Jun 262013

photo by Martin Cameron in the book How in the World?

“Cheer up, you old bugger. Worse things happen at sea. I mean what you got to lose? You come from nothing, you’re going back to nothing, what have you lost? Nothing! Nothing will come from nothing. Know what I mean? Cheer up. Give us a grin. It’s the end of the picture. They’ll never make their money back. I said to ’em, ‘Bernie,’ I said, ‘They’ll never make their money back.'”

from the film Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, c. 1979.


When I was traveling in India I bought myself two bus tickets, one for me and one for my backpack. With my western wallet the bus tickets were dirt cheap and I wanted to sit alone. Then the bus filled up beyond any idea I previously held of what a full bus might look like. It was just a rundown school bus to begin with, no air conditioning and all the windows open. I was very stubborn about keeping my backpack in the seat next to me because otherwise I had no idea what would happen to it. The aisles were full up with standing people, there were passengers crouched on the dashboard and crowded in the stairwell against the front door. An elderly man behind me who spoke English started to scold me for keeping my backpack on the seat when there was a pregnant woman standing in the aisle.

I hadn’t planned to travel alone in India by bus. But my friend and I had argued the day before and she had furtively changed her plane ticket to spite me. By the time she announced that she was not coming with me to Madras/Chennai, I could no longer change my ticket. She had decided I was an awful travel companion because I didn’t like to spend time choosing a restaurant. Because I didn’t think it was worth it to peruse menus and deliberate between lousy choices. Okay, so we were incompatible, and I cried in my hotel room that morning, then I checked out and flew to Madras by myself.

A businessman on the plane gave me a number for a car service to take me to the ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Yes, I was going to an ashram, but only for three days. I wasn’t dropping out of my personal rat race (more of a mini-golf course) or changing my name. The trip to the ashram was two hours by car, and five by bus, but when I got into the car the driver announced that he was going to charge me twice what we had agreed to on the phone. We started shouting at each other, and I ended up on the bus.

So there I was sitting with my backpack, and the white-haired man behind me kept telling me how selfish and American I was (how did he guess?) so finally I said, Okay, fine, let the pregnant woman sit here. Actually there were seven or eight pregnant women, but the closest pregnant woman sat where my backpack had been. Then everyone passed my bag above their heads to the front of the bus where I couldn’t see it. So there went my backpack. I was able to check on it a few hours later, when the bus stopped for a bathroom break. I won’t describe the rest area except to say it was traumatic for me. If you don’t like mountains of human feces, then you wouldn’t have liked it.

At the ashram I was terrorized by giant monkeys who had the run of the place. I witnessed some beautiful rituals, and took some inspiring hikes at dawn with a woman named Carol. There were a few western casualties hiding out there, people who had fled to India from Copenhagen or Seattle at some point for a spiritual cure and just never made it back. These people were invariably skeletal, all skull and sari. The Indian lifestyle didn’t seem to agree with their health, yet they stayed, meditating in the caves, which were not as removed from civilization as you might think. You always hear about renunciants who live in caves, but these caves weren’t remote at all. Dwellers could easily pop downtown to buy candy and check email.

It was a convenient place to get enlightened, except I didn’t. However, in the cab on the way back to the airport I did have a realization that I was nothing and that I was doing nothing and would pretty much be doing nothing for the rest of my life. This thought probably occurs to most international travellers at some point. It’s easy to forget yourself when you are in a foreign land, out of your routine, and especially in an “overpopulated” country like India where individuality isn’t even considered a valid claim.

But it was more than just a thought. I actually got to a moment of nothingness by letting my awareness travel out of my body and up into the far right corner of the cab, up into the hollow where the rear window connected to the roof of the car. My awareness was still inside the car, traveling along the bumpy road with me, but it had detached itself from the thinking part of my brain. So it was temporarily located outside of me and up to the right, like Jiminy Cricket or Tinkerbell, but since this is an India story, let’s give it the shape of Hanuman. (Think Wizard of Oz monkey, but fine of feature, like Brad Pitt.) I was able to move a part of myself outside of myself, and this felt great. It was a huge release. Relief. Unfortunately, the experience only lasted for a few seconds, and I couldn’t do it again, at least not at the time. So the freedom didn’t last, in a real way, but it seems to have lasted in some kind of unreal way, because I am thinking about it right now, thirteen years later. As it turns out, that’s enough.




photo of plastic items by Martin Cameron, c. 1990 ♣from HOW IN THE WORLD? (Reader's Digest, 1990.)

Jun 132013

watermark3 copy

“The thing that’s the worst part is that a hundred years from now, hell, we ain’t even gotta wait that long, the next day, ain’t a living soul gonna care. Not a single memory of who you were is gonna survive. You won’t have left a mark, and nobody will even know you were ever here. You will be dead way before you die. You understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
–Marion Isaac McClinton, from the play “Hunters of the Soul”



1. Start with a simple but surprising fact, something you might have learned in kindergarten. For example, if all the insects in the entire world were stacked on the seat of a giant teeter-totter, and all the human beings in the world were stacked on the other side, the insects would weigh more.

2. Think about this for five minutes. Stay with it.

3. Start asking questions. Am I important? Am I unique? Am I as fleeting and insignificant as a butterfly and not as pretty?

4. Apply these themes to your relationships with other people. For example, if I don’t matter, than the stylishness of my workout clothes doesn’t matter, and my place on the social ladder doesn’t matter, and test scores don’t matter. Money doesn’t even matter. Maybe I should be nicer to other people and stop elbowing my way to the front.

5. Think about something else.


May 252013


Senior Class Awards

Instructions Please nominate one girl (G) and one male (M) for each category of awards. These awards will be given out at our senior breakfast June 7th. Please include first and last names of the individuals you nominate.

Most Likely to Be President:  _____________
Best Smile:    _____________
Best Hair:    _____________
Best Personality:    _____________
Most likely to be a comedian:    _____________
Most likely to be a professional athlete:    _____________
Most likely to become a clown:    _____________
Best Dressed:    _____________
Best Laugh:    _____________
Most Likely to become a reality star:    _____________


When I say I’ll do my best, it means I’ll try. When I say I’ll try, it means I’ll reach down into the grab bag that is my “formed personality” and see what’s there. I’ll take out the attractive stuff and attempt to leave the total garbage at the bottom where no one can see it, especially you. But you’re going to be following me around all the time, so get used to the garbage. Get used to Oscar the Grouch. That’s what we have to work with, sweetie-pie.

Every day might be different. Let’s hope it is. Because you’re stuck with me for seventeen years. That’s about how long it takes to make a childhood. And because I REALLY want to do my best, I’ll pack you perfect little lunches with fresh carrot sticks. But you won’t eat them! Your teacher will send them home in the sweaty lunchbox and I’ll throw them away. This will make me mad. I won’t show it. I should show it. It’s healthier to show it. But my feelings will scare the hell out of you. And you’ll hate my clothes. . .


Dec 312012



“That sorrow can make one demented may be granted and is hard enough; that there is a strength of will that hauls close enough to the wind to save the understanding, even if the strain turns one slightly odd, that too may be granted. I don’t mean to decry that. But to be able to lose one’s understanding and with it the whole of the finite world whose stockbroker it is, and then on the strength of the absurd get exactly the same finitude back again, that leaves me aghast.”

Soren Kierkegaard, from Fear and Trembling


Who can explain these things? It was an event in a college hockey arena. The house lights were on, and people were mingling around on the ice, except there was no ice. These people weren’t children, but they weren’t adults, either. They were eighteen. They were at that frustrating age where they couldn’t get respect because they didn’t really deserve it.

One of the young women and one of the young men just walked straight up to each other through the crowd. Following some unspoken inner guidance, they both immediately decided to find love there, in that connection. They left the arena together, and their lonely friends tagged along behind them in envy.

Destined or not, the new relationship didn’t work out because the young woman was too prejudiced. A year or so later they tried again, but it didn’t work out because the young man was too immature. Then they tried being best friends, and she rode around in the car with him and his new girlfriend. That didn’t work out; the new girlfriend didn’t like it. The young man came back to her one last time, but by then she was too self-destructive. They drifted apart and found lasting connections with other people, which was mature and sensible. These two were deserving of respect.

That night at the hockey arena, the sense of mutual recognition had meant a hell of a lot. Turns out it didn’t mean what they thought. It didn’t really matter at all. Twenty-five years later, the only people who care about it are the kids the woman had with her eventual husband. Her kids seem to realize that their existence depends on the profound randomness of love. They ask about her phantom boyfriends, who were tried on and later returned to the store. She answers with gusto, speaking over her shoulder to her curious children in the back seat of the car, driving them back and forth on a road so familiar it no longer exists.


