Monday, December 20, 2010

The Bells of Christmas Eve (Blue and Gold)

The sun sank languidly into the western horizon and there were bells…bright bells tolling in bright shades of blue and gold heralding the coming the evening…bright bells singing out the anthems and the carols of the Christmas Eve.

Sara smiled, that inscrutable Mona Lisa smile that could soothe like the sweetest balm or cut like the sharpest knife depending on her mood, and listened to the bells while letting memory flood over her.

Memory, shimmering in the muted shades of blue and gold, giving life to each bell in turn and all at once and sending Sara back to tender moments along her journey.

One bell tolls for Daddy, his quick rouge’s smile shining through clouds of fragrant cigar smoke and soft choruses of deep, hearty, often charming laughter.  One bell tolls for Mother, the stalwart rock of her childhood; Mother had gone too soon but, sternly and sweetly, kept informing Sara’s life even decades later.  Bells toll for Christmas mornings filled with peace and laughter even when the pickings under the tree were slim.

Sara listened carefully, breathing deep the stealthy chill of the gathering evening, as the bells…tolling in warm shades of blue and gold…renew connections thought lost.  Connections with brothers and sisters…laughing and crying, hugging and fighting, filling Christmas mornings with a cacophony only children could create and only parents could find unabashedly endearing…connections with friends and lovers come and gone from her life…connections with children she took into her heart and with children she never could have…connections with the magic moments of Christmas, real and re-imagined, that make her feel safe and loved even in her abiding solitude.

The moon rose lazily in the star-flecked sky and there were bells…joyful bells tolling in melodic shades of blue and gold heralding the return of old memory and the birth of new memory during the night and the coming Christmas morning…joyful bells singing out the anthems and the carols of the Christmas day.

Sara smiled, pulling her plush sweater tight around her, and looked up into the night sky…looked up at the calm golden moon, at the boundless blanket of stars…looked up into the smiles of the vigilant ghosts of those she loved and lost…and she nodded, giving silent thanks and humming along with the bells…the bright bells tolling blue and gold…of another sweetly wistful Christmas Eve.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I don’t want to think about her today…I don’t want to think about her sitting in her kitchen, her face stoic but her eyes bright and mischievous, teaching me how to clean the green beans from her garden while she told me stories from her colorful past.  I don’t want to think about her laughing quietly and winking every now and again to seal the pact of love and affection and secrecy between us…I don’t want to think about her vaguely smoky voice calling me by the name no one but she was allowed to use.  I don’t want to think about her at all.

And I don’t want to think about him today…my greatest champion and my most pernicious foe…I don’t want to think about the times we laughed and the times we cried and the times we shared secrets and the time we fought like…well, like Cain and Abel…I don’t want to think about his theft of pieces of my youth…I don’t want to think about his unrealized potential seeping away on a cold, lonely street in Los Angeles.  No, I don’t want to think about him at all.

I don’t want to think about my boyhood friends…one lost to time, forever wearing his silly grin and his almost gaudy blue suit as we left Louis Pasteur Junior High School and spent one last perfect afternoon together before parting, unbeknownst to us, forever; one lost after Alexander Hamilton High School turned us loose on the unsuspecting world and found…fleetingly…smiling with his family in a photo sent from a distant shore…before being lost forever to the arms of the blessed Universe.  I don’t want to think about them at all.

And Lord knows I don’t want to think about my baby girl…tiny and inquisitive and quick to smile whenever she saw me…my sweet girl who grew into a troubled woman, a lost and angry soul who I felt, foolishly, that I’d abandoned when life took me from my hometown to another town down the coast (her 5 year old self had said, quite seriously, that when she grew up she was going to marry me and take care of me.)  I don’t want to think about how her heart failed her and took her back to the light from whence we all came.  I don’t want to think about her at all.

I certainly don’t want to think about my best friend and most stalwart companion, in my life for too brief a season and in my life forever and a day…I don’t want to think about the sad, brilliant soul who lost himself in bottles because life was sometimes much too hard to face…I don’t want to think about the girl who gave her strength and comfort to us even though she was losing a battle with an invader in her own body…I don’t want to think about any of them. 

I don’t want to think about them at all.

And yet I do.  I do think about them.  I do want to think about them.  I want to think about them and all of the others who’ve come into my life and left, lingering indelibly even in their passing.  I want to think about them.  I do think about them.  And I give love and blessings and gratitude and humble acceptance of their grace.

I think about them…and give bittersweet thanks.   I miss them…now and always…and I give love and blessings and humble acceptance…and heartfelt thanks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Whisper Lost in the Echoes (a fable)

One day he just vanished.  A whisper lost in the echoes, an afterthought that most people he knew didn’t bother to explore.  No one noticed at first…why would they?  He sought comfort in the shadows, solace in the golden realms of imagined nostalgia…he was a beloved nobody, a legend in his own fool’s dreams, a nightmare of self-sufficiency and aching, futile longing.

One day he just faded away.  A lost soul clinging to slippery rocks of love on distant shores and in dark welcoming corners until he let go and let the water…the always welcoming arms to the roiling seas…melt him away…one with the fickle Universe at last.

One day…one day he was less than memory…less than an sad whisper lost in the echoes…one day he was less than all of the dashed hopes and imaginative lies, less than the fleeting times when he was informed by the laughter of babies and the bittersweet tears of women and the faithful companionship of men, less than all of the memories…real and imagined…that colored and molded his time in the material world.

