Location: Under sheets -with flashlight; 12:15 a.m.
My boss spoke to me with a stern tone today. I wanted to tell him off, but held back. After all I’ve got a wife and three kids to feed at home. So I left his office having kept quiet, but it really got me wondering. Those kids do seem to eat a lot more than they need to. At dinner tonight not a one of them left a single crumb of food on their plates. Perhaps I am working too hard at this thing.
Note to self; secretly begin monitoring and recording children’s caloric intakes. Compare findings with reports published in leading health and nutrition journals. -Address anomalies with vigorous rigidity.
Regarding the wife… encourage less eating by “subtle hints.”
Location: Garage workspace; 2:45 a.m.
Well, I hit a cat today. And now I can’t sleep. It was a total accident, but still, I can’t get it out of my head. It happened right in front of some kids. And unfortunately, the little crippled girl who owned the cat. Apparently it was gift given to her by her grandmother. -Her late grandmother. The very same woman who raised the girl after she was abandoned by her parents...
She was partially blind, the girl. But I’m pretty sure she saw the whole thing, because she was standing so close. In fact, she was apparently holding the cat’s leash at the time. -For it was a seeing-eye guide cat. (Extremely rare.) The cat also had a charm collar on it, which was thrown clear and unable to be found. Apparently the inscription read, “We will always be together –Grandma.” It sounded quite breathtaking actually, as it was also diamond encrusted and made from pure platinum. The plan was to sell it one day to pay for the girl’s college tuition. -Tuition at an elite school for the blind. The only one of its kind in the world. The cat itself was partially blind too as I have learned. And amazingly, it suffered from the feline version of the very same rare eye disease that was inflicting the girl. It was undergoing experimental testing that appeared promising in finding a cure for the human strain.
-Still, I hit it anyway. I punched that cat right in the face.
How it happened was like this: I was walking down the street and heard a bunch of kids pointing and making fun of cats. So I jumped right in and bellowed, “Hey, do you know how to make a cat land on its feet? Cut off its legs, then create a pile of those legs, then throw the cat on top of that pile.” Well, just as I was roaring back to laugh I caught a glimpse of the old stink eye. It was on the face of the cat. Before I knew it I had landed a roundhouse, square on its cat jaw.
Unfortunately the stink eye was a misinterpretation on account of the cat’s glass eye. And, as the blow jerked its head to the right suddenly, the eye popped out and bounced into a storm drain. I tried to cough and make sounds like, “Hey! Blah blah blooby blah!!” as it clinked and clanked its way to the bottom of the particularly deep drain, but I still think the girl heard it. (Being blind.) Fortunately in the commotion I thought fast and, considering the outlandish prices of glass cat eyes for what is essentially a marble, took out an actual marble I had in my pocket and jammed it into place. It wasn’t a perfect fit, and truth be told made the cat’s head seem a bit distorted, but like I said, the girl was mostly blind.
Yet I can’t sleep. I keep waking up from nightmares of the one eyed cat, out there somewhere in the night watching me, with its one eye. In the distance even now I can hear a haunting meow from a stray alley cat. Or is it? My hand lifts and moves slowly to rest on the pair of brass knuckles beside me. I sit, waiting…
A bee circles a clover,
A fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea,
By the rainspout young sparrows are playing
And the snake is gold-skinned as it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the fields under their umbrellas,
A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn,
Vegetable peddlers shout in the street
And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island,
The voice of a violin lasts in the air
And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above,
As long as the bumblebee visits a rose,
As long as rosy infants are born
No one believes it is happening now.
Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
No other end of the world will there be,
No other end of the world will there be.
- by Czeslaw Milosz
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Oh yes this is about our confusing economy. Most of my life I've taken great pride in the fact that I have lived for my art. The corollary to that is, I know jack squat about investing. But I am a big fan of the NPR show "Fresh Air," and while preparing my taxes (No interest income to report!) I listened to the April 2 Broadcast entitled, Our Confusing Economy. Even for an investment-free person like myself it was eye opening.
Perplexed by the U.S. economy? You're not alone. Law professor Michael Greenberger joins Fresh Air to explain the sub-prime mortgage crisis, credit defaults, the shaky future of other types of loans and what we can expect from the U.S. financial markets. Greenberger is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and the director of the University's Center for Health and Homeland Security.
This past Sunday I read an article in teh New York Times magazine entitled, Triple A Failure.
It's about how Moody and other bond rating services contributed to the subprime mortgage meltdown by rating loans purely by statistics, rather than looking carefully at the bonds they were rating. Well, that and the fact they charged for their services so there was a conflict of interest. If you know little about mortgage or structured investments, it's a good read. And if you get the hard-copy of the magazine you can also read the cover story about Newlywed Gays.
I'm so glad I haven't had enough money to buy a house. Jesus was right. Take nothing with you. Turn around and it's gone. There, I feel better about my financial idiocy.
So, that whole wedding thing went pretty well, and here we are in Mexico on our honeymoon.
It wasn't easy getting here, I'll tell you that. No, Mindy and I both managed to contract horrible food poisoning back in the US. The entire night before our trip, Mindy was vomiting. The sickness didn't hit me until the airport. I blame the Eggs Benedict at the Multnomah Falls Lodge.
Whatever it was, it was a long and unpleasant trip. We're only starting to feel better just now.
As for Mexico, we're staying at an all-inclusive resort for a few days. There are a lot of white people being waited on hand and foot by Mexicans. So, you know, it's just like home.
So the gov'ment is handing out money in an attempt to stimulate the economy - or are they trying to stimulate our voting preferences?? don't ask me - and the money starts raining down this week.
I know this for a fact because yesterday when i logged in to my online Wachovia account, there it was. One thousand, eight hundred dollars. Thank you Uncle Sam! (My Social Security number ends in 09, and i filed direct deposit, which is why i already gots me my money). Apparently I got $600 for being alive, $600 for staying married to my wife (truth be told, i'd PAY money for that privilege), and $300 for each of my two lovely kids. Not a bad deal.
So what did I do with it? Book a flight to Bermuda? Get me a new set of Ping Irons? Walk out of Circuit City with a 56" plasma? Nope. I immediately transferred it into savings. Erica and I are fortunate enough to be living without a car payment right now, so I am trying to be proactive and save up for another one in case either of our vehicles gives up the ghost. I hope that's okay with Congress.
What about you, burnside reader? Have plans for your refund check? Thinking about using it to stimulate the economy like a good little boy or girl? Planning on burning it in protest to our government? Looking for a good cause to give it all away to?
Side note: How many pastors over the next few weeks are going to be highlighting the notion of tithing, while casually dropping references to the stimulus checks? If you consistently give to your church, will you be giving of your stimulus check also?
Location: Harbor Grove Mortuary and Funeral Home - Eugene, Oregon
The funeral of my wife’s aunt was a solemn celebration of life. The thirty or so chairs carefully aligned in the tiny chapel were filled with those loved ones who knew her best. Children, grandchildren, brothers and sisters, close friends and confidants; they all somehow instinctively sat and mourned with the same unity and quiet tranquility the deceased herself possessed in life. It was a tribute really, to the way she had impacted each and every one of them.
Directly in front of me sits a man. He is turned in his chair with a mournful glare. The man is saying something almost inaudible. “Stop talking out loud,” it might be. Across the aisle there are others, also turned; also glaring one might say in perfect unity with the man. An overweight, unattractive woman is motioning with her hands. I notice that this woman, perhaps because of, or in spite of the bloating in her neck area, nearly identically resembles the deceased even now as she lies before us. Wait, she is speaking now, “How dare you!” she appears to say, in her grief.
My very wife sitting next to me is also speaking. She is wearing an inappropriately low cut dress because she forgot about the funeral until the last minute and had been too lazy to do any laundry this week. “Shut up! What are you doing?! Stop reading aloud what you’re writing in that stupid journal!” she seems to say. I look up to meet her eyes briefly before instinctively dropping them down to her chest. “I’ll be seeing you girls later,” I think to myself slyly…
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you--
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--
although you're older--and white--
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door
white apples and the taste of stone
if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes
Location: The Southern Willamette National Forest
Woodpecker Trail; Loop 3.
The tall pines stand like imperial guards, sheltering the forest from the all-intrusive light. Try as they may, the sun beams like swords pierce through to strike the undergrowth, shocking the vegetation into frozen submission before slowly and methodically feeding it warmth and life.
A small caterpillar sprouts up onto a leaf. It seems strangely out of place here, with its exotic, almost florescent yellows and greens no doubt looking delicious to its most common predator, the Northwestern pine beetle. Still it survives, slowly moving from leaf to leaf as a means of utilizing nature’s subtle camouflage. As I bend down to take a closer look, it coils into a self-defensive ball, exposing only its hard outer shell. Leaning further, I notice that remarkably as it gets sawed in half by a steak knife the exposed sides of its innards seem to ‘glisten’ if you will. -Especially so when sprinkled with common table salt. Then, as the sharp prongs of the fork pierce the former upper half of its body, the worm appears to squirm violently before finally freezing,- almost as if in utter despair, as it is slowly, methodically, fed to a nearby pine beetle.
After finishing the entire caterpillar, the majestic pine beetle seems sluggish and content. Yet it traverses its way back to the familiar pine tree where, with renewed vigor and energy, it will work along with its ten million brothers and sisters to completely decimate the interior wood of every conifer in sight. As I stand absentmindedly picking away at some bark, I consider that in perhaps as little as ten years this whole area will be completely void of all vegetation, thus allowing for a breathtaking new Caterpillar Tractor dealership to sprout up in its place.
