One Hand Clapping – March 2004
The purpose of this daily journal is to see if I can find a way to unclench my fist and turn it into an open palm — a palm of generosity, understanding, compassion — and to see if I can capture, in words, the thunderous sound of one hand clapping. To put it another way, it is my publicly insane response to a world gone mad. It is also a way of reminding myself, and anyone willing to listen, that the madness will someday end.
— William Michaelian
Note: Each month of One Hand Clapping has been assigned its own page. Links are provided here, and again at the bottom of each journal page. To go to the beginning of Volume 2, click here.
March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003
October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004
April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004
October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005
March 1, 2004 — My mother remembers my grandfather, I remember my grandfather, our children remember my grandfather. We remember the way he looked at different stages of his life, the sound of his voice, and the things he did. My grandfather died in 1990, but he is alive in our memories. Someday, those of us who knew him will also be gone. This is significant, because then, only the memory of my grandfather will be remembered. Still further down the line, only the memory of the memory of my grandfather will be remembered, and then, eventually, since he didn’t “make history,” he won’t be remembered at all. And so it goes. Such is the ephemeral nature of our lives. When my brother was visiting from Armenia, he made a trip to California to see relatives. During that time, he went with one of our father’s cousins to see my grandmother’s sister, who is almost ninety-two. While they were there, my brother recorded our aunt as she told stories about long gone family members she remembered. Listening to the cassette was a deeply emotional experience. It was as if her familiar voice were calling up spirits. I had heard these stories before. But hearing them again after so many years, told as if for the first time with effortless certainty, made me feel like I was home again. How else can I describe it? When I was growing up, these people I have never met, these tragic-comic characters from the Old Country, some of whom made it to these shores and others who did not, seemed close enough to touch. I couldn’t touch them, but they were there all the same. These were people who endured violence, persecution, dispersion, tragedy, humiliation, torture, and tumult. How can one grow up hearing about such things and not be permanently affected — especially when the family elders, the survivors, possess such a triumphant sense of humor and take such joy in living?
March 2, 2004 — Once again, this room needs cleaning from top to bottom. It’s the worst it has been in a long time — but not the worst ever. There was a time when the walls were lined with cardboard boxes full of empty canning jars, piles of magazines, boxes of clothes, books, sheet music, hats, and quite a few other items, all from three to four feet deep, with only a path to get through. This wasn’t my work room then. I worked in a different bedroom when the kids were small, and we had lumped them together in another part of the house. Later, when they started to require more space and privacy, the bedrooms were all taken over, and the big room we had them in became a storeroom. Also, when my brother first moved from California to Oregon, he lived with us for a time. And in the mid-Nineties, a friend stayed with us on two separate occasions, each time for several months. And so, bit by bit, more space was cleared in this room, which is also the “master bedroom.” I sit in a corner by the window. The bed is behind me. My table is heaped with books, drawings, old manuscripts and letters, and a disgraceful layer of dust. I have plastic desk trays stacked three feet high, with each tray stuffed to the gills. On top of that is an old straw hat I sometimes wear when I work outside. But I have mentioned only a small portion of what’s in this room, and the fact is, almost every speck of it is the result of my “activities.” My wife has a few papers stacked on one corner of the old desk on my side of the bed, but they could be stuffed into a large shoe box. The rest is mine, all mine.
March 3, 2004 — Nearly 200 people were killed yesterday in Iraq, and hundreds more were injured. Springing from this one event alone will be the grief and anger of thousands, and this grief and anger will be passed on to the children and to their children. This is the circular nature of violence and war, the circular nature of human ignorance. . . . Meanwhile, they have found strong evidence that water once existed on Mars. Who knows what went on there millions or billions of years ago? And who knows if we will ever find out? We aren’t even sure of what went on here millions or billions of years ago. About all that’s certain is that the world was better off before we arrived on the scene, and that someday, if we keep going as we are, this place will end up looking like Mars.
March 4, 2004 — I was jolted from my torpor yesterday evening by a phone call from a cousin I haven’t seen since our grandmother’s funeral in 1990. He was on a business trip and was calling from a hotel room in Washington, D.C. Fairly early in our conversation, I asked him if he still smoked. He said he had quit seven years ago with the help of nicotine gum, but that now he was hooked on the gum and thought he might have to take up smoking again in order to break the habit. This struck me as an extraordinary piece of information. In exchange, I told him about the time I took our grandfather to the grocery store, and looked on while he dismantled a large display of cantaloupes to get at the ones he wanted. He was about eighty-eight at the time and walked with a cane. When he got his hands on a shopping cart, however, he put the cane in the basket, leaned on the cart, and sped all over the store with his load of melons and sale items. It was almost impossible to keep up. While we were on the subject of melons, I also told my cousin that during the Depression, Gramp was one of the best-known watermelon pickers in the San Joaquin Valley. Yes, in those days, one could be known for such a talent. That’s why I miss those days, even though they happened before I was born. But Gramp was not merely a great watermelon picker. He was a watermelon consultant. They didn’t call it that back then, but that’s what he was. When a farmer was having trouble getting an already-picked load of melons past inspection because too many green melons had been picked, Gramp was called in to separate the green melons from the ripe melons. This is not as easy as it might sound. It is one thing to judge a melon’s ripeness while it is still attached to the vine, within its natural setting and context. It is entirely another when you are faced with thirty tons of melons stacked together. To most people, they all look alike. And you certainly can’t thump them all, because that would take forever. No, in a situation like that, what is needed is an understanding of melons. Gramp knew the degree of a melon’s ripeness at first glance. He didn’t have to stand there and think about it. My cousin was amazed. I said, “Yes, we also have this in our blood. It is something to be proud of.” When he said sheepishly that the melon-picking gene seemed to have passed him by, I encouraged him with, “No, you have the talent, it only needs to be awakened.” While he mulled this over, we chatted about other things, until we finally realized the conversation had run its course. I found this tremendously sad. It was almost as if a door had miraculously swung open, only to slam shut again.
March 5, 2004 — There are moments, and sometimes even hours, when the insane roar between my ears gives way to a deep, brooding silence that seems impenetrable. I don’t know whether I am on the inside looking out, or on the outside looking in. The simple ticking of a clock reverberates like thunder. First one second is gone, then another, and still another — and I know, and sometimes I am glad, that they are irretrievable. Am I rushing, or am I standing still? Am I ascending, or descending? Does it matter? Or am I even asking the right questions? I come and I go. I see people, they see me. We talk or we don’t. We smile and hold open the door. How nice it all is, how painfully real, how jubilantly unreal. Surely, it’s all a joke, and there is nothing to understand, think, say, or do. A joke. An accident in time and space, a cosmic hiccup. If it is, then Omar Khayyám was right when he said, Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn, My lip the secret Well of Life to learn: And Lip to Lip it murmur’d, “While you live, Drink! — for once dead you never shall return.” And if life is not a joke, he is still probably right. Because he also said this: Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise to talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies; One thing is certain, and the Rest is lies; The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.
March 6, 2004 — Twenty-five years ago on this day, at nine-thirty in the evening, our first child, a daughter, was born. My father had predicted both sex and weight, right down to the quarter-ounce. When my wife and our beautiful baby girl were wheeled into the corridor and ready to be taken to their room, I held out my little finger to our daughter. Her hand was just big enough to wrap around it. We looked at each other, and the world was transformed. These were the days when it was beginning to be the fashion for fathers to join their wives in the delivery room. I did stay with my wife in another room for the two hours we were in the hospital before she was ready to be taken in for delivery. But as she was also a nurse and we were both a little old-fashioned, we had already decided I wouldn’t follow. I watched through the window instead. Dr. Wonderly was there, the best and most capable family doctor we have ever known. The two of us chatted outside while he scrubbed his hands and arms. The man was thoroughly delighted to be there. Everything went well. My wife turned in my direction, and through the window I heard her say, “We have a girl.” A few minutes later, Dr. Wonderly emerged carrying a big round pan, and, with a wry smile, asked me, “Do you want to see what your baby lived in?” That was Dr. Wonderly. And that was the beginning of what has proven so far to be the longest, strangest, happiest, most tiring, and most challenging period of our lives. In slightly less than two years, our first son was born; our second son followed a month less than three years later on my wife’s birthday; and our youngest son, who is now sixteen, joined us three years after that. By that time, Dr. Wonderly had died, and was resting in the tiny Adventist cemetery on the corner of Road 64 and Avenue 408, not far from where we lived and from where my father was born. I have thought and written about that cemetery and those like it many times. If a person is going to be buried, a little cemetery surrounded by vineyards and orchards is the place to do it. The absence of crowding means having to listen to fewer complaints. Instead, one can hear the sounds of birds, the voices of men singing and working in the fields, and the rumble of tractors in the distance — not a bad way to spend eternity. But I am getting ahead of myself. Happy birthday, my dear little one. And thank you, thank you all, for giving meaning to this old fool’s life.
March 7, 2004 — Part of yesterday’s festivities included a trip to the Boys and Girls Club, where we watched our youngest son and his team, the Goodfellas, play basketball. They won, giving them six wins and two losses for the year. Yesterday’s game was the first of the playoff tournament. Had they lost, their season would have been over. They play again early this afternoon; if they win that game, they will play yet another about three hours after that. If they win both, they will be champions of their division. There are two divisions. As far as I know, the division winners don’t play each other, meaning their will be two champions. After the game yesterday, we convened here for our daughter’s birthday meal. Of course, before eating, the boys immediately hit the street for another round of basketball. The rest of us so-called adults stayed inside, set the table, got the food ready, and blabbed. After the meal was over, the boys remembered there was a basketball game on TV — when isn’t there? — so we were all subjected to more sports. Then our daughter’s cell phone rang. It was my brother and his wife calling from Armenia to wish her a happy birthday. Armenia is twelve hours ahead, so they were calling on Sunday morning. Now it’s Sunday morning here and it’s night there. As we correspond frequently, the time difference is something I think about most every day. If I send e-mail now, for instance, they will still be awake there to receive it, and so on and so forth. The amazing thing, though, is that it is possible to communicate with them at all. I have been alive long enough to know that this is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Talking to someone in Armenia on a hand-held gadget one-third the size of the old transistor radios we used to carry with us when we worked in the vineyard is big stuff. Transistor radios were big stuff. And sending e-mail? Why, it defies logic. People used to send letters, which would arrive six months later, if at all. In that amount of time, everyone involved could be dead. Now it’s satellites, computers, and around-the-clock news. If anything, this should guarantee that the genocidal atrocities perpetrated against Armenia and so many other nations and peoples don’t happen again. Ha! Wake up and smell the coffee, is all I can say.
March 8, 2004 — The Goodfellas lost in a thrilling see-saw battle, 42-41. The season is now officially over. After the initial shock, which lasted about three minutes, no one on the team seemed too upset. In fact, since the players attend different high schools and not everyone knew each other beforehand, it’s quite likely some of them won’t see each other again. I played on three city league teams after high school, and that’s just how it was. I don’t remember most of the players. I remember a few because they were friends or acquaintances, but their acquaintances I’ve long since forgotten. All that mattered at the time was getting enough players together to have a team. Still, it was fun. The first team I was on was composed of several rejects from the high school varsity team. But we weren’t rejects in the usual sense. We were actually the ones who had done the rejecting, because the basketball coach at the time was a mental case. He even used to watch our city league games. I think it bugged him a little when he saw how good we were and how much we were enjoying ourselves. But who knows what stories he told himself. I do know what he told the high school basketball team before practice one day after I had quit the team. He gathered everyone together and announced that I had “crapped” on him. This is the same person who had me play in a varsity tournament when I was still a freshman, and who made me a starter on his team when I was a sophomore. After that, though, things became political. For the usual childish reasons, certain other players had more pull on the team, and though they weren’t as good as me — he stated in all modesty — they got to play and I was suddenly relegated to the bench and brought in at the end of games, when everything had already been decided. And so I told him there was no point in me being on the team. This couldn’t have been a surprise to him — it certainly wasn’t to anyone else — but he chose to be surprised. To get even, he branded me as a traitor. This was funny, under the circumstances. Even funnier is that one day in the locker room the following year, he invited me into the office area and specifically asked me to rejoin the team and be part of the starting lineup. I found this offer very interesting. Since I enjoyed basketball so much, I agreed. But as soon as I agreed, he said, “Of course, after what you did, I’ll expect you to do a few extra things for awhile, such as sweep up the gym.” I remember this just as if it were yesterday. “In that case,” I said without hesitation, “you can forget it.” And once again he was surprised. Now, years have passed. I have no idea if this man is dead or alive, and I don’t care. But I do know there are too many still out there like him, who exercise their puny power over eager young people. They want desperately to win, but they are losers, each and every one.
