Old Friends & Facebook

I missed the Durham High School Class of 1970 Reunion recently. I was officially a 70's graduate even though I was a bone fide '69er by heart. I graduated in 1970 --it's a a long story and has to do with sex, drugs and Rock 'n Roll. Not much sex and drugs. And more soul than R&R, come to think of it.

There's just something about reunions...I don't go to my college reunions, either. And Good Lord, there has never been a family reunion that included my shadow. I guess I want to be remembered as young and full of spit and vinegar, like James Dean or Elvis. I'm not making that comparison, mind you, but whatever I was it ain't what I am now.

I like remembering the girls beautiful, innocent and pink-cheeked. With tight skirts. And tight sweaters. In their prime. Forever. Willin', but psychologically unable, unless you lived on Orient Street and then all bets were off. How I envied that panache.

One beautiful lass who corresponded with me via FB wrote "Oh, Tommy, the drummer with the Beatle haircut!" Goddamn, I hope that's not all she remembers. My memories of her (of us) are more...cerebral.

And the boys, I want to remember them cruising in pristine GTOs with red line Uniroyals, thanks to Daddy financing the ride. Or in a three speed on the column four-door Plymouth that was more than ten years old, if Momma stayed home and didn't work, too. Or my pal's MG Sprite.

In my dreams these boys wear Madras Gant shirts that would bleed, Scotch grain Weejuns and Corbin pants a little too tight and short in length. An Arnold Palmer alpaca sweater for every day of the week. With color co-ordinated monograms on the collar of a Gant 100% cotton button down. Smooth... Sixty days same as cash at the Young Men's Shop or Van Straaten's. Daddy just needed khakis or one suit and Momma had her house coats. There was a weird pecking order. Still is. What are your kids driving?

Facebook is an interesting phenomenon. I'm beginning to understand that Boomers and even their moms and dads are embracing FB as if it were Tops Drive Inn, The Blue Light or Honey's. If you went to DHS in the late 60's you remember those places. See and be seen. Keep up. Ride around in that GTO. Awesome.

Tell us everything! In detail. Via the world wide web.

I just finally replied to two wonderful people who sent me a FB message some time ago. Back in March I think it was, I was dragged kicking and screaming to the FB sign up page. I don't even remember who it was that browbeat me into signing up, but at the time it seemed like a fun thing to do. "You can re-connect with your high school friends." I can? After forty frickin' years? A little creepy, maybe. But that's just me. And I can't explain why.

Still, I owe a couple of replies. To good, good people. That I admire and remember fondly. I really would like to do the Facebook equivalent of screamin' and shoutin' and signifyin' about just how grand things were/are. But I can't. I don't know why. And why I can blog without that dread is a mystery. Do any of you 69'ers or 70's folks remember Antigue? In the Hi Rocket? Maybe that's why bloggin' doesn't seem as creepy to me as Facebook. I'm a columnist at heart, I guess. An observer of wonderful nows and thens. And tomorrows. Not so much a participant as an observer. At least not now.

So, just please know that now that I've put this blog address "out there", via Facebook--if you land here and read this (whether I've replied to your message or not) I cherish our mutual memories, our collective place in time, our quddity, our essence. High school was a bitter-sweet time for me. Maybe better for you. I hope so. It is what it is.

And this I know: I am nothing without you all. I know that. And I relish in it, every everything, and I absolutely and positively bask in the priviledge of knowing you, being some small part of your life, "back when" and in being remembered by you. But I won't be on Facebook anymore.

James With A "J"


Thursday Already?

Remember when, after we made love
You gave me tokens,
Circle-toothed love bites
On my ass and thigh.
Well, they are all gone.
Annon. Duke Student Poet
Early '70s


History Of The Middle Finger

Here's something someone told me while we downed cheap beer and chicken wings in a local bar. Now that I know it, I feel compelled to send it on to my intelligent friends in the Blogosphere.

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew".

The English defeated France and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew!" Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative 'F', (don't ask me; I have no idea) and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute. It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as 'giving the bird.'

I have no idea if this is true, but I like the picture. So pluck it.


Another Thursday

For him it was a dark passage which led to ... nowhere, then to nowhere, then again to nowhere, once again to nowhere, always and forever to nowhere, heavy on the elbows in the earth to nowhere, dark, never any end to nowhere, this time and again for always to nowhere, now not to be borne once again always and to nowhere, now beyond all bearing up, up, up and into nowhere, suddenly, scaldingly, holdingly all nowhere gone and time absolutely still and they were both there, time having stopped and he felt the earth move out and away from under them.

Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls


Nine One One

On a beautiful, crisp early fall morning,
In a place where if you can make it there
You can make it anywhere,
Hate melted steel.
And flesh.

