Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #117: Vision


If thou be'st born to strange sights,

Things invisible to see…

­—John Donne

We are closer to things invisible than to things visible.—Novalis

My son and I have just returned from an eight day tour of the Southeast, visiting family and friends we’d not seen in quite a while, in Nashville and in Jackson, Mississippi. The following are things seen and unseen on our mini-megatrek.

1. Starbucks Coffeeshops on the Palestine Highway. US Highway 79 out of Round Rock, Texas is my old favorite “northern route” to Jackson, avoiding as it does the east Texas mess of Houston / Beaumont / Lake Charles (yes, LC is just more of east Texas), as well as the flat-lined boredom of I-10 from Tres Leches to Houston altogether. 79 by contrast is a lovely rural meander through such towns as Rockdale, Thrall, Gause, Buffalo, Easterly, Palestine (that’s Palesteen, for the untrammeled), Hearne, Henderson, Jacksonville, Carthage and then into the none too pleasant burg of Shreveport. For our purposes, it meanders all the way to Nashville, but you never know what off the beaten paths amount to through Arkansas—they can sidewind through mountains that add hours to what looks like a simple jaunt on a less than topographical map. Our plan was to take 79 to Henderson, then 41 through Tatum and on to Marshall, where we’d pick up 59 to Texarkana and then I-30 and I-40 it to Little Rock and on to Nashville.

(I’d first discovered the Palestine one Christmas Eve, as I sailed down its dark length, a phantasmagoria of Christmas lights through its farms and wee burgs, mother and father and sleeping babe on their own pilgrimage: babe woke at one point to marvel at an enormous moon, shortly before we all hit our wall in Gause and dozed in front of the PO.)

We left TL in the wee hours and watched the sleeping SBs (they don’t open till 6) as we sailed through New Braunfels, San Marcos, Austin, and Round Rock, confident that we’d find at least one lurking up the Palestine—it is, after all, a “US” Highway and what enterprise these days has blazed through these United States more than the wildfire brew off Mount Rainier (Bentonville, Arkansas miasma excepted, of course)? But, 79 was a ticker tape parade of nada. The town that bears the highway’s name? None. Jacksonville, population 24,000—ditto. Marshall, similar population to J-ville (I actually thought it bigger), also untouched. Surely, we thought, Texarkana’s 60,000 residents would have access, but no, the coffee drought continued.

I’m droning on as if I am some Howard Schultz sycophant, when in truth I find his brew too hot, too strong, and his robotic coffee seller at the corner of Wurzbach and I-10 in TL a diabolic intrusion into my early morning fogs. I do love his HearMusic store in downtown TL where I can wile away four hours over a café mocha, listening to all the albums I sold at a garage sale in New Orleans, in preparation for my transmigration to Moscow, Idaho, albums I was sure to replace with their CD upgrades (how many of us have made that ridiculous statement?). Still, if I am not exactly a fan of HS’s brew, I am even less a fan of the brown lifeless grunge to be found in the Valero “cornerstores” and their ilk, foisted upon travelers nodding off behind the wheel. Much as I may love Barq’s root beer in a black cow/root beer float, I’m looking for higher octane to keep me from straying across the median or center stripe. For the road, a Café Mocha grande (I can’t bring myself to utter the word “venti”) does the trick, and my fellow travelers are safe from at least one dozing brother.

Howard and his baristas have whole other vistas awaiting them on the Palestine Highways of the world…

2. Sadness in Little Rock. I know his hometown is Hope, but I would have thought that at least a token of Bill’s recent 109 millions might have made their way to sprucing up the Arkansas capital city that gave him his start, but LR just seemed a sad and tired townlet, its poverty worn on its sleeves. It was the attendant sadness that was perhaps even more unsettling. Which is not to say that sad poverty should be hidden away: it needn’t and shouldn’t be: it was more a sense that we continue to have a long way to go in taking care of our people.

3. Nick Drake is “alive” and “well” in Little Rock. At least in Moe’s Southwestern Grill, that is. The last place I would have expected to hear the late enigmatic English popfolk jazzman. It’s like hearing “Tangled Up in Blue” in the neighborhood HEB, which I actually did, one fine day. God still lives in the radio waves.

