Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Apologies to Ms Etta, but this is mighty fine...

Ms Etta's version is on Paschal's Other Playlist (in the Blinks). You'll find a less jumpy video of Jully's cover on youtube: I couldn't bring that one over, but it's fun.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

"my love is bigger than a cadillac..."


Saturday, June 27, 2009

For the Dallas Expats

All that meaningless stuff:

dallas is a jewel:

lest we forget:


your warm little diamond / come to call on me

prompt succor

The prompt was: "Radiant screed. After the gold rush."

Riddled Twice


she bled

into the morning's blood

orange, carnage best

from above,

Viekko's dreams
within her

its awful harangue,
a screed signaled
in the green

flash of day's

end. Withered:
the acres of gold,

the seeming
the dreaming

of the inarticulate



Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #169 (The Goose Drank Wine): Toys

Toys (Take Mine)

Laini & Megg say they want

something a little lighter

for a change,

proffering toys. I

don't know where
their toys, but
takes mine quite cereal,

busta move you betcha

you've not Toy Joy'd

then you've
been to
never Amy'd
your ice cream -

Mexican vanilla, strawberries &
chunks, but
only on a friiiiigggggiiiiiid
in the holiness
of 37th
fish taco'd at Z
never las manitas'd
the michoachans into

your last lively stream,
shady grove'd *

in the trailer park of

your (and the zero fraulein's)

It was toys we were after, no?
Librarian action figures,
Marie Antoinette finger puppets,
Fire-breathing Nunzillas,
goo and poo and oo and you &

me and baby makes three.

Three months later,

in the pitch black
Guadalupe wuz
a'glowin in

[* revision from oak'd to grove'd courtesy of miss alister's horror of trailer parks]


Tunes for a Perjantai: For Anno

From Weather Report's Mysterious Traveler album:

And because she loves him soooooooooo much, what's a Finnish Friday without Dear Keith Jarrett:

With a special added treat: a live blog of the performance:

00:22 Keith: Yes, I've cut my hair since Koln, but I can still touch my forehead to the keys. Just you wait.

00:33 Keith: Damn, acid reflux is a bitch.

00:52 Keith: No, I'm not Daniel Day-Lewis playing me. I'm me playing me. And yes, it still hurts. Damn those chili cheese fries.

01:25 Keith: God, am I that bad?

01:29 Keith: Okay, that's better. I can feel the Koln coming on.

01:38 Keith: Alright, alright, I'll play the melody for a bit, just so you know I know...

01:55 Keith: Oh, I've got it bad, and that ain't good...

02:20 Jack: Keith, I promise I will not use that high hat again - or any of these 75 other championship Sabians I got right here. There, I think that takes care of product placement, K.

03:02 Keith: Uh, Gary? Did I ask you to come waltzing in all over my solo here? I wanted that, I could've gotten Jaco, for chrissakes.

03:06 Keith: Oh, what the hell...

03:33 Keith: Jack, did I say I wanted to hear the drums?

03:38 Keith: Did you really just do that?

03:48 Keith (off camera): Look, Gary, I know you're pouring your guts out here, but I gotta tell you, there's a shitload of powder on the end of your nose. And no, I'm not implying anything.

04:13 Keith: Are you kidding me? For that, he gets an ovation?

04:21 Keith: God, I love myself...

04:38 Keith: You know what? This tack has been harrassing my ass long enough. I'm gonna just stand up here and go all Chaka Khan on these folks...

04:43 Gary: Keith, would you just sit your ass back down, and I had enuffa your Chaka Khan last night in Rotterdam...

05:02 Keith: Oh crap, I forgot the lyrics. Maybe a little Oscar Peterson, but I can't play that fast...

05:02 Gary (off camera): Sit. Your. Ass. Down.

05:02 Jack (off camera, nodding in agreement)

05:10 Keith: Yes, the shoes are hemp.

05:36 Keith: I've completely forgotten the melody. Thank god for jazz.

05:48 Keith: Here we go, folks. Can you feel the Koln, too?

06:29 Jack: This is my big solo. Hell, yes, it's the Keith Jarrett Trio.

06:38 Keith: Did you like the dramatic arm flourish?

06:48 Keith: Oh, yeah. This is what we were playing!

06:57 Keith: Ain't we something? Hi, mom!

Truth be told, I think this is quite lovely, but Ms Anno and I have a running gag about Mr. KJ and his Koln Concerts. I am guilty of foisting said marathon on not a few unsuspecting liebchens, complete with his trademark groanings and thrashings (shouldn't I have been doing the G&T?), while Ms Anno was apparently a victim in her youth of at least one (still unidentified) foister. I'm sure her groanings and thrashings were not of the kind either KJ or I had in mind.

Lest we all go Chaka Khan all over ourselves, let's let Her Diva-ness have the last say.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

one word: event

Shall we sally or would you rather the alley, the way past your prime, the over and out of your basted ego, your simple inference the way out of any way but up or down. This seems the best way to beat the heat.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

one word: track

Following Dee's trail at One Word.

track the what of the how of why, this was her curse, she didn't ask, she didn't know, she ever wondered and then there was loss, the trail of a glimmer down the trail, down the nose of knowing, down the egress to hell's hellish hounds. This will be your murmuring heart, mind, they said, and that was the saunter that left her heart wracked with oblivion. will this dream never alter, never end, never lay down its only weapons: this you wonder ever into the dark of your darkest dark.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #168: Vision

jammin’ the gods

tear me down that
there bulletin on
the rise of dada,
the shirking minister,
the nimble craftsman at
his wheel. i would
a fierce innuendo
but who would see
the point if i tried? years
ago i stood on valerie’s
levee, counted the ships
in the shadow of van and john lee:
the waterfront covered, the natchez
lay stretched, deaf to my
blind eyes, blind to my deaf ears.
ophtha the following monday sez
contacts or surgery, smirks
at my sheepish plea for glasses—
who wants movie star when you can
do professor? oliver peoples, i be
jammin’, but in these days of
the austere gods, i prowl the
dollars general & borrow from
my immortal son, shades of
my dubious grey.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Yours

[From the archives: August 2005.]



Her son dead
Mary abandons care
Walks days to the naked mountain.

No trees, god said in a fit of rage—
So said the Romans who stripped them.

At the foot of the mountain,
Hundreds of stone babies,
The size of one,
The heft of three:
There is a howling in their midst.

One by one,
She carries each to the mountaintop:
Still the howling rages in her ears,
The rage of mute stone children,
The rage of a woman past caring
Caring still.

Each in her shawl,
Rage a mute witness.
The third day her feet are bleeding:
There are hundreds yet to go.

Nights she sleeps under dark moons, glacial stars.
A season changes before all are on the mount,
Blind stone nursery at her feet.
She thinks of her son,
His baskets of fish,
Her winnowed soul.

For two days she sleeps,
Wakes to howling ceased:
One babe cries in its stead.

She is too weary to stop the care that rises in her breast.
Slowly, slowly, she walks the stones,
Comes to the olive skin of the wailing child,
Its stone case cracked like a giant egg.
She stoops to gather him, as the aquifer rises in her chest.

Damned to care.

The babe sleeps at her naked breast.
Another two days they sleep.

