December 2009
In the gloaming

Last night we had the prettiest sunset in a while. from our window, safe, cozy and warm. Kind of like a promise.


My husband made the cutest wreath out of the cutoffs from the bottom of our tree. And I found my stocking from when i was a kid. We had to rig it with wire, up over our metal door, and hook it around the lock on the other side. It's a city wreath!


We brought out the same ornaments we've carefully packed away each year we've been together (12 now!!).... construction paper creations of Pat's kids. I was joking yesterday that you could probably say a lot about how someone turns out by how they glue cotton balls to cut-out sheep....

Lily was generous with the cotton...


But Alec gave his lamb great big sturdy construction paper feet.


Lily did great with the yellow yarn hair and smily angel face and pipe cleaner halo.


Alec went all out with the glitter. Obviously one of the mavericks of the bedazzling movement.


I'm not sure who made Santa, but every year I pull these ornaments out of the box I am so happy they survived and thrilled to know these incredible "kids" that I did not bear but am lucky enough now to truly love.


Lily's ballet ornament from grandma, 1991


Alec's baseball moose ornament.


Lily's needlepoint charm


I will have to knit up a couple of charms somehow for my husband and me! Then the tree will be complete.


Hoping you all are with loved ones and getting the fine chocolate you all deserve.




(looks a little like Hamid Karzai with the coffee cup fedora.)


We finally got a decent snow!!!  I moved to New York in 2002 and it was a fabulous year for blizzards. Somehow I was also lucky enough not to be trying to travel during the snow knockouts.


But since then? nothing worth even talking about. So, finally, last night, after lots of build up and anticipation, we had, a REAL STORM.


My husband and I even went out at midnight to see if it would be the kind of snow that would stick around 'til morning. Sure enough, today was gorgeous. Everyone was out in the park, sledding, marvelling at the good timing. When the streets are snowy and things slow down, New York is like a small town. People are friendlier, the pace is different. Nothing seems quite so pressing.


I love the afternoon light, and the crazy trees. This one really took on a whole character, "go that way, it said."

this kid reminded me of those days, when even though you couldn't feel your toes, you just had to take one more run down the reservoir hill.


the snow loving dogs were well represented.


the central park reservoir was gorgeous...


the sun even made a christmas star in this shot.


come on Dad, one more??

Nurse Jonny and the Prescriptions

Well, the doctors, the nurses, the parents, the kids, the build a bear people, the ice cream sundae makers, the hospital movers and shakers.... all made yesterday's event super special. I really loved being there and seeing the cameraderie, warmth, and love everyone shared.


Santa came down, Rudolf was there, even Frosty came out.

that's Anthony's (he's the drummer) son Marco hanging out in the limelight. Little Joe on the other side.


There was a bear TREE almost twenty feet high!


Then we got to build our own bears too! I made a super hero Bear. His name is Walter. I'm sending him to my Niece so her gall bladder gets better.


The kids of the doctors in the band represented and played wicked good percussion on stage on "All Ya Gotta Do is Touch Me."The kids in the audience got maracas too and shook it with style.


Evan, my duet partner, was a revelation on the vocals. His wife didn't mind one bit!!

And you'll all be pleased to know, we didn't change the words, and no one seemed the worse for it!!


I met some beautiful strong kids. I'm not allowed to post their photos here, but J, and A, and S, you girls RULE!


It kinda made my day that they knew my little Peter Pan song, "I'll Try." I definitely got a little choked up on that last chorus.


Anyway, thank you soooo much to the Clapcich brothers Anthony and Bob for pulling this whole thing together, and so powerfully rooting for this little community at Children's Hospital of New York.


Happiest of Holidays, and huge hugs and wishes for health and joy.

Ho Ho Ho.

My New Band

Last year when I played with Glen Phillips in Montclair, New Jersey, he introduced me to a children's anesthesiologist/sometime drummer named Anthony Clapcich. Well, I love gorey details about surgery, and crazy medical stuff so I immediately started pummeling him with questions.  He expertly steered me into telling me about his band, (mostly other accomplished doctors) and the gigs they do to raise money for kids with rare diseases. He casually mentioned that Glen had done a gig with them at Children's Hospital, and they'd love me to do one if it would ever be of interest.


Well we had our first, (and only) rehearsal yesterday for our big holiday gig. We're calling ourselves "Nurse Jonny and the Prescriptions."


Our motley crew includes Left to Right, Dave Apigo - philosopher and dental student; Evan Kremin - doctor of LOVE; me - nurse Jonny; Anthony Clapcich - Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesiologist; Jeff Nicholson - Optical Physicist.


There was just so much brain power in the room that we had to take multiple pictures to fit it all in (or it could have been that there were smoke breaks for some..)

The chartmaking ringleader came back for this shot - Dr. Bob Clapcich (yup, Anthony's big brother) - dentist (Makes "You'd Oughta Be Satisfied Now" into a whole 'nother thang!!)


And after our finale, we finally captured the elusive, exclusive, enigmatic bass player - Andrew Harkin, second from the left.

If I were a more accomplished photographer,  I would have photo-shopped us all into one, and added elf hats and holiday decorations, but alas, it's all I can do to make the camera take automatic shots.


Anyway, these guys are awesome musicians in addition to their impressive real jobs. And they worked tirelessly to learn my less than obvious chords and quirks. Needless to say, we will rock Children's  Hospital, and I'm thrilled they asked me to be a part of such a cool tradition.


I think all the kids are going to get Maracas so they can get down with us on "All ya Gotta do is Touch Me"


I wonder if we should change the words for the occasion?? Help me, Jesus.

Are we mice or MEN?

Bootstrap time again. I came across this letter from 1961 when I was visiting my mom a couple weeks ago. I snuck it out in my knitting bag.


I think my mother had been snuffling, or in our family's euphemism, 'having a tough time' about something, and her mother kinda let her have it. That's right, "Amelia" put a little backbone into her christmas letter to Nancy.


I just love it  "You have elements of greatness within you...but...if something doesn't quite go as you want it to, you Stones... refuse to play ball."


and  "remember, fairy tales are only in books," and "Are we mice or MEN!"


And finally, "you have a world within you" -- WOW! Go grandma.


Well, she got my attention. Got my boots right back on. It reminded me of this song I wrote ages and ages ago and never recorded. I must have been having a 'tough time of it:'


"It's an endless conversation, your mother to you and you to me

on and on,

but i never asked you

I never asked you,

I never asked.

If I'm looking in the mirror, you're whispering there

your touch on me, I see it where

I never noticed,

I never noticed,

I never noticed, before

If you cheated me of memory

the wild shape of truth?  I'd choke it down, glittering

halfway to my heart,

halfway to my heart,

halfway and no more

It's an endless conversation, your mother to you and you to me

on and on,

but i never asked you

I never asked you,

I never wanted to know.


I think I'm missing a verse, but you get the gist of it. I most love Amelia's scrawled "mother" at the bottom matching her red christmas typewriter ribbon.

Picnic, Lightning

Well I finally got Lloyd Van Brunt's (from the nursing home next door) book of poetry called "Delirium."


i really like it. 


Apparently he has published many poetry collection, and also was founding poetry editor of the Pushcart Prize. He's been in the New York Times Magazine, the American Poetry Review, and the LA Times Magazine.


Now I'm really curious about "High C" - that book he told me he's working on. I do hope he got his printer fixed. (see journal)


Here's my favorite so far:


The Surge


My grandmother said never reach to help

man, woman, or child that's been struck by

lightning. Leave them there

on the ground, by a tree, or a tractor. Their current remains

live long after the scorched heart

stills in the blazed body

and if you even touch them

you'll light up once and dark forever.


Reminds me of that quote from Lolita:

"My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (Picnic, Lightning) when I was three."


Billy Collins wrote a poem called, "Picnic, Lightning"

here's the third stanza:


This is what I think about

when I shovel compost

into a wheelbarrow,

and when I fill the long flower boxes,

then press into rows

the limp roots of red impatiens --

the instant hand of Death

always ready to burst forth

from the sleeve of his voluminous cloak.


I have the kind of mind that goes to all the most disastrous possibilities. Even though I would absolutely say I'm an optimist, a glass half full kinda girl. Maybe it's more of a vivid imagination. An overamped inner monologue. I just make crazy stuff up. That's why i so love poetry and songs - where you can fill in all the spaces on your own.


And all the while, of course,  just Keep Right.


The calm before the Stories


 I spent the weekend with my husband's family. Anyone with a large, Irish Catholic contingent knows the storytelling DNA is undeniable. And these stories are so over the top that they must be true.


So, Saturday night, sure enough Roseanne, my husband's first cousin, took first honors. It was only two Christmases ago that she told us, "Well, my son's in jail for murder. Can you top that?" -- that was after she'd listened patiently to our measly stories about various family dysfunctions. We had to agree, we couldn't top murder.


Apparently he was "smitten with the crack," (imagine a healthy midwestern accent here) "and got it in his mind that he could rob the bait shop his dad worked at. Well, there wasn't much more than bait there, DUH, so somehow he ended up shooting his dad's best friend."


It sounds awful, but somehow Roseanne frames it with matter-of-fact resignation and pitch perfect comic delivery.


This year it's Roseanne's granddaughter who's in trouble. Roseanne is only 57 but now has a great-grandson, Travis, who is three. Travis's mom, just "can't stay away from the Meth. We decided we'd better take care of Travis after the cops went after her for domestic violence. And she just kept stealing from everybody. One night she actually thought she could get away from the police helicopters. There she was running down Washington with poor Travis in the stroller, helicopters circling. We just can't talk to her anymore. And the dad is homeless. He's living in a trailer somewhere. So we're trying to find things for Travis to do to take his mind off things."


The first time I went home with my husband for Thanksgiving (Minneapolis) I felt I had found some missing piece in my own puzzle. The laughter flowed with the wine and the tears, and each story topped the next. When Pat's father died, for the first time I understood how valuable the rituals around someone's passing can be. The wake was a revelation. I savored every moment of the remembering, and finally found some catharsis around my own father's death.


My family never talked about death. In fact I only found out my grandfather had died a week after the fact, when friends of the family came to my show in Chicago.
"We were so sorry to hear about your granddad" they said right before I went on stage at Shuba's.




Needless to say, I am ravenous for these stories I am a part of now. I cherish every moment with my husband's sisters and brothers, cousins aunts and uncles, nephews, nieces. I treasure the crazy dysfuntion and ribald one-upping. I've started to look at every bad experience for the kind of story it will make later. Why the hell stick around if you're not going to get a good story out of it.

Poetry and Prayer

Nolwenn Leroy's new record, "The Cheshire Cat et Moi" is number one on I-Tunes France this week. And I have three songs on the I-tunes version of the record. Kind of cool! Of course, I can't seem to figure out a way to download it from the US I-tunes site. but I suppose I can wait to have the full REAL physical version in hand. Felicitations!!


In other news. I am still obsessing over Mary Karr. It's so rare to find writing that you can't bear to put down. I even trying to read slower so it won't end. Astonishing, visceral, and familiar.


Today I've been reading an essay she wrote at the end of her poetry book - "Sinners Welcome." Poetry was her only real religion until she became an unlikely Catholic in the middle of her search for sobriety.


How did she know? How did she possibly figure out how to SAY this??


"From a very early age, when I read a poem, it was as if the poet's burning taper touched some charred filament in my chest to light me up. The transformation could extend from me outward. Lifting my face from the page, I often faced my fellow creatures with less dread. Maybe buried in one of them was an ache or tenderness similar to the one I'd just been warmed by. Thus poetry rarely failed to create for me some semblance of community, even if the poet reaching me was some poor wretch even more abject than myself....."


and this:


"In the Texas oil town where I grew up, I was an unfashionably bookish kid whose brain wattage was sapped by a consuming inner life others just didn't seem to bear the burden of. In a milieu where fierceness won fights, I was thin-skinned and hyper-vigilant., I just had more frames per second than other kids."

Language, wordplay, religion, poetry held equal sway in my upbringing. My family was sober, (perhaps not in a healthy way)...but I shared this reverence, the feeling that poetry, hymns, music, precise language could redeem and elevate us to its own kind of faith. To a kind of comfort in the face of the inexplicable.


Later in the essay, Karr quotes Franz Wright's poem "Request:"

Please love me

and I will play for you

this poem

upon a guitar I made

out of cardboard and black threads

when I was ten years old.

Love me or else.


(Franz Wright)


Here is my church. Here is the steeple, open the door.....

Primary Colors

OK, I know the real primary colors are red, yellow and blue, right? But yesterday everywhere I looked I saw red, yellow and green. Was I feeling the Rasta pull? The door I passed on my way to Brooklyn... with my birthday, no less...


The bittersweet in one lovely brownstone front...


the peeling painted wall near my knitting store...


and then, when I got to Ben's place in Brooklyn to work on a gorgeous Patty Larkin song, there it was! - all I want for Christmas - a TOY PIANO in, you guessed it, red, yellow and green.


I felt like Schroeder from 'Peanuts' plunking away at a moody outro. The piano kept pulling it reggae. I reeled it back. There's nothing like an out of tune toy piano to really lift a song up.

and finally, for the "Blue Christmas" fans.... the third primary color for real. A blue accordion to cool the fire. The spectrum was complete. My work was done.