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It’s my birthday, and I’ll buy if I want to

But I don’t want to — I want YOU to. What I want for my birthday is for each and all of you to rush out and buy yourself a copy of this fabulous book. Then buy one for a friend, as an early, or belated, birthday present. Available wherever fine books are sold.

Why, you ask? Because it has heartbreaking, or funny, or breathtaking stories by such writers as Alice Walker, Walter Mosley, Paul Theroux, and well, ME. Not enough, you say? It has art by folks like Eric Fischl, Art Spiegelman, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. More, you want? We, the writers and artists, do not get the profits; nor does Simon and Schuster, who published it. Who does? The ACLU!

So — get yourself, and a friend, or many friends, a great book (and yes, it comes in e form), make a contribution to the ACLU, and celebrate the fact that I’m a year older.

Well, someone has to celebrate it. Not me. But get this book!

Bella the Cat

Here is Bella the Cat taking a drink. Note the balletic posture, left shoulder up, right paw crossed over and down for balance as she prepares to stick her snout into the H2O. Shocked, you ask yourself: what evil cat owner would make it this difficult for a kitty to get at her hydration?

Well, here’s the thing: this is not her water dish. Her water dish is an ignored object on the kitchen floor. It sits beside her food dish and is refilled every morning with the same fresh water as is in this. THIS is for the plants, to help humidify them. The previous cat, The Late Great Fugazy, never gave it a thought.

But from the moment — three days into her residence here — when Bella finally crawled out from under the bed to explore her surroundings, she found the water in this bowl much tastier than the water in her dish.

In reality, this is what I think is going on: Bella was a foundling. She was adopted as a kitten by some folks who wanted a friend for their aging cat. Bella, though, was too aggressive — in fact she was so pushy they named her after Bella Abzug. (Now that’s a real NY story, huh?) Finally the older cat was so terrorized she stopped eating, and they decided Bella had to go. So she came here.  I think she must have survived on the streets until her adoption by a combination of aggression and sneakiness. Even now she doesn’t like to eat while I’m in the kitchen — if I come in while she’s eating she’ll run away. Otherwise she never avoids me (quite the contrary, e.g. she’s on my lap right now) but while she’s eating she wants to be alone. I think this water ballet business also has to do with making sure those other cats whom she used to have to fight for food on the street can’t sneak up on her while she’s stealing water from the out-of-the-way puddle. I also bet that if I put a food dish up there, that would be her dish of choice, too. Too bad that’s not about to happen.

Snowy Owl!

Despite the 17 degree temps when we left in the morning, I went out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Reserve with the intrepid Keith Michael in search of Snowy Owls, which Keith had seen out there last week. And look!

According to another birder we met out there, this one is a juvenile — you can tell because it’s not pure white. She — I don’t know how he knew, but he kept calling it “she” — was just snoozing on the marsh. The above photo’s a zoom-in; she was a  dot from where we were and we wouldn’t have seen her except the guy had a massive camera on a tripod pointed right at her.

She’s the first Snowy Owl I’ve seen (yay!) and following the Urban Birder’s Owl Protocol, which I only learned about yesterday, I’m not supposed to say exactly where she was so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by gawkers while she’s trying to sleep, owls being nocturnal creatures and birders mostly diurnal ones. But she was at Jamaica Bay, so you intrepid birders, dress in your five thermal layers and get on out there!

 

Ursula K. le Guin, RIP

The death of Ursula le Guin earlier this week hit me hard. She was a personal hero, a writing hero, a political hero. I first read her in college — I remember I’d gone to a conference in Toronto, some political thing, and someone gave me ROCANNON’S WORLD. I read it there, and then read everything else I could get my hands on, despite, or because of, the fact that ROCANNON’S WORLD made me cry. So did LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. le Guin had an enormous, compassionate heart, and a genius for following an idea to its logical, but startling, conclusion; sometimes that conclusion was not the end of a story, but the starting point for one. (See “The Word for World is Forest.”) She was also a great writing teacher. STEERING THE CRAFT is a book I still use when I teach, and I recommend it to all my students. (And what a title!)

Ursula le Guin, goodbye, godspeed, and thanks.

Women’s March

Just wanted to share these photos. The first is my posse pausing to pose (see what I did there?) as we approached Central Park West, to MARCH! The second is a brief breather in our marching, where, at the instigation of my sister Debby (in the purple coat, with the “We Remember” sign) we took a knee at the Trump International Hotel (because she knew that would piss him off) and gave the joint the finger while yelling, “Take a knee for Democracy!” A bunch of other marchers joined us and a bunch took videos as they went by. For my next trick, when I go to the Knicks game in 2 weeks, I’m taking the goddamn knee again. And will take it at every sports event until — well, you know exactly until when!

 

Hey, woild!

