Thursday, October 31, 2013

Far From Home - Frank Hewetson

Frank is from London, United Kingdom.

He is a father of two.

Frank has worked for Greenpeace in the UK and Australia since 1989. His commitment to environmental activism is tireless, and he has taken part in many Greenpeace campaigns over the years. He is a respectfully determined and intelligent man.

Frank is a loving husband and father. He plays ping pong as a hobby, and gets intense pleasure from planning outdoor adventures with his family and their dog Pluto.

Frank was motivated to join the trip by his passion for protecting the Arctic from dangerous drilling for fossil fuels.

External websites and media

Menus and mundanity in Murmansk: A letter from Greenpeace activist Frank Hewetson from behind bars in Russia.

The Independent on Sunday, 26 October 2013

He's in a cell 23 hours a day, he's worrying about me and the kids — even in his sleep.

The Evening Standard of London, 9 October 2013

Free Frank Hewetson and the Arctic 30

Last month my friend Frank Hewetson was arrested for hooliganism by Russian authorities. 27 other Greenpeace activists and two photographers were also incarcerated for taking part in a protest against Arctic oil exploration. Initially they were charged with piracy. Hooliganism is the same charge levied against the punk band PUSSY RIOT.

They got seven years.

His wife hasn't heard from Frank in a month.

Greenpeace is trying to free them.

Please help by going to this URL and signing the petition for the Arctic 30.

Thank you.

Sanmhar Samhain

Halloween has nothing to do with Christianity. The Harvest Holiday originated way into BC. The Romans dedicated the feast to Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, and the Celts celebrated the summer's end with huge bonfires to evoke the blessing of the spirit world for the dark half of the year. Walking between the fires cleansed the soul for the winter. The practice probably dated back to the PIcts and further into prehistory.

The following day was the feast of the dead.

For the dead are never dead in our hearts and minds, except for the Living Dead.

In Gaelic the walking dead are called marbhán siúil.

The modern usage is zombai.

Thankfully they are creatures of myth and not reality like banshees and leprechauns.

Nothing is scarier than the Living Dead.

Séanmhar Samhain.

Zombie Alert

The word Zombie is derived from the melange of the words zonbi Haitian Creole and nzumbe from the African dialect North Mbundu. Zombies are the walking dead. They have been featured horror movies since their black-and-white introduction in George Romero's 1968 epic film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Scientists and anthropologists have searched Haiti for zombies since the 1930s without having substantiated the rumors of voodoo priests seizing the astral or soul of their victims.

According to Wikipedia Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state.

The Living Dead are creatures of legend, but several years ago year the Washington area had been pestered by zombie flies who have been infected by an unknown fungus taking control of their brain. Scientists have conjectured that humans might be susceptible to such an affliction and Homeland Security has studied various strategies to handle a zombie outbreak.

As far-fetched as this plague of zombies might seem there are actually five ways of humans contracting zombieitis according to

Brain Parasites such as toxoplasmosa are weak, but in the hands of the Pentagon the fungus could be strengthened to affect humans very fast and there's nothing scarier than fast zombies a la RESIDENT EVIL. Voodoo poisons are another vector danger, but in a trance zombies are slow-moving i.e. not as dangerous as fast zombies. Viruses such as Mad Cow's Disease are a potential threat to humanity, but the living dead would be spastic and easy to avoid, unless they had numbers and in every zombie movie zombies seem to be everywhere. GM stem cell research could produce suspended dead to await a cure for their disease, but zombies are not sleeping beauties to be awaken by a kiss. Lastly nanobots seeping into your brain to take over your 'free will' and some madman hits the kill button.

Zombies Zombies Zombies Red Alert.

Tonight is Halloween.

Zombies are a favorite costume for young and old alike

Beware of the real thing.

One bite and you're a zombie and no zombie is a friend of mine.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

SKIN COLD AS ICE by Peter Nolan Smith

Lou Reed died last week.
A friend called to ask, if I knew the singer.
I said, “no.”
He then asked if I thought Nico was a good fuck.
“I don’t know,” I replied and hung up thinking one thing.

The Velvet Underground’s singer was probably great in bed.

Once in Paris I had a Nico lookalike girlfriend.
Maribelle was a blonde aristocrat junkie model.
I was working at the Bains Douche as a doorman.
One winter night Maribelle came back to my flat on the Ile St. Louis.
Heroin sang us to sleep.
Neither of us took off our clothes.
There was no sex.

The next morning I woke to the bells of Notre Dame.
The windows were open and I shivered with the cold.
Maribelle’s skin was ice to my touch.

I thought she was dead, then her lungs drew a shallow breath.

Maribelle was alive.

I closed the window and fucked her with the dawn.
It was like making love to a beautiful corpse
And she gave a death rattle as a moan.

"Good?" I asked from on top.

She simply pleaded, "Encore."

I gave what she wanted,
Because Mirabelle was very good for such a bad girl
And I bet Nico was the same.

A godess best undressed in the cold.

Sunday, October 27, 2013


In 1975 RCA demanded an LP from Lou Reed and the ex-Velvet Underground frontman gave Clive Davis METAL MACHINE MUSIC.

"I don't see a single in this." Clive Davis

I doubt he listened to it all, but supposedly only the sound engineer accomplished that stygian feat.

Rolling Stone's review said METAL MACHINE MUSIC sounded like "the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator" and as displeasing to experience as "a night in a bus terminal".

Lester Bangs wrote that "as classical music it adds nothing to a genre that may well be depleted. As rock 'n' roll it's interesting garage electronic rock 'n' roll. As a statement it's great, as a giant FUCK YOU it shows integrity—a sick, twisted, dunced-out, malevolent, perverted, psychopathic integrity, but integrity nevertheless." Bangs later wrote a tongue-in-cheek article on Metal Machine Music titled "The Greatest Album Ever Made", in which he judged it "the greatest record ever made in the history of the human eardrum."

METAL MACHINE MUSIC has been listed as LP # 5 in worst records ever recorded by a great musician.

It still sold 100,000 LPs.

I lasted ten minutes.

I doubt many can last longer.

To Hear METAL MACHINE MUSIC please go to this URL

Manhattan's Vanishing Gas Stations

The other day my boss and longtime friend Tem were driving along Houston Street to a job site on East 10th Street. The Californian had moved here in the early 80s and I had come to the East Village in the 70s. We spoke about the changes to the neighborhood, pointing out what was still where it was and what wasn't. Most of it was gone and turning onto Lafayette the architectural metal worker said, "There used to be a car wash here."

"With a gas station."

All the gas stations are vanishing from New York."

"The ones on the Bowery have been gone for years." I used to walk under the shelter of the 4th Street gas station in the rain.

"Like the one where I bought my old Soviet bike." It had been a bright orange.

"Or the one on the FDR."

"That's still there, but most will become skinny luxury condos."

"Like the rest of Manhattan." The borough had been undergoing a radical economic cleansing during Mayor Bloomberg's three terms.

"Soon motorists will have to get gas in Brooklyn."

"Unless there are no cars in the city." My dream for a carless society was not so farfetched without gas in a city.

"There'll always be cars." Tem came from California and the Golden State was the birthplace of America's love with the car.

"There are no cars in STAR TREK."

"And there's no STAR TREK on TV now."

"No, there isn't." For the first time in decades the Enterprise wasn't exploring the cosmos.

Tem dropped me on 10th Street to bondo the cracked metal door frames and I thought about a gas station on 10th Avenue which sold for a fortune. The developer planned a 12-story, 15-unit condo. Each one had to cost $5 million for him to break even.

Maybe more.

“Developers like these sites for the same reason gas stations wanted to be there originally,” Mr. Shvo said. “Lots of people and lots of traffic.”

Like laundromats, gas stations can be tough to sell because of concerns that the soil beneath them may be polluted, brokers say. A glance around any suburb can reveal stations that have sat empty for years, in part because the sites may be brownfields, requiring the cleanup of chemical pollutants — or at least the fear of that possibility makes it hard to get loans for redevelopment.

Often, deed restrictions have been placed on properties by sellers or long-ago owners, which can ban residential development to avoid health problems and potential lawsuits.

Those restrictions can be lifted before a deal closes, however, if the buyers reassure the sellers by excavating several feet of soil, for example, or installing protective shields.

Restriction like that is now in place at 718 11th Avenue, where a Mobil station on a corner lot at West 51st Street is for sale at $9.5 million. If affordable housing were included, a developer could put up a 29,000-square-foot apartment building on the site, which has a lease in place till 2015, said Matthew Nickerson, a broker with Massey Knakal Realty Services.

While cleanup and insurance can be expensive for these sites, the development potential of land in a bustling Manhattan neighborhood far outweighs those problems, said Mr. Nickerson, who was also involved in Mr. Shvo’s deal.

Still, “between construction and insurance,” he said, “this is not like building on a typical site.”

Next year, a BP station at 300 Lafayette Street, at East Houston Street in SoHo, is expected to close, to make way for a planned seven-story, 75,000-square-foot office tower from the LargaVista Companies, according to someone with knowledge of the project who requested anonymity to avoid damaging the project’s chances of getting city approvals.

LargaVista has owned the site since 1976, though gas has been pumped there since the 1930s, and plans to take advantage of the site’s prominent location by putting stores on the building’s three lowest floors, the person said.

It is not the first time the firm has hung up its nozzles. In the mid-2000s, it turned a nearby Gaseteria into a 23-unit condo called One Avenue B, although it had to shoehorn the project into a triangular lot.

In addition, at the nearby intersection of East Houston and Avenue C, where a Mobil occupies a trapezoidal parcel, a rental building will rise on the site when the station’s lease expires in two years, according to HPNY, a development firm that is a partner in the project.

The 12-story rental building will encompass 43,000 square feet of apartments, as well as 6,000 square feet of ground-floor stores, which will wrap three sides, HPNY said.

With so many gas stations going the way of Model T’s, crimping supply, holdouts may end up thriving, a possibility not lost on Vasilios Hondros, a manager of a Mobil that opened in May on Eighth Avenue and Horatio Street in Greenwich Village.

Replacing what was most recently a Lukoil, the station has, according to Mr. Hondros, tripled the size of its store, which sells candy, e-cigarettes and lottery tickets. Taxicabs provide three-fourths of the business, he said.

At $12,000, the monthly rent is not cheap, Mr. Hondros said, though he has no plans to leave before the end of his 15-year lease.

“They’re just trying to put condos everywhere, to make it so just rich people can live in New York,” he said. “I feel bad for the people who have to drive.”

Lou Reed 71 RIP

I never saw the Velvet Underground or heard Lou Reed live.

Those gaps were added to missing Woodstock or opting to see Sha-Na-Na instead of David Bowie in 1971, but one spring night in 1970 I was lying on the sofa with my high school sweetheart. Kyla's mother was out with her Portugese boyfriend and her ten-year brother was upstairs asleep. She and I were graduating at the end of the semester. We had been going steady for two years and the seventeen year-old cheerleader resisted few of my above-the-waist advances that evening.

Our future was written in the stars.

It was past 10pm and the radio was turned to the FM.


Charles Laquidara cued up a new Velvet Underground LP and announced the track ROCK AND ROLL.

I stopped fondling Kyla's breasts and listened to every word, as if they had been written for me and thousands of other mes around the world. The singer told a story I wanted to live and that desire meant change.

At the end of the song Kyla asked, "What's wrong?"


And I kissed her knowing that we weren't going to the senior prom or getting married and that I wasn't getting a job at the telephone company.

All, because of ROCK AND ROLL.

And it was all right.

Today Lou Reed, the writer/singer, of the Velvet Underground left the Here-Now.

For all of us marginals he was a giant and will be missed, but his music will live in the Here-To-Come as long as live and breathe and everyone else knows it's alright.

Long Live Lou Reed


Jenny said when she was just five years old There was nothin' happenin' at all Every time she puts on a radio There was nothin' goin' down at all, Not at all Then one fine mornin' she puts on a New York station You know, she don't believe what she heard at all She started shakin' to that fine fine music You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll Despite all the amputations you know you could just go out And dance to the rock 'n' roll station

It was alright It was allright Hey baby You know it was allright It was allright

Jenny said when she was just bout five years old You know my parents are gonna be the death of us all Two TV sets and two Cadillac cars - Well you know it ain't gonna help me at all Not just a little tiny bit Then one fine mornin' she turns on a New York station She doesn't believe what she hears at all Ooh, She started dancin' to that fine fine music You know her life is saved by rock 'n' roll, Yeah, rock n' roll Despite all the computations You could just dance to that rock 'n' roll station

And baby it was allright And it was alright Hey it was allright It was allright Hey here she comes now! Jump! Jump!

Like Jenny said when she was just bout' five years old Hey you know there's nothin' happenin' at all Not at all Every time I put on the radio, You know there's nothin' goin' down at all, Not at all But one fine mornin' she hears a New York station She doesn't believe what she heard at all Hey, not at all She started dancin' to that fine fine music You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll Yeah rock 'n' roll Ooh, Despite all the computations You know you could just dance to the rock 'n' roll station

Allright, allright And it was allright Oh, you listen to me now And it was allright C'mon now Little better Little bit It was allright It was allright And it was allright, allright It's allright, allright Baby it's allright, now Allright, baby it's allright, now Baby it's allright, allright now Baby it's allright Baby it's allright now Oh baby,oh baby Oh baby, Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah It's allright, now Ooh, it's allright now All, allright.

