Monday, June 29, 2009


Hello, Readers,

When you check my blog next time(s) and you see no changes, it's because of vacation.
I will be beyond TV and Internet, sleeping in a bag in my own house in Happy Valley surrounded by the big family.
You can always go back and read some of the earlier blogs; consider them summer reruns.

The next new blog upon return in August will be a sentimental old-faded-blue-jeans-on-the-hook and-the-pines-smelled-so-fresh and then-we-picked-blueberries-and-ate-them rumination on the joys of not-doing. Why, I will ask, do we always need to do so much, why, I shall muse, can't we always live simply?

These questions will be asked from an air-conditioned space under a stout roof equipped w/ electricity and running water. Like Thoreau, one must still have clean laundry!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Obviously when your mind shows up empty
Unwise; just stretching gawping and scratching

Obviously when you are here in flesh only
The inner screen burbles
With static it is time to
Write a poem.
Start at this desk
Where a black lamp bends, curious.
If today means sowing not reaping
But you must hand in,

Obviousy, go back:
Get chased again by a turkey gobbler at
Age two run for your life and
Into the laughter of grownups:
First of many learnings about the
Hypocrites who loved you;
Or ride away from dark Cambridge
stunned, in taxicab your boyfriend called,
To take you away because he was bored:
First of several learnings about
Men who didn't love you.

Obviously, you find those
Barbed and hurty things
More writable than a child's
Hand holding yours,
Or peace after receiving communion or
A little dog smiling over red rubber ball.
More present to pen than the ones
Who really do love you.

Why can't you write about bunny rabbits?
I asked that boyfriend once as
Violence spewed from his
Smith-Corona; and blood spurted from
Loud fiery crashes on his paper-strewn
Obviously, he said,
Bunny rabbits aren't very dynamic.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Random Ramble Re Real Work

I was reading a piece about this new "movement" of trying to get in touch with real work again and thought my friend Alice could write an excellent article about it, taking it either way. She and her husband George bought some land in Arkansas and now are living on it, with no hot water and plenty of cats and chickens and other birds. They are constantly in motion mowing, or harvesting their own food, or collecting eggs and selling them. I could see Alice writing a straight up essay about starting out in your 60s and 70s to farm--or more likely a fairly hilarious sendup, popping the neo-meaningful work balloon.

The piece about the real work movement is in the latest New Yorker, bouncing off an article in the Times Magazine by a Matthew Crawford, who repairs motorcycles and thinks everyone would be better off doing some such "real work" too. Used to be, a mechanic like Crawford might say writing is his real work; but nowadays he can get more published by saying he's really a mechanic!

I certainly agree that more people need to go into the trades; but I personally would prefer to work in a cubicle, because I can't lift anything heavier than the phone and a piece of paper. I did plenty of unreal temp work back when we needed money: One time in a police academy, several stints as a legal assistant, lots of typing and filing. At worst it was at least air conditioned and at lunch I could trot over to a little fridge in a lunch room to get my yogurt. Lunch was my favorite part.

And also getting to go home after eight hours. If real work were all that was available to make money I would not survive. I don't even have the physical capacity to cut my own grass or do more than pull up a weed or two in the front. But then I wonder if doing what you have to to take care of house and family is real. Because Mr. Crawford sounded like a real chauvinist in his motorcycle shop.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Endless Summer with McGregor

Yesterday, I picked McGregor up at camp and when we got to my house we played Jeopardy for a while.

My questions for him, which he knew:

--This buzzer serves a queen (What is a bee?)
--She's big and she hibernates (What is a bear?)
--This ruler liked to build ships himself (Who is Peter the Great?)

His to me, which I didn't:

--This belt of asteroids is behind Pluto (What is the Kuiper Belt?)
--This is the temperature of our Sun (What is 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit?)
--From this planet's atmosphere you can make batteries (What is a model consistent with data involving SO2 being oxidized to H2SO4 by NOx in the presence of H2O? ... Venus.) :-)

After Jeopardy, we played an endless game of war, then a long game of Go Fish, and then I taught him to play gin rummy. Important life skill, after astronomy. Right before McGregor's mom came to get him, we enjoyed a couple of TV innings between light-blue UNC and some orange-clad unknown college. The whole afternoon reminded me of being a kid again, on Countryside Lane in the suburbs: fooling around with friends playing Tripoli or Canasta; fixing lemonade and spilling it into the tape recorder; and just generally whiling away leisure time. It's a great way to be.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lies Have the Advantage, It's True

When did the Republicans grow so hateful? Did it begin with Joe McCarthy back in the 50s? Before him came Richard Nixon and his smear campaign in California against Helen Gahagan Douglas in 1950, calling her "The Pink Lady" and "pink right down to her underwear."

When Nixon got nominated for president in 1968 he chose Agnew of all people for VP, to go with the Republican "Southern
Strategy" (i.e., racism), and appeal to the "silent majority." As President, Nixon dressed the White House guards in splashy banana-republic looking uniforms, and he compiled "enemies' lists" of people to attack with government power. His fall from power was just.

Ronald Reagan introduced the age of illusion and deficit spending, separating us from reality while engaging in Iran-Contra trading arms for hostages with a big sunny smile. Then H.W. Bush, who, everyone seems to think, was the perfect gentleman, ran the dirtiest campaign I can remember against Michael Dukakis and I think that's when the right wing really got its grip. H.W. allowed Lee Atwater to run those Willie Horton revolving-door and Kitty Dukakis flag-burning ads. Lo, the smears worked!! Democrat Bill Clinton devised Rapid Response teams, and he won in '92 due to Ross Perot and a weak economy; but then the Republicans came sailing back with Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America. (Even so, Clinton reversed the Reagan deficits and delivered a surplus.)

The vitriol and lies against the Clintons turned out to be so much fun that the hate-filled self-righteous right wing got addicted to it. They also discovered the power of the party line, literally. You can tune in to news interviews and talk shows and hear the same Orwellian stuff from all Republican speakers: "death tax" e.g. "Fuzzy math."

You know the old saying, "A lie travels halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." The lie is highly organized, unprincipled, unhobbled by facts or even decency.

Now, I'm not saying the left didn't go to town on W. Bush; but not by lying. After all he DID steal the election and preside over 9/11 (which now somehow Cheney is using in the right's favor. "No attacks since 9/11"? Hello? Whose watch did that happen on??) W. DID use false intelligence to start a stupid stupid war which probably had Oedipal underpinnings. In my opinion, some kind of contact with reality keeps us Democrats grounded--many would say in weakness!

Which leaves a disadvantage against Republican Party constantly playing offense, and loose with the truth. In 2008 sanity did achieve victory over a scary sold-out old man and his terrifying demagogic VP choice. But now, after a week or so of introspection ("Should we change? Nah!"), Republicans delight to stir up racist anti-Muslim lies against the President. Nor have they abandoned their low-taxes free-market ideology despite evidence supplied by real-world consequences. True, the opposition got out a little ahead of the ball when they announced they were terribly against WHOMEVER Obama would pick for the Supreme Court; then proceeded to prove it with zeal against Judge Sotomayor. Perhaps we can get hopeful that Gingrich et al. had to back down a bit. Geez, he's starting to look like the reasonable one, which is frightening in itself.

And all along the right-wingers skillfully co-opt the media. Run a Willie Horton ad and get free coverage by news shows running it over and over again. Ditto swift boats. Then: they bought their own channel, Fox News! But even the supposedly non-partisan journalists give credence to the lies. The Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out years ago that if the Republicans came out and said the earth was flat, the headline would be "Shape of Earth: Views Differ!"

May we see the fast traveling lies bounding over the edge of it, then.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


One had only to turn a tap,
they say,
And clean water came pouring out
You could choose hot or cold,
No need to haul.
As for personal waste,
No need to bury or walk away from it.
One just flushed with yet more gushing water;
And huge snorting monsters
Toured the village to
Benignly accept one's trash on certain mornings.
I heard their maws disgorged out to sea, and
Fueled barges toured the oceans
Loaded with used napkins and
Old food (there was too much to eat!) and
Plastic I think they called it,

That refuse had come out from
Their large dwellings clustered along paved
Stretches; and nestled close to these
Buildings sat heavy metal carriage fleets
To carry one anywhere day or night.

Those nights bright with miraculous lamps
(no mystery or silence;
They say you couldn't even see the stars).

Friday, June 05, 2009

Think About Writing

I think about writing more than I write. Today walking Sassy in the pouring rain, like a bucket on your head, I mused, Why not get some special writer clothes? Those cute little sweat suits that they sell at Coldwater Creek? I picture myself in one of the soft light brown outfits, hunching over keyboard, lucid limpid insightful prose pouring forth. One of my memoir teachers--the kind that goes to bread loaf or sugar loaf or wherever they go--had a son who wears special writing socks. Yow. I have a vision of bright striped ones; let's get some of those!

In fact, my writing clothes tend to be whatever I can fit into--e.g., pajama bottoms and a tattered sweater.

Then I think, I really should organize my space. Pat Schneider (see list below) has special objects she spreads around her desk: lovely rocks and candles and things. I look around my own office and see piles of what Denny used to complain of, my "papers": plus, instruction books, jelly jar labels, messy messy manuscript, and a number of Bibles, Hebrew dictionaries, bulging files with names like "Queries and Bios," "Writer Guidelines," "Futility of Existence"; you get the idea.

I love to read about writing, too:
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
On Writer's Block by Victoria Nelson
Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider
The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick
and many more... works by Tillie Olsen, Brenda Uehlen, Rita Mae Brown, Sara Paretsky, Margaret Atwood, Joanna Trollope...
They're all good!

And the How-To's:
Freelance Writing: Breaking In Without Selling Out by Marcia Yudkin
Write the Perfect Book Proposal, Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman
Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon
Writer's Market, Writer's Handbook, Writer's Magazine

The how-to list reminds me of Denny's narrator Lionel Goldfish, purveyor of success books:

"Be a Selling Sensation"
"How to Make a Million by 40"
"How to Move Ahead Fast in Your Office"
"How to Make a Million by 50"

This fictional codger confesses in the intro to "How To Beat the System" (by Denison Andrews, Permanent Press, LI, NY, 1987)
"After the gold has been removed, I sold the public a tour of the empty mine for $8.95." Writers, beware!

My daughter Winifred quoted me a line from T.S. Eliot when someone remarked "Most editors are failed writers." Eliot responded, "Well, so are most writers!"

I don't think changing my clothes or fixing up "a room of my own" will help progress--they will become more procrastination tools. There are other far scarier things I need to change. Stay tuned.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Sunday night I watched "Into the Storm," an HBO program about Winston Churchill and his wife. It's a WWII story, framed by a postwar vacation in France where they wait for election results (he lost). It was enormously fun to watch if a bit selective.

The idea was a more personal look at Winston and his wife, Clemmie, and it was gorgeous in the way of Merchant Ivory productions. Buckingham Palace! Inside the White House! Clemmie, played by the divine Janet McTeer, is written as the woman behind the savior of England. "Winston, stop behaving badly," she would say. "Respect the servants, you depend on them!" "You can't give up, you were born for this," she exhorted her moody, visionary, very aware of his great-man status, husband.

And I loved hearing the famous speeches roll forth, the beauty of his rhetoric shown rehearsed and re-written as Churchill walked around his grounds or worked at his desk. In the car coming home from an airfield, he's muttering, "Never so many... to so few..." And the accomplishment of Dunkirk I had not fully appreciated before, where every fishing vessel and pleasure yacht in England was pressed into service to evacuate the entire British army, "the wounded last," as Churchill chillingly ordered. The show made me want to revisit Churchill's memoirs.

But "Into the Storm" counts chiefly as an entertainment for those who already know the history of WWII. It's fun, for example, to see the prime minister running around in the coveralls he liked to wear. But you could be misled if you watch it to learn history: Not a mention of Lend Lease, or of FDR's problems with isolationism in the US; or of the Nazi concentration camps; or of the Battle of Midway that saved the war in the Pacific. No mention of Northern Africa! The conference at Tehran is given a long look; however I thought time wasted on long family dinner scenes could have been used to provide better perspective.

I would recommend the movie, though. My favorite scene was Winston offering his resignation to the king after the fall of Singapore. "No, Winston, keep bumbling on," the king responds. Raising their glasses, they both say, "KBO!" I think that's going to become a saying of my own.