Oct 30, 2006

After the game I spent the night in a Lewiston Motel 6. The TV is all you get but in the middle of the night — with the rain still ranting, and somewhere above you people shouting, doors slamming — the ads are all you need. I surfed through a fury of steel haired, stutter-tongued evangelists and gypsy fortuntellers fingering magic potions for sterility, alzheimers, and erectile malfunction. There was also the roundchair wheel chair salesman and Candi Disky, lamenting that she didn’t catch on camera her husband’s bow shot kill of a 19-point white tail deer; and call-this-number for a good time with big breasted "Wild Girls", an ad mixed with scenes of truck jumps... And the director Bob Zombie on his art and what he’s trying to say in his movies, including "House of 1000 Corpses" and "Devil's Rejects". In one of these films, the last scene portrays a young woman run over by an 18 wheeler. The only other ad I remember was a Zionist appeal for Israelis living on the border with the Lebanon. It occurred to me at one point that we are getting down to last things. The last time we'll ever do that; the last time we'll ever do this. Last times. Late at night. In Maine.

Oct 29, 2006


The last time I will probably ever see him play ball was yesterday in driving rain. 42 degrees and a handfull of colored umbrellas. The field was no better than Verdun in the winter of 1917. It was a tie game through regulation, then double overtime and on third down in the second overtime they finally threw to him, but by then it was like catching a cinderblock and through a maze of defender's muddy black hands the kid was distracted and dropped it. One more down and the Bobcats were done; the Mules got it and kicked a field goal and that's 0 and 6 for you, folks. In a D3 program where the Bobcats once went for years without a win. In a program where the college radio wouldn't broadcast the game if it was the league championship. In a program once described as the worst football in America. In a program where sometimes older players, after a couple of beers, tell recruits, "If you're serious, don't come here."

Coaches are good, but in the end it's a vicious cycle; you don't win, nobody wants to be part of that. So often you're left kids from the backwater who don't know the first thing about it and while they have all the blue collar enthusiasm you can imagine, heart from here to the horizon, they just don't have the stuff to block, tackle or catch for 60 minutes. The coach yells in the post mortem every Sunday, "What is it? You can't understand what we're saying at practice? You can't grasp the system?"

Whatever it is, they can't. They don't. And now most have become like soldiers who don't want to get out of the trench.

You can only go so long like that. Even if you've had some games lost by a field goal, or an extra point; nothing helps. Look at those fans in New Orleans and Phoenix and San Francisco before "The Catch". Or Detroit. An Indiana University study of the relationship between NFL football and domestic noted, "the more the team was expected to lose, the greater the number of domestic violence dispatches on game day."

But what if you have only yourself to take it out on...


He was always the go-to kid, could catch anything, and really believes, or did, that if you can touch it you can catch it. And he always did when he was just a kid, running down toy balls and disappearing into a cedar tree to do it. The day he decided this was for him was when he went against another kid his own age, just the two of them, 9 and 8 respectively, at the Polo Fields, in fog and drizzle. The other kid couldn't catch and drove up and down the field. I was all-time Q; Dylan dropped some balls in the rain, just like yesterday, and fell behind. Eventually, he got as angry as I've ever seen him. 'How could this be? How could someone that didn't know the game and couldn't catch a ball get ahead?' From his anger he dropped the passing game and went to running, and then the contest got primal. He didn't try to run around the other boy, he ran through him, again and again, until the other boy called it quits. If you'd seen it you'd ask why I let this go on. I did because it's in our blood. But after that game, with his nose bleeding and his lip cut, he was happy beyond compare; he'd come back, he'd tasted that sport and wanted more. He's had some great moments, and so it was sad to see it end back in the rain but no way to get even....

Oct 15, 2006

The Price of Priviledge

A few nights ago I went to a class meeting with Dash's teacher. He is excellent, as good a teacher as you'll ever find. The one good reason to stay in this city.

The parents arrived to hear news of the academic year, which begins with the Englightenment, Joan of Arc, King Arthur and so on. But the parents were not interested in that so much. They were worried about something else. There was an incident last week in which several girls, all 7th grade classmates, had walked off from their ivory tower on Washington Street down to Japantown. Without telling anyone. A parent happened upon them completely by accident, and after scolding them, bought them ice cream. But it was a traumatic moment. There was a lot of fear that this might lead to 'other things', as though they might be caught and sent off as concubines in some desert or other. And that was not all. Other parents are gathering together to hire a therapist to advise them how to raise boys. (The girl's parents are doing the same thing).

