Archive for Writing

Give Her the Last Word…

She’s been leaving us since 2003. She invited us to watch, and today she took her final breath. Joan Didion was the consummate detached observer. In the beginning, her strength was cultural commentary, reporting on-site in the Haight-Ashbury during the 1960s flower power/LSD days (Slouching Toward Bethlehem). Then we were allowed to ride along while Maria Wyeth aimlessly roamed LA’s freeways and mentally unraveled in Play It as It Lays. But her writing didn’t become painfully personal until the sudden death of her husband and writing partner John Gregory Dunne and the subsequent death of her daughter Quintana Roo. It was as if she couldn’t help scratching the open wounds of loss (The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights). Since then, we’ve morbidly watched as Parkinson’s Disease shriveled her body and flattened her once animated face. read more

The Wisdom of Ishi…

In 2013, M and I were living in Saigon when we were introduced to Ishi, a visiting writer from Kanagawa, Japan. Our friend, Akiko Yabuki, found Ishi lounging on a beach four years earlier. Since then, the two of them and Aki’s husband George have traveled extensively. Today the three of them and their 5 year-old daughter, Emi, live near the center of the hipster universe in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with their Labrador retriever, Pono.

In 2014 we were thrilled to have Aki, George, and Ishi visit us in Seattle. We cooked dinner, all in agreement that sharing food with friends (or enemies) is the way to the heart and an avenue toward peace. I made pasta, which Ishi found restful… even soporific. read more

Denmark, Dinesen, and Serendipity…

Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the Word of the Lord is to the soul.

Isak Dinesen aka Karen Blixen

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the mystery of personal connections. Six degrees of separation is just the tip of the iceberg. I never met Karen Blixen, but I knew a friend of hers, and the way we met and its consequences remain one of those enduring mysteries.  

In the winter of 1965, I was four months into a solo tour of Europe. I had traveled around southern Europe and the Middle East but wanted to see Germany and Scandinavia as well. It wasn’t the best time of year to visit, but I thought it might be my only opportunity. I flew from Istanbul to Frankfurt, took the train to Berlin, and after a few days there, opted to take the train to Copenhagen. That meant riding an East German train to the Danish ferry at Warnemunde. I thought it would be an adventure for an ex-US Marine to ride through the “evil empire.” But first I had to get from West Berlin to the station in East Berlin and transfer to the East German train. read more

Chasing Dottie’s Dust…

Dorothy Parker. Does anyone born after 1970 even know the name? Maybe not, but at 4’11” she was larger than life. Writer, screenwriter, wit, poet, founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, and gin lover extraordinaire. She continues to haunt us. If Molly Ivins’ quick wit makes you smile or you cringe at Maureen Dowd’s acid putdowns, Dorothy Parker is in your wheelhouse. The Portable Dorothy Parker, originally published in 1944, is one of three in the Portable Series, along with volumes devoted to the Bible and Shakespeare that has remained in continuous print since first published. read more

Flying and Writing…

I love the huge adrenaline rush of Top Gun’s opening flight deck sequence. With Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone pounding in the background, I can smell the JP-4, notice my heart rate accelerate, feel the engines spool up, and scrunch back in my seat waiting for the kick of the catapult. I get sucked in by the air-to-air training exercises, the oiled-up volleyball porn, “the need for speed nonsense and Maverick and Goose singing You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. It’s the real McCoy, even if Tom Cruise is an imposter and the majority of the film is a Navy puff-piece. read more