Sunday, November 24, 2013

Soixante-neuf and an Open Letter to Pat Conroy

Soixante-neuf…Sixty-nine. As much as I flirt with alternatives, I end up wearing a navy blazer sixty-nine percent of the time. Rain or shine, summer or winter, it’s a navy damn blazer for me. And I’ve just added yet another one to the fold.
Ok, I’m now off the hook for positing something about clothes so let’s move on to my open letter to Pat.

Dear Pat,

My buddy Lou owns a house on Fripp around the corner from you and says that he sees you from time to time at CVS. He says that you look ok but my selfish ass wants to admonish you to get crackin’ on another novel. Fast like. Enough already with these interim books.

Don’t get me wrong, Pat. I’m digging all these little placeholder books that you’ve published and I’m sure the cash flow from them is stronger than wolf nookie and really, who doesn’t fancy cash and a steady flow of it? And wolf nookie? I don’t know. But I’ll stand by the metaphor.

And these interim Conroy books aren’t where you want your home-stretch legacy to live. In your heart of hearts you too know that another Beach Music or Prince of Tides is what we need. Come on Pat, we need another novel.
I loved My Reading Life. I really did. It opened my eyes once again to the tortured genius of Thomas Wolfe. And My Losing Season was ok, too. Truth? I’ve read every f_cking word you’ve published. I even gave My Reading Life to one of my surrogate dad’s—the guy who hired me on at a Swiss Pharma company when I was a kid.
Photo borrowed from my buddy Reggie Darling
He’s the guy who first gave me Mrs. Whaley and Her Charleston Garden and told me that there were as many line management lessons to be learned therein as there were gardening tips. Most people wouldn’t a got it. But I did and you’d a gotten it too. Like me, he made his way into an industry that provided well for him but his true passions were elsewhere. He has an English degree from Carolina and I’m convinced that he hired me because he saw in me the same right-brained energy that he loved about himself. And like me, he never had a dad.
And Pat, Flo just made me aware of The Death of Santini. I could order it from Amazon but it won’t get to me till Tuesday. And I can’t wait that long. I’m gonna pay more for it and pick it up at Barnes and Noble so that I can read it tonight. I’ll sponge it up because for some reason these books….with their pathos confessed, violations reported, unrequited whatevers, and the frail treaties that at least some of you assholes were  able to cobble with your dads still draws me in like a moth to flame. You’d think I’d get enough of this formulaic caca but the half-life of any insights gained is for me a nanosecond. And the close-that-hole-in-my-heart unguent schmear offered therein wears off before I finish these kinda shitty books. Don’t be angry, Pat. It’s me, not you.
Photo Source
You might think that my pithiness is uncalled for and my bitterness should be better managed by now. On the other hand, I bet not. Because it’s obvious that like me with my dad, you are still trying to work out your shit with Colonel Conroy, even after the guy co-signed books with you amidst your tentative peace.
Photo Source
And the record shows a few photos of you and your dad, post Great Santini where he looks smug and self-satisfied and you look like you always do. In every photograph…frail and tentative. You’ve never lost that look you know. Neither have I. The frail tentativeness of your gangly adolescence is simply replaced fifty years later with an edematous version of the same. And I’m right behind you old sport. Genetics keep me from being as Humpty Dumpty gelatinous as you but my nose is getting bigger and purple-er by the month. So I’ll read your damn book but what I want to read is one of those big-ass novels of yours with imagery that blasts off the page and wraps around my head in ways that make me forget the rest of the world for at least an hour or two. 
Just so you’re confident that it’s me, not you...and just so you know that you aren't alone in your working shit out with daddy pathos, here are a pile of other books that I’ve read and re-read on the subject. You and I aren’t special, buddy. After the death of my friend’s dad and my listening to Dickey read his Buckhead Boys poem over and over, I re-read Summer of Deliverance in one sitting week before last. Dickey at fils et al is a bell ringer and the pathos, while not as physical as the ass whippings that Colonel Conroy put on you, are just as strong. My dad was more Dickey than your dad Conroy but was probably more of a physical coward than either.
Flusser led me to Merkin and then to Frazier. I’ve read Another Man’s Poison countless times and for some reason I tend to keep this little book in my reference pile. The sartorial pearls are intriguing but the examples of Frazier’s writing are what's so damn stellar. But then there’s his broken marriage and his protracted house of cards financial ruinous state while still deeply loving his two cast here and there amidst divorce drama sons. It’s this spore in the story that mighta fuelled the four hour dinner I had with one of his sons a couple of years ago. Of all the failed dads in this load of ADG drivel, I think Frazier showed that he loved his boys better than the rest of 'em. And that's a low-ass bar I'm setting. Let me tell you.
And God knows that the Wolff brothers might’ve had the wildest story to tell about dads. Narcissistic sociopaths rarely make for good fathers. But damn…my goodness, the adventures they can take you on.
Pat, I really wish that Blake Bailey’s Cheever had been three hundred pages shorter. Of all these dad pathos books, this is the one that had me saying every other page… “this is my dad, this was my life”. And Federico Cheever…Fred Cheever seemed to be me. After I finished the book, I even tracked down Fred Cheever and was going to send him an email telling him that I’d lived his same journey. But then I thought better of it. He seems to have put all this junk to rest better than most of us.

