New Writing: The Red Mug in Compass Literary Journal

I am delighted to announce that a piece of short fiction I wrote, The Red Mug, has been published by Compass Literary Journal and you can read it online. This is the fifth story of the collection to be published and the fourth story to be published that began its life during my stint at the Playa Summer Lake residency in 2012. I’ve said it before, mostly as a joke, but now I’m beginning to take it seriously: There is some serious creative mojo emanating from that place.

Here’s the inspiration for the story. I once owned a red mug. It was my writing mug. I had it throughout the 1990s, and I was so attached to it that I took it with me to Washington State where I did my first artist residency  in 2001. If it’s possible to love an inanimate object, then I loved this red mug.  At the end of that residency I had a feeling that I should leave it in my studio. I felt like this idea came from the mug. It had served me well and now, it told me, it was time to spread its magic to the artists who would be in that studio after me. So I left it there, without remorse and with some pride.

You should stop here if you haven’t read the story but plan to.

This is a rare instance when I don’t have anyone to thank for helping me out with my work. I didn’t give it to anyone to read for feedback or comments. I had the latest draft  on my computer and read it on the plane to Arizona a couple of weeks ago. I thought all it needed were a few small changes. I made those and submitted it to Compass the first day I was at Arcosanti, one day before their submission deadline. What drew me to Compass? Their mission statement includes this sentence: “We as a magazine aim to explore how individuals experience and articulate loss (whether in their lives or others).” Oh yes, the collection is very much about loss.

Okay, really, don’t read any more if you haven’t read the story. 

This is now my favorite coffee mug, used on days when I'm doing my work.
This is now my favorite coffee mug, used on days when I’m doing my work.


Okay, here’s the rest of the story.

In 2004 my mother died. Six months later I was kind of pulling it together. Still numb, but not crying all the time and not terribly depressed. One afternoon I went to a Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping for I don’t remember what and I came upon shelf after shelf of that brand of mug, same style, multiple colors, blue mugs, white mugs, black mugs, green mugs, yellow mugs, and red mugs.

I stood in front of them, paralyzed and overwhelmed by a sense of loss. Not only of my mother, but of myself.  I felt like my life had gone off the tracks, though I couldn’t say how or why or when, and that the person I was,  the person who was creative, funny, smart, curious, the person who had so much potential, that person was gone. Gone forever.

It was part of my grieving and it seemed right for this character in the collection to have a similar experience.

Other stories in the collection:

There Is Joy before the Angels of God 


Other Leevilles

12-Bar Blues (Sorry this one is not online.  You’d have to buy it from the publisher, Pilgrimage)

Want still more writing?




Patient Trust, a Poem by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Patient Trustpdt 2

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

From Wikipedia
“Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
SJ ; May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He conceived the idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and developed Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of noosphere.

Many of Teilhard’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin. However, in July 2009, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said: “By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn’t be studied.” And he has been praised by Pope Benedict XVI.”

Paolo Soleri was greatly influenced by de Chardin.

Thanks to Neil Urban for bringing this poem to my attention.

Record Store Day 2015

In case you didn’t know it, Saturday, April 18, 2015, is Record Store Day. Seven years and still hanging around. I thought I’d recycle this, because it’s still appropriate.

Many many years ago I worked in a record store in Hackensack, NJ with a whole mess of great people, many of whom I’m still in touch with. (Hi Rita, Sam, Bob, Jack, Helen, and Wayne.) Though it was a chain store and not an independently owned shop, it was still very High Fidelity. Oh, the lists…

A certain kind of person works in a record store, then and now. Then the customers ran the gamut, from Kenny G. fans to people who couldn’t wait to get the latest Ministry 12″. Now, it seems the only people who visit record stores are more apt to dig for that Ministry 12″. Well, maybe not Ministry.

Certain things have been gained with the digital revolution where music is concerned. But some things have been lost, too. I miss two things. 1) That tactile sense of holding an LP, reading the liner notes, staring at album cover art groovy enough for framing. 2) As the number of record stores continue to dwindle, the face-to-face interaction with other folks interested in music is disappearing. And I think that’s a shame. (Yeah, I know, you can find folks with similar musical tastes online, but it isn’t the same, really, than, you know, leaving your house and talking to someone.)

So, to honor Record Store Day and the interactions that happen in such establishments, I put together the following blog-only clip from footage Wolfgang Held shot at Hyde Park Records in Chicago, when we first met Robert Darden. Mine is the low voice you hear in the beginning, talking about the Redd Foxx LP being displayed above the gospel section, “the sacred and profane in one eyeful.”

