Sittin’ stoned alone in my backyard

Dear Trent Lewin:

Thank you for the ping. Very thoughtful of you. A few summer projects have prevented me from reading blogs, commenting or writing new posts.

First, my backyard performance art installation, Ode to Summer, opened in June.

Ode to Summer, 2016
String, canvas, a tree, tube steel

I tie one end of string to my right foot and the other end to a tree. I lay in my hammock—a Father’s Day gift—and by moving my right foot slightly from left to right, I’m able to rock myself gently to sleep. To wit:


Second, I read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which was a disappointment. To rinse that bad taste out of my mouth, I reread Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, a book I first read 20 years ago. I’d forgotten how beautiful and perfectly-written that story is. There’s not one wasted sentence. It filled me with melancholy and hopeless yearning for my youth.

Also, I wrote a book. I dared myself to do it. I took the journal entries I’ve posted here and many more that I haven’t and created a 75,000-word narrative. It’s currently being edited. Do you have any idea how much it costs to hire a professional editor to beat and thrash a manuscript into shape? It’s not cheap. I had to sell one of my rare books. I don’t know if it’ll ever see the light of day. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I did it! I’m pleased with the results. That’s what matters most.

Here’s a proper art exhibit, since you asked.

Nikki Rosato’s Inbound exhibit at the Seward Johnson Grounds for Sculpture is a sampling of her wall hangings and sculptures.

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Her medium is paper road maps. Remember those, old timers?

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She cuts away the land masses, leaving only the roads, boarders and waterways.

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Only the linear forms remain.

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It’s exacting, effective work.

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For sculpture, the maps are placed over Lucite forms.

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There was some mumbo-jumbo about the work being metaphorical for a personal journey. Get it? Map = journey. There was also some stuff about negative space and spatial counterpoints. As usual, I freely admit to lacking the intellectual capital required to see through to these metaphysical suppositions. The pieces were fetching and I respect the work that went into creating them. Isn’t that enough?

The many moods of Tillie.


PNC1PNC2PNC3You go little plant! They built an outdoor concert pavilion on top of you but you found the light, anyway. We should all have such pluck.

110 thoughts on “Sittin’ stoned alone in my backyard

  1. You wrote a BOOK! All right! You rock Mark! Speaking of rocking I laughed myself silly when I played the video – just too funny. You could design a cap that slips over the big toe and is attached to a superthin, super strong filament ,patent it and market it and make a fortune. Awesome post – love the roadway artwork – right up my alley. Great cat pictures and the little plant in the middle of all that concrete is astounding.

    Super post with wonderful news – thanks Mark.

    As an aside, I did another guest post over at Mark’s If you have time to drop over I would be honored. Thank You.

    • Technically, the material was all there. It has been for decades. I just decided to buckle down and put it all together in one place. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I don’t know what I find more satisfying; the time off from blogging or writing a post to try and get back into it. I’ve still got a ton of editing to do on the book but it’s the kind of work I enjoy.

  2. Whoa, Trent Lewin wins! Mark, glad to see you in form, I’ll be back later after closer consideration of this post. Right now, I’m teaching the kids about the munificent sounds and magical beats of a little 80’s band called Tears for Fears.

    • I saw them in Cleveland tour ‘Songs from the Big Chair.’ The girl in front of me screamed “I want to have your baby!” I don’t think that’s what those guys were looking for. A Cleveland baby momma.

      • God that’s so weird. I love music, but never enough to, you know. Now if you tell me that you saw Bronski Beat, which I’m also playing full volume (Smalltown Boy extended version), I’ll be really impressed.

      • I love Howard Jones! No One is to Blame is one of my favorite tunes, but all his synth pop stuff is magic. I bought a vinyl record once, one of those compilations, so I could get “Things Can Only Get Better”, that song still does it for me. Mark, I’m totally impressed, even without the screaming girls.

  3. I was rather impressed with the toe-powered hammock (and slightly amused, which is always a good thing). Thoroughly enjoyed the road map art installation, and thanks for taking the time to post some of those close-up shots, too, so we could appreciate the incredible detail and imagine the patience required to painstakingly remove everything except the roadways and bodies of water. I’m kind of in agreement with you about the whole “isn’t that enough?” without having to muck around looking for metaphorical significance about personal journey. Besides that, aren’t ALL pieces of art some sort of journey? No metaphorical brain gymnastics required.

