To pee or not to pee is not a question. Neither is it an answer. I have been peeing all my life, in public, in ratty road restrooms, in palatial bathrooms, accidentally on floors, in jars and bottles, in showers, on flowers, on scorpions.

My mother called peeing piddling. As in, “Gene, have to piddle?” The family was dirt poor when I was little, so we took cheap vacations, traveling to Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Nebraska, to the homes of Mother’s many brothers and sisters. The piddle question always came up on two lane back roads. Dad would pull the car over to the shoulder, Mother would open the passenger side front and back doors, and my sister and I were expected to pee in the area between the doors. I’ve never talked to my sister about this, but I developed quite the shy bladder, trying to pee with cars and trucks driving by.

I was on a Khoury League ball team when I was twelve. Our pitcher, Joey, had the worst case of nerves you ever saw. He had to pee after every inning. His mom would escort him to the family station wagon and in would climb Joey and thirty seconds later, out would climb Joey, and I never asked him what he peed into. I wonder what the sixty-six-year-old Joey does.

My most memorable pee happened in New York City, at the Broadway opening of playwright Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. Before the show, I walked into a men’s restroom and stepped up to a stall. I heard footsteps behind me, and who should step up and pee to my left but the great Jerry Stiller, all five feet of him. So I was peeing and trying to think of witty repartee, thinking I wanted to yell, “Festivus!” and careful not to look over the panel. Mr. Stiller couldn’t have looked over the panel, as it was way over his head. He finished first (me and my shy bladder) and walked out, not a word exchanged. Jerry Stiller doesn’t wash his hands after peeing, which puts him in the 62nd percentile of men.

The funniest pee I ever saw was on July 4, 1967. I and some friends were at the St. Louis Arch, for the fireworks. At least a million people were there. The men’s restrooms were tents lined with metal troughs. There would be twenty or so lines of men slowly making their way to the front. The smell was pungent and eye-tearing.

I was nearing the front of my line when I saw a small Black kid, maybe ten-years-old, unaccompanied, in the line to my left. The kid looked worried, as the trough was at his chin level; you could see him thinking. So he arrived at the trough, and to his right was a ginormous white man, decked out in a white, short sleeved dress shirt that draped over his corpulence. The fat man peed, the kid fumbled with his pants zipper and a fountain of pee rose in front of him, curving to the right and onto the shirt of the fat man, held prisoner by virtue of the fact that he was in mid-pee. The fountain slowed then lowered, and the Black kid zipped up and walked off, not a drop of his pee reaching the trough.

Women go to the restroom in groups, but who knows what goes on there. The New Yorker magazine published an article about Ronald Reagan and his annual gathering of conservative pols, at his ranch in California. Reagan and Henry Kissinger and their pals apparently lined up together and peed and talked and shook their members and zipped up and decided world order.

One of my all-time favorite high school student playwrights, Laura, wrote a fabulous comedy set in a women’s restroom at a quinceanera. The cast of aunties and moms and grandmas come in and out of the restroom, peeing, powdering their noses, reporting on scandals at the reception, the sexual history of the bride, the inadequacies of the groom, the alleged sluttiness of the bridesmaids, accompanied by sounds of the flushing of toilets. Hilarious.

The most famous pee scene in the movies (mainstream movies; they pee in a lot in porn movies—so I’ve been told) was Kate Winslet’s stand-up pee in Holy Smoke, with the great Harvey Keitel. Kate’s character hates Keitel’s character’s guts, and she walks toward him, lifts her skirt and pees, rivulets running down her bare legs. It was strangely moving—the pee, I mean, and a fascinating lesson on female anatomy. I’ve seen the film, studied the film, ten times.

I have a friend who shall remain unnamed. She had a summer house, and friends filled the place all summer long. Sometimes the people combos didn’t work so well. My friend had an opinionated daughter who was dismissive of an elderly gentleman friend, a foul-mouthed, crusty neo-conservative type. The two would clash and the verbal claws would come out. One night, the daughter told the gentleman to go fuck himself. The feisty daughter went to bed, and the even feistier elderly gentleman, who had imbibed about six scotches, walked outside to the daughter’s car, unzipped and peed all over the her car.

The town of Staunton used to have a Christmas display in the square, a crèche with presentational figures of Joseph and Mary and Jesus and the wise men, fashioned from wrought iron and decorated in folds of twinkling Christmas lights. The wise men were standing, so iron stanchions were required to hold them up, said stanchions coming out of the wise men’s mid-sections, and the rolling lights giving the appearance that the wise men were peeing. Thus, the “Pissing Wise Men” were born.

I know of no pooping rituals. I bet they’re out there.


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Take Me Out (to the Ballgame)

TV Narrator: Fans, Majority League Baseball™ has announced more rule changes, intending to liven up slow games even more. Starting in 2024, a new position will be added: Designated Sniper. He or she will be chosen for their skills in shooting teenage door knockers, people of certain, uh, hue, road rage drivers, and antifa.

The designated sniper will “fire a hard one” randomly from the centerfield bleachers, the stadium rooftop, the men’s restroom, the pretzel stand. Talk about heat! The bullet will travel 3,000 feet per second! Beat that, Aroldus Chapman, Mr. 105 MPH!

During play, the designated sniper’s AK-47 will be able to stop a base stealer or a pitcher or a batboy or batgirl or a fielder lunging for the ball by firing. Talk about your kill the umpire! If the designated sniper misses, they cannot call seconds.

The first trial game occurred on May 27th, 2023, at Wayne LaPierre North-Dakota Stadium in Elephant’s Breath, Wyoming, with two minor league teams the Montegues and the Capulets facing off. The following is a highlight reel. Sportscaster Don Dickson makes the call:

Don Dickson: Bidet, the runner on third has a big lead. . . Here’s the pitch. Oh, the runner’s stealing home. He slides . . . no, wait. He has been shot by Trigger Rogers, Miss Wyoming and today’s designated sniper, ladies and gentlemen! OMG, the catcher has been shot by the same bullet! The umpire calls the runner and the catcher out. They’re out out, alright. The crowd is going crazy!

TV Narrator: It gets crazier. Fans, Majority League Baseball™ hasn’t forgotten you. Upon arrival at the ticket gate, the first people to watch a game with the designated sniper rule receive chits with numbers, one of those numbers making a lucky dad or mom or kiddie a second target. The wounded or killee’s ™ family will receive team pennants, autographed baseballs, all the hot dogs they could eat, Charlton Heston’s memoir, “My Cold, Dead Hands,” and unlimited Bud Lite beer!

Now, enjoy this second clip from the game on May 30th. Take it away, Don.

Don Dickson: Two men on, two outs, infield in, and here’s the pitch. Line drive over the shortstop’s head. The designated sniper fires at right fielder Stevie “Wonder” Miller. It’s a head shot, the ball rolls to the wall, the head rolls left! Wonder’s teammates are removing his gold chain and smart watch! Three runs score!

Wait, did I hear an explosion?. . . we’re looking for some lucky shootee™.

(Crowd cheers.)

Found her! Along the third baseline, a little girl carrying a box of popcorn has been shot through the kneecap! Her father catches the box of bloody popcorn! What a catch—sign him up!

And now ushers and paramedics are rushing to the family. . . the little girl is screaming, the parents are jumping up and down with joy, the vendors are offering hot dogs and Bud Lite! Speaking of which: Say, fans, don’t forget to stock up on Lindsey’s foot-long Bro-brats! At fine stores everywhere.

Oh, what a moment. . . The paramedics, twins Matt and Billy Joe Gates are lifting the girl onto a stretcher. Matt Gates is giving the little girl mouth to mouth resuscitation and rubbing her chest. Wait for it: Yes! She’s waving to the crowd! The sniper is fending off adoring women who are climbing their idol! Holy Cow! Our reporter, Mia Foula Fannie, is with the girl’s mother. Mia?

Mia Foula Fannie: Thanks, Don Dickson. Congratulations, mom, you must be very proud.

Mother: We love you, and Don the “Dick,” Mia! Thank you and thank Majority League Baseball™ for this wonderful idea. It takes the fear out of getting shot.

Mia (to the father): Sounds like you might get lucky tonight.

Father: I hope so. Wanna join us, Mia?

Mia: I’ll check my calendar. Thoughts and prayers to your daughter, our first shootee™. . . Don Dickson, introduce our designated sniper.

Don: Mia, today’s designated sniper is gun owner Kanye “Puffy” West-wing. Take a bow, Puffy!

(Crowd cheers.)

We’re just gotten word that right fielder Mitch O’Conway will never be able to play again. He couldn’t keep his head in the game. Never means never, Mia Foula Fannie.

Mia: And no means no, Don the Dick. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mitch O’Conway and his wife Marjorie Tylor Moore. Back to the booth.

Don: Thanks, Mia. Say, girl, wow oh wow oh wow™, I don’t see any panties under that tight skirt.

Mia (laughing): Don the “Dick,” you pig. What would your wife Melodia say?

Don: Just kidding, kiddo. Great job. Melodia sends her love.

Mia: Love you, Donster!

(We hear rat-a-tat noises.)

Don: Wait a minute, folks. This “Wait a Minute” moment is brought to you by the Gospel of Mark. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes.’ Mark 9:23.

Back to the action. Puffy West-wing the designated sniper is. . . oh my God, he’s firing his assault rifle indiscriminately, mowing down people around him. Speaking of mowed down, get on down to downtown Elephant’s Breath to Penny Pence’s Hardware for all your mowing needs. Take a test run on the new Mother Electric 5000!

Oh my God, he just shot Mia Foula Fanny! That is illegal—wait. Oh my God, the second base umpire has ruled it’s legal! Oh my God, I can confirm that Fannie has no panties! I’m being told by my producer that Puffy West-wing will be escorted out of the stadium and given a parade sponsored by Majority League Baseball™! Wow oh wow oh wow™. Fans are falling like dominoes. Speaking of dominoes, order your Dominoes’ Pizza on your way home. Try their new magic shroom and sausage pizza today!

Wow oh wow oh wow™, America! You can’t beat Majority League Baseball™! Don’t forget to press ‘like’ Don the “Dick” on Facebook. See you tomorrow, folks!

TV Narrator: As the great Yankee Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” Yogi was right. Rest assured, Majority League Baseball™ is right! God bless you, and God bless America. Let our own Don Dickson have the last word, actually, the last five words: “Wow oh wow oh wow!™ (listening to earpiece) Oh, I’ve just been informed Don Dixon was shot to. . .

(Fade. The credits roll: In memorium, Mia Foula Fannie. She sacrificed her life for baseball. In lieu of flowers, send checks to the Mia Foula You-a Foula Fund for Tots.)


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I Am Somebody

I Am Somebody

I was stretching in the parking lot at Clifton Park, feeling elated having walked two miles at my normal old man gait, and climbed two bluff roads up and down, and encountered five chickens walking in a row, as if in a parade, Two middle-aged ladies were holding their ski pole-style walking sticks, and when they saw me, they waved.

“Gene!” one of them exclaimed.

There was no denying it: I am Gene.

“Baldwin!” I am Gene Baldwin—I can’t recant.

Once, when I was giving a talk on Indian artifacts to a third-grade class in Chicago, an adorable little girl raised her hand and said, “Can I have an arrowhead, Mr. Bald One?” She was a logician, you see.

“Jones! Jones Baldwin!”

Oh-oh, I thought, old girlfriend from high school whose fanny I slapped, bill collector, feminist who equates me with Harvey Weinstein, online date chat that involved naked pics.

“You write for the Telegraph!”

I WROTE for the Telegraph. Then they decided I wasn’t talented enough, world class writers that they are. They said they no longer used freelancers or some such excuse, but I knew the real reason.

I was not good enough for America’s paper.

(Many call the paper the “Alton Tell-a-lie,” but I won’t. Sure, in 1984, they wrote a cover story about my New York play. The headline read: “W. Eugene Baldwin, A Poet Comes Home.” They misspelled my fucking name, and my father loved it.)

“I love your articles!”

I asked, “Who are you?”

One of the women said, “We’re nobodies.”

