Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve

Last night we walked Lily. We went by the mashed potato house and all the kids and parents and grandparents were there because they've finally moved in. The kids were dancing around the dining room in their pajamas and four gingerbread houses were on the porch facing the sidewalk. It was so cute. I love those kids.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bill Calhoun



The trouble is that you think you have time.
-Jack Kornfield, Buddha’s Little Instruction Book

Ziti on the Roof

A ziti on the roof is also known as a chimney.

Sam Weiner

I’m still gnawed at by a horrifying emptiness that no amount of fiddling with your magical gadget can fill.

-Sam Weiner

Reductio ad Absurdum

Reductio ad absurdum (Latin: "reduction to absurdity") is a common form of argument which seeks to demonstrate that a statement is true by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its denial, or in turn to demonstrate that a statement is false by showing that a false, untenable, or absurd result follows from its acceptance. First appearing in classical Greek philosophy (the Latin term derives from the Greek ἡ εἰς ἀτοπον ἀπαγωγη or he eis atopon apagoge, "reduction to the impossible", for example in Aristotle's Prior Analytics), this technique has been used throughout history in both formal mathematical and philosophical reasoning, as well as informal debate.

The "absurd" conclusion of a reductio ad absurdum argument can take a range of forms:

Rocks have weight, otherwise we would see them floating in the air.
Society must have laws, otherwise there would be chaos.
There is no smallest positive rational number, because if there were, it could be divided by two to get a smaller one.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The most satisfying thing in life is to have been able to give a large part of one's self to others.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The world is round so that friendship may encircle it.
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


I dreamed that Bill and one of my former students were diving into deep puddles that had collected at the bottom of a hill near the RI State House. Then a car came over the hill and I grabbed my former student, who was lounging in the puddle, and I dragged her out of the water so she wouldn't get run over. The car disappeared into the puddle. I ran over, reached in, and picked up the car. It was small and dark green and the size of my hand. I frantically tried to open the doors to get the driver out. I finally opened the door and shook the car and a bunch of parts fell out including a teensy comb. Get the police, I shouted, waving my arms. I was sure the driver of this tiny green car had gone into shock and had possibly died of fright, thinking she had run over my student.

The True Physics

The time has come to realise that an interpretation of the universe—even a positivist one—remains unsatisfying unless it covers the interior as well as the exterior of things; mind as well as matter. The true physics is that which will, one day, achieve the inclusion of man in his wholeness in a coherent picture of the world.

― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Irish Slang

Everyday English and Slang in Ireland, here.



pain in the abdomen and especially in the stomach; a bellyache


"... unfortunately I awoke this morning with collywobbles, and had to take a small dose of laudanum with the usual consequences of dry throat, intoxicated legs, partial madness and total imbecility..." — Robert Louis Stevenson, Vailima Letters, 1890-1894


Captcha Gotcha

I was trying to send an email to a friend and it had the captcha thingy, "to prove I was not a robot." So I punched in the warped looking letters and it refused me. I tried again and again and again, getting really annoyed! I noticed the blurry photo of a house number and I figured it was for blind people so I ignored it. I tried three more times punching in the warped letters. Nothing worked. Then I wrote to the captcha people asking for help. No reply. I wrote to them again copying the whole page. No reply. Then Bill showed me the numbers were not for blind people, they were for me and I finally "proved" I was not a robot. Whew. But I am from Saturn.

Jeffrey Barnes

Strike the harp (and we don't mean harmonica!)
Merry Christmas and/or Happy Hanukkah!
If your not religious, Joyous Winter Solstice!
Whatever your event is, we hope it's the mostest!

-Jeffrey Barnes

Larry L. King

There are ‘good’ people, yes, . . . people who operate Mom-and-Pop stores or their lathes, dutifully pay their taxes, lend a helping hand to neighbors, love their country and their God and their dogs. But even among a high percentage of these salts-of-the-earth lives a terrible reluctance toward even modest passes at social justice, a suspicious regard of the mind as an instrument of worth, a view of the world extending little further than the ends of their own noses and only a vague notion that they are small quills writing a large history.

-Larry L. King

Neil Young

I'm reading Neil Young's memoir, Waging Heavy Peace. I love it.

Death of a Salesman

Watching all of the families I know unfold I see the two brothers from Death of a Salesman, everywhere! There is the sibling that attempts to redeem the parents and the other who escapes to find his own life. It's our American Grimm's fairy tale. Thank you, Arthur Miller.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind
we feel for what we take; the larger kind
we feel for what we give.
-Edwin Arlington Robinson

Friday, December 21, 2012

Yiddish is so Amazing

For a little love, you pay all your life - Far a bisel libe batsolt men miten gantsen leben

Vinita Kherdekar

Lately, I have observed that I have become a rant-buddy for most of my friends. They will call me just to rant about things which annoy them. I have no problems listening to their problems when someone is going through a difficult period in their life. Believe me, I have been in that position myself a few times so I do empathize. But the issue is when some friends who are doing well and still call up just to to barf out (every time, without fail) how miserable their life is, all you do is end up saying ‘Hmmm’, ‘Oh No’,’things will get better’ , ‘Yes, I understand,’ in every conversation, it starts grating on your nerves.
-Vinita Kherdekar

Musings on Space

Just as I gave up waiting, I saw a blue van parked in my driveway. My friend had shown up and was still in the van, on the phone. I let my dog pee in the small yard. She'd been patiently waiting for her walk. There was no sign of my friend emerging. I walked down the driveway and rolled the trash barrels up from the curb. He finally exited the van, four hours late without apology, bearing gifts. I smiled and tried to remain calm. I brought him into the kitchen and watched him eat lunch.

When you work at home, people think your time doesn't matter. You are always available because you are always there. My work requires a lot of open space and time to explore, make mistakes, and dream, but this doesn't mean I'm available. Even one social engagement in a week can throw off my rhythm.

When I am expecting a visitor I calculate that into the equation of my day and my week. It's a big deal. I like to bake and cook and clean for my guest, and this can take days of advance planning. Sometimes a lunch date is exhilarating motivation to do these things, but other times it is sheer sabotage, preventing any creative soaring or gliding. When I first read Journal of a Solitude I was very happy to discover May Sarton felt the same way.

Anelise Chen

The Christmas Frog
By Anelise Chen

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jonah Weiner and Jerry Seinfeld

Seinfeld will nurse a single joke for years, amending, abridging and reworking it incrementally, to get the thing just so. “It’s similar to calligraphy or samurai,” he says. “I want to make cricket cages. You know those Japanese cricket cages? Tiny, with the doors? That’s it for me: solitude and precision, refining a tiny thing for the sake of it.”

When he can’t tinker, he grows anxious. “If I don’t do a set in two weeks, I feel it,” he said. “I read an article a few years ago that said when you practice a sport a lot, you literally become a broadband: the nerve pathway in your brain contains a lot more information. As soon as you stop practicing, the pathway begins shrinking back down. Reading that changed my life. I used to wonder, Why am I doing these sets, getting on a stage? Don’t I know how to do this already? The answer is no. You must keep doing it. The broadband starts to narrow the moment you stop.”

Seinfeld likes pressure. He describes doing live comedy as “standing against a wall blindfolded, with a cigarette in your mouth, and they’re about to fire.” His objective at Gotham was piecework. “A lot of what I’ll be doing tonight are tiny things in my bits where I’m looking for a little fix, where something isn’t quite smooth,” he said. “A lot of stuff I do out of pure obsessiveness.” One bit began with the observation that “tuxedos are the universal symbol for pulling a fast one.” “That line works,” he said. “But I want to get from there to a point about how the places where you see tuxedos are not honest places — casinos, award shows, beauty pageants, the maitre d’ — all these things feel shady.” He added: “But I’ve been having trouble getting the audience to that. I’m trying to bring that to a punchline.”

The other day, perusing this file, he found a joke in which, discussing touch-screen phones, he likens the act of scrolling through a contact list and deleting names to the effete, disdainful gesture of a “gay French king” deciding whom to behead. Seinfeld wrote the joke a year ago and forgot it; having rediscovered it, he’d be telling it onstage that weekend.

Seinfeld believes funniness is genetic. When his father, Kalman, was stationed in the Pacific during World War II, he’d transcribe jokes he heard and store them in a box for safekeeping. “In the army, that’s kind of how you got through it,” Seinfeld says. “People would tell jokes by the score, because what else are you going to do to maintain sanity? The recognizing of jokes as precious material: that’s where it starts. If you’ve got the gene, a joke is an amazing thing. It’s something you save in a box in a war.”

