Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Last Ten Days--City Hall and Estate Sales

 Photo: Old glove from  The one I bought looks much like this one.  This one is in better shape, but mine's older.  Yeah, yeah, condition is everything, I know.

Sorry I've been gone for the past ten days.  I was really ill, and my PC is under plastic upstairs due to the constant (but very necessary and very well-done) renovations the last ten days, and plus I'm a bit behind on work for the job that pays The Man.  But some things have been happening these last few weeks, so here are a few quick shots:

--I went to an estate sale today, which is a great place to pick because the company gets paid more to get rid of everything and not as much to get the most they can for everything.  The family hiring the estate sale company usually just wants the house cleared so they can sell the house, and so they usually don't care how much they get for things.  The company will say prices are final on the ads, but that's never the case.  So the long and short of it is that I got about 100 CDVs and Cabinet pictures (pics from between 1870 and 1890), eight baseball bats from the 20s - 40s, a foot-powered scooter from between 1895-1905, a baseball glove that I confidently place in the 1910s (and maybe as early as 1905)--all for a hundred bucks.  I could sell each of the 100 CDVs and Cabinet pics for $5 a piece on Ebay or Etsy (which would be underselling many of them) and thereby make my $100 investment into $500, and that's just with the pics.  The bats would go for $15 to $50 apiece, as soon as I can date them, and the scooter would go for $25 to $40 by itself as well.  And the glove would go for about $35 to $50 because it is clearly very old.  All of these things are very highly collectible.  I might even keep the scooter for myself; I rode it up and down my street earlier.

The key is to bundle and buy in bulk, and then sell them piecemeal.  Not very sexy, perhaps, but this will help keep me busy during those winter nights and days, and make decent part-time money, too.

You would think that a man who had collected bats and a glove from the 1910s and 1920s, and who had a book about collecting old, vintage baseball cards, would've had old, vintage baseball cards.  But there were none, and I asked the people running the estate sale, and they'd never seen any there.  I left them my card and begged them to call me if they found any there.  If you've got bats and a glove from the teens and twenties, and if you've got a book about collecting baseball cards from the 1910s and 1920s, then you should have baseball cards from the 1910s and 1920s.  But, no.  Hmmmm.....I suspect someone from the family, or a neighbor, or someone, walked off with those.  I would've spent a very large sum for those.  I hope they call.

--My new favorite person is Jan, from my town's City Hall.  I needed to get a copy of a deed for a property of mine, and since this house is being renovated, I couldn't find the deed here.  (Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have found it had the house not been under renovations.)  So I had to face City Hall, which can be an arduous experience, not to mention an afternoon killer.  At work, I looked up my town's City Hall website and I found a department with a name that sounded like it might be what I needed.  I sent an email to the department, in essence saying what I was looking for, and mentioning that I hoped this was the right place to ask for it, and if not, where was the right place, and what did I have to do?  Here's the email response I got (sit down while you're reading this):

Good morning Mr. Belanger,

I’ve printed a copy of your deed for you and will leave it in the main office (Recorder of Deeds) in the main town hall.  It’s ready for you, so you may pick it up this afternoon.  There is no charge, I printed it as a courtesy for you.


Archives Clerk
My response to that (after I picked myself off the floor):
That's awesome!  Thank you so much!  I really appreciate it.  

And now Jan the Archives Clerk's response to that:

Most welcome sir!

Is this woman awesome, or what?  I don't care if she's a 70-year old, wrinkled and frail-thin woman working part-time or volunteering at City Hall, I'm finding out who this woman is, and I am marrying her. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fool Me Twice--Brandman's Newest Jesse Stone

Photo: Book cover, from its Goodreads page.

The new book in the Jesse Stone series, Fool Me Twice, is a good, quick read, as I read it in just a few hours.  Having said that, I can't say much more positive about it, since the plot is a rehash of Parker's Looking for Rachel Wallace (with somewhat the same result for the characters), and the dialogue is almost stolen from Parker's style cabinet, but without the wit and flair.  I read it like I put on last year's professional wardrobe.  Quickly, without effort, appreciating the comfort, but still wondering why I'm still wearing it.  Ace Atkins has fared much better with his one Spenser novel so far.  Speaking of these series, both started, of course, by the late, great Robert B. Parker (who I met and spoke with a few times; he was nice enough to give me two autographs and his agent's name, the last of which is unheard of from an established writer to an unpublished one), I think we can now do away with the Robert B. Parker's tag before every title of each series.  Take a peek at the list of published works from the last three books since his last, and see how odd those titles look there.

