Log in

Mar. 2nd, 2034

Don't be so gloomy. After all it's not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love - they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly. ---- Harry Lime

A Congress of Curious Peoples


Thing about New York is that it’s filled with imaginary signposts. I mean – every place is, I suppose, but I notice them more in New York. Something about the sheer number of people and the population density, I guess.

Why does the precise moment of 3:18am merit its own cardboard sign? What’s supposed to happen at precisely 3:18am? Was it supposed to happen only once, or does it go on happening every night, unbeknownst to the thousand or so people sleeping in apartment buildings around it, every night at precisely 3:18am?

Some sort of ceremony, perhaps. Is innocence drowned or congratulated?


And then there’s the Mystic Insurance sign:


Yes, yes – some hoary old insurance firm operating out of a drab little building in Hartford.

But, you know, you could read it differently.


New York, of course, is no longer the city I grew up in. Change really accelerates around dense populations, possibly pushed by the sheer force of all those ambitions and suppressed wishes, as though they were some kind of invisible force.

But enough remains so that when I’m here, I’m sometimes gripped with this sense of familiarity that’s so intense, it’s like déjà vu.

And really, I suppose, the person I am now is so very, very different from the neglected child who grew up here, or the self-involved creature snorting coke with various Factory sub-luminaries in the backroom at Max’s Kansas City, or the harried Time Inc executive flying in for her biweekly meeting with the suits, that I could be peering at a diorama of somebody else’s life when I remember those things.


Anyway, I’ve had a merry time. On Saturday, A_____ and I did the antique and fine arts show at the Armory. A fabulous assortment of the most hideously expensive bling and Regency chairs and Tiffany lamps and early Van Goghs and Civil War recruitment posters. Think Walmart for the one percent!



Next day, I went to the Brooklyn Museum to hang out with the cat mummies, which are a part of the Museum’s permanent collection, and see the Coney Island exhibit, which isn’t.


Unfortunately, the kitty sarcophagi were nowhere to be found. The Coney Island exhibit was quite good, though. I don’t know whether this gentleman was in residence when HP Lovecraft was first wrestling with psychosis in that dingy walkup at 169 Clinton Street – now, of course, one of Brooklyn’s tonier neighborhoods – but he quite looks like my conception of Cthulu:


I disapprove of Lovecraft’s recent demotion from the pantheon of fantasy greats, by the way. Yep, he was a racist and an anti-Semite (interesting since the great love of his life was a Jewish woman.) So what? No reasonable person can expect humans to be anything but creatures of their times, and racism, anti-Semitism, and general xenophobia were the politically correct postures back in the 1920s.

I similarly descry the attempts to demote Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson that are happening right now on various college campuses. This type of thing reminds me unpleasantly of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. People are the product of the customs and conventions of their times. To expect more of them, to expect some kind of social prescience, is utterly ridiculous.

This political right-think is being spearheaded by Millennials, who are really into censorship according to this article here.


At night, after I finish the day’s adventures, I’ve been watching thirtysomething, a TV show I used to love back in the day when I was a thirtysomething.

It’s interesting sociological research, watching this show now. Its denunciation of our parents’ generation, the boring, stability-driven generation that preceded the Boomers. (That was the generation that lived through World War II; of course, they were going to be obsessed with stability.)

Its absolute obsession with the minutiae of small child parenting. By strict chronology, the fictional kids on that show would have grown up to be GenX-ers, a kind of forgotten cohort characterized by skepticism, the absence of organizational loyalties, and a distrust of Boomer values that borders on pathological hatred. But the thirtysomething parents treated them more like Millennials, that intense hovering and protectiveness over every single moment. Millennials are the cosseted generation. I gave birth to one, so I should like them more than I do. But, frankly, I don’t.

I do have hopes for Generation Z, however, heirs to those odious Millennials. Gen-Zers are quirkier, have better senses of humor than Millennials. They like diversity. Millennials actually don’t. Or rather, they only like politically correct diversity.

Max is a Millennial. But RTT is definitely Gen-Z.


Are Boomers really that obnoxious?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think Boomers were the last generation to have any sense of gallantry, any zeal for exploration and the romantic quest. And those are the only things that make life worth living.

