Tuesday, February 27, 2007

This Just In...

Pete Townshend has a blog.

How cool is that?

Thanks to Dave Guarino for the link.


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100 Random Thoughts

This is the 100th post on Random Thoughts (we lost a few when we switched to beta, so this could really be 125, but I'm going by the official count). To celebrate this dubious occasion, here are 100...umm... Random Thoughts.

Add your own Random Thoughts in the comments section.

1. The Saint rocks.
2. I used to be a political consultant. I like a good fight. But the latest stuff in Washington is ridiculous. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are almost a year away. The general election is ten months after that.
3. This is my favorite post on the blog.
4. This one was the most depressing, by far, but I'm glad I wrote it.
5. Every day, I read ten newspapers, plus Backstreets (old political habits die hard).
6. I also read these blogs, daily, as part of my news-gathering effort: Dan Kennedy, Seth Gitell and Dave Guarino. If you like politics, you'll like these blogs, too.
7. Working parents should visit Guarino's wife Heidi's blog. Don't let the title fool you. It's not just for working moms.
8. Because of this blog, I have at least twenty friends I haven't met yet, including folks in Norway and the Netherlands.
9. This is my favorite vacation spot.
10. As of right now, I'm 85,000 words into my new novel.
11. The best trip the Saint and I ever took with the kids was to Gettysburg and Hershey, last summer.
12. Of all the places I haven't visited in the United States, I most want to see Austin, Texas.
13. My kids are smarter than I am. Only my daughter knows this. She is three.
14. My last pilgrimage to the Stone Pony was over Memorial Day Weekend in 2004.
15. My parents are crazier than I am. I find this inspirational.
16. Contrary to popular belief, my favorite President was a Republican. You don't need the link if you notice that this is number 16 on my list.
17. I found five errors in the Wikipedia entry to which I linked above. That was on my first read-through.
18. I'm trying not to watch American Idol this year. So far, I'm succeeding.
19. The Saint also loves to write, and she's really good at it. She should start blogging.
20. If the History Channel didn't exist, I wouldn't watch TV most months.
21. I went to college here. I loved it.
22. I met both the Saint and Best Man and Godfather (aka Evil Republican Lobbyist) there.
23. I went to law school here. I hated it.
24. I've purchased exclusively Macintosh computers.
25. J.A. Konrath and I have the same literary agents.
26. I thought it would be easier to come up with 100 Random Thoughts.
27. I burned dinner tonight. Nobody complained. The lesson: Always use a good barbecue sauce when you're cooking pork chops.
28. This blog post pretty much wrote itself.
29. It's easier to give up ice cream for Lent if there is chocolate pudding in the house.
30. I believe gay marriage should be legal in every state, not just mine. I see this as a civil rights issue. Read the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment and get back to me.
31. The day after I met the Saint, I called my mother and told her I'd met the woman I was going to marry. Two and a half years later, I did.
32. I've now lived in Massachusetts almost as long as I lived in Cooperstown and Fly Creek.
33. My favorite guilty snack food is my Uncle Bob's homemade venison jerky.
34. Lt. Ed Novak spent a tour of duty at Abu Gharaib.
35. He claims he was safe the whole time he was there, but it's still better having him back here.
36. Contrary to what Dick Cheney might think, I can write number 35 and still be a patriot.
37. My Norwegian friend put up a blog post in English because I can't read Norwegian. It's a great post, and if his others are as good, I think I need to learn Norwegian.
