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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, April 30

Verse & Medical Update

I wrote this a long time ago, and thought it might be worthy of eyes other than mine. Most readers these days aren’t very interested in poetry, but in case there are a few who stumble onto this, I hope they enjoy it.

Life for me has come to a screeching halt. My last surgery went okay, and the two skin grafts seem to be behaving, but the large patch on my thigh from which my surgeon borrowed the skin is giving me fits and is far more painful than the surgical sites the skin is covering. I still have a rectangle of dressing that’s stuck to the site and when I go back for my after-surgery check, he’s going to remove the staples holding the two sponges covering the surgical sites, then the sponges, then the dressing stuck to the skin graft site. And I just know it’s going to be painful, and probably bloody. So the days go on and on and round and round and life is just sitting there, waiting for something to happen.

Sunday, April 29

Cloning & Diction

Every day I read more and more about medical, scientific, or technological advances, stuff that seems so science-fictionally outlandish. Every day I see more and more IBooks and Smart Phones that do things that only a decade ago were unthinkable. I just read an article about a California woman who went to South Korea to have dogs cloned from her dead pit bull. Five were created. Five. My mind goes numb thinking what that implies. That’s the stuff of Robert Heinlein or Isaac Asimov, with all kinds of benevolent as well as evil possibilities. Obviously, this cloning of dogs brings up the possibility of cloning humans. And what would happen if a human were cloned, let’s say a hundred times? That would be one hundred humans possibly linked psychically, telepathically. And what if they all had evil intentions? And why stop at a hundred? Why not a thousand, or a hundred thousand . . . or a million, a whole army of like-minded villains? And what does it say about the possibility of immortality? Already, scientists are speculating about recording an individual’s every living moment, every thought, every action throughout an entire lifetime. What if that record could be entered into the brain of a clone? Then one could live forever, adding each life’s knowledge and experience to the next in line. And if cells were taken from only the intellectual and physical giants of one generation, then we would keep producing ever greater intellectual and physical giants. It’s all too much for me to grasp, what the immediate and the distant future holds for us.

Yesterday, I had to have two chest x-rays as part of my annual physical. As I waited for the technician to see if what he had was all right, I noticed on the door a sign stating that anyone who is pregnant should notify the technician. Below it, in Spanish, was the word for "pregnant": embarazado. What an unusual word choice. The Spanish word literally means "embarrassed." How does that relate to pregnancy, or more accurately, why should that relate to pregnancy? Strange.

As long as I’m talking about words, here’s another: the modern penchant for using "impact" as a verb. Nearly every newscaster now uses it to mean "to effect," as in to bring about or cause changes. But "impact" is most often used as a noun equivalent to "effect." So, when they say, "The vote in the Senate will impact medical costs for years," they really mean it will "have an effect on medical costs for years." Just another example of the way our language continues to grow and change. But is it always for the better?

Saturday, April 28

Book Thoughts

Yesterday, I looked at my bookcase, the one under the window to the kitchen, looked at the two shelves of books I'd culled from the many I'd had in New York, all the books I'd used when I was teaching, many of which I'd had for over forty years--the bios of my favorite writers, the collections of poetry and books about the writing of poetry, the collections of essays on authors and the memorable stuff they'd written, the volumes on linguistics. These are all my old friends, still dear to me, still in many cases with pages marked with tiny slips of paper or articles from books and magazines relevant to whatever it was they were marking, pithy notes in my cramped hand in the margins, passages underlined that I had once thought important enough to underline. It struck me that no one else would give a good damn about these books. No one would pay even a skinny dime for any of them at that inevitable garage sale after my death. My kids wouldn't know what to do with them. Would any of them actually thumb through them to see what they could find? I've heard stories about eccentric old people who scattered twenties inside books in their libraries, an act designed to reward those who later looked through their books or simply the act of senility. I have no extra twenties to scatter but I would hope that some of my marginal notes are worth at least that much to a lucky reader. My thoughts about the probable demise of my books led me to thoughts about the demise of my thoughts. All those wonderful ideas and memories stirring around in my brain one day soon to be gone forever. I must have thousands of song lyrics stored in my brain. Why? And who but I care that I can sing along with thousands of songs or quote dozens of Frost's poems, of Emily Dickinson's, of T. S. Eliot's, of E. E. Cummings'? Nobody. I guess that's the main reason I feel the pressing need to put words on paper, so they don't vanish quite as quickly as words written on air. What a humbling experience it is to put words down on paper, words you’ve labored over, sighed over, pored over, sweat upon, wept upon, cursed, kissed. And when the child is finally born, the labor’s over, you think he’s so handsome. And onlookers turn away, with a look of disgust or pity, or a veiled smile, maybe a little chuckle behind masking fingers.

Hey! You! Is there anyone out there reading this? Or am I just talking to myself?


