All posts for the month February, 2016

Sgt Hathaway’s tie

Published February 21, 2016 by The Merida Review

I am the sort of people who likes the books better than the movie or tv adaptations of them. In fact, I can drive people crazy explaining why specific books are better than whatever movie or tv show we are watching. During the show, even. (There are people who refuse to go to movies with me.)

There are exceptions. Game of Thrones, for instance. I like the show better than the books. Phryne Fisher, also. Let me see if I can think of more….hmmm…well, later, maybe.

I like mysteries, some mysteries, I am very picky about which. I like good strong characterizations, and plots that aren’t stupid, and I feel like I’m wasting my time when I discovered I’ve been suckered into a bad one. I tend to read favorite books over and over again. It’s a safer bet, after all, to read one you already know is good, rather than gambling on a new title. But, academically, hey, you have to study an author’s style and method so you can learn what works. First time through, you read for enjoyment. Second time, it’s to pay attention to how the author got you from here to there. After that, you’re picking up nuances.

I like to have new books recommended to me by people whose taste I trust. I am very cautious dipping into new authors.

When I moved to Mexico 9 years ago, I was moving away from life as I knew it. You really don’t know what a barrier a language is till you move to a country where everyone speaks a different one. I was used to reading multiple newspapers every morning. I liked reading magazines. Television in Mexico is like a huge wasteland, at least in Merida, where I was. Is it better anywhere else? I don’t know. Hell, I even missed commercials. And books, of course. I felt so out of touch.

Gradually, I began reading online newspapers, The New York Times for starters, till they started charging for an online subscription. Then the LA Times, and the Washington Post (same story). And finally I landed on the Guardian, which is kind of weird, living in Mexico, a former Ohioan, reading a London newspaper. Pretty soon I was all up on UK news and tv and theater and actors. Other expats showed me how to stream shows I actually wanted to see or find them on youtube, and life has never been the same. I got used to the fact that I couldn’t discuss tv with anyone. No one I knew was watching Borgen but me. Or The Bridge. Or even Broadchurch. But man, good tv. Actual good tv! Wow. Oh yeah. And the Great British Bake Off. Would I Lie To You? QI. Fun tv.

And so, a few years back, I started watching Endeavour. Which, for those of you who were as clueless as me, is a prequel to the Inspector Morse mysteries, which I’d never watched, even though I could have seen them on PBS while I was still living in the states. I just never did. Endeavour was a good show (er, is a good show). A lovely show.

When I moved back to Ohio, I needed a million billion things and decided that, since I would no doubt be doing lots of Amazon ordering, I should probably get a Prime membership. I was thinking of it for the price of shipping alone, but now that I have it, I’ve discovered that insomnia + a kindle + Prime go together well. Middle of the night, can’t sleep, reach over and get the kindle and watch something. Without even wrinkling the pillows. Excellent.

Enter Inspector Lewis, of which all 7 seasons are available on Prime. Inspector Lewis was Morse’s sidekick and after the Morse mysteries ended, they spun off a series with him as the main dude. He has a sidekick named Hathaway. Who wears the most fantastic tie in series 4. Oh man, it’s the most beautiful fabric, I even googled Sgt Hathaway’s tie just to see if I could find out who made it – I really don’t want the tie, I more fantasize about yards and yards of the silk (I’m sure it’s silk!) and what I could do with it! Alas! Alack! however, the mystery of Sgt Hathaway’s tie remains unsolved. And if I tracked down the fabric, I couldn’t afford it anyways.

Both Endeavour and Lewis take place in Oxford, you know, where the University is (being from Ohio, and not being academic, I really don’t know much about it except that there’s this college everyone always talks about like it’s something special), you get way more feel for the town/university in Lewis than in Endeavour. It’s very Oxford-y. Like Oxford is one of the characters. (Though the way its professors keep getting knocked off, I’d think one would have to really seriously pause before accepting a position there.)

