Here you’ll find thoughts, ideas, voice recordings, stories, whatever I can find to the space and hopefully entertain.

wednesday, october 16, 2019
“Q&A with mother for memoir,” part IV of IV

JDJB: Did someone sign a waiver so you could get married at 17?
Sister: Mother was 17, so she didn’t have to have permission, but Daddy did.
Mom: He did; he wasn’t 21.
JDJB: Mamaw Byrd and Papaw Byrd, did they even come to the wedding?
Mom: Yeah, but to get the license, he had to have somebody sign for him, so Sis. Gurley–
JDJB: Someone from your church signed for him?
Sister: Did she say she was his mother?
Mom: Yeah, they lied all the way. We weren’t really ever married because she lied, she was not his mother. Mamaw sent her driver’s license. They kind of favored, just a little, and they had to go to Liberty, that’s where the courthouse was at the time, and she signed for him to get married.
JDJB: She signed “Lena Byrd”?
Mom: Mm-hm, ’cause she had the driver’s license to prove it. I just wanted to get married. I didn’t want no church wedding. Well, you know Mother, that would’ve been a disgrace, if I ran off. And, of course, havin’ a baby nine months later would’ve made the papers.

JDJB: RoseAnne was born nine months after y’all were married, so you got pregnant on your honeymoon, basically.
Mom: On the night, probably. Had to be the night. I didn’t know anything about, you know, sex, I was seventeen years old; we didn’t talk about it like they do nowadays. The only thing Mother said was, “You have to do your duty.” Well, I didn’t know if that meant washing the dishes or cleaning the floor.”
JDJB: That was your duty, that you had to have sex?
Mom: Yeah. When he wanted sex, that was your duty. And then when I had it, I was like, Yuck! This is my duty for the rest of my life? I don’t like this crap! I was 18 when RoseAnne was born; 19 when– almost 20 — it was the same year, 20 years apart…

JDJB: When you moved to California, did you start smokin’?
Sister: Oh, yeah, she started drinkin’ and–
Mom: Never drank.
JDJB: You didn’t drink? Not even wine?
Mom: Mm-mm.
Sister: Oh, I thought you drank.
Mom: No, your dad, he wasn’t a real drinker.
Sister: Well, that’s good. I guess.

JDJB: JFK was assassinated less than a month after I was born; what do you remember about that day in Dallas?
Mom: I do remember that happening, because I didn’t have a TV at that time. We lived on Ruth Street, and Shirley and Mother — Shirley still lived at home — they came down there, ’cause I didn’t even know. Did I have a radio on? I don’t know.
JDJB: And it devastated people then.
Mom: Oh, it was devastating, yeah.
JDJB: ’Cause he was a good-looking man, and his wife was young and beautiful.
Mom: Beautiful.
JDJB: And it was such a tragedy.
Mom: It was, yeah.

JDJB: Do you remember anything about the race riots going on all around the country?
Mom: A lotta things that happened back then at that time, I was so young and had three little babies, I don’t even remember a lot.

JDJB: In the Summer of 1967, “the Summer of Love,” Deana and I vandalized the downstairs neighbors’ apartment; what do you remember about that.
Mom: I can’t imagine why y’all did that. I asked Deana, and she said, “I don’t know.”
JDJB: We hated them. And I know the girl’s name was Rose George. We hated them for some reason.
Sister: Rose George.
JDJB: I thought maybe it had something to do with her having the same name as RoseAnne. Was it just you and me, though, and
RoseAnne came in at the end?
Sister: I think so, yeah.
Mom: I think so.
Sister: I mean, Jay, we destroyed those people’s home.
JDJB: Yeah.
Mom: I can’t imagine what y’all did.
Sister: I know.
JDJB: Did we pack up and move in the night?
Mom: I don’t know; I guess! And after I’m thinking afterward, How embarrassing! And what would you say to those people? And what did we do? I mean, I don’t know what we did. I know we didn’t punish y’all ’cause we couldn’t.
JDJB: I remember Daddy saying, “I’m not gonna whip you ’cause I’m afraid I’d kill ya.
Mom: Yeah, he was so mad. And you know what? That’s not even in my mind. I’m sure you were in there, but I don’t remember seein’ it.
Sister: Oh, it’s in my mind. You must’ve been so ashamed.
Mom: I’m sure, and shocked. Shocked! Y’all got outta that one. The thing you should’ve gotten a whippin’ about you didn’t get a whippin’ about.
Sister: Right? And we got whooped for everything else.
Mom: Yeah, right. Did we whip y’all a lot.
Sister: Yeah.
JDJB: Oh, yeah.

tuesday, october 15, 2019

JDJB: Did you know any black people growin’ up?
Mom: No, prob’ly not, not till I got older. We didn’t go to school with black people. If you remember that little restaurant on the corner, there, what was it called? Oh, tamales…
Sister: Pace’s Place.
Mom: Pace’s Place. You remember Pace’s?
JDJB: Mm-hm.
Mom: Well, there was this table in the back where the black people could sit. In my day as a young child going downtown, there were Black and White water fountains, and there were Black and White restrooms. But the only contact really that Mother had I guess, was– Was it after Jimmy was born? I don’t remember. But she had a lady come and iron for her. A black lady. And she would bring her little boy with her, and we would just have so much fun. We played like– Well, he was a kid. You know, it wasn’t our prejudices, even back then. I mean, we were taught the prejudice, I mean the words they called them, that was just the normal language. 

JDJB: Did Clint sneak a spaghetti-strap dress out of the house for you to wear to prom?
Mom: It was a strapless dress, and it had what they called a little bolero, just a little thing here, and it just kinda came here. And Dad threw a freakin’ fit!
JDJB: Did you come out with it on?
Mom: Mm-hm, ’cause I was so proud. And he made me go back in my room.
JDJB: Where did you get it?
Mom: I borrowed it from a friend that’d worn it to somethin’ else.
Sister: But nothing showed ’cause you had a little jacket on, but he knew that she’d probably take that jacket off.
Mom: I guess.
JDJB: It showed the shoulders?
Mom: Uh-huh. And it made Clint so mad that he went and he put it– He had this ’58 Chevy– I loved that car! Black and white Chevy with the fins, and it had a hardtop convertible thing.
JDJB: Oh, wow; fancy!
Mom: And he put it in his trunk and went on his way. And then I had another dress that was approved. It was your dad’s junior/senior reception, what they called it; they had the two together.
JDJB: Like a prom thing? Was he a senior?
Mom: He was a senior.

JDJB: How did you and Daddy meet? My take: You and a girlfriend from church went to Flynn to visit her family and ride horses, and Daddy was there.
Mom: And, yeah– yes. And so, Sandy always paired with JD, and so I paired with Roy.
JDJB: Whose horses were they?
Mom: JD’s and Roy’s. Everybody had horses up there. So we’d go horseback ridin’ and that’s how I met him. I really didn’t see him that much; we didn’t really have a “courtship.” I think they all came down one time to Baytown and stayed at Sandy’s house. And her cousin Pat and her boyfriend Gene, we all went to Houston to Playland Park. They had the wooden roller coasters, that’s how old it was. But anyway, so we went there, and then he went in the Navy.
Sister: They wrote.
Mom: Yeah, some.
JDJB: How long was he in the Navy?
Mom: Four years.
JDJB: He didn’t caught up in the whole Vietnam thing?
Mom: It was before the Vietnam thing, because he went in as soon as he graduated high school.
JDJB: So he went to California, right?
Mom: He was at the base in San Diego.
JDJB: And so, what, y’all talked or y’all wrote back and forth?
Mom: Wrote. We didn’t talk.
Sister: And then she asked him to marry her!
JDJB: Really? Because you wanted to get out of the house?
Mom: Yeah, or something.
Sister: And he was engaged to somebody else.
Mom: I said, “Well, if you’re gonna get married anyway, you might as well marry me!” Y’all may have a half-brother– a half
somethin’ out there, ’cause we married, and then when we got to California, a friend of his told him that that girl thought she was
JDJB: The country boys were loose!
Mom: Oh, they were loose! Not with us church girls, but, oh, yeah, oh, yeah, they were wild, they were very wild.
JDJB: And then he came back and y’all got married?
Mom: He came home and we got married, then we went back–
Sister: To Long Beach.
Mom: Yeah. He was in there three more years, ’cause he’d only been in there like a year when we got married.
JDJB: So you were pregnant with Deana before you came back to Baytown?
Mom: When I moved back to Baytown, I was pregnant with you.
Sister: When she got pregnant with me, she came home and I was born here.
Mom: ’Cause he had shipped out to Hawaii. I came while he was offshore. And then I came back when Deana was a baby, and RoseAnne was a baby, too.
Sister: And you were pregnant with Jay.
Mom: Yeah, and I was pregnant with you. I didn’t know what I wanted. I’d come home and I’d wanna go back. They drove all the
way out to California to come get me and Deana and RoseAnne.
JDJB: Because you were alone and…
Mom: Because I just– Yeah, I just wanted to come home.
JDJB: Did you have friends on the–
Mom: A few. Not really.
JDJB: Other Navy wives?
Mom: They were wives, yeah.
JDJB: And you all lived on a base?
Mom: No, we didn’t live on a base; we lived outside the base. Most married people don’t live on the base.

