Wisdom to know the difference

Your intrepid chronicler of the minutiae of his fairly uneventful life had a good day yesterday. (*SEE P.S. AT CONCLUSION OF ENTRY) Good days terrify him. Terrify him *so much* in fact that he must refer to himself in the third person so as to safely distance himself from the inevitable punishment of lightning strike/bad luck sure to follow. Nothing good comes for free.

charlie up a tree_edited-1 (2)Once upon a time a woman in the process of revealing herself to be a rather horrid, insensitive human being said to me, “Did you know my nickname for you is Eeyore?” Well, no, I hadn’t known. Worse, she spoke those words to me the day after my aunt’s funeral, about  which she knew, and my aunt’s death had come less than six months after two other devastating losses, about both of which this awful woman was also well aware.

Yes, I was more than a bit sad.

But, in her defense, the period of my life during which she’d known me I had become increasingly anhedonic [Click here for a really well-written piece on Anhedonia by Joan Didion from the New York Review of Books archive, August 16, 1979, “Letter from Manhattan”, an essay about a few Woody Allen films and his anhedonic realities.]. My natural bent toward introversion was being frustrated, forced as I was by circumstance and fear into a shared and public life for which I was not well suited.

Something needed to change. Some things. I had long lacked the wisdom to recognize those things, and, more detrimental, long lacked the courage to attempt change.

But, eventually, when life feels all deficit, all punishment and no reward, when one wakes each day sorry not to have died in one’s sleep and terrified of what one will do wrong that day and certain to be told about it, well, a change — one way or another — is gonna come. For me, the choices were:

  • Kill myself;
  • Continue to brainwash myself that my detractors’ insistence the diminishing returns of my efforts at love and life were my fault;
  • Break free of the world I’d allowed others to dictate and shape and rule, and find, somehow, late in life, a space and place of freedom to be me, without judgment, without constant punishment for speaking my truth and asking my questions.

I chose the latter. It has been extremely difficult.

I see now that my expectations were not unlike a child at holiday or birthday time: so much build-up and anticipation prior to the event, and then, the day comes — uhm — the day after — uhm — well, then, not all that much has CHANGED with the CHANGE.

I was still me. I was still the Charlie who was programmed to be anhedonic. I still feared that any pleasure was undeserved and I’d be punished for it. If I experienced joy, I expected a requisite amount of despair: there would be a cost. The bill would come.

Change is hard. That twelve-step serenity prayer discusses having the wisdom to know the difference between what can and cannot be changed. In these past few years, I have come to believe that the core of my sorrow comes not from my failures, but, rather, from my hopes. Somewhere before life and anhedonia kicked in, there was a soul-Light-Love-child-Charlie who was programmed to believe that if one dug deep enough, waited long enough, looked hard enough, became smart enough, searched and dug and never gave up until an understanding of truth, core, essence was discovered — the emotional archeological mission would get to Love and Light at the source. He believed that everyone was — finally and if truly seen — Good, made of Love and Light. He believed that no matter how awful the circumstance, the behavior, the event, that somewhere, where it started, the original intent, that first flap of butterfly wing, no matter how distorted the final outcome, had — at the beginning– been born of Love and Light.

I still — no matter my conversion to agnosticism/atheism, no matter the abhorrent behaviors and abandonment and slander perpetrated by people who once loved me, no matter the world events, the national tragedies, the culture of bigotry and hatred and classism and inequality and institutionalized discrimination — I STILL believe that somewhere there is HOPE that in it all, through it all, beyond it all, we can get back to the original intent, the original energy of All That Is, of everything, I STILL believe that energy is Love and Light.

So, yes, Marilyn, perhaps I was (and am) Eeyore-like. But not because I have such a dark outlook, no, rather, because I cannot — have never — stopped believing that there is hope, that there is — somewhere — Love and Light enough to make all this life make sense.

I don’t think it is wisdom to “know the difference” and decide what can’t be changed, because I think EVERYTHING can change. I cannot un-believe that original soul-child Charlie’s core understanding of reality; somewhere in there, at the core, at the essence, in the truth, there is always, always, always, ALWAYS  Love and Light.

Now, I’m off to get the Sunday New York Times and bask in that for my Love and Light today. Love and Light, friends. Hope you find some — believe in some — yourself, today.


P.S. at conclusion of entry: Yesterday I had lunch with my dear boy, Cody, home from college for a few days. Always a pleasure. Always a treasure. Law school after law school now inviting him to attend. Couldn’t be happier for him. Then, I spent part of the afternoon with my pals at The Curious Iguana [CLICKHERE] — my indie bookstore — and I met and chatted with author Christopher Scotton [CLICK HERE], author of fantastic, soon-to-be-released novel, “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” — wow — WHAT A BOOK. I will be blogging about it this week. If you are IN the publishing industry, get an ARC now — you will want to get ahead of this before Mr. Scotton hits big — and believe me, this novel is going to hit big. Then, as if those two gifts were not enough Love and Light for one day, I spent the late afternoon and evening with my dear Greene family, who, when the changes in my life needed to come — stood by me every step of the way, including my suicidal-near-efforts-at-self-destruction, near-alcoholism, etcetera, and held me and held me up. Last night’s hugs and kisses from Alison, Pat, Sue, and dear Megan — home from college and running like mad to embrace me(such joy that gave me, I CANNOT tell you), and seeing Justin (not a hugger, LOL) and being there when he opened letters from TWO MORE colleges wanting him — WOW. Honestly, I had a BEAUTIFUL day/night — full of all that LOVE and LIGHT. So, yes, scarily good day — trying not to panic about what hate and dark is coming to balance it … because I’m trying to change my thinking.

So, again friends, LOVE and LIGHT to you. Thank you for reading.



Speak Out/Stand Up

My gym membership was almost revoked (again) the other day. I had another fight in the locker room. A fellow wearing a shirt indicating he was a member of law enforcement, remarked to another fellow that the protestors in Ferguson were “just looking for an excuse to loot and steal, they just don’t want to believe in law and order, that officer feared for his life but you know how those people are.”

I went off. Sometimes, I have to. Eventually, seeing that I was — admittedly — going out of control, the t-shirted fellow said, “I’m done talking to you – you’re nuts.” And walked away.

