The Song That Got Away

12 04 2015

As soon as the 40-somethings or younger see a black-and-white TV image you’ll be off to another blog. I don’t blame you. But here’a a tidbit to chew. Before Domenico Modugno sang this song Italian singers stood motionless when singing. He broke the tradition…

Thanks to a friend for sending me the story behind the song inspired by Marc Chagall…

For me “Volare” is the song that got away because it was one of the songs of Jim Collins in my novel “Songs of Icarus” in an early draft. I was using lyrics of songs as part of the story but when I found out that was going to be legally troublesome I went through the book and removed more than 100 partial song lyrics. Not an easy thing for me but it had to be done to stay away from copyright infringement in the litigious US. If there’s a second edition of “Songs of Icarus” direct mention will be made of the song. Right now Page 212 contains an indirect reference. The book can be found here…

This week I made a new friend. As usual during the getting-to-know-you I asked, “What do you do?” His answer was, “I am a pilot.” I took a deep breath – “Did you always want to fly?” “Oh yes, from when I was a little boy.” I didn’t tell him about my dreams of writing “Songs of Icarus.”

Repression of the sub-conscious works in strange ways. I think it’s part of being human to want to fly. Why else would there be an Icarus myth. I never consciously knew how big a thing it was with me to fly and I never knowingly wanted to be a pilot, but I did have a recurring dream about flying. One day long ago I was talking to a psychiatrist friend of my ex-wife about my novel. I told him I wanted to be a writer for a long time. His eyes got that look of ohh-I-get-it then he said, “Of course it’s a deferred dream.”

Langston Hughes wrote about them in “Harlem”…

langston hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

In my life “Songs of Icarus” is part of a continuing explosion that will only end when John Donne’s Meditation XVII bell tolls.

Viviendo en tiempo yucatecos a la balneario (Read – Living on Yucatecan time at the beach resort)

4 04 2015


Welcome! One of Yukalpeten’s best words. I was there yesterday. It’s Semana Santa (Read – Holy Week) in Mexico. For a country as poor as this one I find it comforting to share with the people their love of sea and sand if not their God or gods. As a Taoist I believe in the flow of life – light changing to darkness and darkness changing to light. It’s part of my DNA double helix and most of the time I follow the teachings found in the I Ching – modesty, tolerance, forgiveness, control of the ego and its demands.

Nearby Progreso is more well known on the Gulf of Mexico. Yukalpeten is a place for middle class families to sit in the sun or the shade and enjoy tiempo cualidad (Read – quality time). The state-operated balneario charges 30 pesos (Read – 2 bucks) to get in. Unfortunately only 30 pesos keeps out most of the poor – so many can not afford 30 pesos here.

Hammocks can be really dangerous. Mi novia y su familia (Read -my girlfriend and her family) follow the family tradition of BYOH – Bring Your Own Hamaca – and tie it to the roof.


What is not pictured is a Philadelphia-Whitemarsh Rugby Club gringo with creaky knees getting into and out of his hammack. It was a sitcom for the Mexicanos to watch. In my younger days my face would redden from the sun and anger but now it’s laugh and the world laughs with you. Why not with a view like this…


The mid-afternoon ritual is to sit under the BIENVENIDOS sign eating. Whole fish caught in the morning are cooked in vats of olive oil and served with ceviche and ensalada. A kilo (Read – 2.2 lbs.) of pescado frito (Read – fried fish) costs 160 pesos (Read – a little over $10). Ask any fisherman or anyone else for that matter. Fresh caught fish are as good as it gets with a cerveza fria (Read – cold beer).

The downside – you have to stand in line and wait for the fish to be cooked. It can take a while with so many people to feed. It brought to mind Christ multiplying those baskets of fish. No need for loaves of bread there were enough tortillas for everybody.

The upside – everybody is friendly and chatting while they wait.


For some reason or other I don’t miss Philly or LA.

