something about everything

Marching to the Calendar of Life

I learned of her death in a text message. In the final days of her life, she only wanted to share with the people in her life. She once wrote, over 30 years ago:

We cry of things instead of beings
We want, we want, yet its never enough.

Last week, I talked with her on the phone. She was happy that I was coming for a three-day visit. In the past, I composed songs from her poems and we sang together. She said she still had a guitar and we could sing again. Then she said my visit would be too short. But how do you tell someone who is dying, who is finally free to live in the moment that you are not free, that you still have to apportion your time and march to the calendar of life?

Lost in the daily grind of wheels
On hardened steel, on hardened souls
of materialistic needs.

I knew that when I saw her again, I would be free to live in the moment with her. But I had measured my time as never-ending, and couldn’t grasp that her time was ending. I watched her battle with cancer from a distance, because the memories of what she meant to me remained buried under the weight of the passing years. And then her time ended before my visit.

Where is the time we frittered away?
Where the nights, where the days
Of ecstasy and peace?

Since I learned of her death, I have been thinking of her, and like a camera that zooms in on a scene, I remember how she smiled, and laughed, and wrote about the world as she saw it.

What is the message that we send to the world?
Where is the kindness, where the caring
For lost and bleeding humanity?

From the poem in this post, I composed a song for us to sing. It is now part of  my memories of her.


Goodbye, old friend.


The Meaning of “Wife.”

My wife is an artist. She finally recognizes that. I’ve known it for quite a while. So have others in her life. It’s her color schemes and shapes and lines, all hints of the beauty and complexity that fill her mind.


Her art adorns our living room, so I see her all around me. She speaks to me here, without words. I feel the quiet inside of her, like the depths of the ocean; and I feel her angst, like a swift-moving tide rushing onto the shore.


She tells me she can’t stop her mind from the never-ending thinking that keeps her awake at night. Thoughts come at her like a straight-line wind and make her heart pump wildly, in the misguided preparation of flight or fight.


 Yet from this turmoil is the wellspring for the creative bursts that free her.


Surrounded by her art, I’m in a satellite orbiting the spherical edges of her mind’s eye, peeking into its core, capturing glimpses of the unknowable parts of her, trying to build my understanding of her. It remains a work in progress…like her art.


Her art adds meaning to her life. She has found what she must do. And for me, her art teaches me about her, and the meaning of “wife.”


The REAL World Championship

Soccer – futbol – seemed to me to defy evolution. The hands are the instruments of progress. The opposing thumb distinguishes us from other animals. Hands painted the Sistine Chapel and put Neil Armstrong on the moon. Hands perform life-saving surgery. So how perverse, I used to think, to design a game that forbid the use of hands? It made no sense to me for a long time – until I started to pay attention to the incredible skills of soccer players.

I only knew about Pele; but my soccer acumen improved when I watched the U.S. hosted World Cup in 1994. I loved the national spirit. Players from all over the world came home to play for their countries. The U.S. team, of course, was nowhere to be found. So I rooted for Italy, since I am of Italian “extraction” – even though that sounds like a dental procedure, you get my drift. Then the Italian team’s pony-tailed, Buddhist star, Roberto Baggio, who carried the team on his foot against mighty Brazil, blew his penalty kick and Brazil won the World Cup.


When I went outside to face my Portuguese neighbor, an ardent Brazil fan, he was wearing the biggest smile I ever saw. It was a source of ethnic pride for him as it would have been for me if Italy had won.


When I was in high school, soccer was a foreign sport, played by immigrants. Just about the whole soccer team spoke in broken English, as we called it then. But while Americans were fanatical about football and basketball and baseball, there was a groundswell of support in the changing community for soccer, especially the World Cup.

In 2006, while the U.S. team made a good showing, it finally lost. Italy won the World Cup in penalty kicks against France, and when my wife Alexis and I went to Italy for a three-week vacation a couple of weeks later, pictures of the Italian National Team were everywhere. It was bigger than sports.