4. Consequential Value is alive and well in Nashville. From his Thoreauvian hillside backyard (and on this website), brother-in-law Dave meditates upon the notion of consequential value. In his words, “I want to see a decrease in the amount of “stuff” that business throws at us and replace it with things or services that have real value, that make a difference–in the philanthropic sense, I suppose.” Admittedly, some very fun and lovely “stuff” was slipped our way during our Nashville visit, but the real consequential value was resting in the peaceable kingdom sister Laura and Dave have fashioned for themselves and the family they love and care for. I live in a home that is largely a peaceful and quiet retreat from the world’s bustle, and I found the same peacefulness in their hacienda on the hill. That’s bundles of CV.

5. It’s time to put Padgett Powell and Barry Hannah on the Endangered Species List. I am no longer surprised that neither is to be found on the shelves of the local mega-giants, but they were not even whispering their subversive mania from the fiction shelves of Vanderbilt’s bookstore. When in Jackson, I did not go to the Ozymandium of Lemuria (THE bookstore right next door to the Restaurant at the end of the Universe), where I know the two tricksters are well represented, both having appeared there in the past as, respectively, Hermes and Dionysus.

6. It ain’t church, if it ain’t got a beat. With Laura, Dave, and nephew Steph, we attended a very nice service at Saint Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, a service that was even more music-filled than our own Reconciliation’s here in TL and had some other differently nice touches. After the service, we wandered over to the church bookstore where, from the adjoining gymnasium I heard some amazing drumming. St. B’s has a very active ministry with Sudanese refugees and I had stumbled in upon their own largely drummed and chanted Anglican service. It took some effort for me to tear myself away: as much as I had enjoyed the earlier service, I felt like I was turning away from heaven itself. (Which reminds me that at Rec’s recent jazz mass, I was wonderfully surprised to hear the visiting band play Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven.” As a brief Episcopalian in my youth, I was inured to the idea that the Episcopal Church was many things, but musical it weren’t. At Rec, with our choir, music is vouchsafed alive and well; more often than not, what moves me about any given service is music I am either singing or listening to.)

7. Global warming and Texas drought notwithstanding, thunderstorms do still exist. We found this little factlet verified several times during our Jackson visit, glorious grey monsters mounting to the northwest and spreading out across the sky while we swam in sister Julee’s apartment pool. First streaks of lightning and thunder cracks, and we were out until the next day’s déjà vu.

8. Driving habits die hard. I believe the last time I lived in Jackson (seven years ago), I was also convinced that you could still take a right turn off of State Street onto Capitol (as you could in my high schooled youth). This time, as I turned into oncoming traffic, I was met by one of Jackson’s folks in blue. All trip long, I’d been badmouthing how crass Texas license plates look compared to most other states’ (like American currency in relation to the rest of the world’s), but you can bet I was thankful I had those plates to fall back on as explanation for my touristic folly. Police officer graciously (and with a bit of a smirk) accepted my “We could do this back in high school” and wished us well upon our way.

9. My son is as much a sucker for minutiae as his father. Witness his gleeful reading of the book his grandfather gave him, entitled The Book of General Ignorance, in which we find out that it is possible to travel faster than the speed of light (as long as light is traveling through sodium frozen to minus 250 degrees Celsius) and that barnacles, bless their hearts, have the largest penises proportional to body size, though of course, blue whales still come in as champions of absolute size, with members often several feet longer than Yao Ming is tall. “Girth” was a word that came in for its share of chuckles, as in, the “girth” of that cetacean endowment is 18 inches, and we completely lost it for several miles down the Palestine as we contemplated NOT wanting to be crushed by a 150 pound whale testicle.

Shrimps, by the way, make the loudest natural sounds in the ocean…

10. With Howard Schultz, it’s all about which way you’re going. Coming into TL last night, I saw a billboard that informed me of an SB that is open 24 hours a day. I guess if you’re driving north out of town, that’s not considered a necessary public service announcement.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #116: Happy Endings

[Detail from the infamous Logo-Board that blossomed one fine week in Mr B's classroom: starting with NM's nifty YouTube, it grew from there, grades 7-12 participating.]

I’m not sure of the exact time, but it was probably around 1991 or 1992. I was living in New Orleans, and was about two or three years into my immersion in all things metaphysical (psychic channels, astrology, healing touch, bodywork, past life regressions: it was the New Age, baby!). At the Golden Age Bookstore, I consulted an astrologer from Memphis who, amongst many other things said: “What’s with this psychotherapy thing? I see you as a teacher.” I gave her a standard Scorpio hmmm, and trotted out some pat rationalizations: supervising graduate social work interns, staff development, therapy as teaching—“No, teaching. In a classroom. That’s what I see.” She could bulldoze as well as the Scorpio across the table. Sarah was her name: Sagittarian, I believe, was her game (same, no surprise, as my son).

