Monday, December 28, 2009

Great week

I have been working on a serious book for what seems like forever because before words ever appear on paper they float around between your ears sometimes dislodging a clump of wax-a sure sign that the writing stage is about to begin. The title is "With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate, When You Can Investigate Reality." There is a lot going on in this book and it is not possible to define it but has some really practical advice that will enable the individual to discover their true identity and unique purpose. We are giving a class on the book the weekend of Feb.19th-the we being Phyllis Ring and I. The third author, Diane Iverson, out in Arizona is beginning a class mid Jan. at the public library with the brilliant Bill Barnes. The other milestone is that about three years ago I had an idea for a sequel to "Lilly&Peggy" which was published in England and distributed here. It was difficult to switch gears between two very different books which is why I believe it took so long. This book is called "The Imperfect Pilgrim"-the problem it is quit long-60 pages roughly. I have sent it to fellow writer and a great editor Jane Harper to edit-something she has done for me in the past. I still have so many other unfinished projects and it is a race between continence and incontinence-mentia and dementia. I hope to begin with polishing some old stories so we can record-friends have told me that they like my voice. The one I really care about is Samaya. I hope she likes what she hears years from now when I am just a picture on the wall.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Xmas past

Christmas is very different these days. When I was a teenager we would gather at an Aunt and Uncle's house . It was my mother's responsibility to get my grandmother there and I always remember the trip going there. My brother and I had a twisted sense of humor and we thought that it was absolutely hilarious to fool with "Ma" as we called our grandmother. She, like my mother had no traditional sense of humor, which made them hilarious to us. Ma would wear a heavy black coat with a wide collar and a large black hat. They would be talking in the front seat ignoring my brother and I. At the time there was a lot of movies out like "West Side Story" that featured street gangs and it was easy to tell a gang member because their collars would be turned up. Very carefully one of us would turn Ma's collar up so she looked like a gang member. The collar would almost cover her ears. We would be hysterical in the back seat looking at Ma the gang member, but in the front seat my mother and Ma would ignore the crazy boys and carry on their own conversation. After a while Ma would notice the collar being turned up and she would unfold it and of course we would reverse the collar after a few minutes and laugh our selves sick. At the gathering place we were well prepared for our uncles who believed in firm handshakes so we would give them the dead fish hand shake which is a limp, lifeless handshake. We would get a puzzled glare and privately we would laugh til we got sick. The food was always phenomenal and their was football in the tv room . Uncles would come by and give their demented nephews 5 or 10 dollars in an envelope. There are only a few of them left now and they don't gather together since Ma passed away. One thing about Ma who really never left the old country in Poland. She never said "I love You". That would not make sense to her. It would be like saying on a hot summer's day that it was warm out. It was a given-if you were her grandchild she would give her life for you or anything you needed but to put it into words did not make sense to her. Me, I don't care. I tell my kids I love them as often as possible and I don't care if it is warm outside.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I hope to record my poems so I figure to put down some thoughts now while I still have rare moments of lucidity. This poem comes from those frequent mornings when my body creaks and my knees ache and I am reminded of all those years of hard physical labor.

World of Lepers

Who writes about lepers?
Only those who wake up less whole
Lepers check the morning bed
For what fell off in the night
They gather hair from the pillows
And give passionate eulogies for each white strand
You will be missed my thin albino friends, you will be missed
Then sitting on the edge of the bed
While my feet rest on the lost years crumpled on the floor
My hand feels three hearts-my three hopes
Still there
There still
Always,always always

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

favorite poem

This early poem is like an old friend that keeps revealing insights into the mystery of relationships-being the strong one today exuding strength and the next day not able to stand much less be of help to someone else.


