Granted

My friends David and Linda live in the desert north of San Luis Obispo, California, a prettier place one cannot imagine. People commute to San Luis, their drive taking them through mountain canyons down to the sea. When I’m there, I am overwhelmed by the beauty of place—it never gets old. But does it get old if one lives there?

My father once owned fifty acres of wooded Jersey County, a place he called Baldwin State Park. It was remote, wild and peaceful. He didn’t last three years, telling me that his dream of sitting on a back deck overlooking a wooded valley was… meh.

Perhaps because I am a writer, perhaps because I possess a singular ocular enhancement— archaeologists call it “the eye”—wherein I see arrowheads in piles of stone in creek beds, camouflaged animals, morel mushrooms and the like, perhaps this also enables me to not take anything in nature for granted. I see the way great baseball hitters “see” the ball.

We denizens, of the Mississippi River Valley, are presented year-round with amazing sights. The Confluence, the mating site of the Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers, is within our territory. The American Bottom, that pregnant, fecund soil nourished by limestone, blankets the spaces between the river sloughs.

And there are the animal residents, thirty or more species of bird, muskrats, river otters, coyotes, red and grey fox, bobcats, reptiles including the astounding alligator snapping turtle and blue racers and stunning copperheads and king snakes.

The other day, mid-afternoon, I was walking down a wooded trail when suddenly a high-pitched scream erupted above me. “Wooooooooo—oooooooo-ooooooo (high note) oooooo!” It was like a tornado siren, starting low and long and rising to crescendo. Then came another scream, then another. Then tens of coyotes began yipping, the pack moving parallel to where I was standing. It was broad daylight.

We hear them nightly in our fields, the alpha coyote and the pack, driving the local dogs mad. The other sunrise, Farmer Orville and I were finishing carrying some brush, and I stopped and listened. “It’s just coyotes,” Orville said. There is no such thing as “just.” A coyote song is a miracle.

Today, I was driving home after an MRI exam on my knee, from St. Louis. The rivers were flooded. The trees were budded. As I drove over the Missouri river bridge, I saw a white tornado: perhaps thirty pelicans swirling counter-clockwise, the sun lighting their white underwings, the languid, liquid, lazy flying formation, a ballet of aeronauts.

I couldn’t even pull over to worship, with the flood reducing the highway to two lanes and cars lined behind me.

Pelicans are miracles. Hummingbirds are miracles. Rivers and river creatures are miracles. Ants are miracles, and so are spiders.

None of us could live in a world without ants and spiders, yet we treat them as predators. We imagine them as enemies. We fear them and our fears are groundless. I’ve been bitten by a black widow spider, a scorpion and a brown recluse. In each case, I was the intruder. My punishment: discomfort. Period.

Oh yes. My tribe fears the black tribe. Read my new book.

Do not drive or walk the Great River Road and say, “Pelicans,” to your kid. Say, “That is a miracle. We must help preserve them.” We all know some overzealous naturalist who is compelled to identify every little flower—but not meditate on that flower, not Van Gogh that flower, not breathe in the flower.

As I write, robins are scurrying about and plucking worms. Do you think about worms? Do you know the American earthworm is nearly extinct, that our robins are eating foreign species of worms which have evolved and driven the natives away? Sound familiar?

Take life, teeming life for granted, and condemn your children to stare at smart phones. Oh wait—we do that already.

Look up. Look down. Listen to your blood. Lie among the ferns and sing the frog song. There is plenty of frog song—for now. 70 % of frogs are now extinct.

Look it up on your smart phone.

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Concerto for Viola

Viola Liuzzo was murdered on March 25, 1965 between Selma, Alabama and Montgomery, but it was the why of her death that led to her sainthood.

I was a junior at Alton High School, rehearsing for the musical Wonderful Town, in love with Carla Price, hanging out at Dairy Queen (Elaine Bunse from my Sunday School class—her dad owned the Dairy Queen) and full of myself.

