Monday, June 27, 2011

The Box Had No Label

(Written some years after a visit to the Wall.)

There is a strange silence about the Wall, as though fifty-eight thousand souls gather there, asking for the silence. You would think the names would rage against their fate. Perhaps they know a peace we cannot yet comprehend.

I walked slowly along the paved path in front of the Wall. I wasn’t after a particular name, not even really looking at the Wall, I didn’t think, just taking in the whole thing.

The Wall is black, shiny black, and it reflects faces that stare at the names. I saw my face, but looked away.

People leave things there — medals, old jungle boots worn down to bare leather, books of poetry, notes, a teddy bear.

A teddy bear. I didn’t look long at the teddy bear, because I saw a boy’s mother cleaning out a closet or a room where things of the past lay for more than thirty years. I saw the boy’s mother open a box. The box had no label. Perhaps the boy’s mother didn’t want to remember what was inside the box. But she opened the box, and she saw the teddy bear and she fell onto the box, clutching the bear as tightly as she had clutched her son. And she cried.

The bear was her baby’s companion. The bear kept away monsters of the night. The boy slept with his bear, toddled to breakfast or off to bed or around the house, hugging the bear or holding it by an arm. Every day the boy told his mother what he and the bear had done, the places they had gone, the good people they met. And when the mother rocked her baby to sleep, the boy held his bear, his eyes closing slowly. The boy fought sleep, just as he would later fight death.

The bear waited a long time. He had nothing to do in the box. There were no monsters in the box, no frightful things to guard against,. No boy to protect.

The mother found the bear, and she took the bear to her son. She did not take the bear to some cemetery filled with strangers, but to the place where her son is, among friends. There, where his boy is, the bear can rest. All the monsters are gone now, and the bear can sleep again with his boy. The boy understands. So do his fifty-eight thousand friends. More than anyone else, more than the boys’ mother, fifty-eight thousand friends understand.

I saw the teddy bear, and I walked away quickly. I walked away quickly because my children had teddy bears.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Strange dream

I am sitting in the dugout of a Triple-A baseball team, talking with players and coaches and I hear on the PA: “Managing today is (garbled, but my name in the dream)."

I turn to the manager. “What?”

He said, “You’re managing today.”

“Me? Why?”

The manager had been thrown out.

“How can you have been thrown out? There hasn’t been a meeting at home plate!” For whatever reason, he had been tossed.

So I am struggling with the lineup card; I don’t know the players. Somebody hands me yesterday’s lineup card. The manager says, “You don’t want *** hitting leadoff.”

The dream shifts to another inning. The usual starting catcher is standing in front of me. He is not in uniform. I say, “Where TF have you been?”

“The judge sent me to jail.”

“What? Why?”

“I got arrested for running away from the orphanage.”

“What? How could you be in an orphanage?”

“You know.”

“No,” I say. “I don’t know. Anyway, go get in uniform.”

As he turns to leave, I say, “What’s the judge’s name and number?”

“You know.”

“No, I don’t. Go get in uniform.” Somebody on the bench tells me the catcher is 16.

“How can we have signed a 16-year-old?” I ask. Then: “Well, when we win the pennant, especially when we’re in the series against the International League, that judge will look foolish.”

I then tell the players about my aneurysm, of the surgery (doctors slicing my face from above the hairline to below the top of my ear, peeling back the skin, using a doorknob cutter to cut a hole in my skull , repair, putting the skull plug in place, waterproofing it, using wire to hold the plug in place, stapling together the incision flaps).

I say, “Most people when I tell them that, say, ‘God must have a plan for you.’ I say that if he does, I don’t know what it is. So maybe God’s plan is for me to manage this team, and if that is the plan, then I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

Woke up.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A stop on the journey

The porch at God’s house goes all the way around.
God sits out there of an afternoon,
After work,
Drinking sweet tea from a tall glass
With ice in the glass -- the proper way
To drink sweet tea.
He has a pitcher of tea on a square table,
Wood of the table fitting just so,
Squared off, sawed just right and planed smooth,
Finishing nails so small you almost can’t see them.
God thought about having the carpenter
Make the wood tongue and groove,
But then decided he liked the look of more simple

God sits on the sunset side of the house.
He likes sunsets; indeed, God believes sunsets
Among his best creations. He is sometimes
Amused at painters and photographers
Who try to capture true sunset colors.
They are never successful,
But God created in them a need to try.
He is pleased when their pastel blue,
Red, orange, pink or purple
Come close to what he created.
They can’t get it right, but they keep trying.

God sometimes has breakfast at a table
On the sunrise side of the porch –
Eggs, grits, biscuits, strong coffee,
Butter, a different jelly each morning,
A glass of water and a glass of juice –
Orange, tomato, apple, grape.
Each is always in season.
God has eggs fried hard, over easy, scrambled,
Boiled. Sometimes he has whole eggs, sometimes
Just the whites, sometimes one whole and one just
The white.
Sometimes, too, he has toast instead of biscuits,
Bagels with cream cheese, or jelly made with real fruit.
He likes waffles, too, and pancakes.

God works in his vegetable garden during the day,
Half a day hoeing after planting,
The other half with flowers and shrubs, pulling grass
And any weeds brave enough to try.
Dirt in both gardens is dark, with manure
Worked into the soil. Goats and horses,
Sheep and cattle provide loads for the
Large wheelbarrow. Combining the various kinds
Produces the best results. God considered using
Elephant manure, but his two elephants produced
Too much. Once a week God goes into the elephant pasture
And levels the piles, spreads everything around.

