Sunday, May 24, 2015

Baby Boomers

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Baby Boomers

For William Kristol Epiphanes

Children of privilege getting up at four
To herd milk cows in from ice-sleeted woods
And then at dawn running late down the lane
To catch the rattling school bus into town

Self-indulgent baby-boomers sentenced
In the gasping heat of Indo-China
Along the banks of the Song Vam Co Tay
Not optimistic about seeing the dawn

A useless, indolent generation
Working double shifts at the shop by night
Chaucer, geometry, history by day
Coffee, noodles, used textbooks, the laundromat

Those insolent, unfocused layabouts
On pilgrimage along the American road
Jobs, families, house-notes, voting, and taxes
But judged and found wanting by Divine Bill

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mockingbirds on Patrol

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Mockingbirds on Patrol

At dusk the slithering cat stalks mockingbirds
Oozing in silence ‘cross the no man’s lawn
Of bread and seed contested by raccoons,
Squirrels, birds, and an unhappy ‘possum
Her target those most insolent mockingbirds
Who bully the doves and cardinals about
There driving them from the supper they want
And mockingbirds in turn supper for the cat
But no! the victims form squadrons like Spitfires -
At dusk the mockingbirds stalk the cringing cat

A Keeper of Civilization

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

A Keeper of Civilization

A tie clasp serves no useful purpose now,
This ornament that keeps a tie in place
But no one wears a tie, so what’s the point?
Like cufflinks, collars, and humility
This bourgeois affectation is passé;
A tie is not Authentic like a tee
Garnished with a cartoon grotesquerie
Aggressively proclaiming empty noise.
A tie clasp serves no useful purpose now
And that is why it is useful indeed

Dimitri in America

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Dimitri in America

Did Mitya escape to America?
He might have changed his name to Bob or Al
Married Myrtle in the Methodist Church -
Myrtle, nee’ Agrafena Alexandrovna -
And worked the candy counter at Woolworth’s
Riding the trolley downtown every day
While saving up for a new Model T
In obedience to his New World staretz
Horatio Alger hissing behind a tree
Was Mitya sentenced to America?

The Witanagemot

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Witanagemot

Under wide oaks men sit with pipes alight
And soft old amber single-malt to hand
The sun has just now set, the failing day
Resolves itself into a cooling dusk
Tobacco, talk, and time incense the air
And silent fireflies dance until the stars
Join with them in a festival of lights
While birds make wing to Shakespeare’s rooky wood
Crickets and frogs sing to celebrate the moon
And good men sit and talk, with pipes alight

Subversive

Subversive

Lapsing into 1968-Speak
The television priest says “subversive”
While waxing (and polishing?) discursive
He says it often, at least thrice a week

Pursued by Hallway Gideons

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Pursued by Hallway Gideons

Hi there how are you doing isn’t this a
wonderful day would you like a New Tes
tament sir thank you hi ma’am good to see
you would you like a New Testament you
are so welcome Hi there how are you doing
isn’t this a wonderful day would you
like a New Testament sir thank you hi
ma’am good to see you would you like a New
Testament you are welcome Hi there how
are you doing isn’t this a wonderful

Repeat

Hi there how are you doing isn’t this a
wonderful day would you like a New Tes
tament sir thank you hi ma’am good to see
you would you like a New Testament you
are so welcome Hi there how are you doing
isn’t this a wonderful day would you
like a New Testament sir thank you hi
ma’am good to see you would you like a New
Testament you are welcome Hi there how
are you doing isn’t this a wonderful

Repeat

Hi there how are you doing isn’t this a
wonderful day would you like a New Tes
tament sir thank you hi ma’am good to see
you would you like a New Testament you
are so welcome Hi there how are you doing
isn’t this a wonderful day would you
like a New Testament sir thank you hi
ma’am good to see you would you like a New
Testament you are welcome Hi there how
are you doing isn’t this a wonderful

Exeunt omnes, pursued by a bore waving a little green book about

The Ten-Thirty / Seven-Thirty Shift

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Ten-Thirty / Seven-Thirty Shift

