You Can't Spell "Santa" Without "Satan."

Every year at around this time, I have a recurring nightmare. I’m at a party at my family’s old ranch house, and all of my friends and relatives are there. Everyone keeps coming up to me and giving me gifts and cards and smiling and hugging me, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what’s going on. I know I’ve forgotten something - I can feel it - but I don’t know what it is.

Then it hits me. It’s Christmas day, and I’ve completely spaced on the entire holiday. I mean, I’ve done NOTHING - I haven’t bought a tree, put up lights, gone gift shopping, made food, drank eggnog, mailed cards, NOTHING.

My mind races. What should I do? I rummage through a nearby desk, hoping to find something I can MacGyver into several dozen wrapped and tagged gifts in less than ten minutes, but all I come up with are rubber bands and a box of thumb tacks and one of those weird plastic water bottles with the sponge on top that people used to use to seal up envelopes. Back when you used to have to lick the flaps of envelopes to seal them. Back when we used to send mail through a place called the post office in a thing called an envelope. (We used to write on these envelopes in something called “cursive” or “script” writing. But that’s another blog post…)

So I stand there, panicked, without so much as a flask of spirits or basket of food or even the most modest of cards. I am entirely empty-handed.

It’s horrible.

The fact that I’m in my underwear hardly even matters.

The point is, Christmas confounds me. For most people, it’s celebrating some guy’s birthday by doing things that this guy would HATE. Frenzied shopping that sometimes erupts into violence? Gorging on food and wine until we’re sick? Bickering over saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” You must be fucking kidding me.

For those of you who truly believe that there’s a “war” on Christmas, you should ask yourself which side of that “war” Jesus would be on. The fact is, Jesus would want nothing, and I mean NOTHING to do with this holiday the way we celebrate it - let alone to have everyone claim that we’re all celebrating the day of his birth.

Which it isn’t, by the way. The date and time of Jesus’ birth isn’t recorded in the Bible, but most scholars agree that Jesus was NOT, in fact, born in December - because of the position of the Star of Bethlehem, Jesus was probably born sometime in the spring.

Christians of olden times made the decision to celebrate Jesus’ birth on the winter solstice because there were already Roman and Pagan traditions in place for celebrating the shortest day and longest night of the year. The idea was that the fledgling Christian religion could gain some cred and recognition by piggybacking onto these more popular religious celebrations that had been going on for centuries.

In this way, Christianity gained a foothold, and soon became the more dominant religion. Then, once in power, Christians went about exterminating those who refused to celebrate Christmas properly. By which I mean, their way. Which Jesus would have loved. Clearly.

And as best I can tell, celebrating Christmas “properly” means showering adoration on a guy who preached constantly about helping the poor, living simply, and peace - while at the same time indulging in behavior that’s not all that Jesus-y.

So the way I look at it, there’s only one solution.

In order to be respectful of Jesus, I’m going to have to insist that we all take the “Christ” out of “Christmas.”

Jesus won’t care, I promise. He’s a modest guy. He wouldn’t want people making a fuss over his birthday in the first place. Plus, as I mentioned, it’s not his actual birthday, and frankly he’d probably be pretty pissed off over the violent and intolerant circumstances that led to us celebrating on this particular day to begin with.

And that’s not even to mention the WAY we celebrate “his” day. Seriously. If you, like me, intend to spend this holiday season drinking, carousing, gift-giving, gift-getting, decorating a tree, dancing around a fire, and eating yourself silly, then you CANNOT in good conscience call what you’re doing “Christmas.”

It’s so unfair to Jesus. It really, really is.

From now on, I propose we remove the “Christ” reference entirely and instead celebrate “*$&%@!Mas.” It’s perfect. Everyone can enjoy the darkest and longest nights of the year by indulging in all kinds of naughty, hyper-indulgent behavior. You know, over-spending, over-eating, over-committing, over-indulging, and going overboard in general.

By which I mean to say, the holiday stays exactly the same as it is now except for the fact that we don’t drag poor Jesus into it anymore.

Maybe we can have a celebration for him some other time of the year that involves penance and self-reflection and humility and homage to the poor...

I suggest August. It’s relatively holiday-free.

I wish you all a splendid *$&%@!Mas.

Love and Peace.

Merry Everything.



Hello and welcome to Cocktalk.

Today’s Cocktalk topic:

Euphemisms for “penis.”

I decided to write about this topic at around the same time I decided to write a sonnet to the penis.

No. Wait.

Maybe I should back up.

I wrote a novel a while back, which contains sex scenes. Plural. Because delicately portraying the vulnerability of humans during the act of lovemaking makes the characters relatable.

But mostly because sex sells.

When you write a sex scene, you’re faced with a couple of interesting dilemmas. One is trying not to giggle like a twelve-year-old boy as you write the sex scene. Because that comes through in the end product, believe me. This problem can be resolved with copious amounts of red wine, and by describing things as simply and directly as possible. I say, don’t try to get fancy with it, and if you don’t trust me, trust someone who actually makes a living writing sex scenes. (Note to self: Figure out way to make a living writing sex scenes.)

