Mrs Morrison's Hotel

The 100% personal official blog for Patricia Kennealy Morrison, author, Celtic priestess, retired rock critic, wife of Jim

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I was, wait, sorry, that's "David Copperfield". Anyway, I was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Long Island, went to school in upstate NY and came straight back to Manhattan to live. Never lived anywhere else. Never wanted to. Got a job as a rock journalist, in the course of which I met and married a rock star (yeah, yeah, conflict of interest, who cares). Became a priestess in a Celtic Pagan tradition, and (based on sheer longevity) one of the most senior Witches around. Began writing my Keltiad series. Wrote a memoir of my time with my beloved consort (Strange Days: My Life With and Without Jim Morrison). See Favorite Books below for a big announcement...The Rennie Stride Mysteries. "There is no trick or cunning, no art or recipe, by which you can have in your writing that which you do not possess in yourself." ---Walt Whitman (Also @ and

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Little Bit of This, Little Bit of That

Well, I have no intention of letting Lying Bint-gate shut down my blogginess...and there's a lot to comment on.

First off, poor Owen Wilson. One hears he's had problems in the past with coke and smack, but it was thought to be under control. Then self-slaughter rears its ugly head. So sad.

Still, I thought, so unkindly, surely this is merely the much-spoken-of "cry for help." If you're a REAL man, or woman, you blow your brains out in a nice spatter pattern. You don't scratch one wrist and swallow a bottle of pills. That is a pretty sissy way to "off" yourself, which is why I say cry for help.

Plus, as my sister the psych professional tells me, if you really want to kill yourself by slitting your wrists, you climb into a warm bath like an ancient Roman (so you don't clot) and you slice UP your arm artery, not across.(There's a thought for you, Lying Bint!)

But Wilson amuses me and I like a lot of his work---by no means is he the stupid blond stoner he appears to be, he's really smart and really funny---so I wish the poor kid all health and healing.

Not so much this Michael Vick hyena. He cops to running a dog-fighting ring and killing dogs himself, with his own apelike hands, THEN (how long did we give it? Riiiiight...) he tells us he's found Jesus. Wow, in about fourteen and a half seconds. WAY faster than Paris, though we haven't yet seen him toting a Bible around. He's just scared of losing his nice NFL (football, I believe?) job. Hey, should have thought of that sooner.

I'm getting really sick of busted celebs throwing themselves on Jesus as a bid for our sympathy. (If Owen Wilson pulls a Jesus on us, I'll shoot him myself...) And if I'M sick of it, can you imagine how sick of it Jesus must be? Maybe Jesus has to forgive, but I sure don't.
I say throw this Vick piggy into a cage with all his abused pit bulls and let them have some fun.

And of course there's Albert Gonzalez. Rabid pit bulls should have hounded this lapdog loyalist from office, yes, and his apologist boss Chimpy McFlightsuit too. Still, two down. Alas, many MANY more to go. Including Lynn Cheney's Dick. There's a joke in there somewhere about being shotgunned when you least expect it, but I'm too tired to look for it...

But, GOOD news, the manuscript has been sent off to the young goddess nieceling of MDF Mary, Bianquita, who is going to Lulucize it. And Andrew continues to refine the jacket art. And so it begins...

So I have put away "Ungrateful Dead," because if I keep looking at it I'll only find more stuff I want to fiddle with. Next time I see it, it will be as a sample book from Lulu, for me to correct (minimally). And after that, I sign off and it's available a couple of days later.

POLL: WOULD YOU FUTURE READERS PREFER HARDCOVER OR TRADE PAPERBACK (each 6"x9")? I don't know what the prices would be, but I'm guessing $15-18 for tpb, maybe $22-25 for hc? I can and will arrange it so that the book can be bought either way, but which would you like first? Or is price the big consideration? Most hardcovers these days cost in the mid-$30 range, so mine would be a bargain. Let me know...

So now on to "California Screamin': Murder at Monterey Pop." The third one, in which Rennie meets Turk and lotsa people bite the dust, is already done: "Love Him Madly: Murder at the Whisky A Go-Go." And the one after that, "A Hard Slay's Night: Murder at the Royal Albert Hall", is about half-written. So we're looking good for the next two years.

And after that, the plan is for "The Beltane Queen." I got out all the research and written bits, and it's not half bad, if I do say so myself. After four Rennie books, I might be longing for something different. And then there's my Viking book, too.

