Sunday, August 30, 2015


                                                                       Cake Mix

            Afterward, she drove home in such deep thought, almost comatose, staring into the loamy dark road as if it were an alien being or a disturbing foreign film, but along the way she clipped awake and even caught the symbolism of her prior efforts.  She almost hit a moon-eyed possum.  She spat on the radio console and wiped her mouth and changed it from Dolly Parton to something else.  She hummed with the song awkwardly, glad that she could be old and not yet feeble-minded.
Breathing was difficult.  Nothing had changed there.  She fitted the plastic prophylactic mask over her nose and mouth and sucked claw-ripping oxygen into her lungs as she climbed up the stairs, not even thinking to ask herself this time if it was worth it-- life.
Inside the house she put her purse down and took the chalice with her to the bathroom because she had to go and still she wasn’t quite ready to be separated from him.
She peed and studied the lonesome trickle sound of it, how it resembled a brook or their baby’s idiot gurgle all those many, many years ago. 
She stood up and didn’t flush until she’d poured the whole of her dead man into the bowl, him no more than the collection of a dozen or so ashtrays, looking like protein powder or mix for a gray cake.
“Look at you,” she said, tottering, not drunk but wanting to be.
She found his gin bottle easily enough, stashed behind the Cornflakes box in the cramped pantry.  It tasted like cotton and clay.  After a third swig it was sweeter than a kiss.
She sucked and slurped.  She finished the bottle.  She held the glass container up to the light.  There wasn’t but a beaker’s worth left.  Still she tipped it upside down and opened her throat.  She knew there was more left and she wanted it.


            I was late picking him up. 
When I pulled into the school lot, I saw him off near the soccer field, a pack of kids clustered around him in a semi-circle.  There was another boy with my son, a small kid, Jack something or other.  I knew his name because Jack always walked around town wearing headphones, jumpy with the music, as if electrified, slamming his fists into the air or spinning around while cars honked or flashed their brights.
When my son slapped him, Jack staggered but took a swing of his own.  My son hardly had to move out of the way.  He could be lazy about it.  This was Jack.
My son dodged.  He leaned back.  He yawned.  He grinned.  I had seen this grin before, but now it was like seeing an Indian scalp and not recognizing the head it went with.
I rolled the window down.  The others egged him on, the falcate of onlookers closing in.
I saw a flash of knuckle hover, then dive.  Then repeat.  Then a flurry of the same.
I pulled out of the lot.  I thought about myself; how in middle school Jimmy Kennedy beat me up because I wrote his girlfriend a poem declaring my love for her.  We did it on the picture’s mound.  There was a crowd of kids then, too.  He said, “No hard feelings,” and extended his hand and when I went to shake it he launched his boot into my crotch and that started things.
As I drove away, the crowd was a maw of limbs and motion.  I couldn’t see Jack.
My son caught a ride home.  I told him I was sorry, that there was last minute stuff at work and he told me no big deal.  I asked how school was and he said, “Okay.  Okay.”  Then he said he felt really tired and went to his room, the spare I made into his when he visited every third week.
That Friday I dropped him at his mother’s.  I gave him a hug.  I made him hold me back or at least remain inside my embrace for more than a second.  I told him I loved him no matter what.  Later, in the car, I wondered about that, about myself, the man and the father.
On the way home, I saw him on 2nd and Avenue D.  Jack bobbled a arrow-shaped board sign that said, “Don’t Stress.  Let us tackle your taxes!”  It was April 12.  I was late.
Jack dipped and weaved spastically to the music he was hearing through the head phones.  When I rolled down the window, I saw that he had a shiner under the right eye, a purple-black crescent.  I called him over, but he just danced.  He stared at me a little longer, but when I pulled away he gave me the thumbs up sign.

                                                         Sins like Fists

            She looks brittle, like a powdered wraith now but she tells me she was pretty once.  She has pictures as proof but instead she pulls up her shirt and shows me the hash marks like rail track on her back.  “Your grandfather was mean, mean.”
            Hey eyes skitter in a clear broth.  When I try to look away she taps my knee with her gnarled finger.  She says my wife came by the day before and I tell her I know that.
            “I saw,” she says.  “You’re just like him,” she says.  “Shame on you.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015


…I’m headed to Portland in a bit for a weekend of fun and frivolity.  Actually, it will mostly be a weekend of stress and laughter.  It’s Fantasy Football Draft time and as silly as it sounds, there’s a ton of pressure the entire Saturday.  I’m going to try to stay sober and not make any bone-head moves as I’ve done every year for the past four years.
Wish me luck, please.

