Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Master Race

This is the phrase that keeps popping up inside my head. What does this mean?

It’s a bit like pre-destination. People are either born with it or without. Despite DNA, personality, determination, physical ability. A master race is about who your parents and grandparents are. The color of your skin, the color of your eyes, the shape of your lips, nose.

Growing up, even as a little kid, I knew all these distinctions who so unfair. Yet, I didn’t know what to do. I remember my father shouting at the TV, at a black football player, C’mon you spook, pick up the ball! I remember Howard Cosell, TV sports commentator, calling an African-American player a monkey. My father referred to Brazil nuts on the bridge mix as “nigger toes.”

I also remember a tension rising up inside of me, an inner voice whispering: This isn’t right.

No one had to tell me. Of course I was curious. Were Jews schemers? Money grabbers? I had no idea, I’d never met any. Until one day in 3rd grade for show and tell one of my classmates brought in her mother, a woman who seemed small and slightly hysterical. Her eyes darted around the room. The story she began to tell was about a camp, but it was unlike any camp I’d ever been to. She and her family escaped. She recounted how when they finally got something to eat her mother screamed at her about dropping a crumb. The tone of the mom’s voice (the one sitting in front of our group) was high-pitched, tight with emotion. There was palpable fear in her voice and eyes.

Afterwards I read as many Holocaust survivor stories as I could get my hands on through the library and the Scholastic book club. Like this book where I read about the Brown Shirts:

 Then there was this:

The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed a teacher in a small town in Iowa tried a daring classroom experiment. She decided to treat children with blue eyes as superior to children with brown eyes. I must have seen a clip of this on the news because I remember a part where a young girl begins to tear up from shame, from the affront of racism, the coldness of the teacher and loneliness when her friends turned their back on her.

I have many more memories of—what can I call it? except—that feeling that this is not right.

God, it’s been forty years and why am I sitting here at the keyboard crying. Yet I can so vividly recall the horror and—here’s something important—the implied implication, the collective guilt I felt. I believe (this is not science, just a theory) that all children with a conscience must also feel this and how they act upon these feelings determines who they will be for the rest of their life. Either someone who empathizes with those being discriminated against or someone who denies that feeling, rationalizes it away, or decides it’s not important. Or maybe even a joke.

I can remember as if it were yesterday: my friend’s parents had adopted African American children. Nicole’s brother and sister were black. They came to the house to pick up Nicole, likely the parents were out in the car because they didn’t live in our neighborhood. Without knowing who the child ringing the doorbell was my brother made the wisecrack, Hide the chicken. (We were sitting down at the dinner table.) And this is what I remember the most, how hard my parents laughed. I was horrified walking to answer the door. I didn’t have the words back then. My anger only made them laugh louder.

I’ve watched the clips of the Unite the Right March in Charlottesville, the news conferences and press statements by --- and I’m telling you now—that feeling rolls over me like waves. A hand flutters to my mouth.

I cannot change my past, the color of my skin, eyes, my nose and lips, but I can use this mouth to speak. This is not right.

I think I’m going to be sick for a long, long time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Seeking Asylum

New story "Seeking Asylum" up at

“Things are a little crazy right now,” I tried to explain about the mess. My idea of crazy must be on a whole other planet from what was going on in Venezuela. I mean it was like Mad Max meets The Hunger Games down there. In an oil-rich/cash-poor country with empty grocery shelves and a president in denial, life had gone from difficult to a death spiral. There were not enough printing presses in Venezuela to keep up with the inflation. People were killing each other in the streets for toilet paper. I may only be slightly exaggerating. I only knew what I read in the papers and from Abraham’s essays. In his last paper I learned that he had been employed as an engineer. His specialty was hydroelectricity. Apparently Venezuela was powered not only by oil reserves but by water—except that there was a drought and levels in the reservoirs had fallen. Whole sections of the country were without power. The president called upon Venezuelan women to stop blow-drying their hair—as if that might fix the problem brought about by decades of mismanagement. 

The country was in an apocalyptic state of affairs—yet I couldn’t have this woman with me indefinitely.

“Only for a few days,” Abraham sought to reassure me. I had the distinct impression I was being taken advantage of, the same feeling I get outside Starbucks when the bums ask me for change. Just because I buy a coffee doesn’t mean I need to feel guilty about it.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Wichita Lineman

Glen Campbell passed away last week. I really hadn’t listened to him for years. As a memoirist and someone interested in memories I was drawn to his heartbreaking song “I’m Not Going to Miss You”: the obvious reason being that he will no longer remember the people who once populated his memories. Campbell was about to enter the last stages of Alzheimer’s.

As I read the numerous tributes to him I came across a piece about one of his signature songs, “Wichita Lineman” and how it came to be. Jimmy Webb wrote the lyrics. He’d delivered on “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston” for Campbell. He was called upon at the last minute for a song to complete an album. Campbell was in the studio and needed something ASAP. And, could it be another town song.

From the BBC Culure:
"They called me and said, 'Can you write us a song about a town?'" he recalled in a Radio 2 documentary about Campbell's career.
"And I said, 'I'm not sure I want to write a song about a town right now. I think I've overdone that'.
"He said, 'well, can you do something geographical?'

Webb was in the midst of another project and wanted to pass. The song almost didn’t happen, but Webb had a flash. An image of a lonely telephone repairman all by himself at the top of a pole.

He had called up the image of a lineman from a childhood journey across the panhandle of Oklahoma.
"There's a place where the terrain absolutely flattens out," he told the BBC. "It's almost like you could take a [spirit] level out of your tool kit and put in on the highway, and that bubble would just sit right there on dead centre. It goes on that way for about 50 miles.
"In the heat of summer, with the heat rising off the road, the telephone poles gradually materialise out of this far, distant perspective and rush towards you.
"And then, as it happened, I suddenly looked up at one of these telephone poles and there was a man on top, talking on a telephone.
"He was gone very quickly, and I had another 25 miles of solitude to meditate on this apparition. It was a splendidly vivid, cinematic image that I lifted out of my deep memory while I was writing this song."

He acted upon this image and quickly wrote “Wichita Lineman” which went on to win Campbell a Grammy.

So the point being—when the pressure to write bears down, we sometimes produce our best work. We need to act on those flashes, those unbidden images that pop up out of seemingly nowhere. There really was no point, no resolution to the song—just an idea, that went on to resonate with listeners. It was said the song was a hit with soldiers fighting faraway in Vietnam. My guess is they understood that loneliness, missing loved ones, the feeling of being on a mission and all they had to do was get the job done and get home.

It’s surprising what can be communicated in a 3-minute song.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing

Available wherever you download books.

Baker & Taylor Blio
Baker-Taylor Axis360
Barnes & Noble
Gardners Extended Retail
Gardners Library
Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)
Library Direct

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Storytelling, and the ability to sympathize with one’s enemy

This weekend I began reading The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. 
It is literally the story of a sympathetic narrator. In this day and age of what sometimes feels like a civil war to read a novel from the point of view of a character living in a partitioned country and can yet understand life on both sides is truly refreshing. He puts himself into the head of a cast of characters—even the ones he has to compromise and kill in order to advance ideology.

It’s complicated.

Viet Thanh Nguyen recently wrote an article: "Trump Is a Great Storyteller. We Need to Be Better." 11 December 2016. This is an articulate essay written by an immigrant about the importance of words. When we allow leaders to subvert language and use rhetoric to alienate and hurt their own populations, then we have to stand up—call a lie a lie.

It’s interesting that since his election, several great authors have spoken up about their fears. Aleksandar Hemon has written several pieces around the election of Trump and the direction of America. You see, he comes at the idea of America from a place of absolute chaos: the Bosnian-Serbian War, and the bitter eruptions in both those places for the last 600 years.
Every Bosnian I know had a friend, or even a family member, who flipped and betrayed the life they had shared until, in the early 1990s, the war started. My best high-school friend turned into a rabid Serbian nationalist and left his longtime girlfriend in Sarajevo so he could take part in its siege. My favorite literature professor became one of the main ideologues of Serbian fascism.

Hemon knows personally what it was like when brother turned on brother and neighbor against neighbor.
My grandmother, once told me a story about her father, who had, one Bosnian winter during World War II, found himself on the way to having his throat slit by his neighbors. With his hands tied behind his back, he stood in line watching the people before him being slaughtered and thrown into the freezing river. When his turn came, he saved himself by leaping into the water before the killer could get to him. A few years later, after the war, my grandmother took lunch to his small store next to the local market. Outside the store, her father was drinking coffee with a man. In Bosnia, drinking coffee with someone is an act of friendship and intimacy, but she recognized her father’s coffee mate as one of the neighbors who had taken him to slaughter. “Do you know who this is?” my grandmother’s father asked her. “He was going to slit my throat.”

At this point in the story, I was shocked by the casualness of the exchange, so I asked my grandmother: “So what did the man say?”

She said: “Nothing. He just shrugged.”

Flannery O’Connor in her story “The Misfit” in the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find tells the story of a band of escaped prisoners who take hostage a vacationing family lost on the backroads of Georgia. The violence in the story is downplayed, upstaged by the idea that we are only good when we have a gun to our heads. If the grandmother could have lived her life at gunpoint, so to speak, she could have gained the self-awareness and compassion that she’d lacked.

We are at a point, all of us, where we need to come face to face with our enemies—and they may be the person in the mirror.

AND let’s just keep this in mind—July 18, 2017 Trump administration and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is closing a decades-old office in the State Department that has helped seek justice for victims of war crimes.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Is there a prophet?

Is there a prophet?

Growing up I thought the strangest people ever were prophets. Of course, I was a strange little kid. All on my own I set out to read the Bible cover-to-cover. I also set out to read all the books in my elementary school library. I didn’t even make it through all the As. But I did manage to read all of these:

A little heavy on the male hero, but that was the times!

Back to Old Testament prophets.  Amos, Hosea, Micah, Obadiah, Haggai, Habakkuk. Believe me you don’t want to be these people.

They were weird, boring, and pretty much friendless. They were obsessed, driven, and ridiculed. I was constantly worried that God might call me to be a prophet and I’d end up even worse off than being the middle school oddball I already was.

But lately I’ve been wondering: Who will stand up to the powerful? Who will speak truth to bullies? Who is going to risk their reputation to defend the poor? Basically a prophet, someone with nothing else to lose, someone who feels a divine calling to go against the grain. Someone with a social media death wish, who doesn’t mind being ostracized, twitter-fried. Ezekiel would never have fit in in the suburbs.

Definitely the whole idea of a prophet brings up a lot of questions. Such as who gets to determine what’s right and what’s wrong and who holds the yardstick for measuring up? It is such a thin line between the hypocrite and the one calling someone else a hypocrite. Setting all this aside, I look forward to the next few years and seeing who decides to go against the flow and logjam the rich and powerful. Is there a prophet?
  Circa 1360 Illustrationin Speculum Humanae Salvationis  Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt,  This prophet's death by sawing is detailed in the 3rd century .

Friday, August 4, 2017

Paterson, the movie

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Movie Review

William Carlos Williams’ work was about capturing a moment. There are times when his work reminds me of Walt Whitman in its laudatory celebration, for example, of Paterson, NJ. (I know New Jersey, really.) And, at other times, his poems seem a lot like the New York School. He was a contemporary of Frank O’Hara, though much of his work pre-dates the NYS. Nevertheless, he was influential in his simplicity and taking a snapshot of everyday life and holding it up. It is what it is=a wheelbarrow, but it is also grander than that=it’s red, the chickens are white. What isn’t mentioned is that it is a clear crisp morning, the kind where you feel alive. Glad of that particular moment.

In the movie Paterson, Adam Driver, is a bus driver named Paterson. Is there some synchronicity here? He observes. Through his lens we see:
A glass
A mailbox askew
Series of twins

He sees patterns in Paterson.

Is it all black and white? (His wife’s favorite.)

He is also distracted—as if everyday life is intruding upon his art—or vice versa. Driving a bus, keeping to a schedule, a specific loop could easily be boring if it weren’t were for all the interesting people, overheard conversations, if there wasn’t so much poetry in the ordinary. It’s remarkable! Even the ubiquitous falls that the tourists come to see and celebrate.

Life is more than a confusion of a trillion cells.

Ron Padgett a second generation poet of the New York School was tapped to write the poems used throughout the film. From The New York Times:
Mr. Padgett, 74, who wrote three poems and provided four old ones for the movie’s main character, said the words flowed easily. “I realized I’ve been writing poems as one character or another for more than 50 years,” he said. He lives with his wife, Patricia Padgett, in the same railroad flat he found in 1967 and promised would be their home for no more than one year.
He also makes his wife coffee every morning. In the pics accompanying the interview he looks older, much older than William Carlos Williams when he died. Older than most of his friends whom he’s survived. At a certain point we get a quick glimpse of Lunch Hour Poems by Frank O’Hara by the driver’s, Paterson’s lunchbox.

This is not a big movie nor is it epic, fast-paced, action-filled. It is about ordinary people living ordinary lives. Nothing happens. Just like a poem. 
Ron Padgett is in the middle

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

War & Turpentine, book reivew

War & Turpentine
Stefan Hertmans, translated by David McKay
Book review

War & Turpentine is an autobiographical novel based upon the experiences of the author’s grandfather during World War I. Maybe.

There are indeed some facts.

The author’s grandfather, born in 1891, died in 1981. “It was as if his life,” Mr. Hertmans writes, “were no more than two digits playing leapfrog.” Urbain, an amateur painter most of his life, left behind his wartime journals.

Beyond this, Hertmans dives into his grandfather’s world, bringing us into the context and history of Flemish Belgium around the turn of the 20th century, an industrial age where children worked long hours at dangerous foundries incurring hideous injuries that often left them scarred physically and emotionally, or worse: dead. Urbain at every turn faced hardship and danger—and this was before he was drafted.

The book is divided into three parts. Setting the foundation of family history prior to the war, then a reinvention of the wartime diaries—what the NYTimes described as speculative writing—and the third act after the war, the rest of the story. Plus a meta view of the grandson (author) who adores Urbain and at the time is unable to grasp why he is who he is. It is only later the parts come together into a whole.

It has been a 100 years since WWI and many lists are featuring literature from this time period, titles are being revisited or reissued. W & T 1914 – 1918 contains an immediacy despite the fact that it is not Urbain’s exact words, it is his story nevertheless reinterpreted by 2 generations removed.

“The truth in life often lies buried in places we do not associate with authenticity. Life is more subtle, in this respect, than linear human mortality. It goes to work like a painter/copyist, using illusion to depict the truth.” And, here lies the essence of the novel/memoir/memorial—who cares if it is exact, the elements of what makes it real are all there.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Flashback to Sonny Liew

Singapore artist tops 'comic book Oscars' nominations

A Singaporean artist's graphic novel has topped the list of nominations for the Eisners, the Oscars of the comic book world.
Sonny Liew tells the BBC about the challenges he faced in making the book, which has been criticised by the Singaporean government for "potentially undermining" its authority.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, meta FFFFIIICCTIONNN

One of the most interesting books I’ve read since becoming interested in the puzzle within a puzzle of meta-fiction is the GRAPHIC NOVEL The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew.

Okay let’s just begin by talking about Singapore.

That was quick, right? If you’re like me (semi-engaged and somewhat geographically astute) then you know basically where Singapore is, but not much more. Such as I did not know it is a city-state. One of a very few cities that act as nation states. They are what they are.

Then I went to Wiki and read a GLOWING account of Singapore’s history. Mt first reaction was WOW, I did not know this—but then, on second thought, why does EVERYTHING sound great.

Sonny Liew born in Malaysia, lives in Singapore. (What’s the difference? Well, now I know.) But the biggest question is this: What does history and geography have to do with comics????

I can’t answer that except this book works. On so many levels. One hand you have real history and then on the other—what is “real” history. History has always been written by the victors and only recently have historians tried to correct a record. Then there are revisionists. Some revision of history does merit to minority groups, gving them a voice in what was once a narrow field of voices, but some revisionism reveals a bias that continues to marginalize and leave others out. History is riddled with subjective view points that we might not ever be able to escape.

Thus, enters Sonny Liew with an outsider’s eye. His main character could perhaps be argued as his alter ego, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, an aging comic designer/illustrator whose story takes us through Singapore’s modernist and multi-cultural history. (It is an old culture but with new beginnings.) He gets behind the curtain of the shiny Wiki entry and tells a nuanced story where opposition is easily dismissed as “communist” and young passionate leaders are destined for prison and exile. In order to attain a veneer of multi-culture amidst unity—there is a price to pay. In order to arise from back streets unto an international mega-city—there are untold sacrifices. The “real” story is much more complicated. And Charlie Chan’s personal narrative loops and is interwoven into the upheavals of Singapore. And not only Charlie’s story but the marginalized comic writers and drawers fighting for shelf space and to gain the backing of a publisher. In a small country you not only have to make it big locally but become internationally renown. For Charlie it is bitter medicine to swallow that he might not ever be able to break out as an artist. His superheroes are the ordinary ones that fight for everyday justice.

AKA the Night Soil Man who turns into a Giant Cockroach

This is a book that is mesmerizing and dizzy with front and back, looping, and turning a story this way and that. We get to see history and the underside of history. And, in the end, our heart hurts for the hopes and dreams of a lonely comic artist.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Flashback to an earlier flash

this is also a flashback to Grace is having a birthday--we never stop worrying

Treasures in the Sand
July 2015, Mothers Always Write

When my daughter was five or six I packed the car and drove to the lake. I had to lug bottles of water, a bag of fishy-smelling beach toys, a lunch cooler, and a lawn chair across the parking lot and down the stairs to the beach. I stopped to take a breath and take in the scenery.

Broken flips flops, water engorged diapers, plastic bags, and pieces of glass littered the shore from the weekend. My daughter took off barefoot to scare a gaggle of seagulls. I screeched for her to be careful (I imagined her cutting her foot and getting an infection), but only managed to scatter the seagulls before she got to them.

I set up my lawn chair, trying to avoid a decomposing fish with flies buzzing around its dead jelly eyes. Almost immediately we were surrounded by a horde of children wanting to borrow our beach toys. I could not keep track of them and my daughter, who had wandered ankle-deep into the water only to run back when a frothy wave unfurled and threw itself at her. I didn’t even bother to sit down. What was I thinking! This place was a death trap.

My daughter came running back, “Look Mommy,” she shouted excitedly. In her hand she clenched a plastic tampon applicator, a shiny foil condom wrapper, and tabs from beer cans. “Treasures!” she exclaimed.
This past week my 23-year-old daughter came home from a semester abroad in London and traveling solo through Spain. Just like that day on the beach, I envisioned every last thing that could go wrong—and did, a little bit. She had her phone stolen on the train, she got caught in the rain, she missed her flight home, but despite all the bad stuff that happened she made it back with treasures: a button found outside a West End theater, a picture a friend had scribbled on the back of a napkin, a postcard from Madrid, a seashell found on the beach at Malaga, the fragment of a map folded and refolded in the rain outside a castle.

I might not be done freaking out—there is ALWAYS something to worry about—yet I’d like to learn to distill treasures from trash and keep in mind memories, smooth as sea glass, churned up by rough waters. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Medley of places to Submit

1) A Very Short Story Contest
It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Ernest Hemingway won a bet by writing a short story that ran fewer than ten words. One version of the story places the bet at the famed Algonquin round table. Whether true or not, there is an actual bet-winning short story attributed to Hemingway:
For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.
You have to admit it's pretty good. It builds, and there’s a whole world of background and emotion lurking beneath those words.
We would like to make a similar bet with you. Write a great short story in ten words or fewer. (You may use a title, but that goes into the word count.) Submit it to our contest. Entry is free. Winner of the bet gets a free Gotham 10-week workshop. 
We’re a new Medium-based literary magazine that focuses on fantasy and sci-fi flash fiction. We love magical worlds full of dragons and speculative looks at the future, and we think these two genres are important to our culture, which is why we want to give writers of these genres a new place to publish their work. One that pays them, too. (Yay!)
3) Journal of Compressed Arts

The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts is looking for, as you might guess, “compressed creative arts.” We accept fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, mixed media, visual arts, and even kitchen sinks, if they are compressed in some way. Work is published weekly, without labels, and the labels here only exist to help us determine its best readers.

Our response time is generally 1-3 days. Also, our acceptance rate is currently about 1% of submissions. We pay writers $50 per accepted piece and signed contract.

Available everywhere you download

Monday, July 24, 2017

Flashback to Happy Birthday, Grace!

from a previous post: Friday, July 24, 2015


Before 1989 was the Cold War. There was also no grace.

