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Philosophical Teapot

            Philosophical Teapot

Porcelain, handmade, and hand painted. Fired twice at cone 13. 16″ H

The name was suggested by my good friend Patricio Villarroel-Borquez. I told him the top couldn’t come off and the spout didn’t work. He said, “It’s a philosophical teapot. You can ponder the wonderful cups of tea it could make.”

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Streets of Gold

I was beyond broke. I kept staring at the dime and the nickel, my total worth: net, gross and real. Fifteen cents, the cost of one 1967 New York City subway token. As the Wall Street types say, that was my liquid.

I had fifteen hours until I would be evicted from my SRO flop on West 71st Street. I lay on my bed, stomach growling, as I heard the night clerk shove the eviction notice under my door. I would have until noon tomorrow to pay. No pay, no room.  I was already a week behind in my $12.50 a week rent. I’d let management hold my passport against my past-due rent. I’d hocked all my musical instruments except my soprano clarinets. If I did get a show gig, I would have to borrow some saxophones and flutes or rent them. I knew that if I were homeless, someone would steal my clarinets and then I was doomed. When I came to the Big Apple seeking my fortune in the concert music business, homelessness in Mayor John Lindsay’s crumbling New York City was not on my agenda. My family refused to loan me money: “You could have been a doctor.” The intake worker at unemployment said I hadn’t worked enough freelance gigs to qualify for benefits. She told me that the day after I spent six hours playing in the subway, which netted a mere twenty-two dollars and eighty-two cents.

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Night Book

Artist’s Note

The Night Book is a folio of mixed-media paintings: pencil, ink, watercolor, Aquarelle pencil & acrylic. The paintings began as pencil drawings made in my bedside Moleskine sketchbook while in that zone between wakefulness and sleep, a world devoid of reason but rich in images: half-formed, unrelated, surreal, erotic, even terrifying. A critic likened my phantasmagoric paintings to graphic poetry. Inspiration for the Night Book project came from Goya’s Los Caprichos (1799), and from François Desprez’s (1655) and Gustave Doré’s (1854) illustrations for Rabelais’s Pantagruel (1655), in my novel, The Nude Pianist (Fictionaut,­­­ 2016), a few of these paintings appear as the work of Francesco Martinelli.

All these drawings are protected by International Copyright. Click on the paintings to enlarge.

Night Book #21 Humpty Dumpty
Night Book #20
Night Book #3
Night Book #2
Night Book #15
Night Book #17
Night Book  #14

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Black Widow

He had become an accessory to a murder. He didn’t drive the getaway car, didn’t arrange the setup, didn’t provide the weapon, and didn’t know the victim. He had unwittingly provided an alibi for the murderer. And all because of a chance encounter. Out of the blue. It was, he thought, a kismet of the most unusual kind. It happened on a bridge, the Pont Neuf in Paris, on a cold, foggy night.

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Reckonings: A Western

The angry man drove into the setting sun.  He was tired and fought to keep his ‘69 Volkswagen squareback from skidding off the unplowed snow-covered road. He slapped the steering wheel mouthing a vulgarity when he lost control of the car.  Why did he agree to drive his estranged wife from Chicago to her sister’s home in Los Angeles? Their marriage was over. Why this last chivalry?

According to his wife, there was a small county park where they could car-camp for the night off this side road. That wife was sick with the flu, sleeping in the back of the car. They had spent the first night in a similar park in Oklahoma. Now he was on a narrow back road looking for the park twenty miles off I-40, west of Albuquerque. He had been driving for twelve hours and had to piss.

To make extra money for her move to Los Angles, his wife took a job substitute teaching in a Chicago junior high school between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations. She caught a virulent flu from her charges.  Even though, as she claimed, she was being “extra careful” because she knew she was coming down with something, she lost her wallet with her driver’s license. She couldn’t help with the driving. But nothing could protect her from the approaching full moon in Ares. She was in for a spate of turbulent times. No amount of precaution could stop the power of the cosmos. What bull shit. She was an idiot. Astrology crap drove him crazy. It excused all sorts of nonsensical behavior. Now he could feel the flu coming on: scratchy throat, fever, headache, stomach cramps. He slammed the steering wheel with his palm and cursed his wife.

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Showtime

A man in a black wool overcoat stood at an ATM in the lobby of a bank on Broadway. A black and white Shetland collie sat at his right foot. It was after 1 a.m. The man withdrew $100, put the money in a trifold wallet, and returned the wallet to the inside breast pocket of his tuxedo. The man snapped his thumb and middle finger. The dog, ever alert to his master’s movements, walked out of the bank lobby, his head even with the man’s right knee.

