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A Red Ruby Heart on the way to New Orleans

Sometimes a straight line is a curve. That’s Tai Chi talk. It also describes the path to a major US press taken by Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, the debut novel by literary colleague (and grad school friend) Morgan Callan Rogers. The novel, set on the Maine coast and narrated by a girl whose mother disappears, first caught the attention of a German press that specializes in maritime stories. I’m sure they were attracted by the excellent storytelling and Morgan’s intimate knowledge of coastal living:

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea

As the water got deeper, it got colder. My ears felt as if they were pressing against my brains, and I wanted to head back up in the worst way. But Bud grabbed my hand and we spiraled down, until he stopped and pointed.

We’d reached an underwater city of rusty black rocks, where barnacles dotted the surfaces. Seaweed church steeples reached for the light. The far-above sun filtered through them, and Bud and I wove our way through their paths. An olive-colored crab marched backward between two rocks as two small silver fish swam past. A flash of white belly gave a flounder away as it sped off.

Astute readers soon made the German translation a bestseller in their country, which encouraged Viking to release it back across the ocean in Morgan’s native land and tongue.

In Boston she’ll be at the new location of Newtonville Books on Monday, April 23 at 7:00 pm. She will be joined by Kevin Barry, author of City of Bohane. I’m excited to hear Morgan read her pitch-perfect dialogue and to see the new digs of Newtonville Books.

Later next week, I’ll Pull Over the Car to see Dana, Jeremy, and Jerome in New Orleans

Members of Morphine & Jeremy Lyons

We’re going to the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Special treat will be a major stage set by Jeremy Lyons and Members of Morphine in the Blues Tent on Saturday, April 28 at 12:25 pm. If you’re not walking (or flying or training or driving) to New Orleans, you can tune in to a live broadcast by WWOZ on-line. Good times, y’all!

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Urban Critters, Part 2: Wild Turkey in Mid-Cambridge

Yesterday this wild turkey visited the freshman dorms in Harvard Yard. Today she picked and gobbled along behind my house. I’ve seen plenty of these, but usually in places that have more grass than grad students.

Wild Turkey in Mid-Cambridge

Lorem Ipsum Books: Books for your home

“I used to be suspicious of homes that didn’t have books,” I said to the young bookseller at Lorem Ipsum, the local used bookstore and artist cooperative space in Inman Square.

“I still am,” he said. “Although I understand they’re more common.”

Lorem Impsum Books in the Phoenix

Urban Critters

Recently while we were saying goodnight to a friend in our driveway, a possum ran across the other end of it, briefly breaking into the open as it hurried along the lines of the apartment buildings around us. After that cameo, and after hearing fiddlers Julie Metcalf and Andy Reiner perform a rendition of the folk tune “Raccoon’s Got a Bushy Tail (Possum tail goes bare),” I marveled again at the number and variety of critters we’ve seen or have seen evidence of in the midst of a city that is at times noted for being the most densely populated (with people) municipality in the US.

The urban critters we’ve seen around (and rarely in) our house include:

"Cat Found"

  1. Said possum. Or more correctly, said opossum, or more specifically, said Virginia opossum. Technically a possum is a whole other although related marsupial found only in Australia. But try telling that to an opossum who you’ve frightened into “playing possum” or feigning death. He won’t be able to hear you because he’s involuntarily fallen into a coma-like state and is secreting a dead-animal smell in the hopes that you don’t eat dead animals—which you do but even you don’t like them to smell like rotting flesh.
  2. Read more…

The Escalade Honks for Occupy Boston

Friend, writer, and adventurer Anne Bowman was in town for the weekend. She went with us on our first foray to Occupy Boston in Dewey Square. We wanted to feel the vibe of this nascent movement for ourselves. Is it just children playing in the sunshine? Anarchists and discontents merely littering the lawn? Or are they doing, as the Rev. Dr. Robert Allen Hill (chaplain of Boston University) suggested is critical for our survival, “the foundational work that this era requires?”

We arrived in the lull between afternoon rallies, the air clear, the sky blue, and the temperature warm enough that we doffed our jackets. We stood for a while across the street in the shadow of the Federal Reserve Building. A young woman held a sign that said, “HONK FOR OCCUPY BOSTON.”

A black Escalade (is there any other color?) with Jersey plates honked. Anne said, “The Escalade? Really?” I stared through the open windows at the driver and passengers. On their faces I saw some amusement but not irony or sarcasm or worse. And yes, they’re the 99% also, perhaps further up the food chain, but not at the top.

After a few minutes we crossed the street and took a stroll down Main Street in the tent town of Occupy Boston and then stood on the sidewalk facing the Fed Building during the rally. We had cameras but didn’t use them; we wanted to be aware but not worried about curating the moment. News reports focus on yang qualities of protest–size of rallies, confrontations, flashpoints, demands, he said, she countered.

Here’s what I observed about some yin qualities of Occupy Boston. The women of a certain age who staffed the information table and passed out fliers and gently directed enquirers to people or places that they sought. The young man in a black mask who supported something strapped behind his back while he ran across the street, which in another place may have been an automatic weapon, but which was in fact a water bottle holder. He ran back to the rally with a case of Poland Spring water. His outfit suggested an element of playing at protesting, but his presence and role suggested that foundational work that Dr. Hill identified.

Other evidence of foundational work: the makeshift boardwalk across the muddy parts of Main Street. The Library. The Meditation Tent. The young man strumming a guitar who was showing another a chord progression. The man of a certain age whose two-sided placard (three lines on each side) offered a concise economic analysis and pinpointed doable economic reform. The man with dreads that gathered a small group for an educational session. The Logistics Tent that took in and distributed real goods and kept an updated list of needs. The logistics people who immediately showed up at the curbside when a car pulled over with donated blankets and such. The overheard conversation about planning for winter since most of the tents there wouldn’t stand up to a moderate snow.

That planning conversation impressed me the most, as it reflected the conviction, foresight, and faith in gathering together that can lead to fundamental change. A text I recently read talked about the yin qualities of water and how the relentless flow of the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon. I have faith in the stream of change being channeled by Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together as observed in the tributary of Occupy Boston. I’m not worried that direct political action has not yet coalesced. “First in the mind, then in the body.” First in individual minds, then in the body politic.

Honk if we are you.

“First Frost” crystalizes around leaving and returning home

My (very) short fiction, “First Frost,” appears in the October 2011 issue of Portland Magazine. A mother gives us a glimpse of the soft appearances and hard realities of her daughter’s first visit home to Maine after leaving for college. It’s a Fall piece. Geese and their shadow metaphors fly freely. Or at least waddle about.

Issues are available on newsstands and from the website of Portland Magazine. Portland Magazine, October 2011

Missing Missoni

Last week Target and Missoni perpetrated a marketing coup on the American public. I’m late to the game in commenting on it, but then, I didn’t wait outside the doors of the Watertown Target at 7 am to be able to grab odd-sized Missoni boots to sell on eBay. I’m not that type. So I’m writing this now.

But I do love pop cultural moments, and this was one. Especially when we received a special invitation from Miss Patti, who has been awarded black belts in several shopping arts, to attend to the Missoni moment. Unfortunately for the acquisition side, the moment was a Tuesday morning, which meant first training in T’ai Chi Ch’uan at the gym for this ageless group of zig-zag seekers. By the time we arrived shortly before 11 am, the end caps had been laid bare to the point that Miss P. hoped they had not yet been stocked. But the display of one left rubber rain boot (size 5) and the gloating of an ash-blond woman who had seven Missoni shoe boxes in her cart told the frenzied tale.

Miss Patti and Madame Kim

As expert marketing strategists, Target had scattered the Missoni merchandise across the entire store. “You just have to look for it,” was the bored reply from clerks we queried. What we found was one colorful bed linen bundle that had been dumped on a random shelf, and a display of boring beige bed bundles that had the feel of a Motel 6 bed spread that had seen too many washings. Oh, and we stumbled on several items that had nothing to do with the mission but we picked up as long we were there. Congratulations, Target, win-win on your part.

Thankfully, a shopper we accosted who had a delightful Missoni rug not only told us where she found it but followed us there to make sure we got to the right place. In true Miss Patti fashion, Madame Kim and I were enlisted to consider all of the remaining candidates. A rug was chosen and a friend was detoured from the disappointment of Missoni to an al fresco lunch. And the band played on.

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