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Sean Kassab Jul 2012
It was in the earlier part of November, 2005 when I was called to the garrison HQ to receive an emergency Red Cross message informing me that my grandfather had passed away. I was in my third year of service as a direct contractor to the Army and my duty station was in Iraq. More specifically, I was at Tallil AFB near the city of An Nasiriyah. I was granted an emergency leave so that I could go back to the US to be with my family so I stowed my gear, packed my duffel and made the long trip home. This was the first time I would make this trip, but I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up a bit. You see, my grandfather had served in the Second World War, actually both of them had. They were brothers. PFC Eddie Kassab, the one I’m speaking about here, had survived WWII through some pretty tough odds, including being on the third wave of the Normandy invasion at D-Day where thousands had died during the beach head assault. His brother, SFC Joseph Kassab, who married my grandmother, was killed in that war, He was a bombardier and his plane was shot down during the Guadalcanal campaign. It wasn’t until 27 years later that the wreckage of the aircraft and remains were found and recovered. When Joseph died leaving behind his young wife and new born son, Eddie began looking after her, sending home money for her and the boy, my father. They wrote back and forth to eachother after the dissappearance of Joseph and when he returned to the US after the war they courted and were eventually married. Joseph was laid to rest with the rest of his flight crew in Arlington with full military honors. Eddie, who died much later in life, was also afforded a military service there. That was my first time being in Arlington National Cemetery, a place reserved for men and women who had served their country in a military capacity. It is difficult to describe just how immense and powerful that place is, the impact you have on your life just from standing on those grounds is indescribable. If I had to try I would say it’s a mixed feeling of Honor, pride, sorrow, and a profound sense of loneliness. There are row upon row of white marble markers spanning miles of emerald green grass and broad shade trees. The markers themselves are simple, nothing fancy, but the respect they command is beyond contestation. There are also wall vaults for those who were cremated, one of these would become Eddie’s final resting place. The US Army's honor guard performed his service, while a trumpeter played “Taps” and his flag was folded and presented on behalf of a grateful nation to my father who Eddie raised as his own son. In the distance a 21 gun salute was given by seven riflemen firing three shots each. It would be the only time in my life that I saw my father cry. We took the time after Eddie’s service to walk to Joseph’s grave marker as well, passing thousands of other markers and I found myself wondering how many of these people were forgotten by the years. How many of them left behind young children. Were they killed in combat? How many of them were laid to rest with a grave full of unfulfilled dreams? The sacrifices they made weighed heavily upon me. It was a feeling I would carry with me long after I had left that place.
Years had passed and I found myself still working in Iraq for the US Army, I was stationed at Camp Taji this time, on the edge of Sadr City, a real dust bowl. I was in my eighth year of service when I was again called to Garrison HQ, another emergency Red Cross message had come through informing me that my Father had passed away. It was December 29th 2010. For hours afterward it felt as if I had been punched in the gut. I called my Mom as soon as I could to make sure she was ok and to see if there was anything she needed before making arrangements for yet another emergency leave. I again stowed my gear, packed my duffel and headed out. Now, it’s only fair to give you an idea of whom I’m talking about here, my Father, Jan, had been a Navy man and had been stationed on submarines as well as destroyer class ships during the Vietnam War. He signed up for service when he was just 18 years old and when he left the Navy he went directly into the Maitland Fire Department in central Florida and stayed there for many years. Eventually he expanded his training becoming the 80th paramedic in the state as well as a certified rescue diver and instructor. More importantly, he was a great father who raised two boys as a father should and later in life, he was a pretty good drinking buddy. His teachings and advice have helped me through some of the toughest times in my life. It was because of his prior military service that he was also awarded full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. There was a waiting list of about 8 weeks at the time because of the high volume of casualties from the wars in the Middle East so it wasn’t until February of 2011 that he was finally laid to rest. This time it was the US Navy’s honor guard who performed his service. I remember it well; they stood in their dress whites throughout the ceremony in the biting cold as the wind whipped by mercilessly.  The honor and discipline in these men was no less than awe inspiring and through my sadness I couldn’t help but feel an amazing sense of pride for who my father was during his life. We all stood as a trumpeter again played “Taps” to the folding of my Father’s flag which was presented to my Mom on behalf of a grateful nation after a 21 gun salute was ordered in the distance. My Father’s remains were also placed in a wall vault that became his final resting place; his marker being only about 20 feet from Eddie’s marker in the adjacent wall and even though it was freezing that day, we took a little extra time to visit Eddie and Joseph again. Walking the grounds of that place again awakened all the feelings I had felt the first time, probably even more so. Again, I have to tell you that words couldn’t accurately describe how that place makes you feel. The grass had turned brown by now but was still immaculately manicured, and the precision placement of the grave markers was flawless. There were thousands of names that dated all the way back to the American Civil War. I went also with my brother to pay my respects at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It was an impressive mausoleum that is guarded twenty four hours a day by the US Army’s horror guard.  After it was all said and done and we had left Arlington and met as a family, my Mom, my Brother and his family, myself and my family and some close friends to remember him for a while over some food and drinks, and though nobody seemed to really have any appetite we still stayed there for hours. That was the first time in eight years that I had seen my Brother and would be the last time I saw him alive, but that part comes later. Eventually we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, each having a very long way to travel back home and I had to get ready to go back to Iraq, heavy hearted or not.
