Robocop, Truffles, Brains and Boobs

So the Art Boobs post link got taken down by Facebook.  This was pretty exciting.  I’m not going to launch into a jeremiad about the hypocrisy of it, because I don’t want to get all VEXED, but, seriously.  Vexing.

And now, a little follow-up to ART BOOBS.

The main purpose of the recently-installed “donate” button is to support this blog. This encourages me to keep blogging and novel-writing rather than spending five hours in handstand or lounging around weeping and eating bonbons in my underwear (though those are obviously also worthy endeavors).

Donating, sharing the blog, buying a book, any and all of it cheers me and also builds a wider audience so that maybe,  when my next book finally comes out,  I get to tour a little more extensively,  meet/re-meet more of you compatriots out there, and get to know YOUR work and talents and enthusiasms (like Laura Rhoman, baker extraordinaire, who made me THE most delicious truffles and marzipan concoctions when I read at Powell’s in Portland a while back.)

Some of you have already bought and read all my books AND made contributions to keep the blog going and I really really appreciate that.   I will be over presently to give you bon bons.

Others, namely Laura the Hot Farmer, Isa the Hot Blogger,  and Jody Sigler the Hot Poet, have asked:

  “Where are the rest of the naked pictures?”

Truth is, there aren’t any more naked pictures. I am not an enthusiastic naked person as documented in an old piece, Bad Dad at the Beauty Salon (link that someone, not me, posted)  I am a person who, when naked in front of strangers, thinks: Holy shit, I am naked in front of strangers.

The boob photo was taken by the artist Christopher Wool.  When I realized he was taking boob pictures of me as I lounged by the pool, I shrieked and tried to shove him and the camera in the pool.   So he only got that one picture, as far as I know, though he did go on to paint my brain:

As may be evident from the nature of the painting, ours was a somewhat tempestuous relationship. Though Wool remains one of my favorite people in the world and is an incredible artist.

Maggie’s Brain the Painting went on to become pretty famous.  It’s now owned by the Art Institute of Chicago.  Here’s a slightly better picture of it. Of course, Wool should have given ME the painting, but all I got was a scribbled-on Polaroid.

Lastly,  “I’d Buy That For A Dollar” is a quote from Robocop, a movie I LOVE.

A one-dollar donation is welcome – and wonderful – but you don’t HAVE to be literal. I was making a Robocop reference, mostly because I was excited to see who might riff on it.

Anyone?   Robocop?  Truffles?  Brains?  Boobs?

Thanks for your contributions, shares and enthusiasms.  They mean a lot.


I’ll Buy That For A Dollar

A while back, the prolific and excellent writer Joe Lansdale posted something funny on his Facebook feed.  I can’t find the post and neither can Joe, but it was really good.

The post said something about how, oftentimes, when you tell someone you meet you’re a writer, they ask: “Would I have heard of you?”

“How the fuck should I know? “

Okay, actually, I don’t think that was Joe’s post, but his was about going to the dentist and the dentist saying:  “You’re a writer?  I’ll expect a signed copy of your next book when it comes out. “

And Joe says:  “Good, and I’ll expect a free root canal.”

Totally paraphrasing, but that was the gist of it.

I laughed and laughed.

A surprising number of people don’t understand that writers and musicians and painters are not waifish dilettantes flitting about , subsisting on flowers and good lighting.  This is how we make our living.

Buy our shit or we die.

Most people grasp that Adele and Stephen King have products in stores that can be bought, but seem to assume that, if they haven’t heard of those of us who are less well known, then our work cannot be bought, or is perhaps shitty and shouldn’t be bought.

Sometimes people tell me:  Oh, after meeting you I went to the library and took out a copy of  one of your books. I really enjoyed it.  And then I loaned it to my entire family.

It’s a compliment, I suppose, but, really, can’t you just buy ONE of my books? They’re not all great, (I have them sort of categorized on my Facebook page) but they don’t cost more than a cappuccino and a muffin and they’ll make you feel things.  I promise you that.

More and more, a lot of us do give our work away for free — or for whatever a person wishes to pay for it.  We blog.  We put up pay-what-you-wish downloads of our records.  Etc.

See the indefatigable Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, The Art of Asking.  It’s part of why I finally decided, Fuck it, I’ll ASK!

All the industries behind the arts are in upheaval.  I’m not going to snivel about it. The world changes, sometimes quite rapidly. That is one of the beautiful mysteries of being alive.

The writer Jon Katz muses on this sort of thing (and many other sorts of things) on his engaging blog

It was seeing Jon Katz’s “Donate” button that was the final straw for me, that made me rip at the resistance I felt about ASKING.  And I’ve installed a “Donate” button on this blog.

Nurture the things you love or they die.

I supported a documentary, 12 O Clock Boys,  about  dirt bike gangs in Baltimore.  Now, thanks to all of us who gave Kickstarter contributions,  the doc has been released and just won an award from HBO and will find its way to a larger audience.

I gave Amanda Palmer twenty bucks when I downloaded her most recent record. She’s given me more than my money’s worth between the music and the online persona.   Her tireless willingness to keep putting herself and her work out there, no matter what, is inspiring.

Amanda Palmer naked

So I think it’s okay to offer people the opportunity to donate to this blog.

I might die tomorrow. You might die tomorrow.


If you found one of my books in the stuff your ex left behind and read half of it then forgot it on a park bench, you could give me a dollar.

If you saw me on MTV when you were 15 and thought I was hot and put me in the spank bank for future masturbatory fodder, you could give me five dollars.

me half-naked. photo: christopher wool

If you’re a high school student performing one of my poems in speech competitions, you could give me a dollar.

If you wonder how I’m going to keep from going to debtors prison before finishing my next novel, you could give me several dollars.

Or not.  That’s fine too. You can just think nice things about me.  In the yoga philosophy, they say this is really powerful. This thinking of nice things.  I have found it to be true.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite Bob Holman poems:

You know things


And then, if you want, give me a dollar.





I’ll be reading Saturday June 1st in Tompkins Square Park, E. 7th and Ave A, for the HOWL Festival.

It’s FREE.

I’m scheduled to go on around 4:00pm, give or take. No idea quite what I’ll read, though probably at least one old and one less-old poem mixed in with some short short prose.  Each reader has about ten minutes.

It’s entirely possible my dog Mickey will be at the reading.  He’s never seen me read before.  He is an avid reader.  

Many others will also be performing, see link  for full list, but among these, Todd Colby, Mike Doughty, and Edwin Torres.

It’s possible Mike Doughty will have his dog along too.  She is very small.  And I don’t have a picture.  But perhaps you’re okay with that.

Allen Ginsberg will probably be there in spirit.  And his was an excellent spirit.  He gave me very useful critiques when I was starting out, and I also had the honor of opening for him at NYU not too long before he died. Best part of it was coming off the stage and Allen standing there beaming, then giving me a bear hug and saying: That was magnificent.

It meant the world to me.

Also, one time, my kid brother Chris was visiting me at my hovel on E. 5th Street in the mid 1990′s.  He casually asked me for Allen’s street address and then said “I’m going for a walk.”  Chris came back several hours later to report he had randomly rung Allen Ginsberg’s bell, said “I just want to shake your hand” into the intercom, then was buzzed up.  Allen showed him his library (really, his library) and made him some oatmeal.

So I’ll think about all these things as I take the stage there in Tompkins Square Park.  And you should come.  And bring others.  And then we’ll all get really really festive.

The Cat Videos of Bukowski

The typical response from my friends when I make a dog video is:  Why do you do that?  You’re insane.

Many writers would have made dog videos, or, worse, CAT VIDEOS if they’d lived in the age of YouTube.  For example: Kerouac, Bukowski,  and definitely Patricia Highsmith.

We writers, even those of us who have at some point been branded quirky, subversive, shocking are essentially just goony, reclusive idiots who talk to animals and do other childish, occasionally charming things when we’re not pounding nails into the floor with our foreheads (Eric Bogosian quote).

There are some social butterfly writers.  Truman Capote.  Neil Gaiman. These guys had/have such huge lives, I don’t know how they ever wrote/write. But these are superhero writers.  The rest of us spend a little too much time alone, in our underwear.    Some of us become secret connoisseurs of cat videos (how else to explain the extraordinary amount of media references to cat videos, other than journalists are sitting home watching fucking cat videos?)

I have made dog videos for four or five years now.  Mostly just because looking at images of  my dog (s) in motion soothes me.  Also, my dog Mickey, LOVES being photographed and filmed.  Seriously.  He was once photographed by a high fashion photographer (for the wonderful Unexpected Pit Bull calendar) and the photographer burst out laughing when, as soon as she took out her gear, Mickey began posing.  She’d never seen a DOG do this.

Recently, I made a two-minute movie about Mickey encountering zombie hookers in a cemetery.  Why would I possibly do that? I have no idea.  It just seemed funny. I have a pretty idiotic sense of humor.  Sometimes, I’m funny, but mostly, I’m a jackass.

David Sedaris is very very funny. It’s unclear to me what his stance is on the subject of cat videos, though I think there is a passing jab at cat videos in his hilarious new book, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls and, of course, this jab implies a familiarity with CAT VIDEOS.

I did a reading with David Sedaris a bunch of years ago, and it was pretty great.

We hadn’t met or read each other’s work before the reading but, in one of those beautiful coincidences that keep life worth living, it SEEMED like we were buddies who had planned on reading complimentary pieces.  Mine was about eating too many dried apricots on a bucolic country trip with a new love interest, his was in a very similar vein.  We both read about terrible humiliations.  The audience laughed and laughed and laughed.

After the reading, David Sedaris and I hugged and vowed to remain forever friends. We haven’t crossed paths since.   He became DAVID SEDARIS.  I became a quirky, subversive, shocking novelist who sometimes makes dog videos.

Okay.  I even made one cat video because I got pissed off at that wildly successful existential French cat, Henri (no link to that bastard, he gets enough attention already.)

I made a lame attempt at a rebuttal cat video starring my reluctant, ancient, cat Lulu.  I’m a little ashamed of this.  But not that much.  Not as much as I was the time I ate too many dried apricots while on a bucolic vacation with a new love interest.

There is something really pure about making dog videos.

Some of my work is pretty hard-nosed and people assume I’m a seen it-all-five-times-and-didn’t-like-much-of-it person.  But I’m just a quiet, animal-loving, yoga-enthusiast idiot who sees magic in many places, including dog videos.

Perhaps my friends think I’m insane for making dog videos because even  they can’t reconcile the side of me that produces melancholy, twisted books with the jackass who makes dog videos.

Neil Gaiman has helped me with this.  I always used to feel that, as a writer, I couldn’t show the side of me that believes everything is potentially magical, that all the world is a dog video.

Then, I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and liked it immensely. In particular, I  liked the way he matter-of-factly goes from the familiar to the fantastical almost in one breath – and it works beautifully.

It was very liberating to see someone do that successfully.  And I felt less crazy.  I felt like it’s okay to write brutal things one minute and make videos about my dog meeting zombie hookers the next.

Neil Gaiman does not, as far as I know, make cat videos, though he DOES post Tumblr pictures of his aging cat and also of his dog, a beautiful, rescued white Shepherd named Lola who I briefly met a few weeks back.

Reading Neil Gaiman gave me permission to let loose completely,  incorporating a sense of wonder and magic into hard-nosed writing.  Something I’ve long avoided doing.

Perhaps, once I get used to doing this, I’ll have less need of making dog videos.

But I hope not.





The Zombie Whisperer

I’m heading off to teach yoga in a few minutes and am having the standard-issue mix of dread and slight excitement at the prospect of cajoling people into doing unusual things with their limbs and their minds for 90 minutes.

I prefer teaching yoga to teaching writing. I always worried that teaching writing (excepting the occasional workshop) might kill my writing.

I don’t have that fear with yoga.  There is no killing yoga. It would just come back.  Like a zombie.

Zombies have outshined vampires and well-to-do housewives as a national obsession.  And seem in no danger of leaving.

I like magical creatures, mythologies, Sci Fi, and zombies.  I talk to trees and inanimate objects (and people and animals too)  and consider everything imbued with a spirit.  Including zombies.

I have the notion that, if the need ever arose,  I could reason with a zombie the same way you can sometimes reason with or whisper to a difficult dog or horse.

Maybe I’ll be in big trouble when the zombies come.  Or maybe I’ll have a lot of a work as a Zombie Whisperer.

I wrote  a short story, Zombie Hookers of Hudson, because I like zombies, and also because I was asked to contribute  fiction for The Marijuana Chronicles, coming July 2nd from Akashic Books.

Rather than drum up some long-ago shenanigans from my weed-smoking youth, I invented pot-smoking zombie hookers.  My zombie hookers are pretty benevolent.  Because they were invented by someone who thinks she’s a  Zombie Whisperer.

I think zombies are popular because we all think the world is ending.  Pretty much every culture and civilization since the beginning of time has thought their world was ending.  In our time, there may be more of a case to be made for this outlook. The earth is heating and the weather is getting really fucking wonky. Even some Republicans admit this by now.

Most of my life,  I’ve had recurring post-apocalyptic dreams.  As a youngster, I loved Planet of the Apes, Road Warrior, and Bladerunner because these movies looked like the landscapes in my dreams.

When I first moved to NYC at age 17, Bladerunner played every weekend at the St Marks Movie Theater.  And I went EVERY WEEKEND.  My friend Bliss and I would sit there, reciting it pretty much line for line, smoking lots of weed and cigarettes (this was Lower Manhattan in the 1980’s, you could shoot  heroin in your jugular on the subway and no one would look twice, though I never actually tried THAT) and cooing over Rutger Hauer and Daryl Hannah (those standing backflips of hers were particularly awesome, watch here, though it is heartbreaking.)

Sometimes, leaving the theater, it was hard to distinguish the barren, bombed-out-looking landscape of the Lower East Side from the sets of Bladerunner.

Movies like Bladerunner, Terminator, Planet of the Apes, 28 Days Later etc…are just manifestations of our collective unconscious same as Hieronymus Bosch paintings were in the 15th century.

Right now, our collective unconscious finds zombies particularly appealing. It’s somehow cozier thinking zombies will wipe us out than a series of weather events or biological warfare.

And yoga is the zombie of mind/body practices.

Yoga started a long, long time ago and, no matter what anyone does to it, no matter how many of us freaky yoga-loving loons interpret and transmit it, it keeps working and finding new converts and, for the most part, spreading well-being and some degree of peace.

Yes.  Yoga is a cult.  But,  pretty much everything is a cult.  Human beings like cults.  We like believing in the same things.  It makes us feel less alone.  We are a weird, conflicted species, celebrating individuality and original thinking, but all, at heart, believing the same thing:  That the zombies are coming and yoga will make it better.

Time to go teach yoga.

The Swimmer

I read about half a John Updike book once then grew enraged at the chronicling of the ennui of the well-to-do and flung the book across the room.

Somewhere in my mind, I lumped John Cheever in with John Updike, though I  had never actually read a single sentence of Cheever’s. I made one of those categorizations I was prone to in my late teens and early twenties.  Because I knew EVERYTHING in those days.

Now, fortunately, I know very little.

A little later in life, I came to be friendly with John Cheever’s daughter, Susan, who I liked, both as a person and as a writer.  I felt a vague stab of guilt for not having read the work of her late father.  But I still didn’t read it.

Through the years,  on hearing of my love of swimming and, in particular, my love of swimming in the pools of hotels where I wasn’t staying or of people I didn’t know,  friends kept asking if I’d ever read Cheever’s The Swimmer or seen the movie. I would just say “No,” and leave it at that.

Six months ago, while on vacation in Mexico with my boyfriend, I went swimming at a particularly spectacular beach.

My boyfriend stayed on the beach, reading and slathering himself in SPF 2000 sunscreen as I went into the water, cavorting, doing handstands and backflips. Glad to be alive.

I have since read Cheever’s The Swimmer.  It is an astonishingly good story.   And what I was feeling in that moment, in that beautiful sea, is very well expressed by this:  “…he was breathing deeply, stertorously as if he could gulp into his lungs the components of that moment, the heat of the sun, the intenseness of his pleasure.”

I was feeling all that.    My head was under water, inside the sea, hearing the woosh of the Caribbean. And then, I heard a dog barking.  I  could probably hear a dog-in-need bark from 200 miles away.  I immediately swam toward the shore and peered at the beach, where I saw a scrappy tan pup barking at my boyfriend.

There were other people on the beach, but this dog had singled him out, the guy with the giant straw hat and the SPF 2000 sunscreen, to ask for help.  Because this dog needed help.  He had a hideous, very infected bite wound on his front leg and his ribs were sticking out. 

As it happened, I had a can of dog food in the basket of the bike I’d ridden to the beach.  I was planning to  feed a very sad-looking stray poodle-type who hung around the bakery in town.

We found a discarded flip flop, put the dog food on it, and fed it to the pup.  He devoured the food and started on the flip flop. Then, he drank the contents of my water bottle, and then my boyfriend’s water bottle too.

I sat, looking at the pup, marveling at how he was not in good shape but was able to be happy in that moment, smiling at me, squinting his surprising bright green eyes.

As I wondered how we would help him (we had no car, no cell phone service,  and were miles from where we were staying) he dug a big hole in the sand, right under my bent legs,  burrowed in, and took a nap.

This was the beginning of a very wild 48 hours.  Through the help of about a dozen local people, including the folks at Alma Libre Books, two animal rescue women, and a bunch of veterinarians who routinely donate their time at a clinic for low cost veterinary care, we got the pup medical attention.  And all our new Mexican friends URGED us to get the pup out of Mexico where it was thought he had fallen off the back of a truck of a man transporting pit bulls and, generally, men transporting pick-up trucks full of pit bulls do not have good intentions.

Later, I wrote a short, highly fictionalized account of this event.  It’s up on Akashic Books’ site, here: The Killing Type.

So we ended up adopting an injured 6-month-old Mexican beach dog and flying him home with us to New York.  We called him Esteban, “Stevie”, after the child of the hot brunette and the Mexican Drug Lord on the show WEEDS.

Mickey, my dog of the exceptional ears, immediately liked Stevie.  And Stevie liked him. 

Stevie has his issues, he doesn’t know how to meet other dogs on leash and he hunts the innocent garter snakes in our yard. But we love him deeply.  When he is not being an insane adolescent dog, he is extremely loving, funny and handsome.

Also, he got me to read John Cheever.

Even though we’d found Stevie on a beach, we didn’t know if he could actually swim.  I have a friend with two  greyhounds and they periodically fall in the swimming pool and immediately sink and have to be rescued.  They can’t swim AT ALL.

As it happens though, Stevie can not only swim, but he’s an avid swimmer.  He has already jumped into one swimming pool, three smelly ponds, several creeks, and the Hudson River.

I made this movie of him swimming in a pond.  I called it The Swimmer, nodding to the John Cheever story.

Then, I decided, it was probably time to read John Cheever.

I discovered I greatly admire the writing of John Cheever.

The moral of this post is,  If you adopt a Mexican beach dog, you will find out you love something you had once categorically dismissed.

More Hot Farmers

I drove down  to Olivebridge today to see old friends, Kate, Sarah, and Farmer Thom.  Mickey rode shotgun, as usual, and I always love watching the way he sniffs at the air during our little road trips, trying to figure out where we are going by the smell of the air.

We got about five miles from our first Olivebridge stop, Kate’s house, when Mick started making high-pitched squeaking sounds, smelling Kate or her beagle (also named Mickey).

I lived in Olivebridge for about six months last year, in a crazy blue house that had been built from a bomb shelter kit. Apparently, 1950’s bomb shelter kits don’t call for very good plumbing or roofing or heat so it wasn’t the most hospitable dwelling and, anyway, six months into my tenure there, my boyfriend and I decided to shack up.  In Hudson.

The land the bomb shelter is on is beautiful though and Farmer Thom, the first former-urban-dweller-turned-Hot-Farmer I ever knew, lived next door.  Thom is a retired FDNY firefighter and an Accidental Farmer, having never made a plan to farm, but stumbling into it by starting a small garden and then, Presto, a few years later, he has acres and acres of delectable vegetables and the tending of vegetables rules his life.

Kate and Sarah live a mile down the road.  They are lovely humans and Kate, a wildly talented painter (Kate Paintings Here) is descended from a long line of farmers and teachers (actually, I’m totally making this up, but I THINK it’s true) and Kate was waxing wistful about  Olivebridge as it was during her childhood: working farm country.  Evidence out the window here, behind Wistful Kate, Big Mickey and Little Mickey. 

Sarah, Kate’s partner, a professional organizer who is always impeccably dressed and always on the go, had to go before I even got out of my car, but Kate and the Mickeys and I had a beautiful walk in the woods, then lounged around eating bonbons and drinking coffee and yakking for a while as Big Mickey tried to hump Little Mickey, who was absolutely mortified.

Then, Kate went to whack some weeds, and I went to visit Farmer Thom.  It was a fairly short visit, but Thom showed me a gnome, retrieved from the Olive town dump, a gnome I am slated to inherit when he is done scaring scavengers off from the strawberry hoop house. 

After introducing me to the gnome, Thom gave me a glass of root beer and then pointed out that here I am blogging about Hot Farmer Laura, as if Hot Farmer Thom had never even existed.

So now, the record is straight:  Before I ever met Laura Ex-Urban-Dweller Turned  Hot Farmer, there was Thom the Ex-Urban-Dweller Hot Farmer

Perhaps this is just more evidence that there is farming in my future.




Hot Farm Girl

I am not a foodie.  In fact, eating is a nuisance and I’d be really happy to just have an IV once a day to get nutrients.  I don’t enjoy cooking or doing dishes or shopping for food.

The only thing I LOVE about going to artists colonies is being FED.  Even if the food is HORRIBLE, I’m intensely grateful for it because I didn’t have to deal with any aspect of it other than eating it and possibly complaining about it.  (My Yaddo Movie)

I do like some food.  Apple turnovers for example. Ethiopian food.  Almost all the food in Italy and all the produce sold in the medina in Tangier, Morocco.

Also, I’m a vegetarian. And I’m allergic to garlic.  And I don’t really eat bread.

I’m basically like a really fussy toddler. You probably do NOT want to invite me over for dinner.

But I have a new friend, Laura the Hot Farmer:

Laura is all about food.  She is a chef and her husband, Dave, who she met at chef school, is also a chef.  Together, they run a popular Brooklyn restaurant, Applewood.

Laura and Dave and their two daughters now live upstate and grow their own food. And I don’t just mean vegetables.  Here is Laura’s blog about the life of a Hot Farmer.

Laura and Dave have some land and a red barn-looking house pictured here with Chimney the Gnome in foreground:

They also have two delightful pit mix dogs, a bunch of chickens and cats, an extremely pregnant goat named Cindy, and, as of this writing, two piglets named Pig and Other Pig:

If those don’t seem like the most enchanting names for pigs, it’s because the family does not wish to REALLY name the pigs as they are going to EAT THE PIGS.

My vegetarianism started when I was 15-years-old.   I had never really enjoyed meat anyway and then I became smitten with a vegetarian horse thief in Georgia (the state, not the country). After making out with the vegetarian horse thief, I pronounced myself vegetarian and that was that. A little later in life,  I continued being vegetarian for ethical reasons.

Laura the Hot Farmer points out that eating animals  is a long discussion.  That, basically, cows and chickens and pigs as we know them (as opposed to wild boars etc) wouldn’t be around if humans hadn’t raised them for food.  She also points out the difference between eating one of her own pigs, killed with one quick gunshot to the back of the head, and eating some pig that was killed in a slaughterhouse (even organic, free range, etc livestock is killed in a slaughterhouse, has to be to comply with FDA regulations in order to be sold to the public).

“There is no taste of fear in the meat.”  Laura says of eating the animals she raises.

I personally don’t wish to taste ANYTHING in meat, so I don’t eat it.  All the same, I have tremendous admiration for what Laura the Hot Farmer is doing.  She is completely conscious of what she eats, having known it it since it was a small piglet or chick or plant (I thinks she eats some beef she’s never met but only if its been vouched for by someone who HAS met it).

Maybe if I grew my own rice and beans and tofu and vegetables, they would taste better and I’d enjoy cooking them and putting them in my body.

Maybe it’s time to become a Hot Farmer.