What else?  Jesse Stone in Brandman's last seemed like Jesse Stone, I guess, after taking a blabbermouth pill.  This time, he sounds a lot like Spenser.  He even flirts like Spenser.  Brandman still hasn't pinned down his inherited character.  Jesse Stone is not normally interested in saving the badly parented juveniles as Spenser had been (Paul; April Kyle), so when he does it here, he seems to be putting on Spenser's shoes.  That series is so well-known for its bad parents raising screwed-up kids that it's blasphemy and overdone to see it here.  Jesse Stone is simply not as altruistic as Spenser; he's too insecure and unconfident about himself to be Superman for anyone else.  The series has already well-established this.  Brandman can change that, of course, but not without showing the change, and the cause of that change.  He never does that.

We see Rita Fiore (which is always a pleasure), but we also see the new Federal Guy in Boston.  Parker and Atkins made this guy an annoying dweeb, which is fine, but Brandman makes him one of the all-time dufuses of today's crime fiction.  This guy, as drawn by Brandman, would never have made it to his current position, or even be accepted into the academy.  He blames the star's bodyguard of having either the hots for her, or of having an affair with her, and it's her supposed rejection of him that makes him kill her.  Yet any guy with any decent people skills, intelligence, and five spare minutes with the bodyguard in question would know that this was simply not the case.  He ignores even the most obvious of evidence; I'm talking stuff that Fred, Shaggy, Wilma, Scooby and Daphne would've known what to do with.  Nancy Drew would've fixed her hair and then nailed the evidence and personalities involved here, and this guy flubbed both, with drama.  It's really bad, like he's never even heard the word "evidence" before, or like he's never had to read people's personalities before.  Have I made it clear that this guy was terribly drawn, written and executed?  Simply not believable.  We say hello to a couple of other Spenser cross-overs, too, but they seem to be in the neighborhood only for show.

There's a case with the local water company that's a head-scratcher for the reader, especially this one.  Not that I wouldn't mind having a word or two with my own local water guys, but this subplot is nonsensical and out of place in this book.  It has no relevance here, either thematically or in the plot.  It reinforces that everyone's messed up and untrustworthy, but we know that already.  We know what the novel's #1 bad guy is going to do, and though we're surprised by how Brandman delivers it to us, we're not surprised that it happens.  The real surprise comes later; since the bodyguard never leaves the area, and since any mail would be traced to him, thereby blowing his cover (he's in hiding for awhile), we wonder where he got the red ants from.  (I'm no insect expert, but I'm firm that biting red fire ants cannot survive between the Cape and the North Shore, in even the hottest of all MA winters.)  Again, not believable.

So it passed the time, and it was a quick and easy read.  I could probably say the same for Goosebumps and the Berenstein Bears, so I don't know.  The series is being kept afloat, I suppose, and the previous one must've sold pretty well for this one to come out so quickly after...and I see that it's got an average of four stars from other critics...It's a pair of comfortable slippers, I suppose, though I haven't consistently worn my slippers in years...And I'll buy the next Brandman/Stone book in the series, so...


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thank Yous and Odds and Ends

Photo: Rick, with a customer, from Pawn Stars, on

--Just read a poem by a Goodreads friend.  At the end of the poem, the bomb-diffuser unfortunately sets off the bomb, and the poem ends with a thrice-repeated "silence."  (It's a good poem, so read it here.)  Anyway, the question I raised was: Would the bomb expert even hear the explosion before he died, since he's leaning right over the thing?  My comment was this:

"Only caveat is the blast at the end, followed by the silence. Since I'm expecting the blast--cuz my glass is always half empty, and damn that glass anyway--I'm not as surprised when it comes. (Of course there'd be silence, both existential and literal, afterwards.) I'd have been more surprised if the blast had not come, and there'd been just the thrice-repeated silence. In fact, that repetitive silence would be open for even more interpretation. After all, would the bomb-diffuser with the pliers even hear the explosion if there was one, as he'd die immediately since he's leaning right over it? Seems to me that he'd get all silence, either way."

I suppose this is a tree falling in the forest question, but I'm still interested in my readers' responses to this.  Read the poem and comment here, should the feeling strike you.

--Thanks, everyone, for giving this blog over 12,000 pageviews in about a year and a half.  For a blog with just one picture and some text, that's not bad at all.  Quite a mystery, in fact.  Even more mysterious is how my Redroom blog (link in the header) has had over 25,000 pageviews in just under a year, with pretty much the same material.  That one's been getting about 200 pageviews a day lately.  So I thank you all for making this writer feel like he's being read.

--Hello, The Monica.  And my 29 other Followers.  I appreciate you all stopping by.

