Friday, October 31, 2014


"Guys, don't come to work with the rage inside. If you need to chill out just ask. The last thing we need is aggression leftovers, you know what I mean? That's how people get hurt. It's not a weakness if you need to take ten and sit in the dark during your shift. Policeman's meditation. I don't mean to sound all crunchy granola but this is important. If you've had a fight with your wife or neighbor don't take it out on your community. We've all done it. We've all had bad days that we drag in here with us. Just don't be too proud to take ten. Practice the chill drill."


"Leonie, lean on me. That's what your name means to me. Leonie baby! Did your mom plan for your name to be Leo if you were a boy?"
"Yeah, and my sister Georgette was gonna be George. They was hoping for boys but they ended up with six girls!"
"I think people shouldn't name their kids right away. They should find out what they're like and then decide. Is she a Margaret or a Cynthia? There's a big difference and God forbid you're saddled with the wrong name. It can ruin a person."
"You can change your name you know."
"I know but it's not the same. You want your parents to see who you really are. They're the first ones - and they ought to pay close attention. Growing up Rosalie is not the same as growing up Edna."
"I kinda like them cow names - Betty, Abby, Florence, Matilda . . ."


If we had some heat in this damn place maybe I could think. I'm just shivering all the time. I drink so much hot coffee I got a hole in my stomach and then I'm awake all night. Well, I'm not awake, I'm dreaming.

That's called hallucinating.

I'm not hallucinating. I know what that is but I'm awake during my dreams. I'm participating in them, making them go. Then, in the morning I'm exhausted and my mouth is dry. It feels like a herd of camels walked across my tongue.

Wow, maybe if we put in a wood stove that would put an end to the coffee and the camels.

Nah, life would get boring.


It's Friday but it feels like Saturday. Yesterday felt like a Friday. Last week was all Fridays. Did you ever see days of the week as colors? Fridays are red. Saturdays are wide and brown. Mondays are pale yellow, Tuesdays are beige. Wednesdays are wide and maybe pink, Thursdays are orange, Sunday is light blue. Or maybe Fridays are purple. Saturday is black and skinny, Sunday is white, Monday is gray. Tuesday is chartreuse, Wednesday is yellow with orange polka dots, Thursday's magenta.


She eats bugs.


That's what she said. Bug soup, bug sandwiches, and just plain bugs. Buttered bread with bugs, fried in oil bugs. She said if you close your eyes you can do it and they're not bad.

How about worms?

No way. Not unless they're dried on the sidewalk. She says the flat ones can be slipped into a sandwich.


I heard Jess' uncle shot her dad and he's at corrections.

Is that where they teach you to read and write?

Only if you shoot someone.

I didn't shoot anyone so why do I have to go to corrections?

You're in school silly, not jail. Corrections is jail, prison.


"I told you not to buy it. I told you forget about it but no, you fuckin' didn't listen to me," Rick shouted, raising his hand.
"Rick no!" Angie yelled.
"Why don't you ever listen to me Angie?"
"I do. I do!"
"No you don't." His hand slammed down on the table. "That's how we got ourselves into this fix."


Sarah's mom can't leave the house without opening and closing all the doors and windows. She has to retie her shoes over and over until the laces are perfectly matched.

It's a disease.

I hope I don't catch it.

Me too.

Julie's mom screams curses in her sleep.

Where'd you hear that?

Alice told me. She slept over once at Julie's.

Alice's mom danced until her feet were bloody stumps.

Where did her feet go?

They wore off. That's what happens to ballerinas. Her shoes hold pretend feet.

Is that why she's in a wheelchair?

Don't ever ask Alice's mom about her feet.

If you eat blueberries you become blue. That's why I always count mine and stop at 99.

When you eat beets you get red poop. It's true! And if you eat corn and beets you get red and yellow polka dotted poop.

We cover the electric sockets so the electricity doesn't leak out. It's expensive and you don't want to breathe it cuz then you glow in the dark.

I'd love that, then I could see where I am at night.

But it's dangerous, you could get hit by lightning. It's better to be invisible.

Misbehaving Computer

You sound good. My computer is lettipne leermeat a imeicked uputeris not ing!mpute rkingHoy crap! I puching ut nces at'noorking right.

