Saturday, November 30, 2013

Turn It Up

Friends of my friend's sons: Grace and The Carnivore. Boston, Mass. 2013 To listen to the whole album, click on Out of Context.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks, Appreciating the Small and Protecting Yourself From Ninjas

(an oldie)
I read something over the weekend about a guy who had Thanksgiving by himself. He was saying that even though he tried to prepare himself for it being just another Thursday, even though he wasn't a big fan of the holiday to begin with, he still had a hard time not feeling depleted by it. He went to a movie and all he could think about was how sad it was that he was the lone guy in the theater. "The distance between gratitude and self-pity", he wrote, "is miniscule". That stuck with me, and I think it's true, but it also led me to the idea how self-pity can make an appearance when you're in a group of people too, especially a group you are related to. You don't need a day locked up in solitairy to figure that one out. Holidays are weird, you have more than the usual conflicts going on: joy and love are next to rage and guilt. Annoyance? Pull up a chair! Empathy and grace? Right here between shame and regret. And pass the stuffing!

The negatives are there, as usual right on time, but they don't need to be indulged; I mean, they can't really be ignored, but pay close attention instead to the moments. Think about seeing your mother dance to Benny Goodman with your grandmother; or secretly giving the cat a piece of turkey and watching her trot off with it like she just won a prize; or reading a text from a friend who writes about hiking in the mountains: "Walks in the snow where the flakes come down so huge and lightly whole lifetimes pass until they fall". Think about that.

And here's a video you need to see in case you find yourself being attacked in a back alley today.
Happy Thanksgiving.

HOW TO FIGHT - watch more funny videos      

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


                       Can you guess who this is?

I found this link of historical photos that have been colorized and it made me think of a few things. First it made me think of how all the photos in history books should be both black and white, because they look beautiful, and color, because it makes the past seem less far away, less strange, and less like it will ever happen again. That guy up above, Charlie Chaplin, made me think of the history of entertainers. It used to be that performers: actors, clowns, singers, dancers were the mouth-breathing, tongue-chewing fringe people (as my long-lost cousin Holiday lovingly refers to our ancestors). Never mind that he's beautiful, that's just the luck of the draw, look at Charlie's big head/little body! He's a perfect example of that type of impoverished, inbred oddball. Entertainers: we loved, worshiped and elevated them and forgot that they were just hillbillies who had sex with teenagers. It doesn't seem fair that we judge them so harshly.

But I also thought: what are the differences. Look at this gorgeous couple for example:

I mean they are living in a homemade tent and he's wearing filthy pants, but he still had time to carve out that mustache and comb his hair. Would that happen now?

What do you think? (There's something to talk about at the table tomorrow).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Morning Book Club

I'm still plowing through 50 shades (yeah I said plowing) and still wondering what is wrong with the world. Every time I think I can't take it, fuck this and the goddam horse (stallion with flowing mane) it rode in on, I then think how did this happen? What are these readers thinking? Are we just desperate for titillation that we are willing to put up with this. By now we all know that the main guy character is a perfectly gorgeous billionaire with a huge dick, but did you know that he also walks around with his shirt on and no pants. Just a shirt PEOPLE. Come on! He also. Talks. Like. This. With. Periods. Between. Each. Word. "That. Was. Incredible". Like a valley girl, oh. my. ga... Like a val girl one minute, and then this gem: You smell divine. You smell divine, he says!!! What's he going to say next: two snaps and a twist? Oh Hey.

The morning after the first bang, the girl wakes up to the beautiful sound of... (no, not a loud fart and pee hitting the toilet water. "Stay there babe and roll over and pull up your nighty because I'm coming right back"), she wakes up to the sound of Bach (pronounced with German accent) on a beautiful grand piano. She walks out, still a little glazed, and there's our man, fully nude of course, playing the piano. Is that not ridiculous to some people? Who are these readers? Who gets through this and then says I love this so much I'm going to read book 2, 3 and 4? No one that's having sex with a real human being.

