Monday, September 30, 2013


…Since you haven’t said, I’m going to go ahead and assume you had the best weekend ever.

…It’s been raining cats and dogs and water buffaloes here.  And the wind is threatening to take out a few dozen trees, but other than that, it’s just paradise.

…The “Breaking Bad” finale did not disappoint.  It was simply genius, just as it has been every episode.  The only sad thing is it’s over.  All hail Vince Gilligan.
A writer at The Huffington Post had this to day about the show’s conclusion:
“This is more than the end of a TV series. It's a cultural moment, arriving as the show has logged record ratings, bagged a best-drama Emmy and even scored this week's cover of The New Yorker magazine….”

…Anyway, even fawning.
Here are some things I like at the start of the week:

"I wrote this book for a sense of personal satisfaction. Just like taking a good photograph or painting a picture or playing a good golf game or something, it's the thing in itself that justifies it." William H. Rehnquist, (1924-) American Supreme Court Chief Justice

"Sometimes it's hard to chase your dreams." Scott McClanahan

"I think I'd like to be remembered as someone who beat the odds through just plain determination. ... that I persevered. Because I think that being somewhat of a pest to life, constantly plaguing and pursuing, will bring results." Sylvester Stallone

"There is great power in a resolution that has no reservations in it
--a strong, persistent, tenacious purpose-- which burns all bridges behind it and which clears all obstacles from its path and arrives at its goal, no matter how long it may take, no matter what the sacrifice or the cost."
-- Orison Sweet Marden

"No man can hope to accomplish anything great in this world until he throws his whole soul, flings the force of his whole life, into it.  It is not enough simply to have a general desire to accomplish something.  There is but one way to do that; and that is, to try to be somebody with all the concentrated energy we can muster." Orison Sweet Marden

Friday, September 27, 2013


…For some reason, the photos don't show up (you can imagine them), but I thought this piece from The Onion was funny and clever:

Facebook Version Of Marriage Going Great
NewsScience & TechnologySocial MediaISSUE 49•39 • Sep 25, 2013
The representation of the couple’s marriage on Facebook is rich, happy, and without trouble or doubt.
SAN JOSE, CA—Citing the numerous photos and status updates that the couple regularly post online, sources confirmed Wednesday that the Facebook version of Annie and Colin Wheeler’s eight-year marriage is going extremely well.
Several of the Wheelers’ Facebook friends stated that the couple’s profile pictures and cover photos—in which the two are seen smiling side-by-side at a local street festival, dressed in coordinated Halloween costumes, and embracing in silhouette as their shadows stretch out across a beach—confirm that the digital version of their married life remains as enriching and vibrant as ever.
“Wow, Annie and Colin are really going strong,” said acquaintance Ellen Watney of the couple’s marriage as it appears online, pointing to a recent six-image photo album titled “Paninis in the park!” that showed how the Wheelers are always laughing, having fun, and playfully enjoying each other’s company. “It’s nice to see a married couple that is as close as they are and that truly loves spending time together.”
“They’re clearly having a blast,” added Watney of the social networking–based version of the Wheelers’ relationship, citing picture captions that included “watching the sunset together” say photos such as this prove that the Wheelers’ Facebook marriage is stronger than ever.
Sources also noted that the Wheelers regularly post upbeat status updates featuring smiling emoticons in which they recount the restaurant meals they have shared, recap exciting weekend travels, or simply announce their plans for “a cozy night in together,” revealing that the two enjoy a deeply connected, emotionally fulfilling marital bond on Facebook.
Further reports indicated that the Wheelers’ romance was likewise alive and well in the Instagram iteration of their marriage. According to followers, a number of vintage-inspired photos of the couple on the Golden Gate Bridge and attending an outdoor concert demonstrated that, as far as their presence on the virtual photo-sharing network was concerned, the pair share an effortlessly enjoyable and enriching partnership that is never marred by tension, boredom, or irritation.
“Those two are always going out and having a ton of fun together,” said former college classmate Daniel Felix, confirming that the spark has never left the social media representation of the couple’s marriage. “A few weeks ago, Colin tweeted about the wineries he and Annie were visiting for their anniversary, and then just recently he posted a picture of them biking together. It all sounds so great. He and Annie apparently have something really special together.”
According to reports, the Wheelers’ children are also doing equally well in the internet versions of their lives. Sources confirmed that a set of photographs taken at a local carnival and recently posted to Annie Wheeler’s profile displayed how happy and well-adjusted the couple’s 5- and 7-year-old son and daughter are, with many of the pictures receiving dozens of likes and long strings of admiring comments.
“Oh my God, those kids are too cute,” said Facebook friend Janna Baldwin of Madeline and Jake Wheeler as she clicked through photos depicting the two beaming children, who, according to how they are portrayed on the social media site, do not get tired or moody, always treat their respective sibling with respect and love, and consistently behave themselves in both private and public. “Just look at Maddy sharing her cotton candy with Jake. And there’s another one of them falling asleep in the car. They’re so sweet.”
“You can tell Annie and Colin really raised them well,” Baldwin added of the electronic representation of the Wheeler family. “They’ve built such a warm, loving home.”
Several acquaintances also noted that Annie Wheeler is an extremely engaged and devoted mother on Pinterest. According to the images pinned to her “Family Meals” and “Crafting With My Kids” boards, Wheeler is a remarkable online version of a mom, possessing plenty of free time to cook intricate, visually appealing, and nutritious meals for her husband and children, while also having the patience to sit down with her kids after work and create a wide variety of elaborate and time-intensive arts and crafts projects.
“It’s really enviable how tight-knit the Wheeler family is,” said Facebook friend Chelsea Carmichael, basing her comments on a string of mobile photo uploads from a recent family vacation with Colin Wheeler’s parents, the entire span of which was evidently spent relaxing happily in each other’s company while swimming and grilling, and was not once tarnished by short tempers or strained periods of silence. “I love looking at their pictures. They just have such a wonderful time together.”