JDJB: Oh, okay. Daddy had two brothers. Daniel was his older brother and Raymond was his younger brother. I recall you saying
his brothers didn’t like him much.
Mom: No, Daniel. He was the devil in disguise. He was very evil. He was real evil.
Sister: He was mean, he was just a mean person. I mean, I don’t think–
Mom: He was mean. Not evil, maybe, but he was mean. He treated his boys the same way, his own kids. Oh, man, I couldn’t stand to be around him!
Sister: All those guys were kinda rough. Except Raymond. I mean all the great uncles, those country guys, they weren’t affectionate.

JDJB: Now, what was the deal? Mamaw and Papaw Byrd…
Sister: –married their brother and sister.
Mom: Floyd and Papaw were brothers, Ozell and Mamaw were sisters, and then Ollie was a brother to Mamaw and Ozell, and then Aint Artie was Papaw’s sister.
Sister: And only one out of the three of them had kids.
Mom: Mamaw and Papaw.
JDJB: Because they couldn’t?
Mom: I don’t know, probably. You know, people back then had kids like me, one a year. And that was because of ignorance, not just because I wanted a bunch of kids, or I was just “doin’ my duty,” or whatever. But Roy and Raymond are five years apart.
JDJB: But Mamaw and Papaw had separate bedrooms.
Mom: When we went up there.
JDJB: I think all the time, because when I would go stay with them, they would sleep in separate rooms.
Sister: I think he snored is why.
Mom: I think, yeah.
JDJB: Yeah, ’cause the middle room was where we stayed, and that back room behind that was where Papaw stayed, and Mamaw stayed on the other side.
Mom: Well, anyway, Roy asked his mother one time how their kids were so far apart. Her answer was so gross! She said, “Your dad fed the ants.”
Sister: He pulled out.
JDJB: Wow!
 Mom: I mean, they were just country!
JDJB: They were, but that was smart to not have babies, boom, boom, boom.
Mom: I know, it was, exactly.
JDJB: But I thought country people wanted lots of kids to help work.
Mom: I guess they didn’t.
Sister: Mamaw worked, so she didn’t have time for no kids.


monday, october 14, 2019

First designer meeting for the Fumbling for the Knob staged reading yesterday. Robert, who’s doing sound, CB, who’s making props, and Lindsay, who’ll be the stage manager. Jenny was there via Google Hangouts. I love how she just takes charge and does the things that have to be done. That has to do with her going to school for theater, going to school at all, I guess, and now she has a master’s in directing, so… Same thing with CB, she’s very educated; she asks tough questions that I can’t answer immediately, like this one, sent to Jenny and me in an email:

I love the story and think it is bold and beautiful and haunting and funny. Jay did tell me which scenes to focus on for the reading/workshop and a 1970’s boy's room feel. I really like this idea of “savage and exposed, raw and surprising." I held this in mind while reading the script. Right now I’m struggling understanding the shift from adult to child dramaturgically speaking. It’s clearly written but I’m trying to grasp why the play or the audience needs this shift. What is gained by having this shift?

The reason this shift is complicating me is that I give a lot of thought when using objects is what the audience sees. Once objects are used for storytelling a distance is created automatically. So for this show if we see Jay pretend to be a child version of himself (first level of distance) and manipulate the object(s) to represent a memory (second layer of distance) what does that mean/say verses Jay as an adult telling a story and using the objects of a child (one level of distance) to represent a memory? I know both are happening since we know Jay is an adult but the intention is different. Who is the boy-Jay speaking to vs the adult-Jay speaking to the audience? Is the boy-Jay performing in a secret bedroom cabaret? Is he speaking to an imaginary audience alone in his room? Has boy-Jay planned this performance for himself and so he has modified these toys for a show? Or is he just grabbing random items and reenacting the recent past for himself?

I love this exchange. I love the things that come up with these people I collaborate with; they enrich my work, so wow, that’s great. I spent a couple of hours working on an answer last week, and then in the middle of writing the email, deleted it somehow, and I couldn’t find my way back to what I was trying to say, or what I thought I was trying to say. The next day, I tried again to approach it and remember what I had been saying, or tried to figure out what I wanted to say anew and got stuck in the mire of it. Around that time, Jenny called to say that I didn’t need to worry about the answer too much if I didn’t want to, that she was fine with saying we’re still pondering that, and that the answers to those questions will come from this reading, or on the way to it. This was a big relief. I let go of needing to answer the questions, but still have them floating around in the back of my head as I work further on the script.

I found out from Robert that we’ll need to record the piano for the songs in the next couple of weeks. He has a very busy schedule. So I guess I need to up the amount of rehearsal time Lyova and I are committing to the project. We’ve met twice, and were supposed to meet again last Friday after work, but I don’t think she was home. Her car was there, but she didn’t answer the door or phone, and her answering machine isn’t set up to take calls. I missed a call from her at around 6 o’clock on Saturday evening, so I’m thinking she must’ve gotten confused on the days. We’re close, so I don’t think it’ll be a problem to have the songs down in the next couple of weeks.

When I first started talking to CB, she asked for a mood board, and I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, but Jenny clarified that it’s images that show “the general beauty” of the piece. Basically, Pinterest images and other stuff culled from the internet, mostly, that gets everyone on the same page design-wise. Jenny send me some pictures, and I added to them. Here’s what we came up with. (You may have to click the image to scroll through.)

friday, october 11, 2019

JDJB: This is gonna be hard. How old were you when Jimmy died?
Mom: It’s not hard.
JDJB: It’s not?
Mom: No, not now. It was back then ’cause we never talked about it. I was 15 when David was born, so I had to be 13 when Jimmy died. I was born in ’42 and he died in ’56. He had just turned six.
JDJB: And it was Halloween, right?
Mom: Halloween night.
JDJB: Did he go trick-or-treating with Aint Joy Belle and Aint Betty?
Mom: Mm-hm. Well, Mother and Katherine, and prob’ly Melba. Leighton and Jimmy were the same age. Leighton was there, and Carol Anne was there, one of Melba’s little girls, and Jimmy. And I don’t know if there was another one. Aint Betty was gonna take the kids across the street to trick-or-treat. They were on Cedar Bayou Road.
JDJB: I’m surprised Nana and Dad let you go trick-or-treatin’, since they were so religious, and that seems to go against the church.
Mom: I know!
JDJB: I’ve often wondered if they felt like the Lord was punishin’ them for that.
Mom: I don’t know, because– Right? He had on a western outfit, he was a little cowboy.
Sister: Oh, wow, I remember that. I remember hearing that?
Mom: Do you remember that she had it in that chest in her bathroom?
Sister: Yes, that’s why I remember it, ’cause she had it in that chest.
Mom: We would take a cork — when we fished back in the day, we had corks, you know? — and we would take a cork and burn it and black our faces.
JDJB: You did blackface?
Sister: They went as jigaboos!
Mom: And then I’d go across the street ’cause Mother didn’t have any lipstick, so Miss Morgan would put red on my lips.
Sister: Oh, do you remember Miss Morgan in that big white house across the street, directly across the street from Nana and Dad’s? 
JDJB: Yeah.
Sister: She had a nice house, it was a pretty house.
Mom: Yes, she did.
JDJB: That’s where Jimmy was before he died?
Mom: Yes.
JDJB: Were they holdin’ his hands and he yanked away from them?
Mom: I don’t know if they were all holdin’ hands. He just darted when they were standin’ there, and that car was comin’, so they had no idea. They hit him and his candy sack just flew. I think that woman had a nervous breakdown after that happened.
Sister: Oh, really?
JDJB: It was a woman?
Mom: Well, the man was drivin’, her husband, but I mean, she just– It was horrible. I can’t imagine hitting a kid– a person, period.

Sister: But you were at Lillian’s.
Mom: I was at Lillian’s, my friend, Lillian Swick. She and Sandy and I were all the same age. The church, course, they were havin’ a party, I guess. We had a party for everything, and they were havin’ something for Halloween, but she couldn’t go to the church thing, so I was over there. And she was datin’ at the time James Parton, and her older brother Donny was there. We were all sitting in her bedroom talking and the telephone rang, and Sammy, her Mother, answered it, and then she came in there and told Donny to come into the hall, then he came back and he said, “Jimmy’s been in an accident, and, you know, he’s at the hospital.” And so he and James took me to the hospital.
Sister: Was he not killed instantly?
Mom: Instantly. But they took me to the old Baytown Hospital right there on Defee, and I walked in. There was a whole bunch of people there, of course. And I guess Bud told me he was dead. And they had Mother in a back room, givin’ her sedatives or something. Of course, she was hysterical.
JDJB: Of course.
Sister: When they brought them all home–
JDJB: I guess Bud brought you home?
Mom: Joy Belle, I think. I don’t know where Betty was in all this.
Sister: When they brought them home, the first thing they did was they started picking up all of Jimmy’s toys, gettin’ Jimmy’s toys out of the yard.
Mom: So Nana wouldn’t see them when she came home.
JDJB: And then he didn’t exist anymore?
Sister: Basically that was it.
Mom: Right, he disappeared, yeah. And Dad was fishin’, he wasn’t even home. He and Uncle Al had gone down to Matagorda, fishing.
Sister: Deep sea fishing.
Mom: Yeah.
JDJB: For how long?
Mom: They were spending probably some nights. They would go and spend nights. They had their little boat, they didn’t have a big boat, so, yeah, coast guards went out and found ’em. And then Uncle Bud drove down. They went down to get him, and Dad said, “No, I wanna drive my car home.”
Sister: ’Cause he needed something to do, prob’ly.
Mom: Yeah.
Sister: They were at home when Dad came drivin’ up, so they all went out there to look at him or whatever.
Mom: I don’t know why. Whatever.
Sister: And he got out of the car and then just fell down on his knees cryin’.
Mom: Just collapsed.
Sister: They didn’t even know to go hug him or comfort him. They didn’t know what to do.
JDJB: Just stood there and watched him cry?
Mom: We didn’t know what to do. And then we never talked about Jimmy.
JDJB: So, was it just the same old same old after he died?
Mom: Pretty much.
JDJB: Y’all just went back to church and–
Mom: Oh, yeah.
JDJB: –and life was the same?
Mom: Life was the same.

