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, July 30, 2008

And A Bit More...

That previous chunk was the beginning of the's the end of the Prologue (there's quite a bit more between). Hope I'm not spoiling too much...they're sailing to invade England.

It was not the morning weather they would have wished for their last day’s sail: rough clouds jostled the sky and wind whipped up the waves into swells that pushed this way and that. But sail they must: by nightfall, Ragnar had commanded, the bulk of the fleet should be anchored in an estuary down the coast, which had been scouted by advance guards and determined free of Saxons bent on stopping the invasion.

Though the Arndis was small for a warcraft, Guthorm loved everything about her: the gray clinch-built big-bellied hull with its gracefully overlapping strakes, like feathers on a hawk’s wing; the painted and gilded dragon head “prow” at either end, so that the ship could be run up a foreshore and run back out again without need to turn; the striped sail that cracked like thunder in the wind; the “ash-breeze”, the skald’s name for the foaming oar-thresh through which the ship skimmed the waves, raised by the power of the ashwood blades.

Especially did he love the many-colored shields that hung outboard when coming in to quay, though at sea all were stored securely under the thwarts. Guthorm’s was proudly painted with the Battle-Dragon: the great Orm, the horned serpent of the God, sign of his house and origin of his name. His own sisters had woven the device into the war flag that flew now atop the mast, in emulation of the famous Raven Banner woven by the three daughters of Ragnar Lodbrok, streaming before the fleet from the mast of Ragnar’s lead ship, the Sigrún, Rune of Victory, almost two hundred feet long and capable of carrying eighty men and more.

It was whispered among the ships that all in one stormy night had they fashioned that magic flag, the three Ragnarsdottirs. Fierce and fair as their warrior brothers, they had stood to their great loom like the Norns themselves, the story went, and by dawn their work was done. And here was the magic: though it was called the Raven Banner, there was no raven to be seen, just a plain, sheened, heavy white piece of cloth. But it was said that when you looked closely at it, in a certain light or slant, the Raven of Odin would appear in the very warp and weft, and would spread its wings for victory, or huddle them close for defeat.

It had taken the daughters of Olaf three weeks, not one night, to make their own standard, but then there was no magic in it that Guthorm knew of, just his sisters’ good honest weaving. The banner bore the same image that was on his shield—the Horned Serpent of Wisdom, silver on sea-blue—and he smiled as he looked up at it.

He saw it change and flap heavily upon the changing air, and, suddenly alert, he turned to glance back at the line of sail behind him. There was a squall line rushing down upon them, black to the northeast, such a sudden tempest as was common on the Northern Sea; while before them in the south and west was an unearthly brightness, silver-white, blazing so that he had to shade his eyes to look at it. But though the wind was pushing them along the wavetops, skimming rather than sailing, they were unable to catch up to the sun, and it was westering even as he watched. Guthorm wondered if Saxon eyes were looking out from the bare clifftops to the west, high jutting cliffs as rough as any in the Northlands, spilling down into the sea; wondered too with what fury those watching eyes might be filled, what resolve to resist, what war plans might lie behind them.

Three hundred striped sails beating southward along the Saxon coast: what a sight it must make, the masts like a forest upon the sea, and he wondered if the Saxons on shore saw and were afraid, or whether they too noted the oncoming squall and hoped it would do its worst.

He was in his usual place by the rail, out of the way as the men worked, when the Arndis and several other ships were caught by the squall’s edge. From looking ahead to the coast, all at once he was staring down into foaming water, then the ship heeled the other way, the water mounting higher and higher until it stood like a silver sword-blade laid down along the gunwales. He looked at it for what seemed an eternity and thought that it would never break, but then it did, rushing at him like a glacier-burst. His father and brothers tried to fight their way back to him, but the water was too sudden and too strong. Even in that crowded moment, though, he remembered his training, and as the wave took him he forced himself to relax and let it carry him over the side.

For all his dislike of the sea, he was a strong swimmer, and when his head broke water some yards away the ship had already righted herself, and hands were already stretching oars out to him. He grabbed for the nearest, sprawled across it strengthlessly and let the arm-strength of two rowers on the blade’s end lift him from the sea and swing him aboard like a caught crab. As it turned out, four others from the Arndis had gone over with him, but they were safe as well; the only casualties had been some of the food supplies—nothing that could not be replaced, and they were near enough to journey’s end to do without if they had to.

His brothers quickly stripped him of the soaked clothing and wrapped him in dry furs to warm him, pushing him down out of the wind; he had been in the water only a few minutes, but he was chilled to the bone. Thank all gods his few possessions had been securely stowed in his sea chest lashed to the thwarts, and had not gone into the waves to be lost: the precious weapons with which his mother had gifted him before they sailed—the sword, his first real blade; the sharp little triangular dagger; even the short springy bow, not a Dane noble’s usual weapon but he was exceptionally good with it. Even more precious, his small harp, kept safe in a double-flapped bag of waterproof whale leather with his set of carved bone runes—he was good with both, often playing for the men as they sang after the nightmeal, or casting the runes around the fire at night ashore. After a while he warmed up again; he pulled on clean, dry clothes, and the shivering eased.

“Were you afraid, Gythi?” asked Audun, wide-eyed and quiet under the hastily half-raised tilt. Born on the same day, the sons of twin sisters, the two boys were more like twins themselves than cousins, the one with hair bright as sunlight, the other's the color of the rose gold so prized by treasure-seekers. They had been reared together at Koppervik when Audun’s mother died long since, and Audun had cried out in terror now to see his cousin flung into the waves.

“I was surely afraid, seeing it,” he added. Beside him, the skald’s son Bjarni nodded agreement.

“Yes,” said Guthorm vigorously, and honestly, huddling again under the furs. “And also no—before I left home, Freydis our spaewife told me that though my death lies across the sea, I shall never die of drowning, will never go to the blue halls of Njord. So I did not fear death in the waters. But, you know, I was afraid all the same.”

