Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Moms Do

“Aw, Mom,” A.J. wailed.

A.J. and his Mom, Juanita, were discussing a trip that A.J. had fixed in his mind. An ardently opinionated kid, A.J. had middle-of-the-back hair, a booming voice, the physique of a 30-year-old, all of it directed by I.Q. points in the 160 range, and a fifteen-year-old body. The kid was a handful.

The trip involved the purchase of an aging van, enough to hold six or seven other fifteen-year-old-boys, all of them wanting to travel unsupervised around the Pacific Northwest. At the least, those boys were dreaming of beer and girls.

Of course, Mom would, according to A.J., pick up the costs, van and all, because, you know, fifteen-year-old boys don't have jobs.

“I've been thinking about the trip,” Juanita said. “I think it could be a great experience. You'll learn a lot.” She paused for effect. “But I'd want to go too. I get carsick and throw up fairly often, so I'd need to ride shotgun. But I can give you directions and advice, quite a bit actually.”

Aw, Mom.

A week or so later, Juanita mentioned the trip again. “I was talking to Barb about your trip, and she wants to go. I know she looks like a literary fuddy-duddy, but she's fun sometimes, well, maybe not most of the time. She's just the least bit incontinent, so we'll have to stop every twenty minutes, maybe every fifteen minutes, give her a poop and pee stop. Or as close to that as we can get. She's not afraid of going potty in the bushes, so that won't be a problem.”

“Uh. ” A.J. didn't finish the sentence.

Later in the month, Juanita continued the conversation, “A.J., your grandmom wants to come too. She's spry-for a 93-year-old, don’t you think? The thing is, she can only ride for an hour at a pop, maybe a little less. So we could go that far in the morning and then again in the afternoon. You'd have to go slow over the mountain passes, and along the rivers, like 15-miles-an hour slow, because she cries if you drive any faster. We'd need to stay in nicer places, you know how fussy she can get, and those can be pricey, so talk to the guys about that. Plus she goes to bed at 6:30, so we'd have to be quiet so she can rest. She doesn't snore all that loud.”

Another pause, one A.J. was braced for.

“OK, she’s thunderous.”


Juanita was not the first mother to use sneakery, perhaps trickery to corral a willful son.

Nor the last.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


It takes a number of exposures to a star's performance, usually, before you begin to track who they are and what they do.  We remember Robin Williams from his first explosion on screen.  He was wild, he was wacky, he was a singularity.  And he held our attention from the first second, to the last. I saw him on Happy Days, and knew we were on a ride.

He started off a favorite. a squirrelly little guy with boundless energy, pin pointing our faults, our stars, our hopes, our dreams, the places where we needed some work: where hubris took over, where money bought us access to the thing we should NOT be having, where love stopped short.  We loved him. Instantly, Insanely. Incredibly.   It was a love that stuck.

His movies were wonderful, although the directors corralled him too closely, and one was dark, too dark.  Now that I think about it, that one probably mirrored his inner self.  I'm so sorry about that.

Loved that as he aged he became a triathlete, a place for all that energy.  Loved that he loved kids, that he was a dad.  Loved that he performed for the troops, didn't take himself so seriously, loved that he gave so much money away.  Loved that he turned out to be a good man, a gentle man, a man packing around a good heart.  In. Spite. Of. It. All.

Yeah, loved that.

Watched him dazzle Dave Letterman and Jay Leno, who had no words, who did have the good sense to just shut up and let him go.  And go, he did.

So here are my lessons in his passing:   That serious mental illness can co-exist with extraordinary talent, wild genius and a good heart.  It takes all of a man to harness that energy and make it work, at least most of the time.  

My guess is this:  that his depression, black as it was, became unbearable, unmanagable, irretrievable.  He lost sight of his own goodness and his own power.  I've been sad.  We all have been sad. Sad that his life was lost too early.  Sad that he had to suffer endlessly and to pretend that he was not.  

I asked God if he caught him on the fly.  He said He did and took him home, wrapped him in a blanket of love, acceptance, and sweet peace.  Made hot cocoa and an apple pie for him, hugged him hard until the pain melted away.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Telling A Story

A few years ago,  I was at a  party standing next to a novelist and a television journalist.  Both were well known in our area.  "G," I said, "I just figured this out; you lie for a living."  He had a sly smile, creeping through a well trimmed beard.  "Me too!"  The journalist said.  And we all went away happy.

So, I'm joining their camp.  But I might be doing them one better.

I'm writing fiction, the bad kind.  A lot of people think that literary fiction is the epitome of the writing craft and some people write really great literary fiction, two of them are friends, Steven Mayfield and Judith McConnell Steele. Bless them.  They are right.

The rest of us just want to write genial books that tell a great story.  We don't mind car chases and sex scenes.  In my case, my heros are 60-plus women, and although sex is still part of their lives, we won't be playing that out on anybody's camera of the mind.  We won't snicker if somebody       Harry & Oliver, respositories of my grandfathers'          
encloses a recipe or we lapse into purple             spirits.  Regal story tellers, both of them.
prose in a  given instant.  If there's an inside
joke somewhere, well, we'll see where it leads.
We welcome adventure, risk,
the good/bad conflict, true love, puppies.

You get the drift.

                               The little guy with the nose?  My anti-procrastination device.  
                                                       Got him at an Art Fair in Santa Cruz.  Works.

I'm well into my first book.  A few years ago I was reading a science book, a beloved one, and there was an artifact that struck such a chord, all the chimes went off,  About the same time, a cousin had done a generational chart going back to the 1700s, maybe a little further.  And two women had these regal names, well, one of them was regal, the other was trouble.  Those names stuck with me, and low and behold, I had an idea for a novel.

So, I am making that come into being.  It is such big fun.  Little jokes come at me faster than I can write them down.  Characters show up, unaccounted for.  The last one: A seven-foot-tall Masaai, wearing a steel grey suit and a flame red shirt and tie, hand made in Germany.  Plot twists come early in the morning.  My title:  Valley of Wicked Surprise

I've written for years,  More essays and non-fictions stories than I can count.  I had to work ever so hard at all of them.  I'm smart enough, but trust me, in my local writing groups there are people who beat me hands down, all of them in fact.  This kind of writing comes easy,  I might be made for it.

Wish me luck.

   Plot points.  You want to be able to move them around for while.