Monday, June 29, 2015


…Happy Monday.
It’s a beautiful morning here.  I hope it’s the same where you are.

…Here are some random things I learned last week that you may or may not already know:

-Picasso could draw before he could walk
-14% of U.S. adults older than 16 read at or below a fifth grade level
-29% of U.S. adults older than 16 can read at only an eighth grade level
-54% of women report sex gets better with age and 70% of those credit feeling more comfortable in their skin.
-In the last 3,500 years the world has only known peace for 230 of them.
-Carrots were originally purple.
-You are born with 270 bones at birth but only end up with 206 by adulthood.
-More than 90% of California and Nevada are classified as under Exceptional Draught, which is the highest level for Draught that there is.
-Last year Donald Trump made $1.5 million for each of the 17 hour long speeches he gave, making him the priciest U.S. speaker.  He is currently the second most favored Republican candidate for president behind Jeb Bush.

…ISIS troubles me greatly.
Here’s the latest on this evil group:
Last week, ISIS posted one of its most gruesome video clips, showing the execution of 16 men it claimed to have been spies. Five of the men were drowned in a cage, four were burned inside a car and seven were blown up by explosives.
“You Muslims, take the initiative and rush to jihad, rise up you mujahideen everywhere, push forward and make Ramadan a month of calamities for the nonbelievers,” IS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in an audio message released Tuesday.

In what also appears to be a response to that call, terror attacks took place Friday across three continents: shootings in a Tunisian beach resort that left 39 people dead, an explosion and a beheading in a U.S.-owned chemical warehouse in southeast France and a suicide bombing by an Islamic State affiliate at a Shiite mosque in Kuwait that killed at least 27 worshipers.
The more than 200 civilians killed in the last two days include some who perished in IS suicide bombings, including one at the border crossing with Turkey, but they were mostly shot dead in cold blood, some in their own homes, the activists said.

Friday, June 26, 2015


…It’s my birthday today and I don’t feel any different other than I am a bit stuffed up with allergies.
Birthdays were never a big deal when I was a kid.  Maybe it was because we didn’t have any money.  I actually don’t ever remember getting a birthday present from my parents.
I used to hate my birthday.  Then I only sort of disliked it.  Now I’m fine with it, but I’m not really excited like some people are.
I think I used to fear the idea of getting older, of aging.  And that was back when I was young.
Over half my life has passed.  If I died tomorrow, that would actually be okay.  I’ve had a spectacular life.  I’m one of the luckiest people I know and despite what anybody might think, I don’t take it for granted.
I saw this in a magazine the other day:
“With focus, we found wonder in the ordinary, fascination in the familiar.” 
I like that a lot.  It sort of encapsulates living a full life, with awareness.
I want to be that way as much as possible.
Here are some other things I like at the start of the weekend:
 - “As soon as you judge yourself through others, you’re fucked, especially in this game.  A long time ago, I stopped apologizing for not just wanting to an actor and having massive Hollywood hits.”  Benn Northover
 -“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  Eleanor Roosevelt
 - “You miss things when you drive fast.” Chris Cloud
 -“True self-knowledge is a shifty sonofabitch.” Kristen Young

-“If you can dream it you can do it.” Walt Disney

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Putting You Away

I put you to sleep
in blue ice,
fragrant with vodka,
an odor our daughter used to call sour grape juice.

Now you are a sober stare, a startled Barbie doll.
There are no words,
no going back
to beaches
and midnight love-making under eucalyptus.
It must be cold,
yet you don’t shiver.
It must be something to witness what I’m doing,
but remain helpless.
You do not breathe or blink or call me criminal.
You stay beautiful as that day I took this photo,
when you drew back the shower curtain and I snapped you
from the neck up.

Now your neck is frosted,
your face too.
Fog is taking over.
It leaves a smudge of blue,
smothering your face,
and the memory of you,
sealing both in ice,
thereby pardoning me from the pain
of having to provide
a proper goodbye.

How The Light Gets In

My mother believed in shutters
and all our young days were spent in solitary confinement
us tethered by our ankles like toddler cellmates
too weak and neutered to fight for freedom.

In summer we got dizzy staring at crevices in split wood,
the tiny burps of glowing sunlight peeking through
and so I made up a story for my siblings that such radiance
was nothing more than a distress signal from the outside world,
where everything beyond our walls and boarded windows
was a vast infirmary
for those scalded by the sun.

At night while our mother snored
we passed each other imaginary Christmas gifts--
a bb gun, a basketball, a polka dot dress.
We prayed the kind of prayers that are only understood
by those whose single defense  is hope,
and because not believing meant the end of everything.

The day God finally showed up--
wearing a holster and badge--
we were too stunned to speak,
not because we’d expected The Messiah to look different
but because we had never seen anyone defeat Mother.

Now, all these years later,
my wife tells me to draw the blinds,
to close the drapes.
She says the glare can be bad for the eyes and
asks me why I’m smiling like that.

Hand Me Down Messiahs

I watched you walk on water,
saw you defeat giants and ogres,
monsters who would have otherwise shredded me.
There was oil in your blood, you said,
your heart a hacky sack filled with hourglass sand.
You stood as tall as a redwood,
the scar under your chin pulpy and shaped like a blade.
I believed you were a new Messiah and trailed behind when you weren’t looking.
The day you took your life I saw black and white and black.
I wanted you to take me with. 
I felt light enough, unnecessary.
I had just turned ten. 
No one had stepped foot on the moon yet. 
There was nothing on earth to see.
When I discovered your diary there were no omissions.
The boxy notebook, about the size of Mother’s clutch bag,
held every secret and scar
and I learned that your blood wasn’t oil after all,
your heart not sand-filled.
Though I wept rivers for weeks and weeks, I made you bigger than life once again.
I let you conquer the grave like all reliable gods.
I gave you a pair of wings. 
I painted you in flight and smiling.

Monday, June 22, 2015


“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist as you grow up.” Picasso
“Take time to laugh - it is the music of the soul.” From an old English prayer.
“A mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work unless it’s open.” Frank Zappa
“He who smiles rather than rages is always the stronger.”  Japanese proverb
“You sort of come face to face with your own values at some point, where you can walk away or do something about it.”  Scott Neeson, who left the presidency of Sony Pictures to found a nonprofit helping very poor children in Cambodia
“In order to understand, I destroyed myself.” Fernando Pessoa
“Home is the place you never escape, even in nightmare.  Especially in nightmare.” Richard Powers
“It is right to be content with what we have, never with what we are.”   James Mackintosh
“I don’t suffer from madness, I enjoy it.” Salvador Dali
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them become what they are capable of becoming.”  Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky
“I just know that I know nothing.” Socrates
“Don't listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do this or that.  That's nonsense. Make up your mind, you'll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to.  But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible. – Sir Douglas Bader was a British fighter pilot who lost both legs in a flying accident, but still fought in World War Two. He was knighted for his work with the disabled, and the quote above is from his talk to a 14-year-old boy who had lost a leg in a car accident.” Sir Douglas Bader (1910-1982) British Aviator
“Part of the happiness of life consists not in fighting battles but in avoiding them.  A masterly retreat is in itself a victory.”  Norman Vincent Peale
“The future depends on what we do in the present.” Gandhi

Friday, June 19, 2015


                                                              Face Book

I miss you sometimes.  I’m sorry, I can’t help it.  Is this a bad idea???
            His note on the social network site couldn’t have come at a better time, but of course it tore my heart to shreds all over again.
            Two days later we were in the Sheraton downtown, retracing all the olds sins, drunk with pleasure and Chianti.  After twelve years nothing was odd, just familiar and natural, the whole riding-the-bike thing true enough.  Still a clandestine urgency lurked about, providing a dangerous moodiness impossible to ignore.
            He continually asked me if I was okay about this.
            I kept my eyes open the entire time we kissed, even as I climaxed.  His face writhed and twisted against the fulfillment of so much desire.  He said he wanted to scream, which I took as a ploy since he could easily stab me in a room with walls this thick and no one would hear my cries.   
            He showed me pictures of his kids and none of his wife.  David, the boy, had his beat-up boxer nose and devilish smirk.  The girl looked like no one.
            “I can’t get enough of you,” he said, and it was true because while coming during a surprise second round he said, “I love you.”  His face was buried in a pillow, thereby muffling his voice, and so he might have actually said, “I dug you,” but I have always had a sturdy imagination.  
            “I can’t believe I found you again after all this time,” he whispered into the valley formed between the taut tendons of my neck.
            He wanted me again and I let him.  This time he skipped the condom, same as he had all those years ago.  As he bore into me with his ape-like brutality, pawing and curling and panting, I remembered the cold clay stillness of the clinic that day and how I’d asked what it was, what it had been, and when the lady there said it was a bad idea to know the sex I said who was she to decide? 


            After he’s gone I light a cigarette even though this is a no-smoking room (aren’t they all anymore?)  I watch plumes rush to the ceiling like frightened genies.  I watch how they flatten out becoming an upside down rug against the crystal spackling.  I’ve been fighting back a grin since he sent me that electronic message-- as if this had all been his idea, as if I hadn’t known where he was or precisely what he’d been doing all these years.
            Don’t think I haven’t thought this through.  I never make the same mistake twice.  I have photographs of my own, an entire scrapbook of our imaginary son who looks a lot like a certain someone.

 Okay, so now I will smile.  After all, if he tries to end it, I’m prepared this time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


                                                              Big Jelly

            They started throwing themselves off high places—buildings and bridges.  In-flight airplanes would have worked if the windows opened.  Some sought out old redwood trees.  Grain silos.  Cliffs with craggy boulder-laced bottoms.
It was all quite bloody.
            There wasn’t an answer for it.  No solution.  It became so common that it was not unusual to be walking to work one day and narrowly escape your own decimation as a zooming teenager or granny slammed through the cement like so much cheese cloth and spaghetti.
And so the living learned to look up when they went strolling.  They learned to pay attention.
            Theories had it being God’s boredom with inertia and the general blandness of the universe.  Others naturally blamed Satan.  Some said it was this or that nation, a terrorist plot, but even across the ocean, jihadists plunged to their death with a regularity that became predictable.
            With so much mayhem and suicide occurring, the economy flourished.  Coffin makers, urn makers, street sweepers, pastors and gravediggers all had a field day.  There were job openings aplenty if a person wasn’t too picky.
            My younger brother believed in monsters.  I said, “Why monsters when we’re all dealing with this?” 
Davey was also a fan of telekinesis and mind control which I was leery about until one afternoon I saw him hypnotize a hamster and make it hula hoop our dead mother’s wrist watch. 
Davey believed a solitary person had masterminded all this self-inflicted murder.  He called the evil nemesis Big Jelly.  Don’t ask me what significance the moniker had, Davey’s imagination was brilliant but could also be his Achilles Heel.  He took nerdiness to a whole other threshold, days of working on computer circuitry with nothing but a Phillips screwdriver and electrical tape.   He listened to old Burt Bacharach records and built microscopic boats inside of lab beakers using toothpicks as pliers.
And he doodled.  He doodled often.
He drew an image of Big Jelly.  In the rendering, Big Jelly resembled a mud slide with Asian looking eyes.  Somehow a pair of Wayfarer sunglasses stayed on the noseless blob’s face. 
He created an entire cartoon series.
Big Jelly worked from a gazebo atop some Mongolian mountain, eating fried chicken and punching his keyboard with the greasy drumstick bones.  With a laptop, he pulled up random faces on the social networking site and sent out oodles of friend requests.  People were always so curious about his unusual cartoon Profile picture that they always accepted his offer of friendship.
Soon after, Big Jelly peppered them with depressing mood setters like snippets from the NY Times about ravaging hurricanes, melting glaciers, decimated rain forests, murder rates for their hometown and sometimes Cliff Notes from “The Bell Jar” with the added message, “I read this and thought of you!”  All this gloomy propaganda reminded people that the world had gone mad, that life wasn’t worth living for.  Then Davey gave Big Jelly some of his telekinetic powers of persuasion.  At a Chinese restaurant, for instance, a soon-to-be victim might see an image of Big Jelly’s face warbling in their egg flower soup, chanting, “It’s time you got out of this hell hole.”  To wit, the person would speak back to the soup, “Time for what, Big Jelly?”  The answer would be written on their fortune cookie slip of paper: “Go someplace high up and jump.  It’s the only way.  Do it right now!”
The rest was messy, although melodious.
Chuckle from Big Jelly.
Slurp of a gluey chicken wing.
More keystroke punching.
            The cartoon strips caught on.  It was like an uncontainable forest fire.  People became luridly fascinated by my brother’s creation.  They started to believe Big Jelly was real and not a figment of Davey’s fiendish imagination.  They wondered who among them would be next to cash in their chips.  They wanted to know if it was possible to “unfriend” Big Jelly from the social networking site, but there was no relief.
            Even newscasters and their entire contingent of cameramen were taking dives off the Aurora Bridge, the London Bridge, any bridge really, shouting, “Take that, Big Jelly!”
            Some strong-willed people demanded my brother’s head on a platter, but Davey holed up in a seedy apartment, pretending he was a heroin user or brokedown novelist. 
            It took some coaxing to get him to come to the door when I knocked.  When I squealed that my appendix had just burst, Davey bit the bait. 
I’d been working out for just this moment, bench-pressing paint cans in the garage, tossing a zillion boomerangs to stray dogs.  Also I had rehearsed the scene so many times in my mind that when it actually did happen, it was familiar, like tasting my own backwash.
            I hooked Davey’s wrist first, then his elbow and flung him hard—boomerang practice had paid off.
The railing caught him at the hip.  Sound of bone breaking, sound of skin ripping.  Davey yelped, but his momentum could not be foiled and he tumbled topsy-turvy in the air.
Was it a messy landing?  Of course.  Did I feel bad about it?  No way.  The applause from all the people I’d invited for verification purposes was louder than a platoon of drunken sailors.
I took a bow.  Little hairs prickled on the back of my neck, right about where I’d tattooed my new nickname, the one I’d given myself: Big Jelly.

Now it’s me who does the sketching.  I’m not half bad either.
I like the brutal stuff: a screw driver plunged through the forehead; self-inflicted hangings with barbwire nooses; milkshakes mixed with chunks of glass. 
And I figure I’m going to start with the intellectuals first—poets and novelists.  Get them off their high horses, always putting us comic book junkies down.  It’s going to fun, but it’s going to be bloody.  And don’t think I can’t see you reading this, because I’ve got a pencil in hand and your time is just about up.

Monday, June 15, 2015


…There are no boats on the lake now, but at one point yesterday I counted sixteen.  Funny the difference a day makes.

…Here are some things people said on Facebook last week that I found interesting for whatever reason:

-If facebook gave us a "who gives a shit?" button next to the "like" would any of us have friends at all?
-My child is an excellent conversationalist, if the topic is pooping, peeing, farting, Halloween, breasts, or unicorns.
-Seven-year-old Henry this morning: "Whenever I wake up in the morning, I feel like an old man."
-I know this newborn baby thing is supposed to be hard and it is, but honestly, writing a book is much harder.
-Somebody in our household is hellbent on soiling every garment they own. For once, it's not me.
-i just saw a man dressed so poorly that for a brief second i believed in the devil
-"Walk softly and carry a resting bitchface."
-At the end of your life, you will look back and say, "I thought there'd be more pizza."
-Over the thirteen years I've been in Seattle I have lived in seven different places, but maybe I've finally found home now that I live next door to a grandma who says "motherfucker" in casual conversation.
-Hey high school guys in your bubba truck, when a woman with a baby asks you to please move because you parked too close to her car for her to get her baby into her seat and you just laugh and roll up the window, she's probably going to turn your bubba self in
-If you don't have anything nice to say, post it on social media.
-Have you ever been weird?