To hear ROCK AND ROLL please go to this URL

Not Recommended Price

In the late-1970s I haunted the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The suggested admission was $5. I gave the cashier a quarter, since a fiver bought a nice meal at the Dorothy Draper's elegantly designed Fountain Restaurant.

Over the years I might have been to the museum a hundred times.

I know the Asmat sculptures, the Thomas Coles, and El Greco's VIEW OF TOLEDO.

Back in those days no one went to the museum.

I had it to myself on many occasions, but over the years the public sought Art and thronged to the 5th Avenue institution in the millions.

The suggested admission has risen over the decades to the present $25, but I fight that inflation by staying true to my 25 cent contribution. Few people know that you give what you want to give and the confusing placard at the museum's several ticket booths are not designed to enlighten the public that they don't have to pay a single cent.

Two lawsuits are challenging that deception and Mayor Bloomberg has signed a lease to the Museum that permits whatever entrance charge the board members deem appropriate. The lame-duck mayor signed similar contracts with the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of the City of New York.

According to the Daily News Lawyer Michael Hiller, who has filed one of two lawsuits against the Met claiming it duped museumgoers, blasted the new lease. “The museum‘s effort to arrange a lease amendment, in the dead of night, without notice to the public and without regard to the democratic process, is nothing but a desperate stunt by the museum to defeat claims its lawyers must know are valid. It won’t sell politically. It won’t pass muster legally, and if anything, merely reinforces the fact the museum has been violating the lease for the last 43 years and that it must stop.”

The mayor’s office declined comment.

More proof that Mayor Bloomberg serves the rich.

After all they let him become a billionaire.

And we the people can only react as sheep or enter the Met with a shiny quarter in our hands and say, "Admission for two."

The revolution starts small.

25 cents small.

General Fowler's Statue

Last weekend an exhibition portraying the possible renovation of General Fowler's Triangle was presented to the residents of Fort Greene. The proposed alterations included new trees, larger public space, and changing the location of the General's statue.

"I don't know about that. I like the General just the way he is," I told one of the reps for the plaza's restoration. "I sit in Frank's and stare out at the General and he stares back at me. He certainly is a comfort."

"Moving him would create more room on the other end of the plaza." The well-dressed man showed me the plans. He was right. There would be more room.

"Would you change the direction of his gaze?"

"Some people suggested down Fulton Street." The middle-aged man must have sat at board meetings.

"Into the sun?" I shook my head. "Secondly all Civil War statues face the South to remind the living of those who fought to free the slaves."

"I didn't know that."

"In New England every town has a statue facing south." At least I thought they were facing south. "And every southern town has a Confederate facing north. Those things aren't supposed to change."

I recalled in Lewiston, Maine a florist raised money to redirect the Civil War monument from looking East to the City Hall to a southern gaze.

"I'll mention that to the committee."

I wandered away thinking that the committee had already decided what they were going to do without ever telling the public of their plans until now.

Later that afternoon I researched General Fowler. He had served as a colonel with Brooklyn's 14th Regiment or the “Red-Legged Devils. His regiment fought at the First and Second Battles of Bull Run. At the later engagement the regiment suffered 90% casualties. After recovering Fowler was appointed commander of a military hospital, earning the gratitude of wounded soldiers from throughout the Union. Fowler returned to active service in the summer to 1863 to capture the Mississippi Brigade at Gettysburg. Subsequently his regiment fought with distinction during the Wilderness Campaign and the battle of Spotsylvania. He mustered out of the Army in late-1864 to reside in Brooklyn at 178 Fort Greene Place.

I also learned that the General had originally been erected in Fort Greene Park, however several attempts by scrap metal thieves to steal the statue from its lonely posting forced his relocation to the present setting in 1976.

That evening I was sitting at Frank's Lounge with LA Larry and told him about the plans for the plaza and he laughed before taking a sip of cognac.

"Two years ago some of the new people to the neighborhood protested that the statue should be moved, because it was looking at Frank's Lounge like he wanted a drink."

"You're joking?" Some people have nothing better to do.

"Not at all. I can't blame the General for staring at Frank's. It's been here as long as he has and standing in all kinds of weather can work up a man's thirst."

"Better than pigeon pee." Rosa quipped pouring me another Stella beer.

"But what's starnge is that until that protest I hadn't even noticed the statue." LA Larry turned his head and raised a glass to the General. "Ten years of sitting on this stool and not even notice him. It's not like it's a small thing."

"You watch other things out that window." Rosa worked Sundays and Monday. Everyone liked drinking with the Chinese bartender. Her beauty was a sight for sore eyes and her sense of humor was as sharp as a meat cleaver.

"Not so loud. My wife had good ears."

"All women do." We clinked glasses and back home I checked about the protest thinking LA Larry might have been funning me, because I'm one of the new people too ie white ofay.

Sure enough a Martin Horowitz was urging the city to rotate a statue of Gen. Edward Fowler about 90 degrees so that he’ll properly greet oncoming traffic from his perch at the intersection of Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street instead of Frank’s Cocktail Lounge.

I like seeing the General looking my way.

He was a good man.

And every time I see him I raise my glass to Old Ned.

It's a good thing.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

An American Romance

America was the first nation to fall in love with the car. Henry Ford's assembly lines produced affordable vehicles for the masses. Gas was cheap and roads were open. The number of automobiles rocketed from hundreds to thousands to millions. The present number of cars in the USA is over 300 million, however more and more young Americans are abandoning this form of transportation. The percentage of 18-years-olds with a driver’s license plunged from 80 percent in 1983 to 61 percent by 2010 according to an analysis by Advisor Perspectives.

See the NY Times' “The End of Car Culture.”

None of my young friends have a car.

Many don't know how to drive.

Of course I live in New York, but for suburban teens a car is beyond their means.

'Dollars for Clunkers' effectively exterminated the possibility of buying a car for under $1000. In the late 60s Ernie LeClaire on Dorchester Boulevard sold weekend specials for $10. They were guaranteed to get out of the lot. My friend Moon Mullins bought a Ford Fairlane. The engine lasted until Sunday morning. He pulled off the plates and walked home.

Those were the times.

Free and easy.

Smoother Streets

Hundreds of ghost bikes are spread across New York City to commemorate the bikers and pedestrians killed by motorists. Biking is difficult on the city's rough road. Potholes and repairs force bikers into the path of cars and trucks. Bikers were win this contest, however I noticed over the last six months that the Brooklyn streets have been smoother. I mentioned this improvement to LA Larry at Frank's the other night and he said, "That's because Mayor Bloomberg doesn't want the CitiBikes to get fucked up on the streets. He has a piece of them you know."

