Saturday, March 06, 2004

The second day 

Having read over this morning's post, I realize that I've come across a bit harsh. I must now hand each and every one of you the same grain of salt that I have to take with everything I tell myself. In spite of my justifications, I am an animated person--this is not to say melodramatic nor over-reactionary--and quite often this manifests itself in my arguments in that I often forget to remind my reader/competitor of the infamous "other side of the story," hence I appear to be a naive asshole who concerns himself with nothing but himself.

I think what has been done to my brother is wrong. Wrong in a moral sense as much as in a judiciary sense, Andy has been mistreated, raped by the skewed system of drug justice in this country. He is a victim to the laws that flatly equate specific quantities with specific intentions, and his small personal use stash (partially self-produced) landed him in the caricatured line-up of those who intend to deliver meth to babies and teens and confused young adults. At his pretrial, his judge expressed glee at having caught "a white one, finally," and that he would be a white, shining example of what happens to people like him. Fuck you, judge, may the karmaic wheel duly return your judgements upon you.

I attack the root of all legislation that accepts the equation that prison time is equal to recovery. The time that Andy spent away from his life was just that: an antithesis of life. When one is sentenced, harshly or mildly, grace no longer manifests itself in the codec of justice. Grand protestations aside, one detail is obvious in my perception of incarceration in its current state: when an inmate is released from a prison sentence, rehabilitation has not been achieved.

In the simplest terms, time served is a breaking process, it is nothing fairer than rolling and newspaper to swat a dog for some arbitrary transgression. Do you think the dog understands the charge? Have you connected with the dog's sensibilities and assured him that his practices are unsound? No, you've injured it, and and any behavior modifaction that is obvious after the fact is a manifestation of fear and relief, fear of the punishment and relief in its absence.

My brother is so lively and spirited, I know his time has dampened some of that. I know that the relief he exhibits is not the relief that everyone presupposes is the freedom he has finally earned from his addictions, from his misconceptions, but no, I know better. Andy is smiling because he no longer has to ask to piss or to get a new razor, because he has a bed now that has no semen stains on it (I hope) from previous residents, because he can walk outside just to look at the stars if he so wishes.

I doubt that Andy is in any sense apologetic for his past behavior. In all honesty, I hope he isn't, I hope he does still cling to the enduring knowledge that he has never done anything so heinous in nature that it deserved a three year sentence with a seven year probation.

Today was awkward (and lavishly so), I can't lie about that. My parents have been fluttering about the returned golden boy, buying him a bed lickety-split, repairing my curtains, sweeping the garage, getting leaves out of the gutters, and generally wiping his ass in every other way imaginable. Yet, reasonably, I can't blame them for it, and I can't condemn him for accepting the treatment. God knows he hasn't had it in some time. Likewise, my parents must be so relieved just to finally have him out of the hands of the state and back in their arms that it must seem surreally out of context to go to the grocery store with him, to touch his back as he dozes in the sun.

Thus, I can handle the background role again, the second son, the gay one, long enough at least for everyone to make this transition and again assume something resembling an uninterrupted, stable life. I don't have to accept the ignorance of history that the current atmosphere signals, but I also don't have to fuck shit up and rock the boat just as my brother is eagerly trying to get off of it and back onto sweet land.

Welcome back, Andy. I love ya like the asshole older brother you are.

The first day 

Yesterday I arrived home after work to a platoon of cars in fron of my home and a bunch of people milling around in my muddy front yard. "Shit," I hissed to myself. He's home. Andrew Gregory Brown is out of prison, and he has come to live with me.

I pulled into the drive at about 5:45, and my view of the garage and the sliver of my kitchen visible through the glass door told me something already: that the single request I had made, that no one touch, move, discard, rearrange, or otherwise fuck with my things, had already been violated. I parked the car, hugged my sister, said "Hi" to my mom, walked into the house, grabbed my books, and got right back into the car. "Gotta tutor," I said, pulling back out of the driveway. "When will you be back? Andy needs to..." "When I'm finished," I cut in, disgusted that I'd probablyt already been contracted out to do some obscure favor for Andy, "Nine thirty. Eleven. Whenever." I didn't cry, but almost immediately, accelerating away from my house, I felt my lower eyelids fill up with the realization that I'd just lost my home and all desire to return to it.

The first thing I did when I got back into the city was to pick up an apartment guide and some of the cheap rags that list inexpensive homes to rent. I tried to study for the GRE in my car, but my mind kept wandering. I ended up lowering the seat so that I could just sleep for a while, but for the same reason I could never doze off. After a few beers with Brady and Dawn, I couldn't yet stand the thought of coming home to see them all eating dinner and laughing together, so I tried the parking lot nap idea again.

When I came back around midnight, thankfully everyone was asleep. I went into my room and saw that my sister had left me a note propped against my mirror. It read, more or less, that she knew I was upset and could call her whenever I needed to. Then I cried a little, and went to bed.


Friday, March 05, 2004

Is everybody in? 

Because the circus is about to begin.

All parties are gathered at my house, and they will soon send a selected envoy to shephard home their wayward son. New roommate by tonight, it seems. Goddamnit, I'm not ready.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004


One of the distinct downfalls of rural living is the near absence of a truly international arts circuit. Of course, we have the Arkansas Arts Center nearby (now home to a small but composed collection of Paul Signac's watercolor sketches), but a museum setting can only cover so much ground with the resources available to them. Furthermore, the static visual arts (into which I place all two-dimensional work, sculpture, and fiber craft) can only stimulate one to a certain degree. You know what I would love to see in Little Rock, Arkansas? Some Japanese butoh, namely the choreography of the master Ko Murobushi.

