Tag Archives: Friends


8 Aug


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From her house on house on Echo Lake outside of Big Fork, Montana, mom’s friend Jetta takes us the next morning to meet her friends.

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Today they are hiking at Wayfarer State Park.  Karine and Julie,

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Mom, Jetta and Karen.

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But there’s more than hiking.  There is an ease and a joy.

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Glen helps us with our route, and as I learn more about them all, I find I have misjudged everyone’s age by about 15 years.

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In the afternoon, we go kayaking, something I never thought I’d do with my mom.

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She continues to surprise me.


A Lot of Things, Very Slowly

17 Apr

OK, a break of sorts.

I have been asked by my old friend Lindsay Porter, who I have known since we were little more than children, and whose blog Chimeragirl2010 (chimeragirl2010.wordpress.com) is wonderful,  to take part in the #mywritingprocess blog tour by answering four questions about how I write.  Being someone for whom I feel a great fondness and admiration, and who will in my memory be forever young, stumbling down a Bucktown street in her cowboy boots and dress, blind to the world because her glasses would spoil the look, it is my honor and privilege to accept.

What are you working on?

A lot of things, very slowly.

A memoir of Arcola Drive, the street I lived on in suburban Detroit from 1968-1973.  It was a street where most everyone was in their late 2os, had a pack of kids, owned their own house, had a car and took a yearly vacation – all on one salary, somehow connected to the auto industry.  I want to find out what’s happened to those families over the last 40 years.

A novel called Limehouse, which follows a young American in London, as he stumbles into the world of Deakin, cranky storyteller, reluctant rogue, inhabitor of ancient pubs.  A man who ages only when he loves, and who, in this way, transcends time.

A comic novella called Lawrenceville, in which a fierce, but bedridden woman sends her hapless husband and son on a journey through the blizzard of the century in an attempt to beat her sister to a long-lost family treasure:  thousands of dollars in rolled quarters buried somewhere in her old home town.

The linchpin to all this, however, is my first short story, Skating the Lake.  It’s my step from memoir to fiction in a format where I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I can already feel it effecting everything else I’m working on.

And, as always, I’m working on my two blogs, Extra Special Bitter and Playing in the City with Trains,  and the book which I think Playing should become.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

Well, as you can see, I am all over the place genre wise.  And I don’t really think in terms of being different.  The goal is just to be honest.  That being said, I do have specific goals for each of these projects.

For the Detroit memoir, I’m starting from the memories of a 10 year old boy.  So, beyond the story of a changing world, it will also, by necessity, be a meditation on childhood, memory and community.  In this way it will differ from straight journalism or sociology, which, especially in terms of Detroit, have been done by others far more capable than I.

For Limehouse, the goal is to make it real, to strip away all the whiz-bang fantasy elements to the point where you begin to wonder, is this guy really six hundred years old? Did he really drink with Shakespeare? Or is he just an aging roadie with a wild imagination and a serious alcohol problem?  I like that tension.

Lawrenceville is close to the bone.  These people are family.  They make me laugh, and it’s easy to push that side of them.  But they’re not clowns.  I want them to be real.

Skating the Lake  is also very close.  I just want it to be clean.  No romance, no easy sentiment, no cliches.  Just a moment, polished until it shines.

I’m also big on hope, a quality sorely lacking in much of what I read.  If my work differs from others in its hopefulness, that would make me happy.

Why do you write what you do?

I don’t know.  I always wanted to write, and felt that I could do it, but I had nothing to say.  And then my daughter was born, she had Down Syndrome, and it just ripped me open.  Whatever crap I had spent my life jerry-rigging to keep my emotions tamped down just crumbled, and I could write.  I’ve been catching up with myself ever since.

How does your writing process work?

My challenge is time.  In a perfect world, I would type 1000 words a day first thing in the morning.  It’s absolutely my best time, and it’s usually so enjoyable that I easily exceed a 1000 words.  But between work and kids, this is a rare treat.

Barring that, boring temp jobs can be amazing, and are actually responsible for most of what I do.

Finally, although I’m a Luddite at heart and would love to be  one of those long-hand, pencil & legal pad writers, I’m shamed to admit how useful I find the computer.  The ability to edit in the moment is so satisfying.  I am lost without it.

And now I pass you on to the next leg of the tour.  Kindly take a moment to peek in on my generous fellow blogger and gifted photographer Stephanie Glennon, at Love in the Spaces, where she  live-blogs love lost and found, from blue angels in the backyard to penguins on the equator.

And, as always, thanks for stopping by.


Kind Words

15 Jul

I have never really trusted kind words. Fearing false emotion and cheap platitudes, I shrugged them off as politely as possible and moved on, never giving them their due.

I was wrong.

Not to avoid cheap emotion, please… God save us from Oprah’s couch. But I was wrong not to listen. Not to hear. Not to recognize the truth that is almost always there.

The responses to my first post, Gifts from My Daughter, have been an amazing lesson in the power of a kind word at a difficult time. Such words, I have learned, do not lose, but rather gain with repetition the power to comfort, attaining a warm glow, the softness of a favorite blanket, the smell of woodsmoke. I cannot hear them enough.

Surprisingly many of these words have come from old friends, people I really didn’t expect to hear much from again. And yet here they are, sharing their own lives and stories as if the time and distance that separates us does not exist.

Why did I ever let such amazing friends drift away?.

The answer, I know, is mostly geography. When you pick up and move every decade or so, you cut a lot of ties. Hell, in my youth I thought this was healthy, something everyone should do. As if uprooting all the trees in a forest every ten years and moving them all around could somehow be good land management.


I should never have let it happen. These people are too valuable. I should have brought them with me. Forcibly if necessary. And we should all now live within blocks of each other, having coffee in the morning, beers at night, and barbecues on the weekend. Our children and grandchildren should all be the best of friends and have the run of each others houses. We should be there for each other all the time, sharing the seasons of our lives.

Idiocy as well, I suppose. But, understandable idiocy, which is usually the best I can plead.

So, I throw myself upon the mercy of my friends. And be they in Perrysburg, Chicago, New York, or Steamboat Springs, I have no doubt they will catch me. Most likely with a kind word at a difficult time. Which I will value above gold.