March 9, 2004 — I really need to spend more time in alleys. Sidewalks and storefronts are fine, but alleys are a good place to meet interesting people, even though most are only posing as eccentrics, including myself. Some, of course, truly are rough, or have endured enough roughness that they view everyone they meet with suspicion. I met a man in an alley yesterday afternoon who fitted that description, though he still seemed to possess a sense of humor. After struggling and ultimately succeeding to light his cigarette, he picked up his backpack, looked at me, and smiled. That is, a spark of recognition, or something like it, momentarily brightened his eyes. The rest of him wasn’t smiling. The rest of him was dejected and worn, yet alert. Did he know me? Did I know him? Was I someone he should know, or could know, or just another pretender? It didn’t take long for him to decide. I was a pretender. After we had finished our wordless conversation and parted company, I passed about twenty minutes in a nearby used book store. I spent five dollars and ninety-five cents on a hardbound copy of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel, which I will get around to eventually. Finding the book was an interesting coincidence, since Thomas Wolfe was someone who “lived large,” meaning, among other things, that he didn’t shy away from people in alleys. I have read with pleasure on more than one occasion that Wolfe, who died of tubercular meningitis in 1938 at age thirty-seven, said early on that he wanted to meet as many people, see as many places, and do as much writing as he possibly could. As those who knew him soon learned, that turned out to be the only way he could live. And now, sixty-six years later, his books are still in libraries and book stores, waiting to be discovered. That is the beauty of books, and the beauty of those who suffer to write them — not that writers have a monopoly on suffering. Everyone suffers, whether they realize it or not, whether they care to admit it or not. And but for fate, everyone could be that ragged man, woman, or child who feels more at home in alleys than on the street. It might not be something to dwell on, but it is important to recognize. It is also important to realize that this formula works both ways. With the right accident of birth, which one of us couldn’t have been the self-centered, evil, grotesque rich person who thinks nothing of treating his or her fellow human beings as commodities to be bought and sold? The news is full of people who were once little children, and who have long since become monsters. The worst of them won’t be found in alleys. They might not stick a knife into you, but they will kill you in a thousand legal ways, and make you pay them to do it. Again, it’s something to think about, if only briefly. Because there is also the sun to enjoy, and the wind and the rain, and the steady approach of another spring. There is the miracle of living to behold, and to wonder at, and to feel in one’s muscles and veins. To ignore it would be a great tragedy.
March 10, 2004 — For the last couple of weeks, just before daylight, a dove has been calling outside our window. I think it must be the same dove, because it starts in at the same time each morning and always says the same thing: oohoohoo, hoo, hoo — not that I’ve heard a dove say anything else. But there is also that wonderful sound doves make when they are startled and take flight, a prolonged exclamation uttered in time with fluttering wings — an eruption of graceful fright, as it were. In any case, I’m glad the doves have returned. It seems we have more now than we did, say, ten years ago, but I could be mistaken. Every evening through the warm months, there is usually a pair or two feeding on the ground under the pine trees in our backyard. We do our best not to disturb them, though doves are easily disturbed, and might even take joy in being disturbed, like quite a few people I know. When I was a kid on the farm, there were many doves, and over the years we had several close encounters. One thing I learned early on was that a mother dove will flap around literally at your feet in order to distract you from its nest. When you try to catch it, the bird flaps along the ground just out of your reach and leads you away. The first time I saw this happen, I thought the dove was hurt, which is exactly what it wanted me to think. Then there were the nests themselves. These were often built into the crowns of grapevines, from about belt- to chest-high, and mostly concealed by foliage. On quite a few different occasions, we would be working in the vineyard and suddenly find ourselves staring a mother dove right in the face, the bird frozen in its nest, with its eggs under her. In that situation, the doves sat there trembling, but wouldn’t take flight. We rewarded their bravery by slowly backing away and working around them. Before I knew better, I also shot at doves with a BB gun while they were perched on power wires. When I aimed well enough to actually hit one, the BB would bounce off and the dove would sit there and yawn. And so I spent most of my time shooting at beer cans lined up on the rugged redwood posts at the end of the vineyard rows. Most of the endposts around the house were dimpled with BB holes. Then I moved on to the .22 rifle my father found in his father’s vineyard when he was in high school. Someone had just left it there. So he cleaned it up and used it, and we had it for years and years, until it was stolen one night when no one was home and someone broke into the house. This happened in the late Seventies or early Eighties. In the Fifties and Sixties, it wasn’t necessary yet to lock the doors, unless we were going to be gone for a few days. My father even used to leave the key in the pickup during the day. Anyway, I learned how to use the rifle, but as it was capable of killing someone a mile away, the gun usually remained in the house. I did kill a jackrabbit with it once when I was about thirteen. The rabbit cried like a child. So did I.
March 11, 2004 — I finished reading The Adolescent. Once I recover, I will probably move on to Look Homeward, Angel. I can’t begin right away, because I am still seeing the world through Dostoevsky’s eyes. The last 150 pages, especially, were nothing less than a literary whirlwind, in which most every character went completely nuts, so great was the pressure they were under — all of it self-induced or self-inflicted, I might add. This could be why I relate to Dostoevsky so well. But for the moment, that’s enough about him. I need to think things over before I say anything more. I am desperately afraid that I will say the wrong thing and give the wrong impression, and that this will lead to guilt-laden trauma. Basta! That was an exclamatory remark uttered by the novel’s narrator during one of countless emotionally charged and potentially life-changing moments. But that’s it. I will say no more. To calm myself, I will call my insurance agent and ask for a complete rundown on our coverage. On second thought, I’d better not, because I might accidentally tell her what I think. Crooks! Liars! Thieves! You are not my friend, you are not my neighbor, you are not a member of my family, so stop your pretending and admit that you want one thing from me and one thing only — my money. Basta! I ask you, is that any way to live?