The song in my head shouts "Last Call"
Up all night singin'
Shuffle my feet
Snap my fingers
That dark air dancin' all around my face
She says, "One more slow dance"
A flower falls from her hair
and I'm too slow to catch it
The petals on the rose fall apart
This time it's my turn
I dry her tears and pick up the pieces
I really thought I could catch
Every single rain drop
Of every single stinging second
Of every single stinging day

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Indian Sunset

With this last piece I figure I have given my grandchildren a sense of their grandmother. It is an impossible task to try to convey a life through words, but I wouldn't want her memory to simply elicit a shrug and "I never knew her".
Her last six months of earthly life were lived in a small town in New Jersey where she was living off of raw juices. A team of friends would volunteer their services taking care of her every need except for ginger snap cookies and Tetley tea, and ice cream and hamburgers... Her main care givers were Janice and Charles Stillhard. No two people worked harder to try and extend the life of another, but that is there story to tell. I want to talk about her memorial which was held some months after her passing. Janice told the story in front of about a hundred family and friends about how she met my mother-a story that was new to me. Janice related how she was desperate to stay alive and had exhausted all treatments that she could find out about. My mother was referred to her by someone in the New York area. She called up and they had a conversation which I can only imagine and she was invited to visit. Janice decided to fly into Portland and for a variety of legitimate reasons she was scared-it was do or die time and she was about to put her life in hands of a real eccentric in every way. She even belonged to something called the Baha'i Faith which Janice thought was a nudist society cult. When she was telling this story I was thinking "Wow! you really wanted to live!" My mother had given Janice directions from Portsmouth, N.H. although she had told Dr. Mary she was coming from Portland, Me. Needless to say the directions made no sense and poor Janice had been driving around frazzled mentally and physically. Finally she made it to Eliot Me. and had found a Green Acre Baha'i sign for a place called Fellowship House. There was a sunburst carving on the sign that sent chills up her back because there was a nudist camp in rural N.J. with a similar sign. She knew she was close but still there was no house with a porch light on an it was eleven at night. She called my mother who said she was right down the street from her house and would she please hurry because she was anxious to get out of her clothes. Suddenly, Janice wasn't so sure wasn't paying too high a price to stay alive. She was greeted warmly at the door and their was a pot of comforting soup on the stove and a comforting presence to serve it. They became close friends and Janice and her daughter actually lived with my mother for several years and Janice became a Baha'i and regained her health-although to my knowledge she never did become a nudist. My daughter Laurel read my contribution to the memorial.

I was hoping
I think you were too
If there was an Indian Summer left in you
A reward for fixing broken bodies and shattered spirits
A last season on the porch
Of swaying and being swayed
By the colorful sleep of the twilight sky
"See this sunset," you'd say
"Abdu'l-Baha loved the sunsets at Green Acre.
Can't you picture him walking on stairs of light
to the other world."
And there you go,
A dying sun burning brightest at the end
All eyes of the universe giving reverence to this moment.
Your moment
To be seen
and heard
and remembered.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The war years