Everyone in the bar nodded their assent.

"Mayor Bloomberg is no pal of mine." I hated him for the racist policy of 'stop and frisk' and the record number of marijuana arrests aimed at blacks and Hispanics. "BUt I don't see him owning the bikes."

"He don't own them, but he gets his piece." LA Larry worked for the city. He had insider poop.

"He's a billionaire."

"Don't mean he leave small change at the bar. Rich people are rich, because they take all their money."

"Amen to that." The bar was vocal in their agreement.

"Well, I'm happy that the streets are smooth." I rode back and forth to work in Greenpoint every day.

"Well, lucky you." LA Larry didn't drive a car and he did ride a bike. His mode of transportation was the subway.

"I guess I am." We clinked glasses and changed the subject to baseball.

It was World Series time and the Red Sox are in it.

Time to see how lucky I am.

Safer Biking In NYC

Two nights ago I was bicycling up to the Williamsburg Bridge. A small crowd of bikers were gathered opposite the old Williamsburg Bank. I slowed down and spotted several city officials handing out night lights for bikes.


I got into line and a young man came up to me.

"We're from the DOT of New York and we're giving out these lights to prevent accidents." His eyes checked out my bike. "Good, you have a bell. We want pedestrians to hear you as well as see you in the darkening hours of winter."

It was barely 5:30 and the sun was setting behind the towers of Manhattan.

"Have we hit Daylight Savings Time yet?"

"No, so it will be even darker earlier." He attached a white light for the front and a red light for the rear.

"Thank you." I was pleased by this gift from the city, until he added, "We want people to ride bikes safer. To have lights and bells. To not drive the wrong way down a street or through a red light, which is a $200 fine."

"How much for not having a helmet?"

"Nothing yet." He smiled with sincerity, but I saw behind the guise of graciousness.

This was another attempt by Mayor Bloomberg to create revenue by going after scoff-laws and I said, "I probably put up a good $2000 worth of traffic violations in a day. I try not to endanger any good, but myself, however breaking the law makes me feel rich. Thanks for the lights."

"Ride safe then." The young man went to the next biker.

I rode off into the sunset, wondering how much the light batteries cost to replace, then realized that they would be stolen long before they hit E.

New York is that kind of town.

My kind of town.

No matter what Mayor Bloomberg wants.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A WALK IN THE FOG by Peter Nolan Smith

On a murky November evening I attended the opening of the "Dream' exhibition at Luxembourg's Mudam Museum. Madame l'Ambassador bailed early for a formal dinner. I was not invited for supper.

"It's a diplomatic thingee." Madame l'Ambassador explained, as we walked through a thickening fog to the waiting Jaguar.

"I understand." A writer-in-residence has to accept his place in the scheme of things.

Francois the driver opened the right-hand rear door for Madame l'Ambassador. It was the safest seat in the car. He asked if I needed a lift back to the city. The museum was located on the opposite side of the gorge running through the city. I had traversed it several times on foot and refused his offer.

"You go with Madame. I'll be fine." After all I am simply the guest writer.

I lingered at the soiree for another half hour. The crowd was young and artistic. The curator waved to me. The amiable Italian was chatting to an aristocratic couple in their 70s. Patrons of the museum were much more important than a well-unknown writer and I ordered a Duvel.

The bartender poured it into a special glass with reverence. Mittel Europe worshipped its beers.

I leaned at the bar and studied the passing faces. The queue at the bar seemed contently unconcerned by the chaos of the Euro. Their luxurious clothing cloned the bare threads of down-and-out artists, then again Luxembourg has the highest individual income in Europe and even the poor are rich in comparison to America.

The first beer had gone down quick and I ordered a second. No one commented on the speed of my drinking. The grand duchy marked the highest beer consumption per capita in 1993 with an unbeatable score of seventeen beers for each man, woman, and child in the tiny country.

A light-weight in my late-50s I called it a night after my third beer.

I had a good walk ahead to the upper city across the canyon of the Petrusse.

The I.M. Pei structure was shrouded by a spectral fog and I remembered my High School German teacher's translating fog for our German class.

"Nebel." Bruder Karl at Xaverian High School had spoken the word with the muted thunder of someone whose wrist bore the tattoo of the camps.

Nebel coupled with Nacht became night and mirrors, a mystical combination for the intrigues of the Gestapo.

I heard no jackboots and descended into the reconstructed fortifications with the night's cold touch on my skin. The Mudam disappeared into the gray murk. I followed the switchbacking trail like a man going blind. A train sounded its whistle on the tracks below. It was the 7:43 from Troisvierges.

During its reign as Gibraltar of theNorth Luxembourg had housed thousands of soldiers and his path from Fort Thungen would have been travelled by hussars, dragoons, and mercenaries back in the 17th Century. Tonight my footsteps ricocheted unanswered against the stone ramparts.

The slurry of leaves crossed my path and I thought about a movie that an actor friend had made here several years ago. Bill had played a blood-lusting Nosteradu. The city's medievalism had lent the exterior scenes an unexpected aura of horror and this evening I glanced around me with a rising apprehension.

I was all alone.

The city was old.

While I no longer believed in God, I had seen enough vampire movies to know that I offered a fairly easy target for a bloodsucker. Were-wolves were not a worry, because the earth was in the middle of the synodic month.

A twig cracked in the surrounding woods. Something was out there in the forbidding shadows. I wished for a sword in my bare hand.

A single pinpoint of light broke through the swirling overcast.


I salvaged a little confidence with the sighting of a familiar object in the night sky, then a lisping wind scrapped the bare branches to chant an incantation from a time before the invention of electricity.

Meeting a woman under a light was too much to ask from this evening.

This was Luxembourg and not Paris' Rue St. Denis.

My pace accelerated through the tunnel underneath the outer bastion. A shiver scrapped a dull razor against the skin of my spine. My cellphone dimly illuminated the black passage of stone. Running would have been a sign of fright to creatures of the night preying on the weak.

I crossed the tracks before the 7:45 train to Wiltz raced beneath the steep embankment. The smooth cobblestones gave way to gravel and the trail bore the ruts of wagons.

A rusting grate blocked the tunnel under the railroad tracks. Something inhuman was in the trees. I hopped over the metal fence and bushwhacked through the underbrush to the tracks. I looked both ways and clambered across the double set of steel rails to the other side.

I reached the street ten seconds later.

A streetlight glowed overhead.

The fortifications along the Petruche were in sight.

My cell phone rang.

It was Francois the driver.

He asked if I was all right.

I had reached the safety of the old city.

"Okay." The word meant the same in English as in French.