…I wrote this the other day, though I don’t know what motivated it:

Halloween Night

This pen in my hand
feels like a rusty scalpel,
heavy as a stone sword,
and I’m a bit woozy on nostalgia
thinking about that night
the moon let us down so terrifically,
bloody shadows staining the road forever.

Still I sign anyway, quickly,
remembering Ruby’s ruby-red slippers,
the ones with the flaky Chiclet chips,
her dressed as Dorothy for Halloween,
clicking the heels of her shoes three times,
saying, “There’s no place like home.
There’s no place like home,”
before we headed out for the evening.

I had thought—
a car purchase,
a wedding dress and a honeymoon cruise—
any of these would get my signature
instead of a death certificate.

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the man of authority says again,
skirting my eyes as he attempt to
take the forms from my fingers.
“Mr. _____,” the man of authority says,
soft and frail,
while I hold tight to the edge of a page,
a toddler in a tantrum,
him not knowing I’m afraid to let go
the way I had let released
Ruby’s hand that Halloween night just day ago.

“Mr. _____, please,” he says.
“Please,” he says, “don’t you think this has been
difficult enough already?”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


…It’s Wednesday and here are a few things I learned recently that you may or may not know:

Joaquin Guzman aka El Chapo, the Mexican drug lord who escaped a maximum-security prison by slipping through a mile-long tunnel had vowed to escape a year earlier, making it his second such success.  His estimated net worth is over $1 billion.

There are more bicycles than people in Amsterdam.

Frenchman Ludovic Chorgnon completed his 41st triathlon in 41 days, setting a record.  His 41st, like all the others, consisted of a 2.36 mile swim, 111.8 bike ride and 26.2 mile run.

To see who should be his lover, Picasso made his two lovers wrestle.

98% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a gun store.

48% of Americans aged 35-67 say credit cards function as a survival tool, carrying an average of $7,000 worth of debt.

9 out of 10 forest fires are started by people.

…And here are a few things I like mid-week:

“It isn’t the big mistakes that get you, it’s the compounding.”  Robert P. Kaye

“If you have the courage to begin, you have the courage to succeed.”  David Viscott

 “When I’m out of blue, I use red.” Picasso

“I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs, but I trust a dog when it doesn’t like a person.” Bill Murray

“The two most important days in your life are when you are born and when you find out why.” Mark Twain

 “In thin places, we become our essential selves.” Eric Weiner

“It's kind of fun to do the impossible.”  Walt Disney

Sunday, August 23, 2015


…I spent the weekend in paradise.  Paradise is called Galiano Island in Canada.  Everything about the place is fantastic.  It’s sixteen miles long and six wide and everywhere you look there is something spectacular to see, from the ocean, to the forest and incredible trees, to rock formations partially eroded by the surf which look sculpted.
If you ever get a chance to go there, please do.

…I’m a bit backed up on things since I’ve been gone so much, so I’ll leave you with these lovelies to start your week:

-“Ah, rejection, my old friend. Come along in and have a chair.” James Claffey

-“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” George Bernard Shaw

-“What is now proved was once only imagined.”  William Blake
-"Perhaps home is not a place, but simply an irrevocable condition." James Baldwin
 -“Victory is sweetest when you've known defeat.”  Malcolm Forbes

 “-I love you.”= I trust you to be at my side when I die.” Maria Pinto

                “It’s my birthday.  It’s tragedy with cake.
                    There are five theories of bluenesss
                    And I proved every one wrong.”
                                                     --Kristy Bowen

-“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Einstein

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

-“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

Friday, August 21, 2015


…I had this story published the other day:
I actually wrote it a couple of years ago and so it was nice to find a home for it.

…Today I’m am heading to Canada.  To Galiano Island, specifically.
Next weekend is back to Portland.
Then the weekend after that Indianola.
Then the next weekend NYC.
I think I need to stay home more.

…Here are some things I like for this, or any other weekend:

This is the bird hour, peony blossoms falling bigger than wren hearts
On the cutting border’s railroad ties,
Sparrows and other feathery things
Homing from one hedge to the next,
                                                                           late May, gnat-floating evening.

Is love stronger than unlove?
                                                                Only the unloved know.
- Charles Wright

“Power is the ability to do good things for others.”  Brooke Astor

“What helps luck is a habit of watching for opportunities, of having a patient, but restless mind, of sacrificing one's ease or vanity, of uniting a love of detail to foresight, and of passing through hard times bravely and cheerfully.”  Charles Victor Cherbuliez

“The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart - this you will build your life by, and this you will become.” James Lane Allen

"Destruction and darkness are easier in some ways because they are . . . the very stuff that gave us the desire to write. The stuff that gave us no other choice." Amanda Miska

“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.” Douglas MacArthur

“Love is the most important thing in the world.  But baseball is pretty good, too.” Yogi Berra

“One day is worth two tomorrows.” Ben Franklin

“Show them no fear, show them no pain.” Iron Maiden

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


…”I believe it’s possible for a person to live longer than their life.  When I look around this auditorium and see all of you here, I know it’s true.  I know my brother is going to live a very, very long time.”
Those were the last lines from Gary Genoit, brother of “Tuck” Genoit, at Tuck’s memorial yesterday.
Over 2,000 people turned out.  Half were kids.  “Tuck” (nicknamed Tuck because his younger sister couldn’t pronounce Chuck) Charles Genoit died from a long fight with cancer at the age of 55.
He taught at Snohomish High School for 32 years.
Being at the memorial reminded me of the scene in “Mr. Holland’s Opus” when everyone is gathered in the gymnasium, after the school closed down the music department due to funding.  Early in the movie one of Mr. Holland’s students struggles mightily with the clarinet but eventually has a break through due to Mr. Holland’s patience and deft teaching abilities.  In the scene at the gym years later, she has now become governor and she says, “It was rumored that Mr. Holland was only teaching school while he was working on his master opus which would one day make him famous.  I think if you asked him if he succeeded, he would tell you no.  But look around this room.  This is your opus.  We are your opus.”  I know it’s corny, but if you haven’t seen that movie, this scene will make you cry, guaranteed.
And so I felt that way at Tuck’s memorial, even though I didn’t know him at all.
Both my kids had him.  They said he was the best teacher they ever had--not necessarily their favorite, but the best.  He made sure every student reached the full capacity of their learning ability.  He was tough and funny and cared.
It was hard to think selfishly at the memorial, wondering how many people would be there for my own memorial.  I guarantee you there wouldn’t be 2,000 or even 200.
It made me wish I’d done some things differently.
All three of his children spoke.  They were all quite eloquent.  His daughter started off with, “I couldn’t figure out what to say about my Dad, so I thought I’d just talk to him instead.”  Then she said, “Dad, I love you.  I miss you.  I wish I told you that more than I did…”
I bawled.
And so it was an incredibly moving experience that I could go on and on about.
It shook me.  It really made me think about life.

Someone once told me that funerals and memorials aren’t about the dead, they’re about the living.  That’s very true.

Monday, August 17, 2015


…How was your weekend?
I had a very long one, what with another trip to Portland and losing my car key.  Then last night was Dawes at The Showbox.  They were superb, though sadly they did not play “Million Dollar Bill.”  It was my last concert of the year, or at least as far as I know.
Now I’m a bit behind on things, but it’s all good.
…Here are some things to start off a new week:
 “A friend is one who sees through you and still enjoys the view.”  Wilma Askinas
“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take - choose the bolder.”  W.J. Slim
 "I really believe that all of us have a lot of darkness in our souls. Anger, rage, fear, sadness. I don't think that's only reserved for people who have horrible upbringings. I think it really exists and is part of the human condition. I think in the course of your life you figure out ways to deal with that." Kevin Bacon
“Thoughtfulness for others, generosity, modesty and self-respect are the qualities which make a real gentleman or lady.”  Thomas Henry Huxley
“Never mind what others do; do better than yourself, beat your own record from day to day, and you are a success.”  William J. H. Boetcker
“Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.” Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco
“If failure is not an option, then neither is success.”  Seth Godin

“Life without music would be a mistake.” Nietzsche

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


…I’m going to Portland/Vancouver tomorrow, quite early in fact.  Should be fun times.  I hope you are having fun times for yourself.
A distant friend suffered a heart attack yesterday and is terminal today.  Very tragic.
As they say, life is short so let’s all try enjoy it.

...At that Sam Smith concert I wrote about last time, the opener was some Irish guy I’d never heard of—Gavin James.
But he nailed it.  The crowd loved it.  Surprisingly, there were quite a few who knew the words to all of his songs, and they sang along and squealed and shouted.
He looked happy about that.
He played acoustic—just him and a guitar.
Here was one of my favorite songs of his:

…When I pick blue berries, which I’ve been doing more than ever this summer, I often get awful songs stuck in my head.  We’re talking awful.  Things like, “Tip Toe Through The Tulips” and “The Donkey Song.”
It’s tragic.
But today while picking I had this song stuck in my head, which I rather like though it does remind of when I’d play their album repeatedly while I was in North Dakota my sophomore year of high school, and hating every minute of it:

…I like every kind of music that exists.  A lot of people detest country music.  I get it, but today country really just fills a missing pop niche with strong hooks and melodies.
Take a listen to this (it even has rapping in it):

…Okay, last song (also country) that I once had stuck in my head for two weeks.  It’s a good one:

…Hey, you, have a great couple of days.
I’ll see you soon.
Until then, here are a couple of other things I like:

 -“A great party room has a horrible rug that you cannot destroy.”
-“Some people say there isn’t a difference between love and sex.  Those people are women.”
-“I feel like I learned more about love when relationships ended.  That may have been truer love because we took the sex out of the equation.”
-“If you want to be a butterfly, you have to spend some time as a worm.”
-“There’s definitely a time when the best you can do is look good for your age.”
-“I hope there’s no such thing as reincarnation because I will never pull a better life.” – Bill Maher
“Writing is hard work.  A clear sentence is no accident.  Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time.  Remember this in moments of despair.  If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.” William Zinsser
 -“If you do the best you can, you will find, nine times out of ten, that you have done as well as or better than anyone else.”  William Feather

Monday, August 10, 2015


…So on Saturday night I saw Sam Smith at The Gorge.
I’d never been there.  It’s a remarkable venue.  The Columbia River snakes through hundreds of feet below a hillside and concert-goers sit on a large slope, or, if like me, stand in the mosh pit in front of the stage, while behind us the sun glints off pink water until the sunset comes and then it’s just glorious.
So, yes, I was in the pit with 20,000 hipsters, none older than 28 as I could tell.
I had no idea Sam Smith was so popular.  He’s only had one album, but boy has that single cd connected with people.
It was the loudest concert I’ve ever been to.  The crowd screamed so loud in between songs that my daughter and I—who were standing inches apart—shouted at each other without hearing.
It seemed every single person in attendance know every single word to each song.  A 28 year old mom with her six year old daughter hunched across her back both sang at the top of their lungs the entire night.
It was crazy.  Crazy good.
 …So yesterday on the lake there was a boat with a huge American flag attached to the back along with a… Confederate flag.
Seriously, there was.
What’s the point of doing something like that?  Obviously, it’s a call attention for yourself, but are you trying to pick a fight?  Is that it?
Maybe here, where I live, in redneck country, you wouldn’t get a fight and you would realize that—which is what happened: no fight or yelling.
It just all seems—as a friend said—depressing.
...Anyway, it's Monday and here are some things I like to start the week off:
-“There’s a fine line between being racist and being dumb.” W. Kameul Bell
 -“Perhaps love is the process of my leading you gently back to yourself.”  Antoine De Saint-Exupery
 -“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.”  A.W. Pinero
-“Each of us is great insofar as we perceive and act on the infinite possibilities which lie undiscovered and unrecognized about us.”  James Harvey Robinson

-“To thine own self be true.” Hamlet

Friday, August 7, 2015



In between the moon and you
a man is taking pictures
of every specie,
logging them in his notebook
using a Dewy Decimal system.
How he has the patience, I do not know.
He classifies you as mundane or indistinguishable.
He says you taste like----.
Where your photo should be
is my faint fingerprint
bearing a crisp hood of blood.


You were supposed to be here.
The table was set,
wine glasses filled,
Coltrane’s trumpet yodeling stoned and brassy.
I had my apologies all in order,
a crease running down each pant leg.
But even the birds have forgotten you now.
The kids ask what’s for breakfast.
They never mention your name
or who you might have been.

