Monday, September 27, 2004

A Decisiveness - An Acceptance ... sort of ...

Last night Hubby and I had a talk, a genuine talk that I didn't let escalate into an argument. It was hard listening to some of the things he had to say. All of it was important, but two things really stick out - they made me wince with pain and a strange sort of acceptance.

1) I can't take silence any more. Silence drives me insane any more. If the radio, TV, or music in general isn't playing to fill up the silence, then I'm agitated and aggravated.

I used to love the stillness of the house, though. I used to love the most quiet places in the libraries and bookstores where I could just simply get lost in the story I was reading at the time, or, if I was home, probably writing too.

I have sat for hours just reading and being quiet, marking time with the passing of the sun or the ticking of a clock when it would enter into my consciousness. Now something like that is enough to make me go bonkers.

It has been well over a year since I've been able to handle the silence.

Mommy died in silence. We all were so quiet beforehand as not to disturb her, because the event was such a strange thing for us to have to face, go through.

Since then I haven't been able to take the silence of any place, really. There just seems too much of it.

2) I don't have a certain sense of determination I used to have, a certain fire. That one really hurt. Not because he said it, but because it's true. There was a time when I absolutely couldn't fathom letting anyone or any thing winning over me, making me defeated. Now I just move along quietly and hope the wagon doesn't get over-turned instead of trying to find a way of getting down the slope, or collecting what I need to survive. I was determined to succeed at everything I undertook, and now, I just really look to surviving.

What does all of this mean? I'm not really sure, except, I know it needs to change. Hubby was right - if I don't do something with all of my writing I have nothing more than a very expensive hobby. One that is partially tearing me apart and yet helping me to possibly re-create myself.

I'm not at all sure how to get the old fire back. Maybe it isn't something I should get back, maybe it should metamorphose into something different, something stronger and more mature than what it has been in the past.

I know I want peace in my life, but, I am not peaceful. I have never been a "peaceful" person, but I have been a "happy" person milking joy out of every moment. I want that again. Sometimes I think I almost have it, but it slips away into so much smoke after a day or so.

It is time to figure out how to begin again, not just begin the writing again, but begin everything again. Begin looking at myself with joy, at my home.

For the first time I really want a pretty house and I want it to happen as much as possible through my hand. There is a part of me terrified at the enthusiasm of it all I genuinely feel. This is a different thing, totally alien to my usual nature.

I've started working toward changing it, though. I got up today and went straight away and washed my face and brushed my teeth. Usually I wait an hour or so, but not today. Why? Because Hubby asked me when was I my most happiest. There were several things that have now popped into my head, and one of them was just meeting him, getting to know him, and wanting him to see me as beautiful. Another was a time before I decided to go to college. Another time was when I was learning in college and I had a regimen in all times of doing that - getting up and immediately washing my face and brushing my teeth, even if it was before eating, and I would brush them again.

I have to fully accept the changes in my life and figure out how to keep going. Grieving does not mean the end of my life - I suppose now begins the hardest chore of re-building my life.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Some Helpful Ideas for Helping Others with Grief

Currently I have come to the conclusion I am still grieving and the grief will pass ... eventually. At last I am not actively looking for an end to the grieving, but am finally able to accept what I am currently going through. There are more good days now than there are bad ones, and my life is slowly going back into place.

Hubby found something that he brought me recently that I would like to begin sharing with you Dear Readers. It has some good advice for helping those who are grieving in fresh grief, and it helps with those, perhaps, at my stage of grief as well. So, for this week, The News will be covering a bit about grief and living again.

1. Be patient with the one grieving. How hard that is sometimes for us, because we so want to help them.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

An Up-Coming Birthday

Tomorrow is the 25th of September. The 25th of September is my Mommy's birthday. She would have been 86 years old this time.

Each year at her birthday as many of us as possible would try and gather together for it. As the end drew nearer the need to be with her on her birthday was a driving force for me.

Last year it nearly tore me apart realizing she wasn't with me ... us ... any longer. This year I hope things are different. I hope I can view the day with quiet happiness for having had her in my life as long as I did, and to honor the life she lived.

How am I going to honor her? I don't know. I've thought of lighting a candle for her on her birthday or having a special service done in her honor at Church. I may begin my Winter Project on that day. In whatever way it happens, I hope, on the 25th of this month - tomorrow - I can smile at happy memories instead of weep at her passing.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Anne Rice gone over the deep end?

I am a writer and I love praise. I would love to be able to write everything and have it published, but I am well aware not everyone is going to like what I write and, hopefully, when I make it big I won't do this:

Anne Obrien Rice (New Orleans, LA United States) - See all my reviews

Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon's willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you've said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people's books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren't even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words "wide readership." And you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I'm justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you? Now to the book. Allow me to point out: nowhere in this text are you told that this is the last of the chronicles, nowhere are you promised curtain calls or a finale, nowhere are you told there will be a wrap-up of all the earlier material. The text tells you exactly what to expect. And it warns you specifically that if you did not enjoy Memnoch the Devil, you may not enjoy this book. This book is by and about a hero whom many of you have already rejected. And he tells you that you are likely to reject him again. And this book is most certainly written -- every word of it -- by me. If and when I can't write a book on my own, you'll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art. Back to the novel itself: the character who tells the tale is my Lestat. I was with him more closely than I have ever been in this novel; his voice was as powerful for me as I've ever heard it. I experienced break through after break through as I walked with him, moved with him, saw through his eyes. What I ask of Lestat, Lestat unfailingly gives. For me, three hunting scenes, two which take place in hotels -- the lone woman waiting for the hit man, the slaughter at the pimp's party -- and the late night foray into the slums --stand with any similar scenes in all of the chronicles. They can be read aloud without a single hitch. Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem. There are other such scenes in this book. You don't get all this? Fine. But I experienced an intimacy with the character in those scenes that shattered all prior restraints, and when one is writing one does have to continuously and courageously fight a destructive tendency to inhibition and restraint. Getting really close to the subject matter is the achievement of only great art. Now, if it doesn't appeal to you, fine. You don't enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I'll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I'm answering you, but for what it's worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses. Now, to return to the narrative in question: Lestat's wanting to be a saint is a vision larded through and through with his characteristic vanity. It connects perfectly with his earlier ambitions to be an actor in Paris, a rock star in the modern age. If you can't see that, you aren't reading my work. In his conversation with the Pope he makes observations on the times which are in continuity with his observations on the late twentieth century in The Vampire Lestat, and in continuity with Marius' observations in that book and later in Queen of the Damned. The state of the world has always been an important theme in the chronicles. Lestat's comments matter. Every word he speaks is part of the achievement of this book. That Lestat renounced this saintly ambition within a matter of pages is plain enough for you to see. That he reverts to his old self is obvious, and that he intends to complete the tale of Blackwood Farm is also quite clear. There are many other themes and patterns in this work that I might mention -- the interplay between St.Juan Diago and Lestat, the invisible creature who doesn't "exist" in the eyes of the world is a case in point. There is also the theme of the snare of Blackwood Farm, the place where a human existence becomes so beguiling that Lestat relinquishes his power as if to a spell. The entire relationship between Lestat and Uncle Julien is carefully worked out. But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book. There are things to be said. And there is pleasure to be had. And readers will say wonderful things about Blood Canticle and they already are. There are readers out there and plenty of them who cherish the individuality of each of the chronicles which you so flippantly condemn. They can and do talk circles around you. And I am warmed by their response. Their letters, the papers they write in school, our face to face exchanges on the road -- these things sustain me when I read the utter trash that you post. But I feel I have said enough. If this reaches one reader who is curious about my work and shocked by the ugly reviews here, I've served my goals. And Yo, you dude, the slang police! Lestat talks like I do. He always has and he always will. You really wouldn't much like being around either one of us. And you don't have to be. If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at And if you want your money back for the book, send it to 1239 First Street, New Orleans, La, 70130. I'm not a coward about my real name or where I live. And yes, the Chronicles are no more! Thank God!