38. This is not the nectar of the Gods, but it's close.
39. My cousin Matt in San Diego had the craziest wedding I've attended in a long time. Again, crazy is a good word. You can read the sanitized version here.
40. My writing heroes are rock stars: Bruce Springsteen, Kris Kristofferson, and Johnny Cash.
41. My age when I saw my first concert: Almost 6 (Kristofferson at Saratoga).
42. Number of Springsteen shows I've attended: 10.
43. Number of additional times I've had Springsteen tickets in my hands and had to bag the concert: 7.
44. Number of Springsteen concerts I attended before the streak in number 43 began: 0.
45. Number of Springsteen swings through Boston I've missed since the streak in number 43 ended: 1.
46. Number of times I've seen Kristofferson in concert: 2. Both times, I went with my mother.
47. Years between those concerts (Don't look, Mom!): 30.
48. Number of Supreme Court Justices my mother knows: 1.
49. Number of jurisdictions where I am licensed to practice law: 2.
50. My three favorite novels: All the King's Men; To Kill a Mockingbird; and A Lesson Before Dying.
51. Number of Nick Alicino's former students with literary agents: (at least) 3.
52. Number with books available in a bookstore near you: 2 (here and here).
53. Both the authors in number 52 are high school classmates of mine.
54. Number of songs on my iPod: 694.
55. Number of Springsteen songs: Over 200.
56. My favorite piece of music ever: Beethoven's Ninth. Yes, you read that right.
57. The number of channels and nothin' on.
58. The Brogans are my most inspirational friends.
59. My four favorite movies: The Godfather (count the first two as one film; ignore the third); Casablanca; The Right Stuff; and Breaker Morant.
60. The one thing I hate most in the world: Driving. Owning a Jeep Cherokee helps, though.
61. Number of household jobs Middle Child can do before he gets bored: Nobody knows. He has yet to reach his limit. We once sent him outside and asked him to put away some toys in the garage. He did that. Then he rearranged the entire garage. He was six at the time. The job took him two hours. Then he asked for another one.
62. The Saint teaches high school English. Have I mentioned that she rocks?
63. Her little finger, on a string: Where Daughter stores her father.
64. 13, going on 20: Oldest Son's age.
65. The best summer drink I've ever mixed: peach sangria. The Saint agrees.
66. The Saint and I finally saw a U2 concert a year ago (to put this in perspective, Bono is the Saint's Bruce). Number of times the Saint shouted "I love you, Bono!": I lost count. All I can say in my own defense is that it takes a strong man to stand by smiling while his wife professes her love for Bono (a hundred times or so).
67. Writer's Block does not exist. It's a figment of a frazzled imagination. Write through it.
68. If writing through it doesn't help, try bourbon.
69. I've been lucky. I've run my own business and I've loved most of the places where I worked for other people. But this is still the best job I've ever had.
70. The best "Lent-friendly food" in the world has to be shrimp scampi pizza. With extra garlic.
71. Speaking of food, the Saint will tell you that I have a great "food memory." When she and I go out to a special restaurant (which, honestly, is any one we can hit without the kids), I tend to remember every detail of the meal--mine and hers-- forever. I used to think this was normal.
72. Middle Child is totally fascinated by Mozart. He wants to form a rock band. He already has a notebook full of songs he's written. Some of these songs are good. He knows none of Mozart's music, but he's enthralled by Mozart the musician.
73. Why don't we worship teachers the way we worship athletes and rock stars?
74. I'm hearing and reading that Martin Scorsese is thinking of a sequel to The Departed. With whom? The only characters left are the ones played by Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg.
