I did it.

One year ago today, I started writing this blog. A year of writing things, every day, no matter what, and this was a year of many, many, many Whats.

I didn't have any plan at all when I started, didn't even really have the goal to write each day without fail until a couple weeks in, I think, didn't have any real idea what I would write about. What I did know was that I missed writing, and a blog seemed to be a good way to organize and focus all the ideas that I thought I might be able to pull from the air. There were a few people who wanted me to write again, and I wanted to not let them down. I hope that I did not.

I took my computer with me everywhere I went this year. I sat and wrote outside on a wobbly metal table in Arizona at a Starbucks, in my car waiting for my son at martial arts, at the Pancake House, during a yenta meeting at my other son's old school, at a picnic table in a park with a seagull harassing me, from a hotel room a stone's throw away from 5th Avenue in Manhattan to a hotel room a stone's throw away from the Pacific Ocean in San Diego. I wrote when the sun was so bright I couldn't see my screen, and more often, when it was so dark and rainy I had to turn on the lights. I wrote with tears streaming down my face and not even knowing it, and I wrote laughing aloud at some silly idea. I wrote about things I remembered from my past, things I hoped for in the future, things I believe in, things I hate, observations, rants, statements, poems, fiction, non-fiction, and amalgams of everything. The point is, I wrote. Despite criticism, praise, and any number of mundane, horrific, or wonderful things to distract me, I didn't stop.

For me, that is the real value. I didn't give up. I didn't quit. I understand that the value of what is here is really just for me. It is very gratifying to know that people enjoy what I write sometimes, that I have made them laugh or cry or think or remember or even get angry. But what it gave to me was more valuable than anything I could have written, or anything I could express, even using the thousands and thousands of words here. Maybe someday I will be able to.

So, a year. For better or worse, a year has gone past, and I am a different person from the one who wrote about Safeway on February 28, 2008. The Safeway is still the same, though, with the addition of some delicious new red grapefruit.

Thank you.

The Kinks -- "You Can't Stop The Music"


I spent almost all of my life wanting everything to be easy. Like, REALLY, wanting things to be easy. If things weren't easy, then meh, not worth it. I would avoid everything that took any real effort, thinking that sort of thing was not worth ME.

It took me awhile, but now I get it. Things don't have to be difficult for me to appreciate them, I don't have to have bad to know good, but good hard work and a challenge is not only worthwhile, I think it is necessary. There is nothing shameful about having to work hard to get something, to understand something, to gain a new skill. The whole process is important.

Some of you got this right away, and benefited. I spent far too long avoiding things I should have gone towards, the easy way out did me no good so many times. Maybe it took me this long to see it, or get the strength to feel like this. Whatever the case, I see things a little differently now, and am grateful for it.

This is not to say I wouldn't mind someone cooking a nice meal for me sometime or winning the lottery. Let's not get all crazy.

George Harrison -- "It Don't Come Easy"


I took MissSix and Mr10 to the OOGCP this afternoon for an early dinner of hot cocoa and quiche. As we left, a natty Mr. Hollywood, who was sitting by the door with Mrs. Hollywood, caught my eye.

Mr.Hollywood: You have a couple of very handsome children there!

Me: (big smile) Why, thank you very much!

MissSix: (whispering) What did he say?

Me: He said you were very handsome children.

MissSix: (indignant) I'm a girl! I can't be handsome! (pauses) Was he speaking another language?



I imagine that the first outsider was some sort of caveman, and I bet it didn’t take too much for the cavepeople council to banish some poor filthy hairy sod to the cave over, or perhaps the fetid swamp beyond the hill, or even Disneyland. Maybe he ate too much sloth burger, or coveted the wrong cavewoman, didn’t keep up with advancements in evolution, who knows. When you are in some kind of society, any kind, you gotta get along or face the wrath, disdain, or indifference of the many.

People learn this very early in life. Preschool actually has nothing whatsoever to do with cutting and pasting and macaroni art, it is all about learning HOW TO FIT IN. At that age a big expectation is that you SIT DOWN SIT DOWN SIT DOWN SIT DOWN AND STAY SEATED. It is a really hard thing to do because the average 3 or 4 year old has a 0.5 second attention span and often has an uncontrollable urge to jump up and screech like a bird for no reason. Imagine this in a board meeting 30 years down the line. Preschoolers also learn to not pee and poop in their pants, another thing frowned on in the corporate world. Unless the sales figures were just off the f-ing chart. So, sit down, shut up, and don’t crap yourself: the first lessons of avoiding outsiderdom.

In elementary school, it becomes all about Following The Rules and Recognizing Authority and stays this way for awhile. It becomes very obvious who are Leaders and who are Followers. It doesn’t matter if you like the leaders or agree with them, unless you can trump them in a epic Mario Kart battle or get a note to give to your principal saying you are incorrigible/crazy and need breaks from class several times a day to take your meds and/or eat Cheetos and spin. More or less, you will find yourself in groups all the time, and you have to accept your place, know your role, or face Lunchtime Shun or Picked Last For Everything or Playdate = HAHAHA, NO.

In Middle and High School, there is a distinct splintering of the General Groups into the Specific Clans. They have different names over the years but seem to settle into these categories:

1. Jocks/Cheerleaders
2. Drama/Band Geeks
3. Tech/AV Geeks
4. DrugsDrugsDrugs
5. Fat n’ Funny
6. Smarter Than The Rest
7. Better Looking Than You
8. Rich
9. Poor
10. Special Eds
11. Goth/Emo/Punk/Music Is My Life
12. Overachiever
13. Underachiever
14. I <3 Prison
15. Zits
16. Has A Car/Can Buy Beer
17. Early Breast/Facial Hair Developers
18. Hoes
19. I Cannot Stop Skateboarding/ Uncontrolled ADHD
20. Completely Average In Every Possible Measurement
21. I Date My American History Teacher, Shh
22. GED Is For Me/Sleeping In Class

The secret category #23 is the Outsider, the ones who default into None Of The Above. They may be completely friendless, have one or two other Outsider pals, or may be quite popular with many of the groups, but really aren’t in any of them. Either way, at this point the Outsider is very well aware of his or her status, and is either miserable or empowered by it. Or both.

What happens to the Outsider? It depends on why that person is one, and how they choose to deal with their away status. Being alone gives one lots of extra time to think. This can bum you the f out, or it can make you think of all kinds of interesting things, like a better way to skin a mastodon, how to blow hilarious snot bubbles, the perfect way to build a fort, how to build a website to rate your crappy teachers that ends up being bought by Google, or even the Theory of Relativity.

Sometimes, maybe most times, it is the Outsider who has the time and distance and reasons to make things happen that otherwise would be lost to Groupthink and easy acceptance. Outsiders might be inspired to earn their way into a group, or they might want to become the Leader at the end of the day, or end up that way even if they don’t want it. They might find great peace in being separate, to answer to no one. But there seems to be some strength gained, painful as it might be, from being different and choosing to deal with it.

Our shunned caveman had to get his solo act together, or perish. He had to get stronger or his genes would die out and Cavey McGetalong would get the goods, aka Sheila Bisoncooker. Some things never change.

The Kinks -- "I'm On An Island"


I usually do not have very high hopes for political speeches, having heard a fair amount in my lifetime, from a fair variety of people. Most of them are pretty similar in their construction and message. There is a flow to these things, a cadence, that anyone who needs to make a persuasive speech knows about, how to punch important ideas,how to time your words to build, settle, and rise again. But so often the words are meaningless promises, plans that never had a chance from the moment their details are uttered, and you can see it in the eyes of the speechmaker, and in their audience's eyes. What the listener ends up with is a magic show, over the second the lights and cameras are cut, and business as usual continues on, unfettered and unknown to most.

Tonight I watched President Obama's address to Congress. I wanted to see what he would do, if there was anything he could say that could pull away from the norm, if he could say something of real substance to this country. We are all hurting and worried, knowing times are going to get worse before they might ever get better, wondering how to ever trust again in the people we elect to represent us. I wanted to hear his voice, not his speechwriters' idea of what would sell, and I wanted to hear something of truth. I did not want to hear another set of grand ideas that would never come to fruition, a useless blame fest, or platitudes that upon examination had the weight of a feather.

After a slowish start, I began to listen with less jaded ears. His delivery was near-flawless, the language direct, clean, and accessible, probably even to those who ignorantly mistake his intelligence as snobbery. But past that, I liked that he was able to say this:

1. Yes, we are in trouble and yes, it is not all going to just go away.
2. Yes, government has a role in fixing this, as do each and every one of us. There will be further sacrifices from all, but it is not impossible to improve things.
3. Fix the core issues first and do it NOW: energy, health care, and education.

If Obama can hold strong to his commitment and accountability on these things, even just these things, there will be lasting change. If he cannot rally support from all of Congress, the public and private sectors of influence, and the regular people who must now take stock of their futures like never before, then I fear Washington garbage will take over again. I have said it before, but I will say it again: so often it takes tragedy or crisis to hit each and every one of us before there is enough strength and focus to say, alright, enough, I am going to pitch in and do everything I can do to help. I do believe as President Obama does, that there is great strength, ingenuity, and creativity in us all, and it is our responsibility as Americans, citizens of this tiny planet, and to ourselves to try harder, do better, think to what benefits others. So many times looking outwards can give us the answers to what is needed inward.

As I watched, MissSix watched as well, after spending a few minutes whining and carping about not getting to watch cartoons. I saw how this usually-frenetic child started paying attention to what was going on during the speech, and she asked reasonable questions, like why are they all standing so much, why are they clapping so much, who is that little girl next to Mrs. Obama, and how long does the President have to talk? She then quietly went and got her pencils and paper, sat down in front of the tv, and drew a picture of the President and the Capitol Building, and handed each to me to see, beaming.

I told her I was proud of her, hugged her, and beamed as well.

Of course, there were no concrete details in Obama's speech; it was not the occasion, not how this sort of thing is done. I have no idea how or where money will come from to implement the change he seeks, but I do know that an uneducated or under-educated, unhealthy, and dependent upon foreign oil American population is doomed, truly doomed. Priorities must change. MUST change.

Let's see what he can do. Let's see what we can do.


I have, over the years, come to kind of a conclusion about something: I seem to suffer far less from shame, guilt and/or embarrassment than most people. This is a bold statement, because those same most people will think that is in itself, shameful, immodest, and potentially sociopathic. However, as I am not easily embarrassed, I am able to make my statement and stand behind it, and as far as I can determine I am not a serial killer or a bank executive so I am not really too worried about the pathology of my standing. I am used to being an outlier, one way or another.

Now this is not to say that I have not ever been sorry for something I have done. REGRETS? I’VE HAD A FEWWWWW. But shame? That is pretty heavy if you think about it. To be ashamed is to feel worthless, and judged, almost unforgivable. Shame seems to be a major component in most of the religions of the world. If a source of authority teaches you over and over and over that you were born imperfect, failurey, and downright bad, well, you must think they know, right? And this keeps you in line, and controllable. It is very very effective, which is why all kinds of authorities use it, from the Pope to your Grandma Stinging-Nettles with the insistent tapping cane and unfortunate mustache.

There are many who will argue that, as people are born shameless and all wild and ruthless and such, that you must instill this in the young or you will have a society of selfish, no-pants-wearing rude people who will steal your truck and tell you unfunny jokes. I will argue against that idea, because I am shameless and also correct. There is such a tremendous difference in constructively teaching the basic common-sense rules of life and just going straight for the destruction of the soul. It’s like trying to get a splinter out with black-hole vortex Hoovering power of the average television starlet. No one needs that much suckage.

Shame just goes right in and wipes the deck clear, saying it is YOU who are bad, and doesn’t address the problem at all. And in fact, when you spend a whole lot of time convincing someone they are intrinsically awful, sometimes they get much, much WORSE. Fuckit, they say, I’m a shit so I’m gonna show them all how shitty I can be because that is what they expect. Why bother to try to be good?

People are imperfect, and they are going to mess up, each and every one of us. But how can you feel guilty about being a human? That’s CRAZY TALK. You can just try to do the right things, and when you screw up, try to make amends as best you can and go on to your next triumph or screw up. The same most people who spend so much precious time worrying that they are unworthy and might do something embarrassing at any second, are also usually pretty reliably decent. Day to day right and wrong is fairly simple to get the hang of, and almost everyone just wants to get along and wants no trouble, given or received. Cut yourself a break, folks. You are OK, and I know I am OK. There’s a book in there, eh?

For the real actual unredeemable vicious freaks, I suggest this: triple-verify all the psychos, clear out Puerto Rico, Catalina Island, Alcatraz, Hilton Head, South Padre Island, and all of the Florida Keys and declare them all Sociopath Islands. All the people who have no conscience and enjoy hurting others can all live together and sort it out as they go. Now of course this would be fully televised, with play-by-play commentary from Bob Costas, a random kindergartener, and Adam Carolla, who could use the work. Then all the pretty much OK regular human folks could easily see what real BAD was, and feel good about themselves.

That I cannot make this happen? A shame.


I wish all the award acceptees were wired with small remote control electrical charges that would start beeping at the 20 second point into a speech, then deliver a taser-like jolt at 45 seconds.

Also, anyone with a gown as heinous as Beyonce's tonight would be stripped and handed a Hefty bag and duct tape.

As well, anyone mentioning their political cause would have a load of manure dumped on them as a small troupe of underprivileged children would dance around and sweep the leavings offstage.

Anyone thanking God for their Hollywood statuette should have a giant brown boot kick them in the ass.

All non-winners would get cream pies in the face as the winner is announced.

It would be illegal to win an Emmy for an Oscar broadcast.

Anyone using the words "our industry" would be immediately put in a Hummer, and driven off the Santa Monica Pier.

One second past the proper ending time of the broadcast, release the hounds. And killer bees. And ricin.

I have clearly missed my calling as a producer. Best show ever.

HA 9

At the waxing place, staring at the ceiling, and "Freebird" comes on HAHAHAHA!


My California school pal reminded me of a story I had forgotten. I suppose it must’ve been around ’76 or ’77, one of those shitty years, when he and another mutual pal were the kings of the school when they spray-painted the KISS logo on their gym shorts, in silver I believe, and comically on the ass of the shorts. It was a great teenage mutate-your-clothes move. My thing at that time was to add silver and gold star studs to my clothes and shoes. They scratched my legs, but I did not care. Anything for self-expression.

When my friend relocated to California and wore his KISS shorts to school, he was laughed out of O.C. KISS were not cool there. It must’ve been a tough moment -- clothes + band derision from teenagers is not fun. I know, because I hated KISS. Just hated them. I remember first seeing a picture of them in 16 Magazine a year or two before they hit the big time, and I thought, oh great, more turds riding the glam scene into the ground. I don’t remember when I first heard them, but I knew that they were Not Good. And of course, they knew it and have admitted it. They were undistinguished musicians, of no particular talent, playing plain bar rock. But even though they were Not Good, they were completely Brilliant. Why? Because they figured out exactly, to the tiniest detail, what niche needed to be filled in music at the time and they exploited it and rode it to prillionaire-dom.

The mid-‘70s music scene was primarily made up of heavy and ponderous arena rockers like Styx and Kansas and Led Zeppelin and Marillion or some such shit, superlite pop garbage like “Afternoon Delight” or “Muskrat Love” or almost anything Paul McCartney was doing at the time, and soul/R&B remnants that turned to soulless disco. There was really nothing there for young teens, many of whom were just now just getting into music, to claim as their own. The bubblegum pop scene was over, the generation-crossing Beatles were split, there were no Monkees or even the damn Banana Splits. Kids needed something more accessible than a 12-minute version of “Nights In White Satin” or “You’re Havin’ My Baby.” They needed their own rock heroes.

So whether by design or accident, KISS happened upon the scene at the perfect time, and gave kids a combination of simple anthemic rock n’ roll, a circus-like spectacle of a stage show with spitting flames, dripping stage blood, and thigh high 18” platform boots, secret identity clown makeup, and utter confidence in what they were doing. They were like cartoons come to life, bigger-than-life action figures, dangerous without being dangerous at all. The fervor of their fans became legendary; the KISS ARMY was born and continues to this day.

I was not a member. KISS irritated me, and I would throw their songs off the radio the second they came on. I didn’t care about their show or their image; I wanted to hear, was desperate to hear, GOOD SONGS. Oh, the pain of hearing the transformation of the word “party” into a verb in the song “Rock n” Roll All Night.” Was that really necessary to foist on the world, KISS? Ah, well.

Later on, I managed to talk my way into getting high school credit for walking over to the junior high to teach kids how to play guitar. Keep in mind that I had only been playing for a year or two myself, and really had no idea what I was doing. But it beat calculus or something. I knew from teaching myself to play that it is so much better and easier to learn if you like the song you are trying to figure out. No teenage kid wants to sit with a Mel Bay book playing “Mary Had A Little Lamb.” So my first teaching period I had the kids grab the beat-up nylon string acoustics the school had and took them out on the grass, because it was sunny and nice out, and I thought maybe I could grab a smoke if there were no junior narcs in my group. I asked them what groups they liked.

“KISS! KISS! KISS!” they yelled.

I looked at them, all excited, and I am sure my pain was completely visible. Well, OK. This class wasn’t Learn Marianne’s Clearly Superior Taste In Music, it was to teach them how to play something on the guitar in a few weeks. I said, alright alright alright, what is their hit now?


God. God. I was so embarrassed when I went into the record shop later that day, and actually purchased the single and the sheet music to “Calling Dr. Love.” I felt like a charlatan, and hoped I would not burn in eternal hell. I got home and put it on my stereo, and the shitty midrange mix made the needle practically jump off the 45. SIGH. ANYTHING FOR MY KIDS. Who were maybe three years younger than me.