JDJB: So his funeral was a day or two later.
Mom: Yeah.
JDJB: I have this picture in my head of y’all have dinner for the first time as a family after that.
Sister: So that’s what Mother was sayin’, you know, that life went on as normal.
JDJB: Nana had to cook dinner, and she set the table, she just set one less plate.
Mom: Yeah.
JDJB: There must’ve been a big hole at the table. And then she got up from the table — y’all were eating — and ran to her bedroom crying?
Mom: She went in there and was sobbing, and we were all just eating.
Sister: Dad didn’t even get up and go.
Mom: Nobody. We were just– we were eating in the kitchen, the pantry was right there, and her bedroom was right there, and we didn’t know what to do.

JDJB: Did the minister tell them to have another child, just move on?
Mom: The preacher told her the only way to get over it’s to have another kid. And now we have David.
JDJB: Why do you think David was such a troubled child, gettin’ involved in drugs and petty crime? He grew up in the same house that you grew up in.
Sister: And worse, I think.
JDJB: Worse because of the tragedy that they weren’t talkin’ about?
Sister: That’s right, they weren’t talkin’ about–
Mom: So later, Dad went up in the attic to do something and he just started bawlin’ ’cause he saw little footprints in the insulation.
Sister: He’d gotten onto Jimmy because he stepped on it, and he sent him downstairs.
Mom: And that’s prob’ly the only time he ever cried.

JDJB: Did Clint still live at home at this point?
Mom: Clint would’ve been 15 or 16 when Jimmy died. When David was born, I was in the ninth grade, Clint was a senior. We had church camp. We never really got to go, but Mama Davis paid for my church camp.
JDJB: That year after Jimmy died?
Mom: No, two years later. I guess we’d already been on vacation ’cause Mother was talkin’ to MawMaw. I woke up and heard her say, “You couldn’t tell on vacation?”
Sister: She had told MawMaw that she was pregnant.
Mom: I was so embarrassed my Mother was pregnant! …How funny, that was embarrassing to me. She “did her duty” and I didn’t want her to!
JDJB: Was it also because it was kind of replacing Jimmy?
Mom: I didn’t really think of it that way then, I just thought, Oh, wow, she’s gonna have a baby.
JDJB: You were 15 when David was born; did you like having a new brother?
Mom: I guess.
Sister: David was born very sick.
Mom: Yeah, David had a rare blood disease; he was in the hospital for I don’t know how long.
Sister: He had to have a blood transfusion when he was born.
Mom: Mm-hm.
JDJB: Wow.
Mom: I don’t know what he had. He was sick, but we didn’t talk about that either.
JDJB: How old was Nana when he was born?
Mom: She was 38.
JDJB: Wow. That’s old for a woman to have a baby.
Mom: That is old, yeah.
Sister: Very old, especially back then.


tuesday, october 8, 2019
With a reference to an UNATTRACTIVE HIGH SCHOOL

books to your chest, to your bosom, your breaking heart, aren’t an easy target.
but boys are stealthy, they surprise you catch you off guard with a double-whammy.
first a nickname to throw you off: gaybird.
it should trigger you (like the dog you are) when you hear that word, to tighten your grip. 
but it echoes so closely the jay byrd you’ve always been.
and delivered with the same joyful air, you turn, only to realize the joy is theirs alone.
you’re left out of the joke because you are the joke, gaybird.

at christmas, a present intended for your aunt june bug is placed before you, labeled simply “to jb.”
no one says anything when you hold it to your torso; thank the right relatives for the wrong thing.
it’s a stylish sweater from a department store in houston.
you don’t recognize the mistake or hear the whispers, and no one speaks up, so you slip away and try it
other than it being half a size small, you like it fine.
quite a bit.
you imagine it growing on you, when you get used to the daring of it.
if it fit, it would be yours, but bringing it up brings it out, and now it’s going back to the store
because it’s too stretched out for your aunt to wear.
don’t worry, honest mistake.
whose honesty?
whose mistake?

and here is this boy, standing above you, watching you tremble, maybe trembling himself.
his words: soft, quiet, gentle; his delivery: soft, quiet, gentle.
hiding with you behind the wall, everything falls into place.
he squats, he sits, you smile.
from here, you insert yourself into times of danger,
streaking, skinny dipping, and you never get caught.
you spend the night in his recently dead aunt’s house you break into, mess up the fluffy white sheets
with orange and brown pubic hair and “baby food” (that’s what you call the messes you make).
you smoke bright green kitchen herbs and pretend you’re high, like you pretended to speak in
tongues, made up words you laughed and cried, no one the wiser.
you wonder if there really is a heav’n above.

it ends when danger’s father attacks him.
you bear witness to slaps and slugs, and the feeble old man swells to ten feet tall and as fierce
as a rocket.
danger diminishes, dwindles, cries like a girl.
you feel complicit so you run, you run and hide, you run and you hide and you don’t tell anyone
anything, and you never go back.
in the future, you’ll spend the night with danger’s cousin, diddle, whose feathers give him away
as even more of a gaybird than you.
that’s why you go there, to find out if the rumors are true.
it’s a short-lived unpleasantness you blame on him and his kind, meaning not your thing at all.

everything you know how to be you learned from your family, your uncle, who hides in plain sight
and never gets caught.
that’s how you imagine you’ll do it. you don’t know it now, but you’ll find out: your role model is a

out of the frying pan, into the fire, across the field you venture.
a boy and a horse. a cowboy called darrell; twin brother to terrell.
scrawny and friendly, shaped like an s.
a ring of skoal in his tight wrangler pocket.
he pulls it out, twists the lid, pinches a tab, stuffs it behind an earthworm lip, holds the can
your direction.
you don’t say it’s a sin, but you don’t take the bait.
at least not the first time.
if you did, who knows what he would say, what invitations he would make, what sins he
might suggest.
you know, that’s who, because he tells you anyway, unfazed by your refusal.

there’s a thing he wants to show you in the dark.
there’s a thing in the shed he wants you to see.
and somehow you see by not seeing at all in the dark, the door pulled, sunlight in the cracks;
him in yours.
you ask him not to let himself go inside of you, but he does anyway, every time, day after day.
and so you’re the one shitting your brains out when you get home, gnawing your nails, hiding in your
parents’ bathroom because they’re not there and it’s out of the way.
best place to let the sin drizzle from your guts.

darrell’s from a different town, he’s a year younger than you.
this is his grandmother’s house, so his visits are rare, random.
last minute plans get phones to call or letters to post or pony express.
and here’s the kicker: you accept his invitation for a late-night slumber party.
and here you are climbing through a window in the yellow-green darkness.
it’s the perfect night, the brother is gone.
the screw twists into the rusty bed.
it hurts and feels good at once.
feels like love or affection, like something you get when your uncle gives.
not the twist of the screw, but the affection behind it.
this is love.
sex equals love and the other way around.

but into this perfect equation, a derivative.
the grandmother wakes to creaking or tapping or sound of sodomizing, and begins to bellow.
darrell slips out of your cockpit and flies you blindly to a closet in the hall, but not before a
light comes on.
and there he stands, naked as a jaybird, in front of his confessor: the old woman who raised him,
hiding a secret behind door #2, which she opens, then explodes into a million pieces — hair under a
nightcap, gown buttoned tight top to bottom — all over you.|
here she is, the source of the cigarette smell.
she hollers and screams and all is a blur.
you scramble for clothes as she screams, try to pull them on as she screams, abandon your plans
and run out the door as she screams and hollers, naked as you are, running along the fence by
the field under the yellow-green moon.
into the woods, into your clothes, then quietly, carefully, through the window of your bedroom as
the air conditioner flies up to meet you like a kamikaze cockpit.

from here a dog, or several dogs, the dog days of summer.
a couple of boys, you and another, one from before or maybe from somewhere else.
dogs waiting, lipsticks ablaze.
you and this boy provide a service they appreciate and so do you.
and when the boy is gone, and it’s just you and him, man’s best friend, you do what you do to say i
love you.
he follows you everywhere, misses you when you’re gone.
sits at your knee while tears flow and you’re caught in the cycle of wanting and not wanting,
not knowing why.
not knowing what to do or who to be or who to ask for help from because the lord says no.

these are the moments about which you feel the most shame because they aren’t learned from your uncle, they are you.
this is who you are, who you always were going to become.
this is what you are.
everything else is make believe.

a typewriter you find in your father’s unused office becomes the weapon you wield against worrisome words.
you write one story then another, horror stories of anger, revenge, and isolation, told by the first person; that’s you.
you sit at the kitchen table and imagine your way out of this hell,
write a portal into another reality, your own heav’n above.
a hiding place behind a wall of desks or boys or angels; it’s all the same.

