Morgan Heimer, my cousin Lisa’s son has been missing since Tuesday.

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He was one of the guides on a river rafting trip in the Grand Canyon.  He disappeared Tuesday night.  Search and Rescue arrived Wednesday morning and questioned all the members of the group before sending them on and continuing the search.  The area where he disappeared is a small area enclosed by cliffs.  It didn’t seem as if the search could take very long.  There is no concern of predators. He was an athlete and a strong swimmer and he was wearing a life preserver.

At this time, no trace has been found.

Search and rescue fan out from the location they call the PLS, Place Last Seen.  Morgan’s father is an athlete, and he wants to go to that PLS.  How could he bear not going, standing there, feeling the air, wanting to feel on that air his son’s breath?  No matter how professional the searchers are, one asks, are they searching as I would search for my own son?  The location where Morgan disappeared would take days to get to by boat or on foot.  It is terribly remote even for an athletic parent.

My son Stephen was born in 1991, Morgan not even a full two years later. My youngest and my cousin’s oldest had much in common.  Adventurous, charismatic, good looking, crowd pleasers.  At a family reunion on the Great Lakes, Lisa and I stood and watched the two boys paddle out to their uncle’s large sail boat.  We waited for their small boat to circle around and come into sight, but it did not reappear.  They’re going to board our uncle’s boat! I suddenly realized, and then, like pirates, they boarded.  We saw their small figures on the deck.  When they were small, we left them alone for a short time and came back to find the VCR not working.  Someone had fed it a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  To this day, Stephen insists it was Morgan’s idea, Morgan thought the VCR was hungry. As adults, they both were travelers and outdoorsman.  They have both been all over Europe, Morgan’s been to the Galapagos Islands, Stephen’s been to Nepal and travelled East Asia.  They’re both over six feet, with energy, charm and great smiles.

This summer, Morgan was leading a river rafting trip down the Grand Canyon.  Stephen has been exploring national parks as well, hiking, biking, writing in his journal.  He’s visited Yosemite, Death Valley, Lassen and is now in Yellowstone.  He’s headed to the Grand Canyon.

I want to believe that Morgan will be found.  Morgan’s parents are at the Grand Canyon now.

We should all treat each other, our fellow humans, with care and kindness, with love and respect.  If you thought that person were missing, you would empty your bank account and give everything to get them back.  Love them now.

My aunt asked me, if I still pray at all, to pray now.  Morgan is her first grandchild.  She’s lost her brother, her parents, her sister.  She asks me to pray and I do.  I pray for his safe return.

The last prayer I said every night before sleeping until I was eighteen at the Farm is the prayer I give now for Morgan and for all those who loved him.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you and give you peace both now and ever.

Published in: on June 7, 2015 at 10:15 am  Comments (6)  

Hall Pass

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Do you want a hall pass from some part of your life?  Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat whatever you want, drink whatever you want?  Shop for whatever you want? Having sex with whoever you want to would be an added bonus for some of you as well.  The idea of a hall pass is fun without consequences.  We want to be Spiderman but without responsibility.  We don’t want to have to hang back, hesitate, reel in, our instincts just because of the damned consequences.

Men like the idea of hall passes because they like to imagine themselves being able to have sex with anyone they want to.  Okay, so you are a married man, and your wife says you can have a hall pass for forty-eight hours.  She likes the security of having a man who loves her and is there for her, but she’s willing to give that up so you can have a good time.  She’s getting a hall pass too.

Out the man goes to convince females that he is available for a single glorious night of sex if the woman is willing to have sex with him.  He isn’t available for permanent mating, he isn’t ready for commitment or caring, he just wants to shag.  That’s going to be tricky.

The woman goes out on the town and tell men that she’s ready and willing for some fun sex and she doesn’t want to hear from them again. If they’re both reasonable attractive, he is going to have a much more difficult time than she is.  Let’s face it, an attractive female is going to have an easier time finding a mate than a man is.  Biology works like that.

Back to the hall pass.  We live in a world of consequences.  But a world where we want to have fun.   We want to have a good time.  But sometimes things get out of hand.  There really is no hall pass.  For everything we do, there are consequences.  What we say, what we do, what we eat, what we drink, what we invent.  Who invented smart phones, Viagra, pop tarts, watches, spam?

I’d like to live my life with more discretion and diligence.  I am not wishing for a hall pass, I’m wishing to pay attention, I want to live life with my eyes open.

Published in: on June 6, 2015 at 7:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The three steps of building an organization: Dream/Wet, What now?, Sitting in the crow’s nest


In the beginning it was all ocean. We start organizations in a fluid place with ideas, dreams, we feel excitement, like the beginning of life, of love affairs.  It is all dream wide open, risk taking, jumping in, holding nothing back, crazy wild, saying yes, we can do that, yes. That too.

