13 minutes | Jan 4, 2022
Come to Italy May 12-22, 2022 and have a ball at our writing workshop
May 12 to 22, this year, 2022, I will be hosting another of our fabulous writing workshops here in beautiful Castiglion Fiorentino at lovely Le Santucce. The Amherst Writers and Artists method we use in the workshops has been a godsend to thousands around the world who want to have a richer, fuller experience writing. Whether you write to sharpen and enlarge your experience of life or you do it for a living, this is a great way to boost your strength as a writer, to go deeper, to feel greater confidence, to build motivation and have a good time in Italy while you're doing it. Support the show
19 minutes | Aug 13, 2021
Are you trying to make me sick?
The moment has come to tell our unvaccinated friends and relatives the truth: Their refusal to be vaccinated is killing people. It is morally wrong. The moment has come to get in their faces, to reveal ourselves passionately, how deeply we care about this, to plead, to beg, to negotiate, to use whatever strength we have left to do our part to help mankind stop this pandemic. Like it or not, each of us has a moral responsibility to speak out, to engage passionately with others, to try to turn the tide, to try to stop this awful pestilence, one person at a time, one conversation at a time, one vaccination at a time. So I made this podcast. Support the show
27 minutes | May 20, 2021
Is sex a "disgusting, wicked drive"?
Today I respond to the below comment from someone who identifies himself as "Ugly hunchback," posted on last week's column, as though it were a question. It expresses suffering for which I propose an antidote. The author of the comment was apparently alerted to this column by my 2006 Salon.com column on suicide which after 15 years still attracts fresh readers and comments as recent as April 2021.I don't quote the whole comment here, only mainly the part that concerned me. The commenter says, "I ask mankind — at least all who believe in Christ — to kneel down and ask Him what the point of this horrible world and existence is. We only exist because of a rather disgusting, wicked drive, a drive that has no place in Heaven or even a Platonic ideal sphere, as Andy Nowicki rightly noted in “Confessions of a Would-Be Wanker”. A pipe dream, I know, God won’t answer. I rather see sex as a result and curse of the Fall. There is no better explanation. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Weininger et al all understood that sex poses a deep existential problem. It is indeed “forbidden knowledge”, changing one’s outlook on existence forever and to 180 degrees. * https://www.salon.com/2006/03/06/suicide_23/Support the show
12 minutes | May 12, 2021
Is my boyfriend cheating on me?
Hi Cary, I have huge trust issues and it’s affecting my relationship with my partner of 3 years. My trust issues have stemmed from my childhood for many different reasons and to top it off, last year I found out my step dad had been abusing me. My partner has never given me a reason to not trust him. He says he has his morals and knows deep down he has never done anything wrong. His dad cheated on his mum and he has a suspicion his ex cheated on him. But there is something lingering over me and I am struggling to know whether to believe my partner or not. I have had suspicions about him and a girl from work. ... Support the show
23 minutes | Apr 29, 2021
Finishing School: The story behind the workshops … and the book
In 2004 I was finishing up an article for Salon.com about George W. Bush and the upcoming presidential election, when I thought I was having a heart attack. I hit “send” and then I dialed 911. I called my wife from the ambulance. I spent the night in the hospital. Tests showed I was not having a heart attack. I was having a panic attack. That whole episode got me thinking: Maybe I was a little too stressed out. I needed to find a more humane approach to creativity, that would stress community. So I read Pat Schneider’s book Writing Alone and With Others. By 2007 I was leading Amherst Writers and Artists style workshops, using the method describe in her book. And that kind of saved me. But I was still driven to write for publication and that meant finishing big projects, and putting pressure on myself. So I came up with a workshop style that was a twist on the AWA method, and also borrowed from something I’d had experience with called Artists Anonymous, which was a 12 step knockoff. This workshop I created kept a humane foundation but it focused not on creating work in the present but focused on finishing writing projects and for that matter finishing all kinds of projects. I called it Finishing School. And it got results. Support the show
6 minutes | Apr 22, 2021
It's been a heck of a week!
Hi everybody this is Cary Tennis, it’s Thursday, April 22, 2021 and I’m exhausted. I gotta tell ya. What a week. What a few weeks. Living in Italy but I’m watching CNN and the news constantly and I gotta tell ya, I’m full of hope for the possibilities of police reform in the United States and I’m also just emotionally exhausted. And I have to tell you it’s not just the political situation in the US, it’s also some sad news I received on Sunday when I was incidentally celebrating 32 years of continuous sobriety, abstinence from alcohol and drugs which were pretty much killing me when I quit. Yeah, and after surviving 5 weeks in the hospital here in Italy, and I’m feeling great, and I get the news on Sunday morning from my friend Nick Tedford, he texts me and says, “In case you haven’t heard, Alfeo died last night.” Alfeo Tanganelli was a huge presence in our lives here and also in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino. He was also an incredibly handsome, dashing man. He and Miranda Raffaelli, whom he married and raised three kids with, they’re like movie-star beautiful, generous and kind, and a big part of life here in Castiglion Fiorentino. And they were so helpful, Alfeo and Miranda, when I was in the hospital for five weeks, from November to December 15, they took care of my wife Norma all the time. They were so giving and caring. And then I came home and I survived and then Alfeo got sick and died just like that. And it’s tragic and so we’re all very sad. So I thought this week I would offer my friends out there just some amusing things, if I could find some amusing things on the Net. I did hear some useful comments from people on Facebook about last week’s post about leaving San Francisco. It’s an excerpt from the book (I’m writing) called The Stones of le Santucce, which is all about Le Santucce, the (former medieval) convent that was bombed in World War II by American flyers and was rebuilt by Alfeo Tanganelli. It’s just another of the things that he did that made him such a remarkable and beloved figure here in town. OK, so that’s it for now. Let me see, maybe … I think I’ll suggest that you just look at the newsletter, which will contain all these, you know, humorous links … and if you’re not getting the newsletter, you can go to the site www.carytennis.com and you’ll probably get a little popup window and it’ll ask you to subscribe and then you’ll the newsletter and hopefully it’ll be amusing and full of what we like to call “news”. So ciao for now. I’m sticking to the Thursday schedule but every now and then it’ll be like this. OK? So, glad you’re out there. Good to be in touch. Ciao.Support the show
38 minutes | Mar 29, 2021
Voting Rights, Democracy, Hope, Optimism, and the "Arc of the Moral Universe"
Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia said this Friday about the fight for voting rights: "Hope is a little different from optimism. Hope is the recognition that, yeah, we are in a serious fight for what is good, what is true, what is righteous, and evil is well financed and determined. I understand that. But you know, as bad as this bill is, and it's terrible, it would be worse if it were not for the fact that people stood up, and made noise about it. So I don't want people to underestimate the power of their own voice." And this: "A change that we don't think is possible, when it happens it almost feels like all of a sudden, but it wasn't all of a sudden at all. Dr. King used to say that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. It's our job to keep bending the arc." And this: "I believe in democracy. I believe that democracy is, as I said a couple of weeks ago, the political enactment of a spiritual idea, this noble and amazing idea that all of us have within us a spark of the divine, the imago Dei, some sense of the image of God, and that therefore we ought to have a voice in the direction of the country and our destiny within it." And here are a few things I said: "While misfortune is random, so is the occasional gift; so is the occasional turnaround. And we're not in control of either one." I also say this: "Hope and optimism fuel action. Despair fuels depression and giving up. ... It's incumbent upon us to feel hope, because hope springs from the observed world. It is a component of the world." And then, around the 29:20 minute mark, I start playing the blues on my Takamine parlor-style guitar and I don't stop for nine minutes. So if you get bored of me talking you can skip right to the blues or, if like my friend Larry Rubin, you don't care one iota about the blues, you can skip the musical interlude entirely the minute I stop talking. Ciao!Support the show
25 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
My Mother the Narcissist
Dear Cary, I hate my family of origin. I recently discovered that I grew up in a mostly narcissistic family, with a narc mother who subtly but persistently projected her own guilt and shame and anger about her situation onto us, her six children. ...As children, we knew we were poor, were ashamed about it, and felt something was terribly messed up about this situation. As a result, we - especially the youngest three kids (ages 8, 14 and 16 at that time) felt such a degree of responsibility to help that whatever money we made at our little jobs would go straight to our mother, from our hearts, without a single second thought. The financial help continues to this day.Fast forward 20 years later and our mother has become a massive pain in our side. She never moved on from our father and all the other “betrayals” of her past, and now subtly accuses us of abandoning her. Trying to Avoid Being Bitter in CaliforniaDear Trying to Avoid Being Bitter, She’s never going to give you what you want. That’s a hard thing to take. But that’s the way it is. She’s never going to give you what you want and she’s never going to change. Accepting that fact is hard. What you need, my friend, is distance. Not physical distance but psychological distance, emotional distance, the ability to not respond emotionally, which means not asking for the thing that you’re never going to get. I t doesn’t mean not having any emotions. It just means not responding with those emotions, not making demands on those emotions, not looking to her as someone who can make things better because she’s not going to make things better, she’s only going to make things worse. And if you put yourself in her hands as you have many times over your life because she’s your mother, you’re just going to get hurt again. ... Support the show
40 minutes | Mar 25, 2021
The Psychedelic Madness of Covid-19: A Personal Journey
David Talbot, founder and former editor in chief of Salon.com, has a new site called TheDavidTalbotShow.com, and he asked me to write for him a piece about my stay in the hospital in Arezzo and my crazy adventures recovering from Covid-19. You can read that piece on his site, where you can find the full, unexpurgated tale of my incredibly strange delusions and hallucinations, the result of the drugs I was taking, the isolation, etc. This podcast started out to be about that, and is a sort of homage to David, who I unabashedly name as my hero, but it ended up being not so much about David as about my own journey as a writer, how I ended up at Salon doing the best work of my life, and how David and I ended up being friends and brothers in spirit. So enjoy!Support the show
4 minutes | Mar 18, 2021
The Massage Parlor Murders: What can you do?
This is not an advice column. This is commentary. Robert Aaron Long, 21 years old, of Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested Tuesday in the murders of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent working in massage parlors. Initial media reports indicated that he claimed he did it because he was a sex addict. Sex addiction is not a trivial matter. But right now his claim feels like a distraction. So in keeping with my practice in the Since You Asked advice column, I would like to offer one piece of concrete action to take in response to an event like this. I direct your attention to an opinion piece by Jennifer Ho on KAKE.com, the ABC affiliate in Wichita, Kansas, titled "To Be an Asian Woman in America." Ms. Ho asks the question, "What can we do? What can you do? Do not look away. These are not one-off stories. There is a whole history of sexualized violence against Asian women in America. Learn about the history of Asian Americans. Take a Hollaback Bystander training so that all women, including Asian women, don't have to feel so afraid and vulnerable." That sounds like good advice to me. --Cary T.Support the show
18 minutes | Mar 12, 2021
In Love with a Memory
Dear Cary, I’ve loved the same boy since I was a teenager, knowing that for lots of reasons we would never end up together. Our love has endured and we’ve had decades of meaningful time together for its own sake, without the pressure of everyday partnership. The pandemic has brought us far closer to one another, but, in doing so, has led me to a painful realization: I never let go of my teenage hopes for him.Support the show
32 minutes | Mar 4, 2021
Learning from Delirium: The Madness of Covid-19 PTSD
Hi Folks! Wow, was I insane! This week's podcast dives deep into the fantastical delirium I experienced in the intensive care unit of San Donato hospital in Arezzo, Italy. I'll be publishing a longer prose version soon and will let you know when that is available. But for now, take a listen to this. It's pretty wild! I mean, I was living in a completely unreal world, and as I gradually pulled out of it, I felt a new and urgent compassion for people with schizophrenia and psychosis. Now I know what it feels like to be out of touch with reality and not know you are out of touch with reality.Support the show
3 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
And finally, because you've waited so long ... a little song for you.
I wrote this song a few weeks ago and sang it to my wife on Valentines Day. Support the show
3 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
What is service? Being a senator should be less attractive and more humbling
I was still thinking about the reasons senators would find it impossible to act on their conscience when it comes to decisions that might threaten their chances of reelection, and I just thought, well, the job should have less perks, be less of an ego trip, more of a sacrifice, like the armed services. The operative word being service.Support the show
6 minutes | Feb 25, 2021
Right Now, this is what's going on: Maybe I will continue the Advice column! I just need people to send me letters!
It's been a crazy couple of weeks but it just occurred to me that all I need to do to get more questions for the column is invite people on social media to send me questions! And also, I almost forgot, also starting up an online Finishing School session!Support the show
12 minutes | Feb 24, 2021
Don't get Covid-19 no matter what you do, Castiglion Fiorentino is now the *Oakland* of Florence, I spent the morning pruning the roses and other oddball notions, confessions, etc.
This podcast is an exhortation to keep your guard up during the next few weeks as conditions improve and the temptation will arise to relax on the coronavirus protocols, and also just a kind of rambling commentary on Italy, on myself, and on the future of the column, that is, an advice column without letters is not an advice column, it's just commentary. And though today is gorgeous and I'm happy as a kitten in the sun, it's been a kind of sucky two weeks. As explained in the podcast, I was kind of blocked creatively and very cranky and so walked up to Antica Caffè la Posta hoping to have a cornetto and a caffè doppio and sit and look out through the arch at the Val di Chio but of course the chairs were on the tables and I couldn't hang out inside because we are a zona arancione ... and etc. All I can say is: Every episode can't be pure genius! But I'm trying to keep to a schedule!Support the show
28 minutes | Feb 11, 2021
Finding the Faith to Act on Conscience
I am watching the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump and so my podcast asks, "How do you reach a point where your conscience is overwhelming and you must make the leap? How do you get to that point? How do you get to that point? How could these senators get to that point, where the conscience ... blooms, where all the fear subsides, and the conscience floods the spirit, floods the mind, floods the brain, and gives one the courage to just do the right thing. Just do the right thing!"Support the show
12 minutes | Feb 4, 2021
I cry for my country
In Castiglion Fiorentino, in the beautiful Tuscan hills, I’m looking out across the continent, I’m looking out at the country that I love, that I was born in, the country that my father fought for and my uncles fought for, my grandparents fought for, I’m looking out, and I cry for my country. I cry for the people suffering, I cry for the people who suffered for four years under this fool of a maniac named Donald Trump, I cry for those who’ve died of COVID-19 who didn’t have to die … I cry for that country because I love that country, it’s the country I was born in and raised in. I put my hand over my little 10-year-old heart and said the Pledge of Allegiance all through elementary school and raised the flag and folded the flag and it was a country of majesty and beauty … and now … I look out at America and I listen to Rachel Maddow interviewing Cory Booker talking about the Capitol policeman lying in honor in the Capitol and it tears me up, it tears me up and brings tears to my eyes … there’s tears running down my face, and these are salty American tears, tears for that country that somehow just got off the track. …Support the show
19 minutes | Feb 4, 2021
The Post-Covid Acute Renal Failure Happy Kidneys Diet
On a lighter note, my friends, let’s talk about Foods That Are Good for the Kidneys! Having been out of the hospital for six weeks now, having spent five weeks in the hospital with Covid-19 and another disorder which was life-threatening—I was critical, I was near death for a while—I’m back and it’s just dawning on me now, as I read the medical reports, that I had acute renal failure, and so I have to change my frame of reference now, to integrate the fact that I am now a post-renal-failure person. So I have been looking at diets for the kidneys, what foods I should avoid and what foods I should eat. One thing that’s driving me nuts: I thought bananas were like the greatest thing, but I’m told by the Healthline web site to avoid bananas because they are high in potassium. Apparently it’s tough on the kidneys. … Healthline has two pages, “The 20 Best Foods for People with Kidney Disease” and the aforementioned “17 Foods to Avoid If You Have Bad Kidneys." I don’t totally fit the category (lucky me!), because I don’t have chronic kidney disease and I don’t have end-stage renal failure. What I do have is damaged, freaked-out kidneys coming out of the hospital. I think once my kidneys get their bearings, they will come back good as new! That’s what I think! But I want to follow the best possible diet for my kidneys, to give them the best possible chance of recovering as quickly as they can. Of the twenty best foods … the first one up is cauliflower! …Support the show
26 minutes | Jan 14, 2021
Are you at the end of your rope?
Do you feel like life will never return to normal? Does the future seem like a dim, unending nightmare of isolation? Do you fear that the habits we have acquired will forever dampen the bright spontaneous spirit of social life? Does despair feel like the only realistic response to world conditions? Today's podcast is a 25-minute one-take piece in which I range fairly widely, and in a very personal way, on how to maintain sanity through the pandemic. I decided to record it all of a piece, not stopping to use audio editing tools to cut or tighten, but just letting it roll, 25 minutes of me musing on this and that in a way that, I hope, will reach you in a personal way, as one friend talking to another. If this method seems to work, if it is not too embarrassing, or too diffuse and meandering, I may just adopt it as my permanent method. It would certainly save time! -- Me, out on the tightrope, trying not to look down. --CTSupport the show