Leverett Butts - Musings of a Bored English Teacher

Occasional web log from Southern writer Leverett Butts.

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Location: Temple, Georgia, United States

English Professor in Georgia. Writer of Southern lit

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Rob Davis is one of my two oldest and closest friends. Take care of yourself over there, Rob.

From the Newnan Times Herald:

Newnan man among departing troops

Published 5/17/05



Rob Davis is off to war -- heading to Iraq.

Davis -- officially Capt. Robert C. Davis -- and comrades in the 148th Forward Support Battalion of the Georgia Army National Guard got an official sendoff at Ft. Stewart and Savannah on Saturday. His wife, Stephanie, said she had gotten a call from Davis on Monday. "He was in Ireland," she said.

She expects an e-mail message from him when he gets to Kuwait, the last stopping point before moving into Iraq.

Rob Davis, 32, grew up in Newnan. He went to college at Virginia Military Institute for four years and then served in the military -- spending four years at Ft. Drum in New Jersey.
The field artillery officer and his wife, Stephanie, figured he would be heading somewhere overseas right after he joined the National Guard. He signed with the Guard two days before terrorists struck New York and Washington in the 9-11 attacks.

"We've just been waiting. We knew it was going to come," she said.

"He was activated at the end of October," his mother, Glenda Davis, said. Rob Davis has been teaching fifth grade at Heritage School, where he has been on the faculty for three years.

A week of sendoff activities, including a farewell party with the departing soldier cutting the cake, was held at Heritage. The school also created "a Citizen Soldier Award for the student who showed the qualities of a citizen soldier," Stephanie Davis said.

Glenda Davis said her son is the fourth generation of his family to serve overseas in the military. His great-grandfather served in France during World War I. His grandfather was stationed in India during World War II, and his father served in Vietnam.

The festivities at Ft. Stewart were attended by several family members including Stephanie Davis, the couple's children Page and Zach, Glenda Davis and the captain's maternal grandparents, Jake and Melba Grooms of Newnan.

Stephanie Davis's students at Trinity Christian School made signs that she took with her for the sendoff.

"They did mention in the course of the ceremony that this was the largest National Guard deployment since World War II," Glenda Davis said. Some 4,000 members of the Georgia unit are headed to Iraq.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson spoke at the ceremonies, along with the commanding general of the Georgia National Guard. "It was really impressive, being able to hear everybody speak," Stephanie Davis said.

She said her only tearful moment was when the troops marched off the field, giving the sense of going to war. She remembered it as "my proud military wife moment."

She said she had seen military ceremonies at Ft. Drum but never anything on "such a big scale."

The deployment to Iraq will be Davis's first overseas duty. "He's excited," his wife said. His leaving was "obviously bittersweet" for him, she said, because he will be "missing the family."

She reflected, "He's finally getting to fulfill his sense of duty to the country."

Davis is scheduled to be in Iraq for 12 months. "He's expecting to be home by the end of next summer," his mother said.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Just so you know. I am currently working diligently to finish the next instalment of the Roanoke saga. I want to have the whole story done by Wednesday, but don't hold your breath.

If you need to refresh your memory, be sure and click on the previous instalments to the left of here and re-read them.

Again, I apologize for the insanely long wait.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

We Apologize for the Wait . . .

But this quarter is turning out to be one of the most hectic and time consuming academic terms in my professional career.

I am teaching from 9:00 AM to 10:15 Monday through Thursday, 10:30 to 11:45 Monday through Thursday, 12:00 to 1:15 Monday through Thursday, 2:00 until 4:30 Monday and Wednesday afternoons, and 5:30 to 6:45 Monday and Wednesday (hell, it's even tiring just writing all that). Three of these five courses and composition intensive (I'm quite literally grading papers every week, usually Tuesday and Thursday afternoons).

Understandably, when I'm at home on the weekends, I don't even want to look at the computer screen unless there are aliens or medieval monsters on it trying to kill one of my virtual avatars.

All this to say that, I have not forgotten you all. I do intend to finish the Roanoke story (if for no other reason that Jim and I are traveling up to Bowling Green, Kentucky next month, and I'm sure there's a story in there somewhere, too). I have other things I'm aching to tell you all, too ( for one thing, I'm giving serious thought to releasing some of my short stories in book form if there's any demand out there for it).

All I ask is that you all bear with me a little. I'll get back here when I can, as soon as I can.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Afterlife

Hunter S. Thompson

First Gonzo Journalist and inspiration for Doonesbury's Uncle Duke

Dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound

It was just one of those days.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Once again I apologize for the delay in continuing my Roanoke story; however, it's been really a hectic couple of weeks with papers to grade comps to read for, family members sick, friends having kids, and so on and so on and scooby-dooby-dooby.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get the next installments in next week God, family, and students willing.

Hang in there; we're almost through.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

He'd Like to Come and Meet Us, but He Thinks He'd Blow Our Minds

Part 4:

Saturday Continued:

We filled in Sekoni and Abid, the last two members of the Georgia State Contingent, on our Star findings over dinner at a local tavern on a corner of the market square.

"So you two are going up there tonight?" Sekoni asked as she took a bite of her pasta.

"I don't know that we have much of a choice," Jim explained. "We're certainly not getting anywhere with the locals. Going to see it for ourselves seems like the next logical step."

The waitress came by to refill our drinks; it may have been my overly active paranoia, but I could have sworn she gave us each a hard stare and sighed exasperatedly as she walked off.

"Don't you think it could be dangerous?" Abid asked. She contemplated a mound of yellowish foodstuff on her plate, gingerly dipped her spoon into it, and took a tentative bite.

"What in God's name is that?" I asked avoiding her question.

"I don't know," she admitted. "It came with my meal. It's got a weird consistency like a kind of fruit or something, but it could also be a pastry of some sort." She took another bite. "I'm pretty sure it's not meat."

I took my own spoon and dipped in. "Do you mind?" Abid shook her head and motioned for me to take as much as I wanted. She was absolutely right, it had an unidentifiable consistency and little or no taste at all.

"I got nothing," I admitted. "Maybe it's some type of star fruit or something."

"Star fruit?"

"Oh sure," Jim said taking a bite himself. "Definitely star fruit. It's not overtly dangerous, doesn't hurt anybody that you can see, but it's absolutely undescribable, and no one will tell you what it is."

"Weeping Jesus on the cross," our waitress stopped on her way to another table and faced us with an unmistakeable look of exasperation on her face. "It's spoon-bread for God's sake. It's just spoon-bread." Then she strode deliberately away to serve tea to our neighboring table.

She wouldn't stop at our table again for the rest of our meal.

A busboy brought us our ticket without a word.

"I think I'd like to go with you guys," Sekoni said thoughtfully eyeing the busboy.

"Sure," Jim said as he glanced at our waitress staring at our table from behind the bar.

"Can we take your car?" I asked, eating the last of the star fruit spoon-bread.

not the tavern we were at, but pretty damn close

As we left the bar, I saw the waitress pick up the phone, dial a number a say something keeping her eyes on us the whole way.

I can only imagine the conversation:

Waitress: "The outlanders are still asking questions. They may be onto the spoon-bread."

Mysterious William B. Davis type Voice: "Keep your eyes on them."

Waitress: "They appear to be heading back to the hotel. I think they're planning on going up to the star tonight."

William B. Davis: "They won't see anything."

We waited until dark to set out. Sekoni and Abid met us in back of the hotel, and Jim and I piled into the back seat of her compact sedan.