So, what do you think? Has she gone over the deep end? And no, she didn't use paragraphs. It is all stream-of-consciousness writing and rebuttal: it is not a "crafted" reply.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I'm Curious

According to the FCC the breast exposure of Janet Jackson is a fining offence. If she had been white would it have gone so far? This so smacks of censorship to me.

If you look at everything on TV and how the envelope is pushed every day, why does this matter? There are women wearing thong bikinis on TV and on Las Vegas they were touting a new "topless pool" for the hotel just Monday. A woman walked away and you could see the outline of her breast quite plainly. Is it the nipple that makes the difference?

If a woman wears pasties and her nipple isn't exposed, you can view that on TV. If not, well, just the outline and knowing she has her breasts exposed is fine.

More and more I am beginning to believe this big todo over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" is prejudiced. Britney Spears can get away with see-through clothes, but she is supposed to be so "pure" and Janet Jackson is one of the more saner acting people I've seen on TV so far. If she was white what would it have mattered? The blame would probably have been focused on Justin Timberlake for misconduct!

Hubby said, "If the envelope is going to be pushed, it needs to be done away with." I agree - if you're pushing an envelope the size of it is going to have to change.


Sorry, Dear Readers, no fiction for today as I have been quite under the weather of late and no musings to place before you either, because still feeling under-the-weather-ish today.

I did come up with a question though.

Who would win in a fight WonderWoman (my personal favorite) or Supergirl?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Flavors of Fall

Yes, very late with The News today. I apologize Dear Readers. Your editor and main contributor to The News has been laid low by a very nasty something, but am sitting up now and looking at tomorrow with some hope of feeling better - not just dreading it.

As I slept (all day), I had strange, sick dreams. Sick as in "caused by feeling horrible", not sick as in a cat and an elephant getting it on. In one of my dreams, one of the more realistic ones, I was making caramel apples.

I only want caramel apples in the fall and winter. It is sort of one of those seasonal treats you either love or can leave behind. Except for caramel apples I'm afraid I have not viewed Fall with an eye of love because the leaves begin to fall and soon it will be very cold and everything will have a grayness to it, even in the brightest of sunshine.

Since I am now sitting up and viewing Fall's arrival and Winter's approach, I am going to try and enjoy every season, not let the gray of Winters coming destroy my spirit.

Monday, September 20, 2004

An Orthodox Fortune Cookie

Went to a Chinese restaurant yesterday. Hubby opened his fortune cookie and what came out was a rather Orthodox Christian sounding fortune.

"Pray for what you want, but work for the things you need."

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Even At a Festival I Can Find Stickers!

Last weekend was the Roots & Heritage Festival here in Lexington, KY. The Roots & Heritage Festival is a black festival (sorry, not going to be politically correct here for a moment, will give reason soon) and the vendors come from all over. Many are from Gambia, Nambia, New Guinea, Ethiopia, and many other African nations. There are also some from Atlanta, New York, Washington, DC, and other states as well.

Their wares are laid out everywhere. One of the most interesting ones I saw were of beads. Since I and Hubby are beadcrafters, we stopped longer with these stalls than others and spoke with the vendors for a longer time.

Music is loud and of varying types such as gospel, hip-hop, rap, Old School 70's, and my ultimate favorite reggae. How they all mix so well is unbelievable.

We usually go to the Roots & Heritage Festival every year because Hubby is black and I am white (though with a black soul as his mother says). The people are always exciting and exciting to behold with authentic African clothing and you can hear the beauty of their native accents in their voices. The Roots & Heritage Festival is one of my favorite festivals to go to here in Lexington, and it grows larger year after year.

I love everything about the festival, and so does Hubby. We walk and look at each stall and usually end up staying to listen the first night, Friday night, to the blues concert.

The people in the crowd and the vendors as well, do not call themselves African-American, unless they have literal African-American dual citizenship. They call themselves "black" Americans and this festival is a celebration of who they are and what they have accomplished. It is a very positive thought pattern, and the people are positive and filled with life.

Whites go to the festival as well, and there are differing degrees of attitudes. Some look at the festival and find it very "unique" because it is so "black" and "free" and "wonderful to behold." There are others who roam and look and make no difference and call no difference to anything and enjoy everything about it. Another set is the "hippie-ish" set that roam and buy and have terrific fun.

This year at the festival I saw Hispanic and Asian faces as well, and it was great to see. They accepted everything with joy and presence and you could tell they were having fun.

At the festival this year, I just enjoyed it from top to bottom and roamed and spoke to many and had fun just being with Hubby. We bought a few things on Friday and were getting ready to leave when I saw a Kerry/Edwards table. I stopped. Not because I wanted a yard sign, not because I wanted a button, but because I saw Kerry/Edwards stickers.

What did I do? I went over and got two of them! Then, the next day I went back and got two more! Am I going to actually use them to tout my support of Kerry and Edwards? Heck no! I'm going to put one in my new paper journal that will begin probably around November, and then I will put the others in my sticker box (as soon as one can be procured)!

Life is good when you find stickers in the most unexpected places.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Soap Opera Time Is Heading This Way

I'm not one who watches soap operas on a constant basis. They tend to bore me, except in the fall and winter as the weather is changing and I am usually sitting in the living room working on my craft projects in the afternoon after writing all morning. It is a special "geeky me" time.

All through the summer the TV is rarely turned on during the day because I am busy with so much else - writing, reading, research, going out places, and, of course, playing with the animals. In the winter, this routine changes and I stay a little more quiet and closer to the heater because of arthritic joints and pain.

I am not one who stays quiet mentally and even though my hands may be busy doing something, my mind must have something to grab it every so often just to keep my hands working. It seems my mind never slows down or shuts off for very long at a time. Hubby says I have a problem relaxing. Maybe I do.

All I know is that when the winter comes, in order for me to keep working on my projects, my mind needs a little extra fluff to occupy it and slow it down enough in order to get my wonderful craft projects done. So, that means soap operas are playing in the background.

Yeah, really sappy background noise to keep some part of my girlie brain occupied while I can work on my quilting this year.

You know, I'm looking forward to it this year. Sort of like a power-down for a little while.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Today Hubby was looking for batteries to go into a flashlight (he has decided that, on his vacation, he is going to remodel as much of the bathroom as he can - more on that later).

"So, how many new batteries did you put in your camera?" Hubby asks.

"Two," I say.

"And your camera doesn't work, Right?" he said, drawing ever nearer my camera.

"Yes, it does," I said. Hubby stopped advancing on my camera.

Since I was very young I have been something of a shutter-bug. I always was taking pictures of things I found very interesting, and my Mom and Dad were convinced I was wasting film.

As I grew older I became an even bigger shutter-bug and took tons of pictures, but, like most semi-adults I never took the roles of film to the developer so I never got to see what my interesting pictures turned out like. Then, lo and behold, Hubby gave me a digital camera and the world changed!

I didn't have to go to the developer to see my pictures! They were right there on the computer for me to see and edit and when I wanted I could save them to disk and take them to the developer and have hard, tangible copies of my photographic eye. So far I haven't done that because, well there didn't seem to be a need in it.

