Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts

Writers on the Storm

The legendary editor of Charles Scribner's Sons, Maxwell Perkins, worked with writers who became legends such as Thomas Wolfe, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. None of these men knew celebrity until their first novel was published.

Back then, publishers invested in writers who could build careers. They paid modest advances and worked together to produce literature that could achieve commercial success. Some books would flop, others would yield a modest return, and some would be gigantic best-sellers. The best-sellers would fund the enterprise.

George R.R. Martin

Publishing has changed since then.

An unknown writer presents undue risk to a publisher. To achieve profit they must invest in those titles the industry will support as best-sellers. That said, a writer with an established audience has leverage. For example, the Obamas were awarded a $60 million contract from Penguin Random House for the President's and the First Lady's memoirs. A safe bet by any calculation, but the pendulum for today's writers can swing both ways. 

With a bona fide hit out of the gate, the pressure to follow it up can be overwhelming. One way writers can avoid the sophomore jinx is through a series that rolls like a snowball down a hill such as Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. Of course, a writer can become the series themselves such as Stephen King, Tom Clancy and John Grisham. Since many of the commercially successful books are wonderful pieces of literature, too, where does it leave today's aspiring writers?

J.K. Rowling

While the business of publishing has evolved with the marketplace, the marketplace has itself become more accessible. Backing from a publisher with promotion and distribution can smooth the path to fortune and fame, but it's never an easy path. It's a howling storm out there and writers must put on their boots, fasten their coats, hold on to their hats, and trudge along.
   

Drink on Hemingway

I drove through Islamorada in a fiery Mustang convertible with the top down and Marley and the Wailers playing over and over while my foot weighed down like gravity on the accelerator.

Spontaneous flight to Miami, now on the hunt for inspiration once owned by the man who left a blueprint to literary fortune in his short, swift typewriter strokes.


Hotel in Key West where a cute girl in navy blue g-string bikini waits poolside for me to make a move, but I'm incapacitated by irreverent sun beams and the beauty of her fresh tan lines.

Ernest Hemingway
Night falls. Drag queens on Duval Street singing Christmas carols. Ruckus up ahead, sirens and handcuffs, I turn left to Whitehead, to find blues burning from Caffeine Carl and the Funky Beans and wild locals getting loose on buckets of beer, drunk on the notion I'm in heaven, but it's filthy and lonely after a while.
Wallet empty, party strong, I leave dejected, seeking inspiration, call on Hemingway ... Show yourself, you son of a bitch.

And then I find it -- a five dollar bill in front of his house! 

After six long years of embellishment, I pick up the bill and head back to the bar for a drink on Hemingway.

But, according to my notes, the bill was one block away and I could not go back, chased by a black cat to the beach where I charge bare-ass into the water only to be devoured by camouflaged sharks and the wonder of how I will look back on this absurd life. 


Green Parrot Bar, Key West, FL


To Be a Kid Again

My wife and I promised our boys we'd take them ice skating this New Year's Eve and we made good on it. I haven't been on skates in ages and the sum total of times I have can be counted on one hand.

My youngest son is a big three, which means he's closer to four and he was unfazed when I laced up his tiny skates. He walked with a purpose to the edge of the rink, but when he stepped on the ice, his confidence shattered. His feet went in different directions like a foal outside a barn and he screamed from the top of his lungs for me to get him out of there. Problem was, I couldn't.

He held my hand as I clutched the wall and the two of us spiraled our way forward with the other skaters. At times, he would clutch me as if he was hanging off a cliff. Then a young girl came by and asked me if my son was learning how to balance. She couldn't have been much older than six. She told him to keep his legs straight, bend his knees, and walk like a penguin. I don't think he heard her over his tears, but I followed her instructions and echoed them as we made our way.

About halfway through, my lower back started barking like a hound dog in pursuit of a fox. My son's pleas to turn around became my own. We did an about-face and before we got too far, the young girl skated over to us and told us we had to go in the same direction as everybody else. Of course she was right, that know-it-all.

