Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Emotional Center

When I have to deal with the medical world like with my animals all information goes first to my emotional center and usually simultaneously shuts off my brain. So I take notes (keeping a dog or cat diary) and sputter and forget my questions and sequence of my story and feel like a complete fool. My vet may even recognize this, he's been my vet for 32 years. He is calm and smart and scientific and not overtly emotional which is perfect for helping me see the issue at hand for what it is. That said, I start to tremble with responsibility and fears that I am a terrible person and negligent pet owner. I shouldn't go online and read eight-thousand diagnosis. I just bought 'buffered aspirin' for Lily who may have injured her back. She is resting now and will have only minimal outings for five days to allow the injury to heal. She's receiving lots of tender loving care, hugs and massages while napping on her big bed.

Soul Cake Song

A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missus, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.

God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round the table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store;
And all that dwell within your gates,
We wish you ten times more
A soul, etc.

Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If your barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
(We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we'll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.)
A soul, etc.

The lanes are very dirty,
My shoes are very thin,
I've got a little pocket
To put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny
A ha'penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
It's God bless you!
A soul, etc

Skeleton Found

Human skeleton found under uprooted tree after hurricane.


Yesterday we walked to Turbesi park down the street and as I was fishing out Lily's favorite toy (a plastic bottle from the trash barrel) Bill was with Lily in the ball field on the other side of the fence. I tossed in the plastic bottle and Lily jumped to play. She ran around but then yelped a very unusual pain yelp. Maybe she stepped on the leash and hurt herself but maybe she was sore from playing in the ball field Sunday with another dog. Maybe she tweaked it, she had been skittish over the storm.

She tucked her tail down and started shaking. We comforted her then she was okay and we walked to her swim spot and she swam. She walks fine ankle and knee seem fine and she goes up and down stairs but this morning when she stretched she yelped again and tucked her tail and trembled again drooling a bit. I have hugged her and comforted her and gently massaged her her leg and she is calmed and okay with that and happy and relaxed in her bed.

I hope she'll be feeling all better soon. I hope she can heal up because normally she loves to run. She's an Olympian. Bill says he thinks Lily hurt herself when jumping up to catch the ball twisting and landing wrong when playing with the other dog on Sunday but aggravated it yesterday. Her knee seems fine, we think it might be that she tweaked a muscle deep in her back or hip. She is relaxed from our stroking her back while she's resting on her bed. I am hoping rest and time will heal her but I have a call into our veterinarian for advice.


Halloween. The full moon woke us up.

Our prayers go out to all of the folks who lost their lives friends neighbors homes cars and haunts in the big storm. We are grateful to the forecasters who were able to help to warn people by giving advanced notice, the governors for instructing, and the courageous first responders who rescued people, preventing an even worse disaster.

Today is All Hallows' Eve, or Halloween. The modern holiday comes from an age-old tradition honoring the supernatural blending of the world of the living and the world of the dead. Halloween is based on a Celtic holiday called Samhain. The festival marked the start of winter and the last stage of the harvest, the slaughtering of animals. It was believed that the dark of winter allowed the spirits of the dead to transgress the borders of death and haunt the living.

Eventually, Christian holidays developed at around the same time. During the Middle Ages, November 1 became known as All Saints' Day, or All Hallows' Day. The holiday honored all of the Christian saints and martyrs. Medieval religion taught that dead saints regularly interceded in the affairs of the living. On All Saints' Day, churches held masses for the dead and put bones of the saints on display. The night before this celebration of the holy dead became known as All Hallows' Eve. People baked soul cakes, which they would set outside their house for the poor. They also lit bonfires and set out lanterns carved out of turnips to keep the ghosts of the dead away.

-Writer's Almanac

Maya Angelou

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean
– Maya Angelou

There is more to life than simply increasing its speed
– Maya Angelou

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.
– Maya Angelou

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was hired to teach a painting class at RISD with Adrian Monk and I said He's not going to like the way I teach.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Black Bear Hibernation

Black bears were once not considered true or "deep" hibernators, but because of discoveries about the metabolic changes that allow black bears to remain dormant for months without eating, drinking, urinating, or defecating, most biologists have redefined mammalian hibernation as "specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism concurrent with scarce food and cold weather". Black bears are now considered highly efficient hibernators.

Black bears enter their dens in October and November. Prior to that time, they can put on up to 30 pounds of body fat to get them through the seven months during which they fast. Hibernation in black bears typically lasts 3–5 months. During this time, their heart rate drops from 40–50 beats per minute to 8 beats per minute. They spend their time in hollowed-out dens in tree cavities, under logs or rocks, in banks, caves, or culverts, and in shallow depressions. Females, however, have been shown to be pickier in their choice of dens, in comparison to males. A special hormone, leptin is released into their systems, to suppress appetite. Because they do not urinate or defecate during dormancy, the nitrogen waste from the bear's body is biochemically recycled back into their proteins. This also serves the purpose of preventing muscle loss, as the process uses the waste products to build muscle during the long periods of inactivity. In comparison to true hibernators, their body temperature does not drop significantly (staying around 35 degrees Celsius) and they remain somewhat alert and active. If the winter is mild enough, they may wake up and forage for food. Females also give birth in February and nurture their cubs until the snow melts. During winter, black bears consume 25–40% of their body weight. The footpads peel off while they sleep, making room for new tissue. After emerging from their winter dens in spring, they wander their territories for two weeks so that their metabolism accustoms itself to the activity. They will seek carrion from winter-killed animals and new shoots of many plant species, especially wetland plants. In mountainous areas, they seek southerly slopes at lower elevations for forage and move to northerly and easterly slopes at higher elevations as summer progresses. Black bears use dense cover for hiding and thermal protection, as well as for bedding.

Hurricane Cows

Dairy farmer Fran Kenyon took Hurricane Sandy in stride.

"This ain't our first rodeo," said Kenyon of Meadowburg Farm in Richmond.

The farm had power to run its milking parlor Monday afternoon. Tuesday morning, Kenyon and his business partner, Rita Nuuttila, had completed milking 50 of their cows when the electricity went out. "The milk truck was on its way, and we had to finish," Nuuttila said.

"We only had five cows to go, so we hooked up the generator, and that did it," Kenyon said. "We've done this before."

-Providence Journal

Saturday Walk

The elks were cooking six turkeys outside today in upside down garbage cans over charcoal briquettes. I don't smell them cooking I said, but Lily did! Come over to this side they said. They were sitting in lawn chairs drinking plastic cups of draft beer next to their open tailgate blue pickup truck. I remember when you guys did this last year I said. This year the guys cooking were fewer and much friendlier.

At the elderly high rise the gang of guys were sitting on the squeaky bench with picnic table swing smoking cigars, telling stories and laughing. I stopped with Lily to chat and Lily jumped putting her font paws in their laps instantly receiving a hug. They loved her!! She said hello to both sides of the bench walking gently sideways from left to right while the swing moved slowly. Doesn't the squeak drive you crazy I said? No we get used to it Roland said. Two of the guys had baseball caps that said navy seals. We were both navy seals, the first two in Woonsocket and we met after the war, the guy closest to me said. Which war I asked? Vietnam they answered in unison. One guy looked like the doorman in the Wizard of Oz at Emerald City. His nose had a perfect circle on the end and his glasses were very thick and tinted. I know them from walking by with my dogs. One guy showed me his recent purchase from the Salvation Army. A potato masher with a red Bakelite handle "45 cents". I am so jealous I said. Do you like to cook I asked. Oh Yeah, he said. He is bony thin with tobacco stained teeth. He was smoking a cigar. I know him from his bicycle trips with his little black and white shaggy dog in the back carrier. Potato mashers are the best way to make mashed potatoes, I said. Then the other navy seal said he had a gourmet restaurant years ago until his eyes started to go. We're the black sheep Roland said. He has a booming voice and is my favorite resident. Roland was a professional drummer in a swing band for decades, now he's in his 80's. He makes us dinner every week Roland said pointing to the potato masher man former navy seal. I was ready to invite myself over.

