Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Remembrance Of The Ozone Layer

TO MY CHILDREN WITH APOLOGIES

I'm writing this note to apologize for some of the things you'll be inheriting when I go to my final reward. It's unlikely your father will have time to make amends then, so I'm sending my apologies now.

First off, I'm sorry about all this war and destruction that's running riot on the planet. We older Americans tried to put an end to war, but not enough foreigners and strangers would listen to us or take our orders. After that, what choice did we have but to send in soldiers?

At least we tried.

My apologies also for those crowded roads you and your families have to drive on. My generation would have built more public transportation but, in all honesty, we just didn't give a damn. We never travel by train, so why the hell should anyone else? Try not to hate us too much when you spend half your days driving to and from your jobs.

Come on, guys, honk if you still love your father!

And speaking about cars, I sincerely apologize for the mega-tonnage of planetary resources I seem to have consumed during my brief stay on Earth. Quite frankly, when I think about the tons of materials used to satisfy my individual desires—all the buying, spending and consuming it took to keep me feeling whole and happy—I find myself surprisingly without shame or remorse.

I'm sorry, but there it is! Your father is a selfish hungry pig and knows it and, apparently, revels in the raw honesty of it. He also loves driving around in big cars and buying thousands of unnecessary plastic items.

Hey, somebody has to.

And speaking of raw honesty, children, I want to apologize for the way I desecrated the land. Lord knows your father, as a responsible businessman, couldn't let all that good, solid earth remain undeveloped and glorious in its natural state. Much as I hated to, if I hadn't sliced up the land, ate up the woods and fields, and built wall-to-wall malls and sprawls, think of all the money I wouldn't have made…!

And then how sorry would I be?

Lastly, I want to apologize for leaving you a world much filthier, cruder, harsher—and far less friendly—than the one my father left me. It seems a shame people treat each other so roughly these days, or that values have been so perverted by money, false gods and distorted self images. Of course, if that's the price of admission to the RICHEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, I want to see you kids first in line to buy tickets.

Just remember two things, children…First, I never promised you a perfect world. Second, I'm too selfish to help create one.

Oh, and did I apologize for that hole in the ozone layer…?


* * * * * * *

With all that's happening in Copenhagen these days, it seemed appropriate to share the above item from "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

My Affair With Tiger

Face it, girls, you want to claw my eyes out, don’t you? Or whack me across my 36 DD’s with a golf club, am I right? Well don’t blame me if I’m young, gorgeous, full-breasted and obviously the cat’s meow. And don’t expect me to go after my favorite Top Cat by giving the media any of the tittle-tattle behind our torrid love match. There’s no ‘best three out of four’ here, girls. I am and always will be the best. Just ask Tiger.

Oh that’s right, Tiger isn’t talking. Except for that little phone message someone leaked to the rag mags. The one where he asked me to re-record my phone greeting so it’s a little more anonymous and a little less…well, sexy. Just in case his wife calls.

What’s wrong with a message where I state my name, hair color and unadulterated preference for billionaire celebrities? “C’mon, lighten up,” I told Tiger. “Besides, as far as your wife knows, it could be Hugh Hefner calling me, or some other rich celebrity; maybe even Brad Pitt.” You girls must have read in Intruder Magazine how he and Angelina are occupying separate bedrooms these days, whatever slim solace that provides poor Jennifer Anniston.

I always liked Jen better anyway.

But as far as Tiger and I go, we are soul mates, no question about it. Otherwise, why would I be the first girlfriend he calls whenever he’s in Boston and has an open hour to spare? Yes, I know, girls. An hour may not seem like much to you, but with Tiger and me it’s always been quality rather than quantity. Or, if I can be crude, length of rope rather than length of time, if you know what I mean.

Doesn’t God always seem to give bigger portions to those who have everything! Or is the word ‘proportions’? I’ll have to ask Tiger next time he’s in town.

Anyway, unlike some of you kiss-and-tell queens, I’m not saying a word about my affair with Tiger. Except to say, in my neck of the jungle, once we learn to hunt tigers, we then learn to be good little pussies. Gr-r-r-rr!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With God On My Side

“Now I lay me down to sleep . . .” I mumbled.

It was bedtime and here I was, another mildly fatigued, upwardly mobile, young professional praying against the side of his bed, fetchingly arrayed in wine-red pajamas and white deerskin slippers. “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. . .” etc., etc. etc.

It was the usual last-thing-before-I-sleep bedtime prayer and I was positioning myself to make a few minor requests.

“. . . I wanted to thank you for all the good stuff in my life,” I offered God, “...especially for last month’s 7.6 percent annualized return on my investments. I still can’t believe it, given how the economy is still struggling.”

Now came the subtle shift . . .

“But, you know . . . there’s one itsy-bitsy area where I could use a little more help: my career. More specifically, I could use a little boost in the acceleration, if you know what I mean . . . ”

Next thing that happened was quite noteworthy, because God Himself interrupted me to reply, “No I don’t know what you mean, Paul Steven! I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. Boost in the acceleration! Who prays to God for a boost in the acceleration? Please make your request again, but this time speak more plainly.”

Well, yes, that was strange. God doesn’t, as a rule, talk to me when I talk to Him. As far as I can remember, this was the first time and it made me uncomfortable. Put yourself in my place: I could accidentally say the wrong thing to God and whoof!, before I knew it, I’d be some lower-order slave scrubbing porta-potties in Purgatory.

God’s voice was thin, and whiny—sort of like Pee Wee Herman’s—rising disembodied from the black grilled heating register on my bedroom floor. Most times, warm air came up through the grill; but this night it was the Voice Of God.

I was a little embarrassed about being more explicit with my prayer, but I didn’t have much choice.

“To be blunt,” I said, whispering tightly into prayer-clasped hands, “you know how I’m competing with Cindy Washburn for the Creative Director’s job, and how she’s done such balls-out work on the Kritter Litter ad account . . . ?

“Yes . . . ?” God replied. “And so . . . ?”

Still whispering, I asked, through awkward pauses, “Well, I’d like you . . . you know . . . to do something . . . to Cindy . . . so she doesn’t win the CD gig. Something small, not too damaging. Nothing like a car accident or a Nancy Kerrigan, but maybe she could suddenly develop a horrible rash, or maybe sales of Kritter Litter could fall through the floor . . . something like that. (Listen to me telling you your job!) is that specific enough?”

“Perfectly!” God answered with brisk efficiency. “I’d be happy to cover Cindy in a really repulsive, red rash but unfortunately you have too many reality-altering prayers already in process. I’m not sure I can add another one to the list until we clean up some of the others.”

“What others?” I asked, surprised.

“What others!?!” God exclaimed. “Where do I start? How about with Angela Firehouse? Surely you haven’t forgotten Angela Firehouse with whom you fell in love, and at whom you prayed me direct the charms of cupid’s arrows on your behalf. You remember now?”

“Vaguely,” I softly replied.

“You no doubt recall she is currently the wife of Edgar Firehouse, and that both the Firehouses currently live in the house next door to yours.”

“I know where they live.”

“Good Heavens, Paul Steven,” God added gleefully, “she’s your neighbor’s wife!”

“I’m a happily married man,” I countered. “I wouldn’t have done anything wrong had you given me the chance, which you didn’t, thanks a lot!”

“Hey, I tried,” God snapped back. “The lady wasn’t interested. She must have been praying for the strength to resist your charms. Besides, it’s a Universal Law that everyone gets what they deserve. You, she, even those thousands of terrorists you prayed for me to slaughter, which I’m still working on (just so you know). It’s not easy destroying entire subsets of the population and, besides, I never pretended to be good with details . . .”

That’s interesting! God talking to me like some insurance salesman confronting the enormity of his ignorance.

God continued, almost petulantly, “Now I have to add in the body rash you want inflicted on Cindy Washburn . . .”

“Will you do it for me?” I asked eagerly.

“I told you, everybody gets what they deserve,” God said with a peevish snort. “If Cindy deserves a rash, she’ll get the rash she deserves. Get it?”

“You’re a strange kind of God,” I offer. “Not like the God they taught me about in Sunday School. Don’t take this personally, but you seem rather shallow and petty-minded. Whoever heard of God being so easily bored and so quick to get angry? Instead of helping me resist my weaker nature, You seem happy to pander to its weaknesses.

“Just think about it!” I exclaimed. “I prayed for you to kill off thousands of Islamist extremists and you never once mentioned a thing to me about loving my neighbor or about how wrong it would be to take a human life. And whenever I pray for personal gain at someone’s else expense, You jump right to it, and never point out my selfishness. You’re a strange God, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Hey, Paul Steven,” the Voice replied, coming up through the vent. “I thought you’d figure it out by now . . .”

“Yes . . . ?”

“Everybody gets the God they deserve.”

