Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day 1 & 2, Adirondacks and Green Mountain Loop Bike Trip, 2019

Day 1, Ride to Union Station, 7.9 miles

I rode downtown via the Lakefront Trail to Wells St. To Kinzie to Clinton. Very straightforward, but I was concerned about the weight. Egads my bike is heavy. It’s all the snacks and food.

At the station as they lined up seniors for boarding I told a steward I had a bike. I quick hustled to baggage and got a tag for the handlebars. I then walked everything out to the platform, took the bags off, and handed it to a guy in the baggage car.

The train journey was GREAT. I actually slept like 7 hours. You always get a different perspective from a train window. More backyards. We passed many abandoned factories. Likely ones that once made stuff no one uses anymore, like ladies gloves or parts for wagons.

Day 2, Albany-Rennsselear station to Clifton Park, 23.3 miles
As far as trains go we were only a little bit behind. We arrived in Albany one hour late. There was confusion about where to get my bicycle. One conductor said to get it at baggage claim,while a lady told me I needed to retrieve it from the baggage car. The very last car of the train. I ran because I could imagine the train pulling out with my bike.

Once loaded up and watered up I took off. Google directions . . . Not always easy, often counterintuitive, sometimes great. I just need to think, shift gears, read street and detour signs, everything at once and navigate. A lot when you’re freaked out.

I took the Mohawk Hudson Bike path and Route 9.  I then return to Mohawk Hudson Hike Bikeway.. More about this later and pics. There are steep hills here. More freaking out.

Click here for a larger version of the picture
Mohawk Hudson Hike Bikeway
I arrived at my friend’s parent’s house 2 hours later. Directions were straightforward. I did see some ugly meth-head guys hanging out on corners. I think a result of economic depression in these towns. My friend’s house on the other hand, is the lap of luxury. We hang out til 10, but after that I’m too tired and say good night.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Goodbye Beetle

Sad news: Volkswagen has decided to discontinue the manufacturing of the Beetle. The Bug.

My parents bought a Bug in the early 70s. I remember an uncle muttering under his breath: death trap. It certainly saw its fair share of crashes. My mother backing out of the driveway and my brother Tom missing a curve on his way home from college. I rolled a Bug on icy roads outside of Chillicothe doing the exact thing, coming home on a weekend from OU.

I inherited the Bug while in high school. It was the fun mobile. A pumpkin-colored putter that I drove everywhere. My friends were used to waiting for me to come pick them up so we could go do some crazy thing. I can’t tell you how many times on a road trip we ran out of gas—and this is a car that got like 45 miles per gallon. We paid for gasoline from the change in the bottom of our backpacks. I remember several times I had to get towed or call Dad to come get me—with a gas can.

There are many pictures from that time in my life where me and my friend Jane are in a parking lot next to the Bug saying goodbye to friends. When I moved to Chicago I sold the car—at least I think I did. I seriously cannot remember transferring the title over. That would be something totally beyond me. More likely I just gave someone the keys.

I miss the Bug. I’ll miss the Volkswagen Beetle—so many memories.

notice the snow, we were fearless

notice the dented fender, my friend's father backed into the Bug while we were in Cadiz, Ohio

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Upcoming bike ride: Adirondack and Green Mountains

I have promised my daughter I will not get killed. She is getting married in the fall and so I've had to plan bike tripping around this important event. Thus, no long summer excursion and obviously nothing in the fall when it is cooler and the colors will abound.
Not that it is "settling" to go to the Adirondacks and Vermont--it's just that I might not have chosen early August during the height of tourist season, heat, and bugs. Times choose us.

The plan is to detrain in Albany on August 3. I booked space for the bike and so I am able to roll off and begin riding. I will post an itinerary once I confirm my first night. Since making the train reservations I have purchased an ACA Green Mountian Loop map. A cursory review of it indicates many turns, some onto gravel roads. I'm sure there is a reason but in some cases I will deviate.

From past trips (chronicled at Crazy Guy on a Bike and at this blog) one can read that I easily get lost. So I will use physical maps as well as Google maps on my phone. My carrier is T-Mobile, so hoping they're everywhere. I can also use Mapsme offline.

I'm not exactly kidding about not getting killed or dying. Call it pre-jitter fears, but as a solo cyclist there is always that nagging thought. This past weekend I went on an overnight ride--cue the theme song to Gilligan's Island--what seemed like an easy ride along the I & M Canal/Towpath Trail turned into an exercise in survival. We hit it all: bugs, high heat and humidity, single-track path, no track, bushwhacking, mudfields. The only thing we thought we had covered, weather with an 80% chance of no rain, turned into 20% chance of HARD DRENCHING DOWNPOUR. We were caught in an electrical storm and subsequent flash flood when it rained 3 inches in 40 minutes.

We had to call for help.

So my confidence has taken a knock. I'm sure this trip will have its ups and downs, literally. But I'm also concerned about heat and the considerable chance that I'll encounter endless rain (I've read some past diaries here). I also think it will be beautiful and charming.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Juan Fujita, writer of tanka and photojournalist of 1919 Chicago Race Riot

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chicago daily 34 massacre 1929. Jun Fujita, photographer. St. Valentine's Day
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White men stoning an African-American man during the 1919 race riots. Chicago History Museum ICHi-022430; Jun Fujita, photographer
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haunting image taken by Chicago photojournalist, Jun Fujita, at the scene of the SS Eastland disaster.

In my last post (link) I laid out the bare basic of some poetic forms that can be adapted to writing flash—or at the least observing nature and writing small about it. But as one can see from Eve Ewing’s poetry collection 1919, yes her remarks emanated from setting a scene or landscape but also were responding to the 1919 Chicago Race Riot. And, also commenting on contemporary culture.

I was first introduced or given visual cues about the Chicago Race Riot while visiting the Poetry Foundation. I forget what event I was there for, but there is a small exhibit space that they use to great impact. I’ve seen a few exhibits there that I’ve posted about.