Seinfeld talked about his home life, characterizing his children as the opposite of rich brats. His daughter grew upset, he said, upon receiving an iPhone 5 from Jessica, calling it a “mean-girl phone” and requesting something cheaper; his son Julian tells Jerry he’s “spoiled” and implores him to sell his cars. The kids have inherited the comedy gene. “I’ll say, ‘O.K., it’s time for dinner,’ ” Seinfeld said, “and they go, ‘Oh, like I didn’t already know that.’ I say, ‘That’s me, you can’t do me!’ ”

Jerry Seinfeld Intends to Die Standing Up by Jonah Weiner, NYT

Jon Frankel

Certainly you cannot teach people to write novels with their body parts. A novel is a complex entity that requires experience of life, hard work at craft and discipline. But I don’t think there is a rational explanation for why I sit in a chair for an hour or two a night after work, after making dinner, after washing dishes, in a state of emotional and physical exhaustion exercising not only my intellect but my imagination and empathetic self for nothing other than the satisfaction of having done so, and the weird belief that I will get better at this if I keep working at it. I would not do that for an idea that doesn’t inspire me, a story that doesn’t haunt me constantly, that has pieces I never knew about that fall into place out of nowhere. They may require rearrangement or polish, but the pieces are not always of my conscious invention.
-Jon Frankel, Last Bender


I feel so virtuous when my wash is swishing around while I putz trying to accomplish things at my desk. I am not a multi-tasker by any means and each time I try to be I forget the other thing I am doing. If I am baking breads, simmering soup or reheating my tea, I forget.

Last week I was on my way to the diner in the neighborhood and I was halfway down the street when I realized there was no need for the red and black leash clutched tightly in my hand because I deliberately didn't bring my dog. This is why I don't drive! I forget to do things like close the car doors or turn on the headlights at night. Hey, why are all these people shouting and waving?

José Rivera

José Rivera's 36 Assumptions About Playwriting

José says:

Over the years, I've had the good fortune to teach writing in a number of schools from second-grade to graduate school. I usually just wing it. But lately, I've decided to think about the assumptions I've been working under and to write them down. The following is an unscientific, gut-level survey of the assumptions I have about writing plays, in no particular order of importance.

Good playwriting is a collaboration between your many selves. The more multiple your personalities, the further, wider, deeper you will be able to go.
Theatre is closer to poetry and music than it is to the novel.
There's no time limit to writing plays. Think of playwriting as a life-long apprenticeship. Imagine you may have your best ideas on your deathbed.
Write plays in order to organize despair and chaos. To live vicariously. To play God. To project an idealized version of the world. To destroy things you hate in the world and in yourself. To remember and to forget. To lie to yourself. To play. To dance with language. To beautify the landscape. To fight loneliness. To inspire others. To imitate your heroes. To bring back the past and raise the dead. To achieve transcendence of yourself. To fight the powers that be. To sound alarms. To provoke conversation. To engage in the conversation started by great writers in the past. To further evolve the artform. To lose yourself in your fictive world. To make money.
Write because you want to show something. To show that the world is shit. To show how fleeting love and happiness are. To show the inner workings of your ego. To show that democracy is in danger. To show how interconnected we are. (Each "to show" is active and must be personal, deeply held, true to you.)
Each line of dialogue is like a piece of DNA; potentially containing the entire play and its thesis; potentially telling us the beginning, middle, and end of the play.
Be prepared to risk your entire reputation every time you write, otherwise it's not worth your audience's time.
Embrace your writer's block. It's nature's way of saving trees and your reputation. Listen to it and try to understand its source. Often, writer's block happens to you because somewhere in your work you've lied to yourself and your subconscious won't let you go any further until you've gone back, erased the lie, stated the truth and started over.
Language is a form of entertainment. Beautiful language can be like beautiful music: it can amuse, inspire, mystify, enlighten.
Rhythm is key. Use as many sounds and cadences as possible. Think of dialogue as a form of percussive music. You can vary the speed of the language, the number of beats per line, volume, density. You can use silences, fragments, elongated sentences, interruptions, overlapping conversation, physical activity, monologues, nonsense, non-sequiturs, foreign languages.
Vary your tone as much as possible. Juxtapose high seriousness with raunchy language with lyrical beauty with violence with dark comedy with awe with eroticism.
Action doesn't have to be overt. It can be the steady deepening of the dramatic situation or your character's steady emotional movements from one emotional/psychological condition to another: ignorance to enlightenment, weakness to strength, illness to wholeness.
Invest something truly personal in each of your characters, even if it's something of your worst self.
If realism is as artificial as any genre, strive to create your own realism. If theatre is a handicraft in which you make one of a kind pieces, then you're in complete control of your fictive universe. What are its physical laws? What's gravity like? What does time do? What are the rules of cause and effect? How do your characters behave in this altered universe?
Write from your organs. Write from your eyes, your heart, your liver, your ass -- write from your brain last of all.
Write from all of your senses. Be prepared to design on the page: tell yourself exactly what you see, feel, hear, touch and taste in this world. Never leave design to chance, that includes the design of the cast.
Find your tribe. Educate your collaborators. Stick to your people and be faithful to them. Seek aesthetic and emotional compatability with those you work with. Understand your director's world view because it will color his/her approach to your work.
Strive to be your own genre. Great plays represent the genres created around the author's voice. A Checkhov genre. A Caryl Churchill genre.
Strive to create roles that actors you respect will kill to perform.
Form follows function. Strive to reflect the content of the play in the form of the play.
Use the literalization of metaphor to discuss the inner emotional state of your characters.
Don't be afraid to attempt great themes: death, war, sexuality, identity, fate, God, existence, politics, love.
Theatre is the explanation of life to the living. Try to tease apart the conflicting noises of living, and make some kind of pattern and order. It's not so much an explanation of life as much as it is a recipe for understanding, a blueprint for navigation, a confidante with some answers, enough to guide you and encourage you, but not to dictate to you.
Push emotional extremes. Don't be a puritan. Be sexy. Be violent. Be irrational. Be sloppy. Be frightening. Be loud. Be stupid. Be colorful.
Ideas may be deeply embedded in the interactions and reactions of your character; they may be in the music and poetry of your form. You have thoughts and you generate ideas constantly. A play ought to embody those thoughts and those thoughts can serve as a unifying energy in your play.
A play must be organized. This is another word for structure. You organize a meal, your closet, your time -- why not your play?
Strive to be mysterious, not confusing.
Think of information in a play like an IV drip -- dispense just enough to keep the body alive, but not too much too soon.
Think of writing as a constant battle against the natural inertia of language.
Write in layers. Have as many things happening in a play in any one moment as possible.
Faulkner said the greatest drama is the heart in conflict with itself.
Keep your chops up with constant questioning of your own work. React against your work. Be hypercritical. Do in the next work what you aimed for but failed to do in the last one.
Listen only to those people who have a vested interest in your future.
Character is the embodiment of obsession. A character must be stupendously hungry. There is no rest for those characters until they've satisfied their needs.
In all your plays be sure to write at least one impossible thing. And don't let your director talk you out of it.
A writer cannot live without an authentic voice -- the place where you are the most honest, most lyrical, most complete, most creative and new. That's what you're striving to find. But the authentic voice doesn't know how to write, any more than gasoline knows how to drive. But driving is impossible without fuel and writing is impossible without the heat and strength of your authentic voice. Learning to write well is the stuff of workshops. Learning good habits and practicing hard. But finding your authentic voice as a writer is your business, your journey -- a private, lonely, inexact, painful, slow and frustrating voyage. Teachers and mentors can only bring you closer to that voice. With luck and time, you'll get there on your own.
-José Rivera

Charles Simic

Mr. Simic is my muse.
Words make love on the page like flies in the summer heat and the poet is merely the bemused spectator.
-Charles Simic

Stage Set

I grew up on a stage set and all the actors recited their lines each day and night. The bored, angry, mentally ill queen had the starring role with red lipstick and many tricks up her sleeve. Nobody suspected the drama was invented to satisfy her alone. Even the family deerhound got gallstones.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Sign

Lily and I walked past the diner and "Chicken Cor Don Blew" was scrawled in blue marker on thin white butcher paper stapled to the sandwich board. On the barbershop door the "CLOSED, deth in the family" sign was still posted over the doorknob. Is today the International Day of Misspelled Signs? I had to hurry home before I saw any more. The new barber on my street just put up a sign and it's terrific, a mosaic of professional haircuts. The sign says WHO'$ NEXXT?

Gifts for Dog Lovers

A dog lapping-water ring tone and a dog-breath-scented air freshener.

Lily and Lights

Last night it was warm and we both needed a walk. We've been enjoying seeing the neighborhood lights glowing in the dark. I spotted a ceiling fan on top of the trash pile near the locksmith's shop. I saw 4 art deco looking frosted glass lampshades attached to a fixture. Bill dismantled them and we put them in plastic bags. We resumed walking Lily and our lampshades.

