“…we ought rather to be proud of the fact that American literature can boast of at least one good, decent, Christian author who was cursed neither with self-consciousness not with false modesty, those banes of art.” — William Leigh Jr.
“SAY HIS NAME!!”
I found the bullhorn was more annoying than loud. Worse, for their cause, the mob’s response to the prompt felt forced. And I’d be lying if I described it as “loud”. Rather than lead you to believe that my tale centers on decibels, however, I want to say that what worried me now was the shortened breathing and seemingly even shorter attention span of the man who I just met.
And then it happened, I got slugged.
“Say it again,” he yelled at me. “Hey y’all, hold up! Look at what we got here,” he yelled to the mob.
For a moment, the mob pretended to possess enough self-control to be undeterred from their purpose.
But his second call of, “Hey y’all! Y’all ain’t gonna believe what this white boy just said,” proved as attractive to this crowd as a city block of recently renovated urban blight.
I’d straightened up at this point. And just as my composure returned, unexpectedly, I felt his knuckles against my ear again. I crouched low and stepped back for a second time. And down I stayed as I heard an angry, loud young women ask, “What’d he say?” And then what I could only describe as the voice of a future Southern Gospel preacher boomed, “We being peaceful tonight, brothers and sisters. Peaceful. Don’t hit the man. Someone help him.” In response to this great addition to the annals of stump speeches, some sort of lackey came my way, crouching to look over the extent of damage to my face.
Turning to me, the Reverend Doctor said, “Apologies for that. What’s on your mind?”
I collected my bearings, avoided shaking the battlefield surgeon’s hand, and found that I was newly surrounded by the mob.
“You’re not black,” I repeated.
With a squint that betrayed his true color, Pastor-man sharpened his eyes, hoping that his flock would disobey en masse just this once. Only the initial loudmouth proved himself deaf. And so, for the third time, something I can only describe as a mix between a slap and a wild right hook landed on the top of my skull. As I wrapped my arms around my now hunched over, asphalt-gazing head, I had to admit, my skill at recognizing the start of the contest was improving.
“Boy,” the man began, unable to withstand all temptation to civility, “I’m, ah,” he rubbed his chin and looked around as he measured the feeling of the mob. Somebody in the back shouted, “‘We!’” The future-Pastor took this correction in stride and rejoined, “Son, we,” and at this he drew a lazy circle around his head with a downward pointing finger for emphasis as he turned a circle himself, then continued, “we are gonna give you another chance to speak.” (“It’s only fair!” someone added.) “I’m praying,” he paused to let a knowing chuckle breathe, “that you use it wisely.”
Did I want to die? That’s the question I asked myself. I still don’t know the answer. I don’t think I did. But I was tired. I know I was tired. I couldn’t remember a time in my life when we weren’t forced to listen to this nonsensical bullshit, and tonight, I was simply out of energy.
“I said,” I began, “you ALL,” here I diligently added a minor clarification which I thought might help communicate my intention more clearly, “are not black.”
Not like the modern “Cirque du Soleil”-style circus, but quite like an atmosphere of the circuses of lore, or what I imagined to be how those big tops operated—always on the verge of chaos—a circus erupted.
At this, I definitely avoided what would have been the fourth blow by my initial conversant. The trouble was that my path backwards, as I mentioned, had been filled in by the mob, specifically by tightly—and remarkably scantily (considering the amount of fabric)—clothed heavyset women. Like always, these about-to-be-breaking-out rap-porn, IG Queens were, with one hand, pointing their phones at me and with the other, holding drive-thru cups out of which they sipped some sort of sugary delight through straws. All the while, their purses looked like they were enjoying the break from constant adjustments that naturally occurred while the mob wormed its way around low numbered street names.
In other words, I found my retreat blocked off by what amounted to angry, hi-tech pillows.
So his fifth punch did land. Oh well.
“You blind?! You sayin’ my skin ain’t black?”