March 12, 2004 — You know you’ve cracked when you start having dreams like these. Last night, I dreamt someone was at the front door — not of this house, but some other house, which was built on an extremely high foundation. I opened the door and looked out, only to find a horse milling about on the ground, and about two dozen red hens pecking on the high concrete steps. The horse was mottled and mangy, with a sunken back that reminded me of Thunderbolt, a broken-down race horse in an old Three Stooges episode. For some reason, none of this surprised me. The hens — and I remember this distinctly — looked just like the ones we used to have when we lived on the farm in Dinuba. I even thought I recognized two or three. And so I was glad to see them. I didn’t invite them in, though, because they seemed content where they were, and because they hadn’t knocked or rung the bell. Instead, I simply smiled at them and turned away. I walked off down the hall, and soon discovered that the hall was the whole house. There were no rooms. The hall was bathed in a soft yellowish light. The light, I reasoned, was the color it was because it had been used long ago. Fresh light was never that color. Eventually, I decided to go back to the door to see if the animals were still outside. When I arrived, an evil-looking young stranger was letting himself in. I quickly shoved him out, closed the door, and put on the latch. Without a problem, he pushed it open again. He stepped in with a wicked smile. A scuffle began. I tried to shove him out again, but he was too strong. So I punched him in the stomach. That got his attention. I hit him a few more times. Each blow stunned him, but he didn’t seem to mind being stunned. Finally, I beat the tar out of him, only to find I was hurting myself more than I was hurting him. It was aggravating. I stopped hitting him and went back to the door. Well, no wonder, I thought. Look at this stupid latch. Suddenly, it seemed, our entire security and well being depended on a metal hook that fit into a tiny eye screw. I fiddled with it madly. Soon the hook was bent at an awkward angle, totally useless. “Bah!” I said. “This is ridiculous.” And that was when I woke up, with the confident realization that everything was ridiculous.
March 13, 2004 — During the past week, one of the big grocery stores nearby removed two of its regular checkstands and replaced them with four self-service aisles. They weren’t operational yet, but I have seen the same setup elsewhere, and I find it disgusting. It isn’t enough that we pay their exorbitant prices; now the corporate bean-counters want us to do the work for them as well. A store employee with whom we are on friendly terms laughed and said he was told by management that the new arrangement would mean more hours for employees. Of course, he wasn’t buying it. Training customers to beep and bag their own items might require employee time and attention in the beginning, but it’s obvious such a move isn’t made for the long-term benefit of workers or customers. If they could do away with employees altogether, they would. And if they could convince customers to mail in their checks instead of coming to the store, they would do that, too. While the checker was beeping his way through our basket of groceries, I told him that if and when the lines for the regular checkstands become too long and an employee tries to herd us into the self-service aisle, that’s when we will be done with the store. This was the same checker who, moments before, had politely and without the slightest complaint rechecked an elderly woman’s entire order because she thought she had been cheated, when the truth of the matter was that she wasn’t quite able to make sense of what was going on. By the time he was done, she had forgotten what he was doing and why. When she asked him what he was doing, he said he was rechecking her groceries “like you wanted me to.” She said, “Oh.” It’s hard to imagine that particular customer using the self-service aisle, which is one reason the store will never be able to switch over completely. . . . On a not quite related note, I had occasion to visit a small office recently, in which the receptionist’s desk is located just a few feet from the entrance. When I stepped inside, an electronic voice proclaimed, “Front door, open.” Unfortunately, the receptionist looked up before I was able to steal any of the furniture.
March 14, 2004 — I can’t help wondering if the tragic train blast that killed 200 and injured hundreds more in Spain a couple of days ago would have happened had the Spanish government heeded its own people’s anti-war protests a year ago. As one outraged citizen yelled on the news, “Your war, our deaths.” This, on the eve of elections there. Ah, and what a shame it would be to unseat the Spanish officials who bowed to U.S. pressure on Iraq. Those boys must be very pleased with themselves, and feel very proud at a time like this. Surely, all they need is a little more time, like the U.S. president, to “root out these forces of evil.” A few fly-overs during soccer games ought to do it. I know the massive expense of showing our military might during football and baseball games here has struck fear into the hearts and minds of terrorists. See how they tremble!
March 15, 2004 — Oops. The Spanish elections didn’t go quite the way Bush and Company wanted them to go. How about that? And now the newly elected Spanish officials say one of their first orders of business is to bring their soldiers home. . . . Meanwhile, I see the White House has distributed some new “hybrid” videos to television stations, in which people paid to pose as journalists lend an air of serious reportage to what are nothing more than blatant advertisements for its Medicare policies. The videos were accompanied by scripts intended for use by news anchors when they introduce the “stories,” which are then related by the “reporters.” Kind of makes you wonder about what is already being presented as news, doesn’t it? I know this: if their policies weren’t designed to benefit the drug companies instead of the people they pretend to serve, such low-grade manipulation wouldn’t be necessary. . . . Now, on to other things. As strange as it might seem, this odd journal of mine is now a year old. On each and every one of the preceding 364 days, I have made a conscious effort to write about what I think, see, and feel just as if it mattered, while knowing full well that if it does matter, it matters no more than it would matter if anyone else were doing the same thing. And, believe it or not, that is one of the points I have been trying to make all along. It seems to me that everyone who is fortunate enough to have a roof over his head and enough to eat can, and should, make the same effort. Perhaps that effort won’t materialize as words on paper or on a computer screen, but in the form of gardening, baking, washing, talking, dreaming, or any of the countless other things we do that make living worthwhile, as long as we are conscious while we do them. And this is important, I think: by the word effort, I don’t necessarily mean work. And yet work is definitely involved, if only because we assume understanding comes with a struggle. That assumption, as noble as it sounds and as good as it feels to proclaim, is a killer. Living is easy until we poison it and make it difficult by wanting things we don’t need, or wanting to be someone else, or wanting what we are told to want by other wanters who want so much that nothing will satisfy them. At the same time, there are millions of people in the world who want only something to eat and drink. They want to live and raise their children in safety. And yet, they are made to pay with their very lives because other people have been taught to think it is their right to throw away food and go tearing around from store to store in gas-guzzling vehicles. It is not their right. Such rights do not exist. The only real rights are the rights to think, dream, and work according to our natural abilities. We have a right to food and shelter, because this is clearly what we need. We have a right to interpret this thing we call life as our inner wiring dictates. But we don’t have the right to expect others to fall in with our interpretation, or to threaten them when they don’t. The law is just that — the law and nothing more. Unless and until our actions are motivated by an honest desire to improve things for everyone in the world equally, the law will remain the hideously corrupt thing that it is. . . . Now, as far as this journal goes, one big question remains: do I call it quits after today, having stayed with it for a whole year, or do I let it end? I think back to what I said in the beginning, about how One Hand Clapping was my response to a world gone mad. In a way, it was a foolish statement, because the world was mad long before I was born. Of course, the madness I was referring to was the blind ignorance that brought about the world’s latest war. I also said that I knew the madness would someday end. But that was another foolish statement. I knew no such thing, couldn’t possibly have known it, and I still don’t, unless we count the cheery day when the sun finally burns out or when the earth is struck by a Texas-sized asteroid, as seemingly happened during the last presidential “election.” The question still remains. Even now, at this very moment, I don’t know what I will, or should, do. Perhaps you’re thinking, He’s not going to quit. If he can’t even end the day’s entry, how will he end the journal itself? That’s a good question. Most likely, the answer lies in the comforting, frightening realization that the daffodils I mentioned a year ago in my first entry are, by some miracle, blooming again.
