Jan 31, 2005

Like the only chicken in a bag full of cats

"Shit, it got to be where he believed in God but not in man, and even where God was concerned, he slept with one eye open."
        - Nick Tosches, in The Devil and Sonny Liston on the heavy weight champion who lost his title to a phantom punch, who was born to sharecroppers on a day his mother didn't remembered, who started to box because of a priest in prison while serving time for petty but brutal robbery, who died alone in Vegas.

Jan 30, 2005

An opening
The best story I've read this week, by Gail Armstrong: She leaves behind a note saying, ‘I’ve left. Do not come after me. Should you want to talk, I’ll be at M’s.’

Jan 28, 2005

johnson Philip Johnson, architect who was both elder statesman and an enfant terrible, who shaped the American landscape, architecture theory, and promoted the concept of architecture as culture, who as a public figure was confusing, exciting and flawed, dies at at age 98.

May he rest in peace.

Jan 27, 2005

Jan 26, 2005

Dumpster cat (biography)

The orange cat climbed out of the dumpster, came through the dumpster door head first. His fur was wet and dirty brown, a big cat, coated in iced-up garbage and grunge.

He came out head first, orange against dumpster-kelly green against the gray and brown slush of refrozen snow.

His head was misshapen, ugly, contorted from birth. His head was a face unsuitable for a house cat, for a loved cat, for a cared for cat. The eyes were set apart too far on a flat bored face. He looked ugly, and ugly gone mean, mean gone homeless gone dirty gone dumpster.

He jumped out, down landing in a crouch in the parking lot snow to gnaw at something between his paws.
Returned in '05

I'm here. I'm in: re-enrolled, re-admitted, recycled, dropped out of "drop out," with two semesters left to a BA in philosophy (thinking seriously about grad school).

It's a little odd, me still sustaining disbelief at coming through, coming over 5 impossible hurdles, walls that could've and logically should've kept me out. I see the clock tower, at the end of the street lit up for the night, and am surprised at its presence, at my presence.

When I was last here, I had a nightmare every night, dreams of wrestling angry to the ground with my father, my brother. I'm keeping my head down now, ducked down out of the way, out of the attacking windmills visor.

I need a job. And a place to live. It's snowing again.

I'm taking almost all requirements, Latin and the like. And mimetic theory, Girard's lit crit and anthropology idea of human relations as serial imitations in a triangle, with a prof who wasn't here when I left and gets too excited teaching his topic to answer questions.

How does one become someone who strange things happen to? How does one become someone who beats long odds?

Everyone's really respectful to you, differential. At parties it's like hey! hey! - Silliman (nodding) - hey! hey!

'S just because I'm back from away,
I say, but he's right. It's more than that. It was true before. But I don't know why.
Like a green & yellow basket
There was something I was gonna tell you.

I've lost it. It totally slipped.

Jan 21, 2005


You turn to me, towards my presence passing in the hall, turn to smile. You smile a passing smile, a general smile, turning towards me, whoever I may be, with a face of generic friendliness.

I think maybe you’ve done something to your hair, since last year.

Our eyes meet and your smile pauses. Your face wavers, going into a wiggly question mark expression, and then you grin.

No no, you say, I want a hug.

Today marks year three of my blogging.
The end of a green-truck affair

The truck is dead, buried in DuBois. I drove her from Seattle to Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Seattle and back again. And the greenest truck anyone’s ever seen – Mac / Misty / Rozinante – gave up the ghost.

Bob and Lee have given the details. And I got to say, they beat the hell out of triple A. They showed up at 3 or 4 a.m. (the hotel room was without a clock) banging and pounding on the door and yelling “Silliman Silliman” and Bob handed me a beer he’d brought from Michigan before he even walked in the door.

We worked like an imitation pit crew. We rednecked it, manically unbolting, removing and moving downwards to the block. Bob would point to a bolt and you’d unbolt it. And then after 15 minutes or so you’d ask, “so, what is this thing?” and he’d explain the innards of the engine pointing at the greasy cavity and saying “we’re into the guts of it now, this is the guts of it.” We ate a piece of pizza each at noon, and stopped for Coke’s once, and worked solid for 5 and something hours. But it all came to 0.004' of a warp, and that was it. It was over.

