Friday, March 30, 2007

My Drawing Shows I'm Losing My Mind

drawing personality
This is my drawing. What does it say about me? Well, I'm pretty sure it doesn't say anything good. This is my last silly post. Tomorrow, I'll update you on what happened to us over the weekend. (Hint: think MORE police cars and MORE neighborhood espionage.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

When Good Frogs Go Bad

The Art of the Swindle
Letters to the Editor

And by Frogs, I mean my favorite jejune Frenchies Foucault and Lacan. (Amid others.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Neighborhood Drama/Neighborhood Bonding Part 3

Elvis at Three, Howard Finster, 1982

Neighbors I've either not met or haven't spoken to more than a few times in the two years I've lived here came over just to say "hey" and watch the free entertainment unfold. In retrospect, that my Southern upbringing would carry over past the belle days of my bridal teas to the day all of my neighbors would gather on my front porch to see one of our junk-sick neighbors get arrested is bizarre on the level of Flannery O'Connor's leg-stealing Bible salesman. I realize with mingled dismay and delight that my life just might be worthy of a Tennessee Williams play. I've arrived.

Like old soldiers at the VFW, we share our stories. We have seen the men come and go. We have heard the late-night fighting. We've seen other police cars on other nights take other men away in handcuffs. We wonder if the police see what we see. We doubt our conclusions, but the evidence seems irrefutable. We can't be sure. We can be sure, and we are. My neighbors and I are a wall of eyes in the Darkness. We're watching. We're seeing. And our collectivity makes us formidable. Our unabashed curiosity is the product of privilege. We're not afraid because we're the ones with the real weapons: money, education and political pull. It doesn't take long for one of the cops to be ensnared in our unified gravity. He tells us that the undercover cop had been watching a house on another street for weeks. He'd just had the opportunity to make a significant bust when his collar took off down the street, our street, running. He tries not to address us in police easyspeak, but I think he finds it easier to address us in his own vernacular. Two black males. One white female. One used rig left behind the bushes. Two years ago, I would have thought that a rig was something you put in the middle of the Gulf to drill oil. We moved here from Mountain Brook. I couldn't be paid enough to move back.

The police made one arrest. One black male. He had injured his arm. Thus the ambulance. Whether his injuries were from poking himself repeatedly in the arm with a dirty needle or from having a 240-pound cop ride his body down the sidewalk like a surfboard, we'll never know. I guess it's just comforting to know that they'll treat your injuries before they'll throw the book at you. They weren't even looking for our neighbor. They weren't watching, as we had hoped, for the return of her yellow cab. Like the Older Brother, we watched for her return with mounting enthusiasm. Oh, God, please don't let them leave before she comes back. I prayed. I justify this by telling myself she'd get some treatment in prison, but in Alabama, she's more likely to get scabies. This I know. We knew she'd be coming back up the street soon. We'd be there to witness the ultimate Walk of Shame.

As we speculated and watched the cops tie up the loose ends of their search, we made a few jokes about how this would never end up on the news. Within moments, we spotted the satellite truck of one of the local stations lumbering down the street. Seemingly contented to spectate, they never braved the world outside their truck. Sissies. The next morning, they covered a minor pot bust in Vestavia Hills further proving my theory that the Weird South has gone out of fashion. The rest of Birmingham lives in Outer Suburbia. They prefer stainless steel and whitewash to the broken asphalt redrock of the city. They go to bed at night and thank God that they don't have to live on our side of Red Mountain. We go to bed at night and thank God that we've found a bubble of freedom in a city of century-old pretension. Our neighborhood collects those people with means enough to live elsewhere if only they could brave the neighborhood bylaws. Give me trash on the street and broken sidewalks, but please don't tell me what kind of bushes I've got to plant in my own front yard. We're the last remnant of the Weird South in this Southern City. Welcome home, Howard Finster.

As we laughed, a yellow cab rolled truculently (if you're of the sort who believes inanimate objects can, indeed, be truculent) up the street. The driver looked nervous. A dark head emerged from the rear window for a split-second before it was laid flat against the back seat. It looked like no one was in the cab at all as it rolled past her house toward 5-points. Like a shot, my neighbor ran to the window of the nearest police car. There's someone in that cab. There's someone lying flat in the back seat of that cab. Before she finished, the police car reversed cutting off all escape. She loosened her muscles to let them better absorb the impact of being pulled by her arms and forced on her feet. She tottered, but regained her balance before they started patting her legs for weapons and drugs. They got the cab driver, too, but he didn't look as used to it. It's a wonder to me what skills human beings unconsciously learn from the life they lead. Whatever she had, was already smoked or thrown out of the window. She wasn't going to jail that night. They let the cab driver go and he sped down the street. I figure he was saved by feigned ignorance once, but I doubt he'll be tempting the Fates a second time. Since then, I've seen her travel by taxi several times but never again with the same cab company.

Our narrator, Officer Sims, returned to fill us in. He told us that she's a known meth user and prostitute. They're working her case. They're closing in. Every day, I see less of her. She stays in her apartment until about 5:30 then goes off in a cab for less than 20 minutes. She often has clients just before then. She often has clients late at night. I write down a description of their faces and their cars. Sometimes, I get their plate numbers. I call the South Precinct. I'm known there by now and I worry that they think I'm crazy. I think they must know that I'm a Gentrifier who moved here from Mountain Brook. I pour tea. I polish silver. But I don't know proper etiquette for having my neighbor arrested for tricking. In my mind, I'm SuSu Crimefighter. I'm Huggie Bear. I'm a force to be reckoned with. Maybe, I'm a fool. (But I surely do have mad skillz, y'all.) She must feel the heat.

The men look right at my eyes and I look right back and spit on the ground. They look away because I Am More Fierce Than They Would Expect. I'm a little suburban white woman, but I have anger on my side. And I'm angry. I wonder if they have wives or girlfriends at home. I wonder if they have mothers in big hats at church on Sunday. I wonder if they have children. I want to slap and pinch and kick them in tender spots like the backs of their arms or the underside of their legs. I want to intimidate them like they try to intimidate me. I hate them irrationally. I think there must be something instinctive initiating me into the Universal Sorority of Women that makes me hate who they are and what they are doing. I think the initiation is powerlessness. I've noticed that really big men, really strong men, really smart men aren't usually sexist. It's the small men, the weak men, the men who are stupid who hurt women. In that way, they're like spiders. It's the little ones that bite. Sometimes, women just get bitten, and unless God has something mighty awful planned, we're just going to have to move on. In the faces of those men, I see all the times I was powerless. I see all the times no one stood up for me. I see the Liar who let me take the fall for something he did because he knew I had no recourse. Because he knew I had no recourse. So bound is she by addiction and madness and parole violation that she has no recourse. She's a rabbit in a cage. My heart cries out for Mercy.

I have a tiny inclination brewing in my heart. It's a tiny desire to lose my mind just a little bit and float into the Great By and By. It's a tiny desire to stand on my porch and say REPENT, THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND! If I hadn't already, living here makes me realize that only grace stands between me and destruction. Only mercy guards the door to Perdition. Only Jesus can solve problems like these. And in my heart, I know He's coming. And he's going to make it Right.

Neighborhood Drama/Neighborhood Bonding Part Two

She moved into the top apartment of a 1920's duplex several months ago with her teenage son. At first, I only took notice of the son walking around, cat cradled in arms, calling to his mother like a neglected toddler. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mama. Mother. Mom. He never got a response during the day, but late at night, I often heard the shrill and raised voice that proved there was some interaction between them long after the rest of us were sleeping. After a little while, I didn't see the cat anymore. After a little while longer, I didn't see the boy anymore either. After that, I started to see more of Them.