Dec 242012



“Once a man and his wife were sitting outside the front door with a roast chicken before them which they were going to eat between them. Then the man saw his old father coming along and quickly took the chicken and hid it, for he begrudged him any of it. The old man came, had a drink, and went away.

Now the son was about to put the roast chicken back on the table, but when he reached for it, it had turned into a big toad that jumped in his face and stayed there and didn’t go away again.

And if anybody tried to take it away, it would give them a poisonous look, as if about to jump in their faces, so that not one dared touch it. And the ungrateful son had to feed the toad every day, otherwise it would eat part of his face. And thus he went ceaselessly hither and yon about in the world.”

Brothers Grimm, “The Ungrateful Son”  found in 'The Gift' by Lewis Hyde (Vintage Books, 1979)


The spirit wore a festive green dress with a tight, corseted bodice, which lifted her bosom up like a gift for the world. But she wasn’t that generous. She got our attention and she made us fly, even though we didn’t really want to fly; it wasn’t something any of us had dreamed of. Up we went, rising, floating, and we were completely relaxed, no matter how high she took us. When she brought us back down, she spoke of her brothers and sisters, who are competitive and accomplished, even famous. She said they are accustomed to a numbness that makes her feel like an only child.

“I’m going to show you the future,” she told us. “I think you can handle it.”

And we could handle it. We did handle it. We never flew again, of course, but we have other pleasures. I later learned that we hadn’t been flying at all. She had attached wires to our wrists and ankles. It was all mechanical, easily arranged. Puppetry.


film clip is from The Year Without a Santa Claus, c. 1974
music is the song Alone Again Or by Love

Dec 172012


:The sun was no more than a degree or so above the horizon, where it stays when it is the end of the world. From the still-heated surfaces of the water—not thoroughly cooled by the former blackness—a slight low mist begins to rise; hovering; a mist so thin it is invisible to human eyes, yet strong enough to make the pale sun indistinct and brighter, hot. The edge of this disc touching the longer more elliptical slate of the ocean turns it darker, into a frown: our ocean is now deeper, and hints, in this brooding, of the real presence of evil.

Kathy Acker, from Don Quixote


T: How are you feeling?
J: Scared.

T: Eyes open?
J: No, closed.

T: Open them.
J: That shit is blinding. I like sight.

T: You call that sight?
J: Blindness can’t be reversed.

T: I’ve looked a hundred times. I’m not blind.
J: Okay. They’re open.

T: What do you see?
J: Fuzzy buds on a tree. Black cars parked in a tidy row. Empty garbage cans. A temporary fence.

T: Nothing scary about that.
J: A worker in overalls with pine planks on his shoulder. Power lines. Gray sky.

T: You’re really scared?
J: Scared comes close. Sad is related. Panicky and guilty and unmoored, all balled up in a nondescript glob.

T: Come on, snap out of it. I’ll tell you a ghost story.
J: Nah.

T: I know a joke.
J: Nah.

T: Do you see a woman in a quilted coat?
J: Would she be walking a white pitbull?

T: Yeah, that’s Frankie. Good dog.


film clip is from Heavenly Creatures directed by Peter Jackson, 1994.

Nov 012012


“time that has elapsed ⇒ elapsed time
a leaf that has fallen ⇒ a fallen leaf
a man who has traveled widely ⇒ a widely traveled man
a testicle that has not descended into the scrotum ⇒ an undescended testicle
a Christ that has risen from the dead ⇒ a risen Christ
a window that has stuck ⇒ a stuck window
the snow which has drifted ⇒ the drifted snow
a Catholic who has lapsed ⇒ a lapsed Catholic
a lung that has collapsed ⇒ a collapsed lung
a writer who has failed ⇒ a failed writer

–Neuroscientist Steven Pinker, from The Language Instinct HarperPerennial paperback, 1995


It is scientifically proven that most heterosexual men prefer younger female sexual partners. Women look better, apparently, when they have never been pregnant.

A Ted talker had a severe stroke. Since she is a brain scientist, she knew that it was a stroke as it was happening, and she managed to take mental notes about the experience, even as one of her lobes was shutting down. Later, she gave her Ted talk.

Truck stops are welcoming places. They sell audio books and flannel shirts, Pringles and power adaptors. A trucker can enjoy a Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes while he waits for his number to be announced over the loudspeaker. When his number is called, he grabs his bag and takes a nice, hot shower. Women can be truckers, too.

