Monday, January 30, 2012


You need to live authentically, and you can't ignore that
~last night's fortune cookie

I'm doing a little housekeeping here today: deleting labels, cleaning up more than a few messy old posts and trying to figure out if there's any way to create real categories in which to store various labels (seems Blogger is more about form rather than function unless, anyone can tell me otherwise?), while the sauce simmers in the pot. Literally.

It's quiet in the house and as I sit here at the kitchen island all I hear is the slow simmer of the pasta sauce and the bubbles that rise and spit at its surface. The house is filling with the scent of garlic, tomato, oregano, basil and stewing meats, which prompts me to think of Grandmother, who would often come to our old house to help Mother cook dinner. Meatballs were not made with the pre-packaged trio of ground veal, pork and beef that I can find at the supermarket on any given day. Rather, Grandmother fed slabs of meat through the cast iron meat grinder that was clamped to a heavy butcher block my father had made, and I remember the amount of energy that was exerted and the dark, raised veins of Grandmother's hands as she turned the wooden handled crank.

While rounding globs of seasoned meat between the palms of my hands today, I saw Grandmother's hands. Or at least the beginnings of what one might call work hands. Though I never worked the looms of a mill, or really, a meat grinder (except out of  youthful curiosity, when it looked like fun, but it was not, it was work). And it was this work--grinding, weaving, canning, sewing, kneading, hanging clothes out back on taut-rope lines--back breaking work, that Grandmother, and my mother to a large extent, discharged on a daily basis.

We rarely went out to eat. And if we did we did not go out to restaurants like Chez Pascal, where fine and ridiculously good French food and wine are served, an art gallery is found in the side room, and whimsical vignettes starring cheese and miniature four-legged creatures are set out on a dusky pine buffet that serves as a room divider at the entry. And that is fine, for had we my fondest memories may not have been of the home-cooked dinners served in our small dining room, where Mother and Grandmother were the last to sit down.

Authenticity is found in the smallest, and sometimes the most banal, things we do. Daily minutiae. How we execute seemingly mindless chores tells us a lot about who we are. We mustn't forget. I wonder if my mother or grandmother ever even had to remind themselves. It's a pity they didn't have time to write about it while the stew simmered.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — Killjoy Rides the Current

Well, I have to be honest. I'm not up to tricks today. The damn migraine is back and and the double doses of magnesium and vitamin B-2 aren't worth the space--never mind the clamor--in which they digest. I should demand a damage deposit from them, but, as it is, they're never on time with the rent.

I'm hitting the hard stuff. And the lights will be out any moment now, so, please forgive my lazy self, but there's nothing novel here today. Nothing.

I'm just going to reroute you to this original piece (go ahead, click there or here) to give you a more, um, poetic sense of how I really feel.

And while I'm drifting along this turbid visceral stream of consciousness I might as well mention that nasal lavage is highly overrated, the new Facebook timeline profile gives me vertigo (do not attempt opening when stricken with cephalalgia), and, so I hear, creative writing is "therapy for the disaffected masses." Having taken many creative writing workshops I admit that I agree with Shivani's (who is this guy, anyway?) assessment of the workshop as a mild form of hazing. (Especially the grad school sort. Ouch.) Reading the greats might prove more instructive.

Aren't I a regular killjoy?

But wait, isn't all writing therapy in one form or another? How can anyone write, or read for that matter, anything without attaining even the smallest measure of growth, awareness and insight?

Seems I'm no longer drifting. No, I'm beating back the biting currents of this stream. (And once again resorting to alliteration to do so.)  I must be listening to...


The great improvisors, straight from Beantown and better yet, a string band! (you forget, Berklee is also in Beantown), the incomparable, the virtuosic, the crazy-crazy talented...

Joy Kills Sorrow:
(and killer mandolin riffs)

Joy Kills Sorrow band members met through the folk music scene in Boston, all having lived there at one time or another. They are classically trained musicians who create intricate and beautiful arrangements.
Emma Beaton's take-charge melodious pipes seem to transcend vocal genre. Bluegrass, roots, rock, country, pop, blues, jazz--it seems the girl could sing it all brilliantly. In 2008, at the age of 18, Ms. Beaton won “Young Performer of the Year” at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. And JKS's latest release, This Unknown Science, is a testament to her vocal facilities. 

This young band's hybrid music illustrates their mastery of genre melding. Bassist and Brooklyn resident, Bridget Kearney, who double majored at The New England Conservatory of Music and Tufts University, wrote all of the eleven songs on This Unknown Science, and has garnered much acclaim, having won the John Lennon Songwriting contest in 2006 for two songs she penned. Guitarist Matt Arcara, banjoist Wesley Corebett, and mandolin player Jacob Jollif (a Berklee College of Music grad, highlighted--as first mandolinist--in this Berklee performance) have all been honored in the music world.  More in JKS's bio here. And lots more from YouTube here.

Stay with this heart-tug of a song until the end--it's worth it:

Oh, I believe the stream has slowed to a pleasant ripple. I think I might even take out my banjo.

Fair winds my friends!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Franklin Line

She is on the commuter rail reading the restored edition of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.  Her eyes are misting over like the city she's about to walk through. She can't let go the last line of the Forward, what Hemingway's son, Patrick, reveals to be his father's last professional writing and "the true foreword to A Moveable Feast: 'This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.'"

He'd taken his own life a few months before she'd been born, and she'd grown up with his books at her trinket covered bedside table, thinking the man
of the few author's she'd read at the timethe most rugged, brave, passionate. Perhaps she'd held too close this quixotic adaptation of the novelist, and this line, this last line of the Foreword, causes her a minor heartbreak for Hemingway. This is not her handsome Hemingway, she thinks.

The train enters South Station and she slips her cap over her head, walks down Essex to Surface to Beach and through Chinatown. It's early morning and the street vendors have not yet set their tables at the curbs. Snow melts from Chinatown's sloped rooftops and awnings and dampens the fleece toque on her head. She crosses over to Kneeland to Tufts Medical Center.

At the TMJ clinic on the sixth floor the receptionist asks her if she's there for sleep or TMJ. She pauses a moment, she wants to say Sleep! Sleep would be nice. Had she bothered with such pleasantries (as she ordinarily does) she would have engaged the receptionist in a short conversation about the joy of sleep and the dolor of insomnia. Oh, I know, wouldn't we all like more sleep! the receptionist would cluck. But she's too tired for conversation. What she says is TMJ, and does not elaborate, and the receptionist automatically hands her a clipboard with the usual craniofacial pain indicator.

In Dr. Correa's surgical suite, her day and night guards are adjusted. They're too tight and the night bite splint keeps her from a deep sleep. She can hear Dr. Correa, in an adjacent room, whittling away at the hard plastic pieces with a drill. She slides off the exam chair and moves toward the glass bay. The window washers aren't banging against the concrete on their suspended scaffolding today. She spreads the louvered shades with her hands and looks across the street at the Floating Hospital where her daughter had had surgery in May. She thought about seeing her in pre-op, Everything will be finejust fine, she'd said, and then, after Lu was wheeled away, she'd walked out the heavy swing doors and fell to pieces.

She looks north, to the right, up Washington beyond the Paramount, and, if she could have seen that far, the Old State House at Devonshire, Faneuil Hall at the foot of Congress, and Mass General a brisk walk beyond where her husband had been admitted for surgery in September. But her attention shifts to Government Center where they had parted after their first date more than twenty years ago, and where, just across the way at One Beacon, she had secured her first job in Boston, at a lively law firm that occupied four of the building's thirty-seven floors. If she could have fixed her eyes west on Kneeland where it stretches along the edge of the theatre district, funneling into Back Bay and Brookline beyond, she might have remembered how much she misses the walk down Chestnut Hill Ave from her apartment on Commonwealth to Bangkok Bistro at Cleveland Circle f
or chicken massaman, and then up Beacon, past her old apartment above the Rabbi's brownstone, to the Tam for a Bass Ale. But the Floating Hospital blocked her view west and she could see only the enormous brick facade of the medical center.

She thinks about lunch with Max at Jade Garden, and how he'd happily annihilated an oversized bowl of boiled shrimp, scallops and octopus. She thinks about the spongy pork buns and fragrant lotus leaf wrapped rice at Hei la Moon's 
dim sum with Lulu, and Blue Man Group, where she'd dug herself out from under toilet paper with both of them. She reminds herself to pick up mangosteens, winter jujubes and guavathe kids' favoriteson her way back to the train station. This had become her routine. And she didn't mind, even if it had become pedestrian, it took her back to a place, or even a time, she wished to be. She was not constructed for the burbs. She didn't understand its particular syntax or mechanics, the conformities within its framework, nor the nuances of its assembly. It was a misplaced parenthetical where she bided her time as the children played in the streets, joined soccer and lacrosse teams, engaged in requisite and acceptable activities. She longed for the rack and pinion of the city or the notched ridge of a mountain. The in-between hollowed her heart.

Boston was the city where, among its quaint stone buildings, streetcars, glass skyscrapers, Irish pubs, emerald parks and broad river
a place she'd felt was home, and it was homeshe'd grown into herself. Now she gazed out the window at the snow-lined streets of a place that seemed far away; had she really lived there for more than a decade? During the past year, Boston had become her destination for sober reasons. She was at Tufts to be deprogrammed. When did the grinding start?

Dr. Correa returns to the room with her newly shaped appliances. They are the first part of the program. The second and third parts are physical therapy and relaxation. He asks her to sit down and keep them on for a while to determine if they're comfortable. She sits and tries to relax. She snaps the upper guard in and moves her jaw forward and back. There's more tongue room now, she says. She takes it out and tries the lower guard which seems looser and more wearable, which is important, the doctor reminds her, because we want you to be happy. We want the program to work.

Yes, they're fine, she says, just fine. 

The doctor tells her to call if anything changes, otherwise, he'll see her again in three weeks.

She looks out the window one last time, packs her bag and runs back to South Station to catch the 2:40 so she can pick her kids up by 4:00pm. Under the split-flap she realizes that in her rush she'd forgotten to buy the Asian produce and would return home fruitless. She sits in a forward facing chair, because she does not like to ride backwards, tucks her Charlie Card in the loop on the seat in front of her and opens her book. The Franklin Line schedule marks where she'd left off at the end of Chapter 8: "All I must do now was stay sound and good in my head until morning when I would start to work again. In those days we never thought that any of that could be difficult."


Thank you to Leah, of Eating Life Raw, for gifting to me the Versatile Blogger award (which I've added to the sidebar).  I had the happy occasion of personally meeting Leah last October when she travelled north to visit family, and I can vouch that Leah not only eats life raw but does so with fresh insight and tenacious optimism! Her words inspireeach of her posts are wrapped in shiny paper and curly ribbon, like little gifts to the world.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — Un Française Folâtrer

Yes, a very French Frolic.

It's Mother's birthday today, so I'm going to keep this brief as the family is having a celebratory gathering this eveningan event for which Max and Lu are beyond ready now that semester exams have come to a close. (Good God, I'm glad that's over.)

Some of you may remember that last year, on this very day, I wrote a little love letterhere on SSto Mother, to whom I referred as my Anti-Tiger Mom. Then I rolled up a hard copy and tied it with ribbon, as several Blogger friends suggested, and gave it to her as a present. She loved it. She's always loved anything her children would give her, excepting, perhaps, a hard time. But, even in the midst of hard times during those early years of parenthood her temperament was unwaveringly serene.

Above is a picture of the saintly birthday girl with five sixths of her brood. Young Thomas is missing, having not yet been a twinkle (if he was, in fact, ever a twinkle) at the time this picture was taken. Mary (who was maybe a twinkle) is in Mother's lap. Backwoods Betty and Tony are grin-smirking behind Mother, and Chris and I (sporting one of my father's custom bowl haircuts), well, ugh, we don't look particularly happy, do we? That may have been because we were involuntarily participating in an event for which we had to remain still.

