Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What a Pill

I read in the New York Times there's a pill that will eliminate women's menstrual periods. I am deeply troubled by this idea; intuitively it feels very wrong, like deciding to do away with night, and just having day. The horror film The Stepford Wives comes to mind. Are we trying to be robots? One of my premenstrual clues is needing to obsessively read, and craving peanut butter, chocolate, and spinach! Why would we want to get rid of our own quirks and unique wisdom? The week before my period I bake and cook up a storm, and fill up the freezer! My husband would starve if I didn't have these times. The chocolate industry would collapse if women did away with menstruation!

More Quotes About Writing

A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.

     - Roald Dahl

A writer ought to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

     - Mark Twain

I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die.

     - Isaac Asimov

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.

     - Cyril Connolly

Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.

     - Melinda Haynes

My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.

     - John D MacDonald

Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.

     - Jules Renard

I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten - happy, absorbed, and quietly putting one bead on after another.

     - Brenda Ueland

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it.

     - Leo Rosten

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.

     - Edward Gibbon

We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason why they write so little.

     - Anne Lamott

We do not write because we want to; we write because we have to.

     - Somerset Maugham

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.

     - Anais Nin

I write to get out of jail.

     - Tom Stoppard

The problem is when you're not writing you don't know if you're lying fallow or if you'll never write again.

     - Norman Mailer


Armand has the most magnificent garden of herbs and berries and greens and it's all growing in raised beds that he cobbled together. Every season I walk by with Honey and admire it as it takes hold and flourishes. By the end of the season he's giving us bouquets of rainbow swiss chard, kale, collard greens, and herbs. I walked by recently, and we chatted about his chicken soup with garlic, and fresh lovage and tarragon. He goes to Federal Hill, to Hilltop Poultry, for his garlic and olive oil, and to Antoinelli's for his eighteen pounds of chicken backs. He cooks it up in a gigantic soup pot, making eighteen quarts of stock at a time. It takes all day, he says. Then he puts it up in glass canning jars. Over the winter he shares it with his children and grandchildren down the street.

He seems overjoyed that we like to cook and eat, too, and are interested in learning about what he does. I told him I bake all year round even on hot days, and I make pasta all the time, but my gardening is a bit timid. He offered to give us suckers from his yellow raspberries, and we accepted. He reminds me of my pal Rob who used to take an entire afternoon to make tomato sauce, seasoning it with basil, parsley, and oregano he grew in his North Carolina garden. Both men are tall and slender and avid gardeners. I wonder if we could live all winter off our garden if I grew and canned vegetables! When I told Armand I wished I could grow Greek olives, he lit up and said he wished he could grow bay leaves!

Quote of the Day

Time and trouble will tame an advanced young woman, but an advanced old woman is uncontrollable by any earthly force.

     - Dorothy Sayers

Cheddar Vision

In the New York Times food page there was mention of a web cam trained on wheels of aging cheddar cheese. The wheels of cheese get rotated every few days to distribute the moisture. That's my next job - cheese rotator! Check it out at www.cheddarvision.tv.

Lipstick and Sunglasses

This morning when I was walking Honey I thought about two simple things that make me feel invincible out in the city; wearing sunglasses and wearing lipstick. I walked over to our library to pick up The Great Failure, by Natalie Goldberg. I started reading it while walking home, and I couldn't put it down until I finished it at six o'clock. It was magnificent.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Look Up, Hannah

I wanted to post this in its entirety. It's the dictator's closing speech from Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" of 1940. (From the American Rhetoric site.)

I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an Emperor - that's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone, if possible - Jew, gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another; human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there's room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.

The way of life can be free and beautiful.

But we have lost the way.

Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women, and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.

To those who can hear me I say, "Do not despair." The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass and dictators die; and the power they took from the people will return to the people and so long as men die, liberty will never perish.

Soldiers: Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel; who drill you, diet you, treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate; only the unloved hate, the unloved and the unnatural.

Soldiers: Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written, "the kingdom of God is within man" - not one man, nor a group of men, but in all men, in you, you the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power! Let us all unite!! Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth the future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie! They do not fulfill their promise; they never will. Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people!! Now, let us fight to fulfill that promise!! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

Soldiers: In the name of democracy, let us all unite!!!

Hannah, can you hear me? Wherever you are, look up, Hannah. The clouds are lifting. The sun is breaking through. We are coming out of the darkness into the light. We are coming into a new world, a kindlier world, where men will rise above their hate, their greed and brutality.

Look up, Hannah. The soul of man has been given wings, and at last he is beginning to fly. He is flying into the rainbow - into the light of hope, into the future, the glorious future that belongs to you, to me, and to all of us. Look up, Hannah. Look up.