It wasn't until I first saw Baraka that I was made aware of this modern dance, a dance based on the esthetic of the body and the expressiveness it can grasp in its most tortured, contorted forms. Hideouness made beautiful ought be the thema of butoh, an irony in terms that is fitting additionally in regards to our own culture.


Monday, March 01, 2004


This afternoon I casually chatted with one of the doctors of psychology while running errands on campus. Of course, one thing led to another and we ended up discussing the frustrating transition from an undergraduate to a graduate career. Said doctor at one point interrupted me to say, "Jeff, you have a centralized issue: you trust people, far too much."

I was absolutely, speechlessly dumbfounded.

As a note to all academics and medical professionals alike, when one begins dispensing advice to a discouraged student, perhaps try other routes of motivation before you kick the chair from beneath his feet. It was a startling assessment, one with which I can agree, and as such I cannot very well complain about this judgment. Yet what does this say about my industry? Hell, what does this say about academia in general? Since I've had control over my own decisions, I suppose that I've always assumed that, at some point on the track to satisfaction, one would find a group of like-minded people, people worthy of tust (and a full trust at that). My doctor's evaluation was so succinctly and surely stated that it seems to suggest otherwise. Is humanity an inherently flimsy construction? Oh god, I hope not (is 'hope' too similar to 'trust?'), but it would cetainly explain a great deal.

Later in the day I visited our campus nurse. She was so cheery and supportive that her sparkliness temporarily outshone the harsh evaluation I'd received earlier, and I walked out of her office and into the warming sunshine an invigorated man.

Inevitably, gravity again claimed my sense of self and I plunged back into the world for another tutoring session with successful individuals who couldn't care less. It's awkward to be assisting a long-term public health worker (as I judge by her Department of Public Health badge) with the university's introductory biology course.

What happened to the job market? What so-severe action has led to a stagnant hiring pool that continues to support the meritless? How do the bright ones get a toe-hold when everyone who has ever gotten within reach of a position is now clinging for dear life, knowing full well that seniority will forever pad the worst of performances? It sickens me, it disgusts me, and it makes me want to cut my losses and get the hell out of it while I've still preserved my good humor (you thought it was already gone, didn't you?).

But I suppose all fields are like this. Everything related to working for a living is overshadowed by penalty, and it's probably just a dense tangle of red tape through which everyone must struggle to justify their positions of seniority.

The Leap Post 

I'm getting this in at the wire, but I have to issue a celebratory marker for the cyclical addition of a calendar day that we add in order to allow for a functional Gregorian calendar. Hooray!


Sunday, February 29, 2004

Family photos 

I certainly hope that histoplasmosis has more than an overnight incubation period. After snooping around with sister in an abandoned house yesterday (which was a total score, by the way--old smutty copies of 1940s Esquire!), I wake up this morning with cement-filled lungs. As I'm coughing away to no avail, all I can think about is my former boss, whose histoplasmosis-induced lung scar tissue resulted in spontanoeus fits of intensely strong coughing-until-she-pukes. Please, no lung fever.

This abandoned house, by the way, is next door to my parent's new place in Floral, AR. You wouldn't know it from the street, er, gravel road, as the entire thing has been invaded by trees and thick vines. I was impressed by the very low ceilings inside, a detail that just goes to show how tiny and malnourished Southerners were in the dark ages following the civil war. In addition to the softcore, I found an envelope containing poll tax receipts for some previous owner from 1913 up to 1922. I also found a tiny packet of nondescript brown seeds wrapped in twine-bound newspaper. I'm going to plant a few of them when the frost stops and see what the lady had wanted to save for another growing season. My mom is going to try to salvage an amazing (but significantly weather-beaten) quilt that had been left rumpled in a dry spot in the house, and when going through a trunk I also came across lots of old-style quilting pounce stencils. The next time I go back I must make a point to grab the alphabet pounce stencil--it's an incredible (probably hand-wheeled) Copperplate script.

My sister had been going through the ecstatic pounds of photographs that my parents (well, my mom) had taken over the years, so, of course, we all ended up in my folks' bedroom laughing and reminiscing at what we found. Now that I've grown a beard, my mom took special pleasure in showing me this gem of a photo of my dad in 1981 looking like a trucker fan of C.W. McCall. Oh, I laughed my ass off, not becuase it's funny, but because, if I hadn't lost a lot of weight over the past two years, that would be me. We found another picture from about the same time, but without the hat and suede jacket he looks downright professorial (check out my mom in this photo--she looks like Meryl Streep!) We found the hat, and dad let me drive home with it.

Compare the me-era parents with their look around the time they had their first two kids. Here they are in 1972 on the day my brother Andy (yup, the one who's about to be paroled) came home from the hospital. Firstly, my sister is roughly the same age in this picture as her daughter is now, and, predictably, they look exactly the same. This is one of the only photos of my dad in which I can recognize Andy-like features, probably just because my brother keeps his hair closely cropped like this. I'm struck by how stoic my parents look in this photo, in spite of the fact that they're both only 25. Even more awesome? Their Christmas card from the same year (close your damn mouth, Andy).

And, yes, I can already see faggy characteristics at age 3: I must have been mad at the photographer, as he only got me to smile with my mouth (not my eyes). Bitch.

I got back home early enough last night to have gone out but, after hours in the car thnking to music I had attuned myself to my own quiet company. After that I couldn't bear the thought of loud bars and talking, so I turned up the record player (Wagon Christ's Musipal) and painted until I was barely awake.


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