Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016


Uncle Dave reading the Christmas story to me, my sister, Angie, & cousin, Jed, at Grandma Mac's house. Christmas Eve 1974.

Christmas Day in 2016. Went to church this morning. There was nothing else to do. I should really be happy. I mean we were singing these old songs written in the 19th century with beautiful verses about how the babe, the son of Mary, was born, how he was still and quiet in the manger and would be pierced to redeem mankind and bring salvation to the world.

But I wish I was back a few years, watching my kids open presents & putting together a two-story doll house for my daughter, Gabby. I'm not the greatest in the world at building things & Maria thought I'd bitch about it, but I didn't. I figured it was part of my fatherly duties. The dollhouse is long gone. Sold it in a garage sale, I think.

I watch couples in church (or anywhere) with their little children and I get jealous. That was me & my family once.

But I'm not forgotten. This morning I got on my phone to send a Merry Christmas text to my friends Brian & Tammy and they'd already sent me one. They have a nice old house with a wooden floor in the Dearborn neighborhood of my hometown, Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I remember how nice Tammy was to my son, Max, when he was going door to door selling chocolates for the Boy Scouts. I've known her since high school.

Then there's my crazy friend Kristy, whom I've known since 7th grade. She's a rockn' rollin' fan, primarily of the Greatest Rock n' Roll Band in the World, the Rolling Stones. One of her top 3 favorite songs is "Rebel Rebel" by Bowie. For some reason I like the picture she posted on Facebook -- just her & her sister Wendy & the backs of their heads. Looked like they were laughing about something. Kristy is one of my biggest boosters, a diehard supporter of this blog. If it ever goes viral, she won't be forgotten.

i don't think anyone should ever be forgotten

Adam, my journalist-filmmaker friend, I contacted him this Christmas & he sent me a text back. Adam's known hard times in life, but also great triumphs. I feel an affinity with him. We like to eat burgers & drink beer together at the Buckhouse or shoot pool at Moonshiners. He even credited me for my help in his latest documentary, Out Here in Kansas. (We both believe our hometown movie house, the Bijou in Jett, Kan., is the greatest movie theater in the world.) And he's contributed to this blog.

(Now if I can just get Rachel Held Evans or Jamie the World's Worst Missionary to contribute a guest blog.)

With Adam, the circle isn't really complete until you factor our friend, Russ, into the equation. I knew when we were 19 and started hanging out together -- inseparably --that Russ was a bum, but man, was he ever a funny bum? Everyone needs someone like Russ in their lives. The character I would most compare him to is Roger Sterling from Mad Men. He's got that likable rogue quality about him. He's in Ohio now. Anyhow I texted him this morning. "Merry Christmas, dickhead." He responded, "Nothing makes me feel warm inside like a 'merry Christmas dickhead.'"

I remember one Christmas Eve. Russ & I were at our boss, Steve's house. (He ran the steakhouse we worked at.) We weren't 21 yet, but the guy treated us like men. Handed us each a beer.

Nowadays I'm living alone in a rundown apartment in an old section of town called "the village." My neighbors are artists and heroin addicts, but they're all right. It makes me kind of sad when I look at the county sheriff's online jail log and see the face of some 22-year-old kid I've met with all the other mug shots. Such shit is life.

I write for some conservative, family oriented publications, but I also offered to write for the Liberty Press, the LGBT paper in Wichita. I explained to the editor, Kristi, that I'm straight & my columns wouldn't necessarily be about gay/lesbian/bi issues, but hell, people are more than their sexual orientation anyway. She told me apologetically that she didn't have any space in the paper & there were people in the LGBT community chomping at the bit to write for her, should a space open.

i feel like there's an open space in my life

But remember what Mick sang, surrounded by the greatest rhythm section in the world, "There will always be a space in my parking lot when you need a little coke and sympathy."

The space is so agape. I hope Jesus will help me find my proper place.

I'll have Christmas with my kids on New Year's Eve at a get together at their Grandpa Guy & Grandma Marcia's place in Beulah, Kan. -- the place where the whole damn journey started for me. They'll welcome me with open arms. My kids will be so happy when they open their presents. I'm glad they're still kids, but they're getting close to becoming adults. Of course, I have every confidence that they'll be beautiful adults.