Now, I'm wondering if it isn't time to work on getting some hard-copies of my photographic eye and put them in a scrapbook of sorts. Although I can share my pictures with all of those that have a computer (and most everyone does), sometimes it would be nice to have pictures to pull out and say, "This is when we/I went to so-and-so."

I have even actually thought of blowing up some of my pictures and putting them as decorations in my home. Hopefully they will be good enough that people won't laugh at them.

It seems my creativity is going out in several different directions and calling me forward to explore so many different avenues.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A New Book on the Horizon

I believe I have stumbled into a novel.

Hmmm, that didn't come out exactly right.

I believe I have stumbled my way into writing a new novel.

Much better.

You see, I had this story idea. A good story idea. So, yesterday I started writing on it. When I finally was exhausted from working on it, I was up to the beginning of Chapter Five!

So far the chapters are very short with breaks that are working absolutely beyond wonderful. I can see, hear the characters. I can glimpse, a little, things that are just around the corner, so my own attention and interest is really intense in the action.

Admittedly, the "action" hasn't really started yet, but the excitement of what could be happening is there. Questions need to be answered and I know the setting where the majority of the story is going to take place.

We have friends betraying, nay torturing friends, and a love interest that, well, seems plausible.

As with much of my writing, I don't plan very far ahead because I like to be surprised. Unlike most of my writing, this one has an ending I can glimpse. Getting there is the fun part, at least for this character and story.

Oh, and I'm re-reading a very interesting book. One I may post excerpts from here. It makes me go .... "Whoa! I didn't know that!"

Much is happening and much is going wonderfully so far on the writing front.

Forward! Hoooooaaaaahhhhhooooo!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fiction: A Reasonable Man

Here is a story a little different from what The Kentucky Mountain Girl News usually posts. It really caught my attention. Jack Thrift is a new author and I'm sure he would love feedback on his piece of work - so tell us what you think. Enjoy!

A Reasonable Man
By Jack Thrift
Copyright (c) 2004 by Jack Thrift

When the kid in the Camaro outside Dessie's Movietime opened his car door into Frank's Lexus, it didn't have to be a big deal. It was a simple mistake, anyone could do it. But as Frank looked at the kid, expecting an apology, the kid narrowed his eyes and puffed out his chest, a look that said, "Yeah, I hit your car - so what?"

And that did it.

The kid was all of nineteen or twenty. He was wearing low-riding shorts and a tank top that showed skinny white arms and a sweep of pimples across his shoulders. Look at his face and you saw this was the kind of kid who wanted you to think he was angry at the world and wasn't taking shit from no one. Frank looked at me.

"You want me to grab him?" I said, behind the wheel of the Lexus.

The kid stepped into the Camaro and fired the engine, setting off a humping bass beat from its stereo that vibrated the rearview mirror of the Lexus.

Frank sighed. "Nah."

I looked at him. "You serious?"

He shook his head calmly and took a sip from his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. "I want you to follow him."

"Christ, you had me worried there."

The Camaro whipped back and tore out of the parking lot, hitting a right on Howard Avenue. I took my time backing out, and pulled into traffic about five cars behind.

"Little bastard probably damaged the door," I said.

"We can have Larry look at it, fix it up, no problem. It's the principal of the thing."

"Yeah, I hear you."

"I'm dead serious about this. Everybody and their mother's been shitting on me all the sudden. I got to do something to end that streak, know what I'm saying?"

"Yeah, I believe I do."

The Camaro was riding a Jeep's ass. When a little space opened up in the right lane, the Camaro swerved over and started bullying a Caprice. The thump of the bass made heads turn on the sidewalks. It pissed me off, this kid acting like he owned the streets. I wanted to knock some of the attitude out of him - that, and maybe some teeth.

Frank hunched over suddenly and ballooned his cheeks. I braced myself, thinking he was going to puke, but instead he opened his mouth and out came a belch like a whole yard of burlap tearing right down the center. The car filled with the sour stink of beer and stomach acids.

"Jesus Christ, Frank." I swished at the air in front of my face and lowered the window.

"Put that shit back up," he said.

I gave it a few seconds, and then raised the window. The smell was making my eyes water. Since ten o'clock this morning, Frank had been hitting the booze. I'd found him on his couch wearing his bathrobe and nothing else, splashing Wild Turkey over a glass of ice. I'd sat on a chair in front of him, trying to ignore the way his knees were spread, and suggested we take the day off, give him time to nurse his broken heart and float his liver in booze. But Frank said no. He'd be damned if he'd let some chick affect business, even if that chick happened to be the love of his life, the woman he'd let slip through his fingers because he was nothing but a lousy, selfish prick who didn't know how great he'd had it until she called it quits last night - saying all this with his chest hitching like he was holding back tears.

Then he shook his head as if to clear it and said, "Fuck it. Let's roll."

Now he was slouched a third of the way down the seat, his eyes flaring with raised capillaries, the skin of his face haggard and drooping. He'd brought himself to the brink of inebriation but couldn't seem to take the plunge, despite the number of beers he pounded. We'd been driving around for a few hours, visiting a few of our guys that worked at the pier and dropping by the state pen to say hi to his uncle doing twenty-five to thirty for armed robbery. If Justine's breaking up with him hadn't depressed him enough, seeing his uncle in the orange jumpsuit behind the glass reinforced with chicken-wire had more than done the trick. After that, all he wanted to do was rent some chick-flick called *She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not*, the one his ex, Justine, had begged him to watch with her though he never had. In his present melodramatic funk, that movie had come to represent everything he'd done wrong in their relationship; if he'd just listened to her more, done some of the things she wanted to do, maybe she never would've left him. I listened to his moping and tried not to roll my eyes.

"He's taking a right," Frank said. "Where's he going?"

"He's got a U.S.F. sticker on his back window. If he's going all the way out there, forget it. I'm not driving that far."

"The hell you're not." Frank shifted in his seat and finished the can of Pabst in three big swallows. He belched again.

I shot him a sidelong glance. "How can you drink that shit?"

"My old man used to drink this when I was growing up. He used to give me baby sips."

"All right, but do you think you can keep the can down? There's cops all over this area. Might be good to practice some discretion."

"You let me worry about discretion."

The light on Armenia and Cypress went yellow, and the Camaro shot through it. I got stuck behind a minivan and missed the light.

"Shit," I said.

"Go through it," Frank said.


Frank pounded the window with the meaty underside of his fist and said, "Go through it, you piece of shit."

I gripped the wheel tight enough to feel the muscles all the way up my arms.

My job as Frank's right-hand man included looking out for him, being his better judgment when his own brain wasn't functioning as it should. Maybe it was time to call it quits for the day, turn around. Frank would be pissed all right, but he'd get over it, and he'd probably thank me later when his thinking was clearer.

But the thing of it was - I didn't want to let the kid get away. Frank was right when he'd said everyone was shitting on him lately. Not just Justine, his ex-girlfriend, but everyone working for Carlos - they were all treating him like yesterday's news. This new crop of thugs Carlos was recruiting; they were all muscle and no tact - brutes, to use Frank's word, which had no use for the wisdom of their elders. In their presence, Frank was a dinosaur, a lumbering brontosaurus. They were the future, and Frank's days were numbered - he knew it, so did I.

I owed Frank a lot. I'd been with him for twelve years, the two of us working under Carlos the whole time. And I wanted Frank to have his moment with this punk in the Camaro. Who knew? Maybe it would be just what he needed to give him back some of his old fire.

So I pulled around the minivan and darted through the red light, causing cars on either side to scream to a halt and blare their horns. Frank grabbed the armrest and pushed himself into the seat, bracing for a crash. When we made it through, he was whooping and beating the glove compartment with his fist.

"Yeah, fuck you, too," Frank said to the other cars, and laughed.