We pushed on. Salvation lay on the other side of the rink, but to make it, we'd have to cut across the ice without the safety of the wall. My son sensed the gravity of the situation and squirmed like a puppy before its first dunk in the bathtub. We glided in slow motion toward our destination. When we made it, I praised him for being brave and asked him if he wanted to go around again. He looked at me like I was crazy. He couldn't wait to get his skates off.

On the way home, he and his older brother were filled with song and laughter before they fell into a deep sleep.

I've never made a New Year's resolution I intended to keep and today is no different. I did realize something, though. After I made it around the ice rink with my three-year-old, we watched the other skaters and I felt exhilarated. Memories of my first skate flooded back to me along with the realization that decades later, I'm no better at it than I was then, but boy, did I have fun. Simply being with my kid, doing what he wanted to do, made me feel like a kid again. I may have a different answer later tonight when the ball drops and that familiar question is raised in song: Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Grab your kid by the hand and see for yourself.




The Body

Elle Macpherson aka "The Body"
The body is a source of sheer delight and immense disappointment. It is unique to each of us. It can be sculpted and it can change its shape without warning. We are its master and its victim.

Elle Macpherson was known as "The Body" after hers graced the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue again and again, meanwhile Jesse "The Body" Ventura used his on the battlefield, the wrestling ring, and the political arena.

The body of a newborn begins its journey to the body of an octogenarian. The intricate systems of the body keep it moving from start to finish, through shrieks of agony and pulsating electric shocks from the embrace of a lover.

It appears in scripture and in strip malls. It's in our work. It is the one thing you know best and hardly at all. We stare at it in the mirror and we stare at other versions on the beach or in the gym. At times, we covet it like a jewel.

Jesse "The Body" Ventura
Artists opine about the beauty of a body in masculine and feminine form. Scientists dissect it. Athletes push it to the limits. You and I touch it and sometimes invite others to do so as well. A pat on the back, a handshake, a different kind of shake, an embrace, a violent push. We adorn armor to protect it. We chose clothes that flatter its shape and keep it warm and safe from the elements. We shield it from the sun and bask in its rays. We manufacture a prosthetic to replace a piece that was once there or perhaps never at all.

The body is a tool to lay, move, gather, cook, hold, hit, drive, jump, stand, run ...

The body is sexy. The curves of a woman in clothes that cling or nothing at all. The broad shoulders of a man drawing the letter V at a tapered waist. The body seeks other bodies to reproduce more and more bodies.

For those whose body has been dormant, push it. For those whose body has been sore, heal it. For those whose body draws attention, flaunt it. For those whose body is healthy, appreciate it. For those whose body won't agree, convince it. For those whose body has been laid to rest, may it rest in peace.

    -0-

/EDITOR'S NOTE: "The Body" was written by request for DELve Mag . It is syndicated here by its author, Weird Long Beard Press/

Ireland Baldwin Treats Us to a Lady Picture Show on the Heels of Dylan Penn

Far from a rude, thoughtless little pig, Ireland Baldwin will appear in a "some like it hot" portfolio by Arthur Belebeau in the number 11 issue of Treats! Magazine on the 4" heels of Dylan Penn who appeared in the number seven issue. Seven or 11 is quite a come out roll for the luscious pair who continue their ascendancy and are no longer a secretCheck it out:


Ireland Baldwin, Treats! Magazine, Issue 11.

Ireland Baldwin, Treats! Magazine, Issue 11.

Ireland Baldwin, Treats! Magazine, Issue 11.

Ireland Baldwin, Treats! Magazine, Issue 11.




Man Escapes Office Run by Zombies

NEW YORK, Jan. 31 -- A young man was rescued from a local business in Midtown yesterday that was run by brain-eating zombies.

"At first I didn't realize I was among the undead. There was not a lot of chit chat in the office and coworkers seemed to stare blankly at their screens all day. It was similar to my last job," he said.

The young man would see coworkers assemble and leave the office together around lunchtime, but only a few would return. These coworkers along with his managers often walked by him as if he was invisible.  
Image credit: Daniel Hollister | Flickr

"I said hello to one woman each day who was always standing by the coffee machine, although no coffee ever seemed to come out of it," he said. 

