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The Malheur Butte. Malheur County, Oregon

Now for something cheerful.

I was going through my collected bits and pieces of writerly writings. And found this sort of journal I’d kept for a hundred days, more or less. Finding good things and writing them down, or some such New Age-ish clap-a-trap. Now, I’ll not include every last one. Because most of them make sense only to me and name names. I’d not wish to be sued or have someone write a nasty Facebook post passively-aggressively directed toward my general direction. That is, if anyone even bothered to read this here post. Who gets a full bald mention. Which might upset them and cause them to go for lawyers.

Oh, that title? I am trying out a theory of mine. We’ll see how it goes.

But. I will share some of the more funny or poignant ones. I’ll include the day number. And the start date…

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On the highway going up toward the Owyhee Reservoir. 

from 100 Days of the Things I Love:

1– The delight of Molly, the Chocolate Lab, when she sees me in the morning. How her little body wiggles all over, how her face lights up. Coffee on a snowy morning. How the blackbirds scold me and never forget I am enemy number one. My grandmother Jarrett’s hands, how powerful they were, how they could make anything from pies to fried chicken, how elegant they were. The smell of a freshly cut mint field. [ June 17, 2014 ]

2. Rain on the roof, that sound, that sound. That smell of rain, a rarity in the bone dry West. The color pink, that delicate blend of white and red, the pastel of it smeared on blossoms. Limes, that cool taste of citrus and dreams. My family remembering it’s my birthday. My brother remembering how Grandpa Wuehler used to say you, too, you too after one wished him a happy birthday [ Feb 2nd, same day as the groundhog holiday ]

3. Sunny mornings in early summer, before it turns so ungodly hot and dry. Looking through old pictures. My mother making bread and slapping me across the face with the raw bread dough. [ A fun smoosh of yeasty dough in the kisser ] Making ornaments out of homemade play dough to hang on the fake tree. Painting them, watching my mother paint hers.

4. Alone time, where I can talk to myself. Digging for worms and finding them. Thunderstorms, the big loud rough noisy ones. The taste of mint. Oreo cookies that have peanut butter centers. Yanking those long hairs from under my chin.

5. That one Christmas Eve when it snowed so heavily. I was eight or nine and at grandmother’s house with all the relatives about. We played outside, we kids. And it was magic. Toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup at my grandparent’s house in Fruitland, Idaho– Velveeta and Campbell’s, of course. Rummaging through my grandmother’s, both of them, jewelry boxes, all the sparkly costume jewelry.

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6. Finding eggs in a bird’s nest. Robin eggs, that brilliant turquoise-lime combination of hue. Hunting for peach-colored Fire King dishes and finding them. Antique stores full of dusty, long-ago treasures. Swimming in the ocean for the first time, that big salty joyous reunion of my soul meeting something bigger and stronger than me.

7. Reading a favorite book again. Walking in snowfall at night, the crunch, the icy air, the quiet. Watching tadpoles. The smell of warm vanilla.

8. The sound of a sprinkler. Burning weeds or burning anything at all, really. A big wide blue blue lake with no one but me to see it. Movie theatre popcorn smell. Pretty coffee cups.

9. Springtime’s new grass, that fresh delicate green. Miracle on 34th Street- the original, finding it for 65 cents at the thrift store. Getting to watch Captain Blood all the way through the other night. Sleeping through the night without waking. Getting hired.

11. Miss MacGregor, for calling me up to her desk to tell me I was a good writer. Driving along the Extraterrestrial Highway in Nevada, that weird, very solitary landscape, the two Ferraris that rushed past my not-powerful little Chevy pickup, the free-range cattle roaming back and forth over the road. Reading the Blue Castle again, for the hundredth time, Valancy’s journey so somehow perfect and fresh each time.

12. Playing cards with my grandmother Jarrett. Playing marbles with her, too. ROX– my grandmother’s way of telling Curly, her Chihuahua, no. How Curly would just cringe and wither. A hawk circling lazily above a just cut hay field, hunting. Magpies suddenly hushing if you get too near, watching you, assessing you. Bottle feeding a kitten the dog brought in from somewhere.

16. Tacos, with cucumbers, sour cream, cheese, ah. Smell of pines when up in the mountains. Camp Perkins and the campfire times. Baby birds and their giant mouths. Bumblebees and my mother stroking their back, they would get so mad! Coffee drunk from a lovely cup, a special cup. Raspberries eaten right out of the container or off the bush.

17. Musicals. The smell of fireworks. Air conditioning.

18. Ice cream on a hot day. Hot chocolate on a cold day. My mother’s pies. My mother making pickles, the lovely jars and the sprigs of dill, the mysterious spices. The smell of newly cut grass. The rounded tubby belly of a just fed very young orphaned kitten. Discovering a snake under a board or piece of metal sheeting. Hearing a beloved song on the radio while driving. Best of Intentions/Travis Tritt

19. Frogs chirping in the spring. The yard toad. Inventing entire lives in my head. Knowing there were once mammoths in the world. Rum and Coke.

20. A secret little brown stream. Wildflowers that cover an entire hillside. Cactus blooms in spring. Raspberry truffles. Hazelnut anything. Bright colors. Scratching a pig until it collapses with a satisfied groan, eyes blissfully closed.

21. Having money in my pocket. A job. When I was young enough to believe life would be good…am going to stop here as I am full of rage and anger and hate.

22. A full moon on a clear night. A misty rainy day in Eugene when I didn’t have to go anywhere. Petting a small manta ray at the Long Beach aquarium. Seeing the clay warriors at Xian, even though I was in utter pain from my arthritis and a total bitch to one and all [ sorry sorry sorry :{ ] My earring collection.