Other ships had not been so lucky: the squall’s winds had pushed them deep into the outer shorebreak above a hidden and treacherous shoal, and now they were caught in the tidepull, headed inexorably for a darkly gleaming spine of rock that reared just below the surface, like a sounding whale’s back.

Now Guthorm watched, still shivering, though not now with the cold, as two of the foundering longships were driven onto the sharp shoals, breaking apart in a fury of white water and splintered keel. Many men were lost, for they had remained aboard trying to bring the ships about. The other craft dared not approach closer, lest the teeth of the rocks should bite upon themselves, but stood off and hoped to pick up any survivors. There had been no cries for help; that was not the northern way. The men thrown into that churning, frigid sea would spend their last moments not whining vainly for aid that could not come but preparing themselves for Odin or Freyja to take them. Perhaps they did not die in battle with men, but in battle they died even so: in battle with the sea itself, great Njord’s wave armies, and as for any warrior perished in battle, the valkyr would come for them.

Indeed, Jorund, the young goðar of Frey from Koppervik, who had sailed in the Arndis with them, cried out in a strong voice that he saw the valkyr, those bright maids of battlefame, coming for the souls that were lost. Eyes dazzled with sun-glint and wonder and grief, Guthorm saw them then himself: riding their shining horses down the slopes of the air, pulling the drowned men up behind them to the golden saddles and turning in a spray of light for the rainbow bridge and the great gates of Valhall beyond. And then the ships were gone, pulled under, not even their sails laid upon the waters to mark where they had been.

A sound came across the waves then like the horn of Heimdall who was guardian of that bridge, a sound that was deep, eerie, echoing: the blowing of lurs, the long, wide-mouthed bronze horns used to signal from ship to ship or down the steep-walled fjords. First one, then a few joined, then more and more, so that the melodious sound echoed forward and back, up and down the line of sail. It was a tribute: the survivors of the fleet were honoring their fallen. They did not search for bodies; they said that Njord claimed his own, and Ran wife of Njord would feast them in her blue-ceilinged halls far below the waves.

The horns that troubled my sleep at Skerssik…was it a warning? Or a gift? Or perhaps a curse... Coming out from the tilt, Guthorm threw off the furs and pulled himself up, to show respect. Turning his head, he saw Olaf standing by the mast, tall and straight as a mast himself, his bared sword raised in salute and farewell as the lurs sounded on.

The squall line passed with no further disaster, and just before sunset the Arndis came safely into a river mouth a few miles farther down the coast; Guthorm heard his uncle Helm say with quiet relief that many sails were there before them in this agreed-upon anchorage, and many more were following them in. He craned his head above the gunwale to see a wide-mouthed estuary, its calm waters already sheltering at least a hundred longships both at anchor and run up the shore, and turning he could see a line of even more stretching out behind, back out to sea. Despite Ragnar’s command, they would not all make harbor tonight; many would choose another night’s camping on a safe beach or would ride out the darkness sea-anchored, rather than dare an unknown harbor in the dark.

Even the land seemed somehow ominous in the gray twilight: there were heavy woods running down to the shore, perfect for harboring hostile Saxons, but he could see no sign that any were about: this was their planned destination and place of disembarking, and the advance landing parties would have made sure that no one would have to worry about being attacked out of their ships

This low, flat, sea-fingered region of England, very like to their Danish homeland with its peaty soil and salt-marshes, was sparsely settled in any case; most Saxons lived far to the south and west, in the fat rolling grasslands of Wessex and Mercia. The Butterdowns, he had heard those regions called, for the richness of the grazing. The army would be heading there eventually, it was great Ragnar’s plan; but the first order of business, as he had heard the captains discussing round the campfires, would be to spend almost the whole of this year 864 of the Christian god settling in.

They needed time to recover from the long sea voyage, get their full fighting strength back. After that, the urgency was to provision themselves, replace their losses—though the men lost at sea could not be replaced, at least not without sending home for more—forge and stockpile weapons, acquire horses by theft, force or even purchase, raise some crops for foodstuff and fodder next season, to ensure that neither they nor the beasts they would buy or capture or steal from the Saxons should go hungry in winter.

And all this needed doing before the Great Army, as it was already being called, could move on its first big objective: Eboracum, the Romans had called it, but it was known to the Danes as the strong-walled, stone-built, northern river city of Jorvik.

Or, as the English turned the name, York.

(c)2008, Patricia Morrison

Monday, July 28, 2008


Just to give you an idea...from "Son of the Northern Star...

Prologue: The Swan-Road

FROM UNDER THE GAILY STRIPED CANVAS TENT AMIDSHIPS, the boy on the dragonship looked out at a rising sea and a rocky shoreline little more than a mile away. Before and behind him, the men sat on their carven-oak sea chests, busy with small chores, talking quietly, even napping; under sail, there was little for anyone to do save the steersman and a few sail-handlers.

The ship slicing silently through the North Sea waters was called the Arndis, which meant Eagle Goddess: after a long voyage from a quiet distant vik, a bay on the western seaboard of the Dannemark, to the isles of Orkney, where they had rested for a few days with countrymen who had settled there, then a straight run before a northeasterly gale down the coast of Scotland, it was now in sight of the English shore, and all the mighty fleet with it.

The boy was young, not quite fifteen, so that not overmuch was asked of him; his father and elder brothers and cousins who accompanied him saw to that, but they also saw that he rowed and hauled sail enough to build muscle for the spear and keep a callused palm for the swordhilt.

His name was Guthorm, and this was his first time on the Swan-road, the Whale-path—the gray sea that was the raiding trail to warriors of his folk, and had been for more than half a hundred years.