    Also enjoyed the many faces of Tillie, for no better reason than because cats are beautiful, and this particular cat is more beautiful than most. And a big thumbs up to the tiny bit of greenery that decided to openly defy the concrete jungle! Thanks for noticing it, and sharing that little happy event with us blogger people.

    I might be relatively new to your blog (most likely via Elyse). My own blog has been quite silent these days as well, and I’m okay with that. Have been otherwise distracted or busy, but still like to check in on my blogging buddies from time to time, when time and other circumstances permit, so glad I caught this post today.

    Nice little grab bag of relaxation, humor, artistic appreciation, more humor, with a dash of “what’s not to love about a beautiful kitty”, and capped off with a tiny natural victory in a cold and hard world of concrete. All in all, a perfectly enjoyable distraction for the day. Well done. 🙂

    • Toe-power came to me in a fever dream. I asked my daughters to stand there and rock the hammock but they got bored, fast. Then I looked over at the tree. Bingo. Genius is born from necessity.

      When I walked into the gallery, I didn’t know what those pieces were made of. It was only after I got very close I realized what they were. It was a great reveal. A great surprise. Can you imagine cutting all that out? How tedious.

      Cats have awesome faces. Never pleading, like a dogs. Always registering dignity. The Egyptians worshiped cats, you know?

      Happy to see a new face. It request some of your personal time to read and comment and I appreciate it. I take a casual approach to posting. Too much and it starts to wear thin. I like to pepper my posts with a few different things. That way, there’s got to be SOMETHING there to amuse. Thanks for stopping in.

  4. I wish you didn’t have to sell one of your rare books to do it, but I am so thrilled to hear that you showed yourself what you are capable of. I look forward to your book being published! I only recently discovered your blog, but was hooked immediately and devoured it very quickly. Your writing is reflective, vulnerable and incredibly inspiring. Would love to pick your brain sometime. (Especially about rap music.)

    • I wish I didn’t have to sell my book either! But I felt it was worth it. I can’t show the manuscript anywhere without a pro looking it over. I don’t have the expertise and I think it’s money well spent. Lots and LOTS of work to do on it yet. Can you imaging getting paid to write? What a dream.

      Thanks for your very kind words about my writing. No training whatsoever! None! It came about naturally. As far as rap, does Hamilton count as rap? Because that’s probably the closest I’ve ever come to dipping my toe in that pool. Some people say the cast recording of Hamilton isn’t REALLY rap so I don’t know if that meets the qualifications.

      • Shhhh … that one works for lots of people. Don’t you know we’re not supposed to say that out loud? Geesh. You’re not one of those born-again folks, are you? Seen the light, and all that business?

        (no, what you are is a badass. you actually did it. you sat down and wrote.)

        i don’t even know you, and I’m impressed. way to go ….

  5. Congratulations on assembling all those journals to make a book. We all knew you could do it. I can’t wait to get mine.
    Hammocks are making a come back this year. Our neighbors have 2 of them. We had one in Ohio back in the early sixties. Dad got it from an Army surplus store. It was olive drab green with a bug screen enclosure that you zipped up after crawling inside.
    I’ve always looked at maps since I was a kid. I never knew about this paper road map art. It looks pretty intensive like mosaic art. Much easier to nail a spigot or toilet seat to the wall and collect millions.
    I hope they let that plant grow for awhile. I’ve had several trees start out like that and now their 30 feet tall.
    Glad to have you back online.

    • Thanks, Tom. It’ll be a while before any book is out of the oven. I’ve just received comments from the editor. It’s a LONG process. No matter. I’m glad I did it.

      My hammock might be the best Father’s Day gift I ever got or ever will get. Do you know what mine comes with? Solitude. My daughters don’t bug me when I’m in it unless it’s important. Hence, the long naps. I love napping in a hammock.

      I love maps. i still keep an atlas in the car and look at it when I’m on long trips (when I’m not driving that is).

