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Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

This is the time when we gather together and stop to appreciate each other, grateful for the friends we share and the bounty of the life we have. It is a shared life on this planet.

We are particularly thankful in beautiful Monkton, where we live, and very fortunate to occasionally have wild turkeys who gather to eat the spillover bounty from the bird feeders and to visit the gardens and fields of sunflowers to eat the seeds.

Especially for them, I guess, it’s a shared planet.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Chum in the Water

Chum in the Water

This is the story behind one of the sonnets in my upcoming book.

Sometimes you have to be far above a mistake before you acknowledge that you made it. In my case, it was flying from Belize and looking out the window more than 25 years ago.

The Blue Hole of Belize is a prehistoric giant crater which is over 400 feet deep and 43 miles out to sea from Belize City. From Ambergris Key, an offshore island east of Belize City, depending on weather conditions, it is about a 2 1/2 hour rough ride in a small Boston Whaler.

The Blue Hole was made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1971 when he brought his ship The Calypso to the Blue Hole to chart its depth and explore its history.

Almost 30 years later, in the summer of 1997, an expedition of cave divers went in to document its underwater stalactite caves and search for its bottom depths.

Around this time, I went with several expert divers. We found it was pretty much empty of sea creatures and very cold as you descended ever deeper into it. We went down 150 feet to the nitrogen limits for 2 minutes. Our flashlights beams dimmed into the nothingness in that dark. If you looked up, far above us, the sky was like a distant open manhole cover and was our only meaningful light. After listening in the silence to our breathing for the two minutes, we ascended slowly with our bubbles to avoid nitrogen build up in our blood stream. It was very dark, cold, claustrophobic, and dangerous. Other divers had reported the same thing. After that dive I decided: “Well, been there, done that; never again.”

A few years later, when I was again in Belize to dive the outer islands, two Ambergris Key teenage brothers with a little Boston Whaler bet me a case of beer one night in a beachfront bar that if I went with them the following morning, it would be the most amazing dive I’d ever done. I refused and refused until I took the bet. This was a very stupid thing for me to have done.

In December 2018, 20 years later, two small submarines were sent to map the Blue Hole’s interior. At the bottom they discovered the bodies of two of the three divers who had gone missing while diving there over the years.

The Blue Hole in Belize

Was I the fool of this sinkhole of the sea
Or a pupil in this aqua ocean?
As I fly home it looks back at me
Without memory or emotion.

Three days ago, while taunting me, Miguel
Said: “You’ve dived it but not with me before.
I dive it deep. I dive it right to hell.”
He took my money but wouldn’t tell me more.

Off the boat, with Miguel still behind,
We checked our gear and descended into cold,
Deeper, darker, to fear of a different kind:
Sharks. Hundreds of them. Darting from the shadows.

At the boat Miguel offered a helping hand,
Laughing.” You understand? We chummed it man.”

A Halloween Ghost Story

A Halloween Ghost Story

This is a Halloween ghost story that may or may not be true. I’m not sure.

Since my post of a week ago and the coming of Halloween, I couldn’t get Eno English out of my head. After almost 60 years why did I remember his name?

A week ago, I wrote about this year’s Head of the Charles Regatta, and the beautiful clean water of the Charles River. This was in contrast to years ago when I was in ninth grade and the river was so dirty, we rowed past floating prophylactics and tin cans and even a floating pillow that turned over and was a dead body — later identified as Eno English.

It didn’t occur to me until last week, but I think I know where Eno might have come from.

I grew up in a little neighborhood called Coolidge Hill near the boat house and dock where Eno was found floating in the Charles. Coolidge Hill is located in between the Cambridge and Mount Auburn cemeteries and the little school I attended.

Mount Auburn cemetery was created in the 1831 to house the Cambridge aristocracy on 170 acres of high rolling land with little walks along majestic ponds surrounded by an impenetrably high black iron fence.

Mount Auburn Cemetery allowed no bikes or unsupervised children. I got my first bike, a fat wheeler, in middle school. I tried but could not get past the gate house on my bike, but I decided I would not be denied.

