Sunday, October 30, 2005
Oh, since several people have asked, it was my birthday last week (October 26th). I'm 35. I don't feel 35. I'm stuck feeling about 30. I felt 20 for a long time, so maybe I skip over the intervening years and just go straight to decades. I'll probably feel 40 soon.
I got several books, two cds, two DVDs, a bottle of vodka, a renewed subscription to the Wall Street Journal (that conservative rag) and a tree. A Spanish oak.
Otherwise, it was a hard week (everyone sick), but not as hard as some. Keep hanging in there Joe. For those of you who might be interested, Joe has a Yahoo Group which allows folks to go online and volunteer to help out however they can. Mostly, it's watching the kids and performing chores. We haven't had as much time as we'd like to kick in, but you never know how you can help....watching the twins or making a dinner or even mowing the grass.
Thomas and I rode our bikes down to the Texas Book Festival yesterday. We managed to squeak in to the Lemony Snicket reading at the Paramount. Thomas even got his book signed by the unfortunate chronicler. Snicket wrote "With all due respect." Later, we met Ray Martinez; the law man who shot the UT sniper.
Monday, October 24, 2005
See You Tomorrow!
All the Old Diseases are Making a Comeback
I Failed Kindergarten
A Nine Pound Hammer or a Woman Like You
Don't Be Evil
Kill What You Eat
Jesus Smokeback Johnson
If Your Friends Jumped Off a Burning Cliff
Loser Friendly (yes, I still like this one and, yes, I CAME UP WITH THIS)
Friday, October 21, 2005
I'm seventeen and I'm crazy. My uncle says the two always go together. When people ask your age, he said, always say seventeen and insane.
- Ray Bradbury
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Luka ~ Tumc
I got a package in the mail yesterday from Wycliffe Bible Translators. It was the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts translated into Birifor, the dialect of a language spoken by roughly 60,000 people in Ghana. I had forgotten about this, but I guess I funded this book's publication in memory of my mother. That's what the letter tells me. My memory of this is hazy at best, which might be blamed on the Nyquil I've been downing for the past few days or maybe just on my own lack of remembrance. There are two photos imprinted on the letter I received. "Here are two photos, one from the time that the first Burifor Luke-Acts copies arrived and a trip to Birifor [apparently a place and a language] settlements in which copies were sold from the back of a car." The picture shows several African men standing around the back of an SUV of some sort. Several are staring directly at the camera, smiling. One has a Redskins t-shirt on.
I have no response to this.
There are Birifor people in Africa who are now just as mystified by God as we all are. Because of me. There's a guy driving around in sub-saharan Africa selling 1/38th of the Bible out of the back of his SUV. Who says the world isn't twisted upside down on top?
Which one of you?
I seize up thinking about my mom nowadays. I never cried. Not at the hospital. Not at the funeral. Not now when I pull out this book and stare at the cover, as if it were a document from Mars. We don't cry for the ones we love. We cry for ourselves. We cry for what we will miss, for what we no longer have. We cry because we want an answer and we just don't know even if we think we know or feel we know. We cry because we're scared. Still, I don't cry. I feel like I'm in shock. It'll be a year here soon and I choke back any feeling. It was always thus. I'm doomed to put you at arm's length. I can't hold you near.
I remember when my grandmother died back in 1991. She'd left my mom a little bit of money. I was working construction that summer, building a parking lot for NASA. I quit the job and my mother and I drove her car up to Washington D.C. and then I flew back to Houston. She went on to a training facility for Wycliffe Bible Translators. She wanted to become a missionary. As odd as this sounds, it seemed like a perfectly natural fit for her. She was a born evangalist. In many ways, I remain her only unfinished project. But, then, she met my stepdad and with their marriage, she gave up on the dream of going to French West Africa. I often wonder what would have become of us, if she had gone on to Africa. I wonder how our lives would've been different. Would I have travelled there to find her selling Bibles out of the back of a car? Would she be transformed and free of the material life that somehow haunted and then, in the end, comforted her, carrying her away from me to a cemetary in Fredericksberg where nobody will eventually live, where nothing will eventually happen, where the land she loved will likely be sold, where all memories are simply preserved on a stone in the middle of a field next to an embankment and where we may travel as a destination one weekend a year so that the kids can look at other plots and wonder at the names. "Grandma Penny," they say and the words almost fall into the wind.