I sold the truck to the shop owner for the $65 I owed him, piling all the engine pieces in the passenger seat and I put my hand on the hood and said “it’s okay, go to sleep, you’ve done me well, you’ve done me well.”

Jan 19, 2005

More tomorrow
I'm here, we're all okay.

Thanks to everyone and I love you all.

Jan 17, 2005

Upbeat downdate

Headgasket's blown. Richard's says it'd look like $700 to fix it, or I could throw it to the junkyard for a $50. That's the damn-it part.

Talked to Bob and he, Lee and Luke are coming out in the morning, picking up the piece and we're putting it in. "Because," he says, "we're young and stupid and we've never done something quite like this before." It's like 15 degrees outside.

Richard says he'll let us use a bay. I'm holeing up at the Manor - I said I wanted something cheap and they said that's "the dive" - and Richard's wife voluntarily called Chaplin Bob who's paying for the room and $15 eating money. Has a trucker's ministry, they say. She tells me their church is trying to start up something like that, Good Samarat'n, but is short on funds. He tells me they go to the NASCAR truck races every year out by Pittsburg and that for $7.99 I can a steak and all you can eat salad "over the crick from the Manor."

I'm reading Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles tonight. My friend's 'll be here in the morning and I'll be in Hillsdale by Wednesday.
Downbeat update

I'm in Du Bois, PA, waiting to see if my thermostat's just frozen or if the headgaskets are blown.

It started snowing nasty brown slushy stick-to-the-windsheild snow in the Pochonos. The truckstops were all full of trucks with their running lights on, idling and keeping their sleeper cabs warm for the night. 80 was dark and empty, with and ugly red brown light reflecting up off the snow.

Enough desperate haulers were on the road with their missing taillights and deadlines to keep the one lane of the interstate churned up. I did a lot of down shifting on long grades and trailing trail lights at hi-beam distance to watch the way the road turned. Some town past Danville had 10 or 12 cars swirled off the road. About 3 a.m. a truck started sliding around while passing me and I pulled off the exit to avoid him, hit my brakes into a swerve and went into a spin that left me facing back up the exit swearing, praying and scared.

I got a motel room, got out of my frozen socks and slept for 6 hours. An hour in this morning I overheated. I limped into a mall, let everything cool off outside Sears where I bought antifreeze and tried to hunt down Bob's number.

I got back on the road, and the idiot temp light came on again in 10 minutes. A trucker came up to me in a phone lounge and wanted to know how I was, where I was going, where I was out of and what I was hauling. Said it sound like a frozen thermostat. The fourth mechanic's shop I tried had an open bay so now a big gruff suspender-wearing guy named Richard's got hot air blasting at my radiator.

I'm in the public library 'cross the road, 6 hours of driving from Philly, 6 hours from Hillsdale and wondering what the hell happens next.

10 hour night

Here I go. A bag of clothes, a box of books and a sleeping bag are stashed in my ’87 Chevy, my St. Christopher metal and a rosary hanging from the rearview mirror. The atlas is open to Pennsylvania, showing 80 in blue curves across the middle of the state.

I won’t need it though. I’ve driven this road before.

I’m going back to school. My parents are cosigners now, so I crossed that hurdle. My bishop loaned me the $6,000 I owed the school. I cut a deal with the loan office to bring the $1,500 I didn’t know about down to $500 and a few payments. So my transcripts are out of pawn and my accounts with Hillsdale are at zero again.

Still, I have no financial aid package and, it looks like, circumstances have forced me a mile wide of the deadline for that paperwork, so I don’t know. I’m showing up, in limbo, flying by the seat of my pants, to talk to the business office and the loan office and the financial aid office to see what happens. So I’ll see what happens, and what doesn’t happen, and go from there.

I’ve got cockroach scittering jitters in my stomach, a ten hour drive tonight and a leap, another leap, into limbo.