I know I'm late to this party but who wants to stay if everyone is on medication, fantasizing about things that aren't real, and not laughing when they should be.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Frank Fairfield's Situation

The last time I was in New Orleans, Mo and I were walking around and invariably we'd see a group of people, sometimes 3, sometimes more, just hanging out close together, a little shifty eyed but otherwise not communicating; maybe their hands were in their pockets, maybe one held a beer or a bottle in a brown bag. They'd get even more still as we approached but they didn't turn their heads.

That's a situation, Mo would say.

Yeah it is, I'd say back.

I mean we saw this, in one variety or another, all day long. Various situations. Any minute, something was about to bump it into the category of serious situation. Or maybe the serious situation had just happened. It wasn't always clear.

I see this from time to time here in my neighborhood, but not all day, every day. In New Orleans though, it's basically one situation after the next.


Anyway, last night I went to see a friend read from his novel at a bookstore downtown in the city. The bookstore used to be a bank that had those old vaults with 3 foot thick doors. The floors were wood in parts and there was a balcony and and columns and chandeliers made out of old wheels. I'm pretty sure that back in the old days, various crimes had taken place in there, maybe a shoot -out, maybe a suicide. It just felt like a stage set for a situation.

In between the reading part of the event, this guy Frank Fairfield, played his fiddle.

I don't usually listen to this kind of music. Living in a hipster part of town I've had just about all the banjo playing/foot stomping/hand clapping music a person can tolerate. But this was different. I just got sucked right in and taken somewhere else. I don't know if it was the bank, or the vaults, or my mood, or just the spirits in the room but I listened to him play and I saw the whole story. I saw a guy wake up in bed with a pretty girl he met the night before, I saw him jump into his pants while she was still sleeping and grab his hat on the way out. I saw him trot down the road on a sunny day until he met up with his pal leaning against a tree. I saw the pal hand him a gun. I saw them hop two horses and ride to the bank. I saw them walk in, raise their guns and shoot the security guard. I saw them jump the desk, and I saw the teller holding his hands up. I saw them step into the vault and come out a few bundles of cash in white sacks and I saw them run out. I saw that their horses were gone so they just had to run. I saw the whole situation and then I saw the history of that situation, how the two met and their whole lives up until that very day.

And then when Frank was finished I came back to where I was.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rainy Day

It's raining today which means there's a lockdown on the whole city. Everyone panics and no one knows what to do. Bomb Sirens go off. People who dare to drive go 5mph with their hazards on. Wireless networks shut down or only work sporadically. We're all forced to sit inside and stare at each other, build a fire or make hot chocolate, stay under the blankets. It's fantastic.

Here's an oldie on Being Part of A Team

I played lacrosse in high school. This wasn’t really a special achievement since at my school everyone had to play a team sport. Still, just as a quick aside, I have recently realized the importance of team sports. Now, finally, light-years later, I get it: the team, a group of people working together, depending on each other, communication without words, all that. Why didn’t our gym teacher just say that to begin with? Miss Guilfillan, Miss Yarnell, in your kilts and your kneesocks, your whistles and windbreakers, why didn’t you just tell us: Okay okay ladies, hustle up! Everybody in. You know all this? The teamwork, the practice, the skills, the goals, the winning and losing and how you deal with it? It’s a metaphor people. It’s a goddam, motherfucking metaphor. All right? LET’S GO!! (I don’t know why I just made Miss Guilfillan sound like Samuel L. Jackson).

Yeah. I played lacrosse. The first year I played goalie. I didn’t really want to, but I did. Even in my formative years I was the person to volunteer when no one else would.

"We’re doing shooting drills today ladies and we’re gonna need a goalie. Who wants to put the pads on?
Manning?....Featherman? Come on, we can’t practice until we get someone in the goal.
(sigh) I’ll do it.
Atta girl, Lowry.

