Journey of a Life

The Things We Have Lost Define Us, Too

We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.


Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), interior main waiting room looking north, New York, New York, 1911. (Photo by Geo. P. Hall & Son/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)
Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), interior main waiting room looking north, New York, New York, 1911. (Photo by Geo. P. Hall & Son/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)

New York City’s Pennsylvania Station opened on this date in 1910. Better known as Penn Station, the 1910 version bore absolutely no resemblance to the structure as we know it today. It was a grand example of the Beaux-Arts style, built of pink granite, with stately columns and a skylit interior modeled after a Roman bath. The main waiting room alone was a block and a half long, with 150-foot ceilings. Its tunnels, which ran under the Hudson River, were engineering marvels.

By the late 1950s, though, air travel had gotten cheaper, and the new, smooth, interstate highways tempted people to take automobile trips rather than boarding a train. The rail company couldn’t afford to keep its showplace clean, and plans were made to replace Penn Station – at least the above-ground portion of it – with a multi-use entertainment venue, to be called Madison Square Garden.

The stately Beaux-Arts building was leveled in 1963, and replaced with a subterranean, air-conditioned warren lit by cold, fluorescent bulbs. New Yorkers were outraged at the demolition. One New York Times editorial from 1963 read, “We will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.” That outrage helped jump-start the architectural preservation movement in the United States. The New York Landmarks Law was passed two years later, just in time to save Grand Central Terminal, Radio City Music Hall, and thousands other historical landmarks from a similar fate.

Train travel through Penn Station has bounced back; today, it’s the busiest train station in the Western Hemisphere. Nevertheless, a writer for the BBC recently called the modern Penn Station an “architectural crime scene,” and added, “Outside of the U.S. penitentiary system, it is hard to think of a more joyless building.” Vincent Scully, a professor of architecture at Yale, commented, “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”

Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), interior looking west from stairway on the east side of the main waiting room, New York, New York, 1911. (Photo by Geo. P. Hall & Son/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)
Penn Station (Pennsylvania Station), interior looking west from stairway on the east side of the main waiting room, New York, New York, 1911. (Photo by Geo. P. Hall & Son/The New York Historical Society/Getty Images)



by John Updike

Tell me, how do the manufacturers of tools
turn a profit? I have used the same clawed hammer
for forty years. The screwdriver misted with rust
once slipped into my young hand, a new householder’s.
Obliviously, tools wait to be used: the pliers,
notched mouth agape like a cartoon shark’s; the wrench
with its jaws on a screw; the plane still sharp enough
to take its fragrant, curling bite; the brace and bit
still fit to chew a hole in pine like a patient thought;
the tape rule, its inches unaltered though I have shrunk;
the carpenter’s angle, still absolutely right though I
have strayed; the wooden bubble level from my father’s
meagre horde. Their stubborn shapes pervade the cellar,
enduring with a thrift that shames our wastrel lives.
“Tools” by John Updike from Selected Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. (buy now)



There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy….

I didn’t think it would be like this.
I could have been convinced, mind you,
But I was neutral, skeptical.
Unmoved except by facts.
“Show me a ghost; I can’t take your word for it.
Let me talk to just *one*,” I’d say to earnest believers, knowing they could not.

Show me. Prove it.

I even went looking on my own. 

We once camped at Gettysburg when my sons were 8 and 10—
Under a full moon, no less.
I wanted them to visit such a place, to get a tiny taste of
The grand sweep of events, even though they were too young
To grasp much, and were more interested in lightening bugs
And climbing on a cannon or two.

It was a humid, sticky summer night, as I recall.
The time in some July’s when the dark hours stay hot from the day
Well past midnight, air coming up straight out of the Gulf 
With humidity so high it’s like breathing
Through wet gauze—the air full of bugs, bats
The mating calls of cicadas, of frogs in some boggy spot …
And the occasional owl-hoot-whooo through the mist.
The kind of night when you can feel the Earth
Pumping, moving, breathing, desperately fertile,
Sudden small deaths in the grasses, feeding more life.
Much like the night before the battle all those decades before, I imagined.
A spooky night, pregnant with meaning, deadly and glorious,
Full of shadows and fear.

I couldn’t sleep, too hot, too curious, so once the others were asleep, I walked.
Alone. The crunching of the gravel under foot gave rhythm to the cicadas’ song,
All along a blueish-silver gravel path, with pockets of mist twisting, rising, on either side,
I passed many monuments, frozen glories, massive in the gloom.

I came down a grassy slope to a ridge, with a low stone wall,
Looked out over fields and fence rows glowing in the moonlight.
Pickett’s thousands had died out there, and hundreds more, all around.
The spot on which I stood was the place of a final, desperate, bloody ending,
Once littered with bodies and wreckage and screams, now neatly tended grass.

But I neither saw nor felt any unhappy spirits.
I listened for them, with my ears, with my doubting self.
For a long time. A coyote trotted across the far edge of the field,
A single cloud skittered across the moon, casting deeper gloom.

