Friday, July 31, 2015


…It’s a hot Friday here.  Sizzling, actually.  I like it.

…I just finished picking blueberries for five hours.  Really, five hours.  I picked 22 pounds today.  I’m nearing 200 pounds.  That’s about fifty pounds over my own weight.

…Here are some things I like for the weekend:

-“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

-"We live in this weird society lately where if somebody isn't someone’s cup of tea, they want to ban it. People don't say anymore, 'That's not for me.' They go, 'That shouldn't be for anyone. [Your perspective comes from] you and your experience, and your history, and you have to accept that. You have to know that your opinion can't be policy." Sarah Silverman

-“We come into this world crying while all around us are smiling.  May we so live that we go out of this world smiling while everybody around us is weeping.”- Persian proverb

-“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself - and be lenient to everybody else.” Henry Ward Beecher
 -“I think we have special vision as writers according to whatever wounds we’ve suffered.  We have special vision to see people who are also suffering those same wounds.” Beckett
-“Each of us, if we would grow, must be committed to excellence and to victory, even though we know complete victory cannot be obtained, it must be pursued with all one’s might. The championships, the money, the color; all of these things linger only in the memory.  It is the spirit, the will to excel, the will to win; these are the things that endure.”  Vince Lombardi
-“Goodness is a special kind of truth and beauty. It is truth and beauty in human behavior.”  H. A. Overstreet
-“True merit, like a river, the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.”  Lord Halifax
 -“The meaning of life is creative love. Not love as an inner feeling, as a private sentimental emotion, but love as a dynamic power moving out into the world and doing something original.” Tom Morris
-“The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.”  W.J. Davison
 -“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
 -“Every one of my books has killed me a little bit more.” Norman Mailer

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


…It’s Wednesday, peaceful and beautiful out on the lake where there isn’t a solitary boat anywhere to be seen.

…Today I am going to court and writing poetry.  How’s that for a mixed bag?
…Speaking of mixed bags, there’s a lot of strange stuff that goes on around the world.
See for yourself:


It's a story that's getting a lot of buzz.
A bomb squad blew up a briefcase and other suspicious items in a Pittsburgh man's car Monday after he robbed a bank, police said.
With a sex toy. Specifically, a vibrator.
Aaron Stein, 35, faces a preliminary hearing June 25 in Allegheny County Magisterial District Court on nine felony counts including aggravated assault, robbery, threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction and the unusual charge of possessing a facsimile weapon of mass destruction, according to court documents.
That last one would be the vibrator.
Stein was arrested after a PNC Bank in the Pittsburgh suburb of Crafton was robbed of an undisclosed amount of money Monday. Crafton Police Chief Mark Sumpter told NBC station WPXI of Pittsburgh that Stein "stated he had a bomb, showed the teller wires hanging out from his shirt and demanded cash."
The robber drove off in a white Toyota, which was pulled over on a ramp to northbound Interstate 79 by Robinson Township police, Sumpter said.
Officers found money in a garbage bag, and beneath the front passenger seat, they found the device Stein is accused of having used in the bank robbery — "a makeshift box he made out of a box, black tape, vibrator and cellphone," Sumpter said.
A bomb squad dog checked the device and a briefcase that officers found in the car. Both were detonated as a precaution, police said.


A squirrel has become an online sensation after it was reportedly "detained" when a woman called police to complain it was stalking her.
The panicked woman was unable to shake the rodent in the western German city of Bottrop, so turned to the authorities in desperation on Wednesday, police told Reuters.
North-Rhine Westphalia police took in the squirrel and found it was suffering exhaustion.
Officers were helping the animal recover by feeding it pieces of apple and honey tea. A video uploaded to the police force's Facebook page showing the animal being fed had been watched 400,000 times by Friday morning.
The animal will be transferred to a local animal shelter once it has recovered, according to Reuters.


