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Checking out

Last night, abed, half sleeping, half dreaming, I envisioned myself in surgery for the removal of the prostate, the old glad gland. The one we don’t talk about till it squeezes our urethra and the piss out of us, so to speak.

Or from which we squeeze the last drops of our manhood.

So be it.

Dying Gaul

No Dying Gaul am I, nor Dying Pole, for the moment.

Envisioned myself in the OR, on the cutting board, and the proper cuts were made, doctor and robot dancing infallibly like Ginger and Fred around the pivot, when, when, when … I simply did not awake.

Oh! That’s what it’s like, is it, that “distinguished thing”?

Or extinguished thing?

And I was glad, I think (I think now, I think consciously), to lay the burden down.

At the same time, it would be nice, don’t you think so, to have a monument like the one above … and be remembered for eons (rather than 15 minutes)?

To be membered, ah yes, our glad earthly lot. Then dismembered, could be. Then remembered.

So much for the haughty gland, then! We can do without it!


Truth in advertising, just a little truth?

Sheldon Adelson, casino tycoon, who is financing efforts to stop Hagel's nomination.

Sheldon Adelson, casino tycoon, who is financing efforts to stop Hagel’s nomination.

This morning’s paper runs a New York Times article about new conservative groups rising up against Obama and his nomination of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. These new millionaire and billionaire sponsored groups are called things like Americans for a Strong Defense, Use Your Mandate, American Future Fund, and the Emergency Committee for Israel.

Truth be told, I mean if the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth were told, shouldn’t these names be given as, respectively,

  • Americans for Putting Ever More Deadly Amounts of Cash into Exploding the Planet
  • Use Your Mandate to Push through Every Billionaire Political Agenda
  • America Fund for Boundlessly Wealthy Plutocrats’ Future, and
  • Emergent Committee for an Increasingly Militant and Unprepared to Negotiate Israeli Fascist State

Just a few suggestions in the interest of truth in advertising, political truth, I mean, or something like the truth so help me God.

Let’s play!

ruby hugging

At Sequoyah Woods Ruby hugs, or tries to hug, one of the stout posts in the pavilion.

Here’s to the child, the genius of play, who can make so much out of so little, even today, the hyped-up electronic age. She can make happiness, for example, out of thin air, with no cell phone in sight, or iPod, or other gizmo.

She takes me out today to the back yard, my granddaughter Ruby Mae, five years old, and we center our activities, as usual, on the playset (swings, slide, and platform). She becomes at once a curious Goldilocks to my old man (invading my home on top of the platform) … then baby fox to my mama fox (we cuddle on a blanket and pillow underneath) … then grappler as we roll in the grass. Seamlessly, from one deed to the next, the child rolls on and on. In no time, because in play there is no time, she’s harassing the yapping mutt next door (feeding her weeds that I, working, have picked).

We could catalog these sudden changes all day long, couldn’t we? We can’t keep the child down on the work farm.

It’s only we old folks who arise and go back to what we call the real world, the predictable realm of work, where we slave away until the next time the child appears with her delighted command, “Let’s play!”

Can we enter that magic kingdom again, where all men and women are created equal? Only if we let ourselves. As by going, hand in hand, with a little child out to play. Or slipping into our own work so ecstatically that time vanishes and we have no thought of exertion or exhaustion at all.

Coming out

Sure enough, it would be easy enough, I imagine, to remain closeted with your fears and angst. But I am coming out today, in a general way, from the closet of these secret fears.

I learned a few weeks ago that I have cancer — prostate cancer, so not, some might say, a big whoop. Unless you have it.

prostate gland

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland that aspires, as a friend put it, to be an avocado.

Mine is an early but aggressive form — and demands treatment soon. Otherwise, the oncologist told me (and Gabe and Heidi, who were with me) I’d have maybe five years before insistent symptoms appeared, followed by aggressive therapies and maybe one or two more years of life.

Oh, yes, the shadow falls over the land. My little duchy anyway.

My dad had prostate cancer but not until his early 80s. (Or it was discovered then anyhow.) So I figured, if I were to get it, I would get it at roughly the same time.

Not now. Not now, Lord. (As there are no atheists in foxholes, are there none in the cancer ward?)