These parents are not defensive about this, but quite proud of themselves. One held up a new book to justify their concern: The Price of Priviledge. As if to say, 'you see the ghosts we're afraid of are real.' The book is written by a woman in Marin County who apparently recounts the turmoils of kids with everything.

And of course it's interesting that here's the upper middle class that got everything they wanted, except the one thing they really wanted, a sense of community... The problem is they assumed they could continue the line without much effort, that was the point of all the soccer tournaments, the AP courses, the community service, the travels to the Louvre, the tutors, the letters of recommendation from presidents and prime ministers, legacies within legacies, and that was all just to get into high school.

These parents are not so disoriented as the ones in Marin, but they are still fearfull and confused. They have made their children their friends, made them their sole hope for redemption, for all their failures great and small. However, one got it right, an immigrant of course. "If there is a problem, I just solve it," she said. "What else is there to say?"

Oct 14, 2006

Passing Through the Bardo

On the way up to Canada for the bon voyage, I read the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Thinking that was as good an instruction as I could find. Her funeral was on the day she was coming out of the "unconsciousness" and just heading into the bardo. The bardo proper as it were. I promised myself I would send her a prayer each day, imploring her to go toward the bright lights that mark the city of Nirvanna, not the soft lights that mark a bad road to the hell realms. I read about the wrathfull dieties, Rudra in particular, whose story is particularly appalling. And I read about the situation she would face for six days after entering the bardo and how she would encounter a new spectre of monstrosity each day but that these were merely shadow puppets and delusions, and she could transform them easily enough into luminosity, roughly speaking. It's the great hope of Tibetan Buddhism that as you go through the bardo there's always another chance. The implication is that if you don't get it then you really do need more time suffering the slings and arrows of lower animals and wisdomless creatures....

But I did none of it. No prayers, no good wishes. I don't know what happened. I put things off, I let it go. I went back to my stone and forgot all about the rest...

Oct 13, 2006

A largely fictional portrait 'and yet...'

Magdalene's Passion (http://www.thekingsenglish.org/)

Oct 5, 2006

Ann of a thousand lives

Originally uploaded by macnamband.


This was the message to me, received by one of Ann's friends during the funeral... In the original and translated.

À mon fils tant aimé,
J'aurais voulu, j'aurais voulu, je n'ai pas pu, je n'ai pas su te dire combien je t'aimais... te le dire avec conviction et partager tes joies et tes peines qui me touchaient au plus haut point. Le Ciel ne m'avait pas donné la capacité de m'exprimer simplement : j'étais toujours sur une scène qui me permettait de cacher mes émotions. Des sphères de splendeur où je me promène maintenant, je te demande pardon pour tous mes manquements de "mère". Je te demande pardon de n'avoir pas su t'aimer assez, de ne pas t'avoir facilité la vie. Sois heureux, mon fils-tant-aimé, et convaincu que de là-haut ta Maman veillera sur toi et sur les tiens, sur ceux que tu aimes. Agis toujours selon ton cœur, et mordsla vie à belles dents. Elle en vaut la peine.
De mon cœur à ton cœur,
Je t'aime.

To my beloved son,
I had wished, I had wished, I couldn't, I couldn't tell you how much I loved you... to say it to you with conviction and share your joys and your sorrows which touched me up to the highest point. The Divine did not give me the ability to express myself simply. I always was "on stage" which allowed me to hide my emotions.
From spheres of Splendor, where I wander today, I ask for your forgiveness for all my failures as "mother". I ask for your fogiveness for not having loved you enough, for not making your life easier. Be happy, my beloved son, and convinced that from "up there" your mother will take good care of you and those that are yours, those that you love. Always act as your heart dictates and "bite life with great teeth". It is worth it. From my heart to your heart,
I love you.

Oct 3, 2006

Last Lite

Eventually, the city appeared through clouds and dark. Tankers moored in the roadstead stood out like diamond pins on a black mourning dress. The plane finally got down and to the gate. They were all techies in first class and took their sweet time disembarking. One was a dwarf, another laughed to herself hysterically.

Before that, flying out of Missoula to Seattle, in the proverbial gloaming, she appeared out the window, like a Matisse brush stroke. I was listening to the Bill Evans trio and between her waving like mad and the music I had a few seconds of euhporia.