Mary wakes to the sound of wind in trees,
White moon through branches,
These are thirty, forty, fifty year old trees,
Hundreds of them,
At each foot another broken stone casing.

God did not wonder at the tears,
Nor at the fires she built,
Nor the shelter she declined to.

There is no wonder at pain that twists the spine,
Loss that stills the heart.
No wonder at water rising through limestone.

The wonder was that she claimed the miracle as her own:
Him she forgot.


After three years on the mountain,
She left with the boy,
Moved to the river valley,
Clear water through leather-smooth
Cypress trees.
The boy, too, A fish in water,
Turned nut brown by the sun.

One afternoon,
The boy turned four,
They walked to the village:
The boy’s eyes fell upon scrolls,
Hers upon the knife.

Back in the woods,
The boy drew figures in river mud;
Nights, by the fire, Mary practiced throwing
The knife into the heart of a cypress at thirty feet.

Gabriel came first,
The same whispered rustle,
The same there almost not:
He sat beside her at the fire,
Looked at the boy sleeping.

“No,” she said.
She knew she could get away with it—
He was just the messenger boy.
His rueful smile told of the more to come.

Raphael’s hand on her shoulder two nights later
She shrugged off.
“No more. I would rather die.”
She watched as he melted into the river.

“Thug,” she said,
As Michael sat down
Beside the sleeping boy.
She set the knife upon
The rock between them.

“Of course. His bulldog.”

Adding, “I swear,
By all that’s left within me,
I’ll take your heart and both your wings.”

Michael nodded at the gouged tree behind him.
Not fear, but sadness, drove him off.

Three months passed,
Enough time to begin to think she was free again.
After four months, she released the boy from her shawl,
Let him sleep down by the river.

Then one morning, in the mist,
She woke to Jesse.
Scarred at hand and foot.
No begging in his eye,
The look of what was his to take.

“Even you—even you, my son,
I will cut.”

The boy woke:
Moved instinctively to the scarred man.

Mary felt her lungs collapse:
She knew too well the seductions
Of the sunlit world.

The boy stopped:
Saw the blade at his mother’s belly.
Even Jesse’s cool was unnerved.

“Him,” she said. “Send Him.”

“You know—”

“Not even you, Jesse. I lost you already. This knife runs deeper.”


Two nights later,
Tremors in the ground,
Clouds covered the night’s icy sky.

Mary spoke to the trembling darkness around her:

“Not your tricks, old man. Just you.”

The trembling stopped. He sat across the fire from her.

“One was not enough?” she said.

“They’re all mine, sister.” Paused a moment. “You’re mine.”

“Dead, I’m yours.”

The old man looked intently at his fingers,
Bit off a sliver of nail, spit. It stuck
To his lower lip.

“Dead don’t mean nuthin’ to me.”

“Clearly, old man, but you’ve eaten your last of mine.”

“No one is coerced.”


He rose, shimmering between shape and tremor. Shape reached for the boy, enough shape for the knife to stick. She had him pinned to the world; tremor flamed into mist.

Old. He felt old: too old to care, too old to annihilate what he knew to be his nemesis. Too old not to let shape win.


She bled him dry.

Dragged across the river, the vultures finished him; sun bleached his bones.

At six years of age, the boy swam him back.

The two of them walked his bones to the mountain, strung them from a tree, faint clicks in the wind.

She gathered the boy into her arms, watched the breeze catch the fingerbones of a hand.

“Nobody dies for yours. Nobody dies for mine.”

“What, then?” said the boy.

“Your own. You die for your own. Nobody else’s.”


Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #167: Absurd

Salvador Dali’s “Dream Caused By The Flight Of A Bee”


Shot Amy the Gremlin last night, put her down we did, well Buck did anyway, gasping as she was, I still didn’t have the heart. Buck took the 45, Patrick the shotgun—in case there was resistance. There wasn’t. Ass down in the backyard now like Stanley Kubrick’s apeshit lollipop, gonna plant a sweet Georgia peach tree in her hope she blows to smithereens in 50 años, grandkids can tell me all about it at the nursing home. You’ll be 102, Buck sez, I say I don’t give a damn, they can still tell me. Buck gets the brunt of my abuse these days, but he was there on the trip back from Rosedale, Mississippi to SA, the stink of turpentine and 7 oily Robert Johnson paintings piled in Amy’s hatchback. Cop down in Copiah County thought we were stoned out of our gourds which we were but stripsearch was out of the question, he wasn’t that good looking. Stick your head back in there, officer, sez Buck, tell us if we ain’t found a new controlled substance. Bobby Johnson painting on top was still wet, officer came out baptized by the devil, starts talkin’ ‘bout the 7 veils. I said there’s 7 alright but they ain’t veils and you’ve fucked one of ‘em up, State of Mississippi got any compensation program for Art? I still capitalized in those days. State of Mississippi got any ART period is the real question he sez, then sticks his Jane Freilicher head back in Amy’s hatch, see if he can smear BJ back into a blues icon. He can’t: BJ Thomas is more like it and then I have to hear that goddamned song in my head all the way through the Atchafalaya Basin. That’s the day I turned nonrepresentational for good or at least the remaining year and a half before they tossed my Fairfield Porter ass out of the Big Fucking Assdeal program at UT-San Antone. I represent nothing so much as a paint-by-number dipstick in these my Georgia exile days. Marcel Duchamp got the hare-brained notion of signing his name to the pissoirs and bread loaves of ParisFrance, found art he called it, I routinely sign mine to the broken down appliances in my avocado kitchen: “Blender,” “Dishwasher,” and my latest objet d’art, “Amana Fridge.” Sears doesn’t deliver my new Maytag side by side tomorrow between 1 and 5, I’m gonna TraciBurns the delivery man’s ass and it won’t be found art, believe you me. You see the toll Amy’s demise took on me: original paint job, original transmission, but I could have owned Goodyear with the rubber I’d stuck on her wheels. Hell yes I was partial to that smelly hatchback. Turned down Buck countless times in the back seat even as I played loosegirl of Roosevelt High and granted Patrick first entry. The Roosevelt gig was Patrick’s kink: I went to Brack, the real Brack. The things we do for art. Amy rocked and I rolled and Patrick thought he was bedding Mary Magdalene of the Northeast Independent School District. On our lateral move from South Texas to the Georgia low country, we took Officer HT’s Bobby Johnson collaboration back through Copiah County just on the off chance. You don’t get many of those, but damned if he wasn’t waiting over the rise at Wesson, Mississippi grinnin’ big like 25 years and too many damned Republican presidents hadn’t passed under the bridge. Howdy, Trace, he sez, mind if I take a peek? Suit yourself, HT, this here’s my husband Patrick, sez I, no doubt you remember Buck. Damned if he didn’t come up slapping Bobby Johnson like déjà vu all over. Like the credit card man sez, some things is priceless.


