To visit Martin's writing website, press here.

March 30, 2020

The New Me

I don't like circulating a photo of myself, but I can't use social media without one. So, my one and only photo of the last twenty years has been this one:

It was taken by Daniela Catanoso (all rights reserved) in Forza D'Agro where we ate out once back when. We returned to the same town to eat in the same restaurant twenty years later, and Ms. Catanoso took my photo once again. So, I have decided that I must finally age gracefully (?) and replace my old photo of my young and innocent self with an image of my new and improved self. Here it is:
Is this important? Some people change their photos every week or post photos of themselves continually on, for example, Instagram. But for someone who does not, yes, I guess, it is.
Stay strong, stay healthy. Over and out, Martin

February 6, 2020

Music in Memoriam 2019

My two favorite singer/musicians died the same week this last year: Leon Redbone and Dr. John. Worst week ever.

Now what? There's nobody like either one. So cool. Being an original is what makes one great, I suppose. But these boys, I'll really miss them. And not just them ...

André Previn
Art Neville
Beverly Watkins
Bill Spence
Bob Frank
Clydie King
Dave Bartholomew
David Olney
Dick Dale
Doug Lubahn (Doors)
Eddie Duran
Ginger Baker
Izzy Young
Jack Scott
Jacqueline Steiner
Jeff Austin
Jessye Norman
Joào Gilberto
John Cohen
John Starling (Seldom Scene)
Johnny Clegg
Larry Taylor (Canned Heat)
Leon Rausch (Texas Playboys)
Lisa Kindred
Mac Wiseman
Mike Wilhelm (Charlatans)
Molly Duncan (Average White Band)
Paul Barrere (Little Feat)
Peter Tork
Ric Ocasek
Robert Hunter
Sleepy LaBeef
Tony Glover

and songwriters:
Allee Willis
Fred Foster
Irving Burgie
Jerry Herman
LaShawn Daniels
Les Reed

Andrea Camilleri
Dennis Schmitz
Ed Cray
Ernest J. Gaines
Harold Bloom
Herman Wouk
Hiroshi Kashiwagi
Jim Bouton
Joe Rosenblatt
Kate Braverman
Kathleen Fraser
Kevin Killian
Leonard Wolf
Linda Gregg
Louis Jenkins
Luciano De Crescenzo
Mark Medoff
Mary Oliver
Michael Mott
Paul Janeczko
Paule Marshall
Russell Baker
Stanley Plumly
Stephen Dixon
Toni Morrison
W. S. Merwin

Albert Finney
Bruno Ganz
Carol Channing
Cokie Roberts
D. A. Pennebaker
Diahann Carroll
Elijah Cummings
Frank Robinson
Hal Prince
June Felter
Lee Mendelson
Paul Krassner
Peter Fonda
Peter Magowan
Pino Caruso.

March 24, 2019

Lawrence Ferlinghetti times 100!

Today's the 100th birthday of Lawrence Ferlinghetti. His new book, Little Boy, comes out today. There will be celebrations in San Francisco, where Ferlinghetti is an icon. He still lives in North Beach (the Italian neighborhood). I wish I was there to wish him well.

Ferlinghetti is my favorite living writer and poet. He was the elder brother (and publisher) of the beat poets: Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso, McClure, di Prima, and so on. In my mind, he stands with Gary Snyder, who is also still kicking, as two different voices from about the same place buzzing in my ear. I used to hear them read when I lived in San Francisco, before Italy, before I started attempting poetry.

So, today, everyone, read a poem by the birthday boy. Read it aloud. Savour it like a long life.

Here's one:

They Were Putting Up The Statue ...

