I moved to Florida in the fall of 1996 to go to college. For a kid who had every inch of his room plastered with ski pictures and whose ultimate dream up until May of that year had been to move out west to become be a ski bum and work for a mountain rescue group, this was a complete one-eighty.

Really I was moving because of a girl, but I needed a valid reason to go if I wanted my parents financial help on this escapade. So, I picked graphic design out of the course catalog for Santa Fe Community College. I’d never taken an art class in my life, but one of the requirements for graphic design was photography and I loved photography. The other classes seemed neat too. 

I’d met the girl that summer at a fancy camp we had both worked at. When camp ended, she went back to Florida and I went to work for an insurance company in Harrisburg. Everything about my current situation was wretched, so with Jimmy Buffett’s lyrics mixed with memories of visiting my maternal grandmother in St. Augustine, and young love in my heart, I packed up my car and pointed it south. 

I found an apartment in a new gated community called Melrose. It had two pools and a workout room. The gates made my mom feel better. I liked the pools. It was a unique set up, in that you rented your own room complete with full bath and deadbolt on the bedroom door and shared the common area with two or three other people. I knew enough about myself then to know I liked it quiet and did not want to be with a ruckus bunch of roommates. I was placed with a 30- something divorce´ from New York.

Gainesville is smack in the middle of the state and the stadium at the University of Florida is called the swamp for a reason. For various reasons the girl and I did not last but Florida was not Vermont which I had left the previous summer swearing never to return, so I continued on. 

For a while it was just David and I in the apartment. Then Tarik moved in. He had previously been a used car salesmen in South Carolina but had moved down to make a new start and to go back to school. He was probably in his late twenties, and he and I got along well; we certainly had more in common than David and I. Next to move in was David’s brother Kyle, who was going to school at the University of Florida but spent more time working at Sears than going to class. 

He and his girlfriend loved the party and club scene and though I joined them at a rave one Halloween where I watched a guy in a wheelchair roll and spin to the beat on a roof top dance floor, we did not hang out all that much. Kyle did bring with him a very large salt water fish tank to which I added a sea horse. It is the closest I have ever come to living near the ocean. 

Shortly after Tarik moved in his ex-girlfriend, a stripper from South Carolina, came down to get a boob job. She brought along their golden retriever who liked to drink beer.

The day after his girlfriend had her implants Tarik called me into his room. There his lady friend sat smiling in all her new boob glory. 

“What do you think?” He asked.

I stood there mouth agape.

“Um, nice,” I said and quickly left the room.

Our upstairs neighbors were just as much of an eclectic mix as our apartment was. This is what you get when you don’t really get to choose your roommates. There were sisters named Jo and Eleanor. Despite Eleanor’s mother-hen tendencies, I got along well with them. There was also a quiet girl named Katie who revealed her true nature one day when the song Little Red Rodeo came on. 

“I hate this song and Rodeos [a type of SUV] because I only see black people driving them.”

I was shocked that someone who seemed so nice and sweet and with whom I got along with so well could spew such illogical hatred. 

Maggie, the fourth one,  was of Cuban decent and had a white-hot hatred for Castro that I had never seen in someone before or since. She also spoke her mind and had no qualms about telling me how selfish I was for “leaving” the child I had fathered in Vermont. I was used to people passing judgment on me, and I decided it was best just not to engage her on this subject. 

In need of some kind of income, I scoured the want ads in the local paper. First I got a job at the Cracker Barrel as a host, but when I arrived for my first shift the manager put me in the dish room. I lasted a day. Next I found a job helping the woman who sold roses to the intoxicated college students at the bars in Gainesville. The job was at this woman’s house and it turned out she wanted glorified house help more than anything. Another kid was also there to help out and had it worse than me. The woman had him washing her clothes, including, he told me in hushed tones, her underwear. I lasted a day at that job too.