I didn’t seek out astrologers or my spiritual mentor Mary Jo McCabe (a psychic up in Baton Rouge; I’d see her once a year) for predictions, much as they might like to give them: I was looking for an understanding of who I was in the moment, not where (they thought) I might be. Of course, I missed the point that, as far as Sarah was concerned, she was not predicting: she was just stating the facts. My fault if I was off course.

I didn’t come to think of myself as off course, but in my last few years as a therapist, I found that I kept looking for ways to push beyond the classical structures (and strictures) of talk therapy into movement, bodywork, healing energy work, and other spiritual explorations. I also found myself wanting to just jump ship and do something completely different, things that invariably looked like minimum wage work: working in a bookstore, an art gallery, an organic nursery. Teaching never once entered the inner computations, computations that invariably led me to conclude that I was not yet ready to make the leap out of my comfortably-incomed life as a psychotherapist.

And then along came a Libra who I left an entire life for, and not too long thereafter, a young Sag swimming in her belly. His presence in our lives was as forceful as that other Sag who sat across from me six or seven years before. His importance to us and our commitment to him blew up all my sense of who I was, what I was, what I would do with my life. I made the leap from my comfortable life and, as I have said before, “trusting in the universe,” I leapt into a void of not-knowing.

And landed flat on my face in a deep swimming pool without water. Bloodied? You bet.

I limped out of the New Age, and took my bruised body into four years of Iyengar yoga: I felt betrayed by the universe in which I had (I now say naively and arrogantly) trusted, and I wanted nothing to do with metaphysical speculations: I wanted to heal a body, and came to see that the body was THE site and intersection of all things metaphysical. For us, on this planet, anyway.

Finding a work life after my life as a therapist was torture: part of my naïve arrogance was also a belief that the world out there would scoop me up with all my “transferrable skills,” that it didn’t take a genius to see that I had plenty to offer. “World” didn’t seem to agree. “World” mainly remained silent.

In my old high school stomping grounds of Jackson, Mississippi I managed to crib together a job as an archivist with the state Department of Archives and History, a wonderful job as it turned out, but one that walked on the thinnest of threads, a government contract job in a frenzied budget-cutting state: the blade came down fourteen months into that experiment in living.

From Jackson, I tossed myself up on the “shores” of my hometown here in Tres Leches (San Antonio, for the uninitiated) and ran into more closed doors than I would have thought possible in a city of over a million residents, the self-proclaimed “seventh or eighth” largest city in the US.

One day a new friend marched herself down to our local literary center and, as far as I can tell, virtually browbeat the wonderful Ms. Nan Cuba into offering me a part time job as PR Director. The writer in me was delighted, Nan was extremely supportive and loving, and the staff she had assembled, well, my nickname for the joint was the Love Shack.

But PR was just a part time gig, and I needed another part to go along with it. Through yet another odd labyrinthine passage, I landed a gig as an instructor at a local career school, what in the old days would have been called a vocational school, trade school, what have you. I taught the light, non-techy stuff, some of it mildly interesting, most of it drivel. I thought I had landed in hell.

Except that, over the next four years, I came to see that teaching was largely about building relationships and exploring material from that established trailhead. Social animal that I am, I grew to love working with the students, as did they with me. Over at the lit center, founder Nan was on her way out to a well-deserved extended sabbatical: let’s just say that the center has yet to recover from that jolt. A year and half later, I walked out myself, no longer trusting any universe to step in, but too miserable at the time to give a damn.

But the “teaching” gig continued, and sunk in deep enough into my bones that when word came two years ago that our program was being cut, I could confidently say that, for all its warts, the school had blessed me with the opportunity to “discover” what Sarah had tried to get me to see a mere fourteen or fifteen years before.

Two years now into a full time teacher’s gig, and ensconced in the Xanadu of my second summer vacation, I cannot imagine a better life, short of full time slackerdom (this 10 week slackerfest is plenty good in itself).

I just hope Sarah hasn’t got something else up her sleeve. Scorps are fixed signs, creatures of habit.

Happy endings sometimes take a while for slow learners. And fixed signs at that.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Week 17 Wordzzle: All is Vanity

For explanations of wassup, I refer you to Raven here.

Let’s dispense with the mini first, shall we: marathon, the butler did it, curtain, hand cream, flatulence.


The hand cream behind the curtain convinced us of the flatulence marathon culprit: once again, the butler did it.

