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Fourth and Long

September 19, 2011

I knew it would happen eventually. Yesterday, while browsing aimlessly in a used book store in the University District near my house, I saw a copy of my novel for sale. I certainly wasn’t looking for it, but its turquoise cover is hard to miss. Of course I took a look at it. It was a copy with a sticker on its front, an independent book publishing award of some kind, which had peeled off a bit and wrinkled. I smoothed it flat. The copy was signed. Had my signature not been apparent, a scribbled “signed copy” next to the price presumably was meant to justify a higher than expected sales price of $8. I laughed at the idea that my autograph would increase the value of anything. If there was any merit to this notion, I would carry a Sharpie with me at all times. I put the book back on the shelf, where presumably it will stay until the End Times. Then I went back outside, wondering what I thought about things. (more…)

Smells Like Teen Spirit

September 7, 2011

Every few years I get a wild hair to wash my car. There’s no rhyme or reason to the urge, though it’s surely interior hygiene rather than the exterior appearance that motivates me most times. I’m manifestly not a “car guy,” in spite of all the traditional boy-fetishes of my ancient childhood: racing “slot” cars, plastic car models, books about cars, all that. By the time I was old enough to drive I had learned a few critical things about my relationship to the automobile: 1) I prefer to walk; 2) I don’t consider cars to be (for me) a viable form of self-expression; and 3) I have the mechanical aptitude of an earthworm. I didn’t spend any teen moments, let alone years, under the hood of anything except a parka, though at the time I knew lots of boys who embraced the internal combustion engine and all its trappings with a passion fueled surely by hormones; an attraction that eludes me then and eludes me still. Just last weekend I played music at a small town festival in the Cascades where among the attractions were two block-long rows of parked vintage autos. They were cool to be sure; nostalgically evocative and lovingly restored. Around each stood a group of males, ranging in age from toddler to totterer, lost in oohing, ahhing, stroking, tweaking, murmuring, nodding reverie. Their lusts and longings for these pin-up calendar vehicles bordered on the unseemly. I found myself looking away. (more…)

Cool Haus

August 18, 2011

I went to the library yesterday, and it got me thinking: A good thing, and just what libraries ought to do best. As usual my thoughts flew around like squirrels, darting in and out of the half-cracked dormers of my drafty attic brain, always within sight of a roosting place but never quite grabbing the confidence to settle down and stop moving. (Someday I’ll nab of few of the wee devils, pin their tails to a ceiling beam and have a close, hard, look at them in the glare of an overhead bulb. The little bastards.) After my trip to the library, I had cause—I thought—to stop in a bookstore. That got me thinking too, and wouldn’t you know it with some of the same damned squirrels. (more…)

Shop 'til I Drop

July 16, 2011

Yesterday was a mall day for me. Hold your sniggers, please. We all have them. I don’t care how “green” you are or wish to be, how committed to local products and services, how opposed to mass consumerism, how righteous in your avoidance of Recognizable Brands. Like hangnails and nosebleeds, nobody gets through life without an occasional visit to the mall. Indeed, such visits are closely akin to hangnails and nosebleeds, as follows: 1) they’re not such a goddamned big deal, so quit whining and get over it; 2) still, you have lost some precious part(s) of your corporeal (or spiritual) being, and so can be forgiven for feeling a little blue in the aftermath, and 3) if the hangnails, nosebleeds or visits persist, and/or if worse you find yourself secretly enjoying them, you have the warning signs of a much more serious and perhaps fatal condition for which you ought to seek professional help at the first opportunity. I feel pretty safe on the last score, although damn I remember some epic nosebleeds as a child; scarlet gushers from a busted tap that terrified my parents and delighted my siblings. But not in years, now. I think my cuticles are no worse off than the next guy’s. And my shopping trip really was no fun at all. (more…)

Wherefore art thou ponytail

July 4, 2011

It being the first innings of the election season, the end of the second quarter of the year, the dog days of summer approaching and the hay fever season in sudden death overtime—quite literally, I fear—it seems characteristically predictable of me to turn my halting attention to sports. No baseball rant or reminiscence, I promise. I am thinking this evening of women’s sports, primarily, and of the ways they delight us. (more…)