He reports the work was mindless and that his biggest challenge was remembering his Windows login. 

"When I'd struggle to remember my password, a crowd of coworkers would gather near my cubicle and grunt at one another, but once I logged in, they'd vanish," he said. 

It was when the young man had trouble with his login and called tech support that a coworker lunged at him from a nearby cubicle. 

"She was trying to bite me," he said

When he ran to human resources to report the incident, other coworkers poured out of meeting rooms and offices giving chase. When he got there, the administrators leaped across their desks firing employee manuals toward his head. He was able to duck down and exit through a nearby fire escape out to the street. 

"I thought the incident was strange, but I still wasn't sure if I had to report back the next day," he said.

After describing the scene to a friend, the young man alerted the authorities who discovered the office was a zombie lair. 

The NYPD held a press conference saying that zombies were hiring young, unsuspecting professionals to feed on their brains and incorporate them into their occult.

"Once the supply of new brains ran low, all hell broke loose," said Sergeant O'Leary.  He cautioned citizens that other zombie dens were likely in operation, luring new hires to join their "growing company."


Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin No Longer a Secret

It's been two years since I predicted The Ascendancy of Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin, so it's time to take inventory. To date, the celebrity scorecard still has the Jenners and Kardashians leading the popularity contest, but the margin is dwindling. Last month, Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin crashed the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in New York with Ireland apparently leaving her lingerie behind in the dressing room. This spawn of Hollywood royalty is serious in its pursuit of modeling and acting and draws hordes of paparazzi by birthright. While the emergence of Ireland's cousin, Hailey Baldwin, and the increasing popularity of Gigi and Bella Hadid prove formidable, the glowing embers of  this dynamic duo are beginning to fan into flames and ascend the nation's tabloid rankings. Take a look:

Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2015.

Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2015.

Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin at Victoria's Secret Fashion Show 2015.

Too Much, Not Enough - Redux

The choices that confront us today are confounding: products, recipes, TV shows, cocktail parties, radio stations, sporting events and so on ... The weight of deciding is bone crushing, sending us to those safe harbors we construct such as snack cabinets and wine cellars. Too much of anything is dangerous and not enough of it is maddening.

In the past week, I raked the leaves on the yard, fixed the gaping hole in the side of the house, roasted a 22-pound turkey, replaced the hard drive on my computer and had a heartfelt debate about elementary education. If asked how I accomplished any of it, I would shrug my shoulders and say "YouTube,"

The inundation of how-to's and DIYs are possible now that we can download information quickly from the cloud and not worry about storing it past the point of immediate need. My brain can only handle so much: address, social security number, kids' names, outcome of the Florida State vs. Florida game (Noles won!) before the distraction of what's for lunch pushes it all aside.

The horrible events in our country and around the planet are brought to us immediately and replayed countless times by news organizations for shock value. Helpless, we look to politicians to correct these ails and protect us while they lobby for our trust. It's a game of Whack-A-Mole. Push one problem down, another immediately takes its place, it's too much.

As I write, the view from my window is lit with color and stillness. It's quiet and peaceful outside. just not enough.

Nobody Knows Anybody. Not That Well.

Hard to believe 25 years have passed since Miller's Crossing was released. While I often think of the film, there is one line in particular that rings true, "Nobody knows anybody. Not that well." It's a line from the gangster Tom Reagan who's played by Gabriel Byrne.

I once took the Amtrak from Penn Station, NY to Union Station, DC with Gabriel Byrne. We disembarked at the same time and I stood behind him in line for the taxi cabs across from our Nation's Capitol. I recall his silver metallic wheeled bag hit my foot while we were waiting and for reasons I can't fathom, I asked him if I could take his picture. He politely said no and I waited an eternity for the line to move and him to get in his cab.

That line, written by the Coen Brothers, echoed in my mind the rest of the evening. "Why the heck did I ask Gabriel Byrne for a picture? I know better. I'm a New Yorker."

Truth is, I don't why I did it. I don't think any of us know why we do what we do. It's all a crap shoot when we leave our homes each day. I never know what I'm going to have for lunch. How does anybody figure any of it out?

