Archive for March, 2007


RSS feeds anxiety

I’m so exhausted. I had one of those nights when I couldn’t sleep because an idea had taken hold of my brain and just wouldn’t let it go. Have you ever had one of those nights? A night where sleep just won’t come because an idea is burning itself into your brain like a 1000 watt spotlight and just won’t go out? That was the kind of night I had.

I kept having this dream, more like a vision, really, since all I could see was this big orange RSS icon, and then I would wake up, and one thought would be racing through my brain, making it spin like an out of control engine: “RSS feeds. I must do more with RSS feeds.”

Even as it happened I realized how weird this was. Up until about a month ago I didn’t even know what an RSS feed was, and now my subconscious was demanding that I do something with them, telling me that there was a void in my life that could only be filled with RSS feeds. I would fall asleep again, only to start dreaming about RSS feeds. I must’ve woken up the same way about six times last night. Always thinking about RSS feeds.

So what does it mean? Could it be Murphy‘s fault? Just the other day he was showing me something nifty he’s done with RSS feeds on his blog. Maybe this is a manifestation of the blog-envy I always feel whenever I visit his site.

Or is it perhaps my own guilty conscience pricking me over my blogslackery? Telling me I need to do more, more, MORE, and still more with this site, and that I will never be a worthwhile human being until the day arrives when I am on everyone’s RSS feed.

Or is it simply time to change my medication?

RSS feeds. What does it all mean? RSS feeds. Why now? RSS feeds. What do they want from me? I’m so tired. I have to go to bed now and stop thinking about this.

RSS feeds.
— Smith


Thank you everyone!

I just want to thank everyone for the wonderful outpouring of support and good will that has been shown towards my son.  I am genuinely overwhelmed by the kindness everyone has shown him here.

In the short time I have been posting on WordPress, I feel like I have made some new friends, in the truest sense of the word, even though I have never met them in person (with the exception of Smoke & Mirror’s Michael Murphy–I have to look at his ugly mug every day.)  😉  I look forward to the kind words that await me whenever I toss something up here, and it’s interesting how each person’s personality comes through even in this somewhat impersonal medium (a tribute to their skill with words).

I cannot help but think how this country has learned at least one lesson from Vietnam.  I have some friends who are Vietnam vets who tell me some real horror stories about how they were treated when they returned.  More than one has told me how that were actually spit upon by those who opposed the war.  Irrespective of how one may feel about the Vietnam war, this country’s treatment of its veterans represents a shameful chapter in this nation’s history.

At least now people have learned to treat the veterans with the respect they have earned, regardless of their views on this war.  When I was picking my son up at the airport, more than one person would come up to him and shake his hand.  I don’t think I have ever been prouder of him than I was at that moment.

So to all who were kind enough to leave comments, my sincerest and most heartfelt thank you to you all.



Happy Birthday to me!

Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday to me!
Happy Birthday dear me-eee!
Happy Birthday to me!

Well, if I don’t do it, no one else will. As usual, I put this off to the last minute, but since there’s still 27 minutes left in my birthday I suppose it’s still valid. I admit that I still take a childish delight in celebrating my birthday, and today I had even better reason to celebrate than usual.

I’m 45 today, and it’s the best birthday I’ve had in years. I spent the day with my son, newly returned from Iraq. We went into Boston, had lunch at Smith & Wollensky’s (no relation, unfortunately) and walked around town in the brisk afternoon air. The sky was clear blue, the sun was bright; it was a glorious day. I found myself wondering what had become of the harum-scarum teenager I had so often quarreled with in the past. I was enjoying the company of this articulate, interesting young man. I felt like I was meeting him for the first time.

And then he pulled a fast one on me. He insisted we visit the pipe and cigar store where I work. He had taken it into his head that he was going to buy me a pipe for my birthday. I tried telling him that simply having home safe and sound and spending my birthday with him was enough. But you know the old saying about apples and trees, and he is at least as stubborn as I am.

And besides, I like getting new pipes.

We went into the shop, and he told me to pick one out. “Surprise me”, I said. So he did. Boy, did he surprise me. The pipe he picked out is pictured at the top of this post. It’s a Ferndown, a beautiful handmade pipe from England. I was totally blown away.

