I'll go with thee to the lane's end... I am a kind of burr, I shall stick. Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

I write not to teach but to learn. Rebecca West

drew's writing:

  • "Always Forever Now," Ideomancer volume 13, issue 2
  • "Black Sun," Black Static # 32
  • "Bread or Cake" and "Pride/Shame,"2nd Annual Philadelphia One-Minute Play Festival
  • "Copper Heart," Polluto Magazine issue 5, A Steampunk Orange
  • "The Accomplished Birder's Guide to Overcoming Rejection," Last Drink Bird Head, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
  • "Another Night With the Henriksens," Player's Theater Halloween One-Act Festival NYC 2008
  • "Hating the Lovers," and "Pipe Down!" Geez Magazine: Thirty Sermons You Would Never Hear in Church
  • "Beth/slash/Nathan," Paper Fruit Blogiversary Contest

Friday, December 31, 2010

daruma says make a wish!


Make a wish on this daruma. Bookmark this page. When the wish comes true, return here and color in daruma's other eye with a Sharpie® marker. The original daruma was a monk from the south of India, or maybe Persia, known as Bodhidharma, and also known as "the blue-eyed barbarian." Consider a blue marker.

(Also: there's a legend that Bodhidharma cut off his eyelids in frustration after falling asleep during meditation. The eyelids became tea plants--an aid to wakefulness. Have some eyelid tea while thinking of your wish.)

I associate darumas with vocation, maybe because the one I have is from an ambitious business major friend who brought it back from Japan. He now has an office in NYC's Woolworth building! (The original of the daruma above is from Essene cafe and market in Philly, which has an abundance of organic produce. I don't know whose wish is ground into the ink of its right eye, but it hasn't come true yet).

Check out an inaccurate daruma I made for a friend. My wish for everyone this year, as Robert Frost says in his poem Mud Time, is that your vocation and avocation will become one, as your "two eyes make one in sight."

Friday, December 24, 2010

mistletoe makes warlock hands


Mistletoe can cause these growths in trees it parasitizes. They are commonly called "witches brooms." I think they look like grasping warlock hands. A little Christmas duende for you from tender comrade, taken on Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

the temple of martha graham cracker


Who's that lady? It's Martha Graham Cracker! We saw Martha's show at L'Etage last week so it seemed a good time to post my photos from her appearance at the art museum in the spring, which was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen, along with the Doves show at the Trocadero, rain falling in sheets over Welsh hills, the trees of British Columbia's coastal temperate rainforest, and a rhinoceros shooting cylinders of hay-sutured rhino poop from its cannonical ass. How could a lone entertainer compare with these wonders and marvels? As her first-act closer, Martha Graham Cracker mounted the museum steps in towering heels singing Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me better than its author, Elton John, better even than The Who's brass-lunged Roger Daltrey.


Or just as good. I associate drag artists with disco and r&b hits that are thin and sugary as the glaze on a Dunkin' Donuts cruller, so I love it that Martha's a rock diva; when she changes key mid-syllable in Love Will Keep Us Together, it's raw, hungry, and fearsome as a lion's roar.

How happy Martha's mostly-straight audience looks! I am trying to work out why her following is so heterosexual. What do they get out of this? What do any of us get out of this? I was raised with a deeply Protestant suspicion of the culture of celebrities and entertainers, so I feel like an anthropologist in this crowd, Indy in the Temple of Doom. Is Martha's exceptional, cross-over appeal related to that tendency of transvestite and gender-straddling personas in cultures around the world to naturally step into roles as priests and shamans? She does seem goddess-like in person. (Though that may be just that she's so tall.)