“They’re so happy, and their marriage will truly stand the test of time,” the friend continued of the version of the Wheelers’ lives that appears on her news feed. “Facebook proves that definitively.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


…Things I like on a Wednesday are:

-"Genius is eternal patience." Michelangelo

-"A song is something that can break your heart or raise our hear rate.  A song can change the direction of your day or make you reconsider your marriage."  Andy Langer

-"My dad told me to go into something that I loved to do, not for the money. And so I did that.  My first job with the Baltimore Colts in the NFL paid twenty-five dollars a week."  Bill Belichick

-"One day, when I was a kid, a librarian pulled me aside and said, "You know, you should really think about being an artist."  I had just immigrated to the United States, and I didn't even know what an artist was.  God forbid she would have said I should become a banker."  Writer, Junot Diaz

-"You may run into people who are much more talented than you, but make sure that no one outworks you." Derek Jeter

-"November is my favorite month of the year.  Because I like it when shit dies." Blake Shelton

-"Never look in the mirror when you're on acid." Andy Samberg

-"I was horsing around with my son.  He was maybe six years old, and we were on a trampoline, and we ended up laughing so hard that we fell on our backs, we were looking up, and in between his laughter he said to me, 'I always wanted a dad like you.'" Andre Agassi

-"When in doubt, tidy up." Evan Williams

-"It makes us face our own mortality.  Working alone on a 300 to 400 page project for five years all by yourself brings you with to the starkness of coming into the world and leaving alone, as we do."  Andre Dubus III

-"You learn to learn.  You learn.  And then you relearn." Tom Brady

-"Knowing sorrow well, I learn to succor the distressed." Virgil

"-Fear less, hope more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours." Swedish proverb

-"One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: 'To rise above the little things.'" John Burroughs

-"First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do." Epictetus

-"Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see the beauty, believe in them and try to follow where they lead." Louisa May Alcott

Monday, September 23, 2013


…Hey hi, it’s Monday.  What are you up to?