MAINZ, Germany - Flour worms, crickets and migratory grasshoppers could soon be on menus in Switzerland.
The Alpine country's government is in the final stages of passing a new law which would introduce the "delicacies" as officially permitted food. Until now, insects have not been recognized in Europe as edible food products.
"Following a request in parliament by the environmental Greens party, we are evaluating whether these three insects can be incorporated in our revised law," Michael Beer, deputy director at Switzerland's federal food safety and veterinary office (BLV), told NBC News.
The political party is advocating reduced meat consumption for Swiss society.
"Insects are climate friendly and are a good protein source," said Urs Scheuss, a spokesman for the Greens in Bern.
Scheuss' party even held an insect-tasting session in parliament to support its case.


The owners of a Bay Area nudist resort have been charged with stealing water during the state's historic drought.
Seventy-seven-year old Glyn Stout and his wife 53-year-old Lori Kay Stout, co-owners of Lupin Lodge, were charged Friday with felony conspiracy to commit trespassing for the purpose of injuring a property right. Officials say they repeatedly diverted water from a section of a local creek that they did not own, according to a statement from the Santa Clara County District Attorney's office.
Employees are also facing charges. If convicted, all four could face up to three years in county jail.
The resort's owners have said they are entitled to use the waterfall, which they need to keep their water tank full in case of a fire and to top off their pool for both skinny-dipping and as a backup water source for a fire. They were not immediately available for comment Friday.

