jude, the conversationalist

as i was unloading the car outside of my office, jude saw a little boy sitting down on a bench on the sidewalk and went over and sat next to him. i heard their whole conversation. i’m embellishing nothing.

jude: hi i’m jude. i’m a boy. i’m going to be five in september twenty-eight, when the leaves change color. what’s your name?

(i don’t hear the boy’s name, but i think he says philip. he’s very soft spoken, speaks well enough, and is about the same age as jude.)

jude starts prattling on about his cousins. their names, what they do when they play together, and that they are not his brother or sister, but his cousins, though they say they are brother and sister anyway. then jude says:

i speak spanish. what do you speak?

boy: english and french.

jude: yeah but i speak spanish. i can’t speak in english, just spanish. your sandals are just like my cousin ryder’s. i like your shirt.

boy: thanks.

jude: it’s a white shirt with a polar bear on it.

boy: i like your shirt, too.

jude: i’m going to be a doctor when i grow up. what are you doing to be?

boy: uhm. nothing. i don’t know.

(at this point i break in and tell jude we need to get going.) jude says:

well, see you later. have a nice day.

the boy says, bye.

we both smile and wave and head into the office with our armload of files and bags. jude has a fresh hair cut that sticks up on top and makes his head look like a little pineapple.

jehovah witness encounter – who witnessed what now?

This morning, as many have keenly observed, is hot. The oppressive humidity and beating sun have urged the thermometer up to 80 degrees even here in the mountains, and all before 9 a.m. It was about this time, or shortly after, that a white, shiny car pulled into my driveway.

I was immediately on alert. There are no white, shiny cars where I live in the country. Nor do I know anyone who drives a white, shiny car. Shirtless and unshowered, I walked outside with an unlit cigarette wagging between my lips.

A well-built man with a noticeable dent in his forehead got out wearing a pressed, white shirt and tie. “Good morning,” he said, “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.” He looked Samoan to me.

“Good morning,” I said, “I’m a shirtless man in the country squalor.”

We laughed. He asked, “You’ve spoken with Jehovah Witnesses before?”

“Yes,” I said, though I honestly couldn’t remember the last time. Mostly you see them approach and close the curtains and say shhhhh to your kids and crouch low.

“Then I’ll just give you these. It’s understanding the Bible; it’s a closer look.” And he handed me the requisite pamphlets. He had a Cape Cod accent. He beamed into me with his eyes, and then looked around, this stocky, well-dressed man from Plymouth, or thereabouts, smelling of Drakar Noir or maybe Fahrenheit. “This is a nice place,” he said, “how much does property like this go for?”

We talked land prices and a buyer’s market for a moment or two, and my heat-augmented, morning B.O. must’ve started wafting up because he took a step back. I smiled, and lit my cigarette. “You have a good day,” he said.

“You too,” I said. “I wouldn’t go to the neighbor’s house. He might shoot you on sight.” Which is true. Wild Bill, who lives next door, has been known to rack his shotgun for less.

The well-dressed, dent-headed man got into the white, shiny car and I saw the woman, presumably his wife – those J.W.s can have those, right? – and she looked a little alarmed. I waved my hands in dismissal and smiled around my smoking butt. “I’m just kidding,” I said, and they pulled away.

superstitions, trees, publishing – we’re all semiconductors

We’re moving. There’s a place in Lake Placid that’s right on Mirror Lake and we’re nabbing it, like theives the crown. I find out the other day that the elderly woman living there now “doesn’t think it’s a good idea”; she’s worried about my five year-old and the water. Where or when and why do we get to a point in our lives when fear-of-the-worst becomes a governing force? What makes this happen?

I’d looked at another place a few months before in Saranac Lake on Moody Pond and the same thing there – the owner, a woman from Connecticut, said, “This might not be the best place for your son. The pond is nearby and there’s a creek running through the property.” What?! I said to her: “But the waterfront is why I want to move here.” The poor woman. She’s picturing my son drowning in the four-inch-deep creek, lying on his side, lips pursed to suck up the water like a fish on a boatfloor gasping for air. This is insane to me. My son is intelligent. My son listens to me. And – why am I even justifying? It’s crazy. This shit would never cross my mind but for the people with their shaking hands and jittering eyelids waiting for the worst to happen in every situation. And why do I get frustrated? Because I believe – and I really do, on some base level – that it taints me. That fear is communicable; it’s viral and it’s potent. And some wackjob’s concern about the unthinkable happening is enough to infect you. You have to have equally potent antibodies. You have to have a strong immune system and fight it off. You have to take these fear-governed little old ladies and push their wheel-chairs over the edge of the cliff so that their deepest fears come true, and you’ve helped to validate them by fulfilling their prophecy and are now free of it yourself. This is something like the boyscouts are talking about, I think.