A raiding longship was not a comfortable place. Open to wave and weather, only the canvas tent—called a tilt—to shelter under at night or in rain, everywhere the creaking of the ash boards, the gunwales rising only a few feet above the waterline: that was the price paid for extreme speed and maneuverability. The dragonships of the Northmen, terror of all Europe to the south, were designed with stems at both ends, the more quickly to run up a foreshore and then reverse under oar without needing to be turned round. The oak keel drew a mere three feet of water, so the force could sail far, far upriver to the fat cities of the inlands, sitting smug, thinking themselves safe from sea-reivers; and the light, clinker-built design of the hull meant easy portage on log rollers should the need arise.

The Arndis carried a complement of thirty men, fifteen oars to a side, so she was not as crowded as most vessels of her kind; other ships were bigger, eighty oars even, and could hold more, especially slaves and other cargo. But that was a good size for a swift craft, and the ship had been built especially for his father’s crew and company—men he had known all his life, many of whom were kin. Those who sailed a longship were more like a trading venture than a mercenary crew: they shared in the costs of the building and the sailing, and in return they took shares in the profits and loot, the captain and owner’s share being of course the largest.

Guthorm had been around boats and ships since childhood; most Danish boys had, especially sons of sea lords, such as he was himself. But unlike most, he was not the best or happiest of sailors: he had never stood on a deck without uncomfortably sensing the shifting depths beneath him, all the way down to the clean sand floor far, far below, and all that empty cold salt water between. He had thought often that his misliking was perhaps prophecy, that he would die at sea, as so many of his race did, and this aversion to the ocean was merely foresighted self-preservation and caution.

As he grew it had not ceased to trouble him. Sometimes he even dreamed about it, and his dreams were worse than anything he had seen in life: great towering glass-green waves the size of hills, rearing up with no warning out of quiet bays, to topple and crash upon the houses and the cattle and the folk. He did not speak of it to any of his kin, but the dreams continued; so much so that after waking one night in shuddering outcries that roused half the longhouse, who all thought enemies had invaded and had leaped up naked to seize their axes, he went next morning to consult the spaewife, the sorceress of his clan, the witch who advised the folk of Koppervik, and healed them also.

She lived in a small stone house shaped like a beehive, on the edge of the birch forest bordering the homegarth; she was called Freydis. He had known her since his childhood: one of his earliest memories was of his mother bringing him to the stone house; he could not have been more than three—a sturdy, silent blond child with sea-gray eyes. He had not known what to expect of the woman he had been brought to see, and to be seen by, but he had never forgotten how she had smiled at him, and had given him a small piece of honeycomb, sweet dripping amber from the bees who lived in the hives behind the beehive-shaped house.

But this time he had gone to seek her counsel alone, as a man would, a young warrior preparing for his first raiding voyage. As a child he had thought her ancient, weighed down with the aura of power that clung about her like a cloak; now he was surprised every time they met to see how young and tall and straight she was, even now, twelve years or more after their first meeting, to think how young she must have been then herself, not many years older then than he was now. When he came walking up, she had smiled at him as always when he appeared at the door of her little stone house—she still gave him a piece of honeycomb whenever he came to visit, and he still ate it with enjoyment—but this was a professional consultation, client to expert, the first time he had approached her so, and he had brought a suitable fee: a string of rare red amber beads strung with tiny gold drops.

She had accepted the gift gravely and with formal thanks, setting it carefully aside, facing him across the furs and skins upon which they sat, waiting for him to speak. When he haltingly asked her about his dream, his aversion to the sea and his thought that he would one day perish in it, or by it, fearing that she would only think him afraid, Freydis—it was a title rather than a name, he had never heard her truename, no one had—had shaken her head so that the carnelian and silver bead strings falling from her white fur headdress swayed and swung, and looked at him with nothing but affection and compassion in her face.

“Rune matter, Gythi. Let us see what the stones may say.”

As her name implied, she was not only a spaewife but a priestess of Freyja, the Great Goddess, and therefore a person of much awe on the homegarth and for miles around; even the master of Koppervik, Guthorm’s father Olaf, trod respectfully around her, giving room for her shadow on the grass, as he would for a god or a nisse, one of the elves that lived in the wood or under mountain or along the lonely shore. Her mother had preceded her as priestess at Koppervik, and her mother before her; farther back than that, no one now living there remembered. She had the knowledge of the runes—of stave and of stone—she knew the way of seidhr, the magic learning that Oðin Allfather himself had humbly learned from the goddess Freyja.

And she concerned herself totally with the lives of the families she protected, and who in turn supported and protected her: her mother had married Olaf to his wife Arndis, Freydis herself had sained the newborn Guthorm and his elder sibs before the gods; she blessed beast and field and dwelling-place, she healed with herbs and drenches, she avenged with hexes. As she had done with his brothers, she had even arranged Guthorm’s introduction to the art of love last year, with a young woman of suitable birth and breeding apprenticed to a fellow spaewife on a manor on the other side of the Dannemark; and she had helped negotiate, with Arndis and Olaf, the marriages of Guthorm’s three elder sisters, advantageous matches to strong jarls of great holdings.

As no doubt she would help arrange his own marriage, in a few years; indeed, suitable girls were already being considered. Marriage among all Northfolk was an alliance of families and property, far more than merely a union of youth and maiden; and it certainly did not depend on love between the two parties it most closely concerned. Some degree of liking was of course desirable, and some choice allowed on both sides—no parents wished to force their children into a despised match, since it was certain that any marital unhappiness would spread to the two kindreds as well.

But such concerns were still years in his future. Looking at the immenseness of sea and sky that lay before him now, Guthorm remembered how he had sat with Freydis, rapt, in the tiny cold dimness of the beehive hut: the blue smoke from the stone firepit, the bleached white bones and antlers upon the walls, strange half-glimpsed shadows, his head buzzing with the fumes of burning herbs and her high tuneless humming. In his half-trance he had thought that her tiny stone house had somehow grown to be larger and vaster than all this airy reach of water and wind; indeed, it had seemed that the little hut had contained all of Midgard itself within its walls, all the rolling earth within its bounds.

