Thursday, April 30, 2009

Marriage Equality In Maine Clears First Hurdle

I just got back from the State House.

The Maine Senate passed the marriage equality bill by a vote of 20-15. It then defeated an amendment to send the issue directly to the voters as a referendum by a vote of 13-22.

The bill will move to the house for a vote next Tuesday, where it's expected to pass without amendment.

Before today's proceedings, no one knew for sure how the vote would turn out in the Senate, though. Even after the Senate voted to pass the measure, no one was sure how the vote on the amendment would pan out. After the amendment failed, the Senate voted again and the bill passed 21-14.

Today's outcome was the biggest first step toward marriage equality in Maine.

The governor hasn't stated whether he will sign or veto the bill or let it become law without his signature. I guess I'm going to have to invite him and his wife down the road to our house for a gourmet dinner and talk about love, commitment, and civil rights.

The way to a man's heart is always through his stomach.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

'Sugar Shack' Artist Ernie Barnes Dead At 70

IF YOU watched the Norman Lear 70s sitcom "Good Times" you will remember the Sugar Shack from the opening credits or Marvin Gaye's "I Want You" album cover. The artist who painted that iconic rendition of African American dance died last night. He was 70 years old.

Ernie Barnes

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Planting

Dirt darkens my nails beds.
Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower,
and peas are in the ground,
along with several varieties of onions,
all sorts of spring greens and herbs
that flourish in cool soil.

Now, a break
before preparing
the summer fields
for sowing.

The View From Here

Fire Watching

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dutch Family Arrives

Jaap-Willem and Eliza, Job's niece from eldest sister, arrived last night from the Netherlands.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Photo Of The Day

Freed 77-year old hostage German Marianne Petzold is pictured with her bandages as she attends  a ceremony with Mali President Amadou Toumani (out of camera range)  after she was released along Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler UN special envoy to Niger, and his assistant Louis Guay (Both out of camera range)  and Swiss Gabriella Greitner by Al-Qaeda-linked captors after months as hostages, in Bamako on April 23, 2009. Malian authorities said Wednesday the four were released after being held hostage "in the Sahel zone" and were generally in good health. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) claimed responsibility in February for the kidnapping of the Canadian diplomats in December and the four tourists snatched in January.

Freed 77-year old hostage German Marianne Petzold is pictured with her bandages as she attends a ceremony with Mali President Amadou Toumani (out of camera range) after she was released along Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler UN special envoy to Niger, and his assistant Louis Guay (Both out of camera range) and Swiss Gabriella Greitner by Al-Qaeda-linked captors after months as hostages, in Bamako on April 23, 2009. Malian authorities said Wednesday the four were released after being held hostage "in the Sahel zone" and were generally in good health. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI) claimed responsibility in February for the kidnapping of the Canadian diplomats in December and the four tourists snatched in January.

The View From Here

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Say It Again

"BUT THE WAY in which Obama has been able to show that he doesn't want the division and rancor that restoring the rule of law requires, while deftly allowing the rule of law to move forward: well, that's classic Obama. And the bravado, vanity, Beltway posturing and lies of Dick Cheney? Well: remember what happened to Clinton and McCain and Palin."--Andrew Sullivan

Monday, April 20, 2009

Search and Reunion: Eight Years Ago Today

HOW TIME flies. I can't believe it's been a full eight years since I showed up on my birth mother's doorstep unannounced. I'm the king of redundancy, so here's what I posted last year on this day


SEVEN YEARS ago today, when I had no hair and still looked like a little boy, I saw my birthmother's face in person for the first time in my life. It's hard to believe it's been so long. Hard to believe there have been so many twists and turns. Great celebrations. More separation. Confrontation. Reconciliation.

But this was how it was, as I documented in my book, on that Sabbath evening seven years ago:

Their Eyes Were Watching God

It is dark. It takes them a little while to locate the right unit. Craig anticipates what’s about to happen, his anxiety stiff and peaked like whipped egg whites. What will she look like?

The time is near.

Will she recognize him?

The time is near.

How will she react?

The time is near.

They find the right unit. Uncle James, still talking on the phone with Sonja, knocks on the door. Job aims the video camera at the door.

Craig stands away from the door, away from his husband and uncle. James knocks again.

“Who is it?” a voice replies. Is it hers? Or his sister’s?

“It’s Uncle James.”

The door opens. She appears in blue-green shorts and a white T-shirt. Her face shrouded with hair.

“It’s the CIA.” James laughs his shrill and infectious laugh.

“I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow.”

“Well, I’m here now. Mind if I bring my friends in with me?”

“Not at all. Who are your friends?”

They exchange pleasantries.

Craig shakes her hand, quickly, and steps inside, trembling.

“So who are your friends?”

“This is Job.” Job shakes her hand.

“Job’s full name is Jacobus, which means James.” Cell phone still live with Aunt Sonja, Uncle James steps inside and away from Craig.

“Who is this?”

“You know who he is.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

With the back of her right hand, she pushes her long hair out of her face. She studies Craig’s face. He has her protruding bottom lip. She studies closer. He has her exact caramel-colored skin with the reddish tint.


He has that slightly squinted left eye that reflects her tightly squinted right eye.

And closer still.

She cocks her head subtly to the right, but not so subtly that he doesn’t notice, and furrows her brow.

“It’s been thirty-three years.”

But she doesn’t hear Job, because she already knows.

“My son?”

He nods.

Wow.” She raises her right hand. “Joseph.”

He nods again.

She steps forward to hug him. He clenches her.

“Oh, my God.”

His water breaks.

“Oh, my God.”

His earth quakes.

“Oh, my God.”

His bow breaks.

“Oh, my God.”

His heart aches.

“Oh, my God.”

He can’t let go.

“Oh, my God.”

He won’t let go.

“Oh, my God.”

She rocks him slowly side to side.

“Oh, my God.”

“It’s okay,” she whispers.


“It’s okay.”


He buries his head in her shoulder.


She strokes his head.


She rocks him slowly and strokes his head.

“Ohm’ God.”

His earth quakes


His water breaks.


And he wails three decades and three years of tears.

And time stands still.

The day after. From left: The grandmother, the husband, yours truly, the nephew, the sister, the birthmother, the auntie, the eldest uncle, the younger uncle

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Photo Of The Day

A Trinidadian wrapped in a Cuban flag takes part in a protest during the "People's Summit", which is being held at the same time as the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain April 18, 2009.

A Trinidadian wrapped in a Cuban flag takes part in a protest during the "People's Summit", which is being held at the same time as the 5th Summit of the Americas in Port of Spain April 18, 2009.

Sunday With Jimmy - Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I'M ENJOYING the first taste of spring. Microgreens. A bouquet of cilantro, basil, collards, arugula, Swiss chard, and beet greens sprinkled over sunny-side-up eggs. Delicious.

Viva Obama

Wasn't too long ago Chavez called President Obama ignorant. Now look at him.

Meanwhile, Obama calls for a new beginning with Cuba.

Peace is at Hand:

"The United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba," President Obama said at the Summit of the Americas opening ceremony.

The flurry of back-and-forth gestures began earlier this week when Obama dropped restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba, challenging his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, to reciprocate.

In a diplomatic exchange of the kind that normally takes months or years, Castro responded within hours to Obama's policy changes this week.

He extended Cuba's most open offer for talks since the Eisenhower administration, saying he's ready to discuss "human rights, freedom of the press, political prisoners -- everything." Cuban officials have historically bristled at discussing human rights or political prisoners, of whom they hold about 200.

Castro using conciliatory language of a kind rarely heard in the 50 years since the Cuban revolution, grabbed the attention of U.S. officials when he said: "We could be wrong, we admit it. We're human."

"Let me be clear: I am not interested in talking for the sake of talking," said President Obama, "but I do believe that we can move U.S.-Cuban relations in a new direction."

Obama kills him with kindness.

Madame Secretary, looking wrung out.

Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner.

And a child shall lead them.

Marine One flying over Mexico City.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

They Hate Him Because He Is "Black"

I found this essay and feel like there's nothing more to say:

I deliberately use the word black rather than the words African American. The latter lacks the proper emotional value. It is cultural and geographical. The former is visceral. Bigotry is not subtle. It is primal. It is not about ideas. It is irrational.

He is smarter and more educated and more articulate than they. A self-made man, he represents everything they would claim to value. But he looks different, to them. They hate him because he looks different. They hate him because he is dark. In "Western" "Culture," the very words black and dark have powerfully negative value. They often are used as synonyms for the sinister.

They hated President Clinton, and tried to destroy him. But one of their elected governors didn't talk secession. They didn't talk revolution. They didn't attempt (and miserably fail) to launch nationwide protests against him. Bill Clinton was a lot of things. He was not black.

Read the rest. There's not much more, but there's more than enough.


Generally speaking, traditional
conservatives don't consider
a progressive tax code

Generally speaking,
right wing extremists
do, though.

Fanaticism has
infected conservatism
like a retrovirus.

Ronald Reagan's legacy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sasha And Malia Get Their Puppy

Pete Souza

The Obamas welcome Bo, a six-month old Portuguese water dog and a gift from Senator and Mrs. Kennedy to Sasha and Malia, recently at the White House.

The Resurrection Table

The following is an excerpt from my 2005 memoir Fumbling Toward Divinity

On April 11, 2001, Craig and Job loaded up their black Jeep Grand Cherokee and pulled away from their house on Ridge Street in Roslindale, a hilly neighborhood in the southwestern part of Boston, Massachusetts. They began the thousand-mile journey to Milwaukee in search of the house on Sixteenth Street and where it might lead them. They decided to traverse Pennsylvania on interstate 80, intending to return to Boston through upstate New York a week or so later.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Craig looked at his husband and felt a surge inside, a surge he had not felt in a long, long time. Somewhere in Pennsylvania, his love began to breathe again, breathe again, so full was he with the ease of coming back to love again, so satisfied they had finally returned to Paradise. Somewhere in Pennsylvania, fulfillment lulled him into a slumber where all he could dream about was how they had gotten to Paradise in the first place.

When Craig woke up, they were already in Chicago. Craig drove the rest of the journey, while Job took his turn at sleep in the stretched-out-flat passenger seat. They arrived in Milwaukee late Saturday morning and tired as a mule, Craig drove by Sharon Seventh-Day Adventist Church on Teutonia Avenue on Milwaukee’s north side. Services had just ended and Craig wondered if any of the people, clad in white and pastel Easter raiment posing in front of the church, were his relatives.

“C’mon, honey. Let’s just get to the hotel. I need to stretch all the way out,” said Job, awakened by the slow tempo of the car as they passed the church.

“I’m so tired I could fall out, but I wanna drive by the house first. It’s only a few blocks from here. After that, I promise, we’ll go to the hotel. It’s a quick dash downtown on the highway.” Craig drove about half a mile up Teutonia Avenue, turned right onto Burleigh Street and left onto Sixteenth. Almost at the end of the block on the right side of the street sat 3232, the house with white siding and green trim.

“It looks like your parents’ house, Craig,” said Job as they pulled up. Craig stopped in the middle of the street. “It’s smaller because it’s a single-family, but it’s just like your house. Same color and everything. The only thing missing are the pine trees.”

“Surreal.” Craig looked in the rearview mirror and saw no car coming behind them. “Take a picture.”

Job retrieved the Canon from the camera bag, rolled down the window, and snapped two photographs. Craig tried to imagine the family that had lived behind the front door thirty-three years before, but nothing came into view. He sighed and pulled away as Job put the camera back in its case.

Craig drove downtown where they checked into the Hotel Wisconsin, one of the city’s oldest. It was the same hotel where Craig once met a man whose number was written neatly on the stall of a bathroom in the Grand Avenue Mall, which stretched for three blocks right across the street.

“When was the last time we all had Easter dinner together, Craig?” asked Gina.

Craig searched the annals of his memory while scanning the red walls of the kitchen alcove where his family gathered. “Nineteen eighty-six,” he finally said. “My last year of high school.

“Has it been that long?” asked Mary.

“At least that long. I never came home for Easter during college and I haven’t been home for Easter since. When did you paint these walls red?”

“Last year around this time.” Gina eyed the macaroni and cheese. “I hired this guy, a friend of Bernadine’s, to do it. You like it?”

“I love red walls. Somehow, I didn’t think Mama would go for it though.”

“Oh, so you don’t think your mother has any taste?”

“Why even go there?”

“Here’s to an Easter reunion.” Job interrupted the inevitable mother-son banter, raising his wine glass for a toast.

“Gina, get me some water, please. I forgot my glass up front.” Gina went to the living room to get Mary’s glass and freshened it with tap water before sitting back down. They all raised their drinks.

“Here ye, here ye,” announced Hazelle, Pabst Blue Ribbon in hand, “I’d like to thank The Almighty for bringing my sons—both of my sons—safely to the table and making this an extra special Easter. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

They toasted and drank from their cups.

“Craig, bless the food.” Mary reached for Craig.

They all held hands and bowed their heads.

“Dear Lord, we thank you for this food we’re about to receive. Continue to bless the hands that prepared the meal and nourish us with love. We also want to thank you for this coming together of family on the occasion of your resurrection. May we all experience our own rebirths in the here and now. Amen.”

“Wait a minute,” blurted Hazelle before they raised their heads and let go their hands. “Lord, we also want you to guide our son on his search for his birth mother. Help him find the answers to all of his questions. Now, let’s eat.”

“Amen,” rang the chorus of their voices.

“Job, why don’t you carve the ham.” Mary opened a moist towelette and wiped her hands.

While Job carved the brown-sugar-and-maple-glazed ham, Gina heaped the macaroni and cheese Craig had baked onto her plate and passed it around the table. “Save some macaroni for the rest of us Gina, you old greedy thing, you.”

Hazelle laughed. “You know she can’t get enough of her brother’s cooking, Mary.”

“It might be another fifteen years till I have some more of it,” said Gina, digging her fork deep in the pile, “so I’m taking my fill now. Yall don’t have enough, too bad. Every tub stands on its own bottom.”

Mary’s turnip greens, Hazelle’s hot-water cornbread, and Gina’s creamed pearl onions made it round the table.

After Job carved the ham and served a few slices to each of them, he sat down, pulled his chair up to the table, and said, “Eet smakelijk.”

“Ate who?” said Hazelle. Gina cackled.

Eet smakelijk. Say it, Daddy,” encouraged Job.

“Uh uh. I can’t say that.”

“Yes you can. Craig, what’s it sound like in English?”

“Daddy, think of a smock and licking your lips.” Craig spoke deliberately. “Smock-a-lick.”

“Ate smock-a-lick,” repeated Hazelle.

“That’s it.” Job laughed and led Craig and Gina in applause.

“Well, I say,” was all Mary could say.

“What’s it mean, son?”

“It means eat with taste, Daddy. In Holland, we say it before every meal. The French say, ‘Bon appetite,’ and we say, ‘Eet smakelijk.’ Americans don’t say anything.”

“I don’t know about Americans, but we pray before we eat, honey,” said Mary. “We pray.”

There was a stretch of silence—not silence, really, but the peace-filled quiet of people eating good, good food.

“Mama, how was church this morning?”

“It was beautiful. Just beautiful. We didn’t go to sunrise service like we usually do, but I helped the ladies out first thing this morning serving Easter breakfast. Your father had to sing at the eight-o’clock and ten-thirty services. I went to the eight-o’clock service and came on home and took me a nap. Jeffrey Watkins’ kids are getting so big. I told him you were home. He hopes to see you before you go back. How long you gonna be here, anyway?”

“Not sure.”

“Are you gonna go and see Roosevelt’s grave while you’re here?”

“I don’t know.”

“You remember Mister Washington, don’t you, Craig? He used to sit in front of us every Sunday. Well, he passed, God bless his soul. Had cancer. Zachary’s mother asked about you too. Zachary got married overseas; he’s in the military now. And Dante”—Craig sat up straight; Mary continued—“I haven’t seen him in a long time. I see his brothers Marcellus and Tyreese every now and then, but since they go to Zebaoth, they don’t come to Siloah too much. But Dante came today. He looked real good too. Much better than the last time I saw him.”

Even after twenty-five years, the simple mention of Dante’s name forced blood between Craig’s legs. “Did he ask about me?”

“No, son, but I told him you were here. Oh, and Millicent, Millicent Avery from your class, son, remember when you had a crush on her? Well, Millicent had a heart attack, yes she did. She’s got two kids, one eleven and one eight, and according to Missus Avery, it was the oldest one who called the ambulance to go to his house when she didn’t pick him up from school. Can you believe that? He must’ve had a feeling. Or maybe Millicent seemed sick before he went to school. Isn’t it just beautiful that a young boy would be levelheaded enough to call the ambulance in that situation? The Lord works in mysterious ways, I say to you, yes He does. We had a prayer for her today at church. Her mother said she needs to lose a lotta weight. And we had prayer for Jerry Baker too. Wasn’t he also in your class, son?”

“He was a grade ahead of me, Mama.”

“Well, he has diabetes and HIV. I don’t know if he’s married or what. He’s been on dialysis over at St. Joseph’s Hospital, so we said a prayer for him too. But church was beautiful, son, it sure was. Pastor Westendorf gave one of his better sermons and the regular choir sounded good. Even the gos-pel choir had it together this morning, and I’m telling you, when they first started a couple years back I wished they’d never got up there and sang. They sounded like dying birds, I’m telling you.” Mary threw back her head and mimicked the sound of dying birds. She cracked herself up. “You know I can’t carry a tune and I sounded better than they did.” They all laughed. “But they’re much better now, son, you oughtta hear’m sometime.”

“Craig, guess who was in town a few weeks ago?” Gina overlapped Mary’s last out-loud thought.

“I haven’t the slightest.”

“Halle Berry.”

“Yeah, that Eric brings her around to see his mother sometimes,” said Mary. “She looks just like Gina.”

“Eric Benét?” asked Job, his tone hued with disbelief.

“Eric Jordan.” Mary punched the word Jordan.

“Yes, honey,” Craig replied while Mary went on:

“I know him as Eric Jordan. I don’t know where he got that highfalutin-tootin Benét from. His mother lives right over here not too far from Rufus King where his cousins, Eurieal and Persephone, went to high school with Craig.”

“You don’t remember,” Craig continued, looking at Job, “when I told you that Gina went out with him on and off for several years before he got his big break?”

“Now I do. I did like his first album, though.” Job spooned glaze over his ham.

“Me too. That is, until I read the liner notes and saw that he didn’t thank Gina for one single thing.” Craig looked at his sister. “Nearly every song on that album was about you, girl. And not only that, you practically funded his life here in Milwaukee while he was a struggling to get noticed. I remember when you played his demo tape for me. I know you helped pay for that—I wouldn’t be surprised if you bankrolled the whole thing—even though you never said so. You totally believed in him, said you knew he would make it. And he did. And what thanks do you get for supporting him? Nada. He better hope and pray I don’t run into him anytime soon.”

“That’s how your sister’s always been.” Mary was exasperated. “Generous to a fault. Puts herself on the line, does so much for so many of these Negroes and when all is said and done, she doesn’t have anything to show for it. Now she’s wasting her time on that Maurice from the Seventy-Sixers basketball team. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with my daughter. I do miss Eric’s little girl, though, that precious Asia. Reminds me of Gina when she was little. Asia’s like a granddaughter to me. I sure wish I could see her again.”

“Anyway.” Gina rolled her eyes repeatedly during Mary’s speech. “Eric wanted me to meet Halle Berry again. I think it was their first time back here since they got married. Eric first wanted me to meet her when I was modeling for Wilhelmina in New York, talking some nonsense about wanting my approval before they got married. Ha.”

“Well, did you meet her?” asked Craig.

“No, honey. Uh uh. I first turned him down in New York when I told him I couldn’t care less who he married, and I turned him down again. I told him he didn’t really want me to meet her anyhow. If I did, I’d tell her what she could expect from him. But she’ll find out soon enough. That’s probably why she married him in secret. That was the only way she could do it. She must not’ve wanted anybody discouraging her, telling her what a player he was. She had to sense it, somehow, in some way.”

“Umph, umph, umph. Well, I say,” was all Mary could say.

“That’s an understatement. Seem to me like he’s trying to prove some-thing to himself running around screwing every woman who’ll have him.”

“Craig, what are you trying to say?”

“I’m not trying to say anything, girl. I told you before what I thought about him. If there’s any truth to what I sensed about him the first time I met him standing in this very kitchen, let’s just say Eric wouldn’t be the first man, or the last, who tried to overcompensate with women for—”

“Now looky here,” Hazelle chimed in, his words splashes of cold water on their faces, “yall gone sit round the dinner table on this beautiful day gossipin bout people who ain’t even worth the breath you wastin on’m?”

“Quiet, Hazelle. Hush your mouth. Ain’t nobody talking to you. You make me wanna put down my religion.”

“Long as you pick it back up. And I don’t have to hush my mouth. I’m sitting in my kitchen at my table with my family, and I’ll say what I want.”

“Job, don’t you pay your father-in-law, don’t you pay Hazelle no mind. He’s only showing out because you’re here. Humph. Who does he think I am, sitting over here with wide eyes and more desire? Guess he thinks I’m chopped liver. Humph. His kitchen, his table, his family.”

“Ma, I learned my lesson when I came to his defense the last time I was here.” Job laughed. “I’m keeping my mouth shut.”

“Good idea, son. Good idea. That’s why I always call you the peacemaker. Be married long as we have, you make it that far, you see what I’m talkin about. Old silly thing. Always gotta open his mouth when nobody’s talking to him. It’ll be fifty-five years this June twenty-third. I was ninety-eight pounds soaking wet when I married that man all those years ago. You make it this far, you hear me, Job? Then you come and tell me I don’t know what I’m talkin about.” She caught her breath and took a drink of water. “How’s your mother doing?”

“She’s been doing much better since after she broke her hip last year. She still complains a lot, but she’s getting around much better. She’s planning to come to my graduation next month.”

“That’s beautiful, son, just beautiful. I send her a card now and then. I sure hope she gets’m. I don’t know if I put enough postage on’m or not.”

“I’m sure she gets’m. She probably forgets to tell me when we talk.” Job paused for a moment and then looked across the table. “Gina, do you have any commercials coming out or are we gonna see you in any more music videos soon?”

“Not anytime soon. Lemme be positive, Job: not yet. I’m heading down to Chicago later this week to audition for a Tampax commercial. My agency also got me an audition for an Ice Cube video. We’ll see what happens.”

“Why did you come back here from New York? Does Wilhelmina still represent you?”

“Technically, they do, but they also know I’m not there right now, so they’re not actively looking for work for me.” Gina swallowed whatever she was chewing and wiped her mouth. “You know, Job, New York is no joke. I probably had one really good year there, you know what I mean, when I had the gigs to bring in enough cash flow to make it worth my while. Let’s face it, at five foot nine, I’m not tall enough to do runway, and as big as Wilhel-mina is, they just couldn’t get me enough print work on a consistent basis to justify my staying there. Besides, the industry is starting to get to me. I came home to take a break, reflect on my life, and reassess my options. I think I might wanna get into styling, which would allow me to be creative. I might even start designing jewelry.”

“What is styling?”

“If you open up a LAND’S END catalog, for instance, you might see the models posing in a log cabin setting. The stylist creates that habitat for the photographer to work with.”

“Kind of like a movie set designer,” said Craig, “but for print advertising photo shoots.”

“Exactly. Stylists can also put together a model’s entire look, right down to the most minute accessory, for a photo shoot. Craig keeps telling me I need to do something creative, and I’m beginning to think he’s right.”

“Gina can draw. She used to draw the most amazing portraits and illustrations just sitting up at the kitchen table doodling on a piece of paper. Her work was easily as good as anything I’ve ever seen on the cover of the NEW YORKER.”

“Your father can draw a pretty good picture, too,” said Mary.

“Craig wasn’t bad either,” said Gina. “He used to paint beautiful watercolors.”

“I know,” said Job, “we have a couple of the ones he painted way back in the seventh-grade hanging in our living room.”

Craig swallowed his last bite of macaroni and cheese and looked at his father. “So, Daddy, have you planted your garden yet?”

“Not yet, son. It’s been colder this spring than it usually is, so I haven’t gotten everything I want in the ground yet. I planted some collards and some peas, but that’s about the size of it. I don’t wanna rush it. Frost’ll fall and ruin the seedlings. Then I’ll have to start all over. The soil is ready to go, though. Gervis came over with his Rototiller a few weeks ago. In due time, I’ll plant me some cucumbers, mustards, turnips, corn, radishes, some green onions, tomatoes, string beans, and watermelon. This year, I’m gonna try potatoes. Mister Fate said to just plant them whole, about a foot into the ground. He had a good little crop right across the street last fall.”

“So, Job, tell me, how was the drive?”

“Long. Your brother slept most of the way. We decided to stay at the Hotel Wisconsin downtown because we didn’t wanna be so far away at the hotel you found for us.”

“I didn’t know exactly what you guys wanted. Brookfield is a hike, but it was the best rate I could find on such short notice. I never even thought about the Hotel Wisconsin. I thought it was kind of seedy myself.”

“I’ll say. Kind of creepy, too. The room numbers don’t seem to go in any order so you get lost trying to find your room when you get of the elevator. And speaking of the elevator. That thing must be a-hundred-years-old. It has one of those grated gates that slide like a flat accordion behind the door. And it creaks and shakes as it moves so slowly, you don’t think you’re ever gonna get to your floor. I swear it’s a death trap. Even though we’re staying on the seventh floor, we take the stairs. The décor is Depression era, and the place is surely depressed. The mirrors hang crooked on the walls, and some of the room numbers dangle from the doors or have simply fallen off. It’s like a hotel in a horror movie. But it’s cheap and the sheets are clean, so, there you have it.”

“The Hotel Wisconsin. Isn’t that where Teddy Roosevelt was shot?” asked Mary.
“I think it was.” Hazelle pushed his plate away and went to the refrigerator to get another beer.

“Actually, he was shot by an anarchist at point-blank range in front of the Hotel Gilpatrick, which is now the Hyatt, right across the street,” said Craig. “The Hotel Wisconsin can claim that it happened in front of it, and I guess, technically, it did, since it happened across the street.”

“Roosevelt was holding a copy of a really thick speech he was about to give and that stopped the bullet from killing him,” said Mary.

“I didn’t know that. That must’ve been one mighty long speech. I’ll have to re-read the article about Roosevelt when we go back tonight and see if that’s in there. There’s a lot of great history about Milwaukee hanging on the walls of the lobby in framed newspaper clippings and old original photographs. Mama—Daddy, you too, I’m sure—would love some of the stuff they have. We’ve already spent a good amount of time reading it all. Seems like we spent most of last night down there. It’s all really interesting. Gina, can you pass me the mac and cheese?”

“Please.” Mary frowned.

“Please.” Craig laughed. “You didn’t give me a chance, Mama.” Gina handed the Pyrex to Mary who handed it to Craig. He scooped a small portion onto his plate.

“You had a chance. Lord have mercy, you act like you ain’t been raised right.” Mary finished her last bite and pushed her plate away from her. “Now, tell me, son, what are you gonna do while you’re here? How exactly are you gonna go about finding your birth mother?”

“Did you drive by the house yet?” asked Gina. “Soon as you called me and gave me the address, Bern and I drove right over there.”

“Looks a lot like this house,” said Job.

“Sure does and I almost went and knocked on the front door.” Gina couldn’t contain her excitement. “I don’t know what I would’ve said if somebody answered. Bern had to talk some sense into me, keep me in the car.”

“We’re gonna try and locate as much information as we can, Mama. Tomorrow we’ll go to the public library to look up newspaper archives for obituaries and wedding announcements, try to find out what Jennifer’s last name might be, since it’s probably not White anymore. We might go to vital records to see if we can get any information there but we’ll definitely go to the courthouse to the Register of Deeds to find out exactly who owned the house on Sixteenth Street in the late sixties. John, that guy, if you remember, who was renting a room from us and who moved to California the day before we left, suggested that we buy a video camera to bring with us on this trip. We’ve always wanted a video camera anyway so we took his advice. We’re gonna document whatever we can of the search while we’re here and see what happens. I have a really good feeling about it, though. A really good feeling. Best one I’ve had in the five years that I’ve been searching.”

The family was quiet for the rest of the meal. Everyone was too full for even the tiniest piece of Hazelle’s blackberry cobbler. Mary wasn’t supposed to eat any anyhow.

Mary retired to the couch up front and watched television. Gina read in her room and talked to her friend, Persephone, on the phone. Job and Craig cleaned up the kitchen and joined Hazelle in his basement barroom for a drink and some B.B. King before taking a plate of cobbler and returning to the hotel.

Morning couldn’t come soon enough. Craig knew he wasn’t going to sleep. But at least he could “rest his eyes,” as Mary was wont to say when caught napping on the couch in front of whatever religious program she was trying to watch. In a tornado of thoughts, Craig rested his eyes with Job spooned at his back, snoring in his ear.

At least one of them could sleep.

Easter Sunday With The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir - The Hallelujah Chorus

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Opening The Earth aka The Wedding Song

WHEN the weather breaks, stand before
the unquilted stretch of land and gaze directly
across into your lover’s eyes. Resist the half-second
instinct to blink.

Ready yourself
for designing earth too hard to chop. Remove the
gloves of shame. Clip the nails of fear. Fall,
in unison, to your knees. Fertilize the earth with
raw honesty.

Weed out
dissension. Plot vegetables and flowers
and talk about the colors that will
bloom. Water often with fluid from
a red, red heart.

imperfection. When needed, rest in solitude
near the tree-rooted corner. Surrender
to the half-second instinct to blink.
Pray. Pray.

Pray. Refreshed,
work steadfast till night’s star-nailed,
pewter close. Lie in your lover’s arms. Gaze
once more into his eyes. Anoint each other
with moonlight.

Sleep in the
dream-blossomed embrace of rich harvests
to come. Crack open fever-bright
eyes and awaken to morning’s
sun-forged opening.

Begin again.

The View From Here


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Know Thy History

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged Iowa's ban against gay marriage, react after hearing that after the Iowa Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, Friday April 3, 2009 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged Iowa's ban against gay marriage, react after hearing that after the Iowa Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, Friday April 3, 2009 in Des Moines, Iowa. Getty Images.

Gay marriage advocate Beth Robinson, center, holds back tears following the passage of a gay marriage bill in Montpelier, Vt. , Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage. The state legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override. At left is Sherry Corbin and at right is Susan Murray.

Gay marriage advocate Beth Robinson, center, holds back tears following the passage of a gay marriage bill in Montpelier, Vt. , Tuesday, April 7, 2009. Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage. The state legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas' veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override. At left is Sherry Corbin and at right is Susan Murray. Getty Images.

I'M RE-READING Randy Shilts' And The Band Played On right now and last night I got to the chapter entitled "Dancing In The Dark". It's opening section, which you can read in its entirety here, is a great reminder of where we've been. Here's a lengthy excerpt:

December 9, 1982

The reporters walked swiftly down the long, oak-paneled hallway leading into Mayor Diane Feinstein’s office. She had called the press conference today because once again the San Francisco Board of Supervisors had enacted a law that no other municipal governing body in the nation had even considered, and the mayor did not like it one it. At issue was Supervisor Harry Britt’s “domestic partners’ ordinance” more indelicately called the “live-in lovers’ law,” which recognized the legitimacy of unmarried relationships, most notably homosexual relationships. The law extended to domestic partners of city employees the same benefits as those granted to spouse of married employees. The ordinance also established a legal procedure through which unmarried couples could record their relationship with the city clerk’s office and gain some form of legal recognition for their partnership. Given the times, Britt had also rafted a clause that gave unmarried partners the same visitation rights as spouse in city hospitals and bereavement leave to attend a lover’s funeral. Mayor Feinstein had decided to veto the law.

“On a personal level, this legislation causes me deep personal anguish,” the mayor told the reporters. “I would like to be able to sign legislation that recognizes the needs of single persons, but such legislation must not divide our community.”

By “divide our community,” Feinstein was talking about the maelstrom that had enveloped the proposal in recent days. Just one day before, Roman Catholic Archbishop John Quinn made a rare foray into city politics by publicly prodding Feinstein too veto the law, saying that “to reduce the sacred covenant of marriage and family by inference or analogy to a ‘domestic partnership’ is offensive to reasonable persons and injurious to our legal, cultural, moral, and societal heritage.” Te proposal, Quinn said, was a “radical repudiation of fundamental values and institutions.”

Virtually every other religious leader had also lined up against the measure. The Episcopal bishop noted that “marriage as an institution has been under such heavy pressure,” while the Board of Rabbis of northern California also urged a veto, with the group’s president saying he would “look askance upon any legislation that would attempt to equate nonmarried adults, heterosexual or gay, to what our society deems as marriage between a man and a woman.” Speaking for the city’s black churches, the city’s most politically powerful black minister, the Reverend Amos Brown, cast the issue in racial terms when he insisted that, “We, as blacks, particularly, come out of the extended family. It’s the only way we’ve been able to make it.”

