Thursday, December 29, 2016


The rape and murder of Tricia McCauley didn’t make the front page of the paper today, though a large article about the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency appeared on A-1.

Tricia McCauley was killed over the holidays. She was abducted as she made her way to a party, bearing a plate of Brussel sprouts. She was young, white, and well-known throughout the District of Columbia theater scene. I suspect there may have been only two degrees of separation between her and me because I know people in community theater, and they’re a tight-knit bunch. But that’s not the point.scales

Her death was one of many in the Washington area. Most murders and rapes did not get the amount of attention that Tricia’s did because the victims were unknown and deemed unimportant. It appears she was killed by a repeated-offender, a man arrested again and again for lesser but sometimes violent crimes such as theft, assault, and shoplifting. The man was charged, found guilty and released a bunch of times. He habitually violated his probation, and the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the DC Government entity charged with keeping tabs on him, did not report the probation violation to the enforcing authorities because they feared it would violate his rights.

I’m a liberal and I am beginning to understand fully and painfully Winston Churchill’s reputed quote that, “If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain.”

I have a pretty good brain, and what I am, is tired of the level of violence that now seems not only acceptable but somehow forgivable. We shrug our shoulders too often; we forget too quickly, we’re too eager to move on.

Tricia’s accused assailant, according to his own family, was in drastic need of help. He had mental issues, a well-known criminal background, and a total disregard and disrespect for the bureaucrats assigned to help him. He was sentenced by the courts to wear a radio anklet but never bothered to show up and have one fitted. In other words, the authorities released him, trusting a man whom they knew to be a recidivist of the worst order to appear as commanded and meekly accept a device to monitor his whereabouts. What could go wrong?

Plenty, obviously.

I don’t know if in this particular case the accused is guilty of the crimes. The fact is that a huge number of violent people who have been arrested, charged tried and found guilty of blood-curling wrongdoings are released on their own cognizance. The overwhelming majority of them return to being what they are, habitual criminals who prey on the innocent without fear of reprisal. We, as a society, apparently deem this to be acceptable. It is not.

I’m not a lawmaker. I don’t have solutions, but, like most of us, I can spot failure when I see it. The system has failed to protect its most vulnerable—in this case, a young woman of talent—as well as countless members of the elderly, the homeless and dispossessed,  the LGBT community, the physically and mentally challenged, and all those without the resources to fight back.

Here’s the deal. A government that cannot protect its citizens is not a government worth having. It can’t be stated more simply than that.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Someone dear to me, a person important in my life, relapsed recently.
Some eight years ago, she was one of those active drinkers who almost lost it all by hitting the bottle daily, often to a blackout. Her ex prevented her from seeing her children. Her friends, after a while, severed relations because it was simply too hard to be with her, to see this sad. slurring clone of who she was, and not know whether she might be herself that day, or under the influence.  Had it not been for a drunk-driving offense that put her in jail, then in rehab, and finally in a sober home for women, she would have died. In fact, all those years when she was drinking, most of us were sure that one day, we’d get a phone call saying she’d passed away. We anticipated an accident, rape or murder, cirrhosis, freezing to death in winter while unconscious in a car, any of the causes of a demise generally related to alcoholism. She didn’t die, and to the joy and amazement of most of us, she slowly rebuilt her life. Her kids came back. She found work. She got healthier. She spent weeks with her parents. She became once again the person she was meant to be.
About a week ago, the relentless logic of alcoholism and addiction returned and won her over. Addiction—and make no mistake, alcoholism is an addiction and not a moral shortcoming, or a matter of willpower—is a strange disorder, perhaps the only disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease. It’s an unfair condition, since the solace of a drink or two is available to normal people but not to the alcoholic. It’s a disease that requires you give everything you have to give, but offers very little in return. It’s a killer. Most of us familiar with alcoholics have gone to many, many premature funerals. We have attempted—and failed—to console families that do not understand how such a difficult and meaningless death could occur.
My friend stayed straight through seven-and-a-half years of good and bad times. I saw her smile and weather difficulties and rejoice in small triumphs. I don’t know what happened to her a couple of days ago, why she very deliberately chose to go to a liquor store and buy several tiny bottles of vodka that she carried with guilt in her purse. She drank them surreptitiously and, I suspect, with very deep shame. I don’t know what pushed her over the edge—anxieties, fears, worries—and it doesn’t really matter. The frightening and amazing thing here is that in spite of knowing the potential consequences of her actions, the almost-certain loss of most things and people she holds dear, she nevertheless opted to take a drink. The better part of her mind, still ill despite years of being straight, decided she might get away with it. Perhaps she thought to have a one-night stand without consequences, but that rarely happens. Relapses don’t really work that way. My friend drank because it was easier to do that than not, or so her ill-fated reasoning went.
Now we wait. Her drinking history provides little confidence. The holidays are bad times for alcoholics, practicing or not, but the truth is that any time of the year, when liquor hits a body that was once dependent on its effects, all bets are off.
She and I spoke this morning. She’s not happy and she swears she has sworn off, but that’s little solace. She did that a hundred, a thousand times before, back when she was using.
I’m hoping that the experience and knowledge gathered from her years of sobriety will prove more powerful than her desire to drink but, honestly and sadly, I’m not holding my breath.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Good luck, as I understand it, is when opportunity meets preparedness. Bad luck is? I’m not sure, but starting at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, I had my fair share of it.

At 5:30 p.m. on Friday, my car, a 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo that I have maintained and had a crush on for a long time, was rear-ended. I was waiting to exit a mall parking lot when a seventeen-year-young woman driving a Nissan SUV with Alabama plates slammed into my rear bumper and crumpled it, smashing a fender and shattering all brake and back-up lights. My head snapped back into the headrest and I saw stars, or at least very bright little spots of light reminiscent of van Gogh’s Starry Night.

My car looked like Paul Bunyan had hit it with a sledge hammer. Hers didn’t have a scratch.

It was about 24 degrees that night and I’d run to the store for hot peppers to make lomo saltado. I was wearing a thin sweater and a jeans jacket. I was freezing.

