The music business riles me. It always has; business surrounding art makes me wary and irritable. But I just don't know what is going to happen now. How on earth does any musician make a living any more? The digital age has crushed the traditional music business into dust, and I don't think that is such a bad thing, but how can it be reinvented to serve the musicians and the public?

Unless you are already a monster-sized musical commodity, you ain't making any money off of albums. The second it gets out, there's a zillion download links for free all over the internet. The record companies can get the links killed, and do, but never all of them. It is a losing battle when you have content that now can so easily be perfectly replicated and passed on in mere minutes. No amount of spiteful shit lawsuits from the RIAA are going to make a damn bit of difference, no amount of lame buggy copy-protection. Someone will always be one step ahead now, always. Sometimes I wonder if it is karma for the shady way so many record companies ran their businesses for so long. But in the end, the artist suffers, then and now.

So, if you cannot expect to make money off your recordings because it is impossible to control the amount of copies that will be freely distributed no matter what you do, you have to think differently as a musician. One way to make bucks, big bucks sometimes, is to license your songs for ringtones, commercials, movies, videogames, whatever. Of course the chances that your song will be picked to be in an iTunes commercial, therefore ensuring its commercial success is minuscule, as everyone and his grandma has a band. His Grandma would be a good band name. What's left is merchandising and money from touring. But there are costs with that as well, unless you are traveling and sleeping in a van and setting up your own equipment and eating Campbell's soup cold from the can in the van on top of your guitar case.

I think about what I would do if I were a musician today, determined to be able to afford Progresso soup in a tour bus sitting on a padded bench seat. What is it that is important about being a musician? I guess that is different for everyone. I think, for me anyway, it would be about being heard, putting what you do just out there and seeing what happens. I guess I would make any of my songs available free, put out the digital hat if someone wanted to toss me a few bucks for them, try to book a lot of gigs, and keep my day job with its insurance and 401K and hope for the best.

I will watch with great interest how the industry finally comes to terms with HELLO! REALITY! and how musicians keep going despite it all. I see good things in musicians delivering music now with no middleman, taking more responsibility for shaping their careers.

Ray Davies again gets the last word, from 1970:


It's hard to know what to say sometimes.

Across the world, another useless monstrous terrorist attack in India, hundreds dead too in African riots. Here, people shopping for the holidays under a sky so dark it seems like night, runners padding by with their dogs, cartoons chattering away on the TV. How do I explain that it is all part of the same thing? How do I convince anyone that there is good, more good than bad? How do I believe it myself?

Just gotta keep trying.






As Sarah cheerily drew back the curtains, the afternoon sunlight burst into their room, going from almost pitch black to bright day, causing her to squint. She looked out the window and down to the street, and saw a woman in the crosswalk pushing a bright red stroller.

“Peter! What is your daughter’s name?” She realized suddenly, that she didn’t know it, thought it odd that she didn’t. She remembered that he had mentioned in passing about a month ago that it was the child’s 1st birthday. Sarah turned from the window and looked at him, faced away from her, adjusting his belt, head down. He waited a few seconds before answering.


Oh, Sarah thought, how cute. Sort of old-fashioned and unlikely, but still cute. She walked over to the desk and picked up her watch and put it on her wrist. “I suppose she is walking now, yes?” Peter did not say anything, a longer pause, then spoke, even more into his chest.

“I don’t know.”

Sarah stopped to look at his face and try to catch his eye. He did not look over. “What? You don’t know?” she asked, confused. This was strange. He just stood there, didn’t move to put his shirt on, just stood for some time.

“My wife gave her up for adoption when she was born.” He walked to the chair where his blue shirt was, picked it up, held it in his hands.

Sarah reeled back a bit, her mind spinning. “What? What??? She gave her up?? What are you saying? Why?”

He slid his shirt on, stiffly, spoke plainly, quietly. “She didn’t want her.”

Sarah plopped down in the desk chair, trying to process what Peter was saying. “So…you are telling me that she got pregnant, decided to have the baby but didn’t want a baby, and gave her up. Is that right??”


She paused, took a breath. “Well, what about you? Didn’t you want her??”

Peter didn’t speak again for a time, buttoned his shirt, tucked it into his pants. He finally looked at Sarah, his eyes bright and focused hard on her face. “She didn’t want her.” He turned away again, point made.

Sarah sat, feeling heavy and tired suddenly and thought for a few minutes. “When did you see Pearl last?”

Peter sat on the edge of the bed and put on his socks, then shoes. “On her fourth or fifth day of life.”

What an odd way to say that, Sarah thought. She stared at him, realizing for the first time how little she knew about him, unsettled by the idea, saddened, thinking.

She rose, slipped on her heels, gathered up her purse. “OK?” she nodded at him, and he gave her a small, quick smile back.

They walked out of the room and made their way down to the hotel parking garage and as always, kissed each other on the cheek and gave a single hand squeeze before heading off to their separate cars, Sarah’s heels click-clacking off the echoing concrete.


A couple of days ago I got in the latest issue of Rolling Stone magazine, and there on the cover is Britney Spears, smiling, flat-stomached, and belly-ringed. Now, I could complain bitterly that Ms. Spears has absolutely no business being on the cover of what is purported to be a serious music magazine. She is a music commodity, not a music talent. But Rolling Stone stays in business by selling magazines, and Britney and her drama sells, still. The gist of the article I think is that (oh shock) fame is a bitch, be careful what you ask for, etc.

Perhaps it is a bit too obvious to suggest she retire from public life if she doesn’t care for the glare of the spotlight. Yes, perhaps just a touch too practical. She surely has enough money, does not need to work, could easily retire to the depths of small-town Louisiana, raise her children, and be easily enough forgotten. But, no, a cover shot on Rolling Stone is the plan of action. I do not disagree with Ms. Spears that the public is relentless in stalking her, judging her; it isn’t fair, or cool, or right. But that’s the deal now, and when you know it, hate it, but still choose to play, well, quit whining.

It got me thinking about the psychological need for and ramifications of fame. Not attention, not praise – fame. Ray Davies wrote a project in 1974 called “Starmaker” that ended up as both a Kinks album (“Soap Opera”) and a television play in the UK. It takes a rather quirky look at the effects of this need on one man. The story begins as Norman, our Everyman Rock Star, is getting up and ready to go to work at his stultifying desk job in a bland office block somewhere, so he can “research” his next great musical project. He is arrogant, egotistical, condescending, ready to explore the lives of the “Ordinary People” by becoming one of them, but only until he has enough detail to begin his eagerly-awaited project.

