Friday, April 30, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
more chapturs frum crap notes

wurk has been verr busy of late to the point whar im a'gone half to wurk saturdy n sundy. me n miz bd will be over in man hattan to hep out with sumthin called new york city cares. tiz sumthin they do ever year, witch they git a bunch of volunteers to wurk together on spiffin up skools n parks n playgrounds n the lack. whenever they ast fer volunteers, we gut no choice but to add mitt how we cum from tennessee n that makes us volunteers by birth n choice bof.

innywho, i aint gut time or much energy lef fer ritin n i regret it. to cover the spot till i git thru this tuff projeck im a'runnin, i figgerd i could put in a few more chapturs frum that novel name of crap notes. i put in the furst chaptur yesterdy, so here's a few more to give ye a better idee bout it.


Crap Notes


I was born in a little boom town known as the City of Science. A few years before my birth the town was really booming: There was a war on — the son of the war to end all wars — and it was decided that America needed a boom to end all booms. Where else could America turn but the City of Science?

My little home town came through with flying colors. Before long America had the boom she needed: the Atom Boom. This has been followed by several other booms. The Hydrogen Boom. The Cobalt Boom. And now, the Neutron Boom. If I understand it correctly, this last boom is the most insidious. It kills its victims with radiation. The death may take as long as two weeks. I believe the victim really dies of bloody diarrhea.

Which only goes to prove the wisdom of replacing alchemy with science: Instead of transmuting the base metals (man) into gold (something divine), we can turn him into a dying pile of bloody crap. Is it any wonder I am mentally constipated?

But I digress . . . I was born during the last whimpers of another famous boom: the Baby Boom. That, in itself, is in no way unusual since my generation is the largest America has yet seen. What is unusual is that I happened to be born at the junction of two booms: the Baby Boom and the Boom of Technology, vibrations of which still have our little town shook up.

Now what exactly was the result of such explosive timing? Well, to begin with, there were many babies being born in the City of Science all at the same time. And the hospital officials in the City of Science, being so greatly affected by the general mood of experimentation and efficiency, for which the town was even then known, decided an efficient and experimental method for coping with these babies was necessary. So they built a sterile environment made up of small cubicles. One baby was assigned to each cubicle. Since people are known to be filthy — and what I'm doing right now (other than writing) is the ultimate proof of this — it was decided that the babies born at this time in the City of Science would not be infected by human hands. Instead they would be placed into their sterile cubicles and administered vicariously by nurses using technology developed to handle the crap (uranium) from which the aforementioned booms were made: mechanical hands.

In other words, after managing to make our way into this world, we were immediately treated with the same deference usually reserved for radioactive materials. We were not held. We were not touched. We were fed bottles by mechanical hands. We were changed by mechanical hands. We were watched by mechanical eyes and monitored by mechanical ears. This insanity went on, so I understand, until some of the babies began dying, for no known scientific reason.

What a blow to the hospital officials in the City of Science! Mother could not (yet) be replaced with a machine.

While I was a baby, however, the mechanical substitute was still held in high regard. As far as I can tell, I spent the first week or two of my life — during which my mother was recovering from the drugs given her to help her through labor — being mothered by a machine.

What a conception! What a grand design . . .

Perhaps I am making much ado over nothing, but the details of the first few days of my life have always bothered me. My basic character was molded during these few days. Why else would I feel such a deep revulsion toward my own mother? Why else would I find it almost impossible to hug her or to tell her I love her?

Ach! Just writing about it bugs me. Just to imagine hugging her bugs me.

And notice one other thing: I feel right at home programming our computer. I am the mechanical designer. Sometimes I feel like a mechanical monster.

Ah . . . another boom! Crap has landed. One small crap for mankind . . .

Yes, the City of Science is still with me and I with it. There I was born, fashioned of its materials and experiments, programmed for its purposes . . . and sometimes it is only my crap that reminds me I'm alive.



I wonder if I should tell you about Tracy yet? I must admit the prospect of dedicating words to that lovely lady fills me with excitement (excrement?). Coming as I just have from her unmerciful teasing . . . perhaps I could describe the girl?

Her hair reddish brown, cascading into curls and splashing onto her shoulders, her eyes grey-green, her legs long and her breasts small, her smile sarcastic and her nose too long and quite crooked, her voice soft and her thoughts sweet, but not too deep . . .

This can't go on . . .

My system fails when it processes her data.

I'll never forget my first meeting with her. It was nearly three years ago. I'd been working here at the Onion for about three or four months. (I must call this place "The Onion" in order to preserve its anonymity. I have no quarrel with my employers and wish to avoid discrediting them with any shortsighted remarks I may make.)

At that time I worked down on the floor as an operator. I was a member of the hourly caste. My job was simple. At the beginning of the shift I assumed my position near an assembly line. There I was treated every two minutes to twenty "units" — which I dare not describe for security reasons (after all, I am "Q" cleared) — which I was responsible for placing into a certain machine which would subtly alter and improve the "units" before dropping them into a box. The line had been timed to run at just the capacity of the average worker. Woe be unto him who works either too fast or two slow. Twice per shift the box reached its capacity and was replaced by an empty.

This position was known as the Whipping Post. I earned the position for the obvious reason: I wore a beard. Never in the thirty years that the older operators and the foremen had worked at the Onion had anyone had the audacity to wear a beard. So great was my offense that my punishment lasted the entire six months I spent "on the floor."

In order to prove I had developed a sense of the ironic, I shaved my beard after being promoted over the heads of my fellow shift workers. This irony deepened when I learned that Ralph had spotted first my beard, then my mathematical gifts.

"I knew you not like all those other white people," he told me over coffee, months after bringing me upstairs. "You a radical."


"Don't thank me," he answered. "I just knew how easy it is to control the mind of a radical white man."

Don't misunderstand me: My spot at the Whipping Post was not the worst spot in the plant to work. I could have been sitting on Hell's corner — the spot where the "units" were loaded onto the line, a miserably hot location — except that another deviant had seniority over me (at least, that is, in the eyes of our foreman): He was black. He'd been sitting on Hell's Corner for nine months when I arrived and had never even worked his way up to the Whipping Post. I guess one's complexion has precedence over one's facial hair style.

The Whipping Post had one advantage. There, according to the dictates of a thirty year old tradition, new employees began their operator training. While training the new operator, the older one could sit back, relax, chat with whomever was being trained, go to the john at will, you name it.

It was only during the few days of training that the operator sentenced to the Whipping Post received any respect from his fellow shift workers. That respect came in the form of envy and was expressed by cutting but playful remarks, such as "Eat my meat, Hippy," or "Lick my ass, Faggot."

To my great good fortune, therefore, when Tracy came through to be trained, the operator chained to the Whipping Post was yours truly. As always, rumors describing several different people preceded the appearance of the one girl who actually had been hired. The reports I'd heard were so varied and poorly expressed that I was genuinely surprised when Tracy turned out to be just a beautiful red head who'd spent several years of her life working in a hosiery mill. I'd been warned to expect a blonde or a brunette, a stripper and/or a divorcee, a short man, a black preacher, or even a hippy. No one mentioned a beautiful red head.

Her arrival cut short the more imaginative rumors, but her training under my close supervision sparked a whole new set of rumors which, sadly, were untrue. They've persisted in making the rounds of the everpresent grapevine, but they still are, most unfortunately, totally false. (Iam working on the problem, believe me — she's such a delightful creature.)

At any rate, shortly after her materialization redirected and redesigned the rumors which give most of the operators something to put into their minds and mouths, her training began.

At first her serious silence unnerved me. I'd show her how to push the "unit" into the machine, suggest she copy me, and try to begin a small conversation.

No way, José.

She'd mash her lips together, wrinkle her brow, and try to push the next "unit" into the machine. Again and again I tried to bring up some subject about which we could converse, but she was too serious about her work. I learned later that she'd spent several years doing piecework at the mill and that neither her financial situation nor her bosses would allow idle conversation. So I gave it up. After assuring myself that she could handle the line, I began taking advantage of the freedom associated with operator training.

After lunch, however, her serious silence broke into an even more serious — and remarkably aggressive — conversation.

When we got back to the line, I stuffed a couple of sets while she got herself ready in the ladies room. I've never understood the necessity of fixing one's face before engaging in physical labor, but every woman who has ever operated here at the Onion has felt the need of a short repair of the mask before resuming her work.

When Tracy emerged from the ladies room — and her efforts to beautify herself did have stunning results — she waltzed over to the Whipping Post, stopped about six inches from my nose, and said,

"I'll bet you beat your wife. Has anyone ever told you you look like Rasputin?"

She'd leaned forward to deliver these mysterious lines, and in so doing, she allowed me to detect with utmost certainty that she wore no bra beneath her baggy overalls.

Needless to say, I was struck dumb.

She wrinkled her crooked nose, smiled her sarcastic smile, took the "units" from my hand and began stuffing them into the machine like an operator with thirty years of experience.

