Friday, November 7, 2008

Coming Full Circle

No one expresses more poignantly or more eloquently—at least for those old enough to remember long-ago events in Alabama—the depth of meaning of our recent presidential election.

Surprising, perhaps, this from Peggy Wallace Kennedy, the daughter of former governor George C. Wallace:

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Breathing Exercise

Author unknown

Find a comfortable chair to sit in, or lie on the floor. Remove your shoes. Close your eyes but not too tightly. Take a deep breath: Inhale blue... Hold it. And exhale red... Repeat.

Now tense up every part of your body, really really tight. Hold it...hold it... Now relax. Feel your body melting into your chair or into the floor. Again: Tense tense tense... And relaaaax.
Now I want you to picture yourself lying on a gorgeous, secluded beach. Breathe in the fresh air. Feel the warmth of the sand. Hear the rhythmic lapping of the ocean and the palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze. You have no worries. No cares. Your 401(k) is flush with cash. You feel completely relaxed. You are at peace and everything is fine.

Oh, look. John McCain is walking by. Without opening your eyes, gently raise your hand and wave. 'Hi, Senator,' you say. 'Sorry you lost the election in such a massive landslide. Too bad, so sad.' He waves back and says, 'Thank you, my friend. In the end, the best man won. By a hundred and fifteen electoral votes.'

And here comes Sarah Palin, wearing her Miss Congeniality sash. Again, you lazily raise your hand. 'Hi, Sarah. Too bad the Troopergate report got ya booted from office,' you say. She replies, 'Oh, that's okay. Now I can spend more of my time monitoring that sneaky Putin over there in Russia. I hear he's training an army of judo experts.' She trips over a piece of driftwood. You let out a relaxing sigh and take a sip of your margarita.

Oh, and here's Dick Cheney, trolling for spare change with his metal detector. 'Hey, Dick,' you say. 'Takin' a break from the war crimes tribunal?' 'Yep,' he replies. 'They got Rumsfeld in the dock now. If things go according to schedule, I should get my life sentence later this afternoon. Oh look...I found a nickel.' He wanders out of sight. You take another cleansing breath.

Just as you're about to drift to sleep, a group of former senators approaches. Coleman. Dole. McConnell. Collins. Cornyn. Stevens. Chambliss. Roberts. Smith. Sununu. 'Hey, folks,' you say. 'Whatcha been doin' since your massive losses?' They reply as one: 'Beach volleyball!!' You nod. They get swallowed by a rogue wave.

And now, very slowly, count backwards: 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Open your eyes.

Repeat as needed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Psychological Perspective

And now, another broad (and focused) view on American politics from psychologist Deepak Chopra:

Of Diversity and Demographics

The Republicans may have achieved the impossible in St. Paul: making Minnesota whiter—at least for four days—but there is another issue increasingly gnawing at the soul of the Republican Party too. Consider this sober, balanced article by David Frum, a fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Four pages worth reading. Try just the first, although it gets better. A welcome, thoughtful consideration for those eager for a break from the barrage of shouting and sound bites:

Friday, September 5, 2008

You Can Bet on It!

With money.


Fortune magazine reports that Intrade: The Prediction Market is remarkably accurate in predicting the outcomes of political, economic, weather, and other trends and events. Buy and sell shares in definite conclusions to current questions. Or just watch.

Monday, September 1, 2008

And Some Credit Too

Friday night I had a date of a mixed nature (but I won’t get into that). Nick, we’ll call him, had a story to tell.

In the 1940s, his father, John, and John’s boyfriend, Paul, graduated from college, and then together entered a Dominican monastery. As monks, they continued their relationship. After eight more years, they broke off the relationship. Paul left the monastery, and a few years later, so did John. John befriended a woman who suffered ongoing challenges from a bout of polio in her youth, and the two of them, sharing different differentnesses, developed a platonic friendship.

Their shared camaraderie, honesty with each other, and separate longings to have a family grew. Recognizing then current options, they decided to marry and produced and raised two sons. It was only after Nick's own college graduation that his parents told him their true back-story and the nature of their supportive marriage.