One day…or so the story, told in dispassionate whispers among the uncaring echoes, goes…he just vanished. 

And, of course, the world moved on.  It always does.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My Baby

It was just a glancing blow…on one level it barely registered…on another level it rocked me like red thunder…my baby hit me…my baby’s eyes filled with acid tears and uncoiling rage…my baby hit me and then tried to hit me again.

I put a stop to that…my baby was strong but not as strong as me…by holding my baby off.

“You’re mean…you’re a selfish bastard…you’re…you’re….”  My baby lost words and tried to break free.  I held my baby tight.

“You’re right,” I said recoiling inside at the naked truth.  “You’re right…”

My baby glared at me and then relaxed.  I let my baby go.  “I hate you.”

It was just a glancing blow…on one level is bounced right off…on another level in stabbed deep into my being.  “No you don’t.”

My baby’s lips parted but she could work up no venom.  Silence mocked us and then my baby looked away.  “No…I don’t…but one day I might...”

“I know…”

My baby looked into my eyes.  I nodded.  My baby stepped into me letting tears stain my chest.

I put my arms around my baby, wishing I had more tears to offer.  “I know…”

Sunday, October 03, 2010


A little girl smiled at me when I thought I was projecting bearish aloofness.  She made me smile despite myself and reminded me, yet again, that I believe in magic.  I sometimes forget that…I sometimes want to forget that…but, in my heart…the boy’s heart that shines within my man’s chest…I do believe in magic.

Magic doesn’t always seem to believe in me…but that’s not the way it works…you believe or you don’t, needing proof means that you don’t.

Magic is child’s guileless smile…magic is a hug from a man who seems too macho to give heartfelt hugs but in fact isn’t…magic is a song that instantly takes you to a place where memory is golden and love is real…magic is a hug from across too many miles that still warms and sustains you in gray, aching moments…magic is feeling intimately connected even and especially when you’re all alone…magic is…well, magic is real.

And I believe.  I believe in laughter and tears…I believe that there are true hearts and fake hearts…I believe that yesterday is gone, tomorrow will take care of itself, and today is where we live…I believe in the power of music and the power of an impish twinkle in an old man’s eye….I believe that it’s okay to feel sadness as long you remember how to feel joy…yes, I believe…I do believe in magic.

Monday, September 27, 2010

150 Words: Victor

Victor likes to imagine himself as a victim.  It gives him some pleasure to think of himself enduring great pain and hardship…especially if he’s suffering for the sake of others. 

He knows that it’s not a healthy way to think but he indulges it anyway; it is, he rationalizes, a gentler madness.

Once he wanted to be a hero…heroes save the day and get the girl.

Once he wanted to be a leader…leaders pave the way and make safe the future for those who trust and follow him.

Once he wanted to be a lover…lovers heal the world with their bountiful hearts of love, agape and erotic and sweetly romantic, and everyone loves them just for being.

But now Victor…cognizant of the irony given his name…wants to be a victim, imagining that being a victim will, in turn, make him a lover, a leader, a hero.  It’s a gentler madness.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Four Crushes (The Songs Remember When)

When I was a boy I was shy, aloof, fat, anxious, and impatient with my peer group…not the best combination for social success in the emotional cesspool that high school could be. I was also cursed and blessed with a vivid imagination, a facility for written expression, and a yearning poet’s heart that, in ways both naively expansive and painfully insular, wanted to love and be loved.

Not surprisingly I had crushes that both elevated and devastated my foolish romantic’s heart and soul. Each one had its own soundtrack...songs forever identified with specific people.

Back in those days…the halcyon days padding the halls of Louis Pasteur Junior High and Alexander Hamilton High School (Los Angeles liked to dedicate their schools to dead white men…a function of the times they were built rather than any overt racism…to the point where a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to change the name of another school to honor Marilyn Monroe rather than James Monroe, a seemingly reasonable notion to me given where we lived, was shot down with vehement disdain by the powers that be)…back in those childhood days I carried torches that warmed and seared me to the core.

From the perspective of age I look back and see that some of my crushes from that time…four of them in particular…added more color to the tapestry of my life than I had previously consciously acknowledged.

Those four…two older, two among my peers…linger with me in ways I would never be arrogant enough as to believe that I linger with them.

They all seemed to like me. They all saw me as harmless. They all loomed in my head with more vividness than the reality of our acquaintance should have allowed for. They still do.

One died suddenly while I was still in the process of becoming a man.

One I willingly surrendered my virginity to in an act that meant much more to me than it did to them.

One shared what turned out to be final goodbyes with me on the last day of our High School life in the parking lot of Hamilton early one morning after having spent the previous hours indulging a last gasp of childhood at Disneyland, the place where childhood never ends.

One never saw my crush because I was too scared to really let it show…it was, of course, a time when I imagined that rejection would literally kill me… and because they had a crush of their own that was not me.

Those four…one gone, two hopefully living well out in our sweet old world somewhere, one in the circle of my acquaintance once and again…none of them knowing what an indelible impact they made on my journey from then to now…linger in my soul, memory making the music of their souls ever sweeter in the golden realm of affectionate nostalgia.

It was and is a gentler, sweeter madness...the songs, like my heart, remember when...and I thank them all for that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

150 Words: Magdalena's Angel

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing in the graceful gold of harvest moonlight…dancing in the world unencumbered by shyness or artifice.

She lifted my face to hers, her dark eyes smiling, and nodded lovingly…she held me close, told me that I was a fool, that I just needed some faith.

I closed my eyes, head on her shoulder…she smelled like jasmine and sweet honey…and believed her because believing is all you can do when you’re dancing with an angel.

She smiled patiently, called me a silly man, and lifted us into the nighttime sky.

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing over verdant fields and majestic rises…dancing in the arms of heaven, in the gaze of the gracious universe.

She laughed warmly, called me a good man, and took us over the horizon to greet the waking sun.

I was dancing with Magdalena’s angel…dancing in the light of another welcoming dawn.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


echoes ring up from his valley...he is screaming,
screaming at the top of his lungs,
screaming for all the gray world to hear,
screaming because it keeps the tears at bay.

(Hey, somebody calls down into his valley,
what are you doing down there?

I was screaming for help, he said, red-faced and tired,
isn't that why you came?

Nah, somebody said, didn't hear a thing, pal,
I was just passin' by...

Oh, he said, okay.

You want somebody to hear ya,
ya gotta make some noise...)

echoes ring up from his valley,
echoes ring down from his former hilltop,
he thinks he is screaming,
somebody knows he's barely whispering...

the clouds are gathering on the near horizon
and he is swallowed by pride and defeat
and he is screaming in plaintive whispers,
screaming for all the blessed world to hear...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Town (San Diego Serenade)

My town…and, having spent half my life here, it is indeed my town…suits me to a tee. It sprawls and changes like a city and but it feels like a town…someplace to belong not just someplace to be.

It shimmers lazily in the warm South California sun…kissed by Pacific breezes and hardened by insistent but eventually forgiving desert winds…and when the rains fall, as they sometimes do, it glistens with possibility from its winding roads to its powder blue skies.

We welcome in the Marines…we welcome in the surfers and the sailors, the workers of every stripe, the artists of every notion…we welcome in the children of pilgrims and the children of freedmen, the children of all of the Americas and the children of all of the bright world…we send them in and bid stay…my town…this simple, complex, gently golden town…welcomes them all and gives them shelter for however long a season they choose to embrace.

People come to visit…people come to stay…people love and complain, share and covet, curse the clouds and laugh with the sun…my town…this perplexing, utterly rational town…is ever someplace to belong not just someplace to be.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The First Rule of Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club is…

I dance with demons and angels and feel, somehow, that I’m not part of any of it…that I am unconnected…that I am loved conditionally and therefore not really loved at all…I dance with demons and angels…I dance on the outskirts of real life…I dance with myself and tell myself that it’s probably not going to be okay…

I am Jack’s rampant ego.

Making kissing noises and smiley faces at the thinning crowd…I tell myself I feel too much…I think perhaps I don’t feel much at all…I paint my face and put on the shows…a clown, a puppet, a puppeteer, a lover, a friend, a wise man, a tortured soul, an unappreciated artiste, a safe harbor, a clueless blowhard in superhero t-shirts and well worn blue jeans…I feel too much…I don’t feel much at all…it’s probably not going to be okay…

I am Jack’s impotent rage.

I look inside for solace…I look inside for freedom…I look inside for protection from the big old scary world…I am a child without a parent…I am a boy without a clue…I am a man without tethers…I am a man without trust…I am a man with love to spare…I am a man who stopped believing in love…in peace…in dreams…in the myth of happily ever after…

I am Jack’s inflated sense of relevance.

I sing the blues because they make me cry…I sing the blues because they make me feel something, anything, even if only for a moment…I sing the blues because no one else will sing the blues for me…to me…about me…I sing the blues because that’s easier than facing the fact that my life has amounted to less than I imagined it would…less than I imagined it had…I sing the blues because…well, because…and it’s okay…and I’m not sure I care anymore…and I’m not sure anybody cares anymore…I am at war and the enemy is me…it’s probably not going to be okay…

I am Jack’s bottomless well of self-pity.

I am…


Damn it.

The first rule of Fight Club is…

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Every Morning

Every morning…every blessed morning…Brian woke up wondering why he should still be alive. Maybe he thought…every morning…every blessed morning…the comfort of sleep’s dark and silent gate was something he should just embrace.

Every morning…every blessed morning…Brian shook off the remnants of gray dreamtimes and searched for a reason to get up…for a reason to get up and pretend to be part of the greater tapestry one more day.

And then the cat leaps on the bed and impatiently demands breakfast…and the automatic coffeemaker fills the thick morning air with earthy pungency…and the e-mail summons him to the computer with a strangely warm electronic ding…and every morning…every blessed morning…Brian made himself rise…relieved his bladder…fed the cat…poured a steaming mug of black coffee…he sat down at the computer and pretended to be part of the greater tapestry one more day.

Every morning…every blessed morning…Brian woke up and made himself find one more reason to be alive.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Another Summer Sunday

The air is gathering humidity in soft steady increments, capricious August heat seeping over the near horizons and into every nook and crevice of the workaday world. The animals have retreated to the comfort of artificial breezes and the people find comfort in dreams of ocean shores near and far.

Dylan is singing…”Sweetheart Like You”…and the man is singing along in a hazy golden spotlight that teases his whiskers and makes his eyes glisten just a bit more than he would ordinarily allow. He needs to shower. He needs to shave. He needs to shake himself from his reverie and make himself useful for a change.

It’s summer in yet another corner of America…it’s hot and humid and simmering with longing and possibility…it’s golden and gray and every shade in-between…it’s another Summer Sunday in one man’s America.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Me and Superman on the Edge of the World

Superman was sitting on the edge of the world waiting for something. I didn’t know what he was waiting for but I could tell he wanted it badly. I sat down next to him. “Hey, Superman.”

