COMING SOON!!!

COMING SOON!!! The Cary Grant Sanatorium and Playhouse - A disgraced Hollywood starlet, Donna Darling, and two-time German Army deserter, Séamus von Funck, meet in 1942 at an idyllic Ohio home for unwed mothers—or a Nazi abortion slaughterhouse, depending on whom you talk to. Their love endures despite the efforts of a power-hungry congressman, an overzealous religious tabloid, and Donna's Hollywood past. (Psst, it includes Cary Grant.) They prevail despite Séamus being a suspected Nazi spy and America's first prisoner of the second World War—and also the first to escape.

Monday, December 26, 2011

On not posting

Just checked in to change the name of one of my novels and realized I hadn't blogged since my birthday. Shame. I have an excerpt from my first novel (still ALICE & HER GRAND BELL) due out in January in mgv2_69: Fifty Stars & A Maple Leaf. It's an online mag out of the UK and the chapter may be translated into French. That's about all I know about it.

I've been frantically trying to publish excerpts from RIGHT UNDER THEIR NOSES in an effort to garner some interest in it. No luck. Along the way I've run into a few magazines that seemed right for the other book. And with very little effort I've published two excerpts. Internationally, no less (the other in Australia--Skive Magazine).

Obvious New Year's resolution: Blog more often. Season's greetings!

Monday, October 17, 2011

On Friends, Music and Books (and that other matter)

When I first began this blog I was fresh off a 2010 when I had published four short stories and still had high hopes for my newest novel. Now's the time to start a website, I thought. I'm on a roll! Alas, 2011 has brought no new publications; it has brought only sadness. Every other post has brought bad news about illness or the passing of friends far too young to be passing. I saw a ton of old cronies at my friend Jan's memorial service, but it was still a sad affair. Well, the sadness stops here.


As I type, I'm listening to a new CD from Steve Law, grade school chum turned singer/dentist/songwriter. It's a wonderful five-song effort, full of hope and good vibes and fiddle and mandolin. Track four might cross that sentimentality line, but all's forgiven when "Tired" takes a shot at the Lohans and Sheens of the world: "We're so tired of hearin' your story. Tired of hearin' you name."

I just finished reading/critiquing another chapter of my friend Mary Vettel's latest novel full of young love and native American lore. Plus, I look forward to the publication of two books due out soon by members of my writing group.

See, there are all sorts of things to celebrate and keep one's mind off that hopeless other matter: I turned 55 today.

Monday, October 10, 2011

On Remembering Jan Gilbert Treanor


My friend Jan passed away in her sleep Saturday night. She had battled (and I mean battled) cancer for as long as I can remember. Treatments she couldn't get here she traveled elsewhere to find. I dared speak with her at a reunion a year ago about her health (I don't handle those conversations well) and she was remarkably forthcoming about the negatives, yet very positive about her chances. I came away from the conversation with the feeling that my friend was invincible. Not quite. If she's not, no one is.


Friends since junior high, I have trouble thinking back on what little I can remember of those days, and high school, without Jan being somewhere in the picture. She was in the middle of everything and rightly so. I still have close friends from those days largely because of Jan (and others) and her commitment to those reunions.

Having known her makes it hard to feel sad. I keep thinking back and all I find are good thoughts and wonderful times. My heart goes out to her family and her many, many friends.

(I stole these photos off Facebook. Hope I don't get in trouble.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Moving&UPS&Comcast&self-install-kit&freeHBO

I moved last month on what I guess were the two highest heat index days ever or some such thing. Two weeks later I recovered and—what with Gopher sports coming up and a general need for TCM—I went online to sign up for cable. That was August 16. On August 18 I received an email with a tracking number and a promise that my self-install-kit would arrive in 3-5 business days. I stayed home the next Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday found three notices (1st, 2nd and final) saying they had tried and failed to deliver the package. Where the first two notices were for those two days I have no idea.

On August 25 I called UPS and was told it had been returned to Comcast. I called Comcast and was told: "I'm putting the new order in right now and you should receive it in 3-5 business days. Five business days later, I called Comcast and was told that order wasn't put in until August 29, and I should receive my self-install-kit in 3-5 business days. Five business days later I called and said not only hasn't my kit been delivered but I've never even received the tracking number. The woman's computer conveniently shut down at this moment and she came back ten minutes later to tell me that that order had somehow never gone through. She told me that her boss had just put a new order in and I should receive my self-install-kit in 3-5 business days.