It's astonishing when people think they do know you. They say things they believe to be true and most of the time it flies way off the mark. We just ignore them, change the subject. How bout the weather? Maybe we can agree on that. 

"Nobody knows anybody. Not that well." For some strange reason we think we do know people, just not what we ourselves are going to wear tomorrow.   

Gabriel Byrne in Miller's Crossing

Snap, Crackle, Pop! Cereal Reminds Marketers to Think Outside the Box

You finish ironing your wrinkle-free shirt and head downstairs to the breakfast nook where sunlight filters in through the window and out to the doo-wop of blue jays and the hustle and bustle of busy squirrels. The day has begun, but your body still clings to its late-night torpor. Coffee percolates its pleasant aroma and you reach in the cupboard for a box brought to you by General Mills, Kellogg's, Post or Quaker Oats. You pour the contents into a familiar bowl, add milk and Snap, Crackle, Pop! They're Gr-r-reat and Magically Delicious!
Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker.
The box sits opposite you with a friendly gaze of Dig'em, Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger or "Cap'n Crunch-a-tize me" with their gentle nudge to go get 'em. The snappin', cracklin', poppin' whole grain oats or rice or corn join the chorus as they're waking up, too. The sunlight in the room is golden like Honey Smacks, Combs, Cheerios and Bunches of Oats and you reach for your phone to check your texts, emails, Instagrams, local news, scores and what other people are tweeting about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, Scandal or The Bachelorette. You finish your cereal, put the spoon and the bowl in the sink and the box back in the cupboard. You no longer see the squirrels or hear the birds. You are programmed to begin your day.
Later that week, you find yourself standing in the cereal aisle and you notice the abundance of yellow and orange colors shining down on you and think for a split second: Did I remember to put my bowl in the sink this morning?
Marketers know the genesis of all of these ideas and the deliberate decisions that culminate in those magical moments leading up to conversion. The cereal aisle reminds us with its bright colors and cartoon characters and punchy tags to go beyond the box to stir that feeling ... you know, the one you had this morning when you were listening to the blue jays and your world awaken. 

Dave Letterman's Impact on a Homesick New Yorker

In one week dis May, we said goodbye to Don Draper, B.B. King and Dave Letterman. While I'll miss all three, Letterman's void is the widest and the deepest as I've watched him for most of my life and most of his late night career.

Dave Letterman on NBC.
When it was Late Night with The World's Most Dangerous Band led by the incomparable Paul Schaffer, Letterman's antics were unpredictable, unusual and darn funny. I can recall being sick one summer and it seemed the only relief was Letterman and his "crash cam," a camera mounted on a skateboard that would crash into bottles and other visually impressive obstacles that would shatter and splash. Back then it seemed like Johnny Carson was Dave's opening act.

When I was at SUNY Buffalo, my roommates and I could barely afford rent much less cable or a decent TV. We'd have to shift the furniture around the living room to get reception and somehow, The Late Show always came through clearly. We'd gather like clockwork and no matter how broke we were, someone would scrape together a joint and we'd be glued to the set, critiquing his monologue, wondering whether or not his guests were really upset or if they enjoyed sparring with him. Who can forget Madonna's "nice rug" and his immediate retort "nice swim cap?" When I got back to NYC, I was determined to see him live and fill up on pizza and bagels.


I took my mom to my first show. I recall Nathan Lane was a guest and he killed it. I also recall getting a coffee from Hello Deli for the first time. The next show I had tickets to was on St. Patrick's Day in March of 1998 with Van Morrison and The Chieftans as the musical guest. The show was overbooked and I was turned away; however, the staff said I could come back to any other show as long as I let them know a day in advance. I picked his May 1, 1998 show, which was his 1,000th. Salma Hayek was supposed to be the first guest, but she cancelled at the last minute, leaving Norm MacDonald to cover two segments before Pearl Jam played Wishlist. I took my best friend to that one. We were seated in the balcony and while they discourage you from getting up, we both had to use the bathroom due to an aggressive happy hour beforehand. I remember running through the Ed Sullivan Theater and back to my seat just in time to see Pearl Jam take the stage.


