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The Rich Have No Idea What Working Folks Go Through

It was on the cool side Friday afternoon when Tommy, the AAA guy from Bridgeport, CT, knocked on my door. He was here to test my battery, a free service for AAA members.

I offered Tommy some water or a coffee. He declined and got started testing the battery. He was dressed in a blue, polyester outfit and yellow safety vest.

“How bad has it been this summer, with the heat?” I asked.

“Oh man,” he said, “sometimes when I get home at night, I’ve baked for so long, I can’t even talk to my kids until I cool down.”

“Jeez,” I said, “what’s it like in winter?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t been doing this that long.”

It turned out I needed a new battery, so he swapped out the old for a new.

“What’s the trickiest battery situation you’ve seen?” I asked during the installation.

“The battery in a Dodge Stratus is in the wheel well. You’ve got to take the tire off to get at it. In a Ferrari, the battery is under the seat.”

I had no idea. We talked a bit more about batteries and then I went back into the house.

A little later … Read the rest


Feedback from Ireland’s Declan O’Rourke

This week I had the good fortune of getting assistance on some of my songs from the Irish singer-songwriter Declan O’Rourke. If you don’t know Declan’s work, visit his site.

Paul Weller said this about Declan in the April edition of the UK music magazine Mojo:

“He writes the sort of classic songs that people don’t write anymore, songs that sound like they’ve been around forever . . . Listen to Galileo, which is possibly the greatest song written in the last thirty years.”

There are no right or wrongs in songwriting, but there are clearly better choices. Declan’s made a lot of great choices over the years. What I love about his attitude is that he’s into wrestling with a song for months, agonizing over each word, prepared always to kill his darlings if necessary.

We spent several hours on a Skype call the other day. I was in Westport, CT; he was in Galway. By the time we finished, the sun was rising in Ireland.

We came up with some great ideas on how to improve my songs and for the past few days I’ve been trying to work those in.

It was a great experience … Read the rest


Richard Ford versus the Game of Thrones

Last week I finished Richard Ford’s Canada, a book well worth reading. I’ve been a fan for years and this doesn’t disappoint.

Next I bought Games of Thrones because I love the HBO series and wanted to take the experience to the next level. I also haven’t read any science fiction/fantasy for years. I thought it would be a nice change.

Ugh.

After a page I knew I’d made a mistake, but I trudged through the next few chapters hoping that my knowledge from the series would make up for the lazy descriptive choices, the clunky sentences and overuse of clichés. To be fair to George R.R. Martin, if I hadn’t just read Ford’s Canada, I may not have been so bothered; but Ford’s sentences flow like a Five Series BMW, Martin’s chugged along as if I was in a Chevy.

Games of Thrones is a fresh twist on familiar stories based on Tolkein, Star Wars, Shakespeare, Mythology and the Bible. That’s not a knock, aren’t most stories derivative of the last three on that list? But following Ford made me realize that I don’t want to fill my mind with just serviceable sentences. I want to raise … Read the rest


You can’t fight City Hall


A few weeks ago I got a tax bill for a car I sold back in April. Today I went into the Town of Westport to tell them that I don’t own this car anymore.

They said it was up to me to tell them and that I would need the Bill of Sale and a copy of the receipt provided by the CT DMV when I turned in my license plates.

I told them I had no idea if I had either, but that surely you guys track vehicle transactions via computer.

“We get an update once a year,” the woman in the Westport Tax Office said. “The onus is on you, so either pay this bill now, or face the interest and late fee penalties.”

“But why is it my responsibility?” I asked. “I reported the sale and turned in my plates to the DMV. You have all the information you need to tax me properly.”

“That’s the state. We’re local. When you turned in your plates you were given a receipt that tells you that you must contact your local government.”

“I don’t recall any such conversation with DMV,” I told her.

“It’s clearly stated on your … Read the rest