They were putting up the statue
                           of Saint Francis
                      in front of the church
                           of Saint Francis
                                 in the city of San Francisco
           in a little side street
                                    just off the Avenue
                                                                   where no birds sang
             and the sun was coming up on time
                                                                    in its usual fashion
                        and just beginning to shine
                                                       on the statue of Saint Francis
                             where no birds sang

              And a lot of old Italians
                                                    were standing all around
                in the little side street 
                                                     just off the Avenue
                 watching the wily workers
                                                    who were hoisting up the statue
     with a chain and a crane
                                            and other implements
   And a lot of young reporters
                                                in button-down clothes
     were taking down the words
                                                of one young priest
         who was propping up the statue
                                                          with all his arguments

                  And all the while 
                                              while no birds sang
                                                                 any Saint Francis Passion
and while the lookers kept looking 
                                                   up at Saint Francis
           with his arms outstretched
                                                    to the birds which weren’t there
     a very tall very purely naked
                                                   young virgin
       with very long and very straight
                                                straw hair
          and wearing only a very small
                                                          bird’s nest
                in a very existential place
                                             kept passing thru the crowd
                                                                                    all the while
                          and up and down the steps 
                                                                 in front of Saint Francis
                her eyes downcast all the while
                                                                  and singing to herself

January 28, 2019

Music in Memoriam 2018


Al Hawkes
Aretha Franklin
Billy Hancock
Cecil Taylor
Denise LaSalle
Dennis Edwards (Temptations)
Dolores O'Riordan
Don Sanders
Eddy Clearwater
Edwin Hawkins
Galt MacDermot
Hugh Masekela
Lazy Lester
Little Sammy Davis
Marty Balin
Matt Murphy
Nancy Wilson
Otis Rush
Randy Scruggs
Richard Swift
Roy Clark
Roy Hargrove
Stacy Phillips
Terry Evans
Tony Joe White
Vince Martin

Eddie Reeves
Jerry Chestnut
Norman Gimbel
Ron Dunbar
Scott English

David Bianco
Rick Hall


Amos Oz
Barre Toelken
Bobbie Louise Hawkins
Donald Hall
Gene Sharp
Harlan Ellison
J. D. McClatchy
Jalal Mansur Nuriddin
Julia Vinograd
Julius Lester
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz
Neil Simon
Nicanor Parra
Ntozake Shange
Peter J. Bjarkman
Philip Roth
Tom Clark
Tom Rickman
Tom Wolfe
Tony Hoagland
Ursula K. Le Guin
William Goldman


Anthony Bourdain
David McReynolds
Dennis Peron
Ermanno Olmi
Hank Greenwald
Ingvar Kamprad (IKEA)
Kofi Annan
Koko the Gorilla
Milos Foreman
Ricky Jay
Ron Dellums
Scott Wilson
Sir Roger Bannister
Stan Lee
Stephen Hawking
Willie McCovey

Alan Bean
Donald H. Peterson
John Young
Richard A. Searfoss

November 10, 2018

Hell comes to Paradise

This is so horrific and sad. We took a vacation trip to Paradise, California last summer and loved the town. It's right in between the mountains and the valley, so there are evergreens lining the streets. Just beautiful. My comments were, "It's a lot bigger than I expected," and "Wouldn't this be a great place to retire?" We heard a fantastic concert at a wonderful community theater and stayed in a friendly motel with a lovely garden and pool. I remember many of the businesses and houses that are now shown on the news, burning to the ground. What could be worse than a whole town destroyed in one day?

Plus, Paradise is/was the home of my favorite cowboy singer, Sourdough Slim. Hope he and his family are fine.

An explosive wildfire like this is a new phenomenon, a firenado. Climate change the cause? Duh. What to do? Check out Sweden, which just reached it's renewable energy goals for 2030. It's hard but not impossible -- yet -- to intervene, change our lifestyles, follow enlightened leaders and scientists, and find a new interrelationship between humans and the earth. We do something or we're ruined. We do it now or there is no Paradise for the kids anywhere.

Happy trials, Martin

November 8, 2018

Reconciliation? Time to come together?

Reconciliation with Nazis? Reconciliation with racists, sexists, xenophobes, misogynists, homophobes, Islamophobes, deplorables? Reconciliation with believers in the National Enquirer, in Bigfoot, alien abduction, in televangelists? Reconciliation with liars and cheaters, bought and sold by corporations? Reconciliation with gun-addicts, rapists, thugs, bullies, criminals?

