Slit

Slit

ferocious lightning across

the Mississippi River

the distant long tree rows look

like fogged-in mountain ridges

the Missouri River rushing

toward the Confluence

I walk in a slit of no rain

rain on either side

the air viscous

my breaths labored heaves

clothes pasted with sweat and salt

mosquitoes lounge in the woods

waiting for the blood drive

their whines like tiny sirens

the slit of gurgling creek flooded

the color of coffee with cream,

three does watch me unafraid

“tock-tock” of chipmunks

sounding danger

cicadas waterlogged

and playing out of tune

a fat young man walking by me:

“I’m hunting the bear,

I got a score to settle.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Bards

Bards

My friend Peggy Bevington has died. As with all my departed friends, I keep the name and address and phone number in a book, and soon the dead will outnumber the living.

Peggy lived in Chicago’s Hyde Park, devoting her life to teaching at the University of Chicago Lab School. She lived in a three-story brownstone on Blackstone Avenue with her husband David, a Shakespeare scholar at the U. of C. Their second floor was their bedroom, the third floor for graduate students who lived with them. (There is the wonderful and funny story of two grads, boyfriend, and girlfriend, who would come down the stairs for dinner carrying their own bottle of wine which they did not share with David and Peggy.)

The first floor was a feasting area. Food, of course, meat and casseroles and deserts, but books and more books piled on shelves, a grand piano (it seemed like half the faculty of the U. of C. could sit at that piano and crank out some show tunes or some Brahms, and their children the same), music stands and scores—David was a member of a string ensemble—a kitchen always pungent from David’s onion soup or Peggy’ roasts and hams and pies. The couple were positively Dickensian.

There was the New Year’s Eve party which began at five pm (Greenwich time, as they like to say) and my favorite, the Welcome Spring party at which friends and family and eminent scholars from the university and artists and authors such as Sara Paretsky (V.I. Warshawski) would sing Beatles songs from hand-printed lyrics books, and a ragtag band led by Richard Pettingill on guitar would accompany. Young and old, people would leaf through their lyrics books and call out favorites.

On a New Year’s Eve five years ago, Peggy took me by the arm to the second floor. On her bed was a cardboard box and next to it another, larger square box. I opened them and gazed on perhaps a hundred Indian artifacts and a lump of flint core as big as a bowling ball. A teacher had given Peggy the artifacts when she was a child in Licking Creek, Ohio. Would I tell her what the objects were?

Halfway through my assessment, Peggy took a box and I another, and we went down into the party, and Peggy called for quiet, and everyone gathered around for what would be my hour-long lecture on the history of Indians. Only at a party with scholars would such a thing happen. After my explanation of each piece, Peggy said, “Gene this is my present to you.” People clapped. I cried. And those artifacts are in my house. One of them is a three-thousand- year-old granite pestle, hardly a rare find, but this pestle had words inked onto its bell from 1864. Which makes it invaluable. Two men walking in Licking Creek during the Civil War found the pestle and noted the find on the bell.

Peggy Bevington was brilliant, and a beloved mother and teacher. She and I became a sort of pipeline, some of her students at the Lab school becoming apprentice artists at Gallery 37, a massive summer arts program for teens in Chicago, some of those students coming to me and becoming playwrights, and some of them winning the Pegasus Theatres Young Playwrights Festival, me as their teacher becoming the winningest teacher in the history of the festival. Always, Peggy would be in the audience and cheer them on.

David Bevington was a rock star at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. He and Peggy invited me along one summer. The couple carried plastic Jewel bags laden with their possessions. They would sit on the ground on an island in the Stratford River, and an audience of groupies gathered and listened as David talked about the current Stratford productions, Peggy, who knew Shakespeare with the best of them correcting her husband when he uttered a wrong date or Bard fact. People would hand David copies of his books to autograph. They took me to their illegal swimming hole in a rock quarry which once a year was filled with plump elderly professors from the U. of C.