We had barely left the hotel grounds when the trouble started.

"We got a tail," Jim informed us looking over his shoulder.

I looked, too, and sure enough, we were being followed by a white Crown Victoria with a bar of red and blue lights. The uniformed gentleman within seemed oblivious to our stares as he appeared to be engrossed in talking into his radio and eying our license plate.

Sekoni tried to make a few random turns to ditch our tail, but he met us turn-for-turn, and she didn't want to draw further attention to us by trying to speed up.

"I've been in front of enough cops in my life," Sekoni informed us, "to know that if our boy's just looking for a reason to pull us over. We speed up, we give him that reason. He can talk on his little walkie-talkie all night, and we're fine until we break the law." She looked ahead and seemed to see something none of us could see. I saw a hint of a smile in through her rea-view mirror. "Besides," she continued, "I got an idea."We pulled into a nearby convenience store, and filled up the tank. John Law had no choice, but to keep on driving down the road. Since apparently all roads in Roanoke lead not to Rome, but to the Star, we simply took another street until we found the ubiquitious signs pointing the way to enlightenment.

It took us a good thirty minutes to reach the top of the mountain. We encountered no further problems with local officials during the trip. Indeed, the rest of the journey was preternaturally quiet, and even though we may have arrived at the peak without further incident, none of us felt altogether secure or comfortable.

There were about fifteen cars in the parking area behind the star. Jim and I quickly scanned the tags.

They all appeared to hail from Roanoke County. No out of town tourists, no conventioneers. Just native Roanokies apparently out for a night of star-gazing.

Except there wasn't a person in sight appart from my companions and me.

"Hey, Lev," it was Jim motioning to me from across the parking lot, "Come look at this."

When I got there, my friend was pointing to the bottom left corner of the back windshield. I had to look twice before I understood what he wanted me to see: affixed to the inner glass was a decal depicting the familiar square and compass symbol of the Masons:

"Look in the back seat," Jim almost whispered. I moved to the side of the vehicle and looked in the window.

Neatly folded on the back seat were two dark suits and a white apron.

"Curioser and curioser," I said, more closely inspecting the other cars.

seven more cars had the mason decal somewhere on the glass, but we did not see any more strange clothing.

One car had a symbol on it I had never seen before. It was a multi-colored upside-down star inside a pentagram. Each point of the star bore another symbol: a chalice in one, a dagger in another, a sheaf of wheat, a crown and sceptre, and what looked like a podium. An open book on a lectern adorned the middle of the star with five letters surrounding it: F, A, T, A, and L

"Hey, Jim, do you know what this is?"

Jim came over, took a look, and I swear his face drained a bit (though it could well have been the flickering streetlights).

"Yeah," he said, "It's the symbol for the Masonic organization for women."

"I thought the Mason's were strictly Y-chromosome."

"They are," Jim explained, "but they have like a sister organization for their wives and daughters and stuff."

"What's it called?"

"I'm not sure," he admitted, "my granddad wasn't really a member, remember.

"Well what do you think it's called?"

Jim hesitated a little before continuing.

"I'm pretty sure it's called The Order of the Eastern Star."

We decided it was about time to go around and look at the star, so we slowly and quietly made our way down the walkway leading to the viewing deck in front of the star. Sekoni and Abid met us there, having entered the park immediately rather than inspect the vehicles. There was no one else on the viewing platform in spite of the full parking lot. Indeed, it seemed as if the four of us were the only living beings for miles around.

"You know," Abid said looking up at the illuminated star towering above us, "they say Elvis came here in the middle of a tour just to see the star."

"No shit?" I found myself incromprehensively fascinated by the red and white lights shining down on me, bathing my face and hands.

"Yeah, that's what I heard. It was his last American tour, I think."

"Probably killed him." I said smilimg serenely into the light.

"Nah," Jim disagreed, "He's not dead. The star absorbed him, and it'll let him go on the Last Day to play at the feet of the Creator."

"Oh yeah," I said, "that's probably it."

"Um, Leverett?" Sekoni spoke up from somewhere behind me.


"I think your phone's ringing."

continued . . .

Thursday, January 27, 2005

We interrupt our program to bring you something important.

Today marks the sixtieth anniversary of the most horrific incident in the modern era.

I can't really say that it marks the end of the horror, though for millions of people it did, because it also marks the beginning for many many more.

When Soviet forces reached Auschwitz, they found there living evidence of how far a human soul can sink into depravity and inimaginable cruelty. They gave the world proof that something terribly wrong was going on in Germany, but the world had suspected this all along.

Thousands of refugees can't be wrong, can they?

What no one knew was exactly how wrong that something was. Indeed, the spectacle that met Russian soldiers inside that snow covered camp could not have been imagined even by the most gruesome of horror writers of the day. The imagery can only be approximated by such writers today even. We can draw a disturbing picture,but we can never match the the mind-numbing chill of the actual experience.

Thank God.

The holocaust is so disturbing, many can't believe it's real. There is a group, maybe even several, who try desperately (and vainly) to deny it ever happened. And who can really blame them for wanting to do that. Nobody wants to believe that sane and apparently well-adjusted individuals could condone much less perpetrate such acts.

Sadly, though, to say the holocaust didn't happen is tantamount to saying slavery was just a prolonged indentured servitude.

I have relatives who survived Auschwitz.

I have relatives who died there, too.

They don't have to talk about it because the truth is written in every fibre of their being.

Lest we forget:

We now return you to our regularly scheduled program.

Monday, January 03, 2005

There's a Starman Waiting in the Sky
Part three

Saturday dawned like any other except, of course that I found myself in a very large and soft double size bed in a posh vacation resort instead of my king size bed in a modest house in Temple.

Though we had set our clocks for seven, Jim and I still found ourselves unable to rise before ten. We had once again missed the morning sessions, truly a shame since one of our GSU fellows, Sekoni, presented a paper on Shakespeare's treatment of women (in his plays one would assume) at the 8:00 Women's Caucus panel.

We, obviously, missed it.

We still had time, though, to say good-bye to the GSU students who were returning to Atlanta rather than face a day-long drive on Sunday and work the very next day. There we began discussing the omnipresent star. As it turns out, our colleagues, too had been fascinated by the astral aura that permeated the town and the veil of secrecy which surrounded it.

"I asked one of the bellboys about it last night," Koji informed us. "He looked at me like I was from Mars and said, 'What star?'"

"He did not." Jim's jaw dropped, "'What star?'"

"'What star,'" Koji confirmed, "'The star on top of your mountain,' I said, and you know what he replies?'" She did not wait for an answer. "He looks at me just as innocent as you please and asks, 'What mountain?'"

"Un-fucking-believable." I shook my head and took a swallow of coffee before telling them about Angelique's note and the upturned star at the end of the overpass.

"I've never seen anythinglike this in my life." Koji exclaimed. "What do you think's going on?"

"The Knights Templar," I said. "Freemasons, The Illuminati."

"Leverett and I are going to do some investigating into it today," Jim said. "We'll give you a call later and tell you what we find out."

With a couple of hours to kill before the first comic books panel, we decided to begin our investigation as soon as the others had left. Like any good English major, we wanted to begin our quest in a library, but we didn't know where the Roanoke public library was, if it in fact existed at all. Thus we settled on the next best thing: the local bookstore.

We found Kevin Smith behind the counter, well a reasonable facsimile thereof anyway. The clerk was in his late twenties or early thirties, slightly overweight, wearing his brown hair slightly long and sporting an almost unkempt beard. The resemblance to the director of Dogma and Clerks continued in his attire. He wore tennis shoes, faded baggy jeans, an oversized hockey jersey, and wire spectacles.

