Category Archives: Uncategorized

Memory of an Uncle (Isidore Propper, Capt., NYPD, d. 1986)


Uncle Izzy, ninety-five,
looked at me through blue eyes
gone the color of blood-spotted egg whites,
hands trembling, his parchment skin
loose-wrapped around his bones, ill cover
for his organs against the coming wind.
It’s Kenny! my aunt screamed at him, it’s Kenny,
your nephew, it’s Jack and Lillian’s boy!

Still the eyes stared, in search of remembrance.
I don’t know, I don’t know, he said,
not in pain for a memory lost (he remembered
bodyguarding the fighter Jack Sharkey
in `32, but could not remember
yesterday’s lunch) but to state a truth.
Whoever you are, sir, he said at last,
you are a gentleman. And I, ever the
literateur, recalled Blanche DuBois
and her dependence on the kindness of
strangers: for that is what time
and the black hole of my uncle’s dying
made of me, a stranger to all memories
but my own, in middle age now recalled
as Jack and Lillian’s boy:

who, after three hours, kissed my aunt and uncle,
fled the condo facing the Jordan-Marsh, rushed
into the July cauldron of Biscayne Boulevard;
drove my rented car north on US 1,
soundproofed, sheltered from the heat
by synthetic air. At the car rental desk
at Fort Lauderdale, I paid the bill,
and paused to flirt with Ms. Mendoza the agent,
glad for someone young, alive, and not me.

Tolstoy, You are Unforgettable

About a month ago, I was notified that Story, my orange cat, “the artist formerly known as Tolstoy,” had died in the night, curled up next to his current human.

There’s a  (no pun) story here, and it’s mine to tell.

Tolstoy was now Story. He’d become Story when his new human, Christine, adopted him from the Monmouth County SPCA. She’d driven east from Green Bay to look at him because I’d posted a plea for someone to look at him and prevent him from living out his life in the shelter.

That’s what I felt like I was doing. In early February 2013, I was about to go into a homeless shelter for men. If you’re in there, you can’t bring a pet with you.

But “pet”? Tolstoy was more than a pet. Over 11 years, he’d become my friend, my son, and my life. Giving him up was devastating. How do you reject your family?

He deserved a permanent address. Yes, the Monmouth County SPCA is no-kill. Seriously no kill. He could live out his life there, hang with the other cats, and maybe get adopted by someone who didn’t need only a kitten, i.e., someone who’d embrace a senior cat. So Chris came east, fell in love, and adopted him. He joined her two other orange cats, Wally and Shammy (now known as the King of Maine because everyone moved north over the summer).

I’d hear about him periodically. He fit right into the mischief of being part of a set of three cats. Chris took care of his health issues and Wally and Shammy took care of friendship.

Then I learned that Story, as he was known, was dying. Chris and the vet decided on palliative care because his kidneys were not going to get better.

And then he died, at Christine’s side, with one of the other cats in attendance.

I have my cat Misha here, my blessing and my answered prayer, so the pain has been alleviated. But Tolstoy was part of my days with a broken heart, and so I grieve him. G’bye, baby.



Period of Adjustment

I moved into this apartment a week ago last Sunday. It’s taken me this long to figure out where everything is and is supposed to be. I’m over the worst of it. Even Tolstoy has wandered around, settled in and has found his sleeping places. We’re both adjusting.

I once heard that the reason the earth’s population is what it is…well, it’s because women forget the awfulness of labor. I’ve never met a woman who said she liked labor pains or could not wait to endure them again. Women, you tell me. Did I get it right, or am I the standard delusional male? When my wife was in labor with our second child, she spent most of labor cursing me out for having done this to her.

As far as moving itself, I forget how terrible the whole experience is or can be. I’m still not quite over it, though I’m working on it. I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to have to go through that garbage again. You find stuff you didn’t know you had, and you can’t figure out why you kept it. For someone like me–a pack-rat–it’s even more difficult to get rid of stuff even if you don’t need or really want it. “Oh, what will I do if I want something five years down the road?” It sounds like a question for a job interview (I vaguely remember those). Well, get used to it, get another, or just shut up.

