So let me attempt now to answer some of the questions you haven’t been asking.
What makes you so special that you should even have your own website?
Nothing that I can think of, other than that I took the time to create one, and didn’t really know what the hell I was doing when I started. Yet another example of what passes for a good idea at the time. So, y’know, props to my vanity. Or not. Most likely the latter.
You sure don’t post much, do you?
No, I sure don’t. Mostly it’s because I’m too busy holding the fabric of the universe together by eating Cheetos and watching Doctor Who reruns on BBC America.
What gratifies you most about having this site?
The daily spam I receive, which only sometimes bothers to masquerade itself as personal messages from new visitors, but mostly just tries to sell me Ray Ban sunglasses from Singapore.
Rumor has it that you are very tall.
That is an exceptional rumor.
So are you? Very tall?
On paper, certainly. In fact, I’m sitting atop several reams of it right now.
Are you into politics?
Yep. And passionate about the subject. To be more specific, I really hate what that one guy is doing. And that other guy isn’t making me any happier either. Also, I don’t think much of their friends. And yet, still, I vote.
Same answer as above, actually. Except ixnay on the voting. I stopped that, a long time ago.
You rattle on and on about Buddhism on this site. Are you a Buddhist?
OK, fair question. And I do promise to get back to you on it, if the future can indeed be promised. It’s just that right now, I’m having a moment.
Coffee, or tea?
Coffee, of course. Though sometimes tea. If chased with coffee.
What do you take in your coffee?
Mostly just coffee. And maybe a little skim milk, if there’s a particularly skinny cow nearby, and I’m feeling, y’know, handsy.
Beer, or liquor?
I don’t see why that’s an either/or.
Beer, or wine?
Hops, or malt?
OK, so that’s more like it. And, both, actually. Though slightly more of the latter than the former, please. I have enough trouble with bitterness just in seeing what my blundering species is doing to itself, and the planet. And that’s not to mention that horrifying orange fucker we elected because we were too busy being entertained to care.
If you were suddenly told you had to give up beer or coffee, what would you do?
I would beat the messenger senseless. Because that would be a really terrible thing to tell me.
Do you have a favorite beer?
Guinness Stout. Served in Dublin by cranky old men with squirrelly sideburns and vividly insufficient oral hygiene, within a couple of blocks of St. James’s Gate. But only there. Otherwise, Budweiser.
I kid, of course. Never, ever, ever Budweiser, or any other fizzy yellow barley-starved bilge water from the Big Three. Damn them.
So what would you do, then, if someone handed you a Bud?
I would hit them with it. I mean, what else am I supposed to do with it?
What’s your favorite food?
Pierogies, like my dear Aunt Mary used to make. Absent now my dear Aunt Mary, who passed away some years back, then like Veselka, the bustling Ukrainian restaurant in NYC’s Greenwich Village, makes.
Also, sushi. Though Aunt Mary never made any of that.
So you’re Ukrainian, then?
Partly, yes, on my dad’s mom’s side. My father’s father was Slovak, however, raised about 50 miles from the eastern Carpathian Mountain village my grandmother originally called home. Though when my dad’s parents immigrated to the United States not long after the turn of the 20th century — meeting each other for the first time in Binghamton, N.Y., despite having grown up in such close proximity to one another in the old country — it was all Austro-Hungarian Empire then. So let’s just say that I’m Rusyn and be done with it. And by that, I do not mean Russian.
My mom’s background, however, is English, Irish and French, with many more generations on this side of the Atlantic. I claim the middle ethnicity, proudly, and often loudly, and accept the Englishness, willingly. All that said, I’ve also been to France, with its culture of weird toilets and profound self-importance. So, y’know, to hell with you, Frenchy. To hell with you.
Unless I can get people to start calling me Frenchy. And then, well, vive la France!
If you could live in any country, which would it be?
The United States, both because of itself, and in spite of itself. Though I would still wish on Ireland and The Netherlands, cuz I’ve also been to both of them, and would be a fool to not want to indulge the notion of either.
Do you consider yourself a patriot?
Yes, tremendously so. And a giant $*%# you to anyone whose narrow views might lead him or her to question it. I do not mean for that to be funny, either.
So do you have a favorite founding father, then?
Ben Franklin, no question. He said that cool thing about beer, plus he cavorted with harlots and flew kites in the rain.
You’re from the American South. Are you a racist?
