Grateful is a feeling that seems to pop into my consciousness on a more consistent basis as I roll into the AARP era in life. Sometimes, I feel as if I was in a plastic bubble tumbling down a hill, memorable life moments in nonstop rewind fashion in vivid Technicolor whirling through my mind. Then everything quiets down and darkness descends. I wonder, am I back in the comfort of the womb? Do I get a mulligan, a do-over and soon will I be rocketed into the world as a whole new person or animal? Would I be male, female, Chinese or a mongoose? Or is it because, oddly enough, my mind becomes much clearer and I see things better in the darkness. Now I’m not going to get all macabre or Stephen King on you, even though it is October in Salem. It’s just that I rarely sleep the night through and my senses seem to be magnified 100 times over while I take in what’s occurring around me. It’s 3am. The fridge seems to hum louder than in the day. Then all of a sudden it stops and now I can hear footsteps on the sidewalk pavement passing by the bedroom window, a mere 5 feet from my Tempur-Pedic pillow, which obviously is another in the long list of wasted expenses in life.
It then dawned on me, good choice of words because I’ve been up since well before daylight hit, that this week many nice things happened to me. No, I didn’t hit the lottery or land an agent who sold my next novel to a bigshot publisher. It’s just I’ve been treated so well by people and I just want to thank them both individually and collectively for taking me in like a stray cat and nourishing me with food, drink and other acts of kindness, so much so, that it makes one want to return the favor via this public forum.
There’s Joe and Cathy, owners of Brodies Seaport which invitingly sits at the entrance to Pickering Wharf. One cannot find better down to Earth or harder working people than those two. Every time my wife and I stop by, they make us feel so special, taking an interest in our lives, sharing their experiences with us, while overseeing their busy restaurant which also has great live music during the weekends. The pet-friendly outside patio is an awesome people-watching perch and the knowledgeable, always alert wait-staff make you want for nothing. I’ve tried everything on the something for everyone menu and have never been disappointed. Ok, I do every now and then, but that’s either because there’s nothing left of my clam plate or steak tips. Who doesn’t like a warm smile, great service, awesome food, and a lively atmosphere? Their daughter, Katie, who tends to the bar like a whirling dervish, always knows what to pour me, like she can read my mood or mind. I’m so fortunate that within a few months of moving to Salem I have found a place that feels so down home.
Another establishment I frequent is the Naumkeag, which is located by the “Bewitched” statue. Again, it’s the people there that make you want to come back. Matt, one of the co-owners, an Ohio native, has that wholesome Midwestern persona which makes you feel so comfortable. Full disclosure, my wife is from Michigan, so I may be a little partial to things. Back to Matt, he has become a true friend. Once he found out that I was a novelist he volunteered to host my 2nd novel “The Knockoff Bag” book release party in November[date to be determined]. Fittingly, the menu at the Naumkeag consists mainly of ‘comfort’ food, and it changes seasonally. The bar seats about 12 which gives it a cozy feel and often I and others in my party find ourselves conversing with everyone else in the bar area which makes for a festive experience. This past Monday, the Phantom Gourmet was filming there and I’m told the segment will air within a couple of months. I, and so many others are pulling for Matt with the hope that his restaurant receives a positive review. I’m giving Matt and his staff a great review, no matter what. It’s a great place–contemporary, nice soundtrack, with a more mature clientele, like myself, that appreciates being treated with class and sincerity. Barry, who mans the bar is a top-notch server and is so entertaining it pains me to leave.
Switching venues away from eating and drinking, I’d like to extend a well-deserved thank you to Amy at Social Focus which is located in downtown Salem. If it wasn’t for Amy and her diligent team my website and blog would still be a far-fetched dream. She coordinated the whole process, which wasn’t an easy task because I am far from savvy when it comes to technology and social media. She answered all my questions, no matter how trivial, with the patience of a saint, made countless suggestions and ensured that the entire process was done in a timely manner. I have received many compliments on my website design and I couldn’t be more satisfied with Social Focus. I highly recommend their services. But the best part of all is that my website is always going to need updating, and every book launch will need a different marketing campaign with Amy ideally providing the optimum strategy for me to reach my vision. So we will continuously stay in touch!