Her witch-voice had thinned and chilled as she went into the seer’s trance, drawing the runes out of a white-and-gray rabbit-fur bag, casting them before her on the hard-packed earthen floor; he heard in memory the click of the dark-green, red-flecked stones as she threw them again and again, the high hawk’s voice calling on the gods—on Odin, on Freyja, on Skadi, on Tyr.

“Hagalaz, Tiwaz, Os. Far from here, yes, will come your death. Only a king can contest against a king. A contest for more than rule. Sigel, Daeg, Raido. A king’s death will be yours, a queen beside you. You will die on the far side of water, but not by water shall you perish. That will not be your fate.”

(c)2008, Patricia Morrison

Thursday, July 24, 2008


For the past week I have been editing, for moderately serious money, an absolutely godawful book that calls itself "historical erotica." Uh-HUH.

Yes, well, they got the erotica part right. I, however, call it smut. And smut it is! And not even good smut.
And you guys all know how prudish I am about sex in my own books, so this is a pretty big revelation, that historical fiction, which to me means Thomas Costain and Anya Seton, may their names live forever, now is pretty much pornographically rife. It isn't just those lances that are well couched, if you get my drift...

No, the uh-oh comes because all this William the Conqueror-era activity has got me reverting to my Viking book, "Son of the Northern Star." About Alfred the Great and his Viking adversary, whom I like to think of as Guthrum the Greater.

The editor suggested I sex it up a bit, and after I stopped going eeeeeewwwwwwww, I thought, well, I would never want to write the kind of stuff I've had to edit (trust me, you don't wanna read it, either), but maybe I could romance it a bit more than my usual.

I have about a hundred pages done on it. Guthrum and Alfred were a very odd couple indeed. Guthrum the Dane, last real Viking warlord left in England, and ruler of everything but Alf's little kingdom of Mercia. They fight, they disagree, they make treaties, they break treaties, they win battles, they lose stuff.

Then Guthrum and his Vikes lose a decisive battle, down West Country way, and Alfred, instead of slaughtering them all, makes them turn Christian, at least nominally, and gives Guthrum half of England to rule, the whole north and east (now called the Danelaw), keeping the south and west for himself. Civilized and very, very shrewd on both their parts: Guthrum couldn't win by then, and Alfred knew the Vikings were never going to go away.

Marking the first occasion of the great British political weapon: partition! To be followed by Palestine, India/Pakistan, Northern Ireland, etc., etc.

So, since there's very little known about Guthrum, I've basically made him into a Viking Lawrence of Arabia, with a bit of Turk thrown in: tall, blond, bearded, hunky. And there's a witchy Welsh girlfriend, Malen, with coal-black hair and rain-colored eyes...all of which is utterly fabricated, since there's some evidence that Guthrum was well into his fifties or even older. But that's the beauty of undocumented times...

So now I'm all het up to write some more on this. Must. Not. I really have to finish "Monterey", at least...and nobody is buying Viking books any more now than they were two years back.
Unless I get all romancey about it. Which I'd rather not do. So we'll see. I just want to play in the 860's for a while, not the 1960's...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

New from Rennie: Chapter 5

In celebration of having cracked 100,000 words, yay me, here's another chapter of "California Screamin': Murder at Monterey Pop."
It's pretty self-explanatory: Rennie and Prax are at Big Magic, the anti-festival, and meet some people they know...

Chapter 5

Monday morning, June 12

BIG MAGIC'S OPENING DAY. Though the program wouldn't get seriously going until noon, there were already small musical knots strewn across the landscape, people playing, people digging the playing—or the players. Most of the musicians had been here for a day or two, like Rennie and her friends, showing up early to enjoy the hot springs and some kickback time before the gig. Already there was a bit of friction between the factions: the Power to the People hippie-fascist organizers; the Big Magic players; and the Monterey-bound musicians who were here merely to cop some vibes and maybe sit in on a set. But for the most part the scene was pleasant and calm.

Early risers both, Rennie and Prax came walking barefoot across the dew-soaked morning grass from Waterhall, shoes in hand and smiles on their faces. They were headed to the resort café, preferring superlatively hot and salty burgers on soft warm rolls, tops shiny with griddle grease, to the nice healthy breakfast gracing Romilly's table.

As they came down the grassy slope, Prax took a deep breath of the sea-cooled air and looked around, and continued, without preamble, their bedtime conversation of the night before.

"It was so nice to see Becca again. Too bad Danny and Brandi were there. Bit of a strain in the room."

Rennie nodded. "I just wish we—could have done something for her."

Prax slipped her arm around Rennie's shoulders, squeezed. "Honey, last night? I think maybe we did. She talked. She laughed. She understood. She remembered. She sat and talked to us nonstop for almost three hours after dinner. She was like her old self. Even Romilly said so. We were there, and she knew us, and she was happy to see us. That's so much better than it could have been. Maybe that's as good as it can get, with her."

She waved her arm across the landscape and changed the subject. "Look at them out there all biblical and Bedouin-ish—they're settled in for a week at least. I bet some would stay all summer if Romilly would let them."

Rennie allowed the subject to be changed, and looked. "Well, they'll have to clear out on Thursday if they want to make the scene at Monterey, which even the purity fascists who organized this little here–now blast want to do. Probably a lot of the camping contingent couldn't care less about Monterey and will stay put, but by Wednesday midnight Big Magic is done. Coaches back into pumpkins. Everybody except the diehards will be lemming-ing over to Monterey come Thursday morning. Including us. Oh, God, Praxie, don't look, quick, let's try to make it to those trees, before he sees us."

Too late. A young man was running toward them, waving wildly. He was small, slight, barefoot, with long brown hair and a touchingly eager smile on his extremely pretty face.

"Who's this, then?" asked Prax as they waited for him to come up. "Someone you know? Someone crazy and weird?"

