Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Violence: A mini-autobiography

"I don't think I'd last very long in a street fight," I rather ruefully told my friend Teri.

She told me she wouldn't last long either.

"Women tend to be more mentally cruel to each other, don't they?" I said.

"Yeah, we are," she said emphatically.

Anyhow, it's not that I want to be in a fight. I was just bemoaning the fact that I'm overweight and out of shape. As for violence, I eschew it. It's everything I'm against.

"When I was in sixth grade, I was in a fight. It must've lasted an hour. Childhood is only easier in hindsight. Today, I'd just write people off, but back then when they said, 'You'll be a pussy if you don't do it,' that got to me. I was in a lot of fights in junior high because I was unpopular."

"Yes, we talked about that," she said, while sitting behind her desk with her computer and files and handy letter opener in the drawer.

I remember being in a fight and a school custodian stopped it, saying fighting didn't solve anything and it was stupid. We acted disappointed, but I was secretly glad because I was losing. That's just a vague memory though. The one that really sticks out was when I was in seventh grade. Me and this kid, Devin Lancaster, had been arguing in gym, our last class of the day. We were serving a volleyball over the net to each other and for some reason, maybe many, we were all pissy to each other.

"Well come on," I said. "Serve the goddamn ball."

"Hey," Coach Gaston barked. "Quit that swearing."

At some point, Devin came up to me and said, "I challenge you to a duel."
It was after school. We were behind some bushes to the north of the junior high building (It's long torn down now. Good riddance.) just past the sidewalk where the hoodlums smoked cigarettes before and after school.

He got the first punch and got a smug look on his face. A few minutes later, he was on the ground and I was winning not that that means anything. I remember looking up and seeing a big group of kids watching, but I don't remember any of those faces except one -- Aaron Doyle. He had a shitass grin on his face. He lived for this crap. Doyle was short, but stocky and and with muscular arms. He was the toughest kid in school and he let everyone know it one way or the other. Anything was a reason to fight. Someone chipped his eraser in math? That was a good enough reason to go fisticuffs. Real high-minded guy with his shitass grin.

The next thing I knew Coach Gaston grabbed my arm and with his other hand grabbed Lancaster's arm. He said to the policeman walking up, "Here they are, officer."



They don't give a damn

The officer talked frankly, but fairly, and a little about life as we sat in the police car, later to be hauled to the police station and picked up by our parents.

"Junior high is your toughest years especially the seventh grade," he told us. "I got in scrapes when I was a boy but later you realize that's not the way mature people settle differences. If you were adults,
I'd have to arrest you for disturbing the peace."

He said something that's stuck in my mind ever since.

"Those people standing around out there watching you, they don't give a damn if you get your nose broke and have to go to the hospital."

No, they really didn't. Fighting and blood and shit -- it was all entertainment for them. Cheap stuff for the likes of Aaron Doyle and his shit eating grin.

"So, how about it boys, do we need to go somewhere and put on the boxing gloves or have you got it out of your system?"

Neither of us wanted to go on. We were sapped of our earlier volatility. I wondered about Aaron Doyle. He'd probably be all up for the boxing gloves idea.

As I got older, I found the people I admired were the peacemakers -- Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus Christ. People like that. I wrestled for Coach Gaston in junior high and high school, but in that arena, a pugilistic contest is an athletic event, "an art form" as Teri would say.

My adult life has been about peace. If I see two people in a disagreement, I'm usually the guy trying to defuse the tensions. This is not to say I've never fucked up and said cruel things to people. To my everlasting regret I have and I've prayed to God for forgiveness.

"I think violence is the coward's way out," I told Teri.

                          "Street Fighting Man" -- The Rolling Stones




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bitch

It's 4:25 a.m. I'm sitting in my haunted house, waking up with coffee & listening to Pearl Jam's Ten. I keep putting off going to the office, but I know I should go in early because today's my Bitch Day. But I delay, posting on FB like a madman & people might perceive from such things that I need help, but I don't. I just don't want work to make me its bitch.

Waking up is an elaborate process for me. I don't just jump out of bed and into the shower. I need some kind of caffeine jolt, something like an injection to the arm. I need darkness & music & alarm clocks that are messed up as to the actual time.

