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That time 10 years ago I played a cop on Psychic Detectives.

Ten years ago, almost to the day, I played a cop in a reenactment scene on reality TV.

My wife edits TV shows. Sometimes she’s a combination editor-producer (called a “preditor”). Ten years ago, we were still living in Brooklyn, and my wife got a job preditor-ing to help revamp a previously aired episode of a show called Psychic Detectives, which aired on Court TV (now called TruTV).


My wife’s show includes interviews with Renier, Times Union reporter Carol DeMare, who covered the story when it broke, as well as retired Colonie Police Lt. Ray Krolak and Andy Zostant. The investigation led to the arrests and conviction of James Mariani, a grandson of the victims, along with Robert Skinner, the gunman, and Keith Snare, an accomplice. They’re all in jail now serving up to life in prison sentences.


The episode centers around the 1986 double-murder of Jacob and Dora Cohn in Colonie, NY. (The only Times Union story I could find that mentions it is online here.) During the investigation, Colonie police consulted psychic Noreen Renier from Orlando, Florida, who confirmed a lot of what the detectives were finding out using what I guess would be called non-psychic evidence.  A show called Sightings had covered the psychic angle in 1994, but you can never get enough psychic cop shows.

We shot Brooklyn for Colonie that day. My wife helmed the second unit, working with a special slow-motion camera for shots of the crash of a teacup and bullets hitting the kitchen floor. In the front room, I was outfitted in a late-80s Barney Miller-style suit and tie, an unfashionable detective’s jacket, and a notepad.
My role was to play a Colonie copy who was first at the scene.

I found a DVD of the episode I had gotten from the production company, and posted the first segment on YouTube.

Like the stars say, a lot of film work consists of hurrying up and waiting for one’s scene. The mood on-set was surprisingly upbeat, especially considering were about to re-enact a double-murder that had occurred 20 years ago.  I stood outside in front of the row homes, drinking coffee, shooting the bull with the two guys from the NYPD who were required to be on-site while they fired a gun with blanks.

I remember that I had to wear contacts, since what kind of a cop would wear artsy hipster horn-rims. I hate contact lenses. My eyes were dry and red by the end of the day.

The only people who weren’t cracking wise were the two actors hired to play the Cohns. They took the job seriously. They made the choice to act out their scenes, crying out for help as they lie on the ground. They did all this even though they were told there would be no sound recorded. Their method acting continued as dead people, both stone-silent as I walked through the crime scene, which made it a lot easier for me to get into character as the the hard-boiled, seen-it-all Colonie cop, placing those plastic number-markers besides pieces of evidence.

In the weeks after the shoot for this, my first and only TV acting job, in which I investigate a crime near Albany, I would visit Albany in real life to interview for what turned out to be my present job. I suppose this is all coincidence, but as I write this, I can’t help but think about the simulacrum of it all, the way I played Colonie in Brooklyn, then played Brooklyn in Albany. The reversal still spins around in my head as I watch the scene replay again.

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“Straddling the Working Class Memoir” on Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

Photo by Thomas V. Hartmann

Photo by Thomas V. Hartmann

In case you missed this one, people: “Straddling the Working Class Memoir,” an essay on what it means to be working class and represent the working class as a background in a memoir, was published in the Fall 2015 issue of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies.

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Just out in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s The Power of Forgiveness: “Flag Waving for Beginners.”


A couple months I got an email, subject line “Your Writing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness.” It said my writing was being considered for inclusion in an upcoming anthology. I didn’t recognize the title, but figured it might have been the thing I wrote about the flag my sister gave to me after our father’s ashes had been scattered at sea.

It was, and I liked the new title as well. And now it’s out. The Chicken Soup people sent me 10 copies of the book and a check–a check!–for $200. If only every anthology could do that for their writers.

Anyway, order your copy today!



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Follow and help with my “Double Clap Single Clap” Spotify list.

I love songs that use the double-clap single-clap. You know, that thing? Sometimes it’s used in the whole song, other times it’s in the bridge or the intro or outro.

No matter where it is, I love it.

So I started making a Spotify list to help put them all in one spot. The Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Hall and Oates’ “Private Eyes.” J. Geils’ “Centerfold.” The Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie.” Sometimes it’s down in the mix, other times right in the hook.

There are limitations to Spotify, of course–no Beatles or Led Zeppelin–but what I have there, with the help of record nerds and Facebook friends is pretty good. Do you know others? Help a Double Clap Single Clap brother out. And follow along as we add songs.



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Stuff I’m doing at the #AWP13 Conference in Boston.


The annual overwhelming overload of writerly writerness, or AWP, is upon us. It’s in Boston, and I’ll be there minding a table, taking part in readings, and trying to stay sane while doing same.

Here’s a list.

Every Day: The Table-Minding. I’ll be minding the table of The College of Saint Rose MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Our table number will be G9 in the AWP bookfair. Stop by!

Wednesday, March 6, 5:30-10:30pm
Festival of Language at Dillon’s in Boston (next to the Hyne’s convention center). Three 90-minute sessions. There will be a cash and carry bar. I’m kicking off the third set at 9pm. Facebook event page.
Thursday, March 7, 7pm
Reading to celebrate Old Flame: The First Ten Years of 32 PoemsMcGreevey’s, 911 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02111. Event held in the Player’s Lounge. Facebook event page.

Friday, March 8, 12pm-1pm
Make sure you get your copy of Coming Close: Forty Essays on Philip Levine, which will be available at the University of Iowa Press tables (E1 and E2) at the AWP Bookfair. Co-editors Mari L’Esperance and Tomas Q. Morin will be signing books. I’ll be there admiring copies as well.

Saturday, March 9, 4:30pm
Hating Your Writing: A Love Story (AWP panel)

4:30pm A panel! An actual panel! During the last period on the last day!

Hating Your Writing: A Love Story (AWP panel); Room 305 in the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, MassachusettsFacebook event page; with Richard Bausch, Molly Peacock, Daniel Nester, and Adrian Matejka, and moderated by Melissa Stein.

We’ve all been through it: we write the last euphoric word of our draft, but by the next morning, somehow brilliance has plummeted to dross. Are such literary mood swings a destructive deterrent, or a natural part of the creative process? Can periods of avoidance and dejection actually lead to breakthroughs and better writing? Five award-winning poets and prose writers weigh in on the ups, downs, and ups of creative endeavor and share insights, strategies, and tools they’ve gained along the way.

Saturday, March 9

Write Bloody’s AWP All Star Super Ridiculous Super Reading!

The Community Church of Boston 565 Boylston St. (A 7-minute walk from Hynes Convention Center!) $7, $5 Students and Veterans

Never before have this many Write Bloody authors been in one geographic location. We are pulling out each and every stop to put on a live literature event to be remembered for years to come. But let’s not get nostalgic for the present JUST YET! Join your hosts Derrick Brown and Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz for a high-stakes evening of poems, music, heartbreak, and (almost) TOO many hard-wrought good times.

Featuring: Anis Mojgani! Mindy Nettifee! Derrick Brown! Jeanann Verlee! Jon Sands! Cristin O’Keefe-Aptowicz! Buddy Wakefield! Taylor Mali! Lauren Zuniga! Laura Yes Yes! Jade Sylvan! Victor Infante! Lea Deschenes! Elaina Ellis! Jeremy Radin! Daniel McGinn! Daniel Nester! Megan Falley! Miles Walser! w/ special musical guest Gracious Calamity! & on the keyboard, Mr. Adam Falkner!

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