At Sea

“You’re getting married? Have you set a date?”

“Tentative. June 14.”

“Wonderful. I’ll put it on the calendar.”

“Don’t you want to know the year?”

“Seriously? Isn’t it the first June, like next year?”

“We don’t know. I told you. Tentative.”

“So the wedding itself and, one supposes, the marriage is tentative?”

“The wedding. I don’t suppose the marriage will be tentative. How can you have a ‘tentative’ marriage?”

“Oh, plenty of people have done that. I have a friend who did that but it lasted twelve years. That’s something to think about. There’s regular tentative and longterm tentative.”

“But I love her. I want to spend my life with her.”

“Starting when? That’s the question right now. Doesn’t she want to spend the rest of her life with you?”

“She’s not ready to settle down. She says there are things she wants to do, and she wants to do them on her own, by herself, before…”

“Ah. Well, take it from me, kid. If she is that upfront with you about not being ready, that’s a good thing. But I don’t think you’re getting married.”

“Oh c’mon. There’s a June every year.”

“If I were you I’d just get a job on a container ship and see the world. Then when that magical June rolls around, she’ll come looking for you. Don’t wait around.”

“But what if she’s ready and I’m not here?”

“If she loves you…”

“Are you saying she doesn’t love me?”

“No. I’m just saying that if she loves you, she’ll find you. But you don’t want to miss out on your life in the meantime, right? Carpe Diem and all that is real, son.”

“She’s my life.”

“Time and tide wait for no man — or woman. Sorry you’re going to find out the hard way. I have to go to the store. Anything you need?”

The Love Sorcerer

“Two tickets. The Dean’s box. You want to come?”

“What’s the music?”

“I don’t know.”

“It’s not on the tickets?”

“No. I mean I don’t know. I don’t have them. They’re at the theater.”

And so we went. El Amor Brujo. My first symphony. I wore my best dress. He wore his interview suit.

We didn’t look all that out of place.


Young People! do NOT keep a journal!!!

I have twenty-four journals, books, with keepsakes, letters, cards, photos, quotes, hiking stories; worst of all, my own stupid personal conundrums written in convoluted and (apparently) infinite redundancy. I thought I’d found all the damned things but no; in the process of cleaning out the garage, I opened the LAST box. Guess what? A dozen more of the dumbass things.

You do not want to know when you’re 65 what an idiot you were at any point in your past life. Write the shit if it helps, then delete it. Do NOT commit it to paper or share it online. Do NOT buy one of those beautiful blank books that seems designed to embrace your every sacred thought because someday you’ll have to throw it all out. Save your money. Take a trip to some exotic locale you’ve always dreamed of and get out of your head.

And as I write this, my iPod plays…



“Bison, honey. They’re not buffalo. Bison.”

“God you make me tired with your semantic bullshit. Who cares?”

“It’s important to be precise and accurate. I’m a scientist and correctly naming things matters to me.”

“OK then, more than actually LOOKING at the goddamned buffalo out there? Did you imagine in our lifetime that there would be so many in so many places? Remember when we were kids…wait, I don’t think you ever were a kid.” He took a long pull from the thermos of coffee.

“Oh stop. You know I’m just not the rugged, outdoor individualist you are, but it doesn’t mean I don’t think this is beautiful. Amazing.”

“C’mere punkin.”

Smooch, smooch, smooch…

Wounds all Heels

Time really does heal wounds, maybe not all, but many.

Long ago I was married to a guy I met in 9th grade. It was a terrible marriage. We were both too young, too broke, too a lot of things for what we’d taken on. His dad — one of the handsomest men I ever met — followed the Calabrese method of wife and child rearing. It was all my husband knew, though he did take it to new levels. Not dissing Italians AT ALL. It’s just that he came from a strongly paternalistic home where the husband physically enforced his role as the master of the family.

I finally extricated myself. That was an interesting process, and another blog post, maybe but probably not.

Years later I had been places. I’d been in China, married a different guy, moved to San Diego, far, far away from the scenes of my first marriage. I was with friends at a lecture at the art museum in Balboa Park. We took seats in the second row. At a certain point, I looked up and saw my ex escorting his wife into the auditorium. They sat almost directly in front of us.