My job entails writing, but it's watered down. I know if I wanted to I could find a portal in the job through which I could write about those things that piss me off and in some small way maybe I have used the key a little to unlock that window, but it's still mostly an insipid world I inhabit. I mean I can't write about everything that pisses me off because there's a script I have to follow, a formula & I've met those conditions smoothly, albeit uninspired.

What pisses me off? Pet peeves? Bad drivers, mostly.  But also guys who piss all over a toilet seat. If you're too lazy to lift a fucking seat up first, there's something wrong with you. What if someone has to take a plop? You sit down and there's a bunch of piss all over your ass. What if you're in high school and you're with the wrestling team changing in a girls' locker room before the tournament? You know, they don't have urinals.

And bad writing? I have no tolerance for it. I guess I should be forgiven for being skeptical when someone tells me they're a writer. I mean, sometimes they surprise me by being a good writer. But I've met a lot of people who call themselves writers and maybe they've written entire books, but they can't write for shit. I read something a guy had written the other day and in the first paragraph, he said, "My heart skipped a beat." Why you wanna use a hackneyed phrase like that? A cliche' should never be applied unless it's used for a damn good reason. Mostly it's depressing, a disappointment. I hate bad writing like I hate bad art.

Even good writers can piss me off. Robert Christgau is the self-professed "dean of rock critics" & I find that title so pretentious.

I hate sanctimonious fucks. All these so-called patriots with their priggish outrage because this football player, Colin Kaepernick, won't stand for the national anthem. Do we have a First Amendment right or what? They say they're all about the flag, but they don't know shit about the Constitution. Why aren't they mad about the injustices this guy is protesting? Why aren't they bothered by the offensive stuff Donald Trump says to his rallying audiences? You know, the people who spout "bitch" every time Hillary Clinton's name is spoken, who say "nigger" when Barack Obama's name is mentioned and unconsciously give heil Hitler salutes?

I should get my ass 'outa here. Bitch Day ain't movin' anywhere but forward. Just remember, if you straddle the right lane, you suck.


                                        "Even Flow" -- Pearl Jam


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Whitesplainin'


Saturday morning last weekend at about 7:40 a.m and mine was the first haircut of the day at Ray's Barbershop in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) in the '70s. Ray's been cutting hair there since 1965 when it was still Bub's Barbershop. Ray bought the place from Bub a year later and re-named the place after himself.

Bub ran the barbershop for 50 years just like Ray has turned out to do. When he finally retires, as he keeps saying he's going to do, Jayme, the young lady barber working the chair beside his, will probably take over.

Ray is an old guy, set in his ways. A nice guy, but stuck in his time, retrograde and non-progressive except for in the '70s when he learned how to cut long hair. It was two days after the tragic murders of five police officers in Dallas following what had been a peaceful protest. The news reports I read off Facebook said the sniper who did the shooting was not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. People like Ray are still going to associate them, though.

"Just terrible, those five policemen getting killed," Ray said while bent over, looking at the side of my head and clipping the unruly hairs.

"It's a tragedy," I agreed. "I feel terrible for their families. I pray for them."

The five officers killed were: Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Brent Thompson.

"I tell ya, ya get a bunch of people in a situation like that, blockin' the streets and shoutin,' carryin' signs and it's just askin' for trouble and you got people bringin' their kids out when they should be at home eatin' supper. I tell ya what I think, it's a bunch of hypocrites, all those black people protestin' the cops. First sign of trouble and they go runnin' behind the police to protect them."

"I think they would say they weren't protesting police," I said. "They were protesting police misconduct."

"You talk about misconduct. A policeman tells you to do somethin', you do it," Ray said as my graying middle aged hair fell from his barber's scissors to the floor." That's all they gotta do. Do what they tell you to and you won't get killed."

"Well, yes, you should comply with the cops," I said. "If someone is resistant, however, I think killing is extreme. It should be a last resort, something an officer doesn't do unless he feels his life is threatened."

"It was threatened," Ray said, his voice raised for emphasis. "We need Obama or someone the black people'll listen to to come on TV and say, 'listen, he robbed a store, then he was wrestlin' with a cop, trying to get his gun so he got capped.' And I don't understand why anyone would be recordin' with a phone after her boyfriend got shot. I think those phone cameras are the worst thing's ever been invented."

It wasn't clear whether Ray was talking about Michael Brown, Alton Sterling or Philando Castile. He appeared to have the people and situations mixed up.

