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02/01 Direct Link
Uncle Jack died this evening. What to say? He was my father's younger brother and a talker and he dressed well. He liked to gossip about family and he wasn't much for conflict. He didn't like to rock the boat. He was a minister and he said his gift was for funerals. For comforting the survivors since the dead "could give a damn one way or the other." He believed in reincarnation, which I never bought, but I was polite about it. He spoiled me when I was little. I last saw him Christmas Day. His funeral is next Saturday.
02/02 Direct Link
My father caught me smoking once in the backyard. I wasn't exactly caught because I'm sure he couldn't have seen me from the back porch, so he must have seen the smoke or heard us coughing or used the freaky parent telepathy that I've even developed of late. He had me sit down with him and smoke a pack. After I was near tears and ready to heave he excused me with the old saw "when you can smoke with me, you can smoke in this house." It worked, but I knew even then that it was a hollow threat.
02/03 Direct Link
John Brown invaded my dreams last night and shot up the place. He came thundering in guns blazing looking like the Wrath of God itself. I tried to tell him about The Emancipation Proclamation and the Amendments but John ignored me. He planned to cut a swath across America liberating as he went. He took great delight in recounting the details of his campaign. I thought him a little overeager, a little needy even. I tried to warn him about the fallout from the O.J. trial and the whole Gangsta Rap thing. He remained undaunted, determined to meet his fate.
02/04 Direct Link
Langston Hughes invaded my dreams last night and read to me. It was the younger version that visited, not the angrier, older version. He read all the cast off tales that he'd never submitted. Most were quite good and a few were quite dreadful. I politely listened to them all. When he asked if I had any work to share I stammered out some incoherent excuses and tried not to make eye contact. The fiasco with Ellison was fresh on my mind. I don't think he believed me but he let me be just the same. We made small talk.
02/05 Direct Link
Little Woogie wasn't a bad kid just "mannish." My grandmother called me mannish once when she caught me looking rather lasciviously after a young woman in church. I was 11. Woogie was 4 when his dad caught him sneaking a peek at his uncle's Playboy collection. Since he couldn't read we gathered that it was the pictures he was after. He thought the girls were "pretty." Couldn't argue with him there. For a moment I considered introducing Woogie to comic books, and attempt at substituting a softer fetish. I dropped the idea. He'd made the leap to the big time.
02/06 Direct Link

John Coltrane invaded my dreams last night looking like some haloed saint. I readily admitted that I only had a cursory understanding of his work but I told him that I thought DEAR LORD was one of the prettiest things I ever heard. He smiled at me benevolently and played a few bars of something smooth and complicated. It lingered in the air after he stopped. It was then I remembered his addictions. He seemed to read my mind. He said, "I was only a man after all." A distant cousin of his once said he always looked so sad.

02/07 Direct Link
"Doesn't he look great?" she asked. "He sure does," I said, lying. Uncle Jack looks dead which is appropriate for a corpse. No one looks like they should in a casket. But we put up with it and pretend that it's okay to put people in there Sunday best – in his case, his ministerial robes – place them inside an expensive box, inside a waterproof vault and bury him for "safekeeping." They had to put a wig on his head because the chemo made all his hair fall out. It could stand a trimming but no matter, he's dead either way.
02/08 Direct Link

Uncle Jack said once that some funerals were easier than others. He would know. Funeral were his stock and trade. If he had a ministerial gift, it was for providing aid and comfort to the bereaved.

He held that some people "lived their funeral"; lived such an exemplary life that all that was required was a recollection of their accomplishments.

Others "you have to preach into heaven." "And baby, I'm good, but not that good."

The preacher had an easy time today eulogizing Uncle Jack. As a rule, I loathe funerals, avoid them like the plague. Today's was a pleasure.