23. My elf costume my mother made that I wore for years. Trick or treating in Patterson, Washington. Carving pumpkins. [[Omitted part of this one…]]

24. The giant river clam my mom put in our aquarium in Washington State. How it glided around on its foot. Swimming in the Columbia with all the neighbor kids, that first cold shock of the river water, the unholy thrill of some stray fish sliding across your leg at times. Dreaming of road trips, lately, with my mother. Eating at the North Hollywood Diner– their tuna melt. Going into the second hand stores in North Hollywood, ah.

26. Discovering things in a long-stored box. The blues of the ocean on a calm day. A cup of coffee enjoyed with an old friend.

28. New pretty clothes that fit. Sitting outside a coffee shop and people watching in Vilnius, listening to a street performer play the accordion. My grandmother telling the story of ‘ so proud when poppa showed ours ‘– about a group of drunk relatives and neighbor men trying to pee across a ditch. Flying into Seattle after a year in China, was in tears and so happy just to be home.

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Shenyang, China. View from an apartment.

29. Finding the Chili Bangkok, the big mural of Buddha on the wall. My weird friendship with D. T. Ice water. Black cherry Kool-Aid on a hot day. Picking up shells on the Florida beaches with Bonnie.

30. Hearing the moan of coyotes at night. A deer in a field. Pink stretchy gloves. Decorating for Halloween. Yankee Candle store in Boise– sniffing all the scents. My small collection of stuffed bunnies.

31. That first time I read Anne of Green Gables. Can’t think of anything today. It’s smoky and drab out, my country is turning into the unkindest shithole ever…and there doesn’t seem to be enough motivation in the world to get me to look for a job.

I think I’ll end there…and do a part two and a part three later on. Some little revealing glimpses. Be fucking brave. Right?

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Halloween in Shenyang, China. Getting ready for the, yes, pub crawl. 


And So Goodbye


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I want to write something profound and deep here. Something that gives homage to a dog’s short life, to a dog’s ending. I find a dearth of words. I find my eyes sting and my mind just floats.

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Clyde won’t be in the lawn anymore, facing the road, waiting for his favorite to come home. Waiting so patiently. A Newfoundland cross, found when yet a big puppy, so many years ago. A stray somebody dumped off. As they do here so much in Eastern Oregon. There were two of them, but only Clyde got captured and brought home to become one of us. Such a beautiful dog. One of those big beautiful teddy bear sort of dogs. Who hated his nails touched, let alone trimmed, though he had those horrible dew claws. Oh the fuss he’d go through if anyone came near his feet. That long black fur full of tangles and sometimes cockle burs if he got a chance to wander the world a bit. How he’d stand still and let you brush him and even cut the worse crap out of his fur. How I once watched him take on a snake that had wandered into the yard. And he won. That poor snake. How even as old as he got, he still wanted to chase after the local rabbits and bark at the local coyotes and even bark at vehicles on the local road from the safety afforded by the fence.

I am clumsy with my words today. I cannot pull forth the slick tricks of winning phrases and shallow witticisms. A little life ended today. And so I mourn. Goodbye, Clyde.

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shiny vampire dino porn



Stop. Come back. It’s okay. This is actually a sad-rant about marketing. As in artists marketing their stuff in the age of social media. At least, that’s what this will try to be or at last try to be for this repetitive paragraph.

So, yours truly, gentle readers, talked to a friend of mine via email, on the nature of marketing when you’re an artist.

That old standby of you have to be a whore and sell your body of work on the Hollywood and Vine of life. Because sales matter more than artistic effort or how ‘good’ your whatever is. That people have to be told what’s good, what’s not, otherwise THEY WOULDN’T KNOW.

Which is rather a…chilly little notion. Does popularity make something ‘good’.


We all know it doesn’t. We can, subjectively, name popular stuff that’s crappola on toast. Though others might have differing opinions on what’s crappola on toast and…yep. There are people who love the Twilight books and others who find them not even good enough to use as toilet paper, for a hasty example.

Would we ‘love’ Hemingway and Dickens and Shakespeare —Dead White Guys, to quote a professor of mine. The Western Cannon is mostly Dead White Guys. Her pointing that out should have not been astonishing to moi, but it was. Mm!– if we were not told, repeatedly, that we ‘loved’ Hemingway, Dickens and Shakespeare?

We’re told we should all hate Nickelback. They are the worst band since…ever. We’re told…yeah, one can just start listing things we’re supposed to like or love and things we’re supposed to hate or despise.

Which brings up some uncomfortable, icky little worms squirming about in our collective flowerpot. Are we being manipulated? [Yes, absolutely] Are we being groomed to accept what’s ‘in’, what’s ‘out’, what was ‘never in to start with’? Fuck yeah, since cave man times, baby.

Those cave paintings on that wall in France— was that not an advertisement that hunting is good, hunting is cool, everyone wants to get their image on a stone wall?

So, where does that leave yours truly?

Fucking nowhere, that’s where.

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The dirt road going up toward Lookout Mountain, Oregon. Nowhere, indeed.


I had the absurd notion that being a writer is enough. That writing something and then sending it out to be published or seen was enough. That sharing my stuff, and it’s flipping hard to do even that most of the time, is a giant step. A bigly one. Except. It’s not enough.

I am not a pushy hustler. I am not that jaded hooker on Hollywood and Vine in a too-tight shiny something advertising my rates for this and that. I don’t have, yet, that metaphorical iron crotch needed for artists these days. Well, always needed for artists.


