Monday, February 27, 2006


The dryad who often haunts me appeared to me this morning as I stared into a wretched cup of homeopathic tea that my daughter Billie, who is taking her turn tending me in my recuperation, forced upon me. I saw the face of the girl from my youth shimmer in the ripple as I tapped a few granules of illicit sugar into the brew when Billie wasn't watching. Her lips moved, though I couldn't make out the words. I quickly stirred with a spoon and she vanished. I've been avoiding her since my surgery. I regard her as a bad omen, much in the same way the Kiowa of Oklahoma regard the hoot of a barred owl as a portent of immanent death.

And I was right. I learned today of the passing of both Octavia and Fred. I will miss you both. I've been, at turns, a humbled admirer, an inspired student, and a proud colleague. You will both be mourned but never missed as you have left us with so much of yourselves. I hope to see you soon at the place where the river flows back into itself again.


Thursday, February 9, 2006


I've always been easily moved to tears. Even before the surgery I cried over the Iraq War at least three times per week.

Literature and food make me cry. I've bawled over my Jane Austin. Tears are conjured by Lorca's poesy and Whitman's exuberance. Last week my daughter Ella (the chef) fixed me a risotto con fungi al porcini, and I wept expansively when she set it on the table. I slobbered like my childhood basset hound, and then redoubled my crying when I remembered that animal with fondness.

Over the years, folks have equated crying in men with, at turns, cowardice, girlishness and insanity. But I'll let all those macho red meat males sucking back their tears know that crying has gotten me laid on at least four separate occasions. Remember, too, that I weighed in at 255 lbs before my surgery, very little of that muscle.

But a reader reminds me that depression, what I call the black ass, is especially acute after quad bypass surgery. I'm not sure if this is the reason for my recent upsurge in crying, but tonight I finished a chapter of my new novel and was so moved (we writers do love ourselves on occasion, don't we?) that I went out onto the patio of my flat in my underwear and wept until my skin was stippled with gooseflesh. It is winter after all. Two coeds walking by on the dark sidewalk asked, "Are you okay, sir?" with genuine concern. The old farts who say our younger generation is soulless are bitter and stupid.

In any event, I'm a bit worried by the sheer volume of tears I'm able to produce. Visiting a friend, a young assistant professor in the Philosophy Dept., I sat on his couch with his three-year-old daughter on my lap watching her favorite film, "A Bug's Life." I cried like a baby when the animated ants vanquished the brutish grasshoppers. The child reached up and touched my beard, saying, "That's okay, Mister Trout, it's only a movie." I kissed both her cheeks and forehead, chuckling new tears of joy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

A measure of pig fat

Kiss my big black ass, Doctor Crosby.

"You'll never improve unless you change your habits, Professor Trout," he scolded during my last visit. To compound my shame and anger, my daughter Ella stormed out of the apartment after fixing me a ridiculous concoction known as a "fruit smoothie" for my lunch.

"Christ Ella, you're supposed to be a goddamned chef!"

"I'm trying to save your life, you miserable old fuck!"

I was sure she'd return before long. We all know I can be a bastard. Maybe that explains my three divorces.

While Ella was out, I waddled across the street to the Snappy Mart and bought three packages of wretched bacon and a sack of mealy potatoes. Fortunately pommes de vendangeurs is a forgiving recipe that can be saved by imported Gruyere cheese, which I had on hand. I trimmed the fat from the bacon best I could and then clarified some butter. I buttered a round casserole and laid the bacon strips in spiral fashion, ends hanging out of the dish. I layered potato slices (gratin-thin) and then the finely grated cheese, repeated thrice and then folded the bacon over the top. I baked for forty minutes at 410 and then cooled on a rack. I ate most of it, saving one small wedge for Ella. When she returned she screamed at the amount of cholesterol I had ingested, though she devoured her slice and we then fixed a leafy spinach salad with chopped pecans and a dressing of sherry vinegar, ground pepper and XXV olive oil. Then came my one-glass ration of red wine, a Tuscan primitivo known as A Mano, which is brilliant at eight bucks a bottle. Fuck the Mondavi brothers.

Oddly, after this meal I feel better than I have at any point since the quad bypass. Perhaps I'm on the mend. I've written another ten pages on the new novel, and also revised the ending of one of my completed drafts. I'm heartened. Dare I think comeback? After all, I was once in print in thirteen different languages, though that was before some of my current students were born. Ach...I dread the thought of my return to teaching. Perhaps if I were to publish...

Je suis retourné

Loyal readers (yes, both of you!), I must apologize for my absence. Open heart surgery is "a pisser," as my daughter Billie would say. I'm on the mend, though I still feel as if I've just made love to the captain of the East German women's swim team. Shirleen sent me nude polaroids of herself from Bolivia, and it nearly finished me. My patchwork heart throbbed and I felt the staples in my chest ripping. I asked Ella, who has been taking turns attending me with her little sister, to hide them in one of the books in my food library to surprise me.

"But that might kill you, Pop."

"What better way to go?"

Ella asked if she could keep one of the photos to share with her girlfriend. I told her that while I'm perfectly comfortable with the fact that she is a lesbian, I am no more inclined to hear about the kinky side of her relationships than if she were hetero. She apologized but kept the photo.

I've earned a sabbatical from the university through pity rather than merit. I've arranged for a former student to teach my classes this semester. He's just finished editing his latest novel, and he had some free time while awaiting the galleys.

I don't expect to post much in the coming weeks, though I do have much to report. I've started yet another novel and have been making great progress...the exhaustion brought about through writing being mental rather than physical in nature. I haven't worked this well since the late 70s. I've also simplified my cooking because my stamina won't allow me to stay on my feet for very long, and I consequently have some delightful new, easy recipes to share.

I'm winded and will go lie down now. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Bush, as I know you are reading this, will you kindly spellcheck for me?