  6. That’s very L’il Abner, that toe machine.
    You know I’ll buy that book. Well done. Great feeling, eh? You were smart to hire an editor. I was lucky to have a friend/writer agree to review mine for s bottle of wine and a copy of the book. But it was worth far more than that. At least three bottles. My books, by the way, got lost in transit…

    • Hey, is that a new avatar? What the heck, man. When did that happen?

      I do feel a little better about myself. And as EXPENSIVE as it is, the editor is a necessity. I’m just hoping she’s not suffering too much wading through my murky prose. I *am* paying her so I don’t feel THAT sorry.

      What do you mean lost in transit? Is that some crazy Canadian metaphor or do you mean lost in transit?

  7. Wow, congrats Mark!! This is big news. i’m so absolutely thrilled for you for completing your book. You did it and I can’t wait to read it! If only I could read it while lying in that hammock. Good for you. I’m inspired.

    • Good morning, Amy. Thanks very much but it doesn’t feel like big news. It feels like something I should’ve done a long time ago. I didn’t want to start because I was afraid I’d never finish it. That it would just hang there unfinished for years. But all it took was a few months. Lots more to go but the bulk of it is behind me. Thanks again.

  8. Well done you! I wondered what you were doing being all quiet and stuff. I’m down for a copy when your book is published, sweetpea! LOVE the hammock! It’s been too damn hot to even venture outside down here! xoxoxo

  9. My goodness, I can’t believe my ears, er I mean, my eyes that you have “done up” all your writings into a book. I’m more than pleased. I hope it’s a run-a-way best seller. Loved the cat pics. And your hammock which is one of the best ways to relax. I’m envious. 🙂

    • My hope right now is to get to be editing process. If it’s ever published, that’ll be icing on the cake but I’m not banking on it. The odds are astronomical.

      Cats rule the world. The ancient Egyptians worship them, you know?

      • Sure do hope that you can swing the book thing. Yep, I’m like the Egyptians with my cats. One is under my right arm and partially resting on the edge of my computer as she purrs and purrs. her name is Addie and she’s 17 years old as of this past May. She and her sis, Nellie are littermates that I hand raised. 🙂

    • Thanks. I kind of cheated a little bit. It was all on paper already squirreled away in a storage bin. All I had to do was corrale it. It still needs to be gussied up but the worst part is over. You’ve got a much tougher route. Pulling it out of your head is no small task. Might as well start. What have you got to lose?

  10. You had to sell a rare book to make one (or edit one), that’s super! Congrats Mark, I remember when you said you were thinking about doing that this summer and that wasn’t so long ago…good job. Is it called Nikki Rosato or what’s that tag for, I’m curious? Tillie has some gusto, that one.

    • Hey, brother. Thanks. Selling a rare book to raise the capital to edit a book that might never be published is the opposite of a big fish eating a small fish.

      Being AWOL from blogland had pluses and minuses.

      Nikki is the artist. Inbound is there name of the exhibit.

      • I’ve been rereading Hemingway too, by the way (all his short stories). Inspiring, sometimes ‘blah,’ but true to life, which is about the same. I’m 10k in on my third go at my story, which is getting better, but still needs some more structure. It’s in the head part like one of your other readers said, that’s the scary place to go but good to work through the fear, the failure thing as you’ve also said. “You ain’t a beauty but hey, you’re alright.”

      • I threw structure right out the window. It’s not welcome here. There’s not a lot of character development, either. It’s a series of loosely-linked pieces. Have you read The Andy Warhol Diaries? It’s like that without the interesting people, wealth and history-making art.

  11. Well I was going to take the piss out of you on your hammock there, but now I’ve heard that you’ve put a book together I won’t. You deserve to rock yourself to sleep having put together a 75,000 word book. Good on ya! So, when can we buy it?

    I like that road map art. It makes sense to me. I can see where it’s going.

    • Do you know—and I’m not kidding about this—I was partially inspired by you? Everytime I visit your site I see that little book notice in the sidebar. I’ve always thought I should try that, too. I finally did.

      Buy it? Good heavens. I haven’t thought that through.

      I saw what you did with that art installation comment. Pretty tasty. Where do you get them from?

  12. Well technically you did write you just wrote it some time ago and just now got around to putting it together, either way congrats, i kinda think it’s the process that counts, the act of creation, the marketing and selling side i could do without but i’m sure there are people out there who can help with that, what matters is that you did it, doesn’t matter how long it took or how it happened, see you on the book tour! (if i had any talent or ambition i’d do something like that with the lounge but let’s face it, i’m much too fucking lazy for that sort of thing, besides no one wants to read about college educated hoodlums) And the hammock is fucking ace!!

    • That’s an excellent point. All the heavy lifting was done ages ago. I just now organized it. Although, when I get the manuscript back from the editor, it could very well be back to square one. She might think it’d be less work to start over. But still…I’ll take it.

      I think I resisted for so long because I was afraid it’d never be published. Now I truly don’t give a damn. I just wanted to get it out of my way, big boulder that it was. You might do it one day. Never say never. Ever.

    • Thank, Carrie. Can I actually say I wrote it book if it never gets published? I’m going to go with ‘yes’ because it’s such a thrill. Getting published wouldn’t suck but I still feel like I did something worthwhile.

      If you decide to try the hammock trick and fall on your face, can you record the blessed event and post it, please?

      • Ha! And end up on You Tube? Me thinks not…

        As for the it counting as writing a book if it’s not published–absolutely it counts! And if you do choose to publish it, thanks to the ever-changing publishing world you have all sorts of options available.

      • I’m not even going to think about publishing options until I’ve satisfied my editor (not to mention myself) and that’s a long way off. Can’t believe I just said ‘my editor.’ Jaysus.

  13. Really? You put your book together? I’m so happy for you, Mark! Looking forward to reading it in the future! I knew you could do it!
    Great post as always… kind of scattered like I always feel! Toes, maps, a cat, and a pink chair with a plant – something for everyone!
    I think it rained every day last week when the fair was going on… didn’t go because of it. Hope all is well in your world, it appears that it is! 🙂

    • Believe me…nobody is more surprised than I am. I kept threatening myself I’d do it but who ever thought I’d actually follow through? Not me! I really happy with the results. It’s a lot of fun.

      I was VERY upset because we had to go to Cleveland over the 4th of July instead of fair week (long story) so I’m sorry it rained but kind of glad I didn’t spend all that money to walk around in mud.

      Are you following the Indians? Could it be true? A World Series appearance the same year as…oh, never mind. I don’t even want to put the words out there in the ether.

  14. A book! Nice! My hope is that no one would be able to sell your book to finance theirs – but only because everyone would have a copy of your book already. (By the way, after selling 7 billion copies of yours you’ll be able to afford to buy that rare book back, and could afford to hire someone to rock your hammock, because tying that string and moving that foot already seems like too much work for being in a hammock.)
    As for map art – I think I can see my house on the sculpture.

    • Thanks, pal. Making enough money off a book in order to buy my book back is a pretty great plot twist. Well done. If I DO make any cash off this I’m afraid it’ll all be funneled into my daughter’s college fund. That would be good enough. I wouldn’t have to sell any more of my rare books and I can take them to my grave with me.

  15. Hah, I like your foot-swinging technique, but what it really shows is the high cost of labour in the USA. I hire a chimpanzee to swing my hammock. Do you have a title for your memoirs? How about ‘Screwing around in New York’?

    • Where do I get one of those chimps? I want one. Are they expensive? When they bite, do they actually break skin or do they just play around?

      I was going to stick with exile on pain street. It’s clever but I didn’t come up with it. A friend of mine invented it.

  16. Wow. That was a pleasant RSS.
    I dig how you’re moving between different subjects here, but they’re all very connected.
    a thought about the “proper art exhibit” and you’re intellectual capabilities that supplanted the exact metaphor you claim to not understand.
    Ha ha!!!
    I realize you are speaking a truth in that sometimes art can just be BADASS and simultaneously dripping with layers of meaning that aren’t necessary given just how BADASS it looks or how great the execution is. .. But I think I see that same metaphor for “the journey” in this blog entrie.
    Righting a book.
    Rereading Hemingway.
    Harry Potter.
    The summer installation in the backyard.
    All kind of like the taxonomy of Longitude/Latitude, highways, interstates … Arteries, vieins, red & white blood cells .. All part of the journey to see who can stay alive the longest.