The Camaro was a few blocks ahead, stopped at a light. I heard the engine revving, loud because of the excised muffler. I kept us back, hitting the brakes a little to let a car fill the gap between us and the Camaro.

"What're you going to do to him?" I said.

Frank furrowed his brow and hooked a finger at his lips. "I hadn't even thought about it. You bring your piece with you?"

I shook my head. "Didn't think I'd need it." I thought for a moment. "We got those tools in the trunk. We could fuck him up pretty good with those."

"What, you mean, like, torture?"

"Yeah. What?"

"Nothing," Frank said. "It's an idea." He dipped into the box between his ankles and pulled out another Pabst.

"How many is that for you?"

"Never mind. Just keep driving." He cracked the beer open and sucked off the foam that wormed out.

We passed a sign for I-275, and the Camaro moved into the right lane.

"See, I told you," I said. "He's going to U.S.F."

"So follow him."

"On the interstate?"

"Jesus, what's with you? Always with the fucking whining lately. Just do your job and stop being a bitch."

I got in the right lane a few lengths behind the Camaro. The drive to U.S.F. would take at least another fifteen minutes, probably more given that I-275 was still under construction. I got headache thinking about the traffic.

But then the kid took a right, down a side street about a block away from the on-ramp for I-275, not headed for U.S.F. after all. I eased on to the brakes and crept to the corner, so I could sneak a look down the street before I turned. The Camaro was already burning it pretty good down the road.

"There, you whining bastard," Frank said. "He ain't even going to U.S.F."

I took the right.

It was a brick road, lined on both sides by wide-porched houses with crumbling facades and parched, yellow-spotted lawns. An old black man stood by the street with a hose in his hand, directing a spray of water at a row of very dead azaleas by the sidewalk. The look on his face suggested he was well aware of the futility of what he was doing. His eyes flicked up at us as we passed, but his _expression remained fixed.

The Camaro angled to a stop down the street under a spectacular oak tree whose boughs bore down like a nimbus cloud. Under the tree's shadow, the taillights of the kid's car glowed like demon eyes. The Camaro huffed with one last rev before the engine cut and the lights winked out. The stereo ceased with its pounding bass. I parked against the curb a couple houses down the street.

"What do we do?" I said.

"We watch. I want to see what our man's doing here." He took a slurping sip of beer, made a strained face. "Christ. I got to piss."


"Well pretty goddamn soon."

The door of the Camaro opened and our boy stepped out, wearing wrap-around Oakley's. He slammed the door and hot-footed it to the porch of the house, opened the screen door and rapped his knuckles against the wood, then stepped back with his body propping the screen door open.

Frank said, "What do you think? College kid, out here in the ghetto - it's got to be drugs."

I grunted noncommittally.

The front door opened and the pale face of a teenage girl poked out. Even from this far away, I could see the piercings all over her face. Her hair was black with a purple sheen, like a crow's feathers.

"Check this out here," I said. "Kind of cute."

"She's a freak. Look at her. Who's she trying to impress with all that metal in her face?"

The girl stepped back and the kid followed her into the house, closing the door behind him.

"What now, chief?" I said.

"Let me finish my beer and think on it."

Frank slurped his beer and belched and wiped his sleeve across his glistening lips. I hit the button on the side of the seat to recline the back, just enough so I was looking up at the boiling leaves of the oak tree and the pieces of sky that filtered through the branches. This was an old Tampa neighborhood, built back in the late forties, early fifties sometime after the war when all the young couples eager to procreate and spit out babies needed starter homes. It must have been a fine sight then, the big porches full of people eating barbecue and drinking beer and laughing, happy to the point of giddy because for a while there the world had been in turmoil, but now they could go on with the act of living and being young. It made me sad for some reason. Not that the neighborhood had gone to shit - these things happened. No, it was something else.

Frank finished his beer and smashed the can in his fist. He put it back in the box between his ankles.

"You ready?" he said.

"What's the plan?"

"Grab the crowbar," he said, opening his door.

I stepped out and popped the back with the button on the key chain, then found the crowbar nestled in the hideaway under the trunk's carpeting. When I slammed the trunk, Frank was standing there, bracing himself against the side of the car. His face was red and shining with greasy sweat.

"Hey, boss," I said. "You okay?"

He mumbled something incoherent.

"Why don't you sit down - c’mon?"

I made to open his door, but he hooked me by the collar. "Don't treat me like some goddamned invalid. I'm fine, just need to catch my breath."

I waited. He straightened up and rolled his head around his shoulders, then used his thumbs to crack his knuckles one-handed. He gave me a nod.

"You sure?" I said.

"Would you shut up with that already? I'm fine."

He started off and I caught up with him.

"I'm not trying to give you shit, Frank. I'm just looking out for you. My job."

He ignored me. His breath was coming out in a ragged, bubbly wheeze that triggered a frenzied coughing. He turned his head, hocked his lungs dry, and then blew a wad of phlegm at the base of the oak tree.

"Nice," I said.

"Yeah, fuck it."

Then we were up the stairs and on the porch. We looked at each other. Frank pulled the screen door open and knocked. We waited. He knocked again.

From the other side of the door came the squeak of sneakers on hardwood. Frank motioned with his chin for me to take his place, and as I did, he moved to the side and planted his back against the wall. I combed my hair with my fingers and cleared my throat.

"Who is it?" said a young woman's voice.

"Yeah, uh, I'm sorry to trouble you ma'am, but I accidentally hit the car parked out front of your house."

She was silent a moment. Then: "The Camaro?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid so."

The slide and click of a lock disengaging; the door cracked open, and I hid the crowbar behind my back. Her face stuck out. I smiled.

She was pretty, in a pale, queen of the vampires kind of way. It was her eyes that made her lovely. They were big, soft pools with aquamarine centers. Look in those eyes and you could almost forget about the steel glinting like shrapnel from her ears, eyebrows, nose and lip.

"That's Jimmy's car," she said.


"My boyfriend." She bit the side of her lip and rolled her eyes. "Well, it's his brother's car actually. Jimmy drives a Tacoma, but it got, like, totally demolished a few weeks ago in an accident." She sprang to her tiptoes and peeked over my shoulder to get a look at the Camaro. "It doesn't look so bad. Where'd you hit it?"

"I barely nicked it," I said. "Say, do you think I could I speak with him? Your boyfriend?"

"He's taking a shower." She looked me over. I was wearing an oxford button-down and khaki chinos – Mr. Professional. She grinned and swept her arm behind her, apparently deciding I was harmless enough. "You want to come in and wait?"

Frank emerged from the shadows and displaced me with his body. The girl had time to register shock before Frank pushed her into the house. I followed them in and shut the door.

"What is this?" she said, her eyes darting from Frank to me, back and forth.

"Shut your stinking mouth," Frank said. He took the place in - dark wood floors with a mangy Oriental rug. A battered couch and a flat-screen TV. His eyes stopped at a clear acrylic bong, its bowl packed tight with fresh herb, sitting on the coffee table.

The girl was backing away from us. When she looked at me, I tried to inject some measure of apology into my eyes. But her eyes didn't stay on me long enough to catch it.

"What do you want?" she said.

Frank sighed. "What did I just tell you about your mouth?" He snapped his fingers at me and motioned for the crowbar. I gave it to him.

I was feeling juiced. Some shit was about to go down, and this time it would turn out in our favor. My blood was humming, making me itchy, ready to pound on something.

"Go get that piece of shit from the shower," Frank said to me without looking away from the girl. "I'll stay here and entertain, uh...what's your name, darling?"