At her L'Etage show last Thursday Martha opened by telling the audience she wanted to make love to each and every one of us, individually, or en masse, and it was possible to believe not only that she might want to, but that she could. Isn't that what we want from a goddess, love, more than protection, favor, fertility, or victory, just love? Whether Venus, Astarte, or Mary, it's wonderful to imagine that the most fabulous person in the galaxy might love us back. Someone said the approbation offered to celebrities is sublimated self-esteem we might more profitably have paid to ourselves (who was that?)--but the impulse to worship is a hard one to quench. The Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret lets us honor and enjoy that impulse within a protected sphere of irony, and sheer silliness. Is this why I tend to see Martha at Christmas? Our gods may want us to sacrifice Isaac for them, but they'll make do with the ram.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

old new synogogue, Prague

prague, pine wolf 1-10, xmas 09 721

For the last day of the Festival of Lights, here's the Old New Synagogue of Prague. As a kid in 7th grade, reading a horror comic about the Golem, I did not imagine that this was a real place, or that I might go there. (The clay Golem sleeps in the attic, concealed within a trove of papers inscribed with the name of the Almighty, waiting for the day when someone restores the word emet, truth, to his forehead).

Exploring the neighborhood of the Josefov overwhelmed my avid tourism--I'm a tourist the way other people are Marxists or Anabaptists--replacing my seething curiosity with a kind of radio silence. The preservation of this neighborhood is one of the darkest ironies of human history.

I could write one of my usual elegies here, but this day is about deliverance, or resilience--depending on your metaphysical orientation--so, just in case carving words into clay really does have the power to vivify, today I'll leave the last word to resilience.

Friday, December 03, 2010

waiting for Krampus at the Christmas Village


We went to the Christmas Village at City Hall and had roasted hazelnuts and a nice conversation with a merchant who was also a Sufi mystic, and author of a book called Journey Through Ten Thousand Veils. The mystic, divining my pessimistic view of human nature, urged me not to grumble, but to replace what is bad with what is better--which she said was a paraphrase from Islamic scripture. I resisted enlightenment--it may be better to light a single candle, but it is easier and sometimes truer to curse darkness. Still, I was nearly persuaded by the mystic's demeanor, which was serene and powerful. I have to entertain the notion that some creeds may be more than just self-delusion when I meet someone who genuinely appears to have risen above angst, by means of belief--

But then I remind myself that personality is powerful, and charisma alone should not persuade a curmudgeon from his saturnine outlook. When will the good forces in the universe desist from sending their emissaries of light after me?

I kept scanning the Christmas Village for Krampus, Santa's European companion and diabolical shadow, who is becoming my favorite part of the Yuletide. (Our local, Pennsylvania Dutch Krampus is Belsnickel, who needs a better publicist). Rattling his chains at the pious, flicking his tail at sentimentality, and birching the extravagant, Krampus is the antidote for the more sickening aspects of the season. This helpful video explains Krampus with a song, this one will give you nightmares, and in this one the Krampi are mainly interested in birching strapping guys...

(Some of the shots in that last Krampus clip suggest a "running of the Krampus," similar to what happens in Pamplona with the bulls. This would be a great tradition for Philadelphia to adopt, and if something like that takes off, you heard it here first.)

The Christmas Village made us feel like we were at a real christkindlmarkt, and I plan to go again--despite the lack of a Krampus sighting, and not being able to get so much as a Krampus ornament. (Krampus's day is December 5th, so Sunday may be a good day to return). I plan to console myself with wearing a Krampus T-shirt as part of my annual quest to find a little of the true, ancient, dark, spooky Yuletide duende--most of which, in the U.S. at least, gets squashed beneath one of Santa's immense buttocks.

durham museum, carboro, boylan soda 109

Though, now that I think of it, a Krampus shirt may be unnecessary if you keep the spirit of Krampus alive in your heart all year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

a cranberry sweet potato marshmallow muffin recipe to make you thankful

Not feeling thankful? I invented a muffin to cure you. With spices, cranberries, and marshmallow yams, this muffin embodies thanksgiving dinner (but without the turkey, because that would be disgusting).

(Also, don't be fooled by the marshmallows, this is a true, wholegrain, healthful muffin you can take hiking, not one of your cupcakes-in-muffin's-clothing muffins.)

The dry ingredients are two and three quarter cups of King Arthur's white whole wheat flour, half a cup of sugar, 5 tsp of baking powder, 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 1 tsp each of clove and nutmeg.

Wet ingredients are half a stick of butter (4 tbsp), two lightly beaten eggs, 4 tbsp canola, and half a cup of whatever milk is on hand including rice or soy.