He glanced over and nodded ever so slightly. “Hey,” he replied, a distinct sigh in his voice, “what can I do for you?”

“Nothing,” I said, “I was just wondering if you’re okay. You seem a little…sad…”

He looked over at me again, his crystal blue eyes glistening with the weight of the world and with the weight of smaller, more human things we might not expect our heroes to be stricken with. “I’m Superman,” he said flatly, “why in the world would I be sad?”

I met his gaze and held it. “Well, I guess that’s the question, sir,” I said, hoping he didn’t get angry and crush me with his awful strength or fry me with his burning eyes.

He started to say something but then he thought better of it and looked away. He looked back over the edge of the world and sighed out loud. “I’m fine, son,” he said, “you don’t have to worry about me.”

Superman and I sat there on the edge of the world in cool silence…looking out into the dark abyss of the boundless universe.

“How’d you find me anyway?” Superman asked after a while. “People can’t see me until they need me…I’m invisible before and after that…they don’t have to think about me before and after they need me…”

“I didn’t know you could turn invisible,” I replied, genuinely surprised. “I hadn’t heard that was one of your powers.”

Superman smiled ruefully and shook his head. “One of my powers…yeah that’s what it is…”

I felt like the intruder I was but I couldn’t just walk away. “Are you thinking about leaving us? Thinking about leaping over the edge of the world and disappearing once and for all?”

That sapphire gaze regarded me once more and I felt naked before his X-Ray eyes. “I think about that everyday, kid.”

A chill went through me. “And then…?” I held my breath not sure I really wanted the answer.

He grunted a mirthless laugh. “And then I don’t.”

“Because you’re Superman,” I said looking away.

“Yeah,” he said looking back over the edge of the world, “because I’m Superman.”

We sat in more silence and then I held out my hand. “Well, I won’t bother you anymore, sir,” I said. “I saw you up here and I just wanted to thank you.”

He took my hand into his and we shook solemnly. His hand which would crush mountains was gentle as a lamb’s. “Thank me for what?”

I thought about the question for a moment and then I said, “For everything, Superman. You’re my hero and I…I just wanted to thank you.”

I stood up and walked away from the edge of the world.

“Hey, kid,” Superman called after me.

I turned, his bright blue eyes were still glistening and his smile was wan but he nodded one more time. “Thanks for… seeing me….”

I started to reply but he stood up and, with a shy wave, he soared away, his scarlet cloak streaking through the star-flecked darkness.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Song

Somehow she talked her way onto the stage. She waved at me and smiled impishly. And then she whispered something to the pianist and then took center stage. The lights went down and the spotlight haloed her. Curious people in the club looked up from their drinks and conversations and the pianist started to play and the rest of the band effortlessly fell in with him.

And she sang a song for me. A simple but incredibly sweet love song I had never heard before. Her gaze was gently relentless and her voice was husky and sultry and enormously arousing. The rest of the people in the club faded away as I watched her sing…she sang for me, that crazy, beautiful, uncomfortably young woman, and I felt my heart melting and surrendering moment by magical moment.

I had told her she was too young. I had told her I was too old. I had told her…

The club erupted into heartfelt applause as she finished and took a bow. She flashed that wondrous smile of hers and then she kissed the pianist on his cheek.

She bounded across the club and surged into my arms. “I make you crazy sometimes, don’t I?” she said, just a bit afraid of what I was going to say.

I looked into her sparkling, earnest eyes and shook my head. “Sometimes,” I agreed. Her face clouded over a little but I bent forward and kissed her forehead. “But mostly you make me happy…”

She smiled and hugged me close. “I told you I’m gonna make you love me, old man,” she said, burying her head against my chest. “How am I doin’?”

I gave her a squeeze and kissed the top of her head. “Pretty damn good, young lady,” I said truthfully. “You’re doing pretty damn good.”

Monday, August 16, 2010


the universe is sighing,
sighing and singing songs
about yesterday and tomorrow,
songs about forever and songs about now;
the universe is sighing and the sky,
the sky is weeping,
weeping tears of joy and remembrance,
tears of passion and rage,
tears of magic and memory,
tears of the mundane and the magnificent.

the universe is singing,
the sky is weeping,
the earth is sheltering and shielding
mortal fools from their own foibles and follies.

to the the sky...
to the the foolish heart...
the foolish heart is sighing and singing,
weeping and laughing,
sheltering and shielding...
the foolish heart is drowning,
the foolish heart is trying to soar,
the foolish heart is...

listen...please listen...
the foolish heart is broken apart,
the foolish heart is trying to come together,
the foolish heart is drowning and soaring,
laughing and weeping,
yearning and mocking,
the foolish heart is...


Friday, August 13, 2010

Hasten Down the Wind

…she’s so many women,

he can’t find the one who was his friend,

he’s hanging on to half her heart

but he can’t have the restless part,

so he tells her to hasten down the wind…

We sat in the swing laughing about the time I slipped into the pond and got my new jeans soaked. I was furious at the time…really more embarrassed than angry actually…but now the remembering made us both laugh until we were crying. We laughed about the songs we sang together…we laughed about the times we made faces at the animals in the zoo and walked along the shore playing tag with carefree surf…we laughed the loves we had that us happy and then made us cry…we laughed…

“We always had such good time together,” she said, catching her breath and wiping her eyes.

