A brush with greatness

Yesterday, I was reminded of this incident from way back in my college days. I think this happened in 1987.

It was late on a Friday night and I was walking around the student activity center.  I was taking a break from studying, or maybe I was on my way out for the night, I don’t recall.  I walked down a corridor and something caught my eye.  There was some activity in a meeting room that looked out of the ordinary.  The door had a glass window at the top,  so as I walked by I saw a group of people in the room milling about who didn’t quite look like students.  There were maybe a dozen or so in the room.  Most were talking in groups of two or three.  There was one person who stood out among the others.  He was wearing a leather jacket, sitting at a table, smoking a cigarette, drinking what looked like beer from a glass, looking both oddly frail and menacing at the same time.  Who is that guy, he looks vaguely familiar.  The “Student Activity Center” was really an enormous study hall, there was no smoking allowed in the building, and drinking was obviously banned too.  So maybe it was him raising the glass that caught my eye at first, or maybe it was his smoking, since either one would have been very noticeable.

During my college years, I spent a lot of time listening to a nightly program on a college radio station. “No Commercial Potential” was the name of the program.  As the title suggests, anything unusual was played, especially current experimental, electronic, or punk rock music.  If anything sounded good to me, I would take a bus, then a train, to go to the one store in the Boston area that sold records by these no commercial potential artists.  I would also sometimes purchase music magazines imported from the UK, such as NME, or Melody Maker, to find out more about the artists that were played on the college radio station.

It soon struck me who the man at the table was, I was sure that I had seen his picture in one of the magazines. Was it Mark E. Smith from The Fall?  Were The Fall playing at the theater in the student center?  I had not heard about that, this was exciting news.

‘Hey!  Mark!  Hey!!!  I shouted from my side of the door, probably looking like a mental patient.

“Hey, it’s The Fall! Are you playing here tonight?!”  I shouted again.  By this point I was most likely jumping up and down a bit too, looking increasingly like a deranged person by this point.

Mark narrowed his eyes at me, called over another guy in the room and pointed to me. The second guy approached the door, opened it up.

Wow, I thought, maybe they’re going to let me into the show?  Or maybe meet the band?

He quickly slid through the door, and said…

“Mark wants you to FUCK OFF!!”

“Oh, Ok, sorry”  I said.

OK, I guess that proves it. The Fall are playing here tonight. I slunk away. I’m being a little sarcastic in the title of the post as I had read a little about how Smith sometimes reacted with fans,this was not really out of character, it may have even been a bit subdued for him.

I went downstairs to the theater that was in the student center, which did indeed list ‘The Fall” as being on the schedule for that evening.  I purchased a ticket and went inside.

‘Theater’ is a generous term, it was more like a large meeting room. It was an area that was also used as overflow for the cafeteria.  It was a sparse crowd. Not surprising since Mark Smith and The Fall never really made much of an impact on the radio here in the US.  His lyrics are cryptic, meandering, sometimes political, and more spoken than sung.  And for a few years I absolutely loved everything they released. There were plenty of other bands and performers who I liked more, and The Fall were often just too abrasive for long term listening, but in my quest to find the unique sounds of the time, they were one of the leaders.

The band appeared on stage first.  Look there’s that guy who yelled at me, playing guitar! Mark Smith came on stage and for the entire concert he sang while holding a cigarette in one hand and glass of beer in the other.  He did keep a stool nearby where he would place the beer now and then, to give his arms  a rest I suppose, or to pour more into the glass.  He never faced the audience, standing somewhat to the side of the drummer, his back to the crowd, but oddly enough he was a very charismatic performer.  You just couldn’t help but watch him.  He didn’t sing in the traditional sense so much as snarl.  Spitting out the words not with the rage common among punk rock singers but with a detachment, as if to say ‘This is the way it is, you can’t do anything about it.’   What was he saying? What is he going to say next?  Would he leave the stage early for some unknown reason?    The Fall and Mark Smith performed a full concert that night, which may have been unusual.

