Monday, December 31, 2007

Time Stumbles On

It is always nice to see the old year out fondly, and with renewed hope for the future, but it isn’t always easy. A friend sent me a video clip from a British news show, in which the reporter quizzed Americans on our knowledge of the world. Considering that the future of this country depends upon the intelligence of our voters, this was a valid, if admittedly a bit skewered, way of determining how qualified we really are to have the right to vote.

When five people were asked to name a country beginning with the letter “U”, three could not think of a single one. A fourth said “Yugoslavia.” A fifth said “Utah. Is Utah a country?”

Asked for the primary religion of Israel, not one of the five knew. One volunteered “Catholic?” When asked “What religion do Buddhist monks practice?” four blank stares and one, again, “Catholic?”

And the most disheartening thing about it, to me, was the fact that the response of each and every one of them to being exposed as prime candidates for euthanasia was to laugh merrily and dismissively. And they’re absolutely right. I mean, come on…who cares about all this politics and geography stuff? That Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson were seen holding hands at L’Pissant…now that’s important.

And these people are allowed to breed!!! Their children are doomed before they are even conceived. It increasingly seems that knowledge is to ignorance as a diamond is to a grain of sand.

That the American political system relies on a public whose intelligence seems just about on a par with a stewed tomato is amply witnessed by the current occupant of the White House…who was elected not once but twice!. But surely we have learned our lesson from the debacle of the past eight years, haven’t we? (“Name a country beginning with the letter ‘U’.”)

It is, truly, to weep.

Now, I know that in the course of filming the segment, there were undoubtedly many people who did know the answers (oh, God, I hope so!) and the producers only picked out the most outrageously stupid. But even so....

We live in a world where the vast majority of all the knowledge of our race, accumulated over thousands of years, is now at our fingertips, available to all. We are living longer and healthier than ever before. I was born into a world in which television, cell phones, and computers did not exist, and in which millions died each year of diseases which have all but been eradicated. Tens of millions of others who would have died without medical techniques and treatments are still alive. And much of this progress has emerged from the same nation far too many of whose citizens today can’t name three of the members of the Supreme Court or locate Washington, D.C. on a map. Our educational system is an embarrassment to the world, and we are increasingly a nation of “who got gets more” and to hell with anyone who doesn’t.

I know, I know…the world has always been going to hell in a handbasket, and we have always survived. We probably will survive again. As I’ve said so often before, we must all have hope. But when one is sitting in a canoe at risk of being swept over a waterfall, just hoping it will be all right won’t make it so. We have to paddle like hell.

So, happy New Year, all. And who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wee Beasties

Since I returned to Chicago two years ago, now, I cannot recall having seen a fly. Nor have I seen a mosquito. Both exist in profusion in northern Wisconsin, together with a plethora of other creeping, crawling, flying beasties. I do not miss them.

But what Chicago has that northern Wisconsin does not is cockroaches. Lots of cockroaches. Lots and lots of cockroaches. And no matter what you do or how hard you try to get rid of them, there they are. There are also an assortment of other unfamiliar little beasties—some of which are so small as to be nearly invisible—which love nothing better than to stroll casually up your pantleg or down your arm with the attitude of having ever right to be there.

I can totally understand how cockroaches have managed to be around, basically unchanged, for several million years and why they will probably be here long after we humans are gone. They are nothing if not tenacious, and I have strong reason to question those who say that they are not aware of us or our intentions toward them.

I hate killing any living thing. Really, I do. Even roaches, but saintliness is saintliness and roaches are roaches, so I set aside my morals and do my best to keep my apartment clear of them, which is a losing proposition, and both I and the roaches know it. I can kill every single roach in my apartment and ten minutes later they are replaced by friends and relatives coming in from air ducts and small cracks around pluming and electrical conduits running through the walls of the building.

I normally keep a can of Raid Roach Killer at the ready. But if I see a roach in the bathroom, the can is in variably in the kitchen, and if I see a roach in the kitchen, the can is in the bathroom. And by the time I get to the can and back to where I saw the roach, it is long gone. I sometimes think I can hear it chortling, but I’m not sure.

When I ran out of Raid recently, I had to take another 100% absolutely-positively-guaranteed roach killing spray. The roaches love it! I will see a roach, spray it, and it will pause long enough to contemplate whether to fetch a small bar of soap and bottle of shampoo, or an umbrella before going about its business. So I have devised a new, fairly foolproof methods of extermination: I hit it with my shoe. (If they’re on the floor, I stomp on them. If they’re on the wall or a cabinet or anywhere I cannot stomp, I remove my shoe and swat them with it.)

Other than the flies and mosquitoes, Wisconsin’s beasties seem to be of gentler creatures…especially ladybugs. Wisconsin abounds in ladybugs, which are really rather pretty little things. I have found them to be downright social at times, and they seem to have taken a liking to me. At certain periods of the year they swarm in great number, climbing all over the outside of window screens apparently seeking a way in. Each year there would be several which took up permanent residence inside my house. There was one (I would like to think it the same one, since I grew rather fond of it) which resided on my bathroom sink. I’d come down in the morning, and there it would be, patiently doing whatever it is that serves to pass the time for ladybugs. Usually, it just sat there, apparently daydreaming, until I would give it a gentle nudge with the tip of my finger, at which point it would wander around a bit with no apparent clear destination in mind. One day I noticed it on the rim of a water glass I kept on the sink. It obviously had someplace it had to be…a luncheon engagement, perhaps…and it had chosen the rim of the water glass as an unobstructed route to get there. I kept watching it all the time I was in the room, and it never slowed its pace. When I left, it was still walking purposefully, apparently confident that it was making great progress and would reach wherever it had set out to go in short order.

Ladybugs are pretty, but they are not the brightest of God’s creatures. Cockroaches are not pretty, but I wouldn’t sell them short in the mental department. I wonder how long ladybugs have been around?

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Of all the gifts granted human beings, wonder is surely one of the greatest, and one of the most defining characteristics of humanity. The ability to be awed by the simplest of things…a butterfly, the petals of a flower, the lines in one’s own hand…is truly, well, wonderful. I consider myself really lucky that much of my sense of wonder is intact, though occasionally I’ll have to prime it a bit. (Who today remembers the red cast-iron hand operated pumps standing in the back yard from which the family took its water? Later, some of them moved inside, into the kitchen, but they always remained the same, and it always took two or three vigorous up-and-downs of the handle before the first of the water would gush out.) Even the nebulous links between totally unrelated thoughts is amazing.

The other day, as I sat on the el watching the other passengers as the train rumbled and swayed and squeaked its way from station to station, it occurred to me that not one out of ten thousand people who ride the city’s elevated and subway trains ever stop to marvel at them…of the forces which created their use or the work that went into constructing them. I cannot recall anyone other than me ever expressing awe at humanity’s achievements: how and why cities evolved. To most people, things just are. Period.

And I can stand in my 9th floor window and look down at the elevated tracks half a block away and pretend I’m a kid with the greatest train set in the world. Last night, I happened to look out just as the Santa Train rumbled by, a fantasy of lights outlining each car and every window, with Santa on his sleigh on his special flatcar. Who can see that and not experience wonder?

I find wonder in words…what they mean, where they came from, how they are related to other words, how switching just one letter around can totally change the meaning of some words. It still fascinates me that the word “breakfast” is in fact what it means: to break the fast of the night before. Yet how many people ever think of that? Or would care if they did?

Children love looking at clouds and seeing wondrous things in them. Why don’t, or can’t, adults. Wonder seems to be ground out of us as we “grow up.” To wonder is to question. Why do so few adults question? “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction!” Oh. Okay. “Our soldiers must fight. Therefore, gays cannot be in the military.” Oh. Okay. “Jesus (or Mohammed or Senator So and So or Congressman Whomever, or President What’s-his-name) says blah-blah” and therefore it is so simply because they say it is so and they have more power than we have.” Oh.

Look a word. Any word will do, the more common the better. “The”, for example. Stare at it. Really, really hard. Concentrate on it with all your might, and suddenly you have never seen that word before in your entire life. An odd sensation, to be sure, but real.

Pick up a pebble on the beach (chances are you’ll pick the prettiest one, for humans are built that way, which is another blog entirely). Hold it and look at it. Really look. How long has it been on that beach? How long has it been a pebble. Just try to imagine how it was formed and how long it took to be formed and where it came from and how it arrived at the exact spot you picked it up. If that doesn’t fill you with wonder, I’m not sure what will. Except, perhaps, a baby, skin softer than the finest silk, crystal blue eyes, absolutely perfect little fingers and toes, with that new-baby smell to which nothing else on earth can be compared.

We’re a wondrous species, with all our faults. Too bad we never take the time to realize it.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Suffer, Little Children

No, I do not want little children to suffer. It’s just that I was considering the difference between being childlike and being childish. I truly like to think of myself as having retained my childlike views of life, but too often—at the moment (yesterday, when you read this), for example—I am more childish than childlike. When things do not happen exactly as I expect or want them to happen, I throw emotional tantrums that would do any two-year-old proud. Fortunately, these are usually internal, but they are not pleasant. I hate them, in fact…which does nothing to prevent me from having them, or from being largely unable to control them until they pass like a violent thunderstorm, rumbling and grumbling into the distance.

I am downloading…let’s make that trying to download…some photos for a book video trailer. Each photo is purchased separately. The first photo I downloaded and lost somehow. So I had to buy it again. The second photo I bought was in the process of downloading when I got an “Error” message. So I shall probably have to buy it again, too. But rather than go through this with the third photo (I need about a dozen) I threw a mental hissy-fit and just closed out the site completely.

