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August 17, 2017

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Hair

In Left To Myself : Aqua Vista Summer

In Not (As) Fat: Channelling The Inner Fascist

In Finding Home: The Next Thing…

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$


In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…


August 15, 2017

History is always there, and always forgotten.

Humans hate: that is part of our history. I hate – more when younger, – but yesterday I felt it at names on a book cover – just an architect aghast at a message few will read.

But when groups hate stuff happens, protests, riots, rebellions, even civil war. Those who once were allied can get so angry at each other that there is hard conflict, involving damage – even death and destruction.

Today there is deep, loud outrage, angrier than in a generation or two ago. Bad things happened, because some are actually fully committed to hate. That means anger happens. People have died.

150 years ago, America had about 30 million people – and about 5 million of those were enslaved by about half of what made the United States. For the first century of America slavery was an overwhelming focus for those who ran the new country. Beatings on the Senate floor, lunatics killing people, not to mention a huge and growing abolition movement. No compromise worked, despite extreme effort and commitments over 70 years.

So we killed 600,000 of us and slavery was ended. But the losers kept their weapons and their governments, there were no exiles, executions, imprisonments, attitudes were not changed, just power – America make illegal all the reasons for having slavery, and went on to win the West, ride the Industrial Revolution and become the last standing World Power. Then 100 years after the Civil War, we tried to match that change in the strictures  in our national law beyond the Bill of Rights that made race explicitly part of our belief in freedom.

But history is forgotten in hatred.

For some, it’s as if the Civil War never happened, let alone 1968: Human fear immediately leaps to hatred, and people die.

Upon winning the Civil War, should we have burned all losing flags, melted all sculptures of those who fought to believe in slavery, outlawed the words we hated, made the reasons themselves for the Civil War illegal to express? Winners can do that. It would have precluded many things we spent the next 150 years dealing with, but it also would have changed the reason the country was founded. The freedom to do arguably wrong things legally was why we broke away from England – if we were a colony, we were only there to feed the King. To that king we were wrong to want to have freedom, so we grew to hate him, and anger ensued, then war.  We no longer had a King and imperial control, we ruled ourselves.

We were soon no longer colonies. We also came to change America so there were not 3 types of humans: no slaves, and owners of slaves and and those who tolerate slavery – just one country of humans – ultimately gender was removed from classification too – without a war. But even with all this history, we have not realized that hate kills, regularly.

I have never owned a gun or wanted to, but I understand that freak show. I have never smoked anything, but understand why cigarettes are legal. I also have no experience with drugs other than booze, but understand making heroin illegal. So I get the hatred of dehumanization, of prejudice, even the hatred of hatred. But I lose understanding at anger.

I do not feel anger to those names on the book jacket I saw yesterday, but I hate what the names mean for my profession. But no anger, the book should not be burned.

I understand the hate of today and the summer of 1968, but I do not think this anger is Ultimate, unprecedented, or even us at our worst. That was the Civil War. And we are no better than them, by the way – history is the facts that reveal our commonality, good and bad. We seem to be able to control what we create – government, laws, social systems – but we cannot seem to create ourselves into those who do not hate – or are hated.

The last time we nationally rallied against hate to the point of war in 1941 we had over 4 times the population, but lost 1/3 fewer folk than we did in the Civil War, and fought no battles on our soil. That Civil War was only understood better 30 years ago when music, words and pictures of a PBS TV show made millions know what had always existed. But our memories are short. We do not live history.

We have a lot of hate – so much so that sometimes anger, and death, happen. History reveals that – if we can listen to it.

It’s easy to blame everyone but ourselves. History is just facts that show that while hatred is inevitable, anger is not – but left to its natural progression anger leads to death.

It’s a fact that we hate. I hate, you hate, but history shows what the results are if we hate to the point of anger. We just have to be smart enough to see that the facts show that hate kills – if you forget history.

I Loathe Fantasy Football

August 12, 2017

Fantasy Football is perfectly named. It’s surreal to the point of fun.