They come at regular intervals throughout the day, all day long and into the night. They come in beat-up old Jeeps and Suburbans with spinners. They come in cars with college licence plates and in cars with no license plates at all. The only thing they have in common is that they're all coming to sell or to buy the same thing. When they're coming to buy, they stay for less than a minute. In and out faster than the drive-through line at the bank. Service with a smile and quick like lightning. When they're coming to sell, it takes a little longer. My neighbor has limited currency, you see, and she only knows how to pay with one line of credit.

The neighbors whisper about her. We're all surprised and validated that we've each come to the same conclusion about her business. She either doesn't notice our whispers, or she doesn't care. Four years ago, her line of work was more common here, but the value of our houses has increased by about fifty percent since then and we're moving past the Transitional Phase of neighborhood development and have started to make way into the "Gentrified" category. Most people who owned investment properties available to rent have sold out, and where we once were pushers, pimps, prostitutes and poor, we're now professors, traders, doctors, architects and insurance salesmen. The Old Regime didn't disappear, it just moved a little to the West and to the North as neighbors demanded to have their investments protected and we started getting better police protection. My neighbor came just a little too late to be able to practice the Oldest Profession without being noticed. And so, Sunday night the neighborhood came together for the same reason neighbors have for centuries: to fight a common foe.

David and I were sitting on the porch eating supper with Jason when we saw her leaving in a cab. Gone to score, no doubt. Despite my safe and respectable suburban upbringing, I've learned a little about the culture around me. I've learned a little, both from my own empirical research and from the careful study of those around me, about the power of addiction. I know what it means to watch from the bottom of a self-dug pit while happiness blooms around you. I know this and I'm sad for this small and much used woman who inhabits a shell of a body and a rusted-out life. Everyone on this street is ready to do their part to make sure she isn't on this street for one moment longer than necessary. We're all her adversaries. Social services are good. Rehabilitation is good. Inhaling the chemical consequences of her crystal meth addiction, having her clients come to our doors by mistake, knowing that someone somewhere might just be tweaked enough to show up at her doorstep with a weapon and a score to settle makes us nervous. I don't know if there is a "Christian" way to handle this problem. I am sympathetic, even empathetic, but not so much that I can handle living next door to a full-blown, fo-sho, crack ho. This is reality laid on the line. What would Jesus do? Maybe the better question is what is Jesus doing?.

Sunday night, we noticed a battered Pontiac cruising down our street. He's looking for her, I said when he looked up at the three of us with a little more interest than ordinary. When he came speeding back up the street followed by at first four, then five, then seven police cars, a firetruck and an ambulance, we thought we had been more right than we knew. The Pontiac pulled over and an undercover police officer leaped out. For about 30 minutes, we watched our street swarm with cops and flashlights up and down the sidewalk and in the bushes behind our house and our neighbor's. No one took notice of the three of us. Other neighbors heard the noises of seven police cars, one firetruck and an ambulance and started to come out on their porches to watch. For some reason known only to God, I yelled Y'all come over, I have brownies. And they did.

Stay tuned. I'm hoping to finish this up in one more installment. Good night, Moon.

Neighborhood Drama/Neighborhood Bonding, Part One

David caught me staring at the palm of my hand when we were having supper the other night. What's wrong with your hand? Nothing. I'm just looking. There's nothing wrong with that. Thank you.

I could have put an hour's worth of of exposition into that expression of gratitude, but the real meaning behind Thank You when I say it to my husband means more than one word, or one treatise, is able to convey. If live with him till I'm a hundred and three and thank him for one specific thing every day, I won't finish. I'm most humbled when I can't express the depth of my gratitude to and for him. The irony in all this is that he doesn't really like to be thanked. So I skip my exegesis and trust that in his heart, he knows he really is my hero.

The point of all this is that since I quit working for the church, I've been able to look and be and think. After two weeks, I stopped cringing when the phone rang. After three weeks, I stopped dreading Sunday evenings. After nearly four, I stopped seeing an emergency in every small situation. I don't dread the regular reminders of how utterly insignificant I am. I haven't blogged, or really spoken, about this Un-named Thing because it hurts and I haven't thought it wise. But, a writer has a right to write about what informs her story. So I will. (But just a little bit.)

