Thursday, June 26, 2008

Like Licking A %*&#! Ashtray...

"Do you kiss your mama with that mouth?"

I had been stymied -yet again- by some random inanimate object that had decided to hate me and in my frustration muttered "Sonofabitch!" to myself. The gentleman who overheard me was looking very stern and sad to be so young. I tried to make the situation better.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that. You know? When it comes to people I have all the patience in the world, but get me around the simplest mechanical thing and I go bugfuh- never mind."

Never mind indeed. This is actually sadly ironic because I was as much a late bloomer to swearing as I have been to everything else in my life. My first exposure to the F-word didn't happen until I was in the fourth grade and then it didn't take. A classmate had been beaten pretty soundly by one of the deaf students. (There was a mini-school for the deaf situated right next to the grade 4 classrooms.) The principal went around to every class and lectured us about teasing the deaf kids. She ended her talk by telling us to never make the following sign to them and made a circle with her right thumb and index finger and then pushed the left finger in and out of the circle rapidly.

"What does that mean?" someone asked.

"Uh. It me. So don't do it!" The principal was ushered out by my teacher, who gave her a few comforting pats on the arm before closing the door.

"'Chase me!' will get you beaten up?" I asked.

Someone threw a paper airplane at me and told me to shut up, so I spent the rest of the school year and part of the next thinking that particular hand gesture meant "Chase me!" I was finally disabused of this misunderstanding by my mother after I got cocky during a church league softball game and used the gesture while taking a leisurely lope between second and third base.

I had finally gotten the hang of stand-alone obscenity when I was thrown yet another curveball at the tender age of thirteen. We, meaning my family, had taken a road trip through West Texas. For some reason the odd town names amused my dad and he loved being able to say he'd been to Happy, Muleshoe, Whiteface and so on. We were taking a break in Earth, Texas. I walked down the street to get a picure of the "Shop Scenic Earth!" sign and noticed a handpainted placard taped to the front window of an old variety-type store. It said:

Come on in!
We're the friendliest store in Earth!

Underneath that someone had taken a marker and written:

My ass!

What? His ass is the friendliest store in Earth, Texas? He has a friendly ass? His ass is friendlier than their ass? For the life of me I couldn't parse it out and was a little afraid of asking my parents what it meant. I finally figured that one out a month later when I asked my new best friend, Terri, who had three older brothers, chewed tobacco and swore like an Aggie cadet.

Later that year my father allowed me to watch Monty Python's Flying Circus. So you'd think... No.

My sheer cussed ignorance of the linguistic red light district came into play again when I was in high school band. Our director was an officious man who did his own version of parade dress and inspection before every football game. He had a son who was studying music education at Middle Tennessee State and he allowed him to "practice" on certain less loved sections of the band. One particularly bad night after the guys in percussion had spent the afternoon being roundly spanked by the director, he decided to send Little Officious over to inspect us. A mere breath after Little Officious demanded that we stand at attention, someone, probably one of the bass drum guys, called him a dildo.

Now, I thought I'd heard this word before but I wan't sure. There was much snickering as Little Officious turned beet red and walked away very quickly. The whole thing had me confused. Why would someone get so upset over being called a Hobbit? Maybe it was time to check out Tolkien.

Dr. Officious stalked over to the drum line. He was so mad he was trembling.

"Does someone want to tell me what happened here?"

Everyone looked straight ahead, not breathing, hoping to become invisible. Everyone, that is, except for me. I had no clue what had happened. I wasn't getting what the big deal was.

"Jas!" Dr. Officious barked, "What happened here?"

"Well," I said, trying to play by the rules when I wasn't sure of the game, "Little Officious was doing parade inspection."


"And..." I looked straight at Dr. Officious and said, "Someone called him a dildo."

There was a collective gasp from the rest of the drum line. I had no idea, none, what I had just said.

"A what?" Dr Officious said, nearly choking.

"A dildo, sir. Someone called Little Officious a dildo."

Dr. Officious squinted at me, pulled at his face, walked a few paces a away, came back and squinted at me some more while I looked back at him, gormless and confused. He sighed deeply, started to walk away again and whirled around, pointed to my section mates and snarled, "DON'T!" before stalking off to make the color guard cry.

Some time during my sophomore year of college, a classmate had a catalogue in her smut collection and I made the connection. So there you go. Some people go to college to complete their training and preparation for professional life. Me? I rounded out my vocabulary of inappropriate words and have been happily swearing ever since.

copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner

Monday, June 23, 2008

Gone (My Own Special Kind of Crazy)

Some people respond to stress by exercising or escaping into a favorite book or movie. Me? I have two ways of dealing with stress. Sometimes I'll get out my girlie fiberglass recurve bow and shoot an end or two. An end can mean a set number of arrows (usually six) shot in a round to determine the winner in a scored event. For me it means everything in my quiver. So anyway, I'm sitting here feeling very stupid and at the same time stupidly proud of the fact that I have peeled about an inch of skin -off of the side of my left index finger because I neglected to wear my shooting glove this morning. Go me.

The other thing is considerably less voluntary. When the going gets tough, I get weird and end up having lunch with my father. Why is this weird? Dad died in 1995. I could go into an explanation about how its part of my heritage or how this is actually a function of wishful thinking or that it's some kind of cerebral dump. Does it matter? Not really. The fact is, when I am emotionally and/or physically stressed out, the next time I go to sleep I find myself sitting at a table having hot and sour soup and crab rangoon with Dad. It feels very real and I'm not just talking about the soup or the table or the Brubeck that's usually playing in the background.

You know how you feel when you talk to someone you love? Maybe you haven't seen them for a long time and then when you talk to them again there's no weirdness or ramping up. You're right back to where you were the last time you saw each other. And, oh hell, I already sound crazy so I'm going to jump in with both feet. If they're dear to you, it seems like there's something intangible that they leave on you and maybe you leave on them that stays with you and makes you feel you're loved by them. I always feel like I did when I was little and would watch Dad draw or paint. He had huge hands and sometimes he'd stop what he was doing put a thumbprint in charcoal or ink right in the middle of my palm. It was just something we did when I was five and now I feel like I have a thumbprint when I wake up from one of those dreams.

So. Last Friday was just weird. I had almost scared myself out of being a playwright and was considering seeing if I could reactivate my admission to law school "so I could actually do some good for goodness sake!" By five o'clock that evening, I'd mentally finished my JD and was preparing to enroll in the Agricultural Law Double L program at UALR so I could save farms from Monsanto. I went to sleep that night hoping for something deep, dark and seamless. Ah, no.

"What are you doing?" Dad was shaking his head and adding sliced green onions to his soup.

He offered me a bowl and I shook my head.

"You need tea more than soup anyway." He poured me a cup of from the teapot and then settled back in his chair and looked at me.

"I don't care how good your LSAT scores were or how thrilled anybody back home is going to be, you know you don't want to be a lawyer. So I'm asking again, what are you doing?"

"I don't even know how to answer that," I said. "I just don't. But I know I need to do something."

"Sister, you are doing something."

"I feel so stuck. I've completely stalled out. Dad, this is not how I pictured my life."

"Does anybody have the life they pictured? By the way, I've been talking to your husband..."

"Dad, I am not going to get married..."


"How are you...? I'm not married."

He shrugged and chuckled. "Same way I talk to you. Anyway, he thinks I'm Fidel Castro and I'm not going to correct him. Why are you looking like that?"

"Like what?"

"Horrified. It's me in his dream, sometimes I get a little hammy and put on fatigues and a hat and a cigar, but that's all. It's not like your Tia Marcella has turned into a dybbuk and hovers around pinching his ass."


"Incidentally, she says 'hi'. Punkin, life is too short to be unhappy. Go back to where it's safe and familiar and you'll find a niche but you'll always feel sad and diminished and less than you could have been. That would break my heart."


"Sleep on it and let me know how you feel. You'll know how."

Then it seemed like everything was covered in the heavy velvet curtain I had been hoping for and the next day I woke up feeling the thumbprint.

copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner

Friday, June 20, 2008


The images in this blog entry (and only this one, please!) are intended as a gift to anyone who would like to show their support for Barak Obama. You're welcome to download them for use on your website or you can do like some of my friends are doing, and print one of the designs on to an iron-on sheet and put it on a t-shirt or tote bag.

Money is a great way to show your support; but there's also a lot to be said for offering your best no matter what it is. This can be through images, using your voice, using your know best where that gift is going to come from.

Having written that, please note that there is a coloring sheet/template as well! Yes, this is a not-so-subtle hint that it's time to get out your markers and crayons and paints and have some fun!

From scrabble obama

From scrabble obama

From paint obama

From obama template

copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Rest of the Story

So we finally got settled in and I made some progress on the play and no progress on the ethnology project. Between you and me, I'm sick of the ethnology project. I can't really come to any conclusions beyond "Mah people? They usedta eat squirrels uhcause they hadta. Now they don't haveta, but for some reason, it's fun ta eat 'em, so they do." This is embarrassing. I usedta, excuse me, used to be able to create entire taxonomies of the minutia of human behavior. Now I'm blanking on modern squirrel consumption in the Southeastern US? I suck. I need to crawl into a hollowed out log and die before my anthro teachers, my friends and my former classmates figure out how far I've fallen.

Okay, dying in a hollowed out log might be an extreme alternative. But as an alternative to what? Writing out recipes for fried squirrel and dumplings? Finishing a play about the personal angst of federal appellate lawyers? The hollowed out log does offer the option of feeding what little wild fauna is left in Middle Tennessee and maybe creating some really good compost so that somewhere a hippie is spared the ignonomy of meth production by the discovery that my remains could fertilize some really great pot.

But I digress. Sorry about that. The last day of my stay at the monastery, Keefer and Stuart came up to visit me. Both of them are chefs, absolute suckers for a pretty kitchen garden and are unable to pass up a chance to talk shop or cook. We put off leaving so they could get together with some of the kitchen monks and figure out how to make a gratin from various greens. In the meantime, TardDawg and I were cooling our heels, walking and talking with friends, well, I was walking and talking with friends. Snoot was given the run of the place and had managed to eat his weight in home-baked crackers and chicken during our stay. (The monks had lost their two elderly German Shepherds within a couple of weeks of each other earlier this year so Snoot was getting a lot of doggie love. More digression. Sorry.)

So fast forward... We had eaten lunch, which unbeknownst to me contained chard, which I cannot eat without getting very sick. I was trying to get home to meet with a friend who is in Nashville for a conference. Snoot was pouting. I threw up and passed out. I woke up to find that someone (Keefer? Stuart? Brother Andrew? Brother Toby? TardDawg? Doc? Sleepy? Happy? Grumpy?) had carried me to my bed and taken off my shoes.

"We need to go," I mumbled as I struggled to sit up.

"Not so fast, Missy! I think - we think..."

"YOU think..." Stuart snapped and rolled his eyes.

"What do you think, Keefer?" I reached for my shoes. Keefer scooted them out of my reach with his foot. I made a grab for them, slipped them on my feet and lurched out of the front door of my cabin with Keefer and Stuart in tow.

"You really scared us. It might not be a bad idea to go to the hospital."

Stuart rolled his eyes again. "Mister Kay also might not know what the hell you're talking about, either."

"Gentlmen!" I hissed, "We are at a monastery. Exercise a little decorum, please."

They mumbled and looked chastened.

"I still think you should go to the doctor just to be safe," said Keefer.

"That's very sweet but I really want to get to Nashville by two so I can give Michelle a call and see if she wants me to take her for drinks or Neely's BBQ."

They looked at each other and then Stuart shook his head.

"Sweetie?" he said gently, "It's 3:42."

"Oh, shit!" I barked and then looked around to see two monks giving me a bemused look as they walked by.

The guys trundled me back to Nashville. I gave them both a kiss on the cheek and crawled into bed for the next two days. Snoot the TardDawg is fine, but he does miss his chicken and crackers. I can just tell from looking at him that he's enacting his version of the old Celebrity Cruise Line commercials: "I was a PRINCE. I was wined, dined, massaged...One day...One day..."

As for me, it's time to get to bed. One of two things will happen. I'll either dream about ragey squirrels piling up Erskine Caldwell paperbacks for a bonfire, or the dog will learn to pull open the freezer drawer and get his own darned chicken. I'll let you know which actually happens.

Bon soir!

copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Life is a Highway...

Somewhere, Loki the Calendar Trickster is laughing his bushy tail off. He's been preparing for this week for a while and I swear I didn't see it coming.

Where do I start? A very witty, very nice lady from an online community is coming to Nashville and wants to meet for drinks. Yay! She's coming this week. Boo!

A gaggle of older relatives want to see the magnificence that is Dollywood. The most available cousin has offered to take them. They hate her. They love me. They decided this week would be the perfect time to get their 'billy on. They let me know last week. DAMN it.

Back in April, Stuart and Keefer phoned me all breathy and giggly to tell me that one of the men whom I thought would cause me to stop breathing if he never loved me back is now a monk. In Kentucky. And he has read my blog and wants to get in touch. Do monks read blogs? Not being RC flavored, I'm still a little confused when I see nuns driving. (Yeah yeah yeah, too much Sister Bertrille, too little cultural literacy.) I did and he invited me up to spend some time in one of the monastery cabins to write and relax. I took him up on it and planned to spend some time feeling all holy and shit while I finish a play and get my squirrel-eater study ready to roll. Those plans were for- Wait for it!- this week.

Hold it. I'm not done.

Monday, Livy called to tell me she had a very sweet gig and wanted me to come along. She didn't fool me. It's June, so the sweet gig can't be Beale Street. It's Bonnaroo, which I have managed to avoid lo these many years.

I sent her footage of Lewis Black getting beaned with a bottle at Bonnaroo.

She countered with a demand for proof that it happened in Manchester.

I referred her to the fact that Black asked if he was the only Jew there.

She shot back that one need not assume that there is only one Jew or any Jews in any given venue in Tennessee.

"Yeah," I huffed. "Sometimes it's HALF a Jew."

"Well, it's the wrong half, which makes you a gentile bastard. With a tail. Lets go to Bonnaroo." She paused and I could tell she was lighting up, (something that she had resolved to quit last NYE, LIVY!) "Anyway, I frickin' hate Lewis Black. If he's there this year, I'll throw a bottle at him."

"How can you hate Lewis Black? It's not like he's Carrot Top."

"You like him because he reminds you of your Grandmother. Seriously, if he spoke Spanish and ranted about cats, I could close my eyes and not be able to tell the difference."

I offered to let her take my relatives to Dollywood if I went to Bonnaroo. She declined. I went to Kentucky and found out that the Monks of Our Lady of Purpetual Chagrin use a place in Nashville when their computers die. Don't they have misfit monks who love to tinker? Maybe I'm getting that mixed up with Santa's Workshop. Never mind. So, I trundled back home and waited and tomorrow I will trundle somewhere else, much to the vexation of the dog, who was enjoying something very like what the Cowardly Lion experienced in the Emerald City. Forget boning up on my French. There is the fine art of doggy massage to be learned.

There is also an email from my boss, who wants to know if I think I'm funny. I am pretty sure this is a rhetorical question. What she really wants to know is why I corrected someone from DCS when they complained about hearing one of the social workers singing a Guns n Roses song with a client during a session. I guess I wasn't supposed to tell her it was actually recorded by Pearl Jam. Offering the information that I'd used my knowledge of the lyrics to "Funky Cold Medina" for clincal purposes probably didn't help. I'll just pretend I didn't see the letter.

Oh, well. There's always Dollywood.

copyright 2008 Jas Faulkner

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Book Review -- Everything Old Is New Again: Jack Fuller's "Abbeville"

In the midst of the shambles that is our economy, it is sometimes hard to put things into perspective and see that we as a people have indeed been through bad times before. Wearied from news that is relentlessly grim, cynicism is the most likely response to any sentiment that we might have the power to fix what is wrong. Could we really be strong enough to face losing almost everything and wise enough to cling to what is really important? This is a question that Jack Fuller's protagonist, George Bailey, has to face as he finds himself on the brink of financial ruin during the Dot Com Bust. As he struggles to keep afloat, he begins to realize how much his identity is wrapped up in the material wealth he can provide for his family and his customers.

What George wants is clarity. He struggles to make sense of what is happening by taking a pilgrimage back to his ancestral home in Abbeville. Through research and memory, he comes to understand how his grandfather survived the loss of wealth, comfort and influence to financial hardship, war, incarceration, bereavement and betrayal. The result is a narrative that echoes George's cinematic namesake as he finds his grandfather's depth, grace and faith in humanity are rewarded with a life far richer than the one that seemed to be his destiny as he entered adulthood.

Part ripping yarn, part fable of the republic, "Abbeville" is an excellent study of life in America then and now. Fuller's story gives us the vantage point of two men a generation apart who are experiencing the unthinkable at a time when America teeters between absorption in provincial concerns and the cold shock of discovering what moves the hearts and minds of the rest of the world. The prose is spare and beautiful. The story is engaging and rich in the kind of detail that leaves you feeling like you know these characters. "Abbeville" will make you want to connect with the past whether it's by dint of blood relation or heritage of ideas.

For more information, visit the "Abbeville" page at