I searched my startled mind for something to say and several times grabbed breath and opened my mouth, but no words came out. Finally I surrendered to silence and leaned back against the line to watch her work. After she finished stuffing the last "unit" of one particular set, she turned, faced me directly, and again leaned forward, as if to speak.

Oops. Suddenly I realized I'd let my eyes wander back into her baggy overalls to gather data from the sight of her small and terribly ripe looking little breasts. She straightened up and laughed.

"You men are all alike. I hope you got a good look at the lumps of flesh that seem to fascinate you so. It's your last."

I could feel the blood rushing to my face. Rarely have I ever been so embarrassed. I needed a hole to crawl into, some place to hide.

And you know what I did?

That's right. I excused myself and headed for the crapper.



Ach and ach ach!

Already these notes are proving their worth by revealing portions of my character of which I was largely unaware. To wit: I've already let loose several thoughts about Tracy — for whom I reserve a deep and abiding infatuation — but I have yet even to name my wife. A meaning lurks within the refuse of these words and their strange order.

If the emotion which we commonly refer to as "love" existed, then I would admit I "love" my wife. Why, then, have I launched into an account of my first meeting with Tracy before even mentioning my wife's name? Could it be that I have gazed too deeply into "love" and its various, fleshly objects? Could it be that "love" is just a nasty little habit, nothing more?

Perhaps I try to capture Tracy with my trap of words because I know there is no such thing as "love." Tracy's as good an object as any. So is my wife, but Tracy doesn't put me to sleep with habitual affection.

Still, there is something to be dealt with here: I owe you a few words about Anna, my wife, the life I in-habit.

Never fear: I will return to Tracy (who teases me) after I've explained the amazingly complex set of coincidences that led to my marrying Anna (who "loves" me).

That story will have to wait until my next crap, however, since this one has been a short, one-grunt effort.



The series of coincidences to which I alluded during yesterday's crap began, I am convinced, with my early nursing by the mechanical hands of the City of Science. From that point forward, my independence from my natural mother — or, for that matter, from all things natural — began asserting itself. This assertion of independence assumed its most basic form: running away.

This fact should not be underestimated since my behavior provided me with a very important clue to this whole mystery: to accomplish anything of any worth or significance, one must be able to stand alone. You will see how important this concept is a little bit later . . .

Believe it or not, I ran away from home for the first time when I was two years old. Here's how it happened.

My father was a special agent with the FBI when I was born. He was assigned the task of watching the Communists. This in itself requires a word of explanation.

As everyone surely knows by now, the boom to end all booms, which, like yours truly, was born in the City of Science, caused quite a bit of excitement when it actually worked in a wartime setting. Not only did it spawn excitement, but it caused no small amount of well-deserved International Envy — especially in Russia! — when it proved its super powers by demolishing a city in a single boom. It was, indeed, the boom heard round the world, and nowhere was it heard more clearly than in Moscow. The people in Moscow — our enemies (we always reserve the right to name our own enemies), the Communists — decided that they, too, must have a boom equal to our boom. I guess they tried to make one, and I know, from what my father tells me, they tried to steal ours.

The people in Washington, therefore, decided to watch very carefully all of the people from Moscow who might be after the secret of the boom. Though I was too young to understand it at the time, I now know that these shenanigans kept the world on edge for several years after the son of the war to end all wars had ended. At any rate, my father was one of the chosen watchers.

The people from Moscow were very clever according to the people in Washington. After being watched by any given FBI man for as long as a couple of years, they'd catch on to the fact that they were being watched by the given FBI man. (I know it all sounds terribly complicated, but that's just the way things are when you're fooling around with big booms.) Since my dad had been watching the Communists in and around the City of Science for two years by the time I was born, he had to be sent elsewhere to watch other enemas . . . excuse me, enemies.

Are you confused? Good. You see, these booms are extremely confusing by their very nature. They can drive you to the very brink . . . of insanity . . . or something. Add this to the clever stupidity of our friends and our enemies and everyone ends up watching everyone else and suspecting each other of everything.

At any rate, it was decided by someone to whom my father could not appeal directly that he would have to leave off watching the Communists in and around the City of Science and move to Chicago. As luck would have it, we had plenty of enemies in Chicago who needed watching also.

My mother had nearly turned twenty by the time I entered upon the scene. She'd spent most of her life barefooted and barely fed in the hills of East Tennessee. When she and my father met, she presented him with her tale of woe and a bill from a shoe store. This played the part of her dowry. As far as I can determine, Dad has yet to pay off the bills my mother has run up over the years in her attempts to keep her feet (and body) covered and our bellies full.

My mother just couldn't adapt to Chicago. My brother Arty was born a little over a year after I was, and since each of us was hyperactive, we quickly drove her mad. My earliest memories of my mother are those of her rages. She felt that her chief duty to her husband and children was to keep the house spotlessly clean. Arty and I proved uncooperative in this venture, provoking the strangest response in her: When driven to the limit by our messes, she would empty drawers, hampers and garbage all over the apartment. I can see her now, screaming, red-faced, hunched over a laundry hamper, tossing item after item over her head as she made her various points concerning her peculiar and unfortunate fate.

All of which frightened me into leaving home at the age of two, taking along nothing more than a neighbor's tricycle.

Of course, I didn't get far. But I began to feel certain of one thing: What I desired most of all was to be alone in the world.

I would say more, but I finished my crap around the time I wrote of us moving to Chicago and my legs are falling asleep.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
furst chaptur of that novel name of crap notes

whenever me n emily wuz thankin bout whut we wuz a'gone do once we gut back home frum west germany, twuz all bout her needin to finish her masters. i dint know whut kinda job ye could git in 1980 with a degree in college skolars with a emfasis on flossofy, so i figgerd twood be bes to study english. the nice thang bout gittin a masters is how they wont ye to read everthang in 'the canon,' witch they mean the wurks of literchur thats been deecided are grate fer sum reason. bein as how i still had the dream of makin my livin by ritin, i figgerd twood be good to study literchur sos i could git a idee bout whut the competishun wuz up to.

i hate to put it thataway, but the plane fack is, all these thangs is competishun. twuz true bout the group, once it gut a'goin n purty much deefined grad skool fer me. i dint real eyes how i had sum add vantages, mosly thangs i dint thank wuz add vantages lack bein older n havin 'wasted' a year in west germany studyin a nuff flossofy to know i dint wonta spend my life trine to be no flossofer or even in havin writ a novel i cunsidderd a failyer on a counta how it dint git published by the one publisher (name of alfred a. knopf) i had sent it to.

one day in that literary research class whenever we wuz larnin bout them computers, sumbidy sed that she had give up on ritin on a counta how she figgerd them that kin rite duz n them that caint teaches ritin. i sed sumthin bout how i figgerd a bidy could do bofem. everbidy sed ifn that wuz true, whar wuz my novel? i ast did that mean they wonted to read it. turnt out they wonted to show how i wuz all talk, but i lugged in a box of paper that wuz the novel at that point n folks wuz amazed by sumthin they hadnt never read.

so whenever the group gut started, i tride ritin stories n rote two or three badns witch i aint even willin to put in here (lease not yet). then sumbidy ast my why dint i read my novel to the group? that turnt out to be a lucky questchun on a counta how it turnt into the thang folks wuz a'cummin back to hear. yer short story has its beginnin, middle n end all in one readin, but yer novel kin leeve folks wontin to hear whut happens nex. so i gut in the habit of readin a chaptur or two ever week n since sumtimes folks wonted to here a lil more, i gut in the habit of being the las to read n fer sum reason, folks figerd this ment i wuz the leader of the group, witch that gut to be trublesum, as i hope to splain by n by.

innywho, i figgerd twood be a lil hepful ifn ye gut a idee whut crap notes wuz lack, so heres the furst chaptur. ye kin see how i wuz yer knowtall undergrad flossofy stoodent, speshly how the beginnin is a sorta pairdy of aristotles metaphysics.

Crap Notes


All men by nature desire to crap. An indication of this is the revulsion we feel when confronted with our own private matter; for even apart from its uselessness we hate it for itself; and above all we hate its smell. For not only when we have great actions to perform in life, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer not having to smell crap (one might say) to almost anything else. The reason is that smelling our personal waste makes us sick and brings to mind what rotting, temporary beings we really are. And we desire to crap so much because we think we can thus rid ourselves of our imperfections, crap included.

At this very moment, in fact, I am sitting on the crapper I habitually use — the one located right outside of the computer room — and I am crapping. While doing so I am making this note. Why in the world, the repulsed reader may wonder, would I do such a thing?

To begin with, I feel the crap has received a bad rap. If my high school biology teacher can be trusted, everyone must crap in order to live. For some reason, however, most everyone acts as if this were not the case. Everyone is embarrassed by having to eliminate waste. It's considered poor taste to discuss the consistency of one's stool or its length or the thoughts which floated through one's mind as one struggled to relieve oneself of one's smelly burden. Why is this so? We all crap. I sometimes wonder if that's all we have in common.

Let me tell you brother: I understand your crap. I, too, am faced with the disgusting task of finding a place for my crap.

The second reason I am making notes while I crap has to do with a strange problem I've noticed about myself. I am becoming constipated with various thoughts, ideas, images and other bits of mental crap. One load in particular begs for its freedom. I suppose it's only natural, but it's something my high school biology teacher never mentioned. I mean, in regard to the better known physical crap, one can understand that the body, having filled itself beyond capacity with various types of food, must eliminate that part of the food that it cannot use. But what happens to the mind after having loaded itself with all kinds of impressions: Shouldn't it have to eliminate the part of those impressions it cannot use?

So I decided to give my mind a place to dump its unwanted load. I further reasoned that, metaphorically speaking, there could be no better time or more fitting mental and physical posture than that I assume while crapping to relax the mental sphincters which tightly hold in the crap of my mental life.

Thus, here I am, straining to relieve my body and my mind of their wastes.

There's a third reason I chose this mode — or should I say, this commode? — for making my notes. Having carefully surveyed the day to day routine in which I am irrevocably stuck, I realize that only during those times I am taking a crap am I truly alone. Only then can I expect any real privacy.

Thinking further about this, I realized something very amazing about the crap. Though it is universally despised and hidden, the act of crapping is universally respected. No matter what may be going on, no matter how important one's presence in a given place at a given time may be, if one needs to crap, one is immediately excused.

Just the other day, for instance, my boss Ralph was hounding me for a budget. Since I once upon a time wrote the program which computes and prints the budget, the responsibility for its execution is mine. Every fall Ralph's department begins generating budgets of every description: budgets which assume further governmental support, budgets which assume a change in administration, budgets which assume an end to governmental support, budgets which use the assumptions of the previous fiscal year, etc. We do all of this so the big bosses can make up their minds how much money we should claim to need to keep this place operating for another year. As Ralph has pointed out many times, if it weren't for work of this petty nature, we wouldn't have any work at all.

At any rate, Ralph had given me the fourth set of final assumptions. He wanted me to plug them into the program and run off another list of expenditures. Unfortunately, however, this set of final assumptions included a new category for which my program was not designed. I had to rewrite a section, punch up the new cards and recompile the program before I could finish.

"You white people all alike," he moaned, "lazy, shif'less, no good."

I'd already stuffed my deck into the card reader before he'd started getting all upset. Nothing I could do would speed the situation up, so I took a convenient out.

"Ralph," I said, "I've got to take a crap."

"Again?" he groaned. "OK . . . I'll see you in a few minutes."

And everything was fine when I got back from the crapper.

The sacred act, the profane result: crapping. Thus I sit, combining the sacred and the profane, spilling my crap into the water and my words onto the page.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

pinions of buddy don:
flossofy at 29

ye wood thank i woodnt have no truble sittin down to rite a nuther chaptur on my novel on a counta how ifn ye put it into a reglar shaped manuscript, it cums to 850 pages or 261,000 wurds. but thang is, ever time ye sit down to rite sumthin new, tiz hard. ye half to wurk on yerself to git thangs reddy to be writ n then wurk on yerself to git ye to sit down n do the ritin.

i been verr lucky bout sum thangs, witch one of the bes habits i ever gut into wuz takin lots of notes on life n keepin a diary of thangs i wuz a'doin n a'thankin, so i gut lots of material to remind me of that time of life. but ifn ye been readin up to now, ye know thangs jes went thru a big change n i gut a hole new worl to try to create fer my readers. plane fack is, taint easy.

so i do whut lodes of riters lacks to do whenever they caint rite, witch thats to keep doin more research. sum of the basick facks is i wuz 29 in 1981 n figgerd twuz time i had dun sumthin wurthwhile, witch fer me that meant gittin published. twernt as importunt as i figgerd twuz back then. as yer a fixin to see, ifn ye keep readin, my focus at the time wuz on big questchuns n the lil ansers i wuz findin fer em. i know now i wuz lookin at the rong thangs, but tiz part of the tale to show whar i wuz then.

Thursday, February 19, 1981 9:15 AM

Although you might have begun to doubt my resolve in regard to writing my "philosophy" at the beginning of this journal section — I know, I've begun to doubt it myself — you see, at least, that something in me still holds true to promises — at any rate, I have the intention, paper, pen and time before me now.

Like most people, I suppose, I found it much easier to write an account of my beliefs of philosophy before I began studying philosophers nad religions. Now I find myself unable to think of any idea that is either new or satisfactory. Still, I have managed to gather quite a few uncomfrotable pebbles in my boots as I wandered through the verbal pathways of certain philosophers and religious texts and commentaries. You may find these nuggets of interest, though I doubt not that a few of them have changed their shapes — even broekn into pieces — since they began to be painful to me in my further aimless wanderings. Removing and shaking out my seven league boots, I'll show you what's collected there — and hope the while that I shall not long go bootless, at least in this endeavor.

To begin with, from Paul Tillich (I think it was in The Courage to Be) I got the idea that the three major issues of existence (human) are guilt, meaninglessness and death.

Everyone I've ever met has been plagued by one or another form of guilt. In every case, it seems to me, the cause had to do with one's ability to see clearly what should be done, how life should be lived, and the conflict resulting when one realizes that one cannot accomplish either comletely or well that which one agrees needs doing. For instance, religious people usually find themselves unable to live according to the dictates of their creeds. Non-religious people find themselves unable to accomplish whatever it is they deem important: writers don't write the quantity or quality desired to satisfy; musicans practise too little; teachers begin hating students, using old lectures, not rereading class assignments; workers in most jogs "good off"; parents fail their children — the list is endless.

The second major problem — meaninglessness — leaves only depression and despair if no remedy can be found. No one I've yet met can live with the idea that the world, the univers, humankind or individual lives are totally unimportant, "don't matter," or have no meaning.

Finally, death scares us all and faced directly, withouth the softening buffer of religious or philosophical theory, seems terribly, tragically hard.

From Gurdjieff I got two concepts which seem extremely valuable to me: (1) there is no such thing as a unified "I"; (2) remember yourself at all times, if possible. I also find very appealing his ideas about the Earth, Solar System, Galaxies, etc., being alive and part of what I interpret as a panentheistic God. His centers of being, particularly the physical, emotional and intellectual, seem valid to me.

Associated with Gurdjieff's ideas of "human centers," for me at least, are Kierkegaard's three levels of being or planes of existence.And I must admit that I find myself tempted and all too often able to distinguish my fellow humans as creatures living on the physical, intellectual or religious (emotional?) planes. I find his ideas of the leap of faith and the absurdity of God also very apt and useful. I look at it differently, of course, but htat fits with another of the beliefs I've collected.

That belief, if it can be so called, came to me through the German existentialists and hermeneutic philosophers. It is, paraphrase, this: that each person is rooted completely in his own Lebenswelt and must interpret all of reality, including him or herself, through the "filter" of his Lebenswelt. Which means that everyone, by necessiaty, sees a different world and a different truth. It seems to me to follow directly from this that no single "truth" can be held in more than one mind. The ideal of such a "thrught" is no more (or less) substantial than any other Platonic ideal. Thus no two people can share, exactly, religious trutht. God must appear different to every person. What appear to be inconsistencies between one and another religious belief are really only the result of different people expressing different views of God using what are essentially different languages. (See Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche).

Given the preceding paragraph's premise, Socrates' injunction to "know oneself" becomes centrally important to knowing anything. given Gurdjieff and "remember yourself," Socrates' claim that "the unexamined life is not worth living" could even be strengthened to say that "the unexamined life is not really lived" (certainly not consciously). Awake!

With Nietzsche I agree that each of us is something to be overcome, by our greater selves, by the Übermensch growing in us and, if we are lucky, destroying us. I agree that the Christian God, for the most part, is "dead" or unworthy of belief. This statement needs more qualification than I have time, means or ability to record. Basically, I mean that a vindictive God who judges humans by their beliefs rather than their being, who then sentences the humans He created to eternal torment or ecstasy, who supports or will save only a small percentage of humans at the expence of all others, who condones war, who condones an economy based upon needless poverty and inexcusable surplus wealth — in short, the God it seems to me that many "Christians" worship, is unworthy of belief. In the same paragraph, however, le me say that I find the Gospels worhty of greater believ than Nietzsche or the "Christians." I don't believe the Christ of Matthew 5-7 can or does condone such a God as I believe to be unworthy of belief and yet worshipped blindly by most of the people I have met who call themselves "Christians."

I like a morality based upon th4e goodness of creation (in imitation of God, the creator) and the evil of destruction (though both terms require definition). Basically, that which adds to humand and worldwide culture and comfort is good; that which enslaves, destroys or uses humankind and the world is evil. I refuse to define further; all I really have here is an instinct about good and evil. I've tried to put it into exact terms, but I fail every time.