I wasn’t very good. I was too small and I did not like having balls thrown at my head (insert crude joke here) but I didn’t mind being alone and I was the only volunteer. In a few weeks I was on the varsity team. I remember my mantra was Let’s get this over with. Everyone did their best to keep the ball at the other end of the field which was fine with me because it gave me time to daydream and watch the sideline activity. 

At this time, there was a new teacher at school, Mr. Driscoll. We didn't have many male teachers then, I went to an all girls school, so he was a superstar celebrity. Handsome in that preppy/ half-ugly/ long teeth/short upper lip way, he loved all the attention, and made sure to make regular appearances at lunch, sporting events and school dances. 

And now introducing for your learning pleasure, the fabulous, the fantastic, the one and only Mr....Jim....Driscoll!
(swirling lights, loud applause, trumpet theme song)

I didn't buy it. There was something creepy about him, not in a dangerous pedophile way, just in an ex-jock teaching at a small private school way. He sniffed and crossed his arms before speaking. He was sarcastic. He used big vocabulary words. He taught philosophy.

Once at one of our last games he put his hands around his mouth and yelled Get Lewis out of there. She's a sieve! At first I heard my name and thought he was cheering me on but then I realized the word he used was Sieve. Sieve! The guy was trash talking a 14 year old. Me! With a fancy word! And I had volunteered!

I don't know what ever happened to Mr. Driscoll, maybe he's still teaching philosophy to high school girls, trash talking easy targets in his spare time, walking through the hallways with a jaunty little spring in his step or maybe he's working in an office, following orders, philosophizing over why things are not always what you think they are.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Six Years Old

I was sitting on the sunporch with Nana. I had been crying and she was tending to me. Actually she was blindfolding me, but she was patient and loving. "Bend your head forward my darling," she said it softly and it sounded like ma-dullie. "That's it, there you go". I could smell her perfume and Salem cigarettes and, for once, I wasn't worried about anything. She had a small pillowcase that she had filled with random objects and she took my hand and guided it inside, "No peeking," she said.

"Okay," I whispered. I kicked one leg against the sofa and pulled something out.

"Do you know what that is?"
I held the object and circled my fingers around it. I knew what it was but I didn't want the game to go by quickly so I kept touching it. "A shell?" I said finally.
"Good one!" she said, "You're going to be good at this".

I could hear her sifting her fingers through the bag. I could hear the loud ticking clock and a lawnmower outside down the big hill.  "Why isn't my Dad coming?" I asked her.
"He really wants too"she said quickly.
"Oh," I said after a while, "I thought he was".
"I know my sweetie" she put her arm around me. I couldn't see much with the blindfold on except for a line across the bottom, wood floor, rug, my knees. Nana pulled me closer to her and rested her chin on the top of my head. She took a deep breath, and after a while I pulled away slowly.

"Here, you want to try another one?" she said. She handed me a shoe horn. I knew what it was right away but I held onto it.
"I'm not sure," I said. I touched it with my fingers.
"Just feel it," she said, "I know you can figure it out".

Monday, November 18, 2013

50 Shades of

I have been trying to read 50 Shades of Grey for nearly two months now. I'm doing some research. Really. I'm not embarrassed to say I read crap. Anyone who knows me will vouch for this: my crap to decent ratio is about 2:1. I seek it out. I like it. But this thing. Two lines in and all I can think is: I'm out. I've read the sex parts, I know my buttons will get pushed, but ugh, what I have to go through to get there.

My Gram used to read books like this. She had stacks (stacks!) next to her bed. This was back in the day when Fabio was on the cover so it was easier to make fun of.
Ooo, Gram's dreaming about Fabio!
It's a good book, she'd say
Heaving breasts! we'd say, Quivering swords!
It's on the New York Times Best Seller List, she'd say; bless her, having to explain herself to a gang of annoying, disrespectful idiots.
Ooo New York Times! Best Seller!

Poor Gram, couldn't get her groove on in peace.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Devotional

Two short shorts written by a well-known author when he was 18.