The next week at class time, I showed them the 45 and the music and they practically glowed with excitement. They could not believe that they were going to actually be able to play a real KISS song. I looked at them and thought, jeez, it’s KISS and all, but this enthusiasm, this love for music, this is what it is really all about, Charlie Brown. I smiled, and I started teaching them the chords to the song. Over the weeks, I was impressed by their dedication to learning this silly simple song, despite sore fingers and the crappy guitars that buzzed and sounded no better than rubber bands across a cigar box.

They learned it and were happy, I got my school credit, and moved on to the next thing. Punk and New Wave were beginning to filter into the Midwest at last so I finally had some new stuff to listen to. I am sure some of the guitar kids stuck with KISS, screamed for them at the Milwaukee Arena while their moms waited in the lobby, and when the band played “Calling Dr. Love,” played furious and accurate air guitar right along to the beat.

KISS -- "Calling Dr. Love"


Not often do I remember my dad being reflective, introspective, or ever admitting any kind of weakness or regrets. I guess that was probably typical of his generation – men were expected to be strong and silent, never wavering in their Atlas-shouldered stance. But towards the end of his life, there was a part of him that maybe once or twice let down the curtain a little bit, and let me see something of the human being inside. Sometimes it was not a pretty picture, not at all, but gave me more an opportunity to understand him, even if I didn’t like what I found out.

I don’t remember what prompted the story, but he told it as matter-of-factly as you’d recount a trip to the store or what you had for breakfast that morning. When he was a young boy, perhaps around seven or eight years old, a mother cat had chosen to have her litter at his family’s house. My dad liked cats and dogs and his parents always had one or the other around. He went on to tell me that one afternoon he took one of the new kittens from the rest to look at it, touch its tiny claws, marvel at its deep blue eyes. As he brought it into the house, he paused. There were two sets of stairs: one steep set down to the cellar and one short set up to the kitchen. He hesitated for a second, and then flung the kitten as hard as he could down to the cellar, killing it instantly.

I was completely horrified and I looked at him in disgust. “Why?” I sputtered. “Why did you do that? How could you ever have done such a thing? ”

He looked back at me with red-rimmed eyes, an old man now. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “I don’t know why I did it. I was sorry right away, and I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do about it. I guess I just wanted to see what happened.”

“But you knew what would happen! You were old enough! You knew you were going to kill it!” I was livid.

“I can’t explain it. It was a horrible thing to do.”

I walked away, unable to think about it. It made him seem to me like he had a monster inside him, and maybe that was who he really was. How could anyone be so cruel, especially to something so helpless and lovely, just beginning life? I didn’t want him to have a pass because he was a child. No normal child would do such a thing. The children that I knew who were cruel to animals were evil, bad, ugly, unloved, unwanted bullies. My dad was not one of those kids, as I understood it. But maybe he was.

And now it is many years later, my dad has been gone 16 years, but still the specter of this tiny little being remains. I wish I had been able to tolerate hearing what he really was trying to say, and to let him: that almost seventy years after it happened, he had never forgotten it, never forgiven himself, and wanted to say to someone, aloud, that he was sorry. It is easy enough to say, well, it was just a stray cat’s kitten, it was meaningless. But clearly it was not. My father had hung on to this moment of cruelty, what he had done, and it stayed with him all his life. He had never told anyone about it, until he told me.

There is meanness, spitefulness, hatred in everyone, it is simply part of the human experience. We can try to know where it comes from so we might be able to control it before it consumes others, or ourselves. But cruelty is another step down, the deliberate damaging of another to gain a transient feeling of power and control. Is there any doubt that at the moment when he flung the kitten to the cellar floor, that my dad felt like a god? That there was a gain, a thrill in being able to do it at all? That for a second, all that internal anger and self-doubt and hatred is relieved by passing on a worse fate to something weaker and undeserving? Would it had been better if he had confessed it right then to his parents and been punished, instead of getting away with it? What if he had become the kind of person addicted to being cruel, searching out the vulnerable to use and toss away, a sociopath who felt nothing?

Understanding why someone might do what he does is one thing, but cruelty should never be accepted or condoned. Excusing away strengthens and enables. Cruelty builds upon itself and in one way or another, the bully will eventually pay a heavy price for his actions.

I am sorry that I reacted in anger instead of allowing my dad to talk. I closed off the conversation, shamed him further, did nothing to help. He was not a monster.

I imagine that he sat there alone for quite some time, noticed it was close enough to 5PM, and then got up and poured himself a gin and sat and looked at the birds outside the window, as he often did.


Last day full day here, breezy and cool, but sunny. We drive up the 5 to San Clemente, to meet up with one of my friends of longest duration, whom I have not seen for many years. He and I met in 7th Grade, only six days apart in age, both drummers in the school band, although he was actually extremely good and I was just almost competent. He was funny and smart, filled with confidence and talent, not afraid of what anyone thought. His dad had a PANTERA, J.f.C.! Such a star, in our little Wisconsin junior high school. In 9th grade, his dad got transferred to California, and we were all so stunned and sad. There was no one else like him, and we missed him so much.

But today, we are reunited at the San Clemente Pier, and he carries his adorable 2-year-old girl in his arms. He is one of those friends where we can just pick up where we left off, no matter the time span or changes in our lives. That is such a nice thing. We mess around on the pier for awhile, then drive to a cool little Mexican restaurant for lunch, then head off to Dana Point, the town he moved to when he left Wisconsin.

It is such a beautiful place, so dramatic with yellow cliffs and trees bent in graceful twists from the ocean breezes, big dark brown rocks sticking out of the clean green water. I wondered if the people who live there can truly appreciate how pretty it is, or if they just get used to it and it becomes everyday, common, normal. I mention to my friend, as we walk past the Ocean Institute and its tall sailing ships to the beach, that us poor saps left to rot in the Midwest thought he was the luckiest guy in the world, to be able to move to CALIFORNIA as a TEENAGER. How could anything be better than that?

