Sunday, November 30, 2008

How Do I Get To Detroit (With Apologies To Richard Pryor)

Hi readers! Here's your usual Saturday pictures, albeit dated on Sunday, posted on Monday. What can I say? Despite my Taurus nature, sometimes I mix things up. Thanks for all the great comments on the video! And in answer to Jason, no, Baby Grouchie isn't a racist -- he's just so tired of seeing signs for Pottery Barn near his dumpster and having to move yet again. Don't get Baby Grouchie started on Pottery Barn! And for the lovely Laura, Muppet flight has been a problem for years, although Miss Piggy and Kermit have a bunker in the city which seems to work out well for them. And gorgeous Jodi deserves good bus behavior -- I love that the same guy drove your mother, you, and your son -- that's cool! And to my lovely brilliant Lana, the kind gestures are the best and I have no doubt that your candies were very appreciated -- the winds, they do get awful cold! Back at you later today with another segment from the book -- this time from the section titled, A Field Guide To Demons.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my dears! I've been thinking of all I have to be thankful for -- the list is long! I'm so grateful for my friends, the ones I've met and the ones I know from their words. You guys are the best -- here's all my love and everything until next Thanksgiving, I remain your Michelle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Way I Wished I Looked!

Here's one of my FAVORITE presents of all time from my dearest Shawn! It was commissioned especially for me and based off my writing and pictures. I couldn't have imagined anything more wonderful! Isn't that the way with all perfect gifts? I'm so grateful for all comments and all my dear friends I have met in this forum and all of life, and will include a gratitude list tomorrow in honor of the holiday. Until then, all love, Michelle

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Written On The Body

Thanks to all for the great comments on yesterday's post! I have never been offended by a compliment on this blog or a compliment in any situation and extend many thanks to everyone who appreciates either the pictures or the writing. All the comments are helping me in figuring out the role of photography in my book and life. And to my dearest beautiful Jodi, I do remember that moment and laughed hysterically again thinking about it! This next post is further rumination on the same subject, albeit a slightly different angle.

My friend K (her real initial) is exquisitely beautiful. I knew this before she posed for Playboy, before she became a model. I knew it because when we were in high school and college, men adored K and women, well, women were tough on her. And whenever we went out, people fell all over themselves to get things for us, to help us in a way they did not when I went out with my friend M or L. We never were ignored, the way I often was alone, dressed like a siren if your idea of a siren is Karen Carpenter, circa 1971. K hated men; a victim of sexual abuse, she'd decided that if men were stupid enough to be drawn in by a beautiful face, a Barbie-like body, and an airhead act, they deserved what they got which was to be treated like hell. She'd had a hard life in many ways so I understood this guerrilla feminism. Knowing her father alone would be enough for most women to begin to despise the entire sex. Once I went to pick her up for a night out at the uber-glamorous, now defunct Bennigans. She had not gotten home from work yet and her father began to strip in front of me, pretending to tuck in his shirt; I could not get out of there fast enough.

I wondered what it would be like to be really beautiful like K. I had my own charms, but they weren't terribly obvious. I had, in no particular order, unruly hair, bad skin at points, weight fluctuations, and eyebrows that I wish someone had informed me needed plucking. I once got me and my friend Cal into the Macaroni Grill, circumventing an hour wait so I suppose there's that velvet rope consolation. The first article I read on being pretty was in a women's magazine and the author did not sign her name. She talked about how taboo it was to say you were attractive and how, while it got her attention from strangers, it didn't make her life much easier. Which I'm sure made people sick -- boo hoo, you're so pretty; it must be awful! Kind of like complaining about being rich. The only people that can say money doesn't matter and not sound like assholes are poor people. But, as everyone knows, beauty fades, no matter how much money you have or what kind of disturbing procedures you do to yourself. Once a friend of mine listed all the things she'd missed about herself when she died which gave me pause. I miss some of those things already! Orwell says by fifty, we have the face we deserve. And I hope that everything I have loved deeply, even the damage, is written on my body, constantly evolving into something even more real than the charms of misspent youth.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius

Cocktail Hour
Question for readers: Any good traditional movie/drinks/desserts that you associate with Thanksgiving?

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Subject Is Too Dark

Often when I try to take pictures, my camera tells me that the subject is too dark, which always makes me laugh given this simple observation could sum up my entire life. I like taking pictures at night and in urban areas; I like the constant gray skies, the sadness of twilight, the beauty of the city. My photography, much like my writing, is not for all tastes. People often express concern for my safety to which I can only point out that everything bad that has ever happened to me has happened in houses, places that are supposed to be safe. But unlike children's games where there's always a spot where nobody can touch you, a base, a way of asking for mercy, real life affords none of this comfort.

