Sunday, November 23, 2008

There have been some great writers who have had the spirit, passion and patience to concentrate a portion of their work on sports. This is not to say that they are actually "sports writers." I am not a fan of Norman Mailer's work nor David Foster Wallace's. However, I will concede that both were talented writers who offered their own unique stance on literature and, perhaps on a certain day -but never one of mine - the world. In any case, both knew how to write about sports; Mailer about boxing, Foster Wallace about tennis. My game is basketball and I always thought it would be an interesting addition onto any literary career that I may attain to also have side work that followed the most entertaining basketball player alive and perhaps one of the ten best of all time: Dwayne Wade.

This 2008-2009 season will stand out not simply because of the overall greatness we will see in the league, or because of the interesting storylines, the heightened level of competitiveness in each game, or because of the incredible repeat Finals we will see between the Lakers and Celtics, which will go 7 games this year and feature at least one punch and perhaps Kevin Garnett's head exploding after he blocks an Andrew Bynum hook shot - the 2008-2009 will stand out ultimately as Dwayne Wade's first MVP season and the first "redemption" season from one player since M.J. destroyed every player and team in the league in the '95-'96 season when the Bulls went 72-10 and Jordan had to make even the lowest bench player - and the fan sitting in the worst seats in the stadium - know who was the best player in the NBA and of all time after he let Nick Anderson steal the ball from him in crunch time in the '95 playoffs against the Orlando Magic.

I am writing this listening to "Get on the Right Thing" by Paul McCartney and after I woke up to read that Dwayne Wade posted a line of 38, 4 and 8 - with the flu - against the Pacers. This is simply the latest in a string of impressive games that have seen him trail Lebron James as the scoring leader by only a sliver as well as show-off an impressive passing ability and an improved three point shot. After two years interrupted by injuries and comparisons of a career dampened by injuries too early a la Penny Hardaway, Dwayne Wade is back and he is serving notice to the entire league that he is serious and better than Lebron James. Whereas James can be painfully lazy with his passing in stretches and can rely too much on the three - later day Kobe - Wade never bores, he always attacks and, with the addition of his new shooting range - has become an even greater threat on the offensive end. For some reason, there has been a hesitation - perhaps because of injury, although Jordan was injured almost the entire 1986 season - to place Dwayne Wade at the top of the NBA ranks. He has a greater variety and hunger for success than Carmelo Anthony, his game is much more polished than Lebron's, and he will always salivate in the crunch time, where Kobe - and the cynicism of his competitiveness and desire to BE Michael Jordan - shies away when he sees the game cannot be won (Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs agains the Suns in 2006).

The 2008-2009 version of Dwyane Wade reminds a fan of the NBA from the 80's and 90's. That was an era where the greatest players would disappear over the summer and come back the next season with a new weapon - Jordan and the '96-'98 fadeaway, Bird and the '86 left hand, Olajuwon and the polish of the mid-90's Dream Shake (See 1995). This season obviously has a lot to play out, however we are seeing the Dwayne Wade Three-Pointer as a new weapon to add to the list. The addition does not seem as drastic as the three mentioned above, but for a player who relied so much on penetration and contact, the honing of a three point shot to open up the rest of his game is extremely significant.

Wade's defense has improved also. In Beijing this summer, Wade was content to play a role on the gold medal team. Kobe's reinvention had taken prominence since Wade's injuries and the whole world was ready to make Lebron the basketball Obama (especially if he comes to New York - you want basketball hype, you'll get it). So, Wade dug in and played clinical defense, setting the pace for the entire team and helping him to easy transition points which allowed him to average the most points per minute of any player on the team. Now that the season has begun, Wade has been just as imposing on the defensive end.

There will be more written about Dwayne Wade's "comeback" by sports writers this year. However, Wade never went anywhere. He has remained the best basketball player alive and one of the most entertaining players of all-time, despite injuries and lack of media attention. When one watches Wade fly through the lane, there is no imposing physical strangeness that comes with a Lebron dunk, there is only grace, hang and then simple execution at the rim over whoever has tried to stop the inevitable - it is the closest we have come to the Michael Jordan we have been looking for for years and I for one was never looking for another saviour - I was just looking for another player to enjoy watching wholeheartedly.