I gotta sort this computer thing out once and for all, before I really get going...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Death to the Impostors!

I am informed by a newly friended person that there is at least one person on MySpace pretending to be me.

To wit:

Not only that, but this bastard/bitch has stolen content from my MySpace site as well, and has accumulated friends while posing as me.

Let me make one thing crystal clear: THAT IS THE ONLY MYSPACE SITE I HAVE. pkmorrison.livejournal IS THE ONLY LJ SITE I HAVE. AND THIS IS THE ONLY BLOGSPOT SITE I HAVE. All started by me personally, run by me and me alone. And I take great and furious exception to someone pretending to be me and stealing my writings and PRETENDING TO BE ME.

I have notified MySpace of this problem, and I would very much appreciate it if any of you who are genuine MySpace or LJ friends of mine would hunt down any other impostor sites, here, there or anywhere else, and let me know.

And let THEM know I'm on to them, and that it's a really, really bad idea to do what they're doing. Because when I catch up to them I am going to kick the living crap out of them.

And you know I can.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bad Rap

I see where some person calling himself 50 Cent is having a pissing contest with some other person called Kanye West as to whose album (they're rappers, whom I do not consider to be musicians...or even humans, really) will sell more. Cent says his will sell more and West's will be left to languish on the shelf. Fine, whatevuh, who cares.


This 50 creature then goes on to say that their feud is a good thing, apparently, for journalism: "What's the point of even having magazines without us? We're the fucking Jim Morrisons, we're the fucking Kurt Cobains of this. Yeah, I said it. Listen to the fucking album---I am."

Uh, no, you squalid little thug, you're NOT. You're not even close. You're not a musician. You're not an artist. You're not a singer. You're not a poet. You're barely literate. You're involved in fistfights and/or gunfights on a regular basis. You're a brainless talentless pissant piece of garbage who isn't even worthy to say Jim's or Kurt's name. Not unless your mouth's been washed out with soap first.

And, oh, if you want to get into a pissing contest, it helps to have a cock (and a talent) that's set for distance.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Book Report

Another lovely cool gray day, but the last, apparently: summer returns starting tomorrow, and I'm not happy. It's been sooooo nice with the a/c off and a blankie at night...

Anyway, I thought I'd update you lot on the progress of "Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore." I'm going over it for the last time this week, before sending it to the awesome Bianquita, who is going to Lulu-ize it for me. She did the same service for her aunt MDF Mary's book "Figures of Echo", which is now published on Lulu and will be appearing as a Lifetime movie on September 8.

Good thing "Dead" is going, too, as I'm getting a bit bored with it and want to be moving on to the next one, which still requires substantial actual writing. Which is always fun. Except when it's not.

And the cover art is inching toward perfection as well, so I'm hoping to meet the self-imposed deadline and see the thing materialize on November 1. Or thereabouts. Any time up to the 11 would be okay by me.

I'll put up a whole chapter soon, hopefully one that doesn't give away too much but that gets you interested. Then it's on to "California Screamin': Murder at Monterey Pop".

Rock on.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Before the Fall: Some Inconsequential Gibber

Two gorgeously cool days in a row. I went to the hairdresser yesterday for my usual monthly conditioning and could actually leave with my hair streaming loose down my back. Generally in summer it has to be pinned up and stuffed under a hat, because of Da Frizzies. BAD frizzies!

Saturday was sunny and cool and fabulously windy, and today is not windy and cloudy but still cool. No gym, on account of I don't want to sweat up my once-more shiny and STRAIGHT locks. And I didn't want to waste walkable days inside at the movies though I still want to see "Becoming Jane" and yes "Stardust" even though it got bad reviews because who listens to jackass reviewers considering what some of them say about MY creative works so there!

So I decided to stock the larder, and went to the Union Square Greenmarket and bought luscious things and then to Whole Foods and bought Packham pears, my faves, and some chocolate and meat and looked at the beauty/health products section, in which I never know what to buy but it all looks so preeeettttty...and then Barnes&Noble for some books, and the Strand, for some more, and East Village Cheese, for some wine cheddar (bourgeois, I know, but I got into it in college and I love it) and Irish cheddar and English Double Gloucester and some country pate.

