An Old Man and Phish

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Last night at the Phish concert I met a young man named Will wearing a crown . We struck up a conversation on the floor of the ugliest arena this side of Vladivostok, the North Charleston Coliseum.  Will asked me how many of Phish’s shows I’d seen.  I said, “None, nada, not a fan.” Tongue in cheek, I told him that I was there in the capacity of a cultural anthropologist who studies cults.  Smiling, he asked if I would like some chemical stimulation to aide in my explorations and whipped out a small wooden box containing a white chalky worm of a substance.

“What’s that?”  I asked.

“LSD,”  he said matter-of-factly.

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In the mists of the previous century, I had dropped acid a few times, but it didn’t look like this stuff he was showing me.  Back then it came in tabs.  You put it on your tongue, and in the course of an hour, the people you didn’t particularly like appeared in your friend’s living room at a great distance, wee insignificant presences on the edge of a psychedelic horizon. To wax not very poetical, it fucked you way way up.

I declined his kind offer, and he looked genuinely disappointed.

This was King Will’s tenth show.  He had left Birmingham, Alabama, at four a.m. and driven straight to the coliseum. I had expected, from what I’d read, to see a lot more people in costumes, and there were a few sparkly capes and a couple of medieval get-ups, but all in all, an ungracious un-plenty of dress-up. The audience consisted  predominantly of white males in the mid-30s to mid-40s range.[1]  Everyone I encountered — couples strolling by, customers waiting in line for $14 Bud Lite Tallboys, audience members jostling for positions on the floor — were incredibly well-mannered.  I wish I’d kept a count of the number of excuse me(s) and sorry(s) I heard. The audience’s devotion to Phish, it seemed to me, had united them in a common ethos of let-the-good-times-roll hedonism, a communal mellowness that was quite pleasant.

Standing there in the throng of the sold-out arena, I thought of Trump rallies and the very different vibe of those mass gatherings.  I imagined the cultists coming to see Trump, feeding on the communal buzz, having somehow been dosed with some low-wattage gummy bears, and instead of Donald J stalking on stage, out comes Phish singing a cappella “Nothing Could Be Finer Than to be in Carolina in the morning,” which, in fact, was their first song. How would the MAGA folk react?  They would love it, I suspect.  Sweet harmony.

After “Carolina in the Morning,” the band cranked into their stock-and-trade, jazzy improvisational forays into eclectic genres, funk, folk country, the blues, a cocktail mix of the Dead, Santana, Frank Zappa.  Alas, I’ve never been into jam bands, the riffs outpacing my attention span, failing to hypnotize me, unlike the people up in the stands, who were swaying, smiling, singing along whenever a lyric would intrude on a solo.

It’s genuinely a phenomenon, a cult of sorts, sold-out show after sold-out show, three nights in a row, completely fresh set lists, many taking in all three performances, an orgy of good vibes. Here’s the pre-intermission set list provided by a kind extrovert.

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Me, alas, too damned cerebral, jotting down notes, my pith helmet blocking the strobe of a million-dollar lightshow, a stationary dot among the sway.


[1] I don’t recall seeing an African American among the audience.

What’s Become of All the Dear, Dead Typewriters?

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I miss the sound of the clicking-clacking typewriter keys.

My very first typewriter was an Underwood that I bought for next to nothing, a slow-motion engine whose keys would sometimes stick, freezing in midair before they could imprint a letter on the scrolled paper.  The keys were small and round and perched aloft by long metal attachments. When you hit them, they sort of catapulted through the ribbon onto the paper. At the end of a line, you had to yank a metal flange so the carriage would return to the left margin, producing a clear audible “ding.” As it turned out, the ribbon couldn’t be replaced unless I could locate a time machine, so the Underwood and I had a short-lived romance, little more than a fling.