"Could you change the address to my work address?" I asked. She told me it was too late. I mentioned the order had just been put in. Sorry.

"Could you make that over-night delivery, at your expense, for my trouble?" Sorry, it's too late. Again, the order is five minutes old.

"Could you come to one of our offices and pick it up?" she asked. I guess I hadn't been inconvenienced enough. All this to see some lousy local sports and a Sterling Hayden movie now and then.

Yesterday (September 7, for those keeping score at home), I picked up my self-install-kit and today I found that it was missing its instructions. I went online and, finding nothing, hooked it up myself. I went to the Comcast Activation site, which assured me that everything was hooked up properly and the activation was successful. My tv says different. It says I'm receiving no signal. Did I tell you they gave me three months of HBO and Starz free for my trouble? I can only wonder what those channels are like...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Moving

Last week I started calling around to the utilities to let them know I was moving and ask if they could switch my service to my new address on August 1. I called Xcel Energy, Qwest (soon-to-be-whatever-it's-changing-to-next) and Mpls Wi-Fi.

That was Thursday. Friday morning I got caught in a good-sized rain as I came home from the dentist. I dried myself off, sat down at the computer and found that my internet didn't work. I called they Wi-Fi people and they said THE STORM had knocked out my node. Now, I did get good and wet but we've had ten storms worse than that this year and my node had survived. Saturday, still no internet ('cept what I could steal from the bar across the street) and I called again. THE STORM, they said. Can't you point me to another node? I asked. THE STORM took out six nodes in the Uptown area, they said. Same story on Sunday: THE STORM.

Monday I went to call again, as I still had no internet, but my phone didn't work. Went to the library downtown to use the internet—couldn't steal a signal from the bar—and then stopped at the post office for a change of address card. Found one that said I could do it on-line (when and if I got service again), stuck it in my bag and went to work. Called Qwest from work about my phone. Somehow my request to switch my service on Monday, Aug 1 was translated into: shut it off Mon, July 18 and start it up again Aug 1. (July 18 was never even in the equation...)

Sometime Monday evening Mpls Wi-Fi recovered from THE STORM and I quickly typed my new address into the USPS on-line form and clicked "Submit." Another page appeared asking for my credit card info and $19.99 for processing and "privacy protection." The post office is now collecting protection money? I'll take my chances with the free card through the mail.

So my moving date is still two weeks away and I have yet to pack a box, but I'm thinking: this little dump of an apartment isn't so bad, really. Then I think: imagine the headaches involved in an unchange of address.

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Remembering Bart (Buck) Hazlett

Bart (Buck) Hazlett died Friday along with two of his children in a two-car, head-on collision out in someplace called Lindstrom. I last talked at length with Buck at a benefit for his brother Kevin, some months ago. I noticed him leave the stage after a brief Van Hazlett reunion; he had a cane and dragged that leg of his that used to sport a large brace back when he was a kid. I made my way through the crowd to ask him about it. He called me Billy (all the Hazletts call me Billy, how do they get away with that?) and said he'd had some sort of relapse with the hip. I mentioned that it didn't seem to have affected his drumming and he said it'd been some twenty years since he'd been behind a drum kit. I was shocked; it seemed like I'd been watching him play drums all through the years. We talked of his brother's cancer. A discussion on health insurance was interrupted often as he stopped to point out which kids running by were his. They seemed to be everywhere.

Buck, you are missed. My heart goes out to your wonderful family...

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Neighborhood Beatings

Over the last week there have been four beating/robberies in my neighborhood; the closest being two blocks either side of Lake Street. There may have been more, I haven't checked the news today. It's always the same: three or four cowards jump an unsuspecting passerby and pummeling him senseless and—if they think about—steal whatever he's got. It's more about beating than robbing. Their last victim turned out to be a 61-year-old, ex-Marine with a gun. They beat him pretty bad but he got off a few shots. Reports say he may have "winged" one of them. Let's hope.

The crimes have taken place between 11:30 pm and 2 am. I leave work every night at midnight and make my walk from Lake Calhoun, up Lake Street to Lyndale. I am safe. Even these thugs aren't stupid enough to do their dirty work on such a well-lit, highly policed strip. Cowards prefer to do their cowering in the dark and, by nature, fear the authorities.

It used to be a very pleasant walk; a good way to unwind after a long night of watching tv at work. Now—instead of working out a troublesome scene from a story or fantasizing about a promising email from a magazine or agent awaiting me at home—I find myself watching for people heading off toward 31st or crossing Lagoon and worrying about their fate. Instead of chuckling at the partiers stumbling around Lake and Hennepin, I wonder which ones are gonna be foolish enough to venture off on foot. Jump in a cab! I wanna yell.

