Late Summer – Poem

Late Summer

by Carrie Fountain

Out for a walk tonight,
the dog is throwing all her weight
against the leash, lunging toward
the fat tomcat
licking his black ankles
with a delicious, solemn attention
at the top of the neighbor’s steps.
Because this is what the dog
was made to do.
Because for some lucky animals
the space between the body
and what it wants
is all there is.

“Late Summer” by Carrie Fountain from Burn Lake. © Penguin, 2010.

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Observing Amsterdam – 5

Canal Trip

(Click Photos To Enlarge)

I wait for Terry at the Torenzicht Hotel bar on this sun-bright afternoon. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but no more bike rides, though I’m glad we took the one we did together.

He arrives on time and is a friend with Anna’s, who is tending bar today.

T & A Photo  AShe’s got the best tattoos I’ve ever seen.

Amst 2015 Anna 1

We spend some time on the front porch where she describes a short vacation trip to Malta. “Everyone was over eighty,” she laments. “Paradise Bay is the place to go when your dreams have crashed.”

Hmm. Three more years and I’ll be eighty, but my dreams are more or less fulfilled . . . I think.

“Where will you go today?” she asks me.

“I don’t know.”

“The zoo?” she offers.

“I don’t think so.”

“Zoos are great at night,” says Terry. “Used to go with friends when I was young . . . was easy to get through the fence. One night a girl got lost. Cops found her trapped in with the penguins that next morning. Didn’t do it much more after that.”

“I’d love to do the zoo at night,” I tell him.

“We can visit my friend Lance,” he says. “Lives on a boat. Might take us for a ride on the canal if we get lucky.”

We get lucky.

“That’s Lance’s boat,” he nods. “That bit of blue you see behind the white one on the left.”

Lance Boat
Some people’s lives . . . I love the boat, must be some hundred feet and change from stem to stern. The green part in the photo here below is Lance’s boat. A smaller, motorboat (the bit of blue behind the green) is tied beside it.

Amst 15 Boat -1Wow. We clamber on. Lance starts the engine and we’re on our way, a dream I didn’t know I had, come true. We head out. Lance is at tiller. Terry rolls a blunt. This perfect day.

Lance & TerryI didn’t get much in the way of photos, too damn much to see, and smoke, and trying to figure out my cell phone photo maker, plus a Canon EOS that I feared might go overboard as we merge into an endless parade of happy people doing the canals.
LanceBoat Trip 1 Fix
We spend an hour or so on this aquatic labyrinth, the outboard engine chugging happily in its own rhythm, echoes off canal walls, Amsterdam delight . . . pure pleasure.
Two days left, then home again.

Stitched FinalEntrance to the North Sea

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Observing Sweden – Driver’s License Progress

Driver Fixed A
Had my first driving lesson last week. $100
Attended Drug Alcohol class today. $120
Am now allowed to drive if a licensed driver is in the car with me and I have the sign you see in the back window of our car, as shown in photo.
Next comes another driving practice on some kind of slippery track that simulates icy roads.
Then the driving qualification test (another fee).
And then another – theory – test on computer (another fee).

The theory questions are still driving me nuts.

Question: What is true about this sign?

Nuts B

Nuts CIf I survive all this I will get a probationary license that lasts for 2 years

The mind boggles.

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Dearie – 10

Dearie Final Cover© Bruce Louis Dodson

Dearie raised her glass. “To life – L’chayim!” She downed her drink with nonchalance, and poured another from an almost empty bottle. “I’ve got more,” she said. “Don’t worry David. Can I call you Dave? It sounds less formal.”

“Fine with me.”

“Your mother told me you’ll be working for the railroad.”

“Yes. Chicago & Northwestern.”

Tribune Bldg
“That’s downtown, the Tribune Building, It’s just off the Loop. You’ll take the elevated, David. There’s a station just a couple blocks from here, no need to drive your car. I heard you’ve got a new one.”

“Present from my dad for making it to senior year . . .  next year. He wasn’t sure I’d graduate. My grades in high school weren’t much more than average.”

“Where is it? Show me.”

“Right outside.” I followed Dearie out onto the balcony and pointed.
“Wow! I love it,” she exclaimed.

“Me too.” My face was starting to feel numb as Dearie’s Scotch took hold. I loved that car, but not so good for making love in.

