The 2-meter ham band is a depraved and lawless slag heap of old

I grew up as the internet grew up. And so, I grew up in chatrooms. I was there for the glory years of Yahoo! Chats, AOL IM, and even the Boston.com HTML-based chat that required you to hit “Refresh” to keep up with the conversation. They were debauched and freewheeling days, when everyone was no one and your parents didn’t want you “doing e-mail.” The late 20th Century. Your beloved 1990s. In that brave time bridging the sepia-toned stick-and-hoop epoch of The Old Days and today’s morass of hollow, befiltered self-made superstars and truth having no meaning, before comments sections, before the Ice Bucket Challenge and the Harlem Shake, before Instagram and YouTube and your grandmother getting on Facebook, chatrooms were where Reagan babies came into our own.

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My Mother Road

Sarah and I were charged with retrieving a brand new 4×4 Sprinter van from Mercedes-Benz of Temecula and delivering it to my brother-in-law in Cedar City, Utah, equidistant between the Benz dealer and Jeffie and Kevin’s mountain home in Old Snowmass, Colorado. I drove the Sprinter and Sarah followed in Vanna White. After we dropped the tall Brotwagen off to an eager Kevin in the Beehive State, we got in Vanna and wandered south into Zion National Park. It was there I found my white whale.

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On the significance of a gone dead Ampeg and the Old Vineyard Way

“But then the fire in my boiler up and quit before I came/there ain’t no empty cellar/need a gone dead train.” –R. S. Newman, 1970

Long before I could drive, or really even play, I fell into a collection of instruments that would make the Silver Lake $100-undercut mavens of vintage skip a collective heartbeat. I was given more cool gear before I was 12 than I would be able to afford until I was in my 30s. Such was the benefit of living among the cabal of doting Vineyard hippies with leaky barns and mildewed basements full of things that hadn’t seen the light of day since Nixon.

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The Blowout Sail, or: A tale of the greatest race on Earth

Originally written in spring 2005, Milan, Italy. Revised October 2019.

I’m sure there are many civil, gentlemanly model boat races on calm inland waters throughout America. Chrysler-driving old men and cornflake-fed children in Polo shirts gather on a lichened pine dock to launch factory-painted balsa sloops and ketches, tending them with sticks and perhaps a radio controller. At the drop of a flag, the craft totter and slurp through the wavelets to a pink mooring ball, arriving in a tidy flotilla of white nylon sails and politely wagging telltales. Golf claps and spilled lemonade are the only action from the sidelines.

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A man, a van, a canyon, Malibu: The mad midnight technical trial of a Transit Connect

The evergreen pursuit of overland speed leads folks to the expected places. Stingrays, Shelbys, a rainbow of subprime-financed and mileage-limited leased German sedans for the temporarily embarrassed millionaires. But some of us have things to do. I can’t carry hundreds of pounds of electric organs, speaker cabinets, and their attendant toolboxes and accessories in a Challenger—ignoring that I gigged on a bicycle and a Harley Sportster for years. You make do with what you have, after all. But an increase in live rig size meant a commensurate increase in road rig size. I also like to enjoy myself while driving. That’s why I keep around a Ford Transit Connect van.

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All Ages Record takes dose of high art, Tall Leslie makes recorded debut, also please stop sharing that “the bee is declared the most important creature” article

Last week, my old friend and Boston’s hardest-working soprano Shannon Rose McAuliffe JetBlew into Tinseltown to lend her trained larynx to the digital wax of the All Ages Record (still as yet unnamed). Since the rest of the album will be performed by a bunch of “far out” ne’er-do-well rock and rollers on the hep “mod scene,” having a true classical musician on board adds a whole different dimension to the project that I could only otherwise dream of. It’s been a long time since I crapped out a Bach Invention at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. On one track, her voice serves as the counterpoint to that of coquettish crooner and known oaf Sean George, whom I’ve been writing and performing music with since before iPods.* His barrel-chested bellow contrasted with her lilting melisma is just a delight, if I do say. This record will have everything: insistent groove, cerebral weirdness, electric disco, folky-dolky sensibility, operatic moments, tender balladry.

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On the gluttonous maw of Martha’s Vineyard roads

My folks, of the hippie stardust that landed on the deer-ticked dunes of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1960s and 70s, have lived down the same driveway in Aquinnah for the entirety of their five decades there. Locust Lane was a notoriously treacherous gash of gravel and sand that crept through the forest towards Pancake Hollow that down the years had swallowed buggies, pickups, and UPS trucks whole. Its prominent center hump, steep grades, loose stones, and tendency to flood which turned it into a bayou in summer and a solid glacier in winter meant it was only reliably passable by high-set 4×4, Subaru, or toboggan. All others were at their own peril. They always said it kept the Jehovah’s Witnesses away if nothing else.

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The tragedy of the old organ, or: My well-intentioned waltz into abject gooberdom

I’m not on the same level as some of the true nutcases, staked out in grayed huts up the far Rural Routes of Minnesota or another Jello salad state. They laze about the internet, their forum signatures sagging under the weight of the dusty Orpheus Leslies and melted Hammond L-102s and forgotten Ensoniq this-and-thats that have drifted across their transoms over the past several eons. These are the real goobers. The junkies, the aficionados. The men who drive the same supercharged Buick Park Avenues they bought new in 1995, who also have barns full of IH Travelalls, Wisconsin skid-steer engines and AM broadcast transmitters from before the War. The American Pickers-type folks. I have always wanted to be this type of person, even though space, finance and good sense conspire against it.

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A treatise from within the clouds: Aboard Cape Air

From an October 2016 Facebook post

Flying Cape Air is, against its mainstream adversaries or, shudder, the bus, a rare treat. A treat, though, for refined tastes. Single-malt, small-batch, all that nonsense. In an era when even a modern jetliner can seem outdated, a piston-powered plane with only one pilot and where your weight dictates your seat is positively Rococo. A Brough-Superior versus a Kawasaki. Rudolph Valentino versus James Franco.

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Make America Super Again

Folks get the wrong idea about me. Because my online dating profiles usually contained the 1968 Kinks lyric “I’m the last of the good old-fashioned steam-powered trains,” and I tend to surround myself with machinery old enough to collect Social Security, and I pronounce “#” as “pound,” I must be a certifiable codger, a stone-assed Conservative, bemoaning the curse of being born in le wrong generation, who would tell children to vacate his tract of grass-covered land if children had any desire to trespass upon a yard full of squirrel-nibbled oranges and stray cats.

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