What Kind Of Jerk Am I?

In the early 1990’s, during my extended college career, I was researching a paper on global warming.  This was old-school-style research: Hours at the library, poring through dusty tomes and microfiche. Stuff you don’t remember if you’re under age thirty-five.

Microfishe reader

I’ve always been fascinated by the way the earth works.  And, writing that paper made me realize it wouldn’t work much longer. There was so much scientific data on how badly we had damaged it and heated the oceans and all the stuff that even Republicans acknowledge these days.  I was stunned.  And scared.

My favorite movie was (and actually remains) Bladerunner and I realized that by the year of Bladerunner,  2019, our world would be very different.  I didn’t really think there would be beautiful blond androids running around, but it would be a stranger world.

And now it’s 2 degrees out in November.   I’m sure it’s been 2 degrees in November before.  But there is something disquieting about this 2 degrees.  Partly knowing it could very well be followed by 70 degrees a few days hence.  Or a debilitating storm.

We all know global warming doesn’t just mean hot summers.  It means extremes. Violent storms. The earth screaming. Stunning weather shifts that seem unnatural because THEY ARE UNNATURAL.

And so,  it’s 2 degrees and I need to get Mickey out for his morning walk before going to take a yoga class so I can feel peaceful in the face of the dying earth and the weirdness of our world.

Not a gratuitous Mickey photo

But actually, I opened the laptop NOT planning a mini discourse on killing the earth, but instead to express wild exuberance over something.

If you’ve never read the books of Lawrence Block, you might want to think about doing so. I have read so many they could fill a bathtub (I talked about this in an  essay I wrote for Akashic Books, in conjunction with the release of their USA Noir anthology which includes me and, yes, Lawrence Block. Essay HERE.)

Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block and I go way back.  I’ve devoured his books in good times and bad times and, especially, in in-between times.  I feel like he’s my funny, cool uncle but I’ve never met him.  So I was quite astonished last week when, out of the blue, on Twitter, LAWRENCE BLOCK suddenly trumpeted my book Alice Fantastic.  The best part?  He said:  Maggie’s novel Alice Fantastic’s a delight. One does suspect the writer’s mad, but that’s not a bad thing.

How cool is THAT?

Also, my friend Dana Kinstler sent a text yesterday telling me I was mentioned in the New York Times. Dana and I both contributed essays to “Goodbye To All That” an anthology about leaving New York City.  Perhaps most noteworthy in the antho is Rebecca Wolff’s “So Long, Suckers” which I wish I had written.  My essay is fine, but hers is better.

I looked through The Times and found the relevant piece in the Style section. And “mention” is accurate.  My name is mentioned.  It does not say anything about my essay or that I am suspected of madness.

What kind of an attention-craving jerk am I to be offended that there aren’t several paragraphs devoted to ME?

At yoga this morning, Sondra, our fearless leader over at Sadhana Yoga, taught a lovely class.  At the end, she told us about a tribe in Africa where folks who are having trouble coping temporarily abandon their responsibilities, dig a hole five feet down into the earth, and burrow in there for a while.  It is tacitly understood that the rest of the tribe will pick up the slack, tending to the burrowing person’s responsibilities while that person restores herself communing inside the earth.

I think I need that.  To burrow into the earth for a while.  Perhaps with a Lawrence Block book and my dog, perhaps completely alone inside the earth, listening to its murmurs and screams and dreaming up ways to fix it.





The Puppy Controversy

Some months back, as documented in a post at the time, my friend Tim Ebneth and I drove together to an opening featuring the work of our friend Richard Boch.

On the way, we came upon a box of toys left at the side of the road with a sign reading FREE TO A GOOD HOME.  Tim stopped the car and we took some toys. A lot of toys.  Here are some of them.

Tim then used most of these toys in an installation for his own art show last month.  It was an excellent show.  He sold lots of work.  Though not the toys.

Meanwhile, the picture of Tim clutching the KITTY CAT was widely circulated on Facebook. 

And  controversy started when Richard began calling the fluffy animal Tim was clutching a PUPPY.  I kept correcting Richard, telling him it is a KITTY, but he’s a stubborn man with species confusion and, to this day, talks about the time Tim stopped and rescued a PUPPY.

Enter Laura the Hot Farmer.

This is a woman who slits the necks of chickens and keeps bees even though she’s allergic to bees and beekeepers get stung.  Laura is so fierce and stubborn she has scared her bee allergy into submission, if not the bees themselves.

Also, she keeps insisting it was a stuffed PUPPY that Tim rescued by the side of the road.

Laura the Hot Farmer at Tim’s show

Earlier today, Tim stopped by to visit with Richard and his real life cat.  Tim brought the stuffed kitty to meet the real kitty.  

Only, of course, Richard is still calling the stuffed kitty a PUPPY. And so is Laura.

Tonight, I’m on my way to Spotty Dogs Books and Ale to do a reading with a few other local writers including my friend Karen Crumley Keats.  In fact, I’m going to read the opening of my noir-novel-in-progress which features a woman killing a man and rescuing a PUPPY.

It was loosely based on this PUPPY, who we found on a beach in Mexico with a suspicious bite wound on his leg.

Did I kill the man who was responsible for this puppy nearly ending up dying on a beach with a severely infected bite wound?

Probably not.

But don’t tell Richard and Laura that.



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.




Quasimodo and Esteban

When I was a little kid, I loved “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.

Yes,  I read it IN FRENCH when I was about ten.  I was living in France so it’s not as foufou as it sounds.

I was a wild and fairly rotten kid and was always either off adventuring on my bike or locking myself in my room to read and block out my parents who I considered intrusive and disruptive.  They expected me to do things like go to school or eat dinner.

One of my punishments for wildness and contrarianism was that my step-father bought me dozens of French classics in French.  If I wanted to read obsessively,  it had to be classics in French

So it was that I came to read Sartre, Camus, Moliere and, more benignly, Victor Hugo, in French, when I was ten. This probably explains a lot.  Also, I am grateful for this totally unsentimental education (yes, there was some Flaubert in there too.)

I don’t remember much about The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Except of course Quasimodo and his bell-ringing.

Not long after reading the book, I went to the top of Notre Dame de Paris and looked at the bell and looked all over for Quasimodo.  He was not there.  But there were gargoyles and these appeased me. 

Yesterday, walking the dogs in the cemetery, we came across this weird bell thingamajig.  Stevie was fascinated and went to stand on the bell memorial – or whatever it is. 

This doesn’t even vaguely resemble the bell atop Notre Dame de Paris.  Looks a bit more like The Alamo and so it’s fitting that Esteban, “Stevie”, the Mexican Beach Dog, should be interested in it.

There is no moral to this story.




When I was three or four years old, living on a horse farm, we had a chicken who followed me around everywhere.  I talked to her, she talked back.  She was a friend.

I don’t know what happened to her.  I don’t think my parents slit her throat and cooked her, though they may have.  All I know is that it was another ten years or so when, as a teenager, I thought: “Hey, why am I eating animals? I like animals and I do not need to eat them to be healthy.”

This is the part where maybe you, gentle reader, tune out:  Oh, yeah, vegetarianism, blah blah.  Good for her.  Not my choice.

Humor me. You may want to rethink the concept choice.

I became a vegetarian teenager.   For a few years, I still dabbled, sometimes caving to social pressure, occasionally eating chicken or fish, under the impression that somehow this was better (it’s not, the practices for factory farming birds and fish are, if anything, WORSE than those for farming cows and 99% of the animals we eat are factory farmed. Family farms are just about completely extinct.)

Over the past week, I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s extraordinary Eating Animals and Catskill Animal Sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens’ lovely book Animal Camp.

Also, my friend Laura the Hot Farmer killed one of her pigs and ate him.

I’ve been bordering on vegan for years, but now I’m over the border: Officially Vegan.

It wasn’t the Facebook picture of Laura’s pig’s HEAD (a pig I had met)  on a table that did it.

It wasn’t reading and taking in (in a way I’d never before taken in) the brutal and hideous facts of factory farming, transport and slaughter.

It wasn’t even reading the tender stories, in  Animal Camp, of chickens befriending pigs befriending horses befriending sheep and ALL befriending people.  It was the realization that I know damn well that even “organic” store-bought eggs come from creatures that have suffered unnecessarily.   Why was I contributing to this?

I can do better.

The weather is wonky.  Climate change is real.   We are all spooked.

FACT: Factory farming “emissions” contribute more to global warming than all fuel emissions combined. Why don’t we talk about that?

FACT: We are killing the earth, and ourselves, in order to grow cheap meat.