"All those things. His name is Adam Santa Monica. Don't tell me you've never met?" At Prax's bewildered headshake: "Oh Lord. He's this demented groupie kid who thinks he's the bastard offspring of Elvis Presley and Jacqueline Bouvier, later Jackie Kennedy. Because they had an affair, you know, El and Jacks, and he was the happy result, but of course he could never be openly acknowledged, since Jackie was going to marry J.F.K. So his mother abandoned him as a newborn, in a shopping bag at the Wilshire Boulevard I. Magnin in L.A.—on one of her frequent trips there, no doubt. That's the usual story, though sometimes it's other places he was abandoned: in a large handbag in the powder room at the Beverly Hills Hotel, in a blanket under a table at the Brown Derby. It changes like that."

"I see."

"No, I don't think you do, my little woodpigeon, not entirely. He was abandoned in a shopping bag, the poor kid. Just not by Jackie. So one can understand why he is the way he is. I guess I'm lucky he's not claiming I'm his mother… Anyway, I have been happily informed that he was finally made legitimate when Jackie married Elvis after J.F.K. was killed. Of course, since Adam was born in May 1951, El would have had to sire him at, let's see now, age fifteen—precocious but possible—and Jackie, age twenty-three, met Jack Kennedy for the first time that very month, so it's fairly unlikely that she was nine months preggers by Presley or anyone else just then—surely Jack would have noticed, dontcha think? And if she ever does remarry I somehow doubt it will be to Elvis. Still, he is the King and king outranks president. But anything's possible, especially in Tupelo. Or Back Bay Boston. Which are not as unalike as people in both places care to think."

"So, crazy as a bedbug."

"Pretty much. Before you ask, I have no idea what his real name or story is. Lately he's been hanging around Chris Sakerhawk, who's about ready to kill him, but there doesn't seem to be any agenda there—he's not claiming Chris as his long-lost bastard half-brother or anything. Anyway, I met Alan backstage at the Troubadour a few months ago and made the mistake of being nice to him, which is how I found out all this stuff, and now he won't leave me alone. Why I seem to attract delusional psychotics, I haven't the foggiest. Not you, of course. Don't laugh at him, though," she added.

Prax looked wounded. "I would never."

Adam Santa Monica came hurrying up the slope to them, smiling eagerly. "Oh wow, Rennie Stride! Hi, I haven't seen you for weeks, so cool you're here—and Prax McKenna, groovy!"

They took him to the resort's terrace café and fed him, because he had no money and he looked hungry and they felt sorry for him. But charity and patience only extended so far, especially when he started bugging Rennie over the hamburgers and lemonade.

"I've told you before, Adam, I have no pull in Memphis and I absolutely cannot get you in at Graceland to see Elvis."

"My father," explained Adam proudly to a politely nodding Prax, whose perfect deadpan was an achievement in itself. "My mother, Mrs. Jacqueline Bouvier-Presley, abandoned me in the ladies' dressing room at the I. Magnin in Beverly Hills. She never came out to California, so she thought that would be the best thing to do—no one would recognize her if they saw her leaving me there."

"Good thinking."

"She's smart as well as beautiful! No wonder my dad fell in love with her. They were married a year after the assassination, you know, so I'm their legitimate son now."

At last they escaped, Prax pleading a splitting headache and Rennie an emergency trip to the village to buy aspirins for her. Prax made a clean getaway, but Rennie found herself immediately importuned by Adam for a lift into town and back, as if he were a happy retriever puppy longing to go for a ride, and she gave in with a better grace than she might have expected.

It was a mere five-minute drive into Mojado village. Parking on the main, indeed, pretty much the only, street, Rennie left Adam sitting in the car with his little backpack while she ran into the drugstore, where she saw Brandi Marron perusing cosmetics and instantly dodged the other way, and he was still there when she came out of the sporting goods shop next door twenty minutes later.

Approaching the station wagon, Rennie looked at him for a minute, unnoticed: he was humming happily to himself, watching the action on the tiny main street, and she felt a sudden pang.

How many kids were there like him around the scene? Okay, probably not that many others who believed they had the fairytale ancestry of a hidden prince—the secret son of the Queen of Camelot and the King of Rocknroll—but still there were hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of sad, wounded, innocent souls that nobody cared enough about to try to fix. Or even knew about at all. She herself had never come close to such a place, thank God, but she knew plenty who had—she'd seen one of them only last night.

She pulled the car door open and got behind the wheel. "Adam. Here."

'Here' was a shopping bag containing a pair of hemp-and-leather sandals, two heavy-duty cotton t-shirts, a pullover sweater, several pairs of thick, soft socks, a warm, hooded windbreaker, a red-and-black lumberjack shirt of heavy flannel, a waterproof poncho, a bucket rainhat, a pair of shades and, folded inside the socks, two twenty-dollar bills. And a sleeping bag, extra-thick and warm, which she tossed into the back seat. Everything she could think of, in a hurry, that he might need. It was a lot of stuff, but it hadn't cost that much, and even if it had, still it was money well spent; at least her conscience would be clear. She couldn't do anything for those other kids, or even for Becca, but she could help Adam out a bit. She could always expense it to Burke anyway, but if he wouldn't let her that was fine too.

"It's going to be cold tonight, maybe rainy. You need something on your feet. And on the rest of you. I don't want to hear about you freezing to death sleeping outside, so look around for a dormitory tent—the resort put up a bunch for campers who didn't bring their own. Or find somebody to crash with. And buy yourself something to eat, for God's sake, will you? Don't spend the money on dope, and don't sell the stuff to buy dope, either."

He thanked her all the way back to The Springs, putting on the new sandals, happily cramming the things she'd bought him into his backpack, asking if he could keep the shopping bag, faithfully promising food, not acid—those big thick burgers at the café were only fifty cents, even cheaper ones at the soda fountain in town, he could eat here and for the next two weeks back in town and still maybe buy a little pot, was that okay, if he did that?—and Rennie dropped him off at the terrace where they'd been sitting earlier. She had a previously scheduled interview, and now she pulled away, intending to drive the few hundred yards down to the resort cottages rather than leave the car at Waterhall and walk all the way back.