I've turned my rediscovered powers of observation mostly to the garden. Because I live in an urban environment, "my garden" summarily includes my entire city: my neighbors, my postman, the garbage men, the neighborhood policemen. I've learned a lot. I've noticed the way my postman smokes his Camel cigarettes like a jazz musician. He walks like he's driven by the smoky twang of an internal upright bass. He's a postman by day, but at night, I bet he's cool. Cool in the Miles Davis sense of the word. I like to watch him go up and down the street in his Postal-Service issue minivan. He sees it all. He knows it all. I imagine he turns our stories into a series. of. machine. gun. scats. at. Ona's. on. Saturday. night. Ahh. Half John Coltrane mathematical trainwreck and half J-I-L-L-S-C-O-T-T easy and honest. That's my neighborhood. A Love Supreme.

My across-the-street neighbor bathes his dog on the sidewalk once a week. Of that pair, I don't know if dog or human is most fortunate. They have each other. And from what I can tell, that's just fine. My closer neighbors are a commune of upper-class hippies who call themselves a band. Three men and one wife live together. I've noticed that the wife does all the work. When they practice, if that's what you can call the first few few bars of Crazy Train played over and over and over again, the Postman shakes his head. He knows and he sees, but more importantly he hears, what passes for music these days. I have other neighbors: neighbors who don't cut their grass, neighbors who call the police on other neighbors who don't cut their grass, neighbors who don't speak to those of us who are Southside newbies and most responsible for the gentrification they see all around them, neighbors who have their food delivered by Schwanns, neighbors who might not eat at all. But the neighbor I've noticed the most, is the neighbor who probably notices me the least.

And now, my blogging time is way past gone. I'll post the rest of the story tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


There's a scene in Apocalypse Now depicting a battle over the fictional Dulong Bridge. I think Coppola intends it to show the madness of war, and if that's the case, it serves its purpose. P.B.R. Streetgang pulls up to a carnival of war; rockets launch like fireworks over the bridge only otherwise illuminated by a rakish string of paper lanterns. Soldiers alternately scurry away from the fallout and play cards. It becomes apparent to the men on board (at least one of them in the midst of an acid trip) that the situation has deteriorated beyond their ability to comprehend. At one point, Martin Sheen's character approaches a young GI (who has, incidentally, just launched a grenade at a V.C. caught in some wire) and asks him who is in charge. Looking back with the thousand-yard stare of a man who has spent more than his share of time "in country", the soldier answers, "Aren't you?"

It's my favorite scene in any movie ever and it reminds me a lot of what's been happening in my small world lately. Those captains we thought were standing in the gap are stumbling around looking at each other and saying "Who is in charge here?" And and answering back, "Aren't you?"

I think there's a reason why so much of the Christian life is compared to warfare. Sometimes, I look around me and think that we resemble a platoon of soldiers loaded in a Huey and plonked smack down in the middle of the jungle. (Or the desert.) If the disciples and early apostles were the Marines, we must be the follow-up forces sent in to hunker down in inhospitable territory for an indefinite period of time. We've got Medivac units and communications units and commissary units. Etcetera. Ad Nauseum. We're not home and we're not happy about it. (Like our grandfathers before us, we stumble off the field only to be offered coffee by the Red Cross. For 5 cents a cup. When the church starts asking us to donate blood, we'll know we've really got a problem. And that's a post for another day.)

It's hard to choose the right path through the battle. None of us knows the truth and nothing but the truth. We know bits and we know pieces. We know enough to make it through, but we're all faced with the moment in time when we've got to rely on God's love for us and our own good intentions. I think God did this on purpose. He told us what we had to know. For the rest, we're going to have to walk according to the Spirit and very much by faith. Everyone has their own way to cope with this "unknown."