The focus of the exhibit was a Japanese-born photographer and poet, actually a Renaissance man as he was also an actor—but you get it, anyway, the show was about Juan Fujita (1888-1963). He is responsible for the most famous photos of the Eastland disaster, the Chicago race riots of 1919, and the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, among others. He contributed to Poetry often in the 1920s. He also took photos of camels at Indiana Dunes. From Wikipedia:
In addition to a historic career as a photojournalist, Fujita was an accomplished and published poet and author. Fujita was the first Japanese-American to write tanka, a form of waka. He compiled a collection of his poems in Tanka: Poems in Exile. Fujita worked as a silent film actor for Essanay Studios in Chicago, a movie studio which was best known for producing several Charlie Chaplin comedies. Fujita had several minor roles before starring in a lead role in the two-reel film called Otherwise Bill Harrison in 1915.

Then this:
Fujita married Florence Carr, a white journalist from Illinois. They could not legally marry until 1940 due to American laws against “race mixing”. Florence was born Flossie Carr in Ringwood, Illinois on 16 October 1893 and died on Chestnut Street in Chicago in October 1974. The two lived together at 1930 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago, Illinois and they had no children. Fujita also owned a cabin in Minnesota, which was called "Jap Island" by locals. Fujita's cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fujita was granted honorary citizenship in the United States by an act of Congress. The United States Senate Bill was submitted by James Hamilton Lewis, who was the senator from Illinois at the time. Senator Hamilton submitted the Bill for Fujita's American citizenship due to Fujita's contributions to American society in the area of photojournalism. Fujita's citizenship came at a time when Asian-Americans were not allowed American citizenship by naturalization due to their race. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Fujita volunteered to serve in active duty for the United States but was turned down due to his age, as he was 53 years old at the time.

Fujita died on 12 July 1963, at the age of 74. Fujita was cremated and interred in an unknown plot in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, most likely in the Japanese section.
 . . . .

Thinking about this extraordinary man I can’t help but wonder: a Japanese man taking photographs of black men getting stoned. Eve Ewing’s book 1919 contain several phots by Fujita. It seems he was one of only a few cameramen to risk life and limb and enter the fray. Perhaps the only person. He directed his camera at all aspects of the race riot. She has in the book a photo of ice being handed out from a railcar after the riots to black residents. So he didn’t just point his camera at “action” or blood shots but also at the more mundane. Because, in fact, it is some of these more mundane elements that show inequality and disparity. What the white population had come to expect of such as electricity, hot water, flush toilets, etc was not always available in segregated black households. In tenement housing. We see these patterns still today in Chicago. The level of violence acceptable on the south side would get a mayor/alderman fired on the north side.

Fields of Vision: Spirit & Place

Fujita was a master of tanka, a minimalist genre of classical Japanese poetry.  Some of what he wrote at Rainy Lake, Minnesota, was published in book form in English in 1923 as Tanka: Poems in Exile.  The poet was deeply moved by glacial landscapes, sand dunes, and lakes, all of which he found in abundance in the Upper Midwest.  He could find them close to Chicago itself.  His earliest work from the North Woods shows how, once he returned to urban life, he could find a sympathetic landscape in the nearby Indiana Dunes:

Across the frozen marsh
The last bird has flown;
Save a few reeds
Nothing moves.

The air is still
And grasses are wet;
Thread-like rain
Screens the dunes.

Also from the above link: As Denis Garrison, who has republished some of Fujita’s work, writes:  “The reader cannot help wondering if the things he saw as a photographer influenced Fujita as a poet, and likewise, if the way he understood poetry informed his photography.”  He writes about “death-like” expanses of snow, of snowdrifts where “thin fangs dart.”

What is tanka?

“Tanka are notable for their accessibility,” Garrison explains.  “Why?  Because most good tanka have ‘dreaming room.’  They have been composed with the technique of understatement, of suggestiveness . . .

I like this=dreaming rooms. This is a space I could inhabit.

Juan Fujita
Image result for juan fujita valentines day massacre

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Tanka,Waka, approaches to writing flash

Tanka: Poetic Form. The Japanese tanka is a thirty-one-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line. A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as "short song," and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.
Tanka: Poetic Form | Academy of American Poets -

How to write a Tanka poem

The Tanka poem is very similar to haiku but Tanka poems have more syllables and it uses simile, metaphor and personification.

There are five lines in a Tanka poem.

Line one - 5 syllables  Beautiful mountains
Line two - 7 syllables  Rivers with cold, cold water.
Line three - 5 syllable  White cold snow on rocks
Line four - 7 syllables Trees over the place with frost
Line five - 7 syllables  White sparkly snow everywhere.
Tanks poems are written about nature, seasons, love, sadness and other strong emotions. This form of poetry dates back almost 1200 years ago.
Similarly, the other form is waka
It is a poem in thirty-one syllables, arranged in five lines, of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables respectively. For example, here is a poem written by a famous Heian-period woman, Ono no Komachi:

The flowers withered, (5)
Their color faded away, (7)
While meaninglessly (5)
I spent my days in the world (7)
And the long rains were falling. (7) (1)

The waka is often said to have an "upper verse," which refers to the first three lines, and a "lower verse," the last two. The haiku form is based on the "upper verse"; another form, called a renga, is made from alternating the two — first a three-line, seventeen syllable verse, then a two-line, fourteen syllable one, each by a different poet for up to a hundred verses!—from

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photo: Juan Fujita, 1919 Chicago Race Riot. Fujita was a poet who employed the tanka technique

Monday, July 29, 2019

More Thoughts from the book of poems, 1919, by Eve Ewing

“Haibun for July 30”
. . . .
after days of blood,
candles in the window again
birds shake off the rain

A couple of things:
1)Many of her poems are reactions to research on the 1919 Chicago Race Riot—specifically to The Negro in Chicago: A Study on Race Relations and a Race Riot, a 1922 report, an old book sitting on library shelves that broke Eve Ewing open when she read it. “ . . . It was so direct and made such a bold claim on totality.”

Here is the excerpt she is reacting to from that study:
Rain on Wednesday and Thursday drove idle people of both races into their homes. The temperature fell, and with it the white heat of the riot. (7)

Eve Ewing did not approach this collection with a set methodology. She searched for the most (to her) authentic response/form. She chose to write a haibun.

