Monday, January 8, 2018

What's In Your Writing Bag?

The Evolution of My Portable Writing Bag

Writing Bag Mark I

I have been working on a novel called "The People's Republic of Retail" for four years and in that time I have completed four chapters. I work as a bookseller at B&N and the other day I came across a book called "Failed Writers". It scared the bejeezus out of me. I never give up, but sometimes I review the way I do things and "adjust" my methods and goals. I have a giant Toshiba Laptop at home that I affectionately refer to as "The Wedge". When I pack it away in my standard writing bag, along with various notebooks, stationary supplies, and other accouterments, I find myself wishing I could employ the services of a Sherpa. I have decided to make a portable writing bag - one that will allow me to utilize the time before work to write without destroying my lumbar region. The bag itself is a hunter green and faux leather brown (my favorite color combination) Messenger Bag from B&N purchased with my employee discount. Here is what it contains:

1. Lego Camera with USB cord
2. Toshiba Netbook NB200 with Neoprene Sleeve
3. Electronic Franklin Merriam-Webster Dictionary/Thesaurus (which needs a battery)
4. iHome Mini Cordless Mouse
5. American Flag Mouse Pad
6. Stormtrooper Memory Stick
7. Internet Password Logbook
8. 1 Pilot G-2 07 Red Ink Pen
9. 1 Berol Blue Highlight Pen
10. The Novelist's Notebook by Laurie Henry
11. 1 Mead 5 Star Notebook packed with essential notes
12. 1 Ticonderoga Erasable Carmine Red 425T Pencil
13. 1 Bic Atlantis Neon Green Pen
14. 3 Zebra 5-301 BP Pens - 1 Black, 1 Blue & 1 Red
15. 26 Curad Alcohol Wipes
16. 1 Dust Free Cloth
17. 1 Mead 100% Recycled 2 Subject Notebook
18. Packet of Notes (about 48 pages) relevant to Ch. 5 of my novel - Hole Punched, Reinforced & Ring Bound.
19. 1 Sony Walkman NWZ-E465 MP3 Player with 2,180 Songs
20. 4 AAA Duracell Copertop Batteries
21. 1 Pair of QFX Blue Earbuds. Not a fan of these. They greatly diminish the amount of space used, but the loss of sound quality is appalling. Thinking about lugging my good headphones separately. 


Writing Bag Mark II



and finally...




Writing Bag Mark III

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Liberty Refugees and The Pakistani Convenience Store Blues

The Liberty Refugees and The Pakistani Convenience Store Blues


Do you hear
the tears of glory flags
sun bleached
on rusted poles?


The fall of conscience
in dark Amerika?

The parade of social death?

Darwin’s inverted nightmare?

The recorders
sit in clouds
high above the rooftops
of sagging hip suburbia


Perched like vultures
in towers
of itchy finger
machine gun nests

Observing the endless procession


The punctured palms
and the rolls
of concertina wire,

The lofty hands
of mock Nazi salutes
while volumes
of Ginsberg
burn,

(Molten glow and ashes)

The silence
of wordless music,

funeral marches
and generic
snare drum
rolls,

The bleating
lamb screams
of television
talking phalluses,


The glint
of reality t.v.
viewers

(noses raised
in self absorbed
piety)

Cocked pubescence
of deadman curves
with flowers
wilting
in their halos,


The warriors
dying by degrees
and their sons
whistling
at the tumult
of teen death love
dynasties,

The fractured families
and the broken
latch keys,


The wayward
whores
of mother night,

The plastic politicians
with their
slavering
Doubletalk


(oral copulations
in the oval office)

The pregnancy scares
of bad fertility
judgments,

The prison cell
wombs
of orgasmic
ignorance,

The mass of
huddled
adolescents
angry and misdirected

(pitchforks raised
for Molotov revolutions)


