Monday, July 22, 2013

Children Like Trees

SLIM BUUTES - You either have the time to write, or take time to write, especially if you're a writer, but of course, only when you're in the mood, in the groove, in the zone, got the juices flowing, got your mojo working, got the juju going, like one of those Midas Touch nights in the casino, or one of those days on the court when everything you throw up there is going in, or on the court when you're painting the lines with your topspin forehand, or in court when the jury rules in your favor, or the party when you're grandstanding and everybody is laughing at your drunken jokes, nailing the dismount to the roar of the crowd and your people in the stands, or those dice coming up snake eyes, or any other time when everything is going your way, like Billy Red Hawk used to say, "It's a good day to be me."

And then, there's the flip side to all that, right? Like, short sentences. Life sentences. Misspellings and run-on sentences. Incomplete sentences. Compound sentences, complex and simple-ass sentences.

Put all that together, and your should get some kind of story. A lot of people have said to me, 'You should write a book about me,' like Arthur, Lupe, and Damon, and Loren, and a lot of other people who I can't think of right now, but there have been a lot. Point is, everybody has a story. Everybody has a story, but not everybody is a writer.

And among those who write, there are those who can write, but don't, or won't, because the mojo isn't working, juju's messed up, or they haven't got the time, or maybe they just don't have much to say to you. Never had much in common then, or now, so what do we talk about? 

We could discuss our commonalities or shared experiences, the basis of any relationship; blood family comes first, usually, and then friends and colleagues, the church group, your hiking pal,  the fun neighbors, old friends who moved away, the people we met on vacation, those people who came to the party, frat bros, mentors, old schoolmates, the couple from day care, assistant coaches, war zone buddy, smoking pals, went through the disaster together, cell mates, potheads, crackheads, meth heads, your ex, and those whacked out folks from the Burning Man festival.

"Hey Man! Good to hear from you! How about that time with those prostitutes down in New Orleans!"

Then what? Distance, new job, race, class, religion, lifestyle, attitude, or so much shit going on in our lives right then that pulls us apart. Or maybe, life is going so damn good that you haven't the time to write.

"I got a lot going on, man! I'm a terribly busy man."  Ain't got time for no foolishness.

So, it's a dilemma; you've got to have a life to write, and then, it seems that too much time spent at computer or Facebook may be an indication of isolation and need to...howdoyousay?...get a life. 

Well, hopefully you don't have much in common with crack and meth heads. My shared experience with them is the stuff they removed from my house while I was on a distant continent.
We may have something to talk about, but it probably wouldn't be Jesus, politics, or the Plain of Jars.

So, if you're anything like me, and I can rest assured you are not, then I might be operating on a whole set of preconditions and assumptions that you may in some way be able to relate to the content, or not. And even if people can't relate or connect, maybe they can just enjoy a story.

"Look at this one," I said to Jack Red Cloud, pointing at a small tree, as we sat on the veranda "it's a four-year old, planted the same time as those two big ones."

Having survived repeated hailstorms and a 2012 assault by the neighbor's young bulls, of the thirty surviving trees of the sixty planted, this particular tree is stunted and surpassed in growth by trees two years younger.

"I've given it extra everything," I continued, right there in front of the tree, where it could clearly hear me. "Love, attention, nutrients...extra water...Vivaldi. Just like some kids, huh Jack? 'Boo hoo, whine, poor me, 'You didn't love me as much as the others.

"It's the juvenile delinquent of the familyIt resists everything I try to do for it."


We had goats once, two of them, I forget their names. They hated the dogs, taunted the dogs,  and the dogs hated them, worse than their thing with cats. I was working at the university, and I'd come home with my nice professor's uniform of khakis and some kinda jacket and tie, and there'd be that goat, stuck in the fence, again.

The four-by-six square in the metal fence was just big enough for that goat to get its head through if it extended it neck fully and tilted its head juuuust so, enabling the creature's horns passage through the square, and access to the grass on the other side...Susie. Susie and,,,and....I can't remember the others' name. It got killed by the dogs...Betty. Susie and Betty.

Needless to say, to do an exit, the goat had to get unstuck in precisely the same manner as which it had entered, which required grabbing the goat by the horns and exerting the force of...of...Hurcu...all I had to bend the neck and tilt the horns, as that stubborn fool used every ounce of strength it had to push against me.