Much to my surprise, he tells me it was awful, and he was miserable. The popular beloved kid in Wisconsin became the uncool misfit in pretty Dana Point. He missed us as much as we missed him, and all the lovely views and nice weather made no difference at all. I had no idea, until today. After a couple of years, he switched over to an alternative school, a better fit, and regained his natural happy and optimistic self again.

So much in life comes down to the meaningful connections we make with people.

Late in the afternoon, my friend and his daughter had to get back on the road up to Los Angeles, and I thanked him for coming to see me and showing me part of his old life. I know I will see him again, hopefully much sooner than nine years, and it will be easy and fun, and we will learn a little bit more about each other once more. I suspect he sees the 12-year-old in me as I see in him still, and that is a real pleasure, to know it is all still there.


I guess it would not really be something you planned for a family vacation, it was something spontaneous. But I am so glad we did it.

A kind local recommended that we drive over to Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, California ( so that is what we did. After playing a long time on the rocks and cliffs and tidepools and spending probably close to an hour just staring out into the foamy green ocean, we started back. Lining the road to either side were hundreds, or maybe thousands of military graves, each marked with a perfect white stone in neat rows. On a whim, I asked that we pull over into one of the cemetery areas on a green hill, overlooking the ocean. I had realized that my children had never been to a cemetery.

The roar of the ocean, along with the matching drone of various military jets and helicopters, were the only sounds as we walked slowly, looking at the headstones and reading the names and dates and military affiliations. So many.

There were men who lived to ripe old ages, and were honored to be able to choose to be buried there. There were their wives, and in more than a few cases, babies of less than a year old. There was a whole section of those who were buried at sea, or whose remains were never found. My son wanted to know if these were all the people ever killed in all the wars in the world. My daughter asked if her grandfather was in there, somewhere, and if I would die someday and be buried there.

The oldest person we found was a veteran of the Spanish-American War, born in 1871. A few rows over, my daughter spotted a fresh bouquet of colorful flowers laying across a grave, and ran over to them. The stone belonged to a young man named Jason, born in 1982, died in 2007, killed in Iraq. The card on the flowers, smudged only slightly from the rain, was addressed to him:

"Dearest Jason, We love and miss you so much, and are so deeply proud of your service and sacrifice. Every day is so hard without you, but we know you are safe now."

His flowers had fallen out of their small cup of water, a forest-green cone stuck into the ground near his stone, so MissSix and I picked them up and straightened them and my daughter patted the ground before we left, probably without even thinking.

Whatever your political affiliation or how you feel about the military, it is hard not to feel moved by this place, to know that all these lives were irreparably changed by wars. The living walk above and touch the numbers and letters on the cool smooth stones, as the ocean waves roll in, endlessly.


I bring the rain. It follows me to New York City, it follows me to San Diego, and it will no doubt be back in force when I get back to Seattle-ish. The upside to this rain thing is that I guess I am just used to it now. I don’t expect anything else. Rain has soaked through to my cells, flings out of my pores, befouls the very atmosphere. Farmers should pray to me.

Today, the rain and the sky and the ocean were all the same stone gray; the only thing to distinguish one from the other were the waves breaking in small white choppy lines, rhythmic and insistent. There were surfers out today in this. Of course there were, because serious surfers are insane. But I like their dedication. I imagine how they must feel in the water, how hard they must work for their few seconds of thrill, how they must at times feel more of the ocean than of the land, born to the wrong place. I think about the surfers getting ready to go out, the ritual of the preparation, the addiction of facing down such a monumental force.

On the highway to La Jolla, it rained so hard that the gray of the water flung down from the sky, and then flung up from the gray asphalt made it impossible to see anything for a few minutes. You could only hope that everyone would just keep going, stay straight, didn’t freak out. My eyes kept searching for something to use as a marker, straining to see red taillights. The combination of the driving rain and having to trust people that much made me really uncomfortable. But the rain slowed, and my imagined disaster did not happen.

I saw a fish called a Sarcastic Fringehead. HAHA.

I came to the conclusion that all seagulls are impudent, and all pigeons are dim.

My pants acted like a Bounty paper towel, and soaked up the rain a good 10” up my leg. The heaviness of this kept pulling my pants down as I walked and I had to keep hitching them up every few feet like a sad wet gangsta. My solution to this problem was to go to the outlet mall and buy a new pair of sweatpants, a new hoodie, a new shirt, a new pair of Nike Dunks, and more coffee.

I am sitting by the indoor pool now in my warm new gray sweatpants, sipping my coffee, listening to my children screech in the water. Two guys are running on treadmills in the next room, and I ache to run as well, but I am still a bit too under the weather to make a decent showing.

Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink.


Me: Come over here and see the monkeys!

MissSix: No, monkeys make me sneeze.

We saw lots of hairy pigs, confused infants in strollers, confused elders in wheelchairs, a sweet 6-mo-old giraffe, A SLOTH BEAR (which is what I would like to be maybe some life), tiger cubs, a Mexican lizard that was called Horrible-Something, and the best bird.





HA 8

Driving and singing along today:

"Here in my car I (SNEEZE) safest of all, I can (SNEEZE) all my doors, it's the only way to live, in (SNEEZE).


Do you know what?

If I could duet with Tom on this, well I would just die in joy. Oh yes.

It is great to be alive, cold and all.

Tom Jones -- "I'm Alive"


Yessir, there is nothing more charming than after weeks of hemming and hawing and research and planning, to get the hideous family head cold right before you go on vacation. Yessss, that is just swell.




Today, I saw in an hour:

That look, a particular combination of pity/awkwardness/detachment, when people don’t know what to say to you, either because they have done you wrong, or you have done wrong, or things are just wrong.

A big talent that will likely flourish, even with the poor odds.

Someone who was isolated, and desperately unhappy.

Someone who pulls people towards him like a rock star, just by walking in the room.

Someone who is always thinking about words and writing, and doesn’t even realize it.

Surprise and relief at graciousness shown.

Someone who needs to find his own way, away.

A core of steel.

A heartbreaking fondness.

A fiery defiant intelligence, dramatic and crying to be heard, giant emotions flung to the sky, but never fully felt.

The natural lightness of spirit that one must work at later in life.

