honing: the seven

big river gulls

At a table in Mona’s, the one and only bakery/cafe in the remote California coastal town of Carmeline Creek, the December morning drizzly and cold, Ephraim Spinoza and Paul Windsor chat about their lives and await the arrival of huevos rancheros.

Ephraim is seventy-one with a big mop of curly gray hair and wire-framed glasses, his brown suit and pale blue dress shirt and purple bowtie anomalous for Carmeline Creek where jeans and sweatshirts and down jackets are the more usual attire. A native of Spain, Ephraim and his wife Tivona moved from Zurich, Switzerland into the building three doors down from Mona’s just two weeks ago and are in the process of opening a business called honing, the nature of which has yet to be revealed.

Paul is fifty-eight, a native Californian with a minimal gray coif, his default expression a tender smile. He has lived in Carmeline Creek for eons and is married to Elisha, the manager of Mona’s, she who knitted the plush green sweater Paul has worn every day for the last year.

“So…” says Paul, gazing fondly at Ephraim, “how are you finding life in Carmeline Creek.”

“I like that expression,” says Ephraim, his English excellent, his accent essentially Spanish, but touched with the German he spoke for twenty years in Zurich. “How am I finding life? How do we find life? How do we learn to find life? Are we taught how to find life or is it our inherent nature to explore? But in answer to your question, I find life here dreamlike, in a good way, as if the dream Tivona and I woke from on the Summer Solstice has yet to end. The dream that brought us here.”

“You and Tivona had the same dream?” asks Paul, nodding his thanks as Miyoshi Takahashi serves them their huevos rancheros—Miyoshi the morning waitress at Mona’s for the last three years.

“Anything else for now?” asks Miyoshi, her long black hair in a ponytail.

“I would love some more coffee,” says Ephraim, smiling at her.

“Tabasco?” asks Paul, hopefully.

Miyoshi saunters away and Ephraim says, “Yes, the same dream.”

After breakfast, Paul and Ephraim walk with Paul’s two big mutts Pooh and Zorro to the beach at the mouth of the creek for which the town is named, and while the dogs chase gulls, Ephraim begins to tell Paul the dream that brought him and his wife Tivona to Carmeline Creek.

“Tivona, as you know, is Moroccan, though she came to France with her mother and sister when she was five,” says Ephraim, loving the roar of the raucous sea. “Even so, all these many years later, her dreams often take place in Morocco, and that is where our dream began, in a village on the edge of the desert.”

“A brief interruption,” says Paul, as a woman walking a Golden Retriever approaches.

“Hey Paul,” says the woman, her accent distinctly Texan, her blonde hair peeking out from the hood of her puffy blue jacket. “How you?”

“I’m well, Jasmine,” says Paul, giving her a gentle hug. “Have you met Ephraim yet? Ephraim, Jasmine. Jasmine, Ephraim.”

Seen Ephraim,” says Jasmine, extending her hand to Ephraim. “Welcome to Carmeline Creek.”

Ephraim takes Jasmine’s hand and bows to her. “Thank you.”

“I went by your place yesterday,” says Jasmine, blushing at Ephraim’s gallantry. “Love the name. Honing. That could mean all sorts of things, couldn’t it? Your wife said you weren’t open yet.”

“Soon,” says Ephraim, nodding. “In January, we think.”

“You gonna be a gallery?” she asks, nodding hopefully. “‘Cause if you are, I’m a painter and I’m always looking for open walls.” She laughs. “If you know what I mean.”

“I do,” says Ephraim, enjoying her. “We are still fine-tuning our concept, but regardless of what we become, we would love to see your work. Please bring us your portfolio.”

“Oh I haven’t had a portfolio since I escaped LA,” she says, looking up at the sky and sighing with relief. “Twenty-seven years ago. But you can come by my studio any time. I’m just a couple streets away from you. Paul knows where I am.”

When Jasmine departs, Paul reminds Ephraim, “So… your dream begins in a village on the edge of the desert.”

Tivona and I wake in a small room with a single window in each of the four walls, but there is no door. The windows are large square holes in the thick mud walls. No glass. Our bed is a stack of blankets atop a rickety wooden platform, and when we get out of bed, the platform collapses.

Now we are walking through the village of whitewashed mud houses. We are using umbrellas to shield ourselves from the harsh sun. My umbrella is red and Tivona’s is yellow. Several children are following us and singing A gang of Moroccan children are following us and singing ‘Frère Jacques’.

Tivona asks me in French, “Do we know where we’re going?”

I reply in Spanish, “I believe we are leaving.”

Now we are coming out the front door of the house in Zurich where we lived for the last twenty years. I am wearing a fine gray suit and fanciful red shoes. Tivona is wearing a blue evening gown, silver slippers, and a necklace of large diamonds. These are not clothes or shoes or diamonds we possess in our waking lives.

We walk down the familiar brick walkway toward the street and the walkway becomes a narrow footpath winding through a forest of tall trees. We come to a wide shallow river and Tivona climbs on my back and I wade across.

Gaining the far shore, we are greeted by an elderly woman with brown skin and wiry gray hair. A beautiful little parrot, blue and green, sits on her shoulder.

“You must go to California,” she says in Spanish, beckoning us to follow her. “Come. I’ll show you the way.”

Now Tivona and I are sitting beside each other in a jet high above the earth, sunlight glinting off the clouds below us. Tivona opens a map of California and the only town on the map is Carmeline Creek.

Now we are holding hands and walking toward the building we have leased, and the sign above the front door says honing.

“This is where we belong,” says Tivona, speaking slowly in English.

“Our first visitor will be one of the seven,” I say, also speaking English as we arrive at the front door.

“And you and I are two of the seven,” she says, opening the door.

“Leaving four to find,” I say, following her inside.

“Or they will find us,” she says, leading me to the center of the large empty room.

“A remarkable dream,” says Paul, as they climb the long stairway from the beach to town. “Do you and Tivona often dream the same dream?”

“Never before this one,” says Ephraim, laughing. “On the contrary. Our dreams are usually as different as dreams can be.”

“And you made your dream come true,” says Paul, smiling in amazement.

“In Tivona’s version,” says Ephraim, stopping halfway up the stairway, “she does not say, ‘Or they will find us.’ She says ‘Oh they will find us.’ Otherwise our dreams were identical.”

“How will you recognize the other four?” asks Paul, who feels both honored and mystified to be one of the seven.

“I don’t know,” says Ephraim, resuming the climb. “But I trust we will.”

“Was it difficult to leave your friends behind?” asks Paul, who can’t imagine ever leaving Carmeline Creek.

“We thought it would be,” says Ephraim, breathing deeply of the sweet ocean air, “but so far… no. We were, I think, perfectly ready to go, like perfectly ripe apples ready to be picked.”

mystery pastiche



honing: arrival

leaves on bench

In early November, someone from out of town leases the building three doors down from Mona’s, the only bakery and café in Carmeline Creek, a small town on the far north coast of California. The prospect of new tenants in the venerable old two-story building is of especial interest to Paul Windsor, a habitué of Mona’s, and his wife Elisha who is the manager of that delightful café, because they were seriously considering leasing that building themselves and opening a stationery store and tea shop on the ground floor while subletting the upstairs apartment.

The stately brick and wood building was built in 1907 and has been vacant for two years, the previous occupant a photographer named Ormsby Carfax who had an art gallery there called Watt. A middle-aged man with several cats, Ormsby exclusively displayed his own work: out-of-focus snapshots of people who came into Watt stuck with red and green thumbtacks on squares of corkboard framed with skinny sticks of driftwood.

Ormsby and his cats and snapshots held sway in the grand space for three years, having supplanted a sculptor named Darling Madison who also used the space as an art gallery: Context. Darling was there for ten years and hung paintings by local artists on her walls while using the floor space to display her sculptures, all of which were of a similar construct.

A giggly woman with graying blonde hair and two sweet mutts named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Darling impaled unpainted wooden spheres ranging in size from grapefruits to basketballs on three to five-foot lengths of rebar arising from heavy blocks of wood, thus creating bouquets of wooden spheres with rebar stems.

Amy Carlyle, the realtor in charge of leasing the building, tells Paul and Elisha that the new tenants are Ephraim Spinoza and Tivona Descartes—Ephraim Spanish, Tivona French—and they are planning to live in the upstairs apartment.

When Amy asked how they intended to use the downstairs space, Ephraim replied, “We are forever refining our concept.”

On a cold morning in mid-November, two weeks after Amy leased the building to Ephraim and Tivona, Paul leaves his house and walks the five blocks to Mona’s for his morning stint of writing and socializing. A California native of Anglo-Ashkenazi origins in his late fifties with a humble coif of gray hair, Paul is in a cheerful mood and looking forward to seeing Elisha, though they only parted two hours ago.

As he comes into view of the storefront formerly known as Watt and Context, Paul sees a large sign affixed to the outside wall above the front door: the word honing in an attractive san serif font centered on a turquoise rectangle.