“You-hoo!” Someone called out from the balcony across the street. “Dearieeee.” The high, falsetto voice came from an older, short and mostly bald guy in a robe, Truman Capote sort of build. Something about his face, I can’t quite make it out. Lipstick? His mouth . . .

“So, who s your handsome friend?”

“My summer guest, the one I told you . . . David, from St. Louis.” Dearie named the closest city to Wood River anyone might recognize.

“That’s wonderful. I’m Marvin. This is George.” He reached to put an arm around a handsome, somewhat younger man who had appeared, wearing an apron.“Dear . . . I need a favor. Would you let me wear your fur, tonight? I’m going out. It’s something veeery special . . . the Adonis Club.”

“Sure, anytime. Come over when you’re ready.”

“When it’s dark,” he said. Their voices carried easily across the tree-lined street. A car passed by below.

“Will George be going with?”

George answered for himself. “Oh no.” He laughed. “You couldn’t pay me.” He went back inside.

“George is working on my wig, and helping with my makeup.” Marvin smoothed an eyebrow with his index finger. “I’ll be over in about an hour.”

“Okay, we’ll see you then.” We went inside and Dearie asked me, “Does your girlfriend know your here?” You’ve called her?”

“No. Net yet. I didn’t tell her I was coming.”

“Oy. You want to use my phone?”

I thought about it as she disappeared into the bedroom and came back with drink in hand, a brown, fur stole draped on her arm. “Marvin’s a hairdresser. George too. They’re famous in Chicago, making tons of money.”

“George is so much better looking, and seems younger by a decade.”

“I suppose he is. They’ve been together for a couple years. They work together. Marvin owns the place. You want another Scotch?”

“Yeah, sure. I think I’ll wait to make that call. Don’t want to seem too anxious. Better if I’ve worked my job a day or two . . . I think.”

“I’ll get some ice. Bring me the bottle in the box on top my dresser in my bedroom, and we need some —”

Doorbell rang. “I’ll get it.” I got up to push the entrance door-lock button then retrieved the box with a new fifth of Black & White.
B & W Slant AB
She poured drinks over ice she’d brought in from the kitchen as we heard the elevator dock. I opened up the door before he had a chance to knock.

“Oh, I’m so pleased to meet you Daaavid. Such a perfect name.” He came in smoking a cigar. “You didn’t tell me Dearie. He’s a gift from Michelangelo.” He blinked blue shadowed eyes behind a pair of horn-rimmed glasses. “Gawd, if I had hair like yours . . .”


He had a lot of hair that evening, color of wet sand, with waves. Two diamond earrings glittered sparks of red and yellow. “Such a build! His eyes began to spider over me. “Do you play football?”

“I’m not big on sports.”
“Me either, David. We should get together soon. There are so many places I could show you. The museums . . .”

Dearie arched an eyebrow. “Want a drink?”

“I can’t, Dear . . . late already. Does my makeup look okay?”

“A little too much rouge, I think.”

“That’s just what I told George. Too heavy with the rouge.”

“I’ll get a Kleenex.” Dearie found one in a purse, and rubbed at Marvin’s florid cheeks.
“Yes. That’s more like it. Now . . .” She draped the stole around his shoulders. “Wear it in good health. It’s perfect!” Dearie winked at me.

“You really think so?” Marvin posed, his camouflaged bald head tossed back like posing for a glamour photo. “Do you want me, David? Oh, he’s sooooo good looking, Dear! You simply must bring David to the rocks tomorrow . . . Ciao!” He turned and minced his way into hallway and an elevator that sank downward with deep clunking sounds.

I closed the door and noticed Dearie seemed a little apprehensive, “Crazy, huh?”

“Amazing.” I had never seen a man in drag before. “What do your neighbors think?”

“They think we’re all meshugge—that’s a Jewish word for crazy—Marvin, George, and me. Marv only dares to come out after dark when he’s got makeup on, but Hyde Park is a pretty open-minded neighborhood. The University of Chicago’s just five blocks away.” She nodded in the university’s direction.

U OF CInstallments Every Wednesday



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Observing Amsterdam – Part 4

Fate of the Red Light District 2015

Double Click On Photos To Enlarge

I’ve been spending a few summer days in Amsterdam for five years now, and notice changes in the Red Light District. City council here’s decided that the Red Light gives a bad impression to the tourists visiting the city as this neighborhoods about the first impression one gets after leaving Central Station. Coffee houses disappear when rental leases end, relocated to other sections of the city. Messages are left behind with hope that customers will find their ways to new locations – outside of the Red Light District.

Coffee Shop Move

My favorite, Hunter’s Coffee Shop, is now a bar, no weed. I’ve stopped to have a cup of coffee. there’s an constant flow of happy tourists coming in. They hurry past me to what used to be the drug counter at the back of the room. A Hunter’s employee is waiting there to give them the bad news, and a map to where the new Hunter’s is, on Rembrandtplein – about a fifteen minute walk from where we are. The odds are would-be customers won’t take that walk as there are still some coffee houses left inside the Red Light District. Baba’s one of them. It’s been around a long time, and has turned into a gold mine this year with so little competition.

Baba C
The Baba’s packed from morning until closing time – full house. You cannot see the dealer’s counter in this photo, off to the left side, and down a hallway that’s too short and narrow to contain the line of customers. Always at least a dozen waiting, takes 15 minutes, or less, to make your way to the front.

Twelve buyers every fifteen minutes, pay between twelve and twenty Euros for one gram, five grams the max that one can buy. Assuming a minor purchases, one gram, twelve Euros (thirteen bucks U.S.) 48 deals an hour, would be five hundred bucks, and change –  modest estimate. Nobody buys a single gram, except to sample something new. There’s also coffee, soft drinks, T-shirts, lighters. I suspect the Baba will remain where it is now, but only time will tell.

*        *        *

Sex also sells, and prostitutes are also being moved. When the hooker window leases end the city buys them up, and no new hookers with be given license to practice. A lot of windows are now vacant.

Rent Signs (2)Rooms for rent

Amst 15 Girl 1 CroppedBut hundreds are still working.

Hooker ProtestPhoto above is from the PIP window – Prostitute Information Program. They look out for hookers, even help set up retirement plans.

The future may look less than bright for prostitutes, but voyeur sex is easily available and shows no sign of disappearing. Casa Rosso is the largest and the most prestigious. For 40 Euros you can watch couples doing it in all kinds of creative and sometime humorous ways. I must confess I’ve never seen the show, but you can hear the audience’s cheers and laughter on the street outside the place. There’s always a long line of people waiting to get in. Show lasts less than an hour – another money maker. Rosso owns a dozen other sexy places, walks the streets beside his bodyguard, in a white coat with gold elephant emblazoned upon it.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more to this than just to modify the tourist’s first impressions. Red Light is the oldest part of town, canal laced –charming. Beautiful would be an understatement . . . paradise for backpacked youth.

Amst  Backpackers - Copy

Hostels abound, and fast food places, inexpensive. I suspect that’s going to change, replaced by three and four star, posh hotels, and costly restaurants. More mature tourists will happily play the price, and go on tours to hear about the way things used to be. I wonder if the end result will be some kind of Red Light Disneyland, with safe, synthetic highs and robot hookers in the windows, like a chapter out of Stephan King’s Dark Towers fantasy.

DOLLSex Doll

(Insert coin every 15 minutes)

Does a sexy Disneyland await us in some distant future?

Beauty Changes.

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Dearie – 9

Dearie Final Cover© Bruce Louis Dodson

Monday morning Dad helped shove a heavy, railroad suitcase into my less than roomy car. I hugged my mother.

“You be careful.” Dad said as he shut trunk then tried the latch to see if it was locked. He handed me the keys. “Use your damn head.”

“I will.”

I barely understood the feelings saturating space between the three of us. Some kind of man-thing, ancient . . . almost biblical. Boy leaving home and family to wander places yet unknown— a rite of passage.

“You be sure to write.” Mom called as I backed down our gravel driveway, waved goodbye and felt a spark of sadness mixed with my excitement of the moment.

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the Interstate, a rolling meditation, lost in thoughts. I goosed the MGA to ninety, top down, with Bill Haley and the Comets on the radio. I was in love with rock & roll . . . and Linda. Anything was possible. I’d graduate next year, we could get married, but . . . would she be dating other guys? Possibly older guys. It’s been three months.