So Pat, thanks for the new book. I’m sure I’ll hoover it up in a sitting or two. But please, no more of this shit till we get another novel. Now let me slip on a navy blazer and head over to Barnes and Noble.

Onward. Sixty-nine percent of the damn time.


And what the hell? How 'bout some Color Him Father by the Winstons.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Aviator Chairs and Grades

My little girl. My heart. The little bald headed toddler who used to feed me bits of bread so that I'd behave at the table…
…the little gregarious gal who swaggered around a honky tonk in South Carolina, balloon on tow, sorting out everything and everyone in the joint…
…mother to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and currently, Grunter and Eye Roller in Chief when it comes to me…
…has done it again. First grading period for 8th grade. Straight A’s.
I think I’m going to buy a chair  to celebrate.

Onward. Aviation-ating


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Buckhead Boy

A Buckhead Boy
     He was a man in full. Kinda low-key though. In a cardigan sweater. He was a doctor but he’d be the first to tell you that he couldn’t cure a damn thing. And he had an affection for V.W.s—Karmann Ghias especially. Old cars. Used cars. The kind professors could afford. I found him one once. At Jimmy’s V.W. Service in Hartsville and it was an old British racing green one. All original…intact and patinated. Like him. I picked up my bug at Jimmy’s and saw it for sale. I told his son, my little brother in the fratty and Doctor Jim snatched it up fast. And then my little brother in the fratty—his son—totalled it within months.

     Doctor Jim and his wife reminded me of old Atlanta…now long gone…paved over like most everything else these days. He was a Georgia boy. Kinda. His rare surname is still found in Loudon County Virginia but his people more precisely were from Lovettsville back when it was the country. Now Loudon County and little Lovettsville, Virginia—like old Atlanta and even precious Buckhead—are paved over. Like most everything else these days.

     He wasn’t exactly a Buckhead boy. He graduated from Grady High School and then West Georgia College and the University of Georgia before heading north to Maryland for his doctorate. He was Southern but there was no false gentility, no treacle about him. 

     And there was married student housing. Or at least I’ve conjured it from the stories here and there that his oldest son, one of my best buddies in the whole world, used to tell. Seems like the oldest of the five children remember the modest times when Doctor Jim was finishing his doctorate at Maryland. Unlike the youngest of the five who, when the sprinklers came to life on the golf course at the Florence Country Club, found himself suddenly soaked and went over to the tennis pro shop and charged himself a dry outfit to Doctor Jim’s tab. But only once.
     Surely there are a thousand teachers today who would say that at minimum, Doctor Jim., as Chairman of the Department of Education at Francis Marion College, influenced their journey. And I bet there are some who would credit him as the primary influence on their decision to become a teacher. But I don’t care so much about that as much as I do about his toy soldiers.