“Yeah, we did,” I agreed.

“How come we never…?”

It was a coy question, she knew the answer, and it kind of irked me. But I let it go. “That’s not who we are.”

“You’re my best friend, you know that don’t you?”

I took in a deep breath. I thought I knew that. But I wasn’t sure anymore. “I love you, too,” I said truthfully, dodging the question.

She winced, just a little, but didn’t call me on the evasion. “How come it feels like you’re pulling away from me?”

Yeah, I thought, how come? Because you keep me at arm’s length because you’re convinced that I love you in a way that you don’t love me….I don’t but you choose not to believe that because it’s convenient. Because my friendship seems to be of absolutely no value to you in your battles with your ghosts and your demons….because the sadness in your eyes always belies that smile on your lips…because I’m tired of watching you bang your head against the same wall and not being able to keep you from it…because I can’t keep up with all of the women you are as well as I could when I was young…because I’m just barely hanging on myself these days and, all notions to the contrary, my strength is not without its limits…because…

“I’m just tired,” I lied. “You can always count on me.” It was not untrue…but it was not as wholeheartedly true as it used to be.

She flashed her sad-eyed smile and nodded. “You remember that night at the beach…”

We nudged each other and laughed like little children. Soon the sun would rise behind us. Soon the world would fill with the symphony of a million people joining a new day. Soon the summer wind would come and sweep her one way and me another. Soon…

"Hasten Down the Wind"

words and music by Warren Zevon

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Recital

I could swear that she favored me with an opaque smile before she sat down at the piano. She took a deep breath and looked at a point somewhere just above my head and she began to play. She began to play, tentatively at first and then with a surer touch. She looked down at the keys, her fingers paler than the ivory, starkly contrasted by the ebony and she nodded almost at a small secret joke that I almost missed.

She closed her eyes and continued to play…a slow, sad waltz I couldn’t quite identify. I swayed to the melody just the same…slow, sad songs always make me dance.

She threw her head back, the spotlight sparkling off scattered strands of white in her dark mane, and sang along wordlessly as she played. One tune slid seamlessly into another…the theme from M*A*S*H…and a sly smile pulled at the corners of her thin mouth.

I smiled…good one…and mouthed the words she wasn’t singing as she continued to play.

Her fingers deftly negotiated the keys and the music…a bit of Tracy Chapman here, a little Bach there; some Billie Holiday, a little bit of Joni Mitchell, nothing original but that was to be expected…filled the space without pause…without acknowledgement of any applause…the spotlight was hers and that was enough. The spotlight was always enough.

She stopped, closing her eyes and celebrated silently with herself, giving no thought to her audience. I stood and applauded anyway.

Eventually she opened her eyes…she stood up and looked out at the audience, her face a study in beatific contentment. I walked up to the edge of the stage and gave her three roses…one red, one yellow, one white…and smiled. She smiled benevolently and blew a kiss somewhere just above my head.

She bowed gracefully and then turned and flowed offstage. The lights came up, the exit doors opened, she was gone. The recital was over.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Gray Man

The Gray Man was sad again. People would be exasperated with his navel gazing if they recognized the shadows dancing behind his big brown eyes…but they don’t see and so they don’t have to bother being concerned.

“It would be funny if it weren’t so sad,” the Gray Man said, his voice a flat whisper. But it wasn’t clear if he was talking about the people around him who don’t see or his own inflated sense of self that made him think his sadness should be of import to anyone other than himself.

Maybe both…maybe neither…didn’t matter…the Gray Man was sad again and nobody saw and nobody cared. And it would pass.

The Gray Man would not disappear to far flung shores. Nor would he take a header off the nearest skyscraper. He wouldn’t even try to explain…he was quite sure that nobody really wanted to hear it…that had been made quite clear more times during his journey than the Gray Man cared to think about.

No, he wouldn’t do anything foolish. The Gray Man would put on his bright face paint and fake a twinkle in his big brown eyes and everything would be cool again.

“That’s the way that works,” the Gray Man said, dampening down the ruefulness as best he could. “That’s the way it’s always worked.”

The Gray Man was sad again. But he’d get over it…he always does.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Ghosts of Michael

The ghosts of Michael visited me in Dreamtime. They are always with me, of course, but sometimes they appear more vividly than at other times…last night was one of those more vivid times.

I was in my mother’s house…the house where I went from boyhood to manhood (with all of the amazing, confusing, bawdy, wondrous, bittersweet glory that still-unfolding journey entailed)…and the ghosts, the sweet specters of memory, were dancing…dancing for me, dancing with me, dancing all around me.

All of the ghosts…the tender ghosts of Michael…were visiting, lingering, haunting. They always haunt I supposed…lingering soft in the ever expanding realms of memory, fancy, and the heart.

The ghosts danced…caressed…laughed…kissed…slapped…mocked and comforted and cursed me…so many ghosts. They spoke of the past…they sang of the future. As always, they were my memory…my fantasy…my conscience…my mirror…my heart, my soul... my universe writ in broad flourishes and in fleeting, poignant snippets.

The ghosts of Michael…blue, gold, and green in the shimmering dreamscape…stayed with me until the dawn called me back to the waking world…they stay with me even into the waking world…they stay with me, keeping safe the past, opening doorways into the future….the ghosts…the always lingering, always welcome ghosts.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Dancer

The dancer swayed for her…danced for her…made her smile and let her cry…when she needed him to. She accepted his entertainments and his devotions happily. The dancer didn’t ask for much in return and she was happy to accept that too.