I'd rather the police get 'em before some vigilante. Let 'em take their own beating (and worse) in prison.

(I guess this means I'm gonna have to be more diligent in my blog posting, lest my two followers worry that something bad has happened to me.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

On Remembering Kevin Foley

While attending last week's benefit for my friend Kevin Hazlett, the first person I happened upon as I entered Bunker's was Kevin Foley. We hugged and I mentioned how we only see each other anymore at the worst of times, referring to our last meeting, a couple of summers past, at the funeral for his brother Steve. We laughed this off. What else do you do?

My first distinct memory of Kevin has him driving his motorbike through the halls of our high school. There are many vague memories before and after. The other night he brought up the old days at the Longhorn. It wasn't like Kevin and I ever made plans or anything, we just always ended up at the same show or party or stumbled into Lyle's or the CC Club at the same time. I always made a point to take in Routine 11 shows, if only to hear Kevin belt out Rockpile's "Teacher, Teacher." Or was that Swingset? The bands run together... Facebook provided me today with this video of a rather drunken lament to his brother's passing during a Curtiss A Beatle's show.

Facebook also provided me today with news that Kevin Foley had died in his sleep two nights ago. First Steve, now Kevin; my heart goes out to the Foley family and all my friends who are their friends. So long, Kev... It was wonderful while it lasted, though not nearly long enough. Say 'hi' to Steve for all of us.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

On Meeting Kevin Hazlett

First met Kevin Hazlett, I guess, when I was just a kid. It was probably playing "Fenway Park" at the Sweeney house in Interlachen Park, in Hopkins. I played Little League with the Sweeney family and spent most of my summer days at their house, which meant running all over the neighborhood to the Carr's, to the Sawyer's, to the Hazlett's. My family always seemed to be seated within screwing around distance of the Hazletts in church.

By 1982, Kevin was living in New York and I was hitchhiking across the country (lived in San Jose, CA at the time) to a writers' workshop in Vermont. Kevin was gracious enough to let me sleep on his couch for a week. I vaguely recall a lot of 4am nights, a subway turnstile jump (my bad), and spending a lot of time walking the streets, handing out free tickets to a gig his band was playing toward the end of my stay. That night ended with a drunken saxophone player behind the wheel and me in the back of a flatbed truck, trying desperately to keep their gear—and myself—from spilling out into the street.

It was 1991, I guess, when Kevin asked to join a basement band I was in. I didn't flatter myself that he wanted to play my songs; we had a great bass player sitting in with us while between bands and that was the obvious attraction. The basement got sold and Kevin got Steve Foley to let us use the Replacements' practice space while they were on tour. We got a real drummer. And a gig. The gig ended when the police showed up as I was doing the "testing, testing" thing into the mike. That's my rock star story.

Tonight I go to a benefit for Kevin. Cancer, 'nough said. There will be great music and really lousy jokes. I look forward to it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On Progress

Relatively good news for both my followers (and any stoppers-by): Googled my name this morning and this website actually came up! Twice. Website, story, Facebook, 'nother story, LinkedIn and website again. Now that's progress! (Special thanks to Margaret and Fluffy for their help with them META Tags.)

More progress, I guess: Got another query for No Happier State rejected last night, but she "copied" a colleague who she thought might be interested. A wonderful thing for her to do and would be very promising if the same colleague hadn't already rejected it last summer...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On Meeting Michael Stipe

My apologies for not posting in a while (if either of you are still tuning in). I began a job (after over 2 ½ years unemployed) that was supposed to be just weekends but has added some week nights and I'm all out of whack. (No excuse, I know.) To recap: I'm documenting famous people (mostly writers) I've met, mostly for my own sake. So far I've made it through John Gardner, Raymond Carver and Kirby Puckett. Today's installment: REM's Michael Stipe.

REM came to Minneapolis back in the 80s. To the Orpheum, I believe. Afterward, I managed to get into an after-hours party at First Avenue on the coattails of the Fabulous Welch Sisters. I found myself at a table with Michael Stipe seated to my right. To his right were three of the sisters, all vying for his attention. Somehow I managed to squeeze into the conversation and asked Michael about a particular song lyric that was bugging me—something about Nero and that horse. He explained what he meant by it, then turned his attention back to the women. As I pondered his explanation, he turned back to me and said: "You still don't get it, do ya?"

Now, anyone out there who knows me has asked me that same question a time or two. I admitted that no, I didn't get it, and he went on to explain at length. I was very impressed that he would take time away from these lovely women to explain his lyrics to me. I mentioned that he must get stupid questions like that all the time and asked how he usually handled them. "I usually ignore them," he said and went back to the sisters.

We later found Michael wandering in the parking lot and asked him if he needed a lift over to the hotel. I was the only guy in a car full of women and he jumped in on my lap.

I can't remember the last Rolling Stone I read. I don't keep tabs on rock stars, but I tuned into one of Jimmy Fallon's first shows a while back because Michael Stipe was a guest. They began their chat by discussing Michael's boyfriend. I thought back to that night long before, how good I felt that this guy took time to have a thoughtful discussion with me about his work. And all the while, the creep was hittin' on me! 😀

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

On Meeting Raymond Carver

[Wikipedia: Raymond Clevie Carver, Jr. (May 25, 1938 – August 2, 1988) was an American short story writer and poet. Carver is considered a major American writer of the late 20th century and also a major force in the revitalization of the short story in the 1980s.]

The University of North Dakota conducts a wonderful—free—writers' conference every March. Back in 1986 I attended because Raymond Carver was to be the featured writer. Carver had studied under John Gardner (see earlier post), so I figured I had a minor connection and, as much as I wanted to meet Carver, I was also curious as to any insights he might have regarding Gardner.

Carver didn't arrive till the final day of the conference because of his wife-to-be Tess Gallagher's health. We went to a few parties that evening that Carver wasn't likely to attend (he'd long since quit drinking) and we finally made it to an on-campus gathering—that we likely weren't invited to—much later than I'd hoped.

We entered some sort of faculty club and there was Carver, putting his coat on and looking anxious to leave. I approached him anyway (it was my only shot) and extended my hand. "Mr. Carver," I said and introduced myself. He reluctantly shook my hand and said he was waiting for his driver. I mentioned a Georgia Review article he had written about Gardner, shortly after Gardner's death four years earlier. Carver smiled like he was pleased I'd at least done my homework. I went on to mention meeting Gardner two weeks before his motorcycle accident and his accepting a story of mine for publication. Carver took off his coat and we began to talk. His driver came down and Carver told him to wait. We talked for ten minutes about his early writing days with Gardner and my experience at Bread Loaf.

Raymond Carver died in 1988. He is sorely missed as a writer and—as I found out for ten minutes—a good guy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Meeting Kirby Puckett

[Wikipedia: Kirby Puckett (March 14, 1960 – March 6, 2006) played his entire 12-year baseball career with the Minnesota Twins (1984-1995).]



The Visalia Oaks came to play the San Jose Bees back in 1983. The Bees played in the lowest (single A) minor league and were a co-op team owned by four Major League teams and one from Japan. The first base coach doubled as their interpreter. Small ballpark, small crowd; the players and umpires couldn't help but hear the hecklers.

After some tailgating, my friends Bodie (from Tennessee), Tex (from Mississippi), DinDin and I took our seats behind the third base dugout. (Both southerners had booming twangs. Very effective. Us Minneapolis natives, not so much.) It was our custom to pick one member of the opposing team and ride him relentlessly throughout the game. We saw the name Kirby Puckett in the program and he was the one. Though comparatively svelte in those days, Kirby still had the huge butt and, when he waddled up to home plate to lead off the game, we let him have it. We gave him our best stuff, even managing to rhyme his last name without being vulgar.

The first pitch came in eye-high. Kirby hacked at it anyway, hitting a line shot that was by the shortstop before he could even react. The ball stayed on the same plane till it crashed into the fence in left-center. The hardest hit ball I've ever seen. Kirby chugged into third with a stand-up triple, looked up at us and tipped the bill of his helmet—all the while flashing us that wonderful smile.

We quickly searched the program for someone else to taunt. Within a year Kirby was getting four hits in his first game with the Twins and the rest is World Championships and Hall of Fame. (Okay, so we really didn't meet him. But he did acknowledge us.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Meeting John Gardner

[Wikipedia: John Champlin Gardner, Jr. (July 21, 1933 – September 14, 1982) was an American novelist, essayist, literary critic and university professor. He is perhaps most noted for his novel GRENDEL, a retelling of the Beowulf myth from the monster's point of view.]

It was the spring of 1982 when I received a phone call from the Bread Loaf Writers' Workshop asking if I'd accept a scholarship to attend their conference that fall. The call itself was a shock and came just in time for me to escape a nasty roommate situation. They asked, would I be arriving by car, bus or plane?

"On foot," I replied. "I guess I'll be hitchhiking..." I lived in San Jose, CA. The conference is held in Middlebury, VT. I was in no hurry. I had little money, no place to live and plenty of time. It took two months. (If you hang around this blog long enough, I'll likely tell the hitchhiking story.)

Twenty-five young writers received "working scholarships" that year. The "working" was waiting tables, something I'd never done before. They asked for a volunteer to take the children's table in the corner; they said the few children that had been dragged by parents to the conference always sat at that table. This seemed about my speed. The first night the table was empty and I happily ran food and bussed tables. That night a rather drunken John Gardner was one of the opening night speakers. He addressed the crowd with a succinct: "If you're not writing politically, you're not writing shit!" and stomped out of the hall.

The next day's conversation obviously centered around Gardner's "speech." That night I was in the kitchen, helping out where I could, preparing for the dinner meal, when a fellow waitperson rushed into the kitchen. "Carolyn Forché and her people are at your table!" she screamed. I protested that it said "children only" right on the table. "Tim O'Brien's at your table!" another voice called out. That can't be, I demanded as the kitchen door opened and someone cried: "John Gardner and his entourage are at your table!"

The children's table had become the big shots table (along with jokes about it still being the children's table) but that was the least of my problems: John Gardner was my "reader" for the event and had left a note in my box—along with the stories I had submitted—to meet in a few days and discuss my work.

Arriving early for our meeting, I found a University of Minnesota wrestler named George seated on the very couch I was to meet Mr. Gardner at. "I have a meeting with John Gardner," George said. When Gardner arrived he apologized for the mix-up and asked George to return in twenty minutes. Twenty minutes, I thought. I hitchhike across country for an hour-long meeting with this guy and all the bastard gives me is twenty minutes. He took the stories from me—he'd made no notes on them—and proceeded to give me detailed critiques on each of the three. From memory.

He pointed to one story and said: "I bet you'd get some laughs if you read this one in front of a group." I explained that I had read it the night before at the scholarship winners reading and, yes, it got some laughs. "Sorry I missed it," he said, looking sufficiently contrite. He looked at his watch and I could see that my twenty minutes were up.

But there was no George in sight and, to keep things rolling, I said the first thing that came to mind: "So, what about the 'you're not writing shit' speech?"

"What's been the hot topic all week?" he asked.

"Your speech," I admitted.

"Exactly," he said, and still no George. After a pause, Gardner asked: "Where you from?" I said San Jose, then mentioned the two-month hitchhike. This seemed to impress him more than my writing. "How old are you?" he asked. I said twenty-five. "That's a good time to be published," he said and pointed to one of my stories: "Lop off the last line of this one and I'll publish it in my magazine, MSS." About then George arrived.

I got a ride to Wisconsin from a fellow waiter and a lift from Minneapolis to Wyoming for a friend's wedding. I was back in San Jose by September 15, when the paper ran the story about John Gardner and his motorcycle crashing over a cliff the day before.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Welcome...

Hello! Thank you for stopping by my website. A bit about me: I have published short fiction most recently in Skive Magazine, A Small, Good Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, Talkin' Blues (2010 B.J. Rolfzen Award) and on Shaking Like A Mountain.com. Earlier stories appeared in MSS, Lake Street Review and other now-defunct literary journals, as well as an anthology, Stiller's Pond (New Rivers Press). Long ago I received a scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Workshop. Though my acting career seems to have fizzled, I did appeared recently in productions at the Guthrie Theater (A View from the Bridge) and Theatre in the Round (The Devil's Disciple).

I don't want to go on and on about the current state of the publishing industry (since it doesn't happen to include me), so the blog portion of this site will delve mostly into the past and examine just what got me into this mess. "On Meeting John Gardner" will be the first in a series documenting my encounters with famous writers that will also include Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien, Carolyn Forché, Jay McInerney, as well as non-literary celebs Michael Stipe and Kirby Puckett. (Those still alive undoubtedly have no recollection of ever having crossed paths with me.)

I am about to post this with little idea how a website/blog works, with no concept of followers (should I get any) or archives (should I continue), and with no goal other than enjoying myself and perhaps offering some entertainment to those of you nice enough to stop by. (Any techy tips would be greatly appreciated.) Thank you...