Oral Hygiene on the Half Shell

So, about the Naked Lady with the Toothbrush who hopped into my Uber…   Things simply “happen” to me. They always have. If you and I sat down over a bottle (or two) of Scotch, I could regale you with tale after tale, from the mountain jungles of Haiti to Sinai Desert monasteries to the underground tunnels of Washington DC. All true, I swear. While the Universe has not seen fit to heap piles of rare metals upon me, it has commended upon me more Experience than you can shake a toothbrush at.   Speaking of which, about that Naked Lady…   I’ve seen just about everything you can see while Ubering. Keep in mind, I only drive nights. One, I hate daytime traffic—I’m not a big fan of old ladies on the way to the proctologist pestering me about driving two miles over the speed limit. Two, I prefer the Confession Box-like aura of the nighttime ride share. Many a times has a person completely broken down in my back seat—weeping and pouring out their hearts and sorrows to me, a perfect stranger. But I’m not just any stranger—I’m someone who actually cares, and they sense it. And just maybe we can find the start of a solution…

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An Instance of Faith in the Dumbass Fat Toad in the Sky

  Reaching way down deep tonight. I’m not in the midst of a crisis of faith. It’s an instance of faith…and I’m going to be as succinct as I can…but it’s kind of a Thomas Aquinas thing.   I gave a fellow human being a ride tonight—someone who I thought was a stranger—but he turned out to know who I am. And when he found out who I am, he suggested that I had, somehow, inspired him.   I’m not interested in inspiring people anymore. I just want to help people. I’m not important. The needs of people are important.   Anyway, here are my deep-down reflections on the past year—which, then, turn out to be my reflections on life itself. Theologically, it’s killing me not to be brutally honest—I just have to let it fly.   It’s no longer that I don’t believe in God. The amazing New York Times science writer Jim Holt said it best (I’m paraphrasing): It’s not that God doesn’t exist, it’s that he’s mean and stupid.   That’s kind of where I am right now. I think God is an asshole. A dirty SOB who created this vast Universe, unbelievable in scope, and then chose for robins and platypuses and elephants and rhinos and…

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To Hell, and Back Again: An Interview with Arik Bjorn about his Novel “The Prodigal”

My former City Paper colleague, Jaroslav Dampfstain, said he wouldn’t mind if I posted this interview on my website while he shops it about to various periodicals. Thanks, JD! My novel, THE PRODIGAL, will be published on September 1. Click this link to buy it!   ////   Author Arik Bjorn tends to stand out in a crowd—as if he were wandering about lost in the wrong century. Or perhaps he just fell out of a fresco of a Scandinavian Old Testament prophet by Michelangelo. It’s not just the long beard and wiry locks on his slowly balding pate—or the bulging triceps and calves that seriously don’t match the stereotypical “bookish” personality. (By the way, I’ve never seen Bjorn wear anything other than cargo shorts, even in the dead of winter.)   Funny enough, Bjorn happens to describe himself in his novel, The Prodigal: a divine comedy, of sorts (Viking Word, 2020): “Though neither abnormally tall nor wide, there was something about him that suggested he should be.”   That in itself merits a question: why is the author describing himself in his novel?   Bjorn shrugs and downs a shot of bourbon, “Painters craft…

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“The Prodigal: a divine comedy, of sorts”: Preview 2020

  This is worth your read all the way through. But the giant hippo should have been a clue, as to that. 🙂   On a quiet Christmas Eve in 1998, I was working as a contract senior editor; my job was putting together the daily transcripts for National Public Radio. That day, a rerun interview of poet Wendell Berry aired on Fresh Air. Terry Gross posed the following question: “What advice would you give to a young writer?” Berry responded that a young writer should find a window with a wonderful view, and, simply, write.   I was living in the Maryland countryside, and when I arrived home that evening, I considered that the view of the Potomac River outside my window was the stuff of a Thomas Moran painting. So I pulled my desk near the window and began rewriting The Divine Comedy with the following sentence:   “But what about my dead cat?”   For the next ten years, I sat at my desk, seven days a week, 365 days a year, writing no fewer than four hours per day. When I was finished, I had 4,500 pages of manuscript piled next to my desk. It was titled, The Prodigal: a divine comedy, of sorts. I somehow felt akin to…

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The Parable of the COVID

  After a day spent teaching the noodlehead masses all manner of science and technology, from chemotherapy to pneumatics to security analytics, the rabbi finally rested his derriere on a bench near a pond. (Due to coronavirus, the rabbi first sprayed the bench mightily with Lysol.)   The paparazzi had yet to discover the rabbi’s location—thus, the great teacher miraculously had a rare moment to himself. A family of geese, with five little goslings, approached the tired teacher. He tossed the young fowl some scraps of bread, which he had conjured that morning with a Zojirushi BB-PDC20BA Virtuoso Plus Home Breadmaker.   Exhausted from his day of scientific and engineering prophesying, there by the lily pads, the teacher waited for his disciples to bring unto him an ice coffee with a shot of caramel. Once his supplication was brought unto him—which he did sterilize with a Clorox wipe—he did slake his caffeinated thirst.   Finally, the rabbi’s whereabouts was revealed via social media, and crowds did quickly press in upon the master. The gander honked in a low, guttural manner, and the Goose Family Seven retreated to a grassy…

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“Trump-onomics,” a mini-play

Larry: Hey, neighbor, from six feet away, I can see—I mean smell—you’ve got some mighty fine rotisserie chicken there.   Kendra: Yeah, and a Glock on my hip. So don’t try anything funny, Larry.   Larry: No, no, no, Kendra, you’ve got me all wrong. (reaches into bag) But as you can see, I’m the proud owner of not one, but two cans of Lysol.   Kendra: Holy shit. Two cans?   Larry: And there’s more where that came from.   Kendra: Is there now? (thinking) Well, I’ve got some chickpeas and some uncooked bacon. I suppose we could go without the chicken tonight. (aside) Even though I risked contagion just to get it.   Larry: Oh, I wasn’t necessarily in the trading mood.   Kendra: (reaches slowly for her Glock) Like I said, neighbor…   Larry: But then again, I think I could part ways with one of these cans for some tender juicy bok-bok.   Kendra: One can? (thinks about her family) Well…   Larry: Wait now. (reaches into bag again) I also have this roll of duct tape. Plus a box of Viper Blue Nitrile Gloves.   Kendra: Well, I’ll…

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The Bjorn Effect: Stupid Don’t Know Stupid

Tonight’s “Fireside Chat with Arik” might have something to do with a major Evangelical college reopening its academic pearly gates for students and microbes alike. (Some might call it the Covid Crusade.)   It might have something to do with Trump’s approval rating reaching an all-time high. And, yes, that was Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, passing out at the bar.   It might even have something to do with the federal stimulus package containing that “Middle Finger to the Poor and Seniors” subsection. (Yes, seniors like my elderly, chronically ill mother will be the benefactor solely of the thoughts and prayers of asshole politicians.)   But, first, the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Let me paraphrase the American Psychological Association’s PsycNET abstract on the original study:   There’s a reason your Uncle Bart can’t shut up at Thanksgiving Dinner, even though every opinion he’s ever spouted from his green bean casserole-stuffed mouth defies any kind of factual basis. And there’s a reason your MAGA hat-wearing neighbors are all playing Fat-Fold Twister while meat sizzles on the grill.   In short: They’re…

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Earth in the Balance: Elizabeth Warren 2020

Image by John A. Carlos II. Talk presented at the September 9, 2019,”Students for Elizabeth Warren Back to School Bash” rally in Columbia, South Carolina. .. . A few weeks ago, on a blazing hot August morning, I found myself chauffeuring and chaperoning a tween and two teenage girls to an amusement park. . “Amusement.” Consider the word—so carefree. So cheery. . It was my birthday, and I was happy. My idea of the perfect birthday present for myself is taking my daughter and some of her friends somewhere where smiles and joy abound. Roller coasters and water slides, cotton candy and limitless pink lemonades, totally fits the bill. . Best of all, I was prepared to enjoy a day completely devoid of politics. Not even Donald Trump and all his vicious narcissism could pop the bubble of tilt-a-whirls and wave pools. . Which, of course, is a perfect setup for a superlative political enlightenment—even if entirely against my will. . As we drove to Carowinds, my daughter and her two friends were flipping through a book of questions—a sort of conversation-starter book. Here was the question that ended up turning my world upside-down the past two…

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The Humanity of Medicaid Expansion: Make SC Care Again!

image: D.N. Woodrow . Speech presented at the March 23 “Make SC Care Again!” rally at the South Carolina State House. . It is my distinguished privilege to welcome you on this fine March day. We are, in fact, now three days in to Spring. . That means the days are getting longer now. And that there is burgeoning life. . For some, my friends, for some. . But not for thousands of others, slain, under the barbaric regimes of former U.S. Ambassador and Governor Nikki Haley and current Governor Henry “Hank” McMaster. . Join me in a chant, will you, please? . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Blood. On. Their. Hands! . Murder. . Is it not? Truly, is it not? . For if one, placed in a position of elected power, has the knowing opportunity to save lives, yet forfeits this opportunity, what else shall we call it, but MURDER? The intentional taking of innocent human life? Institutional MURDER. . By the way: Congratulations, Boeing! On hiring a Medicaid Expansion-Denying, Institutional MURDERER to your Board of Directors. . Here I quote Boeing’s Chairman, Dennis Muilenburg:…

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On Forgiveness

  They do what they do because they are wounded and broken and bleeding and overwhelmed with pain and misery—and for some reason, you’re the one person upon whom they feel safe dumping all that suffering. The bile of hate splatters all over you; it burns like acid. Yet with enough reflection, through enough prayer, by God tenderly shoving your nostrils into the ick to force you to understand the wounds of others—which are so similar to your own—one day you lift your head and finally mean the words that you have mindlessly chanted for years: “…as I forgive those who trespass against me.”   Sometimes you’re the target because no one else can be. The wounded person simply cannot manage the pain. They literally don’t know how. But they do suspect you won’t hurt them back—a lesson my dear friend recently discovered parallel to me. Sometimes you’re the most obvious receptacle during the convulsion of sickness.   On paper, there’s no justification for their actions. But grace reminds us, through gentle kicks to the shin, that each of us has done the exact same thing to others. Heaving bile is a rather universal behavior, as it…

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