Her voice didn't seem to work at first. Her lips trembling, she finally got it out: "Clarissa."

"Just relax, Clarissa," Frank said, flashing a toothy smile, "We don't intend to hurt you. Have a seat on the couch there."

I followed the sounds of splashing and singing down the hall to the bathroom. The door wasn't closed all the way, and I pushed it open enough to stick my head in.

Jimmy, our guy, was behind the shower curtain, the top of his spiky head poking up over the rod and under the spray from the showerhead. He was singing something familiar to me, and I found myself singing along in my mind, trying to get a name on the tune. I knocked on the door. Jimmy stopped singing.

"I'll be out in a second, all right, babe?"

I stepped into the steamed air and closed the door, then leaned into it and crossed my arms. Jimmy started singing again. I cleared my throat.

"Didn't you hear what I said?" Jimmy said. His head poked out from around the edge of the curtain, and his eyes went wide.

"Don't let me stop you, Jimmy," I said. "You've got a kick-ass voice."

His face pinched together in rage. "Who the fuck're you? How'd you get in?"

"You don't remember me?"

"Nah, dog, but you got like two seconds to get out 'fore I come out this motherfucker."

I was on him in two strides, snapping the curtain away, backhanding him across the cheek, twisting from the hips to make the blow really count. I knew it was a good hit because the back of my hand caught the shape of his teeth through his cheek. He made a sound - "hoomph" - and fell to the tub, grabbing the curtain and bringing it down with the popcorn sound of plastic tearing from the curtain rings. I turned off the cold water, leaving the hot valve on, and Jimmy screamed. I let him writhe and boil for a few seconds, using my foot to keep him from leaping from the tub. Then I turned the water off and told him to get up.

His eyes were squeezed shut. His teeth were bared in agony. I slapped him again on the cheek.

"Hey, fuck-o," I said. "You hear me? Get up."

He slowly rose to his feet. I averted my eyes at the sight of his dick, bright red and swollen like blood sausage. I handed him a towel, telling him to put it around him.

"Where's Clarissa?" he blubbered.

"Shut up. Let's go."

When he had the towel wrapped around him, I pushed him to the door.

"Hurry up," I said.

His head started shaking. I felt pretty certain he'd fall apart any second now. Just hold on, Jimbo, I thought. We ain't even started yet.

We found them sitting next to each other on the couch - they could have been old friends catching up were it not for the look in Clarissa's eyes and the crowbar laid across Frank's lap. Frank grinned at the sight of Jimmy.

"Hey, son, remember me?" Frank said.

"He don't remember us, Frank," I said.

"That's a shame." Frank rose and sauntered toward Jimmy, letting the end of the crowbar thump the floor with each step. Jimmy backed himself against a wall.

"I don't got the money," Jimmy blurted.

Frank and I started, looked at each other - money? I opened my mouth, but Frank stopped me with a raised finger - stopped me just in time, in fact, as I was about to say something stupid like, "What money?"

"Where is it? Where's the money?" Frank said, jumping into character so easily it made my scalp prickle.

"I told Lou, we weren't able to collect."

"I don't believe you, Jimmy."

"Jimmy?" came Clarissa's voice. "Sweetie?"

"Shut up," Frank said to her.

"Please, don't hurt him," Clarissa said, voice trembling.

"We're here for the money, Jimmy," Frank said. He lifted the crowbar, spread his legs, and took a batter's stance. "I'm going to start breaking some bones 'less you start talking."

Jimmy held out his hands and started blabbering: "I'm telling you, man, the dude didn't have the money, he just skipped town. I swear to God, you can ask Lenny, we did everything we could; we just don't know where the fucker went."

"One," Frank said.

"Okay, listen, all right?" Jimmy said. "You can take anything in this house. It's all yours. Shit, I'll help you load it into your car."


"Please, dude, put that shit down and talk to me." He was about to start crying. "Oh, man, don't do it, please."

"Three." Frank cocked the crowbar across the back of his shoulders and stepped in for a swing.

"Wait!" Clarissa launched to her feet. "I'll tell you, just don't hurt him."

Frank paused, the crowbar in a quivering hover, Jimmy holding up his hands and shrinking away in anticipation of the blow. They stayed frozen like that long enough to almost make it funny. Then Frank lowered the crowbar and worked his shoulders, saying, "That's more like it."

Jimmy slid to the floor and hugged his knees. "Don't let them take my money," he said, addressing his lap. "Oh, man, please."

"Where is it?" I said to Clarissa.

She was crying. She fell back to the couch.

"Hey," I said, moving toward her. "Look at me." She did. "Where's the money, or my boss here's going to bust open your boyfriend's head."

Through her tears, she said, "It's unner-a huss."

Frank and I looked at each other, shrugged.

"You mind repeating that?" Frank said.

She took a breath. "It's under the house."

"You mean, like, under the house?" I said.

She nodded.

Frank turned to Jimmy. "Why don't you show me where, big boy." To me: "You stay here with the lady, keep your eye on her."

Jimmy turned his head up at Frank. "You're not going to take all the money, are you?"

Frank smirked. "That's a ridiculous question and I'm not even going to answer it. Now get up." Frank prodded him with the crowbar.

I sat on the couch next to Clarissa as Frank steered Jimmy in his towel out the front door.

After a moment, Clarissa said, "Are you going to kill us?" Her eyes had gone soft and distant, focused ahead of her on nothing.

I shook my head. "Long as Jimmy shows my boss where it's stashed, you got nothing to worry about."

She propped her elbows on her knees and lowered her forehead to her palms.

“Don't expect me to feel sorry for you," I said. "This is the chance you take when you keep money that's not yours."

She didn't say anything. I leaned back and crossed my feet over the coffee table.

"This is none of my business," I said. "But your boyfriend is a real shit."

She sniffed.

"You're a pretty girl, you know? You could do a lot better than Jimmy."

She lifted her head and glared at me. "Fuck you, okay? You can take the money, fine. You can hurt us if you want, okay. But spare me your fucking advice."

It caught me off guard, the way she said that. "All right. Take it easy."

Her eyes were still brimming with venom. "We had plans for that money, you know. We were going to start a new life, get away, far away from people like you. Not that you care about it."

"If it makes any difference, I regret doing this to you. Your boyfriend on the other hand...¦" I stabbed my finger in the direction of the door. "He's got it coming."

She turned away, looking disgusted. For a while, we just sat there. I could hear Frank's voice filtering through the cracked window behind the couch, but I couldn't make out the words.

Clarissa stirred beside me, and all of the sudden, I had this impulse to put my arm around her. Strange, I know, but I wanted to tell her it'd be all right. My chest felt tight. I traced the outline of her body with my eyes. I leaned toward her, not much, just enough to catch the smell of pot smoke and banana shampoo coming from her hair.

"There's something you should know," I said. "About me and my boss and how we got involved with your boyfriend."

She held up a hand. "I don't even want to hear about it."

I wanted to tell her anyway, but before I could get another word out, Jimmy came through the front door with Frank tailing him, the crowbar resting on his shoulder, a gym bag carried at his side. They were both dirty, presumably from rooting around under the house. Jimmy had a look on his face like a man who's just discovered his whole family disowned him. He sat down in an overstuffed chair by the TV and crossed his arms, his bony knees jutting up from under the towel.

"Have a look," Frank said to me.

I stepped over to him and peeked into the gym bag. It was full of bills, all twenties from the look of it. There must have been a hundred grand there, at least. For a few seconds, I couldn't breathe.

Frank clapped me on the shoulder and handed me the bag. He regarded Jimmy with a wide grin and nudged me with his elbow. "Well, what do you say? Think it's time for the punch line?"