One Hand Clapping — Volume 2
March 16, 2004 — Yesterday I was thinking about some of the things I have accomplished during the past three or so years. I was also thinking about some of the things I haven’t accomplished, because, for me, it is impossible to think about one without remembering the other. Beginning in 2000, I have written two novels: A Listening Thing and The Smiling Eyes of Children. In one ninety-day period, I also wrote seventy short stories, which are collectively known as No Time to Cut My Hair. Most recently, I finished what I am for the moment permitting myself to think of as the first volume of my daily journal, One Hand Clapping — the word “volume” representing a whole year’s work. Taken together, these writings amount to more than 330,000 words. But I also wrote a lot of other things, the bulk of which appears somewhere on my website, to which I seem to have become a slave and fanatical devotee. Finally, for better or worse, several of my stories and poems were published in magazines here and in Armenia. These are publications that most of the world has never heard of, and probably never will. Be that as it may, they exist because someone reads them, and for this I am grateful. Now. It is important here to state the obvious: these things are all in the past. They are done. There is no going back. Granted, I will live with them for years and years, just as if they were children. Some have already begun to haunt me, even as I am haunted by new ideas and half-baked plans, which I know are the eternal bane of my existence. For whatever sad reason, it is necessary for me to make new mistakes, or, at least, old mistakes in a new dimension. At the same time, I am fully aware that I might be in the midst of making one big, long, continuous mistake, and that I am dividing it up only to understand it and give myself a reason to go on — though I have a reason: I keep waking up in the morning. And what haven’t I accomplished? Oh, brother. Where do I begin? And can I even afford to take the time?
March 17, 2004 — I’ve read about fifty pages of my recently acquired used copy of Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel, but it only took a page or two to realize the author was writing out of an intense, overwhelming desire to unburden himself, to unburden his mind of all that he had seen, heard, tasted, and experienced thus far. One also gets the sense that his continued rapid accumulation of dreams and sensations made it impossible for him to succeed. The writing is unquestionably good, full of poetic raw energy. But there is the distinct feeling that here is a man who will die with the last chapter of his story on his lips. Granted, in saying this, I do have the benefit of knowing that Thomas Wolfe died young. But my meager knowledge of his life alone isn’t enough to support the feeling. I am getting it from the writing itself. This brings to mind the unreliable nature of even the very best biographical writing. Through books, we can learn an incredible amount about any given person, and yet come away knowing very little about him at all. We can know what he accomplished, and to a certain extent what he thought about and what his preoccupations were, but it is impossible to know how it really was for him. This is something I think about from time to time: a simple ten-minute drive down the road is capable of arousing so many deep feelings about so many things, which in turn can have a profound effect on a person, that it is impossible to explain or relate what is taking place, even for the person himself. This one truth cripples even the best autobiographies. Life is too complicated and richly overwhelming to put it completely and accurately into words. Still, language and literature are miracles. They try. And the great works stir something in us and remind us of things we already know about living and about ourselves, but may have forgotten. In the same way, that’s why it can be said that a real teacher doesn’t teach. A real teacher helps others recognize and understand what they already know, but is lying dormant.
March 18, 2004 — What a difference a year makes. Last March our backyard was a sea of mud, and it was kept that way by frequent rains. This year, we have had what for us amounts to a prolonged dry spell, with only minor showers to interrupt our labors. The ground is still wet, but not so wet that it resists the shovel and iron rake. And so we have been digging. The day before yesterday, I turned over, to a full shovel’s depth, the area directly behind the house. It’s too soon to plant anything vegetable-wise, though, because there is bound to be more frost. But this is a great first step toward being ready — unless heavy rains return, in which case we’ll resume this discussion in April or May. There is another, larger area out back that I began work on yesterday afternoon. The year before last, I raised a huge tomato crop there. Last year, I never was able to get the ground ready. This year, there is an abundance of worms — a good sign. But before I could get much digging done, I realized I would have to do something about the blackberry bush that we allowed to take over the southwest corner of the yard. With an old pair of vineyard pruning shears salvaged from our farming days, I chopped back the thorny growth to the fence, thus reclaiming a ten-by-fifteen-foot space. The bush had rooted in several new places; I chopped and dug the rootings out as best as I could, but I know fresh berry growth will erupt here and there as the season progresses. Faced with a mountain of tangled growth, I then chopped everything to small bits and raked the result into a neat and surprisingly small pile, which I will dispose of later. I was drenched with sweat when I heard the sliding back door to the house open, and our oldest son call out that it was time for supper. Before going in, I looked longingly at the partially dug earth and dreamed of the garden yet to come. When I turned away, I almost tripped over several bushel baskets full of ripe tomatoes.
March 19, 2004 — At first glance, my mother’s walk-in closet is a neat, tidy affair. But the truth is, it is stuffed to the gills with clothes and shoes she hasn’t worn for decades and will never wear again. Just yesterday, she told me she was going to box up most of it and give it away, and keep only the stuff she uses. Of course, there will be a few things she will understandably decide not to part with, and quite a few other things she will probably try on in the process, “just to be sure.” And so the job will likely take several days. While we were mulling this over in her living room, she said something about getting things ready for the “knacker man.” I said, “Knacker man? That’s a new one. What’s a knacker man?” And she said, “You mean you don’t know what a knacker man is?” This led us to her big dictionary, which she keeps open and ready at all times. It turns out “knacker” is an old English term, one meaning of which is a buyer of old ships, houses, etc., for their materials. A knacker is also one who buys and slaughters worn-out horses and sells their flesh for dog food. Knacker has also been used to refer to the worn-out horse itself. After marveling at the knacker entries in her dictionary, and at words and dictionaries in general, I asked why I had never heard her use the word knacker before. She said, “I guess the situation never came up.” When I asked if it was a word her mother had used, she said it wasn’t, and that she must have picked it up long ago in her reading. This is another fine example of how things can be tucked away in our brains for years and years, and then suddenly be coaxed out of hiding — further proof that we don’t know what we know, and that we likely know far more than we think we know. It is something to think about.
