Jun 10, 2007


The boy doesn’t know yet. He’s been upstairs, in a den, with antler heads on the wall. Playing video games, hour after hour, in the dark, in this enormous house.

His mother has been dead for three days but no one has told him. He saw her in the hospital, she smiled, she kissed his hand, she said she would be home soon, everyone said she would recover. But that was a week ago and now suddenly today is her funeral and someone has to explain.

His father is the one who should do it, but he would rather not. He believes a woman should do it. His mother might do it. Meanwhile, people are milling around below in the great house. There is the father’s family and the mother’s family. The one is from Ohio, the other from Texas. They are as different as Dickens from Danielle Steele, as Gore from Bush, as heartland from Wasteland. As a family gathering from a board meeting.

Right now the families are circling each other, everyone a matador, a boxer. In one corner, inside the Alamo, the conversation is about the mother’s half brother, the wife’s half brother who has come to be a pallbearer but doesn’t have the right shade of suit, not black enough, and too sheeny. “Like a cheap suit,” one of them says and there’s a chuckle all around These are the father, the husband’s friends, from college, asked to be pall bearers, his old frat brothers, and they all have the same shade of black suit. In fact, they all got their suit from the same store, just for the funeral. Like they did when he got married.

In the other corner, the people from Ohio, all women, and shaking their heads. The dead woman is their sister’s daughter. It’s all so tragic, they’re saying, and their mother having just died a few months before, but then to see their niece’s husband playing the role of a victim. They scowl and hurtle derision across the room. How is he going to take care of these kids? Seriously, how is he going to do that? The girl will be okay, she’s a little older, but the boy is only 4, what’s going to happen to him? And who’s going to tell him? It’s outrageous.

The house sucked the life out of her, it really did, the dead woman’s closest friend is whispering to someone from Ohio. Well, just look at it.

The pretentiousness of it, she means, but not just the size, but also the Etruscan style arches, the faux painted walls, the marble, the slate, the mirrors, my God, the frames on those paintings, which aren’t even original....

This is one of those super houses, set on a mapley clean street in a prominent neighborhood in Houston. Once the houses on this street were in proportion and that was the nature of its prominence. People who lived here understood proportion and looked down on those who didn’t. If you lived out of proportion, they felt, it meant you had to prove something, and if you had to prove something then you weren’t really rich, you were a wannabe, a ‘bourgeoise type’, and they, the elite, pronounced the word the way people in New Haven and New York pronounce it when they want to make fun of people who live in Texas and in places that are not a la mode, that are, if you want to know the truth, ignorant.

But you could argue that either way, couldn’t you? You could argue on behalf of people who don’t want to live in proportion. You could be a rebel; you could want to burn down the country club, and for good reason. Not to mention artists, geniuses, prodigy’s, many homeless people, crazy people, all kinds of people, live out of proportion. In their minds at least. You could even say the nouveau riche, for all their vulgarity and ‘ignorance’ got to where the are for their energy, because they often said ‘fuck you I’ll do it my way’ and they did.

In fact, that’s why this daughter of Ohio married the son of Texas. Because he was up and coming and she admired his courage and his bravado and if he wasn’t rounded at the edges, it was okay because he provided and if he wasn’t always as attentive as he might have been, then that’s okay too, because he had other qualities.

But the women from Ohio didn’t believe any of that. They knew it, they even hoped it might be true, but they didn’t believe it. They didn’t see any rebels here, and they know rebels, some of them had been rebels themselves, diggers in Oregon, anti establishment types in Berkeley. No, there were no rebels here, just a man who wants to get as much as the can and doesn’t care what you think, so long as he can live it his way and be with his buddies and his ticket business and his money....

However, you look at it, he paid for the original house to get a boob job and now it fills the lot. A fat man in a corset couldn’t get between the house and the fence. A thin man with boots and spurs would have to walk like a line dancer. And when you get from front to back, there’s nothing more than a small pool that comes right up to the living room door. The old trees and shrubbery are gone. Now there’s new trees and shrubbery, although not much room to put it in, and a lot of furniture and potted flowers...

Whatever is good about it, whatever you find appealing about the backyard, she did it. He didn’t care, just so long as she made it nice, so other people were awed and said how pretty it all was.