     Doctor Jim loved casting little lead soldiers and painting them and enjoying the fellowship of other toy soldier makers and collectors. I remember the first time I ever saw his little tucked away work space. And I always wondered how a busy professor with five kids found the time to painstakingly pour hot lead into molds and then paint the damn things so nicely. He made a Mess Dress WarGame set for me. I’ve always treasured it but now that Doctor Jim is gone I treasure it even more.

     So Doctor Jim’s oldest boy is like a blood brother to me. It’s a love-hate brotherly thing like all of those kinda connections are. Maybe not with you but they all are with me. I’m an easy acquaintance. I’m an uneasy friend. And that same boy, that oldest boy predicted my divorce while at my wedding. Butcept he never told me. Till after my divorce. Peckerhead.

     And Doctor Jim’s daughter…the only sister of the five was my almost-every-song dance partner at Cotillion for the entire season. Not because she liked me. It was more of an understanding, you see. We both had to get through it so we might as well get through it together.
     My thinking is that Doctor Jim didn’t govern himself day-to-day in ways that focused on what kind of legacy he’d eventually leave. He just didn’t seem wired that way. Husband, father, grandfather, teacher. Boy Scouts and the Braves and toy soldiers and Pawley’s Island…these things all rolled up…are his legacy.


ADG II … Florence Boy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bo-Bos and Woo-Woos

Since I still can’t seem to muster enough energy to write my usual drivel and since I’ve essentially retired from storytelling but just haven’t announced it, I figured I’d throw some half-ass stuff up on my blog before just giving it up totally.

So why not post emails that after writing them I think… “Hell, that’s a little blog story novella right damn there”. So here you go. I just sent this email to a pal of mine and figured that as opposed to nothing, I’d share this version of nothing with y’all. Oh…and my personal emails are even less grammatically correct than my blog stories. So there. Even with all of my grammar and syntaxicalated shortcomings, I still write better than most of you. People. Shut up. I'm mean right now.
“Ok. You started it…the whole thing of talking about private parts and stuff. I dated a woman a few years ago who (and I totally agree with her) went absolutely spastic over the new age trend of teaching little people…3 years old and older…the exact scientific/clinical names for private parts.

Her neighbor had a little four year old girl who would come up when my friend was walking her very tall foxhound and put both hands on her little knees, (not the dog’s knees, dumbass) lean under Sophie the foxhound and ask to see her…  “buh-gina”. Maybe it’s a Southern thing—but then again not…since my gal pal was originally from Ithaca N.Y.—but there ain’t nothing cute about a tender little young’un saying words like scrotum and vulva.

Call it juvenile or backwards or stupid but the onliest thing I EVER heard my paternal grandmother say…and it was sparingly…maybe three times in my little lifetime…to characterize boy-bits was “tallywhacker” and one of those times it was when she threatened to cut my grandfather’s off. And I taught my nephews when they were little fellas…both of whom are now grown-ish young men in their twenties…one a two tours of Afghanistan Marine veteran…the other a shoe designer in NYC…to refer to theirs as a “bo-bo”. And to this day they both still refer to it as such. Can you imagine? And think about the different journeys those two bo-bos have been on thus far.  I prefer the foibles of grown men being infantile about how they refer to their thangs as opposed to little people getting an A-plus for calling their junk by the terms doctors use.  

Ok, your Georgia O’Keefe thang got me going. I think her paintings are redundant as hell and yes, they do kinda look anatomically like a woman’s “woo-woo”. Sorry to have written a half-ass treatise on weenie names. Oh and here’s a little O’Keefe trivia for you. Before Stieglitz and New Mexico, she lived in Columbia South Carolina for one year and taught at the private college for girls… Columbia College. She hated it.

Ok…time to get movin’. I bet little “meth-mouth” man just grins his ass off while y’all are calling him that…like… “whatch’yall laughin’ so hard at? I’m happier than a hog in slop…I’m fed…my bottom’s dry…and I’ve got one hand on my bo-bo”