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Universe According To Paul Peterson


In the following excerpt from "Or So It Seems", a novel that recognizes life as a damn funny spiritual adventure, Paul Peterson expounds on the mechanics of Karma as seen through the eyes of the Seekers For Truth and, most especially, their leader and guru, The Bapucharya.

IT'S ONLY A MOVIE

For some reason that seems to only make sense to Hindu holy men the universe was constructed with Automatic Universal Misunderstanding (AUM) as a core element in its composition. We are purposely led to believe that the physical world we see around us is the real world, the entire world, the only world in which we live and die. And if some entity called God exists He is probably hiding on another planet or at least in the clouds, only coming down for special occasions like the six days He spent creating the world.

We have been led to believe by our parents, teachers and scoutmasters, who have all been fooled before us, that what we see is what we can expect. Except perhaps for a late-inning visit to heaven for those fortunate enough to donate a lot of money to their churches.

But that is not how the universe works according to The Seekers For Truth. In their universe we are all witnesses to a gigantic shared illusion constructed out of vibrations and fancy dreams—and please do not ask me whose dreams.

In this universe, according to Seeker doctrine, we have each agreed to live in this illusory world and pretend it is real. Then to make the whole thing even more incredible we have agreed to forget that we ever agreed to play this game in the first place!

For The Seekers it is like we are all staring at the same movie screen believing it to be life in its entirety. As if we decided to disremember everything else in the world except for what we see up on the screen.

So having forgotten we are merely watching a movie we live out our lives paying off the obligations and debts we owe from previous lives which, by the rules of the game, we have also forgotten. At the same time other individuals are paying off debts and obligations to us from lives they do not remember either. While all of this is happening nobody seems to be consciously aware of any of it!

No wonder everyone looks at you as if you were crazy when you offer even the thinnest glimpse of the cosmos as seen through the eyes of The Seekers For Truth.

“Tell me that again? I have lived many lifetimes and you have lived many lifetimes but neither of us remembers any of them? And during some of those lifetimes I have done things to you that make you do things to me and neither of us remembers that either? And the main thing we are supposed to do while playing this game of pretend is to discover that we are playing the game?”

It is virtually impossible to comprehend the mechanics of the universe as seen through the eyes and spiritual teachings of The Seekers For Truth.

If you do not agree, then explain to me how an individual can have the freedom to respond to events whose outcomes are determined in advance? That is like being able to win a tennis match whose final score is already fixed against you.

“You must have faith,” The Bapucharya has said over and over. “There would be no reason to keep traveling up your Path of Seeking Truth if you already possessed the truth you are seeking. You are on the Path Of Seeking Truth specifically because this grand prize of all grand prizes has not yet been given to you.

“Stick your nose out, children, take a big whiff—ohmigoodness! Can you smell it? Of course you can. It is the scent of fresh cut grass, is it not! You do not need to see with your eyes or hold with your hands the fallen blades of grass to know they are all around you. Just the same you do not need to have this oh-so-elusive thing we call the truth in your hungry little grasp to know that it, too, is real.”

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Eleven


"HOW TO TRAIN A ROCK"

The first thing one notices about rocks is they are essentially quiet creatures. Adverse to long discourses or extended bouts of conversation, they nevertheless are quite engaged in life. Constantly pondering the deepest and densest of life’s mysteries, thereby distracted to an apparent state of inertia, they are thought to be dull companions and highly unsuited to racquet sports or most other forms of physical activity.

Here at the International Rock Training Institute we have discovered, and proven, I believe, that rocks are far more capable and sentient than we humans generally believe. In fact, it’s the rocks’ very ability to conceal their considerable capabilities from the general population that underscores the scope of their hidden powers.

So, what to expect when you bring home one of these seemingly inanimate creatures as a pet?

Expect love. Lots of love. Pound for pound, there isn’t a more loving, open-hearted creature than a rock, though they can be fickle at times. Until recently it was thought rocks heated up in the sun because of the sun’s rays. After much research, we now know their rising temperatures are psycho-romantic reactions. Rocks tenderly exhibiting warm feelings for their cousin, the Sun. Similar to the way their temperatures will flare-up when they’re with their masters. Unfortunately, such displays of affection often go unnoticed, leading to a deep-seated fear of rejection and humiliation in most mature rocks.

As unfortunate as that may sound, this fear of rejection will prove an important tool in helping you train a rock of your own. A simple example will prove the point.

Let us pretend we are training a rock to keep us company while watching TV in the evenings. Right off, most of us would make the mistake of placing the rock on a nearby chair or perhaps on the TV itself.

Ask yourself, could you watch TV if you were sitting on top of the TV? Of course you couldn’t. And neither could a rock.

As for the chair, it demoralizes the intimacy-starved rock to be placed so far away from you. It derails the very trust and intimacy you were seeking to instill. Far better to place your rock on a nearby coffee table at the beginning of the training cycle. The idea being, of course, to gradually inch the rock closer to you on successive evenings. By tantalizing the trainee rock with your increasing proximity, you enflame its desire for closeness, and will soon find not only a docile rock sitting on your lap, but a companionable one as well.

The majority of rocks that visit the International Rock Training Institute come here for our “Good Companions” curriculum, which trains rocks for companionable relationships with all types of masters except toddlers, who need to be first trained not to eat rocks or stick them in their playmates’ eyes. We also offer a curriculum focused on “Security” for rocks being channeled into careers as Watchrocks or, possibly, projectiles.

Training a rock requires, well, rocklike patience. Much like human beings, rocks form impressions and psychological patterns in their early years that help shape their entire lives going forward. These impressionable “teen” rocks should be treated with great care and with great tolerance for their periodic mood swings and narcissistic bingeing. Should you discover you’re in possession of a teen rock rather than a mature one, don’t expect to win its trust anytime soon.

Unfortunately, we won’t have time this week to discuss “strays”, the wild, untamable rocks you find scattered most everywhere. Suffice it to say, many of the wild stories one hears about these highly independent rocks are true. They are unstable creatures to say the least. Unfriendly, sharply cunning and not very trustworthy. I would not want a stray rock living in my home, not even with my children fully grown and out of the house.

More about strays later on. For now, I’ll close this week’s “A Rock’s Throw” by inviting you, as always, to send me your questions about rocks and their proper training. Again, I must sternly request you do NOT send me the rocks themselves. And whoever threw that rock through the Institute’s lab window yesterday, I should warn you your rock has already conveyed your vital information to the police who are now on their way.

I forgot to mention, rocks are notoriously disloyal.


The above is the eponymous story from the collection, "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com. For more information, go to HowToTrainARock. com, or the author's site at PaulStevenStone.com.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Ten

DOUG HOLDER REVIEWS "HOW TO TRAIN A ROCK"


Doug Holder is a local (Somerville) poet and literary figure of great renown. Co-founder of The Bagel Bards, a literary community that meets (and eats) each Saturday morning at the Davis Square Au Bon Pain, Doug took a few minutes from his busy schedule to cast his reviewer's eye upon "How To Train A Rock". Note of full disclosure: Doug is a friend of the author.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

PSS Interviews Novelist Rick Moody


Rick Moody, successful novelist and chronicler of the American zeitgeist (“Garden State”, “The Ice Storm” and “Purple America”) took a few moments to speak with us. Rick is one of the featured notables at the Somerville News Writers Festival, Saturday, November 14th. Keep an eye out for his latest novel, a comedic work titled, “The Four Fingers of Death.”


PSS: Tell us a little something of your writing discipline…how do you approach starting a new book?

RM: It sort of approaches me, really. I am somewhat undisciplined. An idea kind of seizes me, usually without much preparation, and then I go into this long period of turning it over in my mind, sometimes for months. Thinking, rethinking. When I finally have time to address it, it has often been marinating for a long time. Six months, maybe, sometimes a year.

PSS: How much of the nascent book is already plotted out in your mind? How much do you rely on your ‘muse’ for guidance or inspiration as the story progresses?

RM: I never plot, at all. I let the story go where it wants to go. And then I assess l the damage during the editing phase.

PSS: I spent 12 years writing my novel, but there were many periods where I took a break—sometimes for months—other periods where I felt compelled to sit at the computer whenever I could get home. How long does it usually take you to complete a novel, or something like your memoir “The Black Veil”? And what is the writing experience like? Does it flow smoothly or are there starts and stops?

RM: Always starts and stops, always periods of despair and demoralization. But some periods of enjoyment and satisfaction too. They have each gone their own way, so there's no set length of time for composition. THE ICE STORM took 14 months. The new one, the just finished one, took four years.

PSS: I noticed in “The Diviners” that you begin the book with a prologue, titled “Opening Credits and Theme Music”, that runs 12 pages and is essentially a travelogue following the sun as it rushes to rise around the globe. First, do you think it was risky, in the sense of holding onto your readers’ interest, to delay telling your story? Or was the literary or storytelling reward worth taking the risk?