In the year 2000, I worked across the street from Dave Letterman and would see Paul Schaffer on the street and Biff Henderson on his smoke break often. From high above, we could see where the guests arrived on 53rd street. I remember watching The Edge unload his guitar from a black SUV on October 29, 2001. Later, I would catch that performance on my rabbit-eared TV. For those who did not have cable then, CBS was the only channel you could get after September 11 as its antenna was on the Empire State Building.


Pumpkins blowing up on 53rd Street, Audioslave playing atop the marquee and the infamous Hello Deli Saga are memories I owe to Dave Letterman. Like a sailor out at sea, the iconic intro "From New York ..." was a beacon on the horizon welcoming you home, the image of the Tribeca Bridge, a bridge you once shoveled snow from despite its being covered, as familiar as the street you grew up on and Dave Letterman standing in the doorway, centerstage, smiling that smile, happy to see you ... and you, happy to see him each night.

Thanks for the memories, Dave!


Winter's Coming

The hyperactive squirrels have been working overtime gathering their harvest for the winter and driving my retriever nuts as they always appear just out of reach.

On the road, there was a squirrel whose crossing ended midstream with a shattered acorn beyond its frozen grasp. Consumed with preparations for the future, the present blindsided it with swift, silent speed.

Halloween is a reminder of the grim worm-eaten world beneath our feet, rising up to cast its shadow in the overheard illumination we've constructed to ward off such creatures of the dark.

Winter's coming. Gather the game and the wood and the spirits and the furs and do your best to hide from those things that go bump in the night.

(Insert Vincent Price laugh here.)

Boo!

Write What You Know

"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know." - Ernest Hemingway

Nature kills, human nature, too, I wish that wasn't true.

"This above all - to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man." - Shakespeare, Hamlet

There was a man who cut in front of me at a crowded rooftop bar overlooking the Chrysler Building which popped against the deep blue Manhattan sky on a pleasant summer night. I brought it to his attention and he shrugged his shoulders. I recalled the wisdom of Queen Elizabeth, who when asked what lesson was the most important to learn in life replied, good manners.

"I don't know much, but I know I love you." - Written by Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil and Tom Snow. Performed by Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville. 

I was sitting beneath a tree having lunch on the campus of a large corporation when I called home. My mother and father, sister, nephew, wife and sons were 53.8 miles away from me and contemplating ordering Chinese food. I would have swum the Sound for an egg roll.




Dylan Penn Treats Us to a Smoke Show

That didn't take long. Dylan Penn has signed on to do her first movie, a horror film titled Condemned. In the meantime, she grabbed the lucky number seven cover of Treats! Magazine with a scorching portfolio by Tony Duran. Check it out:

Dylan Penn, Treats! Magazine, Issue 7.
Dylan Penn, Treats! Magazine, Issue 7.
Dylan Penn, Treats! Magazine, Issue 7.

Dylan Penn, Treats! Magazine, Issue 7.


Dylan Penn, Treats! Magazine, Issue 7.


Thoughts at The Turn: Jennifer Lawrence, Blake Wingtips and Ernest Hemingway

Jennifer Lawrence, Hunger Games
NY premiere.
Back breaking snow shoveling storms sabotaged my strategy to sip 18 taps of Blue Point brew on eastern Long Island before it gets trampled by Clydesdales, but now have time to dive into old blues albums while I jot down diversionary thoughts rather than face The Turn.

I've always liked Tom Chiarella of Esquire and his piece 40: When You've "Made" It  is a great pep talk.

Speaking of Esquire, was it just me or was the February 2014 issue, Weird Men, not too weird? Then again, what would I know about it.


Jennifer Lawrence, Film Independent
Spirit Awards.
Can't wait for American Hustle to be available on Netflix. Something about that movie trailer with Jennifer Lawrence parading around in her underwear coupled with rumors of a kiss with co-star Amy Adams sounds intriguing.

