January 31, 2012

Here's My New Address

I have a new blog. Won't you join me? I won't be posting here anymore. There's a lot to learn about operating the new site, and that's my homework. Thank you to Lisa at Live High for making it all happen. I don't plan to post here anymore.

January 24, 2012

Popcorn While Rolling Dice Greases Up Nice

Marvin Gardens we both wanted. But we mortgaged our properties and gave up the dream. While everyone else was building hotels, we concentrated on piggy-back rides. They paid the luxury tax, and I tasted lemon on your lips. 

The rain poured across the drafty window. The kettle blew steam. The tamale lady doesn’t come around in weather like this, but it was like Park Place bundled up in here with you.

Electric Company was the sweetener. We already landed on Chance. The official rules say there’s no payday for landing on Free Parking. But we’re not playing by the official rules anymore. You railroaded my plans good. 

Once when I was a boy, I saw the very first ghostly shades of light tickle away the night. They invited me to dance, and I levitated into the cool grass.

They installed a little dancing demon inside me and it never stops. So when you went for the trade and cashed out quick, he popped out for a bow. 

I am designed for collapse, as you see. And as I go, I like to grab hold of something dear to me. 

There are benefits to being broke and making a quick exit from a long game of Monopoly.

For dVerse Open Link Nite.

January 17, 2012

I Remain Quite Groggy

I lulled the world to sleep. I crawled into bed early for weeks. Then I turned in a little too early and woke up in the dead of night. The world heaved in a dream around me. 

I strolled outside past tile artwork speaking my bright future. I heard your birthday laugh high in the oak trees. I descended mountains underground to gold mines of ability.

And suppose none of the splendor of this world could knock me off my path, that I never strayed to find your voice or shower in the veins of gold. Suppose I did this to catch the last ferryboat to nowhere.

Good thing I woke up with you instead. 

Understand that's the official story of last night and what I will tell the authorities if they come knocking. But the truth is I had to hurry. I met a messenger and entrusted him with the seeds of the universe, including this youngster:

* * * 

It’s no fair I think about you.
It’s no fair I wonder how you are feeling.
It’s no fair that my favorite time is our time.
It’s no fair because this really was supposed to be a summer love.
No fair
I love you like I do.

For dVerse Open Link Nite.

January 10, 2012

Still Drying

I put my face two inches from a Van Gogh painting the other day. This is no softball setup for a remark about zeroing in on your face and how it’s a work of art and all that. This is about the simple fact that browsing around with you turned out to be a worthwhile activity just like the man’s brushstrokes did.

Before cozying up in our graves, skip with me like a lunatic in the parking garage. Be mildly impressed I know a little something about the modern art exhibit. Walk across the fountain with me while security chases others away. We’ll view the grounds in the last of the day’s sunlight.

I confess: In front of the Monet, I ferried off somewhere and whipped up a little color of my own. I stirred up snow from my childhood, blue from your sky, faith in progression, sugar from our kisses and dark earth from the ocean.

I call it Morning in My Life.

For dVerse Open Link Nite.

January 7, 2012


I learned from the ancients
I lived on the mountaintop
I fell while strolling
and remembered nothing of my past
I met you and you loved me
how else could it have worked?
and now I am remembering
and now I am uniting your tribe
with my family on the mountaintop.
A kiss is when two worlds come together and tenderly say hello over and over.

January 6, 2012


I have to chop my Carson Animal Shelter story down if I want to sell it. It's at nearly 10,000 words, so I have some work to do. Polishing and selling it is taking longer than expected when I should have expected nothing less. That's life, at least on this end. I'll keep you posted, and thank you so much for your support.

Since I did it last year, I'll do it again and call it a tradition. I want to plug a few friends' projects. Arnal Kennedy, who spent more than two decades homeless on the streets of Skid Row, is quietly becoming an underground brand name in L.A. That doesn't mean he makes money. It just means he makes a lot of appearances to read his stuff. His book of poetry, You Woke Me In the Dark, is truly beautiful, plumbing the depths of the human soul as well as the love we are capable of. Arnal works as the dishwasher at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker soup kitchen.