Maybe I am nuts. Not sure —

I am sure that I am disturbed, disgusted, and dismayed by current events. And, too, aghast, agitated, and aggravated by reactions to and commentary about these events. Wiser people with better minds and deeper insight, not to mention more clear-eyed technique and a less baroque convolution of prose, have weighed in. I think it best if I leave most of it to them.

But, I wouldn’t be me did I not offer some explanation — or, all-about-me explication. Thus:

I live a purposefully circumscribed life, a self-imposed shut-in behind the fences of my fantasy world, walled-in by my books, scribbling and editing my writing, and interacting mostly with my Twitter-Literati — the modern-day version of imaginary friends — otherwise being mostly solitary, here in the crazy-uncle basement suite at Sepia Fallows.

I limit my access to the outside world. It is too much for me. Or, not enough. Or, both. I like, occasionally, to pretend to be engaged, or, appear to be keeping in touch and aware of certain worlds and milieus in which I pretend I will one day take active, in-real-life part. So, my primary fantasy being that I am an informed, sophisticated, erudite reader and active though *undiscovered essayist and novelist, I’ve been ridiculously excited about the National Book Awards. This faded somewhat when my dear Elizabeth McCracken’s[click here] brilliant best book of the year, Thunderstruck and Other Stories[click here], was disincluded on the way from long to short list. But, despite this injustice and egregious oversight, I toughed it out. Then, Lemony Snicket made a racist comment during the awards ceremony. I will let Jacqueline Woodson speak to it.

CLICK READ HERE: Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming, essay: The Pain of the Watermelon Joke. 

Read the comments — I shouldn’t have — where people accuse Ms. Woodson of seeing racism where none exists. Really?

Racism is alive and well and thriving in the petri-dish of determined ignorance sustained by privilege. White privilege. Male privilege. Heterosexist privilege. The privilege of the assumed “normal” and baseline. I point you to the following by Doug Saunders from The Globe published this morning in which he says we are in the last lap as far as equal rights go. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? IN WHAT WORLD DO YOU LIVE?

CLICK READ HERE: Doug Saunders in the Globe, The Last Mile of Equal Rights is the Hardest.

Total bullshit. His quotes and statistics about how white people feel and self-reported rapes and — well, there is so much wrong with his conclusions about how much better it is, he evidences the white-man-heterosexist- (whatever his personal status- I’ve no idea) privilege-determined ignorance about the cultural, systemic bigotry in the world — I wanted to SCREAM while reading it. And, not only that, he mentions NOTHING about the on-going attack on the rights of those whose gender-identification and sexuality are at odds with those of the privileged elite.

Rape? Better? I think not. Idiot. Read this:

CLICK READ HERE: Sabrina Ruben Erdely in Rolling Stone: A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA

And, too, how about spouse-beating athlete, Ray Rice, winning an appeal of his suspension and being reinstated by NFL?

CLICK READ HEAR: From NPR: Ray Rice wins appeal

But, why is anyone STILL paying even a little attention to football when it is verifiably deleterious to its players, encourages — rewards, even — vile and violent behavior, and by and large exists and thrives in misogynistic, homophobic hate-bliss? Oh, you know why — because it makes money because we live in a largely vile and violent and misogynistic and homophobic and racist culture.

Luckily, reading the following helped. A little:

CLICK READ HERE: Carol Anderson in The Washington Post; Ferguson isn’t about Black Rage against Cops. It’s about White Rage against Progress.

And if you don’t believe racism is STILL operating in Ferguson: read these:

CLICK READ HERE: Chicago Tribune: Ferguson Testimony Shows Inconsistencies

CLICK READ HERE: New York Daily News: Pregnant Woman Loses Eye after Ferguson Police use non-lethal force at protest

CLICK READ HERE: ThinkProgress: Officers who Murdered 12-year-old holding toy gun refused him first aid

Need more?

These are hardly isolated incidents. All sorts of backlash going on, fueled — most often and most violently — by those citing religion as their justification for hate. The war against LGBTQ people rages, used for fundraising and circling the wagons by politicians and reality-TV folk like The Duggars and Duck Dynasty clans, whose violence and anger inciting ant-LGBTQ hate-speech is not only allowed, but promoted by media, and excused on basis of faith. Bullshit. I call you on this bullshit.

CLICK READ HERE: Michelle Duggar’s hate-speech and fear-mongering and incite to violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community as reported in The Huffington Post

CLICK READ HERE: Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s continued homophobia and baiting as reported by Complex

And so, I suppose, what set me off this a.m. about Doug Saunders “last mile” theorizing propaganda was that we are nowhere near equality. The power-privileged-elite keep gaining more and more control of everything, everywhere, and meanwhile we — the lesser-thans and have-nots — are distracted by clawing and scratching to mark what little territory we are permitted, fighting AGAINST each other for our portion of the less than 1% of the world we have, when we ought to be in this together taking back our power from the 1% who control 99% of the wealth.

BUT EVEN WORSE — for me — is when those of privilege write/lecture/imply that we minorities ought to be grateful about how much better it is than it was. SO NOT THE POINT. You want me to be grateful that you are giving lip-service to the possibility that one day we minorities — we lesser-thans and have-nots — will be able to sit anywhere we want on the bus — well, fuck you, because I can’t worry about sitting ON THE BUS when I am always being thrown UNDER IT.


*NOTE: “undiscovered” – obviously YOU, gentle and genius reader, have discovered me — so I ought NOT, perhaps, measure myself as undiscovered simply because I am not discovered as defined by this culture, as in, oft-published by major-media outlets or publishers and FAMOUS.




Not In That Way

Story of my life . . .

It’s Stuffing Week.

First time in many years I will be spending it with my family.

Long story.


Sissie. It was the one holiday she didn’t have to make dinners for people. She loved it. I worried — when younger, about her being alone that day. Finally, when I got older she felt she could tell me how much she treasured the day alone. A holiday alone. She had so few days alone. She would make fruitcakes and watch the Macy’s Parade. It was as close to Broadway as my aunt and I could get together, most years, and certainly, there, at the end.  After she’d gone mostly blind, and even, begun to lose who she was — and thus, I began to lose who I was, still, I would go, every Thanksgiving morning, until the end, and watch with her.

First time in years I will be spending this day with my family.

Long story.

Not Sissie. Ten years now. Feels like yesterday.