All I got that night
Were a few mosquito bites.
It went on like this for years. Me, skeptical, waiting, expecting nothing, getting nothing.

Until my body died (under circumstances I’d rather not go into right now).
Let’s just say that it was ‘messy’.
And, much to my surprise, I’m still here.
Sort of. Enough to dictate these words into
Another’s dream, at least.

For how long?
For a while, I guess.
Until I can figure it out.

So I try to keep as busy as one can when you can’t touch the world,
And can only observe through a thin barrier that
Makes everything look like an old newsreel.

But things are different in many ways.
I listen in on people’s conversations,
And drop in wherever and whenever I want.
Time and space are no longer limited as they were,
I visited my own past, and while I found some answers,
I came away from that feeling that my own existence
Was only ordinary. Was I a child of God, treasured?
I still don’t know. Maybe, though. I have so much to learn.

Having nothing better to do, I spy on people, though:
Satisfy my curiosity about certain people, and strangers,
Listen to their conversations, and, if the cosmic wind is out of Neptune,
To their thoughts. It is all open to me.

And yes, of course! I watched them flirting, lying, flattering, having sex,
It was one of the first things I did in the early days.
(And if people aren’t actually doing it,
They’re mostly thinking about it.
We humans are a horny bunch, that’s for sure.)
It was just…  not as interesting to me—in my new condition.

So I drifted off, disoncerted, a little disappointed—but relieved, somehow.
I started listening more deeply to the ebb and flow
Of life beginning and life ending,
Of an ocean’s-worth of striving and defeat, of confusion and loss,
Of happiness in small things, and contentment.
It’s a gift, and yet no gift, to see things as they really are
And to no longer have any part to play.

And yet…. I learned….
What I used to call time passes. I feel some of it still
I feel myself becoming a part of all I see, as though coming home.
I finally find the undiscovered country.
Everything that was, is and shall be,
All that I see, all the others, present and future, are really parts of me.

And with that, I am a ghost no more.
I’ll be waiting for you.

In the Multiverse of the Heart

” In the multiverse of the heart, all that could happen has already happened and would certainly happen again!”

Syed Khalid Anwer

Going Away

by Howard Nemerov 

Now as the year turns toward its darkness

the car is packed, and time come to start

driving west. We have lived here

for many years and been more or less content;

now we are going away. That is how

things happen, and how into new places,

among other people, we shall carry

our lives with their peculiar memories

both happy and unhappy but either way

touched with a strange tonality

of what is gone but inalienable, the clear

and level light of a late afternoon

out on the terrace, looking to the mountains,

drinking with friends. Voices and laughter

lifted in still air, in a light

that seemed to paralyze time.

We have had kindness here, and some

unkindness; now we are going on.

Though we are young enough still

And militant enough to be resolved,

Keeping our faces to the front, there is

A moment, after saying all farewells,

when we taste the dry and bitter dust

of everything that we have said and done

for many years, and our mouths are dumb,

and the easy tears will not do. Soon

the north wind will shake the leaves,

the leaves will fall. It may be

never again that we shall see them,

the strangers who stand on the steps,

smiling and waving, before the screen doors

of their suddenly forbidden houses.

“Going Away” by Howard Nemerov from New Poems. © University of Chicago Press, 1992.


Evolution by 3Joko

Monday morning. The usual routine now is to putter around downstairs, watch a politics show and catch up on news of the world. Then I climb to the third story to begin the work day.

I’m in the middle of a real pickle with “Running Girl,” one I’m not sure I can find the right combination of ham and swiss cheese to make edible. That’s today’s main task: staring. Staring at the screen. Staring out of the window. Coaxing the muse out of the plaster of the walls. Finding a smidgen of courage to go on.

To help inject some thought into the process, I read random things. It’s kind of like flipping through a book and sticking a finger in somewhere. Maybe there’s something guiding the finger (and maybe not), but it’s a technique to start moving the mental needle. This is today’s offering.”

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”

Albert Einstein (signature)

Things I’ve Learned

 THIS. Thanks to W Jaynee Carolus for the content! :)


1. I talk to myself, because sometimes I need expert advice. 

2. Sometimes I roll my eyes out loud.

3. I don’t need anger management. I need people to stop pissing me off.

4. My people skills are just fine. It’s my tolerance of idiots that needs work.

5. The biggest lie I tell myself is “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”

6. When I was a child I thought nap time was punishment. Now it’s like a mini vacation.. 

7. The day the world runs out of wine is just too terrible to think about.

8. Even duct tape can’t fix stupid, but it can muffle the sound.

9. Wouldn’t it be great if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes; come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller. 