In time an ambulance came. The EMT folks took my vitals and asked how I felt. Mostly angry, I told them. They nodded. “Ooh, a Porsche,” said one and nodded sadly. They ran an EKG and found an irregular heartbeat. Did I know about this? No. I’ve had multiple surgeries over the last five years and no one had pointed this out. Did I want to go to the hospital? No. I wanted to go home. My car was drivable and I limped back to the house. I reported the accident to my insurance company and the agent told me he’d take care of everything.

This was an exaggeration; the next day was a comedy of errors. I woke up sore and with a headache. I called the woman’s insurance company to make sure she had reported the accident. There was confusion regarding where the accident had occurred—Falls Church, Virginia, or Falls Church, Alabama? Eventually, I was sent to a rental car place a few miles away. I got there and the door was locked with no one in sight. The phone rang unanswered. The car I had driven there died in their parking lot. A friend with a tow truck had to rescue me. A few more calls to the insurance company elicited apologies. No, they hadn’t known the Hertz office was out of business. Really? REALLY? They suggested another rent-a-car place.

I had invited friends to my house for lunch that day. When I got home, I set up the table, put out the food, and my low-level headache suddenly went nuclear. I also began to feel nauseous, all signs of a concussion.

After lunch, one friend took me to the second car rental office, and from there I drove directly to Arlington Hospital.

I spent a total of five hours there and, after a catscan, was diagnosed with a minor concussion. I was sent home with a 25-page sheaf of medical papers, a couple of prescriptions and a single yellow pill to help me sleep. In time, I slept.

The good part is that the insurance people were helpful, if I disregard the, “if the make of the car you were driving starts with a P, press 7. If it is a white convertible with Firestone tires, press 8. If it has floormats, press 9.” Every time I called, I had to be redirected eight or nine times.  

The other good part is that the concussion is minor.

The bad part is that I never got around to cooking the lomo saltado.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

News from America

Two weeks later, it still feels unreal. My stomach has not settled down, and every time I tell myself not to panic, a headline punches my fear buttons.

The photos of Trump proliferate, always the same strange orange grin, the look that says, Gotcha, sucker, we’re gonna have some fun now! with an undertone of, You don't like me? You're screwed. I refuse to watch the news and the best I can do is read the first few paragraphs of various Post stories and then skip to the next report. Today, there were thirty articles in the paper that either headlined Trump or mentioned him, his cabinet-to-be, the abuses committed by the people he has chosen to be his confidants, and the conflicts of interest surrounding the man who will soon be occupyimg the highest office in the land.

The three Francophone newspapers—one in France, one in Switzerland, and one in Canada—that contact me every year or so for stories on what's happening in the United States want thirty inches of prose on the Trump phenomenon. One apparently already has a headline: Trump va-t-il Tromper L’Amérique? Will Trump Cheat on America? It’s a nice alliteration making the rounds of French-speaking countries. Another one told me to make sure I mention the pussy incident. In France, where the sexual adventures of premiers and presidents barely raise an eyebrow, readers are fascinated by Trump’s pussy comments. It bears out what many think, that a majority of Americans are crude and unsophisticated and will now be led by a man who relishes these unhappy traits.

What I will write about is the fear mongering. The media—print and visual—promises the end of the world, and these assertions play right into the reactionaries’ hands. Even as this happens, I think the country is largely catatonic, stunned by how one candidate could win by more than a million-and-a-half popular votes and still be defeated. This is not supposed to happen but does so regularly.

I’ll write that the street demonstrations in some major cities are unfocused and unorganized. They remind me of the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, when so many good and positive things could have occurred, but none did. Europeans, on the other hand, are masters at demonstrating. They shut down their countries over human rights, farmers’ incomes, women and LGBT issues, and suggestions that the retirement age be raised. They don’t really understand why in the U.S. there was not a massive mobilization before the election. They think the present protests are much like closing the barn door after the cows are gone (or some European version on this.) It’s hard to disagree.

And I will write about the fact that almost four out of ten Americans qualified to vote simply did not. This is beyond the understanding of most people across the Atlantic. Voting rates in Belgium are almost ninety percent. They are eighty percent in Denmark, seventy-one percent in France, eighty-two percent in Sweden. How, the readers will ask, can such a low voter turnout occur in the country that bills itself as the land of the free?

Apathy, I will say, appalling apathy.


Friday, November 11, 2016


Here are the choices for today. I can play a recently discovered version of online Mahjong until this evening when I meet with friends and maybe play some music. I wrote a couple of new songs and want to try them out. I can go back to bed, huddle under the covers with a flashlight and read comic books. I can launder a heaping hamper full of dirty clothes. I can watch the frolics of my two hamsters, Milou and Archie, except this morning they’re strangely quiet and depressed too.

     It’s not that there’s a lack of things to do. I have two articles due for Canadian magazines, and a book to finish. I have a short story to write for Montparnasse Magazine. I am working on a few one-act plays (writing plays is a new avocation and I’ve been told I should keep trying.) There are bills to pay, and lentils to cook, and stuff to sell on eBay. I have to organize a yard sale, and paint the ceiling in my dining room. I have to call a friend whose health is failing, and I really, really, should go to the gym.

     It’s odd to waken to a world that is physically the same as it was seventy-hours ago and yet where everything has changed. A Parisian friend emailed me very early this morning and asked, “Tu reviens?” No, I told her, I’m not returning to France. This country is and has been my home for decades and I love it here. The US remains the land of opportunities, but I have to tell you, honestly, that for the very first time, I am frightened by the future.

I am not a marginalized person, but I am an immigrant, and I recently came to realize that I am Jewish by birth (a long story there). I am a naturalized citizen, but I am not at all sure that if worse comes to worse this will matter.  There is a long history, worldwide, of non-native citizens being dispossessed by ultra-right demagogue leaders.

The President-elect prides himself on never having finished reading a book. I happen to think the written word is humankind’s greatest invention. The Vice-President-elect has openly stated that he is anti-LBGT, anti-women’s right, anti-abortion, and that he will work to overturn marriage equality. I fail to even comprehend how such reactionary thoughts and actions can benefit anyone.

I’ve read that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is going to take a serious hit, and that censorship in museums is likely to rule once again as it did in the 1950s. As a side note, it’s interesting to me that when Trump took over the lease of the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, just blocks from the White House, he threw out two occupants, the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.       

I don’t want to think about the environment. I shudder at what will happen to scientific research I am terrified by the thought that know-nothings have taken over.