Nevertheless, with it I composed a few very bad poems, love poems or satiric poems in tiny typeset.  Only a couple of the satiric ones survive, written in a self-invented fifteen-line rhyming stanza form I called the bonnet, in honor of my favorite bartender, Hartley Bonnet, who worked at Oliver’s Pub on Devine Street in Columbia. It was a private club, so you could drink on Sundays.  Jimmy Buffett was a member. He was dating a girl from Columbia, whom I heard he eventually married.

I think my daddy provided me with my first electric typewriter, a throw off from his business, and after banging on the Underwood, I had a hell of a time adjusting to the gentle touch that the sensitive electric model demanded.  At first, the keys would stutter when I banged them, a staccato hiccup that meant starting over, or positioning correction tape to efface my mistake, or if I had splurged and bought erasable bound paper, scrolling up, erasing the errata, repositioning the paper, and retyping. If I were writing a research paper, sometimes when I was typing a footnote, the paper would shoot out because I’d misjudged, typed past the bottom of the  page, the last couple of strokes hitting the black cylinder where the paper should be.

Here’s what a typed page looked like:

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And a close up of a correction.

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I was typing  the words to that soon-to-be abandoned novel when I lived in the Manigault House on East Bay Street, which was divided into three apartments, one upstairs and one downstairs in the main house.  The third apartment,  ours, was two stories on the back end and sported an upstairs porch overlooking the projects.

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One day, my neighbor, whose name I didn’t know, asked me if I were a writer.  “Well, sort of,”  I said, pleased to think I may have possessed an author’s aura.  “I’m working on a novel.”

He told me he could hear my typing through the walls.

When I landed a state government contract to crank out descriptions of various jobs you could get with an associate degree from the local community college, I went ahead and bought a Tandy computer and printer.  This was early, in the days before hard drives, and this contraption sported ten-inch twin disc drives.  The salesman assured me that ten-inch disc drives would be the wave of the future.  One drive accommodated a ten-inch floppy disc that contained the word processing program, the other a blank disc for your writing. The printer was sort of like a typewriter and produced clicking sounds.

When I first started teaching at Porter-Gaud, I would type out my carbon-backed report cards and feed them individually into the printer, making me way on the cutting edge of technology.

Of course, I wouldn’t go back to those lesser technologies. In fact, I could if I wanted to; an electric typewriter is languishing in my attic. On the other hand, I think something is lost by not having to retype manuscripts after editing a page by hand, which encourages polishing, and you can make editing changes too rapidly without having time to digest the alterations.  Of course, a meticulous, patient person can still edit the old way, but as this typo-plagued blog attests, I’m not that person.

Time’s winged chariot and all that jazz.

Speaking of jazz, here’s a video of the poet Eddie Cabbage accompanying some cool cats up on the porch in the upstairs Chico Feo Airbnb.

 

 

 

Beach Bum Bummer, Boomer Edition

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Caroline and I have invested/wasted time over the Thanksgiving holidays checking out two films and a flick. On Monday night, we watched an HBO documentary on the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and an experimental film called Notes on an Appearance, a slow-cut edited paean to stasis, directed by Ricky D’Ambrose, .

On the following evening, we watched the recent stoner film The Beach Bum directed by Harmony Korine and starring Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dog, Isla Fisher, and featuring Jimmy Buffett playing himself.

Here’s my amphetaminic spoiler-infused synopsis.[1]

Moondog, the eponymous beach bum, is supposedly a genius poet, though the pap he recites isn’t even, strictly speaking, verse, much less poetry.  Perpetually drunk and stoned, he divides his time cavorting with multiple sexual partners in Key West or at his obscenely rich wife’s mansion in Miami.

Despite being deemed loveable by a host of movie critics, including the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, Moondog shows up late for his daughter’s wedding, strides up to the couple taking their vows, grabs the groom’s crotch to measure his manhood, and calls him “a limp dick.”

Tee-hee.