His wife sees to his needs, supports his grand plans, gazes at him in awe and adoration. But as the story progresses, cracks appear. She gets irritable, angry, sad, frustrated with him. When she finally has had enough and complains, Norman says to her, “Do you think that I would live here, with you, in this squalor, if it wasn’t for my work?” She then reveals to us, and to him, that he is no rock star; he really is normal dull Norman with the desk job, and his fantasies of fame are a lie. She will no longer play along, as it is clear Norman has lost touch with reality completely. As he accepts that he must stop his double life and returns to be “A Face In The Crowd,” there is both a sense of great melancholy and a worrisome undercurrent of mental illness, unresolved.

As a creative work, I don’t feel Ray Davies fully succeeded with the Starmaker project, as the story seems more locked in his head than fully fleshed out for the listener. I wonder how much of it was personal. He had gone through a traumatic divorce the year before from his young wife, who had been a fan before the Kinks hit the big time in 1964. She knew Ray before he was famous, saw him through profound changes, pressure, breakdowns, and triumphs. I don’t doubt that she said to him at some point, “Just who do you think you are?” as the wife in Starmaker did to Norman. Was he able to answer her?

Who are you? Who, who? Does fame change your very DNA? Is there little left of the person that was? Is it so addictive that it cannot be cast aside once you have it, even at the cost of every single real person in your life? Whom do you trust when those people have had enough?

I see the cover shot, and I see the cost, continued.

Well, enjoy Ray Davies in his underwear, in any case.


Why did I eat a McRib sandwich today, WHY? WHY?


Clara stared at the big white bowl of creamy mashed potatoes in front of her, They looked so tasty, she thought, all swirly and hot with a big pat of sunny yellow butter melting rivers into the fluff. She thought she would like to put her face right into the bowl and just eat them right up. The ceramic bowl reminded her of the one her own mother used; she could almost feel the ridges on the side, the heft of it, carrying it with oven mitts to the table. Her mother had made the best mashed potatoes, with a ricer, when people took the time to do such things. Clara could smell the richness of the potatoes, along with the brown gravy, almost burnt, the juicy turkey, the sausage stuffing, the tang of the cranberry sauce, the orange sweetness of the yams, crusty and caramelized. She knew it was a good meal, good food today, different of course. How she wanted to just poke a finger into those beautiful, perfect potatoes and lick her finger, quickly, before the hot burnt her skin. A cloud in a bowl, on a table of white.


“Clara? Clara, honey, do you want some turkey? It’s so good!” Adele bent over Clara, offering up a forkful of meat, after carefully cutting it into tiny pieces. Clara just stared ahead, blue eyes bright but fixed. Adele sighed, and spoke sadly to the shift supervisor, who was standing a few feet away adjusting a crooked “Happy Thanksgiving” sign on the wall. “Kathleen, she just doesn’t want anything today, I guess.”

“Oh, well, Adele, you tried. Maybe she just isn’t hungry now. Dennis can save her plate for later.” Kathleen stepped back, and looked at the sign with her hands on her hips. Good enough.

Adele unlocked the wheels of Clara’s wheelchair, and carefully pulled her back from the table and slowly pushed her down the hall to the dayroom. The Macy’s parade was on the television, a big Thanksgiving turkey balloon floating in the sky there, bound to earth by strings and human hands.


Another good run at Marshall's today. I found my favorite pair, the Guess Skinny Starlet, and went down another size. This caused me to grin wildly in the fitting room. I also grinned wildly to try on another pair, a different brand with what I am quite sure is the World's Shortest Zipper. It appears to be 1" long. HA HA. NONE MORE SHORT.

While I was in the fitting room, grinning, I overheard two women talking in accents I could not quite place, switching back and forth from English to the other language:

Woman 1: I like everything comfortable. I don't want anything tight. Why? What for?
Woman 2: Oh, yes, yes, I know what you mean. I hate anything tight around my waist, it gives me gas.
Woman 1: I should be uncomfortable? No, ting ting ting ting tang clack bing clack bong ting.
Woman 2: Oh, ting ting ting bip boop baahhh bip ting ting, yes.
Woman 1: What is the size of that?
Woman 2: It says ting ting clack ting clack.
Woman 1: I want bigger. Not so loose now. Where is that bip bip bing ting clack ding dong ting? I saw it yesterday, it was so pretty color, but I think someone buy it.
Woman 2: Oh, that is too bad. Bing ting ting clack?

They were gone by the time I exited with my garments, so I never saw the women. I hope they found colorful, comfortable, pretty clothes that did not give them gas.

The only real disappointment was the Nonna wasn't there again at the fitting room. Maybe she got deported, and is somewhere in Moscow, scowling and teasing her hair. I even brought my camera this time. Oh, well.

NO 2

The chance that I will listen to Guns 'N Roses "Chinese Democracy" album is currently the tiniest unit of measurement known, which is the yocto, at 10^-24 or 1 septillionth.

The More You Know.


I have been whining and carping about this for years, but this year I am totally sticking to it: I AM REVOLTING AGAINST CHRISTMAS. People, I have HAD IT. Well, last year I had also HAD IT, but this year I have even more HAD IT. And it's not like I am any Scrooge or such; I really like the idea of Christmas, provided it has nothing do to with any actual religious notions. I like the Christmas of quiet charity and goodwill and thoughtfulness and immodest decorations. I like Christmas stockings and hot cocoa and Vince Guaraldi and the smell of fresh pine needles.

But what Christmas reality has been for me for the last umptibillion years is a burdensome solo slog of massive present buying, the baking of a store's worth of holiday treats to be given to umptibillion teachers, neighbors, friends, and service providers, and presents on top of that. Hundreds of dollars in tip money. One hundred Christmas cards designed, written, addressed, and sent. Just the right thing for everyone, every time.


It doesn't feel right anymore. Nobody needs a goddamn thing, it is all just more STUFFFFFFFFFFFFFF that is played with or used a couple of times and forgotten. There is no real Christmas spirit behind it all; just a Festival of MORE MORE MORE.


But how? It's not like I want to abandon Christmas, but I simply have to gear it way down. It makes me hate December and get crabby and overloaded and I don't want to feel that way anymore. And no, I am not going to be getting any help with any of that. I have already told the kids they should make their lists and think very very hard about what is really important to them, because it is simply going to be less this year. I would SO rather take them somewhere for an experience, some kind of travel, than buy another pink plastic toy or Super Mario Crack Den Playtime Wii game.

So we will see. My resolve is strong now, and I think it is the right thing to do. Last year I broke down on Christmas Eve Day and went on a buying frenzy because I thought the kids didn't have enough. I was wrong. They are, and have actually always been, very easy to please and they really are genuinely happy with anything they get. They are not greedy. It has more been me and the rest of the family that uses presents to get their smiles and giddy joy, trying to give them magic, a memorable Christmas. But one toy and gift bonanza melts into another, year after year. There really isn't anything memorable about any of them.