But I do get it, sure. Shit, like grace, happens, Lord, lords, God, gods. The Greeks taught us that very well, way back when, pursued by Harpies, Furies, angry Olympians. (And we, we libertarians most of all, think we should be able to do anything, ha! Unchecked by boundaries! Ignorant of our hubris.)

If cancer is shit, then, therapy is grace. As a Libra, I’m compelled to believe in such balances. Honor them. And go on my way, day to day, the way your go about yours.


Crazy women

Drove out to Tucson, Arizona, to see a friend, Ted Wright, my old English professor and long-suffering tennis partner, and en route, in AZ and NM, met two crazy ladies.

Itinerant homeless women, you might call them.

Women given up to the road and to the kindness of strangers, it could be.

The first, whom I met at the first rest stop into AZ on I-40, described herself as “trapped and alone.” She was a robust 35 year old I’d say, with red hair, clean new jeans and work shirt, and a definitely schizzy air about her. I stopped and set up my camp stove on a picnic table, under a shelter, and noticed this woman at the next shelter, with a bed roll and backpack. As I fired up the stove and began frying some chicken tenders, I called out and asked if she wanted to join me for lunch. Yes, sure, and she did.

Pretty soon, along with the chicken, I got a diet of sorrows, her story about how she had been separated for 10 years from her Israeli Army unit and her family too. She had no idea where they were,  Army and family, and they were ignorant of her whereabouts too.

We ate a nice meal, with fruit and veggies and drinks, too, and she told me bits and pieces — all there were — of her story. But at one point she protested that I did not understand her. She was “trapped and alone,” and nothing could save her — neither strangers like me, nor government, nor family. She was on her own, with no way out, no way to go. She knew she had to avoid certain kinds, like the man who’d given her a ride from Texas and made lewd or pointed suggestions. She knew she couldn’t simply ask the way, the way you’d ask directions. There appeared to be no way you could get there, where she was going, from here, where she was.

Her name? She allowed it was Israel Michaela. The wandering Jew.

At first she said, sure, she’d take a ride from me up to the next rest stop, Texas Canyon, but then changed her mind. (I’d gone to the bathroom, locking the car as I did so. Did she think, perhaps, I didn’t trust her? Right!) I gave her 20 bucks, wished her well, and sped off on my merry way. I knew, I thought, where I was going — Ted’s place — and got there three hours later.

Native women

I found a native woman, trapped and alone in the mountains, without water, without love.

On my way back from Ted’s, I took a northern Arizona and New Mexico route, camping two nights in the mountains a dozen miles east of Santa Fe. There, in a free primitive (no running water, no electricity) National Forest Service campground, I was accosted my 2nd night, by a fat filthy Indian woman who asked for a Coke. I’d just shopped so was able to give her a couple of Diet Peppers I had bought, and when I asked if she wanted to join me for dinner (it was fish tonight) she replied, shyly, she’d already eaten today — some potatoes. But I couldn’t eat the two tilapia fillets, so I made her a sandwich of the second, and brought a cup of white wine too, giving it to her through a crack in the door of her banged up old car (all her earthly goods were packed, like a rat’s pack, on the roof of the car). “Here’s a nice fish sandwich,” I said, putting a hand on her shoulder. “And some wine. Bless you.”

Surprised the hell out of me, as I’m not religious at all. Was I blessing her? Certainly I was taking pity. Mercy, pity, peace, and love, as the poet says. Maybe these qualities, away from prying eyes, flow in the cold mountains.

Chad the Barber

Since my arrival in Fayetteville last summer, I’ve been going to Chad for barbering.

Found his name on the Internet through a simple search. As I recall there were one or two positive reviews, and the shop wasn’t too far from our condo, 3-4 miles, so I motored over.

Chad’s Barber Shop is an unprepossessing block structure on the southern edge of town, not the poshest address, for sure. But it looked fine to me. Chad turned out to be a black guy, pretty big and muscular and, as he acknowledges, with a big booming mouth on him.

Black Barbershop

Not that close, Chad! It's the mohawk or frohawk I be wantin'!

The first time I visited, and maybe the second and third times too, I might have been the only customer. Chad certainly wasn’t overly busy. But I was able to scope out the business and get the scoop — who his customers are, how they get to him, how he might want to increase their numbers. I offered to draw up a flyer for him, which I did, but he hasn’t used it yet. He’s never really advertised — except for word of mouth, or booming voice, could be. (You’d have to be pretty hard of hearing not to hear Chad’s voice if you were anywhere in the vicinity. I’ve called my wife a couple of times from the shop, and she says she could hear only Chad’s boombox of a voice going.)