For Nurses

No one writes verses much about nurses
Though no one more deserves a few kind thoughts
No, not about the lady with the lamp
(Not with all that oxygen around!)
Nor the nurse with eternal sad-me crises
Who often calls in sick and leaves her work
To be taken up by others – by you
So these poor lines are for wonderful you
Driving to work in your ten-year-old car
And carefully tending life throughout the night



No One Ever Said the War was Over

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

No One Ever Said the War was Over

No one ever said the war was over
They were honest in that one thing, at least
Since that which never began cannot end
Not for those in a war that never was
Some made fortunes, some got a bus ride home
Some shook it off, and made it out okay
And some stare vacantly in lonely rooms
Red, yellow, green – what did they ever mean?
“Thank you for your service” – what does that mean?
No one ever said the war was over

Invasion of the Metaphors

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

Invasion of the Metaphors

On the Orwellian telescreen a woman recently returned from Nepal said that the country looked like a war zone.

One never hears young men and women returning from any of this nation’s many undeclared wars saying that the ditches and gullies and rocky slopes where they fought to stay alive looked like an earthquake.

What, exactly, is a “war zone?” Is that just a two-syllable way of saying “war?” Just say “war.”

Congress won’t, of course.

In the neverending quest (how’s that for filler language?) for metaphors, “war zone” appears to be most fashionable just now. Earthquakes, storms, messy rooms, the litter left after a football game, leaf-fall after a storm – all are grist for the war zone mill (mixing several tired metaphors).

If a family is killed by a building collapsing in an earthquake, we do their memory no service by saying that the wreckage looks like a war zone. It doesn’t. It looks like the result of an earthquake, and that is because it is the result of an earthquake. It isn’t like anything else; it is itself.

A common metaphor along our stormy coast is to allege that trees snapped like matchsticks. Does anyone ever maintain that matchsticks snap like trees? Does anyone sit around snapping matchsticks anyway? No one ever says that trees snap like cheap plastic cigarette lighters, which would be slightly more logical because almost no one uses matches anymore. Anyone wanting a box of matches might be advised to check the newsstand, over by the pay telephones, in the railroad station down the street past the Packard dealership.

Our part of the planet is subject to strong winds because of tornadoes, hurricanes, and thunderstorms, and sometimes these winds break trees. We should state this simple fact, that winds break trees, and not pull from a rag-bag (another tired metaphor – what is a rag-bag?) any of a collection of old metaphors that occupy space and obscure clarity of thought.

If, in the same storm, the winds toss your 1956 Plymouth about, they toss it about like a 1956 Plymouth, not like a toy, because a 1956 Plymouth is not a toy. It is itself. The toy comparison has been done, over and over and over, for decades. Now if you say that your 1956 Plymouth was tossed about like a referee after a close soccer match between Sheffield and Arsenal you’d be making a fresh and praiseworthy metaphor. Even so, it would probably be better to state the plain, clear fact that strong winds blew your 1956 Plymouth about, especially when making your case to the insurance company: “Like a toy, eh? Okay, here’s a voucher good for a Fisher-Price replacement, with a Ken and Barbie deductible…”

In East Texas another tired metaphor is to say of a child’s room not that it needs tidying up but that it looks like a hurricane hit it:

“But Dad, my room’s not here. The whole house is gone!”

“Exactly right, my son. Your room looks like a hurricane hit it.”

Sometimes reality is not subject to a metaphor at all.

-30

The Bates Motel and Recording Studio

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Bates Motel and Recording Studio

John Hinckley, Junior is a spoiled misunderstood, self-indulgent sensitive, vicious artistic, treacherous creative, disgusting delicate, back-shooting generous fecal impaction seeker after truth who all his life has been occupying space and breathing air that might have been used for better purposes trying to find himself. After all, we try to see the good in everyone.

In 1981 Hinckley, fascinated with a cinema actress instead of with life, decided that he would prove himself worthy of her by murdering the President. At close range he discharged a revolver and struck police officer Thomas Delahanty, White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and President Reagan. James Brady spent the remaining decades of his life paralyzed and in pain, and his death in 2014 was ruled a homicide.

Despite the movie scripts, no one, no matter how young and healthy, ever fully recovers from gunshot and fragmentation wounds. Everyone Hinckley shot that day received a life sentence of pain and disability.

For assault, treason, and murder, John Hinckley was sentenced to – the hospital.

