Thursday, March 30, 2017


I was out of trash bags for a week. Every time I went to the store, I forgot them. Last week at 10 O’clock at night I decided I was tired of the trash that was collecting on my table, on the counter, in a nice neat pile there by the front door, so I went to the grocery.

All the way to the back of the store I go. Past the dish soap, the spray starch, greeting cards, light bulbs, charcoal and paper plates Here at last, the garbage bags!

Why would they put a pallet of chocolate chip cookies there by the trash bags? Cookies are supposed to be at the other end of the store. And its not just chocolate chips, but the ones with M&M’s, brightly colored, and pecan sandies, and even those chocolate dipped marshmallow rosettes on the cookie crust.
I hadn’t bought cookies in a year.

I looked. I resisted. I looked and started to step away, Stopped. Started. Why would they do this. Brightly colored M&M’s. They call. The pastel tans of the sandies. Beckoning, like a white whale. Huge chunks of chocolate.
Away! Away! Get thee away!
Two steps and back.
Four steps and back.
Yet again.
I staggered ten steps to aisle 9 and started to take a left.
Stopped. Started. Away!
I can’t. I must.
I go on. Halfway down the aisle now. I can’t go on.
I’m hooked. I knew from the minute I saw them.
In a half trance I turn and moonwalk back to the brightly colored reds, blues, yellows.
All the little elves, dancing gaily from the hollow tree.
They want to go home with me. I want to take them there.
I limit myself to one package. Only one stop more now.
A half gallon of milk.
And home.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


"How many nights must it take
one such as me to learn
that we aren’t, after all, made
from that bird that flies out of its ashes,
that for us
as we go up in flames, our one work
to open ourselves, to be
the flames?"

Galway Kimmel

I went searching for "Galways crow",  which was in a Raymond Carver poem, and this is what I found.


“It was a face which darkness could kill
in an instant
a face as easily hurt
by laughter or light

'We think differently at night'
she told me once
lying back languidly

And she would quote Cocteau

'I feel there is an angel in me' she'd say
'whom I am constantly shocking'

Then she would smile and look away 
light a cigarette for me
sigh and rise

and stretch
her sweet anatomy

let fall a stocking” 
― Lawrence FerlinghettiPictures of the Gone World

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


"She is Melusina, the water goddess, and she is found in hidden springs and waterfalls in any forest in Christendom, even in those as far away as Greece. She bathes in the Moorish fountains too. They know her by another name in the northern countries where the lakes are glazed with ice and it crackles when she rises. A man may love her if he keeps her secret and lets her alone when she wants to bathe, and she may love him in return until he breaks his word, as men always do, and she sweeps him into the deeps with her fishy tail, and turns his faithless blood to water.
The tragedy of Melusina, whatever language tells it, whatever tune it sings, is that a man will always promise more than he can do to a woman he cannot understand."

Friday, March 17, 2017


An old man in a WWII Veterans hat cornered me yesterday and began asking obscure questions like "Where is the most likely spot to find water in the desert?" and "Why is there air?" and How many knots are in a noose" and stuff.
I showed the gentleman all the respect and attention thatn he and his hat deserved, and was amazed at the wealth of knowledge he had.
He finally asked if I knew what the greatest percentage of steel was used for in the world.
I thought for a moment and said:
"Nope" he shot back.
"Then what?" I asked.
"Bottlecaps" came his reply.
I couldn't help it. I coughed into my hand and said "Bullshit" at the same time.
No disrespect intended of course

Thursday, March 16, 2017


"I want to apologize to all of my American friends for failing to either die or get better. I know many of you hate the very word socialism, but as of today I have become a beneficiary of all of your labor in a purely socialist way; as of today, I am receiving . . . ahem . . . Medicare. Yes sir, I am right now enjoying a barium shake that all of you have paid for. Thank you!

I thought I would have died by now but here I am persisting in this not-dead-yet-not-fully-alive limbo, with no end in sight. I never wanted to be a burden to society. I drink very little and have never smoked or done drugs. I exercise. I try to be kind to the people I meet. But here I am, sucking on the big tit.

I hope you all will forgive me for not pulling my weight as Americans of my age are expected to do. People with my illness, who don't succumb to it in a timely fashion, cannot be treated profitably and thus screw up our whole profit-based health care system. I'm the problem and I know that. For what it's worth, I will promise to do what I can, short of hanging myself from the railroad bridge on the Don Tyson Parkway, to resolve my health situation one way or the other as soon as possible. In the mean time, thank you again. The shake is delicious!"

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


“Have you ever thought… about whatever man builds, that all of man's industrial efforts, all his computations and calculations, all the nights spent over working draughts and blueprints, invariably culminate in the production of a thing whose sole and guiding principle is the ultimate principle of simplicity?
It is as if there were a natural law which ordained that to achieve this end, to refine the curve of a piece of furniture, or a ship's keel, or the fuselage of an airplane, until gradually it partakes of the elementary purity of the curve of a human breast or shoulder, there must be the experimentation of several generations of craftsmen. In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness.”

Antoine de Saint Exupery

I posted this years ago on Facebook. A couple of Christian friends left comments:
"Ahh! Congratulations Steve! The best ever oral depiction I have ever heard of Christ's gift of redemption and love...."
Then, from another:
"No kidding, that's exactly what it is! Sometimes, the taking away part is so hard, but once it's gone its sheer bliss!"

