Monday, December 28, 2015

                                                     Shopping at Nordstrom
            While my wife is trying on dresses, I sit in the overstuffed chair sipping coffee which the salesgirl has served. A coffee table separates me from a matching chair where another husband sits. There are copies of Elle, G.Q. and Esquire on the table. The other husband also has coffee. Nordstrom’s sales strategy is to comfort and pamper us husbands, lulling us to inaction as our wives freely shop.  But I am hardly inactive.  Here, among the designer dresses, I am on the prowl, the hunter, the lover, the psychic seducer.
           I sip my coffee.  The wife of the other husband exits the dressing room, approaches her husband tentatively and asks, "What do you think?"  He is clever.  He smiles and asks in turn, "Do you like it, honey?"  "Yes, but what do you think?"  "It's great," he says, but he can hardly disguise his impatience. I know that his real thoughts are, "Hurry up! Buy it and let's get out of here."

            Actually, the dress looks like a loose sack on her.  It hides what I had observed earlier to be a curvaceous body.  I had closely studied her as she displayed a number of dresses still on their hangers to her husband before she disappeared into the dressing room.  

            My imagination had followed her into the dressing room and watched her strip to her underwear to try on the dress.  She wore a pink lacy bra that hooked in front.  There was a spattering of freckles sprinkled across her full breasts which were lovely and which should not be lost and unseen in that sack.  Her legs were exquisitely shaped, from narrow ankles to supple and firm calves and thighs.
            Now she stands before her husband, still undecided about the dress and uncertain about his easy acquiescence to her choice. I stare at her with a bemused look.  When she glances my way and notices my stare, I move my head in a slight, nearly imperceptible negative nod.  She blushes, looks away and darts back into the dressing room.  She returns without the dress.  "I don't think it really fits well," she says, and her husband shrugs, gets up and walks away.  She starts to follow him, but as she passes in front of me, she glances down. And I again nod at her, but this time with an approving slight nod and with a small smile.  
            Our eyes meet. She hesitates, stops, and returns my smile.  She does not look away, permitting me to imagine us connected in an immeasurably brief moment of intimacy, holograms of ourselves embracing in space, in open but secret defiance of our oblivious spouses.  When she averts her eyes, the hologram vanishes.  It is over, we are done, and she is gone.

            My wife soon emerges from the dressing room, three new dresses in hand, unaware of my psychic, silent, secret infidelity. As is our usual habit, we terminate our outing in Nordstrom’s third floor cafe, where we sip cappuccinos and chat. Across the room from us, I see my anonymous lover from the designer dresses section. I catch her eye and smile.  But the magic of our earlier intimacy is not repeated. She turns away as if I were a total stranger.  

           I shrug and return my attention to my wife.  We talk about my daughter's wedding plans, how lucky we are to have a good cleaning lady, and when am I going to get around to cleaning out the garage, an item on the honey-do list for the past year or so.

          When my cappuccino is but a residue of foam at the bottom of the cup, we leave.
My wife is pleased with her new dresses.

          I, too, am content.  It has been a pleasant afternoon shopping at Nordstrom.

© Kerry Gough 2013-2015

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dear Jeff review selected for publication in Kirkus Magazine

A few weeks ago Kirkus Book Reviews reviewed Dear Jeff. Today I was thrilled to receive the following 

email from Kirkus. 

"Your review for “Dear Jeff” was selected by our Indie Editors to be featured in Kirkus Review 8/15 Issue. Congratulations! Your review will appear as one of the 35 reviews in the Indie section of the magazine which is sent out to over 5,000 industry professionals (librarians, publishers, agents, etc.) Less than 10% of our Indie reviews are chosen for this, so it's a great honor." 

Learn more about this book at 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

From time to time I will post a piece short piece of fiction or whimsy.  Here is some whimsical fiction

A Birkenstock Betrayal

A few years ago I betrayed my wife.  I bought a pair of Birkenstocks.  You see, she hates Birkenstocks.  There is an explanation for this irrational reaction to this trendy footwear. She associates it with Berkeley.  That is, the Republic of Berkeley, with its own foreign policy, its aid programs to the dropouts camped out on Telegraph Avenue, street barriers that make it impossible to cross town in a direct route, and its middle and upper middle class gentrified, hippified citizens, pony tailed males ambulating and braless moms publicly lactating, in—you guessed it—their pricey Birkenstocks. 