Friday, June 12, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life (100 Ways)

I'm following in Sister San's footsteps, impressionable meme-ist that I am. Be forewarned, as forewarned was I, that this meme is longer than William Jefferson Clinton's keynote address at the 1988 Dukakoid Convention. If you're not meme-ically dependent, consider yourself blessed. Instructions: you cuts and pastes the items, bold the ones you "accomplished," and insert pithy comments whenever moved to do so. Since my bolding does not always show up on this wall, I'll use a different color from this blue for the done thats. Without further ado, since this will be ado aplenty:

001. Started my own blog. I've started five: one that I did with my adult ed students before I found my way to the Instituto; Arden's Quadberry, my first solo (it's on the blog roll); Daybook, an intentionally spare blog meant for the unsecular side of things (it, too, is on the blog roll); this blog, into I which I decided to roll all my selves (I like the black wall) except one, who works underground at yet another blog (consider yourselves lucky to have been spared his ego and taste in music).

002. Slept under the stars. Most notably, on the Greek island of Sifnos, with friend Steph, the wind blowing Saharas of sand up our asses. We moved from the beach to the refectory of a Greek monastery the next two nights; on our last night, we were granted our own monk cells - the wind still blew sand up our asses.

003. Played in a band. All American adolescent boys have played in a band - many bands, in fact. We are all air-guitarists and air-drummists supreme. I'm sure you all enjoyed my guitar solo on Cream's "Badge." And you thought that was George Harrison.

004. Visited Hawaii. I once held Michener's book of the same name. I declined to read it. Too heavy.

005. Watched a meteor shower. 2 o'clock in the morning, beside the Ross Barnett Reservoir (better known as the former Pearl River), with Mr. and Mrs. Baby. That one's still running in my head.

006. Given more than I can afford to charity. I don't like the sound of this one: it sounds like an IRS trick question.

007. Been to DisneyWorld/Land. Hope never to. Plan never to. Call me what you will.

008. Climbed a mountain. Though not a mountain, per se, I must include the pink granite bald dome of Enchanted Rock in the Texas hill country, for sheer awesomeness. I've climbed aplenty in Vermont, New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, and Montana.

009. Held a praying mantis. Held a tarantula.

010. Sung a solo. I was about to make a dismissive remark about shower soloing, but I'd forgotten about my days as a schooner chrooner in the seventh grade. Nuff said. I still sing solo behind the wheel all the time, just not in a sailor costume.

011. Bungee jumped. I detest wedgies. (Old schoolers call them Melvins.)

012. Visited Paris. And?

Watched lightning at sea. I'm assuming while at sea myself is the intent here. No.

014. Taught myself an art from scratch. Poetry and fiction.

015. Adopted a child. Adopted Blue the WonderDog, when he was abandoned here in the neighborhood. Adopted Lucia the blue Neapolitan mastiff in New Orleans. Have a thing for blue dogs. Including George Rodrigue's.

016. Had food poisoning. This is an accomplishment? It didn't feel like one. Living again felt like one.

017. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I haven't even walked to the bottom of it.

018. Grown my own vegetables. Old man's chicken guano was awesome. Those were some amazing cantalopes. Okay, there were veggies, too.

019. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Where else was I gonna see her?

020. Slept on an overnight train. Barcelona to Florence. Heaven.

021. Had a pillow fight. All the time when Mr. Baby was first Mr. Baby. He called them "poodoo fights." We still poodoo when the spirit moves.

022. Hitchhiked. Just hiked.

023. Taken a sick day when you're not ill. Sick days are for the sick. Ill days are for the ill. I take ill days.

024. Built a snow fort. Mather House, down on the River Charles, winter months 1974-1975. We graduated on to playing 4-square in the spring. Last ditch age regression.

025. Held a lamb. No, but I got the shit kicked out of my shins by a calf I was standing behind in a chute.

026. Gone skinny dipping. As many places as possible. My favorite place is the emerald green Rio Frio on the western boundary of my grandparents' ranch, though I didn't mind climbing the fence at Stacey Park Pool in Austin, after midnight. (And no, San, a hot tub does not count. It's wonderful, but it doesn't count. By that token, bathing would count.)

Run a marathon. Just this one.

028. Ridden in a gondola in Venice. Just in a Sky Ride gondola over the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Scared the shit out of me, though friend Steph's rocking the boat didn't help. Maniac.

029. Seen a total eclipse.

Watched a sunrise or a sunset. Is this meme-ist a mole or what? We used to applaud particularly spectacular sunsets out the big picture window of the Mather House dining room. Best one ever was on a trip back from New Orleans to Austin - endless sky of orange clouds, blew my eyes out, it was so magnificent.

031. Hit a home run. Only in the shower. That doesn't sound right.

032. Been on a cruise. Poor man's cruises - plenty of splendid ferry trips around the San Juan Islands.

033. Seen Niagara Falls in person. Niagara Falls is not a person. But yes, I've seen her.

Visited the birthplace of my ancestors. In fact, I was born there: Santa Rosa Hospital in downtown Tres Leches, same place my father was born.

035. Seen an Amish community. No, but I've seen a sunset.

036. Taught myself a new language. No, but I taught myself how to play astounding soccer while drunk out of my mind at the Piazza Duomo in Florence. My impromptu Italian teammates were amazed. That I could stand up, probably.

037. Had enough money to be satisfied. Yes, and I've had enough not to be satisfied, too.

Oops. Seems this meme skips from 37 to 40. It is a wonderful life!!

040. Seen Michelangelo's David. Seen Donatello's, too. But, the gelato in Florence was equally stunning. Not to mention the soccer. (And the red overalls.)

041. Sung karaoke. I will only do this in one of the Disney-opias.

042. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. No, but i've seen Dom Perignon erupt. And then did I.

043. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. The Benedictines have broken into this meme.

044. Visited Africa. I seem to be on a roll here: let's see how long the blue ink lasts.

045. Walked on a beach by moonlight. And I had deep thoughts all the while, Diana Krall playing in the background, dancing in my moo-moo.

046. Been transported in an ambulance.

047. Had my portrait painted. Twice. Check my profile picture; that's one. The other, I should have had more pants on.

048. Gone deep sea fishing. They wouldn't let me on in my moo-moo.

Been to the Sistine Chapel in person. How else are you going to "be to" the Sistine,if not "in person"? They were electing a pope the first time I sauntered over.

050. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I've been to the bottom. In person. I've also been to the restaurant in New Orleans that was built out of material from the Eiffel. Again, amazingly, in person.

051. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling. I live a sheltered life. Just call me Marcel.

052. KIssed in the rain. I see Hallmark has now arrived. I've also reigned in the kisses on occasion, too.

053. Played in the mud. Slung it, too.

054. Gone to a drive-in theater. I'm 55 years old; of course, I've gone to a drive-in. Sadly, the Mission 4, the last to go here in Tres Leches, has done and went.

055. Been in a movie. Several. The film classes at the Instituto are thriving. I'm usually called on to play authority figures who say things I would never say. It's hard to find my motivation, at times. I'm a method actor.

056. Visited the Great Wall of China. Not even in person. Though I was a weekly regular at the Great Wall restaurant in Metairie. Awesome pot stickers. Vodka tonics weren't bad, either.

Started a business. Private practice therapist for 20 years. Now, I practice in public at the Instituto.

Taken a martial arts class. Tai chi, though I never got to the swords.