I actually think it’s a pretty funny writing exercise to write up intentionally bad sex scenes. It’s a great lesson because it makes you laugh, and your laughter cues you to what NOT to do when describing sex. If you read it and laugh, cut it or rewrite it. Seriously. Because if it makes you laugh, it’s going to make someone else apoplectic. Or it’ll make them cringe, which is even worse.

Although I have to admit something here. One of the literary prizes I desperately want to win is the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award. I have this secret desire to show up in London in person to accept the award. I imagine them announcing me as the winner. I’d walk up to the stage to accept, my sky-high pumps clicking sharply through the crowded, silent, disapproving hall. When I reached the podium, I’d adjust my slightly-too-short pencil skirt, and smooth the frill on the front of my blouse. Then I’d unbutton the top button, pull my hair out of its ponytail, take off my glasses and say, “I’m going to read out loud the sex scene in question. By the time I’m finished, if most of the men in this room DO NOT have a raging boner, then I’ll graciously accept your award and be on my way. If, however, most of the men in this room DO have a raging boner, I fully expect you to reconsider bestowing upon me this honor.”

Which leads to the second problem. What to call stuff in sex scenes. You know. Stuff. Actions. Methods. Logistics. Lady parts. Man junk. Stuff. Jeese. See? Even in the privacy of my own blog it’s awkward.

For me, the biggest problem is what to call the penis. Because you can’t call it a penis. I mean, come on. “She wanted nothing more than to feel his hard penis…” Are you laughing? You remember the rule about laughing and editing, right?

You could call it a dick, but that presents problems, too, because “dick” also has comic overtones - not to mention tons of negative connotations outside of the sexual ones - dickwad, dickhole, dickweed, etc.

I was so perplexed over what to call the trouser mouse, I actually did research on how other authors approached what to call the penis, how men felt about their own penises, and penis portrayals in art and literature throughout history. I found that I was not alone in my dilemma.

In doing that research, I also came across this, which has less to do with what to call the penis and more to do with how much fun you can have researching a novel. Plus, it caused me to get sidetracked by the euphemism “manroot” for a while (for obvious reasons), but also because I couldn’t believe that authors actually used the phrase “manroot” in their fiction. Really? “He thrust his manroot into her...”


The phrase "manroot" should be reserved for vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. (Note to self: sweet potato = possible euphemism for the penis.) Although there are some who think that produce like cucumbers and bananas are so sexually suggestive that women should be prohibited from handling them in order to avoid sexually impure thoughts. I kid you not. (Thank you for the article, Sequoia Raindancer!) Those same people would have fits about the mushrooms growing around here, I can tell you. Mushrooms, by the way, are thought to be an aphrodisiac. I can't imagine why.

One of the things I found most surprising in researching this issue is that there is a scarcity of literature that presents the penis in a loving or tender way - it seems as if the penis is forever stabbing or jabbing or thrusting at something, and it’s often compared to ugly, unsettling things. In poetry, for instance, there’s piles of prose devoted to lady parts of all shapes and sizes, all lovingly described and catalogued alongside all manner of beautiful objects. But I couldn’t find similar poems devoted to the penis.

This seemed like an outrageous injustice - one I decided must be resolved.

Which brings me to my sonnet on the penis. Writing a sonnet SUCKS, by the way. You can take all of that iambic pentameter crap and smoke it, for all I care. My point is, it's a rigid structure - which makes it perfect for a poem devoted to the penis - but working within that structure was maddening for me. What I'm saying is, I hope you enjoy this sonnet because let me tell you... Never again.

The Humble Cock.

A spear or dagger bent on destruction

Is how we mislabel the humble cock.

Not as a weapon of mass seduction,

But as a violent tool of awe and shock.

The function of clubs or bullets or swords

Is halting the heart and stopping the breath.

A rocket brings mayhem to huddling hordes;

Heat-seeking missiles deliver up death.

But the cock embodies all that’s alive

All that throbs, all that rises, all that beats.

It helps us to live; not merely survive

As it brings us our bliss wrapped up in sheets.

To compare the cock to arrow or knife

Weds something to death that's bristling with life.

So as you can see, I went with "cock." Process of elimination, mostly, but also because the word "cock" is simple and has a classic quality to it.

The way I figure it, if it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.


I Had A Good Home But I Left.

As the holidays approach, I frequently think about those Americans who are serving overseas who won’t be able to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas or the New Year with their families. I think a lot about the hardships and risks they face every day so that the rest of us can live free and exercise our Constitutional rights.

Lately, I think a lot about the hopeless situation that awaits them when they get back stateside. They’ll arrive here rattled and shell shocked from the grim realities of combat, and we’ll welcome them with no jobs and foreclosed homes and drastically reduced veteran’s benefits.

This song by Tom Waits pretty much sums it up. The only video I could find for the song is this photo compilation by a vet from Afghanistan. I’ve quoted the lyrics in full below because of how much they resonate.

I had a good home but I left

I had a good home but I left, right, left.

That big fucking bomb made me deaf, deaf.

A Humvee mechanic put his Kevlar on wrong

I guarantee you'll meet up with a suicide bomb.

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce.

Big fucking ditches in the middle of the road

You pay a hundred dollars just for fillin' in the hole.

Listen to the general every goddamn word

How many ways can you polish up a turd?

Left, right, left, left, right

Left, right

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce.

How is it that the only ones responsible for making this mess

Got their sorry asses stapled to a goddamn desk?

