Not necessarily only a wink.

Seriously, who is truly that badass?

I am going to say I give it a moan, and then a little kvetch, and then a little retail therapy, and then a phone conversation with my mom, and then I do it, and then I give myself a wink.


I think I am a life-long striver. And I think I learned it from my mom.

And I think my mom and I both have had the misfortune to not really have resources, support, or a clue about which is the best way to strive, for us.

At this point in my life I think some people, mostly the men I know, and mostly in a derogatory way, would call me ambitious. A couple of my male friends, recently, when I thought we were cool, told me I am, basically, demanding, and I won’t back down once I get an idea in my head, like that is a bad thing. It truly hurt.

I have learned how to go-along-get-along over my years as a grown-up on this planet.

I am 54 currently. I have finally managed to eke out some professional situations (read as: job) where I am the decider (hello dear W; how we miss you, and how we never thought we would!), and, dammit, I have good ideas, and I know what I want, and why should I defer to someone else?

I am still an adjunct teacher, and it is still a lot of work for paltry pay and a situation where my years, decades, of experience mean I know better than a hellova lot of the people I work for, but I quietly defer to the powers that employ me. If you’re a woman, anywhere on this earth, who has reached her fifties without loss of sanity, you have learned to swallow a lot. And I have.

Still, if I gave up teaching tomorrow, I would really miss my students.



And if I think about what it is about me that makes students connect with me so well, and they do connect with me very well, it is because I am a very humble person. Humility is not something that I’ve put on, like a coat, or learned; I feel it is truly a part of who I have been from birth. And it’s not that I have a “low” opinion of myself. It is, in fact, that I view others, by and large, as my equals. We’re all in the same boat, whether you are more or less educated than me, richer or poorer, shorter or taller, etc., we are in the same boat: life is not long enough, it is full of land mines and also beauty, and we all share the human condition. Just because I achieved an education before my students did, I am not better. I am still a lousy speller with a lot of mistakes in me. So many “professors” I have met over the years are better…. than everyone. How can a student possibly approach those teachers? No one has to crawl or scrape around me.

In the past year or so, I have become a MAC user with an iPhone, and conquering those two bits of technology has made me feel successful. I have become the leader of a very successful writing group. I have become the owner, founder, and grand poobah of my own publishing company, I have a marriage that works; I have a daughter who loves me like crazy who I love like crazy; I have 5 cats who jockey to sit next to me on the sofa, and a dog who is bonkers over me, and I just became the only employee of my local chamber of commerce where, pending the approval of my board, I am able to come up with ideas and try them out. People are seeing me, finally, as competent. I have always been competent, though I did not know how to get people to see me through that lens, but, finally they are.

Does that make me a demanding “won’t back down,” and let’s be honest, the implication was, “bitch?” No. It does not. It makes me a striver.

In addition to teaching at two schools, having a workshop at my house twice a month, running Devil’s Party Press, and becoming the director of the chamber of commerce here in my little town, I have also just taken a tutoring job for the summer, at 16 bucks an hour. Not exactly peanuts, but not a fair wage for someone with my degrees and experience. But, I applied for it; I interviewed, and I am happy to have it, because the teaching jobs go away in the summer, and my family needs me to earn income. I feel proud that I jumped on the opportunity, and that I will be earning money.

And if I sound not so humble about it, well, it’s because I am proud of being…

A striver.

Not an ambitious bitch.

Not a full-of-myself person who knows everything and won’t back down on her opinion.

I am a striver.

I work hard, all the time, all hours of the day and night, to try to do my best work no matter whether it is paid, or unpaid.

I do not look a challenge in the eye and wink, though I did quite like the moxie of that magnet, and I did buy it for myself.

I look a challenge in the eye and I give it a moan, or a little kvetch, or a little retail therapy, and then a phone conversation with my mom….

And then I strive.

And yeah, when I am able to be successful, I might be proud enough of myself to give myself a wink. And why the fuck not, eh ladies?


IMG_5298Did any of you other kids from the 1970s eat raw potatoes growing up? My dad used to sit on the sofa with a potato (Yukon Gold type as I recall it), a paring knife, and a salt shaker, and slice of a thin slice of potato and salt it, and hand to my brother or I to eat, and he would eat one himself.

‘Round and ’round he would go, me, my brother, him, until the potato was gone.

What weird food(s) did you eat as a kid?



