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Public Blog

Here's some writing that anyone can see, though few will stumble on it and those who do are, I guess, unlikely to be moved to tell anyone else!

But anyway, I will write here occasionally knowing that its different from my diary, and someone might see it.

Marlborough & Being 51

I grew up in this place, from 4 to 18 or 20. My mother lived here almost her whole life, just missing a piece for ten or twelve years involving college, a husband, and soon kids. She came back here with her kids but without the husband, and we got to live near our grandparents back in the nest.

When Mom died she wanted us to keep this place, but we're like most families, scattered around the corners of a big country, with lives pointing all over the place but mostly not pointing here. I stayed because I'm the one closest, and here I am at 51 thinking I'm kind of a curator for a place we all shared and all have memories of and expectations of. I don't want it to be like that: hope our families will use this place for a long time and we'll be able to pay for it by sharing it some of the time with others. We'll see.

Tonight it rained a little and things are dripping off as I sit on the porch and smell the red sauce cooking in the kitchen. Mom's sharecropper (that's what she teasingly called the man who uses some space here to grow vegetables) hasn't been picking fast enough and I have a lot a plump red things to fry.

-- BenDugan - 01 Aug 2014

Brain Health

When my brain is healthy I can focus it on things, or it can rest. It shouldn't run all around on its own; it should do what I tell it to! So I am different from my brain, I guess. There's a me that is manager of my brain. If I get tired, I can't run it right. Or is it harder to manage when IT gets tired?

Then when its very very tired there's also nothing going on in it, and at those times its probably the manager that's the problem.

So I guess there's a sweet spot. It needs water & sun but not too much.

This is actually kind of interesting: if we imagine a "me" and a "brain", what makes them run well and what makes them run badly? Thinking about one or the other being tired is one aspect of it, but what else makes it work or not work?

-- BenDugan - 02 Aug 2014

Managing my brain seems to be a challenge these days, as it was two years ago when I wrote that last entry. Today I'm high up in a wonderful apartment in Copenhagen, resisting any urges to go exploring and just feeling some sort of recovery happening, though from what I couldn't say.

How many people get to create their world as much as I have? I am very lucky in this way, but cursed, too: I've made it too complex, it has too many arms and legs. How many people, at 53, feel like they are surrounded by problems they're supposed to solve, can't, and can't get any real help with?

The house I live in feels like it is falling down around me. It needs attention: it is too little loved and cared for. And my work is held together with my own technical abilities, ebbing and fading but occasionally gathering for one day here or there.

-- BenDugan - 04 Jul 2016

Poems I want to reread

Not favorites, not recommendations. Just ones that I want to re-read.

-- BenDugan - 03 Dec 2016

-- BenDugan - 17 Dec 2016

-- BenDugan - 23 Jan 2017

-- BenDugan - 01 Feb 2017

-- BenDugan - 15 Feb 2017

-- BenDugan - 20 Feb 2017

"The mind makes its daily pilgrimage Through riff-raff moments."

-- BenDugan - 28 Feb 2017

"What is the body? Rain on a window,"

-- BenDugan - 24 Apr 2017

-- BenDugan - 30 May 2017


A word my mother used often was "maddening", and I miss hearing it from her. She said it with lightness to diminish the power of the cause so, for instance, if she were alive today I think she'd say Donald Trump is maddening, meaning both that he makes her mad and also that he is kind of silly or trivial. That usage was so reassuring! It also meant "mad" as something between anger and insanity, implying that our being maddened was always a little bit our own fault, because our sanity should be robust against assaults of this kind.

My reaction to Donald Trump comes more from my gut than my head but, now that he will apparently not be disappearing quickly, it is time to find ways to articulate my view of him better.

He is unfit to be President for many reasons.

First, he is psychologically, emotionally, and mentally crippled: his craving for attention and adoration drives all his decision making. I think it's what gives him the powerful instincts that he shows when he drums up the fury in a crowd, which I saw in HIgh School from some particularly needy bullies.

Second, he is outspokenly bigoted and biased, and played on these weaknesses in others to get elected.

Third, he has no experience in government.

Fourth, his business experience is murky but seems not not to have been terribly successful, and based largely on cheating of one kind of another.

Fifth, he now has vast conflicts of interest between his business and public roles.

Sixth, he probably involved Russia in the election.

Seventh, he is defiantly thoughtless in a way that disrespects the importance of the office of President and, by implication, the whole country.

-- BenDugan - 22 Dec 2016

President Grab 'Em by the P*&^y

The little things that can wake me in the night -- a car door slamming, or maybe some gastrointestinal acrobatics -- make me run through a groggy checklist: Is everything ok? What did I just hear? Do I need to go to the bathroom? These days, I get tripped up on the first one when I think "Our President is a disaster." This is just a gloom that covers everything, not only because of his particular awfulness, but more because his being there is a reflection of our country. Roughly half of the people who voted voted for him, which seems inexcusable.

