. Ships. Would. Just. Drift.

Sailing without wind can be a bit arduous.

To lighten the ships, the explorers would push their horses overboard so less powerful breezes could fill the sails and propel the boats toward better winds.

I'm inching through the Horse Latitudes now. With this book. Hence: Literarily.

I mean, I should be crashing toward the climactic scene, but writing the damned thing is... The winds have died. I'm looking for a breeze.

It took me four and a half hours to hit my thousand-word quota this evening.

During my last writing session, I hit a thousand in 70 minutes.

I know the winds will come back soon. They always do. I'm not worried, but I'm not exactly moving. I'm looking forward to my upcoming Albany Research Adventure with the Saint (and with my brother, who may still be unaware that he's the tour guide).

On a totally unrelated note, Kelly Malloy has a couple of great posts, but they're not about writing. The first is about the stellar New Year's Eve party we celebrated with our friends the other night.

Here's the deal. There are ten of us: Five couples, each with a child roughly the age of my Middle Child. All these kids of roughly the same age were in Kindergarten together, then they all played on the same Little League Team (for two seasons). We've been hanging out for three years, going on four. We've never needed an excuse to party, but the built-in holidays are wild.

We spent New Year's Eve as part of that group. Five couples. Eleven kids (plus another half couple and two more kids making guest appearances, like Tom Berenger in the last season of Cheers).

Food everywhere. Toasted ravioli. Stuffed eggplant. Crab cakes (Further proof that God exists). Stuffed mushrooms. Taco dip (the Saint's). Swedish meatballs (mine). Shrimp. Champagne, beer, wine, great company, lots of football, about 38 crazy-ass conversations and at least as many vows of secrecy...

Best New Year's Eve ever. Yes, Christmas was also the Best Christmas Ever. So shoot me for repeating the phrase. Repeating it doesn't make it false. At around 11, we had dessert, a spectacular chocolate trifle-- not my mother's, but still spectacular, and a champagne toast.

We partied until midnight. Toasted some more. Hugs, kisses, blah, blah, blah. Then, like old, married people, we packed up the kids and drove home (every couple had a designated driver).

Here's the kicker. At Chez Hurtubise, we were all in bed by 12:20. The kids slept until 11:00. I only woke up once. (My cousin Matt, the recent groom, roused me with a text message at 2:29 a.m. to tell me he'd required some assistance leaving a restaurant the night before. How is this relevant, besides waking me from an entirely pleasant dream? The Saint and I provided the gift card to the San Diego version of said restaurant as a wedding present, and it's also where Joe Konrath and I chowed down after drinks with Jerry Healy in Boston.)

But I went back to sleep. And the kids didn't come downstairs until 11 a.m.

Do I have great kids or what?

Which leads me to Post Number Two from Kelly Malloy. Let me refresh your memories with this rant about my recent parental failure.

Then read Kelly's post carefully.

"D" is Middle Child. No, he DID NOT spill the beans. No, he DID NOT crap down the chimney and ruin Christmas for his friend.

I believe I hear a refrain: Do I have great kids or what?

Let's blame the Saint for that.

In the meantime, does anybody have a horse I can toss off a boat?


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