I don't think so.

The President of the United States says: I am a Nationalist, not a Globalist. We know those are code-words for 'Nazi' and 'Jew'. We know where Trump's sympathies lie. No, I will not support the rise of a new Hitler or a Fourth Reich. Who would? Who is? Despots and wannabes around the world. The radical right fringe, as in KKK. Those who previously kept to the shadows and should go back there, but came out in the open when their ideal leader got power (by stealing). Is he lashing out now because he's losing his grip? Yes, but that makes the wounded animal more dangerous.

Rural - urban, coastal - center, black - white, college grads - middle school grads, men - women, blue - red: I am sick of the division of people into two teams. Yet I can't put myself in the others' shoes either. I can't imagine being a Trump supporter, just can't suspend my ethics and critical intelligence that much. An invasion of refugees, really? Lock her up, really? Enemy of the people, really?

What's the alternative? Fight. When it was the Vietnam War - fight. When it was Nixon - fight. When it was nuclear arms and nuclear power - fight. When it was civil rights - fight. When it was the women's movement - fight. Gay rights - fight. Immigrant ban - fight. Trump's presidency - fight. In any (nonviolent) way you can - fight.

I was hoping for the super victory that would end this bad dream, and our need to fight, so I could just go back to my work, hobbies and homelife in relative tranquility, like in the Obama years. Get off Facebook, no news, pet the cat, read a book, sit on the porch and watch the sea. Instead, I will need to keep my dukes-up attitude a while longer, and, in my very small far-away way, keep the struggle going. Stand up to the brutes and goose-steppers, the haters and money-grabbers, along with many millions of comrades. We are the majority. Standing for the law and the truth and equality and what's right. Things will get messy now, but we shall overcome. Will we make it through this? Of course.

Happy trials,

Mutt: Are we back?
Jeff: I've got a weak back.
Mutt: How long you had it?
Jeff: Since about a week back.
Mutt: Ha ha.
Jeff: Ha ha.
Mutt: You kill me.
Jeff: Wanna go hunting?
Mutt: I'm game.
Jeff: Bang.
Mutt: Ha.
Jeff: Ha.
Mutt: Get this: chronic illegal parkers suffer from parking zones disease.
Jeff: Ouch. How about this? The Irish government is wealthy because its capital is always Dublin.
Mutt: Double ouch. You know the best way to communicate with a fish is to drop them a line.
Jeff: Why can't a bicycle stand on its own? 
Mutt: Because it's two tired?
Jeff: No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
Mutt: I used to be a shoe salesman, till they gave me the boot.
Jeff: What did the painter say to the wall? 
Mutt: I know this, I know this. One more crack and I'll plaster you!
Jeff: Bravo. And old steelmakers never die, they just lose their temper.
Mutt: That one, I don't get. Old policemen never die, they just cop out.
Jeff: Unfortunately, old sewage workers never die. They just waste away.
Mutt: Some Spanish government employees are Seville servants.
Jeff: Ready? This is good. A man hit another on the head with a soda bottle, killing him. In court, he claimed he was influenced by the song "Let's Get Fizzy-Kill".
Mutt: Oh, we are so funny.
Jeff: We crack us up.
Mutt: Ready to hit the streets again?
Jeff: Don't agonize, organize.

October 6, 2018

I Really Don't Care. Do You?

Sexual Assault: Republicans: NO, WE DON'T CARE.

The non-conclusion of the rape doesn't matter. The drunkenness doesn't matter. The 'who do you believe?' doesn't matter. The politics don't matter. The crying and yelling don't matter. (I'm exaggerating, all that matters.)

These Republicans are saying: You, woman, were raped and we don't care! You, woman, don't count; we, rich white Christian men, say we love and respect you, woman, but when it's time to show that, we say, 'oh grow up', 'boys will be boys' (translation: young men have a right to rape women) and worse. Plus, you, woman, cannot abort because we say so and you must obey. You, woman, are our property, like slaves.

