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



The Good People of Seattle

A few days ago, I flew from Albany to Seattle to perform at the Bumbershoot Festival.

I remember my shock the first time I went to the Northwest about 15 years ago. I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. I wondered why no one had told me that people actually lived like this, NOT packed in like rats, NOT dealing with 80 feet of snow in winter and 120 degree heat index in summer.  I had thought this sort of idyllic living was only accorded to the inhabitants of a few Mediterranean countries and possibly Marin County.

Seattle approach from plane

Of course, I’d been a New Yorker so long, I found it slightly DISTURBING.  Like living a life with so little environmental stress might erase my brain.

All the same, I love going to Seattle.  Except the getting there part.

In Albany, the churlish, skeletal flight crew (clearly a New York-based crew) was one step shy of throwing lye in the passengers faces if we asked any questions or wanted a glass of water.

I changed planes in Newark and when I got to the long, snaking line for the Seattle flight, my stomach knotted.  There were 15 children under the age of five. And some newborns for good measure.  And a TOTALLY FULL FLIGHT. 

I waited till the last minute to board.  All the children and bigger people were settled.  And, weirdly, they WERE ACTUALLY SETTLED.  It was shockingly quiet for a full flight. I lumbered down the narrow lane, expecting seat mates drenched in perfume, feeding hunks of bologna to squalling infants. But my row was EMPTY.  Every other seat on the plane was taken yet I had a three-seater to myself.  It’s like they knew to isolate the New Yorker.

The flight crew, mostly dudes with longish hair and less-than-crisp airline uniforms, were casually wandering around saying “awesome” and “have a good flight, man” to passengers.

I spent a peaceful six hours working on my laptop.  Only one infant squalled and, when it did, its mother, a happy-looking young woman, strolled the infant up and down the aisle till the child started beaming and gurgling.

It was then that I realized I was on a plane full of PEOPLE FROM SEATTLE.  That the flight crew was FROM SEATTLE.  The happy burbling baby: FROM SEATLE.

At the end of the flight, people rose from their seats QUIETLY and actually waited until instructed to open overhead bins. I noticed a woman in the next row.  She was flanked by two teenaged daughters. They got up, stretched their sun-kissed limbs and ruffled their no-nonsense hairdos.

Then,  a man and two teenage boys rose from the row in front of them.  The man turned to face the woman, seemingly his wife of many years, and kissed her passionately.

It’s not like I’ve never seen long-married couples kiss passionately at the end of a  crowded flight with their four teenage children.  Okay.  Actually, it IS like that.

These people were HAPPY.  It was this really weird moment of realizing:  People who live so-called conventional lives with steady jobs, children and long-term spouses don’t all watch Fox News and give each other automatic weapons for Christmas.  There are NICE, decent “ordinary” people in the world.  Or at least in Seattle.

At the airport, I was met by two radiant young women in BUMBERSHOOT Festival T-shirts.  They both had flowing golden hair and long tan limbs.  They led me to a van driven by a Jason-Statham-Meets-Henry-Rollins -looking man named (conveniently enough)  Jason who, it turns out, is an arborist, a member of the band Rosharch Test, a father, a mountain climber, an IT guy, and an organic vegetable grower.  I’m unclear on what he was doing driving festival participants around, but he was certainly a fine chauffeur.

By the time my cohort Amanda Stern and I headed over to the actual festival grounds the next day to prepare for our reading, we’d both had happy Seattle experiences.  Good cheap food. The purchasing of incredibly inexpensive but interesting clothing.  Amanda was propositioned by several  homeless men and one well-to-do woman.

Things took a turn for the weird when we found our way to the theater where we were reading.  Our leader, Jonathan Santlofer, editor of the anthology The Marjuana Chronicles, had had a family tragedy and was not able to come. The comic Matt Besser,  known for comedy involving weed-smoking stories, had been assigned as our MC.  A few minutes before taking the stage, Amanda and I were REALLY glad for this:  As we stood in the theater wings peering out at the audience, we realized they were not expecting a reading.  They were expecting a discussion about weed and perhaps some anecdotes and Q&A.

I haven’t smoked pot in years. Amanda smokes a tiny bit once in a while.  We  are hardly experts.