I’m not sure my interest in soccer will lead me to watch teams in league play, because then it is just like football, basketball and baseball – a business that showcases good athletes.

But the World Cup, the real world championship, will always pique my interest.

images-2Germany 2014


How many schools told their students about the significance of D-Day yesterday? In my small sample of five school districts, the answer was none. My guess is that it was a rare school that even requested a moment of silence for thousands of soldiers who gave their lives to bring the world out of the darkness of Nazi Germany.


The children of today are locked into a world of iphones, iPads, iTunes, and other technology. Corporations like Apple and Samsung and all the rest are pumping out these gadgets as fast as the United States pumped out tanks and planes and bombs and missiles during World War II.


It’s a funny thing though: Countries are still pumping out tanks and planes and bombs and missiles. For every App that gets launched…there’s a missile that gets launched…



It really happened…whether or not we tell each generation of children about its significance.

Oh, I’m sure a corporation will conjure up a high-tech game that will have kids all over the world shooting down German soldiers on the bluffs of Omaha Beach and Utah beach.

But what would be missing is WHY they had to be shot down. If we don’t tell them why that event 70 years ago had a direct result on their lives…and the freedom to download any App they might want, then…


…And we keep repeating it, over and over again.


 The Liberation of Paris, August 25, 1944




What the Grammys Gave Us

What did the Grammys actually give us last night? A glimpse into the future.

Certainly it was an array of the full range of musical expression and a synthesis of the most unlike forms of music: Take Metallica and Lang Lang: Who could have guessed?  Who would have believed they could play on the same stage?  It was a musical marriage that no one could have foreseen.


…And then there was another kind of marriage that the Grammys gave to the world last night:

ADDITION The 56th Ann_Cham640Audience members participate in a same-sex wedding during a performance of “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the 56th annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Thirty-three straight and gay couples lined the aisle dressed in wedding finery. They exchanged rings near the end of Sunday night’s show televised on CBS.

It was a glimpse of the realization of the great American experiment of democracy and equal rights. It was the real meaning of “All men are created equal.”

That’s the way it’s going be everywhere someday.

No doubt, the extreme right will try to stop it; but they can only slow it down, just the way they slowed down every progressive movement on the trajectory of equality:

Women’s right; minority rights; gay rights…and any other “rights” struggle that doesn’t conform to their rigid beliefs.

I hope I live to see what I saw at the Grammys in every town, in every city, in every country on Earth:

The commitment of love, called marriage: Color-blind, Gender-blind, every-difference-among-the human-race blind.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

All’s Well that Ends…with 50,000 Words! @NaNoWriMo

It started as an idea that expanded into a story.  It went from nothing to something.

It was a world that didn’t exist until I wrote it.

I made characters come to life; I strung words together into conversations; I connected story lines into a plot.

“Goodbye Woodstock” is in the books.


It was a powerful experience.  It was more than writing.  Much more.

It was setting a formidable goal and persevering through the resistance.  It was keeping self-doubt at arm’s length when it accosted me with a barrage of reasons why I couldn’t do this.

Self-doubt failed.

I succeeded. End of story.


My limitations are self-imposed; but my imagination is limitless.

So are yours.

Ploughing through the Middle – #NaNoWriMo

If you drive cross-country on U.S. 80, you have to drive through Nebraska.  It’s inevitable.  Get out your favorite music, because you’re about to drive four hundred miles of the dreariest landscape you’ll ever see.


That’s what it feels like when you reach the midpoint of your NaNoWriMo challenge.  That’s where I am…about to reach 25,000 words.

The excitement of the beginning of my story has faded; the thrill of an ending is still far in the distance…sort of like the Wyoming border when you’re halfway through Nebraska.  You know it’s coming; but you have to push yourself to get there.

The middle of my novel seems dreary. It seems to be flat, colorless and seemingly endless – like Nebraska.