I was stunned and bewildered. My ex seemed only vaguely familiar, though it had only been 10 years since our divorce. I said to my friend, “That’s my first husband.”

She knew some of the stories of the marriage.

“Oh my god,” she said, “What are you going to do?”

“Nothing unless he sees me. That’s over and done with it. In fact, I barely remember it.”

“How can you ‘barely remember’ being married to someone?”

“I don’t know, but I’m glad about it.”

He didn’t see me, so I escaped that moment in the easiest possible way, still perplexed and filled with wonderment that the intervening years and experiences had healed what had once been a gaping wound.

I’ll Tell You about Desire…

Desire is temporary insanity that can last forever.*

Charles Buckowski

and the windows opened that night
a ceiling dripped the sweat
of a tin god,
and I sat eating a watermelon,
all false red,
water like slow running of rusty
and I spit out seeds
and swallowed seeds,
and I kept thinking
I am a fool
I am a fool
to eat this watermelon
but I kept eating




Linoleum cut prints by Picasso

*This is my definition of desire. To the best of my knowledge, no one else has said this. There’s nothing rational about desire, in my experience.


I was driving east on US HWY 160 on the weekly road trip to the big city for groceries — Alamosa, Colorado. It was a semi-bleak February morning, Sunday, somewhat early. I was armed with the coupons they’d sent in the mail, a bunch of good deals, as it happened. The envelope was covered with pale pink hearts against a dark pink background. There were even free things in there; free juice — my favorite brand, other stuff. Added up to a savings of more than $40. Not bad.

I hate shopping, but it’s a 25 minute drive and I have satellite radio in my car. It’s a luxury for which I pay $6/month. I was listening to the 60s station — uncommon for me — Paul Revere and the Raiders had just regaled me with “Kicks” (but they don’t keep getting harder to find). After that? The Association, “Never My Love.” I don’t think I’ve heard that since it was on the Top 40, and, for some reason, the song filled my car even though it’s not a song I ever liked.

I looked around at the mountains all around me, the white, white fingers of fog filling a high valley in the Sangre de Cristos, layers of random clouds all negotiating the future like a bored couple on a Sunday afternoon. “Shall we rain? Shall we snow? What do YOU want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do?” I thought of my novel in progress and how much fun it was last week when I finally FOUND the story. I thought of how I could organize the vastness of the narrative and got a good idea.

The song kept playing.

The mountains right now are snow-covered, white and indigo. I thought of my piano teacher in Nebraska who consoled me when I had to move away by saying, “Just think of the mountains, how much you love them and how happy you’ll be to be there again.” The family was moving back to Colorado.

The song was still singing, a full-on love song, and I remembered the moment I realized I was a writer. I sat on the floor of my bedroom in Nebraska, probably 12 or 13. I had my dad’s portable typewriter sitting on the closed case. Not a bad desk for a kid who liked to sit on the floor. I was writing a poem. I was SO happy. It was a love poem to the fields and forest where I hiked and played, to storms and seasons, to natural features, foliage, wind and sky.

The song moved closer to the ending, and then I saw it. I have always found a way to be near any mountains, out in any nature, that happened to be around. I have always written. Life without love? No.

What makes you think love will end
When you know that my whole life depends
On you…
Meanwhile, I move we return to celebrating this egregious paper holiday of disappointment in the Roman way. Bonum Lupercalia!!


“What’s on the agenda today?” I asked, making coffee.

“You leave.”

“Sorry. Not until this evening. I wish it were sooner, but I had to stay forty-eight hours.”

“What time do you go?”

“Plane leaves at 7. I want to go to the Art Institute.”

“You have to go alone.”

“Why?” I asked, though being away from Mark was fine with me.

“I have to work. Paul’s gone”

“What do you mean, ‘gone’?”

“He’s gone to Colorado to buy boots.”

“Ah. You don’t have boots in Chicago?”

“We sell boots. They’re for the store.”

“Great! I won’t have to spend the whole day in the car.”

“I guess not.”