Or maybe Ray just lumped them all together.

"Well as I understand it," I said, "that one guy, Philando Castile in Minnesota, was just sitting in his car, doing everything he was supposed to do. He let the officer know he had a permit to carry a gun like you're supposed to do and he was shot."

"I think there's some proof he didn't have a permit," Ray said. "He was reachin' down. He looked like a robbery suspect. What are you gonna do?"

Ray was quiet for a minute while applying Bay Rum to the nape of my neck after shaving it clean. Then he continued on talking.

"Now what I like was that black mama slappin' the shit out of her kid for bein' out there. She was a good one, I'd like to see more of 'em like that."

"I think the vast majorities of protests are peaceful just as I believe most cops are conscientious," I said.

Ray talked about how the protest in Dallas wasn't peaceful, how Black Lives Matter had led to the deaths of the five police officers. I told him I'd read in the news that the protest had been peaceful and was over when the sniper started shooting and that he was not connected with the BLM movement.

"Why aren't they protesting those five officers who were killed?"

"They've condemned the killings," I said. I told him about the images I'd seen on TV of BLM folks and police in Dallas hugging and crying together.

By this time, an old guy about 70 was sitting, waiting for his haircut. (Jayme wasn't in yet.) The old guy who Ray knew by name looked up from the Jett Journal newspaper he was reading to put his two cents in.

"I think them Black Lives Matters people are responsible for the police killings," the old guy who Ray called Slim said. "They went and stirred up some shit, and they're racist. Hell, we're all human beins' bleedin red. Them cops, them blue lives, don't they matter?"

"Of course all lives matter," I said. "When they say black lives matter, they're not saying other lives don't. I believe they feel black lives have been treated as dispensable, that systematic racism has treated their lives as if they don't matter."

"Oh, I've heard all that shit before," Ray said as he brushed the hairs from the back of my neck . A bunch of cryin' and whinin' and bitchin."

"Always cryin' race," Slim said.

"That's what they always come back to," Joe said as he sprayed Tea Tree Tonic to my finished haircut. "I'll tell you what, you wanna make them protesters leave, just offer 'em a job. They'll cut loose real fast."

I stepped down from the barber's chair, just as Jayme walked in. "Morning, Jayme," I said. "Morning, Jeff. Looks like Ray took good care of you."

"Ray's the man," I said after, shifting a side glance at my haircut in the side of the mirror. We get along great, Joe and I even though he sometimes calls me a "liberal socialist." The old man's been cutting my hair since I was a little kid. He knew I was going car shopping that day, having recently totaled my old car, hitting a deer. I was using a rental.

"You oughta be able to Jew that car salesman down good with a fresh haircut like that," he said.

"Thank you very much for the haircut Ray," I said as I handed him a 10 and a 5 dollar bill. He handed me three dollars back, but I told him he could keep the change. He thanked me.

Sometimes I get my hair cut at the Old Town Barber College in downtown Wichita where I can get a haircut for $6. Most of the student barbers there are young women and black and Hispanic males. I wonder where the conversation would go if they weighed in on the divisiveness between police and African Americans.

I've read how the Dallas Police Dept. has been heralded as a model for the country for relations between black activists and police. I hope more people can come together, but how do you get past all the narrow minds that fuel the trash talk we encounter in barbershops, bars, the work place and all over social media?

It's in the news how BLM leaders and police in Wichita will co-sponsor a barbecue this Sunday. I hope for the best.

                              "Black and White" by Three Dog Night






Sunday, July 3, 2016

The radio show time forgot


It's always been a thrill, driving the family in the Santa Fe on North Rock Road in Wichita on a Saturday night in between going to some place like Kohl's, Payless Shoe Stores or Fazzoli's and hearing that husky voice on my local public radio station KMUW 89.1, Wichita.

"I thought that old man was gonna retire," Maria would say. "When's he going away? He said he was gonna retire five years ago."

She can't stand the sound effects.

"It's one of the best parts," I'd tell her.

Alas, Garrison Keillor finally taped his last episode of A Prairie Home Companion. This time he was serious about retiring. Periodicals like the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly have written about him doing his last show which is funny because APHC was inspired by Keillor writing an article for the New Yorker in 1974 about the last radio taping of the Grand Ol' Opry. The experience inspired Keillor to create his own musical variety show on public radio, which was, if not an infant, then a toddler at that time.

The show will go on with new host Chris Thile, of Nickel Creek, (a band that's appeared on APHC numerous times) taking over in October. But I understand there's going to be more music and fewer comedy sketches.

That sucks.

And the guests Thile plans to have on the show -- Beyonce', Dave Chapelle, Sarah Silverman? That's not homespun, Americana, corn pone.

I was driving in the car with my son, Max, on a Sunday afternoon, listening to a re-run of the Saturday Night APHC show.

"Yeah, I know this show has its corny parts," I said.

"The whole thing is corny," he answered.

"I know, but that's what I like about it. It's like old time radio before television when families would gather around the radio and listen to Jack Benny or Bob and Ray. The sound effects are like on Fibber McGee and Molly where you'd hear Fibber open his closet and all his junk would come crashing down." (We'd heard those old shows on Radio Classics on Sirius Radio when we took rented cars on vacations.)

Keillor is 74. He remembers old time radio. It's like he told Pres. Obama, who called in to the last show, "I go back to Harry Truman."

                                            Young Garrison Keillor


There will be no more Lake Wobegon stories on the revamped show. That's the best part of the show. "Well it's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, my hometown," Keillor would say and go into a monologue about the denizens of his make believe town. These were stoic people who sang "Abideth With Me" at the Lutheran Church, went hunting and fishing, drank beer, surreptitiously smoked cigarettes, made love and died.

I love those recurring bits from the APHC world. Pastor Liz and the Norwegian Lutherans. German Catholics and Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church. English majors. Guy Noir Private Eye ("On a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets one man searches for the answers to life's persistent questions.") Life With the Cowboys. The Ketchup Advisory Board and all those fictional sponsors like Powder Milk Biscuits and Rhubarb Pie. Even Maria would sing along with the jingle. "Be bop a re bop rhubarb pie."

My theory is Maria secretly likes the show. Maybe she didn't at first but I sense it grew on her. I mean, Garrison had on musical guests she likes like Iris DeMent. Maria absolutely loves her version of "Everlasting Arms" from the movie True Grit.

She would complain rather accurately that Keillor, who sang on every show, was not a good singer. So what? That was part of his appeal.

I don't think I'll be able to listen to the new show. If Maria doesn't like the new young host, it won't be as funny as her not liking the old guy. Since Thile is a musician, he probably has a good singing voice. That's no fun. And what -- there's gonna be some hip, urbanized, diversified, attract-the-younger-audience version of A Prairie Home Companion. It just won't be Midwestern Minnesota prairie anymore, and I won't be able to torture my family with cornball humor. It's like how I stopped doing those silly Michael Jackson impressions on the phone with my mom after MJ died. It wasn't the same.

I've read that Garrison Keillor is public radio's past and they need to look to the future. I don't think it's so great.

It feels like old time radio has died a second time. But the good thing is you can download podcasts. So it will never really be gone. And maybe I can play a CD of Garrison's Prairie Home Companion when I'm with the family on trips.


                                 Profile on CBS Sunday Morning





Saturday, July 2, 2016

Confederate flag


"I just posted something on Facebook about how stupid the Confederate Flag is. I didn't mean to re-start the damn Civil War," I said.

"How could you not know that would stir some shit?" my friend Terri said.

I saw some fool in the McDonald's parking lot in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s) with a Confederate flag hanging idiotically from the back of his truck. Just waving stupidly in the summer breeze.

So I got on my Android & posted, "Some fool in the McDonald's parking lot with the damn Confederate flag on his truck."

"My son has a Confederate flag on his truck and I don't concider (sic) him a fool," a Facebook friend posted. I didn't mean to offend her about her son going around with a racist flag.

Then my arch conservative Facebook friend, Brock, replied to my post. Back in school I didn't know what the hell Brock's politics were. Hell I didn't even have any politics when I was in high school. Reagan was the president & I guess some people thought he was tough like Clint Eastwood or something. It was all image & I guess Republican was supposed to be the Cool Party & stuff. But I didn't give much thought to politics although I liked history and government classes. Hated algebra. I imagine nowadays with Fuckbook and all the Social Media out there, today kids are like, "You fucking Democrat liberal Muslim gay louvin' (sic) anti-American dick godamn atheist" and their friends reply something like "Fuck you southern baptist bigot rascist (sic) ammo fucking closet fag." I don't know, I'm just guessing they verbally abuse each other over politics. A lot of adults do on Facebook and I know the kids do so because they have issues. My friend, Logan, is a school resource officer. He's shown me things.

Anyhow I've digressed but the thing is I wouldn't have known if Brock was Republican or Democrat in the '80s & I couldn't have given a shit. Of course today with Facefuck you can't not know. Being arch conservative and loving America (and if you don't, get the fuck out) means defending the rebel flag, I guess. It does in Brock's world.

He posted a meme. That's about all Brock posts. Arch conservative memes.


Okay if you pull your pants up I'll stop being a racist. That's fair. If you practice tasteful fashion sense I'll take down a flag that symbolizes a heritage of slavery, hatred, Jim Crow and racism.

Heritage of hate

But no, they say on Facebook. It's just a flag celebrating Southern culture. Just good old fashioned ass kickin' rebel fun like they had at the Buzzard's Roost where Daisy Duke sauntered in her cut-offs, serving beer to all the good ol' boys on The Dukes of Hazard. That harmless motif was on the roof of the Duke Boys' Dodge Charger, the General Lee. I used to think the flag was just about partying and listening to "Free Bird."

But over time, I couldn't stop asking myself, "How does that flag feel to a black person?" You can sanitize history and say the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery, that it was only about defending a genteel way of life against federal intrusion but the historical facts show the war had everything to do with slavery, racism and white supremacy.

The Southern Cross, the flag design popularized by Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, actually has more to do with the Civil Rights Movement than the Civil War. It didn't see a  resurgence until 1948 when Southern Democrats, opposed to Civil Rights measures on the Democratic Party Platform, seceded from the party and formed the Dixiecrats, The Dixiecrat Party was for things like segregation and against things like anti-lynching laws. And they flew that flag everywhere. In the '50s and '60s, the Confederate flag was flown in the South as a symbol of resistance to the growing integration. The KKK flew the Confederate flag.

It's no coincidence that the piece of crap who shot to death nine African Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina church last year had posed for pictures with that stupid flag.

So I stirred some shit because I expressed my true feelings about the Confederate Flag. I'm free to give my opinion and they're free to express their hatred all over Social Media & fly their racist flag.


Rep. Hakeem Jeffries D-New York argues for a National Parks ban on displaying and selling the Confederate Flag.








Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Dusty

The past week has been rough. I said goodbye to a friend. If you asked him his name, he'd tell you Leonard Dustin James Atterbery. But he went by Dusty.

My friend Dusty had a phenomenal personality. You felt good being around Dusty, and he made the world better. He was a winning kid -- small but mighty.

The first time I saw Dusty he was throwing a fit. It was 10 years ago and I was working at a kids' camp. Don't remember what the fit was about. I guessed this boy with blondish red hair and freckles was about 8-years-old, but I could tell mentally he was about 4. Later I asked him how old he was.

"Fifteen," he said.

Somebody told me he had been a fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) baby. When child protective services found him at four months old, he was lying in a dresser with whisky and Coke mixed in his baby bottle. The dangerous early exposure to alcohol limited his intellectual and physical growth.

Dusty was adopted by Phil and Kay Atterbery. The couple adopted several kids with special needs such as autism, but Dusty had the most severe condition of their eight kids.

I got to know Dusty and his parents through my job. I would pick Dusty up from Levy Special Education School and we would go to places like the YMCA near West Central in Wichita or West Acres Bowling Alley. We put the bumpers up for Dusty when he bowled and he was always happy when he got a strike.

Dusty and I also went out on Saturday morning walks around places like Riverside Park, WSU and Friends University. We'd go to the Wichita Art Museum where he liked to draw in the childrens' section, the library where he liked to play games on the computers and Old Cowtown Museum where he liked to watch people dressed like 1870s characters.

When I picked up Dusty at his home, he was always showing me Nerf guns he had bought with his allowance and costumes he wore -- Superman, Batman, Darth Vader... Dusty loved to dress up. One time he showed me a toy sword he'd gotten. He wanted to take it with him on our outing, but his dad told him to leave it at home and he could play with it when he got back. Dusty threw a loud fit and it was tough to get him out the door.

Later, after we'd been playing at the Y for a while, I said, "How 'bout we call your dad and tell him you're sorry for throwing a fit earlier?" He was up for that so I called Phil, told him Dusty had something to tell him. Long since cooled down, Dusty apologized for throwing a fit earlier.

"I accept your apology," I could hear Phil say over the phone.

Dusty was feisty. One time he got into some kind of argument with a kid around the pool table at the Y and said, "Do you want a bloody nose?" I had him apologize. Another time a kid didn't believe Dusty when he told him he was 18. I later took the boy aside and said, "Actually, he really is 18." The boy told Dusty he was sorry.

"I accept your apology," Dusty answered.

He loved to push the buttons in my car and activate the seat warmers. He loved Elvis, just as he loved superheros, Star Wars, Star Trek, Walker Texas Ranger and playing cowboys and Indians. Once we were listening to the Elvis station in my car on Sirius radio. One of Elvis's more forgettable songs came on and I committed the disrespectful, sacrilegious act of changing the station.

"Hey turn it back," Dusty said. "I like that song."

Well okay.

Accident

The accident happened Friday afternoon May 7 at the intersection of side streets, Young and Newell. A van from Starkey, a non-profit based group that cares for people who are mentally challenged -- was transporting Dusty and two other residents from a day program. An Escalade SUV reportedly sped through a stop sign and crashed into the van.Dusty and another Starkey resident, Dirk MacMillian, were killed.

It has not been established whether the driver of the SUV, Bret Blevins, was drunk. Authorities are waiting for toxicology reports to come back. What is established is that Blevins was a repeat DUI offender, had been convicted of possession of meth and of stealing a bronze Eagle statue from the Boy Scout Quivera Council. His driver's license has been suspended numerous times.

"I hope he lives a long, long life in prison," Kay Atterbery told the KWCH news.

Yeah, prison. Where he can't hurt the community any more.

Four days after the wreck, a candle light vigil was held at the scene of the accident. I had to drive an hour and a half to get there, but I was going to make my stand for Dusty and the other victims.

I would implore you, if you're impaired, please don't drive. If someone around you plans to drive while drunk, give them a ride, call them a cab, take their keys away, call the cops if you have to, but do anything you can to stop them.
                         Dusty taking his niece, Jasmine, to prom.

Goodbye, my friend

My beautiful wife, Maria, and handsome son, Max, went with me to Dusty's funeral. He had a beautiful memorial service officiated by Pastor Cecil Brown of the West Side Church of the Nazarene. He talked about how Dusty was now in Heaven where there are no more problems, no more sadness. The mortuary was packed with family, friends and people who had been caregivers for Dusty.

Most of them had Dusty stories. Along with the sadness, there was a celebration of Dusty's life.

His aunt Nancy sang, "Amazing Grace." Elvis's beautiful gospel recording of "In the Garden was played. Dusty's niece, Jasmine, and Anna, a neighbor to the Atterberys sang "Jesus Loves Me" and "Jesus Loves the Little Children." The songs were appropriate -- children's songs you learn in Sunday school and those lyrics -- when the girls, one black, one white sang "red and yellow, black and white, they're all precious in his sight," I thought about how those words really meant something.

Phil and Kay Atterbery are white but several of Dusty's adopted siblings are African American. Dusty never knew racial divisions.

Kay stroked Dusty's hair one last time and sang to him as she had so many times.

Hair of gold, eyes of blue
skin so fair, freckles too...
How I love my little boy,
how I love my pride and joy.
Close your eyes, 
now go to sleep...
my precious child.

I worry about how Kay is going to do without her boy. I wish the man who caused this accident could see all the damage -- all the sadness he's created.

Nobody knows what happens after we die, but I'd like to think we go on somehow, that there's more than just this life.

I remember one day. Dusty and I were at the Donut Whole in east Wichita. There was a picture in the window of a man with a guitar.

"That's God," Dusty said.

"No Dusty, that's a picture of a man who's going to be performing here," I said.

"No, it's God."

I get a good feeling knowing Dusty, my friend, may have looked into the the face of God. No more pain or sorrow. Just joy and love forevermore. I hope he met Elvis too.

My beautiful wife, Maria, has been a blessing to me through all my sadness and bereavement. She knew Dusty was special.

"You'll see him again," she told me.

The family has set a gofundme page to help pay for Dusty's funeral.
























Monday, February 29, 2016

Eyes shut


The hallway was steel and glass, narrow with turns like a maze. I could almost feel the sex acts before they cleaned up and sanitized the floors with Lysol. My head was wanting more drugs and the radio wires in my brain were on the brink. But it's okay okay okay. I used to have bad dreams about inquisitions, star chambers where judges in powdery wigs fixed steely-knived eyes on me. I never knew what my crime was, but there had to be one. You see, they could penetrate thevetromedial prefrontal cortex of my brain in order to maximize the guilt they were pulling out of me like large & small intestines. Nasty, harsh guilt let down god, family, country Penetratin' mean like a penis.

As I turned the door knob with my hand, I shut my eyes tight and quickly prayed that Mookas wouldn't be there. I pushed the knob inward and the first face I saw was that of Mookas, her dark caramel skin and arms folded in godfather style.

"He's very well read," Mookas said of me as if I weren't there.

"Dr. Mookas, I'm an idiot savant," I said.

A week earlier I'd received a nasty email from Mookas. "You used to be so good. Now you're bothering everyone in the organization. You're a drain. Your insecure act has gotten old....."

And all it looked like to me was, "You cocksuckin' piece of fuck...Go rot in hell, you phony bastard."

As I paced frantically, the young dancing woman who had once met Stephen Sondheim told me, "You're raising your blood pressure."

It was institutional here. "Sometimes I think Franz Kafka designed this organization," Ervin said to me. Ervin was a playwright, read Aristotle's Poetics to get the feeling and wanted to teach Heidegger, Bertrand Russell, Schopenhauer, Sarte. I don't know that he was a phony. Just a bastard. He had a smell, an odor that like everything else about him just said "bastard" but it's all good.

Back in the room with Mookas, Longhoeffer, Briggs, McChokumchild and the rest. They all wanted to meet with me as one unit to show me they were all "on the same page." I hate that cliche'd phrase. I had to make quick decisions about what my future with the institution would be. Would I meet the requirements or have to be dismissed. It was all women in the room but I knew they'd get a big man if they ever needed muscle.

"This is like the mafia," I said. "Everyone in a room confronting a guy."

Then I became pensive. "It's just that I've never been one to give up," I said. "When I was a kid I'd willingly endure all kinds of sadism and punishment before I'd give in. My kids -- they were born in a different world. They've known comfort. They give in easier"

"What are their grades like?" McChokumchild asked. Then Briggs. "How do they respond to authority?" "Do they have any learning disabilities?" "What do their teachers say about them?" Then Mookas: "How do they get along with their peers?"

"What'd'ya wanna know Mookas? Are they fucked up like me?"

"Watch your mouth."

I have no ill will. I can forgive everything they ever did at my expense. The byzantine rules. The wires. The mindfucks. But fuckin' with my kids -- that's the one thing I don't forgive.

"Fuck y'all" I said and walked out, never to see them again.

I took the elevator down. Below there was a car, a girl and sex waiting for me. No something deeper because it wasn't all about the sex and any expert will tell you a true, healthy relationship is grounded on more.

I met her in the parking lot in the Ford Explorer she'd rented from Avis. We'd drive to California in that car. Driving along 21st Street looking at where there used to be a Safeway store and a Kwiki Mart. There was blue sky all around us and an endless sea of white clouds. I looked up at them. then eyes pressed shut i thought of that day long ago.

I was twentysomething, reporting on a story about the newest cars on the market for a newspaper in a dusty Oklahoma town. A Dodge Viper. Girl driving. I was a passenger then too, had bad dreams about the star chamber but it was okay. She wore this short, tight skirt. "I can rock your world with this stereo," she said. i'll be her plastic toy

And the legs and blond hair of yesterday drifted like a reverie as I looked deep into Maria's dark hair with the sunlit highlights.

"I'm really proud of you, Jeff," she said. "A year ago something like this would've made you suicidal and unable to get out of bed."

"What's the use in that?" I said.

"And you just went in ripped jeans and an AC/DC concert shirt. You didn't bother dressing up."

"Not much point in it, baby."

I was for bringing back sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Had a connection with a roots band that had jammed with Bobby Blue Bland.

And I was ready to taste it like honey, to face the future

___ with Maria
___ with Maria
___ with Maria


               "Nothin's Gonna Hurt You Baby" -- Cigarettes After Sex