I remember when my daughter Grace was born the summer of 1989. In the middle of the night I’d get up and feed her. I kept a little radio playing by her bed for white noise, so that every little noise didn’t wake her up. It was just she and I and WGN or WBBM in the wee hours of the night.

Then one night while I was nursing her within the glow of the radio dial I heard the most fabulous news. I use this word because it sounded like a fable. Often I dozed while feeding her. The announcer said the Wall had fallen.

There had been tremors, rumblings leading up to this earthquake that brought down the Berlin Wall. Czech citizens were being issued passes to go to the West for holidays—once a rarity—and in Poland, Solidarity had made headway in their fight for workers and nationalistic rights. Ultimately Solidarity saw the end of Soviet rule and helped move Poland toward democracy. In my dream-like state I thought I heard the news reader say the Wall had come down.

This was confusing. Because when I went to bed there had been a Soviet Union and now it sounded like things were falling apart. And I hadn’t even been asleep that long.

I waited until a faint light entered the room and then I woke up my husband, whispering because the baby had finally gone back to bed. “Hey, the Wall has come down.”

He sat up and rubbed his eyes. Together we both listened to the radio as we were TV-less. We were astonished at how quickly the world had changed. By Christmas 1989 we were viewing images of the bodies of Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu, former dictator of Romania. Indeed, it was a new world.

But it didn’t last long. This summer Grace will turn 26 and she is now living in a post-cold war, post 9/11 world where more than ever we feel unsafe. Russia has ambitions; ISIS (as well as other forms of extremism) is threatening the pan-Middle East, plus polemic politics here in the US make us feel once again the chill of a Cold War.

For one brief space of time, in the middle of the night, while nursing my newborn there was this thing called hope. Every once in a while I like to revisit that moment. Happy Birthday Grace.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flashback to Flash

I missed the fireworks this year in Chicago--basically gunshots which I can hear anytime!

Anyway, thought I 'd post a flashback to “4th of July Anarchy (Foster Beach)” Spring 2015, After Hours

4th of July Anarchy

Where Foster Beach becomes Omaha Beach, where the shock and awe of Baghdad rocks Lakeshore Drive, where everyone in the city not only owns a gun but an arsenal of fireworks. Where the sky lights up and the buildings reverberate the chest-thumping KABOOM, where all night long m80s punctuate the city soundscape, and the pop-pop-pop of Blackcats compete with infrequent gunfire. Where Roman candles sizzle and burst setting off car alarms and where children chase falling sparks as if they’re fireflies. Where screamin’ meemies spin and whistle while overhead pinwheels of color blossom and dissolve into a shower of stars, once alive but now extinguished, leaving behind contrails of vapor. We shake the numbness from our ears. Where even the moon smolders behind a haze of red, green, and yellow and sulfur clouds hang suspended, making the apparitions below seem as if they are moving in slow motion. Where each concussive blast answers with yet another explosion, louder than the last. Where all too soon it’s over.

Except for the pretty girl in short shorts dancing, her face aglow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

New Work @ Sleet

While I was gone rambling new work came out at a great journal, Sleet.

A sweet suite or series based upon accumulated parking lot memories: enjoy!

...across the parking lot, I spied a coyote silhouetted, the bristled hairs on his back standing up.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Great Spruce Head Island

I'm back from Art Week 2017

will blog after I sort my notes out

until then, enjoy:
the buoys of summer

a table is set

Double Beach


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Rambler Has Returned

What does it mean to travel and come home—
To feel your gypsy blood stirred
To understand a little bit of what it’s like
For the ocean to swallow the moon

The highway holds me, calls me
And I followed wherever it leads
I am no braver than you
It’s just that curiosity overcame fear

Yet, I amaze myself!
The miracles wrought by these middle-aged bones
Long, steady climbs, map-reading
Flat-fixing, chowder slurping—skills!

Each day I faced the world, unknown
I can do this, I reminded myself, maybe
I’m out to find midnight, constellations
Spread out across the sky, quiet bays

I had no idea I’d meet a fisherman,
A lady selling blueberry ice cream
A tree with a huge burr, a fairy table
Fellow travelers waiting at the dock.

Together and alone, strangers and friends
We plied the open road
It’s not about certainty, getting there

If only to say I did it, and would do it again.

Monday, July 10, 2017

While I'm out

Here is a guest blog I wrote

Friday, July 7, 2017

While I'm out

Here is a guest blog I wrote

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

While I'm out

Check out this guest blog I wrote:

Monday, July 3, 2017

While I'm out

Check out this guest blog article I wrote:

Friday, June 30, 2017

Going out to the island

So, 600 miles later here I am on Deer Isle where tomorrow I'll take the mailboat to Great Spruce Head Island to start my one-week residency. #artweek

I started 17 days ago flying into Halifax with my bike and ended my bike trip yesterday. A trip diary can be found here:

There may or may not be blogging. Electricity is solar and I might not be able to charge batteries. I will certainly be writing. So check back for updates.

Why I'm doing this bike trip

Here is an excerpt from my bike diary at Crazy Guy on a bike, pics to come

When I left last year for my UK JOGLE I'd hesitantly written about the violence in my neighborhood. Not just Chicago, but in front of my house, the building where I live. I'd also written about how much the election and candidate Trump bothered me. Never once did I think it would get worse.
Now a little over 6 months later the stress is intense. At my blog I've talked about how Trump has triggered emotions that go way beyond politics. His policies hurt the poor, people I serve. The next few years will be ones that will deeply impact my neighborhood and the shelter.
At the shelter a few years ago we were able to house and help a mom and her daughter. We ran a story in our newsletter about Misty.
Checking into the motel this afternoon the proprietor asked me: Is it true what we hear about Chicago being so deadly? I almost started crying.
A few nights before leaving came heartbreaking news. Misty's 12 year old daughter Alexis was brutally murdered.
Misty had asked Singleton to leave and he got belligerent. Misty and Alexis fled the apartment but after waiting awhile Alexis went back in to check with a neighbor. She was 12 years old and a 5th grader. Today our church held a memorial attended by 200 school children.
So, yeah, this trip I'm thinking about a lot of things. Mostly why. I'm pedaling and my head and heart are often elsewhere. I answered the hotel clerk, yes, it's violent there.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Flash Memoir


We begin with a sudden memory, follow it to see where it leads. Yet so many of us tend to ignore these flashes. We think later yet later on we might have forgotten or lost the relevance of the moment, the urgency that led us there. I recommend a process I call write right now. In the amount of time it takes you to brush your teeth, you can jot down the memory and an outline which can be filled in later. The prompts in this book are designed to spur memories, to get you writing. I’ll also direct you to resources, authors to read and study, and places to submit. 

Baker & Taylor Blio
Baker-Taylor Axis360
Barnes & Noble
Gardners Extended Retail
Gardners Library
Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)
Library Direct

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Flash Memoir

click here to order from Amazon
We begin with a sudden memory, follow it to see where it leads. Yet so many of us tend to ignore these flashes. We think later yet later on we might have forgotten or lost the relevance of the moment, the urgency that led us there. I recommend a process I call write right now. In the amount of time it takes you to brush your teeth, you can jot down the memory and an outline which can be filled in later. The prompts in this book are designed to spur memories, to get you writing. I’ll also direct you to resources, authors to read and study, and places to submit. 

Baker & Taylor Blio
Baker-Taylor Axis360
Barnes & Noble
Gardners Extended Retail
Gardners Library
Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)
Library Direct

Monday, June 19, 2017

On a Bike Tour, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, down the coast of Maine

Route (maybe)

Wednesday, June 14 15:08 (3:08 pm) Halifax 

Thursday, June 15 Halifax Via Lighthouse Trail Via Peggy’s Cove

Friday, June 16 Graves Island ) via Chester Connection Trail

Saturday, June 17 Ovens Natural Park Via Lunenburg Via Blue Rocks Via Mason Beach

Sunday, June 18 Ovens Natural Park to Port Mouton Hostel Includes a ferry (53.6 miles) via NS-331 and Lighthouse Rte

Monday, June 19 Port Mouton Hostel to Cape Sable Island (59.2 miles) via NS-103 W and Nova Scotia Trunk 3 W lunch Shelburne

Tuesday, June 20 Cape Sable Island to Yarmouth via Shelburne County Rail Trail and Yarmouth County Rail Trail

Wednesday, June 21 Yarmouth to Digby via Evangeline Trail/Nova Scotia Trunk 1 E and NS-101 E

Thursday, June 22 Digby to St. Johns, NB to New River Provincial 11 a.m. ferry 30 miles

Friday, June 23 Extra day New River Provincial Exploring Bay of Fundy

Saturday, June 24 New River Provincial Park to  St. Brendan's Retreat Center, Dennysville, ME

Monday, June 26 Dennysville to Mainayr Campground via Down East Sunrise Trail

Tuesday, June 27 Mainayr Campground to Acadia (Mt. Desert Island)
Wednesday, Thursday Explore Acadia

Friday, June 30 Acadia to Deer Isle Hostel

Saturday, July 1 (5.8 miles) via Sunshine Rd Sylvestor’s Cove, 11 a.m. mailboat

Friday, June 16, 2017

Between the Cross and the Arches

Does anyone remember The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson a young, zealous pastor who ventured into the inner-city to confront and evangelize New York City gangs? Pat Boone starred in the film adaptation. The book and movie were highly dramatized to heighten the tension(s). That was 50 years ago.

Fast forward. Uptown. Chicago. 2017.

A couple times a week we have a shooting at the corner of Sheridan and Wilson, between Uptown Baptist Church and McDonalds. I’m always hyper aware as I approach that intersection to be on the lookout. 1) Is there a bunch of people hanging? 2) Are there any cars driving by real slow with their window down? 3) If there’s been a shooting recently at one end of the street there’s usually payback at the other end. This is a lot of to keep in mind while out doing errands.

I’ve heard different explanations of why this corner is so deadly. One is, of course, drugs. It is disputed territory. Two rival gangs claim it as theirs for vending. The other reason doesn’t explain anything—it’s just violence in general. An excess of guns and desperation.

A short, incomplete history
August 19, 2013 five men between the ages at 21 and 58 shot
September 27, 2015 8 a 33-year-old man and 24-year-old woman were shot in Uptown, in McDonald’s parking lot
April 12, 2016 a 30-year-old man was shot in his leg after a man got out of a silver car and opened fire, police said.
May 16, 2016 a 28-year-old man was critically wounded in the 900 block of West Wilson Avenue after a man reportedly fired nine shots.
AUGUST 3, 2016 57-year-old woman slain has been identified as Penny Gearhart, a grandmother, her 58 year-old friend wounded
August 27, 2016 A 55-year-old man was shot dead on Uptown's bustling Wilson Avenue, the second unintended victim of daytime ... A source identified the victim as Robert Kraft.

APRIL 13, 2017, 26-year-old man was shot in the 1000 block of West Wilson in the city’s Uptown neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Flash Memoir=NOW Available

The link takes you to Amazon, but also available through


Baker & Taylor Blio

Baker-Taylor Axis360

Barnes & Noble



Gardners Extended Retail

Gardners Library

Inktera (formerly Page Foundry)


Library Direct









Monday, June 12, 2017

A Fresh Approach

WH officials are trying to explain the Paris Climate Agreement pull-out by saying that Trump promises a fresh approach.

My guess his approach will be from a perspective of paranoia. (Link to transcript of announcement.) What’s with that statement: The world won’t laugh at us anymore? He said: “The United States, under the Trump administration, will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth.  We'll be the cleanest.  We're going to have the cleanest air.  We're going to have the cleanest water.”

As someone who appreciates fresh approaches, I have tried to keep an open mind. Albeit, in his announcement there is nothing concrete, not even a particle of policy or plan. 

His approach is isolationist, entrenched, submerged in paranoia. A visionary is one who looks beyond the current situation and envisions a new world based upon—wait, this is important—what’s best for EVERYONE. A new approach inspires innovation.

What if after the bombing of Pearl Harbor instead of interning the American Japanese, Roosevelt had appealed to them to join the armed forces. I know many did anyway. What might have been the result if George Bush after 9/11 hadn’t invaded Afghanistan and started a 20-year war, but instead appropriated the trillion dollars already spent but instead over the same period of time committed to building in Afghanistan an infrastructure, a criminal justice system. All of these initiatives would be counter-intuitive, adverse to quick results, not immediately beneficial, but in the long haul give America the upper hand. Sometimes we need someone who is far-looking, calculating the endgame.

I am not convinced Trump and his administration understand what a fresh approach looks like.