About the time I fell in love with Hathaway’s tie, it occurred to me that perhaps I should look into Inspector Morse. I wikipediaed Morse and made a list of titles and tracked some down. (They’re actual books, you know. Those things I like best!) So simultaneous with watching this year’s crop of new Endeavours and season 5 of Lewis, I started reading Last Bus to Woodstock, the first Morse book. Talk about disorienting! And yet, I’m having trouble getting into Morse (the character). The writing is good. There’s some interesting characters. Can’t really tell how the plot is going to go, since I’m bogged down in the middle.

I’m not normally like this, though. I’m not one of those people who skip the books and do the film and call it done. I am going to finish this book, by gumbo, and then I’m going to read the next one. Figure out where all this Morse stuff came from. (Yeah, and then I guess there’s another tv series to track down.)

I’m having real problems matching up the Morse I like so much in Endeavour with the one in the book…plus there’s an overall feeling that I’m getting into the whole universe backwards. People seem to like the books, though, I get that feeling everywhere. So, obviously, the problem must be me. I can’t wipe all memories of previous Morses out of my brain and start fresh (oh wait, there’s hypnosis, isn’t there?). This is so frustrating!

But I am going to read these books, damn it, and that’s all there is to it. I will. I will. I will.


After the affair

Published February 8, 2016 by The Merida Review

Every now and then, we are lucky enough to find a book that truly satisfies us, one we can indulge ourselves in, relax and trust the author and allow him (or her) to take us where he will and do with us as he wants. When we are done, we wake, as if from a dream, shake ourselves and think, So this is what real life is like! Sort of flat, and tarnished. Dull by comparison. We go about our day, full of fond memories or the characters we have so lately left behind, and full of hope for the future. At some point in the day, however, it hits us. We are done with that book. It’s through. We are left alone to drift in a cold, cold world. Life goes on between the covers of our beloved novel, but without us. We are cast out to fend for ourselves.

We veer recklessly into whatever book is closest at hand, like scorned lovers, thinking, There are lots of books in the sea! We need not be dependent on that one! We can go back and visit sometime, if we feel like, but we don’t need it. Ha, ha!

(ok, I’ll admit there have been times I couldn’t leave, that I started right back into it, from page 1)

But our new book fails us. It falls flat. We find ourselves constantly making comparisons, finding our new companion coming up short. It just can’t compete with our memories. We drift off, lost in our reveries, and it can’t get our attention. It makes a fool of itself, trying, but we don’t notice. It eventually tires of us.

So we decide to read something totally different, something so different we won’t have those absurdly high expectations. Something silly, maybe, or something experimental. It’s definitely too soon to try and get into another major relationship. Maybe a mystery, something escapist.

Time needs to pass for our wounded soul to heal. We have loved, and we’re glad of it. We gave our all, gave ourselves up completely, and we had a wonderful experience that will enhance the rest of our lives, but for now we are suffering from a bereavement, a loss of that world we got to know and love so well. We are missing the friends we made, the characters we lived with so intimately. We were able to live lives different from ours, lives that were perhaps more exciting, that took chances we wouldn’t take, that let us experience things we wouldn’t have been able to experience without them. Maybe we found ourselves liking that other life better than our own, or at least parts of it.

But for me, it’s always the actual people I miss.

In time we will recover, we’ll be able to try new books with an open mind, with a happy anticipation. It’ll happen, we know it will. We just have to go through the motions that get us from here to there. Whatever it takes.

For now, though, we plod aimlessly, adrift and bereft, fingering covers of books that are now void of charm; we can’t even remember why we bought them. We sample one after another, expecting them to disappoint us.

We wonder why we read at all. And yet, we can’t stop ourselves. We are back at the shelves, looking over the crop of potential new lovers, casting our eye in jaundiced boredom. We are there because deep inside us there is a little spark that still believes, that knows there is another book out there for us, that knows we’ll feel that thrill again, that joy, that total ecstasy.

We are hardened and cynical on the outside, but inside we are just marshmallows. We will never learn.

DDT and Dinner Theater: or, the politics of fundraising

Published February 6, 2016 by The Merida Review


I used to live in Merida, in the Yucatan part of Mexico, which was a perfectly pleasant place to live (well, it gets awfully hot for 2/3 of the year) with tons of perfectly pleasant (and some really bizarre) expats to hang out with. Because I am a poet and I was hungry for some creative companionship (meaning, just someone to hang out and talk shop with), I started going to a poetry open mic night that was all in Spanish. They said they welcomed anyone who spoke any language, but lots of nights it was all Spanish speaking folks and me. My Spanish is really bad, even after trying hard to learn (guess I’m just not one of those people for whom languages is easy or even achievable), so I usually couldn’t understand what anyone was saying, and I would picture what I thought their poetry was about, by their expressions, their passions, their style.

Sometimes other English speaking people would wander through, mostly I got contempt, however, for not being able to learn Spanish, for not writing poetry in Spanish (I wasn’t even at the level where I could’ve written Mary had a little lamb in Spanish), for not integrating more with my new city.

The language thing is such a big freaking deal in poetry, you know? Yeah, I eventually discovered that if I abandoned reading my own poetry and read stuff by famous people like Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, etc, I became much more popular. Because they’d heard of them, they’d studied them in English. They respected them.

Eventually, however, another English speaking writer had the great idea to start an open mic for the expats. All in English. And even though she was a little strange, and people were kinda hesitant to hang out with her, I was all behind the idea, and helped track down a location for it. And then eventually started being in charge of it when she got mad and left. That took awhile, though. This is not a piece on how difficult it is to keep an open mic going, keep it vibrant and fun and all that. Not going there. It was a great place to meet all sorts of creative people, though.

After awhile, a person who I barely knew, who became a really good friend, brought in acts of a play that she was writing, for fun. Well, I think she was writing it for the fun of it, I don’t really know. Whoever happened to be at Open Mic night that particular night would take a part and we would read through it, and it was enormous fun. When it was over, we thought we should have a special one night read through of the whole thing, and which ended up being a wild party at which everyone involved drank tons, and I said something like, Golly, we should put this on as a real play!

(Cue Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney.)

Jill, the author, had acted in dinner theater productions when she lived in the states, and the play was a fun murder mystery dinner theater piece, with eccentric characters, and lots of inside jokes about Merida and expats. We couldn’t really do it for money, so we put it on for charity. Jill had worked with a no kill animal shelter in the Merida environs, and we donated half to them, and half to an orphanage for human children.

Choosing the charities was awful. Someone said we should vette them and make sure that none of our donations would go to paying anyone’s salaries. We had to meet with representatives of said charities and ask them questions. I hated that part of it. I didn’t care what charity we donated money to, I was only in it for the theater part. I was the assistant director. I told the rest of them to pick any charity they wanted, I didn’t care. The more I heard of different charities, the more they all sounded like they needed us. You couldn’t give money to all of them. We weren’t business people, we didn’t really think it would be all that much money, but hey. Let those picky people do the grunt work. I would work for whatever charity. They’re all worthy, just pull one out of a hat.

And there were plenty of other things to worry about, trying to put on a mystery dinner theater. Finding actors, finding a restaurant willing to take us on (they have to choreograph the dinner to go with the breaks in the play), props, costumes, tickets, poster printing, rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing…

It was fun, and people enjoyed it, and we decided to come back and do one the next year. Jill wrote a new play, and they had to choose charities all over again, same location, though we looked at others, same headaches, some new headaches, much drinking throughout, rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing.

And Jill said, “No more! I can’t do this again!”

So a couple years later, one of the actors and I were moaning about having no play, and we remembered another actor had said she’d written plays in the past, so we contacted Alicia and, by golly, she wrote a play for us. And we did it all over again, without Jill. And learned to really appreciate all the work Jill had done. We weren’t as experienced as Jill, and we weren’t able to anticipate details ahead like Jill. We muddled through the best we could.

So, we needed a charity. One of my fellow poets was hanging around with a woman who, besides running her own practice, was donating her time to a project where they replace the eyes of children who’ve lost their eyesight to cancer with prosthetics. So they look normal and other people don’t make fun of them and it makes their life better. For some reason, Yucatan has more eye cancer than anywhere else. One night, Gina had shown me before and after photos of some of her kids, and it had left a big impression, let me tell you. So when they were cluelessly looking for a charity to support, I offered up “In Your Eyes.”

Which turns out to be a bare bones charity run by Gina and her brother, she is an optometrist and he makes prosthetic eyes. I think. Most of these conversations were in Spanish, and I could be wrong. They operate on very little money. Jonathan (my friend the poet) was putting together charity poetry reading fundraisers for them. Us doing this play and donating the money to them was one of the biggest things that had ever happened to them.

They didn’t have a website, they didn’t have a facebook page. People started asking if it was a legitimate charity, to which I emphatically said Yes!, having seen those before and after photos. We asked for a brochure to use the information in our publicity. They didn’t have one. Julie, who was loosely allied with the play, offered to do a facebook page for them.

Another friend, who works with a charity who provides sex education to young Yucatecans, trying to prevent teenaged pregnancies and prevent the spread of AIDs through safer sex, was talking to me at a Christmas party and he told me if we donated half our money to his charity, he would promote the play through their mailing list, and I went to Alicia and told her that, and we decided Hell, yeah. Mark’s is a highly organized charity, with organized big-ticket fundraisers and a huge mailing list.

So there we were, working with a huge, organized charity, and a little, loosely run, take-them-on-faith charity. Both of them perfectly deserving. The money we donated to the big charity was a little spit in the bucket for them. Gina cried when I gave her the money we’d raised for her kids. And later sent me photos of the specific kids that we’d helped.

On the last night of the show, we made these giant checks and presented them to representatives of the charities, as is common in these situations. (It took a day or two longer to actually get the real money to them.) And, as I’ve said, I was only in it for the thrill of the theater. I didn’t care who we donated the money to. But since I was the one who suggested In Your Eyes, they treated me like I was something special. It was embarrassing, actually. I didn’t deserve it.

In Your Eyes would’ve never survived the vetting process we’d had the other years, believe me.

So we are all standing around afterwards, being polite and drinking more, the actors finally relaxing, and I was introducing Gina and Jonathan to people, and one bright soul asked why there is so much eye cancer in Yucatan, which I had never thought to ask. I guess I figured the answer would be too complicated and scientific for me to understand. DDT. The fertilizer which was banned in the US years and years ago. They use it in Yucatan. It runs off the fields and gets in the water system. Gina acted out a mother washing her baby’s clothes in the water, wrapping the baby in a blanket washed in DDT runoff water. The baby getting cancer.

If the cancer goes beyond the eyes, it gets to the brain, and they don’t live through it.

And me. The “Isn’t it fun to put on a play!” person who didn’t care where the money for charity went. Suddenly cared. Suddenly felt like the smallest, pettiest person on earth. And Gina, with her little charity, trying her damnedest to fix something that shouldn’t be happening in the first place, suddenly seemed like a saint. Because we weren’t very business oriented, our expenses ended up being so high that all we managed to raise for each charity was a couple hundred bucks. A spit in the bucket for one charity. Enough, though, to make Gina cry.

There must be a moral to this. And it must be staring me right in the face. But here I am in Ohio, going around trying to find people to put on a play, just for the hell of it. Not sure how to find anyone who writes plays around here, but I’ll figure it out.

You can always find actors, can’t you?

Maybe we’ll even donate money to charity? Oh. There’s the moral. Right there.

Swastika Soul and a video

Published February 3, 2016 by The Merida Review

New poetry is up at The Merida Review. Swastika Soul and other poems by Patricia Walsh, and here’s a link to it:


And an old song by Tinfoil, illustrated with lots of old photos, video professionally made by me (note how I filled out the youtube form wrong and somehow didn’t give a real name to the video. Sigh.)


Am I productive lately, or what?

Since the fear went away, I’ve gotten so much better

Published February 1, 2016 by The Merida Review

Although I am and always have been immensely interested in fashion, you can’t tell it by looking at me. I am not the right shape for it. I don’t know what shape I am, all I know is that clothes look horrible on me, so I go for comfortable. I am short, shortwaisted, have a tendency to look dumpy, I never stay the same size. I am either gaining weight or starving myself. No in-betweens.

(People have tried to tell me that there is a natural set point that your body is trying to get to, that if you stop trying to manipulate it, it will find that weight and stay there, but I don’t know what that weight would be. I’ve let it go till it got alarmingly out of hand. I can only assume that the weight my body would get me to if I let it is about 700 pounds, that I would be one of those people who they have to knock down the walls to get me out of my house, pry my broken sofa off my gargantuan rear end, etc. Yes, I am one of those people who can tell the calories in something without looking it up, I have dieted so often.)

I wear whatever is most comfortable. I have a closet full of things that look good (er, better) on me but are just hell to wear. It is rare that an item actually fits me comfortably. Or there are things that fit me after the last diet, but only for a couple months, and might fit me again sometime…or things that might look good on someone else, but look schlumpy on me.

I have always aspired to sew, thought that the answer to my fashion problems were in making things for myself and ignoring what was happening out there in the land of Trend. But patterns don’t fit me, unless they are shapeless muu-muuey type things. I’ve read books on how to fit, watched videos, bought books on making your own patterns based on your measurements. I don’t seem to be smart enough to figure things out. I’ve watched How Do I Look? And What Not to Wear until I’m blue in the face. (Oh man, it’s been ages since How Do I Look was on. I loved that show!)

And to top things off, here I am in a business that demands not only skinny, but wraith-thin. And if you’re female, they also want you young and sexy and seductressy. Because no one will apparently take your music seriously if you’re not. I’m not ugly. I’m not horrible looking. But I’m also not anyone’s idea of the ideal female.

I know these things for a fact because I’ve been putting together a video for one of our old songs with a bunch of old band photos. One friend walked through the room while I was working on it, and I told her that we could be called the band with no fashion sense. You have to wonder what a stylist would have done with us. Though it’s kinda scary, too.

Because we were who we were and we weren’t sucked into the industry, just kept battling it from the outside (we tried! we tried to get sucked in! as hard as we could!), we ended up making some damned fine music that I’m sure we never would’ve been allowed to make if we’d been signed. I hear horror stories from bands that were a level above us, signed but for some reason didn’t “make” it. Contractually obligated to make records that were never released. Control taken away. Yeah. We came close early in our career, but our van broke down on a crucial night. I’m just not sure what the industry would have done with us.

There would have been no Family Tree. There would have been no Queer. I am really proud of those albums. I am proud to have been a part of them. There might have been something, I suppose, but it wouldn’t have been those particular albums, and I’m not sure what it would have been.

I mean, yeah, I wish more people would have listened to what we were doing. I wish we could’ve sold enough to support ourselves. In the beginning, that’s all you think about. Making it. After awhile, though, the music takes over. You get so into it, you don’t care what anybody thinks.

But I digress. I was talking about fashion. Body shape. Image. Respect that people give you or don’t give you because of things you can’t control. Honest! I can’t help it I’m shortwaisted and nothing ever looks right on me! Or that I’m shaped like a pear and an apple all in one. I was born this way, people.

I used to think I sucked at sewing, because things I made didn’t look good on me. I’ve recently discovered that I am actually pretty good at sewing. The problem was the way I was shaped.

Lately I’ve been buying things from Goodwill and hemming them up, taking them in, whacking them up. You have no fear with something you spent a buck on. So what if it all goes wrong? I have had a few wild successes. Woo hoo. Have no idea how to take what I’ve learned and apply it to traditional sewing, though. At least I’m having fun at it. This is one part of being broke that I’m really getting into!

Since the fear went away, I’ve gotten so much better.

Since the fear went away, I’ve gotten so much better.

Seems like there should be a lesson here somewhere.

Since the fear went away, I’ve gotten so much better.

Man, that should be my mantra from now on. I like it!

Since the fear went away. Life without fear. Oh yeah.