Dealing with establishing trust in your marriage?
Go to your spouse and tell them you were lying about something when you really weren’t.
Then, when they bring it up later say, “I never said that."
A lie about a lie. That’s called the truth, baby. Deal with it.
-This post is in no way dedicated to Jordan and Mindy.
Since Jordan is entering the land of the betrothed in a few days, I thought it would be a good idea to get a few tips and pointers from y'all, the Burnside Blog Readers. I'll offer a few suggestions here, but I'm hoping the real gems will be found in the comments section...
- if you miss the toilet when you pee, do a quick clean up before you walk away.
- never spin your wedding ring on the dinner table if you are eating at an outside restaurant near a sewer grate.
- never introduce Mindy to new friends as "This is my first wife, Mindy"
- If your wife wakes you up in the middle of the night because she's feeling frisky, don't pinch yourself. you're probably dreaming...but hey, that's a good dream. go with it.
- flowers on a random day > flowers on valentines/birthday > wrench set on valentines/birthday
- though it's tough for us guys sometimes, remember, the goal of you marriage should be "oneness" not "peace".
- never say "you look fat"
- never say "i hate you"
- never say "this chicken is drier than your awful sense of humor"
- never try to look like the perfect family. those are always the ones who end up on "48 Hours Mystery" because the wife hacked the husband to death with a grapefruit spoon.
- put her needs ahead of yours as much as you possibly can, and pray for her every day.
Burnside reader Leo Longoria sent me a nice message today, saying he was praying for Mindy and I. It meant a lot, and I figured I'd ask you, whoever you are, to give us a quick prayer of your own. As I've said before, there's a lot of transition ahead, and your prayers are so appreciated. I'm honestly not feeling much stress at all, but that might be due to denial or avoidance.
Besides me, Sports Editor Jon Adams is also getting married next week (at least I'm pretty sure it's next week), so be praying for him, as well. John Pattison will be handling the bulk of the site the next few weeks, and I probably won't be fully back into Burnside mode until I'm settled in Phoenix. I may get a few blog entries in here and there from the honeymoon in Mexico when I'm not, um, otherwise disposed.
The image above is our monogram, designed by the incomparable Korinne James (her husband, Aaron, designed the Ankeny Briefcase logo).
If somebody slips you a mickey at a bar and you awake to find yourself in a Holiday Inn bathroom lying on a bed of ice with one kidney gone...
(Because it looks as though the joke's on them.)
You're a raging alcoholic, dude. That kidney won't last six months.
The Burnside Writer’s Collective does not condone the illegal sale of kidneys.
-Especially the kidneys of alcoholics as they would face serious depreciated value on the black market.
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
- from "The Way It Is: New and Selected Poems" (1962), by William Stafford
Nothing creates an instant state of euphoria quite like treating a genital herpes outbreak. Oh, you’ve seen the commercials. People are laughing, dancing, finding true love, horseback riding on the beach... You’re sitting there thinking, man, I wish I had genital herpes. Then I could cure it and really start living.
And, while all of the above is 100% true, what people don’t realize is the biggest spreaders of herpes to the equine are horseback-riding humans in small bathing suits.
So for the horses’ sake, just be careful out there. Ya hear?
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
by William Wordsworth
before the Pennsylvania primary was in full swing.
For some reason it made me cry. Well I'm writing 18 hours a day to meet a deadline, so I'm easily unhinged. But he just looks so vulnerable. Just a guy, sitting next to some other guy, trying to get food in his mouth. There's something touching about it.
On the other hand, I would not feel the same way about picture of Hillary stuffing food in her mouth. DO NOT WANT.
If you find yourself driving alone at night along a windy, deserted highway and happen upon a dead body sprawled across the middle of the road, you should try to resist from poking at it with a stick until the cops get there.
I know. It’s hard.
Also, you shouldn’t “nudge it” a little. Yes, you should try and refrain from the “nudging.” But, if you must nudge, just do it once and be done with it. All these little nudges are a bad idea.
Another thing, don’t hide in the bushes and watch the body bounce as other cars run over it. It will only bounce well a few times anyway.
Do not put your clothes on it. -Do not then put its clothes on you and prop it up somehow with a staged, horrified look on its face as you lie sprawled out on the road where it was.
Never carry it up a nearby hill and watch as it rolls its way down. (Unless it finally comes to rest in the approximate location you originally found it.)
Do not urinate on it. Do not urinate on its pants to make it seem as though it had urinated itself prior to your arrival. Do not casually walk a few paces away and then urinate into the wind as to try and make your urination on it seem like an accident. However, if and only if you must urinate, keep it out of the eyes. This is very important. Try to at least keep most of it out of the eyes.
Finally, when the cops get there and fail to resuscitate the body, ask if you can draw the chalk outline. If they say no, immediately commence aggressive stick poking. Lord knows you’ve earned it.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.
