SUNDAY A.M., THE TERRORIST while I hide in the little room.

A parade passes, then the Mercedes.

Two houses: furnace spewing water, boiling water in one.

I can’t find the key to the other house, where I would turn it off  – am I naked? See, I’m barefoot.

At a Confederate officers’ banquet, toasting and dancing, cheek to cheek, a broken leg.

Now I’m painting – vault.


Scratched up concrete and brick patterns of floor and walls, ceilings, then the people – children at play, etc. – a public space, now viewed from above.

Am getting ready to serve the Daily Student as executive sports editor – or my dorm room, where I arrived early – no room for my roomies.

A lost hymnal with a hot concert pianist (but he’s not religious!). Kitchen table.

My sister, flowers or a meal.


DEER JOSTLING IN THE NIGHT WOODS as I gather stones in a pool of street light to pot bulbs to force open in mid-winter.


THE PANIC WHEN I SAY it’s never going to happen – the Children. Then marriage.

(In the gut, when I whisper.)

Just what the hell is Self-Realization, Swami Jnana?

While attempting to clasp objects, I am annoyed to find there are long thin strands of hair in the way. They’re growing from my palm and tangling in the object. It’s more a sensation of something awry, actually.


I HEAD AN ARMY UNIT AND have a young spoiled recruit or draftee who won’t accept discipline or follow orders. He soon has his attorney accompanying him everywhere. “Shut up!” and he keeps talking.


AT THE SCENE OF A PLANE CRASH – helping with the body bags (curiously like valet bags).


A CORNER OF THE CHIMNEY IS GONE, chomped away by a flying creature. The house itself is a huge flaking gray monster with two heads and forty paws. From the compound eye of its center stare forty children, each in some awe, while seventy-five toddlers weave in and out of the mouth.

I’m caught without a future and the past she has retracted. So this is the present?


I RECEIVE AN OFFER FOR A MASSAGE … from a male therapist. I hedge, but he promises it will be the best I’ve ever received. He uses both hands simultaneously, the thumbs like motorized screwdrivers. Incredible!


DOORBELL RINGING. I wake, realize it’s not the sound of my doorbell here.

Trying to fit in

IN A SUIT AT A POSH GATHERING. Subdued lighting, fine carpet and porcelain, upholstery and dark polished furniture. I’m being considered for a position with a prestigious law firm. One of the wait staff, in a gray or beige uniform, comes up from behind and I step aside, gesturing for her to pass with the used dishes she’s taking to the kitchen. There’s a universal gasp and chuckling. I’ve made a faux pas. Then I notice the men’s striped silk ties, all immaculate. I’m wearing none. A sign of my Quaker practice, I sense, along with my instinctive respect for all people. The message I get is that when you’re in a position of power, you have to command it. (Stay by his side while he snubs others. The trick, also, is to tip well when finished.) Rather than taking pride in my values and sticking with them, I want to be part of the elite. (Disturbing truth.)


OFF TO ATTEND a Quaker gathering somewhere. Shortly after arrival, I’m directed to the Jacuzzi, and after repeated invitations, I step in. Quite comforting. After a while, I find myself being driven on a tour of metropolitan suburbia (Connecticut? New Jersey? Chicagoland?), into a neighborhood of failed, boarded up malls and related big-box structures, all in a gray concrete architecture, including a drive-in parking lot under the main edifice. We pass on through what had been neighborhoods but are now missing half of the houses. There are scattered trees and even some tents or small trailers, but also some hideous McMansions. I’m instructed (more than invited) to enter one, which is owned by oil sheiks. I gathered the woman of the house is interested in me, but much of the activity is veiled. Still, I’m their overnight guest and given a bedroom. In the middle of deep sleep, I feel my thumb pinched and held, to prevent my escape, as the four corners of my sheets are lifted by runners, who are soon speeding through the house, or at least in large circles. I feel exhilarated.

And then, you enter the room. I tell you about the sheets and the feeling of lightness. What I’ll never know, of course, is whether I was being summoned by the woman of the house – or her jealous husband.


