How To Be A Genius

I think I’ve known some previous Mac Arthur Genius Grant recipients, but I don’t have pictures of any of them with Mickey.  So they don’t count.

Donald Antrim, newly minted Mac Arthur Genius, is a very good writer but,  most important, he has made out with my dog.

I think you can see from this picture that Donald is really communicating with Mickey.

Donald and Mickey

This wasn’t a staged picture.  Donald was lying on the bed, talking to Mickey.

No, Donald and I were not IN the bed prior to this picture.  It’s not that kind of friendship. Stop thinking like that.

This is a “G” rated blog post as it will eventually feature Neil Gaiman, whose new book, Fortunately The Milk (best title ever)  is a book for CHILDREN (not adults who haven’t grown up, like me, but ACTUAL children.)

I’m not one of those people who says: “I don’t trust people who don’t like animals.”

Okay. I AM one of those people.

I feel people who don’t like animals have something to hide.  Something they know animals will pick up on.

Donald Antrim and I had already been friends for years when I took this picture, but, seeing the way Donald truly communicated with a creature of a different species made me think more of him as a person  –and as a  writer.  And I already thought lots.

The world is filled with reasonably intelligent people who can put books together.  They go about this methodically, the way you would build, say, an engine.  Some of these people do this very well and even sell shit-tons of books. But the writers I like, they aren’t so methodical.  They tromp forward, clearing brush till they find  the place where the magic rises. They bleed a lot along the way.  I want to know the writers I read can feel – as opposed to just paint – their stories.  I already knew Donald could bleed, but the Mickey and Donald photo confirmed it for me.

Last week, I had dinner with Neil Gaiman.  It’s a long story, but, mostly we had dinner because we have a dear friend in common, the writer Kelly Sue De Connick, and she willed it so.

Kelly Sue is a woman of small stature, but very powerful will.

Neil felt it important to document the occasion of our dinner for Kelly Sue and took this photo with his phone.

Neil always travels with beams of light shooting from his head

He then sent the picture to Kelly Sue, who was, at last, appeased.

It’s not like anyone had to twist my arm.  After discovering that Neil Gaiman is married to that gorgeous force-of-nature Amanda Palmer, I FINALLY (after Kelly Sue had urged me to do so for twelve years) read some of Neil’s books.

Neil bleeds.  Which is to say, he is my kind of writer.   Also, I discovered, he is my kind of human.   The kind of person you feel you’ve known since the beginning of time — and hope to know till its end.

Plus, he has a dog, Lola.

So dinner was really enjoyable, even more so because the brilliant Stephin Merritt and his boyfriend Jonathan also came along.  Stephin Merritt had just adopted a 17- year-old Chihuahua named Zydeco.  But that is a story for another time.

I kept having a niggling thought though: I need to get a picture of Neil with Mickey.

I think Neil gets requests to take photos with all sort of people and creatures and this request from me would probably not strike him as even slightly odd.  But I didn’t want to press at the edges of what I hope will be a lasting friendship.

Eventually, though, I will.

Then, if Neil is given a Mac Arthur, we’ll know:  Mickey did it.



Skin Tight Skirt Suit

As most of you reading this have probably figured out, I write books and occasional magazine things and contribute short stories to a bunch of anthologies. This is what I’ve done for a living for twenty years.

Now and then, I get paid a lot.  Mostly, I get paid a little.

Being broke isn’t very interesting anymore.  Plus, I have to start saving  for opening a dog sanctuary in Mexico, living out my days  as the gringo dog lady.

I like teaching yoga, but it’s REALLY hard work (like, WAY harder than standing on stage in front of thousands of people shouting Fuck Me) and the pay sucks.

So I’m going to real estate school.

I used to think there was very little difference between a realtor and, say, a piranha.

Then, over the last ten years or so, buying and selling and renting houses both upstate and in Brooklyn, I met real estate people who weren’t pathological liars with giant teeth and bad suits.

I have several friends who are realtors.  And, as one of them, Larry, likes to say, I am a Total Real Estate Slut.

I LOVE looking at houses and watching trends in the market, like, where and how good Return on Investments can be found.   It’s a little like methodically gambling on horse racing  –except no animals ever get hurt.

I signed up for real estate school expecting  it would be like living in a David Mamet movie. Specifically, Glengarry Glen Ross.   It has not disappointed.

There are about forty of us in the class ranging in age from 19 to 60 something.  Almost everyone is white, and women outnumber men.   There are smart people, not-so-smart people, ambitious people,  people who just want to make a few  extra bucks. One of our instructors  is  SO out of  David Mamet it is eerie. She is 40 ish, curvy,  partial to skin tight skirt suits and dizzying  stilettos.

Not actually my instructor

This woman sells a LOT of houses.  She’s told us she has a coach, a guy who calls her once a week and yells at her for two hours, telling her to sell more houses. She pays this person to do this and apparently it works. She has scripts memorized for pitching herself to prospective sellers.  It’s quite a schtick and REALLY  borders on farcical.  I had to bury my head in my arms several times to avoid laughing.  But, hey, she’s making a lot more money than I am right now. And she’s actually a very  nice woman.  Just a completely different species.

Much as some of you might enjoy the idea of me  kitted up in a skin-tight skirt suit and stilettos, pounding on your door, and giving you a speech about why you should let me sell your house, I don’t think this will be my approach.

I’ll be more of the school of “Hey, if you ever want to sell or buy some real estate, ask me about it, I study this shit and find it fascinating. Plus, I have really good taste.”

We’ll see how it goes.  If nothing else, I’ve already gotten about 40 characters for future stories and books.

And , okay, I admit it, I DO kind of want to get a skin-tight skirt suit and stilettos.  Then, if the real estate thing doesn’t pan out, I can always audition next time Mamet is casting.

The Chicken Story

I was walking through the park just off Warren Street here in Hudson.  Mickey was with me, wearing his attention-getting cone. 

Mick was moving pretty slowly, trying to sniff bushes, but getting his cone entangled, then getting depressed about this and refusing to pee.

An elderly man was sitting on a bench drinking a soda.

“What’s on his head?” The man pointed to Mickey’s cone.

“A cone.” I said.

The man expressed sympathy over the cone.  Somehow, we got onto the subject of food.  The man volunteered that he tries not to eat red meat.

“Chicken is kind of worse,” I said.  “The way the animals are grown is particularly vile.”

“When I eat a steak I slice the fat off,” the man said.

“Ah.” I said.   I guess he’d forgotten the part where he doesn’t eat red meat.

“My doctor’s a vegetarian,” he said.

“Bill Clinton is a vegan.” I said.

“Yeah?” The man said.

“Yeah.  His heart.” I said, tapping my own chest cavity.

“Maybe I should think about that.” The man said.

“Yeah.  Maybe. ” I said.  “I have to go, my dog is stoned,” I added after Mickey knocked his cone into another bush.

I urged my pumped-full-of-pain drugs dog out of the park and back to where we’d left the car.

Then, I got to thinking about chicken.

My friend Laura the Hot farmer wrote a good blog post about her 54 chickens.  It’s very funny. You can read it by clicking here.

Laura and Mickey make out

It’s interesting that people operate under the illusion that eating chicken is healthier than, say, eating a burger.  Factory farmed chickens are raised in even worse conditions than cows.  More drugs, more filth, more fear.  Their bodies are soaked in flavored water to make them taste CHICKENY.

Happy Laura chickens

People who consider themselves health-consciours will often order something like a Caesar salad with strips of CHICKEN on it.

Unless folks are buying chicken (or any animal products)  from Laura the Hot Farmer, or someone like her, they are eating drugs, filth and fear.  Chicken is NOT “better” than beef or pork or veal or hot dogs or eggs or, for that matter, the drive-through window at McDonalds.  It’s all the same.  Seriously.

