Deep Winter Friday Round-Up

I can’t be in a clinical trial because I have a magnet in my head. I wrote about this a few days ago – being offered the opportunity to be in a research project testing the efficacy of an Alzheimer’s prevention drug. But regular MRI’s are part of the research design and because there is a magnet in my head that attaches to the magnet on my cochlear implant receiver, my head would blow up. So that’s the end of my lab rat career.

I decided not to find out if I have the dreaded Alzheimer’s gene. It’s knowable without much effort but it seems ill-advised to me, like buying a cemetery plot and having picnics there all the time, afraid to wander too far from the plot, you know, lest I get lost and can’t find my way back to my final resting place. Too bleak, in other words.

It is a terrible thing that it’s possible to continue a conversation while the TV news is talking about another mass shooting. How is it possible that we could become so inured to violence that the murder of five people becomes background noise? I feel it a moral duty to be outraged each time and not let such horror become pedestrian but I know I am failing. It’s sickening.

Ernest Hemingway’s advice to “write one true sentence” is the best writer’s advice ever given. Just say the first absolutely true thing and go from there. Don’t equivocate, preface, or hedge. Or apologize. Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket, my mother would say, oh, no, put your sentence on a platter like a fine smoked salmon that you bought against your better judgment.

Yearnings are just that. Sometimes they aren’t meant to become reality because if they became reality they would become pedestrian, common, and without the glow of the possible. It’s what’s possible that keeps us alive.

February Friday Round-Up

I own a beautiful pair of mukluks. It has to be really cold and dry to wear them like it is now in Milwaukee – 5 degrees – because they are ridiculously warm and too beautiful to risk getting wet. They are a bit much but I love them. I wish I had a fur coat. And a fur hat. Like Lara. I’ve shed political correctness, obviously.

It is wise to hang around with women who are more badass than you think you are. I’ve spent years thinking I was a big smarty pants but now I’m hanging around with women who, as we used to say, can fry it up in a pan and I am in a pretty constant state of awe. Street Angels are some fearless chicks. I aspire.

I did at least one thing this week that I never thought I would do, something I thought only other people would have to do. But I seemed to have lived through it, confirming again Joan Baez’ lyric, “There but for fortune may go you or I.” And, looking back on this week, I thank God for the privilege of having lived it.

The sweetest words I read this week was “The soup was divine.” I made chicken noodle soup from scratch yesterday for the Street Angels outreach folks to give to homeless folks. Today I got a screenshot of a text message with this sentence from one of the recipients and I thought ‘just bury me with this chicken soup.’ My work here is done.

If you think when you hit 70 you will be all cool with your mission and purpose and the meaning of life and just settling in for the long coaster ride to the finish line, you’re probably wrong. I’m here to tell you that the identity crisis business lasts forever. Is it a bummer? I don’t know. Maybe not. The anxiety and questioning keep you alert.

99 New: November Friday Round-Up

I often hate my pajamas. You would think a person of my age and stature ought to have a closet full of perfect pajamas but it isn’t true. It’s the crotch, it’s the sleeves, it’s something riding up or twisting so I have to wake up and rearrange myself. It’s not all my pajamas, just some of them. I should just hurl them into the street but I don’t, thinking there might be a time when I can’t afford pajamas and I’ll be sorry I threw them out.

I went to a big meeting without make-up. I sat, watching people testify in front of a Common Council committee, minding my own business when my hands flew to my face with the realization that I had no make-up on. I wanted to take out my phone and flip the camera like I was taking a selfie to see how terrible I looked but I thought that excessive and self-absorbed, as if my own vanity was more important than paying attention to a public hearing about homelessness, for heaven’s sake. So I suffered in silence and then decided to wear my face like I borrowed it from a mean old lady.

I enjoy Donald Trump’s guilty face.  His forlorn self wandering around the G20, pretending he’s just too cool for school is a dream come true. For those of us who knew from the jump that Trump was a lying sack of shit, this is redemption that can only get better and richer like whipped cream on top of hot fudge on top of ice cream on top of a double chocolate brownie with extra chocolate chips. And a shot.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be in a parade. The weather forecast says 100% chance of rain so I might rethink this plan although the pull is pretty strong. I’ve never been in a parade and I’m 70 so, shit, how many more chances are there going to be? It’s a Christmas parade and Street Angels, my homeless outreach comrades, will be driving our rickety bus and acting out all along the route. I can do this. I’ll wear make-up.

It takes practice to be carefree. You can’t just wake up one morning and have no cares. You know why? Because stress and worry and dread are implanted in your brain even after the external source of those things goes away, either permanently or for a good while. I realized that this morning, driving down the highway, feeling my ganglia waving around looking some trouble to latch on to. It’s like the phantom limb syndrome. No, I had to say to myself, there’s nothing out there to dread. There’s just this day to have, so have it.



