Wednesday, February 26, 2014


File this one under memoir-ish.

And, I’m not even sure what prompted this unprovoked memory—except that last night I was reading and randomly came across the word go-go . . . and then I remembered.

When I was young—but old enough that I should have known better—


So when I was young and naïve I had a dream of one day being a dancer. This dream was without foundation, experience, or even training. I think I just liked the idea of dancing. My father in his day had learned to swing and in college he and my mother attended dances, but dance as far as free expression or for the pure joy of movement was not encouraged in my family. Perhaps this is why I so longed to break out and dance.

It was also the 60s and on Laugh-In I loved to see Goldie Hawn groove in her white patent leather go-go boots and funky all-over pattern mini-dresses. I think she was also on the game show Hollywood Squares. So there was also a “look” or style I wished to emulate.

Either way, I’d come home from school and call the phone number in the back of the classifieds, the adverts calling for Girls!! Dancers!! Must Have Experience!! Good Looking is a Plus!! I think the club owners who answered could tell by the tone of my voice that I wasn’t what they were looking for.

I’m not sure how long I took the dream seriously. My memory does not serve me on those details. Perhaps, though, for a week or two I pursued the venture by calling and leaving messages. I never got the go-go boots or became a dancer.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Thank God for friends like Jane

February--and this has been the second worst month of 2014 for weather, the other being last month.

But today is Friday--and for that I bring you a glimmer of sunshine:

February by James Schuyler, from Selected Poems

A chimney, breathing a little smoke.
The sun, I can't see
making a bit of pink
I can't quite see in the blue.
The pink of five tulips
at five p.m. on the day before March first.
The green of the tulip stems and leaves
like something I can't remember,
finding a jack-in-the-pulpit
a long time ago and far away.
Why it was December then
and the sun was on the sea
by the temples we'd gone to see.
One green wave moved in the violet sea
like the UN Building on big evenings,
green and wet
while the sky turns violet.
A few almond trees
had a few flowers, like a few snowflakes
out of the blue looking pink in the light.
A gray hush
in which the boxy trucks roll up Second Avenue
into the sky. They're just
going over the hill.
The green leaves of the tulips on my desk
like grass light on flesh,
and a green-copper steeple
and streaks of cloud beginning to glow.
I can't get over
how it all works in together
like a woman who just came to her window
and stands there filling it
jogging her baby in her arms.
She's so far off. Is it the light
that makes the baby pink?
I can see the little fists
and the rocking-horse motion of her breasts.
It's getting grayer and gold and chilly.
Two dog-size lions face each other
at the corners of a roof.
It's the yellow dust inside the tulips.
It's the shape of a tulip.
It's the water in the drinking glass the tulips are in.
It's a day like any other.

Right now at the Poetry Foundation is an exhibit:

Jane Freilicher: Painter Among Poets

I'd been so sad when I realized that this same exhibit had closed at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York. so at Christmas I bought on-line the catalog. Imagine my joyous surprise when I discovered the exhibit had traveled here to Chicago.

Jane was a  sounding board to many within the NY "school" of poets. Letters and postcards passed between Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery to Jane. Indeed, John and Jane have been friends for close to 60 years. Viewing photographs at the exhibit made me jealous. I want what they had--that all hours of the night, speaking in shorthand innuendo, gossipy letters, inspirational collaboration. The kind of thing I suppose all artists wish for--but that was particularly unique to this close-knit group of friends. Every one of them leaving a mark on the world through their art.
John Ashbery

drawing of Frank O'Hara


Kenneth Koch

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good Art is Costing America Jobs

An artist in Miami is purported to have smashed a $1M vase by dissident artist Ai Weiwei. I’ve written at this blog before about Weiwei and the profound impact his exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC had on me.

The convoluted reasoning behind this act of vandalism—was that the PAMM (Perez Arts Museum Miami) didn’t exhibit local artists.

Hmmm . . . okay. So you decide to destroy someone else’s work?
And, I can hardly believe they haven’t once shown local art.
And, what is local art?