Adolescent shoplifters have received sterner punishment.

Come to think of it, you’ve received sterner punishment. When you went to see the justice of the peace about that out-of-date inspection sticker the judge did not say, “You know, I understand your needs. I’m sure you forgot about the annual inspection because you had a rough childhood. Since your mumsy and dadsy are rich and connected, let’s skip that fine, and talk about your feelings.”

For the last three decades, gentle reader, you have been working and paying taxes to support John Hinckley’s hospitalization, psychiatric care, and, yes, music therapy. You get up and go to work every day; John Hinckley hangs out and practices the guitar.

For the past few years Hinckley has spending much of every month with his 89-year-old mother. Well, hey, family is everything, right? His family, of course, not yours, and certainly not the families he destroyed.

Having committed murder and ruining the lives of many individuals and families, this detritus inspirational singer-songwriter wants to start a band, which is pretty much the dream of every 60-year-old.

One can imagine the rehearsals – “Stan, you might want to strengthen that opening note when you come in on ‘Baby Baby Baby Yeah Yeah Yeah’ – or die. Just a thought, dude.”

If Mrs. Hinckley Senior suggests it’s time for Junior to go night-night, will our geriatric artiste respond with “Mumsy, don’t make me go all Bates Motel on you, okay?”

When Junior does achieve his dream of putting his band together, the first number could, appropriately, a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m a Loser.”

Music might not be Junior Hinckley’s thing, of course, in which case he seems perfectly fitted by disposition and experience to be a customer service representative for an internet company.

He could do something with drones.

Or maybe the new Secret Service.

And since Junior is soon to be released from hospital completely, perhaps his room will then be given to an injured worker, a war veteran, or someone else who has made an effort to do something meaningful in life.

-30-

The Face on the Twenty-Dollar Bill

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Face on the Twenty-Dollar Bill

“The Face on the Twenty-Dollar Bill” sounds like the title of a Robert W. Service poem, but is in fact a matter of some discussion – who should replace stern, handsome, Trail of Tears President Andrew Jackson on the price of a cup of designer coffee?

That President Jackson will be replaced is not in doubt, and a mature discussion (which you certainly will not find in my scribblings) of the matter by Steve Inskeepmay can be found at: www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/opinion/should-jackson-stay-on-the-dollar20-bill.html.

Curiously, Mr. Inskeepmay proposes replacing President Jackson, a slave owner, with John Ross, another slave owner, but since Mr. Ross was a Cherokee that’s okay with Mr. Inskeepmay.

As we know, the one-dollar-bill features George Washington, inept British colonial officer in his youth, slave owner, general of the armies in the American secession from the British Empire, later president, and still a slave owner.

The five-dollar-bill gives us Railsplitter Abe, a handsome man save for that fungal growth at the end of his chin, a fashion statement he shared with Democrat Jefferson Davis and with Doctor Ben Carson, like Lincoln a Republican candidate for the presidency.

Gentlemen, please, if you love your country, step closer to your designed-in-Holland-and-made-in-China Norelcos. Please.

The tenner shows another dignified man, Alexander Hamilton, who later found fame as drummer for The Dave Clark Five. Or was he one of the guitarists?

Easy, The Alexander Hamilton Fan Club. Just a little attempt at humor. Your Alexander Hamilton posters are not threatened.

After Andrew Jackson the poor man’s wallet enjoys little familiarity with presidents, although President Grant is known to be on one of the holiday-in-Davos bills. But he drank whiskey and smoked cigars, and we can’t have that, no, sir.

Whose face will next grace the twenty? My prediction is Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth, who accomplished wonderful things without later becoming involved in genocide, land swindles, or the ownership of their fellow human beings.

In the meantime, we are free to indulge in a little whimsical wish-fulfillment in considering other possibilities for adorning our national currency:

How about a three-dollar bill with President Clinton on the front and Lindsey Lohan’s reverse on the reverse?

The problem with President Obama’s picture on a currency bill is that the reverse would read “You Didn’t Earn This,” and he would take the money away from you.

President Hilary Clinton’s twenty-dollar bill would have her “WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE!!??” moment embedded in a little audio chip.

President Hilary Clinton? Deal with the reality, Republicans: you complain but you don’t vote.