Dearie Map
*           *           *

I made it to Chicago in the early evening, felt a thrill pass through me as the skyline came in view, another world – fantastic. I soon found Hyde Park, a tree-lined, upper-class, and mostly Jewish neighborhood located four blocks west of Lake Shore Drive, at 53rd and Harper. Dearie’s place was in a 1940’s building, brick and limestone with a shawl of vines that ended at a balcony. I took my suitcase from the trunk and donned a straw hat that I thought was cool, a skimmer, with a bright red, white and blue striped band. The entrance to her building held a panel made of polished brass with aspirin-sized, black buttons. BERG – Her name engraved beside two dozen others. I vowed I would have a place like this someday, my own apartment, shared with Linda.

As I pushed the button underneath her name I heard a gravelly voice made more so by a speaker in the panel. “Yes . . . who is it?”


“David! Wonderful! Come in!”

A soft electric buzz allowed my entrance past a beveled glass and polished walnut door into a marble lobby with twin ferns on either end of a stone bench below a mirror. I started for the elevator, but heard Dearie call down through the stairwell.

“I’m up here— second floor.”

I took the wide, red carpet stairway two steps at a time, and found her at an open doorway, drink in hand, a turquoise pendant on her neck, sky-blue silk, blouse, gray slacks. A class act, and the fact that she was Jewish made her seem exotic. I was at the entrance to a world unknown.

“My God! You’ve grown! A man already. Come inside and let me look at you.” The door to her apartment was stopped open with a hard-cover copy of The Rise and Fall of The Roman Empire. She moved the heavy volume with her foot. “I didn’t want to miss your coming up.”

I stepped into a living room two times the size of ours at home, and covered with thick, sea-green carpeting. A large beige couch and coffee table faced a black and white TV. French doors lead onto a balcony that looked out on the street, and a large balcony across the way.

 She hugged me, then stepped back to look at me again, leaving behind the scent of Scotch and good perfume. Dearie  had a solid body, almost muscular, skin deeply tanned, eyes gray and clear — intelligent. Her hair, the color of dark chocolate, had been artfully contrived to frame her face, a few strands fell across her forehead. On the young side of the middle-forties, same age as my mother.

“Wow. I can’t believe it!” Dearie beamed. “Where’d did you get that lid? I love it. God, it’s been eight years, Dave. You were twelve, I think– thirteen? ” She paused to light a Camel. “Want a cigarette? A drink?”

“Yes, both.” I’d been transported to an urban paradise, were drinks and smoking were permitted. There were works of art on her apartment’s walls. “I love that painting.” Dearie glance to see what I was looking at: a sailboat in a storm, three fishermen in rain gear, high, white-crested waves and threatening, gray-black sky.

Riding Out A Gale - Edward Moran
“Edward Moran. It’s just a reproduction. Riding Out A Gale. I find it inspirational.” An honest grin. “My life.” She led me through an open archway, through her dining room, into a bedroom. “You can keep your things in here.” She opened up a walk-in closet, first I’d ever seen. She turned to face me. “Such a hat!” She took it off my head and put it on her own, modeling her image in a mirror above a chest of drawers that held a purse and house keys on its top, beside a fifth of Black & White Scotch still inside its box.

“It’s perfect for you.”

“I agree.” She vamped a Marlene Dietrich pose, complete with dangling cigarette. “You hungry? We could eat.”

I followed her into the dining room. “I’m not that hungry, but a drink sounds good. What happened here?” I pointed to a grease-stained wall behind a polished, hardwood, dining table and six matching padded chairs. The papered wall looked like a map of some still unknown continent with great, dark spots and smaller splotches, islands . . . lakes. An area of maybe five feet wide, splashed vertically for thirty inches, more or less.

“I had a cooking accident. Should I be doing this?” She held a half filled, fifth of Scotch in her left hand, a gold ring glittered. “Dave, is it okay for you to drink? What would your father say?”

“He wouldn’t mind.” I lied. Dad was a deacon at First Baptist Church, but I had gotten pretty good at drinking with fraternal brothers—boozy parties on the beaches of Crab Orchard Lake. “And I’ll be twenty-one in ten more months.”

“Time goes so fast.” She shook her head. “Want ice?”

“Yes, please, and water . . . half and half.”

She filled the best part of a heavy, cut-glass tumbler before going back into the living room. We each took one end of the couch. Another book lay on a coffee table, “Exodus,” by Leon Uris, with a playing card, the Jack of Hearts, to mark her place.

“I guess you drink at college,” Dearie reasoned.

“Weekends mostly, but not always.” I drank beer, and sometimes Southern Comfort mixed with Coke. Hangovers were survivable and I was well-acquainted with them.

“You’ll be sleeping here, the living room,” she told me. “There’s a Murphy bed. You want to see?” She stood and walked across the room to open a wide door, then showed me how to pull the apparatus down, springs creaking like an ancient drawbridge.

I had never seen a bed like that before, as there were no apartment buildings in Wood River, no brass nameplates, intercoms or even elevators. Door bells were a rarity. I raised my glass. “Here’s to Chicago.”

Installments Every Wednesday

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Observing Amsterdam – Part 3

The Dunes

I’m starting to get worried. We’ve been peddling for over an hour now. I’m wasted. How far have we gone? I’ve seen a lot of milestones, all in Dutch of course: 3km . . . 5km . . . 8km. Scary numbers. We’re still cycling toward the dunes and ocean, and I’m thinking, wow, how many miles ahead? I’m also thinking, I am going to have to peddle all this distance going back. A rest on the beach will help, if I can make it to the ocean.

Terry’s peddling happily ahead, in his late 30’s and indefatigable. He seems a very source of energy, always in motion . . . seeing things, and doing things that require energy. He paraglides, goes to Columbia every year to train. Becomes almost poetic when he talks about it. Catching thermals, soaring with birds. It has become a fine art, finding thermals, watching birds for clues, which way the weeds are blowing. He’s been saving up to buy an outfit. Wing and harness cost a couple thousand, minimum – more if you can afford it.

I can see a dune. A small one. Minutes later we’re surrounded by a sea of them, most partly covered with a blanket of with tall grass, and brush. This was a battleground in world war two. The Germans were here, and a heroic woman, Hannie Schaaf. ‘De vroun met die rode haar.’ The woman with the red hair. She led some kind of Dutch resistance and they fought here in these dunes. It must have been a fascinating battle – hide and seek, and if I find you I will kill you. Germans found more than 400 of the Dutch . . . and Hannie.

Dune Merge good Fix

Miles of this stuff, small, gently rolling hills and dips and weeds and brush and sand. Some battlefield.


It’s all uphill now. We have come to a long, upward slope. A very long slope.

Ocean A
“Hey!” I signal terry. “Got to walk up this one,” I dismount, and he gets off his bike. We make our way up to the top, and there’s the ocean. Very cool. And all downhill now.
Terry pulls a bedspread from his pack. We spread it out. He strips down to his bathing suit. “I’m going in.” His housemate challenged him to do this dip. “It’s bloody cold. Want to go with me?”

“I don’t think so.” It feels wonderful to lie here, on this blanket, in the sun.
“Kids do it.” Terry points to one that has been having a great time in the ocean since we spread out here. “Well . . . I’m on my way.” He gets up, and I watch him walking to the ocean, and into the ocean. He does pretty good. Full submersion for an adequate amount of time, eight or ten minutes. He comes back to find me basking peacefully, and happy – painless. Trying not to think of the ride back.

“Why don’t you take your shoes off?” Terry asks. “You’re like an old Chinese man.”


This is kind of funny. I like the idea of an old Chinese man. I don’t want to take my shoes off because I don’t want to get sand in my socks. Sand filled socks inside my ankle high, leather shoes on the ride back –not good. A few minutes later I take ‘em off.

Ocean B
We lay there, nodding off now and again. It’s warm, but not hot, perfect weather. Terry eats some fruit we brought with us, and I consume a couple croissants. Two hours later, we head back. It’s nice to coast down that long slope we walked up coming in, but I’m dreading this ride back. My ass is killing me. I try to shift my left thigh to the seat and then the right, cycling in a skewed, sideways position. I try peddling standing up. No way.

Terry has stopped some fifty yards ahead of me, points to a tulip farm. It’s more or less obligatory for tourists to take at least one photo of tulips, and one of windmills. I did windmills last year.

Tulip Merge Fixed Working
I’m not into tulips, but it’s nice to stop . . . get off my bike.
Eight minutes later it’s all over. What a wonderful surprise. Some kind of short cut. We are back , the railroad station. I’ve survived. Another hour will find me back in Amsterdam.

Part 4 Next Saturday – The Red Light District

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