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.
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.
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.
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.
Reverend Stilman penciled his latest appointment into his planner.
"Larry King, Thursday –
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.
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.
"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."
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.
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.
"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?"
"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.
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.
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."
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
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