When Dad & I talk, invariably Grandpa Guy (that's great-grandpa to my kids) will enter into the conversation. In late January of 2017, he'll have been gone 10 years, but he was such a character. He still gets talked about. He's never really been gone.


Today, I'm alone. I should've got one of those cheap-ass Christmas trees like the kids in Peanuts had, but I didn't bother to do it. Didn't get around to ringing a bell for the Salvation Army this year either, which I regret, but we'll get it next year. I've been living on ramen noodles & loosing weight, but today I think I'll treat myself to pepperoni pizza & beer. (I remember Maria's Christmas brunch waffles.) I was going to get the really good beer, Fat Tire, at the liquor store. But there was a Mexican brand called Victoria, which was a little cheaper and which I had a curiosity about so I bought it. I like it because Victoria is my mother's name. I'll see her at the assisted living facility on New Year's Eve, the Saturday I celebrate Christmas with my kids. Mom will never be forgotten.

I'm determined that I'll make 2017 a good year for myself even if the orange menace is president. Screw him, we'll have fun anyway. It's what I really wish for everybody -- love & peace of mind.


       "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"--Darlene Love



Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas parody letter 2016


(I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones Trump used to know.)

Dear _________,

Ho! Ho! Ho! No, I'm not Santa Claus. That just describes my life since I got divorced --- ho ho hoing, but I think it's an okay way to deal with grief, don't you? Not that it always turns out right. I simply had a one night stand with my secretary Allison. The next day at the office when I treated her like a normal employee, she became enraged and threw my cigarette dispenser at me. Of course I tried to make it up to her by writing a letter of apology, but I was too drunk to finish.

Not that I've been drinking a lot.

Actually, I've been working a lot on my spirituality. I've been attending services at the First Presbyterian Church, even making it to the 6:30 a.m. Men's Bible Study classes on Wednesday mornings. Also, my uncle Dave once told me you can get laid easier, going to church than you can in a bar.

Along with my position as creative director of a secret underworld writing society, I've also moonlighted. I helped write skits for the Gridiron show, put on annually by the Society of Professional Journalists' as they satirize the news. This led to my hanging out with Alec Baldwin. I mean, the guy was still decked out as the Orange Monster Man from Cheeto Land when we had drinks together and ate schwety balls backstage at 30 Rock.

The next day a tweet from @realDonaldTrump read, "Bad skits flow from snl like blood coming out Megyn Kelly's vagina. Alec's the real f***stick. I know big words & love Chachi."

Of course, I continue to have a good relationship with my kids. They love the heck out of their old man. Take my daughter Gabby. She leaves little notes for me. Take this message she left for me on my typewriter. (I like to go old school & do it like Hemingway & Salinger did.)


I'm proud of my daughter as she's following in my footsteps as a writer. She publishes her own blog and the world better watch out because she's on her way. Here's an example of Gabby's perceptive writing:

The world has no room for war. Why do i say this? Well look at a globe or a map. There are seas and countrys. That is it. We are one. We live in the same place and that’s it.
Instead of treating eachother like enimies, we should be treating eachother like siblings. Because, in the long run, that is what we are. If God is our father we are siblings.
So another way to treat everyone right is this: pretend everyone is you. YOU all YOU. How do you treat them now?



She also wrote this gem:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I DONT WANT SPRING!!!!!!!!!!

Gabby also likes to sew & quilt. She sewed her own handbag. She's part of a sewing circle, but I don't think it will take a wrong turn & venture into witchcraft or crap like that. I mean nothing un-PC toward wiccan culture. Just talking about sewing. 

Then there's my son Max. He wanted to go to church & when your teenage son says he wants to go to church, you go. He's a leader in the Methodist Church Youth Group in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000) in the '70s. I was brought up Baptist & there's always been a rivalry between the Baptists & those liberal Methodists. But I'm confident he's going to be all right & benefit from whatever church he attends.

He's also got his learner's permit so everybody watch out. Oh & he's taller than me now. How the hell did that happen? And guess what kind of music he likes to listen to on his gadgets? '70s rock. I've taught him well. And he hates stupid '80s music. Good boy, Sam.


For 9th grade English class, Sam's teacher has the class keep up with this word a day website. Last week he shared on Facebook, the interesting word, afflatus, which means inspiration. Literally, afflatus is a Latin word meaning "to blow upon." 

