Wednesday, September 28, 2016

22 Responses

On the question of a title for my chapter in THAT PUNK JIMMY HOFFA, I received twenty-two responses.

Sixteen voted for one of the five suggested titles this way:

7  Hoffa's Last Stand 
I chose Hoffa's Last Stand. I liked the comparison with Custer and the irony of the title. I liked its popularity and its common touch.

4  Hoffa's Demise 
This one's good, but Demise is not a common word.

3  "I Hear You Paint Houses" 
High energy, but already used as the title of a book. If you "paint houses," you kill for hire.

2  The Gunman Wore No Mask 
I liked this because it's true. In this book, I use subsidiary titles, and I'll use The Gunman Wore No Mask there, above the shooting episode. 

0  A Lone Gunman 
We all agreed on this also-ran.

Seven readers suggested other titles. I enjoyed reading them, but decided to use none, for a variety of reasons.

Don't steal more chain than you can swim with 
Too long

"Did they ever find the body?" 
The answer, "No," is commonly known now.

"My God, I am shot." 
Hoffa didn't have time to say anything. One second he was alive, the next second he was not. A clean kill by a close friend.

"He is dead, isn't he?" 
Doesn't fit the chapter.

The Last Journey 
This would work, but is less verbally interesting than Last Stand. 

Down for the Count 
Implies "almost defeated" but Hoffa was dead.

"Who Knows?" 
Doesn't fit, since I—and the FBI—know who did it and how. We differ only on the place: did it happen in a house or in the car?

Thanks for your participation in my writing process.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Writing the next to the last chapter in my book, THAT PUNK JIMMY HOFFA, excites me, but I can't figure out what to title this chapter about his death.

Here are my ideas:

Hoffa's Demise

The Gunman Wore No Mask

"I Hear You Paint Houses"

Hoffa's Last Stand

A Lone Gunman

Any title grab you? Or can you suggest an alternative?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The African-American Orphan Train Rider

Not all orphan-train riders originated in New York City, although 250,000 did, from the Children's Aid Society alone. But other riders came from Boston and even Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia social reformers sent children to Pennsylvania and South Jersey, looking for "the open arms of a stable family and the peace of the countryside." 

Student researchers at the Villanova University have examined the lives of these children. They call their work "City of Children: Rescuing Children in Turn of the Century Philadelphia."

A sampling of these forgotten stories, by Kristin E. Holmes, Staff Writer of, contains many an interesting tale. Here's my favorite:

By his own doing, Madison Ulysses Ayles, eleven and African-American, went through four foster homes in two years. He ran away from the first three, white families who described him as unruly and disruptive, said Charlie Withers, the Villanova student who researched Ayles' life. But the young man's fourth placement, with a black pastor in Avondale, Chester County, seemed to provide a sense of belonging. Ayles lasted longer, but he eventually ran away from there, too.

Want all the details? Click:

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


I'm almost finished writing my father-daughter memoir, THAT PUNK JIMMY HOFFA, but not quite. 

By now I've described a variety of ways my dad beat Jimmy Hoffa, mostly on a national level.

Currently, I'm writing how Dad was forced to retire, a sad story for me. But not as sad as the book's last chapter: Dad's death and his funeral. 

However, in between I'll write everyone's favorite Hoffa story—how did he disappear and where's his body? Stay tuned.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Jack's Candle

The one-year anniversary of my beloved Jack Loscutoff's September 9th death came up fast.

I didn't look forward to it. I feared that thinking about Jack on the day he died might be tough. 

My friend Deirdre suggested I adopt a Jewish tradition of burning a 24-hour candle, a yahrzeit. "You burn the candle every minute of Jack's one-year anniversary day." Deirdre's eyes sparkled. "You can think of him whenever you walk past the yahrzeit, and talk to him, if you want to."

Sounded good to me. Until I started shopping for a yahrzeit in Omaha. 

Eventually I decided this ritual should work just fine with an ordinary candle. In Walgreen's, I purchased a small model entitled "Twilight."

This morning, the fateful day, I forgot the candle until I'd washed and dressed. Then I rushed to light it. 

I leaned toward the flame and said, "Hello, darling." Jack didn't answer, but Jon Powell, my husband of fifteen years, did. Clear as a bell.

I'd been mad about Jon, never really released him, although he's been dead more than forty years. He did such unforgettable things, like mummify our cat when she died. Egyptian fashion. 

Our easy love felt like a dance, very different from my more complicated love for Jack. But I had been in my twenties.

I loved both of them a lot. But this was Jack's day. So I said, "Hello, Jack." Over the morning, I spoke to him again and again. And again and again and again. But Jack never answered back.


Finally I said to hell with this and blew the candle out.

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Went to the State Fair last Friday. Saw more dead bugs on pins than I'd seen in a coon's age.

At the fair, I posed as a Specimen Author for the Nebraska Writers' Guild booth which was staffed by poet Charlene Neely. The other Specimen Author was raconteur Steve Bruttig, selling his book, First and Foremost: The Book of Origins and Controversies. If you meet him, get him to tell you his story about condoms at a kiddie's party.

My latest book, Thieves, Rascals & Sore Losers, sold like hot cakes at the fair. I've been hearing good things about the book. The best thing is that folks laugh a lot when they read Thieves.

Here's what reviewer Bonnye Reed Fry wrote:

"Thieves Rascals & Sore an honest, intimate, enlightening review of the folks who settled and populated that part of the Louisiana Purchase that became the great state of Nebraska. 

"I laughed till I cried, it is in places that funny. 

"And, truthfully, it is joyous to read of an American state population who can top New Mexico in the fiercely independent populous and dirty tricks government men. I now feel a kinship with the cornhusker state."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Winners!

My Jack Loscutoff would be so proud! He and I just won a Pewter Award from the Gold Ink Awards, a prestigious national print competition. We won the Pewter for our JackJack & JuneBug book. You may remember it; It featured lustful play between two "older" poets who can't keep their hands off each other.

But this Gold Ink Award was not just for our splendid writing. This award was given to the book as a whole, including the gifted Paula Wallace for her marvelous water color illustrations, the inventive Rachel Moore for her design, resourceful Lisa Pelto who printed the book in Concierge Marketing offices using carefully selected paper with the help of Heather at #FieldPaper in Omaha, NE.

Pewter winners are awarded a certificate. Winning pieces are also featured in Printing Impressions magazine and

(If you see Jack, give him the good news.)