Saturday, December 31, 2011
It's sad to watch this video and think of how far backwards we have regressed.
Dynamic leaders like Dr. King were silenced long ago and society has overall failed to pick up the baton and continue in the race. Politics and religion have hopped in bed together and become one in preaching a message of hatred, intolerance, racism, nationalism, exceptionalism, nativism, hegemony, hawkishness, violence...
Entertainment, technology and societal fragmentation have, I feel, become our masters, leaving too many of us in a state of somnombulance and self-destructive apathy. There are beautiful people all over the world standing for principles bigger than themselves, the Occupy Wall Street individuals, for example. Still, I don't feel the social cohesiveness or collective will exists to enable a strong, shepherding voice like that of a King or Cesar Chavez.
Where is the moral courage, today? Where have all the leaders gone?
It's significant that in words delivered from a pulpit, Martin Luther King, Jr. was championing the principles of Muhammad Ali (formerly known as Cassius Clay) in refusing to pick up arms in a war he morally could not support. While King was a preacher of the Christian gospel, he did not use his position to cast aspersions at Ali's Islamic faith. He acknowledged that, whatever people in the congregation might personally think of his religion, they would be wrong impugn his character. (Actually, King was perusaisively critical of Christian ministers who advocated complacency and accomodation, rather than direct action to effect progress.)
How many leaders -- religious, political and otherwise -- do we see today, saying, "I may not agree with your politics or beliefs or what you do in your sex life, but I respect your right to be who you are?"
It's interesting how in his final years, King's Civil Rights message of racial equality had broadened toward speaking out against imperialism and the rights of people worldwide. But what many people don't realize today -- when even pharisaical politicans quote King at prayer spectacles and perfunctory anniversary celebrations --- is that from the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and even before, labor unions worked hand in hand with black churches and progressive organizations.
The rights of the working man and woman were co-mingled with the cause of racial equality as if they were one, and in a way they were -- and are. Once freedom is allowed expanded breathing space, it can more easily take root and bloom in other corners.
It is quite troubling today when demagogues find power in the politics of polarization. But haven't they been around forever? They were there cheering on Bull Conner as he unleashed attack dogs on peaceful dissenters in Birmingham, Ala. They were along the sidewalks of Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963, passing out leaflets calling Pres. John F. Kennedy a "marxist" and "socialist dictator." And they live today, disseminating crude racial caricatures in their Tea Party banners and facebook posts.
But the message of social justice, of the true value God has placed in every human life, has also been alive throughout history. Ministering to the poor and least among us, of championing those who have trampled upon and oppressed -- that is in line with an ancient tradition recorded in the Gospels of Jesus Christ, stretching backward to Old Testament prophets further back to Moses leading a people out of bondage.
I'm realistic. I know Jan. 1 is really just another day and calendars are created with a certain amount of arbitrariness. As of this writing, my wife and daughter are feeling weak, possibly feverish and probably will tomorrow as well -- New Year or not. We're competing with a lot of ignorant people, the tide of history and all that. Still, let's do all we can to make 2012 excellent.
Some of my favorite people in this world are the World War II veterans I interact with at the local senior center. For those who endured the Depression and Second World War so their offspring could have a better life, let's do something great.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
"1893 never heard of him, 1492 was too busy discovering things to even talk to us, 1965 was too noisy." -- From the 1976 ABC television Christmas special, Rudolph's Shiny New Year. The song Eve of Destruction started climbing the charts in Septmember of 1965.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
(singing) “Jeff’s nuts roasting on an open fire.”
Merry Christmas, all my pretty ones. Love, love, love you, but only with the joy that is Christmas and not in a homosexual way like they’re trying to teach in the public schools.
Of course, my children are thriving academically – a beacon of light and Christian charity in this Godless world and throughout our holiday season. You know that parent who slaps a sticker over her back windshield or paint job? The sticker bearing the words: “Proud parent of an honor student!” Well, I’m that parent.
My son, Max, is flourishing with the fury of a Maine snowstorm. His reading scores are off the charts as he has moved beyond Captain Underpants and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.
Presently, young Maxwell is reading a study tracing the origin of the claim that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, should be credited with authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. Young Max stuck the fat book in my face and said, “Dad, guess how many AR points this is!”
