Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Disturbing Story About Guns

By now, you all know that I'm a bluer than blue blue-stater who happens to have grown up in a redder than red enclave where hunting, fishing, and other forms of family bonding are very, very common.

I've argued before on this blog that our attitudes on guns have much more to do with geography than they do with ideology. Simply put: In rural areas, guns have different connotations than they do in urban areas.

I understand this. I even accept it.

But I'm very disturbed by this story in today's Washington Post. (The New York Times weighs in here.) Disturbed is not strong enough a word, actually. Horrified is more appropriate.

Here are the facts, as they've arrived:

1. Senator Jim Webb handed what may or may not be his pistol to a top aide as he arrived at the airport for a flight to New Orleans;
2. Senator Webb has a permit to carry a concealed weapon (he showed it pretty often on the campaign trail);
3. The aide put the pistol in a briefcase;
4. The briefcase and a few others got shuffled, and may have been shuffled among multiple vehicles;
5. The aide brought the briefcase into a Senate office building;
6. The mandatory X-Ray at security revealed what may or may not have been the Senator's loaded pistol in the briefcase, but it was definitely a loaded pistol.

Now, let's take it a couple of steps further. The spokeswoman for the Capitol Police Department, a Sergeant, said on the record that the aide was fully cooperative and that she didn't think the aide was out to harm anybody.

Nobody in Webb's office is saying whether or not the gun is Webb's, but the early news reports said it was Webb's gun. People seem to be in complete agreement that the gun did not belong to the aide, and the aide did not realize the gun was in the briefcase.

Webb's office called the incident a mistake, which is exactly what it is.

For this, the aide is charged with a felony and spent a night in jail because he wasn't licensed to carry the gun or the ammunition (and the gun was loaded, which is against Senate rules, apparently). Even though he had no idea he was even carrying the gun, which seems to belong to his boss, who is licensed to carry the gun.

I should note: Both Webb and his aide are Marine combat veterans. Webb is a marksman who used to teach marksmanship. His aide is a Desert Storm veteran.

In my time as a political operative, have I ever carried a bag for a candidate without knowing what was inside? Of course.

Have I ever mistakenly picked up the wrong bag? Of course.

I've even carried the wrong bag through a security checkpoint at a government building. I've left the wrong bag in the wrong car at the wrong time, and I've committed every variation of the same mistake.

Like I said, that's what this is: A mistake. Not even a stupid mistake. A very common mistake made every day by harried assistants and operatives trying to keep their bosses on schedule, on message and on friendly terms with constituents and reporters.

It's a mistake. It's a mistake I need not modify with another adjective.

Let's remember that the Capitol Police Sergeant who spoke about the case said the aide was cooperative and not out to harm anyone.

This may even have been a laughing matter, if, say, the aide had brought the wrong lunch to the office, or the wrong newspaper. And if he'd brought one of those two things, everyone would be calling this a mistake.

But a felony charge? Are they serious? That's not a mistake. That's an obscenity.


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Friday, March 23, 2007

Norway Defends Bruce

First, Kelly Malloy let me know that Simon Cowell claims to have sold more records than Bruce. Simon, obviously, has been sipping from Paula's glass before his interviews. I didn't blog about it because it was so patently ridiculous that I'd be kicking Simon while he was down. That's bad sportsmanship, though Simon disagrees.

Now comes the Norseman. My dear Norwegian friend--we've never actually met in person, but we're Bruce fans, so that'll happen someday-- has posted a scathing indictment of Bruce fans who complain about Bruce.

He's posted in English, so you need not know Norwegian. He absolutely tees off. Poetry, all of it.

Can I just say, for the record, that I agree with every word (except for the minor knock on the Saint's favorite band)? I guess I just said it.

You want to know how big a Bruce fan this guy is? He's been to seven concerts. I've been to ten, in three states. My friend waits for Bruce to fly to Norway. I believe Bruce visits Norway a little less frequently than he visits Boston.

Enough said.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rounding Third, Heading for Home

I just crashed through the 100,000-word barrier on this novel. Better yet, I can see the end. I know what's happening in nearly every paragraph of the last few chapters, even though I haven't typed them.

I've been keeping notes about the ending, working things through my head, for over a year. It's natural that I'd have the ending nailed down, even if it isn't yet on the hard drive.

I'd like to talk about the 2008 presidential election. I'd like to blog about politics here in Massachusetts. I'd like to tell you a funny story about the Saint or the kids... and sprinkle in about a dozen allusions to Springsteen lyrics.

Instead, tonight you get John Fogerty in the title. And just me: Relieved.

