The Thing From Bloggy Swamp

"Music is real--the rest is scenery." Fats Waller
JULY 4, 2014 10:46AM

Save the Papers!

It’s the Fourth of July, time for me to check on the kids to see how they’re doing with their summer reading lists. Things haven’t changed much in our little town since I was a boy; every spring when school gets out a prim, lavender-scented woman at our local library draws… Read full post »

JULY 3, 2014 6:46PM

Sincere Bullshit

                     An old friend is in touch.
                     His mind is full of clichéRead full post »

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo.  Jim Hutchinson would prefer it if you set your cell phone on vibrate and kept your handheld device on mute.  He doesn’t like car horns, and when he goes to work every morning in Kansas City, he takes the stairs rather than hear the bell tones that signal… Read full post »

SOMERVILLE, Mass.  By day, Toby Shasniff is an installer for Fallmere Appliances, a retailer with a large share of the local market for those who find big-box stores in the suburbs hard to reach or intimidating.  “It’s a pretty menial job, but I take pride in it,” he says… Read full post »

JULY 2, 2014 6:53PM

Me & Mies

When I was a lad I labored under the delusion that less was less and more was more–what a tautological idiot I was! I was awakened from my dogmatic slumber (hat tip to David Hume!) by Mies van der Rohe, the guy who pulled my coat tail and let me know… Read full post »

BOSTON.  A symposium of labor economists warned yesterday that the current unemployment rate of 6.3% is understated and would be considered a national crisis if the number of “discouraged writers” were included.

“What we are seeing is a lost generation of freelancers,” sa… Read full post »

We were sitting outside, enjoying the first clear night following several days of rain, when my wife told me that our eldest son was going to Martha’s Vineyard with friends for the Fourth.

“You’ll talk to him, right?” she asked nervously.

“Absolutely,” I sa… Read full post »

JULY 1, 2014 10:09PM


Tim was the dean who Marci worked for, and Vicki was his wife. Marci loved them both; she considered them the model of what she wanted to be when she grew up, although she didn't put it that way. I did, which didn't endear me to Marci.


They had an… Read full post »

CLAYTON, Mo. Leroy “Kingsnake” Newbill has been playing the blues on harmonica for close to four decades now, but he says his act has changed remarkably in the past few years.

“Used to be I had to play loud to be heard over all the noise in bars,” he says… Read full post »

BOSTON. This city, often referred to as the “Athens of America,” sometimes by non-residents, is famous for many things; the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell, the first use of ether to remove a tooth, the first three-point basket in NBA history by Chris Ford.

Read full post »

SKOKIE, Illinois.  Madeline Grebs is a long-time records manager at Modern Moosehead Indemnity, an insurance company in this suburb of Chicago.  “Don’t call me a file clerk” she says to this reporter, and it is plain that she takes pride in her work.  “There are… Read full post »

JUNE 29, 2014 9:04PM

Basie in the Airfield

I saw Bill Basie in a moribund airfield
near Worcester, Mass. He was 70
then. I’d seen him in his younger
days on film, a frenetic pianist,
all the energy of youth, your eyes
could hardly keep up with his hands.


A half century on the road had slowed him
down, you thought at first, but af… Read full post »

JUNE 29, 2014 2:58PM

Diary of a Restaurant Hostess

Dear Diary–

What a night! Sometimes when I think I’ve seen it all, I’m shocked at the depths that diners at classy restaurants like mine, Chez (which for some reason is pronounced “shay”) Ignacio, will stoop to.

Tonight, it was the old “the-rest-of-our-party-isn&r… Read full post »

Is Rumer, the Anglo-Pakistani chanteuse with a retro-pop heart, the new Karen Carpenter?Read full post »

JUNE 28, 2014 3:55PM

A Reverence for Dexter Gordon

Dexter Gordon was one of the coolest cats ever to blow a tenor sax, which may explain why he was given multiple lives in jazz rather than just one.

Dexter Gordon

He was born in 1923 when jazz was still young, and by the age of seventeen was playing with Lionel… Read full post »

JUNE 28, 2014 10:03AM

As the Bat Cave Turns

A study has determined that in bat species noted for female monogamy male bats have small testes and big brains, while in species noted for female promiscuity males have testicles five times as big, but smaller brains.… Read full post »

WESTLAND, Mass.  Emil Scalzo is supposed to be somewhere else right now, and his frustration shows in the exasperated look on his face.  “I don’t know why it is,” he says almost bitterly to this reporter.  “Every year I tell people to get it together, and every… Read full post »

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. Bobby Florin will be released from St. Zepherin’s Hospital here tomorrow, but for a long time it was unclear whether he’d reach his seventh birthday. “He was born a month premature,” says his father, Nestor Florin. “We had just about given up on him,… Read full post »

JUNE 26, 2014 8:31AM

Summer Camp for Writers

The envelope was slim, as they all seem to be these days, and so I opened it up expecting the usual brush-off:  “Dear Poet/Playwright/Writer: Thank you very much for submitting your work to the Alice Wambsley 2014 Villanelle Competition.  We received over 2,348,092 entries for the fir… Read full post »

ITTA BENNA, Mississippi.  Here in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, you can’t throw a frisbee without hitting a legend of the blues such as A.C. “Red Dog” Johnson, who’s played bottleneck-style on the solid-body guitar he calls “Maybelle” for… Read full post »

JUNE 24, 2014 9:09PM

The Solipsistic Lady Novelist

. . . that singular anomaly,
the lady novelist—
I don’t think she’d be missed
— I’m sure she’d not be missed.

Koko, The Mikado

She thinks, and then she considers her thought;
she absorbs herself, really, more than she ought.
As soon as she’s oozed, she sucks it… Read full post »

JUNE 23, 2014 8:20PM

The Unfinished House

There was, on the street where we lived, an unfinished house–
incomplete in ways you didn’t notice at first;
no stairs up the porch to the front door,
no walkway to the porch. The type of details
that were left undone let a person know that
tradesmen, visitors and strangers were not welcome.… Read full post »

JUNE 22, 2014 8:15PM

The Snake and the Robin's Eggs

There was a snake on the stoop this morning,
my wife said, I nearly died. That had never
happened before, and we surmised it was
the robin’s nest in the holly bush out front.


We’d watched the mother build her nest,
then left her alone once she laid her eggs;
we knew she’d leave t… Read full post »

It is Saturday night in the suburbs west of Boston–no better place to view man’s inhumanity to woman. As my partner Pancho Sanza and I drift wearily from one upscale restaurant to another, we see on the looks of the husbands indifference bordering on cruelty as an endless parade of wives… Read full post »