Wednesday, September 28, 2022

soon there will be one less

the gang was huddled together,
some loud regiment of drunks
that found sanctity in the exchange,
one spoke up: “listen boys” he said
“i got cancer…not the good kind,
the other kind”

they drank their beers in silence

i looked away
because in these moments
people look for god
or a social worker
or a priest or
an audience

i looked away
because i came here
looking for a break
but instead thought
about my own

i looked away
because i saw 
a small fracture 
on the countertop
that looked like
lee harvey oswald

i looked away
because i needed
to write this poem

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Bobby Ray

Do you know Bobby Ray?

Yeah, I know Bobby Ray.

Why you asking? I don’t

know. You believe his shit?

What shit?


Never mind. If you can’t see

the moss on the tree, why bother?


It’s only 10:30 in the am.


What’s that got do with anything?


Sounds like you might have sweetened

morning joe with a thing or two.


There’s only one thing.


Tell me about it.


Damn that Bobby Ray.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Hooch Affair

longing for the embrace of

bourbon as I’m having an

affair with wine; trying to balance

things out, to find a working medium

between the bottles of my heart.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A Terrible Death in September

The death of a most beloved person can stop the world in its tracks. Newspaper editors forego the coverage of sports and politics to give the public the details of the passing of a person so adored the reverberations will be felt from the highest duke to the lowest stumblebum. The world was one way just a day ago—now it's another. The poles have shifted, the axis has been wobbled, the old order has been obliterated. Mourning throngs will fill the streets.

No, not Queen Elizabeth, you dumbass. Fred Franzia.

* * *

Byzantine emperor Leo III banned the worshiping of icons in 717 AD. It pissed off a few Catholic priests, bishops, and other idol worshipers, but Leo III was determined that people in his empire would not be idiots. He gave birth to the term iconoclast—a destroyer of icons. More than a millennium later another iconoclast came along and took a hammer to the preciousness of Northern California wine culture. Fred Franzia said, "No bottle of wine should cost more than $10," and brought us Two Buck Chuck. That's been quite a few years ago, too, and now Two-Buck Chuck will run you around four bucks. But still, even a sidewalk wino can afford it (if he can get by the Trader Joe's security guard at the front door).

Fred Franzia was born May 24, 1943. He, along with a brother and a cousin, founded Franzia wine in 1973 and promptly sold it to the Coca Cola Beverage Company. That same year they also founded Bronco Wine Company, best known for its Charles Shaw brand of varietals, more commonly known as "Two Buck Chuck." (The name Bronco was derived from Brothers and Cousin.) The Charles Shaw Chardonnay wine won the double gold at the 2007 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Franzia told ABC News, "We choose to sell good quality wines at $2 a bottle because we think it's a fair price. We think the other people are charging too much."

Bronco is based in Ceres, California and is the fourth largest producer of wine in the USA. They have 10,000 employees world wide, have the capacity to produce 61 million gallons of wine annually, and they sell about 20 million cases of wine a year. They maintain more than 250 brands of wine including Bad Dog Ranch, Fat Cat, Red Truck, and Down Under. Fred Franzia had a unique way of getting top dollar from crushers for his grapes by directing his employees to scatter zinfandel leaves over inferior grapes in their bins, a process he called "Blessing the load." The feds were not amused and fined Franzia $500,000 in 1994 and forced him to step down from the Bronco board for five years.

One might be under the impression that a man named Charles Shaw is behind the name of the $2 wine, and in a roundabout way he is. Shaw started a Napa winery in the 1970's and won several awards for his vintages until financial troubles forced him to sell his winery. The buyer was Fred Franzia, and it wasn't long until Franzia started putting Two Buck Chuck on Trader Joe's shelves. It was a smashing success. The Wine Spectator Reported that 2 million cases of Two Buck Chuck sold that first year, and 5 million cases the following year. Fred Franzia came to the rescue of many other California wineries too, telling CNN in a 2007 interview, "We buy wineries from guys from Stanford who go bankrupt."

Although no longer associated with the boxed wine that bears his name, thrifty drinkers can raise their glasses of his Chillable Red in toast, grateful for getting 5 liters of wine (about 34 glasses) for less money than an Amazon warehouse worker makes in an hour. Franzia's boxed wine is as perfect for a women's book club as it is for an impoverished pensioner living in a fleabag hotel.

Fred Franzia died at his home in Denair, California September 13, 2022 at the age of 79.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Poopstone Jones

Frank and Buddy leaned their elbows into Pip’s bar, a Northeast Pennsylvania joint where patrons could drink all night on a five dollar bill and still leave a tip.

Buddy said “Hey, you remember Poopstone Jones?”

Frank, his elbow bent and glass of Firestone halfway to his lips, stopped mid-sip, something he rarely did for anyone. “No,” he said. “And you don’t forget a name like that. Don’t think I ever knew him.”

Buddy pointed toward the end of the bartop. “Guy who always sat over there, by the video machine.”

Frank’s eyes flicked over. “Don’t remember.”

“Always drank hefeweizen, everyone gave him shit about it like he was some kind of Euro-snob or something.”

“I’m telling you, I don’t remember.”

“OK fine. Might’ve been a couple years younger than you. Grew up with us in the hill section. Dunno why, but turns out that a snob was the one thing he wasn’t.”

“Yeah? Wasn’t eating quiche all the time or nothing?”

“Nope, was always eatin’ rocks.”

Frank almost choked on his next sip. “Rocks?”

Buddy shook his head. “Couldn’t take him across a parking lot for Godssake. He’d be picking up pebbles and throwing ‘em down the hatch.”

Frank shook his head, drained his glass, and hoisted his empty for the bartender to see. The man filled another, set the new drink in front of Frank and carried off the empty. Frank was a good tipper.

“Hey Paddy,” Buddy waved, “you remember Poopstone Jones right?”

Paddy the bartender scrunched up his nose like he’d smelled something foul. “No, I’d remember a name like that.”

Buddy spread his arms. “How am I the only one!” He watched the bartender return to his corner and go back to scrolling on his phone.

Frank sipped his fresh draft. Good old Firestone. “So, whatever happened to ol’ Poopstone?”

“Actually, he wasn’t called that right away. Used to call him Rocky. Then Stoney, That stuck a while. Stoney’s a good nickname to have. Then one day someone said ‘that must hurt comin’ out,’ somebody called him Poopstone Jones and it stuck.”

“What was his real name?”

“Tommy. Tommy Jones.”

“Poor kid.”

“Brought it on himself. Always eatin’ rocks like that. Washing ‘em down with heff.”

“OK, so what happened to him.”

“Believe it or not he’s still around. Lives over in Meshoppen.”

“Plenty a rocks out there,” Frank said. “Lotta guys we knew are already gone. Maybe ol’ Poopy knows something we don’t.”

“Wasn’t always that way. There was this one night…”

Frank rolled his eyes. “Here it comes.”

Buddy dripped indignity. “What?”

“Nothing. It’s just, you’ve collected a story for everything. You’re the oldest young man I know.”

“You wanna hear this or not?”

Frank waved his glass lightly. “Sure, why not.”

Buddy took a breath. “One night, we’re out camping. About ten years ago. Sitting around the campfire, belly laughing, you know…”


“And Jonsey, he’s drinking his heffs, and pretty soon he says he’s gotta use the latrine.”

“Probably gone for an hour,” Frank teased.

“Two,” Buddy said. “Two hours. Finally, we got worried. Maybe he’s fallen asleep. Or a bear got ‘em. So we went lookin.’ Go to the latrine. No Jonsey. Trail of heff cans leading out to it, but no Jonesy. So we grab flashlights, walk off into the woods. Half an hour later we find him. There he is, sitting beside the creek.”

“He OK?”

“He’s gulping water, right outta the stream! He sees us. You know what he says?”

Frank waited.

“Says ‘ran outta beer. Gotta stay hydrated boys, you wanna have a gut works like mine!’”

“He’s found a way to adapt to eatin’ rocks,” Frank said.

“Shale, sandstone, that crumbly stuff that’s like dried clay. Guy was a connoisseur. But you wanna hear the upshot?”

“Of course.”

“Ol’ Stoney was traveling the world. And he’s in some place, I don’t know, some country has a quartz mine or something. And when he thinks no one’s looking he takes a small piece and swallows it. And this woman, she sees him do it, and BAM. He looks at her, she looks at him, instant love.”


“They’re still together.”

“Out in Meshoppen.”

“Out in Meshoppen,” Buddy nodded.

Frank shook his head. “People look their whole lives for their one and only and somehow these two rocks eaters sniff each other out.”

“That ain’t all.”

“Course not,” Frank said.

“They had a kid.”

Frank nodded. “Eats rocks too?”

“Damnedest thing.”

“Poopstone Junior,” Frank said.

Buddy said “no one calls him that yet.”

Frank reached in his pocket and paid his tab, left a few extra bucks for the bartender. He got off his stool. “Give it a few years,” he said. “Before you know it they’ll be in here drinking heff together and chewing on the Spanish tile.”

“Probably,” Buddy half-heartedly agreed.

“Then again, you never know. Ol’ junior could go off to college, start drinking Old Latrobe and outgrow his rock habit. Then you’ll have to call him something else.”

Frank pushed the front door open. Buddy called at his friend’s back. “I don’t know. Thing like that ain’t something you just outrun in a generation.”

Frank, with a hand on the door and a tone of finality, said “kids in our neighborhood used to call me something until I was twelve or so.”

“What? How is it I never knew this!”

Frank shook his head. “And you never will.” He went through the door, into the night.

Buddy turned to Paddy, his lone audience. “How do you like that! Know the guy for years – decades and I’m just now finding out he had a nickname?”

The bartender nodded, scrolled. He said “I know what it was.”

“What! Tell me,” Buddy leaned into the bar.

Paddy put his phone down and sighed. “First things first,” he said.

Buddy gave him a look. “What?”

“Here’s an inside scoop for you, OK? If you’re a regular at a place, you can be sure you’ve got a nickname. Maybe the staff all call you Bud Light Buddy,” then Paddy gestured at the front door, “or Firestone Frank.”

“Is that what you call me, Bud Light Buddy?”


“What then?”

Paddy lifted a stack of receipts from beside the register and set it next to Buddy’s wrist.

“Tabs,” he said. “Sometimes it’s Tabs McGee, but mostly it’s Tabs.”

“Because - ”

“Pay up,” Paddy said. “Break out a credit card, ATM, cash, Venmo, whatever. Then we’ll start calling you something else.”

Buddy shook his head. He reached in his pocket and slid out a Visa he knew was good for a few thousand. “So long as it’s not as bad as Poopstone,” he said.

Paddy waved the card in the air. “So long as this goes through, and you add twenty percent - ”

“Twenty percent!”

“To divide among the staff. A staff’s been very patient I might add. If that all goes through, I’ll make you a deal. You get to pick your own nickname.”

Buddy leaned against the bartop. Paddy turned and ran the card. The slip soon printed out. He put it on a plastic tray with a Bic pen, ready for Buddy’s signature.

“Storybook,” Buddy said.

Paddy looked at him “Storybook,” Buddy repeated, “Frank just finished saying I’m always collecting everyone’s stories. So maybe Storybook Buddy.”

Paddy shrugged. Buddy smiled, then it fell and he shrugged too.

“Guess it doesn’t work that way, does it.”

“Nope,” Paddy said.

Buddy nodded. He pointed at the bar. “This requires some Thinking Juice,” he said. “Have a shot with me, buddy.”

Paddy turned and reached for a bottle, his customer’s final word echoing in his head.

Buddy. Yep, Paddy thought, and poured fresh shots. Some things you can’t force, because they’re fine just the way they are.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


We used to loaf

parts of random

Friday nights

in a dirt lot behind

Prospect Heights

Federal Housing

where we’d grown up.

Sipping Narragansett

Giant Imperial Quarts,

a 20% bonus provided

more than forty ounces,

we were steadfast

in our faith that our choice

left Bud, Miller and Coors

in a cloud of choking dust.

Fifty cents the cost,

a nickel back for

return of the corpse.

Bill was the barkeep.

He was a master

of the bottle cap,

could pop one

using his teeth

as easily as biting

a sissy filter off

a bummed cigarette.

Army and Navy

lore was the drill

until childhood

tales kicked in.

We spoke of kids

we’d never see again

and toasted them with

our hefty bargain brews

and judged the clunks

were percentages sweeter

than the clicks of society

Champagne flutes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

No Chaser

She's a
lethal cocktail
Of beauty, rancor
daunting dark
for eyes
to lose one's self in.
Whatever else
is written in
the Devils shorthand
script her flesh
even once up close
will leave permanent as if
a tattoo or lethal wine
to course toxic like
in your veins until
she vanishes .
Or so you think
until traces of her
remain in thoughts
and concurrent
A transfusion
will be/you think
a less dangerous girl.
Who goes to church 
religiously, you'll find
eventually, to seduce
married men with
smiles at first until
yes, their
money or luck
runs out.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Crazy George

I figured I’ve outlived the statute of limitations, so now this story can be told.

In 1970, I began a brief academic pursuit at the University of Missouri. It didn't last long because I preferred having fun more than attending classes. I’d say that I fell in with the wrong crowd, but it’s more accurate to say I sought them out.

Scott Robinson and I shared a few classes together although I wasn’t at many of them. So “classmate” isn’t the best label; “drinking buddy” would be more accurate. We usually only saw each other in the evening when I stopped by his room to drink along with his roommate, George Farmer. We called him “Crazy George.” He got that moniker for good reason. First of all, he had that slightly crooked smile and shine in the eyes of someone a bit off kilter. His behavior added to the reputation. Among other things, he used to make money by pulling a “Cool Hand Luke,” sneaking downtown during early morning to dismantle the heads of parking meters, then breaking into them. He even chose double headed meters and recorded the collection schedule to maximize his take.

Another time, while in the dorm lounge, I heard the elevator doors open, then a strange rolling sound. Here came George folded in a crouch, riding a pilfered shopping cart toward the cafeteria, screaming like a banshee the whole time.

So, Crazy George, Scott, and I formed the core of our particular crowd. While most of our peers were embroiled in anti-establishment zeal, we let them attend to protest; we were content to drink beer and enjoy each other’s company.

One night, four of us gathered for our ritual imbibing, choosing quart bottles on this occasion—probably because of a sale price. One of our quartet was a guy I’d seen but never met before. Like George, he was an engineering student. During the course of the evening, he bragged about how he designed explosives. “I can make bombs out of walnut shells, toilet paper rolls, even Coca-Cola bottles.”

It didn’t take long for one of us to hold up an empty quart bottle and ask, “Could ya’ make a bomb out of one of these?”

Of course, the answer was “of course.”

We stumbled to his room to retrieve the needed materials. Within a half-hour, he had completed the task and set the bottled bomb on the table. After a run to replenish our beer supply before closing time, we pondered the possibility of setting off our newly designed incendiary device. The question: where to go enjoy the show.

We settled on a state park located about seven miles from campus.

The four of us staggered down to the parking lot with our beer and our gear, piled into Scott’s GTO.

The only problem with drunks is they usually make bad decisions. In this case, our makeshift device ended up in George’s lap. Before we were even off campus, he had rolled down the back window, lit the fuse with the hot end of his cigarette, and howling, heaved the bottled-up bomb out of the car.

“What the fuck!” Scott screamed and jammed the brakes. At the same instant, a flower of flame blossomed out of the ground where the bottle had landed. Before the report of our homemade device finished echoing between the buildings surrounding us, Scott gunned his Pontiac, burning rubber back to the dorm.

We laughed about it but also cursed George: he’d deprived us of a decent viewing of his buddy’s handiwork. Not to mention the problems we’d have if anyone saw us, especially since we might have done some serious damage. But somehow we got over it, drank some more, and eventually made our way to our respective beds to sleep off our drunk and skip morning classes.

I woke up much earlier than planned. How could I sleep with all the commotion going on around me? Bruce, my dorm roommate, had several of his friends in and out all morning. I caught bits of conversation about an uprising.

“Should we make banners or signs?”

“Dunno. What are we protesting?” That was Bruce. All I protested was the din of political babble around me.

“That figures,” I mumbled quietly between stabs of the new day’s light and my head pounding from the night before. These clowns would be the type to call a strike, then figure out the cause later.

I couldn’t ignore the chatter any longer, so I dressed. “Later, guys, I’m outta here.”

Outside, the environment was even stranger. Crowds gathered in different locations of the university’s quad. Speakers exhorted their brothers and sisters to join in overthrowing unnamed oppressors. Slogan-laden signs led parades in different directions. It looked like every anarchist or radical in a five-mile radius decided to hold a convention on our campus.

I felt like I was at the zoo except the displays were ideologues who couldn’t wait for an outbreak of takeovers and protests.

I decided to return to the dorm, visit Scott, and try to get a fix on the day. Wending my through the chanting maze of people, I hoped he’d learned what had happened to cause this sudden outbreak of “anti-whatever” feeling on the campus.

En route, I stumbled upon a group that contained my roomy, his arm raised in the power fist of defiance, periodically pumping it in the air.

“Hey, man,” I croaked when I got next to him. “What is happening?”

“It’s happening, man.” A grin spread across his face, the corners of his mouth seeming to touch the end points of the porkchop sideburns descending from wild blond hair. Never had I seen such happiness. “It’s happening.”

“Apparently,” I surveyed the crowd eddying but never receding. I repeated the question. “But what happened? Exactly.”

