Wednesday, March 25, 2009


"He must have an angel in his head."
(Picasso said this after looking at one of Marc Chagall's paintings of heavenly swooping figures)

"I know--it's terrible--but I love her so much!"
(Picasso's reaction when a friend told him that Gertrude Stein was ungratefully selling the portrait he'd made of her to buy, as she put it, "a better picture.")

"It looks like a hair in my soup."
(Picasso, frowning, when he saw a line drawing by Matisse, his lifelong rival.)

"He steals my blue."
(Picasso, lying, about Matisse. Actually he tried to steal Matisse's blue.)

"Forgiveness, the first sign of senility."
(Picasso, known for his stamina in holding grudges.)

"The main thing is to outlive the bastards."
(Picasso, who lived into his nineties.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Mildly Blue Story On A Beautiful Green Earth Day

(Original Earth Day was March 20, 1969)

My good friends Sue and Charlie both grew up in Colorado, and they insist this story is true:

Wolves were multiplying like rabbits and growing fierce as tigers in the remote Colorado hill country. Ranchers were infuriated as their sheep flocks were attacked and gobbled up. They often shot the wolves on sight, which put them at odds with shiny-faced young environmentalist students in the state university. Finally the students persuaded the ranchers to meet with them, promising that they would come up with a solution to the problem.

The meeting took place in a village town hall. The ranchers in the audience were a tough, hardened, weatherbeaten crew, dressed in frayed ranch clothes which had seen many storms. They were also angry, and they were not in the mood to take any crap from The Greenie Babies, as they called the students. However, a crisply tailored student, smelling of men's cologne and with a freshly styled hairdo, strode with huge confidence to the lectern.
"My colleagues and I have discussed your situation," he said importantly. "And we have come up with the one and only solution that can save both the wolves and the sheep." He paused impressively, then announced his plan: "We will castrate the wolves!"
The ranchers were stunned into silence. Then, slowly, they began to mutter between themselves. Finally they chose a spokesman, Vern, the most weathered of all. He stood up, nervously twirling his hat in his hands, tried to speak, and fell silent. "Tell 'em, Vern! Tell 'em!" the other ranchers urged.
Vern finally got it out. "Perfessor," he said, "we don't care if the wolves f--k our sheep. We just don't want them to EAT them."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

And I Won't

"Don't let anyone prophecy over you who doesn't like you."
David Gonzales, evangelist minister

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Duffy and His Harry Houdoggy Moment

As everybody knows, Harry Houdini was a master escape artist who could compress himself into, and then work his way free from, the tiniest spaces. Our dog Duffy has perfected only one feat of this type, but it's dazzling to watch.

First, a little background to the Harry Houdoggy moment. We supposedly bought a purebred shetland sheepdog, but Duffy has grown fabulously huge for the breed. Can you picture a 50-pound sheltie? Friends, relatives, and even total strangers walking their dogs have taken it upon themselves to kindly let us know we were total chumps if we thought we were getting a purebred. But we don't regret it, because Duffy is one of life's sweethearts. For one thing, in his heart he's still a tiny guy. He will crawl confidingly into our laps, crushing us. And he's passionately attached to the little crate which he used as a puppy, and insists on taking his naps there. It looks impossible, but in his mind the sun shines on all his endeavors, so he never hesitates. First he crouches and creeps through the tiny door. I worry that the day will come when he can only do this if he's covered with grease. He eases forward until his nose touches the back of the crate. Then comes the Harry Houdoggy moment: slowly, but with fabulous confidence, he twines his loo-oong, flexible spine around on itself like the unfurling of a rosette, and ends up facing out, in a compact bundle. His big, dark, furry head and shoulders loll out the door, and his face has a look of ecstatic stupor, as with half-closed eyes he gently mumbles a shred of the battered red flannel shirt that's been his blankey--also since puppyhood.
And we smile, because we know we're looking at perfect happiness.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Scents Of Memory

