Sunday, December 26, 2010

Do Whop

Imagine this ...

- a large, imposing stone building on a secluded hilltop
- a set of ancient iron gates and a long, serpentine drive leading up a hillside
- barred, curtainless windows, one after another
- inside ... a narrow hallway ... mirror-image, pale green doorways ... paint peeling
- inside ... a furnitureless room and stark, white padded walls
- inside ... a solitary figure methodically defining the room in a seemingly prearranged pattern of trodden squares, rectangles, circles and figure-eights
- inside ... every so often, the figure pauses ... hands lifted in a slight, but graceful gesture
- inside ... from his lips ... an almost inaudible murmur
- do whop do whop

from across the hallway ... na, na na, na na ... na, na na, na na

from down the corridor ... ba rump a bum bum

from the adjoining room ...doobie doobie

and ... bop shoo bop

and ...sha na na

then silence

and then, it begins anew.

Do Whop Singer
Must be able to work in dim lighting ... outside the spotlight.
Work primarily in teams of three.
Pleasant , but unremarkable appearance a plus.
Demonstrated ability to sing single-syllable, nonsensical words or phrases.

Anne and I listened to xmas music all the way from Vermont to Virginia ... 13 hours. We were overflowing with the xmas spirit. I did, however, make a slight observation. Xmas carols are notorious for inane filler lyrics. Ba rump a bum bum so to speak. It made me think. What would make someone decide, "I want to be a background singer"? How bad could their life have been? What must their futures be like, just outside the spotlight rim? What's it like to work your way to the top of the do whop profession and how might you know that you actually are at the apex of your career? Self actualization become surreal. It's not like you are enshrined in the Backup Hall of Fame, or asked to join the Mormon Tabernacle Do Whop Choir.

I thought about how one might interview candidates for the job. What would you ask? "Mr. Smith, how do you feel about being a nobody?" Or ... "Ms. Doe, I noticed the logo on your unassuming, gray blazer. It said, 2nd Banana ... Love the Peeling. Can you speak to that ever so briefly?"

I've racked my brains to think of the names of the great back up singers. The back up singers for James Brown was all I could come up with. Maybe their name says it best ...

Bitter Sweet.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I've been thinking about retirement lately and when and how it should occur. I sat down with my boss yesterday to discuss it. Without question, I have been treated well in my position and made to feel wanted and appreciated. When need be, my boss has stepped in to situations on my behalf. Our personal and professional relationship has steadily grown stronger over the years. My decision relative to retirement was whatever works best for my boss is what I am prepared to do. It was decided that I would officially leave on July 1 with possible per diem days to help train my replacement. After we talked, I sat down and tried to write a letter of resignation and after a few attempts realized that I could not do it. The letter seemed so boring and I could not see me going out that way. I seemed cold and in no way conveyed my feelings. Instead, I wrote a poem ... even though I am not a poet. When I finished, good or bad, it felt like me! So here it is!

A Conversation With a Friend

I find myself in a full tilt boogie!
a boogie, so vast and all-encompassing
that it cannot be contained
by walls
by schedules
by responsibilities.

that said,
I must clear my calendar for a new adventure!

over ten years ago,
I came here for a visit
and found a family instead.
I cannot begin to express how much I have loved working here.

one thing I know about myself
I work best
and am happiest
in situations with strong, visionary leadership
… with a leader who can make hard decisions …
… but, with a leader who has a heart…
thank you, Ingrid, for being that person for me.

with mixed emotion,
it is my intention
to resign my position
as Confidential Secretary
effective July 1, 2011.

I want to express my thanks to you personally
for allowing me to share in the experience that is BAMS
for being my support
for tolerating the oddities that make me who I am.

thank you BAMS for filling my plate
for caring for me
for letting me be a part of something great

I have feasted
taste buds aquiver – bitter and sweet
I am nourished.
And I am full.

Respectfully and with love,

Bruce Marshall
Confidential Secretary

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Every time I turn around these days, something else is giving out. My latest trial and tribulation is getting my new hearing aids. They fit nicely on the shelf beside the partial plate, the graduated lens, the prostate removal, and knee that continues to nag at me.

I feel like a 52 Ford in the breakdown lane. Every time I try to pull back into traffic for a ride, another part gives out. Much to my chagrin, the parts are now vintage and I either can't find a part to replace them or they are so expensive that I can't afford a new one.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who Am I?