He was anythting but silent on the subject of the star.

"Hey, man," I asked him as I walked into the store, "what's the deal with the big star?"

"We're all part of a pagan cult," he responded without missing a beat and lifting both hands over his head with index and pinky fingers raised.

Jim and I stared blankly at him, then turned to each other.

"What'd I tell you?" I asked him barely concealing a note of smugness.

Kevin smiled. "I'm just kidding," he said, than after a pause, "for the most part. I'll tell you what I've heard, though. Wait over there a second." A real customer had called him away momentarily.

"Man," I said as Jim and I stepped to a more private section of the store, "this guy seems like he's really got something to get off his chest." As he helped an aged bibliophile locate the tome of his choice, our erstwhile informant kept glancing back and giving us a "just a minute" hand gesture.

"I was just kidding about the whole cult thing," Kevin said when he returned to us, "but I have heard some disturbing rumors about that damned thing." He jerked his head in the general direction of the star.

"Really?" we leaned in closer as Kevin steadily lowered his voice to a near-whisper.

"There's talk of portals and energy currents." He said. "ley lines. Lemme tell you, I'm an atheist; I make no bones about it. I believe that we're here and when we die we're worm food,nothing more. That being said, I've never seen anything I would call occult or unexplainable until I moved to this state. Dude, the Shenandoah Valley is fucked up.

"I know these two guys, who don't know each other, completely unrelated, you know? Well, they both told me the same story. On two separate occasions, these guys were alone on top of the mountain when they saw this fireball just kinda floating down the road leading from the star to the town. Neither one of them has any idea what it was. I've seen it, too, but I don't have any better idea about it than they do."

Jim and I simply stared at him. I think my mouth had dropped a little.

"It's pretty fucked up, man. You know the movie The Mothman Prophesies?"

We did.

"It happened around here someplace West Virginia I think, but the same general region. It's the Shenandoah valley, dude. You just don't wanna know."

We had a lot more questions, but Kevin had to excuse himself and see about the aged bibliophile. We decided to take our investigation further. As we left the bookstore, we turned to wave our good-byes to Kevin and were met with a disconcerting stare from the aged bibliophile.

We couldn't help but notice the gaping gash in his forehead.

"That's a creepy shaving accident," I murmurred to Jim. He had nothing to add except to grab me by the arm and rush me out the door.
We next decided to try one of the locally owned and operated clothing stores. There were two middle-aged ladies inside. One was black; one was white, but they both looked like gypsies.

"Excuse me ladies," I said, entering the boutique (Jim remained outside to finish his cigarette), "I have kind of a touristy question for you."

The two gypsy women stared at me blankly, but I remained undeterred.

"What's up with the star on the mountain?"

The white gypsy sucked in her breath rapidly, kind of like Bela Lugosi shying away from the sun. The black gypsy simply gave me a harder stare.

"Ain't nothing wrong with that star, boy," she seethed. "What you got against it?"

"I assure you," I backed away from her involuntarily, "I have nothing against it per se. It's just not every day you see a giant star mounted on a mountain in the middle of town."

"It is here."

"I was just wondering what it signified, you know, what it means."

"Don't mean nothing, boy. It signifies that this is the Star City."

This was new. "And what does that mean?" I asked, "Star City."

The gypsy woman shook her head and rolled her eyes. "It means we got a star on the mountain. Boy, why don't you just move on and quit wasting my time with stupid questions?"

I apologised for taking up so much of her time, and turned to go, but as I walked out the door the white gypsy spoke for the first time.

"Young man," she said, and I turned around. "If you're so curious about the star," she had this creepy grin on her face that seemed to stretch literally from ear to ear, "why not go up to Mill Mountain and see it for yourself? Perhaps then you'll understand the star and appreciate it, no?"

"How do I get there?" I asked.

"Signs," she said then she fell back into the shadows of the stockroom.

"Signs?" I asked, looking at the black gypsy. "Like portents and omens or something?"

"Boy you ain't got the good sense God gave a ginger root." She pointed out the shop window, "Signs!"

The street sign outside had a star and an arrow printed on it. As I've said, the damn things were everywhere.
The next store we entered appeared to be a kind of new-age hippie place. Inside we met two women who appeared to be channeling Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin.

"Peace and Tranquility," chanted Janis, giving us an exaggerated bow as we entered the beaded curtain that served as the front door to their haberdashery, "Come on in and feel the vibe."

"Buy some clothes," Ms. Nicks said from behind the counter.

"Let me know how we can free your spirit and ease your mind." Janis seemed unaffected by her co-worker's brusqueness.

I turned to Jim. "This one's all you," I muttered allowing him to begin the intrerrogation.

"We were just wondering," Jim said taking a step toward the former lead of Big Brother and the Holding Company while Ms. Fleetwood Mac eyed us both from the other end of the room, "if you could tell us anyhting about the star up there." Jim pointed his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the mountain.

"Ooooh, isn't it the grooviest?" Janis purred, "I mean it's just so up there, you know? Like it's truly and really stellar, man."

"It's our feeble attempt to piss off Texas," Rhiannon interjected.

"No, no, no," Bobby McGee's ex waved her nads in a dismissing gesture. "It's really cool, you know? I mean they light it up every time somebody dies, man. I mean how sweet is that? If anybody, like, passes on to nirvana here, we, like, honor them with a star, you know what I mean?"

"It lights up," Jim spoke slowly, making sure he understood completely, "every time somebody dies here."

"Yeah, man. Isn't it cool?"

"It's been lit up every night since we've been here."

"What can I say, dude, cycle life, you know?"

"If you two aren't going to buy anything," Stevie began tapping a measuring tape on the counter irritatingly, "we really need to get back to our inventory."

Jim and I apologized for disturbing their work and turned to go.

"If you're so interested in our star, you know," Ms. Nicks said as we left, why don't you go out there tonight?"
By this time, it was getting on towards 2:00 and time for the comic book panel Jim and I wanted to see (which was held, interestingly enough, in the Mill Mountain Conference Room).

As we enterred the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center, though, I spied one more person I wanted to interview about the Mystery of the Mill Mountain Star. I found it more than a coincidence that in a replica of King's Hotel Overlook, one of the maintenance guys not only bore more than a passing resemblance to Scatman Carothers, but his name tag declared him to be "Richard H."

"We're going to be late for the panel," Jim warned, "It starts ijn a bout two minutes."

"Dude, we gotta talk to him," I grabbed Jim's lapels and lowered my voice to a near whisper, "He's got the shine, man."

Well, Jim couldn't argue this logic so we decided to be late for Superman.

"That star's been up on that mountain since the beginning," Richard informed us.

"The beginning of what?" I asked.

"The city. Since the city began. I believe they put it up just after the war."

"The Revolutionary War?"

"No, man, the Korean War. They put it up and lit it up red every time one of our boys was reported killed in action."

"But you just said it was put up when the city started."
"It was."

"And it was put up during the Korean War?"


I began to feel a slight pressure building up inside my head, just behind my temple and above my left eye.

"So did they just elctrify it during the Korean War or something?"

"What you talking about, electrify?" Richard looked at me as if I had just grown an third eye. 'No, I said they put it up during the Korean War."

"But how could they have put it up if it was already there?"

"Speak sense, boy. They couldn't have done that. I said they put it up during the Korean War, and I meant they put it up during the Korean War."

"But they put it up when the city began, too?"

"Ain't that what I said?"

"Did they take it down or something?"

Richard sighed deeply and shook his head at my apparent idiocy. "Now why would they go and do that after spending so much money putting it up there. Do you have any idea how much that thing cost?"

"No, sir."

"A lot. I mean they had to fetch it from up in the sky and haul it down, cool it off, and stick it up on the mountain. Why they want to do all that stuff over again?"

"Did it fall down?"

"I didn't say it did, did I?"

The pressure behind my temple and over my eye was slowly encroaching on my toes now.

"So it was first put up put up when the city began, and it was first put up during the Korean War to commemorate the dead soldiers?"

"I reckon. It's what I said isn't it?"

"Excuse me," I moved away from him slowly, "I'm late for a panel. Thank you for your time."

"Any time, son. Any time." Richard started to move away, too, thought better of it, then turned back to me.

"You know," he said thoughtfully, "a young fella like you who's that interested in the star might think about going up there tonight. Yes, indeed." With that, Richard H., custodian of The Overlook, turned and disappeared behind a movable wall.

You know," Jim said after he had gone. "It may not be a bad idea at all."
To Be Continued . . .

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Somebody clearly does not want me to finish my Roanoke expose'. Last night I was up until two putting the finishing touches on installment three. When I hit the "save" button, though, my computer crashed, erasing the bulk of the installment.

Sadly, it will be after Christmas at the earliest that I can get back to it. So until then, happy holidays, everybody.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"My God, It's Full of Stars"

Part two


The star motif became even more evident as we stumbled our way throught the first day of the conference.

We had gotten up too late attend the first sessions, and breakfast was no longer served by the hotel restaurant (Who quits serving hotel breakfast at 8:30? Hell even McDonald's keeps serving breakfast until 11:00 but more on food chains in a minute). Besides, after looking at the door menu, I'd die and burn in hell before I'd get breakfast from room service, ten bucks for toast and coffee? No, we decided to explore the grand city of Roanoke before our next session and maybe grab a Mcbreakfast while we were out.

Except that downtown Roanoke has no chains (other than a closed Subway). No Wendy's, no Burger King, no nothing. What metropolitan city doesn't have a Mickey Dee's? Hell, the Golden Arches even loom over Bombay.

You'd think a city with such a prominent star would at least have a Hardee's, nor could we find a coffee shop. Later Jim and I would theorize that the Roanokans feared the restaurant's logo might seem to rival their Star's own power:

And a Starbucks coffeeshop might seem positively blasphemous:

However, Jim and I did not have enough experience with the natives at this point to develop these theories. We simply marked these oddities down as more quaint idiosyncrasies in an increasingly idiosyncratic town.

The rest of Friday was spent running from session to session, learning new techniques for teaching English in a two-year college (me) and discussing the similarities between Joyce's Ulysses and computerized role-playing games (Jim). I also attended a panel celebrating the work of Joseph Blotner and sold books for some Appalachian writer's reading.

It was after the last panel and just before the Appalachian guy's reading that theomnipresent star once again made its presence known, this time as I sat in a public restroom for my evening constitutional.

"I'll be damned," a familiar voice exclaimed from the next stall.

"Jim?" I asked.

By way of answer, a red periodical slid under the partition into my stall. I picked it up and turned it over. It was the current issue of The South Atlantic Review, SAMLA's quarterly journal. It was not surprising to find one at SAMLA's conference, especially since the current issue contains a schedule of events, but what was disturbing was the cover illustration.

"That damn star is everywhere," Jim and I muttered simultaneously. On the cover of the journal was a monochrome low-angle shot of the star in all its illuminated glory.

I tried not to think about the star as I made my way to the reading, but it was like telling myself not to think about pink elephants. I started seeing stars everywhere. The hotel's carpet had a definite star pattern if you crossed your eyes just right and looked at it like one of those Magic Eye pictures. I saw locals sporting star-themed jewelry. Ieven saw one or two sweaters with embroidered stars on them.

I have to admit it was a little disturbing.

I had little interest in the Appalachian guy, so I had brought my own book to read while I ran the book table. It was entitled simply The Holy Grail, and it discussed briefly the role of the Knights Templar in spiriting holy relics away from the holy land and hiding them in theior various shrines around the world for safekeeping. It also mentioned in passing the theory that after their dissolution, the Templars transformed themselves into the Order of Freemasons and continued their pursuits.

All very interesting, yes, but it would prove even more telling later.

"I've been reading about the Knights Templar," I told Jim over dinner in downtown Roanoke. In true Roanoke fashion, though, this, too, proved slightly surreal as we were in a transformed nineteenth century warehouse which had all the ambience of a prime dinner date restaraunt. It had intimate tables for two or three, soft lighting with accent candles on the tables, all very romantic and mood-setting (not that Jim and I were looking for a particularly romantic dinner spot, it was just the only place open with available seating). However, the romantic effect was shattered by the widescreen t.v. at the bar broadcasting a loud ball-game and the heavy-metal music blaring over the speakers.

"You know the Knights Templar became the Masons," Jim yelled over Slayer's "Perversions of Pain".

"That's just what I was going to tell them."

"My granddad had a Masonic Bible the Mason's gave him."

"Your granddad was a Mason?"

"No, but he was related to George Washington."

"Oh." The waitress, wearing a long scarlet eveining dress which did not even pretend to hide her nipple rings and connecting chain, arrived with our chicken salad croissants and tater-tots.

We commenced to eating since the music had reached a crescendo that prevented further conversation.

"You know they have some kind of castle or cathedral around here somewhere," Jim informed me when Motley Crue's much softer "God Bless the Children of the Beast" came on.

"Who? Motley Crue?"

"No. The Masons. Granddad took me to see it once when I was younger. It's where they keep their relics and stuff."

"I bet the Holy Grail's there," I mused, spearing my pickle with my fork.

"Probably," Jim agreed. "The Mason's are pretty big in these parts I'm led to believe."

The waitress brought our ticket. On the back, she had written us a little message:

Thank you and enjoy your visit


Underneath was drawn a pentagram:

"Curioser and Curioser," said Jim.

We saw still more star imagery as we walked back to the hotel. In addition to the previously mentioned stars on the street signs, many of the shop windows had stars in them of varying sizes and colors. The sidewalks in Roanoke also has several small water fountains, many with embossed stars on them. Much of the graffiti we encountered also exhibited the star motif.

The most disturbing star was still to come, though.

To save its patrons the trouble of having to drive into town or walk across busy railroad tracks, the Hotel Roanoke boasts a beautiful overpass connecting its courtyard to the downtown shopping district. It's really quite nice if one can overlook the star spangled benners hanging from the ceiling every five feet. These are not to be confused with The Star-Spangled Banner of legend, our nation's flag, "Old Glory"; no, these are literal banners, each displaying stars bent into unusual contortions.

As Jim and I made our way to the overpass, we mused anew about the significance of the star this strange little town. I posited that it was some kind of cult, citing our recent hostess as evidence of this. Jim remained noncommittal, admitting only that the prevalence of the star was extremely odd and mildly disconcerting.

More disturbing to Jim was the fact that flipping through the yellow pages for a coffeeshop that morning had revealed not a single coffee shop, nothing so much as a Waffle House, yet during the search our attention was grabbed by the heading "Escort Services", not as one might suspect because we were interested in paying for love but because the section was at least two pages long.

Kind of hard to ignore.