After the ceremony, Moondog and his wife (who has been having an affair with Snoop Dog’s character Lingerie) go for a drunken drive, crash the car, and Moondog ends up a widower cut out of his late wife’s will until he publishes a significant collection of poetry.[2]

Pissed off at having his inheritance delayed and predicated on productivity, Moondog recruits a host of homeless people and trashes his daughter’s house (tee hee), which results in his going to rehab to avoid prison. At the rehab facility, he and an arsonist named Flick (get it?) become buddies.  They escape in a golf cart that somehow outraces the pursuit.

Short of money, the unlovable rogues attack and rob an old man in a mechanical wheelchair, bringing to mind A Clockwork Orange, except in that movie brutalizing an old man managed to be funny, thanks to Alex’s “Singing in the Rain” routine, whereas in The Beach Bum the assault seems simply cruel.

Moondog and the Flick split ways, and our antihero takes up with Captain Wack, who charters a swim-with-the-dolphins business.  With a family of tourists on board, including pre-pubescent children, Moondog spews vulgar sexual terms (the daughter actually puts her hands over her ears).  Despite his love for dolphins, Captain Wack can’t distinguish them from sharks, dives in to model swimming with them, and loses a foot.[3]

After copping some magic muse-like ganga from Jamaica, curtesy of Lingerie, Moondog writes what Wikipedia calls “a poetic memoir,” receives critical acclaim, and wins the Pulitzer.  Now, he can receive his inheritance, 17 millionaire dollars in cash delivered in a freshly purchased yacht.  Sailing off into the sunset, Moondog purposely sets fire to the money (which killjoy me thinks could have bought some food insecure children a Big Mac or two).  The yacht explodes; some bills rain down about a party that has gathered to celebrate the occasion.  Of course, Moondog escapes unscathed as he floats along in a dingy, one of Dionysius’s chosen.

The End.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I can love movies that thumb their cinematic noses/give double barrels to the establishment, movies like A Night at the Opera or Jean Vigot’s Zero for Conduct, and I’m okay with a dash of  gratuitous sex, but as my wife Caroline so aptly put it, the entire movie is gratuitous.

What exactly is the point? Unlike Fellini’s The Satyricon, The Beach Bum isn’t mocking Late Empire extravagance or moral turpitude; it’s celebrating it, hence the presence of that Apostle of Hedonism, the venture capitalist Jimmy Buffet, who, I understand, is  marketing “a string of Margaritaville retirement homes” where the bald and cellulite-ridden can bask in what remains of their days (and nights).

Wasting away in Margaritaville

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Here’s a spiel for you golden-agers:

“It’s always been that happy place in your mind, the spirit of adventure in your soul. It’s the state of mind when it all comes together in one of life’s perfect moments. When your mind wanders to this paradise, why not follow it home?” reads the site. “We have heard your call… Minto Communities and Margaritaville welcome you to Latitude Margaritaville!… Inspired by the legendary music and lifestyle of singer, songwriter and best-selling author Jimmy Buffett, your new home in paradise features exciting recreation, unmatched dining and FINtastic nightlife. With Minto’s 60 years of experience developing award-winning, master-planned communities and building quality homes for over 80,000 families, innovative new homes are a given.”

Perhaps if Donald Trump weren’t president, I might have been less caustic in this review, but to me, Moondog is what Trump would be like as a stoner: vulgar, narcissistic, privileged, someone whose supposed “genius” gives him license to be a perpetual asshole.  Although Moondog shares some characteristics with Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Dude of The Great Lebowski, he, unlike those sympathetic characters, is arrogant, entitled, not in the least bit clever.

That said, he only harms himself, his family, and the occasional wheelchair bound Boomer. I just happen to find Barabas of Marlowe’s farce The Jew of Malta to be much more of a hoot.

FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed—

BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
And besides, the wench is dead.


[1] Charleston’s own The City Paper pegs the plot as “hilarious misadventures” and rogerebert.com calls it a “funny, ultimately sweet movie.”

