Wednesday, August 31, 2011


…Last night I watched, “Donnie Darko” again. It had been at least ten years since seeing it.
What a film, what a piece of work.
Holy hell.
Future film majors should be required to study it. There must have been at least 30 different cinematography shots that were ingenious. Then there’s the creepy, whacked out plot. Then there’s a kitchen soup of famous actors—Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Seth Rogen, Drew Barrymore, Ashley Tisdale! and Katherine Ross who I once had a crush on (that’s her up there circa “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”) but who I thought while watching “D. Darko” was Meredith Baxter Birney.
In any event, if you’ve never seen Donnie Darko, please do. It’ll knock you down and laugh at you in a very spooky voice.

…Today I nailed boards to other boards. Now I have some nasty ass blisters. My hands are not used to doing anything that does not involve a keyboard.
I am not a carpenter.
I am not handy, nor am I a handyman. Just ask anyone.

…I finished Brian Oliu’s little book of quirky pieces called “So You Know It’s Me.”
This guy is a very fine writer. He strings together beautiful sentences. Sometimes you’re not sure what he means. Sometimes, I bet, he doesn’t even know what he meant. But that’s beside the point if you like lovely language. Usually people who use a lot of repetition feel fraudulent to me, but Brian does it wonderfully.

…I also finished Megan Chance’s historical romance novel, “City of Ash.” Megan, too, is an incredibly gifted writer. She’s the master at many things: building completely individualized characters, layering in sensibilities, adding historical flourishes, doing hardcore research to cement authenticity, and—something that always impresses me—adding so much conflict that the characters get shoved farther and farther into peril. The only thing I don’t understand is why Megan isn’t hugely popular. Maybe she writes too smart for most people? I don’t know, but I love her.

…Tomorrow I am being interviewed and recorded at Vox Poetica, then the link will be put up at the publication. I’ve never done anything like that before, so needless to say, I’m excited. I’m going to read three poems on the air. Yikes!

…Tonight I am going to see “Cheap Trick.” Yep. “Momma’s all right. Daddy’s all right. They just seem a little weary. Surrender. Surrender, but don’t give yourself away.” I am not a big fan but the tickets are free and company will be excellent.
Tomorrow night I’m going to see “One Republic” and meet the band afterward.
Next month it’s “Ryan Adams,” “Death Cab For Cutie” and “The Head and the Heart.” I almost had a coronary when I found out Ryan Adams was finally touring again. I would have his babies.
It probably seems to you as if I go to a lot of concerts. It seems that way to me.

…While reading Brian's book in the bath (there's some alliteration) I wrote four pieces in his style. It was fun.
Here's one.


You never told me and I never noticed before, but I do now.
I see them, the jars inside your eyes. Mason jars. My mother used to stuff hers with peaches she picked from a puny-looking tree leaning beside the tree swing attached to two crooked trees.
But these eyes of yours, these eyes with jars inside them, they are different. They are more like glass canisters. They are a place to store precious materials, such as your memories and your laughter. I have never heard you nostalgic and come to think of it, many years have transpired since your last laugh. I am the laughingstock in this relationship, believe me.
I wonder if your eyes get dry as mine sometimes do. If they did get dry, would the jars crack from being bone-dry and sore? If you sat at a computer all day as I sometimes do, would you get so much eye strain that the glass jar canisters would crash in on themselves, shattering like a glass hit by a sonic sound wave?
Discovering these jars in your eyes has me fascinated. They are making me more and more curious. What else do I not know about you? What other discoveries have I not discovered because I have not been paying proper attention?
Oh look—there are trapdoors inside your ears. What a shock! Knock, knock, who’s there, who’s there inside your right ear and who’s inside your left ear and why are do you have doors in your ears in the first place and why are both of them locked, from the inside no less?
Now that the cat is out of the bag you snort and stick out your tongue and I see that, ah ha, it is a ticker tape tongue, a kite tail tongue with little origami strips of paper. On them messages are written in a thin scrawl, as if a carpenter ant found a fountain pen. I read every note where you’ve recorded every name ever created, even the weird, hard-to-pronounce Old Testament names like Hesekiah and Abijah, but nowhere is mine. Is it behind the trapdoors? Is it in one of the jars? Do you not remember who I am or have we really become strangers after all?