the typewriter caps lock key is stuck and EVERYTHING YOU WRITE
your weapon smothers the voices calling you out, dragging you down.
you clean-slate your storyline and smile, satisfied.
then your family comes home and shuffles past without inquiry, showing no interest nor concern nor love.
“get your junk off the dinner table!”
soon you’ll learn not to let them off the hook by waking at the end of every story to find them not bloodied or buried.

somehow you become the star of your own show.
some kids have imaginary friends; you have an imaginary audience.
everything you do is caught on film.
a tv show starring you. a realm where everything is good.
you talk to your fans when the covers are pulled as the credits roll up the imaginary screen.
you live in that world until you don’t anymore.
it leaves as unexpectedly as it arrives; shields you from reality; scotchgards the fabric of your life; blocks out inclement weather and tears; protects against stains; seems to say
hold on just a little bit longer, hold your breath, this moment will pass; this situation will slip away,
and you’ll glide into the next: high school, where you’ll rejoin your sisters and friends from sixth and seventh grades, reclaim your place in the world, their world, your world.
forget this year, this moment.
forget right now; you don’t need it.
it won’t matter one iota when the sun comes up and you’re standing in the shadow of the great robert e. lee.
it won’t matter one iota when the sun comes up and you’re standing in the shadow of the great robert e. lee.

Monday, october 7, 2019
”Q&A with mother for memoir” Part i of IV

JDJB: Did you grow up on 8th Street in Baytown, or in Highlands?
Mom: Mother was pregnant with Shirley when we moved from Highlands. Dad was up to be called; it was World War II, but they took the people with kids last. He thought he was gonna have to go, so he moved Mother to Baytown. MawMaw and them lived in Baytown, so he wanted them to be near her.
JDJB: In that house on First Street?
Mom: No, oh, no, no, no. We always said every time the rent came due, they would move! That’s where I go my gypsy blood, movin’ so much.
JDJB: What was it like growin’ up in your house? You said you hated growin’ up, but was that about going to church all the time?
Mom: I remember nothin’ of my life until I was in first grade. Don’t ask me anything about being one, two, three, four, five, or six, ’cause I didn’t go to school till I was seven. So I just blanked that all out. Maybe we make it worse than it was, but the church thing was the main thing. I think that I just could not grasp it. Now, we had a good youth group. We did a lotta things except dance and shows.
Sister: I think part of your not enjoyin’ your life or your childhood or whatever wasn’t really havin’ as much to do with that as your home life.
Mom: Dad never did talk to us.
JDJB: Maybe you were scared of him ’cause he was so quiet?
Sister: No, I think she was scared of Dad because he beat the crap out of her! He didn’t talk to us either.
JDJB: He talked to me. When I went to the lake with Nana and Dad, when we were sittin’ in the trailer. He had a dry sense of humor. Maybe the church thing was more Nana’s thing?
Mom: Oh, no, Dad was very “church.” You see, Grandma Young was Catholic.
JDJB: Were both of Nana and Dad’s parents alcoholics?
Mom: Alcoholics, mm-hm. They turned from alcoholism to religion.
Sisiter: Did you know that Dad’s dad committed suicide?
JDJB: No, I didn’t.
Mom: Yeah, when Dad was 17.
JDJB: That’s crazy! I always thought he ran away from home.
Sister: His dad did; Dad’s dad, our great grandfather. He did run away from home when he was 17 or so. Dad’s father got in a bar fight.
Mom: Right.
JDJB: In Pennsylvania?
Mom: Wherever he was. I think it was Pennsylvania.
Sister: So, he thought he’d killed somebody. Don’t know if the man died.
Mom: No.
Sister: He just beat the crap out of him and then high-tailed it out of town ’cause he didn’t wanna get in trouble.
JDJB: He changed his name.
Mom: Yeah, he changed his name.
JDJB: From Stemple?
Mom: Stemmel.
JDJB: Was Dad born in Lou’siana?
Mom: Dad was born in Houston.
Sister: But Grandma Young was from Lou’siana, so he had to meet Grandma Young somewhere.
Mom: Well, I know it, but I don’t know nothing about none of that.
Sister: I think I remember Dad talking about living in Orange.
Mom: They lived in Orangefield.
JDJB: Was it out toward Beaumont?
Mom: Beaumont. Close to the Lou’siana-Texas border. That’s where all that oil stuff was goin’ on at the time. His dad worked in the oilfield, so at least he had a job. He was functioning drunk.
Sister: Dad hitchhiked to San Antonio, and he was in a civil military–
Mom: It was a military-like– It wasn’t the U.S. Army or Navy, but it was some sort of a training camp. At that time, they were just training; I don’t know what they thought, the end of the world was coming or somethin’. We were fixin’ to get in a war with– hm.
JDJB: Was it around World War II?
Mom: Prob’ly before that.
Sister: He was trainin’ for that. He had hitchhiked there and it was like a three-summer program. I think he only went once. The first summer he was there, well, they had to come get him because– Am I right? I thought his dad committed suicide while he was gone.
Mom: He prob’ly did ’cause he was prob’ly seventeen when he went up there.
Sister: Then he had to come home. And of course, then he had to take on the family. He was able to finish high school somehow or another.

JDJB: Nana was born in Baton Rouge?
Mom: Yeah, and they came down here to get on at the refinery, which Pawpaw did, Nana’s family, her mother and dad. That’s how they got down here.
JDJB: Where were MawMaw and Aint Effie raised?
Mom: Lou’siana.
JDJB: They came here together?
Mom: See, Uncle Gene and Pawpaw came and got jobs at Exxon, or Humble, Humble Oil & Refinery.
JDJB: Pawpaw and Uncle Gene were also from Lou’siana? All in the Baton Rouge area?
Mom: No, I don’t think they’re from Lou’siana. I don’t know where they’re from, honestly. Maybe. I don’t know how they met. That’s goin’ way back. I don’t know. We didn’t talk; we didn’t ask questions.
JDJB: Aint Effie was Nana’s aunt?
Mom: Yeah.
Sister: And Betty was her cousin, MawMaw’s sister.
Mom: We call her Aint Betty, but she’s our cousin.
JDJB: That’s better than Cousin Betty.
Mom: Yeah.
JDJB: It’s like we called everybody aunt. Aunt Shirley, Aint Sharon, Aint–
Mom: Yeah, when y’all were little, ’cause you didn’t call adults by their first name.

JDJB: Nana and Dad met in Baytown?
Mom: Yes, they met at church in a Christmas play. He was Joseph and she was an angel in the play. He was 22 and she was 17.
JDJB: So she couldn’t really question you gettin’ married at 17.
Mom: She was probably so glad to see me get outta there!
JDJB: ’Cause you were so unhappy?
Sister: She went from one misery to another.
Mom: Oh, no, it wasn’t a happy life. It didn’t solve any problems.


thursday, october 3, 2019
“Jangly & Triangly”

I wrote a song back in 2012, around the time that I was breaking up with my last boyfriend. He was something of a piano prodigy, so it was kind of a Fuck You to him, though it’s not intended to be a song about him or that relationship.

Wednesday, OCTOBER 2, 2019
“Walking with Macy gray”

(A voice recording from May 13, 2017)

We leave the house, go past the Fitzpatricks’ house, past the rosemary bush and the agave. It’s where 28th Street turns into Robinson, on the curve. The metal bar {guardrail} that protects the traffic from going the wrong way, careening into the entry to the frontage road. Macy Gray is sniffing every little spot on the ground. Then he comes to me and looks up to get a little scratch behind the ears. Then we cross the street at some point before the end of the metal railing {guardrail}. If there are pecans on the ground, he likes when I step on them and he gets to eat the pecan meat.

Right at the UT Development building, right before the parking lot, they just put in cable, and there’s some loose dirt where they dug a trench to bury the cable, and Macy Gray likes to roll around in it, take a little dirt bath. He lets me scratch his back sometimes. Or he’ll roll over and try to bite me! And he bites hard— meow! Sometimes he’ll eat a little new grass.

I’ve been trying a thing lately that kinda works. I stay with him in one spot for ten seconds; then I take ten steps, one second a piece, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Then I turn around to see if he’s following me, and if he’s not, I count to ten again then turn and walk ten more steps. But if he starts walking toward me, I walk with him, or I wait for him. Sometimes he’ll keep walking past me, or sometimes he’ll stop and look up for a scratch behind the neck—behind the ears. If he walks a couple of steps, I’ll take a couple of steps with him and wait, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

And then I take ten steps, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I turn around to see if he’s following me, and he is, so I wait for him.

He walks and closes his eyes contentedly. It’s a pleasant face.

But then he starts walking again, next to me, so we walk together. I don’t count those steps. As long as he’s walking, we’re walking together.
Sometimes he jogs a couple of steps to get ahead of me.
Sometimes he’ll walk on the curb.
Sometimes I will and he won’t.
Sometimes he walks between my legs. And if there are birds in the trees above chirping to alert the others “There’s a cat!” he twitches his tail, but ignores them otherwise. It’s like a little sign that he knows they’re there. And if he only tried he could get up there and eat their babies. But I don’t think he really could. He could, but he doesn’t really want to.