I looked at Clarissa, then at Frank.

"You want to tell him?" Frank said. "Or me."

"You go ahead," I said.

Frank beamed. He took a few leisurely steps around the room, his eyes on Jimmy. "You ready to shit yourself, Jimmy?"

"Look, dude," Jimmy said wearily, "do what you got to do, I don't care anymore. You going to break my legs, beat me up, whatever."

"Jimmy, listen to me," Frank said. "Are you listening?" Jimmy looked at him. "Good. Now look at my partner and look at me very closely. Do we look the least bit familiar to you?"

He shrugged. "I don't know."

"I drive a gray Lexus. Ring any bells?"

Jimmy looked confused. He shook his head, but in his eyes I could see it, the creeping realization.

"How about this," Frank said. "The video store on Howard. You returned some movies there today."

It hit him. His furrowed brow went smooth. "No shit!"

Frank spread his arms and grinned.

"What?" Clarissa said. "What's he talking about?"

Frank said, "Do you want me to explain Jimmy?" He turned to Clarissa. "I'll explain. The thing is - we didn't know shit about your money until Jimmy opened his stupid mouth about it ten minutes ago. We're here because your jerk-off boyfriend opened his car door into my Lexus and then proceeded to act like an ass about it."

Jimmy's hand went to his forehead, hiding his eyes. "Oh, Christ," he said.
"Know something, son?" Frank said. "I'm a reasonable man. If you'd've been decent about it, apologized for banging my car, offered to pay for any scrapes, we never would've followed you, and me and my associate here wouldn't be walking out with your money. But no, you had to be a tough guy, have an attitude about it." He looked at Clarissa. "This is the kind of boyfriend you have, darling. Remember that."

Jimmy was looking at his lap and shaking his head.

Frank looked at me and angled his head at the door. "You ready?"

I nodded. "Yeah, let's hit it."

As I walked through the front door, I cast one last look at Clarissa. She was hugging herself and looking at the floor.

"Take it easy," I said, for some reason, and she blinked her eyes.

Back in the car, Frank released a victory howl and pounded his fists on the ceiling. We looked at each other and smiled and then laughed, and soon we couldn't stop laughing. I had trouble inserting the key into the ignition through the blur of tears in my eyes. On the way down the street, we passed the same black man watering the same dead azaleas, and he gave us the same blank look.

Frank talked my ear off the whole way home. I'd never seen him so animated. He talked about old times and how he wished his associates from way back when could've been there at Jimmy's place to see him in action.

"How much you think is in there?" I said, patting the gym bag in my lap.

He shrugged. "We'll count it and split it up back at my place."

I stared at the bag. "I don't want any of it." I thought Frank would flinch, but he didn't.

"You'll get your share. I'm not going to argue about this."

"Neither am I," I said.

I coasted to a stoplight. Frank dropped his hands to his lap. He shook his head slowly.

"Take the money," I said. "Go down to the Keys or somewhere. Enjoy yourself."

”Retire," he said.

I didn't object at the term. What passed between us then was an unspoken understanding that came from years of working together. He smiled, but his eyes remained distant.

"This ain't exactly enough to retire on, you know," he said.

"Try to contain your gratitude," I said. "And don't act like you haven't been saving up to quit the business. Just think of this money as the icing on the rest you got stashed away."

He grunted. After a while, he said, "What about you?"

"Me, I'll be fine. Carlos still needs me. Besides, it's past time I started doing things on my own."

The light turned green.

"Maybe you're right," he said. "Plus, I like to end things on a high note, and what could be better than what we accomplished today." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Christ, you'd better hit the gas a little more. I got to piss like you wouldn't believe."

"One thing I was wondering about," I said, pulling forward. "At the house back there. I figured you'd've broke Jimmy's jaw or at least worked him over a little. You barely touched him."

"I didn't have to. I took away his money. I made him look like a fool in front of his lady. He'll probably never recover from it."

I saw his point. "So what's on the docket now?" I said.

"Now? Now we go back to my place and watch the chick-flick I rented."

"Nuh-uh, I don't want to watch that shit."

"You're going to watch it with me and you're going to enjoy it on as many levels as I do." He laughed. "I may be old, but I can still mop the floor with you."

"Yeah. Right." I smiled back at him grudgingly. "You sure you wouldn't rather watch some ESPN."

"Nope. Not today."

I nodded my head and said, "You're the boss."

Frank smiled. "For a little while longer, anyways."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Winter Project

When I was growing up and at home, my Mom and I always decided what we were going to do through the winters. I couldn't get out like a lot of people because, well, cold makes me hurt (what a strange moment this is for me for everyone to know the truth) and she wasn't a winter person at all. So, the weekend after Labor Day we would decide on what our Winter Project was going to be.

Sometimes Mom decided on making a quilt or clothes and I would sometimes decide on a crochet project or a cross-stitch project. We would work on these all the way through the winter, because winter is long and it needed to be a project that wouldn't get finished all that quickly and occupy our time.

One year Mommy taught me how to hand-quilt a quilt the old mountain way. We first embroidered each and every square of that thing (it took more than a winter for this one, we began in July that year) and then we sewed each and every one of those blocks together. Then we quilted it.

I can't tell you how many times I pricked my fingers making those little quilting stitches. Sometimes I would quilt and then Mommy would quilt, and sometimes we were both quilting on it at the same time.

As always, Mommy had her cup of coffee near by and her beloved cigarettes (those horrible things killed her), but she was happy. I was happy. We were both happy.

Daddy would check on our progress and compliment us and say little things like, "That's going to be a prize winner there!" Or, "I bet that will be the warmest quilt ever!" He always knew what to say at times like that. Mommy would just beam, and, much to my surprise, so would I.

Well, Labor Day has come and gone and I have decided on doing a Winter Project of my own. It was a tradition my Mom and I had, and, quite honestly, I believe it is a good idea for me to keep it up.

Last year it hurt too much to decide or think about a Winter Project. It hurt so deeply I was positive I would never be able to take a deep breath again. This year, I am going to do a project.

What am I going to do?

I am going to do a quilt and a lap quilt. I am a little nervous about it. I've never done a quilt all by myself before. I am excited and nervous about it. I hope Mommy looks down on me from Heaven and tells me where I'm messing up, and I sure hope Daddy can give me those wonderful encouragements.

Most of all, I want Hubby to do it, too. I want him to be just as proud of what I'm doing as my Daddy always was. That isn't bad, is it? To need that unconditional approval?

Monday, September 13, 2004

A Big Confession

I am 43 years old. No, that isn't the confession - this is: I have rheumatoid arthritis. I was diagnosed with it when I was 2 1/2 years old. My first clear memory is of sitting on our old nagahide brown couch in my living room with Mommy kneeling beside me. I was crying because it felt as if each and every joint, especially my right knee, was being torn apart. Mommy was crying and saying, "Tell me what it is, baby. Tell Mommy where it hurts." The problem was, I couldn't. I didn't know how to make the words sound or tell her it was my "knee" or anything else. All I could do was cry in absolute agony and pain. I was 2.

I was in and out of hospitals so much from that point forward really. I was given up to die many times and was told at the age of 6 I would not live to be 18, which sent my Mom into fighting fits.

Now I am 43 and have survived this long only because of the Grace of God and because I just couldn't give up. Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let me because they wouldn't let themselves.

Again the pain is reaching that unbearable stage and I am having a horrendous time making myself pick up the pieces and fight on.

Today was a breaking point for me and I had to make a decision: Do I just go ahead and let myself accept "the inevitable" condition I am going to be in? Or, do I buckle down and start fighting again?