The gun totes
and the
submachine gun
pep rallies,

The killers
of drunken fumblings
in the night,

The well diggers
and their
proletariat children,

The little girls
in firebird
sex kitten poses -
objects of angry boy
adulations

(Themselves
scarred by the belts
and fists
of Vietnam flashbacks
and insatiable paranoia)


The former
prom queens
addicted to welfare
and television melodrama,

The soul killers
of sexual rebellion

(glorious golden castrations)

The deluded
wish kings
one step away
from padded cell
asylums
and straitjacket
Lobotomies,


The rubbish collectors
who see our
porn rags
soaked
by curdled
cereal milk,

The dominant
money whores
gathering their spoils
in stock market
Convalescence,


The bitter demigods
of bygone
home run pitches
and the glories
of war,

The indigents
always somewhere
in the systems clutches

The ever increasing
case loads
and the dockets
of prestigious courtrooms
swelled
like the carcass
of a beached whale

or a dead Indian

laying in the road,

The bald sadists
whipped on
dominatrix
torture wheels,

The gamblers
of ejaculatory
blackjack fornications
with Lady Luck
batting her eyelashes,


The sea captains
in land locked
shanty towns
their hopeful ears
poised for boomtown
prosperity,

The chemical push carts
and the diseased syringes,

The blank canvases
of opium addicted
artists
watching their paints
coagulate
in Campbell’s soup
tureens,


The Liberty Refugees
and The Pakistani
Convenience Store Blues,

The rusted saxophones
of former jazz
heydays
seated like
Excalibur
in pawn shop windows,

The trumpet blasts
and the broken seals,


and the windmill combatants -
a legion of poets
toiling in obscurity
high above
the wails of the damned,

The compulsion to write
on countless
insomniac
evenings

about the parade of decadence
and the death of the American
Dream

Monday, November 13, 2017

Max’s Gyros

Max’s Gyros



First let me describe the gyros 


- as you walk

in (to the sound of an
electronic doorbell)
the first thing that 
hits you is the smell

Cumin, garlic, lamb,
beef, a faint scent 
of cinnamon or allspice

It’s a warm smell
like a stew simmering
all day in a crock pot

Or steaming hot soup
when you have a cold
and your bones ache
from a long work day

It’s a welcoming smell

A comforting smell

Like Family

Like Home

There are only 3 foods
I crave and that
immediately make 
me feel better
no matter what

Vietnamese Pho at Pho Cali
Fried Chicken from Yoder’s
and Max’s Gyros

When I began to 
heal from my spinal
surgery and could
swallow again the
first thing I asked
for was Max’s Gyros

Max was a slight 
man - physically - but
a giant in spirit

- to move his family
from Iran and start
a business in Sarasota, FL
speaks volumes to me
about what it means to
be a man

He spoke English with
a Persian accent

To me he was a magician

A true character

I had been talking 
about gyros at 
work when the 
Frito Lay vendor
spoke up and said,
“If you want a
good gyro try
Max’s."

I asked around
“Oh, yes, Max,.”
he owns that service 
station on Stickney 
Point


I went to the
BP station on 
Bee Ridge with
my wife

It was the wrong one

The clerk said, “Max,”.
yeah, he’s up a 
couple more

“That’s odd,” I replied. “2 BP.”
stations that
close together

“No”, she corrected.
“Max got mad at
BP and tore down 
the sign. He’s an
independent now."

I admired him
before I ever met
him.

Max sold independent
gas at reasonable 
prices and everyone 
knew it… For, Dear 
Reader, every interaction 
I describe here with Max
took place between
infinitesimal spaces
from one fuel customer
to the next. Almost all
seemed to know him
and greeted him by
name.

Cars moved in and out
from his fuel pumps
in a cacophony of
controlled chaos.

But that was Max
- uncompromising
quality and value
and a human touch

- That is something 
the big box corporate
places will never
understand - for 
without that crucial
third ingredient
(The Human Touch)
- They can never tap
into the formula
that Max had.

-Anyway, back to
the Gyros
You saw the hunk
of gyro meat

(A mixture of 
lamb and beef)
Roasting slowly 
on the vertical spit

rotating steadily

hypnotically

as the brown juices
popped out of tiny
geysers and fell, like
golden tears of joy,
to the base of the
spit where they
sizzled and smoked

I’ve had gyro meat
at a lot of places,
mostly it was over-salted, 
full of gristle,
but not Max’s.

He used just enough
spice to season his
meat - and just enough
fat to impart flavor

It’s the perfect balance

Max had a long bread
knife - the kind 
with teeth on the 
bottom and a blunt
rounded tip

When you ordered
a gyro
Max would grab his
knife - survey the 
spinning meat for the
best parts - and 
begin slicing

He would cut the
meat into vertical
strips with the
slightly crunchy
exterior and the 
warm, succulent
interior

After the meat was
sliced Max would
begin constructing
the gyro itself

Now, this wasn’t a 
fast process. 

Max was aware that 
a steady stream 
of customers was
crowding and shuffling
into the cramped
confines of his
store.

(The customers fidgeted
but never seemed to
lose patience - they
were willing to 
wait for quality.)

However, he was not
running around like
a madman either

Max moved like a man
who loved what he did
and was unwilling to
compromise his standards
in the interest of
speed…

But, I digress 
- the Gyros -
Max constructed
the gyros
on warm, thick pita
bread that he
and his wife 
made

On a bed of fresh,
crisp lettuce
with plump, juicy
tomatoes
(All of which he bought
locally)

With a slathering 
of the tangy
yogurt sauce
called tzatziki

and that’s it

Simple, Fresh,
Delicious

Max also had a
cooler filled with
salads - the star 
of which was the feta his wife
made that was
out of this world

They also had
buttery, flaky
spanakopita
And luscious sweets, too

Like Baklava, dripping 
with sensual, golden 
honey

And my personal favorite
Kataifi - with filo 
dough cut into strips
so thin it was
like shredded wheat

with honey and 
pistachios filling
the center

We talked with Max
while we waited. He
was ebullient with
eyes that sparkled
and danced

This was at the height
of the Axis of Evil
Iranian Nuclear
scare - and here 
we were talking
to Max about 
Iran and food
and Chicago and
his children with
whom he was 
smitten. Their 
drawings papered 
the door to his
office - and he 
was so proud of them

and his wife and of 
her yogurt and feta
that she made by
hand.

He was proud of his
family and his heritage
and loved to share
them.

All these things

His Love

His Pride

went into his gyros
and that’s what made…
what makes them
so good.

They are more than
the sum of their parts.


They’re a story…

Max was a storyteller
and food was how 
he told his story.

It’s the story of an
Iranian family who came
to America -
built a business 
-became part of 
the community
- and created a 
home.

That’s what Max’s Gyros
taste like

They taste like
home

An Iranian family
in Sarasota
making great 
Greek food.

“Great” is not a big
enough word
Max’s Gyros are
transcendental

A legacy

His story reflects
the larger American
story

The melting pot

The American Dream

The other day, my wife
Gina stopped at Max’s
when she got off work
to pick up some gyros
When she got home
her eyes were red
as if she’d been crying
And she told me that
Max had passed away
His wife was there
minding the store

She said that Max
had suffered heart
trouble

I was stunned

We sat in silence,
looking at the 
gyros for a time
- and then I took
a bite

And I began to feel better

And I thought about Max
and the role food plays
in our lives

It can bridge cultural
divides

It can bring families
together

And like Max’s Gyros,
it can even tell stories

I think Max would
be happy to know
his story lives on
- Carried by his wife
and children, by 
the people whose 
lives he touched,

And it lives on
with his Gyros which
are still being made 
with love - by the people 
he loved - and shared
with the community
that loved him

I ask you
Is there any
greater legacy
than that?



January 14, 2010