ZeitBriefs: Other People’s Work and Dick Pics

Sharing some links and things that made me think. And some thinks I thought without linking. Or sharing.


how to get awayI’ve been Twitter watching Scandal since Shonda Rhimes first gifted it to us. I used to do so, eager to hear Donna Brazile’s Tweets, but I’ve become annoyed with Ms. Brazile and her continued support of the demon-cabal of the NFL (you’d think her ruination of Al Gore’s presidential campaign would have been enough to disappoint me, but, no). So, I’ve blocked her. Like she cares. But, I digress – surprise, surprise – and now Ms. Rhimes has given me a new reason to waste another hour a week not reading or writing (about which I wrote yesterday- HERE) with How to Get Away With Murder from Shonda-land. Apparently I am not alone. Great ratings. Unfortunately, the jack-fuck NFL did better. What is wrong with people?



Speaking of what is wrong with people – me, in particular (too long a list there), here’s a funny, not funny: before I made a life-change to being an under-employed house/pet sitter – slash – crazy uncle-in-the-attic (basement) – slash – not-quite-published novelist – slash – lost his paying gig columnist so now a blogger, I was an under-employed – slash – over-worked indentured servant of an acting teacher -slash – journey-actor – slash -producer/director. Wow – that was a long, rough road to the non-point of my point, that being this: my syntax, sentence structure, punctuation and addiction to (some editors have substituted unreasonably stubborn insistence on for addiction to) neologism when my newly-coined word seems pithier and more apt than any existing construct is wedded to what I have come to believe is a genetic inability to distinguish between the uses of “that” and “which” – which (or that?) is linked to my inability to control what has politely been called my “Baroque” style of parenthetical, digressive, aside-ridden, awash in barely-connected run-on rants and ravings of compounded complexities of cacophonous babbling rendering the determination of whether or not a clause is restrictive or non nearly impossible. But the thing was (is) every time I have to use THAT or WHICH, I struggle and go to one or another grammar site – most often, Grammar Girl. I also have trouble with PEOPLE’S vs PEOPLES’. I also prefer British quotation rules – and – well, my writing is as quirky and difficult to follow, I suppose, as my soul. I would like to think BOTH are – for a few people at least – worth the trouble.  No one said I was easy. To read, anyway.


Naked Old Man 2

My latest dick-pic. Can’t understand why I’m not getting more hook-ups?

And speaking of “easy” and why that word and “slut” and all the others ought to be put to rest – Noah Michelson, Executive Editor at Huffington Post has written a really great column about naked pics and the distortion of the issue. I agree. I have long, long said that the lack of embrace and celebration of the joys of free expression of our sexual natures is a tool the patriarchal-fascist-power-structure-elite use to control us – ESPECIALLY to control women and those of other than a hetero-normative bent. IN FACT – I blame that repression and its disastrous results for the most decimating, destructive heartbreak-relationship-disasters of my life, the effects of which still haunt me, have, in many ways, ruined me and made me distrustful and hermit-like. So, TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR JUNK AND SEND IT EVERYWHERE. Yep, that’s what I’m saying.



ZankieIn a continuation of the above topic- wherein fear and lack-of-embrace of sexual feelings and love create problematic stories – especially in my life – well, my obsession with Zach on Big Brother 16 – or, more specifically, with the bromance-showmance-whatever-mance between straight Zach and gay Frankie – was ridiculous. Because, truth, it has happened to me repeatedly – twice with horrifyingly heartbreaking consequences wherein the “straight” guy told me he loved me more than he had ever loved anyone else but then, because of the onus of what our union meant, he could not handle it and turned from me – turned on me – turned into – well, enough. So, I know Frankie is a fame-junkie and I suspect Zach, too, is a bit of a fame-addict, but Zach’s monologues in the confessional room seemed so sincere, so heartfelt, I can’t believe he doesn’t have conflicted-love feelings for Frankie. But, then again, I’ve REPEATEDLY thought fellows had the same sort of feelings for me, only to find out I was being used or made a fool of or becoming a lie they would later tell. Fuck life.



tennessee williamsI am reading John Lahr’s biography of Tennessee Williams, titled, Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. It is stunning, simply stunning. I have long admired Mr. Lahr’s work. His biography of Joe Orton was incisive and illuminating, and now, he is the perfect choice for Mr. Williams. The way in which he manages to transition between Mr. Williams’ own words and authorial narrative, the fascinating investigation and explanation of how Mr. Williams’ personal life was mirrored in and informed his work, all of it coming together to make the reader feel present as the life occurred; quite brilliant. I love it.

That said, so much of Mr. Williams’ life and words echo (or, presage) so much of my own broken hearted journey through life that I have had to – repeatedly – put the book down and process. My copy is pocked with margin notes and sticky-pad-arrows so that it looks less read than studied. Listen to these few:

There are only two times in this world when I am happy and selfless and pure. One is when I jack off on paper and the other when I empty all the fretfulness of desire on a young male body.

I’d like to live a simple life — with epic fornications.

…to know me is not to love me….I am a problem to anybody who cares anything about me –Most of all to myself who am, of course, my only ardent lover (though a spiteful and cruel one!)