Oh, for the love of … that’s not at all a reasonable question! Nonetheless, I am proud to say that no, I have no affection for NASCAR, though some of my best friends are fans, and openly so. That’s their own business, though.
No, racism as in do you feel any favoritism, or animosity, toward any group of people based solely on skin color? A dislike of blacks, for instance, or darker-tinged folks from places like the Middle East or Southwest Asia?
Seriously? I mean, how the hell can anyone tell what color people are when they’re driving that fast around a track in a pack of other cars? Next question.
What is your fondest achievement?
I still have most of my hair.
Your least-fond achievement?
Not all of that hair is confined to those particular places celebrated in poetry and song. Aging offers proof that practically any bare patch of skin can go bear on you. Growl.
Beef, or chicken?
If you could choose another name, what would it be?
Pete. Cuz then I could be Coconut Pete. Or Dingo Pete. Wallaby Pete. Outlaw Pete (thanks to Bruce Springsteen for that one). Hobbit-Feet Pete. Sweetheart Pete. Just about any general noun or adjective goes brilliantly with the name. But just try that with Frank …
E.g., Coconut Frank. I mean, bleah. Suddenly I’m an overweight middle-aged schlub in too-tight polyester slacks and a rayon shirt with laughing tikis on it, hanging beside the upper-deck pool on a crowded discount cruise ship, and talking over-loud, so that all the spray-tan botoxed divorcees can hear me, about the brain freeze from my piña colada, in between singing lines from that horrifying Rupert Holmes ditty.
Great God. Of course, I am still open to Frenchy …
Do you have a favorite poem?
Yes. Pablo Neruda’s “I Will Come Back,” translated from the original Spanish by Alastair Reid. It is, as they say, pure poetry.
A favorite novel?
Moby Dick. I’ve never actually read it, though. But it’s a really big book, and it’s about a whale. I admire the consistency of message there.
Otherwise, Panama by Tom McGuane, or on some days, John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, with or without Sweet Thursday. And points to Tom Robbins’ first novel, Another Roadside Attraction, for almost singlehandedly having destroyed for me, at age 11, Western civilization’s most invasive belief system. It’s sure been a hoot being out here in the cold all these years since …
No, movies. In no particular order: Casablanca (“You stop breathing, you die. You stop fighting, the world dies.”). Peter Jackson’s LOTR (“You! Shall! Not! Pass!”). WIthnail and I (“We want the finest wines available to humanity. We want them here, and we want them now!”) To Have and Have Not (for Bogart, not for the film itself; also: “You know how to whistle, don’tcha, Steve?’). Groundhog Day (“Don’t drive angry! Don’t drive angry!”). Bladerunner (the director’s cut; “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”). Grosse Pointe Blank (“You’re a handsome devil. What’s your name?”). Smoke Signals (“John Wayne’s teeth. Are they plastic; are they steel?”). The Graduate (“Plastics.”).
Favorite TV show?
The first three seasons of M*A*S*H, back when it was filmed, and on location, with Wayne Rogers and McLean Stevenson, and none of that increasingly mild B.J. Hunnicutt/Col. Potter (and his damn horse) business.
More recently: The first season of The John Larroquette Show (“This is a dark ride.”)
Much more recently still: The Daily Show (circa Jon Stewart), The Colbert Report, both sadly long gone; Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which keep that Stewart spirit alive — so really, all that angry funny liberal crap. Also, Rick and Morty, should it ever surface again from its limbo, the reboot of Doctor Who, no matter how ridiculous and corny it may get, and Mr. Robot, because I am apparently not nearly paranoid or depressed enough already.
Favorite movie star?
Bogie. And I don’t care if that’s something of a cliché. Because what other little guy could fill a screen so big? I dabbled at smoking in my 20s, entirely because Bogart looked so cool doing it. Cool killed him, of course.
Also, Groucho Marx.
Who do you think is popular music’s greatest songwriter?
If you have to ask, then you’ll likely disagree with my answer, for some mundane reason like that my guy sings funny (he does, through his nose, and it’s perfect, thank you). And then I’ll have to point out how very wrong you are. And then we’ll have to fight, and I’ll try to break your nose, so that you sing funny, too.
Bob Dylan. I mean, duh.
Any favorite new music?
The National (Alligator through Trouble Will Find Me), and The Hold Steady (particularly Boys and Girls in America).