The pediatrician on rounds at the hospital discovered that a weird baby boy had been born that morning. He grabbed his four medical students. This was a teachable moment! He led them to the mother’s room. The door was open, of course, so they didn’t have to knock.

Easter tears.

Pink eye.

There are limits on how far a player can go to show his glee over a scored touchdown. He can dance, but he can’t drop to the ground and make a snow angel. That would earn a penalty.

She can still light candles, and she does. She sulks and broods and holds grudges. She conserves water.

We’ve never been sure if we like the looks of Richard Gere. We must like something.

There is no try.

Oct 252012

andromeda galaxy, NASA photo

If you’d never been born, well then what would you be?
You might be a fish! Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob! Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of hard green tomatoes.
Or worse than all that . . .Why, you might be a WASN’T.
A Wasn’t has no fun at all. No, he doesn’t.
A Wasn’t just isn’t. He just isn’t present.
But you . . .you ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!

Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to You! Random House, 1959.


Q: What’s inside the donut hole?
A: Well, the donut hole is different from a rabbit hole, which you dive into and which has a bottom. It’s more like a black hole, except it doesn’t suck you in, you go there willingly. And while a black hole traps you forever, it’s easy to return from a donut hole. In fact, it takes years of mental undressing to get access to the donut hole. And once you fight your way in, it’s very easy to get pulled back out. Often against your will.

Q: So it’s nice in there? It’s a place you want to be?
A: Not exactly, but it’s better than the other options.

Q: Where is it?
A: Between your ears, like every damn thing.

Q: Why would anyone want to go there? I mean, why bother?
A: People get pushed into it. They are motivated by pain, when reality stops working for them.

Q: How can reality stop working? That sounds impossible.
A: Well, let’s say you are sick of shopping. Maybe malls, even the brand-new upscale malls in Shanghai, make you sick. Or maybe you can’t find one thing to watch on TV, out of the offerings of 789 channels. Suppose a pint of Ben and Jerry’s bites your face like some kind of pitbull or viper. Eventually, you can’t fit your fat body into a chair.

Q: I can still fit into a chair.
A: Then you’re all set.



Oct 012012


The Agents of Outrage: An embassy attacked. Diplomats murdered. The new calculus of violence against America.

Brooklyn is Finished: Or has it only just begun?

You call this an election?

Could China and Japan go to war over these?

The Adventures of Genius: True Tales of Brilliant Heroes

–headlines in the checkout line at Whole Foods magazines in order of appearance: Time Magazine, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, The Economist, Mental Floss


I went on a silent retreat once, and I meditated for four days. I did not have a meditation pillow or anything that might work for meditation, so I borrowed a big floor pillow from my landlady. She had a new dog, a puppy that wasn’t right. It was just one of those “lemon” puppies, and we could all tell within a few weeks. But what can you do in that situation? That’s why I like mutts, but my point here is that I borrowed a pillow from my landlady. Then we went to the meditation retreat.

The first morning, during our “sit,” the Buddhist teacher explained that only in extreme emergencies could we raise our hand. Then her assistant would come over to help us, but only by exchanging written notes. And then we sat. And sat. I was sitting there and it started to dawn on me that I was going to be sitting like that for not just hours but days. We really, truly, would not be allowed to talk. The other “retreaters” wouldn’t let me talk, even if the teachers had pity on me. They went there to get away from conversation. There was no one to talk to.

I looked down and there were all these little worms crawling out of the pillow I was sitting on. I want to say they were worms. Weevils maybe? Honestly, at that moment they looked like maggots, but that may have been a result of my heightened awareness. It occurred to me that Buddhists don’t like to kill living things. I smashed a couple, but they actually bled, so I stopped. I looked up and everyone was meditating, so peaceful, and the worms kept crawling out of my pillow. Yes, I did raise my hand. I did. And the assistant took my pillow somewhere and did something nonviolent with it.

I think I may have mentioned the American spiritual teacher I met in India who wore a JC Penny vest and had a big handlebar mustache. I am not going to say his name because though I don’t personally have a problem with him there are those who do. Anyway he was picking on this woman during one of his talks, a European woman who had actually become a Buddhist nun and meditated for twenty years. The teacher informed us that the nun was still hugely neurotic and worried constantly about the most trivial things.

“Right, Maria?” he said. “Meditation doesn’t work, does it? Your mind still chatters away and tortures your soul. Right, Maria? Right?”