My boy has been assiduously reading the book in between playing with his 3DS and making stop motion videos of his Legos. Maria and I are molding him into a little gentleman with imperial manners and grace.
Last night, the phone was ringing.
“Max, will you answer that?” Maria said.
“My butt will answer it,” he replied, followed by a ground swell of a fart.
Our daughter, Gabby, who also likes farts, has generated a bonanza of achievements herself, this year. She’s an excellent reader (Walter the Farting Dog, for example) and she has distinguished herself in the arts of cheerleading and stage performance.
Maria and I were wowed by her singing at the at the school’s annual Christmas program. You know, there are only about five or six songs that really are Christmas. All music teachers, in true spirit of this marshmallows and manger season, should stick by that formula, brooking no deviations from this most sacred of shopping holidays.
Oh no, instead of Decks the Halls and Silent Night, the modern public education system promotes a lot of liberal hippie peace and love crap. My sweet little daughter is on that stage with impressionable children ranging from kindergarten to second grade, and they’re singing this hippie commie song, You’ve Got a Friend. Wonder what it will be next year? Some song about imagining there’s no heaven, hell or religion?
Ahh, so this is Christmas and don’t worry too much about the growing paucity of values in our world as the family and I will be spreading much Christian tradition of the Yule log and consumerism. We’ll be in front of Kober Brothers supermarket in that redneck town to the east of us, ringing bells for the Salvation Army. We always like to help the less fortunate like those condemned to living in the trailer park on the other side of the railroad tracks to the north of us. Not everyone can live in a nice manufactured housing community like we do and we like to remind people of that this time of year as we broadcast our charity works to lovers of Christmas across the land.
Yes, it’s been a very good year. And in other news, my brother, Perry, just returned from the hospital for procedural work related to his gastrointestinal tract. We were just talking to Perry about it over a dinner of green chili at the El Torito bar and grill. (There was a picture of green chili on the menu next to the establishment’s other fine dish – Intestino Amigo, translated Bowel Buddy.)
Great family, great friends – what more on earth can we ask for? A friend tipped us on a wonderful bread and breakfast establishment – Schrute Farms in Honesdale, Pa.
It was a rustic treat as we were invited to join in the beet harvest work with “Cousin Mose” at 6:30 a.m. We enjoyed a sweet breakfast of goat jerky and were treated to lavatory facilities in the bucolic mode of an outhouse with Battlestar Galactica posters adorning the walls and complimentary cornhusks to accommodate our sanitary needs.
Guys, are you taking lessons from the King of Romance?
I must go now, leaving you with the sweet holiday dreams of a child. May peace and goodwill guide you in the New Year, your troubles miles away. And remember that in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
Peace be with you,
J. Guy & family
P.S. “1893 never heard of him, 1492 was too busy discovering things to even talk to us, 1965 was too noisy.” – From the 1976 ABC television special, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, a sequel to the 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Originally airing on Dec. 6, 1964 on NBC, this children’s Christmas special was sponsored by General Electric.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
She looked through the clothing racks while I rummaged through the used book shelf and record bin. There was a Diary of a Wimpy Kid kid book – one more for me to pick up for Max. Our boy can never have enough.
I flipped through the LP’s standing in a crate. There were possibilities: Tom Jones Live in Las Vegas, a Mitch Miller sing-a-long (wasn’t there a reference to him on Season 1 of Happy Days?), Englebert Humperdinck. Possibilities. True potential.
While knelt down, staring at a Partridge Family album, circa 1970, I felt her presence. My eyes grazed the silver metal of a shopping cart and I saw her.
I tell Maria that County Seat was a good store, every man needs cord and it’s fitting that I should do this (buy the thing).
Dressing room experience
“Man, I’m so sorry,” he said. “I thought it was empty.”
Sunday, December 18, 2011
This is the stuff like we were listening to down in the dungeon they called the Sunflower newsroom at the old Wilner Auditorium building at Wichita State University, circa 1994.
Front (from left) Kollen Long, Duane Frazier, Adam Knapp, Sandy (West) Graham, Jeff Guy. Back: Amy (Pray) Schoon, Stephen King.
We were standing there, waiting to proceed out the aisle at the end of the service. As always, when I attend these things, Maria was beside me for moral support. The minister talked about how one life had brought all these people together. My friend Adam Knapp looked back at me from the row of seats in front of us.