Friday, April 27

Collecting

I’m a collector. I collect things that simply drive my wife crazy. One never knows when one will need one or more of the things I collect. The daily Arizona Republic arrives with a rubber band holding it together. I dutifully remove it from the paper and drop it into my collection drawer in the kitchen. I now have in the neighborhood of two thousand rubber bands in that drawer. One never knows when one will need a rubber band. They reside loosely in the drawer along with the many empty prescription bottles there. I collect those also. I just can’t bring myself to throw away perfectly good empty prescription bottles. I suppose I should start putting the rubber bands into the prescription bottles. Maybe next week. I also have a collection of cocktail picks for the many olives we consume in our evening Scotch-and-waters. We have hundreds and hundreds of variously colored plastic pics, but my favorites are the black ones from Outback. Whenever we eat at Outback, we each have two dirty martinis with three olives and I carefully save the picks to bring home with me. One never knows when one will need another cocktail pick. We also go through a lot of kitty litter, which we buy at CostCo in forty-pound buckets, square white plastic containers with snap-down lids. What does one do with an empty plastic bucket? Well, one saves it. What else? And they make admirable containers for the many books I collect. I keep books by author in those plastic containers. I must now have twenty or more in the garage, filled with books by author. And my collecting of books can just barely keep up with the cats’ usage of their litter. I have about six empty buckets right now, so I think I’m safe for a while. The obvious question that comes up with all this collecting: What happens to it all when I die? In the old days, when I was a mere thirty or forty, death was never a consideration. The collections would always be around and would always be needed. But now, in my upper seventies, I have to think about a cutoff point in my collecting. When I go to CostCo to buy “stuff” in quantity, how many cans of green beans or jars of olives or large boxes of cereal or cans of albacore tuna or chicken or plastic kitchen garbage bags or bags of frozen chicken breasts should I buy? I must always think ahead to the possibility of my demise. And one wouldn’t want to meet his maker leaving behind too much “stuff.” Maybe I should get rid of some of the prescription bottles. Nah, they might come in handy for storing my ashes.

Tuesday, April 24

Surgery & Jeri

Today is the day after my surgery, and tomorrow is daughter Jeri's birthday. I won't say how many this makes, but it's quite a few. And although we can't be with her to watch her blow out the candles, we can imagine it. Quite a conflagration. Back to my surgery. Dr. Brown excised the huge growth on my left calf, skinned my left thigh of enough to cover the excision as well as the wound-that-refuses-to-heal. It isn't as painful as I thought it would be, but it's early yet. I may start screaming after another day or two pass. Now, to get everything healed and then to tackle the psoriasis problem. I limped into the midical arts building this morning to see Dr. Flynn, find out what our plan would be. She told me to come see her in another six weeks, after the healing (knock on wood) is completed, and then we could begin using a retinoid to treat the psoriasis. Then . . . then . . . then, maybe I can resume some exercise and maybe even take up the game of golf again. I hope so. This past two years has been too much like waiting for life to begin, each day like waiting for the clock to dump another day of non-existence. It's been a most depressing two years. Anyway, Jeri, here's an electronic birthday card just in case the real one doesn't get there on time.

Monday, April 23

A Few Stray Thoughts

A brief character sketch: “He’d never met a woman who was more irritating—always practicing her version of one-upsmanship, a female linguistic bigot, with a way of slithering under his skin like an ant and then nipping and chewing on his nerve ends. She had a keen ear for linguistic nuance. Spanish sounded to her like birds chirping, too fast and about an octave higher than her ear could accommodate. Italian was at least on a proper level, but it always sounded so sweaty, so sexually loaded. Then there were German and Russian and all those other Slavicky languages--like someone gargling or a smoker erupting phlegm. French was the most agreeable, though always sounding a little too much like people whispering dirty words in bed, but in a pleasant tone of voice. English was really the best, though, American English, that is. People from England sounded a little too faggoty for her taste.”

Last night a thought struck me: the similarity of the words martial and marital, I mean, just the placement of the “i.” So I came up with this: “If the eye wanders, marital blisses might become martial hisses.”

I have to include a snippet of a dream I had a week or so ago. There was more to it than this, but this is what stuck in my head. I was involved in another school dream, this time as a man of my current age, and I’d just been assigned a study hall with far too many students, most of whom were doing things I didn’t want. A girl near the left side was acting up and I asked her, “What’s your first name?” She looked at me and sort of disgustedly said, “Toilet!” I stared back, confused, then a thought occurred to me. I said, “Oh, no.” Before I could ask, she said, “Oh, yes, it’s Waters. I’m Toilet Waters.” End of dream.

Sunday, April 22

Girl Who Kicked & Coyotes

I’m in the middle of the third in the Steig Larsson trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, and I now know what the word inundated means: I feel like I’m drowning in a sea of Swedish names and places, way over my head in Edklinth, Kungsholmen, Björck, Ulvskog, Nyström, Göteborg, Borgsjö, KFB (Kalle Fucking Blomkvist), and about a million others of the same ilk. It’s all very interesting but oh so complicated regarding the investigation of Säpo and the Zalachenko club. And Lisbeth Salander has been in bed in the hospital recovering from her wounds for over half the novel. I want more of this girl who has so captivated me and the rest of the world. I want to see her in action, not just lying there recuperating. Damn you, Steig Larsson, you who have so intrigued me yet frustrated me. No, I don’t mean that, Steig. May you rest in peace wherever you are.

A few days ago, two of the biggest coyotes we’ve ever seen wandered through our backyard, sort of going through the back hedges, trying to scare up something edible. No luck in our yard, so they wandered down the property lines to the north. They certainly didn’t look very hungry. And that leads to the other side of the subject: residents who are so afraid of coyotes they call the State Wildlife to have them removed or trapped and killed. About six weeks ago there was an old Snow Bird who was walking her dog near one of our golf courses, and she swears she and her dog were attacked by three young coyotes. So Fish and Game hired a private contractor to come in, trap the three, and kill them. How stupid. The coyotes in our city limits are part of the charm of Sun City West, and none of them would even bother to attack a resident. Now, tiny pets running loose are another matter. But they have an unlimited supply of natural game here, like millions of rabbits. Without the coyotes, owls, and hawks, we’d be up to our asses in rabbits. We need the coyotes, and we need to keep them here.

Saturday, April 21

Medical Enigma

Early Monday morning, I’m going to Del Webb Hospital for surgery on another squamous lesion, this one simply huge compared to the other ones I’ve had removed. I went back through my journals to see when all this squamous cancer on my legs began. June 12, 2003, almost nine years ago, Dr. Salmon took a biopsy of a lump on my left calf and a few days later called to tell me it was cancerous. Now I, like most people, go gray when they hear that word. Cancer. He put me in touch with a plastic surgeon, Dr. Hait, who assured me that it wasn’t anything as serious as I’d feared, that squamous lesions were a form of skin cancer, but not life-threatening unless they were ignored. I had surgery in July and all went well, the incision neatly stitched, a little three-inch scar that would gradually fade away. And that was the end of it until more than a year later when more such bumps showed up, this time on both legs, both calves. Dr. Hait again. And after that, more and more of them kept showing up. My dermatologist, Dr. Salmon, suggested that I go to a mohs specialist for the surgeries. Mohs surgery cuts out the cancerous tissue in layers with each layer checked in the lab to see if all cancerous tissue had been removed. Dr. Betty Davis, my surgeon, looked like she was about seventeen and cuter than a bug’s ear. My argument with the mohs technique was that she didn’t use stitches, just left the surgical sites open to heal from outside in. Ugly holes in the flesh that took as long as a year to finally heal. I can’t remember accurately how many such excisions she performed over the next several years, but I remember arguing with her and her nurses about the openness of the surgical sites. I didn’t return to the bug’s ear beauty. I know that I had more surgeries, these times back to Dr. Hait, but again, I can’t remember exactly how many. As near as I can figure it, this one on Monday will be about my thirty-first. All on my two calves, from under the knee to the ankle. And three years ago, to compound the problem, both calves developed psoriasis, from below the knee to the ankle, ugly, scaly, itchy patches. On one squamous site on my left leg, new lesions appeared twice more, each time surgically repaired, only with each surgery, the scar kept getting longer and longer and uglier and uglier. Dr. Hait called it a Z incision because the flesh there was so fragile. Wow, is that ugly.

After the third excision on that spot, I was sent to a radiologist for thirty sessions of radiology on the site. Good, I thought. The end of that problem. But about a year after the radiation, a hole appeared at the spot and it kept getting bigger and bigger. So, off to the wound center where I was told that I had the misfortune of having a radiation burn, a wound that just didn’t want to heal. I wish my radiologist had told me about the possibility of such a wound. I may have said, knowing what I now know, that I’d skip the radiation. I’ve been a faithful visitor to the wound center for almost two and a half years now, with the wound still there, healing ever so slowly. None of my doctors can explain why I’m afflicted with the squamous lesions and psoriasis in such restricted areas. They keep asking me if I’d exposed my legs to a lot of sun over the years and I tell them that I was in my thirties before I ever wore shorts when I golfed and that my neck and arms and ears have had far more sun that my lower legs. I think I’d make a good subject for an article in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Friday, April 20

American Idol

Even though I’ve sworn off any number of times, I still feel it drawing me in. I’m talking about American Idol. There’s so much about it I don’t like: the waving arms in the front row, Ryan yuck Seacrest, the judges who seem to say the same things to every contestant, and the fact that all too often the wrong person winds up as the top Idol. The most obvious exceptions to what I just said? Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. But just look at all the winners who went on to do next to nothing—Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barino, Taylor Hicks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, and Scotty McCreery. And look at those who didn’t win and should have, who went on to some level of celebrity: Jennifer Hudson and Katherine McPhee, Adam Lambert and Daughtry. Even that odd little imbecile Kelly Pickler has gone on to become a highlight on the country scene. I’m beginning to think she was dumb like a fox. In Season 10, the two finalists were the two weakest of the final six or seven. Pia Toscano was a better singer and certainly better looking. And Casey Abrams and James Durbin were both better musicians. Of the final seven this season, I think Phillip Phillips should win, Colton Dixon second, and Elise Testone third. But if the results follow the last few seasons, I’m probably as far off as I can get. As for the production, they’ve certainly decided to spend a bunch on set designs and costumes. Each set behind each performance is spectacular, the red, leaf-covered piano, the images of red leaves that fell behind him as Colton Dixon sang “September”; the hundreds of slow-motion pin spots behind Joshua Ledet; the golden windows and pin spots behind Hollis Cavanagh; and the rows of silver telephone poles moving down the highway behind Skylar Laine’s “Heard it Through the Grape Vine.” And most of the costumes are beautiful and a whole lot classier than the ragged jeans and tops from seasons past. I guess that despite my ranting against this show, I’ll just have to watch the next six weeks.