With my first bike I became an explorer. Like Columbus was determined to find the Orient, I decided I had to find a way into Mount Auburn Cemetery. I decided I would explore what I guessed might be the unguarded back fence near the Charles River.

Late one afternoon I left school and took my bike down past the boat house and proceeded upriver along the deserted overgrown roadless river bank for a quarter mile or so to find, much to my satisfaction, that there was some fence on the western boarder of the cemetery that had fallen with the eroding high bank. It must have given way with the rains and snow over the years and had slipped down onto a very small muddy plateau next to the Charles.

When I stopped to look I saw, to my surprise, a little path leading down to the river to the left, and several loose rolls of toilet paper hanging off a low bush. To my right I saw two small shacks that had been pulled together and hidden under several small scrub trees and underbrush up closer to the cemetery and the broken fence.

It must have been late fall, after Halloween I think, because it was getting dark early and it was a school night. I concluded that hobos must’ve lived here in the summer and had left because the weather was getting cold. There was no evidence of smoking fires or habitation.

As I laid down my bike and worked my way into the underbrush, I saw there were no windows in the two shacks and the doors had been left open. As I approached one shack I stepped on several bones that looked like they had been brought down with the erosion of the cemetery. I remember them as spongy, but I pushed on through the undergrowth because I could see through the open door what appeared to be girly magazines.

This lured me on because my only other alternative had been at the doctor’s office when I had to pretend to be interested in National Geographic. I pushed closer and closer to the open door.

The magazines were scattered all over the dirt floor and there was a pile of blankets over to the right. I carefully moved into the shack and knelt down to the magazines. The sun was going down. It was getting cold. I was alone. I had to get home but as long as there was light, I was going to see what this bounty held.

As I picked up one of the water-soaked magazines I was startled by an abrupt movement under the pile of blankets and a face stared back at me.

I bolted for the door and ran for my life to my bicycle. The man stood, reached for me and yelled. I ran as fast as I could, mounted my bike and peddled furiously until I could no longer hear his breathing.

The newspapers postured that Eno must’ve fallen into the river because his fly was open when he was fished out of the water.

That was almost 60 years ago.

My little bike ride along the Charles is paved now as Greenough Boulevard. It travels along the river’s edge and into new parking lots and developments along Arsenal Avenue and Watertown.

As far as I can tell there is no record of Eno English other than in my memory. He is a ghost that lives in my imagination and shelters in my brain and only came out with a random recollection a few days before Halloween.

Sort of spooky. Time for Eno to disappear again.

From Before the Beginning

From Before the Beginning

The great thing about being a geezer is there are moments when you actually existed before history.

Last weekend, Head of the Charles, the world’s largest two-day regatta, with 11,000 American and international athletes in over 1900 boats competing in 61 events, was held on a three mile course (4,800 meters) on the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge Massachusetts.

On that beautiful fall weekend, more than 225,000 people gathered to watch the races either on the banks of a clean water river or shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the six bridges under which the crews travel. The race has increased in participants and prestige since its beginnings in 1965.

Now I know what you’re thinking. I am going to claim credit for something. I’m probably going to brag that I was there at the beginning or something like that but I’m not.

I was there before the beginning!

I was there back when nobody dared gather on the banks or bridges because they might fall in. Back when The Standells recorded “Love that dirty water (down by the river Charles)” in a pop hit in the ’60s. Back when I had decided I liked girls but I really hated school and was discouraged about myself and I was trying out for crew to row on a polluted river.

High School Crew

In the early spring, when I turned fifteen,
My choices were baseball, tennis or crew.
Between Boston and Cambridge I had seen
Rhythmic oars of singles, eights, fours and twos

Beneath the bridges of the Charles River.
I was appointed stroke. I paced the boat.
Like a surgeon’s stitch our sharp blades suture
The shell’s trailing razor cut as each stroke

Drives us through the smooth and glassy water
And leaves no scar. The coxswain pounds out,
On the gunnels, the rhythm of my order.
Tin cans and prophylactics float past the boat.
Our smooth and perfect rhythmic mantra broke
Beneath the bridges, into echoes: “Stroke. Stroke.”

