The closest I ever got to having a porn star friend happened during my freshman year in engineering school at University of Miami. One of the women who did work study with me in the computer lab wound up in Playboy. "College Women, 1977" I think was the title of the article in which she was naked and posing in various positions of simulated ecstasy with a surf board.

She used a fake name for the article. In real life her name was Chris, or maybe Mary, but in naked titty life it was Starr. I learned that inventing smarmy fake names was the way those women negotiated the whole naked picture maze of -- "Is it really you?" looks when they were trying to buy cake mix and margarine at the grocery store.

They could always say, "People say I look like someone named Starr who posed for Playboy. Heh. Imagine that."

It turned out to be quite convenient to be photographed naked at University of Miami. The photographer had come to campus so there were no worries about missing a homework assignment or a quiz. In fact, lots of women had been photographed, but only Starr wound up in the November issue.

For one whole month she was the buzz of the campus. I remember Juan coming up to me one night we were covering the remote terminal room. He asked if I'd seen her photos, and I hadn't.

It was the first issue of Playboy I ever bought. To the horror of the clerk who took my money, I paged right to the "College Women, 1977" article at the cash register and there she was. It was the face and hair I remembered joking with during those long Friday night spells, when the upper classmen were at frat parties and we freshmen had to teach BASIC to the geeks and grad students who had nothing better to do than homework. I told the cashier, "I work with her," but she gave me one of those female smirks that assures you your genes have not been selected, and then moved on to the next customer.

There in front of me was the parts of her not usually seen in polite company, and I could see them at will. I walked back to my dorm oblivious of my surroundings, paging through Playboy like a skid-row bum on the prowl for another quart of Night Train.

I kept that issue of Playboy for several years. It was a treasured possession until during my senior year at Rutgers University I returned to my apartment one day to find one of my roomates had left my magazine wrinkled and distorted in the bathroom. It was goodbye forever to Starr or Mary or whatever her name was. That thing was over.


I was on the frontage road that goes around SJC heading to work in the morning. Yesterday, behind the runway blast deflector, next to the highway, driving after the rain, I noticed the the sun was rising in a brilliant smear.

In a sky like the ocean you could fall into if you lost yourself
And forgot to stay down.
Azure, I think, they say to be poetic. Ok. Prussian or cerulean or cobalt or Grover.
Cyan and they say you can see through to orange pink of the day before.
Spiderwebbed in bright white cirrus and 747 contrails.
Angel-winged in steam from the coffee truck vent
And the dots of breath of the airport mechanics remind me of sleigh-bound horses,
From the TV commercials that sell the Christmas they say I wanted to have.

This is the last dandelion standing. They've made wine of the rest.

Somewhere below all of this bacterial humanity,
Somewhere beyond linear equations and rigor,
Bills turned over to collection agencies
In a place I know from books and frostnip,

Live my friends on the ice,
As if it was a story I once heard.

I could say it was someone else. A man who never lived.
Double the dosage and he'll go away for good.


There are many ways to live your life. I've met people with no homes, who live day to day. Their mail goes to post office boxes. Their stuff is in storage in Phoenix and they were only there the one time.

I've met people who live on ships. Researching the ocean. And there are mothers and fathers of children who grow up disbelieving there's any world beyond the county line. People who climb tall mountains. Traverse continents for the hell of it, living in tents in grocery store parking lots and vast unplowed fields. Live in ski lodges, teaching city people how to snowplow. Scrape together every cent, every day.

And it doesn't matter for them, because it always works out. They're not afraid of anything unless it stops them from moving.

I've known people who worked hard and hated every minute of the daily grind. Broken hearts that gave out on crowded highways. People who loved every second of their careers and climbed the ladders until they were everyone's boss.

And it never works out for them unless they power through things. They're afraid of anything that might rock the foundation they worked so hard to build.

There are many ways to live your life.

You don't have to do this. You're not trapped.

You can live, if you want. Any way you want.