I like the Hindu notion of reincarnation better thanany other "answer" to or stand on death. Pythagoras convinces me I should not eat meat (though I eat it now).

I seems to me that the historical process demands the unthinkable: the synthesis of Christianity and Communism.

"All is flux." The Logos. Evertying changes all fo the times. – Heraclitus.

All is one and nothing can change. – Parmenides.

All men desire by nature to know. Aristotle.

"Habe nun, Ach!, philosophie
Juristerei und Medizin
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heiße Bemühn . . .
 . . . Und sehe daß wir nichts wissen können.
" – Goethe.

Man is the measure of all things. – Protagoras.

The proper study of man is mankind. (or is it :the proper study of mankind is man"?) – Alexander Pope.

If horses had Gods, their Gods would have tails and eat hay. Xenophon?.

I love great systems of learning and believe all have something valid in them: Astrology, Tarot, Kabala, Magick, Wicca, music, philosophy, mathematics, The New Testament, Genesis, The Awakening of Faith, Shakespeare, Geometry, Astronomy . . . four elements, four humours, computers . . .

And much, much more . . .

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
a nuther story writ fer the group

it mite seem a lil odd that im puttin all these ole stories in here, but purty soon when the group gits a'goin in that novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly, twill be a bit of a hep to refer back to these here stories. so heres a nuthern. oh, pall gies fer them that gits insulted on a counta how taint whut wood be calld palliticully correck cumpletely, but tiz as true to life as i could make it n still be ritin bout these kinda thangs.

Savage Romance

The greatest Gothic romance ever written in the American language was destroyed before it ever found a publisher. I was working the eleven seven shift at "Gus's Gas and Grab It" when I wrote it.

Gus's is located on the Oliver Springs side of the City of Science, perched at the top of the hill that leads out of town. We at Gus's catered to the vices — the legal ones — of our customers. Since vice is relentless, we remained open and well stocked around the clock.

I hadn't worked there more than three weeks before I learned to read customers every bit as well as Gus could read the cash register shift report. I'd spot a fat girl waddling in and predict without the possibility of mistake that she'd be good for a Mountain Dew and a Nutty Buddy. Or I'd see a thin man with a pot belly wearing greasy blue jeans and a John Deere cap and ring up the price of a can of Skoal and a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. Here'd come a young man sporting a gold chain that nestled in the hair of a chest bared to the button of the belly, and I knew I'd be selling a six pack of Miller Talls and a Cavalier magazine. Black dudes'd stroll in to pick up Kool cigarettes. Mothers with pale skin and pink hair curlers wearing stained white blouses and stretched out stretch pants would be good for a box of Pampers, three small jars of Gerber's and a TV Guide. Kids who couldn't see over the counter would make their dimes last by choosing three pieces of Big Bubble and two Hershey's kisses. What were they doing out so late? Same as everyone else, getting their fix.

Such predictables, of course, are not the stuff of great gothic romance. For that, the author needs inspiration, and for inspiration the author needs something irregular. During the summer I worked at "Gas and Grab It" I met four irregulars. The first of these unpredictables was Red McNeely, a thin boy with a nose that barely stood out against a background of painful looking pimples. I'll never forget the first time he came in. I watched him run his dirty fingers through his long, grease and dirt stiffened red hair, and I said to myself, here's a sure bet for a tube of Clearasil. I was wrong, obviously. To keep a case of pimples like his alive and swollen near to bursting, you've got to feed it something more substantial than medicinal cream. He knew this, of course, and went straight for a Geno's Frozen Pizza with sausage, a Boyer's Smoothie, and a small carton of Sealtest Milk. I watched him cook his pizza in the microwave, which was located at the rear of the store near the beer cooler. Even from the cash register at the other end of the store my nose could tell that he was not yet on speaking terms with soap and water.

After he'd cooked his pizza and scraped it into his mouth with a plastic fork, he paid me with a five spot and asked for his change in quarters. I quickly glanced at his right hand. Sure enough, the middle finger bore the tell tale callous. I could've kicked myself for misjudging him so completely.

"Gonna play some Ms. Pac, huh?"

"Thought I would," he grunted, brushing the quarters into his hand.

"Mind if I watch?"

"It's a free country."

I followed him back to the corner and watched as he cleared eight boards with his first man. I expressed my admiration by saying "Wow!" about ten times.

"It's nothing," he said.

"The way you play, maybe."

"Little practice is all."

After I'd watched him ring up close to two hundred thousand, I decided to get back to the register. As I turned to leave, he asked me if I'd ever played with my eyes closed.

"You must be crazy."

"Bet you five bucks I can clear two boards with my eyes closed."

"Impossible. Besides, I'd have to blindfold you if I was gonna bet."

"Suit yourself."

I ripped open a pack of Handy wipes, tied two together and wrapped them around his head.

"Only thing is, Bud, you got to tell me when to start the second board."

"If you get that far."

He did. I didn't like losing the five, so I delayed about a second after the second board began. Halfway through, I could see his pattern was busted. When he only got three blue men following his second energizer, he let go of the joy stick and slammed the glass with the flat of his hand.

"You cheated."

"No I did not."

"Well, you'll be sorry."

I was. He cleared the board anyway. When he wouldn't take the five in merchandise, I pulled out my last five and paid him.

We were fast friends after that. He showed me how to beat the machine — not only that, he showed me how to turn it on without wasting a quarter — and I treated him to his choice of dinner delights, everything from Campbell's Chunky Chicken to Pet Ritz Cherry Cobbler. It got so he'd hang around half the night, talking cars, stocking the beer cooler, even sweeping the lot.

Once he claimed to have a date and begged me into loaning him my 1969 Plymouth Satellite. I knew he couldn't have had a date, but I let him use the car anyway. He probably just wanted the car to see what it could do. Before he left, I gave him a bottle of Breck New and Improved Oily Hair Formula Shampoo, a carton of Stridex Medicated Pads, a can of Ban Roll on, an unbreakable plastic comb, and a bottle of Musk for Men.

"What's this junk for?"


"What am I supposed to do with it?"

"Use it."

"What for?"

"Don't you ever watch TV?" I asked, selecting a tube of Ultra brite and an Oral B Hard Bristle Toothbrush.

"No woman's gonna let you get near her nose until you tone down that smell a little. I'm saying it man to man."

He looked like he was gonna cry.

"Look, I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. Ain't we friends?"

"Yeah, but . . . "

"Well, I wouldn't give this stuff to just anybody."

"You wouldn't?"


"Well, what's wrong with me?"

"Nothing that a little grooming won't cure."

"Grooming? You mean, like a horse?"

"Yeah, you got it. Or a car. What'd happen to a car if you never changed the oil?"

"It'd fall apart. You'd have to sell it for junk."

"Exactly. Don't you think it's time you changed your oil?"

"Well . . . "

"Look, man, trust me, I'm an expert on women. I even wrote a book called Slave of Desire where I explained everything there is to know about women and sex, not to mention truth and love. Trust me."

"Well, maybe tomorrow."

But for his sex life, there could be no tomorrow without a bath today. Oh well, you can't tell nobody nothing.

On one of the blackest, wettest nights in July, I met my second irregular, one of the blackest, wettest men I ever saw. I'd just finished stocking the cooler and was carrying out four bright blue plastic milk crates to set next to the ice machine. What a night! If Noah had been there, he'd have set sail before dawn. I was standing next to the ice machine, watching the lightening and sheets of rain — hell, I should say quilts of rain — when I heard what sounded like a pair of dice being shaken. I turned to glimpse the whites of a pair of disembodied eyes blinking above a set of chattering white teeth. Judging from the location of these body parts, I guess their owner to be crouched down in the corner where the ice machine butted up against the wall of the store. A flash of lightening revealed a tight ball of humanity, shivering and soaked as thoroughly as a large mouth bass.

"I be movin' on soon's dis rain stop."

I watched the eyes and teeth rise to the top of the machine.

"Why don't you come in to the store and dry off?"

"I don't got no money."

"That's all right."

I led the shivering skeleton into the store and offered him a seat on top of a display of Kendall Thirty-weight. When he sat down, I noticed that his left leg was a thin as a broom handle. He wore a pair of grey work pants, a black dress shirt, and a pair of green tennis shoes. The right tennis shoe pointed straight forward, but the left was almost completely turned around, facing the motor oil. I made a point not to stare at it.

"Polio," he said.

"What's that?"

"I say my foot be crooked 'cause I had de polio."

"Oh, I hadn't noticed."

"Most folks be noticin' somethin' dat obvious."

I went back to the cash register, unloaded some pennies, counted my folding money, dropped all but thirty-five of it in the safe. I loaded the Icee machine and made some pop corn, then restocked the cigarettes. I could feel his eyes crawling all over me like a pair of ticks.

"You must be new here."

"Been here fo' days."

"Where you from?"


"Georgia. What brings you to the City of Science?"

"Training program."

"Yeah, I once tried to get into that same program."

"I spose you wasn't black enough."


"Nope. Found something better."