It is up to me to figure out what exactly I want to do. Watch this space.


My youngest child is in the process of learning how to read. Tonight she read from a big book of Dick And Jane stories, as did her two older brothers when they learned to read. My mother, who is almost 82, also read Dick And Jane stories and still has her 1st grader primer. The stories are of course extremely basic but cleverly constructed to build reading strengths from one story to the next, which is why they work so well. There is a logic to the simplicity of them. The illustrations, although dated, are charming and lively.

When I first saw a Dick and Jane book, I thought that they were in Special Ed. I honestly thought they were slow children. I was absolutely confused as to why kids read the stories; they seemed almost cruelly paced. Dick, Jane, Sally, and Spot spent their days either confused or giggling, while telling each other to LOOK, LOOK! Look at what, a scorpion crawling across Sally's face? Damn, you dummies, brush it off already, quit with the LOOK, LOOK shit! I didn't get it at all.

Well, LOOK, LOOK. Dick And Jane and Friends are still going strong in 2008, and I am writing on a site called Diarrhea Island. Who is slow NOW, eh?


You wanna know something that irritates the HELL out of me? THE GRATEFUL DEAD. This band AGITATES ME A WHOLE LOT. I'm not even kidding, if I hear them for even a few seconds I start to get mad and get a headache and throw my hands up in the air and my mouth drops and my head shakes and I go MY GOD! I can't help it. THEY OFFEND ME.

Yes, I know Jerry Garcia is dead. Yes, he seems like he was a pleasant man with a good sense of humor. BUT JESUS CHRIST. How can someone have so consistently played a guitar with so little musicality? It sounds like someone let a rat run free on the fretboard. Not only that, but all the members of the band sound like they were in separate rooms from each other, utterly unconcerned with being in the same key or tempo. The singing sounds like Bobby Brady's cracking pubescent voice pushed through a leaky bellows, and the whole effort put together, every song in the SAME MEANDERING SHUFFLE PACE, is SO WEAK that it HURTS ME.

ANSWER ME. How can you play this kind of music for FOUR HOURS AT A TIME? Do they sleep in the middle? I am actually serious. An advertisement for JUST SAY NO.

I cannot tolerate The Grateful Dead. Thank you.


Oh, it doesn't take too long to realize that once you pop out of the womb, you are immediately and forthwith sent to the circus. Clowns to the left of you, jokers to the right, the elephant in the room, the surly circus bear, the jugglers, and you, you are sent to the high-wire, with a net underneath that ranges from springy and forgiving to non-existent.

You will spend your whole life walking the line. Your act of balance is your carnival job, sometimes to the entertainment of the popcorn-munching audience.

My natural inclination is to stare down at any given line, and resent it for being there at all. Fuck You, Line, I say, wondering who exactly put it there and how much attention I should give it. Bah. I am a Line Stepper-Offer. But of course, this sometimes does not work out very well, and you take a Karl Wallenda to the pavement. Provided death this time was not the outcome, you get up again, climb the ladder and face down another line, or the same line. Your rational brain is supposed to be your steadying pole, to help you decide how far to gently tip to either side to constantly readjust to what goes on around you. Mr. Spock should've joined the circus. But he is no fun, and humans have feelings and emotions that make their feet wobbly, their hearts beat wildly,and errant smiles break out, all of which can be fun, or frightening, but definitely more on the Captain Kirk side of the deal.

Lines force you to make decisions, evaluate, reason. They keep you in place, and take you to another place. They are a challenge, and a restriction. They can make you dizzy with fear, or bold with confidence. You can cross them, blur them, draw them, throw them, be hung out to dry on them, even need one to survive. Every choice you make, you are somewhere walking on a line, even though you may not be aware of it.

The circus is always in town because it is the town. Sometimes you will make it across your high-wire to applause, spotlights, the Master of Ceremonies calling your name. Much more often, you cross alone, or fall, without so much as a peanut from the peanut gallery. The rewards and failures are yours, and only really known to you. With any luck as the years go by you gain more experience, the falls are fewer, and you have reinforced that damn net as best you can, and a pink horse with a huge feathery plume on its head hasn't surreptitiously chewed through the rope as you were adjusting your leotard.

Marina Topley-Bird, "Carnies."


I was 21 the first time I ever ate sushi. This was, oddly enough, in Scottsdale, Arizona, where you do not think of fresh raw fish, just dust and dirt and scorpions and lizards. Nonetheless, I was up for the experience and we ended up at quite a nice place called Ayako of Tokyo. I was with my boyfriend and a childhood friend of his, which also was then his boss at the hotel they both worked at in Scottsdale. I might mention here that the boss/friend, Bob, was also completely nuts and completely drunk most hours of the day or night.

We sat at the sushi bar, and I was instructed on what to try by the guys, already sushi pros. Of course, they made me try uni, which looks and tastes like infant crap, and also octopus that you could chew on for five days or so. I ended up getting a California roll, some salmon, tuna, all the stuff most folks new to sushi tend to like, and I thought it was all marvelous. The sake was burn-y in my chest, and I noticed Bob downing them at a remarkable and expensive rate.

The waitresses were all very proper Japanese geisha-type women, and they would come behind the sushi bar to deliver the orders from the people in other parts of the restaurant to the very busy sushi chefs. About halfway through our meal, Bob waited until one of the waitresses had her back to us but was very close. He then let out an A-bomb of a belch. It overrode all sound in the restaurant, even the tink-tink-tink of the koto music, and the other diners' chatter, and the clomp clomp of the sushi knife cutting the rolls into little cylinders. BRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP! As my boyfriend and I looked over at him in total horror, in that second Bob with perfect timing looked at me with an even-more horrified look and shouted with a gasp, "MARIANNE!!!!"

The waitress whipped around to face us, turned her eyes on me in total and complete disgust, scowled, and strode off in a huff before I could even stammer, "It-it-it- wasn't ME!!! REALLY!" The guys broke into convulsive laughter while I sat there, red-faced and mortified but amused as well. Dammit. I was had.

For the rest of the meal whenever the waitress would come by me she would shoot daggers and make fluffy disgust sounds, which just made the guys laugh even more.

We finished, and I endured the evil looks of ALL the waitresses as I slunk from the restaurant. Clearly, the one told the others about the filthy stomach-gas-emitting American woman at the sushi bar. We got to the parking lot as the sun was going down, 100 degrees or more, palm trees bending only slightly in the hot breeze. We laughed, and I kicked Bob's yellow BMW. He then drove us home in a car ride best described as one part NASCAR, one part Tilt-A-Whirl, and one part Death Wish.

Lessons Learned: Do Not Go Out To Eat With Bob. Never, Ever, Ever, Ever Drive With Bob, Especially After You Kicked His Car And He Was Smashed On Sake.