And now for the ten-word offering: solitaire, pathological, grackles, alternative life style, manifest destiny, polarization, ugly duckling, folding chairs, flibberty-gibbet, hand grenade. (Miss Alister, guardian of the Wordzzle rubrics, will no doubt point out that them’s more than ten words, folks. I repeat: I just work here.)

The “ten” then:


It’s an alternate life style, this manifest destiny of polarization, ugly ducklings flying flibberty-gibbet against grackles, Nubian hand grenades in the hands of pathological, solitaire-playing custards. Folding chairs bristle, the architects of ice cream (apologies, WS) knead their Towers of Pisa into the night’s drizzle, Fourier’s phalanx loud and clear, entropic, getting down with the Oneida-folk, male continence be damned, marrying the complex, complicating the stirpiculture and all that Noyes. Joint-stock cutlery’s the name of the game now, cuz: it ain’t rapture they wuz lookin’ for, in and out the beehive of 27 standings and 48 administratives. Bloomsday bureaucracy, macrocosmic peep.

I’ve no idea what a vanity wordzzle is, but here’s the ingredients: antennae, paper bag, schmuck, devotee, brass tea kettle, cactus, Rubbermaid dish drainer, rocking horse, buried treasure, fleet of foot, nomenclature.

Gussied up before the mirror, I give you:


Git your antennae out the paper bag, schmuck. I ain’t no devotee of brass tea kettles, Cactus, but then I ain’t no Rubbermaid dish drainer, neither. I likes my rocking horse as buried treasure, fleet of foot, all Augustan in the simpering rain, riddled with smarmy nomenclature. Call back later, after the vanity’s been struck, monocultures notwithstanding.

[Clearly I am missing something.]

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #115b: Guide

Our good friend Ralph passed on this past Saturday, a month beyond his 76th birthday. Dapper little guayabera'd man, full of cheer and schmooze and vision through the hardest of his hard times: monk on the 14th floor of the Granada in downtown Tres Leches, overlooking Rio Tres Leches. He left us last year after a bad bout, to recoup with his Josephite Brothers up in Baltimore. Last we talked to him, he was full of the usual sweet vinegar, with his plans to return triumphantly to TL and take on the full reformation once again. It was a sweet shock that he had moved on: he had the same kind of confident joy and sure doggedness that Nabokov had: VN was the first death that really spun me for a loss: the immortals just don't go like the rest of us.

I pray the good man Ralph went in peace: I'm sure he did: I'm sure he is. I felt him all around us on Sunday when we got the word. He was a saint, in his small, gleeful, saintish ways, shuffling the streets of TL in joyous savvy. One of the last movies he recommended to us was a little Canadian number entitled "Saint Ralph." I watched it with my seniors this past spring and we were all delighted. Ralph's spirit sings throughout the movie, as it still does down the luminous avenues of trees in TL. Bless him.

In the following bit of bitness written three years ago, I dubbed Ralph the Nome King for the sound of it: he in no way resembled the duplicitous tantrum-heaver spawned from Lyman Frank Baum's imagination. My adopted literary identity at the time was Arden Quadberry, surname "stole" straight out of the maw of Mr Barry Hannah, probably my way of mourning his near coming to SA for a writing workshop, sadly derailed by an illness that rendered said visit a gross incovenience for the Argyle King.


Took the Nome King out to La Mad for his 73rd birthday. His chattering protests all the way, but chattering protest is his raison d’être - you don't take it personally, you SURF it. It's big waves. He loved it, and well he should: he has been a huge blessing to us.

Mrs. Quadberry invited a quick round of napkined exquisite corpse in honor of the occasion. Quad was feeling surprisingly rusty - very rusty - so, the lines you don't like would be his.

Cinco de Mayo

Take a stroll
down the lane of love,
brilliant disguises, after rushes
winding down ladders lost:
You will affirm that which is true -
A summer's day, a taste of nothing
as wisdom inches forward
we breathe the sun's breath
Angelic / organic
Your day of birth
Sings tunes of your soul...
The potato horses, the cheese
Have it, tears of joy -
A solstice of wonderment.

[for the nome king: 05.05.05: quadberry productions]

Nome himself contributed title (natch: we are, after all, in Tres Leches) and the potato "inspiration" (I know many will take issue with the word): as we were corpsing back and forth across the table, Nome wondered what happens if one person's writing about horses and the other about eggs and cheese and ham. The garlic mashed potatoes were on the table: they insisted; I just work here.