Last night when I woke with this thought, I lay there wondering what really went on the mind of most of those voters. I know some of those people and grew up around many who may have voted for him. When I went to live in the city, this was a choice that didn't make sense to (about half of?) the people I grew up with. To them, the city is a place full of gay people, black people, Mexicans, criminals, abortion clinics, lawlessness, and all kinds of debauchery and self indulgence. To me it looked like a lively place with lots of different kinds of people and businesses, and more real opportunities to grow and to have a career. That did take some imagination because Philadelphia in the 1980's was struggling in many ways, but it still looked very obvious to me. It was the choice between a buffet of food from around the world, or a bowl of oatmeal and some white bread. I don't say that as a rejection of where I grew up, which is a place I will always love.

This difference in outlook has always bugged me, and I've always wondered how all of us growing up together to come to such contrary outlooks and predispositions. Early on, in school, I remember thinking that there were a good sized bunch of kids that were not doing what they should be doing. Some were getting in trouble, which I kind of admired. But others were just floating along, not being bad but not doing any work either. There were a lot of those. I thought "What are you going to do when school ends?" What is your plan? Farming seemed to be wrapping up in Chester County. Some kids had a family store they could head to, or some kind of work along the lines of their parents. I think I was wondering about this when I was only 10 or so, which is probably a sign of some sort or problem on my part, maybe because my father was not in the picture.

The thing is: this divide grew kind of huge over time, and took on religious and culture-war dimensions. The kids I could play kickball with in 3rd grade on now on the other side of a big canyon, and we're looking angrily at each other through binoculars. Those for whom things have not gone very well are really ticked off when they read about city people creating bathrooms for new-sounding genders, or when Police get criticized for shooting people; they wonder why those people are getting so much help and so much attention when they need help and attention too. But I do know them just enough to know that they don't think they need help, or they won't ask for any; mostly they just don't want other people to get advantages (through government) that they don't get.

This must sound patronizing. I'd rather find a compassionate way to understand this.

-- BenDugan - 27 Jan 2017


Are we headed for a world of left and right commerce, where we pick toilet paper and laundry detergent based on politics? Does this make sense to do? How serious is my embrace of diversity if I stop buying my beloved Chesterfield Ale because of who the company president voted for to run our country? Maybe stores will start branding themselves with red or blue logos and facades.

I read a very good piece the other day on the way the internet is making us rush to conclusions in our thinking and in what we say to each other. This really is a problem for everyone politically: we are supposed to be able to be pundits at all times. Doubt, self-doubt, and skepticism are in short supply.

In myself I'm aware of strong political instincts, insufficiently backed up with real knowledge and ready words. There's an awful lot I don't know and I'm not able to convincingly explain my positions, though I feel they are sound. So maybe they're not.

The party in power isn't going to step back and reflect, so this is only an appeal to the rest of us, and to people on the sidelines.

-- BenDugan - 28 Jan 2017


I've loved drinking beer since about age 17, when I got to live in Cambridge, England for about six months, and saw the great power it had to bring people together and open them up in the warm and lively pub atmosphere. I didn't think that through, I just went along with it. And for the 37 years since then beer has been a companion of sorts which I'd have to say has mostly been a positive thing. Hundreds of nights were made magical in part by the loosening up that it brought. But I am changing now. Last December I took a month off from drinking, to be sure that I could and to see what my mind felt like in its more ordinary natural state. Over that month of holidays the first effect was to simplify social events by taking one constant tug away. It surprised me how much time I seem to spend "managing" whatever I'm drinking, or how distracted that effort makes me. The material getting of the drink at a party feels a lot like looking for paper towels at a Walmart or something, when you stop doing it for a while. It steals more time than you think.

Then there was also a slight shift in my mind that I really value: it became more focused and more directable. I had work things and projects going on that I was able to dig in to just slightly better, and a few emotional things got into better perspective. This was subtle, and I was a biased observer watching for it, so consider this anecdotal.

This is mostly about the change from a 17 year old to a 54 year old: at 17 I had a little too much brain at times, and alcohol helped me cool it off and be more human. But at 54 I enjoy my mind more and find comfort in it, and it doesn't get in the way of social things the way it did.

Taking that month off was great and I am drinking less now on average and having more night"daily pilgramage s when I don't drink at all. But I also know that I'm not enslaved by alcohol: it was easy to stop. And there are still times when it works the Fort St George magic and creates warmth and direct human contact.

-- BenDugan - 14 Feb 2017


In February gloomy and un-fun things seem to happen more often than in the other months. Some years it takes a week or two before Jeni points out "It's February". But it can happen on 2/1 too.

I notice that I've been eating tons of sweets and feeling needy in that way and I guess in others, too. I'm going for a run this morning and that will help. Some neediness comes from too much comfort and from not doing enough, and that's where I think I am right now. It's a February kind of thing.

-- BenDugan - 23 Feb 2017
Topic revision: r17 - 30 May 2017, BenDugan
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