First time in years.

And I have some anger. I have some heartache about never hearing the words “I’m sorry.” I have some heartache about all the times I apologized for things other people did.

But, it’s stuffing week.

I will be — I am enjoying all the good and the happy and the yes and allowing myself to say that, yes, I have some heartache. It’s part of who I am. And, okay.

I have been much loved. Not that way. Though.

And I am feeling particularly bereft and somehow absent, somehow, I wish I had words, but, just, I am lonely for something I never really had — and came so close to — the few, those few, who I loved, who loved me but — not that way. Though … that way … just, not, and the because of the not — well … no, not tonight …

Sometimes the echoes almost overwhelm. Some valley. Some mountain. Some landscape you think you know. Think you’ve travelled. And though every step you take, have taken, every path, all known –still, you are lost.

I’m not sorry.



If Only . . . things were not so RUFF . . .

2 HOURS LATER ADDENDUM: This is how BADLY my mind has deteriorated. When I titled and began writing this entry, I MEANT for it to be about my visit to Starbucks today — that was why it was called “If Only…” — YET, as I finished (or thought I had finished) two hours ago, I couldn’t QUITE understand WHY I had titled it “If Only …” — It was only now as I sat on the couch here at Aftermath considering yet another nap because I am so exhausted from thinking about all the naked men I have NOT, and then decided instead to have another cup of coffee and considered opening the box of K-Cups of Starbucks Christmas Blend I bought on my way here  — and thought about Tweeting how SICK it is that I am addicted to Starbucks Holiday Blend — that I remembered — CHARLIE, YOU IDIOT — THE BLOG WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THE STARBUCKS RECEIPT. WHAT?

receiptI went to Starbucks after the gym, on my way to Aftermath, and needed to add some money to my card to cover the Skinny Vanilla Latte, pumpkin bread, and Christmas Blend K-Cups. My card had $11 remaining on it, plus, I was due a free drink.  My total came to $16 (I think) and so, I gave the cashier a $20 to add to card to cover the extra $5 and leave me with a $15 balance. Whatever she did, the register said she owed me $39,974.98 in change! Thus — IF ONLY.

On another note — I pointed this error out to her and pointed out that my new card balance could NOT be $20 as I owed at least $5.00 from BEFORE the addition — I said I didn’t want her drawer not to balance at end of day or her to get in trouble. She had NO IDEA what she had done or how to fix it and despite my protests, she said, “It’s fine. It’s only a few dollars and as long as I didn’t rip you off.”  I, again, protested and said, “Well, no, I’m getting a deal — but aren’t you going to get in trouble?” She insisted I leave. Ok. I left a $5 tip because, well, someone is going to have to make up the shortage, right?

AND THEN I THOUGHT — “IF ONLY this was one of those ‘Charlie, you’re the lucky winner of a 40-thousand-dollar Starbucks Prize!’ things — you know, that happen to people who are not me? Whatever. I know. Look, I’d settle for a naked man (read the rest of today’s entry that follows — you know, the one I wrote after titling and forgetting WHAT THE FUCK I meant to write about. Shit. I am REALLY losing it. IF ONLY I COULD LOSE IT ENOUGH NOT TO KNOW I HAD LOST IT. Alas. 


I am spending some quality time in Aftermath today with my darling, Judah. We are having these special moments because A (and A) scored tickets to a taping of David Letterman and so are doing an eighteen-hour, Amtrak up-and-back, one-off New York City jauntlet for the Late Show with featured guest, Meryl Streep, dinner, and a Broadway show. Thus, my rising at 6a.m. and Tweet:

I’m up at 6a.m. because someone is going to NYC to see Letterman & a Broadway show. While they & a friend do, I’m watching the dog.

Ruff as in the barking of a dog. And thus my follow-up Tweet:

Order of the Ruff: Those who bark, bow-wow, follow retro 16thc fashion trends, & trump when unable to follow suit. See Avi. I’m also rabid.

I had changed my Twitter photo yesterday to this:

Batman Ruff

The photo comes from here, this Huffington Post article: Superheroes Strike A Pose for 16th Century Flemish Paintings [click to read and see] and it has all sorts of resonance for me as I have long had a Batman complex, and, I am slavishly devoted to the Duchess Goldblatt:

duchess goldblatt

Your Grace [here is Your Grace’s Twitter account: duchessgoldblat – CLICK IT ] is well known for her ruff-age. She complimented me on my new avi. I live for her approval. Not kidding. Really, I do.

She is — admittedly and proudly — fictional. Not, mind you, imaginary. Earlier in the week I bemoaned the following on Twitter:

I was so unpopular as a child/teen, I couldn’t even get any imaginary friends. Now I have lots. Sadly, all in Britain.

Prompted by an event earlier that day during which I was whining about how I had become so un-loved and un-lovable that even my imaginary friends had stopped calling, texting, and Tweeting. Which sentence reminds me:

Oxford commas

I want that t-shirt. Picture was posted by Peter Damien on his Tumblr, Peter Damien [click here] he also Tweeted it. This is his Twitter account: PeterDamien [click him]. I follow him. He does not follow me. I could go on and on about the people I follow who don’t follow me, like Mr. Damien and Elon Green and Nathan Dunbar and Roxane Gay and Daniel Mendelsohn and Julia Murney and … wait, no, but I’m NOT going to go on about those who don’t follow me. Because I AM FOLLOWED by The Duchess Goldblatt, and Elizabeth McCracken and Rafe Posey and Edward Carey and Bethanne Patrick and Mattilda B Sycamore and Pamela Milam and Nate Burnett and Timothy Schaffert and Donna Migliaccio and Will Chancellor and Hope Dellon and Benjamin Dreyer and Alyssa Harad and STOP … see? I have friends. Albeit, I’ve met only two of them IRL, but, so what? I’m better at a distance, like, you know, a stalker?

Speaking of which, I have been trying a new thing this week: Gym in the early a.m. Today was the fourth day this week I went before noon, in fact, today I was there at 7a.m. I must say, when one attends the gym late morning or early afternoon, there are usually a number of fellows displaying themselves in locker room, showers, saunas — not, mind you, necessarily for reciprocity, but, rather, just casually exhibitionist. In my opinion, it is the primary benefit of gym attendance. Alas, the early a.m. hours — while far more crowded — have offered NOT ONE waggling penis or prominently strutted ass. If things don’t pick up– or, towels drop down — I am going to have to return to my afternoon sessions. I mean, all this working out for what? NO NAKED MEN? I don’t think so.