During her mid-morning break, Elisha goes with Paul to look at the honing sign. A graceful woman in her early fifties with reddish brown hair, her mother Spanish, her father Irish, Elisha has been very sad of late because her children, Conor, twenty-two, and Alexandra, nineteen, recently moved to Ireland—their absence a profound shock to Elisha.

“Another one-word gallery,” she says, gazing at the honing sign. “I wonder what it is about this space that inspires such brevity.”

“Could be a last name I suppose,” says Paul, honing sounding German to him. “And maybe it will be some sort of store and not a gallery.”

Elisha sighs. “Oh I wish Alexandra and Conor were here to make a movie of this.”

“We could make one,” says Paul, putting his arm around her. “I’m getting pretty good at shooting things with my little camera. Send something to the kids for Christmas.”

“Good idea,” says Elisha, the word Christmas bringing tears to her eyes.


When Paul learns that Randy Collins, a local handyman, put the honing sign up, he arranges an interview with Randy for possible inclusion in his possible documentary.

Sitting at a table in Mona’s enjoying a peach scone and a cup of coffee, Randy, red-haired and freckled, tells Paul that the sign and eight enormous black screws were shipped from Zurich to his house via UPS.

“And about ten minutes after the sign was delivered,” says Randy, sipping his coffee, “Ephraim called me and told me exactly where he wanted it to go and how to attach it. He’d had the holes pre-drilled, which was lucky for me because that sign is solid steel a half-inch thick, four-feet-wide, two-feet-high, and incredibly heavy. And here’s the weird part. They wanted me to put it up at midnight on the night of the new moon, so I had to set up two big ladders and flood lights and hire Diego to help me lift the sign up over the door and hold it in place while I sunk the screws.”

At 6:20 in the morning on December 2, a light rain falling, Elisha arrives at Mona’s to get the café ready for the daily seven o’clock opening. Mona, the owner and baker of Mona’s, is bringing forth trays of just-baked scones and cinnamon swirls from one of the ovens, while Carlos, her boyfriend and able assistant, is loading the largest of the five ovens with forty-eight loaves of French bread to be baked in time for the morning rush.

Mona, fifty-five, has curly brown hair and red-framed glasses and speaks with the faintest of Danish accents. “Did you see the honing people are moving in?” she says to Elisha. “They were unloading a little moving van when we got here this morning.”

“I offered to help them,” says Carlos, forty-four, a burly Mexican guy with raven black hair and many tattoos, “but they said they didn’t have much to unload.”

“They seem very nice,” says Mona, smiling as Elisha picks up the phone to call Paul. “And they’re definitely artists.”

“How do you know?” asks Elisha, waiting for Paul to answer.

“Everything about them,” says Mona, nodding. “Sensualists.”

“The way they dress, you know,” says Carlos, closing the oven and checking the temperature. “Casual, you know, but sophisticated. And the way they move, you know. Like they’re dancing.”

“Maybe they’re dancers,” says Elisha, hanging up the phone when she realizes Paul must be walking the dogs.

At 9:53 in the morning on that same December 2, a hard rain falling, Ephraim Spinoza, seventy-one, a handsome man with olive brown skin and dark brown eyes and an impressive mop of curly gray hair, sits at a large table in the center of the otherwise empty room formerly known as Context and Watt. He is making sketches of OPEN and CLOSED signs with a black-ink pen on a six-foot-long piece of white butcher paper. He’s wearing wire-framed glasses, a long-sleeved peach-colored shirt, black corduroy trousers, an emerald-green belt, and beautiful red shoes.

Tivona Descartes, sixty-seven, a striking Moroccan with short black hair and brilliant blue eyes, gets up from her chair next to Ephraim and goes to an east-facing window to look out at the rain. She is wearing a long-sleeved black shirt, the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, blue jeans, and black boots.

“I love it here, my darling,” she says softly. “I loved driving across the bridge into town, how huge the waves in the bay.”

Ephraim looks up and smiles at his wife gazing out the window. “I love it here, too.”

“How lucky we are,” she says, her way of saying so a song.

“We were wise to follow our dreams,” he says, his reply a song, too.

Now someone knocks on the front door and Tivona goes to answer—several packages expected in the next few days.

“Hello,” she says, smiling at the man—Paul Windsor—on their doorstep. “I’m sorry but we are not yet open for business.”

“I didn’t think you were,” says Paul, returning her smile. “I’ve brought you a gift, apple yum my wife and I made from this year’s Goldens.” He proffers a small glass jar. “Welcome to Carmeline Creek.”

“Oh come in,” says Tivona, taking a step back to allow Paul to enter. “I am Tivona Descartes and this is my husband Ephraim Spinoza.”

“Paul Windsor,” he says, bowing to her. “My wife is Elisha Montoya, the manager of Mona’s. She can’t wait to meet you.”

“Apple yum, you say,” says Ephraim, coming to join them. “To spread on toast and put in our yogurt?”

“Or eat it right out of the jar,” says Paul, laughing. “Not too sweet, yet wonderfully sweet and gently spicy.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” says Ephraim, shaking Paul’s hand. “Come sit down. We’ll have some tea.”

“Our first visitor,” says Tivona, giving Ephraim a meaningful glance.

“A special moment,” says Ephraim, going to find another chair and put the kettle on.

“So…” says Paul, looking around the big room. “What will honing be?”

“Ah,” says Tivona, taking Paul’s hand as if they are old friends. “That is the question.”


What You Do In Ireland


Here To Explore

lounge act vito

Vito With Guitar

I dream that Marcia and Abigail and I are in our living room, a fire burning in the woodstove, darkness falling, Abigail and Marcia wearing dresses. There is something deeply restful and reassuring to me about this tableau—Marcia standing behind the sofa on which Abigail and I are sitting.

Now darkness turns to daylight as Mike and four-year-old Vito arrive via the kitchen door. Mike is Vito’s grandfather. In real life, he’s here in California from Philadelphia to take care of Vito while Vito’s parents are away. In the dream, Mike is carrying an enormous snake-like stuffed animal, pure white and at least twenty feet long, the head resembling a weasel and four times larger than a human head, the rest of the body trailing Mike into the house like a Chinese dragon in a parade with Vito taking up the rear. And I think Oh why did Mike have to buy him such a big toy?

“Can he talk?” I ask Vito

Vito smiles and says, “Not until he learns ballet.”

Now Marcia approaches me. She has changed from her dress into jeans and a shirt and she’s wearing a headset and carrying a clipboard. “I’m gonna let you handle this,” she says before disappearing into her office.

Now several more little boys arrive through the kitchen door and follow Mike and Vito out the door on the north side of our house. I’m pleased not to be panicking about this sudden influx of little strangers, but I am somewhat at a loss about what to do next.

Now older kids start arriving—teenagers, males and females, and I sense they are students at some sort of alternative school. Soon the house is full of teenagers and the house becomes enormous.

Several of the teens wander down the vast hallway in the direction of our bedroom, so I head in that direction, too, and find myself leading a large group of young people ranging in age from thirteen to their mid-twenties.

I am again aware of not being anxious and that I’m handling this extraordinary situation without feeling overwhelmed or threatened, and this awareness makes me happy. And I realize that part of why I’m not anxious is my sense that these are goodhearted people, here to explore and learn and not to destroy things or cause trouble; and I sense they like me.

We enter a large theatre with seating for several hundred people.

One of the young men says, “My God, what is this?”

“This is one of our theaters,” I say, with a touch of pride but also amazement because I had no idea we had a theatre in our house. “But my favorite is the next one.”

We pass directly from the large theatre into a somewhat smaller theatre with seating for about a hundred people. The young people swarm up onto the stage and are transformed into Gypsies dancing a jazzy folk dance, with three of them expertly playing guitars.

When their dance ends, I say, “Wow, that was amazing. Did you rehearse that?”

One of the young women says, “No, but the costumes were waiting for us and there were instructions on the wall.”

Now the young people leave the stage and settle down around me.

“Now we will do some improvising,” I say, thinking to myself We will all be inmates at the Institution for the Emotionally Profound.

But before I can say these words out loud, three young men arrive. They are slightly older than the other young people and I’m sure they’re going to wreak havoc.

I say to their leader, “We’re about to do some theatre exercises.”

The leader and his two pals mount the stairs to the stage and head backstage, the leader saying, “That other bathroom isn’t working so we’ll use the one backstage.”

And because I know I will not be able to prevent them from wrecking everything, I wake up.



only connect

Mary Munich

photo Mary On the Piano by Robert Smith

In my dream I am playing a beautiful black grand piano in a large restaurant, all the tables full, many of the diners listening to me. I am playing a piece entitled Love’s Body, a passionate fast-moving improvisation from my forthcoming CD lounge act in heaven. I am ecstatic as I play, the experience so moving to me, I weep as I play.

I finish the song with a lovely run of notes from low to high.

A few people applaud politely.

The elegantly dressed young man and young woman at the table nearest to me do not applaud. They seem perplexed and embarrassed by my performance.

Now a man at the back of the room rises from a table he’s sharing with three other people. He has long gray hair and a long gray beard and black-framed glasses and a big paunch. He applauds strenuously and shouts, “Bravo, bravo, bravo!”

I bow in his direction, happy to know I connected with someone out there.