Hey, how about Louis Armstrong on the twenty? But, no, he made people happy, and that would never do.

Here is an idea for an image on the twenty-dollar bill that no one has yet considered: the now-forgotten American worker. Put a picture of a worker on our currency. I propose variants to be printed on the face of the twenty in monthly or yearly cycles: a farmer harvesting wheat, a woman behind the counter at a fast-foodery, a bus driver, a welder, a logger, a nurse’s aide, the nice lady in the ticket window at the movies, a (gasp!) police officer, a private in the Army, a miner, a railway engineer, a mechanic, a lineman in a thunderstorm, a kindergarten teacher, or any other worker, all without any reference to DNA.

Nah, it’ll never happen.

-30-

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Upon Re-Reading The Brothers Karamazov

Just now I finished re-reading The Brothers Karamazov, not without relief but with more appreciation, especially for the trial. The defense speaks of Russian justice as redemptive, quoting Peter the Great’s aphorism that it is better that ten guilty men are acquitted rather than one innocent man be convicted. The defense attorney sees redemptive justice as Christian; I don’t think Peter the Great saw it that way.

Rachael and Eldon advised me to look for the humor, and they helped me to see that, both the ironic and the gentle, and Tod Mixson suggested that I remember that there is much drama of the old pulp magazines sort, and I became aware of that too. Ingrid said…oh, what did Ingrid say?

But the trial – that is something I mean to re-read soon.

So great is the worth of Dostoevsky that to have produced him is by itself sufficient justification for the existence of the Russian people in the world; and he will bear witness for his countrymen in the last judgment of the nations.

-Nicholas Berdyaev, quoted in The Brothers Karamazov: Worlds of the Novel, Robin Feuer Miller

Monday, April 20, 2015

Emmaus isn't on the Map

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Emmaus isn’t on the Map

The road from Emmaus is not in the book
Emmaus isn’t even on the map
Still, people walk to Emmaus every day
And then they go away to somewhere else
Because while everyone visits Emmaus
It’s only for supper and a new assignment
Although the directions seem somewhat vague
Those who have been there seem to know the way
The road to Emmaus is in the book
The road out of town is mapped in the heart

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Had Byron Lived a Few Years Longer

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Had Byron Lived a Few Years Longer

V:

She stalks in Makeup, like a fright
Of Senior Specials and takeout fries;
And all that’s worst of snark and bite
Meet in her painted layers of guise:
Thus billowed in that fluorescent light
Which Heaven to youthful lads denies.

R:

He talks of Makeup, silly old wight
Of faded beauties – through his old eyes!
And his slim waist and muscled might
Have long departed – he is no prize!
Thus now of greater width than height
Which Heaven to happy girls denies.

A Morning in March

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

A Morning in March

This morning is a sonnet sweetly sung
First by the breeze sighing through apple leaves
Then by the sun laughing across the grass
And by murmuring doves and nattering sparrows
Fussing with squirrels under a happy oak
Dressing itself in the fashion of spring
Covering the barrenness of winter with
Young leaves only now learning how to flirt
In anticipation of summer days:
This morning is a sonnet sweetly sung

The Styled One

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Styled One

“What are you rebelling against?”

“Whaddaya got?”

“A philosophical matrix predicated
Upon experience analyzed rationally
Without incessant self-reference
Or submission to transient fashions.
This matrix considers natural law,
Epistemologically demonstrable,
Ecclesiastical law, which is subject
To discussion because of variant
Concepts of divine revelation
And then secular law, which grounds
Even a republic, in its origin,
In the Jewish-Christian Mosaic law
But which is subject to modification
According to the federal constitution
And the various state constitutions
Expressed by popular will according to
Due process of law, that is, elections.
Applying the Hegelian dialectic,
One can sort out for himself a mode of life
In harmony with both his conscience
And with the needs of a multi-cultural state.”

“Got a beer?”