--Speaking of glasses being half-empty, I recently explained the definition of the word "morbid" like this: "You know how negative people think the glass is always half-empty?  Well, a morbid person has a dark, negative attitude about the existence of the glass itself."  This was met with nods of understanding.

--The new book in the Jesse Stone series, Fool Me Twice, is a good, quick read, as I read it in just a few hours.  Having said that, I can't say much more positive about it, since the plot is a rehash of Parker's Looking for Rachel Wallace (with somewhat the same result for the characters), and the dialogue is almost stolen from Parker's style cabinet, but without the wit and flair.  I read it like I put on last year's professional wardrobe.  Quickly, without effort, appreciating the comfort, but still wondering why I'm still wearing it.

--What do I have at Fenway that the Red Sox don't?  A winning record for this season.

--I've never eagerly anticipated a manager's dismissal before this year.

--It's been getting cooler and the leaves are turning red, for those of you in New England who haven't noticed.  I'm closing the pool this weekend.

--And you have to order Octoberfest instead of Summer Ale around here.  Every year, this is the real change of the seasons for me.  And I don't remember a turnover as soon as this.  Usually they wait until the 20th or so of September.  Not this year.  When the Sox suck, it's not summer anymore, so the vendors say bye-bye to the Summer Ale.  This is an actual philosophy of mine.  Had the Sox made the playoffs, I'd still be seeing Summer Ale around here.  I swear.

--Since recovering from an illness that had nothing to do with my sinuses, I'm breathing better and sleeping like a normal person.  Odd.

--My hammock and I have become good friends.  Brand new.  Tightly-woven rope.  Yard sale, twenty bucks.

--Fall is Brandi Carlile weather.  Hearing her voice is like seeing rock walls and falling leaves.  Listening to her now.  Her latest CD is nowhere near as good as her previous stuff, but it's growing on me.  I don't care if listening to a female folk singer makes me sound like a wussy man.

--I've been in the habit lately of leaving my clothes in the dryer so long that they get very wrinkly, and so I have to throw them back in and put it on wrinkle guard.  And then I let it all sit again.  You get tired.

--Recently I've wondered: If Jesus is God, Eternal and Omniscient, how could Judas have betrayed him?  How can an all-knowing being be betrayed, by definition?  I learned recently that the original text uses a word that probably means "brought to" or "turned over" instead of "betrayed."  I'm just sayin'.  Consider.  I wish I could read Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek.  It's not that I don't trust anyone or anything--it's just that I don't trust anyone, or anything.

--A friend of mine watches Hoarders because she says it makes her feel better about her life.  I can kind of see this, but whenever I watch it, I want to sob openly, or vomit.  These people aren't slobs or clutterbugs--they're mentally ill.  I have papers all over my office, but I'm not pooping and peeing on my stereo speakers.

--Not that I'm so old or uncool that I even have stereo speakers.

--Almost time again for Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead.  A friend of mine had a great point about the latter: Whenever a character has to go, bring on a deus ex machina zombie.

--Watching Pawn Stars is like watching American Pickers, except that you see even more awesome historical stuff on Pawn Stars.  But they're both sad, in a way.  People in Pickers are often old, and/or dying, or sad, lonely guys who amass a ton of garbage because they're without female companionship (a chicken and egg question there).  People in Pawn Stars have to pawn off awesome things because they're so broke, they have no choice.  Rick pays great prices to people we see on camera, but you know he's severely underpaying many others.  The whole point of a pawnshop is that you're so desperate for cash that you know you're going to get fleeced--and you don't care because you need the money that badly.  They're wisely editing out the gambling addicts, who need to sell off anything at all so they can gamble away their mortgage payments and kids' college tuitions (they're on the Vegas Strip, after all); they're also wise to edit out the junkies who come in to pawn off their mother's jewelry or their kids for their next quick fix.

--(Kind of a glass is half empty sort of day, apparently.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Super 8

Photo: Movie poster, from its Wikipedia site

See this movie on cable for the story, the emotion, the great framed shots, the special effects, and the film nostalgia. It pays homage, in ways small and large, to the following films:


--Close Encounters

--The Thing (the original, according to Roger Ebert's 3 1/2 star review; I only saw Carpenter's 1982 film version)

--The Goonies

--The Blob (bad 80s version)


--Every teenage schmaltzy 80s movie with a girl with a bad father.  Say Anything comes to mind here.  So does Forrest Gump (I know that's a 90s film), but in a much different way.

--Every schmaltzy 50s movie with a town taken over by an alien, and the army takes over, and there's a professor (called "perfessor") somewhere, acting goofy.

