How to find a story

Ten years ago, the famous author Tom Wolfe spoke at Ithaca College about writing.  He was older and still wearing his famous, white suit.  As if to answer a question that no one spoke, he said, as I remember, the problem with writing is you have to find stories.  Every single one of you out there has a story to tell.

stories light the way
lighting the way

And like most authors, you can write that one story:  fiction or non-fiction.  But then, what are you going to do?  Wait for something to come to you, inspire you. 

The room was packed and everyone listened trying to find the writing secrets from this well-known author, the author of Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff.  He continued,  the problem is that after you write that one story, you have to go out and find other stories. One has to search them out, they don’t just appear. He then described how you do that:  talk to people, study people in different places and in worlds different from your own.

I think stories walk into our lives every day but we have to pay careful attention.  And sometimes wake up to the drama.

Here is a very short story.

There are years of questions and years of answers.

When I was a little girl sitting on my Grandmother’s stoop as summer dusk settled in, the old folks started talking over their coffee and Stella Dora cookies about Cora.  Cora was my grandmother’s half-sister.  “Yep, she went to California,” they remarked.  And so I piped up, “Tell me the story.”  They looked at each other, my grandparents, aunts, and father and said nothing.

So here it is, 2018…fifty years past that moment.  A site called has many editions of the local newspaper from my hometown. 

I decided to see what I could find out about my great aunt, Cora Tress.  I found her as she was the subject of this article, pictured below:  Daughter Incorrigible Father Causes Arrest.  (Her father was my grandmother’s father who died in 1925!)

Cora was arrested by the police at her father’s request.  He had no control over her and she had run away from home. 

Subsequent articles report that Cora went before a judge who released her.  She said her behavior was in response to her brother beating her up..  Later, Cora married and moved to California.  

Bingo…the reason for the silence in the room.  Because of course, back in the day, conflict, feelings were conversation non grata.  I surmise that since I did meet the Uncle in question, that Cora must have been the odd (wo)man out and that is probably why I never met her or heard of her death.

I hope she had a good life…I am glad she escaped.  I wonder if she is in one of the many pictures I have of nameless kin folk.  That will require more study and observation…something for another day.

The Snow Ball Tree


IMG_9522 (1)In a few days, this green plant, front and to the left in this post, will become a mound of snowballs, and that is where its name comes from, we call it the snowball bush.  In reality, it is a viburnum.  Several years ago, a bug tried to kill it off.  The bug affected and threatened viburnums across our area.  Our snowball bush disappeared.

As time passed, the viburnum would reappear a little bit more each year: at first a branch with 5 snowballs on it and now this moment when I realize it needs containment or shaping or something.  While not in its full glory, the snowball bush is almost back.

I think its a metaphor.  As long as a little strand of something remains, as long as it is still rooted in the ground somewhere, it stands a chance of rebirth, regrowth.  Kind of like love that is almost killed by neglect, but with a little nurturing it flourishes again, or tyranny which seems in one epoch to be wiped out and reemerges in another until it starts to hang heavy over everything.

My Mother at Camp Tegawitha

A few weeks ago, I visited my Mother with a scrapbook my aunt had of old family pictures…I asked my Mother to identify as much as she could.  She seemed to really enjoy the exercise.

The pictures here are from her days at Camp Tegawitha which closed in the 1990s…my Mother would have attended in the 1940s.  She was born in 1931 and would probably have been in attendance somewhere between 1945 and 1950.  She did not give me the dates.


January 18: 77

A tear from flickr

from Flickr

today would have been my friend Joe’s 77th birthday

I remember when that age seemed ancient…when I was 12
and when it seemed far away, when I was 44
but now, now it is close

when my friend died in October, I cried me a river
and I kept crying for 42 days
and then one day, it stopped, the sobbing

and the depression laced days and the hollow pit in my stomach
the grief just stopped

recently, we (me, Diane, and Ram) rode through the cemetery
to see if the wreath Diane left for Joe was there
it was, it still is

and that was a happy day
because we reminisced about Joe
and all our shared memories
what he might say, not say, how he would say it

but still he is gone

it is like a member of my posse died

There is a true and large void where my friend use to be
no body takes his place; no words fill the void
at moments
I look around for him, forget he is not there,
sigh and with a heavy heart, I move on, slowly

the owl

last night an owl came to chant

across the woods so still and quiet

through the air so crisp and clear

hunting to round out its diet


Play it again Sam…Baseball…my Father died 12 years ago today, baseball was his favorite game

play-ball: painter and information can be found by play-ball

play-ball  “it is the bottom of the ninth the bases are loaded and …”

 The music would play, the action would begin, in the 1960s on the black and white TV.  I am reading the book Underworld by Don DeLillo and the first section took me to a 1950s baseball game.  They were there, the adults of my 60s childhood:  Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, and Jackie Gleason, at that one game.

The crowd moves with the action of the game as does the city, the nation, recorded in real-time, live on the radio, live in those pages.  There is no Internet, there is no buzz, there is no one in the seats watching on the big screen overhead or on their iPhone, and there is no one twittering about the beer that Jackie’s guzzling.

Real time, one pitch, one ball at a time.  And the movement, the movement of the players as they work for the goal mirrored by the movement of a young man through the streets of NY gliding through the concrete, dodging people to save his baseball, the winning baseball, the baseball that landed in his section of the stadium.  The baseball of possibility and hope.

It’s warm and cold now, this week in 2012, a normal September feeling.  Driving past Cornell Wednesday, I decided to get out by the polo ring and take a walk.  You can still park in that area and not get a ticket.  I needed to stretch my legs and open my mind… FOUR hours on the computer, too much.  Walking past the polo building, then past the tennis building, I thought I saw it, a baseball field.  So I took a walk down…sure enough there is a baseball field with a big no trespassing sign.  No one around, and  maybe  one place left without a  video camera, besides, what were they going to do, shoot me? I walked the bases, not once, but twice.

My Dad loved the Yankees and he loved complaining about their leaders, especially Joe Torre.  I have no idea why.  No idea, he never told me and died soon after baseball season was over 8 years ago.  He took my brothers to Yankee games -I guess because that was the guy thing to do.  My friend Bev’s parents took three of us in 1973 to see the Mets in Shea Stadium.  I don’t remember anything about the game except that I fell in love with New York City and that my friend Bev loved Tom Seaver.

The only time I played baseball it wasn’t really baseball, it was softball, and I played fifth and final substitute in 6th grade.  One day feeling all confident in my shortest person in the Class of 1973 status body, I said something cocky as I played outfield behind the second basegirl.  As if to show the team by showing me, Coach Russ  shot the ball right at me.  I tried to catch it but it hit my nose first, ouch! And then he said! “See who is laughing now.”

So that is pretty much my history with baseball.  I enjoyed my walk around those bases yesterday. I felt the sanded grit under my feet and the possibility of a slide into 2nd or 3rd or the ball throw from 1st to 2nd and the runner out.

“Its Perez on 3rd base, batter up.”

“And Perez gets it to the 2nd baseman, just in time, ladies and gentlemen, he is out.”

I ended my walk, went to the Cornell Orchard, came home and took my dog Moby for a walk, a good walk.  The commentator could be heard

“And it’s Perez, trying to pull the dog off the deer scent.”

  “It’s Perez holding her own as the dog pulls her toward his destination and she pulls him back.”

At midnight, I opened my book, Underworld. I am way past the baseball game, the quiet of life without electronics: I have written a blog; corrected a student paper on line; placed a cell phone call; land line call; and posted to twitter twice.

Yep, way past the world where the ball has left the street kid’s hands…


if the Bloodline Rayburns had therapy: …SPOILER!!

if the Bloodline Rayburns only had therapy: a case-by-case scenario of possibility…SPOILER!!  (Note:  you probably won’t get it if you haven’t watched the series, so pop yourself some popcorn and come on back when you have watched it.)

Papa Rayburn, heaIMG_2663d demon, would not have broken Danny’s arm because Sarah would not have drowned. Sarah would not have drowned because when Sally and Robert had marital problems they would have talked about their feelings and had real conversations with their children.

Danny, the scapegoat, would have become a chef and paid for his own therapy and rehab. He then would have realized these screwballs’ image of him was just that, an image, and he would have peeled off the garbage to his inner soul. When he went home to visit, he would have driven himself and paid for the gas. He would not engage with the family’s storyline about him and would have earned John’s respect.

Meg Rayburn would have married Marco, had many children, stopped boozing it up and led both AA meetings and Course in Miracles workshops.

Kevin would have told John to f_off the first time he tried to fix it for Kevin. This would have prevented Kevin from having to help John cover up Danny’s murder. Kevin and Val and Rocky could have still escaped to Cuba but Kevin would have taken responsibility for all the details, for sure he wouldn’t have missed turning off Val’s GPS on her phone.

John would have stopped being the hero, cheered up, and individuated from the  Rayburn’s eventually putting Dick Gilbert in Federal prison for drug trafficking.

Sally would have watched reruns of Carrie and released her claws from the backs of her children.