As artists go, I think I am as much a regular guy as anybody. I have known some jerk artists in my day, particularly in the theater. I have stood next to egos taller than the Empire State Building. Rhymes with “dammit.” Never mind. The shorter the actor/writer, the taller the ego.

“They won’t use you because you’re a Democrat,” the second woman said. I didn’t correct her on that one.

Then who should drive up, but Stevie, the elderly woman who for years ran Stevie’s Fish Stand out of an airstream trailer next to her house. One of my last articles for the more talented than me “Alton Telegraph” was about the Mississippi River flood which engulfed Stevie’s house, and the kid volunteers who showed up to sandbag. Readers loved that article.

Stevie knew the ladies, so the four of us chatted, and somewhere in the chat was, “Gene is the best writer.” I’d like to tell you that the ladies cussed out the Telegraph and vowed to cancel their subscriptions, but they didn’t. They are polite Midwesterners, after all. It ended there.

But I drove home, knowing I was somebody, and gosh darn it, I was good enough.

Just not for the Alton T——-H. Rhymes with “grapes-of-wrath.”


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“Beatin’ the heat?” the old gentleman asked, his tiny wife walking behind him, us crossing paths on the Great River Road. (It was 85 degrees and 80 percent humidity at 8:30 am.)

How to answer that question? I am so antisocial that my nephews, when they were little, called me Aunty Social. I am terrible at small talk, which often leads to me blurting out inappropriate responses, funny to me but not the receiver. Plus, I’m from the planet Zenon, the weirdo and secretive planet of artists of all stripes, and if we were social, we wouldn’t be artists. With apologies to Marlon Brando: I coulda been somebody, a corporate something. Instead of a writer, which is what I am.

“Beatin’ the heat?”

“No,” I said, “I’m taking a shower.”

Joke, see: humidity, sweat, shower. Get it?

The wife not only didn’t get it, she also nearly jumped out of her shoes with fear. A stranger, obviously mentally ill, was “taking a shower” and might any minute strip off his clothes.

I walked on, and soon came a young couple, the girl scantily clad, the boy shirtless and weightlifting muscular, and they held hands and looked straight ahead intent on ignoring the old man, and I said, “Hey.”

You say “hey” to young folks because “good morning” is, well, gauche, not hip. I have gout and a bad hip—not the same. And they responded: nothing. They walked by me without even looking at me.

“No,” I, mondo weirdo, turned and shouted, “I’m taking a shower.” Wrong beat. See?

(Don’t worry, I just thought that; I’m not dumb enough to insult a young weightlifter who is dumb enough to ignore the wisdom of elders.)

Re: the man and his wife, I could have responded thusly: “No, I’m focused on the sheer number of plastic effluvia and broken beer bottles and discarded pizza boxes and Coke cans along the path. You can’t walk fifty feet along here without seeing trash. Did you know we all now carry plastic in our bloodstreams? Did you know that babies are now born already with plastic in the blood?”

Okay, I’ll play Midwesterner just for fun: “Beatin’ the heat?” “Oh yeah, and how about those Cardinals?” “Beatin’ the heat?” “Yeah, I’m all lubed up with WD-40.” “Beatin’ the heat?” “Dang, what happened to Spring?”

“Beatin’ the heat?” Samuel Beckett: “They (mothers) stand astride a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.”

Oops, wrong beat.

As for the young, plastic and Roundup-filled, I forgive you for your stoniness. I and my parents’ generation gifted you with gifts instead of knowledge. And I remember my hippie days when I worshipped the Beat poets and I thought Lawrence Ferlinghetti was profound, and 60 was old, and girls were flowers for picking.

James Baldwin and Malcom X (sorry, Muscle and Scanty, not on Tik Tok) saved me. May you be equally inspired.

“Beatin’ the heat?”




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Going to the Theater

Going to the Theater

In the classic 1942 Ernst Lubitsch comedy “To Be or Not to Be,” the great comedian and radio star Jack Benny and the splendid actress Carole Lombard (she would die in a plane crash days before the film’s opening) play actors in a Polish theater troupe, who, with their fellow actors, outwit the Nazis. It’s a wonderful fantasy. Quentin Tarantino honored it with his film “Inglourious (his spelling) Bastards.