[2] Several times this not yet published collection of words is referred to as a novel, though what we get at the end is a Pulitzer winning collection of poems.  It’s almost as if the screenwriter, Mr. Korine, doesn’t know the difference.

[3] Okay, no doubt a fan of the film will note that this is a farce, that the shark fins are cardboard, that it’s not supposed to be realistic, to which I say, Moondog-style, fuck off.

 

A Series of Subtractions

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Photo credit: Caroline Tinger Moore

A Series of Subtractions

 

 

 

If you make the mistake of living too long,

old age can seem like as a series of subtractions.

 

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.

 

That romping pup you chose a flashbulb pop ago,

today, a husk headed to the vet to be put down.

 

Like the one before that and the one before that.

Jack, Sally, Bessie, Saisy, Ruskin, Milo,

 

Completing their abbreviated seven stages

right before your clear . . .  fogging . . . rheumy eyes.

 

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.

 

And the musicians and authors you’ve loved

seem to be dropping like dragonflies.

 

Foster Wallace, Zevon, Petty,

Toni Morrison, Prince, Winehouse, Reed,

 

Kaput, no longer cranking them out,

Deaf to the doo-da-doo-a-doohs of the colored girls.

 

And who in the hell are these movie stars

in the paper celebrating birthdays today?

 

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.

 

Quit your whining, boomer, time’s a-wasting,

beneath a mountain of books you haven’t read.

 

No use crying over spilt water bowls,

inevitability.

 

The trees are in their autumn beauty,

The woodland paths are dry.

 

The Death and Resurrection of Pan

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Several springs ago, I wrote about the Death of Satan, ruing his demise, fretting that without the fetters of everlasting, agonizing imprisonment, Christianity offers no concrete constraints on human misbehavior, a simple, “I’m sorry, Jesus,” sufficing to cleanse a lifetime of sadism, bigotry, predation.

Poof!  Forgiven!

 

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With Satan alive and well, imagine Josep and Idi facing the everlasting wrath of Jonathan Edwards’ or Father Arnall’s God!

First, Preacher Edwards:

Tis everlasting Wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this Fierceness and Wrath of Almighty God one Moment; but you must suffer it to all Eternity: there will be no End to this exquisite horrible Mis- ery: When you look forward, you shall see a long Forever, a boundless Duration before you, which will swallow up your Thoughts, and amaze your Soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever hav- ing any Deliverance, any End, any Mitigation, any Rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long Ages, Millions of Millions of Ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty mer- ciless Vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many Ages have actually been spent by you in this Manner, you will know that all is but a Point to what remains. So that our Punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh who can express what the State of a Soul in such Circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble faint Representation of it; ’tis inexpressible and in- conceivable: for who knows the Power of God’s Anger

Your turn Father Arnall.  Can you render “the faint representation” of eternity a little more concretely?

You have often seen the sand on the seashore. How fine are its tiny grains! And how many of those tiny little grains go to make up the small handful which a child grasps in its play. Now imagine a mountain of that sand, a million miles high, reaching from the earth to the farthest heavens, and a million miles broad, extending to remotest space, and a million miles in thickness; and imagine such an enormous mass of countless particles of sand multiplied as often as there are leaves in the forest, drops of water in the mighty ocean, feathers on birds, scales on fish, hairs on animals, atoms in the vast expanse of the air: and imagine that at the end of every million years a little bird came to that mountain and carried away in its beak a tiny grain of that sand. How many millions upon millions of centuries would pass before that bird had carried away even a square foot of that mountain, how many eons upon eons of ages before it had carried away all? Yet at the end of that immense stretch of time not even one instant of eternity could be said to have ended. At the end of all those billions and trillions of years eternity would have scarcely begun. And if that mountain rose again after it had been all carried away, and if the bird came again and carried it all away again grain by grain, and if it so rose and sank as many times as there are stars in the sky, atoms in the air, drops of water in the sea, leaves on the trees, feathers upon birds, scales upon fish, hairs upon animals, at the end of all those innumerable risings and sinkings of that immeasurably vast mountain not one single instant of eternity could be said to have ended; even then, at the end of such a period, after that eon of time the mere thought of which makes our very brain reel dizzily, eternity would scarcely have begun.

