Wednesday, August 31, 2005


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A prayer for all those who need strength and succor.

Happy Birthday, Em!

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My daughter's birthday today...spending the day hanging out, going to a movie, out to dinner, etc.
Probably the only kid in town who's getting an axe for her birthday.

I love this kid so bad. She's an incredible person, this lively and strange mixture of her Mom and I. But there's no doubt about who is steering her ship, it's all her.

Anyway, today is her day.

Happy Birthday, kid.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Naturalist

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Friday, August 26, 2005


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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Deep Sea Fishing

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

"On the No. Seven"

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

"We Can't Reduce the Risks to Zero"

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Last night my wife and I watched "Hotel Rawanda." I'm also in the middle of reading "Collapse- How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond. These twin visions of destruction, inhumanity, and loss and show suffering on a massive scale and are powerful enough to penetrate the leaden barrier of "daily life" and really make us open our eyes. For a few minutes, anyway, until the sheild descends again and the world assumes its more benign face.

It's hardly a new thought, but I am seeing again how much like a virus we are. Our mythic successes- fire, stone tools, iron and copper, gunpowder, cities, electricity, science, all come to seem like accidents of location rather than as particular cultural endowments- that is, the reason one particular society rises to power and maintains it for lengthy periods of time has more to do with the weather, ecological and natural resources available, population pressures, the resiliency of the environment, etc, than with some imgained "cultural" superiority. Imagine a petri dish with areas of rich food and areas of poor food or even poison. Introduce a strain of bacteria and soon the food rich areas will be swarming with thriving bacteria and the barren or poisoned areas will have little or no bacteria. Now if you were to interview the bacteria on the food rich patch, you might hear how much smarter and powerful these bacteria are than the wretched, starving bacteria on the poor areas, and how if those other bacteria knew how to run things they'd have the same benefits and abundance all the "smarter" bacteria enjoy.

Follow the activity in the petri dish a little longer, and you'll soon find the food running out and the dish becoming choked with the waste products of the "successful" bacteria. They are still engaged in the same behavior that spelled success for them in the beginning- eating up the food and reproducing wildly. But now the behavior that brought them initial success is killing them off. Unable to regulate their reproductive rate they plow through their available resources and explode their population base at the same time, while filling the environment with their waste. Soon, everything is gone and the successful bacteria are as dead as doornails. They couldn't get more gone.

A simplistic example that considers only two variables, but illustrative nonetheless.

Ask a Mayan twenty years before the Mayan collapse where things were headed and he or she would have pointed to all the grand temples and cities and said "We are the most powerful beings on the planet. Our destiny is to prosper and control the world."

As I look around at our cities and television and computers and space travel and McDonald's, it seems likely we're in the same boat as everyone else who's sailed over the edge of the world before us. But no one treats this idea with any seriousness. Of course, even if we did there's little reason to believe that would change anything.

So, I turn off the computer and go walk along the cliffs overlooking the Pacific with my lovely wife and our dogs and I hold her hand and breathe in the salt-laden sea air and feel my legs moving, my body living and breathing, and my soul singing with joy, and I give thanks again for this day and every other.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Walter and Margaret

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sea of Love

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Impossibly fragile, our bodies entangle
as we bump together in a dark sea.
Our tendrils sting and paralyze.

We hug our prey to us and devour them.

How our beauty shines.
How we ceaselessly flex and convulse
to make our small progess, ignorant
of the great tides moving us.

Nearly too tender and silly to believe,
we make our way through a cold and
limitless void, the brine jampacked
with numberless lighted souls.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


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Our semi-homeless friend C_______ is here visiting. For years we've been watching her trajectory toward simplicity accelerate, and now she lives in a van and bounces around and around, stopping in with us every other month or so for a few days of showers and a place to hang out. She's a true free spirit, and for years and years she got a lot of wonderful support from the world (well, men, mostly). She's going on sixty now and her men are all still twenty years older than her, but....they keep dying off. And not always fast enough for her. And the support now comes in the form of...well, for example, she's very excited today because she found a cooler at Goodwill that plugs into the cigarette lighter of her van. She is a living, breathing manifestation of possibility for me, a constant reminder in human form that the world is a more wild and wonderful and awful place than I can often make room for in my head. C_______ has chosen this path, and she chooses it anew each day. Although now I often catch the glimmer of a deep and numbing fear in her eyes, that this is a ride she can't get off now.

But then it passes, and she's fine again.

I, however, become almost paralyzed with fear looking at her. I can hardly breathe. No income? No retirement? No bed, phone, closet, garden, computer, books? No spouse, no family, no support? She lives on the opposite end of the spectrum from me, and her trust in the world is orders of magnitude greater than mine.

So, I'm grateful for her presence in our lives, grateful for who she is and how she lives her life and for the way she swings away at the underpinnings of my sense of the world.

Ah, but she does scare the living shit out of me....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Call Out

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I was sitting at my desk this afternoon, going over a suspect interview, when my phone rang. My dad says "Well, did your pager go off yet?" He tells me that he's been negotiating with a felon who won't give himself up. My dad has talked him into giving himself up two or three times in the past, but this time the guy told him he wanted to wait for the SWAT team to show up so he could "show them what he's made of."

My dad's been a cop most all my life, and I'd never heard him say anything like what he said next. "He's a serious bad guy. Heavy weapons, no impulse control..." there was a long pause before he continued. "You be careful. Quick on the trigger."

I told him I'd keep my head down.

My younger brother and I are on the entry team for our department's Special Enforcement Detail, our version of SWAT, and Dad knew that we were gearing up to go in on this guy. We've been on homicide scenes together, autopsies, officer involved shootings, whatever, all three of us happy and slyly smiling as we went about our business. We've swapped war stories and compared injuries over countless beers and barbeques. As kids, my brother and I listened to the war stories and imagined doing all that cool shit, and now we are. It's good, it's a good thing.

But we also spent a lot of sleepless nights worried about him. Car wrecks, getting beat up, cut, shot at, etc. Both thrilling and sickening to experience vicariously as our hero Dad moved calmly through gunfire and evil and saved the day.

So this call was the first time I really bumped up against being on the other side of the equation- that is, him being worried about us. I could tell it was eating him up. I told him we'd been through it plenty of times before, we knew what we were doing, were well trained and good at the job, etc. No big deal.

"This guy.... he won't give up. I feel... responsible." Another long pause. "If something happens."

I played it off, told him again we were the best in the business, then scribbled down the address and started to roll out to the scene.

And, as usual, he gave up before we could even get all set up. No harm, no foul.

But that call was one of those times when you feel the known and certain world shift a little under your feet. Small movement, but a sea change.

I called him back when we were all wrapped up and we joked around, easy and light.

So, a small moment of little import. But it works like a burr in my skin.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This One Goes Out to The One I Love

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What can I say? I'm smitten. And she's a genius artist.

In The Temple of My Heart

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Longing to culitvate the luminous numinous in my life,
I speak to the mute angels who populate dark matter,
invisible to me; I open my eyes as if underwater, against
the weight, against the sharp sting of salt, and peer
into a muddled kalidescope of colored lights and
incandescent shadows hoping to see the face of that
which gazes at me always yet remains unseen.

For, I suppose, my own good.

For will not the slightest glimpse spell doom
for my own synaptic dancing angels? Will
they not instantly fly home, like seeking like, leaving
me a massless particle of infinite volume, destroying me,
turning me into the limitless and featureless
thing I seek?