I have this theory.  That the corporatization of our lives started with factory farming.  It was the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940′s that facilitated raising livestock indoors, in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. This started driving real farmers out of business.  It’s been seriously down hill from there for us humans  as far as living with any kind of connection to the natural world.  But that’s a whole other story.

This one was just a chicken story.




Shame Is For Suckers

I think shame sucks and leads to a lot of problems.

I wonder what purpose, evolutionarily speaking, shame has served.  Has it made people conform to the standards of others in order to not to be killed or ostracized?

I was a freak as a kid and am really blessed to have learned, (because my parents were weirdos) to embrace and eventually even celebrate not fitting in.

I can’t remember the last time I felt shame.

And I don’t want my dog feeling shame.

He’s just had painful ear surgery.  He doesn’t need shame.

The cone thing dogs and cats often have to wear after a surgical procedure gets called The Cone of Shame.

Cone of Pride

I don’t call it that.  My dog seems to take after me.  He is not ashamed of wearing a cone, he is merely annoyed by it and, now that he’ s slightly on the mend, is starting to try ripping it off his head.  He’s also rolling a lot, trying to move the bandage on his ear and, today, got it halfway off.

Shrouded in cone

This warranted a trip to the vet where the vet called the cone The Cone of Shame.

So I punched the vet and put the cone on him.

Okay, I didn’t.

There is this whole popular thing called Dog Shaming.  I know a lot of people think it’s funny.   I find it upsetting and I won’t put a link to the site but,  in brief:  People hang signs around their dogs’ heads, saying things like “I ate cat poop” or “I stole a sandwich”.  They then photograph the dog with the sign around its neck, looking understandably sheepish.

Did these dog shamers really think, when they invited a dog to live with them, that they were getting a small, fur-covered human?  And if that’s what they wanted, they could have had or adopted a child and, once in a while, glued some fake fur onto the child.

Dogs eat feces and kill bunnies and roll in dead things and lick their buttholes.  There was a time when we probably did these things too.  Maybe we need to get back to that and stop with this shame crap.

Shame seems like a very close relative of bullying.  It’s very fashionable to decry bullying right now.

Let’s make it fashionable to decry shame too.



Old People Having Sex And Masturbating

I promised my new friend Jeanne Fury that I would file a blog post about old people having sex and masturbating.

I’m a girl of my word.

Last Saturday, I read at 2A in NYC as part of Manhattan Litcrawl.  I got there a little early, with a rough and tumble entourage that included my friend Sydney:


And John and Ken of the remarkable band August Wells:

John and Spike (Ken not pictured)

I didn’t know what to expect from this reading, figured there would be five drunk people and my three friends.  I was surprised as we sat watching a very large crowd file into the bar.  Here is a bad photo of part of the crowd:

Very bad picture of crowd, somebody buy me a camera already

The night started off with the host Harold Dean James reading a couple poems, followed by Susan Shapiro reading a funny/sad essay about re-meeting her first love 25 years down the line.

Then, I read two short bits from Book-In-Progress #2.  The second short bit involves an octogenarian masturbating in a leather corset and thigh-high boots. And the boots getting stuck in the folds of flesh on her thigh.

Here’s the thing.  The audience was gasping, groaning and tittering nervously at every mention of the poor 84-year-old character’s sex life.  Like this was the most grotesque thing they’d ever heard. They laughed normally at other parts of the reading involving the exposed body parts of people who could still be considered young.  But old people sexuality? GAK.

I’ve never found old people horrifying.  I once had a job tending the elderly.  This involved bathing them (NAKED OLD PEOPLE!) dressing them, sometimes wiping shit from their asses. I’m not particularly squeamish about this.  I wiped my brother’s asses (sorry, you guys) when they were babies.  The old people were no more or less gross than that.