It would seem the answer would be a simple one, but it wasn't, isn't.

Pain has a way of robbing you of your vitality, your desire to keep going and living. It robs you of everything that makes you who you are and especially who you want to be. All that really matters, after a while, is that the pain just stops. It doesn't matter how it stops; all that matters is that it stops.

I am weaker now than I have been in a long time. I am going to have to discover a way of keeping going, taking the pain and keeping going.

I want to live. I know that. I want to live and live as pain free as possible, yet what cost is this going to be? How much pain am I going to have to endure in order to strengthen my muscles and hopefully move just a little easier without all the pain? I'm not so sure I can do it, really.

Hubby says I can. Hubby wants to become a natural medicine doctor, not just to help me, but to help others.

All my life all I have wanted to be able to do, when it really boiled down to everything, was to be able to beat the crap out of someone who called me a "cripple." I am not a cripple. Cripples are people who give up. I was determined that if you were going to give me a title call me "handicapped" because that meant achieving something through difficulty.

Today I almost let myself slip into "cripple" mode and I hated it. A wake-up call? It was far more than a wake-up call. It was a realization that all of my discipline and all of my hope had really vanished. I'm not sure where it went or when it went, but it was gone.

I have to fight this again. I have to go through the pain and make myself stronger. I have to find a way to live and be happy, but there is this nagging little voice at the back of my head that wonders if I can really do it. Can I do it ... again?

I'm not a young girl any more with the stupid impression I can over-come anything if I just work at it hard enough. But, if I can't "overcome it" can I at least find a way to live my life with as little pain as possible, and without having to take as much pain medication as I would really need in order to have the pain stop (so far my medications are Bextra, and occasionally some Ultram for pain, and a little muscle relaxer). Nothing I am taking now is going to give me relief totally.

So, I guess the only thing left for me to do is to try and figure out a way of living, of moving, or being happy with this new horrible phase of pain. How can it hurt so much when I have so little joint material left?

I think I am going to seriously look into tai chi and qi gong and begin again, pick up, not where I left off, but the very beginning.

I am so tired of pain, Dear Readers, and, I ask your indulgence that, if, within the next few days and weeks I speak of troubles and pains that you be understanding and an occasional word of encouragement wouldn't be so bad along the way either.

Getting back into the world of the almost-pain-free is going to be just as much a mental game as a physical one, and I fear myself to be rusty.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

When Did War Become A Game Of Shared Information?

I am a wee bit confused. Are we in a war or aren't we? When has war been fair? You know the saying, All's fair in love and war?

In an article in the New York Times for September 9th, it appears the U.S. Army and the CIA are squabbling over prisoners.

Now, as I have stated before - I am not in favor of this war, but I support the men and women of the military. They are the ones who are fighting, dying and getting injured over there by simply doing their job, a job our country and President sent them to do.

In the article Army Says C.I.A. Hid More Iraqis Than It Claimed, by Eric Schmitt and Douglas Jehl, The House Armed Services Committee is looking into these allegations. In short, the CIA was being the CIA by keeping certain prisoners off of rosters for the Red Cross.

"Army jailers in Iraq, acting at the Central Intelligence Agency's request, kept dozens of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities off official rosters to hide them from Red Cross inspectors, two senior Army generals said Thursday."

The article goes on to say the CIA "Under the Geneva Conventions, the temporary failure to disclose the identities of prisoners to the Red Cross is permitted under an exemption for military necessity. But the Army generals said they were certain that the practice used by the C.I.A. in Iraq went far beyond that." I'm sorry, but that's the CIA, what is anyone supposed to do about it? Aren't they the elite, the scary people, the Men In Black, the service division no one else can touch usually?

One character in particular had an interesting code name "Triple-X". I'm sorry, but if he was good enough to get the name, shouldn't the CIA have had control of him? Images of Vin Diesel just can't help but flow into my mind. Could the U.S. Army hold a "Triple-X" character? And whose to say Triple-X wasn't a double agent? (I am a writer after all.)

"The disclosure added to questions about the C.I.A.'s practices in Iraq, including why the agency took custody of certain Iraqi prisoners, what interrogation techniques it used and what became of the ghost detainees, including whether they were ever returned to military custody."

Hmmmm, let me see, isn't the CIA well-known for its "interrogation techniques"?

I'm sorry, but I read the article and found myself chuckling. It is almost as if some grandmother somewhere in a military uniform was sitting back saying, "You kids play nice with one another now!" The CIA is doing nothing different from what it has always done, and what Army General or other Army official is going to tell one of the scary guys, "No you can't have this guy." It just doesn't make a bit of sense.

I don't want the prisoners mistreated, but I'm looking at this pragmatically. Come on people, grow up! Bad things happen in war. Do you think the Iraqi forces are having committees making certain their prisoners are all accounted for or giving all of the names to the Red Cross? I don't think so. Doesn't anyone remember those missing from the Korean War and Vietnam? Yeah, those wars gave us back all of the POWS and MIAs, right? If you believe that, I have some beach front property in Arizona for you to look at. I'll sell it cheap.

The complete article can be found here. Why don't you read the article and tell me what you think?

Friday, September 10, 2004

Some Thoughts On Some Research

Being a writer it seems I am always researching one thing or another. Some of the things I've researched have been ants and atom bombs as well as the feasibility and usefulness of a space way-station on the moon. All of them have been, to me, interesting pieces of information and have given me tons of ideas for further stories and sometimes even poems. (I believe I have a poem somewhere about ants, but, well, it wasn't very good and therefore hasn't seen the light of day, i.e. shared with others.)

Today, however, a new subject popped up for my research, and it was started by a religious question. For us Orthodox, September 14th is the Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. So, this coming Tuesday we have a very special service (and the "feast" is really a very important "fast"). My question was "So what do I really know about this most important day?"

I sat down and thought and thought and thought some more and realized my knowledge of this day was far lacking. I'm an Orthodox Christian, I should know these things. Right? Well, I believe I should, so I went to find out.

Having read, and re-read the articles from the Antiochain Web Site I found myself humbled, truly humbled and would like to share some of the articles I have read with you here in The News.

The Elevation of the Precious and Life-Creating Cross of the Lord
By Archpriest Leonid Kolchev

For a long time the Cross served as the instrument of a shameful punishment, exciting fear and disgust among people, but from the time that Christ sanctified it by His Blood, it became an object of pious respect and veneration for all Christians. However, this did not become universal at once. The very life-bearing Tree on which the Lord was crucified laid in the ground for many years until it was revealed to the world in a miraculous manner.

Whenever the waves of persecutions directed against Christians died down and they emerged, tormented and bloodied, from the catacombs and caves into God’s light, signing themselves with an extensive sign of the cross, then it was that Konstantine the Great, who more than once had felt the power of the Cross, decided to find the same Tree to which the Body of Christ had been nailed. His eighty-year old holy mother Helen took upon herself this sacred task. Arriving in Jerusalem she spent much time and means to discover exactly where the Cross of the Lord was hidden. She managed to establish the fact that soon after the Resurrection of Christ the Jews had deeply filled up the crag of the Lord’s tomb, since it was a living monument of their rejection of the Lord. There, covered by rocks and all sorts of refuse, was discovered the life-giving Tree of Christ with the crosses of the thieves. In order to weaken the respect of the early Christians towards the holy places, in later times the heathen had placed idols upon Golgotha, had built a temple in honor of the shameless goddess Venus. Later it was found that a certain old Jew, Judas by name, on the basis of written family traditions, knew exactly where the Cross of Christ was hidden. For a long time he did not agree to reveal his secret and only forced by hunger and poverty did he lead the Empress Helen and Patriarch Macarius to Golgotha. Pointing to the exact spot, he said : “Here you will find the Cross of your Christ.’’