Not having slept well last night for reasons I will not bore you with here (but may well crop up on a future blog), I decided that I would just stay in today. Not go anywhere. Not even to my ritual go-out-for-coffee with Gary. I put on my pajamas and settled in for a day of work.

My friend Norm called. He wants me to help him move some furniture, and haul Christmas ornaments up from his storage room. Today. I love Norm. Really, I do. But, damn it, I do not want to get dressed, shovel the snow off my car, probably lose my parking space when I return, run the four or five miles over, etc. Can we say “Petty!” and “Shame on you!”, boys and girls?

A degree of spontaneity is a good thing. But I really, really prefer to know in advance if I’m expected to go somewhere or do something. But I really couldn’t say no to Norm. I know he would help me any time I asked him to. He once drove all the way from Chicago to Mayo to drive me home to Pence (nearly a 1,000 mile trip for him) after my release from my cancer-related neck surgery, and he did it without my asking. So how can I say no when he needs something? But, I mean, couldn’t we move the furniture and haul out the ornaments tomorrow or the day after, okay? A little advance notice is all I ask.

And then, of course, I am awash in guilt for being such a lousy friend and so petty about taking time out of my day.

Being childlike is charming and a quality I always admire in people. Being childish (“It’s mine!” “No, you can’t have it.” “No, I won’t and you can’t make me!” Pouting. Figurative foot stomping. Mentally throwing things. Swearing. Seething with totally out-of-proportion anger) is not. So how is it that I can realize this with such calm detachment, yet insist on flying off into a fury the very next time anything happens the way I do not want it to happen?

Writing is most certainly cathartic, as this blog is proving. Okay, so blowing off steam is healthy. But why do I have to blow it at you? Excellent question, to which I have no answer other than a lame “because I have never been one to suffer in silence.” Believe me, if I get a paper cut, I will tell anyone I can button-hole about it, complete with a detailed accounting of how it happened, the excruciating pain involved, how I nobly overcame the agony, etc. What is the point in being terribly brave and noble if no one knows you’re being terribly brave an noble?

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Blues

I’m listening to a choir singing Christmas carols, and I was for the ten millionth time in my life acutely aware of how much joy and sorrow are like the writing on two sides of a thin piece of paper. Hold the paper up to the light, and no matter what side you are looking at, what is written on the other side comes through.

While you might not be able to tell it from the common themes of many of these blogs, I don’t like to dwell on sadness or sorrow, or loss, or yearning, and unlike many people, I am not really depressed by the holidays. But I am more aware of the sense of loss which always accompanies thinking of people once so important to me who are no longer part of my life. It is precisely because I realize just how blessed I am to have had so much love and happiness in my life that holiday reminders of their importance heightens the sense of their loss.

In a way, love is a form of emotional blood, flowing back and forth between the one loving and the one loved. But when a loved one dies, the effect is not unlike a physical amputation. The heart keeps pumping, and we create an emotional tourniquet keep us from bleeding to death. And during the holidays, we tend to loosen the tourniquet to relieve some of the pressure. The older one gets, the more tourniquets we must apply, and the more pressure there is to be relieved.

The older one becomes, the more these thoughts intrude themselves, however unwanted, on our lives. It is simply a part of life and something which must be faced and dealt with. To this day I cannot listen to “Silent Night,” one of my favorite Christmas carols, because it was also my mom’s favorite, and to hear it is to think of her, and to think of her not being here makes me sad. So when I hear the first strains of “Silent Night”, I simply turn it off and spare myself emotions I do not need and do no good. It's another form of ignoring reality, but it works for me. I just pretend that the holidays are just…well, days.

That we are never satisfied with what we have at the moment is, I’m sure, part of our DNA, for contentment and progress are not, at the core of it all, compatible. How much change have we each seen just in our own lifetimes, and how much more will we undoubtedly see in the time remaining to us is truly awe-inspiring, if we’re able to step back from ourselves just far enough to put things into perspective.

The purpose of this blog is not to reflect or induce depression, sorrow, or longing, but to encourage us all to step back, look at our lives, and appreciate the fact that all we have…all we will ever have…is now, and we should make as much of it as we possibly can. Sorrow is yesterday, Hope is tomorrow, and it is up to each of us in which direction we should turn ourselves.

New entries are posted before 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The further one is from the source of a memory, the more likely time is to alter and rearrange things, rather like a well-meaning mental housekeeper who thinks the couch would look better over there. Most people never even realize that what they’re sure happened at a certain time in a certain place in fact did not. But because I have so much of my life laid out in the form of letters and other non-fiction writing over the years, I often running across incontrovertible evidence that what I was sure I remember clearly simply either didn’t happen that way, or didn’t happen at all. This is not pleasant, and it most certainly is not reassuring.

I think I mentioned this before, but I was absolutely positive that I had been in Genoa, Italy, on the day that the Italian liner, Andrea Dorie, set sail on her final voyage. I clearly remember looking up as our liberty boat passed under her stern, and wondering...rather precentially how anything so huge could possibly ever sink. (Surely, I thought, the bottom of the ship would hit the bottom of the ocean before the water ever reached the superstructure.) It was a story I told many times and believed with all my heart and soul.

But on re-reading the letters I wrote my folks from our several times in Genoa, I find no mention of the fact and, on checking to see when the Andria Doria last left Genoa, found the Ti had been nowhere near Genoa at the time. On reflection, the liner may have been the Constitution, which I do mention in a letter. Odd how the mind works.

Memory’s malleability can also be seen in the fact that, depending on the emotional makeup of the individual, our recollections of past events are tend to either enhance the pleasant memories or intensify the bad. I now look back on my days in the Navy with far more fondness than my letters…and a closer look at reality…warrant. But I suspect that is simply because we are too busy living in the present to see its true impact on our lives with the perspective time provides.

How many times have we heard the caveat to live (and appreciate) every day as if it were our last? And how often, on hearing it, do we realize the validity of the advice only to have in almost instantly buried by the minute-by-minute demands of our lives. And though we may fully agree on the value and importance of letting those people in our lives know how we feel about them, we do not do so out of fear of seeming “odd.”

We seldom think, in the “now”, of how much we might some day want to remember how the events of our lives truly unfolded. Diaries and journals are the surest way of making sure that future memories will be accurate, but few of us keep them. In lieu of those, I have a few suggestions: take more photographs, even of things which do not seem at all important to us now. And with every photograph be sure to write down as much information about it as you can: date, location, the people shown. Of course we know all about them as the photo is taken, but again, the years will blur the details.

As with good wine, and anything at all collectible, memories age and mellow with the passage of time, and become more ever more precious as we reach the point in life where so many of the people who form the foundations of our lives are no longer there, and all we have of them are memories. Always remember that today is tomorrow’s memory, and do whatever you can to preserve as much of it as you can.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before 10 a.m. central time. Please come back.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Good Lord, Roger!

The last entry to this blog was titled “And We’ll All Feel Gay...”. Why was it titled that, you may wonder, since I left out the key line of the song, which was the cornerstone of the entire blog? It’s like telling a joke and leaving off the punch line: people look at you blankly and say “Huh?” Bear with me, please, while I go back and try to unring that particular bell. The words to the song are: “When Johnny comes marching home again/ Hoorah! Hoorah!/ We’ll give him a hardy welcome then/ Hoorah! Hoorah!/ All the men will cheer,/ and the boys will shout/ and the ladies, they will all turn out./ AND WE’LL ALL FEEL GAY/ when Johnny comes marching home!” And I left out the key phrase! Jeesus!!

Is there any wonder why I am so frequently so contemptuous of myself? Why do I never think? Or, rather, always act first think later. It is a problem I have had all my life, and each and every time I do something stupid I become disgusted with myself. You would think I might possibly learn after all these years, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

I was going to blame the last gaffe on Dorien, but he put his foot down and rightly refused to be any part of it, and I didn’t press it because of course he was totally right. I do too much shifting off of things onto Dorien as it is.

Which returns us to the question, if I am so prone to doing and saying stupid things and I realize it, why do I continue to do and say stupid things? Why do I not simply take the time to either think carefully of what I’m about to do before I do it? Or think of what I want to say before I say it? It surely goes beyond simple impatience. I seem bound and determined to make an idiot of myself as frequently as possible. (Again, the mental image of Ray sitting in the middle of the floor with a bottle of whiskey between his legs, saying “I don’t want to be an alcoholic” even as he raised the bottle to his mouth for another swig.) Well, I don’t want to be an idiot, but the words no sooner pass from my fingers to the computer keyboard than I do something to prove it.

I’m fond of quoting pithy little homilies, like, “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and prove it.” I somehow manage to do both. I think I mentioned at one time overhearing one of my good friends in college saying: “Roger keeps telling everyone how stupid he is until finally they begin to believe him.” I understand now that I did it because I was so insecure that I felt it was better for me to run myself down before anyone else did—-and thereby let them know I was as aware of my failings as I'm sure they were. And I still do, and am doing right now. Dorien can see the illogic and danger in this line of thinking, but Roger, while paying lip service to it, continues to largely ignore it.

Commercials and politicians are experts at manipulating the human tendency to believe almost anything if they are told it often enough and with enough conviction, be it true or not. Logic has absolutely nothing to do with it. It merely capitalizes on another human trait: to believe negatives more readily than positives.

Perhaps, too, this might be one reason I would so like to go back in time to change things; to convince myself that I really was not all that unattractive or all that stupid, and encouraged him to truly working at thinking before he acted. It would have made me a very different person. But that would have meant that the “me” now would cease to exist, and I’m afraid I’m too selfish to be willing to give me up. I may not be perfect, but I’m all I got.

So I guess all I can do is try to be better. Really try. And I will. I promise. But don’t hold your breath.

