Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Eye

I have always been a very strong swimmer. I felt comfortable in water well over my head from the time I first found myself afloat, and the story goes that my parents, upon taking me to the beach and having turned their attention to set down a blanket, witnessed me sprinting at full gate towards the waves.

By contrast, I’ve only been confident as a writer since I grasped how to spell, many years after learning to speak and then read. I did always feel comfortable writing though, despite the fact that I was discouraged to do so by many around me. I am the product of a turbulent family life, my time having been spent battening hatches and waiting out torrents.

Once, while in my teens and surfing a pretty large storm, I got myself into a bit of a predicament which required me to take an enormous leap of faith contrary to instinct. I was looking backwards towards the incoming sets while straddling a large board that held me high in the water, and as I realized that I was behind the break I turned to discover that the wind was blowing me off-shore. Quickly. As the gale intensified I saw my familiar landmarks diminish, and knew surfing had ceased for the day and the work of survival was in order.

From where I sat in the water I knew and felt two divergent paths before me: One was to remain with the board and perceived safety and drift far out to sea. The other was to unstrap the leash and swim. The moment I stripped the Velcro from my ankle the decision was iron: the wind took the board and flipped it into the horizon. I turned and faced a strong perpendicular undercurrent for about 45 minutes, side stroking for bearing then crawling hard-fought sets at a time. When I reached the break I body surfed one in, and lay frozen onshore whittling the experience into a manageable form.

So I found myself on protected terrain yet far from home, awash in a storm though gathered against it. As once again I am there today, having cut all ties to my former employ, and commencing a career solely as a writer. From this day forward all roofs and morsels allotted by exchange to this being will be earned by craft.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Spider Attack

Yesterday I was ecstatic to learn that I had an unexpected day to myself. Immediately I rose, showered and gathered my things in order to enjoy a splendid day out and about. Before leaving the house I stepped into the kitchen to wrap and store a bunt cake I had nibbled on the previous evening, when I noticed a small spider web on the ceiling in the corner of the room. I took a chair from the kitchen table and, stepping from it to the counter made my way past the sink towards the web. Unfortunately my dish rack was in the way, so I had to hold on to the windowsill over the sink with my left hand as I stretched with my right towards the web. Just about when I had reached the corner I felt my balance askew, and taking a quick step I found the weight of my body forcing my large and second toe deep into the toaster. With a shout I whipped the device around, feebly trying to use the edge of the counter to dislodge my digits from the device. In this process the switch somehow became activated.

Now, in a fit of urgency, I attempted to stand precariously on one foot while leaning over to fling the toaster from the other, but as I did so the windowpane I was leaning on gave way and I had to twist in mid air to avoid thumping my jugular on the shattered edge. That jerking motion, of course, jarred the sinks faucet lever which sent water directly into the toaster’s other toast-slice receptacle. The toaster’s 500 amps jerked my body in a backwards-arching motion, sending me clear through the window and hurtling through the crisp fall air.

As I landed on the down-stairs neighbor’s patio furniture the sound frightened her cat, who became entangled in the toaster cord which had snapped off at the socket as I plummeted. The more it struggled to free itself the more it became entwined, and soon I found myself being clawed and bitten by the poor confused animal. While simultaneously extracting my mangled extremities from the patio furniture and attempting to pry Snickers from my face I noticed the neighbor stepping outside her door with a broom in one hand and the phone in the other.

The officer she summoned had very little trouble shackling me, as I had already turned face down to ward off the broom-handle blows to my midsection, and to tell you the truth I felt a rush of relief as he tossed me headfirst into the back of his squadcar. Snickers though, quite to my dismay, was hot on my heels, and the 185 pound German Police dog in the seat with me was fleet in allowing instinct to take precedence.

Handcuffed, I found my lap to be the venue for a life and death struggle between three species. Snouts, claws and teeth raged as the officer frantically attempted to open the door while the scene became invisible behind steamed windows. Before I passed into unconsciousness the car door was opened, and I noticed five other emergency vehicles attending the incident.

At the insistence of my neighbors I will be moving from my apartment shortly, but before I do so I will tell you this: As I tossed my head back to ingest my pain medication in the kitchen this morning I noticed that there are now two spider webs.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Over 200 years before I was born, in the town I grew up in, there rested in a crude steeple the church bell residents had cast from sacrificed and worn farming implements. It was rung to keep the time, to remind townspeople of their obligation to God, and to summon them, at a minutes notice, to defend their shoreline and their country from foreign invaders.

The invaders did come as expected. They where fortified with modern artillery and misplaced self-righteousness. They came knowing that they would pour their authority and might throughout the land. But all they did was spill their blood into its soil. These strangers did not understand that the furnaces which cast American church bells where fed by flames of dignity and innovation.

The people of my town responded when the bell was rung, and gather they did into small bands. They fortified their strongholds with the presence of their convictions and stood against these intruders with a kind and intensity of warfare unknown to the world. Though this was only the beginning, these brave downtrodden peasants triumphed over the injustice of foreign invaders who believed that their moral convictions where superior to the very citizens of the town.

The blood of those Minutemen pumps through my veins, and my very fiber will always stand to ensure that the bell of truth rings loud and clear. I am the triumphant invaded, whose ships never sail to foreign shores unprovoked.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Coming In Number One

Halloween is a holiday which I have always enjoyed. To celebrate something so natural yet converse to our Victorian ethos is too lovely to have ever escaped my imagination. When I was a kid my brother and I eagerly turned calendar pages with savage anticipation, planning candy gathering routes and remarkable costumes. But as I grew older I realized the whole thing had just become an excuse for slightly overweight college girls to don French maid outfits, a Hallmark justification for inebriated fornication, -not that there’s anything wrong with that. So over the years I kind of lost interest in dressing up. But of course there have been exceptions to that, and I’d like to tell you about one of them.

This one particular fall I had commandeered my parent’s garage for projects I had no space of my own for. Inside there was already a blizzard of sculpting media, SR500E parts and whiskey bottles when I set out to make a costume I’d been intending to create for a few years. I cleared out a corner and set to work with a chicken wire frame, reams of old newspaper, flour, water, Elmer’s glue and a case of spraypaint. I worked at least a few hours every night, asking my friend Alex for help with color, and a few others their structural advice. I did all the sewing myself, always having secretly enjoyed that. One evening, about halfway through the project, my father came into the garage after having arrived home from work, and said to me these exact words: “Todd, your mother and I think you’re building something quite obscene here in our garage”. The costume was, after all, a bit ambiguous: a 6 1/2 foot tall paper machet penis with huge felt testicles dragging behind it and 500 yards of black nylon pubic hair at its base. I snickered at the thought of them sneaking around in there together in my absence, commenting in whispers on my impending institutionalization.

At that point I think my mother was driving a silver SEL to which I had attached a roof rack because I was obsessed with this one mogul field at Stowe, knowing full well that nothing I was driving would even come close to making it up to Vermont. On Halloween night around 11pm I set out in that very car to attend a party which my friend Sylvie was throwing, convinced, as well I should have been, that it was going to be dull and tortuous. The 6 1/2 foot tall paper machet penis, though, remained firmly attached to the roof of the automobile, with the testicles hanging over the back and resting on the trunk. Having arrived at the party, if asked about a costume, an inquirer was told that I was having a bit of trouble summoning enthusiasm for the holiday and quickly found the conversation redirected to either the blonde in the corner or money I really didn’t need to borrow. A few hours later everyone set out to a huge bar a few towns over.

Driving down the Boston Post Road that night I had to keep all the windows rolled down, and not only because I was more than just a bit plastered. At every red light and sometimes from the sidewalk people had something to say, and I wanted to hear their reaction to my handiwork. I think part of me wanted to get a DUI just to read how the citydesk at the local paper would handle the police report. It didn’t happen though, and by the time I arrived in the bar’s parking lot I was quite schnokered enough to crawl inside the costume and go about things just as naturally as one in another costume might. The music did kind of stop when I walked in though.

The crowd was in quantity of the flesh-pressing sort, so the 6 1/2 foot tall paper machet penis did kind of get lost in the sea of it. At fist, as I “shafted” up to the bar, I ordered drinks through the hole I’d cut out for my face, but that soon grew tiresome and I discovered an alcove eager to serve as a repository for my unit. And low and behold, on the way back from there who do I discover but the blonde from the party, a numbingly nebulous newbie nanny of the French variety, thoroughly my favorite kind. And I will dare to say that we quickly became well on our way towards a more intimate knowledge of one another, a process which left me fully absentminded of my costume. Then a guy with a microphone draws everyone’s attention towards the stage.

As this fella is announcing a Halloween costume contest I fall back to the work at hand, noticing nonetheless that people are cheering as competitors climb the steps to display their adornments. A few minutes go by, and then I hear these words on the P.A.: If you are a 6 1/2 foot tall paper machet penis, get your ass on up here. Reluctantly I blunder into the costume and ram my way through the crowd and up to the stage. About eight or nine of us go through the rigmarole and fanfare of stepping forward and pirouetting to display our wares, one rather shapely delight catching my attention through the peep hole. And then there’s a drum roll and fourth and then third place is announced, then second, and I’m getting ready to return to the blond when TA DA, I am anointed first place winner and someone hands a hundred dollar bill through the peep hole. It was just then that I did what any rational person in my position would do. I reached up inside the costume and squeezed empty the liter sports bottle of milk attached to the end of it. I can’t remember if the crowd was roaring, but I do remember the subtlety was not lost on the blonde.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


Is part of understanding things understanding that I’ll never understand things?

Did my window’s glaze fail to reflect the love whose love I love to see?

Are the lasting things the last things I’ll ever be?

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

My Old Dog Really Dug The King

My friend Stan and I have a sense of adventure, and we’re always up for any sort of activity or behavior that stands out from ordinary experience. Loud arguments, crunchy hippie rhetoric, whacked out conspiracy theories, large-breasted women with damaged emotional mechanisms, we’d soak it all in. Especially when drinking. But we used to sit down and talk too, about our lives and the paths they where taking, the people we knew and worked with, the way we felt about the world we live in.

So this one night seemed to be shaping up like the latter: a quiet night in a nicely appointed Spanish café drinking rioja and munching topas. We where going over some things Dan’s future wife had mentioned to him, trying to figure out exactly what she meant. Just about in the middle of it, this completely screwed down bleary eyed drunken coke freak turns to us and blazes into this wild tale about a dog he found in his neighborhood. He didn’t bother waiting for some kind of indication that we where engaged in the story, he just launched into it. Needless to say, Stan and I where riveted.

Before I recount it for you, I want to preface the story with a little annotation, one which you may interpret as advice if you so desire. Stan and I where sitting in what we like to refer to as The Bleachers. In every bar, and believe me, I’ve been in a few, there is the part of its construction that runs the length of it, and then, at one end, there is the small jaunt that completes its circuit back to the wall forming the bottom part ot the “L” shape. This end part, I have found, is invariably where the weird and wild hang. One can either participate or, as we where doing on this particular evening, spectate from the other side of the 90 degree bend. From there we heard the story just as I will recount it below:

“so that was the first time that animal got me kicked out of an apartment, after only three weeks!!! Three weeks. I just had a weakness for the guy though, abandoned, roughed up, tough as shit. He reminded me of me. Anyway, the second time I decided to keep him in the house, out of trouble. I come home from work and there he is, sitting in the driveway with his mouth open and that ham of a tongue dripping, smiling and waggin’ his tail all happy to see me. He lunged right through the living room bay window and there was glass and splinters all over the shrubs and yard. Like that scene in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. That landlord just left the news on my answering machine. I fixed the window before we left though.

So I’m sitting in my truck on the way to the new place trying to explain to the dog that we’ve got to behave or they’re going to banish us to an Indian reservation or something, and he’s just busy trying to bite his way through the window or nuzzling his bloody 50 pound muzzle into my face the whole time. So we get there and this time I got a place in a slightly crappier neighborhood with a slightly bigger lawn. And the first thing I did was pick and shovel out a five foot deep hole that I set rebar, cement and a five inch steel pipe into. And this time when I went to work bubba is chained well and good there for the day.

And hell yeah, he’s there when I get home too! Believe that? Of course, there’s a four inch perfect circle worn down into the ground where he dug and strutted around as far as the leash’d let him go. The whole damn area worn down about four inches just like that. And every day when I get home it’s deeper and deeper, until one day I come home and there that dern dog is wagin’ his tail in the driveway with some ratty old pelt in his mouth, dragging behind him on the chain ALL THE CEMENT AND STEEL I’D LAID. Then the screamin’ starts.

The next-door neighbor is out on her stoop wailing away, “my rabbit is gone, Elvis is gone”. The dog and I look at each other then make a bee-line for the door with the cement monstrosity bouncing right behind us, and when we get inside I unhook the leash and he drops that ragged fleece down on the carpet and looks with his grimy, drool encrusted smile all innocent at me. Well, I ain’t no brain surgeon, but I know sure as shit I’m lookin’ at Elvis. It’s not like I didn’t see his hutch right there in the backyard next door.

2 O’clock in the morning I get up, take the mangled, bloodied filthy remains of Elvis and plop him in the sink, wash him with soap and water real good, get him all cleaned up good, then take the hair dryer and fluff him nice all around, undercarriage, high-beams, the works. Then I sneak over next door and place him back in his hutch all curled in the corner. ‘Missed home and went back in ‘is hutch, then dead of natural causes, right?

The screaming from next door that morning was un-fucking believable. Like someone lit the old bitty on fire or something. I mean, I was expecting a reaction, but she sounded completely unhinged. I go running out in my drawers and her eyes come at me wide as moon pies, then she just falls dead weight into my arms. “Elvis, Elvis, Elvis” and she’s shakin’ and going on. So I pretend to survey the situation and then say “he has passed on, I’ll bet he had a good life though” I mean, what the F am I goin’ ta say, right? She goes on and on and on and on and on with me trying to think of every stupid thing I’ve ever heard on TV to console her.

And then she turns to me and says “you don’t understand Mister, Elvis died two days ago, I buried him myself in the yard”.

Interspersed throughout where a few shots of Mescal, but even then Stan and I wouldn’t have put a dime on any two words of that story being true. The funny thing was that he just turned to his drink when he was done. He kind of looked like the kind of guy who may have been a plumber or carpenter five or six years ago, but did really well for himself soon afterwards. He may have made millions selling condos in the Taj Majal, or he could have just been really bummed that his dog had died that day.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


I'm much, much better now, honestly, but when I was in Jr. High School my dick was the boss. Everything was prioritized according to the strict demands and arbitrary intensity of its hunger. I had absolutely no qualms about going to outlandish measures to ensure that I would spend a semester sitting one seat behind and one row over from Jill Tallison, just so I could stare at her ass while people tried feverishly to thump the importance of geometry into my insolent brain. I could tear through a magazine with the speed and precision of a samurai swordsman, extracting even the tiniest bits of delectable female flesh, and the minute I found myself in a dark room, hidden by foliage or obscured by even moderate cloud cover I was workin' the schminky.

Somehow, someone got the idea into their head to take my bizerk obsessions and frustrations and channel them into the bidding of the wrestling team. I immediately saw the wisdom in this wholesome suggestion as soon as my friend informed me that all practices took place simultaneously with the girls gymnastics team. If you lit my eyelashes on fire I wouldn't have turned away from the uneven bars, the floor exercises, THE VAULT............and then some doofus is smooshing my face into the mat.

So I paid attention, learned some moves, and found myself enjoying the sport some (with an Olympic swimming pool's worth of testosterone pulsing through your veines, those muscles tend to develop pretty quickly.) Don't get me wrong, I sucked pretty bad.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about this girl that I was far more infatuated with than almost all the others. She was blond and had a body that made denim and cotton perform in a way that sent train-whistles screaming through my consciousness. PLUS she had a locker right next to mine. PLUUUUS she knew that when she "inadvertently" brushed against me I was left in a tongue wagging stupor for the rest of the day. And she liked that.

So the next thing I know I'm dressed in this ridiculous sing-let getting waved into a match. There's a whistle, then the usual wrong kind of grunting and sweatiness, when something inside me says "Todd, you can take this MF". He reached back when he really shouldn't of, and just as he did I got him by the neck and a leg and got his back on the mat. I'm puttin' all I have into holding him down, and when I turn a bit, there's Marylyn (you know, the one with the locker) in the second row. So I just burn and jam this guy down, and it's over. That's that.

The next day I duck through a utility door to sneak a smoke and there she is. (we both came from messed up families, and we're always the first ones to start smoking) She just turns those bright greens on me and says "you won yesterday, didn't you?" And I beamed and said yes as she went in. I have got to tell you, I was walking on air just to think that she knew and remembered, I felt like the world tuned under my step.

So I went back to study-hall and sat with my friends, and they started giving me crap about smoking as usual, so I say SHUT UP SHUT UP, let me tell you what just happened. And I did and they just loose it laughing. It seemed to be contagious because everyone else started dong so.

Then Rob Loyt goes "Man, right before you pinned that Stuart guy you let one rip that rattled the windows."

My embarrassment became a dirigible enveloping the classroom, all hope for happiness shattered. For only a second though, because there was this brunette sitting in front of me, and........

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


When my brother and I were little our family would often take trips into the city. Beforehand, though, we would always drop by to visit my father's friend in the Lower West Side. As we rolled through the streets at around 9am, about the hour that the neighborhood's residents are usually departing from local bars, we would see some extremely wild stuff going on. The place was swarming with leather queens, dominitrixi, transvestites and euphoric, virtually nude homosexuals snapping their fingers, yelling across the streets and expressing their affability in no uncertain terms.

Every time we got off the West Side Drive at that exit my mother would quietly hit my dad's leg in retribution for taking the short-cut. In the beginning my brother and I just sat in the back seat slack-jawed. But we caught on pretty soon, and began looking forward to the cast of characters. We wanted to make base-ball style trading cards, there where even a few that we came to see every weekend.

But the biggest kick we got out of the whole scenario was torturing my parents with their Victorian sensibilities. We would ask "Mom, why is that man wearing leather pants without a behind"?, or "if they are trying to kiss, why is one facing the wrong way"? All in very innocent tones.

Once my brother pointed out this monstrous 7 foot tall drag queen and asked "Mom, why is that man wearing make-up and women's clothes", and my mother, in her typical caustic way, just explained "it's laundry day, he had to borrow something to wear".

For some odd reason they found it necessary to take us to a show afterwards. Go figure.

Monday, September 06, 2004


What if every single word you needed to hear where to be spoken to you
All the answers and mysteries solved
That harping lesson you yearn for imparted

Though, each word was to be separated by this:
four hours of droning, the kind you'll hear if you sit there in front of your monitor and listen to the whirling machine
Four hours between each word
And a busy week ahead of you
With bills and work and family and worries

And only four or five arbitrary hours of droning between each word

Would you sit and listen?

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Handcuffed to a Chicken

Intentionally inflicted violence causes a very special kind of sorrow in its victim. There is a pain beyond the physical which leaves you alone and remote. Everything must be internalized. You are reduced to a condition which will always defy explanation and understanding. No matter how far you reach, there will never be another hand to grasp.

I grabbed that along with my lunch-box on my way to school every morning. So I was happy when a group of boys showed some interest in me, and only thrilled to find myself spending early grade school with them. I was struck by how easily they comported themselves, and also afraid of the way they seemed to ignore feelings I think important. But it was fun, very fun to run with some guys, and it was exciting to see how teachers would exchange smiling glances for small infractions. Gathering whirlwinds of self-confidence we where.

One crisp fall day we jostled our way to a lower field during recess. Acorns crunched under foot in air mighty with leafy wetness. I was smiling at something, and then there was this kid. Someone among us had decided that he stood in opposition. I don't remember any significant words being exchanged, but there was suddenly pushing. Memories of playground loneliness fresh in my mind, I enjoyed being a member of this unified force. As the kid backed off a bit one of us taunted him: he evoked the notion that the kid was very different from us, and I saw how the kid's face changed.

I had spoken to this kid several times before joining my new pack. He was introspective and bright, and we had shared opinions in class. When I found a tick on my leg in gym class once, he must have sensed my apprehension when he said "I know, you don't think of it happening to you. But it's just a bug, pinch it off ". I liked him.

So now things have escalated, and pushes progressed to headlocks. Scuffling, red faced determination bearing down. Then spit and blood spatters. The kid was down face up, a knee planted on his chest, and three blows landed crosswise on his cheek. It was just then that his eyes met mine, and I saw in them a yearning to understand, a plea for intervention, a knowledge of a heck of a lot more than I was willing to admit to him or anyone else. All in far less a space of time than it takes to blink an eyelash.

But the most horrific thing, the barbarity of the scene was this: I stood there like a statue as someone just like me poured their soul out. Then a teacher blew her whistle and it was over in a a flash.

Soon afterward the pack and I drifted apart, and I could never become friends with the kid. At the end of that year the school we attended closed for ever, and we all went to others in our respective neighborhoods. Just like the playground whistle, it was over.

If only there was some forebearing. I didn't know that the kid's pleas would issue into my dreams for the rest of my life. That hardly a month would go by when I wouldn't find use for the advise he gave me in gym class. That forever afterwards my arms would hang at my side like meat in a butcher shop.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Swimming With Anvils

I dread people.
I abhor their foibles
I feel forced to labor under their misconceptions of me
I count seconds while they're talking
I am repelled by their aspirations

Being popular or the life of the party would be a sentence unendurable

There is no measure by which I can express my preference for a wagging dog's tail over the embrace of a stranger

People frequently interrupt my happiest moments to observe that I'm sulking

Chipper hosteses who take me by the hand to "do the rounds" make me feel like Frankenstein in a tuxedo

Oh, and if I have to listen to one more story about your trip to Bolivia with an empty drink in my hand I'm going to eat five pounds of baking soda and take a vinigar enema.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


A couple a' people know that among tangible things, there are few that I would rather recieve than a Costa Rican Bahia. I enjoy them to no end. Today, about three weeks after my 74th birthday, I sit on the porch and waft away my last one of these, drinking in the first kiss of fall's breeze. It was on a night just like this, not to many years ago, that Davie came around to asking me about the scar on his leg.

I grew up on The Outer Banks, the luckiest kid alive. I meandered through fishnets, tramped through swamps and aggoged at seafaring tales bellowed in croaking voices. Aeroplanes, shooting stars and baseballs raced through my summer skies, abandoned cottages with creaking boards ready made fortresses replete with lizards and ducklings. Fishing rods just naturally found their way into my hand, and I did just about anything I could to get them bent into a circle.

Since then I have had children, and they in turn have done so as well. When Davie was born to my daughter many things had changed on The Banks, a real hospital where the Coast Guard Cutter Station emergency medical used to stand. When they brought him home about a mile and a half West of here and the surf, I drove over to meet him and visit my kids. Their house is roomy and comfortable, and I always go to the bathroom and fridge first thing. Afterward I stepped over to the bassinet, and Davie and I struck it up right there and then.

As he grew, Davey's forays into scaliness became legendary. He spent his summers with us by the sea. It seemed natural to lend him my rods, and I felt only joy when they bestowed upon him their fortune. My heavy 10 weight fly rod became symphonic in his hands, casting arias into the spray above the ocean. He would never allow it, but I will tell you now that I learned many a thing from watching that young man.

A while back we where invited for a day, on a boat quite nicely appointed. I play pinochle with its Captain, had drank many a time with the crew. My lovely wife baked bread and made sandwiches of land dwelling animals for good luck. The morning was clear and full of promise as we pushed off into the saltiness. Clearing the harbor all settled back for a long ride to the Gulf Stream.

By noon we had each released seven or eight Bonita, casting mackerel patterns on sinking weight-forward line. After lunch, lazy from roast beef and birch beer, we took turns at the stern, watching the fish chase our flies and doing all we could to keep them from lunges. Of course, Davie was the first to see the birds. They where swarming about two miles off our starboard, thick in the air. As we battened our gear the boat lurched into motion.

Underneath the flock was an enormous knot of baitfish. Panicked, they rained on the surface as larger fish attacked from underneath. Poised with one leg over the transom, my grandson was intent on something unseen. Again and again he tossed loops into the air, all the while searching a slightly different direction. Then wwsssshhh, the cast. The fly sank, Davey's eyes electric, slow strip, strip, then wham, the tip of his pole heaved downwards trembling. An expert palm slowing the reel as line shot out to the fish. Far in the distance we saw something that struck us dumb: One of the biggest Wahoo I've seen or heard of dancing on his tail, the monofilament leader a glimmering ray shooting towards us. And all this silhouetted against the deepest ink black squall bearing down fast as fury.

This was a good sized boat, of a design famous for handling the weather. But our fish and this strom where of divergent forces much greater. Every time Davie reeled in, the fish would take line back again. The water become choppier. No one would dare let this one go. We where fastened to the course of the storm as sure as would be a structure on land.

The storm descended upon us like wolves from the forrest. The fish went deep, then a horizontal jot, Davie struggling to keep the rod-tip in place just as the rogue wave hit. His ankles where his head was as he flipped over the transom. MAN OVERBOARD, MAN OVERBOARD. All acted as one now.

The skiff's mighty twin 220hp Evinrudes driving up a wave, then blasting out of the backside screaming as the blades tore free of the water's resistance. Deafening wind careening off the wheelhouse, blowing us further from mark. Men holding men by their collar and belt, pirouetting from rigging in desperate grabs towards the water.

I could see in his eyes that we where separated by our conditions for the first time in our lives: mine standing on a boat destined to return to harbor battered yet sea-worthy, his to succumb to the ocean. Later, in a rare moment, Hurley told me that when I grabbed the God-awful thing, he realized he'd never witnesseed such clarity.

14 vertical feet separated us trough to crest as the boat crashed downward. I jumped upon a starboard gunwale as the vessel careened over, grabbing a stay with my left hand. Through this course of motion I swung with the combined might of man, boat and ocean and landed my mark.

A gaffe is a long sturdy pole with an extremely heavy hook mounted on its end. The purpose of this is to land very large and dangerous game fish as they're reeled boatside. It is swung like a bat so that the point and barb are driven deep into the flesh, affording a hold on the animal.

I left the hospital once in the 15 days it took to get Davie stitched up. Three hours to drop off a case of beer, a fifth of good scotch and a handshake to every man on that boat.

It was that night on the porch that Davie gave me three things I'll never forget: two cigars and an arm thrown over my shoulder.

Thursday, July 29, 2004


A small sidestreet near my house traverses a train trestle, and while crossing it today I noticed an extraordinary example of natures beauty trapped in its guardrails. It was a butterfly, magenta, tangerine and black, but it was not really traped so to speak. The railing had a grate which stood about eight feet overhead, then curved inwards toward the walkway, to deter people from throwing objects at the train I suppose. This buttetfly, though, seemed determined to head in the direction forbidden by the railing, and everyime it tried to fly over it, the cruvature prevented his doing so. I watched for a minute or so, recalling that some butterflies migrate enormous distances, and guessed that this one's navigational queues where about to be the end of it. So I climbed upon the railing and waved my arms, continuing this until he flew around a small precipice and on his way.

Thus I was late to meet a new acquatance and his friends, not daring to explain why. Erin, I suspect, would have understood, but not knowing his friends I didn't want to risk embarrassing him. Of course, later on, I realized they where a pretty neat bunch, and should have come out with it right away.

Erin seems to be turning into a friend, but an unusual one for me. The other day he and I where with some people we know, and the subject turned to a virtue of femininity which I particularly admire. When Erin didn't participate it was no small surprise, I don't suspect he has a Heisman trophy on his mantlepiece, if you know what I mean. Anyway, as we all tried to awkwardly steer the subject, he just turned and said to everyone "hey, I'm gay, not blind, those things are pretty damn fascinating". He didn't say it to shock anyone, nor did he look around for a response. He was letting us off the hook. Anyway, he's pretty well adjusted, and that's what I think I like about the guy.

Yesterday I heard Erin mention that he was in Alcoholics Anonymous, and it kind of surprised me. I wanted to figure it out. He said that he grew up in the Mid-West, the son of a man who owned a welding company, a guy who frequents Alaska and Africa to haul back trophy heads for his den. There was a lot of pressure to go into the family business. He kind of smirked as he indicated his appearance, fastidious and slender.

So he probably spent the first part of his life taunted not only at school, but also at home. He made no reference to that, but I bet it was a struggle to get through every day. When the time came I'll bet he got the hell out of the Mid-West as fast as he could. And that made me think of his demeanor and how easily he handled the tits situation before. How he came to be so easy to get along with.

I grew up with a John Wayne sort of vision of masculinity. You kind of swagger and shoot your way through life's challenges. I didn't really have a gliplse of the kind of fortitude necessary to grind through the mechanics of a difficult situation. When I think about it, most of the guys I know verge on emotional collapse just from hitting a golf ball poorly.

I have traveled a long way in my life, and I'm beginning to understand that power and strength are two entirely different things.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Il Duce e Morto

I live on a wonderful steet in the heart of an interesting small city located just inside one of the original Colonies. My neighbors are uncharacteristically friendly, waving and caring for one another, stopping to talk on the street or sit on a stoop. This is an old Italian neighborhood whose homes have undergone many changes, among them the flight of most of the original residents to the suburbs.

Of course, there is always an exception, and in this case that exception's name is Bridget. About 75 years old, she spends most of her time "associating" with the neighbors. Since you probably don't know Bridget, I will explain that when I say associating I mean governing.

Here's how a newcomer like me, a year ago, gets to find out about her: Your walking down the sidewalk obeying all pedestrian rules and city ordinances when you hear a raspy voice HOLLERING "what are you doing on my street"? Believe me, it's not the kind of thing you ignore. So you nervously turn to introduce youself and indicate where you live, but by this time she has you carrying flowerpots off the porch and into the garden. An hour or two later, after all the garden chores are done and you've been properly admonished for not wearing clean clothes, you get to go home.

This has been referred to as The Application Process for living on (.....) Street. Of course, in any other application process you are appealing to a body who supposedly has an intact memory. Here that is not the case, and you must be prepared to undergo four months of scrutiny BEFORE SHE EVEN REMEMBERS WHO YOU ARE. She will let you take her to get bread from her favorite bakery across town, but if you leave that very same car parked on a city street in front of her house longer than the allotted 48 hours, SHE WILL HAVE IT TOWED. When you go to the Mayor's office to explain, his aide will tell you "the car was in front of Bridget's house, you should know better".

About two weeks ago I stopped to sit on her porch and talk. We where laughing about something, I don't remember what. Then she said "I've got this pain in my legs". Bridget, it's nothing, don't worry youself about these things. Go inside and make an appoinment, I'll stay here and watch the cats. Maybe you'll get the good-looking doctor again and he'll want you to take off your clothes. She gave me a look for that, then went inside.

I know she didn't call the doctor, so there was little surprise when the ambulance came screaming down the street that night. I can only imagine what she put those poor paramedics through. The next day I heard they where going to keep her for a while, so I resolved to water the garden, have it ship-shape for her return. I was looking forward to hearing her complain that I was driving up her water bill.

The bad news came yesterday, and it just frikin' hit me.

People say "well, at least she didn't suffer". I say screw that, I miss her.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004


I heard it once a Loooooong long time ago. Tellin' the truth through the ever lovin' land with chords 'come right out a the bowles themselves. They werent people talkin' and they sure wasn't no musical instruments in the background, somethin' knowed we never none of us knew. But sure enough the words rung prooooo-found.
All'd struck me dumb silent that day, heard a man talking 'bout what sounds had reached the land, saw from the crevice of the lay'a things the thing under some bricks: Old GE tubeless, older'n dirts Dad. Wasn't plugged into a damn thing but air an Muddy Waters.
Haven't set foot in'a house with a light socket since, 'kinda wishin' it that way is all.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Dark Force Rears Its Head in Transportation Design

One day, not long ago, I found myself sitting on a lakeside dock enjoying the sun and sounds. Gulls carelessly lofted about while waves lapped at the pilings, and a Black Lab fixed his intensity on a tennis ball when a kid bawked a throw. Not far in the distance a bunch of guys raced around on vintage jet skis.

After a while one of the Jet Skis sputtered to the dock, and its owner hauled it up and threw open the engine compartment. I walked over, curious about its workings, and began talking with the guy. He seemed pretty nice, so I held a ratchet while a bolt in an awkward spot was adjusted, and he gave me a bit of an overview about the motor. Afterward he snapped the lid on and kicked the thing back into the water. Then "go ahead", and he noddod over to it.

When asked, he told me it was just like a bike, you have to give it some gas and get going before you stand up. So I pitched my shirt and dove in, real excited to get on a personal watercraft for the first time. I pointed it away from shore, laid down on top and gunned the throttle. Just then I felt a strange tingling around my ankles.

With a jet Ski you can't have a propeller like a boat, because rotating blades would tend to sever the limbs of riders. So you have an inboard motor that drives a sort of aqua jet. Water is sucked into the front of the thing, then shot out the back, which is how it is propelled.

Well, I was lying with my upper chest onboard, the rest of me behind the craft. The tingling sensation I felt when I hit the gas was that powerful jet blasting my testicles down to my ankles, oscillating them from one to the other like frantic pinballs. I don't have to describe the pain to anyone accessorized with a set of these, but as an illustration of the force applied, just imagine that my trunks almost hit the kid playing with his dog.

As I hobbled back to the dock the Chaplain-esque quality of the scene was not lost on the few who witnessed it, and their laughter was only compounded by my having to walk butt-ass naked to get my shorts.

Let me tell you this friend: I will never again get on a jet ski for any reason at any price. They are satanic devices designed by scorned women and frustrated lesbians.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The last thing a bug thought before the windshield of my high-powered luxury sedan with full auto and leather slammed into him at a buck twenty

Things often strike me like swinging mirrors in a forest. Hanging images come to pass, reflecting familiar shapes with itinerant cues, wafting meaning first before recognition slowly resonates inward. They glance off staler reality, momentarily defying gravity.

I come to know things as they should be, wish to be at their very best. I aspire towards charity, see nothing in competition and greed. Simple sensibilities hover over my everyday, I contemplate matters and weigh the time they consume separating me from my childhood. I go about things with ease, and am sometimes horrified by my dismissals.

It may be a life in reverse that I live, going inward toward birth, but still these things which surround me seem to be without direction. Others in their tidy ways seem oddly stunned by aversion from thought or feeling and introspection. I’m not any better.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Otis' Wildlife Adventure

You know how they say that dogs look like their owners? Well, this is what my neighbor looks like: He’s a big guy with broad shoulders, not the type you’d be unhappy to find on your side. But he’s also a professional guy, with a very friendly demeanor and perpetual smile. He may have been an ass kicker in High School, but only by virtue of his imposing size and a propensity for laughs. If he was, there’s virtually no sign of that now.

Otis does not appear to be as genteel a package. Adopted from the city shelter, this dog spent most of his life as an unofficial resident at the University’s equestrian complex. Oddly enough, he shares many features common to the breed which serves as the school’s mascot. With an adopted dog like that, one never really knows its complete history, but when you look at Otis you can speculate that there was a particular event which led from happy existence in bucolic horse setting to bars in the city pound. Needless to say, after five weeks Otis and Tim are still getting to know each other.

Here’s a little illustration of Otis’ delicate sensibilities: I like dogs, so anyone who comes over to my place with one gets the run of the place. Tim and his sidekick come over one night to watch a DVD, and as usual the dog has to sniff out the place. But with Otis there’s not just the occasional tipping over of things and dog toe-nails on hardwood. It sounds more like furniture in an enormous clothes dryer. In the middle of "Really Big Fish" we hear something that sounds like a water main break, and it turns out to be Otis practically sucking my plumbing inside-out getting a drink of water from the toilet.

About a week ago my friend and I are sitting on the stoop and along comes Tim and Otis, and they seem to be making a bee-line for the house. Very curious. We say hello and get an enthusiastic response, exchange a tidbit of neighborhood gossip, and then we hear him say "you’ve gotta hear what just happened". This is the part of the story where my friend and I almost sprain our diaphragms laughing.

Tim goes on to say: "So we’re walking past a bunch of kids on our way to the park and one of them says "mister, your dog looks mean, is it ok if I pet him", and a minute later they’re all cooing over him and pulling his tail and that sort of thing. As we leave I wave goodbye and begin to pass a row of houses with brick stairways and sidewalls enclosing them. Just out the most extreme portion of my peripheral vision I see a squirrel sitting in one of these blind entranceways on the first step. Well, apparently Otis saw the same thing. He just casually turns his head and CHWOOOMP, he’s got pretty much the whole squirrel in his mouth. You can see its legs frantically pumping as if trying to hop out of the situation. Then Otis changes his grip and starts yanking it from side to side, tail slashing through the air in a blur of fur. Blood is spattering all over the sidewalk and a demonic groan is coming from the pink foam around Otis’ mouth. Things have gone well beyond a P.G. rating. While Otis is going at it I’m hauling on the leash, but blind instinct is apparently pulling harder. Finally he gets the message, lets go and gives me a look like ‘sorry, but you know how it is’ type of thing.

So that’s pretty much the end of my walk. I turn to pass the kids, and they’re standing there agog, eyes wide as saucers. You could tell that if a twig snapped they would all break out screaming at the top of their lungs".

Tales of animal suffering make my heart pang, but we just lost it when we heard this story of natural predation.

Poor Tim had a countenance like the neighborhood was on his heels with torch and pitchfork. And all he ever did was try to help a poor City Pound dog have a better life.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Grazing Policies (More of The Deer Chronicle)

Surprisingly, some of the residents of my former enclave put aside their copies of "Heavily Medicated Affluent Housewife" and "The Joys of Corporate Sodomy" long enough to browse my letters. Even more surprising, though, was their reaction. One woman in particular was outraged that someone could attack hunters so blatantly.

Most offensive of all, though, was the paper's evisceration of my letter. You would think that people in the business of purveying news through the written word would have a bit of respect for the language. But alas, they stalked through my submission casually lobbing comas, paragraph breaks and all kinds of bizurk punctuation throughout.
After reading the printed version of my letter I tossed and turned for a bit, weighing my options, and then I ……

A) Internalized my anger and fantasized about my opponents getting painful, unsightly hangnails
B) Joined a Holistic Healing Through Crystals and Patchouli therapy group
C) Wrote another damn letter

If you guessed C you where correct. I like to write Letters to the Editor. I do it at the drop of a hat. If you left me in a room with nothing but a pen, a piece of paper and a large-breasted swimsuit model, one hour and forty-five minutes later I’d be writing a Letter to the Editor.

So here’s the letter. Beyond this, the deer were on their own.

To the Editors:
I would like to thank you, the editors of The Ridgefield News, for applying your convoluted notions of journalism to my Letter to the Editor. Without recourse did I gaze as my submission lie writhing in agony, having been dissected into three garbled heaps of sentences. Humbled was I to find that you diverted time from 11 glaring, felonious transgressions against the English language on your front page in order to proportion valuable resources towards littering my sentences with redundant commas.
That aside, I would like to draw your attention to (name withheld)’s Letter to the Editor in last week’s edition, and remind her that my article opposed "extermination teams", not hunters, which I neither mentioned nor referred to. As for "armed, beer-guzzling, camouflaged yahoos", I can not be held responsible if the phrase evokes a reactionary blow against your sensibilities.

Todd Vodka
Crayon Wielding Bard and Jackbooted Philanthropist

Friday, June 04, 2004


A part of my heart, tad of my countenance, something of my soul. That which is all a little of me. It precipitates the snow of time's storm, raining its passing on all I know. Books and souvenirs sit quietly collecting while I idle by. The disheveling of it my only being.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Deer Saga Continues

The deer situation continued to escalate to the point where people where seething with opinion. Horrifically, the one put forth most seriously was the notion of employing a company from upper New England who specializes in ambushing animals with firearms. After carefully reviewing this option, I decided that it was not in the best interest of all involved. So I sent this little note to the paper along with a basket of fresh baked cookies:

To the Editors:
The discovery that I was dead wrong about Ridgefielder’s attitudes toward deer left me wiggling in the throes of ecstasy.
Alas, you do not propose to sit idly by and content with complaint. Ridgefielders are people of action, and we’re not about to let a simple matter like the annihilation of natural predators explain away our deer overpopulation problem.
Sure, humanity has encroached on deer habitat to such and extent that their numbers fluctuate with the velocity of nuclear oscillation. But there’s a couple a’ people with Lyme disease, damn it, and if that means deploying armed, beer-guzzling, camouflaged yahoos with silencers and night vision goggles, we’re up to the challenge. After all, this world is so devoid of discharging armaments that an act of violence is almost justifiable in itself.

Todd Vodka
Philosophically Delusional Malcontent and
Nose-Picking Subversive Pinko

Two things here: The editors of the paper saw fit to butcher the letter with what they deemed "corrections", lumping all sorts of awkward punctuation upon it in what can only be seen as a vile attempt to justify their salaries. And finally, I do not bake cookies for people affiliated with publications which advocate violence.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004


Even when I was little I didn’t understand where everyone was scurrying off to. There seemed to be a secret club, rituals and rites learned from primordial time that was understood by all. Girls with their little outfits, boys joining teams and forming circles, all accompanied by voluminous amounts of mind numbing dialogue. Everyone was engrossed.
As I grew up the subject matter changed but the dialogue remained the same. Cars, homes, degrees, spilling coffee in the car surrounded by traffic on an otherwise beautiful sunny morning.
I like people, I just don’t understand any of them.
You know the sound a swing makes, the metal on metal sound? Yeeeeek Haaaaaw Yeeeeek. I can hear that solitary swing from a cold fall playground day telling me then that some day it would be different.
So, what, they make swings out of plastic now, right?

Monday, May 31, 2004

A hand

If you find a blog that has not received a comment, I would encourage you to drop a note. I remember how that first communication felt, and feel privileged to do the same for others.

My blog has no links. If you are the first person to provide an initial comment on 100 sites, I will link to yours. Of course, I would like to stipulate that your site not have any offensive content.

Saturday, May 29, 2004


There are some in life who, when presented with strife and controversy, rarely take the time to defend their position, even when doing so is clearly in their best interest. I found this to be especially true of the deer residing in Ridgefield, CT.

The people of the town seemed to be infuriated by what they saw as one of natures preposterous woes: fawns and bucks feeding upon their landscaping, or bending their bright shiny auto fenders in suicidal road crossings. They where in no mood to lie down and take it while these savage ruminants gnoshed on their rhododendrons, and they had put forth some extremely militant solutions to the problem.

The animals themselves appeared unable to marshal an opinion on the matter, and though I am not a confrontational person, I took it upon myself to defend them in the local paper.

To the Editors:
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as a new resident, compliment the citizens on a lovely town and chastise each and every one of you for your ignorance.
That a person could live here and find deer to be an imposition is simply comedy at its highest level. Us, with our rancid, pollution spewing homes, sitting upon porches while taking in breathtaking woodland and resplendent scenery, all the while cursing to Hades a few deer eking out a meager sustenance while risking their necks to cross hazardous roads. Up in arms shall we be at the temerity of velvet horned, satin coated animals for treading across our pristine vistas.
Let us free ourselves of this tyranny, fire up the cement mixers and pave the whole town, assassinating wildlife as we go along.
In closing, I would like to state that I look forward to meeting all of you, and eagerly await the myriad of subjects you will in the future find to complain about.

Todd Vodka
Irreverent Rabble-Rouser and Deer Smooching Hippie Whacko

Monday, May 24, 2004

Simmer message to taste

This afternoon I wanted to accomplish two things: To get rid of an old saucepan I have, and find a way to publicize my blog. Here’s how I combined the two.

First I hung signs and posters all over town. They were attached to message boards outdoors, taped to street signs, affixed to bicycles and posted in the university’s hallways. Then I put little strips of paper with my blog’s URL on them inside the saucepan, and placed it on a park bench just beyond the back window of my favorite place to enjoy a beverage. Next I went inside, ordered an espresso and sat with a copy of "My Antonia" on the other side of the window. In the course of two hours I must have seen 50 people take the address out of the saucepan and replace the lid. Some of them came in the café after they did. And one of them even asked me what book I was reading.

Here’s what the signs said, in big black letters: Free Pot behind café Coffee

Friday, May 21, 2004

I didn't know that was the last time I'd see the place

When I was young I was wild in the suburbs. I camped under the stars, lived out of a backpack, overnighted in parks or empty lots. In the daytime I was at the beach, in the deafening wash of salt and sun I walked and swam from jetty to jetty. ‘Had conversations and more with smiling dilettantes and curvy young ladies. By 5:00pm I sauntered into The Clam House for either bartending or valet duty, slathered with salt under a clean yet wrinkled shirt.
In the evening there was money in my pocket which glided in eager procession to the top of some bar. Maybe a new waitress would accompany the smoke and music and evening abandon. Sometimes I woke in hovels or mansions and cared not which. I somehow knew it was lost time that was being spent.
Yesterday, many years later, I went fishing by the Mill Pond. The Clam House has long since been closed, but the building remained shimmering in moonlight. It stood as a wink to the past. This time, though, when I looked over, it had been razed. The hot anvil that seared through me would not tear free. My treasured rod clunked to the ground.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

A bit

My apartment has a lovely patio, which I like to refer to as my lanai, in the Hawaiian fashion. My attempts to resist the usual trappings of bachelor life have led me to put planters out there with flowers and vegetables in them. I have been enjoying my tea there in the morning.

Once as I was walking out a sparrow fled from under the awnings. I knew she was watching, so I didn’t peek around for a nest until finishing my tea. When I was done I looked, and there was none.

A few mornings later as I was sipping I noticed a smudge, not bigger than a fingernail, but somehow attached to a pebble. Something inside me plead for deeper examination, and when I looked closer I saw the tiniest egg, broken open, with an embryo in the beginning stages. I was horrified, and surprised to hear myself say aloud "I’m sorry".

I was with a good friend last night, the evening after the discovery. We unloaded some wood from his father’s truck, had a drink in my kitchen and ate dinner. We spoke, about important things as well as not. But the notion of the egg did not cross my mind then, and I did not bring it up. The impact this discovery had upon me seemed to have no place in my conversation, no ability to declare. Somehow, afterwards,that made me feel a bit like the egg.