Good News and Sad News

Happily, my short story, Mercy, is currently appearing in BoomerLit, the online journal: https://boomerlitmag.com/EV-Legters/ While you’re there, take a look at the other prose and poetry contributions: https://boomerlitmag.com/

Sadly, the prized literary journal, Glimmer Train, has released its last issue after 29 glorious years. I will forever be grateful to the editors for giving me a boost when my story, When We’re Lying, won a Family Matters Award and appeared in its pages. Few journals are as attentive and nurturing to authors as Glimmer Train has been. It will be sorely missed. Among its contributors were many of the U.S.’s top writers — Edwidge Danticat, T.C. Boyle, Mary Gaitskill, and many others. I am humbled that my name appears among them: https://www.glimmertrain.com/pages/contributors.php

Not Here

When I lived in New York, in Manhattan, the morning news would often bring word of an overnight homicide. I would pause to hear where the body had been found, where the shots had been fired, and, once assured the location was, as it often was, down on the lower east side, or up in Harlem, or on the platform of a subway line I never took, I’d resume getting ready for work.

I was not alone in this habit. It was a way to cope with living in a city that could be dangerous. We’d reassure ourselves: oh, okay, not here, not in this neighbourhood, not where I live, or where I work. It’s over there, or up there. It’s sad, but I’m safe.

Early on, didn’t we cope with mass shootings in much the same way? With horror, but ‘not here’ relief? Angry, outraged, empathetic, but, well, it happened over there. Not here.

What folly.

One morning, Anderson Cooper appeared on television in front of the restaurant where I’d had dinner not twelve hours before. Some kid had shot his way through windows and bodies at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, a place I knew well.

In the wake of tragedy, people often say they never thought it could happen to them. That morning, I realized it’s not that people think they are blessed, or special, or set apart. It’s that no one expects Anderson Cooper to broadcast from their street. No one expects to be caught up in a media maelstrom. No one expects to drive down their Main Street between a funeral for still another child and a wall of police cars and media vans. No one expects the President of the United States to be sitting in a classroom of their high school working on words for their torn and bleeding community.

But more and more and more of us find ourselves in a similar position. Two more communities in just the last twenty-four hours: El Paso and Dayton. It’s here. It’s us. It’s now. It’s Anderson Cooper or one of his colleagues about to stand in our neighborhood.

After Newtown, the feeling was that the conversation would, finally, change. It did not. Agonized parents discovered that no one paid attention if it was ‘only’ about gun control, or ‘only’ about the lives of tiny children, so they added mental health to the equation. To little effect.

What folly.

I grieve. With each new shooting, I relive that December morning. I am not alone. Survivors and residents of Newtown and Las Vegas and Parkland and Columbine and Orlando and more, and now El Paso and Dayton, and the list will grow, do the same.

This is our national consciousness. This is what we share.

 

 

Big Moose Prize Finalist

I’m delighted to report that my new novel, BLUE, is a finalist in the Black Lawrence Press Big Moose Novel Contest. The Black Lawrence Press releases many fine books year after year, so it is an honor to be recognized by them. I’m eager for the release of Ron Nyren’s winning story, The Book of Lost Light. Check out an excerpt as well as the other finalists here: https://www.blacklawrence.com/13177-2/

Zones

Zones

I drove! I rented a car in Vilamoura down in the Algarve last week and drove for the first time here!

Not having been behind any wheel in well over a year, and having watched Portuguese drivers zip about, I was tentative. But, I thought, if I can drive in New York, I can drive here, and, as my son told me when he was first learning, it’s just not that hard.

But. The unfamiliar car, the unfamiliar villages, the unfamiliar roads, the unfamiliar laws, the unfamiliar kilometers, the steep, narrow curves, the British voice in the GPS, and those roundabouts. Roundabouts abound. Every few feet, it seems, even in the wilds. More than once I’ve circled round and round the roundabout that connects the rest of Massachusetts to the Cape trying to negotiate my exit. It’s downright embarrassing.

Nevertheless, I set out. I gave Liz, what I called the British GPS woman, names of random towns along the coast, along the Spanish border, in the interior, intent on seeing places off the main roads. I eased into roundabouts, eased around corners, eased up and down hills. And then remembered, I’m good at this.

Over the course of two days, I drove over three hundred kilometers. I didn’t slow down for any reason, not to photograph the fields of wildflowers, the sleek, handsome goats with the herders in their caps, the road lined with white-barked trees, the beaches, the mountains, the occasional ruin. I didn’t eat. I didn’t go to the bathroom. I didn’t stop. I drove. I took those corners, those hills, those roundabouts.

Someone mentioned it was good I’d rented a car, gotten out of my comfort zone. Ah. No. Not driving was the uncomfortable zone. I’ve found my way back to this good place, and feel ten years younger.

Feeling young might also have something to do with my riding again, something I thought I’d forever left behind. Here I am with Estrela, Portuguese for star.

I’m already planning my next adventure. In May, I think, and June. And July . . .