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Monthly Archives: January 2021

Hold Steady

When it’s all closing in and the stressors begin to overwhelm you, take a deep breath and don’t fight it. Let the current take you away and just go with the flow. You couldn’t stop it no matter how hard you tried anyway.

Stress and the unknown are not going to kill you, and eventually, you’ll end up on the other side.

The storm will eventually pass.

Humor Will Save the World (Part 1)

There is no situation in life that humor can’t make better. And the more painful and tragic it is, the more important humor is to help you process the pain.

Our ability to laugh seems to be uniquely human, that, and our compulsion to create art and solve problems pretty much defines who we are.

Humor trumps anger, pain, and feelings of inadequacy.
Humor trumps disease, illness, and death.
Humor trumps racism, misogyny , and xenophobia.

Try and find the humor any time life is getting you down.

Let it set you free.

The Same But Different

Note 1) I never got COVID, even while working through the worst of the pandemic in NYC.

Note 2) I’m now fully vaccinated.

Note 3) I’m still working as a full-time ER nurse, a job I always loved.

I have so much to be grateful for.

And yet – everything is different. Not in a minor way, either. More like, Welcome to your new world. Better get used to it, ‘cuz the old one’s gone and it ain’t coming back.As the pandemic continues to unfold, I wasn’t fully prepared for that. Sure, I knew the world had changed, but the profound nature of that change was surprising. I was so busy surviving my daily battles with the virus at work I never had time to really think too far ahead.

But now, as I approach the anniversary of the pandemic, the landscape is starting to become clearer.

Life as we knew it is really not coming back – at least not like before. Things will improve, but I think we all need to start grieving the loss of our pre-COVID world (maybe I’m late to the game and you’ve already been grieving).

You never really know how good you’ve got it until it’s gone.

Be Kind to Yourself

And while you’re at it, be kind to others as well.

In a world so filled with hate, you may actually startle someone into empathy.

We’ve got to start somewhere.

Film Noir (Part 2): In a Lonely Place

This 1950 film noir directed by Nicholas Ray transcends the genre by weaving multiple subtexts into a classic trope – the protagonist is accused of a murder he seemingly didn’t commit. Pretty standard fare so far…

It’s one of those movies that starts out as a typical noir and then gradually reveals itself – somewhere along the way you begin to notice the subtleties. It’s so ridiculously well-written and acted (with gorgeous black and white cinematography) that you’re immediately drawn in to this far-away world that once existed in post WW2 America. The script is so good it’s fun to watch just to listen to the dialogue.

It’s quite a role for Bogart – much like the world-weary character we know and love from “Casablanca,” and “The Maltese Falcon,” but with a kind of violent personality that becomes truly disturbing. You want to like him, but by the end he just seems unstable and dangerous. I’m sure in 1950 this resonated with a lot of American families – i. e. The husband who comes back from the war “with a quick temper.”

Gloria Grahame plays the sultry blonde to the hilt. First she falls in love with Bogart, over time becoming afraid of his threatening behavior. I can’t say I blame her. You’re never quite sure if he’s a tortured soul or a complete psychopath.

The late 1940’s fashion is on full display – the cops roust Bogart at 5 am to take him in for questioning and he’s dressed like he’s going to a casual cocktail party. Grahame sleeps in some kind of flowing robe with fur cuffs and collar, hair and makeup perfect. Classic Hollywood eye candy if you’re into this stuff…

This is just a fascinating and incredible example of Film Noir at its best.

No happy endings here.


Taking My Own Advice

When it comes to human behavior, I’m a pessimist by nature. I’ve always felt that humans, left unchecked, will always make the wrong choice – and it won’t be because someone had too much goodness in their heart. The wrong choices will be made because we are fearful, xenophobic, and prone to seeing violence as a solution. The last four years in America have only confirmed this ugly reality.

And yet…

Humans are also capable of creating incredible beauty, both through art and science. They can be generous, loving, and altruistic – and, at their best, possess the potential to change.

So, faced with these opposing truths, where does that leave our faith in humanity?

My gut (and experience), steers me to the former. But I’m choosing to focus on the latter. Because we get to choose how we interpret our world.

Life is too short to always live in the dark; it’s important to enjoy the sun, too. But I know who you people are, and I’m sure you’ll disappoint me again.

I’m just determined not to let you ruin what time I’ve got left.

That’s my choice, and I’m sticking to it.

Game Over (Part 2)

Reflecting on yesterday’s post, I couldn’t help but think: Was America ever any different?

Perhaps this point in our history is not so unique as we might think. Maybe the only real difference is the advent of social media, and its ability to disseminate information immediately to large groups of people. More specifically, its algorithm’s ability to disseminate information immediately to large groups of LIKE-MINDED people.

The algorithm cares not whether the information is accurate, its only goal to excite the reader, to keep them engaged. If the reader is undiscerning, and they have no yardstick by which to measure its veracity, they’re left to go with to go with “what feels right.” Of course, this is a well-documented trap that humans have a blind eye to (see “Confirmation Bias.”)

My point here is this: perhaps we’ve always been this divided – it just took social media to turn a brush fire into an apocalypse.

Game Over?

“When Americans are divided on simple facts and live in two different realities, we are not a governable people. To put it another way, when two people playing a game cannot agree on the basic rules and layout of the game, they cannot play. When groups within American society believe in two different sets of rules on how to play the game of democracy, it cannot be played, and we become ungovernable.”

– Julie Wronski, New York Times, “Is America Ungovernable Now?”

Not for the Weak

The truly sick are complex vessels of human wreckage in desperate need of rescue.

Coalescing into a group, the only defining characteristic is complete and utter chaos.

This is the ER.

Welcome home.

Fly as High as You Can

When you take the stage,” he wrote, “no matter who you’re sharing it with, you’ve got to promise to die. To detonate. To fly as high as you can and then, like the Fourth of July, explode like a sky full of fireworks.”

– Sylvain Sylvain


I’m honored to have a new piece of flash fiction published in the French literary journal “Datura.”

The story is called “Vacant” and can be read here.

The entire issue can be read here.


Dug into a box of old pictures. It used to be painful for me to do this; now, not so much. I used to run from my past – too much pain and unresolved emotions.

But twenty-five years of therapy and a lifetime of living has changed all that. Old scores were settled long ago; I still recognize myself and my family in the photos, but it’s as though they’re from another life.

And in a sense, they are. I’ve already lived a few lifetimes and dodged death more than once.

I’m still alive, thank you very much, and still creative. My brain is still firing on all cylinders, even though my body isn’t what it once was. I can live with that.

The crazy part’s been under control for a long time – long enough for stability to feel like normal. Trust me, that outcome wasn’t a given.

And I’m still working, trying to give something back, trying to be a good person. I made it through this fucking pandemic in one piece – something I didn’t expect. I tried to help others as best I could.

Here’s what I know will happen: When I’m gone everything will end up in the dustbin of eternity, right along with everyone else’s contributions, great or small as they may be.

I’m OK with that. I’m not really sure what else we could hope for.

I’ve been loved, and given love. Everything else is gravy.

Film Noir (Part 1): The Asphalt Jungle

John Huston wrote, produced, and directed this pivotal piece of film noir released in 1950. Filmed in gritty black and white, full of gray shadows and beautiful nighttime scenes of a gritty, industrial-looking Cincinnati, it’s essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.

I absolutely love this shit – stories of broken people down on their luck, trying to lift themselves up by pulling off some ill-conceived crime, or right some wrong by a murder that always goes astray. All attempts at happiness are crushed by a cold, uncaring world. Film noir is the counterbalance to Disney – the antidote to children’s stories and Marvel movies.

Everyone’s a loser in a hard world where danger lurks everywhere, and any effort to escape one’s doomed fate always ends in tragedy. Love is for saps, trust is for simpletons, and violence is the solution that never works.

In other words, my idea of entertainment.

Which brings me back to The Asphalt Jungle. I hadn’t seen this movie in many years and recently watched it again. Not once, but twice. I don’t do that often…

As always, the cinematography and the writing plays a huge part of the noir experience, and Huston doesn’t disappoint. But it’s the casting that seals the deal. Sterling Hayden is both menacing and heartbreaking at the same time in one of his best performances. His role in the doomed caper is “the hooligan,” the muscle, the enforcer. There’s a scene early on where he’s in a wife-beater, drinking and smoking with his ill-faited girlfreind “Doll.” At 6′ 5″ he looks enormous, arms and shoulders thick, like a dangerous gorilla. But he balances his menacing presence with a wistful innocence, making the character much more complex than he first appears.

Sam Jaffe plays a German criminal mastermind fresh out of prison with an eye for teenage girls – a weakness that proves fatal. In one of her early starring roles, a 24-year-old Marilyn Monroe looks like an underage sex kitten taking doomed attorney Louis Calhern for everything he’s got. Barry Kelley plays a dirty cop not afraid to slap around an accomplice like he’s beating a child. We’ve even got a 22-year-old Strother Martin appearance in a police line-up.

Of course, nothing turns out well for anyone, but isn’t that the point?

Two films before this John Huston made “Key Largo,” and two films later “The African Queen.”

Fucking brilliant.


It Was a Good Day

Stroke in progress on arrival to ER with significant neurological deficits.

TPA administered.

Less than one hour later patient is talking on her phone with resolution of symptoms.

It doesn’t always work out this way, but when it does it seems like magic.

What’s Cool About Being Creative

When you go to bed you get to wonder where your shit is going tomorrow. What are my characters in my fiction going to do?

Where is this piece of music going?

Everything else takes second place. It’s fucking cool as hell.
I hope you get to experience it. Trust me – you don’t have to be especially gifted to let it happen.

It’s one of the perks of being human. All this other noise is extraneous.

Fuck ‘em. There’s bigger fish to fry.

Thoughts On Being an Artist in 2021

Let me be clear: I don’t want to write anything that would cause pain for anyone reading it – and I have never written anything with the intent to do so. But is it possible I may have done this inadvertently? Absolutely.

It’s my natural inclination to write about things that I find interesting and provocative. For example, I’m fascinated by extreme manifestations of human behavior. Often these things are spurred by personal experience extrapolated into fiction. Ideas can come up that might be a way of interpreting traumatic events. By definition, this is going to be triggering to some people.

But it’s never gratuitous. It was never written to shock – it was written to provoke thought.

I am aware that I live in a time where this might be difficult to parse because artistic intent is not always obvious.

Here’s the thing: I believe nothing should be off-limits in art, that art should sometimes make you uncomfortable, that art should overstep the boundaries of what is acceptable.

The problem is that what once would have been called transgressive now seems to be simply unacceptable.

I’m not sure how to navigate this environment except to say my intention is never to hurt; it’s to heal. At least on a personal level. Healing, however, requires reflection on events that have wounded you.

That’s always hard.