The Worst Thing

June 16, 2011

One of the alleged benefits of growing older, along with all the marvelous new pains, odors, lapses, and funerals that punctuate one’s latter middle age, is the growing ability to take the “long view” of human foibles and follies.  I suppose there is some truth to this.  My views of children, teens and fledgling adults, for example, certainly are markedly different, having both been and raised all of the above, than they were when I was a young pup myself.   And grey hairs provide a certain leveling perspective on one’s assessment of the Big News of the Moment, whether it be economic, cultural, military, athletic, whatever. It’s not so much a matter of “been there, done that” (which always sounds to me like a four year old insisting on ALL the rides at the park) as it is a cousin of “nothing new under the sun,” (nihil novi sub sole, for our Latin readers) which the author of Ecclesiastes—maybe King Solomon, maybe not—wrote not while yawning but to illuminate his cheery theme of “all is vanity.”  It’s a perspective that rings truer as the year-pages turn, in ways both reassuring and deflating.  I may be especially prone to an air-ship view of at least modern U.S. history, spending as much time as I do (for various reasons) immersed in the literature, newspapers, magazines and ephemera of the last American century and a half.   A newspaper from the 1890s, whether a small-town rag or the New York Times, reads astonishingly similar to its offspring today, with just enough differences in language, humor and grocery prices to keep me glued to library microfilm machines far longer than my lower back would prefer.  But such immersion also has taught me, with all apologies to Edmund Burke, that whether we know history or not we still repeat it, with the unfortunate tendency to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. (more…)

In the backwash of Fennario

May 29, 2011

Since last I blogged the world did not end as predicted. (Camping down thirty-love.) While I was on the road and sick in bed my younger son toured the U.S. and Canada with a rock band, my elder son returned from Michigan to Seattle to be a summer law clerk, Donald Trump was publically humiliated so many times that his hair went to live with Ivana, Sarah Palin moved to Arizona where hopefully she will campaign successfully for secession, several popular uprisings in the Mideast were brutally repressed by the usual subjects, Osama Bin Ladin was relocated from a tony suburb of Abottabad to a pestilent ghetto in Hades (where he is apartment-hunting for Ratko Mladic, who will join him soon), non-apocalyptic but nonetheless nasty weather patterns destroyed many flat parts of North America, my newly-planted vegetable garden entered that long nightmare of sodden stasis we Northwesterners know as “spring,” the Mariners improbably stumbled their way to a .500+ record and an Australian college student discovered the disposition of the mysterious “missing mass” of the universe, which I had assumed was in my basement under the corner table with the darkroom stuff. (more…)

Bloody Brilliant

March 30, 2011

Another month winds down, neither furious lion nor lovable lamb, just one long, intermittent drizzle under an ever-brightening sky, the scent of lilacs on the office walk, the greasy slide of intrepid earthworms underfoot. Spring is a process. We have a goodly ways to go, but at least there is no turning back now. The sensible laws of physics are subverted: as the daylight reaches further into the evening, each day seems shorter than the previous, simply because the things that delight always seem to end sooner than the things that oppress. By my calculations, the month of March will have lasted a little longer than three-and-a-half days, depending on how you spent St. Pat’s Day, and/or how your NCAA tournament bracket fared through the usual upsets and heroics. I am reminded by one of my faithful readers, who number well into the teen, that I’ve written little here this month. I have my excuses to be sure, but none of them withstand even my own charitable scrutiny. Chagrined, I blog. Think of me as an earthworm, and tread carefully. (more…)

Odds on Pat

March 16, 2011

Oh St. Patrick was a shortstop;
A fact that's little known.
For he made his name in other ways,
Some of them overblown.

He never saw a snake, you see,
And never drove one out.
He spent his life in double-A
Without that kind of clout.

But he had a canny agent
With endorsements in his eyes
Who didn't shirk at salesmanship,
Or telling desperate lies. (more…)

Upon This Rock

March 4, 2011

The older I get, the more I like fish. That’s “fish,” not “to fish,” and I’m talking about the live, rather than the filleted, kind, though the latter certainly can be a favorite if they’re fresh and not overcooked. I’m not noticing a change one way or the other in my feelings toward grilled salmon, baked halibut or even last night’s dinner, fresh Dover sole lightly breaded in spicy panko breadcrumbs and pan fried, served with buttered peas and jasmine rice. I’m thinking instead about a nice surprise I got today when I glanced down into the muddy, thawing, wind-wrecked backyard below the tall glass plate glass window where I stood sipping morning coffee, watching the weather organize itself for the day and talking myself into going earlier than usual to the gym. There are two ponds in my backyard. They are little man-made things that I hand-dug and lined several years ago. They are my little windows into the big wide watery world. In particular there be fish there, a circumstance that delights me inordinately. (more…)

Works

Short Stories
Many of my stories have appeared in literary journals. Several have won national awards. My most recent and upcoming publications include pieces in Short Story America, Writing Tomorrow Magazine and The Ledge.

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