A whole long lot of misery, O my brothers and sisters!

***

When I posted “Satan Ist Tot,” it hadn’t dawned on me that Satan is Pan’s doppelgänger, hoofed and horned, half-human and half-bestial, our intermediary between the celestial and the cesspool, heaven and earth.

Perhaps one of the most curious events in the ancient world is Plutarch’s announcement of the death of Pan, which occurred during the reign of Tiberius (14-37 CE). Here’s Plutarch relating the story via Philip the Historian in On the Obsolescence of Oracles:

As for death among such beings, I have heard the words of a man who was not a fool nor an impostor. The father of Aemilianus the orator, to whom some of you have listened, was Epitherses, who lived in our town and was my teacher in grammar. He said that once upon a time in making a voyage to Italy he embarked on a ship carrying freight and many passengers. It was already evening when, near the Echinades Islands, the wind dropped, and the ship drifted near Paxi. Almost everybody was awake, and a good many had not finished their after-dinner wine. Suddenly from the island of Paxi was heard the voice of someone loudly calling Thamus, so that all were amazed. Thamus was an Egyptian pilot, Cnot known by name even to many on board. Twice he was called and made no reply, but the third time he answered; and the caller, raising his voice, said, ‘When you come opposite to Palodes, announce that Great Pan is dead.’ On hearing this, all, said Epitherses, were astounded and reasoned among themselves whether it were better to carry out the order or to refuse to meddle and let the matter go. Under the circumstances Thamus made up his mind that if there should be a breeze, he would sail past and keep quiet, but with no wind and a smooth sea about the place he would announce what he had heard. So, when he came opposite Palodes, and there was neither wind nor wave, Thamus from the stern, looking toward the land, said the words as he had heard them: ‘Great Pan is dead.’ Even before he had finished there was a great cry of lamentation, not of one person, but of many, mingled with exclamations of amazement. As many persons were on the vessel, the story was soon spread abroad in Rome, and Thamus was sent for by Tiberius Caesar. Tiberius became so convinced of the truth of the story that he caused an inquiry and investigation to be made about Pan; and the scholars, who were numerous at his court, conjectured that he was the son born of Hermes and Penelopê.”

Of course, the death of Pan coincides with the life of Jesus, and Christian philosophers have taken Plutarch’s pronouncement as the ending of the old order and the beginning of the new.

James Hillman (whose prose style I detest but whose anti-Buddhist ideas intrigue me) writes

When Pan is dead, then nature can be controlled by the will of the new God, man, modeled in the image of Prometheus or Hercules, creating from it and polluting in it without a troubled conscience.  (Hercules who cleaned up Pan’s natural world first, clubbing instinct with his willpower, does not stop to clear away the dismembered carcasses left to putrefy after his civilizing creative tasks.  He strides on to the next task, and ultimate madness).  As the human loses personal connection with personified nature and personified instinct, the image of Pan and the image of the devil merge. Pan never died, say many commentators on Plutarch; he was repressed. Therefore as suggested above, Pan still lives, and not merely in the literary imagination.  He lives in the repressed which returns, in the pathologies of instinct which assert themselves, as Roscher indicates, primarily in the nightmare and its associated erotic, demonic, and panic qualities.

Perhaps, then, Satan hasn’t actually died but merely morphed back into his prototype, Pan.  They both have served as lords of the underworld, Satan in his hell, Pan in our unconsciousnesses.  Certainly, it’s difficult to imagine Jesus smiling and nodding his haloed head as he looks upon Jonathan Edwards’ and Father’s Arnall’s visions of eternal damnation.  After all, Jesus himself supposedly comes from the primordial ooze of Mary’s stock as well as from the stars.  Part of Pan no doubt dwelt in him as well.

