We don’t have a front porch or a back porch. Nor do we have a gallery, as
porches were called, mostly in the South.

Nope, I don’t have a patio, as I did in Southwest Philadelphia, am
awning-covered affair with a green-and-white metal glider, a matching
chair and a chaise longue with red-plastic cushions. The chaise was so
sturdy we often used it as a spare bed.

We don’t have a connecting front porch, as I had at two different houses.
The one at my grandmother’s was actually enclosed with windows and blinds.
It was so private, it was once used as a bedroom. Quite chilly in cold
weather, I’m afraid. I first read “Dracula” curled up in a chair on that
porch, the lamplight never quite piercing the darkness of the fall night
as I went from recipes to Romania in a sweeping supernatural adventure.

I also have no deck.

Ah, but what I DO have, in all its funky fineness, is a breezeway. What is
a breezeway, ask the uninformed among you?

In my case, it’s a connection between the house and the garage. It has 10
windows — thus the BREEZE — and two doors. It was built with the house in
the late 1940s.

Right now I am sitting on the comfortable cushions of a wicker couch.

Where the house is located — uphill from the Mantua Creek — the wind blows
in unusual patterns. I’ve stood in the driveway when the wind whirls in
around me sounding like a gigantic locomotive! It is quite impressive.

Today, though, I came out here to appreciate the cool breeze that was
blowing through those 10 windows and two doors. It’s magnificent.

I just ate two helpings of strawberries and blueberries for breakfast as I
soaked up the cool breeze.

As the Perry Como used to sing, “I’m just goin’ along as I please,
breezin’ along with the breeze.”


I need to get this information to you, then maybe stop talking about it for awhile.

Remember, after my surgery on Feb. 15, I was declared cancer-free? Well, a CT-Scan on June 15 shows that is no longer the case. I have new soft-tissue growths that are presumed to be tumors in my chest, where my left kidney (removed in February) used to be, in my pelvis and throughout by abdomen — and on my left kidney, which is probably what has been causing my ever-increasing, excruciating hip pain.

I have already resumed chemotherapy, which has me very tired, full of heartburn and with little or no appetite.

If the chemo doesn’t decrease the pain, my cancer team may attempt using radiation to zap the cancer on my hip; that’s still in the future.

So this is startling news for me, as you may imagine. They tell me this cancer is inoperable. The chemo and radiation, I suppose, is meant to keep it all at bay.

My job is to fight this cancer as seriously as I fought the last cancer. I beat it then. I plan on beating this as much as possible.

Life will go on, one step at a time. I am a happy guy and I intend to life my life to its fullest. I am defiant in my fight again and will remain defiant.

I don’t want to just keep repeating myself and talking about my cancer. If there’s something new, I’ll tell you about it. If not, there’s no need to dwell on it.

Many of you have been with me in my continuing fight and I ask that you stand by me as the fight moves ahead. Your help has been more important to me than you’ll ever know. Please keep it coming.


The world lost one of its most important voices last week with the death of singer/songwriter Guy Clark.

A long-term battle with cancer took Clark at the age of 74 after a short stay in a nursing home and in hospice.

I can’t tell you when exactly I became aware of Guy Clark, although it was in the mid-1970s, shortly after I began my own career as a singer. I feel confident in saying I learned of Guy’s songs by way of the legendary Jerry Jeff Walker, who introduced me to many otherwise unknown writers in the old days. I’m pretty sure the first Guy Clark song I started doing was “Like A Coat from the Cold.” I think it’s a beautiful song. I played the song for the wedding of friends and my pal Don Cogan played it at my wedding. (“The lady beside me is the one I have chosen to walk through life with me like a coat from the cold” is the chorus. Guy has since said he’s not fond of the song and said he thinks it sounds presumptuous. We all still love the song.)

Guy Clark is not exactly your household name, sadly enough. Born in Texas, Guy became a linchpin in a group of writers — Townes Van Zandt, Mickey Newbury, Rodney Crowell — who reminded one of the Beats in the 1950s.

Guy’s songs are so true and so simple they hit you in the gut when you hear them. He wrote about an old man and a kid who were like “Desperados Waiting For A Train” — true story. He told the take of his father’s “Randall Knife,” also a true story. He sang about the “L.A. Freeway,” another true episode of his life. You’re probably noticing a pattern here.

Many, not all, of his songs are true. Sure, “The Guitar” is a fantasy based on true life. But “Let Him Roll,” a tale of the death of a down-and-outer whose only mourner is a past love who was a whore in Dallas. I can’t sing that one without choking up.

Several of Guy Clark’s songs seemed to reflect episodes shared with me and my friend, C. W. Dupper. Maybe that’s why Guy was so important: His voice was the voice of many of us.

I’d always wanted to be a war correspondent.

Once, given the opportunity to go to Kuwait for a short period of time
during Desert Storm, I was beside myself with excitement.

A colleague who sat across from me in the newsroom couldn’t understand why
I wanted to go to Kuwait and Iraq.

“There’s a WAR over there!” he squealed.

“Exactly,” I responded.

I’m afraid he didn’t last as a journalist.

Unfortunately, I was required to have inoculations, a series of shots that
would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500. My newspaper said
“No way.” And I couldn’t afford to foot that bill myself.

Since I couldn’t become a real war correspondent, I did the next best
thing (Well, eventually, I covered the war from the newsroom by writing
about our military, but that was to come later) and became a war
correspondent in the war against drugs, crime and eventually, terrorism.

Long before the notion of embedding journalists with military units, I was
being embedded with police units throughout Gloucester County. I’d ride
along on serious drug raids, often with task forces made up of several
police departments.

One memorable operation was in a single home where a dealer was being
arrested. I was with the bunch of cops that forced its way inside with a
warrant. As I recall, the guy they arrested was called Billy. He was
handcuffed and put in the bathroom. As the house was being searched, one
detective sergeant continued to answer the phone.

Each caller asked for Billy.

“He’s in the bathroom,” the sergeant said, “What do you want?”

In most every case, the caller recited a shopping list of dope. The
sergeant would wait, as if relaying the order to Billy, then get back to
the caller: “Billy said, no sweat. Come over right now.”

As each caller showed up in person, I laughed as he or she was also arrested.

One night — well, for several nights, actually. Sometimes a night would be
slow — I rode along with Deptford Township’s Lt. Steve Moylan, who headed
up the tactical unit. Some nights, it was relatively quiet — our only
action was interrupting a naked couple in a car.

On another night, the plan was to break up a teen drinking site in a
wooded area surrounded by mostly houses. The plan was simple. We all
walked stealthily through the woods surrounding the clearing where the
kids had a bonfire and drank or used drugs. No one in the fire’s circle
could see us approaching in the dark of the trees.

It would have been perfect, except for the one kid who walked into the
trees to take a leak and walked right into a cop.

Flashlights came on, cops yelled, kids ran, mostly into the arms of police.

Wearing my almost-ever-present commando journalist vest, I had a small
pocket MagLite flash light to see by. As I stepped into the fire circle,
most of the teens had fled, but one: A frail young blonde who seemed
undecided as to which way to run. I stepped toward her, shined my MagLite
in her eyes and — yes, I’d been waiting a long time for this! — announced,
“Stop in the name of the Press!”

She did. We all had a laugh of that.

Back at the police station, parents came to collect their kids. The
blonde’s mother was appalled that her child could have been involved in
something like this and assured police her punishment would be severe,
that she’d be grounded for life.

As a note, we returned to the same bonfire the following Friday. The
blonde was there again. Her mother arrived at the station to collect her
and was appalled and assured police the kid would be grounded.



People keep chiding me for not keeping an up-to-date report on my health.

They rightly claim that, all through my three major surgeries and my chemo sessions, I reported faithfully all that I was going through in my fight against cancer. But now?

Well, what is there to say? I believe I have recovered well from the open-heart surgery in December and the cancer surgery in February.

Yet, I am still in pain from a chronic, mysterious ailment in my left hip. This has existed since well before any of the major ailments that followed. The pain now is much, much worse than the pain was to start with.

We are attempting to pinpoint the cause of all this pain, but haven’t done so yet. We have determined that, whatever the cause, I am NOT in need of a hip replacement. I’m not sure I would have signed off on yet a fourth surgery.

So this leaves me in a peculiar predicament: I am, for all intents and purposes, cured. My heart is in good condition. I am cancer-free. Yet I am left in such pain I don’t want to do anything, am unable to do anything.

This is not the kind of condition I expected to be in, or want to be in. I am tired of the pain.

This, then, is why I am not filing regular reports here or on Facebook. No one wants to read: “Well, another day of excruciating pain” in a status report, do they?

So, for those of you who follow with interest my progress, or lack thereof, I am in pain but attempting to feel better.

Thanks for your continued interest.


The tide is high, but is beginning to go out. RiverWinds Point is quiet in mid-morning. There’s briefly only one car besides mine parked in the circle.

I can hear the water of the river sloshing ashore in tiny waves that grow into mini-breakers now and then when something kicks them up: wind, passing boats, I’m often not sure what prompts them, but I love them.

There’s a container ship anchored just downriver from me. It has been there for at least two days. So has the long tanker berthed directly across from me. There’s another barge and tug boat combination anchored just a bit up river.

Yesterday, two yachts motored by. One was gleaming white and quite sizeable. The other was duller white and smaller. Both had sails furled. I didn’t have my Steiner Safari 8 X 30 binoculars with me, so I didn’t see people on either yacht.

I rarely see crew members of anchored or passing working ships, even tug boats.

The sun is beating down on my shoulders and my knees, where they extend out from under my cargo shorts. My Closest Companion laughs at my suntanned knees for some reason I don’t understand.

It seems my anemia has subsided enough that I am not sitting at the river wrapped in my leather coat. I have reverted to shorts and Hawaiian shirts. I wore Keen sandals last summer and they gave me weird tiger strip sunburn on my feet. This year, I am wearing my Teva sandals for a more traditional tan line.

I cover up my neck, arms, hands, knees, calfs and feet with sunscreen. I wear either a long, leather-billed khaki fisherman’s cap or a floppy Panama Jack straw hat. Around my neck, a shemagh, the Middle Eastern scarf adopted by many Special Operations soldiers. It helps protect my neck, mops up sweat and has many other uses.

I finally gave up trying to get my painful hip comfortable on the black iron benches at RiverWinds Point. Now I keep a green folding sling chair in the car. Easy to set up and comfortable to sit in.

I still look clumsy as hell sometimes. I’ll get out of the car with my cane, a water bottle or drink cup, a notebook and my chair. (I’m generally one of this stubborn one-trip guys. I am learning to make more than one trip. Set up the chair, take the drink container and notebook to the chair. Voila!)

When I finish this column, I think I’ll head up to the river again. It’s cloudy,  but still warm.


I’m sitting around these days with a lot of nothing to do. I used to joke that I could qualify for a Ph.D. in doing nothing.

But there really is quite a lot involved in being able to go almost 24/7 doing nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

I could slip away or, better yet, do nothing right here, without distraction of any kind that otherwise might, well, distract me from my ultimate target of doing nothing.

As a writer, I often seem to do nothing for long periods of time. I can, and often do, just declare that I am writing. This is, frankly, how most of the work of a writer is conducted, by sitting and thinking or going somewhere to do some sort of research.

The nice thing about all this, you see, is that no one else can ever prove you were not working all along.

Sure, you reply, but sooner or later, you must produce a result, namely in the form of a written product.

My answer: Hogwash! Horsefeathers! Balderdash! Poppycock! (Typical writers’ words, you may note.)

I offer J.D Salinger and Harper Lee as examples. Salinger became a most famous recluse, never producing another official written product in the second half of his life.

And Lee wrote no more. Her “second” novel has been said to be what she submitted before “To Kill A Mockingbird;” it had all of the same characters exhibiting different character.

Of course, a writer can always blame his editor for spiking what had been written.

So now you understand more about why I enjoy all these hours spent sitting at Riverwinds Point Park in West Deptford and watching the river go by. (It’s kind of like watching the submarine races with no physical contact involved.)

Of course, these same apparent inactive activities work for songwriters, poets, philosophers and artists.

Monday was Memorial Day. I know it was founded to honor those who died in our military services. There’s Veterans Day for honoring living GIs and someone said Armed Forces Day is for honoring those who are active in the military.

I know all this, but still wind up thinking of not only the dead, but the living, the survivors.

I mentioned at the Woodbury Heights Memorial Day ceremony on Saturday my belief that everyone who has ever donned the uniform has faced death, whether they were in combat or not, because, well, just by serving, they were in harm’s way.

It’s easy for me to become distracted. Come Memorial Day, despite all of my good intentions, I do consider summer to have started, unofficially.

And when I start recalling GIs I knew or knew about who have died in service, I can’t help thinking as well about GIs who have served — stateside, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, peacekeeping missions in the Sinai Desert, Africa and the Balkans.

Nowadays, I associate Memorial Day with the kind people of Woodbury Heights who, in the person of Councilman Jake Jacobs, have invited me to speak at their Memorial Day ceremony for 11 years now.

With that kind of record, it’s no wonder the folks at the event pay attention not only to what I might have to say in regard to Memorial Day, but to more personal details — namely, they followed my progress from being diagnosed with cancer right through my surgeon’s proclamation that I was cancer-free.

And now, we have once again laid to rest the spirits of our honored war dead, our distractions and good intentions, and have entered good old unofficial summer.


I’m not sure when I became a news junkie.

I know I didn’t grow up as one. I lived through some extraordinarily important times in our history and, frankly, wasn’t always as aware as I could have been of how meaningful these events were.

I knew we were in grave danger during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but had no idea just how close we all were to the brink. The Bay of Pigs Invasion? Didn’t pay much attention.

Sure, I was a writer even in high school, but didn’t consider myself a journalist quite yet. (I’d often tell people in those days that I planned to be a novelist, but, just in case, would become a journalist so I had something to fall back on. Can you imagine?)

No, there’s no one time or incident I can say caused me to become a news junkie. It just happened.

When I retired, my love for news did not cease.

Now, though, now that I have gone “to hell and back,” as one old friend said, I am realizing that there’s a whole lot more to my life than awareness of the news.

I’ve gotten a little bit closer to my brother and to his oldest son. I have met my brother’s two youngest children and look forward to spending more time with them.

My family keeps expanding. Our great-nephew told his mother the other day after my Closest Companion and I visited, “I like them. They’re nice.” Serious praise, as far as I’m concerned.

The day I had my open-heart surgery, my great-niece was born. At 4 ½ months, she’s working on fine tuning sloppy raspberries and deep belly laughs, two extremely important skills as far as I am concerned.

No longer am I scouring newspapers, watching TV news or scrolling religiously through news websites. I mean, I still pay attention to some current events, but it’s not like it was before.

I’m wondering whether my most recent adventures are in some way responsible for this change in me.

I’m 69. I’ve had three major surgeries. I’ve beaten cancer.

So maybe it’s time to actually BE retired. Slow down. Watch the river flow.

Love, talk and laugh. Happiness will find you.