I’ve still got to cook a meal here. I’ve been doing the restaurant route thing since I got here: not expensive places, God knows, just nice sandwich and taco places, along with Amy’s Omelette House, one of the best places I’ve ever eaten on the Jersey Shore. Or I can go up into Highlands north of Sea Bright, and eat at Chilango’s, just the best Mexican place I’ve ever been to, at least in New Jersey. There are lots more opportunities here than there were in Bristol, PA. There are good Chinese take-out places, pizzerias, and all sorts of other things.

And yes, I’m a lot closer to New York than I was up until a week or so ago.

‘T’ain’t bad at all.


You know what that abbreviation means, don’t you? I define it.

I’ve begun hunting for yet another place to live. It’s dangerous here, to both my physical and emotional health. I can’t afford it: especially not since I lost any source of steady income. So I’m back to being in the hunt again. But this time I feel like the fox running from a pack of hounds. They’re not barking up the wrong tree, they’re barking at me and it’s not at all pleasant for them to have my scene.

I know I can’t afford to live around here anymore. and I don’t want to go back to New Jersey, which is even worse. No one can afford to help me. My Unemployment’s going to run out eventually and all I get from Social Security after the garnishment from The She Wolf is about $650 a month.

I don’t even like Pennsylvania. I want to go back to Upstate New York, where the prices are a bit better. IF I can find a place for me and for my cat, from whom I will not allow myself to be parted. That is too much to ask of anyone.

So what then do I do? Reconcile myself to a host of physical ailments and just take them? Probably. I have weapons with which to fight back. I can’t fight Social Security OR Ciy Hall.

I have paid a million times over for my sins but they never seem to be remitted, and there is no end to the payback. “When will it suffice?” Yeats asked, and like him, I don’t have an answer.

Troy Davis, RIP

Some of you may think I’m one of those do-gooders or sob-sisters who feels for the murderer and doesn’t give a damn about the victim of the killing.

Congratulations. You’re so wrong I can smell the decayed shit clear from Pennsylvania.

Troy Davis didn’t die for my sins or for yours. He died perhaps for his own. The question is: did he actually kill the off-duty cop in the parking lot? We may never know that because Davis insisted he was not the shooter and even seven of the nine jurors recanted their original testimony and said “No, it wasn’t him.” Letters came in from people with nothing to prove and nothing in common except a faith in a supreme being, however that being is worshiped. Nothing helped. Last night Troy Davis was strapped to a gurney in the Georgia State Prison and an undisclosed dosage of Nembutal was pumped into his veins.

I’ve seen cats and a dog put down, and the vet always used phenobarbital–also a relatively simple chemical that stuns the central nervous system and kills the victim in seconds.

When did a human being become a cat or dog? I’ve seen cats die. I’ve seen a dog die. I’ve even seen a human being die. Except for the human, they went with dignity, easily and gratefully, because they were suffering and I believe they were truly outside their suffering bodies. Did they believe in God or some higher power? Does it matter? We as their human guardians and protectors claim to believe in such things. I happen to believe in such things because I’d like to believe I’m some flavor of Christian.

What about the people who put down Troy Davis like a piece of festering rubbish last night? What happens to the executioners who injected the chemicals? How do they carry home their knowledge to their wives and children? “How was work today, dad?” “Oh, nothing special. I helped kill a man.”

I don’t know if Davis was guilty. We’ll never know. I don’t know if the bastards who dragged James Byrd down a back road while he was chained to their pickup truck were truly guilty or were just racist scum. The two things are not necessarily the same. I don’t know if the piece of shit who shot a shop worker in the face was a victim of society as she became his victim. I don’t know if pretend Catholics like Sean Hannity know what the hell they’re talking about. Probably not.

How many more have to die to protect this republic from its citizens, good or bad? The worst among us need our prayers even more than the best. Saint Catherine of Siena used to accompany condemned men to the scaffold and pray for them. That may be one of her several claims to sainthood: that nobody was so low that they were undeserving of redemption.

And I don’t want anyone killed in the name of Justice anymore. Not in my name. Or yours.

My site stats for 2010

WordPress sent me information about my readership for the last 12 months.

To see the report you’ll need to copy and paste the URL into your browser. I’ve forgotten more about manually encoding HTML than I ever knew.

I don’t quite know what it all means except that people out there read me, love me or not. I feel like Sally Field at the Oscars. For which I am grateful. So thank you.