Wednesday, January 25, 2023


I am baffled by the concept, in modern parlance, of serious issues being solved by “you and your doctor.” This is another example of rhetoric no longer based on anything resembling our social reality.

Politicians say it all the time. So do TV pundits and commentators. Pro-choice or anti-abortion people. “You and your doctor.” 

What doctors are these? Am I missing something? Is there a great swath of people out there lucky enough to have a doctor who is constantly thinking about them and their healthcare when the patient is at the supermarket or picking up the kids?

It's likely that the pundits and politicians who use this phrase live a different life than you or I, no matter how much they try to suggest they don't. But here in the real world, with only a few exceptions, most doctors I’ve encountered don’t even know your name, little less what’s wrong with you or even your most basic history.

Most come in, poke around on the computer, and interrupt you when you’re talking. Or explaining what’s wrong with you. “Well, I’ve been vomiting up copper-colored iron filings for the last two weeks” – “uh huh, uh huh.” This is especially true for women and – I’m told – especially Black women. Classy.

The idea that a radical emotion course of action such as when or if to terminate a pregnancy or bring a new life into the world – your world – would require meaningful consultation with your doctor is absurd. 

I’m a sometimes filmmaker and I grew up around actors. I have come to the conclusion that doctors are kind of like “day players.” This precludes listening or awareness of the whole story. They’re there to do their bit and shake hands at the end of the shoot and see everyone later. Doctors are like this. They’re not that invested simply because they’re only there for their scene.

A day player. In the movie of your life. And, once they’re played their scene – prescribing you drugs you don’t need and withholding drugs you do; referring you to a specialist you don’t need and missing all the signs of something serious – they figure their scene is done and they move on to the next patient. Or scene.

There are a zillion reasons for this, but let’s acknowledge that this problem ought to be added to the list when we talk about broken healthcare systems in both Canada and the US.

“You and your doctor.” Me and my mechanic, maybe. My pharmacist. My diet guy. Physio-therapist? Barber. That’s the ticket.

“Whether I carry this child to term or abort it is a decision that should only be made between me and my barber.”


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

"A FEAST OF WOLVES" EXCERPT: the romantic part

For the next few months, my plan is to drop excerpts from my new novel, "A Feast of Wolves" - in between the usual things I might post on other subjects. The idea is simple: give you a taste of what the book is all about, and maybe get folks to press that all important "ADD TO CART" button on Amazon. 

Without tooting my own horn, I realized only after the book was published that there were a lot of different tones in the story. There's a kind of hole you get into when you say "it's a book about a new Civil War in America, complete with a guillotine on the steps of the U.S. Capitol." You might assume there's old fashioned thriller sections, or mysterious doings, but romance? This is one of my favorite sections below. It kind of stands on its own in a way. Our hero, Chase, a young Princeton professor, is remembering a few years back, when he first met a young woman in London who changed his life. 


Book 2

Chapter 1

        She unmanned him. That’s how he always thought of it. Like an old 19th-century English novel where the staid and upright earl confronts the willful peasant wench. “Unmanned him.”

Chase had already been in London two weeks. He’d come for a series of interviews about where he was going to do his doctoral work and was only starting to get the lay of the land (Edinburgh romantic but impractical, Cambridge an obvious step but unappealing). So far, he had enjoyed teas in quiet clubs and mainstays like Claridge’s or the Langham, as well as private meeting rooms paneled with the decking of transatlantic steamers. That Saturday afternoon he was going to meet a Dr. Budden, PhD, King’s College, who had suggested they have lunch and go over Chase’s options. He would never keep the appointment.

He didn’t know it, but his life destiny was wrenched off course the second he emerged from the entry turnstile onto the westbound platform at West Ham’s outdoor station. He saw a young woman, around his own age, with luxuriant purple hair, kicking the living shit out of a subway car at the far end.

“Sonofabitch!” she shouted. Clearly, an American.

She was tugging at something unseen, on which the doors of the train had closed prematurely. A suitcase, Chase realized.

The closed doors may have created a barrier between the girl and the bag, but they did not disengage one from the other. The girl held onto the long handle of the case with both hands while kicking at the doors with her black combat boots. These were a marked and appealing contrast to her short, soft, summer dress and man’s jean jacket.

The hair, though. That’s what Chase saw. There was so much of it. Long and ringleted. Like a heroine in an opera. Except it was purple. For no reason he could later explain, he started to walk toward her. As he did, his eyes took in the whole scene: the girl, the bag handle, the train, the almost-deserted station platform, the red push button on the wall, and the frustrated driver in the left-hand side of the first car, only now starting to realize there was something wrong in one of the cars behind him. The driver checked his in-car monitors, trying to see what that problem was.

Chase offered up a “halt!” hand to the driver, then strode past him toward the end of the platform and the girl.

“Sonofabitch!” she kept saying.

Inside the subway car, passengers were also starting to react. Two teenaged boys tried to pry open the doors for the girl while clearly enjoying the opportunity of being able to destroy transit property.

“Fuck sakes!” she said, wrenching the bag to one side. “Push the red button,” Chase said.

She didn’t hear him or see him. She kept struggling.

For reasons utterly unfathomable, the driver up front decided that whatever had gone wrong at the rear of the train was probably cleared by now, despite no supporting evidence. Suddenly the loudspeaker intoned its robotic “Stand clear of the doors, please, the doors are now closing,” although clearly the doors had already closed.

