The Year Of The Beautiful Disaster.

I was talking to a local potter at his workshop.

I asked him what happened when he made a mistake.

He said that his work was quite precise, and anything that didn’t conform to his color and quality standards went straight onto the scrap heap.

I walked around his workshop and studio, and tucked away on a windowsill in the back I noticed a dusty little mug. It looked like someone had squashed in one side of the cup while the clay was wet, then fired it that way - clearly not an item that conformed to any kind of “quality standards.”

When the potter came over, I asked about the cup on the sill. He picked up the mug, dusted it off, and smiled. He said that when his son was little, the boy used to sneak up on him while he was working at the wheel, then shout “BOO!” in the hopes of startling the potter into making a mistake.

“This was the result of one of those times,” the potter said. “My son couldn't stop laughing over what I'd done to this poor mug. He begged me to fire it, which I did. Then, when I took it out of the kiln, I thought of that day and laughed all over again. So this one didn't make it onto the scrap heap. Isn't it funny? Even after all these years, seeing this crooked little cup still makes me smile.”

Like the potter's crooked little cup, this string of odd photos probably wouldn’t meet anyone’s “quality standards.” As some of you may know, the DMC-ZS3 frequently has a mind of its own. It flashes at random times, makes interesting color choices, and often focuses on the least-likely subject in the frame at any given time.

But there’s something unnerving and wonderful about working with a piece of equipment that has its own agenda. Once in a while I get it into my head that maybe I can gauge the conditions and adjust for the shortcomings of the DMC-ZS3, but that’s usually when it manages to surprise me the most.

Am I sometimes disappointed when my camera doesn’t capture a shot?


But to my eye, the choices made by the DMC-ZS3 are often quite beautiful. And as the story of the potter’s mug illustrates, mistakes can be both unpredictable and fantastic.

So I’ve decided that 2011 will be The Year Of The Beautiful Disaster.

No resolutions - I’m not a list of things that need fixing.

Besides, the whole point of this post is that screwing things up is an unavoidable fact of life. And at the dawn of a new year, you know what most of us screw up first? Our list of resolutions.

So in 2011, I’ll make every effort to view errors as opportunities and shortcomings as strengths.

Because I really have no choice.

And neither do you.

Happy New Year.


When The Nights Are Long.

When the nights are long
And the days are slight

And the winter moon
Is at her height

Darkness hungers
For something bright.

It grabs the moon
And takes a bite.

Bruised in scarlet,
Wounded in flight,

Moon falters in shadow
And surrenders her light.

But she is the moon
And not without might.

She musters her strength
And turns to fight.

Shadow is startled
And pulls back its blight.

The moon, still wounded,
Limps back into sight.

With scars on a surface
Of luminous white.

She brightens once more
The cloud-filled night.

Total lunar eclipse during a full moon on the winter solstice. December 21, 2010.

In the chill and darkness of these endless winter nights, remember that the solstice not only marks the shortest day of the year, but also the point at which the days grow longer.

And that's a merry thought.

Happy holidays.


Love Hurts.

My heart has been dark lately, so the gloomy weather suits.

I was sitting in the car this morning, looking out at the storm as it came in from the sea. The ocean against the sky gave the impression of ink spilled across a charcoal-smudged page, and the rain blurred the horizon, making everything vague and indistinct.

Then Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris came on the radio singing “Love Hurts” from the 1973 album, Grievous Angel.

At first, I was annoyed. The song was a little too corny and on-the-nose for my black mood and the grim day. Plus, as far as I’m concerned, Nazareth has the definitive version of this song locked down.

I mean, come on. Between the hypnotic guitar and Dan McCafferty’s stunning vocals, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better version of this song.

Plus, from the really obscure Everly Brothers original to the more famous “B” side by Roy Orbison to the genuinely bad interpretations by the likes of Cher and Corey Hart (which I refuse, on principle, to link to here), it seems as if this song has been covered by just about everyone. And that's not to mention the fact that it's been used in a commercial for the Nissan Altima. And Gatorade.