Life is always evolving and I look forward to every day. Balancing the past with the future can get tricky at times as we get older. But we can pine for the days of yore while anticipating the days ahead.There are all forms of relationships-spousal-family-acquaintances-neighbors-work colleagues-business-and friends. Some we have no choice over. But with most we get to choose! It’s Joe, Cathy, Katie, Matt, Barry and Amy, nice people who months ago I didn’t know, that make me earnestly root for the future. And for that, I’m so very grateful!
The Muzzy Meter isn’t 100% accurate but it’s all I have and I don’t feel the need to attach a disclaimer to it. This edition was from the heart. I can’t guarantee future versions will be in the same light. Like I wrote earlier, life changes and so does one’s opinions. For example, I used to love Robert De Niro films, the hard-hitting drama’s, I mean. But once he achieved comedic success in “Midnight Run” his career turned, and not for the better. Except for a recently acclaimed serious supporting role in “Silver Linings Playbook” he’s been in one over-rated comedy after another with each sequel getting worse and worse. It’s like he’s become a caricature of himself. I feel like I’m watching the demise of an American icon. And it’s not like watching a paunchy 42-year-old Willie Mays tripping over himself in centerfield on a grainy highlight[or should I say lowlight] film. This is in High Def right before my eyes. Robert De Niro’s rank on the Muzzy Meter I’m afraid will never get back to it’s lofty level. You knew I couldn’t go through an entire blog without at least one closing rant did you?
It’s been a little over five months since my wife and I have moved to beautiful Salem MA and we have been enjoying it so much that it seems like we have been on vacation the entire time. I must admit, between all scenic Salem has to offer and the warm weather, it has been a struggle trying to decide between staying in the house to write and venturing out to explore. I love to write and reignite the dormant chambers of my littered mind but sometimes it does feel rather reclusive and I fear turning into a hermit of sorts, but not to the Henry David Thoreau extreme. I punch the keyboard one finger at a time and my mind is always so far ahead of my laboring digits that it always seems if I am running uphill with a weight-vest tied on my back. When my tired fingers struggle to hit the space button and I begin to type the same word three times in a row I know it’s time to take a well-deserved break and hit the streets for some air and to reassure myself that I am living in the real world.
A friendly hello to a passersby or two as I stroll around town is usually all it takes to make me feel like a member of society again. It’s when my mission turns into a quest for food or coffee that anxiety begins to set in. For example, it seems that it has become the norm for counter personnel to ask for your name instead of giving you a receipt with a number attached to it. Now, I understand the premise behind the concept. It’s a different warm friendly approach that fosters a sense of community and brotherhood. When your food or drink is ready, someone calls out your name and it’s “supposed” to make you feel good that you’re not being treated like a faceless number or statistic.
But I’m not comfortable giving out my name! To me, it’s a business transaction plain and simple. I’m not overly-shy or introverted, and thankfully I have many cherished personal relationships to get me through life. One can never have enough friends, after all. It’s just I have reservations regarding the sincerity of things. However, I’m in a new community, one I want to be a part of, so I obligingly gave out my name, Paul. That’s when the anxiety began to set in because my nickname is “Muzzy” and I always prefer to be addressed as “Muzzy.” Is this person ever really going to befriend me or not I began to wonder? Will someone else in the café or store [particularly those sitting down with an open laptop] hear my name and have instant access to some intrusive algorithm and deduce that there are 42 Paul’s living in Salem and the next thing you know they’ve obtained all my contact info, my SSN and my bank PIN number! I know there’s a bit of paranoia involved here but if I was given a number none of these thoughts would be astir in my head. At least it’s a number I don’t have to remember like my life depended on it. Between bank accounts, brokerage accounts, Expedia, Amazon, store and travel rewards and all the other online stuff we have to sign on to, we’re inundated with “secret” numbers. Case in point, it has been so long since I entered a post on this blog that I forgot both my ID number and password to open this up!