Monday, August 29, 2011


…I have three new stories up:
--“Solitary” At Doorknobs and BodyPaint
--“A Colony of Termites” @ Housefire
--And “Black Notes” @ Pure Slush.
All of them are also here under “Words In Print.”
The latter story is a combination of two I keep coming back to—dementia/Alzheimer’s and lost innocence. Maybe I need to write it in novel form. We’ll see.

…In the tub the other day (what is it about the soothing feel of gurgling water?), I diagrammed the new novel, or did a rough outline of it. Since then, it’s been on my mind, which is good, because the piece needs to be flushed out quite a bit and, also, I find, when I can hold off from jumping in and just writing something, my subconscious works on my conscious, creating a new awareness, so that a lot of the things I see, read or hear become useful fodder for the writing. I watch a show with a blind person in it and think, "Maybe I'll make the sister blind." I read a story about a ghost and suddenly it makes perfect sense to add a delusional character who thinks she sees the ghost of her dead twin, and then it makes me have to come up with a subplot about why the twin died and what makes this person see her dead twin.
It's all quite fun, actually.

…My daughter and I watched two films. One was, “Flipped,” an adorable little coming of age number about falling in love in the year 1963. Evidentially it was adopted from a YA book of the same name. It falls on the cusp of cheesiness, but I bet you won’t be able to watch it and not go “Aw,” several times.
The other film, “Afterschool” was a raw, brutal look at kids in a boarding school who—materially—have it all, but who’ve become desensitized to living for the sake of living, without stimulants, both narcotic and sexual. It’s sort of a “Less Than Zero” reworking for a new generation. Beware: should you decide to watch it. There are many parts which will leave you dry-mouthed, squirming and wishing you weren’t watching it.

…It’s a gray-green morning, misty. The lake wears a wrinkled mauve face. There are no boats. The eagle is somewhere else. A lonesome dog is howling sporadically. The environmental state of things is telling me it’s to be a sad Monday, but I don’t believe that. It’s going to be fantastic.
I can just feel it.
Can’t you?

…Here are some things I like at the start of a new week:

"I will make my soul an envelope for your soul~ And my heart a residence for your beauty~ And my breast a grave for your sorrows~ I shall love you" ~Gibran

‘'Worry looks around, Sorry looks back, Faith looks up.”

"From the beginning, the soul of you and I has been one" ~Rumi

“I have so many words, but not enough beds. So they stand and fall into obedient line, chatterbox gossips with the bionic mouth and the old sleeplessness. But to your name they fold up in a cross: the arch is a bow of great pain. And so reduced, they find a place.” Emily Filocamo

"I like to think of art as living information. You simply go to it and its emotional relevance with just happen to you." Ryan Adams

--"Wisdom is benefiting from other people's pain."
--"Hard and difficult seasons are just the chapters of what you're going through at the time, they're not the story. How you get through those chapters determines the rest of the story." Jeff Knight

Saturday, August 27, 2011


…I forget too much. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I’ve forgotten.
That could be scary, but I just sort of ignore the fact that I’m not logging certain events or actions down into the journal that my brain carries around.
It’s not like I have Alzheimer’s. Not yet anyway.
It would suck to have Alzheimer’s. It would suck to have dementia or any sort of disease like that.
Glen Campbell has a new album coming out.
(You think it’s really random, me mentioning Glen Campbell right now, don’t you? You might even wonder about me and dementia.)
“Why are you so happy?” a reporter asked Glen.
“Hell, I don’t know. Maybe because I’m still young.”
“Yeah, I’m only 75.”
I like that spirit. I like Glen.
Glen just revealed he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He doesn’t care, though. He’s actually even going on tour for his new album. I’m not sure how that’s all going to pan out, but I admire him a great deal for doing so.
Pat Summitt, the winningest women’s college basketball coach ever, just announced that she, too, has Alzheimer’s, but that she is going to continue to coach.
I think that’s brave. You know, throwing yourself out there like that with a public admission and then allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to erode while everyone’s watching.
I don’t know why I’m fixated on Alzheimer’s this morning.
I guess it’s because a friend was recalling memories and I thought it would really suck not to be able to remember past events—the good ones anyway.
Of course there are many things that would suck way worse.
So, let me shut up. The sun is shining. It’s Saturday in Seattle. No one’s on the lake yet, not even a duck. The beavers must still be sleeping.
Good morning to you. Have the best day ever.