Then there’s the middle. You look around. See there’s nothing in your bank account. You remember, yes, after you fell in love and rushed to London, and then you ate out, and you lay around the sheets first crispy then damp, you slept in, you might lose your job or maybe not. Maybe they will see the glow of you and want to have you around. But there is no doubt, you are in debt, you have no money in your bank account, and it is cold in your part of the world. And your organization is very young, your love affair very fragile and there is no one yet to say, wow, yes, keep going. In fact, they wonder what the hell you are doing and when you are going to grow up.  Why did you start Red Hen Press in the first place? Why didn’t you get a tenure track job somewhere solid like Boise, Idaho? And you don’t have any answers. You wanted to do something big, be a gamer, a choreographer, a director, a conductor, you didn’t know that the book world, the band world, the game world would take bites out of you.

You get to the sustainable level.  If you’re doing something like gaming, theatre, dancing, you have a tribe built in and hopefully that tribe is cheering for you. Hopefully your tribe feels your pain, they support your getting some training, making reasonable decisions for the future, thinking about sustainability.  If you are doing something like indie publishing, or writing, it’s like living in the crow’s nest of a sailing ship.  Mostly it’s wet, mostly you get too much rain, too much sun.  And it keeps feeling like the mast will tip over and dump you into the ocean. Remember the plus side, you’ve got a great view up there, and even when seagulls shit on you, you’re seeing the world first, even the bird shit, and up there, you must be very close to the face of God.

Published in: on June 5, 2015 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

If training isn’t handed to you, try your own creative juices

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At the Philharmonic, there were four premiere pieces all by highly educated young white men.  It is easier to be a composer if you come from money and you are sent to all the right schools.  My friend Mark Abel was a journalist who later became a composer.  I am much impressed with highly successful imaginative people who did not go to all the right schools.  If you go to an Ivy League school, or Oberlin, or any other fancy school, aren’t you already 98 % of the way there?  But having said all that, if you could send your kid to all the fancy schools, wouldn’t you do that?  Authentic intelligence and creativity feels so much more real to me than anything that can be cooked up in schools, but we want to educate our children and ourselves if we can.

The same thing is true in writing.  There is a lot of well crafted work coming out of the MFA programs and in an ideal world, we open up, let loose, live in the world of the imagination.  The four young men all seemed perfectly intelligent, perfectly trained, their music was perfect.  Their music never missed a beat.  Some of us have messy dirty music which misses a lot of beats.

Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 8:46 pm  Comments (1)  

Someone in our neighborhood owns a black new Lamborghini Countach.

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This was the last few minutes of wine tasting, I was kind of done.

The Lambo looks nice crouching by the house of its owner.  The house is worth about half what the car is worth.  The house is run down and has no landscaping, no trees and is badly in need of a paint job.  The car is magnificent.  We don’t live in a Lamborghini neighborhood.  We live in a Honda neighborhood although the Persians have Mercedes. The Sikhs have BMWs and SUVs, the rest of us drive Hondas and Kias and Toyotas.

Cars define us here in Los Angeles more than they should. A car says I’ve got it going on. You might be living over your auntie’s garage but if you are driving a Ford Escalade, you’ve got game.

Mark just went to a men’s barber shop I found on yelp but it was all gang members with tats getting buzz cuts and he didn’t feel he fit in, so I sent him to the gay guys across the street where I should have sent him in the first place.

We’re getting ready to go to NY on Sunday and I can’t have him looking like a mountain man.  In NY, how YOU look matters and what YOU wear especially your shoes.  I know I don’t have the right look, shoes, dress size so I just play it like I got game anyway.

Your life is not as easy as it could be.  You receive disturbing emails. You try your best to be nice but everything you say makes them madder at you. At a certain point, you’re afraid of waking up with a horse head in your bed.  All the interesting people I know have challenges that send them to the edge.  The edge is where you learn what you’ve got.

Published in: on May 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Who is Everybody? Do what everybody likes, think what everybody thinks and watch everybody

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Publish the work everybody likes, write the books everybody likes, act in the movies everybody wants to see.  That’s what you’re told.  And the question that I ask myself is who is everybody?

We’re told in train stations and airports to watch everybody and report anybody who is doing something wrong.  If you see someone leaving a bag, a parcel, a book, you should report them.  I don’t like this spying business.  I don’t like the idea that Facebook is spying on us and they are.  Should I report them?

If you see something, say something.  It starts like that.

We all have people we want to watch or don’t want to think about.   I was talking to this guy in NY when we had an event at the Player’s Club and he explained to me that he was no longer hanging out with what he called “upholstered people,” and by that he meant people who were overweight.  That phrase has stuck with me.  “Upholstered people.”  You throw out a phrase like that, you throw people into a category like that into one pile like that with the dirty laundry and then you don’t have to deal with those people any more.

They are not part of the everybody for you any more.  They are part of someone else’s everybody.   Open the doors.  Open the windows.

Make room in your heart for as many people as you can.  The world is a big place.

Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 8:25 pm  Comments (1)  

Are you afraid of oysters?

Most humans are afraid of something.  We’e afraid of dying or growing old, of being invisible or of being disliked by family members.  Some people are afraid of flying in airplanes.  The list of fears experienced is very long.

Fear of people not liking you is a big one.  My suggestion.  Do your best to live with grace, integrity and compassion.  And then just breathe.

Lots of people wish they were rich and famous partly because if one were rich and famous it seems as if you would have nothing to be afraid of.  It seems like with enough money no one would be mean to you, nobody would be rude to you.  You would not be invisible because you would have money to shield you against being invisible.

It’s best not to tell anyone what you are afraid of because then they have something over on you.  If someone asks what you’re afraid of, tell them oysters.

I like the idea of figuring out how to do something big with my life. To hell with fears.  I am going to do something amazing. And when I’ve done something amazing, I will celebrate with oysters.

Published in: on May 28, 2015 at 7:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

You are missing something exciting happening somewhere on the planet every minute, let that be okay

You are missing whatever is happening at the Sydney Opera House.  This season Turandot is playing at the Sydney Opera House, and you may miss it unless you make plans now.  For the record, seeing an opera at the Sydney Opera House is very high on my bucket list.

Right now, all over the world, something exciting is happening and you are missing it.  Often people will say, You really should not miss this, and you think, if I don’t go to this lunch, this dinner, this meeting, this opera, this play, this symphony, this wedding, this concert, this party, then you really will regret it.  I believe in getting out of the house.  I believe in going out and having some fun, but I also think there is something to staying home and relaxing.  The fact is that everywhere on the planet there is something exciting happening that you are missing.  You can’t do everything.   Get out, live in the world, but also stay home when you need to live in your imagination.  We must live in the balance.

Last night’s concert was really fine.  Hila Plitmann  was amazing.  I can hear her voice ringing in my head like blues, and joy mixed up.

Published in: on May 27, 2015 at 8:53 pm  Comments (1)  

Going to hear Hila Plitmann tomorrow at Disney Hall with composer Mark Abel. Hila Plitmann and Eric Whitacre are amazing musicians

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Tobi, Molly, Mark and I met at Pea Soup Andersons to go wine tasting to celebrate Tobi’s graduation.   The hotel is kind of cheesy but fun.  Our room was right beside the lobby so we could hear everything that went on in the lobby every minute of every day.  There was a door between the lobby and our room that could not be locked, so the lobby people had access to our room.  Our room had access to all the electricity on the grounds, all the breakers, everything. What the room needed was some insulation and a lock.  But we managed to have a good time anyway.

Wineries we visited:

Foxen, Foley, Victor Hugo, Babcock, Melville, Zaca Mesa.  We bought some wine along the way, so we’ll have enough wine to get us through the summer.  We’ve made our plans for the Hollywood Bowl for the summer.

I’m going to the Green Umbrella concert tomorrow with a friend to see the soprano HIla Plitmann.  She is the singer who sings in The Palm Trees Are Restless with composer Mark Abel and my poetry.  She has a magical voice.  I just bought tickets to hear her husband Erica Whitacre’s music this summer at the Bowl.  The two of them are ridiculously talented and good looking.

I’m going to be in a reality TV show.  Tomorrow they’re coming to do a scout.  It should be fun.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 9:06 pm  Comments (1)  

Back from wine tasting

We are part of a big adventure, and in that adventure, we are heroes.  This is a great weekend of being with Tobi and Molly and talking with Stephen. And driving and wine, and love and family.  Which is a good part of what makes life worth living.  Us and love and magic.

When you work at a non profit, you have to remember who your friends are and who supports the organization. Some of those people overlap, some do not.  You have friends, and in our case, we had friends before we started the press, and they are still our friends.  You make new friends along the way, but some of them are just your friends, not friends of the non profit. Many of our friends are also friends of Red Hen, but we also  have dear friends who are not friends of the press.  If you become too crazed about your organization, you start to forget that you once had a life outside it.  It’s like once you have children, you still have friends who aren’t really into kids at all, let alone your dirty noisy kids.  But they are still your friends.

People have friends outside their jobs, their churches, their kids’ preschool, their dojo.  But non profits tend to be founded by people who throw everything down for the organization and pretty soon every relationship is weighed and measured by its value to the organization.

Mark and I don’t do this, we have a lot of friends who don’t know much about Red Hen or about us as writers.  We write, we have a family, we have the press.  We live a life of the imagination, and we love it. But we remember that our life is our life, our friends are many, the press is the press and sometimes all of that overlaps, and sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s all good.

Great dinner at the Hitching Post in Buellton and at Mattei’s Tavern.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 6:28 pm  Comments (1)  

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