You'll also need one yam which should be partially baked, or microwaved 3 to 4 minutes till it's yielding but not squishy. Dice the yam. I microwaved the cranberries half a minute but wonder if this is necessary. Mix the berries and diced yam into the batter, stick the marshmallows on top. The mini marshmallows need no preparation, being perfect just as they are.

Last step before baking: Just to make sure the heavy, whole wheat dough rises I proof one packet of Hodgson Mill yeast, let it bubble for five minutes, then pound and knead it into the dough just like I was making pizza. Is this step necessary? Maybe not if I had aluminum-free double-acting baking powder on hand, but I only had the regular baking powder and wasn't taking any chances.

Bake them 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees, and you will cure the most implacable ingrate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

toward a new swishiness

santa cruz 065

Conformity is more respected than difference, and male is more respected than female, so when we describe a man as swishy he takes on connotations of frivolousness, weakness, and moral idiocy.

This is unjust all round, but let's focus on the swishy man.

I refrained from describing someone as swishy recently, because I worried it was insulting. This troubles me: swishy should be complimentary. This man's swish had sweetness and bite, and was bracing, like a good artisanal ginger ale.

I learned that swishy is onomatopoeic in origin, expressing the sound of ostentatiously stylish clothes in motion. (I thought it specifically denoted a man with a mincing walk, probably because an art history professor with a mincing walk was the first man I heard described as swishy).

Swishy, mincing, lisping: Why is sibilance a marker for effeminate male queerness in our culture? Loads of other consonant sounds could be equally queer. Do they feel left out?

And couldn't the sibilance of swishy be as easily associated with dashing, or swashbuckling (also onomatopoeic in origin)? We often run across the smart, swishy man of action, and are charmed, and we hear him on NPR in the person of the accomplished correspondent and parkour-enthusiast Ari Shapiro... but in the narratives of our culture, we can only look to the heroes of Ellen Kushner's ahead-of-their-time Riverside novels for a smart, swishy hero, and...


(Jack Sparrow doesn't count, being, so far as we know, straight, and not entirely on the level.)

Fictional liberators Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel veiled their swash behind a facade of swish, but I dream of a day when swish is understood to connote smarts, celerity, competence, and heroism.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

the exquisite demurrals of Sufjan Stevens flee before jubilant resolve at Philly's Academy of Music

wilted knight

Sufjan Stevens is absent in photos the way Garbo or Matthew Barney are absent in photos. In his music he hesitates before the threshold of action or grieves the aftermath of action and depicts robust action only through DayGlo surrogates like Superman, Santa, or zombies.

But last night at our cavernous Academy of Music, Sufjan Stevens warned that his focus would be less the end of time or the dawn of time and more the middle of time: where we are, right now, here. He was gabby and sassy, and busy with important, lyrical hand signals that suggested semaphore for poetic aliens.

Then he put on a big flashy rock and roll science fiction stage show that had me thinking of Bowie, the Flaming Lips, and Tron.

Some will torture the question of whether this was ironic. Let me settle the matter. It was ironic. It was not ironic. I choose to think of Sufjan Stevens as that type of artist who is most sincere in irony, most ironic in sincerity. Like Mel Brooks. We know that the things we love are ridiculous.

I may have more to say about this as I figure it all out. I have been listening to Sufjan Steven's symphonic tribute to the Brooklyn-Queens expressway The BQE and did not realize he put out an album of bombastic synth pop last month, The Age of Adz. I love bombastic synth pop and I love Sufjan Stevens, so you must imagine me numb with excitement, almost unable to appreciate the enormity of the advent of this album--like Mary Magdelene meeting the resurrected Christ in the graveyard, and insisting that he must be the groundskeeper.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

the trouble with zombies


What a cute zombie! I am posting him because he was my favorite zombie at Eastern State Penitentiary's Terror Behind the Walls last year. I stopped by this year, and though I did not see him, I thought I heard his high musical giggle--like lunatic panpipes. If all zombies could be as smooth-skinned and towheaded as this one, I might welcome the invasion.

But zombies, though I enjoy you, and have been fascinated to see you become more popular, I have a caveat or two.

Or three. The trouble with zombies is threefold.

ONE: You have effectively upstaged Frankenstein's monster as the archetypal reanimated corpse! Vampires and werewolves are holding their own, but you zombies have edged Mary Shelley's morose flat-topped green guy off the halloween paper plate.