He didn’t really leave me much time between punches 6, 7, and 8, but I continued our interview anyhow.
“No. I’m saying, ‘You are not,” I suddenly remembered the earlier point of clarity and so corrected myself, but not before number 9, “I’m saying, ‘You all are not black.’”
I stayed on my back for a moment, thinking to rest and recuperate, but was unpleasantly surprised to feel a kick to my left ear—what was up with this dude and ears?
“Let him up!” I heard a loud too-busy-for-choir-practice-but-too-good-to-not-be-in-the-church-choir-alto sing out.
Like a poor form deadlift, all back and no legs, I stood to the erect position again.
“Thank you,” I acknowledged.
No sooner than these words came out did I discover that she might have had a protein shake in her cup. Put bluntly, not ‘all fat’, as I had suspected, and I found myself pushed down, very directly, to the ground once again.
“Bitch, I don’t speak for no one but me, but I am black!” she announced.
So where are we? Right, a kick again from Don Lemon, this time to the kidney, and that makes 11.
I felt there would be another soon, so I hopped up quickly, covered the ear closest to my lately befriended investigator, and repeated, “You all are not black.”
“And that’s when we showed up?” Officer Jones asked.
“Yup. My own knights in shining armor. Don Quixote,” I said.
“Never mind. It’s a book. Good one, too. So what’s next?”
“I think we have everything we need to finish up the paperwork for tonight,” he said. Then he continued, “Can I tell you something?”
“You’re kinda a moron.”
“Will you do something for me?”
“Will you stop saying, ‘You’re not black’?”
“Because someone needs to tell them the truth.”
I do not know how Trump’s team chose “red” for their ballcaps.
I think I understand why red ballcaps became a symbol of all things evil.
I am very certain that I adore the recent and unfolding slight-of-hand in which red ballcaps have been replaced with the American flag.
And I am here today to say that the exchange was executed flawlessly.
You see, the American man can always spot the enemy. This ability is no mutant, divine, or alien superpower, but it does seem to reside in the rushing rivers of our blood. Likewise, the enemy always knows that deep down, in the empty recesses of their heart, that they are an enemy to America. The reason the American man and the enemy cannot coexist is found in this simple fact: the enemy lies. Consequently, rather than come outright and announce their disdain for all things star spangled, they strategically and deceitfully choose to disdain abstract, absurd, and obnoxious straw men. So be it.
But, but, I say! The American flag is now back in the mix.
Until today I never really considered what it must be like to view Old Glory through the eyes of an enemy. Did the Germans really ever hate it, back in the day? Doubtful. Could Osama Bin Laden look upon the American flag-blanketed bases in his homeland without envy? Yeah, right. Even now if I imagine my Trump-hating relatives (the BLMer up the street), I have to ask myself, when they see the Red, White, and Blue, does not the same awe and wonder that pulses through my body pulse through their body, leaving only goosebumps in their wake? Surely!
All this to say I’m thinking about a tattoo. And a vinyl wrap for my truck. And a flag pole for my truck. And a few T-shirts, starring you know which object of admiration.
Flawless execution. The American man has always known. Now all do.
You never hated Trump. It wasn’t the red ballcaps that disturbed your baser passions. From birth you had it out for Truth. Then you couldn’t stand to work hard and your lack of self-control was only outdone by your envy. Later you wouldn’t accept that you were born into a world which demanded, and did not apologize for its insistence, that you accept responsibility. Afterward, you furnished any and every argument, from weak to completely unfounded, against accountability. Finally, it has been revealed that your ignorance of history is only to be silenced by your cry to change it.
As I mentioned, I was recently in Judges. Then the last few days, I have been studying Thessalonians 1&2.
I don’t want to rename the Bible. Moreover, I wouldn’t be able to. The idea is ridiculous. But I would like to share what I would call it, that is, in an imaginary world.