I had only been back in theater (that means deployment) for a few months when I was reassigned to Al Asad AB as my permanent duty station. It was a place in the middle of nowhere and was originally a Marine base but transferred to Army and Air Force some time in 2010. I had made some good friends there, settled in and finally started coming back to myself when I received a message from my brother’s wife asking me to call her, said it was important. Thinking back on it now, I remember feeling a little angry that she wouldn’t tell me on email. Internet I had in my room, but a phone…well I’m no general and I had already settled in for the night. It was about 21:30 hrs. (9:30 p.m.) on a night in late July so I got dressed and made the quarter mile walk to my office where I could use the phone, cursing under my breath the whole time. It took me about 20 minutes just to find my phone card in my cluttered desk drawer, but when  I finally did amongst more unsavory mutterings I made the call. She answered quickly enough but her voice sounded strained so I calmed down and asked her what was going on, I figured something wasn’t right so she didn’t need me jumping her case on top of it. It was then that she told me my Brother’s body had been found in his home in Whiteville NC. He had been having a hard time with depression since our Father passed as well as marital problems and he had made the decision to take his own life at the age of 36 leaving behind his Wife, Stepson and Daughter who was only 5 at the time. I was blindsided to say the least, no one saw this coming, and he left no real reason as to why so there still is no closure, no understanding. I was angry… no, I was furious! But I’m getting ahead of myself again. She had called me not only to inform me of what had happened, but also to ask if I had Mom’s phone number because she didn’t have it and didn’t know how to get in touch with her to tell her. I told her not to worry about it and that I’d take that on my shoulders and get back to her. It had only been five months since we laid our Father to rest and to say I dreaded making that phone call was a ridiculous understatement. It was easily one of the toughest things I ever had to do, but it had to be done all the same so I dug Mom’s number out of my wallet…and stared at it…I don’t know how long but it felt like a long time. What else could I do? What could I say? It’s not like I had an instruction booklet for delivering bad news and this was as bad as it gets. After a few deep breaths I dialed her number and decided to take the direct approach. She answered the phone and we exchanged hellos, and I asked her what she was doing. She was out shopping with Robbie at the Tractor Supply Co. He was a longtime family friend and all around good guy. I told her that I had some pretty bad news and asked if she could find a place to sit down there, but she told me it was ok to just tell her what happened so I did exactly that. I gave her all the information I had at the time, I didn’t know how to sugar coat it so I didn’t. She took it pretty well up front, not breaking down until later that evening. My Brother, SPC Troy Kassab, had enlisted in the US Army with our Father’s permission when he was only 17 years old. He was a combat medic assigned to Ft. Carson in Colorado before transferring to the 82nd Airborne Division in Ft Brag NC. He deployed to Cuba among other deployments overseas before being attached to a Ranger Unit as their medic and doing other deployments that he never would talk about much. After the army he lived in NC where he worked in restaurants while attending school on the G.I bill and volunteering on the Hickory Rescue Squad as an EMT. He eventually completed school in Winston Salem NC where he got his PA degree in general practice. Troy was a self-educated, brilliant man who wasn’t perfect but who is? He saved lives in the Army, and then continued to do so in the civilian world until his death in July of 2011. He was a husband and a father, a brother and a friend. He was important to us. It was because of his past in the Army that he also was awarded full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. This time the wait was much longer and his funeral wasn’t held until November 15th of 2011. I remember that day and the days leading up to it like it was yesterday. I had ended my deployment in Iraq on November 3rd, making it back to the US on November 6th. From the time of his death I had stayed in contact with Mom and his wife Andi to make sure they were ok and help in any way I could with the affairs and expenses. When I finally did get home I pulled my truck out of storage had it inspected, fueled and ready to go. It was unfortunate, but my wife was in college and had work at the time so she couldn’t come with us so my daughter and I made the long trip from Houston TX to Hickory NC to see Troy’s wife and kids. While I was there I also picked up a close family friend of ours who needed a ride and made the long drive to Arlington VA...again. The US Army’s honor guard met us there to perform his service and again the attention to detail, the respect given to the deceased, and the discipline shown was flawless. There were more friends this time than family in attendance but I was there with Mom, Robbie, my daughter, and some very close family friends, some going all the way back to our childhood. The ceremony was the same, every time the same. I remember thinking I hated the way “Taps” sounded as they folded the flag and I was angry and hurt when I stepped forward to claim my Brother’s remains and walk them to the wall vault that would become his final resting place. I have to say though, that through my grief and anger, I was a little bit pleased to see that he was placed so close to my Father and Grandfather. I left a pair of my own dog tags in his vault, it made me feel better that he wouldn’t be alone in there. I guess it doesn’t make a lot of sense now but at the time it did.  I stood over his marker and said a silent prayer before heading out to see Dad, Eddie and Joe’s markers and pay some respects. The grass was that brilliant emerald green again, and the sense that I stood in a place of honor reserved for our nations fallen still struck me through the heart.  After that we just kind of faded away from that place making our way home. Troy’s wife Andi had decided not to come, she was angry, she felt betrayed and abandoned, so on my way home I stopped back in Hickory NC, dropped off Michelle and made the drive to Andi’s house to present her with Troy’s flag as it had been presented to me. I remember hoping that her decision wouldn’t leave her with later regrets, but it was too late to change it now. The drive home was a long one, one that rekindled so many unanswered questions. Three generations of my family laid to rest leaving me as the only surviving male member of my family; something that still weighs upon my heart today.
But this is their story, and though it seems a sad one, that is not its intent. This story was written so that you the reader could understand that there is a place where over a hundred thousand Josephs and Eddies, and Jans and Troys are resting.  Each one of those stone crosses and stars have a face, a name, a history, and they made a sacrifice for you and for me. They were people who gave up their futures so that we could have one. They were people who had dreams, families, and who put all of that aside for what they believed in. They weren’t perfect people, but they deserve to be remembered. If you do nothing else after reading this, at least take the time to think about the freedoms that you have, freedoms that have cost us so much…
There are those who came before us, who paved the way for the lives we now live, their voices whisper to us through our freedoms and we are a greatful nation. Listen and remember...
Jim Davis  Apr 2017
Touching
Jim Davis Apr 2017
In the last
three decades,
after we became one,
I touched
amazingly beautiful things,
horribly ugly things,  
unbelievably wondrous things