75. I miss Ben & Jerry's Holy Cannoli ice cream. That was my favorite ice cream flavor, ever.
76. I also miss Diet Vanilla Coke.
77. I've forgotten what life was like before ESPN. Baseball Tonight might be the best show ever created.
78. My favorite Chris Berman nicknames: Donovan "Mellow Yellow-Sunshine Superman" Osborne and Dante Bichette Happens.
79. I've seen baseball games at Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, (Oriole Park at) Camden Yards and Memorial Stadium. I've seen Wrigley Field, US Cellular Field, Petco Park, Shea Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Veterans' Stadium, Pro-Player Stadium, Turner Field, Olympic Stadium and Kauffman Stadium.
80. I have seen the football stadiums in most of the cities in number 79, but my only NFL game was a pre-season matchup between the Patriots and the Redskins in 2001.
81. I've been to more college hockey and basketball games than NHL or NBA games (even though the last college hockey and basketball games I attended happened while I was in college).
82. Since 1980, I have attended 92 Red Sox games. The Red Sox won 90 of those games. Yes, I realize I should purchase season tickets, but I can't afford them.
83. My father's mother was born in County Waterford. My mother's mother is predominantly Irish. I have never been to Ireland.
84. The Saint and I, in choosing the middle names of our kids, named each of them after one of our grandparents.
85. Even though he is a Republican, Dennis Miller is my favorite comedian, but not my favorite Republican (BMAG and my Uncle Bob share that "honor").
86. The number of years between the last two Red Sox World Series Championships. The Sox can go another 86 years between championships; all that matters is that I saw one in my lifetime. Yankee fans do not understand this. They can't even fathom it. I pity them.
87. Standing around and talking about being a writer is much easier than being a writer.
88. My parents are retired teachers. To them, retirement means selling real estate, running a catering business, and taking trips everywhere.
89. I agree with Bill Simmons (and his father, who said,) Dennis Johnson "was the best guard on the best team I ever watched in my entire life." DJ was the Celtics' starting point guard the last time basketball was relevant to me. And the Hall of Fame voters did him an injustice by not inducting him while he was alive to see it. If Larry Bird said DJ was the best teammate he ever had, then DJ deserves a slot in Springfield.
90. I've been working on this post since last Wednesday (the annual stomach virus scythed its way through the family over the past few days). Sometimes life gets in the way.
91. It was nice that Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar. It's too bad the show dragged on for four hours. Yet another reason why a DVR is a necessity.
92. I still have eight more Random Thoughts to go? What the hell was I thinking?
93. Somebody found this blog today while searching for "bracciole." Another found it searching for "scrapple." One of these foods I love; the other I refuse to try.
94. I've finally started working on my taxes. Good thing I have an accountant to do the real work. I used to do it myself. I'd rather pay somebody else. My accountant has been giving me a great rate for years.
95. As of tonight, I've officially been called out on a blog. Well, sort of. But I'm the Adam H. who gave his friend Kris a ration...
96. Now that The West Wing and NYPD Blue have gone away, I confess that I watch Grey's Anatomy with the Saint.
97. If I keep watching Oldest Son play basketball, I'll like it again. The kid owns the low post.
98. I budgeted 90 minutes for this post. I think we're in the bonus round by now.
99. Why are you still reading this? It's not that interesting any more.
100. And I'm done. Have I mentioned that the Saint rocks? I'll say it again.