10. At my age “Getting Lucky” means walking into a room and remembering what I came in there for.

It’s Been Two Years Now

Honest and beautiful…

Source: It’s Been Two Years Now

Somewhere I Have Never Traveled

ee cummings
ee cummings

E. E. Cummings1894 – 1962

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

Someone said: to get better, read the best

Do Me

Stolen from The Writer’s Circle


It’s Complicated


The Egg


Eye of wonder
Photo: Cornell University

I may be the last person to realize that this piece was published six years ago by Andy Weir, author of the best-selling “The Martian,” subject of a recent movie. I’m a huge fan, and repeat it in that spirit. .

By Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An into lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

Just This, Today



“I know we’re not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t.”
― Dylan Thomas

And tomorrow, a few of us will vote in the neighborhood. :-)


giphy-1After the night, when my heart despairs with loneliness and questions,
I know that I must only ride it out, embrace the nothingness
As the other half of meaning.
For just as quickly, despite the blackness,
A dawn will come, bursting like flame and thunder on the world,
‘Til I bathe my face in a new day, and see the road ahead again.

Afternoon Philosophy

One of the best talks I’ve seen.

No Words… Or Maybe There Are…

Number 1 is an inspiration to me when I begin to think that there’s nothing to write about. But numbers 14, 19, 22 and 23 are common lately.


Back Again to Connamara

Plaque at the Connemara Farm where Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg and his family lived from 1945 until Mr. Sandburg’s death in 1967. They lived a simple life and surrounded themselves with things with which they were comfortable.

Time’s coming. I can feel it. Time to go again to Connemara to spend a few hours walking the grounds, following the guide through the house, left exactly as it was when the family left in 1967 (after he died, but not long after) and never returned. A quiet place where I can soak up the stories the wallpaper still has to tell, about how to dirty some paper. Up in the cluttered room on the third floor, to try to figure out how it’s done. And yes, to be honest, to indulge in a little hero-worship.

The attic room where Sandburg wrote about a third of his total body of work, including his massive biography of Abraham Lincoln. It’s a little west of Rutherfordton, NC, near the town of Flatrock, and is now a National Park.

It’s Work

photo by Jack Liu
photo by Jack Liu

This from The Writer’s Almanac this morning. Sometimes it is just work to do this, not an excuse to indulge one’s self, or play at being a writer. And, happy birthday Ursula!

It’s the birthday of science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin(books by this author), born in Berkeley, California (1929). She grew up in a family of academics. Her mother, Theodora Kroeber, was a psychologist and writer. Her father, Alfred Kroeber, was the first person to receive a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University-he’s been called the “Dean of American anthropologists.” He specialized in researching Native American cultures, and so Ursula grew up with Native American myths.

When she was young, over the course of 10 years, she wrote five novels, none of which were published. Publishers in the 1950s thought her writing was too “remote.” So she began to write science fiction and fantasy, and she has been incredibly prolific for the last four decades. She has published more than 100 short stories, 20 novels, 11 children’s books, six volumes of poetry, and four volumes of translation. She’s best known for her Earthseabooks, a fantasy series that takes place in a world populated by wizards and dragons. She also wrote the Hainish Cycle – science fiction novels set in an imaginary universe where the residents are genderless.

An interviewer once asked her advice for writers, and she replied: “I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work.”


Invisible Travelers

Birds against a Supermoon. Sergei Grits/AP

Early morning is the best time  to see the distant, busy world come awake.
Before dawn, with the sun finding them before he finds the world,
The criss-crossed ribbons of smoke five miles above
Are turned to neon ice from behind
While we drink our coffee, sit on the step and smoke,
Looking to the east. To the coming brilliance of another dawn.
At the dozens of contrails already streaking the sky, turning reddish and pink and
Changing shades of pastel fire.


In one of the busiest flyways anywhere, all the overcrowded metal tubes
Leaving Newark, Philadelphia, La Guardia, Kennedy, Boston for
Tokyo, San Francisco, Seattle, Beijing and LA. pass silently overhead, and are soon gone.

But sometimes sleep won’t come, and I also sit on that step in the quiet hours.
The day’s high travelers are still somewhere else, and the sky is serene,
The crescent moon is already nearly set, the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades wink
In their cold, virginal nunnery, wanting to pull a cloak around themselves for warmth.
Orion is in its winter place, militant, telling me the cold months are coming soon,
As if the bite in the air weren’t enough.

But sometimes this time of year, an hour or two past midnight, when the trucks
On the distant interstate are finally silent, the hum and puzzle of restless
Humanity staggers into fitful, resentful sleep,
I can just make out, faintly, tweets and calls, carried on the cold air
From hundreds, or maybe a couple of thousand feet overhead.
Some nights there are none, but some nights there is a steady feeling of
A dark river moving above, and, sometimes,
The noise is clear enough to tell that
Last night, it was a flight of Canada Geese ploughing the air to the south,
To winter feeding ponds in Louisiana,
In the rich mangrove swamps of Florida,
Near the Sea Islands of coastal Georgia.