But, of course, I’m a Boomer. So I would think that.


Yesterday, I spent tromping around BedSty (wonderful architecture.) Which is always an adventure, although probably not quite as much of an adventure as it would have been, say, 15 years ago.

I saw the most extraordinary sunset:


It's ALL of Our Funerals, You Know

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

The quote is generally attributed to Sinclair Lewis, although there is no record of Lewis either writing or saying it.


In an interview yesterday, Donald Trump came out in support of a mandatory database to track all Muslims in the U.S.

He hasn’t yet come out in favor of identifying badges. A convenient yellow star, maybe? Wait! Hasn’t that been done before?


Teddy’s memorial service is this morning. I sent flowers. Made them from Jeanna, Denine (the goodhearted meth-head sister!) and me. Sorry, Denise – you can send your own fuckin’ flowers. Or not, as is more likely the case.

Nic, Teddy’s son, had not gotten back to me with the details of the memorial until late last night, so I did the 1-800-Flowers thing first thing this morning Eastern Standard Time, and I must say, I have my doubts whether the tasteful display of white roses, lilies, and snapdragons in a severe yet quietly reassuring cube vase will actually make it to whatever dreary little alcove of the Blessed Junipero Serra Parish in the blighted California city of Lancaster that Ted’s service is scheduled to take place, particularly since Nic was so sketchy about exact times.

But hey!

I tried.

And I insured!

So if 1-800-Flowers fucks up, at least I can get the $$$$$ back.


Off to the Big City today. Which should improve my mood. I hope.

Never Enuff Tom's Midnight Garden!


The Mayor of Roanoke, Virginia wants to set up internment camps for Syrian refugees. El Manzanar!

Plus there’s a Twitter campaign - #JeSuisDiesel – that invites canines from all over the world to join in anti-terrorist solidarity.

You could not make these things up.


Yesterday was a very productive day. In the evening I watched From Time to Time, written and directed by Downton Abbey puppet master Julian Fellowes and using many of the actors who star in Downton Abbey, plus one who starred in Upstairs, Downstairs, from which Downton Abbey clearly draws its inspiration.

From Time to Time is not a particularly good movie, but I’m a sucker for Big House movies. (Of the English manor estate variety, not Sing Sing.)

Plus, you know, magic.

I don’t know the YA novels the film is based on. They’re written by someone called Lucy M. Boston whose Wikipedia bio makes her sound insufferable.

But the movie clearly owes a debt to one of my absolute favorite books of all time: Tom’s Midnight Garden. An unacknowledged debt, I might add. Shame, shame.


Tom’s Midnight Garden takes place in England in the 1950s. A boy – Tom Long – is forced to spend a summer with his bor-r-ring aunt and uncle after his brother is quarantined with measles. The aunt and uncle live in town in a Victorian mansion that’s been partitioned off into flats. There is an ancient grandfather’s clock right next to the front door, but in all other ways the foyer, the house, the apartment Tom’s aunt and uncle live in, are nondescript.

Tom is semi-quarantined, so he can’t leave the flat. Also, the old crone who owns the house lives on its top floor and is rumored not to like children. Tom develops insomnia.

One night as Tom is tossing and turning, the grandfather’s clock strikes 13.

Tom creeps downstairs to investigate. And it’s daytime, and the front door is open on to the most amazing garden

In this other world, no one can see Tom except for a girl named Hatty, who is a kind of ward of the family that owns the house, and one of the gardeners, a religious zealot named Abel.

Both lonely children, Hatty and Tom develop a friendship. Time is also curiously elastic in this alternate universe: Early in his explorations of it, Tom witnesses lightening hitting and toppling one of the tallest trees. The next night, however, the tree is still standing.

Tom and Hatty have many adventures together, but Hatty is changing all the time although Tom is slow to notice.

“You’re a ghost!” Hatty tells Tom.

“No, you’re the ghost,” Tom tells Hatty. Which makes her cry.

Toward the end of the novel, when Tom escapes into the garden universe, it’s winter. Hatty is excited because the river has frozen over, and she is going to skate it – all the way up to the cathedral at Ely.

“Come with me,” Hatty suggests.

“But I have no skates,” Tom says. Then he has an idea. In their respective time periods, Tom and Hatty both live in the same room, the Victorian mansion’s old nursery with bars on its windows. There are loose board in that room over a kind of hiding space.

“When you leave the house, put your skates in the hiding place,” Tom suggests.

And the next day, when Tom is back in his own time/space continuum, he looks in the hiding place, and sure enough: He finds a pair of rusted, antique ice skates. With a note in faded copperplate script: I place these in fulfillment of a promise I once made to a little boy…

Next night, Tom grabs the skates and sets out into the garden. Hatty and Tom put on their respective pairs of skates – PARADOX ALERT – and begin skating.

When they finally get to Ely, Tom somehow runs into his be-measled brother, Peter, to whom he’s been writing about his midnight adventures, all summer long.

Peter is shocked. “You told me Hatty was a little girl,” he says. “But she’s a grownup.”

Next night when the grandfather clock strikes 13, Tom runs downstairs – and there’s nothing. The front door opens on to an alley with garbage cans and the usual municipal clutter.

“Hatty!” Tom screams in despair.

Pandemonium ensues. Everybody in the house wakes up, including the elderly ogress who owns the house.

The next day, Tom’s aunt and uncle tell him that the landlady has insisted upon meeting him. Doubtless, there will be recriminations, but he must man up.

Except that when they meet, the old woman says, “Oh, Tom. Don’t you recognize me?”

Because, of course, it’s Hatty. Who’s been dreaming of her youth. Though that last night, she had been dreaming of her marriage.


In the very last scene of the book – narrated through the POV of the prosaic aunt character – the tiny old osteoporotic woman in black with her dowager’s hump and Tom embrace.

“It was almost like watching two children,” says the aunt.


Most elegant time travel device ever!!!!! For years and years and years, I’ve wanted to plagiarize it somehow. Make it my own. The chronology would be difficult: Someone in her 80s now would have been a girl in 1945. Not a time when a lot of Big Houses were being built, I’m afraid.

The time travel device in the main novel I’m working on these days, Where You Were When, is not quite a Tom’s Midnight Garden plagiary but certainly an homage.


Tom’s Midnight Garden inspired the bicycle trip I took to the Ely Cathedral in – 1974? Must have been.

I saw a ghost there, too.

But that’s another story.

Vanity, Vanity

Apparently we are now supposed to call Islamic State terrorists “Daesh” instead of ISIS.


Because Daesh is terribly insulting in Arabic.

Although whether that insult is of the generic sort – “You’re a very bad person with inadequate empathy” – or specific – “You’re the spawn of a donkey that your mother didn’t even bother to fuck; she just scooped the ass's smelly jizz from her mouth after the blowjob and shoved her grimy fist up her snatch” – we aren’t told.


I suspect the name change is really being facilitated because we all LUV that adorable golden retriever on Downton Abbey.



The jet stream changed overnight, which means I’m going to be spending a lot of time under my light box.

BB and the beauteous Claudia are off to Italy, which means Greenpoint house-sitting is in my future. New Yawk, New Yawk!!

I’m in the introductory phases of Seeing Someone, which is always annoying. I am thinking really that I am way too eccentric and weird to be involved in any kind of relationship where I don’t have the option of slamming a door in their face.

I found a trip on an adventure website I desperately want to take: a one-month trek along the old Silk Road that starts in Xian and ends in Samarkand. It’s very expensive. But not quite beyond the realm of possibility.

I cut my hair:


I’ve reached that point in the aging process where it’s actually painful to be photographed, hence the smirk. Yes, I know – vanity, vanity. I pose for the camera to mortify my soul.

Marriage and Its Discontents

I am pleased to report that the Paris Terrorist Attacks are now officially over: Charlie Sheen’s HIV status has chased them off the front pages of The Daily Mail (my news source of choice.) Way to commensurate! For what price global terror when a B List celebrity is in pain?


In other news, I apparently did not succeed in totally alienating Ed when I told him the other day that he should just shut up and stop complaining to me about Pat all the time.

I was raking leaves. Ed had actually come over to laugh at me because I was scooping leaves into black plastic bags by hand.

“Why don’t you just get a leaf-blower?” he asked.