The Morning Paper and a Cigarette

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Morning Paper and a Cigarette

The morning paper and a cigarette,
A cup of coffee to complete the theme
A booth with creaky, cracked leatherette seats
And a sticky-top table stained with stories
A joint called Al’s, just off the interstate
Dry desert cold lingering from the autumn night
Until the sun rises to light the way
To California, and The Hungry i
For now: the desert, a cup of coffee,
The morning paper, and a cigarette

Said to be a Suicide

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Said to be a Suicide

Adrift among old sheets in a shadowy bed
Emptying breaths into an empty space
A purse, a bottle, a pack of cigarettes
No minutes left on a no-contract ‘phone
A truck-stop bracelet that was pretty on her
Pale bathroom light through a half-open door
Traffic rattling by on the two-lane
Beery laughter from the parking lot
But only stillness here, an empty form
Adrift among silence in a shadowy world

Two in the Morning

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Two in the Morning

Two in the morning is its own Good Friday
When the insolence of catalogued years
Accuses the restless sleeper of age
Sends him out night patrol, and back again
To ponder through the empty, sleepless hours
An Altar stripped of light and hope and dreams
A unmade sacrifice in swirling chaos
Pillows and sheets and life formless and void
Cold, vaporous blue light dying in the air
Two in the morning is its own Good Friday

False Autumn

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

False Autumn

Dripping and damp, another dull, dark day
Heavy and low, months-old cold, drifting mist
And sodden leaf-mould from the autumn past
Scented with coming life as it decays
The morning frogs sing with enthusiasm
The mourning doves sing with reluctance
A solitary goose flaps sort of north
All uncertain about their calendar
But for now eccentrics are happy with
Dripping and damp, another dull, dark day

Secrets and Seasons

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Secrets and Seasons

Even a lover of autumn must yield this point:
This mild March morning disposes a world
Of flowers red and pink among the mist,
Bathed fresh with dew in anticipation
Of hours glorious but brief until the sun
Awakes, and shakes his fiery beams to fall
Upon the leafy, grassy, silent scene
Like a sergeant censoring an errant smile
Lest happiness corrupt the young recruits
Who only in secret may love the seasons

Palm Sunday Travel Tips

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Palm Sunday Travel Tips

At last we have come to Jerusalem
Spiritual gawkers checking out the sites:
The Beautiful Gate today, the Temple tomorrow
Juices and maps from vendors who charge too much
That statue of Jupiter really doesn’t work -
What is that procession? A local folk thing?
We don’t want to get into trouble with the law
We’re only here for Passover, okay?
Let’s avoid whatever that is because
At last we have come to Jerusalem

Instructions to the Chauffeur

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Instructions to the Chauffeur

Said the owner, most intently,
“Mind, now, how you drive my Bentley:
Always drive it confidently,
Never, ever insolently
‘Sure to watch the road intently
Take the sharp curves very gently
Follow my rules most excellently
Then you’ll never get a dent, see?”

Sola Scriptura

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Sola Scriptura

“It’s right here in the Bible!” she said,
Waving around her smart ‘phone over her head

Rachel, Weeping for Our Children

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Rachel, Weeping for Our Children

From an idea suggested by Kelly Rogers

No soldiers come, with glaring eyes, with death
To drag our children out into the road
To thrust away their lives into the dust
With pilum, gladius, or manly fist
And Romans as advisors standing by
Amid obscenities, curses, and screams
A fog of witness for that old excuse:
It’s all about the quality of life
Confusion now persuades with soft, soft breath
And therapists come, soothingly, with death.

Chertkovo

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Chertkovo

For Eugenio Corti

Perhaps the site is now a garbage heap
A parking lot, a drainage ditch, a field
Where little children chase a soccer ball
Among the flowers of a Russian spring
Whispering a memory of Italy
For here a good Italian soldier died
His life ripped from him in a desolation
Of screams and violence and frozen horror -
But he is a candle, lit again, in Heaven where
His feet are always warm, and “Savoia!” is a hymn

Old-People Coffee

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Old-People Coffee

A cup of senior coffee – forty-three cents
But coffee – how can it be a senior –
Is it graduating from high school?
Someone decided that I am not worthy
Of the Social Security I paid
And the Veterans’ Administration
Doesn’t even acknowledge my existence
But corporate America still loves me:
Every morning McDonald’s greets me with
A cup of senior coffee – forty-three cents