From an interview I found online:
“There’s a haibun in the book (“Haibun for July 30”). People are more familiar with haiku, but what the haibun does is allow you to explore a moment in nature that has a beauty or simplicity to it, but without as much brevity. When I thought about how to write about the natural world as it pertains to this story, I thought of this moment of the rain. The riots momentarily stopped because it rained, which was so beautiful to me. Even in moments of incredible violence, there’s still rain, there are still trees, there are still birds, there’s still grass. It’s still summer in Chicago. So that’s an example of my thinking — not to use form as an exercise or novelty but to use it to illustrate or amplify the narrative.”

So she begins the piece with a prose poem setting the stage, details of rain on city streets, fat drops falling from leaves in the trees, imagining the scene—then writes 3 short lines. Beautiful.

From Writer’s Digest:
The haibun is the combination of two poems: a prose poem and haiku. The form was popularized by the 17th century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Both the prose poem and haiku typically communicate with each other, though poets employ different strategies for this communication—some doing so subtly, while others are more direct.

The prose poem usually describes a scene or moment in an objective manner. In other words, the pronoun “I” isn’t often used—if at all. Meanwhile, the haiku follows the typical rules for haiku.

It occurs to me that haibun is a perfect form for creating flash—a vignette based in nature and then a haiku as a sublime ending to the whole thing.

Ending to the whole thing.

--other forms to explore:
tanka, waka, haiku, prose poem

keep reading this week's post for MORE

Image result for 1919 eve ewing

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Things that bother me, part 2

Not getting published

Getting published

Wait! Why is that a bad thing? Well, what bothers me is that, yes, I want to be published—so I submit my work to agents, editors, journals, contests, etc. Mostly to non-paying outlets. The times I’ve been reimbursed for my words I can count on one hand. This is a whole other blog.

So last fall I submitted a piece to Friday Flash Fiction, as well as other venues. I got a few declines, a few non-responses. Once a piece is accepted, I inform others and withdraw the piece. I keep a submission grid, so can pretty well tell you where I am with a certain piece.

What bothers me is when a piece is taken and I am not informed. I know this might be taking things too far, but it feels like stealing. Yes, I’ve given it to an editor for review or for consideration. If they are professional then they should get back to me in a timely manner and give me a response: thumbs up or thumbs down. But to simply take it and quietly publish it without letting me know sounds like theft, or as if I’m merely a tool to your own benefit.

We work together. I write and you need content.

What I’m describing has not happened just once but already this year a couple of times, and in one instance MADE CHANGES without my permission.

This has made for an awkward situation, since I continued to send it out and it was officially accepted and published by an up-and-coming journal. I feel horrible—yet it was not something I intended—to submit a piece of work that has been previously published.

Editors, please realize that in this day and age of easy communication to inform writers if you are accepting their work and also understand if you unintentionally end up publishing work that has appeared previously. Obviously first-level journals this might not be a problem, but for those of us swimming upstream in a sea of anonymity it still affects us.

Here is the legit one! Revenge at HunnyBee Lit

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Little Things that Bother Me

Like misogyny.

This weekend I was out on my bike. Yes, it was hotter than Hades. But I’m about to go on another cycle trip and wanted to make some upgrades to the bike. I was ¾ of the way home and entering the Lakefront Trail on Ardmore. A group of men veered from the sidewalk to walk in front of me. I was going super slow as I had just crossed the intersection. I was right behind them as they walked in front of me so not too far. I said, “There’s a walking path right of the cycleway.”

You would have thought I told them to go to hell or go ---- themselves. It was World War 3. As I passed, giving them plenty of space, not yelling ON YOUR LEFT or ringing my bell, but just simply existing next to them, they erupted in Holy Hell. They did not stop calling after me in abusive language; I could hear them even after I turned onto the path and rounded a corner.

I took a deep breath. It was weird how immediate and fraught it felt.

Then a minute later on the path I was about to cycle around a slower ride. The oncoming lane was clear and so again didn’t feel the need to shout ON YOUR LEFT or ring my bell—except he was looking at his phone and suddenly veered left, almost hitting me. I swerved and simply said, You are wandering. At first he was like, oh sorry. Then again it was a spitstorm of obscenities.

I really cannot account for this. Except that I happen to be a woman and I said something. Both of these instances I used a neutral tone and tried to make a simple statement of fact. I wasn’t insulting their mother. I also used a room conversation voice, not shouting.

Perhaps, I’m still ruminating about this:

A NPR radio news story about fans of the Marvel movie Endgame who have posted YouTube edited versions. I’m used to Harry Potter fans writing fan fiction—this is a tribute to their love of the books. In the news story the fans are editing out Brie Larson, offering instead a "defeminized" fan edit.

An anonymous fan edited out shots, scenes and characters in a "defeminized" version circulating now on an illegal streaming site. As well as losing Larson's character, Captain Marvel, the defeminized edit is missing a scene where Hawkeye teaches his daughter to shoot. ("Young women should learn skills to become good wives and mothers and leave the fighting to men," the editor opined in an accompanying document.) The role of Black Panther is minimized. ("He's really not that important.") Spider-Man doesn't get rescued by women characters anymore. ("No need to.") And male characters no longer hug.

This particular defeminized edit is just the latest example of a trend, says Suzanne Scott, a professor of film and media studies at the University of Texas. A similar "chauvinist cut" of 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi removed key scenes of women making decisions, giving orders, having ideas and fighting in battle. So much was trimmed, Scott says, that only about 30% of the original film remained.

Hearing this—gave me chills. Who does this? Works this hard to erase women, gays, other marginal people from their white, male-phile worldview???

Then in relation to this weekend—what upset these men so much that they couldn’t move three feet over into their own pedestrian walking path or be told—in so many words—it’s not wise to ride and be staring into your phone. Why the sudden, violent reaction?

Also I might have been impacted by the week’s news cycle of Trump tweets and the resulting meltdown. It was disheartening every time I saw and heard the tweets repeated about “go back to your own country”, go back to where you came from—directed to powerful women of color.