After I read, Wanda Phipps read some poems that, blessedly for the delicate audience, did NOT involve old people having sex.

Then, the fetching Marie Sabatino read a first person piece about swingers.  I don’t think she mentioned the age of these swingers but it was implied that they were at least young-ish and attractive.  There were some audience gasps during Marie’s reading (she graphically described a very very large penis) but not the kind of shock my poor octogenarian jerker-offer had elicited.

After the reading, on the way back to Brooklyn, my friend Ken mused aloud that I had read about one of the few things he had never fantasized about.  Namely, old lady sex.  He thanked me for giving him future fodder.

Maybe it’s because Ken is Irish.  We Americans are a culture of  squeamish Old People Haters.

We don’t honor (or apparently have sex with)  the elderly.  We stuff them away somewhere and hope that, if they are being sexual, we NEVER have to know about it.

Yet, all of us are either going to drop dead or GET OLD.

I think old people should have sex and masturbate.  A lot.

Also,  I hope to be an old person.


I Am An Idiot

I am an idiot. Or, as my friend Kelly Sue would say, a jackass.

Sometime in the last few days, I noticed an early review of Akashic Books’ forthcoming USA Noir, a Best Of their well-loved Noir series.  I glanced at the review and thought “Shit, would have been nice to be in that one.”

So today I get a big pouch in the mail.  Two copies of USA Noir.  I think “Oh, that’s nice of them, sending me copies of the book.”

Contains the work of an idiot

Then, I look at the table of contents and, um, I AM actually in there.  The short story version of Alice Fantastic, which was originally written for Queens Noir. It’s not like no one told me.  They DID tell me.  I just forgot.

But the big, huge, fantastic part of this is that I AM IN A BOOK WITH GEORGE PELECANOS. 

I can’t convey how much I love the work of George Pelecanos.  But let me try: I love it a lot.

Pelecanos has the economy of words of someone like Elmore Leonard, but more heart.

I was a big fan of Elmore Leonard and learned heaps about craft from spending my first-ever visit to Yaddo devouring fifteen of his books.  Leonard clearly had affection for his ne’er do well characters. But George Pelacanos bleeds for his.  And I love him for it.

Still, I do not love George Pelecanos as much as I love Mickey.

Mickey is safely back from the vet, having had his ear surgery.  He is no longer young though and the experience took its toll. He is very very bleary-eyed and his breathing is still a little raspy from the anesthesia.   I have wrapped him up  in a quilt and he’s sleeping now.  In a few hours he’ll have a small meal and a pain pill. 

Mickey will be fine, though we’ll be negotiating life with a CONE on his head for fourteen days, until the stitches come out.  Also, it seems his left ear will probably never stand straight up again.  He may even have cauliflower ear.  Fortunately, he has enough character and good looks to pull off any kind of ear at all.

And I am an idiot who cannot even remember what books her stories are in.

But there are worse things.


His Left Ear

It’s fine when I have to have surgery.  I’m okay with being cut open, sawed, implanted, jabbed, etc.  But, having to take my animals for surgery is horrible.

Mickey is having ear surgery tomorrow.

The price of having large, magnificent ears is that such ears are delicate.  Stuff gets in there.  They bang into walls.  Flap in stiff breezes. Get chewed on by other dogs in play. And, apparently, are prone to ear hematomas.

Mickey’s left ear at full strength

A month back, Mickey woke up one day and his proud left ear was at half-mast.  I inspected and found a big BUMP in the ear.  It had happened suddenly so I didn’t immediately think CANCER.  I Googled and found it was a hematoma.  Basically a big, aggravated bruise.

We went in to the vet  to have it drained and bandaged .  The vet warned that these things tend to recur unless one does surgery to quilt the broken blood vessels back together.

Now, sure enough, the hematoma is back, the size of a plum, and Mickey’s glorious proud ear is all shriveled up and hanging.  He keeps shaking his head and looking at me with huge, mournful eyes that say DO SOMETHING.

Left ear botched

So I scheduled the ear surgery.  And talked to a friend whose basset hound had had this same surgery.  It is not a huge big deal. But, of course, it IS a huge big deal.

The last time I had to have surgery, I wrote out instructions on who should take my few valuables (Mickey, my Joe Andoe paintings, a first edition Weegee book,  future proceeds from my own books) and handed these instructions over to two close friends in case I died.

A Weegee photo that is not in my Weegee book

One CAN always die.  Usually, I try to remember this EVERY day so as to savor the day as much as possible.

Dogs as a species have survived and made their way from being on the fringes of our lives to sleeping in our beds by reading us (and learning to manipulate us). Mickey excels at reading me.

He knows something is up and I’ve even talked to him about it aloud,  lightly touching his swollen-with-blood left ear as I do so.

But I can’t tell him to write out a will . Can’t explain the risk-to-benefit ratio of surgery. Dogs are not stupid,  and this one is REALLY not stupid, but neither are they PEOPLE.  They understand smells and emotions in a way we can’t dream of, but they’re not that good at assessing risk.

The thing I hate about it most is not being able to explain it to the dog.  And anticipating the look on his face when I drop him at the vet and the tech  takes him in the back.

I would stay with him the whole time but vets never permit this.  With good reason.  My own anxiety would just make it worse and, pretty soon, Mickey and I would both be hyperventilating and whimpering.

Chances are very good everything will go seamlessly and then we’ll have to begin the business of keeping Mickeys’ head bandaged and keeping his Elizabethan collar on for a WEEK.  It’ll be such a nuisance for all involved parties that the anxiety and FEAR OF DEATH will quickly recede.

And life will go on.  With a collar.


The Couch

Lately, Stevie has taken to using Mickey as a couch.

Mickey is one of the most good-natured souls ever, so he lets Stevie lie all over him.

One of the benefits of this is that Stevie then smells like corn chips.  Most American pit bull type dogs smell like corn chips (for further stats on this, consult Ken Foster, world’s leading authority on the corn chip smell of pit bulls.)   Stevie, being not that pit-bully and not at all American, doesn’t really smell like anything, not even like DOG.  After reclining on Mickey, the odor of corn chips wafts off of him.  He is still a rambunctious nuisance, but at least he smells good.

I Love Everybody

My friend Richard Boch, one-time doorman at the Mudd Club, long time artist, and soon-to-be-wildly-successful-memoirist, had an opening the other day at  CR10 in Linlithgo, NY.

I adore Richard and his work too, but, it’s possible that the most exciting aspects of the evening were 1. The drive there with my friend Tim Ebneth and 2.  Having a rare chance to spend time with Pat Place.

Tim picked me up and we drove over together.  We were on the pretty country road approaching CR10 when we saw some boxes of toys in a field with a sign saying “Free to a good home.” 

Tim slammed on the brakes . “I need that stuff” he said.

He was  flushed with excitement. He rushed out of the car, as if  would-be-broken toy-hoarders might suddenly materialize in the meadow and get to the loot first.

I admit, it WAS pretty exciting.

One of the things I love about country life is Weird Shit By The Side Of The Road.

Finding a cement garden gnome with a severed head in the middle of a street in Bed Stuy is kind of par for the course.  Discarded dolls, stuffed animals, and board games on a quiet, trash-free country road? Not so much.

Tim has a show coming up and is working on an installation piece.  I think the trove of toys will constitute half the installation.

It’s possible Tim won’t speak to me now because I didn’t ask for photo approval before posting  pictures of him. 


But I think we can all agree, Tim looks good (he is getting married to his boyfriend of fifteen years next week so, no, you can’t have him.)

After loading the toys into Tim’s car, we forged ahead to the opening.

Richard was glowing with distinguished handsomeness.  And his art looked good too.  Here is one of his prints, “A Little Pretty A Little Drunk”.