Fortunately, Matt Besser cracked the audience up for 15 minutes straight and set a good tone.  Amanda and I read briefly then joined Matt in engaging with the audience — comprised of a lot of stoned people.

After the reading, I was graced by the appearance of Steph Renaud, a fan I had met on my first trip to Seattle.  Amanda was busy being courted by a pair of dudes from Montana who’d come to tell us about their weed dispensary.  They were stoned but also pretty drunk (one of them couldn’t stop hiccuping and Amanda couldn’t stop yelling “Stop hiccuping”) and I doubt they have any recollection of attending the event  or meeting us so I think it’s okay that I can’t remember their names, but here is a picture of them. They were sweet — in a hiccuping drunk stoned way.

Then, Amanda and I went off to be rock stars.

We had performer passes and this gained us entry to an artists lounge featuring FREE FOOD, clean bathrooms, the opportunity to mingle with famous musicians we’d never heard of, and, most important FREE HAIRCUTS.

No, I don’t usually go to rock festivals looking for free haircuts.  But there they were, Rudy’s Barber Shop,  giving out free haircuts and I had JUST been volubly complaining that my mop needed trimming and Amanda’s tresses needed tending too.

I was taken in hand by Caroline, a lovely Seattle native whose family has been there for many generations.  Caroline has been cutting hair for thirty years and LOVES cutting hair and has not once had Hair Cutting Burn Out.  She also has two Persian cats, one with cataracts.


Pleased with our fresh haircuts, Amanda and I then partook of the free photo booth.

Next,  in anticipation of flying home having to either starve or buy  airport food, we went and STUFFED OUR BAGS WITH FREE FOOD.  Like batty old ladies at an early bird buffet.

We dutifully listened to one band (Deerhunter) after dutifully missing most of the bands and acts we were interested in and/or friends with.

Then, we were tired.  We caught the Bumbershoot Shuttle back to the hotel,  hugged fiercely, and vowed future adventures.

In the morning, a young man named Max came to pick me up for the airport.  Max had some really good family stories, but they might be incriminating to his loved ones so I’ll leave them for him to tell.

Max asked about my story for The Marijuana Chronicles.  I said “I haven’t smoked weed in a long time so I wrote a story about zombie hookers.”

“You did?”  Max really brightened.

“Yeah.” I shrugged.

‘No offence,” he said, “but you don’t look like someone who would write about  zombie hookers.”

I never got to ask him what zombie hooker writers should look like.  We’d reached the airport and my first flight was to Chicago and the line for the flight was peppered with gruff Chicago people.

Chicago is a great city, but its weather is wretched. Its people act accordingly.  They are potentially some of the best people ever but, initially, they are wretched.

To wit, my friend Laura the Hot Farmer, who hails from Chicago, got totally bent out of shape when, on Facebook, I documented some of my Seattle adventures in iPhone self-portraits.

This morning, I woke up to an irate text from Laura (sent at 5:23 am)  informing me that anyone over the age of 18 who posts self-portraits on Facebook has misfiring neurons or is simply an idiot.

I don’t think the good people of Seattle would agree with her.




The Killing Type Is Killing Me

So it started as a very short short story.   A woman saves a dog destined for terrible things, kills a man in the process.

You know. That old story.

Then, the short short story wanted to keep going. So I obeyed it and kept writing.  It started turning into a revenge novel.  Two more wild women characters made themselves known and ganged up together to pursue a mutual stalker.

Now, it seems there is a heist on the horizon.  And half a dozen more characters.  And a dog sanctuary in Mexico.


This thing will either be a total train wreck or a nifty book.  Jury’s still out.

I posted a link to the opening of it when I first wrote it as a short story for the Akashic Booksblog back in January, but here it is again, at the bottom here, if you missed it then.  It was called THE KILLING TYPE (yes,  title is a vigorous nod to Amanda Palmer, who I ran into at yoga last week and who, I can report, has an exquisite handstand-into-wheel move in her repertoire.) I think the title still fits.

Amanda Palmer Not In Handstand

In other news, if you live in Seattle, I am reading there Monday, Labor Day, with cohort Amanda Stern, at the Bumbershoot Festival.  Also, I’ll be reading Sept 14th in NYC for a LitCrawl event and then again October 13th  in NYC for a Nuyorican Poets Reunion Thingamajigger (this will be REALLY COOL).  I’ll post more details when I get back from Seattle.  And if you want more info on the Seattle reading, drop a note to info@maggieestep.com.