Why is the whole world obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence anyway? I mean really Jack Nicholson, she's old enough to be your daughter's daughter. I guess I have nothing new to add to the tomes of internet adulation, but JLaw does seem like the girl-next-door type who liked to smoke pot and listen to The Dead until wham-o, she's hyper glammed up and doesn't have a moment to say hey, I know that dude, he lived next door to me, but I digress. I guess like every other man, Jack Nicholson included, I'd like to smoke pot with Jennifer Lawrence -- the legal, medical variety of course.
Jennifer Lawrence, 83rd Oscars.

Big, big fan of Rancourt & Co. Shoecrafters located in Lewiston, Maine. They rolled out the Blake wingtip not long ago and I have had a shoe-porn like obsession with it. Yet to figure out how I can justify the purchase and quell the likely barrage of "Imelda Marcos" quips from my wife.

Going to Key West at the end of the month to celebrate a dear friend's betrothal. Will certainly visit the Hemingway house again, even though I already know the tour by heart. Good time to replace my Sloppy Joe's t-shirt with a brighter version for the summer, but quite frankly, I'll be happy if I escape from the Southernmost Point in one piece.

Bonobos, big fan. Will buy more Bonobos this spring.

Now that's a compelling midlife crisis portrait: Safety Pink Sloppy Joe's tee, navy Bonobos shorts, tan Blake wingtips sans socks, medical marijuana license, obligatory sunburn and delusions that, if given the chance, Jennifer Lawrence would totally go for it.

Ernest Hemingway, Key West.

The Origin of My Story Telling

It's funny how some memories lodge themselves in your brain like a poppy seed in your teeth. I have ones that have followed me for nearly three decades.

Waves at Tobay Beach, Long Island.
I recall being at a beach on the south shore of Long Island, most likely Tobay. I was playing in the waves with my friend. His mother loved to lay in the sun and since she worked nights, she took us there during the week when it was not crowded.

The sea was choppy that day my friends.

We were playing in the surf and I recall being thrown about by the waves like laundry in a dryer. It was exhilarating. As soon as I'd drift to shore I would look for my friend, eager to describe what had just happened. As I jabbered wildly, he nodded looking out to the horizon, lost in his own experience. I had this amazing feeling and this eminent desire to tell someone, anyone about it.

The emotion has never left me. It has aged like a fine wine.

Shortly after the summer, I had a writing assignment due in class. Not knowing where to start, I asked my dad for help. He was lying half asleep on the couch, resting between his two jobs with a cup of coffee half-full in his hand. The story was to describe a trip around Manhattan holding on to a red balloon. Dreamily he took me past the Statue of Liberty, between the valley of the Twin Towers and over the 59th Street Bridge until the balloon popped and I landed in the golden glove of Mets First Baseman Keith Hernandez. I couldn't write fast enough, amazed by how real it felt. Later that week, after the papers were returned to the class, mine was held by the teacher and read aloud. I can still feel the flush of embarrassment in my cheeks and the exhilaration of being thrown about by the waves on the beach.

Whether or not he was aware of it, my dad had passed on to me the tools to build something from my imagination and share it, after you've had time to look to the horizon and come back from your own experience.


The Ascendancy of Dylan Penn and Ireland Baldwin

In the wake of holiday feasts when family and friends gather around the table for coffee and dessert, I'm often intrigued by the subjects that come up, especially when the group digresses into the did-you-hear gossip about celebs.

Last year Ireland Baldwin was the center of attention, but this year's belle of the cream-and-sugar bowl was Dylan Penn. For those who have not been introduced to either one, yet, these women are the exceedingly beautiful progeny of Hollywood couples Sean Penn and Robin Wright and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. Behold:

Hopper Penn, Robin Wright and Dylan Penn
Dylan Penn

Alec and Ireland Baldwin
Ireland Baldwin

I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that we will be seeing and hearing a lot more about Dylan and Ireland in the new year.

Message in a Bottle

It's hard for me to think of a message in a bottle and not hear the high pitched voice of Sting ringing in my ear. Then, of course, there's the man in tattered clothes with a ragged beard stuffing a scroll into a wine bottle that he hopes will one day lead to his rescue. This message adrift at sea, where will it end up and when might that be?