Did Ms. Liuzzo get mentioned in our history class? I don’t remember. How did I hear the news, or how was I even aware of events transpiring in Alabama? I don’t remember. I do remember that I was slowly evolving into an activist but I had to keep it to myself. My old man, on the verge of leaving my multiple sclerosis-cursed mother and my sister and me, would have whipped any overt activism out of me.

Viola Liuzzo was a Unitarian Universalist activist and Detroit housewife, white, obsessively watching on television the newscasts covering Bloody Sunday, the March 7 protest in Selma, watching march leaders James Bevel and Amelia Boynton and others being beaten bloody under orders from Alabama governor George Wallace. Boynton was beaten unconscious in full view of news cameras. Liuzzo left her home and drove for Selma.

The second march took place on March 9. Among the marchers was James Reeb, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Boston, compelled to drive all night and join the second march. Obeying a court injunction, Martin Luther King led the marchers off the Edmund Pettis Bridge. James Reeb was pulled by white supremacists from the marchers and beaten to death.

The third march, starting on March 21, took place along the fifty-four mile stretch of Route 80 between Selma and Montgomery, known by the locals as the Jefferson Davis Highway. President Johnson ordered 1,900 National Guard troops to line the highway and protect the marchers. The caravan arrived in Montgomery on March 25.

Viola Liuzzo volunteered to shuttle marchers to airports and back to Selma. That night, as Martin Luther King stood at his portable pulpit at the foot of the steps of the Montgomery statehouse and delivered his “How Long” speech, as thousands of marchers stood shoulder to shoulder with the likes of writer James Baldwin and singer Harry Belafonte and now-congressman John Lewis and Joan Baez, Viola Liuzzo drove some protesters back to Selma.

On the return trip to pick up more folks from Montgomery, Liuzzo and passenger and nineteen-year-old black man Leroy Moton were spotted by white supremacists, one of whom was FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe Jr. The white men, no doubt enraged by the sight of a white woman and a black man in the same car, jumped in a car and gave chase, opening fire and killing Viola Liuzzo. Moton was wounded, but he survived the attack by pretending to be dead.

J. Edgar Hoover characterized Mrs. Liuzzo as a crazy person come to Alabama for drugs and illegal sex with blacks. An all-white jury acquitted the shooters but they were later arrested on federal civil rights violations.

Wonderful Town was a smash hit at Alton High School. I knew I was headed for a singing career and salvation, through the healing power of art. Meanwhile, the Reeb and Liuzzo families, whose loved ones paid the ultimate price for justice, buried their dead.

The full weight of human activity is such that most of us go about our business. We may wince at the occasional horror, such as the deaths of Reeb and Liuzzo, but we rehearse and perform and go to work and make love and chase Carla Price and watch sunsets and smoke behind the barn and tickle our grandkids and go to the big game…and heroism shall not touch us or wound us or change us. Shall not.

And now we are perfectly complacent to the point of not voting. And now comes, the scene is set for Fascism.

On March 10, 1995, George Wallace (“I’ll never be out-niggered again,” “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”), wheelchair bound from being shot by a would-be assassin, showed up at St. Jude’s Church in Montgomery. The occasion was the thirtieth anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches. “Much has transpired since those days,” Wallace told the crowd. “A great deal has been lost and a great deal gained, and here we are. My message to you today is, welcome to Montgomery. May your message be heard. May your lessons never be forgotten.”

An historic marker at the side of the Jefferson Davis Highway reads: In Memory of Our Sister Viola Liuzzo Who Gave Her Life in the Struggle for the Right to Vote…. March 25, 1975.

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In Memoriam

I grew up a Methodist. Epworth Methodist Church in Belleville, Main Street in Alton, Godfrey Methodist.

Joe Evers was the pastor at Epworth. I would know him for a long time, as he played a pivotal role in my life when my mom was killed in 1972. At Epworth, I remember Brother Joe railing against presidential candidate John F. Kennedy—the Catholics would take over. This fit my father’s worldview to a tee. Joe himself would later regret his comments. He was capable of self-reflection. Brother Joe would be the first pastor in the history of the Illinois Methodist Church to be tried for the sin of adultery. He ended up selling pots and pans, even asking me if I could lend him money.

