Monday, October 29, 2012


...Good moring.  How is your week starting?  Hopefully you are safe from the storm.

Where I am it's windy also.  Gusts keep slamming my windows and it feels as if the glass might burst.  That would be an upleasant way to die, being sliced with shards.

...Here's a story I wrote two years ago that appeared in Apocrypha Abstractions:


                                                            Facts about the Moon

He wanted to tell me facts about the moon.   When I didn’t have time, he wrote them down for me on sky blue construction paper using chalk and diagramming solar systems that had once looked familiar but now seemed bizarre, like a picture of one’s self in the distant future when they are saggy-skinned and brown-spotted.

We were young then, my boy and I, though it didn’t feel that way at the time.  Still, now I remember once we ate bananas and stuffed our gums with large chunks of the fruit and something got into me because I made shrieking monkey sounds and scratched my arm pits and hopped all over the couch dancing.  My boy, my boy he laughed so hard he almost choked to death.  When he finally caught his breath, he said, “That would have been a fun way to go,” and I think he meant it.

Tonight when I pulled into our development and saw the long limos and the strapless gowned teens with their wrist corsages and spearmint smiles I wondered what he might have looked like wearing a tux, a rash of acne on his cheek, nervous as all hell but handsome I bet.  She’d have been blonde like Mary, sweet yet sassy, too.  And I would have liked her.

Now I’ve got a drink in my hand and I keep studying my son’s galaxy picture.  There are spindly stars, rockets and oval planets, but the moon dominates.  Luna is a warbled jawbreaker hovering in space, yet drawn with curved edges so that it appears to be spinning right out of its own orbit, its trapped dimension.  I don’t know what any of it means.  I should have asked when I had the chance.

Right as I’m folding the paper up, I notice on the back side something he’s written in pencil at the base, the font a nine year old’s unsteady scrawl.  The lead is faint and smeared.  I hold it up close enough that I can smell the dusty wheat smell.  “Facts about the Moon,” it says.  “Fact One: even when you’re not aware of it, the moon is always there, waiting for you to look up over your head and notice it.”

That’s all it says.

I get up and walk to the window, draw back one of the blinds.  It’s been clear all week but now the night is so stuffed with clouds that nothing else is visible.  I stand like that, looking, waiting for the light to break through, not worried about how long it will take, just waiting.



Friday, October 26, 2012


…I cut my hair.  It’s the shortest it’s been in decades.  Normally I am the shaggy, long-locked type.  A friend told me I had “wacky writer hair.”  Now I have John Ham hair and I don’t necessarily like it.

…Did you know, aside from Christmas, that Halloween is the most commercial holiday we have in terms of consumer spending?  Kind of weird.
For Halloween, Americans spend:
$370 million on costumes for PETS
$1 billion on costumes for kids
$1.2 billion on costumes for adults
1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins are bought

As a kid, Halloween was always my favorite holiday.  Growing up poor, in a large family without snacks or candy available, it was a special kind of enterprise and I’d take a pillow case and run door-to-door collecting as much as I could, then back home, I’d sort the booty by category and ration it out so that it would last as long as possible.

My costumes were always homemade, simple and undeniably non-threatening.  Once I dressed as a female but couldn’t handle the high heels and so I threw them off to expedite my Trick-or-Treating.

Once I was a dishelved pirate.

…I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of friendship and how important friends are.  I’m at a place in my life—a writer who sits in a space all day alone—where subjects such as friendship percolate readily.

It’s hard to live alone, without any connections.  When you get to a certain point, you realize that friendships require effort and so I’m trying to be the best friend I can be, whenever I can.

…I like these things for the weekend:

"A friend is one who sees through you and still enjoys the view." Wilma Askinas

"And I think, that's what we should all leave behind.  Faucets that work.  That don't drip." Alex Pruteanu

”People tend to think of happiness as a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you're fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly." Elizabeth Gilbert

 "A crooked road, a road in which the foot feels acutely the stones beneath it, a road that turns back on itself--this is the road of art." Shkolovsky

"Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Writing is one hard slog, and those who practice it, need all the help we can get." Carol LaChapelle

"I think that's how we leave, signaling our impostors to replace us." Erica Wright

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


…It’s a good morning, a great morning.