So, one of the colleges where I work is a bit financially disadvantaged compared to other colleges that have students living on campus. It is also an HBCU (Historically Black College/University). This, in my mind, seems appropriate, as, in the USA, I feel minorities get less resources in general, so of course the HBCU would be run-down.

Some students here can be food insecure, and Dave and I packed up a big bag of noodles and the like for a student a week or so ago. Some students have trouble adjusting to a world where all they are supposed to do is concentrate on their own success and growth. Many have been trying hard just to make it to adulthood, or helping other family members or friends with all their personal resources, including scholarship money. Everyone they know has a sad story about why they need some of the student’s scholarship money. Focus on school work is not always easy.

Add to that the real truth that many of the facilities are run-down and in disrepair.

In contrast, at University of Delaware, a PWI (predominately white institution) I taught in one building that had over 300 classrooms, and each classroom had over 50 brand-spanking-new chairs, and each of those chairs cost 600 dollars (per chair!).


I know because I looked them up because they were sooooo cool I wanted to get one. Ha! Not in this lifetime….

Imagine the wealth there. Do the math. Think inequality has been fixed? Count the damn chairs.

So, in my own small way, I try to help uplift my students and the school.

This semester we adorned our tired room with handmade inspirational posters (and Sophie even added two one day when she didn’t have to go to school, but I still did!):

stickers from Dollar Tree (my daughter’s favorite place on earth people!):


and two clocks!

I bought a clock originally that was a standard kitchen type of clock, and it fell off the wall and broke.

Today I installed this baby:


I defy the powers that be to try to stop THAT clock!

But, as you can see, directly under it is a computer that cannot be used because the desk is broken. *sigh*

The last thing I did today, before leaving for spring break, was start an in-room library.

Wanna donate a book? It cannot be beat-up, and it must be something you, yourself, enjoyed reading. Don’t give me A Brief History of Time because you couldn’t get through it. Give me books that brought you joy, escape, entertainment!

Happy spring everyone! She is almost here, in all her color and warmth!





Boy, oh boy, I remember, in the 1970s, when I was young, almost every Sunday was busy, almost like an extra school day. There was church, Sunday school, and then off to visit Grandmom, or have Grandmom and (Great) Aunt Verna at our house. Cleaning and cooking, and then staying out of the grownups’ way as they played endless (truly, endless! I am certain the games continue now, in heaven!) games of double-deck pinochle.

I also remember the rare Sundays we didn’t do squat. There would be a patch of sunlight coming through the storm door glass to where I was, laying on the dark green carved living room rug reading the Sunday Funnies, doing the puzzles, and then switching over to a coloring book or a Nancy Drew. Mom and Dad would be sitting on the sofa reading their parts of the paper, or watching an Abbot and Costello or Blondie on TV. Dinner might have been fried eggs and potatoes, or oatmeal with piles of toast.

Although I always did well-enough at school, I don’t remember really enjoying it. And Sunday night was always stressful for me. I hated the thought of getting up early and being trapped in classes all day. (Probably why I thought it was a good idea to get so many degrees! WTF was I thinking?) Sagittarians (of which I am one) are supposed to love being outdoors. I think what I love is not so much whether I am in or out, but whether I am free or bound. So, on Sunday night after a “We didn’t do squat” day, I always felt slightly more relaxed anticipating Monday, as if the unstructured day had put enough air in my tank that I could hold my breath until Friday afternoon.

We don’t often get free-Sundays now either. I work a few jobs; Dave is in school, and we try to provide activities (hopefully with friends) for Sophie, and this Sunday (and every other one in general) we have writing group (damn you Milton Workshop!)

But, sometimes we get a lazy day….

And when we do, what do we do?

Dance with Mouse in a new dress sent by Aunt Lee



Nap on the floor or the sofa, as fat as we wanna be








Imagine stories about potatoes


Get visited by Rosie, our shy cat








Re-imagine our furniture


Try on all our favorite shoes



Make art inspired by Frida Kahlo


Drink more coffee than is good for us


And fill up our tank with air for the long week ahead.


Equinox-Front Cover

It was absolutely lovely to find out, just a few days ago, that EQUINOX won first place in The Delaware Press Awards. The book will now compete at the national level!

EQUINOX is a beautiful collection of tales, and features a glorious cover created by my life-long friend, Kristen Bossert. If you need art or graphics of any kind, Kristen is your go-to source!

One thing I particularly liked about EQUINOX, in addition to the cover, was that we asked the authors to add a preface to each piece discussing how the piece came to be.