I dare not blink.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


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Went to the Strand bookstore ("Eighteen Miles of Books") in the city and was captivated by a book of lynching photographs. Hundreds upon hundreds of sepia-toned and black and white photographs of that "strange fruit." Often they were young black men, their necks stretched long and thin, their heads at an awkward angle, hanging singly or in pairs from trees, streetlights, bridges. Some women. Some white men. Kids. Many were tortured before and during. Lit on fire. Whipped. Dragged through the streets. Sometimes there were explanations "Killer of Judge Stanley" or "Raped a woman and stabbed her baby in front of her." On a few occassions there were photographs of the person while still alive, the mob surrounding them, then another of them dead in a tree.

I looked closely at each photograph. I read each caption. I saw one from 1964, the year I was born.

I don't know why but I am drawn to death in all its particulars like a moth to the flame. Something deep inside me is fascinated, can't look away. Doesn't want to. Won't.

I'm all eyes.

It's why I do what I do, I suppose. The ultimate witness. Standing around in the rooms where death has just visited. Looking at blood trails, trying to unravel the exact dance the dying performed. Here's where she put her hand, trying to keep the door closed as he smashed it open. Here's where she rummaged through the bathroom drawers, bleeding to death. What was she looking for? A weapon? A band-aid?

And then, my head still full of these vivid and disturbing images, its off to the autopsy. Where I can really get an eyeful. Get my hands dirty. Poke and probe each wound. Hold the organs in my hands. Map bullet trajectories. Twist arms and legs to get wound to align. Work through various scenarios. Until we're left with an empty shell and we drop the red bag of guts back into the chest cavity and plop the chest plate on top and strip off our gloves and paper suits and call it a day.

Strange fruit.

I suppose on the simplest level I just can't believe that I'm going to die. Okay, this guy's dead. He didn't see it coming. This lady's dead. This kid got creamed. Those folks over there? Dead as shit.

Not me, though.

Not yet.


Friday, August 12, 2005

The Number Three Train at Chambers St. Station

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The Number Three Train at Chambers St. Station

He is tall and fat and smells bad.
Around his neck hangs a hand-lettered
cardboard sign printed in black magic-marker.

It reads: “Homeless. Please Help. Give WHAT you CAN.”

The man lumbers through the crowded subway car
and shakes a plastic cup in the faces of the people
in the orange plastic seats.

His feet are bare. They are hugely swollen and cracked
and turning black in some places, white in others. He shouts.
He mumbles his shouts so that you hear only the noise
of his pain but not the words.

He is a bear, I think. A terrible, wounded bear.

His stench is awful and people turn their heads,
waving their hands in front of their faces, grimacing.
No one gives him anything. We won’t meet his eyes.
I certainly don’t. The money in my pocket burns.
My face burns.

I want him to leave, to leave this train and to leave
us alone. I don’t want my daughter to be seeing this.
She is uncomfortable, too. We are all

We are all uncomfortable.

He shakes his cup and mumbles in his blank pain and
when the train stops and the doors open we step off the train and
the doors shut and the train lurches forward and takes him
into the dark.

The train shrieks and the earth trembles underfoot.
When we climb the stairs to the street,
we hold our hands over our faces. Accustomed to the dark,
we find the light unbearable.


Laughter in the Ramshackle Gallery

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Yellow Rat Bastard

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Back from our trip!

What an experience. The wedding in Florida was beautiful and wild, a three-day party on the beach. Then NYC with the monk! The Met! MoMA! SoHo, LoHo, East Village, Chi-town, Bowery, slices, dogs, subway....

Too much!

I feel like I'm ready to explode with all of these images, sounds, smells...a lot to process. Way too much to tackle all at once, so I'll just put up a little bit every day or so for the next hundred years.

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Here's my girl on the subway just a few hours after arriving in the big city. She's a country mouse, but you'd never know it to look at her here. She must have accessed her Mother's genetic memories of growing up in the city...she looks like she's been riding the subway since she was born.

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Yolie and Emily on Canal

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Monk & Girls on Ludlow

The city feels changed from when I last lived there in 89'-90'....I suppose it is as a result of 9/11. Every single person we met was friendly and helpful. When we asked someone for directions, half the time they would walk us to our destination and talk to us the whole way.