Anyway, I’m Paul and I brushed off my trepidations and honestly hoped that someday I would feel comfortable enough to use my “Muzzy” moniker and make new friends and/or acquaintances. Over a few weeks, I constantly frequented the same coffee shop, bakery and food emporium like clockwork. The same people waited on me over and over again, asking me my name time after time, even when there was no one in line behind me or any other customer in sight. I found it a bit peculiar and funny that no one remembered my name but in the spirit of community I kept chugging away, making conversation about the weather, how good my last sandwich was, any dialogue so my next visit would seem like a social event rather than a business exchange. Isn’t that what’s really behind the name-calling instead of handing out numbers like in the old days which I find myself pining for more and more? The local mom and pop store/shop owners want to distinguish themselves from the big cold corporate chains so the local consumer feels like they are sharing a warm experience and I get it! But when my coffee or food is ready and when my name “PAUL” is YELLED out I want to cringe because it’s never in a friendly tone and I equate it with my wife nagging me to do some boring chore. And God forbid if I was distracted by an email on my phone or daydreaming about being anywhere but where I am, that they have to shout my name out a second time, only louder with a hint of anger, which makes everyone look at you as you walk up to the counter. “Poor Paul got what he deserved for making me wait longer!” their discerning eyes seem to say. The only “warm” part of the experience is when my blood begins to boil and my embarrassed face turns fire-red!
Growing frustrated, I decided to change things up since I couldn’t be remembered as Paul. I mean, I’d like to think I have a distinct eye-catching look– large “Buddy Holly” glasses attached to a big nose and I usually wear a scally-cap backwards. On my walk to the sandwich shop I plotted my revenge [ok-I admit it was more a desperate effort to get noticed.] I had my contact lenses on and wore no hat. That day, my name was to be “Tony.” Emboldened by the idea, I pranced down the pedestrian walkway like John Travolta gliding on the sidewalk in a scene from “Saturday Night Fever.” As the movie soundtrack played in my mind I created a whole new persona. If anyone dared to ask, I was TONY and I was in town to scope a scene for an upcoming movie, and the sandwich shop would be the perfect spot! Maybe then I’d get their full attention!
I walked into sandwich shop and it was a bit crowded. When I got to the front of the line I ordered a sandwich I’d never had there before, mustard this time instead of mayo. After all, I was a different person. The young lady looked at me and smiled, no longer sporting her usual vapid expression. The moment of truth arrived. “TONY” I confidently stated when prompted for my name trying to sound convincing, mostly to myself. She nodded her head, this time with exaggeration, and I retreated to the back to and anxiously waited for my “new” name to get yelled out.
After a few minutes, the name “Paul” could be heard followed by a chuckle. I looked around for someone else to approach the counter. Another time before, there had been another Paul waiting, and we had almost gotten our respective sandwiches mixed up–something that would unlikely happen if we had been given a number by the way. No one approached! The lady yelled out “Paul” again. Only this time, her tone was friendly and a bit of a tease—like she was saying, “Come out-come out-wherever you are!”
I slowly stuck my head out from behind a shelf full of cookies. She was leaning over the counter with my sandwich bag in her hand motioning with her finger for me to step forward. Her lips were almost puckered! The people in front of me became amused by her over-zealousness. It was like she was re-enacting a romantic scene from some corny chick-flick. I didn’t know what to think, except that I had just gotten exposed as being an imposter, as I crept to the front. She handed me the bag with a wink as if to say “touché”—that she was on to me. Go figure! Did I have to resort to changing my name so she could remember my real name? Or was she playing with my head the whole time? Is the “what’s your name” mandate pounded into these worker’s heads so much that it renders them into spiteful robotic zombies? Could it be they feel just as uncomfortable as I do and their prompted attempt at cordialness falls short because of that? I’m curious what your thoughts are on this topic.