After all, if I wanted NO NAKED MEN, I have all the rest of the hours of my incredibly lonely life with my imaginary-no-longer-speaking-to-me-friends and long-distance Twitter pals NOT BEING NAKED in my presence — jeesh. I’m going to sign off. All this no naked men reminder is making me — well, eager to return to the book I’m reading so I can forget about how absent are naked men from my life.

Back to Judah. My dog. Ruff. Rough.



Bullying myself. I don’t need your help.

baby foot charlie_edited-1 (2)When I was a child, I was excoriated and scolded for being a sissy and offered suggestions and advice by both haters and those who loved me and meant well on how NOT to be who I was so that I might have a better life. Now, I am not infrequently spoken to by those assuming that my life — still and again in a shape outside the norms of the culturally approved — is in need of repair, their assumption being that I should WANT to buy into the measures and models and parochialism of a world that has not served me particularly well thus-far. More and more, these assumptions feel to me like Judgment and Bullying, and, well … I do enough of that to myself.

I am, I’ve been told, in need of recovery. But, as with so much else here where I’m going, late in this journey (If, in fact, it is late. I am also being told — holy crap there is so much being told in my life, which is, perhaps, part of the problem [If, in fact, there is a problem, which — well, back to my primary secondary parenthetical point.] — that despite the fact [If, in fact, this is a “fact” — so many assumed, labeled “facts” in this aside] it feels to me “late in this journey” I am only midway, or, maybe, some Pollyanna-ish readers and devotees [addicts?] of self-help culture insist, at a new beginning.) I am not convinced that this rush to assign nearly everyone drawing breath to some level of victimhood, a poor, flawed thing, requiring counseling, drugging, or psychic adjustment, is anything more than a collective hunch (thank you Jane Wagner).

And, too, often (and, too often) those telling you that you require recovery — which, by implication means they consider you to be damaged, sick, wrong — are the same ones telling you how wonderful your life has been/could be/ought to be/is. Certainly the two are not mutually exclusive: one can be suffering even while there is joy and cause for celebration in one’s life — but it seems a harsh and cruel sort of judgment to me to tell someone you think damaged enough to require recovery that they are not only sick, but that their sickness is caused by seeing things — by your measure — in the wrong way.

I try not to do this. It smacks — for me — of those in power telling those in minority that they are imagining the discrimination they’ve experienced, that their lack of belonging to a privileged class has not, in fact (and there we have it — when OTHERS are “in fact”-ing you, telling you what the facts of your reality are — especially DESPITE your experience of them — Houston, we have a problem) caused them hardship, lack of opportunity, and intolerance. Don’t tell me what my experience has been. Don’t tell me to deny my reality. Don’t judge my acclimation to my experience and reality. Don’t tell me that my adaptation to it, that my method of coping and living in a world designed for those Privileged Others renders me “wrong” and in need of recovery.

Long-winded, but, what I’m saying is, your judgment that I require recovery is — just possibly — a measure of your own having bought into the culture of the oppressors. Perhaps people don’t need recovery, perhaps, what they need sometimes, is revenge or recompense or RECOGNITION and REALIZATION — not necessarily in that order.

Look, having lived a life largely outside the boundaries of “normal”, always in the throes of discovery and experimentation, an exploration of possibilities, a life in which the parameters of what one would be allowed were undefined, a dangerously occult life-journey during which one might at any moment betray one’s mysteriously assigned perdu mission and suffer censure, disapprobation and a castigation perplexing in its seemingly arbitrary application, I admit — as far as the recovery thing goes — I do feel bruised and I am, often, terrified of the reactions of others.

When I was young, I was subjected to the violent tempers of another. I had a recurring nightmare in which a bi-fold door would open and shut repeatedly, and like in the game show Let’s Make A Deal, I never knew if the person behind it would be the “good” one or the “bad” one. I was dressed in long sleeves to cover bruises. I was afraid. And, once in school, it became clear that I was not like the others — or, not like the other boys — and began the name-calling and a story already told by so many others, and years of me trying to figure out how NOT to let it show. My life from a very early age — my earliest memories — was about keeping hidden, keeping quiet those parts of me to which others objected, judged, hated, those parts that would get me beaten, name-called, shamed, sent away.

I was trained to be afraid of who would be behind the bi-fold doors. The same person who hugged and loved one minute, could be a monster, hitting and hating the next. Because — of course — I did something wrong.

The other dirty little secret of that early fear and shaming training is that one — well, THIS one, I — was convinced during that formation-of-self childhood, that whenever after I was rewarded, praised, shown kindness, affection — it was ONLY BECAUSE I had managed to hide who I really was.

Thus was inculcated — as I grew and slowly tried to embrace me — the war between the voices in my head of YOU ARE FABULOUS JUST WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU THINK versus the voice saying YOU ARE FLAWED WRONG DON’T FIT IN DON’T DESERVE MUST BE PUNISHED.

So, when I hear “You need recovery” said, even in kindness, it carries with it the echoes of those judgments — especially self-judgment, the weight of which is, daily, “Charlie, you are poor (couldn’t succeed at anything you tried, not good enough at theatre, writing, business, etcetera), you are now and forever without Prince Charming (ugly, not masculine enough, not genitalia enough, not muscled enough, not young enough), you don’t have your own (fill in the blank – home, lover, child, novel, savings, retirement, etc) and by EVERY MEASURE, YOU FAIL.

So, I know, when you say “Recovery” (some of you) you mean you want me (or, others) to live, instead, in REALIZATION and RECOGNITION of where I did succeed; for me to actually LIVE the reality I espouse of success not being defined by those cultural norms set — all too often — by the privileged few.

And, I want to, really I do. But, the bombardment of that culture, a bombardment so relentless that it defines me as in need of recovery, a bombardment so ubiquitous and prevalent, so inescapable that it allows OTHERS to dismiss me, to judge me, to throw me under a bus, to distort and disrespect me, to relegate me to “in need of recovery” — a culture so powerful and established that even I have trouble reminding myself it does not apply, does not have to obtain, that I do not need to allow it to coerce and intimidate and bully and badger and terrorize me into self-judgment — that level of admonitory blitzkrieg is difficult to navigate; and hearing “you need recovery” is like a warning-siren that INCOMING is on the way.