Here are a few things I like today:

"If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on
walking." Buddhist Proverb

"I think laughter may be a form of courage. As humans we sometimes stand tall and look into the sun and laugh, and I think we are never more brave than when we do that." Linda Ellerbee

"Maturity is achieved when a person postpones immediate pleasures for
long-term values." Joshua L. Liebman

"I learned the sun falls a million ways on a mountain trail, so each becomes a different trail
I learned if I dressed like a folding chair I'd never be alone." Rob Cook

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

"We all have stories we are trying to escape." Vanessa Hua

‎"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes." --William Gibson

"At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable." Christopher Reeve

"A servant wants to be rewarded for what he does~ A lover wants only to be in love's presence~ The ocean who's depth can never be known" ~Rumi

Thursday, August 25, 2011


...I've been listening to this band and this song on repeat. It's quite sweet and sad and good. You'd like it.

"When it hits me that she's gone
I think I'll run for president,
get my face put on the million dollar bill.
So when these rich men that she wants
show her ways they can take care of her
I'll have found a way to be there with her still.

When it hits me that she's gone
I think I'll be an astronaut,
make the moon my home and leave the earth behind.
So when she steps into the night
to the light that makes her prettiest
she'll be facing me every time she shines.

When it hits me that she's gone
I think I'll be a movie star,
play the finest men the world has ever seen.
So when these lovers that she's found
show her ways they learned to talk to her
behind each perfect word there'll be a little bit of me." Dawes, "Million Dollar Bill"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


--My daughter has an obsession with Katy Perry. I’m not sure why exactly; she just does.
But it's a healthy obsession.
It’s a hobby for her, this Katy Perry fandom thing.
When I was her age I had a mild obsession with Bo Derek.
That’s her in the photo. The iconic image is taken from the film “10.”
I haven’t seen that movie in many, many years and I’m almost afraid to since I have such fond memories of it.
In the movie, Dudley Moore’s character is having some marital woes with his Julie Andrew’s wife when--while driving through Beverly Hills--Dudley is at a stop light, turns to his left, and happens upon the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.
It’s Bo, of course, seated in the back seat of the car next to him. She glances at him as one would another passenger in the opposing lane. It’s a subtle, slow motion gaze which confirms for Dudley (as well as viewers) that Bo is indeed stunning.
When the light changes to green, Dudley fights traffic to follow the car and the woman to, of all places…
a chapel.
Bo Derek (said beautiful woman) is getting married.
That doesn’t deter Dudley.
Nor does a toxic bee sting to the nose, the loss of several teeth, an arrest, being locked out of his house, a car wreck…
Nothing dissuades Dudley because he’s just too far gone, too obsessed with his obsession.
After a series of comic pratfalls, Dudley tracks the bride all the way to…
where she’s…
on her honeymoon.
Eventually, Dudley saves Bo’s new husband from certain death by drowning and Bo, a new age feline, ends up smoking pot and wanting to engage in sex with Dudley while Ravel’s Bolero plays on the stereo.
Ultimately, Dudley realizes that Bo is beautiful, but always somewhat vapid, scrupulous to a degree, and, well, just not the perfect “10” he’d thought her to be—at least not spiritually or mentally.
His hopes dashes, he returns to Julie Andrews, not settling, but wiser and more grounded.
The film is a great tale about the grass always being greener on the other side, the fallacy of beauty, and the truth about love.
Those are the things I think about when I remember “10.”
Really, they are.
I don’t think about Bo. It seems silly now, that I ever had a crush on her. After all she wasn’t real. I should have known better.

“Love is not a feeling. It is an action, an activity. True love is not a feeling by which we are overwhelmed. It is a committed, thoughtful decision.” Scott Peck

Friday, August 19, 2011


…I have a new poem, "Mother's Day" up at Stoked and also here under "Words in Print." I tend to write really dark, tragic stuff, but this poem is about as tragic as they come. I even had a friend question why I would write something so horrific. I guess that's a fair question.
I don't know if I have an adequate answer.
I do know that it's nearly impossible for me to write happy pieces. It's not that I'm an unhappy guy, but rather that it feels like a cop out to take the traditional everything-works-out-wonderful-and-they-all-lived-happily-ever-after endings. It seems boring.
The dark stuff is more interesting to me, more unexpected. The truth is, the world has lots of dark places and dark moments and dark people in it.
The truth is, I'm not talented enough to write something happy without it coming across as hokey.
We all have our niches.