Nome marveled when Mrs. Q read the poem, but Nome schmoozes like the best of us, said: "It's like you're one person." Mrs. Q: "We are one person." N: "Ooh. I would never want to be one person with my wife. I would want to be many people." Ba-da-bing. Nome is actually more Buddy Hackett (a very slim one, mind) than Lyman Frank Baum.

I would be doing Mother Yemaya a grave disservice if I did not thank her for yesterday's beautiful day. I was walking to catch the 8 (tip it over, you get the drift) to meet Mrs. Q and mijo-Q in downtown Tres. High bright blue sky that will kill us in another few months, but this one just shined Mother Y all down on her babies, with a whispering cool breeze to match. Tall green pecans and oaks, and at one point I felt all that tall green fill up inside me: Yemaya walking in and with her babes.

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Sunday Scribbling #115: Guide

Archivists will have encountered this in Murat-ville back on September 3, 2007, but if ever there was a guide in M-ville it were Bill, hence the reprise:


[Be forewarned: the following is meant to be an homage and a confession, but in the truest spirit of Murat11’s blogs, it will be, first and foremost, as we all know, a ramble.]

This past week, in the wake of the Larry Craig buzzing, I was driving in early morning traffic, listening to an addle-brained local broadcaster engaging in faux journalism with his incessant “I’m just askings.” I suspect that his apparent attempts to be “objective” had more to do with Mr. Craig’s Republican affiliations than with any issues of sexual orientation; I seriously doubt that the likes of, say, Melissa Etheridge would have been accorded the same deference.

At one point in this faux-caster’s radio twaddle, he invoked the phrase “homosexual lifestyle.” So much for journalism. Just what is, I ask you, a homosexual lifestyle? What, for that matter, is a heterosexual lifestyle? It’s clear, from subsequent comments that Mr. Faux made, that you could substitute “cruising and promiscuous” for the words homosexual lifestyle. If cruising and promiscuous = homosexual lifestyle, then there are quite a few of us out here in hetero-land that qualify for new sexual designations.

Howzabout we retire “homosexual lifestyle” to the graveyard, right beside “I’m just asking.”

So saith the hummingbird darting outside my window.

It is very clear to my visitors that, when not going all goo goo and nostalgic, I have lately been deeply involved in The Episcopal Church’s and Anglican Communion’s quagmire regarding issues of “full” or “non” inclusion, as it relates to the blessed place of all people, regardless of sexuality, to be accorded equal standing (seating, and kneeling) within both TEC and the AC: equal standing here = LGBT rights to marry within the church, rights to have marriages and unions blessed within the church, rights to serve in capacities from diaconate right on through to Archbishop of the See of Canterbury. The word “rights” seems a terribly legalistic and inappropriate word for something which, to my mind, should be a given. I don’t think the Son of Man was into parsing the “rights” of women, children, and men: he kept it simple—a two-pronged mantra. If we can’t think with the clarity and hearts of children, we end up with the primatial mess in which we’re currently embroiled.

Over the past few weeks, all of this has had me thinking again of Bill.

In September 1978, I moved to Austin, to attend the University of Texas Graduate School of Social Work. I was, as it happened, also newly married, and newly cast in the role of stepfather to a beautiful 4 year old stepdaughter. Most of the “enlightened” folks around me thought “one” of those new developments would have been challenge enough, without going for all three. I chalked that kind of talk up to just the kind of thing I would expect from social workers with agendas to grind; they may have had a point, but who lives a life as “rationally” as all that?

One of the earliest items of business our first day of school was getting our assignments for field placements and field supervisors. I was assigned to Bill; I would be working with him at the Travis County Child Welfare unit. The prospect scared me to death.

In a meeting full of intensely dour world-savers, Bill stood out with his infectious (well, not infectious to his dour brothers and sisters) mirth, his bright smile, and his raucous, cackling, grackle-like laughter. As I sat in terror of knocking on the doors of child abusers, I wondered, what in the hell does this man have to be so happy about?

Here’s where the details get a little fuzzy, so the actual chronology may be just a bit off.

I found that, in addition to my terror with regard to knocking on doors, I was also terrified about the prospect of meeting with Bill for our weekly supervisory meetings. Intimacy with older men was not something I had ever been comfortable with. I had, for all practical purposes, been a fatherless child, and while my relationships with two stepfathers had not been in any real way hostile, they had been marked by a great deal of anxiety: silence always weighed heavily in the air of any car rides that may have featured just the two of us. And Bill expected me to show up weekly for a meeting with him to bare my soul and work ethic?

