Daily writing prompt
What is one thing you would change about yourself?

Ever want to be a blonde with a bit of curl to your hair? One of the most attractive women I ever knew wished fervently that she could be a natural blonde. She was a gorgeous brunette. We bonded over that because one evening, I confessed that I’d willingly give up my dark curls and waves for straight blonde hair. We’d even done that same childhood experiment. A snip of our dark hair and some peroxide from the bathroom and what our hair would look like blonde in a while. A graphic demonstration of who we might otherwise be.

We both were looking for ways out of social dilemmas. All her friends were blondes. And I wanted out of the prejudice of being a Latino boy in a prejudiced city. We both falsely thought one fast change would offset more abiding social problems.

She might have visited a beauty parlor for temporary hair color adjustments. I accepted the curls, waves, and dark-colored hair. When I was on the road as a folksinger, I realized that my natural condition had advantages.

About two years ago, with the hair getting whiter by the month, I began joking that I had tired of coloring my hair dark. I decided to go back to my natural platinum color. 

Well, as I was told many years ago, to make the best of what nature gives you.


There’s a big difference between confidence and crazed. One is self-assured, reasonable behavior. It is based on self-knowledge and trust in one’s abilities. The other is a sort of loco animation, a jerky cocksure and strident strut designed to convince us that you are much more than the sum of all your parts. It’s loud, audacious, and calculated to win our attention. Crazed is good at distracting us from critical examination.

Crazed also has difficulty accepting responsibility for failure. A significant feature of a person showing this sort of dementia is the ability to defer blame to others. When things start heading south, crazed resorts to threats, verbal abuse, and innuendo.

We find crazed successfully ensconced in positions in politics, at the head of corporate hierarchies, and in tin horn dictatorships.

Most sane and confident people avoid crazed like the plague.

Bright Eyed?

Daily writing prompt
Are you more of a night or morning person?

I am not a morning sort of person. Here’s the lowdown.

Waking at 4:30 AM was a sort of exquisite torture. But if I awoke much later, I wouldn’t make the 5:30 train I needed to catch. Miss that train, and I’d miss the 6:30 arrival time at the operating room where I was working. Every morning was a trial by fire.

Before working in operating rooms, I’d been a folksinger. Coffeehouses and bars use different schedules than operating rooms. Getting home after a night in New York’s Greenwich Village meant walking into the house in the morning close to when I’d be leaving if I worked in the OR.

Having worked late nights as an entertainer, you’d think that working a night shift would be no trouble, but the 11 to 7 routine at a hospital was one I could never fit into. Somewhere between two and four, the red-eyed zombie would appear. Nurses I worked with said I could be frightening at four in the morning. I had a fevered glare, a walk that looked like I was stalking you, and a twist to my diction that made it seem that someone had not secured the locked ward that night.

One night, I was on call for the operating room but wound up assisting in a surgical procedure in the emergency room. At about 1 AM, I went to the operating room suite to prepare surgical packs and instruments for the morning. At about four, the need for sleep overwhelmed me. I shut off the lights, stretched out on an operating table, and pulled a sheet entirely over my head. I was asleep in seconds.

Hours later, I groggily awoke to noises in the room. With a roar, I sat up, arms outstretched, and heard a scream as one of the nurse anesthetists fled the room in fright. She left a trail of spilled instruments behind her. After that, I was under strict orders to doze only in the staff lounge. Everyone took care to flash the lights before entering. My new nickname in that OR? Zombie. Luckily, as I migrated from hospital to hospital, this nickname did not follow me.

So yeah, I’m not much of an early-morning person. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is not a good description.

Home » Stories

Butterwort Flower -last on the card November 2023

Over the years, I’ve discovered that carnivorous plants can surprise you with lovely flowers. I’ve had this butterwort for about a year. And never thought about its flower. It sat on a lower shelf near the kitchen sink under grow lights, and was happy enough to send up this lovely little flower. It is the last on the card for November.


Sabrina: Shut up and pretend to be asleep!
Marcus: but why? I want to play with the plants in the window.
Sabrina: He won’t know that we knocked those boxes off the shelf in the pantry. Fool! He’ll think it was the dog!

Dad: Max! Did you knock these boxes of cat food over? Bad dog!

Max:! @#$$%%, Damned $$%^%%^& kittens. When I get hold of them, I’ll @(&^^&&* and then #$##@$$^%& them!!!!

Tech Run Wild!

There is a mantra, or maybe a meme, going around that states tech is not your friend. Whoever coined the meme wants you to be wary of the misuse technology is prone to. And it’s hard not to find an uproar online daily as some new warning comes out.

My favorite parable of Tech Run Wild is a scene from the animated feature Fantasia. The sorcerer’s apprentice animates brooms to sweep and wash the sorcerer’s workshop, but they soon are out of control. The apprentice does not have the magic to either control them or stop them. The Disney animators derived the sequence from an 18th-century poem by Johann Wolfgang Goethe. Goethe probably derived his central idea from much older versions of similar stories. Hidden behind Goethe’s artistry is an older tale that we still cannot seem to pay attention to.

AI is probably the most recent apprentice we expect to run wild. Depending on who you listen to, the inventors should either be locked up, thrown in the calaboose, jail, prison, the black hole, or we should appoint them president for life. The old saying neatly sums up the problem that we have a hard time predicting the size of the oak from the acorn we plant.

The problem isn’t technology – it has been us over the ages. We don’t have sane institutionalized discourses about the effect of new and old technology; we proclaim new eras of plenty or generations of biblical famine. Perhaps we need a collegium in the ancient Roman sense – a group of concerned and interested individuals who consider, debate, and work on practical solutions to developing issues. 