I touched nature's majesty;
hued walls of the Grand Canyon,              
crusty bark of the
Redwoods and Sequoias,
live corals of the
Great Barrier Reef,
dreamlike sandstone of the Wave

I touched magical and strange;
platypus, koalas and
kangaroos Down Under,
underwater alkali flies and
lacustrine tufa at Mono Lake,
astral glowing worms
in the Kawiti caves

I touched holy places;
Christianity's oldest churches,
the Pope's home in the Vatican,
Hindu and Sikh temples and
Moslem mosques in India,
Anasazi's kivas of Chaco canyon,
Aboriginal rocks of Uluru and Kata Tjuta

I touched glimmers of civilization;
uncovered roads of Pompeii,
fighting arenas of Rome,
terra cotta armies of Xian,
sharp stone points of the Apache,
pottery shards from the Navajo,
petroglyphs by the Jornada Mogollon

I touched fantastical things;
winds blowing on the
steppes of Patagonia,,
playas and craters of Death Valley,  
high peaks of the Continental Divide,
blazing white sands of the  
Land of Enchantment

I touched icons of liberty
and freedom;
the defended Alamo,
a fissured Liberty Bell,
an embracing Statue of Liberty,
the harbor of Checkpoints
Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie

I touched glorious things
made by man;
the monstrous Hoover Dam,
an exquisite Eiffel tower,
a soaring St Louis Arch,
an Art deco Empire State Building,
the sublime Golden Gate Bridge

I touched sparks from history;
the running path of an
Olympic flame just off Bourbon,
the last steps of Mohandas Ghandi
at Birla House before Godse,
******'s Eagle's nest and the
grounds over Der Führerbunker

I touched walls of power;
enclosed rings of the Pentagon,
steep steps of the
Great Wall of China,
untried bastions of
Peter and Paul's fortress,
fitted boulders of Machu Picchu

I touched strong hands;
of those conquering
Rommel's and ******'s hordes,
of cold warriors of
Chosin Reservoir,  
of forgotten soldiers of Vietnam,
of terrorist killers of today

I touched memories of war;
the somber Vietnam memorial,
the glorious Iwo Jima statue,
the cold slabs at Arlington,
the buried tomb of USS Arizonians,
Volgograd's Mother Russia  

I touched ugly things;
shreds of light in
Port Arthur's prison,
horrible smelly dust
in the streets from 9/11,
ash impregnated dirt
in the pits at Auschwitz

I touched oppressed freedom;
open ****** plazas
of Tiananmen Square,
smooth pipe and concrete
of the Berlin Wall,  
tall red brick walls
of the Moscow Kremlin

I touched constrained freedom;
heavy ankle and
wrist slave chains
in the South,
little windows
in Berlin's Stasi prison,
haunted cells in Alcatraz  

I touched remnants of madness;
wire and ovens of Auschwitz,
stacked chimneys and
wooden bunks of Birkenau,        
Ravensbruck, and Dachau,
the tomb of Lenin,
toppled Stalins

I touched hands of survivors;
of Leningrad's siege,
of German POWs and
of Russian fighters
of Stalingrad's battle,
of Cancer's scourges  

I touched grand things;
deep waters of the Pacific and Atlantic,
blue hills of Appalachia,
towering peaks of the Rockies,
high falls of Yosemite Valley,
bursting geysers of Yellowstone,
crashing glaciers of Antarctica and Alaska    

I touched times of adventure;
abseiling and zipping in Costa Rica,
packing Pecos wilds and Padre isles,
flying nap of earth Hueys to Meridian,
breaking arms in JRTC's box,
fighting Abu Sayyaf, and Jemaah
Islami in Zamboanga City

I touched through you;
wet sand beaches of  Mexico and Jamaica,
mysterious energy of the monoliths of Stonehenge,
rarefied air in front of the
Louvre's Mona Lisa,
ancient wonders of Giza,
Egypt's tombs and pyramids

We shared soft touches;
drifting in Bora Bora's
surreal waters,
joining hands camel trekking the
Outback's dry sands,
strolling along Tasmania's
eucalyptus forest trails

basking in swinging hammocks
under Fiji's bright sun,
scrambling in
Las Vegas' glittering and
red rock canyons,
kissing under the
Taj Mahal's symphony of arches