Then I went home and continued correcting/proofing/revising "Ungrateful Dead," which will shortly have its completed and utterly fabulous cover and through the graces and awesome skills of MDF Mary's lovely niece Bianca will soon be flying off to Lulu. And after that, as a treat, I indulged myself writing a bit more about Rennie and Turk's wedding (not for many books, and oh come on you knew they would!) and figuring out the music for the ceremony on my iPod. You'll be surprised!

And now I must get back to UD:MatF so we can have a new book in November. Talk amongst yourselves...

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Fell Beast Redux

Some readers have wondered who is this creature of darkness I blogged about a couple of days ago, and they being folk of foreign lands, they are to be given a pass for not knowing who he was. Their state is the more gracious for it. Indeed, why should they sully their clear pure sunny innocence with his dark sticky ickiness?

Anyway, for further elucidation on this noisome topic, here's a chunk of my favorite fellow ranter, and I don't plug people lightly, so you know he's good.

Mark Morford of the SF Gate on Karl Rove:

Because now perhaps you are reading up on the rise and fall and much-desirable end of this one particular man, this dank, sweaty, adipose embodiment of a sad political caricature, this shockingly powerful force of darkness and cruelty and pure, unfiltered iniquity known to the world as Karl Rove.

And somehow, looking at him, seeing the glistening, pallid face of true contempt as he finally, blessedly exits the main political stage, you feel better. Much, much better. In fact, somehow you feel like falling to your knees and offering sincere thanks, hot heaps of glorious gratitude to the gods of fate and time and love that you are not Karl Rove.

It is, in its way, a simple acknowledgment, a supremely fundamental idea. But trust me when I say, it holds tremendous power.

You are not Karl Rove. You are not, so far as you know, the master orchestrator of what is increasingly recognized as the most disastrous, divisive, scandal-ridden, secretive, abusive, warmongering, hate-inspiring, homophobic, morally debilitating neoconservative administration in modern American history.

This is not you. This is not your life. You did not put into power the most embarrassing, bumbling, ethically dangerous leader the modern free world has ever known, and that includes Dick Nixon and Warren Harding and that guy from the 1800s who beat his kids and drank paint thinner and died after two weeks in office.

You did not work like a feral dog to rally the most narrow-minded and intolerant and easily terrified segment of our society, the hardcore evangelical Christian right, to support your candidate and his childish, good vs. evil worldview by employing an insidious message of hate and fear and homophobia, all rife with a rather shocking misunderstanding of God and sex and love and complex foreign policy. This, you can be assured, is not you.

Can you feel the prayer start to roll? To gain momentum and brighten your dreary day and illuminate your very soul? You bet you can.

You did not steer the nation so far to the hard right the wheels broke off, thus causing the rest of the world to look at America with a wary, mistrustful eye. You did not intentionally commit treason by leaking the name of a CIA agent to reporters in an insidious attempt to silence critics of your boss' horribly failed war.

You did not help forcibly reconfigure, to the brutal detriment of the nation's core values, the Justice Department, or the Supreme Court, or the General Services Administration, among others. The Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, the gutted U.S. Treasury do not bear the stain of your devious perfidy. You did not, in short, maul the Constitution the way a vulture mauls a sick rabbit in an attempt to create a totalitarian GOP regime that was, at least in your giant gleaming head, designed to wreak moral and political havoc for another 50 years.

But wait, is this perspective a bit too unforgiving? Is this sort of talk, in its own way, just as spiritually corrupt and of equally low, repulsive vibration as Rove's own? Is it, in other words, somehow karmically wrong to see another's choice of sad, destructive path and be so deeply thankful you will never come anywhere near that quotient of pure, clear vileness? Could be, could be.

After all, the reincarnation set will happily inform you that, in truth, we've all been, at one point during the great cosmic continuum, a Karl Rove. We've all been a murderer, a rapist, a thug, a dictator and a witch and a peasant and a queen and a victim and sea slug and a rutabaga and a savior and a minion and a mindless megachurch Christian zealot and yes, even an Olsen twin.

As such, we are all here to learn in the same sort of glorious/tortuous way, and hence in the grand view no one's path is really any different than anyone else's and to judge one is to judge them all and etc. and so forth and oh my God it's all so vast and lovely and true.