I tossed and turned with nightmares of bloody children. I tried to think of ice cream cones dancing like rockettes. Back and forth it went all night, bloody children and dancing ice cream cones. But this morning at 6AM I was saved by Carolyn Given's writing making me laugh. Amen. She is a national treasure. And the laughter is healing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Elie Wiesel

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
-Elie Wiesel

Once you bring life into the world, you must protect it. We must protect it by changing the world.
-Elie Wiesel

There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don't see them.
-Elie Wiesel

I do not recall a Jewish home without a book on the table.
-Elie Wiesel


I have been thinking a lot about Narration and story. We are told stories our whole life, and every day we narrate our hopes and dreams and fears. I have been trying to rewrite the tragic stories I was supposed to live out -- the ones in the script I was handed by my mother at birth. I have rewritten them but my siblings, cousins and parents will not accept my view. That's another story -- the one that I didn't expect and still puzzles me. I am here! I survived! I am healthy! Aren't you glad? No. We wanted a whipping boy to blame our misery on, not you: an energetic smart independent woman who lives in the city, eats sauer kraut and spouts Yiddish and plays music and wears a mustache without apology.

Elie Wiesel

For me, every hour is grace.
-Elie Wiesel

In my tradition, one must wait until one has learned a lot of Bible and Talmud and the Prophets to handle mysticism. This isn't instant coffee. There is no instant mysticism.
-Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity.
-Elie Wiesel

The Bible is not only laws, it's also stories.
-Elie Wiesel

We have to go into the despair and go beyond it, by working and doing for somebody else, by using it for something else.
-Elie Wiesel

Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.
-Elie Wiesel

What does mysticism really mean? It means the way to attain knowledge. It's close to philosophy, except in philosophy you go horizontally while in mysticism you go vertically.
-Elie Wiesel

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.
-Elie Wiesel

Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.
-Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

Most people think that shadows follow, precede or surround beings or objects. The truth is that they also surround words, ideas, desires, deeds, impulses and memories.
-Elie Wiesel

A destruction, an annihilation that only man can provoke, only man can prevent.
-Elie Wiesel

I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having
survived I owe something to the dead. I believe anyone who does not remember,
betrays them again.
-Elie Wiesel

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
-Elie Wiesel

Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.
-Elie Wiesel

I write to understand as much as to be understood.
-Elie Wiesel

Black Mustache

I am beginning to like my black mustache. Kinda like Frida Kahlo's unibrow! It works with lipstick. Androgynous dissonance. I like it.

Elie Wiesel


Crackers and Glasses

Last night I made crackers or was it hard tack, now I think it was the bread of affliction, to go with my home made chicken soup. My husband, after the first bite, was worried about cracking his teeth. What recipe did you use? How to make kitchen tiles from home ingredients, I said.

I suggested he drop the crackers which looked exactly like unmarked wooden scrabble pieces, into the soup. Surprisingly they were even more delicious this way. After supper we ran off to get coffee and cauliflower at our temple to food: Price Rite and I ran into my friends standing at the red pyramid of Folger's. On the way out I decided to buy two religious candles, the kind in tall glass jars with illustrations of saints. As a child of no religion I am crazy over all religious art schlocky or not.

I was lucky when my lens fell out, it landed on the carpet like last time and I found the bacteria sized screw. AMAZING You'd think THAT would be the hard part. I put on my magnifying glasses that made my fingers the size of Cuban cigars. Maybe this is the problem I thought and got my old glasses from 20 years ago which were only vaguely magnifying. No this isn't good. I went back to the Cuban cigars. After the first hour and a half of struggling I took a shower to think. Then I consulted the genie box and the advice suggested using needle nose pliers to repair glasses so I got that far, holding the screw with the needle nose and thought, great, I've attached it, I was done--but I couldn't attach it to the bottom piece of the frame!

After another fifty rounds of struggling to do my repair-- and a foggy finger-printy lens which was really bothering me, I stopped. I wanted to polish the glass but imagined dropping it on the tile bathroom floor and having it shatter. Then to wait six weeks until delivery of a new one. C'mon now can't we fix this? We've done this before! With multiple stress induced hot flashes and magnifying glass induced headache I decided to get help.

I called Duquette Family Eye Care and explained my plight. They were lovely and said "C'mon in, we'll be happy to fix it" I brought Lily since she needed her walk anyway and I remembered they have a railing in view where I could tie her up momentarily. Perfect. Duquette is right downtown on Pond Street next to the Dept of Motor Vehicles House of Brides and the Roaster House and is virtually around the corner.

They fixed my eyeglasses for free and Lily waited outside charming the patients waiting for their eye exams. The lovely Ms. Duquette appeared and said Merry Christmas and fixed them in her laboratory upstairs. She smiled returning them to me all repaired and clean! Thank god for kindness in this world. Now I see I was trying to put the screw in from the top of the glasses facing down - but it was supposed to be attached from the bottom facing up. It's okay to ask for help.

I did always want glasses as a kid and faked the eye exam in grade school to try to get them. I also faked all standard achievement tests. . . filling in random holes. I even recited the alphabet out of order for my third grade teacher. By that time I already had shrinks and doctors galore -- my attitude was bring 'em on. Take me to school on a stretcher!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Leonard Cohen

I don't really understand that process called reincarnation but if there is such a thing I'd like to come back as my daughter's dog.
-Leonard Cohen

I didn't want to write for pay. I wanted to be paid for what I write.
-Leonard Cohen

I don't think you can write novels on the road. You need a certain stability.
-Leonard Cohen

I read with some amusement my reputation as a ladies' man. My friends are amused by that, too, because they know my life.
-Leonard Cohen

I was 15 when I first became deeply touched by the rhythm and structure of words.
-Leonard Cohen

If I knew where the good songs came from, I'd go there more often.
-Leonard Cohen

Most of the time one is discouraged by the work, but now and again by some grace something stands out and invites you to work on it, to elaborate it or animate it in some way. It's a mysterious process.
-Leonard Cohen

The older I get, the surer I am that I'm not running the show.
-Leonard Cohen

We used to play music for fun. Much more than now. Now nobody picks up a guitar unless they're paid for it.
-Leonard Cohen

We're in a world where there's famine and hunger and people are dodging bullets and having their nails pulled out in dungeons so it's very hard for me to place any high value on the work that I do to write a song. Yeah, I work hard but compared to what?
-Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
-Leonard Cohen

Carolyn Given


Early Part

My goal is to make a goal.
to do my daily work, daily.
and be really redundant. really.
and not eat and drink every time I walk through the kitchen. 5,000 times a day-- probably more but I can't count above five thousand.
My other goal if I need to procrastinate is to clip the cats nails, and scoop his poop
and skim the fat off the chicken soup.
I have to try for achievable goals.
Oh, and take a shower and practice my sax,
And walk Lily.
I am stale and exhausted by the afternoon. I was asleep at 7PM.
Today radio is OFF. All five of them!
Too many nightmares.
I am only vital at the early part of the day.

Sherwood Anderson

One conceals oneself standing silently beside the trunk of a tree and what there is of a reflective tendency in his nature is intensified. One shudders at the thought of the meaninglessness of life while at the same instant, and if the people of the town are his people, one loves life so intensely that tears come into the eyes.
― Sherwood Anderson

The life of reality is confused, disorderly, almost always without apparent purpose, where in the artist's imaginative life there is purpose. There is determination to give the tale, the song, the painting, form - to make it true and real to the theme, not to life ...
I myself remember with what a shock I heard people say that one of my own books, Winesburg, Ohio, was an exact picture of Ohio village life. The book was written in a crowded tenement district of Chicago. The hint for almost every character was taken from my fellow lodgers in a large rooming house, many of whom had never lived in a village. The confusion arises out of the fact that others besides practicing artists have imaginations. But most people are afraid to trust their imaginations and the artist is not.
― Sherwood Anderson

You can make it all right if you will only be satisfied to remain small,' I told myself. I had to keep saying it over and over to myself. 'Be little. Don't try to be big. Work under the guns. Be a little worm in the fair apple of life.' I got all of these sayings at my tongue's end, used to go through the streets of Chicago muttering them to myself.
― Sherwood Anderson, Sherwood Anderson's notebook

Dare to be strong and courageous. That is the road. Venture anything. Be brave enough to dare to be loved. Be something more than man or woman. Be Tandy.”
― Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Erskine Caldwell

I used to have all kinds of schedules. Years ago, in the state of Maine, I chose to write my book on even days and work outside on odd days. When winter came, I shoveled snow and slept a little during the day, then stayed up all night to write. Another early method I used was to take a trip to write a short story. I’d ride a bus, from Boston to Cleveland maybe, and get off at night once in a while to write. I’d do a story that way in about a week’s time. Then, for a while, I took the night boats between Boston and New York. The Fall River Line, the New Bedford Line, the Cape Cod Line, all going to New York at night. The rhythm of the water might have helped my sentence structure a little; at least I thought it did. Those were all early methods, or schedules, of writing. Everything since then has been a little bit different.

