Here’s a brief video of me reading “Wintry Mix” at the George Fox’s Singer/Songwriter Soap Box at Chico Feo on 31 January 2022. The poem is printed below.
I’m not a fan of the wan light of winter, the weakening light of day, the marrow-penetrating
wind off the river, the fallen leaves’ decay.
I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, the politician’s flipflop, the post hoc ergo propter hoc array of fallacious thinking I hear every day.
I’m not a fan of fantasy, ogres, princesses, dragons, flying carpets defying gravity, flagons containing elixirs, mages with conical caps, sages holed up in caves.
I am a fan of poetry, though, even the darkest of wintery verse, Dylan Thomas’s father’s curse, John Keats’s death lament – that shiny black hearse in reverse.
Senator Mike Fair, the carefree hypochondriac, has successfully struck a clause from cutting edge South Carolina’s not-so-new new science standards as the Modular Home State continues to lead the nation in embracing the concept of a 1st Century AD classroom.
This educational apostasyphilosophy, according to Senator Fair, will prepare students for the most profound challenge they will face in the upcoming century, i.e., avoiding an eternity of everlasting perdition, “torture without end [. . .] a fiery deluge, fed with ever-burning sulphur (sic) unconsumed,” as the 17th Century astro-physicist John Milton put it.
Here is the controversial clause in question:
Conceptual Understanding: Biological evolution occurs primarily when natural selection acts on the genetic variation in a population and changes the distribution of traits in that in that population over multiple generations.
Not so fast, says broad-minded Baptist Fair: “To teach natural selection is the answer to origins is wrong. I don’t have a problem with teaching theories. I don’t think it should be taught as fact.”
In agreement with Fair is state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, a Darwinian doubter who for some odd reason introduced forensic chemistry into Newberry College’s college curriculum when he served as president. “This has been going on in South Carolina for quite some time,” Zais noted. “We ought to teach them both sides and let students draw their own conclusions.
Actually, Dr. Zais’s idea of teaching the theory of evolution vis a vis with creation mythsscience has already been implemented in a few avant garde Upcountry independent schools in the state. Your commentator has obtained an exclusive copy of a comparison/contrast essay by a senior at Pitchfork Ben Tillman Christian Academy.
Skinner Hodges Mrs. Tammy Jean Weektee English IllI Febuary 2014 A.D.
For the six thousand years man has walked the planet
earth, they have been arguing about how this God-Created
miracle of a planet came to be. And we are not only talking
about people, that are saved, but about pagean people, too.
That being the case, it is not, we reckon, not all that
surprising that people are still arguing about this topic.
This six-weeks we have been studying two different
versions of creation. The scientific and biblical versions.
The scientific version is based on human observation, that
is often faulty, and the Biblical version is based on the
unerrant Word of God. This paper using the block method
will compare and contrast the two theories.
First, the scientific theory, which is full of holes. According
to this, out of nowhere this bigbang spit stars that cooled
and somehow or other little cells popped up on earth,
started dividing and over a ridiculous long period of time
ended up being monkeys that ended up being man. Not to
mention they haven’t found a missing link to prove any of
The Biblical theory is that the Lord created the world and
all of its creatures. This makes more sense. First, the world
did not come from nothing, which even a special education
kid could tell you makes no sense, but from the Hand of the
Almighty. Adam and Eve started out as people, not as
germs and viruses, who could walk upright in the garden
from Day 1. Add to this that this version does not come
from the faulty observations of Fallen Man but from the
Mouth of the Almighty by way of Its servant Moses.
In conclusion. We live in a free country. You’re free to
believe in evolution if you like or in the Biblical version.
The facts, though, speak for themselves.
Great job Skinner. Almost perfect, except that “Six Weeks” should be in capitols because it refers to a specific school-related period of time
In other good news, Governor Hayley is expected to sign the bill allowing patrons to bring their firearms into bars without their having to go through training or criminal background checks.