No disrespect to anyone in the service-just a funny remembrance about my brief interaction with the army. About three years ago I wrote a weekly column with a disabled navy vet for the Portsmouth Herald. We interviewed WWII, Korean and Vietnam veterans and the stories they told stay with me. I have great respect for those who served in the military.
I was in college struggling mightily with hard core science courses for which I had no aptitude. All my uncles worked for IBM and they urged me to follow in their footsteps. I know they meant the best for me but it was the proverbial round peg in a square hole scenario. The war in Vietnam was heating up and I was imagining myself trying to hide behind flimsy rice stalks in a swamp with deadly snakes crawling up my pants. While in college I was called along with a thousand other young men to appear for a draft physical in Albany, N.Y. I really was not that worried because I was overweight. In fact the first stop on the physical conveyor belt was stepping on a scale and when the room stopped shaking my physical form was stamped with a huge REJECTION. So here I was not a care in the world amidst all these athletes who gazed on my being with doe like admiration. They knew I was home free and that they were taking the first step in acquiring PTS. A few stops later I took the eye exam and was accused of faking it to get out of the military. I have been legally blind in my right eye since birth but instead of trying to explain I pointed out that I had already been rejected for reasons of being a hopeless blivet. "Oh" was the reply and I eventually ended up in the world's biggest gym with a thousand naked guys all standing in a row for a hernia exam. In front of us was a paunchy hopelessly depressed doctor who actually did this day after day for a living. I thought how does someone go through medical school and end up here-one too many malpractice awards or a serial killer doing community service? He stood in front of us and asked us to bend over and for some reason having to do with a low I.Q. 999 men bent one way and I bent the opposite way. Don't try to picture this because you will never again enjoy your food. The laughter was deafening but Doctor God Hates Me just looked at me with eternal sadness in his eyes. I was sitting serenely in some lounge at the end of the physical when a young man in uniform fetched me to see Colonel Lifer in his private office. I was ready to explain why I bent the wrong way when I was politely asked to take the chair in front of his desk. I noticed the lack of a salute and thought of mentioning that when he said "Son, I have bad news for you."
"Oh my God ! The war in Vietnam is going so badly (all those hippies were right!) that they were going to draft me anyway!"
The officer continued solemnly, "Because of your physical condition we are unable to accept you into the army."
I'm waiting for the "and" and the "but"-we are going to use you for spare parts or we are trading you for POW's. I was free to go home -happy but perplexed forever.
Six months later I received a letter from the government asking "Are the conditions that disqualified you for military service still accurate?" I looked down and I still could not see my you-know-what so I wrote on their letter "yes" and sent it back. A while later they informed me that I actually had to go to a doctor to verify my overweightness. It's not enough being called fat now they doubt my word. I swallowed my pride and went our family doctor-Dr. Asstone(real name), a fat slovenly good natured old guy who blew cigar smoke in my face. In other words a doctor who is not about to lecture anyone about right living. God rest his sanctified soul. I know you are thinking this all fiction from a fevered mind, but it really happened like this.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bump...part two

At Xmas time my brother and I received a spectacular gift from my sportsmen uncle in Connecticut. A bow and arrow set, a real one-no rubber suction cups. I mean real arrows that you could hunt big game with and a target. The problem was that it was winter with snow on the ground and we were told that we would have to wait until spring to use it outside. But what eight and ten year old kids could ever wait months to try out such a neat present? The first opportunity was a Saturday morning when the house was empty. Our kitchen was in the basement so we leaned the the straw filled target against the kitchen cabinets and fired away and proceeded to hit everything but the target. Arrow holes were everywhere and when my mother came home she was furious. We, of course felt guilty-lower than whale effluent and it was only when I was an adult looking back did it dawn on me-who in their right minds would send children a deadly weapon and why did my mother allow me and my brother to touch this present? I never figured that one out. That night we went to the seance-the room was dark and I was seated by the window so I could see the slivers of light come and go. Very quickly the deep familiar voice of Shobona(sp.?) and his personality came through Edith"s vocal cords and he was ;laughing calling me and my brother poor hunters, bad marksmen. Apparently we were the laughing stock of the supernatural world. He and the other Indians had been watching us make fools of ourselves earlier in the day. The seance broke up and afterward we ate supper together with everyone contributing a couple of dollars for food. She did not charge for the seance. The meal was a mixture of hamburger, baked beans. onions and ketchup with bread and butter. This is still a favorite meal of mine to this day. Years later my mother was working on a patient trying to convince this person to seek medical treatment for what my mother suspected was a dangerous tumor. Dr. Mary was losing the battle when the phone rang. She said angrily, "I know! I know! but she won't listen to me! Here you tell her." The lady turned white as a proverbial ghost as Edith a thousand miles away told the lady that she had to act immediately-she did and saved her life. My mother had become a Baha'i in Iowa and dutifully shied away from the supernatural in the future as this practice was frowned upon, but she never tired of telling this story. Me, I miss sitting by the window watching the slivers of light come and go.