You do know that none of those guys is exactly young …
Well, neither am I.
… or musically akin to anything so much as classic lyric-based rock a la Springsteen and Dylan?
Favorite musician of all time?
If I have to pick only one, then it would be Zevon. As in Warren. As in the third part of my personal holy trinity: the Father (Bob Dylan), the Son (Springsteen, or some days even Tom Petty, circa “Even the Losers”) and, finally, the Holy Drunken Ghost. Never mind that the alcoholic Zevon was sober for many years before he died. Since when does religion have much truck with facts?
On the day I learned the Z. had succumbed to cancer, I was driving up a mountain from my fading first marriage to an old friend to my fading newspaper job working for another. When I heard the not-unexpected news on the radio, I began singing “Desperados Under the Eaves” over and over again, at the top of my lungs, crying more than a little as I sang. It didn’t really help all that much. With anything.
For my 50th birthday, my wife bought me a tattoo, Zevon’s unofficial logo, Old Velvet Nose. I am ridiculously proud of it.
Zevon is dead! Long live Zevon!
Three songs you could not live without?
In order: Zevon’s “Desperados Under the Eaves.” Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues.” I don’t, at any given time, listen to any of them all that often. But I want to know that I always can.
Do you have a favorite musical instrument?
The electric guitar, particularly with the great Waddy Wachtel’s late-’70s tone, though maybe with a little Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar mixed in. Also, the cello, the bodhran and the tin whistle. And whatever the hell Tom Waits chooses to bang on next.
Do you have a favorite Beatle?
Holy hell, have I! John. Then George. Next, Ringo. Finally, Pete Best.
A favorite brittle?
Oh, yes! Cashew. Then macadamia nut. Next, pecan. Finally, almond.
Well, who doesn’t have one, right? Ron. Then Stig. Next, Barry. Finally, Leppo.
Favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Sorry, but I’m not gonna answer that. That’s just a little bit too personal. I mean, maybe think a little before you ask some things is all I’m saying.
OK, more generally speaking, do you have a favorite reptile?
Absolutely! The gecko; I like the way the weird-headed little monsters seem to scream, for hours on end, hidden always from view, yet going instantly quiet the moment you get anywhere near them in vain hopes of glimpsing the source of such ungodly sounds. But to be fair, I like any lizard, really. Except maybe that one out West that looks like a living bead necklace, and can kill you with its spit.
Your favorite mammal, generally speaking?
Well, some people are partial to one cup size or another, I guess. But me, really, I’m just grateful.
No, mammal. Please pay attention.
Ah. Right. The cat, then. From bobcat to leopard to lynx to housecat. Though mostly just the housecat.
As a guy, aren’t you supposed to choose dogs over cats?
Well, I do love dogs, sure. Tremendously. But dogs will forgive you when you say something they might not like, assuming they understand any of it. Cats, however, forgive nothing, and I believe they understand pretty much everything we say, choosing simply to ignore it. As my life is intertwined with several of both types of critters, I’m not taking any chances here, as I’m all but convinced cats can also read, though here again, generally choosing not to. So why knowingly set myself up for such certain abuse? Because cats will always, always make you pay.
I also have a wife, and kids. I love all those, too.
OK, more specifically in regards to mammals, what’s your favorite marsupial?
The wombat. Just cuz it’s called a wombat. Wombat! Wombat! Wombat!
A close second would be the wallaby. It has a pouch, and it hops, but its feet aren’t likely to kill you. Kangaroos, however, are just trouble, especially if they’re allowed to put on boxing gloves.
I care not for the platypus, however. That little media hog.
The hummingbird! Any variety. I adore those little bastards.
Also, the osprey. It’s like you crossed a seagull with an eagle, and came out with mostly eagle. And come on, how cool is that?
The praying mantis. Except maybe for that one that bit me when I was 6. Who knew they would bite?
And I bet you thought I was gonna go with tse-tse fly, didn’t you? Most people do. Fools.
The scorpion. So long as I haven’t left my shoes unattended in scorpion country. Then, not the scorpion.
The coelacanth. In addition to having a name that no one can pronounce, it’s also a dinosaur. Top that, flounder!
So many good choices, not least of which is the coelacanth! But I’ll go with any that aren’t purple, and made of felt, and that sing stupid shit.
The hop. And the hibiscus, the rose of the tropics.