"I see dat."

"No, I mean, I got on at the Onion. Programmed computers."

"Sho' nuff? You be movin' up, aintcha?"

I went to get a broom and began sweeping the store. I always start at the beer cooler and work my way backwards. I'd reached about the halfway point on aisle B — paper products — when I heard a sharp squish followed by a slow scrape. I paused. There it was again. Squish. Scra a a pe. Squish. Scra a a pe.

I turned around slowly and nearly touched the nose of the skinny man with the deformed leg.

"Do they got any Salvation Army Mission in this town?"

"No. Why?"


"You hungry?"

"Ain't eat in fo' days. Don't got no money neither."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I suppose a hungry belly makes a man sarcastic."

"Sho' nuff."

I finished sweeping the aisle, pushing him ahead of me.

"What's your name anyway?"

"George. George Jackson."

"George Washington Jackson?"

"Sho' nuff. You white boys be so smart."

"I wish I could say the same for you, George. Just so happens my granddaddy was named George Washington, too. George Washington Gurley."

"Was he ever hungry?"

"Why don't you just come out and ask?"

"I don' beg from no white mens."

I later found a cat in a Dempster-Dumpster. It wasn't much more than bones and claws and fur. I offered it some milk, and it hissed at me. I named it George.

"Well what do you want me to do, George?"

"I don' beg."

"But you're hungry?"

"Ate fo' days ago just after I go off de bus. Bought me a do nut with chocolate icing with my last forty two cent."

He looked at me, his eyes wide, his mouth relaxed, not the least hint of a wrinkle on his face. He ran his tongue over his thick pink lips and rubbed his flat wide nose with the palm of his hand. Then he squished and scraped his way back to his place on the motor oil.

I finished sweeping, got the mop and bucket, mixed some Spic'n Span with cold water and began mopping.

"You a Christian?" George said, low, almost a mumble.

"I give to them that asks."

"I mop de' flo' fo' five dollar."

I dropped the mop, letting the handle bang against the floor. I stood with my hands on my hips, staring at George, who'd entwined his skinny legs together and who smiled with both his hands on his right knee. He looked straight into my eyes, no expression on his face, licking his lips.

"Will you take the five in merchandise?"

"You mean food?"


He immediately squished and scraped over to the mop. In fifteen minutes he had the floor whiter than I'd ever seen it."I spose you be wantin' me to wax, too."

"It's part of the job," I lied. Within thirty minutes he was sipping on an RC Cola, eating his third TV dinner, a Swanson's Man-sized Fried Chicken which he dumped onto the cardboard box to cook in the microwave — and the floor looked like a mirror. Once he got some food in his belly, he turned out to be a pretty nice guy. I showed him how to turn on Ms. Pac without wasting a quarter. He played until four-thirty, after which he said he had to leave.

That very same night I met my third irregular customer, a fat white man with a burr hair cut, a tattoo that claimed he had a mother, and a toothpick dangling from his tongue. I'd have guessed a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon, but we could sell no beer between the hours of three and six. He poured himself a large cup of coffee, ripped open a package of Krispy Kream Do-nuts, swallowed them whole, opened a carton of Farmbest Chocolate Milk, poured it down his throat without stopping for air, noticed a Bob's Quick Cook Cheeseburger, microwaved it, ate it, sipped on his coffee, found a used newspaper, sat down on the Kendall's thirty weight and began reading.

"Uh, excuse me, sir. That'll be four dollars and eighty-three cents."

"Put it on my tab."

"We aren't in the habit of keeping tabs."

"You'd better git into the habit soon, Son."

I picked up the telephone receiver and dialed 911. Before the policewoman who answered got my name, Toothpick walked over, opened a switch-blade knife, and stabbed it into the counter. I hung up.

"Name's Burt Henson," he said, offering his hand. I squeezed it.

"Uh, glad to meet you, Burt."

"All right. Now you got that tab straightened out?"

"Sure. Burt Henson. Four dollars and eighty-three cents."

I busied myself wiping down the counters, cleaning the glass of the pop corn machine, and reloading the soft drink cooler.

"You're new around here, aren't you Sir?"

"You talking to me?"


"Name's Burt Henson, Son, not Sir."

"You new around here, Burt?"

"Been here four days."

"Oh. You must be here for the training program."

He dropped his paper, looked out the window, then walked over towards me.

"Who you been talking to?"

"Nobody. Everybody in the City of Science knows about the training program."

"Do they now? Well let me ask you something else if you're so smart."


"Do you know where a man can go to get away from the nigger in this town?"

"Do what?"

"You heard me."

"No, I don't know any place like that."

He picked up his newspaper.

"Where you from?" I asked in my cheeriest voice.

"Mississippi. What's it to you?"

"Is it hard to get away from the nigger in Mississippi?"

"I'm here, ain't I?"

"So what's the problem?"

"They put me in a dormitory room with a scrawny little nigger. The boy's crippled!"


"But I fixed him. Make him stay out 'til Four-thirty. Always was a early riser."

Of course, you couldn't take the inspiration necessary for a great gothic romance from a bunch of losers like Red McNeely, George Washington Jackson, and Burt Henson. For that I needed my fourth irregular.

I never learned her name. She came in one evening around one-thirty. I had the store to myself. George was breaking down boxes and stuffing then into the dumpster, and Red had been gone almost a week due to a flare up of his Pacman elbow. Who cares where Burt was?

She floated, she strutted, she pranced, oh my God, she danced in wearing a pair of silky green jogging shorts, a man's white tee shirt and a pair of high heeled sandals. She browsed through the magazines while I browsed over her body. She was certainly the most beautiful woman anyone had ever imagined. What can I say about perfection except that she wore a long black shag haircut, no bra, only the barest trace of make up, a man's flimsy tee shirt with no bra, big, black, liquid eyes that would have made Bambi proud, no bra, and a pair of long legs the like of which you only see in magazines that your mother never read. I put my hand into my pocket as she brought a copy of Secret Romance to the register.

"You like romance," I said. She smiled. She winked. She walked out.

I told Red about her. I told George about her. I began using Musk for Men and Brylcreem and Ultra-brite. I watched. I waited. I dreamed wet dreams after each of her return visits.

Finally, after I'd sold her the seventh romance magazine, it hit me. What she wanted was romance. I was inspired. I wrote and wrote and wrote, giving up Ms. Pacman and trading food to get George and Red to do all the real work around the store. At last I had the first three chapters of Savage Romance ready.

As millions of American women know, having boosted the sales of Silhouette romances to obscene proportions, every good romance requires a few basic ingredients. You've got to have a tall, dark, silent strong-man whose muscles ripple and whose proud but sensitive eyes make women weak in the knees. You've got to have an innocent but inwardly strong and aggressive but in-relation-to-the-man-weak woman. They've got to be attracted to one another in spite of themselves. Finally, you've got to have mystery.

Well, I had the basic ingredients close at hand. Gregory Heathcliff, my hero, is the elemental man I knew myself to be deep down inside. Amanda Traum is an innocent young Southern lady who'd been educated at Radcliffe without losing her naivete and who is home to visit her strict and demanding parents. While there she hears a report about a naked man, a savage who's been spotted several times in and around Sunbright, which is where her strict, upright, honest but narrow minded parents live. Amanda pulls on her silky green running shorts, high heeled sandals and father's tee shirt, and goes outside to ponder the meaning of life by sighing at the stars. While there, she is kidnapped by the naked man, who drags her far into the mountains to his cave. There she learns he cannot or will not speak and owns only a knife and a notebook, which he will not let Amanda get near. She hates her woodland paradise at first, but shortly after getting carried away by the smoldering emotions that burn in her breast each time the naked man looks at her with his sky-blue eyes and then seducing him, she begins to forget the awful world she left behind. What a wonderful romance it was. It had Rousseau's noble savage, Shakespeare's Arden, Wordsworth's rude natural, Kant's very ding-an-sich, and Amanda Traum, fictional counterpart of my fourth irregular.

After she finished reading the first three chapters, she spoke to me for the first time. Move over, Mozart! Back down, Beethoven! You have met your musical master, the voice of heaven!

"Got anymore?" the voice asked.

I gave her the next three chapters — the bloodhounds, the chase, the poor crippled black boy who is falsely accused by the ignorant redneck toothpick sucker, the naked man's rescue of the innocent victim who hides in another cave, the discovery of the naked man's cave by the red headed brother of Amanda Traum, Amanda's attempts to read the notebook, her failure to do so, her decision to teach the naked man how to talk. It was only a matter of time before she was mine.

By the way, Red noticed the lady in the green shorts. And George noticed her. And Burt would have, but he didn't get up until four-thirty. George bought himself some fine clothes. Red learned how to use soap and, though it was hopeless, he began to make headway on his pimples. I wrote the final three chapters, putting Gregory and Amanda back in the Garden of Eden, so to speak. I knew I'd be in paradise when she realized I was well on my way to winning the Nobel Prize. Then she'd be sure to make me hers.

Or so I thought.

On the last night of my job, everything came to an end. She'd just come in and was browsing through the romance magazines. I was quickly proofreading the last three chapters.

In preparation for this big night, I'd lent my car to Red, as good a way as any to get him out of my hair. I'd also finally talked George into standing up to the bully and demanding to be allowed to sleep in his own bed at a decent hour. Everything was perfect.

She came over, smiled, took the chapters. I was just about to ask her what she thought when I heard somebody screaming. Out in the parking lot, Burt was chasing George. His knife was out.

"Oh that poor Negro!" she said.

"Ain't it a shame what prejudice does?"

"You've got to do something. Protect us."

"But that redneck has a knife!."

She put her hand on my wrist.

"Oh, Gregory, you must save us!"

Gregory? She knew my name?

I leapt over the counter, dashed to the door, ran out into the parking lot. Burt was slashing the air, trying to catch George, who was using his one good leg like a pogo stick, breaking every record ever made in the special Olympics. I stepped in front of Burt.

"Burt, what are you doing?"

"Killing me a nigger."

"Burt, man, that'll only get you in jail."

"You gonna try and stop me? Huh, niggerlover?"

"What do you mean, niggerlover?"

"Ain't we friends," George said, careful to keep me between him and Burt.

"Yeah, but . . . "

"Hit him!" Amanda said, "Cut the dialogue and beat the crap out of that redneck!"

"You hear that?" I said.

"Out of my way, punk," Burt answered.

The next thing I knew, I was spread out on the ground, bleeding from my nose and mouth. I didn't even try to get up, even though I could hear Amanda screaming for me to be a man and save the Negro. Then I saw her throw my last three chapters into the air.

"Somebody's got to do something!"

Burt had George cornered next to the ice machine. He cut him once, twice.

Suddenly Red came around the side of the building, saw the fight, ran over, took Burt by the collar and threw him to the ground before he could regain his balance. Then he stamped his face with both his greasy black boots. Burt groaned, unable to stand. George hopped over to Red, thanking him again and again.

"You'd better call the police," Red said, picking up Burt's knife and guarding him. Amanda avoided my eyes as I went in and dialed 911. I looked back out into the parking lot. Amanda had her arm looped through Red's. After the police finished asking their questions and drove off with Burt, Red and Amanda walked off together, her head tilted against his shoulder. He turned back to wink at me.

When Gus got in, I told him I was quitting. I didn't bother to pick up the loose sheets of my last three chapters. I'd already lost the first six chapters anyway.

Monday, April 26, 2004

pinions of buddy don:
on bein a riter

heres a lil snapshot bout ritin frum back in grad skool, witch i writ it in my diary. ye mite call this sum of the exter evidents of the thangs in life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly. tiz about ritin n whut it means to call yerself a riter. n whuts the point of it all, if inny.

Thursday, February 5, 1981 2:45 pm

This morning, after arising at 4:00 AM, showering, making myself a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper, I picked up a short biography of Robert Southey, read it and the chapter from his The Life of Horatio Lord Nelson and, finally read a number of Charles Lamb's essays, most memorably "Old China" and "The Superannuated Man." As I read about Southey and read through Lamb's essays, I experienced the strongest rush of emotion I can imagine resulting from such unexpected sources. To begin with, the short work on Southey (contained in Noyes English Romantic Poetry and Prose and written, I assume, by Noyes) mentioned his enormous industriousness and poetic output. Noyes then made the point that in spite of Southey's self-assurance about being remembered as a great poet — and he was, after all, poet laureate of England — he ceased being read in his own day and is generally conceded today to have had little or no poetic talent and to have left very little poetry worth remembering.

I could not help but blush as I read this: I fear that I may share his fate, if I share a fate that fine. I have, for instance, already filled up a box that measures 2' tall by 3' deep by 4' long with various attempts to write something of worth. As far as I can tell, with the possible exception of a passage of two here and there, I have yet to produce anything worth remembering. The telling fact, in all of this, is that I myself am unable to recognize any value in my own work. Surely if my talents were developing as I've long hoped they would, I'd be able to recognize the worth of my work by now. It all seems so vain.

Turning to Lamb's essays, especially the two I mentioned, I found my emotions being further blown about by the hot air raised in my soul (such histrionics!!). "Old China" describes the happy state just above the poverty level that makes a person appreciate the value of their material acquisitions — the pleasure resulting from the struggle, I guess you might say. This state was compared with that of a person who has it made, and the former state benefitted by the comparison. This saddened me because Emily and I are struggling to to escape the former state into the latter. Worse: "The Superannuated Man" awoke in me the kind of depression (disillusionment with life?) I first felt (or remember feeling first) when I decided I wanted to be a writer.

(I remember that moment vividly: I was in junior high school, eighth grade, I think. The moment — and the resolve arose in me in a moment — occurred as I read George Orwell's 1984 and I reached the scene in which the woman with the dark, thick eyebrows passes the hero (Winston Smith) a note that said, simply, "I love you." That moment impressed upon me most forcefully the power wielded by a novelist.)

No sooner had I made my resolution than I began to question what I'd accomplish by becoming a writer. The best I could come up with — and it depressed me greatly — was that I might inspire other to write. (I'd considered "bringing others pleasure" and "enlightening the unenlightened" and "spreading truth," but I realized then — and I still half believe it — that these goals were unreachable, really (with the exception of bringing pleasure, which goal I considered both hit and miss and easily offset by the number of readers I'd bore or irritate). As for the latter two goals, I can see there's enough such literary work in the world already to enlighten and "save" all the souls that have ever been — and few souls enlighten or save themselves by literature.) In short, I fear and suspect I'm likely to end up a superannuated man, lacking the wit and grace of a Lamb, leaving behind my pile of scribblings, unworthy even of a Southey.

Then I come here, to McClung Tower, and write about my depression over writing, and suddenly feel energetic again.  But I still can't say why I want to write. I really don't know. But I know I want to publish and live by my writing more than almost anything. (God? Emily? Children? These concerns have precedence, if any do. Or so I say . . . )

Saturday, April 24, 2004

blessins of buddy don:
evnin tastin


praze of buddy don:
best articull yet writ on them pitchers of returnin war dead

i know she's my verr own cuzin, but the simple fack is she dun writ the best articull on the topick of our boys cummin home in boxes. tiz in that blog name of second day lede. she calls it we see dead people.

Friday, April 23, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
story the group called a classick

this here story wuz writ to make the group laff, witch i figgerd twuz jus a big joke but they give me a standin ovayshun whenever i red it to em. after ye read it, mayhap ye'll agree bout how ye had to be thar to git the full effeck.

Slave of Desire

I once wrote a pornographic novel. It was an act of pure desperation. I'd spent years trying to capture truth, beauty, and the good with various clever traps of words, but I could find no market for my catch. Great literature such as I was writing simply had no place in the markets of America. I'd made a careful study of the problem by leafing through the stack of the Eye-Browser Bookstore in the City of Science, and my conclusion was inescapable -- the public wants pornography, especially if a little violence can be worked into it. Or is it that they wanted violence, especially if a little sex could be worked into it? That's it. The movies offer further proof.

This was 1974. I was working for Mars Munitions as a computer programmer at the time. This was back in the days when FORTRAN IV with a bit of BASIC and even machine language defined your life. There was no such thing as shelf software. I hated my job. I programmed a computer that monitored a process that made a substance that was combined with other substances to produce a bomb to protect America from an equitable distribution of the wealth, which as everyone knows, the communists are trying to force upon us. I shouldn't complain, though: I made $300 a week, which was big bucks in those days in the City of Science.

Not only was my job boring, however, but I had to share my office with Beverly Pierce, the ugliest woman I have ever known. She was very tall and very white with huge feet. She sweat easily, profusely, continuously. Thus her beak of a nose, from which hung a pair of glasses thicker than those my grandmother wore, often sported a drop of sweat. She carried Kleenex with her wherever she went and could be seen daubing the sweat from her brow constantly. Her huge feet also sweated, and she felt no shame in removing her shoes to air the stinkers.

Of course, true ugliness comes from within, and here Beverly shined: she had the mind of a proud Marine. She'd nailed down a master's degree in mathematics, minor in French, and she knew everything worth knowing. In her case, this meant everything you could do to, with, or about a number (she'd forgotten the French).

Our hatred for one another was, like all great affairs of the heart, instantaneous. It couldn't have been otherwise since she was a member of the Engineering Division and I was a member of Operations, and Mars Munitions, using management techniques perfected by government contractors everywhere, had assigned us to work together programming Max III, our computer. Of course, neither division could place itself under the other, so Beverly and I were "equals," which meant that neither of us would cooperate with the other in any form whatsoever.

To augment the problem, Mars had ordered our computer sans card reader, giving us instead a teletype with which to do our damage to the computer system. This meant that only one person at a time could use the computer. The other person fell back on his or her wits, devising whatever method he or she could invent to appear busy, which of course was the goal at Mars.