I also take pictures of myself for this blog as a visual diary of a life. As with everything, some pictures are better than others and a number of people take the pictures so the styles vary. I try to keep the pictures current lest I seem like a writer who has a picture from twenty years ago on the book jacket because he or she "doesn't have any others." The activity of being photographed in strange places involves an inherent risk, but not much -- mostly I get told I have a nice ass which as the Brautigan poem says, so much is gained and lost with those two words. We all have pictures of ourselves that we like and hate -- my worst was from my wedding where I wish someone had told me to lay off the hot glue gun and give up on the fake pearls, fertility symbols that kept dropping into my hair and onto the floor. And I have ones where I look happy or sad, that something I didn't know I was feeling, caught on camera. Pictures, as the advertisers understand, tell us who we are. I think of how I tried to make myself look normal after my rape with my mother's under eye concealer. She almost never wore make-up so there wasn't much with which to work. It's not lost on me how I take out my own concealer now before someone snaps my pictures to cover up the flaws, a lot of them self-inflicted. Rinse, repeat, until you are satisfied that you are done.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The theme is the theme of humiliation, which is the square root of sin, as opposed to the freedom from humiliation, and love, which is the square root of wonderful."
Carson McCullers

Cocktail Hour
Here begins the festive seasonal drinks for the upcoming holidays!

1 part Stoli Vanil (or plain)
1 part Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice
Cinnamon-sugar rim.
Combine ingredients in shaker w/ ice.
Shake vigorously.
Strain into martini glass and serve.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Town I Love

Hey everyone! Thanks for reading "Spanish Trace." I don't often post fiction since I started writing the memoir, so it's a nice break from me and my mind, a bad neighborhood that I have often had to walk in alone lately. But you guys are great to go along for the ride -- I plan to have a complete draft of Second Day Reported by December, God willing and the creek don't rise. Happy Saturday to all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Miracle Of Healing

Here's the final installment. Thanks for the kind words and for reading! I'll be back tomorrow with pictures, Sunday with more stunning insights into the workings of the world. Ha!

I woke from my nap and realized people were already in the house. I could hear her friends laugh and star in on the snacks and hoped they hadn’t already eaten everything I wanted. I walked out of the bedroom and made my apologies all around. I had on my t-shirt from a drive-through in Peru, Indiana, that said, “It’s Mr. Weenie Time” which a picture of a big smiling weenie in a hat, which I knew to be a mistake when Lori looked at me. We had gone on a month-long road trip as a honeymoon, checking out America. Mr. Weenie had been a favorite at the time.

After I had a few drinks, I forgot that I was supposed to be injured and then I’d flash back and remember to limp. Nobody tells you how hard it is to be hurt. My arms ached because the crutches were the wrong size and the leg immoblizer made my leg itch something fierce. I took my place on the couch and tried to see which of her friends could be persuaded to wait on me. Nobody did, so I scooted out to the porch to get away from everyone. I watched Lori through the window and caught her eye. I feared she might come out here.

Lori had a Zima in her how and I wondered how I could have married someone who drank Zimas. She walked over to me.

“I’m glad you’re hurt. Guess who I saw at the Safeway today?”


“Tina Holmes. She told me you’re seeing some fat waitress from Woody’s.”

“We had a few dates. I thought we were over.”

“You’re an asshole, Mark. I’m sorry I ever took you back.”

“Not half as sorry as I am.”

“What the hell is Jimmy Sanders doing here?”

Jimmy got out of the passenger’s side of his mother’s car and walked up the sidewalk, jerking all the way. He had a Nazi helmet on and carried a sword with a swatiska on it. I guess he thought we were having a Halloween party. I started to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“What are you laughing at, you son of a bitch? I’m not letting him in.”

“Why not? Maybe one of your special needs instructors can help him learn and grow,” I said. “Just maybe he’d date one of your single, middle-aged, self-actualized friends.”

Jimmy walked up and waved at his mother who drove off. I guessed we were stuck with him for at a least a few hours.

“You take him somewhere,” Lori said. “I don’t care if you have two broken legs and a sprained dick. I want him gone.” She slammed the door, and I sat down on the porch, looking through the window and watching her expression change for her friends when she returned to the party.

“Hey Jimmy.”

“What happened to you?” Jimmy asked. Hs at down in his cumbersome uniform, a combination of his dead dad’s army stuff and some Nazi shit he’d picked up over the years.

“I hurt myself when I was moving.”

“Why aren’t you inside?” Jimmy asked.

I was glad to be sitting next to him so I couldn’t really see him licking the air. I took another swig of my beer. “It’s not really a party. Just some of Lori’s friends. Anyway, why don’t I take you home? You don’t want to be here.”

“I thought something was going on tonight. You want to go out and get a drink?”