 The Man On The Train

is missing his arms.
a book rests in his lap--
Sun Tzu’s, “The Art Of War.”
He catches me staring across the aisle,
nods his head and tells me,
“You can never be too prepared.”

 The Man In The Mirror

A bad man is staring back at me
in the mirror.
He looks nothing like me.
He’s handsome and svelte,
maybe Swedish.
I know he’s a bad man because he’s mouthing
the lyrics to a Beatle’s song I loathe,
plus he’s flipping me the bird.
He shows up most mornings.
Sometimes he’s hungover.
Sometimes he picks a fight for no reason.
When I tell him to get the fuck out of here,
he shoots me a grin
and says,
“Here’s looking at you, kid.”


This stupid fucking moon won’t leave me alone.
Every time I turn around its monocle is bearing down
like a stage light that wants to destroy something.
If I’m the guilty party here,
shouldn’t I be the one to know it?
Anyway, all of my moods are antiquated
and I can’t remember the last time I took the dog out for a walk.
At 7/11 the clerk wearing a turban gives me stinkeye
While mumbles into his shirt pocket wear his cellphone sits.
At the laundry mat all of my quarters are warped and won’t fit into the slots.
At the airport security frisks me and suggests I’m a terrorist.
Back home you talk to yourself for hours while looking at the TV
as if I don’t exist.
During a sex scene on “Days Of Our Lives” I slip into the sofa cushion
like a chameleon and become one of the goose down feathers
while life marches on, steady as ever.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


      1637 -- A Place Called Mistick 

            My brother rips off a strip of deer meat and chews while saying, “We should kill them all.  Woman and children, too.”
            His long brown hair is tied in a ponytail and he’s shirtless.  Wisps of wood smoke curl behind his back where a breeze twirls and the effect of this sight, mixed with Running Boar’s smoldering anger, makes me grin.
            My brother kicks me, his toe as sharp as an arrowhead through the moccasin.  Running Boar’s eyes are black holes, each with a center flame of red.  His face twists and contorts.  He has finger-painted two blue slashes on either side of his high cheek bones.  War paint.  He is too eager.  Even Father tells him to settle down.  “We are so many.  They are but few.  This is our land.”  Still, my brother is a fuse, an angry coil.  Once upon a time, though, we played with pet squirrels and swam streams.  We used to chase mountain goats when we were younger, trying to out run them, but now we are men and my brother is all about decimating the white man, greedy to make their blood soak through the sun-baked soil of these rolling hills.
            “If you are Pequot, you will not stand by and watch these invaders steal our land,” Running Boar says.  “You are a fool with your happy ways.”
            I have not told my brother that I am in love with First To Dance, she with eyes as blue as turquoise.  Running Boar once loved her himself, but now the white man crushes his heart.
First To Dance is pale for a Pequot but her smile is ripe.  I see her raising our strong sons.  I see myself loving her as an old man, loving her all the days of my life.
Running Boar says, “You are too comfortable.  You stare into the sky and spin silly thoughts.”
“Yes, it’s true,” I say.
“Someday the snake will draw your blood.”
I make a phony motion as if my hand’s been bitten.  I jerk it to resemble spasms of spurting blood.  Running Boar has no choice but to laugh.  “My brother is crazy,” he says, shaking his head.
I believe we are no different than the white man.  We have dissimilar skins, yes, and different customs, but our bodies and minds are composed of the same chemicals.  We should be able to coexist.  I am thinking this in my hammock on a morning when a few tiny birds chatter atop a bushy tree. 
Today I will tell First To Dance of my feelings for her.  She knows them already, but it’s better if I say these things with words to her so-pretty face.
Afterward I will ride into the settlement which sits in a valley fifteen miles from Mystic.  I will ask to meet with Mr. John Gardner who is chief of the white men there.  I will broker an agreement to ensure peace.  I am certain Mr. John Gardner wants this as much as most of our people.  If he resists, I will go to our brothers from the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes and gain their heavy muscle.  But we will not make war.  Fighting is what animals do. 
I’m about to lift my body and start my day when I feel the air tremble, the ground shuddering.  Birds squawk and scatter.  I can hear hundreds of hooves pounding like thunder.    In the distance, a dust cloud hovers over the peak of a hill.

Running Boar screams.  He is the first, but the rest of us follow.  Bullets and arrows.  Metal and flame.  One by one, we are erased from history.