Mark was not happy. I began to see that he was tired, sad, drained. But then, I’d had no experience in the night with someone. I’d simply slept. I knew very well the hell of our day together, but no idea what had gone on between him and Paul, what conversations, fights, discussions. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. It was none of my business, and I sought no confidences.

“The other thing is, Paul has my car. I have his.”


“I don’t think Paul’s car will make it to the airport.”

“Call me a taxi.”

“You can’t afford it.”

“You can.”

“Fuck you.”

“Thanks anyway.” I mixed up some Instant Breakfast and poured my coffee.

We began to calm down and to talk sensibly for the first time that weekend. I walked around the bedroom, finding my things and packing. Mark watched and talked. 

“Did I tell you about the foreign service exam?”


“Well, I passed it. Now I’m waiting to hear where and when I take the oral test.”

“Why do you want to join the Foreign Service?”

“I just want to leave the country.”


“Why not? You’ve lived in France and Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. You’ve traveled all kinds of places. You’ve left the country, so you know what I mean, or you should know what I mean.”

“I don’t know.”

“I just want exposure, Mark. I want to see things, know things.”

“Honey, you’ve already seen more of life than 99% of most Americans. It’s not that great to go away.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I don’t know that.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I have to. I want to. All my life I’ve wanted to live outside the country, in some place with ‘less,’ with a different way of thinking, of doing things. I need to get perspective, experiences. I feel so blind.”

“Well, you’re not blind.”

“What about you?”

“I don’t know. I got a teaching job here. I don’t like working at the store; Paul likes it. It’s what he does and I’ll be teaching foreign students starting next week.”

“Full time?”


“What about your writing?”

“The store has kept me tied up, and I haven’t written anything in more than a year.”

“That’s not good. I love to read what you write, and not just because you wrote it.”

“Maybe I’ll have time after I start teaching. I’ll have afternoons, anyway, while Paul is at the store.”

“Not too bad.”

“No. It’s OK.”

I was packed. We went out to Paul’s decrepit VW which chugged its way to the store. The timing was off; the carburetor needed help, but not mine. Mark opened up the store and I stashed by stuff under the counter. I hung around until 10 when the Art Institute opened. Mark gave me instructions for getting to the El and I left, walking into the bright, cool morning.


This is an excerpt from a book-length work of creative non-fiction I wrote back in the 70s during another snowy, white-sky winter in Colorado. It is about the relationship between Mark and Adrienne (on one level) and it is about Adrienne’s search for the purpose of her life (the over-arching meaning of the story). The backstory here is that Mark has asked Adrienne to marry him. She thinks that’s a disastrous idea because Mark is (mostly) gay. Still, he flies her to Chicago from Denver to talk it over and see his parents, with whom she is close. Paul is Mark’s lover. They share a house. Mark did not tell Adrienne about this before flying her out so… The weekend is a disaster for them but hopefully not for literature. At this point, the weekend is nearly over… 

All that is happening with this story now is that I periodically retype it into new technology… 😉

“Martha I YEARN!”

An unbelievably long time ago now, Denis Francis Joseph Callahan was in love. The object of his affection was a woman about 15 years younger, from a different generation completely from Denis who was a man of the 60s. I don’t know why, actually, as he was 3 years younger than I meaning that he would have been 5 when the 60s started and 9 when the Beatles began their ascendancy, but it was what it was.

Rebecca was all Blues Traveler.

Music is a litmus test for the success of a relationship. No, I mean seriously. My first husband hated Steppenwolf so much he threw all my albums into the dumpster and said, “There’s more to life than a 30 minute drum solo.” He offered no particularly enticing alternatives.

“The thing is, Gus,” (Denis’ nickname for me based on a nom de plume I sometimes used in fun, Augusta Lamont) “I yearn.”

Yearning is one of the best parts of being in love, I think. It’s the whole “Grecian Urn” thing. Nothing happens in real life and the lovers never disappoint each other or fight or get jealous or any of the other things that can happen after “capture.” Nothing is expected of either partner in the “yearning” phase. It’s all flashbulbs, fireworks, unicorns, hearts and My Little Pony sweetness and potential.