But as I sat there listening to Gram and Emmylou, I found that my cynical mood lost its grip on me just a little. I listened to the two of them sing and I was touched.

It's hard to deny the fact that the Nazareth version of the song was heavily-influenced by Gram and Emmylou's duet, which was released on Grievous Angel years earlier. And when I learned the story behind Emmylou and Gram’s rendition, I definitely felt like I might have to reconsider my devotion to Nazareth’s cover. Because a good story goes a long way with me.

Especially a good love story.

And The Ballad of Gram and Emmylou is a doozie.

After all, their collaboration, while it ended tragically, resulted in an expression of creative artistic genius which transformed Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons into folk music legends.

Here's how the story goes:

Gram discovered Emmylou singing in a folk bar in Washington, DC in 1971.

There were three other people in the bar.

Gram’s wife, Gretchen, was with him that night, and was crazy-jealous of her husband’s intense and sudden infatuation with this new singer. Nonetheless, despite Gretchen’s protests, Gram signed Emmylou up with his band, The Fallen Angels, and off they went on tour.

Emmylou says:

"It was a totally new world. I was a person who never had fun in high school because I was too busy being a grade-A student, and here I was with people who really knew how to enjoy themselves… We set out to play country music and some rock & roll in the better hippie honky tonks of the nation… The rooms were small, but the energy generated was of a special intensity… And they came to see this young man and to hear the voice that would break and crack but rise pure and beautiful and full with sweetness and pain…"

But by the end of the tour, Gretchen’s jealousy of Emmylou had become a problem. Despite constant reassurances from Gram, Emmylou, and everyone else on the tour that the relationship was strictly platonic, Gretchen fought constantly with Gram over the “intensity” of his friendship with Emmylou. Gram’s road manager and close friend, Phil Kaufman - who Gretchen also disliked - finally had enough of all of the fighting and sent Gretchen home from the tour early.

(Um, Phil? Newsflash: That's not gonna help.)

Phil Kaufman says of Gram and Emmylou:

“It was a relationship consummated by music. It wasn’t a physical consummation.” He goes on to speculate that if Gram hadn’t already been married, “something would have happened between them. If Gram had been with Emmylou, it would have saved his life. She didn’t have any of those bad habits. She might have leveled him off. They might be still married today, and have lived happily ever after.”

But Gram did not live happily ever after. He died of a drug overdose on September 19, 1973 at the Joshua Tree Inn, a motel that is adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park. Gram used to go to Joshua Tree, load up on drugs (coke, heroin, morphine, pot, peyote, alcohol, LSD, and probably lighter fluid), then wander around the desert looking for enlightenment and / or UFO’s. Keith Richards once said that Gram knew more about narcotics and country music than anyone he had ever met, and that Gram “could get better coke than the mafia.”

You heard me. Keith Richards said that.

Gram was twenty-six years old when he died.

It gets worse. Or better, depending on your perspective.

Gram’s estranged stepfather, who Gram hated, immediately concocted a plan to have Gram’s body shipped to New Orleans and interred in a family plot there - this so the stepfather could make a better claim to Gram’s estate. By the time of his death, Gram had separated from Gretchen, but they had not yet divorced. Gretchen supported the stepfather’s plans, and arrangements were made to fly Gram’s body to Louisiana.


Two months before his own death, Gram had attended the funeral of friend and fellow musician, Clarence White. At the funeral, Gram had been so distressed by the traditional Catholic ceremony that he refused to enter the church. Standing outside waiting for the procession to move to the graveyard, Gram tearfully made his friend, Phil Kaufman, swear an oath:

Gram says:

"Phil, if this happens to me, I don't want them doing this to me. You can take me out to the desert and burn me. I want to go out in a cloud of smoke."