In that email exchange with my friend, who is himself quite a writer, by the way, I jokingly suggested I start writing shiny vampire dino porn. Hence the title of this mishmash, darlings! Now. There is actual dinosaur-human themed porn. Yeah. My mind just exploded and oozed from each ear, too. But. It’s out there and it sells.

So, my half-satirical thought was to combine the sexy male monster motif with the sexy male dino riff. Combine Eric Northman with a randy velociraptor.

From True Blood. Which gets into sexy Viking Pirate Kinky Boots time, because ole Eric swung both ways and…yeah. Then, mix that persona with a muscled up, sly, scary smart dino?? Bango! Pingorama! So many likes over on FB!! So many retweets over on Twitter! Tumblr won’t know what hit it!! Other sites will just EXPLODE WITH ARTISTIC FIREWORKS.

Which is a writing challenge. It gets me out of my box. [Box, get it??] I did boast, to my friend, let’s call him Schmee, that I could write aforesaid shiny porn in my sleep.

Now. I should actually try and write aforesaid shiny porn. And shop it around, of course. No matter how ‘first drafty’ it actually is. We writers and artists should always be stretching our limits. Exploring new territories. Looking into dark corners. Lifting rocks, peering beneath. Bathing in the stuff that’s left in the bottom of that sink strainer…

It could be the NEXT BIG THING.


Okay, back to feebly hustling my ‘real’ writing to the indifferent public. Smooches from Obscureland.

Because I read on some promote your blog/book stuff that you should always be cheerful and post positive everything and be, um, a super-manic sales sort 24/7. Always Be Selling Your Book. ABSYB!!


I feel like I should apologize for my blog-blitz-y postings this month but I won’t. Which is a passive-aggressive way of saying sorry/not sorry. Sorry! 







The Mermaid of Bangkok

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Bangkok, Thailand

This is a short story from my Oregon Gothic collection. This particular story is not set in Oregon; it’s actually set in Bangkok, Thailand. I went there for a week or so in my second year of teaching in China. All by myself, by the way. I even spent the night at the Macao airport to save money. How many airports have I spent a night in now? Mm. O’Hare in Chicago. LAX in Los Angeles. Houston, when I flew into Honduras. I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting or have blocked out. Oh. Denver! I spent a chilly night in Denver waiting for a seven thirty AM flight to Boise. I got in at midnight, flew out at seven in the morning…yeah.

Which has nothing to do with this short snippet of a story at all.

Other than I spent a night in Macao before flying on to Bangkok.

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The river that inspired the story

So. I picked, at random, a hostel [they are cheap and all over Asia, so roll your eyes elsewhere.] called the Chili Bangkok and booked it. I somehow managed to get there, via a real taxi; the driver spoke English. I didn’t speak a word of Thai, still don’t. I had the address of the place written down to show the taxi folks; moi had prepared! I didn’t yet know about tuk tuks. Which are the tiny three-wheeled taxis where the drivers charge whatever they want. I got lost my first or second day and had to take a tuk tuk back to some point I vaguely recognized. Boom, big fee for not that far of a distance. But. That’s traveling and I was so relieved to be not so lost, I paid. And resolved not to get lost again. And I got to see, well, some garbage-clogged waterways, some houses, flowers that were just gorgeous, some Buddhist monks walking about, this and that and that and this.

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From the wall leading toward the Chili Bangkik

So. And here’s a TMI tidbit coming up so either skip this next part or just grit your teeth and bear through. My Aunt Flo was visiting and I do mean VISITING WITH A CAPITAL SCARLET. So, my vacation was pretty much me hunting down ibuprofen, discovering how to work the hostel washing machine and walking about looking at stuff. Yeah, Aunt Flo viciously waited until my vacation to knock on my inner doors. And didn’t let up until I was back again in the dorms in frozen Shenyang. I’d call her a name but she doesn’t really care and does whatever she wants anyway, so…

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There was a small 7-11 down the street, where I bought pain killers and little fruit pies filled with cassava instead of cherry, chocolate or apple. They were so good. Yep, I went to Bangkok for the junk food. Yep. No, I didn’t. I went because I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand. And since I had the almost funds to do it, I went. In the school where I taught, we had almost two months off between January and March, due to the big New Year’s celebrations. So many teachers used that time to travel China and other places nearby or to even fly home and back again if they had that kind of moolah. I did have the requisite Thai iced tea and did eat Thai food, mostly chicken and cashews because I don’t like fish. I drank a few Singh beers and generally mosied about in my area, on foot, and just had a most leisurely time of it.  [Aunt Flo just laughed and laughed.] And I booked a day trip to Pattaya beach. Which went quite well. The tour group picked me up just down from my hostel and took a small group of us over to Pattaya for the day and brought us all home and dropped me off near my hostel. I also booked a trip to the River Kwai to go see the elephants but…I waited and waited for the tour van, the next morning after the beach trip, which…never…showed…up. I waited for two or three hours, then gave up and just took a long walk that day, sunburned and irritable anyway from the day trip before.  [As in wanting to go back to the beach, not because the beach trip sucked.] I wandered into a festival celebration with dancers and a street fair, so that was groovy. Somehow I even managed to get back to the airport and back to China and back to my dorm room, all on my own. I don’t speak Chinese, so that’s quite a feat. Going from a hot tropical friendly place to a cold, iced up Siberia wannabe SUCKED SUCKED SUCKED.  [Shenyang is about the coldest damn spot on the planet. I will swear on a stack of Bibles they have winter nine months out of the year. Get me some Bibles.]