Sometimes he jumps up on the concrete base of the lamp at the front corner of the parking lot. The front, meaning on the back side of the building. We never go to the front side of the building, or haven’t yet.

And then, next to the — I don’t know what kind of tree it is; it could be an oak tree — where the roots have pushed the corner of the sidewalk up a couple of inches, he always stops to peer inside, tail anxious, twitching, as if he sees something, as if he’s waiting for something in there to make a mistake. If he stays there too long, I walk on, two, three, four, five, six, seven–

And he caught up with me. But we always stop at the mound of dirt next to the two caution horses by the hole they’ve dug, where they’re dealing with some sort of water situation and have been for some time. There’s a metal cap: AUSTIN TEXAS WATER METER. But this is some sort of new thing they’ve put in, and it may have something to do with the new air conditioner they added a while back. Usually, because the mound is so comfortable, I’ll sit next to him for a minute, maybe scratch his head or maybe just sit with him.

There are red plastic — What do they say? DO NOT ENTER — tape that’s connected to the two caution horses that sometimes flaps in the wind, if it’s windy, and Macy Gray likes to play with it. Sometimes I think he could just lie on the pile forever. But he doesn’t always do that. Sometimes he gets up to bathe a little bit, or he gets down into the hole, plays.

It’s quite a big hole; it would be the size of a dog’s grave. But it’s only as deep as he is tall. On the other side of the hole are all of the white rocks that they’ve got around the building for a zero-scaping effect.

He likes being low. If a leaf noisily blows across the parking lot, he’ll bounce out of the hole. Or sometimes he just sits there and pulls some dirt into the hole. And he’s got a curious look. Oof! Jumps onto the top of the dirt mound, cleans himself a little bit.

And when I tire of this, I walk toward the picnic table, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I look back. He’s still in the same place, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, so I turn and walk some more, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, but only as far as the picnic table.

I sit at the picnic table, because sooner or later, he’ll join me on the picnic table. But right now he’s enjoying being on top of the mound.

Here he comes, walking casually, stepping off the sidewalk into the parking lot. If it has rained recently, and water has come out of one of the spouts, he will take a sip. But it’s dry right now. He sniffs whatever garbage is about; some leaves. Makes his way usually on top of the picnic table, but tonight he’s just going right under it right to me, so I can reach down and stroke his back as he passes by. He yanks his tail out of my grasp. He keeps walking.

He doesn’t want to get on top of the picnic table, so I join him on the walk. He stops to scratch, two, three, four, and he’s walking again. Up on the sidewalk, in front of me, between my legs, circling around, stopping, starting, darting left and right. Now he’s just lying down, so I have to join him because he’s precious.

I stroke his long body. Sometimes he lets me do that, but only a couple of times before he’s up on his feet again, tail wagging, as he looks out across the parking lot at the houses on the other side of the street. He circles around me, and I stand up again.

Sometimes we go to the very end of the sidewalk, to the corner, where the building meets the new fence they built a while back to surround the new air conditioner. It’s the size of a couple of cars.

He joins me slowly. At dusk it’s hard to see him, except when he walks over the white lines in the parking lot, he’s the exact same color as the pavement at dusk.

We go to the east side of the fence that surrounds the air conditioner, up next to the recycling bins, past the old box springs that’ve been there forever. Sometimes he climbs inside. When there was still fabric still on the box springs, we’d play a little game of poke and scratch, and I was the one doing the poking and getting scratched.

He likes to sniff around the wood and rotting fabric. I leave him there because I can’t see him, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, past the back door of the health clinic, where the cleaners sometimes open and toss out a bag of garbage this time of night, but probably not on a Saturday.

I stand at the corner of the building where the health clinic parking lot is about two feet higher than the Development Building parking lot. Macy Gray likes to come to that corner, the brick corner and sniff the corner and rub the side of his face, as if to comb his whiskers.

Sometimes he ventures on, but I try to discourage it by walking the usual path, down past the dumpsters, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, to the big oak tree that towers over the dumpsters. Macy Gray stays at the top of the parking lot next to the parking bumpers. He can’t usually talk me into following him that way, but I will follow him down the sidewalk and the bushes, two, three, four, if he decides to go that way, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. 

I stop and turn and I don’t see him because he’s obscured by the dumpsters, so I count to ten, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
And if I don’t see him, I take ten more steps, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

And now I’m at the top of the entryway to the health clinic at the grassy area of the UT Development Building, on the northeast corner of that parking lot, which is the back parking lot, the backmost part.

I see him now coming through the two dumpsters, sniffing around the back of the first one. A quick scratch and he’s on his way toward me, so I wait.

But he diverted, went a different direction, stopped his step, so I count, two, three, four—  He’s coming this way again, so I wait. He stops, two, three — he sees something — four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
So I walk, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

He sometimes sees a dog that lives in that house across the street, which upsets him. Or worries him. But right now it’s just people that I can see through the blinds; I can’t really tell what they’re doing, I just see hands and arms.

But Macy Gray is inching my way, stopping to sniff the parking lot.

Here comes a car, but it kept on going, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Walking away from me constitutes walking– or not walking at all, so, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I stop and look. He’s crossing the street, which is something I won’t pause at, even with ten steps, because— This is not a super busy street, but I don’t want to encourage him to sit or lie in the middle of the street, which he tends to have a tendency to do. He tends to have a tendency to do; that’s what I said! But this new thing of ten steps, ten waits, ten seconds at a time, seems to be working, at least somewhat.

But now he’s across the street and sniffing the base of the recycling bin, and stepping up into the yard of the house with the huge agave that’s getting an erection, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. I turn and walk along the gutter, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I turn to look. He’s still in the same place; two, three, four— Now he took a step this way but stopped, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight— One step and stop, another step. He seems to be chasing a bug in the grass at the end of the little sidewalk in front of the house with the huge agave plant that’s getting an erection, two, three, four, five— Maybe not a bug; maybe it’s a snake. He’s good at catching snakes. I don’t know how he sees them. He can see them from across the street. He will focus in and pounce. But then, when the snake gets away, if it gets away, he slowly slinks toward me. And I wait.

A car’s coming, so I don’t move at all.

The car turned the corner ahead of us and made a U-turn. So we wait till the car is away, and then I start to count again, two, three, four, five, six—

He’s coming this way; I’m waiting. He’s making his way off the grass to the curb, and we’re walking again. He comes next to me and looks up for a scratch behind the ears. Just a quick one, though; he’s off again.

So we’re walking… me in the street, him on the curb. Really I’m in the gutter. We make the circle, and for a brief moment, where the telephone goes up at the corner of 29th and Robinson, there’s a missing piece of curb, because the telephone pole was too close, I guess, to pour cement around it. Or maybe they cut around it to put the telephone pole in there.

He’s standing and looking out at the block ahead of us, 29th Street. And we’re walking again. I like to cross 29th at Robinson.

And he’s following me. Probably because there’s a car parked across the street, and he likes to sniff a car. He likes to hop on top of cars sometimes.

I wait on the curb as he sits in the middle of the street to lick himself, two, three, four — keeping an eye out for cars that might be coming — seven, eight, nine, ten. But none are coming as he kicks out a leg to lick it, two, three — I’m walking away, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I turn to look but can’t see him because he is on the other side of the parked car. So I count to ten. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
He doesn’t emerge, so I keep walking, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

The college girls, who sit on their front stoop and smoke, are out with a phone, and Macy Gray’s coming along. They know his name. Sometimes they say hello to him, but ignore me. He’s walking along the curb and I’m following beside him.

He stops to peer into the daycare center, because sometimes he likes to climb on top of the daycare center wooden fence that has a nice flat top.

We pass the pecan tree and the shrubs and the Texas Mountain Laurel that I completely free of its pods by the end of summer.

He steps down the incline of the curb into the street a little bit faster as I walk past the garbage cans, but I look back; he’s still with me, so I wait for him. We walk side by side, past the trash cans, past the recycling bins. Past that weird tree that grows like a weed and has smooth bark and puts out little balls.

We turn the corner into the alley. Sometimes he makes a big leap, a playful leap. But he’s feeling kind of mellow tonight.

He darts ahead of me just a couple of steps then stops, so I pause with him. But then he darts again, gets ahead of me. I can hardly see him in the speckled light, the streetlight shining through the trees. He’s got an eye on something, dashing here and there, going up on top of the cyclone fence into the daycare center yard, stalking something, waiting there, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

He’s just sitting at the base of a tree looking across the gravel at something that I can’t see, so I take ten steps around to the two parking spaces at the back of the daycare center out to that little area on that side of the daycare center yard as the college girls in bathing suits and beach towels arrive, catching Macy Gray’s attention. Music blasting from their cars. Boys going one way, girls going the other way. But Macy Gray hasn’t moved. He’s got his eye on something, but I can’t see it, it’s too dark. So I’ll take ten steps, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. 

Into the middle of the alley where the pot dealer lives in the little shack next to the other little shack where a guy who looks like he could be his twin lives. The twin is more congenial than the pot dealer But I guess the pot dealer would be more suspicious of people standing outside of his shack in the middle of the alley.

I don’t see Macy Gray, but I assume he hasn’t moved anywhere, so— Sometimes I’ll walk back to check in with him, where he is, to see if he has made any progress. But no, he’s still in the same spot, which makes me think there’s a bird or a squirrel or a cat, perhaps. Most likely a cat, because cats will sit and stare at each other across the yard.