I recently discovered a term, kakistocracy, which means government by the least qualified or most unprincipled. Is this where we are going?

 I am hoping is that this country has enough momentum to keep going in the right direction in spite of a new leadership that looks down upon everything I hold dear. I am hoping, but I am not sure it will.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


This is not about Trump. I’m still reeling and my stomach hurts. I have to write about something else. This is about friendships.


When I was 17, my best friend was Bruno, the first guy I ever met who regularly went to a gym. Bruno was a big French kid who worked out religiously and it showed. Where I was spindly, he was massive with huge pecs and biceps that impressed the girls but not his Swedish mother, who regularly beat him with a belt for real and imagined offenses. Bruno tried to run away on more than one occasion but it never worked, except for the time he ended up spending the night at the house of the girl I was dating. Her parents were out of town and he stayed there three days. That severely strained the friendship.  


Bruno was one of the first persons I played music with, the best third of my very first band. He and I got together because we both played guitar and knew we could be rock stars. We formed a trio with Patrick, a 16-year-old whose only asset was a snare drum and a single cymbal. Patrick was incapable of holding any beat outside of those found in military marching bands, and this gave our renditions of Peter Gunn, Wipe Out, Telstar and anything by Link Wray, a weird syncopation people found challenging to dance to. No matter; we played parties for free with a repertoire of about twelve songs that we banged out three or four times a night, avoiding the more intricate parts. We were the champions of the three-chord compositions. Our best tune was a heavily accented and incomprehensible version of Ray Charles’ What’d I Say. We made up the words since we couldn’t figure them out, occasionally throwing in a “Yahoo!”, an expression I’d heard on a country station and immediately made my own.


His family returned to France and Bruno became one of those friends who vanishes but is never really gone. I didn’t hear from him for decades. We reconnected very briefly in 2013. I would learn he’d married, had children, and bought a home in the south of France as far away from his mother as he could get while staying in the same country. Then he divorced and married a British woman, and they moved to a house in Granada. He wrote me he didn’t play guitar anymore, and a photo of him showed a thin, old man with tired eyes. He was living in Spain, but it turned out he was actually dying in Spain. His second wife wrote me to say he’d passed away of cancer some three months after we exchanged our initial emails recounting the ups and downs of life since we’d last seen each other in the 60s. His death was a blow.


There have been others like Bruno over the years, friendships that flourish and wilt. They're occasionally based on mutual interests--motorcycles, sports, shared nationality, music, and writing. I discovered that too often, when people move away, or get married, or the mutual interest wanes, so do the friendships.


I have friends who date from more than 40 years, 30 years, and 10 years ago. And then there are the very rare friends who become so almost overnight. You discover what the French call les atômes crochus, the hooked atoms. In a matter of days, weeks at most, something deep and vital develops and life isn't the same as before. A gap is filled, a necessary element that was missing is suddenly realized, completely apparent, and you wonder how you existed without this person. You fall in love, and you fall in like. Things happen within the psyche, tectonic shifts, an instant sense of trust and well-being. Emerson said such people are the ones "before whom I may think aloud." Yet there is a danger to such friendships. They endow the other with powers; they make one vulnerable, they play upon emotions and take strength to maintain. They hurt deeply, sometimes. They are miracles with a price, yet worth every penny.


The British novelist Jeannette Winterson described it best: "We are friends and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often.”


I am fortunate. I am, to quote Shakespeare, wealthy in my friends.




Thursday, October 27, 2016


 I love parades, and every year I try to get to one or two. The July 4th extravaganza held in downtown Washington, DC, is fine and spectacular, but I prefer the small-town events, where policemen close off the main street and there’s a sense of helter-skelter joy.

Arielle and I went to the Vienna Halloween parade last night, and it didn’t disappoint. There were the usual motorcycle cops doing stunts on their Harleys, and the Shriners blasting around in those tiny red cars they actually seem to wear around their waists. There were fire engines galore, which made me wonder what would happen in case of a fire? Would they plow through the crowds in their hurry to get to the flames? No. I jest. Of course they wouldn’t. Would they?

There were a couple of band-and-drum squads, and I thought it interesting that as soon as the drums started pounding out their complex beats, people began reacting to the rhythm—not obviously, just a sway of the hips here and a head bobbing there. Age or gender didn’t matter. Music makes people move.

There were dinosaurs. Arielle said they were T Rexes. I thought they were velociraptors, except I think velociraptors might have been invented to meet the needs of the Jurassic Park franchise, so she was probably right, as she sometimes is. There was a family of white-haired Einsteins, and some vertebrae trying and failing to join up as a spine. Yes, the disembodied backbone was sponsored by a chiropractor’s office.

There was a sort of strange Santa whose beard had migrated from his chin to the middle of his chest, so it looked as if a troll was growing out of his red suit.

My favorites are always the kids, be they in a semi-organized dance troupe or as small hordes bouncing around indiscriminately. A bevy of young girls ran in circles waving their arms. There was, I’m sure, a purpose to this. I particularly enjoyed the karate dojo that had five-year-olds breaking boards. One little white-belted boy kicked at his furiously with little success. His sensei surreptitiously bent the board. The kid gave a mighty kiai and put his foot through it. Success is always subjective.

Amid marchers carrying posters to re-elect so-and-so was one lonely pick-up truck festooned with Trump campaign signs. Three people clapped. Some turned around. A person near me hissed, another quacked. It might have been a mom dressed as a rubber duck, but I’m not sure. It was all very polite and civilized.

