Thursday, August 31, 2006


Arietha started it but it is a thing that bears reminding from time to time. Last night I watched a movie, Take the Lead, with Antonio Banderas and Alfre Woodard. It is the fictionalized version of a basically true story about French ballroom dance guru Pierre Dulane who started a program to teach inner-city school kids to dance. It’s a great story of the cool-teacher-inspires-loser-kids-to-become-great genre. Frankly, though it is somewhat formulaic, it is not a bad thing to be reminded of from time to time. One person CAN make a difference.

First of all, before I go off on whatever, let me say that it is worth renting just to watch Antonio Banderas tango. The guy is a heart-throb no matter how jaded you are and dancing the tango, the sexiest dance in the world, well, just watch it once for that scene, okay?

But what I found the most interesting was how the character, Pierre Dulane talked about dance. In one scene he is teaching two kids who have a long standing grudge between them to waltz. He blindfolds the girl and explains that the waltz is a dance of trust, the man requests and the woman has the option to comply or not but, once the dance begins, she must learn to trust that he will dance well and he must earn that trust and the respect that comes with it. In another scene, when he is explaining to a group of doubtful parents, about his dance techniques he says that if their sons learn to touch a woman with respect he will not be the kind of man who then abuses her. It is a beautiful scene.

Of course it is all movie stuff but so what? There are messages here and the most important one is about respect — for the self and for others. This is a thing we cannot hear enough of. Our world is woefully lacking in respect. We see it all the time — people screaming in traffic, people yelling at each other on the street, horrible language in public and in private, abuse of every sort. People with self-respect don’t behave that way and people with respect for others don’t tolerate it in others.

The street I live on is two blocks off Main St. And not far from a couple of bars. On warm summer nights when the windows are open I can hear people walking down the street. People don’t often realize how their voices carry at night when there is little traffic and everything is still. I have heard fragments of very interesting conversations. I have also heard quite a number of drunken exchanges between people stumbling home just after midnight. The swearing at each other and screamed epithets are amazing to me. It is a sad commentary on the lives of the people using them. It seems ubiquitous these days.

I wonder what this is all about. Why have we come to a place where we hold ourselves and one another so cheaply? How did that happen? Is it because we are distanced from family or because religion no longer plays a strong role in our lives? Is it because we no longer have community standards? I think all of those are true and especially the latter. I have written a lot — more than I want to — about the abuse and harassment I’ve been through by a few internet trolls for the last three years. It bothers me less now that I’ve settled things with a few people but the worst of them still go on and on. I’ve been thinking about what it must be like for them lately. What must the life of such a person be like? If every single day they spend the day waiting for an opportunity to cut loose with a volley of nasty taunting epithets toward someone they don’t even know — and to do that for years? How much self-respect does such a person have?

Respect starts with the self and moves outward. It’s not easy but it is something that can always be worked on and improved. I’m looking at it as a revolutionary act these days.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Last Week of Summer

Here on Cape Ann Summer has a way of showing up sporadically throughout the year. Consequently trying to assign a specific season of sequential weeks is sort of pointless. I have known Februaries when the weather turned mild, the sun shone brightly and, compared to the frigid temperatures of a week or so earlier, it felt like summer. I put the top down and go out to the beach.

But this last week of August, just before Labor Day is always met with a certain amount of mixed feelings in these parts. Those who love summer start mourning it and people like Mark who don’t like summer become unreasonably cheerful. Last night he said, “One more week. One more week and they’ll all go away.” He means the tourists who fill the streets. It’s not so much the travelers who come here from other parts of the country and stay. They are usually pleasant enough. They are on vacation, possibly the only vacation they will get in a year, and just want to relax. No, it’s the day trippers that drive us all crazy. They have 8-10 hours in which to get a tan, see the sights, eat a lobster, and buy a bunch of t-shirts. All of which is fine but they get mad as wet hens at anyone who gets in their way. The pound on their horns at everyone in traffic, are rude and snappish to shop clerks and waitresses, and push past anyone who gets in their way in their single day quest to get everything they want to done — the heck with anyone else. I’ve run into more than my share of them this summer.

So this is a week in which no one gets any work done. No one is in the office and, if they are, they’re in a bad mood about it. But that’s okay. Next Monday is Labor Day and after that things will be beautiful for awhile. The weather will be warm and golden during the day, the nights clear and slightly chilly and filled with the sounds of waves and leaves rustling in the wind. The moon will be bigger and brighter. The sunsets will be slow and brilliant and their color will linger on the horizon and wash across the waves. The baby swans are starting to look like swans as they glide across Smith’s Cove and Niles Pond in their parent’s wake.

Yesterday on the news the Farmer’s Almanac people said that the winter ahead is going to be a bad one — cold and snowy. Lay in supplies. This past winter was so mild that it is hard to remember the winter before which was brutal. I don’t have to commute, thank goodness. I feel sorry for those who do but it seems most of them don’t mind it as much as I once did. So far it looks like I have a busy winter ahead — a book to get ready, three books to promote, quite a bit of work coming in. I’m optimistic.

Right now it is dark and gloomy outside but that is alright too. My friend Lois calls these “time-travel” days. Years ago she and I read a book at the same time in the deep fall of the year. It was Eva Figes’ The Seven Ages and was the sort of book you can curl up with, get lost in and slip through time. Another writer who has let me do that in her books is Diana Gabaldon. The winter in which I read her Outlander series was a cold and nasty one and I was commuting. Every night when I got home exhausted from dealing with cold and traffic, I made pots of tea and got out Gabaldon’s tomes and departed for Scotland. I recently passed my copies of those books on to Mark’s mother and have not yet heard her reaction to them. I hope she loves them as much as I did.

So it is cold and dreary and dark with winter looming in the distance. But between there and now there are golden days filled with light and the fragrance of the sea and of leaves and woodsmoke and apples. Everything is beautiful and life is amazing.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Mark Twain is supposed to have said that everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it. For some reason I’ve always found that to be a particularly hilarious statement — maybe because it is so ironically true. What can you do about the weather? Duh. That’s the point.

We are having a very weather-filled year here on Cape Ann. Plenty of weather “events” as the weather folks like to say. Right now it is raining — AGAIN! — and my toes are showing signs of moss — AGAIN!