“Cause I fuckin’ hate leaf-blowers? Cause it’s a gorgeous day, and I don’t actually mind having an excuse to play with leaves? You choose.”

“You’ll notice that nary a single leaf defiles the green expanse of the Freeman lawn! That’s because Pat is obsessed with yard work. A true child of the small town Midwest, that Pat.”

“And your point is… ?”

“Me? I don’t have any points. Except I sometimes wonder whether Pat’s obsession with leafless lawns is really an obsession with keeping me occupied in my – as she sees them – feckless retirement years.”

But Ed has complained to me himself about how bor-r-ring retirement seems to him. I guess I’m lucky in that regard – as a writer, I don’t think I’ve ever been bored in my life. In the dreariest doctor’s office, in the longest supermarket line, I can always slip into omnipotent storyteller mode and begin narrating whatever I see around me.

“Is that an issue?” I asked.

“Is what an issue?”

“Pat’s concern about your levels of boredom?”

“Of course, it’s an issue. I’d rather be responsible for remedying my own levels of boredom, thank you very much.”

“Then do it,” I said. “Stop complaining about it. And stop complaining about Pat for God’s sake. Go see a marriage counselor or something.”


When I was over at Pat and Ed’s doing my FitBit for Dummies training the day before, the phone rang. Then five minutes later, it rang again.

“Ed,” Pat sighed as she put down the phone. “You know, it’s very weird. He never talks to me when we’re alone together, but he calls me every five minutes when he’s away – even if it’s just a trip to the store.”


Anyway, Ed called me yesterday to see if I wanted to go for a walk, so we spent a companionable couple of hours tromping the old Vanderbilt Estate, chattering about Judaism, terrorism, parenting.

A lovely day. Autumn in full Gerard Manly Hopkins drag:


Marriages are peculiar, aren’t they? You’re dependent on your partner in a billion different ways so that, in time, it can come to feel as though you’re really married to your [Insert Parent With Whom You Had the Most Primal Relationship Here].

Once the sexual bloom was off the rose, Ben definitely began relating to me as though I was his mother. And I began relating to him as though he was my mother. (For all intents and purposes, I didn’t really have a father.)

One thing, though: We were always able to talk.

I suppose that’s why we were able to remain such good friends.


A rather adorable picture of RTT:


Kumbaya and Its Discontents

Still grappling with the time change: When it gets dark, I want to go to sleep. Invariably, this means I wake up in the middle of the night for three or four hours, too wasted to do anything productive. Which means I’m watching an awful lot of classic movies.

Classic movies for me means movies that were made before I was born or during the 1950s before the dawning of nascent consciousness.


Part of it also is that since it’s pitch black by 5pm in these parts, I have to go out and exercise around 3pm or turn into a slug. That’s way too early for me to break off everything, but I'm so used to thinking of exercise as a bookend at the end of my day that it's impossible for me to pick up the threads. And I hate gyms. Though I suppose I may have to bite the bullet on that one.


Part of it also is that I am immensely fatigued by information overload. I’m fuckin’ sick of Paris. I hate Paris. I wish the world would blur our at the edges of the Hudson Valley. Nothing quite as sharp as a boundary patrolled by monsters like in those antique maps, but maybe a kind of translucent colored haze – purple, maybe, or green – on the other side of which there’s just a vague understanding that something exists, but you’re not quite sure what, and anyway, it's not important. The only thing that's important is the seasonal shift: now-bare trees, carpet of dead leaves, views of the blue river, diminishment of light.


Max sent me a FitBit, which is a pretty cool little gadget. These days, nothing electronic comes with a manual, so I went over to Pat and Ed’s to figure out how to use it since Pat has one, too.

“What a nice gift!” said Pat.

“Yeah. Max is nice to me,” I said. “Max is gonna lobby hard for a nice Alzheimer’s home when it’s time to put me away. Robin, I’m not so sure about.”

Pat laughed. “Yeah. It’s better not to live too close to them, isn’t it? So there’s not around constantly monitoring you for those cognitive lapses. I remember those last few years with my mother – she’s dead now – she’d tell me she had good days and bad days. And on the good days, she’d drive herself to the supermarket and to errands. And on the bad days, she knew she wasn’t thinking clearly, so she wouldn’t leave the house.”