Afflatus sounds like a term for breaking wind. Would you please control your afflatus? Your afflatus is disturbing the guests. Put a cork in your afflatus. Funny, I often get an afflatus -- inspiration -- while on the toilet.

Now, this is serious so don't laugh. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be able to discuss flatulence, bowel movements or your butt without laughing. We're not in third grade. (Or maybe we are.) So here it is. My cousin Wally practices the art of pyroflatulence or flatus ignition -- the art of lighting one's intestinal gasses into a blue hue or perhaps a yellow or orange color depending on the mixture of gasses in the colon at a given time. Anyhow, Wally likes lighting his farts on fire at the frat house. Or at least he did. Until THE ACCIDENT! Fortunately, the cotton sweatpants he was wearing served as a precaution against the burns inflicted around his anus. I'm happy to report, however, that I just had a dinner of chili with Wally the other day (the meal was served by the Presbyterian Church) & he said he & his anus have healed and are doing much better. For example, it no longer hurts when he has a movement or wipes himself in the bathroom.

Well that's about all I have. I just want you, my readers, to know that I love everyone of you & isn't that what Christmas is about? I know how it is at Christmas when the family can't drink a few beers without someone losing their shit, but please be kind to one another. Watch what you say to each other because remember, once words are out there, you can't take them back. If you have people in your life whom you love, forget about how they sometimes piss you off and just cherish them because someday they may be gone. Like I said, I love my readers & some of you I know personally. I'm always sincere in my writing. What, would I ever lie? Be an unreliable narrator? Okay, maybe that part about whoring around wasn't entirely true, but given time I'm sure I'll get back on the horse & be ready for a cheap, meaningless sexual fling. Whether you're driving your car down the highway, running on the treadmill at the YMCA, standing in the shower, sitting on the shitter or whatever, I hope you have an afflatus. The world can never have enough creativity. Just don't let your farts on fire. It's dangerous and I want you to have a safe 2017. Go WSU Shox! Merry Christmas & have a Happy New Year.

Grab em' by the pussy,

J. Guy

                               "White Christmas" -- Otis Redding















Saturday, December 17, 2016

Broken

At a time like this, I wish I was writing about...Elvis. He always made life better. Or Jerry Lee Lewis, who was more of a rebel than Elvis ever was. The Killer standing at the pumpin' piano, fingers stretched across the keys, blond hair falling in his eyes.

Well I say come along my baby, whole lotta shakin' goin' on

But I can't. I'm lost right now. I love all my readers & I never wanted to tell you this, but now I know I have to. Maria & I got a divorce. I didn't want it & I still think with counseling, we could've saved our marriage, but that's a mute point right now.

I have  to let go of that little girl I met in the library, the one who loved me when I had nothing, the one who made me a better man, who brought me back to God. (I was hardly a believer before.)

When I was in a good mood, I'd walk into the living room, see Maria & the kids & say, "It's my three favorite people." I thought my wife & daughter were the two most beautiful girls in the world.

When I was in a bad mood, it was hell. I've struggled with depression all my life. I remember the last one before the split. Matt, the guy I worked for, was an intense guy. He'd bang around in his office, throwing a tantrum. Goddamit! Shit! Jesus Christ!  And I'd sit at my desk in fear, praying to God it wasn't something I did.

I feared my unhappy job being on the line. I couldn't sit still at home. I was literally walking anxiety, pacing the floor. Maria wanted to help me.

Jeff, I love you

She'd say it over and over & I don't know that I ever stopped pacing or looking scared & depressed long enough to say, "I love you too, little girl." I took her love for granted. I thought she'd always be there. I hated what I was doing, making her depressed too. She said she had to go to her mother's for a couple of days so she could feel better. She took the kids, but two days became...she never came back.

We had been fighting a lot that last year. I said some abusive things that I'll regret for the rest of my life. I never wanted to hurt that little girl. I'm so so sorry. She forgives me, but she feels, probably accurately, that if we got back together it would be the same thing again.

I had dreams -- that I'd get her a better ring, that we'd renew our vows on our 20th wedding anniversary, that I might actually live to be 82 & we'd be celebrating our 50th. I was going to be a better husband to her, I vowed to myself, but it was too late.