Whoever is not the writer in the family always gets the short end of the stick. That’s because a writer has to be somewhat selfish. For example, I’m a retiring person in social life or in any other kind of life. I suppose you’d call me almost a recluse. I don’t take days off. I work on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. Well, a woman can resent that, and eventually something is going to give somewhere along the way. Of course, once in a while there is a very even-spirited person who can take all this, and that’s why some writers do stay married. But as a rule, no, they don’t.

I have a red rug in my room. Wherever I’ve lived in life, I’ve carried my red rug with me. I keep it in excellent shape. I have it vacuumed; I have it dry-cleaned. We are sitting on it now, in fact. Why is it here? We have a very good carpet underneath. But I’ve got a reason for wanting it here. It’s part of my life. Back in the early days I had to live on cold and splintery floors. There was a hardwood floor in Maine that was especially cold because the room I worked in was unheated. Now, an unheated room in a New England winter is sort of a difficult dungeon. Then, in South Carolina, I was confined to write for a while in a rented room with a linoleum floor. The linoleum was cracked and it bristled with splinters. Anytime I didn’t have my shoes on, I’d get a splinter in my foot. Well, as soon as I could afford to get a good rug, I bought my red one. And I decided then that I’d carry my red rug with me wherever I went.

-Erskine Caldwell, Paris Review

Erskine Caldwell

I might have the feeling coming in here that I don’t know what I’m going to do. I might be worried about that. But I’ll come in anyway and sit here until something happens. You see, it’s something I wanted to do to begin with and so I’ll still have that urge to see it through. I guess that talent is just a part of being a writer. You’ve got to have desire in order to make it all work.

You can always write something. You write limericks. You write a love letter. You do something to get you in the habit of writing again, to bring back the desire.

I always have the biggest wastepaper basket in town, and it’s full at the end of the day. I write three or four lines, don’t like it, and in it goes. I found out early in life that there is no such thing as perfection or even close to perfection. Consequently, I discard constantly and try to do better with the next revision.

-Erskine Caldwell, Paris Review

The Custodian

In 3rd grade the custodian died. We were told to stay in our classroom as they took his body out of the building. We were told he died from an aerosol can exploding in the incinerator, puncturing him. He used to walk and quietly sweep green fluff along the hallway.

V.S. Pritchett

I think I really wanted to be a short-story writer because I thought I was a man of short breath. I haven't got the breath to write novels.

-Victor Sawdon Pritchett

Erskine Caldwell


I was not a writer to begin with; I was a listener. In those early decades of the century, reading and writing were not common experiences. Oral storytelling was the basis of fiction. You learned by listening around the store, around the gin, the icehouse, the wood yard, or wherever people congregated and had nothing to do. You would listen for the extraordinary, the unusual; the people knew how to tell stories orally in such a way that they could make the smallest incident, the most far-fetched idea, into something extraordinarily interesting. It could be just a rooster crowing at a certain time of night or morning. It’s a mysterious thing. Many Southern writers must have learned the art of storytelling from listening to oral tales. I did. It gave me the knowledge that the simplest incident can make a story.

You get a kind of fever, I suppose, mentally and emotionally, that lifts you up and carries you away. You have to sustain this energy you’ve gotten to write your story. By the time you’ve finished, all your energy, your passion, is spent. You’ve been drained of everything.

You see a school bus going along out there and you wonder where it’s heading. Then you imagine a school, and a teacher. Well, who is this teacher? What is she like? Does she lead an interesting life? Then you recall some of the teachers that you had in the past. So it keeps on going and going.

I’m not interested in plots. I’m interested only in the characterization of people and what they do. I understand you can buy a pamphlet called “The Seven Basic Plots of Fiction.” A plot is applicable to what’s done in a mystery story, where the author knows in the beginning how it’s going to end. I never know how anything is going to end. All I ever know is the first line, the first sentence, the first page. The work terminates itself with dictation from me. Signs and portents indicate in some manner that a conclusion is just around the corner.

-Erskine Caldwell, Paris Review

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Iris DeMent

I didn’t know when or if I’d make another record. I gave up on trying to steer it or force it and decided to just make myself available in my heart and mind as much as I could and leave the rest up to fate.
-Iris DeMent

Tassajara Pancakes

I made these and they are AMAZING and well worth the egg white whipping stage!
Whole Wheat Pancakes
from The Tassajara Bread Book

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you can use unbleached all-purpose or whatever flour you have, I promise)
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp brown sugar or honey
2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil or melted butter
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 egg whites, stiffly beaten

[Serves 6 perhaps]

Sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, and sugar. If using honey, add it to the milk and oil. Beat the milk and oil into the beaten egg yolks.
Combine the milk mixture with the dry ingredients until just blended, and then fold in the stiffly beaten egg whites.
Cook on a greased griddle or frying pan. May be made any size–the larger ones will take longer to cook through.

Variations: May be made with fruit puree (apple, apricot, peach, pear) in place of the milk.
Fruit chunks may be folded into the batter. Blueberries, bananas, and apples are particularly good.
Nut butters may be added to the wet ingredients.
Roasted nuts or sesame or sunflower seeds may be folded into the batter.
Cornmeal, rolled oats, barley flour, or buckwheat flour (1/2 cup) may be substituted in place of an equivalent amount of whole wheat flour.
For waffles, use only 1 1/4 cups of milk.

Thich Nhat Hanh

. . . there is a seed of anger in every one of us. There are many kinds of seeds that lie deep in our consciousness, a seed of anger, a seed of violence, a seed of fear, a seed of jealousy, a seed of full despair, a seed of miscommunication, a seed of hate. They're all there and, when they sleep, we are okay. But if someone come and water these seeds, they will manifest into energy and they will make us suffer. We also have wholesome seeds in us, namely the seeds of understanding, of awakening, of compassion, of nonviolence, of nondiscrimination, a seed of joy and forgiveness. They are also there.

What we see, what we hear, what we eat, always water the seed of violence, the seed of despair, the seed of hate in us and in our children. That is why it's very urgent to do something collectively in order to change the situation. Not only educators, but parents, legislators, artists, have to come together in order to discuss the strategy that can help bring the kind of safe environment to us and to our children where we shall be protected from the negative watering of the seeds in us. The practice of transformation and healing could not be effective without this practice of seeking or creating a sane environment. When someone is sick, you have to bring him to a place where he or she can be treated and to heal.

If the human person is affected by the poison of violence and anger and despair, if you want to help heal him or her, you have to bring him or her out of the situation where she continues to ingest the poisons of violence. This is very simple. This is very clear and this is not only the job of educators. Everyone has to participate to the work of creating safe environments for us and for our children.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Kids Comics to Santa


Robert Bly

The candle is not lit to give light, but to testify to the night.
-Robert Bly

Robert Bly

It is not our job to remain whole.
We came to lose our leaves
Like the trees, and be born again,
Drawing up from the great roots.
-Robert Bly


I dreamed my neighbor Robin tossed me in the air and I was flying like an acrobat. When I landed I smashed a piece of glass accidentally. My husband was upset. I explained I had no idea I was going to be tossed in the air so I just relaxed outstretched in space and landed where I did. Robin and her husband were renovating their house tearing out the floor so buying another piece of glass was no big deal to them. Had I crouched into a ball while zooming through space I might not have not landed on my feet.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Marina Abramovic

from An artist’s life Manifesto by Marina Abramovic


12. An artist’s relation to solitude:

– An artist must make time for the long periods of solitude
– Solitude is extremely important
– Away from home
– Away from the studio
– Away from family
– Away from friends
– An artist should stay for long periods of time at waterfalls
– An artist should stay for long periods of time at exploding volcanoes
– An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the fast running rivers
– An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the horizon where the ocean and sky meet
– An artist should stay for long periods of time looking at the stars in the night sky

Robert Bly

Reclaiming the sacred in our lives naturally brings us close once more to the wellsprings of poetry.
― Robert Bly

So I am proud only of those days that we pass in undivided tenderness.
― Robert Bly

The candle is not lit
To give light, but to testify to the night.
― Robert Bly, The Night Abraham Called to the Stars: Poems

A lazy part of us is like a tumbleweed.
It doesn’t move on its own. Sometimes it takes
A lot of Depression to get tumbleweeds moving.
― Robert Bly, Morning Poems

I have daughters and I have sons.
When one of them lays a hand
On my shoulder, shining fish
Turn suddenly in the deep sea.
― Robert Bly