Sunday was my favorite day of the week because dinner was all day and my grandparents would come from Brighton Beach and visit and my step father would tell stories all day at the table. When I got older I retreated to my studio in the basement which was under the dining room. I felt cozy being under the party especially on Thanksgiving.

Even for a Second

I don't know if I could ever like Emily Dickinson
My mother told me she named me after her because she was suicidal while reading her poems.She told me my bio dad was running around with other women while she was pregnant with me.

When I was a child the myth of Emily Dickinson was always paraded out
My sister would remind me "She stayed in her room her whole life and never married, and never went outside, they discovered the poems after she was dead"

This was the plan for me too except I was supposed to be Picasso or Mozart
or which ever genius they could stuff in the slot.

I can't seem to get beyond that story. I don't want to read the poems and be that close to my mother, even for a second.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Climate Change

Sadly there are too many investors preventing our reversal of climate change because they have too much to gain from melted ice caps. I fear we'll be telling our grand children about New England snowfall, fall foliage and countless other things as if they were from a long ago forgotten planet.

Mental Illness

Nearly every tragedy I read about is a result of mental illness. How come we rarely hear people use the phrase "mental illness" when seemingly senseless shootings and murders happen every day. It's sadly not yet part of the vernacular.

Emily Dickinson

You ask of my companions. Hills, sir, and the sundown, and a dog as large as myself that my father bought me. They are better than human beings, because they know but do not tell.
-Emily Dickinson

I started Early -- Took my Dog -- by Emily Dickinson

I started Early -- Took my Dog --
And visited the Sea --
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me --

And Frigates -- in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands --
Presuming Me to be a Mouse --
Aground -- upon the Sands --

But no Man moved Me -- till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe --
And past my Apron -- and my Belt --
And past my Bodice -- too --

And made as He would eat me up --
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve --
And then -- I started -- too --

And He -- He followed -- close behind --
I felt his Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle -- Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl --

Until We met the Solid Town --
No One He seemed to know --
And bowing -- with a Mighty look --
At me -- The Sea withdrew --

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Thornton Wilder

Every action which has ever taken place — every thought, every emotion — has taken place only once, at one moment in time and place. "I love you," "I rejoice," "I suffer," have been said and felt many billions of times, and never twice the same. Every person who has ever lived has lived an unbroken succession of unique occasions. Yet the more one is aware of this individuality in experience (innumerable! innumerable!) the more one becomes attentive to what these disparate moments have in common, to repetitive patterns.
-Thornton Wilder

Marrow Monster

One of my vivid memories of childhood was my daily walk home for lunch from elementary school. My mother would often join me at the kitchen table and eat a bowl of soup with a bone. She'd bite the ends of bone with her teeth and suck out the marrow. I'd watch her with horror, like a giant ogre eating her kill. She sat opposite me tearing apart the bones with her huge lip-sticked mouth and gigantic white teeth while I slowly took bites from my cream cheese and jelly sandwich.


Everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
- Sylvia Plath

I have an ambition to write a great book, but that's really a competition with myself. I've noticed a lot of young writers, people in all media, want to be famous but they don't really want to do anything. I can't think of anything less worth striving for than fame.
- Zadie Smith

Friday, October 26, 2012

Art is a Mystery

Art is a mystery. A mystery is something immeasurable. In so far as every child and woman and man may be immeasurable, art is the mystery of every man and woman and child. In so far as a human being is an artist, skies and mountains and oceans and thunderbolts and butterflies are immeasurable; and art is every mystery of nature. Nothing measurable can be alive; nothing which is not alive can be art; nothing which cannot be art is true: and everything untrue doesn’t matter a very good God damn...
- e. e. cummings

e. e. cummings

We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

- e. e. cummings

Why Do You Paint?

Why do you paint?
For exactly the same reason I breathe.
That’s not an answer.
There isn’t any answer.
How long hasn’t there been any answer?
As long as I can remember.
And how long have you written?
As long as I can remember.
I mean poetry.
So do I.

- e. e. cummings

Happy Birthday Hilary!

Hilary Clinton 65 today.


Renting art.

Close to Home

I am cheering for the strong ones who have come forward and crying for the ones who are unable to.Read.

e. e. cummings

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than to teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.
- e. e. cummings

e. e. cummings

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
- e. e. cummings

Be of love a little more careful than of anything.
- e. e. cummings

Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.
- e. e. cummings

e. e. cummings

I'm living so far beyond my income that we may almost be said to be living apart.
- e. e. cummings

America makes prodigious mistakes, America has colossal faults, but one thing cannot be denied: America is always on the move. She may be going to Hell, of course, but at least she isn't standing still.
- e. e. cummings

Listen; there's a hell of a good universe next door: let's go.
- e. e. cummings

e. e. cummings Festival

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings

A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.
- e. e. cummings

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes.
- e. e. cummings

E. B. White

Remember that writing is translation, and the opus to be translated is yourself.
-E. B. White, The Story of Charlotte's Web, Michael Sims

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Swinging on the Trapeze

I have warped the bottoms of both of my pressure cookers turning them into rocking bowls by forgetting to add water. I was distracted by a visitor while cooking in my kitchen. So I have reverted to my mini cast iron pot and I wear my timer stop watch around my neck with two other timers placed on the stove hood and at the light switch on the top of the stairs at my office. I am a space shot. I avoid driving a car too because everything is visual and audio and too distracting. I always forget to look both ways when crossing the street too, but my dog often stops. I do wear bright yellow or red so I don't get hit.

I haven't cooked unhulled barley in a while but put I know I have a large half used bag at the bottom of my chest freezer. People have asked us many times if we are Mormons since we have so much grain stored in our cellar. No, I tell them. We were in a mail order food coop for many years and it was during our last recession.

Thanks for reminding me about barley! I rinse then put water in - I measure by placing my fingers flat and stopping when it's just past my knuckles and I add kosher salt and sometimes Adobo and a bloop of olive oil. That's my answer to cooking nearly everything! Maybe sauteed onions would jazz it up too. Perhaps I'll cook some and report back. maybe toasting it first in the oven would be cool. I have made my own Wheatena that way using wheat berries and it is so good.

I just ate a whole boule (half grapefruit sized) out of the oven with green pimento olives - they sell big jars of olives at price rite. We have what we call 'prime real estate' fridge space. There has to be enough space for rising bread, soup stock, milk, juice potato stock and all the crazy things I save in jam jars throughout the week.

Bill has accidentally added lemonade to a jar of broccoli water thinking it was leftover black tea. It wasn't bad he said. I just was expecting something different. I still laugh out loud thinking of it. I should keep masking tape handy and label things.

That reminds me of a childhood story . . .
My mother had the inside of the family refrigerator memorized. She would open the door, study the contents and shout "Who MOVED the tomato?"
We'd all be shaking in our boots. I did, I'd confess. She just had to know. She was furious.

I had the whole bookcase memorized in my childhood therapists office. Each week I'd be so bored I'd use the 60 minutes to tell him which book he moved and where it was the week before. For me it was like a game of concentration. My favorite card game. He'd write down what I was saying in three colors of ink (red, green, and blue) depending on the content.

Thank you again for pulling a letter out of me, I always need the metaphorical "eye contact" to write better. I need someone to catch my ankles as I swing out on the trapeze.