..I'm still working on paginating a chapbook for a poetry contest. It's a lot more work than I thought. I might be wasting my time. Even though there are three winners, contestants WORLD WIDE are encouraged to enter.
I suppose, it can't hurt.

…I got my copy of L.E.S. (Lower East Side) Review in the mail and read the whole thing through. There's lots of different stylings in it. Some of the poems were really out there and I had no idea what the author was trying to say.
I don't know why people like poetry like that.
I wonder if they can infer some meaning that is totally escaping me.
I me totally flying right over my head.

..Here are some interesting and very random facts I've collected for your enjoyment:

What's the saddest movie of all time?
-- 20% say "Schindler's List
--16% "Old Yeller"
--14% "Terms of Endearment"
--10% "Life is Beautiful" (one of my favorites films)
--10% "Brokeback Mountain"
--9% "Million Dollar Baby"
--6% "The Champ"
--3% "Love Story"
--2% "An Affair to Remember"

…There are more kangaroos in Australia than there are people

…"Mean people" earn $10,000 more than "nice people" in the work place

--91% of all adults think they are a good, very good, or excellent driver

--Has Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality been realized in the US?
Yes --54% of blacks
Yes --49% of whites

--Through yesterday, the US has tied the record (20008) for weather-related disasters that cost $1B or more

--The last seven July's have been the highest grossing movie months ever

--"The Jersey Shore goes to Italy" premier is the highest rated in MTV's history
Ambercombie and Fitch has offered to pay the cast of "Jersey Shore" not to wear the apparrel line's clothing

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


…I have a new story, "Chop Salad," up at ZOUCH magazine and also here under "Words in Print."
--I like the photo they used, of President Obama, Michelle and the girls. They used that pic because in the story I start off by saying I wish I was black and I wish I could meet the Prez and play with his bone-thin girls (the narrator is a chubby, reclusive girl without much self-esteem.)
I am not fat. Most people would call me thin, lean, skinny.
I am six three and 165 lbs.
Sometimes I feel fat, though. Sometimes I think I am fat. I do have a little roll around the waist. Really. It's not just me being anorexic either.
Here, have a look.
See? I told you.
Even though I am not overweight and even though I do not have a vagina, I have a lot in common with the narrator in Chop Salad.
I often feel reclusive and shy. Sometimes I feel aloof because I feel as if I don't belong to any one group. What do I mean by “group?” Heck, I don’t know.
I am good in crowds when I force myself to be, which can happen, though it takes effort.
I can be charming even if it does sometimes feel like a farce, an act.
I remember a Partridge Family episode where Danny--struggling to find out what he wanted to do with his life--had a eureka moment:
DANNY: "Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up."
SHIRLEY: "Well, that's great, Honey. What do you want to be?"
DANNY: "A negro."
(this was in 1972, so it was still "negro" instead of "African American.")
I've wanted to be black before. I've wanted to be other people, part of another culture, especially one with strong bonds.
Is that normal? How about you? Have you ever thought of being someone else, or are you just perfectly fine with who you are?

…I have given myself the permission to take the rest of the summer off from writing unless someone solicits me.
It’s a freeing feeling but still a bit of a struggle since I often judge my success/worth by how much I produce, which as a way of valuing oneself, I realize, is far from ideal.
I did cut and paste about 80 poems together just now. I might submit them to this poetry Chapbook contest. There’s a fee for the contest, of course.
The competition will be stiff, no doubt.
But you win money and there are prized for the top three finishers and it would be nice to win a prize, especially in poetry where I am not always certain I am that skilled.
So, we’ll see. I’ll let you know how it goes.

…It smells like bacon.
It’s a good smell, strong, sort of greasy and irony.
The sun is streaming through the window of this crepe-coffee shop I’m at.
It’s so bright, in fact, that I’ve draped my laptop bag over the screen in order to thwart the glare.
I probably look suspicious to onlookers.
It makes me feel like I’m under the sheet at summer camp with a flashlight telling ghost stories.
Funny how little things like that can make a person feel nostalgic.