This concludes this newsy blog post.  Well, not quite.  Here is

The Killing Type

The sun wasn’t thinking about rising yet. Neither was Lincoln, the guy I had come to Cancun with.

“I’d really like to take you to Cancun, baby,” he’d said two weeks earlier, on our third date.

I laughed.

“What’s funny about that?”

I pictured high-rise resort buildings choking coastline. Portly Americans choking resort buildings. Me choking Lincoln.

“Nothing,” I said.

* *

Eighteen hours into our trip, after we’d had sex in the very large hotel bed and Lincoln had swigged half a bottle of tequila, he passed out. I got up and stood staring at him. He looked rugged, smart. He was neither.

I put my blue dress on, stuffed toothbrush, wallet, and passport into my handbag. I might come back in a few hours.  Probably not.

 * * *

I went to the reception area, asked the concierge for a cab. In butchered Spanish, I asked the driver to head away from the resorts and into the actual city of Cancun.

“Where?” he asked in English.

“Anywhere,” I said.

“My name is Jin,” he said. “Not Jim. Jin.”

“Okay,” I said.


We were stopped at a traffic light in a barrio of low, shambled buildings beneath a highway overpass. An old man crossed the street carrying a chicken in a cage. Two women, maybe hookers, wearing glitter and not much else, teetered after him. Just past the light, a pickup truck was parked and I watched a man in a straw hat hoist a dozen reluctant, emaciated dogs into the back of the truck.

The light turned green.

“Please pull over,” I told Jin.

“Pull over?” he turned back to look at me.

“Yes. Please,” I said.

  * * *

As Jin edged in behind the pickup, the man in the straw hat hopped back in his truck and nosed into the street. I asked Jin to follow.

“Amo perros,” I said, in Spanish.

Jin thought a few things, but didn’t say any of them.

The pickup made its way to Carretera Federal 307. Maybe we would drive all the way down to Belize, chasing the truck of emaciated pit bulls.

  * * *

After thirty minutes, the pickup made a left onto a road lined in scrub and swamp. Rising sun burned pink halos around the shrubs.

The road came to a village. The pick up made a sharp right and, after a few miles, turned right again onto a dirt path. Jin tried to follow, but there were too many dips and pits.

“Nothing down there anyway,” he said, in English. “Swamp and crocodiles.”

“If you wait for me, I’ll give you a thousand pesos,” I said.

“What are you going to do, Miss?” he asked.

“My name is Eloise. Please just wait, Jin,” I said, digging five hundred pesos out of my bag. “I’ll give you more if you wait. Please.”

I got out of the car.

It was already hot out, the air starting to shimmer. Mangrove swamps on either side of the dirt path. Stubby trees between swamp and path.

I heard a man’s voice, yelling.

I looked all around me, found a rock with a sharp edge.

A few more paces, and I came to a clearing. The man in the hat was pulling a brindled dog from the truck over to a tree, attaching him to a chain there. About ten dogs were still in the bed of the truck. Off to the side, the bodies of many dead dogs. Left to die some previous day. Picked open by vultures.

The man had his back to me. The dogs had all seen and smelled me, but none barked. Maybe they’d had their vocal cords cut—a popular operation among sub-humans who make dogs fight.

I walked forward, creeping along the sandy dirt surface. I got very close to the man in the hat before he finally felt me there and turned around.

He said something in fast, Mayan Spanish. He was several inches shorter than I. He pulled a gun from the pocket of his polyester trousers and pointed it at my heart.

I peed in fear. Felt the urine stream down my bare legs.

I ducked to the side, lifted my jagged rock, smashed it into the side of the man’s face.

He stumbled, put a hand to his head, but didn’t drop the gun. He fired at me. Missed. Went to fire again. Gun jammed.

One of the dogs, no more than a puppy, tan with a white chest and a bite wound on his leg, ran over, stood over the felled man, barking. The other dogs had been beaten down too long for an uprising.

The man tried to fire once more, aiming at the puppy this time.