We shared touching deep waters;
propelled in gondolas
through the city of canals,
Drifting atop Uru cat boats on Lake Titticaca,
Swooping in jet boats
up a wild river in Talkeetna

Racing in speed boats
around Sydney's great harbour,
skimming in pangas in Puerto Ayora,
paddling the Kennebec for
East's best petroglyphs,
cruising Salzbergwerk's underwater lake

We touched scrumptious things;
Beignets and chicory coffee at DuMonde's in the Big Easy,
Hot *** with sesame sauce
in the walled city of Xian,
Peking duck, dimsum, scorpions,
snake and starfish on Wangfujing Snack Street

We touched delicious things
Crawfish heads and tails at JuJu's shack
and ten years at Jeanette's,
Langoustine at Poinciana's, Fjöruborðinus and Galapagos,
Cream cheese and loch bagels
at Ess-a' s in the Big Apple

I touched your hand riding;
hang loose waves of Waikiki,
a big green bus in Denali's awesomeness,
clip clopping carriages of Vienna, Paris,
Prague, New Orleans, Krakow,
Quebec City, and Zakopane,
the acapella sugar train of St Kitts

We shared touching on paths;
the highway 1 of Big Sur,
the Road of the Great Ocean,
the bahn to Buda and Pest,
the path to the North of Maine,
the trail of the Hoh rainforest,
and time after time, the way home

Yet,
I could spend
the next three decades,
in simple bliss,
having need for
touching nothing,
other than you!

©  2016 Jim Davis
A poem I wrote last year for my wife!  Posted now since it matches the HP' theme for today - "Places"
John F McCullagh Dec 2011
Three friends in a row
On a windswept hill there
Had they but eyes to see
It’s a spectacle rare.

Three friends in a row
on a former plantation.
Three soldiers confined here
just for the duration.

It was Robert Lee’s land
Before terrible war
Made it a plantation
Like none was before.

There are soldiers and sergeants,
Many heroes, few saints.
Some are here since Antietam
since the war between States.

Marse Robert’s plantation
takes the proud and the few.
No serfs and no slaves,
only freeborn and true.
SøułSurvivør May 2015
Beautiful tribute
Tended lawns
Snow white crosses
In their throngs
Men sent out
To right the wrongs
Some were knighted
Some were pawns

There are lovely
Spreading trees
Bowing in the
Scented breeze
In the winter
There to freeze
There our nation's
On its knees

There are many
Stones for heads
Punctured by
The flying lead
There are widows
For those wed
The hearts are countless

They, too, are dead.


SoulSurvivor
Memorial Day
(C) 5/25/2015
If the hearts of wives, children,
Mothers, fathers and friends
Were to be counted the earth
Wouldn't contain the dead.

---
CHAPTER ONE

My geographic movements during the past year could be called “A Tale of Two Couches.” So as June draws to a close, I assume the position here again on Couch California. I am back in Hemet, the place the smug among us call Hemetucky--as if there was nothing a couple of Mint Juleps and a **** of Blue Grass wouldn’t cure. It is the year of our Lord, 2014: so far an interesting year for women. There was a woman who wore socks to bed. There was always my long-time, here today-gone tomorrow, long time companion, currently teaching somewhere remote on the Big Rez, a southwestern Navajo concentration camp near the 4 Corners.  Next, there’s my current object of affection, that fine and frisky lady from The Bronx by way of Bernalillo--currently at home in Laguna Beach, Orange County. Trixie: my main squeeze at the moment.

And now, completely out of the ******* blue this afternoon, my cell phone rings and it’s ******* Juanita--my all-time favorite woman, Juanita Mi Favorita de La Quinta--a Coachella Valley town and desert wadi, extending its lucrative winter tourist season to become a significant, year-round retirement venue and a robust service economy feeding off it.  Juanita arrived there in the late 80s, in middle of her early forties.  She was unemployed, homeless, just a suitcase to her name and a two-year old toddler in tow. Her parents were there, as was her Aunt Peggy.  Juanita was always Peggy’s favorite niece, her favorite child, actually, Peggy herself being childless, never married.  Aunt Peggy put her maternal instincts to work on Juanita Rodriguez, her Sister Rosalia’s second favorite twin daughter.

Maria, Rosalia’s first favorite daughter, Juanita’s twin sister—MARIA: lives in Newport Beach and acts as an extra in many commercial ads shot in southern California and elsewhere, an irony never without sting for Juanita. “Que lastima!” Poor Juanita: as her would-be Hollywood Movie star aspirations disintegrated over the years, along with her unrealized lower expectations to be TV star, and even those semi-glamorous modeling gigs at trade shows and fairs—the elephant’s graveyard of the acting profession—failed to materialize, and now her celebrity habitat shrunken even further, to that sporadic but consistent mockery of stardom, I refer to any would-be thespian’s ignominious one-celled visual protozoan: The Extra Call List.  And—*******-- what happens next? Juanita’s sister Maria starts getting these parts, starts getting hired by filling out a ******* postcard, starts getting paid to look good in the background. *******: no professional education or instruction, no agent, and no need to **** off both the producer, the producer’s cousin Morey, the director and the director’s wife’s huge Golden retriever, Genghis--actually a mighty handsome animal--or needing to spill $4K on that Derma-brasion, Juanita inflicted on herself last year.

