Two photos I took along the Merrimack River in Lowell, Mass., as a dark storm approached at about 9 in the morning….and the song I thought of as I dashed into my car and took shelter from the deluge.



Someone, somehow, someplace, some song

Someone I know told me years ago that this song reminded her of an old romantic but unattainable love.

Somehow this song also reminded me of her through the years — certain lines echoed a sort of sweet nostalgic memory I held.

Someplace I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years is Highland Park, New Jersey, home base of a great band — move over, Black Keys — called The Grip Weeds.

Some movie called “How I Won the War” starred a fellow named John Lennon playing the part of an Army private named Gripweed (hence the name of the band).

Something/Anything is the name of the album by Todd Rundgren which included this song, covered here by The Grip Weeds:

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

I might try reading the late, great Raymond Carver’s “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?” I bet it’s here somewhere on this library’s shelves.

But I can’t hear myself think, never mind trying to read or, perish the thought, concentrate on my writing.

Some libraries, which used to be places where people went to read and study and work in a quiet environment, are now more noisy than a highway rest area. And the librarians at those libraries are, ironically, among the worst offenders. They carry on loud conversations, with each other and with patrons, in person and on the phone. And they ignore loud talking, intervening only when kids start to horse around and make a ruckus.

Sometimes the din gets so loud that I finally have to leave — unable to concentrate on whatever reading or writing I’m trying to get done.

A while back, I asked one of the librarians if anything could be done to quiet things down — maybe, for example, some of those old “Quiet, Please” signs were gathering dust in the storage room?

“Not going to happen” said the youngish librarian, in a slightly condescending and annoyed tone.

Look, I get it. I’m glad the kids and oldsters still come to the library. I know the library’s much more than a place to read and borrow books –it’s now a community gathering place, which is great.

But I don’t care. Tell the community to keep it down. People are trying to read and do work — trying to concentrate…And maybe folks will be a little more quiet if the nice people who run the place are given a refresher course in Library Whispering 101.

Summer arrives: Do druids drink gin-and-tonics?

Dark and mysterious Stonehenge…Where I won’t be as the summer solstice arrives. On the other hand, I bet the druids won’t be cooling off on this first sweltering night of official summer with a nice tall gin-and-tonic (with lime).

If I happened to be a druid, I suppose I’d be at Stonehenge, dancing and cavorting and chanting and just generally carrying on and making a happy ruckus as the sun set and rose over those magnificent and mysterious stones right at the moment when spring gives way to summer.

But I’m not a druid — and I’m not anywhere near Stonehenge — so I suppose today and tomorrow will be spent somewhere in the swamps of Jersey in hot pursuit of coolness and cold…as temperatures approach 100 degrees for the first time this year, just in time for the solstice and summer.

We’re talking gin-and-tonics (with lime) after dark on the porch. We’re talking not much more exertion than what’s required to turn on the air-conditioner and maybe turn the pages of whatever book we’re reading, which probably should be something like “The Iceman Cometh,”  or to turn on the DVD player to watch a movie, which probably should not be something like “In the Heat of the Night.”

Speaking of druids and mysterious stones, I made my way a few days ago to Ringing Rocks State Park in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There they were– not moved since that last time I was there, about fifteen years ago: an amazing field of large boulders covering at least a couple of acres. The boulders were deposited there, geologists say, by the leading edge of an ancient glacier.

Stone-cold truth: These boulders at Ringing Rocks in Upper Black Eddy, Pa., have been there ever since a glacier left them there millions of years ago,

I remember hearing through the years about strange nighttime gatherings at Ringing Rocks,  and I have vague memory of a big New Age gathering happening there a few years back when there was a lot of hoo-hah and ballyhoo over some cosmic event called the Harmonic Convergence.

More recently, the boulders were still an impressive sight and a great source of amusing, overheard comments from others who’d come to swing a hammer at the rocks to hear their unusual chime-like ring:

“I’ve never seen so many rocks!”

“Man, this would be a great place to come and get stoned!”

“Yeah. Or to have a ROCK concert!”

“This place ROCKS!”

You get the idea. I guess it’s Stone Age, Stonehenge, stoner humor.

One thing about heat. It’s made for some great music. Here are four of my favorite summertime songs by (in order) Sly Stone, Carole King, the Rascals and Bruce Springsteen:

New wave

The Beach Boys today

Surf’s up! “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” a new album by the Beach Boys, has debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart.

I’m reminded of the time, while  attending college in western New York, that I’d spent one weekend evening visiting a number of downtown drinking establishments. When I returned to campus, I headed straight to the student union cafeteria in search of nourishment.  Carrying my tray full of nourishment (two hamburgers and a cup of coffee), I looked around for a place to sit. For some reason, I noticed, the place was packed with people. Finally, I spotted a single empty chair at one of the tables. So I sat there, a little uncomfortable about sitting with people I didn’t know but drunk enough to not care very much.

As I focused on my food, I happened to look over at the guy sitting to my left. And I exclaimed: “Holy ****! You’re Mike Love of the Beach Boys! What the **** are you doing here?!”

Mike Love replied, “Hey, man, we just gave a concert upstairs!”

Sure enough, I looked around the table, and there were three original Beach Boys — Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine (Brian Wilson had already stopped touring) — along with sundry other bandmates and Beach Girlfriends and Beach Wives.

I said to Mike Love:  “Sorry! I didn’t know!”

End of story.

Anyway, I guess most people would say “Good Vibrations” is Brian Wilson’s masterwork. I’d vote for this:

Or this:

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled…

William Butler Yeats

Happy birthday to one of  our world’s greatest poets, William Butler Yeats, who was born on this day in 1865 and died in 1939. So many of his works have stuck in my mind and moved my spirit: “The Second Coming,” “Easter 1916,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” “Leda and the Swan,” and others.

But this poem, most of all, resides deep in my heart…it resonates and aches and echoes and whispers…

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled

And paced upon the mountains overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

On the lighter side…

Here’s the great satirist Tom Lehrer (apparently still alive and kicking, at age 84) with his less-serious take on Yeats:

Dead letters

Is it possible to do a good deed while also feeling just a bit smug and self-satisfied about it?

Yep. Just did it.

Someone whose tastes have steered me in the past toward some good books I might not have read — “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving, “I Capture the Castle” by Dodie Smith and a book of Native American writings called “Touch the Earth” come to mind — loves the novels of Michael Crichton. A few months ago, I delved into, and liked, a few of his books, including one I really liked titled “Prey” and a few others, including “Congo,” and two I’d read before, “The Andromeda Strain” and “Jurassic Park.”

Anyway, because my attention had been drawn to Crichton and his writing, I was aware that he died a few years ago. And, because of that,  I was able to point just now to the local librarian that a poster hanging in the front entrance was creepily out-of-date. It had a photo of  smiling Michael Crichton and it said  “I’m a proud member of the American Library Association!”

Crichton, of course, might have woven that macabre plot twist into one of his novels.

But the poster was taken down right away. And that’s good, because, honestly, I was motivated mostly by educational concerns. I found myself thinking that people seeing the poster might think Crichton was still alive.

Anyway, now the library folks can replace it with something more current, perhaps featuring Christopher Hitchens or Ray Bradbury or Maurice Sendak…