Monday, December 28, 2015

2015 Delenda Est

Well, we're about to flush 2015 down the crapper, and start plunging 2016. That means it's time for predictions for the new year. Here's mine:
Next year will be even worse than this year, if that's possible.
I've been using that one every year for 25 years, and it hasn't failed me yet. Stick with the tried and true, I always say. Of course Western Civilization might bust out all over next year. I won't stand on one leg and hold my breath, if you don't mind.

Don't get me wrong. I could make New Year's predictions that were spot on. I've predicted lots of things with uncanny accuracy in the last ten years on the Intertunnel. It doesn't do me any good, and the audience gets mad at me, and wishes to go back to sleep, so I stopped doing it. It's like the 'Free Beer Tomorrow' sign on the wall in a disreputable tavern. It's always right, and it doesn't matter.

So what's a busy blogger to do? The term "busy blogger" smacks of oxymoron. That might be unfair to bloggers I have known. Most of them are only about half an oxymoron. Anyway, making a year-end list of twelve of my essays chosen at random but pawned off as my finest work should do the trick. So here you go: Sippican's Year in Review

January: The Greatest Play in NFL History
I've had a lot to do with the Boston, er, New England Patriots over the years, all strange. I almost died in their driveway. I once stood on the fifty yard line of their stadium while a half-dozen of us decided to change a thirty-year-old NFL rule.

February: Unorganized Hancock: The Birf of Rock and Roll
The kids have been making videos for about three years now. I thought they were always good, and they've certainly gotten much better, but they were recorded in such a rudimentary fashion that the viewer had to perform mental arithmetic to figure out how good they were.

March: Ralph Bellamy, I'm in Love With You
I used to play in a Happy Hour band that played Stump the Band with the audience. We had to stop when Massachusetts made Happy Hour illegal. No, really, that happened. My life is one long list of vocations, jobs, life callings, and hobbies that were made illegal. If I were smart, I would have started out doing illegal things right from the get-go. Illegal pays better.

April: I Must Not Do It
I have seen money. Felt it in my hand. I have wasted it one day and built temples to my fellow man the next with money, with no good reason to do either. I have watched it slumber in a bank book with my name on it waiting for nothing more than a notion and a signature. All gone. Gone for good, I think but must not say.

May: Rumford Delenda Est
The man in the perfect yellow house persevered. He painted his driveway and waxed his lawn and dusted his roof shingles. He polished his trees and chromed the inside of his mailbox. He was adamantine. He was, and is, a species of wonderful.

June: Building a Wattle and Daub Shelter for Dummies
If you can afford to have a smartphone in your pocket, you're allowed to be as dumb as you please. You can believe almost anything about the natural or intellectual world and get away with it. You can think panthers are cute and cuddly if you want,  or that living in a state of nature is a lark, or commendable in some way.

July: The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything
My wife is very quiet and reserved. She smiles a lot, but she doesn't talk very much. I have always depended on her steadiness, because I am mercurial. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who has anything bad to say about her, other than she chooses husbands in lighting not suitable for buying off-brand bales of hay.

August: Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Television
I know how to install electricity in a new house, and an old house, and a restaurant, and a gas station, and a football stadium, and several other kinds of places no one invites me to build anymore. It's really very simple except the part where you're dealing with what was installed in the mists of antiquity by an escapee from a support group for mentally challenged subcontractors with Frankenstein fetishes. The meetings were held in my basement, I infer.

September: Unorganized Hancock Gets Their WIngs
My sons looked vaguely dazed and happy, which is pretty much the same thing in this world. They received their applause from the assembled crowd, the hockey team you see in the background, and the other bands, all without throwing up on themselves or falling off the stage. It was one of those moments in time that you will remember sweetly forever.

October: HANCOCK!
When Unorganized Hancock made videos as best they could in the circumstances they found themselves in, people discounted their efforts because the finished product wasn't shiny. The days of people making allowances for poor production values on the Internet are over. Don't get me wrong, viral videos are all made with the phone held the wrong way while the videographer is shaking like a nursing home inmate, but my kids will never have a viral video because they don't suck.

November: If You Make Things, You Are My Brother: Manny Avalos
What Manny is talking about in the video is profound only because it should be quotidian, but isn't anymore. He's talking about being connected with other people. He wants to make a guitar so that other people can use it to make music to entertain and delight still more people. He feels connected to the world at large by his own solitary efforts. He admits he found the construction of the guitar interesting for its own sake, but he understands that his interest is pointless unless it serves others.