I have yet to belch in a sushi restaurant to this day.


I have a headache
Which means this and only this
Jack shit for you all.



I feel the hot moist air on my face
peering over the rim
to the heady lava muck
I close my eyes
and breathe in
and smell the earth and the rain
from the mountain
and warmth fills me
energy buzzzzzzzzzes through me

It's 7:02AM
first cup of the


Dance is truth. There is hardly any other kind of expression I can think of that comes straight from the soul. Elegant or fluid or clumsy or clunky, it does not matter. It is that one spirit coming out, as best able, free in the air for a moment, almost tangible as it floats.

Therefore, the expression “dancing around the truth” irritates me. I get the idea of side-stepping, avoiding, circling, but I hate for dancing to be used as a metaphor for lies. Like if Fred and Ginger were swooping around a big fat elephant in the middle of a ballroom, and the elephant had a big sign on it that said, “YOU CAN’T AVOID ME. I AM THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM, KNOWN AS TRUTH.” Well, I think that Fred and Ginger’s swooping is just their truthiness coming out, and as soon as they finished their kickass steppings, they would attend to the elephant immediately in a kind and direct manner. People who aren’t afraid to dance know quite a bit about truth. Yes, even though Elaine on Seinfeld didn’t know she was a terrible dancer, she still let that shit out and had fun if truth be told.

The Truthful Elephant, with any luck, would not be sent to a circus to be made to dance someone else’s dance, but set free somewhere he could figure out his own stampy thing.

Dig it.


Lori was my best friend when I was in early elementary school, much to the distress of my mother. She was a cute freckle-face redhead, smart and cool, and lived across the highway where I lived, down the road and across from the lake. Her parents, unlike mine, were very young, still in their 20s, and everything was different about how they lived, so much more...unsupervised.

I played more over at her house than mine because she got in trouble a couple times for stealing something from our bathroom or something like that. I liked it better over there anyway. Her parents had a big record collection, same stuff that I liked, their house was incredibly messy so you never had to worry about making a further mess, they had a pool, and cats, and no one really seemed to be there most of the time. I can remember after the stealing incidents how my mom referred to Lori as "a troubled child," but I never saw her like that, and really, she wasn't. She was a hard worker in school, always good to me, and was fun to be with. Sometimes I think she stole the things because she wanted my mom's attention. I think my mom came to think this as well, and forgave her. She was just a little girl in a fake fur purple poncho, after all.

I don't think my mom went inside their house more than once. Just the dishes piled high in the sink freaked her out. Good thing she didn't go down in the basement to see the giant poster of a naked woman, the large collection of Playboy mags in the living room, or the "incense" that was often being burned. LOL late-'60s. But despite all of this counter-culture stuff and the definite lack of adult presence, we really didn't do anything that outrageous. I guess the worst was poking around by the lake with her older brother and stealing a neighbor's boat. We paddled around in it, giggling, in the murky dark green water for a few minutes, then tied it back up to the dock and high-tailed it back home. I hope the knot held.

The Halloween I was eight, I decided not to trick-or-treat in my neighborhood with Lori, and I went with another friend who had recently moved and wanted an old buddy to come with her. I felt bad about it, but at that age you really don't know how to explain that, you just do what you do. I was a pirate that year; a good costume that my mom and I made after looking at some pictures in the World Book. I even had a cool little wooden treasure chest to use for candy booty. Lori said she was going as a fairy, with bright purple wings.

My mom told me that Lori and her brother came to the house that night, somewhere around 8PM or so. My mom was glad to see them, gave them plenty of candy and asked them to be careful crossing the road back to their house. It was a two-lane rural highway we lived on, relatively busy for the town's size as cars and trucks cut across to get to I-94. The speed limit was 45, slowing as you entered the town center about a mile away. I was strictly forbidden to ride my bike on it at all, and could only cross it if I looked right and left about a million times, as there was a small rise to the road, and the cars came over it quickly. Mom stood in the doorway at the end of our longish driveway, to watch them cross.

Lori's brother crossed first, assumed Lori was right behind him, tells my mom. But she had stopped dead in the middle of the road, transfixed by the headlights of an oncoming car, a little deer with purple wings. Her brother yelled at her to run, as did my mother, but she could not move a muscle. Tires screeched, too late. She was hit, and flew up onto the hood of the car, then into the air, falling onto the grayed asphalt under the big street light. My mom ran to her immediately, as did the driver and Lori's brother, and all the rest of the neighbors.

A mile away, I opened my wooden chest for some candy, and heard sirens wailing, something very very unusual to hear in my town. My friend and I looked at each other, wondering aloud what could have happened.

Lori missed many months of school, her pelvis and legs broken, face scarred. I wanted to see her, but for some reason no one took me. I remember making cards for her at school along with the other kids, to be taken to the hospital. I had wondered, if I had gone with her that night instead, could I have stopped it from happening? Or would it have happened to me? I felt very sad, and I ached to think of my friend.

When she finally came back to school, she was not the same little girl. She had grown serious, older, like a stone had settled in her heart. She wasn't playful, and seemed disconnected from everyone, including me. Again, I could see this, but I was just too little to be able to name it, or even say anything about it.

A year later, I moved to another town. We stayed friends for maybe a year after that, but then it drifted away. I saw her many years later, late in high school, and she still seemed very serious. She was doing very well in school, set to go to a good college. I could still see the scars on her face. We never talked about what had happened.

I imagine that she made a good life for herself, with the discipline and focus that seemed to be lacking in her parents, probably went on to have a family and such. I hope someday that she was able to smile more, and maybe think once in a blue moon about rogue boats, and dancing to 45s, and riding bikes down the big hill, free.


It occurred to me today: I would really like to see David Bowie fix a leaky kitchen sink. Now, I cannot say why this thought came to me, other than that random amusing stuff pops into my head every few seconds, but it caught me for awhile and I began to imagine exactly what this would look like, and whether or not I thought it was preposterous. Should it be? David Bowie strikes me as a very intelligent and capable man, and from everything I have read or heard anecdotally, he is not a giant diva or a jerk, has a good sense of humor and can chat it up with the regular folk. But does that translate into plumbing ability and/or desire to plumb? I am just not sure. I would definitely watch a television show devoted to answering this question.

The look into the daily lives of celebrities has long been a subject of fascination, and has for the most part been played out to its end, it seems. When you are mining people as useless, crass, and chunky as the Kardashians, there seems little left of the genre. None of them could or ever would fix a sink. It is possible that none knows how to turn a faucet on and off; the simple twisting motion might actually overload the Kardashian brains to such a degree that their asses would explode. I feel like Paul McCartney could and would fix a faucet; he lived on a farm for many years and although I am quite sure he had help there, living in a remote Scottish pasture would have to make you more handy by default. I wonder if there is such a thing as vegan haggis. Hmm.