Then he held his watch up in front of his face and said that most of us can only see that much of reality, it’s like each of us has a watch in front of our eyes, really close, so it’s all we can see and we think that’s all there is. I liked the way he used his watch; it was the only prop he had handy. But I didn’t like his vest. Vests are hard to do. You have to really know what you are about to successfully wear a vest. Any vest.

Oh, and my husband went on that silent retreat with me and we did not really talk it through before we went. He had done these retreats before, but I had no idea what I was getting into. We had separate rooms, and once the retreat started he would not make eye contact with me at all in the cafeteria, or if I passed him in the meditation room on my way to my new pillow. He was acting like he didn’t even know me, and that sent me into a sort of tailspin of rejection and uncertainty. Of course, he was only following the retreat protocol. Maybe I was being devoured by worms when they explained this protocol, because I had no idea why he was treating me like a stranger. We were newlyweds at the time and I was quite confident of his love for me, but I started to suffer the worst kind of heartache. Why wouldn’t he look at me? Was he mad at me? What had I done? I cried myself to sleep that first night, and then I went into a brooding rage. My meditations weren’t going well, to say the least. I finally slipped a desperate note under his door, in violation of the rules. He snuck up to me on a path and hugged me quickly, asked me if I was crazy. Someone witnessed the hug and reported us.

There is a funhouse ride I remember from when I was a kid and could ride those things without vomiting. It’s a haunted house with the spinning, tilted seats that carry you through on tracks. At the end, in a dark room, the seat suddenly spins around and brings you face to face with a huge mirror. And in the mirror, between you and the other person in your car, sits a ghost. A green wispy thing. Laughing at you.

Right, Maria? Right?






Aug 312012

“If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call him John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish—that’s tragic. But it’s only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none. You got hold of a fraction of a dynamic process, a molecular dance, and made a separate entity out of it.” —Eckhart Tolle from The Power of Now. (Namaste Publishing, 1997.)

Do NOT run the microwave with nothing inside it.
Do NOT use scotch tape to cover a wound.
Do NOT change your first name.
Do NOT wear jeans on the beach.
Do NOT call again, he/she got your message.
Do NOT play with bear cubs in the wild.
Do NOT play with bear cubs at the zoo.
Stay away from bears.

The film clip is from Brazil, directed by Terry Gilliam, copyright 1985, Embassy International Pictures.
The song over the clip is Lyke Wake Dirge, performed by The Young Tradition, recorded 1966, Castle Music.

Aug 012012


“Life is a trifle;
Honor is all;
Shoulder the rifle;
Answer the call.

A nation of traders
We’ll show what we are
Freedom’s crusaders
Who war against war…

Sons of the granite
Strong be our stroke
Making this planet
Safe for all folk.”

“The New Crusade,” US battle song, by Katharine Lee Bates, WWI


film clip is from Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott.
film adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick From Philip K. Dick, Four Novels of the 1960s, published by the Library of America c. 2007.

Because the androids don’t have empathy for animals. And the animals are all but extinct. There are plenty of electric animals around, but the real, organic, living breathing kind are sacred and rare. If you are human, and you aren’t taking care of an animal, you are despised and labeled a “special.” Special meaning damaged, crazy, unloved. And the specials can’t leave the planet. Neither can the police.

Because the dominant religion emphasizes fusion with all things. All is one. And it is sometimes hard to distinguish the androids, which have no empathy, from the specials, who have little empathy. But even the specials have empathy for the animals. (Look at the cute puppy. Touch the real frog.)

You have to be extremely wealthy to afford a real horse. A pregnant horse is a miracle.

Behold, there is a hero in the littered streets. And the hero is also a contract killer. The love interest, a female android, is built like a cro-magnon. That’s what the book says, cro-magnon. A little hunched, a hunter.

The androids give up when they are about to die. They face and accept. They’re programmed that way. This unnatural peace makes the killer angry, grateful.

Jul 252012

from The Big Book of Bible Crossword Puzzles by Toni Sortor, c.1995

B. Realms of Value
 1. Ethics. The nature of good and evil. The problems of conduct and ultimate objectives.
   a. The worth of living.
 (1) Optimism. Existence is good. Life is worth living. Our outlook can be hopeful.
(2) Pessimism. Existence is evil. Life is not worth the struggle; we should escape it by some means.
 (3) Meliorism. Conclusions as to the goodness or evil of existence cannot be made final. Human effort may improve the human situation. The final end cannot be assured, but we must face life, not escape it, applying all the effort and resource we can command.

