The Second Amendment should not supercede the Sixth Commandment.

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On The Care And Feeding Of Writers

On The Care And Feeding Of Writers.

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Not Quite Toe Up: Six Degrees

Until today I was never any good at Science. But, like a songwriter awakens with a song playing in his head, the entire clarity of how each of us are tethered came to me last night with crystal clarity. Sort of like the Six Degrees of Separation.

The lead character in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation pontificates that any two individuals are connected by only a handful of others while rambling, “I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names . . . “

If we aren’t connected by blood, then it stands to reason we are attached by circumstance – tied together by series of incidences often so small that even we may never realize the credence at the time. But through the magic of history – my story – one can easily see how I have positively proved my hypothesis.  Sort of.  So heed it and bare it all with me. I promise not to waste more than four minutes of your time unless you’re still a remedial reader.

This vignette is about my father, a man who lived and died with a seemingly unusual name. Some called him “Nort,” others, who wanted something tangible called him “Norty.”  For the record, his given name was Norton.  According to*, “Norton is not a popular first name for males but a very popular surname or last name for all people (#466 out of 88799) (2000 U.S. Census).”

During a brief period from 1890 through 1930, Norton was in the top 1,000 names. It is listed as having Old English or Old German origins which makes sense as my father was born in 1920. In retrospective analysis as my paternal grandmother, Frances was born in 1886 and did hail from a large German family. So in some unnatural way he came by the name naturally. Of course, the name celebrated its cultural fifteen minutes during the run of Jackie Gleason’s smash hit TV show, The Honeymooners.

See? So, at one point during my adolescent years, I resided at W.C. Fields’ house at 508 N. Canon, in Beverly Hills. About three blocks east, in the 500 block of either Rexford or Alpine – I forget now – lived the greatest Thoroughbred jockey in history, Bill Shoemaker*. He was an affable guy. Fact is, the few times I ran into him when we weren’t at either Hollywood Park or Santa Anita, he’d give me some tips on a hot horse to play or some generic rules about handicapping. Fifteen years later – Aha!  Fifteen years and fifteen minutes! –  I got a few published interviews with him including 1986, the year he gave me Ferdinand* as a “can’t-lose cinch,” that paid $37.40 after I tossed to it to my readers like the Queen tosses free hand waves.

Now don’t lose track of things. (Track? More connections!)  Anyway, that brings us to Norton Shoemaker. A non-descript harness driver at Pocono Downs, a non-descript bullring thankfully nestled just outside of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He had a year or two in the standings but about as much glory as a stable pony has to a champion racehorse. Norton Shoemaker and “The Shoe” had in common to one another, but plenty in common to me.  .

My father died suddenly in 1981. In pursuit of some relief I headed down to Ft. Lauderdale for a few days. One cloudy non-beach day when Dania Jai Alai was closed, I was fumbling around my hotel after brunch.  As I passed the promotional display case in the lobby, I stopped to go flipping through the fliers: Disneyworld . . .  Key West . . . There it was: Hollywood Greyhound Track*.

I got in the rental and headed over to the hounds. Once inside I bought a program and began doing my best at deciphering greyhound hieroglyphics aka past performances. There it was: Norton.

I shit you not. In the Third Race on that February 1981 matinee card was a dog named Norton. I recall running down to the rail, lining myself up with where his number would be when the handlers brought them out to display them prior to the race. Moments later he came parading out and stopped right in front of me. I looked up into his deep brown eyes  . . . (c’mon clichés, help me) . . . and, to my shear amazement his eyes were trained on me like a heat-seeking missile.

That would have been enough. But the unthinkable happened. He began nodding his head up and down.

I looked up at the board as the dogs were led away toward the starting gate. He was 16-1.  Sixteen. Sweet 16. OMG, he was 16 to 1. (16-1 the same as Ferdinand would be five years later in 1986!)  And a sixth: 16.

In the blink of an eye, Norton, gallantly spun around that oval, landing in front by the slimmest of heads. I hit nearly every gimmick, and a piece of win pool, for a tidy profit of about $3,000 as I recount today – never to see that dog or my father again. Come to think about it, I miss them both . . . my dad a bit more.

Hollywood Greyhound Track in Hollywood, Florida.

What? My father went to Hollywood High School in Los Angeles. How many more degrees do I need?