Jeff Dietrich, who also works at the soup kitchen, has authored his second book, Broken and Shared. Jeff has lived in the LACW community for more than 40 years, and his writings reflect on his work in Skid Row as well as living among the poor. I'm not a religious person, but I enjoy Jeff's take on the Bible. Here's a quick excerpt:

Though we have been conditioned to think that the focus of the Gospels is the twelve male disciples, the truth is that women disciples hear and respond immediately to Jesus's message, while the male disciples consistently miss the point. The Gospels aren't anti-male. Rather, they are in opposition to the political, economic and religious structures of the world founded and administered by men.

Proceeds from Broken and Shared benefit the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and its soup kitchen that serves thousands of poor and homeless people every week.

Lastly, my former photo editor Dan Habib has made a documentary about his son with cerebral palsy, how it shaped his family as well as a look at the inclusive movement for the disabled. I learned a lot. Including Samuel is incredibly moving and informative, which is probably why it has won a couple awards. If autism and inclusion are issues you care about, or if you just want to watch a really good documentary, I highly recommend it.

Dan also happens to be gearing up for the release of his second documentary, Who Cares About Kelsey? The film looks at how kids with emotional and behavioral challenges can be included in regular education classes. There's a sneak preview and discussion with Dan on Monday in L.A. I'll be in attendance. 

January 4, 2012

Side Effect

In college, I worked in an animal kennel in Illinois that housed both strays and dogs boarding for a time. I didn’t like holding for euthanasia, but I was proud I was strong enough to do it. I was young and stupid. Another worker had more seniority than me and had the opportunity to be supervisor, but she didn’t want to help with euthanasia. After I eventually quit, she did help with euthanasia. Then she quit.

Some states allow use of the gas chamber. In some rural areas, they shoot strays. It all depends on what the state law allows. California has one of the most humane laws on the treatment and impoundment of stray dogs and cats, including the method of euthanasia. Animals are to be injected in the vein of their front leg.

In Illinois, it’s legal to inject the euthobarb serum straight into the animal’s heart, or thereabouts.
Getting a heavy-duty needle through a rib cage isn’t painless, by the way.

I, too, eventually had to let the pain in. But not right away. I found myself despising the animals at times, especially the boarders. They were so lucky not to be a stray. I’d stare at them as I moved down the main aisle and they’d know I was pissed. I’d swear if a dog shit in his cage after I cleaned it. They understood they had done something wrong.

One week, I went overboard twice. I placed my Doberman in a cage with another stray and egged them on to fight. When they commenced to fight, I stopped the proceedings instantly apologized to my dog only.

The other time I went overboard with a friendly, cute little Beagle. He was a boarder. I told him what a bad dog he was, cleaned his cage of pee and squeegeed it dry after knocking the squeegee against his legs a couple of times as I reached it to the back of the cage.

I wasn’t done. I emptied his paper water bowl, struck him on the head with it and tossed the empty bowl on top of his head as he cowered in the corner. I told him he was bad, shut the cage door, made sure no one had been watching, and left him there for the night.

I didn’t sleep much thinking about what I had done, what I had become. I loved animals. That’s why I took the job. So why was I acting like a monster?

I arrived early the next morning, went straight to his cage and found him in the exact position I had left him, curled up with a paper water bowl upside down on his head. He peered out from under the rim. I opened the door, snatched away the bowl, filled it with water, pet him, apologized and told him what a good dog he was. I was whimpering. The Beagle allowed me to pet him, though warily.

When I brought the dog to his owner in the lobby that afternoon, the dog was happy to go home. The owner didn’t even look at me or the dog as she paid the bill. Had she, she probably would have seen pure guilt in my eyes.

I wondered if the dog would return. If he did, would he bark, back away from me? The universe provided an answer. A couple weeks later the Beagle and his owner returned. I answered the call that a dog was in the lobby and needed to be brought back to the kennel. The Beagle saw me and followed on his leash without hesitation, even wagging his tail. I couldn’t believe it. I thanked him, and for his stay I treated him like he deserved, like royalty.

I never became angry at a dog or an animal after my experience with the Beagle. I didn’t love them all and cuddle with them all either, but my time intimidating the animals was over. The Beagle was my savior in that way.