Juanita, as you already know, was the second favorite daughter and the second favorite twin of the family. She became the third favorite child in her three-child family upon the arrival of her slick baby brother Nico-- the Golden Child, who grew up to be a glib Merrill-Lynch stockbroker, office and residence, Beverly Hills 90112.  (Enter forcefully into the narrative, His Nibs himself, Sir Nicodemus of Hollywood, Juanita and Maria’s baby brother Nico. He speaks: “Excuse me, stockbroker my ***, as it says in a 11 point Rockwell Boldfont, right here on my gold-leaf embossed business card: Senior Large Capital Investment Counselor.”)

No, Juanita had a hard time just treading water in that Cleveland shark tank. And though she lacked nothing in the cuteness department, she had this one fatal flaw, namely, the gift of ***** and sass and a reflex to speak truth to power. Juanita: rejected by Rosalia as a threat to her hegemony as Boss of the Girl’s Club, was cast adrift on a tempestuous childhood cruel Montserrat sea, out there on the briny deep . . .  
                

                                      



High Seas: where many a tuna has a Sorry Charlie moment: “Star-Kist don’t want no tuna with good taste; Star-Kist wants a tuna that tastes good.”

Finally, Juanita is rescued, taken aboard the Good/Soul Aunt Peggy—that wayward bark Elisabeta Rodriguez, home-ported in Southside, Chicago, Illinois—the rescue at sea performed in classy, rather low-key manner; no Andrea Doria drama, but understated:

{Camera One, Helicopter above, zooms over turbulent ocean surface. Peggy, an oasis of calm, aboard the raft Kon Tiki with Thor Heyerdahl and his crew, floats by, whispering, “Going my way, Honey? Climb aboard. Have a homemade oatmeal cookie and a small glass tumbler of Jack Daniels.” Okay, no, that’s not fair. Sure Aunt Peggy drank, but never got round to offering you a drink until you were well into your 30s. Let’s just say she offered you a warm glass of milk, the mother’s milk deprived you by your mother, her sister Rosalia. Dear Aunt Peggy: a seasoned survivor herself, flawed by early childhood deafness and grotesque speech.  Yet, she had refused to settle for life in an asylum. She made a go at life.  She learned; she prospered; she flourished. And when the time came, she was there for you in the Coachella Desert, there for her feisty niece Juanita Ann.  Aunt Peggy: a loving spirit personified, became Juanita’s special confidant and counselor, her personal cheer squad of one. Juanita, of course, a former cheerleader herself--an early hint of greatness to be sure, a highlight, perhaps the highlight of her life, shown off every Halloween, still celebrated at American high schools each Fall. She is the Principal’s secretary at a huge suburban high school in Indio. Each Halloween, if the date falls on a school day, Juanita arrives for work wearing that scrupulously preserved, vintage 1966 cheerleader uniform, looking real foxy still, snug now in all the right places. Eternal Truth: Juanita has always and will always be good looking. Life with Juanita is perpetual “ooh la-la.”

So, I am on the couch that afternoon, reading more of Gramsci’s prison notebooks, specifically the philosophy he calls “Praxis.”  Completely out of the ******* blue, Juanita calls me on a RESTRICTED phone, as I said, Juanita, a torch I’ve kept burning for years, flaring up like a refinery flame--oil still very much in the present energy mix--hope springing eternal as they say, and instantly my mission in life is rekindling our lost love. Juanita’s conceived her mission prior to her phone call:  using me to keep her son from being whacked by the local Eme--the Mexican Mafia—that ethnic-pride social club that the RICO-squad-- using family tree socio-grams and other expensively-printed graphics, the one RICO keeps trying to convince us is some sort of organized crime conspiracy. The Mexican Mafia: like everything else practical and utilitarian in this world: THAT’S ITALIAN! And, if you are starting to sense a bit of ethnic chauvinism on, between & below the lines, you are barking up the right tree.
                                                           ­     
      
                                                            
(AUTHOR’S POST-SCRIPT EDIT: And, an ad for dog food right here? Not the best choice of sponsors, perhaps, at the moment. Juanita was far off from the ****** ***** that start looking not half-bad at 2:30 in the glazy morning, not anywhere near those beasts you find lingering in the airport bars you usually frequent near closing time on Saturday nights. No, I remind you that Juanita was all “ooh la-la.” In my next printing—and my Lord, there have been so many, haven’t there, Paulie “Eat-a-Bag-of-****” Muldoon? I will change out the Alpo ad, plugging in a spot for Aunt Jemima pancake syrup or Betty Crocker whipped cream, you know, something more apropos.)

Juanita, I really must hand it to you. You showed the greatest staying power, year after year as I moved further and further away from La Quinta, California. Juanita: you embraced what was good in me, ignored my flaws and strengthened me with your love for so many years. As far as you and Peggy, I guess it was a case of the “apple not falling far from the tree” one of many endearing Midwestern metaphors you taught me.  Peggy taught you, taught you to be kind and then you taught me. No matter what bizarre venue I pulled out of my ***, you showed above-average staying power, continued to visit me wherever I went, Casa Grande & Buckeye, Arizona, Appalachia, West Virginia, and even Italy, when I thought I’d try Europe again after so many years.  With each move, each time, Juanita renewed her commitment to the relationship. Meanwhile, I continued to test her, quantifying her dedication, undermining her sense of mission to disprove my worldview on the expendability of women. Surely, you know that one: the unreliability of women, women who disappear without saying goodbye. That old deeply etched conviction to never get attached to a woman, any woman, based on the empirical fact that women have been known to suddenly die, a fact seared into my still tender metal by the surprise death of my mother on 11 January 1962.