I watched Lubitsch’s film on TV several times as a kid, mostly because I was obsessed with all things theater long before I became an actor/playwright. Old time movies on black and white TV influenced me as much as books. The film was received poorly at first, a ground-breaking-work making satire of evil Nazis, including a one night “Hamlet” in the Polish theater at which Hitler is the honored guest.

I thought of “To Be or Not to Be” as I read about Oksana Syomina, who, with her husband fled to the sanctuary of the Donetsk Academic Regional Drama Theater in Mariupol, Ukraine. Ms. Syomina and her spouse were in a group of hundreds of other refugees who fled their bombed-out homes to shelter in the theater. She was in the basement of the theater complex in her bathrobe when a massive explosion caused by a Russian bomb leveled the building.

Six hundred people were killed in an instant. Ms. Syomina had to step on dead bodies of children and parents in her bare feet just to escape and run to the sea. She told a reporter, “All the people are still under the rubble because the rubble is still there. This is one big, massive grave.”

The city designated the theater as a shelter weeks before. The scenic designer, using set paint, created two giant signs on the front and back sidewalks: “CHILDREN.” He or she was hoping the sign would alert Russian pilots. . . and it did—perversely.

Art is an umbrella under which are writing and painting and music and dance and theater and sculpture, all venues for expression which stimulate thought and kill no one. Beauty and ugliness, joy and sorrow, but emotive. You get to walk out of the art space and meet friends for drinks.

The reality of human endeavor is everywhere: slaughter. Between bouts of slaughter are fucking and singing and drinking and eating and cradling pets and babies and religious fervor and watching sunsets and hiking in wilderness and praising and denouncing God and then. . . More slaughter. With slaughter there is only when, no if.

By March 15, 1,200 people were sheltering in Mariupol’s theater. Women with children were put in the dressing rooms. All the floors, the balconies, the theater seats, and all the rooms were crammed with refugees. Then the bomb hit. A woman told of yelling for her mother, but tens of people were also crying, “Mom!” Six hundred people, not a soldier among them, lay dead.

Many of the survivors walked or ran to the sea. Some took shelter in the nearby philharmonic hall and then it got bombed. Over many days, Russian bulldozers razed the theater, now a mass grave.

Hate Russians? Might as well as hate Germans and Americans, et al as well. We are but one species, many cultures.

Meanwhile, I have an idea. A group of actors lure Vladimir Putin to a theater for a performance of “Macbeth.” Putin thinks it’s a comedy, takes a bite of popcorn and a long swig of Coke—which has been laced with arsenic. He stops laughing.

James Baldwin wrote of culture that Blacks from all nations cannot truly have cultures until Europeans (who designated people of color as savages beginning in the sixteen hundreds) withdraw from every country and territory they looted.

Which will happen on the twelfth of never.

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Pedipalp Love

“Pedipalp Love”
Every year, only in the northwest window of my office, a family of pseudoscorpions set up home. They are the tiniest of spiders, and they have non-poisonous, scorpion-like claws, which they wave about. And yes, reader, I wave back. Their world is the space between the screen and the windowpane, and they catch and devour small insects and mites.
Which is fine by me, as I am neither insect nor mite, just a Roman sitting at his desk and watching the mini gladiators bring down meaty, ant-y carnage, and cheering.

According to entomologist Donald Lewis, “They also spend most of their lives under mulch, leaf litter, stones and tree bark and other places where they will be hard to see. They have also been reported in bird nests and between siding boards of buildings.”
(There is the old robin redbreast joke. The girl robin sees a bulge on the boy robin, and she says, “Is that a pedipalp in your feathers, or are you just glad to see me?” Ba-dum-bum!)
So, my pseudoscorpions probably live inside my house siding, and the window screen is their playground. They run up and down the screen wire, like tiny racers. And yes, I suspend work and watch these delightful creatures, and they are damn cute, though one is not supposed to anthropomorphize critters.
Pseudoscorpions are the fun spiders; they appear to play tag and they are great dancers. They watch the hummingbirds at the feeder just inches away from the screen. Perhaps they dream of hummingbird pie. I dream of Helena Bonham Carter pie—I grok dreams.
On Saturday nights, four or five pseudoscorpions gather in a circle in the middle of the screen and clap their pedipalps in rhythm and sing Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee’s (I sang with them once) oldie, “Cornbread, Peas, and Black Molasses.” I call them the Jackson Five—I know, I’m not politically correct like you libtards out there. My spideys are the Jackson Five. If you don’t like it, go find and name your own pseudoscorpion boy band.
In summation, I am not ashamed to admit, I palpitate precipitously, passionately, phenomenalistically, psychotherapeutically, and photoautotrophically over pedipalps. You can have your pedicures. I heart pedipalps!
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“Photography helps me look at the world in a more creative way. It expresses me in ways I cannot write down for people. My vision is to bring my viewers deep into what I am seeing through my eye and out through my lens. People have a story to tell. Why not capture it.”