At Main Methodist Street, Pastor Henderson, thinking he had spotted future minister talent and wanting to start a fund so I could attend Garret Theological Seminary at Northwestern, invited me to deliver a series of Sunday evening sermons—heavy stuff for a kid. Two talks in, Henderson took me aside and said that Plato’s allegory of the cave was not a fit reference in a sermon. He was probably right, but I was done preaching—show business was calling. Later, he told me my views on the Vietnam War were not acceptable. In other words, hit the road, would-be rev.

This would-be rev hit the road to Godfrey Methodist Church and Judson Souers, a charismatic man if there ever was one. I spent a lot of time in his house, often late at night, talking about books and ideas and drinking beer.

Yesterday, the Methodist convocation in St. Louis voted against inclusion for gay marriage and LGBT folks. Either the church is right, to firmly hold on to “teachings” of a Bible, its Old Testament of which was written by women-hating, ignorant patriarchs (ignorant of the nature and genetics of humans), or the church now—not ignorant of science and genetics and human nature—has a political motive.

Methodism, like all region-based isms, is becoming irrelevant. To keep up its numbers, it now appeals to more Methodists in Africa than here. And those Methodists, citing the fact that ministers in homophobic cultures feel they have to ban gay and LBGT rights, or be killed.

The church dies, or the homophobes, the bigots, fill the pews. Stand up for moral right—or be killed. Ironic. Interesting.

Growing up, I slowly became uneasy with the notion of prayer. If God is like Santa Claus, a metaphor, no problem. If: God is a Deity who resides in the clouds, picking and choosing who will die and who will live; all the while, this God encourages entreaties for saving lives and enriching people—the best pray-er of prayer wins. The narcissistic, women-hating patriarchs wrote that “we are in His image” blather.

You are a bigot, or you’re not. Religion is not a cloak to hide in. Subconsciously, we’re all bigots. But acting consciously is what is needed here. We can pray for our internal sins all we want.

Consciously and prayerfully, with no outward sign of shame, with a nod to attendance statistics over morality, over ethics, the Methodist Church has just announced its official stance.

Bigotry.

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Catbelly Heat on My Knees

I came across this song lyric from 1883, in a file marked “Blind Bobbybaby Jax.” Indeed, records show an old black man living in Macoupin County, an itinerant laborer, fruit picker and two-finger banjo plucker.

“I done scratched away my fleas/a little sour mash if you please/I wouldn’t mind a woman to squeeze/I got catbelly heat on my knees.”

Mr. Jax (an orchard owner back in the day dubbed him Bobbybaby) was renowned for his ability to pick perfect apples even though he was blind. He would stand on a ladder against a tree, and his hand would touch apples as if they were targets. Local white children would visit just to watch the apple picker. They would place dollar bills at the foot of the tree, so Jax tolerated them.

“Oh, them chi’dren how they bleat/they tiny hands clappin’ a beat/Don’t feel like singing—sheeet/Little white kids at my feet.”

Come the night, Jax would hold court outside the barn where he lived and slept, white folks and the other two black residents of Macoupin County, Mr. Chas and Miss Gospelette, brother and sister servants in a mansion in Jerseyville, gathering to hear the signature “Mis’ssip” growl of the bluesman as he sang remembered songs from the Delta of his youth.

The referenced catbelly belonged to an enormous Maine Coon cat named Auntie Plato, a feline which adopted Jax and spent much of its life on the blues man’s lap. Auntie Plato was a legendary mouser and had birthed, by the orchard owner’s estimate, over two hundred cat mutts with grotesque body shapes.

Auntie Plato, Jax told anyone who would listen, had cured him of arthritis purely by the feline’s intense body heat. The cat spent much of its daytime hours straddling the shoulders of a bull, riding about the pasture and looking queen-like.

