Leslie's Injured Car
It happened very quickly. I must have felt the impact, but I was aware only of the very loud noise from the side of my car. I apparently hit the brakes very quickly, and the driver of the truck must also have veered quickly back into his lane, because there was no further damage, only that initial impact.

I was driving south on the New York Thruway, at 8:30 in the morning, on Tuesday, April 10, ready to listen to The Writer’s Almanac in a few minutes. My wife was drowsing in the passenger seat. I was on my way to teach my class at the Center for Lifetime Study, which meets at Locust Grove, south of Poughkeepsie, about an hour from my home in Woodstock. As usual, I was driving in the right lane, at just about the speed limit (65 mph), with the speed set on cruise control. A truck pulled out of the passing lane and hit my car. The impact sheared off the driver’s side-view mirror and left a large circular gouge in the driver’s door. Obviously I was hit by the truck’s wheel.

I pulled immediately into the breakdown lane, as I did so memorizing the truck’s license plate number, which I wrote down as soon as the car stopped moving. The truck pulled over ahead of me. The driver got out of his truck and walked back to see the damage. His apology was, “I didn’t see you. You were in my blind spot.” He called the police immediately on his cell phone, then asked if I was all right. Then he said something very interesting: “Gee, people are usually a lot more upset.”

The police car arrived in about 15 minutes and took down information, then told me I’d have to wait for the report to come back from headquarters. That took another 45 minutes. Meanwhile, the policeman told me he had issued a citation to the truck driver and that I would have no problems with proving his responsibility.

I now have a cell phone of my own, and I had the cell phone number of my class manager programmed into it. I called him and told him about the accident, assured him that nobody had been hurt, and promised to get there as soon as I could. When I finally arrived, the class had only 15 minutes left to go. The students were sitting quietly, listening to a Mozart Piano Concerto, which ended just as Tara and I walked in.

locust grove Locust Grove was the home of Samuel F.B. Morse, a very attractive site, as one would expect. Morse was a prominent painter who became wealthy through his development of the telegraph and the “Morse code.” CLS is a volunteer program for senior citizens. I was tapped to teach there as a result of pre-concert talks I gave for the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, and my music classes have been very popular there. This semester I am “teaching” a series I call “Mornings with the Great Pianists,” in which I introduce videos of great pianists in performance. It’s a VJ series rather than real teaching, but more than 70 people signed up for it.

This accident has caused plenty of trouble for me. I don’t feel comfortable driving the car without a side-view mirror, so I’ve been using Tara’s car, which is even older than mine. A couple of times her car has been in use otherwise and I’ve had to drive my car on short trips. My insurance agency, which I like very much, took care of the contact with the truck’s insurance agency. They have not acted promptly. Apparently the driver is now claiming that I “cut him off,” an explanation which isn’t likely to hold up after the agency reads the police report. But it’s eight days as I write and I still don’t have my mirror, which I can’t replace until the truck’s agency tells my body shop where to get the replacement mirror. And I won’t have the door repaired for another three weeks. Filling out forms and spending time on the phone have wasted time I could have been using for things I prefer, like writing this blog.

Still, my prevailing attitude about this whole incident is gratitude. As I think about the accident, it seems a small miracle that Tara and I weren’t injured at all. I suspect that most incidents when a large truck hits a passenger car result in more serious damage to the car and its passengers. The impact didn’t even throw me severely off course. My car was pushed partway into the breakdown lane, but not far enough to hit the guard rail, which would probably have caused me to lose control. If things had gone otherwise, we could have been crushed between the truck and the guard rail. We could have been killed. Instead I have a car with a damaged door.

I’m curious about something. I have been doing these classes at CLS for twenty years, and I’ve never missed a class. Once or twice, I’ve been late due to traffic jams, but never by more than a few minutes. During all these years, I never had a cell phone, which I acquired only recently. The week before the accident, at the first class session, I got the cell phone number of Bill Barbash, the class manager, and programmed it into my phone. So I was able to call him within minutes of the accident, before the class was scheduled to begin, and tell him what had happened. But here’s the question:  Did I arrange for this emergency call just in time? Or did I somehow clear a path for the accident to happen?

Recently I’ve been listening to two Russian classical pianists from very different eras. Vladimir Feltsman is still in his prime. Vladimir de Pachmann was one of the earliest pianists to make records. I love them both.

I was involved in the Vladimir Feltsman story in a small way. After he applied for an exit visa to leave the Soviet Union with his wife and son in 1979, he immediately became a “nonperson.” Not only was the application refused, but his career was shut down. He had already toured outside the Soviet bloc, but foreign booking agents were told he was not available for touring. He was forbidden to perform anywhere for two years, after which he was gradually given demeaning assignments like playing a recital in a kindergarten classroom on an upright piano at 10 a.m. His Russian LPs were suppressed and recordings of his concerts disappeared from the Soviet radio archives.

Various Western musicians took up Feltsman’s cause, without immediate results. Daniel Barenboim organized a tribute to Feltsman at Carnegie Hall, at which he and several other famous pianists performed. For the last number on the program, the spotlight was shone on the vacant piano while one of Feltsman’s recordings played.

As a fortunate byproduct of my work as a classical record dealer, I found two of Feltsman’s suppressed recordings in 1984: one original Soviet LP, the other a reissue on a Spanish cassette. (I have since obtained all of them.) At the time I was doing regular classical music broadcasts over WDST in Woodstock. I told Jerry and Sasha Gillman, owners of the station, that I had these suppressed recordings and wanted to do a special. Jerry suggested we attempt to get an interview with Feltsman. I expressed skepticism, but I should have known Jerry better. He called our local representative, Matt McHugh, who in turn got in touch with the State Department. Eventually we heard from the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, who turned out to be friendly with Feltsman. Sure enough, we got our interview, recorded off the phone from his apartment in Moscow. The resulting program went out on our station, then WQXR-FM in New York and a little later over the Voice of America.

The president of the closest major educational institution, Alice Chandler of the State University of New York at New Paltz, heard about the broadcast. The following month, she and a group of American university professors traveled to Russia to visit with “refuseniks,” people who had been refused permission to leave the U.S.S.R. Chandler met Feltsman at his apartment, and told him if he could ever leave she would offer him a job at her school. He joked with her that if she could get him a false passport he would go immediately.

He was finally allowed to leave in 1987, due to continuing intervention from our State Department and specifically the Secretary of State George Schultz. Feltsman eventually learned that he and several other refuseniks had been released in exchange for some concession by the U.S., but he never found out what that was.
I was among a group of people who met the Feltsmans when the arrived in the U.S. I remember vividly his four-year-old son Daniel running into the press room at Kennedy Airport bouncing a helium balloon on a string and yelling “Mickey! Mickey!” (It was Mickey Mouse.) I didn’t get to hear Feltsman’s first performance in the U.S., at the White House.  (I did eventually get a tape of it for broadcast on WDST, the only U.S. outlet that got to run it.) I did hear his official debut at Carnegie Hall, which confirmed what the recordings had suggested: he was a major pianist, with a wide range of abilities and the versatility to play almost anything convincingly. I was particularly impressed with the way he played excerpts from Messiaen’s “20 Views of the Infant Jesus,” with such color and conviction that the audience was transported.

Over the intervening quarter of a century, I have heard Feltsman numerous times, occasionally in New York, more often at the college. Last weekend, as part of the inauguration ceremonies for the college’s new president, and to celebrate his 25th year there, Feltsman played a brief benefit recital at the college. Perhaps by accident, more likely on purpose, Feltsman invited comparisons with the great Sviatoslav Richter, whom he heard in concert many times. He played Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” one of Richter’s most famous triumphs. The two other works on the short program, by Schubert and Liszt, were pieces also included in Richter’s most famous recording of “Pictures” (from 1958 Sofia concerts).

I’ve always admired Feltsman’s playing. As a Bach player, he is simply unequalled among those I’ve heard. One of the many fine features of his Bach is his ability to add embellishments to repeated sections of the music, a necessity in Bach’s day but a rarity in ours. Little improvisations like that were expected in performances up through the time of Mozart and even beyond. We know that Chopin often varied his music when he played it. The few grace notes that Feltsman added to his Schubert Impromptu were nothing radical, but they showed the way he thinks about music–creatively.

Feltsman has never been a “black and white” pianist, as his very colorful Messiane playing demonstrated at my first hearing of him. But after hearing his Liszt and Mussorgsky, I feel he has widened his color pallette over the years. The shading in these works was actually reminiscent of Richter.

Creative interpretation was also a part of the style of Vladimir de Pachmann, who was born in 1848 and began making records in 1907. Pachmann has been one of my favorite pianists since I first heard him, more than 50 years ago, in an LP anthology of great Chopin players of the past.

It’s difficult to listen to Pachmann today. Most of the recordings are acoustical (done through a horn, before microphones came into use). They have limited frequency range and, usually, heavy amounts of surface noise. But that’s never stopped me from marveling at Pachmann’s performances, free in a way that would not be acceptable in today’s concert halls but always convincing and expressive. If I had to use one recording to exemplify eloquence and poetry in classical performance, it would probably be Pachmann’s playing of Chopin’s Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1. Despite the late opus number this is actually early Chopin, published posthumously, and it may not be exactly Chopin’s greatest music. But it’s the best sounding of Pachmann’s recordings, and one of the few among his last discs that shows the pianist completely in control.

You can hear that recording for free on the Internet. But if the idea of hearing romantic piano music (mostly Chopin, but also Liszt, Mendelssohn and others) played by a survivor of the romantic era appeals to you, there is a unique opportunity available now. The Marston label has issued a four-CD set of the complete surviving recordings of Pachmann, including quite a few that were never published on 78s. For years I have been dreaming of owning such a set, and now that it’s available, it has been done the way I wanted to hear it. That Chopin Nocturne, for example, should have been heard in clear, fairly wide-ranging sound. It was published on RCA Victor’s best shellac material (the so-called “Z” pressings). But all the previous reissues of it I have heard were sonically dull, filtered to remove surface noise. Marston’s edition is what I’ve always wanted. And for the asking price, it strikes me as a real bargain.


It’s not often I run into one of the world’s greatest ballerinas in a parking lot and she calls me by name. But there is one such creature, and she figures prominently in what I call my “bullshit resume.” I danced with her!

I came up with the concept of the bullshit resume years ago, reading the potted biographies of musicians on concert programs. The bullshit resume item isn’t a lie. Pianist X has performed at Carnegie Hall, for example. But that credit can cover a wide variety of events, from giving a solo recital in the Stern Auditorium (the main hall at Carnegie) to hiring Weill Recital Hall (a much smaller theater). “Performed at Carnegie Hall” sounds as thought it indicates a high degree of success. But it doesn’t necessarily. I could play a recital at Weill myself, if I had the money to hire the place.

One often sees something like “has sung at Carnegie Hall” on a singer’s resume. Sure. Many choruses perform there every year, and all of those people sing at Carnegie Hall.

My mother performed at Carnegie Hall, as a soloist. She played the Grieg Piano Concerto with the All-City High School Orchestra, at Carnegie Hall, in front of a packed house (mostly, one supposes, friends and relatives of the kids in the orchestra). The conductor on that occasion was Jean Morel, a prominent conductor and conducting teacher. A couple of decades later, my mother and I went backstage to meet maestro Morel after he conducted a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. “You won’t remember me,” my mother said, “but I played the Grieg Concerto with you years ago.” “Of course I do,” Morel replied. “You’re Shirley Felberg” (my mother’s maiden name). But she never used the Carnegie Hall credit on her resume.

I once played two-thirds of a Beethoven Piano Sonata at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, another apparently prestigious gig. I was actually the final–and therefore presumably most accomplished–performer on the annual recital of students of the Brooklyn Piano Teachers Guild, for which they hired the small upstairs hall at BAM. There were about 400 people in the audience, and I was nervous, but I did OK. I remember mostly that the piano was a huge old Steinway with a wonderful sound and almost no resistance left in the key action, which made it very difficult to play.

So, there’s one item in my personal bullshit resume. I played Beethoven at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. True, but essentially false. Bullshit.

Here are some other elements in my bullshit resume. My favorite musical one is not the BAM gig but that I sang as a paid soloist with a professional symphony orchestra. True, but false. I was narrated a performance of “Tubby the Tuba” with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic at a children’s concert. Tubby has a little song, and I sang it. I was even in tune, as the tape proved. (I also narrated “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” at that same concert, which was considerably more difficult. If I hadn’t been able to read music I would have had a terrible time.)