At least once, on one of those evenings, I gave up in exasperation and hauled off and slapped the shit out of her before walking away. "You gonna leave her like that all night?" I was asked.

"Yeah," I said.

The next morning, I thought she'd be drained of energy from being stuck all night as I went to free her, but no, she dug in and pushed against me with all her might.


Addendum to the I See Where You Went To Hell comic relief here on the Rez; the guy at the gate, Satan's assistant, says, 'You can leave those nice funeral clothes over there in that box. We've got some coveralls for you to wear.'

Who Yo' Momma

SLIM BUTTES - Any of you psychic cosmic star child people hanging out in the angelic realms run into Kennedy yet? If you see him, I've got a couple of questions; who was the guy on the grassy knoll, and who did 911, really?

Can you channel that?

Reason I ask is because I haven't yet gained access to that smell the rainbow, hear the colors dimension, being mired down here in the 3D physical world of regular, unleaded people.

Apart from the real 3D world, there's your screen, where you can just sit there, staring into your lap, thumbs atwitter, there, but not really there, same physical space, same time, but emotionally uninvolved, hearing but not listening, attending to some distant digital drama on desktop, notebook, laptop, notepad, cell phone, texting, twitting, tweeting, twirping on a TV, on a rant, on a rave, on drugs, on a binge, on ad infinitum into the night and the day thereafter, but otherwise here, but 'not there'. There, but not here.

Around here, you must watch your head - there's low-flying aircraft. Anybody who's ever been around a flight line will tell you that you've got to watch for prop blades. You folks who always want to be up, up in the air, flying high, jet set, acrobat, circus act, up, up, up around the rim, up all night, up in there, smelling the rainbow, hearing the colors.

Had to ask the local bodhisattva, 'You ever down, man? You ever get depressed? I mean, you're always running around all positive-minded, all cheery and roses...that ain't the real world, man! We're on the Rez!'

You know what he told me? 'Endeavor to persevere.' 

'Walk with a light heart. Stay on your toes. Keep your head in the game. You never know when they might call you up. The Lord or the coach. You thought you was just sitting the bench. Coach cries out, 'GET IN THERE!' Lord says, 'C'mon home.' '


You see where the Chinese have reverse engineered my airplanes? 

No worry, my Bella. Already told you, the planes of the 335th are: one of a kind, made in the US of A, limited edition, hand made, with 40 parts of assembly. Theirs are all same same, a blue million, made in China, stamped out, and you don't get shit else, whereas with the purchase of one of my aircraft (for the low, low, one-time price of $499.99, or free), you gain automatic entry into the 335th (Tactical Aviation Squadron, a real entity). So there.

You think that's funny, Tom said, for seven hundred dollars or more, your name will be said in sweat lodge tonight. Aloud.

"Spirit said, 'Four years!' "

'You're gonna see six planes.' If you can make any sense of that. It's kind of like a dream or some kind of mushroom state - it only has meaning for you if you can make sense of it.

Bo was talking about the bulls down in the bull pen at the rodeo, talking shit about how long they'll let that cowboy ride on their backs. They've got reputations, too, you know...maybe I already told you this one...if I did, stop me, but one of those bulls let a cowboy go the entire eight seconds, and when he, the bull, come back to the pen, those other bulls said to him, 'Go on over there with the roping steers. You're making us look bad.'


Gon' play dat race card.

Through my whole life, I've had people ask me if I was part Indian. Niggas will sometimes say, 'You part nigga, ain't you? And maybe you've had someone ask if you're part Indian, your own self, but I've never, ever, heard anyone ask someone else if they were part peckerwood. Have you?

So I'm going to do it; Is you part peckawood?

You've heard about people bragging about their great grandmother, being some kinda Indian princess. When I hear that distant relative was someone talk, I like to recall a great, great, great grandmother on my momma side, who they say was a white trash, they say, down through the generations, but shhhhhhhh, nobody wanted to talk about her. 

Told my son when he told me about his golf clubs, 'Now you, you can be a golf pro, because when you was born, your people on your momma's side was golf pros, your granddad. It's in yo' blood. Now, me, I can never be a golf pro, because when I was born, my people was caddies.'


Just say, 'China'.

Ahhhh. I can finally throw away these notes.