But in this case, let us just say, no. Because this is the here and now. This is the moment we are in and this is the one that matters and it is just too delightful to repeat: You are not Karl Rove and I am not Karl Rove and therefore we can join hands right now, you and I, we can connect across this vast media chasm and via these very wires and we can, together, find a deeper understanding, a shared universal truth, a more profound coming together over the fact that, no matter how bad things might get, we will never have to be Karl Rove.

Hey, what's more karmically delightful than that?

If you want to subscribe to Mark's SF Gate column Notes and Errata, and you really should, go to the link below for the rest of the above column and click on subscribe. The man is a god.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Nor Any Drop to Drink

I see where the purity police have zeroed in on bottled water as their new target of choice. Claiming that importing water leaves a costly carbon footprint and that the bottles are generally not recycled, several municipal governments, including that of San Francisco, have decided that instead of buying bottled, they will insist on tap water, at least in their little fiefdoms. And of course the eco-Nazis have taken up the trumpets.

This alarms me. Practically the only thing I drink is water, certainly it's the liquid of choice at Casa de Mojo, and I'm fed up with the holier than thou ecology saints telling me what I should and shouldn't imbibe or eat. I drink bottled water because it IS the only thing I drink (well, lemonade in the summer and skim milk all year round). I know that NYC water is among the purest and cleanest in the nation. But it comes through hundred-year-old pipes in my building and neighborhood, and it just doesn't taste all that pleasant, with a kind of flat, greasy aftertaste.

Evian and Poland Spring, on the other hand, my preferred brands, taste light and clean: when water's all you drink, you get into this sort of wine connoisseur head space. I could do a blindfold taste test and tell you what water it is just by the mouth feel and overtones: I don't care for sparkling waters, and most of the new natural-spring brands just don't cut it for me. Processed tap water swill like Aquafina and Dasani are beneath contempt and certainly beneath drinking, unless I was stuck in the Mojave with nothing else to ease my parched and cracking throat.

So I'm not knuckling under to the water terrorists. I wish that my Evian and Poland Spring bottles could indeed be recycled...why else are we in NYC obliged to sort out all the plastic bottles if not for recycling? Exercise? A test? If they're not being recycled, I for one would like to know why.

Well, they can all go to hell with no canteens. I am continuing to guzzle bottled H2O at my usual pace, which is about a gallon a day. I sip all day long, keeping it cool in a lovely tall stainless steel thermos (which now that I look at it was made in CHINA, so I may have to do some rethinking), sometimes with ice made of itself (not tap ice), and I drink it seriously when thirsty or having something to eat. I'm probably the best-hydrated person you have ever met. Good for the skin, too.

Drink up, me hearties, yo H(2)O!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So He'll Go No More A'Rove-ing

Well, he's gone. Sort of. The Fell Beast has shaken his snaky black leathern wings and flapped off into the sunset. To spend more time with his family. Uh-HUH. Wouldn't be that he is getting out of Dodge before something else comes up that he knows he's not gonna avoid having to explain, would it? No, 'course not.

I really have no words to adequately delineate the loathing, hatred and disgust I feel for this pigdog and what he did to my country. He has done more damage than a hundred 9/11 crazed Muslims. He's a terrorist, a traitor and he ought to be hauled up for crimes against the state. He's a liar and a crapweasel and the scum of creation. He's the Giant Delusion Fairy and the King of Denial and the Lord of Misrule. He's Satan's pimpbunny, and I hope he fries in hell with the others of his kind. His little dog Dubya is just stupid, which is bad enough, but Rove is pure evil.

Well, there, I guess I had a few words in me after all...but they're completely inadequate to express the depth of the giant seething bubbling magma chamber of detestation that I harbor for this miscreant reptile.

I would like to do a little dance of joy and lightness of spirit now that Volderove's hand is lifted from us, but I'm afraid he hasn't gone as far from our midst as we'd like to think. He's not done doing evil, oh nooooooo he isn't!

Bring on the Elder Wand to do its work upon him! I know where I'd like to put it...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The China Syndrome

I’m getting pretty pissed off at China of late. Not only are they still doctrinaire hard-ass Commies, which I really hate, but they’re foisting off all these poisonous, unsafe, just plain crappy products on us. Kiddie toys, toothpaste, pet food, seafood, you name it.
In fact, the head of one of the offending toy companies just killed himself over the fact that Beijing shut him down, both he and the government thereby showing some small smidgen of honor. (How ironic that Japan used to be the cheap shoddy manufacturing Asian nation of record..."MADE IN JAPAN" was the guarantee of fall-apart crap...and now Japan-made items are superior, sleek and pricey.)