The five friends were sitting around Marta's kitchen table, toward the end of dinner on a cold Sunday night in March. They were well into the third bottle of the Polish Bullsblood wine that Sam had brought. The topic of conversation was memorable smells.
"The most comforting smell on earth was my grandma's hot pastry, baking," Marta sighed. "Her strudel had such integrity. And if I asked Gram, she'd cut out pastry leaves and flowers to bake on top, and a M for my name--"
"How precious," Josh said bitingly. "Well, my favorite scent is the way my first girlfriend smelled. She was an arty bohemian girl with hair in her armpits."
"Why are we talking about your love life when I'm trying to eat?" Anne said, looking at her scone.
"Well, I love the smell of wet dog,"said Carol, who always hated to be outdone. "I grew up with a Lab/shepherd mix named Sluggo. Sluggo was one of those big, goofy, slobbery, happy dogs that make you feel good just looking at them.
"He did smell truly awful when he got wet, but I never minded. He lived with us for years and years. His favorite thing was to go out in the rain and roll in the rotting mulch in the garden. He would stink terribly. Then my mother would scold him, and he'd be ashamed and try to force his way behind the leather armchair to hide. But he was way too big. So my Sluggo would sit close BESIDE the armchair, and hope for the best.
"Anyhow, it rained the day after he died, and there was no reek of wet fur. I looked at the armchair and started to cry. I said to my mother, 'Would it have killed us to move that chair out a couple inches, so he could hide there when he wanted to?' She thought I was crazy."
Jennie, who still missed and often spoke of her noble Skipper many years after his death, had tears in her eyes.
"I'm the only person in the world who can't stand the smell of popcorn," Sam said hastily. He detested sentiment, and thought Sluggo had brought them dangerously close. "This began when my parents and I moved here from Poland.
"Friday nights my mom would make up a big vat of popcorn for our cozy American evening at home, as she'd seen on television. But my Dad's idea of entertainment was to insert his butt into the La-Z-Boy and tell me about the 10 thousand years back in Poland during which our serf ancestors had been treated like crap in their godforsaken hovel on the landlord's estate. There had been a long line of vodka-crazed psycho landlords, but my father called them all by the same name: an unpronounceable Polish word that means Butthole in the Big House."
"What a coincidence," Marta said. "My Lithuanian ancestors also had a landlord called Butthole in the Big House."
"In Poland," Sam continued, "the males in my family, the Dudeks, were traditionally horse grooms. The landlord's idea of fun was to kick a Dudek to death with his jackboots if the horse wasn't looking properly twinkly-eyed. You would think it would have occurred to somebody to leave. I said this to my mother, and she said, 'We must respect their struggles.' I understood this. I knew my ancestors had modest expectations. They thought things were going good if nobody had recently been flayed alive by the bullwhip.
"But every Friday night in America, as my dad ate popcorn and told me about our sacred dead, I silently raged," Sam said. "I was a merciless little American, and I wanted to enjoy my life. Doing this around my dad was like trying to learn to dance while having to edge very carefully around a huge bucket of blood which stood dead center in the livingroom. It was like we left Poland but never really got away.
"So that's why I dislike the smell of popcorn," he said.
Sam's friends stared at him in silence. Then Carol leaned forward and very gently poured the last bullsblood wine from the last bottle into his glass. He swirled it, breathed in the harsh, bitterly sweet bouquet, and drank it down.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Message to All Artists

When the gulls are flying off with your pancreas, just tell yourself, "This will all be very useful someday."

Jim Carrey

Sunday, March 1, 2009


(A tribute to my friend May, who received a death sentence from her doctor. He was off by about twenty years. She wore her pink survivor's ribbon with honor and joy.)

One day the doctor told May
"Your turn for a wasting disease"
but she refused to let him
prop her ribcage up a tree just yet.
Instead, she began eating her head off.
She lived on lard, all her nerve endings
sheathed in rosy fat.
She dunked her rosette curls
into butter tubs of gluttony.
She spit on her bad gut, her bad heart,
and all but the most sumptuous
deadly sins.
The doomy wag of the doctor's tongue
had twisted her to the roots, but
closer to the earth
she prized up gobs of tubers, anklets of peanuts,
and embraced whole racks of lamb.
She saw the doctor chop bits most cherished
from other patients. Savagely physicked,
they crawled to the cooling board.
May ate steadily forward,
never putting a foot wrong,
gilding every jiggle, dimple and crease.
On appointment days the doctor would look at her,
sitting on two chairs, her big smile
smelling of pie and ham fat,
and the old skull would fall silent.

(originally published in The Georgia Review)