As a bullshit poet, I can claim to be a student of Sharon Olds, Marie Howe, Mark Doty, Patricia Smith, and Billy Collins. The Olds credit is closest to the truth, since I was in two workshops of hers at Omega Institute, one of them five days, the other three. Enrollment was limited to ten people and we were chosen by submission. (I was accepted as an alternate, but someone couldn’t make it.) Howe, Doty, Smith and Collins were all involved as teachers in Omega’s “Celebration of Poetry” last summer. That event, though, had open enrollment, and although it turned out to be surprisingly worthwhile there were 91 of us. There’s a chance Olds might recognize my name, but none of the others would.

Incidentally, I have also read my work at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry event in all of North America. Yes, they have an open mic.

My favorite item on my bullshit resume is that I have danced with Martine van Hamel, one of the greatest of all American ballerinas. I’ve known Martine’s mother, Manette, and her late father, Dick, for decades. They were very much involved in the Woodstock arts scene and I ran into them many times and often visited their house. (My father almost wound up buying a violin Dick had made. The deal fell through at the last minute.) Martine, their daughter, was a lead ballerina at the American Ballet Theater, and I got to know her slightly from running into her when she was visiting her parents.

One New Year’s Eve, I attended a party at which all three of the van Hamels were present. Martine asked me to dance with her. I still remember how that felt: like an asteroid being orbited by a comet. So, we were never on stage together, thank goodness. I’m a pretty awkward dancer. But I danced with Martine van Hamel. I also interviewed her on my radio show once, when she was making a local appearance. And when I ran into her in the parking lot outside the Price Chopper supermarket in Saugerties, we had a very cordial hello.

A list of the music people I’ve interviewed for my long ago radio program, and for a few news articles since then, would be impressive, and legitimate, if that means anything to anyone. When my mother learned that I had interviewed Aaron Copland at his house, she gained a whole new level of respect for me. Others on my list are Isaac Stern, Virgil Thomson, Steve Reich, Wynton Marsalis, Michael Tree (of the Guarneri Quartet), Ivan Moravec, and plenty of other music celebrities. But that’s a legitimate list. If I claimed to know any of them, that would be bullshit.


The day this post goes on line I will be starting my next class at the Center for Lifetime Study, where I have been a “presenter” for about 20 years. Teaching has almost always been part of my adult life, although I’ve seldom been paid for it. But I do it because it helps to keep my brain alive and working.

My parents were both teachers. My father was a high school teacher when my mother met him. Although their immediate connection was musical–she accompanied him at a performance, and he understandably loved her playing–I’m sure that one of his attractions for her was that he had a well-paying, steady job during the worst of the Great Depression. After they were married and their two children were born, my mother went back to college to get her Master’s degree in Education, and she became a kindergarten teacher.

Since I was a bright kid, my parents always told me they wanted me to become a college professor. It might have happened, except that I fell in love with a family–my first wife and her three daughters–and left college to marry them and support them. Although I eventually returned to school and got my B.A. in Creative Writing, I never tried to make any use of the degree. I went into the classical record business and, although semi-retired, I’m still in it.

My father, having failed to inspire me to fulfill his ambition for me, decided to fulfill it himself. After he retired from his high school job, he became a college professor, a writing instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. And my brother, the “dummy” of the family (he isn’t really dumber than I am, just younger) became an elementary school teacher, at which he had a long and successful career.

I did my first teaching in the early ‘70s. We learned of a new alternative school, The Ark, opening in our area of the Catskills, and it sounded like a good place for the girls. I couldn’t afford full tuition for the three of them. The school director offered reduced tuition for anyone whose parents could teach subjects they needed, so I wound up teaching writing there for the two years it lasted. My oldest daughter was one of its three graduates.

In 1980, I began my career as a classical music radio broadcaster. Although radio is primarily an entertainment medium, I always thought of my programs as being educational. I developed a style of introducing music that was brief and breezy but always included some interesting information. The formula worked, and my classical program became improbably popular and lasted for more than a decade.

The radio show opened more venues for me, including an invitation to do pre-concert talks for my local orchestra, the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. People who heard me do those talks invited me to do other relatively informal teaching jobs. I did a series of classes on Music of the 20th Century for the Dutchess County Jewish Community Center, which was well-liked but poorly attended because it started in September of 2001! I was also asked to be one of the initial teachers at the newly-formed Center for Lifetime Study, a project of Marist College in Poughkeepsie.

CLS is a credit-free, all volunteer program for senior citizens and retirees. Most of the teachers there are college professors, active and retired. But there is room for other people like me who have expertise in various useful topics. I actually have no academic qualifications at all in music. But I’ve been an active music critic and writer for decades, and apparently I know enough to be able to give worthwhile information to others. Our classes currently take place at Locust Grove (photo above), home of Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and a highly respected artist. The place is a pleasure to visit!

At CLS, I have done a wide variety of music classes, mostly concerned with classical music (Bach, Mahler, Dvořák and His Followers, etc.) but not always (Ragtime, Music of New Orleans). I’ve usually selected topics I was interested in exploring, and CLS has never turned one down. I’ve also responded to a few requests, including the Mahler class. Attendance at my classes is usually robust. Surprisingly, the largest enrollment ever, almost a hundred people, was for the Mahler class. I really should use the term “classes” in quotes, because I try to do a minimum of “teaching.” Instead, I do something close to what I used to do on the radio, playing a lot of music and introducing it as concisely as I can. So I never “lecture” if I can help it, although I do encourage questions. Answering them is an interesting challenge.

My current class is a follow-up to one I did last year. I call it “Mornings with the Great Pianists.” We have 75 minutes a week. Since CLS has good video projection equipment, I have been playing videos of great pianists in performance, from my extensive collection. So I’m not a DJ in this class; I’m a VJ. This series is even more entertainment-oriented than usual. I plan to play at least 60 minutes of videos in my 75 minutes, leaving only a little time for questions (although I do hang around after class to take more).

For every one of these classes, I have to drive an hour each way, paying my own gas and tolls. It seems like a burden. But I’ve been finding my work at CLS so stimulating that I doubt I’ll give it up as long as I’m able to continue. Since CLS opened there have been several similar programs started in my area, most of them closer to me than CLS. But I’ve had so much fun there that I stay there.

Like most of my “teaching,” CLS pays me nothing. However, my work there led directly to my being invited to do “Lunch and Learn” introductions to local presentations of the Met Live in HD broadcasts. They’re done at good restaurants near the theaters, ensuring that my wife and I eat well, and I’m paid well for doing these talks. It’s ironic that I should be posing as an opera expert. Although opera was a part of my childhood, and I was frequently taken to the Metropolitan Opera when one of my parents couldn’t use a subscription ticket, I haven’t been a great opera afficionado during most of my adult life. I’m learning fast, though, and discovering that I can even enjoy sitting through Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung” twice in a couple of weeks–once to prepare, once at the broadcast–with great enjoyment. I can think of some people who’ve known me for years who would find that very, very surprising.

Francis was the first pet of my adulthood. He probably led the most interesting life of any pet I ever had.

After I married a family of one wife and three daughters, it was inevitable that we would get a pet. But a dog was going to be too difficult for us to manage at first. I had never cohabited with a cat, but my new daughters all insisted they wanted one. We wound up with an orange and white tabby whom my wife named Francis after her father.

Francis was a perfectly placid apartment cat. In the summer he liked to go through the open window and sit on the fire escape. Other than that, he never left the apartment–except for one accidental time. At Christmas, the kids had painted a snow scene with detergent paste on the fire escape window. Eventually they cleaned it off. Later that day, Francis apparently looked at the window and decided that because all that white stuff was gone it must be open. So he jumped right through the glass, and, startled, fell off the fire escape onto the roof of the building next door, one storey below. A friendly neighbor rescued him and brought him home, with nothing but a tiny spot of blood to show for his adventure. That was his last excursion outside the apartment.

After we’d had Francis for a couple of years, we moved to a house on Staten Island. Francis was happy to live in the house. I somehow had the idea, though, that in a safe, low-traffic neighborhood a cat would want to go outside. He didn’t, really. I would toss him out the back door into our backyard, and he would run back into the house before I could get the door closed. But after several such adventures, he tried wandering around the yard. That hooked him on the idea of the great outdoors.

Francis was, I’m now sorry to admit, an unaltered male cat.  After a few times going outdoors, he discovered the excitement awaiting him in our neighborhood. He took to going away for a day at a time, occasionally returning with minor signs of combat on his fur. Francis’s wanderings took a dangerous turn when we moved from Staten Island up to the Ulster County town of Phoenicia. On the day we made our main move, he was nowhere to be found. Two days later, I came back to the Staten Island house with our moving crew to get the last item, my grand piano. We did find Francis. But the van in which we took the piano had no door on the passenger side. Although I was holding Francis in my lap through the whole trip, after the truck blew a tire and stopped for repairs he got loose from me and rushed out the door. I was lucky to catch him and get him up to Phoenicia safely.

He took a little while to get used to his new neighborhood. Then Francis started making longer excursions from our house. While he was home he was a perfectly ordinary housecat, sitting in people’s laps and purring his head off when he was being petted. But his trips away from home often lasted a week or more. He would come home looking emaciated, spend a few days renewing his family contacts and eating voraciously, and then go off again.

We lived across the stream from the main part of Phoenicia, and since we never saw Francis when he was away from home we often speculated on whether he was crossing the bridge into town. We learned that he was when some fool ignored the large sign on the bridge and tried to drive a truck over it. The truck was too tall for the bridge; it hit the metal crossbar with such force that the fragile old bridge collapsed. With the bridge gone, Francis did not come home.

We didn’t see him again for about two years. Then, one day, my wife called me from town and said she had seen Francis. I immediately drove into town, and there he was, looking entirely like his old self and quite well fed. I put him into the car and drove him home. He acted just like the Francis of old, snuggling with the girls and purring. But after three days, he took off again and never came back home. A friend told us he had seen Francis hanging out with a tribe of feral cats who lived behind Al’s Seafood Restaurant, where they lived comfortably on fish scraps.

I still imagine Francis, on a chilly fall evening, sitting around the campfire with his cat friends and telling them about his days as an apartment cat in Brooklyn. They probably didn’t believe him.

My parents’ families had no experience of having pets. Neither my father nor my mother had any animals in their households when they were growing up–and I don’t believe any of their siblings ever acquired any pets. Our pet history began by pure chance. One summer day, when I was five, my mother was ironing clothes with the window open and a canary flew in.

She immediately called my father, who was at work, and told him of the incident. He told her to close the windows and the door to that room, which was the bedroom I shared with my brother. He came home from work, carrying a small birdcage, let himself into the room and somehow caught the bird, popping it into the cage.

The next day my father reported the found bird to the local police station and put up a few circulars on our block in Brooklyn. But there was no telling how far the bird had flown, and nobody ever called to claim him. That day, my father came home from work with a large birdcage and canary supplies, including seed, a stone for him to sharpen his beak on, and whatever else the pet shop owner had told him he needed.

The canary, whom we named Chirpy, was our first pet. We knew he was a male because he sang, as only male canaries do. He fit rather well into our household and caused relatively little trouble. I liked having a pet in my room, and I frequently let him out to fly around the room. He always went back into the cage eventually, probably because that was where the food and water were.

Chirpy was probably not a young bird, and he lived only two or three years after we acquired him. But my parents enjoyed having him around also, and they saw that caring for him made me and my brother act responsibly. Soon, while Chirpy was still alive if I remember correctly, they bought a pair of hamsters, whom we named Timmy and Tina. They were fun to play with and we took good care of them. I remember one day when my little brother came running into the kitchen, shouting, “Mommy, mommy, little pink things are eating Tina!” We easily found homes for the little pink things, since hamsters were popular pets.

I also remember that, after Tina died, Timmy somehow escaped from his cage. We searched the apartment for days. Then, one night, I woke up, hearing my father in the kitchen singing, “Timmy, Timmy.” He’d heard noises behind the refrigerator. Timmy didn’t respond to his name, of course, but he did eventually come out and wound up back in his cage. Hamsters live only two or three years, and after Timmy died we didn’t get any more hamsters.

After Chirpy died, though, we had a birdcage to spare. My parents decided we needed a parakeet, whom I named Butchie. He was a dreadful pet, the only one I’ve ever had that I didn’t like. As with many of his species, Butchie liked to greet the dawn by shrieking loudly. By then I was old enough to read up on pets and one book recommended putting a blanket over the cage at night. But it didn’t work. I doubt if lead foil would have kept that bird quiet. As a result I was chronically sleep-deprived during a crucial period of my childhood. Maybe that’s why I’m only five foot five now. (Or maybe it’s because my father was five foot one.)

