People like us . . .

I started singing along with record albums before I could read, and I started reading at five. I used singing along with albums (and, then, doing shows) as my way of trying to communicate what was in my head, my heart. I had to, because, somehow, early on, I became fearful of saying out loud what I felt. I somehow learned not to ask for what I needed/wanted because the “no” that was sure to come would humiliate me, and, too, people like us didn’t deserve anything anyway, so, Charlie, count yourself lucky you’ve got what you’ve got and don’t want for more. Or other.  Don’t ask. You know what was funny, all those years of wailing along, mostly alone in my room, I was always hoping someone would hear me, get me. I spent most of my adult life around and with people whose modus operandi was to ignore anyone’s needs but their own, people who punished you if you asked them for something other than what they were giving, people who operated always in control and revenge mode. Anyway, what? I’ve been trying to blog for days. I can’t quite. No, everything’s great. I don’t need anything. Really. I’m just going to play some songs.

Words Matter.


Fearful teen faggot me, terrified, barely able to make it through one day after another; that fear, returning now.

I have tried to hold on to my fundamental belief that EVERYONE — no matter how heinous I find their words, beliefs, and behaviors — has at the center the same spark of Love and Light which motivates and illuminates those people I love and admire; but this election season has time and again challenged me to sustain that belief.

Not only have I been appalled by the rhetoric, the ignorance, the embrace of hate, misogyny, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia, schoolyard bullying, bloviating bigotry, threats and intimidation and concentrated disinformation, deceit, distortion, and meant-to-induce violence lies and propaganda, but, too, it has triggered me.

I can’t sleep. I can’t look at Twitter. I can’t watch the news. I am scared. Not in a grown-up way, but in the same way I was as a child, as a young person, in school, in my community, where I had early on been labeled faggot, and was regularly abused, accosted, assaulted, and in danger. And it wasn’t just those actual attacks, it was the culture of casual and accepted homophobia and ignorance practiced by my family, my church, the society at large. Now, Tr*mpists have been given permission to express again, to embrace again, to encourage again all of these kinds of hates.

And I am having trouble trusting the world. I am having trouble trusting anything. Words matter. They almost killed me as a child, a few times, and made my life well into my twenties a daily hell and terror. Words matter. They did kill Matthew Shepard. Words matter. I want to be able to trust the world again, to get on Twitter again, to watch the news again. He must not win. That he can get this close means all the work I thought we’d accomplished, had so much less effect than I’d hoped.

That he can get this close makes me that terrified 13-year-old again, afraid that the love I feel is reason enough for people to want to crucify me. I. Cannot. Cope.

FOOD: Sunday; Showing Up for Swiss Steak


The finished Day-Long Swiss-Steak, lightly sauced. There is a large bowl of more sauce to be ladled like gravy over the meat and mashed potatoes. For some reason I seem not to have taken a pic of that!

It’s my sixth day of cold-turkey Twitter hiatus. I haven’t logged in. I have no idea what’s going on in that world I’ve been living in. I’m not sure what this means or why I felt I had to exit there, which is the reason I can’t go back. I miss the people, my Twitterati, my connection, but I am wondering if maybe I am just not meant to be connected to the world, to anyone, really. There is so much of me no one knows, and, well, I want to be held in ways no one really can — I think I am re-parenting me in a way. Not that my parenting was flawed in the first place, far from it. And so, here, a story about my Mom, and a recipe. Love and Light whoever you are out there. Sorry if you came here looking for naked Dylan O’Brien, those days seem to be long gone.

I got to host Momma for Sunday dinner. Unexpectedly.

This is worlds more complicated than it sounds since seeing Momma requires driving to the Home for the Aged (that’s what they call it, have called it, since the 1800s) and getting her and her walker from her third floor residence, down the historic front steps, into the car, and then from the car and into my apartment which requires either a long sidewalk trek and a flight up to the front door of my building and down a flight into my apartment, or, an alternate shorter roll across the lawn where tree roots and damp patches lurk. Too, of late, Momma has begun to forget she’s being picked up and so not been waiting at the front door, signed out, I.D. necklaced and ready, or, has fallen asleep in her chair, book on her lap. Because of this, she’s instructed me to call before I come. So, on Sunday, once I realized I should bring her over for dinner, I spoke to her on the phone to say I would be done at the gym between 3:30-4:00 and would call her to let her know.

Well, I called. No answer.

