Saturday, November 23, 2013


Louis Agnon was my best friend in Grosse Pointe Park and lived 5 houses up on the corner of Essex and Trombley. In November of 1963 we were both 6 and in Mrs. Sherman’s (Sherman the German, we liked to say) First Grade class. Every house in the neighborhood had a basement except for mine. Louis’ house was special in that he had a detached garage and even the garage had a basement. We were not allowed down there and there were locks on the doors to keep people out and the windows were soaped to keep anyone from peering in.

There was an Acorn tree, tall and slender, in my backyard and this is where Louis and I spent most of our time. We could get so far up, up in the tippy-top and we could make that tree sway back and forth. It was like riding a 50 foot high teeter-totter with him on one side of the trunk, now tapered to only 3 inches thick, and I on the other.

From our perch we could see out over the rooftops and a block away to Lake St. Clair where the big ore boats took their loads to the Steel mills. They had come from Lake Superior and were relatively safe now having put some distance between themselves and “the big lake they call Gitchee-Goomie”.
From our perch we would discuss what could possibly be in the mysterious basement of his garage. It couldn’t be good, that much we knew.
Maybe it was flooded with water and filled with old tires, reptiles, flotsam and jetsam of all kinds.
Maybe there was a cache of stolen money, bags of gold coins and bundled bills.
Maybe his father knew some tough guys that used it to “squeeze” people like James Cagney did in the movies. Probably there was some mutant monster, a terrible Shoggath-like creature that had gone long unfed, waiting, waiting, waiting...

The ‘Summer of Love” was still 5 years away, Rob and Laura Petrie were still safe in separate beds, and Louis and I knew nothing of the mechanics of sex. We would talk about all the girls in our class and which ones were kissable and how we would go about getting them alone to do just that. It was Lori Sundburg that emerged as the 1st Grade equivalent of Marilyn Monroe.

In 1963 September turned to October and the October leaves fell to November winds. We were forced to abandon our trees for the shelter of my room to watch T.V. “Maverick” and “The Man from UNCLE” and the "Wild Wild West". We played Mousetrap, Monopoly and Life while mom brought milk and cookies.

Then one day in the most somber of months the news broke like a lightning flash.
The President was dead. November.

They let us out of school and Louis and I had much discussion over this event. Later that afternoon, when they caught the guy, the Assassin, we were delighted to imagine what to do with him.
Hangin’ from a Sour Apple Tree was too good for this guy.
Stabbing with a thousand little knives was too quickly done.
Chained to a bag of concrete and dumped into Lake St. Clair offered no real appreciable trauma.
First Runner up in our choices was to lock him up into Louis scary garage basement to be chewed up by whatever the hell was down there.
But the worst thing we could imagine, Louis and I, was to have the slimeball’s wiener cut off.
We had no idea why but we knew he would miss that the most.

For me it’s the saddest month.
The wind turns cold, boats sink, presidents get killed and their pretty wives are bathed in blood and brains.His kids dont have a daddy anymore. 
It even starts out with a No.

In a way, this may be the first story I ever wrote. It was 2003, and I was living in a burned out old trailer in Kennedale, no water or electricity. I wrote my sister a letter or two, and this story was in one of the letters to make conversation.
She was very worried about me.
It has appeared on Bulletholes several times before. I kept adding to it. But for this version, I cut about 300 words out. Its better for it I think.
The inspiration for this story back then, and now as well, is a song by Greg Brown I heard in 1994. Its the way he says "November" in that growling voice, and the picture he paints that takes me back to as though it was the day before the president was killed, and everything was fine. Someone finally got a Youtube of it up a few months back. Since I shaved some text from the post, lets go ahead and share it here and  now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dressed All In Pink

Dressed All in Pink
by Dudley Randall

It was a wet and cloudy day
when the prince took his last ride.
The prince rode with the governor,
and his princess rode beside.

"And would you like to ride inside
for shelter from the rain?"
"No I'll ride outside, where I can wave
and speak to my friends again."

They ride among the cheering crowds,
the young prince and his mate.
The governor says, "See how they smile
and cheer you where they wait."

The prince rides with the governor,
his princess rides beside,
dressed all in pink as delicate
as roses of a bride.

Pink as a rose the princess rides,
but bullets from a gun
turn that pink to as deep a red
as red, red blood can run,

for she bends to where the prince lies still
and cradles his shattered head,
and there that pink so delicate
is stained a deep, deep red.

The prince rides with the governor,
the princess rides beside,
and her dress of pink so delicate
a deep, deep red is dyed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


She was supposed to be reading “The Great Gatsby” but she couldn’t stand it. So she started reading "The Last Unicorn", and every other book ever written, except for Gatsby. I would plead with her to slog her way through Gatsby (which doesn’t even qualifies as a nanowrimo with only 47,000 words), and get the damn report made so her mother would get off my ass.
But she couldn’t stand it.
“I don’t care about the color yellow” she would say.

I’d wake up at 1 in the morning and find her under the covers, using the light from her phone to read anything but Gatsby.
“Water Baby! Get to sleep!” I’d yell.
“OK daddy”
But then at 4 o’clock, my finely tuned senses would detect the faint rustle of pages being turned, and I’d go back in there and find pillows where she was supposed to lay sleeping, and a soft glow of a cell phone light emanating from under her closet door, where she was not reading Gatsby.

Monday, November 18, 2013


I got to watch a friend “flirt “ with a girl.
He disagreed with just about everything she said.
I tried to point out to him that to be so disagreeable was not attractive.
He said that he wasn’t trying to be attractive, he was trying to be intelligent.
I said its never intelligent to be unattractive to the ladies, especially, you know, if you are trying to attract one.
“Really?” he said “I guess you’ve learned this lesson the hard way?”
“No” I explained “I’ve learned this lesson the “fun” way.”
 Then, he explained to her that he didn’t “suck up” to anybody…that he was “set in his ways”…
So I leaned in and whispered in her ear “Baby, I’m flexible...very flexible...”
She giggled.
Then he said he wouldn’t  go out of his way to be “flexible” for anyone just in order to give them what they wanted, so I leaned in real close and whispered:
“Just consider me at your service...”
She giggled some more.

God how I love flirting.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Sometimes they just fall,
the birds, from where they’re sitting,
they just fall open
and let the wind carry them.
I want to love you like that.

- Peregrine

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Antidote for "In Flanders Fields"


He’s gone, and all our plans
Are useless indeed.
We’ll walk no more on Cotswolds
Where the sheep feed
Quietly and take no heed.
His body that was so quick
Is not as you
Knew it, on Severn River
Under the blue
Driving our small boat through.
You would not know him now …
But still he died
Nobly, so cover him over
With violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.
Cover him, cover him soon!
And with thick-set
Masses of memoried flowers—
Hide that red wet
Thing I must somehow forget.
By Ivor Gurney in 1920, who was gassed during WW1  and lived out his days in an asylum.

Contrast that now with the poem ""In Flanders Fields", often cited for its patriotism and devotion to an unnamed cause, that that cause be continued only on the merit that a predecessor had died for it.
"In Flanders Fields" was written in 1915, just as the war had started, before the human wave attacks, before the bayonet and machine gun, before the gas, before the bloody bloody trenches and stalemate on the Western front.
It was written well before the 9 million would die.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 
We are the dead; short days ago 
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie 
In Flanders fields. 
Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw 
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die 
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae