what fresh hell

And I’m going down
Where the waves will surround
To the roll and the pound
Of the wild wild sea
Talking sweet to me

A.A. Bondy, A Slow Parade




There were big, mean dogs at the beach this morning.  Lily told them off, but they didn’t listen.  Still, we persisted.  We will not be run off the beach.  We will just run.  We are very fast.  (One of us is.)  Lily is now lying against me in our chair, all tuckered out.

Otherwise, a beautiful morning.  An egret in the surf, five pelicans flying low over the silvery water, one otter on its back in the waves.  The tide out and the beach long.

We’ve been watching in horror as southern California burns.  I have a lot of family in Ventura.  One of my cousins lost her house and everything in it.  The others have spent the last days evacuated.  Yesterday a group of them arrived up here for a while.  They came with stories and nightmares.  Some of the footage online is simply unbelievable.  My son tells me the sky is full of ash and the horizon is a deadly orange.  A hellscape, is what he says.  We will take a moment from our national outrages to mourn.


Moment over, mourning ongoing.  Also outrage.


Mitch McConnell is lecturing democrats on responsible government.  Sarah Huckabee Sanders is lecturing John Lewis on the importance of the civil rights movement.  Donald Trump is lecturing Al Franken on sexual misconduct.  Irony has taken to her bed with a cold compress and a bottle of gin.

Winter is Coming

And I’ll use you as a warning sign
That if you talk enough sense, then you’ll lose your mind

Amber Run, I Found


It has been a very long time since I posted.  I honestly don’t have the words.  Horror follows on the heels of horror – the gutting of our national monuments, the green light on the leaking Keystone Pipe Line, the end of net neutrality, the end of affordable healthcare, the end of the Consumer Protection Bureau, the end of the CHIP program, the packing of the courts, the rise of voter suppression, the rise of white supremacy, the likely election of a child molester to the Senate, the power and influence of habitual sexual predators over our lives, the power and influence of a racist government over our lives, the power and influence of the Republican Party, driven by greed and hostile to democracy, over our lives, a corrupt Supreme Court, Murdoch and Sinclair, the Kochs buying influence at PBS, NPR, the FCC, and Time, inc., mass shootings followed by thoughts and prayers.

The specter of a Nobel Peace recipient overseeing the genocide of the Rohingya people.

And much more.  Through it all Trump grinning like an idiot, lying about whatever suits him in the moment with no checks and no consequences.

Who is the very worst person in the country today?  So many, many contenders.  Suddenly Lisa Murkowski is on the short list.  At least we know what the price of her principles is.  Wilbur Ross?  Ajit Pai?  Kellyanne Conway?  What riches!  Hard to choose.

But my winner is the dishonorable, despicable Mitch McConnell, once again edging out the smug and smarmy Paul Ryan.



The tide is high when Lily takes me for my walk and twice we’ve been caught in an alcove as the waves swept in, soaking me up to my knees, which means Lily is swimming.  In a few more months, the beach will disappear and then what will we do?

A dead seal spent a couple of days on the sand.  I don’t know if the tide or the county took her away.  But it started me thinking about how one of Lily’s many perfections is her lack of interest in rolling in dead things.  And then I thought of how I get up every morning and immediately go to see what thing that I love about my country has been taken away today and wondered if this isn’t me rolling in dead things at the first opportunity.  But then the metaphor falls apart, because a dog rolling in dead fish is a vision of joy.  I am not.

We are putting a great deal of faith in Mueller, a man about whom I know next to nothing.  Plus there is a very real possibility that he will show up with the goods and the Republican congress will make some speeches and move on.  There is no reason to put any faith at all in Republicans.  Jeff Flake says he cares about the deficit.  Susan Collins says she cares about healthcare costs.  John McCain says he cares about regular order.  In the midnight hours, as Friday turned to Saturday, we all saw what they really care about.


Happy Canada Day

Let’s overturn these tables
Disconnect these cables
This place don’t make sense to me no more
Can you tell me what we’re waiting for, señor?


Bob Dylan, Señor



Today someone left messages at Its Beach – two rocks painted blue, one of which said “Dream” and one of which said “Be Content.”  I think these inspirational calls were fueled by Lay’s Potato Chips and Coke and Pepsi, because whoever left these rocks appears to have also left their trash.  The lovely woman with the two Basenjis picked up after these dreamers.

The tide is high again, but was remarkably low earlier in the week – low enough that Lily and I could walk all the way to the arch.  Low enough that, for the first time, I saw bird tracks in the sand before the waves erased them, tracks that ran about like pipers, but appeared too big, more gull-sized.  The kind of seaweed that pops very satisfyingly when you step on it was strewn about.  Rocks dotted with anemones surfaced.  We enjoyed a beach on which you could walk for miles, but the arch is a conundrum, as the water doesn’t appear to angle in its direction.  Many things at Its Beach defy rational explanation.  My personal Bermuda triangle.

Meanwhile, our national nightmare continues.  There appears to be no waking from it.  The Republican Party is operating from the same bad faith that has characterized them for decades and it suits them now to have a president that is venal and vain, dull-witted and doltish, cruel and criminal.  The bigger problem, the problem that can never be solved, is that so many of my fellow citizens like that about him.  I don’t see any way ever to Unum this E Pluribis.IMG_0272


I will be the reaper
If you will be
The keeper of my heart  –  Indigo Girls, Keeper of my Heart

I want to notice, as many other writers have already done, that Denis Johnson has died. I met Denis about a year ago when I was teaching at Cornell. He came to do a reading and there was a dinner after to which I was generously invited. It will surprise absolutely no one to hear that he was a great raconteur as well as a great listener, and I looked forward to the day I got to see him again, as he lived not close to me, but not so far either. I regret his passing very much.

