Magic in Miami



Miami Morning, coming soon from All Things That Matter Press

My main character, Leila Payson, is a thinking and compassionate woman. A high school social sciences teacher, she discovers one of her students is going deaf and finds herself on a learning curve of her own. And while she juggles work and her friends’ adventures, an attractive man keeps appearing at her favorite places. There’s magic in Miami, and Leila Payson is reveling in it.

In writing this book, I found myself challenged, just as my main character was, by how little I knew about the lives of moderately and severely disabled people. They are too often isolated, usually cared for by immediate family or institutions, and rarely part of any social gathering. The disabled are still subject to discrimination in work, travel, and social life. As I corresponded with several disabled people, and occupational therapists, I became more aware of this situation. I learned, too, of the creative ways people with disabilities have met their challenges.

Leila has her own challenges, as we all do, and I hope I’ve shown her spirit and courage, as well as humor, in this book. There’s a bit of travel, birding and nature, too. So, stay tuned for a publication date.  

The Professor of Love

PJ (Paul Johnston) was an artist living in Greenwich Village most of the years between 1919 and 1987. This is one of his memories from the 1960s.

All through his forties, fifties and sixties the ghost of his wife’s husband, the passionate lover, the rejected lover and the professor of love, was in unbelievably good health.
Did a turning point come when he loved Olga at first sight, he sixty, she twenty five? And would rather be her celibate lover if the alternative was a one night stand or a brief affair?
Six years in love with Olga—an embrace, a long kiss in love on greeting, but never a bussing in bed.
Meanwhile during frequent amiable meetings, going to art galleries, Off Broadway theatres, films, far out happenings, dances, year in and week out for six years, the old man was in robust health, fulfilled in amiable love.
But coincidentally with age sixty, the doctors imposed on him a heart condition.
He was in fine health between the losses of life’s time in hospitals, which he took without complaint. Nor did his losing O to a worthy husband affect his health.
On, on to seventy, the professor of love loved, often to fulfillment.
All those days he’d wake up singing, even if he slept alone. A loner, singing squeezing orange juice from the half shell, singing frying eggs, singing (but not out loud) while he worked. His health was disgustingly good.
“I met Olga when she was in the happenings and fell in love with her right away. And we made of it what we did, that’s all. I was sixty and she was twenty-five. I couldn’t see making the big lover pose, that I was in love with her for sexual reasons, which I was not. It was my first experience with amiable love. Amiable affection. And I played it by note.” He laughed, “By rote. I played as it played. And it was very beautiful.”
Olga married a young man. PJ understood this. “After all, I had nothing to offer her. It was a natural thing, and I could live with it.”
“Was her husband the one who was into happenings?”
“He was in the happenings, Claes Oldenburg’s happenings. He didn’t do any happenings. He thought art and science should be mixed, and he got a bunch of scientists to make these art pretensions,” PJ said. “But Olga was a natural genius. She was an artist in her own right, but her brilliance was beat down by her husband who used her as an attractive model-type wife to attract capital to his enterprises. Until, one day, she had enough.” After she divorced him, PJ recalled, “She left a note on my front door saying she wanted to see me.” He dared to hope they would get back together. “But her heart wasn’t in it,” he said.
“The funny part of it was when she rejected me years before, she said you know those years you claimed you were in love with me all the time and we were going out together all the time, I never felt it a bit. So she tells me this after five or six years, when I was there when she was going out with me and I could tell she enjoyed it very much. So it was just one of those things, she had become disillusioned with everything else, and she had to become disillusioned with me.”
That was quite a blow, he said, for the professor of love. The experience left him “disillusioned in love.” Soon his health declined and he was in the hospital again. At age 66, his health had been broken by a broken heart twice. The first was a passionate love, the last worthy of a supreme Zen master.
“How did you meet Olga again? Did she come here?”
“I met her a few years ago when Rogue called me and asked me to come to a poetry reading. Patty Mucha, a friend of O’s, was reading. And right away, I was sure then at least I could find out whether Olga was alive or not.”
The poet came and he asked her about Olga. “And sure enough, she said yes, I invited her, she may be here. While she was reading, Olga came into the room.”
“Did Rogue know Olga?”
“He didn’t know her. He knew Patty Mucha, the poet. Patty used to be Patty Oldenburg. She and Olga have been friends for twenty years.”
“Did Olga say she’d come around to one of our parties?”
“I’ve invited her to bring her man and come over to see my art, but they invited me first to have dinner at their place and I refused, because it was so far, all the way down in Soho.”
“Does she sound … seem happy now?”
“She claims she’s very happy.”