Modern governments have institutions dedicated to agriculture, defense, health, and other critical affairs. Why not technology?

Past, Present and Future

In tales, we read about the hero’s quest—the grand adventure. Ultimately, the hero makes adult decisions and begins a mature and rewarding life.

Having been through one of these, I fervently wish you could avoid it. Fiction does not do the authentic, real-life experience justice. The movie’s enriching and gratifying series of short segments ends with the wiser hero glancing seaward into the bright sunrise. Inspiring. But not true.

Briefly, there was a situation with a woman whose boyfriend ( I did not know about him) took violent exception to my existence. He attempted to terminate me, and I spent several weeks on the run. Afterward, I came to the blunt realization that my life needed some fundamental changes. I’ve deliberately avoided telling the story in detail Here. Why? In this type of story, we frequently focus on the life-changing event instead of how we change life afterward. And it’s the not-so-pretty details of how we change that are important. Anyone can get shot at with a gun.

In my case, the high school dropout went back to school. And began a years-long effort to quit addictive behaviors- it took a long time and was full of Pyrrhic battles, losses, setbacks, and disasters.

Did I backslide along the way? Oh, yes. But in general, I did such an excellent job of burying the old me that I forgot along the path that the rogue was interesting and fun and had talents the new me lacked. A lot of time went by – almost two decades.

Then something happened. One afternoon along the National Mall in Washington, DC, I played some blues with a Mississippi blues musician. Friends thrust the guitar into my arms as a joke. But soon, I was doing a credible “Jelly Roll Baker,” and the years washed away. The rest of that week, I wrestled with two me’s.

In the years that followed, I gradually realized that In saving myself, I had condemned part of myself to the lockup. I had to blend the two back into one. There were and are mismatches. There is no eloquent way to say it. I was surprised when I began this blog because it explores the old, new, and future.

I am still a work in progress.

(the image is public art in Burlington, Vermont)

Lost at Sea

The Saturday after Thanksgiving ( here stateside) marks the anniversary of the sinking of the sidewheel steamer Portland during the Gale of 1898. This year, we observed the 125th. Some 198 passengers and crew lost their lives when a gale with winds of up to a hundred miles an hour overwhelmed the Portland. It’s sometimes called New England’s Titanic.

On Sunday, I read an article about the sinking. Tears came to my eyes even though no one in my family was aboard. I am, however, the son, nephew, and descendant on both sides of my family, for unknown generations, of seaman. As a seaman and sailor, I’ve seen gales, hurricanes, and foul weather. I’ve listened to my father tell about how he survived the torpedo sinking of a tanker. And in my library is a little book issued to merchant seamen titled How To Abandon Ship. I take lives lost at sea personally and seriously.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes on the sea:

“People are always comparing the sea to a woman. That’s a mistake. Even a woman you’ve cheated on and abandoned is more forgiving than high seas and a bad storm.” -Petty Officer John O’Toole, USN.

“Whenever your preparations for the sea are poor, the sea worms its way in and find the problems.” ~ Francis Stokes

“He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea.” ~ George Herbert.

Untitled (800 x 1500 px) (1500 x 800 px) (1000 x 1500 px) – 1


The rum-soaked fruitcakes are on the porch. They are wrapped in muslin and freezer bags, each with about six ( or more) shots of rum. They should be ready for consumption by December 12. That’s my best estimate of when the fruit, nuts, and cake should have absorbed the rum. Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a magician. The recipe is only a guide, and it’s been altered over the years since I first turned out the Mark I fruitcake in about 1973. 

The Mark I version may still have had some brittle spots because I followed a strict recipe rather than the developed instincts over the years. The idea behind the cakes was to create an anti-fruitcake fruitcake. Mellow, moist, and with just the right amount of kick. We advise people not to eat and drive if they have more than one slice.

A few years ago, my oldest son expressed interest in learning to make what is now “the family fruitcake.” Mindful of what had happened with my grandmother’s Hungarian poppyseed bread, we sat jointly and made the cakes one winter, recording all the steps, ingredients, and possible variations. I didn’t want a repetition of what happened after Grandma died.

When Grandma died, we searched in vain for a recipe. For years, family members would put forward their reworkings of what they thought approached her recipe. They all failed. Grandma had been secretive about what went into the recipe and how she prepared it—decades of failures and recriminations followed over poppyseed bread. With years of research, I was able to recreate a poppyseed bread recipe that most of the family agrees is remarkably close to Grandma’s. Like in the old times, the family can enjoy it at Christmas and Easter.

And if you are driving, it’s safer than eating two or more slices of fruitcake.

Dream Times

Get me out of bed too early and watch me be belligerent until the second cup of coffee rolls down my throat. About that point, I might start to get a grip on reality, watch the sunrise, and feed the cats and the dog. 

In the past, girlfriends have learned the hard way. Poke the bear too early, and you are heading toward a breakup. Let me have my coffee, and the ordinarily irascible, grumpy me settles down and approaches the point that you could play treacly sweet carols for hours without my biting your head off.

The thought of me operating on less sleep should set off major alarms. But what if you didn’t need the extra sleep, you ask? Fool! It’s not just a matter of need. Last night, my dreams transported me to a place where I was a performer again. It was a hoot! I dreamed up new things to do in the shop a few weeks ago.

Sleep is for exploration. Why would I give up something that offers so much pleasure just to be awake?

image: public art on a street in Nashua, New Hampshire

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