Hate evaporated dreams.
Eliminated the future.
Negated the beautiful baby that could have been
And wasted the wondrous gift of potential of those already born.

On that glorious day, full of promise
And anticipation for a thrilling rush of action and adventure that only the Center of the World could offer,
The thrill was not
Getting cross town in one piece, on the cheap.
The action was not
Closing the deal,
Trading the market for prop desk pennies, or
Finally winning three card Monte.
Adventure was not
Buying a Rolex in front of Macys or
The forty dollar burger at 21, expensed,
Nor a perfectly tailored suit at Paul Stuart.
Not even scoring a perfectly laced bit of heroin
Or arranging a tryst at The Plaza.

The thrill became a frantic call for instructions on how to save your life.
Stay put. Help is coming.
But only from the grace of God
Who holds out the promise of eternal life.
The reality was a swan dive from the 40th floor after a cell phone goodbye.
Or burn to death.
The rush was a Pompeii ash-covered dash across a bridge,
Away from the collapse of Humanity.
The action was choosing to climb the stairs with your air tank and hose.
Or not.

In a blue lagoon sky at 30,000 feet the All-American form of valor and resolve
Steeled to meet the hate straight up and take it down,
With forearms shielding off the slash of box cutters in the rush,
Lest there be one more petulant explosive purge
Of religious rage, where unknown.
Take the hit for the nation.
One Nation, under God,
With Liberty and Justice for all.

Let’s roll, one said—
An ordinary fellow, ordinary no longer
And extraordinary into eternity,
Who would stand as Man of the Year,
A symbolic proxy
For all his ordinary fellow passengers and crew,
Whether Time said so
Or not.

And so a hallowed, sacred, scarred field
Was formed to forever celebrate
The memory of untrained, unarmed warriors
Who blunted hate with no more than
Resolve, reached through the innate understanding that
This cannot stand
And bravery born in part to the resignation of approaching death.

All this, while in a five-sided bunker dedicated to war, peace and security—
In what order no one remembers,
The unambiguous symbol for America’s military might is targeted perfectly by
Someone who never learned to land an airplane—
Just how to fly it,
As what was to become another missile
Buzzes the Interstate, providing motorists
A brief yet brilliant 3-D shot of the red, silver and blue weapon,
Maybe looking like red, white and blue in all of its speed,
Thus, creating a seminal personal horror
To pass down through their generations.

And inside the bunker the management of might is in progress.
Young Marines stand guard in elegant dress blues with red-striped trousers,
Uniforms that are too beautiful for war.
Middle management military, draped in bland tan
Work quietly and with purpose
While the Generals, decked out in fine-cut olive worsted
And the Admirals, resplendent in blue surge or virgin white,
All weighted down by
Medals of Valor, some won on the backs of young grunts
And some well-deserved,
Are chauffeured in golf carts.

There are civilians there, too;
The Raytheon rep, dignified in tropical weight charcoal,
Although he can no longer button the coat thanks to his entertainment budget.
No match for the young Marines erect in their finery.
The civilian staff wears what they always wear.
It is just another day at The Pentagon.

For all in the bunker, it is the uniform that defines you.
It is a wonder that the young Marines are not in charge.
But today the uniform is meaningless.
All may as well be swathed in feathers and scales.
Because they are all sitting ducks.
Fish in a barrel.

No one stood at attention to portray their indignation
At being before a firing squad.
There was no skirmish between the foes. No hand to hand combat.
No defensive or offensive maneuver.
Just one airplane pretending to be a heat seeking missile.
And then that awful, awful explosion of hate.
The rest is known.

And so,
On a beautiful, crisp early fall morning—
At 8:46 and horribly again at 9:03 to be exact,
In a place where if you can make it there
You can make it anywhere, hate melted steel.
And flesh.

While soon after, from a blue lagoon sky and in a five-sided bunker
The day continued, all this misanthropic mayhem signaling a New Time
And a New Way.

The rest is yet unknown, except that we are at war
Whether Time or anyone else says so
Or not.



The Auto Parts Art of John Corbett

I have two pals that, to my dismay, spend lots of time sending out emails that...well, that we could do without. Except for the 30 slide Powerpoint of "The Beautiful Women of Europe" and such like.

Too often it's an email of an old joke, a picture from that Wal Mart spoof site that shows all these goofballs shopping, or some "pass this on or else" kind of thing that speaks of the seriousness of cancer, stroke warning signs or support for the troops.

Maybe I should tell these guys about how easy it is to start a blog.

I don't "opt out" because they are distant friends--one retired and one who should know better--and once in a while one of them sends along a real gem. Or a 30 slide Powerpoint of "The Beautiful Women of Europe" and such like.

The Art of John Corbett is one of those gems. I'd plop a picture up top to tempt you further but when a fellow that's good with a blow torch says don't use his pictures without written permission I take him seriously.