…And here are some things I like to start a new week:

-“A man is what he wills himself to be.” Jean-Paul Sarte
-“Be silly, be honest, be kind.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
-“It is good to dream, but it is better to dream and work.  Faith is mighty, but action with faith is mightier.”  Thomas Robert Gaines
-“That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” John Green
-“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.”   English proverb
-“No obstacles fell in his way that seemed to him insurmountable. He might be defeated, as he sometimes was, but he shrank from no hardship through impatience, he fled from no danger through cowardice.”  J. P. Morgan writing about Napoleon Bonaparte

-“Love wins.” Rob Bell

Friday, June 12, 2015


…I had this nice surprise the other day…

The Dark Sunshine, Len Kuntz
Connotation Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9914613-0-1
Reviewed by Julie Demoff-Larson
Wonderful! That is my first thought after I read Len Kuntz’ shorts collection The Dark Sunshine. Indicative of the title, these little ditties have glimpses of the appalling, humorous, and hopeful nature of the human condition. I found myself rooting for and sympathizing with his characters in the short amount of time I had with each story. In these reflective stories, Kuntz packs a whole lot into each micro, flash, and short fiction piece. There are no weak pieces in the 54 story collection and is evident why Len Kuntz is widely published in the small press.
I am beginning at the end here because themes in The Dark Sunshine are wrapped up neatly in two sentences in the final story “Red Pennies.” Here we find the seedy underbelly of society, explanation of cruelty, and the complacency that creeps in and keeps one from moving forward.
“Crimes against humanity are usually acts of insanity. She read a version of that in a stall at the Chevron station when she was bolder and considering fleeing.”
Kuntz addresses a multitude of crimes that happen behind closed doors, horrors that are kept secret, and the effect on the innocent. Adult/child relationships are prevalent and first introduced subtly in “Bad Connection,” leading the reader through time only making a brief connection to why the sister is emotionally inept.
“In a sixteen month span—the entire time our uncle lived with us—my sister’s mane went from cobalt to burgundy to ink-blot black, then bald.”
But this theme comes through loud and clear in “Oriole,” as one man’s abuse becomes the son’s destiny as played out through the irony of his father’s police issued weapon. As the drama begins to escalate the young narrator offers, “I change my view and I find his gun on the coffee table, the holster flapped over like a rubber chicken, like a giant scab. Why not use that on me, I think, but I know the answer. The pistol is for killing criminals, hands are for family.”
How can a reviewer give anything more than a vague description of a body of work that deserves so much more? Kuntz’s prose speaks for itself. All that is needed is a quote party to get your attention, to persuade you that The Dark Sunshine should be on your top ten fiction collection list too. For example, in “Things I Know About Rabbit Holes,” Kuntz shows off his writing chops in this story about regret and sorrow:
“Inside the tunnels, each time I reached for him, my son wafted apart, like a wraith, a sheet of human panels played against the light like a radiant quilt.”
Or in one of my favorite pieces in the collection, “Written in Stone,” a tough and gritty piece that incorporates fear, acceptance, and compassion into the story line. In the following line of dialogue we can see what a thoughtful writer Kuntz is as this story about two brothers standing among thousands of rocks with secrets written on them begins to take a turn.
“They won’t last long anyway.”
“Why?” I asked.
“In summer, the snow melt will come off the mountains and fill the stream and everyone’s secret will either get washed away or washed clean.”
If you are thinking this collection sounds like you will need an anti-depressant after, no worries. There are many laughs and chuckles in between to even it out. “Greener Gardens” is a hilarious piece in which a wife initiates a kinky evening with her husband after 50 years of marriage, but is rejected by him. She is then compelled to abandon him at that very moment, leaving him handcuffed to a chair. Kuntz effectively moves through time, creating enough space to forget about the cuffing and reintroduces the scenario at the right moment, therefore making it impossible to keep from busting out laughing. There are various levels of humor in the collection as seen in the stories “Lionel Ritchie Runs Things” and “The Hater’s Club.”