Being seen with Jimmy in public was nothing short of sexual suicide and being seen with Jimmy dressed as a Nazi was nothing short of actual suicide. I was not near drunk enough to think this was a good idea.

I didn’t want to risk getting a DUI, but I didn’t see a way around the problem. I told Jimmy to get into the truck and he did. I prayed to God that I didn’t get stopped. There’s no simple story that could explain what was happening.

“Hey Jimmy, why am I such an asshole?”

“I could kill you with my Nazi dagger if I wanted.” He sat in the passenger seat, grunting and making gestures. A real good time.

“That’s wonderful, Jimmy. Thank you so much.”

I passed Melody’s again and decided to take a chance. “I’m stopping. You go ahead and walk to your mother’s. We’re two blocks over. I’ve got some business to do.”

“You going to get back with Melody?”

“If she’ll have me,” I said.

“She ain’t got much self-esteem. I remember a boy popped her bra strap and said, good boobs, too bad you’ve got such an ugly face. He usually picked on me, but I was happy that it was her turn until I saw her cry.”

“Jimmy, you’re a regular hero. Take my bottle and go on home.”

H set off down the street, taking swigs as he jerked. I knocked at Melody’s door. It took her a long time to answer.

“What do you want?”

“Don’t you want to know what happened to me?”

“Not particularly.” She had a pink robe on, one that I had taken off her to make love to her not four months ago. It make my throat ache to see it.

“I’m hurt. I got hurt,” I said. “You have to help me.”

“Why should I help you?” Melody folded her arms in front of her and looked down.

I took her chin in my hands and kissed her as tenderly as I knew how. The crutches fell away. I knew if I didn’t go home tonight, I would not be going home again. So I walked in the house behind Melody, leaving the crutches on the porch, evidence of a miracle of healing for people to marvel over in the morning.

Michelle's Spell
“Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible” Paul Klee

Cocktail Hour
Drinking holiday cheer suggestion: Okay, we're almost to the horrors of the holidays so this is my best suggestion: Drink your very favorite drink tonight whether it be chocolate milk or single malt scotch. (Combined this is not a great drink, but it does exist -- a Chicago Boxcar is the name) Do not think of anything having to do with Thanksgiving or Christmas. Do not look at ads having to do with the holidays. There will be plenty of time to count blessings/cook/suffer holiday depression/buy presents in the weeks to come.

Benedictions and Maledictions
I've gotten a lot of questions about the pictures I use on the blog, both in the past and recently. Instead of trying to answer them all individually, I am almost finished with an essay about this very subject (the pictures themselves, how they are taken, etc.) and will post it next week. Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

No More Credit At The Liquor Store

Today and tomorrow -- "Spanish Trace." Saturday pictures from the town I love and Sunday I return to my usual rant and rave. Thanks for reading!

Lori decided we’d have a party to celebrate the turning of the seasons. She planned it for the weekend of Halloween, which was a long weekend for Ft. Worth Country Day. I suggested we do a costume party and that my old band Head Cleaner could play some blues, but she gave me a look that suggested my old band would not be playing. She had loved Head Cleaner when she heard them years ago. She gave me a withering look that suggested I grow up and grow up fast. I had seen that expression from my jerk of a father all my life.

“My friends don’t wear costumes,” she said.

“Maybe they could start.”

“Are you going to be an asshole?” Lori asked.

The honeymoon appeared to be over.

Lori left to pick up food for the party, and I sat around trying to get drunk. I was missing Melody, feeling lonely and strung-out. I didn’t want to be here, bored as shit by a bunch of people who would sit and talk about teaching. I didn’t have one goddamn thing to say to any of them. I took some more slugs and decided to leave for the day while Lori got ready. I wrote her a note telling her that I was going to clean out the rest of my apartment and booked.

When I got into my truck, I turned on the radio and old Rick Nelson sang “Garden Party.” I felt as if the bastard were coming back from the grave to tell me that I would never be able to please Lori, and I ought to give up trying. I drove to Mr. C’s and bought a six-pack of Lone Star and some cashews in a bag. Then I drove around trying not to look like I was driving around drinking beer and eating cashews. I went to the Trace and sat down on my one last chair and took a look around the place. I didn’t have the foresight not to have the electricity turned off, so I had to sit around in the dark, the heart of Indian Summer, sweating and wondering if a cold spell would hit. I knew it wouldn’t hit soon enough to make it bearable.

“What the hell happened to you?” Lori said.

I tripped into our house wearing a leg immobilizer and crutches. I didn’t want Lori to know that I had been drinking. I needed an alibi, for not having done any work and being gone all day. Sitting around the Trace, I decided to pretend I’d been in an accident. I felt glad that I had gotten rid of the stuff from the first accident. Maybe she would remember how she had loved me then.

“I fell down the stairs at the Trace.”

