Thursday, December 22, 2005


My mother was raised for the most part by her Irish grandparents. Her grandfather was a mess sergeant in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. After the Boer War, he opened a restaurant in Kingston, Ontario, called Tierney's. Until recently, my mother had a drink every evening. In the course of that drink, her voice would rise an octave, and she would turn imperious. In the normal hours my father would direct my mother, as if she were an employee of his construction company. He rarely drank. "Alcohol,” my father would say, “never made anyone smarter." Alcohol usually made my mother laugh and sometimes made her bossy. In the evening my father would humor my mother and comply with many a drunken Irish wish. Sometimes I wished he'd roll his eyes, and lean over, and whisper, "Sober up, bitch."

Her name is Kathleen but everyone calls her Biddy. As she sipped her wine and as her voice rose in pitch, her words would tumble out faster and faster. A sip was a magical pill. Normally nothing was more important than propriety. But, glass in hand, she didn’t give a shit.

At her first nursing home everyone was limited to one drink a week. Although “little strokes” left her short-term memory problems, she was nevertheless cheerful and lively. Now she’s 90. She’s much frailer. I‘m leaving Friday to drive to Canada to visit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NYC Transit Strike

I am so completely inconvenienced and generally fucked by the transit strike that really all I can do is laugh. Christmas? What Christmas? I arose moments ago, intending to hop into the shower so that I could take the bus to the ferry, and the subway to my office; and then later this morning I was going to take the subway to the Port Authority bus terminal to make final arrangements for my trip to Canada, do some final shopping, etc.

The earth circles the sun but the world revolves around New York City.

Or not. There was a recent transit strike in Philadelphia, which the union won. The Times indicates that transit workers here make up to $100,000 a year. That seems like a lot. General Motors may pay its assembly line workers $70,000, but GM is not making money. The old line airlines are disappearing because of union contracts.

The head of the transit union is not an educated native speaker. I don’t love the sound of his voice on the radio. Or do I miss the injustice in their lives?

20 December

Monday, December 12, 2005

Eugene McCarthy

Eugene McCarthy died over the weekend. He was a frequent contributor to Unmuzzled OX. When Lou Reed won a CCLM prize for a poem in Unmuzzled OX, McCarthy handed Lou the check, and the three of us got our picture in Rolling Stone. Although I was the handsome man standing in the middle, Rolling Stone neglected to mention my name. Before handing Lou the check, the senator whispered, “Who is this fellow? Some sort of singer?” Another time I invited the senator to read poetry and discuss religion and politics at the Public Theater with David Rosenberg, Dan Berrigan and myself. Such was my manic Catholicism at the time that I told him it would essentially be a Catholic ceremony. David would represent “other religions”. The senator said he wouldn’t plan on any other Catholic ceremonies “except maybe vespers.”

Friday, December 09, 2005


It’s times like these I kind of miss God. The last time I briefly believed was twenty-five years ago. But Catholicism is such a monumental thing that even a brief return to belief has great repercussions. I went to mass one Christmas morning and was overwhelmed by the mystery of the Incarnation. I wanted to be a parent. I returned to my loft on Canal Street and with jubilation informed my wife. This wasn’t our bargain. She was a Jewish atheist who believed all atheists were alike but all Catholics were Puerto Rican. Our marriage was doomed.