With piety, burning with impatience, the people started to work, animated by the sweet-odour emerging from the earth at that spot. Sure enough, soon there were found three well-preserved crosses which were exactly alike by their exterior shape. It was therefore impossible to ascertain which of them was the Cross of Christ, since the board with the inscription J.N.KJ. was lying separately. The perplexity was dispersed by Patriarch Macarius who said: “If Providence did not favor the leaving of the Lord’s Cross in the ground, will it allow it to remain unknown now? Will it allow us to give honor to a robber’s cross in place of the Lord’s Cross? God Himself will show us the Cross of Our Saviour.” With these words he commanded that the crosses he taken to the home of a grievously-ill woman. Here, after fervent prayer, he placed on her the crosses, one after another. The first two did not show any effect on the sick woman, but as soon as he placed on her the third cross—the ill woman immediately felt herself healed and arose from her bed. Giving praise to God, everyone unanimously recognized this wonder-working cross as the Lord’s. It was pleasing to the Providence of God to reveal new glory for the life-bearing Tree. Just at that time a dead man was being carried to burial past the house of the woman who had been healed. Filled with faith, the Patriarch, in the presence of the Empress and a great multitude of people, stopped the sorrowful procession and began to lay the crosses upon the dead man. And the same one of them which gave health to the sick woman, resurrected the dead man. to the indescribable joy of the surrounding populace. All those present could not be controlled in their desire to venerate the precious Cross and kiss it. Since this was impossible because of the tremendous gathering of people, Patriarch Macarius stood upon an elevated place, and with help raised the Cross high in the air several times so that it could, at least, be seen by all. Bowing down to the ground with piety, the people cried out : Lord, have mercy!’’ It is from this festive act of the raising or elevation of the life-giving Cross of the Lord that today’s feast received its name. In this glorification of Christ’s Cross, His very enemies were forced to give it veneration. Judas, with whose help the Lord’s Cross was found, received Holy Baptism with the name Cyriacus and, little by little, being elevated in the degrees of the Priesthood, later occupied the place of Patriarch of Jerusalem, and later still was made worthy of a martyr’s crown.

What is the later history of the Cross of Christ and where is it now found?

In the year 614 the Persian King (Shah) Khosroes captured Jerusalem and along with other treasures abducted the Tree of the Cross. After 15 years when the Persians were defeated, the Cross was returned. At the triumphant meeting of the returned Cross the Emperor Heraclius, himself decided to bear this treasure from the Mount of Olives to the Church of the Resurrection. At the gates of Golgotha, however, some invisible force stopped him and the more he tried the stronger was the power that held him back. Then it was revealed to the Patriarch in a vision that it was not right for the Emperor to go in such majesty and brilliance where the Saviour Himself, carrying His own Cross, went in such poverty and humiliation. The next day. having divested himself of his footwear and extravagant raiment, dressed in simple clothing, the Emperor took the Cross upon his own back and without any hindrance carried it to the Church. This was 14 September of the year 629. Later this Cross was taken apart in particles by the Faithful and today there is not, it would seem, any country where particles of this most precious sacred object is not preserved in churches and even by individuals.

And Christians of the whole world piously honor this life-bearing Tree.

‘‘It is worthy and right to venerate Christ’s Cross,” says Saint Demetrius, the Metropolitan of Rostov. “for through this blessed Tree was death slain and life granted.” “This sign.” teaches another prelate, John Chrysostom, “both in former and present times opened closed door’s, removed the power of ill-bearing substances, made poison ineffective, and healed the mortal bites of beasts.”

Come, faithful, let us bow to the Cross of the Lord lying before us and, following the example of the ancient Christians, let us say with compunction : Lord, have mercy! Through the might of the precious and life-creating Cross, save us sinners. Amen. *

* A sermon by Archpriest Leonid Kolchev. Translated by D.F.A.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Technical Difficulties

We here at The Kentucky Mountain Girl News have been having horrible technical difficulties. OK, me, just me - I have been having horrible technical difficulties. Hopefully, those difficulties are in the past now, or at least delayed for a good while.

I downloaded Windows SP2 and found it totally discomboobilated my CPU. I had pop-up after pop-up, people and ads were able to come in through back doors which was never a problem before, and I was blocked from Napster, one of my daily pleasures while writing.

After working with tech support from MSN and from Napster, they were stymied and said they simply didn't know what to do, but they would figure something out. Napster I believe, and I believed the tech guy who helped me over an hour on the phone one night, but on a whole, I don't believe MSn because, well, they haven't always followed through on their promises to me in tech support. Maybe they are better.

Still, in order to get back on-line I had to do a system restore for over a month and was prepared to reformat my hard-drive if necessary, but the system reboot and a few careful choices of cleaning, did the trick. Now I am back on-line and doing much better.

My nerves are also not all ajangle as they had been.

I did not realize just how much I depend on the computer and the Internet until this little problem arrived. The thought of being without a computer for a number of days was horrifying. Why? Because this is where I spend much of my day - typing, creating, surfing for much needed information, and then going back to writing. It is a pleasurable circle that keeps my world safe, secure, and easier to handle so that when other problems arise, at least the computer is a safe haven.

Am I addicted to it? No, I've gone several days without getting on the Internet in the days before The Kentucky Mountain Girl News, but now, it seems I am always somewhere on-line and doing much to keep things orderly at least in this little corner of my world and life.

Not having a computer and the Internet for me would be like a painter not having brushes or paint with which to paint, or a canvas to put them on!

However, I do not have to concern myself with those things for now. I have my music, the Internet, and the screen I need in order to go exploring the worlds of my own imagination.

Life has been restored to its orderly state and I am once again happy, and much less nervous.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Labor Day Ruminations

I never fully understood why Daddy always looked forward to Labor Day, until this past one.

You see, my Daddy was a coal miner in the Appalachian Mountains. He worked as a coal miner all his life, and even a foreman in the mines of Kentucky. Labor Day was a big deal for him because it meant he had a day off - and he never had a lot of those when I was growing up. Labor Day he was guaranteed a day off and a three day weekend at that!

We would always grill out, have friends over, and my Daddy would kick back on the porch and just relax. His laughter would fill the house, the yard, the park, wherever we were.

Nine times out of ten we had one of my uncles (his brothers) with us and their families. It was a celebratory occasion. It was a time to reflect, in part, on his life, because, by the time evening came and he was getting prepared to go to work at 5 am (he had to be there by 5:30 AM) he was quiet, but usually smiling.

Most of the other girls never caught him smiling in his quiet way. They were always bustling here and there, but, somehow, I was always there when he gave his quiet little smile. It was a smile of accomplishment.

This past Labor Day hubby relaxed. It was the first time he relaxed in a while, and it was splendid to behold. Hubby gets up at 5 AM to go to work in a position he doesn't deserve, and does his job with pride and steady reliability. He reminded me of my Daddy so much in his quiet smile last night as he prepared to get ready for a new day, a new week of work.

Like my Mom, I wanted to make sure he enjoyed Labor Day the way he wanted. I came pretty close to it. And hubby, well, hubby enjoyed himself.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Words of Wisdom

"The interactions of sounds and tones are like
The five colors that enhance each others:
Although they dwell and vanish by no common rule,
And their tortuous, intricate ways permit no liberty,
Yet if a poet masters the secret of change and order,
He will channel them like directing streams to obtain a fountain;
but once a false move leads to reckless indulgence,
The end and the beginning are thrown into confusion,
Celestial blue and earthy yellow confounded,'

Wen Fa