Colorful Slums

Today while walking Lily I see clothes draped over the multifamily porches on our street. It is colorful and very slummy looking and actually doesn't do a very good job of drying the clothes. People's clothes blow into the street or get stained by the railings. Why don't landlords put up clothesline poles for their tenants anymore?

Can't Make this Stuff up

Many years ago when I first graduated college, I signed up for my own choice for a psycho-therapist. The cost was sliding scale and based on my lack of income, it was 2 dollars a week. My therapist was petite woman named Lizzie. She had close cropped salt and pepper hair and a British accent. We met for maybe a year. I told her of my crazy mother and her gastro-medical controlling ways and my subsequent runaways. She said I was probably a bratty teenager. This caught my ear. One day she abruptly announced that she was ending our sessions because she was moving to Buffalo NY. Her husband had a new job there. I asked her what her husband did for work. He's a gastroenterologist. You can't make this stuff up.

Herman Melville

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.
- Herman Melville

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.
-Herman Melville

He who has never failed somewhere, that man can not be great.
-Herman Melville

Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian.
-Herman Melville

Truth uncompromisingly told will always have its ragged edges.
-Herman Melville

To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.
-Herman Melville

They talk of the dignity of work. The dignity is in leisure.
-Herman Melville

Friendship at first sight, like love at first sight, is said to be the only truth.
-Herman Melville

All Profound things, and emotions of things are preceded and attended by Silence.
-Herman Melville

Do not presume, well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed, to criticize the poor.
-Herman Melville

Ignorance is the parent of fear.
-Herman Melville

It is not down in any map; true places never are.
-Herman Melville

Maya Angelou

Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
-Maya Angelou

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.
-Maya Angelou

You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
-Maya Angelou

I Love This

Anne Tyler says that she has one novelist friend but when they call each other up, the most they ever ask is: "Are you writing?"
-from The Writer's Alamanac

Loving the Early Morning Darkness

As much as I entertain fantasies of having Jersey cows, I am truly an urbanite, in love with early morning diners and neon lights even when my diner is my kitchen.

When I get up at three to let my dog out I see the blue flickering of TV's in tenement windows and I am comforted by that. This morning the sky is dark and clear and the stars are visible.

Nuns are making chocolate at the abbey, farmers are milking cows at Wright's Dairy, postmen are sorting mail at our local post office, Bill is correcting physics exams downstairs.

Now its 5:30 AM. Lily is curled up on her bed at my feet and I am listening to the BBC.

Narrating my Dreams

You know you've been listening to too much public radio when Linda Wertheimer is narrating your dreams.

This was my experience this morning and I woke at 3:15 AM.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

André Aciman

You write not after you’ve thought things through; you write to think things through.
-André Aciman

Neil Young

We need to be sure the new songs and music are ready and are meaningful to us. They are our ticket, our vehicle to the future, and without the new songs we are just reliving the past.
-Neil Young, Waging Peace

I just do what I do. I like to make music.
-Neil Young

I never really wanted to write it in the regular way from beginning to end. That’s not the way my brain works. That would make it into a job, and I’m not looking for another job.
-Neil Young

Whose Afraid?

When we first moved to Woonsocket we didn't know anyone but coincidentally a sculptor I had worked for in Providence new a couple who had gone to art school too, many years ago. So we made their acquaintance and were invited to dinner at their house. They were great hosts and good cooks. As the evening wore on the wife became extremely vicious attacking her husband for his "horrible art" while he was sheepishly sharing his paintings with us. I was really uncomfortable. It was like being inside of my favorite Edward Albee play "Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf." This was just like home and once again I couldn't wait to escape.

Vampire Family

I had a neighbor Mary who moved in 9 years ago with two super-bright young blond girls Callie and SJ. I began to notice that both kids were not in school. I never saw them except once or twice a year but they didn't attend school. The grandparents moved in with them and Callie told me they had 18 cats in their weensy 2 bedroom apartment under the eaves, until they dumped them off somewhere. The family stayed awake all night and slept all day and the youngest girl began to balloon, tripling in size over the 9 years to the point that walking up the stairs was nearly impossible for her. Callie's mother said Callie was being home schooled but Callie told me this was bogus. I went to the local school where I was teaching after school murals and told the vice principal about Callie. She invited me to invite Callie to come to the after-school murals class. She and her mother accepted. For a few weeks every Tuesday at 2PM I rang the top bell next door and Callie came down three flights, and we walked to the school to paint. Callie hit it off with every student she met. I was so happy for her. Then, the mother intercepted. She would shout out the window "Callie has diarrhea and can't go today" I realized that this poor child was being held back and porked-up, to take care of the mother. The older sister SJ age 16 had already run off quitting high school to find her bio dad and brother in Alabama. SJ now has a husband and a baby and has since moved back here. She'll be okay--she is smart, out of the house and her husband is a good guy too with a good job. Mary the mom is only 41, ten years younger than me but had leg circulation problems of an 80 year old woman. She's never worked. It's tragic all the way around. They moved away two weeks ago to a first floor in a nearby neighborhood and I am actually relived.

Boiled in Oil

It was Christmas and the dining room had two oblong tables making a T-shape covered in red tablecloths at my parents house. The tables were filled with food and seated around them were extended family and a few close family friends.

My mother suddenly blurts out "Emily always had her hands in her pants, as a little girl, a real woman."
I looked around to see if this remark was upsetting anyone besides me. I remained silent. When dinner was over I began questioning my cousin and siblings "Did you hear what she said?"
I was packing my bag to return to Rhode Island. My step father knew something was wrong and dropped a bunch of little candy canes in my bag.

I stopped going home for Christmas, holidays, parties, anniversaries, weddings.

They continue to send me photos of themselves with descriptions of what countries they've recently visited and what expensive foods they've eaten.


I was 15 my parents were eating dinner alone in the closed off dining room. I came in to say hello.

"Your father and I were just discussing we don't think you have sexual feelings," she said.

That summer was sent to a nude co-ed summer camp.

In college my mother called me at 6 AM and screamed into the phone "He's the guy who screwed you, He should pay!"


Each day I think I am too tired for the big walk but I decide to step out and Lily insists we keep going as if she knows writing these stories I need to get a lot of fresh air, and have the little hellos. And she's right.
Thank God for Lily.

Taking up Space

When I was five I loved to sit at the piano and imagine a cat chasing a mouse across the keys, tinkling the notes. My mother would be sitting at her desk across the huge living room, paying bills. After a few sessions of this she insisted that I must have piano lessons rather than play around.

My lessons involved a lot of homework on paper. When I played a tune I tried to play it as fast as I could, Minuet in G, Solfeggietto. I loved them but I wanted to play Rain Drops keep Falling on My Head by Burt Bachrach, and the Little Drummer Boy, and so I did!

My drama teacher wanted me to sing, to "belt it out."
I never sang a note in my life Not even "happy birthday."

I still fear furniture and bugs will fly out of my mouth if I try to sing.

I worship opera singers and wish I was one, and I adore dancers and actors too, but I need to be alone to feel safe. Alone with my pets.

"Ms Marcus said she had a piano student that practices five hours a day", my mother repeated for me.
Whenever I was at the piano she's day "I don't want to hear you practicing" closing the two sets of glass-paned double doors leading to the living room.

My teacher would show up and our great big Scottish deer-hound Teddi would stick his nose up the front of her skirt. My mother would ask her, Are you menstruating?

When I lived on my own I moved in with a couple of musicians who had been living next door. They let me play everything they had, bagpipes, bass clarinet, tin whistles, harmonicas, Irish and African drums. I went on tour with them bringing my dog.

