Love Death Circus – Chapter 21

Remembering Magda “Ayl mo-lay ra-chamim, sho-chayn ba-m’romim…” Rabbi Deborah Matz, a short woman with straight black hair and a patchwork tallis, is chanting the prayer for the dead. She stands under a large painting of a skull, an anti-war piece that was one of Magda’s favorites. The walls of Magda’s living room are now completely covered with paintings and a dozen sculptures are displayed on an end table, a stool and the bookshelves. Berit … Read More

Love Death Circus – Chapters 19 & 20

Chapter 19 Sitting Shiva The next morning the body is gone, taken away to be cremated. Berit and Frank sit on two black wooden chairs facing each other in Magda’s living room. They are quiet for a few minutes. Frank wants to fill the silence but can’t think of anything to say. His mind wanders and then, every once in a while, he feels tears dripping off his cheeks. Neither of them talk. After … Read More

Love Death Circus – Chapter 18

Washing the Dead Frank Singer parks his Datsun in front of Magda Singer’s house, which is both familiar and strange. It is now a house of death. He sits in the car, watching himself sit in the car as if it were a pivotal scene in a movie. He’s scared to go in and relieved that it’s over and heartbroken and empty. His eyes are dry and he wonders if he’s a bad son. … Read More

Wine & Acrobatics

Wine and acrobatics shouldn’t go together, this magazine cover from 1986 notwithstanding. Vaudeville Nouveau – Mark Sackett (pouring the wine), Danny Mankin (suavely looking at the camera) and me – usually performed this acrobatic trick with juggling. One time, when we were working between sets at a music festival, the belt that I used to hold Danny snapped. I flew back so fast I saw the bottoms of Mark’s feet floating in mid air. … Read More

Love Death Circus – Chapters 16 & 17

Chapter 16 Fading Magda Singer hasn’t eaten for two weeks. The hunger is long gone but so is the joy of making a decision, of taking her life into her own hands. Oh, those first few days felt so good – flying high with nothing to weigh her down! Making her own future instead of waiting for hospitals and needles and nasty doctors. Making her own death. But that was fourteen days ago and … Read More

Love Death Circus – Chapter 15

A Missed Opportunity At the end of the week, Willa is still hospitalized but practically cough free. Her appetite is back so everyone who visits her hospital room smuggles in a treat. On Sunday, Zip Abrams walks through the door wearing a man’s three-piece pin striped suit and carrying a huge heart-shaped box of chocolates. She drops to a knee in front of the bed. “They no sooner met but they looked…” Zip stands … Read More

Love Death Circus – Chapter 14

The ER “I called her ten times, on the house phone and on her cell, and she didn’t answer!” Jackie Armarillo is in old grey sweatpants and a hoodie. Her voice is high and thin. “She didn’t answer!” Jackie tries to peek at Willa Woods through the small window in the hospital room door but half dozen people in scrubs are blocking her view of the bed. “I got over to her place and, … Read More

7 Deadly Sins

Years ago I made an act based on the 7 Deadly Sins; ever since then I’ve been using one sin against another to keep myself on the straight and narrow. For example, after dinner, when my mind turns to green tea ice cream with hot fudge and whipped cream — the real kind, not that stuff out of the spritzer can—I rush to brush my teeth so my Sloth can keep my Gluttony at … Read More

John Henry Song

In the middle of one night, after watching too much TV news, I woke up to find my mind hard at work rewriting the song “John Henry” as a pandemic ballad. Yes, we live in strange times. In the morning, I worked on it for a while and then sent my “Joan Henry” to the great Kenny Raskin who recorded it. Enjoy!    

Love Death Circus – Chapters 12 & 13

Chapter 12 Working Clowns An hour later, Frank jogs to the BART station. It takes him three tries to get the machine to print him a ticket and then he finds himself standing on the eastbound platform when his westbound San Francisco train arrives and leaves without him. He switches sides and waits another 20 minutes. He’s lost in the midst of a routine he’s done hundreds of times. The seven-minute ride through the … Read More

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