BACK “ON THE ROAD.” The recurring core has me in a hotel and trying to check out, only I’ve flown in for an extended stay (a conference or sales meeting) and brought a lot of stuff I intended to sort and discard. Since there’s so much, I apparently brought it by company car, taken off, and returned without it. The problem is that all of that happened months ago, I really need to leave – either eviction or some approaching tyrannical force I desire to leave – and nothing’s been sorted. I keep finding more, can’t figure out how to pack up and get out. Plus there’s the added realization I owe thousands for the room.

In this version, I arrive by hiking with a group along railroad tracks. Something, at some point, clandestine. And later there are neighbors on the other side of a hurricane fence that may mark the (communist) side from our Free Market side.

Strike up the rubber band

AT AN OPERA IN A LARGE SHED, Aida without costumes. Then a student orchestra rehearsing Beethoven in a smaller hall across a field. We rush to our seats on the second tier but wall-pillars block our view, except for a small hole like an airplane window. Turns out there’s a 7 p.m. movie before the opera. We snuggle a bit and speak in Spanish using questions rather than exclamation marks. Bueno? Bravo? Etc.


AM SURPRISED TO SEE THERE are nearly as many theaters/concert halls around as meetinghouses and steeplehouses. Or is it the other way around?


WE’RE USHERING AT MUSIC HALL, which is more like a sports arena. Is our Third Wheel there, too? A late dash to our seats, which are on the other side of the hall, a remote part of the gallery. Good seats, we were promised, if we can get there before the next piece, a long symphony, can begin.

The first stairway’s closed, for safety reasons. By this time, we’re carrying 18-speed bicycles. Curiously, we now need to go DOWN, having somehow gone up one flight too many.

I’m cast in the role of “organizer” or “enforcer” – the one responsible for getting everyone in gear, and guilty if they don’t make it on time.

But she keeps stopping to talk, tie a shoe, whatever. By myself, I would have made it on time.

The “hurry up” enforcer being the only one stressed out!

Other Music Hall dreams included one of seats with great acoustics but no view of the orchestra.


THE GRANDMOTHER HAD A DREAM I was singing a Schubert leider, text by Goethe – said my voice was quite lovely and my diction, flawless. Highest praise, even if a dream. My German is still atrocious.


WE’RE STANDING IN A CROWDED downtown when the kid notices a uniformed band making its way up the street (which is downhill from us). It turns and marches into a vacated 5’n’dime store, which has folding chairs set up in four quadrants (angled toward a center). A group of teens, supporters of the band or maybe members out of uniform, are jumping up and down, hugging each other, etc., obviously quite elated by some battle of the bands contest that’s about to start, once the others show up. These kids are also huddling, a group prayer seeking blessing.

The band now plays “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, my happy home,” very nice tune and lyrics; I somehow remember both, and in totality.


MAKING MUSIC WITH MY BOSS and his sidekick kind of just off downtown Dayton, lower Salem Avenue or just before First Street or Memorial Bridge.

They bring their guitars to my apartment (yellow/amber) and are ready to tune up.

Sidekick’s impressed when I hum a perfect 440 A but then my violin strings won’t hold, keep coming undone.

Outside again, I go into a shady alley to take a pee, maybe.


Business, one way or another

I COME INTO A MEETING of two black-robed Buddhists. A dark office, maybe. They’re discussing something. Turns out one of them is an accountant, the other an investor or banker. They are about to foreclose on the Ashram. They are debating whether it should be done immediately, on notice, or whether the one should visit for a week and pull the trigger slowly. They turn to me for my opinion, realizing as a former resident I might have some insight. I lean forward slowly.


I RETURN TO OAKDALE and Mom starts telling me that – she didn’t actually know him – had barged in, looking for something from the office, so he said. (At the office, all I knew was he had left at noon, for the day.) Stereo and computer wires, disarrayed, parts broken.

“Did you call the police?”

“No, what good would that do?”
Unwanted intruder, for starters. Restitution, too.