It didn’t come all at once. It took a very long time. First I had a skirmish with the English department and then all the other departments. Pretty soon something had to be done. The first signs were cordialities on the part of the headmaster. He was never nice to anybody unless he was a football star, or hadn't paid his tuition or was going to be expelled. That's how I knew. He called me down to his office with the carved chairs arranged in a semicircle and the brocade curtains resting against the vacant windows. All about him were pictures of people who had got scholarships at Harvard. He asked me to sit down.
"Well, Charles," he said, "some of the teachers say you aren't getting very good marks."
"Yes," I said, "that's true." I didn't care about the marks.
"But Charles," he said, "you know the scholastic standard of this school is very high and we have to drop people when their work becomes unsatisfactory." I told him I knew that also. Then he said a lot of things about the traditions, and the elms, and the magnificent military heritage from our West Point founder.
It was very nice outside of his room. He had his window pushed open halfway and one could see the lawns pulling down to the road behind the trees and the bushes. The gravy-colored curtains were too heavy to move about in the wind, but some papers shifted around on his desk. In a little while I got up and walked out. He turned and started to work again. I went back to my next class.
The next day was very brilliant and the peach branches were full against the dry sky, I could hear people talking and a phonograph playing. The sounds came through the peach blossoms and crossed the room. I lay in bed and thought about a great many things. My dreams had been thick. I remembered two converging hills, some dry apple trees and a broken blue egg cup. That is all I could remember.
I put on knickers and a soft sweater and headed toward school. My hands shook on the wheel, I was like that all over.
Through the cloudy trees I could see the protrusion of the new tower. It was going to be a beautiful new tower and it was going to cost a great deal of money. Some thought of buying new books for the library instead of putting up a tower, but no one would see the books. People would be able to see the tower five miles off when the leaves were off the trees. It would be done by fall.
When I went into the building the headmaster's secretary was standing in the corridor. She was a nice sort of person with brown funnels of hair furrowed about a round head. She smiled. I guess she must have known.


Every morning we went up into the black chapel. The brisk headmaster was there. Sometimes he had a member of the faculty with him. Sometimes it was a stranger.
He introduced the stranger, whose speech was always the same. In the spring life is like a baseball game, in the fall it is like football. That is what the speaker always said.
The hall is damp and ugly with skylights that rattle in the rain. The seats are hard and you have to hold a hymnbook in your lap. The hymnbook often slips off and that is embarrassing.
On Memorial Day they have the best speaker. They have a mayor or a Governor. Sometimes they have a Governor's second. There is very little preference.
The Governor will tell us what a magnificent country we have. He will tell us to beware of the Red menace. He will want to tell us that the goddam foreigners should have gone home a hell of a long time ago. That they should have stayed in their own goddam countries if they didn't like ours. He will not dare say this though.
If they have a mayor the speech will be longer. He will tell us that our country is beautiful and young and strong. That the War is over, but that if there is another war we must fight. He will tell us that war is a masculine trait that has brought present civilization to its fine condition. Then he will leave us and help stout women place lilacs on graves. He will tell them the same thing.
One Memorial Day they could not get a Governor or a mayor. There was a colonel in the same village who had been to war and who had a chest thick with medals. They asked him to speak. Of course he said he would like to speak.
He was a thin colonel with a soft nose that rested quietly on his face. He was nervous and pushed his wedding ring about his thin finger. When he was introduced he looked at the audience sitting in the uncomfortable chairs. There was silence and the dropping of hymnbooks like the water spouts in the aftermath of a heavy rain.
He spoke softly and quickly. He spoke of war and what he had seen. Then he had to stop. He stopped and looked at the boys. They were staring at their boots. He thought of the empty rooms in the other buildings. He thought of the rectangles of empty desks. He thought of the curtains on the stage and the four Windsor chairs behind him. Then he started to speak again.
He spoke as quickly as he could. He said war was bad. He said that there would never be another war. That he himself should stop it if he could. He swore. He looked at the young faces. They were all very clean. The boys' knees were crossed and their soft pants hung loosely. He thought of the empty desks and began to whimper.
The people sat very still. Some of them felt tight as though they wanted to giggle. Everybody looked serious as the clock struck. It was time for another class.
People began to talk about the colonel after lunch. They looked behind them. They were afraid he might hear them.
It took the school several weeks to get over all this. Nobody said anything, but the colonel was never asked again. If they could not get a Governor or a mayor they could get someone besides a colonel. They made sure of that.