The inside of the house is like a hangar, like a new car showroom for Mazaratis. “Like wow baby, I like it”. In the words of friends of the ticket master who made all this happen. Who brought his wife in to this place and said, “Look at this, honey. Wow, huh?’ And she smiled the big blonde smile, sexy and big, but always a touch of down, now that you think of it, a little eyeliner of doubt there.

Wow, she said, but how are we going to live here? It’s so big.

Oh honey, we’re gonna have a big family. We need it. And anyway, we’re gonna live big. Know what I mean?

Sure. Why not, she thought. Why the hell not. Live big. This is Texas after all.

So he went off and made fortunes scalping tickets so he could have leather pigs around and pretend he was somebody refined. Gimme a bud, baby, will ya? How ‘bout those Astros, huh!

Meanwhile, she tried to fill the house as best she could, got Patty Madden's Etruscan collection of contract vinyl wall coverings. She read the magazine where it said, ‘Take this incredible turquoisey blue-green, like you'd see on a cloisonne vase, and paint it on the reverse side of glass. Then use it as a tabletop. You have the effect of color, once a long time ago...’

It wasn’t really her, she would have done it another way, but she would do anything to please. Not a mean bone in her body, and if she didn’t feel so well those last months, but thinking it was just pneumonia, that’s what the doctors guess it was, she just kept right on going, and when she was throwing up blood and they finally discovered it wasn’t pneumonia but cancer, she kept right on going. Don’t worry, she informed her family, some chemo and cutting and it should recede.

Then two weeks later she was gone.

But in the moment after they said, well you’ve got this thing and it’s everywhere all through your body but we can beat it, she saw how this was going to play out, and with no time left on the clock she went off on a trip with her kids, and then came back, got in her hospital bed, lingered, smiled, cried, and died.

* * *

The people downstairs are getting ready to go to the funeral. The boy’s still upstairs plying videos in the dark. Finally, the husband, the ticket guy’s mom goes upstairs. She doesn’t make a sound. ‘Your mom’s gone,’ she tells him. And when they get to the cemetery he wants to know if this is heaven. Well not exactly, his grammy explains but wherever it is your mom’s there.

The boy can’t grasp it all so he needs to understand this again. I want to see he says, I want to see her. Grammy tries to put the kibosh on that but he keeps insisting and then he starts to make a scene, starts screaming, and even if you’re deaf and dummer than dirt you can hear something in that scream that says, ‘wake up, people, my mom’s gone and I want to see her.’ The man in the boy called out and after a while, after the they got finished saying, we’ll come back and visit or there’s nothing to see or it’s private or just think good thoughts, finally they agreed.

The casket was still atop the gurney and they brought him over and the weird men from the mortuary, undid some levers, because these days you never know when you might have to do another autopsy. They opened the lid and the father lifted his son up and he looked inside and there she was, kind of like she was sleeping, and he wondered if she couldn’t just wake up, he reached out to touch her but his father pulled his hand back, and before he was ready they shut her up in there and did everything real fast, got the casket down in the ground, and threw in the dirt and sang a song and then got him back in the car and home and said it was okay if he went upstairs to the den and played his video games, and grammy brought him a sandwich and milk and sat with him, as best she could, because she was done in herself. And watched him, and didn’t have a thought in her head, and meanwhile, the boy was being a hero in the game, slaying dragons, and fighting as hard as he could to stay alive.

Jun 6, 2007

Bad Weather

Tremendous storms, unheard of for this time of year.
The kind of quiet that howls in your head,
Those C sharp chords from wind on the window,
Then the relentless pounding of wooden shutters.
... the way it seems, day after day,
Unable to sleep, day after day, unable to sleep,
Nothing helps, not wine or beer or either of those
With vodka and pills, or first the pills and any of those.
There is no effective combination. Of anything.
After a while, you begin to wonder, what's the world telling me?
Is it going to be like this from now on in?
Will I even survive?
You are suddenly that tenuously small boat of yourself,
In a squall, at night, on the other side of the world,
Sails tattered, rigging undone, Captain Crowhurst at the wheel,
Sailing in circles off the coast of Argentina,
Month after month, waiting for the race to catch up,
Keeping two sets of books, as honestly as you can, and
All the while sailing into the Sea of Sargossa,
Toward the long slow calm of absolute insanity....