Monday, July 27, 2015


                                                        You Kiss Just Like a Girl

            After all the carnage he’d left in the school parking lot, my brother, Denny, still had enough nerve to ask if he could go to the party.  Mom sat at the kitchen table, her hair stacked up lopsided like the dishes in our sink, smoking Tareyton’s down to the bud, tapping her nails on the Formica table and staring at Denny as if he was some kind of baby killer. 
“You figure out how to pay for all those windshields yet?  Huh?” she asked.  She threw a fork but Denny ducked in time and the tines clattered off the window, hitting, Gilligan, our big blind cat.  “I don’t want to hear another word from you,” Mother said, testing out her tough guy suit, unaccustomed to all this recent madness.  “Do you understand me?  Not a peep.”
            In all, fronts and backs included, Denny popped nineteen windshields.  Used the very bat Dad had taught us how to hit with. Denny was already popular enough, but because these were all faculty cars, he became a hero to fellow students.  The teachers would have pressed charges if Dad hadn’t served a seven year stint as principal before taking off on a fling with the anorexic lady who taught first year Spanish. 
            The party was at Vickie Hewitt’s house.  Vickie had a full figure, not fat, just a lot of woman for a junior.  And she dyed her hair Marilyn Monroe white.  Plus she always had a lot of black friends over, which meant the music jammed and the party would be better because in the seventies black people were the only ones who knew how to dance.
            I’m not sure what compelled me to show up.  I was Denny’s look-alike brother, but shy and younger by a year.  He had a motorcycle and a pierced ear.  I had my paperbacks.  About the only thing we had in common was a blood line and the shared hatred of our father.
            When Vickie answered the door, my hair puffed back from so much blasting bass.  Her older sister, Christy slid around the hinge and gave me gave me a squishy hug, smothering me in her waterbed breasts.  At first it felt like one of Grandma’s hugs but then Vickie pressed in from behind me and then it wasn’t anything like Grand.  I pulled away too hard, staggered off balance and slipped into a puddle of beer or urine, or both.
            “Take it easy, Peach Fuzz,” Christy said, “That’s just us loving on you.”
            “But I couldn’t breathe,” I said, realizing at once how idiotic those words sounded.
            The music was Soul Train splendid, loud, thumping through the floorboards and walls and furniture, everything moving whether it wanted to or not.  Couples were bumping on the couch and kitchen table, grinding against appliances or the Hewitt’s incandescent fish tank which was so large it consumed an entire wall.
            I knew every person at the party, but not one was a friend.  Now they beamed when they saw me.  They gave me skin and arm bumps and back slaps and offers of free, under-the-counter, stimulants.  Mostly people wanted to know why Denny didn’t come and every time I declined drugs or drink, they asked if I was sick.
            “Nah, he’s not sick,” Vickie said, curling her lip in a snicker.  “He’s the good one.  Gonna be a pastor.  Aren’t you?”
            In that moment of mimicry, I saw Vickie’s fear as clearly as the monster pimple thrumming on my cheek.  Strange as it was, Vickie and I had a lot in common.  We were both younger siblings, both blonde (me a real one) and we were both terrified not so much of the future, but of what was happening in our worlds today, and what would happen tomorrow after the party ended, when it was just another flat weekend with nothing to do.        
I don’t know why, but I took her hand and did not let go.  I led her through the crowd and then up the stairs and said, “Which one?” and she pointed at the farthest down the hall, so I turned into the room and shut the door and kissed her at once.
            She made a little electrical noise and then I realized it was just Vickie’s leather pants squawking from the pressure of my knee on them.
            We ended up on the bed.  Sitting on the edge of it.  The dresser top had doilies all over it, along with perfume bottles and different framed photographs.  “You’re a little old-fashioned,” I said.  “That’s okay.  I am, too.”
            Vickie slapped my thigh.  “You retard.  This is my folk’s room.  You picked the wrong one.”
            “Folks?  But I thought your Mom left you guys.”
It came out as blunt as that--a chainsaw to the throat.  It came out the same way I pictured my own situation--raw and serrated.  
Vickie’s eyes watered.  “Hey,” I said.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean it like that.”
            She didn’t leave or slap me or curse.  Instead she leaned into my chest, her whole body warm and damp now, shuddering, sobbing.
            When she came up for air, Vickie’s makeup was so tragically smeared that it looked like she’d been beaten with a black licorice whip. 
I gave her tissues but she shredded them.  She told me how miserable she was, that she thought about killing herself as often as boys thought about sex.
“I’m a bad person,” she told me.
I told her she wasn’t.  People loved her.  She was popular.  “Look at that crowd downstairs.”
“Those are my sister’s friends.”
“But still, you know some of them.
She blew her nose on the corner of a pillow case and asked, “Are you really going to be a pastor when you grow up?”
            I kissed her again.  It was easier now, which helped, because anytime a person brought up me being a pastor, it forced momentum down a certain direction.
            When she pulled back, she said, “You know I’m Denny’s girl, right?”
            She must have really thought I was stupid.  “Of course,” I said.  “No duh.”
            As I got up, I half-expected her to stop me, but she didn’t.  Instead she only asked, “You are gay, aren’t you?  Denny says you are.”
            I bit my lip, feeling my face flood with blood.  “Why is it if you’re shy, people always think you’re gay?”
            “Hey, relax.  I don’t care if you are.”
            “But, so you know,” she said, her eyes narrowing in seriousness, “you do kiss just like a girl.”
            I closed the door behind me and stepped out into the hall where a fire engine alarm was coming up from a stereo as The Ohio Players took on, “Fire.”
            Downstairs I found the utilities closet.  I broke a broom in half, and then a mop.  I took the sticks into the kitchen.  They felt light yet prodigious enough for the job.  They made a windy whistle whenever I whirlwinded them, which I did.
The windows exploded easily, almost self-combusting, as if they’d been waiting for this moment all along.  Pearls and husks of glass showered the air as I smashed the liquor bottles.  Ash trays.  Dishes and water glasses.  The huge television set.  Lamps.  Wall clock.  Chandelier.  And then the finale, the fish tank.
A small ocean poured forth and I thought of sailors, The Titanic, Noah.  Several slug-gray salamander-looking guppies squiggled near my toes, making it seem as if the entire shag rug were moving, scratching itself.  I apologized to the fish, but did not otherwise move save a solitary one.  I took out two lava lamps and a family portrait.
            By the time the cops arrived, I had stopped swinging.  My arms felt strapped with sand bags and my shoulders burned.
They used a blow horn, threatening tear gas.  For just a moment, I thought how easy it would be to provoke one or more of the officers into shooting me, but instead I stood where I was, hands at my sides. 
“We’re coming in!” they screamed.
Which was fine.  I’d done what I’d come to do.  I’d made my own mark.