I must confess, I felt unworthy in the Bevington’s company, the hick from Alton, Illinois who was not raised to venerate art. They knew my feelings, and they poo-poohed my fears. David would read my play scripts and annotate them, never much editing, which they very much needed. Always, the notes were signed, “Love, David.”

David died last year, and Peggy remained in the brownstone. The obituary didn’t say how she died. They were the most in love couple I ever met, open and friendly and devoted to each other. I think Peggy died to meet up with David, but that’s just me.

The ghosts, the Bevington’s of Blackstone Street, I think, are like the ones in the film “Topper.” Friendly, assuring, watching over the new residents. An archeology dig at the house would reveal treasures of manuscripts and gewgaws.

I was their friend and their proud student. And love was in the air.

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Finch Ascending, to the Abode of God

Finch Ascending, to the Abode of God

I was driving toward my house, signaling to turn into the driveway. The car windows were down. As I waited for an oncoming car to pass, two birds engaged in air combat crashed into my car, one flying off, the other flying through the window, hitting me in the chest, bouncing off the rearview mirror, and landing in my lap.

I made the turn and parked. In my lap was a female house finch. I picked up the tiny bird with her speckled breast, and cradled her in my right hand, and I stroked her with my trembling left index finger, her eyes meeting my eyes, until her eyes slightly rolled and closed, until she saw what the dead see. I cried.

I carried her to a limestone slab in my front yard and lay her on the cool surface dotted with 300,000,000-year-old fossils. On the telephone wire stretched across the yard, a line of finches perched and . . . watched? Was it my imagination, my anthropomorphism gone amuck, or my poet’s brush? Was I the sole the soul mourner?

Even if we and the birds were equals, the outcome is the same, the interpretation a work of science or a muse by Samuel Beckett. Or consider the poet Wendell Berry: “I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief… For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

There is no poem by a bird but there is a song.

All well and good, even comforting. But I held the bird in my hand, and I stroked her, her soft dotted belly, the tiny curled claws, the wings surrendered and folded like linens in a closet, our eyes meeting like fallen leaves meet Earth, and I felt her heartbeat wane and end, a grace note in the imagining of life.

I comforted her. Or: I comforted myself.

The Theory of Mind: “Human brains are tuned to try to understand other human’s intentions, thoughts and feelings. Specific regions of the brain contain populations of ‘mirror’ neurons . . . Unsurprisingly, these are the same regions of the brain that are active when a person is anthropomorphizing.” Emory University science website

The Theory of Mind, evolution, parallel universes, all the conjectures, the dark corridors in dreams, leading to oblivion, and nothing that happened happened. Nothing that did not happen did not happen. The meaning of a finch is wonder and song and color; the meaning of a finch is fiction.

For three days, the finch lay in state on the limestone slab. The ants and the flies were the first to the visitation and the feast. On the third night, she vanished. And rose to the Abode of God Which is Nothingness. On the limestone, a slight scuff mark of a decaying body leading to the edge, dragged by an anonymous undertaker.

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Monkey Business

Monkey Business

It has been reported that in the Tennessee legislature scores of pro-Trump lawmakers have been spotted entering the statehouse chambers dressed as humans but slowly morphing into stages of ape-like appearance. Some have shed their clothing altogether and are loping along on all fours, humping one another, and doing “Cheetah” imitations. Others have been seen grooming each other, defecating in the aisles, and leaping across desks and chairs with impunity. Meanwhile, Tennessee humans in towns all over the state, devolving to apes, are crashing cars, eating bananas, thumping their chests, and retreating to state parks and living in tribes.

Tennessee is going ape. Republican legislators who have not yet made the transition (which bathroom do transspecies use?) are changing the laws, most recently passing a bill which prohibits minors from getting Covid-19 shots unless they have their parents’, who are high on Jim Jones Kool-Aid, permission. The parents are also pushing laws to dress their teenage daughters in “Handmaid’s Tale” sheik. Not surprisingly, teenagers are rebelling—with a cause. Seems that teens think their monkey parents are batshit crazy.