I'm looking forward to the play at the plate. If all goes well, I get to drop my shoulder and plow right through the catcher, like Pete Rose did to Ray Fosse the summer I was born.



Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Whole Week Without Blogging

The funny part is that I tried to blog much of last week. But my home internet connection went down four times between Sunday and now.

We haven't even been here since Friday. So, four outages in internet service between Sunday and Friday. You didn't need to visit this blog: You could hear me, even in Norway and the Netherlands.

Friday, we drove to Fly Creek. My Mother turned... a big number... in January. My Dad turned... a big number +10 in February. They had their big party Friday night.

The Saint, the kids and I drove from Boston to be there.

The catch, you ask?

It's pretty much due West from Boston to Fly Creek, roughly 250 miles. The last big snowstorm of this winter hit at 11:30 Friday morning. It came from the South and moved due North along a 300 mile front. For those who don't like snow, math or geography, I'll translate:

We got in the car at 11:40 Friday morning. It was snowing. All the way to Fly Creek, it was a blizzard. In the Berkshires, it was a whiteout. What normally takes four to four and a half hours took nearly six, with no stops. One major interstate had one lane open.

We took the Jeep and we had it in four-wheel drive the whole way. Not good for our gas consumption, but great for our sanity. The Saint drove, by the way. Another boost for our mental stability.

(In comparison, today on the way back, the whole trip was just over four hours, including a stop for lunch.)

My parents' party was typical of one of theirs: Started early, went late, and every guest had a blast. My rock-star grandmother danced a hole in the floor. I caught up with a bunch of folks.

Yesterday was more of the same, but much mellower. First time I've ever hoisted a stout in Cooperstown on St. Patrick's Day, believe it or not. To the friends I perhaps should have phoned but didn't: I'll catch you next time. This was a drive-by.

Daughter's day care provider is on vacation, so Daughter, the Princess, gets a week with Mimi and Grampie, who will treat her like a Queen. We miss her already, but at least nobody will be calling me a fart head this week.

I brought my computer and planned to write yesterday. I haven't written since Thursday, so I'm behind schedule again. But I don't care.

This afternoon, when we got back, we had 4-6 inches of snow in the driveway. Mother Nature had thoughtfully baked and re-frozen the snow into an icy crust in the meantime, so what would have taken an hour for me to shovel on Friday took Oldest Son, Middle Child, the Saint and me two hours to hack to pieces today. It's not even really finished. We simply declared victory and went inside. My mother sent us home with lasagna and other delicacies. Those are cooking now.

We are all sore. But we are home. And I have 2,000 words to write this evening.

In the meantime, if you're a rock and roll fan, go check out Dave Guarino's blog. He threw up a post last week to which I'd meant to alert you, while my ISP was AWOL. Click here for a direct link to Dave's homage to The Joshua Tree's twentieth anniversary.

My favorite U2 song, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", is on that masterpiece. It's also the album that hooked the Saint on U2.

Be sure to check the comments, too. They're piling up, and they're also worth reading. I'm not talking about my comment, which was, basically, "Nice job, Dude," which translates, loosely, to "I wish I'd thought of that." Dave's wife Heidi was particularly prescient. Her description of Dave at a U2 concert is nearly word for word how I'd describe the Saint at the same venue (and how the Saint would describe me at a Springsteen show).

Back to writing.


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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Hiding and Seeking

Daughter and Middle Child conspired against their father the other night.

Hide and Seek is Daughter's favorite game in the world. She's still getting a feel for it. For instance, if she hides and I ask, "Where are you?" she pops up and shouts, "Right here!"

She's also been known to choose the same hiding spot ten or twelve times in a row. I'm often finding creative ways to prolong my search.

She enjoys finding as well, but sometimes gets bored if she has to search for more than 30 seconds.

The other night, I hid. Daughter asked, "Daddy, where are you?"

No answer. So she asked again and got the same response.

Enter Middle Child. He said to Daughter, "Make Dad laugh."

So Daughter started shouting, "Daddy, you're a fart head!"

I laughed so hard that I fell out from behind the file cabinet.

And now, every time we play, Daddy is a fart head.

I wouldn't have it any other way.


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Friday, March 09, 2007

Diapers and Other Hazards of Parenthood

So, y'all know my friend Dave Guarino by now. He has a daily, must-read blog for political junkies, rock and roll fans, and, well, anybody who wants to see the seamy underbelly where press and politics intersect. Dave and I had lost touch for a while. I left politics just as he left the Herald to become a press secretary.