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce

Left, right, left.

What did you do before the war?

I was a chef, I was a chef.

What was your name?

It was Geoff, Geoff.

I lost my buddy and I wept, wept.

I come down from the meth

So I slept, slept.

I had a good home but I left, left.

Pantsed at the wind for a joke.

I pranced right in with the dope

Glanced at her shin she said nope.

Left, right, left.

Nimrod Bodfish have you any wool?

Get me another body bag the body bag's full.

My face was scorched, scorched.

I miss my home I miss my porch, porch.

Left, right, left.

Can I go home in March? March?

My stanch was a chin full of soap.

That rancid dinner with the pope.

Left, right, left.

Kelly Presutto got his thumbs blown off.

Sergio's developing a real bad cough

Sergio's developing a real bad cough.

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce

Hell broke luce.

Boom went his head away

And boom went Valerie.

What the hell was it that the president said?

Give him a beautiful parade instead.

Left, right, left.

When I was over here I never got to vote.

I left my arm in my coat.

My mom she died and never wrote.

We sat by the fire and ate a goat.

Just before he died he had a toke.

Now I'm home

And I'm blind

And I'm broke.

What is next?

It’s songs like this that make me understand what it means to be a poet.

This song also makes me very thankful that there are people out there who are willing to go through this hellishness all in the name of defending the liberties of their fellow Americans.

I think it’s also worth remembering that these soldiers defending our country include a large percentage of kids under the age of 25. Some of them are still teenagers. The responsibilities resting on the shoulders of those so young boggle my mind.

Here’s why I bring up the ages of the soldiers. In light of the Occupy Wall Street movement, many people with right-leaning political views have been disparaging the youth of this country. The parade of insults is constant and loud: The youth are lazy. They want everything handed to them. They feel entitled. They’re dirty. They’re stupid and don’t know their history. In fact, if they only knew the history of the 1960’s, they wouldn’t follow in the footsteps of the hippies who came before them because those hippies were such abject failures when they protested back in the day. Not to mention the fact that hippies are SUCH bad roll-models.

As a college professor who until recently taught the eighteen-to-twenty-five set, I find this condescending attitude hilarious. Every time I hear someone say, “Those kids should spend less time protesting and more time reading up on their history books,” I want to say, “Should they do this before or after they finish bailing this country out of bankruptcy, mending our dysfunctional political system, rescuing the environment, and fighting our two wars?”

I also want to point out that these kids learn PLENTY at college about the 1960’s, but I don’t think they take away the lessons the older generation THINKS they take away. When the conservative baby boomers remember the hippies of the 60’s, it’s all about that nasty free love and spitting on the soldiers returning from ‘Nam.

They conveniently forget that the protest movements of the 1960’s brought about huge social changes, including civil rights, women’s rights, and an end to the war in Vietnam. So when the kids learn about non-violent protests in school, they’re learning about how these so-called “smelly hippies” achieved massive social reform by banding their voices together in solidarity.

And here’s another thing about the youth of today. They LOVE our soldiers. They’re crazy-patriotic about the sacrifices our young men and women are making overseas. So if the older, conservative boomers are expecting these kids to spit on returning vets, they’re in for a big surprise. The youth are welcoming returning soldiers with open arms, and returning soldiers are feeling a solidarity with their peers that is markedly different than the welcome soldiers received upon returning from Vietnam.

And these children that you spit on

As they try to change their world

Are immune to your consulation;

They're quite aware of what they're going through.

Changes, David Bowie

So images like this that imply that one political agenda is somehow more “American” than the opposing political agenda both sicken and perplex me. First of all, I think it’s pretty fair to say that the fringes of the left and the fringes of the right are equally moronic, so to suggest that somehow one movement is more wholesomely American than the movement opposing it is straight-up ridiculous.

It’s also ridiculous in light of what veterans face when they return to this country. Colbert says it better than I can…

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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The point is, we Americans have a problem with hypocrisy when it comes to our vets. After all, while slashing veteran's benefits for our returning young men and women isn't literally spitting on them, it's not treating their service and sacrifice with the respect it deserves.

So when I see images like this, I get really, really angry. To imply that one political perspective is somehow more patriotic (and therefore more “protected”) than the perspective of other Americans is itself un-American. In fact, it’s about as un-American as it gets.

Exploiting the troops in this way is shameful. As any moron knows, the US military is made up of people from all walks of life - people with different ethnic traditions, people with diverse class backgrounds, and people who hold a multitude of religious beliefs. The beauty of this organization is that all of these disparate people can work together to achieve mighty things BECAUSE they share a common goal - to protect the liberties granted to ALL Americans under the US Constitution. ALL Americans. ALL of us. Not some. ALL.

This sort of propaganda is deplorable. The exploitation of the individuals in this photo sickens me. Whoever captioned this photo has absolutely no clue whatsoever concerning the political leanings of any of the soldiers depicted. Yet the implication is clear: The truly patriotic among us, even and especially the US military, scoff at those dirty hippies who are participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Worse, this sort of propaganda implies that the current police brutality faced by the Occupy Wall Street protesters all over the country is somehow justified. That young Americans sitting in a circle doing NOTHING deserve to be pepper-sprayed and beaten with batons if they don’t disperse. So much for the police using violence only as a last resort.