…I like these things on a happy Tuesday afternoon:

"The line between living and manipulating your life for the sake of your art is blurry." Art Edwards

"Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry." -- Mark Strand

Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everybody I've ever known.' Chuck Palahniuk

"Ever writer who is not a great writer is a plagiarist." Bolano

"I was making a point. It was about how small life is and how you only get to see so much but then, when you widen your lens, you miss all of the important details particular to imperfect knowledge."
--"I try to remind kids that they are not noble savages, they are human beings, and the odds are aginst them."
--"Frequently we think of ourselves as someone different from whom others think we are." --Stephen Elliot

Sunday, August 14, 2011


…I have a new story, "The Years Like Fine Dust" up at The Stone Hobo and here under "Words In Print."

..A while back I mentioned I was reading Alethea Black's story collection, "I Knew You'd Be Lovely."
I love that title.
I loved her stories even more.
The real reason I got the book was because she was featured in The Writer. Also, it's rare to get a collection published by a big house these days, so I was curious.
She doesn't fall in for a ton of detailed description, but her characters are all individualized and feel very real, most of them bothered by something, or else ridiculously peppy and bold.
Her dialogue is pretty spot on in each piece.
And every story is ripe with twists and turns and nugget after nugget of wisdom. Many a little spears chucked at your eyeballs that read like Proverbs.
Don't believe me?
Here, have some lovely writing:

--"I've never gotten over the sheer improbability that I was born."

--"The strangest thing that's ever happened to me is still happening."

--It crossed his mind that this was all chemistry ever was: two people's silent selves invisibly aligning while their noisy selves carried on, oblivious.

--It stuns me, all the things we're willing to forsake for security, which is only ever imaginary anyway.

---"Originality is just a sign of not enough information."

--Surprise is inherently hostile.

--"If you give up smoking, drinking, and love, you don't actually live longer. You just feel like you do."

--"It's a fruitless task, explaining yourself," he said. He was enjoying confessing the truth for once. "Either people get you, or they don't. In fact, even when they get you, it's always…a disappointment.

--"Nothing is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

--"There are two ways of being unhappy. Not getting what you want. And getting what you want."

--"If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"
--"If you're so rich, why aren't you smart?"

--We all desire the cut of truth.

--We say the same things over and over, she wrote.
Love never repeats, Bradley thought.

---You have cast yourself as the bearer of wisdom.

--"Wanting things too much is a form of sadness."

--"A pigeon's feathers are heavier than its bones." -- Alethea Black, "I Knew You'd Be Lovely"

Friday, August 12, 2011


…I have a new story, "Idaho" up at Right Hand Pointing and here under "Words in Print."

…My internet connection has been weak all day long. I have one red flag, not even a bar, and certainly nothing in the shade of green. I often go to the library in town for this very reason.
The library is a serious place. Everyone whispers there. No one smiles and certainly no one laughs. Everybody concentrates really hard, as if they're constipated or passing kidney stones or experience Braxton Hicks.
At the library, it's as if you're on a different planet or on a Twilight Zone episode with pod people shuffling slowly through aisles, staring at computer screens while wearing ear buds. You could probably shoot off fireworks and no one would notice.
I'm always surprised by how busy the library is. With the advent of Kindle, you'd think libraries would be barren, but it's just the opposite from some reason.
Usually people are lined up, waiting to get in, ten or fifteen minutes before the library opens up. They'll even wait in the rain.
Maybe it's about escaping, finding a quiet sanctuary where one can center their mind.
Or maybe it's about getting something for free. Maybe that's it.
You can rent really old, unpopular movies at the library for no charge.
You can get worn out copies of "Smokey and the Bandit Part 2" and "Part 3" and probably the god-awful "Godfather Part 3."
At my library, they have every copy of The Seattle Times going back to the early 1900's. They have the actual physical newsprint. It seems kind of weird (and altogether too trustworthy) for whomever runs the library to just let any Joe grab an old Seattle Times off the shelf.
There isn't any particular kind of person who visits the library. You get your old folks and youngins. You get the thin and thick, black and white and Hispanic but no Asians because, well, because, sadly, there really aren't any Asians where I live. (Instead, there are lots of rednecks and soccer moms and people who favor tattoo magazines over Vogue or GQ.)
What I don't get about the library is why they wrap books in that pasty plastic. It's like grandparents who drape their sofas or car seats in hard cellophane. I also don't understand why they have six copies of every Alice Hoffman book.
If you haven't been to the library in a while, you should make a trip, drop by. I bet you'll be surprised. You might even come away enlightened.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


…I am taking the summer off. Mostly I am. And I’m okay with that. I think I was getting too relentless with the writing. I’m hoping a break will bring me back refreshed, sort of like a spiritual cleanse.