View photo of Olga Adorno and Patty Oldenburg and other performance artists

Chapter 25 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press, available on Amazon/Kindle and Barnesandnoble/Nook.

Book Review: The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine: No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (16) (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series) by Alexander McCall Smith
This book was, in baseball lingo, a curve ball. Mma Ramotswe is thrown this off-speed pitch and since she’s used to hitting fastballs and sliders and even knuckleballs, she responds as she has always done and the pitch goes by her. She keeps swinging and missing, but slowly she realizes she might be misjudging the situation. In other words, the revelation that her assistant, the inimitable Grace Makutsi, has evolved catches her by surprise. McCall Smith’s humor and understanding of human interactions comes through, and that makes this a remarkable work, and I mean, work of art.
On a personal level, and as a writer, I’ve been influenced in recent years by this series, and by the Isabel Dalhousie (Sunday Philosophy Club) series by the same author.

The Universal Stream of Consciousness

Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Tally: An Intuitive Life, All Things That Matter Press

A letter from PJ:

What profited a man to wake daily and write a page of words to substantiate the concept that one wakes, alive, to perceive and experience a new world beginning? Why search with palsied fingers and decrepit remains, but a febrile mind, for logical answers to why was I born and why am I living?
All the answers are already stored in the limitless area of the universal stream of consciousness, and one has but to think of (saving the time out of his life) thoughts (worthwhile or worthless) and these thoughts will be added to the boundless stream of human consciousness.

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DreamParty “A living person, living alive, seeks to penetrate the perpetual underlying stream of consciousness. Even when he is asleep he seeks to know and experience his dream, for it is just so, a stream of consciousness.”

Words of Paul Johnston (PJ). Artwork by PJ. Read more.

Join my Book Launch Team

There’s still a few spots left on my Book Launch “street team.” Each team member will receive a FREE PRINT COPY or KINDLE E-BOOK of Miami Morning, as well as one scene not in the book as free bonus content. Please share posts on your Facebook, and/or Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn pages, and retweet tweets for the book, during the six-week launch. If you write a review, please post it on your blog, Amazon, and/or Goodreads. Sign up using the pop-up email form on my website. 

More about Miami Morning

Book Review: Echoes of Narcissus

From the beginning, Jo Robinson’s world of fantasy and harsh psychological realities in Echoes of Narcissus in the Gardens of Delight held me in thrall. This is a story of an interior life, as Donna, the main character, struggles to break free. She is trapped in a loveless and emotionally abusive marriage by a narcissistic husband. For many years she has poured her love and hope into her garden. And it is in her search for seeds for her garden that she meets Elvira, an extraordinary woman, who shares her interest. These gardens flow from the spirits of the women into land-shaping, and life-shaping, manifestations. They are touchstones, as the story evolves, for many lives. Elvira visits Donna, which very few others have managed to do, and sees Donna’s fantastic garden. Elvira has an impressive garden of her own, in town, with a café catering to people who are in transition from divorce, job loss, or death of a loved one. One of the ways they heal is by working with elderly people who live alone.

51p+WiVpzAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Donna begins to connect with Elvira and her friends, and gradually reveal to them what she has been creating for so long in the icehouse of her isolation. But her husband has other ideas. Will she succeed? Her story is a testament to the resourcefulness and tenacity of the human spirit in its drive for freedom, and the greatest human act and experience of freedom, which is love.

Photos of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC

Graffiti 1989

Back in the 1980s and 90s local graffiti artists were asked to do murals in the playground. These murals were respected and not marked up with others’ graffiti or tags. This artist, Victor (I forget his last name) did a beautiful one called Summer Scene, which unfortunately I didn’t photograph. It was blue – cool blue. The playground is Mathews-Palmer, mid-block between 9th and 10th Avenues, on West 45th and 46th Streets, in Manhattan, New York City. I lived in that neighborhood for more than 20 years. More photos


While I’m writing, worrying over this comma

And that misplaced paragraph, dialogue tags

And other such nonsense as makes a book,

I hear on the TV the news that my country

May elect a man who wants to do more

Than waterboarding, and tells others to shut up,

And these silencings enter my writing,

Through the openings, necessary for art, for life,

In the carefully woven fabric of my belief

In where we are as human beings

And so I write over the chaos, because

All I can do is place my personal sense

Of order across the wild face of despair