I awoke to find my story, “Homebound” was one of only two nominated for The Pushcart Prize at MICROW.  (The piece is below.)

Also, I have a new story, one of my favorites, because I love he narrator’s loyalty and diligence, up at Pure Slush:

                                                                     One Great Love


            She was a constipated mail-order bride who had yet to arrive.  So he sent her emails and texts in her foreign language, sometimes misspelling words.  Eventually, he even reverted to old-fashioned letters.

            After a while, he wondered if she was real.  The advertisement claimed she was and he had had those initial contacts with her.  He’d sent money, too, via his credit card over the internet.

            Afterward she, or the website, kept updating her life.  New photos showed she’d gained a little weight and now had an adorable muffin top.  She wore less jewelry and had cut her hair in a choppy bob.  He adjusted his computer settings so her images could be magnified, yet the closer he looked the less he could tell if she was happy or content.

            His friend told him he was being played, that he’d be best off calling The Better Business Bureau, yet he didn’t want to spoil his chances of meeting her by looking flakey and indecisive.

            Even though the flights sometimes arrived late, he showed up at the airport each Monday an hour early.  He knew many of the TSA agents and, for fear of being thought a terrorist, he was always overly polite while waiting as close to the exit gates as allowed.  One of the uniformed women was nearly a granny and she often greeted him with a sad little pouch of a smile, as if she was disappointed or depressed for him.  But she couldn’t possibly know, could never understand.

            This was the great love of his life.  His father had told him we only get one of those, and his father had demonstrated as much, waiting by his wife’s bedside as she struggled, then withered, then died.

            While driving to the airport, he played mix tapes of songs he thought his future wife would enjoy.  He constantly rehearsed his greeting.  He was going to make a good first impression if it killed him.

            One day she sent a Friend Request through social media and his heart soared.  She was so glad he hadn’t given up on her.  She missed him, too.  Times were very rough in her country and her mother had grown sick.  He told her he knew what that was like.  Be patient, she said, and he told her would, no matter how long.

            Then they started talking on the phone.  For hours they spoke.  As incredible as it was, he fell even more in love with her.

            Their impasse went on for months, years, decades, and still they kept communicating.  On his death bed, a very old man now, he imagined what their life would have been like if they’d ever physically met.  Almost every married couple divorced, often in bitter dispute, and so he realized they’d been spared all that.  Smiling as he passed away, he said her name aloud, said, “I love you,” and whether it was true or not, he believed that somewhere, wherever she was, she heard him.



            We watched it smolder.  Water cannons shot arcs over the remaining flames and the weight of water combined with the charred cinders collapsed the building, sending plumes of smoke across the lot where we once lived.

            Magic, black or otherwise.  Hell opening up from underneath the earth.    Hell, it was, or had been.

            I took Tina’s hand.  It was small as a dog paw.  I said, “It’s okay,” and pressed hard for reassurance.

            I patted my back pocket.  The money I’d taken was a thick wad.  It didn’t make me any less nervous, but it provided spurs of hopefulness.

            We walked in the opposite direction of the commotion, well away from the fire trucks and gawkers.  Our Foster parents wouldn’t be back for several hours unless they’d been called.  The firemen would search for us and find no bones, but it’d be too late anyway.

            Tina and I went through the wooded greenbelt.  Eventually, we came to an abandoned church. 

            The window glass was stained in grape juice and berry colors, gems that made me think of sucking candy.  When you put the pieces together, they made up a medieval woman praying while two angels hovered over her shoulders.

            We went in through the back door, down the hall.  My heart was probably beating as hard as Tina’s, but the place was empty of people.

            Inside the main sanctuary, ceilings reached up sky-high and there were more glass murals of saints and whatnot.

            Tina said we should leave, but I held her hand tight and tugged her until we got right up to the front row where the good seats were.  When I turned, I saw three aisles and quickly counted 36 long, mahogany pews.

            “Sit,” I said.

            Tina did, but she asked a penny for my thoughts.

            I was a big reader because The Fosters wouldn’t let us watch television.  There weren’t many novels around The Foster Home, so I read whatever was handy—the Bible with its contradictions, road maps, an atlas, The Yellow Pages.  One book I’d found was called “Alienation Nation.”  It had this particular passage that got me thinking.  It said something like a house is a building, while a home is a house where love exists among families.  I knew that was true without having to be told, but after I’d read those words, they settled in me like grout between tiles, and quite frankly, they were the reason I started plotting the fire in the first place. 

            Tina asked were we going to live here, in the church.  I said it didn’t matter, didn’t matter where we lived because if she and I stayed together we’d make a fine enough life for ourselves.  I could tell she didn’t believe me.  Her confidence lacked because I let Mr. Foster call her names and punch me around whenever he started scratching himself.

            A selfish urge in me prodded that I explain about arson and what I’d done and how I’d done it.  Everyone wants the gratitude of others, even if it doesn’t make you quite a hero.

            Instead I said, “Let me tell you something you don’t know yet.”

            I went on and on with the story of our lives and the wonderful things that were going to happen. 

            I started it on Christmas day in the far future.  I was a grown man and she a woman with a husband and two great kids.  I described her youngins and the gift exchanges, how the food tasted and how the room smelled like cinnamon and turkey gravy, but when Tina asked for me to detail the house and the way the rooms were outfitted, I said it didn’t make a difference.  I said it wasn’t a house she lived in, it was something much better.

Monday, October 22, 2012


…Happy Monday.  It’s gray and gloomy here.  I may turn on my office fireplace for the first time in a long time.
Hopefully you’ll have the best week ever.

…Someone said this: “Life shrinks or expands in relation to one’s courage.”  It makes sense to me.

…I have two new poems up at Verse Wisconsin for their political Issue:

Last Night with Lincoln

Last night I had a microbrew with Lincoln.
He told me a joke about
a slave trader and St. Peter.
I’d never seen Abe that happy,
so when he finished and slapped my back
I expected him to say, No worries,
it’ll all work itself out in the end,
but he didn’t.
Instead he tipped his hat and said,
“Get busy, Len.”


My Brother’s War

He went in thin and clean,
came out bearded and wrecked,
his skin inked with stories of that bloody violence.
Got himself a Harley,
shiny black, pearl-colored.
I took the side car.

We rode through waving wheat and saloon towns,
places where the doors swung at an angle,
roads blocked by cattle or filled with angry dogs.
He stared straight ahead the whole time,
that war he was in a stain,
a skin stitched over his eyes.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


…I have been playing with the cutest puppy ever and now I want a dog.  Everyone should probably have a dog.  A cute one anyway.

…Have you ever seen the movie “Big Fish?”  It’s adorable.  I love it.
“Rent” is not such a great film, though the some of the songs were still able to give me shivers even after having seen the play three times and the movies just as many

Here are some things for the weekend:

-"I like a man who attempts the impossible." J.P. Morgan

-"The world will always want a drink."
-"There's a difference between loving someone and loving the idea of them."
-"Oh, here is the rest of my life.  It's finally arrived." Gillian Flynn, "Gone Girl"

-"Growing up, if we were having an argument, my mother thought that was great.  At least we were talking."
-"If you're going to get beat, get beat on your best pitch."
-"I have so many ideas I want to talk about, but if you talk about too many, no one's going to hear you."
-"Everything out on the table.  You're not happy today?  I wanna know why.  Let's fix it and move on.  I got that from my mother."

-"Every once in a while, you go a little too far.  And that's okay. -C. Christie

 -"A book should offer hope.  It should lift up the reader." John Dufresne
-"I require only three things of a man: he must be handsome, ruthless and stupid." Dorothy Parker

-"If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed." David Viscott

-"Accept no one's definition of your life, but define yourself." Harvey Fierstein

-"The ability to concentrate and to use time well is everything." Lee Iococca

-"you will not confront yourself
so you leap to the aid of others"
-d.a. levy

-"It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." Chinese proverb

-"What a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what he has, or how he is regarded by others." Arthur Schopenhauer

-"If you want to know what a man is really like, take notice how he acts when he loses money." New England Proverb

-"Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself." Abraham Heschel

-"It is better to wear out one's shoes than one's sheets." Genoese Proverb
-"It seems to me that I will always be happy in the place that I am not." Paul Auster

Thursday, October 18, 2012


 …I just saw where Newsweek is no longer going to be in print, starting sometime in 2013.  That sort of makes me sad.  I guess I’m an old person.  That seems to be a harbinger for other magazines like Time and Rolling Stone.  Especially Rolling Stone, which has a whopping 82 pages in their last issue.

