Wednesday, August 12, 2015

18,250 DAYS AGO

50 years ago or 600 moons as the Native Americans would say, I had just finished my freshman year at the University of Mass. in Amherst. It was the Summer of 1965! A half century ago. Yikes! I had a tough time adapting to freshman year. Big classes-300 students. Trying to figure out the best way to study! I got C's and D's and a few F's. I barely made it to sophomore year. And back then if you flunked out of college, you stood a good chance of getting drafted and going to Vietnam.

The previous few summers I had worked at Wequasset Inn in East Harwich, right on Pleasant Bay. I took care of the grounds along with a couple of other guys. It was a great job. We were outdoors all day and had views of the water no matter where we were. I mowed the lawns, landscaped, trimmed, smoothed the clay tennis court with the roller each day, raked around the new pool daily. On one side of me was Round Cove and on the other Pleasant Bay.

But I think I got tired of the long drive there every day so I got a job at the Harwich Laundry in Harwichport, right at the corner of Route 28 and Road, right across from Handler's Junk Yard. It probably paid more and was a much shorter ride I manned the large, commercial dryers. Boy, was that hot. The drivers would bring back the dirty laundry from the hotels and motels and all the napkins and tablecloths from the restaurants, they would go through the washers, and then were wheeled over to me. I put them in the dryers and when they were done, I wheeled them over to the large, commercial iron, where  they would get pressed flat, then wrapped and then get delivered.  One day it was so hot I drank 12 sodas and didn't have to go to the men's room once. I just sweated it all out. There were a lot of summer kids there and it was a lot of fun working there. The Cashen family ran the laundry and they were wonderful people.

When I wasn't working it sure was the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. I played a lot of tennis with my friends Joe, Jackie and Johnny. We played on the courts at Brooks Park and over at the Dennis-Yarmouth high school. We played pick up basketball games next to the old high school under the lights that we installed. And we went swimming at Bank St beach, the same beach my parents, grandparents and great grandparents swam.

After we played tennis, we used to go to the A&W in West Harwich and I would get a quart of root beer in those containers shaped like a megaphone. And sometimes a small clam order to hold me over! The Wednesday night dances at the Congregational Church in Harwichport was the place to go. Hundreds of kids there listening to the DJ. We were always hoping to meet one of those "summer girls'  and have a summer romance but it never happened to me. I don't think they were too excited to see "locals".

When I wasn't going out nights, I listened to a lot of Rolling Stones records in my room on my hi fi set. No stereo then and a lot of the records were Mono. I also read the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. It was over 1000 pages so it took me most of the summer. I also played tabletop baseball games.

On the national scene, the Viet Nam war was escalating, there were a lot of Civil Rights activities in the South, the Voting Rights Act and Medicare were passed. But we didn't play too much attention to that. We were too busy working and having fun and being 18 years old and having our entire futures ahead of us, 18,250 days ago.

Monday, June 8, 2015


What an exciting time for all the graduates. The papers are filled with pictures, quotes from the speakers and the graduates throwing their caps in the air. I wonder how many will remember who the speakers were and more importantly, what they said? I graduated from high school 51 years ago and don't remember any of the speakers or what they said. And when I graduated from college, the same thing. But its a time honored tradition and adds a great touch to the graduation ceremony.

A few summers ago I did a book signing at Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham on Cape Cod. A young college student worked there for the summer and she introduced me to the crowd.  Then she stood off to the side and listened to what I said. I basically talked about the book-5 Words and Then Some ( a great graduation present by the way), how it came about and what the key messages were. After I was done and had signed a bunch of books, she came up to me and said what a nice talk that was and I should do commencement speeches! Boy, that was a nice complement! No one has called though. But if I was contacted here is what I would say.

First of all I would congratulate them all. And I would mention that the bay has been crossed and now that great, big ocean lies before you and its called Life.  And that ocean contains a lot of reefs and sandbars. And you are going to need a strong moral compass to navigate your way through. Hopefully the values you have learned here at this wonderful school and from your family and that you have developed on your own, will guide you through on this challenging journey.

And what is your Vision-your dream? Do it, no matter what and write the goals that will help get you there, Studies have shown if you write your goals down, you are 10 times more likely to achieve  them. Put them on the medicine cabinet and every time you are brushing your teeth/flossing, they will keep you focused and those goals will stay in your sub-conscious and help make your Vision come alive.

And no matter what you do, where you go, WORK HARD It will pay off in the long run. Get to work early, stay a little late, but make sure you don't neglect your family, when that time comes. And have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. You will be amazed at how this works and what it can accomplish. Emerson said "Nothing great can be accomplished without ENTHUSIASM. And I found that to be true in my 35 year career at IBM. I started out at a low level job at IBM, but by the end of my career, I had the highest level job you could have without being an executive and there were not too many executives at IBM. Every task I had, every job I had, I rolled up my sleeves and did it with Enthusiasm. Not too many could keep up.