Friday, July 24, 2015


…So there was a reading last night and I read and two of my good friends read and it all went swimmingly, as my son so often says.  (not sure how the expression swimmingly came into being.)
A friend from my corporate days surprised me by showing up.  Afterward she said, “You’re so different now.  Well, you’re the same, but you’re all lite up seem so enraptured with your new writing life.  You come alive.”
I agree and was glad she noticed and it humbled me.  I’m so lucky to be able to do the thing I always wanted to do, and to do it as much as I want.
It was a fun night spend with very authentic and nice people.

….Tomorrow night I’m going to see another of my favorite bands.  These guys:

…It’s been kind of a treasure trove of interesting commentary the last few days on Facebook.  As I’ve said before, I wish I knew what to do with FB and wish I could be so attention-grabbing:
-the Grateful Dead is hands down the best music to listen to while getting a divorce.
-Ugh. As someone who hires people, I am telling you how far a thank-you note goes. Never forget to send one. It really speaks to the quality of a candidate. 9x out of 10, it means that person is legit. Also, please don't say to people you're interviewing with, "thank god I took an adderall
-I just realized what all my troubles have stemmed from: my life was set in airplane mode.
-I'm setting the record straight now: I never ate a placenta. I did, however, keep one in the freezer for over a year, just in case.
-receiving holy messages in public bathrooms is kinda my thing
-a tiny, old man asked me how my hair got purple like that and I said "I woke up like this" so I won today.
-Last night at Little Caesar's I saw a dude in a Slipknot shirt telling his little brother that fireworks are illegal and he would go to jail if he shot any. Way to not be metal, bro.
-There is no difference between a toddler and a very, very drunk person. None.
-The neighbors are using a circular saw. In their bedroom.  WHAT. ?????

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


…Busy fun times coming up.
Tonight I’m seeing one of my favorite bands.  These guys:

I’m straight, but I would have Chris Carrabba’s babies.

They're playing with another band I love.  These guys:

Tomorrow night I’m reading a Phinney Books with a couple of friends.  I still haven’t figured out what it is I’m reading, but as soon as I post this I’ll get to work on choosing.

…I was at a reading last night full of hipsters.  The two featured readers wrote a book together; a compilation of all their own favorite tweets that they written over the years.  It felt like a hoax to me, and wasn’t very interesting.  The odd thing was people in the audience were really into it and laughing most of the time.  Maybe it’s a generational thing, though really I think it was a trick.

…Here are some things I like on a gray-coated Wednesday:

“The world is full of nice people.  If you can’t find one, be one.” Nishan Panwar

“Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right.”  Henry Ford

“Give me a phrase and I’ll change the world.” Pascal

“Even the wind feels empty.” Kim Barnes

“I am willing to remain and play the man's game if there are not enough boats for more than the women and children.  Tell my wife I played the game straight out and to the end.  No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim is a coward.” -- Benjamin Guggenheim, Final words of millionaire traveler aboard the ill-fated Titanic.  As the boat began to sink Guggenheim changed into formal dress and calmly faced death.
 “The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality.” John Quincy Adams