New entries are posted before 10 a.m. central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Much Ado About Nothing

Eight times out of ten, when I first sit down to write a blog, I have no idea of what I’m going to write about. I don’t mean for it to be that way…I really like having several blogs in reserve. But I would make a terrible squirrel, and would undoubtedly starve to death before the first snowfall. If, by some fluke, I somehow manage to stash away two or three blogs in advance, with the intent of using them only in case of absolute emergency, part of my brain becomes very smug and self-satisfied. (“Oh,” it tells me, “you don’t have to worry about tomorrow’s blog. You’ve got a couple in reserve if you really need them.” And without fail, I don’t bother writing one for tomorrow and use one of the standbys instead. And when the reserve is gone, I’m back to square one.

The problem with doing spontaneous, need-to-post-it-within-ten-minutes, blogs is that 1) they read like exactly what they are, and 2) I inevitably fall back…as was gently pointed out to me the other day by a loyal reader…on going over the same basic themes: loss and yearning. I, of course, leapt to my own defense—I find myself doing that a lot—, rationalizing that since the blog’s purpose is to spread out my thoughts like coffee beans on a drying tray, a disproportionate number of those thoughts are about loss and yearning. I’m sure it must seem at times that I have my eye on doing the role of Pagliacci in some amateur production: presenting a brave front to hide a breaking heart, but the truth is far less melodramatic. I’m really quite content and happy with my life. But that doesn’t keep me from wishing things were different, or that I could go back to spend some time with those whom I’ve loved through my life.

And it seems this very entry is turning into just what I was talking about in the “planning ahead” department. Knowing I had to have a blog for the morning, I started this before noon. Got the first two paragraphs done and then, knowing I had lots and lots of time, I let the siren song of something or other distract me, and off I went in search of it. It is now time for the evening news and since I never write after 5:30…a long-standing if self created “rule”…that means whatever I don’t finish now I’m going to have to finish in the morning.


I titled this, when I assumed I had plenty of time to plot it out, “Much Ado About Nothing,” but didn’t realize how accurate it would be until 1) I found myself facing the possible necessity of doing just that yet again if I wanted to get this blog done, and 2) I was sort of saved by the bell when I heard a segment on the evening news about the fact of the toy drives suffering this year because of all the toy recalls. I was surprised, when I heard it, to experience a flash of anger. It took me a minute to track it to a memory of my days in L.A. One year, several gay bars in the San Fernando Valley got together to collect toys for the Toys for Tots program primarily sponsored at the time by the Marine Corps. When the bars had gotten together all the toys they’d gathered, they contacted the Marines to ask where they should deliver them. They were informed the Marines would not to accept the toys because they were being donated by faggots. Toys? From Faggots? For Our Kids? No Way! I don’t know if their attitude has changed over the years, but I’d hope so. But every time I think of that—which, fortunately, I seldom do—, my blood boils.

Because I love words, and my mind is always so active, finding something to say out of nothing in particular comes almost naturally. But I do wish I could be better at saying something that means something.

New entries are posted hopefully before 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, December 03, 2007



I always ask questions for which there are either no answers, or which there are answers which can never be known. I was wondering this morning just how many words I’d written over my lifetime. There is an answer to this one, obviously, but who would/could take the time to track them down and count them all? How many times have I said “I love you”? And to how many people?

I really want to know how many grains of sand are in all the deserts of the earth…how many pebbles line the shores of all the lakes and oceans? The mind’s capacity for fascination is endless.

Some of the classic questions which have been posed throughout history and are seemingly unanswerable are, in fact, quite simple. “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”, for example. The answer is “As many as want to.” As to “How high is up?” , the answer is “any distance above the top of one’s head.” “How far can a dog run into the woods?” Halfway…then he’s running out. “How long is a piece of string?” Exactly twice the distance from either end to the center. Fun to ponder, though not exactly deeply significant to the human condition.

So many questions are nothing more than word games. We’ve all seen those lists of trick questions about the location of a house whose windows on all sides face south, or where they would bury the survivors of a plane crash in which all were killed? Most take advantage of our mind’s habit of automatically being drawn to what we assume to be the obvious, and it is, in fact, the wording of the question itself or how it is asked which creates the problem.. One of my favorite examples of the latter is: “John has three coins totaling forty-five cents. One of them is NOT a quarter.” The answer to that is: “actually, two of them aren’t quarters. But one IS.”

And there are those questions to which there can be no acceptable answer, such as the classic: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” No matter which way you answer, you’re in trouble.

It’s human nature to expect answers (the more simple the better) to questions which are either unanswerable or too detailed for anyone to be able to answer. ?What’s the meaning of life?” is a perennial crowd-pleaser, when the fact is that life doesn’t have one meaning, it has many. “Is there life after death?” The only way to know is to die, and the fact that there is so little hard evidence in support of a “yes,” the question is more one of wishful thinking than anything else.

But I’ve always been absorbed by simpler questions to which there quite probably are scientific answers which I simply do not know: do ladybugs dream? What is the mental capacity of a cockroach? Exactly what do cat’s think? Why can’t we communicate with animals better than we do? What is the meaning of the slit at the base of a cat’s ears?

Oh, so very many questions! Silly questions, profound questions, questions the answers to which affect our humanity. Why so few people seem to question anything at all? (I guess the answer to that one is that it is far easier to simply accept what one is told without question. Thus we have politicians and organized religion.)
I really would love to live long enough to find answers for 1/1000th of the questions to which I’d really like answers. That I won’t frustrates me no end. Why can’t I?

Well, we’ve reached the last stop on this particular train of thought…though they’re laying new tracks even as we speak. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Oh, Joy!

This morning, as I started to post dodsy's entry, I found I had exactly two paragraphs of it. The rest is gone. Where did it go? How did it go? Why does my compuer seem to hate me at times? No idea to any of the above.

But the fact is that I do not have a blog for today, and must once again ask your indulgence and apoologize for taking up your time.

Rather than have you coming back and checking later today or tomorrow, I'll just skip it until Wednesday. So I do hope you will come back then. (I will be posting my photoblog, though... .


Friday, November 23, 2007


I think if I were to be a flower, I’d be an impatiens. I’m not sure I know what an impatiens looks like, but I do like the name, since it reminds me of one of my most outstanding characteristics: impatience.

I’m sure it all stems from the fact of my awareness of the passage of time, and that every instant spent other than in doing what I want to do is time which will never come again, and brings me one instant closer to the moment when my mind, trapped as it is in a mortal body, will cease to function and all that will remain of me is what I have managed to put down on paper.

I know that there is much to be said for the joys of quiet contemplation, but I’m largely incapable of it. I’ve mentioned before that I simply cannot do nothing. I cannot sit on a park bench on a sunny day and just enjoy the act of sitting and observing. Even when looking up at a blue sky filled with puffy clouds, I can’t be content with just observing: my mind insists on finding faces and sailing ships and tanks and fish in them.

I have never in my life begun a project involving physical labor which, ten minutes into it, I wish to heaven I had never started, and I too often, as a result, end up with a slipshod result simply because I was too impatient to take all the time to do it the way it should have been done.

When I go to bed at night, I look forward to dreaming, even if I can’t specifically recall them the next morning, and should a night pass without my awareness of there having been dreams I feel cheated. I’ve been told, and firmly believe, that death is very much like a deep and dreamless sleep. Well, I’ll be dead soon enough (as will we all), so I’d just as soon not have previews of what’s to come until I’m actually dead.have some dreams

I am terrible at waiting. If I have an appointment scheduled, I want it to be scheduled for no later than the time it takes me to get from here to there. Sitting in a waiting room without a book or magazines is torture. Telephone calls which involve my being put on interminable hold by mega-corporations who lie through their teeth when they soothingly reassure me, every 30 seconds, that my call is very important to them send me into apoplectic fury.

My impatience has gotten me into more trouble, over the years, than I can possibly remember, let alone recount. I constantly say and do thing that, on reflection, I wish I had not done or said, but I simply do not/cannot have the patience to think things out before I react. I tend to be one gigantic knee-jerk reaction.

Often, of course, time does not allow for patience. How often have we, ten minutes after the fact, come up with a really brilliant retort to something someone said, which left us at the time merely muttering something inane or stewing in silence?

I’ve been told endlessly that I should practice patience, but I just don’t have the time.

This blog entry is a case in point. I know there are several other really salient points I could bring up to demonstrate my impatience, but I’ve got a ton of other things I should be doing, so I think I’ll get to them. We’ll talk about patience again when I have more time.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pondering and Pontificating

When my mind wanders—as, you may have noticed, it does constantly—it sometimes goes a bit further off the beaten path than normal. Today I found myself pondering imponderables, revisiting one of my favorites: just how fascinating our species truly is when we take a moment to step back and look at it as though we were an alien seeing it for the first time. I realize this teeters on the brink of pontification, and may not be everyone’s cup of tea (on rereading it, I wonder if it is mine), so I’ll understand if you decide to skip it.

I wonder, for example, if aliens might in fact consider mankind be a single, living organism, and each of us as —but totally unaware of being—individual cells within that organism. I’m not sufficiently versed in philosophy to know if anyone else has advanced this theory, though I’m sure someone must have at some point. And the universally-recognized “preservation of the species” imperative just might lend support to it.

Ours is a civilization of rituals, most so deeply ingrained in us that we never stop to think about…or marvel at…them. But without them, civilization—and we as individuals—could not function. We establish, and for the most part observe without thought or question, laws designed for the common good—pulling over when emergency vehicles pass, for example—which is in fact an extension of the preservation of the species imperative.

As individuals, we are programmed to be protective of those closest to us: our family and our friends. In emergencies or disasters, we are capable of demonstrating amazing courage in coming to the aid of others. Why? We never give it a thought…we just do it. We establish schools and hospitals and police departments and fire departments to assure the continuation of our species.