I got an alto saxophone. When lived alone I stuffed it full of rolled up socks while I honked on it, fearing I would be bothering the neighbors. I didn't want to take lessons I just wanted to blow my brains out. But I did take a few lessons and my teacher Gregg was great. He said it's time for you to get a new mouthpiece and jam with a live band. I asked for a new mouthpiece for Christmas."That's not a gift" my mother shouted at me. On my birthday she gave me an extra large navy blue wool sweater When I opened the box she grabbed it holding it against her torso. "Don't you just love men's sweaters".

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Audio Interruptus

Today the neighborhood landlord has hired his team of two men to toss large chunks of plywood from a garage into a trailer. The crashing noise, averages about every 10 seconds, makes me wince. I see some of the neighbors have left probably for the same reason. I don't know what I'd do without my fan which only works on speed two. It's just rattly enough to make a white noise that buries the audio interruptions.


The other day I said I hope we can turn on the heat this winter, or is that too hedonistic!

Bill laughed, nice pun. Heat-on-istic.

Life Imitates Dream

I dreamed of sewing an Elizabethan dress made of all denim.

When I stepped out of the house with Lily this morning there was a huge upholstered denim chair being thrown out on the corner of East School Street and Rathbun Street. I have never seen a denim chair.

Life imitates dream.

Turgenev and Churchill

(The amazing singer songwriter Lara Herscovitch sent these today)

If we wait for the moment when everything, absolutely everything, is ready, we shall never begin.
-Ivan Turgenev

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
-Winston Churchill

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mannequin Hands

When I was in 5th grade I went to my friend Peggy's house after school. When we walked in I noticed the mantle had a pair of life-sized mannequin hands on either end. One was black and one was white.

"Those are my mother's hands, she's a hand model for mannequins." She said.

There were hands in various positions all over the house. They were ultra feminine with elongated fingers and tapered fingernails. Spooky!

Speaking of spooky my favorite part of Halloween was walking into people's foyers and experiencing the smells. The three elderly sisters on the corner had white hair and they had a very hot and stuffy house. They gave us non-parelles. What's a parelle?

My pal Pat and I walked everywhere and we got so much candy that we each filled our pillowcases full. Then we'd go to her house and inspect the candy at her kitchen table, under bright lights, hunting for needle holes and hidden razor blades. Her father was a police man. So she new of all the dangers.

I had to give away all of my candy except for a few candies. That was the rule; no candy, no comic books, no TV.

No being a kid.


Yesterday we walked to Price Rite with a shopping cart and Lily. I didn't want to drive because it was such a gorgeous day. It was a long trek, much longer than I realized. I was tired last night, good tired.

I had a strange dream about filling gasoline into a blue device the size of a fire extinguisher but flexible like a balloon. I didn't know how to make it work and was making a mess. I worried about anyone smoking a cigarette coming near me. I thought about hanging it in a tree to dry off, away from humans. A very cool band played music in my dream. They were sitting on the ground using a picnic blanket as a stage, laying back using bellows on their backs like knapsacks, pumping air. They were all incredibly muscular, built like Arnold Schwarzenegger but they were amazing and exotic sounding like Brave Combo.

I woke at 3:35 not getting up right away, still tired. When I got up I did the dishes and really got on a roll. I started tackling the grease on the stove and the hood while the coffee was brewing. I love the scent of our new green apple soap it's inspiring to me. I mopped the floor with it yesterday, for the first time in many years. Last night poor Lily leaked on her bed (our TV couch) so we cleaned that couch with green apple soap and and washed the quilt cover. We set up her dog bed beside ours instead. I do love having her near me. She cycles though a bladder leak phase a few times a year. Our vet knows about it. We usually catch it if she starts licking before a major spill especially if we are on the TV couch with her. Honey had the same issue. It's from over-drinking after enormous walks on warm days.

I made brown rice in the red cast iron enamel pot to have for later paired with the BBQ chicken pumpkin leftovers. I love having an inspired appetite, maybe because I love to cook and it is how I take care of myself but I also like to be healthy with good working muscles.

I love to wear aprons and vests. Just like muscles, they might be my form of armor. I am thinking of sewing a denim bra, and maybe denim slippers from old jeans scraps.

I might bake spaghetti squash tonight inspired by my pal Jamie who said she just made it the other day for her family. Meanwhile I am soaking chic peas. Chick peas serve as great mini vegetarian meatballs in tomato sauce.

I have too many unused potatoes. Must bake a scalloped potatoes casserole with local cream as soon as it's REALLY COLD.

Bill's birthday is Sunday.


Creative Minds Imitate Schizophrenia

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Janis Joplin

Becoming Joplin means conserving every ounce of energy she's got.

"It's almost like when you're driving and the gas light comes on, how you shut off the air conditioning and everything and just kind of coasting," she says. "That's kind of how I am during the day. I do all my stuff through email if I can ... just because I have to save up every ounce for this.

-Amy Adams, NPR plays Janis Joplin

Ursula K. Le Guin

I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you're writing. And if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn't flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work.
-Ursula K. Le Guin

I understood that writing can be equal to magic.
-Arwen Curry, making a film on Ursula K. Le Guin

I do magic. I make things that didn’t exist before. I call it Earthsea, and there it is! So I can draw the map.
-Ursula K. Le Guin


When one sense grows into freedom,
all the other senses change as well.

When one sense perceives the hidden,
the invisible world becomes apparent to the whole.


Wee Hours

I love to start the day as early as possible with a poem to read. I never feel like I am missing anything when the day starts this way. When I am sleepy I crawl into my bat cave bed with a book and my eyeglasses, and I never feel that I have missed the night.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Sheeple (a portmanteau of "sheep" and "people") is a term of disparagement in which people are likened to sheep, a herd animal. The term is used to describe those who voluntarily acquiesce to a suggestion without critical analysis or research. By doing so, they undermine their own individuality and may willingly give up their rights.
-Sheeple From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Richard Brautigan

There's a Richard Brautigan story, was it Trout Fishing in America? Anyway just now I thought of the moment when a voluptuous woman, who is so beautiful causes a fatal car wreck.

Walking Lily always feels like this. Just now a lady with a Yorkshire terrier and Chihuahua lost hold of one of the leashes and I screamed holding up my arms to stop traffic as her loose Chihuahua ran in the road to cross over and meet Lily.

Bruce Holland Rogers

by Bruce Holland Rogers

When he was very young, he waved his arms, gnashed the teeth of his massive jaws, and tromped around the house so that the dishes trembled in the china cabinet. “Oh, for goodness sake,” his mother said. “You are not a dinosaur! You are a human being!” Since he was not a dinosaur, he thought for a time that he might be a pirate. “Seriously,” his father said at some point, “what do you want to be?” A fireman, then. Or a policeman. Or a soldier. Some kind of hero. But in high school they gave him tests and told him he was very good with numbers. Perhaps he would like to be a math teacher? That was respectable. Or a tax accountant? He could make a lot of money doing that. It seemed a good idea to make money, what with falling in love and thinking about raising a family. So he was a tax accountant, even though he sometimes regretted that it made him, well, small. And he felt even smaller when he was no longer a tax accountant, but a retired tax accountant. Still worse, a retired tax accountant who forgot things. He forgot to take the garbage to the curb, forgot to take his pill, forgot to turn his hearing aid back on. Every day it seemed he had forgotten more things, important things, like which of his children lived in San Francisco and which of his children were married or divorced.

Then one day when he was out for a walk by the lake, he forgot what his mother had told him. He forgot that he was not a dinosaur. He stood blinking his dinosaur eyes in the bright sunlight, feeling the familiar warmth on his dinosaur skin, watching dragonflies flitting among the horsetails at the water’s edge.