So when it became clear that Gram’s final wishes would not be honored by his family, his friends did the only reasonable thing.

Phil Kaufman and one of Gram’s old roadies loaded up a borrowed hearse with Jack Daniels and kerosene, drove to LAX, intercepted and stole Gram’s corpse from the loading dock at Continental Airlines, drove the corpse out to Joshua Tree, got good and wasted, then lit Gram’s kerosene-soaked body on fire at the base of Cap Rock.

Fuck. Yeah.

(Friends of Jen: You’re officially on notice. If I don’t get a Viking funeral like Gram’s, seriously, I will haunt you and your kin till none carrying your name linger any longer upon the face of this earth. Just sayin.)

But the story goes downhill from there. The charred 35 pounds that remained of Gram's body was claimed by his stepfather, who then had Gram interred in a New Orleans churchyard next to the airport, right alongside the freeway.

Poor Gram. And poor Emmylou. And poor Gretchen, while we're at it.

Gretchen never got over her suspicions concerning Gram and Emmylou. She vetoed Gram’s express wish to put Emmylou’s name and image next to his on the cover of Grievous Angel (the posthumously-released album in which “Love Hurts” appears), and she sent word to Emmylou that she would not be welcome at Gram’s memorial service in New Orleans. Oh, and she barred Emmylou from the church where Gram’s ashes were interred.

Says Emmylou:

“I didn’t have any chance to grieve in the traditional way… I was left running away from my grief. I just got in my little car and drove all over America for months, looking for people who knew Gram who could comfort me, looking for any piece of that time I could hold onto… How could I not have seen it coming? He was so young, and such a strong presence, I couldn’t imagine he wasn’t gonna be there always.”

Whoa. Now that's a love story.

So, corny or not, here I come.

For today, for the storm, for sadness…

For the Ballad of Gram and Emmylou…

Love is like a cloud. Holds a lot of rain.

Love hurts.


Hallo SpaceClown.

The other evening, I was sitting outside of Lucy’s Laundromat in the pouring rain, waiting for my ride. It was freezing cold and I was soaking wet, but waiting inside wasn’t an option. It was packed in there and the machines were all roaring full bore. Plus, there were probably a half-dozen very small, very sticky children running around all sugared-up and squealy. The television inside was blaring forth with all its might, too, presumably to compensate for all of the other noise. The guy behind the counter was arguing with a woman about dryer sheets, and one of the young men folding clothes was singing at the top of his lungs along with his ipod.

So I thought it would be best if I sat outside in the rain. You know, before someone got hurt. Probably the ipod kid. Strangled with the cord from his own earbuds, I’m thinking.

And the coming wind did roar more loud,
And the sails did sigh like sedge,
And the rain poured down from one black cloud;
The Moon was at its edge.

So I was sitting there in the dark - wet to the bone and shivering my tail off - when this homeless veteran came stumbling out of Down Home Foods next door. I assumed he was homeless because he was carrying dirty, wet grocery bags filled with his belongings. I assumed he was a veteran because he was dressed in worn-out camo fatigues and a boonie hat with an American flag patch sewn on it.

Within minutes it became perfectly clear that this guy was not just a little inebriated, but was staggeringly, belligerently, wasted. He was drunk, high, tripping, and probably lots of other things, too. As he lurched across the rain-soaked parking lot, he screamed curses at people at the top of his lungs. Not creative ones. Just your typical, disturbing, nasty curses.

For a second, I thought he might not have noticed me huddled there on the walk, but no such luck.

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?”

I’m not very good at avoiding encounters with people. In fact, I’m pretty bad at it. I say hello to people almost on impulse. All people. Shop girls and the old couple sitting on the park bench and trees and dogs and the kid who busses my table at Headlands and children and cops and crazy people. Maybe especially crazy people. I guess I think they need it more.

So when his eyes locked with mine, instead of looking away or going back inside, I smiled and said hello.

Then he asked me if I’d ever been shot.

Which is when I began to draw up a mental plan to better-control my impulse to always say hello to people.

I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.

So I was in it. And if I’m in it, then I’m in it.

Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Jendocino: I’ve never been shot. I have recurring nightmares about being shot, but I’ve never actually been shot.

Disturbed Homeless Veteran: Well, I’ve actually been shot. And if I’ve actually been shot, then I can curse at whichever of you fuckers I want.

One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,
Too quick for groan or sigh,
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,
And cursed me with his eye.

An orphan's curse would drag to hell
A spirit from on high;
But oh! more horrible than that
Is the curse in a dead man's eye!
Seven days, seven nights, I saw that curse--
And yet I could not die.

J: Getting shot equals a free pass to curse people out. Got it. Sounds reasonable.

DHV: Yeah, it does. It sounds all kinds of fucking reasonable. Because like I said, I've been shot. And I can show you the scars. (Sets down his bags and begins to untuck his shirt.)

J: I can see your scars just fine from here.

DHV: (Shaking his head, raindrops scattering off the brim of his hat.) I make myself sick. What about all those people over there who got shot? Who I shot?

The many men, so beautiful!
And they all dead did lie:
And a thousand thousand slimy things
Lived on; and so did I.

I looked upon the rotting sea,
And drew my eyes away;
I looked upon the rotting deck,
And there the dead men lay.

I looked to heaven, and tried to pray;
But or ever a prayer had gusht,
A wicked whisper came, and made
My heart as dry as dust.

J: I don’t know how to answer that.

DHV: It doesn’t matter anyway. None of it was real. None of this is real. I’m not real. You’re not real. You’re just some little clown. Probably a space alien. Some cute and happy fucking little space clown that isn’t even real.

J: (shivering) Clowns aren’t cute. Clowns are disturbing.

DHV: No, clowns are cute and happy, like you. If you were real. Or clowns.

J: Having a grin painted on your face all the time is disturbing.

DHV: (smiling) Sister, you’re something else.

He turned to walk off in the night, but then he turned back to me. “Nothing is real, space clown!” he shouted. Then he laughed. “Except for the fact that I’m soaked to the balls! SOAKED TO THE BALLS!!”

And that was it.

Like one, that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an early literary example showing a character with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It was written in 1797.

You’d think that since we’ve known about this condition for such a long time now, we’d have figured out a better way to help the soldiers who suffer from it.

The chaos is killing me.



I love Norman Rockwell. I do. Really. I used to work in an art gallery that exhibited and sold his original oil paintings, and he’s a very skilled artist, no question at all.

But sometimes when I see these kinds of saccharine holiday images, I can’t help wishing that the Zombies will show up. Soon.

My holiday tastes run more along Pagan lines. Since the Druids had the holiday first, I figure they're the ones most deserving of all of the winter solstice reverence.

In this photo of last year’s holiday crèche we have Rudolph and Hermie being devoured by the Bumble as Yukon Cornelius and one of the Misfit Toys look on helplessly.

I call it “A Merry Christmas for the Bumble.”

Which illustrates my point... Christmas is all a matter of perspective.

My friend Shani understands. Check out this cool holiday decoration she made for me. As far as I’m concerned, this little artistic effort just screams Christmas. The operative word here being “screams.”

Here’s one of my own creative endeavors: Evil Eye Christmas Balls. I brought these last year to a ladies’ handcrafted ornament exchange and watched them sit on the table the whole evening as the women at the party selected the more traditional ornaments to take home and put on their trees.

Finally, one woman picked up my charming little parcel, and I thought, “Oh, good! My adorable ornaments have finally found a home!”

And then she hid my packet of ornaments behind the centerpiece. You heard me. She hid them.

If I could have stopped laughing long enough, I might have been upset.

Instead, I picked up my bag, went to the table, scooped my ornaments in, and headed for the door. When the hostess stopped me and asked if I had picked up some ornaments from the exchange table, I said that I thought I’d gotten the best ones.

