It’s National Grammar Day. Proverbs.

tulip, bulbs, flowers, market, jason landry, photograph, proverbs

Jason Landry, Tulip Bulbs, Amsterdam, 2004

It’s National Grammar Day.  Today’s lesson: Proverbs.

‘Good Husbandry’ is listening to your wife when she tells you,
“Jason, I’m going to relax today.  Go for a run or something.”
“Yes dear.”

So during yesterday’s run, Mark was telling me that the tulip bulbs have started to break through the surface mulch in the small garden in front of his brownstone.
“That doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve noticed in the past few years that the proverb, ‘April Showers Bring May Flowers‘ isn’t really the case anymore.  The weird thing is, flowers have been blooming earlier in Boston and April hasn’t been our rainy month…it’s been May.”

“Environmentalists would have you thinking it has something to do with global warming”, says Mark. “The first thing you should check is when and where that statement was first introduced.  When I lived in Virginia, flowers would bloom sooner than in Boston due to it’s geographical distance from the equator.”
“Makes sense.  I’ll do some digging.”

In the mid-16th century, English poet and farmer Thomas Tusser wrote a book called A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry.  First published in 1557, the book included rhyming lyrical poems broken down by the months of the year.  In the April abstract, the famous lines were uttered:

Sweet April showers
do Spring May flowers.

The United Kingdom and the New England states do have similar climates and proximity to the equator.  So this proverb makes sense, however, I’m convinced that climate change has in fact disrupted the seasons.  I think I need to book a lunch with Al Gore.  He’d be able to expound on this topic.

Claim Your Moment: An Inspirational Message

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Stephen Sheffield, Ascent (Ladder #34), 2009

Each person on this planet has a message to deliver…a story to tell.  I recognize this more and more when I watch TED talks.  If you haven’t watched any, do yourself a favor and find a topic that you relate to and sit back and watch one.  Their videos are inspiring and motivating, and their tag line rings true.  They do have ‘ideas worth spreading’.  I post some of the videos on this blog once in a while when I feel the story is relevant or particularly interesting.

This might come off sounding a bit strange, but have you ever asked yourself, or thought to yourself, what message will I deliver in this lifetime?  What story will I tell?  I never imagined that I’d be writing a book, and here I am, knee deep in one.

I believe most people go through various stages of training––events in their lives that show up as barriers that are meant to be conquered before getting to that next level, you know…finding their true calling. These barriers are like chapters or stages in a video game, the more you master the game, the closer you are to the prize––or finishing the conquest.  Each step, each stage, each chapter is a test that you must pass before you find your true path, true goal, true purpose in life.  I’m not saying that playing video games will show you the way to enlightenment or even help you make an informed decision on what your goal is in life.  It’s only meant to be a metaphor.

Like a chick pushing through an egg and taking its first step into the world, chip away at the small stuff around the edges until your moment is there, right in front of you, like a beam of light penetrating through a tiny hole in the shell just waiting for you to come out and explore its warm pulse.  Experiment with what captures your attention.  Try different things.  Sometimes your ‘thing’ won’t be the first thing that you are good at…it often times will sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Claim your moment.  As Anonymous once said: There is no better time than right now.

Driving Around With Metal Heads Without Seatbelts

frank armstrong, photographer, panopticon gallery, skid marks, tires, highway, cars

Frank Armstrong, West Boylston, MA, 2000

Rolston yelled from the back, “Landry…Duck!”

Within a split second, the pack of firecrackers that he intended to fling out the window as we sat in bumper to bumper traffic bounced – off the window, against the roof of the car and then behind my back – the driver’s back – pop – pop – pop!

They went off in rapid repetition, pop – pop – pop, each time the burning pulse and ping against my back stung and burned straight through my new Metallica concert t-shirt. After two or three more loud bangs, my foot slipped from the brake pedal and I hit the gas ramming the car in front of us. Everyone jerked forward. There had to have been at least seven or eight sweaty people stuffed into my Pontiac LeMans station wagon that night coughing and yelling. My ears were already ringing from the three-hour outdoor metal concert. Add fireworks to the mix and I could barely hear anything. You would think that the concert would be enough stimuli for the night – oh no, you needed to put the tape into the tape deck and crank it, reliving the experience all over again.

