Thursday, December 29, 2005


I interveiwed a plastic surgeon today, and he showed me slides of his work in reconstructive surgery. I saw a photo of a man who got his nose bit off in a fight, and then how the Dr. sliced out a piece of skin from the man's forehead, and flipped it down over the stump of a nose and, over several operations, constructed a new nose.

Many photos -- severed hands, faces ravished from skin cancer -- for him, these were challenges, something he could do, something he could make better -- a craftsman, an artist, a pretty good guy. He also does nose jobs and breast enhancements.

Gruesome photos, but when I saw it with his eyes....

Coincedentally I'm watching ER on the television.

The Lion of East Cambridge

Harvey Blume lives in Brooklyn now, but I knew him when we both lived in Cambridge -- he on the east side and I on the west side. We met at the Sunday morning Tikkun discussion group, an offshoot of the magazine, a salon of articulate Jewish intellectuals discussing progressive issues.

[What was I doing there, not being Jewish or articulate? Some other time, I'll explain this.]

Harvey is a freelancer and he gets published in various magazines. I've seen his interviews with luminiaries such as Doris Lessing and Edward Said.

It would be wonderful to live in Brooklyn and to meet Harvey for coffee somewhere. I still call him the Lion of East Cambridge.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Magic Touch

I heard the Platters in November, 1966, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill -- 5,000 students. It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life. I heard them sing all those songs, and not a dry eye in the house. It had to be in North Carolina -- to hear it like that.

Los Angeles

You don't know how much I love Los Angeles. I must be geographically promiscuous. Ask me, "Which do you love the most, California or Texas?" and I will answer, "Yes, very much."

I said promiscuous, not because I believe my affection is cheap, but because other people seem to think that one ought to pick one place above all others. It may be so with a woman, and it is often so with a place to live, but I have been many places, and my heart doesn't settle, but expands.

Tom Waits

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tom Waits

My last year in high school, I used to skip out and take the "L" to downtown Chicago, down to South State Street where they had burlesque theaters and tawdry used book stores. I could lie my way into the girlie shows and see strippers like you see in this photo of Tom Waits. Afterwards I could pick up pocket novels for 25 cents at the used books stores - good books, mind you, the classics. 1964 -- that was the year.


Tuesday morning in skip week. No one is working, just pretending. No news in the newspaper -- that's good, that means nothing bad has happened, except for the usual, like a meth lab gets busted. Why would anyone do meth?

I think I will write to my friend Harvey Blume tonight. I haven't seen him since 1995, when I lived in Boston. Harvey lives in Brooklyn now. You couldn't pry him off the East Coast.

And I might call Bo Miller in LaConner, in the Skagit Valley, where I used to live. Bo is my very snobbiest friend. This annoys me, but he really can't help it. He treats everybody this way. I get mad at him, then I forgive him. It's been going on for years.

Or I could call Paul Schulte in Cinncinatti. Oh -- that's a good idea. He's one of my old pals from college. It's been a long time.

This blog is undergoing revision in terms of content. I recommend checking it once a week at this point.

I love this week. It's so quiet -- people pretending to work.

I got an excellent 6-inch totally yuppie chef's knife for Christmas, super for chopping vegetables

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chinese food

Food is interesting. We had Chinese food last night, at the Golden Wok in San Antonio. I shared the meal with Manahara, a concert pianist from Sri Lanka. There was a matter of etiquette when we ordered tea. The waittress brought iced tea. I said, in my most gracious manner, "Yes we are in Texas, but this is a Chinese restaurant, so we would like a pot of hot Chinese tea." [Everybody drinks iced tea in Texas, for those who need an explanation]These things can be negotiated. Manahara, who came to the U.S. when he was 14, is quite skilfull at navigating his way through the dominant culture any place in the country. I asked him how he reconciles his traditional upbringing with modern America. He said he sometimes feels mixed up and some times it is an agony, but for the most part he just deals with it. So it is for all foreigners in Texas. You must first pay homage to the national drink of Texas -- iced tea -- and then ask for what you really want. As long as nobody gets all het up about this, it works.

The food was great. I had pork lo mein, and Manahara had a stir fry. For dessert we had a sweet dimsum covered in sesame with a just-right bean paste inside. It was so good. In fact, it was the highlight of a long day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Blog problems

I started this blog -- maybe for the wrong reason -- because that's what everybody was doing, that's where people's attention was going. Well-meaning friends encouraged me. They said this is what's going on. On that basis -- a new form of communication -- it was worth a try.

However, my reaction, after writing this blog since August, is that there is not much to it. I don't get much lift from writing it, and I get very little response from people who read it.

My old email newsletter format was clumsy and antiquated, but it fit like a glove for me as a writer, and it struck home with more than a few readers. I could put my heart in it, and reach the hearts and minds of the people who read it. So, I think I will go back to doing that for a while.

I will still make posts here from time to time, but right now my expectations are minimal.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

orange marmalade

I was thinking of cooking some jam, but then....

I drank some gin with ruby red grapefruit juice and laughed too much to do anything else. Holy fucking Jesus Christ -- feels pretty good.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


I woke up this morning and felt good about the situation in Iraq for the first time. I heard John Burns, a correspondent for the New York Times, and his testimony was sanguine. We're a bunch of smart alecks here in the United States, and Iraq is a very old country, but the outcome might be good. I keep in mind this thought -- optimism dies in the Middle East, but life goes on.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bok Choy and Tofu

I had a Texas lunch, courtesy of the Christmas party by the local County Extension office -- all good farm boys. They served steak and boiled potatoes and green beans. It was a really good steak too, and I enjoyed the company.

But for dinner, I needed something lighter and greener, so I made myself a good old-fashioned yuppie dinner -- bok choy and tofu. Ah! I turned on a bit of classical music, I'll make some herb tea with honey and all is right with the world. I'm reading -- I've been carrying this set of books around for more than ten years and I'm just now getting to it -- the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Now it's been made into a movie -- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -- so I will see that when it comes to Floresville in a week or so.

People are drifting into a holiday mood in town here -- There is less and less work getting done anywhere. I sure don't mind.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Pickled Herring

I bought a jar of pickled herring -- Norwegian soul food, because I was lonesome for the far north country where I did once dwell, and the cold water fjords and the rushing rivers of Puget Sound, the tall trees, the dark nights in winter and longing for the return of the light.

Now I'm in Texas, which I love and embrace, but I still miss what I once had in the Skagit Valley up north.

I've been singing a Swedish song all week (Swedes and Norwegians!) for the feast of Santa Lucia. I had been practicing it, getting good at a proper Swedish accent, and dwelling in the meaning and melody of this traditional Christmas carol on the feast of St. Lucy, Santa Lucia, the fair maiden wearing a wreath lighted candles on her head, bearing the tray of sweet saffron pastries.

I was going to talk about this old custom at Elaine's Christmas party and then sing the song, but I am not quite a performer, so I did not. I'm sure they would have liked it, and I might get another chance, perhaps with a smaller audience, four or five people at most. That I could do. Here's the lyrics:

Natten går tunga fjät
runt gård och stuva.
Kring jord som sol´n förlät,
skuggorna ruva.
Då i vårt mörka hus
stiger med tända ljus
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.

Natten är stor och stum.
Nu hör det svingar
i alla tysta rum
sus som av vingar.
Se, på vår tröskel står
vitklädd, med ljus i hår
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.

Mörkret skall flykta snart
ur jordens dalar.
Så hon ett underbart
ord till oss talar.
Dagen skall åter ny
stiga ur rosig sky.
Sancta Lucia, Sancta Lucia.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why I love Africa

By Zodwa Mataka

Why do I love Africa? Because we are all related. Biologically, where ever you are from in Africa, we are related.In Africa if you are from the same house - you are related, from the same village - you are related; from the same country - you are related. Even from the same regional grouping like west, east, north and southern Africa - we are related as long as you are an African we are all related. We refer to each other as brother and sister in Africa. We do not have cousin or nieces - all we have are brothers and sisters. That is why I love Africa - so let us stop killing one another.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

It's not a big river

I was on the river walk tonight in San Antonio. They had Christmas lights dangling from the cypress trees, hanging over the water. Ate a burger, walked on the river promenade, came into the lobby of the Hotel Valencia and sat down on a very swanky couch. Then I went to a Christmas party given for the local media people. It was a good party, but by the time I got there I was all talked out from a busy day of morning meetings, lunch with new friends, a press conference -- I wasn't all that tired, I just didn't want to talk. I don't understand how people can throw a party and get a decent band and then nobody dances -- they just stand around and talk. I hate standing around balancing a drink. I'd rather sit down and get off my feet, or get out on the floor and dance and get some non-verbal action going.