I got Norton Nathan, Bill Shoemaker, Norton Shoemaker, Norton the Greyhound, Hollywood Florida and Hollywood California. Bingo! That’s six!

I even scare me sometimes.
*




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Not Quite Toe Up: Six Degrees

Not Quite Toe Up: Six Degrees.

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Like The Prophet – Like Gibran

Like The Prophet – Like Gibran.

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Woman Apologizes to Her Breast Cancer

Woman Apologizes to Her Breast Cancer.

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I Won’t Be Mad (If You Tell Me the Truth)

I can’t write my name anymore. I don’t like words and can’t find the ones I want to use. I don’t like preachers. So I won’t write a sermon. I don’t like homework, aging or wrinkles.

I hate negativity. I don’t like dead dreams. In fact, I was going to either change the entire world , or become a writer, whichever came first . . .

I promised not to preach, but maybe I lied. One of the beautiful things about writing is you don’t have to wait to be asked and you don’t have to tell.

Then comes this desperate moment – this churning moment – that relives itself decade-after-decade and sobers you into the reality of what kind of failure you can actually become if you live long enough and made the erroneous choice of wanting to call yourself a writer: Deadline. D-E-A-D-L-I-N-E as in death. As in do it now or the presses are going to run without you and you’re dead, or at least jobless en route to homeless en route back to Mom’s and “make your bed already, will ya?”

Hello? Write this piece of shit or get canned. Stop calling friends; stop chatting online. Stop making excuses to your editors and professors. If you can’t write, then say that, you liar!

I’m old. I’m back in skewl, to improve my spelling. I’m back in a ditch, a last ditch attempt, to undo this writing-career mistake. Better late than never, then again, “it’s always later than you think.”

I need to get a life. You can’t write without one. And, if you can’t write, without a life, you can’t get a new life without writing a new script. Heed me.

Last night it became evident how bad it’s gotten. I’m typing for a few hours, words flowing like taffy and trying to find, create, steal or deliver one last clever phrase or two, and I knew then, as I do now, I’m not only washed up for life, I should have done what you better do: Study hard. Make an honest living. Stay away from sexual encounters after 3 a.m. Brush your teeth. Protect your credit. Never answer a question that begins, “I won’t be mad if you tell me the truth . . . “ and, never – never, never, never, write for a living!
Well, there’s only one way you’ll understand. I have to show you my latest attempt at a short story. I’ll not change a word, not even the notes, where a writer saves a bunch of so-called sentences and sticks them down on the bottom, to use later. Hint: You’ll never use them later.

Brothers and Sisters, learn from my errant ways. Here’s the rotten unfinished story, in its purest unedited form:

“One more Quaalude, a wet blonde with a wet kiss, some greasy potatoes, and something easy,” is what I thinking when the bus was rolling on toward Nashville . . .

A late afternoon thunderstorm in late August is about all I need, pouring down rain like my tears would if I could still cry. It was that kind of day.

The driver mumbled something as we passed the state fairgrounds’ marquee. We weren’t the Stones, but damn it we were on tour, and he loved the sight of the band’s name, so we loved him. It was sort of like the way people find fame saying they know the cousin of Elvis’ high-school fiancee. We pretended he was part of the band, and sometimes introduced him to a one of the girls we didn’t want. I could tell he’d reached his top, just about the time we were bottoming out, and there were still forty-some more cities and towns before we’d come down or get home.

Every day he minded the road, as I searched for my mind, which was lost or never found to begin with.

I couldn’t help wondering who in their right mind would brave this weather. Tonight’s gig was free, and part of the fair’s admission. Not that I cared how many were out front, I got paid either way. But the ride was an endless mind-fuck on how this weather would prevent me from getting laid.

Billy, the drummer with a down-home shit-eating southern grin and long dirty hair, had a girlfriend or two back home. I once had one, too.

I loved her so much that I decided one day to tuck her deep into a private place where she’d live forever, safely far away from me and promises, lies, dreams and disguises, which became bigger than her belly and part of this highway. I often wondered where she went, and still do from time-to-time.

My problem was the night. Always was, I guess.

It started that way, even if I didn’t know it back then. We were sixteen, and wanted the usual: Fast cars, and all the wet blondes and wet kisses inhabiting an adolescence dream of success and a life that wasn’t like Daddy’s.