I had not listened to The Fall in years when I heard that Mark Smith had died on January 24, he was just 60.   He was a unique artist.  I’m not sure who I would compare him to.  Lou Reed? Tom Waits? Captain Beefheart?  No, there wasn’t anyone else like him.

Here’s a link to a better tribute than I could ever write by someone who followed the band from beginning, sometime around 1976, to end.  Mark Smith was performing up to the end too, having recently performed from a wheelchair with his arm in a sling.

Community Garden

After two years on the waiting list, we were awarded a plot in our town’s community garden area this Spring.  Even though we live in New Hampshire, we’re not in an area where the houses have large yards so we were looking forward to getting the extra space for a vegetable garden. 

We were informed about the garden plot very late Spring, so we weren’t very well prepared with seedlings ready or a well thought out plan.  We were then very much occupied by our dog, Scout, getting sick, so our garden plot does not have a very well tended appearance.  The garden area has at least two hundred plots.  Some people have been gardening there for many years, so they’ve had years to come up with the best plan for their area. 

Look at this one, for example.  Just look at the carefully planned rows of enormous vegetables and well tended paths with no weeds!   No, that’s not our garden. 

How about this one?  Don’t those cabbages look great!   No, not our garden.

This is our garden.  It’s close to 99% weeds with a row of carrots, a few beets, and some other random vegetables struggling through the jungle of weeds.

When talking to the other gardeners, I can’t help but feel a little self conscious in comparison.  Which plot is your’s? They will ask.  Ummm.. that one there, I’ll say.  Which is usually followed by a disapproving look and a ‘Oh, yes, I’ve seen that plot’ 

But within the weeds are the best carrots we’ve had..

and more basil than we can use…

With which we made chicken pesto with roasted carrots.  So it’s at least been worth it for the new recipes we’ll be trying. I had made pesto before, but this qualifies as new since it has both basil and carrot greens in it.  Roasting carrots is easy, but I’ve never tried cooking it, so that qualifies as new too.   I have this ambitious plan of trying a new recipe each week, so this would be recipes #1 and #2. 

Flying Dog

Having an active dog can be exhausting. It doesn’t help that I strained a muscle in my foot last month, so I haven’t been taking him out for walks as much as he would like. So what to do to exercise the dog?

How about seeing if he can catch a cup of water?



And here’s the landing. You can see how he’s been tearing up the lawn.


Makes my foot hurt just to watch him land.

Take a picture, Dada!

… and we’re back for more infrequent blog posts!   

Mr. C loves our smartphones, with all their features, apps, and games.  One thing he likes to do is direct me in how and when to use the camera. My camera’s memory is filled with pictures he wanted to take. He especially likes to take pictures of clouds and sunsets. Here’s a few.  These were taken in Vermont, New Hampshire, Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

WPC: Spring

This week’s photo challenge is ‘Spring’, and as usual, I’m late posting!

Spring in Southern New England is the brief time in between turning off the furnace and turning on the air conditioner. It usually lasts about two weeks. Once it’s over, we go into hazy, hot, and humid New England Summer. These brief weeks tend to be rainy, cloudy, and cold, with a few bright sunny days mixed in. So we try to get as much gardening done as possible now to take advantage of all the rain.

I tend to be a very unorganized gardener, which will be apparent as I describe these photos.

A month or so ago, I posted a photo of some vegetable seeds we had started; basil, dill, a few varieties of tomato, Swiss chard, and a few others. Though which tomato variety is which, I now have no idea. I’ve been trying to take them out for a few hours each day to harden them before transplanting, though most days have been too rainy and windy to do that. Maybe I’ll be able to transplant in a week or so.


Here are a few Iris bulbs, with some other perennials mixed in. have no idea what variety of Iris these are. A neighbor gave them to me many years ago. She had found next to an abandoned ginger ale bottling plant, so I call them the Ginger Ale Iris. They are a light yellow color so it seems to be an appropriate name.



