Reading Habits

If read first thing in the morning, these words will be hazy, full of non sequiturs and inconsistencies.

If read after the second cup of coffee, these words will be crisp and pithy.

If read after lunch, these words will languish, bloated and weary.

If read in the late afternoon, these words will arouse irritation.

If read after a drink in the quiet of evening, these words will glow with wit and acumen.

If read right before bed, these words will blur obtusely.


Dear Aunt Lynn

I went for a walk today

And thought about you and your cast iron pan problem.

I know how Uncle Billy is about his kitchen.

That's why I was thinking, best for you just to stay out of there.

If you want an egg, make it in the microwave.

I couldn't really enjoy my walk because I kept thinking, if only Aunt Lynn were here,

Then she wouldn't have to be sitting inside watching TV and worrying about that cast iron pan.

But then I remembered about your allergies and thought about how you would be sneezing and miserable and complaining the whole time.

So I just tried to forget about you and enjoy my walk.

Like you always say, "Smell the flowers because they sure as hell ain't gonna smell you."

There's some real wisdom there, Aunt Lynn, I know, because I'm still turning that one around in my head.

Other people say not to pick the neighbor's flowers.

But not you, Aunt Lynn.  Nothing keeps you down.  Not even this cast iron pan ordeal.

Not even Uncle Billy when his eyes turn to laser beams.

And I agree, Aunt Lynn.  There's a lot you can do to a cast iron pan, but ruining it ain't one of them.

Give Uncle Billy and the little Billies a hug from me. 

 He'll be back to normal before you know it.
And then you'll be calling to complain about that.

Love Ya!


Some Great Books I've Recently Read and How I Came Across Them

Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

Many defectors she interviewed said the single most surprising thing about life outside North Korea is that people kiss in public.  David Sedaris mentioned the book in a recent New York Times Book Review.

Alison Bechdel's Fun Home

"My husband reluctantly picked it up, not being something he's normally interested in.  But he couldn't put it down."  At a newly formed book group, a friend's testimonial for this graphic memoir.  Alison's dad is obsessed with the restoration of their Adam's Family mansion and with Alison's lack of femininity.  Alison is obsessed with her dad's secret affairs with young men and his death, hit by a truck, an accident the family believes was suicide.

Kazou Ishiguru's Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

A friend who knows how much I loved An Artist of the Floating World and Remains of the Day, sent a signed hardcover copy of Kazuo Ishiguro's first book of short stories in which a man, caught in a mystifying trap set by his best friend, cooks a broth of old boot to make his friend's apartment smell like dog to make his friend's wife believe it was a neighbor's dog that mangled several pages in her diary.

R. Crumb's Kafka with text by David Zane Mairowitz

Found at the Appleton Public Library while browsing the 800's.

Kafka wrote to his publisher Kurt Wolff before The Metamorphosis was printed to insist, "Not that, anything but that.  The insect itself cannot be depicted.  It mustn't even be shown from a distance." But I think he might have changed his mind if he had seen Crumb's vision of Gregor Samsa as a giant beetle, clasping the framed picture of a lady in fur, trying to prevent his screaming sister from taking it off the wall, Gregor's mother passed out from horror in a nearby chair.  Or Crumb's vision of the apple Gregor's father threw, embedding itself in Gregor's cracking exoskeleton, eventually causing his death.

John Hersey's A Single Pebble

Impossible to know for sure, but I think this pleasing hardbound I picked up at a book sale, recognizing the author of two personally influential books, Hiroshima, and My Petition for More Space.

In the book's opening scene, the British engineer narrator is giddy about all the good he will do for China on this, his first trip up the Yangtze in an old fashioned junk boat to scout out the best location for a dam.  But the morning they are to launch, the cook declares he has forgotten the cabbage and jumps ship.  The rest of the crew relaxes while the engineer stews, becoming more and more upset with every passing minute.  In the evening, the cook returns without cabbage to jocular greetings, the engineer incensed that their trip has been postponed until the next morning for such frivolous reasons, the first of many cross cultural misunderstandings.


Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette; Part 9: Travel Etiquette at Home and Abroad; "The Paid Dancing Partner"

The quietly paid effort
Underwrites our careful 
Most conservative women,
Who, unaccompanied,
Seek brief permission.

It's merely ridiculous to introduce
These gentlemen as "gigolos"
But for a small fee,
Our chaperones correctly pretend,
Begging contact,
Seeking trouble,
Permitting shame,
That frequent duty of management,
To employ, on such basis,
A concessionaire.