Economic Exile

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Economic Exile

Another dreary airport boarding gate
Ear-phones, MePhones, travelers huddled in
Leatherette seats between flickering signs
Feet up upon duffles and each other
Like refugees waiting long nights for trains
In Doctor Zhivago, with different dreams:
Youth longs for adventures in Italy
While age is often content to journey through books
Like Bilbo in Rivendell, not waiting here
At yet another airport boarding gate

Pasch

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Pasch at St. Michael’s, 2015

What sort of man sits in the silent dark
And waits for a small candle to be lit
When he could reach over and flip a switch
For the miracle of electricity
Bravely to course through the building’s wired veins
The march of progress with a touch controlled
By the hand of humanity triumphant
Over old Byzantine superstition
What hopeful sort of man waits for the dawn,
For Light to appear from a cold, sealed tomb?

Contra Ivan Karamazov

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

A little exposition: In The Brothers Karamazov Ivan is an agnostic who cannot reconcile faith and his Euclidian mind. My thesis (last line) is that everyone and everything, understood by us or not, is in unity with God.

Still, about those fire ants…

Contra Ivan Karamazov

Though some maintain that parallels don’t meet
And three-point-something is the sum of pi
And whether X is found; no one knows why
(Was it lost, perhaps wandering in the street?)
Curious matters all Euclidian
Even for the bold mathematician
Are as obdurate as obsidian
Each an illogical proposition
To the rationalist impossible, and yet -
Parallel lines are at the Altar met

The Wandering Gentile

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

The Wandering Gentile1

For Tod on his 75th birthday

How odd to be Bilbo at Rivendell
Or Jack and Warnie in the Little End room
Finishing up that book you meant to write
From the long ago, but not knowing the subject
Until this now, when sunset-softened light
Makes clearer the Words on the eternal page
More morning than ever any morning was
Sunlight and moonlight on the pilgrim road
Until you realize, with a gentle laugh:
How odd ever to have been here at all


1An allusion by Rabbi Shulman in the last episode of Northern Exposure

Searching for God and a Lost Shoe

Lawrence Hall
Mhall46184@aol.com

Searching For God and a Lost Shoe

For a university student

The morning sails through your window as light
Dark blue when winter rests upon the world
All green and golden in the happy spring
But welcome every day, in every way
The silence is soon broken by the noise:
A rattling faucet, a rattling roommate,
The merry chaos not yet organized
Into the poetry of this day in God
So sing while searching for that other shoe:
The morning shares with you its hymn of joy

Mr. Dogg and the Copp

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

Mr. Dogg and the Cop

Several weeks ago a Texas state trooper took an off-duty gig on his own time, providing security for a concert in the capital of our fair state. Afterward, one of the musicians asked the security guard to pose with him for a snapshot.

The photograph shows two middle-age men, one in a DPS uniform and another, balding and wearing eyeglasses, who looks much like a middle-school math teacher. This second man is Snoop Dogg (possibly not the name on his birth certificate), said to be a famous musician.

Some busy individual at the Department of Public Safety was not happy with this harmless photograph because Mr. Dogg is a convicted drug offender. Apparently Texas DPS troopers are not supposed to associate with convicted drug offenders. One supposes that if Rush Limbaugh, also a convicted drug offender, had been in the photograph along with Mr. Dogg the DPS would have been, like Marty the Martian, very, very angry.

As it is, an official with the Texas Department of Public Safety gave the DPS trooper a reprimand (in DPS-speak, “a one-time coaching opportunity”) for associating with Mr. Dogg. A DPS trooper may protect Mr. Dogg from harm but must not be seen to do so.

If a Texas DPS trooper helps provide security for a Wagner concert directed by James Levine, should the trooper run a computer check on Mr. Levine’s background? How about the trumpet section? And are drummers ever to be trusted?

And then, hey, about Richard Wagner – he didn’t pay his debts, he participated in revolutionary activities, his music instigated riots, and he was anti-Semitic. Would a DPS trooper who was seen at a concert featuring the music of such a disreputable character be given a “one-time coaching opportunity?”

A Texas state trooper cannot possibly know the criminal histories of everyone with whom he (the pronoun is gender-neutral) comes into contact, nor should he: firefighters, medics, reporters, tow-truck drivers, the shop assistant who sells him a new bullet, and, of course, the waitress at the doughnut shop.

