PROSE. From the Journals of a Muse by Jeremiah Matthews Part IV

Once Shel’s words had time to fall upon my head and soak into my brain, the hunt for Flo was on. I assumed she would be at her desk preparing for this all-important meeting, but her empty chair readjusted my compass. She wasn’t making rounds with new Assignments or throwing her flirt at the new intern (but I did notice that dimple and a half on his face that she’d be talking about for weeks).

I found her down at the Punching Bag, our piano bar and mess hall that sat one floor above ours. I admit sometimes we toot away on those Muse horns of ours, but I must toot about the Punching Bag—building a soundproof room in the back of the bar in which a punching bag dangled from the ceiling was truly, well, inspired. The Bag was open to all, regardless of motivation. Yes, even Muses need to punch and scream and kick…as long as our frustrations remain silent.

Flo was sitting at the piano, swaying as Davis played and sang “Any Place I Hang My Hat is Home.” The Bag was empty aside from the two of them and Rose, who was reading behind the bar. As I slid onto the second piano stool, Flo shifted a little and looked over at the wall in the opposite direction. “She told me there was nothing to prep,” she sighed, sensing my curiosity and confusion as to why she was there. I glanced at Davis with the hope of a comforting second or two, but all he could do was sing:

“There’s a voice in the lonesome wind that keeps whispering ‘roam.’ I’m goin’ where the welcome mat is, no matter where that is.”

I stared at the back of Flo’s head and muttered, “So if I asked you what was going on, would you tell me, or do I need to fill that tray with drinks first?” She glanced at me sideways and handed me the tray that was sitting on the piano top. I went to the bar where Rose had already put her book down and started to fix three Honey Mints, a Muse favorite of peppermint tea and honey. A mug filled with half of each tickled us beyond the lightest shade of pink.

“Give that third to Davis, would ya, hon,” Rose asked me, putting the mugs onto the tray.  “He’s been on this Garland kick for awhile, and his throat’s gotta be close to raw by now.” I smiled at her and nodded as I headed back towards the piano. “He’s, he’s gonna sing ‘em all, and we’ll stay all night,” Rose’s voice winked at me as I walked away.  Either she was complaining or looking forward to it; probably both, knowing her.

“I pick up too when the spirit moves me,” sang Davis as I got back to piano. I put the mugs on their coasters and sat down.  Flo took two sips as she sang the next line along with Davis, “Sweetin’ water, cherry wine. Thank you kindly suits me fine,” and exhaled slowly, nodding her head for no apparent reason. “Okay, I don’t know too much, but it seems like that problem in the Artist world that you all’ve been trying to ignore is getting bigger.”

The bulb that had been swinging in my mind all day started to flicker.  I’d seen this coming for awhile, but yes I had aimed for the “ignore it and it will go away” philosophy that, over the years, I had encouraged so many to avoid.

As my career in this Business slowly began to blossom, the Boss would call me to her office to go over upcoming Assignments. That evolved into my staying late and sitting with her on the office floor, designing and outlining potential Assignments for the Narrative Department. As Taffy purred on the Boss’s lap and Fanny on mine, we’d talk about reorganizing the Motif Index or combining chapters of the Tale Type Index to create a new type, that sort of thing. Decisions in this Business weren’t made in meetings, at least not for Narrative; they were made on the floor of that office with two cats purring, stacks of papers threatening to fall over, and empty bottles of Yoo Hoo and Dr. Pepper swirling between us.

If that hamburger phone of hers ever rang, the Boss would just ignore it…if she even heard it at all. Flo would pop in every now and then to yank us out of a dry brainstorm, usually with a one-liner of perfection that was far too obvious for us to see. One night, I was on the couch with Fanny sitting above my shoulder and my own growing stack of papers. Flo came in and grabbed the burger off the Boss’s desk, all but throwing it to her on the floor where she was sitting.

“It’s upstairs,” Flo said, one eye in my direction. Something both in her voice and eye told me to stand up leisurely and pretend to fetch something that I absolutely could not be without at that moment. It was pure instinct at the time, and I really didn’t give it a second or third thought. I had little, if anything, to do with “Upstairs,” and that two-way street remained motionless on both sides. As the number of late phone calls to the Boss increased as our late night sessions become fewer, I stuck blazingly to slaying the inevitable dragon by ignoring it.

Until now.

“Bottom line, if you want it,” Flo said, returning to the piano with another tray of Honey Mints, “the demand in the Artist world has been pulling a downwards gopher for too long. If the days of the Muse are numbered, they’re numbered in single digits.”

There it was. Unfortunate and Unamusing Truth. Just how un-Musing it was going to be, neither of us knew.

“Any place I hang my hat…”

I ran out before Davis could finish.

Jeremiah Matthews’ Past Works:
From the Journals of a Muse Part III
From the Journals of a Muse Part II
From the Journals of a Muse Part I


PROSE. From the Journals of a Muse by Jeremiah Matthews Part III

Once the Boss had laid the meeting time upon me, I glided slowly down the hall towards Poetry, unaware that my feet were moving. The lack of details had brought out the nail biter in me, especially since I knew Flo would spill whatever beans she had in her can as soon as I could corner her. There was no time — the Boss needed me to spread the word about the meeting, and unfortunately for me, I placed loyalty to her above my own sanity. The Poetry department was next to my home base of Narrative, so I dropped a few things on my desk and headed for Shel’s office.

Yes, the idea that the Muses of Poetry work under someone named Shel raises many an eyebrow through the roof — trust me when I say with certainty that Shelley has been around much longer than Percy or Mr. Silverstein. The chicken heartedness I had when I first met Shel slowly evolved into admiration — unlike other department heads, she’s always been more concerned with the Artist (or Poet, in this case) than with the audience. If she existed in the Artist world today, I imagine she would be the last person to attend a poetry reading. I don’t believe the audience enters any part of her thought process, and should it enter the minds of her employees, they have learned to keep it to themselves.

If the Boss’s office dangled dangerously off the messy side of the spectrum, Shel’s office stood securely balanced on the other end. Like the Boss, Shel could find any piece of paper she needed at any given time, but since everything was flawlessly organized (for reasons I cannot understand, only post-its of a certain color were permitted in certain drawers), the cleanliness was somehow less impressive to me. What did impress me was that although the office’s deco rarely changed, something about the room always seemed to match her outfit.

With nothing but dustless space neighboring it, centered perfectly under Shel’s glass topped desk was one of Emily Dickinson’s:

“Much Madness is divinest Sense—
To a discerning Eye—
Much Sense—the starkest madness—
‘Tis the Majority
In this, as All, prevails—
Assent, and you are sane—
Demur—you’re straightway dangerous—
And handled with a Chain—”

That was Shel.

She sat at the desk going through her typically tall stack of papers with a red-feathered quill. Without a “hello” or artificial “how are you,” she instead served a “what d’you need?” at me, still absorbed in her work. When I returned the vigorous serve with “The Boss needs to have a company meeting,” she finally glanced up, the red quill still moving before slowly coming to a stop.

She looked at every part on my face but somehow refused to let our eyes meet. To my chin I think, she finally asked, “They’re really doing it, aren’t they?” without really asking. Since apparently we had checked our question marks at the door, I tried to figure out how to probe for more.

But before my craftiness could kick in, she lobbed a single phrase directly above my head. It arced over me and lingered there for a few seconds before it hit: “They’re down-musing.”

Some of us were on our way out.

Jeremiah Matthews’ Past Works:
From the Journals of a Muse Part II
From the Journals of a Muse Part I

POLITICAL PROS. Dear Obama by Lindsey Adams

I am gay. I am from the Bay Area. And I do not like the cold.

About a year ago, I packed up my Volkswagen Jetta, bought chains that looked like the right size, mailed my absentee ballot, and drove to Reno. For you. Having missed the opportunity to travel to a more pivotal battleground state, Nevada and its 4 electoral votes were the closest I could come to impacting the election. Off I went.

A caravan of like-minded Bay Area-its went too. We plowed our way through a surprisingly awful snowstorm over Donner Pass. The McCain supporters were, embarrassingly, better prepared for the snow. SUVs and chains that actually appeared like they had been used in the last 5 years zipped by the Volkswagens, Mini Coopers, and Priuses. But…in the, at times, unlikely story that was our survival…we drove on until the elevation dropped, the temperatures warmed slightly, and the snow stopped.

The bright lights of Reno greeted your fearless precinct walkers, phone bankers, and voter-protection volunteers. The Obama volunteers, for whatever reason, clustered at the Circus Circus. We had heard, for whatever reason, the McCain volunteers were at the Atlantic. Thus, the Circus Circus was the hotel of the people…and of the future. We were Hotel Hope. They were Hotel Palin.

I checked in to a local office, got a packet, and went to sleep. Around 5:00 AM I put on every warm article of clothing I could find, and headed out to a precinct. I chattering college students in the lobby. They sleepily pulled coats over sweatshirts from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Sacramento State, and others. They also stared blankly at precinct-walking packets and asked hesitantly, “Do we really start knocking on door this early?”

For most of them — it was their first election.

My precinct seemed to me to be in the middle of nowhere. There were signs warning drivers of herds of wild horses. And it was really cold.

It was really really really cold. In fact, the other young attorney and I couldn’t believe how cold it was.

But everything went smoothly. My friends in other states sent me periodic texts asserting the same, marveling at the grassroots effort, or updating on exit polls for East Coast swing states. They sent pictures of lines of people happily waiting to vote.

We were still at the polling place when they called Pennsylvania. I was driving back to my hotel when they called the election. I stood at a bar in Hotel Hope with volunteers from both campaigns and watched John McCain deliver a concession speech to a hushed crowd. An even more hushed crowd, at the local Democratic Party celebration, would later watch Proposition 8 pass in California. California volunteers looked around at each other uneasily, knowing many of us had chosen between the effort to defeat that and the effort to elect you.

When we left the party it was even colder.

I thought Californians would vote down Prop 8, but they didn’t. I thought the California Supreme Court would strike down Prop 8, but it didn’t. I thought the sheer unfairness of passage would turn the tide in other states, but it doesn’t seem to have done that. At least not yet.

So now, a year later and a little more than 100 days into the presidency we hoped and prayed and donated and fought and froze for, I would just like to say…

I would do it all again. Everyone I know would.

Lindsey Adams’ Blog: NotesIntheMargin

About: Lindsey Adams is an attorney and political activist living in the Bay Area. Her political affiliations include: Membership Chair of Cal Alumni Pride (UC Berkeley’s LGBT Alumni Club), Board member of Californians for Justice (organization focused on protecting educational rights in CA), and founding member of Citizen Hope, a social networking community service organization.

PROSE. From the Journals of a Muse by Jeremiah Matthews Part II

Once, upon a first-time
visit, a newer Muse was hit with a nasty dizzy spell while trying to absorb the bustling maze that is the Boss’s office. I remember when I walked in for the first time, I felt a sudden urge to add additional “Os” to the word “room” — the common four-letter word was unfit to describe the most beautiful chaos I’ve ever seen.

Constructing part of the madness are thousands papers swirled into piles like napkins at a wedding buffet table. The piles themselves are also swirled, not just on the Boss’s desk but around the floor as well, creating a field of landmines waiting to gash one’s ankle with paper cuts if not properly maneuvered. The piles are sturdy enough in their disguise of potentially being blown over by the slightest disruption in the air — I used to think the ticking of the clock’s second hand could create enough wind to blow the piles all over the roo(ooooooo)m, but those paper towers are more secure than they appear.

The papers themselves vary from brown, crumpled, and overused to white, flat-ironed, and pristine — but all have been written upon at one time or another. Never failing to impress was the Boss’s ability to find the one piece of paper she needed at any given time. On the rare occasion she couldn’t, Flo could easily navigate that paper sea with candid authority.

The only part of the Business without computer access is the Boss’s office. As far as I know, she’s never needed, wanted, or shown any interest in computers. She’s a “pen and paper” type, possibly one of the first. Her pens are scattered throughout the room almost as frequently as the paper swirls — on the floor, tucked in books, lying on the shelves, next to Fanny and Taffy’s cat food dish; one time, I found a pen in the mini fridge where she keeps her Dr. Pepper and Yoo-hoo.

The Boss is rarely at the beautiful wooden desk that sits along the wall of French windows, and when I walked in that day, she was on the floor next to the fridge, surrounded by a few of the smaller paper stacks. On the wall above her was a framed picture of Liza Minnelli with the lyrics of the “The Singer” right below. The Boss always enjoyed Liza, often hosting little sing-alongs in the office, but at that particular moment, she was far from one of her Minnelli moods. She looked up at me, pushed her glasses back up onto her nose, and sighed, “We’re going to have a company meeting.”

I glanced up at Flo, who nodded and waved her hand with a “what are we going to do with her” swish. The Boss’s phone — which is in the shape of a hamburger and sits on a small plate on her desk — rang softly. Nodding and shaking her head at the same time, Flo went over to the phone, but I could hear every cell of the Boss’s body scream “take a message.” As usual, Flo could hear it even clearer than I. “We all need to meet in the Storm room in about an hour,” the Boss told me, “so could you let Poetry and Tangible know?”

She leaned back and, without looking up from her papers, grabbed a Yoo-hoo out of the fridge and tossed it to me. Flo was still on the burger when I stumbled out of the office as if I had just done five shots of tequila on an empty stomach. Clearly something was going on, and I couldn’t quite decide if I wanted to know what it was — I needed some chit-chat time with Flo. Her mouth could always be trusted to say what shouldn’t be said, and I absolutely loved her the way you can love a rude waitress who gives you extra fries.

Jeremiah Matthews’ Past Works:
From the Journals of a Muse Part I

PROSE. From the Journals of a Muse by Jeremiah Matthews Part I


Once upon a time, in a far-away land isn’t what I do anymore. “Once upon a time” is just too easy; kid’s stuff, really, borrowed from writers who borrowed from older writers who borrowed from folklorists who stole from some of my earliest female clients. The comfort and originality of the phrase worked back then, and in the ink of the right Artist, perhaps it still can. But given the changes Muse Business has gone through in the past few centuries, I’ve come to realize we may have seen the end of once upon a time.

“Once upon a time” was the last great invention our Narrative Division has seen in quite some, well, time. It blurred the senses as only a seducing opening can, causing an audience to feel a sound or see the spoken words. I must say it’s puzzled me for some time that those in the Artist world cling to the idea of only five senses — five simple little boxes into which they can put more boxes until they are absolutely positive they know something they didn’t before. And believe me, I’m no exception — I could have been king of categorizing, had there been an anal retentive kingdom for such a thing. My rumored love of categorizing may be one of the reasons the Boss recruited me, but that story changes every time I hear it, never the same opening twice.

It’s hard to say where we come in, since personally, I’ve worked with clients at so many different points in the process. I used to think we’ve done it all in the Narrative Division. We’ve established the formula of beginning, middle, and end, and we’ve listed that faithful trio in every possible order, countless times. We’ve reversed, combined, doubled, tripled, and deleted, all for the sake of helping to create a story that’s never been told. That Russian fellow who said there are only 32 possible things that can happen in a fairy tale was really onto something. It isn’t easy retelling the same story over and over, and beginning with “Upon a time, once” will only fool so many fools.

Naturally we can’t do the work for the Artists. We hand them the matches, perhaps show them how to strike, but in the end, they’re the ones that make the fire burn. So you can only imagine how I felt when they tried to take our matches away. The day (and way) Flo came to my office should have tipped me off as to the direction in which we were heading. I don’t think the Boss’s assistant had stopped talking for more than two or three minutes at a time — it’s one of the things I love most about Flo. She was the charming type who would burst into laughter if someone tripped and kept laughing as she helped him up and got him a band aid. I was grateful for Flo’s friendship, especially with some of the less-than-pleasant coworkers who roamed our halls.

But on that day, right before the first silent walk I’ve ever taken with her to the Boss’s office, Flo toddled into my office and with a perfectly-timed raise of her eyebrow, said “She needs to see you.”