February 24, 2018

Side Effects

Side Effects 
By John R. Greenwood 

The climate of our society has given me the same side effects that would accompany a prolonged migraine. A migraine can last as long as 72 hours if untreated. 

During a migraine you may experience:

Pain on one side or both sides of your head
Pain that feels like throbbing or pulsing
Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
Nausea and vomiting
Blurred vison 
Lightheadedness; sometimes followed by fainting

Before a migraine even starts you may have vision loss, difficulty speaking, or uncontrollable tremors. Even once the migraine subsides you may feel drained and washed out. During a 24 hour period post-migraine you may also experience confusion, moodiness, and dizziness. 

The side effects above may also be caused by watching a present day newscast. I know in my case in addition to the news and social media, even overhearing a conversation at my local convenience store may likely result in all of the side effects associated with a migraine. 

With that pleasant thought in mind I thought I would find a way to vent my frustration, anxiety, and fear of the current state of affairs in a semi-silent format such as photographs and poetry. Here is my alternative to running into the streets screaming. 

What's Next?
by John R. Greenwood 

If only we knew what was around the corner
Where did all that hope that once lined my street go?
I thought things would be different by now
Did we take a wrong turn?
Someone poured cement and we stepped in
now we're stuck swaying from the ankles up
unable to run away
maybe we should have saved time
and dove in head first

 Frozen In Silence 
by John R. Greenwood

silent behind the glass
a shattering sound

clearly visible
causes my mind 

to race 
back in time

shots fired 

Angry Men
by John R. Greenwood

Angry men still exist
they blame everyone else
never pausing to glance in the mirror
Anger kills
from the inside out
look closer men
before your hearts rot away

Left Behind
by John R. Greenwood

No words needed

February 21, 2018

The Art Of Being Happy (Bottle #7)

The Art Of Being Happy (Bottle #7)
By John R. Greenwood

I’m sick and tired of being happy. It’s getting harder and harder to find optimistic friends to play with. Everyone is too busy running around hating on each other. Because my job and my life take place on the double yellow line between the right and left lanes I’ll refrain from making this a political commentary. I will say my glass was a lot more full two years ago. Lately I feel every time my glass gets near the top someone comes along and kicks it over. 

I’ve spent my life extracting happiness from every common moment I could wring from life’s dishtowel; from that new car smell to my morning’s first sip of coffee. It’s been sixty-two years and counting, collecting bits and pieces of happiness. My greatest joy today will come from out of the blue. It might be a pure and genuine thank you from an appreciative coworker or stranger. It could come in the form of a Labrador’s wagging tail or a grandson’s infectious giggle. It might even come in the last 30 seconds of an otherwise heart wrenching newscast. 

Like a fish-less bobber I keep popping to the surface hoping things get better. If you’d told me back in the 60’s and 70’s that this country would be struggling with color, gender, and abuse in 2018 at the level we are now I would have laughed you off the street. I would have hoped by now our brains and our neighbors would have found a way to level the playing field so we could all take a shot at the net. I was sadly mistaken, but I’m not giving up. I’ll keep doing my part, spreading my optimism and handshakes wherever I go. I’m not a quitter. 

Oh, I almost forgot, there’s a town hall gun debate coming on in a couple of hours. Let’s see if I can extract anything out of that—he said smiling. 

Bottle release update: No feedback on anything I’ve placed back in the wild yet. Here’s a couple pictures with some hints of where the latest two bottles were set free. 

"Be The Reason"
Hint: You'd be able to get more "Information" if they were open right now...

I thought you'd enjoy this amazing coincidence. My wife had not yet read the piece on Bottle #5. I shared the story and photo with her after I'd already posted it. When she got a chance to read it she sent me this photo of her desk at work. You must believe me when I tell you neither one of us had discussed this quote at any time before I wrote the piece or set the bottle free. It did send a warm-chill up my spine.  

  At My Age Bottle #6
This just seemed like a happy place to be set free...

Bottle #7 “The Art Of Being Happy” will be out there roaming the world by the time you read this latest piece. 

