Tuesday, July 31, 2007

cien palabras


Down 281 and out 90, a quicker way to the west of my youth. Crossing a random lane, I felt as if I had shifted: broke free from a map wedged deep inside, mostly hidden, mostly unbidden, far from memory and intention, but so deeply embedded as to hold me, if not willing prisoner, at least wary traveler.

Those streets are gone: where they lead are gone: who I would have been is gone.

It was not loss I felt, not mourning: it was freedom, lighting out for the territories.

White moon over a bank of cloud: blue sky calling.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Anderson's Horn Island

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Divine Larceny

Walter Anderson's "Hummingbirds"

God’s droll little challenges. Today, at the 10:30 service, I found my back pew—that’s MY back pew—invaded by a twelve or thirteen year-old boy I have long nicknamed Wild Man. He has a name, I even know his name, but I will keep him hidden under his soubriquet for now.

Soubriquet is a bit of a stretch: as I understand its meaning, it denotes an affectionate or humorous nickname. Nom de guerre is probably more to the point, when it comes to my relationship with Wild Man. He has, for the most part, been a terrorist: bullying child from the apartment complex next to our church: bully not just in an abstract sense: he has bullied my own eight year old son, and all of the other younger children at one time or another over the past six months or so, since he was adopted by our youth group. I have run him off our playground after church before, after some particularly egregious behavior, not, of course, without mentally noting just how decidedly inhospitable and unChrist-like my own playground policing was. After services, my son and his friends always check to see if WM is around, before they head out for the playground: if the answer is in the affirmative, more often than not, they will play in the parish hall, until WM goes home, dropping himself over the fence from one of the long branches of our playground oaks.

Shortly after one of my banishings, I looked up from the “cup of salvation” I was serving around the communion rail, right into the face of my young nemesis. A sobering experience.

Suffice it to say, Wild Man was the last person I would want invading my peaceful Sunday pew. But, God is all about breaking and entering, isn’t he? Unquestionably, an agent provocateur, and she must have amusedly decided that today my Baskin Robbins lottery number was up.

Only WM was not alone today. With him was a small blond barefoot Dickensian urchin. I had seen this boy playing with my son when I picked him up from Sunday School. B— was WM’s little brother: a gentle, attentive, heartbreaking boy who my own son had taken a liking to, intermittently bemused and slightly horrified that this boy was the younger brother of the playground terrorist.

There was some rough brotherly shepherding on the part of WM at first: little broo had set his shoes beneath one of the pews, but could not find them: combination of helping to look and chiding from big broo. I got down on my knees at one point to survey pews from behind the back rows, when WM genuinely thanked me, even gently touched my arm, and said they had found them.

Through the early part of the service, WM vacillated between attentiveness, standard boilerplate WM-obnoxious behavior (calmly shushed or redirected by the rector’s younger son in the pew ahead of us), and occasional bopping of his brother for crimes to which only he seemed privy. Trumped up charges all: the boy was simply trying to be a quiet witness to the service.

What were fascinating, however, were WM’s “unexpected” bouts of attentiveness. During the offertory, one of our tenors sang a gorgeous solo of The Lord’s Prayer. He sat rapt as the man sang, applauded quietly on his own, looked at me and said, “Wow. That was pretty.” When we sang another version of The Lord’s Prayer during the communion service, he again remarked about how pretty the song was. And, as we prepared to go to the rail, he very carefully explained the protocols to his brother, about passing The Kingdom of God is yours today / and yours also around the rail, and about younger broo simply crossing himself for a blessing, as he was not yet baptized to receive communion.

In our church, it is customary for the choir members and their families to receive communion first, to facilitate the singing that occurs while others are being served. I explained this to WM and his brother as I left early to join my wife and son at the rail. When I returned to the pew, WM smiled and jokingly chided me with, “You left us!”

When it came their turn for communion, I slid out of the pew to let them and others pass by. When I sat back down, I noticed that little brother, still barefoot, was sitting half-curled up in the pew by himself. I asked him if he’d like me to walk with him up to the rail and help him receive a blessing. He said yes.

I’ve mentioned his bare feet twice now: there was something very moving and powerful in the innocence of this barefoot boy going to the rail, his hand in mine, and then standing and receiving the blessings of the Eucharistic Ministers. I felt very deeply blessed by his—and yes, even his brother’s—presence, as I stood behind. It unnerved me deeply to feel the intimacy of being with them in God’s family. As I stood there, big broo looked over from his spot a few people down the rail and whispered, “Thank you.”

The two of them disappeared out the door, after we got back to the pew, time and privacy enough for me to crack open a bit and fill up with tears—a bit more of God’s breaking and entering.

After service, in the parish hall, I found both boys looking at the art work on the walls, from a week’s worth of children’s Breakfast with the Arts classes. I had attended two of the classes with my son. Little brother was standing in front of a painting entitled Zebra Bird: a Walter Anderson-like portrait of an eagle’s head. “This is my favorite,” he said. “Well,” I said, “it happens to be mine. Do you want it?” No hesitation at all: yes. As I untaped it from the wall, I heard big brother over my shoulder say, “This is my favorite.” Violin Bird: a pelican in similar Anderson-like fashion. “It’s yours,” I said. Very genuine thanks on big brother’s part, and an assurance that “this will go up on my wall.”