Some people say we'll never really make it through and that our best bet is to look for the beauty in the ugly, the righteousness in the reprobate and the comfort in earthly community. I like this idea. It seems hopeful yet safe. The problem comes with the crushing realization that we're all alone in the world. We're created for community, but community will always disappoint. We're destined to be misunderstood. Not to say that we won't have meaningful relationships and receive encouragement from others, only that it won't be consistent and it won't be entirely trustworthy. Each of us is a rabid monster underneath a thin veneer of restraint. We rip each other to bits inevitably. Inevitably. If we are so blessed as to find one person, just one, who can see us truly and understand, we should presume upon the goodness of God no more. All the evil that exists in the world exists in the soul of Everyman.

Some people try to tie knots in the strings of truth we do have in order to unify them. To make them whole and cogent. To make them reach the areas of our experience they weren't designed to reach. I've learned that if I fail to mask my own uncertainty, there is always someone ready to flog me with an easy answer. Sometimes, I feel like an antelope surrounded by all-knowing hyenas who smell the blood of my uncertainty. I don't understand. All of my struggle for insight into this leads me only to a greater ability to describe the problem.

I've made it my habit here to be positive. Honestly, I am a happy person with a charmed life. Never never never would I have believed you had you been able to come to me when I was younger and tell me what a beautiful thing my life would be. Unfortunately (or very fortunately, depending how you look at it), the only only thing I have to offer here is a certainty that One Bright Morning, that Huey will come back. And take us home. Where we'll be able to be what we were meant to be and live how we were meant to live. Until then, we cling to the cross and try not to kill each other.

In the meantime, who is in charge here?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Best Thing in My Kitchen

The best thing in my kitchen at the moment is a chicken roasting pan that looks something like this. I think my mother bought it for me about 6 years ago for about 8 bucks at Wal-Mart (shudder that, I know). I left it alone and unused in my oven-drawer for years until I decided it might be a good idea to use it, and once I did, I actually had to grieve all of the chickens I could have roasted if only I had realized what an incredible device this little pan actually is. It's a simple thing. In my opinion, the best things that come out of the kitchen are simple things that give us a little wholesome comfort at the end of the day. I always feel grateful for old-fashioned culinary pleasures like a beautifully roasted chicken, a simple spinach salad, grainy pears, butternut squash soup, baked sweet potatoes with brown sugar, and whole-wheat bread with butter and honey. In this world of fast and out-of-the-bag food, homemade food reminds us that we're human. We're not machines that can survive on pre-packaged food and synthetic sugar. We're a rather fragile sort of creature that needs sunshine, clean sheets, warm suppers, fresh vegetables and good coffee to thrive. God didn't intend for us to be so strong and self-sufficient. That's why we aren't.

When I roast a chicken, I don't spend a lot of time trussing it, or covering the breasts with buttered aluminum foil like some culinarians recommend. I usually just peel and wash a carrot and a few ribs of celery and put them in the cavity with some garlic I've whacked with the flat edge of my favorite knife (another wonderful thing in my kitchen) and some fresh rosemary from the pot on my front porch. (Another aside, here in balmy Alabama, fresh rosemary will thrive outside in a pot all winter. It gets a little woody, but it's still flavorful.) I always sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on the outside of the bird and drizzle it with olive oil. I roast it at about 350 degrees until it starts to smell like heaven and Corduroy Dog starts to drool on the floor (for about an hour). (Real chefs say to roast it at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, but I don't think that gives the veggies and herbs you've put inside the chicken time to release their flavor.) Do what you will with the pan-juices. They're lovely.