Not long ago I moved to the suburbs where my wife grew up and this past summer her best friend's parents sold their house to move to the California wine country. As such, we inherited many of the things they chose not to take such as an antique clock, a mahogany buffet and a hand-crafted Olhausen pool table, timeless treasures that were immediately put to use.

Every time my wife would send me to their home I went like a kid sliding down the banister on Christmas morning eager with anticipation. On the last trip, there were miscellaneous items set out on the driveway for collection, among them were some unopened bottles of wine and a half-full bottle of scotch, which I thought would be a shame to go to waste, so I took them.

Fast forward through the colorful autumn as the temperature drops and the first snow falls beyond the front door. A chill permeates the house even though the heaters whistle with steam and the balsam fragrance of the Christmas tree warms the heart. I decide to build a fire, which takes me about as long as it did to read that famous short story by Jack London. Coincidentally, I receive a text from my wife's best friend's husband who I have befriended as some men do the husbands of their wives' best friends. Prattling on about football, my feet are starting to warm by the fire and I'm thinking a nip of scotch would be grand. I get up and walk past the empty bottle of Glemorangie sticking out of the sea of items to be recycled and in the dark recesses of the liquor cabinet, I find the half-full bottle of scotch that once washed ashore the asphalt beach of my wife's best friend's driveway. I take it to the table and pour a glass, but something is off.

The label on the bottle reads "Jewels of Speyside" with an antlered deer proudly peering back at me. What could be more fitting in the hunting lodge atmosphere I've created for myself? While I've never heard of it, the label says it's a single-malt scotch aged 27 years, so I give it another try. As I do, my wife joins me on the couch and stares at the bottle and then at me. She likens it to a handle of Jockey gin that we left in the coat closet of her apartment on Bleecker Street when she moved out. It proved to be undrinkable even in the throws of her and her roommates infamous late-night holiday parties. As she studies the label quizzically, her eyes grow wide and she is hit with a revelation: "We used to sneak shots of that back when we were in high school, then we would add water to it so my friend's parents wouldn't know."

The next morning there's the clanging of glass as the bottles roll from the recycling bin into a larger receptacle and through the prism they create, I see the image of the deer staring back at me.

Stray Dog

I believe it was James Joyce who once said that he could detect his wife's fart in a room full of farts. To know someone intimately is inevitable when you live with them. So too is the case with dogs.

In the kitchen, coffee poured, dog barks. I heed. It's the urgent, guttural growl to warn off potential invaders, which usually amounts to no more than the delivery man or the occasional skunk. Oh good, my pitching wedge has arrived, I think. (Cut to the image of my former pitching wedge entangled in weeds below the murky water hazard of the golf course where I last played.)

I rush to the front door and see a car and a man who looks vaguely familiar walking up my driveway looking in my and my neighbor's yard. I retreat to the kitchen to cut off his angle when he sees me through the window and rather than explain, he retreats to his vehicle. No sooner my wife shouts, "There it is! There's the dog!"

I race outside with bare feet and pierce through the brambles dividing my driveway from my neighbor's lawn and I see a beautiful yellow lab pup looking a bit confused. It warily approaches as I gesture come here, already imagining the glory I will receive for reuniting it with its owner. It draws within a few feet and then darts through an opening in the bramble and down the road.

I give chase, bare feet on roughly paved street, ooh, ouch, ooh ouch! The dog looks like it's on ice skates compared to me as I struggle to keep it within my sight line. It crosses the street and heads to its home, I am too far behind to take credit, so I turn back. As I do, I see the car that was in my driveway only moments ago and I flag it down as if there's been an accident.

"Looking for your dog?" I said, "I just saw him go back to your house."

My neighbor looks at me, he's younger than I initially give him credit for and he shakes his head the way men do when they're at a loss for words, "What a pain in the ass. Thank you!" I raise my hand to signal all is well and then gingerly walk home as if across a bed of hot coals.

I remember when I was on a business trip in Cleveland and my phone rang during a meeting. I ignored it and then it rang again from the same line, so instinctively I got up and took the call thinking it was an urgent matter.