“You all right, Jeff?”
I looked at the floor. Lips tightened. Eyes shut, holding back. No words.
There was a pat on my shoulder.
Outside the auditorium, a flock of friends and former students of Les Anderson covered the lobby of the Wichita State University annex – the Hughes Metroplex at 29th and Woodlawn streets. I was a reporter at the student newspaper, the Sunflower, when Gene Hughes was named the new WSU president.
Making it through college and writing for the campus newspaper. That was a trip through fear and loathing. It paid off, though, as I was reminded.
“Oh Jeff,” the woman said as she threw her arms around me.
It was my old friend Shannon Littlejohn. I’ve had a warm place in my heart for her these past 17 years because she was part of the committee that awarded me a scholarship.
Surrounding us, there were reminders of Les: the legendary Anderson family Christmas cards, the mosaic filling up with remembrances, copies of his book Never Take a Snake For a Ride…The book is a collection of nearly 40 years of columns the man wrote for the Ark Valley News.
I met back up with Adam and some other guys who had Les as a teacher. We were trying to think of a place to go eat and Adam is something of a leader in these kinds of decisions.
“How ‘bout,” he said without a lot of confidence in his voice or facial expressions, “Apple Bees at 21st and Rock?”
I was hesitant to break the reverence of the occasion. So I held back from saying what was on my mind.
Knapp, you bastard, is that the best you got??
My cell phone rang. I saw the name of my former classmate pop up – Amy (Pray) Shcoon. (Nearly 20 years ago, I was the only journalism student in the Elliott School of Communication more neurotic than Amy.) I clicked the ok button of my beat up Verizon phone.
“Amy Pray?” I said. She asked where I was, and I peered out the glass windows of the Hughes building. “Hey, I see you,” I said while walking outside, Maria close behind me.
She gave me a light hug and I wonder if she noted I no longer smelled like cigarettes. Gave em’ up 11 years ago.
Maria and I took out for Applebees with Amy following in her Honda. The hostess grabbed a couple of menus, and was about to seat us when Adam called and said with characteristic politeness, “We changed our mind. Could you meet us at Larry Bud’s?”
That’s more like it, Knapp.
Backglass, beer, panties
We walked into the sports bar and grill – Amy, Maria and me. Years ago, it was Tanner’s. Last time I was there it was November of 1993. It was a Thursday night, the final meeting of our 301 Business and Professional Speaking class. Everyone in the class had become pretty tight with each other and at the suggestion of Tony Duesing (now a respected media personality in Wichita) we all met for drinks at Tanner’s.
The beleaguered waitress seated us at a round table underneath a pair of thong panties stapled to the ceiling. Boy, I would see to it that the girl -- probably a struggling college student – got a 20 percent tip or more from Maria and me. To the left of the NCAA basketball pinball machine, I saw a backglass marquee dedicated in memory to The Sopranos.
born under a bad sign with a blue moon in your eye
Stephen King sat by me at the table. No, not that one. Poor bastard gets that crap everyday of his life. Early in his career as a college journalist, Stephen asked Les if he should change his name.
“No, people will notice it. They’ll remember it,” he recalled Les telling him.
His words didn’t indicate any partiality, but the look in his eye did reveal a healthy dose of criticism when he asked me what I thought of the preacher’s eulogy.
“At first, I thought, ‘Who is that scrawny little guy?’” I said. “He looked like Sammy Davis, Jr. But I liked how he quoted Shakespeare. Always good when a preacher brings Will Shakespeare in. And I liked how he actually found a soothing passage from Revelation to read from and didn’t fall back on some lovey stuff from Corinthians. But when he started talking about the one leaf ---“
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Stephen said. “The guy walks around the Les Anderson farm and only one leaf is remaining on a tree.”
“I wasn’t buying it,” I said.
“So one leaf is remaining for him to conveniently tie into Les’s life.”
“Yeah, I was skeptical.”
Amy ordered a Rum and Coke. Overhead TV screens were fixed on ESPN and Amy cheered when Iowa State scored a touchdown over the Sooners. One of the first things I asked her about, upon resuming contact, was about that private college she’d been working at in Iowa. I thought it was so cool that one of our own was working in a university environment.