…I wrote a novel a few years back called, “Clean White Pieces.” It was about this woman who physically beats her husband. I had a roommate once whose girlfriend beat him. I was always fascinated by that. Why not stop her? Why not hit her back, if you have to? But he didn’t.
In the novel, Avery doesn’t hit Ruth back either. He takes it. He’s weak and that’s one of the core themes. His only two friends are parakeets he keeps downstairs called Mac and Cheese. (Aviary is another name for a bird cage--there’s lots of symbolism in the novel.) He tells the birds all his secrets, and how much he dislikes Ruth, and the birds do a pretty good job of listening. Those are some cute scenes.
Ruth is obviously disturbed, but as the novel goes along she gets more and more crazy, sort of like Carrie White’s mom in “Carrie” only Ruth is a neat freak to the tenth power. She scrubs the tiles and counters and her skin. Everything has to be clean and white. When she finds a mole on her forehead, she cuts it off with a paring knife because she thinks it’s a sign that Satan is inside her, making her dirty.
Then we have Noah, their son, who has a girlfriend but is secretly in love with his best friend, an African American named Montreece.
Things get more and more messed up and troubling, very dark, and everything ends cataclysmically.
I’m not sure anyone would enjoy that novel, but I wrote it. I wrote it in a month and a half. It would need some polishing, but since I’m not up to that, it’ll stay sitting on the top drawer right there over my shoulder.

…How have you been? Are you having a good summer? Over here where I am there hasn’t been an awful lot of sunshine. We’ve not had the nation’s heat wave. I guess that’s a good thing.

…I’m reading five books at the same time. Well, not all at once, of course, but I’m reading one book then jumping to another and then back. They’re all very different but quite good. One is “I Knew You’d Be Lovely,” by Alethea Black. She’s a good writer. It’s a story collection, a debut, too. Sure seems like that’s a hard feat to get a big publishing house to take a first collection.

…I really want to see, “My Idiot Brother.” I really want to see, “30 Minutes or Less.”

…I’m also anxious to hear the new Kanye West/Jay Z collaboration. I ordered it. Should be here any day now.

…I know I said I’m taking the summer off from writing, and really, I pretty much am, but I wrote a few poems the other day and I’m sending them to a contest at The Sycamore Review, which is Purdue U’s lit mag. I’m probably nuts and wasting my time, not to mention $15 for the reading fee, but I saw that Louise Gluck was judging and I always thought my poetry was similar to hers in some respects. I don’t examine nature as much, but both our styles have a clear narrative arc.
We’ll see. 1st prize is $1,000.
It would be nice to win.
That would make me glad.
I’d buy you a hot fudge Sunday with some of my winnings if I won.
Keep your fingers crossed.

I like these things on an unsettled Tuesday:

"I don't believe there is any greater blessing than that of being pierced through and through by the splendor and sweetness of words…I wouldn't take the kingdom for it." Edith Wharton
moxie \MOK-see\, noun: 1.. Vigor; verve; pep.2. Courage and aggressiveness.3. Skill; know-how.
"What fascinates me about life is that now and then the past rises up and declares itself." Sue Grafton

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

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Norman MacFinan

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

"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

"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

‎"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." ~William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"
~Ernest Hemingway (about William Faulkner)

--"He'd fallen so far behind he was getting ahead just by being alive."
--"Maybe the road back to yourself begins with common courtesy."
--"You were once this girl, and all you wanted was to jump rope right in the same cold wind that's blowing now."
--"Gravity is the receiver on the hook. Mortality we smell on certain people we pass."
--"You love waitresses-they always come back."
--"Life is next door."
--"We knew there was no accounting for differences in the souls of our parents just as you didn't ask why the good witch was good and the bad bad."
--Love is wanting what you already have." -- Doug Goetsch