There’s weird noises. It sounds like the upset sounds of a squirrel, on the far side of the little shack in the back of the daycare center. So I think maybe that’s what Macy Gray is looking at or listening to. It’s kind of hard to discern over the thrum of music coming from the car across the street. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

I’m back at the end of the fence, at the two parking spaces for the back of the daycare center. I can’t see Macy Gray but I can see where he is. But the lights are too bright and the darks are too dark. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten

 I turn and walk but I hear movement. I’m thinking it sounded like him coming over the fence. But no. I turn and walk, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
I wait. Sometimes I just leave him, when he’s in the alley or some place that seems relatively safe. Two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
I turn and walk, one, two— but there’s definitely some odd noises coming from that back yard of the daycare center, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to just walk away from him two steps at a time. But I see him coming over the fence now, so I can’t help but going back toward him.

“Hey, buddy!” He’s jogging this way. “What’d you see?” He stops next to me, excited about something. He looks up, but when I try to scratch him, he looks away and licks himself and looks back, tail twitching. He saw something that I didn’t see. We’re walking and he’s running a little ahead of me.

“Hey, Rosemary.” There’s a dog in the back of that yard. She used to come up to the gate and say hi, but she doesn’t anymore. She goes the opposite direction. I guess she likes to be alone.

I cross the alley where the young couple with the cats that the girl tried to walk once with a leash. I saw them when I was sitting in my chair in my yard. And that cat did not like that leash! The girl didn’t try again, I don’t think.

Walking past the Fitzpatrick’s game room. The green light’s on, which means they’re having a party. And Macy Gray is ducking down in the grass in the alley, like he’s stalking me. But now, he’s back to the Volvo in the parking lot where he was when I found him, when I arrived after getting off the bus and came to the street. I stop at the end of the alley before I cross the street to see if he’s going to come with me, because I don’t wanna just walk across the street without paying attention, in case he’s right behind me, and in case a car comes. He’s been lucky so far, knock wood— which, my phone frame is made of wood, so I can knock it.

I don’t see him, two, three, four, five— Oh, there he is. If I don’t look right where he is, I can see him better, until he comes into the spotlight, streetlight. He’s at the edge; I’m waiting for him.

 And sometimes he’ll dart quickly across the street ahead of me. I don’t know if it’s because he wants a treat — which he’ll get — or if it’s because he sees Karen or Bobby and wants to chase them — which he will.

Right now, Karen’s favorite hiding spot, between the garbage cans, is obscured by cardboard boxes that need to be broken down. 

“Bobby! –I mean, Macy! Hey!  No-no-no-no. No-no-no-no. No-no-no-no. Chill out.”

And we’re home.

monday, september 30, 2019

I’ve been binge-watching The Politician on Netflix, mostly because I saw that Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Lange are in it. I should be embarrassed to admit I wasn’t familiar with Ben Platt, the show’s star, but I’m not. I’m not much of a Broadway musical theater person. I love musical theater — or I should say I love music in theater, singing and all that — but I haven’t really enjoyed anything on Broadway since I saw Phantom of the Opera, and I think that was mostly because I was so taken by the staging of it. I’d only been in New York City for a few months; a boy I met at a gay movie theater worked in the Phantom gift shop and got me a comp ticket. At least, I think he got me a ticket. He got me in, at any rate; I had to sit on a stair in an aisle in the back of the theater. But I was 25, and I’d gone to NYC to be a playwright, and was blown away by the potential that that production offered. My tastes have changed a lot since then. One of my favorite musicals is Dancer in the Dark, as well as Moulin Rouge, but, there you have it, I don’t think this counts as neo-traditional fare for musical theater.

I was interested in The Book of Mormon when it hit Broadway, but I was dating a former Mormon at the time. And he was a horrible boyfriend, so when our relationship soured, my interest waned. Plus, I hadn’t heard the music before we broke up, and when I did, it had that same something that seems to define all Broadway musicals that “make it,” and I was even less interested. So I didn’t see Ben Platt arrive on the theater scene. I also didn’t watch the Pitch Perfect movies (I didn’t even know there was more than one until recently), which helped cement Platt’s place in the genre. I’m not a Tonys watcher, so I didn’t see his performance (and win) for Lead Actor for Dear Evan Hansen until today.

But then I saw The Politician. And it’s not a great show, but it is entertaining. It is weird and quirky. Things I usually like in my binge-watching, but the storylines don’t seem to line up perfectly, and there’s a lot about it that one has to forgive. I might not have watched past the first episode (though Jessica Lange is so good that I might have just for her), except that Ben Platt sings a song at a memorial service for a boy with whom his character has had not so much a fling as a reciprocated flirtation. And that song he sang, Joni Mitchell’s “River,” stopped me in my tracks. Since I had no concept Ben Platt guy before this moment, perhaps you can imagine the effect it had on me. It’s the reason I’ve continued watching The Politician through all of its silly implausibility. I’m waiting for another Ben Platt song. He plays piano with the boy who died in a later episode, and I anticipate the two of them singing together (the dead boy is very handsome), and in another, he talks the girl who maybe has cancer into doing a duet. But it doesn’t have the emotional punch of “River.”

My first long-term boyfriend was a huge Joni Mitchell fan, so if/when he reads this, he’ll probably be rolling his eyes, but he tried to turn me onto Joni Mitchell to no avail. I don’t dislike her, but I’m not the fan of her that I’ve been of Talking Heads (which that same boyfriend never really liked because he doesn’t like David Byrne’s voice — which is my issue with Joni, but oh, well, I’m not titting-for-tatting), or Rhett Miller and Rufus Wainwright (whom we both like), or, more recently, Sufjan Stevens (I was obsessed with him for a while). All that to say it must’ve been the song, the power of Joni Mitchell’s song, presented with Ben Platt’s pretty incredible voice that works so well for me.

I came to work today and tried to go down a Ben Platt rabbit hole (ahem!), but was unsuccessful. He has an album out of original songs (by him, I think), and even though (even though?) they are supposedly about his experiences as a gay man, I wasn’t all that taken in by them. I watched his Dear Evan Hansen song on the Tonys, and it sounded like the usual Broadway stuff. And his voice didn’t stand out because of it. Unfortunately. I watched several things, or started them, and they left me wanting to have that feeling again when I saw him singing “River” on The Politician. So I just did. And it worked. It’s just what I needed to satisfy me.

I hope Ben Platt finds his way to songs that he can interpret (or write, if he can) that will affect me (and his already huge fan base) and not sound like schlocky Broadway bullshit. I hope, I hope.

thursday, august 19, 2019

I sent the latest draft of the scripted chapters from my memoir — which I call “Scenes from Fumbling for the Knob” (though most people ignore the “Scenes from” part) — to JL, the director of the project. She let me know that she received it and that she’s been really busy, but will get to it “Thursday” or “Sunday.” Thursday, meaning today, so I’m anxiously trying not to think about her responses. That said, I’m quite pleased with the work I’ve done, and grateful for JL’s comments on the last draft which got me to this place.

In previous versions of the script, there was a Momma character “chain-smoking in the rafters.” I’d envisioned her as a third live-action character, but took her out to focus on the two characters who actually are me: JDJB, the adult, current version of me; and Jay Byrd, the boy I was, who uses object puppets to create characters in his world of imagination. The action all takes place in my (or his, since this isn’t actually a documentary!) bedroom, circa 1976. Some, like my ex, Steven, might argue that the Momma character is a part of me (my impersonation is pretty good!), but things shifted in the script, so it doesn’t seem as necessary to present her as a character, but rather as someone I only talk about.

Another addition to the script is JDJB lying in repose onstage fifteen minutes prior to the performance beginning. My intent here is not to present myself in a funeral-type viewing, but rather to show myself (my current self) on display, “completely exposed,” as if in a museum or gallery exhibition.

KQ, JL’s wife, is another new character. She’s actually “facilitator” of the play, assisting with object puppetry, and even voicing one of the many eighth-graders in a couple of key scenes. She’ll probably also be rearranging/setting up the stage for scenes while I deliver between-the-scene monologues. At the top of the evening, KQ will “jostle me awake.”

Besides taking out the Momma monologues, I previously didn’t have monologues between each scene, but added them, as well as the above scene, which is the Prologue, and an Epilogue. The last scene had previously included elements of what are now included in the final scene and the epilogue. It seemed a better choice to separate the JDJB and Jay Byrd characters I was attempting to overlap in the final scene and create the epilogue.

I’ve put the manuscript, i.e., the literary or prose part of the memoir, on hold for now. Working on the scripted chapters is taking up a lot of my time and brain space, but also is changing, and I think will affect a future draft of the manuscript. For instance, there were interstitials of various types in the manuscript, but no monologues, per se, so it remains to be seen if those will be necessary in the manuscript. I kind of felt, while working on the scripted chapters, that the monologues were filling in the blanks that the chapters themselves fill in in the overall memoir. But they seem to have taken on a bigger purpose, at least some of them, so they might end up in the manuscript when all is said and done, or at least parts of some of them. But that is still down the road a ways.

Wednesday, august 14, 2019

This is something I wrote on Facebook recently, about how my Saturday was going. (The fact that I call it “Shaturday” is a clue!)

I was working on my story for the Risk Live show in NYC (August 22) yesterday when Macy Gray Cat brought in a baby cardinal. At first I thought it was dead, but it turned out it wasn’t even hurt. So I took it outside, located the nest based on the mama bird’s frantic flight path. I got the ladder out of the garage, put it in place, opened it up — all while holding the baby bird safely in my shirt. Had it not been for that factor, when my feet got tangled turning around and the ladder tipped, I probably could’ve braced myself better.

Instead I went straight down onto my left foot. I let out an involuntary yelp then a flood of sweat overcame me.

My foot was bent at a comical 90-degree angle, and I guess because I was surging with endorphins, I grabbed it and popped it back into place. (This image keeps repeating in my head even now!)

I thought maybe I could hop 10 feet to the front door, but on the first hop, my ankle popped out of the socket again. And I put it back in place again! Then I slid on my butt into my apartment, into the kitchenette, happy that my refrigerator is small because I was able to reach up for the ice tray. Then I started calling people, and Laura Freeman came to my rescue (she just had to finish leading a parade of five-year-olds at the Thinkery).

My lack of medical background made me think that I’d only dislocated my ankle, but no. Fractured in three places. {interestingly, in my last big accident, three years ago, I fractured my jaw in three places.}

What really surprised me, though, was that I have to have orthopedic surgery! I spent the first half of my life pretty unscathed physically (all of my breaks and bruises were psychological I guess!), and now I seem to be making up for lost time.

Oh, well! That said, I’m fine. I did have to cancel my trip to NYC for the Risk Show (which I’m most bummed about — damn it, Macy!), but found out that Risk will be in Austin in December and they said they would consider me for that! (🤞🏻)

By the way, if anybody has one of those scooter things that you put your bum leg on and it has wheels and handle bars (do you know what I mean??), may I borrow it for the next six weeks or so? Crutches is for the birds!

Speaking of which, I’m not sure what happened to the baby bird. It was on the ground when I dragged myself away and mama bird was nearby. Macy Gray and the other cats were inside for the moment, but... Anyway, I tried!

Friday, august 02, 2019

It has been a busy week. I’m taking part in a staged reading of a play by Sarah Loucks, “Songs for Cowboys Who May Also Be Women.” I’m playing the part of a dog named Dolly Parton who turns into a real-life Dolly Parton — or, really, a white trash version of Dolly Parton (bless her heart). It was originally going to be a simple reading and fundraiser (I suppose for a bigger production), but it has turned into quite the spectacle called Dolly Fest. I’ll also be taking part in “Kill Jolene: A Karaoke Play,” which is 15 separate acts doing curious versions of Dolly Parton songs. The playwright will be doing “Touch Your Woman” (a DP song I’ve never heard of) while someone eats Frito pie off of her body! I’ll be sing a version of “Coat of Many Colors,” taking my cue from Sandy Sheets (choreographer Mark Dendy’s brilliant evangelist/prostitute drag queen alter-ego), who performed it in a variety show my partner Steven and I hosted as Y’all back in the 90s at Here Arts Center. We called the show Y’Here, and each show featured a musical guest, a “special guest” (which was often a drag queen or some other kind of performance artist). Sandy sang “Coat of Many Colors,” but instead of colors, she sang rubbers, and as she sang it the first time, she pulled out of a box a coat that she’d made out of condoms.

Back in 2015, I had the costume designer, Glenda Wolfe, create for me a condom cape for Naked as a Gaybird, for my entrance impersonating JC Gaynor, who was the Diana Ross drag performer for the Cher Show in Las Vegas in the 80s, which I saw (listen to my first Risk! podcast story for more on that). I’m not sure if I was inspired by Sandy Sheets to create the cape. Perhaps it was subconsciously in my mind. I wanted an outfit that was reminiscent of Diana Ross, but was more about the queer aspect of it, the drag part of it. The dress JC wore in the Cher Show was modeled after the one from Diana Ross’ 1981 TV special. Glenda did an amazing job creating the cape, and used something like 1,000 condoms for it. Sadly, I’ve only had two distinct occasions to wear it so far, in 2015 for the Naked as a Gaybird run, and last month, at a tribute for my good friend and lesbian icon, Gretchen Phillips. Here’s a picture of me singing with Megan Tabaque and Diana Small (Gretchen’s in the foreground) at that performance at Cheer Up Charlie’s in Austin:


I was surprised when I pulled the cape out of the dress bag that’s been hanging in my closet for four years (and maybe for a year in the garage) that the condoms and the cape held up so well. And noticing that, I thought, I really should figure out more ways to wear this thing. Therefore, when Sarah asked me if I wanted to do something for “Kill Jolene,” I almost immediately said I would do “Coat of Many Rubbers.” I haven’t really considered exactly what I’m going to do. I think I’ll go to the thrift store and try to find something ugly and poor looking that I can make look like hillbilly clothes, and maybe an extra large purse for the cape?

So, anyway, I’ve been rehearsing for the reading, as well as finishing up the script of Scenes from Fumbling for the Knob to send to Jenny by August 1, and haven’t had time to prepare for my karaoke tune, much less for writing blog entries. But lookie there, I managed to knock one out!

Oh, and here’s some exciting news: I’ll soon have Fumbling for the Knob T-shirts to sell, as a fundraiser for the staged reading (and I suppose for a full production, if/when something like that happens. I want to get a lot of things for the reading that would also be used in the production, props related stuff, so besides giving all of the crew more money, it’ll also help me afford to have bigger/better tastes for the props I get.

My landlady left with her son and mother on a trip to South Africa, so I have her car in the meantime, which will make getting around a lot more convenient, since the weather has been consistently hitting triple digits for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

At the beginning of March, I went to Indianapolis to perform in a live recording of the Risk! podcast. I get a weekly email from Submittable, which lists opportunities for writers and other types of artists to submit to different literary magazines and organizations around the globe. A lot of weeks, I delete the email either because there’s nothing of interest or I’m busy with other projects (there will always be another one next week!). Risk! had one of these listings, which seemed a little odd, but I used to listen to the podcast all the time, and consider myself a fan. Plus, I knew it would be a good way to get some platform for my writing, with the goal of getting a literary agent and/or getting Fumbling for the Knob published. At least, I think Submittable was where I heard about this opportunity, but I can’t find the submission or information on it to refer back to now, so maybe it was something else.

Anyway, the call was for a 200-word “pitch.” I decided to send them my Las Vegas/Diana Ross story (which was in my solo-show, Naked as a Gaybird, so I felt confident about it). Knowing it inside and out also made getting it down to 200 words manageable. The first response was a general “Thanks for submitting. What city are you in and/or what city are you pitching for?” I said I’m in Austin, but could perform in New York City, Florida, Indiana, Texas, Southern California— basically any place where I have someone I can stay with — because why not?!

They (actually she, Cyndi) responded that they’re currently booking Indy on March 2, and so she read my pitch and had this response:

There is a lot of fun adventure here! But I am not sure that your story is right for RISK! And a lot of that is because right now it’s an an anecdote not a full story. Right now all we know is you had a hot sexual experience in Vegas with a grown man who was part of Cher’s Entourage. But you don’t tell us how that experience changed or impacted you. Who were you before Vegas? Who were you after? I am not sure if it’s your first time? Or how this experience might have altered your perception of who you are. You leave us hanging as well in regard to your date, and as you are both under-age, it leaves me wondering if she is okay. I get the impression this was a great experience for you, one that you are happy to have as a memory, but it is also easy for the outside observer to see this man as a predator. So you need to be clearer as to why you might not feel that way about him. So flesh this out a bit in 2000 words or less. Tell us more?

After my 2,000-word version, I got this:

Hey, this is still super fun, but it's still an anecdote vs a story. I need to know in detail, how that experience changed or impacted you. Who were you before Vegas? Who were you after? Your answers to these questions will show the team if this is a story that is right for RISK! or not.

I wrote to Donna, my writing mentor: “I've gotten past the first two(?) levels of getting to perform a story for a podcast (RISK!) which is heard by millions (they say) of people. This would be a great opportunity to create some platform for my memoir. I'm a little unsure as to what they want that I haven't given them. Do you have time to give my story a quick read-thru and tell me how to incorporate these answers into the story, or what I'm not doing, or whatever your thoughts are, to the questions they've asked. I know this is a HUGE favor, and understand if you don't have the time or inclination. The deadline is Jan. 26. (It's 9 pages, just under 2,000 words).

She wrote back “OF COURSE!!!” And from there, we worked together, going back and forth (over the course of two or three drafts); she made herself available at any hour by mobile phone; we even spoke once on the way into a niece’s softball game or recital or something. It was very intense, and Donna was right there with me, excited and focused, and I sent in a new draft and got this response:

I would like to hear a recorded version of this story with the Indianapolis show in mind. This is an audition recording that will be shared with the team that is casting for the show.

So, success, right? Well, sort of. More notes:

You do a great job in painting the adventure and bringing us into the scene of the fabulous night with "Diana Ross."

You have added some info that hints strongly as how you changed based on this experience and that is awesome! But, right now this is simply a fun fluffy story and as such it does not yet fit with the RISK! aesthetic. We would really need you to dig into the emotions - RISK! is about stories that change us, so where the encounter with the drag queen is clearly a big scene to explore and relive, to make this a story vs an anecdote, you would need to also tell us more about being closeted - and more about how you feel on the other side of this encounter. So certainly keep the fun and the joy, but give us enough so that we understand the impact.

In your story, you go from being the kind of person who _______ to, the kind of person who _______.

