Jun 27, 2007

daniel and father brown
Father Brown and I, in front of St. Anselm's, circa 2004

George Brown, who was a priest in the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, who was a Church of Christ chaplain in the Army and became Episcopal because of the idea that Christianity could be beautiful, who had an organ which played itself, who was an amature hymnologist, who thought of himself and was thought of as a failure, who catechised me, died this week.

May he rest in peace.
Assist us with thy grace

His hands shook, when he tipped the cup and drank the last of the communion wine. The wine was white, so it wouldn't stain the gold cup and the congregation watched him. The congregation of ten watched his bearded throat constrict and swallow the transfigured blood of Christ and they watched him take a sanctified cloth and whipe the cup dry.

The priest's dog sat on the porch and watched him through the screened door and the dark summer sanctuary. The congregation watched. They kneeled in their seats praying murmuringly and praying silently and they watched while he took a small stack of paper-thick wafers on a glass plate and placed them under the alter, under the crucifix. The deacon's wife watched, sitting in the first pew and thinking under her breath that it was Father's shaking hands, Father's beard, Father's alcoholism and peculiar and pointless sermons and love for obscure, unsingable hymns. She was thinking that was what was keeping the church so small, so creaky and old and keeping the congregation confined to the first floor of the Maple Street house.

Father Brown's hands shook and he cried without warning. The tears came out under his glasses, crossed his cheeks and disappeared into his beard. The dog, a beagle with a Pope John Paul the Second metal hooked next to his name tag on his collar, stood up.

The room was dark. The room smelled like sweet pea blossoms and tasted like wine.

Father said, Almighty and everliving God. Father said and the congregation said, we most heartily thank thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favour and goodness towards us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body...

They spoke in overlapping voices trying to speak in unison. They spoke and the Catholic bells from the other block began to ring slow. The spoke and the morning went into afternoon. They spoke and they prayed to God in Victorian English and the priest cried and knew he was leaving as a failure, knew he would raise his hand in a wavery cross one more time and say the trinity and say, remain with you always and that would be the end.

Jun 23, 2007

William LeMessurier, who was an expert in the structure of high-rises, who detected a serious problem in the structure of the 59-story Citicorp headquarters tower and lead the repair effort, who said that engineers are "supposed to be self-sacrificing and look beyond the interests of yourself and your client to society as a whole," died on June 14, at the age of 81, from complications in surgery.

May he rest in peace.

Jun 21, 2007

The panhandler's vaccuum

The three fans in the pizza shop, the two with working light bulbs and the one with the broken one, were turning at three different speeds. The air stayed the same. The air was stained with the smell of mozarella and sasauge and five flies flew reepeated routes around the room. They went up around the fans and went down to land on the thick sweaty shoulders of the black woman sagging in her halter top.

It looked like it might rain, but it wouldn't.

The clouds covered the sky and the ground gave up steam and every one was walking around as close to naked as they could. The dry cleaner had his button-down shirt unbottoned down to his navel. Kids crossed the parking lots in flip flops and bare bellies. A clerk had his white T hung over his neck. Every one was stripped and sweating except the panhandler.

He was wearing a faded flanel jacket. He was wearing gray wool socks, socks flopping over the tops of his Nikes. He had a woodsman's hat with flaps down over his ears. The bones in his brown face all showed and all the joints in his skinny frame were jerky and he looked like he could shiver even in the hundred degrees. Maybe heroin. Maybe AIDs.

Now, in the winter the man asked for change. In the spring he had a squeege and a towel tucked in his waist band and a bucket and he offered to wash windows. Th bucket was dry though and when someone would say No, he would follow with Spare change? In the summer, wearing his blue gray jacket with the stuffing slipping around inside, he had a vaccuum.

The man had a vaccuum and a screw driver and he was bent double, standing on the half-shaded sidewalk, leaning over the old battered Hoover and dismantling the plastic pieces, opening up the insides to air.

He took out the attachments, two hoses with different shaped mouths. He took off the brushes, wrapped up with dirt and hair and dog hair and carpet threads. He took out a black rubber pulley. He took out a wheel. He took out a bigger wheel. He laid them all down on the side walk. They were laid out like a schematic. Like he was piecing out the vaccuum for something. He put them all out, set them down in a spaced-out arrangement that took on the shape of some unknown, unfathomed machine and he leaned over them, like he was trying to read.

I don't know where he got the vaccuum, what he wanted with it or what he was doing.

A kid walked by in a billowy white T. He looked at the panhandler and the arranged pieces of a former vaccuum and he said, Spare change? and smirked. The hunched-over, heavily dressed man didn't look at the kid, he just fished a couple of quarters and a couple of dimes out and gave them away and went back to dismantling the machine on the hot sidewalk.

Jun 8, 2007

They were moving out. After more than six months in an economy motel, they were moving into a house of their own and they were preparing for their upcoming wedding.

On Wednesday, 32-year-old Shakita Jones and Freddie Colston, Jr., started to move out of their room on the corner of the second floor at the Budget Inn in Riverdale. That night, Shakita’s brother, 42-year-old Melvin, came down from Chicago for the wedding. It was a time of celebration. It was a time of hope.

On Thursday, they planned to finish moving into the residence behind the Riverdale Auto Zone. Then the groom, the bride’s brother and the bride’s cousin would go and get fitted for tuxedos.

They would have a house. They would be a family: Freddie Colston, Jr., Shakita Jones and her three children, Shavon Jones, 14, Devon Jones, 12, and Desha Jones, 10.

But they never made the move.

On Thursday, they awoke to smoke and fire. Riverdale and Clayton Country firefighters found the three adults and the two younger children dead in the bathroom. They were in the bathtub, with the shower turned on to try and hold back the smoke and the flames.

Also covered in the AJC, WSB-TV, FOX-5, the Associated Pres.
In 1998, Bradshaw was a 28-year-old chemistry graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology. He was in Noblitt’s Riverdale-area home when the two began casually talking about making ecstasy, then a popular party drug, authorities said.

The men didn’t set out to begin a large drug manufacturing organization. It was more, prosecutors said, out of curiosity.

Jun 5, 2007

The rain of Moses

Okay okay, she said.
I will remember to dance, she said. Outside, she said. In the rain.
Especially if it does rain, he said.
They both looked up to see the sky and they didn't laugh.


The man was dead. He had white hair standing on end and a striped polyester shirt and red-red slacks held up by suspenders. He was sitting in a booth at the doughnut place with his right arm splayed out across the stain-scarred table top, his hand palm up next to the still-steaming cup of coffee. His head lolled. His wrinkles went hard. He was dead.

The clerks and the customers were standing around him, talking about it. The man was there like he'd always been there. His fifth of peppermint schnapps tucked under his now-dead leg. Someone called the medics but before they arrived, flashing lights over the last hill, the group decided he was dead and instead of talking about saving him they went on to try and remember him and to say something for life and for death, for man and for God.

He died quietly, someone said. He died like he lived, someone said. He was a good man, someone said, a good husband and a good father and a good friend. A good American and a good Christian, someone said. Yeah. He will be remembered.

Moses was silent. His back was to the man and the talking. Looking out at the window at the rain clouds that were only shedding shadows where they were rushing over the brush-covered ground, he was waiting for it to rain and he had nothing to say.

The proverbs for the dead man continued. Moses ignored them. The abstractions and the invocations projecting pasts and prattling about permanent things, he ignored it all. Moses and the dead man didn't care about memorials or want to talk about how who had been good. Moses looked quietly out the window.

In another time, on another day, he would have said something. He would have had something to say. He would have joined the living in the talking and he would have talked for them in the words of God. He would have extrapolated and examplized, have remembered and reminded. He would have pointed to the man in the booth and the doughnuts in the back-lit case and the vapor coming off the coffee. He would have pointed to the earth and pointed to the sky and he would have said a sermon. But he couldn't remember the words.

He smelled the coffee steam. He smelled the sweat of the people in the way it mixed with the sugar and the dough. The medics opened the swinging glass door with a bell ring and they came in with the smell of sterilizers and they let in the smell of the sweeping wind as it carried in the coming of the rain.

He remembered the rain. He waited for its coming again.

It had been raining when he heard the council's decision. He had been in a motel outside of New Palestine, in Indiana, laying on the one-blanket bed with a single light on and a black Bible open to the words of the prophets. The motel phone rang twice, red light fluttering out to the room, before he answered and heard. It hadn't been unexpected. Into the phone he was silent and the Brother with the news, Brother Jeremy Lee, he said We don't have to listen to this. We don't have to listen to this. We know and we can go on. He hung up and had laid there, staring at an oil spot above a picture of fish jumping in a river and he stared in an unshared silence until the storm came over and he slept. It had rained for two days and he had stayed in the motel, had opened the window blinds and the windows, had taken out the sceens and had listened to the falling.

It had been raining the first time he left the church. His father was preaching again about the year where King Uzziah died and preaching about the coming of the Holy Ghost and he had silently slipped from the revival. He had gone out into the dark and danced with Susanna until the rain fell. The long grass brushing their legs in the thick dark, out past where the lights shone out of the sanctuary. From the church he could hear his father preaching. Not the words. Just the structures of the cadences. They danced to that and then the rain hit and she made a funny, fake-serious face and raised her hands above her head, like a hallelujah umbrella. He had turned his face upwards to the falling sky and laughed and felt the drops thumping the inside of his mouth. The rain washed his face. The rain blocked out the words. The rain came down like peace. The rain came down and he said he loved her and she couldn't hear him and her hair straggled stringy, dripping water. Later he heard she had changed her name to Shoshonah, married an earnest and handsome man and moved to Thailand. That was a long time ago.

When the dead man was gone, the people at the doughnut place stood in a circle in a silence. They returned to their tables and to the rest of the day and the clerk wiped the table wet with a rag and carried off the coffee.

Well, someone said, I got to get going. Well, someone said, I'll see you.

A clerk leaned on the counter with elbows out wide and a man looked at her and she looked outside and said she hoped it didn't rain. It probably will, the man said. It'd better not, she said. I'm going to an outdoor concert. You make me feel old, he said, I used to go all the time and I used to dance outside. Now I just feel old. They talked and they didn't laugh and they both looked up to see the sky.

Moses looked out, his face silent. He drank his coffee. It was half-hot like he wanted. He watched a sparrow poke at an upturned bug, but grow bored and go off to a bush. He watched the clouds move together over across the highway. He watched a man in a suit carry an unopened umbrella. He took another drink.


Moses; The words of Moses; The disciple of Moses.

Jun 2, 2007

Self inversions
Incomplete thoughts on philosophy on the weekend


The horror of war is not that the lost lives might be meaningless, but that they might be meaningful. If the dead are meaningful, then the living and the dead are valuable only in their dedication to that meaning. The humans who become soldiers are, if their deaths are to be meaningful, in themselves worthless. To be meaningful is to be dispensable.

We cannot do grief. We can only deface the subjects of our grief into objects eulogized and objects demonized. We do what we can.

Wars are won and wars are lost semiotically. The primary problem is knowing what it means to win. The secondary problem is that what it means to win can change.

It is good to linger on the horror, not to turn too quickly to hope. Quick hope acts to eject us, swiftly save us. That extraction separates us so that we were only ever feining participants in the horror from which we have now "escaped." Quick hope denies the horror. Denying the horror means their is no need for hope. Thus, quick hope abolishes hope in favor of never acknowledging the need for hope.

It is not that we create the problem and then, having profited from the creating, develop little isolations to extract ourselves into, and therefore distract ourselves into believing we are innocent. The extractions do not follow from the cause of the problem in the way the problem follows from the cause. Rather, the act of seeking self extraction creates the situation from which we desire to be saved.

Attend to the form. By claiming to be empty, to be transparent for the important content, the form will then go on to bring to bear more weight, more influence and more of the content than the self-identified content.

In listing the things we love, we flatten the world in such a way that "concern," "worry" and conflicted relationships disappear. In lists of 50 things loved, the emotion, commitment and dedicated mental space all appear equal, from list to list, from item to item.

An exercise: Take the way we understand the world and find, within the understanding, a way in which it participates in, is founded upon, is complicit in the thing it most condemns. Then rethink with an eye towards the condemned thing, noticing its reoccurence. Find what simple ideas are hiding by simplicity. Find what complicated ideas are hiding by complication. Distrust yourself.

Attend to misdirection.

Having turned an act (writing) into a mechanical act (writing on a typewriter), we celebrate and make virtues out all of the anti-mechanical characteristics of the mechanical act. By this glorification (nostalgia sepia toned), we deny our gleeful participation in dehumanization and allow ourselves to fall rapturously in love with (fetish-sized) fragments of the machine which worries us. The object symbolizes in an unresolvable contradiction.
At 4 a.m., the shopping plaza was dark, except for the street lights. Three detectives sat in the parking lot, in unmarked cars, waiting.

The Rent-A-Center in the Forest Square Shopping Center had been broken into before, two or three weeks back. It was a smash-and-grab burglary of TVs, DVD players and computers. There had been others like it. Maybe 25. All over the metro area. All rent-to-own places. All smash-and-grab jobs at one site, followed by another one nearby. All the stolen merchandise was electronics: big TVs, DVD players and computers.