"If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things" Henry Miller

Monday, July 20, 2015


                                                              God of Rose and Thorn

            As our bus pulls away, they swarm, pounding on the rusted, mud-caked metal.  One girl catches me with her jade eyes like jars.  She makes a rolling-down-the-window motion.
            She calls to me and, even though I can’t hear her, I know what she’s shouting, same as the others during our tour.  “Please!  Mistah, please!”
            She is bones, drumsticks and skull with black hair lusterless.  The bus belches and poisons her with its black cloud.  Pulling away, she flails her arms at me, jumpy, her face wearing worry and want.
            At the stop sign, she’s caught up, gasping.  “Mistah!  Mistah!”
            Our tour guide said we shouldn’t feel guilty.  “It lifestyle for them.  Nothing personal!”
            The window is stuck.  Or locked.  I try to show her.  I hold up my palms as if I’m being robbed.  Tears trickle over her cheekbones large as clam shells.
            “They no artists.  So don’t you be scammed!” the guide warned. 
            The swarm of mopeds impedes our push to get through the intersection.  The remnants of the  rainy season smells like cowhide and feces, the odor bathing us, baked into the heat the way the smell of smoke seams into one’s skin.
            “They only look skinny, but most have plenty to eat!”
            Back home, my own daughter will marry in three weeks.  I remember her fondness for birthday cake, especially the gloppy frosting rose which was her favorite because that was her name.  All high school and college, Rose battled weight issues, and only after meeting Adam has she become convinced there’s a man who loves her as she is.
            “Keep your wallet in front pocket,” the guide said, patting his groin.  “These kid are real pros!”
            Moped exhaust wafts across the girl’s face now, like a black wraith.  The honking is calamitous.   I can’t hear her, but I can read her lips: “Mistah.  Mistah, please!”
            I bought a copper figurine at a temple in Angkor Wat.  Lord Vishnu, with his effeminate eyes and extra set of arms, peaceful and content looking, a god in need of nothing.
The girl outside the glass, she looks like the scores of black and white photographs we saw at Tuol Sleng, all those captive children about to be tortured or turned against one another by the Khmer Rouge.  When she saw the blades, the handcuffs coming out of the floor, the woman on the tour bus who had been flirting with me  vomited into her handbag and hasn’t looked my way since.  Back home my wife is about to launch her new studio, filling it with obscure canvases coated in with waves of excess paint. 
 “Mistah, Mistah,” the girl calls.
If I look close I can see down the girl’s throat into the vortex of her soul where blackness swirls unknown, doing damage like a party of parasites.
My wallet is damp from sweat, a thick ball of leather.  In my other hand I aim Vishnu at the window.  He’s heavy in my hand as I swing.    