“I thought there was only a bottom floor,” she said.

“I mean by the office. I tried to turn in my key, but it was closed and I turned and tripped.”

“Are you okay? How did you get the brace?” Lori crushed avocados, turning them into
guacamole. I loved her guacamole. One more thing to miss if I left.

“I drove to the emergency room.” I held out an old bottle of painkillers I’d been hoarding from a root canal. I hoped she didn’t take them out of my hands and look at the date.

“Have you been drinking?” Lori asked. She took a lemon and started to squeeze it in the dip. It keeps the guacamole from getting discolored from the air. The color didn’t make any difference to the taste, but she claimed that looking at brown guacamole did not make anyone feel happy.

“What makes you say that, honey?”

“I don’t see how you could have fallen down the stairs.”

“I was tired, okay? I work long hours.”

“You wouldn’t have to work so hard if you got another job teaching.”

“I don’t want another job. I want to go rest.”

“Don’t take the painkillers if you’ve been drinking.”

It made me feel real bad when she said that because that’s how my mother died. Not that Lori knows that. She thinks that she died in her sleep from alcohol poisoning. I don’t know why I left the painkiller part out of the story when I told her, I just did. My mother took some of my granddad’s muscle relaxants and drank part of a bottle of wine, passed out mid-sentence, got put to bed by friends, and stopped breathing in the middle of the night. She’d been mixing stuff for years, but it must have been the exact wrong dose that night. It felt like the type of disaster our family had been watching for years had hit us. I never thought it would, the way you feel when you’re driving and you see a car on the side of the road and you thank God it isn’t you, although someday it will be. And it always is.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The real beauty of the question -- how do we become who we are? -- is that by the time we are old enough to ask it, it is too late to do much about it. That is not the sorrow of hindsight, but its music: That is what grants us a bearable past." Gail Caldwell

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: A Strong West Wind Gail Caldwell

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Can We Make It Less Bitter?

When I was a child, I got my dad's Time magazine taken away from me, the one with all the pictures of the dead bodies at Jonestown. He had a subscription from work to Time and Newsweek and one of my big joys at the end of the week was rifling through his briefcase and hoarding these treasures. I learned a lot about the issues of the day and spent many hours clipping articles about women being beaten and torture victims. It passed, as they say, the violet hours. But at five years old, the aerial views of the bodies were a bit too much, and I started to have bad dreams about that distant jungle. Thirty years later, it seems like yesterday, and I spent a lot of my youth researching the People's Temple and other cults. What caused people to put so much faith in a preacher who started out selling pet monkeys door to door is hard to fathom. But like so many shitty situations in life -- families and marriages and jobs that we are born into, have to take, doomed to repeat -- it's like one big roach motel; you come in, but hell if you can find your way out.

I have a copy of the last tapes of that fateful day in Guyana, one of the more unusual gifts I have ever received. There's a lot of crying once people realize that some nut was going to take them out, a lot of "Can't we call Russia for help?" and so forth. One woman, resigned to drink the Flavor Aid, asked if there was a way to make it less bitter. But alas, all the sugar was gone. I think of that question a lot, about so many sadnesses in this life, but usually the answer is no, try as we might with all the potions we can force down our throats.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. Is not life a hundred times too short for us to bore ourselves?" Friedrich Nietzsche

Cocktail Hour
Drinking religious book suggestion: Religion Gone Bad: The Hidden Dangers Of The Religious Right Mel White (He's the father of one of my favorite filmmakers of all-time, Mike White!)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Garden Party

I lied! There are at least two more installments. Will probably post about something else on Wednesday for a little break and then finish out the week with Mark and his marital woes. Thanks for reading!

Lori decided we’d have a party to celebrate the turning of the seasons. She planned it for the weekend of Halloween, which was a long weekend for Ft. Worth Country Day. I suggested we do a costume party and that my old band Head Cleaner could play some blues, but she gave me a look that suggested my old band would not be playing. She had loved Head Cleaner when she heard them years ago. She gave me a withering look that suggested I grow up and grow up fast. I had seen that expression from my jerk of a father all my life.

“My friends don’t wear costumes,” she said.

“Maybe they could start.”

“Are you going to be an asshole?” Lori asked.

The honeymoon appeared to be over.

Lori left to pick up food for the party, and I sat around trying to get drunk. I was missing Melody, feeling lonely and strung-out. I didn’t want to be here, bored as shit by a bunch of people who would sit and talk about teaching. I didn’t have one goddamn thing to say to any of them. I took some more slugs and decided to leave for the day while Lori got ready. I wrote her a note telling her that I was going to clean out the rest of my apartment and booked.

When I got into my truck, I turned on the radio and old Rick Nelson sang “Garden Party.” I felt as if the bastard were coming back from the grave to tell me that I would never be able to please Lori, and I ought to give up trying. I drove to Mr. C’s and bought a six-pack of Lone Star and some cashews in a bag. Then I drove around trying not to look like I was driving around drinking beer and eating cashews. I went to the Trace and sat down on my one last chair and took a look around the place. I didn’t have the foresight not to have the electricity turned off, so I had to sit around in the dark, the heart of Indian Summer, sweating and wondering if a cold spell would hit. I knew it wouldn’t hit soon enough to make it bearable.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"You can't please everyone so you gotta please yourself." Ricky Nelson

Cocktail Hour
I'm going to start posting holiday drinks and snacks in this section. Also gift ideas since that's always such a fun and difficult part of the season.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cute Little Faces

The penultimate installment. Thanks for reading!

Just before Halloween, Lori took me back. She called one night and said come over and I did and we ended up having some great make-up sex. It's like when your car hasn't been working and it does and driving seems like the best thing ever since you've been denied so long. I felt sad about Melody, though, because I'd been seeing her kind of regular and didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything, just stopped calling and coming over. I felt like the biggest loser ever. We lived in a small town, and I knew she'd figure it out through the grapevine, but I knew I was wrong in not saying anything. She deserved better.

The next week, I moved some of my stuff out of the Trace, but I still had a couple of weeks on my month-to-month lease so it wasn't like there was some big hurry. And even though I loved Lori, part of me had gotten used to living on my own. I didn't like the thought of not seeing Hank every morning. I'd finally gotten used to all the weird noises in the place.

But I tried to play it straight -- no Woody's, no Mel, just work and home and looking in the want ads for a new job, submitting my resume to other schools. I made an effort to keep my clothes off the floor and to be nice to her friends, dysa all the way. Lori's beauty made me weak, but it also made me tired She drove to Ft. Worth to teach, which kept her out of the house during the week, which felt good, but during the weekends she'd decorate the house by putting pumpkin shit everywhere from the Martha Stewart K-Mart collection, and I'm thinking about my Aunt Edna who used to paint the tops of crushed beer cans and put eyes on them and hang them on the Christmas tree. They were supposed to be cute little faces, but it always looked like they were screaming children. I never thought I'd miss those ugly cans, but I do. And I miss K-Mart when it used to be a cheap place with dirty diapers in the parking lot. I thought about Melody a lot, the way she tried to fix up her small place and her little cartwheeling girl who looked just like her daddy, which was to say tall and lean and wiry. And then I'd think about how Lori looked and how much we had invested in the house and imagine that it was worth it to stay where I was.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose."
Bill Gates

Cocktail Hour
Drinking Thanksgiving suggestion: deep fried turkey (this seems like an idea whose time has come)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday Pictures, Monday Morning

Hi there! Sunday pictures, Monday morning. Back at you this afternoon with the rest of "Spanish Trace."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's A Man's World

Hi all! I'm grateful that you've been following Mark and his adventures in "Spanish Trace." When I first workshopped this story at a writing conference years ago, the man who was my "personal" conference (an editor of a magazine I can't remember-- thank you, repression!) found the misogyny in the story "repulsive and disgusting and I was shocked to find out it was written by a woman." This brings to mind Charles' post at on writing groups and gender politics, i.e., can a man portray a woman and can a woman write in the voice of a man. I certainly hope so. Any opinions here on the issue? I'll be posting more of the story tomorrow. Until then, happy Saturday!

Friday, November 14, 2008

When It Was Slow

Another installment of "Spanish Trace." Thanks for reading!

They also had cheap beer and a pretty, if somewhat heavy, waitress named Melody who sat and talked to me when it was slow. Melody was the girl in high school that you secretly slept with because she didn't look perfect enough to be your girlfriend, but she was plenty okay for screwing around. I had no doubt that she had suffered from this treatment all her life and that left her desperate enough to talk to me. I didn't mind. Many of my sexual encounters had been with women who had been depressed into having sex with me. So what? I'm not proud.

Anyway, that's the day that me and Melody got started. She told me that her daughter was staying with her daddy this weekend and did I want to come over? Just like that. I didn't know Melody had a daughter which was a definite strike against her, but who was I to judge? I didn't even have a divorce yet which was a definite strike against me. I thought she might be the best I could do for now so I went back to her place where her little girl was still waiting with the sitter for her daddy which really griped my ass because I did not want to be any part of that scene. The little girl kept doing these one-handed cartwheels all over the place and I'd held my breath, waiting for her to knock something over. She looked like she knew what she was doing, but the place was small and I didn't want to see everything come crashing down.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.” Dag Hammarskjold

Cocktail Hour
Drinking beer suggestion: Shinerbock Dark

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Save Your Quarters

Another installment -- thanks for reading! I'll be finished with "Spanish Trace" by Sunday and ready for a whole new round of blogs. Hope you're having a great week!

"Bad day, buddy?" I asked.

"Not really. Found some more stuff at that antique place in Fort Worth," Jimmy said. Every time he said something, he'd go into a small spasm and start licking the air. I could barely stand to watch.

"What do you with all that Nazi shit? What's the fucking point?"

"You got me," he said. "I just like it. What, you don't think it's bad, do you?"

"No man, it's great." It was times like these that made me wish the entire world were as adept at picking up tone and nuance as Jimmy Sanders. Tone and nuance had gotten me into a lot of trouble. "I got to get back out front. Take it easy on that stuff, will you?"

He took another hit off the flask and put it away. He started to say something, but began licking the air instead while the musak pumped in Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." That's the kind of shit that can make a guy feel pretty low.

I guess I should have to tell anyone that Lori never got used to it. She'd say, You're not working at the Ponderosa forever, Mark. It's stagnant. You're stagnant. And my stagnant ass would head out the door and end up at Woody's, a small dive just west of town. Woody's might have been a shithole, but it had a decent jukebox in which I spent many a quarter playing George Jones singing "Yabba Dabba Doo, the King Is Gone and So Are You" until this old guy yells, Save your quarters son and buy the tape. And I wanted to say, It's all cds now, pops, but then the old guy smiled and I could see that he didn't have all his teeth and had lost them fighting and probably wouldn't mind losing a few more. And I liked my teeth. So I sat down and drank the rest of my Shiner without George.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses." Colette

Cocktail Hour
Drinking television suggestion: Escape From Jonestown -- CNN tonight!

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Much love to my mother, seven years gone today.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What I Had Always Done

Another installment of "Spanish Trace." Thanks for all the great comments yesterday -- I'm still thinking about a good response in regards to some of them.

I put my hammer and nails away and got out my clothes for my job as manager of the Ponderosa. I had been working there for about eight months. The job was a favor from a friend to tide me over until something better happened. Nothing better happened. I'd been teaching at a high school that didn't have enough money to stay afloat so when the place shut down, I didn't have the heart to go through the whole job search and thought that managing the Ponderosa might just be the place to be. At the school, I'd had to spend a lot of time making sure that everything was in order and was constantly getting nagged by the administrators about my paperwork, my attitude, my way of conducting a classroom. I knew that at a place like the Ponderosa, the bullshit would be at a minimum. I had decided to try and get myself together, not jump into something I didn't want just because it was what I had always done.

I didn't much care for most of the waitresses who were a bitter crew, lifers who sat around worrying about getting their daughters married off and talking shit about men on their breaks. Mostly, I went in the back and smoked and talked to this fucked up dishwasher named Jimmy Sanders, a guy I knew from grade school. He had Tourettes and would sit around and go into these weird spasms from time to time where his head jutted out and his arms looked like he was trying to catch flies. He'd broken a few dishes this way, but the Ponderosa's owner didn't care because it was almost impossible to find anyone to dishwash, and Jimmy had been with them since he graduated from high school fifteen years ago. Jimmy lived with his mother and had an extensive collection of Nazi paraphernalia that he wanted me to come see. He didn't bother me, but no way was there going to be a visit to see that collection any time soon.

"Hey Jimmy," I said.

H ehad his hands plunged into the soapy water and lifted them, shaking them around like a dog. "Hello Mark. Want some Comfort?"

"Not right now."

He sat down on the stool next to me, wiped his hands on his stained apron and took a flask out of the pocket. Southern Comfort tastes so sweet that I could barely stand it, but it was all Jimmy drank.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"How many of us persist in a precipitate course which, but for a moment of heedlessness, we might never have entered upon, simply because we hate to 'change our minds.'" William James

Cocktail Hour
Drinking cocktail suggestion:
Could The Holidays Be Starting Again?
one shot of vodka poured into hot chocolate
garnish with festive candy cane leftover from last year

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Wreath On A Grave

As I was writing a Veteran's Day post, all the lights in my house went out, a sign from my dad who hated discussing death but said that if he died (and he never really believed he would because well, who the hell does?), he'd make the lights go on and off at random times. Or maybe a fuse blew. But I really don't favor boring and/or logical explanations -- who wants to live in a world where everything can be explained? No danger here for me. And the post I was writing was one that I always cautioned my students against -- full of cliches about the shortness of life and its attendant horrors, how we always have to look for the beauty of things because there are some who no longer can, namely those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

As a child, I sometimes spent days in my grandparents' trailer. Two trailers over, a Vietnam Vet woke the park with an Agent Orange cough every morning and spent a few afternoons a week teaching kids what he referred to as "the ancient oriental arts." I called it "Trailerpark Dojo" and watched as he taught a mishmash of karate and tae kwon do, along with some moves that would not be out of place on the show "Bum Fights." It was my first introduction to war, such as it was, the aftermath. Everyone loves the soldiers, so long as it's in a parade setting and they're wearing snappy uniforms and acting the way we feel they should, undamaged and proud, tough. I meant all that I wrote that got erased when the power left, all that shit about life being ever so short and that we need to be kind to each other as we all have wounds, scars, we're all battling it out with forces that nobody can understand except those in it. That's the nature of any war, and we must not forget the legacy and work to heal it, if not with the ancient oriental arts, well, then love for all involved, the living and the dead, not just a wreath on a grave, but understanding that we all carry around the graveyard.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings." Herman Hesse

Cocktail Hour
Drinking veteran website:

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Tuesday! Thanks for your comments on "Spanish Trace." I'll return tomorrow with more installments.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Everything I Touch

Here's the next installment of the story. As for Baby Grouchie, I'm going to try to keep him from doing the infamous "crotch" shot that so many celebrities seem to provide the press. He should know better by now!

I met Lori right after I fell out of a tree. I had climbed up that tree hoping to see my ex-wife and her new boyfriend. We'd been divorced for a couple of months, and she'd taken up with the high school football coach twice her age. I had hated him when I played for him my junior and senior year of high school and hated him all the more when I realized he was fucking the woman I still thought of as my wife. The upshot of this sorry tale is that my ex married said asshole, and I fell out of the tree that night without seeing anything and tore the shit out of my kneecap. The next day Imet Lori and endeared her to me with my crutches and bruises. There's very little more appealing to a woman than a man that's been injured. Lori looked like a young Sissy Spacek in Badlands, someone beautiful and damaged. Unfortunately, she seemed a lot more damaged than she really was and ended up being the competent one in the couple, a role she relished and resented.

Right before she kicked me out, she got real upset and said, Everything I touch turns to shit and I'm tired of living around things that are fucked up. I said, That doesn't leave much, does it? And she looked at me with a hate that equalled all the love that had come before it. I knew that it was time to get the wading boots out because a shitstorm was on the horizon and it wasn't going to end for along time.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul." ~Michel de Montaigne

Cocktail Hour
Drinking memoir suggestion: The God I Love Joni Earekson Tada

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Baby Grouchie Is Famous!

Breaking news -- Baby Grouchie and his voting sticker is on Pink Is The New Blog! He now believes he's famous and can do whatever he wants, including smoking and drinking and all night clubbing with Lindsay Lohan. It's going to be very difficult from now on to keep a reign on him, but I'm his Mommy and will do my best. Next week, I'll keep posting installments of the story about Mark and his epic divorce adventures. Happy Sunday!

Baby Grouchie Tries To Do A Bad Thing

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Yet More Spanish Trace!

Here's another installment of "Spanish Trace." Thanks for reading! Am sending Halloween prizes today so Jim of JR's Thumbprints, Indian extraordinaire, send your address!

"If you don't want the blinds, you'll have to figure it out yourself. And if you don't want the blinds, you'll have to figure it out yourself. And we insist on blinds. I can't stand to have some coat of many colors thing going on here." She ran a pink fingernail over a dusty venetian. "So do you want it or not?"

"Yes ma'am. When can I move?"

"Well, I guess I can get someone in here to clean. Two days? You want to pay now or pay later?" She shooed me out of the apartment and locked the door.

"Now," I said, thinking of all the times I'd chosen to pay later. "I'll pay right now."

So here we are in the paradise, and I'm hanging my Hank Williams Louisiana Hayride poster (a gift frommy first wife, loathed by my second), thinking that I have to get ready for work soon, and wondering how I got into this mess again. I swore if I remarried, it would be different, things wouldn't get fucked up so fast, we'd be older, wiser, and all the other things you tell yourself before your second marriage takes the detour that ends with other people.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I may reinvent myself to strangers, but to my family, I'm still the one most likely to set the house on fire." David Sedaris

Cocktail Hour
Drinking snack suggestion: Better Made chips

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

Friday, November 07, 2008

More Spanish Trace

Here's more of "Spanish Trace." Thanks for reading!

Tina made no move to leave, just lifted her split-end ridden mass of hair off her neck and smiled. I felt like saying, Babe, try some V05 Hot Oil treatment, but it was that kind of astute observation that had gotten me into a lot of hurt.

"I'd better close up before I start to suffer," I said. I pointed at the sun with my free hand.

"Okay," she said. "Okay."

