More Short Short Fiction of Catherine Coan

One thing I found surprising about Catherine Coan’s short short stories was the variety of voices and writing styles therein.  I, on the other hand, seem to write “…all one, ever the same and keep invention in a noted weed…”, if I may quote the English language’s most famous sonneteer.  The next surprise came in the form of her fine wit which renders more meaning with each reading.  Again, I have written short intros, (in italics), to these pieces which I hope will not detract from them.

Ah, to be a schoolboy again.  And drawing pictures with schoolgirls.  And learning so many new things, with visual aids in the classroom to enhance the rich imagination of childhood. ─AS
Drawing On Eyelashes

Remember, when you were a kid, doing drawings, and in those drawings drawing eyelashes on some animals to show that those animals were female (lizards, mice, fish, birds)? Another question, this one for bats: Bats, why must you swoop about, swooping for blood, when you could just do you know what with your lashes and almost surely get better results, like maybe even a little ceramic bowl of blood with your name on it (and yes, I know that your name is difficult to spell, Empress of Moldovia, but try to be positive, please)?

I forgot to tell you earlier that I have made a time machine which shows all of time up until now on an overhead projector from 1980. You are going to have to decide who gets to operate the rollers, and if there is any bickering, we’ll just wait until tomorrow to do this. Good. Continue reading More Short Short Fiction of Catherine Coan

California Monsters by Ryne Mading

Foreword by Stan Lerner: I just got this in the downtownster mailbox, I would laugh if I wasn’t in so much pain!!!

During another post graduate day of slaving away at the coffee shop that uniquely helped me achieve secondary educational success….enter Stan Lerner. After a double short latte order and a short chat session, I discovered that Mr. Lerner was just another soulless, carefree, freeloading Californian who had found his way to a most beautiful summertime in Montana.  To make matters worse for Stan, I found out he was from L.A. but unlike most of the native L.A. vacationers in the Montana area, Stan was not reluctant to admit where he came from and his reason(s) (or lack thereof) for the trip to Montana.

Before I continue, let me explain that Montanans are extremely skeptical of outsiders and this is doubly true for those hailing from California.  Big money from SoCal converges with small town modesty in Montana to create a situation where natives are having the lands they grew up fishing, hunting and loving being bought up kept from them.  After a steady climb in the migration of out-of-staters to the most beautiful areas of the state and a relentless increase in the number of natives staring at “No-trespassing” signs bluntly stating that “violators will be prosecuted,” some of the natives have become restless and untrusting. Continue reading California Monsters by Ryne Mading


I slept in the belly of the black beast, the moonlit field aglow all around—Mike slept on top of the trailer next to his blower motors, which had been loaded with a forklift and crew whose requested remuneration was a half-rack. Because the request was so little for such a large favor I urged Mike to buy a full- rack and he did. And not to worry, Mike did not know that a half-rack meant a half-case of beer either, for those readers pondering what all this means. But once the trailer was loaded electrical problems curtailed any idea of a night journey. Good news, as I had required some time to myself to deal with the problem of the old woman and her soon to be foreclosed upon home.

As I pulled my jacket snug around me, Driggs Idaho gets chilly at night, I fought fiercely the desire to withdraw my trusty MacBook Pro and begin penning this part of the tale, but something about this felt wrong—very wrong. It seemed the Road To Nowhere needed to pause for me there, in the dirt driveway of the defunct Bergmeyer furniture factory, next to the expansive field growing something. I reclined in the front passenger seat and thought about why this might be. “Simple,” I thought. “There must be at least one mourner for what had once been.” And then terrified I contemplated my reason for existence. “I write about life. I want to write about life…Have I become a eulogist? Please let not my reason for breathing be to tell the story of a dying land…” And as stated previously I drifted off with these thoughts in the belly of the black beast, ironically called a Suburban, in the driveway of a place once called industrial—now a wilderness at the edge of a field…

A few hours passed and before the sun came up I relieved myself in the field, picked up a stick, and gave the sleeping bag heap a good whack. “Get up little girl it’s time to go.”

There was a moan then some rustling. “Why are you always lashing out? It’s your own fault that you don’t have a wife and kids…”

“Maybe so,” I said getting into the beast and closing the door. “Maybe so,” I said to myself before Mike opened the door and slid into the driver’s seat.

The drive from Driggs Idaho to Missoula Montana is as beautiful as one could possibly ask for. Continue reading ROAD TO NOWHERE PART V


My sleep had been deep and restful. But I awoke somewhat disappointed that nothing had come to me. No dream, no vision, nor epiphany that would change my course in life—I was hungry…

The big, black Suburban, with not even two hundred thousand miles on it yet, headed down 800 Street, Salt Lake City, towards the great mountains that make Salt Lake such a special place. On the right side of the road about two miles into the wilderness is Ruth’s Diner. Mike who has seen much of the world nodded his approval. They had renovated since last I had been fortified there, but quite smartly they had restored, rather than remodeled—Larger kitchen and bathrooms had been the primary goal. The rear patio, where one can imagine what it might have been like to have coffee and biscuits in Eden—was untouched.

The ride to Idaho Falls featured my thoughts on the economy: Continue reading ROAD TO NOWHERE PART IV


Let’s not beat around the bush.  INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS is glorious!!!!!  The film is so enjoyable, so entertaining, so smartly written, so well crafted, so beautifully lensed and so well acted that I didn’t want it to end. This is without a doubt the best film of Quentin Tarantino’s career and one of the best pictures of 2009, not to mention making it into my Top 50 all time faves.  That little golden guy named Oscar will definitely come knocking at this door with nominations aplenty starting with Best Picture and Best Director and, dare I say, at this stage of the game, a sure fire winner with a Best Supporting Actor for Christopher Waltz. Simply superb! Continue reading MOVIE REVIEW: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

Star Struck

I bumped into Maria Shriver—literally.  I was entering the office of a New York publisher just as she was leaving.  I apologized, we wisecracked for about ninety seconds and she was gone.  I told quite a few people about it.  Then a sobering thought struck me. I’m certain she did not mention our encounter to a single soul.  That would be because she is a star and I’m as obscure as a grain of sand.

Ancient Jewish wisdom contrasts a star to a grain of sand or speck of dust.  Stars are inexhaustible sources of light and energy; sand and dust only find their significance when they cling to many other tiny particles and become, say, a mighty dam. Continue reading Star Struck


Just as the Road To Nowhere is a time and place to relax in the present, it is also a time and place to have a blast from the past. The device I used to advance this objective, an ipod, was considerably different than the Eight Track player of my original road trips, ohhh, but the music was the same! “We are stardust and we’ve got to get ourselves, back to the garden…By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong…Can I walk beside you? I have come here to lose the smog…” And I plugged in the ipod filling the cabin of the big, black Suburban with timeless music and memories.

The rock formations in the land somewhere between the states of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, for those who have not traveled the 15 past Las Vegas, are mind tingling beautiful—cliffs, valleys, streams, escarpments of every kind. And there is no doubt to the thinking man who sets eyes upon this terrain that the Earth itself has a soul. These massive protrusions are not monuments, but a quest by the Earth to reach out and be close to God. The struggle is so similar to our own; the Earth like the body of man anchors the soul so desiring transcendence from the physical realm back to the spiritual reality of all creation. I cry at the sight of these mighty boulders stretched by such an epic struggle…And I feel sorry for myself because of the futility of my own struggle…Surely if the soul of the mighty Earth, which can shift tectonic plates and create mountains can’t…

A stop for lunch in Cedar City, a nice little town with an abundance of Mexican food, a University, and a Wal-Mart—and up the road we continued. From Cedar City to Sandy the topography is that of an enormous, green valley, the surrounding mountains of which, are green as well, seemingly more content with their lot than those encountered earlier—there is a tranquility about them…Even the grazing cattle is happy. Yes, these cows that graze the natural grass are happy not mad.