At first, I thought “Why me”? But, I know it’s not just me. This is something that plays itself out over and over in every family. It should not be a huge surprise … but it is.

I call dad every week. Sometimes every two weeks. It is awful. His mind is going fast. It started with having a hard time with recent events and facts. It progressed to struggling, almost physically, to get something out … to the point of almost stuttering. Then came repeating himself. I don’t mean repeating the same story you told last week. I mean retelling a story 30 seconds after you finish telling it … over and over with no idea of what you said before. Twenty minutes on the phone with dad might mean hearing the same story up to ten times. This alternates with perseveration about things. For quite a while now it has been about Wayne not calling. He can’t figure it out … and it comes up numerous times every time I call him.

I thought, “Why me”? But, I knew it was coming. On my last call, dad had no earthly idea who I was, nor any of the other sons. He recognized my voice but was totally confused by it all. I don’t know yet if it was just a momentary lapse. I suspect instead that it is just a beginning. It is so sad! There is nothing I can do. I think is will only get worse.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Trail of Tears

Long since do I recognize the day or the time. It is enough to place one foot in front of another in an endless pursuit of the distant horizon. Rhythmically, the pains shoot across my buttocks and down alternating legs to ankles swollen and red and throbbing arches. Eyes, once glistening and alert, now arid deserts … lifeless and dull. My people call it the Trail of Tears, but the tears are no more. Only the story remains … and yes, the memory … yes, the memory … and the pain … yes, the pain. They remain.

Yet, again, I revert to old habits. I have begun at the end and proceed to the beginning. Although the real beginning may in actuality be some obtuse alignment of planets and stars and forgone conclusions of free will or destiny. Our plan was basically to drive to Richford, Vermont to spend the night with our friends, Pam and Rich. From there, we would cross into Canada and stop at a favorite bakery in Abercorn. We planned to work our way to Sherbrooke via several tourist stops along the way and then take in the sights of Sherbrooke for two nights. One more day of side trips would put us at North Hatley on the lake for rest and relaxation and some fishing for me. The last day was left open to accommodate more fishing before returning home.

The first day was going smoothly. We zigzagged our way the length of Vermont, stopping only for a quick picture of the bowling ball yard sculpture, and arrived in Richford late in the day. Incidentally, Rich works at a micro-brewery and also makes homemade beers and more recently wines. He couldn’t wait to break open several special beers for me to try and as many new wines. I thought that I said, “I don’t drink anymore”. However, from the look on Rich’s face, I must have said, “Santa Claus is dead” instead. I graciously agreed to taste each of the brews that he presented in the future when someone else opened them to drink. I will not forget that face … it was the Lindberg baby is missing face.

Lots to do that second day … an early start was essential to work it all in. Regardless of my need to be on the road, there were old stores to rehash and new ones to reveal. The 11:00 AM departure merely meant that a couple of stops might need to be eliminated from the itinerary. Even that would be soon forgotten as I stuffed the Abercorn shortbread cookies, one after another, into my gaping maw. We pulled into the parking lot of the bakery … not a care in the world of more consequence than what to eat first … shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate … sticky buns … the muffins … or a loaf of fresh-baked bread. The lot was uncharacteristically empty. It was Anne that I sent to the door. I did not allow myself to hear her message. Nevertheless, her mouth formed the words, “Closed on Wednesdays”. I was shameless in my grief.

We drove without speaking. On to the quartz crystal mine, Mine Cristal Quebec. The only one of its kind in Canada. My stomach and I took turns grumbling. The mine would snap me out of it. Of this, I was certain. The mine tour was in French. We had the English version on tape to follow along. The instructions for the tape player were in French. Anne and I had no difficulty understanding every 700th word. Maybe I am being nick-picky. Maybe it is just a matter of semantics. A mine is a hole deep in the ground where cool stuff is found – like gold, or silver , or quartz. This mine, however, was on top of the ground. I call that a “ditch”. On to UFO Land and the real world.

A little background might be helpful at this point. There is this guy in Saint-Adrien who claims to have been receiving messages frorm alien beings for years. He opened a tourist attraction called UFO Land. I say, “When things are going wacky … go wacky. It is the only sane thing to do”. We set our galactic GPS for Saint-Adrien and headed out. On the ride, we switched tours guides from the 2009 version to the 2010 version we had picked up at the tourist info building. UFO Land no longer exits. Apparently, the time for talking was over. On some dark and lonely night, the owner of UFO Land was sucked up on a beam of light into a glowing orb and whisked away … and for me, I too feel like I am receiving messages from an alien source. I flicked on the warp-drives and turned the car around.