And to those who would complain that one group’s expression of free speech shouldn’t come at the expense of the rest of us, I say this: Remember those deplorable acts of police brutality that occurred when those right-wing protestors were blocking the streets and picketing the funerals of gay soldiers? Yeah, neither do I.

Fortunately, our returning vets seem to have an opinion on how American protesters are being treated at the hands of the police in this country.

These attitudes make sense considering that these returning soldiers have real, practical experience in violence and crowd control. They know first-hand what are appropriate measures to take in a given situation, and what are NOT.

The conclusion? Tear gassing old women in wheelchairs? NOT. Concussing a fellow veteran with a flash bomb? NOT. Shooting teenage girls in the face with rubber bullets? NOT. Hitting unarmed civilians with batons? NOT. Spraying a pregnant student with pepper spray and causing her to miscarry? NOT.

Here’s a video of a vet named Shamar Thomas, who talks about his experience dressing down some New York police officers who were in the process of forcibly dispersing some peaceful protesters:

The thing is, every single American, no matter your political stripes, should be absolutely outraged over the behavior of police towards this protest movement. Are some elements of the Occupy Wall Street movement behaving inappropriately and in a way that merits police intervention? Of course, and in those instances the police provide a valuable service. But the problem is that the police are casting far too wide of a net, and are hurting people who DO NOT DESERVE to be brutalized for exercising free speech - even if their protest is inconvenient for the rest of us.

So what I’m thankful for most this Thanksgiving is the protection of our troops. Not only overseas, but also here at home. To those who feel so inclined to step between a cop with a baton and an unarmed civilian, I say

Thank you, soldier.


Cucumber Moon.

He visits each day at the crack of noon.

He makes his offering; we commune.

Lunch from a sack; we use no spoon.

He casts my share upon the dune.

I go to where the scraps are strewn -

Leery of him, but such a boon!

To his charms I am not immune -

My trust breaks free of its tight cocoon,

And thus we spend the afternoon.

When he leaves, it seems too soon.

As he departs, I caw a tune.

Until tomorrow, my heart is hewn.

He makes me dream of a cucumber moon.

Gift to a raven on your birthday.

Gift of a raven on your birthday.

May all your moons be cucumbers.


The Devil You Know.

Since my Halloween costume last year was such an elaborate production, this year I decided to keep it simple and just go out dressed as myself.

Hang out for a quiet night at the Golden West.

I know it was a quiet night because the cops only showed up three times.

I also got to shoot some pool with The Devil, which was nice because we've both been so busy lately.

As anyone knows, you can’t shoot pool with The Devil without him insisting on a sizeable wager. It’s a thing with him, but you put up with it because he has so many positive qualities, too.

The Devil says to me, “If I win, I want a scorching hot kiss from those frosty lips every day for eternity.”

Then he says, “If you win, I’ll give you …” (dramatic pause) “... A fiddle made of gold.”

Then I say, “You’re constantly trying to pawn off those golden fiddles. What in the world am I going to do with a damned golden fiddle?”

And he says, “Are you kidding? Have you seen the price of gold lately? Plus, with a fiddle made of gold, think of all of the souls of men you could torture with your haunted fiddling. WhhooooOOOOoooooOOOOOOooo!!!”

“Dude. Seriously.”

“Okay, fine. What do you want if you win then?”

And I say, “I want the contracts to all of the lost souls of gunslingers, Navy Seals, and rock guitar gods. OH. And some prime Coastal California real estate. That’ll never devalue.”

And he says, “Prime Coastal California real estate? Who do you think I am, Jesus?”

I thought about trying to negotiate for Raiders season tickets, but look at me - I don’t think I’d need The Devil’s help for that.

Nonetheless, I was struck by The Devil’s question.

“Who do you think I am?”

It’s a good question for Halloween.

The boundaries between who we actually are and who we think we are and who we pretend we are get blurred. Things appear out of context.

I can’t say it any better than Kurt Vonnegut: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

I would never tell anybody that I know who I am.

That would be a damnable lie.

Who I am changes every second I exist. I am not the same person I was three months ago or three years ago or three decades ago.

These changes in the “am” are incremental and gradual and occur over time. I barely notice them as I move forward, yet when I look back, there they are.

The fact is, the am that I am right now is different than the am that I was a minute ago. So if by the time I ask the question, “Who am I?” who I am has already changed, how can I claim that I know who I am? How can I even answer the question?

Unless the answer is, “I don’t know.”

Or maybe, “It varies.”

So even though when The Devil asks you a question you'd be wise to answer it, the truth is, I don’t worry about The Devil’s question much.

Because when it comes right down to it…

My wings come off at the end of the night just like all of the other succubi.


My Happy Place.

Many of us are familiar with the technique of mentally visualizing a quiet or peaceful place in order to relax ourselves in an anxious moment or to bring on a happy feeling or to help us to sleep or to otherwise calm our minds. Some of us might imagine what it would be like to be in stasis on some sort of fantastic space journey (nerds), or others might visualize what it would be like to be free of the confines of our bodies, able to travel the expanses of time and space in the blink of an eye because oneness and nothingness and meaninglessness twoness and meaningfulness and threeness are all the same thing (hippies).

