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Six years they lived next door

with Jack, their magnificent, soft spoken husky,

and Crosby, their loppy eared, amalgamated barker.

Six years they hung shining Christmas balls on the lowest branches of their front ash.

Just last year they saved their three, blooming cherries out back from heavy, wet snows,

about which I was delighted, since those blossoms fill my  windows each Spring.

They fixed the back fence each time Jack chewed through it to visit.

We worked to keep each other’s sidewalks clear of the annual ice dams.

And each and every night, they turned on their bright, annoying porch light.

Every, single night that blessed light lit up my living room and kitchen like day.

For six years.

I covered my windows with dark curtains and thick blinds at first.

For at least three years, I cursed them softly under my breath,

plotted to unscrew the bulb.

I huffed around complaining to myself, growling at my cat.

I learned to shut my bedroom door, eventually,  which blocked the light quite well,

and then I found it actually helpful

when I  found myself wandering ’round the house at midnight.

No need to turn on my own lights.  The rooms were well lit.

So it became less annoying, more a beacon of friendship and safety in the neighborhood.

I came to like it, to depend on it.

It became the norm,

Until three nights ago

when I could not sleep,

and stumbled to the kitchen

in pitch blackness.


and a wee bit frightened.

The light was out.

My rooms were very dark.

All was weirdly quiet.

Was something awry in the neighborhood?

Then, on Tuesday, the sign went up!

They sold their house!

They moved away!

Without a word!

Without a wave, a smile, or snarled farewell.

Jack and Crosby, my furry buddies,

have a new yard to romp and bark in.

Their mom and dad have new rooms to fill,

and no doubt a new light lit on their front porch,

to shine in some new neighbor’s windows;

And I am left to curse the darkness I learned to live without

these last six years.





So, rather than listen to the shrieking voices of callers and hosts on the radio talk shows I listen to while reviewing loan files (the sky is not falling, my darlings, unless you let it), today I decided to listen to the first of twelve CDs accompanying my ‘Becoming a Great Essayist” class from The Great Courses. Professor Jennifer Cognard-Black grabbed me in the introduction by suggesting that a recipe could be the basis for a food essay…immediately my mind started wandering between the loan I was approving, and the old recipes I have on hand, and I became bored with the effort of the good professor to present an interesting lecture. I am not saying she does a bad job, but I realized she was reading her lecture, as in dramatic reading, with sighs and pregnant pauses designed to grab your interest and transfer the emotion of Virginia Wolff haunting London, or clarify her own emotion in writing an essay about her unfashionable, but wonderful, brilliant and scholarly mother. I realized that, like my grandchildren, when someone reads to me, I want to grab the page and read it for myself, putting my own intonations where/if necessary. I wondered what listening to the good professor in a classroom would be like. Would she speak more naturally? Does she speak this way normally? Does her whole family measure their words so carefully? How many times did she re-record this, making certain her voice was smooth and pleasant? I must say, she is certainly more interesting to listen to than Barbara Kingsolver droning through one of her books on tape.
It shall be a good course. I’m already wrestling with the professor, HA. And now to find those recipes.


how ridiculous to think the lovely, miserable music scratching out of this fifty year old Janis Ian lp would somehow lift my sinking, self pitying, weeping- into- my -morning-coffee spirits above perceived injustices and aged indignation, humiliation, worthlessness…

or that reading MIDNIGHT WATCH by David Dyer,  sitting in the anguished heads of those on the Californian thinking they should have, could have done something, anything, to save the Titanic because they saw her rockets, failed to find any bodies,  would inspire me to renew some thirty year old belief that my life would be the one to inspire all of mankind to perfection… not the corrupt, other worldy lives of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump…

or that reviewing all decisions made in my life all these many, many years and believing I made the best decisions to be made, given all the variables, would change the gut slashing pain from your sigh of forced tolerance, your slight roll of your eyes, your barely  hidden disgust when we talk…

you, the one person who hangs my moon…

oh, how my mother disgusted me at one point in my life, with all her cold, deliberate moves away from all of us while never letting go…her looks, her style, her men, her incredible survival tactics… how I cried each time she visited, then left again…Dad died, she left again, and again, trying to keep it together… life is so rude

oh, and my self-assurance that I was so smart, so worldly, so advanced beyond her…that I understood what she did not…I, who am now the disgusting, old,the pain- in- the -neck mother who fucked up royally, but who wants some of your time,  who wants an occasional, spontaneous, surprise visit, an invitation to dinner on your patio with you and the kids, who imagines we have such laughs and  remember such good times… and that you and my grands love being with me…(and who knows by writing this that I come off like some cliched Jewish mother, damn it…)

they weren’t all bad, were they, the days of our lives? or has your  perfect, long suffering mother-in-law convinced you that it would have been better if I had learned to sacrifice, to live with your father no matter how many slaps or put downs?  are her answers better because she stayed with her asshole (I can hear you sigh at that)?  I hated leaving you with him, but how can you know (and I, now, imagine) how cowed I was by him?  I believed I had to leave to save us both… I believed that with all the idiocy of a twenty eight year old battered wife.

is one good memory that makes you smile and glad I was/am your Mom?

Maybe not…not today, anyway, as I wait for you to call to say “let’s go to the fair!” ( you told me Wednesday we would go today, but it’s eleven already).

I s’pose they may come later, the good memories, when I have no more memory, as when my mom had no more memory, and it was up to me to remember the good stuff…

and I did…


and while I was writing this oozing mess, you were texting me to meet you all at 2 PM to see the last big events and awards…and I can’t wait to get there and see you!  and life is good and happy again…and I put on American Woman by the Who loud to celebrate, all the while thinking what a stupid thing to do…HAA


My word, her whisper startled me!

as did the closeness of her eyes magnified by my readers!

“I simply have to share this with you, ” words breathed in utter confidence.

I nod, trying to place her.

“I love to crochet…and I love all the crochet magazines, not just this one I’m holding.”

“uh hunh.”

I cannot back up since we are so close to the counter…

“Well, it is the same every month, every month, in every magazine, see?

She holds it open to me, tapered fingers sliding down the spine,

“See?”  dark eyes boring holes in mine.

I do.

I see it!

Someone has torn out an entire section of an article!

Someone has had the nerve to rip apart a library magazine, stealing the patterns, no doubt about it.  Slight panic…I dart a look back into her eyes, trying to remember if I had done it.  Then I remembered I don’t crochet, so…

“I’m going to tell this librarian over here right now.  I’m going to tell her.”

I nodded,

“good idea,”

slowly inched away, gathered my books, then hurried out the door, barely waiting for the automatic door to open… I do not know which librarian she nabbed.

“Ma’am,” she whispered, “I love to crochet…”




Thirty-eight years I have done mortgage work

liking it less each year that I do it,

but it pays my bills, and feeds my face,

so I freely choose to stick to it


Unlike others I know who plan things well

I have no means to retire

though I have reached that age

when my employer may very well require


I stop showing up, grumping around

thinking I know so much,

when in truth, if I face it,

I am pretty much out of touch


We’ll see, we .shall. see

how much longer I tolerate their ire.

It is tough to not tell them to just drop dead,

I have never been a good liar.


what does this stupid game mean?
are they watching me through the camera in my computer?
should I be afraid of being hacked by some weirdo insinuating that I am too old to figure this out?
and why do I care what a computer game tells me?
what does it know?
is it yanking my chain?
not that I have a chain
but seriously, who started this?
is this what I will be facing the next time I renew my license?
and if I hit one of the deer in the simulation
should I stop or drive on?
I hit a deer once                                                                                                           with my Accord
in the dark                                                                                                                        on 285                                                                                                                         coming home from a visit with friends at their ranch in Hotchkiss                                                                                                                            on the Western Slope
idiot thing leapt up just as I reached it
smashed its foot into my right front headlight leaving an oomph of bile and grass in the middle of my hood
landed on its four feet
then took off running into the night trees
while I stopped
and cried                                                                                                                          and vomited
at the thought that I’d maimed or killed it                                                          and then I had to drive on

God, who made up this stupid game?  now I am verklempt about a deer on the road twenty years ago

rJo Herman   12/28/15


Disclaimer:   This is an example of Arachniphobic activity which is admittedly despicable.  It is not meant to encourage others to engage in similar activity.


Gasp loudly
Shoo away excited cat
Quickly run get three-four paper towels
Stand back with the hand holding paper towel extended well in front of you
Watch spider run into the crack in the woodwork
Kick the woodwork
When spider runs out, drop the paper towel and stamp it with your foot
Mash it left and right
Carefully gather up paper towel, squishing it together
Hold the tightly scrunched paper towel arms length in front of you as you take it to the trash
Drop it into the trash bag
Quickly tie off trash bag
Carry it outside to the garbage can outside

Scrub spot on floor with Windex
Spray Raid along woodwork


HOW TO KILL A BLACK WIDOW SPIDER IN A GLASS IN THE SINK using only those things immediately available…

Scream, then mutter, mutter, mutter through the next seven steps
(“damn it, just stay out of my house…why do you have to come into my house…you’re only going to die if you come into my house…if you’d stayed out of my house, I wouldn’t be doing this to you…”)

FIRST, a long spray of  extra crisp spray starch, check for movement…I see twitching…
Pour a liberal dose of Pinesol
Can’t find the RAID?
THEN, a large splash of Clorox
THEN, fill the glass with water…check to see if the spider is floating on top…
pour the contents of the glass down the disposal
turn on the disposal, run for 30 seconds
run HOT water down the drain…
double check that the spider has not jumped onto the counter top
SHUDDER violently
shoo away the Catt who has sat placidly watching…

watch the sink for the next three days for signs of spider activity



12 April

Dear Mary Ellen,

I have started this letter so many times, and something always seems to come up to pull me away, but today I’m going to finish it.

I hope Bill and you and the kids are well. I made a New Year’s Resolution to visit you for a good, long weekend this coming year. Of course, that’s barring layoffs or unplanned medical events. It was just about this time last year when I got that crazy diagnosis. I never expected that, and it surely changed all my plans for the rest of the year. But it all worked out well, eh?

I have joined an on-line writing group, and it has been a fantastic experience, seeing what others write about, and how they do it. It’s pretty amazing to hear how many writers are fascinated with witchcraft and vampires, just as we were “in our day.” I don’t remember stories and movies being so bloody and gory, but really, who am I kidding? To this day I shudder when I think of that Grim Reaper picture in that TV show called Chiller, where the scythe blade bled just before someone’s head was sliced off, and my brothers hid in the bedroom and bathroom off the hallway and made swishing sounds just like in the show, and my sister and I ran screaming to our room, sure we were next to lose our heads. Ha, we were pretty scared and the boys were brats.

Anyway, everyone in the writing group has agreed to take on a writing challenge about the elements for Earth Day, 2014. I chose water. It seemed it would be fairly easy, y’know? We need water to live, and all that, but I began researching it and cannot imagine how to narrow it down into one story, even a long one. I first thought to take a scientific, environmental stand. Save the water, and all that, but I haven’t been able to keep interested in that tact.

Then I thought to write a tale from a western pioneer’s viewpoint, reading diaries of women trekking across the plains with their families, following their husbands, leaving prized possessions in piles by the wheel ruts on any of a hundred difficult passes. These stories enthralled me, and I can just imagine, after sixty, eighty days out, finding a small, sweet stream with five or six tall cottonwoods for shade, some dear woman said to her dear, disillusioned husband,
“Stop! I will take not one step more on this ridiculous journey,”
and settled right there and then, eventually attracting other tired travelers who pooled their energies and resources to build a small way station with water troughs for tired horses, and a small trading post for weary, broke dreamers who needed to pay their wagon masters, and only had their grandmother’s long case clock left to barter.

BEIJING 2008 John K Olsen, photograper

BEIJING 2008 John K Olsen, photograper

What magic lies within this city?
What horrors hide in the fog?
What brilliant mind foresaw this skyline?