"Hi. I have your dog, Riley," the man said. I frantically ran through the likely scenarios before deciding that a request for ransom was to follow. "I'm at Grand Army Plaza," and then I hear other concerned voices in the background. The caller breaks away, "I don't know whose dog it is, I just called the number on his collar." I patiently await his return and then I hear a woman say, "There's a woman looking for her dog, she's on her way."

The caller returns to our conversation and says I think someone is coming to get him. I conclude that it's my wife and thank him for his help. He says he has to go as he borrowed the cell phone from a passerby.

My wife describes the scene later and I know it all too well. As was often the case in Prospect Park, dog owners would let their cooped up animals off leash to frolic and play and sometimes tussle with other dogs in the neighborhood before 9 a.m. each morning. Our dog would usually stay within a reasonable distance, but every so often he'd look to the horizon and then put his paw on the gas. The morning he ended up in Grand Army Plaza was the farthest he'd ever roamed. 

There was another time when my wife was unloading him from the car when he leaped over her arms and on to the busy Brooklyn street. She ran out of her sandals leaving the car open with her purse inside. She gave chase, but didn't have to go too far as the dog ran into the local pet food store where the owner subdued him with a treat. Once my wife had him on the leash, she walked back to find one person holding her shoes and another standing watch by our car. 

I wondered then as I wonder now what makes dogs want to stray from the perfectly comfortable and safe environments that we do our best to provide for them.  

As I walked my dog past my neighbor's house later that day, I saw the yellow lab pup pawing at the window of his beautiful home, gazing through it with wonder in its eyes.


My dog, Riley.

LP Into The Wild

Laura Pergolizzi, aka LP, has a smash hit, Into The Wild,  that seems to be on constant replay in my home courtesy of Citi's commercial that features a woman climbing up a steep and stony precipice before reaching its pinnacle. This image may well personify LP's career at the moment.

LP


I met LP around the time her second album, Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol, was released. She performed at my cousin's wedding, which was held on a perfectly manicured lawn of an old estate in Huntington, NY. It was a beautifully simple ceremony where she played her guitar and sang while the bride approached among rows of folding chairs with properly attired people like a scene from The Great Gatsby.
When the ceremony concluded, LP played the new couple and their guests off the lawn and in to the manor where a sushi station and well-provisioned bars were propped up in meandering, palatial rooms. It was at one of these bars where I introduced myself to LP as my uncle walked by with an accusatory glance.

LP
I think it was her suggestion to wander the estate and we did as children exploring something for the first time. We discovered the courtyard from a balcony under which a young couple was kissing and then we darted off down a corridor to the master bedroom, which was serving as the bridal suite. There was an open bottle of champagne and another one in reserve, so we helped ourselves. She produced her guitar that had been stored there earlier for safe-keeping and played me one of her songs. I was struck then as I am now with how easy and naturally music emanates from LP. She seems to possess the spirit of Edith Piaf, a songbird of another era. When she finished, she handed her guitar to me and I played her one of my originals, which she said she liked or at least that's how I choose to remember it.

Later, when they were packing up the bars and people were searching for the keys to their cars, I found LP sitting near my mother and my aunt and they asked her to play them a song as if it were a line from Piano Man. She obliged and played the cover song of her knew album, Suburban Sprawl and Alcohol. I had a deeper appreciation of the song having discovered that she and I went to the same high-school earlier in the evening. It was beautifully written and authentic and I was hooked.

When I lived in Park Slope, I would catch her when she and her band played at Southpaw or at Mercury Lounge in the East Village. Her shows were as terrific then as I imagine they are now with a more intimate crowd. During one of her performances, when she engaged the audience, I shouted out our high school name and the year she graduated, which I dare not speak (think Mets). She found me after the performance and asked me not to do that again.

Now I'm a dad living in the suburbs and I still listen to LP's albums on my commutes to and from the city. They're as relevant now as they were before and as timeless as the artist herself who seems to age like Dorian Gray. It's about time the world knows LP. As they say in showbiz, overnight success usually takes about 15 years. Well, dear, to the victor goes the spoils.

LP with girlfriend Tamzin Brown.

LP - Into The Wild (Live):


Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially when the obligatory YouTube cover is from an American Idol contestant such as this one from Rebekah Devivo Ostro: