Sunday, May 14, 2017

Remembering My Mother on Mothers' Day 2017

My mother, Nella, had a favorite expression; “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” She lived her life in a way that embodied that saying.

Nella was raised by an aunt in a little village in the hills of Tuscany, Italy. There was little work to be had in Italy and Nella’s mother and father were working in France, she as a wet nurse, he as a shoemaker. Deficient nourishment resulted in Nella contracting a form of polio. The doctors told her mother that Nella would have to wear braces for the rest of life. A decade later (1918), Nella was walking off the ship, Conte Verde, at Ellis Island unaided.

The family settled in Chicago and Nella, 4’ 11” on her tip toes, learned English and defended herself fiercely against school bullies who picked on the new immigrants. She graduated from high school, got a business school certificate, and at 20 years-old, set out on her own for California, where she worked during the day as a hospital switchboard operator and studied ballet in the evenings at the Earl Wallace Studios. She presented the Italian version of the Paul Whiteman movie, The King of Jazz, in 1930, and was about to go on tour with the Earl Wallace Dancers when she met and married my dad. They were together for 76 years.

My mother’s admonition to never give up and her encouragement of my aspirations were the foundation of whatever success I’ve had in life, and the enduring respect I have for those early intrepid immigrants to America’s land of opportunity.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

I'm Thinking of Her

Jacobs Road, Kennewick, WA, May 2017
I don't know how to pray
or to whom
or what
or why

I know the sky
the grass
the flowers
and speak with them

In whispers
"I'm thinking of her"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fargo 2017

Ewan McGreagor as Ray Stussy in Season 3 of the TV drama, Fargo, tells his parolee girlfriend (and accomplice), Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Wingstead), "I ain't never killed nobody before." Nikki pats him on the arm and says, "Life's a journey."

Monday, May 1, 2017

Eating the Sun

(originally published April 2009)

Mouths open
Eating the sun
Greedy for fire and flame
To nourish their sex

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Nameless All-Dissolving Ocean

Cannon Beach, OR, May 31, 2012
Someone inside you steps from the forest and across the beach toward the nameless all-dissolving ocean. 
(from Astonished, by Don McKay)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Donald J Trump Becomes the 45th President of the United States of America

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Trespasser, by Tana French

I finished reading Tana French's 'The Trespasser' first thing this morning. I actually set it aside late last night, because I was getting so stressed out about it I knew I'd have trouble sleeping. Here's a review that tracks pretty well with my impressions of this outstanding crime drama.

Review by Alison Flood, The Guardian

There’s more than a little of the noir about Tana French’s latest, The Trespasser. Set, like her previous thrillers, among the detectives of Dublin’s murder squad, perhaps it (hard-)boils down to the fact that her protagonist this time, detective Antoinette Conway, manages to fizz with contempt for the world around her, bristle with toughness and sink regularly into poetic gloom all at the same time.

“The case comes in, or anyway it comes in to us, on a frozen dawn in the kind of closed-down January that makes you think the sun’s never going to drag itself back above the horizon,” says Conway, the only female detective on the Dublin squad, dealing with the cruel practical jokes of colleagues who want to see the back of her, and lumbered with straightforward domestic violence cases when she wants to be on the trail of psychotic serial killers.

This particular case looks like a lovers’ tiff, “just like the uniforms figured... some gobshite who got his knickers in a twist and threw a tantrum at his girlfriend”. Aislinn Murray is lying dead in her immaculate home, blond and beautiful. Everyone is convinced the boyfriend did it, but Conway and her partner Stephen Moran – both appeared in French’s previous novel, The Secret Place – believe there’s more to it. Or perhaps, tired of being given the easy solves, they just want this to be more than another “slam-dunk” case. Keeping it quiet from the rest of the team, they pursue a series of dark possibilities, in the process discovering there was more to the glossy Murray than met the eye (“everything about her seems dense enough with sadness to drop you like a sandbag”).

Conway is an enjoyably complex companion, both bruisingly misanthropic – “If he’s not our guy, he’s such a godawful damp weenie, the kind who needs regular slaps across the back of the head just to keep him from vanishing up his own hole” – and so in love with her job it almost makes you want to give it a try. “That pulse is hammering right through me, practically lifting me off the bench. Forget coffee; this job, when it’s right, this job is the hit that speed freaks throw their lives away hunting ... It’s a smell of blood raging at the back of your nose, it’s your arm muscle throbbing to let go the bowstring, it’s drums speeding in your ears and a victory roar building at the bottom of your gut.

French also pulls it out of the bag here with some of the best back and forth interrogation scenes out there. “No ifs and maybes twitching in the corners, gumming up the air, itching inside my clothes... Just me and the guy across from me, and what we both know he did. It lies on the table between us, a solid thing with the taut, dark shine of a meteorite, for the winner to claim.”

As she and Moran edge closer and closer to a dangerous truth, obstacles continue to fall or be planted in their paths, until they’re not sure they even want to get to the bottom of what they’re looking for.

While The Trespasser isn’t quite up to the intense brilliance of The Secret Place, it is still a gnarly, absorbing read, and a finely tuned slice of wintry gloom from one of the best thriller writers we have.

Read more about Tana French here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Walk Don't Run

The quail, quivering with indignation at the interruption, scatter hither and yon, panicked but persevering in their refusal to fly, least they lose their dignity, they run stiff-legged, little best men at the wedding, dressed in their tuxes, running into bushes.