02/09 Direct Link
Mr. Summit was supposed to be blind. I wasn't so sure. I know that for the first month that I stayed at his house after a half day at kindergarten I never saw him. Just heard this disembodied voice from the top of the stairs barking at Mrs. Summit for coffee. He drank a lot of coffee. For some reason I didn't run (like Arnold and Sammy) the day he came out of the bathroom and caught us upstairs where we weren't supposed to be. He was thin and grizzled he wore long johns. And it seemed he saw me.
02/10 Direct Link
So my wife reminds me as usual that tomorrow is the anniversary of the day I proposed marriage. It was at the annual barrister's affair thrown by the local bar association. I shepherded my beloved to a secluded spot and dropped to one knee. I grasped her hand tenderly in mine, gazed up at her lovingly and asked for the honor of her hand. I got the idea on the ride up and immediately discarded it since I had no ring. Mark – who I thought asleep in the backseat – suggested "that's no reason." Mark wasn't as dumb as he looked.
02/11 Direct Link
Mrs. Barnes looked as if she'd been shrunk inside her skin, which sagged on her frame. Marshall repeated himself. "You really don't have a clue do you?" he said again. I tried ignoring the question. Truth was, I couldn't take my eyes off Mrs. Barnes. I was still hungry. "They're food dear boy. You don't need to worry about what the others may do. Do you see them worrying about what the other cows think when they eat hamburger?" He placed the type of emphasis on the word "food" that people use when talking to the deaf or incredibly stupid.
02/12 Direct Link
"I just want to feel good," is what Halle Berry moaned in MONSTER'S BALL. I can relate. Not that I have any major complaints. I'm well fed (overfed) and in relative good health and probably well advised to just shut up while I'm ahead. But truthfully, I just want to feel good, instead of rushed and apprehensive and cranky and cold. Damn it's cold. But it's January isn't it? It's supposed to be cold. But it seems as if I've never been warm and will never be again. Really, the only good thing about winter is that spring comes after.
02/13 Direct Link

James Earl Ray invaded my dreams last night looking sorrowful. "Wasn't my era man," was my only comment. He was all earnest and whatnot, protesting his innocence. He conveniently ignored the whole attempted escape episode. I pulled out a pair of clippers and started in on my toenails.

"Besides," I finally said, "they've made him irrelevant. I once saw is image hawking IBM or HP or some such garbage. And the whole ‘I Have A Dream' thing has become a Hallmark moment."

Jimmy Earl stalked out petulantly, his lip all poked out.

"Happy Black History Month!" I called after him.

02/14 Direct Link

Reverend Stilman penciled his latest appointment into his planner.

"Larry King, Thursday – 9:00 p.m."

He'd have the church secretary schedule the limousine for his trip to the local affiliate. He again went over his notes for the next morning's interview with NPR. He smiled. Ironically everyone in the congregation knew that Jean had been a fake, that she no more understood what it meant to speak in tongues than she could translate Mandarin. But she had been consumed in Holy Fire in front of witnesses and Stilman was no fool. He would take this blessing and expand.

He had ambition.

02/15 Direct Link

Richard Pryor invaded my dreams last night, walking, pre-coke accident - no scars.

"What the hell's goin' on? I'm not dead yet!"

Yeah but you been sick so long, it seems like it.

"That's low man. So why am I here?"

When I was a kid I used to risk an ass whooping and sneak a listen at your albums. You were a big influence.

"No shit?"

Yeah.

"So this a dream right?" I nodded. "So I can reach into my pocket and pull out a pipe right?"

Rich, that stuff is killing you man.

"Shut up, it's your dream."

02/16 Direct Link

The god of the clams was laboring under a dilemma; how to deliver the truth to one unsuited for it. The god of the octopus had been betrayed. Now he made great pretense of cutting the tragic figure. Now he was in a funk of grand proportions and had come to the god of the clams for solace. The clam god accepted this foolishness as a matter of course and if there were no hiccups, it was fairly light duty. It was the depressive states that were the real pill.

"You're too sensitive for this line of work," he offered.

02/17 Direct Link

Uncle Jack went to Spain once, pretty much on a lark, as I understand it. He stopped through St. Louis on his way home to Detroit. He made a big production out of giving us our gifts. I don't recall what he gave my parents (naturally) but, among other things, he gave me a pair of maracas. I played them incessantly for days. One other piece of booty he'd purchased was a gold ring for himself. I admired it every time I saw it. On one such occasion years later he took it off and just gave it to me.

02/18 Direct Link

"Hey… you busy?"

"Yeah, but I'm due for a break."

"So they got him in jail?"

"Yup, and hopefully his sorry ass will not see light of day for decades to come."

"So who botched the lab test?"

"Huh?"

"Honey look, Ty is a lot of things. Trifling? Yes. Dumb? Definitely. Physically abusive? Unfortunately. But a rapist? I'm sorry, I know the boy. Been inside his tiny little brain enough times to know that it ain't in him. So either somebody messed up or Ty is being framed ….. wait…. Terri, what did you DO!?

"Uh… breaks over… gotta go.

02/19 Direct Link
D.W. Griffith sauntered into my dreams last night, barely suppressing a leer. "I'm brilliant you know," he says. I try to ignore him. But he won't go away. "I made over $18 million on a movie released in 1915. Tickets were only $2 in those days you know." I pretend to tie my shoes. "I pioneered many of the film techniques still used in making movies today." I reset my watch. "The Klan still uses BIRTH OF A NATION as a recruitment film." Enough. I pick up an errant brick and use it to deliver a savage beating. It helps.
02/20 Direct Link
I was told once that a child's propensity to talk was one sign of high intelligence. If so, then my daughter is likely to discover a cure for cancer. Admittedly she gets it honest – I can hold my own – but Cynthia even amazes other 4 year olds. Admittedly, it's her mom's fault and mine. She started in early with one word sentences and we encouraged it. Soon we were awash in a sea of questions, summations of the day, and songs. Oh god she can make up songs about anything. The other day she made up a song about Kleenex.
02/21 Direct Link

I really did dream once that my grandfather came to visit me. I'd gone to see my grandmother for Spring Break. Her husband died in January, her dog, in March. As you'd imagine, it was not a particularly happy time. We orbited each other warily, walking on eggshells. I slept in my grandfather's bed and one night I dreamt we were walking in the woods as we had when I was little. Even though I was fully grown, he towered over me like when I was 4. I don't remember much of what was said but the comfort still lingers.

02/22 Direct Link

Like most shamans, Uncle Jack was one part confidence man and one part mystic. I mean sometimes what's the difference between believing that you've been touched by the hand of God and the real thing? I mean my mind could have conjured up my grandfather to visit me in a dream to comfort me or it could have been him. Same difference right?

Oh Uncle Jack actually believed that he was, at times, led by the Spirit and others he just told people what they needed (or, I believe, wanted) to hear.

I mean, "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

02/23 Direct Link

I hadn't had a taste in 24 hours and since my preferred method kept my blood intake to a minimum, what with my being all noble and not taking life, I desperately needed to break the fast. And now I was starting to ache and Marshall showed no sign of excusing me let alone letting me live seeing as how I was an unsanctioned "convert". I actually winced in pain. My body started to withdraw on itself.

Marshall took no heed, or at least faked it well, and asked me the oddest question, "Did you want to be a vampire?"

02/24 Direct Link

I dreamed that my father was still alive well into my 30's. The scenarios always involved him faking his death in some bizarre fashion. To avoid gangsters, or as part of some elaborate spy scheme, or just as a prank. Sometimes my mother and various other adults (in various combinations) were in on it, other times they were as in the dark as I was. Every dream brought with it some amount of dread associated with having to care for him again, or with competing with him for Ma's attention. Perhaps my subconscious was an outlet for all my pettiness?

02/25 Direct Link
W.E.B. DuBois invaded my dreams last night and demanded an accounting. "What have you done to promote the general uplift of the race!" he demanded. "Where is your intellectual legacy, your contribution to answering the great questions?" He then launched into a complex and convoluted oratory that left me off the hook and quite bored. Ol' "WEB" could be a bit pompous at times. I read THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK in college, an astounding work, somewhat marred by his penchant for hyperbole. Yet who am I to judge? Where are my credentials? I still stop for SCOOBY DOO reruns.
02/26 Direct Link
During the regularly scheduled speaking in tongues segment on Sunday, Jean by chance uttered an ancient Sanskrit word of power and was instantaneously reduced to a pile of ash in the ensuing pillar of fire. Miraculously, nothing else was touched. The membership of the True Rock Word of Gospel (storefront) Church of The One God was convinced immediately that Jean had been "taken up" by the power of God. The media frenzy was immediate. The pastor (never one to pass up an opportunity) transferred up the pile that once was Jean to a golden urn and placed it under glass.
02/27 Direct Link
So today Ma turns 70. She doesn't look her age; bears it like she bears all things, with grace. Without studying a day of eastern philosophy she has reached an advanced state of Zen awareness (or at least what I understand to be Zen). Her motto: "And this too shall pass. When I'm down it gives me hope. When I'm flying high it keeps me grounded." For a long time it seemed to me an insufficient philosophy; insufficient grounds for hope and a constraint on joy. But I've grown to embrace it. Fortunately it appears that I'm finally catching on.
02/28 Direct Link
Thaddeus and Mr. Johnson cornered me in Uncle Ron's kitchen one night at a party. I was 13 (it was a Friday lest you think my mother irresponsible). Between them they weighed easily 300 pounds. These were not tiny men, determined to ensure I understood that if I gave my mother any trouble, now that my father had passed, that they had her back. They were behind her 100% and would not hesitate to pound me into the floor given the proper motivation. I assured them they had nothing to worry about. It was like standing between two belligerent Clydesdales.