Here is a peek at my own piece, from the (now) award-winning EQUINOX. . .

EQUINOX is an anthology focused loosely on the idea of spring, and, for me, spring always makes me think of times gone by, shabby chic decor, formal women with floral names: the time of my grandmother. I tried to highlight my old timey feel about spring by juxtaposing that against a modern backdrop for my story of Heliotrope, a modern woman but named after a flower and possessing a vintage sensibility. Although the action takes place in a Chipotle restaurant, our heroine is an old-fashioned lady, and the story’s vocabulary features some old-fashioned language the reader may not be familiar with such as oscullable (kissable), widdendream (dreamy frenzy), malagrugrous (dismal), illecebrous (enticing), degust (taste and savor), brabble (argue about petty things), gorgonized (paralyzed), gyre (ring/circle), and sonance (sound).

I hope Heliotrope’s widdendream transports and delights you as it does her.


Despite the apricity of this particular midday Heliotrope was finding it difficult  to stay warm as she ate a highly unsatisfying late lunch inside a very malagrugrous and cold Chipotle. The food, the restaurant’s decor, the vibe, none of it suited her. While she could appreciate the whole “industrial” thing as a thing, it wasn’t her thing. The walls were clad in metal; oh well, maybe it was fake metal, but it certainly looked real. The counters, the tables and stools, all looked and felt, metal, cold when her skin met their industrial skin, and all were the color of the pinto beans in her bowl, but where the beans were soft and yielding, the restaurant was not. 

Of course she had to sit to eat. She wasn’t a person whose uncouth parents had raised her in a barn with the door left open. And she was not, also, a fan of climbing onto multistory stools to sit at tall tables and try to eat while her legs dangled beneath her like waiting clappers. Dead, spindly weight. It was hard to keep her clogs on, and, of course, Heliotrope always wore clogs, if for no other reason than that she had always worn clogs, at least since the 7th grade, and, in any case, they made a lovely horsey sort of clip clop when she walked down any hall lacking carpet, but a dignified clip clop, like a Tennessee Walking Horse, not a downtown carriage nag. Heliotrope had always been dignified.

However, as she bent over the bowl of pintos swimming in a vast sea of sour cream while seated at the high hat in the damn Chipotle, the clogs, dangling at the end of her pins, involuntarily swayed and whacked one another, and the noise they made was far too close to the “There’s no place like home” clicking of Judy Garland’s exquisite shoes. Sure, Heliotrope would take a day off from clogs to wear those fabulous shoes, but she hated the whole, “Wow, you had an astounding experience where you saved… everyone! Time to go home now and go back to being monochrome.” Clearly Frank L. Baum was no feminist. And Chipotle was no place for a lady to eat lunch. But Heliotrope was, most certainly, a feminist, and a lady, and a fairly illecebrous example of both.

Really, though, she was not here to cavil on to herself in a silent monologue about the establishment, and she worried that it was not good for her digestion to do so. She began to degust her meal, concentrating on the positives, like the gentle texture and subtle peppery taste of the aforementioned pinto beans. The problem with the positives were that they ignored the known fact that Heliotrope did not possess a constitution well-equipped to handle fast food of any kind, and this was her third time at this particular Chipotle this week.  And, as had happened on the other two visits, it seemed that wherever she sat, people constellated at the same high hat as she, which she found encroaching. 

On Tuesday a middle-aged couple had come into the establishment hand-in-hand, and had progressed through the cafeteria-style line in the same way, only to begin to brabble among themselves immediately upon perching at Heliotrope’s end of the communal seating. Heliotrope was somehow blind to how monsterful osculable she was, but the male portion of that couple was not. There was something of a young Penny Singleton about her which made many a man want to perform random feats of strength when in her presence. This one had been no different, lifting the heavy metal stools over his head and moving them into a different position, ostensibly to provide warmer seating for his good lady, but, though Heliotrope was blind to his ulterior motive, his good lady was not, brabbling ensued. Heliotrope hardly noticed beyond feeling that she wished the world was a bit emptier.