…I got my copy of “Lost In Thought” magazine.  What a terrific looking journal.  The photography is outstanding.  Even my son said so.  I have a short piece in it called, “New Skin.”
Here it is:

                                                                    New Skin


            He did not say I was pretty.  Instead he said, “I can make you forget.”

            No one had ever uttered anything so bold.

            He said, “Let me see.”

            So I showed him everything.  I unbuttoned, unhinged and uncovered all of my layers. 

            I let him touch me—there and there, and even there.  I figured it was part of the healing process, that scars were really just wounds on the way to new skin.

            He never bought me gifts.  He didn’t believe in them.  He said, “This is so much better,” and he touched me again.

            He was hard to satisfy.  He made me feel rabid, incomplete instead of sutured.  He kept me hoping, guessing, on edge.  And in that way he made me forget the other thing.

            His hands had fingers, of course they did, but these felt like velvet pulleys.  I enjoyed them and then I didn’t.  Then it was different and he said, “Hey,” and I said, “Not that way.  Love me.  Me,” and he said, “We had a deal, didn’t we?”


            I saw him again, for the first time in months.  We were in a crowded coffee shop.  A girl was giggling.  He had foam on his nose and top fang.  I wasn’t sure if he’d done it on purpose.

            I reached inside my sweater and fingered one long mark that dropped to my waist.  The scars of men might linger, I decided then, but I would move on, I would live.

Monday, October 15, 2012


…It’s the start of a new week and I’m back from Portland, albeit a little beat up.
One of the best things in life is laughing until you cry.  I did that a few times this weekend.

…I’m a list-maker.  To Do lists anyway.  It helps keep me grounded, focused.  There’s a lot of my list right now, so time to get to it, but first here are some things to like:

-"Being a father is the only thing that lives up to the hype. When I'm with my daughter - when we're doing homework together or hanging out watching a movie or kicking  a soccer ball around or doing any of the things we do - that's the only time I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing." Aaron Sorkin
-"Writing is making sense of life.  You've worked your whole life and hopefully you've made sense of one small area." Nadine Gordimer

-"Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea.  It's the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference." Nolan Bushnell

-"I will make love my greatest weapon and none on who I call can defend against its force....My love will melt all hearts liken to the sun whose rays soften the coldest day." Og Mandino

-"The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining." John F. Kennedy

-"You can improve your talent, but your talent is a given, a mysterious constant.  You must make it the best of its kind." Gore Vidal

-"Name me someone that's not a parasite and I'll go say a prayer for him." Dylan, "Visions of Johanna"

-"The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good." Brian Tracy
“...when you are convinced that all the exits are blocked, either you take to believing in miracles or you stand still like the hummingbird. The miracle is that the honey is always there, right under your nose, only you were too busy searching elsewhere to realize it. The worst is not death but being blind, blind to the fact that everything about life is in the nature of the miraculous.” Henry Miller

Friday, October 12, 2012


…I'm in Portland/Vancouver having fun crony time with friends that make me happy, that make me laugh.
Presently I'm at a hipster coffee shop where you pay $3 for a drip coffee and they bake their own bread products in front of you.  The place is packed.  Apparently we don't mind throwing our money away.
Why is it that espresso bars only sell fattening scones and over-sized muffins?  Is there nothing healthy to eat?

…I missed the debates last night.  I heard Biden was a bully and expected as much.  I'm a democrat, but he's a little full of himself.

…I think it would be horrible to live you whole live alone.  That's one of my biggest fears.  I guess I have abandonment issues.  I don't know how Thoreau did it.

…Your weekend is going to be fantastic, I just know it. 
Here are some things to think about:

…Through September 23rd, 391 people have been murdered in Chicago, more than in NYC and more than LA (212)

…American income is done almost $5,000 per year from its peak of $54,900 in 1999

…Auto insurers saya 1 billion extra gallons of gas were burned each year from 1960-1999 because Americans are weighing at 20 pounds heavier.  (Yikes.)

