Jan 112017



“This is the practiced habit of jabbing out one’s eyes and forgetting the work of one’s hands. To acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning toward something murkier and unknown. It is still too difficult for most Americans to do this. But this is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates


Some thoughts on this book, this video, and the song by Olodum.

1. Guess what I got a green screen for Christmas! I pretended it was for my kids, wrapped it and put it under the tree, wrote a little card “Love, Santa.” They weren’t too thrilled about it. When they were busy playing with their other presents I opened the box and set it up in my office. I think I’m going to have a lot of fun with it.

2. These are sad days. January in NJ is cold and rainy. Trump about to be inaugurated. I don’t feel too good.

3. I’ve been listening to Olodum since the 90s when I went to Brazil. We spent some time in the city of Salvador, and I was fortunate enough to catch Olodum live. It’s possible they aren’t the most authentic representation of Brazilian music, and it’s also possible that they are the MOST authentic. I’m too lazy and busy (I get these qualities mixed up in my head) to do much research here. They might cater to tourists, as I was a tourist and saw them play and didn’t dig very deep into the music there. Salvador is music. That’s the impression I got. No need to dig, just go. I like the beat of Olodum, the drums make me feel like I can keep living.

4. I have a hard time pronouncing Ta-Nehisi Coates’ first name; this makes me feel like a racist. I get the H and the N mixed up. Then I found out the pronunciation is even more complicated than that. I’m pretty hard on myself in the “Am I Racist” department for reasons I explain in the video. I grew up with a confederate flag on the back of my banana seat bike. Figuratively, all right? Girls weren’t allowed to have banana seat bikes. I don’t know how much of the evil in the world I should blame myself for. Blame leads to shame which a non-doing state of mind. Do. What? Do. What? Do.


6. All references to drugs and drug dealers are from the 1990s. I stopped taking drugs of all kinds a long time ago now. Although I would like to find a drug that could put me to sleep for the next four years. Alas, I have kids to raise. I can’t wake up when my daughter goes to college. I need to help her with her SATS. But they don’t call it that anymore. Must . . . stay . . . awake. Wake up. In order to sanctify your mind, you must stay awake. That’s the whole idea.

7. A quote from Bell Hooks: “While we often hear about privileged black men assuming a ghetto gangsta-boy style, we rarely hear about the pressure they get from white people to prove they are ‘really black.’ This pressure is part of the psychological racial arsenal for it constantly lets educated black people, especially black males, know that no amount of education will allow them to escape the imposition of racist stereotypes.”

8. I’m just trying to get to 10 now to make this a proper list. Here’s a picture of Ray, the cute kid in Jerry Maguire.

9. I love this scene from Psycho, which is playing in the back of my youtube book review. Marion’s boss walks in front of her car, and he doesn’t know she has stolen all that money, and she’s running away, leaving town. She’s supposed to be at work. And her boss, by coincidence, walks in front of her car at a traffic light. The look on his face, and the look on her face. It’s a shame she has to die.

10. The night before New Year’s Eve I watched a few minutes of people fighting. It was a national UFC championship for women, and they hit each other hard without padded gloves. I forgot until I was standing there at Hooters (haha not really) that I’m unable to watch this kind of fighting without feeling sick, and faint. But I think I’d be a good lady fighter. I still have gobs of pent-up rage. I’ve dispensed with some of it. But I could probably get very scrappy in the ring.

Next life.

Jun 032015


“The child comes home and the parent puts the hooks in him. The old man, or woman, as the case may be, hasn’t got anything to say to the child. All he wants is to have that child sit in a chair for a couple of hours and then go off to bed under the same roof. It’s not love. I am not saying there is not such a thing as love. I am merely pointing to something which is different from love but which sometimes goes by the name of love. It may well be that without this thing which I am talking about there would not be any love. But this thing in itself is not love. It is something in the blood. It is a kind of blood greed, and it is the fate of man.”

Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men


Down I went to Virginia to study the Civil War; to find out if I STILL HEAR THE GUNS. There are many people who do, and they tend to hang around Battlefield Visitor Centers. They are always eager to strike up a lively discussion. I had an ancestor who saw plenty of documented action in the Eastern theater. One out of two soldiers were killed; and my ancestor was one. Also, he was fighting for the wrong side.

I dropped his name, for fun and because I was afraid I might get bored. The other visitors and the park service historians knew exactly who I was talking about. My ancestor is famous in these circles. They even know where he was killed, in action at Gettysburg. Some of them seemed to feel sad about it.

“Even if he had survived the war,” I pointed out. “He’d be dead now.”
But there’s an unspoken remorse, a sense that things could have been different.
Well, he was fighting for the wrong side. That’s not up for debate.

The woods are haunted. Old person’s face. Slaves around a fire. Loss.

Jefferson Davis had an infection in his right eye for most of his adult life. The eye was filmy, white, weepy. An antibiotic ointment could probably have fixed it in a couple of days. Something over-the-counter. But antibiotics weren’t a thing. So Davis had an eye infection for thirty years. It gave him headaches and paralyzed the right side of his face. He often lost his appetite. He was gaunt and grumpy and from the South.


A fight along an unfinished railroad
A fight in a deep cut
A fight on a hillside

The soldiers swarmed the house, which was up on a hill, with artillery and wagons. They fought all around it, unaware that the family was still inside. Down in the cellar with their hands over their ears. What would that sound like? Deaf for life.

The moral is: don’t build your house on top of a hill.



Apr 152015


“He who has not yet killed, shall kill.
She who has not yet given birth, shall bear.”

–traditional Ethiopian song


The baby was very sick and gradually she died. Or we thought she died. We were disappointed, but eventually we forgot all about her. Her body remained in the same place where she had suffered: the top bunk in a bare room at the back of our rambling house.

One of us went back there to look for something at dawn, or at dusk, or during a gloomy moment at some other time of day. And the baby moved her arm. She wasn’t dead!

But she had been lying back there for god knows how long with no love or attention. Naturally, she was in bad shape. She looked like a baby in a David Cronenberg movie. Her skin was gray and rubbery; her lips were cracked. She had a bloody flap of torn skin on her throat, and her eyes just looked scary, in an Ancient Egyptian/Cat People kind of way.

We much preferred her alive, though we had accepted her as dead. Our main fear was that she might be permanently disabled, delayed or damaged, emotionally and mentally. Which, of course, she was. Like most of the rest of us.


ART CREDIT: auguste rodin. figure volante (iris messagère des dieux). 1890-1891.

Jul 252014


At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, called out “Silence!” and read out from his book, “Rule Forty-two. All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”
Everybody looked at Alice.
I’m not a mile high,” said Alice.
“You are,” said the King.
“Nearly two miles high,” added the Queen.
“Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,” said Alice. “Besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.”
“It’s the oldest rule in the book,” said the King.
“Then it ought to be Number One,” said Alice.

—from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The salesgirl at Tory Burch was folding and refolding a silk scarf when I walked into the store. I started to browse the racks. She continued with the folding of the scarf. Probably it wasn’t even real silk, because it was Tory Burch. High design, cheap fabric made in China. But the salesgirl was sweet, she eventually came over, and paid all kinds of attention to me, which rarely happens, probably because when I go shopping I dress like a slob, because I hate shopping and new clothes happen to me by accident. So I bought an expensive, ridiculous pair of pants just because the salesgirl was so nice. I felt obligated, like I couldn’t leave the store without buying something. A prisoner in the fitting room, and she had talked me into trying on so many things. It would be rude if I just walked out.

Also, she kept barging in on me when I was between outfits, and I thought, maybe she wants to see me undressed for some reason. At first, I was feeling modest, grabbing at garments to cover myself. But then I thought, it’s more embarrassing to be seen as modest than it is to be seen in my underwear, and here I am, almost fifty years old and still having the same shame-based thoughts I had when I was thirteen. What am I so shy about? It’s not like I have three breasts. And even if I did . . . But I was back in the middle school locker room, carefully arranging the door of an adjoining locker, pressing it against the door to mine. I undressed in the triangular space between them. This got a lot of attention, and jeers and laughs. I knew. I knew. It was worse to hide. That was the mistake.

The salesgirl shoved a satin blouse through the curtain of the dressing room and I was exposed. Then left alone again to stare at my body. Dressing room mirrors, friends to none. Well, I was thinking, it’s time to come back to the present moment. But time doesn’t exist. So what’s there to come back to?

I always remind myself that time is not real, time is not real, time is not real. It’s a comforting concept I picked up in India, along with an intestinal parasite. But I think I’m really beginning to believe it. Time doesn’t exist. And then my next thought is, I’m having a nervous breakdown. Because if you really let go of the concept of time . . . but how do you explain my gray hair and the fact that I have kids and my car has no carpets. They got too frayed and raisin-stained so we threw them out. Isn’t that proof of the passage of time?