March 20, 2004 — This morning I almost feel like I felt when I was ten and one of my father’s younger cousins asked me what I thought was the best age to be, and I answered without hesitation, “Ten.” At the time, we were in our equipment shed, which had replaced our old barn six years earlier. We were standing by four or five dozen fifty-pound sulphur sacks that my father had stacked neatly atop a makeshift pallet of overturned wooden grape boxes so they wouldn’t absorb moisture from the concrete floor. I remember being fully aware of how physically good I felt at that moment, and of how powerfully I belonged — in that very spot, in that building, behind the house in which I lived with the greatest family in the world, nestled among orange and walnut trees, surrounded by vineyards full of black spiders, yellow jackets, horned toads, quail, pheasants, doves, and jackrabbits. There was simply no way on earth that things could have been any better. And so my answer couldn’t have made more sense. Now I am forty-seven, closing on forty-eight. Judging by my appearance, I have passed through many trials and have been singed by many flames. I don’t feel as good physically as I did when I was ten, but I feel pretty good. In fact, since I have been spending time with my old friend the shovel lately, I have been feeling better and more alive than I’ve felt in months. I expect this trend to continue. Meanwhile, I still belong. But I belong differently now. For one thing, I belong somewhere else. I shouldn’t be living in a so-called neighborhood, surrounded by houses, lawns, fences, driveways, and people yelling and spitting and conducting their lives in the street like jackasses. We have been here seventeen years, but I have never grown accustomed to living my life in public. My loving bride, who also grew up in the country, feels the same way. So why are we still here? Basta! I don’t even want to talk about it, other than to say that I am an idiot, and that everything was, is, and always will be my fault. And yet here I am, feeling good about a sunny spring morning, talking about shovels and sulphur sacks. To put it even more succinctly, I feel tremendously lucky. Again, though, basta! I have always been plagued with this feeling. This feeling has gotten me into more trouble than you can imagine. On the other hand, the fact that we have survived proves the feeling works. Does that statement make sense? No. Does it bother me? Of course not. Am I in need of a support group? Absolutely not. Besides, none would have me — and if they would, I would immediately distrust and despise each and every member. It’s hard enough being part of the human race. Why would I want to join a club? I’d rather die trying to figure things out than have someone come along and figure them out for me, or even think he is figuring them out. Why should he have the satisfaction, for one thing, and for another, why doesn’t he mind his own business? Let him learn to stand on his own two feet, then maybe we can have a nice conversation about shovels someday.
March 21, 2004 — Once again, people around the world have taken to the street to protest the evil, insane actions of the U.S. government in Iraq. And in predictable fashion, our free and unfettered press is doing its best to downplay the significance of the protests, saying that far fewer turned out than a year ago on the eve of the U.S. invasion. Their reasoning is simple: by telling people there were fewer protesters, they hope to convince them that more people now support U.S. policy. In other words, they are lying in order to protect the government’s interests. It’s sickening. At the same time, they are quick to point out that somewhere a handful of armchair generals waved flags and proclaimed their love for their beloved president, George Bring ’Em On Bush. Perhaps it would be different if millions of people took to the street in support of the war. But this hasn’t, and won’t, happen. People who believe in Bush’s war would rather sit in their offices and count their money, or listen to pig-headed government tough-guy puppets proclaiming their hatred on talk radio while they are financially raped and mocked by the very people they support.
March 22, 2004 — Yet another sunny day. I should probably go out and buy an old Volkswagen van, hit the road, and wend my way across the country. But as I would have to be back by no later than two this afternoon, it looks like I’ll have to postpone the trip. Sigh. Why an old Volkswagen? For one thing, there would be no chance of getting in too big a hurry. For another, their quaint, prehistoric appearance somehow seems to match my own. This is good, because people will keep their distance for fear I might have fleas — which, by the end of my journey, I would probably manage to attract. It’s also possible I might attract other people with fleas. Such is the power of appearances. If I were to rent a late-model Japanese sedan and race across the country wearing a coat and tie, chances are I would attract a posse of insurance agents — a fate far worse than fleas. Another car I wouldn’t mind driving across the country is a black 1957 Cadillac. Not only would it be more comfortable, I could pick up flea-bitten strangers stranded by their old Volkswagen vans. This would be a valuable service, since flea-bitten strangers aren’t likely to trust someone in a late-model Japanese sedan, wearing a tie in the middle of nowhere — as if he would stop anyway.
March 23, 2004 — Last night we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant, James Mason, Leo J. Carroll, and just about every actor who ever appeared on the old “Perry Mason” show. Really. There were several individual scenes that featured not one, not two, but three or four “Perry Mason” actors, all of them doing their level best to keep a straight face — not an easy thing when you stop and think just how well some of those people knew each other. And so we sat there most of the time saying, “Jeez, there’s another one,” or, “Jeez, there’s Les Tremaine,” or, “That guy was the judge in a lot of episodes, remember?” The movie itself, though, was quite good. We’ve seen it probably three or four times by now, but it was just as enjoyable as always. Hitchcock’s humor and camera angles were great, and Cary Grant’s delivery was typically outstanding. Toward the end, after he had been shot with blanks by Eva Marie Saint and hidden in a hospital room by Leo J. Carroll, Cary Grant told Leo J. Carroll he was thirsty and wanted a pint of bourbon. Leo J. Carroll said, “Sure. Do you mind if I join you?” And Cary Grant said, “In that case, you’d better make it a quart.” The lines were simple, but uttered so well that I laughed out loud. There are a few other movies we brought home, all of them free due to various coupons and promotions. We have Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon still to go, and A Night at the Opera, with the Marx Brothers, Kitty Carlisle, and Allan Jones. We’ve already seen each several times, but every once in awhile everyone wants to see them again. There simply aren’t actors like Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet anymore. I’m not saying there are no worthwhile actors, but so many of them are lightweights dependent on quick cuts and special effects that they are hard to take seriously. In most cases they have no character to begin with, and so have nothing but their strategically whitened teeth to fall back on. Other than that, I have no opinion, no opinion at all.
March 24, 2004 — A bit of wisdom quite possibly in danger of being lost is that madzoon can be used to seal leaks in bicycle tires. Madzoon is the Armenian word for yogurt. When my father was growing up, and also later in my day, our area was plagued with a vicious weed we called “puncture vines.” Puncture vines grow flat against the ground, and their seeds are encased in hard thorny shells that easily embed themselves in bare feet and bicycle tires. If you drive a tractor over a patch of puncture vines, the tires will pick up the seeds and spread them everywhere, leading to a massive infestation. If you ride a bicycle over them, you are assured of one or two flat tires. Thus, puncture vines were a serious problem for farmers and their children alike. I don’t know whether my father discovered the madzoon cure, or if it was someone else in the family. It might even have been one of the Armenian neighbors, of which there were quite a few when he was a kid. After repeatedly dabbing the stuff on the valve stem and pumping it into the flat tire, the madzoon eventually coated the inner tube. As the moisture in it evaporated, it set up and clogged the holes. He told us about this many times. But I forget how long the remedy lasted. I wish now that I would have asked whether it became necessary for my grandmother to increase her madzoon production so the family wouldn’t be shorted at mealtime. I’m sure he would have said yes, just for the effect.
March 25, 2004 — For the last five years or so, we have needed to replace our couch — a term I never see used in furniture advertisements. The official word, it seems, is sofa. For some reason, though, I can’t stand that word, and refuse to utter it. All my life, we have had couches. My mother and father said couch. My grandparents said couch. Everyone in our family said couch. I have said couch, my wife has said couch, and now all four of our kids say couch. It is almost a mental illness, this insistence on the word couch. We are not militant about it; we don’t get into fights over it; indeed, it’s likely that I am the only one who even thinks about it. The others say it because that’s what they grew up hearing. I say it for the same reason, but also because I despise the word sofa. I know it sounds a little unreasonable, but some words affect me that way. It’s even possible that we have kept our current couch far too long because of my reluctance to face this “problem.” We bought the thing at a furniture store on Van Ness Avenue in downtown Fresno almost twenty-five years ago. We also bought a stereo with an eight-track tape player there once, which was subsequently stolen with one of our favorite tapes featuring arias sung by Mario Lanza — a crime that disrupted our lives for many years, until we found the same music on a “Long Playing” record, and again later on a cassette tape. The man’s name was Bloom — not the burglar, but the owner of the furniture store. Each time we were in the store, we talked for at least an hour about the items we were considering for purchase. Mostly out of boredom, Bloom knew an incredible amount about what he was selling. And it was Bloom himself who delivered the couch to the house we were renting in Dinuba at the time. When we brought the couch in, he quietly noticed that our living room was as big and as long as three handball courts, and that the couch looked like a piece of doll house furniture when placed against the wall. Our voices echoed across the room as we reconfirmed our faith in the couch’s quality and durability, and marveled that it cost only three hundred dollars. “Bloom,” I said happily, “I appreciate all you’ve done. I’m sure we’ll be back in your store soon, once we get things sorted out here.” We shook hands and Bloom departed. That was the last time we saw him, and we still have the same couch. But I will skip over its glory years, and its gradual disintegration which was hardly noticeable at first; I will skip over its settling, creaking, and groaning, its crushed and dilapidated cushions, and the final prying apart of one end from the main frame, and the springs which have recently been poking up through the bottom. I will skip all of these things because the couch has been so comfortable, and is still seen as the best place in the house to be by our youngest son, who says if we ever replace it that he wants the couch moved into his room so he can use it as a bed. Just to look at the thing, you have to wonder how it could hold up a cat, leave alone a person. The sitting surface is now about six inches above the floor. Suffice it to say, something needs to be done, and done soon. To that end, my wife and I ventured forth yesterday in search of a new Bloom and a new couch. All we found were disinterested dullards selling sofas. One guy even had eyes painted on his eyelids so he would look like he was awake. “If you have any questions,” he snored, “don’t hesitate to ask.” Finally, in one store, the outside of which was painted to look like an amusement park, we found two couches that were possibilities. The first looked like a Viking ship. I told my wife, “There it is. We found it.” She laughed and said it was ugly. Then we looked at the other couches, and found out what ugly really is. We came back to the Viking ship. My wife said, “I kind of like it.” There was one other couch, out of about eighty or ninety couches, that seemed okay. It was big and soft and superior in every way to our couch here at home, and it was priced at just under seven hundred dollars. I said, “You know, that’s a lot of money to spend on a stupid couch,” fully aware that good couches these days routinely cost far more. “I think we should look around some more. There have got to be more furniture stores in this town,” and so on. We drove home. When we saw our couch, we couldn’t believe what had happened to it while we’d been gone. It had shriveled, and had lost at least thirty pounds. It looked like it was ready for intensive care. We were immediately plunged into grief, doubt, and despair. After all that couch has done for us, it would be sad, even immoral, to desert it now.
March 26, 2004 — While trying to add to my meager store of literary knowledge yesterday evening, I read part of Alan Ginsberg’s controversial poem, “Howl,” on the Internet. As the story goes, Ginsberg read the poem to an audience of about 100 that included Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen at a place called Gallery Six in San Francisco. If I remember correctly, the event had been organized by another well known poet, Kenneth Rexroth. The year was 1957. After the poem was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the owner of San Francisco’s City Lights book store, the book was confiscated by police on the grounds of obscenity and made to stand trial. Ultimately, the judge ruled that the book wasn’t obscene, stating that it did in fact have redeeming qualities, despite its coarse, vivid language. Before the trial, the poem was basically unknown. After the trial, it sold like hotcakes, to the tune of a million copies. Some reviewers compared the work to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Indeed, Ginsberg embraced Whitman’s open structure and use of long sentences. But my first impression of the approximately 3,600-word poem, of which I read about half, is that its clever, jazz-like word combinations come across as more of a surface phenomenon, whereas Whitman’s words seem to spring directly from the poetic source of life itself. If the two poets can be said to have had a strategy, Ginsberg’s somehow seemed more apparent. The times were significantly different, to be sure. Ginsberg’s America was not Whitman’s. If we ask the foolish question of what Whitman’s writing would be like if he were writing in 1957 and beyond, who is to say that he wouldn’t have gifted the smirking establishment with the same sort of literary dynamite? In Whitman’s own time, his poetry was thought by many to be obscene. Now, almost fifty years after the publication of “Howl,” even Ginsberg’s crude images have lost much of their shock value. Some retain their effect, others are merely repulsive. I can’t help thinking that if we survive another 100 or 200 years, “Howl” will be all but forgotten and Leaves of Grass will remain. I could be wrong. I often am. No doubt I have put down these thoughts prematurely. But there is something to be said for first impressions. In this case, I feel it unlikely that I will return to “Howl,” while I know definitely that I will return to Whitman.