I don’t know all the calls, and at night there aren’t a lot of them.
It’s a serious business, after all. Nothing to sing about, flying on
Through the night, thousands of miles.
But there is some calling and response. Just enough to make sure that
The flock is nearby, and safe, that you’re safe,
Headed in the right direction.
Save the energy for the trip.
Do nothing more to let a lone human–
Sitting in the dark far below, looking up past you at the stars,
Wondering what one has to do to get some sleep–
Even notice, most of the time, that thousands of you are passing.

But I imagine buntings and Baltimore orioles, scores of streaky brown
Song sparrows, and dozens of jewel-toned warblers–
Northern parulas, black-throated greens, magnolias, and all the rest.
I’ve learned that songbirds migrate at night, in great rivers,
But they do not sing. Not then. Singing comes later.
But for now, they’re leaving us, heading to warmer waters,
Plentiful food, easier living and rest.

Singing is better on a branch in the warm sun of the tropics, sipping the
Sweet juices of some overripe papaya, or tasting the white meat of a succulent nut,
Feeling the thrill of life, the search for a mate, the joy that bubbles up unbidden
When wheeling above a sun-splashed sparkle of blue and green.

I can sense them flowing past, tonight, and it saddens me.
There aren’t as many as there were a few short weeks ago.
I know what’s coming, and there’s no changing that.
But they’ll be back, full of tales of adventures,
They will sing the story of the great Wheel of life, of the turning
Of the seasons, of renewal that comes after a testing.

I will be waiting. I hope it’s not too long.


by Barbara Crooker

Another October. The maples have done their slick trick
of turning yellow almost overnight; summer’s hazy skies
are cobalt blue. My friend has come in from the West,
where it’s been a year of no mercy: chemotherapy, bone
marrow transplant, more chemotherapy, and her hair
came out in fistfuls, twice. Bald as a pumpkin.
And then, the surgeon’s knife.
But she’s come through it all, annealed by fire,
calm settled in her bones like the morning mist in valleys
and low places, and her hair’s returned, glossy
as a horse chestnut kept in a shirt pocket.
Today a red fox ran down through the corn stubble;
he vanished like smoke. I want to praise things
that cannot last. The scarlet and orange leaves
are already gone, blown down by a cold rain,
crushed and trampled. They rise again in leaf meal
and wood smoke. The Great Blue Heron’s returned to the pond,
settles in the reeds like a steady flame.
Geese cut a wedge out of the sky, drag the gray days
behind them like a skein of old wool.
I want to praise everything brief and finite.
Overhead, the Pleiades fall into place; Orion rises.
Great Horned Owls muffle the night with their calls;
night falls swiftly, tucking us in her black velvet robe,
the stitches showing through, all those little lights,
our little lives, rising and falling.
“Equinox” by Barbara Crooker from Selected Poems. © Future Cycle Press, 2015. (buy now)

Let’s Talk About Warren G. Harding

It was said that he got the job because he looked presidential. Actually, he was something of a pompous jackass who couldn't keep it zipped.
It was said that he got the job because he looked presidential. Actually, he was something of a pompous jackass who couldn’t keep it zipped.

Let’s talk about Warren G. Harding for a second. And why not?

It’s Friday, the second shift of Happy Hour has clocked in, the band has the room jumping and we’re in the presidential silly season. I aimlessly stumbled, as I often do, and came across Warren. His birthday is coming up, and I thought some comparisons with modern POTUS’s might be fun here at the end of another week.

Did you know that Harding once gambled away the White House china set in a poker game? He did. You can look it up. (I liked that one.)

And he surrounded himself with a group of “questionable” buddies who eventually created the Teapot Dome Scandal that ruined everything. Alice Roosevelt Longworth (the daughter of twenty-sixth President Theodore Roosevelt) once described the scene that she encountered at one of Harding’s card games: “the air heavy with tobacco smoke, trays with bottles containing every imaginable brand of whiskey, cards and poker chips ready at hand—a general atmosphere of waistcoat unbuttoned, feet on the desk, and spittoons alongside.” He was a poor judge of character, apparently. But some of the ladies liked him.

He had two long-term affairs that we know about. One was with Carrie Phillips, wife of his longtime friend James Phillips, ran for more than fifteen years, beginning in Marion, Ohio in 1905. At one point, Phillips, a tall attractive woman ten years younger than Harding, had tried to blackmail him into voting against a declaration of war on Germany. As a German sympathizer who had lived in Berlin off and on, she had fallen under the surveillance of the U.S. Secret Service. In 1920, the Republican National Committee bribed Mr. and Mrs. Phillips with a free, slow trip to Japan, $20,000 in cash, and the promise of monthly payments to keep them quiet. She lived until 1960.

I wonder why his reputation isn’t better….

“A Democratic leader called Harding’s language ‘an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea.’ A correspondent for The New Republic insisted that Harding spoke of raising import tariffs “to protect the struggling industries of Europe.”

Comical words, those. I knew Jack Kennedy, and he was no Jack Kennedy. Perhaps Harding should have said something such as:

“In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.”