Here’s where we get to the cutting edge:

Somewhere in these early weeks, a new friend of mine mentioned that she had been a therapy client of Bill’s; to this item, she also posed a question: “Do you think he’s gay?” I didn’t know if he was gay, but after the question, I did know one thing: I was terrified by the possibility. And I can’t even say exactly what that new terror was even about, which is my point here: I think homophobia is much more than fear of being the same, or of being seduced, or any of the other absurd and ridiculous notions that attend it. Because what I felt was pre-verbal: it went to the very core of me: there were no thoughts, images, or specific worries: there was just terror.

[If this terror is what the global Anglican Communion has institutionalized, as my friend Kenny Strickland suggests, then we have our work cut out for us.]

So, added to my pedestrian terrors, I could add the angst of a deeply existential one. I was absolutely horrified by the prospect of my next meeting with Bill. But, I couldn’t duck it.

There are things you do in life about which you cringe upon recalling them later. I do not cringe about that next meeting with Bill, but the me that grew through my relationship with him is astonished that I was once so very confused and lost.

We went through our meeting pretty much as before, looking at my cases, my documentation, looking at my – old social work catch-phrase – “use of self.” Social work has gotten no better, perhaps even worse, at its penchant for ridiculous neologisms.

Near the end of our session, Bill asked me if there were anything else I needed to talk about. I should have just asked him if I could throw myself out his two-story window, but instead, I blurted out: “Are you gay?”

As if that were any of my fucking business; as if it made one bit of difference.

The room was very quiet. Bill smiled a very warm smile and his face turned beet red. He leaned towards me, clasped his hands, and said gently, “In all my years of supervising students, you are the first person to ever ask me that. I’ve been expecting the question for years.”

“Yes,” he said, “I am gay. And I am perfectly fine with telling you this. But: I expect you to respect this information, and not ever hurt me with it.”

I was astonished by his honesty, and by the courage of his vulnerability. I was simply blown away—and so was the terror.

Bill was the one true mentor in my entire 20 years as a therapist. He was by far the greatest of my human fathers. He passed away several years ago, but I love him to this day. His genius as a clinician was to keep things elegantly simple, and not get caught up in a wash of psychobabble. He taught me the deep healing of laughter in my work with my clients. Once, when I called him to refer a good friend of mine for counseling, he listened to a laundry list of what my friend was struggling with, laughed, and said, in summary, “Oh, so he’s just a big ole mess. We’ll have a lot of fun.” My friend came to love Bill just as I did.

(Bill loved messes and challenges. Later in our year of working together, he told me that when the supervisors were divvying up the new students, no one would touch me. “They thought you’d be too much of a challenge. I told them to give you to me, that we’d have a lot of fun.”

Two students in that incoming class were Harvard graduates. Both of us were shunned for the same reasons: Bill grabbed us both.)

The truly great therapists are so much more than clinicians: they are shamans. Bill was one of the greats.

He may have blown away my existential terror at our meeting at the Rubicon, but it took a bit longer to take care of my more pedestrian fears. A few weeks later, we met after I had managed to run off all the clients he had assigned me. These were all individuals who had been reported for ALLEGED child abuse or neglect, claims that were in need of investigation: I was responsible for substantiating the claims, not swallowing them whole hog.

Bill said: “You know, if you sum up your approach to these folks, you’re just another cop. These people have plenty of cops in their lives, plenty of bossy parents. They don’t need another one. You need to figure out how to be something different.”

The key was simply getting to know them, talking to them, hanging out with them. I never lost another referral that year. And I took that simplicity into my 20 years of practice. My goal at all times, even in the most heinous or difficult of situations, was to be able to speak of things as if we were simply breathing.

Bill was born in Gonzales, Texas. He’s buried down in Lockhart. He lives in my heart.

I’ve been reading a lot of Louie Crew’s Anglican Pages over the past few months. There’s a Bill, if I’ve ever seen one.

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Words Up

The tag came from Lee via Raven's Wordzzle, intriguing word-driven memes. This required use of the following: prenomial, inexplicable, tangerine, masks, chocolate cake, panorama, librarian, Stonehenge, meek, florid. We play:


Pity poor Chuck Cadman: prenomial-less, proto-robotic, lost in a world without the inexplicable tangerine masks his mother used to make down in the lonely wiles of Point Navarre, Florida. He wondered where and how long the tangerines: all he’d ever seen in his front yard were the lime trees: key limes, and a childhood filled with mountainous (and mutinous) key lime pies: orgy of sweetness in the tartest sense of the word, tongue-lethal, mesmerizing the pride and prejudice of all of Terrapin County. It ain’t parishes, cher, no matter how much she be wantin’ them. Full and plenty, and all life’s jeremiad of key lime in the mix.

Chocolate cake was an afterthought: he thought about that after the verdict came down and Minnie and all her apocalyptic horde of family nomads came crying foul and mistrial and isn’t she lovely, all walkin’ pure and meshuginah in her diamond shoes. The panaroma down at the white sand beach was arresting, if you’ll pardon any attempt to forget poor Chuck’s feral doom. It came back to me long after the bargains were laid down, all soft and tidy. The white sheets out on your mama’s clothesline could not have been more squeaky clean and missing the whole bloody point.

So Chuck Cadman thought. It mizzled him beyond compare. Junkets in his own Florida bloom could not have been more dim and gloomy.

Fanta librarian caught the cure: Aquarian empath, she out-couched Mr. Cayce himself. Traci Hettamyer sent the obligatory 5, asked for the cut-rate, but she still wanted the bookworm out cold, steering breath of the python in the air, no simple yes ma’am’s, that’ll do: them’s dark woods she was after, and she’d be damned if even Miss Flannery was going to get in the way.

“Stonehenge,” said the Fanta she. Explanation would cost another 5: Traci was not about to pay it: it was conscience paid the first bill, there wasn’t enough to go around, those were her meek and florid days, 49 days and counting.

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #114: My Nights

Excerpt from an unpublished novel, Scarred Angels:

Into this expectant quiet, a white hand set a clear drink down in front of me.

“I’m sorry, I -

“It’s tonic, Mr. Bollinger.” The voice was Agnes Fisher’s. She sat down beside me. “Believe me, I know the routine.”

I noticed she had a drink like mine. She looked around the room and then back at me.

“Chapel time,” she said. She smiled.

“You come here often?”

“Pops’ last set? Not nearly as often as I should.”

“You just missed Daltry and the others. You know something they don’t?”

“Oh, I used to duck out with them, but one night Mary talked me into staying. It took some getting used to, my ears were only open to the familiar, but then after awhile it was like a trap door opened and I fell into another world. You get inside that place and Pops’ music starts to make a whole lot of sense.”

“How do you get there?” I said.

Before she had a chance to say anything, the lights went out.

Out of the darkness, Mary’s voice came, thin as a whisper, like a soft breeze growing, an insinuation of air deep within a dark cave. In time, the sound of her voice was like a bird soaring, breaking free, and then suddenly lost to the syncopation of the bass, a heartbeat, a sound that grew inside my head. The sax player had switched from tenor to soprano, a snake charmer now, haunting, a song of love rising out of a desert, taking the heartbeat of the bass and interweaving with Mary’s whisper as it rose from darkness again, preparing the way for the piano that came like an ocean heard first in the distance and then roaring, pounding surf. For an hour and a half, I was lost. I never found Agnes Fisher’s trap door, but I heard the music like some voice from deep within me.

There was a smattering of applause when the music ended, not, I think, from a lack of appreciation, but from a fullness. We were too transported to come back to the simple matter of clapping hands. The impact was in our faces.

Pops leaned into his microphone and whispered, “Go home, now. It’s bedtime.” None of us moved.

After another few minutes, the room began to stir. Agnes Fisher touched my forearm and said, “Can I give you a ride home?”

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Thursday, June 05, 2008


The common snipe. I couldn't find the gossipy one.


I promise: that's it...

I'm in time out, anyway. (You knew I had to find it.) I don't know what SJP's all upset about: I'd say she wins the...alright, someone save me. I just hope this week's Sunday Scribblers prompt isn't fashion...(I think I missed my calling: gossipy snipe.)

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You'd Think the Crinkly Wrinkles Would Give It Away...

The dangers of a Scorpio on summer vacation: ridiculous obsessions galore. Sez Lauren Santo Domingo: "Just who is this Sarah Parker Jessica? Can I buy her?" (Apologies to Borat.)

Okay, I'm done with it. Time for more fodder. Time to get back to Neil Gaiman's
Anansi Boys. I'll behave. I'll try to behave. "I'm being 'haved'," said the cute kid in "Cinderella Man." Good movie, by the way. In some of my classes, we ask ourselves if we're being 'haved.' In others, we don't have to ask: we know that we are not. (Olivier, the designer of the Reynold's Wrap, is the deer in the headlights holding onto the dress' first, ahem, occupant. [Editor's Note: second occupant, as it turns out. Lindsay got there first.])

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And now, for the important news...