And we have no one to blame but the big corporate greedheads right here at home. They want huge profits and minimal production costs, and they don’t care how they get it, so manufacturing has all been sent overseas, to China, Thailand and India in particular. And we consumers are the ones who suffer. But usually only AFTER they've been caught pushing dangerous products. Then all the companies and governments profess outrage and indignation, when they're the ones who tried to get away with it for as long and as profitably as they could.
(And in a related issue: The next time I have to talk to an absolutely unintelligible Hewlett-Packard tech who sounds like Peter Sellers, I'm going to toss my printer out the window. There are millions of Indians who speak English as well and as clearly as I do, if not better. Why then do I have to suffer through talking to Mowgli the Jungle Boy instead of Mahatma Gandhi? I know it's outsourcing, but I prefer to call it customer service. FIX IT.)

And also I blame China. As someone put it on a blog: “such incredible naivete matched with an almost palpable contempt for Western society and culture. They want all the toys we’ve got but seem utterly dismissive of the Western experience. Look at China’s history...plenty of in-fighting, a xenophobic worldview and an astonishing arrogance. Face it, the last time they were a world power they were being run by someone else, namely the Mongols. This wildly diverse (even though it’s so often viewed as ‘homogeneous’) nation should enjoy its time, because history doesn’t seem to be on its side. Besides, what they’ve done (and are doing) to Tibet is beyond barbaric.”

I totally agree. Still, what happens when they HAVE all those toys, and as big an appetite for depleting the world's resources as we do only multiplied by a factor of thousands? And judging on present performance, they're a lot less careful about such petty concerns as pollution and child labor and safe hygiene than we are...and we're not all that great except by comparison.

Not to mention female aborticide, which is astoundingly stupid and short-sighted, to say the least. Yeah, yeah, all Chinese families want only boys. Well, if I may be so bold as to ask, who are all those boys now growing up going to marry? Who are they going to blame for the fact that they can’t? I can see a war with China’s neighbors on all sides: nubile young women and girls being carried off by their hair just like the old days.
Or it could be a blessing in disguise: de facto birth control! Hey, China, you're sending yourselves if not to extinction then at least to severely curtailed population levels. And you're doing it all yourselves!

Otherwise, I can see a revolution/civil war in which half the Chinese population is felled so that land, resources and women are freed up for the survivors, who can then perpetuate their ancient policies of racism and xenophobia. The Coms aren’t all that different from the Ching after all.

Oh, and while I feel like China breaking [/Jefferson Airplane]...I hold no truck with the currently popular Pinyin orthography foisted on us by pretentious linguistic droids who obviously never bothered to wonder how sound and spelling go hand in hand. (I blame the New York Times for starting this, as I blame it for so much else...)

People! Have you noticed how Chinese doesn’t use Western letters? Therefore it makes no freakin’ difference HOW our letters relate to their characters, and so Chinese words and names should be spelled in English in the way that makes them easiest to pronounce. I don’t know about you, but when I see Qing I say Kwing, not Ching; and likewise for all the other problematically spelled Pinhead, er, Pinyin offerings. If the Chinese want us to pronounce their words correctly, they can damn well spell them so we can.

You may argue that French doesn’t follow English spelling/pronunciation rules: voir = vwahr, not voyr. And that is very true, but the deciding factor is that French uses Western letters; when it comes to spelling, English doesn't have a leg to stand on (George Bernard Shaw, in his quest for simplified spelling, which I utterly reject for many reasons, famously spelled "fish" as "ghoti", citing spelling weirdness as his justification: "gh" as in "laugh", "o" as in "women", "ti" as in "nation"); and educated people should know how to pronounce French words anyway.

Besides, you don’t see the Russians pushing Pinyinovski on us, do you? No. Moscow, which when spelled Cyrillically looks like Mockba, is still Moscow (Mos-coe, btw, no cows here). They haven’t even tried to make us say Moskva. And we sure don’t say (or spell it) Paree.

But, getting back to China, yes, a billion people CAN be wrong. Still, I won’t stop eating dim sum anytime soon.

(I generally protest policies I don't like by refusing to consume/visit: Iceland and Japan are on my boycott list and have been for years, for their policy of whale-killing in the name of "research". Hypocrites. So I deny myself Reykjavik and teriyaki, in protest. It's a matter of honor...quixotic, but mine own.)

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Wind from Islandia

I hate summer. I have always hated summer. Too bright, too hot, too sticky, too icky, too humid, too hot, did I mention it's too hot? Yeah. It is.

The only part of summer I like, and I don't get it every year, is the occasional cool, even chilly day that pops in usually sometime in August to put everyone into light jackets and make me oh so happy. In the 60s or even 50s, cloudy, windy, sometimes with can actually feel fall on the wind, feel the changeover starting up, smell the cold that is coming behind the heat. Just lovely.

New York was blessed with such a day today. A/c off, windows wide open, lovely north/northeast breeze streaming right in. Temps barely in the 60s today, going down into the 50s tonight. Absolute bliss. I'd been trying to magically pull cool air down from Canada, and it actually heard me and came. A little bubble of coolth all over the Tri-state and New England. It's warming up again tomorrow, but God bless Canada.

But what weather like this really does for me is get me to reread certain books. Usually books with some kind of similar weather outlook. And quite often the book is Austin Tappan Wright's gorgeous and monumental "Islandia".

I first read it in the winter of 1967. I was still at Harpur, living off-campus in Binghamton in a wonderful tiny apartment in a fabulous old Victorian house, on the top floor, so I had a view of rooftops, steeples and hills not far away. When spring and early summer came, the leaves of big old trees screened my windows. But it was in winter, February, March, that I found "Islandia" in the paperback rack of a tiny grocery store near my apartment (I also found there, at the same time, "The Worm Ouroboros," by E.R. Eddison, another splendid and earth-shaking find...what a strange magical little nexus that grocery store must have been, those two glorious and influencing books put there just for me.)

"Islandia" is the hefty story (over 1200 pages) of a fictional island-continent in the South Atlantic where, at the start of the 20th century, a young man named John Lang is sent as US consul. His best friend at Harvard, Dorn, scion of one of the oldest and noblest Islandian families, has gone home to help organize resistance to a treaty that would have Islandia join the community of nations, and Lang is torn between wanting the Islandia he soon falls in love with to remain unspoiled, and wanting the country to take its place in the world and allow in foreign trade and investment, which Lord Mora, the prime minister, is pushing for, and which the young king, Tor, the Dorn family (led by young Dorn's great-uncle, Lord Dorn) and most of the Islandian people are very much against. The book is the account of this epic clash between Dorn and Mora, acted out in the younger generation and joined by Lang, but it's also so much more than that.

(People in Islandia have only one family name, with another name to indicate place in the family, modified with feminine endings: thus Lang, as he is known there, has a girlfriend named Hytha Nattana, indicating that she is a female of the Hyth family, and Nattana is the feminine number-name for a fourth-born---if she'd been a boy, he'd have been Hyth Natta).

Wright sets Islandia up as an Edwardian-era Luddite paradise: no technology more sophisticated than a plow or sawmill, no transport jazzier than a horse or horse and wagon. They have an army and navy, mostly to defend them against the black and what looks like Arab-origin peoples across their northern barrier mountains; they practice sophisticated medicine, have great literature and music, but otherwise they live simple agrarian lives of astonishing complexity. Tanar, or proprietors, own the land, but they work in harmony with deneri, or dependents, who live on the farms and have a share in them; as Wright describes it, it's practical utopianism. Some folks live in The City, or in towns, but for the most part farms are the way of it. Very hippie-like.

The reason that cold rainy days in high summer send me back to "Islandia" is that, even more so than Tolkien (!), ATW is the master of weather writing. Because the natural scene is such a vast part of Islandian life, he writes of how weather impacts every aspect of that life, and the weather and geographic descriptions are unparalleled. (Food descriptions too: he makes a great fuss about hot chocolate, which is just fine with me, and he's got these meatroll things for traveling that sound nummy.)

So there was a scene early in Lang's life in The City when Dorn comes to fetch him (amazing description of Lang's house) and they set out riding across the country to Dorn's home in the Marsh, an island archipelago far in the traditional West. The details of packing up, riding out in a rainy morning on wonderful mountain horses, what the young men wore and ate, where they stayed...fabulous. And throughout the book he repeats these small triumphs of scenes: sometimes he describes deep winter in high mountains, or the trek through them as Lang goes traveling; sometimes it's deep hot summer or blazing fall or cool misty's the most evocative book I've ever read, and it's A FANTASY. Islandia never existed. Yet he makes it realer than real...