I think Beyonce could fix a sink, but would try not to. I think P. Diddy could, but would panic and just stuff a pile of Sean John t-shirts around it as a stop-gap while calling Timbaland for advice. Little David Archuleta would give it go, mainly I think because he would be afraid his dad would be mad if he didn’t. Joan Rivers would as soon drown in a sea of kitchen sink filth water as try to fix it, and Perez Hilton would join her in a last-minute attempt to escape by making a raft out of Botox syringes lashed together with the stolen collagen of young Nicaraguan virgins. I think Ryan Seacrest would surprise us all and fix the leak, but Simon Cowell would just try to sneer it into submission. Catch a ride with Joan and Perez, buddy.

It still comes down to the question, now eternal for me: COULD and WOULD David Bowie fix a leaky kitchen sink, all by himself, no one else? I love the vision of him rolling up his fashionable sleeves, getting out an immaculate and stylish set of precision German tools, sussing up the situation, and getting right down to it, spray and spew and all. David, if you want to go halfsies with me on this for a show pitch, call me. I’ll just be here mucking around on the island.



Is that bad to say? I don't think I am alone. I don't care for monkeys, apes, chimps, baboons, nit-riddled primates, any of them.I DON'T TRUST 'EM.

I realize they are our closest animal relatives, and are bright, clever, resourceful, and mindful. But they creep me out. They didn't used to. When I was a kid I thought monkeys were cool, and it would be the coolest to have one. You could train it to do stuff for you, like clean your room, or turn the TV channel so you didn't have to get up to do it, or weed the garden. How I hated weeding the garden. Goddamn vegetables anyway. You could take your monkey to school, and you would be the awesomest kid ever. The monkey could perch on your shoulder, or maybe even have its own little desk where it could draw monkey pictures, which you could then sell to your classmates for a buck each on the playground at recess. If you weren't ready with a homework assignment you could get your monkey to cause a distraction, like swing from the ceiling lights, or pee on the floor, or mock the teacher by making amusing faces. All of this would have been very good, had it been possible.

But I am not as delusional as our friend Michael "WTF Is That??" Jackson, and never actually purchased a monkey. I realized that monkeys were not so good. They were sour and jittery and could rip my arm off in one second for no good reason at all. I like my monkeys to be stable and non-violent, and I think this is just not realistic. I also do not want to clean up monkey diapers, nor attempt at all to wipe a monkey butt. If monkeys are so smart, how come you can't train them to poop and pee in the toilet? Well, maybe you can, but I don't actually want to Google that or even think about it.

Monkeys seem pissed off to me all the time. I don't blame them. They have enough cognition of things to realize that stuff sucks, but not the abstraction to realize that things will get better, like with kids. Monkeys are like edgy little preschoolers, ready to tantrum up a storm if you don't get them a damn banana fast enough. I don't need that! NO MONKEYS FOR ME, THANKS.

The only one I ever really liked was Koko, the sign-language-speaking gorilla. I am impressed with any animal who effectively communicates with another species in a form of English. Koko is a fascinating creature, who gives us great insight into the mental workings and emotions of gorillas, as important as going to the moon, really, in the profound meaning of it. But still, I would not really want to have Koko, primarily because she could crush me to death and also win a stare-down contest. I wonder if someday Koko will sign to her handlers, "Holy shit! I could've had a V-8!"

I feel better for venting about monkeys. On a site called "Diarrhea Island." TRY THAT, YOU DIRTY APES!

Here's some dubious use of chimpanzees for cheap entertainment:


Miriam Makeba died last night.

What a career she had, and what a life. I became familiar with her music through the song "Pata Pata," which was a big hit when I was a little kid, and through her work with jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela. My jazz trumpeter dad was a fan of his, and of many types of world music, come to think of it, and I had free reign over his record collection. I knew very little of South Africa when I was small, had some vague hazy idea of apartheid, which I somehow linked in my baby brain with the civil rights struggles here that I would see on the news. I don't know that I ever asked anyone why this was happening, or if it would ever stop.

I think about Miriam, denied her homeland for 30 years, denied going to her own mother's funeral. I think about the amazing resources of the human spirit, and the joy and healing of music that crosses all cultures, all boundaries. Music can come from joy or pain; it is such a primal, basic human response, maybe even a need. It can ease sorrow, pass time, make something good greater, and bring people together. Miriam was able to transcend her own very substantial obstacles in life to bring her talent and message to others. I find this deeply honorable, and it touches me. It is one thing to suffer and survive; another much greater thing to find a way to thrive.

How it comes to pass that a displaced South African woman can make a preschooler in rural Wisconsin dance to her wonderful music is quite something, is it not? Music traveled that far, all the way from Miriam to Marianne. Thank you, Miriam.



Shooting through, winding 'round
I whisk hats off heads
Twist through empty alleyways
Whipping up newspapers into the air
Grumbling trash into the gutter
I chill the bones
I caress the cheek
I go and go and go
Until all my puff is gone
I rest, gathering bluster for another day.




It was a statement, flat and simple, with just an edge of command.

"Mom. Are you listening?" The girl pushed her two hands down on the cream-colored kitchen counter as if to spring her body upwards. A typically teenage spastic gesture.

"Mmm...yes...what did you say? I couldn't hear you," the mother replied, not once glancing over from her large sizzling pan of Hamburger Helper.

"Mom, are you going into town today?" the girl's voice lifted gently, sweetly, hanging with expectation.

"No, I don't think so. I have work to do here. Have you asked your father?" knowing, of course, that he would not be leaving the house except to visit one of the six bars in the tiny one-horse burg they lived in.

As the sugar melted off her mouth, the girl steadied herself, ready for a fight. "He's not going anywhere! Why aren't you going? I've got nothing to do here! How can you make me sit in the house like this?"

"I can't always do everything that you all want me to do," the mother sighed. "Why don't you visit your friend?"

"Oh GOD. I'm NOT doing anything with her. You gotta be kidding" The girl dramatically rolled her eyes, speaking of a neighborhood girl who still played with dolls. "All of my friends are IN TOWN. THere's stuff to DO THERE. I want to go to Lisa's house. We'd go to the beach and then her brother would bring me home, OK? OK??"

"I don't think so, honey. Someone has to stay and answer the phone today. It might be work and I --"

"Oh MAN! It would just take a few minutes! Can't you just DO it?" The girl fumed, re-thought her strategy, and calmed on the surface. "Maybe later? Around two? You could get some groceries. We almost son't have any milk and I need some Diet Coke. You said you needed to go."

The mother at last looked up at her daughter, fixed on her, feeling both sorry and annoyed. "I can't promise anything. "Maybe after I finish typing this letter for Dad, but I don't think so."

