How To Train A Rock, Part 2

Our last blog posting on the care and training of rocks drew emails and letters from rock owners anxious to build upon the article’s understandably superficial lessons. Today, we offer targeted advice in response to your questions. dancing rocks

William G. of Hartford, Connecticut writes: “For some time I have observed Sparky, the favorite of my rock collection, frequently disappearing, sometimes for days on end, only to return covered in bruises and what I can only characterize as a smug, satisfied expression. What do you think is happening and, more importantly, what can I do to keep Sparky safe at home?”

William G., it’s my sad duty to suggest that Sparky isn’t actually a rock but a rolling stone. If that proves true there is little you can do other than accept Sparky’s natural inclination to periodically roam the highways and byways whistling Bob Dylan songs at sub-atomic auditory levels. This is perfectly natural behavior on Sparky’s part and nothing you should take personally. Besides, rolling stones deserve the same tolerance the Holy Bible teaches us to extend to all our fellow creatures (except, perhaps, gays, blacks, Asians or undocumented immigrants).

Ethel B. of Hingham, Massachusetts asks: “Is it bad form for me, as a young single woman, to take

my favorite rocks along with me on my dates? I ask because my rock collection clearly acts jealous and resentful when I display interest or affection towards possible suitors.”

Training your rocks should not be a struggle!

Training your rocks should not be a struggle!

Thank goodness you wrote for our advice rather than acting on well-intentioned impulses. Ethel B., DO NOT take your rocks with you on dates. As you’ve already seen, rocks are terribly jealous creatures with so little emotional control they will attack a rival suitor with deadly, gravity-defying intent. If your rock collection is large enough, it is conceivable your suitor’s very life could be at risk. Far better to pretend you are working a second job than to flaunt your active dating life in front of your rock collection. In fact, given that your rocks have already displayed disturbed emotions around this subject, I would strongly advise you not to sleep with them in your own bed. Of course, if there’s one particular rock you find especially attractive . . .

Moving on, Max W. of Clearwater, New Jersey writes to ask: “What is the ideal number of rocks for one’s rock collection? There are times when I think I may have more rocks than I can emotionally care for. As you know, rocks are such needy creatures and once ensconced in your life so very difficult to get free of. Tell me what you think, but please keep in mind I love all my rocks.”

Of course you love your rocks, Max; we wouldn’t suggest otherwise. To answer your question, however, there is no ideal number of rocks for one’s collection. Human beings, like rocks themselves, are all different, with different sets of needs. You might be a two-rock person while I might be a 2000-rock person. Nobody is wrong in this matter. There is no right and wrong when it comes to sharing your life with these stolid, long-term companions.

Lastly, for this week’s “A Rock’s Throw”, a number of you have questioned whether I was being subtly political in writing last week’s “How To Train A Rock.”

Ira R. of New Paltz, New York complains: “I don’t like that you tried to slip a column so overtly political right past me. Fortunately, my 78 year old mother who has asthma and collapsed cheek bones pointed out how similar “A rock” sounds to “Iraq.” How to train a rock. I get it. And thanks, Ma!”

And Shirley S. of Bedford Falls, California, writes: “What the hell was that all about? It wasn’t funny; I didn’t get the jokes; if there was a political message, it flew over my head. Who the hell are you writing this crap for anyway?”

Well, Shirley, you should be able to figure that out.

I write for the rocks.


This was the second in a trilogy of essays detailing “How To Train A Rock,” which coincidentally is also the name of my story and essay collection. To read the first essay in the trilogy, go to here. For more information about “How To Train A Rock,” go to Amazon or my web site.



How To Train A Rock

The first thing one notices about rocks is they are essentially quiet creatures. Adverse to long discourses or extended bouts of conversation, they nevertheless are quite engaged in life.train rock Constantly pondering the deepest and densest of life’s mysteries, thereby distracted to an apparent state of inertia, they are thought to be dull companions and highly unsuited to racquet sports or most other forms of physical activity.

Here at the Stone International Rock Training Institute we have discovered, and proven, I believe, that rocks are far more capable and sentient than we humans generally believe. In fact, it’s the rocks’ very ability to conceal their considerable capabilities from the general population that underscores the scope of their hidden powers.

So, what to expect when you bring home one of these seemingly inanimate creatures as a pet?

Expect love. Lots of love. Pound for pound, there isn’t a more loving, open-hearted creature than a rock, though they can be fickle at times. Until recently it was thought rocks heated up in the sun because of the sun’s rays. After much research, we now know their rising temperatures are psycho-romantic reactions. Rocks tenderly exhibiting warm feelings for their cousin, the Sun. Similar to the way their temperatures will flare-up when they’re with their masters. Unfortunately, such displays of affection often go unnoticed, leading to a deep-seated fear of rejection and humiliation in most mature rocks.

As unfortunate as that may sound, this fear of rejection will prove an important tool in helping you train a rock of your own. A simple example will prove the point.

Let us pretend we are training a rock to keep us company while watching TV in the evenings. Right off, most of us would make the mistake of placing the rock on a nearby chair or perhaps on the TV itself.

Ask yourself, could you watch TV if you were sitting on top of the TV? Of course you couldn’t. And neither could a rock.

As for the chair, it demoralizes the intimacy-starved rock to be placed so far away from you. It derails the very trust and intimacy you were seeking to instill. Far better to place your rock on a nearby coffee table at the beginning of the training cycle. The idea being, of course, to gradually inch the rock closer to you on successive evenings. By tantalizing the trainee rock with your increasing proximity, you enflame its desire for closeness, and will soon find not only a docile rock sitting on your lap, but a companionable one as well.rock drill

The majority of rocks that visit the Stone International Rock Training Institute come here for our “Good Companions” curriculum, which trains rocks for companionable relationships with all types of masters except toddlers, who need to be first trained not to eat rocks or stick them in their playmates’ eyes. We also offer a curriculum focused on “Security” for rocks being channeled into careers as Watchrocks or, possibly, projectiles.

Training a rock requires, well, rocklike patience. Much like human beings, rocks form impressions and psychological patterns in their early years that help shape their entire lives going forward. These impressionable “teen” rocks should be treated with great care and with great tolerance for their periodic mood swings and narcissistic bingeing. Should you discover you’re in possession of a teen rock rather than a mature one, don’t expect to win its trust anytime soon.

Unfortunately, we won’t have time this week to discuss “strays”, the wild, untamable rocks you find scattered most everywhere. Suffice it to say, many of the wild stories one hears about these highly independent rocks are true. They are unstable creatures to say the least. Unfriendly, sharply cunning and not very trustworthy. I would not want a stray rock living in my home, not even with my children fully grown and out of the house.

More about strays later on. For now, I’ll close this week’s “A Rock’s Throw” by inviting you, as always, to send me your questions about rocks and their proper training. Again, I must sternly request you do NOT send me the rocks themselves. And whoever threw that rock through the Institute’s lab window yesterday, I should warn you your rock has already conveyed your vital information to the police who are now on their way.

I forgot to mention, rocks are notoriously disloyal.


With the world growing ever more chaotic and worrisome, I felt the need to share a laugh or two. This essay is the first of a trilogy (humorous I hope) from my collection, “How To Train A Rock.” 

BURY MY HEART AT THE SULLIVAN COURTHOUSE: A Dispatch From The Cambridge Zoning Wars

We started out small in numbers.

That’s how change often begins; first with a few diehard believers who loudly articulate the concerns of those who suffer and fret in silence. Our collective voice was easily ignored in those early days, but eventually, after far too many meetings, forums and protests, our message began to gain traction and resonance.courthouse

And then we had a real battle on our hands.

No longer could the reality of the problem be ignored, no longer could critical thinkers remain disengaged. Not when citizens were growing vocal as well as angry, frustrated by their elected leaders’ seeming inability (or disinclination) to protect and defend this city they swore to serve. Frustrated as well by city roadways growing ever more clogged, city neighborhoods growing ever more alien and congested, and city agencies and a Planning Board growing ever more deaf to the pleas of the city’s residents.