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The following short tale came from me enjoying real coffee, [China does not seem to have coffee other than Starbucks or the odd little place that caters to Westerners] and real bread, French-style bread, at the French bakery place by the River City Mall. [Chinese bread is boiled and sweet, for the most part.] Watching people come and go on the ferry. Listening to conversations around me, sometimes in English, often times in French or German or some language I didn’t know. I just got a ‘what if a mermaid popped her head up out there in that dirty river?’ stray cat sort of thought.

And the rest is my somewhat slightly bitter ode to Bangkok.

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Bread and beer by the river. 



Every day, at around one o’clock, she breaks the surface of the dirty water. She is bald, with slime-covered skin, gills behind her vestigial ears. She has long eyelashes like a seal, long thin arms with webs between each taloned finger. People gather against the railing of the River City deck– point at her, take pictures, record her as if they’ve suddenly all become Hitchcock with a dash of Bergman. They have members of their party pose with her in the background, rather like one would pose against the lumbering miserable indifference of a zoo animal. Having been to the Beijing Zoo, I rather know that indifference the Asian captive zoo denizen exudes.

Her other half ends in a tail. Like a goldfish, it’s rather pretty– gleaming shiny coppery scales, with dark brown and even a dull red scale here and there. Bangkok or the administrators at River City, the big mall that overlooks the Chao Phraya river, where the boats go up and down obligingly, have designed her costume well. Touches of random brilliance make up her wet fine feathers. There’s a French bakery place, called Folies, where you can sit and not see the mermaid. You have to be seated at the Thai eatery, with its astronomical prices, to enjoy a Singha beer and watch the half-female, half goldfish break the tainted surface, bob up and down, look toward the deck and the gawking gawkers with a truly indifferent laissez-faire indifference and then disappear. She is of course, fake. She has to be.

Mermaids are imaginary.

And this is not a world of wonders, no matter what the shiny posters say.

I labor under the delusion that this world does not actually contain anything magical or fantastic. A tiger is magical enough. An elephant. A bulldog contains elements of real wonder as to its skeletal construct. A tornado can do magical-ish things, like rip the roof off a barn. And leave the barn standing. It will ignore the three year old child standing in the barn watching the roof get torn off by the tornado. How does the tornado know to ignore the child and not the roof? Magic. God. It can’t be chance, right? Chance doesn’t work like that or, there’s no such thing as chance, we just made up that word to explain things we can’t explain yet. I labor under the belief that this world is very dull and everything is eventually explainable. That there is a mathematical formula for God, if one wills. Something with angles and pi and x. I’m not mathematical so someone with a mind for such things will have to have a go at the God equation. I also utterly know there’s no love or hope left, at least in my life. But I won’t get tiresome.

I watch her rise and sink on the river current. She needs a rock to sun herself on. That would be a picture for National Geographic, or Weekly World News. There is a cut across the back of her head. I saw it when she turned her bald head to peer at the Sheraton that looms over the river in magnificent rather phallic splendor. The manager at my hostel, who’s surprisingly tall and has better English than I do, told me about this newest attraction to grace Bangkok– the mermaid in the Chao Phraya. There was a weariness in his face that perhaps he was not aware of– that exhaustion of dealing with the public for a living. Oh the mermaid, he said with perfect polite tones; she’s not yet on the tourist map he tore off to show me spots to visit. I’ve only made it this far so far, about a five minute walk to my tiny room. My ambition to explore went away before the great wet heavy heat here, the sunshine like a slap. I cannot seem to venture out and be bravely energetic. I sit here sipping an iced coffee, at sixty baht a glass, and eating cashew chicken, judging her, wondering how she can bear to be in that filthy water with the dead sandals and dead coconuts floating around her midriff, which is bloated. Or perhaps her costume needs adjusting? Her breasts are tiny, but it is Asia, and an Asian mermaid would not be stacked like a Hollywood enhanced starlet, it would not be believable. Or family-friendly. Though breasts are very family-friendly if you actually consider such considerations.

She is probably one of many. With a latex suit or a wet suit decked out to look like a mermaid’s morphology. Probably some enterprising racketeer designed her suit and hired a few local girls for this acting gig who had no desire to spread their legs or cheeks or lips for tourist penis. Is that cynical? To imagine being a fake sea monster in a dirty Thailand river is better than being a blank-faced greased up hole for sweaty, red-faced German visitors who work for BMW? If I had to choose what fate suited me best, I’d go for being a fake half-fish.

Call me kooky.

My iced coffee is watered down by the melting ice. Ice, such a novelty after living in China. Where everything is warm and the coffee tastes like lukewarm ditch leavings. I study the beads that form on the clear glass, trying not to see the sixty year old women in their too-colorful sundresses. Their skin runneled and brown, their hair carefully styled and streaked or pulled back in those ponytails only the sort of rich can pull off with any aplomb. I am wearing a black tent, the bottom stamped with some dull brownish pattern, as apparently even here fat women are designated to the black-only and must-be-tent-shaped to fit clothing option. I am considering just sewing two colorful scarves together to make a colorful something or other. Why not. I’m already damned for being fat, might as well go to hell in something other than a black, shapeless circus tent.

But this isn’t about me. This is about a strange tourist draw. The mermaid of Bangkok. I watch her as she swims about. Surely a real mermaid would not choose to surface anywhere near Bangkok. Where she’d be in danger of being caught, hooked, eaten over a bed of jasmine rice. Or examined in a lab, have a look at her own steaming guts before dying as some scientist slices her open with a surgical knife. While she’s still breathing, of course. Just like every movie ever made about finding some magical creature– the evil scientists gather to mangle, destroy, hurt, murder. That there are records of scientists doing just that, well, giant shrug of ironic proportions, baby. But the mermaid doesn’t seem to know how life works. Or that she should sashay her fishy ass to Phuket or Pattaya, where she can access the real big wide salt water someone carelessly colored aqua, using the entire aqua crayon.

Oh no, this Bangkokian mer-person swims about with total unconcern. For about five minutes or so then she dives with a saucy, slow flip of her flippers and tail.

She’s tiny, not a big peasant-type mermaid. A tiny typical white guy’s version of an Asian chick, if you get my not-so-subtle dig. Except she’s bald, a mermaid with cancer. Or a mermaid making a statement. A feminist mermaid perhaps.

Ah, there’s the flippy tail, the end of her aquatic show. I’ve been here three times now, it’s always the same. People murmur and rumble all around me, in French, Thai, Chinese, German, English, Japanese, other languages from the Middle East, from Africa, from Turkey and Scandinavia. Families drag around their children like annoying accessories they wished they could trade in for fancy purses. People stalk by with their eyes glued to their tiny phones, so self-important I want to smile and feel some sort of absurdist delight in their self-importance. But I don’t. I just feel rather flat and annoyed with it all. Remember when phones used to stay home, attached to the wall like a chained dog to a tree? Ah, the good ole days! Remember when we could leave our electronics at home? Is this progress or a nightmare? These are my thoughts in the hot Thai sun, the air stirred now and then by the wind’s spoon. If wind uses spoons. Obvious thoughts already thought of a lot by other thinkers.

People move away from the railing, return to roving through the little shops inside, full of silk scarves, carvings of elephants and Buddhas, necklaces of shell, stone and bone, clothing in every color but Protestant beige, and, of course, purses. The big purses that are just fancy sacks with elephant prints. And gelato and iced coffee and Tha iced tea. That orange liquid that tastes of smoke and sun and spices.

Except today, the mermaid surfaces again, the boats passing by her with unconcern, the tourists leaning down to take more pictures, more pictures, pointing, then taking more pictures. Is she changing
her show now? Did she make a mistake? Stage fright? Her wide bony slimy face worried and somehow oddly fragile. Those giant black eyes search the crowd, for a moment even meet my eyes. This is new, she’s never broken her routine before. My stomach knots for her. I long to offer her a beer, ask her how she got this job. Did she have to interview? Did she just know the right people? She goes underwater, the greasy surface rippling and foaming, the ferries going by. I can sit here and drink too-expensive coffee or wander about, buying trinkets and observing Thai life.
Today when I arrive in River City, knowing I should have shaved my legs, the stubble embarrassing, I note that there is a crowd down below the railings where the mermaid shows up to delight the tourists before dipping down into the polluted river to tend to her mer-babies or whatever she does. I note that there are several Thai police, that an ambulance has been driven onto the wide white courtyard. Did someone fall over the railing into that river? Did someone fall off one of the various boats, hurt themselves on the rocks and garbage? I hear tourist voices, low shocked humming excited voices. And I draw nearer, ignored.

It’s the mermaid, with her head split open, her eyes wide and unsparkly. What’s left of her wetsuit, ah, floats in the water like a sad remnant of some Mardi Gras ride. Coppery scales lay atop the water bravely, torn away from where someone patiently sewed them in place. Her legs, no longer forced together for her art, are wide apart, her sex bare as a child’s. We all pretend to look away from her nakedness. She had really shaved her head. The police draw her all the way from the water, then place her remains on a stretcher. And cover her with a white pristine sheet. And we, the watching gore crows, know nothing of shame or remember that she’s human like we are. She’s just another exhibit in exotic, sexual, erotic, deadly Bangkok. A dead one now, one we will forget in twenty seconds as we look for bargains on silk scarves with elephant patterns.

The dead mermaid is lifted over the railing and the crowd barely parts for her until a policeman barks in extreme irritation at one and all. So we shuffle aside, staring, staring, at the bumps and dents of the sheet over her, at the red spot that is glued to her broken head. Dark red and glistening as raspberry jelly. It makes me want toast. How perverse, how perverse what we think of before death itself.

A man is crying, one of the waiters at the Thai eatery that overlooks the river. Another waiter pats his shoulder, they are soft-spoken Middle Eastern men with liquid ink eyes. The sky holds fat, artistic clouds, perhaps it will rain. The two men speak to each other, their black heads bent and reverent. Perhaps they knew the mermaid woman, or perhaps loved her. And how did she come to such a fate? Did a boat hit her? Did a human take a club and try to drink her brain juice like one would drink coconut milk after breaking the shell? I’d have to go with boat, propeller or other such equipment. Like manatees getting bludgeoned in the Florida Keys. Just a horrible accident. And I strangely felt sadder over the thought of a gray, puppy-faced manatee getting killed than that mermaid woman.

Or not so strange. Humans somehow deserve every miserable awful desecration that befalls them. Manatees don’t. Simple as that. All the collective bad choices of generations visited onto the present generation, if you want. All that murderous greed come home to roost like a monstrous radiation-contaminated chicken. Laying an egg already rotten and full of black gunk when cracked open. That’s my view of the human race at this point in my life.

I sit at the French place, after choosing a sausage roll and an Americano. I have Pride and Prejudice with me, but it sits on the table, looking elitist. I cannot bring myself to open it, read about Mr. Bingley and Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s quick draw impressions. People come and go off the ferry. They file by, in
flip flops and six inch heels, in suits and ties, in shorts and tiny little skirts, in t-shirts and silk. They automatically glance toward the whirling cop lights but continue on to wherever they will go that day.
My coffee is hot, strong and welcome. The fruit vendors are slicing and dicing their wares out on the street, pineapple, papaya, watermelon, some pale green melon, perhaps durian.

And I wonder if there will be a new mermaid tomorrow.

I hear people, two English-accented older gents, talking about the dead. They are behind me, also sipping coffee from white cups. “Did you hear? I heard she hit her head on the bottom of a ferry.“

The other man answered, sounding like a bored James Bond with a lisp. “Weally? That’s so bloody awwwful.“ The ‘ awful ‘ drawn out like a sigh over a bad selection of deli meats at a dull party.

“Poor thing. I bet someone killed her then dumped her body– it’s how they are here. Bloody violent.” The first man opined. As if England was the land of peace and Gandhi.

“Almost as bad as America,“ the first man added. I ducked my head, unable to refute that. Being American myself.

The two continued. But it was about where they were going for the day. How they wanted seafood for dinner. How the air conditioning in their rooms was not strong enough. How the Chinese girlfriend just wanted more and more jewelry…and by then I could no longer stand their chattering.

Of course she wanted more jewelry! It took diamonds to suffer that smelly little dick near her lips!! Oh the things I wanted to say to strangers and friends alike. But I had no desire to be part of their evening stories. Some crazy Yank told us off for no reason, Martha, Xiu Su, for no reason at all. We were drinking coffee, there was this murder, we were minding our own bloody business. Or perhaps the Chinese galpal had named herself something like Dolphin or Rainbow or Taco. Or Firecrotch. Who am I to judge?

I had no desire to be tattooed into those two men’s memories.

At the hostel, I overheard once again, about the murdered mermaid.

I was sitting outside, smoking. With a bottle of water nearby. The cats that lived in the alley were eyeing each other and me and everyone else, when not checking each other out for future mating possibilities, as not a single cat anywhere seemed fixed. They wailed all night. One cat was small and black, the other a Siamese, ha ha, a Siamese cat in the heart of Siam. But. At the other table, the annoying Euro trashies complain about the murdered mermaid. How they had penciled her in for tomorrow before they caught their train and now that was ruined. One girl, with dirty ashy blond hair done up in a tres chic backpacker French braid, spoke into her phone to her mum, as the girl called that said personage, mum, we were supposed to go see this silly mermaid show and she got butchered, butchered, mum, I said butchered.

They all smoke, all five of them. You come to Asia and you smoke, nothing feels right unless there’s a cancer stick in your elitist fingers.

The others murmur how violent and twisted the world is. How sad. How sad.

Butchered, mum, butchered!

I long to smack them with their own still-beating hearts.

They move on, to real topics. A trip is being planned to Phuket. They will spend one more night here at the Chili Bangkok. Then drift out into the world like stemless daisies. To tramp over the beaches and pet the elephants and pull on monkey tails, and take pictures of their dirty unwashed selves to post on Facebook or Twitter or…some new site somebody’s inventing even now. I will post pictures myself, with a tired certainty that no one will even care or hit the like button by any of them. I will be in none of them, I’ve asked no strangers to snap my image against this or that. And I took pictures of that mermaid
woman and I even took a picture of her being hauled away beneath that sheet. I am no better than anyone else, I am no worse. It’s rather comforting and awful to know such a thing.

I cannot seem to help myself. After another night spent on the most uncomfortable bed ever invented, other than that bed with the nails driven up through it for those skinny guru guys to rest on, I tramp down toward River City. The tuk-tuk drivers call out to me, hey madame, you need ride? Hey Madame. Hey Madame. Their fragile little vehicles wait, open on all sides, basically a golf cart. They charge what they want. From twenty baht to four hundred. I was lost my first day here, took the ferry just for fun, got out when people on the ferry shoved and yelled at me, I was standing in the wrong spot or just looked like I needed to be yelled at and shoved. I thought I could just walk down along the river…but of course not. The road twisted away, developed into an octopus of roads and I was lost and confused. And a tuk-tuk brought me back, for about eighty baht.

I made the mistake of taking a tuk-tuk for a tour, but he kept trying to take me places to buy stuff, so I got out, paid him the twenty he wanted, and then tried to figure out where I was. Another tuk-tuk, piloted by a truly emaciated little man, tried to charge me 400 baht to take me to River City, and I laughed and laughed. At least then I knew I was being scammed, right?

So, I ventured out at noon. To see if they had replaced the mermaid.

No, there was no new mermaid in the river.

I sipped lime-flavored iced tea. And waited. Ordered a cheeseburger. I know, it’s Thailand, but it was what I wanted. Fries are extra. And counted the days, three, until I went home, back to my crapfest of a job as an ESL teacher. Red. ABC. Red. But America has no jobs and I am unemployable, unpretty and so debt-riddled it should be a crime. Many work in China who are running from their real lives. Which is fine. Running is a way of life anymore. That face up to your problems mantra…is just nonsense.

No, wait.

A sleek bald head emerges from the river, in almost the same spot the other mermaid emerged from.

I hold my breath. She is different, with a different-colored tail. Blue-green, her fingernails painted to match. She looks afraid, her eyes too big in her pinched wet little face. She is gone too quickly, she does not have the exquisite timing of the other mermaid yet. Yet. But she will.

I am almost happy. I am so somewhat glad they will continue this. That the copper-ended mermaid woman did not die in vain.

The House on Clark Boulevard

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The actual Clark Boulevard

As House on Clark Boulevard is in editing at the moment, I’ll take that as a good sign from whatever dark gods control the universe. As the editor took sick, well, that’s par for the course. My hope barrels are full of sand and ticks and I should probably post something totally optimistic and up with people, but I just fucking can’t do it right now. Sorry.

But hey, the Oregon Ducks get to advance in the Great Basketball Tournament of Death, or whatever it’s actually called. March Madness. I know what’s it bleeping called. I already used up my one allotted cussword.  I’m still trying, desperately, to be a lady. Sigh. March Madness! Suddenly America goes nuts for b-ball. And ignores it the rest of the year. Unless you’re an actual basketball fan, of course.

Danger noodle, wah.

Okay. What was I blatherskiting about? Oh yes!! Upcoming book coming out. What’s it about, Ann? Let me tell you, gentle readers!

It’s about novel length and is not a short story. Ha ha. Ugh. Okay.

No, for reals and such.

Set in 1978, against the backdrop of Thanksgiving and Christmas, this is one young-ish housewife’s fight against the forces of darkness as well as wrestling with a family she’s not sure she likes, enjoys or even loves. Mr. Blue claims he can make all the ghosts and beasties that torment her on a nearly daily basis go away. The giggling ghost boys who play pranks on her, some times all night long. The rolling teethed beasties who sometimes try to push her down. Mr. Peepers, who lives in her daughter’s room. All she has to do is sacrifice her oldest child, Alice. Nancy balks as this, of course, because she’s supposed to be a good wife and a good mother, damn it! She’s also dealing with a toddler who hasn’t yet mastered where to poop or pee, a husband struggling with his own dreams, the newest girlfriend of her ladykiller brother and holiday turkeys that sometimes won’t cook fast enough. She’s got a lot of shit on her plate, man! Alice, by the way, can see the ghosts and beasties as well, and lets this slip at the most embarrassing moments, of course. Nancy decides maybe she can trap these annoyances, after a trip to the local library. But it’s Mr. Blue she starts to gun for as a showdown looms between a woman trying to play the role of good wife and mother to one and all around her and a possible demon come to make Nancy his personal pet project.

Frankly, I wanted to have some fun with the haunted house themes. Every movie I seeor book I read about people and ghosts has the people screaming and loosing control of their bowels. Or so it seems.

What if, I went, what if someone just found the haunters annoying and in the way and just another thing to deal with in a day filled with cleaning, cooking constantly and never-ending childcare duties? [And yes, this is totally about my mother, okay?? Okay.]

Nancy is hard-headed practical and pragmatic. She tackles what she can tackle. I rather like how she let me tell her story. She even showed up, at times, to steer me into how she wished her story told.

Not that, she’d say. No, that isn’t what happened. I remember Anne Rice talking about her creation, Lestat and how she had Lestat looking over her shoulder as she wrote about him. Nancy was in that same category.

I scrapped several versions of the scene where Nancy flees her own house. Until I happened upon the one that seemed right. Where Nancy calls on her brother, who won’t ask her questions and will drop whatever to come get her. Nancy wouldn’t go to outsiders for her problems or…well, you’ll see if that book ever does actually come out of editing limbo and gets put out on the market.

Here’s a bit of a blurb. A taste. A nibble. THE HOUSE OF CLARK BOULEVARD. Oh and the sequel is done, too. I know!! Alice in Oregonlandia. About, you guessed it, Nancy’s daughter dealing with her own life and the fallout of her mother’s battles with Mr. Blue. Are you excited, gentle sorts??

The following is how the book opens, with Nancy preparing her little house for Thanksgiving’s excesses. Well, you’ll see…


The telephone hung in the air. Nancy ran the vacuum cleaner over the shabby green and gray carpet of the living room, ignoring that floating beige receiver held out to her to take. “Not today,” she said briskly. “I’m busy.”

The telephone bobbed in the air, she saw it do so from the corner of her eye as she resolutely went after every last bit of dirt and dust. Which did no good at all in this dusty afterthought of God’s country. Dust drifted up and drifted down, it did not good at all to actually expect it to stay away once a vacuum or rag had been after it. Something pressed against the back of her knees, hard, trying to knock her down. “No. Not today.” She repeated, using the vacuum to keep herself from falling. Another push against her legs. “No!” The see-through little girl peered at her from Nancy’s open bedroom door, in her flour sack dress, holding that severed doll’s head, her face bruised. Her eyes held sorrows, her hair held sticks and leaves and snarls. She disappeared, like hot fat in a frying pan.

Nancy heard the click of the telephone as it returned to the cradle. It rang. She let it, the roar of the Hoover as it sucked up filth a far more welcome sound than the reet reet of the phone. The walnut hutch held her good china, which she would use tomorrow. Her husband had anchored it to the wall. Her brother had helped. Nancy moved a chair out of her way, the four that sat around the dining room table, the table made of polished oak with two removable leaves. These sat in the hall closet, waiting for holidays. The every day floral tablecloth had stains, gravy stains and ketchup stains and mustard stains. She’d get out her good tablecloth for the big day. Dark blue, with a blocky yellow edge. Her Aunt Pansy had made it. Right now, her table had room for about four people. Tomorrow she’d put those leaves in so everyone coming by for Thanksgiving would have a place. She had folding chairs ready to go. She, Arthur, Arthur’s parents, her parents and Aaron and Alice, her two children. Eight people expected. She didn’t know if her brother would show up, with his newest girlfriend, some dishwater blond who liked whiskey. Who would like whiskey a lot. He kept showing up with the same woman, she just had different names. Her eyes rolled. Tom had a talent for picking out blondes who adored whiskey far more than anything else. The phone stopped ringing, after ten reet reets.