"AAH!" The girl let out a blast of frustration, stomping bitterly out of the kitchen, spewing her black exhaust of boredom all through the house.


I swear, hair salons are the most dramatic places. There’s always some personal crap spilling over into the washbowls. Today, I go in for color and hear that:

-- my regular girl met a guy in the military over the internet, got married, and moved away since I was last in a couple of months ago;

-- the salon owner is now divorced;

--my new girl, someone I like and know a bit, has also recently become sans boyfriend.

How all this happened is really none of my business, and I don’t prod, but I hear anyway. As I get the slop plopped on my head, I tell my new girl I am sorry to hear about her breakup. She says that she hopes it is all for the best, in a reasoned and pleasant way. She tells me that she and the salon owner are planning a girls’-only trip to Vegas. I can only imagine – they are both extremely good looking women, and will attract a great deal of attention. She says she is hoping for lots of free drinks. I think about this while my hair soaks up the reddish dark brown dye, and I have trouble relating. I cannot ever imagine wanting to do that, and never did do it. Not that I was ever in their league of looks, but that isn’t in my mind. Maybe I am not all that social? Or maybe that is just not my idea of fun. I don’t ever want strange people to buy me drinks, and certainly never want to feel obligated to talk to anyone if they do. I would rather just be on my own, watching and thinking. I’m gonna say it: my own mind is better company than some drunken douchebag with a pile of cash looking for the filet of the day.

But that said, I hope they have a good time, and I bet you they really will.

I wonder, too, what happened to the salon owner’s dog – who got it in the divorce? They didn’t have any kids, so I bet that was a mediation item. He looked like a city rat.

I wonder if anyone cried.

I hear my regular girl now has her hands full Down South somewhere, now the parent of her two-year-old and her new husband’s two-year-old. I also hear she is eager to get back to work. Ha ha. No kidding! I think she is only 23 or so. I hope he doesn’t get sent overseas.

My new girl, the salon owner, the salon owner’s sister, and I plot out the next move on my hair for next month, as they play with my newly-colored lovely shiny hair. We agree that we are all pleased with the color, we are growing out the length a bit, and figuring a new formula for the highlights. I pay, put on my raincoat, and catch a glimpse of myself in a long mirror as I leave the salon. I don’t look like the same person from a year ago, and I do a double-take, and walk out into the rain.


Half asleep
Half awake
Feet planted firmly
At the bottom of the lake
Breathing in
A terrible mistake
Standing, still
At the bottom of the lake.


What a crappy morning. Stomach pain woke me out of sleep twice, which usually means one thing: I ingested some bad food and now it must quickly leave me. I try to think what I ate yesterday, as I make my way to the, coffee, coffee, a piece of blueberry bread, For the life of me, I cannot recall anything else, and I think that may be everything. Well, that's not good. I don't see how a piece of blueberry bread could be the cause of such intensity, bah. So, tired and dizzy and disoriented, I go back to bed, and stay there until noon, glad that I had the option to rest. I am easing back into my day, not sick for long.

Being sick sucks. This is my succinct way of underlining the old adage that if you don't have your health, you ain't got nothin'. I used to hear this when I was younger and dismiss it as an old person's lament. Good health seemed endless and reasonable, and who wants to get old anyway? Well, I think I do, at least to see what fresh hell pokes its fiery little head around the corner next, anyway. I like the option.

I see myself as very fortunate as to have not suffered any kind of major illness as of yet. I have had plenty of downtime because of these pesky food problems, but they pass and I am not damaged for it. But there is a change in the air. I am old enough now where my friends and family, those my age and older, are starting to get ill, and sometimes stay ill. Some of these illnesses are cruelly random; some would have been preventable. I don't know which is worse sometimes. My dad, with fabulously good genes and longevity on both sides of his family, chopped a good twenty years off his life with his choices. You wonder, if he had a chance to look back now, would he be sorry or would he still have done the same?

This is your one shot, the one time. You don't have endless days and cannot always expect to be healthy enough to enjoy the days you do have. You have heard this all before, but you will hear it again once from me:

1. If you smoke, stop. I know it is so hard. But you must stop. Don't buy them, don't say just one more, or someday. Stop. This is one worth fighting with all your might. Find out what it is behind your need to smoke first, beyond the physical. There are things you need to face.You know how bad it is.

2. Food and drink = moderation. You need far less than you think you do. Alcohol has limited benefits, and some big downsides. You'd be better off with water. YES, I know, water doesn't take the edge off. Again, there's probably a healthier way to relax. And try to eat fresh, good food, and take the time to prepare balanced meals. YES, I know, this coming from Miss Coffee and Blueberry Bread. I swear, an anomaly.

3. Get moving. We are for the most part a nation of slugs. You really do have to move around a bit to stay healthy. Just try to find something you like, find someone to move around with you, take the stairs every so often. Anything you do is better than nothing.

Believe me, I have failed on all of these things many times, sometimes for a really, really long time. I know how days go by. But I will still ask you to try, and maybe, you never know, maybe something good will come of it.

I think I will go and make something to eat now, perhaps a giant rum birthday cake with cigarettes for candles. Ha ha, that would be funny.


I am always reminded after an election, looking at the popular vote, how divided this country is. Fifty-some million people are happy today, but 48-some million are disappointed. That's a whole lot of people to be disappointed, or upset, or bummed, or devastated, even. For however invested, there is a substantial portion of the population that has to deal with the idea of loss. There will be those who pout and whine,or lash out in anger, or withdraw into fear and sadness, and those who accept and move on. We all have to deal at some point with disappointment, the downside of having hope, expectations unfulfilled. Nobody gets everything they want. Well, I don't really know that. Maybe there is someone out there who does, like a Saudi prince, who has every conceivable possession, human or not, available to him at any moment of any day, plus runs a country and all the businesses in it or something. Or, on the other side of that, maybe there is a chicken farmer in Uruguay who is damn happy if he gets another sunrise and his birds are healthy. Perspective, I guess.

Is that it? Ask for less, expect less, then never be disappointed? I know people try to do that, but I don't know that it really works. Hope is such a persistent bitch. Does it naturally always set itself to one notch above what you have? I mean, even for the chicken farmer, one of those birds is gonna get run over by an errant truck sometime, huh? It just seems against human nature to have to tamp down the need to believe in and want something greater, whether those are material things, political ideals, personal growth, whatever.