People drove slowly in their classic Corvettes, Caddies and Imperials. I told Arielle everything I knew about these cars and her eyes glazed. Bolivian dancers capered, bagpipes wailed, horses pranced. All was well with the world. I love a good parade.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016


I do not have a head for business. I buy high and sell low, and the one time I ventured into a public offering, I bought into the worst IPO in the history of IPOs. I put $3000 into Vonage, the computer phone company—a sure thing, all advised me. My three grand is now worth $187. I took Econ 101 while at Georgetown University and even I know this is not a good return on my investment.
I recently discovered that some land I purchased adjacent to my house a few years ago cannot be built upon. Changes in county regulations have made it such that there is not enough frontage to a public access road. I had bought the 7000 square feet after speaking numerous times on the phone with a county employee who told me it was a grand investment that would double the value of my house. I shoulda known better. In the past, I’ve owned apartments that could not be rented without thousands of dollars of work, and vintage motorcycles that were unrideable because they could not pass even the undemanding Virginia state inspection. The signed and limited Salvador Dali editions I once owned were limited only by the fact that the printing presses broke down after putting out several million prints and papering the landscape with them. When I was better off, I splurged on a very expensive used Italian sport scar. It was gorgeous, red with a tan leather interior; it boasted twelve cylinders and a top speed of almost 200 mph. It is perhaps the only model in the company’s history that has gone down in value in the past decades.
A few years ago, I closed out an account with a broker who, I came to realize, never had my best interest at heart and almost bankrupted me. When I decided to transfer my funds to another brokerage house, there was a glitch and for seven weeks I had no money. That all worked itself out and I got a large number of airline miles by paying everything including my mortgage with my credit card, but then the airline that issued the credit card went out of business. Such is life among the financially inept.
I am awed by the young entrepreneurs who are billionaires by the time they’re thirty, but I do not envy them. Money has always been a commodity for me. When I have it, I tend to spend it, often foolishly, on myself and friends. When I don’t, I tighten my belt. It’s only been in recent years that the fear of insolvency has really struck me, hence the recent listing for sale of my house. I admit to a great sadness over the decision to sell, but look forward to a few years free of financial worries.
I don’t know where the gene comes from that allows some to take pecuniary chances—and win— with investments. My parents didn’t have it. I remember that they once bought a lovely townhouse in upper Georgetown for a pittance. They spent six months painting and sanding and staining and repairing. They sold it for a hundred dollars more than they’d paid for it and, if memory serves, were quite pleased with their business acumen.
My sister, who lives in Paris, has been renting the same apartment for a half-century. She and her husband could have bought it in the 70s, I was told, but opted not to do so. My late sister Florence earned and then lost millions of francs because she never reported her earnings. My Oncle Jacques, a world-known concert pianist who while he was alive made tidy sums recording the works of Ravel and Poulenc, died broke.
Family lore tells of a maternal great-grandfather who bankrupted his upper bourgeoisie family by buying his mistress a candy store. The young woman was in her early 20s, a dancer with the Follie Bergere, and she apparently had about as much business sense as I do. She ran the confectionery into the ground, then sold it and moved to the Côte d’Azure with a Portuguese playboy. Together, using the candy funds, they opened a charcuterie (the girl came from peasant stock) which did quite well until a shipment of tainted ham gave trichinosis to half the guests staying at the tony Negresco hotel in Nice. She was sued into poverty before the age of thirty.
Whether these tales are true or not is of little importance. I’m not a financial genius, so what? As Arielle says, at least my people are creatively brilliant. She’s right of course.


Monday, October 10, 2016


For a while now, I have not been able to sleep well. It’s not insomnia per se, but rather a merry-go-round of worries that begins to spin slowly as soon as I close my eyes. I’m not sure what has occasioned this. Aging, perhaps, and the realization that the things I want most have not happened yet, and may never happen. Part of the problem is that, like most writers, I have a fairly fertile imagination. I think in images, with Technicolor and SurroundSound. I have a knack for details, so the images parading through my head can be disturbingly graphic. Lately, I’ve been focusing on what will happen next, which is one very big question mark.

Back in the last millennium, when Jack Daniels Black was my best friend and I was working downtown, I had come to the conclusion that I would soon be homeless. Everything pointed to this sad future. My job was endangered, and my liver, according to a doctor, had taken on the look, feel, and usefulness of an Idaho baking potato. I had constant panic attacks. I shook so badly that I was unable to write checks or sign my name. I did not sleep—I sedated myself for several hours and woke with thunderous headaches and tears in my eyes. Things-Did-Not-Look-Good for a healthy and happy future, and so I decided to find a place where I could be homeless.

This turned out to be in an alley near work. A delivery door had been bricked up decades before, and the recess in the wall was just deep enough to house a large cardboard box. In the insanity my life had become, it made perfect sense for me to eventually move there when everything had gone to hell, as I knew it would.

It didn’t. I straightened out and over many years got my act more or less together.

I mention all this simply because the homeless fear has returned, as have the panic attacks, thankfully to a lesser extent. Neither helps me sleep. The truth is that I will most definitely not be homeless. I will sell my house and move elsewhere, most probably in the immediate area as this is where my friends and my life are. I toyed with the idea of moving back to France, but the reality of the Euro/Dollar exchange rate precludes this, unless I were willing to live in a cave in Belgium, which I am not. (There are, by the way, such living accommodations. You can rent them, furnished, for a tidy sum. There are also German bunkers left over from World War II, and barges on most rivers.)

The realization that I will indeed be moving has me in mini-frenzy. The accumulation of stuff, to use George Carlin’s word, is frightening. My present house, though small, is chock full of a lifetime’s mementos. There’s stuff from Asia and Africa and Europe. There’s clothing from when I was thinner and from when I was fatter. There are three bicycles, none of which have been ridden in decades. There are two cars and an electric lawnmower and musical instruments and antique dishes inherited from my mother. There are 1000 CDs, and DVDs, and computer stuff, and there are things in the attic, but I don’t remember what they are. There may be a drum set up there.

When I moved into my house more than 25 years ago I did so in a single rented van that was only half-full. Now that I am planning to move out, I’m looking at a Mayflower truck with young men doing the heavy lifting.

The last time I moved was when I got divorced. I wasn’t sleeping well then either. 





Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Death Be Not Loud

So I wrote a play, Death Be Not Loud, a very short one-act thing, and I submitted it to a local community theater, and it was accepted along with nine others. I think it was taken because of the unashamedly cribbed title.

     I think it may run about ten minutes long. I feel somewhat confident about it, but the notion that it will now be passed on to someone I have never met who will put his imprimatur on it, is sort of strange. And then, of course, half-a-dozen actors will interpret my words according to the director’s guidelines and I suspect I will not recognize the thing by the time it’s staged.

Just for the record, in case this turns into something staggeringly depressing like Death of a Salesman or King Lear (no, no, no, I am not comparing myself either to Shakespeare or to Arthur Miller. Sheesh.) let me say here that I wrote my play lightheartedly, tongue in cheek, and all that. As the French might say, C’est pour rire—it is to laugh.