TWO: Zombies have lost their mystique! The deep weirdness and pseudo-ethnographic patina you guys had in the days of White Zombie and I Walked with a Zombie has been worn away by familiarity and sheer numbers. Careful, zombies! Do not squander your chic!

THREE: Zombie methodology is fundamentally misguided! Animated corpses stumbling around with limbs flailing, this is scary? If you want to unnerve someone, zombies of the world, don't move at all.

Bram Stoker said the dead travel fast, and he meant it for menace--but the most disquieting quality of the dead is not motion, but stillness.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

welcome to the mortal coil

live 8, ant's wedding 025

His alarm went off, he was showered and half dressed before he realized... it was quarter to five in the morning. I told him to back to go sleep, forget the bus, I would drive him to town.

I let him off near his office, parked the van in my old neighborhood and fell asleep, then got up and went to my favorite barbershop so I could look my best for World Fantasy Con this weekend.

My barber is too shy to talk of his (male) amours when others are in the shop; I'm grateful we're by ourselves. I ask him about the bear cub who looks after his dogs--is there anything between them?

"No," he says. And then whispers: "Drama."

Falling leaves and roads silvered with rain make for a dangerous drive; on the way to see my playwriting teacher for coffee and notes on my play, I see a shattered windshield, a head resting on a steering wheel, police standing helplessly by. The drivers ahead of me slow for a chunk of human flesh to chew on their journey.

At the coffee shop, the barrista has just learned, today, that the baby she is expecting is bringing a friend. My playwriting teacher asks if there are twins in her family.

"No," says the barrista, still more dazed than happy.

My teacher tells me about her trip to New York to get a play produced. As is often the case, her thoughts on the writing life, and life in general, are more mature and developed versions of my own recent inchoate thoughts. I tell her it was destiny I should be in town today, and find that, between the haircut, and our conversation, I feel more at ease going into the weekend.

On my way back, all trace of the accident has been cleared away. I'm angry that people stopped to gawk. The dead are so wholly naked; if nothing else we owe them privacy.

I decide to post my best photo, the leaping Live8 kid, and write something profound about the preciousness and brevity of life, maybe contrasting the photo with Samuel Beckett's phrase:

They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

I realize it won't come together, it will be ridiculous.

At home, I find that--despite the haste and chaos of his departure this morning--my compadre made the bed.

chris, stargazers 026

It looks, as always, beautiful, and if there's no meaning, that's meaning enough.

Later tonight, my father will call with the news that I'm an uncle.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rocky Horror, original, and Glee album version

divine lorraine 028

The film of a stage play, made with the original cast, is already a record of a living thing vanished--or, vanishing as we watch it, as if the film itself is the unraveling thread of a live experience. Casablanca is the only movie I can think of as suffused with nostalgia for itself as Rocky Horror: both were plays, both are vitrines of tropes from older films, both have characters who suffer over treasured (if, of course, non-existent) past experiences. In his brief interlude between suspended animation and death, Rocky Horror's Eddie wants to know "whatever happened to Saturday night?" while his killer and ex-boyfriend Frank asks the same about Fay Wray, or Steve Reeves, or any of the myriad of burned-out stars who represent his own lost capacity for feeling--much as Rick in Casablanca will always have Paris, though he will never have--and never did have--Paris--except when remembering it in a song.

The greatest tragedy is when theory outstrips performance, Leonardo said, but it's more tragic still when performance outstrips life--when life is upstaged not by actual memories but virtual memories of passively received cultural experiences. We meet, and will meet till we die, that man who regales us with memories of films that excited him and bygone TV shows he remembers and invites us (horrible!) to (re)(live) with him. A culture with entertainment as good and ubiquitous as ours will inevitably produce citizens so spellbound by narrative that they cannot grip life--but these are the least fortunate of monsters. Dickens's Miss Havisham, monstrous as she is, would be more monstrous if memories of a romantic film ensnared her, instead of memories of actual romance.