PLAYING CARDS WITH A GROUP of coworkers. J.T. pulls out a pack he bought cheap at some outlet store. “Here, let’s use my deck,” he says, proud of his purchase. He deals. As we pick up our hands, we notice the face or number crossed out and a rubber stamp replacement ALL CAPS with the new assignment – QUEEN OF SPADES or TEN OF HEARTS, for instance.

You couldn’t play a game with cards like that! I started laughing in my sleep.

In the end she was as ephemeral as a dream

Made love, and made love.
Sweet wine, candlelight twilight.
Mattress on the floor.

Maybe you remember.


ONCE SO DISTURBING, AWAKENING ME. Are we still living together in the big bungalow? Cooking and kissing together?

Then we’re at a meeting in a big house (a rival’s, ours is across town). Her dad I don’t recognize, think it’s her brother.

She leaves, I change my mind, run after but can’t catch up.

They drive off, somehow I’m in pursuit.


IN ANOTHER BIG OLD HOUSE, we’re moving in – Greek Temple revival? – repair it? A leak on our sleeping bags – a group of four, is my sister one?

My Beloved: “It doesn’t have to be this way,” meaning us, as I nuzzle an ear.

Somebody we know (a friend of her father?) (or mother?) is getting married.

“They’re so close [naming another couple] won’t even get them a present.”


LATER, HIKING IN THE WOODS – toward Centerville? – a Corvette stops, she halts and talks, wasn’t even going all the way.




“No, peach!” And then, “It wouldn’t be for me – it would be YOUR birthday present!”

How lovely, desirable, in one or the other.

Also on my nocturnal plate

I’M INVOLVED WITH A VIETNAMESE OR Thai kitchen – likely a restaurant – and we’re dealing with a huge bowl of soup. It’s festive, everybody’s happy, there’s a lot of golden color in the room, rather rustic with a late-afternoon feel.

Out in the dining area, they insist I eat it – press the bowl (blue and white, by the way) to my chest and face – but I’m leery, given my inability to handle hot spices, yet I don’t want to offend anyone, even if they are kinda daring me. Especially the younger owner right in front of me. What becomes clear is that I’m also facing a deadline, this is for a food page centerpiece, one I’m producing, and Flash is there, smiling, encouraging, and lifting his camera devilishly.

Despite the underlying tension of the difficulties of the newspaper side (a recurring theme for me), this is communal, upbeat, joyous.


I’M BAKING SPECIAL COOKIES at the rear of a large cafeteria when I notice they’re using child labor, and mistreating them. Child slaves. I say something to an obese Eastern European supervisor – gray, ugly hair – “Mind your own business,” she grunts. In front of a large pizza oven, a child stands, waiting. He smiles but the bottom edge of his white kitchen-staff busboy’s jacket starts to smoke. An ace-student screams, “Look! His coat!” and I rush up, grab him away yelling “Charlie!” He’s still smiling. I tell her to run for water, but she doesn’t. Only after a second order, she does but not fast enough. I grab the child and place his head under running cold water, a faucet over a big washtub basin, careful not to get water in his mouth or nose. Just as he starts gasping for air (he’d passed out), B.B. rushes up in her white Chinese suit and asks, with a combination of maternal instinct and reportorial business, “What’s the matter?”


COOKING (WITH MY GODDAUGHTER? not my wife, at least at the beginning) and I’m given a large onion to cube and add to our large stainless-steel skillet to saute. (In fact, I do not use onions – this is purely for others.) But it’s uncommonly large, bigger than a cabbage, in fact. So I make long slices (what emerges looks like a purple cabbage) but keep getting stuck when trying to figure out which way to go with the emerging slabs. I never even begin on the second half … is it that I keep awakening myself?

She had gone off on a tirade around dinnertime and hadn’t let up. I really do feel I can’t do anything around here, especially not “their” way. 


I’M PUT IN CHARGE OF A CHARITY PANCAKE breakfast. Never participated in one before, and I have no idea where things are or exactly who to contact or rely on. Still, I plunge blithely ahead. We’re very inefficient and very slow and soon it’s 11 a.m. and nothing has been served.

When I awoke, 5 a.m., not really disturbed by this variation of the unmet deadline. I had, though, enjoyed cooking two dinners the day before, in addition to some heavy editing of a novel was pressing to have up next week for release a week later.


