Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kamp for Kids

Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up feeling pretty good about yourself? Have you experienced a morning where the conversation you had with someone the night before makes you feel just that much more alive?

That was this morning.

Then I went to the appointment that I nearly forgot last night. Fletcher's camp was putting on a presentation for parents, community leaders and State and local government. Because Fletcher's camp is not your run of the mill summer camp. At Kamp for Kids in Westfield you'll find kids and young adults, some with disabilities, some without. They play together... do crafts... watch movies... spend time in an environment of inclusion.

Fletcher occupies the opposite end of the spectrum from Blythe. Where she is outgoing, he is shy. Where she will speak in front of anyone, he has a deadly case of stage fright.

But where Fletcher shines is one on one and in his refusal to see people as different. He is perhaps the most empathetic child I have ever seen. When the camp was described to me it was my understanding that he would assist one or more of the kids with disabilities. But when I asked him about it, he looked at me like I was nuts.

"We just all play together," he said.

And there it is.

In his mind it was a place to be with other kids. They are kids that are at once different and the same as him. They are children with disabilities that he would help just like he picked up the kids on opposing soccer teams when they fell down.

To Fletcher, the color of one's skin is as irrelevant as their preference of ice cream flavor. A wheelchair is just one of those things that some kids need to get around. He makes me proud of myself and Britton.

The kids put on their skits. They acted out short performances based on some of the movies that they watched in the last two weeks. And as Fletcher more or less hid behind the sign that he'd created for his group, I thought how brave he was for getting up there. Because even though it terrified him, he wanted to be a part of this thing. He wanted to be up there with his new friends.

And I realized that I will never be as good a person as he is right now. But I can live with that... He sets the bar pretty high.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Simplicity of design

There is a certain satisfaction in it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Billy Collins

The boy at the far end of the train car
kept looking behind him
as if he were afraid or expecting someone

and then she appeared in the glass door
of the forward car and he rose
and opened the door and let her in

and she entered the car carrying
a large black case
in the unmistakable shape of a cello.

She looked like an angel with a high forehead
and somber eyes and her hair
was tied up behind her neck with a black bow.

And because of all that,
he seemed a little awkward
in his happiness to see her,

whereas she was simply there,
perfectly existing as a creature
with a soft face who played the cello.

And the reason I am writing this
on the back of a manila envelope
now that they have left the train together

is to tell you that when she turned
to lift the large, delicate cello
onto the overhead rack,

I saw him looking up at her
and what she was doing
the way the eyes of saints are painted

when they are looking up at God
when he is doing something remarkable,
something that identifies him as God.

Billy Collins

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Eight Ball

The One Million Liter Test Sphere

Operation Whitecoat

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Dega: [the plan] It seems so desperate. You think it will work?
Papillon: Does it matter?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Sometimes I wish life was a little more L.A. Story...

...and a little less The Usual Suspects.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Quarter to two this morning I woke to a text from my friend Andrew. I suppose friend isn't exactly the right word. We became acquainted online making dueling photoshops of Mitch English. Somewhere along the line he became the closest thing to a little brother I've ever known.

He told me that Harry had died. He'd come home and found him, still warm.

And all at once it was a Friday back in 2006 in a vet's office, rubbing Arthur's head and scratching his ears for the last time. Because of that moment, because it comes back so easily to me, I know there's nothing I can tell him to make it better.

I wish there was. All he's going to hear is people telling him that they're sorry, and that it will get easier. Maybe for some people and some dogs, it does.

Then again, sometimes we are paired with our better selves. When they leave us, a little bit of our soul dies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Change of Time

I had a dream last night
And rusting far below me
Battered hulls and broken hardships
Leviathan and lonely
I was thirsty so I drank
And though it was salt water
There was something about the way
It tasted so familiar

She makes me laugh

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Zig Zag Girl

The illusion was that your head and your heart had gone in different directions, but only I fell for that. Everyone else looking on had seen your trick before and knew that you'd just contorted yourself up inside the boxes. I was really only an audience of one.

My anxiety at the sight of the blades, at the violent separation of the compartments slamming apart, was all part of the show. It goes on four days a week with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

But the ironic part was that me being a skeptic, I should have seen through it. But I chose to believe. I wanted to believe it... to believe you. Just once I wanted it to be something other than smoke and mirrors; just once to see a bit of real magic.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Double Self Portrait with "Reflecting Back"

Opening, Opening, Opening...

Avant le déluge... l'art.

The proverbial calm before the storm, last night's balmy weather was a perfect counterpoint to today's miserable, cold damp of unusual thunder and rain. I blame Rick Sluben for ruining my weekend.  I had planned on catching Britton and the kids shortly after 6pm at the first opening. I stopped in Easthampton to meet up with Mo and a couple of her friends. Mo was moving a little slowly due to her back problems and a recent injury and overslept a bit. To kill time, I went downstairs and had a great new flavor of ice cream at Mt. Tom Ice Cream... Secret Breakfast, vanilla ice cream with bourbon and corn flakes.

One could not have hoped for better weather for last night's exhibits. I'm rather irritated that I didn't bring my Canon, but I'm realizing more and more that the best camera is the one you have with you. The trusty iPhone has been documenting a lot of my life lately, and doing a great job.

My first stop was Open Square to see my friend, Denis Luzuriaga's exhibit SYSTEM. I got there later than I'd anticipated and just got to catch Britton and the kids for a few minutes. Blythe gave a critique of several of the paintings; quite lucid and unadulterated by art theory, just emotion and gut instinct.


I headed over to Parsons Hall Project Space, a new place to me. I was introduced to one of the owners, Kari Gatzke, at Mo's the other night. Parsons Hall defines itself as an experimental art, research and residency hub. There is exhibition space and artist studios on the first floor and live/work space on the second. I've been promised a tour of the building soon and Denis will be moving his studio here soon.

The 800 pound gorilla in the room was Chris Nelson's "Reflecting Back" a 28' x 10' shallow pool with water dripping from above and light reflecting off it onto the wall. 

The water and light form constructive and destructive interference patterns on the wall. Coupled with the shadows of those viewing the exhibit, a rather haunting image is formed... a visible representation of those conscious and unconscious interactions one has with those around them.

Outside is its counterpart, "Between Space" where light is reflected off the canal onto The Canal Gallery and Studios.

From there we move to "Shelved Animals" by Deborah Simon, an installation piece of highly realistic animals. Scale is ignored, finding a giant panda, marmoset and hyena arranged together on a shelf. 

An opossum hangs from a perch above and several fur seals appear to swim above.

From the website:
The animals, shown with no regard for eco-systems or taxonomy, are the fallout of man’s tendency to cherry pick what’s desirable and convenient and then quickly discarded it when it’s not. The confusion of scale and species seems to be exploding from the shelves along the walls with each species commanding the viewers’ attention in hopes of not being ignored and forgotten.

Another unusual piece was Mantis + Auto by Noah Stout, a five minute looped video of a... you guessed it, preying mantis. It sounds rather creepy and weird, but it was truly fascinating to watch. Then again, I take photos of bugs.

On the corner across the street was the first Bring Your Own Restaurant of the year. I saw most of the usual suspects.

Just down the street is Paper City Studios, four floors of open studios. Time was limited and I pretty much ran through, but hopefully I'll get a chance to go back and take a longer look. One piece that stood out for me was this:

I didn't even catch the title or name of the artist, nor does the Paper City Studios website have any info on the current exhibits.

It was an amazing night that made me want to get back in the studio. Soon enough.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cinco de Mayo

I had dinner with Mo at La Casita Azteca, a restaurant next door to our apartment building. The owner put on a great Cinco de Mayo celebration including live music. I get the impression that he'll take any excuse to put on a sombrero, grab a microphone and sing his heart out.

This guy busted out his twelve string and played a little while for us.

 I don't have a clue who this lady was, but she went all out and even brought a piñata to the party.

Then these two beautiful birds danced for us.

Do yourself a favor... next time you are in Easthampton, stop at La Casita Azteca. The food was delicious and the staff couldn't be friendlier. In fact, it was like eating at home, except with better food.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tragic Flaw

Some people reach a place in time where they've gone as far as they can. A place where wives and jobs collide with desire. That which is unknowable and those who remain out of sight. See what is invisible and you will see what to write. That's how Bobby used to put it. It was the invisible people he wanted to live with. The ones that we walk past every day, the ones we sometimes become. The ones in books who live only in someones mind's eye. He was a man who was destined to go through life and not around it. A man who was sure the shortest path to Heaven was straight through Hell. But the truth of his handicap lay only in a mind both exalted and crippled by too many stories and the path he chose to become one. Bobby Long's tragic flaw was his romance with all that he saw. And I guess if people want to believe in some form of justice, then Bobby Long got his for a song.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Dad's Wallet

When my dad died, I went through his wallet and found two photographs... only two.

My half brother and sister from his first marriage, Jeff and Jennifer.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


The kind of girl that could make you an hour late to a Van Morrison concert and not be angry with her.