But what really has me thinking about weather is the latest stack of books that arrived about the Great Lakes maritime history that I’m reading as preparation for the final edits on The Old Mermaid’s Tale. It seems a bit late in the evolution of that book to be reading these but so much more has been written in recent years and I want to get the background right. It is fascinating. I’m learning a lot.

Salt water, by its very nature is heavier than fresh water. Consequently, when the wind starts to blow in a particularly vicious way, fresh water is far more susceptible to becoming dangerous. The waves created are higher and of much shorter duration which makes it hard for vessels to recover between assaults before being hit again. Plus, because fresh water freezes faster than salt water does, each wave that crashes over a vessel, particularly a cold steel vessel, leaves behind a thin sheet of ice. Ice builds up fast.

Add to this the fact that the Great Lakes are less deep than the ocean and more confined and you have sharp, slapping waves instead of rounded rolling waves. I’ve learned a lot from Mark about how one manages a rolling wave — you quarter into it, rise to the peak and glide down the backside. But when the waves are hard, fast and sharp that technique doesn’t work. And, as if all that weren’t enough, the Great Lakes are mostly bordered by hard granite walls instead of soft, sandy beaches. So when waves reach shore they don’t spend their energy on the beach and withdraw, they slap hard against the rock walls and radiate the energy back into the water. Waves, as Mark always tells me, are nothing but energy in water. When the weather is active over the Great Lakes that energy can grow out of control.

As I was working on my book the first time I was pretty fascinated by the stories I read in a lot of Dwight Boyer’s books about amazing storms that moved in fast, wrapped a ship in ice, and weighted it down into the Lakes’ icy depths in short order. Some of the boats that ply the Lakes are covered with scars from the hatchets of the crew who tried anything they could to hack off chunks of ice to keep their boats afloat.

My nephew Mark told me an interesting story about this. He and his father, my brother Jack, were out fishing on Lake Erie on a pleasant September afternoon in their motorboat. He said it was a beautiful day when he looked up and saw a literal wall of whiteness moving toward them — fast. They dropped their poles and gunned the engines to try to outrace the approaching storm but he said within minutes they were completely enshrouded in a wall of icy fog that dropped the temperature to a dangerous level and made the surface of the water brutal. Mark told me it was the only time in his life he was genuinely scared. Even being with his formidable father didn’t reassure him. Jack kept the boat headed on a course going by mostly instinct and dead reckoning and they made it back to the harbor but were half frozen by the time they got there. Mark said as fast as it came on them, it dissipated and all was fine.

So I’m learning a lot about weather and how it effects the surface of water. Hopefully it will add to the story but even if it doesn’t, it’s amazing to know all this.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Summer Knitting

I've been a ba-a-a-a-ad knitter. The truth is I haven't been much of a knitter at all. Between one thing and another I have spent very little time at working on knitting projects and, those that I have worked on, have been ripped out more than not. I have started, and subsequently ripped out, at least four projects this summer.

But it's been fun experimenting with some cool yarns. Right now I am taking a break from shawls and have the intention to knit a couple of those darling bed-jacket type sweaters that Joan MacGowan-Michael does so well. As always I am using her basic idea but concocting my own patterns. At this point I am only playing with the yarn, it seems but I'll keep you posted.

The yarn at left is a beautiful blend of rayon and silk purchased on eBay for a ridiculously low price. I am knitting it in a simple lace stripe on size 8 needles and it has a gorgeous shimmer and drape though it is somewhat stiffer than I had thought it would be. Still, the Himalayan Silk I used softened up considerably when I washed it and I have a feeling that this will too. Right now it is just destined to be the back of a bed jacket but who knows.

This yarn is the softest, yummiest, lightest thing I have ever touched. It is two strands worked together --- one of KnitPick's deliciously soft Oima Cotton Crayon in Pink and the other of a lovely silk eyelash yarn I bought on eBay. The eyelash silk came in two handpainted colors, Strawberry and Mango. I bought one of each and am using them in alternate rows with the cotton but the colors are so close that it is a subtle difference. I am just knitting in plain stockinette stitch right now but I have a plan for a bed jacket that is plain on top but then turns lacy toward the bottom. I'll keep you posted. Be forewarned, the hand-painted eyelash silk is very tedious to wind. The skeins are 700 yds and the little eyelashes stick to one another.

Finally, this is yet another incarnation of that Haitian Silk in Monet. The Gemstone Shawl turned out beautifully. I'll have to photograph and post it. So now --- after ripping out two other variations --- I am knitting this in Ostrich Plume pattern with more interest in seeing what happens than plans for its future.

So that is about all i have to say about summer knitting. Except it is cold and raining today and I would like to curl up and knit but I have to work. Oh well.....

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dangerous Living

It’s always intriguing to me when several things I am interested in all seem to come together at the same time. There has been a lot of talk on the radio lately about the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the state of New Orleans today. There was also a report that in an annual study of dangerous jobs the two most dangerous were, once again, fishing and logging. And, finally, I got two books in the mail that I had ordered a few weeks ago about great shipwrecks on the Great Lakes. All of this is about danger — living in a dangerous place or working at a dangerous job. And why people do it.

The simple answer is because that is the way their lives are, plain and simple. They don’t have a whole lot of choice. They were born in New Orleans and grew up there. They were born in a fishing family and grew up in it. They were born on the Great Lakes and grew up believing that “working the Lakes” was how one lived. Of course, there are people who made the choice without those backgrounds. Maybe there is the siren’s song of danger in their choices but I tend to think it is more a matter of just not letting oneself think about it.

It is more than thirty years now since the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior. If you have ever seen pictures of that ship it is impossible to imagine anything being big enough to even hold it, let alone wreck it. At 729 feet in length, 39 feet in height and 75 feet in breadth, it was bigger than the block of houses I live in. In one of the books I got about shipwrecks there are underwater photographs of what is left of that great ship. In places it looks as though it was torn in half and crumpled up like the page of an unwelcome letter. When it sank on November 10, 1975 it took 29 men down with her and no traced of them has been found. It was one of thousands of such sinkings.

Living in a fishing town like Gloucester you read more than you want to about boats going down, men being lost. It’s easy to forget that the inland seas are in many ways more dangerous than the ocean. I learned something new reading one of those books: fresh water, being by its very nature lighter than saltwater, is more easily whipped into high waves. The waves on the Great Lakes are bigger and more deadly than those in the middle of the ocean.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. When the warnings about Hurricane Katrina were sounded and people in New Orleans failed to heed them I understood why they didn’t. First of all, if you live in a Gulf town (as I did in Houston) you hear so darn many such warnings you always think ‘oh, not another one’. Secondly, there is the expense involved — lots of folks don’t have the means. And third there is good old reliable denial, it won’t happen here.