99 New: Friday Round-Up

Our dog is on his last legsThis is the term I hope people use with me when I can’t walk down one stair without studying it for five minutes, when I go out in the yard and immediately plop down on the grass, when I clearly can’t get my bearings (another favorite). “She is on her last legs,” they should say. But you just never know – with dogs or people. That ancient, blind, diabetic dog could wake up from his nearly day-long nap prancing for a treat that he had been dreaming about the whole time.

I am going to a writers conference tonight and tomorrow. Oddly, but apropos to the above, I won 2nd place in the nonfiction category of the Wisconsin Writers Association contest for a story I wrote about, yes, a dog that died. Tomorrow I am supposed to read the story to the collected writers which is fine, I don’t mind reading to people. I actually kind of like it. But the story itself, I realized this morning, is depressing – beginning, middle, and end in different ways. There is no positive, life-affirming conclusion except no one died, except the dog, and no one ended up in jail.

Every woman on the planet knows why Dr. Ford didn’t tell anyone. First, even if people believed her they would almost immediately decide it was not a serious matter. No harm, no foul. You don’t look too hurt to me. Was it really that big a deal? Even at 15, she likely rightly assumed that the people she told would minimize the event and marginalize her. She wasn’t raped and beaten half to death, that’s really what it took then and sometimes I think now to make the case that a serious sexual assault occurred. Second, if she told, she would be blamed. Somehow, some way, the events that occurred would be put on her. She shouldn’t have been there. Worst of all, I bet that at the time, she took the blame and the shame that came with it. If you were looking for evidence of the power of misogyny, it’s this: logic and truth turned upside down.

I love the warrior women of the United States Congress. I don’t care if they’re 500 years old, the women who will not quit, will not sit down, and will not equivocate are my idols. Bless them, bless their staying power, and may their pearls glow in the fucking dark.

Did you know you can start a new jade plant by laying a leaf on dirt and waiting?


I include this valuable tip for my dear friend, Tim, a master gardener and wonderful person whose yard is a festival of flowers and rare things, all green and lush, in the possibility that he is a failure at house plants.

Friday Round-Up: Tired

We are going camping for a week. The last time we camped it took an hour and a half to put up the tent. We could feel neighboring campers put down their marshmallows to watch. So I bought a pop-up tent which, just like in a Three Stooges movie, practically leaps out of its flat round carrying case and explodes into a tent. I know this because we tried it on our front lawn. Then we had to watch three different YouTubes to figure out how to put the genie back in the bottle. There is no WiFi where we are going but we do have a truck so could just load the thing whole, I guess. Here is said tent.


People we know are wearing diapers and they aren’t babies. The ghost of Christmas Future looms large when you reach a certain age. It isn’t death that is so paralyzing; it’s what may come first. It makes one’s mouth go dry to hear or see or learn that someone you knew as brilliant, productive, and exceptional is waiting for a change. There but for fortune covers a lot of unpleasant contingencies.

I met Senator Tammy Baldwin tonight. She’s a Steady-Eddie progressive, no flash or drama, just a studious person who works very hard and looks out for people because she was once a person who needed looking out for herself. Her opponent in the fall election is a state senator who is a very conservative, Trump-supporting, NRA-endorsed woman who filmed a commercial for TV with a handgun on the table in front of her. I met Bill DiBlasio, Mayor of New York, tonight, too. But I didn’t get a picture of him.


Earlier this week, I watched the man across the street use a bicycle pump to put air in the tire of his car. It never occurred to me that a person could do this, thus avoiding all of the complex business of going to the gas station and finding quarters. You could just keep a bicycle pump in the car; not sure why this isn’t more widely known.

Our dog is still alive. We talk about killing him every other week. And let me just say here that we don’t talk about ‘putting him to sleep’ which is what we always tried to do with our children. Either he is going to die on his own or we are going to kill him. He’s 14, diabetic, and blind. He is also weirdly telepathic and has found the fountain of youth which is hidden somewhere in this house but only operating occasionally. As soon as the appointment is made for the sleep-putting, he begins scampering about. He does this until we cancel.



Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash





The Prayer March

Last summer, a young boy in Milwaukee was killed in a drive-by shooting. He was running up the stairs of his grandmother’s house to say goodbye before he went fishing with his dad. He died on his grandma’s stairs.

This fact hit me hard. Reading about the shooting in the paper made me sick. All the little boys I’ve known in my life – my sons, my grandsons – could have been this little boy. So when it was announced that there would be a prayer march in the neighborhood where the boy was killed, I deeply needed to go.

I wrote about the experience in this piece called The Prayer March. The version published here by the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review is the umpteenth revision. Never have I worked and reworked a piece like this one.

That it was absolutely true was essential. And, here, it was very difficult – separating out what I saw and what I believed to be true, what I felt and what existed in the real world, everything bound in the gauze of race and age, gender and history.

Once it was published, I worried that I’d gotten it wrong. But I didn’t. This is what I saw and felt that day last summer, walking in a prayer march mourning the loss of a young beautiful boy. It still pains me to think of him. Reading my essay again, I am back there standing in the street in a crowd of people, each of us with a broken heart.