Most people probably gain comfort by visualizing themselves in a tranquil place in nature, like on a beach at sunset where warm sands meet a calm sea. Or maybe laying out on a cool rock in the sunshine, soothed by the sounds of a babbling brook.

Here’s mine:

When I was about eight, my dad got transferred to a job in Southern California, where we lived in Anaheim for about a year or so. What this move meant for me was going from a home where I lived on four acres and had my own horse to living in a house that was less than three feet from my neighbor and less than five miles from Disneyland. Trippy? Yeah.

Until this move, I had only spent the night at the homes of grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and such. With my relatives, it was all about cowboys and camping and hunting and fishing and motorcycle riding and ranch chores and swimming in the river - I’d never had an overnighter with a school friend, let alone someone who lived in town.

My first experience spending the night with a girl from school came shortly after we arrived in Anaheim, when one of my wealthier classmates asked me to stay over night Friday night, and then go to Disneyland with her and her family on Saturday.

I arrived at their very fancy mahogany door dragging my sleeping bag, and with my change of clothes and teddy bear tucked safely in a paper sack. The parents of my friend - I can’t remember the girl's name, so let’s call her Brittany for simplicity’s sake - Brittany’s parents waved to my mom as she pulled away, assuring her that all would be well. My mom was no sooner out of sight when Brittany’s parents departed as well, leaving by the still-open front door to go to a cocktail party.

Brittany and I were left in the care of the au pair. As the parents said their goodbyes, the au pair shut the front door, looked me over from top to bottom, and in a voice that could corrode metal said, “Is that your sleeping bag?” She tugged the fabric. “Is it canvas? And - oh my god - is it lined with plaid flannel? It is.”

Brittany - who had always been very nice to me in the classroom - changed her stripes in an instant and eagerly joined in with the au pair in making fun of my rig. “She brought her clothes in a paper bag!” she hooted, pointing.

Noticing the stuffed animal peeking out of the top of my sack, the au pair said, “A teddy bear? Really? Your parents can afford to get you a teddy bear, but they can't afford to get you a Barbie?”

“I have Barbies, too,” I said. “I like Fred better.”

“Your teddy bear’s name is Fred?!”

And so the evening went.

Here’s what’s strange. I didn’t feel nervous or upset or hurt or angry in this situation. I was then (and still am) a big fan of fairy tales, mythology, and fables - the violent, horrible versions, not the cleaned up ones. For some reason, in that moment, I just felt an inexplicable degree of confidence that these two trolls were gonna get it in the end. Until then, all I had to do was take things in stride and figure out a way to handle the situation.

Finally, after an evening of being roundly bullied and made fun of, it was time for bed. We went into Brittany’s room, and even though there were two matching (frilly, pink, canopied) beds, the au pair said I had to sleep on the floor in my sleeping bag because she didn’t want to have to make up an extra bed the next day. So Brittany climbed into her princess bed, and I hunkered down on the floor next to the bed in my (badass, hardcore, old-school) sleeping bag.

I don’t know what came over me at that moment, and I can’t explain to you in any logical way why I did what I did next. A few minutes after the au pair had turned the light out, I shoved my teddy bear and paper bag of clothes under Brittany’s bed, then scooted under the bed after them, sleeping bag and all.

“What’re you doing?” Brittany whispered.

I jammed my knee in between the slats of the bed in the general vicinity of her back, and in my best Exorcist voice said, “Shut up, you!”

“Quit it!” she hissed back. “You’re being scary. I don’t like scary!”

This time I used both knees and shook the whole bed by the frame. “I SAID SHUT UP YOU!!”

Brittany started sobbing. Like, really crying. Loud. From where I was under the bed, I could see straight out Brittany’s open bedroom door and into the living room where the au pair was watching TV. The au pair kept saying, “You girls better not make me come in there,” but in spite of my escalating fright tactics and Brittany’s increasing wails, the au pair never came in to check on us.

(Note: In hindsight I do feel a little guilty about the psychological damage I probably did to this child. I wonder to this day if she checks under her bed before she goes to sleep, or hears voices in the dark. But in the moment, at that time, scaring the beejesus out of Brittany was the most fun I’d ever had in my brief little life. And it was about to get better.)

It was around this time that the parents got home. From under the bed, I watched as they staggered into the living room. Both of them were clearly drunk, and when they heard their daughter crying and saw the au pair just sitting there watching TV, they became irate drunks. “Is Brittany crying?” the mom slurred angrily.

“They’re just being loud and dramatic like girls on a slumber party do,” the au pair reassured her. “Going in there would just encourage them.”

The dad walked over to the door and flipped on the light. He scanned the room. I didn’t make a peep from under the bed as Brittany lay there above me, sobbing. The dad was really drunk, and you could tell that things were taking a minute to register with him. He looked at his daughter, and then at the other, unslept-in bed, then back at his daughter. “Brittany,” he said, very serious, “where is your friend?”

Brittany was crying hard, but she managed to say, “There’s something under my bed!”

The dad knelt down and lifted up the bedskirt. I froze. I was partially hidden by a box of shoes and some toys, but I was sure the dad would see me and that would be that. He scanned under the bed carefully, and at one point he looked right at me. But instead of ordering me out, he lowered the dust ruffle and stood back up. “There’s nothing under there, princess. Now I need you to calm down and think. Where is your friend?”

The mom walked in. “What’s going on?” She too looked around the room. Suddenly a whole lot more sober, she said, “Where’s Jen?”

“I’m sorry for making fun of Fred!” Brittany wailed.

“Fred?” The mom asked.

“Jen’s teddy bear!”

The mom stormed out of the room and confronted the au pair. “Were you making fun of Brittany’s friend?” she demanded. Then, before the au pair could answer, “Where did she go? Did she run away? My god! Did she run away?! Is there an eight-year-old walking around the streets of Anaheim at 1am because of you? Crap! We have to call her mom. SHIT!! We have to call the police!!”

“Don’t panic,” the dad slurred. “No one panic. She couldn’t have gotten outside without setting off the alarm.”

“How can you be sure of that, Gordon?” the mom demanded, near hysterical. “How can you be sure?”

“I said calm down. She’s in the house. She’s got to be. We just have to look for her. Come on, now. Let’s look. Let’s all look.”

As the mom, the dad, and the au pair tore the house up looking for me, as the parents berated the au pair until she dissolved into tears, as Brittany lay in the bed above me, weeping with terror...

I hid under that bed and realized, even at that tender age, that I had never felt more happy and calm in my entire life.

To this day, if I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, all I have to do is center myself and bring my mind back to that moment under the bed, and I instantly relax.

And that is some fucked-up shit right there.



Also Twenty-OneDerful.

You make every day a Twenty-OneDerland.

Thank you for filling my life with so much Twenty-OneDerment.

More, please.



Often on my daily hike, I run into my neighbor walking her dog, and we talk about how I should hike to her place for cocktails some evening.  But the weeks seem to slip by so fast these days…

Finally last week we managed to get together in her darling little home for martinis and a feast of watermelon, sardines, and crackers. I’d already had an exciting day at the laundromat where I learned that one of the laundromat employees had been a world champion saw player...

...so I was pretty sure my day wasn’t gonna get any better, but I was still looking forward to FINALLY having a cocktail with my neighbor.

I show up to the party on time, which is kind of unusual for me, and which starts the evening off with a wonderfully strange vibe...

…and I’m very excited to see the giant loom in her parlor. Because where there’s a loom, there’s a story.

So I’m standing there in her living room with another cocktail party guest while my neighbor is in the kitchen making the martinis, and there’s this fantastic jazz program coming in on the radio. The music is good, and I say to my neighbor in the kitchen, “What station is this?”

KHUM,” she says. “Listen for a minute.”

And I do and it’s wonderful and when the song’s over, the DJ says, “This is Larry on KHUM’s Tuesday Cocktail Hour. It’s always been a dream of mine for people to get together and to actually have a cocktail party during the cocktail hour show.”

“What a nice thought,” I say to the other party guest.

Then the DJ says, “I like to think that out on the Mendocino Coast somewhere, folks are enjoying a lovely drink while they listen to me play some jazz.”

“What do you know?” I say. Weird, is what I'm thinking.

Then the DJ says, “Maybe at this very moment, there’s a group of people - say, in Fort Bragg - listening to the KHUM Cocktail Hour while they have martinis.”

And then I say, “HEY! We’re in Fort Bragg and we’re having martinis!!” By now, I'm beginning to feel like I've stepped into another dimension.

And then the DJ says, “In fact, I have it on good authority that somewhere out there, on some little road off of Simpson Lane in Fort Bragg, there’s a group of people listening to me play jazz while they drink martinis. It took them a while to get together, I hear, but better late than never. Have fun, folks!”


Then my neighbor walks in and hands out the martinis wearing a huge grin as I dance around and hoot with laughter.

I love small towns!

And surreal cocktail parties.

Thanks, neighbor!!


She Goes Through Phases.

She goes through phases

The time has flewn.

What took ages

Ends too soon.

I finish the pages

Under a Harvest Moon.


I Am Not That Kind Of Sparrow.

I am not a pilgrim.

Los Angeles is not my Mecca.

It is a sucking vortex.

It’s also a place where everything is about big. Big time, big tent, big screen, big break, big big big baby!!

That's a whole lot of big for such a cramped space.

I was there last week, and I stayed in the Bonaventure Hotel

Long story.

The Bonaventure is Los Angeles epitomized. It defines the LA skyline, and it’s fair to say that it’s an iconic landmark. It’s also climate controlled and hermetically sealed. A terrarium. In the middle of the lobby is a desert garden with bamboo and ferns springing up across a dry stonescape that runs around the lounge and bar and elevators.

Sparrows have made this indoor garden their home. They flit around the tourists’ suitcases and in and out of the shop doors. They eat handouts from the continental breakfast buffet, and they get their water from the dripping bar sink. They nest in the bamboo and raise chicks who will never breathe air that isn’t climate controlled.

I am not that kind of sparrow.


Concerning Goats.

Goats concern themselves with oats.

Or hay. Or oats and hay.

Goats don't concern themselves

with novel writing

unless the paper is delicious.

One of the many charming things about goats is, they know how to keep things in perspective.


Whether the goats care or not.

And they don't.


All Operators Are Busy.

Your call is important to us.

Please continue to hold.

Your call will be answered in the order it was received.


Exit, Hippie Style.

I didn't know Ocean Breeze, but her obituary makes me wish I did.

Oh, and dying on your birthday?


Ocean Breeze

July 19, 1942


July 19, 2011

"Ocean Breeze" (Jeanne M. Bullard) departed this planetary life, on the wings of the Phoenix bird, to freedom, and to new adventures on Roadways beyond this Realm.

Ocean was born in Kingman, Ariz., to June and William Bullard. There she learned to live and work in the outdoors as a rancher. She spent influential years living with her grandmother on the Walapi Reservation, on the edge of the Grand Canyon in Peachland, Ariz.

Throughout her years she learned the traditional ways of her Native American Culture, was a member of the Peyote Church and taught the ways of the Sweat Lodge, Pipe Ceremony, Prayer and Enlightenment to many.

Ocean was a strong, competent, and creative carpenter and wood sculptor. She built seven houses over the years, all mostly single-handedly, many of the structures of unusual geometric design and decor. She was a co-owner of a very successful solar business and of beautiful land, "Ancestor's Voice" in Florence, Colo. She installed massive water, solar, plumbing and electrical systems on her shared land, as well as for many others.

Ocean walked on the Great Peace March in 1986 from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., to spread her deep belief in the need for personal and World Peace.

Although she became physically challenged in mid-life, Ocean continued with unparalleled determination to carry on. Despite her illness, she always felt deeply blessed in her life.

She loved to travel the open roadways of life, hitchhiking through Africa, driving across America on her motorcycle and with her companeras in her tricked-out converted bread truck/home, "Alley Ohm."

She spent her earlier and later years in Albion and was a devoted mom to sons John and Anthony. A third son, Chris, preceded her in death. She so loved her chosen grandchildren Andrew, Amanda, Sarah and Madeline.

Ocean leaves behind her partner Margy and a group of friends and extended family, forever changed by having known her. She was an Enlightened Being, counselor, lover, teacher, friend, preacher and playmate. She lives on within us. Her ashes will be given back to the Earth, Water, Fire and Air as she desired.

Special thanks to our wonderful Hospice program and her Handmaidens who nurtured her on her journey home.

From the Fort Bragg Advocate News,

July 28, 2011.

Shine on, Ocean.



The blood that surges in my

heart is the blood of something

feral. It burns me down

to my essence. A lit

fuse, it hisses through

my veins. Unchecked it

flares, unstemmed it

flows, untamed it

runs rampant

on its course,

wild to

the last,




Nose, Meet Grindstone.

So. It’s come to this.

Blogging about a pet.

Let me explain:

I’ve been on self-imposed isolation in the hippie cabin in order to finish my novel by my deadline. Other than hiking around in the cabin-adjacent wilderness, I’ve only left the hippie cabin one time in thirty-two days. I have twenty-nine days left to go. I’m doing this to myself on purpose. I view it as a focusing of the mind. A prodding of the darker places. Reflections in a line of mirrors. I refuse to allow myself any distractions. Well, maybe a very limited few. But mostly, it’s just intense focus with hours on end of writing and writing and writing and writing…

I haven’t gone out to dinner, visited with friends, gone for coffee, or hung out at any of my hangouts for thirty-two days. I’ve barely spoken to another live human being, and I won’t for another twenty-nine days.

I miss my friends, but the social networking helps. Hey you guys and girls out there that I really miss - hey, I really miss you!! Thank you for keeping me company on-line, though. Otherwise… Utter madness. For reals.

What I’m saying is, I’ve missed my friends, I’ve missed the gardens blooming in Mendocino this summer, and I’ve missed some fun events, too.

I know. I know.

But I am committed.

I'm likewise committed to staying consistent with the blog posts, but I find that my best creative efforts have been going to the novel, so my blog posts lately have been a little *ahem* lame. As has been pointed out to me. Repeatedly. So, message received, I’m trying okay, so shut the fuck up about it already!!

My point is, since my horizons have been so very, very, very, very, VERY limited lately, I find myself here before you, on the verge of writing a blog about a pet.

Maybe I should pause for a moment and say that I have nothing against people blogging about their pets. Your pets are adorable. Love the photos, too.

It’s just that I myself am not a pet person.

I have a difficult time with the responsibility. I mean, your pet counts on you for EVERYTHING, and I’m one of those people who forgets to feed herself if I get too distracted. And I get distracted a lot. A lot. Did I mention that I haven’t left the hippie cabin in thirty-two days? Jesus. What IS that smell? Is that ME?!

So you see, any pet of mine would be doomed.

Plus, there’s the whole person / pet relationship to consider.

I used to exercise my neighbor’s horse, Little Guy, every once in a while. Sometimes I would ride him, but most of the time I’d just put him on a lead and walk him on our long hikes.

The reason I preferred to lead him instead of ride him is because when I rode Little Guy, both of us were more anxious. Understandably, Little Guy would view our outing as a chore, and would become cranky. In his passive-aggressive mood, he would try all of the typical horse tricks to make my job as his rider more difficult - crushing my leg against trees as we passed, purposefully passing under low branches in the hopes of knocking me off, spooking out over nothing in the places where the briars were the thickest, etc. My resulting stress would make him more anxious, and the spiral would deepen until neither one of us was having a very fun time.

