The Matchbook Diaries

Beginning when I was 3 years old I was raped and tortured nightly by my mother. I lived alone with my mother for ten years. By the time I was 13, I’d been raped more than 3,000 times.  The following ten years I lived in rich households dominated by emotionally violent women and alcohol addicted men.   Behind those walls I witnessed suicide and literal insanity.  I knew, from the beginning, that I was fucked -I lived in terror.

The events of my life drove me into a lifelong study of redemption. My diaries offer one perspective on the use of faith as a way to harvest power, dignity, freedom, and peace. I disguise nothing. There are horrors here. Those horrors were emphatic catalysts. My drive was to find and to articulate real redemption.  I’m not selling books, building churches, raising money, or running for office.  I’m revealing what I know about recovery because I’ve spent my entire life doing nothing but art and God.

Not everyone is interested in the things that fascinate and enchant me, but looking at the world as I do, I see a lot of human pain, collective and individual.  Many people would like to stop hurting.  I know a great deal about that process.

God has never disappointed me.  I have lived in the Middle East, in China, in the islands of the Pacific, and now in Africa, and I have spent my entire life studying their philosophies. I am a Jewish Christian, but I claim no monopoly on words for God. It’s monumentally absurd to think that if you call God up on the phone, God won’t answer unless you use the right name or pronoun. Jesus is the lens I use, but I will not use that name in these diaries as it is a stumbling block for millions.

The name I use for God is God, without gender, without attachment to any faith. I’m an artist and I’m an evangelist.  I sell my art, but I give my faith away.  I’ve always run GypsyFaith this way – from the beginning I sold matchbook magnets, but in the end, or right along side of that process,  I wound up talking to customers about faith.

I sell God my own way.  I don’t make anything pretty that isn’t.  I am fanatically and unapologetically devoted to the things that I love – truth and beauty.  I have repeatedly been attacked and rejected for the views I share here as well as for the manner in which I share these views.  Nevertheless, I persist.

Recently someone who wishes I would shut the fuck up labelled me as intractable.  Yes.  If I can stand between any victim and the oppression that radiates from every direction and arm that person with their own power and truth, so help me God I will do so.  My intention is to distribute freedom, power, and peace and to overthrow tyranny.

Redemption does not look a certain way externally. Redemption is not service or lifestyle; it’s not about who you love, how you vote, or what you eat and drink, and it’s not about going backwards in history. Redemption is the power of the truth, the power of tolerant love.  The hallmark of one who really knows God is humanity.  You’ll know instantly, upon opening this diary, if it is of any use to you. May God bless your life; may you know and believe that you are a child of God, beloved beyond price, and of infinite value.

Several decades ago, in a dream, I summoned the devil.  The devil answered my summons with slavish obedience, appearing at light speed.  I was stunned.  I sent the spirit away.  But then, in that same dream, a moment later, I summoned the devil again, and a second time the same CONTINUE >

William Blake in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell writes about this idea exactly.  His words have long sat in my heart until I was able to understand them. (If you like, see the entire text below.)

When I am in agony and dialoguing with God I remind myself, “I know CONTINUE >

There are two kinds of wars, ones where you are trespassed upon by a foreign nation, and ones where the trespass is internal.  When you are little, you’re likely to sustain a foreign war.  After that, most spiritual war is civil.  The peace of God is something people often exchange CONTINUE >

The war is always, always between my ego and my heart.  My heart is the bravest thing there is in this world.  It’s bigger than any nuclear bomb, bigger than any billion man army of hate.  My ego is the shit clinging to me.  I try to wipe off the CONTINUE >

I have lived as a stranger in a strange land for much of my life.  My son has done so for all of his life.  Expatriatism certainly lends a unique perspective; there are the moments of glamour, when you wind up getting shit faced with friends whilst eating oysters on CONTINUE >

Wanting and loving are not the same.  Wanting is what a child feels when he sees a toy at the store, his lust for it is almost painful.  He needs it, must have it.  He wails.  He lurches from the little basket where he is pinned.  When he cannot have CONTINUE >

In movies people chase one-of-a-kind substances required to save a galaxy.  But in holy stories the substance or approach used by a true prophet lacks theatricality.  You get to the part where the holy person is making the big, splashy move and oh, – the person asks for a handful CONTINUE >

Quality of life is determined hour by hour, moment by moment. We enter this realm with three tools: freedom (will), time (life), and heart (passion).  How do you make decisions?  Do you make them based on profit (social, fiscal, professional)?  Do you make them based on comfort (pleasure, freedom-from)?  Do CONTINUE >

I have been to remote monasteries in Nepal, to centuries-old churches in the snowy forests of Romania.  I’ve been to jungle shrines on a tiny island in Thailand. I’ve been to dozens of temples in a small city in India, as well as to many holy places in China, Vietnam, CONTINUE >

People are differing cocktails of fire and ice.  You meet both ends of that spectrum.  My best friends tend to be in the ice category.  They would tell you without hesitation I’m all fire.  At the core of every version of faith you find the same balance, fire and ice. CONTINUE >

You know when love begins.  You feel a surge in your heart, maybe you clutch your chest or your throat, or maybe you smile to yourself in a knowing manner, secretly, suddenly, aware.  Then it can feel like you are tumbling, skidding, but the fall is unavoidable.  You are “in” CONTINUE >

In every holy text I’ve studied there is a universal theme – if you are faced with an impossible situation, the constructive and most accurate path is to proceed at your own expense.  Those crossroads routinely come in small ways.  However, there are times when I know I’m on a CONTINUE >

When there is a very big problem, one that effects the lives of millions, there is a way to address it meaningfully and forcefully through prayer.  When there is a pernicious, persistent, slippery personal issue, the same is true.  Prayer is often referenced, but it is referenced as a last CONTINUE >

God laments that it is nearly impossible for a rich person to enter heaven.  I, a rich person by any measure, live in a city of 7 million of desperately poor people.

To say life is hard for those 7,000,000 people is to understate the matter.

There is about 86% unemployment here.  CONTINUE >

I savor contempt the way people savor wine.  I hold it in my mouth, move it around with my tongue, feel it, linger over it, and swallow the poison.  When I was too young to fight back, I did not fight back.  I’ve made up for it ever since.  Whilst CONTINUE >

When there is excessive suffering there is an instinctive desire to get out of the pain.  By excessive I mean substantial trauma over a period of years and years, not the kind of minor or even major irritations that are part of daily life.  It’s particularly hard to navigate long-term CONTINUE >

The application of a label escalates and facilitates positive or negative connotations to almost everything.  A common strategy for those seeking attention is to boldly connect with a label and then to slide publicly to extreme end of that label.  A label is not alive.  A label nearly always implies CONTINUE >

Children and animals are charming because they are themselves.  Animals remain unselfconscious for their lifetime, so, whilst they loose the cuteness that they have in their infancy, they retain their enchanting authenticity forever.  Years and years ago I was in some swanky downtown area of Palm Beach with my Uncle CONTINUE >

Faith is the opposite of magic.  Magic is a violation of the limitations we believe exist – I am not interested in determining the value/truth of illusion for the sake of profit or entertainment.  Wishful thinking can often lead to a desire for magical outcomes, a way to avoid the CONTINUE >

In the face of intolerable injustice, my instinct is war.  Had I not been a warrior I’d be either a crack whore or dead.  The problem with being a warrior is that most situations call for finesse that I have the maturity to glean, but not the will to exercise.  CONTINUE >

Beginning, Ending, and Re-Beginning

Going public about faith, I feel how it must feel for someone else who comes “out of the closet” about something they are.  I think this is how it must be to admit something you know will be judged, misinterpreted, flung back, or rejected.  Most public pronouncements of faith are CONTINUE >


You can see the sign I’m talking about
there above our cabin sink.

In a shipping container on our own land I found a handmade sign that reads “I love you more”.  The letters had been crudely cut from plywood and then attached to a spare piece of lumber CONTINUE >

I found her on the beach in Dar, and her little sister too. I love them both.

I was blurry when I was coughed up into adulthood.  I was a muddle, a sort of odd conglomerate of myself and many adopted mannerisms and behaviors that I’d attached to CONTINUE >

Summers in high school my father and I would fly New York from Texas so my father could race his sailboat at the Babylon Yacht Club on Long Island.  He won nearly every single race.  If you win the national championship, you get to have three chevrons on your mainsail.  CONTINUE >

Because of what happened to me, anytime I feel close to someone or something ugly, I am terrorized.  Ugly is intolerable; it’s torture.  As a child I was connected to something ugly.  My mother once reprimanded me severely for asking her a question she disliked.  She picked me up from CONTINUE >

Two years after my mother died, I felt compelled to buy and to watch several seasons of the old TV show NYPD Blue.  I do not watch TV, but the compulsion was strong to do this.  So while I did my design work, I vaguely watched the shows.  I wasn’t CONTINUE >

In adulthood I repeatedly dreamt I was in public without underpants on.   In childhood I was required to spread my legs widely every night, and then they were held down while my mother performed long sessions of oral sex on me.  I was not allowed to move or to speak.  CONTINUE >

Rather than stay here in Nairobi, Kenya, we decided to pass and take their word for it.

I’ve watched The Gambler like 20 times (approximately). It’s about the fuck-you position, the position of being utterly unencumbered and un-mastered.

The philosopher-loan-shark in The Gambler says this, The wise man’s life is CONTINUE >

A few days after my boys leave for Qatar, I uncover why my mother is stuck and broke.  The long term, legal tenants on my mother’s Montauk estate, Joe, who found me, and Mark who helped me continually, tell me about Dusan.  Yes, that’s his real name.  I did not CONTINUE >

When we moved from the richest country in the world, Qatar, to one of the poorest, Tanzania, we cut part of our household income in half.  My husband really wanted to work for one of the top schools in the IB, and IST Africa is at the very top of CONTINUE >


I’m roasting a marshmallow and sporting quite a sunburn.

In the US, particularly in high end retail environments, smiles are hard, eyes are fierce or averted, parking lots are war zones, and people dart around one another with a veneer of politeness that frequently tips into competition or flight.  CONTINUE >

Voluntary Blindness

Me in upstate New York on our family farm. A few hours after this photo was taken I’ll be raped and tortured by my mother, again.

When the damage from the past is incomprehensible, the byproduct is that our own behavior becomes such. We can’t control our self-destructive CONTINUE >

Be Still And Know That I Am God

Holy man in Bhaktapur, Nepal giving me his blessing.

Raped nightly at the age of 3, life was scary so I ran.  I sprinted into imaginary hyperspace.  My soul remained frozen in my mother’s bedroom, trembling in horror, self-talking in quiet triples: “Help, help, help.”  Every night until I CONTINUE >

Liberating Grief

This is a very modest version of a Styrofoam-carrying cyclist in Guangzhou, China where we lived. You often saw people peddling with twice or 3 times this amount.

I have a lot of grieving to do.  The agony hits me night after night. Once in a while, I have CONTINUE >

Initial Contact

These guys were hanging out in a swamp in Sri Lanka when we spent a summer there.

In Southampton, in my mom’s room, is gray haired old woman.  I say, “No, I’m looking for my mother.”  Then I realize it is my mother.  She turns and looks up CONTINUE >

Evangelism on the Fly

I ferreted out a fellow Jewish New Yorker in an airport once when I was leaving Miami for Dar.  I’d been alone, away from my family, to fetch supplies for a summer trek and a NY accent really gets my attention.  So I started to talk with him.  The time CONTINUE >

Hell and Heaven, the power of choice

My mother and I dressed alike.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time thinking about hell. Hell is the place God is not. In Hell, the luxury afforded here, the luxury of avoiding the real, is gone. Hell is eternity faced with oneself without mitigation.

My mother is there now. CONTINUE >

Un-Average Joe  (Cayman Brac, July 2015)

My mother and father on Fire Island prior to their marriage.

We live overseas and have for decades.  My son, who is 13, has never lived in the United States.  Expats are fond of saying that we’re all running from something.

We’d been on a 3 week vacation in the CONTINUE >

Witness and Partner and I, the Trinity of Faith

When I was a terrorized child I told myself, “No one knows. No one knows.” At the time this expression partly reassured me that I was unexposed.  My secret life of shame was not public. I comforted myself by acknowledging this fact.  There was a second, important message in my CONTINUE >