(Our director,
With no effort, 
was promptly dismissed.
He, in advance of the concierge,
Paid openly for this unescorted woman.)

Forty cents,
To advance
Over the large tip,
At the end of a rendered evening.
By all accounting,
We request.
Sit, drink, 
Until all disbursements are settled.


Bargain Hunter

When I moved in with him, in El Estor, Guatemala, A. had a wooden loveseat.  It was a very uncomfortable loveseat because the slats were too far apart and cut deep grooves into the flesh.  A. told me that when he had first arrived in El Estor he had no furniture, and so he went in search of a carpenter who could make him a loveseat.  He found a man who told him the price of making a loveseat and A., though he had no idea the price of making a loveseat in El Estor, just knew that the man was trying to rip him off because that's the way people were.  A., not wanting to be seen as a fool, bargained ruthlessly with the carpenter, insisting on a price half of what the man originally quoted.  Eventually, the man, needing the work, reluctantly gave in, making A. feel triumphant.  But in order to make the loveseat for such a deflated price, the carpenter had to use less wood than he normally did, and as a result, every time we sat on the loveseat, the slats dug into our flesh making deep red grooves.  


Dreaming of Honesta

Let's be honest

About Honesta.

She gets around.

But what she might lack in loyalty,

She more than makes up for in patience.


E.E. Cummings Songbook

From the imaginary album:  The E.E. Cummings Songbook: A Poetical Smattering of Improv

Let All Go

Tad Neuhaus, bass
Joanna Dane, melodica and vocals


A Mostly True Story I Stole From the Protagonist, a Friend who Tells the Most Amazing Mostly True Stories.


At my sister’s bat mitzvah, my mother’s interior decorator clamps my arm. “I know about the drugs, young man.”  Her makeup cracks along the deep valleys from nose to frown.  Her breath stinks like lox-flavored cigarettes.  “Don’t play dumb with me.  Behind the paint cans in the garage?  If you don’t fess up to your parents, young man, I will!”  I dance the hora, terrified that my life is over.  The interior decorator shadows me all evening, flaring her nostrils every time she catches my eye.  I run to the restroom and vomit, bits of kugel floating in the toilet. 
“Allen, you look terrible!” my mother kvells, putting her hands on my cheeks.  “Richard, stop your schmoozing!” she calls to my father.  “Allen’s sick.  We’ve got to get him home.”  I’m too worried to enjoy my mother’s fawning.  I don’t even care how much of a jap my sister is, complaining the whole way home about how Mitzy Oppenheimer had a live band and a magician at her bat mitzvah. 
            My dad pulls into the garage and belches.  The car fills with the aroma of vodka and tuna.  Everyone groans and climbs out.  I linger in the garage, hoping an argument will erupt and carry them all inside.
            But it’s hard for my mother to forget about me, her first born son.  “Allen?  Allen, what are you doing?”
            “Just looking for something.”
            “Allen, you’re pale as a matzoh ball.  You should be in bed,” 
            “I’ll come inside in a minute.  I promise.”
            Reaching behind the paint cans, I'm afraid the drugs will bite. Sweat rolls down my ribs, polyester scratches at my neck. My glasses keep sliding off my nose since my parents didn’t let me wear my strap to the bat mitzvah.  My yamaka slips off and falls behind the paint cans.  I blindly grab at it and retrieve a plastic bag instead.  Is it possible that these are the drugs?  A sandwich bag of oregano?  I feel around for something more, but find only my yamaka, a puzzling lighter in the shape of a naked woman, and a cigarette made out of metal.
My parents are sitting on opposite ends of the couch, their faces drooping in the flashing light of the television.  My father’s shirt is unbuttoned, his gold medallion nestled in his chest hair.  His belt is undone, his fly half-way down.
            “Allen,” coos my mother.  “Why aren’t you in bed?”
            “I didn’t do it, I swear!”
            “Do what, sweetheart?” she asks.
            “I didn’t do any of the drugs that the interior decorator found behind the paint cans in the garage, and I have no idea how they got there, I swear, I’m sorry!”
            My mom’s face turns dark when I hold up the bag.  My father leaps into action.  “Don’t worry about it son.  I’ll take care of that.”
            He shoves the bag into his pocket and falls back on the couch, concentrating on the TV with a surprising intensity.  His forehead resembles a plowed field.  I look to my mother for guidance.  She turns to my father.  “Show the boy what we do when we find drugs, Richard.”
            “I’ll take care of it.  Don’t worry about it son.  You just go right to bed.”
            “Show the boy how we flush the drugs down the toilet, Richard.”
             My father’s face hardens.  My mother scowls.  “Yes, Richard.  It’s the right thing to do.”
            It takes a long time for my father to stand.  I follow him down the hallway.  “Dad I swear, I never saw that bag before.”
            “I told you don’t worry about it.”
            “Where did they come from Dad?  I mean, the interior decorator thinks that it’s mine and she said she would tell on me if I didn’t fess up, but I didn’t do it, I really didn’t.”
            “Allen,” my father says, putting his hand on my shoulder.  “I’m tired.”
            “Yes, Dad.”
            “Why don’t you just go to bed, and I’ll take care of the drugs.  Don’t you worry about a thing.  Everyone knows the interior decorator is crazy.”
            “But mom said we should flush the drugs down the toilet.”
            “Allen, there are some things in life—.”
            But I don’t get to hear what those things are because my mother is standing in the doorway.  I stand beside her and she runs her fingers through my hair just like she used to do when I was a little kid.
            My father opens the bag and puts his nose up to it.  “Don’t do it Dad!”  But he takes a big whiff anyway.  Now he’s going to die.  But instead, his eyes close, and a blissful look I’ve only seen when he’s mowing the lawn comes over his face.  “What does it smell like Dad?” I ask. 
            “Heaven,” he mutters.
            “Dump it, Richard.”
            “But Dad, you told me we don’t believe in heaven!”
“All of it, Richard.”
“Mom, why does it smell like a skunk in here?”
My dad dumps the drugs into the toilet.  He stands over the bowl, his head hanging.  He seems too have shrunken since when he was dancing with Mrs. Oppenheimer at the bat mitzvah. 
“Flush,” says Mom. 
He does and turns to her, his lips curling in a frightening way.  “Happy?”
“Yes, Richard.  Very happy.  You showed Allen the right thing to do when we find drugs in the garage.”
My mother smiles at me and kisses my head.  I’ve been absolved.  I am still a mench after all. 