Just one more observation. Again, feel free to express your thoughts. A couple of months ago, right before I was going on a long trip, I was in dire need of a haircut but my regular stylist, Elizabeth, was completely booked for the next few days so I had to make alternative arrangements. I drove around Beverly until I saw a salon with a “walk-in’s welcome” sign. Let me digress, the previous time I had tried to get a haircut as a “walk-in” had been a real head-scratcher. It was in Middleton and the place was empty. The girl chomping on a wad of gum at the front desk told me they accepted “walk-in’s” just as the sign out front had read. Again, there wasn’t a customer in sight and there were two stylists hanging around an empty chair chatting, both wearing so much make-up I felt like I was at the cosmetics counter at Macy’s. I was informed they already had appointments coming shortly and they couldn’t “squeeze” me in for a few hours. They weren’t even apologetic about it which didn’t really bother me, because with vibe I got, I was glad that they couldn’t take me. I tried to feign disappointment as I headed for the exit. The girl at the desk said, almost in a reprimanding way, “Next time, call ahead to see if we can take you. We prefer if our walk-in’s call first.”
It was one of those situations where I felt I needed to get in the last word. So I replied, “Technically, if I called ahead then that would mean I now had an appointment so I would no longer be considered a walk-in. Wouldn’t that then be the case? If so, then you really don’t take “walk-in’s” DO YOU!” It felt so good seeing her blank face!
Anyway, I went into the tiny salon in Beverly and they took me right away. Everyone was very pleasant and the haircut was sufficient enough. When I was paying the bill, the owner asked if I had taken the day off work. When I informed her that I was a budding novelist she became all excited and wanted to know my work and where she could find me online. I gave her my website address and then she asked me for my email address and my birthday A red flag should have popped up but I was too consumed by my fleeting celebrity and without thinking, I complied to all her requests. Did I mention she was pretty?
By the time I got home, I had received an email from the salon asking me to fill out a questionnaire about my experience there. You know, what I liked and where they need to improve-that kind of stuff. Right away, I was taken aback. I mean, it’s a small place. There’s only a few stylists and you can hear every conversation around you. The owner can’t figure out where they need to improve. She can’t determine which stylist brings in the most revenue and which one doesn’t. Guess what, that’s where you need to improve. Why, as a customer, do I have to do your job for you? I have enough pressure on me without getting someone fired because I had stupidly forgotten to make an appointment with my regular stylist in the first place.
It doesn’t end there. You didn’t think it did, did you? Within five weeks, I got a reminder email that it was time to get a haircut. The next week I got the same reminder, and the next, and the next. Now, I can understand the dentist or the doctor sending out a reminder, but a hair salon? Do they think when I look in the mirror and I see my hair touching the Brillo-like hairs sticking out of my ears that I can’t recognize that I need a haircut? Am I an unkempt person who needs to be reminded to bathe daily also? Do they really think they’re doing me a favor? I find it a tad insulting. Their intent, which I understand is to get my repeat business, backfired in my case. Especially when my phone email beeps while I’m driving and I see it’s another annoying message from them. Note to self, I’ve got to unsubscribe to their list if possible before I get my “Happy Birthday” message, which most likely arrive while I’m driving down Route 128. You’ve been a great audience! Please stay in touch, Muzzy.
Another super-storm is about to hit New England and as I sauntered up and down the empty produce and meat aisles inside the local supermarket at 7.30 this morning I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the items in other peoples carts. One guy with a 3 day beard growth and a severe case of bed-head Conan O’Brien would be proud of had a box of cup-cakes and a stick of pepperoni in his hands. But what amused me the most was when he reached for “Shape” magazine at the checkout counter. Another heavily bundled up lady had 3 cases of water and soap in her cart. That was it but yet she had a list in her hand for a few lousy items. And why those items? Was it for bathing purposes?