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I am making up things to tell you. That’s what fiction is. Poetry, too I guess. “Lies” is a harsh-sounding word. “Make believe” and "pretend" sounds like something a child would say.
If I made up something that ended up being true, would you tell me? Would you think I’m psychic, clairvoyant? Would you be impressed?
I bet not. You’re selective and judicious. You’re easy on the eyes but you know how to drive a hard bargain.
Here’s something that’s different: my blood has turned black.
Yep, it has.
I’m not kidding.
I cut myself by accident yesterday. It was one of those burning paper cuts. After a few seconds, ink oozed out. I thought I was passing out again or hallucinating or else turning into a black and white television set.
But it was really black. My blood was.
Another thing that’s new is I’ve been gaining weight. I’ve muscled up. If I flexed right now I’d probably rip holes in my shirt, right whe my massive biceps lurk. I am thinking of changing my name to Diesel. Len Diesel.
Oh, and I shaved my head and got my teeth whitened. Now the moon and I have contests to see which of us can glow the brightest at night. So far it’s a dead heat and we’re tied at 2 to 2.
The other evening, for something to do, because I was bored and restless and feeling naughty and reckless, I jumped off the roof of my house.
Actually, I took a running leap.
It was a thrill, let me tell you, because I’m afraid of heights. But I didn’t fall. Nope. I flew. I soared past Pete the Eagle and I even passed a Boeing 747. I went to Asia and Mauritius. I just checked out the lay of the land. Then I flew home. What a blast!
The last thing I’ll say is this: I am doing great. I’m better than okay. I am peachy keen. My complexion has color in it. I am no longer pale or dull. It doesn’t matter that the sun refuses to play, I no longer look like a cadaver. I rather resemble a field laborer with my tan dermis. It helps show off my new teeth.
So that’s all the news from this neck of the woods. If I decide to go flying again tonight, I’ll buzz by your house. I won’t wake you, but I’ll write you a note and stick it in your mailbox. It will be the envelope with the word “HELLO!” on it.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


…The Rusty Truck called it quits yesterday. I’ve had four or five poems published there. It was a good journal, particularly respectful of veterans (I’m not one, but my brothers are.)
It’s always sad when a literary magazine closes up shop.
This time it’s TRT. The Truck is dead. Lit rigor mortis has set in. “Another one bites the dust, hey hey!”
Scot’s note brought to mind divorce, how couples in a matter-of-fact way say, “We just great apart.” There was a satisfied weariness to his tone. “I haven’t been able to come up something new for a while now.”

…I thought about death today. This morning already.
Yesterday, too.
It’s one of a handful of things that are inevitable for all people.
I have been thinking about death a lot lately probably because I’ve been watching, “Six Feet Under.”
In the show (which ran for four seasons on HBO) we follow the quirky Fisher family who run a mortuary. Mortality and death are the show’s two themes, and they explore them a brilliant balance of moodiness and humor.
Do you ever think about death?
What’s that like for you?
I used to be terrified of funerals. I attended my first one when I was living in Washington, D.C.
I was 34.
The woman who’d died was my wife’s administration assistant.
Her name was Hala. She was beautiful, Palestinian, an angel on earth really, with a ready smile, always eager to do good, help others.
The night of her death, she was driving her jeep in through a snow storm when the vehicle crashed. Hala was flung all the way through the windshield (she hadn’t been wearing her seatbelt) and into the road ahead of her.
In the back of the jeep, stuffed high to the ceiling, were presents Hala was taking to an orphanage that night.
Flash back to a few months earlier: Hala was working on applying to law school. In order to get accepted, she had to write a paper about why she wanted to be a lawyer. When she was through, she asked my advice.
I told her the truth. I said that her piece was raw, honest, provocative, evocative and thoroughly wonderful.
I still remember that perfect first line: “I was born a child of war.”
I was to read the piece at her funeral. I think this was her husband’s request (they had been married just a few months prior to the accident.)
I started rehearsing a week before-hand. I practiced in my office with the door closed, the blinds drawn. I practiced once or twice a day. Or I should say, I tried to practice.
Most times I couldn’t get through the first paragraph without breaking down. Every sentence made me sob, Hala’s words caught in my throat.
On my desk sat a picture of my wife and two year old daughter next to Hala in her wedding gown minutes following the ceremony. Hala looked like an angel and for many, many years, my daughter believed that Hala was in fact her own personal angel.
At the funeral service, attendants burned incense from tarry black canisters. The air was thick with acrid smoke. It resembled a setting that had just been bombed by the enemy. Loud wailing and screeching echoed off the high ceilings and cavernous belly of the building.
When it came time for me to go to the front and read, my legs felt like jelly, my stomach rumbling like an old dryer.
I read.
I read the words.
I did not think of Hala as I read. I did not allow her image to form in my mind.
They were just words on paper that someone had written.
I read the piece in less than five minutes, straight through.
I did it without a single blunder.
Driving home that night, I at first felt a sense of accomplished duty—I had finished the task without blubbering. I had read Hala’s piece, shared her thoughts, without sobbing and making a mess of things.
Afterward, however, the more I thought of it, the more my reading seemed as if it had just been a performance. I was acting, dehumanized, having become a stone version of me.
It felt as if I’d betrayed Hala, if not also myself. Tears—authentic ones—would have been fine. They would have made sense.
Death is fraught with emotion. Mourning is real. It is a piece of us being ripped out and flung for others to hear or not hear.
We even have this: “And Jesus wept.”
I’ve been to many other funerals since then. Some have had hundreds of people in the audience. Others have been smaller affairs. But all have been—to an extent—celebrations with tears aplenty, and laughter, too, later on when people tell anecdotes or in the anteroom where friends join.
And that’s how it should be.
We live, we die. No one knows why, or when. We just do.
It’s nothing we should fear, nor is it anything we should take joy in.