This is how “farms” dispose of their toxic mix of shit, blood and ground-up diseased animals:

“….sometimes they simply spray it straight up into the air, a geyser of shit  wafting fine fecal mists that create swirling gases capable of causing severe neurological damage.  Communities living near these factory farms complain about problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning lungs.  Even when the citizens have managed to pass laws that would restrict these practices, the industry’s immense influence in government means the regulations are often nullified or go unenforced.”

My friend Jody Sigler recently sent me a photo of a sign for ROADSIDE MEAT.  A stand, in Tennessee, selling steaks.  20 for $25.  Accepting food stamps too!

As gross as the concept of a roadside meat stand is to many of us, it’s probably no worse than the meat or even the eggs and cheese we buy at the store.

Every week…millions of chickens leaking yellow pus, stained by green feces, contaminated by harmful bacteria, or marred by lung and heart infections, cancerous tumors, or skin conditions are shipped for sale to consumers….how good could a drug-stuffed, disease ridden, shit-contaminated animal possibly taste? – but the birds will be injected with “broths” and salty solutions to give them what we have come to think of as the chicken look, smell, and taste…

It would be healthier for us — and for the earth — to eat roadkill or our own dogs and cats than to eat the meat and dairy sold in grocery stores.  Even high-end ones.  Even “organic” ones.

When I was young and the Smiths’ album MEAT IS MURDER came out, I was already a veg, but, still, I thought “Wow, that’s a pretty strident title.”

Also, when I used to take class at Jivamukti Yoga in the city, co-founders David and Sharon would often launch into jeremiads against eating animals.  I would think: “Aren’t they preaching to the converted?  Who the hell eats meat and goes to yoga?”

I was a naïve idiot.  The answer is: A LOT OF PEOPLE.

Because we think we have to to survive.  This idea (and it is just that, an idea, not a fact) had been shoved down our throats by politically powerful corporations and by the USDA.

“…our nation gets its federally endorsed nutritional information from an agency (the USDA) that must support the food industry, which today means supporting factory farms.  The details of misinformation that dribble into our lives (like fears about “enough protein”) follow naturally from this fact…”

Doctors and nutritionists often go by guidelines issued by the USDA.  This is NOT science.  These are statistics issued by an agency with an enormous conflict of interest.

I used to be vaguely apologetic about being vegetarian. Screw that.

Laying hens,  even so-called “free range” or “organic” ones, do NOT lead good lives and their deaths are unspeakably brutal.

All meat sold to the public (including “organic” “grass fed” “free range”) has to be killed in a USDA slaughterhouse.

Underpaid slaughterhouse workers become desensitized and sometimes sadistic.

They piss on dying or dead animals.  They poke them in the eyes, anus and mouth with electric prods.  They beat them with steels pipes. They saw off animals’ limbs while the animals are still alive, their eyes rolling in their heads.

All this has been documented. No. NOT by animal rights extremists.  By USDA inspectors who have WARNED the facilities in advance that they are coming for an inspection. 

Even if a person only eats animals from one of the very few surviving family farms in this world, the animals still have to be transported and slaughtered in a USDA plant.

We do not need meat or dairy or eggs to survive and thrive. Many many centuries ago, in certain climates, eating animals was the only way for humans to survive.  But these animals weren’t grown in cages or skinned alive or pissed on or prodded.  They lived the (sometimes brutal but FAIR) lives animals live in nature  –and then were hunted and killed.

My friend Laura’s pig got to live a natural pig life during its brief time on earth. This is her thoughtful blog post about it.  The pig lived free of drugs, he hung out with other pigs, rolled around in the mud and had shelter, sunshine, good food and the respect of the humans who eventually swiftly killed him.

Raising one’s own animals (and killing them quickly and without fear) is the only ethically viable (and earth-friendly) way to eat them. People say “I dont’ want to think about that.”  Then they shouldn’t eat that.  I respect Laura and people like Laura.  They are eating consciously.  It’s not something I would choose, but it is the only healthy way to eat animals.  If everyone suddenly STOPPED eating factory products and ONLY ate vegan or the animal products from the very few remaining family farms, corporations and  government would get the message.

I have recommended reading Eating Animals to others.  They all shake their heads and say, No thanks.

What are people afraid of?  Becoming vegetarian?  It frees us of the dominion of profoundly immoral corporations, improves our health and the health of the planet, and ends the pointless torture of BILLIONS of living creatures. It is US who are being factory farmed.  By corporations that have horrifying political power.  We have the power to put them out of business.

One final quote from Eating Animals (all quotes in this post are from Eating Animals.)  This is from Frank Reese, the self-titled Last Poultry Farmer, who raises his animals free range, on a species-appropriate diet AND supervises the animals’ deaths in the LAST small, and Actually Humane slaughterhouse.  The final two sentences sum up my feelings exactly.

“People care about animals.  I believe that.  They just don’t want to know or to pay.  A fourth of all chickens have stress fractures.  It’s wrong.  They’re packed body to body and can’t escape their waste and never see the sun.  Their nails grow around the bars of their cages.  It’s wrong.  They feel their slaughter.  It’s wrong, and people know it’s wrong.  They don’t need to be convinced. They just have to act differently.  I’m not better than anyone, and I’m not trying to convince people to live by my standards of what’s right.  I’m trying to convince them to live by their own.”






Life With The Cast of Girls

I’m in Brooklyn, with my dog Mickey, dog-sitting my ex-dog Spike for a week.

(Yes, the word DOG appeared three times in that very short sentence.)

Spike lives in Williamsburg, which is not my favorite neighborhood.  It was once peaceful, quiet, cheap.  But that was a long time ago.  Now, it’s like rush hour Midtown Manhattan peopled by the cast of the HBO show GIRLS.

I watched a few episodes of GIRLS after its auteur, 27-year-old Lena Dunham,  received a 3.5 million dollar advance to write an “advice” book.

GIRLS, as best I can tell, is about privileged, parent-funded, well-educated young white people making culturally imperialistic commentary on  New York’s less-privileged citizens and having shocking experiences like:  “OMG, I accidentally smoked CRACK when I went to a party in a slightly non-white neighborhood, OMG!”

I’ve done enough yoga that I don’t get completely homicidal trying to navigate walking two dogs through waves of would-be GIRLS extras in Williamsburg, but I can’t say I enjoy it very much.  I grit my teeth until we reach McCarren Park where there is some chance of walking a few steps before a GIRLS extra smacks into me as he or she texts and walks and chews gum and listens to Mumford and Sons and upgrades her phone’s operating system at the same time.

Even though I lived in NYC for more than 20 years, I like QUIET and SPACE.  I like art and music and people (usually) so I do love cities, and passionately loved NYC for a long time.  But I need to be able to hear myself think, to walk slowly and SEE stuff.

If you walk slowly in Williamsburg these days, a GIRLS extra smashes you over the head with an ironic totebag.

When I first came to NYC, I lived on the Lower East Side and it was QUIET.  It was also dangerous and, accordingly, cheap.  That was fine with me.  The Guys-With-Firearms-Chasing-Junkies Factor kept the obnoxious, entitled types confined uptown and in the suburbs.  The cast of GIRLS would not have lasted five seconds.

I have an essay coming out in the fall in a book called “Goodbye to all That” a collection of musings about how and why people leave New York.

Writing the essay made me go back through my mental images of the city, cataloging all the extraordinary experiences I’ve had here.  It’s an astonishing place and I loved it long and hard, but what I loved about it most was the way it presented possibilities for almost anyone, including poor people and non-white people, who had a good imagination and a lot of perseverance.

Maybe it still does that, but I can’t tell, because I can’t HEAR MYSELF THINK.

There are still oases.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art on a Friday night.

Prospect Park.  

There is St Marks Bookshop, where I had a grand time reading the other night for the launch of The Marijuana Chronicles, an anthology I wrote a zombies-saved-by-weed story for.

St Marks Bookshop has been around since 1977.  I’ve shopped there for many years and they’ve been very supportive of my work and the work of others who would not be suitable cast members on GIRLS.

As I stood in the stacks, listening to other anthology contributors read, (and marveling at how tall fellow contributor and excellent writer Lee Child is) I perused the shelves.  I wanted to fondle nearly every book I saw.

Jonathan Santlofer and Lee Child

I actually LIKE electronic books and am pretty much all for them, but nothing can take the place of standing between bookshelves, SMELLING books, looking at the spines of books.

I hope that no matter how choked and crowded and glitzy New York becomes, it never pushes out St Marks Bookstore.  If it does, I’m gonna have to fuck someone up.  Probably a member of the cast of GIRLS.










When The Dead Visit

It’s been five days since Lulu died and I’m seeing that cat everywhere.  Curled up in the closet.   On top of the counter, waiting for her chicken. Lording over the garden.

“Seeing” the dead in the days/months and, occasionally, YEARS after they’ve died is normal for me, and for a lot of us, I think.   Possibly more so for those who spend time  mucking around the subconscious through writing, painting, yoga, whathaveyou.

I’ve seen the dead for as long as I can remember.  And also have had a lot of woo-woo “psychic” moments:  Thinking of someone I haven’t seen in years and either hearing from them or running into them twenty minutes later.

William S. Burroughs believed in all kinds of magic and dreams and psychic things. And he had a LOT of cats. Burroughs also used to say: Be careful what you write.

I heard this advice early on in my writing life, maybe while attending one of  Burroughs’ workshops at Naropa, maybe reading it somewhere.

I was smitten by this idea that we could write things into reality.  I also took it seriously — and still do.  If I kill a character in a book, I make sure it’s a REALLY fictional character possessing neither the name nor any characteristics of anyone I know.

Also, I’ve seemingly made good stuff happen by writing it.

In one book, I ended up falling in love with a character.  He was a daydreamy, eccentric, rogue sort of guy.  When I finished the book, I was really sad to stop spending time with him.  The next man I went out was pretty much EXACTLY that character.

He had existed all along, I just hadn’t met him in real life yet.

I had a thread going on the Facebook page a few days ago about seeing the dead.   Many people said they also see dead people and animals.  A number of folks reported not having actual “sightings”, but dreams in which a dead person spoke to them, even offered guidance.

After my father died in 1995, (suddenly and young-ish)  I had a few dreams about him and I “saw” him several times, but never as much  as I saw my friend Mark Ashwill, who died in 2000 at the age of 45 (my slightly hyperbolic Voice obit of him here.)

I saw Mark (and sometimes still do) EVERYWHERE.

Mark and the late Thunderbolt rollercoaster, Coney Island, 1990′s.

Usually, he’s dancing.  Or laughing.  Or up to some sort of mischief.   I don’t really know why he stays with me so much.  I don’t think he’s stuck in some netherworld, being forced to put in 13 years appearing to his living friends.

Maybe he stays with me because I watched him die.  He was a close friends and he was dying while I wrote Hex, so his dying ended up in the book. He even picked out his own character name: Oliver.

Maybe, as a result, a piece of him got stuck inside me.  Stuffed into one of those as-yet-unexplored recesses of my brain/mind.

A lot of stuff goes on in those recesses.

Some call it god, some call it magic, others call it hogwash.

I don’t know what to call it other than That Freaky Thing That Happens When Someone Dies.

On of my favorite short stories is Will Self’s  “The North London Book of the Dead” (read it here or buy one of his books — when he’s good, he’s one of the best, when he’s bad, I want to smack him upside the head with his own vocabulary.)

In the story, the narrator runs into his dead mother one day and discovers that dead people are simply relocated to a different part of town.

Will Self obviously sees dead people.

Now, since she just died, it’s Lulu the Cat I am seeing. It’s a haunting of sorts, or a GHOSTING as my friend Judy calls it, and I like it.

It makes the grief weigh less. 












Lulu the Warrior: 1995-June 20, 2013

Lulu the cat died today at 12:20pm.  She went peacefully.  Or as peacefully as a Warrior Cat can go –which means she scratched me one last time.

That’s my girl. 

She died one day after James Gandolfini who died far too young.  Lulu was not young.  Though I think she was merely 18, not 19 as I had claimed in a previous post about her.

That’s 126 in dog years.  Probably about 100 in cat years.  OLD.

I’ve been sick for several days and had spent a lot of time with Lulu.  She was crankier and more restless than usual. She was still walking around and even jumping on things, but she would barely eat chicken, was vomiting, howling and agitated.

When my boyfriend took the dogs out for a walk this morning, I carried Lulu out to the garden.  She was skinny and wobbly, and her fur was a little dull. She didn’t do her rounds or go look for her catmint plant, she just  repeatedly tried  to escape the garden.

In that moment I realized:  She wants to go die.

I didn’t want her  having the violent or slow death she would find in the world beyond the garden.  That much I could spare her.  I called my vet to see if he would come put her to sleep at home.  It took some coercion, he doesn’t usually do house calls,  but he agreed to come.

I had about two hours.

With all my other cats, there was a moment, a LOOK.  They were usually fairly physically debilitated and there came a day when they looked at me and said,  in no uncertain terms: Time to die.

Not Lulu.  Lulu was a fighter. She fought everything and everyone on principle.  Even after she came in my window, 18 years ago, choosing me, she still resisted being tamed.  When I could finally wrassle her into a carrier and get her to a vet all those years ago, her file promptly got marked with EXTREMELY FRACTIOUS.

The vet had to wear GAUNTLETS to examine her and she still shredded his arms and got him on the face.

One time, when my friend Alex cat sat Lulu and the late Stinky, Lulu was in a cast from having broken her arm when she’d gone out to pick a fight with a cat five times her size.  Alex came over to ATTEMPT giving Lulu her pain pill and some food and found Lulu had RIPPED HER CAST OFF.  She also declined the pain medicine in no uncertain terms.

A few years back, I went down to Florida to teach a workshop at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.  Mickey stayed with a trustworthy dog sitter up in the woods but Lulu, who was diabetic at the time (she later cured herself of diabetes by insisting on being fed only fresh chicken)  and who would NOT allow anyone else to give her insulin shots, had to fly with me to Florida so I could take care of her.

Lulu and Me Selfie in Florida

When the security people at the airport said I had to take the kitty cat out of the carrier so they could RUN THE WAND OVER HER,  I said: That’s probably not a good idea.

They thought I was trying to pull a fast one.

TAKE THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG, Miss, they said.

Lulu, for once, was actually terrified and did not rip the eyes out of the TSA workers.  Nor was she found to contain explosives.  At least, not that kind.

This morning, after the vet’s receptionist called back to say the doc would be by in two hours, my boyfriend went upstairs to say goodbye to Lulu.

She looked at him for a minute but that was about it.

Then, I went up.

I took her onto my chest, the only form of cuddling she’d ever gone in for, a quick chest-roosting with concurrent drooling. She stayed there for a few minutes and I told her all the things I needed to tell her.

About 30 minutes before the vet was set to arrive, I gave her a strong dose of animal tranquilizer.  She climbed up on my desk and stared out the window at the garden.

The tranquilizer hit her and she put her head down on her paws. When it seemed like she was really out of it, I carried her to her favorite spot on the bed and put her on the orange bath towel she liked.

I started weeping, getting a little hysterical.

Lulu had lived with me longer than any human, including parents or siblings and, as cranky as she was with the world, she showed me extreme tenderness.  She was, I think, determined to stay with me till I died. I was the only thing she ever understood about love.

I realized that crying hysterically wasn’t helping anything.  This was about HER death, not about me.

I stopped. I chanted Om Shanti to her over and over. I told her to go find peace.  She had her head in my hand.  She reached out and scratched me a little.  Then I said: Stop fighting, you won.

When the vet arrived, she hadn’t moved at all in about 15 minutes.  He went to touch her and she suddenly lifted her head and hissed.  He gave her a sedative and we waited.

I watched her little belly rising and falling with breath as he administered the death shot.  Then, her belly stopped moving.  She was gone.

After the vet left, I looked at her one last time, kissed her head, then wrapped her in her orange towel and put her in a cloth laundry bag. We couldn’t bury her in the garden, Stevie the Mexican Pup would dig her up.

I thought of a beautiful and stately place not too far away, which shall remain nameless because they may frown upon visitors burying cats in their woods.

We put the dogs and a shovel and Lulu’s body in the car and drove to the beautiful place.  Some people did see us walking into the woods, two dogs, and two humans, one carrying a laundry bag, the other carrying a shovel, but no one said anything.

We found a spot among trees, where a beam of sun cast light.  It overlooked a lake. 

We dug a hole and put her in the ground.  He said some prayers.  We covered her grave with stones.

She may get dug up by wild animals, but probably not.  No one screws with Lulu, not even when she’s dead.

I don’t really care for that “Rainbow Bridge” business that is popular among pet owners.  The idea that when animals die they go to a field to wait for us,  sometimes for a REALLY long time, until we die too and then we all cross the “Rainbrow Bridge” together.

If there is an afterlife, I want my animal companions to go there and FUCK SHIT UP.  Be wild.  Be in nature. BE FREE.

That said, I have no doubt whatsoever that if anything remotely resembling a Rainbow Bridge exists, Lulu will camp out there and not BUDGE until I get there.

She was a cranky spitfire and she terrorized a lot of people, dogs, and other cats, but she loved me as fiercely as any being can love another.

Rest in Peace, Warrior Cat.