I failed her. I lost the love of my life. I lost my family. I used to feel like I had the family I always wanted. My first family was acrimonious, hell on earth.

I was 3-years-old. My mom was sitting in a chair in one end of the room, Dad in a chair at the other end. They told me they didn't love each other anymore. I kept going from one chair to the other. "Mom, do you love Dad?" "No," Going to Dad. "Daddy, do you love Mom." "No."

Mom re-married, then got divorced again. Everything was so final & hallow when he left. I was 12. I was sobbing uncontrollably. "Mom, please don't get married again because I can't loose another dad."

I vowed I'd never do that to my kids, that I'd give them a better life. We were great parents, but there were too many fights between Maria & me. I called her a nag. When I didn't get the trash out before it piled up, she'd say, "It's just the way you were raised."

I was okay, driving to the courtroom on the day of the divorce. I sat by her, but when I held her hand, I lost it. It was the worst day of my life.

It's like someone I loved has died. The depression has been insurmountable. I pray alone in my bed at night. "God, please give a disease so I can die." It would be the humane thing to do. But God's not gonna do it. I prayed that prayer before when I was depressed, just certain that God would take mercy on me, but it never happened.

I haven't told anyone I work with about my personal troubles. Why do it? Then they would be talking about my mental state & they would know when I go to the break room, multiple times a day, it's to bury my head on the table & cry.

When I was 16, a neighbor up the street from my house, was going through a divorce and he committed suicide by carbon monoxide. Now I can see how he would do that.

"You better not kill yourself," Maria said to me. "Don't do that to your kids."

Of course I'm in therapy. They have me for life. My therapist's name is Jennifer. She's good. I'm on four medications for depression and anxiety.

Maria is in love with another man now. She'll probably marry him. Have his big last name. Their relationship got 94 likes on Facebook. "Couldn't resist his charm," her aunt wrote. (Well I can have charm. When I'm operating on a functional level, I'm good.)

But I'm not ready. I want love. I want what I had with Maria. I want to love someone like I loved her. I want someone to love me like she loved me. But every other woman looks ugly or her personality is annoying or she isn't as down to earth & non-pretentious as Maria is. Jennifer tells me most men are re-married within a year of getting divorced, but it won't happen with me. I'm so broken. So many dreams have failed.

I failed.

Knowing I failed my best friend, my lover and that now she has a new love -- makes it so much worse. It's torture and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, not even some cocksucker I knew in Oklahoma and I hated that sonovabitch.

It's Saturday & I wish I was back in Jett, Kan. with my family, going with my son on his paper route & listening to Elvis.



                                "Everything I Own" -- Bread


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Crossing paths


I was driving down a long stretch of Western Kansas highway. It was the kind of drive that grants me visions. To the side of the road, I saw a man walking. He was wearing a backpack and was carrying a wooden cross over his shoulder.

My initial response was cynical. "Another Jesus freak. I wrote a story about one of those guys for a paper in Oklahoma 20 years ago. Same story."

I'm so ashamed now to see how detached I'd become from that life loving youth with the insatiable curiosity. But that's what I am now, though I'm trying to walk back a little, to find that something galvanizing in myself and all the life that surrounds me. I work a job. It's a wagon I'd never hitch my star to, a box where I'll never be a star, a cold place. I accept that I'll never be a company man even though life would probably be easier if I were. I can change some things about myself, but I can't change who I fundamentally am.

Then I heard a voice in my head

Go to him

I'd heard that voice before. I knew to listen to it. So I turned on a dirt road, parked my car in the dry Western grass and walked forward, toward the man. As we inched closer to each other, I could see he was wearing an LA Dodgers baseball cap, faded jeans and a black T-shirt, being in white letters, the words, "We Are One."

"How's it going?" he said, calling across the space between us.

"Well, thank you," I answered. "How 'bout yourself?"

Initially nervous to make his acquaintance, I found this bearded T-shirt wearing man in faded carpenter jeans, light cross beams slung over his shoulder, to be inviting.

"Jared Cassidy," he said, extending his hand. "Jeff Guy," I said, reciprocating.

We made small talk. He told me he was walking from New York City to San Francisco. The end of the continent.