Now: Maples, balsam, yellow birch, beech, pine, ash and poplar. No species is safe from me and my chainsaw. Five days of hard-logging is now behind me. The thing about the Adirondack mountains is, you can’t sum them up in a frigging blog post. I could say things like: back country roads, glassy ponds bearing a patina of mist, kinship to “the Shire,” kinship to wintry hell, the Feeling, the essence, the joys and the hardships, the richness of sustainability, straw-bale houses, living roofs, the cottages, the history. I’m not so much interested in “the history.” Don’t get me wrong – the classic Adirondacks is way cool, you know, the guides and the skinny bearded men (and women) standing for the old tin-type photos in front of a great camp with those haunted eyes, holding a peavey or a maul in front of them. They surely braved the wilds. But I’m interested in the Adirondacks now, and I’m interested in the artisans and the survivors more than the stodgy, banausic homes with their overwrought twigwork and sense of entitlement. Nathan Farb said to me that the “population of the Adirondacks is aging,” and that there were “fewer and fewer true craftsmen left.”

Finally, publishing. I’ve got some. And it tastes really good. Praises be to wunderagent Jeff Santoro, a true craftsman unto himself of the new order – a marketing whiz who took a Shelburne, Vermont company from three employees to twenty employees by facilitating those higher conversion rates. Results-driven Santoro has created his own small publishing house and has taken on “Rehabilitation.” The book will soon be in stores in the Burlington area, the Placid area, and the New York City, uh “area.” It will also be available, via the “largest U.S. book wholesaler” in online bookstores within 6-8 weeks. I’ll be doing a book tour and signings for some time to come. Meanwhile, I’ve been hard at work preparing for the double-release of *sister* novels “Stender” and “Highwater” for this early winter, as well as a short-story / novelletta compilation called “Stories,” and an untitled collection of poems and writings, (PLUS a top-secret project i cannot discuss.) There is a good deal of concern about the technology today, and the idea that anyone can publish anything. A good friend and lifetime public educator R. Stevan said to me recently, “Indeed, it may be up to young scholars and writers like you to find ways to keep books alive (books in the broad sense, not pasteboard covers and paper in between with ink on them), or we may begin to lose what we can gain from the insight of novelists and poets.” This is my intention and my solemn promise.


seattle woman pleased with the tjb book, “chimera” (and now desperately needing to catch up on sleep.)

from karen reilly

seattle, washington:

i enjoyed the book very much. i only put it down when i absolutely HAD to sleep, but then I would pick it up again and finally stop when i did that annoying sleepy-reading thing where i would read the same line about 8 times, realize that i couldn’t remember what it was i just read, and then finally put it down to sleep.

i was excited to get to bed so i could continue where i left off (i could only get REAL reading done when the kids were in bed and what better place to cozy in for a night of reading than all frumped out in sweats, ready for bed?). anyway, aside from minor typos (which i wasn’t going to mention because i’m sure you’re aware. i’m just stupidly anal about that stuff. dry your tears, one can always edit.) i thought it was well written. i didn’t feel lost, i didn’t have moments of “what the HELL is going on here?”, and i like how when arriving to the climax of the story, the scenes jumped back and forth and it was moving faster and faster (or maybe that’s my reading) and everything arrived at its destination on time.

it was like a movie, watching the “meanwhile…” with the other characters and everything comes together. i’m pretty sure i understood everything, but i don’t want my pride to get in the way. growing up i was always the one who understood what other people didn’t get in books and movies, and for the most part it was true, but my pride sometimes would take over and i would say i got it anyway. was i supposed to know exactly what it was that hatched out of the egg? did i miss it, am i being dim-witted, not in the know (God forbid!)

the group of bad guys in worship of this egg, i’m interested in that whole story (but leaving it as it was, i think, was well done). i am personally a fan of things left a bit to the imagination, and once i get over that desire to have everything spoonfed to me, i revel in the things left unsaid, left just around the corner, just over the edge, things implied (or were they?), sometimes ambiguity is harder to pull off artfully and purposefully than it is to spell everything out. having said all that, i liked it very much. and to clarify, the book was not ambiguous, the ending left me with just enough tension.


chimera on amazon

chimera on lulu direct

waterhole music lounge commercial – 5 minute Xtended cut

the full version of a web commercial for the waterhole music lounge in saranac lake, ny. (3 minute and 45 second versions underway.)  featuring such luminaries as robbie rowe, windowpane, and billy allen.  narrated / hosted by brandon devito.  produced by the waterhole and room6 productions. edited by t j brearton. drunken goodtimes mayhem by The People.