Nothing puts the glory-driven, drug-fueled, multi-cultured, 8-million-strong blood orgy of New York City into perspective like a trip back home to ye olde Iowa.

2014 May Kennedy Park, Badger Lake, Fort Ddoge, IA IMG_1392




Kennedy Park, overlooking Badger Lake

Fort Dodge, Iowa – June 2014




Back home, the jolly residents who inhabit the windmill-strewn Fields of Opportunity have simple cares. When a typical Iowegian awakes (an hour before sunrise), they make a determination such as, “I shall walk the dog first, then read the physically-printed newspaper which someone carries across my massive lawn to deposit upon my doorstep, then I’ll make myself a rounded breakfast before attending to my job which exists in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, after which I’ll have a whole afternoon and then an entire evening to fill with watching TV, attending rehearsals, and/or leisurely socializing. I must remember not to have more than one light beer before I drive myself home!”

Their counterpart in New York, however, is thinking this: “Jesus Christ! It’s that goddamn alarm. Is it already 3:30?! I’ve only got a few minutes to shower, dress, and smoke a bowl and then it’s off to fight for a spot on the subway. I’ll grab some streetmeat on my way to work, where I shall slave in the claustrophobic crucible between a numberless drove of entitled customers and the deluded fancies of my boss, Mr. Hyde. As soon as I’m done I plan to achieve a state of blacked-outedness, after which I can only hope I don’t fall asleep on the train ride home again, for tomorrow is an early day.”

My dear cousin, Amy, was married to a charming man, Luke Moffitt, and I was given the honor of presiding over the ceremony – my third opportunity to officiate. That was the reason for my 6-day vacation from the City. But the result of it was surprising. Outside of wedding things, I divided my time between my immense family (led by two 88-year old grandmothers, Margaret Walsh and Betty Kelleher) and various medical appointments from doctors who can tell me the future because of their first-hand knowledge of my ancestry.

The whole effect of it resounded with a single message:

“You are transient. One day – sooner than you’d like to think – you will die. Better make the most of it while you can.”

The message was not so conveniently written down like this, but was rather spoken to me by a series of pictures I took while in Iowa.

Years ago, one particularly bold robin mother was daring enough to built her nest right between the garage door of my mother’s house – and the front door. This was a noisy spot, through dry, by which at least a handful of humans would walk by several times daily – within arm’s reach of the robin’s precious light-blue eggs. Every time you pulled a car up, the mother flew away fearing for her life. But her robins were born and raised there, and afterward the nest was taken down.

Turns out, though, that baby robins remember where their nest was as a chick, and often return to that very spot to build their own nest. That is exactly what has been happening ever since – despite each nest being destroyed for them – and this is what I found upon my arrival home:

2014 May trip to Iowa robin family 1 IMG_1358









I took frequent pictures, and the transformation I witnessed in 6 day’s time was startling.

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While I took the pictures, mommy would squawk feebly at me from the driveway, a bit of worm hanging out of her beak. “Get the fuck out of the way,” she said. “I’ve got to feed those damned creatures.”

2014 May trip to iowa robin family 5 IMG_1394









The Lesson of the Robin culminated with a story from a dear friend of mine, Parker Quail, who was relating to me a bit of writing advice he’d received long ago. “I want to be a writer,” he had told a visiting author in Iowa City. “Do it, man,” the author returned. “You’ll be dead soon.”

And so I flew back to NYC with a heavier heart that I had left with. It can be quite thoroughly distracting to work at a job, and to busy ourselves with the currently pressing matters of life. But when I’m 88 and my grandson has taken the rocket ship all the way from Enceladus just to chat with me, I will want to have something to tell him that’s a bit more interesting than, “One time I worked a job for years.”

So I’m gonna write that book as fast as I can, and then I’m gonna write the next one, and then something else. And so forth, as hard as I can, for as long as I can. Because to do anything else would be a waste of something extremely precious.

And, thankfully, I now have a slightly more accurate understanding of what “precious” means.