Friday, September 12, 2014

New House

“Well, what do you think?” my dad asked as we pulled up to a big, white Spanish-style two-story house. He beamed with pride at the new home he’d found for us.

I ignored him and appealed directly to the only sane person in the family. “Mom, we can’t live here! This place is right in the middle of the worst part of Wentzville!”

“What’s wrong with it? It’s the biggest house in town,” Mom said.

“What’s wrong with it? Look! The main street goes right by the front yard! There’s railroad tracks right behind it. There’s a veterinary clinic next door and if the water tower falls, it’ll squash us!”

“Oh, yeah! I talked to the owner of the slaughterhouse across the street,” Dad interrupted, “and he said that they need part-time help over there. He said to send you over.”

“Slaughterhouse? There’s a slaughterhouse? I don’t want to live by a slaughterhouse, and I sure as hell don’t want to work there!”

“Language!” Dad said in his first-warning voice.

The only other houses on this side of the tracks belonged to Wentzville’s poorest citizens. We’d just been in Missouri for a few months and I was still trying to make friends and fit in at high school. So far, my friends all came from the class-conscious families at the ritzy development of Lake St. Louis. This house was a social disaster in the making.

My parents always rented off-beat places. The condo we were leaving was more of a furnished weekend lake retreat than a serious place to live. The owners had decorated it with beach furniture and all the African ceremonial masks they had picked up on safari. The masks scared the dog and drew doubtful looks from my friends.

“Why can’t we just stay in the condo?” I whined. “We were doing just fine there.”

“We’ve been over this. We told you that place was temporary. All the town employees have to live within city limits,” Mom answered, referring to dad’s job as city manager. “Besides, I seem to remember someone complaining about hating the last place because of all the masks."

“This might be the oldest building in town,” my dad said, but that idea didn’t sweeten the deal for me. “The railroad superintendent lived there and the town just grew up around it.”

“The shanty town, you mean.” I sulked all the way through the tour, wondering how I was going to deal with being the only white kid in a black neighborhood.

Mom eagerly showed me to my huge bedroom and the beautiful old armoire that came with it. I was unmoved. I remarked that the house must have been built before closets were invented.

My parents hoped that I would grow to love the place as much as they did, but things only grew worse in my eyes. Early Saturday mornings, truckloads of livestock lined up at the slaughterhouse, and the squealing woke me up. As soon as they killed the first pig, the rest of them screamed in terror, smelling death and sensing that their own end was near.

Several times per day, the railroad employees switched railcars right behind the house. The smell of diesel exhaust drifted over and when the containers crashed into each other, the sound was deafening. On kill days at the slaughterhouse, the smell of barnyard and blood kept us inside.

In those quiet moments when no trains chugged by and no animals were being slaughtered, we sat on the back balcony and looked at the middle class neighborhood across the tracks. I saw house after house of normal lives, distinguished only by paint color and brand of car in the driveway. It looked like heaven.

“You don’t want to live there,” my dad assured me, “that area is boring.”

I Wish We Could Dance All the Time

My sister is coming out to the veranda with her record player. That means we’re going to dance. I love to dance. Cindy always puts me up on the table so I can see everyone. I hope she plays “I Saw Her Standing There”. That’s my favorite, even though they never finished it. “I’ll never dance with another…” Another what? Grown-ups are always saying things I don’t understand.

My mother always says that living in Hawaii has turned us kids into savages because our feet are always black from playing outside without shoes. Sometimes she laughs when she says it, but when me and Cindy were going outside one day, my sister said, “We’re going outside to behave like little savages!” my mom didn’t laugh, but some of her bridge friends did.

My sister can’t put me on the table this time because she broke her arm when she fell out of the avocado tree next door. She’s always doing stuff like that. A few months ago, she broke her two front teeth while riding her bike behind the mosquito fogger truck. She said she couldn’t see the curb in the cloud. Cindy is nine years old. I’m four and Dougie is ten. That’s as old as I can count.

My brother lifts me up to the table and my parents come outside, too. Mom is in her white shirt with buttons and the funny black pants that don't go all the way down. Dad is wearing his light brown uniform.

It’s a big veranda. My mom calls our house a cracker box, but it’s much bigger than that. Not as big as the colonel’s house down the street, but dad says that’s okay because colonels are rich.

My sister puts the needle on the record. It’s “Love Me Do”. It’s not my favorite, but it’s better than “Eleanor Rigby” or “Yellow Submarine”. I like “Yellow Submarine”, but you can’t dance to it. “Eleanor Rigby” scares me because she keeps someone’s face in a jar, and her father is always digging graves. That song is like a Frankenstein movie.

When the music starts, I wiggle around and throw my arms up the air like the kids on the Saturday morning TV show. My parents laugh and even my brother smiles. He never smiles. My mom says it’s because he doesn’t like school. Sometimes, Dougie takes the cat to the stairs and does spearmints to see if she will land on her feet when you drop her. He’s gone halfway up the steps so far but she lands on her feet every time. She doesn’t like it, though, and I think he’s mean. Mom says I have to start school next year. I hope it doesn’t make me mean to the cat.

But right now, I’m dancing and my sister is dancing. She’s really good. She almost looks like the TV kids, except for the broken arm. My parents are laughing and I laugh, too because everyone looks so happy. I try to wiggle my butt like my sister, and we all laugh even more. I wish we could dance all the time.

Walking Home

I can smell my mom's perfume as she leans over and pins a note to my sweater. It says, "Paul is allowed to walk home from school today." She signed it in her beautiful script. I can't read the writing. I only know what the note says because I asked her to write it. I love to walk home from nursery school. I have to think hard, though. One time I walked too far and a lady had to help me get home.

Straight down the street past the white fence with all the plumerias and bees. Turn at the playground. I don't know left or right, but I know which way. My house is the last one in a row of houses all connected together. We have a banana tree out front. We even got a bunch of bananas from it last year, but me and Cindy and Dougie ate them all before they even turned yellow. They were crunchy and sour. Dad was mad at us. He didn't get to eat any.

Mom drops me off at the nursery school in my blue sweater and buster browns. She's going to IBM school in Honolulu. She says she punches cards there. I don't know why she has to go there to do that, we have cards at home. Mom tries to smooth down my blonde cowlick, but it doesn't help. I squirm away and run to the playground. I see Nancy Green and I want to push her 'cause she makes me feel funny on the inside. I don't know why I do that. I don't push any other girls.

Mom says my school used to be a church. It's long and white and pointy on top. It's up on a hill with lots of grass all around so we can play Jack and Jill at recess. I love to roll down the hill, but when we're done, the grass makes me itch. The teacher is standing on the steps and rings her triangle bell for everyone to come inside. I never even got to push Nancy down.

This morning we're learning to make the letter 'P'. Big P. Little p. Big P. Little p. Five rows of P's. After that, we get graham crackers and grape Kool-Aid. I dunk mine, but I have to be fast, or the cracker turns to mush and falls in.

At recess, I push Nancy down three times. The teacher says that I have to find a nicer way to show Nancy that I like her. "I don't like her! I hate her! She's icky!" I tell the teacher.

"Well, if you hate her any more, you'll have to marry her," the teacher says. I don't understand the teacher sometimes.

We put our heads down after lunch and then we get to draw. I draw my cat Percy laying in the road in front of the house with cherries coming out of his mouth. I saw him just like that yesterday from my bedroom window upstairs. I told my mom and she made me stay inside while she looked. She came back after a while and said he was fine. I haven't seen Percy since then.

I walk home and stop to look at the plumerias and the bees. My sister comes here sometimes to make leis. I just like to smell them. I get on the teeter totter at the playground but it's not much fun alone. The next door neighbor's palm tree has two tiny eggs in a little nest made in the bark. Mom says that the mother won't come back if I touch them. Sometimes I worry that my mom will go to IBM school and never come back, so I don't dare touch them.

The Rest of The Story

All semester long, I sat next to Lindsay in biology. She was cute and fun and we passed notes and whispered constantly. She drew a picture of our bald, bespectacled professor dressed as Frankenfurter. I drew one of him dressed as a Trekkie, wearing the uniform and making the Spock salute.

Lindsay invited me to study for the final at the rented house she shared with two other girls. As we started to get down to business, her roommates came in singing “Happy Birthday” and carrying a twelve pack of beer wrapped in a bow. I had no idea it was her birthday.

After fifteen minutes and a beer went by, the roommates disappeared so I figured that it was time to get back to work. I opened my book and said, “Okay, I think we were reviewing chapter twelve.” But instead of reaching for her book, Lindsay lightly placed her hand on my thigh.

I raised my head, and Lindsay looked up and right into my eyes. The warmth of her hand traveled up my leg and the skin beneath her fingers began to buzz as if her hand contained a thousand tiny bees.

“Are you sure you want to do this now?” I asked, still worried about my grade.

“Do what?” Lindsay replied innocently, still holding my gaze.

“Um…well, not study.”

“Who’s not studying? I just don’t feel like reading right now. Why don’t you read it to me?” She said with a low, confident voice I’d never heard from her.

“Well, okay…let’s see, chapter twelve…” I looked back up at her and she still stared right at me.

“Okay. ‘Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, has long been used as a model organism in genetic experiments due to its short life cycle, which allows a new mating experiment every two weeks.’”

Every two weeks?” Lindsay interrupted, “That doesn’t sound so frequent. How often do you think mating experiments should be conducted?” Lindsay shifted her weight a little, and her hand moved slightly higher up my leg. The tingling sensation spread.

“I don’t know, I guess it would depend on the lab partner... but two weeks is definitely too long.”

“What if you had the right partner?” She leaned in a little and her hand moved almost all the way up my inner thigh, just short of where I wanted it. I felt the growing anticipation just above her hand. The butterflies of a new lover danced in my stomach.

“With the right partner, I would have to conduct several experiments a day.” I focused on her mouth, her thick soft lips, now slightly parted. I ached to kiss her, but I wanted to prolong the game.

“Do you think you have that kind of…desire? That’s a lot of experiments... you’d have to be a very curious boy.” She moved a little closer. I could feel her breath with each word. Her hand move again, ever so slightly. The edge of her little finger barely brushed against me. My body twitched as a little bolt of electricity shot down my legs and up through my chest, right to the back of my head.

“I don't think I've ever been this curious.” I dropped the book and kissed her. I didn’t care about my biology grade any more.

A Day in The Life of an Insurance Man

I get the coffee started, flip on the computer and listen to my overnight messages. Only one, thank God. It's a weird one, though. One of my clients wants to sell off her Individual Retirement Account. I don't sell many of those, so I have to look up what to do before I call her back. It's Mrs. -------. She's one of my favorite customers, very sweet, so I kill some time chatting with her. I hang up in a good mood.

Coffee's ready. I trim my fingernails into the waste basket while reading my e-mail. Eight Nigerian scams, three internet lottery scams and four tips on increasing sales from my manager. His tips don't look any more promising than the scams. Hey! One from Tildy and one from Missy. Sweet! At least I won't be bored for the next five minutes. The day is good and getting better.

The phone rings.

"Good morning, ------- Insurance, can I help you?" I use my cheeriest voice.

The answer is a verbal right cross: "Why did my bill go up this month!?" No good morning, no identifying himself.

I overlook the rudeness and get his information.

"Well, sir, you added a second car to your policy six weeks ago. That caused the policy to increase by $220 per six months."

There's a pause on the line while he realizes how foolish he seems.

"You people send me a bill for a different amount every month. Why can't you get that bill straight?" His tone is even more hostile than before. Clients often call determined to rip me a new one and won't be dissuaded by mere logic.

"Well, let's see. You've changed your coverages once a month for each of the last six months. You've paid late every month for four months," I say as I scroll through his policy record. "You were canceled three months ago for non-payment and I jumped through some hoops to get you re-instated. Do you recall that, sir? Things like that tend to cause irregular payment amounts."

Sensing my mild sarcasm, the customer says, "Well, you make enough money off of me that I'm sure you don't mind."

"Actually, sir, I make about four dollars a month from you. I'll give you four dollars if you go find another agent."

He thinks I'm joking and laughs, then says a polite thank you and goodbye.

Turning back to my e-mail, talking with Missy reminds me how much I want to chuck it all and live in Europe. I browse through a few universities in London with master's programs in creative writing. Maybe. The misses will hit the ceiling if I bring it up. We've been over this, she'll say. We don't have any kids or pets or houseplants, so what's holding us, I'll say. Nothing will be decided.

The phone rings.

"Good Morning, -------- Insurance, may I help you?" My tone isn't quite as sweet as before.

"Yeah, I need a quote for two cars." It's an older gentleman. Phoenix is infested with retirees with nothing better to do than call for insurance quotes all day.

"Sure, no problem, sir. There's a ten percent discount for having both your home and auto insurance with us. Would you like me to quote your homeowners' insurance as well?"

"No, dammit, if you're auto price is good, we'll talk about the homes." Somebody is a cranky-pants today.

I take all the info and hang up to work on the quote. Ten minutes later, I call him back. "Yes, sir, it would be $450 for your two autos for six months. 10% less if you had a homeowners' policy with us."

"Four hundred and fifty dollars!?" he shoots back. "That's $900 a year!"

"Very good, sir." I reply flatly, leaving him to figure out whether I was being a smart ass.


"That's WAY too high!" He finally blurts.

"Well, sir, many people pay more. How much are you paying now?" I ask.

"Three hundred and fifty dollars a year!"

"That is a very good price, sir. With that price, I'm surprised that you're shopping. How much were you hoping to pay?"

"Well...I just keep seeing these advertisements that make it sound like you're giving it away," he answers.

"Sir, $350 a year for two cars IS giving it away. But keep calling. Maybe someone will pay you for the privilege of insuring your cars. "

The old man hangs up.

Okay, let's see what Tits McGee is up to today.

Bugwit Meets Bikers

“Hey, you!”

I tried to ignore the half –in – the bag fifty-something chick two stools to my right.

“Hey YOU!”

I kept my eyes on the TV behind the bar except for a couple of quick glances to my left, catching the eye of Tim, whose idea it was to come to this dive in the bad side of Columbus, Ohio. Who knew Columbus even had a bad side?

“YOU! Suckin’ on that Budweiser!” This time she reached over and grabbed my forearm, so there was no mistaking who she meant.

“OH! Uh…hi!” I stammered. This couldn’t be good. I just wanted to finish my beer and get out.

“Yeah, you, honey! I’m talking to you!” She settled down now that she had my attention and straightened back up. She had dark, frizzy, grey-streaked hair, a deeply lined face that was once attractive and a blue flannel shirt with the sleeves torn off. She looked me up and down and said “You’re a nice-looking man! Very nice. Somebody raised you right. You can sure tell that."

At first, I was relieved, thinking that all she wanted was a little light flirting. Then she finished her sentence:

“…not like THIS asshole!” and she leaned back so I could see the guy on her right.

On the stool next to her was a man who looked very much like Randall “Tex” Cobb, the boxer. He's best known for his role as the cellmate who wanted to rape Chevy Chase in Fletch Lives, or the biker from hell in Raising Arizona. He was probably 250 pounds, with a huge bulldog head. His hair was wild and bushy, as was his beard. A wide, fist-flattened nose was spread across his face like butter across a roll.

He looked at me like I’d just slapped his mother.

My friend Tim and I were Controllers-corporate accountants - for Borden. You know, Elsie the Cow. And we were in town for a big meeting where we were told our plants were going to be shut down; Tim’s in Seattle and mine in Minneapolis.

After the meeting, we went out to rip a new one in our expense accounts. We went to the Japanese restaurant where they cook everything in front of you. We ordered the shrimp, the lobster, the tenderloin and three sake samplers. We bought the special birthday fruit boat desert for each of the three couples sitting at the same grill with us. It wasn’t anybody’s birthday, but it cost forty dollars and came with a very old Japanese man who sang happy birthday. After a few sakes, we just had to hear it again and again. We managed to run up a $400 bill. Revenge was delicious, if not sweet.

After dinner, I thought playing pool and swilling seven-dollar Heinekens on Elsie’s dime would be just fine, but Tim reverted to his thrifty accountant mindset and insisted we go to the local Eagles club. He was a member of the Fraternal Order and wanted the free pool and three dollar pitchers of beer that were his right.

Finally I caved, and off we went in a cab through increasingly shady-looking neighborhoods until we arrived at what had to be the absolute rectum of Columbus. Boarded-up buildings and fire-gutted businesses surrounded the only two going concerns on the block: The Fraternal Order of Eagles and the biker bar next door.

We knocked on the door of the Eagles. A panel slid away, speakeasy style, and a voice said “We’re a private club! Go away!”

Tim held up his membership card.

“Well, come back in thirty minutes. We’re voting on officers for next year.” The panel slid shut.

Tim’s next great idea was to grab a beer at the biker joint next door while we waited. When I hesitated, he said, “Hey, bikers are great, man. That whole violence image is over-blown. Bikers are some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet.”

As we walked in, I became aware of how were dressed: me in pressed black slacks, a white oxford and expensive black loafers; Tim in khakis and a golf shirt. Everyone else was in black leather jackets with club colors. We pulled up a barstool and tried to keep to ourselves. That’s when the drunk woman started in on me.

“What the heck is a good-lookin’ kid like you doing in this shit-hole, anyway?” she continued. Tex burned holes in me with his half-lidded, bloodshot eyes.

I explained about the Eagles and nudged Tim to join the conversation, but he refused to acknowledge me or take is eyes off the TV, determined to stay out of it.

“How old are you, honey?” She asked.

“Umm…thirty five.”

“I don’t usually give away my age in bars,” she said, suddenly the coquette. She paused a moment to cough up a loogie and spit it on the floor. “I’ll tell you, but I would never tell this jerk.” She jabbed a thumb in the direction of Tex.