Well, he did, in 1916. But to attain historic weight, it required better hair. And it got one. Kennedy’s grave is the most visited at Arlington. Harding is getting his porch fixed.

How come we never learned about this in high school history class? I might have slept less.

More at:

I Could Live With This

If it included the bronze statue. I have a thing for bronze statues. See my companion on my desk. She’s never impressed. :


Γνώθι σεαυτὸν

Those words,

Γνώθι σεαυτὸν

were carved more than 2500 years ago on the temple of Apollo at Delphi (Only the columns are left). But it must have been important. Those old Greeks didn’t γαμώ around about with what they carved on temples, especially at Delphi. 

“Columns of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Greece” by Patar knight – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –,_Greece.jpeg#/media/File:Columns_of_the_Temple_of_Apollo_at_Delphi,_Greece.jpeg

The Romans noticed and translated the Greek to the Latin phrase, “Nosce te ipsum”

Six hundred years or so ago, a family adopted the Latin version as a motto for its coat of arms, which is also a commandment for future generations.


I heard the stories when very young, and looked around …

She had been a beauty, but her life was marked by a broken home and some dark secrets—

Still she was deep, iron-willed, smart.

He, sprung of a king’s bastard somewhere in the misty mists, was shaped by unending work in the fields, and laughter, and curiosity—

Brilliant, a passion to be an artist, a teacher, a thinker, a prankster.

They were children of a different time, and products, too, of hunger and fear; children of the last century, proud, tough.

Long memories of family, faith, war, terrible losses, sacrifice, duty and honor.

And “Know Thyself” was in the air, always, floating up in the corner near the ceiling.

Myths. Major myths. What family doesn’t have ’em?


What I Think About When I Think About Conceal and Carry On A College Campus


I’m sorry to stick current events in here, but I spent 26 years on the university campus around 35,000 hormonal hung over teenagers, and this one spoke to the kinds of thoughts I and lots of others around me had.

Originally posted on Teri Carter's Library:


  1. I think about the staggering number of people on a college campus—15,000, 30,000, 50,000.
    1. Who are the good guys?
    2. Who are the bad guys?
    3. How can you tell the difference?
  2. I think about rape, already rampant on campuses (read Jon Krakauer’s MISSOULA), with the added bonus of a perfectly acceptable firearm to intimidate the victim.
  3. I think about questions to ask teachers:
    1. Do you want to carry a gun? Do your peers?
    2. Where would you keep your gun in the day-to-day—office, desk drawer, briefcase, purse, suit pocket, under the dais?
    3. How do you feel about standing exposed before a roomful of students carrying concealed firearms?
    4. How will you feel when meeting alone with a student in your office, with the door closed, if you think he/she is carrying?
  4. I think about skill and ability with weapons.
    1. How do I know you’ve had enough training?
    2. How do I know you’ve had

View original 315 more words

The Grammar of Cat

Originally posted on Taking Words for a Stroll:

My cat’s a comma, a curl of fur,

A pause of claws, and then a blur

As she stretches and yawns, and takes her flight,

A swift exclamation mark writing the night.

View original

Today’s Wisdom Nugget

That Perfect Moment

"Blue Heron", by Peggy Colmane
“Blue Heron”, by Peggy Colmane

Oh, that perfect moment,
Elusive, secretive, rare,
When an idea is there to be plucked
From the murky waters of confusion.



For A Friend…


All is Temporary

Al otro lado del espejo

I’m nearly old, she said… to no one,
Before the mirror,
Tracing a line down her cheek
With a fingertip,
Lost in memory.

She sighs.
A chill; her soul shivers .

This is the face that boys
Longed to kiss, she remembers,
Remembering the power of it.
Yet now the boys are men, although not as many.

The face that felt the chubby caress of
Her children’s hands,
The face she could depend upon.

A breeze ruffles the curtains,
Touches the flower beside the mirror.
Her eye caresses the exquisite
Design of it,
Built for
A moment
Of perfect purpose.

“You are nearly old, too,” she says, tracing the line of the
Petal with her finger.

She smiles, newly aware…

All things must pass.
All things are temporary.


©Hemmingplay 2015… Originally published in June.

No Map

Foggy morning in the park. Aug. 1, 2014
Into the Mist by Hemmingplay

by Stephen Dobyns

How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain-a gray scarf across the sky.
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend
lie waiting for their respective operations,
hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.
They were so brave when I talked to them last
as they spoke of the good times we would share
in the future. To neither did I say how much
I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.
Their bodies are delicate glass boxes
at which the world begins to fling its stones.
Is this the day their long cry will be released?
How can I live in this place without them?
But today is also my son’s birthday.
He is eight and beginning his difficult march.
To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.
Far from my house he will open his presents-
a book, a Swiss army knife, some music. Where
is his manual of instructions? Where is his map
showing the dark places and how to escape them?