--The Abyss

--The Stand (Okay, that's a miniseries, but still very much there)

--Every so-bad-it's-good zombie movie, including Night of the Living Dead

--Independence Day

This movie, essentially, is a combination, mostly, of The Goonies, E.T. and Close Encounters, with an alien that's a little Aliens, a little Independence Day, and a little Close Encounters (with the boy at the end) and a little Starman, too, I suppose.  And, of course, all he wants to do is get back home, like E.T.  But he strings up townspeople for food, a la Aliens, and kills quite a few of them, and the Air Force guys (usually in movies like this, they're Army guys), a la Aliens, and The Thing, but without the paranoia and Cold War social discourse.

I could re-write this blog entry and come up with a completely different homage-summary, and still be correct with that, too.  In fact, I have to throw in a tiny bit of Jaws, for the community-meeting thing run by the sheriff, and, now that I think about it, a tiny bit of Red Dawn and The Thing, because a woman stands up at this meeting and insists that the recent power outages and power-source thefts were due to "the Soviets."

I wonder if teens today would enjoy this as much as folks my age, and older.  I think they might--but not as much.  Too bad for them.  For God's sake, finally something good comes with getting older.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Day at the ER

Photo: Not Dr. Redhead.  A redhead from

So I'm at the emergency room the other day, never mind when--and, actually, I'd been there two days before that, too, but I needed to go back for more bloodwork--and despite bringing two books with me, I was captivated by the following things:

--Both times I went, two days apart, I got very thin, pretty doctors, a brunette and a redhead.  (The redhead was especially pretty, and I'm not usually one for redheads.)  And they were outstanding doctors, too, very thorough, very good at listening and explaining, very steadfast and in-charge.  I'm not just saying that to sound politically-correct, either.  Almost makes me want to get really sick again soon.  Almost.

--Medical care has undergone some serious transformations since I was last in an emergency room.  The one I went to had the worst reputation, and deservedly so, as someone actually died in the waiting room about six years ago.  I'd been there while younger (and poor) and I'd waited five, six, seven hours to get waited on.  These two times, no wait.  (When I asked how long the wait was, the girl said, "There's no waiting here."  I was so surprised, I couldn't stop from blurting, "No wait?  Since when?")

--I soon learned that "No waiting" was a relative term.  There's no waiting in the waiting room, but you'll wait awhile in the receiving room, behind the curtain thing.  But this is still nothing compared to the beard-growing wait it used to be.  Obviously, the death in this emergency room made them get volunteers (the second time, there were two older ladies smiling and preening at me the whole time; the smiles were so wide it was sorta weird. I mean, don't they see illness, injuries and blood all the time?  What the hell do they have to smile about?  Customer service, I know, I know.) that would separate the life-and-death cases from the not-so-much.  I'll bet the dying lady from years ago would've been escorted right in--and wheeled upstairs rather fast, as I saw last time.

--I kept nodding at the doctor like a damned fool.  She could've asked me if my name was Samantha, and I would've kept nodding.  "Would you like to strip now and say 'Woof, woof?'"  Nod.  Nod.

--The employees are like anyplace else: they whine and complain.  I listened for several minutes as some guy whined about how nobody's come to escort me to the x-ray.  Turns out, it was around the corner from my pod, maybe fifteen feet away.  I finally got there about half an hour later.  I felt like shouting, "If someone just wants to point me in the right direction..."

--When I was told to put on the johnny for the x-ray, I asked if I could put it on in the x-ray room, as we didn't know how long I'd be waiting.  This turned out to be a very wise move on my part, as they had me wait in the PIT (an acronym I also heard them complaining about; it stands for Patients in Transit) for about an hour, and it was FREEZING there.  I couldn't imagine sitting there in a johnny all that time.  And who wants to sit in a johnny in a waiting room, while tons of regularly-dressed people are milling about?  Odd.  The lady who told me to get into it I'd already diagnosed as a bit wacky and frazzled, so I didn't hesitate to pull the Jedi Mind Trick on her about the johnny.

--Also, having spent way too much of my life in hospitals, I knew that they rarely insist on the johnny when in the x-ray room.  I was correct here with that, too.  When I got in the room, the lady just asked me to take off my shirt.  I don't think she even knew I was carrying the johnny amongst my stuff.  When she was done, I put my shirt on and asked if she wanted me to leave the johnny there, and she said, "Oh, yeah.  Ummm...Sure."  And the pretty girl who led me in had a dragon on the back of her thin neck.  And she didn't know how to slide the background up and down.  I moved it for her a couple of times.

--Then, back to The Pit for awhile.

--While in The Pit again, this one guy kept babbling at me as I was clearly reading.  (I thought of Holden Caulfield.)  Turns out, he'd somehow gotten something metallic in his index finger, which had swelled to the size of a sausage.  Ewwwwwwww!!!  He said he'd heard they were getting a hand expert in for him.  Then he laughed hysterically at something I said about the show that was on, and then spoke at the show, in bitter, angry, unfunny tones, until he realized I was ignoring him.  Finally he laughed at himself and shut up.

--Another guy waited with me for awhile, but didn't say much.  But when I waited for my discharge papers at the end (which was quite a wait both times, though the stuff was the same), he talked up a storm.  He babbled about how he was sorry that he was called in front of me for the x-ray, even though I'd been waiting there much longer (the thin-necked dragon girl apologized, too; if she hadn't mentioned it, I wouldn't have noticed, as I was feverish, and reading, and otherwise distracted), and about how he was sorry about how much he mentioned that the cops had busted his fingers (he wore a large, bulky half-arm cast that covered most of his hand, but for two fingers, which jutted out like confused, recently-hatched birds), but that he kept mentioning it because he wanted it in the paperwork, so that when he went to the courtroom, it'd be in the paperwork, and how he respected the older, professional cops, but that the younger cops these days are too violent, and how he tries to stop drinking, but...I really wanted to ask him what he'd gotten arrested for, but I simply didn't want to engage him more than he was engaging himself.  Just didn't want to get involved.  But it's nice to see that even violent, drunken offenders who fight with cops have the decency to apologize for cutting you in the x-ray line.

--When the red-headed doctor called me into her office to explain the diagnosis, I felt special.  I mean, everyone else got talked to in The Pit, or in their curtained cell.  I got brought to her office!  And it was about the size of a shoebox.  When she smiled at me, which was often, I was happy.  Can I get a prescription for that instead?

--$100 co-pay EACH time.  Apparently the drastic transformation in health care isn't cheap.

--And another thing I noticed: lots of "providers," lots of "assistants," and lots of "volunteers."  Is there a doctor in the house?  I mean, besides Dr. Redhead, of course.

--As I was paying, a woman came out, strapped to a huge, tall, thick-metal, yellow rolling bed, which looked like the bed version of the thing Sigourney Weaver strapped herself into at the end of Aliens. The woman in that bed was grunting and groaning like a zombie with appendicitis, and her eyes were rolling back into her head.  The five or six people pushing her in that thing all looked worried and shocked.

--Upon seeing this, I said to the woman behind the counter, "She must've just gotten her co-pay bill, too."  I received no response to this at all, not even a GFY smile or an eye-roll.  But I thought it was pretty funny.  The timing was perfect, too, I assure you.  But her job is hard, and I'm sure she sees a lot of scary things.

--I made it a point to notice: every male employee (and quite a few of the male patients) went out of their way to talk to Dr. Redhead.  The pretty girl with the thin neck and dragon tattoo just gave these guys a little smile as she walked by, never once stopping to talk to any of them, though they were clearly trying to engage her in conversation.  You could tell that she very much enjoyed doing this.  She sort of sashayed when she walked.  One guy in green scrubs practically invited himself into Dr. Redhead's kitchen.  He was the fifth one to ask her where she'd been lately, hadn't seen her around.  (She'd been to a Boston hospital and two other Rhode Island ones.)  When she took me into her office, I felt like asking her where she'd been, hadn't seen her around lately.

--A special shout-out to one of my doctors, who undoubtedly has better things to do than read this, but I'll post it anyway.  This kind man, whom I've known literally all my life, gave me a follow-up call tonight.  From his office.  Just past 7 p.m.  Now that's good health care.

--Total time at the emergency room ER on the second day: Three hours.  That's really good.  I got received; I spoke to two doctors (the follow-up guy was a mystery this time and last time); I got listened to; I got treated with respect and intelligence (though I got the impression once that Dr. Redhead was lightly mocking me, but this was, of course, perfectly fine, as she smiled a few times, and laughed, and I don't even want to imagine what stupid expression I had on my face); I got lots of bloodwork done; I talked to a weirdo and a criminal, and I saw a woman have a psychotic break; I saw two very pretty women; I got apologized to by a cop-beating guy with multi-colored hair; I got off a couple of good one-liners, of which only one was laughed at, by the annoying guy with the sausage-swollen finger; I got lots of blog material; I got a cheap scrip that's working fine, without the nasty after-effects of the previous one (Don't go there.); and I essentially got my groove back.  What else can you ask for?

--Woof, woof.  Nod.  Nod.