All of these things emphasize our instinctual recognition that we are part of something larger than our individual selves, and that we have a duty to our fellow humans. The Golden Rule is an encapsulation of the philosophy of survival of the species.

Our individual need to acknowledge that we are part of something greater than ourselves is also reflected in our need to gather together, and the comfort and pleasure we derive from it. Patriotism is an example, as is the fact that we derive pleasure from gathering together at concerts and theaters and sports events. We create books and music and plays, and find a sense of universality in them. Yet how many of us recognize, when we sit in a concert hall or at a ball park, or gather together on holidays exactly what we are doing and why?

So many fascinating imponderables. So much of what we do is instinctual, and we never give thought to why we do what we do. The other night, I attended a concert performed by the DePaul University Symphony Orchestra. When the conductor enters the hall, the audience applauds: why? (Applause itself is a unique human ritual to which another entire blog could easily be devoted.) That we do not applaud between movements of a lengthy piece, even though the orchestra has stopped playing has its own fascination: how does everyone know what to do, even in a piece of music we’ve not heard before? Obviously we take a cue from the others in the audience. But how? Why?)
I hope I’ve not bored you with this little meandering, but I trust you find such things as fascinating as I do. And if you’ve not thought of such things before, please do. Our capacity for fascination is boundless, yet we too seldom exercise it. We should do much more.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Doors of "If"

My favorite painting at the Art Institute of Chicago is Edward Albright’s The Door, subtitled That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do. I identify with it in some strange way, probably because I frequently find myself looking back on the closed doors of my life and saying: "If only I could go back and change things…do or say something I should have but didn’t; not do or say something I shouldn’t have but did; take an opportunity not taken; follow path A instead of path B."

We all have doors in our past we wish we could reopen, to change what lies behind them. Yet we never think that if we could go back and change just one thing, from that point in time on, all bets are off. For tossing one small snowball of change onto the steep snow-covered slopes of time could trigger an avalanche which would inexorably sweep everything that followed. And one problem resolved would open up an infinite number of new and different problems.

I used to wonder, after I moved from Los Angeles to the Great North Woods of northern Wisconsin and bemoaned my subsequent lack of…uh, let’s say ‘social contacts’… what would have happened had I stayed in L.A. Then I realized that had I done so, I could quite probably had a contact which would have resulted in my contracting AIDS, which is more a game of Russian roulette in large cities than in rural communities.

So many things I’ve said to people that I wish I either had not said or said differently. So many situations to which I wish I had reacted differently. But if I had, how might that have changed my then-future (but-now-present)? Escaping one unpleasant situation undoubtedly would have opened the door to countless other unpleasant situations I could not possibly foresee.

There are things, however, I would risk a subsequent unknown future to have changed. The most recent was when in my ignorance I allowed my dog, Duchess, to die because I stupidly did not recognize the clear signs of diabetes which killed her. How could I have done that? How could I not have seen she was seriously ill?

But before that, and the one single thing in my life that I wish with all my heart and soul I could change, would be to let my mother die several months before she did. I think I may have spoken of this before, but when she was diagnosed with lung cancer after being a smoker all her life, she and I agreed that if it reached the point where nothing more could be done, I would instruct the doctors to let her go. But I did not. "We’ll try this," the doctors would say, and I’d let them. When it didn’t help, they’d say "We’ll try this," and I’d let them. And mom, out of her love for me, said nothing to me, though she told a friend that she just wanted to die with dignity. She did not. She died a withered doll hooked up to tubes and machines which only prolonged her suffering, of which she never spoke, and all because I would not…could not…let her go. I will never forgive myself for that.

And ten years from now, we will all look back at regrets for things which will have happened between now and then, and there will be no way we can come back and change them, either.

So what is the answer? There is none. All we can do, as we hopefully already have been doing, is the very best we can. We cannot see the long-term results of our actions, but perhaps we can give them just a bit more thought before we take them, and hope for the best. I wish us luck.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, November 02, 2007


This post will be very brief, I fear, and I ask your indulgence. I'm still somewhat off-pace with my cold and while I started a post yesterday afternoon, I didn't finish it.

This morning I was just about to write one when I checked my email and found notice that there had been several "Comments" posted to my A Worlt Ago Navy letters blog. Curious I went to take a look. The "comments" are all identical: "this is the best blog yet" and all are "signed" "hydrocodo". When I made the mistake of clicking on the word to see who it might be, I was taken to some sales pitch page.

As you may have noted, I am neither the most patient or most saintly of men when it comes to my threshold for anger. Perhaps my cold is adding to my reaction, but I am so furious with this *(^$)*%^$ I really can hardly concentrate on typing this.

And worst of all, I cannot find out how to delete these comments, though I'm sure there is a way to do it, and I will find it, somehow after I calm down a bit.

But anyone going to A World Ago ( should be cautioned NOT to go to "Comments". There are a number of nice comments throughout, but to be safe, until I can get this straightened out, do not open any comnents at all.

It is my acute awareness of my total lack of control, the knowlege that someone beneath contempt can, at their whim, intrude upon the lives of others with impunity really, really pisses me off. I am also disturbed by the knowledge that I am not incapable of violence were I able to track "hydrocodo" down.

The point of all this, dear friend, is that there will not be a regular posting today. Thank you for your indulgence. I'll do my best to have a new post Monday.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


God, I hate being in Limbo, and I seem to be spending far too much time there of late. A combination of factors are responsible: having reached a point in my current book where I simply don’t know where to go next; frustration over the fact that I have three books in the publisher’s clogged pipeline with absolutely nothing I can do to speed things up; residual self-disgust (see earlier blog) over recently having spent nearly $200 on computer programs I have been unable to install; the weather, which I really don’t mind, but which at the moment is reminiscent of something out of The Hound of the Baskervilles. Overall, an odd mixture of edginess and mild torpor. Not particularly pleasant.

I just had “lunch”—a Hot Pockets Cheeseburger which, on the box looked to be overflowing with scrum-diddly-iciousness but proved to be only slightly more tasty than the box it came in—and decided to come in here to compose the next blog entry. And here I sit, staring at a vast expanse of white screen with only a few dark smudges of words on it. From a distance it looks like an ant on the corner of a freshly-ironed bedsheet.

Limbo is certainly not a place for the impatient, and I have long been a poster boy for impatience. I’ve come to the conclusion that my mind is somehow not wired properly and subsequently is constantly short-circuiting, triggering flashes of thought which have little or no bearing to what the rest of my mind is doing or thinking. Memories appear from nowhere, thoughts go not from “A” to “B” but often from “A” to “X”.

As an example (as if one were needed), as I wrote the above I remembered that when I first moved into my big old house in Pence, it had lots of bats. I really like bats and would never harm them, but they can be rather disturbing as they suddenly swoop and flit through the house, especially at night. I would get out of bed, get a large wide-mouthed jar an a square of cardboard I kept for the purpose, then follow the bat until it lit somewhere. I’d then carefully put the jar over it and slide the cardboard under the opening until I had the bat trapped in the jar. I’d then take it downstairs, open the door, and let it go.

My mind is like the bat, and Limbo is like the jar. I don’t like being in a jar. It isn’t that, when I’m in the jar, I don’t still have thoughts and memories and ideas, it’s just that in such a limited space I can’t seem to grab on to any one of them long enough to do anything with it, and the sense of frustration—my primary nemesis—takes over everything else.

It is so terribly important to me to always have the sense that I have accomplished something in the course of a day…that I’ve somehow preserved one more bit of myself in words which will remain hopefully long after I am no longer physically here. Therefore, my time in Limbo is doubly frustrating.

I seem to spend so much time consumed by the need to leave evidence to the future that I really did exist that I often neglect truly enjoying the present. And when I do things(as I did today by going to the Art Institute) which I really enjoy, I feel guilty for “wasting” time I could have spent writing. A lose/lose situation, I fear.
But never fear. I know this current Limbo won’t last, and I will, I hope, someday find a balance between enjoying my todays without feeling guilty. But it isn’t easy.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Enemy Mine

Caution: Like the wording on a car’s rear view mirror, the emotions expressed below may appear considerably more intense than they actually are.

I’ve always loved Dorothy Parker’s classic comment on her arch rival, Claire Booth Luce. A friend once observed: “But you know, Claire is her own worst enemy,” to which Dorothy replied: “Not as long as I’m alive.”

I like Dorothy. And perhaps there is, out there, someone who hates me more than I do. But I doubt it. I was contemplating today (and I long ago gave up trying to figure out whence or why these thoughts come) the fact that, as I’ve undoubtedly mentioned before, I frequently do not like myself very much. I never have, and not infrequently frighten myself with the intensity of the rage and self-loathing that consume me whenever I find myself unable to do some task a rhesus monkey could perform with one hand while scratching his butt with the other.

I have also acknowledged that this mild-dislike-to-deep-loathing scale is balanced on the fulcrum of what I expect from myself. If I cannot do something well—and I cannot resist the temptation to say “which is just about everything”—, I do not want to do it at all…even though, again, I fully realize that no human being can possibly attain the level of perfection (no, lets make that “competence”) I set for myself. But it drives me to total distraction to see how much closer most people seem to get than I do.

And therein, I think, lies a key to why I have increasingly compartmentalized myself into Roger and Dorien…to spare one part of me the contempt I frequently heap on the other. At my most logical, I really do understand that Roger is merely human and subject to all the mental and physical frailties and stupidities to which all humans are prone.

Where this perceived unworthiness comes from I have no idea. But it has plagued me all my life.
I was an awkward kid, a klutz and a loner who of course wanted to be popular. I have always been a gigantic sponge for affection, praise, and adulation, as you may already have gathered from reading these blogs. There could never be…can never be…enough. Even my family, who I knew loved me, couldn’t provide enough.