Well, as they say…would-a, could-a, should-a



I have a better idea said General Silveria

and he proceeded to give ideas to his air force cadets about how they could stop partaking in the bigotry found written on the premises’ doors.  Loudly and clearly, with no apology, he assumed leadership.  He took a risk, he spoke out, and he concluded “if you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect: get out.” There is a bottom line… leadership with moral clarity! a drop of hope!

I have noticed since the 2016 election a new boldness among people and institutions to nonchalantly take their power to new heights. It includes racism and it includes a trampling of basic human dignity.  I have had some better ideas this week:

1. All you Masters of the Universes out there, when you are riding your bike against the light across an intersection with your headphones on, and someone beeps at you to save your life, don’t turn around and give your protector the finger. Rather, thank them for reminding you to slow down before you are killed in a motor vehicle accident.

2. For government agencies, do not make excuses for the company deliberately spraying my friend with manure.  There is no moral or ethical ground to stand on when you blame the victim’s signage for getting sprayed on his own land.

3.I have an idea, let’s think about why Ms. Walton (Walmart) , is one of the richest woman in the world with $38.4 billion. Of course she is, she is part of the beneficiary of the best redistribution scheme going.  Walton pays her workers low wages, they need supplemental services like Medicaid and Earned Income and Child Tax Credit to survive….they get those from the taxpayers. The disappearance of the middle class is in part due to the redistribution of weath from the high-end middle class worker to the low-end middle class worker.

For details see Forbes, April 2017: No matter the town or city, if you have a Walmart in your community, you are paying a Walmart Tax. In fact, a single Walmart Supercenter is estimated to cost taxpayers between $904,542 and $1.74 million per year in public assistance money.

For Walmart, this represents tens of millions of dollars in savings, all on the backs of US taxpayers and workers.

Finally, I have an idea about deregulation.    What needed regulation in the economy was the corporation:  the nonperson, party with a capitalist mandate to act in ITS own self interest to maximize the gain to the entity by using as few resources as possible.  In order to do this, the earth, the giver of our existence, has become a vehicle to the corporate end.  This year, our Fingerlakes have seen poisonous algae blooms linked to a disproportionate amount of fertilizer in the water that runs off from farms.  How long can this go untapped in the name of efficiency?  How long can we survive without more regulation of the insatiable wants and needs of man?

I have an idea….let us cut through the bs and start holding people (and their corporate representatives) truly accountable. Let’s applaud those government and education leaders who take a risk to call out injustice, look it directly in the eye, and make a statement.

And the next time the Master of the Universe sticks his middle finger up at us, let us stop, pause, and think, would it not be better to flash a poster of a peace sign than to retaliate in kind?peace-sign




The Unsung – a post by Kathy Mapes

tom-and-kathyMy friend Tom Speros was a connoisseur of the unsung–Jeff Bridges (“You [non-actors] have no idea how good he is.”), the responsible reporting of minority news by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the burgeoning politics of his left-leaning niece Gwen, and the well-crafted detective fiction of Elmore Leonard. He had an artist’s eye for talent that […]

via The Unsung — ithacalansing

What the Devil is going down?

C.S. Lewis inspiration
with deep inspiration from CS Lewis who wrote The Screwtape Letters ~ 31 letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood (named after a star in Revelation), a younger and less experienced demon, charged with guiding a man (called “the patient”) toward “Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) from “the Enemy” (God).  Source for text: Wikipedia

My dear, dear Wormwood (a.k.a. Devil’s apprentice),

What a wonderful job you are doing with the American experiment. You have taken all of its best parts and corrupted them to our ends; I could not be prouder.

First, through years of keeping the enemy distracted with things, those precious plastic baubles they create, you have masterminded a coup. So busy are they working for their baubles and fighting each other for those trinkets, they barely notice the infrastructure keeping their baubles in place.

Second, through a coup of communication subversion, you have been able to bit-by-bit dismantle their infrastructure. It has taken years and right now, some of them, are starting to panic. It is not enough and shows the art of your deception. Somehow, you are managing still to keep them going along…happy little clams blaring their music out the car windows on the way to Walmart or the beach while your chief representatives work their magic. Well done my servant.

Finally, Wormwood, you are almost there…a few more pen signatures and what will be left? A failed experiment, a country devastated by the human inability to control the pursuit of want. The enemy has tried, rolling the rock uphill day-by-day, but you with your cunning have been able to extract from the collective an individual sitting alone in a New York Times ad for elite housing, on an island of green, in the middle of nowhere.

So go forth, continue your work unbidden, but remember, the day may come when from the rubble, the enemy will finally emerge united, and this time when realizing the full devastation of your impact, the Patient American may come back stronger. You may then be in for the fight of your territory, the likes of which you have never seen.

From the depths,