Even conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has commented, “Parental rights are sacred, and, most of the time, I would say rightly so. But not necessarily when a life-saving vaccine is being withheld by parents who’ve surrendered to political rhetoric over verifiable information.”

In 1966, when I was an impressionable lad, innocent (outwardly, at least; inwardly, I was a cauldron of lust) and wholesome. I had been bitten by the show biz bug and—thank the gods—show biz would be my moral downfall. I would star in a series of plays and musicals at Monticello College, a women’s institution at which my cauldron of lust would find a home. God bless the Monti girls.

Meanwhile, I auditioned for Alton Little Theatre’s production of “Inherit the Wind,” a fictional retelling of the 1925 so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in—wait for it—Tennessee. Mr. Scopes, a substitute teacher, was asked to serve as a test case for Tennessee teachers who used a state-approved textbook on the theory of evolution. Scopes agreed, and Clarence Darrow, the celebrated Chicago lawyer and greatest orator of his time, took on fantastic blowhard William Jennings Bryan, representing Tennessee Evangelicals.

The trial became a three-ring circus, famous all over the world, with the Evangelical judge not allowing Darrow’s science experts to testify. Scopes lost—of course—was fined a few hundred dollars, and science teachers went on teaching evolution. Bryan died a few days later. Perhaps he just popped like a balloon.

At Little Theatre, I got the part of Bertram Cates, the Scopes character, a science teacher on trial for teaching evolution. Cates was represented by the Clarence Darrow character, played by my high school drama teacher, Cliff Davenport. And who did Davenport cast as my girlfriend? My sister. I told him no way, and he said OK, we’ll cast someone else for you part. Remember acting, Gene? She’s your girlfriend but not your girlfriend? And that’s how my sister and I ended up holding hands onstage, and my cauldron of lust was empty. (I was sick with flu for the run of the show; the stage manager had a vomit bucket ready for me. Coincidence?)

Remember “remember the Alamo?” The Alamo was fake news, fake as in Davy Crockett et al, decidedly not heroes, growing hair on their chests and already setting the stage for devolution, were posturing and then they got their asses kicked. Remember the polio vaccine? Not fake news. And now the Corona-19 vaccine. Ninety-five percent of the deaths from the virus are unvaccinated people. Thirty-eight percent of Tennesseans are vaccinated. And teens are getting sick.

Meanwhile, at the statehouse, humans devolved back to apes are controlling the legislature in the name of Donald Trump, that bloviating ape, who tried to forcefully mate with every cute female that crossed his path.

So, if you are “seeing monkeys,” don’t call your shrink. You are in fact seeing monkeys. Monkey pox is coming. You will know the devolving hybrid humans/monkeys by their highway signs: “Trump 2424.” They lack imagination, so they have coopted the Confederate flag.

With apologies to Willie Nelson, “Mothers, don’t let your babies grow up to be Trump boys.”

 

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Cousin Rat

Cousin Rat

Sometimes I walk old man fast, five miles an hour. Sometimes I walk in a meditative state, oblivious to humidity, biting insects, the pace dictated by the see. This was one of those walks. Clouds, shadows, sun, shadows, breeze, still. I walked on air. The music of the creek and its waterfall accompanied my musing.

I thought about James Killion Jr., for whom the Alton park is named. I have had the honor this week to edit Mr. Killion’s WWII letters to his mother, his tales of guarding German and Russian prisoners near the beaches at Normandy, his anxiety about his family and his newborn son James III, his experiencing racism from white American soldiers, his friendship with the prisoners, who treated him with respect, the fragile sheets of paper, the fading penciled words. I have been walking with Mr. Killion for a week.

Twice on the walk, I saw a woman with red hair speed walking. Only the second time, her return, the red hair was dyed, she was hunched and limping and old, out of breath and facing the long hill to home.

A pileated woodpecker proclaimed its dominance, and female dragonflies flitted their wings in the grass. The green of the forest so intense from inches of water, the premature crashing of acorns as they bounced on the trail like ping pong balls. The tock-tock of chipmunks.