Budgies do like to fly around the house, so I had to release Butchie from his cage frequently. Budgies often land on people’s shoulders. In his case that was a cause for dread, since he liked to bite earlobes, a very painful experience due to his sharp pointed beak. He also liked to land on heads, where he often deposited little blobs of birdshit. The only ways to remove them were to wipe and then take a shower, or to wait until the blob hardened.

I think I gained a lot of maturity taking care of Butchie. I realized I was responsible for his care and I always fed him promptly, made sure he had plenty of water, cleaned his cage, and let him out for frequent exercise. Still, I must admit that the morning I found him lying on his back on the floor of the cage, I wasn’t at all sad.

I don’t remember the exact times when we acquired or lost these pets. But the arrival of our dog was a major enough event so that I will never forget it. We used to spend our summers at my father’s parents’ hotel, the Hotel Lorraine, in Sullivan County, New York, where my father and his siblings served as unpaid labor. It was no fun for them, and it was hell on my mother, who missed her friends and all her musical activities in New York. But for my brother and me it was paradise. The summer before I turned ten, 1952, my father decided that we could have a dog. Some dog in our neighborhood in Livingston Manor had had a litter of puppies, about half cocker spaniel and half dachshund. My brother and I had been reading a Wonder Book called “The Four Puppies Who Wanted a Home” over and over. The puppies in the book were named Trixie, Dixie, Pixie and Nixie. Nixie, the smallest and cutest, was the last one to find a home. Of course we named our new dog Nixie.

While Nixie was born in the country, she soon became an apartment dog, since that was where we spent ten months a year. My mother, who had been quite unhappy about the idea of having a dog, turned out to be an excellent and willing dog trainer and she participated enthusiastically in the process of housebreaking Nixie.

Nixie was my constant companion throughout the remainder of my childhood. For some reason I had the primary responsibility for walking her, although we were a family of four and the others often took her out. I remember with regret that sometimes these “walks” consisted of taking her to the corner and back, although good walks were all the way around the block. Nixie often slept with me. She was as gentle and kindly a dog as ever lived. I cannot remember any time when she caused us any trouble or grief, until she died. During our long rides to and from the Hotel Lorraine, Nixie would sit on the back seat of the car. When my brother Kenny or I got tired, she would let us use her as a pillow while we napped. She obviously loved our summers in the country, which ended only two years after we got her when my grandparents sold the hotel. But she always seemed happy to be around us, and she brought a great deal of joy into my life. She certainly helped set a norm that would remain throughout the remainder of my life to date: I have a dog. Usually two.

Nixie was almost the last pet we acquired during my childhood, but we wound up with one more when I was in my early teens. My mother was teaching kindergarten by then, and if I remember correctly it was another teacher in her school who had a large box turtle to give away. My mother took the turtle because she thought her schoolchildren would enjoy caring for it. But they didn’t, so she brought it home.

There was never any way to determine the turtle’s gender, but I always thought of it as male. He got his name through a surprising ability he had to climb up the side of a couch and sit on the seat. I named him Hillary, after the great mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary. Much to my surprise, Hillary took an obvious liking to me. The couch-climbing behavior occurred when I was sitting in the music room, reading a book or studying. He would walk into the room, climb up the side of the couch, and sit beside me. At night, he would always go into our bedroom and lie under my bed. He would stick his head as far out of his shell as he could when I was paying attention to him, so that I could pet his head, which he apparently loved.

Alas, Hillary’s exploring proved to be his undoing. One day, when I was not home, he wandered into the music room, part of which had just been painted. There was no door on this room to close it off. Apparently the paint fumes killed him. He was dead when I got back from school.

Nixie lived until I was 20 and left home. I was planning to take her with me to the apartment in Brooklyn which I took with my new family, my soon-to-be-wife and her three children. But the growths my mother noticed on her stomach turned out to be terminal cancer, and she was mercifully put to sleep.

The impulse for remembering my old pets came from an e-mail from a friend, mourning the loss of her dog. I thought about my pets and decided to list all the ones I could remember. Including a couple who were in my life briefly, I came up with a list of 25, which I found surprisingly large. Even remembering the pets of my childhood took all this space! (and without any photos to post). So I’ll probably be writing soon about my later pets.


When I was a small child, in the 1940s, my parents bought me children’s records and I loved them. When I had small children of my own, in the ‘60s, I did the same for them. Most of the records met with indifference. But the records of Jim Copp and Ed Brown became quick favorites. So were the “Dance, Sing and Listen” records of “Miss Nelson and Bruce< [Haack].

I haven’t heard “The Way-Out Record” by Miss Nelson and Bruce, or their “Dance, Sing, and Listen” series, since my kids were small. And I was amused to discover that they have been issued on CD only in Japan. I’ve read somewhere that Bruce Haakc is considered an important pioneer in some kind of electronic music, so it figures.

But last month I was startled to run into “Agnes Mouthwash and Friends,” by Jim and Ed, on a CD at a thrift shop.

My wife and I used to enjoy the Jim Copp and Ed Brown records just as much as our children did. Maybe even more. I remember that they were played frequently, and not just when the kids were listening. Among my own favorites were “The Highway,” a marvelously surreal audio drama, and “Mr. and Mrs. Destitute,” about poor farmers whose refrain ran:

“There isn’t very much to eat.
Tonight let’s cook the mouse.”

Both of these selections are included in “Flibbertigibits on Parade,” Vol. 2 of the Playhouse CD series.

We were obviously not the only family who enjoyed these records. And in recent years, there have been several articles and broadcasts about this duo. There are links to them on the Playhouse Records website. You can even hear some samples of their work, with freshly done animation, on YouTube:

With some trepidation, I played my new copy of “Agnes Mouthwash” for my wife while we were driving in the car. She laughed heartily at most of the material, as I did. There’s something about the combination of home made quality (the originals were all recorded at home) and sophistication that remains fresh and amusing after all these decades.

Ed Brown died in 1978, Jim Copp in 1999. Somebody is continuing with their legacy, though. The Playhouse label CDs recombine material from the individual LPs, which doesn’t matter much, into generous programs. And they are still available. I’m recommending you check out a track or two, even if you don’t have any small children around.

In the fall of 1969, I left my wife and children behind for a month and took a bus trip across America. One of the most memorable events of that month was my encounter with record librarian Charlemaude Curtis in New Mexico.

In those days, Greyhound was selling a 30 day bus pass, and I bought one. It was good for unlimited travel throughout the U.S. and Canada. During the course of the month, I covered approximately 10,000 miles. I later calculated that I spent about a third of my time on buses.

I first went straight across the country to visit my sister-in-law, who was then living in Los Angeles. I wound up spending most of my time visiting my former piano teacher, Joanne La Torra, who had become a close friend. (She made two LPs for the Orion label as Joanne Smith.) From there I went back east to Tucson to visit friends who had a summer house in Phoenicia, near where I lived. My next stop was Fort Worth, where by arrangement I recorded an interview with the pianist Lili Kraus (then teaching at Texas Christuan University), who took me out to lunch at Furr’s Cafeteria. Unfortunately the magazine I did the interview for ceased publication, and the interview was never printed.

From Fort Worth I traveled to Albuquerque, where my uncle Lenny Felberg had recently taken up residence as professor of violin at the University of New Mexico. After that, I went to Seattle, spending a few days with my science-fiction friends F.M. and Elinor Busby and, of course, getting wet. My last stop was in Edmonton, Alberta, where I visited my old friend Calvin Demmon and his wife India. En route home I was stranded in Watertown, NY by a bus strike. My friend Henry Fogel, who lived in Syracuse, drove up and rescued me, and I spent a couple of days with him and his wife Fran before the buses started running again.

I had many memorable experiences during that voyage, but perhaps none stands out as strongly as my encounter with Charlemaud Curtis. At that time, Charlie Curtis–as everyone called her–was an assistant music librarian at the University of New Mexico Library. Since my uncle Lenny and his wife Arlette worked during the day, they needed a place to park me while they were at work. Lenny took me to the UNM Library, where I already knew the librarian, Jim Wright, head of the Fine Arts Library, through the Association for Recorded Sound Collections.

I figured I would just spend my time browsing and listening, but Jim had another idea. The UNM Library had a room full of 78s that had been donated over the years and never sorted or catalogued. Charlie, who had come to UNM after having run her own record store for years, had been agitating to have something done with the 78s. While I wasn’t particularly an expert on 78s, I was already known as a “record expert” in general. Jim and Charlie asked me if I would help Charlie sort through the 78s.

Thus began one of the most entertaining experiences I’ve ever had. Charlie, who was old enough to be my mother, was a lively woman, and she knew a lot about records from her experience running a store that I didn’t know. For example, she explained one thing I’d always been curious about, why the Columbia 78 of “Preludio a Cristobal Colon” by the Mexican microtonal composer Julian Carillo, recorded in Cuba in 1930, was so common. I would have expected an avant-garde piece like that to be extremely rare, but Charlie told me she always sold a few copies in her store at Halloween.

Even in those days, most 78s had already become pretty worthless. We decided early on to keep for the collection only relatively important material which was not available on LP. The large majority of records we didn’t think were worth keeping went onto carts, where they were wheeled out to the open area of the library and offered for sale to faculty and students for ten cents each. I wasn’t there long enough to see how many of them sold but I learned later that quite a few of them were actually bought.

Most of the collection was classical music. However, we found some interesting early recordings of Latino music which were of great interest to the library. One record in particular excited Charlie. It was an acoustical recording which had been made and issued in Albuquerque, and she was convinced that it had been the earliest record made in New Mexico.

I worked with Charlie for three days on the records, and by the third afternoon we had them all sorted. We congratulated each other on a job well done. The records the library would keep were boxed and ready to catalog. The unwanted records were all out of the storeroom. We were left with a small pile of records we had set aside as completely useless, all either broken or obviously worn beyond playability. We smiled at each other, and without a word we started reaching for the records in the discard stack, smashing them on the concrete floor of the storeroom. Then, laughing almost uncontrollably, we went out for a beer.

I saw Charlie one more time, about 20 years ago. My wife Tara and I were in Albuquerque to visit my uncle and my parents, who had recently moved to Albuquerque. Charlie had retired by then, but we called her and got together. She drove us to visit friends at Jemez Pueblo, and Tara bought some pots from the wonderful potter Phyllis Tosa. Driving with Charlie was An Experience, though. She was a speed demon.

Today there is a Charlemaud Curtis Collection of Southwestern Music, Interviews and Programs  at the UNM library, including material that Charlie recorded herself. She obviously did a lot of great work for recordings during her career. But I’ll always remember her as Charlie the Record-Smasher.

One summer I attended a huge party in rural Indiana hosted by science-fiction fans and writers Buck and Juanita Coulson. When the party was down to about 20 people, Buck pulled out a book of poems and offered a prize to anyone who could read through one of them without cracking up. Nobody made it.

This event, when I was a teenager, was my introduction to great bad art. The poet, who is still unknown even to most connoisseurs of inadvertent humor, was Violette Peaches Watkins. The book, her second, was “My Dream World of Poetry: Poems of Imagination, Reality and Dreams.” Mrs. Watkins was “a popular radio announcer on Station WHFC, Chicago, and a prominent patron of the arts,” according to the dust jacket. (I’ve guessed this means she was a gospel music DJ, since many of her poems have a religious theme, but I have no evidence.) My friend Marianna Boncek has done some research on Mrs. Watkins and discovered that she was apparently well known in black artistic circles in Chicago.

I searched for a copy of “My Dream World” for four decades, even though I had a photocopy provided to me, years after the party, by Buck. I used to tell people I was confident I would die without ever finding a copy, but I was wrong. Eventually an Internet search turned up two copies from the same seller, and I bought them both. Hey, you never know.

Incidentally, when I first told Marianna about the book and the contest, she told me with great confidence that she was certain she could read one of the poems without problems, having read plenty of awful poems produced by the students she teaches. She got through three lines of Mrs. Watkins and started laughing so hard she couldn’t go any further.

Mrs. Watkins has the qualities required by artistic inadvertent humor: ambition, incompetence, and gradiosity. They’re all necessary, and when done “right” they add up to a kind of anti-genius. I have seen plenty of movies made more ineptly than those of Ed Wood. Mill Creek Video has issued three 50-film collections of amateur horror movies, “Catacomb of Creepshows,” “Tomb of Terrors,” and “Decrepit Crypt of Nightmares.” The ones I’ve watched are incredibly awful but few of them are funny.

Mrs. Watkins’s “best” poems go on for several pages. But I want to quote one complete, so here is one that shows off her typical qualities:

The Cure for Juvenile Delinquency

You must start, from the beginning of time,
Praying hard daily, at least three times,
Thanking Almighty God for what you’ve got,
To be sure He will take care of that.

