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Writing Is Flying

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The Red Room, an online literary space where I’m a member, regularly holds writing contests with assigned themes. Recently the theme was flying.

Writing Is Flying

Ishmael Reed said Writin’ is fightin‘. Isabel Allende said it’s like making love. For me, writing is all that and more: writing is flying.

Many years ago I was living in a country cottage with my two small children, without a desk, much less a room of my own. When the kids left for school each morning I would sit in an old, beat-up armchair upholstered in gray corduroy, and write my novel in longhand. At night I’d type it up while they did their homework at the kitchen table. I had frequent backaches, but I was so involved in the writing, I didn’t care.

About a year later my novel was accepted by an enthusiastic literary agent who sent it to just about every major publishing house in New York. I was ecstatic, convinced that this time — it was my third novel — it would be published. My agent took me to lunch at Café des Artistes.  I indulged in a world of fantasy 24/7, of making the rounds of talk shows, landing on best seller lists…every writer knows the way these fantasies go.

We human beings might need to hold onto dreams, as Langston Hughes put it, but they can sometimes be damaging. When my novel was rejected by every editor who read it, my agent lost enthusiasm. I lost motivation. I did not write fiction again for nearly five years.

And then I had The Dream.

In The Dream I was sitting in that old gray armchair: Flying. The chair was my airplane, maneuvered by pushing or pulling on the arms. I soared high above treetops, over ocean beaches, towns and cities, my heart light and free.

I awoke from the dream with joy bubbling through every cell of my body, as if I actually had taken flight. Remembering the gray chair as the vehicle in The Dream, I realized what it was telling me: When I write, I fly. The joy I’d experienced during my time with that novel hadn’t just been about over-the-top fantasies, but reality: it was the act of writing itself that made my soul take flight. The gray armchair was long gone, and I now had a desk. The morning after The Dream I sat down at it and began anew.

Many years have come and gone since I first had The Dream. I’ve written dozens of short stories (most published) and another three novels (not). The kids grew up and moved out; wherever I’ve lived since then I have a room of my own.

The Dream has recurred once or twice, usually when I’ve really needed it: that old beat-up armchair lifts me up and carries me over the ocean once more.


Stating The Obvious

I just love scientific research that discovers stuff any dumbass knows without even thinking about it. You know, Men and Women Respond Differently to Sexual Stimuli, or Mother’s Milk Best for Babes, Study Finds. In the Be Kind to Animals Department, a new study found that cows who are named give more milk than those assigned an impersonal number. The reason for this, scientists speculate, is that an animal with a name is probably treated more like a pet, or at least better than a machine. Doh!

The Perils of the Street

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barking dog

On Saturday afternoon, with my iPod playing a bouncy Beatles tune, I bopped down the street, on my way to Trader Joe’s. On the corner stood a woman, a child of about eight, and two leashed dogs. As I walked past I smiled. One of the dogs jumped up–to, I thought fleetingly, say hello–and in a flash I felt his teeth dig into my forearm. Shocked, I raised my arm: it was bleeding, and it hurt–man, did it hurt!

I began to cry hysterically. “Your dog bit me!” I yelled, stunned. (Only later did I realize I’d been in a state of shock for hours.) Of course she immediately apologized, saying “He’s never done anything like that!”

The little girl began crying and said “I knew something like this would happen.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked accusingly. “He has bitten before, hasn’t he? Hey, I watch Animal Planet!” I blubber idiotically, “I know all about problem dogs.”

No, no, no, no, no. The woman denied it to the death. I wanted her phone number–I thought I should do something!–but neither of us had a pen, so she walked with me to my house to get one. The whole time I’m bleeding, crying and yelling, the kid’s crying, the woman’s apologizing–but she’s not offering to help me, even when I said I had no antibacterial stuff in the house to put on it.


I don’t know why, but after she left, I went ahead and resumed my journey, clutching a piece of gauze to the wound, which was still bleeding a little. I went shopping, came home, and sank into a chair. That’s when I realized I’d been in a state of shock.

Once upon a time I was terrified of dogs. As a teenager I used to have to dog packpass an empty lot on my way to the school bus stop; a pack of wild dogs lived there, and one or another of them would frequently bark at me. Once, when I went out to babysit, one of them began following me home. So freaked out was I that I knocked on someone’s door and used their phone to call my father, who came and got me.

I overcame my fear of dogs only after years of counseling. A male friend up in the country used to go out with me at night looking for unleashed dogs togolden retriever stare down as a form of therapy. To tell you the truth, though, it was the advent of Animal Planet, with all its dog shows, that finally did it for me: because of Animal Cops and Animal Miracles and K-9 to 5, I have come to love dogs, and regret that I can’t own one in my apartment building.

And now I find myself once again walking as far away from dogs on the street as I can possibly get.

I’ve decided to report the incident to the police. I don’t want to talk to the owner, but I do want the dog bite on record in case the creature does it again, or has done it before. The wound seems to be healing, though I didn’t go to the ER, as my sister and other people frantically insisted. I hope it doesn’t get infected and kill me.

Who needs this shit?

Prosecute Torturers

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Power fist

I received this call to action from a group called The Peace Team.

Last week Attorney General Eric Holder finally allowed that he might appoint some kind of special prosecutor for the rampant torture regime of the Cheney/Bush administration. But will he actually hold the torture kingpins accountable or just scapegoat some little fish the way Abu Ghraib was swept under the rug?

It has never been more urgent to get to the bottom of the rogue government that operated inside the White House, and to hold those criminals at the highest level fully accountable under the law.

FeingoldThere are brave members of Congress calling out for justice, like
Senator Russ Feingold, who wrote Holder this week on behalf of the
Senate Judiciary Committee. We must add all our voices to the chorus
and demand real accountability.

Special Prosecutor Action Page

Isn’t it curious that Congress can get all fired up about crucifying
baseball players for lying to them about personal use of steroids,
and yet committing war crimes somehow has not received as much
attention yet? Yes folks, as long as we indict Barry BondsBarry Bonds and Roger
Clemens our democracy is secure.

And do you remember just last month when Republicans were protesting that the CIA would NEVER lie to Congress, with CIA director Leon Panetta as their star witness? Except that they did lie, that’s not what Panetta said, they were lying to Panetta at that VERY MOMENT, and we just found out about it. So please submit the action page above to send your message directly
to Holder himself, Obama, and Congress.

The very popular “CONVICT DICK & W” caps are available on the site, and we are making available both the Impeachment Play DVDs from the production in San Francisco last summer, and also the special Dennis Kucinich pocket constitutions, commemorating his presidential candidacy in 2008. Or you can request any of those items directly from the Progressive Activist Gift Page.

You can also respond to this action through the new Twitter gateway. Just send the following Twitter reply, and add any personal comment you like: @cxs #p984

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.



I wrote “Chumbug” several years ago, for “Xmas Sucks,” a performance event dreamed up by Thomas Roche, writer of noir, erotica and humor. “Xmas Sucks” ran annually in San Francisco for a few years, then fizzled out–but good news: it’s making a comeback this year, tomorrow night in fact (See below). I might make it there, but then again I might not, so I thought I’d resurrect “Chumbug,” first published on my blog in 2006. It tends to work best on stage, enhanced by ethnic gestures and my grandfather’s Yiddish accent — so use your imagination.

tulip menorahModern Day Tulip Menorah

So, nu? It’s not enough that I’ve been hocked to death by Xmas for six decades, now it’s Chanukah too!

Have you noticed the way they try to pacify Jews with equal time for Chanukah? Televised menorah lightings side by side with The Tree towering over it. Dreidl dolls with curlable hair. Latke dinners at 25 bucks a pop. I guess it serves us right for draying that we don’t get equal time in December.

HELLO? I don’t want Chanukah any more than I want Xmas. Not only is it a minor holiday, it isn’t even politically correct: it commemorates some sort of Jewish war victory. No one even paid attention to it until Xmas gradually grew, like a virus, into what a friend of mine calls our National Disease.

I mean, Xmas isn’t just one day–it’s an event that lasts from October through January. That’s three months, or one-quarter of the year, or 25% of all the time we spend on this planet. I’ve done the math: If I live to be 75 I will have spent roughly 18 years coping with the anger, resentment and depression induced by the so- called Holidays.

The real tsuris is that I’d finally gotten a handle on it, when suddenly, after so many years of making me feel I should deny my ethnicity, Christians began pressuring me to become a Real Jew. Carolers arrived at my doorstep singing “O Chanukah” and “Dreidl, dreidl” in four-part harmony, demanding latkes. I got an ecumenical card that read “As we celebrate Xmas and Chanukah.” Children’s books on Chanukah spill from the shelves—I saw one in which Chanukah was interwoven with the birth of Jesus.When I objected to a wreath being hung in my office, the poor little girl hanging it let loose with an incoherent, maudlin story about the beauty of menorahs. Huh?

Fellow Jews, we must act, and fast, before a dreidl decorates every streetlight, before Day-Glo stars of David are used to invoke guilt and capture gelt. We must organize so that come next October, when electronic menorahs play “Little Star of Bethlehem,” we can rise up in unison and shout


potato pancakes 2

*Xmas Sucks!

Holiday blues got you down? Sick of news stories about how starving bankers have to give their kids dirty socks for Christmas or risk having the Bentley reposessed? Or do the Hannukah hornies have you planning a misanthropic holiday retreat with a bottle of lube and the The Book of Judith? At Christmas Sucks, five top-notch writers share their nasty holiday horror stories with you, trading holiday glurge and Christmas schmaltz for hardcore raunch and bitter winter depression, raising seasonal affective disorder to a sleazy and viciously satiric art. Sherilyn Connelly, Charles Gatewood, Carol Queen and Simon Sheppard join host Thomas Roche for a nasty reading of holiday discontent sure to leave you feeling warmer and sloppier than a dozen of Aunt Petunia’s moonshine-laced egnogs. Hosted by Thomas “The Bitch Who Stole Christmas” Roche.

Friday, December 19
The Center for Sex and Culture
1519 Mission Street @ 11th Street, San Francisco
Doors 7:30, show 8-10pm

No door charge, but a small donation requested to benefit the Center for Sex & Culture

Email for more information.

Mickey Mouse Menorah

Mickey Mouse Menorah