The train began to slowly inch out of the station.

“Hey!” The girl’s tone shifted from belligerence to panic, and the boys on the other side of the closed door began to laugh. No skin off their noses. The purple-haired girl began to run along with the train, still refusing to let go of the thin bag handle. She was heading right into one of the iron beams which supported the rain cover.

Chase moved quickly. His hand didn’t hit so much as smash the red STOP button on the station wall.

The train jolted to a screeching stop.

The girl was yanked to the ground by the sudden stop, landing less than two feet from the iron beam which almost surely would have killed her. She did not, however, let go of the bag. Later, Chase would think that was it. Her character. Right there.

Soon enough, things pretty much righted themselves. The bag was back in the girl’s full possession, the teenagers were back in their seats, and the annoyed driver was able to go on his way with his passengers, although the man seemed more interested in bitching about the paperwork he would have to fill out.

“Every time some damned fool pushes that red button!” he shouted in Chase’s face. “Which is only for legitimate incidents!”

“This was a legitimate incident,” Chase said.

The driver clearly thought otherwise. He continued to shout and point. So did the girl.

Chase didn’t care. He was busy studying the right side of the girl’s head, which turned out to be in complete contrast to the left side. Here, things were shaved down to purple stubble, a ying-and-yang contrast with the luxuriant ringlets on the left. Somehow, he thought, it made her even more beautiful, if such a thing were possible.

But then, she would always be that way to him. In public, or in private, she would always be the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She would always take his breath away, particularly in bed, before and after sex, and especially at night with the curtains open.

Of course, this was not Chase as he had been for the first twenty- four years of life. Chase was a realist, not a romantic. Rationally, he also knew that most men believed the woman they were bedding was the most beautiful woman on earth something women were utterly unaware of. But in this case, he believed he was right. She was the most beautiful. And, of course, not just because of her physical appearance, but her humor and her wit and her dark, canny spirit.

She unmanned him.

                                      NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM

Wednesday, January 4, 2023


They're back!

Christmas is over, like, a second? And these people are back!

The forever sad and compromised Kevin McCarthy, the oily Matt Gaetz, that terrible Greene woman who bangs on doors and shouts through your mailbox, and all the rest of them. Back! 

And what about this new cretin, who has stalked us through the holidays? This Santos guy, who -- appropriately named for the time of year -- kept delivering one revelatory goody day after day. Last I heard, he's not even a U.S. citizen, yet he's been elected to the House of Representatives.  I suspect he's not even an actual person, and yet he's been elected. This is the new A.I. creation of all time.

To all of them I say, "Go away!" But they don't go away. In fact, they're right in my living room, screwing up the United States government, messing with the Constitution, and doing what they do. They are the gremlins on the wing of the plane, and I am Bill Shatner. How did this happen?

Then it occurs to me. Maybe they're here for a purpose.

Maybe the Congressional clown show is good for us.

Maybe it puts us in our place. 

God might be telling us, "You pay too much attention to these people." And we know what happens when we pay too much attention to horrible people. They keep doing horrible things.

This is certainly what the appropriately named Miss Fury us all in the first grade. "Students, the more we look at the Sean at the back of the class, the more he'll keep acting up." Which was true. Sean what's-his-name did keep acting up, and in the grand scheme of things, it did us no good at all. We should have ignored Sean with his five o'clock shadow and his ability to put a ruler up his nose, and let him spiral on toward his ultimate destiny -- serving 5-10 in Kingston Prison for habitual petty theft.

Maybe if we stop looking at the Matt Gaetz's of this world and that Biggs guy and that awful Stefanik woman, they'll just go away. Ideally, they will slip into the government jobs for which they are more suited, like emptying parking meters or painting lines on the highway. Wait. That's unfair. There's nothing wrong with those jobs, whereas there's definitely something wrong with these people.

In truth, do I even care what happens to them? I just know they have to go. I want to read the books I received for Christmas. There are still chocolates strewn about the house that need my attention, and movies to watch which somehow went unwatched in favor of culinary indulgences and dinner table talk. Yes, these people definitely must be go.

And it should be easy, because - like moron Sean at the back of the classroom - they feed on our attention. If we take that away, however, they only have so many choices.

1) They can keep up their antics even though there's no audience. Unlikely.
2) They can quit and go find an audience somewhere else. VERY likely. I'm thinking of Gaetz dressing up as Spiderman and posing for pictures on Hollywood Boulevard.
3) They'll actually realize they were elected to something and - as long as no one is looking - they may as well learn the job and pass a few laws and such. VEEERY unlikely.
4) Kingston Prison. 5-10.

I vote for number 4, but of course our prisons are already overcrowded thanks to a combination of insufficient funding and a hopelessly corrupt justice system, including judges on the take and/or shareholders of private institutions. Brought to you by -- you got it -- these people we've been paying so much attention to.

No matter what, we're better off without them.  Without them, we might read. We might go for walks. We might talk to our not-loved but tolerated relatives with something resembling civility. We might paint pictures. Or finally take that course on home electrical. 

And for those of you who say, "But if we don't pay attention, who knows what they'll do?" I offer the answer: "And how has it been going thus far?" 

It's possible a less scrutinized Congress might actually get something done. We've certainly tried the alternative. We, in fact, turned the whole thing into "The Gong Show." 

If we shut down CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and all the political scandal sheets, who knows what could happen?

The mind boggles with the potential of happiness and contentment. Oh joy, oh bliss. 


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