Taking the dancer for granted was something she could do because it was something she almost always did, something he almost always allowed her to do. When she needed him he danced for her. When she didn’t need him, she tended to her personal affairs and gave him no never mind.

It was, she thought to herself contentedly, the way of things.

One soft gray day, the dancer didn’t come when she called. He didn’t come the second or the third time she called either.

Eventually he showed up smiling a beatific smile that she hoped was for her but, in her heart of hearts, knew wasn’t for her at all.

She frowned, her eyes glistening. “What happened?”

He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head. He was genuinely perplexed. “What do you mean?”

“I needed you…I called you…and you weren’t there.” She stared accusing daggers at him. “Where have you been?”

“Ah,” the dancer said, “I was dancing across town…dancing for myself…and dancing for someone who doesn’t take the dance for granted…it was gratifyingly cool actually…”

“But you love me…”

The dancer nodded. “Yeah, I said that…and I meant it…but that doesn’t mean I will always be at your beck and call…that’s not the way it works…”

She frowned again. “But that’s exactly the way it works,” she protested, “that’s the way of things.”

The dancer tipped his hat and gave a gallant bow. “Not anymore.”

“That’s not fair,” she pouted, “you can’t just change the rules…”

The dancer swayed a bit…twirled effortlessly a bit…and bowed again. “Apparently I can….actually it kinda surprised me too…” He did a slow slide and a gravity mocking soft shoe. “You can’t take the dance for granted, little one,” he said. “Not anymore. I will not allow it.”

She looked at the dancer, feeling abandoned, betrayed. “This is unacceptable,” she huffed, “completely unacceptable.”

“I wasn’t asking for your permission,” the dancer replied, not unkindly. “There are other dancers…mayhap another one who might better suit your fancy…it’s cool with me if you do, I won’t stand in your way…”

“But you’re my dancer,” she said earnestly.

“Actually,” he said, kissing her cheek fleetingly and swaying towards the door, “I’m my own dancer.” He winked impishly and danced through the door. “I probably won’t take me for granted anyway…”

The dancer gave one more gallant bow and slipped out into the world. “I’ll be around,” he promised.

The dancer closed the door and waltzed up the road before she could give a reply.

Monday, August 02, 2010

150 Words: Neighbors

“The gray skies have left early today,” I said.

My neighbor nodded. “It’s a beautiful day.”

Our driveways, side by side, glowed a soft gold in the sunshine that was chasing away the clouds.

We’d lived next door to each other for nearly 30 years but we still talked to each other in clichés and unintended inanities. Spouses came and went. Children came and went. And we still just talked about the weather.

“Are you okay?”

My neighbor winced and then nodded. “Uh-huh.”

It was a lie. “Are you sure?”

My neighbor sighed. “No.”

I looked at the side of my neighbor’s face. “What do you need to be okay?”

My neighbor looked over with liquid eyes. “A hug?”

I held out my hand. “I can do that.”

My neighbor closed the gap and stepped into me. “Thank you.”

“No worries,” I said, smiling. “It’s a beautiful day for it.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Garden

The garden always mocks me for the fool that I ready know that I am. I go there…the same time, give or take an impudent minute or so, everyday. I sit on the stone bench, letting the breeze tickle what’s left of my thinning hair, letting the sun play solitary games of hide-and-seek through the gnarled branches of the liquid amber.

I sit and read…pulp fiction and comic books, biographies of serial killers, pop culture nonsense, English translations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez…read so I don’t have to think.

But think I do just the same.

I think about crying the night I ran away from home and shivered through a long night on a windswept beach….I think about the ones I “loved” without ever having the guts to find out what if heart had purchase with theirs…I think about never kissing my father…I think about never apologizing to my mother for being a barrier between her and new love long after my father had flitted away to what he foolishly imagined were greener pastures…I think about hating and loving my brother for living as he chose to and I think about hating him for dying the incredibly stupid and heartbreaking way he did…I think about the last time I really cried…I think about the last time I really smiled…I think about thinking.

And I think about whores and scoundrels.

I smile ruefully as I read…pulp fiction, serial killers, Marquez…and think about the scoundrels I’ve known…the scoundrels I’ve been…think about the whores I’ve known…the whores I’ve been…the whores I’ve slept with. No, that’s a lie…I never slept with any of them…I had hollow, humid sex with them and then I went home and slept alone. I always slept alone. I think about the sterile sanctity of my bed…of my heart…and I tell myself that it’s all right…I tell myself that it’s just so.

The garden always mocks me…the breeze carrying its perfumes of rose petals and maple leaves and casual hubris through me and on out into the world…as I read…comic books, soap opera given gravitas by time and acclaim, Senor Marquez…and think.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Batwoman and Supergirl

Batwoman and Supergirl showed up at my doorstep in the cool gray of the late July afternoon. I hadn’t seen Batwoman in years and I had never met Supergirl at all. The Yankee lesbians from Frisco…as I insisted on calling them (they only took umbrage at the “Frisco” part…some people from San Francisco are apparently very touchy about that)…had come south to be as one with their people at the annual Comic-Con only to find that their lodgings were not in place.

Southern (California) hospitality being what it is I did not hesitate to invite them in and soothe their parched throats with generous glasses of sweet tea.

Yes, I said before Batwoman (who had actually called ahead) could ask, the intrepid heroines could stay in my sanctum sanctorum for the night (their lodgings in the gay enclave of Hillcrest…much closer to the downtown Convention Center than my house… would be available to them the next day.)