1962. It was already an insecure world, to wit:  The Cuban Missile Crisis. Nikita Khrushchev, in his time both Dr. No and Dr. Evil, namely the Premier whom we Baby Boomers saw as Boogey Man of All Time (Although Putin is showing potential, lately)—the Kennedy ****** (what else could you call it?). All these events scary, whether or not I got the chronology right . . . I remained on high alert for any threat to my delicate adolescent psyche.  My mother-Rosa Teresa Sekaquaptewa-died at 2 o’clock in the morning, screaming in agony while apologizing to my father for not having his dinner on the table when he walked in from work that prior afternoon. She’d already been in bed since noon, attended by two of my aunts--both my father’s sisters--who loved their Hopi sister-in-law, Rosa.  Also present was Lafcadio Smirnoff, M.D.--last of the house call medicine men--a dapper, mustachioed, swarthy gentleman, misdiagnosing her abdominal pain as a 24-hour virus, while she bled out internally for at least eight more hours, her whimpers alternated with screams, well into the wee hours of the morning.

I was upstairs in that dormer bedroom listening to her die. An hour later, Father Numb-nuts of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish teleported in, beaming directly into my bedroom from the parish rectory.  Father Seamus Numb-nuts, an illuminated Burning Bush . . . not quite the bush I ‘d conjured at other times, so many times alone with Gwen Wong, ******* Playmate of the Year, 1961, one of Hefner’s hot centerfolds. No, give me a ******* break, you momo! Whacking off is the last thing on a libidinous, adolescent guinea’s brain when his mama is being tortured and killed by God. Even Alexander Portnoy, Philip Roth’s early avatar would have drawn the wanking line at that unforgettable moment.

No, perhaps what I’d had in mind was The Burning Bush Golf Course where so much of Fletcher Kneble’s political mischief and government shenanigans got cooked up. You remember his books, some of the Cold War’s finest: Seven Days in May, Vanished, etc.

Or better yet, perhaps the greatest political slogan of the 20th century: “STAY OUT THE BUSHES!” Thank you, Jesse. “Thank you, Reverend Jackson,” I slip into my Excellence in Broadcasting mode, my very own private Limbaugh. Announcing my on- air arrival is El Rushbo’s unmistakable, totally recognizable bass line bumper, courtesy of Chrissie Hynde’s Pretenders band mate, guitarist Tony Butler: Dum, dum, dum-dum, Da-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum-da-dum-dum. Single, “My City Was Gone” by The Pretenders
Rush Limbaugh Song– YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=SScW9r0y3c4

I become Reverend Jackson. I emerge from the vapors, an obscure abyss of deep family pangs and disappointments, ever-diminishing public relevance and fade to black (no pun intended) and media oblivion. The only thing left is that line:  “STAY OUT THE BUSHES!” You will always own that line, Jesse--true political genius (to wit: Rainbow Coalition) Jackson that you are, despite El Rush-Bo’s virulent anti-Black animus, his predilection to mock you, Al Sharpton, Corey Booker, Barack “Hussein” Obama, and any other professional ***** in America. Isn’t it time someone came right out and tagged Mr. Limbaugh as the Father Coughlin of our time.

Meanwhile back in The Bronx, enter another man of the cloth:  It’s Seamus Numb-nuts, making one of his many well-documented spectral visitations, his splendiferous miracles and wonders. How much longer will the Vatican ignore this humble Bronx priest, this epitome of Sainthood; this reverent man, lacking only the stigmata for a unanimous consent vote? Quote the Numb-nuts: “God Works in Mysterious Ways.” An old standard to be sure, but a lovely, all-purpose bromide for explaining why evil exists in our world. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed; I lost God at that moment, consequently shooting myself in the foot--metaphorically-speaking-condemning myself to an unshielded life, life OUT THE BUSHES!  I went forth into the world without God, without that handy divine crutch, that Andy Devine metaphor for when one’s legs grow weary: a puff of smoke, a reverb twang and a nasty frog croaking “Hi-ya, Kids. Hi-ya, Hi-ya. Hi-ya.”

   Andy's Gang - Pasta Fazooli vs. Froggy the Gremlin - YouTube
► 3:55► 3:55
www.youtube.com/watch?v=H35odPm7b3w Aug 8, 2012 - Uploaded by jmgilsinger
Froggy the Gremlin -Tuba ... Andy Devine (Aug 24, 1952)

