Joe McCarthy at the Aleph Cafe or, A New Book Release

There’s nothing like waking up to the sound of two kittens defying gravity in your bedroom before sunrise as they try to pinpoint the source of scratching coming from outside. So, here I am. It’s after 6:30 AM and by now the kittens have fallen asleep again. This is a horrible segue, but I have a new book out, Aleph Cafe: Stories. It’s my first story collection. Many of the stories appeared elsewhere first. A few others are new. Here’s the back cover copy:

“Among the stories in the this collection, a man with his marriage in trouble, meets the ghost of a famous writer in a cafe and gets over writer’s block; a gambler with a knack for losing can’t stay dead for long, much to the chagrin of his bookie in 1920s New Jersey; a boy recalls watching a neighbor play chess against a stranger who just may be the devil come to collect the old man’s soul; against her family’s wishes, a young girl climbs the tallest tree in her town, glimpses a fairyland, and pays the ultimate price; and a teen girl divides her time between being institutionalized and navigating her new neighborhood where she learns a heartbreaking lesson about people moving on in life.”

Another book coming down the road is my semi-autobiographical novel Rejoice for the Dead. Once upon a time, as the fella says, it existed as a slightly different work, typed, one copy only, that was thrown out by an ex. Looking back, it was the best thing really. The new improved version is much better.

I don’t have much else this morning, owing to the events in Washington DC a couple of days ago. What happened at the Capitol Building is unconscionable, something that scarred America for good. If you made it this far and support the deplorables who perpetrated these crimes then you can stop reading now.

There are plenty of maxims and quotes one might use here. Instead, I will say this: while that orange-skinned psychopath in the White House certainly enticed his cult following to storm America’s house, the mindset in earnest began during the era of McCarthyism when intelligence became suspect and intellectualism looked up with suspicion. I’m sure the ghost of Joe McCarthy creamed in his spectral shorts.

Alas, democracy, though fragile, will endure. The beat goes on. In the interim, do check out my latest work. It’s full of stories that will take you away from this present reality and provide the break you need.

Behind the Black Door: Dreams and Story-writing

Last night, I dreamed I had suffered a stroke that left me unable to speak and with only limited use of my left side. Having already suffered a TIA almost a decade go, you’d think I would take the dream as a warning. I didn’t. Dreams, as we know, rarely mean what they portray.

In the dream there was this black door I had to find:

The black door was, in real life, a ramshackle cracker-version of a Bilco door that led to my basement. I called it my Game of Thrones door since it weight close to one hundred pounds after years of water damage. Anyway, the black door lies in a small scrap heap in my backyard as my house undergoes some renovation work. In the dream, however, I learned that I could make myself well again if I found the black door and passed through it.

All the makings of a story so far, right?

In my dream, the black door was “hidden in plain sight,” a bodiless voice told me. In my stroke-addled condition, I had to wander around center-city Philadelphia with the hope of discovering the black door I had removed from my house in real life.

Are you with me so far? Good.

It wasn’t easy, but I found the black door lying on a sidewalk on 12th Street near Pine. In my dream-stroke weakened condition, I was unable to lift the black door (having a sense that once I lifted the door up a portal would open in the sidewalk and I could fall into it, thus facilitating my cure).

Enter a Sandman, of sorts. A familiar face, who shall remain nameless, appeared next to me. In my dream this gave me a fright since the face belonged to someone I knew in real life, someone who, sadly, had passed a few years ago.

“I can help you,” the familiar face said, “but you have to touch my heart first.”

He opened his shirt to reveal what looked like a brick beneath bruised skin on his chest. I was unable to say anything since my dream stroke left me mute.

Before the dream ended, I shoved Mr. Dead Familiar Face aside with my good arm, gripped the handle of the black door lying on the sidewalk, and yanked on it with all my strength. The door tilted up, enough to reveal nothing but plain old sidewalk beneath it.

My dream ended as I wandered further along 12th Street, distraught over having to remain as I was—nearly crippled and completely mute. Or did it?

The black door is still in my backyard (see photo above). I don’t have the heart to lift it up. There’s no telling what doorway I might find beneath it if I do. Maybe I’ll write a story about this dream instead.