"Sure?" Madame l'Ambassador was concerned that something bad might have happened to me. She was a longtime friend. We shared mutual acquaintances. Neither of us wanted anything bad to happen to me on her watch.

“Fine, I'll be back at the residence within fifteen minutes. Thank the ambassador for asking."

It was a nice feeling to know someone cared and also that a good scare made a man feel alive, which is 100% better than being killed by a vampire any night of the week.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Big Boys Don't Cry

The GOP revisionists collapsed in the face of the federal budget default.

Ted Cruz vowed to fight Obamacare to the last breath of his body much as Charlton Heston had sworn to uphold the right to carry a firearm into the grave.

John Boehner survived the crisis to continue as the party whip, even though the extreme right are fomenting a rebellion against his leadership.

They want to undo change.

John doesn't know what he wants to do other than cry cry cry.

I don't blame him.

Government as usual in the USA, bringing new meaning to the 4 Seasons' classic hit BIG GIRLS DON'T CRY.

Please to go to this URL to hear that song;

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Punch Bowl - Boston


Steps away from Park Square, in Bay Village, gay patrons poured into Mario's, a restaurant with an upstairs bar; Jacques, a drag venue that still exists; Cavana's, a boisterous women's bar; and, in a former speakeasy space, the more formal Napoleon Club. Not far away, straddling the block between Providence and Boylston Streets, was a 24-hour Hayes Bickford Cafeteria known to its regulars as "the Gay Hayes."

A short distance from Mario's was the Punch Bowl, Boston's foremost gay bar from World War II to Stonewall. Joseph McGrath, Prescott Townsend's secretary during the '60s, remembers pub crawls that would begin near South Station, continue through Playland and Twelve Carver, and "always wind up at the Punch Bowl." The two-level operation had a dance floor in the basement. Like other pre-Stonewall nightspots, it was subject to police harassment, but whenever Boston's finest came through the front door, upstairs staff would flash a signal light warning dancers below to switch to partners of the opposite sex. The Punch Bowl's employees included a waitress known as "Tex," who became a den mother to Boston's gay male community, and Sidney Sushman, who later earned infamy as drag diva Sylvia Sidney. The bar figures prominently in reminiscences collected by Boston's GLBT History Project.


FOR THE LOVE OF HOCKEY by Peter Nolan Smith

FOR THE LOVE OF HOCKEY are six stories about my love for the fastest game on ice.

During the 1980s my aunt from Maine bought season tickets to the Rangers. To her hockey was hockey as long as the Black Bears of U Maine weren't playing for the Frozen Four, however As longtime Boston Bruins fan I have suffered through decades of living in New York under the tyranny of Ranger fans and FOR THE LOVE OF HOCKEY follows my devotion from childhood to the present day.

Needless to say I love pond hockey and hate global warming.

Every October I wait for the sound of Bauer or CCM steel on ice.

It makes me feel forever young.

To purchase the Kindle version of FOR THE LOVE OF HOCKEY by Peter Nolan Smith for 99 cents US, please go to the following URL;


Peter Nolan Smith

CBGBs Festival 2013

Last week the CBGBs festival reincarnated the spirit of the Bowery birthplace of Punk.

CBGBs the movie debuted in New York.

I missed all of it.

Broke and exhausted from my working day.

I fondly remember my years at CBGBs.

And all my friends

Like Excessive aka X aka Jahn Xavier, the guitarist for the Ghost and Richard Hell.

He was a star and still is.

ps we used the toilets for more than their original purpose.

Warmuth's Boston

During the early 60s my mother would drive her six children into Boston to pick up my father at 51 Milk Street, where he worked for New England Telephone.

My father would get behind the wheel and drive over to Warmuth's for a meal at a restaurant.

Eating out spared my mother the task of feeding her ravenous horde.

Warmuths had a children's special menu, which doubled as a pirate mask. My older brother and I ordered a hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and peas. We had fun trying to eat the peas with our knives.

"Stop playing with your food."

My father expected good manners from his children.

My mother too.

Warmuth's had a nautical theme with a large lobster pound at the entrance. A wooden mast was centered in the main dining room. They served sugared prune rolls with the breads. I loved them. After the father passed away, his son ran Warmuth's into the ground.

Little of it exists on the internet.

Only these photos and a pack of matches for $5.

Maybe one day I'll spring for them.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Early Phone Sex

In the summer of 1968 I worked in a Boston phone exchange. There were hundreds of cable banks corresponding the working numbers. My friend and I would eavesdrop on thousands of conversations. Few people said anything of importance, but one couple practically invented phone sex and spoke at the same hour every day.

One afternoon my friend wrote down the address and we drove over to Dorchester to spy onto the woman. She was an attractive brunette. She hailed a taxi.

We followed her to a motel off the Southeast Expressway. She went into second-floor room.

We drank a beer.

Ten minutes later a Valiant pulled into the parking lot. A tall man in a suit climbed the stairs and knocked on the motel room door. She opened it and they went inside.

My friend turned to me and said, "I like it better on the phone." "Me too." We drove over to the Hi-Hat Lounge. They served anyone with money.

Even sixteen year-old boys.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13, 1492



As soon as it dawned, many of these people came to the beach—all young, as I have said, and all of good stature—very handsome people, with their hair not curly but straight and coarse, like horsehair; and all of them very wide in-the forehead and head, more so than any other race that I have seen so far. And their eyes are very handsome and not small; and none of them are black, but of the color of the Canary Islanders. Nor should anything else be expected since this island is on an east-west line with the island of Hierro in the Canaries. All alike have very straight legs and no belly but are very well formed.

They came to the ship with dugouts [canoes] that are made from the trunk of one tree, like a long boat, and all of one piece, and worked marvelously in the fashion of the land, and so big that in some of them 40 and 45 men came. And others smaller, down to some in which one man came alone. They row with a paddle like that of a baker and go marvelously. And if it capsizes on them then they throw themselves in the water, and they right and empty it with calabashes [hollowed out gourds] that they carry.

They brought balls of spun cotton and parrots and javelins and other little things that it would be tiresome to write down, and they gave everything for anything that was given to them. I was attentive and labored to find out if there was any gold; and I saw that some of them wore a little piece hung in a hole that they have in their noses. And by signs I was able to understand that, going to the south or rounding the island to the south, there was there a king who had large vessels of it and had very much gold. I strove to get them to go there and later saw that they had no intention of going. I decided to wait until the afternoon of the morrow and then depart for the southwest, for, as many of them showed me, they said there was land to the south and to the southwest and to the northwest and that these people from the northwest came to fight them many times.