I don’t kill spiders or even ants. I’m a vegetarian. I’m not the killing type.

As the man fumbled with his gun, I brought the rock down so hard, his entire face turned to pulp. The gun fell from his hand. I picked it up. I had only ever fired a shotgun. I braced myself and tried firing into the man’s chest. It worked fine. But scared the puppy.

“It’s okay, Perro,” I said, crouching down. The puppy came closer. Licked my hand.

I wiped the gun down on my dress then, using the fabric as a glove, put the gun back in the man’s pocket.

The puppy watched as I rolled the man’s body over to the edge of the swamp into the water.

I got the remaining dogs out of the pickup and tied them to trees so they’d be in shade until I could get help. The dogs had big heads and starved bodies, butchered ears and open wounds. But not one of them challenged me. The only one who would even meet my gaze was the puppy. His eyes were bright green.

  * * *

Jin had waited. I climbed into the back of the cab, holding the puppy to my chest.

  * * *

The sun was all the way up now.


The Curse Of The Drop By

I’ve mentioned that I’m a Boring Person.  I like leading a quiet, simple life with some degree of stability and predictability.  I am not very spontaneous.  And I have a meltdown if someone stops by unannounced.

My first couple of years living upstate were traumatic as I came to know THE DROP BY.  I was living in Woodstock and,  in Woodstock, unless you are a TRUE shut in, (I am only a semi shut-in) everyone knows where you live.  And drops by.  It was really good for Mickey’s socialization after he got sprung from death row and came to live with me and had NO idea how to interact with the world.  Drop bys were helpful in getting him used to all kinds of people entering his space.  He even started to like it. But I didn’t.

Woodstock House aka The Drop By House

I’d always heard stories of NICE country drop bys, even remembered some from childhood. Neighbors bringing pies or seeing if you needed help with the various vagaries of country life.  But the old school drop by may be a thing of the past.  My drop byers were acquaintances who happened to be driving by, saw my car in the driveway, knew I was always home “working”, (their quotes, not mine) and so, would drop by — and usually expect some level of civility and hospitality.  It was awful.

I do like people. But I grew up as an only child, moving every six months till I turned 18 when I planted myself in lower Manhattan. There, I shared a studio apartment with my close friend Bliss. Bliss and I both had low-paying full-time jobs and, when we weren’t working, we were drunk and dancing. Our tiny tenement apartment was in the back of a walk-up with no doorbells and we didn’t have a phone. We were safe from drop bys.  Plus, we didn’t have any other real friends. We had an intensely close friendship, kind of like Laverne and Shirley if they’d been CBGB’s habituees on downers with dyed hair and dog collar jewelry.  It’s unlikely anyone WANTED to drop by.

A few years down the line, Bliss fell in love and married and moved back to the country to have children.  I forged ahead and belatedly went to college in Boulder, Colorado.  I shared a little house with a succession of roommates.  We lived downtown.  I had a bunch of scraggly poet friends, some of them very prone to DROPPING BY. My various roommates enjoyed and even encouraged this behavior.  I had the back-facing bedroom and, if I managed to see the potential drop-byer coming, I’d hide in my room, ducking down below window-level until the drop-byer had given up and gone to drop by on someone else.

I moved back to NYC and, by the time I was ready to leave for good, 20 years later, I had in fact learned how to have friends and sometimes even be spontaneous,  but there are no DROP BYS in NYC (that’s why people LIVE in NYC.)

After a few years in Woodstock, living victim to random drop bys, I ran out of money and sold my house, then took a rental on a semi-remote farm outside Saugerties. I lived in a  converted hay barn a few hundred yards from a farmhouse where a woman named Polly lived.   Polly and I became close friends.


Polly had the space (and the temperament) for dinner get-togethers, barbeques, and other nice social things people do and I often took part in these festivities.   Polly is a person others are drawn to.  And brings to mind a quote from a Will Self story I love: “…she exuded a certain wholesome quality, as palpably as if a vent had been opened on her forehead and the smell of bread baking had started to churn out.” Though Polly will no doubt dispute the accuracy of  “wholesome” as applied to her.

Polly was prone to receiving drop bys and, from the second floor window of my little house, I could  watch the people who were dropping by on her and pick and choose the times to join in the drop-by fray.  It was perfect.  Polly was my inadvertent Drop By Gatekeeper.

