This Thing Called Courage

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Of Lost Dogs and Dead Coyotes

AS JOHN WAYNE MIGHT SAY, "If you know any dog prayers, say them now." On Monday night, a cold one (about 16 degrees) we took our customary nocturnal walk. Sometimes we head south on Main Street, and sometimes will go all the the way down to the first entrance to Happy Land; Fionn prefers to go north on Main Street, to the always-exciting Stoneham Square and back-- better smells, apparently, plus we do the south walk in the morning and of course everyone loves a change.

But we went south the other night. I wanted to walk to the first entrance of the Fells, but Fionn would not hear of it, sitting down and doing his little mule imitation. So we crossed the street at Friendly's and went into the little store at the corner.

My friend Ray was working there that evening and he told me a sad story. He said that a woman had come in shortly before, reporting that her dog had been lost and out since the day before (Sunday). It was a small Terrier mix, by name of Tucker. It went down to about 12 Sunday night, not a good thing for little Terriers lost, but the dog had survived, as it had been spotted near the MDC skating rink, which is about three miles down the road from the little store, on Monday afternoon at 4:30. It was now about 8:30.

I was heartbroken for the woman, and heartbroken for the poor dog, and all I could think of was what if that had been Fionn, or Biscuit (the latter a Terrier). Surely if either of them were lost, I would want anyone and everyone to help find. So I figured, nothing will flush a dog out like another dog; so we girded up our loins, as the saying goes, and headed down South Street which becomes Pond Street which becomes something else again as it skirts the northern edge of Spot Pond.

It was, as my grandmother would say, a good stretch of the leg, and mighty cold to boot, with a sometimes keen wind. But it was a glorious winter's night, sharp and clear as glass and dashed with the silvering elixir of a bright waxing moon-- and we were dressed for the weather, as I abhor being cold when out walking-- and Fionn wears his fur of course at all times. I was wearing underwear (normal in case anyone is wondering), flannel-lined jeans, a long-sleeved thermal shirt, my down parka with the hood up, and, to top it all off, my long great coat, made of Harris Tweed on the Shetland Islands by people who know what they are doing with wool. (This was a $55 STEAL at Keezer's Used Clothing in Cambridge, by the by.) So, we passed the zoo, we passed the old hospital, we passed the (recently restored) Tudor Barn (a stone barn, no less) as we trekked along. About halfway along a car pulled over and a woman in the passenger seat asked if we had seen a little dog. I told her that I was, in fact, out looking for her dog, as I had heard the story at the store. She blessed me and thanked me and gave me her phone number should I have any news to report.

About an hour after that we reached the skating rink. All along the way we had been intermittently calling out, "Tucker! Come 'ere Tucker." But alas-- no Tucker did we find. We hung around about the back of the skating rink for some time, then headed home. Along the way home, as we were threading along the edge of the woods, I spied a bushy tail shining in the moonlight in a little ditch beside the trail. Alas, it was a magnificent but dead coyote. There were no visible wounds, but no doubt he had been hit on the parkway and crawled into the road-side ditch to die. He was really a magnificent animal-- his mouth was a little ajar and his teeth were white and strong and shining in the moonlight, as was his exquisite coat of fur. So sad. This is hypocritical of me, but I so hate cars.

There is no state now that is coyote free. In the old days we had Eastern Coyotes and Western Coyotes. The Eastern Coyote was wiped out from the east some time ago. What has returned-- and is now in every community in Massachusetts-- seems to be a hybrid between the western coyote, or perhaps the eastern coyote, and timber wolves (in the north), red wolves (in the south), and wild dogs (domesticated dogs gone wild). (See pic above) This new iteration is significantly larger than the western coyote and a fairly formidable predator. I had a midnight encounter with a pack of seven or eight of them four and a half years ago in this same approximate area, as I was walking home from Oak Grove Station on a lovely May evening. It was, literally, a hair-raising experience! Click here if you want to hear eastern coyotes' 'group howl.' NB: If you have a dog in the home, it will, to put it mildy, make he or she sit up and take notice-- at least that's what Fionn did when I played it:

I've read on many occasions that one could take the smartest domesticated dog there is (Fionn!) and the average wild dog-- coyote or wolf-- would run rings around it. Natural selection and all that, and having to survive in the wild, and the not so wild, where man has done his best to eradicate him. There is something wonderfully heartening about the return of the coyote. And to hear their call at night is something to stir the blood, like nothing else can.