Maybe some in DPS administration ought to leave their Austin offices on occasion and take a night shift on the streets in order to remind themselves where they started.

The trooper was not taking bribes.

The trooper was not being racist.

The trooper was not sexually harassing anyone.

The trooper was not smuggling drugs.

The trooper was not trafficking in human beings.

The trooper was not nekkid.

The trooper was not using his badge and his office for official oppression.

The trooper was not whooping it up with the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement agency, and some, oh, fun dates.

The trooper was not doing any of these things. What got him into trouble was appearing in a snapshot by the request of an American citizen who, whatever his past, was not under indictment and who was going peaceably about his lawful daily business.

As for a “one-time coaching opportunity,” the only coaching that the trooper seems to require would be for a weight-loss regimen. To re-phrase an old gag, maybe Mr. Dogg stays so skinny by running laps around his favorite Texas DPS trooper.

-30-

The Back Yard Hardware Store

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.om

The Back Yard Hardware Store

Several years ago Butch and Debbie Pachall sold me a nifty metal detector which has proven to be great fun. I don’t use it often enough to sort out the subtleties of sound like Debbie can, but I have never switched it on without finding something of interest. Since assisting in archaeology sites in California in my youth I’m easily interested in anything old, and a brass hinge or a long-lost knife are for me good finds. Debbie, however, has practiced the arcane (to me) art of interpreting beeps and the computer images so assiduously that she can identify most objects before taking out the trowel: “That’s a penny…another penny…ring tab…a piece of pipe…a quarter…”

Recently I learned to practice another form of metal detecting, with a big, heavy magnet from the hardware store. Several summers ago I had the lads make some modifications around Chateau D’Aula, and upon completion of the strengthening of fortifications I used a big magnet to pick up the unseen nails, screws, and other bits of metal before the lawnmower did.

In the event, the magnet is almost as much fun as the electronic metal detector. Most of the nails and screws I find are re-usable, as are many of the hinges and bolts. In Ye Olden Days, these objects really were manufactured better than they are now. Nails, screws, and bolts were made in the USA of extruded steel; what is sold now is often the unhappy result of odd scraps of pot metal melted down and cast in molds in China.

Using recycled ironmongery for my own back yard projects is thrifty in itself, and even after years of lying in the ground the American nail is often more durable than the Chinese one.

There was a dairy farm and another house on this site long ago, and in addition to ferric objects the ground often covers other modest treasures. Where there are nails and screws, there are often bottles (usually in fragments), coins, brass objects, ceramic doorknobs, game pieces of glass or lead, switch plates, expended bullets, axe heads, tractor parts, a sturdy length of chain, a canning lid made in Canada, marbles, and other oddments.

I haven’t yet found Jean Lafitte’s treasure, but I’m looking. Beep-beep-beep…bonk – maybe that’s it…

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Let's End a Conversation

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

Let’s End a Conversation

An all-purpose campaign speech for candidates of all parties:

My immigrant Native-American parents came to this great country with only a few dollars and a dream of beginning a conversation in order that no child should be left freedom of choice behind the American dream while we still have a lot to do time for a change and a new beginning with real leadership to win the war on drugs and break the gridlock in Washington because I’ve met with real Americans just like you in the heartland where dreams live in a good ol’ down-home pickup truck defending freedom around the globe as leader of the free world building a bridge to the 22nd century by reaching across the aisle by running a positive campaign unlike the Fascist scum running against me and empowering people to put children first because at the kitchen table the other night my six-year-old reminded me of the hunger in Martha’s Vineyard and together we can build a future that will once again make America great by turning the key that unlocks the focus on the issues not partisan politics by growing the economy across party lines and celebrating diversity because no dream is beyond our reach through fresh new real leadership as I sit with my head bowed in church I know the middle class deserve a tax break in order to grow the small businesses that are the engine of our campaign and America with affordable birth control for seniors that change the tone in Washington and along the highways and byways of this great land of one people united in fresh approaches and a common set of common ideas where the real credit belongs to the American people whose heritage of winning the hearts and minds of the people will empower the stake on which rests our children’s bright future because together, united as one, we will build a future in order to get America working again and keep America great in the forefront of technological innovation that will see our dreams to the stars and beyond joining with you little people who join with me in shared sacrifice in a conversation around a table in a roadside diner where the true heart of America beats with the rhythm of the lottery-ticket machine as I order a plain, honest cuppa joe while wearing my plain good-ol’-workin’-folks blue jeans because deep inside my soul I’m just as common as you are in these tough economic times because I know what it’s like to get my hands dirty in the clean, honest soil of real America planting corn, and, like, stuff and although I live in a modest apartment in Manhattan my true heart is in the deep, rich soil of Kansas…oh…this is Iowa…where real Americans wear made-in-China baseball caps and worry about the multi-cultural weather and fertilizer, and, like, stuff, because deep down inside I’m just one of you people with my Bible and a dream that all can be one united in the diversity of the American dream for a greater tomorrow because the past is behind us, the present is now, and the future lies ahead because your children are going to die for one side one week and the next side the next week in undeclared wars while my children attend Columbia Law School…wait…did I really let that slip…?

