Saturday, November 22, 2014


I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.

― Sharon Olds

Insane Asylum

The gym environment is a bit like an insane asylum for those of us not accustomed to it. Each room at my gym has a different activity. In one room there are bicycles assembled like a herd, driving nowhere. There's the room of stairway-to-nowhere devices, there's playing tennis with a wall, there's lifting heavy things for fun, playing with giant rubber balls, and a room with an enormous tractor tire for some reason.

I like to swim in the pool because swimming is a peaceful and poetic joy for me, and swimming to nowhere is still somewhere. A lovely somewhere.

I feel as though I am reborn every dawn I swim. The room is a womb, a tiny pool with windows. The turquoise water is my amniotic fluid. The water dreams me to life.

All of my chakras open, and my lungs and brain are oxygenated. This is my yoga, my church, my union with the divine. My skin dances. I feel sexy. I feel calm and happy. My body speaks wisdom and I hear her in the water.

In the pool I need not worry about motor boats, sharks, undertows, sand bars, tsunamis, or things grabbing me from below. I do worry about school buses and trucks driving into the door to the pool from this urban intersection. It has happened so many times across the street that they have reinforced their building with brick.

Social Street

It has been particularly lovely this week walking the downtown loop. Although everyone complains about the cold I LOVE IT. When it is dry cold with sunshine I pick walking paths that start out at midday and head towards the sun and the Social Street area. I like to feel the energy of the city. It fills me up. People are generally friendly in this town and I appreciate it. And nobody tries to run your life. This is one of the reasons why I fell in love with my city. There's a friendly humility that pervades the community.

I love shadows. I invent them in my paintings. When people tease me and say you can't have shadows this way, I say it's theater!

The southern light casts building shadows over the street resembling a row of teeth. As I walk east I am in the jaws of the street. I switch to the sunny toothless side of the street.

In this town many people don't have teeth. There is now a dental clinic on the corner and I hope people are not afraid to go. I never see people going in or out. Maybe it's actually a secret spying office or UFO research office and not a dental clinic. That would be so cool.

In the late afternoon Lily and I like to walk to Precious Blood Cemetery because it is wide open and up on a hill. There are very few shadows falling over us. With bare trees you can see the pond and the sunset. Sometimes there are skaters on the frozen pond.

I love the expansive views in winter. And cold sunshine is the best!

Years ago I dropped my keys in a pile of leaves in a huge wooded cemetery that was 20 acres of leaves. I had a coonhound dog at the time. I said "Lucy, find my keys!" and she did. I kid you not! This is what hound dogs are bred to do!

I thought of this yesterday because when I got home one of my cobalt blue mittens was gone. I have a yellow scarf, red sweatshirt, and cobalt blue mittens. And a big yellow dog. People see me as a friendly clown, which is precisely correct. I even have a clown face!!

Anyway, where was I? I was struggling to get into my house (the lock was jammed) when I realized my mitten was gone. I went in another door, and then Lily and I turned around and retraced our steps. As I was revisiting my walk I calmed down and realized that I MUST'VE dropped my mitten in the kitchen! I had worn them into the house. I took one off to get the key in the door. So like in a Chelm story I was looking for my mitten outside in the daylight where I could find it but NOT where I had lost it!

While looking for my mitten I met a man who admired Lily. He told me he grew up with three Newfoundlands, that's how he had learned to walk. I said that my step-mother had told me the same story. She grew up in Marblehead holding on to a Newfoundland as she learned to walk.

Then I ran into my neighbor who had been diagnosed with cancer but they caught it in time. We hugged. She had quit smoking at that moment, she said.

I told her about Carolyn losing her wedding ring then finding it in her chicken salad and how she said it was HER mother talking from the grave. She responded with stories about her mother speaking to her from the grave by causing her pictures to fall off the walls. "And glasses too. I always have to have my glasses facing up otherwise my mother knocks them down," she said.

Her cancer had been in her intestine. We laughed about how there's a lot of extra tubing and plumbing down there. If they have to lop off an inch or so you'll be fine. It's not like with the brain where every inch is major.

Then I ran into an adorable couple with their two small kids. The boy had the same birthday as Lily! They lived next to AJ's Mini-Mart. "My dad lives behind the Dominican market on your street," she said.
"Then I know him, I'm sure," I replied. "Do you know Sophie the little hairdoo of a dog?"
"YES, Ed and Sophie live next door! Small world.
The little boy asked, "Will you come over to our house sometime?" I said sure!

Then I heard Heidi's voice. She works in the glass booth at the gas station. We saw each other and waved. Days like this make me feel like baking mini banana breads for the whole city and giving them out. Maybe I ought to, for the Highway Department storm team the next time it snows.

Or for the Public Works guys - there they are working in the park. I walked over to see the big yellow bulldozers and the cabbie waved. It was Eileen, she's the driver of the back hoe! What a world. I would love to do that for a day.

Then I remembered that I was looking for a blue mitten that was actually in my kitchen. This is what I mean about Woonsocket, my Chelm village, another walk in the sunshine.

Agony and Joy, Oy!

This morning I woke at 2:30 a.m. with joy bubbles and as I was lying there in the dark I thought of the words agony and joy. I realized these two words share the letters O and Y.

Oy! How wonderful!

from Merriam Webster Dictionary:
Origin of OY
First Known Use: 1892
— used especially to express exasperation or dismay ("oy, what a mess!")

from Wikipedia:
Oy vey (Yiddish: אױ װײ), oy vay, or just oy — or even more elaborately oy vey ist mir — is an exclamation of dismay or exasperation like "woe is me".

According to etymologist Douglas Harper, the phrase is derived from Yiddish and is of Germanic origin.[2] It is a cognate of the German expression o weh, or auweh, combining the German and Dutch exclamation au! meaning "ouch/oh" and the German word weh, a cognate of the English word woe (as well as the Dutch wee meaning pain). The expression is also related to oh ve, an older expression in Danish and Swedish, and oy wah, an expression used with a similar meaning in the Montbéliard region in France.

According to, an alternative theory for the origin of the Yiddish expression is that it stems from Biblical Hebrew, with cognates in other Semitic languages.

The expression is often abbreviated to simply oy, or elongated to oy vey ist mir ("Oh, woe is me"). The fuller lament may also be spelled as Oy vey iz mir. The main purpose or effect of elongating it is often dramatic, something like a "cosmic ouch". Oy is not merely an ordinary word, but rather expresses an entire world view, according to anthropologist Penny Wolin. Its meaning is approximately opposite that of mazel tov.

In New York City, there is a sign on the Williamsburg Bridge that reads "Leaving Brooklyn: Oy vey!" because of the borough's large Jewish population.

Weird Al Yankovic's song "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi" on his album Running with Scissors frequently uses the phrase.

Friday, November 21, 2014


This is about Cassandra the Greek mythological prophet

In Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek: Κασσάνδρα, pronounced [kas̚sándra͜a], also Κασάνδρα), also known as Alexandra or Kassandra, was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy.

A common version of her story is that Apollo gave her the power of prophecy in order to seduce her, but when she refused him, he gave her the curse of never being believed. In an alternative version, she fell asleep in a temple, and snakes licked (or whispered in) her ears so that she was able to hear the future. Snakes as a source of knowledge is a recurring theme in Greek mythology, although sometimes the snake brings understanding of the language of animals rather than an ability to know the future. Cassandra is a figure of both epic tradition and of tragedy

- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Survivors Ink


The Pope's Pool

I just got back from a blissful dawn swim in what I refer to as the The Pope's pool. I remember reading Pope John Paul II loved to have a daily swim. He had a pool installed at the Vatican and it looked like this one. Swimming again was like meeting up with dearly missed old friend. The water and I love each other. I was a happy dolphin and I had the 3 lane pool to myself. No bored lifeguards. I swam every stroke and a few I made up. My spine was happy. When I got out of the water I felt like an astronaut landing back on Earth.
My skin was dancing. I felt beautiful! I walked home in my bright orange sweat pants, and sweatshirt un-showered, in my wet hair wearing my flip flops, holding my sneakers and socks in my hands. I live only steps away. Perfect. My hot shower awaited me at home. Then, feeling refreshed and high from swimming, I put on my black leggings and danced around a bit. Swimming makes me feel great! Then I covered myself up with bulky green sweat pants because I am actually shy sometimes. My tank suit is 35 years old and I am very hairy. So it was nice to be alone for the first swim.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

The heart of the matter is this: A defender of Bill Cosby must, effectively, conjure a vast conspiracy, created to bring down one man, seemingly just out of spite. And people will do this work of conjuration, because it is hard to accept that people we love in one arena can commit great evil in another. It is hard to believe that Bill Cosby is a serial rapist because the belief doesn't just indict Cosby, it indicts us. It damns us for drawing intimate conclusions about people based on pudding-pop commercials and popular TV shows. It destroys our ability to lean on icons for our morality. And it forces us back into a world where seemingly good men do unspeakably evil things, and this is just the chaos of human history.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
Ta-Nehisi Coates is an American writer, journalist, and educator. Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, and blogger for that publication's website where he writes about cultural, social and political issues. He is the author of Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Always Writing

Today I ran into Remy on the sidewalk downtown. We always shake hands and hug. He loves Lily. Today as usual he was carrying his black and white composition notebook. He loves to write gory sci-fi stories. Sometimes I run into him and he'll be all decked out in ladies stockings, shoes, braided hair, heels, and eye make-up. Today he was wearing a sweatshirt and brown pants and sneakers. Once I saw his bare arm, full of scars. I always ask him about his writing.