How people deal, how long they remain disappointed, is a matter of resiliency, how fast one can move back to the hope state again. It is based primarily on two things: internal self-concept and external support. To not be brought down by disappointment, you have to have a sense that you have some control over yourself and your reactions, that you are able to successfully adapt to situations you weren't expecting, that others will help you along when you struggle and that you can ask for their help, and that there is always a way to make something positive from something negative. This has to be genuinely felt; just agreeing with the concepts doesn't work. Resiliency may be the factor, I sometimes think, in whether a life can be classified as "happy" or not. Are people born resilient, or made so through experience? I suppose it is a bit of both things, as everything always seems to be.

Not all disappointments are deep, of course. I am not going to wig out if that cool leather coat doesn't fit quite right, or that it is raining on me yet again, or that I missed getting the free coffee at Starbucks yesterday. But I wish I were more resilient, that things didn't bother me like they do, that the roller coaster of Hope and Disappointment wasn't so twisty and turny and didn't leave me exhausted and nauseated half the time. That would be a cool theme park: Knott's Psychology Farm. Think of the haunted house alone! The Hall Of Phobias! The Relive-Your-Own-Birth Flume Ride! The Metaphorical Hay Maze! Ha!

Well, even though I do not share in today's political disappointment, I have empathy. It's just the Conservatives' turn at the bottom of the ride. The carnie is beckoning, get on out now, somebody else has been waiting in line for their turn. Never argue with the carnie in this theme park, or he'll put you on the Broiling Pit Of Hellish Perseveration ride.

The Uruguayan chicken farmer started a band, named it Los Mockers after a line in a Beatles film, sang in accented English, and kept smiling. I made that up, sort of, but it could be true. In my mind, he's that kind of resilient guy.

I have got to eat

So every day I work

And I've have to dress

so I must do my job

I don't want to work

but I must to feed you

I don't like my job

but I've got to dress you

What a life!


Faces, post-victory speech.

In the crowd, tears, smiles, such hopefulness that I have not seen in quite some time.

Obama's, measured, serious. He looks at his wife, and she looks at him. The sacrifice to their family is profound, the job ahead enormous and overwhelming, seen in a glance.


Now wait just a damn minute here. Read this:

Was I wrong in expecting far more from such a well-respected and well-seasoned journalist as Christiane Amanpour? I understand that this is a blog piece she has written, not a hard news item as such, but how can someone be so giddy about the expectation that Barack Obama will win the Presidency today? She has seen far, far, far more of the world than I ever will, has been in some of the most dangerous and depressed places in the world, has seen over and over the impact that America has globally. Yes, this election will change the world, of course it will, no matter who would win. But not in the way she thinks, nor the level.

She speaks of people in New York City waiting in long lines to vote. Does she assume that they all are well-informed about the issues, know what each candidate stands for? Why are they really standing there? How many people are standing in line all over the country for reasons that have NOTHING to do with politics? What is the value of their choices?

Let's get real for a second. Really real. Yes, there are some citizens who will take the time to appreciate the role they have in a democracy, flawed though it may be, and they dig into the issues and within themselves and make a choice based on careful and reasoned consideration. There are more who will vote for or against skin color and/or gender, will vote party line because that is what they have always done, vote for who is better-looking, vote for who tells the best stories, vote for who gives the best sound-bytes, vote because someone else tells them how to vote, vote because they think the candidate will make things better for them personally, screw anyone else or the world. This is the sorry part to the election process; that it is taken so for granted here that even if people bother to register, bother to stand in the line, they will by and large not really understand what they have voted for.

If Obama is elected, it is historic only in that his skin color was a light brown. We should be long past that issue, and on to what the man has to offer from his intellect and experience. Yes, I voted for him, and yes, I hope he can do something to help during his time in office. I am weary of Bush and his ilk, very weary, and I truthfully would rather give my money to programs that assure that the citizens of this country don't have to be hungry, without a home, without work, without a decent education, without adequate health care, that they can feel safe in their neighborhoods and that there is a good future ahead. You pay for preventative care, or you pay for damage clean-up; that's a fact. Poking the Middle Eastern hornet's nest is a deadly little game that needs to end, which means we all need to reinvent the energy wheel. Obama is one man; he is not a savior, won't have all the answers, won't be able to do a tenth of what he has promised. This is the way it is. How can Ms. Amanpour think anything else.

There's ain't no easy way out.


Because I enjoy confusing people, I will and have and will again sometimes post things I have found from LONG AGO, writing pieces I did that I liked or letters or some such things. If they be old, I will date them, LIKE on ASSIGNMENT8.

Look how now I have unconfused you, brown cow.


It is the day before the 2008 Presidential election. Seattle is gray and rainy today, there's some guy who is threatening to jump from the Aurora Bridge, everyone is worried about everything says CNN, and my cleaning lady is here. The day breaks, splits into a million divergent spikes, spreading out wildly, changing everything in some way. All these human stories unfold, pieces of origami that keep mutating from a crane to a lizard to a plane to a flower. I sit here quietly typing, and a few miles away someone is in agony, wrestling with the idea of ending his life, surrounded by police and gawkers. I hear my cleaner rattle around in the kitchen. Obama and McCain fly around the country today, hoping to change a few hearts and minds, solidify support at the close of the game.

There are so many people in the world.

My cleaner is such a nice, kind-hearted woman, an immigrant from Brazil, around my age. She brought me a delicious piece of bread this morning, a Brazilian cheese roll she said, still warm. Oh, it was so good and dense and doughy, and it made a nice unexpected breakfast for me. She asks me if I am going to vote, and I tell her yes, for Obama, and she gives me the thumbs-up, and we start talking politics. She tells me how she was lucky to sell her house when she did, when the mortgage went up from $2300 a month to $4000. Oh, man. I cannot even imagine what kind of horrible deal she got into. She talks about having to scramble for cash, asking everyone she knew here and in Brazil to help out until she could bail from the house. I think about how many people have been in her situation in the last few years, hard-working people like her, in over their heads, maybe not fully understanding the contracts they signed. We both talk about the many houses on my block for sale, some for years now. Nothing sells, no one comes by to look, more and more go on sale. It isn't just the working-class on the chopping block. It's everyone.

I will be glad to have another election season done with. All the negativism and fear and fighting will calm, and people will have to deal with who is voted in, like it or not. Neither McCain nor Obama is a great leader, neither offers anything but band-aids to a country that is bleeding out from so many wounds. But is it what we have. There is so much work to be done, so much damage to repair and avoid, I wonder if things will ever truly be in good repair, or if our country and our government simply mirror the nature of people: complex, messy, heroic, tragic.

The man on the Aurora Bridge jumped and was critically injured. The sun is out now. The vacuum whirrs and clatters downstairs. Everywhere, everything changes, always.



I can't keep my eyes off the cake. It's Pepto-Bismal pink, with these loopy swirls in the thick frosting. I follow the swirls, up and down, back and forth, like waves in a sickening sea. There are little candy hearts stuck on the top of the thing, and someone had scripted, "Congratulations Mike and Sandi" in green gooey gel, dotting the "i" in her name with a green heart.