The Cruelest Month

2 04 2015


April started yesterday. Why did T. S. Eliot deem it so? Most of us know the opening words of “The Waste Land.” What comes after gives us a clue.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

And so begins the first part (The Burial of the Dead) of a poetic masterpiece. Have we buried poetry? A friend asked me that question yesterday. Some still write it, but few read it. This is a new age. The hip-hop world has no time for elaborate mysticism. If it’s dirty put it down, bro. Down and dirty.

What was goin’ on with ole Tom when he wrote the 20th century’s most well-known lines? Well for one thing he had been working at the bank and had to get away. The guy had a mental breakdown. Who wouldn’t working with Lloyd’s of London? I know because I worked with some of them back in the day when I was a computer techie. Eliot went to the Albermarle Hotel in the English seaside resort Margate. Tom and I have something in common. I used to watch Russell vs Chamberlain at The White House owned by Red Klotz of the Washington Generals and party at The Gables dance club. My Margate is in New Jersey though.


Everyday in Margate TS took a tram, watched the sea and wrote. It was after his time in Margate he changed the poem’s title. Ezra Pound suggested that he do so. It was originally called “He Do the Police in Different Voices” based on a Charles Dickens’ quote. I doubt with that title it ever would have become the most important poem of its time, however Jay Z would have recorded it.

Why “The Waste Land”? Could it have been in reaction to Margate’s Dreamland? Dreamland was the newly given name of the amusement park in Margate. It had been re-modeled after Coney Island in New York in 1920 by John Henry Iles who set up parks all over the world.

In 2008 Dreamland caught on fire and became its own wasteland.



It’s scheduled to re-open this year.

Maybe you’d like to mix memory with desire and stir a dull root with spring rain…

Eavesdropping Cowboy

26 03 2015


If you were in Merida’s Zocalo yesterday you may have seen 2 old men sitting in a cafe over morning coffee. As a young man I wondered what those ‘old guys’ had to talk about. These 2 seemed pretty engaged in their conversation. So I listened in.

They were proud of the women in their lives. Both of them hard-working Mexicanas.

They were writers – one non-fiction, the other fiction. They had both been in the US Army. One had spent the better part of his 2 years in Special Services playing basketball, the other spent more than 2 years ‘touring’ Vietnam. Such is the roll of the dice for a soldier.

They talked about movies – Platoon (the real deal when it came to depicting soldiers), Full-metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now. They had different views on American Sniper. One had seen the latest Liam Neeson flick and liked it. What’s become of the ‘Cowboy’ movie? One’s favorite was Tombstone with Val Kilmer – the dialog was how they really talked in the Old West. The other Shane. How could anything be better than Alan Ladd and Brandon De Wilde as seen through the eyes of a 12 year-old(his age when he saw it)? “Come back Shane, come back!”

Books – their own and others. The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini. Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif. Those Afghans and Arabs wrote stories with a lotta heart. Sure do miss American novels written with that kind of truth.

How much and how fast the world is changing. One remembered talking to an old, old native American who saw the ‘white man’s wagon trains.’ So much info, so little time to absorb it all. The difference in what it takes to get a PH. D. Used to be you had to know everything in your field and find a hole in the research. Now it’s find a hole and fill it.

Finally, concern for future generations especially their kids and grandkids. Human DNA hasn’t changed but human perception has. Can we comprehend it all? The Conquistadores and the tribes of Mexico and Latin America did some awful things in their time. Same thing is happening today. Most of it is done now as it was done then – in the name of God.

As they parted one of them said, “Congratulations on the book!”

I looked him in the eye and knew our late-in-life friendship would last until the end.

Go here for more of my work…

Spring is Sprung and a Book is Born

23 03 2015


Last Friday this photo was taken by a FB friend at Dzbilichaltun’s Temple of the 7 Dolls. The Temple was built by the Mayans so that on the vernal equinox when the sun rises it shines in one door and out another – similar to what they did at Chichen Itza. The Celts did something similar at New Grange. Those ‘first peoples’ knew their seasons. I’m not sure we modern people do.