Happy Hunting


February 18, 2018

At My Age (Bottle #6)

At My Age (Bottle #6)
By John R. Greenwood

“At my age flowers scare me,” is a great quote by one of the greats, George Burns. George has been gone awhile now and it’s sad to say but I’ll bet there’s only a handful of people I work with who even remember George in “Oh God”. There’s only a few more that even remember John Denver. It’s funny to think about that movie being at the end of George’s career. There's no more than a pinch of readers here who would even know about George and Gracie so I won't even go there. Even though George Burns and Gracie Allen were ahead of my time, there was still enough remnants left when I was growing up for me to have a deep affinity for them both.  

I thought George’s line would generate a smile or two. I smile out loud thinking about some kid in his thirties trying to figure out what it even means. What it says to me now is—you might just as well laugh about old age because it’s rolling toward you so fast you wouldn’t be able to jump out of the way if your tried. George Burns was born in NYC in 1896 and lived to be 100yrs old. He kept us laughing until the end. If you’re reading this and you’ve never heard of George Burns Google him, and watch a few clips. 

Here's one:I don't do miracles

George handled age like whisking lint off a sweater sleeve. I’m doing my best to follow his lead. 


To date I haven’t gotten any feedback from any bottle catchers other than my friend Diane who graciously did a catch and release (Please don't say anything, but I made her a special replacement bottle). The interest seems to have collected some momentum. To all of you who have been kind enough to follow along, I thank you. I have to admit it’s been fun thinking about where these bottles are ending up? I may never know. I have plenty of bottles to keep me going and if necessary I just might start sending a random olive or pickle jar out for adoption. Whatever happens it’s a little distraction from the madness of the news. I don’t turn things off completely but I do adjust the floodgate according to my tolerance level on any given day. I feel I’ve earned the right to call it a day when the nastiness of the world around me becomes too much to handle. 

Play Nice...


“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.” —George Burns

“It only takes one drink to get me drunk.                                                                             The trouble is, I can’t remember if it’s the thirteenth or fourteenth.” —George Burns 

February 16, 2018

Be The Reason (Bottle #5)

Be The Reason (Bottle #5)
By John R. Greenwood

Yesterday I was in the passenger seat of a Freightliner making deliveries with one of my drivers. We were on State St. in Schenectady. If you’ve traveled it you know it can get a little crazy in the morning. We were within sight of our destination when we both noticed the stopped minivan ahead of us. The rear hatch had popped open and left a mountain of newspaper bundles covering the road. It looked like a dump truck spreading a load of gravel. The bundles were scattered far and wide. The gentleman driving had jumped out and was desperately trying to save his lost cargo. Cars were honking and swerving all around the poor man and his unexpected catastrophe. My driver stopped well back but that didn't keep cars from blasting by us and the scattered cargo. I jumped out and I told him to go to the store we were delivering to, a hundred yards away. I began scooping up newspaper bundles like a mother scooping up a runaway toddler. I placed them in neat stacks on the curb as the unfortunate, grey haired newspaper boy began reloading his squatting minivan. When I had all the papers stacked neatly on the edge of the busy street I ran over to our truck and I grabbed a handcart. I began wheeling the stacks over to the other panting grandpa. In the end we safely rescued every escaped newspaper. 

There in the middle of a chaotic Electric City thoroughfare stood two out-of-breath men of advanced years smiling from ear to ear at each other. With no words necessary we simultaneously reached out and shook hands. It was simple gesture that stuck with me for the entire day. I knew, he knew, that it was times like that, that we feel blessed by the kindness of strangers. In those moments, no credit card or bulging wallet can recreate two old men having their own little Hallmark moment. One of those moments when you feel there's still a glimmer of hope in the world. He didn’t need to express any gratitude, I was way ahead of him. I was reveling in the silent handshake of a random act, a random slice of life as it happens. 

With that thought safely packed away, I went home and quickly placed this simple quote on Bottle #5 and released it in Saratoga Springs early the next morning. I didn’t dare wait another minute. Have you watched the news lately? 

Don’t give up.

Don't give in.  

Be the reason someone smiles today...


February 11, 2018

Unexpected Message

Unexpected Message 
By John R. Greenwood

My phone plinged with that Instant Message pling last night after dinner. It was “Merganser's Crossing’s” Diane Fiore. Diane and I became friends when we were both invited to become members of Jon Katz’s original Hubbard Hall Writing Group back in 2012. Diane had been following my “Bottle Project” as she called it, and had messaged me a fun little story. When I asked if she minded if I share it, she never hesitated. 