Pierre Delattre

Art and Beauty
by Pierre Delattre

I’m going to be writing short blogs in defense of art and beauty. I think it was Shafstbury who said that to be beautiful is to beautify. We need to beautify every realm of life, the political and military, and perhaps the artistic most of all, I think. To beautify is to participate in the life of God. Buddha told Ananda that “friendship with the beautiful is the whole of the holy life.” Yet beauty has become a much despised, even a much attacked word in many art circles. Why do you think that is? Maybe it’s because beauty is confused with its opposite: prettiness. There’s nothing pretty about the beautiful. Yeats wrote of “a terrible beauty.” Ugliness is easier to deal with. If the world is seen as ugly, we don’t so much mind dying; but when we experience how beautiful the world truly is, we come alive in a more vivid way, and can be suddenly terrified at knowing that we’ll eventually lose it all on the material plane, at least during this incarnation. Beautiful music and art fill us with love for the world again, especially the world we grieve for, the world we human have stripped of so much beauty. In my view, ugliness doesn’t spur us to action nearly as much as beauty does. In our daily viewing of ugliness, feeling bad about it seems to action enough. I too often see grief over ugliness as a moral cop-out, a fake substitute for action. We live in a country that dotes on guilt, wallows in it, even as our society, including our art, music, theatre, grow uglier and uglier. Just feeling guilty is enough to justify pleasuring ourselves as a reward. Say some well-appointed people go to New Mexico’s Site Santa Fe avant-garde gallery space to see a show entitled “Our Grotesque.” Along the facade they are greeted with effigies of horrible, ugly, dead rats. The frisson of ugliness begins. They enter galleries where they see vaginas dripping blood, urine bottles, twisted testicles, tortured faces, the usual crap installed on the floor, blinking on videos, glued to canvas. Wow, that is literally some horrible, ugly shit! Look at these photos of dead bodies piled up at mass genocide sites. Cool. That’s art with a message! Okay, so you know what I think’s going on? Art goers see all this and it makes them feel very bad. They think to themselves, I must be very good to feel so bad. The badder I feel, the better I must be. So, please, like in church, make me feel really, really bad Mr. and Ms. artist, so I can feel really, really good about what a good, sensitive person I must be. Confronting ugliness that makes me squirm, sticks it in my face, that’s what confirms to me that I have a beautiful soul and that I’m so very brave. In fact, honey? Now that we’ve endured this little horror show, don’t you think we deserve one to go find a flowery cafeteria and reward ourselves with a glass of wine or an espresso and a piece of that beautiful chocolate cake?
-Pierre Delattre

Pierre Delattre

All our lives are miraculous if only we are willing to view them that way. The world keeps on pulsing new amazements, providing a constant series of epiphanies, illuminations, peak experiences. If, out of inattention, cynicism or a moribund view of the world, we don’t respond to the wondrous, then we get what we expect: a confirmation that life is unsurprising.
― Pierre Delattre, Episodes

Sudden Syndrome

Sudden Family - Forgets you all year but gets mushy at Christmas-time and invites you to family gatherings you haven't been to in years.

Sudden Friend - Won't reply to letters but when passing through wants you to drop everything, bake a cake, and entertain.

Sudden Sibling - Excited and a little drunk at the airport, dying to tell you all about the coming week's plans in Japan.

Sudden Father - Gone for decades, promises to take you out for dinner one night but shows up and says he's eaten already, on the train.

Neil Young

I have so many opinions about everything it just comes out during my music. It's a battle for me. I try not to be preachy. That's a real danger.
― Neil Young

In my life I have had various health threats: polio, seizures, a brain aneurysm. None of these things has really changed me much, although it is hard to say for sure. These are events that are part of my life. They make me who I am. I am thankful for them. They are scary.
― Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream

I do enjoy writing, and I hope someone gets something interesting out of this book. I already have. Now, If I ever have to write a book that is not about me, I may be totally stumped and have writer's block. We will see. Writing is very convenient, has a low expense and is a great way to pass the time. I highly recommend it to any old rocker who is out of cash and doesn't know what to do next. You could hire someone to write it for you if you can't write it yourself. That doesn't seem to matter. Just don't hire some sweaty hack who asks you questions for years and twists them into his own vision of what is right or wrong. Try to avoid doing that.
― Neil Young, Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream

Walking in the Dark

Last night I had to get out hoping to make sense of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I walked for miles in the dark gravitating towards the streets with the gaudiest light displays in their yards. I wanted to ring the bells of the people I knew and give them a hug. I did pass a house where a man was out smoking a cigarette in his driveway and he asked me if I could wait a second and he brought out his grand-daughter wrapped in a fleece blanket to see Lily. "She loves dogs!" he said. The girl had a wide owl face with round eyes and a crisp beaky upper lip with pronounced philtrum. She was sleepy, I could see. "She's tired" he said. "Thank you!" he said, turning to go back inside. Thank you I thought. This was just what I needed. This is why I need to live near people.

I walked by the oxblood-red house with the wrap around porch. It was all dark. The girl is going through a divorce, but she's young, she'll be okay, she's got dogs and a job she loves and a house she loves.


I dreamed there were newborn golden puppies suspended inside a vertical tube. They were supposed to use their muscles to hang on. I reached up to pet them and they began resting on my hand. I notice what looked like a newborn pink rat's hand and realized that it was a tiny human, a man, newborn-rat-pink but fully formed as a man, squirming like an inchworm. I picked him up and showed him to someone else. He suddenly morphed into a fourteen-inch-high rigid wooden sculpture of a man. I thought, I must've broken the spell. This had been a secret meant just for me.

Years Later

She might die, my step-father said. I immediately ducked into the dark pantry closet hiding my smile between the cereal boxes. She caught pneumonia after the gallbladder surgery and was still in the hospital recuperating. We visited. I pictured the gallbladder to be an organ that is normally the size of a catchers mitt tucked under her ribs. Don't let me fall asleep she said to my step-brother. She was sitting upright in a wheelchair, closing her eyes. Years later he told me he felt she was testing him. Years later I learn the gallbladder is the size of a green-bean.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Jack Gilbert

Horses At Midnight Without A Moon

by Jack Gilbert

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

-Jack Gilbert,Refusing Heaven

Winter Happiness

by Jack Gilbert

Pride, pride, pride, pride, pride,
pride and happiness. Winter
and empty fields and beyond the trees
the Aegean. The night sky
bright in the puddles of this lane.
Such dear loneliness. Going along
to no man's clock. No one who knows
my middle name for a thousand miles.
My youth gone and death unable to find me.
Thinking back to childhood. Astonished
that I could find the way here.

-Jack Gilbert, Collected Poems

Thursday, December 13, 2012

James Wright

Poetry can keep life itself alive. You can endure almost anything as long as you can sing about it.

-James Wright

Lester Bangs

The ultimate sin of any performer is contempt for the audience.

-Lester Bangs

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ice Cold Sunshine

When I move into receive mode, my energy suddenly shrinks and my body feels too big for me, like Alice in Wonderland. It happens every other season. Perhaps it is a rest from all of the jumping around and noshing. The contemplative oversleeping season has begun. It's all good, especially in the sunny ice cold.

There was a two-inch peach-colored plastic sea horse on the asphalt in the alley, behind the barbershop. A misspelled sign on the barbershop door read "Closed, deth in family," scrawled in black magic marker on a white index card. Down the road behind Rite Aid a garbage truck was getting two new tires.

Gustave Flaubert

Language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.
-Gustave Flaubert

Twinkly Triad, 12.12.12.

All the directions are possible for walking now that the weather is cold. Each day my Lily walk is a new discovery of old neighborhoods. I love Woonsocket's hill top views.

I hung a string of lights over the large wall mirror fixtures and the twinkly reflection bounces starlight off the plate glass windows, warming the room.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thomas Hart Benton

America Today mural goes to the MET.


Whenever I hear a child abuse story in the news I feel validated. I think our society is growing a wee bit more sensitive to these issues, one exposed trauma at a time.

Don't ask the Fish

There is a Chinese proverb, “If you want to know the condition of the water, don't ask the fish.”

The fish are swimming in popular culture, munching on corporate snacks, driving angry-looking tanks, being brainwashed by political shampoo, sporting the status quo hairdoo.

To Know a Person . . .

Italian (Dialect) Pe canosce nu cresc-teine te c'eda magnie 'ziembra nu tumbere de seale.
(Literally) To know a person you have to eat together 50 kilos of salt. (Meaning) It takes a lifetime to consume 50 kilos of salt, so too it takes a lifetime to get to know someone really well.

Perri Klass

By itself, intense empathy — really feeling someone else’s pain — can backfire, causing so much personal distress that the end result is a desire to avoid the source of the pain, researchers have found.
-Perri Klass, M.D., NYT

Ayana Mathis

. . . being a good writer has everything to do with telling a truth about what it means to be a human being.
-Ayana Mathis

Better to be . . .

Better to be alone than in bad company.

Meglio sola che male accompagnata.

Letter Writing Dog

I'm a letter writing dog: three miles per paragraph. I can't spend time with more than three people at once and I can't read more than a few pages a day. Even with painting I am exhausted after two hours. I have no idea how people sustain the energy to write novels and perform in plays night after night.

I Dreamed

I dreamed about Ruby and Lucy. Ruby was waiting to be picked up from the vets after being spayed and Lucy was young too, running around. I was on the edge of a cliff terrified just looking down. Then I was over the edge with Bill and another person pulling me back up by my hands.