"It's just plain bizarre," Jim said as we neared the overpass to the Hotel, "I mean, here we have town without a single cafe, not so much as a Waffle House, but it has no less than thirteen escort services not counting the phone sex lines. Leverett, Atlanta doesn't have that many escort services per capita; how does a town this small support twelve prostitution rings?"

"I don't know Jim, but I can't help but think that it's a symptom of this whole star phenom-" I stopped dead in my tracks.

Jim turned to see what had caught my attentionI was looking at the pavement in front of the overpass entrance. A shape was embedded there with what appeared to be iron rails.

"How did we not see this before?" I asked.

"Hell if I know, man, but I'm beginning to think you may have a point."

We were looking at a ten foot long inverted star.

"We need to start investigating this tomorrow," Jim said.

Continued . . .

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Part 1:

In 1310, the pope formally disbanded the Knights Templar, a pseudo-secret organization dedicated to defending pilgrims on their journeys to the Holy Land and to protecting mystical religious artifacts (such as the Holy Grail and shards of the true cross).


Many believe that the Templars did not actually disband but formed a more truly secret group, the Illuminati, to continue the pursuits of the Knights Templar and to influence world events from the shadows of power. The Illuminati are rumored to be the driving force behind such groups as the Society of Freemasons, CERN, and many local schoolboards.


According to James Frazer, in his seminal study of primitive magic, The Golden Bough, a rowan oak was used to ward off witchcraft by tribal priests, usually magicians themselves.


In 1590, the English colony on
Roanoke Island disappeared without a trace (other than the word "crotoan" carved into a tree). To this day, no one knows what happened.


Today, Roanoke, Virginia is a very odd place.


Every November, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) holds its annual meeting in a prominent Southern city. Since the organization is based at Georgia State University, the conference takes place in Atlanta every other year.

This was not such a year.

This year the conference happened in the northernmost extreme of SAMLA's membership: Roanoke, Virginia.

I had to be there because I was the secretary of the Robert Penn Warren panel this year, and the chair, due to circumstances beyond his control, was unable to make it himself, so I rode up to Virginia on Thursday, November 11, with my good friend and colleague, Jim Shimkus.

We spent the majority of the trip discussing the South, politicis, and the overabundance of condiment shops in South Carolina (jellies, preserves and chow-chow as far as the eye can see). However, in Virginia, things began to get bizarre.

For starters we passed no less than three strip clubs and/or adult "toy stores" in close proximity to prominent churches (everything from primitive Baptist to Seventh Day Adventist). This is the same region, remember, that voted for Bush on "moral grounds." I wondered briefly how much the Moral Majority dished out for a lap-dance and if there were some kind of discount if you kept your eyes closed.

About sixty miles outside of Roanoke, all thoughts of smartass juvenile humor vanished.

"What the hell is that?" Jim asked pointing out the passenger side window.

"It would appear to be some kind of star," I replied moving his arm out of my nose.

Indeed, in the distance you could see quite plainly an illuminated five pointed star apparently floating just over the horizon.

"I can see that," Jim replied peevishly. "What's it for?"

"I don't know. Perhaps Jesus is being born in a barn this night."

We drove on towards Roanoke without giving the star another thought.

That is until we got to Roanoke proper and realized that the star was, in fact, mounted on top of a mountain in the middle of town, and that apparently, the entire town had some kind of symbiotic relationship to the star.

For starters, almost every street sign bears the mark of the star and an arrow pointing the shortest wayto the celestial mountain.

Curiously, you can see the star from almost any vantage point in the city, especially from the Hotel Roanoke, where the conference was held.

A Word or Two about the Hotel Roanoke:

If the star looms over the town of Roanoke, the hotel presents just as imposing a presence on the opposite end of town, perched as it is on a hill that is not unimpressive itself. Do you remember The Shining (either the book, the movie, or the television mini-series)? To get a picture of the Hotel Roanoke, imagine the Overlook during the on-season:

The Hotel Roanoke, Roanoke, VA

You cannot help but be further reminded of King's ghost story when upon entering the lobby of this hotel, the first thing to meet your eye is a grand piano playing itself. It's an electric player piano, sure, but it's still damned creepy after being followed all evening by an everpresent star and faced with the prospect of sleeping in a haunted vacation resort.

However, there were other more insidious signs that things were not entirely normal at the Hotel Roanoke, just little odd occurences which seemed to add up to weirdness. For starters, our room (whose numbers, 508, added up to thirteen, by the way) had no ice bucket, but a half full glass of stagnant water sitting on the bedside table. Now, I don't know about you, but if I'm paying three digits a night for a hotel room, I'd assume the staff could be bothered to at least empty the previous occupant's dirty water.

The absence of an ice bucket, though, was shortly explained by the even stranger absence of both an ice maker and a Coke machine. One would assume that if a local Motel 6 could manage ice and vending machines, a palace of the Hotel Roanoke's caliber would have no trouble in providing such machines; however, Jim and I spent quite some time exploring our floor in a fruitless effort to find these amenities.

Our explorations of floor five led us to an even stranger realization. The floor plan made no sense. Halls led off from other halls and twisted back on themselves in an Escheresque maze. I was sure that the hallway pattern was laid out in the shape of a star, but I couldn't prove it. I've never been much at cartography.

Finally, the staff of the hotel were just downright rude. During our first night there, Jim and I went down to the Hotel bar for a drink with the rest of the Georgia State attendees. We were going to simply turn in and call it a night, but as soon as our heads hit our respective pillows, we found ourselves wide awake and restless.

Our waitress was a very nice English woman who kept Jim supplied with beer, and made sure I had plenty of hot tea (I had developed a sore throat almost upon entering the hotel). We spent a very interesting evening discussing the star curiosity with our fellow attendees from Atlanta until about eleven o'clock when our waitress approached our table with a scowl, and apropos of nothing began taking our drinks away practically out of our hands.

"I'm going to have to ask you to leave," she sighed exasperatedly. "We're closing for the night."

"Can we at least finish our drinks?" one of our colleagues inquired politely.

The waitress sighed again and plopped our drinks back on the table. "I guess so," she whined, "but you make sure you
leave when you're done." She turned around to go back to the bar, got halfway there, and turned towards us again. "We're supposed to be closed."

I honestly thought she was about to cry.

It was very hard to get to sleep that night. Even though our room did not face the star, much of it's luminescence still managed to seep through our window, and while I counted no more than two cars passing the hotel or driving anywhere around Roanoke and absolutely no one walking the streets (the hotel, which as I mentioned sits atop a fairly large hill, affords an excellent view of the city especially at night), the city seems to have more lights going than Atlanta at midnight, maybe even New York (and despite the overabundence of light, the city is uncomfortably quiet. It's like someone filmed Atlanta at night and taped Temple, GA at night for the soundtrack).

Suffice it to say that our room seemed brighter with the lights turned off than it did with every lamp in the room on.

Once we got to sleep, though, it was damn near impossible to wake up until we had missed most of the morning sessions. Both Jim and I awoke around ten or eleven with headaches. Our compatriots from GSU also complained of headaches and sore throats.

Continued . . .

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's been almost a month, so I'm sure that the stardust in Roanoke has settled. Therefore, I feel relatively safe divulging my tale of intrigue and mysticism set among the backdrop of the 2004 SAMLA conference.

Starting tomorrow I will begin serializing the story. It's just too large to try to post all at once, and you people have waited long enough.

See you then.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Happy belated Thanksgiving,y'all.

You know what's bothersome?

For weeks I haven't had much to say on the blog. Ideas just haven't come to me, so rather than write something stupid or post a lame personality test or something, I simply didn't post anything.

I'm a firm believer in not talking if you don't really have anything to say.

Now, however, I have a story I want to tell. I think it's a story that needs to be told, full of action, adventure, intrigue, and really wild things.

It could even blow the lid off an international conspiracy poised to destroy life as we know it and install a figurehead government bent on developing a new world order in which we all follow the dictates of a "star spokesman" for an all-seeing, all-knowing spiritual power.

Sadly, the quarter is drawing to a close, so I have all kinds of "responsibilities " to meet and so-called "duties" to perform.

Also, I'm almost close to finishing Thief II: The Metal Age on my PC at home.

My story will be told, though. Hopefully, this week.

And it'll be a doozy.

Stay tuned.

Friday, November 19, 2004

I'm still working on my Roanoke report. It's really hard to boil down three days of books, Lev, and paranormal into a few paragraphs, but I'm trudging on.

Also I've figured out how to post pictures ot my blog, so my tale can be illustrated.

In the meantime, in between time

Here's an ad that just makes me giggle like a prepubescent girl and feel really bad about it later.


Ain't we got fun?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I just found out that one of my two oldest friends has left for war in an undisclosed land (I can't tell you where, but I suspect there's a lot of sand).

Cpt. Rob Davis left Monday for training. By the middle of next year, he'll be sweating in a foreign land.

Rob, I can't say anything nearly as poignant as Scott wrote (for one thing, the words won't come right now; for another, they'd just be badly repeating what he's already so eloquently stated), but know that my feelings are exactly the same.

Keep your head down, your helmet on, and don't do anything stupid.

Come home as soon as they'll let you, but get back safely.

Go with God.

We'll all be praying.

P.S. For those of you worried, the mountain didn't kill me. I'll file my report on the adventures in Roanoke soon.

I promise.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

I am in Roanoke, VA this weekend attending the SAMLA conference. It is now just after 8:00 P.M. on Saturday, November 13, 2004. In a little while, I and the remaining Georgia State contingent will embark on an expedition up a mountain to see a star and explain a mystery. It could be dangerous, or it could simply be cold.

I will explain later when I return home. However, if I don't report by week's end, fear the worst, email me to make sure, then tell my family to stay the hell away from Roanoke and to fear the star.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refuted his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

--And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

--John Hancock

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Recently, I have received comments and emails from my readers complaining about my lack of posts and threatening to quit reading my blog altogether.

I appreciate everyone who reads my blog. I have been doing it for over a year, now, and I'm constantly amazed at how many total strangers tune in every week to see if I've left more ramblings. I expect my friends and family to check in, and as much as I enjoy hearing their comments about my entries, it's the people who don't know me that really mean the most to me. Perhaps its the narcissist in me enjoying the effect (however small and insignificant) I have on the lives of people whom I will never meet face-to-face.

It's kinda humbling.

Oh, who am I kidding? It's fucking amazing, and I can't get enough of it.

I realize, therefore, how frustrating it is for my readers to drop by week after week and not have a new entry. I drop by several blogs, myself, and get disappointed when I see the same entry from last week or the week before.

That being said, though, I have to ask that you all be patient with me. If I don't have an entry for a while, it's probably due to one of a few reasons:

1. Nothing important happened today: Remember that I live in a rural town in Georgia, not war-torn Iraq or the politically intriguing Washington, D.C. I'm an English instructor at a small community college, not a great mover and shaker with my finger on the pulse of our nation's culture and politics. An average day consists of my teaching students how to make verbs agree with their subjects and how to communicate a complete thought. Afterwards, I usually go home and watch T.V. or play a video game until I'm sleepy.
These entries would would bore you quicker than T. S. Eliot reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby cover to cover.

2. Important stuff happened, but you wouldn't care: I have had an ongoing correspondence this week with Rosanna Warren, Robert Penn Warren's daughter, gathering background information on a possible paper comparing Frodo Baggins to the heroes in RPW's fiction. I have also been contacting the Jesse Stuart Foundation in Kentucky to discover which of Stuart's stories were published in the Southern Review during the thirties and forties. While I find these happenings extremely exciting, I sincerely doubt the majority of you would find much entertainment in them. Again Eliot reading Fitzgerald might be more attention grabbing.

3. Nothing unimportant happened today either: I realize that my best writing usually deals with the amusing minutiae that happens to me from time to time, but not all minutiae is worth writing about. If my shoes are untied, I tie them. I don't write long articles about it. If I'm eating lunch, it's not really worth letting it get cold while I tell you today's menu. Some things just aren't that amusing.

4. I don't get paid for this: While I enjoy writing these blog entries and appreciate your tuning in, I'm doing it pro bono, usually when there's free time at work. Teaching, grading, and committee work put food on my table, a roof on my house, and clothes on my back, not observing life's amusing anecdotes on a weblog. Sometimes I have to let my hobby go, so I can keep enjoying my hobby.

So . . .

If you get bored with the same old entry week after week, read someone else's blog that day, or read a book, pet the dog, and love your family.

Or get back to work, slacker.

Don't get upset with me and take my blog off your reading list or something; that's just silly. I haven't gone anywhere. I promise I will write more when I have time and something worth observation happens.

If I trip on my untied shoes and fall face first into my lunch while grading papers, I promise you'll be the first to know.

Now, if you'll excuse me I've got a stack of essays calling me.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Okay, today I'll talk about it .

It's no secret that I'm not exactly Bush's or the GOP's greatest supporter.

It's also no secret that I did not want Bush to win a second term.

Not because he's a Republican; he isn't.

He is a megalomaniacal idiot chimp with a Napoleonic complex the size of Shaq.

He seems intent on destroying this country from within by tacitly encouraging our industry to move elsewhere, slowly eroding our civil liberties in the name of security, and overextending our armed forces in conflicts across the globe (I don't see how we're going to avoid a draft no matter how much he claims we won't need one. I'm not saying he's lying, folks. I'm just saying he's either not telling us something, or he's a fucking moron).

While he claims he wants to unite America, I can't help but remember these same words during the first election. I haven't seen much unity. A whole lot of division? Yeah, that we got in spades, but unity? Not so much.

For Bush, "uniting" America seems to translate as "brow-beating or humiliating everyone who disagrees with me until we all think and believe the same things."

And if we don't agree with this administration's policies, according to Dick, we can all go fuck ourselves.

That's a form of unity, I suppose.

The really surprising thing to me is the idea emerging that America's government is somehow responsible for the citizenry's morality. A significant percentage of voters claimed in exit polls that "moral issues" constituted their most important concerns in this election, beating out the Iraq clusterfuck and our disintegrating economy.

First of all, could someone please explain to me how Shrub's opponents were immoral? I haven't heard that any of them diddled livestock, children, or relatives. To my knowledge none of them has ever murdered anyone. In fact, I can't think of anything overtly "immoral" any of the opponents have done. I can't speak of substance abuse, but then again, even Bush himself is a self-proclaimed alcoholic.

Glass houses and stones.

However, much of this morality debate is academic, anyway. I fail to see how a person's personal morality reflects on how well he can do his job. JFK, whom Bush admires, passed Marilyn Monroe back and forth with his brother. FDR was allegedly found dead in the arms of his lover. Reagan divorced his first wife amid accusations of mental cruelty.

Indeed, immoral behavior among influential political figures is as old as the country itself. Thomas Jefferson slept around with his slaves and fathered a child on at least one of them. Ben Franklin had more illegitimate children than Zeus and Odin combined. Andrew Jackson was a drunk, and Ulysses S. Grant took opium.