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Monday, February 19, 2007

That Annual Obligation

Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday. I haven't always given up anything for Lent. In fact, I only started a few years ago.

That first year, I gave up booze. It was a piece of cake.

So the next year, I gave up ice cream. Giving up cigarettes was easier.

Let me tell you about my family's ice cream history. On my mother's side, I think my grandparents ate a bowl of ice cream every night. They had a second freezer with eight or nine different varieties (and three or four deer worth of venison). My grandfather had several spoons stashed in that freezer. At least one was hidden in plain sight so my grandmother could stop looking for the others. She'd always "miss" one.

My parents made their own ice cream at one point (maybe they'll read this post from their balmy Nicaraguan vacation and take the hint when they get home). They cook light, eat light, stay fit, all that willpower crap. But they still have a freezer full of ice cream.

I'd be forty pounds lighter without my friends Ben and Jerry. So I'm kicking them to the curb for Lent. Which means that tonight, Ben and Jerry are visiting. Maybe tomorrow night, too.



Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Saint Parties

The Saint went out this evening with the women in our Gang of Ten.

That means:
  • Daughter got special bed time stories with Daddy (after her "Mommy's leaving!" meltdown)
  • Middle Child got to fall asleep on the couch with the big brother he (not so) secretly worships
  • Oldest Son regaled me with stories of his afternoon basketball game (which I witnessed firsthand; if this kid were any more modest, one would think he sat on the bench all game), and we got some good quality time after everyone else was asleep
  • Now that all the kids are in bed, my iPod is plugged into Oldest Son's stereo (I've played two Bruce concert bootlegs, then Nebraska, then Tunnel of Love, for those of you keeping score at home)
  • I've violated my "No Bruce while writing this book" rule
  • I don't care (Nebraska and Tunnel of Love, though perfect albums, aren't exactly uplifting)
  • I've cranked out 2,000 words
  • The Saint got a night out
  • I felt like I got one, too
A win-win for everyone. When can we do this again?


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Friday, February 16, 2007

Winter in Boston: A Case Study

Unless I'm on a beach with the Saint on my arm and a drink in my hand, I hate hot weather. I love winter. Every time the snow falls, the Saint or one of the kids snaps a picture of me wearing shorts and a t-shirt while I'm shoveling.

This year, I don't love winter so much.

We went through a December when the temperatures were above freezing almost every day. January was balmy. I think we hit 70 degrees once or twice.

So February should be great, right?

Single digit temperatures for days on end. Wednesday, the mercury finally climbed again, until it was just warm enough for snow. Which turned to sleet and freezing rain. Oldest Son and Middle Child shoveled. And shoveled. And shoveled. I came home from work and shoveled some more.

I scraped off all the snow and ice. Got right down to the blacktop on the driveway and sidewalk. Cleaned the van and the Jeep. Put down ten pounds of salt. Went to bed exhausted (after posting my St. Valentine's Day Ode to Bruce, drafted in the self-congratulatory warmth of a glass of cognac). I may even have extended my middle fingers at the sleet falling outside.

Yesterday morning, the ice on my sidewalk and driveway was three inches thick and the temperatures were in the single digits again. Not only was all that salt useless because the temperature had fallen so quickly, it was frozen under the ice. I don't have skates.

Normally the Saint and Oldest Son go off to school together. Yesterday, the Saint had to get Daughter and Middle Child to day care and the school bus, which is usually my responsibility. The sludge and ice had pooled around the van tires, then frozen solid. The van was literally frozen into the driveway.

The Jeep has four-wheel drive, but even that's no sure bet when the snow plows pile a three-foot drift across the driveway... and said drift freezes into a hard, slippery, immovable object. The Saint crashed down off the... ice thing... with such force that I thought the air bags had deployed. She got everybody where they needed to be, but was twenty-five minutes late for school.

I overcompensated for failing in my parental duties: On the way to work, I helped the neighbors dig out their car. Then six of us fought a sheet of ice for traction. The car went nowhere. Eventually, the wheels spun a giant rooster-tail of sludge at us like it was coming from a snow-blower.

Did you know that if ice shoots into the air at just the right angle, it can fall directly between your jacket and your shirt? I didn't know that either, until yesterday morning. After we backed away, of course, a quick tap on the gas put the car safely in the middle of the street. My neighbors and I were exchanging high-fives like drunks at a football game.

I earned a great reward for my good manners. During the seven-minute walk from my house to the bus stop, I fell eight times. The walk took twenty minutes.

This morning, we planned ahead. We left early. The Saint carried Daughter to the Jeep. I carried the Saint's school stuff. I'm grateful we hadn't switched loads, because I ended up on my back, under the Jeep, sprawled like a snow angel in a Springsteen shirt, but with less traction. The Saint's school stuff ended up all over the driveway. Oldest Son and Middle Child smirked until they couldn't hold it in any longer, then howled from the safety (and warmth) of the Jeep. Daughter sobbed because she thought I was dead.

The neighbors heard utterances from my mouth that they hadn't heard since yesterday. Daughter realized that dead men can't swear.

The thermometer hit 30 today. The van is still frozen in the driveway. Every muscle in my body is sore from shoveling or from trudging through ice banks. I've crashed to the ground so many times that my bruises have bruises.

I would like to go to Miami.


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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blasphemy or Revelation?