December, More or Less: Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers
I started out fairly wretched, so it was easier for me to become an inkstained wretch than most people. I wrote a book that had pages with printing on both sides and two covers that were too far apart. I sold several copies of that book to drunk persons who found themselves on Amazon at 4 AM (it's my target demographic). That doesn't mean you'll necessarily have that kind of luck. Those people might have sobered up by now.

I hope 2016 is kind to you, and fortune casts a benignant smile on all your endeavors. I advise you not to count on it, though. I just don't have that kind of pull. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas to Everyone, Everywhere, and All the Ships at Sea

[Update: Many thanks to Jonathan C. in MA for his generous donation to our PayPal tipjar. It is much appreciated. Merry Christmas]

Thursday, December 24, 2015

I Want The Old Testament

I WISH IT WOULD rain. No. Sleet. Sleet would finish the scene nicely. Rain is God’s mop. It washes away the dirt and corruption. I’ve got no use for snow, either; the fat flakes are too jolly. Snow makes a fire hydrant into a wedding cake. I want sleet.
    I’d rather pull my collar up and hunch my shoulders as if blows from an unseen and merciless boxer were raining down on me. I don't want a Christmas card. I want the Old Testament.
    Old or new - I knew it. Father and mother would open the Bible to a random page and place an unseeing finger anywhere and use it for their answer to whatever question was at hand. They'd torture the found scripture to fit the problem a lot, but it was uncanny how often that old musty book would burp out something at least fit for a double-take. But any Ouija board does that, doesn't it?
    It was just cold and bracing. No sleet. I didn't need to be clear-minded right now. Paul's tip of the hat to the season, a sort of syphilitic looking tree, hung over your head as you entered the bar like it was Damocle's birthday, not the Redeemer's. It was kinda funny to see it out there, because inside it was always the same day and always the same time. Open is a time.
    People yield without thinking in these situations. It had been years since I had found anyone sitting on that stool, my place. It was just understood, like the needle in the compass always pointing the same way for everyone. Paul never even greeted me anymore, just put it wordlessly down in front of me as I hit the seat. Some men understand other men.
    It was already kind of late. My foreman said for all he cared, I could bang on those machines until Satan showed up in the Ice Capades, but I didn't feel like working on Christmas Eve until the clock struck midnight. That's a bad time to be alone and sober.
    "I'm closing early tonight," Paul said, and he didn't go back to his paper or his taps. He just stood there eying me. I took the drink.
    "You've made a mess of this, Paul," I stammered out, coughing a bit, "What the hell is this?"
    "It's ginger ale. You're coming with me tonight."
    I could see it all rolled out in front of me. Pity. Kindness. Friendship.
    "No." I rose to leave.
    "You'll come, or you'll never darken the doorstep here again."
    Now a man finds himself in these spots from time to time. There are altogether too many kind souls in the world. They think they understand you. They want to help you. But what Paul will never understand is that he was helping me by taking my money and filling the glass and minding his own. It was the only help there was. A man standing in the broken shards of his life doesn't have any use for people picking up each piece and wondering aloud if this bit wasn't so bad. They never understand that the whole thing was worth something once but the pieces are nothing and you can never reassemble them again into anything.
    I went. Worse than I imagined, really. Wife. Kids. Home. Happy. I sat in the corner chair, rock-hard sober, and then masticated like a farm animal at the table.
    Paul was smarter, perhaps, than I gave him credit for. He said nothing to me, or about me. His children nattered and his wife placed the food in front of me and they talked of everything and nothing as if I wasn't there – no, as if I had always been there. As if the man with every bit of his life written right on his face had always sat in that seat.
    I wasn't prepared for it when he took out the Bible. Is he a madman like my own father was? It's too much. The children sat by the tree, and he opened the Bible and placed his finger in there. I wanted to run screaming into the street. I wanted to murder them all and wait for the police. I wanted to lay down on the carpet and die.
    "Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
    He put the children to bed, to dream of the morning. His wife kissed him, said only "good night" to me, and went upstairs. We sat for a long moment by the fire, the soft gentle sucking sound of the logs being consumed audible now that the children were gone. The fire was reflected in the ornaments on the tree. The mantel clock banged through the seconds.
    "Do you want something?" he asked.
    "Ginger ale."

(From my collection of flash fiction, The Devil's In The Cows Merry Christmas to all that visit here, and all that don't]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Glimmers of Light in the Darkness

I had to leave the house today. I don't do that very much. I'm forced to hunt around for all the accouterments that are necessary to pilot a big, empty refrigerator masquerading as a Ford Econoline van. Keys. Yes, need those. Wallet, yeah, sure, let's take the moths for a ride.

