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  • Small Town Maine

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    On Saturday morning, Howard and Alfie and I stood on the side of the road and watched the Old Home Days parade in the tiny town of Lovell, Maine (population just over 1000)  There is something nostalic and charming about such events: the aged VFW guys, the float with a handful of Girl Scouts, the solitary man in a kilt, playing bagpipes. And on the sidelines, with their folding chairs and leashed dogs, the townspeople: a combinaton of year-round residents and "summer people"...some of the latter with famous and recognizable faces.

    And here is the Center Lovell Market, where you can get a NY Times or an egg salad sandwich and maybe stand in line at the cash register behind Stephen King.

    ...
    Jul 18 Tags: Untagged
  • Poor Bucky

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    Some years ago, my brother, a doctor, gave my grandson a human skeleton for his 13th birthday.  The same grandson will be 19 next month and his interests have moved on to other things, some of them better off unidentified.  Bucky (for so the skeleton is named, for reasons I have forgotten) now lives in my office, wearing a baseball cap.  I ignore him, mostly. My office is the place where I work, a place of solitude, and if I thought about Bucky too much I would feel his presence and that I should speak to him now and then. And what does one say to a skeleton? "Nice-looking tibia, mister!"??   No, it is better to ignore him.

    But maybe now I should comment, at least to offer sympathy, because today I have noticed that a piece of a bone has come loose. I think it may be his right patella. It was on the floor by his feet, as if he had dropped it inadvertantly, and so I picked it up and put it there on his seat cushion. I don't know what my next step should be. Is an anatomist going to happen to stop by and offer to glue it back on? Not likely.  I guess it will remain there, between his femurs, and I will have to think of the whole thing as a kind of still life.  Bucky with Bone Chip is the title, in the manner of Tin Pitcher with Chysnthemums on a small bronze label in the Cezanne room at the Musée D'Orsay.

    I arrived at my summer home, an old farm in western Maine (where Bucky lives year-round) to find that the stove doesn't work because there has been no delivery of propane, (remedied by a phone call), and there was no electricity in the dining room because the contractor working on that side of the house had discnnected it while he drilled and scarped (remedied by an email), and the underground electric fence is not working because the landscapers had cut through the wire as they seem to do at the begining of every summer; but fortunately the dog—who  memorized the electric fence when he arrived here at age 4 months and he is now eleven years old—doesn't know that it isn't working.  So I am not too concerned about it, and the fence people will be here next week for repairs.

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    Jun 12 Tags: Untagged
  • Remembering army posts Featured

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    Perhaps it is coincidental, but on Memorial Day weekend Howard and I went by boat to Great Diamond IsIand in Casco Bay (Maine) and stayed at the Inn at Diamond Cove for a brief (chilly, rainy, but cozy) time.

    I say coincidental because I had not been there before and had not known...until we arrived...that the Inn is actually a military barracks, re-purposed beautifully on an abandoned army post from the late 19th century.  The officers' homes are now privately owned, encircling the old Parade Ground.

    All of this kind of geography was so familiar to me, having spent so much of my young life connected to military installations: Schofield Barracks (Honolulu), Carlisle Barracks (Pennsylvania), Washington Heights (Tokyo), Governors Island (New York), and Fort MacPherson (Atlanta). The big brick houses encircling the open space. The subsidiary buidings: the PX and commissary, the adminstration building, the infirmary, the barracks where the soldiers were housed.  There was a little schoolhouse, which reminded me of the small school my brother attended on the base at Governors Island (older kids, teenagers like me, went to boarding schools, or (like me) to a private school in the city,reached each day by boat and subway) And it brought back the feeling of freedom (kids could..and did... run loose, quite safe) combined with rigorous discipline (5 PM. The sound of the cannon, and the bugle playing Retreat.  Everyone stopped and stood at attention as the flag was lowered each evening)

    There was always the stigma of being an "Army brat" if we lived in a place where we attended the local schools with the civilan kids...being the "other" in a place where we were transient, and the local kids would be in the same school system for their entire childhoods.They knew all the local slang, and where the hangouts were, and what the cool clothes were. And we...well, we had a cat named NEKO...because that's what a Japanese cat would be called; but the Pennsylvania kids had cats named Boots or Fluffly, which was so...ah, American.

    I loved my peripatetic childhood and adolescence.  Diamond Cove brought it back, and especially on Memorial Day weekend, when we were honoring our military memories.

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    May 30 Tags: Untagged
  • NIGHT STORIES

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    I said in an earlier post that I would write about an event in New York...it has now happened, and was as interesting and successful as I had hoped it would be. 

    Last summer, a painter named Linden Frederick asked fifteen writers to embark on a project wiht him. I was one of them.  He gave each of us a preliminary study of a painting he had yet to complete, and we were each to write a short story based on the painting.

    I was pleased to do so. But I found it surprisngly difficult at first. Linden's paintings (each of them them in a nighttime setting, hence the title of the project: NIGHT STORIES) are very evocative. It appears that something has just happened...or is about to happen. (Think: Edward Hopper.)  But what?  I looked at my painting for a long time and finally, eventually, a story began to appear. No, wait. Not a story, actually. But a situation. And a group of men...men in a small Maine coastal town...men past their prime, men who have regrets, men who don't articuate feelings.

    This is most often the way any piece of fiction begins for me. With a person, or perhaps more than one. With vague feelings of unease, of soemthing that needs to be adjusted, fixed.

    And so I created my story, which I titled VITAL SIGNS, and fourteen other writers: Dennis Lehane, Ann Patchett, Tess Gerritsen, Lawrence Kasdan, Louise Erdrich, Andre Dubus, Lily King, Richard Russo, Daniell Woodrell, Tom Talley, Elizabeth Strout, Anthony Doerr, Luanne Rice, and Joshua Ferris...created theirs.  Last week, at the Forum Gallery in NYC, there was an opening that displayed the fifteen paintings (ecah 36" x 36")...and also shown was the beautiful book containing both the paintings and the stories. (It won't be available until October but can be re-ordered from Amazon)

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    May 20 Tags: Untagged
  • May already!

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    Somehow a lot of time has passed and it is now May 10, and I am completely recovered form pneumonia, and have been to Cuba for nine days, and then to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR, and now am just about to leave for NYC for four days of theater and opera. Wedged in around and among all of this, I have been, actually working. Writing. Despite my brain having turned 80 years old, it still functions, along with my imagination.

    I was delighted to see (speaking of "old" writers...i.e., those of us who have been around for a long time) that Katherine Paterson has a book coming out which is set in Cuba.  There is much to be said for Cuba...in particular their unversal health care as well as literacy....along, sadly, with the terrible poverty and the governmental corruption. I have not read KP's book but I think it is about the amazing, and successful, effort to create a literate populace after the 1959 revolution.

    Here's a photo I took in rural Cuba....an unidentified woman, but the light was so lovely as she stood in the doorway.

    More to come, but right now I must get myself off to the airport. We have tickets for THE GREAT COMET in New York tonight. And tomorrow, a wonderful event which I will write about afterward.

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    May 10 Tags: Untagged
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