The mango. Also, Sir Ian McKellen. Gandalf, the Gay! Fuck you, balrog.
Your wife often tells people you are gay. Does that bother you?
Not at all. She thinks very highly of gay men.
So, are you gay then?
Absolutely. Every bit as much as a straight man can be.
That last answer makes no sense. You know that, right?
Yes, it does, actually. You’ve just never seen my dress shoes, or my array of beard-grooming products. And you clearly do not know how much I hate that balrog …
Favorite dirty word?
You’re $*%#ing right! It’s #$%*^&@. Which one had you expected?
Is anything better than sex?
Absolutely. Sex with a partner, for instance.
Do you have a bucket list?
Oh, hell, yes.
Well, what’s on it?
Everything I’ve ever done and enjoyed, ever, including getting back to Veselka Restaurant in New York City as soon as possible, for pierogies not unlike my dear Aunt Mary used to make. Plus a whopping-big bunch of other stuff, too. I have no intention of dying, ever.
OK, just one place, then, that you want to see before the closing of the final reel?
An entirely impossible question! There are so many more places than not. But for today, I’ll go with Easter Island. Those big stone guys just look so amazing in profile.
OK, so maybe for tomorrow, let’s go with the Devil’s Steps in Northern Ireland. And for the day after that, the heights of Machu Picchu (though while I’m trekking around South America atop these rapidly fading knees, I should also add Pablo Neruda’s former home on Isla Negra). And then for the next day, the tree-rooted temple at Angkor Wat. And then …
What’s the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen?
My tiny lunatic wife, Lisa, sleeping, one hand still on her little red dog, Sadie, from where Lisa fell asleep petting the adoring bat-faced furball.
A close second is the sunrise I glimpsed in the Scottish highlands one morning in 1988, as I sat shivering in the cab of a lorry I’d hitched a ride in the previous afternoon back south in England, unknowingly being overtaken by a raging chickenpox virus that raged into meningitis, and soon to be as sick as I have ever been in my life, confined days later in the isolation wing of an old Manchester, England, military hospital, where the wheezing guy on the other side of the thin partition separating the two of us died, very audibly, the first night I was there. As in the wheezing just stopped. And then it never started again.
But as to that sunrise: The overnight driver had just crossed through a mountain pass, out of deep darkness into sudden morning, with the sun popping up from between the peaks to our left, revealing a sprawling loch stretching back to the base of the mountains. The water was, from bank to bank, the color of the rising sun. The color, that is, of fresh blood. A whole mist-topped lake of brilliant red blood. The lorry driver never commented on it, assuming he even noticed it; he drove that same route several times a week. Nonetheless, that startling sight has profoundly unsettled me now for more than 20 years.
So was it my fever? Was it real? I don’t care. I saw it, either way, and it’s mine.
If you were given but one month to live, how would you fill it?
Drinking lots of coffee and beer, that’s for damn certain, and finally getting off my hind-parts to submit some more fiction for publication. And I would finally jump out of a plane, possibly with a parachute. I would eat whole deep-dish pizzas on the porch in my underwear. I would sit beside the ocean for hours on end, and stare at what is, and isn’t, there. I would kiss my wife every single time I saw her, and goose her, cuz that makes her angry, in the best way. I would play with my dogs until I fell over, and endlessly indulge whatever crazy kitty whims of my frantic feline menagerie. I would tell my kids I loved them so often, they would start avoiding me out of fear I’d say it again. I would have pierogies slathered in caramelized onions shipped in, every day, from New York, and slurp them down while watching Marx Brothers movies and drinking Czech pilsner beer. I would finally, and I mean finally, catch up on the Dr. Who episodes loaded onto my TiVo.
Also, I would wear my wedding dress one more time, no matter that it won’t zip up over my belly these days. Because if not now, when?
OK, if not now, when?
Later. Unless I find out I’ve got only a month to live. Then, within the next month, or not at all.
What is your greatest success?
At this very moment, I think it’s that you thought enough of me to read this far. I mean, how cool is that?
Your greatest wish?
To have the courage to, right now, when I believe I have a great deal of tomorrows left ahead of me, do all of the things I listed if I had only a month to live.
I have many, actually. But all of them, ultimately, got me to here, with the tiny woman sleeping beside the little red dog. So no, I have none, actually.
What are your favorite words to hear?
I love you. Also: open bar.