The thump of a small something hit the carpeted floor of the living room. She turned slightly and there lay a handful of thrown jacks, waiting for her to take her turn, a small battered red ball moving enticingly, trying to tempt her. “No, not ever.” The ball bounced and some of the jacks disappeared, rusty little toys from some other era. That red, worn ball floated toward her. “No! I am busy!” They tried to get her to play with them. At times, she could almost see whatever wanted her to play jacks. A small form, child-sized, with only half a face, at times. A little girl in a flour sack dress and chopped off dark hair, with eyes as pale as water. She thought there might be two little girls. A giant boy, so skinny she quite wanted to make him a milkshake. Rather harmless, wanting her to sit and play jacks. If only the damn house were infested with such harmless toy-playing things! The jacks, about ten of them, disappeared, the little well-used red ball as well. She had hurt their feelings. Oh well.

Something rolled past the doorway into the small, warped-floor kitchen, where she would cook the big turkey, make gravy from powdered cream of chicken soup and boil potatoes to mash. Something that would stand as tall as her knees, a big fuzzy furry black something that moved swiftly but slyly enough to let her catch a glimpse of it. Over and over as she got that rug into tip-top shape. Except for the eternal dust, the dog hair and the dust, of course. Over and over, that creature rolled, flashing by the door into the kitchen. Once it had tried to push her into the deep freezer. Whatever it was, its humor was that of a ten year old boy. As boys liked to hurt and harm, with no concept their pranks could actually cause damage of any kind. “Go take a nap, I am busy. No. Now leave me alone.” She often thought the fuzzy rolling ball of mischief had, at one time, been a boy. Maybe all little boys who died came back as rolling fuzzy balls that haunted housewives as they tried to get everything done for the damn holidays.

So far, no Mr. Blue. No unseen lips whispering at her. No if you kill her we’ll all go away So far, no Mr. Blue.

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Not the house but close enough. Eastern Oregon

Tabula Rasa


I’m sitting here thinking I should cut my wrists.

That’s the bulk of the actual thoughts in my head today. I should just do it. I should just get that razor blade. And slice. Watch the pretty blood splash out and just…go into the darkness. Just go. Just go. What a relief to have it all over. What a relief. Nietzsche was right about how comforting the notion of suicide is. You don’t have to keep living in misery. You don’t have to keep working so hard to come up with reasons to keep on living. For what? For what? I can’t think of anything.

“The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night.” Friedrich Nietzsche

And it’s such a lovely day outside. Full of sunshine and birds building nests. The thaw of the harsh winter. The greening of the world. That coming of spring like a fresh coat of paint. The flowering of the trees, the unfurling of leaves, the whole fucking kit and kaboodle bullshit fuckery another year another year another year

And I am wondering how long. Before I give in. To that compulsion to slice at my wrists or drink a bottle of pills. Old boring stuff, yes. This is not a tale of overcoming. Mine is not a tale for that movie about overcoming the odds or beating back against some suffering and triumphing. I won’t triumph over this. It will beat me. I’m just waiting for that signal. To cut. To cut. To cut so deep I can’t uncut.

And I realize I’m not supposed to speak of such things, the actual thoughts in my head. I must manufacture something sweet. To not reveal the giant dead landscape I walk so much now, in my head my head my dying foggy head. Where no gentle green land appears. Where no boats bob on misty waters to bear me away. Where no skies open above me that go on and on into some gentle night. Where I am utterly alone choking on the dust of my own footsteps. Where my feet don’t leave a mark anywhere and yet the dust chokes me it chokes me. And someone far away tells me to stop choking, to be quiet, someone indifferent. Stop choking, shhh. You’re so loud. Your voice hurts my head. So I am quiet and it’s I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you. You’re so loud. I can’t hear a goddamn word you fucking say. Why are you this way? What’s the matter with you? And I have no words left, I have no words left

I know why Plath put her head in that oven
Why Woolf drowned herself
Why Sexton drank in carbon minoxide

To not do so was just too fucking intolerable


I meant this to be somewhat elegant and beautifully written. It’s a raw blitz of bland dough. I probably won’t ‘share’ this because it will re-enforce that awful savage notion that I am not valuable to anyone, that people read my least feeble raw little scribble and shrug, forgetting me before they know me.

And all I can do today is not cut. Listen to birds outside my dead world. Listen to them fighting for territory in the vast wilderness of the lawns. Listen to those determined bird battle cries that declare another year, another nest, bitches! And the coming of eggs and the coming maws of little mouths and fuzzy babies and tragedies when the magpies descend.


And the day slinks onward toward twilight and dark and the moon and owls and coyotes and perhaps some sort of rest. Where some alchemy takes place that turns me into a tabula rasa. And I don’t have to remember anything I am a blank thing with no writing on my clean inner walls no scars or pits or canyons full of knives and blood and little dreams that died and died and died and kept dying dying dying kept screaming as they died

no little dreams at all



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Well, let’s all take a break and look at some dogs. These are a few of the dogs I’ve known and some of the dogs about me now as I write this on a bright spring-ish Saturday morn. I won’t admit to being anything less than maniacally positive, so here goes…

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Jake and Molly, wondering why I’m taking their picture.
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Trouble, the white and black dog. Fred, the ancient Chocolate Lab.
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Trouble playing with his squeaky baby
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Jake wanting someone to throw a stick for him
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Margot, who loved to dig for mice


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Jake and Molly looking for mice and rabbits


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Molly enjoying the sunshine
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Clyde having a stroll in the snow