I constantly look around and compare myself to others, and invariably find myself sorely wanting. That nearly everyone I see and envy has their own problems of which I am not the least aware simply does not register. Every time I try to remind myself of that fact, part of me counters with “Yeah, but…”

And another key rests in the fact that my emotional responses never advanced far beyond the two-year-old level. I have not one scintilla of patience. When I want something, I want it NOW and resent any amount of effort that might be needed to get it. If I buy a computer program, I expect to hit “Download” and begin using it immediately with no further ado once it has been downloaded. Do not bother me with reading instruction manuals. I am totally incapable of it and become totally confused within the first sentence, from which I slide quickly into frustration, anger, and a seething fury of self loathing.

Well, enough of the clothes-rending and self-flagellation. I’ll go have my coffee and chocolate covered donut, now, and get on with the day. Despite my bitching and moaning, life is good.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lucky Me

As you know, I am too frequently given to bouts of self pity over the residual effects of my winning battle with tongue cancer: the loss of my salivary glands and the subsequent inability to taste food properly, to swallow a single bite without washing it down with liquid, etc. I had often thought of how devastating it must be for someone whose life revolves around their ability to eat, chew, swallow, and taste.

The most recent issue of People Magazine has an article on a rising star in the culinary world...young, talented, handsome (the kind of guy Dorien responds to by automatically though facetiously saying “We hate him”) who has been diagnosed with Stage 4 tongue cancer. My heart goes out to him. He has just begun his course of treatment which involves the same chemo-and-radiation treatment I went through. He is entering the radiation phase: the one that destroys the salivary glands.

The article made it sound as though the treatment were new, but in fact it apparently is a result and extension of the experimental protocol I chose to join when offered to me as part of my own treatment. The article implied that the standard treatment for tongue cancer still involved surgically removing up to 2/3 of the tongue,which could result in an inability to swallow and a loss of speech. My speech is impaired (amazing how many things saliva influences), but I can both speak and swallow most things…though not pills.

He will, undoubtedly, have to undergo surgery to remove his lymph glands, as I did. But from what I understand from my oncologists at Mayo, drastic surgery is in fact becoming less and less used as an option, and progress is being made in many areas.

The story contained some interesting facts and encouraging news: tongue cancer, as I knew, is a rare disease, with only 9,800 cases reported each year. Most are the result of smoking, though neither I nor the young chef ever smoked. He apparently had his for an astounding two years before they figured out that it was indeed tongue cancer, and by that time it had reached Stage 4 and spread to the lymph glands in his neck. (It took six months for them to diagnose mine—also Stage 4—though it, thank God, never spread beyond the original site.)

I wish the young chef well, as I do anyone going through any major illness. The survival rate for tongue cancer is going up steadily—currently as high as 70 percent—and though his life will change dramatically, chances are good that he will still be alive at the end of his battle. I’m sure he will find some way to continue his career as a chef on some level, but it will not be the same. He is lucky to be sufficiently wealthy to simply turn to managing his several restaurants rather than actual food-preparation, though he will undoubtedly have periods of wondering what he had done in his life to deserve what has happened to him. And he’ll realize, as I have, that he did nothing wrong; that fate is simply capricious and what matters most is how one responds to being dealt a rotten hand. And hopefully he will realize, as I do, just how lucky he will have been just to survive.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 12, 2007


You may have noticed a recurring theme here: a ranting and railing against crap we are willingly spoon fed through our TV sets. And the astounding thing, to me, is that so few people object to it. It’s infinitely easier to blindly accept what we’re told than to even attempt to think for ourselves.

I'm sure you've seen that ad for the Byproducts-on-a-Bun chain showing a quadruple cheeseburger with bacon and tomato that looks to be equivalent to the height of a six-year-old boy and the seductive voiceover assures us is “piled high” with goodies? Sheep that we are, we race, salivating in anticipation, to our nearest Byproducts-on-a-Bun store and order one.

And what do we get? Instead of the wonderous tower of mouthwatering deliciousness we just saw on TV, we’re handed something that could easily be slipped under a closed door. But of the 34 people standing in line in front of you and the 34 people standing in line behind you, each and every one of whom orders the same thing, exactly how many complain that they have been screwed? How many even realize it? The only thing “piled high” is the bull***t that dragged us in in the first place.

If I am served something in a restaurant that is not what I ordered or the way I ordered it, I will send it back without hesitation. If the service I receive is shoddy, I ask to speak to the manager, which is just what I did at a Perkins Restaurant last time I was on a visit to Mayo. I went in for breakfast. I was seated and sat. For ten minutes. No coffee, no water, no menu. Sat. The waitress passed by with one of those little push-sweepers picking up crumbs from the aisle. I sat. Finally, she brought a menu--no coffee, no water--and then disappeared again. The next time she came by, I asked to speak to the manager, and did. She was, of course, very apologetic and said the breakfast was on Perkins. I explained to her that while it was very kind of her, I did not want the breakfast to be on Perkins. I wanted breakfast to be less than an all-day adventure.

As I always explain to the manager…and I have spoken to a number of them…I direct customer complaint is far better for all concerned, including the manager, than the cutomer's simply walking out and never coming back. Though again, sheep that we are, most people will go back, and no one will have learned a thing.

When I am kept on hold for an hour and a half, being reminded every 30 seconds that “We are experiencing heavier than normal traffic. Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and a service representitive will be with you shortly” when I do get a service representative, I explain the reason for my call and then ask to speak to a supervisor.

Some of my dear friends really hate going anywhere with me because I refuse to simply shut up and ignore an obvious wrong. These incidents do not occur frequently, and I do not go out of my way to find fault with anyone. But when I find it, you can bet your bottom dollar I report it.

There was a time when businesses were there for the convenience of their customers. A few still are. But increasingly customers are there at the convenience of the business, and 99.5 out of 100 people simply accept it. It’s wrong, and I’ll be damned if I will go along with it. We deserve what we accept.

Our politicians tell us lie after lie after lie after lie, and we nod with wide-eyed innocence and take every mispronounced word and mangled sentence as gospel, and when election time comes around those of us who bother to vote at all make sure exactly those same people are returned to office. It is to weep.

But I’m out of space, so will close for now. Thank you again for putting up with me.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Several nights ago an itchy finger woke me up. I learned long ago not to scratch an itch, but rather to use my fingernails to push down on the affected area. It’s just as effective as scratching, but avoids a lot of redness and scratch marks. Despite my efforts, the itch kept up for a long time before it finally went away.

The next day I went out and bought some cortisone cream. That night, the same finger itch, plus a new itch on my right foot. I applied the cream, and it went away. The third night, more itching, more intense. First one finger, then several fingers, then the palm of the one hand, the fingers and palm of the other hand, then my left knee. I’d just begin to deal with one when something else would start to itch. I lathered on the cortisone cream, which did no good at all.

I should point out this happens only at night, never when I’m up and about.

Last night I not only could not sleep, but the itching became so intolerable I was forced to get out of bed at 2:30 a.m. I went to the computer, hoping to find out what was going on, for the computer knows everything, even though it is sometimes extremely reluctant to let you know what it knows. I tried searching under “Symptoms: Night Itching” and several other places. Tons and tons of references to scholarly papers, most of which could be purchased from equally scholarly medical journals. But nothing…absolutely nothing…to suggest what was going on, or what I might do about it.

I did, in a list of symptoms, come across this: "Intolerable itching all over body without perceptible eruption of skin especially in pregnant women worse at night preventing sleep and worse from scratching :- Dol"

I took some, albeit small, comfort in discovering the condition was not unheard of and apparently not life-threatening. But other than that, it didn’t really help, particularly since I am neither a woman nor in menopause nor pregnant.

Some time ago, my local oncologist had referred me to a general practioner named Dr. Wexelman, whom I thereafter saw on one occasion. So this morning, I came to the computer to find Dr. Wexelman’s number and give him a call. I did not have his number. I looked in the phone book. It did not have his number. I called St. Joseph’s Hospital, where both Dr. Malhutra, my oncologist, and Dr. Wexelman are located. and asked for Dr. Wexelman’s number. I was told there was no such person.

I then called my oncologist’s number, explaining to the receptionist what my problem was, and asking her to please check my chart to find Dr. Wexelman’s number. “I’ll have Dr. Malhutra call you,” she said. I told her I didn’t want or need Dr. Malhutra to call me. I wanted Dr. Waxelman’s number. That’s all. “I’ll have Dr. Malhutra call you,” she repeated.

Dr. Malhutra has not called. I have no way of contacting Dr. Wexelman, if in fact he exists. And the evening lies ahead.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, October 05, 2007

And Blog Begat Blog

I’m not really quite sure why I do it. Sometimes I think my ego has just totally taken over. And too often, my self-absorption reminds me of those annoyingly precocious tykes one sees on TV, ozzing “cute” from every pore.

I honestly would have to sit down with an abacus to figure out exactly how many blogs I have going. I have one devil of a time trying to keep up with them all. And so what do I do? Why, I start another blog, of course.

To tear my mind away from the fact that the pipeline for publishing my already finished books is frustratingly clogged and seemingly getting more so every day, I decided to take on a non-writing project I’ve had sitting patiently on the back burner: scanning hundreds of old personal and family photographs dating back more than 100 years (I’m not in quite all of them), and sorting them out into some sort of a thread. I’ve divided them into categories—mom and dad, Fearns (mom’s side of the family), photos from my folks’ cottege, college photos, friends…and “friends”…my navy years, photos of Ray, my time in Los Angeles, my time in Pence, and individual photos of me from zygote to the present . Again, egotism run amok.