She informed me that she left that job and now does copy editing for Pearson Education, a publishing and technology company that specializes in textbooks and other multimedia learning tools. Penguin Books is a subsidiary of Pearson, she told me.
That made me bolt upright. Penguin! That company that publishes Shakespeare, Homer, Dante, Sun Tzu, Dickens, Oscar Wilde, Steinbeck…Don’t get me wrong, I still hate the Corporate Media Industrial Complex and I loathe how Pearson bought the company in 1970, but, hey, it’s still Penguin.
I asked Stephen what he’s doing these days and he said he’s a strategic analyst for –can’t remember.
“What the hell is a strategic analyst?” I asked.
Not actually knowing himself, he gave a BS answer. Like me, Stephen was recently helping out Adam at the Andover American newspaper. We only do it for kicks because Adam doesn’t pay jack.
He recently hung it up with the American after moving to Atchison, Kan. where his wife, Monika, took a job as principal of Maur Hill-Mount Academy – a parochial school steeped in Benedictine Catholicism.
Amy’s first job after college was at the Atchison bureau of the St. Joseph (Missouri) News-Press. Adam worked the sports desk from the St. Jo newsroom, and Adam, myself and Sandy (West) Graham, another Les Anderson student, all worked at the Arkansas City Traveler.
Ark City. Atchison. St. Joseph.
Backwater, blue collar, bullshit towns.
We started talking about the semester project, required of all Les’s Advanced Reporting students – the small town profiles.
“Now, you covered Piqua, Kan., right? “ I said to Stephen. Piqua (pronounced Pick-way), pop. 80, is an unincorporated town off U.S. Highway 54 and 10 miles east of the Woodson County Seat, Iola. A museum in Piqua promotes the most famous person ever born there. Vaudevillians Joe and Myra Keaton were touring with Harry Houdini as part of a traveling medicine show, when on Oct. 4, 1895, Myra went into labor. Silent screen legend Buster Keaton was born.
That historically documented gem aided great vibrancy and authority to Stephen’s piece. The remainder of his profile? Not so factual.
“It was all made up,” Stephen confessed. “I had a wife and family, classes, a job. I was staying up till 4 in the morning every night. There was no time for research. I only went to that town twice.”
“Oh man,” I said. “I practically had an office in the café of the town I was doing (Leon, Kan. pop. 700). They saw me smellin’ around all the time.”
Turning to Amy, Stephen said:“They probably called the cop shop when Jeff came around. ‘He’s baaack.’”
Anyhow, Stephen received an A on the project and Les was so impressed he called the editor of the Iola Register about running the story. Fortunately for Stephen, the editor said they had just run something like that a month prior.
Backs of his fingers brushing with relief over Stephen’s forehead.
That was Stephen’s true confession. Almost to the second I opened my mouth, he said, “I don’t even want to hear what Jeff’s dark secret is. I can only imagine.”
Next excellent adventure
Maria leaned over to me and said, “I think I’d like to do some shopping in the plaza. I’d like to go to shop for some wall art for my office.”
After telling my friends how nice it was to meet everybody (except Adam, whom she already knows), she excused herself and went shopping at nearby Tuesday Morning.
Somehow, the conversation around the table turned to the subjects of raising kids and helping aging parents.
Upon arriving at the bar, I had told Stephen, “It’s like how Sherwood Anderson was the father of Faulkner and that whole generation of writers. We’re all here because of Les. We’re all his kids.”
Later as the beer poured and the conversation tone took on a deeper key, Stephen motioned to the bodies in that backroom, drinks in their hands, laughter emanating from their nostrils.
“They’re all here from the funeral, all here for Les,” he said. “Everyone in this room, you have a connection to.”
Funny. At the funeral, the minister was talking about how a high school teacher was impressed by Les Anderson’s writing. That teacher encouraged young Les to attend his alma matter, Fort Hays State University, and pulled strings to make it happen. Even Les had a Les Anderson in his life.
Feeling the urge to let the beer flow from without me, I sauntered to the gent’s room, past the signs, reading “pointers” and “setters,” leading the way to the respective men’s and ladies restrooms. I stood at the pisser, gazing at sports stories clipped from newspapers and pasted to the walls as I thanked God Almighty that this hallowed ground had not been desecrated by ads for Genesis Health Club and other such obscenities.