     - Charlie Chaplin

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Quote of the Day

Most people play louder to get someone's attention, but getting quieter can stop a bull from charging!

     - Victor L Wooten

Enviable Parents

I know of many friends who are visiting their parents or going to visit with their children this week because of school vacation, and I can't help feeling a pang of envy. I don't have that kind of relationship with my folks, although I wish I did! I wish I had a mother who would greet me at the door and say I was beautiful and radiant, and parents who would love to hear what I was reading and cooking and thinking. My father would load his pipe and sit in his favorite chair and listen, and my dog Honey would be with me. I can dream, can't I?


I went out with Honey in the rain today. I felt a sense of camaraderie with the Public Works guys, seeing them picking up trash in the roads during the storm. After walking five miles in the 41-degree rain and wind, I was rosy. I looked like I was from Ireland! Natural health and beautiful glow only come this way! Maybe I should join the Public Works Department part-time. I'm into the highway dayglow fashions, especially yellow coveralls, red rubber boots, and driving big blue trucks! Oh, and don't forget the he-man breakfasts!

Simple Pleasures

My thighs are smiling when I emerge from a hot shower and put on clean jeans - my skin can breathe though the pores! Simple pleasures make up my day. I knew a guy who got up every day, had coffee, and practiced his drums all morning. He did this for years. Last I heard he got a Tony Award playing in a band for a Broadway show. Start where you are, go deeply into what you care about, and sometimes amazing things happen. But I'd be wrong to go at things with the goal in mind - the journey is what matters! The journey counts. How I line myself up with the cosmos matters. If I'm a dictator I'll have rebellion on my hands.

I worked at a nursing home briefly, and there was an amazing group of elderly clients living on the premises. The grouchy ones had been bitter their whole lives. The gossipy ones were still doing their thing! The light-filled inspired ones were brighter each day, in spite of their bodies breaking down.


I love commerce. I don't have a goal to accumulate money. I think that's a trap loaded with false promises. But I love when I get paid for a painting or playing music and then I can go buy corn, a turkey, and bags of beans. I don't mind paying my rent and my electric bill, but I want to do it by the skills of my hand. Commerce is amazing and barter is even better.

Real Food

I'm reading Nina Planck's book Real Food and it's very compelling. She was raised by back-to-the-land 70's parents who had bought a farm in rural Virginia. She made granola and bread and ate fresh eggs and domestic beef and her home-grown vegetables. When she moved out on her own she rebelled and became vegetarian and then vegan, but she suffered from depression and weight gain. She returned to the eating habits of the family farm and returned to robust health and slender fitness. Her book explains why this is a good way to eat.

Clean Cows

I went to the dairy farm yesterday and the cows are so CLEAN and scrubbed from the rain. The farmer was walking from the barn with a 25-pound sack of feed over his shoulder when I pulled in. He was heading to refill the green plastic feed containers. Through the bakery kitchen window I spotted the bakers in T-shirts and purple bandannas lathering up trays of fresh pastry with overflowing spatulas of whipped cream. The cream buckets are the size of trash cans, and on wheels!! The Holsteins with their huge drooping udders were lining up to get milked. The smell of mucky mud and cow manure was really strong!

Allergy Season

I have to take generic benadryl every day because my nipples feel like they are shooting flames and my scalp, soles, and palms burn. But it makes me feel special, like a comic book hero!


I love cabbage, and I adore coleslaw. Here's how you make it. Chop a head of cabbage and put it into a big bowl. Chop a bunch of carrots and add them to the cabbage. Put bloops of Hellman's mayo into another bowl and add mustard and white vinegar, salt and sugar, stir well, and pour over the cabbage mixture. If you'd like, add raisins, and walnuts. I hear you can't make mayonnaise before a thunderstorm because negative ions in the air prevent the mayo from thickening. Do the Hellman's factory workers get sent home?

Pedal Power

I was terrified to learn to drive and didn't learn when all the kids I grew up with were learning. I hated the idea, and I knew my mother would just send me on errands. I told people I didn't believe in perspective and it really looked like the road was narrowing and coming to an end, that's why I wasn't going to learn to drive. Then one day years later a friend told me she'd teach me how to drive if I would drive her to her acupuncturist. So I learned to drive on her little automatic-transmission beige Datsun, escorting her there and back. I still hadn't learned to drive a stick-shift or how to drive on the highway, so another woman I knew took me out on the ramp to the highway in her green semi-automatic-transmission VW bug and said, "Make your move!" I was so terrified - I remember having to drink half a beer (a lot for me) to work up the guts to drive. But eventually I caught on.

I always loved the smell of a VW bug, so that was the car I was going to own. I loved the way the dashboard and windshield were so cartoony, like the inside of a Mickey Mouse toy. Shortly after moving to rural North Carolina I decided it was time for me to get my own car. I got a blue VW bug for 500 dollars from a UNC student, and learned to drive it. Finding gears with a stick-shift felt to me like finding my cervix. It was really trippy! But I wanted the manual transmission so I would be engaged and participating in the driving, and not feeling like I was in a couch with wheels. I felt free, safe, and powerful driving, especially when I traveled with my dog. He'd fill the car with dog breath, and I was less afraid taking the 14-hour drive home to RI, needing gas on the New Jersey Turnpike at one a.m.

I would often forget to turn on my headlights or shut my doors. Many times the doors would fly open as I pulled out of a gas station. One time my gas pedal stuck. My brother was visiting, following me in his car, as I drove like Mario Andretti through rural North Carolina. I should have pulled over and addressed the problem but I just accepted it as the car's mood. I'm a hippie surrealist. Anything is possible. Playing music while driving shouldn't be legal for me, it's sensory overload, but my bug didn't have a radio so it was OK. Instead I had a vintage black-and-white postcard of Duke Ellington's band taped over the spot where the radio would've been. Passengers always admired it, and I'd say that's my radio! The driver's seat had a huge hole but I had a bunched-up green Indian bedspread covering the mess of springs and horsehair poking through.

One Christmas as a surprise my boyfriend installed a new driver's seat and radio/tape player, but then he would always take my car because it was more fun than his car. So I was stranded. And I was spineless, I said nothing. He would drive drunk and make a mess out of all the fenders backing out of my driveway. My blue bug looked like a rotten grape.

I haven't had my own car in five years. I am thinking a gigantic tricycle would be perfect if I could fit Honey in the basket! Or I could leave Honey home and deliver homemade breads by bicycle! Pedal power works for me!! Only one engine to feed! Turkey sandwiches as fuel beats a gallon of gas. There's a guy around town who was famous for carrying his dog on his bike, and when his dog died there was a story about it in the paper. The locals chipped in and found him another dog! It's one of those dogs that looks like a hairdo with legs, riding in a kid carrier trailing behind him. There's another guy who rides around with American flags all over his bicycle and a full-sized one in back flapping behind him, getting a bit tattered. He started this after the September 11th attack. Mr. Patriotic I call him. When I lived in Providence I commuted by bicycle in rain, sleet, snow, and slush, day and night! I'd ride up College Hill and everywhere on my three-speed bike. This was before helmets and road rage were in vogue.

April Shouters!

My pal Kit just gave me bright yellow lobsterman rain overalls. I'm gonna put them on and run with Honey through the City of Woonsocket shouting EAT MORE GARLIC!

Radiant Health

I was a vegetarian for 20 years until I met Jamie Sullivan. He's a butcher. I wasn't a true vegetarian, I was in his shop to pick up some chicken. I met his whole family. They were friendly, fit, and radiant, thereby challenging all my false notions about red-meat-eaters. The butcher shop was clean, the staff was friendly, and everything looked fresh and good! I immediately decided to give red meat a try. I had never bought it before let alone cooked it. But Jamie was friendly and kind and gave me simple instructions on how to cook a beef stew and advised me to add the potatoes and carrots in the last half hour. Of course at that time all of my friends were vegetarians so they couldn't come over for supper. I needed to find new friends!

The Bright Side of Darkness

We watched the PBS documentary on the 1978 Jonestown murder/suicides the other night, and all I could think of was when I ran away from my family. The humiliation and brainwashing at Jonestown made me cringe. I had nightmares! I still have occasional paranoid fears that I could be murdered by my mother. But I remind myself that she is powerless now. Having my siblings rarely talk to me is pretty bad, but at least it's not a death threat. Meanwhile I am working daily to develop my voice, my courage, and my joy.


Anne Lamott calls the neck the thighs of the head! I love that! A few years ago I was visiting my pal Anita who was 87 at the time, and she said the ladies in the elderly high-rise were remarking that she didn't have wattles. Anita's reply was that it was because she started swimming at 40 and swam for forty years, turning her head this way and that in the water! So maybe our vanities never cease, we might as well start laughing at ourselves now. I run around the house all the time saying I'm afraid the asthma medicine is going to turn my head into a pumpkin! That is one of my biggest fears, that my head will swell up like a hot-air balloon while the rest of me stays the same, or that I'll wind up with an ugly wrinkled neck like ET. I was surprised to hear that Anita and her friends were discussing these things, because to me Anita is the most beautiful woman in the world. Now she is 91 with a gorgeous smile full of pearly white teeth, and the loveliest wrinkles a face could have. She has straight white hair pulled back into a tiny bun. She exudes love and good cheer. She's a living angel!

Quotes from The Empty Chair

Better to be a fool who believes everything than a skeptic who believes nothing, not even the truth.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

If the only way to make yourself happy is by doing something silly, do it.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Each day has its own set of thoughts, words and deeds. Live in tune.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Whenever possible, avoid eating in a hurry. Even at home, don't gobble up your food. Eating is an act of holiness. It requires full presence of mind.

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Yesterday I vacuumed the house and the vacuum cleaner smell was so awful (dust and dog hair!) I decided to bake something in the oven to make the house smell good again. I walked around the corner and bought fresh Italian sausages from my butcher, and then baked them in my Dutch oven with tomato puree, chopped celery and carrots, quartered onions, whole peeled garlic, and a cup of red wine. I am the laziest cook around. I always make things that essentially cook by themselves!

Loose Baby

I decided to run with Honey yesterday morning and it felt great. I think my running shoes are magic motivators. Maybe there's hope for my thighs becoming as muscular as Honey's after all! When I was running through downtown, I saw a young woman, probably nineteen years old, walking ahead of me with a newborn infant in her arms wrapped in a pink fleece blanket. She had black unwashed hair in a side ponytail. You never see a woman walking with an infant in her arms instead of a stroller, and she was pretty far away from the nearest residential area. She had a diaper bag strapped over her shoulder. She kept lifting and repositioning the child on her hip. She was crossing the bridge by the Woonsocket Falls, and I suddenly feared she was planning to toss the baby into the waterfall! So I ran up to her imagining I could catch the baby if she made any sudden moves. I stayed near her until she crossed the bridge. I saw a police officer drive past her very slowly, watching her in his rear-view mirror. Perhaps he was thinking the same thing! Or is my imagination too active?

A Tribal Healing

The sound quality at the jams is still an issue for me and my bari sax. This is both a technical and psychological issue. When I have trouble hearing myself I can fall into a horrible sense of inferiority. Thursday night I couldn't hear myself with all the other instruments on top of me, and all I could figure is that the sound man wanted it that way and I must suck and that is why my volume is too low. But by the second set I spoke up and asked for some more amplification and then I could hear and everyone else could too and it was SO FUN!!! I have more joy than I can manage at times from just one note played at the right time. I think of the jams as my church but it is funny to think that this church is full of drinking police, guitar-playing lawyers, belly-dancing nurses, and late night wildness.

I love that the other horns let me, a beginner, join in. I feel like the baby elephant being sprayed with water by the big elephants. This is true apprenticeship, like years ago when my big dog taught my puppy how to pee. And my puppy taught my big dog how to fetch!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Faith (Eventually)

I ran in the mist with Honey, now I'm reading Anne Lamott's new book "Faith (Eventually)," having picked up a stack of others that were waiting for me on reserve at the library today. Thank God for the library and reference librarians! Anne Lamott says truth and freedom are the same thing. Interesting. Here's a paraphrase of a line of hers that stood out for me:  I know that no matter how absurd and ironic it is, acknowledging death and the finite is what gives you life and presence.

Here are a couple more:

A free public library is a revolutionary notion, and when people don't have free access to books, then communities are like radios without batteries. You cut people off from essential sources of information - mythical, practical, linguistic, political - and you break them. You render them helpless in the face of political oppression.

We have become a country you wouldn't want to leave your children alone with.

     - Anne Lamott

Midnight Sax

I'll only visit
if I can jam all night,
and bake all morning.
Midnight sax
with loaves
for lovers.


I came across this recently in the New York Times:

“To anyone who doesn’t like durian it smells like a bunch of dead cats,” said Bob Halliday, a food writer based in Bangkok. “But as you get to appreciate durian, the smell is not offensive at all. It’s attractive. It makes you drool like a mastiff.”

Ah, food.

Sap in the Loins

I've taken up jogging, for a few reasons. I love breathing the cool air, I love oxygen! My running shoes make me run, my dog loves it, and I'm jealous of my dog's thigh muscles. Right now I'd rather run than go to the Y to swim; sometimes I can't talk to people at the YMCA when I am engrossed in my creativity, it feels like I am giving away my fire. And I'd much rather be outdoors this time of year.


My two favorite systems are the postal system and the digestive system, except when things get lost.

Folk Tales

I love the book The Uses of Enchantment, by Bruno Bettleheim. He says it is important for the rage and violence in folk tales not to be edited out or softened, so children have a place to project and process their anger. I couldn't agree more! Robert Bly's works, Iron John, The Sibling Society, and The Divine Child (a collaborative lecture with Marion Woodman) are my favorite discussions of the nourishment that can be harvested through reading and re-reading folk tales. I revisit them because the facets of the story change as I change.

Dorrie and the Blue Witch, a childrens book by Patricia Coombs, is the story of a family of witches; mother, daughter Dorrie, and a cat named Gink. Dorrie is left at home alone after her mother, rushing off to a witch meeting, warns Dorrie to guard against a big bad blue witch who is on the loose. When there's a knock at the door, Dorrie accidentally lets the big blue witch inside and invites her to join Dorrie and Gink for milk and cookies. Dorrie raids her mother's magic cupboard and puts shrinking powder in the blue witch's milk. The witch, intending to leave and take Dorrie with her, starts commanding Dorrie to hurry up and get her things. While Dorrie searches her sloppy bedroom for matching stockings and cloak, the blue witch is yelling yet rapidly shrinking, angrily jumping up and down at the bottom of the stairs. This was terrifying to me! Dorrie comes down and puts the now weensy shrunken bad blue witch into a jar the size of a light bulb, seals it, places it inside the piano, and piles it with books! Then she runs and hides under her mother's bed until her mother comes home. The black-and-white illustration of the shrunken witch being placed in the jar was so powerful to me I couldn't touch the page!! I still can't! Ironically, because my husband is piano player and tuner, my home is full of pianos, covered with books. This story was the folk tale of my childhood, of the ways in which I was powerless but also powerful.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Quote of the Day

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.

     - Kimberly Johnson

Spontaneous Pie

Our freezer is our magic treasure chest. When we have an abundance of bread or soup we drop things inside, then later we dig for treasures! Last night I found three little containers of hammentashen poppy-seed filling in my freezer which I had made three years ago from Joan Nathan's cookbook. It was still delicious! It is made from rum, poppy-seeds, sugar, and orange rind. So I just whipped up my whole wheat/white flour + oil hippie pie-crust, pat it into my stoneware pie pans and spooned the hammentashen filling on top. It came out great! I am a lazy soul-food cook who is always dreaming about food!

Urban Farmer

Today, homemade yogurt is incubating in a glass mason jar on the boiler. I like to make it this way: Fill a wide-mouth mason jar with a mixture of skim milk and a little nonfat dry milk. Heat it in a water bath to 180 degrees, then cool to 110 degrees. Add a teaspoon of live active plain yogurt, stir, and place, covered, in a warm spot; in a thermos or a picnic cooler, under a blanket, or on top of the boiler, or in a gas oven that uses a pilot light. Leave it for 6 to 8 hours. The friendly bacteria turns the milk into a delicious, tart pudding. Refrigerate and enjoy. Save a teaspoon for your next batch!

Spring Greens

Chives are poking through my garden!! They survived the winter!! I can't wait to plant a few basil, parsley, and tomato plants. Homemade bread with chives, magic sauce (garlic, tofu, oil, and vinegar buzzed in the food processor) and garden basil and tomato is divinity itself. Maybe I should plant collards and kale and rows of corn! I worship corn. It is the most cheerful, uplifting yellow food I know.

I'm dreaming of making noodles again in my robot macaroni machine a friend gave me. Let's celebrate the miraculous noodle on this ordinary day!

Happy Easter

We took a walk Sunday, and spotted a bunch of young children hunting for plastic Easter eggs in their backyard. They were carrying baskets, and one girl was dressed up in white tights, white shoes, white dress, and magenta coat with black trim. Later, we passed a little mill pond and spotted four grayish white duck eggs in a pile of leaves against the chain link fence. Real Easter eggs!

Mr Turbesi

Yesterday Bill and I played basketball at dusk at Turbesi Park, which is on our street (Rathbun) but in the next town of Blackstone. Mr Turbesi was an amazing man who built the park himself because he felt his part of town needed a place for kids to play. He said kids need a second chance. He would hire the local boys to work on the park, and take them to get their drivers permit or to a job interview. I would walk by his house and hear opera playing through the open windows, curtains blowing, and see the pear trees overflowing in his backyard. He had a big garden with raspberry bushes, and a big landscape painting hanging on his front porch facing the street!

One day a few years ago he invited me in when I was out walking. It was a magic day I will never forget. He gave me a tour of his house, books piled on the chairs. Like my grandfather he loved to read books, encyclopedias, dictionaries! He had me sit down on the bed in his bedroom and he read me a poem he kept in the jewelry box that he wrote for his deceased wife. He handed me a framed photo portrait of her. He told me he built his house with his dad from used lumber, working every night after his day job in the mills. They had to pull the nails from the lumber by hand. He said that while they were working his wife would come by with bowls of macaroni for supper every night. Mr Turbesi died a few years ago in his 90's.

Quotes About Writing

Deliver me from writers who say the way they live doesn't matter. I'm not sure a bad person can write a good book. If art doesn't make us better, then what on earth is it for?

     - Alice Walker

The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.

     - Albert Camus

Anyone who believes you can't change history has never tried to write his memoirs.

     - David Ben Gurion

One of the obligations of the writer is to say or sing all that he or she can, to deal with as much of the world as becomes possible to him or her in language.

     - Denise Levertov

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education - sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street.

     - E B White

I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden.

     - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else.

     - Gloria Steinem

Good things, when short, are twice as good.

     - Baltasar Gracián

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.

     - Isaac Asimov

In a mood of faith and hope my work goes on. A ream of fresh paper lies on my desk waiting for the next book. I am a writer and I take up my pen to write.

     - Pearl S Buck

Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.

     - Jessamyn West

Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.

     - Oscar Wilde

I don't wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.

     - Pearl S Buck

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.

     - Stephen King

I have never thought of writing for reputation and honor. What I have in my heart must come out, that is the reason why I compose.

     - Ludwig van Beethoven.

Keep writing. Keep doing it and doing it. Even in the moments when it's so hurtful to think about writing.

     - Heather Armstrong

Good writing takes more than just time; it wants your best moments and the best of you.

     - Real Live Preacher

How It Is

I wish I could tell people that I buy groceries and pay my bills and rent and buy socks on the money from actually selling paintings, but it is a delicate topic. The gap between me and the people I've known for years has become vast. Most of my old friends are renovating their kitchens and planning their next vacation. They encourage their children to be musical and artistic, but not necessarily to become musicians or artists.


When I was seven
I loved to look
in the science book
the little black and white photo
of the lady
who had been hit
by a meteor
she was in a hospital bed
with her bruised thigh
exposed for the camera
had she been out sunbathing
when it happened?
Maybe she was hanging her laundry
that day in the sun
perhaps she took a break
and was sipping lemonade
on her patio
how could she not
feel chosen
to be smacked
with astral debris?
Is this something I have to worry about?
I'll be sure to look up often
and step out of the way.
When my brother and I go into the yard to play baseball
I duck when a bird flies by.

Top Shelf

There are a few books I love so much I have to reread them every few years.

A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca
A Little Book About the Human Shadow by Robert Bly
The Unquiet Mind by Kay Jamison
Episodes by Pierre Delattre
If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland
The Fire Eaters by William Cobb
Journal of a Solitude by May Sarton
A Woman Speaks by Anais Nin
The Art of Eating by M F K Fisher
Art and Fear by Bayles and Orland

Words Can Change Your Life

One day after living on my own for years my friend told me something that changed my life. He was a medical and psychology professional who was married to my best friend. I told him the story of my childhood. He listened compassionately. He clarified a few things. He said you are not weak. The strongest part of you, not the weakest, has been fighting a war. What you see as your weakness is actually your window, and your window is your strength.

Thank you, Larry.

Chin Up, Leg Up

I hated gym class in elementary school. When we all had to participate in tryouts for The Presidential Achievement Award I knew it would be another round of humiliation and stupidity. But everything changed when I discovered interesting side effects to my exertion. If I pulled myself up on the chin-up bar and then hung there for a while, it would cause a sensation superior to anything I had experienced before! I didn't know at the time, but it was an orgasm. The same thing happened doing leg-lifts, or climbing the rope. I decided this meant there was a God and that this was his gift to me for having a mean mother.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Quotes of the Day

Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.

     - Amy Bloom

I wish I could walk for a day and a night,
And find me at dawn in a desolate place
With never the rut of a road in sight,
Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face.

     - Edna St Vincent Millay, from the poem Departure

I now feel like writing is the most important thing I do. In some ways, it’s harder than surgery. But I do think I've found a theme in trying to understand failure and what it means in the world we live in, and how we can improve at what we do.

     - Dr Atul Gwande, surgeon

I've been doing this for 52 years. If I wanted to get a real job, ain't nobody goin' to hire me. I ain't worked in 52 years. Oh yeah, I guess it's work, but it's a different kind of gig. I'm still makin' people damn near get undressed. I'm feelin' good!

     - Bo Diddley

Happy Passover

A gezunt dir in pupik! (Pronounced "ah geh-soont dear en pooh-pik.") It's a blessing, and it means good health to your belly-button. It really means good health to your entire being but it's aimed at the belly-button because that's where it all began.

The Feast Of Excited Insects

I'm sorry I missed this holiday, which happened about a month ago. In The People's Republic of China it is called Ching Che, Dragon Calls Insects to Life:

This is the time when, as the Chinese say, "the dragon raises his head." The lordly dragon goes into hibernation in September in the form of a tiny creature, and thus remains unobserved till he calls the insects to life. On the day of the "Excited Insects" certain fetishes are displayed to placate them.

     - V. R. Bunkhardt, from Chinese Creeds and Customs

In Korea:

Kyongchip, which may be translated as "excited insects," indicates the beginning of Spring. In the country, farmers go into the fields and sow rice and wheat with perennial faith that sun, wind, and rain can be relied upon to produce a good harvest. And, in a grateful and benevolent mood, families carry flower bouquets to the graves of their ancestors as an auspicious beginning of another Spring.

     - Gene Sawyer, from Celebrations: Asia and the Pacific

Fried Eggs

My new fad is to fry two eggs, sunny-side up, in my little black cast-iron skillet and then put a potholder on the kitchen counter and place the fry pan with the eggs right on it. I pull up a chair and eat right out of the pan! This way my eggs stay hot, unbroken, and runny. And they are so good with my home-made bread toasted! They are fresh brown-shelled eggs from a farm in Foster RI. Why didn't I discover eating out of the pan 30 years ago!

Room in the World

When I was a kid I was always fascinated by Grand Central Station. I loved watching all the people and spotting so many amazing faces from all over the world. Seeing humanity in all its fullness gave me unspoken permission to be who I am. Anything was possible!! But I also saw it as proof that maybe there was no room in the world for me.

Odds and Ends

Last Sunday at the jam we sang the Bonnie Raitt song Love Me Like a Man as "Love Me Like a Ham," for Easter! I nearly died laughing, tears running down my cheeks.

I love soap, I love washing with a plush wash-cloth. I love skin! I hate perfume. I loathe perfumed detergents and soaps and other artificially scented things. Let the real smells in! Baking bread, breaking a sweat, cooking collard greens, breathing in my dog's breath.

The guys at the jams have discovered my weakness for suspenders, and now every week they wear them to the jams and tease me. I blush all night. There's always a new kinky undiscovered corner of my brain. But actually I'm really boring. I prefer solitude and work.

Last night I noticed that my friend's beauty mark, right on her face, was forest green. I had never noticed it was green! How cool is that! My husband has a few red beauty marks. I love dimples, strange blemishes, scars, all the skin glitches that make us unique. I am fascinated when people have a gap in their front teeth. I get vertigo and feel like I am getting sucked in! It's like my Aunt's cleavage coming at me when I was five, and she'd bend down to pinch my cheeks and I'd notice that her lipstick line went over her lips. All the things that people try to hide about themselves are usually the things I appreciate and remember.

In Rhode Island if you have thick hair they charge you double at the barber shop! My lady mail-carrier just told me the same story I have heard from other thick-haired friends! Little state, big ideas. I impulsively trimmed two inches off my mane the other day and I am traumatized. As a 13-year-old I had monthly hair choppings, against my will. I love my hair wild and long. Now it's turning gray and I love the way it sparkles and swirls in cubist robot ringlets.

I have a friend who told me years ago he was so desperate for an audience he'd put a dime in the phone booth, dial an arbitrary number and then play harmonica tunes into the phone!

I love to swim long distances. Twenty years ago I swam across Mallett's Bay on Lake Champlain while Bill was in a rowboat beside me. I loathe competitive swimming or racing. I prefer to look across a lake and say to myself, I'm going to swim over to that red house.

One year I swam the circumference of Spring Lake in Burrillville while people were celebrating the Fourth of July, and it was like I had the fish-eye view into everyone's family as they picnicked in their back yards and sat on their lawn chairs. But my favorite thing is to get up at 4am in the summer to swim when the sky is just getting light. Not many people will go along with this early morning stuff, and I won't swim long distances without a rowboat spotter and my dog!

Do Not Remove This Tag

I used to think
if I removed the tag
from the couch cushion
the one that says
do not remove this tag
under penalty of law,
the police would come
and rescue me
from my mother.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Earthy and Dusty

I drank a red wine once that tasted like a dusty couch, not that I've eaten any couches. My dog has, but that's another story.

Smells and tastes intermingle for me. Yesterday I made bread with buckwheat flour mixed in with my house blend of grains; rolled oats, cornmeal, and wheat flour. It came out very buckwheaty tasting, with the texture of rye bread, but it was good. This morning I pressure-cooked blackeye peas and realized they have that buckwheat, red-wine, dusty-couch taste and smell. Earthy. This gives new meaning to the phrase comfort food.

Hold-Your-Breath Skinny

I have an aunt that I think of as "hold-your-breath skinny." Her whole life is about how little she eats. I only eat a banana for lunch she would say, or I live on buttered noodles, or I never eat breakfast. Cigarettes and diet soda completed the menu. For me that's no way to live. She was slender but didn't look like she was fulfilled or happily occupying her body. I would rather climb trees and swing from the vines like Tarzan and enjoy all of the earthly delights; edible, musical, sensory, and sensual. The belly-dancer we see every week dancing at the jams says proudly, "I'm a woman who eats!" Hurrah for the women who eat, dance, run, jump, skip, and scream!

My mother took diet pills that were speed (amphetamines) to "keep her figure." She would gorge herself on weekends, gobbling up cheesecakes and ravioli and meat pies while entertaining my father and his clients, and then not eat anything but chicken broth from little foil packets during the week. Not a fun way to live.

I went to school with a girl who was orange because all she ate was carrots.

We live in a culture that says women should be stick figures with grapefruit-sized breasts. Luckily that image is changing!

Body wisdom is available to you when you use your body.

There are many folks who loathe being a body, a creature, and who wish they were just a brain. I see these folks as separated at the neck. Their heads float about two feet over their torsos when they walk around. They try to have complete control over their bodies. Have you ever seen this?

I often struggle to pull myself down from the sky and back into my body, or up from the mud and back into my body. The only reliable way to do this is to blam on my horn!

For years I swam with a sad woman who was tall, skeletal, and worn out. She swam every day for hours. She had no meat on her at all and big anxiety creases on her forehead. One day we were changing back into our street clothes in the locker room, and she told me when she was little she was a fat kid and her mother "didn't want to have a fat child." So, unloved, she now was spending her whole life making sure she didn't have an ounce of flesh on her. She was obsessed with swimming herself thin.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Quote of the Day

I can't do it if I don't do it all the time. Put it aside to build up strength, the flow will dwindle and finally disappear. One cannot hoard some things.

     - Rosellen Brown

Fool's Day

I'm celebrating my 2nd saxual anniversary today on April Fools Day!!!

Today's jam outfit idea: black leather zipper vest, turquoise "mermaid" tights, black plastic roller-blade knee pads. I need to find a black miniskirt or just wear a black leotard over the turquoise tights (and under the black plastic knee pads).

I'll be a middle-aged biker bari bug chick!

Cast in Iron

I have a collection of cast-iron fry pans I started collecting when I was eleven years old and planning my great escape! I've got dutch ovens, and the spider pots with legs, with rimmed lids for stacking potatoes on top! I even have a huge tub-of-a-thing I call the baby roaster, that I assume can fit a turkey. Even my old Kenmore sewing machine is cast iron!

My dream is to cook outdoors over an open campfire and make my corn bread and beans + greens over the fire, in the iron pots, and to play music while it's all cookin'.

Goinky Goinky

Spring has sprung! I'm high as the moon! A histamine high!!

We had a seven-horn blues-jam blow-out at Pawtucket's News Cafe Thursday night! The jam was really great. Seven horns!!! Everyone was having fun. I pushed air like never before. My inner critic was out to dinner, and a few people noticed. I think it's the tree pollen boosting my courage.

I'm looking to find bright yellow overall rain pants to wear as a stage outfit. I'm into highway department fashion! I did have yellow rain pants once I got from Job Lot. I wore them with a magenta jog bra to a Christmas party 15 years ago. It was my best party outfit ever! Unfortunately the pants were el cheapo and crumbled a year later.

Friday morning I walked to City Hall with Honey to renew her dog license. I left the rabies certificate on the kitchen counter, so I had to walk home and then back to City Hall. It was a gorgeous morning!! I liked it because it was not too hot, not too cool, but I needed sunglasses because it was so bright. All the usual characters were out. I saw Donut, and the couple with the matching wrap-around sunglasses, and a bunch of new characters out muttering to themselves and to each other. There is so much sand on the sidewalks left over from the ice storms that it looks like we're living in the desert. Are there sidewalks in the desert?

A kid in the neighborhood recently got a pogo stick and now I hear the goinky goinky metal sound as I sit here typing. It's charming.