I was rewarded with grateful hugs and kisses on each cheek…one scented with mint (menthol cigarette smoke and breath spray) and the other with chocolate (the new M&M’s with pretzels.)

The cats had disappeared to wherever they disappear to when strange voices are about…save for Bart, of course, who casually sauntered out to see who the newcomers were and if they had anything for him. Batwoman retrieved two bags from their well-traveled SUV while Supergirl went into the bathroom to shower off the long hours they had spent on the road.

I fed them leftover chicken and new potatoes and then Batwoman and I talked about old times while Supergirl happily perused by CD and comic book collections and occasionally asked me about the people in the many framed photos on the walls of the family room and the front room.

Being a gallant Southern gentleman, I gave the Yankee lesbians from Frisco my bed (the only comfortable bed in the house) and I slept on the couch (much to the curiosity and delight of the cats who found “charming” ways to keep me company during the night.)

In the morning I made coffee (I don’t drink it but I keep some in the freezer for company) and Supergirl made French toast. They put on their faces, threw on their costumes, and…with more hugs and more kisses…the caped crusaders were off to join the Comic-Con throng.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That Day That We Forgot We Knew was Coming

The sky shattered into a million azure pieces,

glittering soft in the soft summer sun

it rained down on the world

and threatened to drown the people looking up.

It was that day that we forgot we knew was coming.

The sky sang potent backstreet blues

moaning languidly as innocence laughed

and the rain turned into floods

that threatened to drown the people swimming.

It was that day that we forgot we knew was coming.

The sky fell to the weary unsurprised earth,

destroying and creating in the same moment,

new flowers pushing out as rains moved on

taking the people who once were masters.

It was that day that we forgot we knew was coming.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Painted from Memory

The softness of a warm, pliant breast…the haughty, demanding allure of a taut nipple…the sleek line of a gentle muscle…the anxious nectar of a playfully stolen kiss…the strength of graceful, ardent arms across shoulders…the wounding vulnerability of a guilelessly earnest lovers’ glance…they tumble together, they tumble together in a heady admixture of memory and fancy…they tumble together and come out in ways that suits today’s needs.

The lips that smell of jasmine and cherry wine, the smutty endearments that bring smiles and stolen breath, the soft tangle of hair on my probing fingers, the taste of strawberries and honey in unexpected crevices and tender corners…they tumble together in giddy remembrances of passion and love and dreams…they tumble together, rainbow and sepia strokes writing and rewriting the stories in ways that brings humid smiles and affectionate erections.

They tumble together…these paintings and pictures, these movies and tone poems…coming together…painted from memory…painted for posterity….they tumble together…they tumble together...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

150 Words: Humid

Imagine that, she thought with some languid amusement, it’s too hot to screw. Even for us. That’s gotta be some kind of something.

The air in the dark bedroom was thick, cloying, making their naked bodies glisten in the timid tendrils of moonlight sneaking through the open window. They were huddled against opposite edges of the bed, backs to each other, pretending to be asleep.

Sometimes summer can be an evil bitch, she thought as she contemplated the vague ache in her loins; she was randy but not so much that she wanted someone pressing close to her, slipping deep into her, making her sweat anymore than she already was…goddamn…goddamn…goddamn…

Imagine that, closing her eyes and taking in the liquid air in slow sips; closing her eyes and resisting the urge to touch herself…resisting the urge to defy the heat and cross the chasm, make the shy moon blush…too hot…damn…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


What am I doing?
I'm waiting.

I'm waiting for the new sun to shine.
I'm waiting for the old moon to smile down.
I'm waiting for the wind to caress.
I'm waiting for eyes to light up just for me.
I'm waiting for a brand new song for a brand new dance.
I'm waiting for that tomorrow I was promised a long time ago.

I'm waiting.

I'm waiting to have more strength.
I'm waiting to not have to be so strong.
I'm waiting for more bright laughter.
I'm waiting for less bitter tears.
I'm waiting for the end of the mundane world.
I'm waiting for a new beginning to keep me safe and warm.

I'm waiting.

I'm waiting for magic to flow.
I'm waiting for the universe to make better sense.
I'm waiting to be first in line.
I'm waiting for a spark for the cooling ember of my heart.
I'm waiting for a new wisdom.
I'm waiting for my foolish soul to at last stop waiting.

I'm waiting.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Sergeant

The sergeant didn’t smile…he just didn’t have it in him…he just sat, folding his long, sturdy frame into my favorite chair barely able to contain him. He wanted his eyes to be steely…he was a Marine after all and that’s the way they were "supposed" to be…but they were liquid and wounded despite his best efforts to the contrary.

I sat quietly on the sofa. He would talk when he could. I would not invade his emotional space until when…or if…he was ready.

“I’m not a pussy,” he said, apropos of nothing. He was fit and square-jawed, his hair was cut high and tight, he was all masculine presence and military bearing…nobody would mistake him for a pussy.

I sat quietly. I knew he had come because a mutual friend…a woman, a Marine, we were both friends with...had told him that I was a good listener, a trustworthy confidant. I had no idea what he wanted to talk about…and we were not really friends… but I would listen if he wanted to talk.

The sergeant bolted his feet. “This was a mistake. Look, man, I’m sorry to have wasted your time.” He looked at me but made no move to leave.

