Tapping Unknown Talent

So I’ve been drawing now for a week.  Each time I start, I’m afraid I won’t be able to actually draw the subject.  I arranged a banana, apple, and garlic clove on a curved platter, then looked at the arrangement for a couple days, certain I could never capture its image.  I was absolutely certain I couldn’t do it.  Finally, I just got to work and started sketching.  After an hour, I had this (click on image for a larger view):


Today, with the SF Giant’s enjoying the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, I decided to draw a baseball glove. Again, I was certain I couldn’t do it.  Convinced!  But then I went to work.  Here are the stages of development.

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Initial Sketch

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Final Shading

So often in life, we listen to that little voice of doom telling us we can’t achieve our dreams, can’t  satisfy our desires.  This week, I’ve discovered that my own little voice never goes away, never shuts up, not even when faced with these surprising results.  Makes me wonder:  How many times in life have I let that little voice hold me back from fully expressing myself?  Too many, I’m afraid.

One Prayer

One Prayer

Many thanks to Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine for publishing the following poem:

One Prayer

                                                              —Jerusalem 5740

I wait my turn, the western wall

  white shawls muffling

    gray beards mumbling


I pen my prayer on a store receipt

  press it tight tween ancient stones

    tight among a hundred crumpled cries


Some rabbi grabs my elbow

  drags me to a cave

     straps my arm in leather


He chants a sacred melody 

  Adonai Elohanu, Adoni Echad

   one, we are one—everyone, everywhere


The crowd with its long tradition

  me in this thin tefillin

    this rabbi with his open hand


That early-morning Arab sipping tea

  demanding twenty shekels

    the pleasure of his plea


We are all echad—one prayer

  one crescent, one star, one sphere

The Couple Upstairs

Couple Upstairs

The couple who own the top unit above me are away in Tahoe this weekend, so their tenant decided to have his girlfriend stay overnight.  I was dead asleep at 1:15 a.m. when they got home, but her stomping heels on the hardwood floors woke me up.  They were in the midst of a mega fight.  Usually, I can’t hear much of what’s said up there, but I could clearly hear her shout at him, “Are you in love with her?”  He said something back I couldn’t understand, but I heard her response:  “Because I’m a woman, and you’re my boyfriend, and I love you!”

I don’t know if they were throwing stuff or what, but there was stuff bouncing off the floor right above my bedroom ceiling.  Sounded like I was living under a bowling alley.  I’m surprised my son didn’t wake up from all the noise.  At one point, I heard the guy tell his girlfriend to “get out of my house!”  The girlfriend refused, said she wasn’t going anywhere, and that’s when I started wondering if I should call the cops.  Hell hath no fury and all.  Despite whatever he’d done, I was really worried about the guy’s safety.

After a while, I went outside and stood in the backyard and could see them upstairs in the kitchen.  Their light was on, so they couldn’t see me.  I was hoping they would, though, so that he’d have a reason to distract his girlfriend from her tirade.  I wished I had his phone number.  If I did, I’d have called him so he’d have some justification to urge her to chill:  the whole guy-downstairs-has-a-kid thing.  Finally, after several minutes of her standing over the sink as if she were going to throw up her pain, he put his hand on her back and started to comfort her.  Then she turned to him, and they hugged, and he kissed her.  That’s when I went back to bed.  Of course, then their own bed started squeaking like a honeymoon suite, so I could barely fall asleep.

The whole thing got me thinking:  Who had he met and where?  And when did he finally tell his girlfriend about it?  She was so full of emotion, it seemed she had just heard the news.  Were they out all night on some date, her enjoying herself and him holding on to this secret that he just couldn’t bear?  Did he bring it up just as they were walking from their car to the house?  It’s horrible having to tell someone you’ve met “someone else.”  As much as it hurts to hear that from a lover, it’s an equally unbearable guilty burden to unload.  Ugh!  Made me think of a few breakups of my own and how sad and painful and dramatic they can be.

The dramatics upstairs got me thinking how vulnerable everyone is, how strongly we all desire a deep connection with someone, and how desperate we can be when that connection is threatened.  In any event, I hope they’ve worked it out between themselves.  If nothing else, I hope they at least go shopping this morning for a few new padded rugs.

In Praise of Cracked Minds


Many thanks to Hinchas de Poesia, an online journal of contemporary pan-american writing, for including the following poem in their April 2015 issue.

In Praise of Cracked Minds

                                                         —for Marlene Goldman

Praise the days when our minds crack open

 open like clam shells struck by fallen stones

  stones splitting open, sudden thunder storms

   storms of new ideas spread across the beach


Beach the giant whales, introduce them to the sun

 sunshine: that new elixir for their fears

  fears of drowning, suffocating sand

   sand, they’ll see, makes a bed of pure pleasure


Sure, we think of giant whales at sea

 see them spout as they migrate north

  north and out of range, beyond our senses

   senses long accustomed to what we all believe


Leave, for a moment, all those old ideas

 as if old clothes that no longer fit

  fit them into boxes, store them on a shelf

   shelve them there with what’s no longer true


True—new ideas may at first feel snug

 snuggle with them, treat them like new lovers

  lovers who allow you room to shed your old display

   play, instead, with novelty; bounce it like a ball


Ball it up and toss it in the air:  Have fun

 funny how the new reminds us each of death

  death, remember, lets us breathe eternal time

   time for thanks, time to sing our praise


Remembering Countee Cullen


Countee Cullen, one of America’s finest poets, bridged our early 20thcentury racial divide by assimilating in a European art form (the sonnet) both Judeo-Christian and ancient Greek mythology with his own racial and cultural perspective.  The result was “Yet Do I Marvel.”  Its example demonstrates how, in a world obsessed with self-righteous culture wars, the speaker of a poem, in fourteen lines, can assure us that we are all, regardless of our own specific backgrounds, heirs to a great and grand, disparate world culture.

Yet Do I Marvel

I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

Seeing Vonda Shepard


Saw Vonda Shepard in concert tonight in San Francisco.  We first met thirty-five years ago at summer camp in Southern California, where this picture was taken in 1979.  The following fall, I got tickets to a Don McLean/Karla Bonoff concert at the Roxy, and Vonda came with me.  After the show, we got backstage and met both Don and Karla.  Now, Vonda’s the one performing around the world.  Seeing her tonight, after such a mad crush on her way back then, reminds me how quick life passes.  There you are, an infatuated teen; and before you know it, you’re a middle-aged dad with a mortgage.  To see what Vonda’s up to these days, click here.

# All Lives Matter

With the recent spate of protests against police shootings, one honorable and outspoken anti-police activist accepted an invitation from his local sheriff department to undergo the same educational training officers must take.  Once the activist found himself in the shoes of an officer, he came to a new realization:  For the sake of our own personal safety, we should always comply with law enforcement’s instructions.  Epiphanies are wonderful.  Watch his transformation here:


Let’s all stand up for common sense:  All lives matter.