“No Map” by Stephen Dobyns from Velocities. © Penguin, 1994.  (buy now)

Dancer #6: Going All Blue

Dancer 7 Blue Exlosion
Photo: Alexander Yakovlev. (I took some liberties with the blue filter in Photoshop)

Like an explosion of elemental particles,
Thrusting up with grace and power;
With arms cocked and balanced, ready to strain to Heaven;
Tender curves coiled, tensed, aligned, ready to fill the void with creation.
The eye pulls my spirit into the fertile chaos of life.
Courage, at last.
I step out into the fog, put the first foot on the dusty road, lightly, risking everything.


Alley Time


I walked the dog at dusk down the alley behind our house last night. It was just after the sun had slid behind the mountain and the light shifted to that peculiar deep shade where daytime things start fading into the shadows.

The growing gloom entices the frightened from their burrows, and we hear the quick shuffling of the leaves as a critter darts, stops, listens, darts, stops, eats, listens for sudden death. The dog hears other things I cannot, and strains against the leash, blood rushing to her ears, hunter’s heart quickening. If I let her loose, she would visit swift destruction on anything too slow to escape. It is her nature.

I sympathize, but keep her tethered, sympathizing with those potential victims more.

The wide, quiet back yards exude an air of solidity and age, guarded by huge oaks and elms and Copper Beech and towering, dour Hemlocks. They show a different face than the fronts do. Back here, there is less grooming, less concern with status and social norms. Here, tools are left leaning against sheds to rust by older residents no longer able to care. Here, the grass isn’t cut quite as often, and Nature has more of a presence.

Old carriage house doors sag against rusting hinges, grass and weeds grow in some yards, and you can read the signs.

There is one place with a brick barbecue pit that is covered by vines and wild bushes, with roots growing through mortar joints weakened by rain and too many winter nights. It has been 40 years since the kids and their cousins and friends grew up there, give or take a decade. The grandkids are already away at college or playing in a rock band, or married and living in Baltimore or California. They don’t visit the old people any more.

They did, once. They spent summers there learning about themselves, exploring the same back yard their parent(s) had, basking in the tolerant love of grandparents who learned lessons the hard way. But the visits gradually slowed until they stopped altogether, and the laughter of children stopped.

The grandparents have grown old, and maybe one has died, but the vines and wild overgrowth says they no longer believe in parties in the yard in the summer night, when children’s excited cries bounced off neighbors’  houses from a game of hide-and-seek in a pretend jungle full of scary possibilities.

The adults in that remembered, lost time sat in a circle of chairs with drinks in their hands, talking about football and schools and trips and heartbreaks and that cousin or sister everyone thinks is crazy. Those nights when a picnic table was loaded with food everyone has brought, flickering torches made shadows dance on the canopy of leaves overhead, on the lilac bush by the corner of the house. The scene could have been from an ancient campfire on the Mongolian plain, or in the forests of Europe 10,000 years ago, and only the clothes would be different.

The smoke from the bricked fire, the smell of roasting steaks and hotdogs and hamburgers and sweetcorn kept some bugs away and drew others to the feast, and made the children hungry enough to come in from the game, complaining about someone who cheated, and scratching at mosquito bites.

I stopped last night by the ruins , felt the passage of time, and savored the way life’s sweetest times are so fleeting, and all the sweeter for that, in that relentless, broad, slow flow of the River of the Present into the future.

The dog wants to follow a scent into the underbrush, but I tug on the leash and she gives up and trots down the alley ahead, head down, looking for something to chase. It is her nature.

That’s My Story…And I’m Sticking With It


The Way It Was, Is

The way I was, resting on a long road, laughingly  and thankfully ignorant of the future.

It happens. The dry spells drift in around my ankles like sand, and before I know it, I can’t move.

Oh, well. These times happen, and we try to figure out what to do. It will pass, and then something new will either delight or dismay, sometimes simultaneously. On this day, a day of sad remembrance, it is a time to pause, and think of the People.

The summer was eventful, meaningful, powerful and full of the closing of some doors and the exciting, tentative opening of others.  And over it all hovers the terrible news of murder and suffering and liars loose on the land, of children dying for no reason, of the sins of the powerful, the stupidity of the masses.

In the meantime, I read your posts and silently urge you on. Don’t worry about me. I’m resting, that’s all. Getting down to basics. It happens. It will pass. I look out on the rooflines of old mansions from my high perch. The Fall sunshine kisses the leaves that still grace the trees and suggests things in dappled shadows on the wall. It is a good place to be, a perfect place to rise in order to sink down into the meat of things.

And in the meantime, I read, keeping company with others to show me the way to kick my feet free and to step out onto the long road again….

Dust of the Road

Carl Sandburg
by Carl Sandburg
I SHALL foot it
Down the roadway in the dusk,
Where shapes of hunger wander
And the fugitives of pain go by.
I shall foot it
In the silence of the morning,
See the night slur into dawn,
Hear the slow great winds arise
Where tall trees flank the way
And shoulder toward the sky.