Eyeglasses. Where the hell are they? I only use them for driving, but stubbornly refuse to leave them in the car, knowing I'll forget they're there, and I'll go back in the house where they aren't and look for them twice as much. Pants. I think I have to wear pants. It's like a rule or a guideline or zoning law or something.

I went to the Aubuchon Hardware store. I do believe I have paid the mortgage on that place by fixing this or that in my house continuously for five years. There is a lumber yard five miles away from my house, a Home Depot about an hour's drive, and the Aubuchon. I go to the lumber yard for large oblong things. I go to Aubuchon for doyouhaves and willthisfits and goddamnedthings and owmyhands. If you had a bayonet in my back I wouldn't go all the way to Home Depot for anything. You really have to wear pants to go to the orange place in the big city of Auburn. They check, or notice, or something.

The Aubuchon has everything you need, in the wrong size. I had a girlfriend like that, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, the Aubuchon is an old-school hardware store. Because the population of the surrounding area doesn't merit a big box store, they can survive on their wits and their widgets. Everything they have on the pegboard looks like 1970 to my eye, but honestly, no one in Rumford cares whether their light switches are ivory or white. If you need an outside light, they've got the jelly jar kind, and another kind which is, well, it's the jelly jar kind, too. What's wrong with the jelly jar kind, Ludwig Mies van der Hovel? Light comes out of it if you bought a bulb before prohibition.

"Prohibition" once referred to a period of time when you couldn't afford to buy light bulbs and weren't allowed to buy alcohol, which reminds me vaguely of seventh grade, not the 1930s. Now it refers to a time you can't afford to buy alcohol and you're not allowed to buy light bulbs. I could use a 100-watt gin and tonic right now, but I don't have the ingredients for it. They don't have limes at the Aubuchon.

Did you know you can buy regular light bulbs at the dollar store? My wife swears the dollar store has an actual name, but I can never remember it. Is it the Buck General? The Ducat Extender? The Tenth-of-a-Sawbuck Helper? Whatever it is called, they have regular incandescent light bulbs on the shelf.

They're made in Mexico, I think. They supposedly run on 130 volts, but if you screw them into a 110-volt fixture, a transmogrification takes place, and they "save" energy by only giving you about 50 watts instead of the 60 on the label. We put them in all the lamps and wander the house saying, "Who said that," every time anyone says anything, but anything's better than the curlicue kind. It's like living in an Edward Hopper painting.

I didn't hoard light bulbs. I just had a bunch of them, and incandescent bulbs last for years. I still have like four or five dozen 100-watt bulbs in the cabinet. My grandchildren will use them, I imagine. We ran out of 60 watters, and I unwisely took a flyer on some CFLs, which I detest. There was one CFL in my house when I moved in. It was in my basement. In January, that lightbulb doesn't come on, period, so I find it amusing to picture it outside, where it is occasionally 20 below zero. Not coming on does save energy, one must admit.

So, as I was saying, we were finally out of 60s, and we bought curlicues this summer. The first CFL I tried, the very first, I dropped, it shattered, and I freebased mercury for five minutes. How eco. The second one we put in my older son's table lamp, and the base of the bulb caught fire, real fire with flames and smoke and whatnot. He calmly unplugged the lamp, came down the stairs with the thing still smouldering, and we freebased burning plastic together for five minutes. How eco. We're all done with CFLs now. My light fixtures now emit Mexican light, which is like American light, except that it's here surreptitiously and it's slightly darker. (Insert Donald Trump joke here)

I didn't go to the Aubuchon to buy lightbulbs. I don't know why I started talking about lightbulbs in the first place. The Aubuchon is located at the town line where Rumford becomes Mexico, Maine, but I don't know why I started talking about the actual Mexico, either. All I know is I've been going into that Aubuchon for nearly six years, and a couple of years ago, they placed a giant TV high on a pillar facing the cashier's desk. They had installed the TV in order to make the job slightly more attractive to clerks, and earthshakingly, dumbfoundingly less attractive to me, I guess. It was an abomination, and annoyed me to no end while I was in there, and I saw it as another sign of the coming apocalypse.
And I saw when that Marconi opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of Bobby Goldsboro, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

And I saw, and behold a roaring lion: and that which was projected on it was a sequel of a movie not yet made; and a statuette was given unto them: and they went forth shooting Greedo first, and then not shooting Greedo first.