Monday, August 1, 2011


…Rabbit Rabbit

…I have a few things:
--a story, “Glass Houses” up at Word Gumbo out of the UK
--two poems—“Secrets Magicians Won’t Share” & “Abducted” at THIS Literary Zine
--and five stories included in a retrospective at Connotation Press
All of these are also included here under words in print.

…It’s been four days since I wrote here. I try never to go more than three. I have been bad. I am a bad boy.

…I have by reading “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. It was recommended by our instructor at the Iowa Weekend Writer’s Conference and I can see why.
He’s sharp, savvy and speaks with an authoritative voice, getting to the heart of the matter without mincing words.
He’s also helped pull me out of this self-doubt ditch I’d fallen into. He says, “Write for no one but yourself. Don’t care if anyone sees it or reads it. I’m not quoting directly here. He says it better than I just have and at some point I’ll share all of his strongest snippets with you.
He’s no saying anything I haven’t heard, but like all inspirational people, he articulates things in a way that brings the material to new life so it seems fresh, relevant, illuminating and even urgent.
--I’m trying to keep myself centered. Why do I write? the question stays anchored foremost in my mind.
I write because I love it.
I write because it’s therapeutic, and I have demons I need to evict.
I write because I get an endorphin rush when I’m done with a piece.
I write because I read a lot and when I read good writing I grab a pen and paper and reflexively start blathering on.
I don’t think I could ever stop writing. Last week was my lightest output in several years and it left me feeling sad and sort of depleted, almost defeated. I didn’t write on purpose. I wanted to see how it would feel emotionally and spiritually.
--I’ve decided to less obsessed with outcome and goals and numbers. And I’m not going to be so concerned if I get an agent or not, if my novel and collections get published. Sure, I’ll keep trying, but I’m not going to brow beat myself if it takes a long while to happen or even if it doesn’t happen.
I am a writer. I write because I love it. I write because I must. The rest doesn’t really matter.

…Presently I am at a divey sort of cafĂ© near SeaTac Airport. Planes swoop in and soar out. Planes in white sky always make me think of 9/11. I think about 9/11 quite a bit. It still seems unfathomable to me.
I like the energy in airports. Seeing all the people. The couples, young and old. The kids. All the stories each person is living out.
Seeing so many people in airports always grounds me: I am insignificant in the world. There are billions of others. I am not special.
I think it’s good to be grounded that way.
I still don’t completely understand how airplanes can fly, especially the double decker ones.
I don’t understand how cruise ships can float.
I guess I am not that smart or knowledge about engineering and aerodynamics. Probably if you explained it to me, I still wouldn’t get it. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

…I like these things on a sunny afternoon at SeaTac:

"I don't believe there is any greater blessing than that of being pierced through and through by the splendor and sweetness of words…I wouldn't take the kingdom for it." Edith Wharton

"What fascinates me about life is that now and then the past rises up and declares itself." Sue Grafton

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

"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

"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