-(c)Bruce Holland Rogers. Posted with permission from the author.

join Short Short Short here.

Dr. Benjamin Spock

Children who grow up getting nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer.

All the time a person is a child he is both a child and learning to be a parent. After he becomes a parent he becomes predominantly a parent reliving childhood.

-Dr. Benjamin Spock

Thought Balloon


One of the earliest antecedents to the modern speech bubble were the “speech scrolls”, wispy lines that connected first person speech to the mouths of the speakers in Mesoamerican art.

In Western graphic art, labels that reveal what a pictured figure is saying have appeared since at least the 13th century. Word balloons (also known as 'banderoles') began appearing in 18th-century printed broadsides, and political cartoons from the American Revolution often used them. With the development of the comics industry in the 20th century, the appearance of speech balloons has become increasingly standardized, though the formal conventions that have evolved in different cultures (USA as opposed to Japan, for example), can be quite distinct.


I Pledge Allegiance to Public Radio

Dear Public Radio,
You are my life blood but I cannot send you money since at this time in my life, I have none. So I am sending out this love letter in the hopes that it might help. You are my lifeblood. My public radio is on from 3AM until 7PM every day nourishing me, inspiring me, informing me, and making me laugh and cry. I couldn't ask for a better relationship. Your work is enrichment for me and my work and I can't thank you enough.

Alligator-Filled Potholes

As a teenager I felt like my mother could look right inside my mind and see my thoughts and dreams and wishes. She could see my clear see - through body like those plastic toy science models. She said "I had bad wiring" implying there was something wrong with me thinking there was something wrong with her. She was the one confessing to me that she was addicted to speed. Does dad know? I immediately asked. I remember the moment vividly - we were in the car one the way to my therapist. I was 11.

She said she could behave the same way to my other siblings and I would always respond differently. It was always my fault that I could see deeply and feel deeply. And she made it clear that it was my responsibility that she could not see these things. She told me I was responsible for curtailing her out of control behavior. As if I wasn't busy navigating my own alligator-filled potholes.

I remember vivid dreams of smashing heavy clear glass cookie jars. I had so much anger and it began to twist inward going as a force against myself. I wanted to disappear, I wanted to die.

As a 28 year old adult I read about Munchhausen's Syndrome-By-Proxy and a window opened.

Things made sense

and suddenly a map was drawn.

I always wanted to be a cartographer.

John Cage

Never have a job, because if you have a job someday someone will take it away from you and then you will be unprepared for your old age. For me, it has always been the same every since the age of 12. I wake up in the morning and I try to figure out how am I going to put bread on the table today? It is the same at 75, I wake up every morning and I think how am I going to put bread on the table today? I am exceedingly well prepared for my old age.
-John Cage, Composer

Water Shut Off

Never a dull moment.

Wizard of Oz

Today Kurt Anderson is featuring the Wizard of Oz on public radio. I always felt that this story was the ultimate folktale and a subsequent map for my life. As a child we had the music on a record and I used to listen to it over and over and study the little black and white photo on the back where Judy Garland is in bed surrounded by her friends.

After the witches striped stockings curled up under the house.
I had to sleep with the hall light on

I performed the Cowardly Lion speech in 6th grade oratorical contest, and won.

I copied the illustration on the album cover as a painting when I was 14.

My friends Amy's dad filmed Maxwell House TV commercials with Margaret Hamilton. I was still terrified of her.

When I ran away, Providence Rhode Island's state house was my Emerald City and neighbor.

My blond Labrador Travis was my Toto.

My step sister's mother looked like Glinda the good witch, living in Englewood New Jersey.

I had plenty of witches in my life and still do -- both good ones and bad ones.

I met the Lion Tin Man and Scarecrow (types) in Providence and now, everywhere.

I have been a huge fan of Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton, Ray Bolger, Burt Lahr, Frank Morgan, and Billie Burke.

I Dreamed

I dreamed I was wearing scrubs, light blue slacks and flowery top. I was working at a senior assistance center and a guy walked by the window with 2 Rottweiler puppies. I ran out to meet them. I squatted down and sniffed them said I love the puppy smell. And I could smell it in the dream. The owner said they were male and female, husband and wife, not siblings, and that he was going to breed them.

Bob Kaufman

I live alone, like pith in a tree,
My teeth rattle, like musical instruments.
In one ear a spider spins its web of eyes,
In the other a cricket chirps all night,
This is the end,
Which art, that proves my glory has brought me.
I would die for Poetry.
-Bob Kaufman

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Tree

My tree has turned highway department orange!

Public Usage

One of my pet peeves is radio announcers who mispronounce common usage words. It's just as exasperating as public clocks set to the wrong time.

M.F.K. Fisher

It was there, I now understand, that I started to grow up, to study, to make love, to eat and drink, to be me and not what I was expected to be. It was there that I learned it is blessed to receive, as well as that every human being, no matter how base, is worthy of my respect and even envy because he knows something that I may never be old or wise or kind or tender enough to know.
M.F.K. Fisher -from the preface Long Ago in France

Wanting to Help

I was a volunteer at the Rape Crisis Center 20 years ago. I went through the training but after my first hospital visit and court visit I couldn't go back. I was re-traumatized, and I realized I wasn't prepared to help someone when I was so vulnerable. I still feel like I want to help others especially concerning areas of abuse but I may have to do it through my stories and paintings and music. I do think writing and walking and breathing are powerful inexpensive tools for people to get free. Maybe there's a way I can help.


Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.
-Anton Chekhov

Painting is my lawful wife and literature and music are my mistresses; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.

Jennifer Rawlings



Confess your hidden faults.
Approach what you find repulsive.
Help those you think you cannot help.
Anything you are attached to, let it go.
Go to the places that scare you.
-advice from her teacher to the Tibetan Yogini Machik Labdron

Syntax and Accents

My only interest in travel is in hearing different syntax and accents. I only need to walk down my street to experience that.

Rob Rosenthal's Workshop

Visit here.
Harrington’s 1997 book Intimate Journalism, opens with a quote from historian Will Durant:

Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting, and doing the things historians usually record; while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry, and even whittle statues. The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Colorful Past

Whenever I see those red rubber hot water bottles I think of my mother's administering of enemas. She used a white hard plastic nozzle that was like a sprinkler head which years later I learned was the douche bag attachment. She used this attachment to administer enemas on me. She would call the emergency room in a panic and say I just gave my daughter an enema and it didn't work, what do I do? Then she'd slam down the white boxy dial phone and say "I need to give you a 'high colonic' enema. Now she was an expert and an authority. I'm supposed to hold the bag, over my head, six feet in the air, she said. And, I need to use soap as an irritant. She was breathless with her own high-drama. She'd lather up a striped pale green bar of Irish Spring soap, filling the red plastic bottle in her pink bathroom sink and try again. As if this wasn't humiliating enough I was naked on my knees in her pink tile bathroom in her porcelain tub. This was a daily event for a spell during high school. Doctors orders, she insisted. She was unstoppable and she was on a mission and I was filling with shame. My mother really thought of herself as a doctor and even worse, as MY doctor. She had an oblong leather black bag with short looped handles resembling an antique doctors bag, that she used as a purse. She drove her Volvo station wagon like it was an ambulance blasting through red lights. "Mom!!" I shouted, its a red light. "It's okay if you honk while doing it", she'd snap. Most frightening was that she thought 'doctor mom' was a perfectly suitable role for herself. She would've preferred that her Volvo was red, like a fire truck, but requested navy blue and sobbed when it arrived from the dealership in a lighter shade of blue.

Rewards of the Parade

Yesterday I was walking by The Castle Luncheonette and the waitress was coming out with their menu and their OPEN flag said "I saw you in the parade!"
It was fun, wasn't it! I said.
This happens every year, I meet people the city who've seen us parading though the neighborhood. It's very sweet and makes me feel homey.