There is something at work here that gives the males on the Lakefront Trail a sense of privilege that they feel perfectly okay lashing out at anyone/women that comes near them or asks for shared space.
Image result for lakefront trail chicago, active transit

Monday, July 22, 2019

Hearing Language

I love word play. Often when I write I’m not only physically typing in the words, but also hearing them. It’s probably why there’s so much internal rhyme and alliteration in my sentences.

I was reminded recently of when I was going through the galleys of Beyond Paradise. I was going over a scene with me editor (at this point we thought we were done) and I might have casually mentioned that I relied heavily on my primary source, a diary or article written by a former internee of the camp I was writing about. My editor asked how heavily. It was decided I might need to change up some wording and add some further elements. One of the suggestions was to have the camp civilian orchestra (based on real events) play a specific suite in rehearsal. I know nothing about music let alone classical violin pieces so I called up a friend who plays. He is originally from Switzerland and grew up in Austria. For the life of me I couldn’t understand what he was saying because he was pronouncing Brahms name correctly. It sounded like he was saying bombs.

This was exactly the inspiration I needed. The scene was supposed to include a Japanese guard who was also a trained musician. I had him burst into the rehearsal shouting “bombs, bombs” until the women gather he is requesting they play Brahms.

So many times we remain focused on the problem, the editing issue that if we stop and just LISTEN to the language, the context of the piece, what the characters are saying or not saying as they talk past each other—we can find a way through.

Available from Amazon, click here

Thursday, July 18, 2019

July, July!=Chicago Heat Wave

In 1995 a heat wave hit Chicago. Almost 800 people died. Their bodies, too many for the morgue, were kept in refrigerated trucks in the coroner’s parking lot.

From July 12 to July 16 daytime highs were above 100 degrees while at night it didn’t cool off. Back then AC was not the norm. You opened the window and turned on the fan. In my building the fuse box overheated and fuses blew out until we were down to the last one. We were asked to turn off refrigerators, TVs, stereos, whatever was drawing power.

I remember it was the very week I started recording Marie James, a bag lady, to get her story. We sat in a room with a window open to the alley and the fetid dumpster. She rolled in with her cart full of old milk jugs and wiping her neck with a dirty rag. But somehow I was able to overcome the sensory distractions and turn on my recorder. Her story transported me. A year later Orphan Girl was published.

I have just now gotten around to reading 1919 by Eve Ewing. Dr. Eve Ewing, though when she sat behind me at a performance of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks I didn’t know she was a PhD. She looked way too young. We chatted for a moment. She was way too humble. I discovered she was the co-author of the play.

In her poetry collection 1919 she revisits the hot summer, the red summer, of 1919 in Chicago where from July 27 to August 3 38 people were killed in a race riot.

Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a sociologist of education and a writer from Chicago. She is the author of Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side. She is also author of Electric Arches, which received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America and was named one of the year’s best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. She also writes the Ironheart series for Marvel Comics. Ewing is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and many other venues. She is a literary force to be reckoned with.

In 1919 she has a poem dedicated to the heat wave of 1995. As Chicago moves into another heat wave beginning Thursday through the weekend, let’s keep these tragic events in mind—check on seniors, our at risk neighbors, hand out bottles of water, have mercy on us O Lord.

Link to sound cloud July, July

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Where do you wanna go? Michigan 1997

How old do you have to be to be nostalgic? I recently realized—I know, pathetic—that time is flying. My own millennial is turning 30 this year. I bet she never thought she’d be this old.

I, on the other hand, am old. I deserve to look backward and wax nostalgic. Past summers, riding my bike down hot sticky asphalt roads, milkweed swaying in the breeze, wishing . . . someday. Someday is here.

I like to listen to All Songs considered—a national treasure from our government. National Public Radio works very hard at archiving the music of America as well as discovering new voices. So with All Songs Considered and the Bob Brolin Playlist (updated every Tuesday via Spotify) I am introduced to music I might not find all on my own.

Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along
Never thought I would be the one
To think that I would be the one
To blink and life would be this far along.

This is a song for millennials who are turning 30. For the kid who is about to get married, maybe have a kid, who will forever be paying off their school loans, who will always be one catastrophe away from ruin. Who make craft beer in their garage.

Dandelion wish in the wind
Talking with my imaginary friends
In the backyard in Michigan

We create stories
Of who we used to be
Like looking for a ghost in an empty house
When the future is too hard to see

Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
Where do you wanna go?
It’s okay if you don’t know

I believe there is a theremin playing during the opening chords of this song—which lends itself to that feeling of longing. From the Internet: the band formally known as Holy Golden is now Dolly Valentine.

Remember that song, “In Five Years Time” by Noah & the Whale? (In fact I think it’s been about five years if not more since it came out.) This is where that song is now—in “Michigan 1997.”

These are definitely challenging times. We cannot deny that. It is fun to think back to when there was no Donald Trump or if there was he was up in Trump Tower. What was really important was friends and riding bikes by the lake. Now there is a morass of bad news and “big decisions”, debt, and the seemingly impossible. Just remember the wheel of time turns. Keep going, keep going.
an oldie, from 2007

Monday, July 8, 2019

Afternoon of a Faun

Afternoon of a Faun, book review
By James Lasdun
W.W. Norton & Company, 2019

The copyright says it all. It’s complicated. These times.

Making it even more difficult to unpack a complicated story. More like meta fiction, which ends with the assumed election of Hillary Clinton over her Republican opponent Donald Trump. The last scene in the novel is a living room gathering of friends watching the last debate together with cheers: “He’s going down!”

Who is HE, who are WE? The universe keeps expanding in a wave of self-incrimination. What part do we play, have played in the sequence of events leading up to now? I’m of course thinking of . . . children in cages, anti-Semitic attacks, the depths of despair raging over society, people thinking it’s okay to vandalize the Maggie Daley Cancer Survivor Wall, violence against women. Social media hate. The toxic mix making up the news of just this morning.

All of us contribute. You can read the culpability in Afternoon of a Faun. In this multi-layered novel we are reeled in by different facets of loyalty/identity/privilege. We sympathize with the abuser and the abused, with the victor and the loser. From a place of self-assured confidence that of course what seems rational, sensible will win out. That when it comes to justice there is a level playing field, a point we can all agree on.

