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Ode to Bank of America, Southern California Gas and, Most of All, Nationwide


“We can’t acknowledge your sister’s death until we have a death certificate,” said the woman at the branch where my sister had done her banking. Meantime they would continue to honor automatic transfers, she assured me.

A mailing I received from the gas company complained that the bank didn’t pay their bill by automatic transfer and attached a non-payment fee. I wasn’t surprised, since many people work for large corporations and don’t know what they themselves are doing, much less what the corporation might do. Filling this gap in information seems to be modern man’s biggest challenge.

A previous letter I’d received from the gas company, in response to my request that they send statements to my address instead of to my late sister’s, said they were shutting off service in seven days.

To the gas company’s second mailing–the bill that the bank didn’t pay–I attached a check and a note: “I trust you turned off service, per your letter attached. With my sister’s death, and with the condo being all electric otherwise, only the stove will cause a new owner to have gas.”

Nationwide wins in the absurdity and insensitivity contest. Less than 60 days after my sister’s death I received from them a letter that said at top *****SECOND NOTICE****** and at bottom a threat to escheat the account to the state. Mind you, under the governing California law, an estate can’t claim property until 40 days after a death. Why a *****SECOND NOTICE*****? And when does property escheat to the state–they conveniently leave that information out. Surely not within a few months?

(Photo above Frightened Face, I didn’t look that good even when I was twenty.)


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Happy Valentine’s Day 2017


Todd and I celebrate Valentine’s Day with manhattans, chocolate eclairs, and radio bars.

I’d never heard of radio bars till we moved to Annapolis and saw them in the baker’s case at Graul’s market. I assumed they were a Southern tradition, or possibly a Baltimore tradition, but the closest I’ve come to finding radio bars online is in an article about a Detroit tradition called “Bumpy Cake.”

radiobars3 radiobars4


Oh, and did I mention sex?

And, ladies, if you wonder whether your husband or boyfriend’s nipples are sexually sensitve, consider what Cosmo says in “Are Men’s Nipples Sensitive?


Here’s another Valentine’s Day treat, courtesy of M.U. Y.A. XL on Google Plus.



(Photo at top from the tumblr shelovesitxo; left radio bar from, right from; gif from JamesDeangayrollGooglePlus.)

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An interesting review of THE MAN WHO ASKED TO BE KILLED


themanmodel2Normally I wouldn’t reproduce Amazon reviews here, but I found this recent one especially interesting.

Others have talked about the plot of this story and I’m not sure if I could recap all the connections if I tried, but I do know I enjoyed every page because of the world I was in when reading. Even though there are dozens of fatalities the tone of the story communicates that it’s okay, the world is still the world, you’re going to be okay because this is your world too and you know these people, just like you know this old dog you meet is going to be taken care of by someone who cares about him. Not that any of the suffering or cruelty is a joke. Gary McCann makes it clear that it isn’t possible to hate the bad guys without hating a little something in yourself. I laughed many times reading this story with the small gestures and observations that made the world of the book my world. The author knows this world well and you can tell he loves it the way it is. The book had to end and I know it had to be tough but I’d like to resuscitate the last woman killed and let her walk off. But I’m not going to hold that against this book.

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Reading to survive

mikealbo I’m pleased to have Mike Albo as a guest on Late Last Night Books…/mike-albo-gross-time-looki…/ . Mike Albo, MA creative writing, Columbia, authored the novels Hornito, The Underminer (with Heffernan), the novellas The Junket and Spermhood, and the plays Sexotheque, Three Women in Indecision, and The Junket (adapted from his novella). He has written columns and articles in countless sources including The New York Times, The New Yorker, New York Magazine, and The Village Voice. He has also appeared on stage and screen.


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Two Odd Things Said to Me as I Was About to Leave


“Come here,” said my sister, suffering kidney failure, heart failure, and esophageal cancer. She was calling to Todd and me from the bedroom of her Fullerton (L.A.-area) condo, a bright and airy place, cheerful even in the worst of circumstances. “I want to tell you a story about this bracelet. What do you think of it?” Joy sat in an easy chair by her bed and held a jewelry box on her lap. She lifted a very weak arm–she would fade away in less than two months–so we could see a large charm bracelet on her wrist. Todd and I both said it was pretty.

“It isn’t something I’d ordinarily wear, but I think it’s attractive. Caroline gave it to me.” Caroline, her best friend in the condo building, had been found dead in her apartment, one floor below, six weeks earlier. “The story I want to tell you,” Joy said to us as she eyed the bracelet, “is that I wore this to a doctor’s appointment, and another woman in the waiting room looked at it and said, ‘That’s the ugliest bracelet I’ve even seen.’ Can you imagine saying such a thing to a stranger, to someone you hadn’t said another word to? In a doctor’s waiting room? What’s wrong with some people?”

Much closer to her death, Joy said to me, of the hospital staff and of her roommates’ visitors, “People ask me if I have children, and when I say no, they say, ‘What a shame.'” She stared at me, her eyes asking that same “what’s wrong with people” question. “What do you say in answer?” I asked, sharing her mild amazement. “What can I say? I don’t say anything,”

I will miss the continuation of a lifetime of intimate conversations, some small, some not so small.


(photo from the 1962 Helios yearbook of Sunny Hills High School)


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My Merry Little Christmas, Circa 1964

On the living room couch I fell asleep Christmas night listening to my new Barbra Streisand albumthe stereo volume just loud enough for me to hear with the speakers right by my head. My brother and his wife slept in my room, my parents in theirs, my two younger sisters in theirs, and my older sister and our Aunt Lacy in the room they shared whenever Lacy was with us. All felt right with the world, magical, as it can when you’re young.

I remember that the Streisand album, her third, was advertised that Christmas with the words “give him what he wants,” or words to that effect. The “him” in the ad was a young, sweater-clad man. He surely appealed to me. Even though I didn’t yet understand myself, I understood that something wasn’t quite right about that ad. The typical he didn’t want a Barbra Streisand album; he wanted a subscription to Playboy.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on, our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on, our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more
Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
So hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

(Music by Ralph Blane, lyrics by Hugh Martin.)

Published in 1943, the song draws from the war the  tentative note that makes it so compelling. At my present age, knowing the end of the story for my parents, our Aunt Lacy, my sister Joy, my brother’s first wife, and knowing that one of my sisters has suffered from schizophrenia since her late twenties, the line through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow rings as sadly prophetic in my ears as it must have for so many in war-ravaged 1943.

At that magical long ago Christmas in the 1960s, I remember my mother saying Barbra Streisand sang Just in Time too slowly. Mother demonstrated by singing it faster for me, by singing it the way it was written to be sung, she said. She even danced a little while she sang it. A memory to treasure, an ornament stored away in a mental box labelled “Christmas.”

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