Before quitting, I held for less than thirty euthanasias while working at that small animal kennel during college. 

Twenty years later I found myself living in California and volunteering at the Carson Animal Shelter, where more than 7,000 animals are euthanized a year. There are no “cardiac sticks,” or needles piercing hearts, as that method of euthanasia is illegal in California, and that's a good thing.

As a Carson volunteer, I didn’t assist with euthanasia. But I knew from experience that type of work can be difficult spiritually.

I remember a young animal care attendant working in her first week at Carson. She talked about positive energy. She waved her hands over me while I cleaned kennels to share some. I saw her a week later and asked about positive energy. She said there was euthanasia happening in back, and there was no positive energy.

She never talked about positive energy again, and quit soon after.

Pit Bulls are the most common breed of dog at the Carson shelter and the most euthanized. The above photo is the only photo I took at Carson while I was a volunteer. The Big Man was one of several dogs I befriended before they were euthanized.

December 27, 2011

My Boy

Way back when, I entered young adulthood without knowing a whole lot about how to connect deeply with other people, perhaps like many of us. I had my friends from childhood and that was about it. I socialized only when I had to. And I consciously limited those occasions.

In college, I worked at an animal pound and ended up adopting a dog. I had no idea what this would mean.

He wanted to be with me all the time. He loved me no matter what. It was all a new experience for me. I found joy in giving him a good life, and I ended up getting in touch with something inside me I hadn't often experienced since early childhood: The ability to be with another exactly as I was, without fear of judgment.

For someone who never loved a pet this may be hard to understand, but he was the twinkle of my mornings, the blue of my evenings. 

Love can lift that way.

After arriving in California in January 2006, I rented a beach cottage with a large yard for my dog’s last couple months. He had a brain tumor, and when he died, I understood that I was going back to an animal pound to do some work and honor his memory.

This multi-media project I’ve completed is nothing more than my best thank you for all the impossible doors he unlocked within me.

December 19, 2011

Deadline Creature

I used to have one of the greatest jobs ever: A daily newspaper reporter. Mostly I covered local news. I reported on city government, breaking news, features, the police and fire departments, some politics and an occasional document-based investigation. When my father died in 2004, I found myself not producing to the level I had come to expect of myself. My dad was a former journalist and after I went into journalism in my 20s, my father and I instantly developed a special friendship. Reporting and writing stories just wasn't the same without him. So I took a break.

I quit my reporting job in New England and, slowly, moved across the country to Southern California. I figured I'd do some volunteering until I was ready to return to reporting. The newspaper industry and economy went in the tank, however. Standing job offers were no longer available as my contacts had been laid off.

I tore through my savings account, though it lasted longer than I ever could have imagined. More than $120,000 lasted more than five years, during which time I took vacations to Italy and Paris, and took several trips to Portland, Chicago and Cleveland. I mostly lived with friends or family. But I also have had my own apartment as well as lived in a run-down beach motel during a couple off-seasons. Sounds romantic? At times the journey has been. Other times I have struggled. Like everyone.

After my money ran out, I picked up some spot work for AOL, and I continue to be grateful for that.

This year has been a return of sorts. I have learned once again how important producing good journalism is to my self-esteem. I am so lucky that the best non-fiction narrative editor in the country agreed to help me with my story of the Carson Animal Shelter. Working closely with an editor is a gift, especially a great one. Any story gets better under the direction of an experienced editor. It's a painful process, as the editor inevitably makes cuts and says it's not good enough, but such moments are a test for the writer to determine whether the work itself has improved from the changes or not. My story sure has improved from the first stab at a draft. It's not a book. It's a feature story, and I'm still shopping it. If I didn't have to pay the other journalists who helped with the story, I'd probably just run it in my blog.

But everything happens for a reason, and I hope to find a home for it soon.

The deadline for my finished story was last Friday. Since then, I've been putting together photos and captions. The photo above is what it looks like: Two volunteers giving a stray dog a bath. I wanted a photo of the dog shaking and the volunteers ducking out of the way of the spray, but this simple framed photo I ended up liking best.