Wait: is that the sound of the world blowing up?

In December 2017 The New Yorker published “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian that waded into murky territory. It went viral. Pretty much exactly down the middle—if you were a male you thought the female in the story led the guy on, wasn’t being honest, some said she was a tease. While most women who read the story understood exactly. It’s complicated.

Which probably explains why nobody is having sex these days. (Millennials in particular—are having “so little sex,” senior editor Kate Julian soberly framed the drop as a “sex recession.”) Which doesn’t mean that we’re over “rape culture,” it’s just that both men and women are having a hard time voicing what they really want.

Basically, no one wants to be a tool. We’re not talking romance, a Disney ending, happily ever after. Just where no one feels taken advantage of or hurt.

Afternoon of a Faun is about a journalist who about 40 years prior had sex with a woman. They were both mutually attracted to each other. It’s just that she asked him to stop and he didn’t. That says rape. Except that they remained close, for a while. In fact, after the incident, she stayed in bed next to him and left the next morning. So was it?

Now she’s writing a memoir and revives the memory. The narrator of the story is in the confidence of both parties involved and hears about it from both sides, casting him as somewhat their judge. On one hand he feels for Marco who can barely remember the moment, is successful, leading a full life—this accusation coming now would ruin his reputation. He believes it isn’t who he is. The woman, Julia, was at the top of her game in the 70s as a sought-after news journalist. After what happened her career faded. She’d had some unexpected turns, issues with her health (mental and physical), relationship problems—to the point of actually cutting some people off, and was now trying to resolve things the only way she knew how: by writing. Marco definitely has the upper hand. He has power and privilege and fights her by having lawyers cease and desist, trying to silence her. This is about who deserves to be heard.

As readers/observers we can feel on the hook. By choosing who to believe we stake political claim, personal identity, philosophical leanings. Can we be truly liberal and yet empathize with Marco? Even though Julia’s story/her behavior doesn’t make sense (How do we characterize a victim??) is she still believable? And, against the backdrop of this drama American history is playing out the Trump campaign/election. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. ...

Afternoon of a Faun like its namesake ballet("Afternoon of THE Faun"), adapted from the poem by Mallarmé is about the limits of desire, the yin and yang of intimacy. We do not know how this story is going to end.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

New Work Up @ HunnyBee Lit

It's their first issue so let's give them some hits:

Revenge is a small (100-words) piece inspired by a dinner time conversation. I didn't exactly steal verbatim from the guest at the table, but this is the gist. Dietland was me.

Image result for dietland

Monday, July 1, 2019

Bike Trip: I & M Canal/Towpath Trail Joliet to almost Utica, 60 miles

Last week I got caught in the rain 4 times on my bike. Not normally a big deal, but Chicago has already had so much rain that I try to get out between showers. Sometimes it looks perfect and I think to myself, Stop being a slug. Get up and go downtown!, and literally ten minutes later it’s pouring. When people see me come in dripping wet they act like I’m so hardcore to ride in the rain. I want to tell them, No, I just need to get home and that’s how—on my bike.

So then there was this past weekend.

I wanted to take advantage of a weekend without rain in the forecast. OK, there was a 20% chance, but that’s 80% chance of NO rain. And it’s finally warmed up. The average June temp in Chicago this year was like the low 60s. So meteorologically it looked like the stars were aligning for a two-day ride and camp out.

I met a woman at the Bikes of Wrath movie (see link for review). It was a movie about bike touring and afterwards I came out to the parking lot to see someone looking at my bike. She was cute and little and said, I have a Torker too! So we talked bikes for a moment. Then I said, I need to start riding home, if you’re heading north let’s go together. She said she lived north. I said I lived in Uptown. So did she. I said I live by Sheridan and Wilson. She lived in the building behind mine. So after we made it home we exchanged details to ride together whenever convenient. So far we’ve managed a few local rides. So when I mentioned a bike camping weekend on the I & M Canal Trail she jumped on the idea.

Really it started great. I was so happy to be out on a trail, in nature, hearing birds, pedaling away. It was hot but manageable. We stopped every so often for snacks and to buy drinks. I’ve ridden the I & M many times. But I haven’t ridden to the end of it for many years. Possibly 4 years ago and I remembered that after Seneca it was a bit rough. We finally decided to take the road into Marseilles and Ottawa. It went from a wide track, to a single track, to an unmowed slice. Grades going down to railroad tracks were chunky gravel and washed out. It might have worked for a mountain bike without packs.

Outside of Ottawa is where things broke bad. Suddenly the heat was oppressive. Humidly made it feel like I was swimming in slow motion. We hit a long stretch of mud. More like sticky clay, which seized my back tire and I slammed to the ground, into a puddle. I had blood flowing from my elbow and tried pushing my bike forward as mud gummed up the brakes. As mosquitoes lighted on my arms and back, biting through my shirt. The mud was so deep and sticky my shoe sunk in and I had to suction it out. Step by step. Finally we made it to hiker/biker camping and I got a chance to use bug spray.

camping, so hot

close up of mud

The next day nothing was dry. I packed up a damp tent and put back on my wet clothes hung out on a line to dry. We went back through the mud and in Ottawa took about 20 minutes to wash bikes off with water bottles at a pump. It was already hot. By 20 miles I felt exhausted. After 30 I felt like I had asthma. I would pause after every miles breathing hard over my handlebars. I was drinking, but obviously not enough. Rian turned on her phone (we set them on airplane mode to save on power). In Ottawa in was 104 degrees! Where we were it was 94. No wonder I felt terrible! In Morris I bought a drink. I wasn’t at all hungry. Really, I needed air conditioning.

We kept going as we wanted to catch the train in Joliet. In the distance we heard thunder and the sky was blueing up. I knew there was a picnic shelter at McKinley Woods and struck out for it. The last few miles were stressful as the rain clouded up my sunglasses and there were puddles on the trail that freaked me out after already taking a tumble. We arrived just as the storm really hit.

The flashes of lightning were intense followed by immediate contusive thunder. The ground shook. My ears rang. At times I jumped up from sitting at a picnic table to clasp my hands in fear. The rain poured down.

