Aug 29, 2006

News and other news

I now how a cell phone. Something is dead and it's a new era and you can reach me at 404.771.5631. Friends, call anytime. Enemies, use weekends and evenings only.

I also have a laptop, an ipod and a credit card and feel like I've really come into the late 20th century.

In other news:
New works: Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Dylan, Thomas Pynchon.
RLP: On Evil.
An evangelical for homosexuality.
Spin editor goes inside CCM, from Larry Norman to Amy Grant to Pedro the Lion.
Books by color.
The 2nd most grusome crime I've covered: 1 shot, 1 raped by College Park prowler.

Aug 27, 2006

Roger Donoghue, who quit boxing after he killed a man but said he could have been a contender, who coached Brando and Dean, who joked with Mailer, who spent most of his life selling beer and calling guys "champ" and girls "doll," died Sunday of a complication of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75.

May he rest in peace.

Aug 22, 2006

Wheels like flying dieing

Because we had wheels. That's why. Because we were crazy and because we wanted to fly, or die, or because the hill was there and a step off the top would take you all the way down in a scream of whooshing and the whoosh of us yelling into each others ears for the moment it would take to fall all the way to the bottom of the road.

We could go to the top of the hill, the big hill, the curved hill. Not that the hill was curved. The road was curved, swooped around a corner of houses and old oak trees shading the turn in the summer and covering it down in fire-red leaves in the fall. It started down from where it teed with our street and plunged down to where the old black man named Herb - said with the h - worked for the mean old white lady in her garden of herbs - said with the h - and back around the hill back the direction it started and went out into a long easy roll down the houses on the edge of the lake.

It was the kind of hill that made old people put their automatic cars in low gear and go creeping up or down as slow as they could. It was the kind of hill that scared mothers and where an acorn falling at the top would roll all the way to the bottom and the yard at the bottom was piled in drifts of uphill acorns. We loved it. It scared the hell out of us.

It could of killed us, should have killed us. I guess I knew that even then, knew it at least in the knot that would grab me and the yell I would scream when we put the wagon around facing down and stepped off into the wagon's bucket and let the hill take us away.

The wagon, red, with two of us or three of us flying. The wind pushing past us, up hill. We were flying or falling, screaming sailing down the hill and trying to lean around the curve and turn around the curve and somehow we never came around into a car. Should have. There were cars and we were going fast enough to kill ourselves, fast enough to die for, and it wasn't like the wagon came with brakes. We made the turn sometimes, sometimes, coming around into an exhale of easy rolling road where we'd relax and slow down.

Sometimes we wouldn't make it though. Sometimes we'd be yelling and leaning and grabbing on to each other and the wheels would leave the black top tipping and we wouldn't be able to turn as much as the turn and we'd careen into the curb and crash all of us off and over the lawn and Herb would shake his head, not saying we shouldn't but just saying Y'all like to kill yourselves, crazy kids, on that hill.

We'd laugh, and check for all our body parts. We'd ask Herb what he was doing, even though he was always herb gardening, and then we'd climb up again.

Aug 17, 2006

29 years since Elvis

Yesterday, when writing on her cast, when all the 2nd graders took a turn with the marker putting down their names on her bright pink cast, someone wrote the name Elvis. These are 2nd graders. She doesn't remember who it was. She doesn't know if there's a boy in her grade named Elvis, or a boy in her grade who likes Elvis. Or even anyone who has a clear idea of who he is. She doesn't remember if it was the Elvis. All she knows and all we know is that the name is there, up by the edge written sideways.

Elvis and the little girl

Elvis as a means of social control
Bush greets Elvis fans
Which Elvis?
Food for a king
Elvis as hips
Reward offered for found Elvis
Virtual Graceland tour
Elvis as a good-enough Christian
The Elvis cup
Overrated Elvis.

Of course Elvis lives. That's not the question. The question is, what is Elvis?

Aug 16, 2006

The big fat tree

The storm'd just started, when Wally went to see. He went to the door and stood in the door and looked out. The sky was green with clouds and the air was dry and the rain hadn't started yet, not yet, and the wind was wooshing down the middle of the street. He stood there and looked and he had to look around the base of the front tree to see the street and the trash blowing down there.

He didn't look at the tree, not yet. He looked around the fat Oak. The trunk was 10 feet wide, maybe 10 feet, and he leaned to the side of the doorway to see past it to the street and up around it to the sky and he stood there and waited for the rush of the storm to fall with rain.