"What's the significance of the cross," I asked.

He told me how he'd gotten off a plane from Los Angeles to New York, walked into a Fifth Street Ace Hardware, asked to borrow a power tool and a man with cross tattoos on his arms and the words, "Jesus Saves" showing on the T-shirt behind his work vest held the beams while my friend drilled the pieces together. He was carrying it on his walk across America.

"The cross is a symbol."

Of what? I asked.

"Peace, unity, harmony, all of us coming together. I'm a Christian, but you know, once you start labeling, it causes divisions. There's just so much political rancor and cops killing people, people killing cops, people fighting over religion and sports."

"I see," I said, inquisitively.

"But the thing is whether you believe in his deity or not, Jesus did a noble thing for mankind."

"Listen," I said, "I have to be somewhat clandestine about my job, but I'll just tell you, I work for an underworld writing society. I give myself assignments, looking for American beauty and that sort of thing. Is it okay if I write your story and take a picture for our files?"

"Sure, my life's an open book."

"Mind if I ask how old you are?" I said as I steadied my camera phone at his standing figure.

"Thirty-three."

After snapping a few pictures and making small talk with the man, I figured I'd better split before I wore out my welcome.

"Well I don't want to take up too much of your time," I said.

"I appreciate that."

"But I wish you peace on your journey."

He walked on and I turned a corner with my car.

Political rancor

It was around 6 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9. I looked on my laptop, saw the words, "President elect Donald Trump" and I was instantly incendiary. I did something someone in my profession isn't supposed to do when I took my fury out on Facebook. I hate that stupid phrase, "the f-bomb," but that's what I said. The words were like blood next to my profile picture.

I wrote a blog, elucidating just what I thought of people who voted for that racist pig. Then it became like Civil War. "Why are you being so hateful?" a dear member of my family asked me.

"So when your dad posts his Hussein Obama shit, it's just an old man engaging in his hobby, but when I tell how I feel, it's hateful?" I said. "You have a double standard."

I posted what I thought was an innocuous message about peace and inclusion, but the people on the right and the left fought over it on my Facebook wall. A guy I'd been friends with since 7th grade -- well, that's all over. "You're a puppet for the left who believe anything the (sic) leberal media puts in front of you," he wrote. "Think for yourself. There's a media conspiracy. The media lies to you, my friend."

"You're outa here, you sonovabitch," I said and blocked him from ever seeing my Facebook again.

He was no big loss, but my family. God, my family -- I love them like nobody else. How do I reconcile it? I don't think I'm wrong for writing my feelings about the whole Trump fiasco, but I don't want my family to think I'm hateful and I don't want my liberal friends arguing with my more conservative family members on Facebook.

Resurrection

I hadn't been to church in weeks. In my travels, I'd attended a church where someone said something that pissed me off. We read a Bible verse in the Sunday school class:

He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me? -- Jeremiah 22:16

"I admit, I'm judgmental," the woman said. "You see the same poor people coming back time after time and I'm like, 'What are you doing to help yourself?'"

I became incandescent.

"I've read the Gospels. Jesus was helping people all the time and he never asked, 'What are you doing to help yourself?' Hell, Jesus was itinerant, probably homeless. He relied on the kindness of strangers. He said at Matthew 25:35 'I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.' He said what you've done for the least of these, you did for me.You ever had to live hand to mouth? Have your suburban Jesus, I'm outa here," I said and stormed out the door, ignoring their pleas for me to stay.

Now here I was weeks later. After all that happened, I needed spiritual rejuvenation. Weeks of travel had went by. And I was finally back where I felt safe and real in my hometown of Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s). I went to the one church where I felt free to by myself, Community Crossroads Church off State Street. The pastor, Kyle Whitman, and I seemed to have some rapport and I liked the way he shared a name with Dick Whitman from Mad Men and the poet Walt Whitman. Kyle digs Nadia Bolz-Weber, the author and tattooed pastor of the House For All Saints and Sinners in Denver so I decided he was all right.

Sandy, the liberal children's Sunday school teacher hugged me when she saw me in church. "I feel like I have someone on my team."

We sat at round tables with our cups of coffee in the lounge area of the church with the sanctuary before us. "Any prayer requests?" Kyle asked.