John Thorne

Blogging before the Internet was invented.

Rachel Aviv

The Outcast

Branded Like Cattle


A Queen in the Closet

I ran into the the blonde girl who works at the Downtown Burger when walking Lily. She told me her boyfriend left for another woman. "I'm sorry," I said. "Are you still in the cottage?"
"Yes, I got a room-mate. I gave her my bed since she has a baby. I've been sleeping on the floor for three months," she said.
"Oh, I have a queen-sized mattress rolled up in my closet. Someone gave it to me years ago and I've never used it. I'm happy to give it to you," I said. "I can bring it to you."
"Thanks, I get out at 5 PM. Let me know." She said scurrying off to work.

I tried to move the mattress myself but it was a lot heavier than I remembered. So I waited until Bill got home. After dinner Bill and I dragged the queen mattress out of the closet and slid her down the stairs. We carried her outside. By this time it was dark out. I began laughing uncontrollably. "It feels like we're moving a dead body," I said. I was becoming weak from laughter and kept dropping her as we tried to lug her across the parking lot to the car. We finally stuffed her into the Honda and drove to the cute cottage. I knocked on the back door. No answer. I knocked on a few windows, no answer. I knocked on the front door. No answer. All the lights were on. I saw colorful kids toys everywhere. I knocked on the back door again. Oh well. I thought, we could just leave it here. But I knew someone would steal it.
"I hear footsteps," Bill said. The blonde girl answered the door and she held it wide open as we carried the queen mattress into her tiny warm kitchen. Her room-mate came down and immediately picked up a gray plastic broom and started sweeping the floor. The scent of marijuana wafted down. We introduced ourselves to her, laughed about bringing them the body, and then we all said goodnight.
"I noticed she didn't give us eye contact," Bill said when we got back back into the car. "She was embarrassed that we were giving her this big gift. She's a hardworking girl and very proud of it."
"That makes sense," I said. "It's not a problem. I only see her once in a while, so it's fine."

Audrey Watters

Gender and Tech article.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Short Brautigan Memoir by Takako Shiina

I felt that Richard was very pure and honest man. I also felt that I did not need to worry about how he would think of me or whatever I said to him. That was my strong first impression of Richard. The last time I saw him was May 11th, 1984. I kept that first impression of him until that last day.

Fujimoto, Kasuko. Richard Brautigan. Shinchosha, 2002. 224-229.

Fujimoto, translator of several of Brautigan's books in Japanese, wrote this memoir, which has not been translated into English. She included a short memoir by Takako Shiina, owner of "The Cradle" Bar and long time friend to Brautigan, who called her "my Japanese sister." This translation was provided by Masako Kano.


Pierre Delattre

Brautigan Done For

by Pierre Delattre

I never knew as great a fisherman as Richard. One time we parked along a little stream. I opened the back for the station wagon and got to work preparing my gear. By the time I had finished selecting a fly and tying it on, Richard was already trudging back with his limit in the creel. He gave half to me and we waded upstream until we came to an encampment of picnickers. A mother and three kids were splashing in the water. Brautigan bet me he could cast his fly right into the middle of those people and pull out a trout. He did, and so deftly they didn't even notice. Brautigan had another talent. He could get drunk on anything. In our tent that night, he got drunk on water. He began to lament about his trout fishing book. He just couldn't get the magic down on paper. He read me some of the stories and asked for a frank opinion. "Boring", I confessed. Then one afternoon back in North Beach we went into a hardware store so that he could buy some chicken wire for his bird cage. Suddenly he seized the pen from my pocket, the notebook from my shoulder bag, ran out and over to a park bench, and started to scribble a story about a man who finds a used trout stream in the back of a hardware store. The next day, we stopped to chat with a legless-armless man on a rollerboard who sold pencils. Brautigan called him "Trout Fishing in America Shorty" and wrote a story about him. From then on, trout fishing ceased to be a memory of the past, but the theme of immediate experience and Brautigan's book made him a rich and famous writer. He didn't handle this well and finally blew his brains out while working on a novel in his Bolinas cabin. I don't know what was bothering him, but here's a possible clue: The last time I saw him, we were walking past the middle room of his house. There was a table in there with a typewriter on it. "Quiet", he whispered, pushing me ahead of him into the kitchen. "My new novel's in there. I kind of stroll in occasionally, write a few quick paragraphs, and get out before the novel knows what I'm doing. If novels ever find out you're writing them, you're done for."
- Pierre Delattre, Episodes, Graywolf Press, pages 53-54.

Richard Brautigan

Last night a blue thing, the smoke itself, from our campfire drifted down the valley, entering the sound of the bell-mare until the blue thing and the bell could not be separated, no matter how hard you tried. There was no crowbar big enough to do the job.
- Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America, The Message, page 34.

a quiet old horse used to carry a bell at night so that horses can be located easily in scrub, in the dark or in a big paddock.

Sharon Olds

There is something in me maybe someday
to be written; now it is folded, and folded,
and folded, like a note in school.
― Sharon Olds

I Go Back to May 1937

by Sharon Olds

I see them standing at the formal gates of their colleges,
I see my father strolling out
under the ochre sandstone arch, the
red tiles glinting like bent
plates of blood behind his head, I
see my mother with a few light books at her hip
standing at the pillar made of tiny bricks with the
wrought-iron gate still open behind her, its
sword-tips black in the May air,
they are about to graduate, they are about to get married,
they are kids, they are dumb, all they know is they are
innocent, they would never hurt anybody.
I want to go up to them and say Stop,
don't do it--she's the wrong woman,
he's the wrong man, you are going to do things
you cannot imagine you would ever do,
you are going to do bad things to children,
you are going to suffer in ways you never heard of,
you are going to want to die. I want to go
up to them there in the late May sunlight and say it,
her hungry pretty blank face turning to me,
her pitiful beautiful untouched body,
his arrogant handsome blind face turning to me,
his beautiful untouched body,
but I don't do it. I want to live. I
take them up like the male and female
paper dolls and bang them together
at the hips like chips of flint as if to
strike sparks from them, I say
Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.”
― Sharon Olds

Sharon Olds

Whenever we give our pen some free will, we may surprise ourselves. All that wanting to seem normal in regular life, all that fitting in falls away in the face of one's own strange self on the page. [...] Writing or making anything — a poem, a bird feeder, a chocolate cake — has self-respect in it. You're working. You're trying. You're not lying down on the ground, having given up.
—Sharon Olds

Crisis Innovation

Connie Wang, a senior in the Rhode Island School of Design undergraduate architecture department, worked with a task force that targeted the protective suit’s headgear.

“We basically wanted to increase the comfort levels of the doctor or caretaker and at the same time add a humanizing component,” Wang said. “We took the concept from a beekeeper’s suit, and merged it with an astronaut’s.”

With current protective gear, “a lot of the only contact you have is through your eyes,” said Wang. “We introduced, basically, a headpiece where it is still protective of all of the fluids, but the hood that they put on now is a clear front, so you see the whole face.”

They repurposed it from a protective suit demonstrated by Dr. Noah Rosenberg, an emergency room physician at Rhode Island and Miriam Hospitals and member of a hospital Ebola on-call team.

And, Wang’s task force devised a “cooling patch” using refrigerated pouches of locally harvested rice. “You strap [the pouch] onto yourself — the rice absorbs humidity and heat,” she said.


The Hunt

I love the hunt. I am a hunter of words, colors, phrases. I love reading, overhearing, watching, walking. I love the hunt.

An Uncontrollable Universe

Wife: It saddens me that my friends and their kids will jump on airplanes and fly across the globe but will not come to my house for tea.

Husband: It is much safer to jump on a plane.

Wife: Really?

Husband: They can control the situation.

Wife: Am I that scary?

Husband: Yes. They can't control the situation. So they won't submit.

Wife: Don't they know they can't control the universe?

Husband: Yes, but they need the illusion to feel safe. These are people who are in emotional pain a great deal of the time. They think that if they can control the universe the pain will let up.

Wife: Perhaps I do too. That's why I obsessively write in my notebook and walk my dog for miles.

Husband: That's different from controlling. That's having your routine, your work. You like to take a walk and submit to the adventure, the people you encounter, conversations you hear. You do the same thing in your work. And you know how terrifying that is. You tell me all the time that you have no idea where you are going with your painting and your writing, but you keep leaping. You submit to the adventure.

Wife: But I'm in emotional pain half the time too. That's why I must do my work.
I thought people didn't come over because we don't have heat.

Husband: Nope, they still wouldn't come. They don't come in the summer.

Wife: When people have to jump on an airplanes to reach us then they come see us.

Husband: That's different. They're in travel-mode. They're on the adventure-of-their-vacation.

Wife: Once in a blue moon we'll get a visit from from friends living in another country but not our friends from around here. They'd rather e-mail than walk 3 blocks.

Husband: It's safer.

Wife: So it's not really about me. It's about them.

Husband: What our life is about is terrifying to people.

Soothing and Grounding

I made coffee, packed my husbands lunch, washed the clothes and hung them up on the clothesline in the boiler room. I love knowing that our clothes are drying while I am upstairs at my desk. It's the little routine chores that are soothing and grounding for my mysterious task.

Before Dawn

I decided to go down the street to to drop a check into the mail-slot at the oil company so we could get some oil by Friday. Orion was in the sky with a crescent moon hanging over Precious Blood Cemetery. I was driving down the streets I normally walk on. All the houses were dark and everyone was still asleep except for the drug dealer who was already out working on the corner.

Intergalactic Kvetch

We have these miraculous hand-held-intergalactic-speed-of-light-communication-devices and we use them to kvetch.


I dreamed we were at a reception in a mansion that rents for events. A couple was talking about the difficulties they were having fundraising for their virtual museum. We all sat down to dine at little tables with white tablecloths. My friend Judith, who is 64, was holding a naked newborn baby girl the size of a guinea pig. I offered to breast feed her.

I was wearing a Medieval dress. I just pulled down the front right side and the baby found my nipple. A woman who knows us was at the next table. I said, "Deanna, This is not my baby, I'm just trying to feed it for a friend." I worried that she would tell everyone that I had a newborn baby. I thought I could breastfeed but no milk came out so I handed her back.

We all chatted and lingered.

When it was time to leave I went into the kitchen to collect the coffee pot we brought from home, and our band's trumpet, tuba, trombone, and saxophone that we had stashed in the pantry.

By this time another event was in full swing in the kitchen. It was the Red Hat Society ladies. They were angry that we left things in the pantry. Someone must've just had a tantrum. I saw a green glass antique butter dish in the shape of a rooster cracked on the pantry floor. This is bad, I thought. My coffee machine was gone. I looked in the trash for the parts but didn't find them. I confronted one of the ladies. "What do you mean our instruments are gone, our coffee pot is gone? Where did they go?" I asked.
"They're at Deanna's house," the angry Red Hat lady said.

I woke up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Joan Didion

To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves--there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

That was the year, my twenty-eighth, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and every procrastination, every mistake, every word, all of it.
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

We tell ourselves stories in order to live . . . We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.
― Joan Didion, The White Album

Joan Didion

I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.
― Joan Didion

Joan Didion

Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it. We anticipate (we know) that someone close to us could die, but we do not look beyond the few days or weeks that immediately follow such an imagined death. We misconstrue the nature of even those few days or weeks. We might expect if the death is sudden to feel shock. We do not expect this shock to be obliterative, dislocating to both body and mind. We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe their husband is about to return and need his shoes.
― Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

Joan Didion

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.
― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Although I have felt compelled to write things down since I was five years old, I doubt that my daughter ever will, for she is a singularly blessed and accepting child, delighted with life exactly as life presents itself to her, unafraid to go to sleep and unafraid to wake up. Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
― Joan Didion

I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.
― Joan Didion

Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.
― Joan Didion, On Self-Respect

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.
― Joan Didion, The White Album

Joan Didion

What editors do for writers is mysterious, and does not contrary to general belief, have much to do with titles and sentences and "changes".

The relationship between an editor and a writer is much subtler and deeper than that, at once so elusive and so radical that it seems almost parental: the editor, if the editor was Henry Robbins, was the person who gave the writer the idea of himself that enabled the writer to sit down alone and do it.

This is a tricky undertaking, and requires the editor not only to maintain a faith the writer shares only in intermittent flashes but also like the writer, which is hard to do. Writers are only barely likable. They bring nothing to the party, leave their game at the typewriter.
-Joan Didion, After Henry page 20-21


I spent the morning playing solitude with a chicken
and playing chicken with solitude.

Richard Brautigan


The two graveyards were next to each other on small hills and between them flowed Graveyard Creek, a slow-moving, funeral-procession-on-a-hot-day creek with lots of fine trout in it.

And the dead didn't mind me fishing there at all.

One graveyard had tall fur trees growing in it, and the grass was kept Peter Pan Green all year round by pumping water up from the creek, and the graveyard had fine marble headstones and statues and tombs.

The other graveyard was for the poor and it had no trees and the grass turned flat-tire brown in the summer and stayed that way until the rain, like a mechanic began in the late autumn.

There were no fancy headstones for the poor dead. Their markers were small boards that looked like heels of stale bread:

Devoted Slob Father Of

Beloved Worked-to-Death Mother Of

On some of the graves were fruit jars and tin cans with wilted flowers in them:


To the Memory


John Talbot

Who at the Age of Eighteen

Had His Ass Shot off

In a Honky-Tonk

November 1, 1936

This Mayonnaise Jar

With Wilted Flowers In It

Was Left Here Six Months Ago

By His Sister

Who Is In

The Crazy Place Now.

Eventually the seasons would take care of their wooden names like a sleepy short-order cook cracking eggs over a grill next to a railroad station. Whereas the well-to-do would have their names for a long time written on marble hors d'oeuvres like horses trotting up the fancy paths to the sky.

I fished Graveyard Creek in the dusk when the hatch was on and worked some good trout out of there. Only the poverty of the dead bothered me.

Once, while cleaning the trout before I went home in the almost night, I had a vision of going over to the poor graveyard and gathering up grass and fruit jars and tin cans and markers and wilted flowers and bugs and weeds and clods and going home and putting a hook in the vise and tying a fly with all that stuff and then going outside and casting it up into the sky, watching it float over clouds and then into the evening star.

-Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America page 20-21


I got up in the middle of the night and all these people were talking in my head. So I started listening. There were six different voices discussing things around a big wooden oval table. That's when I began having respect for the committee of sleep.

John Steinbeck said "It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it."

If I get up early I can go to the table and listen but that only works if I go to bed crazy early, seven o'clock.

You gotta do the thing in life that opens your ziti. Gets you in the flow.

Otherwise you'll never be happy. It doesn't matter what it is. It just has to open the ziti.

Don't go to a Fortune Teller

Don't go to a fortune teller. Find out what your name means. That will tell you all you need to know.

Here, I looked it up:

"Friend of strength" from Greek φιλος (philos) "friend, lover" and μενος (menos) "strength". This was the name of an obscure early saint and martyr. The name came to public attention in the 19th century after a tomb seemingly marked with the name Filumena was found in Rome, supposedly belonging to another martyr named Philomena. This may have in fact been a representation of the Greek word φιλομηνη (philomene) meaning "loved".


What does your name mean?

English cognate of the Latin Aemilia, which is from Aemilius, an old Roman family name probably derived from aemulus (trying to equal or excel, rival).


Every time I touched her I heard sirens.

Sirens were her cologne.

Sirens, sirens, sirens all night screaming in my ears.

I jumped out the window and ran down the fire escape and never touched her again.

Where is she now?

She married that bowl-of-milk-mayor of Millbury.

The potato?


She's got two Afghan hounds and lives in Marieville.

Not Millbury?

They're divorced.

I saw her one Friday night at the Marieville Meat Market. She was buying frozen fish, and bananas.

Did you say hi?

No. I ran out before she saw me.

Her father Gabriel was a local loan shark. He kept his money in the back of a garage on School Street. The neighbors would see him coming and going every day, always with different cars, and different people waiting. My aunt lived in the apartment right there. At first she and the neighbors thought he was dealing stolen cars then they realized he was a loan shark.

One night someone snipped the padlock and took the safe. It was an easy score.

