It's 1941. The Fourth of July company picnic out at Wallum Lake. Prospects of adventure and heroism have emboldened our young man, Eugene, who has affected the shades and the rakish tilt to his fedora. His boss, Mr. Randall, has no intention of actually eating the messy watermelon. He's told Eugene that the plant will soon be retooling for the coming war. Eugene has been dating Mr. Randall's daughter, Van. He has something to say to Mr. Randall. Mr. Randall says the war will be a boon for the economy.

pie eaters.jpg

about suffering

The sign in the window in this detail of a photo by I. Russell Sorgi says, "GIVE TILL IT HURTS HITLER." It's 1942, Buffalo. New York, and sandwiches are ten cents. The full terrifying photo follows and illustrates Auden's poem, "Musee de Beaux Arts."

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.



fried bologna

Comfort food from childhood. Fry two slices of bologna in a tablespoon of margarine. If you don't slit them in the middle, they'll puff up like footballs. Brown both sides. Fry your eggs in the same pan. Serve and savor. Catsup anyone? 


starkey flythe jr.

An old friend from our days in Augusta, Georgia, Starkey Flythe has died. Starkey was the person around whom the literary life of the city and the region revolved. His law office on Telfair, which I got a look at only one time, was crammed with books and magazines piled several feet high. He sat in his comfortable chair in the cluttered and claustrophobic office most days, reading and writing, not taking depositions or prepping for a trial. Starkey never knew it, but he was the model for the character Fox Ledbetter in my novel, Louisiana Power & Light. Starkey lived across the river in South Carolina, and the North Augusta Star has a lovely tribute to Starkey. Here's the obit in the Augusta Chronicle. Starkey loved nothing better than to tell a story. He was a compelling and seductive reader of his stories and poems. I can recommend his wonderful collection of stories, Lent: the Slow Fast, which won the Iowa Short Fiction Award in 1990. He was a gentleman and a man of letters and we will miss him.



The good Christian leaders of Raleigh NC have dispatched those who "protect and serve" to halt the wanton feeding of the hungry and the homeless. So now the enharbored and engorged Raleigh homeowners can sleep in peace. The corporal works of mercy (see below) are, apparently, no longer necessary in this golden age of prosperity and voter suppression in the Tar Heel State. The leaders may have forgotten this biblical injunction:

Prov. 14:31  Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God. 

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

We thank North Carolina for doing what it can to make Florida look good.

(and thanks to Paula in Southport) 

Eulogy for Lefty

Lefty Dufresne 1926- 2013

The last time I saw Lefty we sat outside the nursing home, and I asked him to sing “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town,” the JohnnyLong extended version, which he favored. He didn’t hesitate. And he remembered every word. His voice was eloquent if a bit strained and faint. He sang, “There’s a queen waiting there with a silvery crown, in a shanty, in old shanty town.” Make no mistake, his wife, his sweetheart, Doris, the center of his life, was the queen waiting there in a rocking chair.

Criminal Justice

Truth is sometimes a casualty in, often an inconvenience to, and never the goal of a criminal trial in America. The laudable directive “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” does not apply to the lawyers in the courtroom, whose mandate it is not to tell the whole truth but rather the advantageous and convenient truth. Theirs is the art of persuasion, and the simple fact is that in a jury trial, the better story wins. Justice is not synonymous with truth. Justice is the administration of the rule of law. The rule of law exists to preserve order, not to extoll the truth and certainly not to insure freedom. In the George Zimmerman murder trial, a jury of six women, none of them African American, chose to embrace the defense team’s story of the dangerous young black man, louche and lascivious, who is after your property—a venerable if perverse American stereotype that goes back to Mandingo, a distasteful myth that we have not had the will nor the sense to reject. We all tend to believe a first-person narrator—he was there when it happened, after all. But we need to remember that all first-person narrators are unreliable. The Russians have a saying: “He lies like an eyewitness.” George Zimmerman saw to it that he was the only eyewitness left standing to tell the story of that horrific night, the night he stalked, assaulted, and killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman behaved like a thug, a schoolyard bully who taunts and provokes his often younger and slighter victim, until the victim responds, and then the scumbag has his excuse to retaliate with gleeful, brutal, and in this case, fatal force. The fact that a punk like Zimmerman can carry a loaded and concealed weapon in public while trying to assert his insubstantial manhood should concern all of us. The NRA never tires of flogging the public with the fatuous bromide that an armed citizen is the best deterrent to crime. In the Zimmerman case, not surprisingly, the armed citizen committed the crime, murdered an innocent teenager. Without his weapon, Zimmerman would have been just a squabby and bilious little fellow, stamping his tiny boots on the sidewalk, mumbling his racial invectives, waving his meaty fists in the air, and cursing the darkness.