Blake, a 60ish man in the class, said, "How 'bout a prayer for Donald Trump who won the majority vote for President?"

Sandy and I looked uneasily at each other.

"He didn't win by a majority," Kyle said. "He was declared winner by the Electoral College."

"Well you can say he won by a majority through the Electoral College," Blake said.

"I wouldn't though," Kyle said.

After taking all the prayer requests -- for people in the hospital, for people to find jobs, for the president-elect, Kyle bowed his head.

"Lord, we know there are differences on this election even among people in this room, but let us remember that we're all here as one for your kingdom. We pray for our leaders to have wisdom because that's what you ask us to do."

We read from the sixth chapter of Second Kings about a small miracle in which a man retrieved the ax he had dropped in the Jordan River. I thought about small miracles. Jared, the man carrying the cross, told me after he'd given money to poor people with signs, other people had come along and given money to him for his journey.

"The Lord provides," he said.

In our area of Western Kansas, the pastor of a small town Methodist Church had given him a place in his church to shower and sleep for the night. Funny, it was a Methodist Church where I'd gotten mad and walked off, but this pastor -- I think Jesus and John Wesley would be proud of him.

I'm happy I talked to that guy, glad our paths crossed. I feel precarious and unsure of my future, but I guess we'll get through life and I'll hope for peace --

as i walk

on my journey


                         "One Toke Over the Line" -- Brewer and Shipley







Thursday, November 10, 2016

Taking hatred back



I went to bed early on election night. I was certain that when I woke up the next morning, Hillary Clinton would be the President-elect. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. It was close, but at the end of the day, Americans would do the right thing.

Arch-conservatives in my family would be mad and say the country was lost, but I was eager to say the country was moving on, that people weren't going to tolerate small-minded bigotry and bullying anymore, that we could accept that people other than white males had rights.

I remember lying in my bed before getting out, anticipating that Clinton won the election. At around 6 a.m. I woke up, turned on my laptop, googled the name Hillary and the words "Clinton defeated" followed. News stories popped up, saying Donald Trump won the election. I was flabbergasted. I felt like I'd woken up in an alternate universe, you know like some place where the South won the Civil War and Germany won World War II. This kind of thing happened in sci-fi novels and dystopian novels like "1984" and "Brave New World," not in real life. Never in my worst nightmare, did I see this coming.

"Way to fuck yourselves, America," I said. I was irate that people voted for him. We all know what he's done, that he said racist things against blacks, Hispanics and Muslims, that he encouraged violence at his rallies, that he wants to build a wall, that he paid no taxes, that he's having a bromance with Vladimir Putin, that he insulted the parents of a fallen soldier, that he mocked a disabled reporter, that he threatened to put his opponent in jail, that he joked about sexually assaulting women and may have actually done it. They knew all this and still voted for him.

Maybe that's why they voted for him. You don't have to go further than Facebook to catch all the cruel, racist things people say. They reveal who they are on social media.

The people of my country let me down. Let the world down. The world looks upon the United States to be a leader, but how can we ever be taken seriously again? We're telling the world, "This is who we are."

Yes, Clinton won the popular vote. By a razor thin margin, 45.7 to 45.5 percent. (The Electoral College put Trump through.) But it should never have been close. I agree with the progressive Christian blogger and author Rachel Held Evans: "That the election is this close is an indictment on our country."

I have to identify Evans as a "progressive Christian" to differentiate her from the evangelicals who have given Christianity a bad name. By voting for Trump, they have proven it was never about Christian love with them. It was about power. They love authoritarian figures. Marginalized, oppressed group, my ass. They're about control. Their power is contingent upon their oppression of others -- people of the wrong religion, wrong sexual orientation, wrong country, wrong language, race or political party. The lie has been exposed. What you have done in darkness has come to light.



David Duke is celebrating. Best night of his pathetic life. Hispanic and Muslim children are afraid. Some are being bullied in school. But a bully is what America wanted. You got your president with balls.

Trump voters, you have taken America back 50 years. Indeed, 50 years ago, you would have been against Martin Luther King and for segregation. Many of you would have joined the lynch mobs. Had you lived in Germany 80 years ago, you would have supported Hitler. Yeah, you took America back.

