Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rest in Peace, Skip E.

 "The Boy with the Betty Grable legs" singing me Happy Birthday in Beverly Hills.
 Big Lou (l) at my birthday party.
 Leona leads the way while Big Lou and I go-go.
 Happy wows 'em with his George M Cohan medley.
 Leona belts one out.
 Mary singing x-rated tunes.
Happy resting.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I liked listening to "Highway to Hell" on the stairmaster and treadmill. Mostly because everyone else at the Y was a senior citizen, and it made a much better music video than anything on TV.  By then I was only bringing AC/DC to the gym because I didn't have to skip over any cringe-worthy slow songs.

Pretty soon I was the only one left in the room, which made me wonder if all of the older folks were on a special exercise bus. I finished up and headed downstairs to my friend at the desk who asked, "Donna, do you have any friends or relatives at World Trade?"

Outside, I stood and watched the second plane hit.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Party Tips

1. Invite nuns.
2. Make sure children are properly dressed.

I used to work in a film archive and this was one of our favorite newsreels. (It's from the 1930s, not '50s.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Come and Learn to Dance

I'll never understand why they weren't more famous.

Do the Memphis!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

If only ...

all of our dads were as hip as Vincent Cassel's ... (Jean-Pierre)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Daisy Mae Flies Away

Monday morning Daisy did not eat. She jumped in the front seat of the car without wanting to walk or pee. Whenever we returned from the desert she was listless and depressed and if I had laundry or trash, she assumed we were leaving again and jumped to the door.

I had planned on moving to the desert for many reasons, the main being that Daisy deserved the best for the end of her life. When she showed up on my doorstep in January she had a large stitched wound, unsocialized and underfed, terrified of loud noises and clumsy and simple. The last eight months of her life were spent happy, being the dog she had never been able to be, surrounded by love and freedom. Yesterday as I arrived in town I had a sudden change of plans. For the first time in all my years in the desert, I wasn't going to the usual place where I spent many days and weeks with Chester and eventually scattered him there, and where I had introduced Daisy to her new, joyful way of life. Something horrible was in my brain and my heart and I drove up the familiar canyon into a rainstorm, rather than to our intended destination. I arrived as thunder and lightning began only to find that my dear friend's dog had just passed away.

Lucky was the only male dog Chester ever liked, and in his last days tolerated Daisy's social awkwardness with a grumpy, big brother attitude.
 Daisy (l) and Lucky
 the sun after Monday's storm
 Daisy poised for takeoff.

They even looked alike. Daisy wandered, looking for him. Yesterday on our hike, she wandered instead of running, and then sat down next to me on the ridge where Chester and I had spent many hours, and where his ashes were. She had never sat before on a hike. I snuggled her, telling her how much she had done for me, how grateful I was for her, and that I wanted her to be happy. Her ears flapped in the winds and I said that she looked like she was going to fly away. I couldn't stop taking pictures of her.  The next morning I awoke with a horrible feeling in my chest. It felt like rising liquid and I was briefly frightened. I pounded my chest with my fists until it stopped. Daisy was still asleep. She was shuddering in her sleep and didn't want to go on our morning walk. She wasn't able to jump up on the porch and lay shuddering in the sun.  What appeared to be a large lump - the second of two - had grown overnight in the same spot where her cancer was. Then,  a roadrunner walked up to her and they stared at each other before walking over to me and staring,  following me to my cabin door, where he stood outside next to Daisy's untouched breakfast. I knew. When I got in the car, he walked in front of us to the gate, then moved aside. After I returned I found out that my friends had named the roadrunner "Chester." Chester had been gone for months, but returned a few weeks ago.
Roadrunner, roadrunner

Last night, after my lone hike, two baby bunnies sat to my right for a very long time. Then a third hopped over and sat beside me in the dark. A bat hovered overhead. All three eventually moved into a triangle and we all sat quietly.
I know they're hard to see, but I didn't want to scare them.

This morning, the sunrise was spectacular and then storm clouds and high winds blew in.

 Sunrise. My first morning alone here without an animal companion.

A rainbow appeared before the sky vibrated with lightning over the mountains and waves of thunder.

My friend - who Daisy adored - and I sat, breathing in the electric air and marveling at the downpour.

I tried not to think about all the warning signals I had - going weak behind the knees on my daily 2 mile walk to yoga, fearing it was an earthquake. (I found out later that we had two small quakes the day she passed.) I didn't want to see what they were: Daisy's cancer behind her knee. I found out we had a quake in the desert a few days earlier and our spot was the epicenter.  I walked to our cabin and said goodbye.

Daisy was on borrowed time from the day she arrived. I chose not to have her last days end in the suffering she showed up with, that first month. She was trying to tell me, and I almost didn't listen.
Fly away home, gentle little flower.


My beautiful Jessica - the stranger/neighbor who was there for me every second of losing Chester - wrote this loving tribute to Daisy Mae Clampett:

"8-months ago my neighbor & I decided to foster a senior Ridgeback-mix whose owner had died unexpectedly. She was sickly with giant tumors that had not been tended to and was traumatized. It appeared to us she had never led the carefree life all pets deserve. We fell in love with her. And she fell in love with my dog HoneyBun, who taught her how to just be... a dog. Watching this 11+year old with cancer run off leash, have doggy sleepovers, explore the desert and blossom into Daisy Mae was an unforgettable experience. We took her in thinking we'd make this homeless girl's life as comfortable as possible, we never expected to turn her back into a puppy."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Patricia on Astrology

Poor video quality is because she gets shy on camera too long, but I'd never film her without her permission.


 "Choice number three might turn out to be a warlock," she said.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

On the Road

"It ain't easy livin' like a gypsy" -- actually, it is. So much for possessions when you don't even use the entire contents of your suitcase.
 Hair by the beautiful and talented Juliette of Safar on Newbury Street.

 One of my little traveling companions, Rosie. She's a cuddler.

 Double rainbow in New Hampshire.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Lethal Travels

I sublet my Hollywood apartment and packed everything up. First off I'm heading back East to visit friends, do some hair modeling (!), and attend a family reunion.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Frank Says ...

I loved that Mad Men scene where Don was reading this. I laughed aloud, because it's such a perfect book in so many ways. Frank O'Hara has always knocked my socks off, with lines like:  "Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m just like a pile of leaves."  (I often lay under Joshua Trees in some sort of emergency meditation, which is about as far from reality as a Massachusetts native can get. I proudly admit to meditating like a girl.)

And let's hear from another Frank, of course, the one and only FRANK - who I was lucky enough to see twice, once with a dear friend who passed away, and the memory of that is a bigger treasure than any piece of jewelry I own:

Sure, Sinatra never wrote a song, but do actors write scripts? I'm not going there.

Which brings me to Frank #3:  "You're fuckin' lucky to be alive, man." Aren't we all?

pretty pretty.

Red Desert

for D.S.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tony at Work

I have several friends named Tony and I love them all. In a way, they're all alike: crazy funny, talented, wise. Here is one of them, at work in the desert:

Tony is the only other person I've met who shares my revulsion/fright of Peeps.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Patricia on Sunday

Patricia wants me to spread the word: she's playing keyboards at Miceli's for the next three Thursdays.

She usually only plays on Sundays, so this is good news.

Walk Among Us

My poor blog has been sadly neglected these past six months. I just finished an interview (won't spoil as she's not going to press time for a bit) that reminded me how much fun stuff I used to post. Instagram has taken care of some of that. Mostly, I've been in the desert, spending a lot of time out on the rocks. As an East Coaster who has spent their life in cities, the high desert - that climate of extremes - has a huge appeal to me. Altitude is a great leveler. Elevation means all sorts of things: unique flora and fauna, the starriest skies on earth and things like vortexes, talk of alien landings and hidden caves full of gold. "Oh, they're already here," someone said to me. "They walk among us."

Flying saucer convention, Yucca Valley CA, 1957. Photo by Ralph Crane. See the whole set here. More info here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Patricia's on her way to the food pantry. She anticipates a lot of line cutting and shoving. I asked her if she was playing keyboards tonight, but no. She has a gig coming up at a Senior Center on Melrose soon. I like Patricia's hair and she says her boyfriend would be upset if he couldn't run his fingers through it or rest his head on it. I asked why I never see her boyfriend and Patricia tells me that he is a violent bipolar in the state hospital. "We don't need another OJ," is how she puts it.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

T.E. Lawrence, Van Morrison, and Me

My blog's kind of taking a turn lately - it's been up for years and I haven't put the effort into it that I used to. I just finished the main portion of a photo and poetry/prose book of desert stuff that will be out next year, and the main research for my next book, as least as much as I can do in the US, is laid out. Next up is a trip back East and then to Ireland.  I'm now living in these characters' heads which can make for strange transitions when I leave the house and speak to people. So forgive me for this; all of the italics are Van Morrison.

Lester Bangs wrote the definitive piece on Astral Weeks and although he gives no credence that it 'finds' people during the proverbial 'dark night of the soul,' it, well, just read it here. 

Astral Weeks and T.B. Sheets both held - and hold - special places for me (you breathe in, you breathe out) not only from my Cambridge days when they still talked about Van - a decade and a half after he had left the neighborhood - but as the soundtracks to great loss and the aftermath. I still can't listen to "Into the Mystic" because of the anguish that it accompanied. In Cambridge, I would wander around Harvard Square hungover early in the morning, out to buy cigarettes, unable to get the image of the 90-something drunk man playing knucklebones or the jailbird with "1%" hand tattoos who both shared our table the night before, not knowing how or why I had ended up there, until finally it was time for the movie theater to open where I spent days away from my stifling apartment. Most nights I slept in my giant claw-foot tub. Eventually, I fled to New York.

Loss is not singular although it can make you feel that way. I've always found solace and rebirth in the bathing, white baking light of the remotest of places - one summer just a few weeks after I stood on a rainy mountaintop in Wales, I fled to the outskirts of Turkey, alone on a remote island with an empty black sand beach; now I'm mostly at my true home-where-my heart-is: the high desert of Joshua Tree (your wavelength and my wavelength, baby.) It would seem against all logic and reason (two things I don't hold that much stock in) that I would feel best in those kinds of places, but genetically it does. Yes, 75% of my genes are Celt, but surprisingly, my maternal grandmother's family were desert people: Bedouins, Africans, travelers. (This was baffling to me, outlined on a medical report that I was at first convinced belonged to someone else.) So there I had it: now I knew why I drink my morning and afternoon tea on the giant rocks of Joshua Tree. Hats off to you:
T.E. Lawrence.

Having two larger than life, important presences in my life gone and going, respectively - that's either a black hole in a quasar's aftermath or, if you're lucky to feel some kind of hope, a 'clearing of the decks' to make room for the new - (A period of transition/you have taught me about my destiny) - these patterns are circular (change, change, change). It's funny what happens when you put your hand out and say "No more of that. I'm done." Since then, I've been teaching writing workshops (what stories - and not my own!) and reading cards, which is something I have been able to do for a very long time but now it's time to do it for other people.  I've been doing readings every day and it's such a good thing. (I could go off on this subject for paragraphs, but I won't.)

To quote Lester Bangs:  What Astral Weeks deals in are not facts but truths. Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim.

Rock Me

Rico thought this was me.