Today’s tablemates worked at the local Geek Squad, if their shirts were to be believed, and, with little reason to heft the heavy stools, as they were all male, and young, and equally able to heft the stools, they resulted to the lowest common denominator to try to win her attention, doing witless things with the plastic utensils, and kenching and cackling and slapping each other when they had success. Heliotrope’s eyes were fixed out the window on the dammed Coke truck that had been there as long as she had this particular day, and she bored into the red “O” with her vision, trying to encourage it to move, and trying to block out the kenching of the men with her concentration. She was starting to believe that this Coke truck had broken down, and would be there until the next day, and if it was, that would mean another bowl of beans for midday meal overmorrow, not something she contemplated with tranquility. The squad of geeks around her eventually gave up on this lovely but unreachable woman, and left to go to their next appointment, or to Jamba Juice, one being as much the same as the other in their world, but they did wonder at her fixation on the window as the left, looking over their shoulders at the lovely girl.

What brought Heliotrope to that Chipotle for three days that week was not the Coke truck, or the pinto beans, but was, in fact, the pediatrician’s office just across the parking lot. Heliotrope was a lady, but she did not enjoy the lady-like employment she had held for the past four years, keeping the records at the local town hall. She found that work bland, scentless, without piquancy, and stultifying. To be among the brambles, the milkweed, the morning glories, that was the deep desire of Heliotrope. And so, one day, she dared to take a half a day from her bank of personal time to visit all the locally-owned businesses, and to ask them, each one, if she could design their landscape for them, on spec. The pediatrician was the only one willing to give her a try, as all the businesses in town used the local firm made up of ancient family stock from their little county and saw no reason to change. To hire someone new, to look beyond hydrangeas and peaceful bamboo, would have been considered a radical, unnecessary, and disloyal choice in this community. But the pediatrician, in some ways viewing Heliotrope as an adolescent who needed encouragement, and in some ways tired of the unspoken county rules, decided to offer her this challenge, “Impress me by the time spring is here with something astounding in the front garden, and you’ve got the job.” 

Heliotrope accepted the challenge, and had secretly gone to the office grounds for many nights in the preceding October, shivering in the chill as she surreptitiously removed little plots of the doctor’s turf and gently planted bulbs. The effect, when spring came, was to have had the patch in front of the door to the doctor’s building bloom, just in time for the Easter Holiday. The surprise was to be a double one for no one knew that she had been there throughout the fall, and Heliotrope had planted her bulbs among the grass to give the impression of an Easter basket full of lush colored eggs.

So here she sat, on absolute tenterhooks, trying to peak at the plot from the vantage of the Chipotle, where she hoped to see but not be seen, and here spring was, just two days away on her calendar, and Easter only a week after. She didn’t think the flowers were going to bloom in time, as she had not seen even one minuscule crocus or windflower when last she looked two days ago. 

Does her garden bloom in time? Why don’t you buy a copy of this award-winning book and find out? 


administration america art banner
Photo by Public Domain Photography on Pexels.com

Today I received this email. It was from a family member who thought I would agree with them, or be schooled by them, not sure which. It was titled ENIGMAS.

1) Isn’t it weird that in America our flag and our culture offend so many people,  but our benefits don’t?


(2) How can the federal government ask U.S. citizens to pay back student loans,  when illegal aliens are receiving a free education?


(3) Only in America are legal citizens labeled “racists” and “Nazis,” but  illegal aliens are called “Dreamers.”


(4) Liberals say, “If confiscating all guns saves just one life, it’s worth it.”  Well then,  if deporting all illegals saves just one life, wouldn’t that be worth it?


(5) I can’t quite figure out how you can proudly wave the flag of another country  but consider it punishment to be sent back there.


(6) The Constitution: It doesn’t need to be rewritten;  it needs to be reread

7) William F. Buckley said: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other points of view and are then shocked and offended when they discover there are other points of view.”


(8) Joseph Sobran said: “‘Need’ now means wanting someone else’s money.  ‘Greed’ means wanting to keep your own.

 ‘Compassion’ is when a politician arranges the transfer.”


(9) Florida has had 119 hurricanes since 1850, but  some people still insist the last one was due to climate change.


You can’t fix stupid, no matter how much duct tape you use!


Some say that we should stop killing Ducks to make Duck Tape.  And THEY VOTE….SCARY!


I never know quite what to do when one of these bombs lands in my email. Usually, I confess, I delete it and move on.

Today, I just could not, and so wrote this response, and sent it the my family member (former family member? possibly!) and the person who sent it to my family member as well. And to my sister. I usually include my sister when I do this kind of thing, for moral support!