Meanwhile, apologists for the status quo scrambled to defend and protect a system that demonstrably worked against the best interests of those who live in our city, especially those most vulnerable to gentrification. In bursts of media-savvy sound bites they shielded their opposition to anything that might hinder Cambridge’s unbridled runaway development. In almost knee-jerk defensive attacks they accused us of “Nimbyism” and of being “Anti-Development.”

If the history of these struggles is ever recorded, it will be clearly seen that those who fought for more vigilance and planning as we grew our city were more concerned with what happened on our watch than in our backyards!

And now the genie is out of the bottle. 

City councilThis last year our numbers have grown substantially and we have helped elect two new members to the City Council (see front row left, first and second); councilors who share our concerns and who are asking their fellow councilors to re-think their views and votes of the past, and to recast a system put in place to serve a Cambridge that once needed a shot in the arm to grow, but was now in danger of getting seriously ill from an overdose of that same medicine.

After years of living with a system that gave critical development oversight to non-elected entities: city agencies whose mission was to facilitate development and a Planning Board that refused to believe it had the power to say “No!” we are on the cusp of change. Councilor Dennis Carlone has proposed a zoning change that would give the City Council final approval—temporarily, until a new Master Plan can be developed—for all projects 50,000 square feet or larger that require special permit review.

If you care about the future of Cambridge or the future of our neighborhoods, or just believe you have an obligation to leave Cambridge a better city than when you found it, you need to raise your voice and lift your pen. You need to tell the city council to vote for, to accept, and to USE—like a mighty hammer!—the power put in their hands if they enact the Carlone Petition.

You also need to voice your displeasure should they refuse to enact the Carlone Petition and effectively kill THE ONE SINGLE WEAPON the City Council could use to defend us against three mammoth, neighborhood-altering developments.

No matter how much they protest there are better ways to fix the system, or that the Carlone Petition would take up too much valuable council time, creating a polarizing political situation, the simple truth is they have NO OTHER VIABLE OPTIONS before them IF they wish to do their jobs correctly, acting to serve and protect Cambridge’s neighborhoods and its citizens.

So much depends—including the makeup of the next City Council, one might think—on whether they have the wisdom and courage to enact, and take up, the Carlone Petition.

We may have started out small in numbers, but wait till they see how we’ve grown!


If you see this in time, please plan to attend the City Council meeting on Monday, September 8th, 5:30 in the Attles School Committee Room at CRLHS, entrance on Broadway.  

Paul Steven Stone is a founding member of the Cambridge Residents Alliance, which for the last three years has been struggling to raise the alarm about Cambridge’s runaway development, and to give voice to those who fear for the loss of our sense of community, quality of life and diversity of population. To find out more about the Cambridge Residents Alliance, go to:







Bowling Boys Scored For Insider Trading

Dorchester, MA—Being accused of insider trading apparently doesn’t do much for your bowling game. Just ask Sal Papsi and Lenny Michaels, both amateur bowlers, and both recently charged in the federal indictment now known as Bowling Gate.bowlers

Papsi, who ordinarily scores over 225 a game bowled an average 137 per game in last Sunday’s “Massachusetts Bowl-A-Thon and Hot Dog Dinner,” while his co-conspirator and teammate Lenny Michaels was even further off his game.

“It was all those f#@king reporters with their f#@king flash cameras and f#@king questions,” Michaels angrily explained. “I aint racked up a f#@king score in a f#@king tournament like this since I first f#@king peed on my shoes!”

Fresh off the heels of their widely publicized indictment of a group of amateur golfing buddies for insider trading, Federal Prosecutors predicted Bowling Gate would prove once and for all the U.S. government treats all criminals alike, banker or deadbeat, champagne-drinker or beer-guzzler, privileged class or working stooge. Prosecutors indicated they would next be investigating inner city pick up basketball games and a North End bocce league.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Prosecutor’s office said that six men, all of whom are members of the Holes-In-The-Ball-Gang bowling team, conspired to trade inside information and tips concerning the Brunswick Bowling Company. Investigators quoted a subpoenaed email from Mr. Papsi, reputed bowling team leader, as cryptically advising his friends to hurriedly buy up Brunswick stock when he wrote, “You boys better stock up on big blue if you want to score this weekend, know what I mean, wink, wink!”