I'd been living at the Spanish Trace Apartments for exactly two months. My second wife, Lori, had kicked me out of the house and this is where I landed. When I walked into the complex office and saw the wood paneling and some stale ho-hos that said, 50 cents a piece and a sign that said, If you steal, God KNOWS, I understood that this was not a good place to be. A tight bitter woman named Jerri worked as the manager, one of those efficient old bats who wears Keds and hates anyone the least bit rowdy. Women like her had been busting my ass for years, so I was careful with the yes ma'am, no ma'am stuff, part of my new dysa (don't show your ass) policy. I knew my credit was shaky, my looks off-putting, but this wasn't the fricking Trump Tower either. After I filled out the application forms, Jerri put up a "back in five minutes" sign with a clock and showed me to the vacancy.

"This is it," Jerri said. "I can sell you the blinds with it."

I didn't say anything, just looked around at the one closet and the carpet with burn marks. I hoped that I had taken enough money out of the bank account to cover everything. Lori had been making most of the money at home, not a small point of contention between us.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"The military values victory. It does not value prolonging." Sun Tzu

Cocktail Hour
Drinking suggestion: Dr. Pepper (God's elixir)

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday! More of the story to come on Saturday!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Spanish Trace

Hi readers! I'm finally posting the story that appeared in Talking River. It's fiction! Finally -- something that isn't true like Second Day Reported. Thanks so much for reading -- hope you're coasting into the weekend, my dears!

Spanish Trace

I woke up to my neighbor, Tina Holmes, banging on my door, holding a pair of my boxers. I couldn’t figure out what the hell Tina was doing holding my drawers between her index finger and thumb, until I remembered that I’d done my laundry yesterday and must have left them in the dryer. Tina wore a Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirt and had brown frizzy hair that hadn’t been cut since Crystal Gayle’s heyday. She wasn’t anyone I wanted to see upon waking.

“Look familiar?” she asked.

“I didn’t realize I’d left anything behind,” I said. I reached and she let the briefs drop into my hands.

“You should be more careful. I figured it was you because I saw you hauling your laundry back yesterday and nobody else was in the laundry room.”

Actually, Tina knew everyone’s business because she was always sitting out next to the pool in a ratty black swimsuits with one of those little skirts that’s supposed to be slimming, but actually draws attention right to the hips, presumably the problem in the first place. The pool sat in the middle of the complex and collected every dead leaf and bug in sight. Sometimes somebody might take the net and skim the surface, but it was still too nasty to swim in if you were sober.

“Thanks, Tina. I owe.” I wondered why she couldn’t be the no-so-bright but very well-built community college student who lived across the way. This was just as well, though. You don’t want women dealing with you underwear too soon in a relationship.

Election Night 2008

Hi everyone! Here's some more pictures from Election Night 2008 and the story will be tonight. Baby Grouchie also managed to get a cigarette at the Old Miami and there's a photo essay coming up with my reaction. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day In Detroit

Hi everyone, here are a couple pictures from Election Day. More to come and story tomorrow. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Voted!

In the words of Grouchie from his tour de force, The Pretend Life:

The world is big, scary place and only someone heavily medicated knows how he or she will feel at any given moment and even then maybe not. I did not even go trick or treating this year because the world is full of more tricks than treats. Mommy always went trick or treating until she got too old which was not very long ago. Today, I went to vote with Mommy. Mommy has not voted for anyone since Ann Richards so it was a very big deal and took about five minutes, which is a lot less time than say, it took Tim Robbins. She stole an I Voted sticker for me which is not quite true because I am not informed enough to vote. But I was there and that was something.

The Pretend Life

Here's Baby Grouchie with a sock puppet I received when I was ten years old that says, You've Got To Have Sole. Why I still have this puppet is beyond me; it's strange what still exists in the corporal world while much has passed away. Once a child said to me of a snail she was killing, If we surround the snail with enough stuff, he'll forget he's dying and think he's having a life. This is the project Grouchie is working on looking for his roots. I'm still having trouble with the scanner so tonight it's me and Grouchie writing!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Billups and McDyess

Hi fellow Detroiters -- sad news in the Pistons world today. Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess both were traded to Denver. I loved Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, and Antonio McDyess was the hardest working man on the Pistons. Goodbye to both with a heavy heart.

Vote Early, Vote Often

Hey guys -- still working on scanning "Spanish Trace." Should have more than anyone should have to endure reading by tomorrow. For tonight, I say prepare yourself to vote if you haven't already! Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Contest Winners

Hey everyone! Here's the promised contest winners -- if you are one of them, send me your address at I'll have prizes out in a week or so. Thanks for all the entries. It's been a crazy month, and I'm glad for the start of November. Happy All Soul's Day! I'll be at you with the start of a new story tonight.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Day of the Dead

Hi everyone! Thanks so much for the Halloween wishes! I'm Halloween all year. Next week, I'll be posting a story (Spanish Trace) and shots of election day from the D! Happy Saturday!