John Patrick Shanley

Ronny Cammareri: Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and die. The storybooks are bullshit. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed!
- John Patrick Shanley, Moonstruck

A Leap

I am not a courageous person by nature. I have simply discovered that, at certain key moments in this life, you must find courage in yourself, in order to move forward and live. It is like a muscle and it must be exercised, first a little, and then more and more. All the really exciting things possible during the course of a lifetime require a little more courage than we currently have. A deep breath and a leap.
― John Patrick Shanley, 13 by Shanley

John Patrick Shanley

Doubt requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite – it is a passionate exercise. You may come out of my play uncertain. You may want to be sure. Look down on that feeling. We’ve got to learn to live with a full measure of uncertainty. There is no last word. That’s the silence under the chatter of our time.
― John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

John Patrick Shanley

Father Brendan Flynn: "A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew - I know none of you have ever done this. That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O' Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. 'Is gossiping a sin?' she asked the old man. 'Was that God All Mighty's hand pointing down at me? Should I ask for your absolution? Father, have I done something wrong?' 'Yes,' Father O' Rourke answered her. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.' So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. 'Not so fast,' says O' Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.' So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. 'Did you gut the pillow with a knife?' he says. 'Yes, Father.' 'And what were the results?' 'Feathers,' she said. 'Feathers?' he repeated. 'Feathers; everywhere, Father.' 'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,' 'Well,' she said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.' 'And that,' said Father O' Rourke, 'is gossip!”
― John Patrick Shanley, Doubt


Sylvia: During the blizzard of '47 we were all at the bowling alley in Castle Falls.

We had no idea we'd get stranded there. I remember looking out the window. It was like Antarctica without the penguins.

I was sure I'd be grounded to eternity. My parents knew I was out with Joey. They were probably worried sick.

The cars were buried in 8 foot drifts.

Joey: Their worst nightmare came true.

Sylvia: I remember it was fun, when the lights went off we kept bowling by candle light.

Joey: Candle pin bowling they must have candles right?

Sylvia: It was like being on a cruise ship.

Joey: Without the food. The beached titanic.

Sylvia: We didn't starve. I remember we had bar food: pickled eggs, pigs feet, pretzels, potato chips, and martini olives and orange slices.

Joey: And lots of beer.

Sylvia: I had a Shirley Temple.

I'll never forget Betty's Sleepwear Shop next door opened up that night and gave the girls feet pajamas. We slept in the pajamas under our coats right on the lanes. It was so romantic.

Joey: You looked like a bunch of dead rabbits.

Sylvia: This was before cell phones and computers and cable TV weather radar.

Did you tell them? One couple fell in love that night and had a Castle Falls bowling alley wedding the following year.

Joey: Are you talking about us?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Color Wheel on a Gray Day

I took a walk in the rain with Lily, twirling my color wheel umbrella. I ran into Sylvia in her usual spot parked under the tree at Sunshine Pizza.

She told me about the day her daughter was born. Sylvia had been painting her daughter's bedroom purple when her water broke. She felt compelled to finish the job and wash the paint brushes before she drove herself to the hospital.

I ran into the sweet toothless lady with long blonde hair and decorated fingernails who sunbathes all summer by climbing out of her bedroom window onto a roof in a bikini in view of the four-way stop. And they do.

I ran into a pimp and a zombie prostitute both dressed in black leather. She was wearing dazed grey eyes, high heels and black tights. He reached over and took a potato chip from her wet crumpled bag to give to Lily.

"Aren't you cold in this rain?" I asked, noticing they were soaked.

"God loves us, he keeps us warm," the pimp said, laughing, as they walked toward the police station.

My outing was complete. I can return to my cave of books having tasted the colors of the day.


To write is human, to edit is divine.
- Stephen King

Richard Brautigan

I bent a pin and tied it onto a piece of white string.

And slept.

The next morning I got up early and ate my breakfast. I took a slice of white bread to use for bait. I planned on making doughballs from the soft center of the bread and putting them on my vaudevillean hook.

I left the place and walked down to the different street corner. How beautiful the field looked and the creek that came pouring down in a waterfall off the hill.

But as I got closer to the creek I could see that something was wrong. The creek did not act right. There was a strangeness to it. There was a thing about its motion that was wrong. Finally I got close enough to see what the trouble was.

The waterfall was just a flight of white wooden stairs leading up to a house in the trees.

I stood there for a long time, looking up and looking down, following the stairs with my eyes, having trouble believing.

Then I knocked on my creek and heard the sound of wood.

I ended up being my own trout and eating the slice of bread myself.

- Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America page4-5

Brave Soul

At the end of the day, you’re behind a door, but the people who are hurting you are also behind that door.
- Lynda Marie Oddo

Sal Locascio

“I had a passenger who came in as a guy and got out as a girl,” he recalled. “And I said to myself, ‘O.K., this is New York.’ ”

“So, what matters to me now is to keep myself going,” he said. “You’re a short time alive and a long time dead.”

“Everybody wants to drive my cab,” he said, “but I’ll only let three guys drive it: me, myself and I.”

Sal Locascio, 87, is the oldest medallion-owning cabdriver in New York City


Hat Dream

I dreamed I found my straw hat, the one my neighbor Ray gave me two years ago. I wore it every day this summer until one day it was gone. I looked everywhere. People stopped me on the street and said "I didn't recognize you without your hat. Where's your hat?" In the dream I found it in a closet. It was flat and wet. It needed to be reshaped. I realized the best way to do that was to wear my hat wet.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fruity Friends

In October my friends gave me two boxes of apples from an orchard on their New Hampshire farm. We ate a bunch of them. Today we still had one full box so I started chopping them up for sauce and I filled three big soup pots.

While the apples were simmering I walked downtown and stopped by to say hi to my friend and her dad since he is flying home tomorrow. As I was leaving she asked me "Would you like some bananas?" I said no thanks I am overflowing with apples today.

"You have to take some," she said, grabbing a bunch of bananas out of the huge banana box and handing them to me. "I got the whole box for two dollars," she said. I smiled and thanked her, taking the bananas. I carried the bananas home to my apple-filled kitchen.

The apples had simmered into pink mush and the house smelled great. I ran the sauce through the food mill to separate out the seeds and skins. I made four buckets of applesauce. Each batch of sauce is a slightly different flavor since there was a mix of three kinds of apples. Some of the apples taste like pears, and some taste pink.

Richard Brautigan

He was in the worst mood I had ever heard him in. It was as if the elevator of hell had gone crashing through his life, making an elevator-shaped hole in his spirit.

Soon he was weeping.

I listened very carefully and understandingly to what no person ever wants to hear, which they do not need to hear. It does them no good and generates a huge vacuum of helplessness.

What could I do? Except to be his friend and listen . . . and listen . . . and listen . . . and listen . . . and listen until the act of listening dropped an elevator of hell through my soul.

You would need some strange meter, perhaps designed by Kafka, to measure who felt worse now: him or me. The dial, if there were a dial on Kafka's meter, would probably register our lives at just about identical readings.

- Richard Brautigan, An Unfortunate Woman (page 87)


When I was five my step-father would drive to the commuter train with me and my mother at 8 AM. I would sit in the back seat studying the tiny T shaped scar on back of his neck. One day I asked him, "Where did you get that scar?"
"When I was in the army I was shot in the back of my neck. I opened my mouth and the bullet flew out," he replied. Somehow I knew he was teasing. Styles changed and his hair grew a little bit longer, covering the scar. I never asked him about it again.

I Hate that Movie

"Surprise, guess what. A four-star general had an extramarital affair with his young and beautiful biographer," my husband reported when the news broke.
"I hate that movie," I said.

Vapor Moon

When I left the grocery store last night, I noticed a field of empty silver shopping carts spread out like grazing cattle under a mercury vapor moon.

Circles and Rectangles

My actor friend Ed says he can tell by the way the human figure is drawn whether a man or a woman has drawn it. "It's a matter of circular or rectangular," he says. "Women are circles and men are rectangles and it shows up in their line. It's the same with actors on the stage."
I imagined caressing a boxy gray robot.
"I think you're right," I said.

Man with Twig

On my walk I saw a man with a twig pacing around examining the sidewalk at the bend in the road.
"Did you lose something?" I asked
"Yes, I lost a lot of money folded into a small manila envelope," he said with his eyes glued to the street. "I think I lost it here,"
"I'm sorry," I said.
"The lesson is I shouldn't have been carrying it," he said.
"If I see it I will yell," I said, making note of his red sweatshirt.
"Have a nice day," he said, squatting in the road poking at the storm drain with the stick.
"You too," I said, amazed that he took the time to be kind. I imagined myself finding the envelope bulging with money and running over to him. I looked around and all of the leaves were manila envelopes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Upton Sinclair

Human beings suffer agonies, and their sad fates become legends; poets write verses about them and playwrights compose dramas, and the remembrance of past grief becomes a source of present pleasure - such is the strange alchemy of the spirit.
― Upton Sinclair, Dragon's Teeth

Roald Dahl

So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.
― Roald Dahl, Matilda

Rebecca Solnit

Language is like a road, it cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read. This narrative or temporal element has made writing and walking resemble each other.
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Rebecca Solnit

A lone walker is both present and detached, more than an audience but less than a participant. Walking assuages or legitimizes this alienation.
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Richard Brautigan

Probably the closest things to perfection are the huge absolutely empty holes that astronomers have recently discovered in space. If there's nothing there, how can anything go wrong?
― Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan

I had a good-talking candle last night in my bedroom. I was very tired but I wanted somebody to be with me, so I lit a candle and listened to its comfortable voice of light until I was asleep.
― Richard Brautigan

Karma Repair Kit Items 1-4

1. Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.

2. Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.

3. Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
and listen to it.

― Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan

Finding is losing something else.
I think about, perhaps even mourn,
what I lost to find this.
― Richard Brautigan, Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork

T's Dream

You and Bill were out of town for the weekend but had allowed us to use your small house to host an evening art event.
The house is high on a hill. A log cabin type affair and rustic as all hell, but not too far from the road, in Cumberland.

HK and I had arranged the paintings. Some were hanging and others were just set up on shelves, over the counter, on the counter, on top of books-anywhere we thought to put them.
They were all small paintings. There was plenty of food and drink and a very festive atmosphere.
It was summer.
People began to arrive. I thought- this is a happening, like the 60's.
All was well until a strange tall guy entered. (everyone knocked on the outside of the screen door to be let in) and went immediately to a painting.
It was a collage, and he peeled away a small section of paper in the lower right corner.
You can't do that! I said, You have to leave immediately.
He was troubled, and he left.

More people- so many people came. The house was full of colorful tchochkes, little knitted elves, etc. and they were everywhere. Somehow they were part of the exhibit, but they all belonged to you guys.

My friend Peter came. At first I didn't recognize him at the door, then I realized. He's drunk. "I wouldn't miss it!" He said, "Get me a drink."
Then I was lying down and he was examining me like a doctor. He was tapping my left side, ovary area and took out a long needle, like a probe, as if he was going to insert it.
If you do that, you won't get your drink, I said.

Many people! Everyone having fun.
A woman was looking in the freezer and took out something and started eating it. This is really good, she said, but I told her that she couldn't eat it because it belonged to Bill and Emily.

Things were winding down. Some people went out the back door, down a small hill through a field to an outbuilding.
It was a small studio with two pianos, and rugs on the floor and quite cozy. They started playing music.
The pianos were in perfect tune.

I went back inside the house. People were starting to clean up, when my friend David came and said next time he would bring a gift from Mexico.

When I left, people were still there. The collage was still ripped. I thought, it will be OK. They will clean up everything.


I dreamed Bill and I had been staying at friends house for a few days. I got up ready to leave and went outside to their front yard. A woman riding an exceptionally tall tan horse came trotting down the street. Her two dogs were walking nearby presumably following her and she was directing them from her perch.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hung Up

If you get hung up on everybody else's hang-ups, then the whole world's going to be nothing more than one huge gallows.
― Richard Brautigan

Your Catfish Friend

by Richard Brautigan

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, “It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,”
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, “I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them.”

― Richard Brautigan, The Pill Versus the Springhill Mine Disaster

Excuse Me

Excuse me, I said. I thought you were a trout stream.
I'm not, she said.
― Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing In America

What a Circus!

We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.
― Charles Bukowski


I've never been lonely. I've been in a room -- I've felt suicidal. I've been depressed. I've felt awful -- awful beyond all -- but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me...or that any number of people could enter that room. In other words, loneliness is something I've never been bothered with because I've always had this terrible itch for solitude. It's being at a party, or at a stadium full of people cheering for something, that I might feel loneliness. I'll quote Ibsen, "The strongest men are the most alone."
― Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski

those who escape hell
never talk about
and nothing much
bothers them
― Charles Bukowski

I’ll Affect you Slowly

I’ll affect you slowly
as if you were having a picnic in a dream.
There will be no ants.
It won’t rain.
― Richard Brautigan, Loading Mercury With a Pitchfork

Richard Brautigan

My Name

I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.
If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.
Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—“Sorry for the mistake,”—and you had to do something else.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was a game you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.
That is my name.
Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There was something near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.
That is my name.
― Richard Brautigan, In Watermelon Sugar

Richard Brautigan

All of us have a place in history. Mine is clouds.
― Richard Brautigan

I'm in a constant process of thinking about things.
― Richard Brautigan

I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.
― Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing In America

Richard Brautigan

I will be very careful the next time I fall in love, she told herself. Also, she had made a promise to herself that she intended on keeping. She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren't worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it.
She wanted her next lover to be a broom.
― Richard Brautigan, Sombrero Fallout

May Sarton

In Texas there’s so much space words have a way
Of getting lost in the silence before they’re spoken
So people hang on a long time to what they have to say;
And when they say it the silence is not broken,
But it absorbs the words and slowly gives them
Over to miles of white-gold plains and grey-green hills,
And they are part of that silence that outlives them.
― May Sarton, Collected Poems, 1930-1993


Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is richness of self.
― May Sarton

The Wish to Disappear

The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, or having to leave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life - the homebound writer's irritants. But also being kept waiting is the human conditon.
― Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town

Risk the Unknown

The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown.
― Paul Theroux, The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road

Paul Theroux

What I'm arguing for in the book is more isolation. I like the idea of isolation, I like the idea of solitude. You can be connected and have a phone and still be lonely. In the same way that sexual promiscuity doesn't necessarily make people happy; you can have a lot of sex and still be lonely. So I think that cell phones and constant connection have induced a different kind of solitude, one that doesn't solve the problem of loneliness.

Travel works best when you're forced to come to terms with the place you're in. When I was in the Peace Corps I never made a phone call. I was in Central Africa; I didn't make a phone call for two years. I was in Uganda for another four years and I didn't make a phone call. So for six years I didn't make a phone call, but I wrote letters, I wrote short stories, I wrote books.

-Paul Theroux, interviewed about his book The Tao of Travel

Window Washer

“He’d always say, ‘It was me and the sky up here. I bother no one, and no one bothers me.’ ”

- Vincent Camaj, about his father Roko Camaj, an Albanian immigrant who adored his job washing windows at the World Trade Center

Born on a Kitchen Table

"I was born on a kitchen table in Branson Missouri," Sandy said while we were standing on the corner catching the end of the day sunlight.
"Really? Tell me more," I said.
"I grew up on a farm, remember this was in the 40's. My mother gave birth to me on the kitchen table. My father had just plowed the fields behind our house and when he went to pay the doctor twenty dollars the money was gone. It must've slipped out of his pocket. So he went back out and plowed the field again and found the money in the dirt and was able to pay the doctor. I just think of my poor mother. My family still tells this story."


I dreamed I was having an interview to work at an American Indian summer camp. "Everyone says I'd be perfect for this job," I said.
The interviewer asked me, "In what ways would this job not be perfect for you?"
"I need lots of solitude," I replied.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Germ Factory

When my husband got out of bed at his usual 4AM, I began sneezing and sneezing. I sneezed 12 times. I just figured he had kicked up some dust.

"Did you hear me sneezing?" I asked him when I came downstairs. By this time my nostrils were cement.
"You probably have what I have," he said. "I took antihistamine and aspirin."

My husband goes to the germ factory each day and occasionally one gets through customs.

I took a walk and blew my nose 147 times. There is a red blur above my mouth. My nose has nearly worn off my face.

I am making a pot of soup from the rice vegetable chicken gloop.

I finally broke down and took an antihistamine and an Excedrin for my headache. Now I feel my gums tingling from the medicine but at least my worn out nose has stopped leaking.

Kim Addonizio

I like to think that demons can sometimes be angels, that probing through the mire, we can recognize the glint of those small things that sustain us.
-Kim Addonizio

Rebecca Solnit

Violence always seems to me the worst form of tyranny. It deprives people of their rights, including the right to live.

The exercise of democracy begins as exercise, as walking around, becoming familiar with the streets, comfortable with strangers, able to imagine your own body as powerful and expressive rather than a pawn.

Thinking is generally thought of as doing nothing in a production-oriented society, and doing nothing is hard to do. It's best done by disguising it as doing something, and the something closest to doing nothing is walking.

-Rebecca Solnit

Making the World

Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.
-Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit

I'm grateful that, after an early life of being silenced, sometimes violently, I grew up to have a voice, circumstances that will always bind me to the rights of the voiceless.
-Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.

To calculate on the unforeseen is perhaps exactly the paradoxical operation that life most requires of us.

The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation.

- Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

I'm on the Bus Now

"I'm on the bus now," he shouted into his phone, walking towards me stopping to pet Lily.


"Why the fuck do you keep calling me," he yelled into his phone holding it six inches from his face like a small mirror. He was standing on the street in the dark, beside two huge metal work tables. The office door behind him was wide open.

Thriller: Eyes on the Car

For a few nights in September I woke up at three AM and decided to go downstairs to my office to work. I would open my screened porch door for air while working standing at my desk. One night I heard a car drive in to the parking lot behind my house. I can easily see the whole lot from my office. The car did not belong to any of the residents. I glanced at the clock. After five minutes the car left. Then another car drove in, parked in the same spot, and stayed for another five minutes. This happened each night. I began to notice this regular traffic pattern at all hours of the day, too. I suspected drug-dealing was going on and my neighbor confirmed it. She even knew who it was, and which apartment he lived in.

I emailed the local police chief and he connected me to a detective. The detective knew about the guy, a small-time dealer. The detective wasn't particularly interested in him, but asked me to stay in touch. One morning I was carrying my husband's coffee and lunch box out to the car at 6:30 AM and I noticed a shiny new black Impala with NY plates in the parking lot. I emailed the detective about it. "Can you get the license plate number?" he asked. I walked across the lot and back with my dog, glancing over at the Impala as I passed it. I emailed him back. "You won't believe this," he wrote back immediately, "I'm sitting here right now waiting for exactly that car!" All of a sudden my hands were shaking so much I could hardly write. "They're leaving now," I wrote back, "Do you want me to obstruct them?" I imagined, oh, taking my trash can to the sidewalk and tipping it over "accidentally" in the driveway, slowing the car's escape while the detective showed up. "NO!" he replied. "Please call me when you have a moment." He gave me his cell phone number.

I took a deep breath and phoned him. I told him that as soon as I had hit "send" on the last email I realized my mistake. "I just got caught up in the drama," I said, laughing. "Don't ever put yourself in harm's way," he warned me. I felt embarrassed. I was the Lucille Ball of amateur crime-fighters. "Don't worry," I tried to reassure him, "They won't suspect me. I'm just the lady with the big black dog who walks everywhere."

"Wow, so they were here at that early hour?" he asked. "The heroin addicts get up very early," he volunteered, thinking aloud. My heart pounded and I started trembling from head to toe. Heroin? I had visions of guys with tourniquets on their arms, veins popping, shooting up in dark alleys like in the movies of my 1970's NY childhood. He continued: "These guys make so much money they rent a car for a month and then turn it in for another. They think that with out-of-state plates they won't be noticed, but they stick out like a sore thumb." His voice was young and kind and I tried to envision his face from the tones. He sounded 20 years younger than me, with straight light brown hair, clean-shaven. "Yeah, those orange NY plates, you can spot them a mile away," I said, feeling like I already knew way too much about drug dealers. My confidence was quickly retreating.

For days I sent regular emails alerting the detective. "The black car is back here." "The black car is still here." "Now there's a white car." My pulse quickened every time I hit the "send" button. I sent him plate numbers if I could see them. I wasn't comfortable crossing the lot with my dog anymore. One day a scary-looking silver Ram wagon with tinted windows parked in what I had begun calling the hot spot. When it started appearing regularly I was terrified. My husband teased me: "You're just scared of the design of the car." I told the detective what my husband thought, but my hunch proved to be correct. The detective confirmed that the silver Ram was the drug-dealer's new rental car.

I was getting jumpy, fearing everything. How do the police do this? I'd walk my dog around the city as always but I couldn't shut off my hunting impulse. I learned to recognize car models and manufacturer's logos, to memorize license plates at a glance. I saw out-of-state plates everywhere, on fancy cars with tinted windows. Were they drug-dealer rentals too? Was I losing my mind? I sent the detective a Smithsonian Magazine article about an art historian who was training police detectives to observe using museum masterpieces. "I'd like this job!" I told him. One time he asked in an email, "You've got the black dog, right?" I didn't reply right away. I had mentioned my dog the first time we spoke on the phone. I was quite visible walking my dog around town, but he was still invisible to me. What do detectives look for anyway? How deeply do they research people? Was he reading my writing, looking at my paintings? I felt like I was in on a seduction. I was getting spooked. "Yeah she’s my dog,” I finally responded. "People see me walking her all over the city. She's practically a local celebrity." All I knew about the detective was that he drove around in an unmarked black Buick. He had told me that he'd be keeping an eye out on the parking lot. I was comforted, though, knowing there would be another set of eyes looking out.

The drug dealing seemed to escalate. I was monitoring the stream of cars and sending license plate numbers to the detective while continuing to brush up on the makes, models and logos of the cars. Now and again the detective would have a specific question: "Did you see the guy who drove the silver Ram?" "No, I saw him in the car as it was parked and then he got out and a woman got in and drove it away." The parking lot was like a shopping mall. Customers were sitting in their cars in the dark, their faces lit by their cell-phones. One night I saw a guy illuminated by his car light licking something from his fingertips. He held what looked like a white envelope. Another night I woke up in the night to pee and in the dark I peeked out the window through the gap above the curtain in the stairwell. I saw the dealer's car out back and raced down to my desk to email the detective. I was so full of adrenaline I couldn't fall back to sleep. "This is hunting, and you love the hunt," my husband said. "Yes, you're right," I admitted. "And you have an audience, the detective," my husband reminded me.

The dealers looked so young, they looked like little boys with their backwards baseball caps and shiny cars. They weren't even wearing winter coats, just decorative T-shirts. I didn't want anyone to get hurt, I wasn't out to get everybody incarcerated. It's bad enough that I already feel responsible for everything on the planet. I had no malice toward the dealers. My feeling was just please don't do this. As I told the Chief and Mayor at a meeting earlier in the year, I am speaking up on behalf of my tenant neighbors who are too afraid to call for help. This cul-de-sac parking lot had become a lawless wasteland because of the landlord's neglect. I wanted to improve the quality of life for everyone in my neighborhood.

Whenever my inbox showed the detective's name I jumped through my skin. It was almost like having a crush. I would hang on every word, read the message over and over. Stay calm, I told myself, breathe. Be safe, do not be seen. So much was unknown to me, but that's what made it verge on sexy. "I am freaking out with jitters," I told the detective, on the phone. "This is why I could never have an affair, too much adrenaline. I need my life to be calm and orderly." "Absolutely," he agreed, and laughed.

In time the scary silver Ram was replaced with a shiny silver sportscar, then later with a plain new red Ford with local plates. Maybe the dealers were beginning to feel exposed. "I think this is the new car," I wrote to the detective. He said, "I think you're right." "They park with authority, in the hotspot. They're sitting in the car with the seats pushed way back so they're hidden." "Important detail," the detective replied. Then I spotted the guys in question going in and out and was able to identify them. "Good job, Can you get the plates?" "I'm too scared to walk across the lot." "No, don't," he said, "I'll drive thru and get them in an hour."

At this point he had a search warrant for the apartment. An undercover cop had successfully bought drugs at the apartment, and now they were just waiting for the right time to execute the warrant. After eight weeks of team work I was still hanging on the front lines looking out from my perch. One Friday the detective asked me, "Can you keep your eyes on the red car for fifteen minutes?" "Yes, I'll set the kitchen timer since my sense of time is wonky under stress," I said. "Good," he replied. The bell rang and I wrote back, "Red car still here," but then the car immediately left. I phoned in a panic. "He just left!" I said, shaking like a leaf, imagining having botched the crew's efforts. "He must have the same timer," I said. The detective laughed. The stake-out was cancelled for the day but we'd be back at it again Monday. "We can be in casual alert over the weekend, making note of the red car's comings and goings. But Monday night, high alert." "Okay," I said. "By the way, I know I don't have to tell you but for your safety and ours, do not tell ANYONE you are working with us." Later I sat down and wrote the names of all the people I had told. Forty-five. I was spooked.

There's a part of me that always wanted to be a detective. Artists, writers, and detectives share lot in common: observe and listen. I told myself that my role in this was to keep paying attention and write down what I see. Just the facts ma’am, I told myself, and leave the interpretation to the experts. I was in a kind of training, I decided, doing my best to be a good and honorable witness to help solve the problem on behalf of my neighborhood. I wanted it to be over, though. "Believe me we do too," the detective said, "but it has to run its course. We need to get the right guys." I told myself it was a good but terrifying exercise for my writing. "My wife has a pen-pal who is a detective!" my husband announced proudly one morning while pouring his coffee into his morning to-go thermos.

Monday came. I was in self-imposed high alert, awake since 4 AM. I had been standing lookout in the empty tub of my cold office bathroom for hours. The detective and I were keeping in touch by email. It was now 6:30 PM. My husband appeared with two plates of hot spaghetti. We ate it standing in the dark, eyes on the red car. I was exhausted. "Go rest," the detective said. "I hate to do this to you, can you come back at 10:30?" "Perfect," I said. At 9:30 my husband woke me up. "The red car is back," he said. I emailed the detective, my heart pounding. "Okay, keep an eye out. Let's see if he stays," he said. The red car was in a different spot because of the ice in the lot. A truck partially blocked my view of the car, and the new spot was very dark. My husband got his binoculars. I could confirm the red car was red and I recognized the shape of the tail light. Then the truck left. Another guy pulled in to the hot spot to buy drugs. When he returned, he put the car in reverse and got stuck in the ice, tires spinning, but his back-up lights illuminated the red car. "It's DEFINITELY red," I told the detective. "A customer lit it up." He laughed. Another sedan drove in, a brown Crown Vic. Maybe this is the detective I thought. But it was a lanky guy in a Peruvian hat carrying a brown paper bag. Another customer.

The detective wanted to communicate now by cell-phone. "I'll have to wake my husband, it's his phone and I don't know how to use it." "He's not going to be too happy about that," the detective said. "Oh no, he'll be fine about it." I got back to my station just as the red car started to leave. I called in a panic: "Red car just left!" I feared the detective's team would move in on nothing. "Oh don't tell me!" he said. He was exhausted too. "Hey, a pickup truck just pulled in," I said. I noticed it was missing a rear light. "I think it's another customer. I'll bet the red car will be back momentarily to make a deal." Suddenly I was alert and wide awake. Sure enough, I called back with good news: "The red car's back! And now the truck is gone." "The truck is gone? You have eyes on the red car?" I could hear police radio in the background. A cop was saying he was staked out on the corner lot at the school. "Okay I have to direct my guys now," he said, hanging up. I went to the bathroom window. Two cars drove into the lot and stopped. One passenger got out carrying something really heavy and ran towards the apartment. I sure hope this is the police, I thought, and not the dealers because this looks dangerous. Then I saw another vehicle pull into the driveway and park, blocking the only exit. Okay, whew, it's the cops. Then I saw the detectives come out into the lot with a police dog to search the red car. It was late, after eleven. I finally went to bed.

The next morning I had a new message. "Call me when you have a chance." The detective told me the story over the phone. They got their guys, exactly what they wanted. The apartment was a classic crack house. "You won't believe the paperwork we have to do now, it will take all day," he said. I was blown away, exhausted, relieved. Was it really over? The Chief later sent me and the Mayor a follow-up note, and a personal thank-you note. "Community policing at its best," he wrote.

Lively Livery

"There are times when I don’t want to get in a taxi because I’m alone and the man can be intimidating, especially if it’s nighttime and I’ve had too much to drink,” said Ms. Cantillo, 31, a makeup artist who booked her third ride with the service in a week.

Now, Ms. Cantillo said, she no longer has to worry, and even felt comfortable enough in the back seat of a livery car last week to change into a dress and a pair of heels — something she never would have done with a man in the driver’s seat. “This is definitely going to be my go-to service,” she said.



I dreamed I was in my old painting studio in a brick mill building. My friend Lisa was making a documentary of artists. She was wearing a camera made of stereo lenses embedded in a bright blue padded helmet.

In the dream I was high up overlooking the ocean. The motion of the ocean was too distracting. I hung muslin half-curtains to cover the water view. The curtains were blowing open in the wind so I hung my staple gun on the bottom of one to give it weight so it wouldn't flap around. "That's dumb, I'm going to need that tool," I told myself taking it down.

I was standing on the ground floor watching a family come in from a swim. "Hows the water," I asked?
"Nice," their daughter replied.
I told the father "My grandmother lived this close to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. She could sit on the edge of her bed and see the ocean."
He didn't respond. I thought "I'm one of those people who talks to everyone."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kurt Vonnegut

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Kurt Vonnegut

And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country


I dreamed I was in Chapel Hill North Carolina driving to my friend Rob's house. I got to an intersection and saw a bear crossing the road. Then the bear became an angry striped tiger. I stopped to wait a few minutes along with the two cars ahead of me and then I turned down another street, away from my friend's house.

My vehicle was a very tall bicycle and I was riding ten feet high. It was blazing hot out. I had to stop and jump off. I met a family that took me in. Their living room was filled with rare books arranged like a bookstore. I could see many Arthur Rackham books. The mother was very kind and talked with me. I didn't notice that she was a midget because she was standing on a kitchen chair. It didn't matter I told myself. She had two sweet kids. I gave the family the house gift I had brought for my friend, a copy of Punch With Judy. I had a quick worry, were there any midgets depicted in the book?

I was driving a bus full of people over a bridge in Fall River. There were no railings just a slab of iron making a road. I could see the water below. I was worried about being too close to edge of the bridge so I moved a bit and a fancy silver Lexus zoomed past me on the right. A few times I couldn't see anything up ahead and said so aloud. Then I was relieved to discover that I was driving a train on a track.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Parker Palmer

Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self. It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others. Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people-it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.
-Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life


She was walking downtown with Roger, her black lab, when a man in a gray hoodie intercepted her. He looked right at her and said, "Do you know who I am?" She looked at him. His voice and lips looked familiar but not the goatee.
"Yes," she said before she was sure. He told her about the latest drug bust in her neighborhood over at the blue buildings.
"Sorry for not getting back to you. I lost my iPhone. I got in trouble for it. I have no email now except on my laptop. I have a temporary cell phone but I can't do email on it." He opened the black clam-shell phone and pointed to the tiny screen inside.
"What a coincidence to run into you," she said. "I just copied down a license plate number and was wondering if I should send it to you." She pulled a white folded envelope out of her front jeans pocket and showed him the plate numbers she had written along with "silver SUV Cadillac" and a sketch of a cactus. "I think the cactus is an Arizona plate. It could be my wild imagination but these three guys were parked in the alley and they were up to something," she said.
"If you think they were, they probably were," he said. "Do you have a pen?"
"Yes, I do," she dug out a blue pen and small black notepad from her shoulder bag and wrote down his new cell phone number. "I just worry that I'm a pest," she said.
"I was just doing some surveillance on Ivy Street and while I was there I saw three other drug deals happen right in front of me. I had to ignore them and stay focused. We are spread thin," he said.
"I understand," she said. "As long as the bigger dealers are knocked down before the problem becomes a huge monster. Then it's much harder to stop."
"True, and things are much better in your neighborhood than they were in the 90's when it was all out in the street everywhere you looked."
"I know, and I am so grateful."
"Okay give me a call if you need to get in touch, I've gotta go," he said crossing the street.
"Thanks so much!" she replied. As she walked down the avenue past the new Thai restaurant two policemen got out of their patrol car and gave her big smiles. "I guess they know me," she thought to herself, "the local Miss Marple and her friendly dog Roger."

Carl Sagan

My parents were not scientists. They knew almost nothing about science. But in introducing me simultaneously to skepticism and to wonder, they taught me the two uneasily cohabiting modes of thought that are central to the scientific method.

I think I'm able to explain things because understanding wasn't entirely easy for me. Some things that the most brilliant students were able to see instantly I had to work to understand. I can remember what I had to do to figure it out. The very brilliant ones figure it out so fast they never see the mechanics of understanding.
-Carl Sagan

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Mary Ruefle

In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again, to watch the great personal psyche spar with it, to suffer affliction and weakness and injury, to die and watch those you love die, until the very dizziness of it all becomes a source of compassion for ourselves, and our language, which we alone created, and without which the letter that slipped under the door could never have been written, or, once in a thousand lives—is that too much to ask?—retrieved, and read.
-Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

Back Then

by Teddi Scobi

My mother used to walk over to her fathers house, the farm.
To check on Marie, my grandfathers second wife.

Marie used to wear two dresses at once.
When I think about it, it was dementia, or whatever you will.

It was what it was, there were no websites to advise, no template.

Grammy had died. Grampa T remarried. Marie, a slight woman, who lost the grip.

Marie never made cookies, or smoked on the front porch, like Grammy used to do.

Yet, my mother traipsed over there. Cleaned up, and walked home.

Not a saint, just a thing to do, back then.

The Highway Department

When I returned the graffiti removal materials yesterday to Rick Lambert at the highway dept down on River Street he gave me a tour. This is where it all happens! It's the headquarters of salt sand and men and women in day glow yellow who drive the city trucks, street sweepers, lawnmowers and front end loaders.

Rick showed me the winter storm room upstairs. They have numerous maps of the city streets tacked up on the walls with magnets, glow markers, and charts depicting the five neighborhood zones. They have a box filled with routes in alphabetized binders for the street sweepers and snow plow drivers. Inside each binder they have that zone's major and minor streets listed. They have a cardboard box full of two-way radios.

On the first floor there's offices and an open space lunchroom with a few tables and chairs an upright industrial fan, a soda and juice machine and two full-sized fridges. They even have a print shop in the cellar for making new city street signs.

I loved seeing this other world. It is amazing what the highway department does to keep our city clean, plowed and running well all year round. I am impressed. And they are always kind and cheerful when I see them out on my walks with Lily.

Friday, November 07, 2014

You Asked

Sautée mushrooms, garlic, onions, and a little bit of wine, salt, in olive oil of course, and a chili pepper if you have one. Pour that over the chicken breasts and bake it at 350 for an hour.
Who taught you to cook?
Lorenzo, the sexy Italian exchange student from Sicily.
When was this?
At the house I lived in off campus, in Baltimore back when I was at school. He taught me to kiss too.
Really? What did you teach him - in exchange?
Some English, how insane American girls are, how appreciative I was of his cooking and kissing.
Oh get out.
You asked.

A Man and A Woman

You shudda told me.
Whaddya mean?
You shudda told me that's all. I need to know these things.
Would you have told me if you was me?
I am not you, I could never be you. First of all you're a woman and I'm a man. So it would be completely different if you was me. Men don't have babies.
Sometimes they do.
You know what I mean, they don't give birth. They don't have a live baby pulled out of their body from between their legs. Only a woman can do that.
Do you still love me?
Of course I do. I just like to know this stuff. Don't keep so many secrets, okay?


"We're always the first ones up," Pete said.
"Shhh. Don't wake mom and dad," Steve answered.
The boys left the cabin and headed down the steep hill to the lake.
"Last one in is a doofus," Steve said, jumping in. "Whoa, it's cold, it's freezing!"
He swam around for a few minutes trying to get warm. "I won, I jumped in first."
"You always win," Pete said.
"But you always beat me at chess," Steve said.
"I don't feel like swimming," Pete said.
"You have to, c'mon. You're my buddy." Steve said. "Remember the buddy system?"
"I can be your buddy from here," Pete said.
"Not if I swim way out, then you have to come in," Steve said.
Steve swam out until his head was the size of an apple. "C'mon Pete you have to. The New Hampshire pond monster is grabbing me by the ankles," Steve yelled, flailing his arms and legs, bobbing up and down.
"Come back," Pete yelled. "Stop teasing!"
Steve swam a bit more, then stopped.
"No, Pete, go get dad, I'm serious. I have a cramp," Steve shouted, coughing.
Pete ran up the hill to the cabin. His dad was at the kitchen table reading the New York Times and drinking coffee.
"Dad, Steve swam out and needs help. Hurry!" Pete said.
Bob got up and shouted into the bathroom. The shower was running. "Irene I'm going down to the lake with Pete, Steve's in trouble."
"What?" She yelled.
Bob ran out and grabbed the big yellow inflated raft leaning against the cabin. He and Pete ran down the hill. The water was clear, flat, and motionless.
"Where'd he go? He was right there," Pete said pointing to the right. "He was way out. I bet he's gone to the island."
Irene came down, her short wet hair sticking up.
"I'll take the raft out," said Bob. "Irene, you and Pete drive around to the opposite side. You know the way, Mill Creek Road.
"Bob . . ?" Irene asked.
"Later, Irene, we have to hurry." Pete was already running up the hill.
"Oh God." His mom gasped, racing to keep up with him. They jumped into the blue station wagon, Irene at the wheel, and drove over to Mill Creek Road.
"Slow down here where we can catch a view of the island," Pete said. They were both peering through the green leafy trees hunting for people-shapes. "I think I see him, stop the car!"
Irene turned off the engine. Pete and Irene both got out.
"Over there," Pete said pointing.
"I don't see him," she said.
"Over there, straight across on the island. See that spot of red moving? That's Steve's bathing suit. And there's dad and the yellow raft," Pete said.
"I see them!" she said.
They watched Steve get on the raft. Bob swam beside Steve, slowly tugging towards the opposite shore.
"Oh God," she said again. "I'm shaking like a leaf."
"Me too," Pete said.

Teensy Sketch

It was bad enough that she worried about the future, the country, the city she lived in, everyone. The trick was to be right here in the moment, listening to the sound of the pen on paper and the traffic driving by on this gray day.


I dreamed I was playing Mississippi John Hurt on a portable record player. I was in a public place. A library? The lp's were stacked up and playing extra slow due to the weight of the records. I was listening and sobbing. People arrived so I packed up my portable phonograph, wiping my tears, apologizing for being so emotional.

I was with Bill and Craig and Linda in CT at Craig's mom's house. We made a plan for me to swim across Long Pond with Lily the following morning. Lily would be my swim buddy. I was worrying about the half-mile swim in cold water.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


I dreamed I was washing pieces of white lace in a dye made from blueberries.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Soccer + Sobriety

“I’m a co-owner of the football club, but I’m also an alcoholic and a drug addict,” he said. “I’ve been in recovery for 31 years. I don’t forget the pain and suffering I caused others. I’m putting a wee bit back in.”


I dreamed I was visiting a friend who just moved into a tiny apartment in NYC. I looked out her window. "It's like the bow of a ship. Look at all of those fire escapes and the shadows they make on the brick buildings. It's beautiful," I said.

Heat Wave

"Boy do I have stories. Every policeman does. You need stories? Just ask a policeman. There was one I'll never forget. This elderly couple must've been in their eighties. The man was quite a bit older than the wife, healthy, but the wife was not all there mentally so he took care of her. They lived in a triple-decker. One day we get a call from the neighbors about a horrible smell. It was during a heat wave. Some of my guys couldn't go in the apartment the smell was so bad. The husband had died. I remember I sat with the wife in the kitchen and she was eating a bowl of cereal and her dish was right next to the mop where she had been cleaning up bodily fluids. I couldn't believe it. And then she says to me, and I'll never forget it, 'He's not feeling well, he's not himself.' The poor guy had been dead for days. When the body has been sitting like that over time the fluids drain out. Luckily she had relatives and they took her to a home."

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's.
- Stephen King

I learn as much from painters about how to write as from writers.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review

The further you go in writing the more alone you are. Most of your best and oldest friends die. Others move away. You do not see them except rarely, but you write and have much the same contact with them as though you were together at the café in the old days. You exchange comic, sometimes cheerfully obscene and irresponsible letters, and it is almost as good as talking. But you are more alone because that is how you must work and the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.
- Winston Churchill

The Dinner Guests

"A real beauty with all of the original woodwork in mint condition," Alice said, walking a semi-circle on the bare living room floor.
"You wonder how that can be, it's like a time capsule," Roland said, studying the architectural details.
"The whole house is one big time capsule," Gary said. "When we first looked at it the owner's relatives were here going through her belongings. All treasures from her worldly travels."
They sat down at the table and Eileen ladled beef stew into shallow bowls and served warm Italian bread. Gary poured the wine.
"The day we moved in my next-door neighbor told me the owner's son had been in the Mob," Eileen said.
Alice locked eyes with her husband Roland.
"People just stay stuff, you can't trust it," Roland said. He was tearing off a piece of bread from the loaf and biting into it while he spoke.
"Oh I believe it," Gary said. "Look." He got up and removed an oak panel from the dining room wall next to the fireplace. He pulled out a .45 with a white mother-of-pearl and sterling-silver handle. "Look at this baby," he said, presenting it like a newborn.
"He found it wrapped in a silk negligee," Eileen said, refreshing her wine glass. She sat back.
"Did it fit you?" Roland asked leaning forward.
Eileen blushed.
"I wonder if there's any more hidden treasure," Alice said.
"Any loose bricks?" Roland asked, turning the stem of his wine glass. "With money or jewels hidden behind them?"
"Does that really happen?" Alice asked.
"Oh it's just one of those stories floating around," Roland said.
They drank in silence for a moment.
"Is it loaded?" Roland asked.
"What, the gun?" asked Gary.
"I'm terrified of guns," Eileen said, covering her face.
"Eileen says she'd shoot herself the next time she gets a migraine. So she instructed me to hide the bullets." Gary said.
"I'd love to see them, especially if they are the vintage originals," Roland said.
"Sure, c'mon up." They climbed the stairs. "I've got them stashed up here," Gary said, reaching to the back of his desk. "Ah, here we go." Gary placed a bullet in Roland's hand.
"This sure is the real deal. They don't make 'em like this anymore," Roland said. He examined it under the light, then slipped it into the cartridge.
"What are you doing?" Gary asked. Roland pointed the gun at Gary.
"Nobody's gonna get hurt," Roland said. "Just relax and act natural while we go back downstairs. I'm right behind you."
"You lovely ladies want to make some coffee," Roland called down.
"Sure," Eileen said, getting up. Alice joined her in the kitchen.
Back in the living room, Roland whispered to Gary. "Face straight ahead and don't move." Roland leaned into the empty fireplace, feeling along the rear wall of yellow bricks until he found the loose one and pulled it out. He reached in and grabbed a black velvet pouch and pocketed it, replacing the brick. Then he aimed the gun at Gary as he walked backwards out the front door. "Goodbye Gary," he said.
The door clicked shut.
"Call the police!" Gary said, barging into the kitchen.
"What's wrong, what happened?" Eileen asked.
"Just call." Gary said, running his hands through his hair. "Where's Alice?"
"She just stepped out to have a smoke," Eileen said.
"No she didn't, she's gone too," Gary said, frazzled. "They've gone."
"What do you mean, what's this all about?" Eileen asked.
"Roland wanted to see the bullets. He loaded the gun and pointed it at me. We came downstairs and he told me not to move. I think he stole something and ran out the front door," Gary said.
"And they were such nice people," Eileen said.