Descending the long buff hill, I saw a black stick—so it seemed—perpendicular to the path, but it was too straight, too perfectly rounded, and then I stopped and watched the stick slowly move east, into the grass. I ran down to where it had disappeared, and there under leaves was a juvenile rat snake, obsidian black. It let me approach and kneel at its tail, and then it coiled in case I was a predator, its white markings under its jaw, my face just inches from the gorgeous reptile.

Cousin rat, I said, though snakes do not have ears, Thank you letting me keep company with you. And I stood and backed away, and Cousin Rat became one with the undergrowth, woven into weeds and sticks and nuts and stones, the tapestry leading to the riffled water.

I said Mr. Killion’s name, for I felt he was with me, the path filled with ghosts of First People from 16,000 years ago, escaping slaves, dancing children, a woman mourning, a bent old man walking slow as an opening flower, lovers in the dark.

Sweat streamed from my face and chest and legs, but still I walked on, emerging from the woods at the river. Great egrets and snowy egrets lined the north shore of Scotch Jimmy Island, and a clutch of pelicans fished together off the sandbar. Clouds, shadows, sun, shadows, breeze, still.

Up a steep bluff hill, I paused midway and gazed at long stalks of hollyhocks and beyond were Rose of Sharon trees, and to me came a cat flopping and offering its belly, its color like marbled rye toast.

Chaos reigns. Death awaits. Time reminds us, the only specie on earth that thinks about time, the ghosts shaking their heads at our folly, Cousin Rat oblivious and entirely engaged in the present. The green cathedral and the snaking paths of the river my solace.

 

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The Mickey Mouse Club

The Mickey Mouse Club

I won’t tell you the dentist or name the people. I will tell you, my antennae out and trolling, what I saw and heard. I was waiting to have a tooth extraction, the result of a root canal and cap gone wrong. Cap had to be replaced, but tooth had broken off at the gum line. The dentist agreed to eat the cost of extraction, cadaver bone fill, new cap, etc. First step: extraction of tooth broken below the gum line.

I sit in the lobby and wait—dentist is running late. The office manager is breaking in a new employee, explaining bonuses. I hear the words “do’s and don’ts.” I can see them through an opening in the wall, behind which are dental rooms. Suddenly the talk turns to tattoos.

Manager (M.): Oh, my tattoo artist is ____________.  We’ve been together for a couple years. We’re working on a full body design. Right now, he’s doing my entire right leg. (She shows the leg to the trainee; I can’t see it.)

Trainee (T.) Wow, that must hurt.

  1. You know, yeah, a little. Wanna see my little guys? (One at a times, she pulls down the shoulders of her blouse, revealing sayings, “I love my Dad” one of them.)
  2. That is so cool. (Pulls down her blouse shoulders revealing Mickey and Minnie Mouse.)
  3. Oh! I have got to get that! I feel that my tattoos reveal the inner me.
  4. I know, right? My kids say I’m weird.

A nurse emerges from the back.

Nurse (N.): Ewing?

She escorts me to an exam room, the dentist enters. He holds a needle.

Dentist (D.) Got to get you numb. (He injects me, my right eye starts burning, I am temporarily blind, my throat constricts.)

Gene: I’m blind—bwin-bin-b-b-b-.

  1. The shot cuts off all feeling in the right side of your face.

Gene. My eye is on fire.

  1. Yep.

Gene. Maybe you should have warned me.

  1. And get you all upset? You’re fine. Relax, and I’ll give you a few minutes. (He exits.)

Gene: I’m seeing double. That woman in the hall, I see two of her.

  1. I know, it’s a rough shot.

(N. exits, leaving me alone to wonder who I am, is there a god. D. and N. reenter, D. holding what looks to be a giant pliers.)

  1. You’re going to feel a little pressure. The tooth is broken into pieces, I gotta pluck them put. (He reaches in my mouth, pulls so hard my head comes away from the headrest.) One down, three to go. (Sees that N.’s uniform top is splattered with blood. My blood. Sorry about that.
  2. No worries.

And so it goes, three more times, D. chatting me up.