If your prayers successfully reach God’s throne,
Your child will be trained before it’s born;
For the Almighty God, who made heaven and the universe,
Will guide your child while it’s on this good earth.

Both parents should be faithful, loyal and true,
Because your child will have characteristics of you;
This much you owe to your child before it’s born:
To be brilliant, healthy and have a happy home.

Pray that he will be a blessing to humanity
And won’t lead a life of crime and insanity;
Pray hard that he will walk in God’s light;
Pray that he will always live upright.

And somewhere, sometime, the day will come
You’ll be repaid for the songs you’ve sung,
The prayers you’ve prayed, your toil and patience,
For being faithful and true, and your kind consideration.

There’s no reason to point out all the many reasons why I consider Mrs. Watkins the greatest bad poet I’ve ever read–even funnier than the legendary William McGonagall. All I can say is that if anyone ever finds a copy of her first book, “Violette Peaches’ Book of Modern Poetry for All Occasions,” let me know. I’m offering serious money!

I can think of only two other producers of legendary bad art whose work makes me laugh a lot. One is the singer Florence Foster Jenkins, who in her brief career managed to convulse thousands of music lovers, without ever realizing that people were laughing at her. Jenkins’s rich husband wouldn’t allow her to perform in public. After his death, though, she started a series of salons which eventually grew to concerts in hotel ballrooms and finally, in her last great moment of triumph, a sold-out recital at Carnegie Hall. No doubt such recitals would have become annual events had she not died soon afterwards.

Listening to Mrs. Jenkins carefully–which is, I admit, difficult–you can actually hear some suggestions of musicianship. And she doesn’t sing consistently out of tune. (If she had, she would have been less funny.) But hearing her grasp for the notes in the famous aria of the Queen of the Night from Mozart’s “Magic Flute” is an experience which continues to crack me up even after having heard it for more than 50 years. It’s also fun to hear her accompanist, one Cosme McMoon (his real name!), trying to keep up with her. We are fortunate indeed that Mrs. Jenkins decided to immortalize her art on private recordings, which she sold only directly to individual music lovers after interviewing them and making sure they were sufficiently educated in music to appreciate her work.

Mrs. Jenkins’s recordings are most conveniently available in a reissue from the Naxos label. My friend Gregor Benko’s collection “The Muse Surmounted” includes an interview with McMoon as part of a collection of other bad singers whose work he has enjoyed. One of them is Vassilka Petrova, whom operaphiles generally consider the worst singer to record a complete opera role. (She did two for the early bargain-priced Remington label. Rumor has it that she was married for a time to Remington’s owner.) When I was a dealer in classical LP records, I always rejoiced when I found a Petrova recording. They sold for very high prices. Follow the link above and you will be able to buy all of Petrova’s LP recordings on CD!

Then, of course, there’s the great bad film director Edward D. Wood, Jr. His “Plan 9 from Outer Space” is often cited as the worst film ever made, but it’s definitely not. His first feature, “Glen or Glenda,” is even worse (and perhaps even funnier), and the 1930s films of Dwayne Esper (probably best known for “Maniac”) are certainly worse in all respects. But it’s the grandiose stupidity of Wood’s dialogue that makes his films among the greatest examples of inadvertent humor ever produced. You can demonstrate this by seeing movies like “Orgy of the Dead” or “The Violent Years,” which are hilarious even though Wood only wrote the scripts and did not direct them.

Since most of Wood’s work is now in the public domain, it’s relatively easy to find. Two useful collections of Wood’s worst have now gone out of print, and the new “Big Box of Wood,” as wonderful as it is, doesn’t have “Glen or Glenda” in it. If you’re curious try “Plan 9” or this collection.

What do we gain by laughing at the ineptitude of others? Well, the most useful element I can think of is the way bad art illuminates the difficulties of creating great art. Seeing how badly Wood’s films demonstrate elements of film making we usually take for granted, I realize just how hard it is to make even a competent run-of-the-mill film. But the hell with that. Mostly what we gain are laughs, which are always useful. I still remember the experience of my old friend Sasha Gillman, who unwillingly accompanied her husband Jerry to my house for an Ed Wood Night. (I still do these!) She said she wouldn’t find anything to laugh about in a bad movie, and she wound up laughing so hard she literally fell off the couch.

As recently as fifteen years ago, the idea that I could become seriously involved with poetry would have been very remote to me. I’d been a minor poetry consumer all my life, but I’d never become very interested in writing it, until a series of nightmares changed everything.

When I was quite young, I wrote some verse. I remember that a narrative verse I wrote about the second century Jewish hero Bar Kokhba won a writing prize for students offered by my synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth in Brooklyn, and was printed in the synagogue newsletter. I would have been about twelve then. I was definitely eleven when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series, beating the hated Yankees in 1955. I wrote a verse about that event, and I even remember a few lines of it:

Traffic jams. Loud horns all night.
Policemen smiled, saying, “It’s all right.
It’s just Brooklyn celebrating
after fifty years of waiting.”

Not too bad for a little kid, but not exactly an indicator of great talent!

In junior high school, I won an elocution contest for reciting an old piece of comic verse, “The Owl-Critic” by James Thomas Fields. My prize was an anthology of English language poetry, which I still have. But I didn’t read most of it. In high school I took a poetry class, mostly because the teacher, Harold Zlotnik, was a friend of my father’s. Harold, whom I’ve reconnected with in recent years, is now in his late 90s. I was impressed that his poetry was frequently published in the New York Times, which used to run poems on its editorial page. In Harold’s class I read Theodore Roethke’s “Elegy for Jane,” which began a lifelong love for that particular poet. He took his class to the 92nd Street Y to hear readings by Carl Sandburg and Robert Frost. So I was at least exposed to good stuff.

During my junior high and high school years I was intensely involved with science fiction fandom, although I never wrote any science fiction myself. I ran into a phenomenon called “filk songs,” folk songs rewritten with humorous lyrics. I wrote a few of those which were moderately successful, getting some practice in creating rhymed lines for an audience.

At Brooklyn College I studied poetry in literature classes. I earned an honors degree in Creative Writing (which I never used for any purpose), but my interest then was in writing fiction. I wrote a parody of T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” (which I didn’t like) called “The Fallow Men,” and as I recall it had a few clever lines in it. (I also wrote a parody of Kafka’s “The Trial,” which I admired tremendously.)

