scooter titleNot my loss of youth, which is of no consequence. Promise. But 31 years later the title to my motor scooter shows up while I’m packing things up, and I’m thinking


“Great, the title to my scooter had my favorite president’s picture on it.” I had fun on that scooter, the best thing being cops wouldn’t ticket it on Chicago streets, or sidewalks, more likely. At least not in those days. And my girlfriend looked really funny with the helmet on. She had kind of a round face, so with the helmet,  her face and head combined to form a sphere with nose, lips and eyes. A really cute sphere. Then we broke up, and this quasi-Amazonian blonde would ride on the back but we were just friends. That was fun, too.

But as I said, it is of no consequence.




So, not thinking about that.

This is what I am thinking about. This play was my introduction to Sir Ian McKellen, though he wasn’t a Sir then. Now he is an elder statesman of sorts, but back then he was just a great (fairly) young actor. I wonder what he would have said if future Ian came to him and said: “You will become most well-known for playing the comic book character, Magneto.”


Tim Curry was in the production, but I already knew him from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I thought he would become the great actor of our generation. This was April 1981. I was wrong,  of course. Raiders of the Lost Ark came out that year, too, but voice for voice, Ford can’t hold a candle to Curry. (Or sing “Sloe Gin.” Or rock lingerie and high heels.)







McKellen as Salieri

McKellen as Salieri

Yeah, that is Jane Seymour next to Curry, playing the role of his wife. This was before she started making jewelry that looked butts.

Yeah, that is Jane Seymour next to Curry, playing the role of his wife. This was before she started making jewelry that looked butts.


I have searched high and low for a video of this performance. The screenplay was very different from the script for stage. If anyone knows of one, lemme know.

In the meantime, anyone want a playbill? I can’t keep carrying this stuff around with me.




This is not what I want to be doing. I want to be outside enjoying the day, instead of deciding which of my belongings I truly need and which need to be consigned to the trash heap, the thrift shop,  the public library (do we need them anymore?), left anonymously at Starbucks or a lunch counter…

Here is a book called Facts about Israel, published by the Division of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I’m thinking sometime about 1975.

facts about israel

There are 34,393 sqm within the cease-fire lines from the Six-Day War.

The distance from Jerusalem to Haifa is 94 miles, to Tel Aviv a mere 38.

Modern Israel has never known permanent boundaries.

Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950. (I don’t know when/if they released the claim).

Ha’Aretz , the oldest Hebrew language newspaper, was founded in 1917. The Jerusalem Post, the oldest English language daily, in 1932.

The Israel Communist Party had one seat in the Knesset at the time of publication.

Men were in the Reserves until age 55.

The book refers to the geographical place as “the Land,” a direct translation of the Hebrew “Ha’Aretz.”

So, this isn’t about packing things up. It’s about What I Will  do With Facts about Israel from 1975. To me it is a fascinating snapshot of a moment in time, that time when Jews traveled to the Sinai and the West Bank in tour groups (someone carrying a gun), but basically without fear. There were no big hotels in Sinai. Tourists slept on top of their sleeping bags under the desert sky. There were some grass shacks, but there wasn’t any plumbing. Israelis didn’t build anything, they knew they were leaving someday. They probably had no idea it would be so soon. I think that  Camp David took us all by surprise.

And then there is now. Most everyone hates us for being Jewish and Zionist, but we’re sort of used to it. Conservative (i.e. Republican Jews, shudder) have no problem. They can hate the liberal world for everything, from political policy to its anti-Israel zeal. For liberals like myself, we find ourselves at odds with the Left we are normally sympathetic to. We are not going to give in to anti-Semitic (because that’s what it is) propaganda just because we think that all Americans should have health insurance and that American defense spending should be lower and the death penalty is a travesty and that we need to spend more on infrastructure . Ain’t gonna happen.

Like I said, shouldn’t I be outside, enjoying the ridiculously short New England summer?facts israel3


From the cover of the New Yorker

From the cover of the New Yorker


I was misled. I was taken by hand down the primrose path, and dumped at the end of it with piles of pages and boxes of books, volume upon volume and tome upon tome: so many  that I can no longer carry them without causing a debilitating flare-up of my sciatica, which, alas, renders me useless for just about every activity, except reading.

Books are the buggy whips of our age. But worse. You only need one buggy whip: books act in synergy to make sequels, trilogies, collections, and ultimately libraries.

But nobody wants them anymore. The pleasures of reading are experienced ever less.

So what am I supposed to do with all of these books I’ve collected, from stories that I’ve liked to the so-called canon of  “Great Books” that are supposed to be on Everyman’s shelf?

I have to fucking move. Why? Because I didn’t have it in writing. I trusted my stupid idiot landlord, which makes me the stupid idiot. She goes and gets knocked up by someone who isn’t even her boyfriend and decides that she needs her house back. I told her: I need to stay until my daughter finishes grade school. But she’s pregnant now, and it’s probably the first time anyone in MA has been pregnant for at least 10 years, so such a momentous occasion trumps everything else. What, she can afford this place now that she can shake someone down for child support? Whatever.