…Here are some things I like:

-"As long as you're alive, you can do something." Valerie Harper

-"I was taught how to work. I think that's everything. Creativity and imagination alone are not going to get you there."- Writer Elizabeth Gilbert

-"He felt that he could forgive anything to anyone, because happiness was the greatest agent of purification." Ayn Rand

-"Poets have to dream, and dreaming in American is no cinch." Saul Bellow

-"Be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive,           still human, and still open to the beauty of the world." Paul Harding

-"Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it." Lily Tomlin

…And here’s a story I wrote a couple of years back that won 1st place in contest:



            When the fire burned down our garage my sister could only ask about the waterbed.  “You can’t burn a waterbed, can you?” she asked, her goggle eyes big as pucks.
            She was mine alone to love, like a strange painting or the neighbor’s lonesome cat.  Our father was always away and our mother, well, she didn’t care for retards.
            The man who interviewed me didn’t work for the fire department and I could tell he thought I was the culprit because he charged forth in hot pursuit of a motive.  I could have given him plenty.
            The smell of a fire gets on something; it bores in and can’t ever really be removed.  Rank skunk spray you can get rid of, but fire, it smolders in the fabric forever.
            Jeanie was sis’s name but we changed it up, always with the letter J though: Jezebel, Janine, Jacqui, Junebug.  She rather enjoyed the idea that she could become so many different people so easily.
            When my mother was at Mr. Taylor’s house comparing bird watching stories, Jeanie liked nothing more than to sneak up to my parent’s bedroom and flop about on the waterbed.  She became a mermaid on that thing, so happy.  A queen being ferried betwixt regal landscapes.  A damsel on a raft.  A silly girl, not so smart, who at least knew how to swim.
            When our parents divorced the first thing to go besides Pop was that waterbed.  Mother stabbed it to death with an ice pick and later the carpet man spent the better part of a day fixing things, flooring-wise.  He even carried the rubber matt out to the garage like some defeated sea creature slung over his shoulders.

            I buried it and it’s in a safe place now.  Jeanie and I step over it every morning on our way to school, me to mine and Jeanie to her special one.  I tell her someday she’ll swim again and, as she smiles, I think she believes me.

Friday, September 20, 2013


…How are things going for you?  Getting lots done.

…I got this very nice compliment the other day:
“You are one of my favorite living writers."

…I haven’t been especially productive, but I did write the story below and also have it accepted at Santa Fe Literary Review, so that was also nice.

                                                                 At The Deep End

            At the pool, I watch the blind girl’s parents lower her into the shallow end.  She’s maybe five, and skinny as a ladder.
            The girl kicks her feet, giggling.  She wears a Hello Kitty one piece swimsuit and has floaties on her arms.
            “It would really suck being blind,” I say. 
            Gordy shoots me with a spray from one of the squirt guns we shoplifted earlier in the day.  When I tell him to knock it off, he squirts me in the eye, so I slug him on the shoulder.
            “You’re still an asshole.”
            Gordy and I have been friends our whole lives, but next Monday he and his mom are moving to Kansas.  After another “dust up”, Gordy’s dad got put in jail for beating his mom pretty bad and the divorce is all finalized now.  “Dust up” is Gordy’s term.  He’s a professional at making misery seem harmless.  Once when Gordy’s dad tried to drown his mom in the bathtub, Gordy said it was merely a “boating accident.”
            “Geez, Elaine,” the blind girl’s father says, “you’re going to break her damn arm.  Just let her go.”
            Gordy says he’s not excited about moving away.  He says life is a peach, even though he’s been in and out of trouble quite a bit this last year, starting with an episode where he broke several of our school’s windows with a crowbar. 
            The blind girl looks ridiculous.  She won’t stop grinning, nor does she stop slapping water against her face and chest.  Her mother is flustered while her father reads a magazine on a lawn chair.
            We started shoplifting a few weeks ago.  It was just candy at the start, but it’s progressed to games and toys, items that are trickier to conceal inside our clothing.  I’m pretty sure the manager’s onto us, but Gory could care less.  “What’re they going to do, toss us in the clink?” he says.
            A plump woman with marbleized thighs comes over and talks to the blind girl’s mother, and from their easy manner I can see she’s some kind of friend.  They gawk over the blind girl, then get lost in conversation.
            I watch the blind girl start to move through the water, going fast.  Gordy sees it, too.  “I hope she drowns,” he says.
            I jump up, dive in and reach the girl just before she’s about to reach the slope that leads to the deep end.  When I break the surface, holding her by the waist, there’s a crowd poolside.  The blind girl’s dad tells me to get my goddamn hands off his daughter, while the girl giggles, splashing us both, using her hands as paddles.
            When I get out of the water, Gordy says, “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”