Would that be an artist from Miami, or someone from Florida, or simply an American?
And, what if it were a Guatemalan, raised in Nebraska, now living in Miami—would that be good enough?

Art has been a global commodity for a long time. The Vikings were always raiding other cultures and bringing back artifacts. Napoleon stole the horses from San Marco in Venice and before that the Venetians stole them from the Byzantines when they sacked Constantinople. And, before that, no one is sure of their origins. Possibly Roman, possibly Hellenic. Okay—so do the Greeks get them back?? They reside now in Venice with duplicates outside the Louvre in Paris.

Finally—what difference does it make?
Does this guy think because the PAMM is showing Weiwei that that exhibit edged out his own work? He is described as someone well-known in the area, having worked the art fair circuit. Really. It’s hard to believe that an artist working today would hold a grudge against Van Gogh because his work is hanging at the Louvre while his/her stuff is still getting a toehold in the contemporary art world.

The public decides what is great art.

I am not drawn to a work because the artist happens to be from Chicago, Uptown, or even from down the street, maybe next door—but because something intrinsic to it speaks to me. Local sometimes helps when people of similar background have one or two things in common—especially if that is reflected in the piece. Therefore, Korean pottery might have more to say to a native Korean who recognizes the glazes and the subject matter or the importance of the lotus blossom. Nevertheless, I also love the smooth lines and subtle colors—and just how perfect it looks, without identifying as Korean.

Anyway his argument holds no water. And, now the same can be said for the vase.

From NPR quotes the NY Times saying that Camerino alleges he didn't know the vase was valued at $1 million. “I feel so sorry about it, for sure.” But, Camerino said, “if you saw the vases on display and the way they were painted, there was no way one would think the artist had painted over an ancient artifact. Instead I thought it was a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly.”

Isn’t this what we all secretly think? Sheesh.

Check out my blog on Weiwei.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This Winter

This is the first winter I can remember when 2 coats wasn’t enough.

This winter I’ve worn my long underwear for the past 40 days.

This winter has been so cold that 4 above feels like a heat wave.

This is the first winter where I’ve come to understand the principle of hibernation.

As someone who loves winter, I can’t stand the thought of another 6 weeks of it.

Instead of putting on my normal winter weight of 2 – 3 pounds, I’ve gained ten.

The idea of a snow day no longer holds delight. I dread the weather report now.

In the past I’ve run throughout the winter, unless I was x-country skiing. This winter I’ve had to push myself to exercise. It’s hard to move when wearing 6 layers.

There are some days when I never step outside—and I like it.

This winter my skin has been so dry I’ve gone through a whole bottle of Jergens; my last bottle lasted 2 years.

This winter nearly all the Great Lakes are ice covered. I could walk from Chicago to Canada, if I wanted to.

This winter I’ve learned to recognize the razor BRZZZ sound of a snowblower outside my window.

This winter whenever I get off the train, I practically run home. If not any exposed skin would freeze.

This is the first winter I can remember when I haven’t left the house with wet hair.

This winter the static electricity in the air makes me a natural conductor. I spark everyone I touch.

This winter has already lasted way too long.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Meet Me in the Future

My workmate just got an invitation to join her daughter in the future. We had a nice laugh.

It was set up like a Google invite or one of those things you get through e-mail. The date was something like 2016.

On one hand it showed that the child has computer chops (just like her mama) and knows her way around a program, and is likely going to grow up to be a hacker. The really good hackers always get recruited to work for the government.

On the other hand in the present sense it was cute. Knowing the sender of such e-mail, she is precocious: Something’s always goin’ on. She goes through phases, but her main obsession is biology—specifically bugs and bones. These things hold whole worlds. They tell stories.

Yet the invitation held a whisp of melancholy. In 2016 she will be just turning teen—will she want Mom to join her in the future? Will that future occupy a space of stress, eyerolls, and monosyllabic replies (usually followed by more eyerolls)? Will she trade her childlike curiosity for what passes as young adult know-it-all?

None of us knows what the future may hold.

All I do know is that I’d love to join her or my daughter, join all my friends in the future. If only it was as easy as sending an invitation. We would plan to grab a coffee, meet up at the movies, launch our books, throw baby showers, save the date for weddings.