The supermarket trip set the stage for the day as I sit amidst the dog toys in the den by the warm fireplace watching the news on TV for pure the comedy of it all. On NECN, a remote reporter stood by the highway on 128 to let us know the snow had begun to fall. I guess I needed him to tell me that. Maybe he figured my windows were so dirty I couldn’t see it snowing outside myself. I was surprised NECN didn’t put the ‘EXCLUSIVE’ graphic up. The telecast then switched to MEMA headquarters where an armada of plows and a huge mound of salt was shown. Again, just in case we didn’t remember what a plow looked like due to last years snowless winter. We were warned to stay in starting at noon. It’s 10.25am right now and there is 1/100 of an inch on the ground in Lynnfield as I type.
Pete Bouchard on Ch. 7 just commented how the sky has changed since 6am this morning. Of course it has Pete, it was dark out at 6am. Pretty boy Adam the anchor reminded us to stay in and be safe and stay tuned to Ch. 7 for updates. Updates? What, are they going to break in on the regular scheduled shows to inform us it is still snowing out. Oh, and now we’re being reminded to keep our wireless devices dry. I don’t know about you, but I have always had this urge to throw my $300 iphone in a snow bank. I’d rather have a toe-nail pulled out with pliers than spend time in the Verizon store. Now we’re being told to keep our cell-phones out of the cold and to make sure they’re fully charged in case the power goes out. Again, I would have never thought of that. Thank God for Ch. 7!
Mayor Mennino has a news conference scheduled at 11am. We’re reminded we don’t want to miss that. What they don’t tell us out of sheer PC is that the translator on the screen for the hearing-impaired is really there so everyone can understand the mayor as it’s easier to read sign-language than decipher what he is saying. I’m sure there’s also going to be another warning for people not to throw shoveled snow into the street. Yesterday, he mentioned the city will plant spotters around the city and anyone violating this order will receive a fine. Good luck to the spotters on that front. Would you like to give someone a ticket while they have a shovel in their hand? Realistically, where are people in the North End supposed to place the snow? On the tiny sidewalks?
Nancy Chen from Ch. 7 is out in Worcester with a yardstick. She just measured less than an 1/8 of an inch of snow. I’m not kidding in the least. It’s 10.43, a little more than an hour before the imposed noon deadline to stay put in the house before the world comes to an end! Oh my God, she just showed us on the yardstick where the 2-foot level is. I strained to see if it was tongue-in-cheek, but no, she wasn’t kidding. Again, for the benefit of those folks out there that can’t envision what 2 feet looks like.
Back to NECN. They’re interviewing people living on the water in the South Shore. A woman whose house is literally 20 yards from the water against a tiny seawall is bragging she survived the ‘Blizzard of 78′ and all the other severe storms since and she never moved despite the damage. How would you like to have her homeowner insurance premiuim? But something tells me over the years she has received some form of federal or state aid to rebuild. Why do the rest of us have to subsidize this? So she can watch a whale from her living room once a year? Why doesn’t anyone in the media ask her the question? Because it’s all about Mother Nature today. No time to do any serious investigative reporting today. Besides, all the reporters are outside freezing in the cold.
Back to Ch. 7. Pete Bouchard is informing us we can’t define this storm as an offical blizzard unless there’s 3 straight hours of either 30 or 35 mph winds. And did you know it has to be consecutive hours? I can just imagine the people glued to the TV at midnight to see if we hit the record books on this front! I can hear the champagne corks popping already.
Ch. 5 is reminding us to turn the temperature up on the fridge in case we lose power. And if we do to only open the fridge if it’s necessary so food won’t get bad. I was waiting for them to show us a list of what “necessary” means. But alas, they gave us the benefit of the doubt on that one. Hmmm, I have an idea. There’s 2 feet of snow on the ground. That would make a great place to place persishables. Why didn’t they think of that?