And I have all of these books to move. Here’s a copy of EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization &Reprocessing,  purporting to be  “The Breakthrough “Eye Movement” Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety , Stress, and Trauma.” (I actually tried this therapy once. Years ago. Went to a guy in Newton who got paid to move his finger back and forth like a metronome. Then I found out that he wrote “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Reincarnation.” It ranks #1,484,901 on all Amazon book sales, but it just barely makes it into the top 100 (it is #100) in New Age Books on the site. By comparison, Eric Kraft’s Inflating a Dog: The Story of Ella’s Lunch Launch,  a great and inventive read, ranks #3,731,034.) So let’s see. I save the lives of dogs, and this guy writes books on reincarnation and teaches people to watch metronomes. He lives in Newton, and I can’t even afford to live in Framingham anymore. Hmmmm.

So here’s the question: why on G-d’s green earth would anyone spend his time writing? Certainly not to be read, because it ain’t going to happen. Too busy tuning into Netflix, hoping to find the one good movie that has been rotated in as enticement to keep us from canceling our worthless subscription.Ya certainly don’t write for money. The internet put even more unnecessary words out there, and the jobs that once paid $1500 per article dropped to $150. Not worth the time. Intellectual burger flipping.

Collect books to pass them on? My children, alas, show no great interest in reading. The hours I spent with my head buried in discovery don’t seem so appealing to them. Did I waste all that time reading? Does it make any difference now? Was all the money spent on books better spent on tomato seeds (heirloom, naturally), travel, and automobiles ?

Oh, I am disillusioned. But I  am not bitter. Promise.  I am sitting here on the piles of books, needing to say good-bye but unable to do so. They won’t even go to a good home. They will be sent to the recycling plant and turned into cereal boxes and grocery bags, and maybe even toilet paper. The words that once made the author so proud will be brought low, made to wipe someone’s ass.

I came across Yukio Mishima’s The Sea of Fertility tetraology today. He killed himself–well, not just killed himself, but committed seppuku–when it was finished. It was his final effort, his statement to the world.

For those of you interested, it starts out like this:

When conversation at school turned to the Russo-Japanese War, Kiyoaki Matsugae asked his closest friend, Shigekuni Honda, how much he could remember about it. Shigekuni’s memories were vague–he just barely recalled having been taken once to the front gate to watch a torchlight procession. The year the war ended they had both been eleven, and it seemed to Kiyoaki that they should be able to remember it a little more accurately. Their classmates who talked so knowingly about the war were for the most part merely embellishing hazy memories with tidbits they had picked up from grown-ups.

Two members of the Matsugae family, Kiyoaki’s uncles, had been killed. His grandmother still received a pension from the government, thanks to these two sons she had lost , but she never used the money; she left the envelopes unopened on the ledge of the household shrine. Perhaps that was why the photograph which impressed Kiyoaki most out of the entire collection of was photographs in the house was one entitled “Vicinity of Tokuri Temple: Memorial Services for the War Dead” and dated June 26, 1904, the thirty-seventh year of the Meiji era. This photograph, printed in sepia ink, was quite unlike the usual cluttered mementos of the war. It had been composed with an artist’s eye for structure: it really made it seem as if the thousands of soldiers who were present were arranged deliberately , like figures in a painting, to focus the entire attention of the viewer on the tall cenotaph of unpainted wood in their midst.mishima and EMDR

ruidoso downsSometime around 1996, I went to a workshop called Writers for Riding. It took place at Ruidoso, home of Ruidoso Downs, once an important place in the world of quarter-horse racing, and now just another fading track near yet another Indian casino.

Was the conference a scam? Maybe yes, maybe no. There used to be turf writers in the US. but this wasn’t about turf writing–it was just about horses as a centerpiece to write around. There still are turf writers, but they are a dying and diminishing race. As one turf writer wrote:

The truth is, there is not that much racing media left, at least from the traditional standpoint of the daily newspaper. In fact, horse racing hardly exists in many American newspapers that used to employ one or more full-time racing writers and handicappers. Feature stories, outside of the Triple Crown, are few and far between, and many papers in racing cities have stopped publishing handicapping selections, entries, and results.

–Ray Paulick,, November 23, 2012.

I found a canary yellow legal pad with some scrawls on it today. I am dumping stuff (see The Great Book Sale), but not without a moment’s reflection.

We all stayed in large rented condo. Who was there? Carolyn Elkins, who was my friend for a while, was there. She came with her sister, Marilyn. (Oddly enough, the trip was to be  life-changing for Marilyn.)  There was a Rebecca, from Arkansas, and a Becky, who was older and if I remember correctly had skin deeply etched by the sun.