RM: Boy, have I done things more risky than that! People are free to read something else if they find that bit too demanding. They're probably not going to like the rest if they don't like the prologue, so it's a truth-in-advertising approach.

PSS: I must tell you I am in awe of your ability to construct sentences and imbue them with such emotion and cultural richness. Have you always had such facility with words? When did you first realize you had a calling as a writer? How did you learn?

RM: Thanks! I don't know that I have such facility, but it's nice of you to say so. And I never really thought of myself as a writer, but just as someone who read a lot and was passionate about books. The writing came out of my love of reading. And the craft of it came not only from the books I’ve read, but from the many, many great teachers I have had.

PSS: Which of your works is your favorite and why?

RM: They all disappoint me. But I have a tendency to like the most recent one, so I like this one I just finished pretty well. It's a comedy called THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Nine

John Bach Reviews "Death And Other Incidental Diversions"


"Death And Other Incidental Diversions" is the Third Rock Trick in "How to Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Eight

CAN A STORY COLLECTION
HEAL THE SICK,
CURE THE AFLLICTED?


Tenneshaw, WI—Thousands of journeyers crowd this town’s small village square every afternoon at 2:44 where a natural phenomenon has turned into a daily spiritual event.

Two weeks ago, it was first noticed that the sun, positioned at this point in its day’s passage, sent a beam shining through the window at the HiRiser Bookstore which coalesced through the rippled thickness of the glass and fell on a book cover in a form reminiscent of the Madonna and Child.

The book cover it fell upon was called “How To Train A Rock” by Paul Steven Stone, a collection of Short Insights and Fiction Flights. Up until then, a book that had succeeded in remaining anonymous, undiscovered and unknown.

The first day of the phenomenon the Madonna and Child sunburst was noticed by a few passers by and mentioned in the Tenneshaw News ‘Around Town’ section. On the second day, there was such a large, mostly out of control, crowd that three people were crushed to death. Fortunately, two of the dead were brought back to life by being held against the bookstore window facing “How to Train A Rock”, the first of many recorded miracle cures.

From then on there were numerous tales of miraculous healings—cancers shriveled to nothing, broken backs made whole and straight, cripples dancing in the street, lepers with skin so clear teenagers would be envious. And, one or two resurrections of political careers, it was also rumored.

But then, not surprisingly, time moved on. And, as any astronomy student could tell you, the sun’s passage changes slightly everyday. So there should be little surprise that the quasi-religious effect of the light breaking through the glass at the critically precise moment of 2:44 PM would eventually cycle itself out of existence. And so it did. So that yesterday, two weeks- two days after the Madonna and Child first appeared, they were gone.

Today, a smaller crowd, maybe 15-25 hopeful souls, showed up and hung around the bookstore window where “How To Train A Rock” sits patiently waiting for someone to pick it up and take it home. They stare down at the book and wonder whether any of the Madonna and Child’s healing properties might have melted into the pages of this undiscovered jewel of a book filled with humor, wisdom and unexpected points of view?

“Nah!” the elder of the group decides, eventually leading the rest of the assembly away. “And besides," he says, asking no one in particular, "how would Paul Steven Stone even know how to train a rock?”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can Paul Steven Stone Speak Spanish?

No Way, Jose! But for some strange reason I recently found myself on a Boston Hispanic cable TV show titled, "Fernando's Hideaway". Here the lovely Maricela Marrero acts as my guide and translator. Enjoy, amigos!


If you'd like to see the second half of the interview, check out 'Paul On "Fernando's Hideaway" Part 2' on YouTube.com.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Seven

Cameron Mount Reviews "The Zen Of Whimsy"


"The Zen Of Whimsy" is the Seventh Rock Trick in "How to Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com. To learn more about Cameron Mount, Boston area poet and author of the recently released "Evening Watch", available from Lulu.com, visit his blog at evening-watch.blogspot.com. (Watch for future video reviews from John Bach, free spirit and unbiased friend, and Doug Holder, renowned local poet, cable TV host and another unbiased buddy.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Six


Tales of the Book Part Six
File Under: Reviews And Recommendations...?


DID HEMINGWAY POSTHUMOUSLY
ENDORSE ‘HOW TO TRAIN A ROCK’?


Kethchum, Idaho—This tiny hamlet where Ernest Hemingway spent his final days was abuzz with talk about ghosts and the deathless essence of great literary figures. Three times in as many days a copy of a certain book seems to suddenly materialize (spread open to page 56) on the long marble slab that marks Hemingway’s final resting place.

“I think it’s those darn teenagers,” Clinton Syrhousse declared indignantly, standing beside the Hemingway marker. Official Buffer of the Hemingway Stone, Syrrhousse has little patience with any suggestion that the great and long-dead storyteller would stoop to endorse a book of stories entitled ‘How To Train A Rock.’

“Maybe if it were called, ‘For Whom The Rock Rolls’ or ‘A Rock Also Rises’ or something with a little more guts like “The Rock Adams Stories…” Syrhousse left off with an ellipsis.

Paul Steven Stone, author of ‘How To Train A Rock’, wouldn’t give an opinion about the strange three-time appearance of his virtually unknown collection of funny, fantastical and heart-gripping stories. “I just hope I get credit for the three books on my Amazon sales,” Stone declared. “That’ll give me a good July.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

Doug Holder (Renowned Poet) Interviewed

Paul Steven Stone turns the tables and interviews Doug Holder on Doug's Somerville, Mass. cable TV show "Poet to Poet, Writer-to-Writer"

Doug Sets The Stage:Paul Steven Stone makes a living by being creative. Stone, the Creative Director of W.B.Mason in Boston, and the author of the novel “Or So It Seems” and “How to Train a Rock” had an idea. He thought it might be interesting to interview me, Doug Holder, on my interview show on Somerville Community Access TV “Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.” As you probably know I am the founder of the small literary press, “Ibbetson Street” and the author of a number of poetry collections including: “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel.” We figured a novelist interviewing a poet might bring some insights to the creative process.

Paul Steven Stone: When did you have the “calling” to be a poet?

Doug Holder: Well I am 54 years old now, but I didn’t start publishing till I was in my mid 30’s. But I was writing and formulating many of my writings into poems in my 20’s. I think I had ideas of being a writer in college, but I really didn’t start writing consistently until I started keeping journals in my 20’s after college. I recorded snippets of conversations in my journals, passages from novels, quotations, etc… and eventually this raw fodder became poetry.

PSS: Did you read poetry when you were younger?

DH: Oddly enough I read poetry, but much more fiction. I got a lot of material from that, literary history, newspapers, etc…

PSS: By the time you were in your 30’s did you call yourself a poet?

DH: By the time I was in my 30’s the dye- was- cast. I had a need to publish. I published my first poem when I was 35 or so in a Canadian journal Sub-Terrain. They are still around. It wasn’t until I was 40 or so that I graduated with my MA in English. I felt this was another step to become a serious writer. Through this education my writing improved a great deal and I was exposed to many other writers, ideas, and even theory.

PSS: So you feel you needed to get an advanced degree?

DH: I think so. When someone on the Harvard faculty says you are a good writer that gives you a lot of confidence. It’s one thing when your friend, mother or wife says you are a good writer, it’s another when Ruth Wisse, a scholar of Yiddish Literature, a woman who worked with Irving Howe tells you. She was my thesis advisor at Harvard.

The thesis is an intense process. It takes more than a year and a half to complete it, and your initial proposal is often rejected three times before you can call it a go. They don’t make it easy for you. For a thesis you have to read closely, and do an exegesis of the work. This was hard for me because my writing is more impressionistic and journalistic. I did these “exercises” for years, while I worked fulltime at McLean Hospital. It was marvelous discipline, and exposure.

PSS: You have a book of interviews out, the “From the Paris of New England: Interviews with Poets and Writers.”

DH: The book has many of the interviews I conducted on my Somerville Community Access TV show “ Poet to Poet: Writer to Writer.” I have interviewed a helluva a lot of people in the six years that I have had the show. The best thing I ever did was to come to Somerville Community Access TV. It opened up a whole new world for me. People are really enthusiastic about coming on the show from the accomplished writer to the novice.

PSS: I found the book to be fascinating. Anybody who is interested about how the creative mind works, or what the creative process is like, will enjoy this book. It is very accessible. One of the things I liked about your poetry is that it’s accessible.

DH: Yeah. It is accessible. I hope it is layered with insight.

PSS: I immersed myself with Doug Holder poetry. (laugh) And your “mundane” characters (as they were described in a review in The Harvard Crimson) are always a little off balance, and they are caught in the moment. The “moment” seems to be what interests you. From the woman you wrote about who sat on the toilet for two years (From the collection “The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel), and the other characters you write about, you capture something that visually speaks to you in the moment.

DH: Someone told me at a reading that my book “The Man in the Booth…” reminded her of the Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. “Spoon River…” was a portrait of townsfolk, just regular people. So I guess she was right. I am interested in the common man in the moment, maybe the uncommonly common man.