If, however, we took the same exact outing with me walking next to Little Guy rather than sitting on his back, his mood was markedly different. This would begin at the paddock with him prancing to the gate to meet me, excited over the prospect of being out and about on an adventure in a different place. Out on our walk, his happiness was evident by the forward ears, alert head, and the spring in his step. He acted like a great big dog on a leash. Better still, on these side-by-side walks, Little Guy would actually look out for me. He’d wait and let me go first when the trail got narrow so I wouldn’t get shoved into the brush, and he’d give a wide berth to puddles so I wouldn’t get my feet wet or muddy. Best of all, every now and again, he’d lean over and gently push my arm with his nose like a buddy nudging my shoulder.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I have an unusual perspective when it comes my own, personal exchanges with other species of animals, and it doesn’t always jibe with pet “ownership.”

So I don’t have pets.

That said, I think someone else’s pet has me.

And now here I am blogging about it. Because to be honest with you, the most interesting real-life thing that’s happened to me all week involved this cat.

So. Twenty-nine days left to go, huh?


I’ve mentioned my relationship to this cat before. This cat is not my cat. I call her ‘Tide’ because she comes and goes on her own schedule and smells like laundry detergent. She comes to the cabin every single day and hangs out on the porch until I come outside to play with her. She doesn’t wear a collar, but she's clearly fed and taken care of. I’ve never fed her, but I will take breaks from the writing to hang out on the porch and play with her. We play Chase The Stick or Bat The Rock or Stalk The Leaf...

(Oh god. This blog post is getting more pathetic by the line. Oh god. And yet I can’t seem to stop…)

Once she almost killed a butterfly by batting it down in mid-air, and I grabbed her by the scruff of the neck to pull her off the butterfly in order to save it. For three days after that, I had to suffer with sullen behavior and pissed-off looks from Tide that said, “What the hell do you think we practice with the sticks and the rocks for??!!”

(Oh dear god.)

But even when she’s angry, she still comes over to hang out.

So when I hadn’t seen her for five days, I really started to worry.

Outdoor cats have a life-span of about six months out here. There are foxes and cougars and bobcats and coyotes… A fat domestic cat makes a nice meal for any one of these predators, and it’s only the cleverest and quickest outdoor cats who survive. Which is not to say that Tide isn’t smart. But the fact is, she thinks her own tail is her worst enemy, so I think that grey fox I saw trotting through here at dusk the other night would have no problem taking advantage of her *ahem* naivety.

As I said, when the days went by one after the other with no sign of Tide, I grew increasingly worried. But when an animal you have a relationship with isn’t an animal who is ‘yours,’ it becomes difficult to tell where the boundaries are when it comes to affection or concern.

Fortunately, I knew who Tide’s owner was. The woman next door - I’ll call her Rita - is in her mid-nineties, and she feeds Tide, which makes Tide her cat. At least, by human rules. So I decided to go over to Rita’s to make sure Tide was okay.

This was a little embarrassing for me. As I mentioned, Rita is quite old, and while I check in on her every now and again (as many of the neighbors do), I never feel as if I’m doing enough. I always mean to visit for longer, or do more than just pop my head in to say ‘hi,’ but I always have some excuse for putting off more extended visits.

And now there I was, not stopping by to check on Rita’s welfare, but to check in on the welfare of her cat.


So I knocked on Rita's door and she told me to come in.

I said, “Hello, Rita, how have you been?” while I cased the joint, looking for Tide.

She said, “You’re my neighbor,” and I was happy she remembered who I was.

I was feeling a little uncomfortable with just jumping right in and asking about the cat without asking more about how Rita was doing first, so I said, “Yes. I just wanted to pop in and see if you were okay or if you needed anything.”

“No, I’m fine,” she said.

I felt pretty guilty at this point. I mean, my primary motivation for visiting with Rita was due to concern over her pet, not for concern over Rita, and I was really embarrassed to ask about the cat. So, still looking everywhere for the cat, I very very VERY lamely said, “Um. Okay then. Well, you have my phone number there on the fridge if you need anything. Help with groceries. Putting out the trash cans. If you ever need anything, I’m right next door.”

And then Rita…

Oh, Rita. How many shifty characters must have tried to scam you in your near-century on this planet?

Rita, god bless her, narrowed her eyes at me all suspicious-like and said, “I’ve already drawn up my will, and I’m leaving everything to Craig. Everything goes to Craig.”

At first I didn’t get what she was implying. Then it dawned on me. “Rita,” I blurted out. “I don’t care about getting my hands on your stuff…”

“Good, because Craig gets everything.”

“Rita, I could care less about your worldly goods; I'm here because I'm concerned about your cat. I normally see her at my place every day and I haven’t seen her for going on a week now.”

“Miss Kitty?”


“You’re here because you’re concerned about Miss Kitty?”

I said, “Yes. Is your cat okay?”

“She’s fine. It’s been hot, so she’s just been sleeping a lot under the porch.” Rita smiled. “Miss Kitty is good at taking care of herself, but it’s nice to know that she has neighbors looking out for her, too.” Rita was clearly relieved that I wasn’t a grifter.

I was relieved, too, on a multitude of levels. I said, “She’s a good cat.”

Rita laughed and said, “Yes she is.”

I miss all of you other good cats.