We share a soul angst. Would that I could manage – had managed – to produce a truth of my own anywhere close to those Mr. Williams made of his journey. Alas, I did not. Nor did I achieve his “epic fornications” – oh well. Read the book friends. While you’re sitting alone – like me.


  • AHHH … THE WEEK-END … and, the week, it ends …

And speaking of alone – like me – last night – but first, later today I will be departing Aftermath. Back to my basement for a few weeks. Yesterday I didn’t leave the estate at all. I stayed in all day. Reading. Writing. Frolicking (and subsequently, napping) with Judah. Dangerous. I cannot remain in the house for more than one day without social interaction because it is far too easy for me to NEVER leave the house. I have to force myself out, daily, or all too quickly I hide in my crazy-uncle-world and do not emerge.

charlie sweeney

Me. Sweeney. Goal weight.

But I gave myself yesterday. Last night I was alerted that Sweeney Todd was being presented as part of Live from Lincoln Center on PBS. Now, here’s the thing. (Another of my things – not to be confused with THAT thing of dick-pic fame). When I was quite young I saw the original production on Broadway starring Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. I then saw it with Dorothy Loudon. I then saw it, years later, with Christine Baranski. I then saw it at Signature Theatre in Virginia with a brilliant, luminous, glorious Donna Migliaccio (why she is NOT a HUGE Broadway star I cannot understand, her Lovett and Mama Rose and EVERYTHING I have ever seen her do – GENIUS – most recently as the Mother in Sunday in the Park With George at Signature – she slayed me, absolutely destroyed me – so, so, SO ridiculously good), and then I saw the Patti LuPone with tuba version of Lovett on Broadway. AND, I played Sweeney in my heyday. It was my absolute favorite role ever. I knew the score was actually out of my comfort zone – I did not have as much low end as a brilliant Sweeney requires – but I LOVED doing it. I worked with my favorite and most demanding director, Josh, and the cast was top-effing-notch, including my Mrs Lovett, my dear, dear Kayte. Now, granted, I lost my mind playing the role. My feeling was that his years in the prison colony would have been marked by increasing insanity and anger and starvation; so he should be, in essence, a shadow, a ghost, a poisonous cloud of hate and fear and need for revenge. So, I dieted to get the look I wanted. I dieted to obsessive degrees. I lived on ExLax and one 6 ounce can of tuna every other day. And celery. I could have as much celery as I wanted. I lost twenty-five pounds and most of my mind. And I loved it.

All of which leads up to, I was not a huge fan of last night’s broadcast. I’d have rather they re-ran the one from a few years ago with Ms. LuPone. I didn’t see the point of last night’s. There was nothing revelatory about it. There was nothing, in fact, even very good about it. Everyone seemed miscast – either acting wise or vocally – except for Audra McDonald, who has already done the Beggar Woman with Patti, so, uhm, anyway.

I longed, after, to see my version again. I know there exists a recording – I had it once – but, alas, the last two times I have “moved” have been rather hasty departures, rather emotionally draining and terrifying departures, both of which prompted me to toss or lose things. I don’t know where my Sweeney went.

Anyway … where was I? Oh, right …

That was my Friday night. Watching a bad and disappointing Sweeney. Trust me, bad and disappointing men have often been my Friday night fate – which is why I tend to stay in, hermit-like, alone and reading about Tennessee Williams rather than going out and risking another Zankie-esque-debacle in my life.

So, there, this was meant to be a short little post of quick links of the work of others … turned into another therapy session about – well, forget about what – let’s settle on this: I just cannot shut-up. Maybe THAT’s why my Zach departed. LOL. Fuck it. Gotta run. Doing a final laundry and vacuuming here at Aftermath.






ZeitBites Friday: Ello and Oodbye

mistsI live in what amounts to a self-induced-semi-fog. (I love my dashes, my parenthetical asides, and my blatant disregard for the customs of punctuation and syntax. This is my foggy world, folks, and my rules apply.) It is a matter of survival that I maintain a comfortable distance between myself and what is considered “the real world” by those who run that inhospitable place, a so-called reality I remind myself was well-defined by Jane Wagner with the line “a collective hunch”.

So, this morning, when I woke here at Aftermath where I am watching the estate for another day, I was charmed to see my world-view made manifest by weather conditions. The mist had rolled in during the night. Usually it burns off by early morning, but, today, it seems to be thickening, increasingly impenetrable. Perhaps this is not, after all, weather, but, rather, Magic. A miracle for Charlie. Perhaps, at last, Avalon is throwing off its cloak, unveiling again, Morgana and Morgause making a return to straighten things out here.

Or, perhaps, the Priestesses of Avalon are subsuming Aftermath into Avalon. If you drive to Boonsboro looking for me and the town is gone, I’ve Brigadooned my way to the Lady of the Lake who heard my keening yesterday when Twitter went all mad for the new social-network-platform, Ello. (CLICK HERE FOR AN ARTICLE EXPLAINING IT)

ELLOPlease. No. Stop. Now.