She had just read my piece on the release of Bottle #4. At the top of that piece I included a semi-detectable photo of where the bottle was left. Diane is from Clifton Park and although she was familiar with Congress Park she said she’d never actually visited it. She thought she recognized the park as the place I’d left Bottle #4. She had some errands in the area so she decided to see if there was a chance she might be able locate the bottle. She said she found a parking spot on Broadway and headed into the park on her bottle expedition. Because this was her first visit to Congress Park it took a little exploring to get her bearings from the photograph. It wasn’t long before she caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of her eye. Sure enough the bottle was still where I’d abandoned it. She compared the discovery to finding the $350,000.00 under the big “W” in “It's A Mad,Mad,Mad,Mad World.” She now admittedly had a dilemma. Should she keep her new found treasure or leave it for another person to find? If you knew Diane you would already know the answer. Being a spirit of immense generosity and thoughtfulness the bottle was left as found. She practiced what we call basic bottle-catch-and-release by snapping a picture with her phone and walking away. 

I answered her message and explained that I was worried people might think I’d lost my mind. As expected her reply assured me my crazy “bottle project” was anything but. The ultimate encourager, she called my madness enthralling—which may be a little strong. For me it’s surviving the Winter of 2018. To date there’s four orphaned bottles roaming around out there, all hoping to stir the curiosity of an eagle-eyed dog walker, enthrall the wonder of a dear friend, or entertain the creative side of a senile old man with a snow covered lawn and no kids around to chase away. 

Happy Hunting…


February 10, 2018

Empty Cartridge

Empty Cartridge 
By John R. Greenwood

It’s been a long time since I’ve emptied a pen cartridge. Over the last several years I did most of my writing on my laptop or iPad. When I first started writing I would use a black and white composition book or a regular wire notebook. Because I’d run into a writing dry spell I thought it might help if I went back to pad and pen. I was at BJ’s the other day and saw this Olympic size package of 8.5X11” pads and a twelve pack of Zebra Pens with extra refills. Like a kid going back to school in September I tossed them in the cart and sped off smiling. There’s no better way to get back to business. The new pads and pens did the trick. Slowly but surely I’m getting back in the grove of writing something every couple of days. As much as I’d like to commit to a daily routine I’ve lived with the guy in the mirror long enough to know when the driveway is covered in snow the writing may have to wait another day. This morning as I was hen-scratching my way through another piece my pen went dry. I couldn’t believe I’d actually emptied a pen cartridge. It felt good in a weird kind of way. There may be hope for me yet. I may even get back to inking some new poems. 

In fact:

Empty Cartridge 
By John R. Greenwood

Ink not gunpowder 
firing away at the page
spraying words in rapid succession
leaving stories of hope 
line by line 
refueling the passion of pen to pad
emptying the cartridge 
like a kid with a dry squirt gun
just as the fight was getting fun

Grace Always Bats Last

Grace Always Bats Last (Bottle #4)
By John R. Greenwood

“Grace Always Bats Last,” a quote by Anne Lamott is another favorite of mine. I couldn’t wait to place it on Bottle #4. Once it was on there I had a hard time letting it go. Another quote of Anne’s helped me along, “Grace finds you exactly where you are but it doesn’t leave you where it found you.” So, whatever is pulling me along this crazy little journey seemed to be telling me not to stall on the tracks—keeping chugging along. 

As I ease into my years of ancient wisdom I’ve learned you can absorb a great deal of joy by celebrating others—especially the quiet people who run the edge of the spotlight and live in the shadows of those with loud voices and vacant thought. Grace is a beautiful word all by itself. Place it in the quote on #4 and it says to me that grace will always outlast hate and chest pounding. The toughest people I’ve known were the least visible, the least heard. The ones no one paid any attention to. I guess thats why I’ve always embraced the underdog, the face in the shadow, the Rudy Ruettiger’s of the world. Boisterous is no match for grace. Grace sits and waits patiently for the fast and furious to run out of gas, then she coasts by without a glance. 

When I released, “Grace Always Bats Last” I stood there a minute reflecting on the path my life has taken. I began to think about what I was doing right now. Leaving an old bottle with a simple message and a plastic flower in it, in the middle of a park, in the middle of a city where I made friends and learned lessons too numerous to count. I saw a city reborn and refilled with faces I’d never be able to put a name to. It has been a good ride and I’m not prepared for it to stop. For now I’ll plunk in more quarters and go around a few more times. I’ll do it with purpose and compassion. I’m not weakening with age, I’m gaining strength. I’m not smarter, I’m wiser. I’m packing grace into every corner of my journey. 

It was hard to set #4 free, but if it passes grace along I’ll be happy. 

One last thing. 

As I drove to the place where I planned to release #4, I passed the release point of another bottle. I had to do a double take. To my amazement one of the bottles and it’s message was still sitting there proud and untouched. An adrenaline rush and a big smile filled my morning. 

Let “Grace” guide you… 


February 08, 2018

Release Points

Release Points
By John R. Greenwood

Bottle #1 Release Point
As I prepare to release Bottle #4 back into the wild I thought I should probably provide some evidence that Bottle’s #1,#2, and #3 were actually released, and done so in areas where I hoped they would find a good home. We may never know where they now reside. They might be on display on a kitchen window sill, or a rustic fireplace mantel. They could be on the debris covered floor of someones car or on a cluttered workbench in someones cold garage. They could be on the top floor of one of Saratoga’s spanking new condos or in the living room of someone’s 1800s farmhouse out by the lake. Wherever they are, I’m enjoying running all the scenarios through my head. 

Bottle #2 Release Point
When I first thought of the idea of leaving a message on a bottle I thought I would leave my contact info with them. The more I played with the idea, the more I liked the idea of leaving the connecting to chance. Chance has played a large part in this blog and in my life. I have made countless connections simply by relying on instinct—and a little serendipity. Although I grew up in the 60’s I have to admit I never knew the meaning of that word until I started this blog. Now serendipity seems to seep into every crevice of my life. 

This experiment generates the same excitement as buying a lottery ticket. You know the chances are slim that you’ll wake up rich, yet it's carrying around the thought that theres that ever-so-slight chance it could. The adage, “You gotta be in it, to win it,” holds true with bottle releases. Although it’s a simplistic practice there’s a sense of wonder about it. You think your cell phone will ring at any moment and a message or email will pop up from someone letting you know they have Bottle #1 in their possession and they just wanted to let me know it was safe and sound. Best case scenario—finding it made their day. 

Bottle #3 Release Point

When all is said and done, it’s a fun and harmless way to stay engaged in the world around me. Like fishing for stories on the streets of the city where I was born. Like metal detecting, hoping to unearth a relic inches below the surface. Like throwing out a line with a big fat nightcrawler on the other end. 

Hey, you never know.

Call me crazy. Get in line.


February 06, 2018

Maybe The Best Thing (Bottle #3)

Maybe The Best Thing (Bottle #3)
By John R. Greenwood

Bottle #3 bares the quote, “Maybe The Best Thing Is To Be Used Up Before We Go.” I found that quote in the back of a notebook where I began saving favorite quotes several years ago. I couldn’t confirm the source of that quote and I apologize to its author. I really don’t think they’d be too upset knowing I placed it on an antique bottle to be released into the wild. 

Here’s what those words mean to me. They may have a different affect on you. 

I was in my early fifties when I wrote down that quote. I’m sure it touched a nerve regarding my mortality. As you ease closer and closer toward the other end of the calendar you begin to dissect your life and all its parts. One common theme began to stand out over the last decade. I was happy and content—pleased with the journey. I didn’t need another minute. What I did want was more time to leave a trail. I want to go back and acknowledge those who touched my life along the way. I want more time to look up old friends, relatives, mentors, and neighbors from my past.

Being used up doesn’t mean beaten up, it means leaving as many over-turned stones behind you as possible. Touch as many lives as you can. Spread good thought. Appreciate the simplest moments. 

I won’t be able to share these thoughts with the person who adopts Bottle #3 unless they stumble across this piece on my simple obscure blog somewhere down the road. They will have to draw their own conclusion on the meaning of the words on the side of an abandoned bottle. My hope is that those words initiate a pause in the day. A small moment to reflect on the past and a moment to look forward to the future. It would be interesting beyond words if creator and discoverer were to ever meet. I would love to say, “What did you think it meant?” 

What about you? 

Raining Iguanas

If you missed my previous posts about antique bottles with quotes on them and how I've been randomly releasing them into the wild you may want to go back and catch up. Here are links to Bottle #1 and Bottle #2