Monday, August 15, 2016


This story comes from student daze, and maybe you'd have to be
an old hippy to understand how it could even happen. It comes
from a time when you were considered shallow and bourgeois to
care about money AT ALL. And of course you would share any
food or money you had, because our culture heroes like Jim
Morrison told us we should.

My roommate Anne had a buddy whose name was Richard Rouda.
They were graduate students in the Political Science
department. Richard would sometimes tease me for writing
poetry, and tell me that sooner or later I would
have to take a Planet Earth job. I was employed, typing
themes for other students. It was very poorly paid. Richard
didn't have a job, but potheads were not expected to work.

"He's so lazy he wouldn't move his bony butt off the sofa if
the house was on fire," Anne said. But she spoke tolerantly.
We were always supposed to be tolerant.

One Saturday afternoon Rouda dropped in looking for Anne. She
was gone, but when he saw I was making a dessert, he stayed. I
didn't venture to mention that whipping cream and good
chocolate and angel food cake were expensive.

That chocolate mousse was magnificent. Since he was sitting
right there slobbering like a dog, I offered a serving. He ate
the luscious mound, rolling it around his tongue critically.
Then he served himself a big hunk more. And after that, as I
watched in shock, he began devouring the serving dish. At that
point I was brave enough to put the rest of it in the

"I'm...just...not...sure about this stuff," he said
frowningly, gobbling away. "I think it needs more..or maybe...
No," he concluded with a discriminating air,
scraping the rest of his mousse and putting it in his big fat
mouth,"I don't think anything could help. It's too rich, and
I really didn't enjoy it that much."

This was a surprise, since most of the batch was in his
belly. But I was very shy and very polite, and said nothing.
He began to put his jacket on,then looked slightly embarrassed
and asked for a loan.

"I'm really sorry, I was going to ask Anne. But she's not
here. Just whatever you have will be fine. No problem."

Obviously it was no problem for HIM. It was for me, since I
had so little money. But this was the era when you were supposed
to be generous, not grudge helping others, not be obsessed with
"possessions" like your hard-earned money. And he was Anne's
friend. So, with many a painful private twinge, I handed over
most of the few bills I had.

Immediately he became quite brisk. He secured the money in
his wallet, pushed the wallet deep down in his jacket pocket
and zipped the pocket. He said his goodbyes,
and started to walk down the stairs. Then he turned and looked
up and added, as if in passing:

"My grandmother just put a thousand in my bank account,
but I didn't want to break into it right away. I really like
the idea of it being intact."
He looked at me after this
idiot statement as if expecting congratulations
on his prudent hoarding of his money. Then he scampered
light-heartedly down the stairs and out the door.

Do I need to add that a thousand bucks in those days had the
spending power of at least five thousand today? That's five
large, compadres.

So that is the instant when a hard shock taught me two

First, I learned the way some rich people think. Not all
of them. But some.

Second, I learned that the friend of a friend can be a
terrible jerk. In fact, there is probably a continuous line
of good friends alternating with assholes all the way from
Jesus Christ to Hitler.

These are lessons worth knowing.

As for Richard Rouda, who does a person like this grow up
to be? Since he devoured weed as a rat gorges cheese, he's
probably long since smoked himself into a wee shriveled
little roach of a humunculus. I should probably, out of
compassion, forgive him.

And will I?

Not bloody likely.

Some you win, and some you learn.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


It seems that what's needed in the fight for justice against your
enemies is a handy basic curse that doesn't require any exotic
additions like rare deathly mushrooms in a boiling pot,
frog's eyelid, bird of paradise plume, unicorn poop, and the like.
Just say this poem good and loud when you feel like it. If
convenient, stand in the dark and under the moon. Maybe you
could face the direction of your enemy's tainted dwelling, if you
know it. Repeat the poem as needed. It will cure what ails you.

Oh: if you happen to be a more spiritual type who has ambitions
to forgive, go right ahead. But keep in mind this tried and true
Italian proverb:
"Forgive. But remember the bastard's name."


Fish will eat you
and your yellow coyote eyes
bubble to oyster jelly,
your rank vermicelli hair
bolt straight up in terror
on your death, death, deathbed
(sinner don't wait
until it's too late)

and still no one will forgive you,
you may have as many eyes
as hairs on your head
and fail to track the spell:
what went around will come around,
its foot will make no sound.
No use to hide in seams
where even a mole could not go.
Darkness doesn't fall, it rises,
milk you put to your lips
boils red in your belly overnight.
Back and front you'll suffer
in an ape suit of hives,
you're a silver skeleton walking,
your marrow and bone shine.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why I Didn't Take The Cathoholic Writing Course

It was around 2000. A friend told me that ambitious writers were always enriching their grapevine of contacts with the lush manure of workshops, readings, schmoozing in coffee shops, writing fawning reviews and above all, joining a writing class. I'd never taken one.

"It's time to stop picking daisies. You need formal credentials," Friend told me sternly. She recommended someone that we'll call Maxwell. She said he was a good creative writing teacher who could give me gobs of great advice.