 When self-proclaimed right-thinking leftist Pointee Head questioned if Fair, a product of SC schools, could actually read, given that the above clause says nothing about “origins,” he was easily squashed by Fair’s Churchillian sally, “Hey, if I can’t read, how did I get a football scholarship to USC?”
 The “naked” this in above sentence doesn’t refer to sex education but to “not believing in science.” Dr. Zais believes students should receive abstinence only sex education and that students should not be aware that condoms even exist because sometimes letting students “see both sides” and “draw their own conclusions” can lead to eternal damnation.
In 1989, the South Carolina Fiction Project selected my story “An Invasion of Tourists” as one of twelve short stories to be published in Columbia, South Carolina’s daily newspaper, The State. The story, written in second person, dramatizes a male twenty-something’s encounter with two very strange bar patrons who seem not only foreign, but downright alien, and by alien, I mean alien in the extra-terrestrial sense:
There’s another woman, but something’s not quite right about her. In a tropical print sundress, she’s practically catatonic. Her eyes are fluorescent green, very far apart and don’t blink. Slowly, she picks up her banana daiquiri, cocks her head, and laps it up with a flickering tongue.
You stare in disbelief. She looks at you and smiles stupidly. “Hello,” she says, “how goes it, amigo?” Her voice is fresh, friendly, but somehow mechanical, like the voice on your Portuguese Made Easy records.
“Where y’all from?’
“Queue? Where’s that?”
“Just around the corner from Tri-Alpha 6.”
They’re smiling like his and hers ventriloquist dummies. You manage to muster a fake laugh as the jukebox engages. Pop-a-top, pop-a-top, pop-a-top. Reggae. Bob Marley.
“Excuse us,” they say in unison and head for the small, tiled rectangle that serves as a dance floor. Like exotic birds, they go through elaborate steps, a mirror image mating dance. Then shoulder-to- shoulder, back-to-back, butt-to-butt, they shimmy, like two people with terrible itches.
“What’s the scoop on those two?” you ask the bartender.
“Beats me,” he says, “but they sure can do the Dorsal.”
As the story progresses, the unnamed protagonist sees more and more evidence of an intergalactic incursion. For example, the lead story on the eleven o’clock news is unexplained lights hovering over cars on I-26. After a sleepless night, he drives to the television station to share his story with the anchor. There he encounters a teenager convinced he’s also seen an extraterrestrial. The kid looks crazed, so the protagonist decides to bail.
You’ve called in sick. Deservedly so. You’re shook. You came within a heartbeat of making an utter fool of yourself. You can’t believe that you’d ever fall a victim of mass hysteria. With so little sleep, your memory is even more suspect than usual. Probably her tongue wasn’t as long as it seemed yesterday. Maybe she was wearing contacts that made her eyes that color.
Maybe you’re going insane.
You head out to the beach for rest and relaxation. You’ll swim, exhaust yourself, and go home for 18 hours or so of sleep.
Food. You haven’t eaten. Food will make you feel better. So you pull into Frankie’s Place, a rundown joint on the front beach. Seated on the deck with a salt breeze blowing, you feel better already. Frank, a fat, freckled, tattooed ex-Marine brings you out a cold one.
How’s business,” you ask.
“Great,” he says. “Tourists are flocking in from everywhere.”
“Do you get many from Tri-Alpha 6,” you ask, as if he’s your pal, as if it’s an inside joke.
“What’s that? A fraternity?”
You don’t answer him.
As he waddles off, he shakes his head as if to say, “Give me a break.”
You turn to look out over the ocean, half hoping to see one flashing over the horizon, but there’s nothing, not even a cloud in the sky.
Well, brothers and sisters, yesterday I had a real-life strange encounter, though not quite as disorienting as the one in the short story.
I was walking my dog to the end of the unpaved road where I live (see above). A grey medium-sized SUV slowly made its way towards us and stopped. An elderly woman on the passenger side rolled down her window, and the driver, another grey-haired woman, leaned towards the steering wheel so I could make eye contact with both. They didn’t look like aliens from another planet but like characters in a David Lynch movie, corny and blandly friendly in a creepy, Trumanshowesque sort of way.