Walking back to grab my jacket and fedora hat, I saw a fellow raise his glass: “To Les Anderson,” he said. “The reason we’re all here.”
We shook hands -- phone numbers, emails and blog sites programmed into each other’s phones. Those still not “friends” with each other, yet connected, committed to making contact via that shitting facebook. I gave Amy a quick hug.
“You grew up pretty damn good,” I said.
“So did you."
I walked into the light outside the door of the bar. Made contact with Maria at Tuesday Morning, even helped her shop a little.
“Did anyone think I was rude, cutting out like that?” she asked.
“No, they understood,” I told her. “They were all quite impressed, thought you were pretty cool.”
“That was really boring,” she said.
As an afterthought, she said: “Only journalists would critique a preacher’s sermon at a funeral.”
I’d never thought of that, but she could be right.
“I know,” I said. “I can’t expect you to like all our shop talk. I’m sure if I were around you and other non-profit administrators, I’d be bored.”
“Oh, you couldn’t sit still. You’d be texting and writing on napkins.”
“It may be so, Little Girl,” I said. “But I belong to you and the kids for the rest of the day.”
“Will you go to that home decorating consignment store in Andover with me?”
"Sure. Let’s go on to the next adventure.”
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Way back in the summer of 2009, I decided to join this hip, happening thing. Yes, I decided to be a joiner. I had been steadfast in my refusal to join that ghetto alley known as myspace, but this thing seemed different, cleaner.
Some of the thirty-something women in my Math 501 (Teaching Math to Elementary Students) class would go wild over 15-minute breaks, checking their walls with enthusiasm and the kind of pull that once drew me outside to the alley outside the newsroom for three minutes of sucking down a Marlboro.
With any big sale, there’s always that moment that will make or break everything, the definitive phrasing and word play that will seal the deal. A few years back, this gal wrote me a note on library stationery, saying, “If you want someone who will stick with you through thick and thin, I’m it.”
Sure I was non-commital, emotionally elusive and clandestine, but this young lady threw a sales pitch at me, uniquely marketed to my needs and desires. Not everyone in my sphere is to be trusted and somehow this pretty young thing had detected that loyalty and perseverance were highly valued commodities in my world.
I’ll marry you
It was a similar, if not quite intense situation in 2009when I started my illustrious blog – you know, that expression of my inner energy which I launched and hold to with fierce obstinacy and manly control even though my wife calls it the “bane of her existence.” So I was reading an on-line article about how to promote “jguywrite.”
If you want your work to be noticed, you must join Facebook
So I joined up as it was the practical thing to do. Naturally, I didn’t mention this to Liana right away. But there’s always someone breathing at my heels, a hell-hound on my trail – an insatiable little woman who will probe into a life with journalistic devotion and shamelessness and hold me accountable for every little decision I make.
“I see you’ve joined Facebook,” she said.
“Yeah, that’s right,” I answered.
“I thought you were a rebel,” she said. “I thought you didn’t go with the status quo. Now, you’ve sold out and joined The Establishment.”
“Well hell, I gave over my soul to you as well, didn’t I?”
“Never thought I’d see the day,” she continued. “J. Guy, the rebel, the non-conformist jumping on the bandwagon.”
“I see your point,” I responded. “But, good or bad, facebook is an excellent resource for promoting my blog.”
Eye rolls from Liana.
Initially things are fresh and inviting. Lost connections from high school and college are friending me and I’m doing the same for them. The largest giant leap for mankind takes shape in the form of a special request from Adam, my old buddy from the outside whom I have recently reconnected with.
“Will you write for me on my new website?” he asks. “I’m crossing my fingers that you’ll say yes.”
FB initiated opportunity mixed with shameless appeals to my vanity. Sonovobitch knew how to play it.
I agree to it. The opportunity revives the youthful energy I held dormant so long in a world of marital concessions, sterile jobs, in-laws and twenty-something hung-over guilt. Adam and I communicate frequently by social network. We’re messaging back and forth one day when he informs me – emotional understatement in his text – that wife number 2 wants a divorce.
In the meantime, my own wife is asking who the woman is (from high school, college, my so-called working life) wanting to be my “friend.” It’s any woman I might be a “friend” of on the lost highway where all faces look before you from an impersonal glass screen, nightly companions blaring into your life like a dysfunctional family.