  1. The wife and kids and I are going to Michigan. “Pure Michigan,” I love that slogan. You know why I love Michigan? It’s the 80s all over again.
  2. Take me with.

What about the Proud Boys plotting to assassinate the Michigan governor, I think. D. exits.

  1. Okay, no eating solid food for two days. What? No rinsing until tomorrow. What? Sign these two forms. (I sign. One of the forms reads, “Could cause cardiac arrest or death.” What?

Gene. I can’t drive like this.

  1. Take your time. (N. exits. I am alone, Karl Malone, on the phone, is that a drone I moan, Jubilation T. Cornpone, sew-sewn, gro……………………….an. N. enters.) How’s the eyesight?

Gene. Double vision is gone.

  1. Okey dokey, we’ll see you in two months. What?

(N. escorts me to exit, the M. and the T. look over at me, notice my tattoos.)

  1. See you in two months. You should get a Mickey Mouse.
  2. Definitely.

 

Fin

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Book of Cat

The Book of Cat

I wrote a two-part article on genealogy for the Telegraph a couple of years ago tracing my Jones family roots to Wales in the 1600s and the Baldwins to Scotland. Of course, the only specie on Earth concerned with such matters is humans. Until now.

Dr. Shirlee Godsend Pink-Tuchus, of Tufts University has traced the genealogy of cats, following the domestic cat line all the way back to biblical times. I recently submitted a cheek swab of Scout the cat, losing a finger in the process, and sent it to the Tufts laboratory.

A few days ago, a chart arrived in the mail, tracing Scout’s ancestors to a dark alley in Egypt circa AD 1142. Because cats do not name themselves and all they do do is eat, drink, sleep and fornicate, all we can surmise is that Scout’s great-great-great-great grandfather was Egyptian, and her great-great-great-great grandmother was a mix of Asian, Greek, and Belarussian, and that the two met and “did the nasty (Asian),” “plumbed the nether regions” (Greek) or as the Egyptians call it, “got it on.” And presumably walked away and smoked cigarettes.

As a kitten, Scout was found in a vacant lot in the Chicago suburbs, and she showed signs of abuse, which may explain her reluctance to be around people. I adopted her from a shelter, and the rest is history. Sort of. No cat has ever written a history.

I contacted Dr. Pink-Tuchus, and to my surprise, discovered that she is writing a sort of cat bible, “The Book of Cat.” For the ease of the reader, she names the felines so we can follow along. In the beginning, male cat (Binky-poo) mates with female cat (Calamity Jane), and it progresses from there. They were furry-naked, so no original sin there. Binky-poo and Calamity Jane had two sons, Triptych and Sockeye, and Sockeye murdered Triptych over a rat carcass, and so it went.

There is a documented Great Flood, but a cats-only ark. Just as with the human bible, the question is where did all the other females come from? We read about the cat Moises, who was discovered fornicating on a riverboat, and Salmonetta and her cat dance of ecstasy driving alley cats wild with desire.

Dr. Pink-Tuchus’ book is rather short, as it only contains a few hundred sentences which repeat and repeat, owing to the eat-drink-sleep-fornicate conundrum. Sample: “And Shorty fornicated with Jazzy, and they begat Conchita and Pretty Boy, and Pretty Boy hooked up with Delilah, and they begat Chauncy, Hickey and Rotorooter, and Conchita fornicated with Fancy Dancy and they begat La’Chaparral and Flypaper and three malformed dead kittens which they ate, and so on and so on and so on and so on, all the way to Scout the cat.

Scout is uh, fixed—no fornication. But she has the eat-drink-sleep thing down to perfection, a model of evolution, the theory of which was discovered 100 years before Charles Darwin by the historic Bookworm Attic Pussy Cat, in AD 1645.

I highly recommend Dr. Pink-Tuchus’ book. Her next book, “Antsy,” (according to publishing rumor this project will contain double the fornication!) the genome and genealogy of Formicidae Hymenoptera, a moving saga of an ant diarist (scrawled in her own poop) searching for her uncle, will be published this fall.

“Pink-Tuchus is a pioneer of animal genealogy research. I didn’t have to put it down; I read it in 15 minutes.” Malcom Gladwell, The New Yorker. “Groundbreaking, postprandial, peacockish, punctilious, palindromic, and chock full of sex!” Marjorie Taylor Greenowitz, “New York Review of Books.” “I read the dirty parts,” 10-year-old Bobby Sandusky, Alton, Illinois.

 

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A Reenacting

June 26, 2021

Dearest Mother,

My smart phone and computer were confiscated, and I couldn’t text you. So I write in hopes you will receive this letter. I suspect you too have met your fate and are somewhere out there alone and afraid. It has happened. Papa, a year ago on his deathbed told me of his own conversion and urged me to consider the truth. My own ego prevented me from seeing that truth, Mother, and I fear that I let you down.

Being the kind of family we are, Papa and I Union Civil War reenactors, and you in costume as part of the crowd waving your brave boys in blue into battle, I suppose I allowed myself to think that we were immune to the darker forces taking over our country today. It used to be that black church congregations would stand on the sidelines and cheer us as we freed their ancestors. Now they taunt us. Mama, I freed the dang slaves. What more could people expect of me?

I write while packing my mandated one bag, readying to be shipped out to a white people concentration camp outside of Fargo, North Dakota. Nationwide, we are being rounded up and sent to some 70 such camps, mostly located in the West. Where are you, Mama?

At my last reenactment, a black woman playing a freed slave, as an aside to me, whispered, “Black Lives Matter,” quite a thing to say to her liberator. Gallantly (so I thought), cheerfully, I patted her on her kerchief and said, “All lives matter, dear.” And she proceeded to tell me that having an ancestor who fought at the 1854 siege of Petersburgh, was not a free pass to the modern world. Reenacting was acting, not commitment. She stripped off her hoop skirt and accoutrements and strode back to her car, in tights and a tee shirt.

Papa, as you know, dear Mama, had already turned to the right. The Right was right, he said. He shared with me the warning of conservative commentator Michael Savage: “Attacks on white people is exactly what was done to the Jews in Germany in the ’30s. Don’t fall for this garbage. This is the road to the death camps.”

I once mocked Mr. Savage because I knew his leanings re his long-ago friendship with the Beat poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. Like many rightwing media commentators who really were just into white rage demagoguery for the money and the attention, I knew—I thought I knew—he was just a bad actor in search of a gig. He and Tucker Carlson.

Oh, how I weep, Mama. Saint Tucker in his tighty whiteys, now crucified and hanging from the Mt. Rushmore monument. The Prophet Tucker. I once was disgusted by him, but I see it now, Mama: Tucker wept; Tucker died for me.

And then I heard the words of the prophet Hawley, a man of wisdom: “Critical race theory is in fact very real. [Biden’s people] “believe that this is a country founded in racism and shot through with corruption. In our American flag, they see propaganda, and in our family businesses, they see white supremacy.”

Mother, we are the critical race. Were. The prophets have been executed by order of Maxine Waters, and humble, plain citizens like me are being shipped to a gulag for the “crime” of being white. Because my European ancestors were superior. Because Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I advance it therefore as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circumstances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” Because George Armstrong Custer and his admirer L. Frank Baum called for the extermination of the Indian savages who previously lived in this land. Because compassionate Southerners shipped poor Africans to this country to give them a chance to whiten. Because the Roosevelt administration interred 100,000 Japanese US citizens to teach them the ways of proper white American Christians. Because the prophet Ayn Rand through her prescient novels warned us that [white] exceptionalism would be punished.

Rand was right. After that black woman playing a freed slave accosted me, I turned on FOX News, and I finally saw the truth—too late. The liberal lie bled from my eyes like tears. I saw that the reenactors who played the boys in butternut, were the real heroes. I saw that Martin Luther King was an FBI informant. I saw that Alexandria Ocasio Ortiz was a Communist. I saw that the Proud Boys were killed for being heroes of the truth.

I am told there will be a court hearing, Mama dear, and that to save my life I will have to plead guilty, for slavery, redlining, segregation, white privilege. I am told I will have to sign a paper on racial harmony stating that I believe that I am responsible to exact social change in the future.

I protested to the authorities, that I, Daniel Aloysius Wilson, had played a Lieutenant in many a stirring Civil War battle. They laughed at me, Mama. The uniform meant nothing to them. They tore off my uniform and my authentic Union long johns and stomped them to dust.

Am I my brother’s keeper? (Little known fact, according to Mr. Savage: The question is the first known historical reference to the “brothers,” the blacks. The miracle of the Bible is that, despite its setting of just a tiny bit of northeastern Africa and environs, everyone in the Bible was white, which explains it, there was a White Jesus!)

The charge, at the black tribunal (Tucker Carlson warned his viewing audience that this was coming) was not being “woke.” What does that mean, Mama? I wake up every morning at 6:30 am. Am I guilty? Am I responsible to help black people? The only black person I knew was the woman who played the slave that I freed. No black person ever reached out to me. Isn’t slavery over? The court deemed me immoral. What does morality have to do with racism?

No one loved the theory of equal opportunity more than me. Our Methodist church had a banner hanging in the vestry proclaiming equality. It was fun to say, at church, to my kids. I believed—we believed in equality. We did our part. Words, about supporting black lives, matter! But the reality? Of giving money to black people as payment for what allegedly happened to their enslaved ancestors? Giving money to Lebron James? Of showing favoritism to black college students, thus depriving brilliant white scholars of their due? Of allowing a backward people to have more polling places, more higher paying jobs, less police interference? Free health care?

Is a joke.

And now, just like the six million murdered Jews of Europe, we “white Jews of America” march to the American-made furnaces of death, mobs of black and brown and Asian people jeering at us. So, I go to my death, a proud reenactor, slave-freeing white man. I will see you in white heaven, sainted Mama whose tit of wisdom nourished me, for the Lord through his son Jesus Christ told us about the Alabaster City.

“It is a far far better place that I go to.” A white man wrote those words (thank you Michael Savage) about white heaven. I shall be there shortly.

Your loving son,

Lieutenant Dan

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Bwownie

I’m at Genehouse North in Lincolnwood, just up from Sin City, Chicago. There is a walking path next to my pal Kathy’s condo, so I got in a four mile walk this am. Farmer Orville was cat sitting for Scout, and I was free for a couple days.

There was an old railway bed that had been converted to a trail, lined by houses and long, swampy fields. I jaunted along, and I realized I was greeting every person I passed, a very Southern thing to do, but not the Chicago way.

The towns around here are truly the melting pots one hears about. I passed Asian folks, Black folks, Indian (from India) folks, orthodox Jews, pale tribe folks. It is comforting to see so many tribes of humans passing each other peacefully. And most of them returned my Andy of Mayberry greeting. There were startled glances, some cheery hellos, a God bless you, some silence and ignore, and one 40-something pale tribe woman whom, in response to my “Good morning,” gave me the finger.

There were lots of dogs. Lots of women walking dogs. In the modern era, one does not compliment women. Besides, I’m covered in arm tattoos, my head is shaved, and I could be mistaken for a pirate, or worse a misogynist. Or worse, a toothless old goat who is about as dangerous as a French poodle.

But I have discovered, even a pirate can say to a woman he doesn’t know, “Nice dog,” and inevitably the woman will guide the pooch to the pirate’s outstretched fingers, say the doggie’s name in baby talk, and a chat up begins.

I saw two Baltimore orioles, lots of songbirds. I passed a stretch of flower garden extending for two back yards of houses. The garden’s purpose was to enchant walkers and bikers. I have posted some photos of the garden. It was so unexpected, so artfully composed, and I stood and meditated in awe.

And then I reached the halfway point, and I stopped and stretched my creaky body. A pop-pop here, a po-pop there. And who should stop beside me but a fetching woman in yoga pants and a sports bra and her dog. I was touching my toes. The dog, a brown mutty-type, licked my forehead.

“Nice dog,” I said.

“Brownie really loves you,” the woman said. “Don’t ums, Bwownie.”

“And I love you,” I said sultrily. And the woman whispered spicily, “Take me, Mr. Pirate.”

Actually, I said “And I wuv ooh, Bwownie.” And the woman said, “Aw duh nice man wuvs Bwonie.”

Off they jogged.

Off I walked. A toothless old man who is about as dangerous as a French poodle.

 

 

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The Rock Star

Last night I lost a tooth, crown, and tooth below. My student Kimberly, a nurse, took me to her dentist this morning for an exam. As we got out of Kim’s car at a little strip mall, a burly, long-haired, bearded 30-something man (think Jack Black) approached us, slushie in hand, and began to speak rapid-fire at us. He wore a backpack, which, we would learn, contained copies of what he called his book.

“I’m a rock star,” he shouted, the tone of his speech loud all the way.

The young man was clearly mentally ill, perhaps schizophrenic, and way big enough to dangerous. But he also was fascinating, his sentences tumbling out like a waterfall. We listened, and I found an interjection point to tell him that I had a dentist appointment, so good luck to you. The man god blessed us, and we entered the office.

As I was filling out forms, the man entered the dentist’s office and approached the receptionist. It was clear from the way the receptionist talked to the man that he came in there often.

“I need to make an appointment,” the man roared. “I’m hurting bad.” Probably have to wait a couple months. I don’t have insurance, but I’ve got cash. Want to read my book? I’m a writer and a rock star. My birthday is the same day as Ozzie Osbourne’s. Oh boy, does my tooth hurt. I got slammed in a fist fight last night. I punched this guy 36 times.”

The man held out his hand and showed us and the receptionist bloody knuckles. He took off his backpack ostensibly to take out copies of his book.

“Let’s make you an appointment,” the receptionist repeated.

“August, right?”

“Yes, sometime in August.”

We couldn’t see the transaction as he leaned over the counter and watched the receptionist. She didn’t ask for his name, and he didn’t fill out papers. I was pretty sure it was a ritual, this asking for an appointment, the two-month wait, the no filling out of forms, the unspoken appointment. The man stood back and recited a rap beautifully. Then the dentist, a woman of Greek heritage came out in her uniform and mask. The man gathered up his things, offering the dentist a copy of his book, and she declined, and he god blessed us all and walked away.

“I am so sorry,” the dentist said.

“Not at all,” I said. “He was very interesting.”

She greeted Kim and took me into her patient room and examined the hole in my mouth. The wound was not infected, and she could see there had been a root canal performed, so there shouldn’t be a lot of pain.

And then she said, “No charge.”

I thought I heard the “Hallelujah Chorus,” for I hear voices too. And raps and rock music and the waterfall of the River Styx, and the ghosts of my ancestors. The difference between me and the young mad man is degrees. The lines of the degrees may be violent, somnolent, poetic, angry, stillness, visions, dreams.

The young man clearly had battled with someone, someone, I thought, who viewed him as prey. Others along his journey, as with the receptionist and the dentist, and Kim and me, were empathetic souls who listened and humored him. He was brawny and brash, which made him prey, and poetic and dreamy, which allowed him to feel his verbal power.

His journey might be halted by some sadistic Chicago bully who will go all the way and kill him, a street preacher who tells him about the Good News and he in turn sets up a microphone on a wooden crate and stands and proclaims the rap of God, or an agent who finds him a genius of the spoken word. Whatever, he was one of the biblical “consider the birds of the field” who “neither toil nor spin.” Perhaps he gets taken care of; perhaps he is a victim of evolution.

Does it matter?

Not to the universe, which does not consider nor comfort the lost. There is no time there, no story, no compassion. No schizophrenia. The young man was Don Quixote Rock Star, you see, tilting his air guitar cockily, singing to an imagined multitude, excited in his mind for what never happened. He will live or die on the streets of Chicago, a character put of a Nelson Algren short story.

Me, I am champaign after the bubbles are gone. The rock star was champagne, and he was dancing.

 

 

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