I try not to panic anymore. She is 88. Too, my sister had Continue reading

Reading: Florida-crazy and Love-crazy worlds …


charlie-oct-2016-1I haven’t been on Twitter in five days, which may well be the longest I have not checked in there since I started Tweeting however many years ago that was. For me, Twitter was a method of replacing InRealLife interactions, a place I came closer to being the me and living the life I had long imagined. Except, I didn’t really do that, did I? I live with a foundational loneliness (we all do, I know) that I don’t think can be assuaged, and, for reasons for which no one but myself is to blame, when that distraction from the loneliness and sense of failure stops working, there is an almost chemical surge of disappointment and sorrow, the pain of, “Shit, I’ve done it again — I am, still, after all, alone and who I am/was/will ever be.”  Twitter was starting to make me feel that way. Again. It was sort of like being on Grindr or Tinder and swiped over. And over. And over. Over and over. I am relatively certain I will return to Twitter — it was where I got a lot of my “what to read” information, but I was also sure I’d reactivate my Facebook some day and it’s been five years (I think) so, who knows? I can’t go back until I am not in a place where I am looking to Twitter and the people on it for unfair and unreasonable amounts of affirmation — which is what I need to take care of for myself. Maybe my new glasses will help. We’ll see. Or, I’ll see — way better than I did before I got these new glasses. Which is a lovely thing. And great, because now that I am (temporarily, I think) off Twitter, I have even more time to read. So, here I am, going.

razor-girlRAZOR GIRL, Carl Hiaasen, hardcover, 333 pages, Knopf  Seems I read a Carl Hiaasen novel every three years or so; 2010 was Star Island; 2013 was Strip Tease, and now, 2016, Razor Girl.

Makes sense that a batshit crazy state like Florida would be the setting for novels whose characters are defined by personality disorders. There is a surfeit of quirky, kinky, kooky unto clinically idiosyncratic characters jostling for the crazy crown. Many of them commit or pay for violence to others as casually as ordering at a fast food drive-thru window.

Why is it then that Mr. Hiaasen manages to make me laugh? His writing is fleet, his gift for capturing type in a few brief sentences phenomenal, and his intricate plotting full of surprises, including gobsmacking moments of tenderness and insight.

This is redneck noir at its best and Continue reading

Reading: Man, Booker, WTF?

Fair warning and full disclosure, I am in a full-blown, full-on mean reds episode, feeling attacked, unloved, unseen, alone, abandoned, belittled, beknighted, befuddled, certain I am going to end my life on the streets, mortified and still unable to face how easy I am to walk away from, turn away from, and so, I am especially self-pitying right now, furious about what I’ve lost, what’s been taken, and what I’ve fucked up, both my pair of sneakers are falling apart, my bullet-shake-maker blew up, I haven’t lost enough weight quickly enough on this diet, I think I’m leaving Twitter, I don’t have any house/pet-sitting bookings in October/November which means I don’t have any private time, and I am just fucking exhausted being me and feeling sad about how being me exhausts other people and so … you’ve been warned. When in this mood and further disappointed by books — which are my solace and my strength, I can get pretty testy.

I live a smallish life, an increasing amount of my happiness has to do with my interaction with the books I read. Literature means a great deal to me. I revere authors and follow them the way others iconize Brangelina and sports figures. So, each year, the announcement of the Man Booker fiction longlist and National Book Award nominees are big events for me. I am excited when there are books on those lists I’ve already read, even more, when there are books there I have loved and championed.

When the opposite is true — when there are books which were buzzy-industry-pushed and heralded by insidery-critic-y-MFA-emperor’s-new-clothes-crowd that I found to be less than great, even annoyingly un-great (if you want to go Tr*mpian about it), I am flummoxed and, in some cases, pissed off. I find it, what’s the word? DEPLORABLE.

So, this year has been something of a drag. First of all, Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, [I WROTE ABOUT IT HERE] should win both Booker and NBA. It was at least on the longlist for NBA, but Continue reading

Reading: On the Rebound: What to Read After Ann Patchett

Catching up on the six books I’ve read since my last bookblog. What these reads have in common was having been recommended by either IRL lit pals or virtual/bloggy/TwitLit types or by nominating committees. I listened to what they said. And here we are, going.

It was September 27th when last I book blogged and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth [click here] had left me sated but worried; after one has been pleasured by the gifts of a brilliant author, pity the rebound books to which one turns saying, “Well, they’re not Ann Patchett, but a person’s got to read something.”

This time my strategy was to begin by heading to my backlist, those books published at least a decade ago which have been recommended to be but to which I’ve not gotten round. I also thought it would be wise to switch from the literary fiction genre and, too, to cross the pond, thereby starting with a British mystery originally published in 1944.