            Before bed that night, I lay in the bathtub under the water, holding my breath.  I look up through the murky surface thinking: Life’s like that--unclear and fluid, always moving, wavering, slippery yet certain. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


…The latest episode of "Breaking Bad" was so brilliant that no superlatives will do.  My son deemed it not only the best episode of television, but better than any movie he's ever seen.
It does always surprise me that a show so dark can do that well in the ratings, but this show has it all.
Don't miss it.

…I keep thinking about a night in Paris.
I saw a woman in a coal-black burka.  Perhaps less than three inches of her face was visible—just her eyes and the surrounding area.  She was walking behind an overweight man wearing a bright, turquoise polo shirt.  As they strolled by me, I noticed the woman also wore a pair of bubblegum-pink Crocs, her only expression of individuality.  

…Here are a few things I learned of late:

-21% of Facebook users check it first thing in the morning, even before peeing.
-The average teen absorbs 7-11 hours of digital content each day.
The average teen sends more than 3,000 text each month.

-Largest emitters of carbon dioxide:
China - 26%
USA - 15%
India - 7%
Russia - 5%
Japan - 4%

…Here are some random things I like for the middle of the week:

"All the same, it is good to be alive." Proust

"If we should fail -- we fail. But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we'll not fail." William Shakespeare

"But try," you urge, "the trying shall suffice; The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life: Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!" Robert Browning

"Without fear, you'd never survive." Woody Allen

"You are today where your thoughts have brought you, you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you." James Allen

"I never did take anything from anyone. It ain't that I'm not grateful, but I love to earn it better." Betty Higden
"Perseverance is a great element of success. If you only knock long enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody." Longfellow

"Writing fiction is like shooting a gun.  All of us can do it.  But, seriously: Should we?" Nick Arvin

Monday, September 16, 2013


…What a fantastic thunder and lightning storm last night.  It went on for over an hour.  The skies were neon fuchsia, radioactive green, and glowing plum. 

…Well, it’s Monday.  New day, new week.  It’s really important that I be productive.  I think I’ve taken on too many writing projects, which is not a great thing when I’m feeling blocked…

But here are some interesting comments from Facebook last week that you might enjoy, or maybe just ponder:

 -I have gotten more action from my bike seat in the past week than I have from any man in the past year.

 -I just got hit on while doing the least sexy thing in the world... buying toilet paper. I know I have a good ass, but don't comment on it while I am obviously trying to get home and take a giant shit.

 -40 years on earth and my only superpower is the ability to pick a perfect watermelon.
 -I drink the cerebrospinal fluid of mine enemies like a fine wine.

 -Students who complain about having to read in college are the most hilarious people of all.

 -It's always amusing how someone who was quite a shit to you in the past, suddenly wants to be FB friends now.

 -Been trying hard to avoid this, but the time has come to retain legal counsel. So: can anyone recommend a good New Jersey divorce lawyer? Thank you so very much. (I could also use a hug.)

 -Too many sociopaths on here.

Friday, September 13, 2013


…What’s your weekend looking like?

…Today my puppy has a play date with her sister.  I’m excited for her.  She’s such a sweet pup.

…Tomorrow I travel to Snoqualmie to speak to a group of about 30 men.  Haven’t done any speaking for a while, so hopefully it will go well.