That’s what my mother used to yell when she was about to tell a secret. This isn’t a secret but I wanted to give her a shout-out because she’d have loved it. Seems I’ve been nominated for an Edgar! The nominee is my short story, “Chin Yong-Yun Stays at Home,” published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine’s Jan.-Feb. 2017 issue. The narrator is Lydia Chin’s mother. For whom my mother always insisted she wasn’t the model. And she wasn’t, either… Thanks to Linda Landrigan and AHMM for taking it, thanks to the committee, and HEY, WOILD!

 

Complete and total fan girl moment

 

Two facts about Kareem Abdul Jabbar that not everyone knows:

A. He’s a Sherlockian. B. He’s very very shy.

Because of A I’ve met him twice, at annual Baker Street Irregulars banquets. Because of B we’ve never exchanged more than a hello.

But last night at the cocktail party before this year’s BSI banquet I was introduced to his manager, who asked what I wrote. When I told her about Lydia Chin she said, “Kareem has a Chinese protagonist in his new Mycroft book — you have to tell him about your series!” She took me to where he was sitting in the corner and started to introduce me, and the first miracle occurred: Kareem said, “Oh, yes, I’ve already met SJ. How are you?” Then instead of fainting I told him I understood his new book was partially set in China. He said yes, Mycroft Holmes in his work for the Foreign Office had to go off to the East… And the next thing I know, I’m standing there at a cocktail party discussing the Boxer Rebellion with Kareem Abdul Jabbar!

FANGIRLARAMA!

 

(I don’t know to whom to credit this photo; if you do, speak up. And no, I didn’t ask him to take a photo with me. Didn’t want to spoil the moment!)

About that stable genius

A guy named Bob, in Brooklyn, posted this first verse on Twitter. It’s sung to “The Very Model of a Modern Major General” from Glibert and Sullivan’s PIRATES OF PENZANCE.

I am the very model of a Very Stable Genius.
I have a mighty button and no problems with my penius.
I have no time for television, golf, or social media
Since my brain is way way better than the best encyclopedia.

We all know I can’t resist a challenge. So I continued:

I’m President, I’m POTUS, I’m a perfect human specimen.
(Excepting for my bones spurs, and those would have decked you lesser men!)
Folks hail me for the pie up in the sky I have opined is there
And praise me when the tax cut gives the millionaires the lion’s share

I said in the campaign the poorly educated man I love
The reason: in the main, he thinks I’m really with him, hand-in-glove
Of course, to Mar-a-Lago is a place only some folks’ll get
It costs you many dollars to be welcome in my social set

Now I’m shootin’ bull with Putin (and he thinks I’m quite intelligent!)
In this White House dump Melania has tried to make so elegant
Melania, she’s beautiful, but Ivanka, she’s just way more so
If I were not her father I would spank ‘er, grab ‘er hot torso

The citizens all love me, I’m more popular than FDR,
Than JFK, than Marilyn, than God or than the motorcar
The Fake News says that isn’t true, but they’re just lying all the time
The evidence I’ve seen all tells me I did not commit a crime!

And because I never give up, allow me to add:

If a man who spouts this crap is someone you think is just full of sh*t
A narcissistic pussy-grabbing racist loony mental twit
Then seize the chance to work for Dems, electing every and each
So we’ll control the House when finally the time comes to impeach!

 

Make them crazy, and it’s not even YOUR money!

As you no doubt know, and if you don’t I’m telling you now, Simon and Schuster is set to publish this book on Jan. 16.  The launch will be at 7:00 at the Strand Bookstore in NYC, so if you’re around, come on down. You can get it there, get it signed by a bunch of us, and get that warm glow from knowing money from each sale will go to the ACLU. If you’re not around, though, you have a golden chance to get an even warmer glow: S&S will donate an additional $3.00 out of their pockets for every book pre-ordered by Jan. 15 — in hardcover or any e-format — to the ACLU, beyond what the ACLU is going to make on the royalties. Yes, it’s a bald bid for bestsellerdom, because it’s the pre-orders that determine that. But come on, folks, you know whose blood will boil to see this book become a best seller.  If the book weren’t wonderful, it would be worth it anyway to see those people frothing at the mouth, no? And the book IS wonderful, so it’s a win-win for our side.

#Resist, and:

Here’s where you pre-order this fabulous book.

 

 

 

One

One day to go in the year. One degree F, with windchill, at the river this morning. One dogwalker. One jogger. One bag lady, though she was bundled in three coats. One other person, like me, just walking. One seagull overhead.

Never have I seen my neighborhood so empty. The weather (it snowed yesterday), a lot of people taking this week off, and the fact that it’s Sunday, have combined for the winter quiet of an actual village, not the usual bustle of Greenwich Village. You could park a Mack truck on my block, even if you aren’t good at parking Mack trucks.

In this kind of sunny quiet I can feel hope for the future riding on the wind. So, despite all the disappointments of the past year, I send you all good wishes for 2018. Be kind, be productive, and #Resist!