Bunk Beds Etc. occupied a store front at the far end of The Oaks Mall which was conveniently just down the road from my apartment. The beds that we sold looked like castles, ships, tree forts, pretty much anything you could think of. They were more indoor play houses with a place for a mattress. We also sold rocking chairs and futons. I was the only in store employee and I would generally pass my time reading my book or people watching. A bunk bed store does not get a lot of traffic. At times a seemingly lonely old man would come in and sit in one of the rockers and talk my ear off. I knew far too much back then to listen to his rambling stories. I bet they were good. 

For some extra money, I would deliver and set up the beds for customers or take things to the “factory” which was located in Ocala. The “factory” was in an abandoned single-story house set among tall trees at the end of a long meandering driveway. The house was dark and the shag carpeting was caked with sawdust and wood chips. The bathroom, where I often put the materials I was delivering, had an exceeding large pink sunken tub. The man running the crew looked more like mob muscle than a carpenter and I wondered, not for the first time, what strange world I had fallen into. 

Next week it gets even stranger. 

Songs I know by Heart


I discovered Jimmy Buffett when I was in my early teens. Our neighbors had a music collection that went far beyond that of my parents’ Jazz and classical music. Buffett’s Songs You Know by Heart was tucked in among the likes of Queen, The Beatles, Edie Brickell and Lou Reed. Pure curiosity drove me to put on this nondescript album, and I’ve been a Parrot Head ever since. As with many songs, it is the words that drew me in. I have friends who only hear the beat of a song, but for me, it is always about the words.

It was on a trip to Florida with my brother when one of his friends, also a Buffett fan, gave me the cassette of Songs You Know by Heart. I kept it hidden in the console of my car when others were in it. I didn’t need any more proof of how uncool I was. But when I was alone, I’d blast it and sing along as I drove the winding roads of Vermont.

I picked up my second album, Fruitcakes, after I fled Vermont to work at a fancy summer camp in Pennsylvania. It is this album that has the song “Quietly Making Noise” on it. When I decided to change the name of my blog from Smart Men Marry Doctors to Quietly Making Noise, I did it as a nod to my Parrot Head ways but also to my dad who loved the idea of quietly making noise so much that he had the words scrolling across his computer as a screen saver. 

Though Fruitcakes is my favorite album I don’t have a favorite song. I simply love too many of them and can sing along to almost all of the ones recorded from the 1970s to 2002. Recently Jimmy came out with an album called Songs You Don’t Know by Heart. I knew them all, and they are some of my favorites.

After the stint at the summer camp, where I met a girl from Florida, I worked for a time at an insurance agency in Harrisburg, PA. The death of my friend that previous spring had thrown my world into turmoil, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I quickly learned that insurance was not it. I had spent time in St. Augustine as a kid visiting my maternal grandmother and between that and the visions Buffett had put into my head I pointed my car south in the fall of 1996–I was chasing dreams that would soon crash into reality and evaporate. I moved to Gainesville, which is a swamp; the coast is hours away. The relationship fell apart after the first semester and I spent the next semester learning how sheltered I had been in my small town in Vermont. Through it all Buffett was my “guide.” I joined the fan club, added to my album collection and looked forward to finding the Coconut Telegraph, the Buffett fan booklet, in my mailbox each month. Why I never packed up and moved to the coast I don’t know. The lines Mother mother ocean I heard you call. Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall. have always pulled at my soul. Unfortunately, I get such horrible motion sickness that despite the fact that I would sell everything to go live on a boat in the islands, it is just not something I could do. There was also the fact that I still had not accomplished my long-held dream of moving west to ski, which was about the only direction I had in those days. I was a lost and scared soul then and for many years to come. 

As my Florida experience became more erratic, all I wanted to do was get home to my friends who understood me. My paternal grandmother would write and ask me when I was going to return to the United States. After three semesters, I beat feet north taking my parrot head dreams and attitude with me. 

I spent the next three years at Colby-Sawyer College in New Hampshire where the rum drinking part of the Parrot Head attitude became my leading operating procedure. The college had a radio station and on Sunday mornings I would load every one of my Buffett CDs into my messenger bag and drag my hung-over self across campus to do a two-hour radio show I called Setting Sail.