“Who’s that woman?” she asks. “And why is Adam Knapp friends with her?”
“Adam Knapp’s friends with everybody,” I respond. “The man has more ‘friends’ than some D-list celebrities. You know he’s a facebook whore.”
Family dysfunction, both deep-seated and manufactured by technology, seeps through a viral pipeline.
“Why won’t you friend your step-mother?” asks Liana, who long ago caved into lamebook and invited people from her family and mine to be constantly in our lives via social network.
“She’s a sweet old lady,” Liana says. “Do you have some bitterness toward your step-mother.”
“I like my step-mom just fine,” I say. “Wonderful lady, but facebook was not invented for 70-year-old women.”
Meanwhile, there is my mother-in-law – a woman only in her mid 50s. “Mom” is a sweet lady (not that step-mom is not; she’s just old) so I gave her the privilege of making her a friend.
“Are you doing okay,” she asks me. “You sounded a little blue on facebook the other day.”
Her 20-year-old son did not de-friend “Mom,” not even when he grew weary of the matron figure commenting and dispensing maternal wisdom over his every post.
“How can you Christians say there is a God of Love when you are a bunch of hypocrites who talk up some bullshit deity I’ve never seen and condemn anyone who doesn't agree with you to burn in hell forever?” the angst-filled young man posts.
“Wyatt, I’m so proud that that my son is so open in expressing his opinions,” Mom, never far behind, writes back. “While I wish you could grasp how much God loves you and wants to enter a personal relationship with you, I will respectfully accept that you are a growing young man with his own opinions, searching for his own way in life. Your mother is with you all the way as you go about this journey of self-discovery. I appreciate the young man you are becoming and I value your honesty and openness.”
Within a week, he told “Mom” he was deleting his facebook account, then started another one under a different name the sweet woman did not know about.
Meanwhile, I befriended a young man from the university who wears his heterosexuality on his sleeve like a 20-year-old Jeff Guy. One of the “likes” on his profile is a site devoted to the cause of safe sex. Penciled drawings of females and males, respective reproductive organs blowing in the wind for physicians and nurses to examine.
Listen. I’m all for safe sex (“There is no safe sex except in marriage,” my mother would say if she were on lamebook, which – thank GOD, she is not.) but I don’t want a picture of a guy’s schlong hanging out on my fb wall for God, Grandma and the damn world to see. Of course, neither of my grandmothers are going to see my lameass profiles because they’re not on fakebook. Also, they’re dead. But it’s the principle of the thing.
"Playboy magazine named Ablah Library at the university one of the top 10 college locations in America to get busy in,” young testosterone-driven man posts.
“My family does not want their names mentioned in any more of your blogs without first reading what you have written,” lovely wife tells me. “And Mom wants Wyatt’s name taken out of that blog you wrote last week about the murder.”
Face tightening. Eyes shut as I sit before a glass teat, hands fixed in a motion I learned long ago in a high school typing class. A crescendo of volatility building up in me, such as has rarely been seen since I was quite young, student-like and trying to maintain on a testosterone-fueled Jim Beam and cigarettes rage.
“Okay, I will take the name out,” I said. “And I will never breathe their names into one of my columns again, but one day – one day! (voice builds into a serrated staccato rhythm) they will be begging me to write about them.”
I say something about how I’m happy to have “Mom” as a “friend”, but I’m going to hide all fb posts from her and if she wants to see my blog, she can google it.
“I hate your blog,” this beautiful woman says.
“Well I don’t see why,” I answer. “You know I love love love you.”
“What am I going to do with you?” she asks, shaking her head.
“I don't know,” I say. “You know I love the shit out of you.”
Somehow, as if through waves underground, I feel our relationship maturing in ways I never imagined possible with anybody when I was early twenty-something, perpetually drunk and living on libido – years I’m glad were never chronicled on facebook, twitter or youtube.