We got back home around 11, after having been out for three hours. It was funny-- after being out for so long, and walking for so long, it began to feel that this was all very natural, and what we always used to do-- be out at night, rambling, walking, hunting, doing ceremonies. It was like some not-so-ancient instinct was kicking in. I warned up. My eyesight got keener. 'Out' began to feel more and more like 'in', to paraphrase John Muir.

Back to poor Tucker. I don't know if his owners or someone else found him that night, or yesterday. I have the owners' number-- but am a little reluctant to call and hear bad news. I can't imagine-- it's tragic and heart-breaking enough to have your dog pass away, but to know he or she is lost, and possibly freezing to death, is nothing short of torturous. The problem is (although I can't think of any other circumstances in which this would be a problem) that there are so many woods around that area-- Spot Pond Reservation, and the Middlesex Fells Reservation (on both sides) which total close to 4000 acres.

Tucker, here's hoping you found your way home.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

IT WAS A PRIVILEGE AND A PLEASURE to stand with about 500 other Greater Bostonians yesterday at the Park Street end of the Boston Common, and witness to the continuing insanity of the Bush administration and its murderous policies. This was a gathering for those who couldn't make it to the large convocation d'outrage in Washington D.C., and similar demonstrations were held all across the country. The vitality and energy of the group was amazing-- it was inspiring, uplifting, and restoring. There were no counter-demonstrators, nor any negative feedback from the hundreds of cars passing by on Tremont Street-- one senses a greater, and greater, shift as more and more people come to the same conclusion: something is very wrong with the policies of this country. Well, we've all known that for years, but another powerful message of these gatherings was to serve notice to the newly elected Congress that the poeple have spoken, as they say, and they expect change-- drastic change. A stop-the-war funding bill is making its way through Congress this week, and if you haven't yet communicated to your congressional representative and U.S. senator, NOW is the time to let them know how you feel. Even many Republican senators and representatives are beginning to leave this sinking ship. This is especially imporant now, as it is beginning to be realized by more and more people that Bush has Iran in his sights next-- hey, why not? The Iraq War has been so successful, why not invade another sovereign state? If we can tie his hands on Iraq, he will be less able to transform the current debacle into a truly horrific disaster. Go here to ask your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 508:

It was so heartening to see, among all other ages groups, so many young people at yesterday's event, of high school and college age. While many activists bemoan the seeming apathy of the younger generation in today's struggles, there was no evidence of that yesterday. Many of the young people I spoke with were not affiliated with any group or organization-- they had heard about the demonstration and wanted to be part of it. There was lots of chanting, lots of singing, lots of sloganeering, and a tremendous amount of camaraderie-- and, again, the wonderful feeling one gets when one takes an active, participatory role in democracy in its most vital form.

As I have noted here before, I demonstrate every Monday night (schedule allowing) at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Route 60 in Arlington with other representatives of the Arlington contingent of United for Justice With Peace. There aren't too many of us there week in and week out-- maybe a dozen at most-- and the atmosphere is more one of stoic and silent witnessing. But yesterday's event, because of the sheer numbers, felt much different-- perhaps because of the elections-- and one can sense the beginning of a sea change. God willing!!!

In other news, I had two great events this past week, one at the Boston PrimeTimers, where over 100 gay/bi men 55 and older gathered to welcome me for the third time in three years. They are an amazing group-- avid readers, incredibly engaged, and wonderfully welcoming and polite. Two nights later I was at James's Gate, a wonderful Irish pub in Jamaica Plain, as a guest of the Jamaica Plain Men's Group (JPMG). About 70 members attended, and a good time was had by all. A special thank you to Bob Linscott of the JPMG for organizaing the event, and also the staff of James's Gate, who were kind, courteous, and did everything in their power to make the event a tremendous success. As usual I forgot to ask people at both events that if they liked the book, it would be nice if they wrote a review of same on the amazon page that sells my book. Oi. A marketer I am not.