Once a nomad, always a nomad though and, after a year living on the farm I got restless.  I moved back to Brooklyn, to Bed Stuy where there was absolutely no chance of drop-bys.  After a year there,  I realized I really am a country girl and I moved back upstate, to remote Olivebridge, about 30 minutes west of Woodstock.  It was lovely and cheap.  But it was a hotbed of DROP BYS.

Mickey, contemplative in Olivebridge

At first, there were DAILY drop-bys from my landlord who didn’t really have any place to go after renting his house to me.  He had installed a trailer on his girlfriend’s land a mile down the road, but the girlfriend would get sick of the sight of him and tell him to take a hike.  So he would.  To his house, aka, MY house. I’d be in the middle of doing something compromising like  typing while naked, or manually pulling half-digested grass clumps out of Mickey’s butt, when I’d look up from what I was doing and find my 80-year-old-landlord watching me.

One day, I lost it and screamed at him, waving my lease in his face.  Soon after, he went to winter in Florida.  But in his place were  other ne’er do well drop-byers from up or down the road.  There was the alleged male hustler who had bought the land across the road and would periodically turn up, standing in the road, staring from his land to my house.  The homesteader neighbors looking for their chickens or goats or sometimes foraging in my woods for dead animal carcasses to feed their dogs.

The only nice drop bys were from friend and neighbor Farmer Thom who would  occasionally do a drop by on his tractor.   It was so novel to get a drop by from a guy on a tractor that I didn’t mind. Plus, he usually brought me something.  Vegetables, a portable heater, a plunger.

Thom Drop By On Tractor

A year and a half ago,  I moved to Hudson. Hudson is sort of a microcosm of all the good aspects of Brooklyn.  People of various races, economic brackets and sexual preferences all merging in a small city on the edge of the Hudson river.  It’s urban but surrounded by beautiful farmland.  Small enough to still feel like a village. People are friendly but there is just enough crime to keep the citizens slightly wary and unlikely to give or receive drop-bys.

If I walk outside, I am extremely likely to have a naturally-occurring drop-by, i.e. an unplanned encounter with an acquaintance. I have learned to (mostly) appreciate these interactions and (mostly) do not duck into the first alley when, from a distance, I spot someone I know.

I can deal with and actually enjoy Naturally Occurring Random Social Interaction.  As long as it isn’t a gateway drug to receiving DROP BYS.





Photo Compulsion

I used to be a compulsive photographer. I had a decent camera and an at-home dark room back in the pre-digital days.

I was interested in NYC as embodied by my fellow fringe-dwellers.  To this end, I spent a fair amount of time hanging around a pack of loud and lovely transvestite hookers in the meat-packing district (this was something like 1992).  I got some cool shots.Mostly, I was obsessed with printing. I would spend entire days in my little dark room, breathing in chemicals, printing and re-printing, manipulating the images.  Here is one of my friend Kyosuke.


I had no interest in doing it professionally.  It was just something I loved.  And I couldn’t stop.  I had a part-time job at the National Writers Union .  I worked there three days a week and the other days I wrote. I barely eked by financially, but this was deliberate. I  kept myself poor so I’d be “hungry” and write and write until I broke through and had some kind of success.

Except I was writing less and, instead, PRINTING.  Taking photos was just a means to an end for PRINTING.

I never met my paternal grandfather, but he was an artist.  My father was a horseman by profession, but was also freakishly talented at drawing. He never practiced or studied it, he could just draw.  I can draw a little, but not nearly as well.  I wanted to paint but I REALLY sucked at that. PRINTING REALLY BIG PICTURES was perhaps the natural evolution of having a visual impulse but not enough talent to express it in paint.

I was itching to get photo paper on a giant roll and make monster-sized prints.  I was funneling ALL my money into darkroom stuff.  I was going completely broke from PRINTING.  Also, I wasn’t getting enough writing done.