Tex’s eyes blazed at me. He started taking things out of his pockets and putting them on the bar. I had no idea what that meant, but he was getting ready to do something. Cigarettes. Lighter. Keys. More keys. Pocket knife. Pocket watch.

That reminded me. I looked at my watch. We had 15 minutes to go.

“Hey, Tim look! The Eagle Club’s probably open now!” I stood up and threw a five on the bar. “It was real nice meeting you…”


“Right, Christine…but we have to go now.” I hustled Tim towards to the door and looked back to see if Tex was following us. When I did, Christine held her finger up, as if to stop me.

“Hey, I was going to invite you to be my date at my family reunion tomorrow!” She seemed genuinely sad that I was leaving.

“Sounds great!” I said, one hand on the door.

“It’s at the Courtyard Marriott by the airport!” she yelled after me.

“Can’t wait!”

Outside, Tim started for the Eagles Club. I saw a cab coming and grabbed Tim by the shirt and dragged him to the street where we blocked the taxi’s path.

Once we were safely in the back seat, Tim straightened his shirt and looked over at me, smiling. “Damn! She didn’t say what time to be there!”

"I don't remember her inviting you," I replied.


I knew Janice from 6th through 8th grade. She was a grade ahead of me and two years older. I was informed of her reputation soon after moving into town. She was tall, thin and pretty, but didn't say much. There was something a little different about her, something in her personality. These days I would attribute it to depression or abuse of one kind or another. We didn’t know anything about those things back then; we just knew she was a slut. 

Janice  lived next door to my friend Joe. One day, she came out to talk to Joe, another friend named Chris, and me. Joe demonstrated how easy she was by taking her to the side of the house and putting his hand down her pants. She let him, without resistance. My friend Chris followed. Again, she didn’t stop him. Joe and Chris called me chicken until I did it, too. Janice never said a word. 

After we had all felt her up, we walked away, leaving her standing alone. Joe and Chris called her a slut as we left. The whole thing baffled me and filled me with guilt. I didn’t understand why she would let us do that, and I didn’t understand why my friends would taunt her afterwards. But I knew that Janice didn’t deserve to be treated like that. I saw the pain in her eyes, I knew that we had crushed her soul, and I felt for her.
I wanted to see her more, because I liked her and because I was a horny teenager, like everyone else who'd taken advantage of her. But this was Oklahoma in the seventies. The Baptist church controlled the moral climate and I wasn’t mature enough to resist the prevailing social wind so I couldn’t be seen with her.
Sometimes, I would call her and she’d invite me over if her dad wasn’t home. We’d talk and eventually make out, and I’d gain a little in my sexual education. The next day, without me even saying or doing anything, she knew not to act like we were an item. She’d been a slut for a while by then. She knew the drill. 

Occasionally, I overcame my social fear, or grew some balls if you like, and we’d go somewhere in broad daylight together. Still, I hoped I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. When we were finally spotted, I was teased mercilessly, accused of being in love with a whore. My friends recited the list of who had supposedly done what to her. Instead of standing up for her like I should have, I got back in line and ignored her again.

I didn’t see Janice again for a year – a chance meeting at a drive-in. She’d changed by then. She had short, greasy hair and dirty jeans. She was very stoned on Quaaludes and looked like hell. The last image I have of Janice is her blowing my best friend in the front seat of a rambler station wagon while I held the driver’s side door open, puking up my Bacardi and Coke. Passers-by stared first at me, then at the open sex taking place beside me. Three of our female friends sat horrified in the back seat, their eyes as big as frisbees.

I don’t recall ever seeing Janice after that, but I have thought of her often. I wonder if she loved me. I wonder if I broke her heart, whether she held out hopes that I would be different. I wonder if I contributed to her deterioration. Was I someone significant to her or just one more in a long line of guys who used her.
Still I think of Janice. She was beautiful. In spite of, and because they called her slut.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I lay still, breathing heavily, my heart beating strong. My arms envelope you and I feel the full length of your body against me. I'm sure I feel your warmth, but it’s my imagination, picking up vibrations in the air. You were never really there.
I dress and drive to the party. As I enter, men shake my hand and women kiss my cheek. I smell your musky fragrance on my skin and wonder if they smell it, too. But it’s my imagination. You were never there.
I feel myself tingling where you touched me. I feel the outline of your hand. My lips remember touching yours and my cheek recalls the tickle of your hair. I’m afraid that I shall become aroused. But it’s my imagination, because you never touched me.
I smile and make pleasant conversation and shake my head when agreement is called for. We talk about the independent voter turnout and prospects for the next election cycle. The new Congressman steps in front of the crowd to speak. We clap as he thanks us. I turn to smile at you, but you were never there.
I see my friend Mark. He has someone new, where he had no one before. She is very special, he says. They smile. They stand close together. They can’t bear not to touch. They are in love.
And you are gone, because you were never there.

Thanksgiving at Weezer's, Pt1

My aunt Louise, or Weezer as we call her, loves my dad I

suppose. So much so she managed tag along on my parents’

honeymoon. I don't think my mother has ever forgiven Weezer

for that. Weezer was 55 when she first married. I had met her

husband Bill on two prior occasions. He always came off as uncomfortable around kids

and a bit of a bully.
Now, as he opened his door to my mother, father and me, the sight of his pasty white face, roundish body and thin, oily, combed-over hair brought back my dislike for him. We stood in the foyer, suitcases in hand, exchanging uncomfortable greetings when we began to hear a strange muffled organ tune emitting from somewhere deep in the house. I gave my dad a puzzled look, which he returned.
“Is the phantom living beneath your home?” My father asked, smiling.
Bill rolled his eyes. “I guess you’d better go down to the basement and see her new organ.” He led us down the stairs where Weezer labored away at her big Wurlitzer. Two keyboard decks and lots of multi-colored switches seemed like too much instrument for her meager ability. The tune she was butchering was a morphine-slow version of Oklahoma presumable played as a welcome march and a reference to our recent move from the great plains to the east coast. I had to look over her shoulder at the sheet music to be sure of the song.
Weezer finished with a flourish and whirled around on her stool and threw hew arms in the air as if to say “Ta da!” We were slow on the uptake and missed a beat before clapping and complimenting her on her fine rendition.
As Weezer stood to greet us, Bill walked briskly to the back of the room and lifted the lid on the stereo console, which doubled as a bar. In seconds, a big-band record hit the turntable with a splat, followed by the scritch of the needle. Having pre-empted any further organ music, Bill moved on to the drink situation. He poured himself a scotch and one for my father. “Jeanne? What would you like?” he asked my mother.
Before she could answer, Weezer stepped in. “Oh, we don’t have time for drinks, we have things to do in the kitchen. Come on, Jeanne!” My mother slumped a little and headed up the stairs behind Weezer. She cast a longing look back at the bar as she went.
I plopped down in an modern avocado side chair a few feet in front of the stereo/bar and propped my feet on the ottoman. Bill turned to me and bent at the waist, literally looking down on me. “What’ll you have, young man? A Shirley Temple?” At sixteen, I was a bit old for a Shirley Temple, but still quite sensitive about my youth. He was baiting me, hoping to get a rise.
“Dad lets me drink beer, actually. I’ll have whatever you’ve got.” I took a risk. Dad let me share a beer sometimes, but I was hardly on help-myself privileges. But, my father didn’t like Bill much more than I did, so I hoped he would help me to stick that Shirley Temple remark up Bill’s ass. Bill looked at my father with raised eyebrows. Dad looked at me. I saw a little twinkle in his eye.
“Sure, give him a beer, Bill,” Dad said.
Bill pulled a Schmidt’s out of a small refrigerator and handed it to me. I saw beer glasses on the bar, but he didn’t offer. Bill gathered his drink and he and dad sat on the orange crushed-velvet sofa opposite from me. No one spoke for a moment.
“This some good, toe-tapping stuff, huh Paul?” Bill asked, as King Porter Stomp began to play. There was a hint of bluff in his voice.
“Yeah, it’s great,” I said. “I love Benny Goodman.”
“You actually like this?” He seemed disappointed. “How did you know it was Benny Goodman?”
“By the clarinet. No one sounds like him.”
Bill looked at me, dubiously. I sipped my beer and smiled to myself.
The doorbell rang, and I could hear Weezer’s sturdy shoes clomping along the hardwood foyer and greetings being exchanged.
“Oh, yeah. Louise invited a few guests,” Bill said.
Guests?” Dad asked, approximating the tone in Bill’s voice.
“Yeah. Guests. Strays. People who don’t have anywhere else to go for Thanksgiving.”
“Well that’s nice of her,” I said.
“Nice of her, but it’s my food, isn’t it?” Bill shot me a look.
With that, my father and I went upstairs to see who had arrived. Weezer introduced us to Helen and Harriet, identical twin sisters. Despite being in their sixties, they were dressed in matching outfits - yellow turtleneck sweaters and calf-length red and orange fringed tartan skirts. They both wore short haircuts parted on the side and red plastic-framed glasses.
Weezer introduced us and I stuck my hand out to shake theirs.
“Ooh, isn’t he so polite?” one sister cooed to the other.
“And so cute! Don’t you love his hair?” answered the other.
“I’ll bet he’s smart, too,” Harriet, or perhaps Helen said. “Do you think he’s clever enough to get us a couple of glasses of white wine?”
“Oh, I’m sure he is,” answered Helen, or perhaps Harriet.
They both looked at me, expectantly.
“Um…no problem. I’ll bring it right out.” As I headed for the kitchen, I made a mental note to avoid the twins as much as possible. Mom was only too happy to pull the cork on one of the bottles of Blue Nun chilling for the meal. She poured two glasses for the twins and one for herself.
“Careful, Jeanne, we have a long night ahead of us!” Weezer said cheerfully as she took a tray of hors d’oeuvres out to the living room.
A rueful look from my mother followed her out the door. “I swear I’m going to kill her before the day is over.”
As I took the wine out to the twins, the doorbell rang again. Weezer opened the door to a shortish, plump woman her late sixties. Weezer introduced her as Catherine. She had a dyed blonde wash-n-set and a blue flowered knee-length dress. The pudginess of her face pushed in the outside edges of her lips, forcing them outward in a permanent fish-kiss pucker. She resembled Marion Lorne, the actress who played Aunt Clara on Bewitched, and her apparent befuddlement added to the similarity.
Bill asked if she would like a glass of wine, but she requested scotch instead. Catherine sat on the couch next to the twins. The three of them sat and looked at me sitting across from them in a stuffed lounge chair.
“That’s Paul, Louise’s nephew. Isn’t he adorable?” One of the twins asked. I lost all concept of which sister was which.
“Why, yes. I suppose so. What’s his name?” Catherine asked.
“Paul. That’s Louise’s nephew,” the other twin said.
“Oh…Is he related to you?” Catherine asked.
“No, he’s Louise’s nephew.” The other twin answered with no hint of irritation in her voice. The sisters seemed like they would be perfectly happy to continue this conversation until they all dropped from exhaustion. I picked up a magazine and pretended to read while really using it to block the line of sight between the three women and me. It wasn’t long before I was spotted behind my home-made camouflage and made to respond.
“Paul…Paul…PAUL!” First one twin called me before the other joined her in unison. The room went silent at the sound of the sisters saying my name in harmony. I had to put the magazine down and acknowledge them.
“Paul, would you be a dear and get us another glass of wine?” one of the twins asked.
“A glass of wine sounds wonderful!” Catherine said. “Peter, would you get me one, too?”