He looked up to see the sky and he saw the tree. All the branches were leaning and waving north, away from the coast, and the leaves were stripping away in a rustle rustle and tearing off twigs as they ripped away.

A leaf would flutter, flapping north, would flutter and sound out a sputter of popping and little explosions and then something would catch or snap or something and a leaf would fly away. It would leave the tree and the leaves of the tree and with a rush it would fly out into the air and then it would filter down through the wind to the gound and crash into the rustle bustle of leaves and trash in a scurry scuttle down the street.

Wally watched. The roofs of the houses along the lane left their buildings to fly away in crumpled wads. The little trees came up and over spattering unearthed dirt into the air. A dog went running loosed. A car started skidding left and once it slipped it couldn't stop and it slipped sideways into the corner of the house on the corner and crushed inwards splitering up the edge of the house and bringing the corner down upon itself.

His house lost its roof. His house lost a wall and the windows rattled and shook and broke into a thousand tiny shards spraying into the walls and out into the street. Wole winced. Wole ducked, involuntarily. He looked at the door frame and he stood under the door frame and he looked at the tree in the front.

He'd never really looked at trees. Not really. Not any more than normal. He'd looked at leaves when they colored and fell. He'd looked at acorns when squirrels grabbed them. He'd seen them, he guessed. But this one, this one never moved. The branches waved and the leaves stripped but the trunk stayed stuck in the ground, reaching down into the core of the world and staying solid put. Too strong to sway, too solid to bend, too massive to move.

Then the rains came. The water came down the street and he could hear the roaring. Crashing. Smashing. Gushing up along the road so he could see it coming like a wall waving over garbage cans and cats and caving in the houses and carrying everything all away in a swirl of black and murky gray. He ran. He ran for the tree without thinking about it and he jumped into its arms.

In one rush he made the first limb. In another he moved up to the fork where the two biggest branches met in the middle into the tree that went deep down into the ground. He might have said something, then. This whole time he'd been silent, watching, looking to see. But he might have said something then, said something to God or the storm or the tree. He doesn't remember, though, and with the water and the wind there wasn't any way to hear what he might have said.

He got in the fork, between the two limbs. He straddled it, hid in it with his arms wrapped around the southbound limb of the big old tree and he stayed there for the night. He stayed there for the next day and the water tried to wash away the ground around the tree. The wind took off all the leaves and most of the little limbs and all of the twigs cracked off and fell out and made crashing noises in synchorny with storm and he stayed there, in the tree until a day and a half after the whole thing had blown on washed on swept whistling on by. The whole world was dead, that day, the whole world was swept flat as the floor. All of it was gone except that fat tree and Wole wet and clinging to it.

This is not how Wally tells the story. Sometimes people ask. Sometimes Middle School kids say, hey mister, how old's that tree? Sometimes young mothers go by with skipping babies and they say, that's a beautiful tree. How long has it been there? Sometimes High School botanists will call it a fine specimen and ask him if he knows that this is the only Oak of this sort left along the coast. He doesn't say anything. He's not rude about it or anything but he just smiles and says yes and smiles and waits until they go off along on their way. This is not the story that Wally would say. He doesn't say anything about it excpet once a year.

Once a year, on the memory of the day he came down, Wally walks into his front yard and he puts a ladder up into the breach of the tree. He climbs up to the split between the branches and he sits there. He's old now but he still does this every year. He sits there and he says his story like this:

This tree, he says, is older than me. This tree is as old as God. One day it rained. One day God put down on this place, this old tree, with water and wind and devestations. Everything was killed or washed away. I don't know where it all went but it was never here again. Everything that was here is gone, all except this tree. This tree stood up to God and nature and everything and I hid up in this tree.

Aug 15, 2006

But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear... Sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forgot the words.
                        - Williman Faulkner

Aug 7, 2006

Valerie

She’s leaving today. In the morning. Her room is a mess, with stuff sorted into piles on the table and the sideboard and the bed and the floor. Her stuff is strewn and organized into a mess and tomorrow she will weigh it all on a scale to see what she can carry and still fly away. The books are divided into the ones she’s taking and the ones she’s leaving and I notice those piles don’t match the division between the books that are mine and the books that’re hers.

She’s leaving, my sister. The summer’s over even though the heat’s still on, really just here, pulsing so you can’t tell if it comes from above or from all around. Her time here is over even though we still haven’t had boiled peanuts, or seen Eddie’s or the Earl. She’s going, even though we just figured out the best ways to live together.

Tomorrow she’ll get on a plane. She’ll pass through the airport between the soldiers going back to Iraq and evacuees from Lebanon. She’ll pass people from everywhere and all of them will pass individually through the electric doors where she'll pass and then the last I see her she will merge with them. She’ll board in a line and taxi on down to the runway and the engine will rev and the plane will turn down the long black stretch and lift into the air and she’ll read a book or lean back on the seat and sleep and she’ll wake up in the opposite corner of the country.

She sighs. What? I say and she says it means nothing. She’s always sighed. Since she was a little girl, and I know that – she started sighing in kindergarten – but still I always ask her what.
Harold Ronk, who was a singing ringmaster for the Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Brother's circuses for 30 years, who was opera-trained, who was called "the voice of the circus," died Wednesday at the age of 85.

May he rest in peace.

Aug 2, 2006

The rock towers on the beach

If you trace your way to the edge of the map, past where the corner cracks to where the earth scrunches up before it ends, to where the road gets tangled in the crowd of trees, there’s a blank spot there. It’s full of rocks. You can’t find it on the map and you can’t see it from the road. It doesn’t have a name and doesn’t, in any official way, exist.

The people there call it a beach, but you might not recognize it by the name. There isn’t any sand and so there’re no sand castles or creatures. There’s no sun and no people laying on towels or raising umbrellas. It’s just a flat place on the very edge.

It rains all the time, there. It rains more there than there are days in the year. It rains so the woods fill with rain and the mountains fill with clouds and the ground is taken over by streaming rivelets webbing their way outward over everything until you can’t seperate the waters from the dry ground, the soil from sky, the air from the sea.

Out there is a place we called the beach. The beach was there before we were. The beach was there when the first people landed there, when they came up out of the sea and looked up and saw the green and the blue and the brown and the gray all mixing into each other at the edges. The first people landed there and they forgot their name. The forgot who they were and where they had been and why they had left there for here and from then on they just called themselves The People.

The People are all gone now but the beach is still here and we are here, more people who don’t know what we are called or where we were before we were here and all of us wake up in the morning and look out through the long rain at the fog of a world, at the mix up of colors streaming down to drown everything again.

There’s nothing out here. This is the end. There’s no farther left to go. Whatever our reasons were, no one remembers them anymore. We just came, the righteous and the unrighteous falling like the rain. There’s nothing here but eternally falling rain and trees crowding up out of the water into the mountains and the mountains rising backwards in a recoild from the edge.

Somehwhere in all of this is the beach, the blank spot of gravel and stones and drift-off wood and dieing seaweed. You can go out there, if you trace your way to the edge of the map and find yourself standing at the edge of everything and then you’ll see the rocks.

The rocks are stacked up. There might be a like a hundred little towers of stacked rocks, boulders set one on top of the other four high or five high until they come up into a tower. You stand there, in the rain, and they’re stacked from the low tide mark to where the woods start. You walk into that and you wonder what it means. What could it mean? Rock towers.

None of them have names. Nothing’s written on them. None of them are different than any of the other ones. No one admits to building them, but somebody has to do it. It’s gotta be that some of them fall down. The number’s never the same and sometimes there are more and sometimes less but they never go away. They’re always there. No one admits to building them and no one could speak for all of them anyway.

There’s no one to say what they are. Maybe they’re art. Maybe they’re a way to pray. Maybe they’re what sand castles are when there’s not any sand. Maybe people just like stacking rocks.

I was there, standing there wondering what the hell. Realizing I’d come without a coat. I was out there in this blank spot that’s not really a beach and doesn’t have a name. You forget things and you remember things. There was one tower tumbled half way down and I kicked it. It didn’t make a difference though. All the other towers were still there and I could have kicked them all down but everyone of them was anonymous and already abandoned and already given up to anything I could do.

The rocks were just there. They were just there and there was no way to know what they were for, or why anybody cared. Or why I cared enough to kick one and then cared enough again to put it back up. It’s not that they marked nothing, not that they didn’t stand for something, it’s just that even as I built one, even as I picked up a rock and put it on another one and held my hand there until the tetering stopped, I couldn’t tell you what it was. Maybe you know. Maybe you forgot. Maybe you’ll come back one day, stand there in the blank spot, drawn back to the little bit of emptiness on the edge and allow yourself to forget again.