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Tom Coburn is a Big Fat Jerk


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Saturday, January 01, 2005

A New Year, Apocalypse Now and Haints

An odd superstition of mine is that the state of things at midnight on New Year's determines the rest of the year for me. This superstition has refined itself over time --- it used to be I believed all chores left undone (buttons hanging by a thread, socks unwashed, dust in corners) would become physically impossible to complete during the following year --- and would, in fact, multiply exponentially. Meaning not just a sock or two unwashed, but filthy socks everywhere --- not just a button or two hanging, but no possibility of a button staying on anything. And dust everywhere. Mountains of it.

In recent years, this odd superstition has gone from chores to issues of unburdening myself and those around me. I'm never sure what form this will take. There have been New Year's Eves I've spent writing a short note of apology, for example, for unintentional (or even intentional) unkindness, or calling someone I've neglected just to let them know I think they're some kind of cool. But it's never planned in any way. It just happens.

This year's was the oddest yet, but also maybe the most important.

I opened up the huge closet in that one bedroom full of boxes and boxes of old letters, postcards, address books, writings, newspaper clippings --- and what in my family has been known as Jimmy's Box.

I've avoided the Jimmy Box for years now. Jimmy was one of my older brothers. He died some years back from causes and complications and reasons I can't even begin to explain here. He'd been drunk for so long, he had chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis and all kinds of liver things and alcoholic complications going on. He wasn't some old dude, either --- he was only in his thirties.

He haunted me for a long time after he died. I don't much care if you think I'm some New Age fruitcake for claiming that or if you just don't believe in haints. Trust me, even the most rational, earthbound, skeptical people I knew were convinced he'd died for the sole purpose of devilling me no end. Pearls lost years before would show up neatly tucked into new containers of scotch tape. Windows would fly open and unexplainable breezes not so delicately scented with whiskey and Hormel Tamales would waft in and wrap themselves about me. There was even a car wreck blamed on my brother by a Sioux medicine man in Colorado. Quite the trickster in death.

Today, I saw the Jimmy Box and realized it was time to unburden me, him and the rest of our family of the havoc life heaped upon him, and start trying to piece it all together.

My memories are a bit cloudy about exactly what happened because I was a bit too young. All that I know is that, sometime near the end of the Vietnam War, he enlisted, although he was only 17, I think. But they took him anyway. And true, he'd had some problems before, especially with alcohol. But whatever went on while he was enlisted scrambled his brain completely and forever.

I don't think he ever saw combat. I do know they put him in solitary confinement for a while, and there was some kind of mix-up with the Black Panthers going on --- I think. I know that, when he came back, he told me something about a rabbi and a chaplain interceding for him and gaining him an honorable discharge.

I was never quite sure if that were true. Until today.

You see, I found a name buried in the box, with a note saying "Thank him."

I Googled the name. And there he was --- the rabbi my brother had told me about all those years ago. And the little I read about him points to him being exactly who my brother said he was.

I read through everything in the box. It took most of the day. I don't yet know everything that I think or feel about what I read. But I do know that, while going through his things, I suddenly realized why Apocalypse Now resonates so strongly with me. Its sheer hallucinatory power has never been enough to explain my preoccupation with it. No, it's that Clean, Chef and Lance are all my brother. And somehow watching Apocalypse Now helps me to work my way through whatever it was that happened to my brother.






3 Comments:

At 6:02 AM, Blogger MJ said...

ahh... you allowed her out again...

Please forgive my presumption at speaking to your words.

" Windows would fly open and unexplainable breezes not so delicately scented with whiskey and Hormel Tamales would waft in and wrap themselves about me. " This could be a description of your writing. Beautiful and solid, magical and honest.

And your words "like pearls lost years before would show up neatly tucked into new containers of scotch tape". A good description of your blog.

"Today, I saw the Jimmy Box and realized it was time to unburden me, him and the rest of our family of the havoc life heaped upon him, and start trying to piece it all together."

Perhaps the trickster is telling you the time has come to write a book.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Happy New Year, Cookie! I miss ya on the 'net, hope to see you a bunch in '05.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Cookie said...

MJ -- !!! Really, this is very kind of you but I'm much too undisciplined and erratic to ever write a book. Those who know me in real life know that I am governed by an exceptionally capricious and mercurial muse who annoys easily and flounces right out that door at the mere suggestion of predictability and (gasp!) productiveness.

Besides, I have a secret belief that, if more people would refuse themselves the indulgence of writing yet another book, our world would be a kinder, gentler place. :=D Not to mention, the trees would be grateful.

Besides, I have way too many skeletons in the closet that you people don't need to know about. Not in your dreams!!!

I'm really almost back, Rob! I just have to dig myself out from beneath the box of hundreds of old letters and photos and weird newspaper clippings that I just found. !

 

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