Now as the snow continues to pile up outside my office window I often have “Margaritaville Radio” on. It is the sun tan for my frostbite as I sing along to the songs, remembering my younger days when, well warmed by rum on frigid winter nights, I would mount the dive bar karaoke stage and get the bar to sing along to “Margaritaville.” Those days of rum drinking and bar hopping and dreaming of being a ski bum are far behind me. Now I dream of warm weather and beach living. I remember the adventures we’ve taken as a family to tropical shores and dream about the ones yet to come. 

You’re Still Teaching Me


When I was younger, 
I would think
I don’t learn neat things from you 
like my friends from their dads.
I didn’t learn to hunt, ride a snowmobile, or fix a car.
I wondered how you knew about fixing things around the house.
How was I going to remember it all?
Why didn’t you know how to fix a car, or hunt?
How I wished you did.
Years later,
I don’t like to hunt, ride snowmobiles or fix up cars.
I like to build porches,
talk about landscaping,
how to unclog pipes.

You let me to learn from my mistakes,
to find my way,
offering guidance
even when I didn’t listen
(I learned my stubbornness from you too).
I have two boys of my own. 
You’d be eighty-one this year, 
but you’ve been gone for nine.

I miss talking to you.
But you’re still teaching me.






Lines of Understanding

Part 1: Throwing Ink

With two amazing trips planed for 2019, one to Hawaii with my side of the family and one to Alaska with Erin’s side of the family, I concluded that not only did I need to make a travel log, I needed a special book for each trip. I bought two 5×5 Handbook journals with grand visions of combining all of the travel log ideas I’d done before into one amazing book. This would be my best travel log yet. I put so much pressure on myself that the Hawaii book turned out to be the least detailed travel log I’ve done to date, barely filling a quarter of the seventy-five pages. Crestfallen and berating myself for not capturing the trip as I had wanted to, I hastily finished the book before we left for Alaska, vowing to capture this trip as I had wanted to capture Hawaii.  I managed to letter the title page and make one very rough sketch before I let it all go and returned to the words. It was day one of the trip. 

Normally on trips I leave my journal (time capsule) at home, but this time I had brought it along. I put the sketch book aside, and I began to document the trip directly into my time capsule. Soon I was behind on writing daily, but instead of berating myself, I resolved to continue on as best I could and to write down notes throughout the day, as well as a synopsis of the day, in my notebook. Nothing was too mundane, no conversation too short. I wrote not only about the things that we did and saw but the employees that I talked to. I asked them their stories. Instead of collecting brochures, receipts and business cards I simply took notes. It was freeing, and I captured far more about the trip and the people than I ever had before. 

After we returned home I was still catching up on the entries from the trip so I continued to write a synopsis each morning about the previous day, a practice I continue today that has allowed me to be consistent in my journaling. 

Over time I added, to my time capsules, lettering to my entries and at the end of each month a timeline recap. In the spring of 2020 I discovered nature journaling and began taking photos with my phone of the changing world and then using them as reference to sketch directly into my time capsule adding color with colored pencils. I would use the sketchbooks for watercolor sketches that I would then paste into the time capsule.  

My chronicling of life is constantly evolving and I have drawn from many different journaling techniques over the years, pulling out the things that work best for me and ignoring the ones that did not.  I have gone from completely disorganized to over-complicated and still-disorganized to the spot that works best for me and what I am trying to accomplish. I have learned that numbering your pages and labeling everything are two of the most important things I can do to stay organized. I have symbols to put next to entries and a reference system so that I can find an idea in the proper notebook when I want to look something up or write an essay. I use a program called Evernote to keep an idea index of essays, quotes, poems, and many other things as well as a PDF copy of each notebook and time capsule. 

Over the years this process has taught me about myself not only through the words I’ve written but also through the trial and error of finding the proper flow for chronicling life in daily writing. Most important it has helped me to understand what really matters.