Whence this idea that immorality equals bad leadership and that great leaders must necessarily exhibit high mindedness and moral rectitude?

Most importantly, though, are we to ignore the ideas of our forefathers who fought and died to create the first country in which the church and state were two separate entities? We came to this country in an effort to escape a government which dictated how we should live and whom we should worship. Our founding fathers drafted a Constitution which guaranteed the citizenry would never have to live under such oppression again.

Yet here we are, not even three hundred years later, reinterpreting this same Constitution in an effort to force the citizens to live the way one ideological group (admittedly a very large and diverse one) believes everyone should live. This group hopes to deny legal rights to other groups who don't subscribe to this very narrow view of life.

Regardless, the Republican emphasis on "family values" and morality will prove, as it almost always does, a hypocritical smokescreen. They appeared to give us what we want so that they may surreptitiously take from us what we need.

I simply hope when the sons are dead, the jobs are gone, and the homes are repossessed, we're still satisfied with our moral president.

Am I bitter? A little.

Will I get over it? Most assuredly.

I am a son of the South, and as such I know how to handle defeat. I was raised on it. I drank it in my mother's milk, and I internalized it in history class.

The Republican Party has been screwing us for over a hundred years now. The only difference is that nowadays they give us a kiss first and a smoke after.

And some of us seem to enjoy it.

One more carpetbagging scalawag won't make that much of a difference.

Wake up, Folks.

As the chimp's former co-star once proclaimed, it's mourning in America.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I don't want to talk about it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bush Voted Year's Top Film Villian

'nuff said.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Friday was my birthday.

Thanks to everyone who emailed me (Unfortunately, I didn't get them until today, but better late than never).

My students keep asking me if I went out and partied my ass off Friday.

Sadly, my ass has been off for years now.

Also, when you live paycheck to paycheck and your birthday falls in the middle of the month, there's not a whole lot of money for much partying.

Now, if Mom had said yes just a couple of weeks earlier, it may have been a different story.


By the way, Elbert Markey, my homeless friend, has a new post up. Y'all click the link on the left of the screen and check it out.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Check out Elbert Markey's new blog. He's a local homeless guy.

I didn't have any money to give him, so I set him up a free blog.

I think he's much happier now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Superman died again.

This time I think it's for good.

Christopher Reeve

September 25, 1952 - October 10, 2004


Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Return of the Jedi plate is gone, now, and more's the pity, not to one of my readers. When I got this idea of hocking my stuff through my blog, I primarily thought it would be a kind of neat way to share something with my readers. Well, that's not entirely true. Who are we kidding? I primarily thought it would be an easy way to make some quick spending change, but the whole sharing thing was right up there. Sadly, I haven't heard from any of you. I bet if Stephen King was hocking his old Weird Tales magazines and offering a free autographed copy of The Dark Tower, his readers would be lining up all over the world for one more chance to throw him some cash.

Come on, folks, don't shame me in front Steve. Buy my junk.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Well, I've sold the first item. The Empire Strikes Back plate is gone, sold for the criminally low price of $25 (I got two potential buyers eyeing the Return of the Jedi plate, too). I also have a couple of bids for the Star Wars comic adaptation. If any of you are thinking about buying anything, hop on over before they all get gone.

Monday, September 27, 2004

This past weekend was pretty hectic.

Last week, while surveying my property for damage from the herd of hurricanes that have blown through town for the last month or so, I discovered that my crawl-space and cellar doors were badly in need of replacing, so I played manly handyman all day Saturday and built them from scratch with power-tools, lumber, hammer, and nails.

I got the bruises, scratches and cuts to prove it (not to mention a sweat-soaked t-shirt which has seen its best days pass by).

I spent much of Saturday night and Sunday morning rearranging my office closet. I've been storing my old Star Wars comic books on the shelf in there, but since it's an old house, it's not as airtight and dry as I would like. I've been worried recently that the mold and mildew slow advancing along the closet wall had also made headway into my comic book boxes. After removing them from the closet and checking to make sure they were unharmed (they were), I now have them resting safely atop my bookshelves.

I now have more room in my closet, and Tina has promised to clean the mildew out as soon as she can (I'm alarmingly allergic to dust, mildew, mold, and most housework).

However, my problems are far from over.

Closets are strange and mysterious places. Closets are home to the most bizarre and illogical phenomena known to man. Biologists speak of these processes only in hushed whispers in back halls or lavatories because they don't want to publicly admit what we all know is going on in there.

Inanimate objects mate and reproduce like bunnies, but only, for some reason, in closets. Wire coat hangers increase exponentially, so do little sheets of notebook paper, pencil stubs, magazines, legal pads, family photo albums, comic books, and collectibles.

In this weekend's effort to organize my closet, I discovered the progeny of thirty-two years of collecting crap:

Comic books I don't read

Magazines I've never looked at


Framed pictures of celebrities

Even some collectible plates (a birthday gift from a long-gone ex-girlfriend) that I've never even taken out of the boxes.

Now, even though my closet has never known such neatness, my office is more cluttered than ever before, and I'm too damn lazy to open the attic. (Besides, isn't the attic just a way of prolonging the inevitable?)

Instead, I've decided to share the detritus of my life with you, my fans and constant readers.

I've put the first lot of my useless crap up for bid on eBay, America's Largest Online Yard Sale, and I've decided to use this forum, my weblog, to shamelessly pimp the aforementioned useless crap.

In honor of the Star Wars Original Trilogy's release on DVD last week, this week I have some choice Star Wars paraphernalia:

Marvel's official adaptation of Star Wars

Three issues of Marvel's original run of Star Wars comics

The aforementioned Star Wars commemorative plate

A similar plate for The Empire Strikes Back

And to complete the set, I have a plate for Return of the Jedi, too

As an added incentive, I also found a couple of copies of a recent GSU Review issue that features one of my stories, "Negative Space". The first three of my regular readers who win one of these auctions will get, at no extra cost, an autographed copy of this jewel of literature. Just email me when you win and let me know you're a regular reader, and if you're one of the first three to contact me, I'll throw the Review in the box before I ship it out.

Enjoyable trinkets and bathroom reading material for you and extra office space for me. Could you ask for anything more?

Monday, September 20, 2004

If You're Gonna Let Another Angel into Heaven, I Got One That Oughta Go

I realize that the most recent entries haven't exactly been laugh-a-minute riots, but sometimes life just works out that way.

This entry is no exception.

I was saddened to learn last week that one of Atlanta's best local artists, Uncle Mark Reynolds (who was also a personal friend) died on Septermber 11 of a heart attack. The man had a voice that could make the ground tremble and Tom Waits wake up and take note.

And he was the nicest damn musician I ever met.

I used to work at the Corner Cafe in Carrollton, and he'd play there quite a bit in the mid-90's because he'd gotten his start in Carrollton when he was in a group called (appropriately enough) Ashley & Mark. He'd always ask me to work the door even if I was off that evening, and he'd give me a cut of his earnings. It was never much, but it was the thought that counted.

Later, when I began teaching GED classes at local jails, Mark volunteered his time to visit my classes and talk about writing poetry and music. He'd usually end up by giving an impromptu concert.

He wanted to visit my high-school classes when I taught English in the public school system, but our schedules could never work out. Again, though, it was the thought.

I hadn't seen him in a few years when I heard about his death. I knew he was overweight and had had a heart attack about three years ago, but I didn't realize he'd been given only three years to live (at least he made his curtain, but you'd think he could've been late just this once).