Tyre Nichols

How lucky was I to be watching fleets of birds

Flying over the winter fields the skeletal trees

To have walked and been sung to by trilling wrens

And happy pale children and dogs chasing through the park

Having nothing to fear and savoring peace—


—while a young man of color is kidnapped

By police vigilantes murdered in measured steps

Tortured in the process while he called for his mom

The spiritual “Killing Black Youth With Our Song”

When will we ever learn never never never—


—in a world custom made for The Pale a rigged game

And I never knew it until now my White miracle

The luxury of growing old and unchallenged

And welcomed with open Pale Aryan arms

I am free the unfairness is bargain-basement fate—


—Tyre Nichols fairy tale boy of the Dark Wood

Ogres grim relentless waiting to steal away his life

Driving home is the crime the crime of place of horror

And there is no philosopher to explain this

And God is silent his will be done the Black child cursed—


—and when if ever will it end the rigged White deck

And guilt will not change it and emojis will not change it

And prayers will not change it and marches will not change it

And religion will not change it and DNA does not change it

The fact our species born of Africa is denounced is comfortless—


—so we await the next episode of SCORPION squads USA

Stalking children in city streets to hurt spray choke them

And Tyre’s mother and Tyre’s friends and Tyre’s old teachers

Beat their breasts for senselessness for absurdity hopeless

For it will not end it will not end it will not end it will not—


—how gifted am I and rich and White vibrant White free

Not knowing not wanting to know the pain of Blackness of hate

The luxury of growing old and unchallenged and free

O White o Purity o Numbness o Bliss o sweet sweet Ignorance

And having nothing to fear and savoring peace—

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A mountain lion was recently hit by a car near here. Drivers stopped and watched the juvenile cat, which lay in the middle of the road. Eventually, stunned but unhurt, it stood up and bolted for the woods.

As I read the story, I was reminded of a nineties summer hike I took in a Cascade Mountain wilderness east of Seattle. That part of the Cascades was like a rainforest, muggy, tree leaves dripping with moisture, and banana slugs crawling on bark.

I got about five miles into a narrow canyon when I came around a curve in the path, and there in front of me was a man in rags. He just stood on the edge of the path and stared at me. As I walked by him, I said good morning, and he responded with a deranged scream: “You’re late!”

And he charged. For the first and only time in all my hikes, I reached for the sheathed Bowie knife I carried in a side pocket of my backpack. “I don’t know you,” I shouted. “You’re dead if you come nearer.”

I could hardly believe the words coming out of my mouth, but I knew my fight or flight response had kicked in. It was a standoff, the knife between me and the scraggly man. He stopped and stepped back. I told him if he followed me, I would hurt him. He didn’t follow, but I kept looking backward for miles. I was as scared as I had ever been.

But all that looking back got me out of another situation.

I was passing along a melting, snowy ridge, a small waterfall of melt musically muddying the path, drowning out the forest sounds. I glanced behind me. . . A tawny shape was slithering along, just the top of its back showing, stopping every few feet, headed for me. It was a mountain lion, crawling on its belly like a housecat. It saw me facing it, and it stopped then stood, its hindquarters quivering.