Jun 3, 2007

In Mortmain

I’d been lingering in the mirror when over my shoulder, with the images bending around to eternity, I noticed myself a long time ago, a man in his 20s.

I’m at a bar, one of those blue collar joints on a frontal road in a town on the make, where girls named Betty tease boys named Rodney, until one night Rodney goes too far. There’s a loud juke box with flickering blue light, a TV on the wall with subtitles, empty bottles of cheap gin stacked behind a long wooden bar. The Iceman Cometh here, every night.

There’s a pool table in the back; a layer of smoke, a bartender and bouncer ,with a Boston accent. The clientele is an uneasy blend of college kids and townies, furtive, envious men with jaunty girls looking for anything at all.

But this is not about college boys and townies, I’m a college kid dancing with a college girl. I’ve known her for the last four years. She’s blond, it’s the end of college, we’ll never see each other again. We’re dancing for old times sake. It means absolutely nothing. She has someone; I have someone. Our future is on a remainder table.

But of course the situation is not entirely harmless. This dancing could be perceived as threatening, and it wouldn’t be the first time.

Maybe that’s it; maybe her boy friend feels threatened by me. He’s always worried about losing the girl and so he does. it’s a situation that repeats itself endlessly.

I see him at the last minute, coming hard across the dance floor. He’s a rich-kid, with his father’s pedigree and a mother’s pedicure, from a second floor bedroom looking down on a front yard with oaks and maples. In his room, pendants on the wall, tall plastic trophies and freshly vacced carpets.

Coming out of the shadows and at the very last second I catch him out the fish eye. He cold cocks me just like that, like I’d been hit with a brick. But I don’t go down. I stagger, the pain is wicked, I might as well have been asleep for the shock of it.

But I stay up, I’ve taken blind sided hit, once, at 13, I got knocked out running a crossing pattern. I never saw that coming.

But this was so unexpected, caused such a ringing of old bells. Plus, such a violation of the moment and the place I’d gotten to in recent days. I had and arrived , just when I’m beginning to enjoy the very last days of college. I said I would do it and I did. And then this maniac, as though to say, ‘you will not end on a good note, you will not remember this well....’

I tackle him right away and a broken beer bottle breaks his fall and it that takes 30 stitches to mend the rip. People pull me off. The bouncer kicks me out. The cops arrive. People tell them what really happened. Cops ask if I want to press charges. I don’t.

I go home, I’m still seething. I cannot, I simply cannot help myself.

I find out the kid’s gone to the emergency room.

I want to finish him off somehow, get in one more good punch, so I get to the hospital and there’s the girl I was dancing with and she sees right away what’s up. She knows right away and says she’ll get cops if I don’t leave.

And what about you, I’m thinking. Why are you suddenly this fool’s defender?

I wake up the next morning and I’m thinking to myself, ‘okay, it’s over’, but then I start reliving it again, I get tangled up in what this kid did for no good reason, and I think about these rich kids like him, with their sense of entitlement, with all their confidence and ease. how they’re soft, how I’ve known them all my life, how they never see me for who I am.

A few hours later I get a couple of friends and I go over to this kids house. He lives with other rich kids. We get to the house, they’re half a dozen but they don’t want any part of this. He’s upstairs they tell me and I go up and there’s the kid in the bathroom, peeing.

I say to him, “you have five seconds to explain what the fuck you did to me last night.”

He mumbles something. I can’t hear it. Whatever it was it sounded condescending, as though he hasn’t figured this out yet, as though he doesn’t owe me an explanation.

If he would only say, “you know what? I acted like an asshole last night and let me buy you a drunk.” Or, “look, I'm sorry. I’ve had a bad week.”

But he just mumbled in this condescending way and that’s when I let the dogs out. I punched him once in the face, he went right down and I followed and kept hitting him and hitting him, in the face.

How many times? I have no idea. Twenty, thirty times. Blood everywhere. I thought I might have killed him.

It’s like going leaving the bridge of yourself and slipping down into the engine room of yourself. That place is a blur of noise and motion, yet at the same time I can see everything that’s happening, I suppose I could slow it all down if I wanted. But I don’t; I have absolutely no control and I don’t want any. I just want to keep hitting him. Suddenly, I am graduated from everything I believe in myself, from everything I am not afraid to know of myself.