Be like Melania, seen but not heard, look good and shut up and produce a son. Not like Stormy or Karen McDougal, or the 20 Trump victims, etcetera. We, Republicans, say: Blame the victim, and ignore the woman's chorus outside yelling "NO, NO, NO!" Whose pain and anger is more real, more important, anyway?

Power. This is all about power. Rape is about power. (Male superiority consists exclusively in physical strength.) The abortion debate is about power, not ethics. (Will all you anti-abortionists adopt those unwanted babies you force to be born? I thought not.) Women's bodies belonging to men is about power. To grope, to score, to obsess over. When women are truly equals, beings not objects, freed from male domination, there's no going back. We're getting close.

Amazons are coming. Look out the window, women are active, women are strong, women have been abused and will not stand for it anymore. Men and boys better get on board. Rape culture must end.

The old white men (and the women they've brainwashed) behind this last-ditch effort to maintain control will lose. They know that. That's where their desperation comes from. This horrible sequence of events, starting with 'grab 'em by the pussy', seems so hopeless. Actually, it's a signal of the end of patriarchy. This will not stand. The sexists will fight, but we--women and enlightened men--will fight harder and win. It won't be easy. What is?

Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court; Trump is still President, McConnell, Grassley, Graham, et al. are in power, but not for long, people, not for long. Play the long game. Right now, the slavery-supporting politicians of the 1850's are still burning in hell. Wrong side of history.

These are the names of the misogynists that will live in infamy:

Chuck Grassley
Orrin Hatch
Lindsey Graham
John Cornyn
Mike Lee
Ted Cruz
Ben Sasse
Jeff Flake
Mike Crapo
Thom Tillis
John Kennedy
Mitch McConnell
John Thune
John Barrasso
Roy Blunt
Cory Gardner
Lamar Alexander
John Boozman
Richard Burr
Shelley Moore Capito
Bill Cassidy
Susan Collins
Bob Corker
Tom Cotton
Steve Daines
Mike Enzi
Joni Ernst
Deb Fischer
Dean Heller
John Hoeven
Cindy Hyde-Smith
Jim Inhofe
Johnny Isakson
Ron Johnson
James Lankford
Jerry Moran
Rand Paul
David Perdue
Rob Portman
Jim Risch
Pat Roberts
Mike Rounds
Marco Rubio
Tim Scott
Richard Shelby
Dan Sullivan
Pat Toomey
Roger Wicker
Todd Young
Jon Kyl
Joe Manchin

THANK YOU: Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford, Debbie Ramirez, Julie Swetnick, Ana Maria Archila, Maria Gallagher, Alyssa Milano, Nadia Murad, Denis Mukwege and so many others.
And let me add: Rosa Parks (arrested in 1955, Civil Rights Act 1964) 
Say it loud: ERA NOW! (passed in 1972, still awaiting ratification)
Believe Survivors! 

Mutt and Jeff are busy getting arrested at a protest rally in Washington D.C.

September 3, 2018


Almost. I still have to cross the Southern California desert and a couple other bits, but--hell yeah!--I made it to Canada, completed Washington, stomped down those rocky Northern Cascades. It nearly finished me, yet the PCT is mine. It is home.

The roots, dust, flowers, trees, rocks, critters, birds and bugs, the smoke veil this year (every year?) -- it's all mine. A couple weeks ago, I saw a black bear eating berries and yelled, "Hey, get off my trail!" Stupid. He looked at me ... what? Yet it is mine as well as his. And yours if you climb up, over and through. You don't get to just look at photos or films though, you gotta earn it.

'It' is real. Everything real. No filters, phones, computers, TV. No one telling you what to think, buy, be, believe. Touch a tree trunk, a boulder, fingers in the grass, feet in the creek -- that's life. Not a representation or interpretation. No manipulation, the mountain doesn't care, it's just there. I sat by a lake thinking it would have been similar a million years ago. Freeze, thaw, repeat. Without me.