In her veto message, Feinstein talked about the bill being poorly drafted and not specific enough, but the real issue, everyone knew, was whether homosexual relationships would be granted the same legitimacy as heterosexual relationships. To Bill Kraus, who had begun engineering the ordinance’s passage before leaving Britt’s office to work for Congressman Phillip Burton, there was no other point to the measure. Its intent was to frame into law a basic tent of the gay liberation movement – that homosexuality as a life-style is equal to and on a par with heterosexuality. The veto, of course, was simply a reaffirmation of the fact that, as far as church and state were concerned, gay people had not yet achieved that equality; moreover, the veto underscored that the notion that homosexuals and their relationships should be granted such recognition was still repugnant to this society. Gay relationships were meant to be dirty secrets, and nothing more.


A prevailing morality that viewed homosexuals as promiscuous hedonists incapable of deep, sustaining relationships ensured that it would be impossible for homosexuals to legitimize whatever relationships they could forge. Prejudice has a way of fostering the very object of its hate.

In December 1982, at a time when gay people more than ever needed to be encouraged into relationships, they were told their partnerships were valueless by institutions that later scratched their heads and wondered why gays didn’t settle into couples when it was so clear their lives were at stake.

In the section, there's talk about speculation that Feinstein, who was pro-gay, vetoed the bill in order to lure the 1984 Democratic National Convention to San Francisco where she might have been named vice-presidential candidate. I found that an interesting piece of history, if true. Especially since Geraldine Ferraro ended up on the ballot. But even if not, it's clear religious institutions tied Feinstein's hands. Thus, her "personal anguish."

One doesn't have to be a fanatic to take action that kills people.

Iowa and Vermont make my heart sing. A unanimous court decision and a legislative override. All in a week.

This is some history.

Commander In Chief

US President Barack Obama (R) greets troops during a visit to Camp Victory, just outside Baghdad, on April 7, 2009. - US President Barack Obama planned to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a US military base on Tuesday, the White House said, after bad weather forced a hasty change to his itinerary. The two leaders will discuss the planned withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the overall security situation as well as Turkish border issues and Kurdish rebels, Iraqi state television said.

US President Barack Obama (R) greets troops during a visit to Camp Victory, just outside Baghdad, on April 7, 2009. - US President Barack Obama planned to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at a US military base on Tuesday, the White House said, after bad weather forced a hasty change to his itinerary. The two leaders will discuss the planned withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the overall security situation as well as Turkish border issues and Kurdish rebels, Iraqi state television said. Getty Images.


I saw this on cable earlier. The pool reporter's video was shaking so much, it appeared as though the soldiers were dancing with their hands in the air. They simply wanted to shake his hand.

War is certainly no party, but when the new Commander In Chief made his surprise visit, it looked like one.

Surreal, actually.




Below is the top US Commander, Gen. Odierno pointing something out to Pres. Obama:


Now it's on to Camp Victory to talk with the troops










Getting up close and personal with the troops to press some flesh






Meeting with the dignitaries



From left to right below is National Security Advisor, James Jones; Gen. Odierno; Pres. Obama; Charge de Affairs, Patricia Butenis; and Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel:



Source of photos and captions below the second ::

Vermont Legalizes Gay Marriage

Just. Like. That.

Vt. House and Senate have voted to override the governor's veto of the same-sex marriage bill-- legalizing gay marriage in Vermont.

The Vt. Senate voted to override the governor's veto of the same-sex marriage bill. This morning, the Senate voted 23 to 5 to override that veto. Two senators were absent and Washington County Republican Bill Doyle who had initially supported same sex, this time voted to sustain the veto.

The Vt. House voted around 11 a.m. to override the veto. The vote was 100-49. 100 votes were needed. Rep. Sonny Audette of South Burlington did not vote. It wasn't clear whether he intended to vote to override. Audette opposed gay marriage but also opposed the governor's early announcement of a veto as "interference."

Governor Jim Douglas, R-Vermont, promptly vetoed the bill when it was delivered to his desk last night-- as promised.

That's two states, Iowa being the other, in a week that now have marriage equality.

I figured the backlash against Prop 8 in California could look something like this. Sometimes, it takes an injustice to wake people up.

Maine has a hearing on gay marriage legislation at the end of the month and it looks promising.

Dreaming Of Berries

Now, I'm dreaming of my garden in full bloom. I'll plant blueberry, blackberry, and raspberry shrubs later, adding to the ones that run wild on the farm.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Planting is so
spiritual. My
fingers are dirty.

Last week's seedlings
are stretching,

My heart is light,
lifted, free.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The President Of The United States Speaks In Prague

NUCLEAR disarmament is the topic. 25,000 attended.

President Obama continued his 8-day America Revival Tour with a historic day in Prague, building on President Kennedy's Nuclear Reduction Doctrine, taking the first step towards the elimination of ALL nuclear arms.

► Czechs line the hills to watch Air Force One land.

▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲ ▲

Slideshow: 15 Pix in All.

► Michelle visits Prague's Jewish quarter



► Now comes perhaps the most interesting leg of the tour.  Under heavy guard, the President has landed in Turkey, keeping his pledge to visit a Muslim country during his first 100 days in office.  On Tuesday, he holds a town hall meeting with hundreds of Muslim students in Istanbul.



Bonus Coverage