J. Donald Butler, Princeton Theological Seminary, 1951Four Philosophies, And Their Practice in Education and Religion. c. 1951 by Harper and Brothers, NY.


According to the story, God goes into the garden and he is looking for his children, Adam and Eve. They are hiding from him. Which they have never done before. And this confuses God. He says, “Where are you? I can’t find you.”
Adam says, “We’re hiding. We don’t want you to see us.”
“Why not?”
“We’re naked.”
God reels. “Who told you that? Who told you that you were naked?”
No answer. God despairs.
“Who told you that, Adam? Who said you were naked?”
“So, now you know. Get out.”

Jul 182012

“This happened back during the time when I still believed, if it could properly be called believing, that humans were the sole repository for a person, and that there was only one person filling each repository, a single person crammed into each casing of blood and flesh and bone. Before I understood that everyone, whatever the nature of their casing, was legion.”

—Brian Evenson, from the story “Legion” Windeye by Brian Evenson, c. 2012 by Coffee House Press.

The skeletons of other stories by Brian Evenson:

1. A boy thinks he has a sister. Thinks.
2. A young man sets out to seek his fortune. He hooks up with a magnificent, evil horse that gets into his head and wordlessly persuades him to do gruesome things.
3. Professional spies track each other through disparate layers of reality. There is a glitch, a death, a disappearance, an investigation.
4. A woman’s sanity trembles when her brain falters. She begins to process audio signals with a delay. A mouth moves, the words come to her later.
5. A homeless orphan falls under the spell of a serial killer/doppelganger who takes psychic control of the orphan and wordlessly persuades him to do gruesome things.

These are all from the collection Windeye. The genre is “literary horror,” which gives the book more destabilizing potency than plain old horror. There is a philosophical question at the root of each narrative that took me to an extremely dark and thoughtful place. Don’t go there alone.

Two themes have haunted me since I put the book down (for my own protection). The first has to do with influence and submission. My real life translation of Evenson’s fantastic tale-telling is that a person can come under the spell of another person (a lover), or a thing (money), or a substance (especially,) and act in ways that are morally reprehensible even to the person who is “acting.” Because she is “not in her right mind.”

For example, a guy on drugs kills his wife, comes down from the drugs, goes into detox, comes to his right mind, finds himself in prison, for life. That kind of thing. Or that woman with postpartum psychosis who ate her baby. (You know who I am talking about . . .)

Second theme, and this is one of my pet obsessions, the game of breaking down reality, of moving the guideposts and structures that are in place to keep us mentally directed and organized. And what song is playing when the lonely chore of preserving our own mental health goes awry? The sadness of those who lose the battle. (Why we love the news.)

So no, Windeye is not a beach read.
And you should not be alone when you read it.
And don’t be alone after you read it.
Don’t be alone.

May 132012



“Half-way up they closed in on me and started talking. The girl said, ‘Look the crazy girl, you crazy like your mother. Your aunt frightened to have you in the house. She send you for the nuns to lock up. Your mother walk about with no shoes and stockings on her feet, she sans culottes. She try to kill her husband and she try to kill you too that day you go to see her. She have eyes like zombie and you have eyes like zombie too.”
–Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea


Lenny Bruce had a wife named Honey. She was a burlesque performer on the same circuit as Lenny when he started out in the fifties. Lenny and Honey had a messy time of it together. For instance, they had a car accident in the Catskills and Honey was crushed and maimed. But she didn’t die.

“For years I’ve wanted to write a note of gratitude to the surgeon who made my incision. He could have cut right down my stomach, not knowing I was a stripper and how much I depended on my body. Instead he made a tiny incision hidden in my pubic hair. To this day, I don’t even know the good doctor’s name.”

That’s a quote from her memoir, Honey. She and Lenny had one child together, Kitty. Her actual name was Brandie, but Lenny decided it sounded too much like a stripper. So they called her Kitty instead.

Honey also had a life-destroying heroin addiction for sixteen years, for most of Kitty’s childhood. Honey’s drug problem kinda sorta made her a . . . uh . . . bad mother. She spent time (years) in prison while Lenny’s mother raised their child. Honey was also a fugitive, she was on the lam in the states for a while so that made the family thing complicated, too.

Honey kicked, at least for a while, because she was clean when she wrote the memoir, for maybe six years or so, and she writes that her relationship with her daughter was “blooming.”

She had repaired the damage, you dig?