Amy Vanderbilt's Complete Book of Etiquette; Part 5, Correspondence; "Thank-You Notes for Entertainment"

Dear dear
Mrs. Fielding Mason, Mrs. Goodrich,
However anyone
Thanks you,
A penny of objection,
Is courteous.
The same happy times,
Printed especially formally,
Here, technically,
The same people arrange longer trouble.
Virtually every entertainment parenthetically expresses
Such sensitive things.
Of course,
brief words
As the little party,
Often gone,
Big cities,
Irritating telephone calls. . . .
Dear Mrs. Goodrich,
Dear Mrs. Fielding Mason,
a host departs,
these intimacies
years apart.


I Ate Leftovers For Lunch Today, and I Feel Great

It is my duty and responsibility to eat the leftovers.  In some cultures, I hear, leftovers are obscene, that even the thought of wrapping up what's left on the restaurant table and taking it home is repulsive. Whether or not that is the case with food left on the table at home, I do not know.  I'm not even sure what country this is we're talking about. I want to say England, but I could be so wrong that it would be embarrassing to speculate. France sounds more like it, but really, I could have sworn it was England. I never thought of leftovers as anything but virtuous.  My grandma lived through the great depression.  There was no drop of milk that wasn't worth saving for the next meal.*  My in-laws are just the opposite.  They'll throw away an entire bowlful of cereal crumbs just because they can't stand the idea of putting that box back in the cupboard.  I don't get it.  What's the big deal?  Save it until tomorrow, I'll eat it for breakfast, then you can throw the box away.

Really, I prefer leftovers.  What could be easier, and frankly, when it comes to food, I'll take easy. Sure, it tastes great to cook the spinach with garlic and onions and turmeric, but it's not so bad raw with a little leftover rice.  What's the difference?  In a few minutes it's all over anyway, and I'd rather get on with my day.

I figure, put the pot right in the frig. It saves having to wash an extra dish and fussing with moving the stuff from one container to another. Maybe the pot thing makes more sense when you know we don't have a microwave or a dishwasher.  Why not leave it in the container you are going to use to heat it back up?  Some thing about it infuriates my husband. He'll let it pass for a few days.  But after a pot has been in there a week, he flips out. He takes out all the pots in the frig and all the glass containers from the cupboard that he bought "for this very purpose" and lines them up on the table. Then, if I'm lucky, he gives a demonstration, showing how to properly estimate the amount of stuff in the pot.  It is very important to him to choose the right size container.  It's not that he even minds when he chooses one that is too small.  In fact, he prefers to fill the container so full that when he puts the lid on, the sauce squishes over the brim and oozes down the sides and onto the table.  But don't let him catch you using a container that's too big.  He goes nuts when he finds three carrot slices in a quart-size container.  Absolutely nuts.  And don't even get me started about how he feels when I put a bowl in there with a plate as a lid.  It makes total sense to me.  Saves having to use plastic wrap and provides a hard surface for stacking other bowls of leftovers.  And once again, when you're ready to eat it, you don't need to bother putting whatever it is into a bowl since it is already in one. What could be more logical than that?