So one day I went cold turkey.  I dismantled the dark room, selling or giving stuff away.  I gave my camera away. If I saw something cool and had the urge to photograph it, I thought about something else, like sex or food or coffee.  I didn’t allow myself to take a single picture.  After a couple of years, I allowed myself to buy disposable cameras and use those. Occasionally, I’d get a good picture.  And the old urges would stir.   So I stopped buying disposable cameras and didn’t take a single picture until the advent of cell phone cameras.  These were initially so primitive it was virtually impossible to get a good picture.  But I’d try anyway.  I couldn’t help myself.

Here is one of Cooper Lake in Woodstock. It was totally an accident.  On a pre iPhone  phone.  I was amazed when I uploaded it to my computer.  I felt some stirrings.  Urges to have it printed and blown up REALLY BIG. 

But I contained myself.

When the iPhone came along, I started accidentally taking more and more good photos.  Though I imposed the limitation of only photographing dogs and using iPhoto to do any manipulating of images.  Photoshop would be a gateway drug.  Soon, I would want to have digital stuff PRINTED and that would get expensive and compulsive.

The other day, I was out with Mickey, doing my version of morning meditation, walking with him in a beautiful place, quieting my mind by seeing the world through his eyes.   Mickey probably didn’t notice the sky, but I did.  It was as beautiful as the tranny hookers from the 1990’s.  I pointed and shot and got this picture.

And now I’m caving.  I’m going to let myself use an Actual Camera.  Not often, not for long, but I’m going to do it.

Compulsions are often born of good instincts.  Those of us who are predisposed to want to FEEL ENGULFED ALL THE TIME take good instincts and turn them into compulsions.  Wanting more and more and more.  Too much is never enough.  Sometimes we have to completely renounce the things that we were compulsive about.  Other times,  it IS possible to learn to do something in moderation, in a HEALTHY way.

So now maybe, just maybe, I can take pictures IN MODERATION.

Maybe not. If you don’t hear from me for a few months, you’ll know where to find me.  Hunched over a computer, with untrimmed hair and toenails, smelling ripe, subsisting on Clif bars, and  manipulating images.





Dog Lady Magazine

My friend Porochista Khakpour, a smart and gorgeous writer I met at Yaddo a few years back, had a dream that she started a magazine called Dog Lady Magazine.

Porochista announced this dream to her friends and there was a unanimous clamoring (if clamoring can be unanimous) for her to really do it, to launch Dog Lady Magazine.

I jokingly volunteered myself as co-editor and Porochista, a force of nature, seriously took me up on it.

And so, I proudly announce the birth of Dog Lady Magazine: A Magazine of Women and their Canines.

One of our taglines will be “From Pitbulls to Poodles” because, fittingly, I have “pit bulls” (aka mutts with short hair and big heads) and Porochista has a poodle named Cosmo.

Porochista and Cosmo

Moments after we decided that we would in fact do this, Porochista  found inspiring photos of Dog Ladies of the Past.  My favorite of these was Gertrude Stein with her poodle Basket.

Gertrude Stein and Basket


Though I studied Gertrude Stein semi-extensively one semester at Naropa University, I somehow never encountered stories of her poodle named Basket.   One of the regular features of Dog Lady Magazine will be Dog Ladies in History, each issue featuring the story of a Dog Lady from a bygone era.

There are zillions of dog magazines, even more zillions of dog books.  And our world is rife with literature about CAT LADIES but, now, it’s time for a magazine by and for the ladies who love dogs.

I like the “from pit bulls to poodles” approach, so the featured Dog Ladies won’t JUST be zealous pit bull advocate types like me, but will include people like my mom, who has FIFTEEN POODLES.

Zealous Pit Bull Type Me

One of the FAQ’s I get from my mom’s friends is “Why don’t you have a poodle?”

The short answer is “Because I fell in love with a pit bull from death row and that changed my life and worldview.” And made me an unrepentant Dog Lady.

I am excited about this. Though I’m already writing two books and trotting out the occasional magazine piece, (soon embarking on a profile of Extreme Dog Man Jon Katz) usually, the more work I have on my plate, the more productive I become, less prone to wiling hours away watching Cat Dressed In Shark Costume Cleans Floor videos and/or shooting videos of Mickey rolling and exposing himself.

Here is Mickey exposing himself.

Porochista is about to head out West for some journalistic exploits involving buried treasure (seriously) but, when she gets back, we will be developing our ideas, doing some photos and videos, and, as is the modern way,  launching a Kickstarter campaign to get Dog Lady Magazine our of our heads and into the world.

Until then, I will spend my spare time trolling Animal Farm Foundation’s incredible gallery of historical pit bull photos, including many featuring Dog Ladies and the pit bulls who loved them.




The Killer In Me

I posted a photo of a praying mantis on Facebook and asked “What is this insect?”

“Praying mantis” seemed too obvious.  Also, I didn’t know a praying mantis could have PINCERS on its butt.

Stevie the Dog had an altercation with a green praying mantis and, that night, broke out in horrible allergic hives. It was late when I came home and saw his condition.  The nearest emergency vet is not very near.   We gave him Benadryl and half a dog tranquilizer to calm him down and get him to stop scratching, but then I became convinced he could go into anaphylactic shock and DIE. So I fretted all night and barely slept as I stared at his hives and kept checking his breathing.  The next morning, the hives were gone and he was back to his mischievous self.

Stevie plotting mischief

Many people responded to my query about the mantis.  Most informed me that it was indeed a praying mantis. My friend Laura promptly texted: How could you not know what a praying mantis looks like?

In Laura’s world, that kind of ignorance might be punished by being forced to go muck out the goat shed, but I do not live at Laura’s, so my lone punishment for this Insect Ignorance was being mocked by her.


My friend Deb said that it is illegal to kill a praying mantis. I said it was too late, Stevie had already killed off his aggressor.

But this is not true.

Stevie and the mantis came to blows with the mantis literally PUNCHING Stevie in the nose with its arms that, as far as I can tell, do a lot more punching than praying.  I think it’s interesting to note that this insect is called a PRAYING mantis, even though, to me, its arms look like they’re built for boxing.  I wonder if, in other cultures, with better separation of church and state,  it is called a PUNCHING mantis.

Stevie pawed the insect and tried biting its narrow body.  Of course, I was trying to stop all this.  I realize that dogs are dogs and they kill things, but this was unnecessary torment.  The mantis put up a fierce fight, but Stevie struck several violent blows and the mantis could barely move.  So I took off my shoe and SMASHED THAT MANTIS.

I can’t stand suffering.

The late Lulu the Cat, in her youth, would bring birds home.   Still alive.  She wasn’t hungry enough to kill and eat them, but had the instinct to catch them.  And bring them home for me.  At the height of her bloodlust, a few dozen seriously maimed birds ended their lives smashed by a brick I kept on hand for this very purpose.

When my friend Deb said that mantis-killing is illegal, I blamed Stevie.

But now I’ve admitted it. I killed the praying mantis.  I’ve also killed a lot of birds and polished off some tormented mice too.

I don’t know what the Buddhists say about this.  I know they say all life is suffering, but what are we supposed to do about that suffering?  I want to end it and end it swiftly, but maybe it’s not my place, I don’t know.  When I say “I can’t stand suffering” it IS all about me.  I don’t want to see or think of a creature or person suffering – because that makes ME suffer – so I intervene.  But is this the right thing to do?

Sometimes killing IS the merciful thing.  I think.

I know that some people want to be killed rather than suffer the end stages of terminal illness. But euthanizing people is not permitted.

As it happens, it is NOT illegal to kill a praying mantis.

My friend Paul, a resourceful, encyclopedic type, uncovered the information that while there has been a persistent legend that killing a mantis is illegal, it is just this, a legend.

So I legally killed a praying mantis.  I did say “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” as I smashed it with my shoe.  Does that make it better?

Not if you’re a punching mantis.





Abandoned Food Story

I spend a lot of time in the cemetery.  Not out of some Goth ethos, but because it’s a beautiful cemetery.

The cemetery serves as this small city’s lone good-sized park.  People walk dogs there, jog, meander.  There are magnificent trees offering shade on steamy days.  Also, there are many very old (by American standards) tombstones.  They are lovely in their decay.  Evocative.  Good places to look for character names too. 

It was while meandering the cemetery last summer that I came up with the (admittedly absurd, but, to me, enchanting) idea for the short story Zombie Hookers of Hudson.  It’s not a sinister cemetery, so my zombie hookers aren’t sinister either.

What is sinister though is the potatoes.

Someone is leaving POTATOES all over the cemetery.