Much could be said here about the nature of love, sex, family, and practicalities in mid-Twentieth-Century America, but what struck me was something else. The story reminded me of two gay couples I met in the 1980s—how they had fallen in love in the 1960s in monasteries, a story they claimed was common in Catholic enclaves of Brothers. Their stories played out a decade later than John and Paul’s. At a time when society was changing, they too eventually left the protective walls of their monasteries—but as couples. By the time I met them, they had continued their full partnerships in the outside world for more than a decade.

Much is said, and rightfully in condemnation, about predators who hide or hid in the skirts of Mother Church, but credit should be given for the silent role Catholic clergy communities played in the years before society was accepting—for centuries, actually—in nurturing and protecting loving, homosexual relationships.

Of Hub Caps and the Dental Arts

This headline from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, 8/30/08:

“[Rent-to-Own] Tire-and-Rim Stores Slow to Get Rolling”

I'd have tested it with shoes first. However--could this be the first indication that spinner hub caps will go the way of gold teeth?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Et tu, Johnny?

From Maureen Dowd in the, 8/24/08:

As Sam Stein notes in The Huffington Post: “[Senator McCain] has even brought his military record into discussion of his music tastes. Explaining that his favorite song was ‘Dancing Queen’ by Abba, he offered that his knowledge of music ‘stopped evolving when his plane intercepted a surface-to-air missile.’” “Dancing Queen,” however, was produced in 1975, eight years after McCain’s plane was shot down.

So how about “Y.M.C.A.” (1978)? Calisthenics, anyone?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fish Tank

“If you show an American an image of a fish tank, the American will usually describe the biggest fish in the tank and what it’s doing. If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank, the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim. Americans usually see individuals; Chinese and other Asians see contexts. What happens if collectivist societies, especially those in Asia, rise economically and come to rival the West? A new sort of global conversation develops. The opening ceremony in Beijing was a statement in that conversation. The most striking features were images of thousands of Chinese moving as one—drumming as one, dancing as one, sprinting on precise formations without stumbling or colliding. [It was] a high-tech vision of a harmonious society performed in the context of China’s miraculous growth.”

David Brooks, The New York Times

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Twelve Hours Ago

Having not even heard of the film, I watched Wild in the Streets last night. Comcast's blurb claimed it was a cult film from 1968. I was in high school then. How had I missed it?

By rallying teens in the streets, a 25-year-old pop idol forced the government to lower the voting age to 14, and then was elected president. He declared the US would lead the world in hedonism. He put everyone over the age of 35 into internment camps and kept them lolling on LSD.

Christopher Jones, heir to James Dean in those days, played the lead with Shelley Winters as his cum-hippy mother. Richard Prior played in the band. Ed Begley portayed an asshole political boss, and a young Hal Holbrook played the senator who used the youthful horde, but eventually they turned against him and hanged him.

The handsome Kevin Coughlin (looking 22) played a 15-year-old gay band member who had a thing for older—read in their 30s—men. The straight band members kept trying to fix him up with hot guys, but he had his mind set on the Senator, whom he growled at salaciously and attempted to paw, one place or another. Tons of snarky asides about the state of society and politics—asides that still fit today.

But in the middle of it, I had to hit pause. My ad-sales co-worker Sheryl called 3 times. Rapid fire. I don't take her calls after 7:00, as her evening energy is more than I care to handle, but I feared what might have happened. Sheryl's chain-smoking, Italian mother-in-law lives with Sheryl and her husband in a separate suite. Carlela has an aneurism in her stomach that could burst at any minute, but can’t be operated on since Carmela can't stop smoking for a month--a requirement before the surgery. This past week, concern for Carmela has been intense, and fearing the worst, I relented and called.

But the problem was nothing of the sort. Sheryl, who used to run wild in the streets herself and has won many Bette Midler look-alike, act-alike contests, used to use Midler's persona to flirt with presidents and CEOs of defense contractors to sell ads in DOD publications. Six years ago, she had an especially lucrative one, Mr. Brock, on the hook. He begged repeatedly, and she sent him one of her glamour-shots. But he retired 4 years ago, and was never heard from again.

Then, out of the blue at ten o'clock last night and likkered up, Brock called her. He announced he had moved to Atlanta, and wanted to marry her—or if she wouldn’t leave her husband, have a serious affair. He made it clear he had millions and would treat her right. Sheryl, having left her bawdy ways behind, tried to reason with him, but he insisted. She hung up on him. Only I (not her husband!) knew the extent of her previous, hussy ways, so she had to call.