Wish me luck.

Jan 15, 2005

That's gotta hurt, we say
Look look, he’s punch-drunk, he's reeling. He’s trying to roll against the rope-a-dope, but uh uh, he’s going down, down this round to the mat where his eye is bleeding on the canvas in this corner.

j.l. He was up, up on his toes, dancing, dancing and jabbing, trying to reuse his famous last minute throws when that right got him. Flatfooted. Cold. (Poor bastard). Hear the crack of the fist against his head? Watch that slow motion whip of his face screwed up in pain. You coulda been, coulda been old man but this here’s the washing up, the sports writers say through soggy-butted cigars, and it’s over.

It was rigged, he says, stacked, jerried, and he cries, standing alone in the light in the ring with the bruise swelling purple around his eye.

Every loser says that though, it’s nothing - ‘t’s just another shitty boxing cliché.

Jan 12, 2005

We should pass out lives in the playing of games - Plato.

Play is always lost just when it seeks salvation in games. - Derrida.

Jan 10, 2005

There are no comets seen (when beggars die)

Behind the lustery chrome-coated front, behind the rows of stools spaced along the counter, and past the short-backed booths set with silverware for four, was the bathroom. It was lit by low watt lights half burnt out, and floored with burnt red tiles crud-coated and uncleaned.

The door said MEN on the sign and the old fellow, all gray, all black, stood facing the graffiti-scratched and dull double mirrors in the back corner of the three cornered hole.

His back to the door the man stood, at the sink, his silver colored walker reflecting the dieing fluttering filaments of the 60 watt. His pants were unzipped and he pissed in the sink.

He held his chin up, his strong black wrinkled jaw held at an angle of pride. Or defiance. I stepped into the empty single stall and shut the door.

Jan 8, 2005

The space of a word

A man comes back from the bathroom, to the diner booth next to the potted plants breathing in exhaled cigarettes and out oxygen, to the woman sitting across from him, the back of her black hair across from me. He sits down, slides in, and starts where he left off, starts over saying “so, I have this friend I know, and he’s at this game…”

So, we, with a word, erase all that has come before, forgetting all that and bringing us to this, putting all that aside, behind, away, and, also, we summarize and bring to a point that past conversation that leaves us and leads us to this point of a word.

We mark everything from here, from this “so,” like a year one. We mark the before and the after from here – erasing and summarizing, starting over and bringing everything to now, a deft throwaway gesture to say “given all that” and “setting all that aside” we will start here, we will erect and allow this space with a word starting a story.

We take everything, hold it for a minute/put it on hold for a minute, and the let the story take the world.
All I wanted to do.
        All I wanted to say.
Hang me from a scaffold yeah big

Have a good feeling, this morning, the feeling of waking up in the morning remembering who you are.

There’s been more rain in Philly, this year, than in Seattle, so I’ve opened the windows and I’m letting in the sound of the world washing away.

Jan 5, 2005

Arnold Denker, chess champion remembered for spectacular setbacks on the chess board and his love of attacking, dies at 90 from brain cancer.

May he rest in peace.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her

My mutton-chopped mailman came by the other day, limping and humming St. James Infirmary.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch

My apologies for being so quiet.

I’ve had a difficult few months, here, a few months where my own troubles were weighing me down and other people kept lending me theirs right at the moment I needed someone to help me out of the hole. For awhile, I quit talking to people all together, thinking that to talk to someone who was doing okay I’d have to pretend to be okay and that actually I had nothing to say, and that to talk to someone who wasn’t doing okay would break me.

I’m sorry about that. I should have more faith in my friends. Sometimes life is like being kicked and beaten to death while curled up in the fetal position and realizing that, actually, it’s not that bad and more than a bit funny.

I’m okay now. I wouldn’t be saying this now if I weren’t. And I’m back. Call me or something.