The kind of girl who could make you laugh with just a look.

The kind of girl that never forgot what it was like to be a goofy kid.

The kind of girl that could fly just by wishing it.

Dominique once told me that she was proud of me for my messy car, because when I opened the door and something fell out, it was inevitably a book. We met through a mutual friend and she came to be like a sister to me in a rough part of my life. When love fled, she was there to talk. When dad had his stroke, she put her arms around me.

I don't remember much from my wedding, but I recall scanning the church before Britton walked up the aisle and seeing Dom's face with that million dollar smile beaming at me. And that was the last time I ever saw her.

So when I found a box of old pictures today and started going through them, I was amazed to think that I'd let such a beautiful person get away. And she was truly beautiful, inside and out.

Oh the ways we laughed.

Then and Now



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Mandate

This afternoon I planned on stopping by the Nashawannuk Gallery to drop off the rest of my rent for the new apartment. (by the way, my bathroom is just above the sign that says "ART" that sadly is no longer there.) They had closed a little early, so I ran upstairs for a second to just look around and think how I was going to arrange the place. While I was fooling around, it hit me that I might have mail.

I ran downstairs and sure enough there was a letter sticking out of my mailbox with four stamps on it. I love getting envelopes with a ton of stamps on them. Since there are only a couple of people that know my new address, I had an idea who wrote it.

Pulling it out of the box, I saw the return address and it confirmed my suspicions. I walked back upstairs and opened it. Inside I noticed the back of what was unmistakably a check. I figured it was $20 or so to get a little something for the new apartment. The check dropped out on the counter and I began reading the letter. The tone of the letter was such that after the first couple of sentences I flipped the check over to look at it.

Take the amount that you would think would be too much to accept, then multiply that by a factor of ten.

I just sat on the floor. I didn't know what else to do.

So I read the letter through three or four times... sitting on the kitchen floor of my new, empty apartment.

I am sending you this check to help you find some peace in this 'Summer of Joe'...

That's how it began. It went on to list a few stipulations: Not to tell anyone the origin of the money, to include special things for the kids.

It was too much. It was more than too much.

You need to refocus and dig deep for those things which you deem most important in life...

And after a while I realized I had to accept it. Because with the money came a mandate. This money is an investment in me. By accepting it, I'm taking on a responsibility to do something good with it; actually to do many good things with it. Because every dollar I spend, I must spend consciously. It will only be used to bring joy or laughter to my life,  to someone else that I love, or further my goal of being a writer.

So on the way home, I stopped and bought a brand new Moleskine. With it, I will record every expenditure, both as a ledger of the balance, and the circumstances under which the money was dispensed. 

The Summer of Joe has a budget and an investor.

Final Words

Kleine Opfer müssen gebracht werden!

(Small sacrifices must be made!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Love Song


Cecil: Your mama thought you were golden so we named you after yellow flowers and corn. This is you here...
[cuts some purslane from garden]
Cecil: ...pretty, golden purslane.
Pursy Will: Purslane's really a weed, you know. A neighbor told me when I was 9 and I ran over his tomato plants. He said all gardeners hate purslane.
Cecil: Yeah, and dandelions. Doesn't stop kids from making wishes on 'em.

A Love Song for Bobby Long

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Strikes & Gutters

  "How are you doing?"
It's not an easy question to answer sometimes. When your mentor, your father figure, your friend, asks you in a public place and your life isn't quite where you want it to be, you might not have a ready response.
"You know what they say... strikes and gutters, Barry. Strikes and gutters."
 Maybe I've been watching too many Coen brothers movies lately. But because he's all those things to you... the reason he's all those things to you, he understands.

Wednesday night I had dinner and a long talk with Barry Moser. For those of you that don't know, Barry is a well known illustrator, an extraordinary wood engraver and a maker of fine press books. But that's a poor description. He is, above all, a teacher. He was a Methodist minister early on in his life, but that didn't last long. Soon enough, he realized that often people have difficulty reconciling their scripture and their prejudices.

We spoke for a long time... of art and politics... of the sacred and profane. He let me in on something that I'd guess he's told fewer people than he could count with one hand. He told me of his plans for his 70th birthday as well. It's something that is at once glorious and juvenile and makes me wish I could be there to see it. I have a hard time believing he will really be seventy years old this Fall.
"I began the Bible fifteen years ago. I don't know if I have another fifteen years left in me."
He often jokes that he's mortal and won't always be here. I don't buy it.
"I'm cutting your fucking head off and freezing it just like Joe DiMaggio's," I replied.
 I aspire to be like Barry. I don't mean to be a celebrated illustrator. I have neither the talent or skill for that. But to be a man like him. He is not perfect, but it is in his flaws that I find comfort. The mistakes that he's made and his stumbles along the way that remind me that it's just part of the game. Like the ghost of George Plimpton said, "Show a little grace if you should fall."