And I looked, and behold a white plastic device: and his name that lorded over it was Steve, and a Hell app followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with Angry Birds, and with texting, and with responsive sites, and with the Tweets of the earth.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was flatscreen, and Good Morning America followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the Aubuchon, to kill with chyrons, and with breaking news, and with NASCAR, and with the all the Bartiromos of the earth.
At any rate, I went into the Aubuchon to buy four foam paint brushes, and to my surprise, the television was banished, and a short, syphilitic-looking Christmas tree was in its place. The world seemed brighter somehow. I couldn't remember the last time something happened that seemed like it was a step, no matter how small, in the right direction. It was like an omen for me.

I went home to foamy-paint my whathaveyous, and wondered if people would ever come around to my way of thinking on any other subject. Would the gas pumps stop playing Sweet Home Alabama? Would hit men become the bad guys in the movies again? Anything's possible, I guess.

I have my doubts. I also noticed that both the clerks at the Aubuchon were brand spanking new, because all the others had quit.

[Update: Many thanks to Stephen B. from Anaheim for his generous contribution to our PayPal tipjar. It is very much appreciated]

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Jingle Bells, Now With New Mistletoe Command Goodness

The Poorly Wrapped Christmas Album by Maine's best band, Unorganized Hancock, is currently the Number 3 most popular album on BandCamp for Christmas Songs:
The entire album was entirely produced and recorded by my two sons, aged 12 and 20. The main reason the recording is doing so well is that my readers are really nice people, and support Unorganized Hancock's efforts, and for that, we're truly grateful.Because so many people preferred to buy the compact disc version of the album over a digital download, it's also in the top 30 compact discs of any kind of music on the site.

If you're not yet in the proper Christmas spirit, you can listen to the songs for free by pressing the play button, or click through to get your copy of the Poorly Wrapped Christmas Album at the Unorganized Hancock page on BandCamp  It's available as a download for just $3.99, or $9.99 for a CD (that includes shipping)

Merry Christmas!
[Update: The good nature and generosity of our Intertunnel friends is very much appreciated]
[ Further Update: Many thanks to Jerry and Michelle for their generous contribution to our family. It is much appreciated]
[Up-Update: Many thanks to Linda L. in Texas for her generous contribution to our PayPal tipjar, and for buying a CD, to boot. You may have just saved our Christmas]
[ To everyone that bought a CD or a download (many, many people left a tip, too) we send our warmest wishes and thanks. Merry Christmas to you and yours!]

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Christmas Whatsis 2015

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for the Sippican Christmas Whatsis for 2015. If you're looking for a little Christmas cheer with your Christmas shopping, you've come to the right place. Let's get started!

First, we have the best band in Maine: Unorganized Hancock will make your yule log glimmer, your eggnog simmer, and your party dress shimmer with their Poorly Wrapped Christmas Album. Five big songs you can download for just $3.99. If you prefer a CD, you can get a disc in a jewel case with lovely cover art for just $9.99, and that includes shipping! You can also buy the songs one at a time for $0.99 if you prefer. You can pay more than the asking price for any version of the Poorly Wrapped Christmas Album if you're feeling generous.

We don't sell pigs in a poke here at Sippican Cottage, so if you want to hear what you're buying first, just hit the play button on the Bandcamp ad I've embedded, and listen to Christmas songs played and sung by children who still know the meaning of Christmas!

Next up, what kind of Christmas would it be without ornaments, cards, calendars, and assorted holiday tchotchkes from 32 Degrees North. Every year, the lovely ladies at 32 Degrees send our boys an Advent calendar, because they're nicer people than any seven saints you could name. We always recommend their decorations to everyone, and now Better Homes and Gardens has jumped on our bandwagon. They do Christmas Old Schule, just the way we like it. The only exception we make for Christmas decorations is the Mobster Christmas motif. You get one of those white plastic trees, and put nothing but Crown Royal bags and stolen diamond bracelets under it. Other than that, it's strictly trad Xmas for the Sippican Clan. Go to their website and dress your house up pretty for Christmas! 

If you're tired of looking like you raided Ma Kettle's wardrobe before heading off to the office Christmas Party, you can head on over to Nora

If you're in New Yawk, and want to skip waiting for the UPS man to arrive with your togs, you can go to Nora's NYC Holiday Boutique at 125 E 47th Street, NYC (at Lexington Ave). You might catch a glimpse of Nora herself, who is prettier than the models in her ads.

If you're a Sippican Cottage reader and are hawking something online for Christmas, send me an email at SippicanCottage at and I'll be glad to add it to the list.

Merry Christmas!