     I have been told in no uncertain terms that I am not allowed to have any contact with the man who will be director. So I can’t suggest that the sigh on line ten be really heartfelt and meaningful, or that the character on page six should recite his lines in a certain manner to get a well-deserved laugh. There is as well a sort of theatrical restraining order against me having anything to do with the actors.

     I’ve also learned that dialogue in novels has little to do with dialogue for a play. I’m not sure if I can pinpoint the reasons for this odd dichotomy, but I’ve recounted it with wonder to theater friends who have yawned. This is apparently common knowledge to everyone but me.

     I’ve never had anything staged. The stuff I write—novels, non-fiction books, the occasional magazine or newspaper story, blogs—is meant to be read quietly and just as quietly forgotten. I’ve done scripts for a couple of United Nations documentaries but these were without actors, if you don’t count the developing country kids cavorting and mugging for the camera. So the very notion of even having my words read aloud is odd. (Disconcerting might be a better word. But electrifying as well!)

A couple of years ago, a ridiculous bilingual existential piece I wrote for a friend got a reading, and that was pretty exciting. I figure Death Be Not Loud should be even more so. I’ll note here that said friend is now in California successfully directing. I am relatively sure my play reading had absolutely nothing to do with her success, but then again, you never know.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rosh Hashanah

I will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah because there’s a strong likelihood that I am the issue of a closeted Jewish family.

Let me explain.

Many years ago, shortly after my mother’s funeral in Paris, I went to visit her best friend, Madame C. She sat me down in a parlor full of priceless antiques and said, “Did you know your mother was Jewish?”

I did not.

Madame C then told me a fascinating story.

When the Dreyfus affairs* broke out in 1894, antisemitism, which has plagued France since Roman times, was rampant and often violent. Many French Jewish families, fearful of what the scandal might lead to, opted to change their names and, at least on the surface, their religions. In order to recognize each other anonymously, a number of these families assumed the names of months. The Rosenfelds became the Septembres; the Hassans became the Janviers. My mother’s family name was Février (February), but if I look into our family tree, the Février name appears suddenly in 1898. In the mid-50s, I remember listening to my maternal grandfather carry on about the injustice done to Dreyfus. In my family of origin, the affair was far from forgotten.

My mother’s first marriage when she was very young had been to a Jewish doctor and film-maker who originally hailed from Algeria. She had two daughters with him and both were raised in the Jewish faith, though neither really practiced it.

I had always assumed this first union was largely due to my mother’s desperate desire to leave her home. Madame C thought otherwise. “I think you mother wanted to return to her faith,” she told me.  

If this was the case, my mother’s decision did not survive World War Two. She divorced her first husband and eventually married the man who became my father. Judaism, to the best of my memory, was seldom mentioned in the household.

To be honest, religion was never an important part of my life. My parents, if they attended services, did so for social reasons. I was confirmed as a Catholic, and attended Christmas midnight mass occasionally. Much later I became a Buddhist of sorts.

But Madame C’s tale stayed with me. Years ago, I spoke about it to my late sister, Florence, who hemmed and hawed and, after a long silence, simply said, “Maman had secrets.”

That she did.

Arielle and I will make dinner and she will teach me some of the faith’s blessings.

זה טוב. I think that reads, “It is good” in Hebrew.

* A scandal that rocked France in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Dreyfus affair involved a Jewish artillery captain in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), who was falsely convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. In 1894, after a French spy at the German Embassy in Paris discovered a ripped-up letter in a waste basket with handwriting said to resemble that of Dreyfus, Dreyfus was court-martialed, found guilty of treason and sentenced to life behind bars on Devil’s Island off of French Guiana. In a public ceremony in Paris following his conviction, Dreyfus had the insignia torn from his uniform and his sword broken and was paraded before a crowd that shouted, “Death to Judas, death to the Jew.” In 1896, the new head of the army’s intelligence unit, Georges Picquart, uncovered evidence pointing to another French military officer, Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, as the real traitor. However, when Picquart told his bosses what he’d discovered he was discouraged from continuing his investigation, transferred to North Africa and later imprisoned. Nevertheless, word about Esterhazy’s possible guilt began to circulate. In 1898, he was court-martialed but quickly found not guilty; he later fled the country. After Esterhazy’s acquittal, a French newspaper published an open letter titled “J’Accuse…!” by well-known author Emile Zola in which he defended Dreyfus and accused the military of a major cover-up in the case. The Dreyfus affair deeply divided France, not just over the fate of the man at its center but also over a range of issues, including politics, religion and national identity. In 1899, Dreyfus was court-martialed for a second time and found guilty. Although he was pardoned days later by the French president, it wasn’t until 1906 that Dreyfus officially was exonerated and reinstated in the army. History Magazine


Sunday, September 25, 2016



Footnote: An event of lesser importance than some larger event to which it is related.

Or perhaps: An annoying detail that must be referred to for honesty's sake.

Or even: A matter of debatable interest that should not detract from the primary focus of the text.


I started thinking of footnotes a few years back. I was researching the life of the French painter Maurice Utrillo, whose existence seem to have been an endless series of footnotes. Shortly after that a friend asked me to read and edit her master's thesis which was, as it should be, festooned with the things. In fact, if I’d counted the lines, I’m reasonably certain there might have been more space devoted to the footnotes than to the subject at hand.

It struck me then that the majority of our existence is spent being footnotes in other people's lives.

We are brief romances vaguely remembered, one or two pleasant rainy afternoons in a month of doldrums. We are the bringers of gifts that adorn a coffee table but will end their lives in someone else’s yard sale. We are a meal with a particularly good dessert or bottle of wine, a conversation that left something behind but didn’t change a belief.

We expand a lot of energy being footnotes, because really, each and every footnote would like the opportunity to become a full book, a meaningful discussion that alters a consciousness, a something that really matters. But, by their very definition and every letter in their spelling, footnotes are lesser creations, afterthoughts there to amplify a greater truth. And a footnote, even if it has every right to ask, why am I here? will not necessarily get an answer. It simply is there.