Thursday, April 19

TV Ads

Now we have Direct TV and can record the shows we like. And we, like most people who can record shows, later see them and jump over all the commercial sludge. The good stuff averages about forty-five minutes per hour of what’s recorded. A quarter of all television viewing is given over to commercials. That’s way too much. And though there are some we like, especially all the Geico gecko ads, there are any number we love to hate, and we’re now grateful we no longer have to endure them. Besides the ads themselves, we have several pet peeves regarding tv ads. First, their increased volume. I thought that was made a no-no, but it still seems to be a problem. Second, the running of the same ads consecutively, sometimes twice, sometimes even more. Is everyone asleep at the switch? Is there that much reliance on computers to schedule and run the commercials? Then there are those ugly ad characters: the annoying guy who’s in love with Toyotas; the lascivious young man at Jack-in-the-Box who tells his mother he’s getting married . . . to bacon; all the ambulance-chasing lawyers; the car guys in the Sonic drive-thru; those who get their faces slapped by assorted foods in the Tums ads; and finally, the Cialis couples giving each other that look, then warning us of the deleterious side effects, concluding with the advice to go see a doctor if it’s up for four or more hours. What does the doctor do when one sees him? I envision a tiny office guillotine.

Wednesday, April 18

Song Intros

The art of the intro is, if not dead, certainly dying. I’m talking about the introductions that songwriters of old used to write for their songs, lyricists like Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Larry Hart, to name only a few. Some of them were brief, only four bars or so, but some were longer than the songs they introduced, and often quite complicated. Except for a very few songwriters today, most songs written now don’t have anything nearly as complicated or clever to say as the ones from the Great American Songbook, the songs from the Thirties, Forties, and Fifties. I must sound like an old fogy who can’t keep up with the times, can’t appreciate the music being written today by very clever people. My problem is that I hear so much of today’s popular music that’s just not very good or original or clever. And, as far as I know, none of today’s songs use intros.

Most people when the name Gershwin is mentioned automatically think of George, but it was his brother Ira who wrote all the lyrics to the Gershwin songs. Look at how he introduced one of the best known songs ever written:
Dozens of girls would storm up, / I had to lock my door. / Somehow I couldn’t warm up / To one before. / What was it that controlled me? / What kept my love-life lean? / My intuition told me / You’d come on the scene. / Lady, listen to the rhythm of my heart / And You’ll get just what I mean . . . “Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you.”

And this one:
I was a stranger in the city / Out of town were the people I knew. / I had that feeling of self pity, / What to do, what to do, what to do? / The outlook was decidedly blue /
But as I walked through the dreary streets alone, / It turned out to be / The luckiest day I’ve known . . . “A foggy day, in London town . . .”

And this one:
‘Neath the stars, at bazaars / Often I’ve had to caress men / Five or ten, dollars then, / I’d collect from all those yes men, / Don’t be sad, I must add, that they meant no more than chess-men. / Darling, can’t you see? / ‘Twas for charity? / Though these lips have made slips. / They were never really serious. / Who’d have thought, I’d be caught in a state that’s so delirious? . . . “I could cry salty tears. Where have I been all these years? Listen you, tell me do, how long has this been going on?”

Then, of course, there’s Cole Porter, who wrote both the music as well the lyrics to songs that will live forever:
My story is much too sad to be told / But practically everything leaves me totally cold. / The only exception I know is the case / When I’m out on a quiet spree / Fighting vainly the old ennui, / And I suddenly turn and see / Your fabulous face . . . “I get no kick from champagne, mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all. So tell me why should it be true, that I get a kick out of you.”

And this one:
Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom / When the jungle shadows fall, / Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock / As it stands against the wall, / Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops / When the summer shower is through, / So a voice within me keeps repeating you, you, you . . . “Night and day, you are the one.”

Before he wrote with Oscar Hamerstein, Richard Rogers first collaborated with Larry Hart, one of the cleverest wordsmiths of his day. For example:
I don’t care if there’s powder on my nose, / I don’t care if my hairdo is in place, / I’ve lost the very meaning of repose, / I never put a mudpack on my face / For who’d have thought that I’d walk in a daze / Now I never go to shows at night / But just to matinees now. / I see the show, / And home I go . . . “Once I laughed when I heard you saying that I’d be playing solitaire, uneasy in my easy chair. It never entered my mind.”

And this one:
I won’t kiss your hand, Madam, / Crazy for you though I am, / I’ll never woo you on bended knee, / No, Madam, not me / We don’t need that flowery fuss / No sir, Madam, not for us . . . “My romance doesn’t have to have a moon in the sky.”

And this one:
When you were very young / The world was younger than you / As merry as a carousel. / The circus tent was strung / With every star in the sky / Above the ring you loved so well / Now the young world has grown old / Gone are the silver and gold . . . “Sit there and count your fingers. What can you do? Old girl, you’re through. Just sit there and count your little fingers, unhappy little girl blue.”

How about a few of the longer intros by a variety of writers. Maybe the best known of all:
And now the purple dusk of twilight time / Steal across the meadows of my heart. / High up in the sky the little stars climb / Always reminding me that we’re apart. / You wander down the lane and far away / Leaving me a song that will not die. / Love is like the stardust of yesterday, / The music of the years gone by . . . “Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely nights dreaming of a song . . .”

And a few not so well known:

“The Girl Next Door,” by Mack Gordon
The moment I saw her smile, / I knew she was just my style. / My only regret is we've never met for I dream of her all the while, / But she doesn't know I exist, / No matter how much I persist. / So it's clear to see there's no hope for me, / Though I live at fifty-one thirty-five Kensngton Avenue, / And she lives at fifty-one thirty three.

“The Very Thought of You,” by Ray Noble
I don’t need your photograph / To keep by my bed. / Your picture is always / In my head. / I don’t need your portrait, dear, / To call you to mind / For sleeping or waking, dear, / I find . . .

“September Song,” by Maxwell Anderson
When I was a young man courting the girls / I played me a waiting game. / If a maid refused me with tossing curls / I’d let the old earth take a couple of whirls / While I plied her with tears in lieu of pearls / And as time came around she came my way, / As time came around she came / When you meet with the young girls early in the spring / You court them in song and rhyme. / They answer with words and a clover ring / But if you could examine the goods they bring / They have little to offer but the songs they sing / And a plentiful waste of time of day, / And a plentiful waste of time . . . “Oh it’s a long long time, from May to December, but the days grow short when you reach September.”

And perhaps the longest and most complicated intro of all, “Lush Life,” by Billy Strayhorn:
I used to visit all the very gay places, / Those come what may places, / Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life, / To get the feel of life / From jazz and cocktails. / The girls I knew had sad and sullen gray faces / With distant gay traces / That used to be there, you could see / Where they’d been washed away / By too many through the day / Twelve o’clock tales. / Then you came along with your siren song / To tempt me to madness! / I thought for a while that your poignant smile / Was tinged with the sadness / Of a great love for me. / Ah yes, I was wrong, / Again, / I was wrong. “Life is lonely again, and only last year everything seemed so sure.”

I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg here. There are examples all over the place of songs with introductions, a phenomenon that seems to be gone forever. You should find them and give them a listen.

Monday, April 16

TV Yes and No

People keep asking me what I do to fill my days, now that I’m no longer working or golfing. And the days do get long. I’m either reading or writing, or watching television. I must average six hours a day on the boob tube. I don’t have HBO or Showtime, but I do have several hundred other channels to watch. And other than sports (D-backs baseball, Suns basketball, Cardinals football, any old golf tournament that’s on), I have my favorite shows and my unfavorite shows. First, the unfavorites. I watch only one reality show, So You Think You Can Dance, and find that I can get along quite nicely without any of the others, like Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, The Amazing Race, American Idol, The Voice, The Apprentice, or any of the various Housewives of Whatever shows. Of the others, I don’t watch Criminal Minds (too psychotically icky), Law and Order, Special Victims (too psychotically yucky), Hawaii Five-O, Bones, House, Grimm, or Smash (not enough singing). I watch only one situation comedy, The Big Bang Theory, and skip all the others even though the critics rave about them. They all seem to be backed against shows I want to watch, so I never got hooked on The Office, 30 Rock, or Parks and Recreation. Nor do I watch Mike and Molly (too many fat jokes) or New Girl (just too cute). All right, so what DO I watch? My very favorites are The Closer (I’m really going to miss Brenda Lee when she’s gone), The Mentalist (love Patrick Jane), Person of Interest (love Jim Caviezel’s whispering tough guy), Blue Bloods (love the patriarchal Tom Selleck, but especially love him as Jesse Stone), and The Good Wife (although lately I’m more and more turned off by lawyers). The rest of my favorites are Harry’s Law, Glee, Missing, NCIS, CSI, Unforgettable, Touch, Rizolli and Isles (love looking at Angie Harmon), and Southland (love all the gritty L.A. cops). My days are pretty well filled up.

Friday, April 13

George Zimmerman & Music Memories

The George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin incident in Florida continues, and I’m confused about the whole dog and pony show. The family and those appealing for Zimmerman’s arrest have put pressure on the police to arrest him and bring him to trial, in this case for second degree murder. It seems to me that this charge will be impossible to prove, may not even go to trial. And Zimmerman will be released. And the world will go on about its business. The district attorney has placated the family and the protesters with this arrest, but he will also, by charging Zimmerman with second degree murder, placate the gun people and those who believe in the “Stand Your Ground” defense. Why didn’t they consider charging him with voluntary manslaughter, an act “committed in the heat of passion,” which would be a lot easier to prove than murder two?

I’ve been thinking about all the “stuff” I’ve accumulated in my life, the things that will one day be given away or sold for peanuts at a garage sale after I’m gone:

the ancient toaster we found at a garage sale in New York, the double-neck bottle of Benedictine and B & B I bought half a century ago that now resides on the shelf above our mirrored wall, the two-record original Porgy and Bess I bought for some unremembered reason sometime in the Fifties, the carved pheasant I received when I retired in 1993, all the 45’s I have tucked away in the back cupboard. That thought led me to my musical memories from my strange youth. There I was, a naïve, unsophisticated South Dakota boy, a huge fan of the music of Stan Kenton. How in the world did I become a Kenton fan? I know I collected 45’s of most of the big bands of the day—Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Harry James, Benny Goodman. But I also remember the sounds, the exact notes played, of Erskine Hawkins’ theme song “Tippin’ In” and Claude Thornhill’s theme song “Snowfall.” I distinctly remember riding home from a high school football game, listening to the radio and telling my fellow riders that what they were hearing was the sweet sound of Bobby Hackett and his fat little trumpet. Hackett’s was a really distinctive sound and I took great pride in being able to recognize it. I knew most of the artists who comprised Kenton’s band—Pete Rugolo and his arrangements, the trumpeting Condolis Pete and Conte, Maynard Ferguson and his screaming, soaring trumpet, June Christy and her renditions of “His Feet Too Big for De Bed” and “Willow Weep for Me.” I listened over and over to Kenton’s “Artistry in Rhythm,” “Eager Beaver,” and “The Peanut Vendor.” I remember Sunday afternoons when I was only ten or eleven listening to Carmen Cavallaro’s piano renditions on the radio. A decade later, when I was in Korea, I listened to the popular vocalists of the day, especially hating the insipid stylings of Joni James but loving Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee. My army buddy Chuck Cavallaro introduced me to Frank Sinatra and the Mary Kaye Trio. I remember especially their rendition of “Toreador” and Chuck’s telling me he was a friend of Mary Kaye’s. I remember listening to the tapes that played in my father’s grocery store when I worked there after getting out of the army, all the early albums of Sinatra, all the Jackie Gleason romantic ballads. I remember how much I hated rock and roll when it made its first appearance. I remember listening to someone in the Phi Delt house extolling the sounds of Elvis, telling me what a huge star he was going to be. I remember telling him how much I hated the sounds and sights of Elvis Presley. To this day I still say that the day the music died was the day that Elvis first set foot on stage. And oh how that pisses off the rabid Elvis fans. Where will all my memories of my musical past go when I die? Into that eternal trashcan that takes in all of us, all our good and bad deeds, all our good and bad intentions, all our memories, all our “stuff.”

Wednesday, April 11

Passive Voice & Romney/Obama

This comes from one of the bad ass characters in James Lee Burke’s Feast Day of Fools: “Passive voice involves sentence structure that hides the identity of the doer. It’s a form of linguistic deception. Pronouns that have no referents are also used to confuse and conceal. A linguist can spot a lie faster than any polygraph can.” I’d never thought of it that way. I knew the passive voice was weak, but I’d never thought of it as deceptive. Just to be sure we’re on the same page, in the active voice, the subject is the one doing the action of the verb: “That man stole forty dollars.” In the passive voice, the subject is the receiver of the action, the doer is either unnamed or is hidden in a prepositional phrase right after the verb: “Forty dollars was stolen from the church fund.” Or, “Forty dollars was stolen from the church fund by a man who had broken in during the night.” It’s a weak and deceptive way of writing, sort of sidestepping responsibility for some action. Any time you see a news story using passive voice, ask yourself why they’re doing it or what they’re hiding. “Seventeen school children were killed when their bus was struck on Hwy 10 this afternoon.” The seventeen schoolchildren were the ones stricken, but we don’t get a hint about who did the striking. Enough of sentence structure and deception. Let's look at political deception.

The GOP race to see who will run against Obama is now nearly over. Rick Santorum dropped out, leaving only Newt Gingrich to battle Mitt Romney. Therefore, Romney is the unofficial chosen one, but that will soon become official. And then we can look forward to the slings and arrows of Romney and Obama, slinging mud and shooting arrows at each other’s records and past statements. I’ve said all along that if the economy gets no worse than it is now and unemployment doesn’t start climbing again, Obama will defeat Romney in November. Nearly all the conservative Republicans are dissatisfied with him, but they have only themselves to blame. This should be an interesting seven months.

Tuesday, April 10

Arizona Weather

We saw Trout Fishing in the Yeman this morning. It was a pleasant way to spend two hours, a nice, predictable love story against most unusual plot circumstances. But it won’t be one I’ll remember a month from now.

On Ellen today, Cee Lo Green, in an eye-popping electric pink suit, entered with an entourage of Vegas dollies clothed mainly in feathers and little else. Who the hell is Cee Lo Green and what’s he ever done to warrant national attention on The Voice? I'm guessing he started out as a rapper and then went on to producing. But since I don't have time for rap and hip hop, I don't need to hear what he might have done.

Our weather is in one of our early spring ups and downs, up today and tomorrow and down again toward the weekend. This is by far the best place we’ve ever lived. Who needs seasonal change? We go from cool winter to lovely spring to hot summer to lovely autumn—no falling leaves, no shoveling snow, no mowing lawns. I used to spend hours and hours raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing lawns back in Lakewood, N.Y. These are hours and hours and hours I’ll never get back, and other than the sounds and smells and sights of those physical tasks, I don’t miss them. The clean, crisp air of winter, the crunch of shovel after shovel of icy snow as I free my car enough to drive to school, only to find when I return the freshly enclosed driveway from a snow plow that cleared the street but engulfed my driveway. The sound of steel-pronged leaf rake scratching across fall lawn as I rake maple leaves onto a tarp, then haul it to the front street to add to the pile waiting for the village pickup. The smell of freshly mown grass from my weekly race around the yard, an hour and a half every week. Nah, I’ll take cactus and palms and colored stones instead of grass. After all, I have seven gorgeous golf courses to give me all the grass and flowers I need.

Monday, April 9

The Masters Afterwards

Amazing what the nerves can do to the body. Rory proved that he’s still a young man prone to a young man’s nerves. Sergio admitted that he’s just not good enough to win a major. Tiger demonstrated that he’s not really back, despite the win at Arnold’s place, that he may never be back, and that he’s given to little boy tantrums when his swing doesn’t go the way he thinks it should. And Bubba may have taken his place as the absolute favorite in the hearts of the golfing world. What a neat win it was. He’s a most unusual golfer, and this was an unusual Masters for any number of reasons. First, it showed us an albatross on number two when Louis Oosthuizen’s second shot into the par-5 flew true, bounced straight, and rolled just over the front edge of the hole for that most improbable shot in golf, the double-eagle. That’s like making a zero on a par-3, like having your shot go in the hole even before you swing. Another first time for me, a shank to the right and short of the pond on the par-3 number 12, the look on Peter Hanson’s face when he hit it. And not one, but two, holes-in-one on 16. And another brain fart by Phil when he tried for some kind of miracle shot on the par-3 fourth. He deliberately aimed left of the green on his tee shot, banged it off the railing of the grandstand, bounced into jungle, tried a right-handed stab from the bamboo, moved it six inches, tried it again and nearly hit himself when the ball came out way left of his swing path, chunked the next one inro the bunker, then made a graceful save out of the bunker for his triple bogey. He was lucky to make only six. Almost any other golfer would have sucked it up and gone back to the tee to try to make bogey from the tee. Not Phil. Oh well, this wasn’t the first Phil meltdown and it probably won’t be his last. And one last observation: I now for the first time realize the silliness of the whole dramatic dog show--the reverence paid to this course, this tournament, the Keepers of the Flame (the folks in the green jackets who run the place), the awe in the voices of the broadcasters as they reverently talk about past winners, past performances. Where’s Johnny Miller when we need him? Instead we have the insipid comments of Curtis Strange, the soft-speak of Peter Kostis and his inanities, the carefully reverential comments of Jim Nantz, who annually fears invoking the same ire of the Augustan hierarchy that led to the dismissal of Jack Whitaker, who in 1966 had the audacity of referring to the “mob scene” around the 18th green, or Gary McCord, who in 1995 too too flippantly said “They don’t cut the greens here at Augusta, they use bikini wax.” Come on, Augusta, get off your high horse and bring us Johnny Miller.

Saturday, April 7

Augusta - Day Two & Sports Memories

What a strange, depressing day at Augusta. I love the leaderboard after two rounds, but I’m depressed that Tiger isn’t there. His dropped clubs, his dropped and the kicked 9-iron on 16, his very loud “Goddammit!” after another errant drive into the trees, his oh so sour expression for the last fourteen holes—all depress me because I’m not sure how many more Masters I have left, and Day Two this year may be signaling that Tiger doesn’t have many left either. “There is no joy in Mudville, Mighty Tiger has struck out."Now, as for the other batters, I hope Freddie can hold on for two more rounds, but he won’t. I hope Sergio can finally break through, finally realize all that potential from his youth, but he won’t. I hope Lee can get the non-major monkey off his back, but he won’t. I hope Phil can win his fourth green jacket, but he probably won’t. And I hope and will root for Rory, who will very likely win the first of many green jackets. All right, I’m now ready for Day Three.

Yesterday, in addition to Masters coverage, I had the chance to see the Diamondbacks beat the dreaded Giants and Tim Lincecum. This should be a great season for D-Backs watching, all one hundred and sixty-two games. Wow, that sounds like a long season. I seem to work my way through each year by measuring it off in sports seasons—Diamondbacks baseball from spring through summer and fall, Suns basketball and Cardinals football from fall through spring, and golf majors from Masters to U.S. Open, to British Open, to PGA, and then either the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup, and then bang, I’m through another year. This is my version of Prufrock’s “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” with each spoon a sports outcome. And “I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker.” This year I even have golf being introduced to the Olympics. Ah yes, another summer Olympics. I can go back vividly to see Jim Ryan fall again as he rounds the track on his final lap of the mile that would never be; I see Dick Fosbury shock the world with his flop that became the standard technique thereafter; I see the brilliant smile of Carl Lewis winning the long jump for his fourth time in 1996; I see Bob Beamon in Mexico City in 1968, on his knees, hands over his face, as he finds out he’s broken the long jump record by more than two feet; I see Tommie Smith and John Carlos at those same 1968 Olympics raise their arms to protest all the civil rights infractions against blacks. I wonder how many more Olympics will enter my view and then recede into my memory.

Friday, April 6

Augusta - Day Two

The weather has turned in Georgia and the boys are bundled up against the breezy chill. Should make for an interesting day. Early this morning Westwood in still leading at minus five, but Rory is making a charge and is minus four still playing the front nine. Although the course is beautiful, the flowers and ponds and magnolias pristine and hallowed, there is still that stench of Good-Old-Boyism that pervades the place. How, in this day and age of sexual equality, can the G-O-B.s in charge of Augusta National continue to deny membership to women? Some of the most powerful, most influential, most intelligent people in the world are women. I wouild hope that when they finally want a woman to join their porcine pack, she quietly says, “Thanks, but no thanks. You boys can continue to play with yourselves.”

I’m reading James Lee Burke’s Feast Day of Fools and am struck with the similarities between Sheriff Hackberry Holland, the Texas lawman, and Dave Robicheaux, the Louisiana lawman, both good men haunted by their past, both given to violent acts that seem so out of character with their inherent goodness. Holland is trying to find his deputy who has been abducted by Krill and Negrito, two really nasty men just south of the border. To find where R.C., the deputy, has been taken, Holland beats a cantina owner with a pool cue, threatening to ram the cue down the man’s throat if he doesn’t tell him where R.C. is being held. I can only imagine the damage the butt end of a pool cue could do if one swung it like a baseball bat into the someone’s face, but I’d guess it might be fatal.

Thursday, April 5

Augusta - Day One

A weekend at Augusta. All the hype, all the reverence, all the anticipation. I and a whole bunch of people watch every magic moment, all of us wishing we could be there to bask in the loveliness that marks this magic place. The only problem is that the coverage is so restricted. Tiger teed off four and a half hours before the live coverage, so I had to follow his round at PGAtour.com, which just isn’t the same. But he still had four holes to play when the ESPN coverage began—par, par, bogey, bogey, for a 72. Not exactly what I was hoping to see. Tomorrow he has a late tee time so I and the world will be able to watch it unfold. Not that I’m not interested in what others are doing. I am, just not as much. This course is so beautiful but so devious, so punishing, sort of the dominatrix of golf courses. For example, poor Henrik Stensen was comfortably five under when he stepped on the 18th tee. Fifteen minutes later he was only one under. Hooked drive deep into the boonies left, punch out through bushes but still short of the fairway, rotten lie in the pine straw, chunk an iron way short of the green, wedge over the green, chip just short of the green, putt downhill and past the cup, miss the putt coming back—a snowman. Yup, diabolical. Just a little mistake can get compounded into something awful. Lee Westwood was leading after Day One at five under with 28 others from four to one under par. The three notables? Rory one under, Tiger even, and Phil two over. Tomorrow should be interesting.

Sunday, April 1

Joshua & Saffron (continued)

More of Joshua and Saffron (continued from the March 24 blog post).

“We need to find our people, Saffron,” said Joshua, touching Saffron on the arm. “They will be worried about us.”

Saffron shivered, though not from a chill. She was afraid of the desolation around them. She was a child of the desert, having been born among the tribe ten summer seasons ago, but she had never before been separated from the tribe. She smiled at her childhood friend and said, “At least you’re here with me, Joshua. I don’t think I could stand being alone with all this . . . emptiness.” She looked away to stare out at the scene around them. “What will we do, Joshua?”

Joshua jumped down from the rock, then turned to help her descend. “Well, I guess we’ll journey to Melancholy. Surely we’ll spot the tribe somewhere along the way. But double surely, we’ll find them at the oasis. All we have to do is keep the sight of old man Melancholy before us. He will lead us to safety.”

He took her hand and the two began to walk toward the mountain, skirting prickly pear and double-skirting treacherous cholla, which seemed to eye them as they passed, evil little cactus with evil intentions of snagging them in its thorny grasp.

They had gone one mile (which in elfin distance is quite a trek) when they saw a shadow pass them on the ground to their left, then turn ahead of them and move directly at them. Joshua looked up, grabbed Saffron and threw both of them to the left. The ground exploded exactly where they had just been and a large bird let out a screech of anger and then flapped wings heavily upward, screeching throughout the ascent.

You must understand, in the elfin world of Tempest, Joshua was considered to be tall, a tall one foot and one inch, thirteen inches tall. Or thirteen inches short, depending on your tribe’s stature status. Saffron was a willowy eleven inches from the sole of her desert boots to the top of her golden head. And both or either of them would have fit easily in a teapot, thus the expression “A tempest in a teapot.” And both or either of them would have provided a tasty treat for a bird of prey such as the frustrated one who had just now narrowly missed them.

The bird, a Harris’ Hawk with gleaming brown body and chestnut shoulders, landed nearby and scowled at Joshua and Saffron from ten feet. “Eeeeek!” he screeched. “You can’t escape, so you might as well prepare yourselves to be my lunch and dinner.” He waddled slowly toward them, his yellow legs moving him, his powerful wings extended to the sides like a vampire’s cloak.

Joshua drew from its scabbard the Crucifixion thorn he always carried with him. The thorn was four inches long, tapering to a very sharp point. He pointed the thorn-sword toward the bird, hoping he could at least make it painful enough that their imminent demise would not be easy. Joshua stared at the bird, the bird stared at Joshua, his black eyes blacker than a moonless, starless night.

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