A minute or two after we arrived another cyclist slipped in. So he was there for us screaming when the cracks of thunder startled us. He checked his phone and said it was all around us and extensive. So there goes that 80%. He called his wife and said, Bring the truck. He told us he lived just up the hill in a subdivision. As he ran out to catch his ride he called out to us: It’s supposed to start hailing. This will later feel like a parable for climate change.

Well, it didn’t hail, but, and it’s hard to believe, it rained harder. At times it was a white-out, as if we were sitting in a bowl of milk. The rain was that thick. Water poured down a hill and created its own gullies, it ran through the picnic shelter and continued on down to the canal. It flowed faster and the shelter began to fill up. It was at first just messy, then annoying, then we climbed up on the picnic tables. Water was everywhere around us, ankle deep, and swirling with speed.

At this point a phrase went through my mind: If I get out of here alive, I’ll be really glad.

It was no longer about the heat, staying dry—we were beyond all that. It was no longer about making the train. This was about making it out. The rain and water just wouldn’t stop.

There came a point where it did slack. Out in the parking lot were 3 hatchbacks. The drivers ran back to their cars from wherever they were waiting out the storm. I ran out to them to beg for a ride. One guy seemed willing to take Rian and I but not our bikes. We waded back into the shelter and got back on top of the table.

Here is where it’s important to have friends. I had enough battery left to make one phone call. I asked someone to drive down from Chicago to rescue us. No small feat on Pride Weekend. It took them 90 minutes and truthfully by the time they reached us the rain had stopped, we were still inundated and had to walk the bikes through standing water to reach them in the parking lot. We learned that it had rained 3 inches in 40 minutes.

But here’s the kicker: that guy who left us in rising water, he lived at the top of the hill, not in a subdivision as much as a gated community of mansions. This, my friends, is what climate change looks like. The rich will have an escape hatch. I’m just glad I had friends who came to my aid. We’re all going to need friends when the waters rise.

Friday, June 28, 2019

June 30, 1974 by James Schuyler

June 30, 1974for Jane and Joe Hazan
Let me tell you
that this weekend Sunday
morning in the country
fills my soul
with tranquil joy:
the dunes beyond
the pond beyond
the humps of bayberry –
my favorite shrub (today,
at least) – are
silent as a mountain
range: such a
subtle profile
against a sky that
goes from dawn
to blue. The roses
stir, the grapevine
at one end of the deck
shakes and turns
its youngest leaves
so they show pale
and flower-like.
A redwing blackbird
pecks at the grass;
another perches on a bush.
Another way, a millionaire’s
white chateau turns
its flank to catch
the risen sun. No
other houses, except
this charming one,
alive with paintings,
plants and quiet.
I haven’t said
a word. I like
to be alone
with friends. To get up
to this morning view
and eat poached eggs
and extra toast with
Tiptree Goosberry Preserve
(green) -and coffee,
milk, no sugar. Jane
said she heard
the freeze-dried kind
is healthier when
we went shopping
yesterday and she
and John bought
crude blue Persian plates.
How can coffee be
healthful? I mused
as sunny wind
streamed in the car
window driving home.
Home! How lucky to
have one, how arduous
to make this scene
of beauty for
your family and
friends. Friends!
How we must have
sounded, gossiping at
the dinner table
last night. Why, that
dinner table is
this breakfast table:
“The boy in trousers
is not the same boy
in no trousers,” who
said? Discontinuity
in all we see and are:
the same, yet change,
change, change. “Inez,
it’s good to see you.”
Here comes the cat, sedate,
that killed and brought
a goldfinch yesterday.
I’d like to go out
for a swim but
it’s a little cool
for that. Enough to
sit here drinking coffee,
writing, watching the clear
day ripen (such
a rainy June we had)
while Jane and Joe
sleep in their room
and John in his. I
think I’ll make more toast.

Submit your work=New Flash Fiction Review

Wanted to let my faithful readers, both of you, aware of an opportunity. New Flash Fiction Review is accepting submissions.

New Flash Fiction Review was founded in 2014 by Meg Pokrass. They are an online magazine devoted to flash fiction. They even have a feature called Micro Interviews.

New Flash Fiction Review hosts an annual award honoring a master short-short storyteller Anton Chekhov: The Anton Chekhov Prize for Very Short Fiction--reading through July 15th.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Bear With Me

I’ve posted here before about Kyle White, a hybrid poet fromWisconsin. I know this is already such a lame intro to someone who’s work I really appreciate. Sometimes too many words can ruin a moment meant to be sublime. That’s Kyle, he underwrites and leaves white space for the reader. His latest book:
Bear. With Me. {A Field Journal}

"bear. with me." is nine mysterious bear illustrations interwoven with a story of wonder, told through forty haiku:
"Follow rabbit trail. You meet Bear in a fur coat. You find Bear is you."

"bear. with me." is to be read slowly and in one sitting, out-of-doors.

I shared with him my chapbook: Bright Invisible about a week spent at Great Spruce Head Island in Maine. Through essays, journal entries, persona letters where I attempt to channel James Schuyler and experience the island through his eyes.
Bright Invisible: Words Sketches of Great Spruce Head Island
These are the kinds projects no one has a category for. Haikus about bears, persona letters about poets from The New York School (a thing that isn’t really a thing). It all hangs on such a thin thread. Either the work is so ordinary or so far out there that there that there is no audience for it.

I’m happy to be here.

Kyle, I can’t wait to dig into Bear With Me!

ALSO check out Winter is Scissors: Thirty-one, small, daily readings for Winter.

No photo description available.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Missing Mid-Summer

I'm missing mid-summer in Sweden.

A year ago I spent one of the most magical evenings I can remember amongst friends and strangers in the hinterlands of Sweden dancing around a "pole" and yapping like a frog (I have no idea) in celebration of the longest day of the year.

Summer in Chicago can suck and it certainly isn't getting off to a good start: temps in the low 60s and drizzly rain. We've had weeks of rain now.

I really miss riding my bike way into what should be night, into what is normally sunset--yet the sun is high and bright. I miss cleaning up at the water's edge and sleeping in the cool dusk--falling asleep before the sun goes down. I long for long summer days in Sweden.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

When They See Us

When They See Us
Ava DuVernay, director, screenplay

When I say “Central Park 5” you know what I mean. When I cryptically mention “wilding”, you get it. Same thing if I say southside or westside. Code words for African Americans. POC, people of color.

In mid- to late-April there was a news story about groups of roving black kids downtown. A warm April night (a rarity this past spring, not even goin’ to get into the fact it’s June and we’ve barely broken into the 70s yet) add social media and the mayor and the police chief were calling an emergency. According to the Chicago Tribune:
What happened?
About 500 teenagers gathered downtown early Wednesday evening. Police were ready for them because of social media posts, strategically staging patrols and calling for transport vans.
The teenagers spread out across Millennium Park and near the Lake and Grand Red Line stops, passing packed restaurant patios.
Some teens got in fights among themselves. In one case, police and teenagers got into a tense confrontation near a Potbelly sandwich shop.
Police on bicycles surrounded the kids and tried to direct them to public transit. No one reported a crime. They were just out there. And, that was scary.

Now, back to Central Park on a warm evening in April, 1989.

And the night bunches of youth gathered, rough housed, some got stupid, some broke the law, but none of them raped a woman jogger. They were run out of the park before that incident happened. Nevertheless, they were targeted and 5 were falsely arrested, convicted, and served time.

The story of When They See Us. What they see are animals, roving gangs (indeed almost 100% of the names on a “gang watch list” recently under scrutiny were POC), assumptions are made, tourists/white folks get uncomfortable. Whatever happened to freedom to assemble, freedom of speech, the right to exist? Civil Rights?

In the end, 31 people were arrested, Chicago police said in a statement to the Tribune. They are facing charges ranging from disorderly mob action to resisting arrest, battery and CTA violations. No injuries were reported.

Thankfully, Civil Rights lawyers jumped all over this. This: the cops squeezing the teenagers onto the Red Line and Express-ing them to the southside.

The thin line between kids congregating and mob action seems so tenuous. A matter of interpretation. Or a difference in color. On Pride weekend there are so many groups assembling, carousing, the ordinance against public drinking is not enforced, thousands of tourists/out-of-towners crowd the parade route, the parks afterwards, etc. There are a few arrests, but mostly the police take a hands-off approach. Pride Weekend is good for the city vs its own residents assembling on a warm spring night is an issue.

Same thing goes for the Air & Water Show—no one is thinking, Shit! There are way too many white folks here in one place! Let’s not talk about what’s in their coolers.

I remember as a kid wanting to break free, cut loose, go “wilding.” Poets write about this, that feeling of wanting to fly, spring—jump so high, hang with friends, talk loud, and laugh like a crazy person. Except if you do it downtown while being black—expect to be expressed back to your turf.

DuVernay deserves an Emmy for both directing and writing the screenplay. A masterpiece that should be viewed by kids in high school for years to come.

The Central Park Five with series director Ava DuVernay
The real crime: wrongful conviction

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Friend, book review

The Friend
By Sigrid Nunez
Riverhead Books, 2018

Let me start this review on a completely random note: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about lament. Lament is such a brilliant expression for the times we live in. It beats giving up. Yet there are so many who have done just that—giving up. Giving up also takes many different forms. Such as turning off your Smartphone and living in a cabin off the grid. I know people who are doing just that: isolating. I can no longer reach them and when I do they do not want to engage.

It feels like a death.

Then there are those who have chosen death. Every day we hear of someone who has taken their life. News media tells us it is an epidemic.

A current of hopelessness permeates the air, to the point that sometimes I have to escape. Disengage. What a vicious cycle.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. One way I choose to escape is through long-distance cycling trips. In fact, I’m planning one right now. Even just the planning inspires me to keep going.

So on that melancholy note I launch into a review of a book that starts with a suicide. The unnamed narrator is grieving the loss of a colleague, friend, lover. And, as we learn, a pet owner.

She is left with her sorrow and by happenstance his Great Dane.

The narrator is herself a writer, thus she explores the territory of vocation, almost a higher calling, and the reality of what it takes to be a writer today. Nunez through prose examines the pitfalls many writers of her age encounter when faced with sensitivity readers, critiques of word choice that in light of political correctness fall into a red zone. Student/teacher conduct comes into focus, as well as the fact that she slept with her professor, her late friend. There is a quip at his memorial service: that he is now a dead white male.

The narrator has nowhere to turn for solace—except the hulking, slobbery 100-pound dog left to her. She lives in a 500 square-foot New York City apartment where dogs are not allowed. She is in danger of becoming homeless, losing her mind to grief, and on top of all this there’s writer block.

Her heart is so raw. All around her are questions. Event he answers are subjective, depending on where you stand in a situation. She cries, walks her dog, teaches creative writing at the university, comes home to walk the dog. Along the way she discovers that reading aloud Rilke’s  Letters to a Young Poet, soothes both her and her new friend. The title of the book, The Friend, refers to both the friend she lost and the one she gained through adoption. She bounces back and forth between addressing her dead former mentor and Apollo, the Great Dane.

I got a chance to meet Sigrid Nunez when I was on waitstaff at Breadloaf a million years ago and since then have read a few of her novels/memoirs/whatever you want to call it. You see, that the beauty of her work, is that it is not easily classified. She borrows from the world around her, other people’s lives, material from her past and melds them together into a hybrid novel that feels real—like looking out a window where you can’t tell if there is glass. I love this kind of work. Lily Tuck did the same thing with The Double Life of Liliane.

In a hybrid there are liberal doses of the “real” and invented parts. Poetic license. Where we as readers assume she is writing about herself, while she is aware of constructing a story that makes sense, which means playing with the facts. Often “real life” is too strange and convoluted to appear real. Subtext gives it a little more credibility.

