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

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.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

I'd just like to take a moment to apologize to my dedicated readers for the long delay in posting. My life has been relatively uneventful and quiet the last few weeks. I'll return as soon as something interesting happens.