So, in desperation, I began writing "Slave of Desire," a piece of porn with purpose. I may as well admit that my desperation went deeper than the boredom of fighting with Beverly for use of the computer. I was desperate for sex myself, having recently separated from my wife in hopes of finding the sexual adventures and satisfaction everyone but me found all over the place. All I could find were tempters and teasers who left my balls aching (the pretty ones) of the occasional one night grease sandwich, which left my pride aching.

I need romance, sexual acrobatics, a woman who did anything a man's little heart could desire: something straight out of a letter to Penthouse magazine, that neither sweat nor leaked nor farted nor said anything about love or the future. I couldn't find her here on earth, so I invented her: Angel d'Hussey, a redhead who willingly wore gartered stockings and high-heeled shoes, painted her nails and lips and face and curled her hair, not to mention mine.

Don't get me wrong. Just because I'd turned to pornography in desperation doesn't mean that I'd given up on truth, beauty, etc. I mean my porn to have punch and to carry with it a message. A brief sketch of the bare bone of its plot will make this clear.

The main character of Slave of Desire, like the main character of most great novels, was my alter-ego. I named him Studs Longbong. The novel opened with Studs lying naked on his back, bound hand and foot and watching Angel d'Hussey doing a striptease. He was then allowed a free right hand with which he could relieve either his aching flesh or his guilty conscience by jerking at either his penis or his pen, respectively. Any of you who sat through the enormous vowel movement known as Private Matter know just what studs did: he grabbed at his pen and began scribbling his sexual autobiography, beginning with Sally Sieg, his sixth grade sweetheart, also a redhead. The trick was that Angel d'Hussey would free him only when he'd completed confessing his long list of carnal crime. The novel consisted of the notes he was making. I intended to arouse the reader and then shame the jerk for making sex cheap and disgusting by reading such filth and jacking off.

But I never got that far. In fact, you might say I got tied up with something else before I finished. I'd scribble my masterpiece as long as I could stand it while Beverly was out of the office trying to figure out how to undo what I had done to the computer so she could replace my system with hers. Then, when I knew that even a sweaty mathematician must be ready for a break or lunch, I'd close and conceal my notebook in my desk below a pile of two month old greenbar. Then I'd go to the computer to check and correct the damage Beverly had wreaked on my system.

This method worked fine for the first thirty pages of Studs Longbong's adventures with perfectly compliant junior high school girls. Then something unexpected happened.

I'd just logged onto the computer and found that, as usual, Beverly had deleted my programs and begun building hers into the system. I easily corrected the problem by halting the computer and replacing the disk memory with a copy of my system. Before rebooting the computer, I began copying my system onto the disk Beverly had nearly ruined. While the copy procedure was taking place, I decided to get a cup of coffee. This brought me back to my office early and unexpected.

My nose noticed immediately that something was wrong. Beverly was sweating more profusely than ever, and her usually red face was literally steaming. I made a cup of instant Maxwell House and, purely on instinct, pretended to be searching through old program listings. Just as I'd expected, my manuscript was missing. Beverly, as usual had not looked up from her work when I entered, and she still sat, chin resting on her hands, studying a program listing as if it contained the secret to life. My notebook peeked at me from below the listing. I grabbed one of the old listings as if it were exactly what I'd been searching for and went back to the computer room to plan my next move.

Actually, in spite of her invading my privacy so blatantly, I was rather pleased to find that Beverly had glands other than those that produce sweat. I even felt pity for her, thinking how far some people will go for sexual excitement. She probably had never seen anything like my book. It, no doubt, was the first bright spot in her long, sweat-stained life. I began immediately to plan my next chapter, Studs Longbong's next adventure. At last, I thought, I'd found an audience.

Thus Beverly and I fell into a curious pattern. I'd write a chapter of increasingly disgusting and violent sex, only to find myself with an aching groin. I'd wrap up the chapter, put the book back into its place and go to the men's room to abuse myself into ecstasy . . . or at least, relief. Then I'd watch carefully from the computer room until I saw Beverly heading for the Ladies' Lounge, which was my signal to return to my office and check my novel for new sweat stains. As careful as Beverly was with her secretions, I could usually smell, if not see and feel, evidence that she'd been into my drawers again.

I tried not to dwell on what a pathetic creature Beverly was. Imagine getting your kicks by reading pornography on the sly! She'd obviously never had a boyfriend, certainly not a lover. She was simply too disgusting. I began to feel almost like her big brother and even began to like her in a big-brotherly, keep-your-distance way. After all, I was introducing her to the real world, where people are more than numbers and obedient employees of Mars Munitions, where people do all kinds of nasty things with all kinds of nasty people while saying all kinds of nasty words.

In my efforts to entertain and shock my innocent little office mate, I invented more and more perverted scenes of lust and loin. Two women? She licked it up. Three men and one woman? Her sweat poured. Rape? Incest? Child molestation? Bestiality? Necrophilia? The pages came back drenched with sweat. Soon I could think of nothing else to write: Studs Longbong had done it to and with anybody and anything, from Jackie Kennedy to the Pope to Miss Piggy, from vacuum cleaners to egg beaters to electrical outlets. It was disgusting to imagine the kind of mind that was attracted to such filth, but there it sat, bathed in sweat and reeking of excitement, as mutely militant as the first day I'd met her.

Yes, we were still enemies. We spoke only about computers, and that we did as rarely as possible. She never once thanked me for introducing her to the X-rated world of healthy adulthood. I never once alluded, even obliquely, to my magnum opus. We ate lunch alone. We programmed the computer taking turns. We didn't even leave the office together at the end of the day.

Finally I decided to teach her a lesson. I introduced a new character into the novel: Beverly Pierce. I put Pierce through all the perverted pastimes I could devise. I made her an abject whore, replacing her tendency to sweat with the tendency to secrete the lubricant of lust. Then, having left Beverly alone with the chapter just long enough to get good and outraged, I returned to the office, slammed the door and demanded an explanation.

She wiped her brow and closed the notebook. I leaned against my desk with my hands in my pockets. She began searching through her purse. Finally she fished out a key, stuffed my manuscript into her desk drawer and locked. It.

"What the fuck do you think—"

"Gregory, let me tell you something," she said, still blushing and breathing with difficulty.

"Yes, Beverly?"

"I've read every word of your filthy little notebook. I can't say it isn't well-written trash. Highly effective, actually."

"Thank you."

"But you were a fool to let me go on reading it for so long. And you were a bigger fool to put me into it. I know of only one honorable thing to do."


"I simply must take it to the head of operations and show him what you've been doing with your time."

"But! Beverly, I—"

"I'm sure he'll understand then exactly why this project has had such trouble getting on-line."

"But. But."

She began patting her forehead with a Kleenex. When it was saturated, she pulled out a new one and began patting her neck. She undid the top buttons of her blouse and began drying her arm pits, saturating two Kleenex per pit.

"So what are you really going to do?" I asked.

"That's really up to you."

"What do you mean?"

"Meet me at my apartment at eight this evening if you ever hope to see your notebook again."

"What the—"

"You just be there."

She left, obviously agitated, heading no doubt for the Ladies' Lounge. I tried to force her drawer open, but the lock turned out to be one of the few things at Mars Munitions that worked.

I arrived promptly at eight. I'd cleaned and polished and dressed myself to perfection—polyester double-knit three piece and black wing tips. I knew what she had in mind. She wanted the real thing. Well, here I was, ready and curiously willing. After all, I'd been without any myself since I'd started writing Slave of Desire.

She met me at the door, dressed like Angel d'Hussey, wearing a black transparent negligee, black garter belt, crotchless black panties, black silks stockings, and six inch pumps. And carrying a whip.

Do what?

She directed me to the bed, made me strip and bound me hand and foot.

"But Beverly—"

"The name's Angel," she said before she gagged me with a red ball gag. Then she began dancing.

I escaped three weeks later. By then, I'd lost not only my job but my sense of smell as well. I knew I was not prepared to do any real work, so I applied to the graduate program in English. What else could I do? I needed something to do with my time. Besides, I obviously had a lot to learn about the dangers of writing literature.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

ole ritin of buddy don:
story frum a novel that never gut writ

this heres a nuther story that wuz writ fer the group, witch i been sayin fer a while is about to git innerduced into the novel, life n pinions of buddy don, hillbilly. whenever me n emily gut back frum west germany, in sted of havin a new novel writ, i had a few notebooks full of thangs i wuz trine to rite. i had a idee fer a novel but i never could git it a'goin. twooda been a novel bout a care acter findin out who he really is, only he wood go down sum blind alleys. so heres one of em. thang bout thisn is how the group gasped whenever i red the last wurd, witch they wuz shocked but emily wuz proud.

A Difficult Departure

Just before the Knoxville flight from Houston got underway, Dennis Scarborough filled his flight sickness bag with the half digested remains of his breakfast.  When the stewardess came, he blushed.

I bet she doesn't see that happen very often.  Still on the ground.  I'm probably the first.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled as he wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.

"It's nothing to worry about, Sir.  It's really very common," she answered, offering a smile he knew had to be put on for his sake — couldn't she smell it? — and taking the bag.

"Thank you.  I really didn't mean to, you know, I just . . .  I feel a little nervous, I guess."

"Many people do, Sir.  If you'll excuse me . . . "

She thinks I've never flown before.

He wiped his mouth again.  He'd come early enough to land a window seat in the non smoker's area.  He took advantage of it to screen the rest of the passengers from his vision by watching the ground shrink as the plane finally began to climb.

How simple: the plane rises; the cars, the buildings, the people shrink.  The further the plane goes, the smaller the people get.  Soon the events will have shrunk as well.  They'll seem like a dream.  The details will blur — the bars, the music, the dancing, the kiss . . .

He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.  Closing his eyes, he leaned back in his chair and tried to relax.  He rubbed his stomach for a minute, hoping he wouldn't have to use another air sickness bag.  He tried to listen to what the two men in the seats in front of him were saying.

" . . . trying to get this thing settled for weeks now . . . everything arranged according to his . . . of course, there were complications, there always are . . . I told him, I says, look, this whole thing is really waiting on you.  You know we can't go anywhere without your signature . . . "

Signature?  Yes, of course, but . . .  When was it?  Three weeks ago?  Three days?  No, three hours.

"I'm going to put my signature on you, Dennis.  I've almost got it ready.  I wonder if you can take it?"

He'd taken it.  Then, the kiss . . .

He sat up, looked around, wiped his mouth and turned again to the window.  He couldn't see the ground anymore.  The plane had risen above the clouds. I'd never been kissed before.  Must I admit it?  Is it my destiny to be what I never chose to be?  Can't I go home to my normal life?

He saw his home in his mind: a pink two story building in Fort Sanders.  He climbed the dusty, wooden stairs to his apartment, unlocked the green door.  Stepping inside and closing the door, he let his eyes wander about the long, narrow living room: the surface of his large wooden desk was cluttered with old newspapers, forgotten pieces of mail, two ash trays filled with used matches, ink pens, a clock and a large vase of cacti; the red chair squatted, as imposing as ever, near one of the two windows; a small table with a lamp stood to its left and a large shelf of books lined the wall separating the kitchen from the living room; a wooden chair had been jammed into the desk and a Boston rocker faced the window near the red chair.

I never meant for my home to turn out this way.  I'd intended a neater place.  No dust on the floor, an empty desk top — I'd always expected I'd have a piano.

The kitchen, the long, narrow twin of the living room — he'd always felt certain that the two rooms were at one time undivided, making, perhaps, a large upstairs bedroom — the kitchen was crammed with the usual necessities: a wooden table placed against the wall with three wooden chairs crowded around it, a gas stove to the right with four burners — two of them worked, and the third could be started with a match — a single sink, a light metal cabinet painted white and turning grey with human oils and coal dust, a refrigerator whose door couldn't be fully opened due to the narrowness of the room, a window, before which hung a wandering Jew in a green vase, and a few shelves made of blue boards and secured to the wall above the stove.  The floor, greasy, once yellow, had long ago turned grey with the coal dust he tracked in after stoking the furnace each morning and evening of the winter months.  All of his dishes stood dirty in the sink, and cock roaches scattered as he approached.  He killed three of them with the dishrag, one of which was an inch long.  Its body broke in half as he smashed it, and the front half ran as far as the crack in the wall that led to safety before he smashed it.

Fucking cock roaches.

Flushing with guilt — he identified it instantly as guilt — he wiped his mouth and glanced at the other passengers.

Aren't we all just cock roaches in the eyes of God?  Scampering about the filthy remains of paradise, coming close enough to snatch the crumbs proceeding from the mouth of the living God, but hiding, always hiding?  I can't believe in God; I can't not believe in God: one faith is as strong as the other, and I am strong enough for neither.

Don't you think you're being a little too melodramatic?  God?  No God?  Why bother your head with questions that can't be answered?  So you kill a few cock roaches: is that a capital crime?

It's the cock roach in me that has me worried.  It's a scared little insect.  No wonder it creeps and hides.

You know, of course, cockroaches are really harmless.  Their only defenses consist of being so damned repulsive looking and so damned quick to breed.  Most people are afraid to touch them.  It's the same way with snakes.  People find snakes repulsive.  They call them slimy.  Snakes are not slimy.  They're very clean animals.  Useful.  Cock roaches could also be useful as a source of protein.  But people think cock roaches are dangerous and carry diseases and are filthy.  Cock roaches don't have to be filthy.  Raised under the right conditions, they could be eaten alive.  But people think cock roaches are slimy.  Like snakes.  But neither cock roaches nor snakes are slimy.  People, though.  People are slimy.

Unfolding his handkerchief, Dennis blew his nose.  Refolding it so that the mucus, which he was relieved to find was neither too green nor too thick, was surrounded by dry handkerchief, he wiped his mouth twice and patted the sweat from his forehead.

Slimy.  I guess that's the best way to describe me.

In fact, ever since taking his first course in German, he'd considered himself slimy.

He felt his heart pounding and tried to swallow.

It's not true.  I don't have to accept the signature.  After all, there is Janie to consider.  Didn't the very thought of her just cause my heart to pound?  Didn't I look forward to every class?  Didn't I admire her knowledge, her walk, her strict discipline?

BUT: Didn't I read that newspaper article?  Wasn't I shocked by the pictures?  Didn't I carefully gather all of the details of the closing of one of Knoxville's most notorious bars?  And there, in the picture accompanying the story, didn't I recognize Janie, her stringy hair and bulging eyes and small chin and smirk of smile?  Janie.  Being led away from such a place by a fat policeman.  No name under the picture — thank goodness! — but the features left no doubt: Janie, her elbow twisted by the grimy grip of the greasy pig, her shoulder jutting forward, her features plainly visible and caught by the camera.  Plainly visible.

Yes, and visibly plain.  No, I can't say Janie proves anything.  It was only a brief infatuation, maybe, based on a chance vocabulary list.  She was a good German teacher and had chosen mucus — der Schleim — purely by chance.  I had nothing to do with it.

Little could have shocked Dennis more than seeing der Schleim included in a list of vocabulary words.  Janie — Mrs. Metzger, as he referred to her at that time — handed out a vocabulary list every day and tested the class on it the following day.  When Dennis, who always sat in the back near the door, saw the word on the list, he felt himself blush furiously.  Herzklopfen.  Mir ist Ubel.  Had she noticed his sinus problem in spite of everything?  Did she have the same problem?  Surely she didn't choose such an unnecessary word by chance.

He'd entertained these thoughts so often that they had taken on an almost impersonal character . . . once they started, they ran on effortlessly.

He'd been aware of the slimy nature of mucus for as long as he'd been aware of anything.  His earliest memory: was he older than two?  Unlikely.  He lay beneath a quilt his grandmother had made him.  It was early in the day.  Birds announced it; soft sunlight proved it.  Must have been spring.  A cool day.  So quiet that the tiny twittering of the birds came straight through the closed window.  The house, like his mother, lay still, awake but not moving, eyes tightly squeezed to deny the light, which filtered in anyway beneath the curtains.

He felt hungry.  He began inspecting the orifices of his body.  Finger scraped this hole and then stuck into mouth.  Sweet the smell, bitter the taste.  Finger plunging, scratching.  Bland taste, sickening smell.  Finger probing.  No smell, salty taste.  He liked it.  Again.  Again.  Then his nose was bleeding.  Then his mother was there — had he cried? — and a wad of toilet paper — wet toilet paper — was jammed up underneath his upper lip.  Wicked, angry noises filled the air:  "Nasty boy, mustn't pick your nose, shoo, nasty, no no, nasty boy."

Poor Mother.  She tried, but she never could break me of the habit.

Dear God, please forgive me for picking my nose.  In Jesus' name.  Amen.

But God didn't forgive you, did he?  First the allergies, then the colds and sore throats and bronchitis, and finally the chronic sinus infection.  The ever present post nasal drip.  The frequent colds.  The fear of other people coming too close, smelling your breath.  And the unconscious nose picking which goes on even to this day and which, though you are very careful and usually — but not always? — very furtive, leads everyone to avoid your company and to see what a repulsive thing you are.

But I can't really blame God for my nose picking.  I should be able to stop.  Surely a person should have that much self control.

"Excuse me, Sir.  Would you like something to drink?"


"Would you like a drink?"

"Why not?  A gin and tonic would be nice."

The stewardess poured the drink and placed it on his tray.

"That'll be one fifty."

When he pulled out his billfold, a note fell from it into his lap.  After giving the woman two dollars and waving her away, he picked it up and unfolded it.

Call me, it read.  555 3137.  Chuck.

He wiped his mouth with his handkerchief.  Patted his forehead.  Took a drink.

Which one was Chuck?