Football has 11 players on defense and 11 players on offense.

Fantasy football has one defensive entity that is judged by its stats – like a quarterback rating for for a whole NFL team’s defense.

Fantasy football evaporates 5 players on offense: all the linemen. The rest play for any team and have only the computer-aided stats to distinguish them.

There is no coach, no special teams, no character, no emotion, no reality other than stats. It’s a fantasy of those who follow anything, but do not have to understand it. Strategy, emotion, group love is the essence of sport, especially football – those are not found in the Fantasy version of football.

You just combine stats and make a “team” then you see how that does as the stats create their own stats. It’s very separate from the sweat, sound, noise and fear that is down there on every field. It’s literally a Safe Space of no consequence.

“Be a Boss!” declares NFL hype on the promotion of their Fantasy Football machine. You are not a player but you are their “Boss”. Now it’s just fun, it’s a way to go deeper into a natural affinity with football. But it’s a sham, and a misrepresentation.

Focusing on names, numbers, measurable is the antithesis of sport. The unspoken connection, irrational hope, deep interpersonal devotion is the unseen cause of those numbers, and in their absence, the reason those numbers are missing. Fantasy Football assumes all is equal, and absurdly reduced to sound bytes.

I do not conflate – you can chew the fun of Fantasy and yet walk the talk of being part of a transformative dedication to the sport: but for many it’s substitutional.

Many of my friends truly believe they display a deep connection with football by being able to know stats and guess results. Football is raw pain and consequence: stats are the froth atop its essential humanity. Fantasy Football is a distraction from the humanity that lives in the sport.

And within that human side there is the intellectual reality of strategy. The great stats, or the absence of stats are due to how these names are actually used on the field. I know great pass catchers receive fewer passes from not great quarterbacks – runners cannot run with ineffective linemen. The gifted Fantasy player will note that those tangibles are part of who you choose as your player. But the stats ignore their group generation – so Fantasy Football lives in sad ignorance of what makes the sport what is loved by those who played, coached or know the game.

But if you never played, had a loved one who played, let alone coached, the idea you could sense a connection to anything but the game of Fantasy Football itself is a sad delusion. The problem is pain hurts. Working out to get in shape is hard – it makes you sore, even injured. It controls your life. Then if you compete in practice, you hurt on the first contact. And you can be deeply embarrassed at your inadequacy. It hurts.

Games can hurt more. Strangers see you. You unadequacies wreck others’ hopes. Of course success elevates, inspires, validates. But, in sports, in music, in anything, real competition means real failure as well as success. Now ESPN will have a YouTube/Punk’d version of the consequences for the losers in Fantasy leagues: absurd simulated tortuous imposition for the lowest point getter in a group – the “Fantasy Fail” moment..

Maybe it’s just the inadqucy of life in a virtual, social media world, where I type this alone after working out alone, connecting with others alone that leaves so many with just a simulation of a larger connection. Maybe the overt substitution of pretending to be an epic loser, of being a “Fantasy Fail” on ESPN, gives a taste of the risk and pain football mandates – without the danger of actually being hurt.

Is being whole and inconsequential better than being broken and in the game? For most, I guess it is…

One Meal A Day

August 9, 2017


4.5 months ago I was just fine.

But then, at the Spring Solstice, a 61.5 year old blood tube decided it’s inadequate middle layer had performed as long as it could: it blew, the tube blew, part of my brain was flooded and I lost (only) balance.

It was back in 10 days.

But in the 100 hours in Yale New Haven Hospital it was clear that my blood pressure was too high, and that I had gained about 5 pounds a year for a bunch of years since I had lost 1/3 of myself 10 years ago;“why-am-i-soft-in-the-middle-now-why-am-i-soft-in-the-middle-when-the-rest-of-my-life-is-so-hard”-–-paul-simon/ putting about 2/5 of the 1/3 I had lost back. Not good.