“Didn’t you hear?” He laughed at my ignorance, obviously enjoying the fact that his hard drinking classmate had missed the details. “Last night someone threw a Molotov cocktail at the ROTC building near our dorm. The revolution has come.”

“Great. Just what I needed today.” I sighed and wondered what kind of idiots would try to blow up the ROTC building.

Then, reality hit me.

“Holy shit,” I screamed.

“Yeah,” he responded. “Cool, ain’t it?”

“Oh, yeah. Cool. Gotta’ go. See ya.”

I couldn’t run back to the dorm fast enough. Scott, too, had heard the news and was fuming.

“That ever-lovin’ asshole,” he kept saying, pacing the floor. “He’s shafted us for sure this time. Of all places to lob that thing, he has to hit the fuckin’ ROTC building,” Scott lit a new cigarette off an already half-smoked one. “That building’s federal; they’re gonna call in the FBI on this one. That’s real time.”

And that was pretty much the rest of our day as well as a good part of our semester. Everytime there was an unexpected phone call or a summons from an RA, we were sure we’d been busted. It didn’t suppress our drinking habits any but certainly made us paranoid. Of course, drinking with George around was out of the question.

Even after I departed the campus after flunking out, that hazy memory nagged me, especially when I ended up in the Navy and got fingerprinted for security clearances.

A lot of “what if’s” filled my head for a lot of years.

For whatever reason, I never heard another word about it. Perhaps evidence was destroyed in the blast; perhaps investigators just didn’t try too hard. After all, no real damage had been done, and the explosion occurred on the lawn rather than in or even near the building.

Whatever the reason, I survived.

So now, I feel free to share the story, and the reason for doing so is simply that I can’t resist a smile once in awhile at the thought that the day the revolution came to the University of Missouri, it happened because four hedonistic drunks with no particular political beliefs wanted to watch a big bang.

Thursday, September 8, 2022


drunk again at the exchange,

it’s been five months since 

i’ve found myself here


i sift through internalized poems,

like swiping through fifteen 

pounds of spiderwebs


sometimes there’s too much 

to write about and not 

enough time


outside the sun shines through  

the darkness of the bar


poems swirl in my head

as i drown sorrows

in my heart


i think of your silly smile 

and how i can’t 

always fix 



i pay my tab and exit into the sun


the sky is blue, so very blue.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Barstool is Empty

She sat on that barstool most all of her life

This honkey-tonk woman – this long ago wife

Sitting there drinking her memories away

But the barstool is empty today


She was brassy and bold

And not really that old

But the story was told in her eyes

Of a life that was rough

And that she’d had enough

And you knew that the eyes told no lies


Like the words of a song

Some man done her wrong

And drinking was her way to cope

But the booze and the beers

For a number of years

Has led her to just give up hope


She’d drink with who ever

And never say never

When some drunk would pull her aside

She’d go to their car

Or some other bar

And each time a part of her died


The years took a toll

She lost her soul

And finally gave up the fight

The end of her ills

A handful of pills

A sad and a lonely goodnight


She sat on that barstool most all of her life

This honkey-tonk woman – this long ago wife

Sitting there drinking her memories away

But the barstool is empty today

Monday, September 5, 2022

Plague Poem for Day Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four, Time Enough

Perhaps if we had time for all this.

You know – hours, hell, days, or

even weeks, months, years more.

We could belly up to the bar, when-

ever and order from the top shelf,

settle in and watch the room fill,

listen to the general conversation

for the group, chat the bartender

up or the person on the next stool.

Enough time and we could sidle up

to the table and place a large bet,

perhaps all we have, on one number

and not care whether we win or

lose. We can always get more, earn

more, enough to keep going on and

on. We could play a round, skydive,

waterski, or walk down the darkest

street in the far worst part of town,

the part they always warn us about.

With all this time, we could run for

office and not care who won or lost.

We could sail around the world in

a small sailboat, watch whales breach,

watch sharks, see if punching a shark’s

nose really works. If I had time enough

I could sit here the rest of the hour,

the day, the week etc. and list all of

the things I could do with extra time, but

I don’t have that kind of time and/or

that kind of patience with me.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

The Talk

we need to talk
now is the time
when I tell you how unhappy I am
I think you already know
I think you are too

is it that we need more time apart
you in your world
me conquering mine
or maybe we need more time together

maybe we just need to be alone
drink a bottle of wine
have some great sex
hold each other throughout the night
sleep late in the morning
whisper “I love you” with last night’s left over breath

or maybe we just need to be apart
you in your world
me conquering mine