Life for me became lonely and purposeless. And probably explains my susceptibility to military discipline and a subsequent career in clandestine government service. In 1968--the very day I turned nineteen, September 25th of that year—that fateful day when I should have shot myself in the foot—literally not metaphorically--earning that coveted 4-F physical rejection, a draft deferment to be desired, that 4-F classification of unfitness for duty, a necessary loophole in U.S. conscript service law.  The Draft: last used during that great commonwealth Cold War purge, that culling out of the unwashed, uneducated children of immigrants, that cut-rate, discount, lower socio-economic ***** bank—the only bank where after you make a deposit, you lose interest, to wit: most Black, Hispanic and Poor White Trash parents.  We were cannon fodder, many of us got to be planted at Arlington and other holy American shrines, still wrapped in black or olive drab leak-proof body bags, doing our generational bit to strengthen the gene pool left behind. A debt, some would say, we owed the country and, given the sorry state of the global wicket, increasingly an obligation to the species. And if I had to predict an outcome, Fascism in America will arrive riding the white horse of the environmental, anti-nuclear Bolsheviks. One could argue that Communism has moved so far left on the political spectrum that it’s now the far right.  Concoct a legislative policy goal, accomplish it legally as the bill becomes Law, signed by the President, endorsed and blessed by The U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

To wit: “Three generations of imbeciles is enough?” declared Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., an Associate Supreme Court Justice at the time, buttressing a majority argument harnessing the power of U.S. law as a legal means of purifying the race.  When euthanasia failed to win over American hearts and mind, the Federal Government played the war card again and again. Vietnam: undeclared and therefore unconstitutional--except for that Gulf of Tonkin ******* resolution. Vietnam: a cost-plus eugenics project, if ever there was one, although responsive, of course, to the needs of the Military-Industrial Complex.  ******* Ike: he warned us against Fascism in America. As usual, we ignored the man in charge.

Eugenics? Why didn’t the government just put all the retards on the stand, as John Frankenheimer did in Judgment at Nuremberg, a crafty Maximilian Schell humiliating a feeble-minded Montgomery Clift?  Why not, make everyone face a public tribunal, forcing all of us to testify in court, exposing our many substandard and borderline substandard cerebral deficits?  Why not force everyone to demonstrate just how ******* dumb we are, using some clever intelligence test, something l
teaching a wild creature to feed from your hand is a feat maybe maybe not Mom taught me from a young age then never let go in June 2013 the estate will cease all the coats hats shoes scarves skirts dresses blouses belts purses from Ultimo Saks Neimans wherever steaks from Gene and Georgetti’s Gibsons whatever will be consumed and she will be forced by the bank to resign her condo on lake shore drive and go live with her sister and i will be left with nothing

nothing feels better than fighting back gathering the strength courage to do that to fight until there is no daylight

the world is a mysterious place it is Sunday December 26th 2010 6AM pitch dark outside in several months daybreak will come earlier a remarkable surprise yet always been this way in several minutes firmament turns light i open eyes stretch legs look out window pink blue gray blue morning skies tree tops mountains watch flock of birds maybe 30 or 40 flying back and forth east west why do they do that how would you like to be one of those birds flapping around searching from above at the earth hmmm what if everyone had a ***** and ****** feathered wings fin distinctive tail floppy or pointed ears what if you could share breakfast or lunch with Kim Gordon Patti Smith work on poem with e. e. cummings James Joyce William Faulkner paint with Mark Rothko Anselm Kiefer play football with Payton Manning Drew Breeze jam with Jimi Hendrix Keith Richards race with Secretariat sniff with Lassie mix with Max Ernst Georgia O'Keefe Donald Judd meet with Gandhi and J.F.K. make love with Charlotte Gainsbourg Kate Moss dinner with John Lennon Friedrich Nietzsche dance with Albert Einstein Isadora Duncan share a smoke with Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) Sam Shepard last drink with Sylvia Plath Virginia Woolf then go to sleep next to Sphinx Pyramids wake with Cleopatra Mata Hari on Bali beach look up at tiny puffy clouds that resemble strange script do you understand the possibilities mysteries of everything

old is lecherous but i’m still trapped in childhood hurting wanting to be grown-up

i think i said i don’t know how to talk i was speaking to this **** greedy landlord trying to negotiate between 2 different spaces long distance and i meant to say i can’t talk right now i’m in a restaurant or shop but instead what came out was i don’t know how to talk he was insulting me bullying hollering at me on cell phone accusing me of dickering about price lease and it slipped out my terror from Dad my childhood fears repression inability to negotiate i froze fumbled finally uttering i don’t know how to talk then disconnected

i’m running scared gasping for breath heart pounding yearning praying crying for love beauty happiness success i’m smart creative powerful yet inept too shy or fearful to know how to properly spontaneously speak in person

what if consumerism is realized as a mental disorder a method to suppress genuine hunger with fetish products

what if money is identified as disease actual legal tender found to source fatal viruses

what if humanity is discovered to belong to an alien predatory race independent from Adam and Eve or monkeys

what if all knowledge is found to be deceptive invention concealing real world truth

what if existence is a chess game or trial enacted by higher forces and your every thought feeling recorded in eternity

what if progress is the enemy and primitivism the remedy

my whole life i’ve learned about infidelity my mom sister dad uncle i don’t understand i’ve never been unfaithful to a girlfriend (one is enough one is more than i can handle) why do people speak those vows then get married only to violate themselves their mates maybe that’s why i am afraid to ever get married infidelity is the most painful betrayal to find out your partner with all your shared secrets compromises them with someone else oh god

April 19th 1995 a bomb explodes in Federal building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people injuring 759 what are Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols thinking did they act alone there are so many lunatics running around out there so much misunderstanding disenfranchisement in America