 And things always aren't going to work out the way we hoped. We are going to get knocked down, hopefully not literally! We may not get that promotion at first. But we always have to PERSEVERE.  We can't give up. We have to focus on our dreams and goals. I went for 26 interviews after college before I got a job. But it wasn't  the job I interviewed for. It was a lower level job, at a lower salary. But I took it and away I went! It took me 3 years to get that original job I interviewed for. I didn't get a management job until several others had passed me by. But I persevered, kept at it and it all worked out. And no matter where you go, what you do, have FUN! I know you all are young and you think you are going to live forever. But in case no one has told you, we are all going to be dead a long time! So enjoy the ride. Take your job seriously and your family, but not yourself.

In conclusion, I only had B grades in high school and C's college. I come from humble beginnings and overcame personal challenges. I used to stutter but here I am today. I was shy with the girls, I didn't have any self confidence, I didn't believe in myself and we didn't have a lot of money. But once I got out of college, I did all the things I just talked about and guess what? Today I have been married for over 45 years to the most beautiful and wonderful lady on God's Green Earth. We have 3 wonderful children and now 3 grandchildren I had a great career at IBM for 35 years, we have a nice house and yard and lots of friends. What more could you ask for? I hope this all happens to each and everyone of you.

In the wonderful movie Field of Dreams, there is a great quote. " There comes a time when all the cosmic tumblers have clicked into place and the universe opens itself up for a few seconds to show you what's possible." I hope in the last 10 minutes I have done that for you.

Thanks for listening. Congratulations again and Godspeed to each and everyone of you..

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


My best friend Rob MacLennan died last September from complications of Parkinson's and dementia. I have been reluctant to write about it since then. Maybe I somehow think if I don't write about it, he really didn't pass on. His wife is in Scotland this week and will be spreading some of his ashes there. Last fall one of his friends spread some of his ashes in the White Mountains where he used to love to hike in the fall. And this summer his wife is going to spread the rest of his ashes in their favorite beachside town in Maine.

Rob was my best friend. I knew him longer than anyone in his family except for his brother. When I joined IBM on January 26, 1970, Rob was the first one to welcome me. I can still see his smiling face and his hand reaching out for mine. We hit it off right away. Rob lived in the Back Bay as Kathy and I did. The IBM office was in Copley Square and we used to walk to work. We didn't own cars until a few years later. We used to go to the Y after work and we would also run on the Esplanade. And we all used to get together for cookouts on the Esplanade. I had a hibachi and we would carry it over Storrow Drive to a beautiful point overlooking the Charles, and watch the sun set.

Times were simpler then. The original Hawaii 5.0 with Jack Lord was on in the middle of the week. Rob had a color tv so I would pick up a bag of Wise potato chips and a quart of Pepsi and walk over to his apartment. From that time on we always called each other Robo and Frano!

In 1974 my job moved to Waltham and then in 1978 we moved to Danbury Ct. We would talk on the phone and when we visited Kathy's mother in Topsfield, I would try to drop in and see Rob, who lived a few miles away. And of course, we always called ourselves Robo and Frano!

We retired to Newburyport in 2008 and Rob and Fran had moved here a few years before. We used to joke that we were going to grow old together. Shortly after Rob was diagnosed with Parkinsons and he gradually declined. He also had dementia. He couldn't drive anymore so I had the privilege of driving my best friend all around town a couple of times a week. We went to therapy, did errands, went out to lunch and breakfast, went for walks,  got haircuts and drove around and looked at the new houses being built and all the renovations being done.  These were some of the happiest times of my life. We talked about the old days, and wondered where the people we worked with in Boston were. And when you get to our age, you also learn where all the public restrooms are! Rob loved the lobster rolls at Bob and the breakfasts at Nancy's Marshside  and the Agawam Diner. I can still see Rob eating French toast at Nancy's with apple crisp and whipped cream piles on top. And he ate it all!

And during all these rides, Rob never complained, not once. One time he did say he was tired of being sick, but that was it. And this was after he was diagnosed with melanoma and had to have surgery on his groin area. And on top of all this he fell at the Y and broke his hip. He was determined to exercise several days a week. I found a miniature pair of ice skates in a store in Newburyport and gave them to Rob. And I said to Rob, " you have had some tough breaks. But we are going to keep fighting until hell freezes over, and when it does, we are going to get the skates out and keep fighting."
Rob kept these skates on the bathroom sink and looked at them every day. And he certainly did fight the good fight.

After Rob left IBM he became the facility manager at the beautiful Trinity Church in Copley Square in Boston. Not only was Spaceship Earth a better place because Rob was here, the town of Topsfield was a better place because of the all the committees Rob was on and the Trinity Church was a better place because of his efforts there. His memorial service was held at the Trinity Church in November. I was honored to be one of the two eulogists. Its pretty tough to compress someone's life into 5 minutes. A lot of what I wrote here is what I said.