I’d call it… Actually I can’t put it into words.
It’s something like a self-help book that teaches you how to accept happiness in your life.
“Accept Blessings”. That’s about as close as I can get. But that sounds like an military order, not a book title.
“How to Accept Blessings” might be more accurate, but now I don’t know if I would have ever picked up a book with that title.
All I’m really trying to say is that the more I read the Bible, the more I see that people around me do not know how to be happy, how to make two good decisions in a row (let alone how to add a third), and the more I see that even when life doesn’t appear to be unfolding in our favor, it is.
Put another way, the starring character, Jesus, is supposed to have said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “Accept Blessings.”
See? That’s just not powerful.
And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in “How to Accept Blessings.”
Hmm. That’s definitely worse.
I guess we’re stuck with: And you won’t find that information anywhere else but in the Bible.
Obviously we watched Jack Reacher last night. I was struck by two parts. The first is when TC explains how, through training and repetition, someone not smart can be made to appear smart. It reminded me of what I was trying to say about illiterate children.
Secondly, my dad told me today that he did not buy the toilet paper that was seemingly destined for him to buy as it sat on the shelf at the store. I repeat: my dad did not buy available toilet paper. Hear me clearly: the toilet paper had his name, in cursive—at least if you look in the right light—on the packaging and he did NOT buy it. Bravo. That reminded me of TC’s answer to the blonde’s anxious query, “Should I be afraid?!” Cruise says, “Are you smart?” Blondie says, “Yes.” Tom then says, “Then don’t be afraid.”
First up was the oddity that as I looked to see if there was anything to note about the passengers or vehicle passing me, I was surprised to be the recipient of a smile and thumbs up.
For an unknown reason, anytime I suspect that an occupant of another car is communicating to me, my heart skips a beat. I must be on fire, I think.
But, no. That’s not what was happening here. This was some sort of encouragement. But for what?
Was this Iowan so sheltered that my Colorado plates being in Iowa were simply exciting? As in, “Good for you! You got out!!”??
No. That just didn’t make sense. Plenty of people pass through this state.
Hmm. Not on fire. (Confirmed by the fact that another car has passed me–sans attempt to warn me of fire.) Not my foreignness. What could he have seen?
A- was in the backseat reading.
No tablet. No phone. No movie. No video game. Just a boy and a book. Yup. That’s it.
A smile and thumbs up from a stranger passing me on the highway. Why? Because I’m raising a boy right.
Secondly, I saw a bald eagle. It was just lazily riding the waves of the wind. At first I couldn’t be sure that it really was a bald eagle. But as I returned my eyes to the road, I saw a new scene. A blanket of red, white, and blue–47, 48, 49, and, yes, 50 bright stars to boot–warmed the wintry landscape. And I could tell that, even when I wasn’t looking, men and women were constantly sewing and mending this mantle by dim, fading candlelight in one great period of darkness.
Then I was sure of it. It was a bald eagle if ever there was one.
The idea of evaluating my father seems odd to me at this point of my life (and his). Instead, I want to create a subtle distinction between evaluating my father and sharing with you characteristics of my dream dad. I want to do this today because of the feelings Ad Astra evoked.
Ad Astra is Mr. James Gray’s new, and remarkable, film starring Mr. Brad Pitt.
Ad Astra is also the perfect vehicle to bring my dream dad to life because it makes bold decisions–just like my dream dad would stare into the immensity that faces every man and boldly step forward, world watching.
Scenes in Ad Astra which are unbelievable at face value are presented with such force and gravity that the viewer can only be intrigued to see where all this is going–in the same way that my dream dad would behave in a manner that would continually intrigue me.
Indeed, the movie does go places, too. We travel with Mr. Pitt to Neptune in hopes of finding my father. Der, I mean, Pitt’s father. In fact, we’re looking for Pitt’s father because of his mysterious behavior, both generally in his having desired to antisocially voyage so far from terra firma, and particularly by his recent actions as leader of the “Lima Project”. Likewise, my dream dad is definitely a visionary and thereby a leader of unmatched proportions.