“We just have a question,” the passenger said in a vowel-deprived Midwestern accent.
“What’s behind these houses? Marshes?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Marshes and the Folly River.”
“A river?” the driver asked. “There’s a river back there?” Her tone was incredulous.
“Yes, ma’am, a river.”
“But what are those long things jutting out? Flat wooden things projecting outwards. It looks like you could walk on them.”
“They’re docks,” I said, somewhat taken aback, wondering what planet they were from.
“Docks!” They seemed flabbergasted.
The passenger said, “You mean you can have boats back there?”
“Yes, ma’am. It’s deep water. You could take a boat out of there and sail all the way to Lisbon, Portugal.”
The passenger said, “We’re not from around here.”
I laughed. “I’d never guess with those accents of yours.”
They were beaming.
“Where are you from?”
I mentioned going to see the Braves play at Busch stadium when my boys were young.
“We’re Cardinal fans,” they said, almost apologetically.
“No shit Sherlock,” I thought, but instead said, “I got to see Ozzie Smith do his backflip.”
They both smiled genuine smiles. They knew who Ozzie Smith was, which came as a relief.
(You may have heard that during the Battle of the Bulge, army units would quiz each other at checkpoints with baseball trivia after they learned that German spies, wearing US uniforms and speaking perfect American English, were attempting to infiltrate the lines.)
I showed them where to turn around (it’s a dead end road) and bid them goodbye. Twenty minutes later, as I was walking to Lowlife for my afternoon constitutional, they passed me without waving, puttering along about fifteen miles an hour.
When I told the tale to my pal Jeremy at Lowlife,” he said. “Haven’t they seen movies? There are docks in movies. St Louis is on the Mississippi, for chrissakes. They must have seen a dock before.”
He added, waving and nodding, “I would have said, ‘good day’ and walked away.
“Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” ― Henry Louis Gates Jr.
“[. . .] and above it the mouthing of orators, the arse-belching of preachers.” – Ezra Pound, “Canto XIV”
Okay, so we don’t want to ban AK-47s because that would be unbarring the door of tyranny. On the other hand, we don’t want our precious, delicate children exposed to depressing historical events like the Native American genocide, slavery, the Holocaust – perhaps even Sandy Hook – because the truth might make them feel uncomfortable.
I’ll tell you what made me feel uncomfortable when I was teaching: crouching under a Harkness table stifling a fart with my AP Lit students during a live shooter drill.
And, O, my Brothers and Sisters, we read many a bannable book in those AP classes.
Oedipus Rex – parricide, incest, sacrilege
The Canterbury Tales – vulgarity, profanity, nudity, plagues
Hamlet – fratricide, adultery, vulgarity, a corpse-strewn stage
Crime and Punishment – murder, prostitution, crushing poverty, alcoholism
Madame Bovary – serial adultery, suicide, insanity
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – atheism, masturbation, prostitution, adolescent rebellion
The Sound and the Fury – promiscuity, suicide, racial epithets, abject cruelty
The Song of Solomon – premarital sex, vulgar language, murder
The Hand Maid’s Tale – dystopia, sexism, theocratic cruelty
And that’s not even considering the poetry we read.
Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop
I met the Bishop on the road And much said he and I. `Those breasts are flat and fallen now Those veins must soon be dry; Live in a heavenly mansion, Not in some foul sty.’
`Fair and foul are near of kin, And fair needs foul,’ I cried. ‘My friends are gone, but that’s a truth Nor grave nor bed denied, Learned in bodily lowliness And in the heart’s pride.
`A woman can be proud and stiff When on love intent; But Love has pitched his mansion in The place of excrement; For nothing can be sole or whole That has not been rent.’
In a not so shocking development, Bob Dylan’s coming to Charleston, South Carolina, in his Never Ending Tour.
The cat’s indefatigable: March 16, Austin, March 18 Shreveport, March 19 New Orleans, March 21 Montgomery, March 23 Nashville, March 24 Atlanta, March 26 Savannah, March 27 Charleston . . . 
And the beat goes on, as they say.
I just checked the last set list from December of 2021, and if you’re planning to attend a show, I strongly suggest purchasing the album Rough and Rowdy Ways because a majority of the songs performed (at least in December of 2021) come from the album, his first album of original songs since 2012.
Here’s the first paragraph of Jon Parleles’ review in the Times:
Latter-day Bob Dylan is for die-hards. His voice is tattered and scratchy, not always bothering to trace a melody. His lyrics can be cryptic or throwaway when they’re not downright bleak. His music is adamantly old-fashioned, and he’s not aiming to ingratiate himself with anyone.
And the last:
And in “Black Rider,” a string-band ballad that tiptoes along, pausing each time Dylan takes a breath, he addresses a mysterious figure — Death, perhaps — with alternating sympathy and aggression. “Don’t turn on the charm,” he warns. “I’ll take a sword and hack off your arm.” For all he has seen and sung, on “Rough and Rowdy Ways” Dylan refuses to settle down, or to be anything like an elder statesman. He sees death looming, but he’s still in the fray.
I should add, perhaps, that his shows are for die-hards as well. Sometimes, because he has changed the melodies and his voice is indistinct, you might not recognize a song, even an iconic one like “Blowing in the Wind,” until it’s almost done.
Obviously, I’m one of the die-hards, and I’ve seen some fantastic concerts, one in Columbia, SC, in 1988, one at the North Charleston Coliseum in which he played a killer electric guitar, and my favorite, at the Orange Peel, a bar in Asheville, during the 2004 election campaign.
I’ve also seen some less than stellar shows, the worst outside at the Joe with Willie Nelson as the opening act.
But I’ve never seen one quite as bad as my pal, fellow die-harder, Jeremy Jones described to me last night at Low Life, one of Folly’s coolest spots. Anyway, I’ll let Jeremy tell it.
“The best bad Dylan I ever say was at the Saegner Theater in New Orleans. He was as drunk as a skunk. The band went into the Hendrix version of “All Along the Watch Tower,” and he stumbled to the mike and started singing “Like a Rolling Stone,” and the band was like, what the? I mean it was absolutely fantastic.”
This occurred in the Aughts, so I suspect we’ll not witness something so conjunctificated, but if we do, I’ll be smack dab in the middle of Row A in the orchestra, if Dylan and I are still among the quick, that is.
 It began 2 June 1988 and has featured 3,066 shows and counting. Of course, one day it will end, when ol’ Bob succumbs to something or another. Certainly, Keith Richards will be named one of the pallbearers.
In the halcyon days of the early century, when people asked me how long I’d lived on Folly, and I’d reply ten or fifteen – depending on the year –they’d inevitably respond, “Wow, you must have seen lots of changes.”
“Actually, not all that much on the East Side where I live,” I’d say. “There’s no sewage, so you can’t build a beach McMansion on a lot that doesn’t perk, or barely perks.”
Alas, however, that assessment predated the proliferation of Airbnbs that are popping up all over the island like irritating internet ads, infiltrating not only the commercial district but residential neighborhoods as well. The unpaved lane where our home stands, once the site of an idyllic neighborhood of mostly unmarried senior citizens, has been transformed into Little Fort Lauderdale. Houses that were zoned for one or two bedrooms now hold as many as fifteen to twenty defecators straining the unseen septic tanks over which they park their vehicles on lawns of well-tended rye.
And, when night/ Darkens the streets, then wander forth the sons /Of Belial, flown with insolence and wine.
Why rent your quaint beach cottage to a struggling musician or food and beverage worker when you can make more in three days than you would in a month by renting to bachelor party attendants or untanned wanna-be beachcombers rolling up in their exhaust-spewing Pathfinders?
I walk to the post office every weekday morning, and I’d guess seventy percent of the traffic consists of the white pick-up trucks of subcontractors, the plastic surgeons of construction, engaged in the soul-crushing transformation of gentrification.
However, it’s not really the funky real estate that makes Folly Folly; rather, it’s the long-term renters, the bartenders, cooks, and waitresses, the painters, the musicians, eking out their livings in a soulful setting.
The population of residents of Folly is in decline. Leave it to Springsteen to nail it:
Because there’s just different people coming down here now and they see things in different ways And soon everything we’ve known will just be swept away.
But look, there’s a conga line of bachelorette party weekenders! Hubbub-hubbub-bubba, swish boom Bah!
Paradise Lost, 1.500-3. Perhaps I should have titled this piece “Paradise Lost.”
. . . either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral . . .
Polonius, Hamlet, 2.2
First, as cliché demands, the good news: my novel Today, Oh Boy has been accepted for publication, which, of course, delights me. Already my mind is running riot with unreasonable aspirations. No, I’m not dreaming of PEN awards or Pulitzers. We’re talking commercial fiction here, a narrative devoid of deeper meanings, a plot concocted to distract, not to enlighten. No, I’m not rehearsing acceptance speeches but wondering who is going to play the protagonist Rusty in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation.
You know of any skinny redheaded sixteen-year-old actors with acne?
And now the potentially bad news. The publisher (who shall remain anonymous for now) has classified the novel as Young Adult. Here’s a quote from the acceptance letter:
“The characters fit nicely into their setting, embodying the south of the past and making the story stand out against a typical high school drama. The Board was keen to comment on the dynamic writing style and believes the story has the potential to excel within its genre.”
But the thing is, I wrote Today, Oh Boy for literate adults, not for tweens. Here’s a sentence from the novel describing one of the characters, AJ, who has cut school in the middle of the day and just finished smoking a joint with his dropout friend Will Waring:
“While Will has been daydreaming and tuning out his mother, Weeza has been quizzing AJ about his dismissal from school, essentially perp-walking his thoughts right out of lotus land into the dingy confines of a Raskolnikovian closet.”
Of course, I know whoever the editor might be will definitely ax “Raskolnikovian closet” because no tween or teen (or typical adult for that matter) has read Crime and Punishment and therefore won’t recognize the allusion to its agoraphobic protagonist pent up in his impoverished toilet stall of a rented room. But, hey, I like the way it sounds.Read it aloud: Rask-KOL-ni-KOV-ian closet.
And to add insult to injury, I don’t dig YA novels, have only read a handful because I taught 7th and 8th grades in my earlier teaching career. Although well-crafted, The House on Mango Street and The Giver aren’t up my alley. I’m not an admirer of To Kill a Mockingbird for that matter.
I’ll admit, though, that Today is difficult to classify. In one sense, it’s historical fiction because it takes place in a real place, Summerville, SC, in the year 1970, which in the Hula Netflix TNT USA Network Apple TV adaptation will require period clothing and vintage automobiles.
In another sense, it’s a souped-up Greek comedy sans chorus: it takes place in one day and essentially in one setting with continuous action.
It’s got a gruesome death, stolen goods, drug use, kung-fu fighting, and a highspeed chase.
So, what are we dealing with here? A historical-romance-Greek Comedy-Mystery-Action Adventure?
If it were up to me, and I was forced to ram into a sub-genre, I’d call it Pulp YA.
If I had self-published, I could have had full autonomy, but now my brainchild is under the authority of others. They say they’ll work with me, but the contract also makes it clear that they have the final say-so. Chances are Today, Oh Boywon’t be sporting the cover below when you buy it from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or better yet, from your local independent bookstore.
 I did read the Classic Illustrated version of C&P when I was ten or so and didn’t enjoy it.
. . . weeds, in wheels shoot long and lovely and lush
Hot springs’ vented vapors spew skyward
in cloudy swirling images to be carved in wood
chiseled in stone,
Zeus is on the loose,
Isis is in crisis,
Noah drunk and Jonah swallowed,
Jesus, Vishnu, Jah-Jah