And the conversation that transpired originating a few miles before St. George and lasting to a click past Beaver went something like this:

“I almost built a factory over there,” Mike nodded the direction of Colorado City. “But when they told me I’d have to meet with the elders I decided not to.” Continue reading ROAD TO NOWHERE PART III

Poets on the Corner of 5th and Main

On Thursday, August 27th, at eight- o’clock, The Third Area presents the last poetry reading of the summer at Pharmaka gallery on the corner of 5th and Main.  This is an extraordinary opportunity for readers to get a dose of vital and utterly current poetry read by the top notch poets themselves, in a setting surrounded by the visual arts in one of downtown’s most appealing galleries.  For a cherry on top, wine, beer, bottled water and hors d’oeuvres are provided free of charge, (a five dollar donation is suggested).  Of course, that should be no surprise.  Writers are always talking about the importance of the mantra “know your audience.”  The doors open at seven, when mingling and noshing and perusing books and visual art begins.  We hope to see many downtownsters there.       

 There are always four poets featured.  They are introduced, often beautifully, by other poets.  One fine example of the art of language to be found at these readings at Pharmaka follows below.  Tony Barnstorm, whose résumé of literary awards is so extensive that we can’t list it here, read this poem, along with many others, among his amazingly divergent repertoire.

The 167th Psalm of Elvis
This poem comes from Tony Barnstone’s book, The Golem of Los Angeles, published by Red Hen Press

Blessed are the marble breasts of Venus,
those ancient miracles, for they are upright and milk white
and they point above the heads of the crowd in the casino.
Blessed are the crowds that play, and whose reflections
sway in the polish of her eggshell eyes,
for they circle like birds around the games,
and they are beautiful and helpless. Continue reading Poets on the Corner of 5th and Main


The black Suburban rolled down the highway with the mean rumble of a venerated work vehicle. I raised the cappuccino, which I held in my hand, to my lips and took the first soothing sip. Given the distinctly not stylish clothing being warn by Mike and myself and the rugged “Road Warrior” appearance of our vehicle my choice of a cappuccino, as my early morning sustenance seemed a strange juxtaposition—black coffee would have been the appropriate beverage of such a portrait.

“But this is one of the strange facts about Stan Lerner that even you don’t understand,” I thought to myself. A profoundly civilized man and wild beast doing battle in the same being…I smiled at this thought, not because there was any humor to be found in it, but because it is this type of self-reflection that makes it incumbent on all us to travel the long and winding road of life.

Soon, the sun began its ascent above the horizon—its rays of light pouring over the sea of sand, so many grains—countless as the possibilities before us. The slope of Interstate 10 toward State Line still excites my body and soul, as I’m sure it does most. Funny and comforting to think that as time passes there are still sights that can excite even the most veteran of travelers—albeit now in a comforting way. Comforting, because there is a sense of freedom that comes with being able to move around one’s own country with such a sense of anonymity. And with so many freedoms nearing extinction it’s pleasant to know that there is still one left—I wonder if in the future children will understand what I mean by this. Or will they say, “A long time ago people used to be able to travel from state to state without being scanned.” Continue reading ROAD TO NOWHERE PART II

Goodbye, Wine Lovers

The last days of great wine tasting are this week at Ralphs downtown.  Don’t miss it or you’ll never be able to say to your grandchildren that you were there.  That you had Mike Berger personally pour your wine; that you met the “whole sick crew” of regulars who later became legendary for their association with the greatest wine tasting series in turn of the century Los Angeles.

The remaining wine tastings promise to be emblematic of the excellence that has left indelible impressions on patrons over the last two years.  Tuesday, Friday and Saturday are all we have left; I promise I shall make these dates.  Meritage and Mr. Berger’s exceptional cooking is the order of the day on Tuesday.  Friday brings a sparkling wine and sushi pairing that defies any sushi bar’s best value.  Finally, Saturday will shine a light on Merlot and reprise Mike’s efforts to rectify the slandering of those wines by Miles in the movie Sideways when he said: “No!  If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving.  I am NOT drinking any f*cking Merlot!” Continue reading Goodbye, Wine Lovers