I always loved the old Twilight Zone on TV. You know Rod Serling would come out in a dark, tight-fitting suit, a cigarette in his hand, with that great enigmatic, narrator’s voice and say: “Have if you will. Mr. Henry Beamish, a bookish man, whose only passion is the written word.” These were marvelous character studies. I also loved Paddy Chayevsky, his movie “Marty” and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” these were great character study films I think.

I used to say to my father as we passed through the Midtown Tunnel to go to Manhattan, “Hey Dad, do you think the guy in the booth has a girlfriend, wife, family?” I was talking about a man in a plastic booth in the middle of fume-filled tunnel. He responded: “How the hell do I know?” Most people don’t think about these things. But I think to some extent we are all captured like that man by our own skins, our own baggage. The book was published by Gloria Mindock’s press Cervena Barva right here in Somerville, Mass.

PSS: Can you name some poets you like?

DH: I like Philip Larkin, love his dark sense of humor. I know it is not fashionable but I like Edward Arlington Robinson: “Richard Corey,” “Miniver Cheevey” and other poems. Some contemporary poets I admire are Mark Doty, Sam Cornish, Robert K. Johnson, Afaa Michael Weaver, Ed Galing, to name just a few.

PSS: Is there a poet out there who reminds you of you?
DH: T.S. Eliot ( Laugh). Sometimes Sam Cornish reminds me of me. If you read my stuff you know I am not a product of an MFA school. I have a signature style, whether you like it or not.

PSS: What is it like to write a poem?

DH: Well today I read a line: “Why speak to the monkey if the organ grinder is in the room?” I thought this might spur on a poem but I drew a blank. Right now I’m in a block, other times I’m in a streak. Paul, you are a Creative Director for W.B.Mason—how does it work for you?

PSS: When I am paid to do a job something always responds. If I have more time I can go more deeply. Something always comes back to me to work with.

DH: I was shopping at Market Basket and there was a bunch of elderly ladies sitting there. There were lined up on chairs— the hustle and bustle of the market was their daily drama to view. You never know when your inspiration is going to come, and when this is going to translate into a poem.

PSS: If I am writing commercials for W.B. Mason I know when the ideas are fully cooked and ready to serve, so to speak. Over the years I’ve come to understand how my creative mechanism works. I can sense ideas coming for my next novel—a sequel to “Or So It Seems.” An interesting idea comes into play and something inside me plays with it.

Doug, talk about poems you did complete.

DH: Samuel Beckett has always influenced me. Recently I revisited his play Krapp’s Last Tape. It concerns a 69 year old guy whose life is in shambles, lives in a gone-to-seed furnished room—the whole deal, you know the suicide suite. He keeps playing back this tape to a recording that concerns the one love affair he had at 39—at the end of his youth. He keeps going back and forth to that time. A constant replay, a constant rehash. I am a ruminator so I was very taken by this rumination, about age, love and lost chances.

PSS: Can you talk about some favorite poems you have written?

DH: The poems I wrote for my late father in the collection: “Wrestling With My Father” were sentimental favorites. One poem concerned the image of my father reciting an old ditty he picked up from the Vaudeville halls he attended as a kid in New York City. There was this line he used to recite to me while I was on his knee: “Ladies and gentleman take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice." I used to laugh—we had a great time. There were also the times we used to visit Benson’s Deli in my hometown of Rockville Centre, NY. Dad introduced me to Doctor Brown’s Celray soda, knishes; you know all the food he sampled from his seminal grounds of the Bronx. We lived on Long Island, so the Bronx to my brother Don and me was the exotic old world. Paul-you grew up in the Bronx so it was no mystery to you. But coming from the Island, going over the Whitestone Bridge to the Bronx, was a source of endless fascination. So these poems are steeped with sentiment. I wrote some poems I was quite pleased with in my collection: “Poems of Boston and Just Beyond: From the Back Bay to the Back Ward.” These were poems from the psychiatric ward. I have worked at McLean Hospital for the past 27 years, and many of the poems spoke to my experience there. It was a Pick of the Month in The Small Press Review, and is archived at the poetry collection at Harvard University.

PSS: I found these poems had an interesting energy. Especially when you saw people from that environment out in the world. You shared an experience that most of us have not witnessed.

DH: Yes. Working in a mental hospital you see a slice of life many don’t. I have seen highly accomplished men and women, professors, poets, entertainers, captains of industry in a raw, primal and psychotic state. I have also worked with the homeless, drug addicts, the whole gamut. One poem I wrote was about my first time I worked on the psychiatric ward as mental health worker in 1982. A very psychotic patient thought he was God, and he called me his “finest creation.” So he created me. And I created a poem. Another poem I wrote was about working the 11PM to7AM shift and this drop dead gorgeous girl came running out in the nude, and we had to restrain her. On one hand you are a professional, on the other hand you are a man, wrestling, well almost dancing with a woman in the dead of night. Romantic and horrific at the same time. Another poem was about a homeless guy I knew who was hospitalized on the unit. I lit his cigarette at one moment, a few minutes later he was dead. The drama on the psychiatric ward is certainly arcane, and most people want it that way.

When I was working on locked psychiatric wards, I ran poetry groups for patients for 10 years. I published patient poems in Little Magazines. There was a lead article in the Arts/Leisure section of The Boston Globe in Feb. of 2000 about the groups and my press Ibbetson Street.

PSS: Now you have run poetry workshops. How does the workshops help you as a poet?

DH: You learn from other people. They are commenting on your poems. When you constructively criticize you work you realize there are parallels in your own work. It’s like anything else—you can’t work in a vacuum

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Five

Lo Galluccio Reviews "Refractions of Love"


'Refractions of Love' is the Second Rock Trick in "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com. To learn more about Lo Galluccio, Boston area poet, writer, songstress and avant garde performer, go to www.logalluccio.weebly.com or logalluccio@blogspot.com

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Doug's Story: Eating At Guild's

Caught live at his favorite Saturday morning haunt, The Au Bon Pain in Davis Square (home of the Bagel Bards), Doug Holder reaches back into his cavernous memory vaults to a time in his younger days when he would feed his body and nurture his poet's soul eating breakfast at Guild's.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Four

Timothy Gager Reviews 'Boys and Girls Together'



'Boys and Girls Together' is the Fifth Rock Trick in "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Three

ANOTHER WORD ABOUT LOVE

“So when something from the outside touches you and seems to bring happiness…?" you ask playfully. “Something like a songbird?”

“You must learn to let it sing, and be grateful for what you are given. As soon as you try to capture it, or own it, or demand more, it's like catching the songbird in your hand. How easily you can squeeze the life from a songbird when you try to capture its song.”

“How sad,” you say, your voice filling with regret. “To kill the very thing you love by holding it too tightly.”

“Yes, it is sad,” I agree. “Very sad. The moral of the story is to look to yourself for your happiness, not to others. Which means looking to yourself—and yourself alone—for whatever love you need. Learn that lesson or spend the rest of your days squeezing the life from each songbird that flies into your world.”


From "The Songbird And Me", one of many 'Short Insights and Fiction Flights' to be found in "How To Train A Rock" by Paul Steven Stone, available on Amazon.com. For more info, check out HowtoTrainARock.com or PaulStevenStone.com.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part Two

A WORD ABOUT LOVE

Love, like rain, is no less pure
because it falls upon one gender or another.
It's not same-sex marriages
that deny the essential nature of love,
but those who would tell the rain
where it can and cannot fall.


From "Love Is A Many Gendered Thing", one of fifty Short Insights and Fiction Flights to be found in "How To Train A Rock", by Paul Steven Stone. Available on Amazon.com.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Thorn Among Two Roses



PAUL STEVEN STONE JOINS KIM ADRIAN AND DIANE LOCKWARD FOR CAMBRIDGE LITERARY EVE, JUNE 5, 2OO9

Author Paul Steven Stone will be reading from his work on Friday, June 5th, at the Dire Reader Series, offered at the Out Of The Blue art gallery, 106 Prospect Ave., Cambridge, MA. Joined by fiction writer Kim Adrian and poet Diane Lockward, Stone will be reading from "Or So It Seems", his innovative, comic romp of a novel, as well as from “How To Train A Rock” (just released!), his collection of short insights and fiction flights. Both books are published by Blind Elephant Press and available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tales Of The Book Part One


NASA CALLS “HOW TO TRAIN A ROCK”
AN ESSENTIAL FOR ASTRONAUTS

Places Groundbreaking Book
In Astronaut’s Survival Kit


CAPE CANAVERAL—Officials at this NASA launch station recently declared “How To Train A Rock”, a collection of Short Insights and Fiction Flights written by Paul Steven Stone, an essential ingredient in the Astronaut’s Survival Kit. The kit, first developed by NASA in response to the fatiguing effects of ultra-boring space flights, is made up mostly of books and DVD’s.