Ello is being huzzah-ed and heralded as possible replacement for the evil empire of Facebook. Ello promises not to pollute your feed with ads nor commodify and monetize you. Ello is artier and cooler and hipper. Ello allows you to use whatever name you like. Ello is where the cool kids are going after school to hang. Argh. Look, I left Facebook because the posts were becoming increasingly moronic and vituperative and, too, I hated Facebook deciding what would and would not be seen. It freed up a lot of my time. It also made me pay attention to Twitter, where I have found a lovely community, made lots of friends, and am very happy.

I don’t want to have to build another imaginary world in Ello. But, again this morning, my Twitter-feed is full of the hip and much admired talking about their new Ello names and inviting us to invite them to invite us to the invitation only world of Ello.

I’ve got just one word for that: Oodbye.

I watched the season premiere of Scandal last night. I am seriously in love with Bellamy Young as Mellie. So is BuzzFeed. Check it out CLICK HERE.

GIF alfred enoch


Then I watched the new Shonda Rhimes entry, How To Get Away With Murder. I’m not completely sure yet, but I think I’m in love. I had been hitting the Malbec pretty heavy by the time it came on and so was a trifle confused, but when the gaysex scene happened and hot guy one went at hot guy two, tore off his clothes, threw him onto the bed and said, “I did, but I want this too. Turn over.” Watch.

I was pretty much a fan. In addition, the actor who plays Wes, Alfred Enoch, seriously makes me want to say or be said to the very same thing. I’ll watch again.

Now, as I’ve been writing this, the sun has burnt away the mists. Damn. Guess I’m going to have to do my version of “real world” functioning. But first, one more video. Ms. Streisand released Partners this week, making her the only performer to have number one debut albums six decades in a row. WOW. Much admiration. I am still enthralled by her earliest work and whenever the sun makes an unexpected appearance I start wailing the song below – so apt this morning. Happy weekending, my darlings.



The Overpass . . . (or, underpass?)

340Today, I almost drove into the concrete wall of an overpass.

Or, is it an underpass? Whatever it is, there it was, and I was nearly part of the graffiti sprayed on it. Splayed on it?

I was on my way home – or, I was on my way back to Aftermath where I am minding the estate and Judah whilst my dear Lady A visits relatives. I wasn’t going to go to the gym today. I was going to stay in all day and read but, well, the truth is, all the cool people I follow on Twitter started talking about getting on Ello – which is some cooler, hipper, prettier, artier version of Facebook apparently – and, look kids, I am only just managing to sustain the delusion that I am semi-popular on Twitter. The thought of having to struggle to maintain a presence and cultivate friends on another platform – I had to get the hell out of the house. So, before my drive back, I’d spent two hours at the gym; one hour on cardio equipment and another hour in the sauna and showers. Usually my loitering in the sauna and showers is in pursuit of inappropriately young or married men, but, today, I was attempting to convince myself the injury I had done to my right hip was muscle-strain and not incipient need for hip-replacement surgery. I regret to inform you that I found no relief – neither trashily erotic nor pain. My hip (and entire right leg) hurt and I am sitting here, alone, typing.

So, did I mention my car nearly found union with the concrete wall of an overpass? Or, is that an underpass?

After the gym and its reminder that not only am I unattractive to the inappropriately young and married men I prefer who are all- no doubt- already on Ello (not to mention the appropriately aged Latin fellow who seemed single and completely ignored me) but I am also approaching (okay, okay – HAVE ARRIVED AT) the age where my loved ones (i.e. the Medicare death panel) will need to decide if I am worthy of joint replacement or should just be put down (I vote for the latter), I decided I needed a visit to my local, independent bookseller, The Curious Iguana, where I spent twenty minutes chatting with people who would NOT choose to put me down and picked up three more books for my ToBeRead pile.

I love my bookstore people, but, how many hours a week can I spend there? And, honestly, how much energy can I invest in the fantasy that they – like my TwitLit friends – make me a worthwhile person because they like me. What, after all, do they really know about me?

So, I’m driving back to Aftermath, and I almost careened into an overpass. Or, is it an underpass? Whatever it is, I almost hit it.

I was seventeen months old when my father died on a September 17 many decades ago by driving into a telephone pole. It was not his first accident. It was not the first time he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. It was not the first time he had been drinking and driving. He was, I have been told, terribly unhappy, tortured, and far too sensitive for the world in which he lived, the world he had made for himself.

It was many decades later after long, sad blank years during which I had grown increasingly, piece by piece, atom by atom, unhappy, felt tortured by loss and failure, and believed myself far too sensitive and nerve-ending-exposed for the world in which I lived and had made for myself that I first wondered whether or not a man who repeatedly drove into things could possibly have meant to do it on purpose.

It was the first time I thought of following in my father’s tire-tracks, speeding into something, wondering whether or not I could manage to do even that right. I still believed in god then. And karma. And a complicated cosmology I’d constructed to make all that had happened seem reasonable, to convince myself that there was a purpose to and reward for suffering.

I don’t believe any of that anymore. And today, I almost drove into an underpass. Or, is it an overpass? Whatever it is, I almost became part of it today.

By accident. I – who believe not one iota in love of the romantic, fated, ever-after variety – was once again madly gesticulating and wailing along with a Jason Robert Brown tune from The Bridges of Madison County. It is ridiculous, I know, that I – see above not one iota and such – am so obsessed with romantic ballads from Broadway musicals. I was wailing, “All my life I have been falling – falling into you…” with my eyes closed and head tossed back when I came to realize I was about a millisecond from crashing into the underpass.