I don’t need recovery. I need a bomb shelter. And I’ve cobbled one together, this life I am leading. So, please, don’t explode any further missiles in my direction. My flak jacket is wearing thin.

And I am exhausted by the bullies. Everywhere.

Love and Light, friends. Love and Light.

Money Matters. A Question of Worth.


The Dakota, Manhattan. I’m looking for a place to live and . . . well, read on.

If something was originally priced at $400 and ends up in my closet for $40, what is its actual value? Did it change along the way? Is it all context? And how to make sense of this? That? Anything? And in that making sense context, determine my own value?

Yesterday I was able to purchase a winter coat. The preceding sentence originally included the words “much-needed” between “a” and “winter” — but, compared to many people in the world, I don’t really need anything. I have a very comfortable place to live. Plenty to eat. Plenty to read. I am healthy. So, why have I lived most of my life — including now — terrified about money?

My new coat is a $400 Joseph Abboud lined, wool car-jacket that I got for $40 at Burlington Coat Factory. That I could get it for 1/10th its original price leads to all sorts of questions I would really rather not think about, like, for instance, what “much-needed” means to the person on the other side of my new coat’s “Made in China” label and whether they worry as much as I do about ending up homeless?

Here’s the thing about that. I was trolling the web last night, obsessively checking out apartments in Frederick and the rents begin at $1200 plus utilities. There is no way I will ever be anywhere near able to afford that. Ever. Again. So, I started looking in other cities where I once upon a time thought I might like to live. Holy shit. Burlington, Vermont. Iowa City, Iowa. London, England. All, ridiculous. And, where is the money for that rent going to come from?

I have no marketable skills — and, mind you, I do NOT mean that as in I have no talents, no gifts, but, rather, the things at which I excel and can do (and do do — so to speak) for others, for the world are not things which have resulted in my case in hefty remuneration — or, actually, much remuneration at all. Alas, my gifts, not the least of which are ridiculously embracing and supportive hugs, a sparkling wit and a rare in the modern world level of erudition, plus an unparallelled pop-cultural-trivia-awareness, bring in surprisingly little on the open market. Well, on any market. Despite the fact I was never an actual counselor, I spent decades of my life devoting tens-of-thousands of hours to psychiatric-social work-sessions with needy, troubled people in my various offices and on the phone/via e-mail during all my “careers”.  While I might have been (should have been?) doing things for myself that made money, or, even, just used those best, young, brain-on-full-throttle years WRITING — whatever, instead, I was listening to people, propping people up, getting people through, helping people to achieve their dreams, and offering them solace and support in ways that those folks would have had to pay hefty fees to others to do, had they not had me. Me, who, whenever someone came into my office — and many people did on a regular basis — I stopped what I was doing to listen to them, hug them, encourage them, comfort, whatever they needed.

I’m not surprised by how few not only never said “thank-you” but, rather, after finding their strength, or moving on, actually resented me for knowing them when they were weakest. I got that. I still get it. And, too, I was unsurprised by how few — when I needed some hand-holding — just turned away, easily and blithely discarded me. I understood — later — that part of why they trusted me, and part of why I invested so much in being a listener, was that I questioned my place and worth in the world. I came to feel that my real purpose in life  was to help others find their Love and Light, to see it in themselves, others, the world.

Funny, in the end, all that encouraging and growing Love and Light, has left me feeling pretty loveless and in the dark. Not to say I am unloved — not at all — I have a handful of wonderful, giving, beautiful people in my life for whom I am incredibly grateful — my sadness is not a reflection on them, but a larger, existential conundrum.

About worth. As in, some people who did much the same things in their lives that I did in mine — only under different guises, wearing different labels — ended up richly rewarded monetarily, relationship-wise, respect-wise. The counseling I did, the child-rearing, the cooking and cleaning, the maintaining, the show writing and creating, the — well, the many things I did — done by others resulted in security: financial and emotional. Spiritual.

No one to blame but me. Not in any way abdicating responsibility for my bad choices. But, still — the conundrum and question — how did the choices I made and the effort I made to try and cultivate Love and Light, how did the encouragement I gave, how did what I did, chose to do, the work I did and shared, land me here, where I am going?

WHICH WAS WHERE? Where was I? Oh, worrying about being homeless. Yes, it often comes with this inventory-taking of “what if I had…” and, well, that gets me nowhere. (See above blathering for proof, lol.) And, it’s too late now. So I terrify myself by shopping on-line for apartments. And while I was looking and dreaming — I find this;

Bacall Dakota

Lauren Bacall’s apartment for sale. CLICK on photo for link to Warburg Realty listing

Lauren Bacall’s apartment in the fabled Dakota for sale. TWENTY-SIX MILLION DOLLARS – with monthly maintenance fees of $1100.

Wow. Even the maintenance is too much for me. Ha. That sentence may well become my new motto.

The maintenance is too much for me.

Love and Light, friends. Love and Light?



I’m home again, home again.

Last night, the drive home was rainy, sleety, cold. Arrived at Sepia Fallows. Hugged. Kissed. Caught up. Unpacked. Tucked myself cozily into my own bed where the clean sheets I’d put on before leaving awaited me. Turned on the electric blanket, sat atop it, cuddled by my backrest pillow (some call it a *boyfriend pillow, a large, fluffy thing with arms and pockets), two furry, fuzzy blankets wrapped around me, a knit cap on my shaved head, hot peppermint tea beside me, and three books. I read until eleven when I turned everything off, including my phone, and dove, determined, into slumber. I woke up a lot, but stayed abed until six-thirty.

Now, I’ve either to brave the horrid, dank gray and cold day and return to the gym — Confession: I’ve not been since Friday — or move this laptop off my lap and onto my desk and get busy working on my writing.

I don’t much feel like doing either. Or turning my phone back on.

So I blogged. Damn. Now I’m done.

*Whoops … I called it a boyfriend pillow in a fit of depression last year about this time. CLICK HERE TO READ THAT. Oddly — or, not, the fellow who sort of inspired that post recently contacted me. I did not contact back. Which is my thing. Now. Everywhere. Everyone, it seems. Less and less contact.