On the same day there was a total eclipse seen from different parts of the earth. Here’s the path of the total eclipse as represented on the website An excellent site for anyone interested in what’s going on in the sky.


Those of us living in the Yucatan couldn’t see what they saw in Norway or the Faroe Islands.


Eclipse in Norway.


As seen in the Faroe Islands.

The same day as all of this was happening my first novel became available for purchase at Booklocker. An auspicious beginning I hope.


The Best of Gweedore, Maybe All of Ireland, Can be Heard Here

19 03 2015

Little Huey’s Pub or Teach Hiudái Beag in Gaelic.

So who cares? Saint Patrick’s Day is come and gone. If you’re a fan of Altan you might. It’s the place where the family and friends got together before becoming world-renowned as one of Celtic music’s best. Clannad and Enya hail from Gweedore and so do some Coyle’s and O’Donnell’s who are my ancestors. Monday night is the night to go there. I went once about 10 years ago and heard some of the best Celtic music ever. It’s very informal and friendly. The Irish can chat up as good or better than anybody and Donegal is no exception. I wouldn’t recommend letting on you’re from England though given the history of the place.

The night I was there stayed with me. When my granddaughter, Anya, was laid up with a foot ailment the memory resurfaced and I wrote this…

The sun peeked through the window of the wattled cottage from behind Errigal Mountain.


Cait awoke from her dream of the boy with the green eyes. As usual he was riding a horse, singing and whistling his way to Glenveagh castle. She remembered today was the feast of Mabon, the autumn equinox – a time to plan for the future.


Her sister’s head was turned away from her in their shared bed. “Are ya awake, Maggie?”

Maggie rolled over. “Aye, it’s a beautiful morning.”

“I dreamed of him again.” Cait hugged her.

“The one with the green eyes?” Maggie sat up.

“Aye. Some tinkers are passing through Gweedore. I need to know if he’s in my future. I’m going to ask the gypsy in the wagon what the dream means.  Will ya come with me?”

“Ma expects us to fish.”

“We can go after.” Cait’s second hug blotted the frown from her sister’s face.

“Don’t change yer mind on me. Whatever ya hear from that gypsy ya’ll want to hear from the wee folk. I know ya. Ya’ll want to see Grandma.” Maggie’s challenge came with a pout.

“I promise to fish. May I turn into a frog if I don’t.” Cait held up her fishing line. Her third hug of the morning was welcomed by Maggie’s smile.

“Might be fun to see what ya’d look like as a frog.”

The porridge and tea were still warm. So were the morning’s scones left by their mother. They ate quickly before walking to Gweedore past Poisoned – ‘neimh’ in Gaelic – Glen that was named by a myopic English mapmaker so that the Heavenly –‘neamh’ in Gaelic -Glen was no more. Poisoned Glen, such a shameful name, for one of the most beautiful spots in all of Ireland.


The tinkers’ wagons were in a circle outside the town that true to Irish townsfolk’s love for argument claimed it had the best music in all of Ireland. Six barefoot children in tatters ran to them. “What yuz want? Ya ken have this watch for a pittance.” A boy held out a pocket watch on a chain.

Cait pretended interest. “No thanks. I want my fortune told.”

“Yuz want me mum then. Follow me.” A little girl took Cait’s hand.


A half hour later they were back on the road to fish. The wind from the Atlantic was brisk and chilly – a sure sign that summer was over.

“How did she know about a whistling, singing boy riding a horse from turning that pack of cards? I’m scared. If I hadn’t promised to fish with ya I’d be on my way to Grandma’s right now.” Cait shook her head at the Tarot reading she’d heard.