Havisham of Havishams, ravishment by solitary cultural experiences is Frank-N-Furter's downfall in Rocky Horror--and our own downfall, if we watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show anywhere but in a theater, with friends. Frank's castle is stuffed with past and potential future lovers, but no one can compete with Frank's memories of his favorite films. Though Frank's empire of sex and virtual memory is threatened, he can't turn his face from the past long enough to save it. Riff Raff, Frank's ex and underling--we are all Frank's exes and underlings--defeats Frank only because Riff Raff's bond with his sister/bride Magenta keeps him hooked to present sweetness--even if the world Riff Raff and Magenta share is also, largely, a remembered one--of distant homeworlds and outmoded dance fads. Enervating as it is, the film implies, the incest of Riff Raff and Magenta's shared world proves less enervating than the auto-erotic cultural necrophilia of Frank-N-Furter.

The only characters in Rocky Horror who escape death or the time trip back to the burned-out homeworld (which is a more lingering death) are the innocent bisexuals, Brad and Janet, for whom memory is meaningless, who look only to what's ahead--and who, devoid of culture, can never be ensnared by it (unless romance novels and televised sporting events lurk in their future). In the stage version of Rocky Horror, Rocky--the engineered creature who has evolved into a handsome hero type--escapes with Brad and Janet, and this is fitting. Rocky stands for Brad and Janet's once-hidden desires, which are more pan- and poly- than they dared imagine--and also more wholesome! Perfect, golden Rocky is so wholesome he's dull, but that's as it should be. Rocky is Frank's dream, his lost and nearly-found innocence; if Frank's dreams couldn't save him, they liberate Brad and Janet. That's nice for all of us: the happy ending Brad and Janet find in Rocky Horror is invincible, they can never again be contained by narrative, or any closet: they are out. I think this is why the Rocky Horror sequel, Shock Treatment, fizzled: Brad and Janet have found the way through the labyrinth, for good.

The power of Rocky Horror lies in the viewer's wish that his memories could have been as exciting as Riff-Raff's... You can never do Riff-Raff's favorite dance, the Time Warp, for the first time, you can only ever do it again: the Time Warp negates virginity. The illusion, the cheat, works only if there is something real behind it--which is, of course, the original musical, with the cast that (mainly) returned for the film. I have the soundtrack of the Glee Rocky Horror episode, and it's terrific: a plastinated version of the original that is just as good and maybe better: some of these kids were fans. Glee's Brad and Janet are a funnier, more demented version of the all-American boy and girl, Chris Colfer burrows straight into the heart of Riff Raff, and Naya Rivera's Late Night Double Feature is perfection.

(My only beef is the, bizarrely, heterosexualized Sweet Transvestite number: decadent and enticing as non-alcoholic jello shots offered by a Christian sorority girl.)

For Glee creator Ryan Murphy's planned feature film Rocky Horror remake to be successful, or even better than the original (which *he whispers* is sometimes boring) it should be invested with fresh memories, i.e, the new Rocky Horror Picture Show feature film remake will work best if it is a remake of its own Rocky Horror (live stage) Show.

In which case--if the slick, candied decadence and humor of Rocky Horror Glee Show cast album is any indication--it may be poisonously memorable.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

more street art from Philly


The street art above can be seen at the mouth of an alleyway running the length of Center City Philadelphia. I love that it implies a story, and a dramatic one; for me all art is narrative anyway.

Friday, October 08, 2010

defying Dr. Johnson, street artists donate sacred joy and monsters

prague, pine wolf 1-10, xmas 09 321

I tend to agree with Samuel Johnson's No man but a blockhead ever wrote but for money, so why do I admire street artists? Philadelphia is rich in warm, humane, funny, and clever street art--my favorite example is the bike-rack cozy knitted with the words LOOK UP, spurring the viewer to discover a knitted monster concealed in a tree just above.

(Everyone who sees this laughs with joy: if humor is one of my personal sacraments, this unknown street artist is a priest.)

The free monster art you see above (and below) surprised me in Prague. I like the humor and the challenge of it: If a toothy monster can stop hurting animals, couldn't we all?

prague, pine wolf 1-10, xmas 09 320

Friday, October 01, 2010



If I tell you my yoga instructor is named Tree you will make assumptions about both of us that may be untrue. Tree is as practical and levelheaded as anyone I know, and I am an indifferent yogi. Above see Tree at his recent-ish birthday.