I reached in my jeans pocket for my keys, and I held them out and jingled them furiously. The cat’s quiver ceased, and I started singing in my highest octave some aria—I don’t remember which one—and then I jogged toward the cat, keys ringing, aria resounding, surely the first aria ever sung in a wilderness, and the cat leapt and ran off, disappearing into the forest.

Noisemakers, singing: these are in the handbook of what one does if encountering a lion or a bear. Not a grizzly bear, mind; it will eat you. I have never seen a grizzly in the wild. I have seen plenty of black bears, including one which came walking along the Appalachian trail in Virginia, me going in the opposite direction, and the bear just sauntering on by and disappearing.

In midafternoon, I had to walk the same path twelve miles back to the car. I knew the lion would not return. I also knew the crazy man might well be in the spot where I met him. But he wasn’t. I got back to the car and drove west, passing the town where “Northern Exposure” was filmed then driving by Twin Peaks. Yes, that “Twin Peaks.”

The most dangerous animal on earth is Man/Woman. There is no animus in nature, but there is hunger, something to keep in mind. If there are cubs, turn and walk back, as a mother will soon appear, and she will come after you. Mostly, when one meets strangers, we all introduce ourselves and share sightings and stories and food. The wilderness is high church for some, a hiding place for others.

No human generated art or architecture can match the carving hand of God.

“You’re dead if you come nearer.” I learned something about myself on that hike. The experience reminded me of the Richard Connell short story masterpiece, “The Most Dangerous Game,” which I read as a kid, and which informed me about my own dark and moody father.

I lost the Bowie knife because I forgot it was in my backpack at an airport, and Homeland Security took it and grilled me—who was I, where was I going, why did I need a knife—then let me go and sent me notice of a hefty fine.

If I’m ever lucky enough to see a mountain lion again, I imagine myself opening my arms and welcoming it, and holding it and taking my chances. I would be gravely disappointed if I died in bed.




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“Hansel and Gretel”

Hansel and Gretel

I walked through the LaVista Park woods yesterday. It was easy to get distracted, by birds, strange animal sounds coming from the trees, the people walking their dogs. And new this year, the disc golf course, where convivial players, even when the temperature is below freezing, walk the 18 holes and toss Frisbees at cages.

I was comforted on my walk by the fact that I would not get lost. Cigarette butts thrown on the side of the trail led one to Clifton Park and back. There were other markers: bubble wrap, Styrofoam containers, bottlecaps, used tissues, crushed Bud Light cans. Bud is the favored trail marker of beer drinkers. (Does Budweiser bear responsibility? Of course not! Capitalism is unfettered; that’s how money is made, stupid.)

The village park district is always looking for outdoor activities for its residents. This is often to the detriment of the trees, something the world needs more of, but my town disagrees. It views trees as statues surrounded by open space. The park district both plants trees incorrectly—for example oak trees are planted too closely to each other, meaning certain rot for some of the crowded, mature trees—and cuts down other trees (in the name of progress?) with abandon.

There are already “scalped” parks galore including the very ugly and uninspiring Glazebrook Park with its acres of sterile, open land. Sure, you can walk it. Heck, you can walk Godfrey Road, same openness, and pavement. Perhaps the village’s vision is to cut down every tree and pave the entire village.

Once the park attractions are built, there is no monitoring of same. The result is discarded beer cans and cigarette butts, even though the parks do not allow smoking or drinking on the premises. The village believes in individual responsibility, that old Republican trope, and it has no money for park rangers. The trouble is individuals who equate disc golf and other fun, accompanied by beer and cigarettes, don’t give a rat’s behind about rules.

But good news: all of these are superior markers to the stones and breadcrumbs of the classic fairy-tale “Hansel and Gretel,” where a brother and sister are fighting cannibal witches and parents who intend to kill them. Stones may roll away. Breadcrumbs may be eaten by crows. But cigarette butts have just enough heft to be there for centuries of hikers. Because humans are so generous, one imagines altruistic cigarette manufacturers designing filters to not degrade for a thousand years—for the betterment of mankind!

The Great River Road and its paths are similarly marked with trash of all kinds. It’s as though McDonalds et al plotted together to create unrecyclable materials—plastic cups because they’re cheaper, for example—to help walkers not get lost. Plus, drivers pitch in by pitching—their trash. Once again, the principal of personal responsibility is at play.

Humans. Do not tell a human to put unwanted trash in a refuse can or follow environmental regulations—it’s Mel Gibson yelling “Freedom!” don’t you know. “Braveheart,” that’s us, kilted out Libertarian Celts ready to war with… environmental regulations! Never mind prying a gun from one’s hand, try prying a patriotic plastic cup.

Capitalists seem not to have noticed that Earth is a round ball. There will be no expansion. “Growth,” in the business vernacular, is an oxymoron. Humans are filling up every nook and cranny. Mountains have stood as classic obstacles—until recently, as states like West Virginia cut off mountaintops for coal, killing the mountains. Soon enough, we will drain every river, and then we’ll use up at the vast seas until they are salty puddles.

Then, there will be cigarette butts and plastic cups to eat. Imagine a future Thanksgiving: plastic cranberries, a plastic turkey to poke at with plastic sporks, some plastic stuffing, plastic pie, plasma donated by Grandma to drink, and we hold hands around the table dressed in our finest plastic clothing.

Until there are no trees and tons of sickly children, let the national song ring out: God mess America/Land that I trash/Stand beside her/empty cans Budweiser/and foul it ’till my grandson gets a rash!


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Empty room walls painted white. No windows. A door across from me. I lie on the floor. Ewing Baldwin, holding two cans of beer, swigs one, crushes the can and tosses it, watches me. He puts the unopened beer on the floor, charges at me and begins to beat my neck with his fists. Not a word spoken.

He fetches his other beer, opens it, swigs, throws the can to the floor. He charges. He kicks my right ribs and knee and hip, grabs me by the throat. He is going to kill me. I scream, no sound.

Except when I awake, screaming, and in pain.

The day before, while I climbed Clifton Terrace bluff road (no sidewalks), a speeding car came barreling down the snaky curves at fifty miles an hour, headed toward the river, passing within inches of me, and I tripped and fell to my left on my face, smashing my sunglasses into my eyes, the bridge of my nose cut and bleeding, my hand and right knee bleeding, my neck whiplashed. The car sped on, trying to beat the light.

A van of strangers, three young men, stopped, bless them, the side door sliding open. Two boys rolled me over, picked me up and carried me to their van. The driver told me they were headed to New Orleans; I had two choices: go with them (I laughed, which was his goal), or they would drive me home. They drove me home, carried me out of the van and set me upright on the porch and waited for me to go inside. Sorry you’re hurt.

I staggered into the house, blood dripping from my nose cut onto the floor. My knee, having had a replacement the year before, swollen and red. My ribs caused sharp pain each time I inhaled.

I drove myself to the St. Anthony’s ER, spent seven hours, never saw a doctor. At the six-hour mark, a CT scan of my neck (I have a plate in my neck), X-rays of my skull and right knee, no breaks, but I barely could move. Intense pain. Getting old is an art form unto itself, and I am a lousy artist.

In the ER, an elderly man, his bare right foot swollen the size of a cantaloupe, sat next to his granddaughter, waited patiently. A woman sat in a wheelchair, for hours, whistled her pain through her clenched lips. People came up to her and asked if she wanted water. Each time, she shouted, “My fibula and my tibia are broken!” A pregnant woman was wheeled in, head in hands, her frantic husband calling for help.

Sorry, the volunteer at the desk said, Sorry. I don’t know the game of “Sorry,” but the game in the ER was Sorry We Can’t Help Sorry But We Have Too Many Patients, Sorry. My nurse thanking me for not yelling at or insulting her. Leaning over my head and feeling my hip bones, her breasts soft on my face, the first breasts I felt in years, a song tune entering my mind.

The next day, I wrote about the accident, high on oxycodone, unable to work. I turned on CNN (Kevin McCarthy: will he, won’t he), napped, woke, napped, woke, ate some lentil soup, fell on the bed, drifted off to sleep:

Empty room walls painted white. A door across from me. I lie on the floor. Ewing Baldwin, holding two cans of beer, swigs one, watches me. He puts the unopened beer on the floor, charges at me and begins to beat my neck with his fists. Not a word spoken. . .



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