Gosh, is this a list of your beliefs?
_________, I gave you the benefit and read this whole email you sent me. PLEASE give me the same consideration and review my replies to these arguments.
1.FLAG: I don’t think anyone is offended by the US flag, in fact, the illegal Mexicans in Los Angeles loved both the US flag and the Mexican flag equally, and flew and wore both proudly.
2. EDUCATION: Would you really only take care of your own, and leave children uneducated because they have no legal standing here? The person who always gave me extra snacks for my friend who was poor would never do that. I happily educated non-citizens in California. They were some of my best students, and I would give them my time and help again, anytime.
3. A. DREAMERS: non-citizens are called “dreamers” because they came here as children, have only known this country their whole lives, and love it so much they wish to stay here.
3. B. NAZIS: No one would label me, a legal citizen, a racist or a Nazi because I celebrate people who are not white; I love their cultures; I adopted a non-white person, and I love being friends with Jews, and Muslims, and Buddhists, and Vietnamese, and Black, and Mexican people, among others. I have a good friend from Bosnia. So, who are the legal citizens who ARE racists? Those who think Jews have all the money. Those who think Mexicans working in the horrible chicken plants are stealing their jobs. Those who supported WALLING OUT the poor, something the JESUS they claim to love so much would NEVER do.
4. NON-CITIZENS VS. GUNS: AGAIN, deporting all non-citizens to save one life? YOUR Jesus was illegal his whole life. Would you send him back to die from drug violence or war?
5. FLAGS AGAIN: OF COURSE my Chinese daughter will proudly wave China’s flag, and OF COURSE she would consider it a punishment to be “sent back.” Would you or your friends WANT her to be sent back?
6. THE CONSTITUTION was written by very smart guys, but, #1. Only by guys, and #2. They could not imagine Facebook and iPhone’s. OF COURSE it needs to be a living document and revised carefully and according to the times. And if not, then those who want it the way it was should give up their indoor plumbing, central heat, cars, credit cards, etc., anything that does NOT appear in the original document.
7. WILLIAM BUCKLEY was actually a pretty great and clever writer. He could sell ice to an Eskimo, as they say. I do not agree with him. I fully understand we’re not all going to agree. What I do not understand is thinking that some people (white Americans) are more valuable or deserving than any other person. I am happy to share my taxes with the poor from any nation; I am happy to share the USA with people from around the world who need a safe place to live; I am happy to teach anyone who needs teaching.
8. That whole thing doesn’t make any sense to me. I guess it’s purpose is to scare us that poor people and politicians want to steal from us. I don’t agree.
9. CLIMATE CHANGE does not affect whether or not hurricanes exist. They have always existed. Climate change DOES affect how powerful they are. When the ice melts, there is more “loose” water on earth, and so more for a storm to pick up and pound a beach with. Plus, the warmer hurricanes are, the worse they are. No February hurricanes. If anyone would like information on how hurricanes work, I am sure the weather channel has this.
I would like to see our world, and for me that is the USA, go back to welcoming the huddled masses yearning to be free. I would like to see our world become safer for women, and offer them more opportunities to grow and thrive as humans. I would like to see a nation that cannot get enough tacos stop insulting the people who created them.
I would like to NEVER see another hate-filled email like this one sent around as a spam-load of shit to try to stir up discontent and make people hate each other and feel afraid.
______ has an Asian granddaughter. _______ has a Russian granddaughter. SEVERAL of our friends are Jewish. It amazes me that none of you think of that when you casually send this out as a representation of your beliefs.
Love you very much, and hope you can understand the way the world looks through my eyes.


And so, I am probably on the shit-list with someone I love very much, a person I am trying to keep low-key and pleasant with as we both age. She tried to “school” me, and I did the same thing back, which is not good, especially as I am usually playing with a much more informed deck.
But, sometimes, something is just too much for me to ignore when it is presented as just an off-hand joke that we’re all, of course, going to agree with. Lord I do not agree with one single thing it said, including using the term “illegal” for people who haven’t been able to get a chance to be Americans.

I was unable to get pregnant. I was ridiculously lucky to be able to adopt a wonderful daughter from China who had to be given up by her poor birth mother because of poverty, patriarchy, or communism, or all three even, and yet some in my family will open their arms to her, and turn their backs on all the other children in the world who are suffering and in need. If I had the money, I’d give Angelina Jolie a run for her money, and I would fling open the doors to the people who need to escape from gang violence, or Syria, or poverty.


IMG_9828I adopted my daughter from China, and from the time I met her I have felt like she has a very strong and interesting personality. Well, all mothers love their children, right?