…Teens birth rates fell 8%:
2010 -34.2%
2011 -31.3%
…Percentage of households with outstnding student debt:
1989: 9% -$9,634
2000: 19% -$26,682

…Highest paid celebrity couples:
#1 --Beyonce and Jay-Z
#2 --Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen
#3 --David and Victoria Beckham

…After 30 years of marriage, Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman are divorcing

…Lil Wayne had his 109th top 100 song on Billboard, besting Elvis's record of 108

…Facebook now has 1 billion monthly users, double the 500 million it hit in July 2010

…The longest running Broadway shows:
#1 -The Phantom of the Opera
#2 -Cats
#3 -Les Miserables (my fave)

…The nation's most promiscuous cities:
#1 -Portland, OR
#2 -Seattle
#3 -Pittsburg
#4 -Miami
#5 -San Francisco
#6 -Dallas (Really? Yep.)

…20% of all Americans have more than 4 credit cards
34% have 2-3
26% have none

…While Facebook is valued at over $110 Billion, My Space was recently bought for a paltry $35 million by Justin Timberlake and group

…There are 46.2 million Americans currently living in poverty

…There are 11 million illegal immigrants already living in America

…Last year 163 police officer were killed in the line of duty

…Last year Americans spent $370 million on Halloween costumes…for their pets.  (Really.)

…In 1991 there were 93,000 knee replacements surgeries.
243,000 operations were performed in 2010

…Walmart, Target and Kmart all opened their very first store in the same year, 1962

…When did you start saving for your children’s college education?
59% -Within their first year
17% -Ages 1-3
17% -Before they were born
7% -After age 4

..Where Social Security payments go:
70% -Retired workers
19% -Disabled workers
11% -Survivors of deceased workers

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


...I listened to Meatloaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” on the treadmill this morning.  Talk about a rock opera.  Some clever writing there.

…Tomorrow I go to Portland for crony time.  Tonight I’m going to a poetry reading at Park Place Books in Kirkland.  A friend is reading and I might read as well.  If I do, I think I’ll read “Apples” which was published in Xenith Magazine.
It’s pretty much 100% autobiographical.


A murderer’s hands is what I always thought,
the berry-stains having settled into the whorl of my fingerprints and
under the jagged canopies of my nails.
I’d scour my skin with steel wool that looked like a ball of pubic hair
but showed no mercy as its metal bristles
ripped away the evidence.
I had tried to pick with gloves once but it slowed me down
and, despite my young age, I was the fastest of them all,
adults and veteran immigrants.
In the fields was the closest I ever came to being king.

Ragamuffins, we had nothing
yet we were rich in summer.
I was anyway,
my berry-picking money so light yet a weight slithered inside a back pocket.
Juice splotches marked the bills like blood bombs,
still that was George Washington’s face regardless.

I had brothers but not friends.
Even the Mexicans kept their distance,
me skinny and tall enough to be a monster to them,
some white boy Godzilla.

Just before dusk
I had the habit of passing through the weed-wasted cemetery
that butted up to our trailer park.
It smelled of sewage and clay and
the cadaver gray headstones looked like absurd slices of toast
or doors sinking into the sun-baked earth at an angle, aged and crippled,
waiting to be handed a brace.
Some had been sprayed with graffiti,
fake neon names slurred across the chiseled real ones,
though no one seemed to object
or ever even visit.
I’d establish relationships with the dead,
befriending them in a way I’d never have the courage to do in real life.
Lawrence Lemley, deceased 1956, became a wise uncle,
Ida Schwimmer, 1932, my sixth grade teacher.
I courted a few of the girls that I expected had been pretty,
one who’d died a year older than me. 
She had eyes the color of a Holiday Inn swimming pool and hair brown and bouncy like root beer.
I told her I was going to be rich someday.
I explained it was berries now, but the real money was in apples.
Once I could find me an orchard that’d take a twelve year old, I’d be set, I said,
and I felt myself blush a fire
when she answered with a whisper that
she believed me.