Leaders often tell this story attributed to a Native American elder.

There are two dogs inside me. The black dog is mean. The white dog is good. The black dog fights the white dog all day. When asked which dog wins, the elder reflected for a moment and replied; The one I feed the most.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Roald Dahl

Watch with glittery eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.
-Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you'll be free if you truly wish to be.
-Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl

A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.
-Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Roald Dahl

I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it's impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren't feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I've also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It's sure to be a phony.
-Roald Dahl, Danny the Champion of the World

Roald Dahl

When you're writing a book, it's rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it's got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you've done all ties up. But it's a very, very long, slow process.
-Roald Dahl

Caroline Knapp

Life without anesthesia often has the quality of vigorous exercise, as though each repetition of a painful moment, gone through without one’s substance of choice, serves to build up an emotional muscle. When you drink away feeling—or starve or eat or gamble or obsess it away—you deprive yourself of the chance to really understand it, to come to grips with fear and self-doubt and rage, to truly battle the emotional landmines that lurk within. Addictions may protect you, but they also stunt growth, prevent you from walking through the kinds of fearful life experiences that bring your from point A to point B on the maturity scale. When you give them up, when you begin to get through those difficult moments, you find yourself flexing muscles you never knew you had. You find yourself growing.
-Caroline Knapp

Sounds familiar right? We women have a gift for closeness. So why was this friendship so wonderfully surprising to me? Contrary to conventional wisdom, sustaining a close, trusting friendship can be a dicey business for women—at least in my experience. This may be true by definition: institutionalized relationships like marriage and family are bolstered by social supports. Friendships, on the other hand, are subject to few rules, few measurable standards of success or failure. When things get rocky with a girlfriend, you don’t cruise the Yellow Pages for a Friendship Counselor. When a friend lets you down or goes through a major life change that makes you feel left behind (marriage, babies, moving cross-country), family members don’t urge you to “work” on the relationship. Friendship bonds can be very real and vital but they’re also among our most transient ties, and so a certain degree of attrition is natural and predictable: people change, they go their own ways.
-Caroline Knapp

Weird Weather

The house windows are all fogged up and it is alternately warm and cool outside depending on which direction you walk in.

Oscar Hijuelos

When you're writing a novel -- at least the way I write is I work from what I would call emotional atmosphere, ambiance to ambiance.

So, I work towards leaving the reader with a sense of certain emotions. With a memoir, you want to do both. You want to leave the reader with a strong sense of an emotional world, but you also have to be more fact-reliant, and also you have to prioritize about those events in your life, and you have to pass judgment.

You have to just say, how important this was to that time? And, hopefully, you can take an incident and attach all kinds of emotions and insights about the period, your family, and so forth to an event.

-Oscar Hijuelos


Albert Camus

We all carry within us places of exile, our crimes, our ravages. Our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to transform them in ourselves and others.
-Albert Camus

A man's work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.
-Albert Camus

Life can be magnificent and overwhelming -- that is the whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would almost be easy to live.
-Albert Camus

Roald Dahl

Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people.
-Roald Dahl

A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not.
-Roald Dahl

The writer walks out of his workroom in a daze. He wants a drink. He needs it.
-Roald Dahl

We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
-Roald Dahl

A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.
-Roald Dahl

Grown ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets.
-Roald Dahl

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.
-Roald Dahl, The Twits

Thomas Lux

I kind of drifted away from Surrealism and the arbitrariness of that. I got more interested in subjects, identifiable subjects other than my own angst or ennui or things like that. I got better and better, I believe, at the craft. I paid more and more attention to the craft. Making poems rhythmical and musical and believable as human speech and as distilled and tight as possible is very important to me. I started looking outside of myself a lot more for subjects. I read a great deal of history, turned more outward as opposed to inward.

This is not something one chooses to do…It is something I was drawn to. I do it because I love to do it, and because I don't have any choice. If I don't write, I feel empty and lost. Poetry exists because there is no other way to say the things that get said in good poems except in poems. There is something about the right combination of metaphor or image connected to the business of being alive that only poems can do. To me, it makes me feel more alive, reading good poetry.

-Thomas Lux

Yiddish Proverbs

A half-fool is a very wise man.

A halber nar iz a gantser khokhem.

A child’s wisdom is also wisdom.

A kindersher saichel iz oichet a saichel.

A crowd of people, and not one good person among them.

A groyse oylem, un nito eyn mentsch.

A good friend is often better than a brother.

A guter freint iz oft besser fun a bruder.

Charity is also a habit.

Oif tsedokeh iz oich do chazokeh.

Don’t ask questions about fairy tales.

Oif a meisseh fregt men kain kasheh nit.

Death doesn’t knock on the door (i.e., doesn’t warn of its impending arrival)

Der toyt (teyt) klapt nit in (der) tir.

Every limb wants to speak but the tongue alone does the talking.

Ale glider viln redn un di tsung aleyn shtelt men aroys.

Every man has a madness of his own.

Itlecher mentsh hot zich zein shigoyen.

From bad matches also come good children.

Fun krume shidukhim kumen arois glaikheh kinder.


Carolyn Kizer

No matter how brief an encounter you have with anybody, you both change.
-Carolyn Kizer

Emily Dickinson

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.

-Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Caroline Knapp

In one of the largest surveys of its kind to date, nearly 30,000 women told researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine that they'd rather lose weight than attain any other goal, a figure that alone suggests just how complicated the issue of appetite can be for women.

This is the primary female striving? The appetite to lose appetite?

In fact, I suspect the opposite is true: that the primary, underlying striving among many women at the start of the millennium is the appetite for appetite: a longing to feel safe and secure enough to name one's true appetites and worthy and powerful enough to get them satisfied.
― Caroline Knapp, Appetites: Why Women Want

Women are like Sardines

in Italian: E femene xe come e sardee, buta via ea testa tuto el resto ex bon.
Women are like sardines -- throw out the heads, all the rest is good.

in Italian: Xe pi le done che varda i omani che le stele che varda la tera.
There are more women who look at men than there are stars that look at the earth.


Abraham Joshua Heschel

People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state--it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle.... Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one's actions.
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Wisdom of Heschel

The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.

Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ....get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.

Man is a messenger who forgot the message.

It is not enough for me to ask questions; I want to know how to answer the one question that seems to encompass everything I face: What am I here for?

Some are guilty but all are responsible.

A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.

A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.

God is not a hypothesis derived from logical assumptions, but an immediate insight, self-evident as light. He is not something to be sought in the darkness with the light of reason. He is the light.

Self-respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.

The self is not the hub but the spoke of the revolving wheel.

We are closer to God when we are asking questions than when we think we have the answers.

We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being.

I would say about individuals, an individual dies when he ceases to to be surprised. I am surprised every morning when I see the sunshine again. When I see an act of evil I don't accommodate, I don't accommodate myself to the violence that goes on everywhere. I am still so surprised! That is why I am against it. We must learn to be surprised.

There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious. Judaism teaches us to be attached to holiness in time; to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year.

The problem to be faced is: how to combine loyalty to one's own tradition with reverence for different traditions.

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel

Dream and Life

I dreamed I was working at a restaurant and I asked if Lily was in the fenced yard. I went out back and the gate was open. I panicked. She was sitting there waiting for me and I was relived. Then we had to cross an icy waterfall to get back. There were fancy dogs chained up, the restaurant owners collection of vicious show dogs.

Yesterday we met a wonderful 9 month old dog on our street. He is the size of Lily but looks like his mother was a tiger. He has black brindle stripes and a brown hound and Labrador body. I fell in love instantly.

Saturday, December 08, 2012


Listening is the best way to help.

Anne Lamott

Devotion and commitment will be their own reward.

Try to calm down, get quiet, breathe, and listen.

- Anne Lamott

Cheryl Strayed

Walking. Doesn’t it make everyone happier? I challenge you to walk for twenty minutes and not feel better by the end of it. It’s the cheapest, healthiest cure on earth.

We can survive anything, even if we don’t want to. Even in the face of great suffering, there is joy.

-Cheryl Strayed


Emmanuel Lasker

Lasker was a good friend of Albert Einstein, who wrote the introduction to the posthumous biography Emanuel Lasker, The Life of a Chess Master from Dr. Jacques Hannak (1952). In this preface Einstein express his satisfaction at having met Lasker, writing:

Emanuel Lasker was undoubtedly one of the most interesting people I came to know in my later years. We must be thankful to those who have penned the story of his life for this and succeeding generations. For there are few men who have had a warm interest in all the great human problems and at the same time kept their personality so uniquely independent.

Quotations by Lasker

Lies and hypocrisy do not survive for long on the chessboard. The creative combination lies bare the presumption of a lie, while the merciless fact, culminating in a checkmate, contradicts the hypocrite.