We're a sick nation in need of a healing. We may have to pay and pay for our sin of giving a stamp of approval to an oppressor, which is in the family of sins upon which this nation was founded -- slavery and genocide.

Remember, if Trump takes us to war or hurts people in any way, blood will be on your hands.


                                       Making America Great Again





Sunday, November 6, 2016

You people make me sick



5:30 a.m. this morning. I was out walking through a nice, tree lined neighborhood in Jett, Kan. (pop. 4,000 in the '70s.) I have white male privilege, I can do that. It would have normally been 6:30, but the clocks got turned back, meaning we have another hour of this election. (I voted last week.) Good family-looking houses align the dim sidewalk and leaf-scattered lawns. Signs in the yards read "Trump/Pence, Make America Great Again." It's all I can do not to cross out some words and write "white again." After all, that's what they really mean. But that would be wrong. They have a Constitutional right to express their stupid, racist opinions. I'm obligated as an American to respect that even though I hate everything they're about.

At around 6 a.m. I stop in Schnierheizen's Donut Shop for a glazed donut and a cup of their delicious coffee. The coffee drinkers are sitting at their table. One of the old guys is wearing a Hilary for Prison T-shirt. He'll probably wear it to church this morning.

I sit alone at my own table and observe them.

"I don't care what Trump said 10 years ago," one of the old farts says. "What man hasn't talked about pussy. He would've never said that if he knew a tape was rollin.'"

"You hear Hilary's involved in some devil worshiping scandal, some orgy with menstrual blood, semen and urine?" one of the men says. He's wearing one of those Make America Great Again ball caps. "I read that on Alex Jones's website."

Alex Jones, the whack job who called the Newtown shooting massacre of first graders a hoax instigated by the liberals who want to take your guns. You know, like climate change is a Chinese hoax.

"I heard there's some sex trafficking or pedophilia thing goin' on with the Clintons and that goddaman foundation where they steal money from people."

"If Kilary wins, we'll all have to learn to speak Arabic."

"I'd rather shoot first."

Second Amendment remedies, Sarah Palin called assassinations.

"Had eight years of that Muslim jungle bunny in the White House. Hell, he's the racist,dividin' this country every chance he gets between the whites and blacks. And his wife looks like an ape. Only reason the damn liberals voted for him was 'cuz he's black. Now they're only gonna be votin' for that bitch 'cuz she has a pussy."

I see vulgar terms becoming more mainstream. The election of the first African-American brought the word "nigger" out of the closet. If Clinton is elected, I'm sure we'll hear the words, "bitch," "cunt" and "pussy" more in the mainstream than we do already. Eight years of racism eclipsed by four to eight years of misogyny.

The good Christian Trump supporters

Mr. Chapps, a deacon at the Methodist Church, comes in and buys a few dozen donuts for the church members to have with their morning coffee before Sunday school classes starts. Good Mr. Chapps buying the donuts. On good Mr. Chapps's Facebook page, you'll find he likes, not only Trump, but Ben Carson, Rush Limbaugh and Todd Starnes, a lesser known alt-right conservative commentator who likened the taking down of Confederate flags to what ISIS is doing in Iraq. Mr. Chapps also likes a cute little page with a crude African American caricature and the mocking words, "Does this offend you?" Yeah, I checked out the old man's page. A guy's gotta know these things. My family went to Mr. Chapp's church for awhile and now we know we never want to darken their door again.

Well, the good moral Family Values Christians have decided they want an obnoxious, loudmouth blow hard who brags about sexual assault and is alleged to be a sexual predator ("those women are on Hilary's payroll," the stupid old men say). The charade is over. They never really cared about Christian values like "love thy neighbor." It's all about power with them. Political power. Trump's racism? Hey, the Religious Right was founded on racism. Don't be fooled for a minute into thinking it was about abortion.

(oh, but Hilary has email-gate.)

I'm pissed off at close to half the American population, just as I was pissed off at the people of my home state of Kansas for re-electing Brownback. How can nearly half the country's population back this mad man? Maybe it's because in his racism, misogyny, virulence, love of violence & torture, disregard for democracy and hatred --

they see themselves

here in the disunited States of America.



 "Ballad of the Thin Man" by Malkmus, Stephen and the Million Dollar Bashers (written by Bob Dylan)

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," Ray 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, Ray 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