News that’s fit to print (for now): I wrote a piece on prayer for Jeremy Huggin’s project that’s supposed to be published next I dunno if it’ll be available online. My priest here in Philly, Fr. Paul Hewett, was made a bishop. My bishop back home – Victoria’s Bp. Peter Wilkinson – was appointed Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (where I’m a member). Both men have been incredible to me and for me. I spent my second Christmas away from home, but it was Thanksgiving that got to me. My brother wasn’t able to make it down for Christmas, though I saw him for a few days before Thanksgiving. He spent Christmas Eve in an all-night dollar poker game. Bethany Boyd and I have been trading phone messages and she and Stephen Slater are getting married in September. I saw Luke, but it was just for an hour. I need to take a trip along the southeastern seaboard sometime – to see Ivan and Mel, meet Amy, meet the Silliman cousin’s I’ve never met and see my grandfather’s grave. I’m going to see Tim Eaton in Landcaster some day in the next few weeks. Daniel Stoddart and I have been hanging out and he likes to introduce me by mentioning my article on the New York Intellectuals and that Fr. Nehaus called me provocative. My youngest brother, Peter, said his first sentence, which was “I know.” My sister’s probably going to spend a year in Austria. Derrida’s Dissemination is blowing my mind. I’m only 75 pages into Something for Nothing but I’m reminded that even though I’m really interested in cultural studies, the writing’s god-awful and they never understand enough philosophy or theology to ask really interesting questions. I flipped through Ancient-Future Faith and The New Faithful the other day and both look interesting but with serious problems. I was looking through some past writing the other night and decided my thinking and writing’s been centered around four themes/areas: myth, incarnation, doubt, and anti-fascism. I’ll have to explain that, especially the anti-fascism.

Jan 4, 2005

Books I read and finished in 2004

1 Of Spirit, By Jaques Derrida.
2 Idoru, by William Gibson.
3 The Prayers and Tears of Jaques Derrida, by John Caputo.
4 Cosmopolis, by Don DeLillo.
5 Dubliners, by James Joyce.
6 Neuromancers, by Willam Gibson.
7 Killing the Buddha, by Peter Manseau & Jeff Sharlet.
8 Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.
9 Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce.
10 Zettel, by Ludwig Wiggenstein.
11 God Bless You Mr Rosewater, by Kurt Vonnegut.
12 Count Zero, by William Gibson.
13 Body Artist, by Don DeLillo.
14 Woundwood, by Ron Silliman.
15 Kill Me Now, by McNeil and McCain.
16 Rolling Stone Magazine, by Robert Draper.
17 Portnoy's Complaint, by Philip Roth.
18 The Eye, by Vladimir Nabokov.
19 The Ultimate Good Luck, by Richard Ford.
20 A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Peck.
21 God is Dead, by Kenneh Hamilton.
22 Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf.
23 Homecoming, by Cynthia Voight.
24 Libra, by Don DeLillo.
25 Noise, Jacques Attali.
26 Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut.
27 Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene.
28 Archive Fever, by Jacques Derrida.
29 Ezra Pound, by John Tytell.
30 The Heart of the Matter, by Graham Greene.
31 The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis.
32 Kerygma and Truth, by Rudolf Bultmann and critics.
33 World's End, by T.C. Boyle.
34 Dicey's Song, by Cynthia Voight.
35 On Deconstruction, by Jonathan Culler.
36 Drop City, by T.C. Boyle.
37 The Tenth Man, by Graham Greene.
38 Hocus Pocus, by Kurt Vonnegut.
39 The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by M. Kundera.
40 The Comedians, by Graham Greene.
41 Great Jones Street, by Don DeLillo.
42 The Undertaking, by Thomas Lynch.
43 Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick.
44 Ketjak, by Ron Silliman.
45 Driving Mr. Albert, by M. Paterniti.
46 Don't Stop the Carnival, by Herman Wouk.
47 The Unsettling of America, by Wendell Berry.
48 The Road to Wellville, by T.C. Boyle.
49 The Winter Name of God, by James Carroll.
50 Under Albany, by Ron Silliman.
51 Farewell to Model T and From Sea to Shining Sea, by E.B. White.
52 Seven Types of Ambiguity, by Elliot Perlman.