NEXT, AT A RATHER FORMAL DINNER (the couple’s still rather in-heat), they move their forks and spoons and find, among packets of mint and the like, a condom neatly wrapped … and iced! Seems everyone gets these at their setting.


CUTTING AND CLEANING A LOT of chicken parts in stainless steel bowls in our kitchen. Lots of them.

Welcome to the newsroom

NEW OWNER AT THE PAPER – a Marge Schott-type – comes through, demanding everything be tightened up, financially, especially. Tighter, more threatening, a real sense of being watched. No more slides or breaks.

Of course, this kills any sense of self-motivation or deep caring about one’s contribution to the enterprise. “They” are taking as much as they can, and likely a lot more, at a superficial level.

People are removing their personal effects from the plant – how symbolic! (I started to type “planet.”)

But what about the moldy fur coats?


RETURNING TO THE OFFICE, all of the chairs are gone. In use for a conference elsewhere. Yet we’re expected to work – productive output – as usual.


AM GOING TO WORK AGAIN as features editor/managing editor out in some steamboat town. Learning the ropes again, learned that (so-and-so) was the source of dissatisfaction leading to my termination before.

Adding, looking at alumni association announcements of big promotions, the photos of new administrators etc., the portraits, especially: that well-groomed confidence. I’ll never have that look, not again. Maybe I’ve passed too far over into the realm of ambiguity or out of the superficial or just feel no desire to be that politically involved, meaning the power trip.


THE DOCTOR MOVES OUT my bookshelf during a staff meeting while I’m flirting with a blonde new correspondent. How curious, considering his reputation and my standoffish reputation.




“EVERYBODY’S WORKING their butt off.”

“Leave me a note anytime you’re out of the building.”


A CONSULTANT OBSERVES AND evaluates my work on Saturday or in the slot. “You’re doing too much. You should delegate more of these tasks. (Fill in the blank) once had this great insight on a day when he needed to get away in time for an evening meeting: every manager should plan to be out of the office by 4:30, to be able to pick up his or her spouse.


I SHUT THE CLOCK RADIO OFF and nearly oversleep work!

A few lives I almost had … but I’ve wound up here instead

Being of an age where I have more to look back on than what lies ahead, pondering forks in the road I followed, I find myself concluding they ultimately turned out for the best.

Still, there are moments when I wonder how my life would have gone if, say, things had turned out better with certain lovers or I hadn’t narrowly missed out in a desired career move – things that would have opened other avenues. In fact, a big goal all along had been to become financially independent so I could hunker down with my more literary writing, the thing I’ve been able to do in retirement.

Here’s a handful.