Why do we do it? Why'd I spend six years walking up and down mountains? Sleep on the ground, poop in the woods, eat the same slop over and over? No easy answer, the answers are continually changing, foggy, a mystery, a beautiful mystery. But a space for the organic natural world -- I need this grounding. I need the silence, the solitude of high places. Perspective.

As I flew south from Seattle to San Francisco, I could see the peaks that marked my long path: Cascade Peak, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Goat Rocks, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Washington, The Three Sisters, Mount Mazama/Crater Lake, Mount Thielsen, The Trinity Alps, Castle Crags, Mount Shasta, Hat Creek Rim, Mount Lassen and The Sierras. It was my journey through time and space backwards, a touching fly-over of memories. The flight took 2 hours, the walk 6 Augusts. Walking is best. Slow is deep.

Next adventure? Life. Real, unfiltered, active.

Happy trails, Martin

May 23, 2018

Tom Wolfe ... Philip Roth

Two of my favorite writers gone in one week. Oh my. Thanks for enriching my life.

This is the artist, then, life's hungry man, the glutton of eternity, beauty's miser, glory's slave. Tom Wolfe

Everybody else is working to change, persuade, tempt and control them. The best readers come to fiction to be free of all that noise. Philip Roth

March 24, 2018

At War with Myself

Today::: is a big day:::
the March for Our Lives will take place in hundreds of cities, besides Washington, where it will be massive, historical. NRA, find a hole and crawl in. Then pull the hole in after you.

the lights go off at 8:30 pm for the Worldwide Earth Hour, an hour of darkness to raise awareness about environmental problems and solutions. Energy companies, we have the switch.

poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti turns 99 years of age in San Francisco. He is a movement for good and a light in the dark.

so where's the war?

in Europe, among the million horrible things Trump is doing, one stands out -- the trade war. I know he later said he'd make exemptions, basically contradicting himself as usual, but leaders here have to take it seriously until further notice. He said he'd do it, he signed it, we believe it's coming, so unless we're well-behaved kiddies, we're next. Tariffs on steel mean no Levis, no peanut butter, no Harleys. Over here they say that a trade war is a real war, you declare war on us, we are now enemies, we fight back, it can only get worse before a truce is declared. I am a citizen of the EU and the US, hence today's title.

i'm so tired of this shit. I want to get off of facebook and twitter, stop watching CNN and BBC, stop letting this sicko dominate my days. I want to get back to writing and music and my quiet homelife, get my sanity back, find my smile again, wake up rested and let all the difficulties of the day just slide away. Yet I feel like I'm constantly in combat mode without the adrenaline of battle. Yet I can't just opt out, that's irresponsible, there's no room in the sand for another head. Yet keeping up on everything has worn me down and worn me out, which is exactly what Trump wants, and, although I tell my friends that his days are numbered, he's winning against me today. I can't keep up the fighting without some amphetamines (isn't that what he uses?). Thus the lack of polit-blogs of late.

and then I see the Parkland survivors, and I am inspired and refreshed. We all have a connection, all been touched by the ripple effect of school shootings. Mine is Cleveland Elementary in Stockton, 1989, a guy hid behind a building and picked off little kids playing during lunch hour with a semi-automatic rifle -- five dead, 32 wounded. I used to teach at Cleveland. This was after I'd been in Italy for ten years, but the guy who did it had gone there as a child, about the time when I substitute taught there, maybe even in one of my classes. So, yeah, enough is enough. Make it stop. Make it stop. Politician, do your job to protect us all against gun violence; you were not elected to sell more guns for your buddies.

i may be old and weary (or maybe I'm just faking it for the pathos effect), but the teenagers that are marching today are YOUNG AND STRONG and the hope for a better tomorrow. It chokes me up that they are so passionate and articulate and savvy and right. Right on! You make us old warriors proud! When I was your age, I marched regularly against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons, nuclear power, other causes, now it's your day. Thanks for your courage. hashtag Never Again.

happy trials, Martin

Mutt and Jeff are on assignment in the nation's capitol.

February 3, 2018

Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

Caged Bird
Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.