A guy came up to Yolie and I as we were walking the upper West side at around midnight and asked us if we could give a dollar to the United Negro Pizza Fund. I gave him a dollar, he gave us a blessing and laughed, we all laughed together. Then I turned to Yolie and asked her where she wanted to get something to eat. The guy came back to us and asked what we were interested in. He took us to this hole in the wall Chinese joint where we both ate brocoli in garlic sauce till we popped- for three dollars total.

The vibe is much friendlier, and there is a feeling that everyone is kind of looking out for each other. On the subway this wacko-looking guy got on the train and knelt down on the floor and started digging into his backpack. I was watching him really closely, getting into cop mode and getting ready to take this guy out if it got weird- now this is nothing new for me, it's how I live, but Yolie pointed out to me that when the guy started to dig around in his backpack EVERY SINGLE MAN on the train looked over and started leaning forward, ready to go into action.

It was wonderful. And chilling.

The world is changed. We are changed with it.


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Abuela is 99 years old. She's one of the most wonderful people I've ever met. When she sees you, she grabs hold of you by the hand and stares into your eyes and she GETS you. She sees into you and through you, then she smiles and pats your hand and tells you what she sees.

I sat with her for an hour or more, just listening to her. I'll never be the same again.

Okay, more later.

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Oh, yeah, it's good to be home.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Color Me Gone

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Headed to Florida for a family wedding and then up to New York City for a whirlwind tour.

Back next Friday. Wish us well!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Stem, Leaf, and Root

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Bone Girl

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Monday, August 01, 2005

The Entire State Building

On our long walk this morning my wife and I were talking (again) about the nature of human existance, the folly and faliability of humankind even when it comes to the simplest, or at least, the most concrete, interactions. How blind we each are to our own hearts, how we stumble through our lives and marriages and parenting, all thumbs, overreacting to this, ignoring that, refusing to see ourselves, refusing to really change. How we'd all much prefer that the world around us change to our liking instead. One of our friends is either engaged in or contemplating an affair with a coworker, and she seems to be in that headspace where her husband is the cause of all of her unhappiness, and this guy she's obsessed with is the key to all her future happiness, and it seems so clear from our vantage point that the guy is just an excuse, a lightning-rod that draws all of her away any energy that she might use to actually do some of the hard work that is necessary for real change in her relationship with her husband. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Which I believe is exactly how the whole contraption works.

Peer into the future and see what you want, what you really want, and by the time you make it to the future, it can be a lot like you imagined. I look at some of the objective realities of my life- married, picket fenced house, job as a detective and on the SWAT team, poet, artist, father, etc. and each one of them is something I could have told you that I wanted as a five-year old. If I decide, say, to start a publishing company, or become a teacher when I retire, or move into a buddhist retreat, how much of what happens next is due to my effort, and how much due to the simple 'intention'? Can't we decide to be happier in the same way we decide to get a different job, or move, or buy a house, or sell our house and buy a boat and sail around the world?

Isn't it all, truly, up to us?

Is there some disapproving parent in the sky shaking his or her head and mumbling "I don't know about that....seems awfully risky...."

Who is responsible for our happiness? Who gives a shit if you die broke, sad, bitter, and alone? Or happy, blissed out, realized, etc. Life is brutal, hard, and short. We die alone. We can't take it with us. Why do so few of us have a good time while we're here? It's like we are all born in a cattle chute, ambling toward the gate where a guy waits to slam us in the forehead with a sledgehammer. Goddamn, we ought to have a party on the way.

But we low and moo about how dark it is, how crowded the chute is, how smelly and dank. How much of our reality is due to our way of seeing? Our own self-deception? If it is self-deception, doesn't it make sense to delude ourselves into a state of happiness?

My experiment continues. I have made good progress to date, and I look around me and see the world IS a changed place. I am happier. I am more centered, more alive, more present. I have space inside me for failure, for evil, for sadness, compassion...

I'll keep you posted.