Dreams within Dreams

I dreamed I sliced a loaf of bread using the edge of my hand.
I dreamed I was in a parade.
I dreamed I bought a shack at Carpenter's beach and it was painted blue inside and was set up like a concession stand with a soda counter. Where would I sleep? I was having buyer's remorse.
I dreamed I was with my dog Lily. I ran into a friend selling hot dogs and I was telling her about my beach shack dream.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Snippets

'Wanda Lee Jones, what the hell are you doin' out there?" Clara yelled from the kitchen window.
"I'm letting them suck on my fingers."
"Them baby cows think your fingers are going to sprout milk, They think you is their new mama."
"I don't mind, I like it."
"Now go on wash your hands and scrub 'em good. You don't want them cow slime germs in your food."
Wanda washed her hands and sat down close to the window.
"You're a dreamer, girl. You just dream all the time. What we gonna do with you?"
Clara was making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Wanda and one for herself. They sat opposite each other at the small wooden table.
"You're a dreamer too," Wanda said.
"I am not, I am no dreamer," Clara stated.
"We're all dreamers watching the leaves wiggle and the cows graze and the sky with clouds moving," Wanda said.
"That's you, not me. I don't have time to stare at clouds and leaves. I got work to do, washing, mending, baking, cooking, cleaning. By the end of the day my body is so sore my bed is the only dream I have. I lay down and say thank you Lord for my cozy bed." She got up and took the empty plates to the sink.
"Wanda, you go on out and play but stay out of trouble, ya hear?"


"The hell you say, you expect me to believe that? I caught you! I fucking caught you, so don't tell me your lies. I've had it!" Jack yelled.
He reached into the closet and grabbed his suitcase, opening it on the bed.
"No Jack you have to listen."
"I'm done listening. Now I'm packing."
"Packing? Where are you going?"
"Out of this mess."
"This isn't a mess, this is a misunderstanding."
"Then my life is one big misunderstanding. And I'm done."
"Don't say that. Don't talk like that."
"What do you expect me to say? I come home and find you in the bathtub with another man. And don't tell me he's the plumber testing the drain. Bubbles, candles and champagne. I'm a fool to stay another minute."


"Why is everyone so afraid of things?" Skipper asked.
"What do you mean, honey?" replied her mom.
"Well, Mrs Robinson won't drink tap water. She says the government puts dangerous chemicals in it. Mrs B cooks her dog supper because she doesn't trust dog food. And Mr Leonard won't let anyone shake his hand."
"I don't know why, Skipper, but everyone is afraid of something. It's just that some fears are more interesting than others."
"I'm afraid of finding a dead finger on the sidewalk" Skipper said.
"That's an interesting one," her mom said.
"Molly's dad had that happen to him. He's a fireman and he found a loose finger on the ground. It still had the wedding ring on and red nail polish."

Noir Vignette

She felt like a mermaid in her silver shimmery dress. The headlights flashed across her hips as they passed. It was hot and damp and dark. She was hypnotized by the reflection of car headlights on wet asphalt. A dark green Jaguar stopped at the curb.
"Excuse me," a voice said from inside. The passenger window was open. "Do you know if this road leads to Ribbons Lane?" The man asked.
"Sorry sir, I've never heard of it," Gloria replied.
The electric window zipped shut and he sped away. She noticed his car had apothecary-shaped tail lights. That's a new one she thought. Apothecary tail lights. I wonder what that means? Her toes felt cramped in her black velvet high heels.
"Barb, Do you have a light?" Gloria asked her comrade who was leaning against the gray stucco wall.
"Is the Pope Catholic?" Barb replied, taking the silver lighter from her pale pink leather purse and lighting Gloria's cigarette. Gloria took a huge drag.
"Thanks, Barb, I can always count on you," Gloria said while exhaling smoke.
"Got that right Honey," Barb said. "Something's not right tonight. I dunno if it's the stars, the moon, the weather, but I'm not likin' it. Last time I felt like this was when Stevie got shot dead on Cowell Dixon Road. I swear to God I felt that bullet at the exact moment. I grabbed my chest the pains were so sharp, I sat down sweating and spinning, all dizzy from it," Barb said.
"You in the wrong business, girl, you need to read tarot cards or people's palms, an' tea leaves. You got the gift," Gloria said.
"Nah, I'm terrified of that voodoo shit.That's like black magic. Whew! It mess with your mind. Crazy, crazy, stuff. I believe in all that, that's why I won't go near it. No. No. No. I'd rather sell pussy any day than mess with witchcraft," Barb said.
"Really? You don't want to have a nice cozy booth at the fair or storefront with a crystal ball and regular business hours?" asked Gloria.
"No way, never, that mystery voodoo is not for me," Barb replied.
"A three-car garage, an in-ground pool, a handsome husband in a three-piece suit?" Gloria asked.
"Girl, you talkin' crazy. This is the only work I know," Barb said.
A shiny white Mercedes pulled up and stopped. Barb walked up to the open passenger side window.
"Good evening sir, would you like some company? Which way you headed?" she asked, climbing in.
Gloria spotted the red leather interior and heard the door close. That was the last time she saw Barb, alive.