Why hadn't I realized years ago that my propensity to collect characters would one day lead to the vocation of writing? I should have seen it coming.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Touched by Fire (apologies to Kay Redfield Jamison)

It’s heartening to see that when insanity runs wild, I can sit on the sidelines and enjoy the entertainment. Yesterday, Cynthia McKinney, my former Congresswoman, received the Green Party’s nomination to run for President of the United States. Known for her trademark braids and stop-light clothing, she lost her House seat soon after getting into a scuffle with Capitol Police in 2006 while attempting to enter a secure building incognito. Her hair freed of braids, her clothing bordering on demure, (but with temperament intact), she was stopped by hapless guards for an ID check. When the dust finally settled, Cynthia’s political career was toast—or so it seemed.

Previously, she had been known for scarlet-dress-hogging of the camera after each year’s State of the Union Address and lifting her beaming face to plant a kiss on George W. Bush’s face. (He did manage to dodge her one year—I forget which.) That after proclaiming on the floor of the House that W and his family intended to profit financially from the invasion of Iraq—long before Michael Moore stepped to the soapbox. She later introduced Articles of Impeachment in the House.

But what I’ll always remember her for was an interview attempted by an Atlanta TV crew at one of her fundraising parties during that final congressional campaign. Clad in sprayed-on jeans and dancing with her supporters on a sun-baked parking lot, she turned and shook her booty in the cameraman’s face. (YouTube posters—Hello!?)

We’ve also got another former Georgia congressman, Bob Bar, running for President this year—on the Libertarian ticket. Back in 1990, when he was the DeKalb County D.A. and I was crazier than a cross-eyed banshee, I had his office open an investigation of my parents’ attempted murder of me after they dragged me to a shrink and put me on a fistful of psychotropic medications. (My parents talked their way out of the charge—not a strenuous effort.)

Even Newt Gingrich, yet another former Georgia-congressman-flambeau, considered running for president this year. Back in 1990, I papered his local office repeatedly with hypergraphic evidence of the huge cocaine importation racket run by the nation’s top Arab Terrorist, KBG Agent, and Nazi Party officials (my employer, roommate, and parents—in that order). I papered Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center as well. Poor ol’ Jimmy’s been in more controversies since then than he’d had in the White House.

I suppose I can’t take credit for any of these recent events. I’d like to. Now, I sit on the sidelines writing my memoir of long ago manic adventures. I’ve passed the torch of insanity. I’m happy just to watch as those whose lives I crossed run with it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Matt Scores--And So Do We

This morning’s NYTimes online features a 2-page article on the incredible viral success of the wherethehellismatt video (link posted here 6/27/08). They suggest it might be to the 00s what that damn dancing baby was to the 90s. If so, we have progressed as a society, and we might just elect an adult President this year. I received more positive comments about this than about anything I've written.

If you haven’t seen it yet, click on the first link in my 6/27 post. The Times article can be read here. It has an embedded link as well:

--And thanks again to Kelly who sent it to me ahead of the stampede.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dum Spiro Spero

Alabama and Mississippi take a lot of heat for their self-perpetuating low commitment to education. It’s one thing to be poor and proud—which they also are—quite another to be poorly educated and proud to keep that tradition alive in public schools.

But, it was neither of those states that came to my attention this morning; it was South Carolina. Working at my desk, I was busy nailing into my electronic manuscript all the evidence I’d found years ago in Charleston, SC of how the South, especially South Carolinians, had started the Civil War to preserve their homosexual lifestyle. OK, maybe I was deluded, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on the memoir of my stint as a serious, certified nut case.

So there I was writing, and the story of South Carolina’s latest shenanigans popped up on CNN online. I have to say, the state’s motto, Dum Spiro Spero, sounds more appropriate in the Latin than in its translation: While I Breathe, I Hope.

Well, I hope too, but only they can .

Friday, June 27, 2008

Better Than Anything I Could Write

This is for everyone who has ever been to hell—and returned. Everyone else as well. With many thanks to Kelly. Life is Good:

And this is for anyone who believes the last months of the 8-year Republican pill would be best taken with a strong chaser of humor. Strong chaser. Thanks for this go to Allen.