Or, is it an overpass? Whatever it is, I almost went out hitting a gorgeously shaped and perfectly pitched A (I think it was an A, maybe a B). I did not. I righted the car. And, I am proud to say, finished the phrase. Still a diva, even though it’s been years since I trod the boards. But, I was a bit shaken. I pulled off.

Here’s the thing; first thought: Wish I’d kept my eyes closed a few seconds longer. Second thought: No one would ever believe it had been an accident.

Here’s the other thing and why I am writing this: it will be an accident. As much as I would like the eleven-o’clock ballad to be sung and take me out, as much as I would like to have the nerve to hit that final A (maybe B), that ridiculous, idiotic part of me obsessed with romantic ballads from Broadway musicals just cannot seem to really and truly give up the fucking ghost.

I still fucking believe – despite my rejections and losses and sorrows and disappointments and failure after failure after failure – that there might be a goddam happy end other than a telephone pole.

Or, underpass. Or, is it an overpass? Whatever.


Good people of Aftermath. . . and Grumplestiltskin . . .

I am enjoying a stay at the bucolic estate of a friend, my own Aftermath. I haven’t blogged in over a week. Oddly, each day I did not post, my hits climbed. It seemed that not writing made me far more popular. There seemed to be a message in that since I had suspended blogging that I could focus on cutting a third of the words in my novel that it might be considered by an agent – which is as close as I have yet gotten. It’s difficult going, this cutting away of myself, and yesterday my hits started – at last – to decline. So, an entry.

Thursday night. Last. My Florida sister brought my Mother to dinner. The two of them had spent the preceding week in California with my brother-in-law in the home that he and my Connecticut sister had designed and to which they were making their way cross-country to retire last October when she died.

A year ago. Almost. Thursday night. Last. Which happened to be one day after the 52nd anniversary of the death of my father. A death from which we never recovered. A death around which we built our entire lives. A vehicular death that infected some of us – this ghost worshipping cabal of his widow and all six of his children – so that whenever another of us was driving away, we’d stand and watch the car going, waving until it was entirely out of sight.

Every goodbye might be the last.

We broke ourselves of that habit. We shattered, in fact, apart. I was blamed. I was quietly voted out of the family, tsk-tske-ed about, mythologized no less than dead Daddy in order that new sadly indefensible behaviors be excused. Having been carefully, bruisingly schooled as a child in the dangers of speaking up, standing up, fighting back, I suffered in the Catholic-catechism-silence I’d been brainwashed to believe would result in eternal reward, that now-incomprehensible “be quiet and accept that there is, in fact, always a reason even if it is only that you, Charlie, deserve to be unloved”. The great trick there being, you see, that whole fairy tale about how finally one would be embraced and recognized and seen in heaven.

It was, finally, the cruelty of my family that gave me the gift of no longer believing in god. In ever after. In eternal reward. And I started getting very, very angry about the things I had allowed to be taken from me, the things I had given away by being silent.

Then, my Connecticut sister died. A year ago.

Everyone started talking again. Sort of and almost. But, here is the thing, the stories no longer match. We cannot go back in time and change the ways in which we hurt. We cannot rebuild a trust which -it turns out – was a myth all along.

So, Thursday last, my Florida sister and my Mother came to dinner. They were late arriving but I felt them coming, that pseudo-psychic thing I have going on sometimes – and so I walked outside, knowing the car was coming. As it did, thirty seconds later they drove round the corner. Dinner. Departure. I walked them out. I watched them go.

And go. And go. Realizing that once again I was unable to stop waving until the car was so far away I could not possibly see it, not even a hint of its tail lights. I was there. Still. Outside. Driveway. Arm in the air. Unable to go inside. No matter how long I waved, stood, they were gone.

Gone. In ways worse than death. It’s true, I can never again see my father – who I remember not at all, nor my aunt, nor my Connecticut sister. But worse than those losses, I can never again have the family I once thought I had. That was an illusion.

Since Thursday. Last. I have been having vivid dreams in which the dead and the lost keep coming to me. My aunt. My sister. Almost every night. And worse, dreams in which my living family members, and some friends, ones who broke my heart and trust, come to me, come at me, and I am trying to speak to them, but all I can do is cry, my voice is gone. In these dreams I am trying to talk, trying to speak, but nothing will come out but tears, sobbing, breathless, painful, awful, agonizing, impotent tears and I never, ever get to say what it is I need to say. I never get my truth told.

Twice now, my aunt and sister have come and lifted me, walked me out of the rooms where I was trying to tell these family and friends who broke me how I felt and what they’d done.

I’ve made arrangements to donate my body to the state anatomy board. I just need to sign one more form. It seems clear I am being called.

But, before I go, however that happens – and I suspect it will be a heart-attack during one of these dreams – because my heart is broken, that much is certain – I need to turn into MiracleCharlie again. This Grumplestiltskin shit is as bad as the Rasputin gig was. Back to me. Now, to figure out what that means.

I know this, I am a good person.