Rumor has it that the first blues man to ever be recorded, Charley Patton, on his way to Chicago from Memphis and hearing about Blind Bobbybaby Jax, stopped by the orchard and communed with Jax for part of a day. Patton was known for his guitar style, which would influence the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his voracious appetite for women and booze.

We will never know if Blind Bobbybaby Jax was discovered that day, because Auntie Plato the cat attacked Patton, knocking him off a milking stool and angrily ripping the musician’s hands to bloody shreds. (Robert Johnson posited in Blues Magazine that the Auntie Plato shredding might be responsible for Charley Patton’s frenetic fretwork.) Curiosity didn’t kill the cool cat, but we do know that Patton drove away, and Jax wrote a song, “Ol’ Cat Done Ripped My Heart.”

“Dang ol’ catty ain’t you smart/Jealous pussy from the start/No more spooning in the dark/Ol’ Maine cat done ripped my heart.”

Blind Bobbybaby Jax died in 1935. Still picking apples, he reached for what he thought was a ripe fruit but was in fact a hornet’s nest, his hand stuck inside the nest and the hornets stinging the old man hundreds of times. Mr. Jax was buried next to the long dead Auntie Plato in a grove of oak trees.

Bluesmen tell an anecdote about Charley Patton backstage at a concert in Atlanta, who, upon hearing of the death of Jax, supposedly said. “Goddam coon.” He meant the cat, of course.

If you’re driving east on Route 16, just a mile past the hamlet of Piasa, you will see a historic plaque along the shoulder of the highway.

“In memory of Blind Bobbybaby Jax, blues man and apple picker. ‘I got catbelly heat on my knees.’”

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Alton Anthem (F# major)

We named a street after Martin Luther King so you can

Shut up!

We’re renovating the Grand Theatre—all are welcome not like when it opened

Shut up!

We hired blacks in our factories okay the Feds made us but

Shut up!

We ended discrimination in our stores and restaurants ergo

Shut up!

We don’t redline anymore… mostly I think anyway

Shut up!

Are you black I don’t see color I see the person and you can

Shut up!

We reach out to you ask you questions why can’t you get over it so

Shut up!

We didn’t own slaves…our forefathers did but hey

Shut up!

We earned our way why can’t you

Shut up!

Africans owned slaves like everybody else… except me

Shut up!

Respect the police okay a rogue or two shot you just get over it

Shut Up!

There will never be a black mayor blacks can’t lead just saying

Shut up!

Superintendent J. B. Johnson: blacks don’t value education but but but now he gone so you

Shut up!

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Boy Uninterrupted

They walk into the diner, mother and father in their late forties, and towheaded Junior, maybe ten. They sit at a round table, Junior across from Dad and Mom at Junior’s left arm. Junior takes out an I-Pad, inserts earphones, and starts watching.

Dad gets up, pulls Junior up and removes his coat, Junior all the time absorbed with the device. Dad nudges the oblivious Junior forward until his waist bumps the table; Dad pushes the chair until it contacts Junior’s knees and Junior plops down, never once distracted away from his device.

Dad and Mom look at each other, not a word spoken. The waitress takes their order—Mom orders for Junior—and leaves. Dad says something angry to Mom and points an index finger at her. She shrugs.

They pull out their smart phones, each in their own world. Junior is lost in something on his I-Pad. It could be porn, for all his parents know.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

A teacher will have to deal with Junior tomorrow. He or she, by talking, will interrupt Junior’s life. He will be waiting and clock watching for the moment he can open his I-Pad, stuff in his earphones, block off all outside engagement and get back to Magic World where nothing is real. He is a quantum physicist and doesn’t know it.

I eat breakfast, grateful to get out of my house after the snowstorm. I glance at Junior from time to time. Only his fingers and eyes move.

The waitress brings their food. Mom takes her plate and Junior’s. Dad takes his. He digs in, she digs in, stopping between bites to remind Junior to eat. She contacts his left arm, he brushes her away and snarls.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

Why did Mom and Dad have a kid? When they courted, did they talk of having a kid? Did they name him “My Boy Bill,” and smile at the thought of the future? Did they kiss and feel each other, drench each other in each other’s holy sweat? Did they wake up after the honeymoon, Peggy Lee on the record player, singing, “Is That All There Is?”