May the deity or the19th century philosophical principle of your choice bless and / or enlighten this great country. Thank you, and good night.

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Snake, Interrupted


Snake, Interruptedruptedruptedrupted - A Song of Spring

Our merry springtime is a glorious feast
Of joyful sights and scents and happy sounds,
Of breezes turning warmly from the east
Of bustling bees winging their flowery rounds
Above, around, and through a world of green
In dreams of life that move the seasons along
Where each day’s sunrise halos a Creation scene
And every blossom is its own soft song
But the sweetest sound echoing through the glades
Is a snake being shredded by the lawnmower’s blades

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The University as a Free-Fire Zone

Mack Hall, HSG
Mhall46184@aol.com

The University as a Free-Fire Zone

The Texas legislature has considered the problem of violence in universities, and proposes to make everything all better by allowing students to carry weapons on campus (http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2015/03/18/texas-senate-approves-concealed-campus-carry-gun-bill/).

One can see the therapeutic value. If drunken frat boys chanting racist slurs are allowed to open-carry .44 magnums on their hips they will sit down together in Christian fellowship, shoot merrily at the overhead lights, and open a conversation about their culture of puerile cloddishness.

Campus-carry could make maths more interesting: “If Tiffany fires her Glock at a sophomore on a northbound train going 70 miles per hour…”

Or languages: “Class, write an ode to a Kalashnikov in Russian. Keep asking yourself how Pushkin might have worded it.”

Or history: “I hope everyone has brought a black or blue pen and a Lee-Enfield to class today…”

Anatomy and physiology: “Class, we’re short on cadavers for our long-term dissection project. Would someone please go outside and bag a couple of sophomores? Do it for science. Do it for your school. And, hey, try not to mess up so many internal organs this time.”

“Professor Bogdown, me and my little friend here would like an ‘A.”

And that graduate student arguing with the clock in the hallway – yeah, she needs a gun.

Those late-night sessions helping each other cope with life’s challenges would become more efficient: “Biff, me ‘n’ the guys know you’ve been having a rough time, what with failing chemistry and your girlfriend leaving you, so we’ve all chipped in and bought you this revolver. We’re going to leave you alone now. Good luck, buddy.”

Dorm rules might require silencers between midnight and five a.m., except on weekends.

Residence hall supervisors would have to adapt: “Okay, people, I’m tired of stepping over all the corpses in the mornings. Let’s all develop a professional attitude in disposing of dead bodies, okay?”

Those friendly rivalries on the sports fields would change: “In the fourth quarter, the score here at Friendship Stadium stands at Redbrick State Teachers’ University 2,329 killed, 4,356 wounded; Our Mother of Mercy 1,242 killed, 3,054 wounded.”

Veterans coming home from the desert might not be happy to see the university campus as yet another outpost shared with unreliable friendlies.

If the Texas legislature permits the open-carry of firearms, would campuses still be tobacco-free zones?

Given that the death rate of university students during spring break alone is pretty much personified in the “Casualty lists! Casualty lists!” scene in Gone with the Wind, the possession of firearms on the job should be limited to trained law enforcement professionals - the Secret Service and the Drug Enforcement Agency come to mind.

Campus carry – no, it’s really not funny at all. Is there no one in the Texas legislature who has served in law enforcement, in the military, or in emergency medicine?

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