We've gotten reacquainted now that he and I are both blogging (in Dave's case, again).

Dave's wife Heidi also blogs about the travails of working mothers. She's invited other working mothers to offer up guest posts.

Dave and Heidi were lamenting their oldest son's lack of potty training progress. Perhaps because the Saint and I have potty trained three kids, or more likely because I got shit all over my hands working in politics for ten years, I offered up some unsolicited advice.

Today, the Working Mom's Blog has a guest post from a Working Dad.

Go on over and say hi to Heidi. You'll end up hooked.


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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

30 Chapters Down

Now that I've reiterated that the Saint is a hottie, here's a quick update on the novel. When last we discussed it, I was holding steady at 85,000 words. (It was actually 83, 271, but who's counting?)

I wrote all weekend. I wrote last night. I wrote tonight. I'm now sitting atop 92,000 words.

You know that rush you get when you're reading a good book, nearing the end, and tying up loose ends? I'm there. The only difference is that I'm putting the words onto the page instead of reading them. This is more fun, because instead of guessing how the story will conclude, I already know.

Not done yet, but if I stay on this pace, I'll finish by the end of March.

On another note, remember that bolognese I mentioned two posts ago? It's exquisite. Stop by. I have leftovers.


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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Courting Controversy

Over on The Outfit, there's a spirited discussion about Political Correctness. Most of you know by now exactly how I feel about that topic.

I'd never deliberately offend anyone, but I'm a writer. I need to be able to choose from all the words in the English language. On the flip side, I'll take the consequences and apologize if I do offend somebody.

I'm particularly appalled at the way colleges and universities censor their students for, basically, not being liberal enough. I thought colleges and universities were supposed to encourage debate, not stifle it.

I'm a good old-fashioned unreconstructed New Deal Liberal Democrat. I also have a rather colorful vocabulary. Everyone who has ever met me has known all of this within 15 seconds. I'm more liberal than many of those so-called liberal professors running around censoring students. As a bonus, I've actually, you know, worked in politics, where none of us are the least bit PC (even the liberals). My point: If I opened my mouth, I'd probably be fired by any college that would hire me in the first place.

That college and university political correctness is seeping over into other communities, particularly the writing community. I've seen it rear its head several times recently.

Back to The Outfit for a minute. They're a bunch of Chicago writers. My high school buddy Kevin Guilfoile is one of the bloggers. Joe Konrath first pointed me in their direction. Seems that Marcus Sakey, writing about one of his author friends, called her a hottie.

That got a couple of feminists up in arms, which sparked a spirited debate on the blog. Apparently, when a male author labels his female author friend a hottie, that's an insult to all women. The female author friend in question, by the way, wrote that Sakey had made her day.

I'm not saying I'd ever comment on another woman's appearance, though what Sakey did was blatantly, obviously, humorous, innocent, and fun, and any rational reader could only interpret his comments that way. Plus, the target of his comment loved it.

But... Might I state something obvious, just for the record? The Saint is a hottie. A funny, smart, sizzling, smoking, gorgeous knockout of a hottie. And I tell her that every day.

I must be a pig.

Enough said.


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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Letting the Manuscript Simmer

Writing, like cooking, depends on patience. Let's say you're making a stew or a pot of Bolognese. To get the flavors right, you have to cook everything the right way: Low heat for a long time, so you blend the flavors without cooking anything too quickly, or burning everything.

You don't want anything to taste like you just threw it in at the last second, or worse, that you threw it in at the last second to cover something that didn't work very well. Everything needs to be part of the whole, but it needs its own place. Everything in the sauce should be something a gourmand can identify with a taste, yet it should also be necessary.

So in addition to patience, you need faith in your ingredients.

Conceptually, a manuscript is the same as a good pasta sauce. (Yeah, I know. In my Dad's family, and in M.G. Tarquini's, they call it gravy. I still call it sauce. Good sauce is a work of art. Good gravy is what Yankees throw on their meat and potatoes to disguise the taste.)

I've had one last major plot dilemma kicking around in my head since... well, since before I even started writing the book. Tonight, becaue I waited for things to sort themselves out in my head, because I put them on the back burner and let them simmer, because I believed in my characters and the paths they've taken: I have it. That one last element I need to be airtight, so no reader will scream, "Yeah, right!" and never read another word of mine.

Tonight, I vacuum sealed that last sticking point. It's a small victory, such as whether to use cognac or red wine (answer: cognac, always, because it makes a richer and earthier sauce) but crucial to the plot.

I think I'll celebrate by making a huge pot of Bolognese this weekend.


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