It’s a shame, by my heretical reckoning, that the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas didn’t make the ecclesiastical cut.  In that quizzical compendium Jesus strikes me as being much more soulful.  For example, here he is in “Saying 70”:

Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you
bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is
within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Here is Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion Princeton University:

The Gospel of Thomas also suggests that Jesus is aware of, and criticizing the views of the Kingdom of God as a time or a place that appear in the other gospels. Here Jesus says, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds will get there first. If they say ‘it’s in the ocean,’ then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known. And you will know that it is you who are the children of the living father.”

O for a rapprochement between Jesus and Pan, lamb and goat, inside and out, here and now!

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Perry Mason, a Corrupt Nation Turns Its Not Easily Entertained Eyes to You

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I grew up on Perry Mason, viewing the show with my parents virtually every Saturday night up until I was old enough to go out and create my own trouble. Until then, I enjoyed watching the virtuoso attorney leisurely handle the one case he had per week. I mean, that burly barrister was hands-on.  He’d drive around LA and its environs half the night sleuthing, make house calls galore, and be in the office the next morning alert and ready to go. Most importantly, however, he used his prodigious mind to solve each and every case in a bang-bang third act confession, all the loose ends neatly wrapped-up — ta da!

One of the pundits covering the Impeachment Inquiry evoked that great lawyer’s name, warned us not to expect the proceedings to be “Perry Mason.”  Indeed, after the first “episode” featuring Taylor and Kent, media critics complained that the proceedings lacked “pizzazz.”  No way the American public whose attention spans have been decimated by fast cut editing, screen memes, multi-tasking, and herky jerky gifs could ever focus on a series of uninspiring factual questions.

Nevertheless, Devin Nunes, who, I understand, is suing a cow, has likened at various times the proceedings to an actor’s audition, a circus, and a crusade. To be truthful, he and his shirtsleeve henchmen Jim Jordan have been the most animated performers, especially Jordan who rat-a-tats details of debunked conspiracy theories like a carnival barker, and when finished, exudes the smug, self-congratulatory demeanor of  an overconfident high school debater. Every melodrama needs a villain to hate, and from my admittedly left-of-center perspective, I find the two to be, well, for lack of a better word, deplorable.  Boo!  Hiss!

Despite Nunes’ contention that the Inquiry is tanking ratings-wise,[1] I found Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s broadcasts to be fascinating. I especially enjoyed Democratic Counsel David Goldman’s questioning of Timothy Morrison, who appeared beyond uncomfortable as he continually looked left at his lawyer to make sure what he was saying wouldn’t result in a perjury indictment. Watching him squirm, his eyes darting as if he expected some predator to swallow him at any moment, reminded me of what great literature often depicts: consistently telling the straight truth is preferable to prevarication. [2]  What a difference in demeanor between him and William Taylor, who calmly looked his questioners in the eye, answered their inquiries, and actually smiled while being assailed.

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Wednesday’s NY Times morning teaser posited three possibilities for Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony.  He could lie, plead the Fifth, or fess up. As it turns out, the episode might have been billed as The Monster Bus Show, as Ambassador Sondland flattened the upper echelon of the Trump Administration, including Mick Mulvaney, Rick Perry, Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, and that Master of Reality Television himself, Donald J Trump, who before leaving for wherever on his helicopter read from a piece of paper: “I don’t know him very well.  I have not spoken with him much.  This is not a man I know well.  He seems like a nice guy though.”

C’mon, Donald, learn your lines.  It’s so much more realistic.

For his part, at least at the beginning of the festivities, Sondland seemed calm – some have used the adjective debonair – perhaps secure in having decided to tell the truth and knowing he has millions of dollars at his disposal for securing topnotch legal counsel.