I confess: Maybe I've spent too much time with a shovel in my hands, standing ankle-deep in slush, bent over a thick crust of wet, sleety, icy sludge, while more of it pours down on me.

But today, that infamous holiday created by Hallmark? Now before you assume that I forgot to honor the Saint, I did not forget. Card and candy. No flowers. As a bonus, she gifted me with a card and a pint of Haagen-Dazs (the Saint did lose a few points for purchasing "light" ice cream, which is roughly equivalent to "light" cigarettes, yet not nearly as satisfying, but let us not tell her that I'm complaining). Thankfully, the Saint did not give me flowers either.

I mean, however, that this a holiday for the greeting card industry. The last really important thing that happened on Valentine's Day? Al Capone showed Bugs Moran who was boss.

Speaking of the Boss: Here's my point.

Instead of this commercial mid-winter holiday, an ode to the greeting card industry and a paean to Milton Hershey, why don't we skip it? Cross it right off the calendar. Valentine was a minor saint anyway; he doesn't compare to the Saint.

Let's just move everything to late summer. September 23, to be exact. Wouldn't Bruce's Birthday be a much worthier holiday?

What's better than late-summer rock and roll? (I know it's actually early fall, but work with me.) We could have nice, old-fashioned house parties, with beer and boom boxes (and maybe a little bourbon). We could gift each other with bootlegs of great concerts, various books by Bruce-friendly authors like Dave Marsh, and maybe, if we're lucky, catch Bruce and the E-Streeters on tour.

You know that I already celebrate September 23 as a National Holiday. Could it be much of a stretch to take this national? Have I told you how much I'm able to accomplish when I put my mind to things?


This could be fun. We might actually read meaningful lyrics on our holiday cards, but instead of sending the profits to Hallmark, Bruce could get royalties. I trust him with my money more than I trust large, multi-national corporations headquartered in Kansas City, don't you? (Yes, Kansas City is a great town; the barbecue is otherworldly and the Saint's mother is from there, but I digress.)

Exchanging an exquisite bootleg of "Jungleland" sounds a hell of a lot better than giving roses and chocolate, doesn't it? Plus it lasts longer, it's more enviro-friendly, and it might lead to dancing, so it's healthier, too.

I think I'm onto something. Then again, it could be the snow. Either way, September 23 falls on a Sunday this year, and I'm celebrating at my house. Feel free to join me.


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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Just About a Year Ago

I thought I knew exactly which day I started writing this book. I actually think it was a year ago today.

But I have no blogumentary evidence. The closest I can come is this post. That'll have to do.

In the meantime: I thought I'd be done by now. Even though I'm not done, I love the book. In fact, I don't think the book would have taken the plot twists it's taken if I hadn't fallen behind.

Last summer's trip to the Sagamore was key. That got me into Albany mode and what was supposed to be a passing scene turned into a few vital chapters. I've always had a special, visceral, peculiar, wonderful fascination with that city.

All in all, it's been a great year. But I'm ready to close out this project. A few more weeks, a few thousand more words, and I'll be there.



Saturday, February 10, 2007

Jump Shots and Home Runs

Busy week this week. Friend Dave called Wednesday afternoon. He had four tickets to the Celtics game and wanted to bring Middle Child and me with his oldest. So, yeah, it was the Celtics game, and I haven't cared about the Celtics since 1988 or so. Not to mention that the Celts are in the middle of an epic losing streak.

But the nice parts:
  • Good friends
  • Good company
  • Shaq returned to the Heat
Oh, yeah: We were sitting in the Pepsi luxury suite. So there was great food and beer, and it was all free. I confess, I was craving Diet Cokes all night. Is that a blasphemous admission? Friend Dave's Pepsi sales rep was spectacular with the kids. They both came home with mini Celtics basketballs.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my old office mates from my consulting days. They just changed offices. They're now in the old Celtics suite. (Do you sense a theme here?) Celtics logos everywhere, even in the private shower in the bathroom.