If you enjoy feeling off-balance, reading memoirs, love dog stories, or want to read about the writer’s journey: read The Friend by Sigrid Nunez.
The Friend: A Novel

Friday, June 14, 2019

Another blast from the past=The Blue Hour

The Blue hour put out a call for submissions and I responded. Ten minutes later in my inbox I got an acceptance. That was fast, I wrote. The editor simply said when we see it, we know it. Apparently it was just the right piece for that issue.

by Jane Hertenstein

Turning fifty is no big deal. It’s like forty-nine plus. Like size 1 is hardly different than a size 0. As if I knew. Those numbers are so far in my past as to be irrelevant. In fact I’ve never been a 1 or a 0. More to the fact, the closest I’ve ever come to a small was when I was a 11 junior—before the fashion charts got a make-over, adjusted for the new American woman, before an eleven was deemed a nine and a true eight became archaic.
Fifty is a state of mind. A half-way point—if one were to live to a hundred. Current statistics proclaim women will outlive men by seven years. The average woman today will probably make seventy-eight. In that case I am more than half-way there. Three quarters. Only I might have to do it alone.
Since the divorce. Since the death of my ex-husband. Since my man-friend moved to France and my daughter lives on an opposite coast from myself.
Image result for The Blue Hour

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Reprising A Note in the Lobby

Here's another one from the archives:

“It has come to our attention that certain residents are not curbing their dog.”
I don’t have a dog, but I do have a parakeet. So I wondered if this message was for me. After affixing my galoshes and screwing on my thermal gloves, I pushed out through the revolving doors. What does it mean to curb?
At the web design startup where I work, Carrie had a fit because someone (again) ate something out of her plastic tub in the lunchroom fridge. Not that her rant referred to me.
I was curious, so I asked her what she was missing. She glared at me. More like a scowl. Not sure the difference — only that I brushed crumbs out of my mustache and scurried back to my cubicle.
When I returned home after a long day at the office — okay, not that long, only about ten hours, but it had been arduous — I found another note in the lobby of my building. I set down my bags and pushed my glasses further up on my nose until it nudged into that snug place.
“Please clean up after your pet.”
To finish reading go here:

Image result for clean up pet waste

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bringing back old favorites

Here is a link to a story that came out a few years ago:

In Her Garden
by Jane Hertenstein

When the regional rail line was extended north, Carol Ann and her husband Bob decided it was time to move out of the city and their second-floor walk-up and out to the unincorporated hinterlands where new suburbs were being planned. They were tired of thin walls and hearing their downstairs’ neighbors squabble. They wanted more space, room to spread out, especially as Carol Ann was pregnant with their second child.
She surveyed the back acreage of the lot-and-a-half upon which their new house sat. The surrounding land was open, for the time being. It was an area once impacted by the Ice Age. Receding glaciers had left fields of moraine and mostly flat treeless prairie. She imagined what it must have been like for the early settlers. A tabula rasa upon which they worked from sun up to sun down draining the sloughs and farming the land. She thought about how all things must eventually pass, erode away and decay. She was the last of her line, originally a LaMott. Her father was brother to five sisters and she, Carol Ann, was an only child. She’d already lost her name and some day she’d be gone too, buried she supposed under that same prairie. Her thoughts often strayed toward morbidity when she was pregnant, a consequence of carrying life.

Image result for garden

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Memorial Day Backpacking Trip to Smoky Mountain National Park, 2019

Last week I went back to my roots: backpacking.

Also my parents used to live in Tennessee and I have spent a lot of time in the park. When they moved back to Ohio around 2007/8 I thought my time in the Smokies was finished. On top of that my hiking partner moved to Minnesota, so that seemed to seal the deal.

Until I got a hankering--and my feet fixed (see post). I contacted my friend to see if she was available and when the stars aligned I cooked up a plan. It's always good in the dead of winter to have a spring plan!

After picking her up at the airport we drove almost to the park and camped one night in the Daniel Boone National Forest (Holly Bay campground). I always find tent camping most exciting when there are bear boxes and Bear warnings. We did not spy any bears--we only heard birds in the mornings. We knew we were below the Mason Dixon line because it suddenly was no longer cold.

Upon arriving at the park we cycled the 11 mile loop of Cades Cove and trekked to the old farmhouses etc. After that we jumped back into the car and drove to Gregory Ridge Trailhead. By this time it was 6 pm and we had about 2 miles to hike. Though fairly level, we were dehydrated from the hot ride and had to scramble under fallen trees. The 2 miles paralleled a rushing stream. We set up camp at site 12 and quickly got a fire going and cooked up a supper. It was dark by the time we stowed food and "smelly" stuff up on the Bear truss high off the ground.

cycling Cades Cove, where there are still remnants of those who farmed and lived in Cove
The next day we hiked 4 - 5 miles pretty much all UP. We averaged about 1 miles an hour which I thought was bad until a group of guys told us it took them 1/2 mile per hour. When we got to Gregory Bald we were relieved: it was a lot cooler and we knew we were almost to our campsite, just down the hill to #13. We arrived early enough in the afternoon to set up a hammock and do some handwash. I'd forgotten how much you sweat when carrying a pack. I was drenched. We laid around and read and rested. That evening we went back to the Bald for some sunset pics.

The next day we hiked 4 miles out to a seasonal road that was still closed and then about 4 more miles to the trailhead parking and our car. We quickly got into the car AC and then drove to the OTHER side of the park to the Greenbrier district to hike up Porter's Creek trail to another campsite. By the time we arrived at #37 it was almost 7:30. Again the whole way up there was a rushing stream--yet at the campsite access to water was difficult. One would have to rappel down 20 feet, after doing a GI crawl under a huge fallen tree.

To say the least, we conserved water and made-do with what we'd hiked in with.

Now we were done with hiking. We headed out on route 321 and saw a sign HOMEMADE APPLE PIES and pulled into the Kyle Carver Orchard where there was a restaurant with hi-carb food--just what we needed. Before even placing our order they brought fritters and apple butter and apple cider in cups to the table. We ordered turkey and dressing with mashed potatoes and corn. It came with strawberry shortcake, biscuits, and a drink. Let me tell you!!!

We were a wreck and looked it. I went into the bathroom to freshen up after ordering to find dirt and bug carcasses in the creases of my neck. Sheesh!

Now I feel ready for more hikes--maybe in cooler climates.
on the trail, blooms