My husband claims that he likes leftovers, but I don't see him eating them very often.  He does occasionally pack a lunch with leftovers, but just as occasionally, I find it hanging on the doorknob where he hung it so he wouldn't forget to take it. I wonder what he eats for lunch on those days?  I eat whatever's in the bag.

Note: Plain Malt-o-meal is a great substitute for rice.  Scrap in the dozen or so black beans from the sauce pan on the stove.  Even if they've been there for a few days, no worries since they most likely don't contain meat.  Chop up the half a tomato left on the table overnight, sprinkle on the parmesan cheese that was freshly grated two weeks ago, crispy but still good, and the shredded raw cabbage, browning and limp, but still good.  Any leftover meat or tofu product, chopped, will be a fine addition. Avocados look like they are bad before they actually are. Vinegar and oil based salad dressing last way longer than the expiration date implies.  Use the last remains of any bottle to give a little spice. Salt to taste. Enjoy.

Note on the Note: Leftovers are only served to family and very very very good friends.  So most likely, you have nothing to worry about.

*This extends to food that no one wants to eat, which must be left in the frig until it molds, at which point it may be discarded.



In the early morning hours, chilly with the fog of guilt followed by several hours of melancholy. The residue of self-pity should wear off by mid-morning. There will be a 85% chance of unforeseen miscommunication leading to some anger and frustration, especially in the north. By noon, expect lingering periods of regret. Don't be surprised by some general disappointment right around two. But the afternoon will be shaping up nicely, with some brief moments of heightened awareness. Extreme self-doubt shouldn't set in until later in the evening.  Tomorrow, look forward to areas of spotty inspiration.


A is for Affable; B is for Bubbie

Pearl Fishbain, my father's maternal grandmother, called all the relatives every night from the nursing home.  My parents were after the Chandlers, before the Shapiros, at 6:10 sharp.  "And what are you making for supper?" Bubbie always wanted to know.  One night, my mom replied without thinking, "Pork chops."
            "What's that?  Did you say, pork chops?"
            My mom hesitated, afraid she had offended the Bubbie's kosher sensibilities.  But before she could come up with an answer, Bubbie said, "I've never had those before. Are they good?"


            Pearl Fishbain took the bus downtown to visit her son Bennett in his opthamologist shop.  She kvelled about what a nice shop he had, what a mensch he was. He adjusted her glasses and then she crossed the street to wait for the bus back home.  She talked to anyone sitting at the bus stop.  "You see there, that's my son's shop.  You need your glasses adjusted?" And whoever it was, poor, rich, beige, brown, Catholic, Muslim, Jew, she took their hand and led them across the street.  "Bennett, this is my friend.  She needs her glasses adjusted.  See what you can do for her."


            When Pearl was having aches in her gut, the family took her to the doctor.  The doctor came and sent the family to wait outside.  The doctor took a long time, and the family was becoming very worried, imagining all the terrible things the doctor was finding wrong with Bubbie.  Fifteen minutes, a half hour went by.  After almost an hour, the doctor left the examining room.  The family rushed in, "What did the doctor say?" they asked. 
            "The doctor?  She says she's from Vienna."  


Truthfully Untrue Truths

The woman has been telling herself stories about herself for so many years, for nearly her entire life in fact, that they are no longer stories, but simply, truths.  The truths of the stories depend on other stories the woman tells herself about the rest of the world, most recently stories about a sibling, a spouse, a parent, an in-law, a friend, and a neighbor she never talks to.  She has been telling herself these stories for so long that they too no longer resemble stories, but are, in her mind, truths.  It is just how these people are, is one common refrain in all the stories.  The woman often tells herself, and others, how fortunate she is to be herself, and not one of these other people she tells stories about, because, if she were not herself, but one of them, then these stories, which all are filled with unsavory tidbits, would be her own truth and not theirs.

What the woman does not yet know, but is soon about to find out, is that these stories she tells herself, and others, are actually her truths since they are her stories, not the truths of the people she claims the stories are about.

If it is true that these stories are the woman's own truths and not the truths of the people she tells about, is it then veritable, for this writer to assert, as she does in the opening lines of this story, that the stories the woman tells herself are not truths but merely stories she thinks are true?


Repeated Rerun Repeated

My husband and I go to a movie.  It is a solidly well done movie, a serious movie, with a complicated plot, a sophisticated sound track, and many high priced actors. It is a movie we will soon forget we saw and will most likely check out of the library in five or so years, recalling people saying it was a good movie. And we will watch it and remember, soon into the movie, that yes, we did already see it. And some scenes will be vaguely familiar as they unfold but neither of us will be able to recall anything about the upcoming scenes, and so we will continue to watch, a movie that will prove itself to be once again solidly well done, that we will soon forget we saw for a second time and in another five or so years, on a night that we are bored and looking for an interesting movie, will pick it up and say, "Did we see this? It's supposed to be good."

I get an idea and begin to write.  As I write, I get the feeling that I have written these very same words before.  So I stop writing and begin to hunt for the thing I believe I have already written.  I never find it.  Or I do find it and discover that while it might be similar, it is incomplete, or lackluster, or both.  So I continue to write what I was writing when I had the feeling that I had written it before.  Or I don't and forget about it, until months later, when I am writing something and get the feeling that I have written the very same words before and stop to search for the thing I believe I've already written, only to find the thing I started but abandoned because it seemed I had written it before. Or I don't find it, and continue to write the thing that feels like I have already written it before, thinking I am mistaken, even though I'm not.



Top ten things people aren't saying about A Terminal Case of Whimsy:

"Thought-provoking. . . a delight to read." *

"Lurid, ingenious, beautiful, delicate, and very funny." **

"Spare, tense, powerful. . . searing." ***

"Wise, funny, and brilliant." ****

"A sublimely dark work of almost unbearable beauty." *****

"An absolutely devastating ridicule of all that is false, primitive, and vicious in current American life: the abuses of power, hero worship, aimless violence, materialistic obsession, intolerance, and every form of hypocrisy." ******

"Read it, and you'll feel altered, chastened - seared in the fire of something new." *******

"Elegantly succinct and well researched." ********

"No other writer tells better stories about the perpetual, the un-winnable, battle between narrative and truth." *********

"Subversive and hip."**********

* Lee Lescaze on Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams

** Benjamin Kunkel on Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

*** Francine Prose on Junot Diaz's Drown

**** Gerald Stern on Billy Collins' Picnic Lightning

***** The Wall Street Journal on Frederick Busch's The Night Inspector

****** Terry Southern on William Burroughs' Naked Lunch

******* Washington Post Book World on Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated

******** Los Angeles Times on Peter Pringle's Food, Inc.

********* Margaret Talbot on Janet Malcolm's Two Lives

********** Robert McCrum on David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster


The Lost Art

My mother-in-law sends us a letter she pulled from a closet, a letter that has escaped fire and carelessness, cherished and passed down, a letter from her father's grandmother's father who was a solider in the Union Army.  The letter is dated October 27, 1861.  My mother-in-law transcribed it because the writing, though handsomely slim and exact, is also a strain on our modern eyes.  So my husband and I sit on the couch and read the type written version to our ten year old son who is studying the Civil War in his fifth grade class.

He wonders how can a person write so neat and small.

Edwin A. Emery of Co. 67th Maine Regiment writing from Georgetown Heights, D.C. relates how one man in their company died last Thursday in Baltimore.  "The fact is that we have not got any Doctor that knows enough to tell the measles from the dysentery.  Our surgeon is a perfect old nuisance to the regiment and to him it may well be laid for the sickness or the greater part of the sickness of the regiment."            

Our son interrupts. "Why is dad's thumb bent like that?" He tries to straighten out his dad's thumb. His dad and I raise our eyebrows at each other. "Are you paying attention?" we ask.

"Sure," he says.  "But your thumb is so weird."  Forget about the thumb, we tell him.  This is your great great great great grandfather's letter we are reading to you.  Do you realize that a hundred and fifty years ago this man was sleeping outside every night, cold and hungry, and getting ready to go into battle, and he wrote, dipping pen into ink jar, and that his letter was sent, by horse and train, to his wife in Maine, was read and reread by her and her children and stored and passed down from one person to another all the way to your grandma who typed this up so that we could read it together?

Okay, okay, he says.

We continue. Edwin writes that their Colonel also died of typhoid fever.  "His loss is deeply felt by the whole regiment and I don't think that we will ever get another that will fill his place. . . "

"That's a weird way to spell 'Colonel,'" our son interrupts.


"Then why is it spelled that way?"

"Because that's the way you spell it."

Edwin is most excited about going to see the White House.  "Tell the boys that we had a splendid time today and a plain of 100 acres with 11 Regiments with glittering rifles and bayonets.  It is a sight worth going a long ways to see.  'Old Abe' was there in a carriage but there was so many other carriages that we did not see him."

We stop reading and look at our son.  He is playing with his glasses.

"What?" he finally asks.

"Do you understand what is going on?"

"They are in the war?"  We explain how the regiments had to pass inspection.

"Do you know who Old Abe is?"

"An eagle?"*

"Abraham Lincoln."


Edwin closes his four page letter:  "Kiss the little ones for me and remember that you are the great fountain from whence all my joys arise and consequently to you my heart abounds with all the affection of a husband and father who will endeavor always to be true to those who are worthy and to whom it is owed."

"Can I watch TV now?"


"But that's not fair!  You never let us watch TV any more!  There's nothing to do."

"Why don't you write a letter?"

"No thanks."

"Why not?"

"Too boring."

Edwin Emery died in Fairfield, Maine, December 25, 1862 soon after coming home from war, most likely from tuberculosis which he contracted while in the Union Army.

Edwin's and Mary May's daughter, Lydia Emery Moore (1857-1943),
during the time her father was at war.

*In a popular Wisconsin Civil War story, a captured bald eagle became a mascot of a Wisconsin regiment.  They named him Old Abe.


Dream #13847B

Excuse me for talking about my dreams again, but this one I can't seem to shake.  My brother, wisely I think, has told me more than once that he doesn't want to hear about my dreams or anyone else's dreams for that matter unless he is featured prominently in it.  That is his policy, and he will cut you off when you start to talk about a dream to ask if he is in it.  When you tell him no, he will tell you he doesn't want to hear about it.  This is understandable and not outrageous, though this brother says a lot of outrageous things.  He claims everything he says is perfectly logical and not a bit outrageous which is a big part of his outrageousness.  This enrages certain people like my other, logic oriented brother who used to argue the illogical points of my brother's outrageous claims which my outrageous brother would ardently defend until my logic oriented brother would, red-faced and exhausted, proclaim, "Fine. You're right," which was the only thing that rattled my outrageous brother.  "No!  You don't agree with me!" And they would argue for awhile about whether or not they agreed with each other.

You would never know that my brother is so outrageous because he dresses in the most neutral way possible. This is one of his goals.

My brother did not appear in the dream I had last night.  So he will not be interested in hearing about it.  I can't actually recall any dream my brother has ever appeared in, even though I can recall many dreams, even dreams from when I was very young, before I understood what dreams were. (Not to say I now understand what they are, but from experience, I can say, for me at least, they disappear when I'm awake. Though, what does it mean to be awake?)

Perhaps I was dreaming, when, as a child, everyone would start talking very fast.  Perhaps I was sleep walking, which I tended to do.  I don't know.  But it frightened me to the point of near hysteria and the only thing that could knock everything back into its proper pace was hearing my outrageous brother's voice. So I would sit at the bottom of the attic steps, the world in fast forward until he realized I was there and would yell, "Get out of here, Stupid!" and everything would slow to a tolerable speed and all would be good again.

These are silly childhood things.  Now we see each other once a year at Thanksgiving when he comes to visit, and occasionally when I go to San Francisco which hasn't been for years.  The last time I was there, we were caught in a traffic jam going over the Bay Bridge, and he proclaimed what a waste of space cemeteries are and how all cemeteries should double as parking lots.  I laughed, but he didn't like that.  This was serious business.  When you die, he said, you can specify what kind of car you want parked on your grave.  This was his favorite part of the idea, arrived at after a half hour of heated discourse about the merits of his plan.

It's impossible to ignore my brother's outrageous ideas because he has a radio voice.  I don't say that just because he is my brother.  People come up to him everyday and tell him he should be on the radio. It's gotten so he intercepts them.  "Let me guess," he says to strangers.  "You think I should be on the radio."


Which brings me back to my dream.  What it is about dreams anyway?  You see someone on the street, and you have a dream about them that you wouldn't tell anyone, except maybe your brother who doesn't want to hear about it unless he is in it.  Which he isn't.