Man and dog walked two blocks down Broadway to a produce market. The man purchased a Gala apple and a Bosc pear. The store clerk, a sullen man, put the purchases in a small plastic bag.
—No dog in store.
The man ignored the clerk.
—Every night the same. Next time, no dog in store.
The man turned and left the store, the dog heeled next to his right knee.

The man and dog continued down Broadway. Near the corner of 79th Street, the man stopped. In the window of a women’s boutique, stood five naked, bald mannequins.  A lithe, athletic woman, early thirties, was dressing the mannequins. The window display lights were not on. The only light was a bare bulb in a clamp lamp attached to the back of a metal folding chair. The store specialized in women’s dance and exercise wear. It was called Femme Nikki.

Man and dog watched as the window-dresser removed an exercise garment from her body and put it on a mannequin. After she dressed the mannequin, the woman seductively removed another layer of clothing and dressed the next mannequin. When all five mannequins were attired, the woman wore only a scanty white leotard. The striptease took a half hour. At no time did the window dresser make eye contact with the man or the dog. But before she left the window, the woman looked upon her observers, waved, and switched off the light. The dog barked once, jumping against the window. The man snapped his finger and the dog trotted to his post at his master’s right knee.

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The Legend

It all started before the fire.

For months, the man had kicked his spouse awake with the same recurring nightmare. In the dream, he arrives at Times Square in New York City on the Number 2 train he had boarded at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. He is the first violinist and founding member of the respected Arch String Quartet. He maintains a blossoming parallel career as a soloist and chamber musician. He is at the peak of his profession. His violin is a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù violin, a long-term loan from the Gothamburg Family Trust for the Arts. The Strad magazine judged his instrument one of the finest examples of the Golden Age of Cremonese violin-making. It is insured for eight million dollars.

In the nightmare, the man is wearing a suit and carrying his violin case. He changes to the 42nd Street Shuttle to Grand Central Station; but when he arrives at the end of the Shuttle tunnel, there are no stairwells, only a gaping hole in the floor thirty feet above the Lexington Avenue IRT tracks. He can see a train in the station on the express tracks. Wherever he looks, there are shattered walls, twisted girders, and piles of broken concrete. On the other side of a pile of rubble, he sees a column of people, six-deep, walking in orderly lock-step fashion. They look odd, but secure, as if there is a destination in their step.

Standing in the wreckage-strewn subway concourse, he weighs whether to join the line. He notices that all the travelers’ heads are covered with brown paper bags. Their other accouterments are typical of urban commuters—backpacks, folded newspapers, books, cell phones, purses, shoulder bags, rolling luggage, umbrellas. But unlike New Yorkers, this file of sojourners walks with military precision up a steep temporary wooden ramp. Their footsteps kick up a fine white dust.

Ah, the dust must be why they are wearing paper bags on their heads. It’s also why they are marching in step: they can’t see. That’s it. They can’t see where they’re going. Blind mice.

In the dream, he pulls a white handkerchief from his suit jacket and ties it over his mouth and nose. It’s then that he becomes aware of a droning sound. The marchers are humming. The enveloping paper bags give the sound a buzzing quality. He can discern no tune, only a continuous monotone buzz—maddening in its sameness.

No one in the moving line seems to notice that the station has been bombed or suffered a catastrophic structural failure. If they do, they give no indication of anything unusual. They ignore the collapsed walls and piles of rubble. They march on.

Just like blasé, thick-skinned New Yorkers. Or maybe some authority has forced them to don the paper bags so they wouldn’t see the extent of whatever happened here.

Just then, in the dream, he loses his New York cool. Suddenly, a panic attack. There is no place to run. No escape. His heart pounds erratically.  His mouth is dry, his throat parched, his shirt soaked with sweat.

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On The Death Of A Friend

I heard today about your friend, whom I never met, though I know he meant much to you. I trust he is at peace, even if you, a survivor may be confused and hurt.
It is difficult for me to properly frame my condolences. I only knew of him from your writing and snippets passed to me by others who knew him.
I do know that when someone dies alone far away, one feels cheated.
As if the deceased were a wounded pet who has forsaken you and crawled away to die a lonely death, ashamed of their own mortality.
As the days pass, I trust the light that you found in his being will continue to shine and you will remember fondly the things which made him a friend and lover.
That which hath been is now, and that which is to be hath already been, 

Ecclesiastes