And so I will go to the southwest to seek gold and precious stones. This island is quite big and very flat and with very green trees and much water and a very large lake in the middle and without any mountains; and all of it so green that it is a pleasure to look at. And these people are very gentle, and because of their desire to have some of our things, and believing that nothing will be given to them without their giving something, and not having anything, they take what they can and then throw themselves into the water to swim.

But everything they have they give for anything given to them, for they traded even pieces for pieces of bowls and broken glass cups, and I even saw 16 balls of cotton given for three Portuguese ceotis [copper coins], which is a Castilian blanca [a copper coin worth half of a maravedi]. And in them there was probably more than an arroba [around 24 pounds] of spun cotton.

This I had forbidden and I did not let anyone take any of it, except that I had ordered it all taken for Your Highnesses if it were in quantity. It grows here on this island, but because of the short rime I could not declare this for sure. And also the gold that they wear hung in their noses originates here; but in order not to lose time I want to go see if I can find the island of Cipango.

Now, since night had come, all the Indians went ashore in their dugouts.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

SEA LEGS by Peter Nolan Smith

Spice dominated the trade between Asia and Europe for centuries and the oriental lore of processing roots, seeds, and bark into food enhancers inspired western travelers to seek various paths to detour the Arab middlemen profiting from the lucrative east-west trade route.

Adventurous voyagers stood to reap fortunes from their success.

Failures were many.

In 1493 Christo Colon returned from the New World with tobacco and slaves, but the absence of spices disappointed the Spanish monarchs.

Seven years later Vasco de Gama rounded the Horn of Good Hope and broke the Arab monopoly on the Spice Trade for good.

In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan and a fleet of five ships sailed west from Spain destined for the Spice Islands of the Moluccas. The voyage across the Pacific tested the sailers' endurance, as scurvy, starvation, and murder ravaged their ranks. Their commander was killed in a battle on the Philippines and only 15 expedition members out of the original 237 crew survived the circumnavigation. The two returning dilapidated caravels were wrecks, yet the cargo of spices enriched the survivors, because they stopped at the famed spice isle Tidore as well as Ambon in the Moluccas.

Over the next centuries the Dutch, French, English, Portuguese, and Spanish fought numerous distant wars for control of these islands.

Manhattan was traded to the Netherlands for a small island in the archipelago and considering that the Dutch had acquired that foothold on North America for 60 guilders or the price of several thousand tankards of beer, the trade of possession seemed like an even swap at the time.

In 1991 I sold a 5-carat diamond to a well-heeled couple from the Upper East Side. My commission bought my second round-the-world ticket from PanExpress on 39th Street for a one-way journey of JFK-LAX-HONOLULU-BIAK-AMBON-BALI-JAKARTA-SINGAPORE-BANGKOK-PARIS-LONDON-JFK.

My friends and family were worried about this voyage, since America was on the verge of fighting an Islamic country in the Middle East.

During the Iran-Iraq War Kuwait had been slant-drilling into Rumaila oil field. Iraq's ruler Saddam wanted to be paid for this theft and massed 300,000 troops on the border. The US ambassador had said, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts."

Saddam considered this comment to be a green light for invasion and his army overwhelmed Kuwait within days.

The Saudis felt insecure with such a large force threatening its rule over Mecca and Israel also fell under the shadow of uncertainty.

America's sense of geography had been ruined by the IT'S A SMALL WORLD ride in Disneyworld and thee nations of Asia had been further blurred by the various cuisines. Iraq, Iran, Israel, India, and Indonesia were all I-nations. None of my friends could finger Indonesia on a map. My father was more than familiar with the region.

"Your Aunt Bert sailed through those islands at the age of eight." Her father had been a whaling captain in the 1870s.

"There wasn't a war on the horizon." My mother wanted nothing bad to happened to her second son.

"That war, which isn't a war yet, has nothing to do with Indonesia."

"It's a Muslim country. They're all connected same as the Irish." My mother was a Catholic and even more so a devout Hibernian. We understood fights.

"Iraq is thousands of miles from Indonesia."

"Don't worry, I'll be fine." Kuwait was 8000 kilometers from Jakarta.

"Biak is my first stop." I had free-dived its pristine reef the previous year.

"I was out there in World War II and fought off Biak in the Battle of the Sump. Japs wouldn't surrender, so the marines burned them out of the caves. Nasty business," my Uncle Dave said at my goodbye dinner in Boston at the North End restaurant. "There ain't nothing there."

"That's what I like about it."

"You be careful. Those people don't value life the same way we do."

Uncle Dave coughed hard. He was seeing doctors for a chronic cough. His choice of cigarettes was Pall Mall.

"I'm a lover not a fighter." I had been a peacenik throughout the 60s. 70s, 80s, and 90s.

"I know different." Uncle Dave had bailed me out of a Quincy jail after a fight with a gang from Southie. Boston in the late 60s belonged to the tribes.

"I've changed now. All peace and love." I couldn't remember that the last time I fought someone. "Plus those people are nice."

"All headhunters and cannibals, if I remember correct."

""They don't eat people anymore."

"They'll eat anything they can get their hands on, if they're hungry, but have a good time." Uncle dave cuffed me $20. "Have a good drunk on me."

The next day I returned to New York and packed my bags for my trip. I arrived at JFK three hours before the take-off and the Pan-Am 747 took off on time.

In LA and Hawaii my friends expressed their concern about traveling to the world's most populous Islamic country. I told them, "Tidak apa-apa."

It meant no problems in Bahasa Indonesia. They were impressed with my knowledge of the local language, even if I spoke it with a Boston accent.

The next leg was from Honolulu to Biak.

No other tourists offloaded the Garuda flights from LA. I booked a room in the Dutch hotel across from the airport. I was the only guest.

That night I listened to the news on the BBC World Service. My Sony World Radio had good reception in the evening. US troops and their coalition allies massing on the border of Kuwait were poised to oust the Iraqi invaders. I was betting on the West. We had better tanks.

The next day I sat at the hotel and watched scarred Japanese veterans of the Pacific War wandered through the graveyards of their fallen dead. They stayed one day and flew back to Tokyo. None of them spoke English. I nodded to them with respect. 5000 of their comrades in a cave had refused to surrender. The Marines poured gasoline into the cavern and then ignite the fuel with grenades. Only five of the Emperor's soldiers survived that inferno.

My days spent drinking cold bottles of Bintang beer were cold and smoking kretek cigarettes laced with cloves. The aroma lingered on my fingers. The cough lasted a little longer.

I had my own diving mask and flippers. The coral cliffs began twenty feet beyond the shore. Sea turtles and parrot fed off the current. I stayed in Biak two weeks. I tried calling my Uncle Dave twice. There was no answer at his house in Quincy.

Ambon was my next stop. The spice island was the capitol of the Moluccas. A diplomat attached to the Indonesian consulate in New York had suggested a lay-over with his uncle. I gave the older man a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. No one in Asia drank Johnny Walker Red, unless there was no Black.