I wanted to kidnap the kid. Take away his devices and take him on a hike. He will be attending to me in the old folk’s home, and he will hate my guts, hate my shit and sweat and sores and smells and quotes from Beckett and cries for my dazzling life my precious life.

“Brook Shields kissed me on a TV show,” I’ll cry, “when my first play was Off Broadway, and I sat next to Alexander Hamilton’s grave and ate my sandwich, on the way to the theatre, on 43rd Street.”

Junior will slap my face, stare dead-eyed at me, dare me to tell another story and another. He will take me out with a pillow on my face.

And I will deserve it. I invented electronics that suck life from children. I burned coal for heat and devoured everything in my path. I turned the Grand Canyon into the Grand Canyon Casino. I gave two dollars to homeless people and two hundred dollars for the latest machine that could smash fruit. I fucked my way through the seventies no thoughts and prayers for the girls that mistook Gene for Judas, a role I played. I deadened myself with any and all things that could put me to sleep.

So: A reckoning. Junior cometh.
This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.
Coming soon to a nursing home near you.

 

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Genehouse Movie Review: “The Rider”

Genehouse Movie Review “The Rider”

“The Rider” is one of the most beautiful and moving films I have ever seen, uplifting, gorgeous (the canvas is the Badlands in South Dakota), haunting.

“After a riding accident leaves him unable to compete on the rodeo circuit, a young cowboy searches for a new purpose.” If you are adverse, to “rodeo circuit” or “cowboy,” you are robbing yourself of an unforgettable experience.

The kicker is the story is not only real, but the cowboy and his autistic teen sister and his ne’er do well father are all actual family members, filmed in their real house and ranch, with chunks of the film showing their actual daily lives. And it works to perfection. A fourth character is a quadriplegic boy also hurt in a horrific accident, also played by the actual guy. The fifth character is the stunning landscape itself, reminding me of the wonderful film, “Nebraska” where the sky was a character.

Brady, Lilly and Tim Jandreau play themselves. Brady is a horse whisperer, a term I thought was made-up. In fact, you will see Brady win over three horses in real time. Lilly, clearly autistic, improvises, and her monologues (you’ll never forget her rant on bras) are exquisite. Add to the mix the actual townspeople (again, like “Nebraska”) and the genius director, Chinese American Chloe Zhao, whose previous work, “Songs My Brothers Taught Me” is also filmed on an Indian reservation in the Badlands.

You will see some rodeo, minus the macho. You will see boys who believe that cowboy is a sacred calling. You will see a shockingly handicapped cowboy, Brady’s best friend, heroically work his way through therapy. You will see a rare father/son relationship, flawed and utterly full of love. And you will see aching sunrises and sunsets illuminated in the purple haze of the Badlands.

This is a film that families can watch together. This is a film free of politics and judgement. This is a film that will fill you with emotion, wonder and awe.

I hadn’t heard of “The Rider.” A new librarian at the Hayner Library mall site, a kid with a passion for films and who knows my tastes, handed me the DVD of “The Rider.” I asked why I would want to see a rodeo movie. He told me to just sit back and watch, that I would be caught up instantly. And I was.

“The Rider” is a splendid, immersive film, one of the best about relationships without a single false beat.  “If an animal around here gets hurt like I did, they get put down,” Brady says. “I was only kept alive because I’m human, and that’s not enough.”

Indeed. If you long for beauty and uplift, if Nature wrenches your soul, watch “The Rider.”