A growing bitterness, spreading from an idea of unfairness and how things should have been, and will never be.

The right man for the job.

Someone waiting for it to end.

And a sunny sky, reflected in the puddles I walked right through instead of walking around.


There is a very pleasant little bakery in my town, and I went there this afternoon to buy a cake that weighs about 500 pounds in dense chocolatey-raspberry decadence. For twenty-seven bucks maybe it is made with gold flour and angel crap, I don't know. The cake is, in fact, too good. You take the first bite and savor its tremendous yumminess, but then by about halfway through the slice, you are overwhelmed with RICHNESS and your head starts to spin and flowers grow out of your eyes and fairy dust leaps off your skin. You look at the cake and go DAMN THAT IS REALLY GOOD and then fall into a diabetic coma and the dog steals the rest, slinking off like a zorrero. Cake can be exciting.

The woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted any writing on my investment in eating, and I said, oh sure, and she gave it to a woman in the back while I nommed on a tasty slice of apricot cheese strudel. I really like the smell of bakeries. It reminds me of the one I used to go to when I was a little gurrl, where we would go to get the birthday cakes and sugar cookies and fresh loaves of tall white bread that they would slice for you as you waited. In a long clear glass container on top of the display case there were always big stick pretzels. Every time I came in, if the bakery owner was there, he would come out and talk to me for awhile. The memory is so hazy now, I just see his white apron, black hair, and big smile. He would go to the pretzel container, and give me one, crouching to my level, saying, "For you, little sweetheart." I still feel the warmth from that, how special that made me feel. A small kindness, remembered.

The woman who was decorating my cake comes out to show me the writing, and she is not too happy. She is pretty, around my age or so, with her dark brown hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. She speaks with a heavy Spanish accent, and apologizes to me that the words on the cake are a bit smudged. It is the weather, she says, it is so hard to get this frosting to work right, it needs to be a different kind of frosting. She offers to actually get me another cake and try to re-write it. Well, it looks just fine to me, and I tell her so, that it is no problem at all, and I thank her. She asks me if the cake is for a family member, and I say yes, and then she asks me how many kids I have, and I tell her three. She asks if they will all be at the birthday caking tonight, and I tell her yes, yes they will.

She reaches into the display case, and puts five beautiful sparkley red heart-shaped cookies into a white bag and hands it to me. "For all of you. Thank you for being so understanding."


I smile, thank her profusely, and give her a small hug, and go on my way with the cake in a big white box, as a car stops to let me cross the street, the driver smiling and waving at me to go on, it's OK.


MissSix: Mama, what was I born to do?

Me: Well! I don't know! What do you think?

MissSix: I think I was born to be an artist.

Me: That could well be.

MissSix: What were you born?

Me: Hmm.

MissSix: You were born to take pictures.

Me: Oh! Well, thank you. That's very nice.

MissSix: (pointing at Mr10) I think he was born to eat.

Me: Why? He barely eats anything!

MissSix: Exactly.

Mr10: I eat.

Me: Yes, you eat. Not a lot, but you eat.

MissSix: I think (TEEN) was born to have girlfriends.

Me: Oh, god.

Mr10: I don't know what I was born to do yet. How can someone know that yet? I am just a little kid! I might be born to be at the zoo, though.

Me: I know that you love it there. It would be an exciting place to work, I bet.

Mr10: And you can just push the food into the cages. You don't always have to go in there, because it can be incredibly dangerous.

Me: That's true. I am sure you would take good care of the animals.

MissSix: Mama, maybe you were born to run.



Well, I haven't found anything lovely yet, but I did have some fun going over things. In looking over a zillion photographs, I did come to these conclusions:

1. All in all, I have had some pretty bad hairdos and glasses over the years. Like, a lot.

2. I could stare and smile at the baby pictures of all my children probably until I died of excessive grinning and fawning. They all looked so happy and healthy and beautiful.

3. I miss the pets I used to have. They were all my friends.

4. I no longer know the best man or maid of honor from my wedding.

5. I really have been most fortunate in my life.

Even if I don't come up with anything for the Lovely film, and I am still going to keep trying, I am grateful to take these moments to look, and think, and remember.


What a thought. Opportunity has reopened, and I must now quickly contemplate this thought: what have I made that is lovely? Have I indeed made anything lovely, outside of my attractive-looking spawn?



It is really pushing my thoughts around. What is lovely, anyway? Have I made anything like that, something touching and beautiful and precious? That is what seems lovely to me. Am I that person who can do that? Or not?

Lovely can be charming, or heartbreaking, simple or complex. But it is no small thing. I hold something that is lovely to the highest of standards. I can't just send in anything. It has to resonate with me, first. I know what it is, now I have to figure if I can find it, somewhere.

Sorry to be so obscure. I am all coffeed up and thinking. Here is something completely and perfectly lovely to make your trip to the ol' Island worthwhile. Go be beautiful.

Judy Garland -- "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"


I guess one way or another, however you want to term it, I have been listening to indie music almost all my life: “underground” music on FM stations in the 60s, the rise of punk/new wave on college and public radio stations in the 70s, then the broader “indie/alternative” that found its various media niches from the 80s until the present day. I have always liked to hear things that are different, away from what I expect somehow, something that grabs my ear. I very much like the DIY aspect of indie music, that there isn’t some soulless Blandinator machine filtering through it from some huge music conglomerate in order to try to drive 4th quarter sales.

Today’s indie music scene is quite broad, and can include bands screaming upward in popularity like Kings of Leon, to lone and plaintive singer/songwriter types like Bon Iver, to complete and utter noisemakers like Psychedelic Horseshit. I like them all. However, I do have a few issues with indie today, and I am going to list them here.