But I drove through Nebraska on 80 from east to west one year and then west to east the next year.  I made it through the middle and then on to Wyoming and the Rockies. I beat the resistance, as Steven Pressfield might say. I’ll beat it again in my novel.

My goal is to reach the equivalent of California and the Pacific in my novel…


…and have an ending as spectacular as Big Sur.

Cruising with My Characters at 15,000 Words – #NaNoWriMo

My writing soars and obliterates the second week doldrums. I’m surprised myself. Today will be my most productive day so far.  I’ve already written 3,000 words in three hours, sure to reach my goal of 5,000 words today with ease.


Because I’ve done this much by noon, I’m in a great mood. I just raked leaves.  It was a breeze, because I thought about my story and ideas for its development. And with my internal editor still banished, my story takes twists and turns but always moves forward.

My characters, and what they do, have taken over my story. I’ve put them in the forefront, something I haven’t been very good at doing.  They are the story.

The greatest lessons I’ve learned so far are that I can tell a long story, and that I realize why it takes writers years to craft a compelling novel. But I’m not discouraged by that realization.  Ironically, the knowledge of the hard work ahead moves me forward now to write, build characters, and keep telling a story that is pliable, shifting and unpredictable.


Every first draft is shit – Ernest Hemingway

Writing “shit” is freeing.  If you’re a writer, try it.  Do NaNoWriMo.

For me, it’s been instructive…and wonderful.

In the Foothills of 50,000 Words

Creativity has me in its grip. Five days and 5,000 words into NaNoWriMo and I find myself moving into the foothills.


The story I’m writing is unfolding and coming alive in a different way than I thought. I expected this to happen after I exiled my internal editor.  I’m free to create without judgment.  This goes for characters as well.  People I knew show up in my thoughts. People I know stand in the forefront of my thoughts, as if they’re ready to audition for my story.  People who are dead talk and laugh again because of my thoughts.  I pick and choose their characteristics to create my characters.

I struggled on the first and second days of writing because I felt the anxiety of the blank page.  On the third day, the idea to change the way I would tell the story floated into my thoughts like a dream, which set the stage for some good writing on days four and five.

For sure, there are bumps in the read ahead. Challenges galore. Like the infamous second week of NaNoWriMo, when you seem to “hit the wall” like a marathon runner.

But no real challenge is easy and without risk.  And when there is no risk, there is no real satisfaction when you achieve your goal. And for those of us who committed to writing 50,000 words in November, we press on like the marathoner who “busts” through the wall and finishes the race.

Unknown-1…Even if it’s not pretty, he still finished!

And so as I climb the foothills, the peak will start to seem lower and eminently reachable.  Even if it’s not pretty when I do.

Chasing 50,000 Words

Do you know what it’s like to write 50,000 words?  How about in one month?  That’s what I’ll be doing in November, a worldwide phenomenon called National Novel Writing Month.  If my ambitious goal piques your curiosity, then I’m opening myself up to public scrutiny by giving you a window to watch me as I forge on.


It’s my version of a reality show.

Your window into my writing will be my blog, Meandering49. Every five days I’ll tell you all about the exhilaration; the frustration; the soaring and the sinking; when I’m “in the zone” and when I’m ready to jump out the window; when I feel like I’m the next Hemingway and when I feel like I’ll never be able to quit my day job.  I’ll give you six blog posts in thirty days and my final thoughts.

I know it will be daunting.


So far, I’m equipped only with an idea and a few incomplete characters. But that’s okay, because the magic comes from writing.  You start writing and your brain goes into high gear trying to figure out what you’re doing.  When your brain is firing on all cylinders, then your imagination takes over.  And then you soar.

I want my writing to soar. I want to explore.  I want to take risks and write with abandon.  My first action, though, has been to send my internal editor into exile for thirty days.


With him out-of-the-way, I can explore ideas and create characters and scenes with no second-guessing about whether or not they are good enough.

I’m counting down to November first…should I open that window for you?

I promise the experience will be anything but boring!

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