…I’ve been in something of a massive writing slump for the last month or so.  It’s a little troublesome.  I did happen to write this yesterday, for a friend:

The End of Us

The sting of your silence
strangles my shadows.

A continent away,
baby clothes collect dust in the rafters
while we lay on banana-shaped chairs,
sweat misting down our ribs
and your lackluster heart.

Tourists swing and fumble to Bruno Mars.
A toddler screams for ketchup as
an effervescent life guard implores
us to “Move it!  Move it!”

Years ago this might have made sense.
The crows might not have gathered near
and superstition would have been nothing more than
a jaded habit for uninspired fools.

But now a skiff bobs on flat water,
and pelicans bomb the surface,
as I choke down another drink,
waiting for the world to cloud or cower,
wondering how the loss of a child

can also mean the end of us.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


It’s funny, the random email that comes my way. 
I got this yesterday (notice they misspelled “Uncommon”):

This is the Most Effective And Safest Male Enlargement Product EVER MADE
Gains Of 3-4 Inches Are Not Uncommonm, Try for yourself Risk Free 100% Guaranteed to Work
Do men really fall for these kinds of things?  And who wants to add 2-4 inches to their “manhood”?  You’d have to tie the thing around your ankle.
…Did you see this news article?

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — They were newlyweds, but she was having second thoughts about the 8-day-old marriage, court documents say. The couple drove the short distance from their Kalispell home to Glacier National Park, where they got into an argument. He grabbed her by the arm, but she pulled away and shoved him face-first off a cliff to his death.
Federal prosecutors have given their version of what happened to Cody Lee Johnson, 25, two months after his body was found in an area of the park so steep and rugged that a helicopter had to be used in the recovery.
…Love is definitely fleeting.

…While I was gone I read another news story about a woman in China who gouged out an 8 year old’s eyeballs.  The account never mentioned a motive, but oddly enough it did say that there are 1.3 million people in China and that only 36 (thirty-six) were organ donors last year.

…I also learned that the black plague reduced Florence’s population from 142,000 to 25,000.  It’s hard to imagine how horrific that must have been.

…Last week I read “The Son” by Philipp Meyer.  It’s a sweeping saga, wonderfully written and researched, violent and symbolic and even funny at times.  It will surely win The National Book Award.  You can count on it.

“Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Bender was a fun read, as we got to bounce between the Elizabeth Taylor 1960’s and present day.  I was a sucker for this book and now will probably buy all his others. Plus he’s from Spokane, WA where I grew up.

“This Is How You Lose Her,” a story collection by Junot Diaz of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” fame, was a fun, fresh romp filled with quirky one-of-a-kind characters.  He has a very fresh voice.

Here are a few things I like on a Wednesday:

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." Mark Twain

"Do your best; take it as it comes. You can handle anything if you think you can. Just keep your cool and your sense of humor." Smiley Blanton

"Remember that if the opportunities for great deeds should never come, the opportunities for good deeds are renewed day by day. The thing for us to long for is the goodness, not the glory." F.W. Faber

"Reading is also a big part of my process, I read anything and everything. You never know where you’re going to find a great catalyst for a story that isn’t going quite right." - Ian Florida

"What can be added to the happiness of a man who is in health, out of debt, and has a clear conscience?" Adam Smith

Monday, September 9, 2013


…I’m home from a 16 day sojourn to Europe—Italy and France.  It’s the longest vacation I’ve ever taken and it was really pretty astonishing on a lot of fronts.

Europeans seem to know how to live life better.  Meal time is a big thing for them and they don’t really snack because food is considered too special for such a thing.  And even though both Parisians and Italians don’t get started eating dinner until 8pm or much later, I was hard-pressed to find any of them who were overweight.  Maybe it’s the smoking?  Because boy do they smoke, especially in France.  But on the other hand, I only saw one European chewing gum the entire time I was there.  Not to mention, despite streets as crammed as NY, no one honks their horn. 

The drinking age in France is 18, but you can drink at home with your parents at 16, and that’s apparently a very loose law.

I found it interesting that on 5% of teens consider the future to be promising.

