Real Estate Developments I Pass Every Day

I think it was Anthony Bourdain who noted that certain business locations can become, well, cursed. No matter what opens in the space, it quickly goes out of business. This can last for years (maybe even forever), but it can also end.

This one corner spot on Beacon had been a superb convenience store for ages and ages. Then it got kinda outta touch and closed. The location became cursed and about four different operations tried to make it work;. The two I recall were the bad Asian gift shop with a misspelled word in its sign and a store that offered a strange mixture of plants and make-up products and never seemed to have staff that knew nearly enough about either. The spell broke when the space changed direction entirely and became a tres-hip Yoga center that won a Best of Boston award.

Only a block away was a very chic bicycle store that had a cool display of bikes on the roof (I don’t ride myself, so I never went inside), but seemed to do next to no business in the winter. It closed and has been replaced by a crushingly mediocre liquor store (that claims to have gourmet foods and cheese but I sure as hell didn’t see any).

Finally a salute to my late, great friend and editor at the Phoenix and Boston Globe, John Ferguson. The deeply authentic Irish pub where we held his Official Wake has been torn down to make way for another faceless glass tower. Especially sad because it helped me think about him many days when I drove past. He’s been gone for more than 13 years now. He was only 52.

Aztec and Eclipse

I cannot resist the notion that the first across-the-USA total eclipse was a sign of evil times. But the happier chips of me left take comfort in one of the huge benefits of science, in this case astronomy, in making a reasonably predictable universe. Otherwise, the sun going out could be the beginning of freakin’ anything, including that it would not come back.

The Aztecs had a particularly creepy mythology associated with eclipses: the sun was under attack from the stars you could see around it when it turned black. These are the female deities/demons Tzitzimime, quite the monsters.

Some images:

TZI 1

TZI 2

TZI 3

TZI 4

TZI 5

TZI 6

The Queen.

Trick Magic Moment

I used to have at least one every summer. Maybe two or three if I was lucky.

Hot, sun-flooded day driving the car on some not-too-serious errand or trip, listening to terrific tunes that are hitting me like never before. I would be filled with the feeling that, just for this one long moment, the whole world was happy, every human being was at peace. I would enjoy the magic even more if I shared with with someone sitting next to me.

Last summer was the first one I can remember when I did not have any such moment. A lot of things had gone wrong already in 2016, in particular I was mired in the aftereffects of the car collision. And by the end of the year, we had all passed into an unprecedented shadow.

One passage on Anderson’s Heart of a Dog that grabbed me with its wisdom yesterday was her recounting of the Buddhist teaching that one must learn “how to feel sad without being sad.” Know the negativity without being conquered by it. I knew this morning I was having a real snap of depression because while I experienced the circumstances that trigger a magic moment, all I felt was downbeat. My attempt at redeeming the time is to describe what happened.

The heat, the sun, the driving, all in place. The music was Chet Baker singing “Grey December”. I had already thought, Geeze, “Let’s Get Lost,” with lines like “Let’s defrost/In a haze” was weirder than I remembered. But I suddenly realized “Grey December” was way weirder than that, outright spooky, with memories of love like ominous ghosts. It was written by one Frank Campo, who also arranged the strings with Marty Paich and Johnny Mandel. And that’s all I know about Campo, other than the brilliant judge of tunes Ran Blake did a solo-piano version in 1995. (we’re going to go see Blake perform with singer Dominique Eade on Saturday — maybe I’ll shoot out a request.)

Friday Funnies: Outta-Control Comics Covers from the ’60s

Mainstream comics, that is.

Kona

Suicide Squad

(Exceptionally well designed plot and illustrations for this forgotten comic. Starting at $77.00 on Amazon, so I ain’t crazy.)

Suicide Squad 2

All downhill after this cover, though.

Kona 2

Kickass cover — extremely freaky comic (in Pt. Two esp.)

Suicide Squad 3

I tried to hide everything offbeat I had from my Mother. Left this comic out by accident and she burned it. Not just tossed in the trash: ritually burned in the back yard. (It was more to do with the name — which did seem to have a lot of lasting power — and less with the image.)

Memorials

A tough ceremony. I haven’t always socially remembered the passing of friends. A best bud from high school died tragically in a car wreck but (a) we had been out of touch since the teen years — and in your mid-20s that can seem like a long, long time and (b) I was too broke to travel back to MT more than once a year. Another dearest friend was just not the memorial-havin’ type. A merciless disease too soon and suicide generate the most agonizing rituals.

Oddly, I’ve had the same superstitions as this writer, that cataloging every near-death experience I can remember might trigger a terminal event. But, while we can debate the triteness of the idea, I do buy the notion that, as long as somebody remembers you, evokes you even in their mind, you are not entirely gone.

Post-4th Enough To Make You Take the Fifth

When I was a kid, the fourth of July was my favorite holiday next to Xmas and my birthday because little old Livingston went all out for it. The day before there was a parade that was the only sure parade of the year. Ran through all of downtown, involved almost all the businesses and institutions and citizens as marchers or watchers. The day of featured an outstanding rodeo with fireworks immediately following. Especially when I retained that childhood sense of time where a day could feel as long as years do to me now, I flat loved it. The 4th of July incarnated summer. (Of course, didn’t hurt that it was the only holiday out there when you could be assured of a nice warm day.)

I still love fireworks. (I disappear into them and time stands still while they go off. It’s just an urge I’ve always had and I’m glad it did not go away. But the day after the Fourth is the one nice warm day I’m sure to have at least a small bought of depression. There’s the weird business where I feel winter earlier and earlier. But beyond that, today is one of those days I envy anyone who lived before the shadow of nuclear weapons existed. So the Cold War never turned Hot. So what? Means nothing.

Oddly what most brightened my day was Laura Miller writing about death. The message that includes the bad news is the strongest. I have to take a walk outside now.

A Wise Old Cowboy Once Said …

As a child I heard a number of then-cryptic or opaque remarks from adults that stuck with me and seem more and more apt.

One came from an ancient ranch-hand who was a permanent resident in one of the rooms of my father’s hotel. He had been around in the late 19th century when there still was something of a Wild West and a Frontier. More than anyone I knew, he seemed diminished by having to spend his days in town and sleeping in a couple small rooms. But he couldn’t even walk down stairs any more. He spent a lot of time sipping cup after cup of weak coffee at the cafeteria counter.

During slack times when I was working behind that counter, the old dude would reminisce about the “Open Spaces” and his years helping herd cattle and sheep. He was especially fond of afternoons when he could be utterly alone — no sign of human activity as far as he could see. That was the real Open Spaces.

He knew that was less and less possible. One day he said something strange:

“When there’s no more Open Spaces, all that will be left is pounding on each other.”