What would Chad’s point of difference be if we were to advertise his services? Sports! he booms, for one thing. He eats, drinks, talks and pisses sports, after all. You’ll get an earful of sports if you patronize Chad — everything from grade school basketball and football, in which his 11 year old son, Chad Jr., excels, to college and pro sports (including, this last visit, a values-laden discussion about just fired Hogs coach Bobby “Lover Boy” Petrino).

Effective cutting, for another. Chad suggested the motto “You grow ’em, we mow ’em.” Isn’t that different?

Anyway, Chad is a pretty good barber and does good work when he has the time and the shop is not crowded. (I came in once amid a scrum and left with my ridgetop intact: how I hate that! That pointy head that, since babyhood, presaged my pointy-headed pseudo-intellectualism! That pointy head that, now, would look just fine in a mohawk, wouldn’t it?)

Sure, and Chad is a character, surveying and dominating his nondescript big shop. (The footprint of the building must be about 15 feet x 45 feet, and Chad sometimes uses another barber when he’s busy.) His voice booms and explodes as if he’s giving orders, though he’s usually only opining — about sports, character, love, gossip. I’ve learned a lot about his wife, ex-wife, and 3 kids. I’ve learned about Chad’s growing up in southern Arkansas and his sports playing days. I’ve managed to get a few words in edgewise, just to needle him a bit or see if he’s awake.

Last time I was in, Chad gave me a snootful about his lazy ex-wife and her bad influence on their daughter, who lives with her and her drug-dealing boyfriend. (Told me how he instilled discipline when the girl lived with him one semester — punishing her when she came home with demerits, giving her anything she wanted otherwise. How he had her learn her numbers via a basketball drill: she’d have to hold the ball over her head and rotate it from hand to hand, continuously, until she could shout out the thousands numbers Chad held aloft, pronouncing them accurately: not five-two twenty-one, for example, but five thousand two hundred twenty-one.)

But he also listened to my brief explanation of the camping trip I’m going on, in Texas and New Mexico, on my way to Tucson, Arizona. Man! he allowed. If he was retired like me, he would go not just for two weeks but forever. He would disappear! But it’ll be a few years, man, giving haircuts one head at a time. Mowing what we grow and saving up the dollars till he can lie in splendor, devote himself to watching sports and raising family in tranquility.


Went to my son and daughter-in-law’s place for breakfast the other day, as I take my granddaughter to daycare in the morning to save her parents a bit of wear and tear, and Gabe puts out a hearty breakfast for me.

breast feeding

A thing of beauty 'tis, the tit, and the mother and the infant too.

At the table I repeated a witticism from the previous night’s pre-theater dinner. As the dessert was coming to the table, I assured everyone there (strangers, all, with whom my wife and I were sitting) that I’d already had my dessert. Really? they inquired. Sure, I said. When we came in, all the young mothers were seated outside the door breast-feeding. (Oh, my, how delightful! I didn’t stare, much Or drool, much. A perfectly civilized geezer was I.)

Heidi, my Norski daughter-in-law, just stared at me for about 10 seconds and then hissed, “You’re really repulsive, you know? You don’t even try to censor yourself !”

At which I laughed uproariously. “Delighted to get a rise out of you so early in the morning, my dear!”

And Gabe, a bit embarrassed perhaps, allowed as to how his pa and his daughter, Ruby, both liked boobies.

“Boobies! Boobies! Boobies! Boobies!” Ruby chanted, not censoring herself at all.

Yes, Ruby and I have some kind of infantile understanding, evidently. We rarely censor ourselves at all, and we get in trouble.

Odd, though, that it’s Hedi, an R.N., who taught Ruby to use the word “pussy,” which she does with sometimes embarrassing results, as at daycare the other day. Sue, the provider, took Gabe and Heidi aside and whispered, “Ruby said ‘pussy!’ She can’t say that here!”

I dare say not. Think of the scandal that would ensue. A four year old with a pussy. I mean, talking about her pussy. And the other kids, mostly younger, asking — as has happened before — what’s a pussy?

In the same spirit, of a chastised kid, I ask, what’s a boobie that it frightens some folks so?