I am also mourning the loss of another writer. I never met Brian Doyle, except through his novels and essays, but I feel that he is there, more so than most writers, there in his words – a man particularly attentive to the beauty of the world, his stories told with an uncommon tenderness. There are many, many books that I love, but the magical Mink River has a special place in my heart. Of course, he had me with his talking crow.
We are losing people we can ill afford to lose.


The Don

Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

John Mayer, Waiting on the World to Change


I am currently on retreat, posting from an undisclosed remote location.  I know, if I were home and had the access to the internet I am accustomed to, I would be online 24/7, watching the Comey firing play out.

During the Watergate hearings, I had a brand new baby.  I spent hours, rocking her in front of the most riveting tv.  Did it effect her?  She’s got her father’s eyes and her mother’s politics.

Then Gerald Ford told us that our national nightmare was over.  The institutions of our government had triumphed over a lawless president.  Our forefathers had proved, once again, so prescient.

We learned only this year, though we had long suspected, that Nixon scuttled the peace talks, prolonging the war in Vietnam and bringing about the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Vietnamese in order to be re-elected.  Inarguably more serious than Watergate.  Our institutions didn’t prevent or uncover this.  They didn’t work all the way up to the White House in the Iran/Contra scandal or when Reagan possibly undermined Carter’s attempt to rescue our hostages from Iran.

So really, all we have is Watergate and even that would have been iffy without a tape in which the crime is explicitly planned by the president.  Note to future presidents:  turn off the tape.

A few months back, Tim Weiner told me that Trump was boxed in, because firing Comey would constitute obstruction of justice.  Yet here we are.  I guess the law only matters if there is some one willing to enforce it.  (He also said that only John McCain and James Comey stand between us and the abyss.  Don’t look down!)

Today our institutions are all a subsidiary of the Republican Party, inc.  The Republic is only as strong as the integrity of Lying Paul Ryan, Old Loathsome Mitch, Slippery Susan Collins, and that fun Bomb-loving duo, Graham/McCain.  We are not encouraged.

Falling so quickly on the heels of the despicable, indefensible tax cut for the wealthy known as Trumpcare, one might be excused for feeling a little despair.

Does the Republican Party even care that Russia may control the administration, or that the government is being run solely in order to enrich the Trumps in particular and the wealthy in general?  Do they feel any responsibility to democracy and the constitution and the nation?  Things could change, but as of today, all signs point to no.  It’s always possible that this is all going exactly as they always dreamt it would.

Addendum today from Paul Krugman:

[I]it’s time to face up to the scary reality here. Most people now realize, I think, that Donald Trump holds basic American political values in contempt. What we need to realize is that much of his party shares that contempt.

100 days and counting (down)

What if the sun don’t rise when it’s supposed to?
What if the birds stop flying?
When will the air turn thicker than water?
If you love me, why am I dying?       The Boxing Gandhis  If You Love Me [Why am I Dying?]

Here we are at the 100 day mark and I am trying to get a picture that truly captures the color of the water in the morning. I marched for Science last Saturday. I’m marching again tomorrow.  Tomorrow, this is what I’m marching for.IMG_0249

First we take (the) Manhattan (Project)

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Leonard Cohen, First We Take Manhattan

Coincidentally, the very week national-vote-loser Trump bombed a Syrian airport, a 2007 documentary, War Made Easy: How Presidents & Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, finally made it to the top of our Netflix queue. Even without this movie, I think I would have seen the near-orgasmic media response to the “very presidential” move of bombing someone somewhere as a familiar one. But the movie clarified just how familiar it is. Nothing excites our media more than seeing the missiles fly.

But this part I find less familiar: we now have a president who is so easily manipulated that the gushing will lead directly to more bombings. So Brian Williams, Fareed Zakaria, and all the rest of you who fawned over the bomber-in-chief last week, the next round is on you. It was irresponsible in the extreme not to recognize this.

Because we all know who Trump is. It doesn’t matter what he said or says. It has never mattered what he said or says. He fancies himself a tough guy. He is very invested in looking tougher than Obama. (He won’t be tough if personal sacrifice is involved – he’s not a man who does personal sacrifice – but if he can look tough while sacrificing someone else? Win/win.) So I don’t blame the press for the first bombing as he was always going to bomb someone. But now that he knows he’ll be praised and admired for it, I expect we’ll see a lot more bombs.

While, for the first time since nuclear weapons were invented, we have a game of brinksmanship occurring between two spectacularly unstable leaders. The Cuban missile crisis redux only crazy this time. Will a first strike on North Korea also elicit such breathless enthusiasm? I’m terribly afraid the answer to this question is coming soon.

Meanwhile, in order to steal a seat on the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell has broken the Senate. If there were a single admirable Republican anywhere, s/he would have asked that Garland get a hearing before Gorsuch. But there isn’t, so s/he didn’t. I would like to think there was some shame involved in this whole sordid episode, but there seems to be no end of self-congratulation instead. Springtime for corporations and billionaires. Springtime for voter suppression and discrimination disguised as religious freedom. Winter for women and people of color and people with no money who wish they had clean water to drink.

It is strange to be watching these terrible matters in the midst of much beauty here. The blackbirds are singing in the meadows. The sun is shining through the rain. The wild flowers are as tall as I am. The dog beach is an oasis of good will and harmony. No big dogs picking on little dogs. Balls and waves enough for everyone.