Two friends of mine turned fifty this year, and my beloved (great) aunt turned ninety!

Here is my nonagenarian aunt with my first published book:


You can see that she is a German girl. When I visit her, she tells me the story of how she met her husband, and if I am clean shaven, takes my hands in hers and says:

Oh Andrew, thank you for not having a beard.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Anne Rice in a Mexican restaurant in Philly


Last summer, exhausted from the heat and a very cool but all-consuming job, I wandered into a Mexican place on South Street and was refreshed by the sight of the adorable-yet-sinister Anne Rice, whom I have always liked.

Anne is the figurehead of my resolve to post one cool photo here each week, and turn this into a proper photo blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

homage to William Carlos Williams

so much depends upon
green, red, yellow, blue, and pink balloons
tied to the food pavilion
at the Old Pine Presbyterian flea market

Saturday, May 15, 2010


When I was a little boy my stepdad's grandmother was an ancient lady who had lived in the city all her life. Her cut-glass vase and stained glass lamp became a part of our household. We were all amazed that every tooth she had ever had remained in her head; she had preserved them, she said, with a nightly application of peroxide. I can still picture this steely old lady in her nightgown rubbing peroxide on her teeth in steady defiance of time and decay.

This lady and her Swiss husband gave me the nickname Little Diplomat because I said agreeable things when I came to visit. I still find an agreeable word as good as a gift when visiting relatives, and am on good terms with all of mine. So I too have been a kind of preservationist.

Last night I dreamed this lady and I walked through the city together at a good pace; she showed a polite interest in my dark prognostications about coming fuel and food shortages due to peak oil and warming. When I woke I wondered why I should dream about my stepdad's grandmother after not having seen or thought of her in many years. I realized she was telling me: Preparation is better than worry. With diligence and foresight the buildings of this city will stand on these streets as my teeth stand in my silent skull.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

four from Muir

We went hiking in the Muir Woods. It amazes me that you can drive a half hour from San Francisco and be in an old growth forest.

It's always exciting to be in a forest that's never been logged. Where I'm from, you don't use the word primeval as often as you'd like.

We heard a terrific ranger talk about how this patch of coast redwoods was narrowly saved by an 11th hour intervention from Theodore Roosevelt. A water company had wanted to build a dam upstream and flood the valley.

Just another example of activist government hampering the free market...

The coolest fact we learned about Sequoia sempervirens is that an entire grove may spring from the root system of a single parent tree, and may be considered a single organism.

I was resisting the temptation to post a long shot of some redwoods as it is impossible to get a sense of the scale, but I find I can't resist, so here is one anyway:

Saturday, April 10, 2010

he and his cousin bond over wondrous shiny Chuck Taylors for the latter's wedding

Black and shiny as a hornet's ass, these converse sneakers are what we will be wearing in my New Jersey cousin's wedding one month from now.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

yoda contemplative garden

The Presidio isn't just a limp movie from the '90s starring Sean Connery. Situated on a wedge of land that juts into the San Francisco Bay, it was originally a garrison of the Spanish empire, before passing to Mexico, and then to the USA, and, in the idealized future envisioned by Gene Roddenberry, to Starfleet Academy. It ceased operations as a US military base in 1994. We walked around the Presidio, looking for the remnants of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition buildings, and George Lucas's headquarters.

We couldn't get to the former, but found the latter, and admired the statues of the inventors of television and the zoetrope, and of Yoda, seen above. No, I didn't photoshop that. Yoda really does preside over a tranquil oasis of contemplation in San Francisco, and thanks to the largesse of George Lucas, you can visit him there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

what I learned from my California writing retreat

I learned that if I buy a tricycle on craigslist, the owner of this irate dog will totally, fuckin,' make it fit me.

I learned that there are more vintage cars in Santa Cruz than any place I have ever been.

And many of them are trucks, and many of them still have their original paint.

I learned that some taco shops will let you bring a dog inside. (Dog courtesy of my hosts).

I learned that you can get these gear-shaped steampunk doughnuts at a 24 hour doughnut shop called Ferrel's that even has wi-fi.

I learned that New Jersey isn't the only place with weird roadside attractions.