At this point, the car was full of smoke like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie, but instead of weed it was the smell of sulfur infused with cotton and skin burning. I could hear the muffled cheers and what sounded like echoed whistles of hundreds of concertgoers who were walking the street beside the stopped cars. On this night, I was the encore.

“What-The-Hell-Are-You-Doing!” I turned down the radio and looked to my right where an officer who was directing traffic approached the car, bend down and peered inside the passenger window – no one spoke a word…until: “I think someone threw some firecrackers into our car,” said someone in the back. And that’s how we got away with it.

I still can’t imagine that I got off with just a warning – that time, and almost every time. Riding in Cars with Boys was a movie staring Drew Barrymore. My life as a teen in New Hampshire could’ve be titled, Driving Around With Metal Heads Without Seatbelts.

I had a pretty good driving record, for the record. It also helped that my girlfriend’s father was a police officer in the neighboring city. Sometimes I would park my truck in a spot in downtown Portsmouth and run into a shop for something and I would come out to a ticket on the windshield. After pulling it from under the windshield wiper, I’d flip it over and there would be a hand written note. The best one said, “$75 dollar fine for parking your big, blue piece of shit in a puddle.” Ok…I’ll give’em that.

Holiday’s weren’t any different for stirring up trouble on the roads. On another boring Easter Sunday afternoon, my neighbors and I piled into my station wagon and headed to the beach. The beach is fairly quiet in New Hampshire, especially in April. No one was at the beach except for us dipshits and a couple of surfers who thought that two foot swells were like Big Sur. I was cruising down the coastal route and pulled onto Cable Rd in Rye. This road is very close to where the first Trans-Atlantic cable ended. There was a Jeep in front of us that drove right up onto the beach and I said, “Shit, I can do that!” So off we went onto the beach. I did a big donut spinning the car around and then drove back out onto the pavement.
“That was awesome Landry…do it again”, yelled Ron in the back.

I spun the car back around Dukes of Hazard style and headed for the beach. This time we weren’t as lucky. I gave’er too much gas and the back tires spun and dug into the sand. We began to sink. I tried to get out of it by putting it into reverse and backing up closer towards the water where the sand wasn’t so loose, but we were stuck – stuck in a hole on the beach as the tide started to come in. My two buddies and me were digging like mad trying to get the wheels free but it just wasn’t working – the wet sand acted like a suction. The ass end of the car was lying on the sand up to its tailpipe. And then they arrived. “Oh shit! The cops!”

“Driver…exit the vehicle,” projected from the speaker on the police cruiser.
I walked up the beach toward the cruiser and was placed in the back seat. I was scared shitless – I had never been in a cop car before. My friends on the outside were just standing around with smirks on their faces.
“Is all the information on your license correct?”
“Yes sir.”
“What were you thinking?”
(I was thinking – haven’t I heard this before)
“Sir, I was following this other vehicle…”
“What vehicle?”
“A Jeep.”
“There are no cars allowed on this beach…and does your car look like a Jeep?”
“No sir.”
“Now how do you expect to get this car off the beach before the tide comes in? It’s Easter Sunday. Do you have any idea how much this may cost you?”
(From the outside of the car) Hawkins yells, “He’s got triple A!”
I look out the window then turn back to see the office staring me down through the rearview mirror.  I’m not sure if he had a smirk on his face…but I know I did.
“Dispatch…we need a tow down on Cable Road. Son…I’m gonna let you off with a warning. If I catch you again, it will be a ticket next time.”
“Yes sir. Thank you.”

We scrounged up thirty-two bucks and gave it to the Tow truck driver so that I could avoid pulling out the AAA card and having my parents find out. I told them eventually. I think the words they used were “You dipshit.”

Hanging Out with Dear Old TED

Hanging out with dear old TEDthe hawthorne, TED, TEDx, simulcast, team, food industry

It’s a Saturday afternoon in Boston and I’m holed up in The Hawthorne, a trendy lounge inside the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. Decorated with all original artwork and serving up some of the slickest craft cocktails around, it doesn’t normally open until after five pm. However, on this day in February, some of the staff from Garrett Harker’s Eastern Standard and their sister restaurant Island Creek Oyster Bar have congregated into the lounges’ stone room to watch a web simulcast of TEDx from Manhattan. Inside it’s quiet as the team waits for the afternoon session to start. Laptops are resting on their legs – people are texting and checking their e-mails. Scones are piled up on the bar, bottles of water and glasses are stacked on a cabinet and someone from the kitchen staff just brought in a mammoth-sized bowl of homemade sweet potato chips. Garrett calls out, “Does anyone want me to put in a lunch order?  I can do that.” Last thing I remember before the video feed started again was this comment – Did anyone send out a memo to advise people to bring a sweater…it’s cold in here!

So what’s so important about this particular TEDx that prompted Harker to round up his troops to watch it? The topic was: Change The Way We Eat – quite fitting for his staff, anyone in the restaurant industry, people that pride themselves as being into organic or locally-grown foods, farmers, people into macrobiotics, and we can’t forget the foodies. I don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories and I myself am not a foodie…I’m just an invited guest. But knowing Garrett, the topic wasn’t the only reason that he wanted his staff to see this: Garrett is big on learning, something that he incorporates wholeheartedly into the training sessions in his restaurants. You’re probably wondering how much training is involved. In his restaurants, his staff does research projects. “They have tackled regions of Italy – vicariously, although it inspired a few individuals to make the trip”, boasts Harker, “as well as extensive visits throughout the state of Maine, and most recently, they are researching counties throughout Massachusetts.”

Split into a few different teams that are made up of novice food runners to seasoned servers, management staff to veteran line cooks, they have been traveling to the different counties trying the food, meeting the people, visiting breweries, cheese factories and even museums. Each weekday afternoon a different team would present their findings – essentially educating the rest of the staff about what they had learned. Think of it as their own homemade version of a TED talk, happening on a weekly basis within the confines of the restaurant. “You can have all the ideas you like, but without buy in from the staff there’s little chance of a successful education initiative”, says Harker. “The research projects came out of a restlessness, a recognition that some of our best students had become excellent teachers, and we needed to give them a platform.”

The afternoon TEDx Manhattan session began. It started off with one of the speakers making a blunt and direct statement, “It’s easier to raise healthy children than to fix broken men.” Does this make sense to everyone? It should. I’m guessing that the speaker was directing this message to the millions of over-weight citizens in the United States who have a battle with the bulge every year. But let’s go back to the first key word in the quote: children. It starts with them. Guest speaker Anne Lappe took the stage to talk about the impacts of marketing junk food to children. One of the first statements that she presented was that ‘two billion dollars are spent each year on marketing junk food to children and teens’. That is a staggering number if you think of it. Lappe continued by discussing dieting concerns and facts such as ‘diet-related illnesses are on the rise’ and are at ‘downright dangerous’ levels. And it doesn’t help that some of these junk food companies with brands like Oreo are using marketing tactics like sponsoring curricula in schools to maintain its message.

On a positive note, I was happy to hear that ‘Maine was the first state to pass a law banning marketing junk food in schools.’ Bravo, Maine! My favorite quote of the day, one that might really help the younger generation, would be if McDonald’s would just ‘Retire Ronald’. It might be a fast and cheap food, but it’s highly unhealthy – where’s Oysterman or String Bean Boy when you need them?

I worked in the restaurant industry as a adolescent youth and from past experience, I was never educated about the foods that we cook and eat, where it comes from, how it’s grown and the true impact it has. I find it fascinating that Garrett goes out of his way to make sure his staff has this continuous learning experience – that he’s investing back into them in hopes that they learn something valuable. As a patron, it brings me pleasure in knowing that they are well educated about the food that is served. A happy server is a knowledgeable server. “There is the discovery and knowledge, the confidence that results, a respect for hospitality as a profession, and most importantly the magic that happens when you see your peers stretch themselves and grow right before your very eyes,” expresses Harker. “A thoroughly engaged and knowledgeable staff is one of the hallmarks of Eastern Standard. It’s important to continue to enrich the environment so that everyone feels the connection of a team committed to learning and growing. This knowledge is available to our guests, but at their pleasure. They may drink and dine as often as they like at Eastern Standard and enjoy it for pleasure’s sake.”

If you ever find yourself in one of these restaurants and someone from the staff is educating you about something on your plate that was either locally grown or harvested or caught or brewed, just know that what they are explaining to you wasn’t some quick pep talk they got from one of the chef’s during their staff meal – they quiet possibly had to research it themselves.

Harker concludes, “If we can impart some sort of knowledge or understanding, that certainly goes toward creating and making your whole dining experience memorable and come alive.”

A Leaky Faucet and a Frozen Pair of Panties

I thought I was going to stay in today on this blistery snowy Sunday, but no, my friend coerced me out of the house.
“Come on…let’s go get some lunch.”
“Lunch? It’s lunchtime?”
“What! Did you just get up?”
“No, I’m just lounging around today. Give me fifteen minutes and I’ll meet you on the corner. I still need to get dressed.”

I left the house at Noon and began my descent down the seventy-seven stairs of my brownstone. Before I got through the first twelve I was met in the hallway by one of my downstairs’ neighbors who was on all fours. He had removed a wall panel and was peering into the recessed shaft where the plumbing to his unit could be accessed.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m checking the pipes. We’re going to swap out the faucet in our bathroom.”
“Oh cool…good luck.”

That’s the last I thought about it. It slipped my mind completely after I stumbled upon a pair of shiny, red panties lying in the snow bank on the way to meeting my friend. Crazy shit like this always captures my attention – oddities that I find when I’m out walking. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a picture and kept walking. How and why were they there is always the first panties, frozen panties, red underwear, underwear, snow, valentine's dayquestions? Valentine’s Day was just the other day so I wonder if the owner of these panties discarded them after having a quickie in one of the parked cars the other night – it wouldn’t be the first time. Or maybe she dropped them after her walk of shame home – I’ve see that before too. Another plausible explanation – maybe they just fell out of her laundry bag – and yes, I’ve seen that too. Regardless – whoever you are, your panties are now in this story. As my friend said to me after I showed him the photograph,
“You gotta Instagram dat joint!” – We heard that statement recently on some YouTube video. It made us both crack up. And for the record…I did Instagram it.

We trekked through the snow and picked up our pizza and two liter bottle of Coke – that was the special of the day, and was just about to get into it and my friends phone started to chime.
“Jason…I just got a text saying that there is a large puddle of water in the hallway in front of my rental unit in your building.”
“Shit…are you kidding me? I can tell you exactly where that’s coming from. One of the new owners was in the hallway telling me he was going to change out his faucet. Do you have the number to the management company?”

Fifteen minutes later I got a call from my neighbor:
“Jason…the fucking kid was going to change out the faucet and didn’t shut the water off to the build first. It’s a fucking mess over here. It looked like a waterfall running down the wall!”
“Yes I heard. We contacted the management company and they are on their way over. That’s all we can do.”

Being in the penthouse, this mess and problem had no bearing on my unit, or me, but for some reason my wife and I always get involved. What I can say is this: If you are not a plumber, electrician, HVAC technician or contractor, do not attempt to do any of these tasks on your own. You will fuck something up. This in turn will cause problems. These problems won’t be pretty or an easy fix. Your neighbors will be pissed. You will have to file an insurance claim. Your insurance will go up. Your wife will yell at you. I think that pretty much sums it up.

It’s just another learning lesson for this first time homebuyer. In the event that you pissed yourself when you couldn’t get the water to stop, I know where you can find some fresh panties!

Let’s Talk About Valentine’s Day

kevin van aelst, heart, panopticon gallery, photograph, valentine's day

Kevin Van Aelst, The Heart, 2009

Here’s my story about Valentine’s Day, but first, a little back story to set the scene. So, I’ve been doing a bit of writing over that past two years – actually a bit more than normal. In fact, I started writing and keeping journals when I met my future bride to be. That was in ninety-three. For those of you having trouble, a quick math exercise brings us up to twenty – twenty wonderful years with the same woman. It’s not an easy thing to do – you know – being married. Relationships take work – and most of the work tends to be on my end. My wife is easy to live with – I’m the one who brings the drama.

I used to write in a journal every day when we first met. This was well before the advent of Facebook, email and text messaging. When we would get together, she would read what was going on in my life during any given week. Some people forget that there was a time in the past that used to be like this. So for those of you reading this that are smirking at the fact that I was writing in journals – well – most of you are doing in now – that is – those of you who type something every day in Facebook, Twitter or on a blog. Those are the virtual journals of the now generation.