I dreamed we took a two-person water taxi across a big river. We drove our car into the mini ferry and off we went. I asked you if you were scared and you said yes. I said I know how make floats if we need to. We tie a knot at the bottom of each leg of our jeans and blow air inside inflating them. Then I noticed our jeans had holes in the knees.

Pulp Vignette

She leaned from the bed, sniffed the holster and gently pulled the gun out. She warmed it between her breasts.
"What the hell are you doing?" he asked.
"I was just sniffing the leather and I got curious." she replied.
"And I decided the sad and lonely gun needed some warmth and maternal affection. I've always wanted to warm a pistol between my breasts . . ."
"Oh really? Tell me more," he said.
". . . and a few other places," she said, smoothing her slip.
"You are one wacky woman. Now can I please have the gun?" he said.
She slipped the warmed pistol between her legs.
"Oh I get it, You think the gun needs some of your special cologne. You're dangerous."
He reached down to find it and she was on fire.
"Be careful, don't slip," she whispered in his ear, then circled it with the tip of her tongue.
"Hey, I'm a professional," he said
He took her wrist and kissed the underside of it. She went slack, throwing her head back.
He grabbed her other wrist and pulled her forward, pressing his lips against her throat.
He lifted her up.
The gun fell. He cuffed her.
"Darling, you're under arrest."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

John Arden

Theater must celebrate noise, disorder, drunkenness, lasciviousness, nudity, generosity, corruption, fertility, and ease.
- John Arden


I dreamed I rang T's bell unannounced. I was at her door feeling heat leaking out from the rim of the door. She's got heat, I thought. Then I was embarrassed that I rang unannounced so I stepped back and hugged a porch pillar. When she opened the door I said I was just tree hugging.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Neighborhood Blues

The tenement garages were open as they are on most days. Guys stand around with car hoods open tearing apart their run-down cars drinking beer talking yelling all day and into the night.

The drug dealer kid next door has a steady stream of friends coming to his apartment. They are all desperate for drugs, 'round the clock. When I catch them in the alley I tell them they can't come on my property. They do this every day, banging on the dealer's window to get drugs without his mom knowing.

The landlords are never around and the tenants know it's a free for all. The same is true across the street where there is another bunch of packed-in unsupervised tenement buildings.

The whole city knows this major intersection is the heart of illegal activity. The police know too, and they get here in a hurry when the calls come in.


I have a love-hate with my radio. Sometimes I crave her company and other times I unplug her. I took her out of my kitchen because I feared she might wake the kid next door. His bedroom window is eight feet from my kitchen window and he goes to sleep just as we are waking up.

I brought the radio up to my studio but her volume knob is stuck at medium which is too loud for me. I want a faint whisper of classical music, not too loud as to drown out my inner dialogue. So I covered her with a National Geographic magazine and three smocks to quiet her down.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Skid Row Artists

I just watched a fascinating PBS documentary called HUMBLE BEAUTY about skid row artists.


We just picked yellow delicious apples from the tree our friend John takes care of on Rathbun and Privilege Street. Most of the apples were very high up so we used our picking basket that is on an expandable pole. Then we ran into Billy and he invited us to pick pears from the trees in his yard right around the corner. It was so much fun to pick the fruit using this tool. The apples are so sweet and the pears are as juicy as watermelons.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Hunt

I love the hunt whether it's visual research, finding a pet to adopt, or doing detective work. When employed the hunting mechanism generates a buzz. It's addictive!

The Agonies

I have a case of the agonies. When walking Lily this morning I knew it was crucial to keep walking in order to alleviate suicidal thoughts. This is just how it is in what I call "receive mode."

Another lady I know understands the mental health necessity of walking. "I hear you," she said when I ran into her on my afternoon walk. I feel shame sharing this but perhaps that is the best reason I should.

When the agonies come there is no logic as to why, it's just a cycle. Everything hurts emotionally, and anxiety and anguish swirl within a sea of drowning desperate inner voices.

But there is hope. There is proper self-care. This knowledge comes from years of learning that this is half of my yearly cycle and always has been.

The simplest little things can be restorative and crucial: taking a shower, walking my dog, smiling at a person I pass on the street, keeping my routines of writing and home chores.