And that just when you expect a threatening character to emerge from the beat-up trailer behind said roadside attraction, one will.

But if you show no fear aforementioned character may share what he knows of the roadside attraction, leaving you unharmed but not significantly enlightened.

I also learned that if you have the opportunity for a writing holiday in California, don't submit to markets with quick turnaround: checking email becomes a distraction. And if you intend to plot a new play and novel, don't bog down editing old stuff.

AND that getting away from all distractions, and focusing exclusively on writing (with breaks for hiking around) is a great way to accelerate progress on your writing goals and remind yourself what you're capable of when you put them first.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

first flower of spring

Saw this March 4th in a friend's garden--neither of us knew what it was. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

ann marie's miracle car

Dwight is a friend of mine who runs the frame shop in Birnam Wood. He has written some Sherlock Holmes novels, a memoir, and a book on theology, and also built this great bed for my perennials while I move. We were on the way to the diner and talking about Dwight's new novel when I saw this vintage Ford Galaxie parked alongside a gingerbready Victorian house.

I love vintage cars. I asked Dwight if he minded if I pulled over to photograph the Galaxie.
He said not at all. By some freakish stroke of luck, the owner had just pulled up in a more recent model car. I took her to be in her sixties. I asked if I could photograph the Galaxie and she said sure--and --would I like to start it up?

Would I? You bet I would!

But I wasn't able to start it, even with the owner, whom we'll call Anne Marie--after the Elvis song--coaching me to give it a little gas. She said she would get in and start it up for me because she knew the feel of it.

She also said that she had bought this car new in the late 1950s, and had kept it running all this time. She was 98, she said, and had been born in 1918.

Dwight pointed out later that makes her only 92. Sad that our elderly should be so given to mendacity and braggadocio...

Dwight gave some input as the car was reluctant to start.

I took this picture at the exact moment the car started.

Sweet, sweet greenhouse gasses!

Seriously, it was a thrill when the car started.

After the triumph with the car, Anne Marie asked if we wanted to see her dog, too.

We did. I think she said it was a Norwich Terrier.

Meeting Anne Marie and her dog, and taking a (stationary) ride in her car was a great start to the week--one of those rare, magical confluences that go a long way toward balancing the grief life likes to dole out. I am eager to persuade myself that there are enough good and pleasant things in the world to balance the dismal things.

But of course, there are no scales large enough to contain the misery and joy in the world, even for purely subjective research purposes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

R2D2, my one war toy

We were strange evangelicals, taking heat from friends and pastors for being pro-choice. I did not realize till after I drifted from the church the degree to which we were viewed with suspicion for being the only evangelical family who was cool with abortion.

My mother's aversion to what she called "war toys" was another way in which we deviated from the evangelical norm. Many followers of Jesus are, oddly, quite comfortable with being citizens of a bellicose nation. Not us.

As a result, I had no GI Joe or even Star Wars toys as a child. It was important that I understand that war is not play. The one exception that snuck through the pacifist force field around my family was the diligent, dogged R2D2 you see above. R2D2 was my favorite Star Wars character; this one was made by a distant relative that I'm not sure I've actually ever met.

As the only material culture from the Star Wars universe to enter my world, you can imagine how fond I am of my ceramic R2D2.

steampunk pride

We met Ash at a party and were impressed by this show of steampunk pride.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

soundtracks for snow

If snow must come, at least we can have snow-appropriate music to make it seem festive and exotic. Bjork's Homogenic is one of those albums that seems all one piece, like a song cycle. Being Icelandic, Bjork knows something of snow, I guess. I love Sting's album of John Dowland songs (though I hate Sting's muttered readings from Dowland's letters; their inclusion seems pedantic and destroys the album's flow). The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir has the quiet staccato of snow hitting a window--and the Carter Family, is, of course, the real old-timey music for nights sealed away in the cabin.

We live two doors down from a spirited liberal my camerado calls The Oldest Living Rebel. I have written about him here. This year he gave me a new year's blessing that was as grand and comprehensive as anything a biblical patriarch could have come up with. We shovel him out when it snows; this time I listened to the Podcastle story Goblin Lullaby by Jim C. Hines.

Podcastle is becoming my constant companion.

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