Sherbrooke would be my refuse and my respite. We were booked at the Marco Polo B&B and I had selected the African-themed room. I am a suspicious person. It comes from having been a school principal. The last email from the B&B caused a slight rise in my eyebrow, I admit. “My English is not so good like my wife’s”. That said, we were graciously greeted at the door by a beaming, welcoming face. I believe the relevant phrase is “déjà vu”. “Welcome to the Marco Polo. There has been a slight problem with your reservation. You do not have the African-themed room. My English is not so good as my wife’s.” We did not head up the stairwell in front of us. Instead, we veered through the dog gate … though the dining room (lifting our bags over the table to get through the small opening) … though the owners’ den … though the kitchen … and up the narrow stairwell to the Indian-themed room. If nothing else, I am a flexible person. No problem. Life will go on! A mere seed tick in a world of parasites. A few more drops of my life-blood. Indeed, Sherbrooke proved to be a respite. So much so, that for the briefest moment, I thought that it was all over.

There is a natural order of things – chronological being one example. To understand what is next, you must understand what is not next, but was before … before it all began. My original idea was to go to a B&B around Parc Frontenac or Lac Megantic for a couple of nights on a lake. This would enable me to fish while Anne hung out on the beach. Rooms were scarce. I had one … but while I waited for responses from two other potential B&B’s, the room was booked. Instead , I found a place in North Hatley. There were ramifications. I had set my sights on a visit to a salvage artist. It was one of those events that you put the star by in your itinerary notes. Gone. The fishing was in jeopardy. The salvage artist was out of the question. Mentally, I drew a line through the star.

But, on a brighter note, the room I booked in North Hatley was at the Chocolatier B&B. Things were looking up! I put my disappointments aside and sped to North Hatley. Along the way, we did a short side trip to the Miellerie Lune de Miel, the honeybee farm. The brochures were beautiful and the tour sounded fascinating. Reality was slightly different … I never saw the first bee. The closest I came was the bee in my bonnet to leave. We still had a little more time before check-in at the B&B, so we stopped by Rose de Champs, the rose farm. I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been when the 200+ varieties of roses were still in bloom.

No more asides. To the Chocolatier B&B. It was gorgeous … we were greeted with chocolate. No we did not book a room with a private bath as we thought. We shared the bath down the hall. More chocolate si vous plait!

My memory fails me … did I mention the lavender farm, Bleu Lavande? I believe it to be the second largest in North America. No matter. I have seen the brochure and the farm is a sea of purple vistas and an ocean of old lady aromas. It was #2 on my must see list. I received the word from the Chocolatier B&B owner … in a casual aside. Like … “Oh, yeah! They mowed the lavender at Bleu Lavande. There are just rows of stalks now”. The message did not improve with a French accent.

So, there you have it … my Canadian vacation … one that Chevy Chase or John Candy would have been proud to have. There is more of course … like the five times Anne knocked herself silly by running in to my canoe hanging off the back of the car. On a positive note … it never rained … that being said, the canoe never got wet.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Apologies to Roy Rogers

Fondue ismaking a comeback. That is one of the reasons that I chose Fondue Folie from the many restaurants in Sherbrooke , Canada to try. The other reason was the variety of menu choices. Here is how it works for the table de hote. First, you select a shared broth. Anne and I chose the beef and onion broth since we thought the other two choices might overpower some of our meat selections.

Step two is to select an entree for each of us. For Anne, it was escargot and brie. Snails ... great start to an eclectic meal. I had never tried tartare. Of the four kinds offered , I thought I would give wapiti a whirl. If you are wondering, that is elk. The taste was interesting, but I must admit I was not to enamoured of the texture.

On to the meats. There was about a dozen options. Anne decided on a seafood and fowl combination since each of us got to make two selections with our meal. She chose scallops and duck. I got to try two meats that I had never tasted before. Ostrich was my first choice ( thought it might taste like chicken ). My second choice was horse ( it did not taste like chicken). I was a little disappointed, however, since the guidebook we had read said they had alligator and kangaroo. But, I coped.

The sauces was step four. We each got to pick four. For Anne, the four included a Caesar sauce, a citrus mustard, Indian curry, and Italian tomato-based sauce. For me, it was a Montreal pepper sauce, a chipote sauce, kiwi and yogurt, and a Dijon mustard. I must admit, the sauces were the stars of the meal.

We were stuffed. Like Trigger. But, it was our job to eat dessert. Dark chocolate fondue for Anne and butterscotch for me with marshmallows and fruit.

My taste buds are exhausted! Roy and Dale ... sorry!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Rock River Artists Open Studio -The Barbie Center

I can’t explain the fascination, if fascination is the right word, with Barbie. I cannot help but poke fun at the concept and why this would be the example to present to children escapes me. It must be the “oh so perfect” rich girl image that I imagine. Good for me, because sarcasm is right up my alley. And at the end of that alley, tucked neatly away in the corner behind the trash can is my imagination. I strongly disagree with those who imply that imagination is bizarre. My imagination leads me down a serpentine path to be sure … but one based on pure logic. At least, that is how I imagine it.

Nevertheless, the net result is a special section of my open studio devoted to Barbie creations. I set it up like a shadowbox. You know how Barbie loves pink. The black background should be perfect for her pink accessories.
Finding enough Barbie’s to do the pieces justice was a difficult task and required a great deal of thought and flea market bargaining . In the end, I acquired a box of Barbie’s for a reasonable price. By that, I mean cheap. I started with a piece I call “the Barbie Bouquet”. The first version contrasted the deep greens of the evergreen boughs with the golden Barbie locks. For the open studio, I redid the piece using bare branches in order to make Barbie the centerpiece of the work … and the perfect centerpiece for any table.

Several weeks ago, my boss gave me a pink box with a see-through plastic window that she thought I might be able to use. I thought immediately of Barbie. The shape and window on the box reminded me of old footage of a Houdini trick in which he was place in a box with limited air, chained shut, and lowered into a river to drown, give out of air, or escape. Hence, Houdini Barbie. With a few minor adjustment to her legs (chop, chop) she fit the box perfectly. I tied her hands. Given the oxygen situation, I decided a blue face was most appropriate. The box was wired shut and locked. Houdini Barbie.

I had another box in the barn. I thought about for a Barbie project months ago. It was in the shape of a coffin and had been used at school to pass around a stuffed squirrel to scare new teachers. The squirrel deteriorated and I got the coffin. I envisioned Barbie peacefully in state in the coffin and I thought … Dracula Barbie. Dracula always rests in his natural earth from Transylvania. Natural soil for Barbie would have to be pink … an easy fix. A quick trip to JoAnn's Fabrics in Keene and I had black, glossy material for the cape. Paint the top of the coffin pink … add some fangs … and Dracula Barbie was ready for the show.

I confess the next two pieces were not my idea. I saw them in a store window in Quebec City. One was canned Barbie parts … like heads, or arms, or legs. I made my version using antique canning jars with the wire tops. I added dried hot peppers to each jar (because Barbie is so hot and spicy) and called my creation Pickled Barbie. The second piece I saw involved Barbie and an old meat grinder. Input Barbie heads to the grinder and outcome fur. I assumed the fur was fox since Barbie is so foxy. In my version, the output was golden thread. I called the piece “Meatgrinder Barbie.

Don’t blame me for the next two pieces. Blame Charlton Heston. You may or may not know that Charlton Heston has invaded my dreams and is intentionally trying to make my life miserable with his clinched-teeth maniacal grin. I thought I had seen the last of him until the other night … 3:00 AM to be exact. He slipped unseen through the backdoor of my dream world and secretly eased a thought into my head. I had been thinking about what one does with leftover Barbie parts. Pull off a head and then what. I want to give credit where credit is due … even to my nemesis CH. In the movie that CH did about a futuristic, over-populated world struggling to feed the hoards, two wafer-like soy cakes were developed and feed to the people. The protein cake was called soylent green. The snoopy policeman in the movie (CH) discovered the secret … soylent green was made from reprocessed body parts and fed to the people. The perfect solution was those leftover body parts … Soylent Green Barbie.
The last piece in the series is also a result of the extra parts I had on hand. Again, what so you use them for. I thought about how we use our DNA to clone man-make versions of ourselves. Well, sheep for now mostly. I created a new cloned version of Barbie. Done on a pure white background (hospital sanitary conditions for this procedure), I created the Cloned Barbie from those leftovers.

For now, I am done with Barbie creations … but you never know … I still have to sleep at night.