“She didn’t say anything about green eyes but she said you were to meet him soon. So just be happy. You go to Grandma’s and you can start croaking right now, little froggie.” Maggie skipped a stone over the Clady River running through the blanket of peat bog leading back to Errigal’s maple trees.


A bent over sea captain with a fiddle case riding a horse toward them put a finger to his lips. “Don’t tell anyone you saw me.  Come see me at Teach Hiudái Beag tonight.”


The girls turned to watch him ride into the mist blowing from Scotland and the cliffs of Slieve League. According to Gaeltacht legend, ghosts walked the waterways and mountains of this part of Donegal.

Maggie shivered a bit. “Ya think he’s the Captain of Inishinny?”

“Nah. They say he was a young man when the boat sank. Ya wanna go see him? It’s Monday. There should be great music at Little Hughie’s tonight.”


“If Ma’ll let me. Ya get to go to more places than I do cause yer older.”

“Maybe she’ll come too.” Cait winked.

They walked into their cottage with Cait’s string of silver fish as the sun sank behind them into the sea.


“Ahh, yer a sight for sore eyes and not a bit too soon. I was worried that it was gonna be potatoes again. And cleaned they are! I’m blessed with the 2 best girls in all of Donegal.” Mother put the fish skillet on the stove.

Cait took mother’s face in both her hands. “And we’re all goin’ to Little Hughie’s tonight, Ma. It’s Monday.”

“A wash up before we leave and I’m with ya.”


“I can’t hear a word yer sayin’.” The music was loud. Cait couldn’t hear Maggie’s whispers in her mother’s ear.

“Yer not supposed to.  I was tellin’ Ma about yer dream and the fortune teller.”

“A tinker no less. I won’t ask where ya got the money.” Mother laughed and tickled Cait’s bosom.

They sat surveying the musicians. The sign swinging over the door read Teach Hiudái Beag, but it was Little Hughie’s Pub to Cait ever since she first sang “Whistling Gypsy Rover” there.

“So much for the Captain of Inishinny.” Cait leaned over to Maggie after not finding the captain’s face in the crowd.

By the way there were Irish women sea captains. This is one. Grace O’Malley was a real person more than 400 years ago.


Little Hughie came to their table. “Mairead, your visits have been too few and far between. Thanks for comin’ again. Please pleasure us with me favorite song?”

“Aye, yer a charmer, Hugh.” Mother blushed.


Cait noticed their fiddle player had the greenest eyes she’d ever seen.  When they finished the “ay do day” he smiled at her. She smiled back. She saw the case when he put the fiddle inside.

“Isn’t that the Captain’s case?” Cait leaned over to Maggie.

“Ya didn’t have to wait long for yer whistling gypsy.” Maggie answered.

Cait closed her eyes and made a wish.


The Sequel

9 01 2015



Confedeacy of Dunces is a novel written by John Kennedy Toole. The title comes from a Jonathon Swift work where it was written…”When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” I’m not aware that a true genius has appeared but certainly the 2 men pictured above qualify as a confederacy of the dunce dimension.

I am a recovering NFL addict but things keep appearing on my computer to entice me to watch again. Jerry Jones has so much money that he built Jerry’s World at a cost of $2B. Did it ever occur to him that he could have used that money to benefit the common person instead of himself. Jerry would say, ‘it does benefit the common man. What would he do on Sunday afternoon if America’s Team wasn’t playing?” My answer…”Maybe a creative act.” Jerry would say, “Oh, dig a well?” My answer…”Yes and then we’d lower you and your friend into it.”

Chris Christie is Governor of New Jersey. He has cut state workers’ pensions in order to balance the state’s budget. The Chris and Jerry Show should be featured on SNL with Jerry as Louis XIV and Chris as Marie Antoinette. One will say “after us the deluge,” the other will respond, “let them eat cake.”

With Jerry and Chris at the helm of America’s Team I don’t envision myself giving up the ex-pat life. Walker Percy would be proud of me. It’s time to re-read Confederacy of Dunces.

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