As a prerequisite before signing up for Maxwell's course, I gave him a short story that I'd labored over. It was about a very troubled kid who'd been a child soldier in his home country. In America, he's often beaten by a priest in his parochial school. At the end of the story the tormented boy vandalizes a church.

My story had already been published, and well-published. But I hoped to improve it.

Maxwell had a pitying but implacable look when he handed back the story. He looked like a hanging judge about to stretch your neck with a really big haul on the rope, but more in sorrow than in anger. I should have paid attention to his expression. After all, it was right in front of my face. But instead I waited like a goofy puppy, eager to be praised. Maxwell said (and I remember the exact words):

"As a practicing Catholic, I find the portrayal of the priest in your story deeply offensive." He folded his lips tightly together and frowned. This was the full extent of his critique.

To say I was surprised doesn't go far enough. I was astounded. Maybe the English word Gobsmacked is best, because it means both flabbergasted and speechless. I couldn't have been more shocked if he'd suddenly taped peacock feathers to his butt and started dancing the Texas two-step. I said nothing. But what I thought was this: "Writing a good story is hard enough without Pope John Paul and legions of the freakier saints peering over my shoulder."

The friend who'd recommended him threw up her hands: "That isn't like Maxwell at all! He's a real sensible guy normally. I bet that Cathoholic wife of his dictated what he should say."

I'd never heard the word Cathoholic, and was intrigued. Friend explained that it doesn't necessarily mean someone who drinks too much, and Mrs. Maxwell does not. The person doesn't even have to be a Catholic, "although they usually are," Friend claimed. It means an obsessive member of any religion. A Cathoholic is hopped up on arrogance, snakebitten out of her gourd with delicious delusions about her glorious spirituality. She thinks of herself as God's sensational darling, while those in other religions are his stunted stepchildren. Needless to say this has nothing actually to do with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the saints or (God forbid) God. And a true member of this tribe thinks that Jesus was having a wimpy, pinko, Bernie Sanders kind of moment when he suggested things like Help one another, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

Soon after this incident, the international scandal broke about abusive priests being protected by bishops in the Catholic church for decades, if not centuries. I wondered if Mr. and Mrs. Maxwell had heard the news. Did it affect their worship schedule at all? Also, did they recollect the events in my story? Probably they did not.

Years passed. Mrs. Maxwell and I live in the same area. I sometimes walk my dogs down her block.To this day, when she sees me she looks surly and, I'm sorry to say, quite unchristian. Sometimes she'll even mutter and sputter to herself, like Donald Duck in a cartoon when he's especially pissed off. This fascinates me. This majestic lady wouldn't tolerate a speck of dust on her white slacks or sparkling car, but she's perfectly comfortable with raging, squawking, farting little Donald scampering around her brain. She even thinks that God wants him there. Her behavior is odd; her motivations are mysterious; but her performance as a whole is devilishly entertaining.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Poem for Annie's Curls

How strange these strands of silk, buckeye chestnut, mustang brown, not long enough to wrap your hand around, and each by itself insubstantial as dragonfly's flight to breast the wind, to guard against fire or ice, to add one dot to wisdom or peace or justice in the world-- yet each to its own, a coiling spring of joy. This single tendril a bolt of chromium steel with might to bind a strong father's heart for life. Written in dearest blood, his wish that his tiny Rapunzel will never know a tower, witch curse, careless climbing prince, that a loving dragon-father can keep her safe no matter how fierce the fanged shears of the world.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I just learned from the delightful blog PaperandSalt that the Marquis de Sade, on top of everything else, was a chocolate fiend. He once threw a chocolate party so wild that he was put in prison. I'm surprised that he had the energy. After all, it's not as though he didn't have anything else going on. A true French aristocrat, he hardly allowed solitary confinement to slow him down. The rambunctious Marquis regally demanded of his long-suffering wife (who remained free, since she hadn't been invited to the party) that she bring him a better grade of chocolate "than the infamous rubbish you sent me last time." He also schooled her in the perfect cake, saying, "It ought to have the same taste as when you bite into a bar of chocolate. I wish it to be of a chocolate so dense that it is black, like the devil's arse is blackened by smoke."

Don't you suspect that, in the Marquis's childhood, little Donatien Alphonse was never satisfied with just ONE marshmallow in his cocoa??

Friday, November 22, 2013


I admire the old-time movie freedom fighters, especially Ingrid Bergman, who won World War II several times without ever breaking a sweat. In fact, as these scenes from CASABLANCA and NOTORIOUS show us, she saved civilization in diamond chandelier earrings,  romantic garden hats and a ruffly bolero.

We know that the Nazis will totally fail at world domination when Bergman symbolically rests her exquisitely manicured hand on the globe.
In NOTORIOUS, her fellow warrior is Cary Grant.
No reason you can't beat the Axis Powers in silk socks!
If you're Bogey, you can be sad, fight the Nazis, drink champagne and wear black tie all at the same time.
Well, maybe Sam won't ever play it again... but these thrillingly
invincible and glamorous combatants, plunging bravely through their hair-raising world-saving adventures,
will always make my heart glad. I stand, raise a glass and cheer.