On Monday I’ll be doing some Christmas crafting with ladies that better understand my style. For instance, one of the partygoers insists that “fondue” is a craft. And I’m not going to argue with her because then I wouldn’t get any fondue.

Maybe I can insist that my (now infamous) Jolly Rancher infused vodka is a craft, too.

Or maybe I’ll just hand-paint holiday cards like I’ve done in the past.

But I'll need plenty of fondue. For sustenance.

And Jolly Rancher vodka. Because if there's not an element of danger to all of the crafting, then what's the point?



Spider silk

Spun around


Scarlet stems

Swaying from

Sunlight to




I wouldn’t advise using any of the mushrooms pictured here for your bread-and-mushroom stuffing this Thanksgiving.

That is, unless you and yours are thankful for things like intestinal distress and / or liver failure. Then, by all means…

This amanita muscaria is what Lewis Carroll supposedly took before composing some of his more psychedelic prose in Alice in Wonderland.

Don’t you eat it, though. It could kill you. And the high isn’t that great, either.

Or so I’ve been told.

“Who are you?” asks the caterpillar’s breath of smoke.

Are you large?

Or are you small?

Or are you both?

Being small, something larger contains you.

Being large, you contain multitudes.

Being a wisp of smoke, you materialize out of nothing, do your beautiful thing, then disappear without a trace.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Feed your head.


Girl Fort.

But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction - what has that got to do with a room of one’s own? I will try to explain. When you asked me to speak about women and fiction I sat down on the banks of a river and began to wonder what the words meant…

At second sight the words seemed not so simple. The title women and fiction might mean, and you may have meant it to mean, women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together and you want me to consider them in that light.

But when I began to consider the subject in this last way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion.

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point - a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved...

Women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems

When a subject is highly controversial - and any question about sex is that - one cannot hope to tell the truth…

Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact...

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping...

If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the waste-paper basket and forget all about it.

From A Room Of One’s Own

By Virginia Woolf


War And Peace.

Okay, so, don't tell anybody, but I TOTALLY plagiarized my blog title.

These are the Veterans for Peace.

They stand out on Highway One on holidays, rain or shine, to make sure that none of us forget that war comes with great sacrifice - that no soldier returns from war uninjured.

Heroes in war.

Heroes in peace.

I love these guys.

Happy Veterans Day.


The Rooster And The Fox.

Aesop. As interpreted by me. And this rooster. Who is really more of a Bulfinch's Mythology buff, but he's trying to branch out.

One evening, a rooster flew up into the branches of his favorite tree to roost for the night.

Just as the rooster was getting settled in, a fox materialized from out of the shadows and sat down under the tree, staring up at the rooster and licking her chops.

"Good evening, Rooster," she said.

"Evening Fox," he replied, fluffing his bright feathers and looking wary.

"Say, Rooster," said Fox, glancing around her with her yellow eyes. "Have you heard the good news? All of the creatures of the Earth have agreed to love each other and live in peace and harmony."

"You don't say?" said Rooster.

"It's true!" replied Fox. "Representatives for man, beast, fish, and fowl have all gathered at a summit, and have signed an agreement that each will treat the other with nothing but love and kindness."

"Well!" exclaimed Rooster. "That is news!"

"It is indeed!" agreed Fox. "Wonderful news! And I wanted to share it with you first, my dear Rooster. We have been enemies for so long, and now our kinds are finally at peace with one another. Isn't it grand? Won't you come down here and embrace me, my newfound brother?"

"It is indeed grand, dear Fox. I will come down and we'll share a forgiving, peaceful embrace!"

Rooster looked across the field behind Fox.

"And ho! Here comes the farmer and his dogs, running towards where we sit, no doubt anxious to share in our newfound relationship of compassion and love. Will it not be wonderful, Fox, to embrace them as brothers as well?"