I write that because I do not really believe it. I have, somehow, never believed it. In addition to which, I have been ashamed to face my not believing, allowed my guilt about it to be used as a cudgel by those who would manipulate and control me, and terrified to allow my sorrow and anger about all of this to rise, fearful that its expression and articulation would consume and destroy me.

I need to face the abuse I have taken, accept that I took it, that I am responsible for that reality I lived and, somehow, finish editing this re-drafting of my novel. And, I am not so foolish as to miss the parallel that in my dreams I cannot now speak, have lost my voice, and in my life I seem unable to get this novel into the world.

I sit here, not editing in this moment, wondering if I really should be speaking. Maybe I have lost my voice in my dreams because there is nothing left for me to say.

ZeitBite Saturday: My Stupid Mouth – ONE MORE THING!

Well, I said I’d be posting less – yesterday – and here I am this morning. Very brief. I promise. One more thing.

I am going to be writing less because I am doing ANOTHER draft of Libertytown. It has been suggested I cut it by a third, that its main character, Parker, talks too much. Yes, he does. As do I. I trust the person who told me this, as much as I trusted the LitProf from esteemed MFA program who told me it was the best thing she’d read in years and resist the “inevitable demands you will receive to cut it down.” Well, I’ll have both versions then, won’t I? I do think it could use some paring and after a period of working on other things, I feel as if it is calling me back. So, back I go.

First, I want to thank the authors and LitWits who have given me such joy this week. I read four books – very different – but all passionately made.

  1. A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
  2. A Tree Born Crooked by Steph Post
  3. The Elusive Embrace: Desire and the Riddle of Identity by Daniel Mendelsohn
  4. The Mathemetician’s Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer

Books have given me so much joy, always. Bookstores, too. And I now have a new community with my friends at The Curious Iguana and the LitWit world on Twitter. Of the four authors whose work I read this week, all but Mendelsohn followed me on Twitter when I followed them and Post, Chancellor, and Rojstaczer thanked me for talking about their books. The Lit crowd – authors, editors, agents, publicists, those who report about the field – are an amazingly giving and supportive group of people. In fact, Libertytown was most recently read by my Iowa Workshop (not to mislead – summer session only, I didn’t go to the elite MFA program) mentor who suggested I shut Parker up. I spent decades in theatre and theatre training fields and while there were some lovely people and times, never was there this sense of community and honest, to the soul, deeply felt wishes for the success of others. And offers of help. Lovely.

I needed lovely this week because I am horrified by the goings on in the NFL – from the continuing saga of the Washington franchise refusal to shed its racist name, to the beatings of spouses and children, to the lies and cover ups, and, too, the NCAA reinstating Penn State post season privilege and the football coach there being the highest paid state employee in Pennsylvania? What? And the amount of taxes that go to support athletics. That the NFL is not-for-profit. That male privilege continues to be a virus infecting everything in this nation (world) and that when I mention it – I am attacked and trolled and even scolded by friends and family for it.

Sorry, I may be able to shut Parker up in Libertytown, but when I see such despair and pain caused by cultural-dysfunction and inequity, I canNOT be shut up.

And EVEN AS I SAY THIS –  confess my own hypocrisy. I too have fetishisized white-male-privileged-superiority — this picture just yesterday caught me up, made me tingle –


– and while I can Tweet (and mean) things like:

I declare the phrases “man up” & “masculine only” & “no fems” & “not into gay scene” & “discreet” (or “discrete” for idiots) to be illegal

– and I’d have added an ageist remark to that had I had the characters to do so – and so, though I was kicked off Grindr for lecturing people about the language of their posts – I notice that most of my meaningless hook-ups and fantasies have had to do with those leaning toward the stereotypically, culturally privileged classes – like the guys above (although I am way more racially diverse than that – but, P.S. gay-sites – where are the people of color?). So, yeah, I’m a hypocrite and yeah, I, too, have allowed my brain to be washed by the white-hetero-male-wealthy-youth-cult-privilege culture – so, who am I to speak?

Whoever I am, I’m going to keep speaking. And try to keep growing and changing and calling myself on my privilege.

And reading. And writing. Because those bring me such joy. And, I suppose, I will continue to try to find enough characters (and character) to say what I need to say and maybe – in my own little way – make the world a better, kinder, easier place to be.

Bye, Loves. Must pack and leave this gig and return to my cave for six days until I hie to the country, the backwoods, the land of deer sharing coffee with me in the morning. So, like I said yesterday – posting less. LOL.



Taking a break . . .

I will be posting far less. I need to cut LIBERTYTOWN, a lot. I’ve known this and avoided it but now, I must face it. I need to FORCE myself to do little else until this is done. So, thank you for reading, I will do the occasional book appreciation along the way … but I gotta do what I gotta do.

Reading: “A Tree Born Crooked” by Steph Post

A Tree Born Crooked, by Steph Post, Pandamoon Publishing[click HERE]

The Pandamoon publishing site calls A Tree Born Crooked a Southern thriller. Here is their synopsis:

A TREE BORN CROOKEDThirty-six year old James Hart has a tough-as-nails exterior and an aching emptiness inside. The only one in his family to leave his stagnant birthplace in Crystal Springs behind, James is filled with a burning spark of restlessness and anger that keeps him roaming from one trailer park and temporary job to another. Out of the blue, James gets an unsigned postcard from his mother, Birdie Mae, informing him of his father’s death.