Each is less than 5 minutes long. Best when viewed in this order. Follow the links at the end of the second one--should you care to possess actual mementos of this historic offering!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Last night I chanced on some quotations of note:

We must believe in free will; we have no other choice.
--Isaac Bashevis Singer

No man of any humor every founded a religion.
--Robert Ingersoll

From the moment I looked into the horror on September 11th, into the fireball, into that explosion of horror, I knew it. I knew it before anything was said about those who did it or why. I recognized an old companion. I recognized religion.
--Monsignor Lorenzo Albagete

When I think of all the harm [the Bible] has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it.
--Oscar Wilde

Then this morning, the NYTimes online published a poll on religious tolerance in the US, and I was surprised to see there is as much as reported—especially among Catholics—the church I was brought up in but left years ago:

I end with a quote from the 1980s:

You should never go out just to get laid; always go out to give laid.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday in the Park with Neva

Neva B. Flat and the Dreaming Out Loud Steppers blocked my way. Their drag-act name belied the fact they were Gospel singers performing at the annual Gospel Celebration staged right beneath the larger-than-Mount-Rushmore carving of the shoguns of the Confederacy: Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis, and Stonewall Jackson. I had walked into Stone Mountain Park to photograph inscriptions around a smaller monument that now stood in an area cordoned-off as backstage for the performers.

Conceived a hundred years ago, Stone Mountain Park was meant to be the great monument to The Lost Cause and reliquary of its documents. But by the time it opened in the late 1950s, while it contained historical displays of the War in Georgia and monuments to the bravery of Confederate soldiers; The Glorious Cause—certainly not forgotten by many 1950s Georgians, white and black—was not portrayed. The park focused on the natural beauty of the site and outdoor recreation, a focus that has grown so that today, it all but obscures the park’s original purpose.

There, beneath the outsized leaders of the Confederacy, Gospel choirs sang their hearts out. Across the lawn at the reconstructed Antebellum Plantation, a celebration of Juneteenth, the traditional African-American holiday commemorating the passage of the 13the Amendment, was in full swing.

But I wasn’t there for the party—I had only stumbled upon it. Without explaining the whys and wherefores, I talked the security guards into letting me pass through to photograph the inscriptions. Now in the middle of writing my Adventures-of-a-Psychotic-Giant memoir (I'm 6' 11"), I am in the thick of reconstructing how in high mania in 1990, blazing a trail that stretched from Atlanta to Charleston (birthplace of the Confederacy), I had gathered evidence proving the real cause of the Civil War: Under the guise of preserving slavery and “states rights,” the South had actually fought to protect the barely undercover, homosexual lifestyle of its upper classes. I was in the park to photograph evidence I had found there.

You see, there’s a reason “psychotic” is in my title.

And to take those pictures, I had to wade into the gospel singers’ refreshment area. As I bantered with them about my height while snapping pictures, I was swept with gratitude for deliverance from psychosis—not just from my own, but for all of us from the Sin of the South.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Five Passengers, Four Parachutes

You may have seen this a while back, but it’s worth repeating, and frankly, I’ve been socked in with my job and writing the last week. Hope you enjoy it:

A plane is about to crash. There are five passengers on board, but only four parachutes.

The first passenger says, “I am Ronaldo, the greatest football player in the world. The world needs me, and I cannot die on my fans.” He grabs the first parachute and jumps out of the plane.

The second passenger, Hillary Clinton, says, “I am the wife of the former president, I am the senator from New York, and someday I will be the president of the United State.” She grabs a parachute and jumps off the plane.

The third passenger, George W. Bush, says, “I am the president of the United States of America. I have huge responsibilities in the world. Besides, I am the smartest president in the history of my country and can’t shun the responsibility to my people by dying.” He grabs a pack and jumps off the plane.

The fourth passenger, the Pope, says to the fifth passenger, a young schoolboy, “I am old. I have lived my life as a good person as a priest should, and so I shall leave the last parachute to you. You have the rest of your life ahead of you.”

To this the little boy says, “Don’t fret old man. There is a parachute for each of us! The smartest president of America took my schoolbag.”

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Who’s Smiling Now?

No, this isn’t about the resolution of the Democratic primary race—or even the rumor that someone under the age of 50 showed up at a McCain rally. This is scientific!


Whether events make you smile or not, or if you are one who finds reason to smile (or frown) regardless events, the BBC in conjunction with two American psychologists has come up with a short test to see if you can correctly identify real and fake smiles. Explanation afterward on how to tell the difference.

May your discernment prove better than mine! (11 of 20)

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Truth Within the Delusion

What do you do when a matter of ethics threatens the resonance of a memoir-in-progress? You’ve sought the advice of others (who are anything but in agreement in their opinions). A few of them you asked via email. You are so consumed with the question that you’ve confused yourself, and thinking that only in email have you written about it, so you end up writing the story twice in your book.

It’s a matter of outing a relative so distant that he shouldn’t be called a relative. But when you were bat-shit crazy nearly 20 years ago, you deluded yourself into thinking his family’s enormous wealth had been amassed just to support your messianic quest, and you showed up in his life—a person you’ve never met and who does not even know of your existence—fully expecting to be bequeathed a large portion of it. You didn’t ask—you expected just to be given it, and you didn’t further pester by having more than that one contact.

The story of how one of the largest Standard Oil fortunes was acquired in the first 2 decades of the last century by a Kenan-cum-widow. The story of how she remarried and the enduring mystery of her death in 1917 (nine months later), was so compelling that 70 years later, in the late 1980s, several books were published about it. Even 60 Minutes aired a segment on it.

Her widower used his small share of the inheritance, $5 million, to found a media empire. Was it murder for the inheritance—or had she succumbed to her drug and alcohol addictions? In the 1980s, his granddaughter was so angered at her grandfather’s actions back in 1917 toward this wife that she forced the breakup of the media empire.

But Mary Lily Kenan Flagler Bingham left the great bulk of her estate to her Kenan siblings. All this figures into my delusion, but the key resonant-to-my-delusions moment in 1990 was when I remembered that the now head of that powerful family and I had dated the same man (at separate times), and believed that what I had thought while dating him was only an interesting coincidence, was actually significant proof that I would be fully supported by Kenan wealth and influence. Please know that soon after that, I was jailed and diagnosed as having “mania with psychotic features”—another (and totally separate) part of the story. You see, there's a reason my subtitle is "The Adventures of a Psychotic Giant."

This "distant relation" has devoted much of his life to philanthropy, getting many awards for his support of the arts and education. He’s known to be gay in the gay circles in his state, has never married, but is not otherwise out. To change the names and circumstances of the story is not helpful because of the peculiar and apropos specifics, the historical record, and perhaps most importantly, that we share the same last name. The only thing I could report that is not in the public record is that he is gay.

So do I out a powerful, well-respected man—a true pillar of education and arts support—when that outing discloses no hypocrisy on his part (unlike what has happened with many politicians of late), or do I eviscerate an important, but not the only important, part of my story? Should I contact him directly or indirectly to discuss how to proceed? Certainly, I will share anything I write about him before I seek publication (I think)—once I have a late draft. But how now to proceed?

A memoirist’s dilemma.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Grave Balance

"My first thought on the running mate question is that to balance his ticket, Barack Obama should pick a really old white general. Therefore, he should pick Dwight Eisenhower. John McCain, on the other hand, needs to pick someone younger than himself. Therefore, he also should pick Dwight Eisenhower."

From "The Running Mate Choice" by David Brooks, NYTimes Online, 5/27/08

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Memoriam—For My Weekend

Ten a.m. and 68 outside at. My windows are closed. Heat pumps down from above. So far, it is 77 degrees inside, and soon it will reach 79. I type at my computer. If the hair on the back of my head were longer, I would wring it out. Bead of sweat form on my arms. More of them moisten my T-shirt. It is Sunday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, and the fourth day of enduring a curse.

The curse began Thursday morning, when, near-naked, eyes barely open and arms dowsing for coffee, I stepped in a fresh hairball outside my bedroom door. Generally, I blame everything on Ziv, my occasional roommate (and frankly, I think he could suffer hairballs—if you know what I mean). But although he’s in town for a video shoot, I knew it was likely the cats—one of them.

After cleaning my foot and the carpet, I began work. I got a call. The Memorial Day cookout was now off because someone in Virginia was in emotional breakdown. Friends will be friends, and these friends changed plans, packed the car, and were already headed cross-country for a rescue.

OK, I’d have more time to write—and to procrastinate. I could rent a Rug Doctor! The carpeting needed it bad, and no hired service can bring things back to oyster like The Doctor and me. And with temperatures up, air conditioning would dry things in a snap.

Friday, after an abbreviated workday, I headed out to my car to go pick up a machine. Behind the bushes by the front door, the Bosnian’s she-cat was nesting with 4 brand new kittens—again. She manages at least 2 litters a year, and my attempts to convince the neighbors to have her spayed result only in their loss of comprehension of English. The neighborhood has already filled with feral cats.

As I opened my car door, I heard Nedad on the far side of their house bludgeoning catalytic converters. The platinum inside them has topped a gazillion dollars an ounce, and ever since I inadvertently greated him pleasantly, he thinks I’ve gone soft. Clearly, his scrap metal operation is migrating back to his house--again. Mental note: Call Code Officer Johnson.

I returned with the machine, and pulled furniture to one end of the rooms. The plush saxony will dry overnight in the conditioned air, and then I’ll move it all and clean the rest of the carpet. But as The Doctor begins steaming, a violent storm front passes through. Humidity skyrockets as temperatures crash. The air conditioning shivers into retirement. Carpeting won’t dry.

Here I sit. Day two—three if you count Friday night--the house a recently pitched ship, contents crashed to one side. In a moment of bipolar inspiration, I institute the program of heating and a/c. The compressor disturbs the peace. Long-sleeves passersby turn their heads. I step out to fetch the morning paper, and Bosnians stare at me as if I’m the one who is crazy.

It is already a very long weekend.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Foreign Behavior

Cheney Surfaces in EU.
‘European Union’ Redefined.


Today's headlines 20 June, 2008
'Big Brother' database plan for every e-mail and call
An EU anti-terror directive is to lead to the storing of each phone call, e-mail and internet visit made by the public

Scientists get green light for human-animal embryos
Scientists will be allowed to create hybrids by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm after key vote in Commons

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Mind's a Blank

Iconic college textbooks from the 1970s imagined and offered last Sunday in the article, “Lexicographical Longing” by Virginia Heffernan in the New York Times Magazine:

Speculum of the Other Woman
Reading Black, Reading Feminist
Sexuality in the Field of Vision

No comment from me.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Just minutes ago, I stood in front of the toaster oven cleaning out the crap. I had had to do something. Half an hour before, the 3-year buildup of goo and gunk, a well-established stalagmite in the bottom of the thing, caught fire as I attempted to re-heat a fried-chicken thigh left from last night’s pig-fest. (I’ve lost 40 pounds since January, so I was allowed the lapse.)

As I pulled a strip of grease-glued Reynolds Wrap from the crumb tray, the foil stuck to my hand. I pulled it off, and stared at the residue coating my hand. Which solvent would remove the amber mess—and leave some skin intact?

CNN blared in the next room. Breaking News! Bob Barr announced his run for President!

My excitement was not political. (OK, my secondary excitement was political—John McCain would lose votes!) My real excitement was that one of the characters in my new memoir would be thrust back into the national spotlight—just as he was in danger of sinking from our national consciousness forever.

Politicians Gingrich and Carter, as well then-Congressman “Cooter” (previously the star of the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard), also figured in my story. But it was Bob Barr—local District Attorney at the time, later elected to Congress where he led the Republican stampede for Clinton’s impeachment—whom I needed to stay in the news. During my manic rampage in 1990, I had turned to him to investigate my parents for attempted murder of me. (Yeah, I know, but my parents’ notes support this.)

Can’t wait to write the scene!


"The thing you are looking for is the thing you are looking with."

Ernest Holmes

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Good Thief

At ten o’clock last night, a cacophony of voices blasted through my window as I sat writing. Moments later, roommate Ziv, just arrived from Alabama for a video shoot, burst through the front door. “Call the cops! Call the cops! Someone stole the motorcycle!”

In the driveway next door, 15 of my Bosnian neighbors were running a Chinese Fire Drill (without benefit of the car, or in this case, motorcycle), shouting for someone—anyone—to call the cops. Actually, it was only a moped—the moped their grade-school kids use to buzz legal walkers and drivers on the local streets. Inside, Chicken Little squawked the same cry, visualizing, in his dismembered head, his Hi-Def video camera—the one that cost more than the original price of my house—was being stolen as well. All of them incapable of picking up a damn phone, I made the call.

Outside, as they waited for the cops, the fire drill continued. I shut all the windows so I could hear myself think, and then snapped on the air conditioning. The droning compressor is 20 years old, and for the last 12 years, I’ve fretted as the warm season approached. Please, just cool for one more year! It worked! The pandemonium was blocked, and air slowly cooled the house. Ziv, having recovered his phone skills, began alerting friends of his camera's narrow escape.

This morning peace had returned. Nedad brought me an ice-cold bottle of Corona as a token of thanks—a huge improvement. The last he bore gifts, he gave me a promotional calendar from the Hong Kong King Buffet (printed off-register) and a pop-top can of imitation strawberry auto air freshener. As he handed me the bottle, I saw his five-o’clock shadow. It had crept from the backs of his fingers to the bottom of his short-sleeved shirt. (See last post.)

Over all, I made out like a bandit: free beer, disappearance of neighborhood-scourge moped, and successful test of the air conditioning with no time for attack of angst. Oh blessed thief, when will you return?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Constitutional Light

My Bosnian neighbors had their annual, spring body-waxing the other day—the men that is. The men between 11 and 35 years of age. Older than that, and they just don’t seem to care. Without my glasses, it appears they’ve gone through more body-lightening than Michael Jackson.

Yesterday, shirtless and glistening, they shot hoops in the drive next door as the wood fire in the back yard burned down to the proper mix: flames and embers. Another Bosnian holiday! Can’t keep track of all their holidays, but the smell of wood smoke alerts me to the arrival of each one.

The Bosnian butcher sent the usual pair. White soda-jerk uniforms--paper hats atop their heads. They rumbled up in an ancient, white panel truck to deliver the “baby sheep”—skinned, dressed, and bound hands and feet to a pole. (Occasionally they deliver a goat.)

There are 3 houses within 2 blocks of me filled with one giant, extended Bosnian family. They add color to the neighborhood and make the rest of us (and we’re a racially and ethnically mixed lot) look paler than boring.

Two years ago, in a single batch, they all became citizens. Ran around the neighborhood waiving spanking new US passports. And even though the rest of us have to call the cops when they feast well past midnight out beneath the stars, and even after the time I had to sic the law on Nedad after he started a home-based, metal-salvage business right next door (packed the yard with rusting engines, exhaust systems, and—inexplicably—upright vacuum cleaners), when they celebrate, I get a rush. Even if our country’s founding principles seem so difficult to glimpse in American political life today, they are still the shining light to so many from beyond our borders.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rear View

Drive your car with your hands on the rear-view mirror, and you hit a lot of obstacles. In which time zone do we focus as we attempt to move forward in life?

Monday, May 5, 2008


Student: If your house was on fire, what would be the one thing you would


Jean Cocteau: The fire.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Vacuuming Stephen King

Deeply into reading the actual “on writing” part of Stephen King’s On Writing, and sucking the text right off the pages. Only a light tracery--gray pictographs--remains on the pages. This book, unlike his fiction (not to my taste), is as true and insightful as everyone has claimed--about life as much as writing.

First, his ideas--character-driven stories, limited descriptions, honesty, honesty! and so much more--resonate with what I at least attempted to achieve in my first book (within the nonfiction context). Second, he is pulling me out of what I have come to see as my ongoing road-blocking dilemma: being stuck plotting the new book to a fixed ending. That is to say, that I have a philosophy I have been trying to preach and prove. But that's not life—and it is certainly not my life when I’m honest. Honesty! Witness my just completed, weeklong, depression/anxiety fit that hit hardest when I attempted to write. Driven instead to wrink-wrink obsessing on Roomaticus Maximus instead of working on my manuscript.

Truth is, I must write my story of dealing with bipolar disorder like the suspense novel life actually is--and I must trust. Trust the ending to reveal itself, whether it is the ending I think I want and will reach, or not. After all, embedded in this disorder is the tease of never really knowing what is real and what is not. I don’t mean hallucination, but that subtle thing we perceive in the world and must always be interpreting in order to navigate the waters.

I end here with a bit more of King and his devil-may-care attitude and refusal to apologize for it or himself. Well, maybe he does occasionally apologize, but really, he’s like that Key West waitress of my long-ago-days who would pout, look you in the eye, and exclaim, “Read these lips!” as she tapped the toe of her little red fuck-me pump. Two descriptions King quotes from other people’s writing— “Darker than a carload of assholes.” (George Higgins) and (Raymond Chandler) “I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumber’s handkerchief.”

Been there, done that.