Where did these tulips come from? I didn’t plant them, they just suddenly appeared among my rose bushes. Must have been left by the previous owners, though that was 14 years ago!


A hosta and some Tiger Lilies. In New England, if nothing else is going to grow somewhere, then plant some Tiger Lilies. Or just wait awhile and some will appear there anyway.


Usually Spring for me has meant a trip to Blanchette Gardens in Carlisle, Massachusetts. This is where I bought all of my perennials. Unfortunately, the owners retired last year, so I’ll have to find somewhere else to go. I’ll miss going there as it was a relaxing place to browse through their rows of native perennials, most of them very hard to find elsewhere. They sold their plants by their Latin names, with small plastic tags attached to each pot. I would keep each tag once I transplanted them, thinking that I would somehow keep track of them. But have I ever done that, No. So here’s a row of my perennials, just about all are from Blanchette, many have been here as long as I have been living here. Do I know the names of any of them ? Nope, not a single one!

I still have those tags with the Latin names somewhere, I should try to match up the names to the plants. Yeah, I’m sure I’ll do that.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

Here’s some photos for this week’s photo challenge with the ‘Street Life’ theme.  There’s not a whole lot of vibrant street life here in southern New Hampshire, especially in late March, when the mud and snow are still piled up outside ready to be tracked into the house.

So it’s off to Italy we go!

Here’s Rome:



And here’s Florence:



And here’s Milan:


WPC: Perspective

This week’s photo challenge is ‘Perspective’.

Here are some photos I took in Northern Arizona a few years ago that should fit.

Here’s a typical scene for the area, with a focus on the horizon.


Same spot, but with a focus on the sky.


The next set are from a hike we went on a few miles away.  While it looks lush, it was a very hot day.  The first shot takes in th entire scene, with the focus on the canyon and river.  I suppose my idea was to lead the viewer from the river, to the boulder, down the river into the canyon.


In the next one, I placed the camera a little bit closer to the ground to get a better view of the boulder.


The last one we look a little lower and see how I got to this spot and maybe realize how hot a day it was.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned

This week’s photo challenge is “Abandoned”, so here are a few photos of abandoned things we’ve found in our travels around New England.

On older farms you’re most likely going to find an old abandoned tractor.  Or maybe it’ll get fixed once the parts arrive at the store.


If you look around in the forest long enough, you will also most likely find old stone walls.  Evidence of how the land was formerly used as a farm years ago.


In the forest, you’ll also find empty nests is you look closely.   Looks like Mr. C has found an old woodpecker nest!


This year’s vegetable garden

Mr. C started his own vegetable garden this weekend. He’s very excited to see what will happen with the seeds he planted. He planted the seeds in small starter pots with Ms. J, while I was off doing yet another home improvement project. So I don’t have a lot of detail on how they did it. Last year the only thing we were able to plant were some basil seeds. Once basil starts, it grows like a weed, so we had some home-made pesto meals in the Fall. Pesto is one of those things that are very expensive when you but it in the supermarket but turn out to be kind of easy to make at home. So instead of paying something like $6 a jar for one meal’s worth of pesto, we had about six pesto meals for about $2.

This year he planted basil, three types of tomatoes, Swiss chard, oregano, and dill. (Can you tell that I’m Italian from the selection of seeds?). He’s checking the seed tray every hour or so to see if any of the seeds are growing yet. I have no idea where we will put all of these plants in the backyard yet, but it’ll be fun for him to watch them grow.

I’ve never really been able to follow through on keeping track of a project like this for the blog, but here’s the first photo. It just looks like some dirt so far.


More Snow

Here in Southern New Hampshire, we were hit with another snow storm today.  Looks like we got about 12 to 14 inches of new snow.

So to add some color to the gray February days, here are some photos from last year’s garden.

OK most are not actually from my garden, except for the two photos at the top!

There’s just 41 days until Spring !