Most importantly, all along the epic and beautifully rendered space journey, the story is one of fatherly encouragement and belief in the son’s ability to do better than himself.
One flashback, near the film’s too-soon conclusion (much like my dream dad’s ‘conclusion’ will forever occur too soon), includes a four or five word sentence that can only carry its tremendous meaning in the gravity-less environment of our fantastic imaginations. But those few words are all my dream dad would need to say to let me know I was finally respected as a man.
And my dream dad would definitely let me know when I had achieved that high goal.
To force myself to take a break from weather books and the Bible, I like to head to the bookstore and just pick a fantasy book. During this exercise I use one variable to make my selection–its cover.
The latest cover to jump from the shelf into my hands is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.
I want to draw attention to one particular element of fantasy that I hitherto had not thought of as fantasy–but should have. This element? The gray. The subtle.
The protagonist girl-child, an “Adept”, is learning the ways of the world from a renegade bachelor prince called Anafiel Delauney. Of this stud she strokes, “I have never known a mind more subtle than that of Anafiel Delauney.”
Right now the American conversation is binary. If you’re Greta, the world is black and white. If you’re Trump, it’s red and blue. There’s capitalist, there’s socialist. There’s rich, there’s not rich. Safe, assaulted. Tolerated…hated? No, that’s not right. Tolerated is squared up against accepted. Yep, that’s the ticket.
Does it have to be this way? Probably. How do I know? Because we fantasize about the gray. We escape to a world where subtle minds are cast as inescapably welcome. Or at least I do.
In my dying breath, that is, if my time with you had been animated with breath of my own and not simply with your imagination, in other words, if I had had a dying breath, then I like to think I would’ve thanked-
What? No! Not the acorn, never! Not that lifeless lump. Why do people always focus on the nut? I’ve always said: The nut is not the meat!
No, no, no. But where was I?
Ah, yes. I remember.
If I could have thanked anyone–call to mind that I am a character of fiction and it is quite impossible for me to offer gratitude in its proper sense–but I’m saying, if I could have, you know, hypothetically, thanked anyone, then I would thank Henny-penny.
She was a rare bird. And without her-
Well, without her, I guess I just wouldn’t have anyone to thank.
Harsh wind enraged remnant embers
“Cain, my love!” his mother cries
She bids him, “Here!”, she scrambles near.
A Sestina is form of poetry–a restrictive form of poetry. It has six stanzas of six lines, then a three line stanza. The last words of each stanza are the tricky part. After the first stanza, the last words have been chosen. The full pattern is as follows:
- ECA or ACE (called envol or tornada–it must also contain the other end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six appear in the final three lines.)
We now pause our regularly scheduled programming (three more Cain and Abel re-writes on their way) to bring you some of Robert Louis Stevenson’s best sentences.
From Treasure Island
Silver was roundly accused of playing double–of trying to make a separate peace for himself, of sacrificing the interests of his accomplices and victims, and, in one word, of the identical, exact thing that he was doing.
From Prince Otto
(This first one hits strikingly close to home–perhaps ol’ Bob stumbled upon Ecclesiastes?)
Do you not know that you are touching, with lay hands, the very holiest inwards of philosophy, where madness dwells? Ay, Otto, madness; for in the serene temples of the wise, the inmost shrine, which we carefully keep locked, is full of spiders’ webs. All men, all, are fundamentally useless; nature tolerates, she does not need, she does not use them: sterile flowers!
And this one (Prince Otto, too) persuades whatever inner-workings lie behind the long development of some men’s seemingly hard, dark faces to rush to just beneath the surface the brightest and rosiest hues of red.
There is nothing that so apes the external bearing of free will as that unconscious bustle, obscurely following liquid laws, with which a river contends among obstructions.