“We added The Rock Training Book because it offered our astronauts something they could use to survive the long endless night of flying in space," explained Jeffrey Sloane, NASA public management director. “The book offers its readers fifty journeys into the world of creative expression. Fifty short ‘stories’ that shine a light on the essential madness of life’s enterprises. Light that illuminates laughter, insight and emotion in copious quantities.”

Argenon Fortnip, the space shuttle’s on-board chef, expressed a view that many at this major Florida tourist attraction share, “Hey kiss my a&%! It aint no none of your business nohow. If people on my flying f&*%ing ‘space diner’ want to read “How To Train A F&*%ing Rock” thats no none of your business neither.”

Lance Armstrong, NASA’s newest celebrity astronaut, was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what they’re talking about. Far as I can tell, this is just another sneaky way Paul Steven Stone is foisting his book “How To Train A Rock” onto a weary, unprotected population of habitual readers.

“I’ll prove it,” Armstrong went on to say. “Just watch. Somehow, before this news story ends, Paul Steven Stone will manage to mention that you can purchase “How To Train A Rock” on Amazon.com.”

"He might even suggest you can check it out at HowToTrainARock.com."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Buy My New Book And Help End Poverty


Well, my poverty anyway.

Truth is, you probably won’t help anyone but yourself when you buy and read “How To Train A Rock”, assuming you like to laugh and be entertained. I didn’t mean to mislead you; something just came over me. That's what happens when you spend most of your adult life writing advertisements.

But don’t let my misguided sense of salesmanship stop you from buying the book, because somewhere inside you’ll find a mystery word that could win you a midnight balloon ride with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

There I go again! That’s not true. You will encounter Paris and Britney, but only in one of my humorous commentaries. The bald fact is you won’t make friends with celebrities, save money, win a prize, improve your social standing or enjoy the benefits of space-age technology when you buy "How To Train A Rock". What you will enjoy are 50 short-short stories, many hilarious, some profound, all uniquely creative.

So do yourself a favor and order “How To Train A Rock” today. You may not end poverty but I promise you’ll be delighted!

Plus, for a limited time, you could win a luxury vacation for two to Somalia.


You may recognize this variation on a theme if you've read my earlier postings. I like to play with 'truth in advertising', and yes that is an oxymoronic phrase. So hopefully you'll indulge me a few of these playful sales messages as I struggle to break into double digit sales of my new book, "How To Train A Rock". Which, if I haven't mentioned it yet, can be purchased on Amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Battle Of The Bards

On May 11, 2009 in Cambridge, MA, there was a battle between two veteran heavyweights of the poetry arena, Doug Holder and Marc D. Goldfinger. Legends will surely arise about what happened that night at The Out Of The Blue art gallery, but this poem written a few hours after the poetic slugfest captures the myth at a moment when it is still bite size and chewable. Enjoy.

The Battle Of The Bards
by Paul Steven Stone

It was billed as a ten round fight
Between two aging poets
Who could punch out the lights,
In one corner Doug Holder
Whose poems and bon mots
Grew hot as the night grew older,
In the other, with sheets of verse
Marc D. Goldfinger was ready
To scratch and claw for the purse,
It was billed as a ten round night
But in the end, only one poet
Would be standing aright.

It began as most slugfests do
With sharp tongues keeping time
In a strange pas de deux,
The man suspendered in red
Drew first blood with words
Some other poet had bred,
Then Holder raised a clenched fist
To read from pages of white
The first poem on his list,
And thus a mighty battle ensued
Between two gray-beard poets
In a gallery of blue.

Oh, to watch these wizened old men
Parry and feint and dance
As if they were young again,
Goldfinger under his hat
Takes a swing at Holder
With an ode to Kerouac,
Holder, still standing tall
Recalls his youth and
The Long Island sprawl,
There are poems of all stripes,
Tales of junkies, beggars and egos
Do battle through the night.

And I, perched on my hard seat
Finally realize just who
These warriors of words hoped to beat,
It was not each other they faced
But Father Time whose traces
No poem could erase,
And when the battle was done
So that all weary fans
Could trembling head home,
We would recall this poets’ fight
And with wistful gratitude
What they both had won tonight.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Love Is A Many Gendered Thing

Dedicated To The Memory Of Matthew Shepard

As legislatures and church groups scramble to prevent same-sex marriages from becoming legal in states across our nation, I feel the need to offer a few relevant thoughts.

First off, politicians may be able to legislate marriage but they can never legislate love. As a popular song once said, love is a many splendored thing. No matter if it's the love of a man for a woman, a woman for a woman or a man for a man. Love, like rain, is no less pure because it falls upon one gender or another. It's not same-sex marriages that deny the essential nature of love, but those who would tell the rain where it can and cannot fall.

Who has the authority to sit in judgment of the human heart? Surely not a politician. Who among us stands so high they can look down and decide when love is right or when two lovers are wrong in their pursuit or expression of love? Certainly not a legislature or a church.

How solid is moral ground when it denies one group of consenting adults the rights so indifferently offered to the lowest life forms in our society? Are our political leaders concerned that convicted murderers, rapists and pedophiles have the right to marry? Or that foreigners can use marriage as a backdoor pass into our country? But in their rush to protect the sanctity of marriage they would lock out gays and lesbians as if an alternative sexual orientation were the ultimate threat to the fabric of society.

Of what are they so afraid they would rather protect the status quo than the rights of fellow citizens? Why do they isolate and negate those whose only crime is to ask that their love be sanctioned on an equal basis to everyone else's? A civil right so overdue and wrongly denied, its advent must ultimately prove unstoppable.

And now these politicians use the very state constitutions that protect their rights to squelch the rights of a minority to marry and live among us as equals. If only these deluded moralists could see their actions are driven by the same fears and impulses that led to the brutal and tragic murder of 21 year old Matthew Shepard. No doubt, it is far less extreme to withhold rights from a minority than it is to take the life of a young man, but they are both links in the same chain of ignorance and blind prejudice.

So enough of this foolish and hurtful attempt to hold back the tide. It is time our political leaders stopped resisting change and began guiding us through it. Time that all citizens were afforded the right to marry—as well as love—whomever they wish. For love is a many splendored thing, no matter the age, religion, race or gender of those lucky enough to find it.

As Shakespeare might well have said, let us not to the marriage of two hearts admit impediments.

Or politicians.

***********
From "How To Train A Rock", a collection of Short Insights And Fiction Flights by Paul Steven Stone. "How To Train A Rock" is scheduled for publication April, 2009. Watch for its availability on Createspace.com and Amazon.com.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Buy My New Book And Save Hundreds Of Dollars


I lied.

You won't save a penny buying my new book "How To Train A Rock". Truth is it will actually cost you money when it goes on sale. But only about $5 if you take advantage of our first-time buyer's discount.

There I go again. That’s not true. You'll pay the same $15 that everyone else—except my mother—has to pay. And Mom's only saving a couple of bucks at that.

I didn't mean to lie, something just came over me.

The problem is, most of my professional life has been spent writing advertisements. So when I began to worry that intelligent readers like you might not purchase this incredible collection of my best "A Stone's Throw" columns—some of them hilarious, all of them shockingly inventive—I knew exactly what to do.

I lied.

But don't let that stop you from buying "How To Train A Rock" when it's finally available. Because somewhere inside the book you'll find our "mystery word" which could win you an incredible two-week stay at a fabulous oceanside condominium in Cancun, Mexico or . . .

Sorry.

I did it again, didn't I?

There's no mystery word hidden inside, no luxury vacation to win. It's just another cheap trick on my part and I'm not proud of myself for pulling it.

Let's be honest. You won't save any money when you purchase "How To Train A Rock". Nor will you win a prize, improve your social standing, lengthen your sexual organs or enjoy the benefits of space-age technology.

Truth is there's only one good reason why you or anyone else should purchase this book.

I just wish I could remember what it was.


* * * *
Just weeks away from introducing "How To Train A Rock" to the world, author Paul Steven Stone couldn't resist giving his new book of "Short Insights And Fiction Flights" one final—and hopefully humorous—plug. You may not win any prizes reading "How To Train A Rock" but I guarantee you'll enjoy and relish the experience. And that's no lie.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

We'll Always Have Paris

From the television:
“Tonight’s news begins with a Stone’s Throw exclusive. Intimate friends of hotel heiress Paris Hilton have confided that the talent-starved celebrity has agreed to marry Quaker Bob, longtime spokesperson and package icon for Quaker Oats cereal. The two met at a party at the Scientology Celebrity Center in Hollywood. Fans and celebrity watchers were taken by surprise since Ms. Hilton had vowed never to wed after her breakup with fiancĂ© and Greek shipping magnate Paris Latsis…

“Yes, the two actually shared the same first name!

“Speaking of which, the irrepressible Ms. Hilton confided she broke off the engagement when she learned her fiancĂ© expected her to change her name to his, which would have made her the second Paris Latsis on the celebrity register.