And I fall back yet again on the flimsy reasoning that you might have even the most remote interest in any of this because it goes to prove that we are all far more alike than we are different.

So, having scanned and sorted and categorized, I heard the far-off voices of Judy Garland and Andy Rooney chirping “Hey, gang, let’s put on a show!” And I thought that since I spend so much of my time laying myself out before you, warts and all, in my various forms of writing, why not do so visually, too?

And thus was Dorien Grey: A Life in Photos born. The object is to post at least one photo every day or so, accompanying it with a short paragraph of explanation. I have no idea how successful this little experiment will be and can readily foresee that, like life, there are so very many overlaps and interrelations and visual digressions that it may all fall down like a house of cards. But we’ll give it the old college try, and hope you might come along for the ride. I really do enjoy and appreciate your company.

The “warts and all” aspect, for example, might be a bit difficult. One seldom has photos taken under other-than-pleasant circumstances. None taken of all those embarrassing or shameful or seamy episodes that clutter everyone’s life, and my increasing reluctance, as Time began playing her mean-spirited tricks, to have my photo taken at all. And none at all, of course, taken when no one else was around. One tends to be on one’s better behavior when someone is standing there with a loaded camera. So there’s mostly happiness or contentment and good times reflected in these photos, which, after all, is what all of life should be about.

Oh, and I might point out in my own defense that I use “Dorien Grey” in the title of all the blogs not quite so much for the joy of seeing my own name repeated yet again…which of course I do…but for the sake of Google and other search engines, in the remote chance that someone might be trying to look me up. I wouldn’t want them to miss anything.

If you might want to take a look, you'll find the new blog at

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Klutz King

This was definitely not my intended blog topic for today, but yet another combination of my stupidity, frustration, anger, and utterly perverse sense of humor…plus the heat of the moment (the event to be related taking place less than ten minutes ago)… have made me do it.

My bathroom floor is a mess. It is always a mess. I try to mop it fairly regularly (every six weeks or so), but don’t know why I bother because as soon as the Polish & Buff or whatever crap it is I use (it promises “A dazzling clean!”) dries, it still looks like a herd of Wildebeests had used it to climb out of a muddy river.

So this morning, I decided to really, really do a job. I got out a bucket, filled it with hot water, poured in about a half gallon of Pine Sol, got out a stiff-bristled scrub brush, got down on my hands and knees, and scrubbed. And scrubbed. And scrubbed. I couldn’t see one G-D bit of noticeable difference between where I’d scrubbed and where I hadn’t. But I persevered, sloshing hot sudsy water and scrubbing until I thought my arms would fall off. And then I fell over. How I fell over (I was on my knees at the time, which makes falling over difficult under the best of circumstances) or why I fell over, or what made me fall over other than my own incalculable stupidity and lack of motor coordination, I have no idea. Maybe my knees slipped. Maybe I started to get up to move to another spot. Who knows.

So I fell over. And of course I fell over directly onto the bucket filled with Pine-Sol-frothy hot water, which then cascaded across the bathroom floor, out into the hallway, and moved swiftly toward my area rug.

I forgot to mention I was wearing my pajamas, which naturally became sopping wet. I tore them off and tossed them as a makeshift dam between the advancing water and the rug. My slippers, which I’d taken off before getting down on my knees and set in the doorway, were of course carried halfway across the room on the tsunami, and are quite probably ruined. (We shall see.)

I pulled several towels from the linen closet and used them as water-sops. Three towels, one pair of pajamas, and a sponge mop later, most of the water had been picked up, leaving a wonderfully sticky film over everything.

And the floor, after all this? I just checked…it still looks like a Wildebeest crossing.

God, but I have fun!

I’m sure a psychiatrist might possibly have some explanation of why I insist on parading my flaws, faults, and failures in front of the world in general and you in particular. I’ve talked before about my tendency toward self-loathing when things do not go as I want or expect them to go, or as they would go for any other human being on the planet. This is one of those moments of self-flagellation, but since no blood was spilled, I trust your reaction will be more puzzled bemusement than disgust. I have enough of that for both of us.

Another short blog, but so what?

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Loss is a part of life. We all experience it…some more than others…and each must learn to deal with it in his or her own way. I have never handled loss well, and even though I always manage to get on with my life after one, its ghost joins the many others walking the halls of my mind. I have developed the ability to largely ignore them, but if I’m not careful,…

I was scanning photos of my last house in Los Angeles; probably the nicest house I have ever owned. Perhaps, if I do start the photo blog I mentioned in the last entry, you might have a chance (assuming you might have the desire) to see them. At any rate, in looking at the photos, the ghosts of the time reached out and grabbed me yet again.

That these ghosts grab me is one thing…what really hurts is their whispered tauntings: “You had this once. Remember? Look. You’re almost there again. Just reach out, and…” and then the humorless laughter before they continue: “It is gone, and you will never have it again. You will never sit at the breakfast room table, or look out at the hill behind the house, or spend time with the friends and conquests who came and went with comforting frequency. You can look at these photos, but you cannot have what you had there. Never again.”

While I am given to melodrama, as you may have noticed, I am being sincere when I say that those rare occasions when I allow myself to dwell on the whispers are not only mentally excruciating but actually cause a definite physical tightening of my chest. I had it. I want it! I want to see and talk to and touch all those people who were so much a part of my life. I miss them terribly.

I know, too,, that this dwelling on the past makes me—wrongly, I can assure you—seem ungrateful for the present and all the good things and people around me today, and I apologize for that, but it is simply the way I am, and I can’t change it.

Since I was a very small child, I have been aware that each passing minute brings me closer to the time when I will no longer be here, and that thought is terrifying. And as a perverse result, many of the good times of my life have been tainted by the fact that, even as I am enjoying them, I know they must pass and become more ghosts to wander my mind.

As I’ve mentioned often before, I spend the majority of my time alive storing up bits and pieces of myself for the time when I will be dead. The irony of that fact certainly does not escape me. I consider myself something of a squirrel, gathering up the nuts of my life for the long winter of eternity. My books, my letters, my blogs, all small parts of who this Roger/Dorien person was and is with luck will live on after I am physically gone. Even as I write this, I am bitterly resentful of the fact that my physical body, already far from its best, will at some point simply cease to exist. It’s been a good body, and it has served me very well, and I feel sorrow that it cannot always do so. I still have it, but I deeply miss it already.

Have I perchance happened to mention that I do not like reality? My body is forced to live in it, but my mind refuses to.

Also, as I write these little exercises in self indulgence, I wonder exactly why I expect you, who have your own life, your own losses, to have any interest at all in mine…and the answer is, as always, that I trust you may see in me parts of yourself, and realize that we are not quite as…I started to say “unique,” but prefer to substitute “alone”…as we sometimes feel.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Total Blank

I went to bed last night realizing I did not have a blog entry for today. Being an equal mix of laziness and optimism, I wasn’t concerned. I’d just get up this morning, sit at the computer, and dash off yet another classic example of deathless prose. Uh-huh.

Instead, I find myself standing, in my mind, at one of those carnival machines filled halfway with cute little stuffed animals and toys of various descriptions. For 50 cents, or whatever the rate is now, you turn a little crank which is attached to a claw hanging down a few inches from the top of the. The object is to maneuver the claw over the prize you want, drop it down, and pick it up. Except that in practice, it’s nearly impossible to do. The second you drop the 3-pronged claw down and it even brushes against anything, it closes and you have grabbed nothing at all. But you can put in another 50 cents and try again.

Thus far this morning, I have spent the equivalent of about $43.50 trying to grab not a toy, but an idea for today’s topic. Zilch.

Not that there’s a dearth of things to talk about, if I could just latch onto one. But every time I think I have one, the little mental claw just won’t grab it. I’ll get about two sentences written, then get impatient that I’m not saying it the way I want to say it, and I let the claw close and reach for another. I started to write, for example, about coming out, and will undoubtedly do one soon. Just not today.

My friend Gary got a new printer/scanner and gave me his old one, which prompted me to start scanning into my computer some 2,000 photographs I’ve accumulated over the years. A very time consuming project, you can be sure, but a fascinating (to me) recounting of my life. And I’ve been thinking of perhaps, when I have them all scanned and neatly sorted, of starting a blog…yeah, like I really need to do another blog…detailing what would, in effect, be a photo recounting of one individual’s (my, of course) journey through time. And I might do that one, too, when I’m ready. But wondering if anyone at all might be even the slightest bit interested in my life in photos gives me some pause.

Because I’d really like to know what you might think of the idea, that set me thinking of maybe an entry saying how very much I enjoy hearing from people who read my books and my blogs, and encouraging anyone who might think about dropping me a line—okay, you—to do so. I realize that for some strange reason, people seem to be intimidated by writers and hesitate to contact them. (The old “I’m just a reader” reasoning which always drives me up the wall since, yet again, reaching out to you is the reason I write.) But I set that one aside because it smacked just a bit of pandering and desperation.

So I’ve ended up writing this straight off the top of my head, and feeling not a little guilty for not giving you something a bit more well thought out. But since I am usually able to find some small comfort in nearly everything, I console myself with the fact that the whole purpose of writing this blog in the first place is to invite you into my world, messy and disjointed as it too often is.

For me, this blog is, in fact, the Portrait of Dorien Grey.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Before we begin, if you are intending to see the Israeli/Palestinian film “The Bubble,” stop reading right now.

I knew going in that the film was about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but I can’t resist movies with gay themes (a hangover from the decade upon decade during which there were no films with gay themes), and I’d read a review which indicated that it had a positive ending It’s a moving film effectively demonstrating the myriad of problems and mutual hostility between Jews and Palestinians. But its emphasis was on a sweetly romantic tale of an Israeli soldier who meets a young Palestinian at a checkpoint between Israel and the West Bank. They fall in love despite the problems all around them, and in effect live in a bubble of their own. On this level, the film is truly moving and uplifting.