The neighbors' dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,
and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.
When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton
while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.
- by Billy Collins
Submitted by Donald Miller
If you’re going to shoot a monkey, make sure you do it in the head, execution style. If, say you shoot them in the stomach or groin they’ll just mope around and bleed a lot. That monkey is no good for anyone. Do it quick. With a 35mm or better. Never use a shotgun. Trust me. You also might want to think about tranquilizers. Not to make him totally unconscious, but just sort of mellow. If you can somehow get the monkey to place the barrel in his mouth that would be great too. Now, remember: don’t hesitate. Just pull the trigger. You’ve thought a lot about this decision and, with a logical and sound mind decided it was what you wanted. Be aware going in that emotions can be difficult to handle and often make you question yourself in these situations. But press on. You are going to shoot this monkey today.
and I am waiting
for a rebirth of wonder
and I am waiting
for someone to really discover America
and I am waiting
for the discovery
of a new symbolic western frontier
and I am waiting
for the American Eagle
to really spread its wings
and straighten up and fly right
and I am waiting
for the Age of Anxiety
to drop dead
and I am waiting
for the war to be fought
which will make the world safe
and I am waiting
for the final withering away
of all governments
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Second Coming
and I am waiting
for a religious revival
to sweep through the state of Arizona
and I am waiting
for the Grapes of Wrath to be stored
and I am waiting
for them to prove
that God is really American
and I am waiting
to see God on television
piped’ onto church altars
if only they can find
the right channel
to tune in on
and I am waiting
for the Last Supper to be served again
with a strange new appetizer
and I am perpetually awaiting
a rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for my number to be called
and I am waiting
for the Salvation Army to take over
and I am waiting
for the meek to be blessed
and inherit the earth
without taxes and I am waiting
for forests and animals
to reclaim the earth as theirs
and I am waiting
for a way to be devised
to destroy all nationalisms
without killing anybody
and I am waiting
for linnets and planets to fall like rain
and I am waiting for lovers and weepers
to lie down together again
in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the Great Divide to ‘be crossed
and I am anxiously waiting
for the secret of eternal life to be discovered
by an obscure general practitioner
and I am waiting
for the storms of life
to be over
and I am waiting
to set sail for happiness
and I am waiting
for a reconstructed Mayflower
to reach America
with its picture story and tv rights
sold in advance to the natives
and I am waiting
for the lost music to sound again
in the Lost Continent
in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting for the day
that maketh all things clear
and I am awaiting retribution
for what America did
to Tom Sawyer
and I am waiting
for the American Boy
to take off Beauty’s clothes
and get on top of her
and I am waiting
for Alice in Wonderland
to retransmit to me
her total dream of innocence
and I am waiting
for Childe Roland to come
to the final darkest tower
and I am waiting
to grow live arms
at a final disarmament conference
in a new rebirth of wonder
I am waiting
to get some intimations
by recollecting my early childhood
and I am waiting
for the green mornings to come again
youth’s dumb green fields come back again
and I am waiting
for some strains of unpremeditated art
to shake my typewriter
and I am waiting to write
the great indelible poem
and I am waiting
for the last long careless rapture
and I am perpetually waiting
for the fleeing lovers on the Grecian Urn
to catch each other up at last
and I am waiting
perpetually and forever
a renaissance of wonder
- from "A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems" (1968) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Submitted by Stephanie Nikolopoulos
The first time I went to San Francisco, I bought a book of his poems from City Lights bookstore and read a poem at each landmark me and my friend, Alicia, visited. A few years later my sister got to meet Ferlinghetti and had him sign a book for me. Anyway, I'm pretty much obsessed with all things Beat, and there's tons of good poems out there by Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg.
For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
- from "The Complete Poems" (1981), by Anne Sexton
- Better Living Cookbook
When I think how far the onion has traveled
just to enter my stew today, I could kneel and praise
all small forgotten miracles,
crackly paper peeling on the drainboard,
pearly layers in smooth agreement,
the way knife enters onion
and onion falls apart on the chopping block,
a history revealed.
And I would never scold the onion
for causing tears.
It is right that tears fall
for something small and forgotten.
How at meal, we sit to eat,
commenting on texture of meat or herbal aroma
but never on the translucence of onion,
now limp, now divided,
or its traditionally honorable career:
For the sake of others,
- from "Yellow Glove" (1986), by Naomi Shihab Nye
Four years later, just months away from another presidential election, Berry's commentary is still vitally, somewhat depressingly relevant. The stakes are the same; only the names have changed. McCain will try to sound more and more like George W. Bush in order to win back the conservative base - but without mentioning Bush by name, so the media can continue to portray him as a straight-talking maverick. We don't yet know the Democratic nominee, but it now seems likely that, come the general election, Obama or Clinton will face a barrage of attacks similar to those orchestrated by Karl Rove and the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth in 2004.