A footnote cannot exist without a more important text, but the reverse is not true and sometimes preferable. Footnotes may be annoying ankle-biters, but were they alive and truly breathing, they would tell you the veracity of entire manuscripts hinge on their very existence. Footnotes, no matter how brief, are very important in their own minds, and they echo the old saw: I may not be much, but I'm all I think about. They occasionally add a bit of excitement, a tint of the forbidden, something secret with which we may have gotten away. They can be clandestine, joyfully mysterious, even if there's an uneasy relationship between the footnotes and the writing they complement. And of course, they can be sad: there is something tragically complete and finite about them. Footnotes do not have footnotes of their own. They stand alone in much smaller print and thus much harder to see than the texts they adorn.

As footnotes, we may have had a time of greater importance, a moment when we thought we lit up the sky, but most of us are as ephemeral as fireworks. We are remembered faintly, adjuncts to other events, other feelings and moments in time that become vaguer as memories either fade or are replaced.

But here, perhaps, is a radiant side: while they are happening, in the moment, footnotes can appear to be life-changing epiphanies. They may have an intensity that dims only after the page is turned, when reality becomes, well, reality. For many, life without footnotes would be spiceless and boring.

Next week I'll write about semi-colons.

No. I won't.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

One Day

An odd twenty-four hours, where I went for my fifteenth cystoscopy and was told there was no trace of cancer this time around. That’s two clean exams in a row. My record is three, after five or so years of dealing with this unpleasantness.

I was also told there is Still Something Going On, though the doctor is not sure what IT is. IT will call for more tests. I was informed of the same thing three months ago and will start doing the lab work next week, or the week after that.

Arielle and I went for a celebratory lunch, and we haggled over who would pay.

On another front, I had my first meeting with the real estate agent who will handle the marketing of my house, so it is official—I am selling my home, and I’m wrestling with a strange mélange of sadness and relief.

After the agent left, I spent an hour or so pacing through my yard. Over the two-and-half decades of living here, I did a lot to alter the topography of this small patch of Virginia soil. I created and stocked a tiny fishpond, made a couple of small hills, and a couple of little hollows. I planted innumerable trees, bushes, vegetables, and flowering and non-flowering things. I pulled up weeds until, about a decade ago, I realized that weeds are green and great ground-cover. I put up fences and took them down again. I saw a tall and slender willow fall after a heavy snow, and I cut down three dead pines that smelled of pitch and needles. I hung a hammock I never used between two elm trees.

I remembered buying a two-foot leafless branch shortly after my father’s death. I wanted to commemorate his life. I stuck the branch into the ground and in time it became a twenty-foot corkscrew willow that now towers over the fishpond. I remembered being attacked by wasps no less than four times, and using an almost strawless broom to challenge a hissing raccoon on my kitchen stoop. I chased away a fox that was threatening my cat.

Inside the house I’ve taken down walls, destroyed and rebuilt bathrooms, and put in closets, Sheetrocked, sanded and painted. I retiled the kitchen, refinished floors and put in new windows. Some work was necessity; other was a labor of love. I built a room out back over a concrete apron and the band I played with for a decade practiced and recorded there.

There have been brownouts and blackouts, days without heat and days with air conditioning. I’ve dug out the snow from my driveway more times than I can count. Five years ago, the house two doors down burned almost to the ground but thankfully no one was hurt. The street fronting my home was widened, re-laned, and went from a seldom traveled road to a thoroughfare.

There have been good neighbors, and bad neighbors, and neighbors struck by tragedy. The Iranian family that lived across the street lost a kid to a heroin overdose. There was a murder just a quarter of a mile away, and housebreakings and robberies. On the other hand, for several years a delightful family from Beirut lived next door, an aging mother and three daughters, who bribed me with endless cups of bitter coffee and honeyed pastries. I mowed their lawn, repaired their roof, and moved their furniture. I fixed flat tires and drove them around when their ancient cars broke down. I listened to tales of woes and wars, and to stories of joy. I watched two daughters get married and have children. When the mother died, I was a pallbearer at her funeral…

Endless memories.    

It’s nearing time to go, but it’s going to be hard to leave.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I’ve been culling books for the past few days in anticipation of an eventual move. It’s a bittersweet activity, since I know, as a writer, the effort each volume required of its author. Books to me are sacred things. They imply a dual commitment, one by the writer, the other by the reader, to engage in a strange and temporary symbiotic relationship that begins and ends with the turn of a page.

Many years ago I owned a dilapidated house in Adams Morgan, a grand old and brooding four-story edifice with a speckled history. When my then-wife and I bought it, we innocently believed that in a matter of months we would completely rebuild its kitchen, paneled dining room, six bathrooms, seven bedrooms, and mother-in-law basement apartment. This was not to be.

The first thing I insisted on when taking ownership of the house was creating a library. I gutted the top floor, in the process inhaling a few pounds of asbestos fiber, and with an architectural student friend, built gorgeous serpentine bookshelves to line the entire now-open room. I cut and shaped and assembled. I sanded and stained and varnished. I quickly stocked the shelves by buying all the books I’d always wanted, many from a bric-a-brac store down the street. I got the entire Harvard Classics, an illustrated Medical Encyclopedia from 1897, and Will and Ariel Durant’s eleven-volume (now largely ignored) Story of Civilization. I got all the works of Emile Zola in French and in English. I bought Bulwer-Lytton and the writings of Kant and Heidegger and Marx. I resurrected Descartes and Sartre and Camus. I invited Voltaire and Corneille and Moliere and Shakespeare home. In time, I managed to read almost everything save some of the Harvard Classics which were, frankly, unreadable. I got both full sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the World Book Encyclopedia, because the latter is largely how I learned to read English many decades ago. I also unpacked one of my prized possessions, a set of Les Aventures de Tintin by the Belgian artist/writer Hergé.

For a time, I was coming home daily with a book or three. I continued doing this until the shelves were almost filled. In hindsight, it was one of the better times of my life.

Today I am doing the opposite. I sold the Harvard Classics a while back and gave the Britannica to a downtown rehab/shelter, a donation that was welcomed by the counselors, if not the clients in early sobriety. I was told later that the tomes were read avidly enough that a waitlist had to be established.

I found I had two editions of Updike’s complete works, so one went to the local library. I approached another library and asked if its staff might be interested in my collection of books about Paris, which I used to research a book of my own set in the French capital shortly after World War One. I was given a tentative yes, and so I’m packing up those as well. I am going to sell my collection of Historia magazines, a monthly glossy French review that deals in painful detail with the vagaries of royalty and tsars, and seems particularly fascinated by the life of William Howard Taft, the fattest of all US Presidents and the very first celebrity weight-loss patient.