I closed with the Roman poet Catullus's poem to his dead brother. And to my best friend Rob, frater, ave atque vale!


Last week I tilled the vegetable garden. Every fall, right after Thanksgiving, I spread the bale of hay that we used for the fall decorations-pumpkin, gourds, and corn stalks, on top of the vegetable garden and let the hay rest for the winter. Then in the spring I take the hay off, after the snow melts and it dries up, and keep it on the side and will use it for mulch during the season.
    As I till the garden, and sometimes I use a Mantis Tiller and sometimes I do it by hand with a shovel, I think about how I am doing the same thing as my father did every spring, my grandfather and my great grandfather. And the Native Americans, the Incas, the Maya's, the Aztecs and so many other civilizations throughout history. I can't help but feel that connection. And have you ever smelled fresh, tilled soil? It has a distinctive aroma. It's like smelling fresh roasted coffee.
And the better the soil, the fresher the smell, especially if you till in all the compost in the fall.
  Early in May I will plant the cool weather crops- lettuce, broccoli, brussel sprouts and the potatoes. Then in mid May, if there is no frost in sight, the tomatoes, beans, and what else I decide on. I like to add some different crops each year. So every April  hope springs eternal and so does the tilling of the garden.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Today is the opening of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals play at the Cubs. This is always an exciting day for me. I love to follow baseball and I have a library of several hundred baseball books. And one of the great pleasures in life, for me, is getting up in the morning, and reading the box scores of the previous days games in the Boston Globe, while sipping the morning coffee.

To get in the mood I just watched some scenes on YouTube from the Field of Dreams movie. I watched James Earl Jones great speech about baseball and people will come. And then I watched the scene with Kevin Costner playing catch with his father. Joe Jackson tells him if you build it (the field) he will come. And of course, he meant Kevin's father. What a scene. I got moist eyes watching that. My father has been gone 35 years now. I can't play catch with him anymore. But I do think of him every day. And I carry his last drivers license in my wallet, as I have done since he died. So in a sense he is always with me!

To all the sons and daughters out there, get out there and play catch with your father and if he can't play catch, hug him and kiss him. And if he is not nearby, call him. Talk to him. Don't tweet, text or email. Before you know it, he will be walking out into the cornfield.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The sun sets one minute later on December 14
There is one minute more daylight on December 27
The first seed catalogs start arriving in the mail at the end of December
The sun rises one minute earlier on January 9
The annual baseball preview magazines hit the news stands at the end of January
Truck Day for the Red Sox equipment truck leaving for Florida is around February 8
The Kream and Kone in Dennisport Ma opens February 12
The Clam Box in Ipswich opens in February
Pitchers and catchers report around mid February
The Vernal Equinox is March 20
The frost is out of the ground by early April
Grams and Haleys open for the season
Bob Lobster opens for summer hours
The plovers arrive at the Refuge around April 1
Boats and docks start appearing along the river
The lawn is raked and debris bagged
The Landfill opens for the season
The last frost is around mid May
Cool weather crops broccoli, lettuce, peas, radishes, brussel sprouts planted
The first lawn mow in mid April
Opening Day for baseball around April 1- Every team tied for first
Warm weather crops planted around mid May- tomatoes, beans, corn, spuds
The Summer Solstice is June 21 and now Winter is coming. The cycle continues.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


When you get to my age, you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the facilities. For me it's usually around 3am. Often when I get back to bed I can't get to sleep right away. I don't count sheep but I think about a variety of topics. Here is a sample:

* Why does it take a knife to open a fresh loaf of bread? Are there nuclear secrets in there?
* What the heck is "breaking news"?
* Why do the real estate agents always have their pictures in the ads?
* Why does Hawaii have interstate highways?
* If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
* When you see those road signs that say "depressed storm drains" should they seek professional help?
* Are those "reduced salt" signs on the side of the road, watching their blood pressure?
* How does a 300 page book get downloaded to your Kindle in 3 seconds?
* If the Weather Channel tells you its 0 degrees outside today, and tomorrow its going to be twice as cold, how cold will
   it be?
* If a book about failures doesn't sell, is it a success?
* Why do all those cars in the tv crime shows, show up at the crime scene without a spec of dirt on them?
* Why do some bottles of water have a list of ingredients?
* Why do we have to pick up dog poop, but not horse poop?
* Why would we buy all those drugs advertised on tv, when the disclaimers and side effects are longer than the product
* When a weather forecast says there is a 50% chance of rain, what does that mean? That its going to rain on one side of
    the street but not the other?
* How come the Post Office has a "postage due" sticker when you mail something without enough postage, but when you
   put too much postage on, there is no "refund due" sticker?

Usually after thinking about all of this, I finally nod off!