Anyway, as I lie here on my many pillows with the cool wind blowing in on me, so that I have to cuddle up in my nice fleecy sweatshirt blankie, I open "Islandia" and start reading...maybe you should try to get hold of it too. And I think I'll make myself some hot chocolate.

Monday, August 06, 2007

In Memoriam: Susan Phyllis Donoghue, 29 April 1946 - 27 March 2007

My dear friend Susie died back in March. We didn’t find out about it until now, when a mention was made in the St. Bonaventure alumni newsletter, and, when inquired of, her best friend, Mary Lou Meyers, who was also our friend, gave us some details. I’ll get into those later.

Right now I want to speak of Susie.

I remember the first time I met her. We were brand-new freshmen coeds (as female students were then known) at Bonaventure in the fall of 1963, living in this fantastic old Victorian red-brick barracks, St. Elizabeth’s Hall. It was one of my first nights there, and I was walking down the creaky old hallway headed for the shower room. All the rooms on that attic floor opened off the hallway, and as I passed one of them, long, narrow, high-ceilinged, with dormer windows that rose ten feet off the floor, I heard someone playing a guitar and singing a folksong. I wish I could remember which song--it might have been “Four Strong Winds,” which she and I would later love to do in harmony—but I will never forget the picture I saw when I peered through the doorway.

A girl my own age, with short dark hair and huge blue eyes and the merriest vibe I have ever encountered, was sitting on the dormer platform below the window and playing this beautiful dreadnought folk guitar. I thought she was the coolest thing I had ever seen in my life, and shyly stayed to listen and sing along.

We became friends, then really close friends, and we remained so for the next thirty years. We lost touch, sadly, back in the 90’s, and the news of her death was the first news I’d had of her since then.

Anyway, we had a nice little circle, most of them connected to the SBU journalism school—Noreen Shanfelter, Kathy Brady, Tim Reagan, Tim Nesbitt, bunch more—and we stayed close after I transferred to Harpur. I remember one time in my senior year she came to fetch me there in her soooo cool dark-green Mustang, and we drove up to Dansville to visit Meyers. We had an uproarious time, singing and laughing and talking, and she thought my skin-tight jeans and Bob Dylan wool cap were probably the weirdest things Dansville had ever seen. She may well have been right.

When we both graduated in 1967, we moved in together, with another friend, Micheileen Okie, in an apartment on West 15th Street in Manhattan. All sorority sisters together: Theta Lambda Chi! We only lived there for a year or so, but it seemed happily like forever. I remember getting ready to go see Janis Joplin for the first time at the Anderson Theater, dressing up in a long black skirt and white satin shirt and beret, like Bonnie in “Bonnie and Clyde.” Susie braided my hair for me in six long thin braids and looped it in swags at the back of my head, then stood back, looked me over and said that the farther back I went in time the happier I was and the more I seemed to fit in, which was one of the most astute observations anyone has ever made about me.

But that’s how perceptive she was. I remember she and I were at the Fillmore East one night for a Jefferson Airplane concert, and she took one appraising look at Paul Kantner and Grace Slick onstage and said that Paul was in love with Grace. This long before it came out in public. And she was right, as we all soon saw.

When I got the job at Jazz & Pop, naturally I asked Susie to write for me, and she did some beautiful stuff, including one of the earliest interviews with James Taylor and a funny account of a Judy Collins concert in Buffalo. We went to Woodstock together, in that same green ‘Stang, the account of which is preserved for posterity in Strange Days.

She went back to Bonaventure in 1968 to work on her Master’s. I visited her in Olean in this great old reputedly haunted house, where she roomed with Meyers, and brought my then-boyfriend David Walley (the first anniversary of whose death was yesterday) with me, then again in 1969, by myself, having broken up with David (or, as he claimed, dumped him for Jim Morrison), in a different house. She then went on to Kent State, where she was, I believe, a teaching assistant, then she came back to New York and was for a time the editor of Rock magazine, a clever and much wittier Rolling Stone tabloid clone.