The evening wound down. We walked out and stood on the porch in front of the restaurant a little while.
"If you ever need anything, you let me know," I told him. 
I say that a lot to people, but it rarely carries the same weight as when I say it to him. I've only ever had one chance to truly do something for him; to give a little bit back for all of the things that he's done for me. We both stood there and teared up a bit and promised to see each other soon.

Walking down the street in the dark I felt I'd been baptized.

Strikes and gutters.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Summer of Joe

Yeah, I know. Summer isn't here yet. But like George with his three months of severance pay, I'm going to make the most of this summer. Considering the place I'm starting, I'll have to begin now to get up to speed. Since I've already read a book from beginning to end, I figure I'm doing pretty well. I need to work on my frolf game, though.

I had to go through a little rōnin period. After the divorce and then the breakup with Bear, I was lost for a while. In part, it was not wanting to give up a good thing and... I guess the thought of moving on made me feel like I was saying I didn't really love her.  And even though the relationship was short in time, I did... and I still do.
English has no single word equivalent for the feeling. but the Portuguese... of course the Portuguese do.

Saudade: The love that remains. A vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.
If that doesn't describe it, I don't know what does. Because it encompasses not only the feelings for Bear, but for those many things that I have lost over the years. My love for Arthur. The old Florida that is gone. And those things that I know will come into and leave my life in the future.

My forty years in the wilderness is done.

I'm reminded of the time that I dated the hippie from Gainesville that drove a VW Vanagon with butterflies painted on the hubcaps and macrame seat covers. I became a vegetarian for a little while and learned to slow down and appreciate things more. I knew from the beginning that things with her were not meant to last, so I took each day as an adventure.
And there are things that I learned from Bear that I'll take with me as well. I will still eat peanut butter with ice cream. It doesn't make me sad any more to think of it.

I'm making new friends. I was fortunate enough to have someone come into my life when I was down and needed somebody. A person with whom I shared little but a couple of mutual friends. A person that owed me nothing. As hard as it is for me to allow people in, to rely on anyone, I was given two gifts. Kindness and understanding. The two things I needed most right then. It allowed me to take a breath between waves. Maybe I was only treading water, but at least I wasn't drowning any more.

The Summer of Joe started this weekend with the kids. For some reason they wanted to hear Beatles songs, so we played them all weekend. There's nothing like singing 'Hey Jude' with kids and really hearing the words. It's a little hard to drive with tears in your eyes. We ate in diners and watched movies and we had fun. The first real fun I've had in almost two months.

I'd explain the Summer of Joe more, but I think the whole point of it is to defy explanation.

I will buy a truly expensive pair of Persols for the sun.

I will appreciate happy accidents, like having forgotten milk for the chocolate chip pancakes this morning and using water and sour cream instead. They were maybe the best pancakes that either the kids or I have ever eaten.

There will be day trips and camping... baseball games.

I'll remember to take the Five Things with me. And to use the pencil.

Just maybe there will be a trip overseas. I don't know if I can swing it financially, but as cheaply as I'm now living, it's a distinct possibility.

Most of all, I'll try to be me. I don't always like who I am, but I don't have any other choice but to live with me.


Friday, April 16, 2010

What would McQueen do?

He sure as hell wouldn't have sat around bitching and feeling sorry for himself. He would have accepted that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. And losing doesn't make you a loser.

I have a new mantra.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

For a moment... really do believe he can fly.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


I looked at an apartment today that was recommended to me by a friend.

The previous tenant hasn't moved out yet and it's got a distinct Hoarders feel to it at this point. It's quirky and it's above a bakery, art gallery and ice cream shop. It's walking distance to the grocery store, staggering distance from a couple of bars, just down the street from the bike trail and at the foot of Mt. Tom.

And I kind of love it.
Most of all because I think I'll have the best neighbors I could ever imagine.

And out back...

 ...Nashawannuck Pond.

It's the kind of place where I think I can start over. A place to live simply, be surrounded by fantastic people and be me again.

Thank you Mo... thank you so much.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Lately I'm having hard days...

Lately I'm having hard days and I curse the night

Photo credit: David Owen