I found it interesting how savvy conscious all Europeans are.  They have so much style, even when they look silly or dishelved, it’s still stylistic.

There’s an enormous department store in Paris called Bon Marche and if you ever get there, be sure to pass through all of the clothing and furniture sections to the basement where there is a massive (and delectable) supermarket, several wine shops, a liquor store, hair salon, etc.
Well, enough of that.  It’s good to be home.

While I was gone, I had this published at Doorknobs and BodyPaint:

                                                                           Broadway Lives

Lester has faster hands.  His fingers are thin, too, as long as carrots, and he can lift a wallet from the back pocket of any man, no matter how fat they are, no matter how tight their trousers be.  That’s why Momma likes Lester best.  Daddy stopped providing after Trina took the city under, and last we heard he’s shacking up with some rich lady who lives east of here in a pretty-sounding town called Violet.

Lester and me, we know the Quarter better than anybody, even the old codgers.  Sometimes it feels like we was born in the middle of the Square, pushed through a crack in the white-washed cement without consent, like those wicked weeds that look plain until you touch them and invisible needles sink into your skin

At night, if Momma’s smoking the rock, I’ll come down to the boardwalk by myself.  There’s a man who plays banjo and harmonica, both at once, while he taps a cymbal with his foot.  There’s a lady inside a cloth booth who’ll read your palm for a certain amount, depending on what you want to know.  When she read Lester’s, I watched her eyes get jittery in the lamplight, devil-spooked.  She wouldn’t share what she learned, just made up something we all knew was a lie.

Lester and me don’t think we’ll make it to twenty years old.  We only talked about it once.  “Lives while you can,” he said, jutting his jaw all cocky like.  “Lives.”

Tonight I see the lady whose purse I stole earlier in the day.  She’s wearing the same floral-print dress and floppy hat, but she’s with a different man than she was before.  This one’s got quite a gut on him.  His outfit is a boxy t-shirt, cutoffs and white socks inside of sandals.  Man do he look stupid.

They stop at a restaurant, taking seats outside on the patio.  I already gave most of the lady’s money and credit cards to Momma, but I memorized her driver’s license.  She’s Amy Jo Homes from Seattle.

Amy don’t touch this man at all, don’t snuggle him or place kisses on his neck like the other guy.  She eats without talking and I can tell she’s thinking about the handsome man from this morning.

I have a trick I play where I make myself someone else, and I do that right now.

I sit across from Amy Jo.  I tell her she’s the most beautiful thing on the planet, not just people, but more beautiful than anything the Lord cooked up.  I watch her eat ice cream.  I hold her hand, nod toward the stars.  I say, “Aren’t they something?” and she agrees.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


…If you have a phobia, say, an intense phobia as I have when it comes to heights, well, in many ways, to others without said phobia (or perhaps any phobia), you will look once and forever like a wimp, if not even a fraud.  Fraud, because at first these phobia-free stallions can’t grasp what you’re fretting over.  But once they sort of relegate themselves to the consideration that your phobia might be authentic, if even only partially so, they reason and conclude that you’re something of a milquetoast. 

Thus, picture me yesterday, ¾’s of the way up the Notre Dame towers, having unwittingly climbed all that way, now standing quite literally at the very edge of the tower (yes, there was a cyclone fence, but still it was SCARY AS ALL HELL) with rambunctious French toddlers dancing between the legs of adults, everyone taking long-range photographs with the cell phones, saying “Oh my, doesn’t everything seem so tiny from all the way up here?”, me clutched to an ancient marble sphere while the GODDAMN BELLS or Notre Dame are not only ringing, gonging and clanging as if Quasimodo’s pissed off about something, but shaking and vibrating the very frail lattice I’m standing on…

Needless to say, I spent two of the most horrifying hours of my life in a foreign country, in an ancient, alien building.  Maybe I am a wimp.  Maybe I’m some other unflattering things, too.  But what I’m not is ever going up any tall tower steps again.  So help me God, I’m not…

…More on Paris later.