When she glanced in the rear-view mirror, she saw Adam, who was sitting again at the little table where they'd breakfasted, the sleeping bag and backpack at his newly sandaled feet, smile and wave with sudden excitement, as if he recognized someone he knew and liked, was pleased and surprised to see there. Rennie tried to follow the sightline into the milling crowd under the trees, but she couldn't tell who, if anyone, the kid had seen. Maybe he was waving to his parents.

But she felt better knowing she had provided for him over the next days and a bit beyond. A rock mitzvah, befitting a former Girl Scout. If he showed up at Monterey, she and Praxie would help him out a little more. They could both afford it now, she was happy to note, and, besides, it was a very nice feeling. No wonder the Lacings had gotten into philanthropism in such a big way—though, on second thought, that probably hadn't been their reason at all.

Rennie hadn't been lying just to escape Adam. She really did have an interview, or at least a meeting. Baz Potter, half of the British folk superduo Potter and Hazlitt (and widely known as the English Art Garfunkel, to both his and Artie's extreme mutual annoyance), had been staying at a Springs cottage to gather his strength before the main event at Monterey. He hadn't been able to get into the idea of Tassajara any more than Rennie had, and apparently he wasn't yet ready to head over to Monterey, where Baz and Haz, as they were known to fans and detractors alike, were opening the whole festival Friday night.

They and Rennie had been friends from her college days. Basil Potter and Roger Hazlitt, a folksinging duo then going by the name of Grendel's Mother and straight off the student-fare prop plane from Gatwick, had been a nightly piece of acoustic set dressing at the Sea Witch, an old-school Macdougal Street coffeehouse Rennie favored in the West Village when she and her friends at several upstate schools drove down to New York City on weekends, to hang out in the new hip clubs, or the newly hip old ones.

The Sea Witch was gamely trying to update itself to the Sixties ethos and compete with the hip places down the block and around the corner, like the Kettle of Fish and the Café Wha? and the Village Gate, where young Bobby Dylan and young Phil Ochs and young Peter, Paul and Mary were among the big draws, and which were always packed full of starry-eyed fans like young Rennie Stride.

The British lads—Baz a dark-haired, dark-eyed Welshman, Roger a fair-haired Scot—had come cheap, being hungry and eager to play, and they weren't as politically protest-y as most of those others, so they became the Sea Witch's house act, and had quickly developed a loyal following.

Rennie'd interviewed them for a Cornell journalism school assignment; they had hit it off immediately, though never romantically, and had been friends ever since. They'd even affectionately christened her Ace, for Ace Reportorial Goddess. Better than the acronymic Arg, she supposed. Anyway, the tag had stuck, though thankfully only with those two: with the recent exception of "Strider", and even then but few were granted the liberty, Rennie did not permit nicknames.

And now those boys of hers were folk icons. Baz and Haz—and it was BAZZ-il, not BAY-zil, thank you very much—toured endlessly; they had half a dozen albums out, and had written some truly beautiful songs. Baz's gorgeous tenor—though not as high and pure as Art Garfunkel's, nobody's could be that, and nobody could be more smugly aware of it than Arthur, either—combined with Roger's rich baritone, not to mention their lit'ry lyrics heavy on the Romantic poets, had improbably charmed the masses, and their audience crossed all age barriers. Which might or might not be a good thing.

Over the hill on the open stage, Big Magic had officially started up at the stroke of noon, with a local tribal shaman chanting to bless the scene, followed by an equally local band called Sycorax—experimental music that sounded like zithers being played with fish skeletons, and wordless shrieking vocals that could not only shatter glass but etch your initials into it on the way to the ground. Comfortably distant from the din, Rennie and Baz sat on his cottage's brick-paved terrace, under the shade of a spreading jacaranda in the middle bloom of its purple glory—the lovely trees came into flower a bit later in the north than in the Southland.

"So," said Rennie, sipping iced tea. "You and Pierce Hill work out your little issues yet? You can tell me. Off the record, of course. Unless you want it on the record. About the records. We've really never discussed it, you and I and Roger, and you don't have to tell me now, but maybe it might help."

Basil Potter looked at Rennie and sighed. "You decide, Ace. But off the record for now. As to our differences—creative, contractual, financial, personal—it wants a bloody U.N. peacekeeping force to sort them out. Northern Ireland will see happy days sooner than we will."

"Well, I'm not saying you should stay loyal to Pierce, 'cause I think he's an utter scumbag, but he did discover you two and sign you to Rainshadow. And he is your record company president."

"Yes, well, there's the rub. Not only did he discover us and sign us," said Baz gloomily, "he holds our publishing rights. Personally holds them. He talked us into signing them over to Rainshadow when he signed us up; in fact, that was part of the deal."

"And you idiots fell for it? Who was your manager? Where was your lawyer? Asleep at the wheel?"

"We had no money, as you may perhaps recall? We couldn't afford to hire anyone, so…"

Rennie cast up her eyes to heaven. "Oh, let me guess—so Pierce recommended an entertainment lawyer he knew who wouldn't ask you to pay up front and would only take his legal fees once you'd made some money off the first record."


"What a prince. You babes in the woods realize he screwed you with your clothes on, don't you? That they both did?"

"We figured that out pretty quickly," said Baz ruefully. "But Pierce has got us over the proverbial barrel. We'll never leave without our songs, and he'll never give them back to us."

"You guys have made many, many truckloads of bucks, even working for Pierce's slave wages. Couldn't you hire someone to break the contract? Or failing that, take out a contract? On him?"

Baz set down his empty lemonade glass and poured himself a refill. "A tempting idea. But we've tried. To break the contract, I mean. Technically, we can break it. But only if we're willing to give up every song we ever wrote up to now. He's got them locked down tighter than a nun in a chastity belt. He even named the publishing company, with our songs, for his little daughter's nickname. Scout Music. It's like some horrible Faustian nightmare. That's one of the reasons he's here, at Big Magic and Monterey. To keep an eye on us, to dump a few of the Rainshadow old guard, and also to look for his next big score."

"Well, he'll have to queue up right sharpish. Every record company president in the galaxy is going to be here personally or at least is sending a rep. RCA, Columbia, Isis, Atlantic, Warner, Sovereign, A&M, Centaur, just for starters. And every big-name manager too, from Albert Grossman on down. They're all after the same thing: fresh meat. Fresh meat that's going to make them all a ton of money."

Baz nodded. "I know. But Pierce really means it. He wants to sign as many hip new rockers as he can and drop as many as he can of the unhip old folkies his label established, like Ushuaia and that Irish bloke Finn Hanley. He wants new people. People he can get cheap, people who'll be grateful and humble and won't make waves. And yet he won't let us go, we who have got our walking shoes glued to our feet, ready to decamp at a moment's notice. And that's not off the record, Ace; the more people who see what a greedy prick bastard he is, the better, maybe. You might want to warn Prax and Tansy, by the way, make sure they're on their guard—I have no doubt he'll be sniffing after them and their bands."

"I'll do that. But what do you want, my dear, both of you?"

"You already know what we want. We quite desperately want to either split up and go our solo separate ways before we kill each other, or else to follow Dylan's fine example and change our sound and style to something harder and rockier and electric. Hopefully without a near-fatal motorcycle accident in the mix. But I have to say, we'd pull that too if we thought it would work."

"But that still wouldn't stop you from wanting to kill each other."
"It would not. It's gone too far for that. But if we're doing new stuff we might be able to stand being around each other. Of course, if we're both dead, no problem." He laughed at her exasperated expression. "Well, I never said it was uncomplicated, babe…"

No, he was right about that, it certainly wasn't. Rainshadow, their folkie-purist record company, whose current prosperity was founded largely on Potter and Hazlitt catalogue, and whose spiffy new midtown Manhattan offices had been funded entirely by Potter and Hazlitt royalties, had said no way in hell. In fact, in the personal person of Pierce Hill had it said no way in hell.

"And when he said that, what did you say?"

"We said we'll sue to get out."

"And when you said that, what did he say?"

"He said we'll change our sound or break our contract only over his dead body."

Rennie gave a short laugh. "Meaning of course 'Over your dead bodies, lads: if we wanted a new sound from you we'd ask for one, and anyway we hear there's plenty of other groups out there already doing that newfangled hard rock stuff so just stick to what you know and what you can do and what makes us all rich and happy even though you're not happy because we don't give a flaming toss whether you are or not as long as you keep coming across with the same old sound and bringing in the same old money.' "

Baz stared at her. "How is it that you know these things? That's exactly what he said. You're quite frightening, really. Can you control storms and sway the future?"

"Something like that. No, it's just that I know Pierce Hill, I know his little weasely ways. Everybody thinks he's such a cool dude and a friend to the music and all, but really he's just annoying forty-three-year-old pissant Percy Epps from Rego Park, Queens, getting even with everyone who beat him up outside yeshiva school. Hardline, but not hard to figure out. Listen, he discovered you boys in that Yorkshire pub singing for cheese sarnies and ale and got you to America, and you were all lucky and grateful to have found each other. As well you should have been. But the times they have a-changèd: now you're big huge stars and he's used to the filet mignon you put on his table and the lovely Connecticut estate you put his behind into and the fan behinds you put into all the concert seats that he's getting a nice piece of change out of. You deserve so much better, we all know you do; but he's not about to give all that up without a fight."

"He may have to," said Baz grimly. "If we should happen to suddenly find ourselves unable to write songs…"

"Oh, bad idea, sweet boy, don't be doing that! He'll just hang on all the harder, like a lobster to the side of the steamer pot, and he'll make your lives even more of a misery than they now are. You owe how many albums to Rainshadow? One? Right. Hold your noses, make the damn record, give it to him and then hightail it out of there. I don't see what else you can do. It's too bad about your beautiful songs being lost forever, but you'll write more, either both together or each of you on your own."

"If we kill him, will you give us an alibi?" he asked hopefully.

She laughed. "Don't tempt me."

"Well, we may just take the hit. Split up, go our separate ways. In fact"—Baz took a deep breath, pausing for maximum dramatic effect, or to gather his courage, or perhaps merely to make sure that Rennie was giving him her full attention—"we're going to announce it onstage at Monterey Friday night. I am, actually. That's what I wanted to tell you. I wanted you to have the scoop first."

Rennie looked and sounded every bit as surprised as she, in fact, was. "Wow, that's…"

"Yes. It is. The public demise of Baz and Haz, in front of a jury of our peers. Nice and dramatic and satisfying, something we can't deny or step away from later. So sucks to Pierce bloody Hill and all his bleeding works and pomps. It will be deeply worth it. For some very personal reasons."

"More personal than money and being artistically ripped off?"

"How about Roger is sleeping with my wife? Is that personal enough?"

Yeah, that could do it… "I'm sorry, Baz, I didn't know."

"No… We aren't exactly proud of it, the three of us. And I haven't been the best of husbands to Pamina. It's my fault, not hers."

"How's that?"

He was distinctly uncomfortable. "I've ignored her a lot. I've been away a lot. I've had other women really a lot. And I've—-smacked her around a bit. Quite a bit, actually."

The air between them chilled so fast Rennie was surprised that a tiny thunderstorm didn't form over the terrace. "I'm very sorry to hear you say that. And very disappointed in you, my friend."

"I know. It's drugs, it's booze, it's the pressure, it's the biz."

"No excuse."

"No. No, Ace, it isn't."

"Is that why Pamie started balling Roger? To get back at you?"

Baz looked surprised. "No, they seem to be genuinely in love. Which we haven't been, she and I, not for years now. Though revenge may have been part of it for both of them. At least maybe at first."

"Do you mind?"

"The revenge or the balling? Well, either or both, less than I thought I would, to tell you the truth."

"But enough to belt her around."

"I hadn't been keeping up my end of the marriage. In fact, I've had several serious affairs myself, not just trampish groupie scruffs. But somehow, when she did the same, it was different. You're married and separated yourself, you know how it is," he added.

"Not like that, I don't, no."

Rennie wanted to be sympathetic to her old friend, especially given her own situation, but she found she really couldn't manage it. Stephen had never once struck her, not even when he found out she'd started sleeping with other men. And she'd only begun doing so after their separation, after she'd moved out—she'd never have been unfaithful before that, under the same roof as him, sleeping in the same bed with him. And after she'd left him, of course he'd been free to sleep around too.

But Baz was shaking his head. "That was before. I haven't seen enough of her lately to get pissed off enough to—well, anyway, that's why I'm staying here at Mojado. They're together over at Monterey, at least until I get there. Then Pamina will come swanning back to me as if nothing whatsoever was amiss. She's very good at that. And of course I'll take her back as if she'd never even been gone, because I'm very good at that. But I don't know how long I can keep on doing it; hence the need of breaking up the act. I just can't deal with any of it anymore, on any level."

Rennie reached out to put a hand on his arm. "Why have you never told me any of this before? We're friends."

He covered her hand with his, squeezed hard. "We are. Forever. I was too embarrassed, I suppose. I've been a cuckold and a dupe."

"I don't think people still consider themselves cuckolds so much anymore. Not since the last century, at least."

"If you say so." He looked straight at her, with a kind of sad desperate resolve. "Just a dupe, then... But no matter what Pierce Hill or a whole squadron of his flying devil monkey solicitors have to say, this is the last hurrah for Roger and me. After this festival, not only will we be free of our servitude to Pierce, one way or another, but we won't be performing together in public ever again. In fact, I very much doubt if we'll ever even be seeing each other again. Friday night's the night."

And so it would be.

(c)2008, Patricia Morrison

Friday, July 04, 2008

Dead on the Fourth of July

Senator Jesse Helms, Republican conservative.

Good riddance to bad rubbish and may you rot in the hell you believe in. Bye-bye!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

For My Jim...

James Douglas Morrison

12/08/1943 - 7/03/1971

artist poet singer

beloved husband of Patricia


I have lived in winter since you went:

You took my seasons with you into earth

To keep them safe, forever, with your own.

I miss them not at all: I miss you more;

The seasons are all one, and that one ours.

I have loved in wonder since you went:

You, you alone, and only, ever, you.

But I can bloom in frost-time,

For I love you,

Still, and then,

And will, and now,

And ever move,

And never cease to love.

(c) 1997, by Patricia Kennealy Morrison

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Broomstick for Kathie Lee

Where it might do her the most good...except she's probably got one there already...

Let me explain: I am told that the public excrescence that goes by the name Kathie Lee Gifford talked trash about Pagans on "Today" last week.

To wit, if "wit" is a word one can use in connection with this female waste of oxygen: she called Pagans "nasty" and "bad" and spouted some guff about how we all think carrying metal on our right side is bad luck.

Well, gosharee, Kathie Lee, I've been a Pagan for over forty years, and for all that time I've been wearing metal on my right (silver, generally; my gold hand is the left one). Are you telling me that's been the cause of all the bad luck in my life?

I swear, between her and Oprah (the prancing, grinning, mugging Ms. Winfrey is also down on fact, she refused to book my friend and very public Witch Phyllis Curott on her show), I just don't know whom to turn into a frog first.

Anyway, I just sent an email to the Today Show, protesting Kathie Lee and her moron attitudes, and I urge you guys to do the same. You can find a detailed account of the incident on, published by a Pagan who is by her own admission a coward and a wuss, too afraid of, ooooooh, what people might THINK to dare venture out of the broom closet.

I get SOOOOO sick of people like this. The Pagan poster too, not just Kathie Lee and Oprah. I'm sick of pig-ignorant, bigoted sourpusses trashing my religion on air when they wouldn't DARE say a similar thing about Jews or Muslims or Christians. And I'm sick of sissy Pagans too a-skeered of imaginary shadows to stand in the light and claim their faith with dignity and pride.

We're not going to get our due until more of us start doing this. Just like gay people had to do, and look, they've got real honest true to goodness marriage now! Okay, only in two states and three or four countries, but it's a start, and it WILL come for them. Acceptance and respect won't come for us until we demand it.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I'm sick of twee little twitterers whose sites and pages are full of sickly-sweet goddess and angel and fairy pictures, and who try to post them here. Don't do it, 'kay? Good. Don't make me slap you. You're a biiiiiiig part of the reason we get no respect, you with your "magical" names like Rainbow Galadriel Silverwindmistdancer and Raventhunderer Oakentreefireeagle (oh, sorry, LORD Raventhunderer Oakentreefireeagle). Give. Me. A. Freakin'. Break.

If you think this is harsh, well, it is! Yes! And if it offends anyone's ever so delicate airy-fairy sensibilities, well, I'm not forcing you to stick around...

By the way, I feel exactly the same about Christians who have those godawful (pun intended), semi-pornographic, groupie-style pics of Jesus around the house. You know the ones I mean. Or those Virgin Mary statues with her eyes turned swooningly up to heaven, or the tinkly little precious angel statues and pictures. Hey, do you skipping, prancing eejits know how powerful and SCARY angels are? Obviously not, because you'd be cowering under your bed for daring to insult them by depicting them as sweet little fat babies or golden-haired Pollyannas with wings.

Gods! Grow UP, people!

And send some emails where they'll do the most good. Looking at YOU, Kathie Lee and Oprah!

And people like you who use the word "witch" as a euphemism for "bitch." If you used the word "Jew" as a substitute for something, you'd be out of a job in a nanosecond. What the bloody hell is the matter with you, that you don't have the courage of your mealy-mouthed, prissy-pants convictions and just call a bitch a bitch? 'Cause you are one yourselves?