I told a friend who has this same cycle that I see my moods divided but necessary, like antique stereoscope cards. The two different views create the image of three dimensions. In other words I cannot have this mood without the other. The contrast in moods is profound and would be dangerous if I didn't constantly monitor and employ them, creating balance. Writing, walking, painting, all build a home for me in both my inner and outer worlds.

Maybe we need to discuss the taboo of depression and its turmoil to open the dialogue and shed the shame. This is how we were made.

Making Paintings

Sometimes the paintings invite me in and other times they shout go away, leave us alone.

Friday, October 24, 2014


I dreamed I broke into Robert Bly's house to bake him a surprise bread for his birthday. He had a huge ornamental cast iron cookstove in the center of his kitchen. I opened an oven door that was a drawer and I put in the raw bread dough. Somehow it was pre-sliced at the unbaked stage. He and his wife seemed happy about the fresh bread.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Venetian blinds are fun because you can direct the light, but when I walk into my back room my abdomen flies out the window between all of those little horizontal slats. I needed something solid so I hung curtains. I can still see out over the top and get light yet the curtains provide psychic protection and help me focus.

Sometimes it's best not to see everything.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


We play on the word trapeze
I catch your ankles
and you catch mine


I was about to drive a vintage French car. It was indoors surrounded by antique wooden benches and dark wooden furniture. I was nervous about starting her up.

I noticed the hatch back doors were held together by thin metal hasp resembling a button on a dress shirt. Only the French would make something so elegant, I thought.

In another room there were harvest figures with limbs made of thick woolen braids seated upright on a wooden bench. They were goats and they smelled of wet wool. I loved the smell and thought it was sexy. I flirted with them and they became animated.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


We drove up to Vermont to see a friend in her farmhouse. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. The minute we arrived she brought out lasagna and cups of tea. I saw her cut two slices of lasagna, one for each of us and then pat down each portion to appear larger on our plates.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Anaïs Nin

Great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.
- Anaïs Nin

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Siri the Sidekick

Gus: “Siri, will you marry me?”

Siri: “I’m not the marrying kind.”

Gus: “I mean, not now. I’m a kid. I mean when I’m grown up.”

Siri: “My end user agreement does not include marriage.”

Gus: “Oh, O.K.”


Ntozake Shange

I'm a firm believer that language and how we use language determines how we act, and how we act then determines our lives and other people's lives.
- Ntozake Shange

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


I drove to City Hall in Providence early in the morning. There were a few women I knew from grade school who worked there. They were happy to see me. One asked me "What are you doing here?" "I don't know, I just got in my car and drove," I said. "Did you see a big yellow Labrador running around, that's my dog Lily," I said. Someone saw her outside. I panicked. I raced down four flights of stairs and met her at the door.

I was swinging on a trapeze with my friend Gordon holding me up on his lap. I had my eyes closed at first and when I opened them I saw a million little heads below. He had a nickel and a prayer hidden in his shoe. "I'll massage your feet," he said. I told him I don't let just anyone touch my feet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Olfactory Receptors

Over the last decade or so, scientists have discovered that odor receptors are not solely confined to the nose, but found throughout body — in the liver, the heart, the kidneys and even sperm — where they play a pivotal role in a host of physiological functions.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

François Mauriac

If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.
- François Mauriac

Thursday, October 09, 2014


A woman was sunbathing on a hill overlooking a baseball field. When she sat up she appeared clothed but she was only wearing tattoos of ruby lips across her chest.

Jill Ker Conway

You never know what you'll want to write until it starts writing itself in your head.
- Jill Ker Conway

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

William Knowlton Zinsser

There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published. Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is to come to terms with your life narrative. Another is to work through some of life’s hardest knocks—loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure—and to find understanding and solace.
― William Knowlton Zinsser, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Be true to yourself and to the culture you were born into. Tell your story as only you can.
― William Knowlton Zinsser

Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and they will jump overboard to get away.
― William Knowlton Zinsser

Don't be afraid to fail. Failure isn't fatal.
― William Knowlton Zinsser

Trust your material if it’s taking you into terrain you didn’t intend to enter but where the vibrations are good. Adjust your style accordingly and proceed to whatever destination you reach. Don’t become the prisoner of a preconceived plan.
― William Knowlton Zinsser

Friday, October 03, 2014

Front Row

I heard yelling and went to the window. Across the street I saw two men in a serious wrestling match on the sidewalk in front of the Mini Mart. I was about to phone the cops when I realized one of the men was a cop. He had a blue shirt on and was smaller than the man he was trying to control. The officer was working to get the man face down on the sidewalk but the man although bent over was still fighting hard.