A minute goes by, a minute and a half and then it’s over. The kid goes back to the emergency room, gets more stitches. It’s not as bad as it looked.

Now I’m like a pit pull after the ring, lathering, shaking, jowls drooling but slowly sick at the thought of what I’ve done. No matter the history, the genetic predispositions, all the excuses, explanations and qualifications.... I could offer it all up, but would that make a difference?

Still, there is enormous pleasure in it, what can I tell you. To prevail, to clean the dirt off of something. To get things righted again. Kayo would understand. He would know exactly what this was....

Years later perhaps I will deeply regret it. Or maybe not. Or maybe I will flinch in horror, I will confess it all up, over and over. I will feel badly for a long time. And that won’t be the end of it.

Jun 2, 2007

Between The Lines 2

Sure enough. Here is the rest of the story. (See "Between The Lines" below) And notice the reference to 'worshippers of the cross.'

WASHINGTON/DUBAI (Reuters) - An al Qaeda-led group said on Thursday it had killed an Iraqi husband and wife employed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Earlier, U.S. officials said the couple appeared to have been kidnapped.

The U.S. officials, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said that after the husband went missing late last week his wife went to look for him and then she too appeared to have been abducted.

"God's ruling has been implemented against two of the most prominent agents and spies of the worshippers of the cross ... a man and woman who occupy an important position at the U.S. embassy..." the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq said in a statement published on the Internet.

"The swords of the security personnel of the Islamic State in Iraq ... are with God's grace slitting the throats of crusaders and their aides and lackeys," it said.

The killings took place on Monday, it said.

One official described the two as "missing and apparently kidnapped."

The group said it was able to acquire a large amount of money from them. It did not give further details.

Jun 1, 2007

Hey Baby

It is Marilyn Monroe's birthday today; I happened across this article. And by the way, that's more than coincidence, isn't it? Also, her initials, MM, are mine. Could that be a coincidence, too? I used to pass by her house all the time, on the way to the beach, right there on the corner of Sunset. I imagined her last night and saving her and picturing Bobby Kennedy right there at her bedside... But what about this? I once knew a girl named Sherrie. Read below and you'll understand. I also met a Melvin once. Isn't that amazing?

MALIBU, Calif., Aug. 8 2004 -- Adrian Finkelstein, MD, UCLA Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, graduate of the renowned Menninger School of Psychiatry, who won the first research award given by this institution, and pioneer in past life regression therapy will present his client, Sherrie Lea Laird, as the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe at the Lily Dale Assembly on August 13, 2005.

Dr. Finkelstein will discuss his six and a half year working relationship with Ms. Laird, which has included extensive videotaped past life regressions, and explain why he is convinced that Ms. Laird is the reincarnation of Ms. Monroe. Dr. Finkelstein will present similarities in facial bone structure, hands, handwriting, voice pattern, linguistics and personality traits that exist in common between Marilyn Monroe and Sherrie Lea Laird. Dr. Finkelstein will also discuss new ways of potentially proving reincarnation, such as through DNA studies and the comparison of iris patterns.

Dr. Finkelstein's work will be summarized in his upcoming book, Marilyn Monroe Returns, The Healing of a Soul, which will be released by Hampton Roads Publishing in Spring, 2006. Hampton Roads is the publisher of the bestselling Conversations with God series, by Neale Donald Walsch. Ms. Laird, who goes by the stage name, Sherrie Lea, is a singer whose production of No Ordinary Love hit the top of the charts in Canada and Europe. It is interesting to note that in her film Bus Stop, Marilyn's role was of a singer named Cherie. Ms. Laird and Dr. Finkelstein will be present to answer questions at the Lily Dale event.

Dr. Finkelstein will be joined by Walter Semkiw, MD, author of Return of the Revolutionaries: The Case for Reincarnation and Soul Groups Reunited, who will present independently researched reincarnation cases which demonstrate that facial features, personality traits and linguistic writing style stay the same across lifetimes. Two of these cases were researched by Ian Stevenson, MD, at the University of Virginia.

Kevin Ryerson, who has been described as the "Edgar Cayce of our time," will also participate in this presentation. Mr. Ryerson, who has appeared in three of Shirley MacLaine's books, including Out on a Limb, supports Dr. Finkelstein's assertion that Ms. Laird is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe.