Subject: stab from the past
Giving me the wheel to an internet search engine is probably not
as prudent as giving a monkey a machine gun. But there it is.
Like Pandora, I've opened the damn
thing and bumbled across your e-mail address and all manner of other
things. Time and distance used to mean something in the
good, old days when privacy still had some teeth. No more. On the up
side, I can perpetrate any fallacy I want to as to what's become of
me since our paths meandered apart. Yes, I have become a successful
author writing under a penname that you know too well. Or I'm living
in a large appliance carton under the interstate overpass and dining
out of the dumpster behind the Waffle House. Or something more
mundane than either.
You are not obligated to respond.
Free will is still inviolable. Use it or be at the mercy of those
Belmar (the magnificent)
Subject: reality=me+not me, a semi-quick recap
Where to begin. Suddenly the once preposterous theory that time may
be linear does not seem so absurd. Thirty years doesn't seem like
an obstacle anymore.
Firstly, congratulations on the
successful manifestation of Justin and
Cameron. No small accomplishment. If that was all you did in a
it was all worthwhile. Anything else you do is just fluff compared
bringing new humans into the world and bringing them to maturity.
Marriage is almost the ultimate
challenge. It seems that the universe
conspires to make the concept unworkable. If it's any consolation, I
never known one to work out - I could almost quit there and be
without unconditional commitment by both parties. People are laying
broken and bleeding by the wayside of life from failed marriages.
Alcoholics galore. My hat's off to you that you didn't let yours
you. Also I'm glad to hear the OG (Old Girl - African American for
still thriving. My best to her.
The picture. Wouldn't you know. It
just goes to prove my theory that we
will all be remembered for our worst thirty seconds. Although much
transpired since then, so that I only wish that were the only demon
chasing me to the grave (Well, looky there, I just painted me a word
picher. [supply southern accent]), that may be, at least, the worst
photograph of me.
I haven't been to your web site yet.
This computer is a dinosaur and
can barely manage to remember my meager ramblings from day to day,
not yet on the internet. Mostly this thing is just a workhorse, a
glorified word processor. On occasion I sit at someone else's
Then I'll come a callin'.
Strangely, over the years you and
Scot and a very few others, maybe
only one other at that, have never been very far from my thoughts.
considered contact, but wanted to wait until I did something
with which to justify my existence. Well. Arriving at the doorstep
of the millennium will have to do. I have survived this long without
climbing the Texas Tower with a long-range hunting rifle. Not as
easy as it sounds. I have made some absolutely horrendous decisions.
Why the very fabric of reality hasn't unraveled as a consequence is
nothing short of a miracle. And I have made some good choices, or,
more accurately, have not always turned to shit the good
that has come my way.
Here is as good a place as any to
outline my activities for the last earth cycle, leaving out,
naturally, everything really boring, and stuff that I really, really
shouldn't have been doing.
There was a time when it really
seemed that simple. The 'me' realm was,
of course, the center of the universe, without which the 'not me'
was meaningless, would, in fact, cease to exist. Sure, the world was
seething cauldron of human misery, but it was, after all, not me.
Material success, personal
achievement, even rudimentary amusements like
pornography were all very well, but they all seemed to take place in
vast 'not me' sector of reality. Thus I embarked on a life of
self-indulgence attempting to achieve tensile nirvana. That others
incidentally used or hurt was of no consequence. They were, after
A decade or so of this and it was
becoming increasingly apparent that
the line separating the two elements of reality was becoming fuzzy.
I pressed on. Hedonism is, by nature, a stern master. It cannot be
lightly abandoned without an accompanying revelation of
Nonetheless, even in the midst of
snoozing soundly at the wheel of my life, I experienced nodding
moments of near sentience when the implications of my doings in the
world could not be ignored or scoffed into submission. People were
getting hurt and, the cruelest irony of all, I was feeling their
Apparently there was virtually no
distinction between the 'me' and the 'not me' realms of reality. My
unquestioned personal philosophy fell to ruins at my feet.
So, next time you stop to wonder what
became of the potentially evolved but actually short-circuited
movement of the sixties, wonder no more. It was 'me' who sank it.
See, I was (am?) a microcosm, a random sample, if you will, of my
generation and, I believe, the rest of humanity. When I saw
thoughtful, caring souls experimenting with mind-expansion, human
potential, and unconditional love for their fellow humans, I
thought, Wahoo! Dope and sex!
During this period I dabbled in
illegal business enterprises and played bass for a truly awful rock
and roll band. Somehow we managed to get a few jobs that actually
paid us money, though I have no doubt they regretted it. There's a
story or two there worth the price of admission, though.
All in all it was an orgy of
self-gratification. Not that I didn't know something of loyalty and
love. I just had to acquire a modicum of wisdom (the bastard child
of guilt and remorse. I'm sure you've picked up some of it, too.
It's easily recognized because you didn't ask for it, no one else
wants it, and you'd trade it back for the simplicity of being a
happy idiot in a heartbeat if you could. You can't) before I
realized their value.
A better woman than I deserved
bestowed on me these gifts I so resolutely disdained to give. A
cosmic gift! And not the first one; just the first one I didn't use
and discard. Somehow I didn't fuck it up and in 1974 we birthed a
The world was in a state of advanced
entropy, on the verge of imminent collapse. The minions of evil were
running roughshod over a populace who were informed nightly over
their glowing holo-tubes that this was the very thing they wanted
I did what any one would do when
faced with a war for the very substance of reality, which by then I
understood was very much a majority-rules proposition, I ran like
hell. To a forty acre patch of virtually untouched Florida
wilderness on the banks of one of the few relatively clean rivers
than ran unobstructed to the Gulf of Mexico. It seemed, for a while,
like a place to make a stand.
I bought a raggedy old four-wheel
drive, International Scout and fourteen foot camper trailer and took
two days to hack and build a half mile of the three mile logging
trail into our little paradise. The first night we were bogged in a
swamp with mosquitoes thick enough to kill a half-dozen at a swat.
It was a lesson in perseverance. With a chain saw we milled some of
the virgin cypresses and supplemented by rough cut pine from a local
mill, built a pole shack where we lived for the next seventeen
Picture this: quiet, sun-dappled
palmettos, stately cypress trees, days spent fishing on the river
(hot damn, another word picher). We caught fish of all description,
catfish upwards of thirty pounds, garfish five and six feet long,
game fish by the panload. Nighttime the crickets and frogs were
almost deafening, highlighted by the guttural bellow of alligators.
Yes, the river was teaming with them.
By dark when there was no moon, we'd
take a flashlight with fresh batteries and spot their eyes glowing
red or yellow, according to gender I've been told (I've never
verified this personally) and hold them transfixed in the beam while
we approached often to with a couple of feet. Some big 'uns, too.
This and fishing was the principle entertainment we had to offer
folks who came to visit. Oddly, it was enough.
On a couple of occasions we packed up
our old canoe and made the trip down the river to salt water about
fifty miles as the crow flies but a good hundred and twenty as the
river winds. It takes only about a week, but it's a week spent in a
place and era inaccessible to the late twentieth century except by a
very few disappearing magic portals.
We discovered a spring over a hundred
feet deep so crystal clear that the
shadow of the canoe was visible and distinct on the bottom. The
spring was (we later discovered) a best-kept secret for local
divers, but since has had a paved road pushed through to it and a
concession stand built. Beer cans and cigarette butts - spoor of the
In those days, not so long ago, we
could go to the Gulf of Mexico West of Panama City Beach and drive
through a mile or two of scrub pines on sand trails, wade a tidal
lake, walk over a sand dune and be on the Gulf on a white sand beach
all day long and not see another human being that didn't come with
us. There were miles and miles of seashore wilderness. Now
there are endless miles of condos and tee-shirt shops. But we saw
the real world before, and I feel honored for it.
We home-schooled our daughter. She is
fit and independent, maybe a bit too willful, but better that than a
doormat. After a few years of training and raising horses, she is
back in school taking pre-vet courses, yet liking her
English/writing classes more. Horses are still her passion. She's
good with them and has earned a measure of local respect and
acknowledged expertise. This is, after all, farm and ranch country.
Horses are very much part of the landscape and the annual rodeo is a
major event in these parts.
But it wasn't all so pastoral. We
built to withstand flooding, but over the last few years the
flooding got worse, mainly owing to the bottom of the river silting
up from erosion upstream resulting from farming and logging too
close to the river banks. The fishing declined, and then pollution.
Not as bad as some rivers flowing through industrial centers, but
enough to taint the once clean waters of the Choctawhatchee.
It was time to move on. We emerged
from the late nineteenth century into the late twentieth a la Rip
Van Winkle. Man, what the hell have you people been doing out here
anyway? As near as I can tell, the only actual improvements are disk
brakes and computers, although giving the latter to the government
was a monumental mistake. I think history will bear me out on this.
Contrary to popular misconception, inefficiency in government is, or
should I say was, the source of freedom. Well, okay, you're right,
freedom is between my ears; it is not the province of government;
and relinquishing accountability is immature and counterproductive.
Free will, as someone once said, is
inviolable. Even if we use it just to give
it up. I, as you so bluntly stated just now, am at the wheel of my
life, even if I'm asleep at the wheel, drooling down my shirtfront,
and drifting toward the shoulder of the road (will he never stop
with these infernal word pichers). Thanks for that figurative slap
on the face. I stand corrected.
This is getting way too long, and I'm
digressing excessively to boot. It's getting late and this little
buckaroo has had a busy day. I have more or less arrived at the
present anyway and came out looking better than I deserve. All to
So what've you been up to?
Belmar (the flatulent)
Subject: Tawdry tales of a summer eve
Actually there are none, at least in
this correspondence, I just kind of liked the rhythm and mood of it.
Even here, summer seems a long way off right now. I remember Al
Penny, but not the other guys you mentioned. Whether this is due to
a few synapses falling by the wayside during some dedicated
self-indulgence: some predictable escapades and one semi-serious
motorcycle accident in Austin, Texas in which I wore a helmet and
was only knocked stupid (as opposed to dead; a perfectly good BMW
R-90 was also dashed to scrap in an instant on the red Chevette that
pulled in front of me; an illegal alien grinned apologetically and
looked confused at the mention of insurance, then wandered back over
back into Mexico) as a result, or is because I never met them, I
I have found evidence of a few holes in my memory here and there.
Yet, having had a couple of sudden spontaneous recollections of
things I would have preferred stayed buried, I count those blanks as
gifts and don't dig there anymore. Well, now there's sort of a
tawdry tale after all.
You know, I would have thought a health food store in the seventies
would have been bulletproof - a ground floor kind of thing. What
sank it? Location? Bitter tahini? Bad vibes? I know losing your
mom's house had to have been cause for a near terminal case of
self-recrimination (I had that once; it was hellish, almost
incurable, and I still suffer relapses when my resistance is low -
sort of like malaria, only not so nice), but it did provide some of
necessary to make a lifetime on planet earth complete.
Remember the recipe for wisdom. Sadly, some would say that all human
experience is necessary for that goal. Either get real busy or buy
into reincarnation. Or maybe learn the lesson vicariously via
empathy. Hmmm. Choose door number three; it's far and away the
easiest access to life experience. But empathy for Jeff Dahmer? I
guess it's better than living it.
Wait a minute, is this the foundation of that whole 'Judge not...'
thing? Rambling from your Moss Hill escapade to cannibalism to
admonitions from the Messenger all in one paragraph - that has got
to be flying flagrantly in the face of one literary law or another.
It's almost reminiscent of pot-think, yet accomplished without
chemical assistance. I guess that proves that drugs are unnecessary,
though I would feel a little better if that sort of disjointed
mental meandering were induced rather than the normal function of my
Freddy Mercury and Queen. That is impressive. Even when I wasn't
paying much attention to what was happening musically out there - I
refused to even listen to the radio for a while - I watched the
Freddy drama play out. The guy had actual courage, which is quite
different from socially acceptable public
displays of machismo, and was a ground breaker.
And never forget, it's the real serious inhabitants of the fringe
that take the heat off of those of us who would otherwise draw the
malevolent eye of the beast, which is to say, the lowing disapproval
of the herd. I offer my condolences to those that knew him and are
left poorer for his departure, but I offer heartfelt congratulations
to him for his timely graduation.
Speaking of photography, I have made a meager living off and on over
the last decade or so working for a book dealer who has three
warehouses full of books, some antiquarian as old as leather bound
Bibles from the late 1400s to more recent religious and philosophy
books and even a few picher books (my favorite!). Several years back
I stumbled across a book of contemporary photographs including one
that, if I'm not mistaken, was Tina. Yes, that Tina. However, I was
cataloging these books and packing them into boxes and lost track of
which box it was in. It's probably findable if you have a burning
desire to see it, though I suspect you have a few pictures of her
There I was baking in a dusty Quonset hut in a rural farming town in
south Alabama, and suddenly I'm looking at a face I hadn't seen in
more than thirty years. This time warp stuff is kinda fun.
Your music experiences sound positive and life-affirming as your
prose eloquently reflects. Achieving that higher musical state with
other people is a real gift, one that has always eluded me. I have
played with other folks some, but it was never really what any of us
hoped. Having sold my guitar and bass in 1977, I gave it up. But
then my brothers brought me the proverbial cheap, crappy, Japanese,
electric guitar for my birthday about ten years ago.
I was living in the woods then, but I set up a little studio on the
banks of the river and ringed myself with solar-powered 12 volt
amplifiers and got a stereo chorus pedal. It was a world-class
Mickey Mouse rig, but I finally got to that special state where you
listen for the song, then pull it from the ether. One man jam, not
counting the squirrels.
For years this was how I played, and it worked. But, to say the
least, it was
eccentric music and, much as I loved it, even lived for it, I was
not anxious to subject it to other people's judgments and opinions.
In spite of which, the last two or three years I have gotten
together with a few more seasoned veterans of the music scene in a
recording studio not too far from here. It's still not the giddy,
balls-in- the wind, muse-at-your-back music that I love, but it
could get there. Maybe.
At any rate, it's fun. Many nights, whether the music is good or
not, we find occasion to laugh ourselves sick. Always worth the
bother of arriving. And it's access to equipage more appropriate to
the late twentieth century than Harmony battery amps surging on an
old car battery juiced by a solar panel.
Now I use an ART stereo processor through a Marshall tube half-stack
and a '68 Super-reverb. I've got a fairly OK Jackson Pro, but the
Floyd whammy is a pain in the ass, so I mostly play an old,
battle-scarred Fender Squire that actually stays in tune. Toys for
Incidentally, I have a little Christmas story about that crappy Jap
guitar I got for my birthday. It's sort of a kid's story for
grown-ups, which as we all now know, are kids with aging and
traitorous bodies. I'll send it along sometime when I'm not already
clogging the phone lines with literary cholesterol.
The problem here is that it's hard not to try to tell everything all
at once. And there is a lot to tell, the most interesting of which
we'll have to save for judgment day and wiser heads than we. But,
other than blathering endlessly on about anything that happens to
pop into my head, one of the things I do is
collect and exchange views on The Way It Is. You know, the nature of
reality: religion, spiritualism, politics, whose to blame: you, God,
liberals, the NRA, Bill Clinton, anyone else - just not me.
Just what in hell is going on here anyway? Hopefully hell is not the
operative word here, even if I've heard some pretty convincing
arguments that this is
just that. Having lived through a pretty extensive panorama of human
experience, you have no doubt evolved a personal philosophy of
like to hear your version. And fear no mocking from me; you would be
hard-pressed to out-strange me in a view of the universe and our
And too, what is your business? Barter what? I still haven't gotten
to your web site yet; I have only just recently been forcibly
ejected from the early twentieth century into the 1980s. I need to
catch my breath before I tackle the nineties.
Crap. It stopped raining; now I have to go back to work. Today I'm
wearing my carpenter hat and am building yet another warehouse for
my employer. This is the third for him and smaller than the other
two, only about a thousand square feet.
Am I just a renaissance kind of guy or what? With what I know and
can do, I
could write my own ticket, if this was about 1930. As it is, well,
just say I manage. I actually own some dirt, some of which doesn't
river bottom during the spring floods. By the way, I highly
recommend dirt as an investment. As you know, they quit making the
I also own my vehicle free and clear. One thing to be said for a
truck, you can leave the keys in it at the grocery store, and it'll
be there when you come out. Words to live by. Or not.
On re-reading this, I feel obliged to reiterate that this little
note was not contrived under the influence.
(will he never shut up?)
Belmar (the Expectorant)
Observation of the day: There is no dignity in being dragged kicking
and screaming into the inevitable. I can't tell you how many times
I've taken that particular class.
02/28/05 Caleb Church
Subject: The Meat Circus
Isn't that a rough
translation of carnival? Remind me to look it up sometime. Anyway, I'm
not sure what happened; maybe it doesn't matter. Though if it didn't, it
would stand alone and completely unique. Lately things seem to be
mattering (literally and metaphorically) quite a bit and even a little
thing like popping an email off to an old friend seems like a large
event with echoes that ripple through eternity.
The waking up
process is not without some peril. Awareness, if some day I achieve it,
looks like it might be pretty intense and require a spine and then some.
So it would seem that some intensive spine-building is in order. I read
a thing that said, "Find out that which is the hardest thing in the
world for you to do, then do that." Well that is almost exactly what I
have done, although not intentionally and, ironically enough, I did it
in the pursuit of its opposite.
Lately my acceptance
of challenges has been a little less haphazard. I mean, why wait and get
caught with my pants down when I can meet it head on and somewhat
prepared? If I may quote me: “There is no dignity in getting dragged
kicking and screaming into the inevitable.” Probably dignity is
over-rated, but you get the idea.
The thing is, for
reasons unclear to me, writing this is harder than it probably should
be. Most likely, at some point I ran off on some paranoid tangent and
made some kind of unilateral decision that seemed emotionally safer than
resolution. That's my left-handed apology for cowering in the face of
honest feeling, which now that I've said it, seems like a pretty close
synopsis to what actually happened.
So I came across
your website, which is probably as close to time travel as I've ever
experienced. Add a sound track (Rubber Soul, Byrds, Yardbirds, & amp)
and a smell (diesel fumes at the train station, or Robin's perfume) and
I would probably lose my tenuous anchor in the present altogether. I
seem to have a tendency to discorporate at the littlest provocation.
Anyway, .I just
wanted to say thank you for doing it. Finding it was another "event" in
my life. The Scot pictures especially caught him in those quintessential
"Scot" moments. I haven't explored all the corners yet, but among all
the really great pictures of people, a few I have known forever, some
I've never met, I came across a "me" picture.
Reality, as I've
said before, is composed of two regions: the "me" part, and the "not me"
part. Once dwarfed to insignificance by the "me" part, the "not me" part
was relegated primarily to sets and extras in the grand extravaganza of
"me". Now, many decades later, I am still the eyes through which I see,
but I discover I am only a fraction of the whole. Imagine such a thing.
There is probably
some cosmic justice in that picture I'm in, as I don't remember the
occasion, and, other than Scot, the other guys look only vaguely
familiar, (the "me" period was apparently reigning supreme) and I would
swear in a court of law that it is
not me. Except for the shirt.
I remember that
shirt, and there were not two of those things in existence at the same
time else the very fabric of reality might be in jeopardy. So if it's
not me, some asshole with a rug or horrendously bad hair stole it from
me, proving his grasp of acceptable social facade as questionable as my
own. And honestly, that there could be two such clowns floating through
this carnival really stretches the limits of credibility.
Okay, so although
this letterish thing makes perfect sense to me, at times I've glanced up
out of my self-absorption and noticed that people were looking at me and
scratching their heads. If it makes no sense to you, waste no worry in
my direction; for the most part, I have the people in my neck of the
woods convinced I'm normal, and, in fact, a functional adult.
As I said to you
years ago, this costume is getting pretty damn uncomfortable and it
needs constant care and cleaning. Even so, the damn thing is showing
and has a tendency to smell bad and leak all manner of strange effluvia.
And getting it off is no picnic either. It's not like there's a zipper
or anything as straightforward as that. And I don't recall asking for
this character either. He seems pretty unsympathetic and more than a
little thick. Oh well, anything for a part in the play, I suppose. No
doubt watching from the sidelines won't be anywhere near as cool.
No reply is
required; social protocol is suspended. You should do exactly what you
want in this instance (though that can be a dangerous life philosophy;
take my word on that).
Love always (in a
manly, back-slapping kind of way, of course),
Take my pen... my typewriter... my keyboard... I'll stick to
photography. You do the writing.
Perhaps it's because
we were friends in the formative years and I've had a nugget of your
virtual DNA in me all these years that make your words come so alive
when I read them... regardless, I suspect anyone reading even the email
you just sent me would be thrilled to know someone out there is having
as much fun with the English language as you are.
I'm glad you found
my web site... years in the making... still adding to it when I can.
It's fun to go thru my old negatives and slides and see what's there.
I'll have to dig deeper and see what other pictures I can find that you
would like to see.
You made my day
Caleb. Hope to hear from you again soon.
P.S. You really blow me away Caleb. Extremely wonderful writing!