Education in Chess has to be an education in independent thinking and judgement. Chess must not be memorized, simply because it is not important enough. ... Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles.

Pit two players against each other who both have perfect technique, who both avoid weaknesses, and what is left? – a sorry caricature of chess.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Albert Camus

A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.

Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear.

Don't wait for the last judgment - it takes place every day.

The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.

The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.

A taste for truth at any cost is a passion which spares nothing.

After all manner of professors have done their best for us, the place we are to get knowledge is in books. The true university of these days is a collection of books.

We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives... inside ourselves.

Those who lack the courage will always find a philosophy to justify it.

Integrity has no need of rules.

What is a rebel? A man who says no.

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.

The society based on production is only productive, not creative.

In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.

Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

The only real progress lies in learning to be wrong all alone.

We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. In that race which daily hastens us towards death, the body maintains its irreparable lead.

Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.

- Albert Camus

Bob Dylan

No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.

Basically you have to suppress your own ambitions in order to be who you need to be.

Colleges are like old-age homes, except for the fact that more people die in colleges.

Here's the thing with me and the religious thing. This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else.

I'm inconsistent, even to myself.

It's hard to speculate what tomorrow may bring.

Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.

When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it - don't back down and don't give up - then you're going to mystify a lot of folks.

Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.

You can never be wise and be in love at the same time.

If you try to be anyone but yourself, you will fail; if you are not true to your own heart, you will fail. Then again, there's no success like failure.

Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, they all went by so fast.

― Bob Dylan

Anaïs Nin

Each friend represents a world in us, a world not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.

Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.

People living deeply have no fear of death.

If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.

Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.

The only abnormality is the incapacity to love.

When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.

Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.

I stopped loving my father a long time ago. What remained was the slavery to a pattern.

The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.

Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.

There are many ways to be free. One of them is to transcend reality by imagination, as I try to do.

When you make a world tolerable for yourself, you make a world tolerable for others.

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.

-Anaïs Nin

Dave Brubeck

And there is a time where you can be beyond yourself. You can be better than your technique. You can be better than most of your usual ideas. And this is a whole other category that you can get into.
-Dave Brubeck

I'm always hoping for the nights that are inspired where you almost have an out of body experience.
-Dave Brubeck

We don't know the power that's within our own bodies.
-Dave Brubeck

It's like a whole orchestra, the piano for me.
-Dave Brubeck

There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play which is dangerously where you're going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven't created before.
-Dave Brubeck

One of the reasons I believe in jazz, is that the oneness of man can come through the rhythm of your heart. It’s the same anyplace in the world, that heartbeat. It’s the first thing you hear when you’re born — or before you’re born — and it’s the last thing you hear.
-Dave Brubeck

Anne Lamott

Laughter is carbonated holiness.

My experience with being a human is that we are all in the same boat--so ruined, so loved, so not in control of much. Flailing; adored

-Anne Lamott

Charles Simic

I would have liked to own a small restaurant and do my own cooking. The dishes I like are mostly Mediterranean, so you'd have been served squid, octopus, lamb sausages, eggplant, olives, anchovies.... I'd hire my poet friends to be waiters. Mark Strand would look great in a white jacket wiping with a napkin the dust on some wine bottle of noble vintage.
-Charles Simic

Charles Simic

Our cities are full of homeless and mad people going around talking to themselves. Not many people seem to notice them. I watch them and eavesdrop on them.
-Charles Simic

Charles Simic

The way Don Juan adored different kind of women I adored different kind of poets. I went to bed, so to speak, with ancient Chinese, old Romans, French Symbolists, and American Modernists individually and in groups. I was so promiscuous. I'd be lying if I pretended that I had just one great love.
-Charles Simic

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Joyce Carol Oates

Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.
-Joyce Carol Oates

The third man in the ring makes boxing possible.
-Joyce Carol Oates

Night comes to the desert all at once, as if someone turned off the light.
-Joyce Carol Oates

Our enemy is by tradition our savior, in preventing us from superficiality.
-Joyce Carol Oates

Love commingled with hate is more powerful than love. Or hate.
-Joyce Carol Oates

Stephen King

I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.
-Stephen King

People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy... and I keep it in a jar on my desk.
-Stephen King

Fiction is the truth inside the lie.
-Stephen King

You can't deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.
-Stephen King

I was in enough to get along with people. I was never socially inarticulate. Not a loner. And that saved my life, saved my sanity. That and the writing. But to this day I distrust anybody who thought school was a good time. Anybody.
-Stephen King

No, it's not a very good story - its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.
-Stephen King

Americans are apocalyptic by nature. The reason why is that we've always had so much, so we live in deadly fear that people are going to take it away from us.
-Stephen King

When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "one word at a time."
-Stephen King

Wherever you write is supposed to be a little bit of a refuge, a place where you can get away from the world. The more closed in you are, the more you're forced back on your own imagination.
-Stephen King

Like anything else that happens on its own, the act of writing is beyond currency. Money is great stuff to have, but when it comes to the act of creation, the best thing is not to think of money too much. It constipates the whole process.
-Stephen King

We've switched from a culture that was interested in manufacturing, economics, politics - trying to play a serious part in the world - to a culture that's really entertainment-based.
-Stephen King

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.
-Stephen King

We're news junkies in my house.
-Stephen King

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.
-Stephen King

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
-Stephen King

Alden Nowlan

Great Things Have Happened

by Alden Nowlan

We were talking about the great things
that have happened in our lifetimes;
and I said, "Oh, I suppose the moon landing
was the greatest thing that has happened
in my time." But, of course, we were all lying.
The truth is the moon landing didn't mean
one-tenth as much to me as one night in 1963
when we lived in a three-room flat in what once had been
the mansion of some Victorian merchant prince
(our kitchen had been a clothes closet, I'm sure),
on a street where by now nobody lived
who could afford to live anywhere else.
That night, the three of us, Claudine, Johnnie and me,
woke up at half-past four in the morning
and ate cinnamon toast together.

"Is that all?" I hear somebody ask.

Oh, but we were silly with sleepiness
and, under our windows, the street-cleaners
were working their machines and conversing in Italian, and
everything was strange without being threatening,
even the tea-kettle whistled differently
than in the daytime: it was like the feeling
you get sometimes in a country you've never visited
before, when the bread doesn't taste quite the same,
the butter is a small adventure, and they put
paprika on the table instead of pepper,
except that there was nobody in this country
except the three of us, half-tipsy with the wonder
of being alive, and wholly enveloped in love.

- Alden Nowlan, What Happened When He Went to the Store for Bread.



Charles Hanson Towne


by Charles Hanson Towne

Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end,
Yet the days go by and weeks rush on,
And before I know it, a year is gone.

And I never see my old friends face,
For life is a swift and terrible race,
He knows I like him just as well,
As in the days when I rang his bell.

And he rang mine but we were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men.
Tired of playing a foolish game,
Tired of trying to make a name.

"Tomorrow" I say! "I will call on Jim
Just to show that I'm thinking of him."
But tomorrow comes and tomorrow goes,
And distance between us grows and grows.

Around the corner, yet miles away,
"Here's a telegram sir," "Jim died today."
And that's what we get and deserve in the end.
Around the corner, a vanished friend.

-Charles Hanson Towne

David Mamet

Films have degenerated to their original operation as carnival amusement - they offer not drama but thrills.
-David Mamet

In a world we find terrifying, we ratify that which doesn't threaten us.
-David Mamet

The product of the artist has become less important than the fact of the artist. We wish to absorb this person. We wish to devour someone who has experienced the tragic. In our society this person is much more important than anything he might create.
-David Mamet

Every reiteration of the idea that nothing matters debases the human spirit.
-David Mamet

It's only words... unless they're true.
-David Mamet

I hate vacations. There's nothing to do.
-David Mamet

Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those citizens or groups who question that status.
-David Mamet

Cynthia Ozick

I read in order to find out what I need to know: To illuminate the riddle.
-Cynthia Ozick, Paris Review

One must avoid ambition in order to write. Otherwise something else is the goal: some kind of power beyond the power of language. And the power of language, it seems to me, is the only kind of power a writer is entitled to.
-Cynthia Ozick, Paris Review

Stories are splinters of larger ideas about culture.
-Cynthia Ozick, Paris Review

One reason writers write is out of revenge. Life hurts; certain ideas and experiences hurt; one wants to clarify, to set out illuminations, to replay the old bad scenes and get the Treppenworte said -- the words one didn't have the strength or ripeness to say when those words were necessary for one's dignity or survival.
-Cynthia Ozick

RIP Bruce McGrath

Quincy saxophonist Bruce "The Goose" McGrath, a regular figure on the local blues and rock scene for more than three decades, as well as a former member of Bellevue Cadillac, The Love Dogs, The Mike Garvey Band, and Sam Gentile & Basic Black, died Thursday. McGrath, whom friends said had been battling pneumonia recently, was slated to play a gig in Taunton Thursday night, part of his usual busy schedule of performing with a wide range of bands.