A few days ago, Mickey suddenly lunged at a bush.  I thought he was hunting a rodent, but no.  He was hunting a giant pile of food left behind this bush. These things weren’t left on or even near anyone’s grave.  They were behind a bush.

Sometimes there are people in parked cars in the cemetery.  This is a little disquieting.  There are folks who go tend the graves of loved ones too, but I don’t know what these PARKED PEOPLE are doing.

The other day, I saw an older couple parked.  They weren’t making out or preparing to go tend a grave. Both seemed to just be staring ahead.  They didn’t smile or wave.

When, a little while later, we passed their parked car again, the man had gotten out  and was slowly walking down one of the cemetery roads, CARRYING POTATOES in his hands.

This reminded me of a story I read a long time ago about a trial for obesity treatment.  Morbidly obese people would check into a clinic and be put onto a strict diet.  These were very large people.  They could not fit into bathrooms and so,  periodically, nurses helped them get cleaned up. A nurse was sponge bathing one of the patients when, within the folds of the man’s flesh, she found POTATOES.  He had snuck them in, fearing intense hunger.  And they HAD BEEN COOKED BY HIS FLESH.

Today, we went to the older part of the cemetery.  People don’t park here, or tend to the graves much.  The dead are too long-dead to still have relations in the area. There are a lot of deer in this part of the cemetery. The deer are unafraid and stand staring at the dogs, even when Stevie barks at them or Mickey makes the high-pitched squeaking sound he makes when he’s not quite sure how to behave. He knows there is some traditional Dog v. Deer response he’s supposed to muster but he isn’t sure what it is.  Barking is pointless, chasing them has, in the past, resulted in his getting lost and injured, but, still, he’s a dog and they are deer.  They shouldn’t just stand there taunting him. Yet they do. They are unflappable deer.

Maybe they’ve been eating potatoes.

We walked on past the unflappable deer and the dogs started rolling in the grass. Both of them.  Over and over and over. 

They would walk a few steps then plop down and roll.  Again and again.

So I started rolling too.

Then, the man I’d seen carrying potatoes walked by.

He looked at me like I was nuts.



Gross Stuff Humans Do With Dogs

I’ve been book-writing, not thinking about blogging so much, but now my friend Xavier, whose blog you can find here, has sort of demanded that I file a post about Gross Stuff Humans Do With Dogs.

This all started when I posted a picture of Mickey’s butt on Facebook and Twitter.  Here is the picture of Mickey’s butt for anyone who missed it.

I know.  Delectable, right?  Kind of gives me weird impulses.  To gnaw on those little tucked-under legs, for example. Which isn’t very logical considering the things that come out of the butt between those legs.

This is going to get a little graphic.

Mickey resembles a cow.  Not just the big splashy brown spots.  He grazes.  Daily.  Some dogs and cats will eat grass when they have an upset stomach.  They chomp some grass then vomit and feel better.  I think this is what people do when tripping on mushrooms, but I actually wouldn’t know.  I tried hallucinogens five different times and NOTHING HAPPENED.  Apparently, I am already weird enough.

My dog is weird too. He eats grass not to vomit, but because he likes grass. He doesn’t digest it very well though and it comes out the other end. Very slowly.

This is going to get a little more graphic (Hi, Xavier.)

Sometimes, Mickey takes a crap and cannot fully eject the snarled clods of grass.  Then, I have to find a big leaf, wrap it around my hand, and pull the grass out of his ass.  It’s okay when we’re in the woods.

In the woods

I fling the sullied leaf to the side, wash my hands in a creek.  It’s less okay when we’re walking in town.

There he’ll be, in the position, on a semi-crowded street, with a very long brown and green THING hanging out of his ass.  In those instances, I have to take a plastic poop bag from my pocket, and use it to PULL.

In town

I never look around when this happens. I know that people who know me have seen me doing this. And I do not wish to know who they are.  Please remain anonymous.

There is a lot of other stuff.  And I could go into what goes on with horses.  Watching vets with their entire arms up a horse’s junk.  Watching my own mother like this.

But I think this is enough.

I think I’ve made my point for Xavier, who will not be gnawing on the backs of Mickey’s legs anytime soon.

Back to work. All of you.