In a moment of shameless selfishness, insensitive to my wife’s disdain for all things Berkeley, I bought a pair of Birkenstocks.  Never before had I ventured so far from the mainstream of conservative dress.  On days that I was not seeing clients, my typically attire was a pair of freshly pressed khakis, a blue, button down dress shirt, sans tie, and a navy sport coat with my simple gold oak tree lapel pin signifying my former service on the Oakland Civil Service Board.  When I went to court my dress was more formal: a nice suit and carefully coordinated shirt and tie. And of course, the latest in Italian footwear, notwithstanding the punishment it inflicted upon my hammertoes.

Hammertoes, for those of you spared that often painful ailment, are toes characterized by the first joint that ignores the established protocol that toes are to extend straight forward from the end of the foot. Hammertoes, on the other hand, or foot as the case must be, arrogantly, proudly, and indeed, self-righteously, thrust their first joint straight up, defying any stylish shoe to fit comfortably.

In my younger days, as a drug defense lawyer, my LSD manufacturing clients praised my stylish attire.  My hair curled in a flip over the shoulders of my navy blue, double breasted polyester suit with bell bottom trousers. A carefully trimmed, reddish brown beard completed the look of the day, the hip lawyer seeking justice for his hippy drug dealer clients.  In those days, Birkenstocks would have been de rigueur on Mondays through Fridays, the casual days at the office.

Those days are long past.  I gave up criminal defense work and hippie attire to devote myself to more honorable legal pursuits, in the civil arena suing bad drivers and bad bosses in accident and employment cases.

I repeat-- I am in a quandary. Why, at age 70, did I purchase my first pair of Birkenstocks?  Why at this late stage of life did I buy a pair of sandals that are commonly associated with youth and vigor, college students and young singles and married couples, climbing upward in middle class society in their Birkenstocks? 

 Perhaps I have always been a Birkenstock person. I lived in Berkeley (during a former marriage) for 12 years, raised my kids there, and drove a VW wagon.  I back packed, snow camped, cross-country skied, represented a neighborhood group against development of a 7-11 in the Elmwood District of Berkeley, and did all those
Birkenstock kinds of things.  Moreover, I am a liberal Democrat, former president of the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers’ Club, a civil rights attorney, many years a Sierra Club member, occasional contributor to the ACLU and other right minded causes—apparently well qualified to wear Birkenstocks.

Why did I wait until the 17th year of marriage to a Republican (present wife), did I choose to purchase Birkenstocks, for goodness sakes?

Was this a passive -aggressive act of defiance, an expression of my sovereign independence and exercise of my freedom to be shod as I please, notwithstanding my Republican wife’s disdain for Birkenstocks?  I think not.  She and I had enough to discuss given our political diversity. My choice of sandals is an issue that does not rise, unlike my hammertoes, to a level deserving debate.  Oh, I have paid the price. My wife’s sidelong glances of imperious disapproval have not gone unnoticed, nor have I been oblivious to her distancing herself from me when I accompany her shopping at Saks, which, by the way, does not carry Birkenstocks. 
When I buckled on my first pair of Birkenstocks, it was not an act of rebellion, defiance or infidelity. What I did was an act completely consistent with my political beliefs and career of fighting for the underdog.  It is all about freedom. It is civil rights and emancipation of the oppressed.  For years I have hidden my ugly hammertoes, ashamed to display them in public.  On the beach I burrowed them beneath the sand, and at work I shamefully imprisoned them in cruel, unusual and uncomfortable positions in painfully narrow and thin Italian shoes, smothering their cries and anguished yearnings to be free.

Many, many times I had strolled by the Birkenstock store on College Avenue in Oakland glanced in the window, hesitated, fighting temptation to enter, but always sighed, turned and walked away, hammertoes protesting with each step.

I never entered until that fateful day last year.

I am no Abe Lincoln, I am no Rosa Parks, but on that day I became, in my own small way, an emancipator and freedom fighter.  I entered the Birkenstock store. I cast aside my Ballys, I buckled on my first Birkenstocks and proclaimed the freedom of my hammertoes.

Now, shod in Birkenstocks, my ten little friends and I ambulate free and unfettered, free, free at last.

©Kerry Gough


Saturday, August 1, 2015

50th Anniversary of My Summer as a Civil Rights Volunteer in Rural Mississippi in 1965

FIFTY YEARS AGO my wife and I woke up every day in Clarence and Millie Hall's immaculate farm house on the Mississippi River. . Clarence and Millie were active in the Civil Rights Movement and had volunteered to host us for the summer.

We were there as volunteers for the NAACP Inc. Fund, working on a school desegregation project. The Federal Court had ordered the school district encompassing Sharkey and Issaquena Counties to allow Black kids entering grades one through three to enroll in the white elementary school in Rolling Fork.

On registration day, many of the Black kids were turned away for frivolous reasons, such as they did not have written permission allowing them to transfer from  the rundown Black elementary school, Of course there was no such requirement in the court order.

About 30 kids enrolled, and many of them survived the resulting hostility, which included Ku Klux Klan cross-burnings at their homes.

NOW, FIFTY YEARS LATER conditions are better for Black kids in rural Mississippi, They have better schools, well at least somewhat integrated schools.  I say somewhat integrated because most of the white kids are enrolled in private white schools, where Black kids are excluded by discriminatory policies or less overt barriers such as prohibitively expensive tuition.

If you would like to read more about that summer of 1965 and how it contributed to Judy and my decision to adopt 7 year old abandoned black twins, and my later work as a Justice Department attorney assigned to southeast Mississippip, please read Dear Jeff, available at
Also, learn more at

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Book Published and I Am Back to Blogging

        You may have noticed that after I returned from Africa 7 years ago, I stopped posting blogs. I turned my writing efforts to completion of my book, Dear Jeff, which had lain dormant for many years after its commencement. I completed and published DEAR JEFF in February and it is now available at Amazon, or directly from me.
       DEAR JEFF is a series of posthumous letters to my adopted African American son, Jeff, and is a chronicle of our adventure in cross-racial adoption, growing up black and white, volunteering in the civil rights fight in rural Mississippi in 1965, and the story of an integrated family's hope, disappointment, joy and despair, ending in reconciliation. The reviews of Dear Jeff have been encouraging:
      Touching "I just finished you book, which I found a very honest, very touching, very worthy tribute to the complexities of family relationships, especially to your loving and sad and beleaguered relationship with Jeff." Judith Viorst, Author of Necessary Losses, a New York Times bestseller.
      Heart-rending "A personal, heart-rending story of struggle and anguish in the face of unconditional love...While more broadly exploring the bonds and strains of interracial adoptive parenthood,the brave, cathartic writing also offers a window to street-level racial tensions during the civil rights movement." Kirkus Reviews
       A Must Read "The book is honest and direct and causes each of us to ask questions about individuals who are placed in our own destiny--what can we do when the outcome is headed for a very different direction? Gough's tenacity is not only personally reflecting his own journey of insecurity and continuous changes as a child but also perhaps his career as a civil rights attorney defending the rights of the disadvantaged. Dear Jeff is a must read for all of us who wrestle with overcoming obstacles that we really have no role in creating." Arthur Ammann, M.D., Founder of Global Strategies.
      Amazing Read "Thank you for sharing your wonderful and amazing story with me. It was deeply touching, educational and says so much about the human capacity for compassion." Thelton Henderson 
      Elegantly and sensitively written "A fascinating story of the troubled relationship between father and adopted son. Heartbreaking and brutally honest, but elegantly and sensitively written. No sloppy sentimentality to be found anywhere." Charles Farnsworth, author and civil rights attorney.

      Enough about the book. Future blogs will feature short fiction and fantasies, or whatever whets my creative appetite.