-John Cheever

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Things I Saw Once And Have Never Forgotten

My third grade teacher Mrs. Camann smoking in her station-wagon with all the windows closed.

Blood in the snow after an icicle fell off the roof and stabbed a friend in the head.

My cervix on a small TV.

A body in a bag being rolled out of the apartment building we lived in.

Two parents and their son with down's syndrome laughing hysterically at their table in a restaurant.

A ghost in the bathroom at 3 a.m.

A kid on a bike who threw an egg at me the night before halloween.

A hand with a missing pinkie finger and another hand with an extra one.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

When I Was Sir Laurence Olivier

Here's some documentary footage of that time I made a guest appearance on a TV show:

EXT. Night in Mexico. After many takes, the director tries to explain what he is looking for.

Okay, the scene is you and the guy. Yes you're trying to run away from him, but you're also trying to seduce him.


Because you just are, okay?


So, you're sitting down across from him and you're all non-chalant and crap.


And then you pick up the bottle and you slowly lick the rim of it.




What. What is it?

Well, I mean aside from the fact that I'm running for my life and probably wouldn't want to engage this guy, it's just not very... mysterious, I think if I'm being seductive I should have a little mystery.

Hm, that's interesting, no, just lick the rim.

Okay. (looks at actor, but talks to director) Like this then? (demonstration)

(director gets fixed stare, dumb smile, says nothing)

Is that what you mean?

Yeah, that's good.

Or like this? (demonstration)

(director slowly nods head) Okay.

And maybe do this with my hand on the bottle. Kind of like...that.

YES! GOOD! Do that. Do that.

Okay, got it. (deep sigh, look at actor across from me, he shrugs)




Thursday, November 7, 2013

Round One: DING DING

Dear Readers and Friends,

I have been having a few glitches with the blog posts that are sent out, but I think it will be back to normal today, sorry if you have not been getting the emails. I haven't actually sent too many new ones out because I got stuck on writing this one about all these fights I've been getting into the past two months. I realized something. I'm always fighting. What's worse is that most of the fights are imaginary and passive. Like this one:

Me vs. Whole Foods

What the hell did people used to do before there was antibacterial gel at the supermarket? I was wondering this while I watched some woman slather it up to her elbows and then onto her child’s tiny dimpled hands. As if that wasn’t enough, then she squirted a load onto the handle of the shopping cart, and rubbed it in like she was a crack-whore giving it a five-dollar hand jobShe knew what she was doing, this gal. And she was smiling!  Smiling as if to say, I am taking control of my life, I will never allow germs, bacteria or possible bits of fecal matter to enter my world and cause me, or my precious family members, to get flulike symptoms. I have to say, it was mesmerizing. The whole procedure was so strange and wrong and oddly titillating, I wanted to drop to the ground and roll around like an old, happy dog on top of a dead squirrel.

Instead I gave her a self-righteous glare: Seriously woman? You think you’ve got it all under control? Everything all clean and perfect? Well it’s not! You’re going to get sick, you’re going to get germs, you’re going to get golden, oozing infections just like the rest of us, only yours will be worse because they will be rare anti-bacterial-gel mutations. “Now go buy your organic produce, YOU FREAK!” And I let my glare follow her all the way into the store.

Going to the grocery store is exhausting.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Devotional

Marble sculpture from 1400s, Italian artist unknown.
I can't stop staring.