The Autumn of the Year, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

As I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to Senior Year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.  At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there.  Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts in our heads.

You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a little more advanced than the others.  I think that stands out to you a little more at seventeen.

The new school brought new friends, new interests and new teachers.  There were subjects and activities the other school lacked.  It also proved to be, as I suspect it did for many of my friends, one of the best years of my life.  Some of those friends and those memories stuck with me over the decades.  I had no idea then I would look back on it as the “best of times.”

When I was twenty-one, it was a very good year…

Four years later, brought a similar situation.  It was time to move on to Senior Year of university and hopefully finish my degree on time (I didn’t).  It did not hold the lasting thrills of 17, but it did seem in a certain way to represent the transition to adulthood.  In reality I was no more adult than at 20 or twenty-two.  It was just a symbolic thing.  The “coming of age” also allows you to drink legally, but that did not mean too much. I was days, weeks or months older than the friends I hung around with so it is not like we all headed off to some bar.  Still, the year seemed to hold a certain energy young adulthood will give you if you let it.

When I was thirty-five, it was a very good year…

I had finally earned my Masters Degree.  It was not about career advancement.  It was about reaching a goal I had set years earlier.  I sometimes studied for the Comprehensive exams with a woman in her 70’s.  She was pretty much doing the same thing, reaching for a past dream.  I could tell her of courses I had and of books I read, and she pushed me to study things I was certain would never be on the exam again.  She was right about the exam questions and perhaps the reason we both marched up to receive our diplomas.

It felt like I had hit my stride at 35, although I can not really point to other reasons why.  If you have good friends, good times, and a reason for doing things, all seems right with the world.  Well, almost all seemed right.  I never found the one right person to share my very good years.  Honestly, I can not say I looked all that hard.  I guess I was having too good of a time.

But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of the year…

One thing that you become acutely aware of as you get older is that the days are short.  They don’t seem to last as long, you don’t seem to get as much done and you certainly don’t feel thirty-five.  You realize, no matter how desperately you try to suppress the thought, that the days are indeed numbered.  Even if you are optimistically believing that there are, let’s say, thirty-five years left, you know none will be like the year you were thirty-five.  With any luck at all some will be very good.

If your life is like a fine wine, there will be many years that were a good vintage.  This wine aficionados will refer to it as a “very good year.”  I seem to still have them.  None are 17 or 21 or 35, nor will they be again.  With any luck at all, I will be able to drink in the rest and enjoy them as if I were sitting in a vineyard in France with one of my best friends while we recall our great adventures together.

And I think of my life as vintage wine
From fine old kegs,
From the brim to the dregs,
It poured sweet and clear.
It was a very good year.

Although many had recorded this song, it won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1966 for Frank Sinatra.

It Was A Very Good Year, by Ervin Drake, 1961, lyrics © SONGWRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA OBO LINDABET MUSIC INC


Sometimes, I decide I need something. Something better than what I already own. Like … for argument’s sake … a new coffee machine.

When we were leaving for vacation two weeks ago, we’d driven a few miles before we realized we hadn’t turned off the coffee machine. It’s a very basic Mr. Coffee. Add coffee, water, push start. A few minutes later, coffee is ready. Maybe not THE best coffee on earth, but pretty good, strong, and it’s stays hot until you turn it off. Manually. By pushing the “off” button. Which is what we had forgotten to do.

To be fair, I thought Garry had turned it off and Garry thought I had turned it off. There was no one at home to call except the dogs and they don’t do coffee. Or electrical appliances. We drove back, turned Mr. Coffee off, made a u-turn and were back on our way.

We’ve gone through a variety of fancy coffee makers. Some came with a thermal carafe. One of them ground the beans, then brewed coffee. We’ve had coffee makers famous for producing exceptional coffee. Or making coffee faster, and/or keeping it hotter.

The grind and brew machine — don’t remember the brand, but it was expensive — was such a pain in the butt to clean, we gave it up after a couple of weeks. I notice it is no longer offered for sale. Another great idea down the tubes. We went back to our basic, dependable Mr. Coffee.

A classy Melitta which had the reputation of making a superior brew failed to impress us. It was okay, but nothing to write home about. A few months after we got it, it developed a leak, flooded the kitchen. I am amazed at how much water 12-cups can seem to be when it is sloshing around the floor. Not to worry. I re-installed Mr. Coffee.