Sunday: Goodbye to all that … (and more novel)

Sunday is the highest traffic day for HereWeAreGoing. This fact has all sorts of resonances for me, not the least being my childhood Sundays spent perusing the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post with my dear aunt, mentor, champion, Sissie, at the house in Libertytown. And, yes, Sissie and Libertytown were the inspirations for my novel — tada — LIBERTYTOWN. So, this morning, I try again for brevity because I want to spend at least a portion of this Sunday reading, so, let’s try this.


My stay here at Aftermath ends this evening. I will return to my basement room at Sepia Fallows where I reign as Crazy Uncle. All sorts of wonderful is associated with being one’s family’s version of Mrs. Rochester in the attic with soupcons of Miss Havisham, Norma Desmond, Blanche DuBois, and, I guess, Cousin Itt. Still, I will miss my Judah, although he snores and takes up four-fifths of the king-sized bed. And, too, I will miss the sun and quiet. Here at Aftermath I am afforded lots and lots of silence, I almost never turn the television on, there is no buzzing, beeping, gunfire of video worlds, and, too, I’ve the blessing of reading and writing in the day room: three walls of windows and glass doors through which I see sky and horizon and trees and green and the occasional group of deer frolicking; I am grateful for so much light, so much quiet. Lovely. I’ll be back for nearly two weeks during the December holidays. Maybe then, some snow?


Speaking of which, here comes the holiday season. Thanksgiving dinner will be held at Sepia Fallows. This will be the first Thanksgiving spent with my immediate, biological family in years. I usually house/pet-sit during Thanksgiving, but, I am not booked this year (although, if you’ve an offer, I’ll consider it) which seems an extremely odd thing to type about me: “NOT BOOKED”. I’ve a bag of ten books within two feet of me as I type. I am always — one way or another — booked. (That could turn into something, another short story idea, “Booked” — all its meanings to a crazy, basement dwelling, half-ashamed-of-him uncle on his way to prison for — STOOOOOP.) And so, since I’ll be home(ish) with family, I will do my thing and start prepping for feast cooking this week. I’m not a huge fan of the holidays, but, for some reason, I have a fondness for holiday themed tissue boxes and I am not ashamed to say I am already blowing my nose with tissues from a box foil-art-adorned with images of reindeer and snowflakes.


As I said, Sunday is the day when my blog gets the most hits. This week, I am happy (nay, THRILLED) to share that my biggest winners this week were the entries with excerpts from my unsold, un-agented novel.

Thank you for reading me. It means a great deal to be read.

SPEAKING OF THANKS (givings and takings away)

Chapter 12 of Libertytown has to do with a Thanksgiving dinner, and memories of other such dinners, and the disasters Parker has experienced during dinners he’s made, meals of good intent gone wrong. I sort of love Chapter 12 and trying to cut it is KILLING me. In the days I’ve been working on it — and been here at Aftermath — I’ve also been catching up on my magazine piles. One of the essays I read in Harper’s (one of my favorite magazines, one that Sissie always read) was by John Crowley called “Spare the Darlings [click here to read part of it — but you won’t be able to read the whole thing on-line unless you are a Harper’s subscriber, which, alas, I am not. I buy issues each month — sort of a thing, an excursion I take to get me out of the house — magazine purchasing. Sorry, I prefer reading off-line.] which was about all the essays he’d read of late about cutting one’s darlings when writing/re-writing and where that quote actually came from. He cites Pamela Erens New York Times essay, The Joys of Trimming [click here to read – you should be able to get the whole thing unless you are NOT a New York Times on-line subscriber and have already had your ten allotted monthly free-clicks] in which she attributes it to Faulkner. Which is wrong. ISH. It was Arthur Quiller-Couch. Q, he called himself. Long story but I own all of his available books — some gotten at quite an expense from overseas dealers — because I read about him in Helene Hanff’s Q’s Legacy. I read Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road every year during the holiday season. In fact, I usually buy a new copy every year. It’s a thing, it’s a Sissie thing, we loved Hanff together. So … point? I’m trying to cut Chapter 12 and I can’t. Would any of you like to help me? Funny story: last time I asked, no one jumped in. In fact, no one said a thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure none of the writer types I know are even reading the Libertytown excerpts. Which is all good. Anyway — here’s Chapter 12. It’s a long one.

November 2004
this is what all ur f-ing mourning leads 2

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. The day before was Matthew’s birthday. He turned twenty.

Things happen.

Happened. Past tense. It’s over. But before that.

Carousel opened and closed. Mandreucci’s is selling out – I mean that in both senses – doing far better since Vincent’s death than it ever did when he was alive.I took over the directing chores and Vincent’s younger sister, Caterina, who’d spent her time and her parents money since her teen years in luckless pursuit of dressage championships on the horse circuit, took over the business end of the theatre, sacrificing her folly for Vincent‘s, for which, it was turning out, she had a natural gift.

Vincent never wanted to do anything but direct shows and make a family of the actors he adopted. His marketing plan was to sit back and wait for audiences to appear. The practical requirements of budgeting and publicity were anathema to him, irritations he eschewed, knowing as he did that his parents seemingly endless funding would keep him going. Caterina, who had taken the same lackadaisical approach to horsery as had Vincent to theatre, was determined in her takeover of Mandreucci’s to maintain the legacy she imagined her brother had left behind. Already she has doubled the number of season subscribers, started booking bus tours of senior citizens, and negotiated like a mob boss with the caterers who supplied the food. Actors have begun to make more money by virtue of added shows and fuller houses, which increases their tip pool, and are pleasantly surprised to be paid on time, an infrequent occurrence when the casual Vincent ran the show. Word has spread in the theatre community and the quality of actor who auditioned for the next show in the season – which Vincent had scheduled as Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along and which Caterina, intent on turning a profit, re-scheduled as Grease – was markedly improved, sending into a panic those regulars Vincent had used for years out of a sense of loyalty and the desire to surround himself with people who loved and were indebted to him.He had, not infrequently, compared himself to MGM, with his own galaxy of stars for whom he’d chosen shows. Vincent’s actors had rarely been bad, but they had not always the best person for the job, much as I was not the best person to direct Grease. Thus, I have bid Caterina farewell. She was upset only until I assured her that Matthew, who has taken on more and more of the technical work enabling her to fire some of the pricier crew members, would be staying.