  1. Been hired by a really big daily newspaper. The Wall Street Journal, especially, had been interested until laying off a ton of editors and reporters just before my graduation. And there had been a brief flirtation from the Washington Post and, later, Detroit Free Press.. My dreams of living in a major city, with all of its fine arts cultural opportunities, vanished with that.
  2. Returned to my hometown after college. Well, it would have left me deeply rooted. Or, in one scenario, wedded into a wealthy family on the other side of town, with all of the opportunities that would have afforded. But would I have found that too confining? (Said girlfriend ultimately did.) Instead, I was off into hippie communion and poverty-line journalist existence in foothills a few hours from New York City.
  3. Stayed in the ashram or at least the Asian spiritual stream. Yoga had saved my life and was a hot field, if I had been more entrepreneurial. But I wouldn’t have encountered Quakers and my family roots. Instead, leap ahead a few steps.
  4. Not persuaded my fiancée to overcome her jitters. That is, freed me to move on without her. She may have even closed off a few upward moves for us toward the end.
  5. Stayed with the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, had its major grant not been slashed shortly after being renewed. I would have had another four years in a big university setting, and my first wife could have earned her degree there rather than being uprooted. It might even have led me to graduate school and an academic career after all. But I did have dreams of mountains and wilderness, or else recognition as a poet, and those all led to the next fork.
  6. Remained in the Pacific Northwest. Despite the grueling demands of the office, my professional career was also exciting and on an upward swing. I was making inroads as a poet, too, and with the mountains and forests, I was living a dream. But there were dark clouds as well, any of which could have erupted even had I been able to relocate to the western side of the Cascades. Instead, I was soon in an eastward ricochet.
  7. Not faced marital difficulties. That is, had she been faithful rather than leading to divorce. Add to that my near miss with a big management job at America’s eighth biggest newspaper and its sterling ownership. Well, I probably would have had that big heart attack, too. Instead, I rebounded into a whirlwind romance with a sprite who seemed to be everything I ever desired. Leading to the next set of painful forks.
  8. Moved to Baltimore or managed to remain, including marriage to the dream of my life. First, that engagement went up in smoke and left me, well, a pile of emotional ashes. My hot job on the road covering 14 states turned into a dead end. And I failed to find a shared mission with a devoted lover who would have desired to have children together. From the start, I could have moved to, say, Boston, instead. At least I was able to give myself a sabbatical and hunker down writing for a year amid the debris.
  9. Had a book manuscript click with an agent or, more vitally, a commercial publisher. Or even a few critics. My goal of becoming financially independent kept slipping away, though my later friendship with one celebrated author has shown me how precarious that bestseller life can be. As for having a book take off? A writer can get trapped by success.
  10. Married the Georgian. She swept me off my feet, and how, maybe because she seemed to embody everything I thought I desired, as well as what she said she desired, as her mother reminded her. Yes, it was exciting, but after just a month, she panicked. Frankly, I soon saw it would have been a disaster. In addition, she never would have fit in as an editor’s wife, much less in any of the roles that might have opened later.

When I look at the forks I chose to follow, I have to admit the one of going back into the ranks of the newsroom rather than management was crucial. The reasons I stayed there could easily fill another Tendril.

With music through the night

THIS MORNING I WAS A CHAMPIONSHIP swimmer. A symphony violinist. Not performing/competing, actually, but enjoying the status associated with each.


I’M BEING TOLD OF THIS ORCHESTRA that performs without written music. For that matter, without rehearsal, either. Essentially, the musicians keep playing until they find the right key, and take off from there.


A LITTLE LATER, I’M OFF, driving somewhere – maybe cross country – and my unseen companion is the same one who had told me about the ensemble. As we’re talking, we become aware of some unearthly music coming from the car radio. Here we are, perhaps in Kansas when this happens. It starts out as an array of strumming and plucking – guitars, mandolins, and the like. Maybe Balkan instruments, or Indonesian, it doesn’t matter. There’s something shimmering to it, and unformed, as bowed strings enter every which way. Eventually we realize they’re trying to follow the conductor’s singing – here’s the melody, now develop it (a woman conductor; the effect is like Pauline Moon with the children’s choir at church). Suddenly, there’s an up-swell of cellos in unison as the magic takes hold.

The previous night, the jazz host played a large selection Joe Zawinul and the Weather Report, with their simultaneous solo improvisations, start to finish in each piece, which likely influenced the dream.


IN AN ARTS CIRCLE, TURNS OUT to be a rehearsal, and I’m given a part in an upcoming show. Maybe it’s my age, but I’m having trouble learning my part, especially the big solo, like a tenor, maybe. First performance, I get through it fine, lots of support from the rest of the cast, including some kids. Second performance, ditto. Third performance, though, I blank totally and finally look down to the conductor in the pit, who starts mouthing my lines. I more or less mumble my way through, like I’ve never seen or heard them before except that it suffices. (The maestro goes from being a Harry Becket English type to George Emlen.) I hunker down for the next night, step up and nail it, reveling in my high B-flat.

Could this be more a reflection of my worries as a writer than about anything musical?


AT A CONCERT OF LUSH, LATE Romantic orchestral score and then, maybe listening on the radio. At finale, applause begins slowly, weakly, and I’m perplexed, considering the level of playing and the power of the piece. But then it gains intensity, with bravos and other cheers – and three barking dogs.

Seeing-eye dogs, the radio announcer informs us, don’t bark when seeing another seeing-eye dog or hear barking.

Yes, applause, with barking dogs.