You’ll notice that a few paragraphs back I dropped the use of big brother’s soubriquet. I will now drop its use permanently. I will not disclose his name here, but it is the only way I will refer to him in the future.

It is easy to yearn for God from the comfort of our loving and loved insular lives. Easy to show up and share in the loving fellowship. B—‘s big brother answers a call to God that struggles within himself and finds his way to a table of worshippers that struggles to welcome him. Rough and tumble: God’s pure larceny. Amen.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Little Chapel of Miracles: High Desert

Listening is not just for the comatose...

A Reflection
Thomas Bushnell, BSG

Responding to
the Blessings in the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams writes:

In taking this action and ignoring the considerable reservations of the Church, repeatedly expressed and most recently by the Primates, the diocese has gone significantly further than the teaching of the Church or pastoral concern can justify and I very much regret the inevitable tension and division that will result from this development.

Young children define words by giving examples of their use. If you ask young children to define the word cooperate, they give examples that do not fit that word, but instead fit the word obey. The reason is obvious: it's because adults around them keep telling them to cooperate, when the adults have no interest in simple cooperation, and demand instead obedience.

The same newspeak is going on here in Williams' comments. The Diocese of New Westminster has not ignored the reservation of the church. It has listened, taken it into account, and then proceeded as it does best. The rest of the church has a right to be heard, and heard they were. But our structures do not require New Westminster to obey the Primates' Meeting.

Rowan Williams has thus greatly confused the two. The Primates' Meeting doesn't even have the right to demand to be heard (unlike the ACC or maybe Lambeth); if they want to be heard they must stop the silly seclusion and secrecy attached to the meeting. But regardless of whether we must listen to the Primates' Meeting, we have listened.

Ironically, the Primates' Meeting does not listen. They shut themselves up behind closed doors, proudly announcing that it's just a private conversation, and then issue magisterial statements from on high, which the Archbishop of Canterbury now thinks must be obeyed by each and every diocese of the Anglican Communion.

But listen and obey are different things. Williams seems to think that if you don't obey, then you must not have been listening. This is a dangerous thing to say. We are now on the second Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church who talks a nice line about the inclusion of gay people, but when push comes to shove, doesn't really speak up for us. (Remember Lambeth and his abstention? My bishop at the time,
Tom Shaw, SSJE, did speak up.) I believe we are now witnessing the slide of Rowan Williams into the miasma of selling us out to preserve a facade of unity.

[I found this in Louie Crew's Do Justice papers.]

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sinead O' Connor - You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart

The song, the voice. Seems she's back on her own terms. Good. We need her. Bless her and peace.

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Excerpts from letter to Sister Laura:

We’d originally planned to head out Monday the 16th, early morn. As we got closer, I kept having the itch to head out Sunday night and just push it as far as we could. I took a two hour nap Sunday evening, loaded up on Starbucks, and we rolled on out. Seems that every time I’ve done that stretch out to Fort Stockton, I’ve done it late at night (the most notorious trip was the late-night Christmas Eve departure, on my way to Idaho): I like the long stretches, the darkness, the lunar landscape. This run, I kept waiting for that 5 hour tractor shift groove to kick in: it finally did, about 100 miles down the road: Tina and Walden sleeping, I slipped in some Pat Metheny and Diana Krall and finally, some Van. Van and I have fallen out over the past ten years (I no longer even pay attention to his new releases), but this was his ’94 Night in San Francisco live album, itself not that great an album, but it has an amazing stretch of interwoven “I’ll Take Care of You” and “Lonely Avenue” that just scorches. Of course, all this music is playing at barely above a whisper, but it was perfect. We shot across west Texas to Fort Stockton: I didn’t hit my wall until Carlsbad, NM at 5 in the morning. Napped for about an hour and a half, and we were off again.

Monday’s highlight was running out of gas between Roswell and Vaughn, on our way to Santa Fe. Just simple miscalculation and out of staters’ delusion that surely there were at least truck stops on that long stretch of 285. When the realization finally started breaking through (coming over yet another rise to miles and miles of high desert plains), I reluctantly pulled over (you know the typical male stupidity in this regard) to the only grove of trees for miles around, a grove of trees that shaded Ramon’s dead (as in defunct, as in shell standing, rest obliterated) adobe Bar. No surprise to you, I’m sure, that we are not cell phone users/owners: there is a, yes, stubborn Luddite resistance in this, and yes, many would say a stupidity in this, but I have never wanted to feel that accessible/plugged in at any given time: there is also a level of trust in this, that all will be well, and as we pulled up to the shade of Ramon’s, there was a white “cable guy” truck, with Ray the cable guy checking cable lines behind the defunct RB, who had the cell phone we needed. After some endless haggling with the road emergency folks, who kept insisting that our location was not on their maps, we were finally able to settle down to camp chairs in the shade, lizards in the gravel, a profusion of birds in the trees, and a jackrabbit frolicking in our midst. A 45 minute wait, but one that allowed me to slip fully into vacation freefall: up until then, I had been all set on our timetable to Santa Fe (we were still way ahead of schedule, what with the overnight haul). The breeze was wonderful, and as much a God’s gift as anything could be: it was literally the only grove of trees for 40 miles around. A little triptych of Rays, too: Ramon’s bar, Ray the cable guy, and the folks who came to gas us up were from Rael’s in Vaughn.

Letting go became a theme for the rest of the trip: letting go of a trip to the Grand Canyon, letting go of a trip to a cliff dwelling, letting go of doing anything at all on the Tuesday after our long haul.

Georgia’s museum was wonderful, quainter and smaller than I had imagined, much less work on the walls than I expected, but still a wonderful experience. My favorite piece was a pastel drawing I had never seen from very early on, one that had a gorgeous Mary blue at its center. I also made a small peace with Santa Fe itself: it was drizzly grey while there and for some reason it just struck me as very peaceful, like the Quarter on a Sunday morning. We spent that night just north of Albuquerque in the village of Bernalillo, at an old adobe B&B: breakfasted the next morning on incredible pumpkin pancakes with piñon nuts embedded in them.

Made good time to Flagstaff, skirting its edge, and then on down the Oak Creek Canyon way into Sedona: quieter, less dramatic, but to me the sweeter way in: through 20 miles of switchbacks, you drop 3000 feet in elevation. Pulled into the Orchards Inn, which is set right on a hillside overlooking the creek. And when they say every room has a magnificent view of the red rocks, they wasn’t kiddin’.

Good food to be had, albeit outrageously expensive. Excellent ice cream and coffee to be had, especially the former at Sabrina’s Homemade Ice Cream.

It occurs to me now that I’m not even sure of our daily itinerary, after our arrival in Sedona: a day’s memory seems to be missing. Thursday, we drove a few miles west of Sedona, into more of the “big” red rock country, out to the Boynton Canyon Trail: assorted metaphysicians of the rocks have mapped out a handful of energy “vortexes,” with their various unique qualities delineated. The Boynton vortex was identified as “balancing masculine/feminine energies,” so we opted for that one: drove to the trailhead and trekked on in. One of the wonderful things about the red rock is that it is so soothing to the eye, I never wear sunglasses around it, which just brings the world that much closer in. Climbed a rocky rise between two tall cairn-like natural rock formations and sat down overlooking a green valley of Ponderosa pines. Buddhist prayer flag about twenty feet below us in a juniper bush and wonderfully quiet. Meditated for a while, set our rings on the red rock, beautiful gentle breeze blowing. “Did ye get healed?” sez Van: well, I can’t speak for that. I walked over to the larger of the two “cairns” and had the distinct impression that she was definitely the mama energy, Yemaya to be sure.

Friday, no doubt, was the pièce de résistance: trip up canyon to Slide Rock, into the red rock, cold cold cold cold cold clear water, lots of natural water slides in the rock. There’s a big, long, bumpy ride at the beginning that Walden’s all hot to get into, but it makes me blanch. We beg off and hike farther up the canyon, tamer slides, good swimming holes. At one point, we heard this huge ominous thunder, but looked up at a perfectly blue sky. Half an hour or so later, Walden is not having any more of the tame slides, he jumps into the big one, bangsbounces his way down, and comes out ready for more. Each of us take a run down with him, while that blue sky turned black, with the thunder drums rolling. Big splats of rainfall: folks start rolling out: Tina and Walden head towards the car, while I trek back upcanyon for our stuff: it was magnificent: the rain, the rock, the water, everything. We then took the canyon road up to Flagstaff, which, save for its lovely NAU campus, is one gritty little nowhere town. Can’t believe it was on my short list (Bellingham, WA, Flagstaff, AZ, Ashland, OR, and Moscow, ID) of places to move to, after the exodus from New Orleans. Had to be thinking, that’s about as close to Sedona I’ll be able to afford.

Long drive Saturday all the way down to Artesia, NM: tipped our hats at Ramon’s Bar as we barreled by. Stayed in Artesia at the lovely Heritage Inn and had the best damn Italian food I have had in years at Piccolino’s, oh my God. Luckily they were closed Sundays, or we would have finagled a way to stay in Artesia for one more meal. Finding incredible Italian food in Artesia is like finding something comparable in Uvalde, Texas. Yes, miracles happen, but this...

Sunday was, in some ways, the most wonderful day of the trip. Saturday night, I had been lamenting how the drive back always seems somehow not part of the vacation: it’s just the chore of getting back. Well: we drove south out of Artesia, on our way to Fort Stockton, a fairly bland, boring drive: Tina’s driving, my nose is stuck in Patrick O’Brian’s The Surgeon’s Mate. I look up at one point and see a sign for mileage to Las Cruces and El Paso, pass some mental note through my head. A little later, Tina says, “You really need to look at these mountains.” I look up at these gorgeous green giants looming all around us in cloudy fog and mist: after a few minutes marvel, I think: no way I went through this on the overnight up from Fort Stockton. In the midst of all this splendor, the ridiculous curmudgeon pulls out Texas roadmap, finds that we are skirting down the wrong highway just east of the Guadalupe Mountains. Our detour, and its eventual correction will add three hours to our trip back. Apparently, there was a highway split around Carlsbad that we had missed.

But, oh what a detour: Tina said, “It looks like Ireland,” which at first struck me as utterly ludicrous, but the more I looked, the more she was right. It was incredible: down past the Guadalupes, then the Sierra Diablos, then the Beach Mountains, and then mesa after mesa strewn all along the way back down to I-10. No towns, maybe one or two other travelers along the way. I kept feeling it was like the church service we were missing back here in SA, it was so moving and silent and beautiful. I am already plotting a trip back out there for either Thanksgiving or Christmas (with a trip back to Artesia, too, of course).

High on a hill above the cinnamon town...

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From the DayBook Archives

Day 45 (June 10, 2006)

I've not been gone, just underground. Underground and no longer chronological. What's not been here has been inked on yellow sheets of paper, an experience I found that I've liked and missed: but, I've just spent an afternoon wiled away at two libraries and mind-rummaging as I browsed through three books over coffee in the dingy little cafe at Central Market. I prefer the coffee at Whole Foods, but I prefer the dingy cafe more. So, I settle for lesser coffee and better (dingier) digs.

The three books sent me back here, to the DayBook, the one not inked (the inked is a DayBook as well). Three books: Annie Lamott's Bird by Bird and Traveling Mercies, and Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. Total truth, it's Lamott who got me back here: Miller will come later, though I did poke around for a bit.

I've poohed, as is my wont, Lamott for several years now: dissed her Bird by Bird, based on about half an hour's browsing at a time at which I could have given a shit about anyone else's notions of writing and living; dissed her fiction, on the basis of nothing other than guilt by association. When I first caught wind of her "Life" with "Jesus," I was, at best, amused, but mostly, of course, fairly dismissive as well.

Tina ran across her on good old Tavis a night or so before we headed to the beach this past week, time enough for me to grab up volume two in her "Life" with "Jesus," entitled Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. Tina needed reading for the beach, so I piled it in with my hoard of Dickens, Donald Miller, and - once again - Kathleen Norris. I dipped into the latter two while down at Port Aransas; Nicholas Nickleby, I'm afraid, got short shrift, Chuck. But it was Lamott that I devoured, just as I gobbled up a fair amount of what she had say in the dingy cafe a half hour ago.

I'm not sure why it's important to say, but it's pressing on me: I went out into the streets of San Antonio this afternoon looking fairly grizzly: unshaven, unbathed, hair a greasy mess plastered to my skull. I didn't care: I was lost in anonymity and wanted to stay that way. The air was hot baked stone bread outside, bordering on unbreathable, unlike the sweet air we had enjoyed the last four days down on the coast. I think I just wanted to hide under the weather and not come out for a full blast of it. My dinge and the dinge of the cafe were a good match: mutual ugly, full of crumbs, dismissal-worthy. An extremely dapper old man, beautiful white hair, cane, black beret, spiffy slacks and sport coat sat at the table beside me. I had endured his slow dredge for coins in line ahead of me, buying his fruit cup and coffee, shuffling to the table. Along the way, he dropped his plastic fork, unaware he had done so. The part of me that is loving and not so easily dismissive, grabbed another fork for him, touched him lightly on the back, and handed him the new utensil. The grousy part of me was still growling, unimpressed by the schmoozy self. Later, as he shuffled off for something else, he asked if I would watch his things for him: the schmooze smiled and said sure, while Mr Grouse wondered how long I would have to delay the rest of my day waiting for him to shuffle back from the bathroom.

Still, I read on, in my inner and outer dinginess. Read of Annie's first unmistakable sense of Jesus "in the room" with her as she is crawling out of a reptilian life; the sequence is fuzzy to me, but she also tells of being followed by him like a cat wanting in, wanting to adopt her as cats are wont to do, her persistent attempts to elude, and then finally, this "lovely" "conversion": "Fuck it. Just come on in." Another later meeting takes place in the john: annunciations don't get much better, do they?

I might as well have been in the john when, two months ago, I had the sudden conviction that I needed to be in church, not some anarcho-pagan-zen enclave, but just straight Episcopalian, no chaser. All the Jesus and Him-ness, with Mary and Divine Mother (not to mention my own mother Yemaya) and all other possible permutations left off the style sheet altogether. Much more Jesus-exclusiveness than I would have expected from what I once knew as Episco-paganism. I have obediently propped up a limping Bible Intro class as one of its two regular attendees just because, well, just because. I get weepy at the drop of a hat: with a sudden surge of choiry-ness, at the communion rail, just looking at pictures of "Jesus," a slide show of Jesus paintings mixed in with photographs of members of the congregation. Annie's conversations/prayers with God and Jesus so often approach the level of village simpleton, her attention span rocketing off just as mine does at the oh so simple and straightforward prospect of sitting down for a divine chat.

So, Annie's conversion stories are half of what got me back here. But something else prodded as well, a mere blip in the initial reading of Bird by Bird, the kind of comment that ordinarily would have either passed right by as filler, or passed right by with eyes rolled. I don't even know where it slipped in, but slip in it did: Tell the truth. And at that moment, I was seized by a passionate desire to do just that, for one long haul, right her in the DayBook. Yes, I've been writing feverishly elsewhere, struggling on with my novel Galilee, inking away on yellow paper, hamstringing myself for two weeks' worth of 100 words daily at 100 words, but missing a place where I just say something real, something true, something pretty well unvarnished, as I set out to do when I first put words in this venue.

A couple more confessions:

43 Things is another venue where I've been wordplaying of late. At one point, I posted the URL to this DayBook, but very quickly pulled it off and replaced it with an old blog address, full of all the bluster of the daze before I had to get my butt in a pew or else. Paschal's DayBook just seemed way too "exposed" for me out there in 43Land, so I pulled back. Still, on the other hand, I'm not trying to get all evangelical either: part of me also feels like I need a quieter place to pray and find my way through this odd conviction: it doesn't need me in my usual song and dance in FunkyTown.

Let me be clear about this: my butt in an Episco-pew, my schoolboy attentiveness in Bible class, my volunteering for an children's art series next month at the church, my increasing openness to just about anything Church of Reconciliation has to offer is not about any conversion to mainstream One Way Jesus: it IS about following a thread home to something I feel calling me, that so happens to have a hell of a lot of Jesus in the path. I love Yemaya, I love Mary, it's even quite easy for me to conjure up a whole lotta love for Buddha, whover they might be. But this Jesus, this Son of Man: I can barely sit still in the same room with him. Why is that? Apparently it's time I found out, and find out what all this feels like home weepiness is all about, too.

The last confession: while dinged out in the dingy cafe, I glanced at two young sun-browned women all fresh and beautiful in their youth and thought for a moment how I've essentially come to the down side of anything approaching sun-browned and fresh and beautiful. My son, who is seven and all of the above himself, has years of Adonis-hood ahead of him, but - as dear Judy Garland sang it - "not for me." I was trying, in between the lines of my reading, to just get down with the reality of all that, and cede the coming generations their comeliness.

The two Aphrodites departed, leaving me to Annie and my shuffling cafe-neighbor. Ten or so minutes later, the next shift of paired beauties arrived. I cast a troll's glance their way, and dipped again into the stew of Lamott and ceding and Judy Garland all over again. But as I gathered all my stuff to go, I glanced once more the way of the lovely generation, not for any purpose, just as a dingy troll-writer is wont to do, a throwaway glance, but what came back my way was not a throwaway glance at all. Dark-haired beauty looked straight at me, smiled broadly in an unmistakably inviting way, and just in case I wanted to stay confused as to why, looked straight at me again and widened that smile, as if to say, "yes, I mean you, beautiful man." There was, I swear, nothing sexual about this invitation and acknowledgement, but there was also nothing dismissive about it either. It was a full-throttled, come hither, "yes, I am beautiful and so are you" look right into my very soul, a big sack of Mardi Gras beads and doubloons dumped on a sap who'd given up dreaming anyone on a float would ever notice him and rain down Joy on his lonely little parade. And I have no doubt - none - that was Jesus shining all her Joy right back at me.

"Careful how you peg, buddy boy," s/he said.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Carter Heyward, from her "Why I Decided to Solemnize Same-Sex Marriages":

5. Unity of the church. When Episcopalians talk about “unity,” they should be asked: “Unity with whom?” With the Bishops of Nigeria and South Carolina or with the suicidal gay teen in South Carolina and the Nigerian lesbian beaten and raped because someone discovered she's lesbian? The “unity of the church” argument has been used against every justice movement that has ever threatened to change the church. Our unity isn't worth much if it's not rooted and grounded in justice, healing, and reconciliation, which take time – but which do not ever require us to perpetuate injustice. Our unity – as Episcopalians and, globally, as Anglicans – will be woven historically, over time, generations, and continents, as efforts for racial, sexual, gender, class, tribal, religious and other forms of justice move along, interfacing, colliding, reconciling, being stirred and sparked by the Spirit of God.

Here's the rest:


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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Blessing

The 8

Self-tagged, I submit:

In some ways, I am the blandest of bland foodfellows. Witness: for me, the definitive test for good TexMex is, simply, the cheese enchilada. There must be no meat in the gravy and those onions should be cooked on the inside. Ice cream, the test is, naturally, vanilla. Haagen-Dazs vanilla is just fine, as is Blue Bell’s Homemade (?) version. Always room for Amy’s Mexican Vanilla. (No onions in or out, please.)

Not that Austin’s Las Manitas enchiladas michoacan aren’t pure heaven, as were those diabolically scrumptious cousins at Santa Fe’s Shed. And the defining flavor certainly did not keep me from going back for seconds on Java Chip at Sabrina’s in Sedona.


I am a vegetarian who loves meat: the (remembered) taste of it, the smell of it, stories about it, PBS cooking shows about it. I do not miss steaks in the least: I miss the lesser gods, the downright menial gods: bacon, sausage, New Orleans debris, all manner of oysters, those gorgeous dishes at Mosca’s way out in who the hell knows where. (We ALL knew where the hell, believe me.)


I love all manner of fancy-pants, avant-garde, worldly music, but let’s face it: my favorite band at the age of fourteen was The Association, followed not far behind by the Cryan Shames, who just died too soon. Dig deep enough in my pantheon of favorites through the years, it’s all still pretty sappy music appreciation. Guilty pleasures, those you’re not supposed to admit to liking? Major goo: embarrassedly, I admit to Streisand/Gibbs’ “Guilty” (naturally); Patrice Rushen’s “Forget Me Nots” is just too damn sweet and gooey not to admit to.


Back in the 1970s, my favorite actresses were Julie Christie, Sarah Miles, and Susannah York. Sublime Ms. Christie of “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “Far From the Madding Crowd,” and “Heaven Can Wait”; ever-quivering lipped Ms. Miles of “Ryan’s Daughter” and the long lost “Lady Caroline Lamb”; Ms. York, I think I just mistook for Ms. Miles.


Apropos of number 4, Richard Rodney Bennett wrote some gorgeous lush soundtracks back in those blonde daze.


If my writers pantheon of Padgett Powell and Barry Hannah is not known, then it is now. Mr. Pynchon’s jersey, after Against the Day, is permanently hung in the rafters.


My middle name—Murat—comes from Joachim Murat: husband of Caroline Bonaparte, brother-in-law of the little tyrant, later named King of Naples by said intruder. Decidedly vain man, as any portrait shows: at his execution, he called for the firing squad to “mind the face!”


My favorite Michael Ondaatje novel is Coming Through Slaughter.

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300 Words


Long long drive to Artesia. Out of Sedona, in the wee quiet hours , up one last time through that gorgeous red whispering canyon. Blow past Flagstaff and on across eastern Arizona’s flat flatlands. Bad hash this time in Holbrook, on again across the yellowing high desert. Into New Mexico’s redlands, Gallup, and finally a brief lemony nap, just enough to push on, push on, through Albuquerque, and on down the Miracle Highway to Roswell and, at last, blissful home in Artesia at the Heritage Inn. Highjacked by Italian food pirates at Piccolino’s, devilishly good eggplant parmagiana, my oh my.


Down out of lovely Artesia, through Carlsbad, on to Fort Stockton, yes? Odd signs for El Paso and Las Cruces, my nose finally comes up out of Aubrey/Maturin and we are in the midst of islands in foggy mists, recumbent giants. Mary calls yet again: these are the Guadalupe Mountains and we are off course.

Or are we? These beautiful mountains call to us, calling us home, calling us further down past the Sierra Diablos, the Beach Mountains, and into Van Horn. Mesa after mesa of crow I must eat, this gorgeous west Texas land I have so arrogantly dismissed.


Dead to the world, save my son slipping in between us early morn, but of even that, only briefly aware. Unload the car, piles of laundry about, remnants of the week’s bliss. Internet is fritzing, reminder to stay gone a little longer, why hurry back? SA has been under rain, the air has (presumably) been cooler, but dear old Aunt Humidity seems to have returned just for us. Speaking of returns, Mr. Blue is ever so grateful, ever so. His Teutonic aunt will never do, never. Those Guadalupes, Sierra Diablos continue to haunt, yes, even more so than sweet Sedona.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I am thanked
twice I am thanked
in four full-figured
margin justified
paragraphs, I am thanked
by Canon Flora
for the vacationing
(“taking a period of study”)
ArchBish of Cant, I am
for my views re:
his dis of Brother Gene
not, apparently,
with respect to Petie’s Nigerian
displeasure, big boy enuff
for the big boy’s table
at the palace. Timely,
this archbishoprickly departure—
for study

Who is this Mr. Windsor Report
to whom little Rowan feels
so desperately pledged, does he
cower at night ‘neath
the admonition to
exercise very considerable caution in inviting him to the councils of the Communion…

Lest we forget
Son of Man’s very own admonitions,
was it not something
to the tune of
Bitch, get yo nasty oily hair offa my feet, me broos
would never stand for my hangin’

Zat how your Book reads, Brer Row,
on your creamy Lambeth stationery
under Flora’s nimble hand?
If so, send me, dear broo,
a copy of your Book, for
mine is badly translated.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dle Yaman


Dle Yaman, Mer tun, Dzer tun dimac, dimac
Dle Yaman, Heriq anes achqov imac
Yaman Yaman Yar

Dle Yaman, Heriq anes achoqov imac
Yaman Yman Yar

Dle Yaman, Arev dipav Masis sarin,
Dle Yaman, Karot mnaci es im yarin,
Yaman Yaman Yar

Dle Yaman, Karot mnaci es im yarin,
Yaman Yaman Yar


Alas, Alas, Our homes face each other,
Oh, Alas, Isn't it enough, That my eyes send you a sign?
Alas, Alas, O My love!

Oh, Alas, Isn't it enough, That my eyes send you a sign?
Alas, Alas, O My love!

Alas, Alas, the sun has touched Mount Ararat
Oh, Alas, Still I remain yearning for my love
Alas, Alas, O My love!

Oh, Alas, Still I remain yearning for my love
Alas, Alas, O My love!

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Dle Yaman by Isabel Bayrakdarian

"See you in the ruins."

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100 Words


I know where you are. I know where you are. Out into the day, out into the afterday, out into the netherworlds, the fashions of ivory science. Across to Bombay, the night is blue, the rivers jade, the mountains smoke. Guitar sings, the hill country calls, alexanders call the crescent moons. This is where, this is why, I know where you are. Received from those, received from plenty, received in red, I know where, I know where, I know where you are.

Standing alone, Congress and the river, Congress and I know, I know where, I know where you are.


The fuzz is back, casting windward, sunflowers in the North Pasture. Where are they, these days of forgiveness? Walk north through trees of sunbright, windmill calling its tune, high cumulus off the gulf, drifting in the new world of the foothills. I know where you are.

Walk higher, the middens call. Where were we when we weren’t? Where were we in the difference between blue and green? Ask later, ask after the day explodes. Ask when grief finds you and the stranglehold dies. I will pass. We will pass. I know where. You are. Without a dream in my heart.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Down, Girl

["A 10-year-old Nepalese girl was stripped of her title as a living goddess because she traveled overseas to promote a documentary about the centuries-old tradition, an official said Tuesday.

Sajani Shakya had her status revoked because she broke with tradition by leaving the country, said Jaiprasad Regmi, chief of the government trust that manages the affairs of the living goddesses."]

“Not like we wanted to call you in, Kriti: we had no choice.”

“So you say.”

“Now, listen—”

“No, you listen. I mean, come on, the Five and Dime? You couldn’t have aimed for discreet?”

“What has discreet got to do—”

“Discreet has everything to do with it. One minute the subcontinent is at my feet, next minute I’m being drummed out in the checkout line.”


“Don’t Kriti me, I didn’t even get to buy those whoppers, nary a junior mint. Halfway through the Britney scam, and then your goons—”

“Hardly goons, Kriti. They are grandmothers—”

“Sharp fingers up my armpit, that’s goons in my book, I don’t care what they look like. And Mrs. Partisan is hardly—”

“Alright, Kriti, I grant you Mrs. Partisan—”

“You’re darn rootin’ tootin’, Mrs. Partisan—”

“Okay, okay. I grant you: it’s a nasty fly all round. Drummed out, whopper-shorn, nary a junior mint, bindi—”

“Oh, the bindi too, is it?”

“I’m afraid so, Kriti.”

“Shake ya booty Shakira gets to smear her forehead, Gwen Stefani gets one straight from BKS, but no, Ms. Down and Out is gotta wipe her face. Where is the justice in that?”

Attempting a smile, “You forgot Furtado—”

“Screw Furtado.”

Brief truce for hostile breathing.

“Well now. Be that as it may, we’ve got your future to think about.” Sliding the papers across the rosewood desk. “There’s your handsome pension to think of. If you’ll just sign—”

“40 quid a month? You call that handsome? Brad Pitt is handsome. 40 quid is Karl Malden in my book.”

“Most ungoddess-like, Kriti—”

“Exactly. Exactly.”

“Fact is, I kind of had a thing—”

“You would. No, Amma, if it’s 40 quid, I’d just as soon take the candy. Resale, I should make 75, easy.”

“Now, is that any way to—”

“Is taking down the Kumari any way to—”

“Alright. Alright. Forget the money for a moment. National Confectioners Trade Association wants to send you to college.”

“Well, they should, as much tooth-rot as I consumed for them. Where would that be? Berkeley? Stanford? Eastern Washington?”

Amma’s moue did not bode well.

“A & M.”

“God, no.”

“I’m afraid so.”

Hoping to salvage something out of the wasteland: “Corpus Christi campus? I’d weather hurricanes, just please tell me—”

“I’m sorry, Kriti. It just ain’t happening.”

“College Station?”

Amma nodded.

“San Antonio, perhaps?”

“Not built yet, baby.”

“Hell, Amma, I’d take Kingsville over—”

Amma shook her head.

Double moue. Moue on moue.

“Dixie Chicken?”

“So I hear.”

“Blues on Thursday nights?”

“Aggies gotta get something right, n’est pas?"

“Frisbee in the quad?”

“As long as it ain’t Frisbee golf. Too confusing for the Ags.”

“I get to choose my major?”

“Depends on—”

“Double major. Geography and Comp Lit.”

“First one might be a stretch. You got drummed out for traveling, remember?”

“Girl studies Conrad likes to know where Poland is on the map.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Don’t count on—”

“Wouldn’t think of it.”

Five minutes of moue-softening. Time to watch the sun redden in the west.

Amma broke the silence: “Bartoli made the Wimbledon finals.”

“Tres bien.”

“Think she can take Venus?”

“Not a chance.”

They both caught the green flash at the horizon.

“Always meant to ask, Kriti—you ever feel like it was—”

“For real?”

“Yes. Did you ever?”

“I loved the attention, loved the candy, the red dresses, but no, never.”

“What a waste.” Amma was clearly disappointed. Kriti’s heart broke to see the sadness.

“Well, maybe—”


Kriti palmed a dollop of face cream, looked into the hand mirror, and gently wiped the bindi away. She leaned over the bowl of water and washed her face clean. Brushed her perfect teeth, set her perfect coffee-colored eyes upon Amma. Crossed her perfect hands in her lap.

“In Bholi, they brought me an old man, blind, crippled on two crutches, he’d lost one of his feet. Old toothless woman beside him whispers that he is 107 years old. Giggling like the 90 year old niece she’s been for ages. The old man shushes her and then very solemnly bows and kisses my feet. Sticker burr whiskers from his unshaven face rasp my toes. Then he sings me a song they later tell me is one thousand years old, and as he sings, he very carefully counts my toes. Counts them several times just to make sure. When he is absolutely positive, he opens his blind eyes, looks directly into mine, and winks. I can feel that song in my heart, to this day. So, yes, maybe once.”

Kriti stands to pull the red dress over her head. Pulls on a lavender shift, looks as beautiful as she did the day they placed the bindi of perfection upon her brow. She leans over, kisses Amma’s forehead and walks to the door.

Amma takes gentle hold of her dress. “I don’t understand. What did the old man see?”

Kriti smiled down. “Count my toes.”

Amma counted. She looked up. “Ten.”

“Count again.”

Again, she counted. “Ten. I count ten.”


Slowly, carefully now: “One… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine. Oh. Oh my.”

“So, yes. On that day, yes. On that day, I felt like I’d earned my 40 quid.”

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And what, this: Dom Perignon?

More from O'Brian:

'And having seen the parents I am impatient to see this youth, the fruit of their strangely unattractive loins: will he be a wretched mammothrept? A little corporal? Or will the resiliency of childhood...?'

'He will be the usual damned little nuisance, I dare say: but at least we shall know whether there is anything to be made of him by the time we are back from Alexandria. We are not saddled with him for the rest of the commission.'

Yes: mammothrept. Sounds worse than it is, by far.

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Fine Wine

From Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander:

Quaere: is this the cause for James Dillon’s agitated state of mind? Yes, I think so. Some strong pressure is certainly at work. What is more, it appears to me that this is a critical time for him, a lesser climacteric—a time that will settle him in that particular course he will never leave again, but will persevere in for the rest of his life. It has often seemed to me that towards this period (in which we all three lie, more or less) men strike out their permanent characters; or have those characters struck into them. Merriment, roaring high spirits before this: then some chance concatenation, or some hidden predilection (or rather inherent bias) working through, and the man is in the road he cannot leave but must go on, making it deeper and deeper (a groove, or channel), until he is lost in his mere character—persona—no longer human, but an accretion of qualities belonging to this character: James Dillon was a delightful being. Now he is closing in. It is odd—will I say heart-breaking?—how cheerfulness goes: gaiety of mind, natural free-springing joy. Authority is its great enemy—the assumption of authority. I know few men over fifty that seem to me entirely human: virtually none who has long exercised authority. The senior post-captains here; Admiral Warne. Shriveled men (shriveled in essence: not, alas, in belly). Pomp, an unwholesome diet, a cause of choler, a pleasure paid too late and at too high a price, like lying with a peppered paramour…But I am concerned for James Dillon: he is as mercurial as ever he was—more so—only now it is all ten octaves lower down and in a darker key; and sometimes I am afraid in a black humour he will do himself a mischief…there is little hope; for the discontent, the inner contest, must at times be very severe in a man so humourless (on occasion) and so very exigent on the point of honour. He is obliged to reconcile the irreconcilable more often than most men; and he is less qualified to do so.

(Thus, Stephen Maturin in his journal, his feet in the basin.)

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Anutha Dream

Dream Song 100: How this woman came by the courage

How this woman came by the courage, how she got
the courage, Henry bemused himself in a frantic hot
night of the eight of July,
where it came from, did once the Lord frown down
upon her ancient cradle thinking 'This one
will do before she die

for two and seventy years of chipped indignities
at least,' and with his thunder clapped a promise?
In that far away town
who looky upon my mother with shame & rage
that any should endure such pilgrimage,
growled Henry sweating, grown

but not grown used to the goodness of this woman
in her great strength, in her hope superhuman,
no, no, not used at all.
I declare a mystery, he mumbled to himself,
of love, and took the bourbon from the shelf
and drank her a tall one, tall.

John Berryman

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Monday, July 02, 2007

From the Master

Dream Song 4: Filling her compact & delicious body

Filling her compact & delicious body
with chicken páprika, she glanced at me
Fainting with interest, I hungered back
and only the fact of her husband & four other people
kept me from springing on her

or falling at her little feet and crying
'You are the hottest one for years of night
Henry's dazed eyes
have enjoyed, Brilliance.' I advanced upon
(despairing) my spumoni.
—Sir Bones: is stuffed,
de world, wif feeding girls.

—Black hair, complexion Latin, jewelled eyes
downcast ... The slob beside her feasts ... What wonders is
she sitting on, over there?
The restaurant buzzes. She might as well be on Mars.
Where did it all go wrong? There ought to be a law against Henry.
—Mr. Bones: there is.

John Berryman

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