I remember once, before I had my daughter, when I went shopping with a mom and her young daughter, and I was a little taken aback at how much the mom controlled her daughter’s clothing. It was not just that she, the mom, did all the choosing, it was that everything that the daughter picked out, the mom responded with statements like, I don’t like that. I’m not buying that. That’s a stupid outfit.  Those are not direct quotations, but the general spirit of the thing. I felt as if it wasn’t enough to deny her daughter the choosing of the clothes, it was the addition of insult to each choice, as if the mother just could not get over how horrible and stupid her daughter’s taste was, and wanted her to know, to be put in her place.

With my own daughter I have faced some clothing challenges: number one, by age three she had given up pants. No more pants. Only skirts, only dresses. No sneakers. No shorts.
This preference means nothing to me, but drives my own mother a little crazy I think. Many times she has sent my daughter presents of shorts, and each time my daughter has opened the package and been sorely disappointed. Frankly I think she feels unheard by my mom.

The second challenge of having a fashion-determined daughter, her friends and/or their moms/grandmoms. My neighbor has a granddaughter who sometimes comes and plays with my daughter, but my neighbor will not take my daughter anywhere in a dress, and her granddaughter has zero dresses. Usually my neighbor will invite my daughter, then send my daughter home in tears because she says, “You cannot do (insert any activity here) in a dress.” Then I walk over and ask, “Are you really saying she cannot go because of her clothes?” And my neighbor says, “I didn’t think you would want her to go in a dress,” careful dodge there. And then, finally, my daughter can go, at last, in her dress. But, we always do this dance, each time her granddaughter visits. I think it’s simply cruel. My neighbor calls herself a liberal, but she is blind to her own conservative controlling ways.

For my child, for my neighbor’s grandchild, and for all girls who are, fortunately and unfortunately, raised by women, women who often are passing down their anxieties, and their prejudices about who and what women can be, prejudices that they received as gifts from their own moms or grandmas or aunts or sisters, I’d love to see this kind of in-home harassment stop.

This is what I want to try to make myself do, to curb all my own little micro-agressions against my daughter.

I want to make a pledge:

~If my daughter is chubby, too thin, or perfect, I will bless her, and help her to understand, feed, and regulate her own appetites as it suits her.

~If my daughter’s outfit is clashing, too loud, too feminine, too masculine, or just not my style, I will bless her, and let her go out into the world and find her tribe.

~If my daughter does not do or say or think or wear or eat what I would do or say or think or wear or eat, I will bless her. Let her go; let her grow, I want to be the place she can come back to and always feel accepted. You never know, someday, at some party, some future Supreme Court Justice might just get her and hold his hand down over her mouth so tightly that she thinks she’s going to suffocate and die right on that spot. Or some boy or girl might marry her, and go about taking her apart with little insults, or big ones, little injustices, or big ones, piece by piece, until she is trapped and so fractured she cannot free herself. Or someday maybe everything will evolve around her into the most perfect world and the most perfect life. Or any spot on the line in between…. And because anything is possible I will pledge that, regardless,

~I will kiss her, bless her sweet head, and try my damnedest teach her that I am always the place that she can come to, can run to; I want to always be the nest, the place of no judgement, the place she’s loved best.



oliverThere is my dog, Oliver Possibly

There are my cats:

Mister Jones aka Baby Jones

Finnegan Henry

Rosie Posie


I also adopted two cats away from my mother, and she had named them, so they are single-named:

Henry and Boyfriend.

I have nicknamed Boyfriend “Lil-Pigeon”


because he coos, but truly he has but one name.

How many names (not including those little nicknames you apply later) do your pets have?



And, I am worried about it.

Does John Prine know? Do The Wallflowers know?

This weekend my daughter Sophie was at her art lesson, my husband Dave was fixing the headlight lightbulb on the car at somewhere not our house, and I was enjoying my alone-time by doing a lot of Devil’s Party Press work, drinking coffee, and enjoying some music on Alexa. Often I will ask Alexa to “shuffling songs by Jack Johnson,” but instead I had asked her to play John Prine as, for some reason, John (let’s just act like he and I know each other, why not? We should, anyway.) had popped into my head. After a considerable while of Alexa shuffling songs for me, I remembered one of my favorite songs by John, “Unlonely,” and I asked her to play it. She refused. Alexa is nothing if not capricious, and so she left me no choice but to stop working, and start searching for the song on “the Google” or any place else I could hear it. I found it, and now you can hear it too:

John Prine: Unlonely

And, as I am often wont to do, I replayed it… about a zillion times.

