Sunday, June 28, 2015

Those dancing feet: Caitlin aces it!

Flowers in her arms, stars in her eyes! Caitlin triumphs once again at her year-end dance recital, but with a difference. She really worked hard this year and had some private coaching from the owner of the dance company, an eccentric English lady in her 60s who still dances up a storm. Caitlin displayed a dramatic leap in skills and focus. It all came together for her. Tap is especially difficult to master, but she blew us away this time with her precision and exuberance. This was a good old-fashioned 1930s-style number a la Busby Berkeley, my favorite kind of tap.

Her other number was a hilarious thing from Legally Blonde called Omigod You Guys!. The thing is, you guys, my kids were (and are) incredible athletes, smart, funny, caring people, everything you could ever ask for. But they weren't into the arts. At all. This next generation overflows with creativity in dance and music, and Caitlin has her own YouTube craft/cooking show. Caitlin also aced her clarinet solo, Over the Rainbow, at her band recital, and Erica's choir has been invited to sing at various cultural events. What can I say? Sometimes you just have to wait it out.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marcie in a coat of flowers: the brilliance of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell – Marcie

Marcie in a coat of flowers
Steps inside a candy store
Reds are sweet and greens are sour
Still no letter at her door
So she'll wash her flower curtains
Hang them in the wind to dry
Dust her tables with his shirt and
Wave another day goodbye

Marcie's faucet needs a plumber
Marcie's sorrow needs a man
Red is autumn green is summer
Greens are turning and the sand
All along the ocean beaches
Stares up empty at the sky
Marcie buys a bag of peaches
Stops a postman passing by
And summer goes
Falls to the sidewalk like string and brown paper
Winter blows
Up from the river there's no one to take her
To the sea

Marcie dresses warm its snowing
Takes a yellow cab uptown
Red is stop and green's for going
Sees a show and rides back down
Down along the Hudson River
Past the shipyards in the cold
Still no letter's been delivered
Still the winter days unfold
Like magazines
Fading in dusty grey attics and cellars
Make a dream
Dream back to summer and hear how
He tells her
Wait for me

Marcie leaves and doesn't tell us
Where or why she moved away
Red is angry green is jealous
That was all she had to say
Someone thought they saw her Sunday
Window shopping in the rain
Someone heard she bought a one-way ticket
And went west again

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April - Deep Purple

Wild Orphan by Allen Ginsberg

Blandly mother
takes him strolling
by railroad and by river
--he's the son of the absconded
hot rod angel--
and he imagines cars
and rides them in his dreams,

so lonely growing up among
the imaginary automobiles
and dead souls of Tarrytown

to create
out of his own imagination
the beauty of his wild
forebears--a mythology
he cannot inherit.

Will he later hallucinate
his gods? Waking
among mysteries with
an insane gleam
of recollection?

The recognition--
something so rare
in his soul,
met only in dreams
of another life.

A question of the soul.
And the injured
losing their injury
in their innocence
--a cock, a cross,
an excellence of love.

And the father grieves
in flophouse
complexities of memory
a thousand miles
away, unknowing
of the unexpected
youthful stranger
bumming toward his door.

New York, April 13, 1952

Thursday, June 25, 2015

To think of blue almonds: Polish phrases and how to use them


MARCH 5, 2015

Photo: PolandMFA

1. A Pole won’t tell you to get lost.

They’ll tell you to “stuff yourself with hay” (wypchać się sianem).

2. Poles don’t snack.

They “take something on a tooth” (wziąć coś na ząb).

3. A Pole never beats around the bush.

He prefers to “wrap the truth in cotton” (owijać prawdę w bawełnę).

4. Polish people are not nit-picky.

They are “looking for a hole in the whole” (szukać dziury w całym).

5. Polish people don’t count their chickens before they’re hatched.

They “divide the skin on the bear” (dzielić skórę na niedźwiedziu).

6. A Polish person doesn’t sulk.

He “has flies up his nose” (mieć muchy w nosie).

7. Polish people don’t mess things up.

They “make bigos” (narobić bigosu) or “brew beer” (nawarzyć piwa) instead.

8. A Pole doesn’t daydream.

They “think of blue almonds” (myśleć o niebieskich migdałach).

9. Poles will not speak bluntly.

They’ll “tell it straight from the bridge” (mówić prosto z mostu).

10. A Pole is not uninformed…

He just “fell from the Christmas tree” (urwać się z choinki).

11. Poles do not simply grin and bear it.

They “put up a good face for a bad game” (robić dobrą minę do złej gry).

12. A bad Polish writer doesn’t waffle.

He “pours water” (lać wodę).

13. A Polish person doesn’t just run away.

He “gives a leg” (dać nogę) or “takes his legs under his belt” (brać nogi za pas).

14. A Pole is never a know-it-all.

Instead, he “ate all wits” (pozjadać wszystkie rozumy).

15. Polish people won’t pull your leg.

They’ll “stick you into a bottle” (nabić kogoś w butelkę).

16. A Pole won’t take you apart.

He’ll “mix you with mud” (zmieszać kogoś z błotem) or “hang dogs on you” (powiesić na kimś psy).

17. A Pole won’t promise you the world.

But you might get “pears on a willow” (gruszki na wierzbie).

18. Polish people don’t run like hell.

They “run where the pepper grows” (uciekać gdzie pieprz rośnie) or “where the devil says 

goodnight” (gdzie diabeł mówi dobranoc).

19. Poles won’t pester you.

They’ll “drill a hole in your belly” (wiercić komuś dziurę w brzuchu).

20. Polish people don’t bite off more than they can chew.

They “jump at the sun with a hoe” (porywać się z motyką na słońce).

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Has this ever happened to you??


Monday, June 22, 2015

The Matt Paust Show: Killer Kids

This is the closest thing I'll ever have to The Matt Paust Show. It's about a hideous crime committed back in 1992, in Gloucester, Virginia, Matt's beat when he was a reporter. I think of him then as the old-school newsman, tirelessly tracking down clues, getting the story beneath the story, wearing out shoe leather. Probably with a hip flask in his pocket and a hound dog named Beauregard (oops, cancel that last detail). Wish I had a picture of him. Sometimes, rare times, you click with someone you've never met and you somehow keep an eye on each other, make each other laugh and know that you're friends. Such a one is Matt.

Portrait of the Reporter as a young dog.

Healing hands

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

"Doom & Gloom" (Third Eagle's Tune)

Doom and Gloom
Doom and gloom
Coming soon
Listen to Third Eagle’s tune
Doom and gloom
God is telling us
The end is coming soon
Very soon
You’ll see signs up in the sun
And stars and moon

Doom and gloom, very soon
Rapture comes at night or noon
Doom and gloom, very soon
If you’re ready you will meet
The Bride and Groom
Don’t be dumb
Rapture comes
Long before the seventh trump
Don’t be dumb
It will be as in the days
Of Noah’s flood
Rapture comes
Lot and Noah did not have to
Shed their blood

Don’t be dumb, rapture comes
Trim your wick or face the gun
Don’t be dumb, rapture comes
Fill your lamps
There won’t be oil for everyone
Seven years
Tears and fears
Tribulation will appear
Seven years
Jesus said that it would be
The very worst
Tears and fears
You will think our lovely planet
Has been cursed

Seven years, tears and fears
Catholic church will be a ghost
Seven years, tears and fears
Britian, Russia, and the U.S.
Will be toast
World War 3
Don’t blame me
Listen to Third Eagle’s plea
World War 3
That’s the New World Order plan
For what it’s worth
Don’t blame me
‘cause Obama will provoke
the king of North
World War 3, don’t blame me
You’ll have no ‘lectricity
World War 3, don’t blame me
Store some water, food and fuel

He’s not nice
Take Third Eagle’s good advice
He will try to say that Jesus
Is not Lord
He’s not nice
He’ll behead you if you
Follow Jesus’ word
Antichrist, he’s not nice
Take his mark, you’ll pay the price
Antichrist, he’s not nice
He will take away
God’s holy sacrifice

Please don’t dread
Have no fear Third Eagle said
Please don’t dread
Jesus said that He will stop
The death and pain
Only New World Order scum
Will fell the flame
Please don’t dread, Armaged’
Antichrist is such a liar
Please don’t dread, Armaged’
If you take his mark
You’ll join him in the fire

You can win
Just don’t sin
State of grace you must stay in
You can win
If you never do
The filthy sins of flesh
Just don’t sin
Think of Mary and her baby
In the crèche
You can win, just don’t sin
Please don’t watch pornography
You can win, just don’t sin
Onan’s sin is what will make
Your God angry
You can win
Just don’t sin
At Millenium
God’s peace

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Caitlin plays Over the Rainbow!

Why Choo Choo is the coolest character on Top Cat

Monday, June 15, 2015

For your evening's (inexplicable) entertainment. . .

The hate crime no one talks about

Oh yes. Oh, yes, Captain Kirk, and his noble soliloquy in perhaps my fave original Star Trek episode, Miri. The one with all the kids on that planet, you know, all by themselves cuz the adults all died, and they get all gross when they hit puberty and Yeoman Rand's leg looks like a major cigarette burn. I watched it at 13, tape recording it as I usually did on our old reel-to-reel Webcor with the fan-shaped microphone. Kirk wasn't ridiculous then, he wasn't a joke, he wasn't a buffoon and to date, he had done no Loblaws commercials. Kirk was just Kirk.

But his immortal line, "no blah blah blah!" has taken on a special significance in my mind over many decades of observation.

Do you know what I'm talking about? Happens so often I want to yip with irritation. In fact it happened yesterday:  we're in Denny's eating our veggie omelettes with hash browns, when I hear a familiar drone coming from behind Bill's seat.


I -

UMMM da bummada bummda. Mm-mmoom-dah! Da bomada bomadadamda bom.

A - 

Bum BUM DA dum dum, demda dum! Dem -

So you get the idea by now. It was one of those totally one-sided conversations you constantly overhear (without meaning to: this is hardly eavesdropping, as I would have loved to shut out all this blathering) in restaurants or theatres or other public places. 

One person is blathering on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and - sorry, my hand just fell off - but as this blathablathablathablathablathablatha goes on, all of it self-referential, all of it self-serving, all of it self-entitled, all of it related to the blatherer's intense suffering at not being treated like a crown prince/ss, I can sense the listener/receiver's blood volume being slowly, slowly, and surely sucked down and siphoned out.

When they leave the restaurant, the blatherer will be hugely inflated with self-righteous helium and all ready for the next deadly gas attack, but the victim (for that is what it is) will be but a pale shadow of his/her former self. She will be so anemic, you'll be able to see through her. She'll have to go home and lie down for a month or more, maybe get a transfusion.

But the thing is, they'll still go out again next week for lunch. The same thing will happen all over again. He or she will tell the same pompous, pointless stories, the same tales of persecution. No one even notices how soul-destroying the experience is. The entitled one will be bursting with hemoglobin by now, ready to explode like some honey-forced queen bee or ruptured giant termite. The victim will now weigh 37 pounds. Doesn't matter how many pancakes she puts away.

I heard it yesterday and I heard it at the mall food fair the day before with a similar booming, thrumming, droning male voice, this time with some sort of European accent. Bom-bomda-BOMmmdaa-bommmm-daBOMmada-bonga, etc. etc.

This is not a conversation. This is a monologue. The monologuist has no idea that it isn't a conversation and in fact thinks he's a very good conversationalist, very smart and sharp. His blathering about camping equipment or the plumbing in his house or his car troubles or the asshole at work who got the promotion he should've got (or his bitch of a wife, always a favorite) strikes him as scintillating discourse sparking a lively debate, an exchange of witticisms rivalling the Algonquin Round Table in sheer witti-blah-tudinous-ness.

He doesn't know, because his brain is made out of shoe leather and his psyche is about as penetrable as a block of obsidian. I would like to start carrying a baseball bat around with me to play whack-a-mole with these characters, but there are just too many of them, and besides, then *I* would be considered obnoxious and antisocial, hitting these poor innocent guys who weren't doing nothin'. 

This is abuse. The endless, boring, repetitive blathering with only the occasional squeak out of the audience/receiver/victim/codependent masochist.  This person NEEDS this sort of ego-stroking, this constant reinforcement of his (or her: one of the worst I've encountered is a her, droning on for 45 minutes about her Grade 11 science teacher and what he wore to class) innate sense that his every word is interesting and useful and even enlightening, when in reality it's a torrent of horseshit more horrific than the result of opening Mr. Ed's stable door.

There is nothing to be done. Stay away, that's all I can say to you, try to stay away and not call them friends. A friend does not stick a drinking straw in your jugular vein and begin to vigorously suck. Blatha-blatha-blathata-blah.

I don't know if this codicil belongs here, but I might as well tack it on. It's the self-proclaimed expert who charges into a room full of chemo patients and bellows, "TAKE MILK THISTLE AND YOU WILL BE CURED!" The person so sure of (his or her) convictions that they force them on others as absolute, unassailable gospel truth.

One doctor I know is a doozie. Educated, an "expert" on many things, in fact famous.

"Illness means you've repressed your emotions."

"No, you mean: I believe illness means you've repressed your emotions."

"There's no debate about this, it's simply true."

"So everybody else, everyone who believes something different from you, is completely erroneous and full of shit?"

"I didn't say that! Don't be so defensive. It's just an opinion."

"Then why didn't you say so?"

"Because it's an opinion that happens to be true."

"Jesus, don't you hear yourself? That's total arrogance!"

"Obviously you have issues with authority figures."

"No, just with YOU, asshole!"

(That last line was fantasized, but isn't it great?)

I once attended some sort of workshop (it had something to do with my sick and dying church trying to manage a last-minute, futile resurrection) where the facilitator said, "Tell me the difference between these two statements: Divorce is terrible."

(Slight tremor in the room, caused by minute vibrations from the divorced people trying not to spit at her.)

"MY divorce was terrible. Which statement is easier to accept?"


But people don't do it that way! They stride in and say, "Everything happens for a reason/God never gives us more than we can handle/It's all in God's plan." This person has never suffered a major hardship, and in fact has led a charmed existence.  God's will has been, at least up to now, a piece of cake. (Secretly she/he thinks it's because she prays a lot and "surrenders", so God favors her.) But never do they say, "I've come to believe that - " or even, "It's my conviction that - ". No, they just take one of those thingamabobs they used to tamp down powder in a cannon, and casually shove it down your throat.

"I was about to die in a car crash, but my angel saved me."

"God must have intervened."

"It was meant to be" (but NEVER with reference to anything negative. Only positive things are "meant to be". No sense of entitlement here.)

"It was God's plan that little Timmy survive being run over by an express train 47 times."

Oh yes? What about this couple over here, dying of grief because God DIDN'T save their son? What about the man whose wife actually did die in a crash? Didn't she believe enough, didn't God love her enough, didn't she have the right mojo or put enough on the collection plate?

It's really just more BLAHBLAHBLAH, of a particularly toxic variety. It's toxic because it is so un-thought-out, so carelessly said. So smug. So entitled ("see, God loves me enough to pull me out of flaming wreckage. What's wrong with you?")

I wonder sometimes if even half of what people say is really considered, or if it just pours out of them like so much raw sewage. They snag on to jingles, axioms, homilies, catch-phrases, churn them around unexamined, and spit them in your face. They never preface these statements, just jam them up your nose as "fact".  It's easier than thinking, easier than feeling empathy or compassion or any of those dangerous things that require a little stretching of the soul.

The blatherers of the world are verbal thugs. When you see one, whether it's in Denny's or the hardware store or your local church or synogogue, whacking the palm of his hand with a lead pipe and wearing a smug self-involved smile, there's only one thing you can do.


"You had me at hello"

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Back to Hoagy's Alley The making of Top Cat

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Can I retire from life?

This has been brewing for a while, and whether or not anyone wants to “view” it is quite beside the point.

My husband recently retired from a 40-year career as an environmental engineer. This only happened a few weeks ago, and since then it’s like the air slowly being let out of a balloon – not so much into depression as exhausted relief from a stress that has dogged him for years.

Now he’s tinkering, the thing he likes best in the world, fixing things in the garage, contemplating home renovations large and small, taking over all the cooking (to my endless delight – I am SO tired of fixing meals, and he’s a much better cook than me anyway).

And I am looking at myself and wondering. A friend recently quoted an older woman she knows. “They retire. We don’t.” It made me think. It certainly would apply to the old style of marriage where wife waited on husband hand-and-foot. Not being the handmaiden type, I prefer a self-serve husband who heats up his own  beans because I hate the things (and scrape the bean-scum out of that pot while you’re at it).

But still. They retire. We don’t. Or I don’t. Retire from what? From this miasma of desire, this scrambling to try to get a foothold on something that will probably escape me forever?

Like a lot of people, I wanted to be a published author. It too me oh, so long to get there. And I did. Supposedly.
But “published author” is a relative term. It's sort of like saying “I have an income from writing”: which I do, and which I have had since 1984. But if you mention the size of the income (and you’d be surprised how many people ask), all you get is snickers or looks of amazement that you’d put that much effort into something that earns you less than the average paper boy.

I want to quit the whole thing: I want to quit wanting. I want to quit having my work up there, or out there, where brickbats can be thrown at it. I recently was really worked over for something I wrote, and it was not very pleasant. She had a right to feel the way she did, because what I said was wrong and I will always regret it. I did not think it through at all.   I think my attempt at an apology was only poked full of more holes, so I could not win.

This happens, a lot. Not just to me, though I've been reamed out many a time, often for no crime except being visible and expressing an opinion. I've seen commentary that is simply appalling all over the internet, including on YouTube videos of disabled children and babies with terminal deformities. People can be absolute shits, and they’re almost encouraged to be. Ridicule rules the day. It’s easy, because nobody really knows who you are.

The internet and blogs and social networking have changed everything: it’s often said, but never adequately understood. Everything is lived out in public.  As the old Moxy Fruvous song says, “Everyone’s a novelist, and everyone can sing/But no one talks when the TV’s on.” This  all implies a certain amount of exposure. We’re all nude in front of the cameras, folks, in a way that’s making George Orwell turn over in his grave.

So I was laid bare, peeled, not realizing what the full ramifications would be. The worst name I was called during that whole tirade was “amateur”. What does that mean? Is it tied to a certain amount of money? What amount? Is there a minimum? Could it be ANY amount? Or do you really have to earn anything at all?

I want to quit this. Writing is what I do, and it’s hard for me not to do it. Blogging for the most part has been fun, sometimes exhilarating, with very mixed results in the viewing department. I have had thousands, and zeros, and everything in between.

But that’s just the trouble. Views are like “friends” on Facebook. I know people with thousands of “friends”. How is this possible? How would you have time to “meet” all those people and still hold a job, or even attend to your basic bodily functions?

How deep are these friendships, or do they just bump along the surface in a world that sometimes seems like it is ALL surface?

I tend to illustrate my posts, and some like this, and some hate it and think it is stupid. The title of my blog was recently ridiculed:  never mind that the person didn’t get it, that the intentional sentimental irony of it flew right over their head. Misinterpretation rules in the land of bloghood, does it not?

I want to quit. Quit this. Quit it, resign, retire, leave. Walk. I don’t know if I can walk from writing and I don’t know if I can quit blogging, or caring, but I want to. I don’t want to send any more “queries” by mail. I don’t want to get any more stamped self-addressed envelopes in the mail, miserable little things with (usually) form rejections in them, or, once in a while, personal rejections, which are supposed to be better because they're not forms.

It’s great, in fact we think it’s a potential bestseller, but sorry, we can’t publish it because it doesn’t suit our list. 

I’ve let this get to me, haven't I? Yes. I’ve let critics get under my skin. Shame on me.  If I answer critics, I am peevish and hypersensitive and can’t accept a constructive comment. If I don’t, I don’t care or am too snotty to reply. If I apologize for writing something that is out of line, the apology is never enough because I somehow have to reverse time like Superman turning the world backwards in that movie and unwrite what I wrote. Anything less is cause for more jabs in my most tender places.

My so-called career, the thing I feel so ambivalent about and now would like to drop like a whole bag of hammers, is like a balloon just brushing the tips of my fingers. When I try to grab for it, it pops up beyond my reach. Stop trying then, they say. Just let it fall. Then I probably won’t want it anyway.

From worrying about whether I will ever see my work in print again, I QUIT.

From wondering if writing this will make one tinker’s goddamn of a difference to anyone, I QUIT.

From trying to entertain or please, something I had to do to survive as a child, I quit. No more court jester stuff, it’s killing me.

From trying to figure out whether certain other (mostly scarily anonymous) people are human or reptilian, I most definitely quit.

The internet is a no-man’s-land, a bizarre wonderland/wasteland that nobody has figured out yet. It has its exhilarating aspects, connecting with strangers (who could be anybody, by the way, even psychotic killers), getting “support” from other people who are addicted to sniffing Drano or whatever, and glopping up moploads of information from Wikipedia that may or may not have any truth in it at all. Then there are the darker aspects.

People are adopting babies through Facebook, and selling them on eBay. Men look at internet porn at work: even cops (it happened here not long ago, and they got into a spot of trouble). Suddenly it seems like eroticism has become as ugly as a rhinoceros, torn loose and galloping free. Four-year-old girls are being dressed up like prostitutes and encouraged to act like them.  Sometimes I want to bring back corsets, restraint, Sigmund Freud telling us that if libido is ever let loose, society will crumble in a matter of months.

But I digress. My work is now out there where “some” people can “sometimes” see it, and in fact I probably have had more views in a year of blogging than I had readers in 15 years of writing newspaper columns. I am still beavering away, and just getting so tired. Just wanting to throw away something that feels like an arm. You can’t throw your arm away, can you?

I resign from the monster I have created for myself, tugged and pulled by the nasty little bugger we call the internet. I just want to write because I want to write, because I feel like it. It can be as dumb as dirt. I can call it Barbie’s Sparkle-Plenty Pink Plastic Dream House and laugh if people take it literally and call ME stupid.

Wanting to be understood, wanting someone or anyone to "get" you, is the province of adolescence, is it not? But what happens when it never happens, when at the advanced age of (blbblblb) you realize you're never going to be "got" so you might as well get over it?

From wanting too much, from wanting anything at all, I quit, I resign, I fold, I surrender, I submit! Submission is a wonderful thing, is it not? I do it all the time. Just ask my editor.

"You had me at hello"

Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!