Here's the skinny (elevated "commas" mine):

NEW YORK, NY -- When the "Sex and The City" "movie" made its New York City premiere last week, "Sarah" "Jessica" "Parker" "stunned" fans in a floor length Nina Ricci strapless number.

The elegant gown, with a gold sash, was full of crinkly silver metallics that draped to the floor, and it was a "one-of-a-kind" gown Parker's on-screen "character" Carrie Bradshaw would have approved of, except for one little thing - the dress had already been worn "several" times.

Parker "told" the "New" "York" "Times" she was disappointed to learn that "her" Nina Ricci gown had previously been worn by Lauren Santo Domingo to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala on May 5. And before that, the gown was worn by "Lindsay" "Lohan" in Harper's Bazaar magazine this past March.

Nina Ricci's camp offered no comment on the dress "debacle," but "Parker" made her feelings known in the "paper."


la chica stunned me strapless
oh so rica, mi pobrecita
crinkly silver
one of a kind
already been worn several time

los chicharones con papas
I am so disappointed to learn
Nina Ricci con dulce
is my only way
Lauren Santo Domingo
& Lindsay too
Ai!, Cabron!

Ricci’s camp offered none,
but Parker made hers known:

"My affection for the dress hasn't changed," Parker told the newspaper. "But what they did was so short-sighted. It's just unethical and disappointing that they would allow the dress to be worn again."


Ai! The world! Come to, what has it?!

Dresses worn!


Crinkly silver!

Que lastima, Sex in My City,
I am so sorry, I pray for you,
for your injury,
for your toiletries,
for your whatnots,
I feel it,
the unethical &
short-sighted pain.
I ruminate for you:
were I a Baptist,
I would proselytize
for you, this
pain and sin of
the silver crinkly!

“I tried on the dress under the eye of Olivier,” sez Sex in My City.

Olivier! Thieving captor on the red!

My carpet so embarrassed!

“It is now clear that Olivier is blind, pobrecita,” I sing to her, the Sex of My City. “And a jewel thief.”

“I said nothing of jewels,” sez the Sex of My City.

“That dress wasn’t schekels, chica,” I reply, still singing to the Sex of My City.

Sex of My City esta muy forlorn.

“Is celebrity, Lauren?” I sing. Sex in My City turns from me as I ply this dream of excuse.

“Red carpets do not know her,” implies Puig. “It depends on how.”

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Not Even God Is This Conceited...

I’ve never been much of a fan of the man’s writing (certainly not as big a fan as he is of his writing), but he can be wickedly and unashamedly hilarious, like a similar asshole partner in crime, James Wolcott. My inner cynic (okay, my inner AND outer cynics) needs/need to hang out with the likes of Vidal and Wolcott in small doses. I come away feeling smug, smart, and sullied, all at the same time. These were gleaned from a recent Gore montage in Esquire:

Patriotism is as sickening today as it has ever been. I was watching the news before you came and there was a lot of coverage of Kosovo and the problems there. They showed footage of people burning an American flag. And the newscaster got all broken up and teary-eyed. He says, “I guess [sob] I just feel something here, folks, when I see the American flag being burned.” And I said, You fucking asshole. Whatever happened to the news?

When she was running for the Senate, Hillary’s psephologists discovered that the one group that really hated her was white, middle-aged men of property. She got the whole thing immediately—I heard she said, “I remind them of their first wife.”

“You got to meet everyone—Jackie Kennedy, William Burroughs.” People always put that sentence the wrong way around. I mean, why not put it the true way, that these people got to meet me, and wanted to? Otherwise, it sounds like I spent my life hustling around trying to meet people: “Oh, look, there’s the governor.

Regards the last quote, when he sez “People always put that sentence the wrong way around,” I thought he meant that they should list Burroughs before Jackie O (a sentiment I rather liked), but then that wouldn’t be Gore, now would it?

Don’t worry about those psephologists, they’re not contagious. Psephology is “simply” the “scientific” “study” of elections, and I’m sure Gore is one of six people on the planet who still knows that. Microsoft Word certainly doesn’t know, with its squiggly red line whispering “this word does not compute,” as I write this. Right click and MS Word offers the helpful alternative suggestion—straight facedly, I might add—of “psychologists.” From the Greek psephos: pebble, ballot, vote. Likely the reason why elections seem like folks throwing stones at each other; the Greeks started it all with voting with pebbles.

This post is proof positive that bloggers need church. I am home this morning, recuping a bit, and look at what strange bedfellows have crawled in, wanting to meet me.

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