Left with no choice, James finally heads home to Florida and to a collapsed rural town running on the fumes of the occasional interstate tourists speeding through. It is a place where dreams are born to die. Here, James discovers that he is too late for his father’s funeral, but just in time to learn of his younger brother, Rabbit’s, new scam of stealing copper wire, trading it for Oxycodone pills, and then selling the drugs to the girls at the local strip club.

The lone bright spot during James’ return home is meeting the beautiful Marlena, who works in her father’s bar called The Blue Diamond. At this local watering hole, James learns of Rabbit’s newest easy money scheme, but is unable to convince Rabbit to curtail his plan which is doomed to fail. James is helpless as he watches Rabbit, high on Oxycodone, become part of a robbery-turned-murder. As if that isn’t bad enough, it appears Rabbit is now being double-crossed by his partners in crime, one of whom may very well be Marlena’s father, Waylon, who disappears. Throw in the Alligator Mafia, the local group of redneck gangsters, and Rabbit is soon on the run of his life with Marlena who wants find her father, and James, who wants to protect them both.

Together, the three embark on a journey across the state hoping to find enough time to come up with a solution to their escalating tragedy. With the Alligator Mafia hot on their tracks, time and a lucky break are both in short supply.

I understand that Florida qualifies geographically as a Southern state, however, its native literature is its own unique sub-genre of sun-bleached, swamp-soaked, hard luck, macho-plated, ravaged soul tragedies about the good gone bad and the bad gone crazy and all of it gone wrong, again and again, until dreams and hopes dissolve into an impossible to breathe, overheated, blazing haze of desuetude.

Such is the milieu in which Steph Post sets her tale. When it began, the book’s energy reminded me of John Sandford and Harlan Coben, leaving me to suspect that the 36-year-old anti-hero, James Hart, would be introduced in this volume as Prodigal Son of depressed Crystal Springs, and spend another few novels dragged reluctantly down into explorations of the sad town’s sadder underbelly. I was not surprised then when the novel’s final sentence opened that door.

Steph Post has bravely created a cast of characters, none of whom one would want to cross, or, perhaps, even, meet. They do not – for the most part – generate a great deal of empathy, as it seems they repeatedly make ill-considered decisions and hurt one another with little consideration of the damage they might be doing. They are magnets for hard luck and trouble, and as James, his brother, Rabbit, and the real brains of the trio, Marlena, bolt through the backwoods of Florida – pursued and pursuing – nothing much good happens. As they uncover layers of treachery and duplicity, they are also forced to confront their own and each others’ dishonesty  and self-deception. Trust and happy endings – or middles – are in short supply while disappointments assuaged by drugs and drink and cigarette butts litter the scenes.

A Tree Born Crooked is saturated with the stink of desiccated dreams and desires, sodden with guilt and the keening ache of lives despairing and emptied. Steph Post is an author to watch.

I requested and was sent an advance review copy of A Tree Born Crooked by the author, Steph Post. I write about books because I love reading, love writers, love words, and, in most cases, I buy my copies of books. I am not remunerated for my blog, don’t sell ad space, and in no way profit (believe me) so what I write, I mean. I am not a book reviewer, I am a book appreciator.


I can still barely walk today – back issues – and am busy writing new things, so here is a piece of Chapter 2 of the old thing.


is this what u wanted?
September 2003

I did. Sleep. Finally. Six cups of coffee, eleven journal pages and four hours later I returned to Healing Embrace so as to be there for Vincent’s massage. He will only see me for his massages, thus our meeting this morning despite my trying to beg off with a call explaining the overwhelming onus of Libertytown and again proclaiming the absolute competence of my partner, Therie.

“Well, Therie is a very nice woman … for a woman. But you know Oscar, I don’t like women.”

Life hadn’t been difficult enough, so my mother saddled me with the name Oscar, after her father, a compromise for allowing my father to make my middle name Francis, after Sissie. Oscar wasn’t, I can assure you, a popular name for a child in school in the nineteen-sixties and never a name by which I was called by anyone other than the nuns who‘d apparently considered nicknames another sin. “Don’t get all high dudgeon and call me Oscar.”

“All right then, Parker, dear, you know how I feel about women.”

“I’m not asking you to sleep with her Vincent, just let her do your massage.”

“You know I’m having hernia surgery tomorrow. This is my last hurrah for weeks and I want the best. I’ve been loyal to you for years and we’ve been friends since, well, longer than we should say out loud. I thought we had something.”

“I’m your massage therapist, Vincent, not your lover.”

“Because we both have terrible taste in men. And it‘s never too late. I mean, after all we‘ve survived together. We‘re practically the only two left.”