My interest in poetry remained relatively mild. My first date with my first wife was a memorial to Theodore Roethke, but I think I was mostly trying to impress her. In the late Sixties I had some correspondence with Roethke’s widow Beatrice Lushington about publishing a reading of his on my Parnassus LP label. Just before we were ready to go to print, she finally heard from Caedmon that they were interested in the recording, so I told her to go with them since they would sell a lot more copies.

From time to time through my adult life, some poetry or other would catch my attention. I wasn’t closed to it. But it wasn’t a major pursuit of mine.

The disastrous close of a brief toxic romance in 1983 got me started writing songs. I was still playing the piano in those days and I started performing them, along with favorites by other songwriters like Randy Newman, Warren Zevon, and Little Richard. I wrote a lot of song lyrics over a period of a few years, more than a hundred of them. But song lyrics aren’t poems.

In 1997, I moved from my long term rental of “Big Pink” in Saugerties to another house nearby which I was able to buy. Not long after I moved into the new house, I started having terrible nightmares about death. They happened only in that house, not when I stayed at Tara’s, and usually during midday naps rather than at night. But they were really frightening. Eventually, I hired a psychic I knew slightly. She told me I was being haunted by the spirit of a child who had been killed on my property, probably several hundred years earlier, and she did something to set the child’s spirit free. I didn’t believe in any of this, but the little ceremony she performed set something free in my psyche and the nightmares stopped.

During the nightmare period, though, I started writing poems. They were all about death and dying. As I read them now, they don’t seem particularly bad work for a novice poet, although I wouldn’t want most of them exposed. My favorite was one I wrote after a walk through an ancient cemetery near my parents’ house on Cape Cod. I saw several tombstones that were no longer legible at all, and I sat down on a bench and wrote:

I have been dead so long
even the stone cannot remember my name.
You think I wait beneath the earth
to feel your footfall,
but it is not so. I fly above my grave
where I can smell the salt and hear the waves
and watch you, looking down,
fearing when you will join me.

Shortly before the nightmare period, I had become interested in another poet, J.J. Clarke. The Woodstock Times, for which I wrote music reviews (and still do), used to run work by local poets, and Clarke’s poems knocked me out. He used to read once a year at the old Woodstock Poetry Society, back in its glory days when Bob Wright was running it. I went to hear him, which proved a great but intimidating experience. The poems were wonderful, and his reading was the most powerful I’d ever heard.

After the reading I bought a chapbook, and had James inscribe it for me. He recognized my name immediately, and it turned out that he had been a regular listener to my radio program in the 1980s. He asked me if I wrote poems, and I told him I had just started but they weren’t much good. He invited me to send me some. Apparently, he saw more talent in them than I did, because he sent them back with comments and suggestions and invited me to send more.

This was the beginning of a mentoring relationship which went on for several years. James was an experienced teacher–he taught poetry at Ulster County Community College for 25 years–and his comments were extremely useful. I also got a lot of useful feedback from my wife Tara, who had read much more poetry than I had and had already written some wonderful poems herself, most of which she never showed to anyone.

So, I kept writing. I found a lot of stimulation in the monthly meetings of the Woodstock Poetry Society, and started reading some of my own work in the open mike sections. After a few years, Bob Wright invited me to be one of his featured readers, my first time as a feature. The Woodstock Poetry Festival, a marvelous although quixotic enterprise, brought a number of major poets to Woodstock for a couple of years. Hearing people who had been only names on a page, like Sharon Olds and Billy Collins, turned out to be inspiring.

One of our best Ulster County poets, Cheryl A. Rice, invited me to a poetry salon she had decided to host. We had only two meetings, but I found those sessions tremendously useful, not only for the feedback I got on my work but also for the way it focused my attention on what was happening in other poets’ work. When Cheryl told me she hadn’t continued the salons because she didn’t want to be stuck cleaning her house on schedule, I invited her to start the meetings up again at my house, since I had a paid house cleaner. Because my house was on Goat Hill Road, we became the Goat Hill Poets, and we still are even though we now meet at Tara’s house in Woodstock.

I was intrigued when I learned that Sharon Olds, one of the poets I most admire, was teaching workshops at Omega Institute in nearby Rhinebeck. Attendance at these workshops was by invitation only, and the first two times I submitted work I wasn’t invited. The third time, though, in 2007, I was invited as an alternate, and someone dropped out. I got to work for a long weekend with Sharon Olds in a small group, ten of us. I thought everyone else wrote better than I did. But for the final session, I wrote a snidely satiric poem about Omega itself. Seeing the whole group, including Sharon, laughing heartily at my work gave me a sense of poet power that I’d never had before.

The following summer I got to work with Sharon and nine others for a full week. It was an incomparably nourishing experience. At the next to last session, she challenged us to write something that was difficult to write. I wrote a poem about my wife Tara and our experiences together, and “My Love” won a prize in the Prime Time Cape Cod poetry contest. It was just honorable mention, but it was $50 cash and a $25 gift certificate to Borders, a lot more than most poets receive for published work.

Unfortunately for me, Sharon has decided to limit her teaching and concentrate more on her own work, so she doesn’t teach at Omega anymore. Last summer, Omega had a very different type of event, a “Celebration of Poetry” hosted by the wonderful Marie Howe, with half-day visits from Mark Doty, Patricia Smith, and Billy Collins. With 91 people in attendance, I wasn’t expecting much. But I was surprised by the excellent experience it turned out to be. Collins, answering a question, said that he could recognize a talented poet by a gift for rhythm and a gift for metaphor. I’ve been surprised over the years to discover that I have both of those.

I’ve been a slacker about submitting my poetry for publication. But I have had a couple of poems published in Home Planet News, a long running poetry paper edited by Donald Lev. My father got to see the first one shortly before he died. I’ve had a few poems published elsewhere, including the Goat Hill Poets anthology issued in 2010 and in an article on the Goat Hill Poets published by Ulster Magazine. Aside from reading with the Goats, I’ve done various features in and around Woodstock, most recently July 4, 2011 at Harmony. (The link leads you to an audio recording.) On February 3, I was one of the featured poets at the excellent Calling All Poets Series in Beacon. A recording of that reading will shortly be available on the series website.

I’m still writing poetry. Unlike some of the really good poets I know, I don’t set aside regular time for writing. The ideas have to force themselves into my awareness for me to pay attention to them. But I’ve learned always to have a pad and pen with me.

(Top photo:  Leslie reading in Kingston. Photo by Dan Wilcox.)