Used to, God got lots of volunteer work in the gardens
And in the pastures. These days, not as many people
Come by. God thought about taking an ad in the papers,
“Workers needed in the garden. Meals furnished.”
But, he decided to let things go as they had for years.
If enough people come by, that’s good. And if not …
Well, that’s OK, too.
People have a lot more to do these days.
God has a nice garden, regardless if people see it.
And the view from the porch is indescribable.

--Bob Merriman, 13 June 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stupid Republican women

Remember when Sarah Palin got stupid in a speech not long after the November 2010 elections, when she told a Tea Party gathering not to celebrate too soon, because this isn’t 1773 and a whole bunch of liberals LOL’d because OMG, she doesn’t know when the American Revolution started, but other people actually checked history and it turns out the Boston Tea Party was in 1773, which is what Palin was talking about in the first place?

And remember the video from a debate at a college in the 2010 elections when another Republican woman asked, “Where exactly is separation of church and state in the Constitution?” and you can hear college students saying “Oh my god! She doesn’t know!” when in reality the college students need more education and many of us knew exactly what the candidate meant, because separation of church and state is not in the Constitution?

Oh, those stupid Republican women.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Detroit plans to demolish 70,000 houses.

That's right -- 70,000.

"I can do twenty a day," says Lorenzo, standing outside a Craftsman-style bungalow at 18058 Joann. This house took the better part of 1926 to build. Crews of men dug a hole, poured a foundation, assembled floor bridging and ceiling joists and a truss for the roof. Shingles were laid down, one at a time. Wooden siding was hung. Mortar was spread and bricks were stacked. By the time the house was completed, it boasted a gable roof, central dormer windows, and generous eaves shading a balustraded veranda. Covering 1,300 square feet, it had a couple of bedrooms, a bathroom, a small kitchen, and a light-filled parlor facing the street. It was priced for a worker—less than $4,000 new—and meant, for a family, a future.

Son of a

Apparently West Point Cadet Richard King gets beat up by Patti LaBelle’s body guards, police report reaches West Point, and academy decides to suspend King, “drop his rank and ship him out under a program that enlists cadets who leave the academy after the beginning of their junior year for three years of active duty with an option to return to complete their degree at the end of the tour.”

Story links to video.

So when is the day off?

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. In case you missed the announcement. Who made it so? As Gomer would say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Black history month, womans' appreciaion month, Asian-Pacific Islander month, LGBT Pride Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hell, we're running out of months.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


1300 formation, F Troop 6th Armored Cavalry, a pleasant summer day, 1968, Fort Meade, Maryland.

“Sergeant Merriman!”

“Yes, First Sergeant!”

“Is Private Weeble one of your soldiers?”

“Yes, First Sergeant!”

“Private Weeble is presently in custody at the Provost Marshal’s Office, following his arrest for Absent Without Leave. At the conclusion of this formation, you will proceed to the supply room, where you will draw a pistol belt, a pistol holster, a .45-caliber pistol, a full magazine and a set of handcuffs. You will then go to the PMO, where you will secure and handcuff Private Weeble. You will bring Private Weeble to the orderly room. If Private Weeble attempts to escape, you will shoot him. Do you have any questions?”

“No, First Sergeant!”

Private Weeble had made his unauthorized trip home less than a month before. He had surrendered to the nearest Army authority one or two days before his status changed from AWOL to desertion. Private Weeble began his unauthorized leave before I took the platoon, but that timing was of no importance. He was one of my soldiers now.

Private Weeble was from a mountainous part of eastern Kentucky. Had the local draft board not considered him of sufficient physical and psychological nature for the Army, and had the Army not agreed, Weeble would never have had anything to do with the military forces of the United States. He would never have become Private Weeble, but would have remained John Weeble and continued to work at whatever his job had been until such time as he retired. Or he would have gone from job to job, taking whatever was available for a young man of his talents and abilities in his part of Kentucky.

But the local draft board had selected Weeble, told him so in a letter and informed him of date, time and place to report to a bus station, from where he would be taken to the nearest military entrance processing station. Weeble complied with those instructions, just as he complied with instructions at the processing station. He completed several written tests, and he was judged of sufficient physical and psychological character by Army doctors. The Army sent now Private Weeble to Basic Combat Training and then to Advanced Individual Training, where he learned basic repair techniques of wheeled vehicle maintenance.

In addition to his mother and his father, brothers and sisters, Private Weeble left behind in Kentucky a wife. And shortly after reporting to F Troop, 6th Armored Cavalry, Private Weeble was told his wife did not remain home at night. Especially, he was told, his wife did not remain at home on Friday nights and Saturday nights. Someone in his family told him “that woman you married is unfaithful.” More than likely the wife’s escort was some SOB Weeble did not get along with in high school, some SOB whose parents had sufficient influence with the draft board … Well, sometimes it is that way.

Private Weeble wrote to his wife, he telephoned his wife. And one day he said to another soldier, “I’m going home and straighten this out.”

As instructed by the First Sergeant, I got a pistol belt and holster and pistol and full magazine and a set of handcuffs. I walked to the Provost Marshal’s Office and I took custody of Private Weeble. I said to Private Weeble as I handcuffed his hands behind his back, “If you run, I will shoot you.” That was nonsense, and the First Sergeant knew so when he gave that guidance to me. Army rules are quite specific concerning under what conditions deadly force may be used when moving a prisoner. Running is not of itself one of those conditions. Whether Private Weeble knew of the nonsense I neither knew nor cared.

We began our walk back to the troop. About halfway there, Private Weeble said, “Sergeant Merriman, can you loosen these handcuffs? They’re awful tight and they hurt my wrists.”

I didn’t.