The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Category — Views from Lake Harriet

Holy Shit…It’s So Liberating

In my entire lifetime, I have never once turned the other cheek. Because I was a sensitive, mousey boy, my parents took it upon themselves to toughen me up and they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. As a consequence, I don’t take shit from anyone.

But, oddly, I did today. What in hell is going on?

A neighbor walked toward my car as I was exiting my garage. In deference to his having the right-of-way, I waited for him. When he was a few yards from me, he glared with thinly disguished contempt and made no attempt to acknowledge me. In essence, he was saying, I’m cutting you dead. This didn’t surprise me. He’s part of the clique of people that run the neighborhood. I don’t comingle. My strategy has been to ignore them, though one does pay the price with unplanned chance encounters such as this one.

Without knowing what I was doing—was I channeling Gandhi? have I been doing too much yoga?—I raised my hands and put them together in the universal symbol of peace. My lips moved and I found myself repeating the word, “Namaste.”

This had no effect on him—he walked away—but it certainly did on me. I had spontaneously returned love for hatred. I had never once done this before in my life. Holy shit. It’s so liberating.

May 1, 2012   Comments Off on Holy Shit…It’s So Liberating

Who Is Ellen Parr?

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

–Ellen Parr

May 1, 2012   Comments Off on Who Is Ellen Parr?

kindle Editions

I’m in the process of publishing my seven books in kindle editions. The first to be published will be the revised version of Winthrup, followed by Revenge of the Furies (revised), two volumes of poetry, a novella, and two collections of stories. As each becomes available, I’ll post the link to the book on my blog.

February 24, 2012   Comments Off on kindle Editions

Birthday Bouquet

What is love? Something given and accepted for what it is. So easy. So often absent in our lives. What’s required? Not much really. An appreciation of beauty wherever it is found and the courage to offer it in love.

August 16, 2011   Comments Off on Birthday Bouquet


In discussing the Roger Clemons case, Buzz Bissinger in The Daily Beast pinpoints the reason why Clemons, Barry Bonds, and Lance Armstrong have been targeted by prosecutors: “They [the prosecutors] represent themselves, craving high-profile cases with high-profile names that with a guilty verdict can lead to a corner office at some white-shoe law firm and a great deal more money. They are like grandiose taxidermists mounting animals on the wall…” These investigations, grand juries, and subsequent prosecutions are not about justice, but are, rather, vendettas tailor-made for an American public that craves to witness the destruction of sports heroes who are deemed too overweaning and aggressive. Clemons, Bonds, and Armstrong all fit this profile—athletes who were uncompromising in their approach to the game, aggressive to the very edge of what was deemed acceptable, arrogant and unrepentent in their victories. One hopes that Lance and his lawyers will outsmart Novitsky and those who are trying to bring him down. Although Lance’s reputation has been ruined (in the minds of some), he will not be stripped of his titles until he has been prosecuted in a court of law for an actual crime. Given Armstrong’s competitive character, everyone involved should expect a fight.

July 17, 2011   Comments Off on Justice?

The Goal of Life

“Walking is Zen, sitting is Zen;
Speaking or silent, active or quiet, the essence is at peace.
Even facing the sword of death, our mind is unmoved;
Even drinking poison, our mind is quiet.”

July 9, 2011   Comments Off on The Goal of Life

Definition of Bollix

I recently ordered six bottles of wine from a company in California. They shipped it via UPS. Since it was alcohol, an adult had to sign for the package.

When I realized I could not be available on the date given, I asked the company to change the address to my local UPS drop-off site. The owner of the store had held a similar package for me before, and I assumed he would do so again.

On the afternoon of the delivery, wondering why I hadn’t gotten a call from the UPS store, I dropped in and said I’d like my package. The clerk on duty, in front of the owner, said, “I rejected it. We don’t provide that service.” Naturally, I was not happy with this piece of news, but went home determined to recover the package.

I called the company in California and explained the problem. I got a note back saying that UPS showed the package as having been delivered and signed for. I knew this not to be the case, and told them what had happened. They called the UPS store, and spoke with someone on the second shift who said that the store had not rejected any packages that day. So, now, of course, UPS both had the package and didn’t have it, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

Next day, when I got home late in the afternoon, there was a slip wafting about on the sidewalk. It was a UPS notice, scribbled by the driver, saying he had attempted to deliver the package and would try again on Friday. Since I wouldn’t be available, I asked my wife to work from home, which she reluctantly did.

Although the driver’s note indicated he would deliver the package in the morning, he didn’t show up until the middle of the afternoon. He brought the package to the door and was about to give it to my wife, when he noticed via his hand-held electronic device that there was a hold on the shipment. The shipper in California had gotten involved and told UPS to hold the package at a distribution center. My wife explained that we had ordered the wine, that he had twice tried to deliver it, had been at our house yesterday, and that it would save everyone a great deal of trouble if he would just leave it with her. He said he needed to contact his supervisor. He got his supervisor’s voice mail. He explained he was a trainee and that if he did anything wrong he’s lose his job. My wife suggested he call the shipper, but he said he’d get behind schedule. He took the package and left my wife standing there in amazement.

So now I had to figure out how to get the package and when. This information was not available on the UPS website, so I had to call UPS. Of course, getting a real agent is not easy. The UPS telephone tree is constructed in such a way that it doesn’t offer the option to talk with a real person until you enter the tracking number. Even then you have to keep saying “agent” until it finally puts you in the queue. From beginning to end, this was a ten minute process.

The agent was decent (the first sane person I’d encountered on this journey). She told me I could pick up the package in four days (the day after Memorial Day) at the distribution center in north Minneapolis twelve miles from my house. Since I complained, I later got a call from a UPS supervisor. She offered no apology. It was all either my doing or the shipper’s.

Bollix is definitely a word we need in the American vernacular. How better to describe a system that doesn’t allow a driver to deliver a package to its rightful place when he is inches away from the recipient?

May 28, 2011   Comments Off on Definition of Bollix

Laired in the Rock

Listening to Obama’s Mideast speech today, I thought with a shock that except for the timber of his voice, the phraseology, cadences, and sentiments were exactly those of George Bush. It was unnerving. Has Obama been studying the Decider’s speeches? Has it come to this? Woe to us. Double woe. Time to cue in the Greek chorus. Or, perhaps, to recite a poem by Robinson Jeffers, called “Soliloquy,” which may very well go to the heart of the matter.

August and laurelled have been content to speak for an age,
and the ages that follow
Respect them for that pious fidelity;
But you have disfeatured time for timelessness.
They had heroes for companions, beautiful youths to dream of,
Women shed light down the great lines;
But you have invoked the slime in the skull,
The lymph in the vessels. They have shown men Gods like
racial dreams, the woman’s desire,
The man’s fear, the hawk-faced prophet’s; but nothing
Human seems happy at the feet of yours.
Therefore though not forgotten, not loved, in gray old years
in the evening leaning
Over the gray stones of the tower-top,
You shall be called heartless and blind;
And watch new time answer old thought, not a face strange
nor a pain astonishing;
But you living be laired in the rock
That sheds pleasure and pain like hailstones.

May 19, 2011   Comments Off on Laired in the Rock

Kudos to the Tribune

The StarTribune recently updated its website, which is a good thing, since the old site would actually “hang” your brouser. You would click on an article, the article would not appear, and then, even worse, the brouser could not be diverted from its task of finding it no matter what you did (hitting return, trying to change sites, even trying to shut down the browser entirely). This dysfunction seemed in keeping with a paper that had embraced conservative pundits in an attempt to change its image from being “liberal.” I’m hoping with the upgrade—the new site is fabulous—that the StarTribune will quietly push its most vocal Karl Rove types with their 1984 logic into the background. They don’t belong on this shiny new website.

April 7, 2011   Comments Off on Kudos to the Tribune

I’m Ready for You, Man

I saw a billboard yesterday that said Christ is coming in May. I had to laugh. If only he would. It would be a hell of a lot better than how things are playing out.

In high school I carried around copies of The Stranger and The Plague by Albert Camus, and after reading them realized that these were novels firmly rooted in philosophy. It was as if their author had clothed his ideas in the vestments of fiction. In a way, they were more powerful because of it. His points were unmistakably clear.

Of these novels, The Plague left the strongest impression on me. When the prospect of immediate death is ever present, as it was during plague years, most human beings abandon all forms of morality and take the low road, living out their most debased fantasies. No form of depravity is excluded.

We are living in such times ourselves. Most 20- and 30-somethings do not believe they will die natural deaths. And why should they? We have polluted and overpopulated the earth to the point where our ecosystem is dying. In truth, we passed the point of no-return decades ago. Anyone with half a brain knows that if the ecosystem dies, we will die right along with it, probably violently.

We have become characters in a novel by Camus. Solipsists. Narcissistic black holes. Totally self-centered individuals rushing from one form of immediate gratification to the next. Few now take the high road, though there are some who do. Interestingly, it is against these individuals that conservatives unleash their fiercest attacks. Ironic, isn’t it, to have a political party in power that actually hastens our demise.

So, come on Christ. I’m ready for you, man.

April 6, 2011   Comments Off on I’m Ready for You, Man