Thursday, September 07, 2006


Katrina: one-year anniversary: is it evidence of the death of magic?

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On the other hand, I've got a ghost under the magic castle where I live. I photographed a very unusual moth, and the ghost's head showed up clearly in the photo. If you want to see it, let me know; it may take a few minutes to download.

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For $1 from the shelves of sales items at the big Half Price Books store in Dallas, I found a copy of William Kennedy's novel "Ironweed." The Pulitzer-winning novel tells the story of a homeless man, with various lives and his memories and realities, trying to go home. It was a good day's read. Reading the novel reminded me, for some reason, of a dozen of my own lives, which I share below. I'm also curious about some of your lives, too. Please share.

I was an undefeated boxer, which might sound impressive until you know that I stopped after two amateur ring fights. I never actually lost a street fight, either, although there were two draws: once I hit a bully first, then he threw me against a wall before somebody intervened; once I was on my back getting pounded in the face until I got my hands around the other man's throat. There is a thrill, however wrong, of trying to drive a punch two or three inches into somebody’s skull. I do not try to do that anymore; haven’t for years.

For two seasons, I was photographer for Dallas Ballet. Mostly black-and-white film pushed a couple of stops, fast-moving dress rehearsals with two- or three-foot depth of field in the stage lights. Still photography doesn't celebrate dance; it celebrates the beauty of the dancers in the light.

One year, I entered a dozen or so racquetball tournaments across Texas (winning the Dallas YMCA championship) and eventually played in the World Senior Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is satisfaction in diving across the floor to reach the ball and hit a shot you need to make, and a smug joy in hitting a kill shot so well that it can't be returned.

As a wire service and major newspaper reporter and editor, I covered a lot of stories including, as a college intern for United Press International, civil rights in Louisiana in the late 1960s. I will not forget the stupidity of a Ku Klux Kan rally I covered as a reporter outside Baton Rouge during the summer of 1968 – the burning cross, the robes, the hate literature and language, the guns, the whole thing.

I trained as a combat engineer in 1970, learning to use a variety of explosives, other weapons, and tools, before serving at U.S. Army headquarters for Europe in Heidelberg, Germany. Once on assignment with a camera crew, I marveled in Hamlin at the German children who followed our black photographer as if he were the pied piper; they had never seen a black man. In Munich, I flirted with a young blond woman who turned out to be Miss Munich; in Hamburg, I marveled at the young woman whose t-shirt had a picture of a half-eaten apple on the front; crossing the English Channel, I fell immediately in love with a young Dutch woman. I was young, then, too; I never saw any of them again.

I was a business communication consultant for several Fortune 500 companies, trying to help them better understand their employees. Through the levels of fear-and-ego-driven bureaucracies, very little of what I worked on ever got fully implemented.

I have produced two compilation CDs (which is not nearly as complicated as really producing a CD) for not-for-profit organizations. I am pleased that I have exposed so much music to so many people who had never heard it before.

I was an emergency room volunteer at Parkland Memorial Hospital, one of the busiest and best public hospitals in the world. It is a dynamic place filled with life where sometimes people die, and we almost get used to seeing things we never want to see.

For 10 years, I have been a music critic from the perspective of someone who listens to, but doesn’t make, music. I am still learning to be a good listener.

In 1998, after more than 25 years of not writing creatively, I returned to writing poetry and short prose because I had no choice. I can still lose myself in just the right words and phrases, whether I'm communicating with myself or others

For the past few years, I've taught creative writing to adults from time to time and helped elementary and even pre-school students learn to stretch their imaginations. I love to see that light come on in a student's eyes.

My most recent adventure is as part of a small group of people trying to provide adult education in Van Zandt County, where 28% of adults have no high school degrees and GEDs, and where expectations can be very low. Last Thursday night, a young woman, a stranger, walked out of a GED test muttering, venomously to herself, "I'm so stupid." I'm still trying to figure out how to help her raise her expectations.

Today, for the first time in several years, I've actually got a change jar with a two-inch assortment of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. I consider it to be a sign of financial wealth.

Near the end of "Ironweed," Kennedy writes of the homeless man, "By now he was sure only that he lived in a world where events decided themselves, and that all a man could do was to stay one jump into their mystery."