059. Visited Russia. Just the Russian tea room in Boston. Does living in Moscow, Idaho for six months count?

060. Served at a soup kitchen.

061. Sold Girl Scout cookies. Overqualified.

062. Gone whale watching. I've watched; they never came.

063. Got flowers for no reason. More Hallmark tendrils. Remember that day of the rainkissing?

064. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma.

065. Gone sky diving. This. Ain't. Happening.

Visited a Nazi concentration camp site.

067. Bounced a check. With my crossover dribble.

068. Flown in a helicopter. Do you all remember the Moose credits in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"?

069. Saved a favorite childhood toy up until my late 20s. All my favorite childhood toys I got in my late 20s.

070. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. Even before Barack got there.

071. Eaten caviar. This meme-maker needs to get out more.

072. Pieced a quilt. No, but I've spied on Quilty.

073. Stood in Times Square. Amazingly, in person.

074. Toured the Everglades. Try following this meme-maker's train of thought.

075. Been fired from a job. And done some firing meself.

076. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London. Right after I was fired. You're getting the drift now, aren't you?

077. Broken a bone. Only the wishbones; I usually lose.

078. Been on a speeding motorcycle. Only a stationary one. Apparently, I was not born to be wild.

079. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. In and with person. Didn't for years because I feared it was just another tourist trap. What an idiot.

080. Published a book. You're looking at one. Self-published several poetry chapbooks. It ain't rocket science, folks.

081. Visited the Vatican.

082. Brought a brand new car. And a brand new bag.

083. Walked in Jerusalem. But, I've run in Florence, remember?

084. Had my picture in the newspaper. Talk to my publicist for copies.

085. Read the entire Bible. I've read all of Isaiah. That's more than the entire Bible, isn't it?

086. Visited the White House. Been to Sandra Cisneros' purple house, too.

087. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. Only once; I did not like the sound of those crabs.

088. Had chickenpox. Hey, live a little.

089. Saved someone's life.

090. Not known that 90 comes after 89, not 91. The meme-maker is apparently not a mathemagician.

091. Met someone famous. And they met me. It all started back in high school, with Hugh O'Brian of Wyatt Earp fame. What the hell was he doing in Jackson, Mississippi, and why the hell was I driving him to the airport?

092. Joined a book club. I assume they don't mean the Literary Guild or Quality paperback book clubs. I have joined the Sunday Scribblers and Mr. Linky!

093. Lost a loved one.

094. Had a baby. Underqualified. Mrs. Baby has.

095. Seen the Alamo in person. I live here in Tres Leches. I've seen it in all my persons.

096. Swam in the Great Salt Lake. Just a salty tub so far.

097. Been involved in a law suit. Just an Armani one.

098. Owned a cell phone. Not even in person.

099. Been stung by a bee. Face first in the cedar bush in front of the house on Contour Drive.

100. Ridden an elephant. As a matter of fact, right here at the Tres Leches zoo.

Just kidding. We're done.

102. Are we ever.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book Meme: The Books That Stay With You

I was leery of this one, but it's books, so I was reeled right on in by Anno's invitation. Plenty missing, I'm sure. Mea culpa to the reading gods that know better. These are the ones that stuck. Other than the first two, there is no particular order. Here goes:

01. Gravity's Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon): No surprise here: I've sung my praises on these walls countless times. Introduced to the mighty P by a seminal graduate student my junior year. This one blew my mind and, as these walls will attest, it has stayed blown. The Easter book. Perhaps my favorite reading of it was 31 years ago, while surveying land out in the west Texas hill country up north of Leakey.

02. Against the Day (Thomas Pynchon): This was the true sequel to GR, though we all waited through two other novels and 33 years to get there. As haunting and wonderfully sprawling as its mate, but with the added sensibility, I believe, brought by becoming a father late in his life. This and GR are, in a way, in their genius, one book.

03. Coming Through Slaughter (Michael Ondaatje): I discovered this beauty on a sale table in Waldenbooks at North Star Mall here in Tres Leches 34 years ago: had never heard of book or author. Probably a precursor to my eventual sojourn in New Orleans. Its spare, fractured hallucinatory prose is gorgeous. The tragic story of New Orleans jazzman Buddy Bolden, the legend behind them all.

04. Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood): I was very late to the Atwood party, though not without trying: she just never took through the years. About six years ago, the organization (Gemini Ink) I was working for here in TL was bringing her to town for a three day stint. I felt compelled to break through my Atwood block. This was the one that did it, with its crazed crazed crazed dystopian tale. Atwood's hip hop novel, if you will. It paved the way to my reading another half dozen of her books in a six week period.

05. A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain (Robert Olen Butler): This book of short stories probably broke open the writer in me: I was haunted by the voices in these stories, many of which were spoken across the south Louisiana landscape I was living in at the time. They literally lived inside me, whispering, for the six months before I finally wrote my very first short story back in 1992.

06. The Palm at the End of the Mind (Wallace Stevens): I was turned on to WS by the same grad student who sent Mr. Pynchon my way, showing me that there was, indeed, life beyond Mr. Eliot's wasteland and quartets. WS remains impenetrable in many ways, but that simply adds to the stickiness, right?

07. Reading Lacan (Jane Gallop): Speaking of impenetrability, here is an impenetrable book about one woman's own reading of an impenetrable author. It's clear my mind is perfectly willing to bathe in a milky steambath of incomprehension and ambiguity, because there's no way to say that I understand either JG or the seductive and elusive Monsieur Lacan himself. It's Mose Allison ("Your Mind is on Vacation") all the way.

08. Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry): I was in the Melrose Hotel in Dallas, weeping when you-know-who dies. (Okay, I admit it, I was reading on the terlet). I was late to this party, too: my parents read it to each other on a road trip through Big Bend and the Davis Mountains and I passed, after that first go-round of hymns of praise. I finally made it through the slow first 70 or so pages and never looked back. Small screen adaption: Tommy Lee as Call and Duvall as Gus - it didn't get any better, though Robert Urich as Jake was a travesty. Jake was a man for whom whores put out for free. Clearly, too much dinero was spent on TLJ and RD: the till was empty, when it came time to cast Jake. (Sam Elliott, if you're asking.)

09. The Oz Books (L. Frank Baum, and others): I think the collection was up to about 55 books when I read them all one summer at my grandparents' ranch, hauling them out from one of the glassed-in bookcases in the front hallway. Mr. Baby and I have read our way through most of the Baum ones, this childhood go round.

10. Collected Stories (Grace Paley): If bigamy were legal, and your second spouse had to be a narrative voice, then I would be married (also) to this book. I had long been in love with the narrative voice of Padgett Powell (see below): about five years ago, I learned (intuitively first and then firsthand from PP himself) that Grace Paley was Padgett before Padgett was - his fairy godmother. Grace's compassionate radicalism is embedded in the glorious rhythms and voices of her stories.

11. All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy): It must say something that this book tops the Books I Should Read In Life list that my son asked me for a couple of years ago. I love fiction that brings me right to the city where I live, and ATPH has an early scene right here in the Menger Hotel - with snow outside! Talk about a book that haunts and lives in your skin, though it took three tries for me to finally slip through the portal into its magic. Thank god that CM moved from Tennessee to El Paso and gave us the ultimate voice for this part of the world.

12. A Woman Named Drown / Edisto (Padgett Powell): I'm sorry; I couldn't separate them. For sheer droll joy and hilarity and crazed white boys and their color dementia and language as your love slave, it do not get any better than Mr. Powell. He is the master (though he is in a pedestal shoving match with Barry Hannah, for that honor). The liberating joy of Life After Faulkner.

13. Junkets on a Sad Planet (Tom Clark): The Life of Keats in narrative poems: the writing in this book is gorgeous and heartbreaking, written by a man who, though much longer-lived than Keats, has lived through his own relative and inexplicable obscurity. But what a gift he has given in these luminous poems.

14. The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles): I was reading Fowles my senior year in college, when I should have been reading everything else, turned on to him by a friend. Fowles took me out of reading for class to reading for sheer pleasure. The first book I ever cast, as it was in pre-production for years. My choices for the Meryl Streep / Jeremy Irons final choices were Julie Christie and Alan Bates. Showing my age there.

15. Rimbaud in Abyssinia (Alain Borer; translated by Rosemary Waldrop): Probably the first book I throw into the Desert Island backpack (the Pynchon will already be in the first aid kit). Borer goes in search of the silent Rimbaud who disappeared with his passion and genius into Africa, never to write again, save for the sparest of letters home and an article or two. AB digs deep into this silence to assemble a sense of the man that is seamless with what he "left" behind. I mention Waldrop, because her translations of the Rimbaud poems (excerpts!) are by far the best I have read in English. Usually, when I read either prose or poetry in translation, I have the nagging sensation that something is just not right: Rosemary most assuredly got it right. A heartbreaker.

16. The Tennis Handsome (Barry Hannah): The demented genius of Southern fiction, and this is as wonderfully demented and surreal as it gets.

17. The Alexandria Quartet (Lawrence Durrell): I still taste and smell the limestone dust and citrus of these gorgeous, other-worldly novels.

18. The Tropic of Capricorn (Henry Miller): For my money, by far the better of the twinned books. HM came late to his genius and I came way late to him. I remember vividly (why, I do not know) reading a passage of Cancer in the upstairs stalls at the Landa Library manse here in Tres Leches, putting the book back on the shelf, and wondering what all the fuss was about. This was 1976. In 2001, I devoured all the Miller I could get my hands on, much of which is garbage. But, Capricorn is fucking (of course) awesome.

19. Faulkner: No one who graduates high school in Mississippi and then goes, like Quentin Compson, to Harvard, gets out alive. Take your pick: Light in August, A Fable, Absalom, Absalom, The Wild Palms (trip to SA in that one!), The Sound and the Fury. But, if you're gonna write yourself and you're not named Cormac McCarthy, you've got to get out from under that red rock...Otherwise, he'll scare the writer right out of you.

20. The Dream Songs (John Berryman): Next after Borer into the pack, I revel in this man's dementia - as do my students. How many high schoolers can say they partook of Henry in their impressionable years? High schoolers love to say that they're writing "random" stuff. "You want random?" I say. "Dream Song 4" blows their minds. As it still does mine.

21. Going After Cacciato (Tim O'Brien): The Vietnam War's A Farewell to Arms. Melts in your mouth: a lovely fairy tale.

22. Longing for Darkness (China Galland): China's hymn to the goddesses of the luminous dark, a song for Yemaya, and a song to my own search for the Black Madonna and Ms. Tina Karagulian.

23. Nothing Like the Sun (Anthony Burgess): Back in the 60s, Clapton Was God. In the late 70s, Burgess Was God for friend Steph and me. We read our way through all the AB on the shelves, which was plenty (the anti-Pynchon), and gloried in this beautiful pavane to the love lives of Will Shakespeare.

24. Bleak House (Charles Dickens): At age 53, this one finally opened the Dickens portal, utterly convincing me that high school was way too soon to foist (and waste) this god on readers. I lived Dickens for another six months after BH, and will no doubt go on further Dickens sabbaticals in the future.

Too soon to tell, but likely to make the list: Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

This is hot.

Get out your oven mitts...


Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday Scribbling #166: Soul Mate

The Nile Has an I

Saturate the nature of this one who

Cannot escape the visible, the ancient

Eye that shatters (and glimmers) with a velocity

Approaching your measure,

Your size 7M leather shoe that walked through

A peace not yet descended, lost

In the outer reaches of virtual

Solitude, a condition the opposite

Of which only a sole-maker in Rio

Might fathom, a step up to the heart

In transit, the transferring flight booked,

The cargo bay filled, so only Christ on his
Big mountain would have the handicraft
Necessary for an altered state,

not by hesitation,
But by the kind of textual
Analysis only 2 bodies

Can bring to bare, bare like the foot that embraces

Heaven, that holds a boy's attention,
Anchoring the peasant memory
Of lines rehearsed in the
calling of heartstrings
Played soft and low
into midnight,
Into your blushing fervor, your blackbird

Eyes, your X, your why, a previous absence
Now held dear, a feast of monsoon

Proportions not even Babette in her

Riversteerage could identify the depths of.

Yes and yes and yes...]


Saturday, June 06, 2009

"little bit a wine..." brothers got it on...

Funky Nevilles, marking the occasion of Paschal's Other Playlist and yes, he's all over the place. Big brother Art (Papa Funk) got the funky groove, Aaron the angel-voice, Charles with the tai chi saxophone moves, but for me, the voice is Rasta Cyrille. Listen for him scattin' all through that thang...


Friday, June 05, 2009

Grey Commencement

I felt the gray man come down again last night, graying into the grayest gray, graying graying grayed. I did not ask for him, he was not invited, and yet he grays down upon me, picks up the book I am reading, his gray eyes across its page, his gray curiosity seething into the world around me, the sea of babies all round, all coming down. Did he slip inside the car with me, did I pick him up at the gas station, the ATM, down the Loop, gray graying asphalt, derelict skeletons along the road, did I shake his hand as I paid the parking and turned right into the long evening's black and white?

I felt the gray boy's hand as I entered, was it fifty years since I had last walked into its space? Had I left him all those many years ago?

Smile through gray mud, fish up gray words slurred down a gray tongue, exhumations of buried dreams as he walks into the sea of children dreaming, dreaming their beginnings, dreaming their afterwords after all the words have ended. Four orphans exhume the gray man for a moment and then climb to their own nest. We've all come for one more dreamer who would dream beyond where the words have ended.

Have they begun the dreams or are they digging? The gray man walks down avenues of need, avenues of desire, avenues of fear. Shovel in hand. Digging up or digging deeper?

A sea of 700 children.

"16 million dollars worth of scholarship money here," says a gray speaker.

Gray man does the math. The boy's hand holds tight.

Two hours pass: he walks into the gray night, hundreds shuffle by with shining rectangles at their heads. He follows the sea drift, stands, and waits: the gray is heavy upon him. One of the hundreds approaches. Out of the gray the gray man calls his name, hugs him, more gray words slurring down the gray tongue's night. The boy?

Gray words said, God or God's stand-in ushers the gray man through the gray sea, through the one gray gate, and out into the rest of the night. There are hundreds, and yet the sea parts its blessing, a quiet one, the smallest of ones, the greyest eminence, eminence grise.

Hours later, he looks across a room, through a prism of tears, sees the woman he married, sees the feet he married, sees the colors he married, the stories, the dreaming, the dreams.

The gray man sits beside a red red rose. In the heat of the day, the cool of cypress shade is narcotic. A story lies in wait. The boy's hand is waiting...


Thursday, June 04, 2009

"Now you think that I..."

This morning, at Mr. Baby's escuela, fourth grader rocks the Talent Show with this beauty. Chica was singin' it...


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

After this, I'm off...I promise.

From Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (this killed me this morning):

If you'd lived in Demarest that year, you would have known her: Jenni Munoz. She was this boricua chick from East Brick City who lived up in the Spanish section. First hardcore goth I'd ever met - in 1990 us niggers were having trouble wrapping our heads around goths, period - but a Puerto Rican goth, that was just as strange to us as a black Nazi. Jenni was her real name, but all her little goth buddies called her La Jablesse, and every standard a dude like me had, this diabla short-circuited. Girl was luminous. Beautiful jibara skin, diamond-sharp features, wore her hair in this super-black Egypto-cut, her eyes caked in eyeliner, her lips painted black, had the biggest roundest pair of tits you've ever seen. Every day Halloween for this girl, and on actual Halloween she dressed up as - you guessed it - a dominatrix, had one of the gay guys in the music section on a leash. Never seen a body like that, though. Even I was hot for Jenni firs semester, but the one time I'd tried to mack on her at the Douglass Library she laughed at me, and when I said, Don't laugh at me, she asked: Why not?

Fucking bitch.

So, anyway, guess who decided that she was the love of his life? Who fell head over heels for her because he heard her playing Joy Division up in her room and, surprise, he loved Joy Division, too? Oscar, of course. At first, dude just stared at her from afar and moaned about her "ineffable perfection." Out of your league, I snarked, but he shrugged, talked to the computer screen: Everybody's out of my league. Didn't think nothing of it until a week later when I caught him putting a move on her in Brower Commons! I was with the boys, listening to them grouse about the Knicks, watching Oscar and La Jablesse on the hot food line, waiting for the moment she told him off, figured if I'd gotten roasted she was going to vaporize his ass. Of course, he was full on, doing his usual Battle of the Planets routine, talking a mile a minute, sweat running down his face, and homegirl was holding her tray and looking at him askance - not many girls can do askance and keep their cheese fries from plunging off their trays, but this was why niggers were crazy about La Jablesse. She started walking away and Oscar yelled out superloud, We'll talk anon! And she shot back a Sure, all larded with sarcasm.

I waved him over. So how'd it go, Romeo?

He looked down at his hands. I think I may be in love.

How can you be in love? You just met the bitch.

Don't call her a bitch, he said darkly.

Yeah, Melvin imitated, don't call her a bitch.

You have to give it to Oscar. He didn't let up. He just kept hitting on her with absolutely no regard for self. In the halls, in front of the bathroom door, in the dining hall, on the buses, dude became ubiquitous. Pinned comic books to her door, for Christ's sake.

In my universe, when a dork like Oscar pushes up on a girl like Jenni, he usually gets bounced faster than your tia Daisy's rent checks, but Jenni must have had brain damage or been really into fat loser nerdboys, because by the end of February she was actually treating him all civil and shit. Before I could wrap my brain around that one I saw them hanging out together! In public! I couldn't believe my fucking eyes. And then came the day when I returned from my creative-writing class and found La Jablesse and Oscar sitting in our room. They were just talking, about Alice Walker, but still. Oscar looking like he'd just been asked to join the Jedi Order; Jenni smiling beautiful. And me? I was speechless. Jenni remembered me, all right. Looked at me with her cute smirking eyes and said, You want me to get off your bed? Her Jersey accent enough to knock the guff clean out of me.

Nah, I said. Picked up my gym bag and bolted like a bitch.

When I got back from the weight room, Oscar was at the computer - on page a billion of his new novel.

I said, So, what's up with you and Scarypants?


What the hell you two talk about?

Items of little note. Something about his tone made me realize that he knew about her scorching me. The fucker. I said, Well, good luck, Wao. I just hope she doesn't sacrifice you to Beelzebub or anything.


"Might as well..."

THE MASTER: listen to the brother dueling with the Hammond at the end: good gawd...


"But I plan to find the time..."


This one's for Miguel...

(Eds of a feather flock together...This story was inspired by a real-life Ed: you see how much I disguised the first name. You'll find this Ed's cousin over at MichaelO's. This story is, glory be, what?, sixteen years old...)


My grandmother’s one unbreakable rule: No pictures with your sunglasses on. See for yourself, you can check out all the family albums. I’m not saying we didn’t try, late afternoons lined up in the back yard for the big family pictures. Year in and year out, she’d haul us out to the magnolia tree where you’d find grown men and women stomping and crunching leaves like some King Family choir gone berserk. Granny dodging in and out of the commotion, pulling ears and jerking us into place. With the blazing sun setting in our faces, she’d give the command and glare as the last of us to bent to her will. In the early days, you’d find a few testy ones among us, but as the years passed, the photographer usually got his pictures in under a minute. It’s funny what gets to be important.

Several years back, I spent one Thanksgiving counting all the alcoholics, addicts, divorces, bastard children, cheating husbands, cheating wives, mental cases, and suicide failures in our midst. Sodom’s own spawn running around crazy through the crackling leaves, while some five foot tall harridan raged and foamed on about eyewear. In any given picture, three to five children were likely to be misinformed as to the exact identities of their daddies. In some cases, the exact sperm donor was just a little farther down the assembled chorus line. But, were we ever harangued about our moral infirmities? Indeed not. Did we smile pretty for the camera and stare into the wall-eyed sun? You bet your life.

Big Ned Loomis finally died up at Parchman last week. I read in the paper awhile back that he was doing poorly and I thought then that he might go at any time, though you couldn’t tell from the picture they ran of him. It was a file photo from twenty years ago, back when he was on the City Council and before he made History. I was surprised they didn’t run the usual picture of him jogging in his jail trusty garb. Maybe the reporter who followed the Big Ned story got tired of that one, or maybe out of respect for a dying man, he decided to run a shot of Big Ned back in his glory days. Though I didn’t know the actual photo, I knew the pose by heart. It was Big Ned leaning sideways into his council chamber microphone all mean and nasty and sticking his pointy finger in the mayor’s stricken face. During the four years of Big Ned’s questionable public service, I must have seen that pose a million times. It’s no wonder they keep file photos—who needed to keep snapping the same damn shot over and over again? Of course, I’m saving the best part for last. Underneath the nine foot tall portrait of General Jebediah B. Zeb, in the historic council chambers of City Hall, leaning—like I said—all mean and nasty into his microphone like a frothing and rabid disc jockey from hell, one-term councilman Big Ned Loomis, with his trademark sunglasses. On. Did I make copies of the photograph for Granny? You bet. Am I still in her shit house? Without parole, buddy, without parole.