"’I come second to no one,' she declared, sparking smirks and titters from members of the press corps who had obviously seen Ms. Hilton’s pirated sex tape…”

From the living room:
“Did you say something, dear?” I ask my wife Sylvia.

“I said they’re not going to ask about the ring. The guy gave Paris a 24 carat diamond engagement ring and they never asked if she gave it back.”

Looking at Sylvia with her spiky, imitation Brittany Spears hairdo, I think of how much I preferred her Jennifer Aniston look. “Remind me why you changed your hair?” I ask.

“You know how long it’s been since they cancelled Friends?” she replies curtly. “Besides, if it wasn’t good enough for Brad Pitt…”

From the television:
“Celebrity watchers will recall that Quaker Bob was once engaged to Madison Avenue kitchen phenom, Betty Crocker. There was never an official announcement from General Foods or the Quaker Oats Company but insiders say the engagement was nixed after Quaker Bob was seen holding hands in Las Vegas with fabled femme fatale, Elizabeth Taylor.

“Paris and Quaker Bob expect to marry next spring in Massachusetts, the only state that currently recognizes mixed marriages between celebrities and advertising icons.”

From the living room:
Sylvia’s mentioning Brad Pitt makes me think about his friend George Clooney who was in a movie I recently rented on Netflix about some guy who used to be on TV, Edward R. Murrow.

“Ever hear of someone named Edward R. Murrow?” I ask Sylvia.

“Sure,” she answers easily. “He was the host of Jeopardy before Alex Trebek.”

“You’re good,” I reply, smiling. “Real good.”

From the television:
“In other news, nobody could have been more surprised than Bernie Madoff, the Monster of Manhattan, when he received an unexpected visit from the ABC Extreme Makeover team. In an episode featuring Martha Stewart and her all-prison team of decorators, the former Wall Street Wizard’s prison cell was reportedly transformed from a basic green penal motif to something Ms. Stewart calls ‘Rainbow XCell.’

“As Ms. Stewart explained, ’I was particularly concerned with Bernie’s gray facial coloring, which could easily create a solemn, almost burdensome, mood in this otherwise airy eight by seven foot cell. So my team and I literally splashed color everywhere, festooning rainbow hues across lace-trimmed curtains, bedclothes, pillow cushions, even a knitted tea cozy handed down from Bernie’s maternal aunt. And then, for the final touch, we painted the cell’s solid steel bars in the full spectrum of rainbow colors—very sexy and polychromatic! By the end of the show, I think you’ll agree, we managed to bring a fruity and sensuous air of allure to an otherwise pedestrian cell unit. According to a very pleased Bernie, it’s almost as welcoming as his penthouse. But you can read all about it in my next issue of Prison Decorating Monthly.'”

From the living room:
“You know,” Sylvia says, pushing the mute button, “I’m starting to think the whole thing was a railroad job. A complete miscarriage of justice. Now that I’ve seen the real person on television a few times, I can tell Bernie Madoff is not as bad as everyone said. Probably just another victim of bad press and a lousy publicity agent. Like what’s his name, that governor from Illinois…?”

“You’re right,” I add, “and did you read in People Magazine about Bernie’s charity work, and him becoming a born-again Talmudist? Just shows you can’t believe everything you read in the papers.

“Could you turn up the sound, sweetheart.”

From the television:
“On a more serious note, U2 Rocker, Bono, back from a fact finding mission to Africa, met behind closed doors with Sting, Paul Simon, Donald Trump, Chelsea Clinton and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to begin developing a plan to halt the worldwide spread of AIDS. No word yet on the scope of the plan or whether it would roll out in conjunction with U2’s planned world tour next summer. When asked why Elizabeth Taylor, who heads her own private AIDS foundation, wasn’t invited to attend the conference, unnamed sources suggested her presence was vetoed by unforgiving friends of a still heartbroken Betty Crocker.

“For our final story, we turn to Stockholm, Sweden, where the winners of this year’s Nobel Prizes were just announced. We regret to report there wasn’t a single personality you would recognize among the prizewinners.”

From the living room:
“I’ll bet the Nobel Prize TV ratings really suck this year,” Sylvia says knowingly.

“You’re so right,” I agree. “If they were smart, they’d give at least one of those awards to someone famous.”

“Paris Hilton, maybe,” Sylvia suggests. “Or Brittany Spears, if she’s out of rehab.”

“You’re good,” I reply, smiling. “Real good.”


"We'll Always Have Paris" is from my soon-to-be-published "How To Train A Rock", a collection of short insights and fiction flights. Watch this blog for the publication announcement, probably next month.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dear Lord, Can I Have A Raise?

It’s been two years since the Archangel Gabriel came down from Heaven and announced on NPR that God was putting Humankind “on His payroll.” At the time, few of us understood that cryptic remark but fast-rushing events quickly overran our ignorance.

As you remember, it was called the ‘Universal Salary Adjustment’ or U.S.A. and it somehow managed to supercede all payroll functions on the planet, doling out weekly paychecks according to some new and remarkable productivity standards.

At the time I didn’t think much about it though it struck me strange that The Creator would bother Him- or Herself with such mundane busy-ness.

Why not take over the management of Coca Cola, or some industrialized nation, I wondered? Why not end hunger, outlaw war…or maybe cut back the work week to three or four days?

Why not do something that seemed a bit more, well…divine!

And then, of course, nothing was more surprising than the paychecks themselves.

The first sign that something was ‘different’ came when my Augusta, my Salvadoran housekeeper, ran up to me and lifted me in her arms.

“Thank you, thank you, Senor Paul Steven!” she cried, spinning me around in a way that clearly indicated the size of the raise The Divine Paymaster had given her.

When I received my own paycheck I realized I’d be getting scant Heavenly encouragement to continue my work in advertising. There was no point complaining to my colleagues since they were all out looking for jobs in social service or menial labor, two of the “growth industries” created by the U.S.A.

For the first few months I heard nothing but disaster stories. Friends who worked as stockbrokers, lawyers, car salesmen and real estate developers were devastated by the new salary scale. Many of them began frequenting bars and were only saved from a life of alcoholism by the sad fact they didn’t have enough money to pay for the liquor.

Yes, under the impetus of the fat weekly paychecks now being cashed by nurses, dairy farmers, teachers, social workers, secretaries and street cleaners, there was intense competition for these new “high roller” jobs.

I’m sure you remember the riots that took place when the New York City Board of Education announced teacher openings in the South Bronx? Or the shock of seeing professional athletes out on the street in tattered uniforms holding paper cups and begging for spare change? Or when Money Magazine reported that all Peace Corps volunteers were now officially listed as millionaires?

Yes, it was a brand new deal with a brand new twist. Diplomats, McDonald’s restaurant owners and heads of state all contemplated new careers as the U.S.A. brought them down to a social status previously reserved for migrant farm workers and newsstand operators.

And now finally, two years later, most people have grown accustomed to the change. Many of us have sold off our SUV’s, quit our country club memberships and stopped buying expensive Christmas presents, if we still actually give Christmas presents.

And speaking of Christmas, a few weeks ago I noticed with mild interest a Salvation Army Santa being picked up by his chauffered limousine at the completion of his shift.

Pausing in my work as a meter reader, I looked over at the sign above his kettle and saw that, in the spirit of the U.S.A., this good man had been collecting money for the children of stockbrokers, bankers and CEO’s.

I would have taken a few coins from the unguarded pot but I knew that YOU KNOW WHO would only deduct it from my next paycheck.


"Dear Lord…" is from my soon-to-be-published "How To Train A Rock", a collection of short insights and fiction flights. Written over a decade ago, the story is ironically prophetic, highlighting the unprecedented greed and screwed-up values that have brought us to our current economic crisis.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Something There Is

Something there is that loves balance and righteous redress. That tips the scales to measure out justice and knows no judgments other than the ones we declare for ourselves. Something there is that equates giving with the gifts we receive and arrows sent into the darkness with barbs that wound us without warning.

Something there is that deals out measure for measure as though they were cards placed thoughtfully in a solemn pack of Tarot. For each Fate dealt to another there is one that comes back to the dealer. For each smile offered to a stranger there is another that comes back as an unexpected offering.

Something there is that won't allow me to denigrate another without denigrating myself. Or to devalue my efforts when I have given my all to the enterprise. Something there is that knows when laying down bricks of kindness and devotion to others I am building a home for my spirit that casts shadows on palaces and mansions.

Something there is that knows true wealth accumulates in the heart and is the only capital I can give away and never exhaust. Were I to gather all the riches of Rockefellers and Kings and Oil Barons and hold them locked with a miser's love in the deepest vault, I would be the most impoverished of spirits walking the planet.

Something there is that won't allow me to take away the rights of others without losing the ones I hold most dear. With each wall I erect to keep out those I fear, I carve out deeper levels to the prison in which I am held captive. How far from the sun I fall when I build a world to exclude those on whom the sun shines freely.

Something there is that lifts up and honors the gifts of life and love. That breaks through the darkness of a wounded spirit like tendrils of grass breaking through the deepest asphalt. Something there is that will ever rise above fear and the pitiful acts of frightened people and self-serving governments.

Something there is that knows the measure of a man or a woman and the gifts which, by their offering, they have chosen to receive. Something there is that tips the scales to measure out justice and knows no judgments other than the ones we declare for ourselves.

Something there is that lets us build a world for ourselves as we would build a world for others.

Something there is that is writing this now.

Something there is that is reading this now, as well.


"Something There Is" will be featured in my new book "How To Train A Rock", a collection of Short Insights And Fiction Flights due to be published in April, '09. Published by Blind Elephant Press, "How To Train A Rock" will be available through Amazon.com.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Listen To The Wind


Listen to the wind,
the fleeting wind.
Listen to it letting go
the sadness stirring far below.
Listen to the wind
the fleeting wind.


Be like me, the wind said. Never linger over sorrow, never cling to sadness. When I was a child I would run up against walls and stop, just like you, boy. But now I know better and leap from one obstruction to the next as if they were stepping stones.

Be like me, the wind said, and pass quickly over the obstacles in your life.

Listen to the wind,
the rushing wind.
Listen to it hurrying by
like a brakeless train
across the nighttime sky.
Listen to the wind
the rushing wind.


Be like me, the wind said, and never slow down to doubt yourself. When I was a child, boy, I would question where I was going, just like you. But now I know better, and only slow down to rustle leaves and scatter seeds.

Be like me, the wind said, and never slow down to doubt yourself.

Listen to the wind,
the stoic wind.
Listen to it hide the moon
and whistle up a cloudless tune.
Listen to the wind
the stoic wind.


Be like me, the wind said. I never mind the darkness, never ache to see the sun shining in its sky. When I was a child I would fret over clouds, just like you, boy, and spend my energy trying to keep the sun shining through. But now I know that clouds have a rightful place in the sky.

Be like me, the wind said, and learn to live with clouds in your life.

Listen to the wind,
the playful wind.
Listen to it shake the trees
with laughter rustling in the breeze.
Listen to the wind
the playful wind.


Be like me, the wind said, and never take yourself too seriously. When I was a child, I would puff myself up with my own importance, just like you, boy. But now I know that every tree I bend down will only straighten itself once I’m gone.

Be like me, the wind said, and enjoy the game while you can.

Listen to the wind,
the fleeting wind.
Listen to it setting free
the shadows of your misery.
Listen to the wind
the fleeting wind.



The above work was written over 20 years ago, and will be included in a new collection of short works slated to be published in the spring. The collection is titled, "How To Train A Rock". Please watch for it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

On The Road To Writing My Novel

For twelve years I was engaged in a solitary process that resulted in the publication of my first novel, “Or So It Seems”. Now, less than a year after its publication, I’m out in the world introducing this book to legions of total strangers.

Funny how the universe spins its web.

When I began writing the novel, I was lost and confused and not at all interested in writing a spiritually framed novel. My marriage had broken up, I was bitter and angry, and struggling to construct a life as a single parent of three wonderful but highly vulnerable children. And so, not surprisingly, the novel that took shape was bitter, angry and focused mainly on blame and payback.

But a funny thing happened on the road to payback.

As many of you know, we are each of us walking two paths on our life’s journey. On the first path we encounter our day-to-day struggles, our deeply held desires, our careers, our family lives, our likes, dislikes, quirks and ambitions. The second path, which you could call our spiritual journey, takes us on a much longer and far more obscure expedition. I’ll leave it to someone more knowledgeable than me to explain where that journey originates or where it is taking us, but its main characteristic is that it calls to and enlivens our deepest and truest selves.

Well, without over-stretching the comparison, this novel of mine, “Or So It Seems”, also traveled two roads in its journey to fullness, publication and, yes, self-discovery.

The point of divergence, where one road ended and another began, occurred after seven years. Truth is, I thought I had finished the novel, thought it was done. But after reviewing it, an agent suggested it needed more narrative tension. If I’m honest, it was a well-written, essentially dull tale of a man putting his life together again after divorce. I understood what the agent meant and sat down to create some suspense and tension by reordering a few elements in the plot.

A funny thing happened when I sat down at my computer, however.

The moment I started my rewrite, it was as if a voice sounded inside my head, telling me “Now you are going to write the novel you were supposed to write.” And then began another spiritual journey. Suddenly this kaleidoscope of new ideas, themes and characters started populating my simple storyline; as if by magic, my tale of one man’s divorce became a complex and humorous metaphor for everyman’s spiritual odyssey. Suddenly, my straightforward, linearly-told story became a rich, multilayered plot. And if you think I was excited or pleased, you’re not even close. I was scared to death. Had all that work, I worried—over seven years worth—been for nothing? It was frightening to think of revisiting my novel at that late date, but then again, some of those new ideas, characters and themes were so interesting, so playful, and so much more relevant to my life’s journey than anything I had written before…

Well, as it turned out, the new elements blended beautifully with the old and eventually, five years later, I found myself the author of a multi-leveled, humorous, surprisingly charming and intensely compelling novel. What one reviewer called, “A Rollicking Spiritual Page-Turner.” What I describe as ‘part odyssey, part oddball adventure and totally fantastic.’

If there’s a theme to “Or So It Seems” it clearly relates to perceptions of reality. How we’re so often distracted by what we see as the drama of our lives, that we rarely notice how that drama fits into our larger spiritual journey. Much the way I, in starting a novel about my divorce, failed to see that I had really begun a voyage of discovery, a journey that would lead towards something much larger and far more interesting than the tale of angst, bitterness and blame that had originally inspired me.

Or so it seems.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What Happens To Snow That Never Falls?

The following chapter from "Or So It Seems", a novel by Paul Steven Stone, picks up at a point where the narrator and his son are coming off a disastrous Pinewood Derby, which if you don't know is an oftentimes hellish father/son cub scout competition.

ADDRESSING THE QUESTION OF WHAT HAPPENS
TO SNOW THAT NEVER FALLS

My little boy is sleeping.

Lying next to him in our shared bed I hear him rhythmically drawing air through his open mouth.

A week has passed and we have not yet spoken of the Pinewood Derby. Truly spoken about it. We have of course mentioned small inconsequential matters relating to the event but only in the peripheral way one talks about the condition of a sick person when he is close enough to overhear.

"Bad break," I said to him later that day when we were seeking distraction from our sorrows at the South Shore Plaza Food Court. "We almost went all the way."

"No big deal," he answered, choosing to focus on the Johnny Rocket cheeseburger in his hand rather than the unstated issues in the air.

The fact that neither of us was ready to bring up the real cause for our discomfort is a good indicator of how tender the wound still seemed.

And what could I say? "I am sorry Old Number Two (our terminally ugly model racecar) looked like such a fruit salad?"

I do not think so.

Which is why a week later I have still not made any effort to clarify and explore that traumatizing experience for my little boy.

Not that I would know what to say.

If the purpose of life is to reach some understanding about the meaning of life I will probably have to retake this Do-It-Yourself Workshop a few hundred times before I am ready to graduate from the program.

To me the meaning of life remains as unfathomable a mystery as it ever was. Perhaps even more so the closer I come to seeing how things work.

I may need to leave it to someone else—to a future Paul Peterson in a future embodiment—to figure things out. He will have to penetrate the false facade of Automatic Universal Misunderstanding (AUM) to discover why I was repeatedly forced to experience something as upsetting—and weirdly ironice, considering my history—as the public humiliation of my only son.

What could be the purpose of that?

And what meaning could it have?

Especially when I recall how often I was told that AUM, Automatic Universal Misunderstanding, is merely an illusion; an illusion shared by almost everyone on the planet. A very believable illusion for sure but an illusion nevertheless.

Maya, as the Hindus have termed it.

"The Great Pretender's greatest game of make-believe," The Bapucharya calls it, adding, "He has only to sound the precise vibration and—ohmigoodness!—the physical universe disappears and we are all becoming (pause for giggles) out-of-work actors!"

No I do not enjoy the flavor of my GUM—my particular view of this Great Unrevealed Mystery—and would rather chew on something else. Something less emotionally destructive.

Simply put, I have had enough of…

I feel a soft blow against my shoulder.

It is Mickey's arm flailing about as his body shifts under the covers, turning from one side to the other.

Without asking permission a smile spontaneously takes control of my facial muscles.

My little boy is facing me now!

Just look at him lying here next to me, his mouth half open, his eyes fully closed, his brow starting to crease in irritated response to the glare of the lamp. Look at the way the eyelid twitches as if a few errant light beams have already stolen their way in.

If the past provides any insight to the future he will soon grow irritated by the glare of my reading lamp and turn back onto his other side. But while he is facing in my direction I will take advantage of this fleeting opportunity to breathe in like a sweet breath of oxygen the spectacle of his unguarded innocence.

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful or with more power to pull at your heart? Lying here propped against my reading pillow, staring over bifocals that have once again dropped to the lower reaches of my nose, I realize how fortunate I am to be given moments like this. Moments where I can reach out and touch him as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

He would of course shake off my hand even in the midst of his slumbers. But he would shake it off automatically the same way he would shake off an annoying fly. He would not question my right as a bothersome, affectionate father to touch him, to reach out in the night to assure myself he is real and alive.

Why a father would need to do such things is another story, one he would not easily understand. But he would never challenge my right to claim that intimacy just as he would never question the right of the fly to land wherever it chooses.

For twenty three years I lived in the same apartment as my father until he died of a heart attack at the age of 49 and we never shared a bed together, much less one of life's major disasters like a Pinewood Derby.

I had this thought; actually it is more like a fancy than a thought.

Yesterday here in Boston it was supposed to snow. The weather forecasters had predicted eight to ten inches with a foot more expected up north. What we actually experienced when everything was said and done was an unseasonably warm day in the upper fifties with the sun shining through high wispy clouds. A day as it turned out where thousands of snow shovels were sold in what was possibly the year's last frenzy of winter storm panic shopping.

Of course weather prediction is far from an exact science, especially in New England, but there is still something dramatic and momentous about a predicted snowstorm that never arrives.

When I was a child growing up in Brooklyn and would watch snow falling I can remember thinking that snow was some physical substance that collected in the clouds until there was so much accumulated it finally broke through. Almost like a mathematical formula describing the inevitable result of supply exceeding storage capacity.

One time when I was in elementary school we were told a major snowstorm was on the way but like yesterday's storm it never materialized. I recall wondering if someone might have made a mistake about the amount of snow that had accumulated in the clouds?

Maybe enough snow had not yet collected, I reasoned?

Or maybe they were right about the amount of snow piled up but wrong about how much the clouds could hold…?

Well whatever the reason, I was certain that the snow which had been predicted—the snow that did not fall—was still up there, high in the clouds…waiting. Waiting for more snow to collect. Waiting until the clouds were so full and sodden with snow they had no choice but to burst open.

Then of course all the snow would fall down and cover the asphalt streets of Brooklyn in a numbingly soft and pure whiteness.

As a child such simple ideas were the foundation of my understanding about the way things worked. No different, I would guess, from the assumptions and beliefs of most children.

Today when I wander through memories of my father, my mind approaches the subject with the same childlike innocence. And somehow I believe that the love I never received from my father was like the snow that never fell from the clouds. It did not vaporize or cease to exist but was merely held over. Waiting for enough love to collect. Waiting until so much love accumulated it would break through all restraints and finally—freed at last—fall like a gentle snow upon my life and the lives of my children.

As childish as it sounds something in me wants to believe that love builds up in the course of human experience so that if it fails to shower down in one life it will inevitably find release in another.

That same inner part of me knows that the love I share with my children has been made large and overwhelming by the love that never fell from my father's heart.

That hunger for a father's love must have colored Dad's childhood as well, since his father—my grandfather Izzy—was notorious for being a stern and distant parent. Is it any wonder then that Dad,  being so unfamiliar with love and how to get it, searched for it so relentlessly outside the boundaries of his family?

Searching for it in his work, his friends, even in the company of strange women.

My father's tragedy was that he never saw the abundance lying nearby for the treasure that was always beyond his reach.

I believe we are all waiting for snow that never fell. Some of us, the lucky ones, learn to create that snow for ourselves while others only learn to imitate the loveless behavior of their parents.

"Dad," Mickey mutters, squirming under the covers, "would you turn out the light!"

"In a few moments," I promise softly. "Turn over now and close your eyes."

He makes an angry noise and turns over as instructed.

"Thank you, sweetie," I whisper, tapping him softly on the shoulder.

"Grrr!" he answers.

"I love you," I tell him softly, almost singing the words.

"I love you, too," he grunts back with a testy shake of his body.

In scarcely a moment my little boy will be sound asleep again.

Most likely he will never remember waking up.

Most certainly he will never even know it snowed.


*********


For more about "Or So It Seems", visit OrSoItSeems.info

"Or So It Seems", a novel by Paul Steven Stone, is published by Blind Elephant Press, $20. It is available on Amazon.com and in a limited number of bookstores in the metro Boston area.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A 10 Minute Discussion On Why Time Does Not Exist

The following is an excerpt from "Or So It Seems", a comic breathtaking romp through time and space. Speaking of space, here is...

A Ten Minute Discussion On Why Time Does Not Exist

Though I never fully understood what they meant, The Seekeers For Truth often told us that time as we know it does not exist.

If there is such a thing as time, according to The Seekers, it does not occur in linear progression as we think it does but rather all at once, like an explosion caught in a video freeze frame. And if we are unable to experience it that way it is because of the deficiencies of our sensing mechanisms rather than the essential nature of time itself. It all goes back, they tell us, to AUM, to Automatic Universal Misunderstanding.

Think about that.

Time does not exist.

Everything in your life, every memory, every relationship, every assumption you make, every day you spend on this planet says just the opposite. That time not only exists but is a cruel and relentless taskmaster. That time not only serves as the backdrop and common medium for all our experiences but is the only way we can order our lives to make any sense of them.

If time does not exist could I really be 45 years old? Could I have been assaulted by moody teenagers on the streets of Brooklyn when I was eight years old, kissed by my first girlfriend when I was 10, had my first and most confusing sexual experience when I was 19, been married at 29 and divorced at 41?

I mean how can all of that be occurring at the same time? In the same moment?

How it happens I do not know.

That it does happen—is happening now!—of that I'm certain...

***

Am I capable of understanding any of this?

Are these answers waiting to be uncovered on my ILE (Individual Life Experience)? Or will I have to wait until my next embodiment or a dozen future embodiments to pull all the pieces of the puzzle together?

Perhaps just like time, those questions can only be understood and answered when viewed from deep within my being. From the CPU, the Center Point of the Universe.

Or within close proximity thereof.

Ironically it is only moving far into that deep inner space that one can find release from the full scale Broadway production of "Life As We Know It" produced by the Automatic Universal Misunderstanding. A show that you will no doubt recall runs 24 hours a day is enjoyed by the entire universe of God's sentient creatures who believe it to be real.

And since AUM is wholly responsible for creating the illusion of time as part of that show the only way to make some sense of the non-existence of time—to really experience it in the moment—is to step free from the powerful grip of Automatic Universal Misunderstanding.

But remember also that AUM creates more than time; it creates an entire universe of illusions. So when you step free from the power of AUM, you step free from a lot more than time.

You probably do not realize it, but I have only recently been gifted with this ability to move deep within myself, to sit extremely close to the CPU where time moves so slowly it does not appear to be moving at all. Remember, this is my first-ever Do-It-Yourself Workshop, as sudden and new to me as it probably is to you.

Because of this newly acquired inward mobility I can also move backwards and forwards in time with apparent ease, free to explore the language of my my ILE. Something else that is entirely new in my altered range of experiences.

Though in truth, as I have already stated, I have not moved anywhere except inside myself. All my connections with time have occurred in just one place—in the present moment.

The Sacred Present Moment!

The same present moment that runs through all moments in time like an old-fashioned record spindle runs through all the 45's stacked upon it—do you remember vinyl 45's? Anyway, for some reason I now seem able to move freely across that freeze frame image where time explodes all at once; not to some earlier or later moment in time but to a different place in the overall frozen tableau. Like an ant who can crawl across the surface of a photograph and into the depth of the image as well...

***

That is why the mountaintop analogy works so well to explain the expansion of your perception as you move within yourself. Because when you move toward the center of the mountain you also move toward the top. And the higher you climb the more you can see of the landscape below. So when you finally reach the Center Point of the Universe you are at the highest vantage point, from where you can see everything in all directions! All at the same time.

Most of us are only capable of living our lives at the base of the mountain so we move blindly on the lowest plane as if there were no higher, more integrated, point of view; as if life were nothing more than a series of images, experiences or moments that unfold in linear progression.

That linear presentation being all we see of the universe, it naturally becomes our reality.

But as I said at the beginning of this workshop, when we are standing on the mountaintop we can see the movie in its entirety; we can view the entire chain of events leading up to this moment in time and all those events that reach out from this moment as well...

To follow up on this brief discussion, turn to "Or So It Seems" by Paul Steven Stone,page 299: Lesson 31, "A Ten Minute Discussion On Why Time Does Not Exist"

"Or So It Seems" can be purchased at Amazon.com
For more information about Paul Steven Stone, log onto: PaulStevenStone.com
For more information about "Or So It Seems" log onto: OrSoITseems.info