    Great read.

    • Hey, your new! Thanks, very much, for taking the time to read and comment. All of my posts are similarly constructed. I rarely settle on one subject. My posts are like dim sum or tapas – a lot of small portions of different things. It’s perfect for short attention span. My theory is if you don’t like what you’re reading something different will start in a paragraph or two. Hang in there. Thanks again for the visit. Much obliged.

    • Thank you for your generous words about the book. My fondest hope is that I can get through the editing process and look at a finished product. Then, I need to decide next steps.

      I read in a review where somebody call the new Harry Potter book no better than fan fiction. That’s about as accurate an assessment is I can come up with. The characters have no relation to the ones we know and love. There are a few plot twists that are so absurd that it took me out of the story. I know JK Rawling’s name is on the cover but I don’t see her anywhere in here. Having said that, I’ll definitely see the play when it comes to Broadway. I hear it’s a spectacle and who doesn’t love a spectacle?

  17. I’ll join the masses and congratulate you on your book. Even though your material is pre-written, I’m sure that putting it together is a monumental undertaking. To follow this feat with inventing a hammock-rocking device that serves double duty as toe aerobics and then to have shot a video of your invention; you have just been a gushing fountain of creativity! Working on your book and inventing aside, do you find time away from the blogosphere addicting? It’s been like heroin to me. I have several posts I’ve been meaning to write, but then life just keeps getting in the way. Imagine that. Or not. You must know that well now, too. One of the posts was about Shakespeare in the Park. Milton and I scored tickets to both plays this year. That was a first. Normally, we score tickets to neither. The all-female casting of “The Taming of the Shrew” deviated from Shakespeare’s text and that didn’t work for us at all, but “Troillus and Cressida”, Shakespeare’s “problem play” was a riveting three hours. Plus we had fifth row center seats to that one. We were sitting in Canada for Shrew. About our T&C seats, Milton said, “Enjoy this. We’ll never get seats like this again.” Even the usher who zapped our tickets said, “You guys have great seats!” We also got to see it before the heat wave. Sometimes I feel like such a blessed atheist.

    • It really does feel like I cheated a bit. It’s not like a proper book where I had to think up a story from scratch and create a dramatic arc with believable characters, etc. Despite that, I’m quite happy with it. I’ve gone back to reread sections and I think it’s a very pleasant read.

      I find time away from blogland *very* addicting. Between reading Hemingway, pouring over my manuscript and blogging, blogging comes in a very distant third place. I almost had to drag myself back to post but someone asked what’s up and to ignore that would have been rude.

      It’s been a very quiet summer theater-wise. I just saw ‘Small Mouth Sounds’ and liked it a lot although I could’ve done without the male nudity. I concede that it’s germain to the story but me no likee. Glad you saw T&C in such great seats. It makes a big difference. That’s why good seats are so expensive. Is that your first experience with John Douglas Thompson? I’ve seen him in several shows and he is an absolute MASTER of the stage. He’s never bad in anything.

      Get thee to 59e59 and buy tickets for Conor McPherson’s adaptation of ‘The Birds.’ It did well in London and tickets are only 20 BUCKS. They won’t last. I’ll see anything that guy writes.

      • I thought everyone was great in T&C, but that was the first time we saw John Douglas Thompson, unless Milton saw him in another show without me, but he always claims that’s unlikely. He says he’s seen more theater in the decade we’ve been hanging out than in his previous 44 years. Thanks for the recommendations. I have an email into him about both “The Birds” and “Small Mouth Sounds” (Today Tix has a $30 rush option for that one we could shoot for). Right now, we’re gearing up for next season plus we have to unload a king’s ransom on the New York Film Festival. The main slate looks terrific this year. Check it out: Milton handles getting those tickets. I anticipate we’ll be living there between September 30 and October 16. Aside from my ushering gigs (I ushered “Engagements” last week at 2nd Stage Uptown; I was expecting a steaming pile of crap, but it was a little better than that, more equal to a bottle of warm piss), our summer has been very quiet theater-wise, too. But, we did score tickets to the best show in town: we saw Barbra Streisand at Barclay’s Center last week. She’s 74 and still has her pipes. We were both in our bliss. She was fantastic and put on one helluva show.

  18. I shall be in NYC from 2 -6 October. I expect a cocktail and a signed copy. I’ll bring hard cash (Sterling) and I’ll reciprocate with one of my books F.O.C since you’re getting the first round. 😉

    • I’ll wear a carnation in my buttionnaire and a big purple velvet pimp hat so you can pick me out in the crowd. As far as a signed copy, I’m pretty certain I won’t have one. I might not even be out of the editing process yet. But I *would* like a signed copy of yours, if it’s not too much to ask. It gave me the proper boot in the ass I needed.

  19. Well done on completing the book! Great news – hope it will pass through your editor unscathed and sell very well indeed. Lovely post as usual. Just love the artwork and your cat!

    • Wow, it’s Val. You’ve been around here a long, long time. I, too, hope my editor is gentle with me. Ideally, she’ll return my manuscript and say it’s perfect as is and not to change one comma. Lovely to see you, as usual.

  20. A book! That’s quite an accomplishment, one to be proud of, whatever happens. I saw the movie “Genius” about the writer Thomas Wolfe and his editor Max Perkins. Hope you have as good a result as those two did.

    • I do believe you are new here. Many thanks for taking the time to read and comment. What a pal.

      TECHNICALLY, these were journal entries first, written more than 20 years ago. I started to post snippets and people said they’d make a good book. I needed a shove but once I got started blogging took a back seat.

  21. Damn! I’m on the list to get that Harry Potter book from the library and it looks like all the anticipation might be for naught. Now if only I had a nifty, whiz-bang, self-winding hammock to relax in, it might dull the disappointment.

    • Don’t go on my word! Good heavens, I don’t know a thing. In fact, you SHOULD read it so we can compare notes. I will see the play when it comes to NYC, which makes no sense, but remember who you’re dealing with.

  22. Hey pal, long time etc., two daughters gone to the big cities, baby daughter now 18. A man is getting old. Nice art. I’m thinking I might start again, with the art like. I certainly have the fucking time. Our Jimmy has abandoned me. It is a bereavement I cannot deal with. He was such an influence on the Map, and then to leave. Just so suddenly. I sit like a faithful dog at the grave of his master. I miss the Bastard!
    Anyhow, I am giving ‘stuff’ away. I collect neckties, and cufflinks. I have a pair of cufflinks that remind me of you. I will send them to you.

  23. Nice art… cat pics, really? I suppose it had to happen. The hammock thing is neat, never seen that particular rocking device before but yes, it’s a piece of string and why did I think of that?

    So most interesting, this book of yours. I shudder to think of what that could be. Your Salinger vibe mixed with the brutal honesty in your diary reflections is endlessly compelling, and I totally applaud the fact that you’ve put some of this stuff together. Glad you’re happy with it, but I think you need ultimately to allow us the opportunity to be happy with it too, if you get my meaning. Looking forward to that day.

    • I consider the cat pics an artistic expression. Are you buying that? No? Me, neither. They’re cat pics. What was a thinking?

      Funny you should mention the book. I just got the first 55 pages back (out of 230) from my editor. I am so naive. I thought it was a finished product. It is not. It needs work but she did say some very flattering things about the book and about my writing. I can’t decide if her flattery was meant as encouragement or if it was because I still owed her money.

  24. What a lovely gift- that looks a splendid hammock and inventive of you to utilise your big toe.
    I must go back to Hemingway. I always admired his sparseness. Have often though of employing an editor but have never known one well enough to trust them. I was furious once when a typist changed my copy because she though it sounded better.

    • I hadn’t read Hemingway in quite sometime. It was a refreshing re-introduction. You forget how good these guys were. I’ll move onto Fitzgerald next and then the rest of the lost generation.

      I just got comments back from my editor and I’m not as close to being finished as I thought I was. How naïve!

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