The broken boulders by the road
Shall not commemorate my ruin.
Regret shall be the gravel under foot.
I shall watch for
Slim birds swift of wing
That go where wind and ranks of thunder
Drive the wild processionals of rain.

The dust of the traveled road
Shall touch my hands and face.

Hedgehog’s Dilemma


What a prickle of hedgehogs we are,
Ultimately alone, denying the brutal reality of that,
Compulsively looking for love,
For warmth and deep tenderness,
For a touch that says “Come to me. I see you as you are.”
For a look that says
“Let’s mix it up but good, buster!
Let’s leave the sheets damp, the room smoldering and the neighbors jealous.”
All the while bristly with defenses: automatic, deadly.

When we are close enough, and when the sheets have dried;
When we’re drinking coffee and cursing traffic jams;
When silences grow; when the unknowns press against the window,
There come in under the door the sounds of small clawed feet,
Snuffling old things, blind and dangerous things.
Things we’d rather keep hidden.
From ourselves.
From each other.

What a prickle of hedgehogs we are,
Driven together, driven apart, dancing on the points
And finding a way.


Packing To Go Back To The Garden

I put a soundtrack together for the retirement party, songs from my life. This was one of several of those that she wrote. (Godspeed, Joni. Get well soon.)

–by Joni Mitchell
Well I came across a child of God,
he was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm *
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

© Siquomb Publishing Company

I’m a Seenager Now

Yesterday was the last day of work. I was feeling a little weird this morning– not bad, just feeling the change in the routine. A friend shared this with me (I don’t know the source):


I’m a Seenager. (Senior teenager)

I have everything that I wanted as a

teenager, only 60 years later.

I don’t have to go to school, or to work.

I get an allowance but they call it a pension.

I have my own pad.

I don’t have a curfew.

I have a driver’s license and my own car.

I have ID that gets me into bars and the Beer Store.

The people I hang around with are not afraid of getting pregnant.

And I don’t have acne.

Life is great!

This is What Slow Drowning Feels Like

Originally posted on Gulab Jamman Writes ♥:

image (1)

This is what slow drowning feels like:

You are plunging from bright light into darkness. Time decelerates. Death…

Then the waves propel you backwards, upwards – from silence into rushing sound. Life –

Each time that upward thrust prevails, you break the surface and take a breath. Your third-last breath. Your second-last breath. The world is so lucid – a hallucination – every colour is amplified, edged with iridescence. You have never been so conscious of oxygen: of the roar of it in your eardrums, of its sharpness in the gasp of your lungs. Each mouthful floods your mind with a cutglass clarity. For a second as fleeting as joy itself, you realise what it means to be living… Then that moment is wrenched from you, and you are pulled below to death again.

Beneath the water, the world is much darker – yet a little light still penetrates from…

View original 61 more words

On Retirement

Monday’s the official last day of work. At this job.

Twenty-six years, four months and 21 days in one place. I’ve hated it for 10 years and some odd number of months. (I’m not sure when that started; it sort of sneaks up on you and you only realize it long after it’s happened.)

I’m working on some things that are part of processing this, but the party’s Saturday night. A gang is coming, including two of our oldest friends who are coming in from the West and the Far Northwest (Cheyenne, Wy, and Sequim, WA, respectively). Just for this. I’m assembling a playlist and a slideshow to have up on the screen, and have been trying to find songs that hold some meaning. This is one:

I’ve Got Nothing Else Right Now

Retirement party coming up, and a mutant wisteria eating the side of my house demands attention from clippers. Onward!


Ummm, Er


Thanking God

Originally posted on anntogether:

Gethsemane/acrylicI think during sleep
and rest at sunup.
I like my coffee black
as long as it’s the color of caramel.
I enjoy warm red wine from a tumbler–
glass stems make me nervous.
is the voice you may speak to me in.
For several years,
a guitar and banjo have held up a wall–
I’m supposed to embrace them.

When the piano cries for attention,
I occasionally oblige.
My mother has a beautiful voice.
My family doesn’t enjoy when I rattle the walls in song.
A boisterous Italian belting out, “Danny Boy”
may not grant me, “luck of the Irish,”
but I often feel fortunate.
Did you know that?
I cherish the people in and around my humble life.
Next time I talk with God–
not Satan,
he doesn’t like pianos

I’ll be sure to say thank you…

portrait – acrylic – my Catholic school interpretation of…

View original 5 more words

Picture of the Day: Sassi di Matera, Italy


Booking flight now….

Originally posted on TwistedSifter:

sassi-matera-italy-francesco russo

Across the canyon, which was carved by the Gravina river, we see the ancient city of Matera in southern Italy. It was recently declared the European Capital of Culture for 2019.

At the edge of the canyon you can see the Sassi di Matera, ancient cave dwellings that are suspected to be among the first human settlements in Italy, dating back as early as 7000 BC. Situated in the old town, the historical center of Matera was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.