"You have wife?" James asked with an unsparing directness.

"No." I was used to this line of questioning.

"You have baby?" Asians regarded bachelorhood as a curse.

My mother agreed with their opinion.

"No." I wished my answer could have been yes.

"Maybe one day."

James was a government official on a Christian Island.

Indonesia was 95% Muslim. Ambon ran against the grain, but everyone was a mixture of Malay and Papuan on the tropical island, except for the Javanese deported from their overpopulated island. They worked as pedicab drivers. A few jeered at me. I was the only white person within a thousand miles.

"Saddam # 1. Bush no good."

I agreed with their second sentiment and I considered myself in exile from the land of the GOP.

James lent me his car and driver for a tour of the island. We visited an old Dutch fort, giant eels eating eggs in a river, and a beach on the north coast of Ambon. The driver pointed to mountains across a broad channel.

"Seram. Have big magic. Men fly in sky. Bad magic."


"Bad magic. No tourist go that Seram."

"Tidak pagi. I not go." Bahasa Indonesian was an easy language. No articles. No tenses. Bagus was good. Bagus-bagus was very good. "Pagi ke Tidore."

"Tidore. No mistah go Tidore. Banyak Muslim. Go to Bali." The driver was dumbfounded by my choice. The young wanted off this island. Jakarta was their dream. Not an island more forgotten by time.

"Saya ke Tidore." Dropping the verb to go was a common linguistic trait in Bahasa.

"Tidak apa-apa." No problem.

We returned to the city to drink the Johnny Walker with James. He mixed it with honey and ice. It was their way.

Afterward James took me to the chicken farm. Young girls served older men beer. This scene was played out everywhere in Asia, Europe and the USA. We drank to Rambo. No one toasted Saddam or Bush. Religion and politics were off-limits in brothels.

I showed the girls pictures of Manhattan. None of them believed the pictures were real.

I returned to my harbor hotel around midnight. The Bugis sailors were preparing for a morning departure. Ropes creaked on the masts. The design of their prahu dated back centuries. Indonesia had thousands of islands. The prahu were the connection.

I was overcome with deja vu and blamed the honey and then the whiskey.

My Irish grandmother had come to America on a ship.

The sea was in our blood.

I entered the quiet lobby. The hotel staff was watching the TV. US and Coalition soldiers were loading bombs onto jets. Saddam had been our ally during the I-nation War between Iraq and Iran. The dictator was hoping for a reprieve. He should have been packing his bags for exile in Switzerland. I tried to call my parents in Boston from the Ambon PO.

The telephone operators were Christian. They gave me the sign for victory.

I gave the operators the thumbs-up.

No one answered the phone on the South Shore. I thought about my parents. They had to be worried about me. I hung up the phone and returned to the hotel.

The next morning I took the morning flight to Ternate. James and the driver waved good-bye at the terminal.

"Kembali." Return.


I was the only 'mistah' on the plane. The flight stopped briefly at Bata, the old prison island, before flying over the Molucca Sea. Small boats dotted the surface cutting wakes of white. The stewardesses served sandwiches and beer too.

I had two and showed photos of my family.

One attractive stewardess asked if I had a wife.

I was embarrassed to say no.

The pilot announced our approach. There were no delays in landing. This was the day's only arrival.

After arriving in Ternate I picked up my bag from the carousel and walked outside the terminal.

Volcanoes dominated the horizon. The air was fragrant with spice. The taxi drivers were surprised to see me. Their faces were Javanese.

More deportees.

Several hostile words were muttered under their breath.


It meant 'dog'.

I pulled out a $10, which bought a smile from a driver.

He rode me to the best hotel on the island.

"Here safe. No problem for mistah."

"Tidak apa-apa."

He was happy to hear a 'orang asing' speak his national language. None spoke the tongue of the Moluccas.

I was the only westerner in the hotel. The manager's name was Mohammad and he said, "You can stay, but please do not leave the room."

"Why not?" I had a good idea why.

"Ternate people like Saddam. He is Muslim. No one like Dutch people." Mohammad had been to Mecca. He had seen the world. His belief was for the good of man, but his neighbors remembered the rule of the Netherlands.

My room was on the 2nd floor. I stood on the balcony. Minarets silhouetted the early evening sky. Moonlight bathed the volcanic cones. Magellan's successor, Juan Sebastián Elcano, had admired the same vista in 1521.

Joseph Conrad had written about these islands in VICTORY.

Jack London haunted his books with blackbirds, pearlers, and beachcombers.

My uncle Dave might have smoked a cigarette on the deck of a battleship off these two islands. The BBC was broadcasting a quiz show. I was hungry.

The manager was surprised to see me in the lobby.

"Mistah no go."

"Makan-makan." Eat was an easy word to remember in Bahasa.

"Okay, but go eat fast. Come back faster."

Mohammad arranged a motorcycle ride to the harbor. The fat driver knew a good harbor side restaurant.

Warungs lined the beachfront. Men walked with men. Women walked with women. The driver stopped at a stall with stools. Pop mixed with traditional Indonesian music blared from tinny speakers. I sat down and the waiter spread dozens of plates were spread across a table. I picked my dinner according to appearance.

A one-armed man in a salt-stained shirt drank a beer and pointed to a plate of black meat.

"Sekali bagus."

"Terima kasi." I accepted his advice. The meat was a little tough, but delicious. I ordered seconds.

A murmuring swelled at my back. People were gathering behind me.

The one-armed man hid his beer.

This island was 100% Muslim.

I ate the second plate with dispatch and ordered the bill. "Rekening."

"Saddam # 1." The chant was loud on the first try and even louder on the second.

I figured the crowd numbered about 40. Their eyes were red. Amok came from the Malay language. One man with one arm stood at my side. Someone called him Baab.

Another twenty men joined the anti-western mantra. The waiter delivered my bill and moved aside with speed. I stood slowly, as if nothing was wrong. Magellan had been killed by such a mob in the Philippines. I turned around to face the odds.

100 to one.

An old man stared at me. His clothes were in tatters. He had been waiting to hate a white man for decades and I was the target for his spittle. It was time to go.

My hand went to my wallet. I picked up the rekening and read the order.

One word stuck out on the bill.


I had seen the word before.

Hati-hati angin.

'Beware of the dog." I held up the bill to the old man. In Latin it was caveat canum.

"Saya makan angin?"

"Angin." His eyes focused on the bill. "Dua angin?"

"No, I did not eat 'angin'." Although I would have ordered 3rd if the crowd had not interrupted my dinner.

"Mistah makan angin," the old man announced to his followers and pointed to heads in the kitchen.

Smiling dogs.

"The crowd laughed with mirth. No mistahs ate dog. "Kamu makan angin."

The mob was on edge with hot blood running in their veins. The temperature was in the high 80s. Only magic could save me and I cast a spell with my next word.


The crowd of men had not expected a compliment for the cuisine of the island. They laughed and the one-armed man pulled my hand.

"We go. Now."

I exited through a gauntlet of hands clapping my back. They followed me back to the hotel singing the chorus, "Saddam # 1."

I said nothing about Rambo and the hotel manager asked the mob to disperse.

They shouted 'angin, angin' into the night.

Mohammad was happy nothing bad happened to me.

It had been a close call.

US fighter jets were hitting Iraq positions. Allied Air superiority was countered by missile attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia. I took my breakfast at the hotel in the morning.

Mohammad advised against a sightseeing tour and I wrote a few more chapters of NORTH NORTH HOLLYWOOD in my room. My female protagonist was sculpted from old memories of my ex-girlfriend. I couldn't remember her phone number, but the hotel managed to secure a connection to the USA.

My mother and father were relieved to hear my voice. Uncle Dave was in the hospital. His lungs were shot. I asked if I should come home.

"No, but Uncle Dave will be happy that you asked for him." My mother and he had been friends for over 40 years.

"Tell him I'm staying out of trouble."

Over the next few days my forays from the hotel were few.

I ventured around the island and once across the straits to Tidore, whose hills were blanketed by clove trees. The people on that island seemed to be ignorant of the war. Only a few houses sported TV antennae.

I swam at a beach at the end of the road. The current was too strong to snorkel.

The Moluccas stretched north into terra incognita.

Across the sea lay Manudo. Rough Guide said that the diving off the nearby atolls was exceptional. A ferry was crossing the strait in two days. I booked passage. It was the end of January.

The war was going badly for Saddam. The Battle of Khafji pushed his troops back into Iraq. F-16s pounded his positions. The men in Ternate no longer chanted his name. No one likes a loser. Only the old man carried the flag for Saddam. I called him the anti-Rambo.

The one-armed man and I ate dog together. He drank beer with ice. Baab was the first mate of the ferry across the Molucca Straits and took me to his ship.

"Pagi ke Manado." Baab reserved a sleeping berth of the ferry. It was in his cabin. The price of this luxury was $3. I bought beer for everyone. A half-dollar for a big bottle of Bintang.

"You not same mistah." Baab didn't like the Dutch, but he hated the Javanese. Jakarta was far away like Amsterdam. Distances still mattered on Ternate. His two wives lived on opposite sides of the island.

"You eat dog. Dog make strong. Same bull."

"I like dog."

"You have wife?"

I was tired of saying no and pulled out a photo of an old girlfriend. Candia had been the love of my life in 1985. Baab held her photo to the light with his one hand.

"Makali Indah."

The French-Puerto Rican had been too beautiful for words. We lasted over a year.

Baab thought that I was human.

We drank until midnight and I walked back to the hotel guided by fireflies. Magic was in the air accompanied by the drift of cloves. Sleep was a maze of dreams centered on me and my children.

I woke thinking of diapers. The manager knocked on the door.

"I have phone to America."

I ran to the desk. It was my mother. She had bad news.

"Uncle Dave is dead."

"Dead." The cigarettes had killed him.

Dave would have loved to hear about this trip. This sea had been part of his youth. I thought about him on a destroyer off Biak. We shared that view. Mine had been in peace. His had been in war.

I expressed my condolences and told my mother that I was fine. I said nothing about tomorrow's ferry. The newspapers in the USA frequently published reports of their sinking.

"130 dead in the Java Sea."

Better she think I was flying to Bali. Planes made more sense to her western mind. Her mother had crossed the Atlantic in a cattle ship. Boats were bad luck to Nana. Her daughter thought the same.

I spent the day writing my novel about pornography in North Hollywood. My ex-girlfriend's character was a virgin. I never fantasized her a whore.

I listened to the BBC. The outcome of the war was written by the West. The Iraqis were in retreat.

I gave gifts to the hotel staff; a baseball cap to the manager, postcards to the waitress staff, and a tee-shirt to the fat motorcycle driver.

He drove me to the harbor. The ferry was warming up its engine.

Kids jumped into the water.

A big ship was unloading cargo. Its destination was Jakarta.

Baab hovered over the motor. He was the engineer. Our cabin was next to the wheelhouse. The room smelled of oil and unwashed sheets. It was better than the sleeping quarters below deck.

His friends shouted from the pier.

"Rambo, Rambo."

Saddam had ceased to be their # 1.

"Tidak suka Rambo." Baab grasped the railing with his one hand, as the ferry pulled away from the port on a calm sea under a clear evening sky. The volcanoes of Ternate and Tidore dominated the ocean. The 3rd-class passengers sought a comfortable position on the deck.

"I like Rocky too." Baab excused himself. He had duties.

I walked forward to the prow. The ferry cut a swift vee through the waves. A strong wind blew from the east. I pulled off my baseball cap and stuck it in my jeans pocket.

Uncle Dave had steamed through these waters. His ship had been a destroyer. Mine was a ferry. Joseph Conrad wrote prose in my head.

The captain studied the clouds in the sky. He shouted orders to the crew. They battened down the cargo. The volcanoes were shrunk behind us and the waves swell in size. Several passengers got sick. The sun dropped in the furrows of the western sea. The sky turned black red. Baab stood by my side.

"Bad sea tonight," he said these words in English and explained, "I work ships everywhere. Europe. America. Asia. All my life. I lose my arm in a storm. Most men stop the sea after accident. But I love the sea. She is my wife. My real wife. You must think much about your wife."

"All the time." My ex- had no idea where I was and we hadn't spoken in two years, but what I told Baab was no lie.

"Good." He looked over his shoulder at the passengers spewing rice over the railing. "Seasick. It like plague. Spread fast. Only two cures for seasick."

"What?" I was feeling queasy. My grandmother must have felt the same. Uncle dave and Aunt Bert too.

"Land and death."

The ferry buried its bow in a keel-shaking wave. Behind us was a horizon of storm. Ahead lay its twin.

"I hope land come first."

"Land come first." Baab patted my shoulder. We were friends. ROCKY was his favorite movie. His first wife's name was Bellah. # 2 was Amina.

"Good." I fought off seasickness.

Baab was pleased that I wasn't like the other passengers.

He was a man of sea. We were people of the world. A war thousands of miles away was unimportant. The sea was all that mattered and more important than the sea was land.

Sulawesi couldn't come soon enough.

Death was for someone else like my Uncle Dave and he was not looking for me to join him for a long time.

Until then I was at peace.

Tidak apa apa.