I can’t say enough about this collection, and as a writer myself, I must pay Len Kuntz the finest of compliments. All writers—especially those who write prose—should read The Dark Sunshine because this is the gold standard. This is what we read to make ourselves better writers. This is what we all aspire to.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


…I have this story up at Literary Orphans today:

Here I am again.  Dog without a bone.  Hogging up all the earth’s air.  Doing it in a hurry, too, as if I have asthma or have swallowed a roofie.
There’s nothing else to do, so I step outside my window.  (Don’t worry, there’s a balcony.)  ((Well, sort of.))
It’s a blue-lit night, the kind of blue-black twilight that resembles a shiner my Dad once gave Mom for a reason I never knew.  The stars are out there, somewhere, but they’re hidden, caged, and I feel like a pre-pubescent child who searches their bald privates for pubic hair, too eager for the stamp of maturity.
I wonder if God is pleased with himself.  I wonder how disappointed He is in everything, in me, and this claustrophobic hideout I call my life.
Earlier on, I went to the party like you wanted, and I did my best to make smart, small talk.  I may have failed.  I probably did fail.  Everyone there was good-looking and ambitious.  A few women wanted rich husbands, or just to be queen for a day.  One man showed me a picture of him kneeling beside a dead elephant with its tusks missing.  He said it wasn’t him who killed the elephant, but that it was a great photo-op.  He burped in my face by accident, then feigned an apology.
I watched you work the room.  At times you seemed to float.  Your gown was a big hit, but it was your shoes the other women admired most.  Men followed your trail like assassins.  It should have made me feel proud, but I just downed my drink and felt unfamiliar with myself.
We’ve been married since the dawn of time.  It’s funny the things that slough away over the years—long, feverish, tongue kisses, for example.  Patience, for example.
I’m up here facing a near-black Heaven because I left the party early, took a cab without telling you, though I did leave a text.  (I wonder when you’ll notice.)
My fear of heights is something that’s always made me feel cowardly, but tonight it’s nothing other than a nagging sore.  I look down at all the yellow cabs, noticing how they resemble plastic game pieces, shuffling through midtown Manhattan.  It’s overwhelming to consider how many lives are being lived at this very moment, to think that we are all sharing the same air.
When I was younger, giraffes were my favorite animal, but if I could actually be an animal now, I’d be some kind of bird, which I know is strange for a person with a phobia of heights.  But I figure if I was a bird I’d have that little fear tucked away inside my psyche, no different than the way we store our secrets and sins in out-of-reach places.
As I step over the ledge, the building seems to sway, air gusting around my tuxedo pants, testing my resolve.
I wait for the light below to turn green, for the taxis to push forward.  I’m not the best person in the world, but I don’t want to hit a car or ruin anyone’s evening.  I just want to fly a while, see if I can’t be something different for once, maybe even something special.

Monday, June 8, 2015


…Apparently you can listen to Ryan Adam’s exceptionally fine album, “Demolition” exactly four times on one ride from Portland to Snohomish.  I did it yesterday on what was one of the longest drives of my life. Suits me for destroying my body.
Some things I learned last week are these:
-Since marijuana has been legalized last July, Washington State has sold more than $215 million in pot, generating $53.8 million in tax revenue.
The state’s number one and two biggest volume stores are located in Vancouver.
-Dolphins are the only animal besides humans that have sex for pleasure.
-Leonardo da Vinci invented the armored tank, helicopter and parachute in the year 1501.  He also wrote his diaries right to left so no one would be able to read them.

-Minnesota has over 15,200 lakes
-Marriage might be going out of style.  The American marriage rate hit a rock bottom 50.3% last year.  That rate was 72.2% in 1960
-Humans can smell a skunk from up to a mile away.
-The most stolen book from public libraries is The Bible, followed by, “Cather In The Rye.”

…Here are some things I like to start of the new week:
 -“To connect with I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly at first, then all at once.” The Fault In Our Stars
-“Love is the greatest lunch in life.” Picasso
-“Beauty, truth, friendship, love, creation – these are the great values of life. We can’t prove them, or explain them, yet they are the most stable things in our lives.”  Jesse Herman Holmes
-“As a writer, I feel like I am tripping all the time. Everything is in high relief. A single leaf. A tall, green tree. A nature song. Being a writer wakes you up to everything. You're tripping all the time.” Deborah Henry
“All that glitters is not gold.” Shakespeare
 -“I am a person who drinks.  People who drink need to keep drinking.” Tyrion Lannister
-“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
-“Find what you love and kill it.” Charles Bukowski