Big thanks to Redd Foxx and the wonderful customer for making this pretty special. I hope you like it. And why not celebrate the day by going to your local record store and taking part in the festivities. I understand many of you ditched your turntables, so maybe you can buy a cd while you’re there. [Do people still have CD players.]

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So, what was the last CD/LP/45 you bought?

Click here to view a clip from the documentary, A Life’s Work (work in progress), featuring more footage shot in HPR.

Artist Rita Flores, who was one of my co-workers all those years ago, today coincidentally posted a piece about the joys of record stores on her blog, Through the Lava Lamp.

Back to Arcosanti

Many years ago I worked in a record store  where I spent a lot of my time flipping through the inventory to see what I was missing. One day I came across an LP I had not seen before.

Sound Effects Death & Horror
Front cover.


Sound Effects Death & Horror
Track listing on back.


At the time I thought this was the funniest, cheesiest, most bizarre album I had ever seen. I wasn’t making films or audio dramas and I did not foresee any use for it, but still I had to have it. Plus, it was cheap, what with my employee discount and all. I brought it up to the cashier and with a laugh I said to whoever rang me up, “Who would BUY this?” As I took the money out of my wallet a lightening bolt of self-awareness struck me! I would buy it, that’s who!

Flash forward about 20 years and the release of Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, a film he shot in the jungles of Thailand.  At this point I am an admirer of Herzog and am particularly captivated by Fitzcarraldo and its companion, Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams, a documentary chronicling the making of Fitzcarraldo. For the purposes of this post, you need only know that Herzog had a very difficult time shooting this film on location in the Amazon jungle.

Here’s a famous clip from Burden of Dreams wherein Herzog goes all Herzogian about the Amazon.

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Leaving the theater after Rescue Dawn, I turned to my movie-going companion and said, “It’s amazing, Herzog finally gets a decent budget and big name Hollywood actors, and what does he do? Right back into the jungle! Crazy.”

And last month I thought about what I had said as I booked a flight to Arizona upon receiving news about my income tax refund. So tomorrow (Tuesday, April 14, 2015),  cinematographer Andy Bowley and I will be back in the Sonoran Desert shooting Arcosanti and conducting a follow-up interview with Jeff Stein, AIA, successor to Paolo Soleri and president of the Cosanti Foundation. I know, I know, I’ve said production is over about ten times. But this is it. This shoot is for the ending of the film and very very necessary. So to the desert we go.

I expect they’ll be a post when I return, maybe some photos, and eventually some footage, too.

Stay tuned.

New Writing: Practice, Practice in Helen Literary Magazine

I’m pleased to announce that I have a new piece of nonfiction, Practice, Practice, on Helen Literary Magazine’s blog. It’s about the things we pick up and hold dear when we’re young that we let go of when we’re a little older, and then return to when we’re older still. In Practice, Practice that thing is the guitar.

guitar grabThe post also includes a link to me playing a piece which, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may have seen before. And if you’re a regular reader with a good memory and you spent a few minutes reading the piece, you may recall a post called From Guitars to Typewriters and Cameras. That post was the starting point of Practice, Practice, but it didn’t address why I picked up guitar again and how my relationship to the instrument has changed.

If you have a few minutes, consider giving it a read, and if you have even more minutes at your disposal drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Thanks to Audrey Ward for giving it an early read, Caroline Wright for helping to bring the idea of “practice” into focus, and Meredith Miller for the super insightful comments. And thanks again to Peter LaMastro for shooting the video and taking the photo above.

More writing links here.





Tourist Eyes – Jeff Stein, AIA

I recently emailed an update on A Life’s Work to Jeff Stein, AIA, president of the Cosanti Foundation.

Part of his reply was the following —

PS: I gave a presentation at a recent AIA/American Institute of Architects convention in Santa Fe. I rode my motorcycle there Thursday, talk and panel discussion Friday and Saturday, back to Arcosanti on Sunday. On the return trip I dodged storms to the south until in the late afternoon I turned off Interstate 17 onto the Arcosanti road, and here was the view: a double rainbow.

and this image —

Photo by Jeff Stein
Photo by Jeff Stein, AIA


Thanks for sharing, Jeff, and allowing me to post it here. Hope to see you in April.

Related: Six Questions for Jeff Stein

Happy New Year!

I do believe this is the year A Life’s Work will be completed. You read it here first.

I look forward to sharing it with you.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to you, you, you, and especially YOU!

Happy New Year 2015


A documentary about people engaged with projects they may not complete in their lifetimes.