I realize that most of you will never have heard of him.

You've all missed out.

Try to find his album Hammers Hum. It's nowhere near as good as a live performance; all his anecdotes and stories have been edited out, and you lose the effect that is his voice without the aid of a microphone, but it's all you can get now.

Goodnight, Mark.

Sleep well.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

When I had been divorced about a year, I lived in a cabin in the woods of Bowdon, Georgia. I think on some level I wanted to get as far away from other people as I could. Since being an English professor forced me to interact with others at work, I spent most of my private life holed up in my cabin doing my best to play hermit. Basically, I went to work, taught my classes, and made lame excuses to my girlfriend in order to sit in my living room eating cereal and watching static on the TV (there’s no cable in the woods, and I couldn’t see the profit in satellite).

Sometimes I read a comic book.

It was a quiet life, and if not ecstatically happy, at least it was simple.

Three years ago, I walked into work and watched two buildings in New York get knocked down. Perhaps you heard about this. Nineteen young men had wanted to share their dissatisfaction with us, so they took flight lessons, confiscated some commercial jets, and took them for a spin. We all saw it. Message received.

Turn on the TV today and pick a channel. Even Animal Planet will have some mention of September 11. You can’t miss it. Everyone will talk about how their life changed just by watching the Twin Towers explode. At least a dozen people will use the phrase “changed [the world / my life / everything] forever.” You know what I’m talking about. They do it every year now. 9/11 has become a combination of Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Ash Wednesday. A day we all stop and reflect on how shallow we used to be and how much we’ve changed and a day in which we renew our vow to stop terrorism by glaring at anybody who doesn’t agree with us. You’re either for us or against us.

Truth be told, I didn’t really feel anything watching CNN that day. Hell at first, I thought it was an advertisement for a new movie starring The Rock and Nicholas Cage. When I thought about it at all, I felt empty inside. I don’t know why; I just did. There’s something about watching disaster on television. It’s frighteningly easy to forget it’s real.

“This changes everything,” a co-worker, Bill, said. We had cancelled our classes, and faculty, staff, and students had gathered in one of the rooms to watch the news.

“How?” I asked. “They won’t hate us anymore?” I didn’t really think two buildings meant that much to the world.

Everyone said the world would never be the same again, but the sun went down just like always. Admittedly, it was a little chilly that day, but September is a chilly month, even in the South.

After work, I went to my girlfriend’s house, and we watched it there, too. A tourist had videotaped the whole thing, so we could watch it from new angles now. Gravity worked exactly the same, even on video tape. There were also live shots of policemen and firemen sifting through the rubble. I think they found some sculptures because I remember thinking that at least we had made out a little better than Pompeii .

“This changes everything,” Tina said.

She hugged me tightly before I left for the cabin. She wanted me to stay, but I had lesson plans to do and some papers to grade and a cat to feed. Also I couldn’t remember if I had made the bed that morning. So, you know, I had to go.

When I got home, my caller ID was blinking red. I turned on the static and poured myself a bowl of Froot Loops. When the static was over, the caller ID was still blinking. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I looked to see who had called.

All it said was “September 11, 2001 2:18 PM, New York, NY” and a phone number that in no way looked even vaguely familiar.

I dialed it, but all I got was some guy’s voice mail. “Hey, it’s me. You know the drill. Leave a message.”

I sat down in my chair where I caught myself reflected the darkened television screen. I still had the phone in my hand, so I tried the phone number again, but the guy was still out.

I thought about some guy buried underneath one of those buildings. In my mind, I pictured a guy about my age. He probably had brown hair, too. I think that’s the most common shade of hair. Chances are he wore glasses just like mine, wire rims being all the fashion in corrective eye-wear these days. I wondered if he liked to read. Maybe he even had a funny name. He was pretty lucky not have died when the floors started folding in on themselves like an accordion. I could imagine that he knew this, though. I could see him sitting in an air pocket buried deep underneath the ground and praying, even though he hadn’t been to church in years.

In my vision, he had forgotten about his cell phone in all the excitement, and he was a little surprised to find it tucked into his jeans pocket just as he had left it when he walked into work this morning. I bet he had a wife or a girlfriend, and his first impulse was to call her to make sure she was alright; after all, he couldn’t really get himself out of the hole, and he needed to talk to somebody. He was probably as surprised as I was to find he had a signal this far underground. Hell, I can’t get a decent signal in an elevator even. I suspect he was a Sprint customer. I assume his girlfriend, I figured her name was Betina or something, wasn’t home or maybe she was trapped somewhere, too. If so, her phone wasn’t working or she didn’t have a signal. I figured she had Verizon like me.

He probably called his family next, but couldn’t get anyone there either. He may have tried friends and / or co-workers after that, and by early after noon, he was starting to panic. I pictured him punching in numbers randomly trying to reach out to anyone and tell them where he was. Eventually, he dialed up my number.

And like his wife, his family, his friends, and his co-workers, I wasn’t home.

When I tried the number again, I didn’t even get the voice mail.

That’s when it became real for me: Sitting in my living room in a cabin in the woods staring at my phone and not hearing the voice mail message from across the country. I felt smothered and claustrophobic, and scared. I felt like it was me in that air pocket, only I wouldn’t even get a signal to call out (I have Verizon). I don’t know that I would have thought to call anyway. I wondered how many other people had tried to call loved ones and strangers from the rubble. I envisioned phones ringing all across the world, and no one answering.

But the phones still rang, still tried to reach out for help even though hope was slim.

I couldn’t shake the sound of telephones in my head, so I got back in my car and went to Tina’s apartment. I curled up next to her in bed tried to sleep.

I married Tin a couple of years after that, and we make pretty good family. Sometimes my stepson and I yell at each other, but it’s usually over fairly quickly. Tina and I have arguments just like any married couple, but we don’t ever stay mad a long time. I love my family, and most of the time I feel safe and snug as a bug with them.

Sometimes, though, I remember “New York, NY” on my caller ID and not hearing the voice mail, and I remember that the world isn’t safe. They still hate us, and we still hate them, and neither one of us can really say why. Like children, we stand our ground and point our fingers and say “he started it” as if that justified anything we do to each other.

But nobody steps in and forces us to shake hands make up.

There are many things I forget. I often forget to read ahead before I teach a novel in class. Sometimes I forget to grade essays. I have even been known to forget to attend class . . . even when I’m the professor. At home, I forget to do the dishes. I almost always forget to change the cat’s litter box. I forget to set my alarm and the VCR. I forget to get my oil changed and my tires rotated. I forget to exercise and eat right. I sometimes forget to tell my family that I love them. I forget to call my grandmother, and I forget to call my dad. In fact, it might be easier to list the things I remember, but that’s not really what I wanted to dwell on today.

While there is an almost endless number of things I forget, there are a few things in my life that I wish I could forget. I wish I could forget the first time a girl cheated on me or the first time I ever cheated on a girl. I’d like to forget the day Elisa Soriano, the first girl I ever thought I loved, was put in the ground. I also wouldn’t mind forgetting the day we buried my grandmother or the day we buried my grandfather. I wouldn’t cry if I forgot the day I found out my best friend’s father had died, which was about two weeks after his funeral. I wouldn’t hate forgetting the series of events which led up to the dissolution of my first marriage. I’d dearly love to forget the day, almost two decades ago, that my mother and I parted ways over yells, screams, and tears.

If I got to choose, though, I’d gladly erase “New York, NY” from my caller ID.