Of course, it would have been more dramatic if Trump burst into the chamber, fell to his knees, and blurted out a tearful confession like the murderers on Perry Mason.

At the end of each episode, Perry, his detective Paul Drake, and secretary Della Street huddle to explain how the case was solved.  How fun would it be to  peek in on Adam Schiff, David Goldman, and Nancy Pelosi connecting the dots in the Speaker’s office after today’s testimony

But, like I said, this is reality television, not an adaption of an Erle Stanley Gardner courtroom drama. That doesn’t mean, however, that the action necessarily lacks interest, especially given the stakes.


[1] From what I understand, television ratings don’t take into account streaming, which I suspect is how most of us viewers are accessing the proceedings.

[2] Compare Hester Prynne to Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth.

Paean to Thanksgiving

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Despite its rather depressing backstory,[1] Thanksgiving ranks as my favorite holiday.

This Thanksgiving won’t be as festive as most.  Ned’s in Germany, Harrison and Taryn will be in New York, and Brooks is flying to Seattle to spend time with her father.  However, Caroline and I will make the most of it, maybe take a road trip to check out some foliage, probably eat some turkey and trimmings with her great cook of a dad up in Awendaw.

Why Thanksgiving? Well, Easter doesn’t work if you don’t believe, and Christmas depresses me, especially since it’s more or less degenerated into an obscene potlatch whose blatant materialism obliterates the tropes of the nativity story – being born in a barn, lying in a manager, etc. – not to mention the adult Jesus’s warnings of the spiritual poverty that often accompanies wealth.

Certainly, inquisitive good little boys and girls of modest means must wonder why Santa showers rich-as-Nebuchadnezzar bully Trey Warbucks and his sister Sassy with presents whose cost eclipses the GNP of Gambia while the inquisitive good little boys of modest means end up with Chinese-manufactured trinkets that may not survive until New Year’s.

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You’re not obligated to buy anyone presents or unwrap any yourselves on Thanksgiving. The holiday is about food, family, and considering your state and contemplating the positive, which, psychologically, seems like a good idea.

***

I feel extremely fortunate to have met and married Judy Birdsong and to have begotten and reared two successful sons with her, to have found true love despite my grieving, and to have a sweet, intelligent, talented, creative stepdaughter who brightens every day.

I feel fortunate to live in a country that allows me to express myself freely and to have taught at a school that allowed me to express myself freely (including publishing  this blog without censure).  I suspect the Powers-That-Was (and Continues-to Be) might not have dug my declaration of the death of Satan,  or my call to bring the missionaries home from abroad to minister to Republican operatives, or my declaring myself a sun god whose first edict is banning bikini tops on Folly Beach – oh, wait, that’s next week’s blog’s big announcement.

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[Odd segue warning] I also feel incredibly thankful for Bob Dylan, despite his being somewhat of an asshole.  Over the years, I cannot think of any musician who has provided me with so much pleasure.  When I was a disaffected teenager, Bob supplied me with oxygen to breathe and a model to follow.  His lyrics – the imagery, sonic associations, themes – gave me strength somehow.  And let me add that I feel extremely fortunate to have caught his gig at the Orange Peel, a bar in Asheville, where Judy Birdsong and I got to stand within twenty feet of the master.

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I feel thankful for my host of friends, whom I’m not about to list for fear of omission, but you know who you are.

Let’s face it, there’s so much to be thankful for that I could fill 5,000 Gutenberg-Bible-sized journals with them.

For example, I’ve never had to give or receive the Heimlich maneuver.

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I’m thankful for not having my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother’s being convicted of witchcraft.

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I’m thankful for not being invited to Thanksgiving at John Currin’s.

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Come to think of it, that looks sort of fun.

At any rate, our blessings are indeed bountiful.  Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers!

And thank you for reading.  I really appreciate it!


[1] I.e., soon-to-be-exterminated natives helping land-grabbing religious fanatics survive the winter so they can begin the important business of drowning and hanging witches.