McGrath, who had previously lived in Hanson and Rockland, lived near downtown Quincy, where friends became concerned when they couldn't reach him, and discovered the veteran musican dead in his bed. Even when he had a gig elsewhere, McGrath would often finish off his Thursday nights at the weekly blues jam at Mari's Place in Quincy, within walking distance of his apartment.

Last night's jam at the Quincy club was packed with many friends and fans gathering to absorb the sad news. McGrath is believed to have passed away without any close family, and Mari's Place is raising money to give him a proper funeral and grave marker. Last night's blues jam raised $600 towards McGrath's final expenses, and music fans will be able to contribute to his memory all weekend. Last night's blues jam included many tributes to McGrath, none more moving than the version of "Soulshine" sung by Garvey, with Russ Costa and Jon Finn on guitar, and nary a dry eye in the house.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Mark Twain

Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.
-Mark Twain

Susan Straight

The best thing I could say is, you do have to be a really good listener. -Susan Straight, NPR

Tori Amos

There are ways to stimulate being prolific, and part of that is making pilgrimages, and being open to listening, changing up the routine. Take a different route to the coffee shop to see what you can see and hear. When we get in a routine we can become zombie-like and shut down.
-Tori Amos

Thi Wurd

I illustrated for a Texas writing publication called The Porch in 2005. I did a bunch of illustrations for Alan McMunnigall who is now editor and contributor of this magazine in Scotland. He just launched it. Here's the announcement. I'll receive my copy in a few days.
Thi Wurd launch and submission request, Thu 13th December, 19:00
STUC Building, Glasgow
Tales round A Victorian Fireside.

Thi Wurd is a new fiction magazine based in Glasgow. You are invited to an evening of readings and music to launch the first issue. It's a £1 donation on the door, and you can buy the magazine at the event, which will be held at 7pm on Thursday 13th December at the STUC building, 333 Woodlands Road, G3 6NG. The STUC building is just behind The Old Schoolhouse pub and The Stand comedy club, across from The Doublet pub.

Submissions for issue #2 are open now, and should be sent by email to this address:

Marie-Louise Von Frantz

One of the most wicked destructive forces, psychologically speaking, is unused creative power. If someone has a creative gift and out of laziness, or for some other reason, doesn't use it, the psychic energy turns to pure poison. That's why we often diagnose neuroses and psychotic diseases as not-lived higher possibilities.
- Marie-Louise Von Frantz

Gustave Flaubert

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your

-Gustave Flaubert


Hypochondria is unemployed creative energy.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Jon Frankel

. . . it is all for nothing. But that’s no reason not to write, any more than death is a reason not to love.

-Jon Frankel, Last Bender

Lavender Fog

This morning lavender fog, warm air and bare trees. I just baked seven small sourdough molasses oat boules.

Monday, December 03, 2012

I Dreamed

I had a dream within a dream that I was asleep and woke up but I didn't wake up. I was standing in NYC looking up at a skyscraper and there was colorful motion in a window high up that turned out to be a television. I was on a rumbling flat cart with a group of people this was our transport. It was moving very fast. I was holding on as it rumbled through the streets. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Anne Lamott

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.’
-Anne Lamott

To participate requires self-discipline and trust and courage, because this business of becoming conscious, … is ultimately about asking yourself “How alive am I willing to be?”
-Anne Lamott

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012


Information is so important - I saved up my allowance and sent away for The Boys and Girls Book about Divorce when I was 12. I was always looking for information.

Unfortunately there was no such thing in my family. All messages were coded and coated in smarm and fish hooks.

In sixth grade they separated us by gender for sex education. I was curious about what they told the boys and the boys were curious about what they told us girls. So after school I read the Encyclopedia Brittanica human sexuality pages aloud to my boyfriend Alex Stein, over the phone. My step-father thought that was a hoot! He still tells that story.

Social Street

Social Street is truly a social place. I ran into four friends in a half block all of us on foot. As we stood there chatting a car turned left from the right lane causing a wreck and we were the first ones to call the police.

My friend's grandmother used to say "Watch out for the machines". She had witnessed the birth of the car, the airplane and electricity. One day a vacuum cleaner salesman came to her Mattapoisett farm house out on the cranberry bog, and emptied a bag of soot on her braided rug in front of the fireplace.

"What the heck are you doing," she said.

"Don't worry Ma'm," he said confidently.

"Where can I plug this in?"

"Plug? We have no electricity."


I dreamed a tree fell on Bill's leg while he was in bed. He had it amputated. We decided to move to Savannah Georgia. I will miss new England I thought. And there will be too many bugs. Luckily Lily woke me up. Bill has both legs working fine and thank goodness because we're marching in a Christmas parade tomorrow in Fall River at noon! Come see us!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ray Bradbury Humor and Work


You were married for fifty-six years before your wife passed away in 2003. What was the secret to the longevity of your relationship?


If you don’t have a sense of humor, you don’t have a marriage. In that film Love Story, there’s a line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard. Love means saying you’re sorry every day for some little thing or other. You make a mistake. I forgot the lightbulbs. I didn’t bring this from the store and I’m sorry. You know? So being able to accept responsibility, but above all having a sense of humor, so that anything that happens can have its amusing side.


The week after your wife passed away, you got back to writing. How were you able to do that?


Work is the only answer. I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!

-Ray Bradbury, The Paris Review

Ray Bradbury and Mr. Electrico

Circuses and carnivals were always passing through Illinois during my childhood and I was in love with their mystery. One autumn weekend in 1932, when I was twelve years old, the Dill Brothers Combined Shows came to town. One of the performers was Mr. Electrico. He sat in an electric chair. A stagehand pulled a switch and he was charged with fifty thousand volts of pure electricity. Lightning flashed in his eyes and his hair stood on end.

The next day, I had to go the funeral of one of my favorite uncles. Driving back from the graveyard with my family, I looked down the hill toward the shoreline of Lake Michigan and I saw the tents and the flags of the carnival and I said to my father, Stop the car. He said, What do you mean? And I said, I have to get out. My father was furious with me. He expected me to stay with the family to mourn, but I got out of the car anyway and I ran down the hill toward the carnival.

It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I was running away from death, wasn’t I? I was running toward life. And there was Mr. Electrico sitting on the platform out in front of the carnival and I didn’t know what to say. I was scared of making a fool of myself. I had a magic trick in my pocket, one of those little ball-and-vase tricks—a little container that had a ball in it that you make disappear and reappear—and I got that out and asked, Can you show me how to do this? It was the right thing to do. It made a contact. He knew he was talking to a young magician. He took it, showed me how to do it, gave it back to me, then he looked at my face and said, Would you like to meet those people in that tent over there? Those strange people? And I said, Yes sir, I would. So he led me over there and he hit the tent with his cane and said, Clean up your language! Clean up your language! He took me in, and the first person I met was the illustrated man. Isn’t that wonderful? The Illustrated Man! He called himself the tattooed man, but I changed his name later for my book. I also met the strong man, the fat lady, the trapeze people, the dwarf, and the skeleton. They all became characters.

Mr. Electrico was a beautiful man, see, because he knew that he had a little weird kid there who was twelve years old and wanted lots of things. We walked along the shore of Lake Michigan and he treated me like a grown-up. I talked my big philosophies and he talked his little ones. Then we went out and sat on the dunes near the lake and all of a sudden he leaned over and said, I’m glad you’re back in my life. I said, What do you mean? I don’t know you. He said, You were my best friend outside of Paris in 1918. You were wounded in the Ardennes and you died in my arms there. I’m glad you’re back in the world. You have a different face, a different name, but the soul shining out of your face is the same as my friend. Welcome back.

Now why did he say that? Explain that to me, why? Maybe he had a dead son, maybe he had no sons, maybe he was lonely, maybe he was an ironical jokester. Who knows? It could be that he saw the intensity with which I live. Every once in a while at a book signing I see young boys and girls who are so full of fire that it shines out of their face and you pay more attention to that. Maybe that’s what attracted him.

When I left the carnival that day I stood by the carousel and I watched the horses running around and around to the music of “Beautiful Ohio,” and I cried. Tears streamed down my cheeks. I knew something important had happened to me that day because of Mr. Electrico. I felt changed. He gave me importance, immortality, a mystical gift. My life was turned around completely. It makes me cold all over to think about it, but I went home and within days I started to write. I’ve never stopped.

Seventy-seven years ago, and I’ve remembered it perfectly. I went back and saw him that night. He sat in the chair with his sword, they pulled the switch, and his hair stood up. He reached out with his sword and touched everyone in the front row, boys and girls, men and women, with the electricity that sizzled from the sword. When he came to me, he touched me on the brow, and on the nose, and on the chin, and he said to me, in a whisper, “Live forever.” And I decided to.
-Ray Bradbury, Paris Review