It’s 11.11 am now. Nancy Chen on Ch. 7 just used the analogy the early hours of this storm is charming like the beginning of a romantic relationship. I wonder if she has had issues in the love department as she just mentioned the storm will turn angry and violent later. Perhaps, you should get a restraining order against the storm Nancy. You cannot make this stuff up! Well, it’s 11.15 now. I have to get ready to go out. By 1 pm, a full hour past the stay-put edict, I will have a Mai-Tai in my hand. This is my idea of storm-chasing! If there is one thing certain in this life beside death and taxes, it’s the comforting fact the local Chinese restaurant bar will be open. Also, it’s a cinch some stranded woman will give birth inside of her house too. I wouldn’t bet against that one. Another thing which has become absolutely clear to me is that the media, in their overboard attempt to bombard us dumb folks with the tiniest minutia of info, [ in the name of public safety ] has really proven once and for all we’re a lot smarter than they give us credit for. Remember to bend your knees while shoveling tomorrow!
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Paul Mazzarella and my nickname is “Muzzy.” I come from a long lines of Muzzy’s as my father is also known as “Muzzy” and so is his brother Angelo, which made for much confusion at the dinner table.
I have just completed two novels within the past 8 months and just self-published my debut novel “Promissory Notes.” My official book launch/signing is Wednesday Feb. 20th between 7-9 pm at the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore in Marblehead MA. By all means please stop by if you can make it. My second novel is titled “The Knockoff Bag” I am currently in the laborious process of seeking representation from a literary agent with the fervent hope they can land a book deal with a major publisher. It’s an uphill battle. I’m told the success rate is less than 1%. However, I remain very optimisitic, even as the rejection responses begin to trickle in. If there are no bites, I will enthusiastically self-publish “The Knockoff Bag” by the spring as I feel the book, as well as my creativity, needs an audience sooner than later. I will begin writing my 3rd novel within the next few weeks and I can’t wait!
Enough with the self-promotion. I have decided to begin writing a blog about life in general to expand my audience and share some of my thoughts and experiences. I’d like to believe, perhaps foolishly, that I can add a different perspective, as well as a tiny slice of humor to people’s lives. I welcome any comments. Agree with me, add to what I’m saying, or put me in my place. I’m always trying to learn something! The more of you the merrier! Here goes!
I just can’t help but think that in 15 years I may still be a struggling writer while a washed-up Honey Boo Boo, at age 20 or so, severely diabetic and weighing 250 pounds, will have a best seller out depicting her sad life. Mark my words, there will be a chapter in there about an unidentified male family member who sexually abused her. Of course, if it were to be true that would be atrocious. We live in a sick society. But people make stuff up all the time for personal monetary gain. Let me say it would be suspicious if she ever went down that road.
Look at all the celebrity tell all books out there. The more outrageous they are, the more skeptical eyebrows they raise,the more they’ll sell. What cracks me up is the most scandalous chapters are displayed all over the news when the book first comes out. Then the “author” goes on Katie Couric, let’s say, and rehashes their ordeal. How many times have you seen Katie, feigning sympathy, leaning toward them with her spray-tanned legs crossed oohing and ahhing at their every word. And let’s not get into why 50-something Katie isn’t wearing any nylons while it’s 15 degrees outside. Why buy the book when you already know the juiciest part. It’s not like there is any mystery.
Catherine-Zeta-Jones was on Ellen the other day. She is a beautiful, highly intelligent woman with a great sense of humor. Ellen asked her out of genuine concern how her husband, Michael Douglas, was doing with his cancer battle. It was nice to hear that he has overcome his illness as I am a big fan.The audience clapped loudly and I found myself clapping along with them, as my mom passed away from cancer, and it’s a dreadful disease. But then I got completely turned off. Catherine babbled on about their 25 year age difference and how God was testing them. And then she said the standard line that is all too common with celebrities, “If we could make a difference in one person’s life by them seeing what we went through.” First of all honey, get a grip. People don’t need you and your hubby to shine light in their lives as they struggle to pay medical bills not covered by insurance from doctors most likely with lesser qualifications than the phalanx of doctors your husband had at his disposal. Hmmm, there’s that 25 year age difference. This is shockingly just the beginning Ms. Jones. I wonder what malady Michael will get next that’s plastered all over the news so he can help others struggle with the same affliction. I know my hemorrhoids would feel better if I knew Michael Douglas had them also! (more…)