But I won’t get into that here as I’m not one to wear my emotions on my sleeve.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Well it's officially the little girl's birthday today. Seven years. That is the age of my youngest -- my daughter Makenzie Jo Guy. Kenzie was born in Wichita's Via Christi-St. Joseph Hospital, Dec. 12, 2004. There was some difficulty with her lung capacity and she spent a week or two under the care of the excellent nursing staff of St. Jo's Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There was a nurse named Roseann, a fellow named Chris. Wish I could remember all the names as they were the most caring, conscientious group I've ever known. It was the beginning of the end of my employment with the Sedgwick County Dept. on Aging, but the start of something a hell of a lot better.
I meant to write a longer, more substantial piece about Kenzie, based on something I wrote in my journal last spring. (You know, I've been keeping a journal since English Comp II in college.) It will have to wait as I'm busy with four jobs, trying to spend time with Liana and my kids while they're still young and I might have damn jury duty this week. But if it takes till March, I'll write something more.
Cannot say enough good things about Wayne Newton or this song. Can you believe a time when you could saunter on to the record shop and buy a 45rpm of this guy? I really wish he could've collaborated with the Beach Boys and perhaps worked with Brian Wilson, looping tapes and expanding harmonies to Pet Sounds and Smile. But we could be here all day talking about what is and what could've been. My ol' friend Brookman back at Aging said, "I prefer not to play the 'what if' game."
Must leave for work. One last thing: At the start of the video, the man wrote, "To my family who I love dearly." It should've read, "whom I love dearly." It's my only qualm with an otherwise excellently produced video.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Song lyrics quoted on the girl's page.
Writer's note: The title was taken from a post on the girlfriend's facebook page.
Roughly 7:30 a.m. I was about to leave the house for work, teaching school children. Liana, her head just up from the facebook of her Android phone, told me there had been a murder in our hometown. The 69-year-old woman was the grandmother of a young man Liana’s 20-year-old brother, _______ , had known since childhood.
Some summer days, they would play together every day. This boy with a diagnosis of ADHD and a few other things like ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), was one of several kids in _______'s inner circle. Like a revolver, this boyhood friend was among a recurring set of actors who dropped in and out of that gang of kids occupying the trailer park.
“I wonder if he did it,” Liana said.
“Please tell me you don’t think the kid is that f'd up,” I answered.
Cops saw the woman’s car burning at the corner of 120th and Hopkins-Switch roads. The kids were in another car and a police chase with speeds in excess of 100 mph ensued into the next county. If I were still a reporter at the daily newspaper where I cut my teeth on journalism, anger and beer, I would be covering this story. Fueled on cigarettes and frustration, I would be calling, leaving messages for and interviewing law enforcement officials from three jurisdictions and the prosecutor’s offices of two counties. That’s how it was in Arkansas City.
How was the woman killed? By what method? Is there a weapon in evidence? What charges are being filed? What is the motive? How did the car catch fire? How did they get the other vehicle? Who did it belong to? Was it a robbery? A robbery gone bad? A crime of passion? What was the relationship between the two subjects? Was there any relationship between the suspects and the victim?
The officials would give me their stock BS answer: “It’s still under investigation.” Or they would tell me they didn’t know, another piece of bullcrap they were taught to say in cop school. I would get a few bits of information beyond the press release, and if I was lucky I’d make a successful end run around a stonewaller and get some piece of information someone else was holding back on.
That was one of my other lives, one I lived back when these two homeless teens were toddlers.
Love and stability
Around 4:30 p.m. I’m pulling into the Andover public library. (I have a side job, writing part-time for the weekly newspaper in this town. The editor, my friend Adam, would tell you I’m helping him out. I feel he’s the one helping me.) Cell phone rings. The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” – that’s my ringtone. Liana’s name flashes across the marquee of the screen.
“Well, he did it,” she says. “They arrested him and his girlfriend. They were both homeless, living in the Tulsa area. I hope it comes out that the girlfriend did it and he didn’t know what all was going on.”
I want everything to make sense
“Think it will come out that she abused him when he was a kid or something and that prompted this?”
People who know this 19-year-old say grandma’s house was a safe haven. His life was so messed up and she was the one person who gave him love and stability.
“So the young man may have killed the one friend he had in this world?” I said.
The woman was a special needs teacher in the Wichita school district. She was active in her church and community.
“I didn’t know you would get so depressed,” Liana said over the phone as I walked into the library, preparing to print off some of my blogs and check facebook, thinking about my Grandma Mac, whom I lost when I was in high school.
Thinking about some of the sins I’ve committed in my life.