My difficulty all along was getting my head around what they were asking for. It’s really quite simple, but somehow it took me forever to figure it out. I have no idea why it took so long.

Who am I before the Event? Description of the Event. Who am I after the Event?

My initial email to them was on January 17, and now it was February 5, and they wanted a recording by February 9. So I got to it, introducing my brain to a whole new set of challenges (from the Risk! people). The email included several stories from Risk! as examples, videos for creating a recorded pitch to Risk! and a message from Kevin Allison, the creator and host.

In the meantime, I emailed M in Indy to make sure she would be in town the first weekend in March, so I’d have a place to stay, and would get to visit with her.

At the same time, I was in rehearsals for Antigonick, so I was stressing out. I stopped smoking pot around that time (for a while) because I was starting to feel panicky whenever I got high, which is stupid.

On February 13, I received an email from Cyndi introducing me to my story coach, David Crabb, and him to me. He hosts the monthly Risk! show in Los Angeles. Here was the rundown of how the Risk! coaching process works:

  • David has your recording. He will listen to it ASAP

  • David sends you notes.

  • The deadline for your next draft is is 2/20/19.

  • David reviews the new recording of your story.

  • If David has additional notes, he will send them to you, and he may ask for a third draft of your story.

  • Once he feels that the story is solid, he sends it to Kevin Allison for his thoughts.

  • Kevin reviews your story and sends final notes.

  • You tweak your story according to Kevin’s notes and rehearse for the show.

  • Show time!

Crazy, right? But at the same time, amazing. I mean, these people know how to get what they want!

On February 14, an email from David:

Hello from a fellow gay Texan who moved to New York to create solo theater! I am so excited to work with you on this story. It’s in a really good place and the performance of it is beautiful, even on this iPhone audio attachment.

My notes are attached in an MP3 below. Feel free to take notes as you listen, as I move through the story chronologically. These notes are very light, all things considered. Let me know if you have any questions at all. I’ve included my phone number below if you want to text me at any point. I’m looking forward to your next revision, due by next Wednesday. Of course, feel free to get it to me sooner if you have the time.

I sent him a follow-up recording a couple days later and he responded:

What else is there to say? A few little things, mostly “LOVES” in the attached 3-minute note below. But basically, it’s amazing!

I can’t wait to hear this in front of an audience. It was such a pleasure working with you. I wish the story was problematic so we could work together longer LOL. Best of luck and break legs!

David also told me that everybody all the way up the chain was excited to have me on the show… Somewhere along the way, Cyndi had written to make sure I understood that they don’t pay for travel; they give performers a $25 stipend but that’s it. I told her I just wanted to be on the show! Then, on February 17, she sent an email out of the blue telling me that her team notified her they could reimburse me $75 toward travel, which was an ego boost.

I’d been told at some point in the process that Kevin would give me notes a week or two before the show. On February 27, three days before the show, I got this email from Kevin:

You might be wondering where your notes are. The answer is I might not have any. The story was in such good shape, nothing occurred to me on the first listen through. I'll listen just once more and get you any thoughts tonight. But rest assured, you're already in good shape.

We had a quick back and forth. I told him about some final thoughts David and I had had, and he liked an updated ending idea, but that was it. I was on my way to Indy, head first into a cold-as-fuck winter storm to perform in front of a super warm crowd of two or three-hundred (the Athaneum was packed). M was super delighted by my performance, as was the rest of the audience. Great experience.

Then, at the end of March, I had some back and forth with Kevin as they worked on editing the podcast. He had questions about people’s names, wanted to know if I had a title for the story and a song that to accompany it. I suggested the obvious song, but let him come up with the title for the story, to see what he would use, and it turned out to be one that I’ve used before (there have been several): “Got to Let it Show,” which is a line from the song. And that’s what you can listen to right here right now.

All that to say that it’s been so much easier the second time. I’m being considered to perform in the live Risk! recording in New York City on August 22. I sent Cyndi the third recording this morning, not precipitated by a written submission, I didn’t work with a story coach (other than Cyndi — and Kevin also listened to version two and sent notes by way of Cyndi), so I guess I’ve attained a certain status in the World of Risk!

And just now, three minutes ago, I got this response from Cyndi:

Forwarding this to Kevin.

Stay tuned, y’all!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

In a previous life, I was part of a musical duo called Y’all. My partner, Steven, and I met in New York City, and almost immediately created an “act” that far outlived our passion for one another. We loved each other — I would say we still do — but we stayed together because, from early on, we were doing something interesting and special, people took to it, and it always seemed like we were on the verge of something huge, that we were going to become famous. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it definitely made us Artists.

We moved from New York City to Nashville about seven years into our career, and then moved onto the road a year or so after that. We lived in a 20-foot travel trailer and traveled from performance to performance, which, at that time, had come to be mostly Unitarian churches and retirement communities, with a few folk venues thrown in along the way. I was an avid chronicler of our adventures, from the very beginning of Y’all, in New York City, when everything I wrote was kept in spiral notebooks. Then we got a computer, and I started blogging. At some point, Steven was blogging too. Our fan base was sizable, even though we hadn’t hit the big time.

A couple of times, though, our blogging got us in trouble. Once, after visiting a more famous friend in California — an actor we’d known in NYC who was on a TV show — Steven mentioned the name of the neighborhood she and her young child lived in, and somehow she heard about it, and freaked the fuck out. She sent us an email in all caps telling us we had put hers and her child’s life in danger. It was a completely innocent (and, honestly, I still think pretty harmless) mistake, but our relationship never healed after that.

Another time, we were in Estes Park, Colorado. We had met a young man on the road (who lived in the travel trailer with us for the last year-and-a-half of our time together) who had lived there previously. We went with him to meet his friends, one of whom was a wild and wonderful free spirit named Nina, and we went back several times because it was a warm and beautiful community. During one of our visits, Nina was house-sitting for a wealthy woman there, and Nina invited us over for a dinner party. I wrote a blog entry about this amazing house, with its central vacuuming system and other amenities. Again, completely innocent.

Because Estes Park is a small town, someone in this woman’s neighborhood either saw us perform or heard about us, and happened upon our blog, then contacted the owner of the house, concerned by my aw-shucks report on her house. Nina got fired from her cushy house-sitting job (but didn’t hold it against us), and again, we found ourselves deleting a blog entry with our tails tucked between our legs.

Oh, yes, and one other time, after Y’all was no more, and while I was in the midst of my decade-long depression (which is to say I was kind of out of my mind), I was interested in a boy I’d met in Nashville the second time I lived there (that is, after Y’all). I was considering moving back to Nashville, particularly because this boy seemed interested in me, too. When I’d lived there previously, he had a boyfriend, and we had messed around (Steven and I were never monogamous), but I wasn’t looking for an open relationship anymore, so I didn’t think much of my attraction to the boy until after I learned that he and his boyfriend had broken up. At the same time, I also learned that he was HIV positive, and while that wasn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, it was something I hadn’t had to contemplate in my life up to that point, so I was doing a lot of processing about it in my blog.

I didn’t name him, but instead had this way of assigning people nicknames and keeping a key visible to help me remember who was who. It also didn’t take much imagination, if you knew one of those people, to figure out who I was talking about. And this is what happened with the Nashville Boy. I planned a weekend visit to Nashville, in which I was supposed to stay with him, and was nervously and excitedly writing about my hopes and fears, all things considered, which, come to find out (after the weekend, in a long, final email from him,), he was reading in real-time. He had told a friend about me — I’m assuming that it was about his interest in me — and she looked me up and found the blog and showed it to him.

I couldn’t seem to learn my lesson. When I landed in Austin, I was writing about a woman I’d had a flirtatious friendship with, also giving her a not-very-anonymizing nickname. In the key, the clue to the nickname was something along the lines of “The woman I’d fuck if I was gonna fuck women.” It sounds kind of crass when I write it now (and maybe it wasn’t those words exactly), but we had — and still have, I’ll add — a lovely relationship, I was again more blatant writing exactly what I was thinking than I probably should’ve been. I honestly didn’t think anyone read what I was writing, particularly not the object of my affections!

She told me we needed to talk, and she confessed that she’d been reading my blog. I say “confessed” because I think that’s what it felt like at the time. But, of course, it’s not like she was reading my private journal. I mean, it was out there for anyone and everyone to see.

I believe all of this goes back to being in college, coming out in writing to myself in a series of spiral notebooks that my roommate absconded from the dorm room and offered up to a reading group of other guys from our dorm room. It was at the time a horrible thing to have contended with, and at the same time, it was life changing. Since I started writing a novel that included a similar scene, and since I abandoned that novel to write the true story of those events, in order to better process the pain, it has served as great fodder for my creative life. Having been violated by those guys in college desensitized me to private writing, I think, particularly when I was struggling with my depression. And I think my time with Y’all, though technically prior to my depression, was fed by the experiences of my childhood that I’d yet to deal with, the issues which would form the genesis of my depression.

And now there’s this memoir I’m working on, and an expectation in the publishing industry of things called platform, blogging being one of them. So, I’m going to try to fulfill that expectation, but am also going to try to be as professional as possible about it, to not publish things willy-nilly, to not talk about my job or name people I’m dealing with professionally. I’m going to attempt to create something that supports my creative work that “my mother could read” — though I use that phrase somewhat ironically, since I’m actually not speaking to my mother right now!