I'll tell you the truth. I kind of resented the comments. 
Congratulations? Really? Christs gift of redemption and love?
Maybe because these two always seemed to make it a point to turn anything towards Christianity. But I guess that's what people do, the way I sometimes want to relate everything to my 12 Step Program, and would rather see my Higher Power as something named other than Yahweh.

But last week over at Alive on All Channels Beth posted this Richard Rohr quote:

The notion of a spirituality of subtraction comes from Meister Eckhart (c.1260-1327), the medieval Dominican mystic. He said the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition. Yet I think most Christians today are involved in great part in a spirituality of addition.

The capitalist worldview is the only one most of us have ever known. We see reality, experiences, events, other people, and things—in fact, everything—as objects for our personal consumption. Even religion, Scripture, sacraments, worship services, and meritorious deeds become ways to advance ourselves—not necessarily ways to love God or neighbor.

The nature of the capitalist mind is that things (and often people!) are there for me. Finally, even God becomes an object for my consumption. Religion looks good on my résumé, and anything deemed “spiritual” is a check on my private worthiness list. Some call it spiritual consumerism. It is not the Gospel.

Richard Rohr:

Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations

So OK, maybe I get it.
Life is often less about hanging on, and more about letting go.
But I don't think "Redemption" means what my friend thinks it means.
Maybe Remission would have a better word

Monday, March 06, 2017


It says so right on the outside of the bag.
“SkinnyPop. No artificial ingredients. Non GMO. Gluten Free. Diary free. Peanut free. Tree nut free. Preservative free. No artificial flavors. Zero trans fat. A good source of fiber. And DELICIOUS. We believe in snacking without compromise. …That’s the skinny.”

I haven’t tried SkinnyPop yet, and have no intention to do so. The older I grow the less I trust lengthy disclaimers on bags of food about what is and isn’t in them. There is something they arent telling me, I’m sure of it.
Call me cynical, but SkinnyPop? 
My ass.

Inspired by another great Riding The Metro North at live and Learn

Friday, March 03, 2017


We play cheerful music on the suicide hotline—
cheerful but not too cheerful.
Nothing with lyrics.

Sometimes, when I finally talk to them,
they're crying, and sometimes they keep crying.
I fight the urge to tell them jokes.

Sometimes they get on my nerves.

Sometimes I ask them to see things from my point of view.
They gulp. They try. Even in crisis
they are polite.

I ask them where it hurts.
They always have an answer.

Here's what they don't know. When I play the music,
I'm still on the line. I listen to them breathing.
If their breathing slows, I keep playing
the hold music. I'm like a deejay and I'm like
a doctor. I adjust the music with care. I fine-tune,
giving them what they need at just that moment.

I'll ask them to hold and play the music again.
I have a button I can press that makes the music skip.
The same sound repeats for twenty seconds.
When I get back on the line with them, they never fail
to let me know about the problem. They're helpful.
"Thank you," I say. "We'll fix that for next time."

It reminds them they are part of the world. Then
they tell me things, sometimes haltingly,
sometimes in one big rush. How they feel,
how bad it is.

I can keep them on the line for hours.

The main thing is to keep them on the line.

Jessy Randall

Gathered at The Vale

Thursday, March 02, 2017


I got a call from the Program chairperson from my NA group.

‘Steve, would you speak on the 12 Traditions of NA on Tuesdays this month?”

The 12 Traditions are kind of like the 12 Steps. But they are dry, boring, confusing, and the equivalent of reading Article III Section 2 of the US Constitution:
"The judicial power shall extend to all cases (blah), in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws(blah)(blah) of the United States(blah), and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors (blah), other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty(blah), and maritime jurisdiction(blah),;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party…blah, blah, blah…”

So I said “You know, I’d really love to, but I haven’t really worked the traditions. I’ve been SUPPOSED to be working the Traditions with my sponsor for the last year, but we haven’t exactly been knocking it out of the park, if you know what I mean.”
‘Which one are you on?” he asked.
“Would you believe Number 1?” I said, ashamed.
“Well this is the perfect time to work them then.” He said.
“Aw man, I know you are right but I’m just not prepared to do them”
And he let me off the hook.

But as soon as I hung up, I knew that the answer should have been yes. I didn’t call him right back, but I saw him the next day.
“Have you found anybody ?” I asked.
“Well sign me up, put me down. I’ll do it.

And that is how I came to speak on the 12 Traditions for an hour each night for four weeks in February.

1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends on NA unity.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority— a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

3. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.

4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or NA as a whole.

5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry the message to the addict who still suffers.

6. An NA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the NA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, or prestige divert us from our primary purpose.

7. Every NA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.

8. Narcotics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 9. NA, as such, ought never be organized, but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.

10. Narcotics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the NA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.

11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.

12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017


[...] You know the way Jesus
rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming and thorny,
the way he points to it. I’m afraid
the way I’ll miss you will be this obvious.
I have a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus
around my house, for me to find
when I come home; Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked
into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his shirt
and saying, Look what I did for you.
Nick Flynn, excerpt "Leaving Town" from Some Ether , 2000


We go to sleep with the Peach in our Hands and wake with the Stone, But the Stone is the pledge of Summers to come— Emily Dickinson