We spent lots of time together, meeting for coffee, dinner, a Sunday morning walk on the beach, mostly him talking to me about his unserved passion, but other things, too. When he summoned the courage to tell Rebecca his feelings, she responded with, “Thank you.”

“What does that mean, Gus?” he asked as we sat in front of a coffee house in Pacific Beach.

“It means she doesn’t feel the same way, Denis.”

“I’m going to call her and ask her.”

“Yeah, do that.”

“Really? It’s a good idea?”

“No. It’s a shit idea.”

“How do you know?”

“OK. Pretend I’m her. Call her.”

“Ring, ring.”


“Rebecca? This is Denis. Hey, what did you mean yesterday when…  I get it, Gus. I’d look like a loser.”

“All you got left is your dignity, Denis. Cling to it.”

“No one ever did that for me before. You’re a real friend, Gus.”

I was in love with Denis then. He was cute, very bright, very funny, literate, articulate, quoted poetry (and recited it with me!), bought me Njal’s Saga which changed my life, and he was a riot to hang around with. Unrequited love appears to have been a speciality of both of us. A few years later, when Denis looked around and noticed me, that ship had sailed.

One Pot

I was sitting at my desk in the development office of a law school (part of a large, private university) when my boss came in with one of the most beautiful men I’d seen in my LIFE. He was tall, moved gracefully, wore clogs (?!), smiled, had green eyes and dark hair.

“This is my assistant, Martha. Martha, this is Tom. Remember I gave you a letter to read from my college friend who was in Nepal? This is him.”

Tom had been on an expedition to Annapurna II.

Behind my desk was an enormous enlargement of a photo of T.E. Lawrence and Lowell Thomas crouching in front of a Bedouin tent. Why the photo? Lowell Thomas was planning to leave his fortune to the law school and the law school would be renamed in his honor. For me that was great. Lowell Thomas was one of my heroes and I got to meet him.

“Lawrence,” said Tom. “I’m reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom. What a monster book.”

“It is,” I agreed. “I read it when I was 11.”


“Yeah. I’d just seen David Lean’s movie and I was in love with Lawrence.”

“Beautiful film.”


My boss was tapping his toe on the carpet. Clearly he hadn’t brought Tom into the office to have a conversation with me.

“Let’s go,” said my boss. “I have a meeting after lunch. What do you want for lunch?”

“Something like that,” said Tom, pointing at the really lousy salad I’d gotten from the automat in the cafeteria.

“You don’t want this,” I said. “It’s gross. Go over to the art museum,” I then suggested. It was across the street and they had several really good salads to choose from.

“The ART MUSEUM?” asked my boss, incredulous.

“That sounds fun,” said Tom and off they went. Later that day, Tom called me from my boss’ apartment where he was staying and asked if he could write me. My first thought was “Why?”

Time passed, letters went back and forth, a few phone calls and I went to Albuquerque to visit him. I was terrified. What if he didn’t like me? Scarier still, what if he DID? I arrived to an empty house and didn’t know how things worked there. There was a note on the back door. “Come in, make yourself comfortable, I’ve gone to the store. Tom.”

I stood in the kitchen in a state of terror and waited. When he came in, he cooked dinner — tuna casserole. He prepared, cooked and we ate all from one stainless steel bowl he’d brought back from Nepal. After his expedition — during which he decided to become a medical doctor (he’d been a film-maker) — he had resolved never to acquire more stuff than he needed on his trip. So. One bowl.

That impressed me forever, and I remained a relative minimalist — easy for me, actually, since I hate shopping. There are some things of which I have too many (too many dishes, for one) and a few things of which I cannot have too many (Caran d’Ache watercolor pencils) but overall, I took that lesson to heart. Stuff complicates life — and stuff accrues without much effort. It takes effort NOT to accumulate stuff.

It was a relief to leave most of my belongings behind in California, to walk away from the concretion of thirty years. Even Tom could not maintain his simplified life. He explained it the next year saying, “One does need a little aesthetic, right?”

Of course.

For those who, reading this, will wonder, “Yeah but what happened with Tom?” Here’s what happened. I liked him VERY much. However, I wasn’t ready at that moment for a life-partner, and he was looking for one.