March 27, 2004 — I am sick to the roots of my being about this country’s insatiable hunger for more — more resources, more power, more control, more domination over others. All empires come to an end. Rome came to an end. No matter how much an empire does or pretends to do for the people it conquers, ultimately, people resent being conquered. They don’t forget what happened. They stew over their losses for centuries. Then, slowly, inexorably, what goes around comes around. When I think about what our particular empire brings to the world — its decaying values, its corruption, its drugs, its unhealthy appetites and habits, its lack of respect for other languages and cultures, and so on — I feel tremendously sad. There is no thought for the future, other than the future immediately within our grasp. On a grand and grotesque scale, this empire is like a thick-headed schoolyard bully who takes what he wants and repays those who resist with violence. Only the arrival of a stronger bully on the scene can shift the balance of power. But even the strongest bullies are eventually replaced. According to the natural order of things, their days are numbered. Our days are numbered. The sun’s and earth’s days are numbered. All that begins, ends. And yet we act as if we have forever to get things right. We don’t. We have only as long as each of us have, whether it’s a week, a year, or many years. And even that is an illusion, because we can’t be certain of the next moment. So if any decision is going to be made, it must be made now. Waiting is a criminal act. By and large, we are unaware of our power to change things. We don’t believe in it, are afraid of it, and are taught to doubt it by those whose evil plans are threatened by it. “Be good,” they say in various forms, “or you’ll be spanked.” And great multitudes bow their heads, and trundle along in herds to the nearest church, club, theater, or designated safe spot approved by the authority of the moment. It is no way to live. As right or safe or comforting as it might seem, it is a dangerous, destructive way to live. The results are readily apparent.
March 28, 2004 — I don’t know how many people realize that there are bills presently in the Senate and House of Representatives that, if passed, would reinstate the draft. Bills S.89 and H.R.163 would effectively bring this country back full circle to the glorious days of Vietnam, with, of course, a few refinements. One is that women would also be called to serve in the armed forces. Another is that the bills generously allow for young people to finish their high school educations. But as soon as they do, look out. The president’s empty “No Child Left Behind” pledge will take on a new and far scarier meaning. The purpose of the bill is stated as follows: “To provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes.” I love that — for other purposes. I assume that refers to things like taking over other countries and stealing their oil. Also, it should be noted that the civilian service referred to is not a choice of the inductee; the president alone gets to decide how many bodies he wants to send into the maw of ignorance, destruction, and death, and only after that number is satisfied will anyone be ordered into civilian service. The intention of the current administration has long been clear. If it is able to sneak these bills through while attention is diverted by the barrage of nonsense surrounding the upcoming election, and if the president again manages to steal his way into office for another four years, it will be open season on young people everywhere and their blood will really begin to flow.
March 29, 2004 — A couple of days ago, over the course of several hours and interrupted by various comings and goings, I wrote a two-part, sixty-six-line poem. I didn’t know what I was writing about at first, or if it would turn out to be anything worth saving, but soon I had a feeling something good was developing and I was eager to find out what it was. It turned out to be “The Enigmatic Child,” a rhythmic, driven work that speaks to the power, magic, and frailty of our existence. Either that, or it is a bunch of good-sounding drivel, as quite a few of my poems tend to be. In any case, I am still trying to figure out what the poem means. When my wife read it, she described it as a harrowing experience, saying that each line was almost a poem in and of itself. But there does seem to be one meaning ready at hand. The first half of the poem can be said to represent the adult world welcoming a new child into its midst, while the second half tells how the child views his arrival. Along the way, much is said about the transformation from childhood to adulthood, about what is lost and what is gained, and about how much there is that remains unknown or misunderstood. This is quite a lot for a poem to do, which is one reason writing it took so long and turned out to be a lot of work. But it was work I tremendously enjoyed, though, I must confess, I felt angry by the time I was done. I wasn’t angry with anything or anyone in particular, except maybe myself, though there was no real reason to be. The probable cause is that I was just tired and wrung out, and had had enough for one day.
March 30, 2004 — I have come to the conclusion that contradiction lies at the heart of all things, and that it is a wonderful and entirely necessary component of life. For years, now, I have been a witness to, or participant in, quiet uproars, raging silence, stern laughter, joyful suffering, wise folly, painful victory, and fortunate misunderstanding. I have been comforted and sustained by defeat, and leveled by success. I have also been leveled by the successful, whose actions, ultimately, are an expression of their own defeat. The longer I live, the more I understand and the less I know. I find that people really are what they seem, but that that is not all they are. They are, in fact, much less, but the less is far greater than can be imagined. To make sense is not divine. It is an affliction, a burden. The universe did not come about through logic. Even if it was made by someone willing to let himself, herself, or itself be known as God, it is still illogical to create something out of nothing. It was a mysterious, celestial hiccup, or an accidental, playful enterprise right from the beginning. And immediately, it was too late. It has been too late all along. The sooner we recognize this, the happier we will be. The sooner we realize that we are prisoners, the sooner we will be free to laugh and cry this existence into another dimension, where, I might add, we have been along.
March 31, 2004 — And now, a word from our sponsors. What? We have no sponsors? You’re kidding. How can that be? Oh, I see. The sponsors are afraid we will be censored by the government. Well, then. That’s okay. Uniformity, conformity — that’s what it’s all about. If we are going to survive as a society, we need more regulation, strangulation, and homogenization. Why, just the other day, I was listening to the radio and ——— After good Saint George blessed his troops today, a tear formed in his eye as they chanted his name and trotted joyously off into battle against the Freedom-Hating Forces of Evil Who Don’t Like Hamburgers and SUVs. “Really,” he said to his wife as she simultaneously posed for Reader’s Digest and Parade Magazine, “how could a man ask for anything more — except for all the world’s oil, maybe, and anything else worth taking?” And the queen, too, shed a royal tear. “You are so gentle,” she said. “So kind. You are just like your father.” Good Saint George smiled. “Now, don’t forget Mom,” he said. “Where would we be without her?” — And now, a word from our sponsors. Be all you can be. Hurrah! Smoke ’em outta their holes! Hurray!
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Also by William Michaelian
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Another Song I Know
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