Arlington Street Asheville North Carolina June 1995 Odysseus and his dog Farina keep mostly to themselves something is wrong with his voice he sounds hoarse when he speaks it is uncomfortable to talk he goes to free clinic and waits half a day elderly doctor attempts to stick long metal instrument down Odysseus’s throat Odysseus gags coughs elderly doctor becomes irritable he warns Odysseus to quit smoking Odysseus wonders what it would be like to be loved possibly married in loving positive relationship to know all the endearing enduring connections between caring couples other people manage it why can’t he? he thinks i’ve never been a good provider nor placed enough value in money i believe in freedom and love i chose to make art and pursue a life of self-discovery experiment dang i am wrong from the moment one’s work hangs in a gallery the artist’s integrity is compromised individuality becomes commodity typically people who buy paintings have so much money they scatter a trifle on art the artwork provides the consumer with a look of ‘soul’ to be shown off to their envious friends the artist becomes needy pet of dealer and client maybe converting one’s spirituality into commercial merchandise is like making deals with the devil he thinks about Native American artists whose work is immediately esteemed and utilized in their culture he has spent his whole life seeking validation in art world he wonders how many other unknown artists feel similarly useless discarded he considers i’m forty-five years old now and i don’t have a penny to show for all my troubles i still believe i have much to give insights to reveal but no practical plan for survival i don’t know how i’m going to get through this existence the world wants young promising talent not some older painter striving for another chance women want nothing to do with an impoverished aging dreamer my dog loves me she knows who feeds her i’ve got academic degrees a long resume of legitimate shows i know how to use a computer solve problems fix toilets sinks strip and paint serve food and liquor but i can’t land a decent job i never learned how to properly market or barter my work and i’m not interested in the position of sacrificial lamb i want a home and female partner like other men have i want to be needed respected loved a creative member of a community instead of an expendable outsider working menial jobs for minimum wage what good are paintings if no one looks at them what good are noble values in a corrupt society the world runs on money and greed not freedom and love
undefined Apr 2013
She said, "They use to call me busy-body, now I'm just a no-body,"
as I stroll up, headphones to unplug, to sit and wait for buses of school children to come up.
Feeling kind of broke of a sort that wont shut down, inside I'm meaning, reeling for home unfound.
Prospecting, working, commish here and there, "case management" on my case breathing till no air.
Looking and ardently searching for something that's not there, a plain jane job, to just give room for air.
Plans on paper, sound right in my head, but seem less and less practical in practice of what's read.

"Help? Daddy has a headache and sickness with no want to help baby,"
as she fashions a meal from play food in a play kitchen to make me feel better.
But I wont sit at her table, I wont play with her dolls, not today, when I've got the world at my *****,
biting and stabbing me in the back of my brain,
no, now I'll just put on a movie and try and sleep for a change.

"I love you's" are exchanged as I cover my head,
and the ultimate weight that is me lies in my bed.
Troubled, down, pierced by the bad negative points of life,
I'll rise later again looking for a "re-set" button to make alright,
while she sets the table with guests to an imaginary meal
cooked to perfection in hopes to change the way Daddy feels.
wrote this couple of years ago...
just looking back at some things now in my journal
Jeffrey Oliviero Jan 2016
Sometimes the flashbacks
Can be picture perfect like a gallery
Every once in a while
I struggle with what life's like actually
As the memories resonate
Depression eventually catches me
It always baffled me
and still rattles me
Why did my best friend
have to be a casualty

I'm setting my GPS
as I pull down the street
For Arlington Cemetery
in Washington D.C.
Whenever I feel the need
I just sit there with him
No reason to speak
I let the ground beneath me
relieve some of the grief
Then just before I leave
I about face and say
You'll always be with me
Semper Fi my brother
Rest in peace Marine
Nate Evans Dec 2011
Six men carry a coffin to it's resting place.
They fold the flag, and present it
to the mother who hugs it tightly,
fighting back tears.
Her daughter, maybe five or six years old,
asks, "Is it over? Can daddy come out now?"
I had this dream a few night ago that I was on a plane and the ******* plane malfunctioned and we started falling from the sky. I just ******* started crying because I knew I woulf probably die. I don't remember anyone else being on the plane. I think it was just me and the pilot. We were both about to ******* crash into the ocean and die. Anyway, when I woke up, I was crying then too. I'm a real pathetic 18 year old baby. How old are people usually when they're in first grade? Back when I was in first grade I would cry during thunderstorms. I remember when Katrina came by. I was really ******* done then. A remember telling my parents that I loved them. I remember I used to have anxiety attacks because I thought that when I died I'd go to hell. I thought I'd go to hell because when I was in 2nd grade I stole like 10 packs of Pokemon cards from some gas station. I still feel guilty about it, but I don't think much about going to hell.
The plane is crashing and it's just me and the pilot. I don't even know his name but I know that we're going to die together.
Neville Johnson Oct 2018
They’re recruiting me
MI6
And the CIA
Land sakes alive
Dual citizenship
No hindrance to me
Helps to have a major in Slavic languages
And an Oxford degree
How they latched on to me
I don’t really know
That Dad worked at
Arlington might have put them in the know
Interesting life choices being offered
Investment banking has its rewards
That’s on the table
I’m inclined to VC
I could have a capital time
Avoid DC and endless bureaucracy
See the world
It’s nice to be wanted
I feel like the girl everyone wants to dance with
I’m still at the prom
I’ll ask my parents
I know they’ll have thoughts
A new secret agent poem

— The End —