“It’s cool.” I stood up and closed the space between us. “If you need to go, then go.” I paused and, tentatively, I reached over and patted his arm. “But if you need to stay, then…please…stay, I’ve got plenty of time…”

The sergeant stared at me…I wasn’t sure if he wanted to run…to laugh…to hit me…to burst into tears…and then, very subtly, he nodded. It was as close to “thank you” as he could muster in the moment.

I stepped back across the room…shooing the curious cat out of the room as I did so…and sat back on the couch.

The sergeant still didn’t smile…there was no laughter in his eyes…but he sat down in my favorite chair…and, hesitantly, he began to talk...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

150 Words: Joy

I remember joy.

Joy used to breathe light into my laughter as I walked in the sun…as I held deep conversations with inquisitive people not too long out of the womb.

Joy used to whisper in my heart whenever I looked into the eyes of someone who shined a little brighter when we were together.

Joy used to take my breath away when I kissed someone who kissed me back, lips tingling with energy and anticipation and longing…kissed someone with the rough gentleness that only real lovers know and appreciate.

I remember joy…joy danced with me, flirted with me, comforted me, joy let passion and love and lust explode through me in the humid shelters of the night and warm, welcoming lips and limbs.

I remember joy…joy was a boon companion of mine…I wonder where joy has gotten to…I wonder when joy will come home again…

Yeah, I remember joy.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Everybody's Got the Right to Love

Playing the Supremes on a cool July morning…trying to break through the suddenly stubborn grayness within and without…reminded of summer days of my youth putting a stack of 45’s on the record player and turning the volume up and dancing along…air guitar in hand, invisible microphone at the ready…and losing myself in the music.

It makes me a little happy.

It makes me a little sad.

It makes wistful for times gone and hopeful for times to come.

A step gone…but a decent enough step still present just the same…I catch the beat, smile at the bass line, and sing along with the mighty Ms. Jean Terrell…”everybody’s got the right to love”…yeah, I’d like to believe that’s still true…and sometimes I honestly do (positive madness is the best madness :-)

(I couldn't find a video for the song but clicking on the title above will take you to a place hosting the song in question.)

Sunday, July 04, 2010


He sat in the oppressive, welcoming solitude of his room staring at the wall and holding back acid tears. Maybe I’m going crazy, he thought, finding some solace in the contentment he imagined that being mad might bring; maybe I’m already crazy and just am the last one to know.

He woke with light flowing through his being…full of energy and purpose…but, seemingly out of the blue, the light faded and the grayness consumed him before the morning was done. He was tired. He was achy. And he was sad…profoundly, unfathomably sad…and he couldn’t put his finger on why. Or, more likely, he didn’t want to put his finger on the many reasons why. Didn’t matter, it was what it was…and it had no outlet.

There was no one to talk to…no one who would really listen…only those who would hear just a little and then turn the conversation back to their own concerns. That was okay most of the time…his life was filled with attentive listening, it was the one thing people both loved and resented him for…but in that moment he just couldn’t bear it.

So he sat…in the oppressive, welcoming, bitter solitude of his room staring at the ceiling and holding back self-pitying tears. Maybe it would be more peaceful being mad…being freed from the shackles of his life, blissfully unaware of nothing more portentous than the passing of days and the songs of windborne birds…maybe crazy people had no communion with sadness…with isolation…with self-doubt and self-pity.


But I’m not crazy, he thought ruefully, and I guess I don’t really wish I were. But sometimes…sometimes…

He sat in the oppressive, welcoming, bitter, safe solitude of his room staring out the window and holding back un-manful tears…maybe he needed to hit something…maybe he needed to kiss someone with passionate abandon…maybe he needed to let slip the tears and let the sadness wash out of him…maybe he needed to go a little bit crazy so he could return to being a little bit sane.


He shrugged and chuckled at his hubris. With a sigh he closed his eyes and sat back. This too, he knew from experience, would pass. This too would pass.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


America doesn’t always live up to its promise. But its promise is still something worth striving for…worth dreaming of…worth fighting and dying for if need be. I am a cynical patriot but I am indeed a patriot and no one can gainsay that fact.

Blind, unthinking loyalty to anything or anyone is a fool’s path; knee-jerk disavowal of everything this country thinks it is...everything this country wants to be…is also a fool’s path. As with most things in this world, the truth lies somewhere in between strident, inflexible extremes…this is certainly true here in America…our generous, arrogant, naïve, myopic, our hard-hearted and inflexible, open-minded and open-hearted America… our complex , often marvelously and infuriatingly so, America.

Here in the 21st Century, America is looking for its way…we’re fighting wars on distant soils and building walls on our borders…we’re reeling still from the knowledge that our shores are not immune from terror and chaos and sudden brutal deaths by the score; we are a nation united by history, hubris, and hope…we are a nation fractured along ever-fluid lines of politics, race, religion, pride, and culture.

We are America…for better and for worse…in times of peace and in times of war…in times of joy and pride and in times of sorrow and shame…in times when the rest of the world (rightly or wrongly) celebrates us and in times when the rest of the world (rightly or wrongly) reviles us.

We are America…the sons and daughters of many distant lands…the sons and daughters of adventurers and outcasts…the sons and daughters of slaves and freedmen…the sons and daughters of visionaries and madmen, of pirates and craftsmen, of warriors and peacemakers, of saints and scoundrels, of builders and destroyers, of emancipators and bigots, of heroes and villains…the sons and daughters of uncommon wizards and countless everyday folk…

We are America…we don’t always live up to our promise…maybe we never will completely…but it’s our birthday and attention must be paid just the same.