Still nobody told me that what I wanted then, would turn into need and I need it tonight.

Now, want had turned to need, like a deep (??), that kept us up so late that the nuns must thrill and ills of fame and we jammed in Billy‘s mom‘s basement until she started charging us rent.

The worries of the morning were meaningless, like me.

Last night was a sell-out at Penn State and tonight would be desolate like my soul had become after years

Being tired, bored, hungry, horny and

I wasn’t even talking to Billy, after what happened the night before at Penn State.

Oh yeah, Billy was our drummer same as always. Controlling the meat of our backbeat was his game and he always stayed loosely unfocused. Like fashionably so; even while our songwriter, a guy who happened to be the lead singer, quit last year to marry a Carolina girl. Billy couldn’t give a shit about anything-easy money.”
It was about the point that I wrote, “the nuns must thrill and ills of fame,” that I realized there’s no longer an operator at the switchboard. In true professional writer style, you’ll notice I never finished the seedy piece of rubbish, but it’s nice to know that “Billy couldn’t give a (expletive deleted) about anything-easy money,” isn’t it?


Notice how I created the word “anything-easy?” You’ll have to learn stuff like that on your own, after you become a pro.


OK. If you’re still not convinced about the treacheries of authoring, you probably still have a thirst and itchy finger to see your byline in print. A desire for adoration. A joining of your soul to the ranks of Shakespeare and Hemmingway.


Without the slightest inclination to preach to you about writing or anything else, I’d ask you to consider where those two bastards ended up from all their deadlines and writing? Dead.


Now, answer this: And, I won’t be mad if you tell me the truth . . .

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(Even Nothing’s) Hard to Find

Driving “Mach I” Mustang –

circa ’69,

laying tracks down,

before we laid a rhyme.

Beaver fell for Cutty Sark

before he did his time.

Got to carry this weight to the Metro

make the City, earn a dime.

We probably stood for nothing;

Hey, even nothing is hard to fine.

Punching eye-sixty-five (I-65)

from Nashville to that green VA line.

Mile markers tapping meter

we were keeping time,

losing all borders,

before we lost our minds.

Sweet scents of back-seat panty hose,

stops for ‘boros and more wine.

More feeling,

yeah, the stop-n-go of feeling fine,

leading us so blind . . .

Beaver was my buddy,

a very close friend-ah mine.

He could play those six strings,

his finger were the kind . . .

later though

strumming quick is breathing slow,

leaves some dead before their time.

Beaver buried in some cessy city

near the opera for the deaf, we pity,

running from heat, fire, fans and flame,

precious moments wasting time and fame,

driving and inhaling that old white line,

try to make the next on time,

Even moments are getting hard to fine.

Endings leave me wanting, lacking,

like loss of water at low tide,

oceans overpower and draw,

our hearts and waves that we’d still ride,

even nothing getd so hard to find,

even nothing goes from hard to fine.

Like soldiers marching to a kill,

into a silent shrill,

falling victim to life’s pathetic line,

below the mountains of love,

near the valley of the unkind,

We probably stood for nothing;

– even nothing is hard to fine.

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Fire Engine Cherry

Fire engine cherry, runs the red light

Throbbing internal combustion

Suck, squeeze, bang

and blow.

– or –

My fire engine cherry

throbbin’ internal combustion


suck, squeeze, bang

and blow.

– or –

Fire engine cherry
runs the red light throbbing fine
squeeze, bang, blow and go

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Locked In

Not tomorrow

not yesterday

nor today

only memories of what

we try to explain away

hearing sounds beat

ocean waves curl and roar

feel others’ needs

all souls bleed

plant unwanted seeds

all for gold

all for kings

all for money

that smuggling brings

all the laws of in-laws

waiting for control

of where your lips will lick

never give them satisfaction

or admit

your memories

will soon be gone

like darkness separated

yet hungry for light

your sadness

becomes a maddening mistress

prompted by lonely sleepless nights

that crushes your dull cry

into quiet desperate whimpers

of close-grasp dreams

that crashed away

from a reach further than it seemed

locked in by needs

not for death but resurrection

though tomorrow seems lacking

yesterday’s protection

it is all an illusion

as you will always be in safety

‘cept the flash of fading memories


wasting time

explaining time


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