I like these little prehistory events. They show me if I start from before the beginning, rather than in the midst of some turmoil, I can see how much has changed for the better.

Van’s Homegoing

Van’s Homegoing

For the blog today I am simply posting the memorial information for Van Dirk Fisher. Those who can attend should if they can and if not please consider joining me by sending a donation to Pamela Fisher, Van’s sister, via Zelle as posted in the invitation posted below.

Homegoing Celebration

Van Dirk Fisher

Saturday, October 23, 2021
10:00am Special Tribute by Family and Friends
(2 minutes per person)
11:00am – 12:00pm Memorial Service
The Abyssinian Baptist Church
132 Odell Clark Place
New York, NY 10030

In lieu of flowers please send donations to Pamela Fisher via Zelle to (917) 640-5731
Limited in-person seating – Virtual service available @


A Little Humor About How We Live Free and Don’t Die

A Little Humor About How We Live Free and Don’t Die

New Hampshire’s motto was and remains “Live free or die.” Back in the early 1960s, when I was ten, I came to believe it was America’s promise to itself.

My parents took the family to the White Mountains in the wilds of the Presidential Mountain range, to a tiny house that looked up into Tuckerman’s Ravine near the little town of Randolph in northern New Hampshire.

The morning after we arrived, our family dog came back after a night out with a mouth full of porcupine quills.

When we arrived the night before, we had discovered that the only phone was affixed to the wall in the kitchen and was a party line. So, the next morning, we had to ask the operator to give us the number for the veterinarian and we had to count the rings to know if her return call was for us or someone else when she connected us.

We soon learned that the party line did not stop people from picking up the phone and eavesdropping. My father would preface a conversation by constantly asking “please get off the line… Please get off the line.” Eavesdropping on the phone was a social event but — when requested — the clicks could be heard and the line would become clear. It was part of the social code.

The other notable social activity in Randolph was the picnic on the 4th of July where everyone in the community, including us, enthusiastically gathered to play charades. The charades were just an icebreaker to encourage interaction and conversations between strangers. All the eavesdroppers must have been there, but I remember that everybody was welcome to celebrate our democracy in that community.

As I grew older and watched the passage of civil rights legislation and protests to end the Vietnam War on black and white TV, and the rise of “Me Too” and “Black Live Matter” on the web, I always returned to my childhood memories and to that motto that I believed was America’s promise to itself.

I try to keep imagining what the residents of Randolph, New Hampshire back then would have done if the telephone company was quietly gathering everything from purchasing information to political beliefs to sell to secondary consumer markets and even to political parties, and if politicians used this information to make marketing calls, agitating these customers to increase profits.

So, must I now reconcile this my old memory of the respect for personal privacy, which was honored at the request of my father on a party line by our neighbors who also welcomed us into their picnics and to celebrate our democracy?

Would the citizens of Randolph have been quite as complacent as America is now?

Would they have required a whistleblower to go to Congress to explain Facebook‘s assault on their privacy?

No, that’s been obvious all along.

Would they need a whistleblower to explain that Facebook has, for its own gains, divided the country as a platform for false information of all forms in the name of more corporate profits, despite the damage it may have done?

No, that’s been obvious all along.

I have to get over my childish imagined ever-growing flotilla of tractors with extra pitchforks for other patriots rolling out of Randolph, gathering in its assault on Washington.

I have to get over my childish imagination that they would have already left town and gone to defend the Capitol back in January after it was assaulted.

They would be there, defending the Capitol, and who knows? Once they figured out what was happening, perhaps they would’ve attacked the White House. Or maybe they went down to protect voting rights or protest political parties that grow more radical, unifying a misinformed public in order to maintain their own political power.

Once I gave up these childhood memories it is now good to realize we struggle everyday to be free. It is the imperfect process which we must follow. It is what we must do.