Save for a few works I found horribly written (my favorite and on Amazon’s Worst List is How Fatima Started Islam: Mohammad’s Daughter Tells All) or truly boring (Madame Bovary, Finnegan’s Wake, Tess of d’Urbervilles and anything by Proust) every book I am giving away evokes a small pang of regret.

I love books. I love reading them, writing them, looking at their spines, admiring their covers, and scanning their first and last sentences. I will miss them all, but it is time for them to find new homes.

I will not give up the Tintin collection, though.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Near-death in America

My mother never got used to America.

Years after she and my dad had returned to Paris where they rented a tiny apartment in Paris near the Opera that was smaller than the living room of the suburban house they’d lived in, she would say, “I almost died there. In America.”

This was technically true.

While they lived on the outskirts of Washington, DC, the tail-end of a hurricane roared through the capital. My parents were on Rock Creek Parkway after an evening with friends when the roaring wind uprooted a tree that crashed on their car as they were driving back to Maryland. The tree hit the roof of the car and collapsed it, shattering both front and back windshields. Had it fallen a nanosecond earlier, it would have landed squarely on top of them and killed them. Both were bloodied by flying glass but neither was seriously injured.

Another time, was mother was deep-frying beignets in the kitchen when the boiling oil caught fire and singed her eyebrows with a frightening whoosh. My father, who liked to hang around the kitchen and bother my mom when she was cooking, grabbed the sink sprayer, a new gadget much in vogue, and squirted the fire with a thin stream of water. The flames leapt to the ceiling with an angry roar, and my mother would later tell her friends in France that these were American flames, and not the standard European flames she knew how to deal with.   

My mom was an accomplished artist whose works were displayed in both Washington and Paris. Once, as she was creating an oil painting of a scene from the Belle Époque, a small bat flew into the room through an open window. My mother had probably never seen a bat in its natural state. She screamed, covered her head with the palette full of paint, knocked over the easel, painting, and a glass jar full of turpentine and used brushes. The bat eventually found the window and vanished.  The turpentine ate through the varnish on the floor, and it took my mother weeks to get her hair free of the blue, red and sun yellow paints she’d been working with.

In the recounting, the bat became a red-eyed monster with a two-foot wing span. She would tell people it had hissed venomously as it attempted to sink its fangs into her tender French neck.

Perhaps the American near-death experience that most affected her was when she and my father were vacationing in Florida and staying in an inexpensive beach-front motel. My mother realized she had left the pack of Pall Mall cigarettes she was never without in the glove compartment of their car. She went to retrieve it and was halfway there when she realized the parking lot was covered with scuttling crabs. She froze. She screamed. My farther rushed out and rescued her, picking her up bodily like a movie hero. The story might have ended there but it turned out the motel owner had told my father of the crab issue when they’d checked in, and my father, afraid to alarm my mother, had not passed on this disconcerting information. 

Like the bat, the crabs took on science-fiction proportion. They were monsters from the deep with serrated claws and bubbling maws. From that day on, my mother’s occasional feasting on the crustaceans became almost vengeful. She would pound at their carapaces with a small wooden mallet and a bitter smile, recalling how she had, once again, foiled an American death.    

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Jean Octave Sagnier

My father, Jean Octave Sagnier, died 18 years ago. He was a good wise man who without being secretive hated talking about himself. He was an architectural student working as the traveling secretary of a wealthy Brit when World War II broke out and he walked from the south of France to St. Malo in Brittany, then hopped a boat to England so he could join the upstart general Charles de Gaulle and become a Free French. De Gaulle assigned him a mobile radio station which roamed occupied France and relayed Allied news to the maquis and other underground forces. He never fired a shot during the war. He was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, for deeds that I do not know.

He met my mother in the summer of 1945 in Marseilles. She was Free French too and they conceived me that very night in January in the back of a US Army truck.

He was estranged from his family. I would be an adult before I was told I had uncles and an alcoholic aunt who died of the disease in the UK. He lost a younger brother during the V2 bombings of London. He never, as I recall, mentioned his own mother. I have an aged family photo taken in the 20s, three boys and a girl posing with a man and a woman standing at attention. A much later shot shows a painfully thin young man wearing boxing gloves and looking not at all ready to fight.

It was snowing when I was born in the American Hospital in Paris, and the barely liberated capital was devoid of food. Regardless, my mother craved a ham omelet. My father, using the military issue Colt he had never fired, forced the hospital cook at gunpoint to go into his own larder for eggs, butter and meat. He fixed the omelet himself, ate it, made another and served it to her. She complained it wasn’t hot enough, and that would be the tenet of their relationship. They were married 46 years, nursing each other through poverty, joblessness, an eventual move to the US, and cancer.

He died five years after my mother. I carried his ashes in an oak box from the US to France, and when I went through customs the douaniers were very curious as to what I was cradling in my arms. One soldier took the box, shook it. It rattled as if there were pebbles inside. When I told him he was manhandling my father’s remains, he turned sheet-white, handed the box to his superior officer who in turn gave it back to me. I said these were the ashes of a Free French and the man saluted.

He was not a natural father. The growing up and education of a son baffled him. He was unlikely to give advice, did so only at my mother’s prompting. He taught by doing, showing, and patience. We never played catch, never went fishing together, we did not bond in the accepted way. There were few family vacations, a limited number of father/son experiences shared. He was a good and quiet man who witnessed and took part in moments of history that are now almost forgotten.

He told two jokes, neither particularly, but each telling brought tears to his eyes. He died a bad death and I hope he didn’t suffer. I think of him every day.



Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Week after the Theft

 It’s been a week since thieves stole a bunch of things from my house. I haven’t seen or heard from anyone though I think a detective was supposed to contact me. When I called the police after realizing I’d been burgled, a very nice officer came by, dusted for prints, asked for the iPad’s serial number (“Sorry, I don’t have that. It was a gift.”), the Bose radio’s serial number (“Sorry, I don’t have that. I bought it used on eBay.”), and my late father’s  watch’s serial number (“You’re kidding, right?) So I guess I wasn’t that helpful.