Laughing up in here the other night, talking about not making 'the cut' into heaven. Relatives all waiting for you. 'You're not on the list,' said Tom.

'There must be some mistake.' You're looking past the man at the gate, looking for someone you recognize. "You haven't got any relatives here," said Bo. "You've got to go to the other place. Your people down there saying, 'YEAH. C'MON IN! We've been waiting for you!' "


Too Many numbers

SLIM BUTTES - Lupe's son Chachee weighs in somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred pounds, maybe three twenty-five. He drained the last few ounces of beer from a Big Gulp plastic cup as I ate barbecue chicken and ribs, along with commodity mac and cheese, at their small kitchen table. They had saved me a foil-covered plate, which Lupe had produced from the oven like gold from the New World to the king when I arrived.
"Here, my Bro," said Lupe, his eyes twinkling, handing me the plate like a precious offering.

"I been wanting to ask you," said Chachee. "I've noticed sometimes you disrespect my dad."

Yeah. I do, I thought, but it wasn't based upon race or class or intelligence. Not listening, mostly. Then he said it again, rubbing his eyebrows with the back of his hand like he didn't know what to do with his hands, and I thought, 'Is he getting ready to kick my ass?'

'Yeah, I do,' I said. 'But he disrespects me, too. Sometimes I have to ask him who the hell he thinks he's talking to. I have to remind him I'm not his son. It's the nature of our relationship, Chachee," I said, with Lupe right there at the kitchen sink, pouring me a glass of orange juice.

'Neither of us has a woman,' I continued, 'so sometimes we go bitching around, bitching each other out to make up for it.'

They both laughed, much to my relief, and Chachee said, 'Yeah. Sometimes he does that to me, too.'

'Yeah,' said Lupe, explaining further to Chachee something I couldn't make out, although it was in English.

Chachee said they slow-cooked those ribs all afternoon.


I'm trying hard to not say, 'I'm retired.' When people ask if I work, I tell them, 'I work evvvvery day.' If they ask what I do, I usually respond with a line of horseshit about my command of the 335th (Slim Buttes 335th Tactical Aviation Squadron), a real entity, but they usually don't pursue that any further, I don't know why. It's a job, but one of those where you can choose your own hours, one of the nice things about being ret...too old to....almost too old to work anymore.

So then there's this other bullshit story about running some kind of medical service, an emergency medical service. That's no bullshit. I do. But it's not an everyday job. It's sort of like, the hours are sort of like command of the 335th.

Then I'm a writer, and writers can go on and on working into their...long past their employment years, right up to the gravestone. Sure. Got a second manuscript right there, and boy, people like to hear that from a writer, don't  they, like, 'You working on another book?'

Answer, yes. Having a title, publisher, editor; that's another story. But yes, there's another book, I always say. And what about grants? Grants count for work, don't they? Sure. Last time I wrote one? Uhhhh, lemme think. Two thousand and...wait...last year. Wrote one last year. 

And then there's the sketches and screenplays.Got those going all the time. Three or four of 'em in what I would call the 'percolating' mode, potential works in progress. Manny said I could go all the way to the top if I could just focus, keep my guard up, not go around all scattershot, stay on track, stay with what works, don't talk to reporters, stay away from the bad crowd, exercise daily, drink more water, bob and weave, learn to smell the roses, take some time off, know when to stop, rope-a-dope, and a bunch of other stuff I half-remember because sometimes I just turned it off, tuned it out, if you know what I mean. All that harping around about how I'd end up if I didn't straighten up and fly straight. 

Landscaping is for real. I work at that evvvvery day. And I, uh,      work around the house. Some.
And, I work at keeping my weight down. Standup comic, that's full-time, every day. And then theres this coffee shop and croquet course.

There's one other thing I do for what you could call work, but I can't remem...oh...English teacher.

So, no, I'm not retired. I work every day.

You guys wondering what you'll do when you retire? That's easy; you'll do what she tells you to do. That's why you hear a lot of guys say they plan to go on working.


I've got all these numbers in my head that I need to get out of my head, and down on paper. Hard copy printouts. If I can get all these numbers out of my head, then I'll have more space for other, your garage, or upgrading your memory to 'Recollection 2.0.'

There's things like phone numbers and birthdays and bank accounts and social security number and shoe size. And there's a lot of useful numbers that I don't need every day, like how much stuff costs, comparative pricing at the gas pump, and your age.

Misty says she can remember her phone number from twenty years ago in Rapid City. I asked her why she was still carrying that around with her all these many years later, and she said she didn't know, it was just still there, just like my undergrad cumulative G.P.A. and combined points in the long jump at a Jr. High track and field meet.

Twenty nine Thai baht to the US greenback, point six to the Euro, both of which suck; there's the PSI of my 75R15 235 tires that I don't really need; 40 Celsius, my 'Last Four' digits of my SSN that the VA and the telephone company requires before proceeding any further; my arm length in a long-sleeved shirt, optimal blood pressure, blood sugar, and, get this, all those unintelligible hi-low ranges for urine and blood tests, like, potassium, glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, and a whole lot of other shit like albumin that I had to ask the doctor about before she rammed her finger up my ass to just 'make sure' during my annual check up that for the moment, made me forget about all these numbers, why I was there, and why I wasn't just as insistent about her notdoing that as she was about proceeding.

"Your predecessor, Dr. Whatshisname from San Francisco, said his patients out there in the Bay Area said this this was the most enjoyable part of the examination," I told her. She laughed and said his name as she removed her blue examination gloves, but I can't remember anything behind that ass probe that felt like it reached my, whaddayacallit, epiglottis. Like, I could taste plastic.


That trip to the VA is a sure enough reality check for American foreign policy. Proudly wearing my hat and wings, I was there for the annual check up, and not because I was hurting like everyone else I saw. The lab girl who drew my blood, who I thought was a 100% total bitch last time, was extremely pleasant, and by all empirical evidence, entirely satisfied with her work and home life.

I went into my empathetic comic mode, welcoming home the viet vets, a standard practice, asking if they ever found 'Charlie', or if they ever thought of getting 'back in the game', and teasing the WWII and Korean vets about being 'too young' for the wars their hats declared they had participated. 'You guys won yours, didn't you?' I asked.

Around a corner in a waiting area were four ancient cripples with walkers and wheelchairs. I popped up out of nowhere and shocked them with, "I need two volunteers!" 

One of the first thing you learn in the military is not to volunteer for anything. They just looked at me.

"Ok. No volunteers, huh? Aright then. You and you," I said, pointing at the two with walkers, "KP and guard duty." Then at the two in wheelchairs, "You and you, come with me!"

They cracked smiles. I told them, "You guys stay loose. You never know when they could call you back up."

On the way out, having been given the all clear, I ran into a young vet checking in at the reception desk. "You just get back from Afghanistan?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Welcome home, Soldier," I said, shaking his hand. "I'm glad you made it." It appeared there was nothing wrong with him physically. Psychiatric maybe.

"A lot of my buddies didn't," he said.

Psychiatric, for sure. PTSD. I could give the diagnosis right there. "You're lucky," I said, turning to depart.

"It's all internal," he said.

I felt an urge to listen to him more, but felt awkward about pressing him too much for his experience. They had pros over in building #5 to take care of the listening, and a pharmacy just down the hall to take care of his dreams.


Right now, after 93 degrees yesterday, we're having a cold, drizzling-ass rain, making good for all the trees and croquet course, and gumbo for the driveway, so I ent going nowhere.

Over in camp justice, just across the border from White Clay, Nebraska, my partially waterproofed 26-footer is housing Bo and Misty and a dozen or so other defiant 'AIMster' Lakotas in their several months-long, day and night occupation/encampment protest against the liquor entering the Rez from White Clay.

'We're staying for the long haul,' they say. Small successes. Media coverage. Tribal support. A vote. Bo produced a newspaper clipping of a Budweiser distributor who agreed not deliver. Facebook. More press. A tribal council presentation, a radio address. Misty says, 'We're known all over the world! CNN, the Japanese...' 

Pissing on her parade, I said, 'No you're not.'

'Yes we are!' she insisted.

'No you're not,' I said.

'Yes we are!' She said.

'No you're not. People in China, Indonesia...they don't know who Lakotas are.'

Demonstrating the stubborn, or more kindly, determined attitude of her resistance to nearly everything, but more pointedly, the future of her tribe, she insisted, 'Yes they do! We're known all over the world!'