“How old was she then?”

“In her eighties. This is a good time. This, right now.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I know. I often feel mentally as though I’ve been transported back to being 12 years old. Before puberty hit, and I became so obsessed with coupling and sex. I was a precocious 12-year-old, and I’m still at my core interested in the same things that I was interested in when I was 12. So, I guess, 20 more more-or-less good years. Did your mother have dementia?”

“No,” Pat said. “But you know, atherosclerosis in the brain blood circulation. Some degree of it is unavoidable. You do start to get fuzzy around the edges no matter how healthy you are. It’s inevitable.”

“Damn!” I said. “So what’s the point of living a healthy life anyway? We should all be smoking, drinking, and taking drugs! Because why would anyone want to live past 85?”

Pat laughed. “There is that. But the next 20 years will be good.”


L sez I’m doing much, much better with the Seasonal Affective Disorder thang this year than I was last. I didn’t ask her to elaborate, though I was curious. I know I’m continually fighting off the impulse to pick fights with people, tell them to ram their various forms of political piousness down their fucking throats. Facebook was invented just for this! So I am cheerfully insulting random strangers on various message threads who are posting the Kumbaya message: No, shitheads; we can’t all just get along. Obviously.

Bitter Tea

Hillary Clinton rilly needs to brush up on economics: Combining commercial and investment banking activities under the same roof (also known as the suppression of the Glass-Steagall Act) actively facilitated the rise of shadow banking.

I am going to have a very hard time indeed voting for her next November.

Maybe I just won’t.

Figure she’ll carry New York with or without my vote.


Already the Paris tragedy is having profound fallout on the refugee crisis. They found a Syrian passport in the Bataclan wreckage belonging to one Ahmed Almuhamed who crossed over into Greece last October.

Frankly, I have a hard time wrapping my head around why any terrorist would feel the need to bring a passport along on a suicide bombing spree. If life were a John LeCarré novel, that would be a plant. One has to assume that ISIS has its own motives for wanting to keep inhabitants in occupied or soon-to-be-occupied territories.

Nonetheless, expect to see EU member nations baulking at any future coordinated attempts to force them to take refugees. Also expect votes of no confidence for any European government that still insists upon using the rhetoric of compassion for these poor wretches.

My own thought is that we’re looking at domestic terrorism. First generation terrorists who were born and raised in France but who took trips out of the country to train with ISIS. Youthful terrorists, filled with that hatred for “the establishment” that infects all youthful humans, even those swaddled in white privilege. I’m not really sure what you do about that although access to jobs and education would surely have to be part of any real solution.


Else? I couldn’t sleep Friday night, so yesterday was kind of a slog. The Hudson Valley is like Christmas Craft Show central, so I went to a couple. Bought a pair of aventurine teardrop earrings that change color in different lights. Watched The Bitter Tea of General Yen, which is a very, very strange movie, starring the ethereally beautiful Nils Asther in the eponymous role in full epicanthic prosthetic drag!

general yen

The Bitter Tea of General Yen is about a lovely young American missionary (Barbara Stanwyck) who gets caught up in the Shanghai civil wars in the late 1920s. Plot mechanics creak, and eventually we find her in the summer palace of General Yen, a local warlord. They flirt in defiance of the Hays Code, which strictly forbade miscegenation! They come dangerously close to kissing, but thank Gawd, it is only a dream.

In the end, the missionary makes some foolish request and General Yen complies with it even though he knows very well that compliance will lead to his downfall. In the penultimate scene, she sits with him in a Chinese wedding dress apologizing while he sips tea, which he’s doctored with poison.


Last summer, I saw an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum on the impact of Chinese aesthetics on Western fashion. The exhibits were fabulous, but I was rather taken aback by the stiff exhibition notes, which were endless apologies for “Orientalism.” Politically incorrect, this Orientalism! Objectification and trivialization by cultural suppressionists. Et-cetera.

It’s very bad, apparently, to turn another culture into The Other.

Oh, for God’s sake! Isn’t that what’s most wonderful about unfamiliar cultures? That they are The Other? Glamorous, mysterious, unknown? Transcendent? Transporting? Does it matter if the world they transport you to is not a lifelike diorama but a universe crafted by the imagination?