While I'm at it with all of this sharing what I like to eat and all, I might as well tell you how to make the perfect (again, in my opinion) Mint Julep. First, you've got to have grown your own traditional spearmint. It's the mintiest mint and down here, it's marketed as being "especially good for mint julep." Cut a handful. Take a handful or two of ice and smash it with your husband's hammer in a clean cotton towel. (When he says "I'm not sure that's good for the kitchen counter," just smile sweetly and hammer on.) Put about a half-inch of sugar (I know.) in the bottom of a 10-ounce glass and mash the mint right into it with the back of a spoon. (Oh, it smells like heaven.) Fill the glass with ice and pour in the bourbon to the top. (Even though my husband is from the patch of Tennessee just to the left of Jack Daniel's Country and Just to the Right of George Dickel's promised land, I'm still on speaking terms with Jim Beam. You can even use Southern Comfort if you're not a purist. Nothing isn't made better with a few jiggers of So. Co., that's the truth.) Drink it on the porch barefoot like a redneck. It's okay. Yum.

Now, it's your turn. Whoever you are, if you know me or not, respond to this post with the thing you most like to eat.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Subversive Su, Melanies and Scarletts, The Things That Happen When I Sleep

I think that every writer needs to write for himself at first. Well, maybe at second. If you learn to tell someone else's story, it inspires you to write your own. (Well, maybe after years of hiding behind other people's stories. I admit, I'm suspended in the editing process. I edit and reframe my story, omitting or reworking the parts that cause me hurt so deep that I can't touch them up.) It's a tough process. I proceed in fits and starts making headway in bits and pieces as particles of my story emerge from the snow of years to be discovered anew.

This weekend, I went to the wedding of one of my recently re-discovered little-girlhood friends. I saw many of my little girl-hood friends at the Big Church where we were all little girls together. What a world of Scarletts and Melanies I inhabited. (I see why Gone with the Wind rang true. I read it last week and it is as good as they say.) We are in the Reconstruction of our lives now. Many things have happened that we didn't expect. (One of us wrote a book called Many Things Have Happened Since He Died. It's true for all of us.) We grew in the tended soil of privilege. Each of us knows, even in adulthood and even if we won't admit that we know, what distinguishes a person of quality. We came up in a genteel society. I hadn't believed it until I saw the proof in the pudding of my old friends. Despite everything, they are lovely puddings. They will never unwork the stitches they made in the fabric of my being. I wouldn't wish it if they could. We are all grown-up now and even if we try not to, we will raise our children to be people of quality. Some things can't be explained and some things cannot be escaped.

Appropriate Segue Should Go Here.

This weekend, I realized that I might just have a chance to reclaim something I thought I had lost forever...and thus convinced myself that I didn't want. I'm not sure yet, but I have a feeling. There is no God besides my God who would love me enough to breathe life into something I killed myself. (There is no husband besides mine who could, or would, so support my dreams.)

Again With the Segue.

Because of something said today, I vacillate between feeling like an accidental Mata Hari and a hurricane. I have become that Something That Must Be Dealt With, inasmuch as the sick the dog heaves up on the floor is the same. I feel like my personhood is something I'm expected to surrender to to the commissary for the sake of Our Noble Cause. If you can't find me, I'll be hiding in the well with the O'Hara silver service.

And that, gentle readers, exhausts the number of Civil War/GWTW allusions I'm allowed for one day.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quality Children's Program

I love the Kate Pierson Muppet. And to think how many people waste time on shows like 24.

Beat (Not Beaten)

I have a friend who is a potter. (And by "potter," I mean she is an artist in clay.) She says that sometimes she puts the clay on the wheel and it tries to escape. It doesn't want to be formed or shaped, it just wants to do its own thing. She says "What are you doing? You're a lump of dirt!" Most days, that's me. Idonwannadothat! I say.

Today, however, I'm a little lump with no more fight. I give up. If He doesn't finish the work, I'll just sit here on the wheel. Having time and time again found Him faithful when no one was, I have stopped expecting anything else. I have fought and lost. I have resisted and been conquered. I have struggled and been subdued.

I yield. For now. Bested by the goodness that like a fetter binds my wandering heart to Thee.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Vestigial Savage

" religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave." Thomas Jonathan (Stonewall) Jackson

I have always hoped for a Glorious End. It might have something to do with my Cold War childhood or my fascination with Fox's Book of Martyrs. I tend to think it has something to do with the vestigial savage in my bloodline. I imagine my family tree has at least one Claymore-wielding Celt, one Comanche brave, one concentration camp liberator, several drunken Irishmen, and an assortment of lesser pagans and hoodlums fueled more by a genetic compulsion to endure under fire than by a superficial machismo. I am the product of a wild and colorful lineage. I am a child of glory. I can't help that I was born a girl.

One of the reasons I want to have children so very much is that I want to meet these people who will be the fusion of my wild Black Irish and David's cool (and nearly undiluted) German restraint. I can't imagine what kind of oddball will result from this genetic pairing. I can't wait to meet this person. I like him already.

As I pray for this person's arrival (where are you already?) I pray that he will be a savage. A warrior. Fearless in the face of peril. Because I think this world will see some peril and I don't see many Brave Men to face it. I see smart men. I see rich men. I see men who like to talk and be recognized for it, but I don't see many men who like to shut up and do. Or women either, for that matter. I want to be brave. I want to be fearless. I want to be strong. I don't want to betray my personal Great Cloud of Witnesses. I can't help that I was born a girl.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lessons from Hank Williams and the Big Church, or The Well is Very Deep Indeed

"Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her and to wonder what was going to happen next." Lewis Carroll--Alice in Wonderland

Hank Williams

In Salvation on Sand Mountain, Dennis Covington explores the idea that human beings instinctively know where they come from, even if they don't. I believe in this. Somewhere in the deep, I know who I am. I know it when I hear bagpipes. I know it when I am afraid of the snakes in the garden. (And when they make me blind with fear-rage and I whack their heads off with the hoe.) I know it like I know what's True, even when I can't explain how I know or why. Last week, I bought Bill Monroe's version of the Hank Williams song, I Saw the Light, and I knew who I am when I listened to it. (Myrtle must have known who she was in her living-life, too, because she showed up on the front porch halfway through.) Hank Williams is as soft and familiar as wheat bread, clean sheets and bare feet in the summertime. He's somewhere in my vernacular. I think I've assimilated* Hank Williams. Yes, that must be it.

The Well

Lately, all the things I've assimilated are a comfort to me. I feel like Alice, tumbling down the well feet-first and in slow motion. Instead of bemoaning his tardiness, my rabbit says How could you DO this to me? How COULD you do this to me? How could you to this to ME? I want to say, "Hey Rabbit, you're the one who threw me in this hole." And as I go, fanny over teakettle as the case may be, I grab my assimilations off the shelves and hold them near.

The Big Church

Sitting in the Big Church on Sunday, I noticed a Very Old Man in the pew in front of me. His hair was very white and his skin was very brown. His wife had a slight bob in her head. At first, I thought she was just very much in agreement with the pastor, but I think she might have had a little tremor. I looked around in the congregation and counted the Old People. The Old GrayHairs. There were a lot. And I remembered how much I miss Old People. It isn't that there is anything wrong with Young People, even God says so, but I've missed those Old People in the same way I'd miss Hank Williams, wheat bread and bare feet in the summertime should I ever be denied. Old People, after all, are not as permanent as they seem. Or as we would wish them to be.
*Merriam-Webster defines "assimilate" as a transitive verb: to take in and utilize as nourishment.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

My Life With An Angry Bearded Man

This is a letter David wrote to Books & Culture yesterday. I don't know why I find it so very amusing, but I do.

I signed up on-line for a free issue. Now, I am receiving threatening mail from a Christian publication. This is unacceptable on any level. I expect these scare tactics (empty threats to scare people into paying for a subscription they don't want and never requested) from secular publications, but I expected more from you. Hang your heads in shame and change your policies post haste. Living in the South, I have a lot of Christians as friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I will tell them all, including my church, of your horrific and shameful policies. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is upon us.