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In the Forsythia Ballroom

In the Forsythia Ballroom

drab in winter but colored bird

song sparrows sin and sing scat

swinging cardinals dance the Bounce

The balcony section, Honeysuckle,

upside down, man, with nuthatches

powdered snow confetti raining down

 

In the Forsythia Ballroom,

Oh, dig them juncos’ dance on ice

the necking finches in their booths swaying

birds air trumpeting Bird

of a feather of titmice footprints

No chicks allowed no smoking

but drinking smashberry wine

vaping vamping very verisimilitude

you dig, no, really, you dig

 

In the Forsythia Ballroom

the lights fade to silver to thread

let’s kick back bug cocktails

make bird babies

let’s thrum throat drum let’s twist

whose bushes these are

this cheap motel branch

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A Christmas Story

Last night, I got up to pee. I walked into the bathroom in the dark, and released Gene Creek into the Great Basin, in the dark, when I looked down and saw a moving shadow in the bowl. Remembering that a friend of mine had a snake come into his house through the toilet, I jumped back and fumbled for the light.
 
It was a mouse, floating in circles in the wake of the Gene Creek release of water. It had a red tail. It had a corded red tail. Both of its white eyes were on one side of its head. It was a toy mouse.
 
As far as I knew, only one critter in the house could fling a toy mouse with a corded red tail into the air so that said mouse could fly and land in the Great Basin. That critter, a certain feline, was lying on her back, on the living room couch, fast asleep, and she was emitting a mother-in-law snore. You know: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Meanwhile, I had a toy mouse problem: how to extract it from the Yellow Sea. Maybe you have a relationship with your pee. I do not. With your pee, or my pee.
 
I settled on a pair of tongs, which I use to manipulate grilled chicken. I carried the tongs to the bathroom and plunged them into the Yellow Sea. The toy mouse, like a ship without a rudder, moved counter clockwise around and around the bowl. Finally, with the finesse of a jeweler about to cut a diamond, I slowly closed the tongs until they gripped the mouse.
 
“Hurrah,” I cried.
 
I lifted the dripping mouse up, which is how I knew it was dripping, which told me I had a further problem, how not to drip pee drops on the floor.
 
I lowered the mouse back into the Great Basin, only this time it boated clockwise. The feline now snored loud enough to cause a change on the Richter scale: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
I walked back to the kitchen. Notice, English students, that perfect declarative sentence, clean and clear, direct. But… add one word: “Naked,” I walked back to the kitchen. Notice how “naked” adds drama. I walked back into the kitchen. Who cares? Naked, I walked back into the kitchen— “eeeew,” or “ooooh.” See?
 
You brazenly walk naked around your house, you know you do, like Donald Trump. Do you walk furtively? Like you were guilty of something? Yes, you do The Donald.
 
Naked (furtively), doing The Donald, I fetched the empty bag which held this night’s chicken bones, and with chicken bag and tongs, I walked back to the bathroom. And tripped and dropped the chicken tongs into the Great Basin.
 
Now (naked), I had a bag of chicken bones but no plucker. You can’t get far in the mouse toy fetching business without a plucker. Worst of all, I was waking up, and “The Little Drummer Boy,” the Bing Crosby version, began to play and replay in my head.
 
“Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
“wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Bing Crosby: “Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
I screamed for courage and lowered myself to one knee, plunged my right hand into the Great Basin and plunked the toy mouse with the red, corded tail into the bag of chicken bones, and plucked out the grilled chicken tongs, put my right hand into the bag of chicken bones and proceeded to the sink where I washed the soiled appendage and the plucker.
 
Bing Crosby: “Come, they told me. Parumpum-pum–”
 
The snoring had stopped.
 
The feline was standing in the doorway with yet another corded-tail toy mouse in her mouth. She lowered her head in preparation for a launch.
 
Quickly (and naked), I lowered the lid of the great basin, the motion of which made my “boys” … well, Bing Crosby: “Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
The feline laughed. The effing feline watched my “boys” … you know, Bing Crosby: Parumpum-pum-pum! and laughed at me.
 
So, I skulked back to bed. I pulled on some sweat pants, to hide my furtive nakedness from myself, took a couple hits from that pipe you don’t tell Grandma about, and gradually I fell asleep.
 
I was having a pleasant dream. I was standing under a waterfall, and the jazz goddess Esperanza Spaulding was there playing her bass fiddle. I reached to touch her…
 
And I woke. Someone was in my bed. I reached and touched a bony shoulder. The owner of the shoulder turned and kissed me, beard stubble caressing—
 
Esperanza Spaulding has beard stubble?
 
He—HE—sang: “Come, they told me, Parumpum-pum-pum!”
 
And from the living room came such a clatter: “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.” “wheeWheeWHEE-unhhhhh.”
 
Merry Christmas from Gene and Scout.
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Read My Lips

For several minutes, Senator Bob Dole, wheelchair bound, sat in silence before the body of President Bush. His jaws clenched repeatedly; he might have been chewing gum. He watched unblinking, thinking, no doubt, of his old friend, of war.

And then an aide helped him up and out of the wheelchair, and Dole, for a split second, with support from two men, stood ramrod straight and saluted with trembling fingers, George H. W. Walker Bush.

I literally bawled out loud. This moment should have been the wakeup call for Republicans who have lost their way. Senator McConnell and his Ayn Rand-loving ilk should have come here and asked Bush and Dole for forgiveness. Begged for forgiveness. And resigned immediately. And left the rotunda with honor.

Only then, could I forgive them. For only now will a revolution restore order in a house of obsequiousness, of japery: of madmen.

I remember young Bob Dole, pencil clenched in his fist, acerbic wit, flawed like the rest of us, loyal to a fault to his country, to its people. I remember George H. W. Bush, on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking himself, graceful and gracious. I remember these two men, with our fathers, facing the long day’s journey into the night of Europe and Japan, and they went forward, and they served. And yes, our troops were segregated, and only a few of our fathers came home and told us that secret, that segregation and Jim Crow infected us even in the trenches.

But they went forward. And our black fathers and brothers went forward.

Names like Nixon and Trump and Father Coughlin and McCarthy and Cohn, and now Gingrich and Hannity and Coulter and Huckabee, are affronts to decency, patriotism, world citizenry.

Bob Dole must have awakened this morning, having told his aides that he would stand and salute or die trying. He had a packed resume filled with “die trying” moments. There must have been muttering, over coffee, and venting about Mad King Donald. Millions of mourners, this morning, respecting the wishes of the House of Bush, must have also pledged to not let their feelings get the best of them: this was the day to honor and respect.

It is like meditation, willing a trance state to blot out myriad dark thoughts, to nerve block national pain, to remember the heroes, and to not mock the human viruses of our House, which are trying to subjugate us.

Republicans in North Carolina and Wisconsin and Michigan, even as a great Republican lies in state, are subverting the law, to steal the power of votes, to still resonant voices. They are doing this on our day of mourning. They should be dragged outside and put in stocks and let the winter shred their effrontery, let the gods of wind shriek in their ears.
In North Dakota, on this day, Ruth Buffalo, a Native American in full tribal dress, was sworn in to her state government. The pols standing behind her worked tirelessly to subvert the Indian vote. Yet, she did not gloat. She said she was ready to go to work.

In Southern Illinois, on this day, in the name of my fallen brother Ted Shobe, I am ready to go to work. In Upstate New York, on this day, my cousin Janet is ready to go to work. In Wisconsin, my brothers Fred and John, on this day, are ready to go to work. In Milwaukee, on this day, my sister Martha is ready to go to work. In Portland, Oregon, on this day, my brother James is ready to go to work. In Golconda, Illinois, on this day, my sister Liz is ready to go to work. In Florida, on this day, my brother Don is ready to go to work. In Elsah, Illinois, on this day, my sister Sheila S. is ready to got to work. In Jackson, Tennessee, on this day my brother Paul Jacobson and sister Vicki Stedman Pope are ready t go to work.In Atascadero, California, on this day, my brother David Mulvey is ready to go to work.

On this day, let us pause and give thanks for every decent human on earth whom faced adversity and persevered. Let us all praise President George H. W. Bush and Senator Bob Dole. Let us all plead for the silent Christians, who will not denounce the charlatans speaking for them, to find their moral voice.

Never: was a fight won with inaction, with blindness, with fear. Rise up, my loved ones. Sharpen your words
.
The time is now.

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