Life is full of irony. A year ago, he called me on my birthday from Indiana to tell me that he was shipping out to Iraq. Now, a year later, he arrived home the day before my birthday in time to spend it with me. Sometimes, once in a very great while, life plays fair.

I will cherish this pipe for the rest of my life, but I will cherish the memory of this day even more. My son is home.




My son is coming home.

I was awakened Monday morning by the phone.  I recognized my son’s voice on the other end. He has been serving in Iraq for the past year, and a phone call at an ungodly hour was nothing very unusual. But even in my groggy state, I sensed something different. There was no static on the line, and none of that annoying 3 second lag that usually marked our conversations. Before I had a chance to ponder this further, he set me straight: “Pops! (yes, that’s really what he calls me) I’m in Atlanta! I’m home!”

Well, this woke me up in a hurry. After over a year of worrying about him every waking minute, I can now sleep a little easier.  And while I realize that my suffering is nothing compared to what he’s gone through, I must say that a year of non-stop worrying has taken its toll. My hair, already prematurely gray, is quite a few shades whiter than it was a year ago. I have gained at least 30 pounds because I have the unhealthy habit of dealing with depression by eating.  Frito’s Corn Chips have been my friend.  If you own stock in the Frito-Lay company, I have been your friend.   

Sleep has not come easy the past year.  Some nights I would become obsessed with the idea that I would get a phone call in the middle of the night from someone in the Army who was not my son.  Thankfully, that call never came.  But I have developed a dependency on sleeping pills that I wonder if I will ever overcome.  

The irony of it all is that he left home for Iraq last March 20th, my birthday, and it looks as though he will return home on my birthday.

But now he is back stateside, and I wonder what he will be like. I know he has seen things that I have only seen in movies. I know he will be different. The little boy I played Nintendo with is gone forever. 

I spoke with him by phone for about an hour last night.  I was struck by the difference in his voice. The reckless teenager I used to quarrel with is also gone forever.  I know he has now become a man in every sense of the word.  There was a confidence and even a calmness in his voice that I had never heard before, strange perhaps in someone who had just spent a year in a war zone.  He told me to pick out a new pipe for my birthday.  “Make it a good one”, he said, “It’s also your Father’s Day present.”

Many people have asked me why I didn’t write more about this during his time in Iraq.  The truth is I often started to write something, only to have the thoughts go dead inside me.  For some reason I simply could not confront this issue head on, let alone write something worthwhile.  The idea that he might come home in a flag draped casket would overwhelm me, and the another potential post went into the recycle bin.

But now he is coming home.    When I see him I will tell him how proud of him I am.  I feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer have that constant knot in my stomach. 

Maybe it’s because I’m eating less Fritos.



Sarabande of the Solstices, a poem

Just trying something a little different here. Nothing very profound; just an exercise in rhyme and meter. Comments and criticism always welcome.

Summer danced in gladdened fields,
A maiden fair,
With auburn hair,
Robed in light, the sun to wield

To suit her will. She blessed the land
With raiment green.
A virgin queen
She was. To none she gave her hand.

For she preferred to dance alone
A soaring dove
Of light and love,
Adored by all, but on her own.

Summer’s warmth Lord Winter felt,
A lover ardent,
Bedecked in argent,
With shining diamonds in his belt.

And as he grew to love the maid,
One day he dared,
With heart ensnared,
Before her feet his love he laid.

But none of him would Summer have.
Afar he called
By love enthralled.
To him her heart she never gave.

For love did not within her burn.
Forever free
She wished to be,
With love to give, but not return.

But Summer green would not be swayed.
As he advanced
Away she danced.
Between the two a void she made.

So Winter watched from far away
Sweet Summer’s joy,
The world her toy,
To love and play in as she may.

Aflame with love he duly swore
That Summer bright
And Winter white
Would rule as one forever more.

Blood red rubies in her hair,
And yellow gems
Upon her hems
He gave to Summer for her to wear.

At last she yielded, and thus she found
Her garments bright
Of woven light
At her feet upon the ground.

The light of jewels possessed her mind
The sun she gave
To Winter grave
Earth lost her queen and sadly pined.

She heard the earth forlornly cry.
She shed her jewels,
Their weight now cruel,
And with the Earth lay down to die.

And Winter wept above her bones.
He had to see
That it was he
Who would remain and rule alone.

Stephen P. Smith

taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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