Entitlement is the evil twin of success. I had controlled what controlled me: fat. So with that “victory” I grazed for 9 years. I knew there was no “win” – that there is only struggle. But I limited that struggle to relentless working out, and not eating crap. But I ate too much not crap. Through the fat creep I worked out, at least an hour a day, at least 5 days a week. So I was fat and fit.

But that blood pipe was not.

The larding up danced with the now age-increased blood pressure to blow this tube out. The hyper vigilance of Yale Hospital’s Chief of Neurology and her flock of physicians determined that I had no history of, and no existing, and no future of, veinious malfornation – after lots of hours viewing by many people of many (many) tests. However the first test of my weight was not unexpected but it did set a directive. Not from my doctors: From me. To me.

I was determined that amid the absence of balance that I would get that lard off me, but unlike a decade ago, I was working out more, not less. A decade ago, my radical methodology curtailed my available energy. I could not accept that today – my twin enemy to my lard lard was my blood pressure. I wanted to reduce that elevated pressure, and kicking it every day in the barn helped: recumbent, bow flex, and until I broke it, the elliptical. Instead of at least an hour it was an hour and a half, instead of 5 or 6 days it was 6 or 7 days a week. I have missed 6 days of exercise in 14 weeks, all due to business.

But that extra work out just meant a pound or 2 a month off if I ate as before. Defendable, but not enough.

There were evils in my eating. I binged Triscuits. I often had calorie laced skim milk and juice. Sometimes butter. And I had desert. Those went. But that reduction in scope, maybe, nailed another pound a month and I needed to lose scores of pounds. Scores of months would not cut it.

Since I dropped the 1/3 a decade ago, I yet grazed and lunched at a minimal level. The mouth toss here, the cookie for lunch (total). (I never ate breakfast). So that ended. I have had perhaps 10 lunches in those 14 weeks since the event: all due to social necessity.

And, voila: the One Meal A Day routine. But more than just eating once a day: a 23 hour fast every day. Food freeze out. Sacrifice. But not nuts.

My diagnosis saw no issue with drinking, so once or thrice a week I drank around 500 calories of booze, but I lessened salt without urging, and ate more vegetables upon another doctor’s urging (diuretic impact). Although it was fine, coffee went away: I needed no monkeys riding my back.

In the isolated daily meal I was careful: not junk (less or no: fried, sugar, empty carbs, butter) – but it was not measured, calculated, obsessed over – the meal was enjoyed.

If I had one full real meal it could barely reach 2,000 calories and often less without desert or fluids with calories. If I was burning 500 calories a day, that meant a net 1,500 calories were eaten a day, max. This regime kills over 1,000 net calories a day from the 2,500 daily calories I need to maintain my weight, fat or less fat. This meant losing over 2 pounds a week, and, duh, I am down over 30 pounds in 14 weeks, and will kill 20 more.

An interesting consequence that my heart rate was 60-70 beats per minute as tested a jillion times in the hospital. Now it’s around 55 beats per minute, often lower…

Did the added work and less food reduce pressure? Sure: over 3 months crushing it, I went from 150-160 to 130-140 in the early AM – normal, but not normal when the up fluctuation during the rest of the day sent it over 160 without med’s. I learned that a normal morning pressure is inoperative once your old man upside pressure is revealed later in the day.

So I failed.

So I take med’s.

As I write this I do a one week a year special edition: vacation.

Eating is a joy, and part of my 7 days off involves diving into great grub 3 times a day. But I try amplify to work out to over 1,500 calories a day, tripling my workout schedule, because, well, I eat like a (hungry) pig. It has worked in the past: no gain, but this year, I am a little more careful. Let’s see if this works.

Like everything else.

I guess I am a little more careful for the rest of what life is left…


August 8, 2017


Gold Model

Getting Done in Westchester


Stairs Going Up

Goetsche Stairs


Sherman Stokes Entry

Getting Done in San Francisco


 The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.



CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.



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Archive: Real Life Survival Guide



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Aqua Vista Summer

August 5, 2017


I think it was 1966.

It was August because my father always took the month of August off in the 30 years I knew him. By being indispensable as the lawyer to a Greek American family at a time of crisis in 1960 (the death of a brother), he was offered a sweetheart deal to obtain said dead brother’s vacation house in the Aqua Vista Association near Danbury, Connecticut.

He had 3 kids in private school at the time, including me, so it was a reach – despite the low cost. It was a small lot with an upside-down 1940’s cabin: bedrooms on the lower level (tiny), kitchen, living and bath on the upper level – maybe 1,000 square feet or less, total.

It was the next step. Though older than most Greatest Generation compatriots, 50 at the time of the purchase, a decade earlier earlier my father and his wife had obtained a nice place in what he called a “second rate” town – a suburban home in Westchester County. In the early 1960’s he had a lovely wife and 3 kids, oldest going into boarding school, the younger boys in day school.

Now he had the second home.


The idea was a version of East Hampton or Tuxedo Park – the second home. This was a very modest comp: it was a sea of small retreats, close together’ huddled on the big Lake Candlewood, fraught with powerboats. Ours was a box clad in bark-edge Fir Slab clapboard siding, fully creosoted. For the first years of ownership I was dispatched first to Hackley Day Camp, then Incarnation sleep away camp – each for two years of July’s.

I applied myself to both: first obtaining “Marksman First Class” in “22 Rifle” target shooting (after humiliating degradation by a counselor at 7), then, at Incarnation, I made “Junior Lifesaver” at 10. I always wanted to justify my parents’ paying to send me to these remote, exotic places – not that far from Dobbs Ferry, New York.

But after those July’s each summer I had August at Aqua Vista. Mostly reading comics and walking to swim at the lake. There was no social life. Essentially it was my parents taming the landscape and home after 30 years of neglect, barbecuing and drinking. Mostly Miller Beer. My brother was there mostly, but I do not remember my older sister being there.

Then my mother decided she had made enough as a decorator in 1965 that they could could build a wing into the Aqua Vista house: an addition that turned the existing living room into the Master Bedroom and bath and added a vaulted living room on the other side of the existing kitchen.

“FirZite’ white staining of the Texture 1-11 plywood interior walls and new Slab Siding, with old and new exterior completely coated in a grey stain/paint. There was a new large concrete block chimney and firebox at the gable end. It was a fun winter watching construction. The money ran out with the fireplace unclad, with steel strips hanging out from the mortar joints between the concrete block.

So the spring saw my father and I stealing field stones by the side of the road and tossing the stones in the trunk of our 1958 Fleetwood Cadilac to be serially offloaded in Connecticut. My father, having worked for the Carlin Construction Company that had employed by Grandfather Harry while in school and college and law school, knew how to build things.

So in the summer of 1966 I spent August standing next to my Dad for 6 or 8 hours a day as he mixed concrete and set stone facing upon the concrete block mass. My job was to choose the stone and clean it, and has the stone rose, hand my father those same field stones as he stood upon the ladder.

It was a bizarre counterpoint to the raging Vietnam War, and to my rebelling siblings – not there I think. My brother was working at 16, and my sister had quit high school before graduation and drove to California. So it was the three of us.

On off days and evenings I would still hit the beach, alone and swim off the mortar.

But at the end of the day, and the end of the month, the fireplace was done. I was praised as “a great help”. I had done the right thing, unlike my siblings. I had hewn to the role of the good son – supporting, following experienced direction.

I greatly missed Incarnation Camp where I had been the previous summer. Apparently there was no thought of that expense once the Aqua Vista addition was envisioned. Two years of playing with my peers and being chosen to paddle down the Connecticut River was not only an honor, I was the youngest, so it was a point of pride.

So in 1966 I settled for the pride of pleasing my parents. My absent siblings found a place for themselves in disappointing them. Then, 3 years later, I was shipped to Buffalo in the wake of a crashing decade of family failure. The Buffalo house was financed, ultimately, by the sale of the Aqua Vista house and fireplace – a couple of years after my sister had used it to have secret meetings with her future husband in the absence of the rest of the family.

Being alone is not tragic. Making things is good. Comics and swimming are a good way to spend a summer at 11.

But I wish I knew why any of it happened.


“That Giant Sucking Sound…”

August 1, 2017

It was the spring of 1992. I was having lunch with my mother and my brother in Westchester County. I have no idea why.

I had served as the Executor of my father’s will, managed the sale of his stamp and coin collection, helped my mother sell the family house, help her create a revived one. The were a lot of reasons, but my wife was home in Connecticut with our babies.

As usual there were gaps in the conversation, and at one point I piped up “Isn’t that Perot weird?”

A fevered look came across both faces, it was a time that Ross Perot had ascended to 25% as a third party candidate in the presidential polls for the coming election. Perot had surfed many interviews on The Larry King Show, banging on the piñata of George HW Bush. The courtly WASP president was uncomfy being a pol, but had crushed Irag when it swiped Kuwait, outraged others by raising taxes, and was a World Order patrician, buying into the the Great State of America leading the world thru the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Bush was elected in 1988, according to an employee of mine, to simply be the third term of Ronald Reagan. That is why my mother voted for him (and Dukakis was a vole-ish presence). I do not think my brother ever voted.

So I was more than surprised as they both blurted, loudly, in the Hilton Inn in Tarrytown, New York “We Love Perot!” The uninimity was not surprising. They had always talked. And drank. And smoked – late into the night upon my brother’s visits from Buffalo, especially since his estrangement from his first wife.

“Oh” I profoundly retorted. They launched into how lame HW was, how Clinton was a fake mess, how Ross hated NAFTA, how we should have stayed in Iraq (even tho Ross was against the Kuwait war) and how he, he – he “really understood how much this place is screwed up!”

No logical, measured defense of the prez or even the explication was offered by me of how Perot was a freak, offering progressive views of social things and yet isolationism in a time when the rest of the planet had the Steaming Soviet Carcass to deal with – yet he wanted a huge tax on capital gains and the rich and putting tariffs on imports deionizing the federal deficit.

At one time there was a poll that said 39% of America was in favor of Ross Perot. Just like Trump now. There are now any number of times the “Oh” argument has been presented by me to rabid “Make America First” enthusiasm and outrage.

Perot lost steam after getting a temporary bounce from the debates, ultimately getting 19% of the 1992 election. An oft-cited analysis cites that it was not a factor in HW’s loss – but it’s clear he drew moderate support, and new voters, and I have always thought that his candidacy was a cherry on the cake of a “No New Taxes!” Dessert to his four years.

But now my mother is almost 20 years passed, my brother became my sister 15 years ago, and 39% of America supports Donald J. Trump. My mother had been a fan girl rabid supporter of Wendell Wilkie, I do not think my brother had ever voted before. But next presidential race Ross ran again, got half the votes despite declaring that black helicopters from the Deep State wrecked his daughter’s wedding. I did not ask, and do not know if they voted for him again.

Families and politics are inscrutable. Both mother and sibling loved and love the Episcopal Church, deeply – as I do, so that bullet was dodged. But the most soothing balm to the irritation of salvation prescriptions is our astrangement. My support of mother was kept at a distance until her death, because, well, her marriage always trumped any dealing with the trauma of our childhoods.

And I have not spoken with my now sister in over a decade: despite scores of mailings and some early invitations: all unresponded to. My “Oh” response was for almost everything in my relationship with my family’s revealed distinction from my understanding, let alone support and embrace.

I did all the Good Son Duties through my mother’s death, but I never offered argument, contrast, or insight – my view was always to keep the rest of the world away from our fragile, broken family life – a life 20 years ended by the time my mother died.

Like families, the politics of the moment change. I know, first hand, the anger of many I love, most in a rage at the insanity of the Game Show, others at the obvious essential change to the disruption of the wrecking of America.

That does not means that I do not wince, now, when I hear again the 25 year old love of my Mom and brother for Perot in my memory…