1. Tendency to emo: Shoegazers! Pouting Glasses Nerd With Hopeless Hair And A Fully Buttoned-Up Plaid Shirt! Icy Nordic Obscurists! Lighten the fuck up sometimes! Do you like making music? Aren’t you just all thrilled you got this far? You could crack a smile sometimes onstage. It won’t affect your indie cred. Surprise me, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and pull out a rainbow clown wig for a song or two. SURPRISE ME.
2. Lack of melody and/or chorus: Something to remember – you are writing songs, and people like to sing along to your songs, if you MAKE IT POSSIBLE. I hear too many songs that are really poems set to one droning chord with a three-note melody that never seem to “kick in.” Like with a story, you need something to HAPPEN in your song. Build it up, give us some dynamics, something. Give me something to remember five minutes after I hear your song. Danger: Foo Fighters/Blink 182 Syndrome, which is quiet-quiet-quiet-YELL-YELL-YELL-quiet-quiet-quiet-FINISH WITH THE BIG YELL. Played out beyond played out. Fake emotional reeks.
3. Letting video games be your backing band: Hello, Animal Collective and Tobacco. Beep beep boop bop bip. I know you were raised on Nintendo, but those damn noises are like hell to the rest of us. Set down the controller sometimes.
4. Brash Solo Girl Talking About Sex Stuff and Swearing: Lily Allen, Katy Perry, Kate Nash. Yeah yeah OK, Liz Phair did it ages ago. It isn’t new now, just kind of ewww. If I thought you weren’t just trying for the attention of it, I would not mind.
5. Reverb: Indie loves reverb, I like reverb, but too many of you are using too much of it. I know it is lots and lots of fun. Just be aware that you sound more like each other than yourselves sometimes, Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls and The Magnetic Fields.

But I love you all, my little goofy independents, no matter what. Keep on being your alternative selves, and remember to have fun, too. Playing music that others can enjoy is a real privilege, yes, from even you, Psychedelic Horseshit. Maybe even you the most.


Lux Interior of the wonderful and seminal garage punk psychobilly band The Cramps died yesterday. He was 62. This makes me very sad, but I celebrate his long, strange, and very unique career.

I sort of got to see The Cramps once when they played in Milwaukee. It is such a blur in my mind now but what I do recall are just a few details. I had never been to the venue they were playing that night, the punkiest dive in Milwaukee at the time, and in a rather rough spot downtown. It was winter, a girlfriend and I started out late to begin with, got incredibly lost, then could not find a place to park that didn't look like RAPE SPACE, then when we finally got there, I had to argue and argue to be let in on my very very very crappy Fake ID THEN argued about having to pay the full cover charge since the show was almost done. Stupid me. I got in, and got in free, but saw a grand total of 10 minutes before the band ended, the house lights whipped on, and all the sweaty gross Milwaukee mosh pit crowd was pushed out the door, and me in whatever punk outfit I deemed cool. DAMN.

It's funny. I thought of them out of the blue the other day, wondering if they were still out there, still playing. I kind of thought that yeah, they would be, and I was right. It looks like The Cramps played what will now be their last gig at the Marquee Theater in Tempe, Arizona last November.

What I particularly liked about The Cramps was their sense of humor and obvious love of all kinds of bare roots rock n' roll. They made filthy nasty silly rough wicked music, and had that core rock spirit to them. Not many do, not like that, and not for so long. I think about Lux's wife and bandmate for all this time, the delectable Poison Ivy, a real rock chick who makes Chrissie Hynde look like Betsy Wetsy. She and Lux made quite a team, what a wild life.

Lux and Ivy were married for 37 years. Pretty damn punk.

Thank you Lux. I bought all your records, and you made me smile and dance. I will miss you.

The Cramps, live at the Napa State Mental Hospital -- "The Way I Walk"


Another Wednesday lunch out with the teen. Today we went to the local Greek diner, which as you would suspect, offered of kind of mashup of Greek/breakfast/lunch staples. My son was trying to get me to order some gyros but as I had not had any breakfast nor coffee yet I settled for the reliable tuna melt. I drank down the coffee as fast as they would return to fill the bright green chipped mug. Fuel.

Teen was in a good mood today and his eyes danced and sparkled as we discussed the latest funny stuff going on. I told him an old story about being sick and befouling a bathtub which he particularly enjoyed, and he waved a green pepper from his Veggie Grinder at me in retribution. Good times.

We talked about what he is going to do after school is done, which is really soon. I see a bit of sadness come into his eyes, but instead of getting defensive or withdrawing, he is able to discuss it a bit, which I thought was a good sign. I don’t know if it will last, but for today it was good. I kept my message brief and calm – that he needs to be looking for a job now, or figure out an internship/volunteer position. Not in June, now. I tell him he might as well try to up his odds of trying to do something he would enjoy rather than leaving it to the last second and having to take a default job washing cats or being an apprentice cadaver or something.

I start telling him about an internship I, his ol’ mommy, would love to take, just for the experience and local connections. He listens, and says well, you can’t do that, you have kids, there’s just no way! And he is right. The logistics would be near-impossible to pull off without pretty much just taking a seven-month sabbatical. I tell him I just wish I could figure ways to do all the things I would like to do, and I get frustrated and sad. Sometimes I think he and I are a bit in the same boat, 30 years apart, but looking out into the same wide, vast, and choppy open sea.

We get to talking about the little Zooey song I made a couple of weeks ago, and he asks me why I am not selling it on iTunes. This time it is me who says well, you can’t do that, there’s just no way! He says oh yes there is Mawm, go check it out, you should do it. Weehhhhhhhhellllll. The total and utter absurdity of this idea thrills me to no end. Someone with no other agenda other than to have fun can sing and play their goofy-ass song into a computer, and a few weeks later said song can be available for purchase anywhere in the world. HAHAHA! ALRIGHT!

So we get home and I do a little Googling. It is not quite as easy as he thought, but DAMN! It is indeed possible! So get this, folks -- within one to six weeks, and for the grand fee of TEN BUCKS and a storage fee of ten more bucks a year, my little ditty will be available on:

* iTunes U.S.
* iTunes Australia/N.Z.
* iTunes Canada
* iTunes UK/European Union
* iTunes Japan
* Rhapsody
* Napster
* eMusic
* GroupieTunes
* Amazon MP3
* Lala
* Shockhound
* Amie Street

I had to copyright the song, convert it to a .wav file, photoshop some cheap-ass artwork, get a UPC code, but that was pretty much it. I suspect that I will not make back my ten bucks, but I don’t care at all. Just the IDEA of this, seeing it on all those places is worth far more than ten bucks. THAT ME! It is a little fun, something to say well, I did that, haha.

Later on, as I am driving my younger two home from school, “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim comes on the radio and I turn it up. My daughter starts copying the drums almost immediately, banging her hands on her legs, going CHH CHH CHH for the snare drum, perfectly in time. There are little pieces of fuel everywhere.

Fatboy Slim -- "Praise You"


I am not Helga. Helga checked me out today at the grocery store.

Over six foot tall, over 300 pounds, little round wire glasses, a chin/neck combo that deserved its own tax status, and two very long, very thick brown braids.

Whoa. Yodel-ay-hee-hoo-boy.


As frequently seen here and in my daily life, I think very often about change and time and the meaning and weight of change and time. This is not just a function of Midlife Questioning; I have thought about it all my life, the idea that you are constantly changing, time is moving, if you are headed in a purposeful direction, that there is a function to all the movement other than biology and the regulation of the solar system.

This, naturally, leads me to think about rock n' roll. Granted, a donut or a dust bunny or a rock itself can get me to think about music. It is never far from my mind. It is an interesting thing as rock music, the "music of youth," nears its seventh decade -- 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, almost to 10s. The pioneers of rock n' roll are senior citizens. What does it mean now? Clearly, rock fans are no longer just in their teens and 20s; all this time, the power of this music has pulled generation after generation, and for the most part they stayed. I see it every time I go see a concert now. I usually have some kind of expectation that I will be the oldest one there, but it is never the case, and often there are people with 10 or 20 years on me, and I am someone who has been around for most of rock's years. It didn't used to be this way. Everyone is staying, more keep coming, because there is no expiration date on how music makes you feel. The joy and the power of it is bigger and longer lasting than the people who make it and the people who listen. For me, it is a privilege to see, this change, this weight. People younger than me don't remember what it was like to have a good portion of the generation or two in front of you HATE rock music and take any opportunity to crap on it or in some case, try to shut it all down.

But you can't do that. The dancing go-go Pandora is permanently out of her cage. You can't ever really stop anything that waited so long to get out. But this is still a place of Youth Culture, and those rock folks who have been around awhile, even the biggest and most respected, have a new kind of discrimination to face that must feel very odd. Take a look at this, Ron O'Conner's piece on "The Top 25 Rockers Over 50":

I am in reasonable agreement with his list, with the notable exception of Madonna. I do not consider Madonna a rocker, just a media profiteer. You have to have a heart of some sort and also minimal talent to create music, Madge. It's kind of like calling Dick Cheney a selfless civil servant. Please.

So here we have our lovable group of Rocker Chairs: Ozzy the Addled Elder, The Get-Off-My-Lawn Curmudgeons Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Ray Davies, Charlie Watts, and Chuck Berry; Frizzy-Haired Poetress Covered in Oil Paints Patti Smith; Hog-Callin' Grannies Lucinda Williams and Wanda Jackson; Hipster Vampires Prince, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie; Vaudevillians Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen; Crusty But Sly Loners Van Morrison and Neil Young; Tenured Professors Richard Thompson, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Costello; and Juvenile Delinquents 4 Life Iggy Pop, the members of AC/DC, Lemmy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.

I remember a conversation I once had with my mother many years ago when I still lived at home, all youthful and such. I was asking her why she looked sad, and she told me she wasn't, she felt happy and good. She told me it was just the lines on her face making her seem that way. "It's funny," she went on, "I don't feel any different than I did went I was 19. I am always so surprised to see myself in the mirror. It isn't how I feel at all." That made such an impression on me. I had never thought of my mom having this teenager living in her, that she thought of as the core of her, but she was so right. You can't do too much to stop the effects of time on the physical body, but you are always you in there, and it must be the same for all the Rocker Chairs above. They are Them (well, especially Van Morrison ZING), and still want to be out there, make good things, entertain people, feel the happiness and depth of their music, youth-defined culture be damned. Good is good, and numbers are just numbers. You spend so much time trying to hurry and grow up, then trying to be accepted as a adult by the older ones, then by that time you are you are already looking at Over-The-Hill birthday cakes in the office lunchroom. There is never a win moment with that.

Maybe the whole point is just that You Be You, no matter what, and maybe that is what pulls me to rock 'n roll so much. The imperfection and the individual and the courage to say this is me, this is what I do, like me or don't, I'm still doing it. Love it love it love it.

Here is Paul McCartney a few days ago on The Colbert Report. Funny, and I am liking his outfit too.


My daughter came over to me, opening her tiny palm to show me five unpopped popcorn kernels. I don't even ask her where she got five unpopped popcorn kernels. Best to not know.

MissSix: I am going to grow some corn.

Me: Ah. Good.

MissSix: I just wanted to let you know that.

Me: Well, I am glad you told me. I hope you have fun.

MissSix: It will be nice for us to have corn.

Me: Mmm hmm.

I could have told her about the futility of corn-growing on the first day of February in the Puget Sound area of the country, and this did flash through my mind, but I did not. Her dreams of beautiful green and yellow stalks of corn coming up through the dirt of our tiny manicured backyard garden, waving slightly in the breeze, delivering the most perfect juicy sweet corn ever, is infinitely more important than some flat reality. I would rather wish The Miracle Of The Corn upon her, and have it magically happen.

She takes a tiny finger and pushes each kernel into the black dirt, and carefully covers them up, and pats the ground, satisfied.

She comes back in and grabs her black-and-white lined composition book, her journal, and writes, then comes to show me what she has composed. The title of the entry, written in larger letters is "I AM GROEN" and the text is " I M Groeeing carne The sess r smol." Translated, "I AM GROWING" and "I am growing corn. The seeds are small." She shows me the picture she drew, of a seed seemingly exploding with electricity and the corn coming up in a great towering burst.

This is just a tiny moment of the day, gray and quiet, but there is something about it that moves me tremendously.