It doesn’t to me.

The Bitter Tea of General Yen was made in 1933, so it’s like a textbook example of Orientalism. And yep, the idea of having a Swedish actor perform in yellowface is certainly institutionalized racism as I would define it today.

Nonetheless, as an early Frank Capra movie, it’s filled with as many subversive touches as the deck of the San Dominick in Benito Cereno. It’s impossible to ignore the camera’s irony as it touches on the faces of the nameless Chinese actors in silent, supporting roles, their contempt for the movie’s white empire-builders revealed in the stillness of their mouths, the disdain in their eyes. “Life, even at it's best, is hardly endurable,” General Yen tells the Stanwyck character when they first meet by chance early in the film, and the entire film can thus be seen as a slide towards suicide, a metaphor for China’s capitulation to the West – since reversed, of course.

Anyway, it’s pretty fucking brilliant.

general yen poster big




I just saw a coyote when I was out walking fast or running slow or whatever it is that I do. Maybe 10 yards away from me. We stared at each other. He had these really amber eyes.

And then he just ambled off into the woods.


The World Changes

Not much humor in the Paris attacks, which, of course, were horrifying on so many, many levels.

But I did find this one story amusing.

It was Isis, of course. Retaliation for the death of “Jihadi John,” I would imagine. (Why does Western media persist in giving these assassins nicknames?)

But before that was confirmed, one of the newspapers I was trolling obsessively decided to fill up space by exploring the differences between Isis and Al Qaeda at some length. You see, kids, Al Qaeda are the good terrorists! They try to strike at targets of clearly defined strategic importance, and they try not to hit women and children. (The operative word there being “try.”)

Isis, on the other hand, targets everyone. No one is spared their nihilistic wrath. They’re like the Black Plague. They’re famine. They’re pestilence. They ride dark horses. They decorate the territories they conquer with decapitated heads. They crucify their enemies; they set them on fire.

I got a kick out of that one.


Without taking away from the horror of the Paris attacks, I also feel compelled to note that suicide bombings in Beirut that took out 45 people on November 12 barely got covered at all in the Western press. We figure that’s business as usual for those people, right?


It was like 9/11. One slips into this sort of obsessive-compulsive trolling for news. As though each reviewing of the same footage is a cup with slightly different tea leaves in which you can view a slightly revised fortune.

When French police stormed the Bataclan, I wondered how come no one had invented a type of gas that would instantly render everyone who inhaled it unconscious That’s how they do it in the Marvel Superhero Universe, right? The SWAT team dons their protective gas masks; Bad Guys and victims alike inside the target area drop; the SWAT team rescues the victims and drags off the Bad Guys for interrogation and retribution. No water boarding, though. Water boarding is bad.


On September 12, 2001, we were living on Franklin Street in Monterey. I woke up with the kind of hangover you get when you’ve just spent 24 hours in front of the tube. Exercise! I thought. Exercise.

So I leashed Xena, our hyperactive Jack Russell terrier, and began the hike up Franklin Street to the Presidio. Monterey’s Presidio is bustling because it’s the site of a very famous military language school, the Defense Language Institute. (Subsequently, when I opened the Little Store, the DLI kids were among my most loyal customers.)

The Presidio had never been off-limits to civilians, possibly because it provides the only access to the lovely nature preserve called Huckleberry Hill where I ran Xena off-leash a few times every week. Jack Russell terriers have a lot of nervous energy, and they do much better in a household when they get regular opportunities to run that energy off.

But when I got to the little gate at the top of Franklin, I was met by guards toting assault rifles. “Stand back,” they snapped. They raised the rifles, and I heard them click.

And that was how I knew that the world had changed.


Anyway, I imagine the Democrats can just kiss the next election goodbye – particularly if Hillary “What difference does it make?” Clinton is the candidate.

And that debate over what to do about the Syrian refugees?


You just build barb-wired fences along all the borders and set fire to the refugee camps.

On the plus side, those barb-wired fences are gonna need guards, so this should be a plus for the Euro-area’s unemployment rate, which officially hovers around 11%.