THE CASE OF THE GILDED FLY, Edmund Crispin, hardback, originally published 1944, 237 pages  This is the first in a series of what have been called “classic murder mysteries” featuring the Oxford don Gervase Fen, an erudite, sardonic amateur detective, sort of Miss Marple on steroids and gin. Edmund Crispin is a pseudonym used by Robert Bruce Montgomery, a composer who wrote film scores including ones for the comedic Carry On series and the inexplicable The Brides of Fu Manchu. It was short and fast and quite self-consciously clever, terribly wink and sniggle, aren’t we all witty, wink, wink, let’s have a quick tipple what say? It’s clear Crispin enjoyed having the genre and readers on. Plot: theatre company. Not nice actress murdered. Everyone had a reason. Locked room sort of vibe. But the plot was its own sort of in-joke and I did have a bit of trouble keeping the many characters clear, and I had to look up quite a few unfamiliar words and references, which always delights me. That said, I read it over three days and wish I’d saved it for a snowy afternoon, I think it would have gone down more smoothly that way. Will I read another in the series? Good question. I think if I could find used library copies I might add them to my Great Sphinx of Giza sized TBR wonder-pile, but getting them plucked from there and into my hands? Not sure. Continue reading

The Heart of (cr)Eating

I have spent my life modeling my behavior after brilliant, soulful women of a certain age, and so, in the manner of my current idol of perfection, Her Grace (she knows who she is, and if you’re reading this, you probably do as well), who displays her impeccable breeding by reserving comment about whatever current  fetid cesspool of events is polluting Twitter and focusing on the eternal, I have been shutting up about (or, hiding from) the news and peppering (so to speak) my Twitter-feed with photos of the food I’ve been making. Cooking comforts me, particularly when I am creating dishes for others, and like reading and writing, it nourishes my heart and soul. My Twitter-food photos and descriptions have prompted requests to share my recipes and so I have decided to start food-blogging in addition to book-blogging and navel-gazing-too-much-information-in-need-of-therapy-please-love-me blogging. I warn you, I’m no more qualified to chef than I am to write, and my methods are best described as improvisational, the resulting concoctions sometimes delicious and sometimes … well, they are always an effort of love and that’s what counts. So, here we are, going, on this new food-blogging adventure. And I wouldn’t be me, whatever name you want to call me, if I didn’t go on at great length about how I got to be here, going. Much love, dear ones.


Sissie’s Cookbook & Recipe File


My aunt, Sissie, lived in the Libertytown house where she’d been born in 1918 for more than sixty years until the flock of family to whom she’d devoted her decades was by death and marriage and failure and hubris culled to a herd unable (or, unwilling) to physically and financially maintain what Sissie and I, in our BritLit loving affectation called “The Manse”.

I spent Sundays and summers at The Manse through my childhood, and when my fizzled flounderings at becoming a productive, contributing member of society in my teens and twenties failed, Sissie would take me in. We were a happy melange of Grey Gardens, bargain basement Brideshead, and the Babe Paley/TrumanCapote-dowager/walker dynamic.

What Sissie did and loved and was, I wanted to do and love and be to please her, and so in addition to modeling her quiet Catholic piety, goodness, and kindness, I became a devotee of theatre — especially musicals, especially those starring Miss Mary Martin — and a voracious reader of books, and a fanatic for the culture of New York City, or, at least, the Manhattan as depicted in MGM musicals and written about by members of the Algonquin Round Table and Helene Hanff, and, too, when I was ten or eleven, on the family Sundays which I spent with Sissie in Libertytown, I started “helping” her to cook.


Sissie’s copy of The Art of Eating, another of the things I saved from Libertytown & Sissie

Despite Continue reading

Reading: Ann Patchett’s COMMONWEALTH


COMMONWEALTH, by Ann Patchett, hardcover, 336 pages, HarperCollins

After many years of much noise and bustle, I made a decision to redefine myself. I now lead a life of quiet observation; mindfully uncluttered, simple of purpose: to find meaning in being present, unfettered by restrictive societal presumptions and biases, apart from the culture of acquisitiveness and achievement, resisting the urge to collect and accumulate stuff.

That said, there are some things I feel I must own, like new releases by Ann Patchett. So, despite my determinedly (and necessarily) reduced and frugal life-rejiggering, I pre-ordered Ms. Patchett’s latest novel, Commonwealth, from my dear, local indie bookstore, The Curious Iguana, who lovingly saved me a signed first edition.