Then I took a shower, and while in the shower I kept singing it. And, on one go-round, I found myself mixing in the lyrics from another song:

The Wallflowers: One Headlight

At first I thought this might have been because Dave was out getting our headlight fixed.

Then I realized that the music, underneath the lyrics, the singing, was pretty freaking similar.

Go ahead, click back and forth between the two.

Does John Prine know?

Do The Wallflowers know?

I assume, with Jakob Dylan in the band, The Wallflowers know John Prine and his music. They would have to, right?

And yet, I never heard anything about this from David Dye, and David Dye would know:

David Dye

Add to that, now I was thinking about David Dye too, and wondering why he doesn’t look like he sounds… however the disconnect between voice and appearance is one I cannot hope to solve in this blog entry. No, no, no.

And then, my husband came home again, and I was telling him about the problem with The Wallflowers and John Prine. John Prine is too far away in style from the Pet Shop Boys for my husband ever to like him, and he felt the need to ask me if Eric got me interested in him. The answer is no. I was interested in John Prine before I ever met Eric, and that was because David Dye and Q102 got me interested in John. Eric, though, was a prior love of mine who was heavily into Irish music and Bluegrass. I never truly embraced the Irish music, but I did like quite a bit of the Bluegrass. I dated Eric for 10 years, and then I dated Mike the alcoholic, and then I married Dave. I had my other little relationships before Eric, but he was my first big one, and it was a big one.

And so this lead to me thinking more about Eric. He is dead now. Though he wasn’t an alcoholic (that I knew of) when we were together, he apparently died as one. Eric was my first big love, and, initially, when we found out we both liked music like John Prine and Bonnie Raitt, we were very compatible, and he made me very “unlonely.” I guess that part of what Eric did for me was to make me feel secure and attractive. I guess I made him feel secure in his own desirability, because he decided, in our later years together, to try it out and try it on with quite a few other women. I left him over the last one, and he seems to have married her at some point, all while never moving out of the house he bought for me, and then she left him, he was her 5th husband I think, and he proceeded to drink himself to death. It is hard, when thinking about Eric, not to romanticize the past, when we were both very young, and very in love, and he made me unlonely. And yet, I still have to think about the person who cheated on me over and over, and who finally had the bad luck to marry a woman who had divorced 4 times prior to marrying him, because she had cheated on her spouses over and over. And when she dumped him, I guess it broke his heart, or some part of him anyway. It broke him. He was broken and not unlonely, and so he medicated his pain quite heavily until he died quite messily. And it had nothing to do with me, except that if he could have been happy with the known, instead of feeling like he was missing something out there in the unknown, I probably would have made him unlonely for life. But, I never did.

And that story reminds me so much of the lyrics to “One Headlight”:

So long ago, I don’t remember when

That’s when they say I lost my only friend

Well they said she died easy of a broken heart disease

As I listened through the cemetery trees

I seen the sun comin’ up at the funeral at dawn

The long broken arm of human law

Now it always seemed such a waste, she always had a pretty face

So I wondered how she hung around this place

Hey, come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

She said it’s cold

It feels like Independence Day

And I can’t break away from this parade

But there’s got to be an opening

Somewhere here in front of me

Through this maze of ugliness and greed

And I seen the sun up ahead at the county line bridge

Sayin’ all there’s good and nothingness is dead

We’ll run until she’s out of breath

She ran until there’s nothin’ left

She hit the end, it’s just her window ledge

Hey, come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

Well this place is old

It feels just like a beat up truck

I turn the engine, but the engine doesn’t turn

Well it smells of cheap wine, cigarettes

This place is always such a mess

Sometimes I think I’d like to watch it burn

I’m so alone and I feel just like somebody else

Man, I ain’t changed, but I know I ain’t the same

But somewhere here in between the city walls of dyin’ dreams

I think of death, it must be killin’ me

Hey, hey hey come on try a little

Nothing is forever

There’s got to be something better than

In the middle

But me and Cinderella

We put it all together

We can drive it home

With one headlight

It seems, to me, eerily on-point for Eric’s story. Eric who once upon a time left love letters to me on my mother’s front door in the middle of the night. Eric, who danced naked with me on the lawn at Haverford College. Eric who used to sing with me all the time. All the time until he met the first woman who was better than me at everything I guess, because he never said, though I did ask, and then the second, and the third, and then he knew that though he could not tell me about them, he could tell me about me: that my voice was not good, that my hair was too short, that my waist was too thick, and I went away, and I was unlonely no more, and he got married, got divorced, died.