Oh, shut up. I’m just here at Tory Burch trying to buy clothes that will make me look like I’m an adult, like I know what the hell I’m doing.
I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. No idea.
At this point, the clothing is for the benefit of my children. Mom has to be dressed. She can’t walk around naked.
I wish the salesgirl would stop yanking open the curtain of the dressing room. What is her problem?
People don’t have nervous breakdowns anymore. You don’t hear about it, at least.
What happens to them now?
Oh, who cares, just keep up. Play the part. Those pants look fabulous. Even the salesgirl loves you.

Jul 092014


“I have shot several films in New York City and, while scouting for locations I have often seen tape marks that other productions have left behind—proof that most New York movies follow well-worn pathways.”

—John Lindley, cinematographer

The other day someone tweeted a photo of forty-something Molly Ringwald performing on stage with a microphone. It looked like she was crooning, singing a show-tune or something, so I did a “quick” internet search. Down I went, deep into the Molly Ringwald wormhole. What I learned: Molly has released a jazz recording, her hair is still blazing red, she is married and has children. She lives an admirably productive life in Los Angeles.

Molly even published a collection of short stories that a critic described as “workshop fiction.” Her fans on Amazon have only glowing things to say about it. These fans forged a lifelong bond with Molly during the eighties, when she won their hearts in movies like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. These fans support her projects, as varied and workshoppy as they may be. Molly just has to make an appearance once in a while on morning TV.

In some countries, women wear thong bikinis. Really, just a tiny triangle in the front and a string between their butt cheeks. This swimsuit is not popular here in the United States, but occasionally you see one, maybe at the Jersey Shore. They aren’t illegal or anything.

That movie Wellville about eating cereal and being constipated; about searching for truth, and cheating on your spouse.

That movie Johnny Guitar where Joan Crawford plays a gun-slinging butch.

That movie Against All Odds, sexy scenes shot in sweaty places under a burning sun.

Projects. Projects. Projects.


May 162014


“Black pony, big moon,
and olives in my saddlebag.
Although I know the roads
I’ll never reach Cordoba.”

—from Rider’s Song by Federico Garcia Lorca

It’s too bad that my understanding of slavery is so influenced by movies like Django Unchained and the TV miniseries Roots, which aired in the 70s and is deeply lodged in my mind. Most of all I remember Kizzy. Even though I’ve seen scholarly renderings of the conditions below deck on the transatlantic slave ships, my mental image is informed by some horny Hollywood filmmaker’s storyboard. Yeah, well, I go to the movies, maybe I shouldn’t. I go because I am accustomed to going. Because I have always gone. And what else am I going to do.

And I don’t get why black children living in Newark, NJ, which is not far from here, are literally going hungry, starving. While I have three lawn-and-leaf bags full of discarded clothes on my front porch. I’m waiting for a charity truck to swing by for a pick-up. My children have outgrown their clothes, and I just don’t want mine anymore. The charity calls me every couple of months to see if I have anything to throw away. Can they send a truck to pick it up? Just leave it on the porch.

Sometimes you get a glimpse of kids in Africa on TV or the internet. They are in their villages, on dirt roads, or scrappy soccer fields with patchy grass. You see them, they swarm around the news cameras. The cameramen are looking for stories. Disease, suffering, poverty, civil war, orphans. That kind of story. And when these cameras capture the images of African kids, singing or playing soccer, or just lurking around at the edges of some other scene, the kids always seem to be wearing American tee shirts and shorts, pants. Old Navy casuals.

A woman in my son’s toddler playgroup, years ago, told me that the clothes we give to charity get shipped over to Africa. We chatted about this while our babies crawled through piles of toys we would eventually discard. She said that donated items sometimes end up there. I think she said that. But I might have made it up.

And I don’t get why Mother’s Day makes me feel like a fire-breathing monster. It’s got nothing to with my kids. They give me handmade cards and try to act sweet all day, which doesn’t usually work but I don’t have much attachment to being the guest of honor. No, my squirreling despair on Mother’s Day is all because of the kind of kid I am. Except I’m not a kid, I’m an adult. But the kid lives on inside me of course and she is CONFUSED, especially when the world puts pressure on her to feel a certain way toward a certain person. So I wake up the day after Mother’s Day in a sort of undead state; it’s a good day to audition for a zombie film.

I’m not an actress, of course, except that every relationship is a performance. Even looking into the mirror.
I stand this way, I turn my head slightly, I focus on the good stuff, my eyes maybe. They look the same.

Mar 232014


“In the ethical instruction which is given in school, stress is placed upon giving alms and performing public deeds of kindness; it is more difficult, apparently, to stress the subtle but more important acts of generosity, such as giving another a chance to be heard or refraining from display that might make another child feel inferior.”

—Dr. Arthur T. Jersild, from Child Psychology(1933)

The idea is that we are born selfish—just spend time with any toddler—and then we learn to share. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t have to. It’s not our nature. But sharing is required for survival and we all figure that out eventually.

We submit to generosity.

What was the best moment of your life? Really, the peak moment when you felt like everything was exactly as it should be?

A group of people was living somewhat peacefully and somewhat happily on its land. Then a bunch of new people showed up and wanted to share the land. The new people had germs on their skin and in their saliva; the germs caused a disease, which killed off everyone who was already living there. But the germs didn’t hurt the new people; these new people were perfectly healthy, they lived on. The germs only killed the people who were there first.

What is the most selfish thing you have ever done?

We have to play well with others, in order to make a buck. Every toddler will one day realize this. Mommy can’t wipe your fanny forever and believe me, she doesn’t want to. (And if she does, then you have a scary mommy.)

People who lose their arms and legs, or the use of their arms and legs, they still want to live. They go on living. Some other people, fortunate people who can walk and clap and run their fingers through their hair, are driving in their cars thinking, “I just don’t want to live anymore. I don’t want to go on living.”

We may be generous, but we can’t give our arms and legs to people who don’t have them. When I say we, I’m just talking about myself. If you don’t consider me part of your group, or human subset, then none of this applies.

Mar 092014


“I think that pleasure is a very difficult behavior. It’s not as simple as that to enjoy one’s self. And I must say that’s my dream. I would like and hope I die of an overdose of pleasure of any kind.”

—Michel Foucault

A spy waited down the street from my house last month and followed me to the train station. Jumped out of his car, snuck onto the express. Rode it with me into New York, sitting a few rows back. In Penn Station I accidentally gave him the slip. But the next week, the agent followed me again, and I led him downtown to my weekly appointment in a crumbling office building near Union Square.

He’s bold, my secret agent, so he rode up with me in the elevator to the fourteenth floor. I didn’t know he was following me; I didn’t even notice him in the elevator. I was busy thinking about myself and my life problems.

He saw which office I went into, and he made a plan to set himself up with a telescope in an empty loft across the square. He would have a direct view of my activities. He would find a way to bug the office with an audio device. It was an extravagant plan, but my agent is an extravagant man.

Pretty soon he knew exactly what I was doing in that office.

It’s where I meet with my contact. We are in a secret organization.
We are searching together for a very destructive element.
We are on the cutting edge.
We could save the planet.

The spy doesn’t want us to save the planet. He wants to destroy it. Or at least, all the living creatures on it.
It will happen. But first, he would follow me.

Yesterday I sensed him there behind me at a fast-food place. So I decided to confuse him, throw him off. I made it look like I was going to have the chili. But then I ordered a hot dog.

Jan 192014

ofcourse copy


“Dr. King was born in 1929 in Georgia. Since he was black, he could not go to the same schools as white children. Black Americans also had to use separate restrooms, restaurants, theaters and swimming pools in some states. Dr. King thought that this was wrong.

His efforts helped bring about new laws to create equal rights for all Americans.”
—teacher worksheet by Cynthia Sherwood

made of the classes at her academy, country club summers, saddle shoes, shaved legs
made of elite institutions, air-conditioned museums, art books
i’m sorry officer, i didn’t know i was speeding
thank you, i won’t do it again
made of straight air, no freshener
made of straight hair, cotton sheets
thread count one thousand
made of fly there, drive’s too far
thank you notes, magazines, fashion, diets, accessories
made of never the checkout girl
never the waitress, never the maid
made of fine china, registry, engraved invitations
botox, waxes, twins in the bugaboo
made of cashmere, caffeine drinks, james taylor, l.l.bean
made of gated villas, all inclusive
made of pan asian takeout, never chinese



Jan 112014


The snore-activated nudging pillow
The only heated outdoor cat shelter
The iPhone-controlled lightbulb
The briefcase fitness center
the tear-free onion glasses
the full bottle wine glass
the best nose-hair trimmer
the world’s brightest vanity mirror
the personal oxygen bar

Products in the Hammacher Schlemmer Catalog
* pictured above: the power-nap head pillow

This little drum was cheap. It’s just a snare with a shoulder harness. You strap it on, then you can walk and drum at the same time. Like a kid at the front of a civil war parade who leads the old men into battle. The kid who gets blown to bits by a cannonball. (Only once though).

Drum drum. Rat-a-tat-tat.
Left right left.

Get up, get scared, go to work.
Show up. Show up. Don’t slow down.

Your iPhone pocket-called me the other day.
You were walking.
I could hear your legs moving.
I was in your pants, after all, with the phone.
Swip swip. Swip swip. Swip swip.
Very rhythmic. Soothing.

I listened in for a while. I was hoping for a scrap of inappropriate conversation.
I like to overhear things that hurt me.
I got nothing.
Just legs.
You were just going somewhere.

Dec 042013


“Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world . . .  Nothing was hard, and everything seemed to float.”

—from Black Elk Speaks, Being the Life Story of a Man of the Oglala Sioux, c. 1932

Sally walks into the pharmacy to pick up her Zoloft prescription. She has an unsettled, anxious feeling because she just saw someone she knows from high school working the cash register at 7-11. Sally thinks this is about the worst fate that could befall a person but she is very wrong, and she knows she’s wrong. She can’t stop the flow of her thoughts, even if they are wrong, and especially when fear is attached. She was raised in a world of privilege, a world where the privileged grow so accustomed to their comforts that they have no gratitude. So they remind themselves to have gratitude. But it drains away while they sleep.

When Sally was in high school (with the cashier at 7-11) she read The Pearl, by John Steinbeck. In the story, a poor fisherman can’t afford medicine for his baby. Even though he finds a pearl to pay for the medicine, greed and corruption get in the way, and the baby . . . well, it’s pretty rough. Sally was very moved, even awakened, by the story. She never bothered to reread it, though. (It’s a pretty short book.)

Crazy Horse was a mighty warrior and an honorable chief. But the Wasichus (white men) tricked him and ran a bayonet through his side. That was the end of the world.

At the pharmacy, while Sally waits, everyone is talking about a massive train crash, north of New York City. A passenger train went off the rails. People were killed and critically wounded. To Sally, critically wounded means “probably going to die,” but maybe it means “admitted to ICU,” or even just, “in the hospital.” As opposed to “walked away without a scratch.”

A few people witnessed the train disaster from the windows of their apartments, in a high-rise building near the crash site. They just happened to be standing there, looking down. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It didn’t seem real.

It was real, Crazy Horse.

Nov 252013


“The Sender is not a human individual . . . It is The Human Virus. (All virus are deteriorated cells leading a parasitic existence . . . They have specific affinity for the Mother Cell; thus deteriorated liver cells seek the home place of hepatitis, etc. So every species has a Master Virus: Deteriorated Image of that species.)

The broken image of Man moves in minute by minute and cell by cell . . . Poverty, hatred, war, police-criminals, bureaucracy, insanity, all symptoms of the Human Virus.

The Human Virus can now be isolated and treated.”

—William S. Burroughs, from Naked Lunch

Combat the Virus

1. Pick up the phone for a telemarketer and listen until the end of the pitch.
2. Admit that your fidelity stems partly from laziness and fear, in addition to love.
3. Take your clothes off in public.
4. Slap her in the face.
5. Slap him in the face.
6. Talk to the madman in dirty overalls who walks by your house every day.
7. Don’t just google that long-lost person, make a call.
8. Give away all of your money, every last dime.
9. Never apologize when you are planning to do it again.
10. Use a leash and scoop your poop.




Nov 152013


“If you were to ask me again to write a conclusion, instead of writing neurotic or psychotic, I might just write a word like good.”

—Dr. Richardson, at the inquest in Breaking the Waves

The point of the film Breaking the Waves is that religion breeds hypocrisy, which isn’t good. And sex and rock n’ roll aren’t bad. And God doesn’t actually talk to people. So if he starts telling you to do things, especially if these things are destructive to you or others, get a second opinion.

In Scotland, in the highlands, by the coast.
Green hills, cold water, backwards people.

The director, Lars Von Trier, must have told his actors and actresses not to wash or brush their hair, and to wear their own clothes on the set. It was experimental.

“You describe the deceased as an immature, unstable person who, due to the trauma of her husband’s illness, gave way to a perverse form of sexuality.”
–the barrister, to Dr. Richardson

Bess gets married. Her handsome husband works on an oil rig. He receives a blow to the head, on the rig, and while still mentally affected from the accident, he encourages Bess to have sex with other men.

Bess makes a complicated deal with God: if she has sex with other men, her husband will survive his injury and be okay. She feels it’s her fault that he got hurt, so if she gets hurt worse, then her husband will benefit.

A lot of twisted religious stuff going down in the little Scottish church on the hillside.
With a sadistic minister and creepy, evil elders.


Bess goes out on a skiff to a tanker to turn tricks, and on the way, she is talking to God. She comes back on a stretcher, brutally beaten and raped. She dies a little later in her best friend’s arms.

Katrin Cartlidge plays the best friend/sister-in-law. Emily Watson has the lead (Bess). I prefer to watch Katrin—just a personal preference for the angular, long-nosed type, the lass with small teeth. I’ve seen Cartlidge in several films, never as the lead. Mike Leigh loves her. Me, too. (I just read on Wikipedia that she died. In real life. I did not know that.)

Emily Watson mugs too much for me. She’s the Jim Carey of the British Isles. And Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the husband. Is he seven feet tall? Maybe everyone else in the film is just short. He wears a ratty old shearling coat in every scene. This is lovely.

Good things wait for us in the afterlife.

Just ask Elton John, for no particular reason.

Sep 092013


A retired American boxer returns to the village where he was born in Ireland, where he finds love.

Captain Nathan Brittles, on the eve of retirement, takes out a last patrol to stop an impending massive Indian attack. Encumbered by women who must be evacuated, Brittles finds his mission imperiled.

Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a squadron of PT-boat crews in the Philippines must battle the Navy brass between skirmishes with the Japanese. The title says it all about the Navy’s attitude towards the PT-boats and their crews.

A senator, who became famous for killing a notorious outlaw, returns for the funeral of an old friend and tells the truth about his deed.

In 1922, an Irish rebel informs on his friend, then feels doom closing in.

At the turn of the century in a Welsh mining village, the Morgans (he stern, she gentle) raise coal-mining sons and hope their youngest will find a better life.

A Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from an Indian tribe.

*All quotes are crowd-sourced plot summaries of John Ford films, courtesy of IMDb.


A man who doesn’t like to talk about his feelings learns to talk about his feelings.

A man has a wife who nags him to help around the house and engage with the children. He gets a divorce and falls in love with a woman who doesn’t have kids and who never nags him. Whenever he asks, “What do you want to do?” She says, “Whatever you want, dear.” He’s in heaven. But it turns out, the new wife does have her own opinion. She just never expresses it. Instead, she builds up a giant resentment until she just doesn’t love him anymore. She pretty much hates him. So she makes him sleep in the apartment over their three-car garage, which she has because she’s a rich heiress. Then the hero wants to go back to his first wife, but the first wife is already remarried to a man who likes to do work around the house. The new husband’s idea of fun is cleaning the lint basket in the dryer. I mean, he really keeps it clean.

Five American soldiers in the Middle East convert to Islam and learn Arabic. Missing various body parts due to shell explosions, they come back to the U.S., where they practice Islam in suburbs of major cities. They try to convince the U.S. government to stop waging war in the Middle East. Running around the desert blowing up oil fields and killing children and whatnot. The five soldiers deem this unproductive behavior. They tell the government to spend that money on education instead. Teach inner city kids to write, and to speak grammatical English, so they can aim for college. And not just community college, either. But no one listens to the five soldiers. So the soldiers go back to the Middle East and disappear into the desert. I’m not sure which country they go to, but it’s Arab.

A congressman decides he is gluten-free and stops eating bread, pizza, cakes, cookies . . . Anything with flour. Even soy sauce has gluten; I bet you didn’t know that. Anyway the congressman loses a lot of weight. None of his cheap suits fit. So he buys more expensive suits, three of them, and runs for president. Loses.

An Italian-American girl marries a real loser. I mean, this guy doesn’t respect her, he drinks all the time, he cheats on her. He is kind of a hero, because he was in a heavy metal band that did well a long time ago, regionally. It happened to be her region, so everyone she knows thinks he is really special. She tries to get him to stop drinking.

A couple raises their kids without television. It’s really hard because the kids have friends at school who are always talking about “iCarly” and “Big Time Rush” and “American Idol.” But the parents persist in their decision to save their children from TV. They also ban Facebook, Instagram, Google+. No cell phones. No email. The entire family dies.

A man loses his niece at an upscale mall in northern New Jersey. He finds her trying on clothes at Prada. He tells her they can’t afford to buy clothes at Prada. They can’t even afford to try on the clothes at Prada. He takes her to a different mall.


Aug 312013


“I hate throwing up. You are totally alone when you throw up.”
–Alan Ball *


When I think “New York Intellectual,” I think “Susan Sontag.” Or I think of Woody Allen making fun of people like Susan Sontag. And then I think of a lot of other things which I won’t list here.

Sontag emerged from a literary scene at the University of Chicago and entered a literary scene in New York City. She was always part of a scene, wherever she was. Because she made the scene. That helps.

Sontag was published by the most prestigious literary press of her time. The rumor was that she slept with her publisher. She went both ways, which also helps. She battled cancer and eventually lost. She wrote about that. She wrote about photography.

She wrote essays and novels. But she wanted to be known for her novels. Everyone does, and I don’t know why. That’s changing, of course. Novels not being what they once were. Nothing being what it once was.

As far as I know, Sontag never wrote an analytical discourse on the TV show “Good Times.” Though I am sure she saw it. At least once.

She did this thing, quite radical, creative, and inventive, when her hair turned white. This might be the statement for which she is most famous. She dyed only some of her hair black, and left a long lock of white at the front.

I am sure Sontag would not want me focusing on her hair.
The thing is, I can focus on whatever I want.
I choose hair.

Hair is pretty disgusting, when you really think about it.
You can wash it, but is it every really clean?
And does it stay clean? Not for long.
You have to wash it again, and soon, if you care about clean.

Hair is dead, too. But it pretends to be alive.
Ever look at the hair on the floor of a barber shop?
It makes you want to throw up. That hair is done pretending.


* from his play, “Five Women Wearing A Dress,” c. 1993.
**video of Robert Motherwell’s painting Spanish Republic #57 by Khan Academy
***audio is from “Good Times:” aired on CBS from 1974 to 1979.

Aug 212013


“In effect, the human being should be considered the priority objective in a political war. And conceived as the military target of guerrilla war, the human being has his most critical point in his mind. Once his mind has been reached, the “political animal” has been defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets.

This conception of guerrilla warfare as political war turns Psychological Operations into the decisive factor of the results. The target, then, is the minds of the population, all the population: our troops, the enemy troops and the civilian population . . .”

–manual authored by the CIA and distributed to the Nicaraguan terrorists (contras) *

I sure wish I could remember what I thought about before the OTHERS got control of my MIND. The battle was over by the fourth grade. I remember trying to fight off certain “bad” thoughts. It felt like they were coming from inside of me. I also remember doing “naughty” things and I just didn’t know why I was doing them. Then I’d be standing outside the classroom in the hall of my elementary school, sent out by my teacher. I’d peer through the window in the door. What was I missing?

Freedom of speech is so awesome. We can say whatever we think.
But we have to think it first.

When the Freedom Train came to my hometown, I climbed aboard. You bet I did. The year was 1976; those were heady, bicentennial times. Local artists had painted all the fire hydrants in revolutionary garb. The Red, White, & Blue train pulled into a freight yard and set up its traveling museum: Betsy Ross’s needle and thread, Paul Revere’s lantern, George Washington’s axe. Artifacts of the Dream.

Meanwhile, my Romanian doppelganger was stuck in Eastern Europe, playing with an apple doll beneath the shadow of a giant Soviet power plant. The monstrous totalitarian machinery had swallowed up her Transylvanian landscape. She didn’t even have fluoride in her tap water.

I met her years later, after college. We drank together in downtown Manhattan and we wrote performance art pieces. We videotaped flushing toilets. We wrestled for creative control. Then one day she told me our friendship was over. Apparently, I had threatened to punch her out the night before when we were at a bar. I didn’t remember threatening her. I’m not the punching kind. I must have been in some kind of American blackout. A moment of freedom. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.

Back to elementary school. One time I threw up during the pledge of allegiance. As I recall, it was pretty much straight OJ. The class kept right on with the pledge.



*as quoted in The Gen X Reader: “Seize the Media,” by The Immediast Underground.
**from Here is Your Hobby: Doll Collecting by Helen Young, c. 1964.