Reacting angrily to the charges, Papsi declared, “Holy shitake mushrooms, I was telling the guys to buy some egg-sucking Viagra, for heaven’s sakes! We had a damn-blasted three day weekend coming up and most of those flatliners aint good for waking the dead more than one day out of three, if you know what I mean, Jayzuz H. Crisis!”

Further evidence allegedly has Sal, part-owner of Happy Valley Bowling Lanes, criminally informing his Holes-In-The–Ball-Gang about a recent uptick in business at Happy Valley Lanes due to recent shifts in Brunswick’s marketing strategy. Pressed to answer this charge, Papsi said, “Sure, Brunswick was offering two balls for the price of one; called it their two-in-hand program. Mother Mary, it was a really hot deal, so of course I advised my guys to stock up, long as they didn’t already have the balls.”

Prosecutors said the alleged stock information trading ring was led by Papsi and Michaels who were allegedly paid off by the rest of the gang with rounds of drinks, $2 lottery tickets and satin bowling jackets. Lawyers for Papsi and Michaels would offer no further comment until their clients returned from a beer run.

(Note: this is a re-posting of an earlier blog column that was accidentally erased; sorry for any confusion.P.S.S.)

“We tried to break up, but they wouldn’t accept that it was over.”

Dear Abby:

This is very painful to talk about, but I need some guidance. Last Tuesday a group of fellow Cambridge residents and myself tried to break off our relationship with our Planning Board, but they just wouldn’t listen. All evening we kept telling them they no longer held a place in our hearts, and that we felt betrayed by their falling in love with the developers they were supposed to protect us damaged heartfrom. But, alas, nothing we said seemed to penetrate the unfathomable depths of their minds. Our words were like cannonballs that turned into feathers on impact.

We told them we were sorry we had to break up; that we had loved them once and they had done a great job helping us recover from hard times. But hard times were over, speaker after speaker told them bluntly, and now we needed guard dogs to protect us from developers rather than lap dogs to lick their fingers.

Abby, we did our best to be sensitive to their feelings. We told them we still liked them and, rather than take away all their power to cram ugly, dense buildings into our neighborhoods, we were only going to take away projects 50,000 square feet or larger, which would then be subject to City Council approval. It was like saying we would still go out on dates with them, but they could no longer assume they’d be staying the night when the evening was done.

But apparently we were speaking to people who couldn’t understand our language. We would say, “You’ve done everything but roll over and play dead for developers, approving 49 out of 49 projects and never rejecting a single one.” To which they’d reply, “But nobody on the city council is qualified to make these decisions. We have a combined total of over 75 years Planning Board experience.” To which we would answer, “Yes, but you’re using that experience to undermine our quality of life, jam up our roads, and totally change the character and makeup of Cambridge’s uniquely diversified population.” To which they responded, “Yes, and the city council is just not qualified to take on those responsibilities.”

Abby, I wish I could have taken their little heads in my hands and shouted “Listen, folks, it’s over! We don’t love you anymore. We don’t even like you. It’s time we went our separate ways. And, please, take the Community Development Department, the Traffic Department and the City Solicitor with you!”

But it was all to naught, Abby. Not surprisingly they acted as though they would never let us go, voting against the Carlone petition and ignoring our pleas to be freed from this excruciatingly painful relationship.

Please, Abby, tell us what we can do to rescue ourselves and Cambridge from the grip of an overly possessive Planning Board while there’s still a Cambridge worth rescuing?


Growing More Desperate Daily


In case it’s not obvious from the essay, Cambridge is going through a period of runaway development aided and abetted (some of us believe) by a Planning Board seemingly dedicated to protecting the rights of developers, often against the wishes, rights and best interests of Cambridge’s current property owners. The Carlone Petition, initiated by City Councilor Dennis Carlone, seeks to strengthen the city’s vigilance against the approval of egregious large projects at a time when the city is undergoing a process to develop a Master Plan.

Ironically, this was the first petition in recent history the Planning Board firmly rejected. The score is now 49 to 1 and, in case you haven’t noticed, Cambridge is losing.