I was therefore totally unprepared for the last fifteen minutes of the movie, in which the Palestinian’s sister is accidentally killed by Israeli troops and, in the last terrible scene, he blows himself and his lover up in a suicide bombing.

No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no!!! I’m sorry, but I’m out’a here. I do not need this. I do not need an agonizingly slow-motion close-up of the two young lovers in the final instant of their lives as the bomb goes off, the one looking confused, the other infinitely sad.

I left the theater furious at being cheated out of hope. It’s been several days now, and I’m still furious. I have thought of the film almost constantly since, which is, I suppose, exactly what the people behind the film intended. To that end, they most certainly succeeded but, for me, not in the way they wanted.

It certainly isn’t as though I had no idea of what is going on in the world. I haven’t been living in a vacuum (or a bubble) all these years. I am already far more than sufficiently aware of all the madness in the world, all the pointless stupidity and hatred and cruelty and pain and sadness. They are impossible to avoid. It is simply that I see absolutely no need to run out and deliberately expose myself to more. And while there are undoubtedly many people who somehow have been sleeping through the past 50 years of history who need to be reminded of the harsh realities of the world. I am not one of them, and I truly resent having gone to the film. I am not a puppy who has just peed on the carpet and needs to have his nose rubbed in it.

I cannot live without hope; without the belief that despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there is more good than evil in the world. In a voice-over at the very end of the film, the Palestinian says that someday, perhaps, things will change. And he is right. But seeing him die did little to encourage this belief.

I hope you will excuse the brevity of this post, but I think I’ve said just about all that needs to be said for today.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Tears of Joy

As I write this, my eyes are misting. But they are tears of utter, total, complete joy…of an elation I seldom have experienced in my own humdrum, boring, meaningless life. I have just learned that Toby McGuire, of Spider Man fame, is getting married!! I cannot imagine anything that may have a more powerful impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. (Can you imagine the joy in Darfur? The jubilation in the streets of Bagdad?) I’m positive I’ll be going to the wedding, of course. I’m sure the invitation is in the mailman’s pouch even as I type. I mean, Toby is such an important part of my life. Maybe he’ll ask me to be his best man!

And I desperately needed this ray of sunshine in my life after the indescribably agonies I have been going through over Lindsay’s and Brittany’s trials and tribulations. That these saintly young role models are continually harassed and hassled just for being fun-loving is unconscionable. And that some people actually dare to suggest they be treated like everyone else! Are they mad? Brittany and Lindsay and all those other wonderful people famous for being famous are not like everyone else. They are STARS whose luminous brilliance lights the dark, hopeless night in which the rest of us are doomed forever to reside.

And the rumors of possible unhappiness in Brad and Angelina’s relationship have kept me awake nights, sobbing into my pillow, or shaking my fists at the uncaring and cruel fates.

These people are my LIFE! How could I possibly exist without knowing that Jude Law threw a punch at some photographer? I’m sure the photographer deserved it for thinking he had a right to take a photograph of Jude on a public street. These paparazzi are totally out of hand and should be soundly thrashed. (But then I realize that without them taking pictures of Prince Harry slipping on a banana peel, I would not be able to feel as close to Harry as I do.)

Oh, dear Lord, what is there in human nature that makes what happens in the lives of total strangers—people whom we have never met, will never meet, and who have absolutely no direct effect whatever on our own lives—so pathetically important to us? Why do we spend millions of dollars which could be far better spent on other things buying glossy magazines filled with the intellectual and emotional equivalent of lo-cal bat guano?

Why do we buy tennis shoes simply because a sports figure shills them? The fact that 99.9 percent of product advertising features pretty people speaks for how pathetically insecure the rest of us are. Think, people! THINK!Envy is a natural emotion, but we have taken it to astoundingly incomprehensible lengths. I suspect one reason why we blindly follow every movement of the rich and “famous” beautiful people is that we truly believe, way deep down, that they are somehow superior to us. We are—thee and me excepted, of course—becoming a nation of pigs eagerly gobbling up whatever garbage those who are obviously superior to us choose to slop into our troughs. And we should be grateful, for by doing so they have all but eliminated the bothersome necessity to actually think for ourselves and make our own decisions.

But in defense of all the beautiful, rich, and famous Tobys and Lindsays and Brittanys and their agents and publicists and personal hairdressers and fitness trainers out there, I must say that if anyone so insecure about their own value as a human being as to need vicarious validation from the lives of others, they deserve a place at the trough.

Well, I seem to be very good at asking questions, but very poor at providing answers. What do YOU think I should think? I’ll be sure to ask Toby at his wedding.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Pond Scum

I really don’t know which frightens me most: just how stupid advertisers think we are, or how stupid we actually have to be to believe the fathomless idiocies that we are fed every time we turn on the TV or read a magazine.

I love the car ads that say “0 percent financing for well-qualified buyers.” Do you know what a “well-qualified” buyer is? I certainly don’t, though I strongly suspect a “well-qualified” buyer is one who can afford to pay cash for the car and therefore has no need for a 0 percent financing in the first place. Cash is, after all, 0 percent financing. The rest of us pay full fare, as we find out when we’re suckered in to the showroom.

Advertisers are totally in love with modifiers: “Emerging science suggests that Barfenol may help lower whatever it is that needs lowering.” Five modifiers in that one sentence. “Emerging” means it isn’t proven, “suggests” means the “emerging science” doesn’t actually come out and say anything, “may” leaves them wiggle room in the unspoken implication that it equally well may not, “help” means it won’t do it by itself, and “lower” means it won’t eliminate the problem. And yet we rush to buy it.

Furniture stores going out of business love to say: “No reasonable offer refused!” (Gee, and would you care to make a wild guess as to who determines the definition of “reasonable”?)

Women’s facial products boast they “reduce the appearance of wrinkles.” You will note they do not even imply that the product actually do a damned thing for wrinkles other than to “reduce” the appearance” of wrinkles. It doesn’t matter: it sounds great and thousands of women are stupid enough to go out and spend good money on it.

How many commercials do you see in one evening of television that urge you to “Ask your doctor” or “see your doctor.” I suspect that, at up to $100 per visit to the doctor, the A.M.A. is all for your seeing the doctor to ask about some snake-oil capsule.

I do, however, grudgingly admire the near-to-brilliant wordplay advertisers come up with to con the public. I mentioned some time ago one of my favorites: “No loan application will be refused!” Of course, it cleverly avoids pointing out that just because they will accept your application, there is absolutely no guarantee that you’ll get the loan.

Another of my all-time favorites, which I have also referenced before is: “If unsatisfied with this product for any reason, simply return the unopened bottle for a full refund!” Since one generally has to open a bottle before knowing if the product is any good, that neatly eliminates any necessity to even try for a refund.

Makers of schlock cleverly use that old saw “when you have a lemon, make lemonade” by concentrating their advertising on television and proudly proclaiming “Not Sold in Stores!” Uh...if the stuff was any good, do you really think they’d refuse to let stores handle it?

Offering a “Certificate of Authenticity” for some overpriced replica brings in customers by the ton. And a “Certificate of Authenticity” does exactly what? But, oh, boy, it sounds impressive.

There’s an old saying in the ad game: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak,” and they are experts at just that. Ah, but I once again find myself sliding into my curmudgeon mode, when I should be embracing all these wondrous opportunities with which I am inundated every day. I apologize. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to watch the Home Shopping Network.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Grown Men Crying

As I type these words, each one is underlined in red. Why each word is underlined in red I have no idea. How I can prevent each word from being underlined in red, I do not know. What I do know is that I am on the verge of a temper tantrum of epic proportions. And as always, my anger, rage, and fury are directed against myself. How can I be so incredibly, unbelievably stupid as not to know how to stop every word--except, significantly, for "I"--from being underlined in red?
I of course went to "View" and clicked on "Reveal Codes," which shows exactly what is being done in careful detail. But is there anything there… anything …to indicate that each word is being underlined in red? Well, of course there isn't.

I have rebooted my computer in the naive belief that when everything came back up, whatever is causing the underlinings would disappear.

Did it? (If your answer is "Yes," you must be even more naive than I am.)

What does it matter that each word is underlined in red…a marking, incidentally, which normally only appear to indicate a misspelled word. Perhaps every word I have typed has been misspelled. But checking my dictionary for the spelling of the word "to" I see that by all accounts, it is spelled correctly. But I digress (oh, now there's a news flash!). So if the words are not misspelled…and I am suddenly comforted by the idea that if I do misspell a word, I will have no way of knowing, since they're ALL underlined in red.…what is the problem? What did I do to create the problem?

Countless times, I have somehow (I never, ever know how) struck a wrong key and all hell has broken loose, and I assume this is one of those instances. I know I did something wrong. I know that the solution is so astoundingly simple that, should I ever find it, I will feel like even more of an idiot than I already feel.

Utter frustration results in tears of utter rage and utter confusion and utter…what's the word I'm looking for? Ah, yes…frustration. I feel my chest filling up with them, but of course I cannot actually let them out, much as I might want to. Real men don't cry. No, they don't! That's what adults hammer into male children from the minute they are old enough to understand what is being said to them. And would grown-ups lie to a child? So I do not cry. Instead, my chest becomes a pressure cooker with the rage turning the tears to steam and the little indicator moving steadily further into the red zone until I at times fear for what might happen if I cannot control it.

And every word I have typed is underlined in red.

I just went back to "View" and "Reveal Codes" thinking that just because it didn't help last time, it might help this time. I noted a little icon called "Graphics" had a check mark in front of it. I clicked it to remove it, sure that I had solved the problem. I had not.