My journals were packed with poems and stories, pictures that I drew, pictures and comics from magazines that I glued in, and photographs of us. Yeah, I was a real sap…but I was also creating memories and those are important to me. Come to think of it…I’m still a sap. Other people created memories back then too buy sticking photographs in photo albums. I’m guilty of doing that, however, with the amount of photographs that I used to take, being a photographer and all, most ended up in boxes.

I asked my wife if she wanted to go out this year on Valentine’s Day. Her response, “No, there are too many shmoopies out.” When you have been together for close to twenty (gulp) years, you should know each other by now – know what the other is thinking (for the most part) and what they really want.

They don’t want store-bought valentines. You know what I’m talking about…they come in many shapes and sizes. I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the popular ones. There are the trademark flowers, of course: roses and carnations et al. Red, pink, yellow, white – they’re all the same thing. In February the florists mark them up and there are a lot of suckers out there who will drop a mint on a few dozen just to get their heart broken a few weeks later. I know some of you have bought the little teddy bears on special at CVS, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates from whatever bon-bon shop you fancy, and let’s not forget those lovely little numbers that are silky and lacy and can be purchased at a place that prides itself for offering the best secrets, stolen from a girl named Victoria, right? It’s the same shit every year. My valentine doesn’t want more of the same. She wants originality and fine execution, pretend like Ed McMahon is judging you on Star Search – right? That’s what she wants.

Then comes the agony of dinner reservations, and if you can’t get reservations at her favorite place, well then, call it a night, or start your Plan B. Reservations are a bitch to get on Valentine’s Day. Since her favorite restaurant is booked up solid months before, and remember she told you this a while ago, you try to be slick and pull some last-minute reservation out your ass at some place that neither of you have been to. After waiting in line in the vestibule freezing your ass off for over two hours, you finally get seated around eleven pm, your date’s irate, the service blows and they still swipe your credit card for one hundred and fifty cause it’s a prix fixe menu. The night ends in a fight and no one gets any nookie. I know this, because it’s happened to me before. In hindsight, the safer play would’ve been to give her that card with Charlie Brown on it with the tag line, ‘Be Mine’. Worst-case scenario would be your ‘Lucy’ pulling the old football trick on you.

The bottom line is, you don’t have to indulge your lady friend, lover, partner, significant other or your wife with these store bought icons of love that they don’t really need and often times don’t want, because let’s not kid ourselves – most of the times the gifts are for us. You don’t have to wine and dine them at the trendiest restaurant with the hottest chef from Europe either. What they really want, what they really deserve, is a moment of true love, honest praise and a whisper of sweet something’s in their ears. Sweet nothings are what they expect from us. Let’s surprise them this year. Let’s offer them something that they least expect. Let’s flip the script! Let’s make them dinner, rather than going out. Let’s do the dishes and clean up afterwards – “Hey honey, it’s Palmolive and I’m soaking in it!” Let’s do the laundry and put away the clothes so they don’t have to lift a finger but make sure you lay out their favorite pair of flannel pajama bottoms on the bed next to their pillow, okay? Let’s offer to be at their beck and call – even if it’s just for one day. Let’s make sure that our valentine is so happy that they brag about us tomorrow to their friends on Facebook! Wouldn’t that be awesome?

If your lady friend is anything like mine, maybe she just wants you out of her hair for the afternoon so that she can relax in peace. I can hear her already, “Jason, go phone a friend.” And if that’s what she wants, then my queen, I shall obey.

If tomorrow comes, I will have survived another Valentine’s Day, and another year without being in the doghouse. Just don’t forget to tell your special someone ‘I Love You’. That’s very important!

~ Jason Landry
February 14, 2013

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Booches, dogs, lhasa apso, petI wrote a recent essay about my dog Booches called, Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.  Don’t worry, I’m not going sappy on you.  Here’s a photo and a first paragraph teaser.

As my Lhasa Apso is getting up there in age, she tends to sleep more and more. The peppy, playful dog once full of exuberance has gone away. At 14 in dog years, she’s the equivalent of a retiree collecting social security and adjusting to a set of new hips. When we’re outside, she lags behind as we walk – arthritis, probably – think turtle speed. She’ll peer up at me as she waddles around with this look that reads, “When are we moving to Florida. My old bones can’t take too much more of these Boston winters.”