Friday, July 17, 2015


                                                           The Spaces in Between

            She is nine, nine going on something else.  Already she has learned to be brave and observant, as well as the correct way to unearth and bury.
            She’d never liked playthings, but still she bounces a Barbie on the sofa armrest, humming, acting as if she’s studying the doll’s palms when really she’s looking through the space in between Barbie’s perfect fingers where her mother is splayed.
            The girl knows a little about narcotics and too much wine consumption, but these are not issues for her mother.  This is something far more slippery and bleak.
            The girl wishes she were older and wise.  Adults have answers.  For instance, her aunt knows things, but she’s a shrug of the shoulders, a secret keeper or just plain greedy.
            “Why don’t you sing a little softer,” her mother says, even though the girl is just humming without using words to her made-up song.  “And could you close the blinds?”
            She does as told, looks the sun in the eye first.  Men have walked on the moon.  The sun’s surface is too hot for those kinds of shenanigans, and still it is her favorite thing that lives in the sky.
            “Momma, can I tell you a story?”
            “Only if you speak in your quiet voice and don’t get all jumpy at the exciting parts.”
            Her mother winces, reaching to the carpet, so the girl gets it for her, picking up the damp dishrag and laying it across the woman’s forehead.
            The girl whispers, “In a grand castle somewhere near Ireland, there once lived a damsel...”
            Everything is reversed.  The girl knows how it’s really supposed to work.  Moms get their kids up, make them breakfast, hustle them off to the school bus.  Moms are strict but like lots of sunlight.  They’re the ones that tell bedtime stories.
            The girl doesn’t mind.  She has an imagination that needs flexing, freedom to roam.  As she narrates to her mother, the girl pictures herself as a cement truck spewing golden tar, making a clean new road that the two of them will walk on soon, arm in arm, escaping to a fun land, like the yellow brick road leading to Oz.
            Her mother drifts to sleep.
            The girl’s dad is upstairs in his home office.  He is not a mean man, not at all.  He is quiet like snow and just as white.  It is hard for him to smile and sometimes she hears him sniffling when she eavesdrops.  She used to be angry that he wasn’t stronger.  Men are supposed to be able to lift heavy weights and fix broken things.   
            She’s not even half way through her story, or to the good part, when Aunt Sandy comes over.  The girl knows it’s her because she taps on the door like a sock puppet might, soft little nudging sounds, before just going ahead and letting herself in.  She breaks into a smile when she sees the girl, then the smile goes jagged finding the girl’s mother on the sofa.  Aunt Sandy puts her praying hands to the side of her face, closes her eyes and makes a sleeping motion.  The girl checks her mother, and nods to her aunt.
            They go into the kitchen, Aunt Sandy tiptoeing so her heels don’t click.
            Aunt Sandy hugs the girl, whispers her nickname, “Izzy, Izzy, Izzy.”  She’d prefer her aunt use Elizabeth.  Izzy is reserved for the girl’s mother and a fleet of make-believe friends that she trusts.
            Aunt and Izzy sit at the round table with the silver siding and bruised-blue Formica top.  They have dark pink fruit punch in clear glasses and Izzy imagines a cartoon fish zipping inside, burping at her and chuckling.
            Aunt Sandy has a long goat face with chin whiskers.  She looks sad today.  The girl asks what’s wrong, but before she does, Izzy decides that if Aunt Sandy tells the truth, then it will mean she really can trust the woman.
            Aunt Sandy shakes her head, the eyes flicking for an answer, and the girl looks at her lap knowing it doesn’t matter now what answer’s given because it’ll just be a lie, no different than the ones her father and the doctors tell.
            Izzy’s heard the word a thousand times.  With each utterance, though, one of the adults will introduce the term as if it’s thin crystal or a hot cake out of the oven.
            “Depression isn’t forever, Izzy.  Besides, there are new medicines,” Aunt Sandy says.  “Your mom’s going to get better.”
            Then Auntie asks would Izzy like to come live with her for a while, hmm?  She reaches across for the girl’s palms.  Izzy lets her have them and thinks, “Cold hands, warm heart,” but if that’s so, then the reverse must be true, and she snatches her hands back.
            “Hey!” Aunt Sandy says.
            Izzy stands.  She flings the pitcher, watches the faded fuchsia fluid loop and curl before splashing her aunt.
            She runs to the sofa.  “Momma, Momma,” Izzy says, shaking her mother, but whispering even so, “wake up.  We have to go.”
            Aunt Sandy calls, “Peter!  Peter!”
            Peter, Izzy’s father, bounds out of his room, his footfalls loud on the ceiling.  And then he’s stomping down the stairs and Aunt Sandy is pointing at Izzy even though she’s right there, just a few feet away, and Auntie is screaming through her anger at being soaked.  “…blouse cost two hundred dollars!”
            Her father can’t quiet Aunt Sandy and soon they’re both yelling and so is Izzy’s mother, awake now and propped up on her elbows, and then Izzy’s mother shakes Izzy’s grip off and shouts for everyone to stop, to shut up, the noise is too loud, it will kill her if the noise doesn’t stop, it will, it will.
            And so they all go quiet.  Izzy checks to be sure her mother is serious, but the dishrag is pulled over her mother’s eyes.

            Izzy stands, biting her lip on the inside so they can’t see.  She floats over to her aunt and says she’s sorry; she has allowance and will pay for the ruined blouse.  She doesn’t look at her father.  She sticks out her hand and tells her aunt, Sure, sure she would very much like to spend some time living at her house.  When can they go?