I am a writer. I write books. Each book has tens of thousands of words and I must resign myself to the fact that from this moment on, every single one of those tens of thousands of words will be underlined in red, and I will never be able to know when I have actually misspelled a word, and my ears will ring with the sound of the computer gods' laughter.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Beauty Postponed

As so often happens, yesterday afternoon I realized I had not yet written today’s blog, and set out to do so post-haste. I chose the topic of “Beauty”, a subject of great interest to me, but with which I have had little direct personal contact. I got about two thirds through it and, upon reading what I’d written, realized I must have been channeling one of the lesser Victorian romance writers. I found it ponderous, pontifical, and florid to the point of embarrassment. It eminated the distinct scent of talcum powder.

So I decided to hold off on it for a while, which was probably a good idea. However, having done so, that left me with no blog for today. I went to bed thinking—I am nothing if not an optimist—that I would whip one out this morning when I got up.

The only problem I find in “whipping one out” is that it quite often tends to read as though I had done just that. Plus the fact that I awoke at 4:15, probably anticipating the arrival today of my friend Gary, who is moving to Chicago and will be living in my building, and could not go back to sleep, leaving me a bit groggy when I did crawl out of bed around six. And it is now, as I type, 6:56.

But since you are so kind as to take your valuable time to stop by, you have every right to expect to find something when you do. This is, I grant you, not much of an entry, and probably one of the shortest I’ve ever done, but I do hope it might tide you over until Friday, when I promise I’ll try to have something a tad more substantial.

Thanks for bearing with me.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back

Monday, August 13, 2007

C'est Moi!

Louis XIV is credited with saying “L’etat, C’est Moi!”, though I can’t prove it, being preoccupied at the time with standing in a 300-year-long line waiting my turn to be born. But I’ve not only shared but greatly expanded on Louis’ sentiment. Like small children, I am firmly convinced I am not merely “the state” but that the universe revolves around me. What keeps me from being totally insufferable (I hope), is that the zenith of my ego has always been offset by a nadir of self loathing.

Despite unconditional love from my parents and family, I grew up with the absolute certainty that I was a complete failure as a human being and (thanks to church and Sunday school) “an abomination in the eyes of God”—don’t ‘cha just love religion?—and the fact that I have always demanded a form of perfection from myself that nobody could possibly come even close to attaining.

When it came to anything involving physical skill, grace, or coordination, I failed miserably. All I had to do was look around at everyone else, who seemed to move through life effortlessly and with the grace I so longed for and never had. As a result, if I could not do something well, I would not do it at all. I never quite grasped the concept of “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” If I tried it and it didn’t work, put one more mark in the “self loathing” column.

And so, because I was never able to be what I expected myself to be in the physical world in which we all live, I turned inward to books and to fantasy, where physicality was never a factor. To protect myself from the toxic effects of an astoundingly poor self image, I set about carefully constructing wondrous fantasies of the finest blocks of polished ego to save myself from utter destruction. If I could not fit into the real world, I’d build worlds of my own.

Yet to this day I am bemused by the degree to which I seek the approval of others. Again, like a small child, whenever I do something of which I am proud, I insist on running around to anyone who will listen, hoping they will think I truly am as wonderful as I would like to think myself as being—or at least not as bad.

Being able to escape into my own fantasy world through my writing has, I honestly feel, been my greatest personal accomplishment. And on those occasions that other people seem to enjoy the worlds I have created, and actually feel as comfortable in them as I do, I find the validation I have been seeking all my life.

To get a letter or email from a reader kind enough to tell me that they enjoy my books and/or the workings of my mind never fails to produce a sensation of mild euphoria and reassurance that perhaps I am not quite as alone as I sometimes think I am. It’s a nice feeling.

The universe may not in fact revolve around me, but like all my fantasies (and some of my assumptions) it is a harmless delusion from which even the realist in me can derive a degree of bemusement. I’ll take whatever small pleasures I can find. I would hope you might do the same.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All in a Day's Work

My dear friend Gary has just retired from teaching and will be moving to Chicago with a week or so. One of his greatest concerns, expressed frequently and with all sincerity as the date of his retirement neared, was what he would possibly find to do with himself when he no longer had to be at school at the crack of dawn. I’ve done my best to assure him that it will not be a problem, and I think he’s coming to realize that even in the short time since his retirement became official.

I of course consider myself blessed by the fact that my “work” and my principle joy in life are the same: writing. As a result, my days fall into what I’m sure many people would consider a rut, but which I think of as a comfortable routine.

Up between 5:30 and 6, not through choice but simply because my body’s built-in alarm clock simply will not permit me to sleep any longer, though I truly wish it would.

Turn on the computer as I pass it on my way to the bathroom to let my cat, Crickett, out. (I keep here closed in the bathroom at night to prevent her from wandering back and forth across me while I sleep and, most bothersome of all, making frequent nose-to-nose inspections to make sure I am truly asleep and not dead.

Check e-mail, putter, sometimes panic-write a blog if it is Monday, Wednesday, or Friday and I’ve somehow not prepared one the day before. Post the blog on the correct days, then turn on the Today Show at 7. (Some habits are indeed strange. Why NBC? Because I always watch NBC. And why do I always watch NBC? Because I always watch NBC. A rose is a rose is a rose.)

Put coffee on...another inexplicable habit, since I honestly am not crazy about coffee and never have been. I can’t remember when I’ve actually finished an entire cup, either at home or out. While waiting for the coffee, I use the same cup I used to pour water into the coffee maker to fill it 2/3 full of V8 juice (I eat shockingly few real vegetables, so this is my pathetic attempt at redemption). Coffee ready, V8 drunk, I wash the cup, put in my ruts-worth of half-and-half, sugar, and coffee, then take a chocolate covered donut from the refrigerator (I am expecting a not of appreciation from the Entemann’s Bakery’s Chocolate Covered Donut division, of which I must be their primary source of income, and it is they who provide the bulk of my calories for the morning).

A couple times a week, I join friends for coffee around 10:30 at a coffee shop about a mile and a half from my apartment, and the walk provides my daily exercise. Then home to write.

There are variations, of course, but basically that is it. Comes 5:30, it’s news time and then the remainder of the evening is usually TV…though finding something to watch in re-run season can be a challenge. I know I should probably read, but after spending most of the day writing, I really prefer to shut my mind off and just float along with the boob tube.

Looking this over, even I find it stupifyingly dull on the surface, until I remember my recent post on the fact that I am in effect more than one entity. Nearly everything mentioned above is totally in the purview of my body, which thereby frees my mind to do what it enjoys most…play in the magic land of words.

So while I am quite sure that my body’s daily routine would bore most people senseless, it represents to me a most equitable division of labor.

And now it is time for my body’s morning coffee and V8 and donut and Today Show while my mind gets ready to go out and play.

New entries are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

Friday, August 03, 2007


If it seems I’m in something of a less-than-saintly mood of late, I can assure you it’s just a phase…a way for me to blow off a little steam, and I hope you’ll bear with me…it will pass soon. But let’s face it, my application for sainthood will never be approved. I have much too short an emotional fuse for it and sometimes startle even myself by going from my usual adorable, charming, sweet-natured self into a raging idiot spewing lava from every orifice in the blink of an eye.

Today offered a perfect example. Though my just-released book, The Dream Ender, is available on, its cover photo does not appear…after more than two weeks…under “Books: The Dream Ender.” Clicking on the title does take you to an information page on the book, which does show the cover.

So I wanted to write to Amazon to ask what could be done to put it up in both places. I found the well-hidden “Contact Us” button and was taken to the proper page, which requested my name and the nature of my wanting to contact them. I was given a number of options: questions about my order, questions about the status of my order, and several other order-related options. At the bottom is an option for “Other matters.” I clicked “Other matters” which presented me with a very attractive page on which I was asked for my name and my order number.

I do not have an order number. My question is not about an order. So I typed my problem in the indicated box anyway, and hit “Submit.” I was told that I had not provided the required information…meaning my order number…and therefore they could not allow me to post my message.

Instant Mt. St. Helens! How the devil can I write them about something other than an order? Simple. I can’t. And why? Because if I’m not writing them about an order, they could care less what my problem might be. Then why the hell offer an “Other matters” option when they totally refuse to acknowledge that there might be another matter?

At one time, businesses used to be there for the convenience of the customer. Now the customer is there only at the convenience of the business. Not only do they not give a hoot in hell about you (despite their infuriatingly hypocritical “Your call is very important to us” baloney), they do everything in their power to make sure that actually getting a response to a question not in their list of “Frequently Asked Questions”, is next to impossible, as it is to find a way to actually contact a human being. With many companies, it is not “next to impossible”: it simply can’t be done. If they do deign to have a customer service telephone line, they have A customer service telephone line. (“Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the next available representative. Your wait time is approximately 3 years, ten months, twenty-nine days, and fifteen minutes”)

I do not have a “land-line” phone; just my cell phone, and I buy blocks of minutes. No matter what business I call, I am treated to: “For English, press 1”—why should I have to press 1 for my own language in my own country? Which is followed by “For so-and-so, press 4; for such and such, press 5; for this and that, press 6…” ad infinitum. Some of them compound the fury by wanting to know if I would be interested in hearing all about their latest product or “service”, and all of which eats into my minutes and my money.

Perhaps it is just me. Maybe it’s the weather (it’s quite hot today). But I think it’s mainly that I do not like to be disregarded, ignored, insulted, summarily dismissed, or treated like pond scum, and that too few people who may agree with me just accept it as their due. It is not their due. It is not my due, and I’ll be damned if I will just shut up and take it if I have any option at all.

Consider this post an option.

Oh, and if you want to know what I really think, just ask.

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