Just watch for yourself:

On the literary side of things, have a look at this poem from a few years ago:

Creaking Door

A creaking wooden door,
To an ancient backyard,
The sweltering birds chirp
Into the dizzying heat
While the chill of a pool
Buzzes as the oasis of my youth.

Red bricks meet green grass,
The thickets block off brown
Wood that covers the neighbors’
Home and their mail retrieval.
Meanwhile I stretch to the edge
And dip my fingers in to test.

Artificial water falls off each tip,
Dropping slowly onto the scorched brick.
My feet are calloused from concrete,
So I dip them in too,
But as I do the redness cracks
And splashes, and sinks, and drowns.

So I back away and run,
Slamming the door behind me,
Allowing it to creak and
Watch the forgotten swim in
The azure water reflecting the sky,
As I disappear down the road.

Black pavement is hot, same as
The sand that I arrive at past
Noon on the outskirts of town.
My callouses fail, as feet do,
And I seek refuge in the
Repeating waves of the bay.

I stand in the water with children
And acquaintances, and see their
Umbrellas dug into the shore.
Bikinis and sunglasses and coolers
All come into sight and bring
The butterflies in my stomach.

A deep perspiration drips on my forehead,
And I run along the sandbar
To test its durability and length,
But ultimately with ulterior motives;
To escape the cries and smiles
And embraces that appear onshore.

Standing on the far reaches of
The gift from low-tide, gentle waves
Rock against my ankles and remind
Me of all that I love
And have loved, even those things
Served with a grain of salt.

Boats appear out beneath the sun,
While rocking on the passive waves,
And there I am on board,
Close to the bow of one vessel,
Moving outward into the open arms
Of the Atlantic Ocean which carries
With it all I need,
Until that too becomes a creaking door.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Poem

Below is a poem I wrote this evening. It's easy to write with the piece of mind knowing that on the NBA on TNT there is a double header of the Celtics vs. the Pistons and the Lakers vs. the Suns. I'm telling you, every night in the NBA this season there will be incredible games. No game lacks a story or a player. You want an eighties revival with tight jeans and slick tennis shoes, well get those short shorts out and slap them on Kurt Rambis. You can get them in '82 Lakers short too. Maybe you like yours in an '86 Walton style?



He breathes smoke while he walks the steps,
Names stiched on the the pocket lining
Of the coat he covers his shirts with,
Names he sees out his front window at night
Wearing scarves and moving unmarked.

Loneliness never answers by name alone
When its head turns with uneven strands
Or the curls that frame it like a little girl,
It is never the face you expect it to be,
It often looks like pork with a pepper sauce.

The metal awnings make strange bedfellows
And the plastic bags I carry in my hand are
A far cry from the way children speak and gasp.
Who knows what snow will fall past my brown drapes?
Not the girl who drew the drift out his back window.

That prince among men doesn’t wear headphones
He let the robbers rip his wires to shreds
And they ran down the street with J.S Bach
Holding hands with Mick Fleetwood in their pockets –
The strange romances we put together.

While he walks the steps the winter waters his lips,
And the wood panelled walls of his youth rise up,
The crooked tables and carpets of home
Where the gaslight shown bright in the afternoon
When potatoes roasted golden with his longing.

He tries to cook tubers now in oil pans
But in the November rain they change meanings
The longing is not gold and filled with tears
It now wears white winter hats he imagines
On the heads of the women he loves.

When love is parked and metered by time,
Can you or I gain anything from his longing?
We’d all like to listen to vinyl in wool socks
And pull the red afghan over two heads on the couch
While we wait for the secret to reveal its shape.

She calls him in his brown leather shoes
With her canvas bags fresh off of work,
And she has to see the young man tonight,
To show him the new pictures she took –
With the sunlight, stones and red jacket.

To be alone is to be with another person,
When you and I go out with the popcorn
We don’t ever need to talk to each other
We can just look at the floor and pretend,
And so can they with their glasses of beer.

He doesn’t remember it that way on the farm.
When he felt a burn in his chest it wasn’t indigestion,
It was the longing of his soul to run free
To follow the storm bulk by the grove,
To kiss the girl where the rain hit the roof.

The world won’t heal itself at 4 in the morning
With our pillow talk and duvet covers
But we can wear headlines over our groins
And laugh about them and our steak dinner,
So when we drink coffee tomorrow we can smile.

Keep your ambition for the record books
And let the passion burn through your eyes
And dredge your hungry youthful lips
Those things have nothing to do with love,
African safaris and ten volume novels
Don’t change one piece of your heart.
LLC’s and pimps grow and fall like apples
You can pick them off any orchard
But you can never pull on the burning in your chest
That strange appetite where you hunger
For a country and farm that never existed –
But you want the thunder and lightning
You want to see it over the tree tops
In the grove he imagined by the barn
And maybe then he’ll kiss you too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Section 7 & 8 - Liza and Tom

It's been a hectic week. I have been trying to get a lot more work done on "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt," as well as work on putting "The Journey Forward" on CreateSpace. I'm having trouble formatting my cover design for the CreateSpace templates. It's not really as easy as they make it out to seem when you read about it in praising articles and the visions of self-publishing grandeur you have in your head. I am going to work at it. In the meantime, to tide anyone who reads this over, I will post the next two sections of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." I have some good rambling ideas for posts to come in the next few days or next week. This weekend, one of my oldest friends will be visiting from out of town so I have to pay attention to that. I want to write big posts about 1. Dwayne Wade - his never-ending greatness and his resurgence, 2. Role Models and the ascension of The State alumni to pop culture, 3. Red Rose Speedway (see above) and solo Paul McCartney for any doubters of the Pop Jesus. I will get these up as soon as I have the neccessary time to ramble them as well as any readers of my words that I type deserve.

Below find Tom and Liza's sections. You will have to scroll further down for Section 7 which is Liza and the Tom's section follows that. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me your complaints. Any mail is appreciated over here at Fuck City.



I forgot how much I liked spareribs. I chomp into the grey-colored meat with its reddish brown crust or marinade on the outside. I’m ripping flesh and meat off the bone. Tissue too. Leaving it bare and grey with a few white marks that may or may not be from my teeth. The bone rattles on the old light-grey ceramic plates we’ve always used. There is a pile of four bones. Two are licked clean and two have pieces of chewed pale meat sticking to them. I’m a pale piece of meat.

James is talking.

“I think what we first should do is box up all of our old bedrooms. We can start that tomorrow. Then we work our way around the house. The moving truck gets here on Wednesday and they’re going to pack it that day and the next.”

“The funeral is on Monday?” Maggie asks.

James is eating his food and he nods.

“We’ll pack up the kitchen last right?” Liza asks.

“Absolutely. That way we can cook if we need to and have an area that’s not a complete disaster. Can you hand me the rice, honey?”

Eve passes the rice. But with her, there is something more. I want to say that she is swanlike in the way her arm raises, falls, rises again and slides the box of steaming rice. I think I’m in love with her and always have been since James first brought her home for Christmas. There was nothing like the way she looked on the wedding, though. She wore a white dress of course, but it was everything. The way her skin looked even more glowing in that way it has. Like honey in the sun or a bright penny but, no, lighter than that. And her hair was done in a certain way with strands threaded in a design I don’t even know the first thing about. I hate that he gets to live with her down in D.C. I still haven’t been to their house yet. I ride the train every Saturday and hope that a girl like her will come and sit down next to me and if she did, I know I’d have the courage to make her fall in love with me.

James again:

“Dad, did you really have to buy a new place so quickly? I hate to think that you just wasted some money by being brash.”

Dad is licking a sparerib bone. He turns to the Cutty Sark, which has about a third or so of its orangey liquid left. I look around the table. Eve looks concerned and so does James. Maggie tosses back her hair; she still has so much of it. Liza is quiet sitting next to Dad; she’s looking at her food.

“Jimmy,” Dad says. He rarely ever called him Jimmy. None of us did. “That’s the way I’ve always been. But didn’t you know?”

“Know what?” James says.

“Know that he was brash,” Maggie adds.

“No,” Dad is shaking his head. He lazily pokes his fork at a dark dripping piece of beef. “Didn’t you know that your mother was a magician?”

James looks at Eve.

“A magician, Ben?”

Dad nods and chews. Nods and chews.

“How do you mean, Dad?” Liza has piped up at the mention of Mom.

Dad looks over at her and smiles. He grabs the top of the Cutty Sark and begins to rotate the bottle. It makes that hollow sliding sound that glass makes on wood.

“She played a trick on you all, on anyone that has known us, and even on me.”

I’m confused. It seems like he’s going to drop a bombshell. But what kind of bombshell? What kind of secret is he toying around with? Or is he just playing, patting some dead rat around like a tomcat. That’s what his legend was. The big joker, the wit, the famous drunk. He has to be playing. My stomach feels bloated and it flips for a moment. Maybe Mom tricked him? An affair?

James is talking.

“What are you talking about, Dad?”

“The greatest trick of all that only your mother could pull off.” Dad is looking at Eve as he talks. “Making me seem like a respectable and successful man.”

I feel relieved. Everyone is rolling their eyes.

“C’mon, Dad,” Maggie says.

“No, Mags, it’s true. Now that she’s gone I can feel my old ways coming back to me. I’m becoming undone. All the stitching she did to fix me up over the years is loosening. She turned me into a doctor, but not a surgeon. That was her job.” Dad is standing with his plate in his right hand and the bottle tucked into his armpit. “I hope you will all come visit me at my new home. Feel free to bring any grandkids. You know how I always loved children. That’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.”

“Oh, come on, Dad,” Maggie says. “Don’t be like that.”

The faucet comes on and then there is thud of the dishwasher door opening. After that, it’s the clank of the dish and then the muffled close of the dishwasher. I hear Dad unscrew the bottle.

“I’ll be in the study,” he says.

We’re all quiet at the table. The Chinese food has consolidated into a lump in my stomach. I feel my skin bulge out and I’m tired.

Maggie is looking at James.

“What?” James says.

“Let him go through this.”

James plays with the food on his plate. He sighs. “I can’t just let him act like a fool. He’s got to take care of his money and himself now that Mom is dead.”

“This is how he’s grieving.”

“By reliving some sort of fantasy of himself from thirty years ago?”

“She’s gone.”

“I know.”

Maggie wants to speak but she remains quiet. James is home now and all of the feelings are starting to come back to me. The way he was always in control, trying to help everyone, taking responsibility. I’m looking at the grey bones on my plate. I love him and I’m glad he’s back. But I hate him for leaving and I hate that he’s going to go away again with his wife who I’m in love with. And I’ll still be here, riding the train, taking walks, stuck on this jut of land, which I’m tied to for some reason that I don’t understand.

I’m standing with my plate.

“I’m going to go for another walk.”

Section 7 - Liza


“Should we get Chinese food?”

I’m sitting with Dad at the kitchen table now. I see James, Eve, and Maggie outside. I’m not sure where Tom is. He was down here before but he must have gone out for a walk or something. Dad smiles at me.

“Never heard of it.”

He plays up his New York accent so that heard sounds more like hoid. I take this answer to mean yes so I walk over to Mom’s old desk, which looks out onto the backyard. There are still cluttered papers on the desk, notes of things to do. She had the date of Parents’ Weekend at my school written down on a blue post-it. The note is in my hand and I make a fist crumpling it. I feel the adhesive in my palm and I drop the ball of paper. It hits the light colored wood of the desk and bounces once. I see her old address book, beaten and colored by time and dust. The cloth flower print binding is frayed in so many places and there are all kinds of odd pieces of paper sticking out of it in different colors. I open it up and begin leafing through.

Anderson, Joan 101 Shaker Drive 631-689-4277

Christian, Terri 43 Colonial Way 751-0123

Hulse, Lindsay 2 Bay Street 689-8819
corner near Main

O’Donnell, Connor 22 Old Grey Road 631-941-9491

I’m past the S section when I see a small scrap of white paper pressed down in the nook where the pages meet the binding. The writing is in red ink and it looks like the writing of a child. “Mom- went to Shore Deli with James and Paul. Love, James” I put the paper back down in its nook and press the book with its worn out binding closed. Then I reach underneath the desk lamp to the ceramic envelope where Mom kept all of our takeout menus. I pull out the Eastern Pavilion one and begin to cry. I’m crying and crying and I can’t stop. I turn around back to the table and I slide the menu along the surface. Dad is looking at me. I feel the heat of my tears and the blood rising and filling my cheeks and the snot that is filling my nose, running a little bit down towards my lips. I pull a napkin out of the holder, which is a wooden house painted blue with a red roof and even one little puff of grey smoke coming out of a black chimney. Dad is looking at me.

“I don’t remember the food being that bad.”

I laugh and the laughter rises through my tears and I’m shrugging and holding the napkin upwards in my right hand. Dad is drinking. I don’t know what to do. But I hate this house with its brick chimney and because it’s so big and not small and wooden and sitting on a table. It sits on a small hill and is full to the brim of objects and memories.

I’m crying. Dad is drinking. And I killed mom because I went to college.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Section 6 - James

NBA season is getting into full swing and let me just say that I have been riveted to my seat so far. That's why I haven't even gotten a chance to put anything up on this site in a few days. I've been taking in all of the glory that is the beginning of what will be one of the most memorable NBA seasons of all time. You can pick any year from about 1981 - 1993 (maybe too generous) and find many reasons to choose that year as the best year in NBA history. Some may even take your argument that from 1995-1998 there were some top quality OVERALL NBA years (not just terrific Bulls years aka 95-96 team that went 72-10). However with the great season and post-season/finals that came last year, we are on the cusp of one of the best years. So keep your eyes wide open and pay attention. We have already had some great performances: Pierce's 22 in the 4th quarter, Wade's 19 in the 4th quarter, Lebron's scoring showcase, Dwight Howard's absolute MONSTER game last night, the Lakers starting 7-0, the Hawks starting hot. There are too many good young players and nicely assembled teams to not like. I'll explain more in my Dwayne Wade post sometime this weekend. Also, a post of why Role Models and David Wain are genius. But until then, here is the sixth section of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." This is a James section if you have been following. Enjoy.


Eve is sitting next to me; she has the bottom of her dress pulled up a little bit so that the sun illuminates her already tan legs. Maggie is sitting out with us. This complicates things a little bit because I wanted time alone with Eve so that I could approach the situation in her womb that is taking shape with every passing second. But, I’m home now and when I’m home, I feel the need to be available for everyone in my family, to talk when they need to talk and push aside my business. And this time home is especially different since Mom isn’t here and it seems like the life has been taken out of everyone in one way or another. Everyone seems slightly deflated. I can’t tell what Dad is feeling, though. He seems sad, but I can see in his eyes the enjoyment he is getting from tasting liquor again – his dangerous vice. Although it wasn’t dangerous, he never destroyed anything, he never hit Mom as far as I’ve heard the stories relayed to me from Maggie, Mom and Uncle Connor. It was more of what could happen, he’d get carried away with his jokes and his charm and maybe he’d make a mistake.

“Everyone loved him,” Uncle Connor said. “He was young, handsome, funny and starting to meet people. He certainly didn’t neglect Maggie, but I think your mother saw that something was lacking.”

The pool is still open and because the lining is a dark blue stone, the water is very dark like a lagoon. The stones that surround the pool and line the patio are hot. Sweat rolls from the back of my knee down my calf. The sun is becoming more of a red and the afternoon is slowly giving way. Is this an Indian summer?

“So, Maggie,” Eve says. “Going anywhere exciting soon on assignment?”

Maggie drinks what looks like a coke but I think it is mixed with either rum or whiskey. “Yes,” she says. “Morocco. On the northern coast near the Strait of Gibraltar.”

“Wow, Maggie,” I say. “That sounds terrific.”

“How soon?”

“Oh, when this ordeal is over.” She drinks again.

“It is an ordeal isn’t it?” I say.

“Yes,” she says.

“Well we’re going to have to go through with it. We’re going to have to go to Mom’s funeral and empty the house in the next week.”

She’s looking at me and I know the look. The look of her green eyes that says to me you’re my younger brother and somehow everyone always looked to you for support, they looked to you as the leader of the family when I’m the oldest and I’m a capable woman who’s made a God damned success of herself and who’s seen a lot more of this big rock of a world than you have. And I know all of this is true. But it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t ask for any of it.

“Is there any convincing your dad to hold off on moving? I mean, at least until he sells the house?”

“No,” Maggie shakes her head. “He wants out. He’s got the money. He’s always been willing to take a hit in his wallet as long as he can keep moving forward. And by the looks of him and the way he’s holding that bottle, there’ll be no convincing him.”

“We’re just going to let him do it?” I say.

“What do you want to do? Mom’s dead. This is what he’s doing.”

“Exactly what she kept him from doing for thirty years!”

Maggie takes a drink and looks at me again. Flashing me the green while the sun adds a gleam to her auburn hair.

Eve is touching my arm. “Maybe it’ll be healthy for him.”

Maggie holds up her drink towards Eve. But she keeps looking at me scolding me silently. I look at Eve. She’s going to know soon enough. She’ll have to feel all of that energy of creation coming together in her body and then she’ll begin to have morning sickness. If only Maggie knew that too, knew what I was doing. Then she wouldn’t throw me that look because she’d know that I’m no leader. I’m afraid to face being a father while my father is inside holding onto a bottle of Cutty Sark.

I see some of the blackberry bushes past the far corner of the house.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Section 5

Please see Section 5 of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt" below. This is the introduction of the patriarch of the family, Ben. From this point forward the narrative cycles between the five different viewpoints you have read so far: James, Tom, Liza, Maggie and Ben.

If you have been following so far, it is September, their mother has died and each sibling is coming home - some have not been home longer than others. Liza has just started college, James works and lives in Washington D.C. with his wife, Eve, who is pregnant. Maggie is a travel photographer who lives in Boston. Tom lives in a different town on Long Island and spends much of his time riding the train. Ben shared a medical practice in town with his brother, but he really wanted to be a comedian. He was known as a legendary drunk before his wife, Rose, made him stop drinking.

Enjoy Ben's first section.


I’m sitting at our long wooden kitchen table with James and Eve. I’d have to say that Eve looks stunning and she is the kind of girl I would’ve married when I was young. However, I did marry the kind of girl that I would marry. My bottle of Cutty Sark is standing in front of me. I love the taste of it, the look of the old sailboat. I once saw a terrific photo of a cutty sark burning up at sea. The horror of the flames rising and rising against the black clouds and the dark-green hellish waves. It really did look like a medieval painting of Dante’s Inferno. But this bottle is a fine light green and Hart Crane jumped off a cruise ship and not a cutty sark. Does anyone read him anymore? He was my favorite when I was young and still is though I haven’t picked up a book of his work in a long time. There was something to the language, the way it sounded old and yet fast and new at the same time. If there was ever a language that fit the word fleeting then it came from his mouth or brain or soul.

James isn’t trying to take the bottle from me. He and Eve are drinking tea. They have the kettle in front of them resting on an iron trivet. The steam lifts up and my eyes are following it to the navy blue painted ceiling and the strong beam of sunlight that is cutting through the skylight and along the wall. I take a drink from the bottle. James is talking to me.

“Dad do you think that is the best solution?”

“I was never good at math.”

“But you’re a doctor.”

“We didn’t invent calculus or calculators.”

Eve’s hand touches my arm. I feel her nails slightly through the thin green striped sleeve of my white shirt. Her hand is very tan.

“Are you alright, Ben?”

Her hair is still slightly damp and it’s pulled back in a bun that all girls seem to wear their hair. A few strands are falling on her forehead. Her hair is dark brown and her eyes are a lighter shade. You would call them mocha. Everything about her is brown – bronze is the better word. There is something ancient about her, a crafted sculpture. When your son is a child, you hope that he will grow up to marry a girl this beautiful. Even the most humble man at one point or another while looking at his son move and fumble about in the world trying to figure things out, hopes he will marry a girl of outstanding beauty because in some way it makes that deep masculine part of all men proud. However, what you never expect is that it will actually happen or that if it does that the girl will be Eve rousing something in you that is more than sex or more than love for a daughter or daughter in law. I think it might just simply be Love and maybe that is because she reminds me of Rose so damn much even if she doesn’t look a damn thing like her.

My head nods at Eve. “Thank you, Eve.”

She looks a little confused but humors me with a laugh.

I hear the front door open and close.

“Hello?” It’s Mags. My oldest daughter is back. So many women in my life the most important ones are swirling around me now. Liza upstairs, Eve next to me and Mags walking down the hall. But not Rose and because of that I can feel the stitching in me coming undone. She was the surgeon of my life.

Tom walks in from the back door. Mags’ hand is on my shoulder now.

I take a drink from the bottle and feel the burn in my stomach like a ship bursting into flames on the open water.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Section 4

Saturday morning. A little hungover, listening to the Sights' myspace (link found on the sidebar), wishing someone would put them back on a label.

Below find Section 4 of "From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt." This is the section that introduces Maggie, the eldest sibling in the family.


Slightly contemplative in a sweater.


It always comes at the worst time doesn’t it? Just when things seem like they are going to get the most frustrating and I know I’m going to become fussy the cramps hit me and then the rest follows. I’m passing the 7-11 and I make a right on Shaker Drive across from the train station. I haven’t been home in a long time. I couldn’t make it to Easter and of course Mom was upset about that.

On the phone. “You’re the oldest. You know how important that is to set the examples for your brothers and sisters. The piety begins with you.”

“Oh, come on, Mom. We’re not kids anymore.”

“It doesn’t end there, Margaret.”

“Mom, you know I’d make it if I could, but work…”

“Yes, work.”

“I have to stay.”

“You were always the oldest.”

I laughed. “That’s a bit obvious.”

“The most adventurous and I always loved that about you. But your brothers and sisters they…”

“I’m not James, Mom.”

“Yes, James.”

I didn’t know how badly off she was then. I spoke to her after of course but that would’ve been one of the last chances to see her. I could’ve come in the summer. Taken a train down to New York and then hop on Tom’s beloved LIRR and come home. Take a swim in those Long Island waters. But I didn’t. And now I’m back to Shaker Hill at the four way stop where it intersects with Meadow Street. On the right is the angular white corner house where Zach Roper used to live. The green shutters still look the same and so do the pink phlox flowers growing right by the stop sign. Something in me always had to get away from here. I felt a certain suffocation at all times growing up. I don’t have the poise of James, his patience in letting things come to him. Now he’s married and three and a half years younger than me. I always expected one of us to have part of Dad’s curse. Him more than me since he was the first boy. But sometimes I think it’s me who inherited Dad’s freewheeling nature. The way he didn’t want to be pinned down. I can remember vaguely from childhood when he was drinking and coming in late. That was before he started the practice with Uncle Connor. He thought he could be a comic or an actor. Maybe that was why Mom fell in love with him in the first place. She was the complete opposite, patient and levelheaded. That’s where James must have gotten it. I guess he’s the perfect mixture of the two. “A born leader,” Dad used to say. “A bleader.”

And me? The oldest maybe I’ve been the disappointment. Never ready to receive responsibility but always ready to move on. I think I’ve done alright, though. I’ve got an apartment in Boston. I’ve got a good job at the magazine. I get to travel. Yet, I pass those old ivy-lined brick buildings of the Clark School and I begin to get goose bumps. I’m afraid to be recognized by anyone from these sand-lined streets. James could always accept that, but I can’t. And, even though Tom has remained close to home, I know that he shares the same feelings as I do. The repulsion of this little island of ignorance and self-importance. Hugging to Manhattan for dear life or a reason to exist. I roll my window down and turn onto Tallmadge St. I smell honeysuckles and the always-indirect scent of hot wet grass. I know somewhere above and beyond the trees the sound is sitting there lapping and lapping. My car rolls down the little hill of Tallmadge and begins to climb up the big one. As the engine works its way to the top, I can make out the black gate. I see Tom’s car and I see James’ car. Green and Blue. Mine is white. Dad’s is black and probably in the garage next to Mom’s, which is silver.

I park the car and feel the urge to eat the blackberries along the side of the house underneath my old window. Now, I’m out of the car into the September sunlight and I can really smell the honeysuckles. They will probably die soon. Mom beat them to it.

Maybe when this house is empty I’ll finally understand what I’m missing.

Friday, November 7, 2008


It never happened in any of the Die Hard movies, but on November 4, 2008. John McClain finally lost his first battle. He took on Hans, The Blonde 80's Bad Guy from the second movie, and of course Jeremy Irons in a Shakespearan performance in Die Hard with a V is for Vendetta. I didn't see the fourth movie. However, on this night two forces teamed up that could not stop the Republican action hero beloved by millions of fans worldwide: The American Public and Barack Obama. He took punishing blow after blow across the country during a 3 hour thrill ride that could only be described as thrilling and 4 hours long. However, when Barack bowed in the last scene, we all knew that the movie and McClain's wild antics were at long last over.

Besides the jokes, it was an historic election. If the McCain that gave his Concession Speech campaigned for the past year instead of the strange persona that attended all of the debates and town hall meetings, then this may have been a closer election. However, this country knows what it wants: after 8 years of conservatives you will inevitably swing back and crave Democratics, especially after the especially forceful coservatism that was seen in the past 8 eight years - much different from the Reagan/Bush years as I understand them.

This country needed youth and that youth takes over with all the tools to help him succeed. We'll see what he and we all do with it.

Something to commemorate the fifth "Die Hard":

November 4

I woke up with a stomach ache,
The lyrics to “Idiot Wind” on my mind
I was thinking what sweater I’d wear
As I passed the storefronts and drawing blinds.

Paul Newman was dead two months,
They never played a marathon on TV,
But the mild November rain was coming in,
Just like it does every year with the fog.

I woke up and had no care for sub primes,
What I needed was coffee and surgery –
Something to keep me out of the bathroom
So that I could finish the work I wanted to.

The night before, Barack stepped on the stage –
Grant Park a moment of color, space and precision,
Like Chicago in ’68, those memories as commodity -
The reels we pack and will later sell.

Nothing could take away the seriousness,
The levity of relief or the assured redemption;
Not even snide aesthetes, political pundits
And all the other back slappers in the front.

Another black man on TV had God on his lips,
Which reminded me how often I shower,
But any institution that falls with time and funding
Should never be padded by one that never will.

There Grant Park stood like any of our living monuments,
The American apples we pick for the front pages.
But even with that green Callaway jewel in front of me
The night gave way to something that burned instead.

I thought of something that I truly didn’t know;
How you can tell the seasons by the color of her hair
The wild oranges, reds and maroons of summer that
Turn to the brown and blonde of the fall.

TR couldn’t have placed her at the top of his forest
And he wouldn’t know which girl to look at
As he gave speeches on the back of a train car
In downtown Sante Fe in 1904.

But TR would’ve run after that burning in his heart,
He would’ve beaten my sinister chest
Because there was no room for moments in his mind –
There was only that stick and the State who’d carry it.

I woke up and Barack Obama was the President,
His image flapping diagonally on the crossroads
Of faith, history and accountability
And leaving only the slightest breath of shade.

But in the middle of the afternoon my friends are drunk
And from their speakers Graceland is still on
We’re all wearing white tube socks in jeans
Sliding on wood floors without mothers.

Idiot Wind will pass us like any pulse of blood,
Just as we fantasize destroying everything we know.
The hypnotic march of music and our ambitions –
The glass we see the end of institutions in.

I don’t know what girl to hold in my hand
The feeling of my heart doesn’t mean its love
Because I want to buy them both fancy dinners
And I know how’d they’d both wear tan feathers.

The feeling in my heart doesn’t mean its love
Since my heart has throbbed for church organs,
Its throbbed for countless cigarettes and armhairs,
Friends and things that don’t make it into books.

Barack Obama is my new black president,
John Kennedy is my old dead president,
They both could call voices from the vasty deep
Most importantly from the bottom of our guts.

She’ll be late for all of her appointments
And he’ll drive drunk through the junipers
What they both want is to listen to somone
Who’ll tell them what stance to take to the world.

We’d elect Butch Cassidy if we could,
We’ve had our backwoodsman and womanizer,
There will always be a spot in the great garden
To sit next to Washington and his cherry tree.

These Presidents were surely prisoners to love
And they all came to the great rages of life,
The spilt garbage cans and dirtied fists
The blood that comes with coming to see.

By the copier machine, the songs come back
The fallen tree trunks and frozen creeks
Everything that happened before in summer,
With hot black top and stolen beer.

What ideals can we fit on our faces
While we ask each other about the weather?
You need to catch the next train uptown
And the last donut won’t be the one to kill you.

At the iron steps I hold her cold hands,
But its going to rain and I can’t wait
She lets me press on her maroon coat collar
While I watch her jog up to the platform with bags.

And at the other corner her bangs are light
She’s got blue eyes and needs hot tea
I can’t do anything for her and don’t care
Because I can touch her shoulder and cheek.

I woke up and everything was brand new,
There were clouds covering the sun,
The light came in slits from my curtain
And fell justly along the floor past my bed.

My local news anchor told me at the table
That Barack Obama is the president,
That all the best minds would find their way
Down to Washington as they once went to Rome,
But all I can think of is love and beer
And the fact that I’ll never go back home.
No president knows that about his voters,
He only knows that about himself
Which is why we hate them all alive
But love everything when its dead.