This morning was the weekly basketball ritual: Middle Child played at 8 a.m. I usually hit those games (Friend Dave is a coach, and his oldest is on the team with Middle Child), but this morning, Middle Child asked the Saint to go, so Daughter and I got to hang out with Dora the Explorer. Oldest Son plays at 2, and I'm going to his game.

Meanwhile, the Saint is grocery shopping and we've got laundry going... Ahh, domestic bliss.

But baseball season is right around the corner. How do I know this? Because this morning we also signed up Middle Child for his third season of Little League. I coached Oldest Son's team last year with two other guys (I was doing it for Oldest Son, but it also ended up being the best gift I ever gave myself). Middle Child asked me to coach his team this year. That's a no-brainer.

Allow me to elaborate, because as great as baseball is, this is not all about baseball.

There's our group of five couples. We became friends because our kids all went to Kindergarten together (Middle Child's class). But the clincher was that in the Spring of 2005, all five of those interconnected kids ended up on the same baseball team, and three of the five dads were coaches. We started having cookouts every Saturday, after the game. That led to Saturday cookouts, post-season cookouts, and blowouts... pretty much on demand these days.

Yes, we know how cool that is. And now another season starts.

All of this as I'm crawling closer to the finish line on this novel. If this book were a rock and roll song, we'd be listening to the guitar solo between the third and fourth verses. Speaking of rock and roll, go see Dave Guarino's spirited defense of U2. Dave's rant drew a loud "Amen" from me.

It reminded me of the time a rival political operative dissed Bruce to my face. The results: Not pretty, but poetic in their brutality.

I may tell you about it some day, but not until the book is finished. Now, however, I have to go watch a basketball game. Oldest Son has inherited the Saint's talents in the low post. The results for the other team: Not pretty, but poetic in their brutality.


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Monday, February 05, 2007

A Few Rock and Roll Notes

Sorry I'm late getting to this. Things have been a little hectic in my little corner of paradise.

Last Tuesday, I trekked to Worcester with an old buddy from my prior life... you know, just a couple of political operatives playing rock fans. We met up with a state rep and three other political operatives. In Worcester. For Bob Seger.

Great dinner for six hacks at a divey place where the server couldn't seem to get anybody's order right, but the food was good. One sign we were no longer in our twenties: Six guys at the table. Two beers. Four Diet Cokes. Yeah, I confess. Mine was one of the Diet Cokes, and I think I was the youngest one in the bar.

The Seger concert was wild. First tour in 11 years, and Bob rocked. I stood more than I sat, knew every word, and only hit the men's room when he played a three-fer off the new album. Good thing it was a three-fer, because there were 200 guys ahead of me in line.

It wasn't a Springsteen show, but it was amazing. (You knew that was coming, so don't act surprised.) Seger's voice still sounds the same, thirty years after I first heard it. "Turn the Page" was a chill-inducer. "Night Moves" was cathartic. Seger played for two and a half hours, and then we drove home in a snow squall.

I was in bed by one, then dragged myself out in the morning to take Middle Child to the bus and Daughter to day care (Oldest Son goes to school with the Saint). Work was not easy on Wednesday, but I made it. And yes, I played Seger tunes on my iPod all the way into the office and all the way home.

Next time, I think I'll try it on the weekend. All right. Now you can all tell me I sound old. I might even agree.


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Friday, February 02, 2007

Another Year Passes

Has it really been a year since I wrote this post?

Wow. My daughter ran into the bedroom this morning, ecstatic to be three.

There aren't enough superlatives to describe her.

What I can't get over: It seems like we just brought her home, and it seems like she's been part of the family forever. (My forever, not her forever; she has been part of the family for her forever.)

Everything I wrote in last year's birthday post is more true today. In the last few months, my Pretty Girl has discovered princesses, dresses, purses and Chapstick.

Her hair is blonder (even after her first haircut) and her eyes are bluer. She remains too smart for her own good (and for mine). And she still has me wrapped around her little finger.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Amen to that.

Happy Birthday, Pretty Girl. Daddy adores you.