After our initial excitement at meeting each other and the perfunctory politeness, the personality element is beginning to insert itself. The sore spots are starting to wear. The Olympics were on, and Becky could not resist making fun of the synchronized swimmers, especially the inverted legs-out-of-the-water splits maneuver. She used language from porno magazines. But when I suggested that the Olympics should be performed as they were in ancient Greece–naked–she got offended in a way that seemed to come from left field. Rebecca, the Arkansan, has her buttons pushed quite easily if the shortcomings of the South are brought up. I live in the South, as do Carolyn and her sister, and none of us seem to think that it is some sort of wisteria-covered paradise. Sometime, before the week is over, I will solemnly assert that the best thing that has happened to the South has been an influx of Northerners.

cutting horse

The names in my notes now mean nothing to me, whether I remember the person’s face or not. They are just names. There was a rodeo rider named Johnny Gas, according to my notes, but if I google that name I get Johnny Cash. There is a Walker Porter, DVM. The internet tells me that he is now retired, and that his wife of 55 years died last year. Someone must have gone to the desert endurance races in  the UAE. Maybe it was Dr. Porter. It seems fairly certain that he did head down to Guadalajara to be the veterinarian at some match races. The track wasn’t flat–the starting gate was on an uphill.

Lee Abbott taught part of the course.One thing that annoys me about about writing courses is that the book signing session, with the weird sort of pressure to by a copy. Does anyone want a signed copy of Strangers in Paradise, or Love is the Crooked Thing?

Ronnie Stewart–trainer  a three-word note says. He is on facebook, and is still working with horses.

Another forgotten rodeo cowboy, a note–probably a quote from Abbott–to “exhaust the emotional possibilities of a moment.” I am sure that that is not one of my ideas.

Here’s an interesting quote, but I can’t give it proper attribution:

“The American Cowboy is most overrated work in the U.S.”





It’s fucking 8:30 in the evening. It’s been a long day.  It’s time to be enjoying the evening. But no, my idiot neighbor is out there making sure that the grass won’t be too tall in the morning in case it grows overnight. Does he add up the hours that he expends making sure that his lawn looks nice? I feel like telling him that I’m sure the grass over his grave will be nice and neat–won’t that be enough? How is it that I always end up next door to people whose life’s mission it is to make sure that their house has curb appeal?

The last place was worse. There was an acre of conservation land that used to belong to my neighbor, but which he still considered it his most sacred duty to keep mowed. Out there on the riding mower, hour after hour, in a tank shirt, or (heaven help me) shirtless, going in endless, noisy circles. Mowing down blackberries, columbine, leaving nice edges for poison ivy to flourish…




overgrown_lawnAs soon as the weather gets nice, finally, sometime in the middle of May, I think of getting back outside. Not necessarily to do anything, but to just get outside without the burden and discomfort of cold and extra clothing and let the sun irradiate my skin. O let the sweat drip from my forehead, let my clothes stick to me, I do not care. I do not have to shovel. I do not have to clear the car off. I can open the windows and turn off the heated seats.

But then they start. The incessant whine, the buzzing around your ear like that damn mosquito that won’t go away while you try and sleep. Cursed things! Could somebody tell me why on G-d’s green earth an able-bodied person needs a riding mower for a 1/4 acre plot? Or even a motorized mower? Get some exercise! Use a reel mower! Let’s ignore the fuel that it takes to run the mowers of this country–just imagine all the fossil fuel used in creating and transporting the mowers. Is any device more suited than the mower in showing us how inconsiderate our neighbors are,  out there at 7 am on weekend mornings, conveniently ignoring the fact that some of us may be sleeping (typical New Englander)? Is this a good use of technology? To be sure, there’s hardly an hour when someone isn’t mowing somewhere within earshot–can’t we have a few hours to listen to the wind and the birds and parents screaming at their children?

The pride people take in their lawns! Folks–It’s just grass. And I, for one, refuse to pour perfectly good drinking water on the ground on purpose. What’s the worst that could happen? That my lawn turns beige? and I don’t have to mow it at all. Chemicals? Why? To get rid of the dandelions, which are a) pretty, b) native, and c) edible? There are various species of things growing out there, and they are no less green that bluegrass or fescue.

The gas mowers will remain in reserve for those occasions when the grass has grown too high, or when the neighborhood is suffering from too much quiet. Actually, I may need to buy a house, so maybe I’ll let the whole thing go to hell and lower the property values until they reach an affordable level.

Even fancy neighborhoods can have nice beige lawns.

Even fancy neighborhoods can have nice beige lawns.


Wherein this bozo from Central Casting actually and without irony answers Pat Robertson’s question: “Why are Jews so rich?”
lapinIn case you missed Pat Roberton’s TV show, or in case you don’t watch Fox News, this embarrassment to the tribe was on the 700 Club perpetuating medieval stereotypes about his own group. Poor guy, his rebbe probably told him  that The Merchant of Venice was a dramatization of real occurrence. Here’s the Salon article.


and because he never ceases to embarrass us….