People gathered in the street and on porches to watch. The uniformed officer spoke into his lapel, presumably to call for assistance. A skinny lady wearing a yellow pullover and jeans jumped in to take a photo. I saw the cop punch the suspect in his lower back twice, holding him down with his other arm. Then the officer took out his taser gun and zapped the man a few times at the punch spot. I heard sirens and four squad cars arrived stopping in the middle of the street. At one point I saw the suspect's exposed pink thigh. They cuffed him. The officers worked to pull up the suspects jeans while he was still seated on the sidewalk. Then two cops tried to get him to stand. I heard one yell "Get up!" and they led him to the back of the squad car.

By this point a bunch of unmarked detective cars had pulled up to the curb facing the wrong way, their strobe headlights flashing. One of the plain-clothed officers was a woman around thirty, with straight brown hair in a bun and khaki pants. She wore a brown leather holster. The Chief arrived and I saw the uniformed officers give him a fast salute. Now there was a huge crowd of law enforcement on the sidewalk in front of the Mini Mart and auto traffic was choked in all four directions of the intersection.

The rain started to come down hard. I saw one cop going through the suspect's back-pack, pulling out packages that had yellow tape on them. One detective was wearing a lavender dress-shirt and tie. Some of the men standing with the police chief had baseball caps with hoodies pulled over them. I bet they were undercover drug officers. Then the Chief and the detectives all went into the store. I saw my neighbor Beth come out holding a gallon of milk, ducking behind them as if nothing was happening. It made me smile. Life goes on. I'll bet the police department had a search warrant on this guy and they were just waiting for their moment and I happened to catch it from my window.

Life in the 'Hood

I thought Bill had arrived home but when I looked out I saw a big silver SUV with the motor running. I didn't know who it was and he was there for a while. I considered calling the police station to ask if it was one of their guys. I let Lily out and tried to get a good look. There was a guy in the driver's seat. With his trimmed beard he looked just like our friend Larry the psychiatrist, except Larry lives in Georgia, and he'd say hi to me and probably come in for dinner. I was too scared to confront this mystery person myself. He might have a gun, I thought.

A few minutes later Bill got home. Did you see the guy? What guy. Did you see the car? Yes I saw the car! Did you see the driver? No. He's been out there a while. Let's investigate.

Can I help you? my husband asked through the closed tinted window. His seat was way back. Maybe he was asleep, I thought. He turned towards us and flashed his badge from behind the glass. Bill laughed. I was embarrassed. I tried to phone you, he said. I could read his lips. We waved and went back in to the house. I was right, I told Bill, he does have a gun.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Call if you Need Me

If we're lucky, writer and reader alike, we'll finish the last line or two of a short story and then just sit for a minute, quietly. Ideally, we'll ponder what we've just written or read; maybe our hearts or intellects will have been moved off the peg just a little from where they were before. Our body temperature will have gone up, or down, by a degree. Then, breathing evenly and steadily once more, we'll collect ourselves, writers and readers alike, get up, "created of warm blood and nerves" as a Chekhov character puts it, and go on to the next thing: Life. Always life.
― Raymond Carver, Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

It's akin to style, what I'm talking about, but it isn't style alone. It is the writer's particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There's plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.
― Raymond Carver, Collected Stories

My circumstances of unrelieved responsibility and permanent distraction necessitated the short story form.
― Raymond Carver

Evan Connell said once that he knew he was finished with a short story when he found himself going through it and taking out commas and then going through the story again and putting the commas back in the same places. I like that way of working on something. I respect that kind of care for what is being done. That's all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say. If the words are heavy with the writer's own unbridled emotions, or if they are imprecise and inaccurate for some other reason -- if the worlds are in any way blurred -- the reader's eyes will slide right over them and nothing will be achieved. Henry James called this sort of hapless writing 'weak specification'.
― Raymond Carver, Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

Raymond Carver

It's possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman's earring—with immense, even startling power.
― Raymond Carver

I am a cigarette with a body attached to it.
― Raymond Carver

Every great or even every very good writer makes the world over according to his own specifications.
― Raymond Carver

I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don't need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing- a sunset or an old shoe- in absolute and simple amazement.
― Raymond Carver, Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories

Family is a Funhouse

Amy Bloom's essay Pushing Buttons.

Jimmy Carter

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.
- Jimmy Carter

Tim O'Brien

I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.
-Tim O'Brien
Author of The Things They Carried a collection of linked short stories about the Vietnam war.