I am looking forward to this week, which is less event filled and, therefore, will allow me more time to continue work on my current novel, Lucky in Love. I've got about 60 pages down thus far, which only takes us into the third chapter, but have already rewritten the shit out of the thing several times-- but now we are cooking with Crisco, as they say, and, after a few warm-ups and false leads, we know what we are doing-- well, more or less! Actually we never quite know what we are doing, we just follow the lead, as it were, and show up everyday as the story writes itself. There are four main characters: Lucky, an (apparent) young idler who gathers on a particular street corner almost every afternoon; Owen, a returned Iraqi War veteran, a maimed recluse who begins to make a hobby out of watching Lucky every day from his curtained bedroom across the street; a nameless, 200-year old Silver Maple tree which grows near the corner; and Margaret Mary Monahan, a no-nonsense, rather formidable 'helper' in her mid-sixties whom the Visiting Nurse Association sends to Owen's house 5 afternoons a week, to look after him. The narrator is a 1500 year old Irish Bard-- where he came from I have no idea-- I think I'm being channelled! Or would that be, somebody's channelling me? And am I even spelling that mystical word correctly? Hey, let's ask my channeller! Oh-- wait a minute-- something's coming through! He says, "it's one 'l', as anyone would tell you." Okay then, channeler it is!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Poem of the Day

I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO and not enough time to do it-- isn't that the mantra of these ungracious times? And all too often, I fear, this feeling comes from deep inside, rather than outside-- but not always. One of the reasons I chose to live la vie boheme, as the artist's or writer's life is often called, in what most would call near poverty, without medical insurance or houses, or cars that might illicit envy from my fellow travellers on the road of life, is so that I can be both the bank, and the withdrawer, or my share of Time.

If you're reading this and haven't heard from me in a while-- and there are, alas, many of you-- forgive me. I am buried in the deep well of a new novel, and only come up for air when it's necessary. Laundry's in arrears, meals get skipped, calls go unanswered. Oi.

Anyway, one thing I try to do each day to pull back the taffy of time from the world, which wants more and more of it seemingly, is to take my Daily Poetry Break. No matter how crazy it gets, I take ten minutes, snatch at a random book of poetry, and head outside to the woods out back, if it's reasonably clement. If not, I go up to the attic into the little cubby hole, or into the spare bedroom's closet with a flashlight or candle-- any hidey place will do-- and indulge myself in the unbridled luxury of revealing in lovely words. I read them, then read them againj, then sit and think about them. And I come back-- not better, but more myself.

So, without further ado, here is today's poem, by Irish poet Billy Collins:

The Night House
— Billy Collins

Every day the body works in the fields of the world
mending a stone wall
or swinging a sickle through the tall grass —
the grass of civics, the grass of money —
and every night the body curls around itself
and listens for the soft bells of sleep.

But the heart is restless and rises
from the body in the middle of the night,
leaves the trapezoidal bedroom
with its thick, pictureless walls
to sit by herself at the kitchen table
and heat some milk in a pan.

And the mind gets up too, puts on a robe
and goes downstairs, lights a cigarette,
and opens a book on engineering.
Even the conscience awakens and roams
from room to room in the dark,
darting away from every mirror like a strange fish.

And the soul is up on the roof
in her nightdress, straddling the ridge,
singing a song about the wildness of the sea
until the first rip of pink appears in the sky.
Then, they all will return to the sleeping body
the way a flock of birds settles back into a tree,

resuming their daily colloquy,
talking to each other or themselves,
even through the heat of the long afternoons.
Which is why the body — that house of voices —
sometimes puts down its metal tongs, its needle, or its pen
to stare into the distance,

to listen to all its names being called
before bending to its labor.

Friday, January 12, 2007

More Signs Bush Wants to Attack Iran

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT Bsuh could not get anymore insane or dangerous than he already is and has been, he once again demonstrates that we have underestimated his capacity for murder, mayhem, chaos, and utter ineptitude. There are more signs that he intends to attack Iran. This is froma post on today's Huffington Post:

Note from Flynt Leverett: Most Important Parts of Bush Speech About Iran -- Not Iraq (3 comments )
(New America Foundation Senior Fellow and Geopolitics of Energy Initiative Director Flynt Leverett: photo credit: NewsHour with Jim Lehrer)
I asked former CIA and Bush administration National Security Council senior official Flynt Leverett for a quick summary of his thoughts on President Bush's Address to the Nation.
Here is Flynt Leverett's response:
The most important things that President Bush said last night dealt with Iran, not Iraq:
According to the President, the Iranians are providing "material support" to attacks on U.S. forces. That is a casus belli. It fits in with the administration's escalating campaign -- encompassing rhetoric and detentions of Iranian officials in Iraq -- to blame Iran for a strategically significant part of the ongoing instability and violence in Iraq.
In the context of describing the deployment of additional U.S. forces to Iraq, the President also noted the importance of securing Iraq's borders. I suspect that at least some of the additional U.S. soldiers going to Iraq will end up on the border with Iran.
Moreover, the President strongly implied that the U.S. military would start going after targets in countries neighboring Iraq to disrupt supply networks for insurgents and militias. The deployment of a second carrier strike group to the theater -- confirmed in the speech -- is clearly directed against Iran. Since, in contrast to previous U.S. air campaigns in the Gulf, military planners developing contingencies for striking target sets in Iran must assume that the United States would not be able to use land-based air assets in theater (because of political opposition in the region), they are surely positing a force posture of at least two, and possible three carrier strike groups to provide the necessary numbers and variety of tactical aircraft.
Similarly, the President's announcement that additional Patriot batteries would go to the Gulf is clearly directed against Iran. We have previously deployed Patriot batteries to the region to deal with the Iraqi SCUD threat. Today, the only missile threat in the region for the Patriot to address is posed, at least theoretically, by Iran's Shihab-3.
In sum, the administration is laying the rhetorical and operational foundations for implementing a presidential decision to initiate military operations against Iran. No wonder the White House wants Hillary* and me to shut up.
(*Hillary is Hillary Mann Leverett, a former State Department official who also served on President George W. Bush's National Security Council staff. She is married to Flynt Leverett)
Leverett's views are consistent with many others I have spoken to over the last day. He has also been in a battle with National Security Council staff who have insinuated themselves in the "secrets clearing process" managed by the CIA Publications Review Board.
Here is Flynt Leverett's and HIllary Mann Leverett's recent op-ed in the New York Times that was published with the CIA's "blacked out"/redacted lines.
-- Steve Clemons is Senior Fellow and Director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation and publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note

Please call or wite your congresspeople/senators and ask them to support Semator Kennedy's bill limiting future escalations in Iraq and elsewhere to congressional approval. It's not to late to stop this march to armageddon if enough of us resist.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Type of People Who Are Leading Our Country Now

This is taken from a link off, and tells the disturbing story of one of our Vice President's amusements. How utterly vile, vulgar, and revealing.

The second article is even more disturbing. This madman must go.

Cheney kicks off "Escalation Week" by killing scores of stunned, defenseless birds

Here in Pa. there's been a surge an escalation in recent hours of Harry Whittington nostalgia and lots 'o face-shooting jokes (a genre that didn't exist before last January) with news that Vice President Dick Cheney has pulled his trusty rifle out of storage and arrived in balmy western Pa. for a hunt at the private Rolling Rock Club near Ligonier.
But none of the articles today have mentioned this: That Pennsylvania is where Dick Cheney comes to shoot things even more defenseless than Harry Whittington (who was armed, after all), and more defenseless than your typical Iraqi wedding party: Birds that have been raised for no other purpose than to become sitting ducks, little more than living-and-breathing (until now) skeet.
Here's what the Humane Society said after Cheney's last visit to Rolling Rock, in December 2003:
Upon his arrival at the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, gamekeepers released 500 pen-raised pheasants from nets for the benefit of him and his party. In a blaze of gunfire, the group—which included legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), along with major fundraisers for Republican candidates—killed at least 417 of the birds. According to one gamekeeper who spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Cheney was credited with shooting more than 70 of the pen-reared fowl.
After lunch, the group shot flocks of mallard ducks, also reared in pens and shot like so many live skeet. There's been no report on the number of mallards the hunting party killed, but it's likely that hundreds fell.
Rolling Rock is an exclusive private club for the wealthy with a world-class golf course and a closed membership list. It is also a "canned hunting" operation—a place where fee-paying hunters blast away at released animals, whether birds or mammals, who often have no reasonable chance to escape. Most are "no kill, no pay" operations where patrons only shells out funds for the animals they kill.
You can certainly argue whether or not hunting is a sport, but there's no sport here. This is quite literally the "shock and awe" of bird killing. As the earlier Humane Society article goes on to note:
Bird-shooting operations offer pheasants, quail, partridges, and mallard ducks, often dizzying the birds and planting them in front of hunters or tossing them from towers toward waiting shotguns....
Our criticism is simple to understand: Farm-raised pheasants are about as wary as urban pigeons and shooting them is nothing more than live target practice, especially when they are released from a hill in front of 10 gunners hidden below in blinds—as Cheney and his party were. Such hunting makes a mockery of basic principles of fair play and humane treatment, and the vice president should not associate himself with such conduct.

That last comment is way too, um, humane for the likes of Cheney. This is a vice president who was the chief advocate for a bloody war that has made the bird-killing fields of Pennsylvania seem like a Sunday stroll in the park. Just today, the Iraqi Health Ministry said that more than 17,000 Iraqi civilians and police officers died violently in the last half of 2006, triple the recent rate. How many more will die in the coming weeks, after Cheney's nominal boss escalates this fiasco instead of winding things down?
The truth is, repulsive as it sounds, we would actually be OK with Cheney's obsession with killing dazed and confused mallards -- if "taking his aggressions out" stopped right there in western Pennsylvania. Instead, he's releasing caged birds on Monday, and then on Wednesday releasing 20,000 young American men and women into a civil war where they may become sitting ducks for IEDs.
That's our definition of a real sicko.

Here's the second article I want to post today, written by Jon Stolz via Huffington Post. Now this is really sick.

All Roads Point to Iran

Why? That is what I have been asking myself all week. Why are we going to escalate the war in Iraq?
Twenty thousand more troops in Iraq won't secure Iraq, and probably not even Baghdad. The numbers are so simple, I can't believe that politicians are even willing to risk their careers for a security mission that can't be accomplished.
When I served in Kosovo, we protected a Serbian church for six months. We had 40,000 troops to protect 200,000 Serbs that needed our protection. That is a ratio of 1 soldier for every 5 civilians. In Iraq, escalating the war from 130,000 troops to 150,000 troops will do little to secure a country of 26 million.
The idea that going to door to door in Baghdad will make a difference is even more ridiculous. Not only was a Stryker Brigade extended in Baghdad several months to unsuccessfully secure the city, but we have gone door to door in other cities such as Fallujah, only to return later because we couldn't seize and hold terrain. Securing Iraq would require 500,000 troops for 7 to 10 years. So why are we going to send more troops to Iraq for a mission that can't be accomplished without diplomacy?
Last fall, the USS Eisenhower was sent to the Gulf, and this week it was reported that the USS John C. Stennis battle group is also to be deployed to the region. Add to that that last week Admiral Fallon was nominated to replace Gen Abizaid as the head of Central Command, which has the war fighting responsibility for the Middle East. Traditionally it's commanded by the Army and Marine Corps, which would make sense considering the extensive ground combat operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. So why take the Pacific Commander and insert him into commanding two ground operations, while building up our naval presence in the region?
During the past two months, since Republicans lost control of Congress because of Iraq, the Bush Administration has at times made some mind boggling decisions unless you assume the obvious -- that they are preparing to target Iran.
With the American military drastically over-extended in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are no viable ground options for Iran. The current operational plans for striking nuclear facilities in Iran will almost certainly be naval and Air Force operations. With Admiral Fallon being an aviator, it is an operation he is well suited to plan, prepare, and execute. His nomination is nothing less than a signal to the American public that the Bush Administration is preparing to launch strikes at Iran.
If the United States strikes Iran, the Iranians will continue this fight, but maybe not the way the public is expecting. Their best assets are their two large militias that they control outside of Iraq. The first is Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Any attack on Iraq will certainly lead to regional conflict with the Israelis. The second is the Mahdi Army inside of Iraq. They are loyal to the anti-American cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, who will also almost surely again rise up to fight American forces inside of Iraq.
In April of 2004, Mr. Sadr's forces revolted against American forces and precipitated a month of bloody combat.
There are just enough US Forces in Iraq to keep just enough security to prevent a larger scale civil war. There aren't troops in the country for any additional offensive or defensive operations; just enough to hold our current battle space. During our confrontation with Sadr's forces in 2004, a pumped up 1st Armored Division with 20,000 troops was extended an additional four months in order to deal with the Mahdi Army.
Does 20,000 troops sound familiar?
It's not enough to secure Iraq, but it may be just enough to deal with the Mahdi Army if we deicide to strike Iran.
Politically, it all ads up. Short of the politically risky move of cutting off funding for all military operations, there is nothing the Democratic Congress can do to control these troop deployments. This allows this administration to demonstrate to the public that the White House -- and not the new Democratic Congress -- is in fact "really in charge."
Yet, there is still one sliver of hope. Congress can assert itself by strongly supporting a bill that Senator Ted Kennedy will introduce today, that will require new authorization from Congress before the President can escalate the war and prepare for a strike against Iran. It's likely that the bill will be vetoed by the President, so this bill will need widespread support. There are very few second chances in life, but the Kennedy bill will give one to those who voted to give the President a blank check in 2002. This is their last chance to reclaim their oversight power, do right by the Troops, and represent the will of the people.
Will they do so? Call your Senator and Congressman and ask them. The Capitol Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Pansies in January

This can't be right-- as I've noted here before, Fionn and I walk five miles a day, and when you walk that much you tend to observe things-- and the world looks pretty good at a walking pace. But there are THREE different gardens on our morning walk that have pansies BLOOMING in them right now-- and tonight down at Mike's in Nahant, there were mad moths fluttering around the back-door light (which reminds me of that wonderful Yates poem with the great lines 'and when white moths were on the wing/and moth-like stars were flickering...' but I digress).

It's 61 degrees as I write this at midnight-- and it's freakin' JANAURY FIFTH!!!!! While it's nice not to freeze on our morning walks, I don't like this. It ain't natural. They say the North Pole will be ice free in thirty years. I wonder if we'll wake up from our self-obsessed consumerist culture in time. There are so many little things we can do, that cumulatively make a huge difference. For example, just the dishwashing liquid we buy-- so many cleaning products, including most major brands of dishwashing liquid, are (unnecessarily) petroleum based. If every US household switched to an environmentally friendly (i.e., vegetable-based) 25 oz bottle of dishwashing liquid, we would save 81,000 barrels of oil-- enough to heat and cool 5000 homes for a year. (Plus they smell nicer too, and when you support environmentally-sound companies, you encourage other companies to go and do likewise.) The best thing we can do is get educated, make changes, and get involved. There are million of places to start. One such great place is which is the National Wildlife Federation. They have a thousand great ideas on how we can all make a difference and be part of the solution, rather than the problem. You can also find out how to get your backyard certified as a NWF Wildlife Habitat Area. What could be cooler?

Anyway. What I'm really supposed to write about tonight is some upcoming dates for readings, and also to thank everyone who called or emailed about the television show I was on last night, touting the new book. (Sorry I forgot to list it here-- duh.) It went very well, and was the shortest 30 minutes of my life, I think-- I was just getting warmed up! Afterwards the host, Jacques, walked me down to the Out of the Blue Art Gallery, where he introduced me to some folks and planted the seeds for doing a reading event there this spring. This is the home of the Stone Soup Poetry Series, the oldest-running poetry series in the nation. A very cool place with some reely reely tripindicular people! Far out!

UPCOMING EVENTS: Thursday, January 18, 6-9 pm at the Commodore's Mansion, Watertown, MA-- sponsored by Boston Spirit Magazine (who published a story of mine in their latest issue, by the by);

Saturday, January 20, 4:00 pm-- the Boston Prime Timers have once again invited me back-- this is always A GREAT event and the guys are just wonderful. At the Harriet Tubman House in the South End, and open to the public.
I'm going to bring my Bodhran and play for them this time.

Monday, January 22. Cocktail hour 7:00-8:00 pm, I go on at 8:00-- at the James Gate Irish Pub, Jamaica Plain-- sponsored by the Jamaica Plain Mens Group, a relatively new social group of bi/gay guys in JP (my old stomping grounds) with 400+ members. The place only holds about 100 people, so get there early! (No drumming here-- there's probably enough of that in JP without me adding to it...) lol

There are some nice new reviews of the new book on the amazon page-- go here if you want to check them out.
If that doesn't work, just go to Amazon and search Map of the Harbor Islands

Finally, (I'm not going to write about Bush tonight-- I swear!-- except to say that the whole family should be sterilized) my dear friend Clay went to the inauguration of Governor Patrick yesterday-- that has such a great ring to it, no? One teacher and two students were invited from every high school in the Commonwealth, and Clay was invited from his school-- makes me so proud!!! He said the service, and Deval's speech, brought tears to his eyes-- and took the sting out of Tuesday's unlovely actions at the state house. You go, Deval...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy 2007!