She was looking directly at me, so I assumed that I was Peter. Bill and I both glanced down at

the scotch and soda that he had so recently brought for Catherine and noticed that is was

already empty.
I came back with three glasses of wine and kept on heading out to the door. I announced that I was going to take a walk and took my jacket off the coat rack. I closed the door behind me, relieved of the pressure of adult scrutiny.


Weezer - Final

As I returned to the house, everyone was just sitting down, and Weezer was setting the turkey in front of Bill to carve. Rather than carve up a bunch of meat and pass it around, Bill asked each person what they wanted, carved something for them and placed it on their plate. I thought I detected a hint of magnanimity in his manner as he passed the turkey back to each of us.

More wine was dispensed to the guests, including me; although Bill made sure I only got half a glass. Toasts were made and food was passed and we all began to eat quietly. Breaking the silence, one of the twins asked me what college I planned to attend.

“Yes, I’d like to hear that as well,” Bill said.

I suspected that news of my solid C-Average grades must have made its way to Bill. “Well, I can’t really say I’ve thought about it much.” That was true.

Helen or Harriet began to ask a follow-up question, but Bill spoke louder, cutting her off, “So what do want to be when you grow up? What kind of work do you want to do?”

“I haven’t really thought of that either,” I said. I wanted to say that rock star and pot dealer were the only two professions I’d ever even considered, but I kept that to myself.

“Do you want to work in an office? Be a manager? An engineer? Anything?” Bill wouldn’t let up.

“I have no idea. It doesn’t have to be an office job, doesn’t have to be professional, I don’t suppose.”

“So you would do manual labor for your whole life?”

“Well, if I liked the work, then manual labor would be good enough. Everybody has to do something.”

“So,” Bill looked directly at me and tilted his head forward. “What you’re saying is that a hand job is better than nothing at all?”

His joke made me feel uncomfortable. He held his serious face for a second before bursting out with laughter. No one at the table joined him.

“Bill! Really,” Weezer said.

“What? He’s a kid, he doesn’t understand that!” Bill went back to his food and sulked.

After dinner, Weezer enlisted my mother’s help in bringing out pie and coffee. Bill poured cognac for himself and my father, but hesitated when the visibly tipsy Catherine asked for a glass.

The front door opened and in breezed a woman in her seventies. She wore leopard-patterned tights and a sequined top. “Hel-LO, everybody!” she said, waving to the table in general. She wore a blonde wig and bright red lipstick painted outside the lines of her lips to make them look bigger, Bette Davis-style. Lucy was my great-aunt and was well-known as the rich eccentric in the family. She was rumored to have been quite wild in her youth.

“Lucy! So glad you could make it!” Weezer said as she stood to kiss her cheek. “Where’s Jack?”

Lucy spun around and looked back at the still-open door and shouted, “Jack! Jack, get in here!”

After a few seconds, a man trundled through the doorway, closing it carefully behind him. He could not have been much older than Lucy, but the years had obviously been a little tougher on him. He was thin and withered and seemed absent as he caught up to Lucy. He said nothing as he stood beside her. The contrast between Lucy’s vivacity and Jack’s hollowness made me wonder if she had slowly sucked the life out of him over the years, thereby extending her own youth.

Lucy sat at the table and immediately began to talk over the top of everyone, dominating the conversation. Jack sat down at the upright piano a few feet away and began to plink at the keys. He seemed to be puzzling over the instrument as if he had been on another planet for many years and was now trying to remember just exactly what a piano was.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I ran out of gas and had no money?!” Lucy said to no one in particular.

“Oh, Lucy, you aren’t going to tell that…” Weezer began, but Lucy ignored her.

“Well, it was back in thirties, I suppose, and I was driving back from Washington in my little convertible, and had to pull over for gas. The man came out and filled the tank before I realized that I had no money - not a penny! So, the man comes up to collect, and I pull my skirt up a little and tell him, ‘I’m so sorry, but I’m all out of cash. Is there any other way I can pay you?’ I looked at him and batted my big brown eyes. He stared back at me and said, ‘Well, I suppose I could use a little pussy!’ Well, I laughed and said, ‘Well so could I, but mine’s as big as your hat!’ and I drove off!”

Lucy laughed to the ceiling, while Weezer shrunk in embarrassment. Catherine also laughed hysterically, but I’m not sure she even heard the story, as she was quite drunk by now.

“What are you laughing at?” Bill looked at Catherine with scorn.

When she was able to control herself, she replied, “I’m laughing because I think I just peed myself!” She laughed again.

Bill's look of scorn changed to disgust.

Jack was starting to warm up on the piano. Fragments of songs began to come back to him, but nothing coherent enough to recognize. Catherine got up and sat on the bench next to Jack and asked whether he knew this song or that. He didn’t respond to her.

Lucy stood up, pulled a piece of paper from her bra and unfolded it. “I have written a new poem, and I’d like to make my first public reading of it, right here, tonight.”

I could see the fear on Weezer’s face. “Lucy, that’s very nice, but are you sure…”

Lucy ignored her and began to read:

Bright Sun, Autumn wood
Summer days, sultry nights
Winter’s white wonder, Spring’s unspoiled life
All glorious, all good.”

As Lucy read, Jack began to pound out a tune resembling Let Me Call You Sweetheart while Catherine tried to sing along. The two were on completely different parts of the song and seemed to be only vaguely aware of the other’s presence and efforts. Jack began to play louder, perhaps trying to drown out Catherine’s out-of-tune singing and Lucy’s poetry reading.

“Opulent truffles, Spanish rice
Subtle saffron, to tease the tongue
Bitter chocolate, sour apple
All made by pleasing device

“Jack! Would you stop banging on that God damned piano!” Lucy yelled suddenly. "You’re ruining my poem! Let’s see, where was I? Damn! Now I have to start all over."

"Bright Sun, Autumn wood
Summer days, sultry nights
Winter’s white wonder, Spring’s unspoiled life
All glorious, all good…"

Jack quit playing the piano, but never turned around to look at Lucy. Catherine stood from the bench, revealing a large wet spot on the back of her dress. Bill watched her wide-eyed as she moved back to the dining table and sat down.

“You weren’t kidding when you said you pissed yourself, were you?” Bill asked.

“No! I wasn’t!” Catherine began laughing hysterically at her admission.