My stepdad sent me all her stuff shortly after she died. Books and photographs and love letters, all stuffed into cardboard boxes and taped up and dropped off. Neither he nor her were sentimental in the least. The things of the world, they might say. So, here I am now, with these things of the world. A series of photographs from my parents' honeymoon. Their wedding certificate. My baby book. An article my mom wrote as editor of her high school yearbook. Her journals. Volumes of prayer journals.
And this Birifor Luke-Acts Bible.
I have no response to this. It took me a year to get this far.
Monday, October 17, 2005
Things You Might Read About in This Story:
Luchadores, redheaded nurses, polar bears, Quebrada, silent giants, laundrymats, Santo, the Assia-moonsault, smelly nylon masks, albino orderlies, sea lions, the Elks Lodge, tall boys, Oxycontin, the will to power, prescription drugs in general, wine and cheese parties in West Lake, the smell of fabric softener, vans, Saturday morning cartoons, middle age, lucha libre, nursing homes, karaoke.
I'm sorry. I've had a lot of Nyquil. Should I properly case everything from here on out? I should.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
i'm still working on stories. not much time to post, unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your position). i've reworked one story three times now for tim and he's finally said he thinks it's ready to send out. that may sound like cold comfort, but, when there aren't any marks from tim on your manuscript and there's an "excellent" at the end, you've arrived, no matter who chooses to publish it. "you should be proud of this one," he said. of course, i'm not. i'm sick of it. maybe that's how it has to be. maybe i'll pick it up some day and think, i wrote that?
classic tim o'brien exchange:
tim: you've got to have drama. maybe she stabs the clerk in the eye.
student: i don't think she would stab somebody in the eye. i didn't feel like she was that type of person.
tim: nah, you're right. i don't believe she would either. until she does and then i believe it. i don't believe that guy in resevoir dogs would cut somebody's ear off. then he did.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
python 0 - gator 0. it's a draw, folks. tune in next time for conan o'brien's hair vs. jay leno's chin.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
you can call me his holiness
except for the fifteen people asking me if i was nervous, the unbearable heat, and the missed music cues, it was a wonderful wedding. actually it was a wonderful wedding including these things. leeanne cried. her mom cried. i sweat like a stuck pig and told them about love. what do i know, right? shit, kid, i learn it every day. but, still, still and yet more yet. it felt damn good. all the best, kevin and leeanne.
Saturday, October 01, 2005
another odd (and stirring) quote of the day from alfred korzybski. aah, good old count korzybski. only mitch will appreciate this one, unless other people are interested in eighty-year-old books on a unified theory of knowledge and semantics (who isn't, right?). what was it? once you say something 'is' it 'is not.' i always liked that one. i promised i wouldn't google or grab my copy of science and sanity. basically, korzybski is probably rated somewhere between whitehead and chomsky, being a bit of a quack prone to distilling the history of everything into various non-verbal diagrams you could show a child (he was extremely interested with the idea of distilling human knowledge so that a child might understand...in an effort to more quickly advance the species). however, i got a lot out of him. i, much like mitch, was taken with his notion of man as a time-binding creature. all we know about anything is the structure we apply to events. we bind all activity into certain structures so that what we "know" is, in fact, an abstraction. in short, the map is not the territory. i've come back to this more times than i care to admit. i think that's why i'm drawn to fiction. we don't pretend that we are representing the whole. there's this immediate, up-front admission. all of this is a lie. but believe me. i can't remember who said this first, but there is an oft-repeated line in the MFA program. we tell lies so we can tell the truth. we get at the truth through lies. i like the back door approach, the angling in at it. you can't walk through the front door and say "this is the way life is and such and such." words are useful, but you have to admit their frailty, their capacity for failure. and, like it or not, we're all telling stories. some better than others. some more compelling. but all, stories. even when it comes to "science."