Before that, before the drive from Cranbrook to Kalispell, we all stood outside the creamtorium, a little cinderblock Auschwitz, no bigger than a one car garage, but dour and dark, with a white garage door and then a dark green door through which the took her. Behind the green door, I thought. We didn't stay for the smoke or the ashes. I went to each person in turn and said goodbye. SN seemed suddenly distant. I sensed she was glad it was done and that I was going.

Before that, when we first arrived at the chapel she lay in the casket under a white veil, with little gold stars. She looked like an Indian princess — Indian-indian not like a dowage, like some old crone. I could make out the outline of her nose; that's how I knew it was her. I couldn't see eyes and I wondered if they'd been redacted for some reason.

Altogether, she seemed impossibly small, about the size of a ventriloquist's dummy. But still beautiful of course and for a moment I imagined pulling off the veil and she would open her eyes and say something like, "Wish I was dead? Well, I'm not. Thought you were gonna get rich, well you're not. And if you've got any spare change I need a drink, bad." And I would say, 'I'll bet you do, Tallulah, but you never looked better.' And she would laugh and pee in her pants. And I'd tell her I had some scotch in the car. 'Hallelujah.' And we'd do a riff on Hallelujah Tallulah. Then we would go out to the car and get smashed and talk 'black' and pretend she was a poor slave and I was the wealthy landowner. She'd get into her Butterfly McQueen act and we were going, going, Gone With the Wind.

The last time we did that was on the drive between Rabat and Casablanca in June 2005. She'd been quiet up 'til that point and then I suppose she realized I wasn't going to kill her after all, so she lightened up and went through all of her old routines and we laughed and laughed just the way we always did.

Before the funeral, that morning, we sat in that urt like temple they have. There's a photo of the maitre, looking very distinguished, more like a famous character actor than a genuine master. The long white hair, the white suit. White on white, the way masseurs used to dress at the Palm Springs Racquet Club.

The photo hangs in the window facing east. It's a sun cult after all. Below the photo there's a table with white lace down to the floor and on the table crystal oblisks and other chachkas, globes and hearts and little flying dragons. There's a bouquet of wheat and a pot of pink flowers. Off to one side a ball spins in a water sculpture.

The night before they had 'Ann night.' People read poems; a girl played the violin; the choir sang and they can really sing. And then SN asked if I wouldn't say something. So I did and told about that time she came to visit us in Miami and got out on the court in middle of the condo complex, this was on Brickell Avenue in Miami, a little like East Germany but the weather was great. She had me hit her some balls at the net. I hit her some and she said, 'no, hit 'em. C'mon whata ya think this? Hit 'em.' There were people up in the balconies looking down and you could hear them saying to each other, "hey, Art you gotta come out and see this. Looks like Little Mo at Forest Hills, don't it? What year was that? 1938?"

It seems as long ago as the late 14th Century, but there she was with no shoes vollying just like at the Racquet Club or the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and probably Tony Trabert's bed and some other beds too. She was the true antidote to death and despair in those days....

After the presentation, all the brothers and sisters went downstairs where there was a table with her picture, a little candle, and pictures of her family. SN asked me to identify the people in the photos. Her mother, I suppose, her brother. But I wasn't sure. She'd never told me those things. The truth is, I knew very little, other than what she'd told me in Morocco and some of that seemed speculative. She, herself, didn't seem sure.

But as we stood looking at the photos people began asking questions and telling stories. One woman told about the time she offered Ann a room in her apartment, in New York, and how she was the ideal guest for the first two weeks but then things changed. And when she told Ann she needed to leave, things went bad in earnest. Another woman told a story about the time Ann hit her and this woman hit back. The exact parallel of my own fight with her on the onramp to the Sawmill River Parkway in 1966. To hear these stories you'd think, 'well, but how did you put up with her for all these years?' People explained that, how they were able to see through her, how you could draw her out with a joke, about the time no long before she died, while walking ever so slowly to the dininghall, she told the person whose arm she was holding on to, "Are we going slowly enough for you?"

In the end, she may be remembered because she was a character and because it was always clear where she stood, and in her immovableness, appeared perhaps stronger than she was.

One person who knew her particularly well, and who endless enjoyed her grace, a man of course, told me, "I could see her suffering, I could see that underneath she was terrified. But I just let her go through that and wait 'til she got to the other side of it.'