So much for me not being acquisitive. But readers, forgive me. It’s Ann Patchett. And so you understand what this choice means, the cost of a hardcover book is almost as much as I make for a day of house/pet-sitting. That said, I understand the ability to buy a book at all means I’ve a life of privilege many other people in the world do not have and I am extremely grateful for that.

Now, on to the novel. Here is what is Continue reading

Deciduous Me: Finding the Miracle in the Marble


MiracleCharlie, Autumn 2016 Edition

Even as I ready to press PUBLISH on this post on which I have been working for 3 days (Not non-stop. I don’t write like that.) I am certain I will come back to it and edit (again) and add (I know, it’s already 3000 words) and delete (I know, thank heavens, you say) and — but, I am putting it out there because it is where and who I am in this moment. And a friend has STRONGLY suggested I give up writing fiction, re-visit all my blogs, and shape it into a memoir. Alas, I fear the only people interested are either dead, or already read my blog, so, anyway, Here we are. Going!

Fall began Thursday, September 22nd. I started house/pet-sitting at a gorgeous mountain retreat Friday, September 23rd. That night the television series version of “THE EXORCIST” debuted and like a fool, I watched it. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to write this, which started out as a memory about my brother, L, taking me to the movies, and somehow transmogrified into a meditation on marble and naked trees and gender and Michelangelo and … my usual babbling bullshit. So here we are, going.


Autumn is my favorite season. I love the peeling away, the gift of being encouraged to lay bare the bones, disrobe and denude and divest and uncover, to have permission to abandon maintaining the adornment and artifice of the colorful and too often noisome business of being, to be allowed the enchantment of sloughing off, encouraged to welcome stillness, a peaceful, quiet, fallow resting, inside of which is the promise of renewal and spring.

Providentially, for these first ten days of Fall 2016 I am house/pet-sitting in a lovely mountain location just distant enough from the nearest town to afford an extra chill in the air, foliage making visible the breeze, brilliantly unfettered showers of sunlight, and silence enough to hear the birds, insects, and chattering leaves saying their goodbyes before they flutter and flitter and fall to the ground in the glorious quietus of release in which resides the covenant of resurrection.

But first, before we rise again, comes the letting go.


MiracleCharlie 1962-63 Edition, being held by brother, L.

As I’ve aged, life has turned out much differently than I had planned, imagined, hoped. And as I accumulated experiences and disappointments I lost the smiling, optimistic, embracing, believing, open MiracleCharlie I was as a child. Now, after what began as a forced letting go and continued as a prolonged Continue reading

READING: Nathan Hill’s THE NIX (and a few others)

I’ll be talking about four books today; IN MIKE WE TRUST by P.E.Ryan; HOME BY NIGHTFALL by Charles Finch; THE WOMAN IN CABIN TEN by Ruth Ware; and my favorite of this post, the very good THE NIX by Nathan Hill. You can click on any of the titles in red below to be taken to either the publisher’s page or the author’s page for the books. Enjoy.

in-mike-we-trustIN MIKE WE TRUST, by P.E.Ryan, hardcover, 366 pages, Harper Teen

After having reveled in the glories of Patrick Ryan’s The Dream Life of Astronauts, I worried the next author I read would be at an unfair disadvantage. So, what did I do? Followed up with Mr. Ryan’s — this time writing as P.E.Ryan — young adult novel, In Mike We Trust.

15-year-old Garth and his emotionally and financially stressed Mom are adjusting to a smaller life when the identical twin of Garth’s deceased father, Mike, a sort of prodigal brother/mysterious black sheep, arrives on the scene. Garth has recently come out as Gay to his best friend, Lisa, and to his Mom, the latter of whom wishes him to keep it quiet until he’s older, refusing even to discuss it with him. Mike shakes up the fearfully circumscribed world in which Garth and his Mom have mourned themselves into in ways that alarm Garth’s Mom, Lisa, and finally, Garth himself who is also falling for Lisa’s friend, Adam, further complicating matters.

This is a very fast read (with a slow-ish start) and, like I said, after The Dream Life of Astronauts, nothing stood a chance with me. I liked this well enough but something about Mike felt unfinished to me, as if the author meant him to be more, or to go in a different direction originally, but was convinced not to. In general, the characters and the story felt underdeveloped and too plotted and planned at the same time, unlike Astronauts, which was full of surprises and breathtaking realities, this felt predictable and not really from the truth of a heart.

home-by-nightfallHOME BY NIGHTFALL (Charles Lenox Mysteries #9), by Charles Finch, Hardcover, 304 pages, Minotaur Books

I have read only one other in this series, a much earlier installment. The aristocratic Mr. Lenox, in 1876 London, having Continue reading