Mother, it seems, is the only one who looks truly happy. (Don't let Betty and Tony fool you, they'd done something naughty just before the camera clicked, I'm sure.) This is also Mother's temperament.

An abridged story: yesterday, Mother brought the kids home from early dismissal at school and stayed to lunch with us. Lulu, as she likes to do, ate just about everything in sight and then hunted for more, topping the feast off with ice cream. Soon thereafter, buckled at the belly and groaning, Lu asked if we'd EVER get a cat. (Why this could possibly have been on her mind at that moment, I've no idea.) And I, who did not inherit Mother's facile temperament, immediately replied, No, we're NEVER getting a cat.

Why NOT? Lu moaned.

Because, I snarled, you'd EAT it!

Well, Mother twitched with delight and stirred memories. You see, she told us, only weeks after she and Dad (and the four that had twinkled) moved into their city colonial, neighbors Charlie and Doris implicated Mother in the case of their missing cat. Several days after the neighbors' cat failed to duteously return home (look, I'm a bit rushed, you don't mind if I split infinitives here, right?), Doris eyed Mother with this inquiry: Well, Charlie mentioned that the French do like CHAT, now don't they?

It should be noted that, at the time, the city's population consisted of nearly eighty percent French Canadians/Franco-Americans. Mother graciously informed Doris that chat was not considered to be a French gastronomique, unless perhaps, one was starving, which would be très malheureux, indeed. This put a quick end to Doris's inquisition. 

I think that Doris might have once heard that the French eat calfAll the same, perhaps we should continue to wait on the cat. Then again, Lu is only half French.

The French, you know, really are quite happy people. We'll be Frolicking with many of them tonight.

Joyeux Anniversaire, Maman.

* * *

While Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour, Jaques Brel, and to some degree, Josephine Baker, who was not French, but embraced France as her home, may be known worldwide as the most famous of French singers, there are beguiling voices of less known vocalists, such as the smooth, silky and emotive voice of chanteuse Lucienne Boyer, who deserve as much attention as the well known greats. In her native France, however, Boyer was known as a grande vedette, or superstar.

Like Mother, Boyer (according to Astrotheme) tended toward playful and witty, and seemed to beto paraphraselike a catalways landing on her feet. 

You don't think Boyer....

climbed trees? 

Thank goodness she never got lost.

You can listen to many of her recordings, and find out more about Boyer here


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Slush and Other Stuff

In the publishing world, this is what you would call slush. It came unsolicited and from a less stable source. The sort of precipitation I requested is known as snow. Not slush. What came slickly dressed from the skies yesterday was aspiring snow. Kids' stuff. Which, today, has vaporized like many a child star. 

So much for last Friday's rain, er, snow dance. Maybe if we'd all get together, form two lines (ladies and gents) and stomp... 


Not so long ago, in 1988, during what the Government declared "the worst drought in fifty years" (affecting two-fifths of the country), a group of farmers from Ohio asked the Rosebud, S.D. Sioux tribesman, Leonard Crow Dog (there should be a Wiki link here), to assist them with their pleas for rain. Crow Dog met the farmers in Clyde, Ohio, and performed a rain/pipe dance, which, it is said, was followed by a crackling in the sky and a niagra of a rainfall. Well, I exaggerate--it was more like a quarter inch or less. Still.

I think I need to get a pipe.

Did anyone else miss Wiki today?

Stomp. Stomp. Puff.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — The Low Anthems of a Dysfunctional Winter

A Scene on the Ice -  Hendrick Avercamp 

No ice
not even snow
on this island
that sits low
by the sea

Ponds long
to be cut
with silver blades
a fishing hut
or a puck

No such luck.

Where has winter gone?

Suburban soliloquists
take trains
stare out windows
at city's winter rains
dreaming of frost

Skis of copious length
on which to mount
a field of firn
to linger, scout
a winterland struck

But fuck.

Where has winter gone?

To the Dutch
they've it all
ice, skates, kolf
snow wonder they stand tall
on glacial ivory

The brilliance
of a Vermeer
Jan Davidsz de Heem's
flowers, oh dear!
Steen's palette instructs

Winter's not amuck!

As it should be:

Swirling, whirling crystal
fleecy drifts severe
white-out hypnotics!
The island's absent pearlescent smear
and Khione's heart despairs

So to Avercamp
the scenes he'd deliver
lustful heads turn
toward his frozen river
away from this muck

What's known as winter yuck.

A dysfunctional winter.

* * *

The north wind blows and brittle branches scratch against the clapboards, yet I don't hear the siren calls of winter. Temperatures have dipped (somewhat), but the blizzards of last year seem merely a dream. How can that be? The last time we Rhode Islanders saw snow around here it was cavorting with fall, just before Halloween. That was the trick. The treat has yet to follow, and I fear my friend snow may not remain as it should: a going concern. 

In a corner of the garage, my cross-country skis sit lonely, and I almost want to curse our pulsating sun that fights the brume for attention. This is not as winter should be. Not here. Not in Lil Rhody!

What we do have, thougheven during abnormal wintersthroughout the year, is a vibrant music scene, and a history of serving as a launching pad, or at the very least, sowing seeds, for several remarkable bands. Members of the Talking Heads met at RISD. Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lisa Loeb, Duncan Sheik, Jesse Sykes (Jesse Sykes and The Sweet Hereafter), and Chris Keating (of Yeasayer) graduated from Brown University. And let's not forget one of my very favorites (especially when he's with his partner, Gillian Welch), David Rawlings, who grew up in the very next town from where I was born and raised.

In Providence, the local music scene includes, among others, The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones, Deer Tick, and The Low Anthem:

Ghost Women Bluesas well as other songs from The Low Anthem's most recent release, Smart Fleshwas recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory located in Central Falls, RI (home to Stanley's famous burgers), which is, like most places in R.I., barely a stone's throw away from my home. 

Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (2009) was recorded on Block Islandin the midst of its deep-freeze winter months. TLA is known for using locally found materials as percussion instruments, as well as its album sleeves and art. (Aha dumpster's treasures.) And I wonder what charms they dug up along the bluffs of one of the Last Great Places.

On My Space, TLA describes its music as minimalist, psychedelic and comedy. I think it's beautiful. (Or, wicked awesome, as the locals like to say.) And hope for more treats from them, as a going concern.

Now, please, Khione, bring on the snow!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wednesday's Weekend Wisdom

The Suburban Soliloquist is starting a new Page (up top, by The Muses, etc.) entitled Weekend Wisdom which will feature an amalgamation of original photography and quotes from the wise ones--our humble writers, philosophers, artists, scientists, educators--thinkers and doers. The most recent WW photo/excerpt will be shown at the top of the sidebar (as the passage from Candide does, at this writing), refreshed each weekend, and will link to the SS's Weekend Wisdom photo album. (The Suburban Soliloquist tired of seeing her profile accentuated due north on said bar and has quietly redirected it south).

And although it is not the weekend, it is Wednesday (a beautiful one at that--the kind that makes you wish it were the weekend), which fits in with the semi-alliterative theme here on the SS pages and sidebar. So, please forgive this confusing introduction, as well as post-publication edits. Oh, you didn't notice?

Anyway, that is all for Wednesday. More this weekend, when the Weekend Wisdom page will be published (up top!).

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Night Frolic — A Mouse is a Mouse, For All That

"It's a constant battle between mice and men."
~ Lulu

Small, crafty, cowering, timorous little beast,
 O, what a panic is in your little breast!
 You need not start away so hasty 
With argumentative chatter! 
I would be loath to run and chase you,
 With murdering plough-staff.
I'm truly sorry man's dominion
 Has broken Nature's social union,
 And justifies that ill opinion
 Which makes thee startle
 At me, thy poor, earth born companion 
And fellow mortal!
I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
 What then? Poor little beast, you must live!
 An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves 
Is a small request;
 I will get a blessing with what is left,
 And never miss it.
Your small house, too, in ruin!
 Its feeble walls the winds are scattering!
 And nothing now, to build a new one,
 Of coarse grass green!
 And bleak December's winds coming, 
Both bitter and keen!
You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
 And weary winter coming fast,
 And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
 Till crash! the cruel plough passed 
Out through your cell.
That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
 Has cost you many a weary nibble! 
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
 Without house or holding,
 To endure the winter's sleety dribble, 
And hoar-frost cold.
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
 In proving foresight may be vain:
 The best laid schemes of mice and men
 Go often askew,
 And leave us nothing but grief and pain, 
For promised joy!
Still you are blest, compared with me!
 The present only touches you:
 But oh! I backward cast my eye, 
On prospects dreary!
 And forward, though I cannot see, 
I guess and fear!

~Robert Burns, "To a Mouse, On Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough" [Standard English Translation] *

* * *

Our furry mortal companions, after all, are merely trying to meet the three basic needs of any living thing: water, food, shelter (and clothing for us lesser humans). Air and sunlight help, too. So what exactly is the battle? What is this compulsion to subordinate nature to man? Can we not work together, in harmony? Maybe this is why Michael leaves peanut butter out for our critters? (She naively asks.)

The thing is, though, the mice have come into our natural world. Our home. And they are, to be sure, small and crafty. Their careful approach to the mouse trapsevidenced by clawed peanut butter globs atop the plastic cheese of traps set around the houseillustrates their slyness and resolve. We are housing and feeding the beasts. Like hell they startle at us!

Up until Michael found a few mini-Santa chocolates haphazardly unwrappedbroken pieces of Santa-shaped, teeny-gnaw-marked chocolate bits scattered under the Christmas treethe children were accused of consuming too much candy and leaving foil wrappers strewn about the house. Not one of you will fess up, eh? And why the heck are so many ornaments knocked off the tree? Well? They stared at me with eyes narrower than usual. You mock your mother?!

Soon after Max's and Lu's acquittal, while de-decking the house of boughs of holly and sucking all traces of pine into a monster canister, I broke out the vacuum's brush attachment, lifted the cushions from the living room's couch and found a trove of bird seed that had been hoarded by the mice. Under the cushion of a fabric-covered chair, I discovered a small, sugar-sprinkled gingerbread cookie (a treat left for our Santa chimera), shredded ribbon and other scraps. I wondered if it hadn't taken a platoon of mice to conceal their booty. Our house had become the bandits' very own Moveable Feasta splendid place brimming with tasty morsels and sparkly lights, with ample nooks and chinks for notable adventures. Who needs Paris?!

And then my breast went a-panic. Bold rodents! What have they to worry about? They'll tear apart the pantry! I thought about d-CON (for a moment), and shored up all food-filled containers, vacuumed and sprayed and scrubbed. And then Michael went for the traps.

But our mice are much too clever.

There's a little voice inside me, though, thanking the gods for not mashing the head of one mouse in those traps. Yes, the fields are bare and wasted, and the bleak winds of winter have arrived, but the critters are merely trying to survive. There must be a more humane way to rid our domain of them (for it's quite impossible and far too unsanitary to co-exist in the same domicile). Is there not?

Until we figure it out, Max will carry on about the pests' scratchy evening shenanigans keeping him awake at night. And I'll stock up on glass containers.
* * *

King Rat (an illegal whale hunt protest) by Indie rock band Modest Mousehas an official animated video, directed by the late Heath Ledger, that's apparently been hijacked by VEVO. If you'd like, you can see it here. Modest Mouse has been making music since 1997, but it wasn't until 2004 that they established mainstream success with We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, for which they enlisted musician and vocalist James Mercer of the Shins, and Broken Bells (with whom we Frolicked here), as well as help from Johnny Marr (former Smiths guitarist). Marr ultimately toured, in 2007, with Modest Mouse.

You can find more information, including tour dates, on MM's blog. They'll be playing in San Francisco, at the Macworld/iWorld convention, January 25, 2012.