A couple of years ago, Mr. Coffee seemed tired, so we purchases a 12-cup Black and Decker coffee machine. It promised to brew coffee faster while keep it hotter. It did both. Except the coffee was awful. It is the only coffee machine I threw in the trash when it was in fine working order. No one wanted it. I popped over the Wally World and bought a basic 12-cup Mr. Coffee.

After the incident in which both of us forgot to turn off Mr. Coffee, I was inspired to try a different solution. I bought — through Amazon — a lovely 12-cup Cuisinart brewer with a thermal carafe. Guaranteed to keep the coffee hot all day without leaving the electricity on. It arrived yesterday. I immediately unpacked it and made a pot of delicious coffee which, as promised, stayed very hot in for more than 6 hours. I was impressed.

I set it up for this morning. When got to the kitchen, I pushed “on,” but my beautiful new coffee maker just sat there. Silent. None of that comforting hissing, dripping, brewing sound. No wonderful scent of coffee. After 30 seconds, it turned itself off. I reread the directions. On the Microsoft theory (when it doubt, reboot), I unplugged it, counted to 20. Plugged it in again. Turned it on. Waited. Nothing.

My son came upstairs. Read the instructions, then did the same thing with the same results. Nothing. “It’s broken,” he assured me.

As it happened, I had a spare (brand new, still in the box) Mr. Coffee in the closet. I had bought it on sale almost a year ago because I could not contemplate a morning without coffee.

As soon as I can pack it up and get it to UPS,  fancy pants Cuisinart goes back it goes to Amazon. I talked to the rep there and she asked me if I wanted a replacement, but I don’t. Given our track record, I’ll stay with Mr. Coffee. It appears to be the only coffee machine we will ever own which makes good coffee with no fuss. No problems, no complications. Easy to clean, cheap to replace.

Our coffee machine is a basic 12-cup Mr. Coffee.  Accept no substitutes. We just have to remember to it off.


Circuitous Paths – A stranger knocks on your door, asking for directions from your home to the closest gas station (or café, or library. Your pick!). Instead of the fastest and shortest route, give him/her the one involving the most fun detours.

I guess this is someone’s idea of funny. I think it’s cruel and mean-spirited. What in the world is funny about sending a stranger all over the place when he or she is lost? Isn’t being lost bad enough?

Nice people you have up there, WordPress.



Cee’s Black & White Challenge: Reflections and Shadows


The bare branches of the cherry trees make a shadow show against the gray stone. Hard to tell where the branches end and the shadows start. The church is on Main Street in Amherst, Massachusetts.

amherst stone church shadows BW


The water of the Blackstone River formed strange reflections. Abstract though they appear, they are actually distorted reflections of trees along the banks. The pictures were naturally almost black and white, so it took very little to complete the process.



Reverse Shot – What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.

You asked for an early memory. This certainly fits that bill. Funny how I have to come back to life to write this for you, but we all live on, at least in the memories of our children, friends, family.

It was a cold, pre-dawn morning in New York. Marilyn was in her crib. We were still been living in that terrible old house in Freeport because Marilyn was not speaking yet. After she found her words, she never stopped talking … so this had to be early.

I heard her crying. When I came into the room, she was standing there, in her crib. Just looking around at the lights, at the old dresser. There wasn’t much light. No sun is shining at four in the morning and in those days, you didn’t automatically turn on lights when you entered rooms. The legacy of the war, I suppose.

The room was mostly empty except for my little daughter, that old dresser — I think it came from my parents house — and the white, wooden crib. Painted white. Probably with lead-based paint. We were terribly uninformed in 1948.


Marilyn, April 1948

I stood there. Looking at my daughter. She stood there, looking at me. And smiling. I was so tired. The house was cold. The steam wouldn’t be up for hours yet. But she was happy, glad to see me. Too young to worry or be afraid. Life is simple for the very young.

We watched each other. Exhausted mommy, perky baby. After a few minutes standing, holding onto the crib’s railing, she let out a wail. It startled me and I turned on the lights, lifted her from the crib. She cooed a little something. A happy noise. I cooed in answer, a mommy sound with no special meaning. What mattered was I was there and holding her. Easy to make a little one happy.

She stopped crying. Mommy was there. I wrapped us both in blankets, moved the rocking chair in front of the still-dark window. Then, we sat, rocked, and waited for sunrise. And the steam to come up.