For now we can only click YES and hope.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Just got my copy of FLASH, the International Short-Short Story Magazine with my essay: The Mystery of Memory--or How to Write Memoir-ish. The journal is out of the University of Chester in the UK. It's great to see a school with a Creative Writing Program with an emphasis on micro fiction and non-fiction.

Keep your ear to the ground--as I'm going to be leading a class at OCWW (Off Campus Writers Workshop) in Winnetka March 27th on Writing Your Memoir, Scene by Scene

We all have fantasized at one time or another about what famous celebrity will play us in the movie of our life. With this seminar Jane Hertenstein will help you isolate significant life moments and translate them into scenes. Some issues she will explore are working with composite characters, streamlining events, creating creative non-fiction, and finding the arc in your story. Life is made up of a number of episodes.

I'll be taking manuscripts. Yay!!

Currently (like this past week) been busy writing press releases, ad copy, blogs, and notes to go inside Valentine cards. 2014 has officially launched.

Monday, February 3, 2014

More Money for iPads!!

I would like to share with you a blog post I came across. Here is an example of an iPad literally changing lives. Jeremy Nicholls is a case worker at a local homeless shelter, Cornerstone Community Outreach and he blogs at Setting Prisoners Free and he wrote recently about how to make housing happen.

Here is a snip**

Over the past couple years, I've seen a very large number of chronically homeless people move out of their homelessness and into permanent housing! I emphasis this, because I'm talking about many men and women who've been existing on the streets and in shelters for over a decade or even decades. I speak of this, because many of these people struggle with debilitating mental illnesses, devastating addictive personalities and major health issues. I dwell on this, because jail doors and prison gates frequently rotate these folk in and out, mainly for non-violent offenses and petty crimes. I focus on this, because these men and women face insurmountable obstacles, making their journeys seem impossible. I'm emphasizing all this, because these "successful movements" are modern-day miracles


Housing First:
After working on the front lines for well over a decade and seeing many successes, (but also observing failures), I've come to embrace and cling to 2 catchphrases; "Housing First" and "Harm Reduction"! I wholeheartedly agree with what these 2 terms stand for; they view everybody as unique individuals, created and loved by God, possessing an indelible right to be housed. These catchphrases also respect each individual's dignity, personality, struggles and dreams, while working hard to provide them with a permanent home. The "Housing First" model reverses the usual trend of making sure someone's "right" before they get an apartment, by taking vulnerable people off the street and putting them into their own homes. The "Harm Reduction" model does not call for instant perfection or complete abstinence, but helps individuals reduce the harm they are doing to themselves, others and society. When these 2 models work hand-in-hand, everyone benefits! The following points reveal how we have put legs on the "harm reduction" and "housing first" models in Uptown, and we're happy to say, we have seen some wonderful success stories!

Discover and Use Efficient and Reliable Technology:
In this line of work, it didn't take long to discover, technology can either be a wonderful blessing or a wretched curse. Even though we live in this age of instant knowledge, gratification and results, the Internet and smart phones can either take you away, or draw you closer, to the very people we're supposed to be engaging.

There are 2 forms of technology I want to focus on; both of these have made me more efficient in reaching out, while also quickening my case-working efforts! I believe these 2 tools have helped create many stories of successful movement. Firstly, carrying around and using a portable device allows me to access and submit information in a timely manner. Instead of insisting people set appointments and come into my office, an iPad (or smartphone) creates opportunities on the streets, in a Church or under a viaduct that would otherwise be missed. Secondly, there's a quick and accessible citywide database called the "Centralized Referral System". By simply placing chronically homeless people on the CRS, many agencies see the need and provide them with support and permanent housing! As you see; the combination of these 2 tools help to create countless opportunities. Many doors have opened for some of society's most vulnerable citizens, simply by using an iPad and enrolling people on the CRS.

If anyone reading this has connections to APPLE etc please pass this “testimonial” on—I think this is one of the greatest examples of technology truly affecting people’s lives for the good.