“I always enjoyed the thrill of being a reporter and going on the trail of sex and murder,” I said. “But I also went home, dejected, questioning the decisions I’d made and if I’d done the right thing and served society and the First Amendment and all. I liked the dichotomy – the fun, the rush, but also the sadness and wrestling with my conscience.”
We ended the conversation with my telling her I would be holding her and the kids a little tighter when I got home.
Back in my car. Westbound on K96, toward Wichita and visiting a client for my second job. No way I can resist calling Adam.
“Yeah, it’s like our ME at the AC Traveler would say, ‘Any day you have a murder, it’s a beautiful news day. When you have murder and sex, it’s a gift from God,” I said.
Adam is back at the office of our flagship paper, multi-tasking between work, talking to me on the cell and my wife on facebook.
“It’s totally killer,” I say, caught up with the young man rhythm of the reporter life. “What an ironic word to use. Oh! And speaking of killer, I got this awesome CD in the box, Jerry Lee Lewis.”
“Nice transition,” Adam says.
“Transition?” I respond. “Brother, I learned writing and reporting under Les Anderson at Wichita State. I was baptized in the fires of Ark City.”
More laughs from Adam.
“This CD rocks,” I say. “Guest appearances from Mick Jagger, Kid Rock, Willie Nelson. They cover that old tune from the Stones ‘Sticky Fingers’ – ‘Dead Flowers.’”
I'll be in my basement room with a needle and a spoon and another girl can take my pain away
Laughs and black humor will roll ceaselessly into the night until early hours when existentialist drama hits slap-dash upon my face like the ghost of Jesus meeting me on a Carolina road.
Sons of Adam, daughters of Eve
I was sprawled over the bed with my son, Sam, reading the second installment of C.S. Lewis’s “Narnia” books. We would put another chapter away before I tucked him in, before saying prayers for the night.
“And that’s why the Witch is always on the lookout for any humans in Narnia. She’s been watching for you this many a year…”
I stopped after the paragraph, asked my boy if he had any ideas on what the symbolism meant. Then I told him what my grandpa Mac told me as a boy, quoting the book of Job, talking about how the devil went to Heaven, God asked where he’d been and he answered, “From roving about the earth.” I told him how the Bible says satan is after you like a roaring lion, yet my boy felt no discomfort. He’s so at ease, as if he could walk through the valley of the shadow of death, confident that he would return safe and whole.
Years ago, it was my resolve that if I had kids, I would impart to them that sense of peace so elusive to me. No mindfucks about eternal damnation and some archaic vision of hell below us to alienate him from God. My grandpa told me about this medieval hell, but he meant well. The old man is totally in my heart now.
In pre-dawn hours, I exchanged several facebook messages with my friend Jackson, an old reporter friend in South Dakota. He told me about meeting the reporter, by this time an old man, who wrote this book – a play-by-play of covering the Charlie Starkweather killing spree over the badlands, alongside a girl he saw twirling a baton on her front lawn.
Ride of a lifetime
I had watched “Glee” with Liana and Kenzie that night, while folding socks. Two of the characters tracked down a transferred student, hell-bent on bringing him back to the fold.
“Even homeless people are on facebook,” one of the characters said.
The homeless girlfriend’s facebook page was public. Said she’d been arrested for
“perifanelia and posession haha.” There were pictures of her boyfriend, glazed-eyed, lit joint fixed between fingers, smoke emanating from his lit up mouth. Her stash – sprawled over several pictures.
“So first and hopefully last run in with the jail spent a whole five days hahah it sucked but it opened my eyes,” she wrote.
Someone tried to make connection with her.
“U need to call me”
“You need to learn to call your sister. Grandpa said he got a call from the county jail yesterday but, he couldn't understand the phone system and it hung up before he could pick an option.”
"Im ugly, fat, uncaring, selfish, stupid, ungreatful , a bitch, whore, cunt…And many more (: anyone wanna add to my list."
She wrote about depression, beat herself up with other people’s words, listed vampires as an interest. Religion: “idk what is right.”
":had a ride of a lifetime.... of course like everything else it was CRASH AND BURN!!! :) i hope you burn in hell :) a ride of a lifetime.... of course like everything else it was CRASH AND BURN!!! :) i hope you burn in hell :)"