I feel nauseous. I turn my head, slowly, to my right. There she is. I have my arm around her shoulder but my limb seems distant, disconnected. My hand touches her bony shoulder through her thin dress and she feels unfamiliar. People are talking to us, hugging her, drinking, laughing. I look at her face and I see her, I really see her. With a mix of horror and amusement, I come to realize that with her big teeth, big eyes, long face, and straight hair she looks like a girl Mr. Ed. I let out an awful blurt of a laugh and she turns to me, surprised but smiling.

"Oh, Wilbur, get me a piece of cake, will you?"

I'm not gonna marry her. I'm NOT going to marry her.


Jack took an index finger and swipd it, furtively, through the frosting on the cake, bringing it quickly to his mouth. It was stale and too sweet, as if it had been made thirty years ago and left to harden in the back of a supermarket bakery. He washed the taste out of his mouth with the tangy, harsh champagne and leaned on the buffet table. His brother Mike was going to get married and this was the engagement party. Jack didn't know too much about the girl, but people said that she was good for Mike.

They were over by the door, greeting everyone. She's wasn't a gorgeous girl, Jack thought, but she looked genuinely happy and had a bit of a glow to her. But what was really interesting, it dawned upon him, was Mike. His lanky, easy-going younger brother looked like a rusty robot, oddly animated then staring blankly into space. His arm was stiffly draped over her and his hand moved on her shoulder like it was a doorknob -- nothing like the luscious caresses you give a woman you love, you, nothing like it.

Jack tipped his glass to his lips, draining it, and gave an imperceptibly small smile. There was no way Mike was going to marry that girl.


ASSIGNMENT #8: What I Would Like To Accomplish In My Life

Intro To Art -- Porps


I would really like to think of something to do when I grow up. I'd like to be paid money for something that would use the talents I have, and I'd like to enjoy and be excited by my work. This would be an amazing accomplishment and relief if I ever figure it out.

I would like to raise a kind-hearted, useful, positive, creative child. I'd like him to be happy with himself.

I would like to keep a healthy, strong marriage with my husband.

I would like to become less fearful.

I would like to make a difference -- small or large.

I would like to be financially secure.

I would like peace of mind, and the feeling that everything was worth all the struggle.

I would like better fitness and health.

I would like to be able to go into a store and buy anything I liked, just once. Well, OK, more than once.

I would like to have enough resources to give much of it away.

I would like to get a dog.

I would like to travel as much as I wanted.

I would like to be free.


Catherine brushed off the rain from the arm of her black trenchcoat, shiny beads of wet on the satiny fabric. It was just a reflexive gesture; more rain was still coming, drizzling down from the stone-gray sky, the coat would just get wet again. She heard a high-pitched shriek, the familiar sound of her toddler daughter happily exclaiming in some kind of discovery. Catherine looked up towards the sound; Martha was squatting, chubby hands on her chubby knees, in rapturous delight having spotted a squirrel eating something with his teeny busy paws. Children were so of the moment, she thought, imagining the focus, how Martha must be looking at the squirrel, taking it its every last little detail and movement, new to her eyes, delicious and rich. Martha’s hair, bright blond and already to her shoulders, was damp with the rain, her pink boots muddy, her dress half hiked up in the back, stuck to her pink matching raincoat. Catherine decided to move a little closer as she saw Martha extend a hand out towards the squirrel, and walked somewhat unsteadily towards the child through the wet grass, black pumps sinking down a bit, slipping slightly on the leaves starting to blanket the ground.

The squirrel finally decided enough was enough and spiraled his way up the huge maple tree there beside them,chattering angrily. Martha laughed and raised her hands, pounded them on the tree trunk, yelling upwards, “Bah-ee! Bah-ee! Go!” Catherine smiled to herself; Martha thought the squirrel was a bunny. As the animal went higher into the tree, Martha lost sight and interest, and bolted away again, her tiny legs propelling her towards the next item of interest. Catherine did not worry too much; there didn’t seem to be much danger for Martha to get into, and the area was fenced with tall black wrought iron. She could keep an eye on her, let her run, burn off some energy, Catherine reasoned, as she wiped off a small patch of water from a wooden bench, and sat, crossing her legs. She noticed as the bottom of her dress peeked out from her trenchcoat that she had spilled some coffee on it, and frowned. Martha squawked in the distance, copying a bird, kept running.

Catherine let her eyes wander, taking in the pretty expanse of neat green lawn, the old trees that were quietly letting their vibrant red and yellow and rust colored leaves twirl to the ground, one by one. The rain had made everything look moist and shiny; the flatness of the steady gray light made the colors pop out. Pretty as a picture, she thought, as the wind picked up a bit, sending the leaves already in the air on a more tangential journey to the ground, an unexpected zig zag. Her eyes searched out Martha in the distance, the pink and blonde of her, who must’ve noticed the beauty of the leaves as well, and was now gathering them, dropping some as she scooped up others, over and over. Catherine stared at her awhile, until it became unbearable to keep looking, and glanced away again, up and towards the clouds that were shifting and moving in the sky. She startled at the feel of a hand on her shoulder.

“Cathy, it’s getting cold. It’s time to go.” It was her father, in his dark blue suit, the same one he had worn when Michael had finally finished his master’s, and then taken them all to Maggiano’s to celebrate. She looked up at his face, looking down at her. He is an old man now, she thought, and I am sorry he had to see this. She looked into his eyes, and wished she could take away his pain for her, the deep aching helpless sadness. He rubbed her shoulder, and said, “I’ll go get Martha.” He walked towards the child, and Catherine heard him exclaim, “Martha! Come see Papa! Let’s go take a ride in the big car! Let’s go, honey!” Martha loved him so much, Catherine thought, as she watched the toddler run towards him with a big smile, and he took her tiny hand, and walked towards the bench. As they drew near, Catherine rose, turned and bent slightly towards her child, and managed a small smile to her. Martha’s eyes twinkled as she smiled back at her mother. Catherine extended her hand, and clasped her daughter’s other hand, and the three walked slowly back to the entrance, paced by the small steps of the youngest.

As they passed by the gravesite, Martha broke free and bent to pick up a brilliant red leaf, perfectly formed. They watched as the child took it, and placed it on top of a wreath of yellow roses already there.

“Here, Dah-ee. Fo’ you.”

Catherine and her father stood, frozen, afraid to look at each other. The little girl patted the leaf, and ran forward, full-speed, toward the waiting limousine and the driver, waiting outside with a large black umbrella for them. They stood there for a few seconds, until her father took Catherine’s hand, squeezed it hard, leaving the moment. Martha would not remember it, or anything at all of Michael, but they would remember for her.