I’d barely looked at the art before noticing a platinum-colored head in the sea of darker heads: Pat Place.

Years ago, when my friend Julia, who I was just starting to play music with, suggested that Pat Place, THE Pat Place might come by and play with us, I was nearly paralyzed.

I had seen Pat  play with The Contortions and the Bush Tetras.  I was terrified at the prospect of playing with her.

The terror was unfounded.  Pat turned out to be funny, kind, an animal lover and a complete eccentric.  In short: Family.

I have some very special memories with Pat.  Our band, I Love Everybody, three girls and Stevie D, the boy drummer,  toured opening for Hole.  Most nights, Courtney Love would put in an appearance in our dressing room.  I liked Courtney a great deal, but she was in a real state during that time.  We never knew WHICH Courtney would come into the dressing room.  Angelic, beautiful, smart Courtney or Drunk and Crazy Courtney.

We were like deer-in-headlights staring at her.  Except Pat Place,  impassively gazing at Courtney Love’s baby doll dress and smeared lipstick.  Pat’s look seemed to say:  “I’ve seen all kinds of crazy, you’re just Kindergarten of Crazy.”

Also, on tour, there was Special Ordering At Denny’s. Pat was extremely health conscious long before the rest of the world.  She had lived hard and by the time she was in her late 30’s, she wished to live healthy.  To this end, she would try to order things that weren’t on the menu at places like Denny’s in rural American truck stops.

This was always a lot of fun to witness.

Pat was smart though.  Close to twenty years later, she looks great and is sane.

Here she is clutching a bundle of clothing she was mysteriously transporting from one friend’s car to another after the opening

Lastly, here is a picture of me (though Laura the Hot Farmer claims it doesn’t actually look like me and I am making a bizarre squinchy face) taken on iPhone by the astonishing photographer Kate Simon, who was also at the opening.

Photo Kate Simon

Kate and I were standing outside yakking and suddenly Kate said: I have to go inside, it’s raining.

There were maybe a few droplets falling.  Nothing I would actually think of as RAIN.  I said as much to Kate.  To which she said: You’re obviously not Jewish.  If you’re Jewish, this is rain.



Dirty Love

For the people of NYC (and those wishing to fly in from exotic locales to hear me read for twelve minutes):

I’ll be reading Saturday September 14, 8pm, at 2A (25 Avenue A) as part of LITCRAWL (a pub crawl type thing for people who like to wander around attending consecutive literary events).

It’s free.  I’ll have two drink tickets I won’t use so, first person to come up to me and show me a picture of their dog (you can fake it and just SAY it’s your dog, I’m really gullible) can have the drink tickets.

I’m reading FIRST.  So if you’re dawdling around somewhere, missing the days when people sold stuff on blankets spread along the sidewalks of the East Village (like John S. Hall’s detachable penis - (watch the video, it’s great!)) stop dawdling.

The theme of the reading is DIRTY LOVE (I think).  I’ll probably read two short passages from Book-#2 –In-Progress, which doesn’t really have a title, (Okay, it MIGHT be titled The Story of Giants, but I’m not certain.)

This book features dirt and love and, sometimes, dirty love.

So come on.  Don’t be like the people of the Northwest:  AFTER I’d left Seattle the other day, a dozen people got in touch saying: “Oh, I didn’t know you were reading in Seattle, I totally would have come.”

It was not a state secret.  I put it up on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  If you like me even slightly, check the blog or Facebook page from time to time. I can’t personally come to your house to tell you I’m reading.  I mean, I would if I knew where you lived.  But I don’t.   So just come on.

I regret to say Mickey will not be attending, though he will be coming to the city with me.   Bars are too loud for him so he’ll stay in Brooklyn, chumming around with Cousin Spike.

Mickey and Cousin Spike, not to be confused with Brother Stevie, though there is a resemblance