Big Ned was never really big in a physical sense, and he didn’t always make like Foster Grant for the cameras either. From high school on at least, he was five foot two, and—to the best of my knowledge—he always had the flat top haircut. He was a year ahead of me at Purblind High School, very quiet and soft-spoken. He ran the school store his junior and senior years—from what I could tell, single-handedly. I never saw him with friends, much less girlfriends. The year I ran track, I’d see him early mornings out at the store, counting school supplies and book covers. The year of my junior-senior prom, he came up with the idea of selling corsages out of an old refrigerator he hooked up in the store, an idea that made the school a killing and earned him a special citation at Class Day. Never mind that the corsages looked like leftover lettuce from the cafeteria.

I find that you never really know what you know. Your brain goes around storing up garbage and taking pictures, and you never know what’s on file until somebody or something comes along and punches the right button. Then, thunk: another bag of hard candy memory drops into place. One week after graduation forty years ago and I’m not sure I could have told you just who Ned Loomis was, and yet here I am one week after his death and I can see him plain as day bent low under the yellow bug lights of his store going through the lost and found. I’d run a couple of laps, checking my time by the big clock over his head. In the yellow light, he looked ghostly, not quite real. After his inspections and inventories, he’d make sure that all the books were lined up perfectly with his hands. About the time I finished my laps, he’d drop the metal screens over the windows, looking lost about what else to do. I’d catch him sometimes out behind the football stands, just staring at the gravel like he’d lost his way.

There are a whole lot of Neds out here in the world, but what is it, I wonder, that turns a speck of Purblind history into a Councilman Big Ned? When Purblind brought him back years later for his induction into the Alumni Hall of Fame, all anybody could scare up was a picture of him out back at his store, with his flat top, white t-shirt, jeans, and black Converse sneakers. It was shot from the back, but there was no mistaking who it was. Those clothes were his uniform, and who else would it be at the store? I saw the TV coverage of his triumphant return and wondered if Big Ned himself knew who that skinny kid in the photo was. Throw a seersucker suit and a pair of sunglasses on the kid and there wasn’t much physical difference, but no rabid dog ever sold me a box of pencils and an iceberg lettuce corsage for Maxine Hardaway.

I’ve never exactly had my own time in the limelight, so by the time I left Purblind to go off into the real world, I was just trading up a size in anonymity. I’ve seen, through the years, big winners in high school go on to claim their rightful places in the halls of glory, but I’ve also seen my fair share of inverse Cinderellas and Cinderfellas: head cheerleaders turned fat gum-popping cashiers at the Jitney, and Mr. Studbuckets turned bald grease monkeys at the gas pump. Every once in a while, I’ve run into the occasional high school nobody who stepped out of the pack, but usually with a little thought I could recall a hint of what must have been cooking even back in the grisly green halls of Purblind. Still, nothing—nothing—prepared me for the apotheosis of Big Ned Loomis. He was exactly the kind of toadstool I’d expected to find straightening screwdrivers in the back of a hardware store on Capitol Street.

Well, I got the hardware store part right, but he wasn’t in the back lining up car manuals. The first Big Ned thunk in my memory bin came along in 1963, with a picture in the paper of still not quite Big Ned splashed across the front page of the paper, wielding a Louisville Slugger and asserting, according to the accompanying story, his right to choose who was and was not welcome in his store. There was the circle of earnest black faces surrounding him in the showdown on West Capitol Street, and I might add that both Ned and his several adversaries were breaking Granny’s rule right there on page one.

Depending on where you stood in the wars of commerce, Ned Loomis was in short time either a folk hero or the latest local incarnation of the White Satan. I can’t say that I was anymore enlightened than Big Ned, but I had either a sanity or cowardice that kept me from wielding baseball bats in public. I wasn’t likely to defend my own driveway, if it meant playing batter up! to a fervid choir of earnest faces. My older brother Norm, who’d actually had a few classes with Ned Loomis back at Purblind, spent some time down at the scene, albeit by accident. He’d spent the morning at the zoo with one of his unbiological daughters when, upon leaving, they were caught up in a surge of people in the street. Hard to believe that he would miss the rumblings while at the zoo, but that’s brother Norm for you. Once into the swell of people, non-child in hand, he worked his way through the crowd up to where snarling Ned was holding forth. He said later that it felt like a trick in time, like he had stumbled back through time to Ned and the old school store. The girl’s cry of alarm woke him from his trance. Held in place by the crowd, the color of his skin involuntarily aligning him with torrid Ned, Norm said he suddenly panicked and felt a cold dread sweep through his body. For all his stupidity, Norm is a big man, and generally fearless at that, but this battle scene broke him. Amy, the child with him, said he wept.

A year later, I was not the only one who saw the irony of Captain Ned Loomis at the head of a phalanx of National Guardsmen ordered out to escort a bedraggled group of frightened black children through a swarm of angry white parents soon to be Big Ned Loomis’ core constituency. The paper, noting the irony, ran a split photo montage on page one this time, Captain Ned on one side and the Louisville Slugger on the other. Folks that know say it was that bit of liberal media treachery—liberal media in Zebtown?—that spawned the monster of Big Ned. Pals of mine in the Guard say he swore an evil revenge the day he had to go out and uphold the Law of the Land. Two weeks later, he threw his hat into the ring for the councilman race. In a contest that pitted two huge, squealing race-baiters, Big Ned thrashed the four term incumbent. To no one’s surprise, his most rabid supporters took to wearing sunglasses and sporting bats with BIG NED emblazoned in red.

It was during that first campaign that Bernie came to light: Bernice Ann Loomis (nee Wiggins), Purblind class of 1953, wife of candidate Big Ned, mother of one daughter, Traci Marie. Unlike Ned Loomis, who I had to be thunked to remember, I remembered Bernie Wiggins Loomis right off the bat. She carried Traci Marie through most of her senior year at Purblind, and the father was definitely not the skinny kid lost in the gravel. Rumor had it, she had partially carried a couple of others through earlier academic years. I wondered at the time what Traci Marie’s ex-All City quarterback daddy thought as he watched his daughter on TV, waltzing into Westside Baptist Church on the arms of his old girlfriend and the adult version of the boy he spat on because he felt shortchanged at the school store.

ike most TV cynics, I figured all the church antics were just pitched at getting out the solemn white holy vote, but several members of my family witnessed to years of sighting a family threesome hooked in three-pronged mealtime prayer by interlaced raised index fingers, most often in a scarlet red booth at the downtown Primo’s. It was only after Big Ned started hitting page one on a regular basis that Mama and my siblings were able to figure out the identities of the vestal trio. It didn’t surprise me that skinny Ned Loomis might know his own personal version of Our Lord, and it certainly didn’t surprise me that Bernice Wiggins would be well into an adult life of washing her teen sins away. But I had a hard hard time seeing Jesus ever carrying councilman Big Ned on His back. I had a hard time seeing Big Ned ever letting Him.

You would have thought that Big Ned had ridden into City Hall on a tidal wave of white support guaranteed to topple our narrowly re-elected Mayor in four more years and raise Big Ned to the top for years to come. Such was the sentiment for the first year and a half, with the atmosphere in council chambers most reminiscent of Saturday night wrestling matches over at the Armory. Big Ned, in sweaty seersucker, eyes behind black shades and looking like a crazed acolyte, daring our weak and genteel mayor to throw the first punch. Councilman Ted Tilton, off to the side, primping for the cameras, clearly without anything so much as an informed opinion.