Working on Mark’s book I learned more than I wanted to about the inherent dangers in fishing. It was a life Mark chose. His family didn’t fish, he just wanted to do it. He didn’t think about the dangers — even after his first boat sank in February and he had to be pulled out of the water by the Coast Guard half-dead. Come to think of it, he also lived for awhile in New Orleans...

Now, as I am getting back to work on The Old Mermaid’s Tale and thinking about the maritime history of the Great Lakes, it is interesting how what I have learned living in Gloucester and working with Mark has influenced the revisions I want to make on this book. You never know where life will take you.

My life isn’t dangerous — precarious maybe, but not dangerous. But I am intrigued by people who are drawn to danger. Or maybe it is more a matter of being drawn to people who just don’t worry about the dangers inherent in situations. That might be more the point. People who look at a big ship and think, “wouldn’t it be great to work on that!” never giving a thought to where it might end up.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It’s Here, It’s Here, It’s Here

The proof came yesterday. It looks — well, exactly like what I sent off but there is something oddly magical about actually having a book that I can hold in my hands. Of course I nit-picked it to death. The green is too green, the cover is sort of dark, the spine seems too small, the back is a little crocked. It’s a proof! It’s an example of how the finished product will look not the finished product itself — well, it’s my book, isn’t it? My baby. I birthed this little sucker.

I have been marveling the last couple weeks over how Mark has taken to the marketing of his book. In complete contrast to what I had anticipated, he is LOVING it. He has been spending his free time going to small independent bookstores to place copies of his book and I love it when he calls me up and tells about the things people are saying to him and how he is schmoozing. I made posters for him — really pretty blue posters — that he can give to bookstore owners to put in their windows. “F/V Black Sheep Available Here!” Yesterday I sent out over a hundred press releases to various newspapers up and down the coast of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I don’t know what is working and what isn’t but it’s great to see him selling books.

He has his rap down. We were out at the beach the other night when a guy came by and said, “Hey, I heard you wrote a book.” Mark does his cute, aw-shucks routine — it is fun to watch — and then produces a book from the back of his truck. And another copy of F/V Black Sheep is sold. He told me last night a woman he didn’t know came up to him as he was getting out of his truck (he’s never going to be able to sell that truck - everyone recognizes it, if not him) and said, “Your book is incomparable — it’s the best book I’ve ever read about Gloucester.” He was so delighted.

So now here is this book that has my name on it and, in a few weeks, it will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and I’ll be in the same position he is in — having to get it out there. There is a difference. For Mark F/V Black Sheep is his magnum opus, at least for now. For me My Last Romance and other passions was something I had to do so I could move on. As I said before, if three people buy it that will be three people who wouldn’t have read it while it was in my desk. But still, it deserves to be promoted even as I renew work on MY magnum opus.

Mark has gotten a lot of positive feedback on his book. There has been criticism of his observations about the fishing practices of draggers but otherwise everyone says he did a great job. Well, I said that the first time I read it two and a half years ago. My book is different. First of all it is fiction and, secondly, it is sensual and that is what worries me. I wrote it because I loved the stories and, for a long time, I considered publishing them under a pseudonym but that seemed disingenuous. When I wrote those stories I wanted them to be both sensual and sensuous because the characters were people of all ages and all walks of life who were sensuously alive and thrilled to discover or re-discover a passion that they thought was no longer a part of their lives.

My worry is the old one of confusing the magic with the magician. I wrote the stories but how much I actually know about the feelings I write about has nothing to do with it — or does it?

When Mark writes about the natural world he is showing the world something through his writing that he doesn’t reveal in his day to day life — he loves the beauty of the world and he observes it constantly. It comes out in his writing. With me — well — I guess I have to leave that to my readers to decide. In a couple weeks, I’ll find out.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Down On Me

One of these mornings proud and fair,Get on my wings, I'm gonna fly the air.
I said it looks like everybody in this whole round world, Lord, they're down on me.
- Janis Joplin

I had an oldies station on over the weekend and they were playing Big Brother and the Holding Company. I remember the first time I heard that album — the laughing and glasses breaking in the background and Janis — Janis. There was nobody like her in the world and that was wonderful and frightening at the same time. Girls like Janis didn’t last long in the world then — I don’t suppose they ever have. But a lot of us, listening to her, found out something about ourselves. We didn’t know exactly what it was that she was, but we were a lot closer to that than we were to Debbie Reynolds and Annette Funicello.

I guess we all go though DownOnMe times in our lives. My problem is that when I’m going through one it’s not everybody in the whole round world who is down on me, it is ME who is down on me. Man, I can do a great job of beating myself up! I used to think that it was a hormonal thing that happened but since my hormones have dried up and gone away (and not a moment too soon) I still go through this and it makes me crazy. When DownOnMe shows up all I see it the failings — I never see the good stuff.

Right now it seems I can find inadequacy wherever I look — I’m a lousy housekeeper and the worst part of that is, I don’t even care. Still, how long can this go on before the situation becomes unhealthy. In truth, it’s probably not that bad. I make the bed and do the dishes. I vacuum and dust and make an attempt to keep the bathroom presentable. But when I think of my mother and her total house purges — awk! I don’t know if I’ve ever washed down a wall or rearranged the furniture. My furniture has been in the same place since a few months after I moved here (it takes a couple months to find out where things need to go).

But it’s more than that, it’s the feeling that, even though I never wanted to have my mother’s life, I’ve somehow strayed too far from that path. I’ve strayed Janis-far and that’s not a good thing. Janis was the first Wild-Child I ever knew about. She died really young from her own wildness, from an internal wildness that owned her and she lost the ability to manage it. There weren’t a lot of road maps for a Wild Child then. I don’t think there ever will be.

There are good things going on in my life. Today I am supposed to receive the final proof copy of My Last Romance and other passions. I can’t wait to see it. I can’t wait to see what my book will look like. On another matter a client recently bought a number of my cartoon drawings to put on T-shirts and wants more. This is the first time my “art” will appear on T-shirts. I find that hilarious for some reason. Business is a little slower than I would like — it’s that end-of-summer slow when everyone is thinking up getting in the last of the summer warmth more than about work.

So, there is stuff to be happy about and there is stuff to worry about. Life goes on. And I’m sure the current case of DownOnMe will pass when the book arrives, when the T-shirts start getting printed, when new jobs show up. In the mean time I have a lot to do. There is still enough work to keep me busy for a couple weeks and there are more drawings to do and there is the next book waiting for me.

And, if all else fails, I could clean out the refrigerator.


Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Peter Matthiessen

Shortly after I moved to Gloucester I saw a notice in the Gloucester Times that Peter Matthiessen would be speaking at The Bookstore on Main St. I figured I had moved to some place very special if I could just walk two blocks down the hill and hear someone like Peter Matthiessen. I couldn’t have been more correct.

I had just read Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard and was besotted by the man. All my life I have fallen in love with writers the way lots of women fall for actors. And I was not disappointed. He is an impressive man and the fact that he was, at that time, recently widowed (widowered?) And had just written the most heart-breakingly beautiful book in the world added to that. If you haven’t read The Snow Leopard, you should. It was written about a trip he took shortly after the death of his wife. He traveled into the mountains of Nepal in search of a the mysterious and beautiful snow leopard and along the way, he encounters himself and all of life and what it means when a life ends. The book is made all the more poignant by the fact that he never does get to see a snow leopard. For me there was something so profound in that. It was as though his search was made more meaningful and more wonderful by the fact that he did not encounter the creature than if he had.

Since then I have read a lot of his books. His two great books about the American Indian, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and Indian Country, are books that I take down from the shelf from time to time and get lost in again. But, and this will come as no surprise to those who know me, my favorite is Men’s Lives. A small book but utterly beautiful about the fishermen of Montauck where Matthiessen himself grew up and was a fisherman before becoming a writer and the founder of The Paris Review.

He is one of those magical writers who possesses the gift of total awareness in his writing. He enters into a place and every atom of it flows through him and out onto his page and, as we read, into our lives. It is the rarest of gifts and one of those that makes reading the ultimate pleasure. If you have the fortune to be reading a good writer, you can go wherever you are being taken. Men’s Lives is written about a fishing Village in Eastern Long Island but it could as easily be Gloucester. Matthiessen writes with an understanding of what it means to love away of life and to see it slipping away — a poignancy that is what makes Men’s Lives, and Indian Country, and The Snow Leopard so shattering. It subtly asks the question over and over and over, what in God’s name are we doing to oursleves? What the HELL is this “progress” thing anyway? Are we really better off for having all our stuff while ignoring the losses that it has created?

I’ve never read his books about the Amazon rainforests or about Africa, they are on my list. But in a quiet, beautiful way Matthiessen has spent his nearly eighty years of life travelling around our beautiful planet, loving it ferociously, recording it exquisitely and offering us books that say, can we really risk losing this? Come on, people, what are we thinking.

Last night I took an old copy of Far Tortuga out the the beach. Experimental in form, Far Tortuga is at first confusing but once you get into the rhythm and flow of the final days of nine doomed fishermen hunting sea turtles in the Caribbean it is seductive. You become one of them. And I smiled when I read this bit of dialogue: No, mon, all dem vessels was built by Elroy Arch right dere behind dat grape tree where I pointin at, and dey were modeled after de old Noonan, de Angeline Noonan, dat were brought here in 1932. And de Noonan were a Gloucesterman off de Grand Banks.

Our planet is both small and fragile. Writers like Peter Matthiessen remind us of that.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thinking About Lake Erie

Now that My Last Romance is off to press I have had an amazing few days. Ever since Saturday, when I sent it off, I have been aware of a sense of space — space where something that used to occupy a lot of thinking is now absent. This is actually a good feeling but it is also a fleeting feeling. It is being filled in day by day.

I don’t have a lot of expectations around My Last Romance. I think it is a lovely little book but it was just something I needed to do to clear the way to get back to work on my long-suffering novel. The interesting thing is that, now that I am not continually preoccupied by all the characters in those stories, I find my mind wandering to the Great Lakes — Lake Erie specifically. On mornings like this, when it is sunny and warm and a breeze lifts the curtains and I can hear a train rumbling off in the distance, I feel this old emotion from childhood. Today is a beautiful day, maybe Aunt Rosie will take us to the beach.

The beaches of my childhood were all along Lake Erie — along the peninsula that juts out from the western shore of Erie Harbor and curves around it. When I was a child it was a wild and feral place. Deer and wildcats still lived in the woods along the beach road. I haven’t been there in at least 12 years but I remember those waters as being so much greener than the aquamarine blue of the water I live by every day here in Gloucester.

Yesterday my alumni magazine from Behrend arrived in the mail. Behrend served as the model for Chesterton College in my novel. I lived on campus the first year and, like Clair in the novel, spent many weekends taking the bus into Erie to wander through shops — my two favorites, The Boston Store and The French St. Bookstore made it into the book. Sometimes a group of us would walk down to Wintergreen Gorge and lay on rocks in the sun. In the book the Gorge became the scene of Clair’s first, tentative sexual encounter with Pio. I love that I can keep these places a part of my life by bringing them into this book.

Later I moved into Erie. I didn’t like living on campus and I needed a job. I worked in a diner on Peach St., mostly the night shift. The Canal St. Diner in the novel is almost exactly the same as the one I worked in and Clair’s experiences there (with the exception of meeting a man like Baptiste) are similar to mine. Actually I did meet a man named Baptiste — which is why I chose that name when I created the character. He was French Canadian and was a roustabout in a circus that was in town. I was only 19 then. I don’t know how old he was. But he used to come into the diner every evening for dinner and flirt with me. I was a naive girl — still a virgin at the time — and didn’t know much about men. But that Baptiste, being older and dark and somewhat dangerous, stirred things in me I didn’t know about before. Now, all these years into the writing of this book, I think about him — and about the girl I was then — and I finally understand where both of my characters came from. I was Clair in so many ways. And that Baptiste — well, all he ever did was flirt with me, but he was the origin of the Baptiste I later created.

So now it is time tog et this book whipped into shape. I have been Googling books on the Great Lakes maritime legends and history and have found some good ones that weren’t written when I began this. I ordered them and am eagerly awaiting them. My Last Romance is gone from my mind except for the upcoming need to promote it and I am happy to be back at this book I love.

So today I have work to do. Mark needs some posters for his book — things seem to be going well. I admit even his book is receding in my mind. I can smell Lake Erie this morning and feel the stirring of feelings felt by a girl I once was. And all of this is good.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Private Excitements of the Mind

A book has its origins in the private excitements of the writer’s mind. The excitements are private because they’re in communicable unless they’re rendered, given extension, and resolved as a book. - E.L. Doctrow

After writing his powerful, political novel, The Book of Daniel, E.L. Doctrow was having a hard time getting back to writing. One day, as he sat in his study staring at the wall, he decided to write about the wall. Hee was living at the time in a Victorian house with an interesting history so he wrote about the wall and then about the room, and then about the whole house itself. He wrote about the street that the house sat on and began thinking about the people who had built the house and what their lives had been like and what was going on in their town and in their county and in their state when those people were living in his house with the wall in front of him. He let his mind expand and wrote and wrote and wrote. When he finished writing he had written Ragtime, his most acclaimed novel to date. All because he was staring at a wall.

I love that story and I understand it. Almost all the stories in the book I am now awaiting from the press, My Last Romance and other passions began that way. I was coming out of the New Bedford Whaling Museum one rainy day when the door of the Seaman’s Haven across the street opened and a tall, tough-looking older man with salt and pepper curly hair and a navy peacoat came out of the door. He winked at me and clicked his tongue like naughty men do as he passed me and, in that second, “The Haven” was born.

I was having sangria on the veranda of the Hotel Galvez in Galveston with my friends one steamy summer afternoon. A blues band was playing Stardust and I saw a couple a few tables away - older but very well-groomed and attractive the way people in the Forties and Fifties always were. He took her hand and kissed her fingers and “My Last Romance” began.

I was wandering through a cemetery outside of Lafayette, Louisiana and stopped to read a headstone. I’ve forgotten the names but it was a husband and wife, side by side. Their dates of birth were very close, only a couple years apart, but their dates of death stunned me. He died at the age of 25. She died at the age of 83. She lived sixty years without him before returning to his side. I began writing “Asa”.

Writers have a gift — the gift of turning those little mysteries that happen in life, those little private excitements of the mind, into something fully alive and fascinating — at least to the writer! As a romantic girl I was tantalized by a tavern near the waterfront in Erie, Pennsylvania near the pier where my uncle sometimes took me for ice cream. I liked the picture of the mermaid on the sign that hung out into the street. I never forgot that mermaid and all the intriguing mystery of the tavern she represented. At this time I have written close to 130,000 words in the novel that grew out of that. What an exciting “excitement”.

I guess other people have the same experiences but, if they don’t write about them, I wonder what they do. Maybe they paint or just daydream. Or maybe they shrug their shoulders and forget about it. That’s the difference with writers — we don’t seem able to just forget the things that excite our minds.

Last night I was driving home from having a late dinner with Jane. It was a warm, beautiful night and I had the top down. While waiting at a light, a guy pulled up beside me on a motorcycle and asked a question. He was a heart throb, that one. Big and muscular and bearded with a killer smile — and young enough to be my son. We chatted a minute and then the light changed. I said, “Enjoy the evening.” He grinned and winked at me. I think there’s a story in that.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Off to Press

Well, I did it. My Last Romance and other passions went to press on Saturday. DEEP breath. In a few days I will receive the final proof and, when I sign off on that, it goes into production. Whew.

I don’t have a lot of expectations around this book. I am publishing it through Parlez-Moi Press because it is easy and I can control where it goes and also, as previously stated, the chances of a first time fiction writer publishing a book of short stories these days is not encouraging. But I think I’ve created a beautiful little package here. I know the cover is attractive and think that the inside looks just as good. As to my writing.... well, only time will tell about that. Ah, the insecurity of the fiction writer.

One thing I know since Mark’s book has been out, is that people do respond positively to nicely designed books — there is so much crap out there. Mark said every bookstore he takes his book into compliments him on its attractiveness. He said that local bookstore owners have commented on how smart it was to put the Thacher Island lights on the front (his idea) and the Man at the Wheel on the back (my idea). At first he had reservations about the fisherman’s statue because he said everyone exploits it. I loved him just for saying that! But then when I pointed out that he was a Gloucester fisherman and who had more right to use it he agreed and so it is there.

With My Last Romance it was tougher and, as I’ve written before, the choice of a detail from a Rubens painting was a bit daring because the couple are older — well, they’re a god and a goddess so therefore ageless but most people won’t think about that. But, being older myself, I wanted to have something that us fifty-somethings could relate to and see as beautiful. On the back there is a single image of a ripe peach. I think peaches are luscious in every sense. Their shape is lovely, like a woman’s backside, their color is beautiful, warm and rosy and inviting, their fragrance is incomparable, they are filled with juice and their taste ... what’s better? So the design elements on the cover are my own personal prejudices but the words in the book are the same thing.

But then there is the issue of the book going out into the world and people I don’t know reading it. Years ago, I was in a writers group and hat is when I wrote the first version of My Last Romance and also of Damian. In that group we exchanged our stories, took them home to read and then met in a week to discuss. I got encouraging feedback on both stories as the weeks went by which was very important to me at the time. A few months into the group we had a Christmas party at In A Pig’s Eye in Salem, across the street from The House of the Seven Gables. We figured that was a good place for writers to meet. The husband of one of the women, a man in his early sixties, grinned when we were introduced and said, “ah, the lady whose work I love to read.”

I was a little shocked at first because I hadn’t realized that group members might show our work to their spouses. I wasn’t upset by it — quite the opposite — but it came as a total stunner that someone I didn’t know had read my work, liked it, and thought about the sort of woman who would write such a thing.

Saturday Mark and I were sitting down at the fish pier talking. Twice guys stopped and commented on his book. It was fun to watch him — he was pleased and, at the same time, a little bashful. He thanked them for their comments and answered their questions. I enjoyed seeing him being complimented and respected by two guys he’s probably known for years. He told me last night that women have made comments to him about the steamy parts. He likes it but it also makes him shy — well, he’s still a bit shy about doing signings.

Mark told me when we first started working together that he believed that if you weren’t willing to put your whole self on the page, you had no business being a writer. Well, I think I’ve done that — in a few weeks we’ll see how that feels when the book is let loose upon the world....

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Touch of Fall in the Air

It’s cool this morning and brilliant — that clear, clean crispness that signals the shortening of days and the coming of cooler weather. This summer has been ridiculously short. It rained all spring. We had one nice week in June while my family was here (thank goodness, July was reasonable except for one lethally hot week and now — eleven days into autumn, it is smelling and feeling rather autumnal.

I don’t mind. There are a lot of beautiful days ahead of us. The thing I always love about August is that the worst of the heat is usually behind us plus the light gets long and crystalline and golden and we start getting the spectacular skies that have been bringing painters here for centuries. There was an amazing cloud last night — I wished I had my camera. It was huge and architecturally shaped and, where the late evening sun shone on it, it was brilliant shades of gold with peachy shadows against a cool blue sky. It seemed to take up the whole sky.

As many years as I have lived here (I moved to New England in June 1986) I am continually surprised anew by the light of autumn. It takes my breath away. As I’ve mentioned before, the room in which I write and work, overlooks an old cemetery — the oldest Unitarian-Universalist Cemetery in America. It’s a beautiful thing to see and today it is all emerald and filled with light. The nearest headstone to me cannot be read from this distance (plus it is turned the wrong way) but it reads, “Erected to the memory of Moses Morse who was drowned at sea in his 42nd year.” Poor Moses. He’s not out there, of course. Only 42 years old and lost to the brilliant blue of the harbor. For his time he would probably be considered to have a long life.

Autumn is a notoriously hazardous time for shipwrecks anyway. The Andrea Gail was lost in the Halloween Storm of 1991. That was a terrible storm. I was living in Marblehead then, right on the water and I remember staying up most of the night when the storm made landfall, feeling the house rock and quake and hoping it would hold together. Whenever I am in City Hall and look up into the stairwell where all the thousands of names of lost fishermen are stenciled on the wall, I can’t help but wonder what time of year they met their end. Autumn seems too beautiful to be so lethal and yet, like so many beautiful things, it is.

I have a lot of writing to do this winter so I don’t mind the shortening of days. I get a lot done when the weather turns cold and that temptation to go outside and soak up light isn’t as strong. But for now, the light is beautiful and I need to go out and meet a client and then just enjoy an hour of sunlight before coming back to work. Hope you can do the same.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Back in the days of iron men in wooden ships, Essex, Massachusetts was an exciting place to be. Many of the schooners that sailed the Gulf of Maine and out into the Atlantic Ocean were built in Essex. It is a heritage that they take great pride in and rightfully so. When a boat was about to be assembled, a cry went out — “Frame-up!” And men all over the boatyard dropped what they were doing and ran to help. Many hands were needed to lift the components of a schooners frames and the carpenters were going to have their hands full swinging iron hammers to slam the nails and plugs into place. They had to be strong because these were the boats that would carry men out into the ocean’s unpredictable temperaments and they had to be fast because the muscles holding the frame into place had human limits — though it might not seem like it at the time.

Today shipbuilding is somewhat different but there are still schooners built in Essex though now they are built for pleasure rather than for men to fish from. Harold Blackburn, son of generations of Essex shipbuilders, built the Thomas E. Lannon which is now owned by Tom Ellis and makes a couple trips a day out into the ocean to give tourists a taste of the old seafaring days. I’ve listened to Harold talk about the building of the Lannon. It was quite an experience. He had to study ancient drawings and crawl down into the hulls of rotting boats to study how these beauties were actually made. He’s a great storyteller, another maritime tradition, and fun to listen to.

The Essex Shipbuilding Museum is a wonderful tribute to those iron men who built those wooden ships. Like almost every small museum in the country raising funds is very important to their continued operation. This year I’ve been invited to be involved with a fund-raiser for the museum that is using the expression “Frame-Up” as its title — the Frame-Up Art Gala. This is going to be quite a spectacular event featuring great food, fantastic wines, delightful entertainment, amazing art — all in an environment worthy of the event. I can’t give the details right now but I’m looking forward to telling you about it when I can.

Sometimes when I see boats like the Lannon sailing out toward the breakwater — with the two Hammond Castles on the far shore, I can’t help but let my mind slip back to a time when the whole harbor was filled with such ships. At the Museum there are photos in which mast after mast tower against the horizon. It takes your breath away. Even though I earn my living sitting at a computer all day, I wonder if I wouldn’t have been happier back in those low tech days. I don’t know.

We are lucky. We live in a time when people chose to preserve the past and are willing to work to do that. In all the many aspects of heritage that this area offers, there is little more worth preserving than the shipbuilding past. Let’s hope the Museum continues to expand and prosper.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reading is Like Sex

I read an interesting statistic recently — 53% of Americans never read another book after they leave high school. It also said that 65% of Americans have never been in a bookstore. It’s long been said that the 5% of Americans buy 95% of the books in this country and I believe that. I find this sad and yet, when I look at how many bookstores there are, I think that the minority is very, very powerful. Here in Gloucester there are three bookstores on Main St. (okay, one of them is half a block down a side street) and heaven only knows how many small used book stores tucked in various corners.

There is also a contemporary prejudice against fiction — which is kind of comical because non-fiction is becoming increasingly fictionalized. I guess we are okay with fiction as long as we are told that part of it is real. Lines are getting blurred all over the place.

As someone who has a deep respect for the Art of the Novel and the power of the pen, I am somewhat shocked by all of this. I grew up in a home filled with books and was raised by parents who always had a book nearby. My mother read novels. My father read everything. When we were kids he’d say, “Go to the library and get me some books.” This was great fun for us. I can remember wandering up and down the stacks trying to find something unusual for him. At that time we were allowed to check out five books at a time. So we’d take him five books — whatever struck our fancy — and he would read them and we would take them back and get more.

People who read are different from people who don’t. Movies can be good and I suppose television has its merits (though I haven’t watched TV in over ten years) but reading is an intensely personal experience that allows your mind to wander into realms that no other medium can take it to. Reading is a form of participation. In a way it is like sex. You enter into another — only with your mind instead of your body. A good book can offer you a respite from self, just as good sex does. For the time you are engaged in it, normal self-absorption is suspended and you join with another. Such is the power of words. You co-create with the author a world of ideas and sensory stimuli. If the book is very well written you can get lost in that.

I recently read Anthony Capella’s luscious little novel The Food of Love about an American girl in Rome who decides that the best way to find a sensuous lover is to date a chef. It is a magnificent little book that will have you drooling as you read — not only are the descriptions of the meals Bruno makes for Laura mouth-watering — but the descriptions of Rome and the seashore and the hill country are magnificent. Capella’s words take you where no movie ever could.

Last night I started reading Tobias Hill’s The Love of Stones. I am only 30 pages into it but Hill is a poet and it shows on every page. The book opens in Turkey where an American jewel collector is attempting to track down three perfect rubies known as The Three Brethern. I lay on the couch last night for two hours totally lost in that book and came away from is feeling like I had just spent days in the narrow, spice-scented, steamy streets of Istanbul. It was wonderful.

Eleanor is my neighbor. She reads constantly. Whenever I see her she says, “What have you got good to read?” Mark’s mother, Elizabeth, is another one. The three of us exchange bags of books. Recently I introduced Elizabeth to Alice Hoffman — she can’t stop reading her and goes to the library looking for more. This winter I plan to introduce her to Diana Gabaldon. That will warm up her winter!

Devoted readers are special people. They know how to let go of the demanding self and enter into a communion of ideas. It is sex for the mind. I think you can take it from there.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Jeff Weaver

Saturday night was the North Shore Arts Association’s second auction of the year — the newly re-named Fresh Paint Auction. It was a wild and crazy night with a huge attendance that turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. There were lots of people there which meant a good take at the door but the sheer volume of people resulted in a lot of talking making it hard for the people bidding to hear what was going on. I don’t understand people who attend public functions and act like they are at home in their living rooms yakking away with no regard for the others in the room.

But anyway, it is always interesting to see which are the big ticket items of the evening and exciting when it is someone new. Saturday night Jeff Weaver’s exquisite painting of Eastern Point Lighthouse (left) stole the show. It was a beauty.

I’ve been interested in Jeff Weaver’s art for along time now. He has lived in Gloucester most of his life and I first noticed his mural work on the walls of local restaurants. The Causeway Restaurant on Essex Ave. has some great ones. But it was Jeff’s involvement in the Lobster Landings project a couple of years ago that I really loved. Someone hit on the bright idea of creating large, molded lobsters which Jeff designed. Then the lobsters were given to a number of prominent local artists and other personalities who painted them in the most delightful variety of styles. They were exhibited all over the city and auctioned off to raise money for a local program for children. The fun part was traveling around town with the map looking for all the lobsters on exhibit. Jeff painted two of them himself and they were gorgeous.

I have this notion that some places are more inspiring to certain people than other places are. For me Gloucester is such a place. I think it is the same for Jeff Weaver. I don’t really know him, have only been introduced to him a couple times. But when I look at his work I know beyond doubt that when he looks at Gloucester, he sees the same things I do. He is just a lot better at expressing it than I am.

There is an Italian restaurant, Valentino’s, in the very Italian West End whose menu features one of Jeff’s illustration. It is a wonderful painting, I think done in watercolor, that wraps around the front and back of their large menu and it shows the buildings on the opposite side of the street --- Sal’s barber shop and Virgilio’s bakery and the now-closed Mike’s Pastry Shop. In the foreground an Italian-looking fellow lounges in a doorway and in the background you can see masts of tall ships out in the harbor. I love this painting as much as I do anything Jeff has done because it shows something that I see too — an aspect of Gloucester that is really only there in the hearts and minds of people who truly love this place.

So I am happy for Jeff. I know he is selling more and more these days and that is always encouraging. I know his art will continue to grow and become more impressive — he’s certainly got the talent and he has a subject he loves. It’s hard for me to imagine any better way to spend your life than creating art from a beloved subject.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 04, 2006

My Companions During the Day

Back in the days when I worked in offices and the yammer of voices was a constant, I longed for the luxury of silence. I often listened to music through headphones but that wasn’t the same thing. I like quiet most of the time but I also find, now that I work at home, that certain jobs, particularly things like retouching photos, are better done with voices. I often listen to audio books but I’ve also fallen under the spell of talk radio.

There is no shortage of talk radio stations. I flip around the PBS channels when there are programs on that I like. But lately I seem to be listening to Boston’s 96.9 a lot. It’s an interesting study in personalities.

I rarely hear Don Imus, the morning guy. He’s a little too goofy for me and my early morning work time usually involves answering emails and writing this blog so I don’t need companionship. But by 10 when Mike Barnicle comes on, I’m ready.

I like Barnicle — he’s a smart guy with strong opinions. A lot of his program is devoted to sports talk and that loses me but I still enjoy it. I have a silly appreciation of guys talking sports — there is something so cute about it. So worshipful in a way — you get a glimpse of the internal Little Leaguer that they once were. But Barnicle isn’t afraid to speak out strongly on political issues and, this is what endears him to me, he likes to talk about books. How can you not appreciate a radio personality who likes to talk about books?

After Barnicle we get Jim Braude and the ever-annoying Margery Eagen. I wish the station would pitch in a few bucks and get that woman elocution lessons. How someone so unfamiliar with enunciation ever got a radio show is beyond me but Braude makes up for her. He’s a very smart guy — liberal and outspoken with the lovely ability to mock his own idiosyncrasies and quirks. That is the single biggest trait that, for me, separates those worth listening to from those not worth listening to. I don’t care what your opinions are, if you can stick your tongue in your cheek while dealing with people who want to rip your opinions apart, you’ve got me. It takes a lot of self-assurance to be that self-deprecating.

Which is a thing Bill O’Reilly could learn. I find O’Reilly interesting. I admire a lot of the positions he takes and I think he makes an effort to be fair though I doubt he realizes how ingrained some of his prejudices are. The word “nuanced” always comes to mind when he talks about being fair and balanced. His fair and balanced is nuanced though he doesn’t realize it. And he has a big chip on his shoulder but I appreciate his relentless defense campaigns for the protection of children and young women. I wish he could relax though.

By three o’clock when Michael Graham comes on, I’ve had enough. Especially if I listen to Graham for 10 minutes. The guy’s a nitwit. Fortunately for him, he finds himself endlessly entertaining and has a perfectly wonderful time laughing at his own jokes so he’ll be fine without me. But someone ought to tell him that if you move to a new city and a new state in order to get a job it might not be a good idea to turn that job into an endless bashing of the city and state that gave it to him. I miss Jay Severin. He comes on at 7 now but by then I’m done working and on to other things. Severin’s a good guy except I know more about his sex life than I do about my own which makes me wonder .... well, you know.

So that’s my daily roster of buddies. Most days, it’s fun. And right now I have to wrap this up. It’s time for Barnicle.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit.

It’s endless. No matter how much you edit, there is always something you missed. These are not the kinds of things that are picked up by spell check and are often overlooked by even the most scrupulous of copy editors. Little things — I found another one last night, just a tiny missing word but the kind of thing that would set me into a huff if I read it in someone else’s book.

Truthfully, I find odd little mistakes in books published by the very most distinguished of pub houses all the time. I just finished reading Francine Prose’s Hunters and Gatherers (very funny book but if you a New-Agey, goddess worshiping type you won’t think so) and was amazed at several errors — sentences that just didn’t read right until I realized a preposition or a modifier was missing. But, whenever I am in a position to edit a book — whether for myself or someone else — I become manic at this stage when it is about to go to press.

A few years back I edited a large, coffeetable-type book for an area manufacturer. It was a beautiful book but very text-heavy with a lot of technical terms that the average person wouldn’t know. It was an expensive book to produce and it sold very well but when I picked up the very first book out of the box and opened it — WHAM! — there is it was, a mistake. Not a big one, in fact not one that 90% of people would catch but I did and it still bugs me.

So, I am on the final draft of My Last Romance. It needs to go to press ASAP and I find this silly little misused modifier and I go nuts. How could I let that get by me? It got by me and the two people who gave the book a thorough read for such things. But, after I fixed it, I started going crazy with other small details “whenever we fly in an airplane...” Duh. As opposed to what? In a caboose? In a canoe? SLASH! Then I need someone to tell me to knock it off.

I was telling Jane that I was doing another edit on The Old Mermaid’s Tale because I wanted to squeeze out 10,000 words — the book is currently 140,000. “It’s pretty tight now,” she said. “You haven’t got much excess in there — it’s just a long story.” Jane’s opinion means a lot to me. Not only is she beautiful and elegant beyond belief but she was an editor for years and years.

So how do you know when you’ve edited enough? Jane says you stop editing and improving stuff when your deadline arrives. That’s about right. When I worked in ad agencies we worked like crazy to try to make things perfect before they went to press and it was a rare occasion when some tiny flaw didn’t appear.

But it is in the editing that you see how serious a writer is about their craft. I have often encountered books where it was clear that the writer was a good storyteller and maybe even a competent writer but those little details that differentiate “serious writer” from “adequate writer” were glaring — the same descriptors used over and over, the same adjectives used to death. I read a book not long ago that was a good story but I got seriously annoyed by the hero’s “rugged good looks” and “chiseled profile”. I got tired of it because the author felt the need to point it out once per chapter. Dan Brown does that, too. There is no denying that the guy can tell a story — but somebody needs to tell him “enough!” when he starts in on how good-looking Robert Langdon is. Maybe it’s an alter-ego thing. And my raging, green-eyed jealousy of his success not withstanding.... uhhh, well, let’s forget that.

So, I’m still nit-picking but that has to end soon. The book is going to press this week and then it is out of my hands. If you read it and if you find a mistake, please don’t tell me. I’ll cry.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. Excellent advice from Seth Godin's Blog --- 19 Bits of Advice for Writers. I particularly agree with #3 (obviously - edit, edit, edit) and #8, the cover is the most important thing about your book before it's purchased. I disagree with #11. Blurbs matter to people picking up the book in a store --- they want to know what others think if they have never heard of the book before.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Screwed Up

I feel kind of proprietary toward Mel Gibson because I think that I discovered him — well, at least among my friends. This was back in the early Eighties when I was living in Houston and the Greenway Theater was the only one in town that played foreign and “art” films. I went to see a double feature — don’t remember what the second one was — and the first one was a little Australian film called “Gallipoli”. I was so blown away by the fabulous young, blue-eyed actor who played Frank that I made all my friends go to see the movie. I then managed to see “Mad Max” and the breath-taking “Tim” and my love affair began.

In recent years my appreciation of his movies has waned. I got tired of the Lethal Weapon movies and, since “Braveheart”, the only thing I really liked was “We Were Soldiers”. I didn’t go to see “The Passion” for a variety of reasons not the least of which was the scourging scene. But I always liked Mel.

So I was sad when I heard about his arrest for drunken driving and the accompanying outburst. However, I can’t say I was surprised. I guess I could go into all the stuff about how hard it must be to be a superstar of his level and all that but people who aren’t superstars get drunk, drive too fast and act like asses, too. And there is the fact that Mel always had that close-to-madness edge about him in his characters. He’s a terrific actor, of course, but that edginess also came from somewhere.

So, he screwed up and got caught and, God willing, he will now get help and get better. In AA they talk about the “gift of desperation” — maybe he got that gift this time. I’ll keep a good thought for his recovery.

But what is bothering me is the anti-Semitic tirade. I’ve never really understood anti-Semitisim. I grew up with parents who never, ever, ever made any racial or cultural distinctions between people. In my family, bias was based on two things — intelligence and industry. The worst things you could be were stupid and/or lazy. Didn’t matter what color you were or what your last name was or anything like that — you’d just better not be stupid or lazy. I didn’t even know about anti-Semitism, at least as a contemporary reality, until I was in college. One of my friends made a crack about a girl in our dorm to the effect that she took being one of “the chosen people” too literally. I had no clue what she was talking about. My boyfriend laughed his butt off when I asked him to explain it.

Over the years I’ve had a lot of friends who turned out to be Jewish — I phrase it that way because when we were getting to be friends, I never even thought about that until they said something that made me realize, “oh... you’re Jewish... well, anyway...” A few of them were open to talking about the bigotry they encountered in everyday interactions. Like all bigotry, anti-Semitism is just another form of insecurity on the part of the anti-Semite — if you are less, then that makes me more. The kind of logic that reveals stupidity and I’m still something of a bigot about that.

From what I’ve heard about Mel’s father, I guess his anti-Semitism is something ingrained and, when drunk and desperate, it exploded out of him. Not a justification, but something I can at least understand. I don’t think he is a stupid man (I hope not) but I think he is a man with some bad demons in him. Let’s pray they get exorcized.

I’m sorry, Mel, you disappointed me and a lot of others. Get it together. I think you can do it because you’re smart and you sure aren’t lazy — and if you prove me wrong about that I won’t be as understanding next time.

Thanks for reading.