Three Dog Night

Last night we walked to Precious Blood Cemetery we saw the kids we know from the neighborhood accompanied by adult. I said hello. The lady with them didn't say anything. I made a comment to Bill about adults being rude. Then Bill spotted three sun dogs. Bill held onto Lily and I ran over and loaned the girls my sunglasses to look through (for easier viewing). The girls took turns looking and oohed and ahhed. When I acknowledged the adult with them she smiled and made a few sounds, and I realized she was deaf.

Bob Seay Rocks!

Fall Membership drive.

Double Chocolate Labradors

Years ago I met a fun storytelling guy at a friends Easter Sunday dinner. He said as a boy scout he did all of the cooking since he didn't trust anyone else's food. He grew up in a Jewish household and the whole Kosher food thing was a big deal. He's a big professional chef and married a skinny petite blonde vegetarian woman who is a nutritionist. They are an adorable couple. I think they both met on the job. He invited me to go with him to the SYSCO fair and collect all the free food they unload at closing time. Someday maybe I'll take him up on it and have a neighborhood block party with the leftovers.

My French Canadian pal Donat is 87. He resembles Mahatma Ghandi but tall and with a Groucho Marx sense of humor he is what I call a street guru. I adore him. He walks all over for many miles each day and stops to tell me jokes and stories when we cross paths. I often spot him on the opposite side of the street walking and talking aloud, working things out. He lives a few blocks from me in the elderly high rise. A few years ago he was hit by a car when he was walking on the sidewalk. Luckily after the accident he was determined to be healthy and mobile again. He's been back up and walking miles again daily for years. I always wear bright red or yellow when walking now and try to urge my walking and bicycle riding friends to do the same. It's amazing what people don't see when driving. Twice yesterday I screamed when a a car was coming and a loose dog was in the road; once on Edgewater drive when Brady got loose and ran up towards Lily and once on Hazel street when Shelby got loose. Coincidentally both dogs are middle aged Chocolate Labradors. They are invisible and the owners are knuckle heads for not being more careful. Shelby's owner bragged "Once they're hit they don't get hit again, my Pitbull just got hit, he said and she's fine but the car is dented" Are you kidding, I said, It's the humans who need to learn to keep their dogs out of the road!"

Lily is a dog magnet. Luckily she is always friendly, so I usually try to cross towards any loose dogs I see so they don't dart across and get hit. I would feel awful and responsible if that happened. I know, I know.

Heard amazing story on The Moth radio hour this morning. Listen for Jenna Levin telling her astro-physicists love story.

Robot Petting Zoo


The Moth Radio Hour


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Rescued Owl


Robert Bly

As I've gotten older, I find I am able to be nourished more by sorrow and to distinguish it from depression.

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.

One day while studying a [William Butler] Yeats poem I decided to write poetry the rest of my life. I recognized that a single short poem has room for history, music, psychology, religious thought, mood, occult speculation, character, and events of one's own life.

There are a lot of men who are healthier at age fifty then they have ever been before, because a lot of their fear is gone.

We can exchange sparks of light with another's eyes when we meet our lover on the dance floor at someone else's wedding. Our brains then go about warmed and fiery, and with one note they can explode into cello concertos and can imagine the giant blinking at the top of the bean stalk... His barbarous fingers scratching his head.

There is a privacy I love in this snowy night. Driving around, I will waste more time.

-Robert Bly

Hope and Courage

You may possess only a small light, but uncover it, let it shine, use it in order to bring more light and understanding to the hearts and minds of men and women. Give them not Hell, but hope and courage. Do not push them deeper into their theological despair, but preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.
-John Murray, An early American Universalist

Motherhood or Shining a Light on Hell

Through my childhood my mother took me to scores of medical professionals. As a very small child I had an annual GI series. I had to drink a radioactive grape-flavored malted and they bumped my belly with what looked like the back of a television set. I had a picture of myself as a sickly, frail, and a crippled weakling. But I was actually a fierce fighter.

These medical tests and subsequent surgeries went on through elementary, middle school and finally in my second year of high school when I was chasing the poet boys in my class my mother found a doctor who was drastic enough to temporarily paralyze me and bind me to her as if I were a helpless infant.

This doctor, a NY gastroenterologist was claiming to be shrinking my "distended" intestine by liquefying the contents of my guts through administering poisonous doses of Squibb heavy mineral oil. This was one of many kinds of treatments. I was prescribed 11 ounces three times a day, with a descending dose. This went on for 8-10 weeks.

I was locked up inside the house away from school away from my friends, taking this disgusting stuff. It caused all food to liquefy inside me and continually leak out. I oozed a disgusting smelly bright orange oil. I had to wear diapers and rubber sheets on my bed. I felt intense shame and went into hiding.

I was 16 and had been planning my escape since I was 13, collecting cast iron frying pans in my bedroom closet. By the age of 15, 16 and finally by age 17 I was running for my life. My mother was threatening surgery again this time saying she'd give me a colostomy. I knew this was not necessary because I had no "condition" but I also knew she could have ordered this surgery on me as she did with all of the others.

I escaped. I was technically still enrolled in the public high school but I was living on my own. I found a job working as a cashier at a health food store in the village while living on Mott Street in NYC Chinatown. I was given credit for the time I wasn't at school, and I graduated a year early as a junior. I was granted English credit for my poetry and journals.

I now see that even my mother's neurotic behavior was indicative of her mental illness. She was repeating her own physical and mental traumas on me. But that's another story for another day. Thank god for my school teachers. I have thanked a few of them, along with a few parents of friends who let me hide in their houses.

When I was five I knew I didn't want a life like my mother. Now I feel I'm the mother of a dog and cat and someday possibly a cow. I am the mother of bread, the mother of pie, the mother of yogurt, but not the mother of a human. I've had to relearn and rediscover the good mother through my grandmother because I didn't learn it from my birth-mother. As Robert Bly says in his book Iron John - you have to make a room in the (psychic) house for the bad father and a room for the good father, so true.

As my high school poetry teacher said to me when we visited him recently: You will continue see this in a myriad of new ways as you age.

Taking a Stand

Each week in art school we would draw from a live nude model. There were simple wooden easels that filled the room holding our large newsprint pads and a few horses; benches you straddled with the drawing pad hooked against a few half dowels so it wouldn't slide. I hated to sit and never once used the horse. I felt like I needed my whole body to see the model. It was intense and exhausting and I would sneak out after a few hours and bicycle home to my tiny apartment a few neighborhoods away and walk my big dog Travis and then make chicken soup. The point of this story is I had to stand. I required it to think.

Years ago my husband set up his computer monitor by mounting it on the top of his desk which was formerly an upright piano. It was at eye level. "I can't sit," he said. A few years ago I decided to try this too. I love to work standing. I stand to play my sax. I stand to paint I stand to read and write. But I do sit to write letters on paper. When my eyes flutter shut I take a nap.

Read this too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

In the Folk Tales

In the folk tales the trees are cut down but the grass grows and sings the story. Now I am an adult, yet younger in spirit than I've ever been. I'm dancing in the streets, blowing my horn, writing my stories. The horrors of my childhood have come out so hopefully the next generation can have a better life. Every little bit helps the writer and the reader.

Photography Book: Money Power Respect


Ana Castillo

Author of PEEL MY LOVE LIKE AN ONION is one of my favorite writers. When a poet writes a novel the world is never the same and she has written a bunch.