Vincent and I have known each other since I was fourteen and he sixteen and we appeared together in a god-awful community theatre production, back in the days when I still had pretentious ambitions toward Broadway stardom. We have seen each other through every phase, hated and loved one another like good friends do, and tsk-tsk-ed our disapproval of each others’ choices in career, behavior, and men, or, more often in my case, lack there-of, and more than any of that, we have watched many of the men with whom we did and did not dance along the way succumb to Continue reading

READING: Amber Dermont’s “The Starboard Sea”

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont, St. Martin’s Press, Hardcover, 9780312642808, 320pp. [Click HERE for info]

Starboard SeaI bought The Starboard Sea when it was first released in February, 2012 but it landed in my TBR stack – which is no shame, there are hundreds there – and I kept picking it up but never starting it. In the meantime, I became a Twitter fiend and discovered the virtual Algonquin Round Table of LitWits in which I now live, a beautiful land populated by lovely, kind, generous, fabulously funny and insightful authors and agents and editors and publicists.  A few months ago I became follower of and followed by Amber Dermont. I thought, “I really ought to read that book.”

And so, I picked it up again – and opened it. From the publisher:

JASON PROSPER grew up in the elite world of Manhattan penthouses, Maine summer estates, old-boy prep schools, and exclusive sailing clubs. A smart, athletic teenager, Jason maintains a healthy, humorous disdain for the trappings of affluence, preferring to spend afternoons sailing with Cal, his best friend and boarding-school roommate. When Cal commits suicide during their junior year at Kensington Prep, Jason is devastated by the loss and transfers to Bellingham Academy. There, he meets Aidan, a fellow student with her own troubled past. They embark on a tender, awkward, deeply emotional relationship.

When a major hurricane hits the New England coast, the destruction it causes brings with it another upheaval in Jason’s life, forcing him to make sense of a terrible secret that has been buried by the boys he considers his friends.

Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing, and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and provocative novel about a young man finding his moral center, trying to forgive himself, and accepting the gift of love.

“A rich, quietly artful novel that is bound for deep water, with questions of beauty, power and spiritual navigation as its main concerns. The title refers not to the right side of a boat but to the right course through life, and the immense difficulty of finding and following it.”–Janet Maslin, The New York Times

A powerful first novel about life and death, friendship and love, as one young man must navigate the depths of his emotions.

True confession: I am a collision of conundrums, contradictions, and dichotomies, not the least of which centers round the conflict between Charlie, the deeply introspective intellectual imputing to a nearly theologically obsessive degree metaphor and metaphysical meaning to every word, every breath, every miniscule event and then, Sebastian, the libertine, lecherous debauchee who sees a book cover featuring the asses of four teen-boys adorning a story that promises to be about sexual awakening in a prep school and, well, I could tell you it was the Marilynne Robinson blurb on the back cover or the Eleanor Henderson New York Times review [CLICK HERE for that] that prompted my purchase but I would be lying. It was the boys on the cover.

And then I read the book. I am a sucker for stories of unrequited or badly requited love. Were there a PhD available in such things, I would have three or four. I suspect Ms. Dermont, too, would be wearing the mantle. She captures with grace that tortured-coming-of-age consciousness, managing to render protagonist Jason fully-flawed but, too, wholly sympathetic. He is revealed not only through his feelings for love-interests Cal and Aidan, but also in his relationships with authority figures from father to dean to coach, and especially, with his contemporaries and teammates. Whether despite or because of a series of difficult life circumstances leaving him an open wound of a heart and soul, every interaction registers for Jason, reverberates, and he must process and piece it into the puzzle of his maturation, accommodating the jagged edges of the often illusion-shattering adolescent discoveries.

The novel is technically adept, carefully constructed and rich with symbolism and metaphor artfully wrought. I have been on a boat exactly once in my life, circling and visiting Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, so I suspect that my grasp of the depth of echoes in all the sailing and star-navigating sea talk was less than complete but its language was entrancing none-the-less. There were also mythical and literary allusions aplenty, all of which, combined with the insightful exploration of the treacherous  journey of loving and losing and discovering made The Starboard Sea a novel I quite enjoyed by a writer from whom I hope to hear again soon.

I did NOT buy The Starboard Sea from my dear friends at The Curious Iguana [CLICK HERE TO VISIT] because they did not yet exist. Happy Birthday to them! It’s now been one wonderful year!


Don’t Call Me Lunatic. Fag. Slut. Old. Depressed. Or … ANYTHING. Wait.

Me. Seven p.m. last evening: Unable to draw a deep breath.

In my panic and solitude, I reached out to a few people, all of whom were having their own issues. So, I un-reached and tried to distract myself in the Twitterverse where National Geographic writ digital-small pictures clued me in that it was the occasion of the Harvest/Supermoon. That explained it.

Years ago during my long-haired, wandering, table-waiting, drug-taking phase (well, the first) a friend who had re-named herself for the Angel Gabriel and collected the lost and the lonely and the looking, diagnosed me as a Lunatic. She meant it in the Latin sense, as a compliment, that I was sensitive to the phases of the moon and like a werewolf, when the celestial orb was full-on-reflecting the light of the hidden night sun, it was my nature to become a wild thing, not of the furred and clawed and bestial variety, but rather, someone whose emotions must bubble and burst passionately, raging through the thin layer of socialization and culturally-approved, controlled behavior I’d managed to cultivate exposing an impetuosity, an unrestrained urgency of need and lust and anger and desire, all demanding to be expressed, released, for, if not, the force of them would devour me from within.

Yes. Often. And not just during certain phases of the moon. I am impassioned. Perhaps perfervid. Maybe, sometimes, melodramatic. Too fiery and fiercely engaged for my own good. But, yesterday? Look at the world.

The debacle of the NFL’s ridiculously inadequate, near-non-response to Ray Rice’s assault until a video of the actual punch emerges. The NCAA reinstating Penn State’s post-season privileges and scholarships while the child-rape victims of Sandusky/Paterno/the entire athletic department of Penn State continue to suffer. Mike Brown was murdered in Ferguson a month ago and still no justice. War and killing and hatred exploding all over the globe. It’s a wonder anyone can breathe. Lunatic or not.

But some have suggested I am crazy. Some have suggested I take medication to dull my reactions to the world around me. I am not a lunatic. I am a Lunatic. And that’s mine to use, not yours to label and cage and dismiss me. I am not that simple to define.

Which brings me to the Washington Post’s article about Grindr and its locator glitch and its corporate disdain – or, as the WaPo called it; “lack of empathy” for its users. [Read the article here.] Listen, I’ve no doubt that Grindr – gay owned or not – is like nearly every other corporation in the world and completely unconcerned with actual human beings: We are nothing more than clicks and bytes in financial metrics, expendable and disposable except to the degree we improve the profit margin.

That said, Grindr’s dismissal of concern for its users is as NOTHING compared to its users lack of compassion for, communion with, and recognition of the humanity of one another.

Ridiculous as it sounds, I got on Grindr as research for a mystery-cozy novel I was trying to write during that period when I was sure I could do something other than literary fiction and snarky blogging. I was appalled. I remain appalled. The prevalence of discriminatory and hateful “isms” proudly pronounced by the app users is extremely confusing to me.

  • “whites only – not racist just a preference”
  • “no creepy old guys”
  • “masculine only”

And that’s just the beginning. Here’s the thing; I have a type too. I’m not going to go into it because even the most casual reader of this blog would know by now that my disastrously bad taste in romantic partners – well, in MOST cases – in people in general – has resulted in what some have termed my “depression” (more about that later) but, I like to think of myself as the sort of person who is attracted to the SOUL of another, the shine of their Light, the depth of their Love, and that I don’t discriminate.

But, I do. I mean, let’s start with the fact that no matter how beautiful a soul, bright a light, and deep a love, I am not physically attracted to women. So, does that make me heterophobic? Also, as a general rule, I prefer younger men. Does that make me ageist? I am also, usually, attracted to men who are not terribly bright. Does that make me – Calvin Klein? Don’t know, but, it definitely ends up making me sad most often – neither here nor there – but, you know what I am saying. Don’t you?

Because I am confused. I was talking to another fellow who, unlike me, was very experienced with Grindr (and not a few other hook-up methods) and I remarked about how rude, cruel, judgmental and harsh were many of the users and he said, “That’s Frederick fags for you, and most of them are just that. Fags.”

Now, mind you, this was not a fellow anyone would mistake for John Wayne. Rather, this was a John of another stripe, as in, perhaps, Elton? To hear him label with such vehemence and vitriol a subset to which he – in the eyes of many (including, I suspect, himself) – no doubt did and had long belonged, was horrifying to me. I told him so. Nicely. “I don’t use that word, it’s way too loaded with self-hate and heteronormative judgment.”

He hasn’t spoken to me since. My truth was not his. Or, was not the one at which he wanted to look. He had previously judged me because I was too terrified to hook-up through Grindr and other on-line methods. He thought that was self-hate and fear. Maybe it was. By the same token, my social-sexual life he deemed inadequate to the point of asceticism would be – and has been – labelled by others I know as wanton and profligate, making me a Slut.I try not to think about that. Dichotomy. Truth. Someone’s truth. The truth of my various, multiple realities and communities.

The truth about those communities -to one degree or another I am judged as having failed, as being not quite enough or too much, in all of them. Truth?

Well, see there? It seem I have lots of inconvenient and unattractive truths at which I would rather not gaze this late in life.

But, damn it all, like my emotions on the occasion of the full moon, these un-examined truths are now roiling and rising to my wrinkled “creepy old guy” not terribly “masculine only” surface and demanding I confront them or drown in my own lunacy – small “l” this time.

And here’s where I am with that, or, rather, this. Today. I am unable to determine when an attraction driven by pheromones – the Greek derivation of which is “impetus” – crosses the line into bigotry or discrimination. Is this a cultural determination? A function of evolution? Will we, one day, evolve to the point where there is only union/attraction between souls? No physical element?

Wait – that’s the Twitterverse. There I am already in love with and involved with many people I will never meet in person. The messy questions of whether or not we would enjoy one another in flagrante delicto is beside the point. There, I am not what I am (or have been called) here – Lunatic. Fag. Slut. Old Depressed. Repressed. Cruel. Crazy. Liar. Sucker. It goes on. And it includes the people who will read this and attribute it to what they call my depression – which I call a reasonable reaction to a fucked up world. But, like I said, the names keep coming. They do go on.

And on. But don’t. Don’t call me anything. Or, as is so often the case in my dating and authorial life, just don’t call me.

Damn that Harvest/SuperMoon. I shall be ever so happy when tonight has come. And gone.

Happy Tuesday, Lovies.