Hmm, the only modest thing about our mice is that they don't make a show of it while we're still puttering around the house. But in the evenings, they Frolic!

*Burns's poem inspired at least two book titles: Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, and Sidney Sheldon's The Best Laid Plans. Per Wiki, in 2007, Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull) read the first stanza of the poem as a prelude to his remastered One Brown Mouse, adding the line "But a mouse is a mouse, for all that" (referencing Burns's Scot song, "Is There for Honest Poverty"popularly known as "A Man's A Man for A' That") which I sneaky-as-a-mouse stole for this post's title.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New England's New Year

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
~ Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

Despite the briskly falling snow in New Hampshire, the new year brought temperate weather
uncharacteristic of most January firsts. In Sugar Hill, there was not enough fluffly ground cover for the tread of our cross country skis and, certainly not, for our snow shoes. Our cargo carrier remained unopen the entire weekendall the winter sports apparatus untouched. 

Rain fell on Saturday concocting a mud-slush, so we drove into Littleton, had lunch and poked around in Main Street's shops. It was there, in just L, an intriguing little shop that sells vintage-mod furnishings and accessories, that I found a collection of pastel linen-covered children's novels, like Little Women, The Heart of Dog,  Kim and The Water Babies, that charmed me for some time. I wanted to pull them from the antique bookshelf, but they were all so delicately pretty that all of them, all of them, spoke to me so, reminded me of the children's book I'd always wanted to write, and I fell into a gentle trance that precluded the stroke of my fingers upon their spines.

* * *

On our route from Rhode Island to New Hampshire, a portion of the highway we travel cuts just below Lowell, MAan old mill city where Jack Kerouac was born. Each time we drive below Lowell, I think of Kerouac. I wonder what he may have written had he lived more than his too short forty-seven years. I think about his travels, his search for the Absolute Being, for God. And as I write this passage, I think how I may never, ever, remove from my writing literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition,* and how I often feel that what I'm writing may never, ever, be as original or unique as anything Kerouac put out for the world, and wonder why I can't stop fretting over perfection of sentence and paragraph, all too aware that it threatens every work on which I embark.

Except for one piece: the children's book I'd always wanted to write, which I wrote (the project I mentioned here), finally, and which my son illustrated in one crazed month between Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Hence, my long absence.) I didn't, per se, have a specific story I wanted to write, but I had a long standing vision that I would, at some point in my life, get to a children's story. Christmas, and my young nephew, gave me the impetusand those of you who read me know I work better (or shall I say, work with more discipline?) with looming deadlines.


Here is a photo sampling—not necessarily in order by page of Klute and the River Flute:

And I think the words are fairly simple! (To get there, though, my son had to drop a few hints about some of my word choices.)  Though the process of writing this book, the research, the illustration work, the water colors over Max's illustrations by myself and my dear friend Lindawhose water color over Max's pencil sketches is shown above on the cover and on the second and third photo (you can see the difference in her skill level versus mine)consumed a multitude of hours, and was much more work than I had anticipated. There were a few mistakes, setbacks and frustrations, like technical glitches converting the project to a printed book, and not using the proper paper for water color. Learning how to water color, alone, was quite an undertaking, and I owe Linda more than just a few paint brushes for her kind tutelage and expertise. I was not only surprised by the sheer amount of work that was required, but also, by how much I enjoyed the process. I have to admit, too, that I was surprised that the book was finished in time (by the skin of my teeth) for Max and me to give it to my nephew as a Christmas present.

Who knows, I may just attempt it again. But perhaps I'll give myself more than a month's time.

Anyway, that Kerouac quote above, that's my resolution for 2012. I'd like to make it stick.

Happy New Year!

* Jack Kerouc, “Belief & Technique For Modern Prose: List of Essentials” from a 1958 letter to Don Allen, published in Heaven & Other Poems, copyright © 1958, 1977, 1983. Grey Fox Press.

The accompanying Klute doll, made from an old sweater and felt scraps. A (very) limited edition. ;)