Somewhere in the deepest sitcom part of my brain, I had visions of an angry parent bringing a chastened teen-ager to my house and returning all my stuff. There would have been a speech about a life of crime narrowly averted, and the kid would have come back to atone for his sins by mowing my lawn and shoveling my walk after snow falls. This did not occur. What did occur were a couple of sleepless nights full of revenge scenarios involving samurai swords and other sharp objects.

The day after, Arielle gave me a gorgeous watch engraved (in French) to commemorate our successful work together on a book. The engraver misspelled one of the words which makes the gift even more special. It won’t replace my father’s timepiece, we both know this, but at a very crappy time it reminded me there were things to be grateful for. She also set up a GoFundMe account ( and friends (and a few strangers) have kicked in money so I can eventually replace the stolen stuff. To those of you helping, thank you!

Oh. And my cat vanished.

I have to be clear here. I don’t write about pets or four-legged companions or service animals. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I just don’t do it.  I do, however, have a cat, Junkie, an aging medium-hair Burmese who’s been with me 15 years. He’s indoors/outdoors and mostly likes to sleep in the sun, and we sort of depend on each other. When I was sick and following surgeries, he spent a lot of time on my bed looking at me thoughtfully and occasionally yawning in boredom. Following the thefts, I didn’t see him for three or four days. Arielle and I worried.  I walked and drove around the neighborhood terrified that I’d find his run-over carcass somewhere.  He was not, thank heavens, squashed or eaten by a coyote.  He reappeared looking none the worse for wear, made give-me-food noises and left again, so that worked out well. 

Yesterday a bunch of teens walked by my house as I was doing yard work. I stopped and starred at them malevolently. None were carrying my stuff.  They gave me the disinterested looks young people give dreary old people. 

The world, I suppose, is returning to normal.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Morning

It is 5:15 a.m. and the hamsters are rattling around in their cage. The moon is a crescent and in my driveway I see something shuffling along. A raccoon. I am sitting on the steps of my kitchen stoop eating a lukewarm bowl of Maruchan Ramen Noodles with Vegetables (Hot & Spicy Chicken Flavor). The raccoon stops about ten feet away.

I know this guy, he’s a regular visitor. On two occasions he craftily pried open my large outdoor plastic garbage can, dropped inside it,  and feasted on the remains of past meals. When he couldn’t get out, he made a huge racket and I had to tip over the can so he could escape. He hissed at me and I was stuck with picking up the littered garbage off my lawn.

I dig a few Ramen noodles out of the paper bowl and throw them to him. There’s no hesitation. He picks them up and scarfs them down, then looks insolently my way. More. What the hell. I’m not really hungry. I place the half-empty bowl in the middle of the driveway, a short distance from my feet. The raccoon approaches, not wary in the least, picks up the bowl and sticks his head in it.

I can’t help but remember when I was dating my soon-to-be-second wife, a lovely Vietnamese woman who took me to a pho place. It was my first time in one of these traditional restaurants. We sat at a communal table with her kids. I watched as an elderly Asian lady across from me lowered most of her head in the soup bowl and noisily sucked in noodles. When she came up, she smacked her lips and gave me a gap-toothed grin that I returned. It was a good moment.

The raccoon is destroying the paper noodle bowl with his paws and teeth. I stand and wave my arms. He almost shrugs, drops the bowl and ambles away. I see him enter the bamboo patch near my garage and vanish.

On the kitchen counter, the Roborovski hamsters are dancing a caged fandango. There are two of them, tiny little furry creatures full of curiosity. I watch as both of them climb aboard their exercise wheel and start running in tandem. Is this collaboration or competition?

The raccoon returns. I get a handful of nuts and toss them in the driveway. He eats most of them save for the coconut-flavored cashews from Trader Joe’s , which is a shame because I don’t like the cashews either and I have two bagfuls I would have gladly sacrificed

The sky is turning pink.  I don’t much care for Sunday mornings. I miss the Sunday intimacy of bed and breakfast as a couple. Sunday morning may be a bountiful time for the raccoon but it is not a good time to be single. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

On Hold

I have been talking to people and on hold this morning for a total of 57 minutes and 32 seconds. My upper back is beginning to ache from cradling the phone between my neck and shoulder.

I have just spelled the word ‘barf’ on WordTower for forty-three points which brings my total to 2537. This is an all-time high, so I suppose I cannot classify this as wasted time. Earlier today I also waited a much shorter time to make sure I was indeed scheduled for some workshops at the Writers’ Center. That was resolved in a matter of minutes.

At issue on this latest call is a recently received bill for $5,670 from my healthcare provider. I suspect this is for three five-minute chemotherapy sessions made as a follow-up to my most recent cancer surgery. This is not right.

This morning has been devoted to spending money on things that are not in the least fun—Verizon, Virginia Power, Kaiser Permanente, etc.  There’s a mysterious charge for a couple of hundred dollars that I identify by going through past payment vouchers—yes, I do owe that sum—but so far the biggie is the $5,670.

I spell the word ‘mucus’ for thirty-eight points.

I have spoken with three different people regarding the provider bill, and each has—very politely, I must say—shuttled me off to someone else.  I am now back to Person Number One, whose name may be Serafina or Jo. I don’t remember.

I spell ‘boob’ for next to nothing in points, but the total score is climbing steadily. Since English is not my native language, I am feeling prouder by the moment at my mastery of complex vocabulary. I am sure I would be prouder still if I weren’t on hold, but then again if I weren’t on hold I would not be playing WordTower and spelling out ‘shit’ which, to my amazement, the game accepts.

I discover that it is neither Jo nor Serafina but Mavis to whom I am now talking, and she says, “Let me look into this.”

“Please,” I say.

I am topped out on WordTower and wonder if there’s anyone out there playing Words With Friends.  My regular WWF partner is at a brand new job, so she can’t play; her employer might frown at such behavior. It appears no one within my tiny Facebook world is available today save a guy I worked with decades ago who now lives in Jamaica. I didn’t like him then and probably wouldn’t care for him now, so I decline his invitation. Plus, he’s a Brit and would probably trounce me.

We are now at 69 minutes and 22 seconds. As I am starting a new WordTower challenge, Mavis returns to the phone to tell me I will have to speak to her supervisor who is at lunch. Can I call back?

I sigh. I say, “Yes, of course,” and spell Jeezus on WordTower, but it is not accepted.