It was not at all premeditated. I just started writing, and it got out of hand.
-Ana Castillo

I am silver and sapphire: a woman on fire.
-Ana Castillo, Waterbird Medicine


If you want to look in the phone book for cheap apartments beware of the slumlords whose ghetto compounds are abundant (and alphabetized) in this amazing city. Unfortunately they're giving Woonsocket a bad name.

Daredevil in a Local Jumpsuit


Heart of the City

I judge any city by the quality and personalities of its reference librarians.

Kurt Vonnegut

Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
-Kurt Vonnegut

George Orwell

The Puritanical nonsense of excluding children and therefore to some extent women from pubs has turned these places into mere boozing shops instead of the family gathering places that they ought to be.
-George Orwell

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ana Castillo

Poverty has its advantages. When you're that poor what would you have that anyone would want?
Except your peace of mind. Your dignity. Your heart.
The important things.
― Ana Castillo, Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel

The man you love cooking for you is good for you too.
― Ana Castillo, Peel My Love Like an Onion: A Novel

Anne Lamott


Rules of the Game

The rules of my first kitchen job were not foreign to me at all because they were not unlike growing up under the regime of my mother. Rule number one "look busy" which means do not read, eat, or look like you are enjoying yourself even though you are doing a fun job or visiting your parents at their weekend country house. Rule number two "do not to make a mistake, ever" or you'll never live it down. It will go on your permanent record distorted and repeated forever until everyone and their progeny is long dead. This includes even trivial things, especially trivial things! These rules apply to family, school, and all kitchen jobs.

Maira Kalman


Camel Jumping and Coffee

View the pictures here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Anne Lamott

By Anne Lamott

Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life. It gave me ME. It provided the time and experience and failures and triumphs and friends who helped me step into the shape that had been waiting for me all my life. I fit into me now. I finally have an organic life now, not the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have, or the life someone else might celebrate as a successful one. I have the life I dreamed of. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I could be. There are parts I didn't love until a few years ago, I had no idea that you could get cellulite on your stomach! But I not only get along with me most of the time now, I am militantly and maternally on my own side.

Left to my own devices, would I trade this for firm thighs, fewer wrinkles, a better memory? Some days, yes. That's why it's such a blessing I'm not left to my own devices. Because the truth is, I have amazing friends and a deep faith in God, both of whom I can turn to. I've learned to pay attention to life and to listen. I'd give up all this for a flatter belly? Are you kidding?

I still have terrible moments when I despair about my body. But they are just moments I used to have years ago when I believed I would be more beautiful if I jiggled less; if all the parts of my body stopped moving when I did. But I believe two things now that I didn't at 30. When we get to Heaven, we will discover that the appearance of our butts and skin was 3,127th on the list of
what mattered on this earth. I am not going to live forever, and this truth has set me free.

Eleven years ago, when my friend Pam was dying of cancer at the age of 37, we went shopping. She was in a wheelchair, wearing a wig and had just three weeks to live. I tried on a short dress and came out to model it for her. I asked if she thought it made me look big in the thighs, and so kindly she said, "Anne, you just don't have that kind of time." I live by those words.

I am thrilled for every gray hair and achy muscle, because of all the friends who died too young of heart attacks and cancer and car accidents. And much of the stuff I used to worry about has subsided. What other people think of me and of how I live my life I give these things the big shrug. It's a huge relief.

I became more successful in my 40s, but this pales compared to the other gifts of this decade how kind to myself I have become, what a wonderful, tender friend I am to myself. I get myself tubs of hot soapy water at the end of a long day. I run interference for myself when I am working, and I live by the truth that "No" is a complete sentence.

I insist on the right to swim in warm water at every opportunity, no matter how young and gorgeous the other people on the beach are. I don't think that if I live to be 80, I'll wish I'd spent more hours in the gym or kept my house cleaner. I think I'm going to wish I had swum more unashamedly, made more mistakes, acted sillier, laughed more. On the day I die, I want to have had dessert.

I have survived so much loss, as all of us have by this time: my parents, dear friends, beloved pets. If you haven't already, you will lose someone you can't live without, and your heart will be badly broken .. and the bad news is that you will never completely get over that loss. But the good news is that they will live forever, in your broken heart that never heals. It's like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly, that still hurts when the weather is cold but you learn to dance with the limp. You dance to the music of old friendships and old loves.

I danced alone for a number of years and came to believe that I might not ever have a passionate, romantic relationship again and might end up alone. I'd been terrified of that all my life. But now I know I'd rather never be a couple again than to be in a toxic relationship.

Younger women worry that their memories will begin to go and you know what? They will. Menopause has not increased my focus and retention as much as I'd hoped. But a lot is better off missed and forgotten.

I know that many women fear getting older. I wish I could gather all younger women together and give them my word of honor that every one of my friends loves being older, loves being in her 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. My Aunt Gertrude is 85 and she leaves us all in the dust when we hike. Sure, my feet hurt some mornings and my body is less forgiving than it used to be but I love my life more, and I love me more.

It's like that old saying: It's not that I think less of myself, but that I think of myself less often. And that feels like heaven to me.

Make the most of this day!

Brave Combo

Brave Combo is coming back to NYC Monday November 26th. See you there!

Bobby McFerrin

There's a great radio show on public radio every Sunday morning 7am (here) called ON BEING with Krista Tippett.

Today she interviewed Bobby McFerrin--try to listen on podcast--AMAZING.

World peace through music!

He also talks about ancestral memory. . . . (very cool---and true)!

Maya Angelou

You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

-Maya Angelou, from Conversations with Maya Angelou.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Anne Lamott

That is what happens in fairy tales; the wound or the danger guides you straight into the heart of itself, and you end up finding you.
-Anne Lamott

Marge Piercy Interview

Can you talk a bit about your memories of growing up in Detroit? How has your upbringing influenced your work?

Everything was out in the open in Detroit. Class distinctions were really obvious. Jews weren't white when I was growing up, and I grew up in a neighborhood African-American and white by blocks. In many ways, I was closer to the blacks. The invasion of our neighborhood by troops and tanks was very frightening during the race riots of my childhood. Anti-Semitism was blatant and everywhere. I've written about that.

The other thing about Detroit was that even in poor and working-class neighborhoods, there were lots of gorgeous trees. We had huge elms in front of our asbestos shack and behind it. And the sandy soil is very fertile. You don't have barren land in Detroit. If a house burns down, as they so frequently do, the lot fills up almost at once with lush growth.

You have said that the best gifts you can give a poet are field guides to rocks, stars, birds, amphibians, and wildflowers. Why would these be particularly helpful to a poet?

Imagery comes directly out of your own core. It comes from how you perceive the world, how carefully you look and listen, how well you remember, how your mind works. What we have to draw on is largely dependent on how much attention we've paid to what's within and outside of us. Learning to pay attention: looking at shades of green. Not all trees are green, and even those that are differ wildly. How many birds can you identify? In other words, how many times have you looked carefully at a bird? Can you tell by the weeds and wildflowers growing in a meadow if it is dry or wet, good soil or scanty, sweet or acid? How does the bark of a beech differ from the bark of an elm? The bark of a black cherry? The bark of a Scotch pine from that of a pitch pine?

The more precise the attention you pay to the world around you, the more you will rejoice in, the more stuff will be in you that rises as real metaphor and simile, expressive, precise, powerful, felt. Anything we truly experience and take in is the stuff of metaphor. Primo Levi, the great Italian writer, has a book of short stories called The Periodic Table, from chemistry. Each of the tales is a different element. Metaphors out of physics are often powerful and fresh. As a poet or a novelist, you are a generalist in the old sense, and you ought to know everything you can. The wider your curiosity ranges, the more interesting metaphors will rise. Memory and observation can be trained to precision and retention.

It is the ability to produce the precise detail that makes a seashore not simply a flat stage setting that evokes nothing, but a real shore that brings with it a little of the power of the sea. It is the observation of what kind of shell is on a particular beach — quite different on Cape Cod than at Daytona Beach. The sand itself is different. Knowledge as well as memory blend with imagination to produce fresh and powerful imagery.

The writer Grace Paley said that when you are a poet, you speak to the world, and when you are a story writer, you get the world to speak to you. Would you agree? Is poetry more personal than other kinds of writing?

Definitely. Of course, it does not make the least bit of difference to the power of a poem if it is truly autobiographical or an amalgamation of persons and events or you are speaking in the persona of a friend or historical or mythological being. If I am writing as my cat Sugar Ray, nonetheless, I am writing out of my life and experience.

When I am writing fiction, I am usually entering other lives. I am a very nosy person and other people's lives fascinate me. I want to know how all their stories come out. Fiction is very much about time — so what happens next, and then what, and what finally? I explore the choices I did not make, the roads I did not travel down. Two roads diverge in a yellow road, but I get to go down both of them through my fiction.

-Marge Piercy, ReadInterview Writer's Almanac Bookshelf

Friday, October 12, 2012

All Me: A Film about Winfred Rembert

Winfred Rembert

Winfred Rembert, a 66 year-old African American, grew up in Cuthbert, a town in the Southwestern corner of Georgia. Rembert was given away at birth to a great aunt. He spent much of his childhood as a field worker beside his great aunt in the cotton and peanut fields. When he could attend school, he loved drawing but not much else. Attendance at a civil rights demonstration got him thrown in jail without charges or a trial. An escape over a year later resulted in a prison sentence, but only after Rembert had survived an attempted lynching. He fell in love with his future wife, and with leather as an art medium, while serving seven years on Georgia chain gangs. Life and eight children intervened after prison; it was not until 1995 that Rembert began to carve, tool and then dye pictures on leather, in his studio in the front room of his home in New Haven, Connecticut. Most of his colorful art depicts scenes and themes from African American life in segregated Cuthbert, GA and from the time he spent on those chain gangs. His work was exhibited at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2000 and a triptych about a lynching was acquired by Yale for their permanent collection. Rembert subsequently exhibited at various other venues. His first major catalogued one-man exhibition was presented in New York in 2010 by Adelson Galleries in association with Peter Tillou Works of Art. Rembert and his family still live in New Haven's inner city. In 2012, a traveling exhibition, a retrospective of Rembert's art, was curated by the Hudson River Museum, where it showed from February to May. It is currently on exhibition at the Greenville Art Museum in Greenville, South Carolina, where it will be through August 2012.

How to Stay Warm Without a Heater


William Blake

Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.
-William Blake

Post Parade Promenade

I had the most amazing walk last night in Blackstone. All the kids who had seen us in the parade wanted to come up and tell us, and pet Lily.
"She's wet!"
"She went swimming."
"You're wearing your picnic shirt," the girl on Valley Street loves to tell me whenever I have my red and white checkered blouse.

It is good neighborhood theater to see people in the annual Autumnfest parade. We feel lucky to have been in it. Next October will be our tenth year parading. Even the Public Works guys and the local Police teased me.

Hot Cold, Hot Cold

Zippered hoodies keep me warm indoors inside our unheated home, and unzip fast for rapid cooling.

Dreamer, not Lazy

Walter the Lazy Mouse by Marjorie Flack was a childhood book I owned, that haunted me for years. The message spelled out in archetypal fashion is that Walter was lazy and paid for it. I still think about this book today. The moment when Walter comes home and finds that his family has moved away spooked me. I thought about it every day when I walked home for lunch from elementary school. I was not lazy but I was a dreamer and my family did eventually move away.

Robert Coles

We should look inward and think about the meaning of our life and its purposes, lest we do it in 20 or 30 years and it's too late.
-Robert Coles

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Walking or Washing While you Think

I have always thought dog walking would be a good job for a writer, if you’re the sort of person who thinks while you walk. Delivering mail is great if you love being in the outdoors. Washing dishes is great especially if you love the meditative aspects of water and the drama of a restaurant.

Michael Chabon

In 2000, Chabon told The New York Times that he kept a strict schedule, writing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, Sunday through Thursday. He tries to write 1,000 words a day. Commenting on the rigidity of his routine, Chabon said, "There have been plenty of self-destructive rebel-angel novelists over the years, but writing is about getting your work done and getting your work done every day. If you want to write novels, they take a long time, and they're big, and they have a lot of words in them.... The best environment, at least for me, is a very stable, structured kind of life."

The Orphan Mustachioed Walrus


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Paul Theroux

Being available at any time in the totally accessible world seemed to me pure horror.

-Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari

Anne Lamott

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should've behaved better.
-Anne Lamott

List of Phobias


Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi

La Traviata is my favorite opera!! I have seen it performed twice and I wore out the music playing it daily for years.

Cheers to Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi, born 10 October 1813.

Read here
and here.

More Than a Word Deficit

Child-parents with hand held devices, wheeling their babies into traffic.

Woolly Mammoth

Listening to a radio show about this amazing theater.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


We cannot pick our audience, our friends or our family. But luckily there are some things we can choose.

Beyond Comfort

To reach our goals we have to step out of our comfort zone.

Camille Saint-Saens

I like good company, but I like hard work still better.
-Camille Saint-Saens

Caught My Ear

The future belongs to those who understand that doing more with less is compassionate, prosperous, and enduring, and thus more intelligent, even competitive.
-Paul Hawken

If we were not provided with the knack of being wrong, we could never get anything useful done. We think our way along by choosing between right and wrong alternatives, and the wrong choices have to be made as frequently as the right ones.
-Lewis Thomas

Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
-Mark Twain

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.
-Japanese Proverb

Kay Redfield Jamison

I long ago abandoned the notion of a life without storms, or a world without dry and killing seasons. Life is too complicated, too constantly changing, to be anything but what it is. And I am, by nature, too mercurial to be anything but deeply wary of the grave unnaturalness involved in any attempt to exert too much control over essentially uncontrollable forces. There will always be propelling, disturbing elements, and they will be there until, as Lowell put it, the watch is taken from the wrist.

It is, at the end of the day, the individual moments of restlessness, of bleakness, of strong persuasions and maddened enthusiasms, that inform one's life, change the nature and direction of one's work, and give final meaning and color to one's loves and friendships.

― Kay Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

Tift Merritt

I think, at the end of the day, I have an outsider's heart, Merritt says. You always hope that you're going to find that place where you belong — you know, you follow the map or the playbook that everyone in the world seems to have, or understand, and you will arrive at the place where things make sense. And I think ... that's a little naive, and that you have to build that place yourself. And that's a lonely thing to realize, but also an exciting one.
-Tift Merritt

Golden Moment

I had a golden moment yesterday playing music, parading under the orange trees.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Harvey Pekar

I wanted to write literature that pushed people into their lives rather than helping people escape from them.
-Harvey Pekar

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Urban Mobility Project



When I was a kid I was no stranger to rodents in fact loved them and all things miniature. I had a tiny doll house and little mouse houses for my mice dolls. I bred tropical fish in a small ten gallon tank in my bedroom and made hand drawn backdrops for them every few weeks that were visible through the back panel of glass. I would turn off the lights and be hypnotized by them swimming lit only by the fish tank lamp above. I also had about 30 gerbils. I continually bred them and traded them at my local pet store for cedar shavings pet litter, and bags of gerbil food. I was eleven.

One year on our Florida vacation my cousin took us to see the movie Willard and I totally freaked. The next year we went on vacation to Puerto Rico and stayed at the San Juan Hilton Hotel. One afternoon were stand