She also worked as a publicist for Warner Brothers Records, and thus it was that we met our dear friends Steeleye Span, when they came over in 1972 for their first U.S. tour and Susie did their pr work. Peter Knight, Steeleye violinist, has graciously called us their first friends in America, which appellation also included Susie’s then-roommate, Pamela Hannay.
They had a place in a very strange building on 3rd Avenue and 55th Street, enormous massive masonry staircase that always reminded me of the ones in the Pyramids, leading up to one apartment per floor, and theirs was on the top floor.
Pamela, a tall, gorgeous woman with red hair long enough to sit on (and who redeemed all red-haired women named Pamela for me ever after, save of course one), had hung out with Steeleye and Fairport in England for a while. A dear, wise, funny soul of incredible gentleness, she later got into doing shiatsu, and became a master at the Ohashi Institute, teaching and giving workshops. Then she starting doing shiatsu for horses, especially the U.S. national team, out where she later lived in New Jersey, and wrote a book about it, “Touching Horses.” Pam died of cancer four years ago; knowing her, I’m sure she helped Susie through her passages with love and caring.

In the mid-70s Susie got involved with the Carter presidential campaign, going down to Atlanta to work, and when he won she went to Washington to work at the White House and later the State Department.
Then she worked at the American Film Institute, and moved out to L.A., where she lived for a long time. After AFI, she worked for Arnon Milchan, the producer (an early associate of Oliver Stone, though Susie herself never met Oliver), and I saw her there for the first time in many years when I went out in 1990 to film the Doors movie.

A visit a couple of years later, again in L.A., was the last time I saw her. It was sad and terrible, but as journalist and friend I must speak of it all: she had always been seriously overweight, except for some years in the 70s when she dropped a vast amount, but she had gotten so heavy she could only fit behind the wheel of her car if she sat sideways. She was also severely depressed: the house was a mess, she didn’t go out much, she didn’t even really want to see me, but I insisted. When I left her house, I cried.

I tried to contact her the next time I was out there, but she had moved and no one knew where, and I couldn’t find her again. Until Brady and Noreen and I learned from the SBU alumni directory that she had returned East, and was living near Meyers in upstate New York. But she didn’t seem to want to contact us, and we didn’t pursue it. Obviously we should have, and I shall regret always that I did not.

Meyers has told us that she died in March, after many illnesses and long nursing-home and hospital stays; that they spoke every day. Which makes me glad: they were always best friends, and now they truly are best friends forever.

Susie was perhaps the brightest, clearest spirit I have ever known. She was intellectually brilliant, radiantly witty, spectacularly literate (we used to play Two-Line Poker: every English major in the world knows the first two lines of every English-language poem ever written, so we would challenge each other to quote the next two, or the last two…good times, good times, especially when we were stoned).

But also she had a matching, and more powerful, darkness, which stemmed from many sources and which was what finally, sadly, prevailed. Bright light, dark shadow. Sometimes you just can’t get past it.

I loved her dearly, and always will, and I am proud, humble, flattered and honored that she found me worthy enough to be counted among her close friends. When I think of her, I see her smiling at me over that guitar, back in that dorm room on a chilly September night. She always called me Kennealy, never Patricia. And now the people who still do that are down to two or three. She billed herself as Sue, and sometimes people called her Don (short for Donoghue).

But to us she was always Susie. She didn’t mind; she once told me that only really strong people can give diminutives to other really strong people so that the strong people being diminutized don't resent it and indeed enjoy it, and that we did so made her feel loved.

So she’s gone, and so much of my own past goes with her. Things we shared, that only we knew between us, of which secrets and moments I am now the sole custodian. (I remember driving up to Woodstock with her, both of us stoned, and seeing on a distant hillside giant white letters proclaiming “Christ Is The Answer”. “Well, Kennealy, look at that, Christ is the answer,” she said. To which I, in my stoned haze, promptly riposted, “But what’s the question?” Stealing, though I didn’t know it at the time, from dear Gertrude Stein, apparently. But Susie laughed so hard she almost drove the car off the road. One of my favorite things was making her laugh like that; I felt I really accomplished something when I did. She was a tough room.)

Of course Kathy and Noreen are still very much here, vibrant as ever, for which I am most grateful. We’re survivors. Who could have predicted that?

I will close with our favorite lines from our favorite poem (though Susie was mostly a Browning fan). We employed it on many occasions, often sarcastically, but we also loved it for its beauty and its truth:

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Go well, Susie!