I didn’t find my husband until after Eric found his wife. Not that it matters at all when things happened when they happen in the past. Like Eric, my husband can both play the guitar and write. And, when we adopted our daughter, I think that made him unlonely. You only have to go to his website to see how happy he is in his photo with her.

But John Prine’s song has been stolen.
The first night that I knew The Wallflowers had ripped off John Prine I awoke in a sweat at 3 am. I love The Wallflowers. I love John Prine. How could The Wallflowers do this to John? Did they know? They have to be aware of each other’s music because of Bob Dylan. Have they never listened to The Mills Brothers?
You always hurt the one you love; the one you shouldn’t hurt at all. 

You always take the sweetest rose and crush it till the petals fall.

And, for awhile, after Eric made me not unlonely anymore, I lived with Mike.

Mike was my rebound guy. He was like the car you buy when the car you love totally dies on you forever, and you just need a goddamn car because you need a ride, a quick, cheap, low-heart-impact ride. Take me to the place I need to get to, Mofo, take me to where I can forget that I know things. I need a ride, so, fuck it, yeah, I guess I’ll buy that one. I just don’t care anymore. I mean, how many people are you really gonna find who will dance naked on the lawn at Haverford College with you, not just once, but many times?
You buy the third-rate car. Not a single part designed in Japan. And so of course it’s going to die on you sooner than the one you loved did. All the good things die on you, but so do the crappy cheap cars too, which is good, even if it means a long spell of….
Public transportation. Just, well, okay, I can do it, just anything but the bus. I’ll take a taxi; I’ll hop the subway; I’ll ride the trolley or the El, just not the bus. The bus, at least a SEPTA bus, is the lowest of the low. You don’t want to be standing in the rain waiting for it; you don’t want to be schlepping yourself and your shit on and off of it; you don’t want to be run over by it. Sad, exhausting, slow walk home when you ride the bus, Baby. The subway gives you grit and street credit; the bus will drive you right to an accidental meeting at the vet with your ex boyfriend when you haven’t showered because you were on your way to yoga class anyway, where there would be a lot of other unshowered women, and you just needed to pick up the flea medication. The bus makes sure your past and present collide.
John Prine’s song has a lot less lyrics than The Wallflowers does, but I find it affects me in and around the place where my heart beats in my chest way more.
You make me unlonely
I feel like the only
Person in the world
That ever had a girl like you
You make me feel wealthy
I almost look healthy
With you on my arm
Yeah, together we could charm
This whole wide world
Once I was lonely
Nobody but me
My heart in a prison
Love set me free
God woke up
He heard my plea
He sent you to me
He sent you to me 
You made me feel stronger
You made me love longer
Than anyone
Yeah, anyone in the whole wide world
The song, even when it was first released, has always made me feel like I should be busy, on a quest, back-packed and booted. And I have been waking up, sweaty and worried, every night since I realized The Wallflowers song was musically the same. In fact, I wrote to the contacts for both acts, because I just need to know that I am not the only one who knows this, and also that I am not insane. I would feel less solitary, less on my own if I felt like someone else knew.
In the meantime, it’s got me wondering if there’s anybody out there anyway(Pink Floyd, give props, Pearce). So, how do you know?
When a person takes your hand in one hand, and a picnic basket in the other, and helps you climb up and onto a disused train trestle to have lunch and sex, and afterwards, legs dangling over the open air, the tea that you drink, from the thermos he packed, is hot, there is no question about whether or not there is anybody out there.
When you drink coffee pods in the early streaky daylight alone, there is.
As the sun rises on the day, there may be distractions, to distract you, from the fact you, are not… at all… unlonely. But then the 67th dumb argument occurs or your duty to inform John Prine wakes you up again when you should be sleeping, just as the light starts to drip in over the day at 100% humidity, and you know you are 100% not unlonely.
And yet, whether hot tea on a trestle or coffee pod coffee in a certain coffee cup that cost you 10,000 in student loans( a story for another day), your cup is still full. At least the coffee dripping in little gasps from the pod into your cup is not using the same grinds to make coffee for another girl after working out the kinks with you.
How important does being unlonely become? How many attain it? Is there life on Mars? (David Bowie people!) Possibly, there is. I hope so. I just expect it’s not on Mars. We’re looking in the wrong place. When we find the right place to look, will it make us unlonely?