Although personally I prefer to observe the New Year on September 1 or thereabouts-- somehow it feels more like a time for new beginnings-- school begins, the seasons change, the rush-- or indolence-- of summer is over, and one has a tendency to turn inward. The old Irish celebrated New Year on October 31, or Samhain; Jewish people celebrate it later in September. I observed the occasion this year by making art, and was probably happier than most.

Enough members of the Massachusetts Legislature did the shameful thing today and voted to move the ban on gay marriage amendement forward. A pox, I say! While anyone with half a brain should be able to grasp that civil rights granted to a marginalized minority should never be put to public vote (it is up to the courts to rule on Constitutional matters) the really vexing thing (other than the hypocrisy of the 'religious' opponents of gay marriage) is the amount of money and time and media attention the issue will now draw (to say nothing of busloads of idiots from states without a coastline coming here to spread their message of hate) when there are REAL problems that beset this country-- the ongoing illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq, poverty, cuts to social services and education, the environmental crisis, people going hungry, the vanishing of the middle class, the rise of greed, the march of fluff that used to be called the media, and so on. Oi very.

But what I really want to write about tonight is the night. For many years, I've had this thing for the night-- the day too, but, like the proverbial poor, the daylight will always be among us. Up until very recently, people were nocturnal, as well as diurnal-- we hunted at night, fished at night, traveled at night when we were nomadic, observed religious ceremonies at night, marked the seasonal changes at night (think the Mummers' Dance and all that) and so on. But now we have banished the night with 'security' lights that come on automatically, highways and roads drenched in that dreadful orange-brown sodium sulfur light, and abdicated what should be a cloak of mystery and delight to garish neon advertising. And I think something in our soul that longs for mystery has gone missing as a result. A part of our soul has atrophied.

It's interesting when one thinks of something, or feels a certain way, and then sees comparable sentiments echoed elsewhere-- and many people seem to feel the same way about the night:

"Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars? Be the answer what it will, today’s civilization is full of people who have not the slightest notion of the character or the poetry of night, who have never even seen night.” That was from Nan Turner Waldron, an environmentalist and author of 'A Year at the Outermost House,' who lived off and on for 17 years in the dune shack where Henry Beston (who wrote 'The Outermost House') stayed on Cape Cod National Seashore.

The point is, this evening I am infected with a longing for night. Usually the fit takes me in late summer, especially when the crickets get going, adding a dense layer of syrupy sweetness to the already enchanted summer night. But tonight is the full moon, and I know that the woods of Happy Land (the Middlesex Fells Reservation, right down the street from my house) will be radiant and magical by its light. And it's there I mean to go. Ah! But what inevitably happens is that the naturalist in me goes up against the imaginative me, and, inevitably, shocking scenes of sylvan mayhem inavde my brain like (to continue the B-film horror metaphor) so many maggots in a corpse. There is an old arched bridge 1/2 a mile up on the road I usually take into Happy Land, drenched in shadow and murkiness and the perfect place for a machete-wielding butcher to hide. While the moonlight makes the woods almost daytime bright, the brightest light casts the darkest shadow; and while here, for example, we have a hemlock shining in all its hunter-green glory, all be-silvered with moondrench-- its back side is-- or at least appears to be-- an open maw to God-knows-what kind of horror. The presence of a friend would help (you have to move up here, Clint, for adventures like these!) but there are only a few of my acquaintance who would go for such diversions, and none of them are around this evening. And my mother says she will be nervous if I go up there alone-- of course I won't be going alone, for Freddy, Jason, Frankenstein, and every other Bogeyman I can think of will be accompoanying me-- as well as Fionn the Dog. Although when it comes to things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, he does the wise thing-- and promptly ducks behind Daddy. He also pricks his ears up and does his funny guttaral growl at the slightest little thing-- which of course only makes my paranoia worse.

But at any rate-- I'll be off now, before I talk myself out of it, and make a report when I get back, about what the night is doing, and what is happening in the silent, enchanting (albeit coyote-ridden) woods and lakes and fields and hills of Happy Land, as it basks under the tangled nets of starlight.

Perhaps I'll bring a big-ol' walloping stick with me. Or a clump of garlic.