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Passing Through a Small Town 

main street, small town_america/plein_air_landscape
“Small Town America” by Tom Brown

by David Shumate
Here the highways cross. One heads north. One heads east
and west. On the comer of the square adjacent to the
courthouse a bronze plaque marks the place where two Civil
War generals faced one another and the weaker surrendered.
A few pedestrians pass. A beauty parlor sign blinks. As I tum
to head west, I become the schoolteacher living above the
barber shop. Polishing my shoes each evening. Gazing at the
square below. In time I befriend the waitress at the cafe and
she winks as she pours my coffee. Soon people begin to
talk. And for good reason. I become so distracted I teach my
students that Cleopatra lost her head during the French
Revolution and that Leonardo perfected the railroad at the
height of the Renaissance. One day her former lover returns
from the army and creates a scene at the school. That evening
she confesses she cannot decide between us. But still we spend
one last night together. By the time I pass the grain elevators
on the edge of town I am myself again. The deep scars of love
already beginning to heal.
“Passing Through a Small Town” by David Shumate from High Water Mark. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. (buy now)

Expensive Mistakes


An old printer has sat in the dark
In my oldest’s neglected closet
For seven years,

Barely usable for a year
Before it was replaced.

$400 was the cost. I remember things like that,
Which tells you something…
Mainly that my parents survived
The Great Depression and WWII,
And it was “waste not, want not,”
Every damned day.

If I were to throw that printer out,
It would mean admitting that I spent

I can hear the disapproval even now.
But it doesn’t bother me much any more.
Expensive mistakes have taught even me, finally.

A printer isn’t the worst of it, as much as
Falling hard for the wrong person,
(And who hasn’t done that?);
Or falling for the right person at the wrong time,
Or failing to see moments of joy inside pain;
Or not learning that true courage means acting despite great fear.

Or living too much on the surface of things;
And choosing blindness to the gift that is each day;
Or letting life make me ever smaller inside,
Instead of choosing the wisdom of wide arms,
Embracing the passing parade while it lasts.

The printer in the closet needs to go,
Because expensive mistakes
Cannot be redeemed until forgiven.

At the Limit


Enjoyed this one.

Originally posted on Julian Beach :: Writing:


We went north and west, remember?
winding from Irish Sea to fretting Atlantic
calling at the favoured places; Tara of Kings
yellow-flagged, wind-ruffled Ramore and Erne
the Calf House at Blacklion, tinted with old moss.

Were you moved?
Did your soul stir?
Or were you obdurate
Lia Fáil to a false claimant?


Leaving the gulls to their dive-bombing
of the returning lobstermen at Killybegs
we topped the rise to Lurganboy
and below, the widening Owenea winked
reflected westering beams, pink with salmon
driving against the current to spawn.
Moving Hearts was on the stereo
and even the ineffable sorcery
of Spillane’s mournful low whistle
could not quicken you.

We wandered Tramore’s glistening sands.
You, under way, steamed ahead in review order
dressed overall, stem to stern, single-handed
leaving steaming new glass in your wake.
I stopped, dug for razor clams, called you to help
but a fling of…

View original 332 more words

Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death

Roger McGough CBE FRSL (born 9 November 1937) is an English poet, performance poet, broadcaster, children's author and playwright.
Roger McGough CBE FRSL (born 9 November 1937) is an English poet, performance poet, broadcaster, children’s author and playwright.


 by Roger McGough

Let me die a youngman’s death not a clean and in between the sheets holy water death
Not a famous-last-words peaceful outofbreath death

When I’m 73 and in constant good tumour
may I be mown down at dawn
by a bright red sports car on my way home from an allnight party

Or when I’m 91
with silver hair
and sitting in a barber’s chair
may rival gangsters
with hamfisted tommy guns burst in
and give me a short back and insides

Or when I’m 104
and banned from the Cavern
may my mistress
catching me in bed with her daughter
and fearing for her son
cut me up into little pieces
and throw away every piece but one

Let me die a young man’s death
not a free from sin tiptoe in
candle wax and waning death
not a curtains drawn by angels borne
what a nice way to go‘ death

What is the Problem to Which the Delivery Drone is the Solution?


It’s long. But for anyone interested in the future uses of technology, or the environment, or simply whether we want our skies filled with Amazon’s drone robots, this is worth some time.

Originally posted on LibrarianShipwreck:

Who amongst us has not gazed up at the sky and thought, “yes, those clouds and birds are a nice sight but what I really wish I was seeing is several hundred delivery drones buzzing about”? Perhaps it would be better to frame this in the opposite direction, who amongst us has gazed up at the sky and actually thought that? It seems like it is pretty safe to assume that the answer is “not terribly many people.” Nevertheless the image of, at least metropolitan, skies filled with drones going to and fro is a vision of the future being articulated in some quarters, particularly vocally by Amazon which has recently proposed reserving air space for its, as yet un-deployed, delivery drone armada.

Drones, of course, have been in use for quite some time – they are not particularly new; however, proposals and plans that would see swarms of the…

View original 2,780 more words

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