He’s made a few friends at the theatre and in his college classes. With those and Fallon to occupy him, we see less of one another. Still, every night, whether he is away or just on the other side of my bedroom wall, he texts me when he is going to sleep; “night loveeeeeeee gotta sleeeeep now looooveee youuu” or some variation on that theme.

He has made me a texter. He prefers it to conversation. I think he enjoys that it limits my ability to drone on. Even when we are together – at home or at Embrace – we text. It has begun to annoy people. Well, it annoys Therie and Fallon, in much the way Bex and I with our secret language and looks once annoyed the other siblings.

After my misdirected porn reference text opened the door, Matthew Continue reading

The Mangle (and a little more of my novel and Virginia Woolf)

I had a bad night last night. I’m sharing that. And a bit more of my novel, because, it seems clearer and clearer that sharing it here is the only way it will ever reach anyone. And that, I think, is fine with me. I’m too — something — at a loss for words? Ha. No. At a loss for story. Yes. Love and Light, friends. Love and Light. Sent from here where I am, at Aftermath, caught in my own undertow.

drowningI am feeling a bit lost.

That is an inept, inexact, inaccurate, insufficient precis. I am not feeling. It is not a feeling. It is a submersion, a sinking into during which I am denied oxygen, my chest about to explode as a result of the involuntary physical compulsion to gasp for the air I need which only results in swallowing more of this fetid, murky tide that has carried me so far from shore. And too, neither is it a bit. It is a crushing flood, an overwhelming deluge. And, technically, nor am I lost; I know where I am but I cannot gain purchase, find leverage, achieve effective hold or position, because I am in too deep, and, alas, I have never learned to swim.

I suppose, then, I am drowning. But, I must be doing it wrong. Listen to the following from Popular Science Monthly, May 1878, by Roger S. Tracy M.D. [click HERE for full article]:

If death by drowning be inevitable, as in a shipwreck, the easiest way to die would be to suck water into the lungs by a powerful inspiration, as soon as one went beneath the surface. A person who had the courage to do this would probably become almost immediately unconscious, and never rise to the surface. As soon as the fluid filled his lungs, all feelings of chilliness and pain would cease, the indescribable semi-delirium that accompanies anæsthesia would come on, with ringing in the ears and delightful visions of color and light, while he would seem to himself to be gently sinking to rest on the softest of beds and with the most delightful of dreams.

I have certainly sucked in and swallowed, all about the powerful inspiration here beneath the surface, but, alas, my sinking has been anything but gentle, the visions far from delightful, and the dreams . . . nightmarish.

bone clocksSomeone wanted to see me but I declined. One reason; I am here in Aftermath and don’t like to leave Judah. Another reason; the me he wanted to see has nothing to do with me, not really. And, yet another; he does not have a frame of reference including Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch or Helene Hanff or James Purdy or Stephen Sondheim or Thelma Ritter or Blanche DuBois or Norma Desmond or the Algonquin Round Table or Bloomsbury or Pfaff’s Saloon or Flahooley or . . . any of the other things I want someone to know, or, at least, if not know, to be interested enough in me to think these things of value, to think, at least, that knowing about these things made me interesting and of value, rather than, well, annoying, cloying, antique, crazy, whatever it is that makes me so easy to dismiss by almost everyone.  So, I declined and instead I ate a piece of cake. And I read short stories from back issues of Harper’s and The New Yorker I’ve been carrying around. And by eight-thirty I was in bed with Judah, devoted, pressed against me, it’s quite cold here already, his head on my stomach, my dear, snoring Judah, as I read my signed edition of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, all done along with sipping my giant mug of Steven Smith Varietal No. 45 Peppermint Leaves Herbal Infusion tea.

And . . . I felt so (pick one) lost, drowning, sad, alone, beside the point, pointless that I wanted to reach out, speak it, Tweet it, text or talk or somehow break the surface and keen an S.O.S., request a life jacket, something, someone, somewhere, and though it now seems unlikely — impossible, even — that I will ever make it *To the Lighthouse of my own volition, not with all these stones in my pockets, but perhaps, maybe, someone already there (or, later to arrive) will shine a beacon, search, find some trace of me, some shadow, shell, artifact I left behind.

Pigeon Point lighthouse USA, California, Big Sur

And . . . instead. I read. Until the book fell and I, with Judah, slept. And, again, in what seems not to be a coincidence though I don’t believe in fate or plan or . . . still, I find myself editing a part of Libertytown in which Parker is — against his will, so drowning he reaches out for air from someone who will never help him to shore. Here then, more of Chapter 10, should you be so inclined.

LIBERTYTOWN: The Novel [excerpt from Chapter 10]

“Love?” Matthew moved his hand from my knee to squeeze my thigh, to bring me back from wherever I’d disappeared.

“I’m sorry, babe. Connections, they just, sometimes, they change shape. Not in a second. It’s just, the realization happens in what seems like a second.”

“I don’t understand what connects us.”

“Us? Like, the universal us?”

“No. Us. You and me. The we that we are, you know? I don’t understand what we are and…this conversation is scaring me. But, I mean, I guess, I’m afraid. I mean, what are we, Oz?”

The tumult in my chest, the rush of joy when he said those words, when he took it upon himself to use the incantatory name that he knew only Tom had ever called me, was quickly twisted into panic over my inability to answer.

“Sissie and I, we used to be out here in the yard at night, when I was a kid especially, spending nights here, and I would help her do the laundry. Only, she called it the ‘wash’ and it was a huge production. The washing machine lived in the corner of that summer kitchen – the one I told you about that got torn away-“

“Yeah, you told me.”

“-and it was this ancient Maytag. You had to pour the water into it. Just, the carting of the water was this huge workout. And then you’d do the soaping cycle thing and then have to drain all that from a plug on the front. We’d carry the huge buckets down to the gutter by the road and dump them there, at the end of the driveway. Then you’d put new water in for a rinse cycle and then you’d run the clothes through these rollers to get them – you know – to get out the major wetness – these rollers that were dangerous. You could get your hands caught in them so easily. The funniest thing – years later – I didn’t know it when I was a kid – I mean, I don’t think I knew it, don’t think she ever called it – those rollers – they’re called a mangle. Isn’t that just so – I don’t know – something. Mangle. When you look that word up it means to destroy the shape of something, like, in its verb meaning – its usual meaning – but then, at the same time, it’s this thing that presses and smooths things into a shape. Which is, if you think about it, just like what I was saying earlier – you see? I mean, words are this mysterious code and one can have a million meanings and it depends on who you’re talking to. Everyone has pictures – their own set of pictures and remembering that comes into their head whatever word they hear so how do any of us ever – I mean – that any of us ever can agree on anything, that we ever actually know what anyone else is talking about or meaning or feeling or thinking – it’s like this miracle. So…I don’t know what I’m trying to say…what was I talking about?”

“You and Sissie outside.”

“Oh, right. See, it’s so bright out here now, bright in the world. We have so much artificial light everywhere we can barely see the stars. And that is so weird too. Right? I mean, lights are meant to help us see, but in the case of the skies, the stars, all the lights we’ve stuck in the ground all over the world, they make it harder to see. They obscure the sky. Isn’t that weird? I mean, I swear, the stars out here, when I used to be a kid with Sissie out here and we would be hanging up the wash on the line – because she never had a dryer – she always hung clothes out, or, in the winter –“

“Right, in the hallways outside my room – you told me.”

“Yeah, your room. I like that you say that – your room.”

“The stars?”

“Were brighter. But, maybe not, I mean, maybe the stars haven’t gotten any less bright it’s just we need so many things to shine, we try so hard to make things clear – you know? It seems so metaphorical to me and – but that wasn’t what I meant to tell you. I meant to tell you that Sissie knew all the constellations. She would point them out to me and for some reason, I just, I could never remember any of them. I don’t think I cared, I guess. But one, well, two, the dippers. I knew them. But I thought the Little Dipper looked like this flour sifter she had. I have it now. That sifter. And, that’s what we called it, the little one, we called it The Sifter. It’s somewhere over there – up there – and – I just thought calling something the “little” version of something else was sad. I wanted it to have its own name.”

“I wish I knew the constellations. Their names. There’s so much stuff you know. I feel like, I don’t know enough stuff.”

“But that’s just like the opposite of what you were saying before. About yourself. No. See, we shouldn’t have to name everything and box it and know it. The Big Dipper and The Sifter, they aren’t those names. I mean, we’ve named every star in the sky but why? Why can’t we just look at them and let them be what they are and live in that beauty? I mean, we’ve named them all and now we’ve made the world so bright we can barely see them anymore. Some things are just better off not being named. I mean, Matthew, some things we should just let be. Just let things be what they are.”

I was crying again. Which made me laugh. Matthew stood and reached for my hands, which I gave him. He pulled me up.

“I know what you’re trying to say. I get you. You know that, right? I mean, I think sometimes you think I don’t. But I do. You say ‘I mean’ all the time now, like I do, and I talk like you sometimes and I get that. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met. You know, like, everything about everything and you’re amazing and you’re the most loving person ever. I get that.”

“Okay, Matthew but I-“

“No, I’m not done. Don’t talk because I’m still not good at this talking and I know what I want to say and I don’t want you to confuse me or tell me what I mean – just let me talk –“


“Okay. See, you’re all those things you are and at the same time, it’s like, you’re the loneliest, saddest person I’ve ever met and I’m afraid. I’m just, I’m afraid that someday I’m going to be another story you’re telling someone else and I – I just, I don’t want to hurt you.”


Like mangle.

Like blue.

Like any word. So many possible meanings. To afflict with bodily pain. Injure. Strike. To cause distress. Offend. Wrong. Harm. The result or description of any of those. Verb. Noun. Adjective. But I think, for me, it is most true when traced to its Old French root, hurter, to collide. Hurt happens when there is a collision of need, desire, intent, belief. Colliding, it’s an accident. Yes? Hurt, like mangle, sometimes required to squeeze out the excess, to smooth and shape.


He did not want to hurt me. He did not want to hurt me in those ways he believed the people in my stories had hurt me, which, I think, happened because they left me full of empty spaces – oxymoron that – full of empty spaces, the loneliest, saddest person he’d ever met.

He did not want to hurt me. Empty space. Lonely. Too late. He was there. Sooner or later he would be gone. This, then, is that story. That hurt.


“Matthew. I love you. That’s just what it is.”

“I know.”

“If I’m hurt, whatever we are, that’s mine. My choice. Whatever we are, whatever you have to offer me or I give to you, whatever the other one of us calls it when we tell the story – if it’s ‘hurt’ – that’s just a word. We can’t – there isn’t – it’s no good trying to make things so bright we can see everything if all the light makes it so we can’t see the stars.”

He dropped my hands and took my face between his long, scapular, dirty nailed fingers. His nails were always dirty. I wanted to change that. He brought his lips to my forehead and he kissed me there, or, rather, placed them there and breathed for a few seconds, which reminded me for some reason of the time as a child I had been chosen to read for some visiting bishop the passage about “if your light is under a bushel” as rehearsed by Sister Michael Immaculata and afterward, the bishop had made the sign of the cross on my forehead and then kissed where his fingers had blessed me. Years later, I had sung a musical theatre lyrical adaptation of that same verse in “Godspell” and now, Matthew, was anointing me again, this night, christening me Oz again, thanking me, accepting me, baptizing me, some sacrament or sacrifice or something all connected to everything I’d ever done and been since born, meant to be the first American Pope or the first male to play Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” or all the other things I’d been meant to be, thought to be, hoped to be, never was.


“I love you too.” He said. “I mean, you know that, right?”

“I know that. Right. Now, I think, I need to go to bed.”

“No. Wait – please. Just smoke one cigarette with me. It’ll be like our moontan. Our thing. Like you and Tom. Like Boynton taking you for ice cream. Come on. So you have another story to tell someday. One about me.”

— end of excerpt — thanks for reading —

ToTheLighthouse* I am not afraid of Virginia Woolf, and feeling very indebted to her at the moment, and of kindred spirit. Alas, my Woolf is all in storage, and, anyway,  I am here at Aftermath, so I cannot pick up my copy of “To the Lighthouse” and revel in her work. Her sister did the artwork on the cover. I must away. It’s Saturday and I need to read for hours on end. Mr. Mitchell’s “The Bone Clocks” demands my attention. Love and Light, dears. Thanks for reading.