What actually happened to that tidal wave was this—it swept right on out of the city limits, leaving Big Ned four years later screaming at a bare army of his army of hate, those too poor to even move out to Rankin County, for god’s sakes. You could sense he knew when the jig was up. Three weeks before the election, he stopped going through the motions. All three of the incumbents—Big Ned, primping Ted, and the enfeebled mayor—were thrown out on their asses.

Those of us who marveled at the rise and fall of Big Ned went through about a ten year dry spell before he made History. We picked up the occasional tidbit in the back pages of the paper. Three years after his ousting, he graduated first in his law school class. A few years later he won a suit against the City, filled by a group of disgruntled white homeowners. Most of us figured Big Ned had been representing himself with a couple of Bernie’s relatives thrown in for good measure. On the military front, my Big Ned radar caught the occasional story of Big Ned’s promotions in the National Guard’s Quartermaster Corps. I’d get a picture of a flat-topped skinny kid taking inventory and lining up M-16’s on the rack. By the time he made History, he was a full bird colonel.

It was my sister Angie who got the biggest of the big stories first. She called Mama who called me and said to turn on Channel 12—they were running a Big Ned bulletin. There behind the talking head of Mary Halston was the burnt out Pinto believed to hold the barbecued remains of former city councilman Ned Loomis. I looked on stunned as news clips rolled of Big Ned’s mean and nasty career, bookended by the Hall of Fame snapshot and the grief-stricken faces of his wife and adopted daughter. It was then, off in my own dream, that I got the clearest pictures of those mornings out at the Purblind track, me and that skinny kid sealed in some strange time capsule of fate. I wondered if what he saw in the gravel out back of the stands was his own fiery end.

I did not go to the funeral. The closest I’d come to him since those mornings at the track was voting for him the first time, a dubious excuse at best for intruding upon his family’s grief. His other supporters were not so considerate. It was standing room only at Westside Baptist. Friends who were there said that Pastor Freeman, ever one for the good opportunity, managed to pass the collection plates three times before the service moved on out to Lakeside Cemetery. Colonel Councilman Big Ned got himself a twenty-one gun salute.

Only it wasn’t Big Ned they were saluting. Three months after the funeral, Bernie Loomis reported that she’d been finding large sums of money deposited by wire in her bank account. Shortly thereafter, she started getting strange phone calls from a man identifying himself as General Kurtz. Working on some hunches, the local sheriff’s boys found this General Kurtz in a Motel 6 selling encyclopedias in the Houston oil suburb of Deer Park. His real name—and old rank—was Colonel Ned Loomis. In death, Big Ned had bumped himself up a notch and given himself that elusive brigadier’s star. Movie fans in the press reminded us dullards of Marlon Brando’s madman Kurtz character in the Vietnam movie Apocalypse Now, and the real smarty pants writers weighed in as how the original Kurtz was a civilian madman in some jungle classic book that most folks at William T. Hoohaw High School, but certainly not Sturdy Q. Purblind, had read back in junior English class, while we were laboring through Of Mice and Men. I’d never read the book, but I’d seen the movie. Most of what had stayed with me was that part at the beginning when the whole jungle goes up in a flash of orange flame. I suppose Big Ned must have somehow seen himself in the bald dome of Brando’s mumbling head, but I imagine he looked damned hard into that flaming jungle, too.

Of course, the truly rabid Big Ned loyalists had no problem seeing a Second Coming in Big Ned’s return and incarceration. Most of us, however, turned to the grisly business of pondering just who it was got barbecued in the Pinto. Big Ned was of no help to our speculations. Lawyer that he was, he knew the State had the burden of proof, a burden they did not carry. Big Ned’s roast never did get identified. The best the prosecutors could do was nail Big Ned with insurance fraud. Given the hefty sentence and subsequent years of denied parole, you can bet the president of Lamar Life Insurance felt he got burned right alongside that poor slob out in the sticks.

Big Ned did not get to Parchman without one more squalid piece of controversy. Folks up in Camden started talking about some khaki-doffed man who looked awfully familiar, jogging the streets during lunch hour traffic. That was Big Ned’s last living appearance on page one—flat top, khakis, running shoes, sunglasses. His loyal batboys, ever the optimists, figured he must have run all the way down from Parchman, like a piss-ant Napoleon returned from Elba. As it turns out, he hadn’t even gotten there yet. Beds were full up at the penitentiary, the press were told, so while awaiting his eventual transfer, Big Ned was being held in a special cell at Sheriff Hunt’s posh county jail. That special cell must not have a lock on it, said one smart-ass reporter, Yankee no doubt. At the press conference, you could practically hear the punishment Bubba Hunt was cooking up in his brain for the scribbling fool. No, Sheriff said, Big Ned’s appearances in the Camden streets were part of a special rehabilitation program for first time offenders. Never mind that a dozen other less than Caucasian first time inmates, who’d never been near a gas can and a powder blue Pinto, were consigned to gin rummy games on the premises, with mangled card decks missing the Anti-Christ sixes. I am sure that Big Ned, as a master of dusting inventory, had no trouble getting on Sheriff Hunt’s good side. A few of us did wonder, though certainly not loudly, if Bubba Hunt didn’t himself know who was in the Pinto. That piece of news would have made a nice trade for jogging rights. But, two days after the brouhaha, Big Ned got his trip to the State Hilton.

There weren’t any new pictures of Ned Loomis after he got sent up. The jogging picture turned file photo and got slapped on the occasional parole rejection story. Scuttlebutt was that Big Ned was a model prisoner, so you had to figure Mr. Lamar Life had bigger friends on the parole board than General Kurtz. I was waiting for at least a movie of the week to shed some light on things, even if everything got made up—as it no doubt would. The family and I would sit around casting the thing, figuring out who should play Big Ned, Bernice, Traci Marie, and all the other supporting cast. Though he wasn’t near short enough, we figured Duvall was a lock for Ned. Granny kept trying to cast Shelley Winters as Bernie, at which point negotiations usually broke down.

Well, no movie of the week ever came to pass, though Norm said I ought to write the screenplay, wasn’t nobody bird-dogged Big Ned’s story like I had. By the end of the decade, Ned’s notoriety had dropped so low I was fearful he wouldn’t even make the paper’s top ten stories of the decade, but the Big Ned reporter must have lobbied hard: Big Ned slipped in at Number 9. That, of course, precipitated yet another round of casting negotiations, but Granny was still sticking with Shelley Winters. I had to admit that I was beginning to see it, too.

I did go to Big Ned’s second funeral. I’m not sure why, I certainly didn’t feel anymore worthy than the first time. No color guard this time, no guns, no bats, and a paltry sprinkling of died-in-the-wool loyalists. I guess I’d had a Big Ned somewhere inside of me so long that I needed to go out there and bury him, too. I’m in the picture, the one they stuck on page two of the Metro section, such had Big Ned’s star fallen, by the time he checked out for good. If you look real close you can see me back in the sixth row, over to the right. The one with the sunglasses.