Opulent truffles, Spanish rice
Subtle saffron, to tease the tongue
Bitter chocolate, sour apple
All made by pleasing device

“It’s not funny!” Bill scolded Catherine, but she continued to laugh.

A rain-soaked stroll, a mounted hunt
Days of leisure, a seaside pause
Champagne and Calvados, tart and sweet
None compare to the pleasure of my

“Damn it, it’s not funny! You pissed on my furniture!” Bill stood over Catherine, who continued to snigger, despite her best efforts. “You pissed on my furniture!” Bill slapped Catherine across the face with his dinner napkin.

My father stood, as if to say ‘that’s enough’. Catherine stopped laughing. After a few seconds, my mother got up and walked down to the basement. I was sure she was pouring herself a scotch and walking out back to have a cigarette. Bill sat down, followed by my father.

“See, Jack, now you’ve spoiled my poem.” Lucy said.

Jack began to plink at the keyboard.

“I knew Jeanne would disappear when it came time to do the dishes,” Weezer said.

I excused myself and went upstairs, figuring that this would be the perfect time to steal a few of the Tuinal I had previously spotted in Weezer’s medicine cabinet.

A few years later, while I was in the army, I wrote Weezer a letter recalling that Thanksgiving. I remarked how funny I found the whole evening, in hindsight.

She responded: “I did not find that evening humorous in the least! That woman pissed on my furniture. I had to get the dining room chair re-upholstered and the piano bench re-finished. I don’t know why your mother invited those people!”

Happy belated Thanksgiving, Weezer. Thanks for having me.



A monolith, hewn from high Carrara,
From a fault-ridden corner of the quarry
Hauled great distance by wagon, sledge and barge
And left, neglected, in the courtyard

Of questionable acquisition
And suspect value
A deep crevasse ran through the core
Where others sought to shape it

The artist takes the challenge
And claims the difficult commission
And shelters the rough slab in the studio
Where they observe each other, estimating

The chisel carves into hard white flesh
As the splinters precipitate
And dust descends
Choking and chafing

The stone is hacked and gouged
Precious pieces fall away
Within, taking shape, a living thing
That feels every cut, every tooth, every rasp

The entombed being winces at every blow
Yet yearns to be set free from its form
The artist labors, yet loves the creation
And continues despite the struggle

But the wounds are so deep
And the dust so blinding
That in time, neither can bear
The presence of the other

Finally, the fatal flaw is exposed
And all progress ended
For one more mallet-fall
Would break the marble in two

So the canvas is covered
Over the half-completed work
The artist, resigned, says it matters not
For you were never beautiful to me


Something to Look at

Since some are insisting upon returning here, here's something to look at when you come. :-)

Famous Birthdays

March 8, 1783 - Hannah Van Buren, wife of Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the U.S. [she died Feb 5, 1819 -- before he was elected president]
1841 - Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., jurist: associate justice of U.S. Supreme Court [1902-1932]; writer: The Common Law; died Mar 6, 1935
1888 - Stuart Chase, writer: Men and Machines, Power of Words, A New Deal [inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal]; died Nov 16, 1985
1902 - Louise Beavers, actress; died Oct 26, 1962; Beulah Day, Imitation of Life
1909 - Claire Trevor (Wemlinger)Academy Award-winning [supporting] actress: Key Largo [1948]; Stagecoach, The High and the Mighty, The Mountain, Marjorie Morningstar, The Stripper, How to Murder Your Wife; died Apr 8, 2000
1921 - Cyd Charisse (Tula Ellice Finklea)dancer: Grand Hotel, Singin’ in the Rain; actress: Silk Stockings, Party Girl, Deep in My Heart
1921 - Alan Hale Gilligan’s Island, Johnny Dangerously; died Jan 2, 1990
1922 - Carl (Anthony) Furillo‘Skoonj’, ‘The Reading Rifle’: baseball: Brooklyn Dodgers [World Series: 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1956/all-star: 1952, 1953], LA Dodgers [World Series: 1959]; died Jan 21, 1989
1924 - Sean McClory, actor: Charade, Fools of Fortune; died Dec 10, 2003
1927 - Dick Hyman-pianist: Moritat; music director for Arthur Godfrey
1928 - Mendy Rudolph-NBA basketball referee [1953-78], 1st NBA official to work 2,000 games; sportscaster; died in July 1979
1936 - Sue Ane Langdon (Lookoff), actress: Frankie and Johnny, A Guide for the Married Man, Roustabout, Zapped!
1937 - Raynoma Lilesco-founder of Motown [with husband Berry Gordy]
1939 - Jim (James Alan) Bouton, baseball: pitcher: NY Yankees [World Series: 1963, 1964/all-star: 1963], Houston Astros, Seattle Pilots, Atlanta Braves; broadcaster: WABC-TV, WCBS-TV; author: Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues, Strike Zone, Home Games
1940 - Susan Clark, actress: Coogan’s Bluff, Airport 1975, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Night Moves, Babe, The Choice, Webster
1942 - Dick (Richard Anthony) Allen, baseball: Philadelphia Phillies [all-star: 1965-1967], SL Cardinals [all-star: 1970], LA Dodgers, Chicago White Sox [all-star: 1972-1974/Baseball Writer’s Award: 1972], Oakland Athletics; “Don’t Call Me Richie”
1942 - Ralph Ellis, musician: banjo, singer: group: The Swinging Blue Jeans: Hippy Hippy Shake
1943 - Lynn Redgrave, actress: Georgy Girl, House Calls, Chicken Soup, Centennial, Rehearsal for Murder
1945 - Mickey Dolenz, singer, drummer: group: The Monkees: I’m a Believer, Last Train to Clarksville; actor: Circus Boy
1946 - Randy Meisner, singer: bass: group: The Eagles: Take it Easy, Best of My Love, Take it to the Limit
1947 - Mike Allsup, musician: guitar: group: Three Dog Night: Try a Little Tenderness, Easy to be Hard, Eli’s Coming, Mama Told Me [Not to Come], Joy to the World, Black & White, Shambala
1947 - Carole Bayer Sager, singer, songwriter: That’s What Friends are For; w/Tony Wein: Groovy Kind of Love; w/Albert Hammond: When I Need You; w/Bruce Roberts: You’re the Only One; w/Marvin Hamlisch: Break It to Me Gently, Looking Through the Eyes of Love, Nobody Does It Better
1948 - Little Peggy March (Margret Annemarie Batavio), singer: I Will Follow Him
1949 - Frank Sandershockey: Univ of Minnesota, US Olympic Ice Hockey Team [1972]; WHA: Minnesota Fighting Saints
1953 - Jim (James Edward) Rice, baseball: Boston Red Sox [all-star: 1977-1980, 1983-1986/AL MVP: 1978]
1954 - Cheryl Baker, singer: group: Bucks Fizz: Making Your Mind Up, Land of Make Believe, My Camera Never Lies, Now Those Days are Gone, If You Can’t Stand the Heat; TV host
1957 - Clive Burr, musician: drums: group: Iron Maiden [1979-1983]: Eddie the Head
1958 - Gary Numan, singer: Cars, Are Friends Electric, I Die You Die, We Take Mystery to Bed, Music for Chameleons, White Boys and Heroes, Warriors, Sister Surprise, Berserker; songwriter: I Dream of Wires
1959 - Aidan Quinn, actor: Legends of the Fall, Avalon, All My Sons, Desperately Seeking Susan, A Streetcar Named Desire
1962- Bug Witt, entertainer: Erstwhile would-be writer, former musician, ex naked blogger.
1964 - Peter Gill, musician: drums: group: Frankie Goes to Hollywood: Relax, Two Tribes, The Power of Love, Ferry Cross the Mersey

Cleaning out the Closets


I see her as I search the sky
Brightest light
From the East
Surrounded by stars and satellites

Some bright
Some in darkness
Some overshadowed
By larger bodies

I peer at them
Through my small aperture
And strain to decipher their twinkling
A code known only to themselves

But it is she that fascinates me
I study her from my observatory
And measuring the movements
I glory in my discovery

But I miscalculate
And she is not where I expect
Re-focusing, I watch
The more I see, the more I am revealed

Obscured by clouds
Emitting curious signals
Cassandra of the night sky
Apollo should not have cursed you so

What lies beneath
The veil of vapor?
Cool stone or
Captive heat

She emits such light
Yet peers at her reflection
And sighs.
Yet, what would I have given for one long look?


Like a Dream

Have you ever dreamt of a place that was so perfect and so happy and so beautiful that you are certain that nothing like it can really exist? A place that resonates with you so deeply that you are sure you were meant to be there? A place that gives you a complete sense of being home? I have had the 'home' dream many times.

As a child, I dreamt of a 3-d version of my own crayon art: green, grassy hills with bright sunshine warming the white clapboard house with dormer windows and a brick chimney. Incongruously, there was a fire in the fireplace despite the obvious summer sunlight. But later, after living in the desert for so long, I dreamt of cool, lush landscapes and narrow, wet sidewalks. I dreamt of water and mist, canals and bays, closely huddled houses with a bricked town square where everyone exchanged greetings as they passed. All the people knew each other and had been in each others' homes. The landscaping was meticulous and flower beds lined the fronts of houses. No cars were were anywhere to be seen. All travel was by foot, by bicycle or by boat. Backyard gardens contained complex mazes and hidden statuary. But they were open to anyone.

A shop on the corner sold pastries and coffee for a mid-afternoon break and canals divided and connected the village. For this dreamland was an island, away from the world, unchanging overtime, unaffected, uncorrupted. Perfect. Too perfect to exist.

But it does exist. Sort of.

On my last trip to the Netherlands, I went to the little-visited Zuider Zee Museum. Much of it is outdoors - homes, businesses and churches taken down from dying fishing villages all over North Holland and re-assembled on an island outside of Enkhuizen. My picture of the sailboats from a few posts back was taken on the trip out to the museum. As we motored out, I had no idea that I would be stepping into my own dream. But, as we passed the fleet of old fishing boats as they put out for the day, I began to get a familiar feeling. I knew that this was no ordinary excursion. I was entering something meaningful for me.

When we arrived and debarked, I could not believe what I was seeing. This was the place of my dreams. I felt like I already knew the layout of the town and had been in all the buildings before. But that would be impossible. This is a make-believe town, an invention. But it felt so real in my memory.

Have you ever dreamed of a perfect place? Have you ever found it?

More Closet Cleaning

Once upon a time, Bugwit aspired to be a political writer. No shit. Yeah, I used to care about the world, back when I had a brain. I ran across this piece from my old political blog and was amused by it. This is one my favorites, and I hope you like it, too:


George Will is Crazy
George Will is nuts. I think that when the Soviet Union collapsed, his brain couldn’t handle the loss of its reverse-compass and slowly but surely ceased to function. December 15th’s (2005) opinion piece (Our fake drilling Debate) on the Arctic Nation Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) proves it. Here’s the summary sentence from Will’s column:

"If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath (ANWR) area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation (cue pomp and circumstance - bugwit) cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism.”

Collectivism. There’s the crazy I was talking about. Plus, the man is suggesting that we should drill in ANWR just for spite! And the paranoia! He actually thinks that liberals don’t give a damn about ANWR; we just oppose drilling because we’re communists! I know, I couldn’t believe it either. He doesn’t know what year it is. Communism is dead and discredited. Why is he still ranting about an extinct threat? It’s like lying awake at night worrying that a tyrannosaurus might leap through the window at any moment.
Plus, the Soviets were not exactly tree-huggers. The Czech Republic is still cleaning up the environmental mega-disasters left by the USSR. China is fast become the world's biggest toxic dump.
Here’s where here he really goes off the deep end:
“But for many opponents of drilling in the refuge, the debate is only secondarily about energy and the environment. Rather, it is a disguised debate about elemental political matters.
For some people, environmentalism is collectivism in drag. Such people use environmental causes and rhetoric not to change the political climate for the purpose of environmental improvement. Rather, for them, changing the society's politics is the end, and environmental policies are mere means to that end.”

Sure, he can still turn a phrase that would make William F. Buckley proud, (just an aside: does William F Buckley strangely remind you of Margaret DuMont?) but unlike Buckley, Will's arguments make no sense. Will is saying that liberals aren't really interested in protecting the environment. It's all just an elaborate plot to convert the U.S. to a communist society. 

Now, anyone knows that this can't be  because Democrats never plan ahead. The calling card of the democrat is lack of guile. Even conservatives think so. It’s one of the many things they hate about progressives. Liberals just aren't down with the big secret plans. Like gossipy seventh-graders, they blab every government secret as soon as they learn it. Republicans are the plotters. Remember Watergate? Big plot. Iran Contra? Bigger plot. Project for a New American Century (PNAC)? Biggest plot ever!
Never heard of the PNAC? Republicans decided in 1997 that we should invade Iraq in order to secure the oil resources and create a base from which to conquer the Middle East, and therefore dominate the world. And we’re the ones with big, evil plans? Everyone knows that the most complex Democratic schemes involve having furtive sex and then ‘plotting’ to deny it.
“The unending argument in political philosophy concerns constantly adjusting society's balance between freedom and equality. The primary goal of collectivism -- of socialism in Europe and contemporary liberalism in America -- is to enlarge governmental supervision of individuals' lives. This is done in the name of equality.”

Really? ANWR is about liberals' desire to grow government and micro-manage the lives of Americans? Who was the only president since WWII to reduce the size of the US government? Reagan? Nope. Bush I? Uh-uh. Bush II? Please! Comrade Clinton, of course.

On the other hand, who flew to Washington in the middle of the night to illegally interfere in the affairs of Terri and Michael Schiavo? Who wants to deny women their right to decide how to manage their own pregnancies? Who wants to prevent people from dying with dignity at a time and method of their own choosing? Who reviles the ACLU, whose only mission is to prevent the government from overstepping its bounds where constitutionally guaranteed liberties are concerned? Who wants to use the NSA to spy on thousands of American citizens? Liberals or Republicans?

Here's another snippet:
“People are to be conscripted into one large cohort, everyone equal (although not equal in status or power to the governing class) in their status as wards of a self-aggrandizing government. Government says the constant enlargement of its supervising power is necessary for the equitable or efficient allocation of scarce resources.”

He’s describing Soviet-style government here, so make no mistake: if you are against drilling in ANWR, he just called you a communist.

“Therefore, one of the collectivists' tactics is to produce scarcities, particularly of what makes modern society modern -- the energy requisite for social dynamism and individual autonomy. Hence collectivists use environmentalism to advance a collectivizing energy policy. Focusing on one energy source at a time, they stress the environmental hazards of finding, developing, transporting, manufacturing or using oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear power.

That is a truly intellectual-sounding passage. But, here in his most pedantic 
paragraph lies the error that undoes his whole thesis: While suggesting that constant Soviet shortages were artificially created in order to keep a thumb on the populace, Mr. Will forgets that if the shortages were intended, then the Soviets could have corrected them whenever they wanted. But, at the end of the communist era, the Soviets desperately needed to increase production of anything that would bring them hard currency, but they could not. Collectivism failed because it was inherently and horribly inefficient. The shortages were caused by the flawed theory of centralized planning, not by totalitarian politics. This fact unravels Will’s entire premise.

Also, Will never explains how fuel shortages must translate into a communist takeover or why such shortages could not lead to a radical right-wing revolution. In fact, one could make a pretty good case that scarcity has already lead to an ultra-conservative takeover. Scarcity of oil, security and a clear enemy to justify a huge military have all been used as excuses to chip away at our constitutional rights.

Since Will’s column makes no logical sense, its only value, if you can call it that, is as McCarthyist propaganda. It’s a cynical Ann Coulter-style hate piece prettied up with pedantic prose, as only Will can shovel it. His only goal is to get the reader to associate environmentalism with liberalism with communism. The rest of it is filler. 
I don't think George Will is sincere in these beliefs. One would have to be crazy to think these things. But if he is, then he must be in a care facility somewhere, seeing Bolsheviks under every bedpan, oblivious to the fact that communism is long dead and no longer useful as a hoodoo to shake at the reactionaries. On 9/12, all the other conservatives switched to using terrorism in that role. Maybe Will’s celebrated intellect, pre-programmed to red-baiting, just could not accept that the foundation of all its arguments and actions no longer exist. And like the movie cliché where the evil computer cannot accept contradictory information, Mr. Will’s brain shorted out and caught fire.

No Apologies

I won’t say that I am sorry
Though there is sorrow in my soul

I won’t make a promise now
That I can’t fulfill tomorrow

I won’t ask forgiveness
For I still have a little pride
Or maybe I just don’t want to impose

For years and years
I was your engine
I pulled any burden, any load

Traversed the mountain passes
Made the high-speed Great Plains run
And the busy inter-city route

Now that I've been sidetracked
For oh, these past few years
For you, I’ve lost my polish, my power and my pull

You’re not so impressed with me now

I’m not the vehicle that will take you
To your land of careless life
And all your plans are left in shadow and in doubt

So here I am barely pulling my own weight
I’m not a diesel, no Eurostar, no Super Chief
No more rides in comfort, so maybe no more wife

No, I won’t beg your pardon
I can’t expect you to forget
It’s no use to offer blinders now

For there’s nothing of me you haven’t seen

The weight of life and actions
Tugs hard at the edge of my smile
I’m not fun for you like before

So all I ask of you
is this one little thing
Do you want me anymore?


Freedom Fries

Each week, I go to a business luncheon. It’s an organization of people from various professions and we get to know each other, educate each other and refer business to one another. Yesterday, I found myself at the same table with Chris, the evangelical real estate guy; Laura, the blonde North Dakota-bred massage therapist; Gary, the stout pest control guy from Jersey; and Dan, the grey-haired chapter president.

I’ve had a good-natured war of words about politics with Chris the evangelist, in particular about some of the dirty tricks and nasty deeds pulled by the Bush people. Yesterday, we were discussing that it appears that Karl Rove (Bush’s henchman and general dirty-trickster) was behind the firing of seven US Attorneys, most of who were investigating republican elected officials for corruption.

He was rather steadfastly maintaining the innocence of his beloved republicans but also insisting that good Christian moral goals can be achieved through sometimes unsavory methods. In other words, the ends justify the means.

“Look, Chris. That waitress is trying to get your attention!” I pointed over Chris’s shoulder. As he turned around, I reached over with both hands and took almost all of the french fries from his plate and put them on top of my chicken caesar salad. Chris turned back around and noticed that he had only a few stubby fries left. He spotted the mountain piled in front of me.

“You stole my fries!”

“These? No, these are completely unrelated fries,” I said.

He was flabbergasted. “Did you see him take my fries?” he asked Gary.

“I didn’t see nothin’,” Gary said, looking Chris straight in the eye.

“Laura? Did he take my fries?”

“You know, I just don’t remember. I have a lot going on…the details get lost sometimes,” she laughed.

“Dan! You must have seen it!”

“Well, as president, I like to stay above these petty fights, so I can’t help you.”

“Thank you all for your honest testimony,” I said, and placed a pile of fries on the plates of Laura, Gary and Dan. They began to eat them, dunking them in the ketchup on Chris’ plate.

“I can’t believe you did that! You’re crazy, stealing my food like that!”

“Sounds like you are coming unhinged, Chris,” I said. “You’re getting hysterical. I think the wheels are falling off.”

“You don’t think I’m just going to let this lie, do you?” Chris looked at me, clearly becoming angry.

“Hey, I’m innocent, so it doesn’t really matter what you do. My conscience is clear.” Then I turned to the table next to me and whispered loudly, “Hey, I think Chris is going kind of nuts right now. Poor guy. It understandable really, he and his wife are having a little sexual problem. You might not want to send him any clients right now. You know, he’s unstable.” I made a little circle around my ear with a half-eaten fry.

“You bastard! I told you that in confidence!” Chris exploded. “Dan! You’re the president! Do something about him! He can’t just steal my food and bad mouth me to the other members!”

Dan looked at me for a moment and said, “Paul, I hereby grant you full and complete pardon for any offenses you may or may not have committed during the luncheon of March 15th, 2007.”

Then he looked at Chris. “Is that what you had in mind?”

Taxes, Visitors

Howdy, super blog friends. Sorry Bugwit has not posted for a week. He's had his head buried in doing his taxes. But before he can do his taxes, he has to do his bookkeeping for 2006. Then he can do his corporate taxes. And state corporate taxes and then his personal federal taxes and then his personal state taxes. Fuck! It enough to turn a man Republican! I need a study break!

Last week, I got an e-mail from an old friend of mine saying, "Hey, we're coming into town next week, can we stay at your place?" Of course the answer is absolutely yes, but now we get to clean the house, do the spring landscaping and all the little fix-it stuff around the house we've been putting off. Ive heard that some people do that even when guests AREN'T coming, but those people are show-offs.

Well, it will be good to see my friend and his wife and 12-year-old girl again. We saw them last summer for the first time in ten years. If you've read Never Dance with the Commanders' Wife, You'll recognize him as the the South African guy with the razor-sharp wit. Oh, yes, and their little girl, who is a sweet as can be (really!), wants to go to the Renaissance Fair. Gonna get my joust on. Hmmm...

So, here's to early tax preparers and those that keep the house in ready-to-visit condition at all times: I hate you.

Do you keep the house ready to go? Do your taxes early? Or do you need something to prod you?

And speaking of prodding and taxes, I just found this picture. Where do you suppose they put the meter? What's the measure used for taxation purposes.? Is it a user fee, a proportional tax, a luxury tax, a sales tax, an extraction fee? Is it progressive or regressive? Do you pay as you go? Where do you file the forms? I really want to know!


Avatar Contest!

Okay, so I've decided to break down and use an avatar. I have decided that I must have a signature symbol that expresses my very essence; that defines me as a person. Something that tells everyone at a glance what I am all about. Or something funny. Whatever.

The first thing that came to mind was a picture that I used in conjunction with my Nicki piece. It was a painting entitled Spooning (seen below left), although I have to admit that it depicts a scene in which actual spooning does not seem imminent. Thirty minutes away, maybe.

In fact, just to prevent any misconceptions, I removed the 'Bugger, Bugger, Bugwit' from my
banner. Given the position of the couple portrayed in the painting I'd hate people to get the idea that I'm all about the back door. I'm not sure that's the personal essence I'm trying to convey.

So, I'm still searching for an avatar, and to help move that project along, I've decided to hold a contest! Woo!

So, if you think you have a good avatar for me, send your suggested pictures, posters or whatevers by link or e-mail ( and I'll select a winner. It should reflect your perception of me, and what you think reflects my personality. Or at least be funny. Feel free to also suggest a prize! The winner should get something for their efforts, right?

Thank you in advance for your submission. Not that I'm into dominance. If I was, I wouldn't thank you.


Flamingoes, Flowers, Forgetfulness

Insomnia drives me late at night
Sailing easy through the desert, windows down
The perfume of paper flowers
And the cleansing scent of cassia
Tousles my hair and sifts through my fingers

The mountains lie face up in silhouette
The sky soaks up the moonlight
I tune in the oldies station,
the Flamingoes croon to me
Shoo-bop-doo-wop, Shoo-bop-doo-wop

My love must have been a kind of blind love
For I could see no one but you
My head was clouded, not bright
I never thought you would deny love
But now I think I understand why

You were there, so was I
We’ve seen the millions pass by
But I’m remembering that I am someone beautiful
Despite all the things that you said
You were so lucky to know me

My love must have been a kind of blind love
For I overlooked the cracks and flaws in the facade
How did this happen, what were the odds
But not everything is pure chance
And I have finally realized all that has been

Though the moon was so high
Not a thing in the sky could I have seen
So I’ve turned my face back to the Earth
Now I’m driving through the desert
And I only have eyes for me


Holy Crap! I Got Accepted!

Against all odds, I have been accepted into Goucher College for their Creative Non-Fiction Master of Fine Arts program. School starts in August.


Wow. I was not expecting this. *pulls out pre-written speach*

I'd like to thank all of you who supported me and said kind things about my writing, and to those who have encouraged me to keep writing, and especially to those that nagged, um, reminded me to get my personal statement written and mailed.

Woo! Woo! Woo!

(Crap. Now what do I do?)

My New Career Coach

Larry Bort is smiling at me. He always smiles. I can see all of his teeth. His eyes bulge and look a little wild. His grayish blonde hair sticks up like in a rooster tail. His scalp line recedes at the temples, leaving a mohawk-like strip down the center of his head.

I am in the process of taking bids to paint my house. I already had two estimates when I remembered that the guy down the street paints houses. It seemed like a good idea to talk to him since he presumably knows the neighborhood and would not get me into trouble with the Homeowners' Association, whose spies are everywhere. They would love to fine me $100 for improper paint color or contractors working on Sundays or some other arcane rule of which I am not aware.

As we talk at the front of the house, I see Larry's red Honda sports car parked on the street. I suddenly remember a few months back when a crazed jerk in a red sports car got impatient with me while we drove down the main street of the subdivision. I kept stopping at all the stop signs, which annoyed him to no end. In my rear-view mirror, I saw him weave, threaten to pass on the right and gesture wildly from behind the wheel. I slowed down just to irritate him more. When we finally exited the neighborhood, he flew around me and flipped me off.

We walk around the house and I point out all the trouble spots. Larry doesn't take measurements like the other painters did, but he says he can tell me exactly how much he would charge me. Except for the paint. He'd just bill me for the paint at the end. I tell him I need a good estimate on the paint costs.

"Well, I couldn't even begin to guess how much paint this house would need!" He says.

"The other two painters both said about 40 gallons per coat," I reply.

"Yes! That's exactly how much I was going to say!"

"Right," I think to myself.

"Well, the labor for this job would be $7900. I'll figure the paint and call you."

Larry's bid was about twice as high as the other two I'd gotten already.

As we walked down the driveway, I asked him how long he'd been painting houses.

"Oh, just a couple of years, while I've been between jobs."

"Really? What do you usually do?" I asked.

"I'm a licensed therapist." His grin never waned for one moment.

"How 'bout that!" I said.

"What about you? What do you do?" Larry asked.

"Insurance agent."

"Do you like it?"


"Well, if you ever want to make a career change, or just want to get more out of your current job, call me."

He whipped out a business card that read "Larry Bort, Business Coach/Career Counselor."


UPDATE! This guy looked really familiar, but I couldn't place him. Then tonight, I turn on an old favorite movie, Escape from New York, and there he was, the crazy-looking punk dude, Isaac Hayes' right-hand man. That's him, wild eyes, and sticky-up hair.


The Namesake

I went to see The Namesake yesterday. It is the story of a son of Indian immigrants who struggles to escape his Bengali culture, symbolized by his name, Gogol Ganguli. He feels oppressed and uncomfortable with his parents and their traditional ways, as he feels very American. He prefers to go by Nick.

Early in the picture when the grandfather dies, Gogol's mother cries out, wracked with grief. Later in the film, Gogol's father dies and and the son is deeply affected and transformed by the loss. I was moved by this film, especially by these two scenes, but I had to think about why this was so.

On the way home from the theater, I had some time to think while driving down the freeway. Off in the distance, I could see the condo complex where my parents lived until recently. The emotion from the movie hit me again, and I realized why this movie struck a chord. It was not because I anticipated that I would miss my father when he dies, it was because I knew that I would not.

Gogol's father and grandfather were wise, loving men who put their children first, provided thoughtful guidance and imparted moral and intellectual education for their children. Mine did not. I was lightly parented at best. My father mostly ignored me, but on those occasions when he turned his attention my way, he was derisive, insulting and cruel. To this day, he seeks to elevate his self-esteem by lowering that of those around him.

I will not miss that.

As I grew up I, like Gogol, saw myself as being stuck with an unusual name that I wished I could escape. I no longer dislike my name, but unlike Gogol, I have not come to appreciate my father or seen the light of his love and wisdom. Nor do not think this will ever happen. I will not mourn him when he goes, for I have already mourned my lack of a father.


Breeders Versus the Childless

Mrs. Wit and I attended a back-yard barbecue a few weeks ago, little knowing that we would be the only childless couple in attendance. Breeders and childless couples at a party are like different species of animal at the watering hole. We tolerate each other because we both want to be there to slake our parched social lives, but mutual mistrust complicates all communications. When forced to occupy common ground, we tiptoe around one another, eyes averted, careful not to do something that might spur a conversation. Hand signals, nods and blatant telegraphing of intentions are needed. 
Even with all that, no connection between the childless and a pro-progeny couple lasts for very long, because kids will always divert our attention.

 We walked in the front door and followed the noise of conversation to the kitchen. The hosts, Craig and Lisa welcomed us and re-introduced themselves. As we made with the hi-how-ya-doin-been-a-whiles, two more couples walked in from the back yard. We said quick hellos and made a few half hearted jabs at finding common conversational ground.

Mother #1: “Hey, have you seen the Cars movie?”
Me: “No. I heard it was good, though. Have you seen Babel or Notes on A Scandal?”
Mother #1: “Oh, no. The kids would never sit still through those.”
Me: “Ah…right.”   

Thereafter, we pretended to be occupied elsewhere. We recognized that we were members of rival herds on the procreation Savannah. Despite knowing each other for years, we had absolutely nothing to talk about. To busy myself, I went back to assembling my potluck dinner.
Mother #1 did the same, turning to ask her three-year-old daughter, “Honey, do you want pickles?”
No reply.
Mother #1 continued to load her plate. “Sweety, do you want a hot dog or a hamburger?”
The daughter picked her nose in response
“Okay, I’m gonna give you a hot dog, but you’d better eat it! Not like last time. Remember what mommy said?”
The daughter examined the booger on end of her finger.

“She’s adorable,” I said to mother #1.
“Oh, thank you!” she smiled.

Outside, I saw my sister-in-law Jennifer and her husband Stef seated at a round table under the portico of the big Spanish-style house. The yard was immense for Arizona, with a large pool and barbecue area taking half the yard and a big grassy area literally overrun with mobs of kids aged two to eight.
I took a seat next to Stef. I used to have great conversations with him and enjoyed his company immensely. I miss that. When he became a father, he grew sort of quiet. Then when the second child came, he disappeared into his computer room and now emerges only for sustenance and hygiene.

Steve and I ate our hamburgers and stared into the middle distance while the hurricane of screaming children and bustling mothers swirled around us. At the far corner of the yard, all the other fathers stood around the barbecue, drinking beer. They gathered there  because a grill, or any fire, is an instinctual rallying point for tribal men. There, out of earshot of theirs wives, they can re-affirm their masculinity by burning stuff. They can talk about sprinkler systems and cell phones and combat-related video games: the modern-day equivalent of discussing weather, rumors of the movements of game animals and actual combat. The grill also happened to be as far away as possible from the wives, who never strayed more than twenty feet from the buffet table. Most importantly, the barbecue sat next to the pool, which was completely fenced off from the kids. Whoever designed this back yard was an exceptionally clever husband and father. 

As the evening progressed, I began to notice that the other three chairs at my table were always occupied by someone, but never by the same person for more than thirty seconds. As soon as one woman sat down and began to eat or drink or talk, a child would begin to cry or take a third piece of cake or make another child eat something found in the grass and the mother would pounce on the child like a leopard on a gazelle, leaving her dinner and the conversation lying on the table. 

Mother #2 sat down with plate of food. “So Paul, how ‘s the insurance business going?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s going okay. December and January were slow, but February was better…”

But she wasn’t listening to me. Her eyes were fixed on something over my shoulder.

“…and March is shaping up…”

“Jack! You put that down! JACK! Don’t throw things at your sister!” Mother #2 bolted the table to disarm Jack. 

Jennifer, my sister-in-law, took the seat that mother #2 just vacated and pushed aside the plate of food to make room for her own.

“What’s shakin’ bacon?” She asked, smiling.

Before I could answer, Stef woke from his reverie. “Jenn, where’s little James?”

Jenn: “Out here somewhere. I’ve been inside getting food.”
“Why don’t you go find him?” Stef said, though he had finished his meal and Jenn had only taken one bite of hers. Jenn jumped up and began to scan the yard for her boy. Stef instantly reverted to his vacant stare.
My six-year-old niece, Sophie, walked up with a boy that appeared to be eight or nine.

“Uncle Paul, this my boyfriend! I love him!”
“Really? What’s his name?” I asked.
Sophie: “I don’t know…”
“Well, let’s hope that this is that last time you have to admit that!”
Sophie: “Huh?”
“Have fun, sweetie.”
Sophie and boy toy ran off hand in hand, their early interest in the opposite sex nearly ensuring that they would be joining the ranks of the breeders some day. Hopefully not too soon.
Janet returned and sat down.
“Your daughter has a boyfriend,” I told her.
“I’m sure it’s harmless, ” she said as she looked out to the yard. There, she saw her daughter wrap her arms tightly around the waist of her anonymous friend. She gazed  deeply into his eyes and smiled. He seemed puzzled.
“Sophie! Get over here!” Jenn snapped at her daughter.
Sophie released her grip and ran over to her mother.
“Here. Eat your hot dog.” Jenn shoved a hot dog at Sophie.
“Jeesh! She’s here five minutes and she has somebody,” Jenn said to me. “I’m here my whole life, and I’m like a disease.”
Janet and I cracked up at her Sixteen Candles reference.
Stef reached consciousness once again. “James is eating gravel.”
Jenn jumped up and ran to James. Stef glazed over.
Sophie munched her hot dog and her everlasting love ran up to the table. “Hey what’s-your-face, there’s a place to eat over here!” The two ran off to a park bench in the corner of the yard.

Mother # 3 sat down and began yelling instructions to her kids, who were riding a miniature battery-powered Jeep around the yard. Lisa, the hostess, sat down and joined us. Mother # 3 began to talk to Lisa about going to Disney World, but Lisa did not pay attention. She was distracted by her daughter who was on the far side of the yard crying about something or other.Mother #3 realized that Lisa was not paying any attention, but out of embarrassment, she continued to talk anyway. As she continued she searched from face to face to see if anyone heard her. I was the only person looking at her, so she locked onto me and continued her story. “…my kids would love to go to Orlando, because they’ve already been to Disney Land. They are just joys to travel with…they just sit quietly in the back seat and stare out the window…” 

As I listened, I thought to myself, “That’s because your kids are so thick that they barely qualify as sentient beings.”

Meanwhile, I looked over her shoulder and watched her daughters plow the motorized mini-jeep into a miniature umbrella table at which three miniature people were seated. The table fell over and the three kids began to bawl. Mother #3 snapped her head around and sprang to her feet to yell at her little reckless drivers. 

At that point, I’d had enough and gave Mrs. Wit the sign that I wanted to leave. We made our exit, pausing to say goodbye to Craig, who stood supervising the playroom. There, various children were having fun with the thousands of dollars worth of electronic toys and gadgets that he and Lisa keep there. Apparently, the best thing about electronic toys is throwing them at each other. We asked about Lisa, as we hadn’t seen her for a while and Craig explained that she was upstairs trying to calm her son, who was having a ‘meltdown.’
As we passed through the kitchen crowd on the way to the door, one of the mothers finally spoke directly to us: “So when are you having kids?”

“Never!” Mrs. Wit and I answered in unison. Neither of us turned to look back at the watering hole.