To my way of thinking, Berry's advice that Kerry should campaign "solidly and clearly on the traditional principles of politics and religion" is still the best strategy for victory in 2008. Such a message can resonate with voters across the political and socioeconomic spectra. It has the added benefit of being the right thing to do - elevating the political discourse and promoting unity by appealing to our common heritage. (I have a strong opinion as to which Democratic candidate can best embody and embrace this message. But I will leave that discussion for another time and another place.)
Here is Wendell Berry's 2004 commentary:
Facing this year's presidential election, our people are bitterly divided. This division is perhaps as great a threat to our future as is the possibility of a second term for Mr. Bush. And so the paramount question for Sen. Kerry's campaign is how to oppose Mr. Bush effectively without so exacerbating the country's political differences as to reduce the possibility of effective government should Sen. Kerry win the election.
One answer, I believe, is to base the campaign solidly and clearly upon our traditional principles of politics and religion. (I am reluctant to say that religion ought to be a political issue in the United States, but it is unstoppably an issue in this campaign.) If the campaign is based soundly enough on principles, then it can be carried out, at least by Democrats, as a reasoned argument, and thus without sensationalizing personal and emotional differences. The further great advantage is that the Bush administration can be shown all too handily to be in violation of many of our country's traditional political and religious principles.
Our government was understood by its founders, and it is understood by many of us still, as a government of laws -- of laws based in part on the laws of God. But the Bush administration, by various arrogations of power, has led us dangerously in the direction of autocracy. A government of laws cannot pardonably ignore either the rights of its citizens or its international treaties. A lot of people now long for national officials who are constantly and strictly mindful of our Bill of Rights.
Our government has a long -- though imperfect and incomplete -- history of international cooperation, the good results of which are now seriously threatened by Mr. Bush's unilateralism and his doctrine of preemptive war.
Both our political and religious traditions instruct us that the truth makes us free. Our kind of government can govern effectively only by telling the truth, just as effective citizenship depends on knowing the truth. Official secrecy and official lies, even in a "good cause," can carry us toward tyranny. Our government is meant to conduct the public's business in public.
Traditionally we have believed, and sometimes have acted on our belief, that political democracy depends upon a significant measure of economic democracy. Since World War II we have changed rapidly from a country owned by many people to a country owned by a few. This has been explicitly the program of some administrations, including that of Mr. Bush. We need an administration that is opposed to such a program. This country should not be entirely owned and run by the great corporations.
Our federal system was conceived as a way to balance national unity with local self-determination and self-sufficiency. Terrorism has made local economic integrity more necessary than ever before. All the regions of our country are dangerously dependent on long-distance transportation. The emphasis in agriculture should now be on genetic diversity, local adaptation, and conservation of energy. We need, for a change, an agriculture policy that focuses above all on the health of the land and the economic prosperity of smaller farmers, rather than the agribusiness corporations.
Along with all the rest of the world's people, we have inherited ancient instructions for the stewardship and good husbandry of the earth, with clear warnings, now significantly verified, of the disasters that will (and already do) attend our failure. We have responded by continuing our elaborately rationalized destructions. But bad precedent is no excuse for bad behavior. The Bush attitude toward the natural (God-given) world is sacrilegious and wildly uneconomic.
The human norm, as established by Christ (and others), is love even for enemies, forgiveness, neighborliness, and peace. It is therefore troubling that members of the present administration, while making much of their commitment to Christ, are insisting on the normality of hatred, greed, revenge, and unremitting war. To make us afraid, they speak much of the willingness of our terrorist enemies to kill themselves in order to kill us, as if this were an innovation. They forget, or they would like us to forget, that our policy of nuclear defense has been suicidal from the beginning. Our increasing destructiveness of the natural world is likewise suicidal. Such desperate security and prosperity cannot be reconciled with reverence for our Creator, who endowed all humans with certain inalienable rights, including life.
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
- by Max Ehrmann. Also found on "Spock Thoughts" (1968), by Leonard Nimoy (video)
Submitted by Rebecca Agnew
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
- from "The Lost Son and Other Poems" (1948), by Theodore Roethke (audio)
Submitted by Travis Mamone:
I like the contradictions in this poem. It's a poem about being beaten up by your father, but he writes it in such a way that it sounds like a fun dance.
"HAD he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
"But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
"I shot him dead because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although
"He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
Off-hand like—just as I—
Was out of work—had sold his traps—
No other reason why.
"Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown."
- by Thomas Hardy
Submitted by Melissa Szydlowski:
I read this poem in one of my college classes. Before I read it, I never thought of war as more than country against country, right vs. wrong. It opened my eyes and thoughts to the idea that the "enemy" are no different than we are---just people. Regular people.
Anyway, his name was John Slemp, and he was a family friend of ours growing up. I've ridden snowmobiles with the guy!
Mr. Frederick Von Paulson was deathly afraid of going insane.
Yet here he was, an imaginary person, speaking to me.
I laughed at him, wildly.
If there’s one thing I hate
If there’s two things I hate
Pardon me ma’am,
how many of your children
have that lazy eye?
Strangers on the subway.
Are we really that different, you and I?
You had a wallet, and now I have it.
So yeah, Alfred J. Henneger, I guess we are.
As the rain beat against my window I thought,
if I could stop those people outside
from yelling, ‘dad let us in,’
If I had a surfboard,
I would name it “Wave Rider.”
Then, I would take it out
and fail miserably in front of my peers.
I would burn “Wave Rider”
in an abandoned garbage can to stay warm.
But with the dawn,
would come a new day.
A day when I would rise up,
stand gazing out at the ocean and say,
“You really sucked out there yesterday,
You know the people
who wear those big, funny hats?
Do not wear your
‘Dale Earnhardt was gay’ t-shirts
in their bars.
My heart leaped for joy
when I ran into my ex-fiancé,
the love of my life,
and she said, “I miss you.”
Until I realized she was saying,
“Ayeee! My shoe!!”
As I was standing on her foot.
Dana Carvey was widely-regarded and his goofy demeanor seemed family-friendly, but his boyish grin glossed over a darker side. Take, for example, this clip from one of Carvey's standup specials. The act doesn't hold up well 13 years later, but I was surprised at how much Carvey got away with. Wrapped up with inoffensive observations on musician tics, Carvey manages a garbled f-word and a bit on Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn nearly suited for The Aristocrats.
Pairing an experimental sketch comedy show with a traditional family comedy, especially one so utterly despised by critics as Home Improvement, seems absurd, an example of ignoring everything about a show's content in search of a marketing hook (in this case, Dana Carvey's celebrity).
Fortunately, our family watched Home Improvement every week. And because The Taco Bell Dana Carvey Show (as the first episode was called) kicked off mere moments after Tim had stuttered through another apology to Jill, we were there to witness history. The history didn't last long...the show was canceled six episodes in.
The opening skit, which you'll see below in a YouTube collection of the show's finest moments, involved Bill Clinton and puppies. Within minutes our family was in hysterics. There were times my dad would laugh loudly, and my brother would have a broad grin and guffaw, and there were times when my mom would look like she was alternately crying/convulsing she was laughing so hard. When I laugh hard, I can't breathe. The first episode of The Dana Carvey Show was one time when it all happened together.
My brother and I watched every one of the six episodes, but my parents backed out after the second. It was a show that toed the line for network television, featuring thinly-bleeped profanity long before it became routine, and I think my dad felt guilty enough that he and I had watched Seinfeld every Thursday from my 7th grade year on.
The Dana Carvey Show was quickly canceled. It's even more difficult to imagine it working today, where even the most critically acclaimed comedies (Arrested Development, 30 Rock and The Office) are too quickly-paced for a skit like "Grandma the Clown" to hit.
The legacy of The Dana Carvey Show isn't necessarily in the sketches. They were certainly funny, but there were plenty of misses along with the hits, and reruns of Kids in the Hall on Comedy Central were far more consistent. The legacy of those six episodes lies in the writers and actors who worked the show. A full cast list can be found here, but take a look at the writers:
- Stephen Colbert
- Steve Carrell
- Robert Smiegel
- Louis C.K.
- Charlie Kaufman (!)
- Spike Feresten
- Dave Chappelle (!!!)
I'm pretty sure I've written about the show before, so all this was an excuse to show you this clip, a collection of some of my favorite skits from the show. The line "Daddy's gonna be awful nice to you..." is one of my favorites of all time.
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?
- from "Collected Poems" (1997), by Robert Hayden
Submitted by Beth Harbaugh:
I used this poem often in my poetry unit when I taught 8th grade English. It brings up a lot of imagery and discussion about what we perceive of our parents and what we learn about them as we grow older.
Miracle's truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.
Take what's still given: in a room's rich shadow
a woman's breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news,
fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions,
the rest of your heart.
- From Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 (1995), by Adrienne Rich
"Take a load off," I'd say
"You've had a long week"
I want to buy backpacks for crack babies
Teach them E=mc2
Sing them the theme to Fat Albert
Show them the correct dosage of sugar for kick-ass Kool-Aid
Tell them their mothers' addictions
Were not predestination, were not bad luck
But just were
And they are free to be
Someone's solution instead of the symbol
Of someone's problem
I want to host a banquet
For the orphans of Gaza
The widows of Darfur
Pile the tables high with falafel
And kisra with bamia
Fill glasses with crystal water
Mugs with guhwah, chai, and goat's milk
Raise a toast to their fallen loved ones
And send them to down-filled beds
For a night of rest
Without the sound of Kalashnikovs
I want to tell them they are no longer refugees
They are Mustafa and Jamilah
And they can call someplace home again
I want to give prosthetics to the war children
Of Kabul and Mazar and Kandahar
Watch them play soccer and basketball
Their new limbs gracefully awkward
Their war dreams lessening in intensity
Their eyes losing their haunted cast
Their steps unfettered by the fear
of land mines in the sand
I want to tell them they are worth more
Than sodomy and poppy seed
That they can write their own history
I want to comfort everyone everywhere
Share and bear their joys and sorrows
Whisper with prophetic imagination
Of a new world with old roots
A melancholy tale with an uplifting end
When he and she, you and me
Can love with reckless abandon
Others more than ourselves
But today, I drive by the man
With his cardboard sign
My windows rolled up against the sunny day
A dollar bill snugly ensconced
In the folds of my wallet
And I sing with Mahalia,
His eye is on the sparrow
- by Ramón Chaparro
Submitted by John Pattison:
Ramón Chaparro is a good friend of mine - more like family, really. He is restless, a kind of vagabond poet-theologian, with a heart for the far-flung and the forgotten, and a knack for creating community wherever he goes. (I sometimes imagine that he must have a lot in common with Rich Mullins, the late singer-songwriter.) Throughout the month of April, Ramón is posting one of his poems each day on his website. "A Long Week" is my favorite so far, and not just because I know that it reflects the intelligence, sensitivity, wit, and deep wisdom of its author. The poem is just really, really good.
Poem Of The Day: "Prologue, intended for a dramatic piece of King Edward the Fourth," by William Blake
To drown the throat of war! - When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand! When the souls of the oppressed
Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand?...
When sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;
When souls are torn to ever lasting fire,
And fiends of hell rejoice upon the slain,
O who can stand? O who hath caused this?
O who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy MInisters have done it!
- from "Poetical Sketches" (1783), by William Blake
Submitted by Dave Johnson:
Poetical Sketches was published five years before his first illuminated poem and six years before his most popular work (Songs of Innocence). I love Blake because of the prophetic imagination that gave life to his populist anti-institutionalism.
Being a music writer and freelance journalist, I often end
up calculating every word that I want to type far before my
fingers hit the keys. Today, though, I wanted to write
something raw. So...here it goes. It might suck.
You know, it's a funny thing - when you change your Facebook
status to include any variation of the word 'pornography',
people start thinking you've gone straight to hell. I haven't
received so many random messages from
'out-of-the-woodworkers' and distant relatives in ages.
Regardless, my wife and I hit up the Phoenix Concert Theatre
in Toronto on Wednesday night for an evening of musical
delights. I'd never been to the Phoenix before but had heard it
referred to as 'a great and unique venue'. It was just that. It's
an old-looking place (with some really weird clown murals) but
has a lower level for general admission and an upper level
complete with plush couches and another bar. Sarah and I found
a decent lookout spot on the upper level (all the couches were
taken - blast!) and didn't even have to bump elbows or any
other body part with other concert-goers.
The scene was set.
Okkervil River was the opener. Yawn. I'm sorry, but when
your leadoff song has so many lyrics in it that the lead singer
barely has time to breathe, it can be a mood-killer. Oh yeah - and
the fact that the song is all about killing the president and shooting
him in the head doesn't help any sort of creative or original cause.
Unfortunately, there were some sound problems right from the
word 'go' with Will Sheff's acoustic guitar that let a nasty buzz
resonate from the mains. I think I need to listen to some of their
music separately because seeing them live sure didn't make me
a believer. (I realize there are some huge OR fans who read BWC
so I may be making enemies, here. So be it.)
At last, after a fairly painful 52 minute set from OR, The New Porns
took the stage. What I think I liked most about their set is that even
though Carl Newman had a few sound problems with his electric
guitar, he battled through and kept clapping and stomping his feet.
For me (and the little experience I have as a musician with my band
Graven), any sort of technical rift will tend to throw any flow for a
massive loop. Carl Newman, though, smiled and laughed his way
through it, still leading the band by stomping or clapping when his
guitar failed him. Drummer Kurt Dahle was an energetic focal point
of the show as his kit was on a raised and well-lit platform. It was
also my first time seeing Neko Case live and on stage and I was not
disappointed. Her incredibly dynamic vocal style (and passionate
tambourine playing) lit up the stage.
Overall, there was just such a massive surge of positive energy
coming from the stage that seemed to be an epidemic throughout
the whole audience. Maybe it was partly due to the agreeable weather
we've been enjoying as of late - but I'm sure it was mostly due to
the band. If it wasn't the familiar quips and jokes between members,
it was the band's orchestral vocal 4 or 5 part harmonies that sailed
the sound onward. Out of an almost 2 hour set, there were maybe
three songs I didn't know (and that's mainly because I'm not a
die-hard fan and don't own their earlier stuff) and to me, knowing the
bulk of the material at any live show makes a huge difference in the
final experience. We left the Phoenix feeling satisfied - almost as if
we needed cigars to quell our appetites.
I can't say I'm a massive New Pornogaphers fan - but I can say it was
a great show.
This is a scared time because I fear
That this is a story of a very famous tear.
And it is like the big bright stars
At wonderful, fun, and cool Mars.
And at the beach the nice shells
Ring, sing, cling, and ting like bells.
It’s a wonderful sight
Of some wonderful light.
And this sounds like a weird world.
But it is a wonderful world.
- Submitted by her mom
We flew down to Phoenix because we bought a house site unseen. We figured we'd better see it after friend-of-Burnside Dan Gibson checked the house out and said, "Well, if you're into neighborhoods where you can get meth without dealing with pesky middle men, it just might work."
We arrived at Sky Harbor International around 10:30 am. Sky Harbor is one of my favorite airports for a few reasons. First, it has a great name. Second, free wireless. Third, last time I landed at PHX, I finished the last page of A Prayer for Owen Meaney 30 seconds before the wheels touched down. Anyone who's read that book will realize how bizarrely coincidental that is.
We had some time to kill before meeting the realtor, so we figured we'd swing by for, as Dan called it, "the big reveal."
Now, I grew up on the east side of Mt. Tabor, which is a great neighborhood, but it's near the border of where SE Portland starts to turn from middle class enclaves into more depressed areas. I went to school in those areas, and worked in those areas. I've never lived in the ghetto, but I have lived in rougher neighborhoods, at least by Portland standards. At least one of my most recent residences was in the process of gentrification.
All that's to say, as we entered the area, I thought, "Well, this isn't that bad." The house was close to the hospital, the homes next door were decently kept up. The "drug house" Dan had told me about was at least two blocks away. Then we curled around the block, the houses got worse, and Mindy pointed at a group of men standing on a lawn with a burnt out '77 Chevelle. "Those men have guns! WHY DO THEY HAVE GUNS!?!?"
Fortunately, the men with the guns were plainclothes cops. Unfortunately, the men with guns were plainclothes cops busting someone a block away from our new home.
Jennifer, our realtor, arrived and took us inside. The remodel was shoddy, the rooms strange, and the backyard which seemed so idyllic in pictures was thrown together.
We canceled our offer within three minutes.
For the rest of that day and all of the next, Jennifer and Mindy's mom, Karlene, drove us back and forth across Phoenix. The city is laid out like a grid, so I got a feel for where we were quickly (thanks, Mormon city founders!). We focused on the Biltmore and Arcadia neighborhoods for their proximity to downtown, restaurant districts and Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Both nights, we stayed with Dan. He lives with his lovely wife Tara, Tara's mother, and their two kids. Dan's son, Johnathan, is some sort of cartography genius. At six years old, he's drawn a map of Riverside County in chalk on the Gibson's back patio. I showed him a map on my desktop of Portland circa 1897, and pointed at the river on the north edge. "That's the border between Oregon and Washington," I told him. "Oh, the Columbia River!" was his reply. Piper is just a few months old, and is in the 99th percentile when it comes to charm. When she wasn't sleeping, she was displaying a dizzying arsenal of adorable expressions. Mindy was going bananas. I was surprised she didn't try and nurse her.
Dan and Tara were ridiculously great hosts, and while they live a fair distance from where we were house hunting, we feel relieved to have good friends already.
Our second day, we found a place we loved. It was outside the upper edge of our price range, but we took a look anyway. The current owners hadn't moved out yet, and we started to notice they might be strangely similar to us. Two crosses were hung, along with a world map of wine regions and a wine chiller. A stack of Bibles sat on the bookshelf. They had dogs. Mindy spotted a 4D ultrasound taken recently.
Jennifer ran some comparisons that evening, and felt the price was high. We put in an offer that was in our range, and we included a letter and photo of Mindy and I. We wrote how we were starting out, too. We told them how we wanted to have a baby soon, and how we loved wine, and how we shared their faith. We told them we weren't moving alone, that we were bringing a dog and two cats. We also wrote, "If you're like us, you've built an emotional connection with your residence. As silly as it may sound, you want it to be in good hands…at least that's how we feel about our house back home."
It was a plea, of course, but it was earnest. If I was selling a home, those types of things would matter more than the price. Maybe it didn't pop immediately to mind, but I realized after we put in the offer and wrote that letter how amazing it was that the house we liked best was owned by people we could so easily relate to. I don't buy prosperity gospel, and I can be cynical, but it's times like these when it's blatantly obvious God is taking care of us.
From what we heard, the sellers initially planned on countering our offer, which could've put us out of our range, but they read our letter and looked at the comps and accepted.
We're ecstatic and thankful.
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands!
Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, García Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.
Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe?
- from "Howl and Other Poems" (1956), by Allen Ginsberg (audio)