Zeus Speaks From The Bell Jar

"Zeus" (Bernard Patrick) in 1991 on a trip to New York.

I did not do enough here lately to help Bernard cope, so says Hindsight. I was with Bernard the first time he used intravenous drugs. We were in his old Jaguar XK-E sitting near the old L&N tracks just down from West High in Nashville, both of us under 18 years of age. We were trying a little “blue” morphine. I have had a hand in his addiction. I hope I had a hand in his short periods of sobriety.

An Irish Funeral Prayer I Offer Up For Bernard…

Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.

(Source: derived from a sermon written by Henry Scott Holland and delivered in St. Paul’s, London, on 15 May 1910, at which time the body of King Edward VII was lying in state at Westminster.)

——-

A little rememberance I wrote about Bernard…

Bernard Patrick was my friend.  I have known Bernard since high school and have always delighted in him, despite his constant battles with addiction.  Well, I say battles—it was more Bernard’s full-blown, super-charged cooperation with addiction that really bothered me.  Nevertheless, I have always worried about and prayed for Bernard that he be given the gift of faith, that he stay safe, and that he become clean.  In many ways, God has answered my prayers.

A Soulful Bernard Patrick In Memphis In The 1970s (photo by Alan Ulmer)

Over the years, Bernard seems to have drifted in and out of Nashville randomly, but I would always run into him or he would come by or something.  I can’t remember exactly how we connected recently but, per usual, I got to thinking about him and wondering how he was doing and, so, seemingly apropos of nothing, he called/appeared.  [Keep in mind that I hadn’t heard from him in more than ten or fifteen years.  No problem!  He behaved as if we hadn’t talked in more than a few months.  Well, that suits me, too.  I’m just happy to hear from him.  We caught up.  He’d slur unintelligibly into the receiver and I’d wonder aloud about who it was that blew up Griff’s Burger Bar in 1968 (twice!… with dynamite!) on Hillsboro Road.  Skeet Winsted, the original Nashville proto-stoner showed up at the first blast which had literally leveled the place leaving raw meat and buns scattered about the parking lot, and asked a cop if he could get a burger.  It was great times.]

Bernard was living in pre-Katrina New Orleans, clearly overloaded on drugs and alcohol.  Our discussions pivoted on my insisting he become clean so I can talk to the real Bernard, the one I used to know in high school and those few other times he wasn’t stoned out of his gourd.  The one most everyone at Hillsboro High School knew was a crazy as a rat in a coffee can because he was hanging out with those really insane hippies, me and Randy (two guys who could not have been more disturbing to the school administration than if they had just arrived from the island of Dr. Moreau).  We’d cut class.  We’d forget to study.  We’d scam teachers that normally wanted to kill us but couldn’t help but like us a little bit.  One in particular we thought was, well, sort of hot (a friend of my older sister’s, oddly enough) and we wanted her to like us.  We’d smoke cigarettes in dark corners trying to keep the assistant principal, Fred Hatchet, off our backs, and when the coast was clear, we’d smoke a little dope.  We knew kids that would drop acid in school, which made no sense to us.  A little stoned was cool, but tripping at school?  No way!

We blasted out of school to go do the real drugs, me in my beat up 1957 Alfa Romeo 1300 Guiletta Spyder and Bernard driving his mother’s 1968 E-Type Jag.  (His mom, Mrs. Patrick, had been roped into buying the Jag from a tall, Euro-trash, blond Nordic type that sold cars for Madison-Smith Motors down on Broadway and who drove a yellow Ferrari.  She was clearly in lust and bought one of the fastest sports cars sold in America at the time, which delighted Bernard.  She let him drive the damn thing, which was simply insane because he would drive it to the absolute outside edges of its performance envelope.)  We’d hang out at Centennial or Percy Warner Park; me in long hair, slightly tattered Brooks Brothers shirts, and natty Harris tweed jacket; Bernard wearing blazer and tie like he just stepped away from his studies at Oxford; smoke more cigarettes; discuss dope and how to get it; do dope; talk dirty; and speculate on just what it was that a woman wanted.  We were men of the world and knew exactly what we wanted and knew how to get it.  Women swooned over us.  We could smoke and drink with élan.  We could spit and make love.  We were masters of the universe.  We were around sixteen years of age.

Back to the present, drunken master didn’t think it possible for me to speak with the real Bernard.  Anyway, he started calling and when I didn’t or couldn’t answer, he’d leave long rambling, largely unintelligible messages on my answering machine.  About all I could make out of the conversation was that he needed to get out of New Orleans before it killed him.  I agreed heartily telling him over the phone that he needed to come back to Nashville so that the local idiots that thought of him as his friends could dote on him a little and keep watch.

He lived an apartment in NOLA with a black lady, he told me her name, but I can’t remember it right now.  They both were doing a lot of crack.  One night he called me and left a message that the automobile (a brand new Mustang convertible) of a personal enemy of his somehow got torched and he was watching the car burn.  As he described the car exploding from a distance he mentioned that the guy really deserved it because he had mistreated some friend of Bernard’s, and that we could expect to see Bernard in Nashville soon.

Anyway, Bernard made his way to Nashville, toting a very strange assortment of junk, tools, books, and other accoutrements of a messy and disorganized life complicated by drugs and alcohol, collected in paper bags (my mother’s favorite matched luggage, by the way, but that is another story for another day—and perhaps the reason that I could never get Bernard out of my system, to wit: he was my long lost brother!), injection molded milk crates (the kind you can buy at Walmart), and a few cardboard liquor crates.  He had moved into the Villager East In a suburb of Nashville, Green Hills, just down the street from where he lived as a teen and around the corner from Griff’s old location.  Among the weird stuff, was a broken marble fireplace mantle that he was restoring and a nice antique chair or two with broken legs.  Turns out he made few dollars doing very nice restoration work on valuable broken things, particularly antiques.  Good skill for New Orleans.  I wandered over to visit and to drive him around a bit and he handed me an English language copy of one of Gunter Grass’ Danzig Trilogy, Cat and Mouse (Katz und Maus), published in 1961, and told me I had to read it.  [I’ve failed to do that, but I will remedy that problem soon.]

He showed me how he fixed one chair and it looked like it had never been broken.  I asked him if his customer’s were worried that he just up and left town.  He assured me they weren’t worried.  When he fixed the chairs, he package them up and ship them to New Orleans.  I wondered aloud what the cost would be ship a marble fireplace mantle.

Post New Orleans, Bernard’s last few years were spent either here in Nashville with his girl friend Janice T. (and hanging out a bit with me and another mutual friend, Randy Watjen), a few run-ins  with the police in Williamson County (stoned, he’d shoplift stuff and then take it back to the same damn store for a refund!!!), in a treatment program for 12 hours in East Nashville, or hiding out in Europe (Spain, France, and a thwarted attempt to enter the UK).  He’d borrow money from me (once, until I got it out of him that he bought drugs with it), and he’d talk me into driving him around when he could not stand walking, and he would walk for hours.  He wouldn’t sleep, he’d just walk.  He’d call me from loud bars like Rippie’s at 5th and Broad on a Wednesday night and describe the scenes in excruciating detail.  He’d walk to buy drugs.

The last time I saw him in person it was at that treatment center (early 2006, I think) in East Nashville.  He had just been released from Williamson County Jail and was told by the judge that he must enter a treatment facility for the fifteenth time.  Janice T, Randy Watjen and I went to see him at visiting hours that day and he looked Tony Robbins good.  We told him we loved him and that we would be there every day if possible to help him.  He stayed until it got dark.

He made a beeline for Europe.  The judge would have thrown him back in jail.  Janice and I kept in touch with each other and with him.  We would get a phone call every day or so from him telling us he was in Spain.  I got one of the best ones.

I picked up as I was screening my calls, “Bernard, what’s up?”

“Man, you got to help me,” Bernard slurred.

“What can I do for you?” I foolishly inquired.

“I’m here in Barcelona and I’m at this fuckin’ coffee shop.  I’m on their fuckin’ payphone using one of those pre-paid cards, and Janice was trying to wire me some money and this fuckin’ bastard here wont give me my got-damned money.  They have my fuckin’ money but they wont give it to me.  I’m in Barcelona, Spain, Fuckin’ Spain at this coffee bar next to where I’m staying and all these bastards are… [at the top of his lungs, mind you, and you could hear the talking and clinking of glassware in the background] …are a bunch of fuckin’ bobo johnnys!  [Talking and clinking fades out.]  They are bobo johnnys, Ken, I’m telling you, bobo johnnys.  All of these shit-ball motherfuckers in Spain are nothing but bobo johnnys!  I hate their fuckin’ guts and hope they all fuckin’ die!”

“Well, I can’t imagine why they wont give you the money.  What did they tell you?”

Bernard continued, “Janice sent the money in my name and all I have to do is show them my passport but she sent the money in the Name of Bernard Patrick and my passport says “Bernard C. Patrick” and it has to match exactly, or these fuckin’ BOBO JOHNNYS [you could here him turning his head away from the phone and towards the guy behind the bar so he could hear better] won’t give me MY FUCKIN’ MONEY.”

I mentioned, “Bernard, here is the problem: if you curse the one person out that has power over your money, you may not get the money.”

Lots of loud cursing ensued followed by, “Ken, would you send me some money?  Janice can get her money back and pay you.”

I replied, “No, the last time I lent you money, you went and bought drugs with it, you never paid me back, and I don’t have it to spare anyway.  Where are you staying?”

“Look,” Bernard retorted, “I’m staying at the top of the elevator shaft in this building next door that’s being renovated.  So I can go back up there and wait if need be.  But I am desperate and need some cash. Can you call Janice?”

And on it went for near an hour interspersed with a lot of incomprehensible chatter and lot more information about the makeup and character of those inhabitants of the coffee shop.  I finally hung up and told him I’d call Janice.  I was worried for him and hated to turn him down, but I had to.  I called Janice and she stated that he would survive and that she would take care of the problem, and she did.  Disaster averted for now.

A few months later, I was talking to Janice and she had decided to quit her job with the US Department of Education and move to Spain to hang out with Bernard.  Says something about government jobs and a little about Bernard.  Bernard had been living with her over at her condo near Centennial Park, just down from the Parthenon, Nashville’s architectural centerpiece for it’s 100th anniversary celebrated back in the late 1800s.  [The Parthenon, not the condo: full-sized, exact-replica, Greek temples are always a blast, no-pun intended re. the original Parthenon’s fate.]  What he gave Janice for putting up with and feeding him was an opportunity for her to live bit of the dream of getting to live and write in Europe.  So she made a beeline to Malaga, Spain to a little apartment two blocks off the Mediterranean.  They were there for several months and things were quiet.  I spoke with them on the phone on occasion.  Bernard told me he had tried to get into the UK but they stopped him at the border and told him to go away.  But then he and Janice made the move to France, mumbling something about his visa.

He obtained a little apartment down a back alley in Saint Jean-d’Angely, started fixing antique toys, bought a Moped (1978 Motobecane S41), and settled down with Janice for a little domestic bliss.  By bliss I mean he was driving Janice bats.  After a few months she had to beat it back to the states.  Too much craziness re drugs an alcohol.  He told me he needed to be in France because it was harder to find crack.  Okay, that may be, but over the counter drugs like codeine and alcohol are readily available.  He wanted her to marry him but she could not bring herself to take the leap.  And she need to be with her father anyway, who was getting quite elderly.  She came home.  He rode the Moped like a rocking-horse winner.

He moved out to an estate a few miles away from Saint Jean-d’Angely in La Richardière owned by a British couple that befriended him, and he seemed to start down a darker path. While there, he sent me a photo of a more muscular bike he’d bought and drove numerous times to Paris at night to relax.

Bernard Patrick with his Honda 'motorsicle' at his digs in La Richardière, France (2008)

Bernard Patrick with his Honda ‘motorsicle’ at his digs in La Richardière, France (2008)

Bernard was an “Oh, Shit!” Christian.  When he was feeling good and in control of his life, he was an Ayn Rand atheist.  When he was bouncing back, on the mend, and rational he claimed Buddhism (he lived at a Buddhist monastery in the UK for a bit and thought very highly the monks despite the fact that they made him leave for some serious infraction–he’ll be interred there, by the  way) and was not so sure about this Jesus/Son of God thing.  When he was in the worst possible condition he prayed to God and even Jesus.  I always told him that I and my prayer circle was praying for him and he attributed his most recent flirtation with sobriety to our prayers.  He told me, “That damned bunch of Jesus Freaks have prayed me sober!” or some such.  I guess he thought it was us and not our higher power.  But I think he was being truthful.  In fact, he never liked to lie and I don’t think he lied to me. He’d spin, he’d obfuscate, but he tended not to lie. According to him, he had joined the Episcopal Church at one time like Dylan. He told me the details once but I could not understand his slurred diction over a bad phone line. I found out later that he was a cradle Episcopalian. A lot of things he told me over the phone I could barely understand.  That’s the real reason I wanted him sober: I wanted to understand what he had to say.

Bernard Patrick at the Aruna Ratanagiri Budddhist Monastery in the UK where he picked up a little Buddahism

Bernard Patrick at the Aruna Ratanagiri Budddhist Monastery in the UK where he picked up a little Buddahism

Bernard Patrick and I shared the same vicinity for only a few short years in total, but he was never far from my heart.  My long-term plan was to have Bernard assist me with infuriating McDonalds employees over coffee quality during our declining years.  He declined too fast.  Bernard Patrick, b: September 27, 1953/d: July 2, 2009 RIP

——-

The following are interesting emails I get from my pal, “Zeus” (he spells it “Zoos” from his email address which started with “nickzoos”, as in “Nike Zeus”) hiding out in Varaize, France. He is becoming chemically clean for the first time in his adult life (probably as a result of a little prayer circle I participate in called St. Michael’s Prayer Warriors–Bernard attributes our prayers to his getting clean for a bit, anyway) and now I get to explore his psyche unfiltered through narcotics. Oddly, this is a good thing!

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 3:23 PM
Subject: I’m off the dope

Dear Black Orpheus,

I am off the dope. It has been almost a month now. The only thing I take is my (type two, non-insulin) diabetes medication.

The miracle drug was Suboxen. Google it. I would be dead without it, or maybe on Methadone. It took five weeks, and I was a suffering bastard for half of that.

Many thanks to St. Michael’s Prayer Group.

Hope You Are Well,
Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 11:56 PM
Subject: Sylvia Plath

I have recently felt like a wasp trapped inside a bell-jar.

Most recent dream ten minutes ago was Depression 1932 in my father’s mother’s house running with sharp objects and bored crazy and ran out of oxygène and died and woke up.

Cheery, what?

I don’t usually give a damn about Sylvia Plath and her suicidal bull shit; but I was reminded of it by this horror.

Adrian and I built this house as tight as a Thermos Bottle, and I forgot that one MUST leave some openings open or one will run out of air.

I ran to the main door a few minutes ago and kicked it open and sucked in five lung-loads of air.

I have been seeing some bad evidence from nut-jobs that the 9/11 disaster was somehow ‘rigged by the feds’. This is some more bull shit, which I don’t have time for. But beware whom thou listen. Our old anti-war people are désésperé for somebody to attack.

I wish we were back in that hotel room in Paris. . .

I have now watched Amadeus in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround-Sound about ten times, turned up LOUD, and a find that I can whistle or even sing the arias in the Requiem Mass. Talk about some sharps and flats. This is Neville Mariner and the Academy Chorus of St. Martin in the Fields going ahead ON without the rest of us.

Eighteen opéra soloists.
Suzanne Murphy seems to be the rebound genius here.
Also San Francisco Symphony Chorus.
And ballet by Twyla Tharp’s studio legacy.

Which I tried just a tentative shot at in 1977 in NYC when I was at Stella Adler. The exercises are worse than those for fencing, which will double you over. And all my ballet friends’ feet looked like raw hamburger. I ain’t that tough.

Enough of my palaver.
Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Saturday, March 14, 2009 1:37 AM
Subject: Far and Away

0550 HRS AM

I just woke up from one of the best dreams I have ever had.

Quite by accident, I walked into a reunion at my old Greenwich Village restaurant, far and away the best job I ever had.

One by one, I met every one of my old friends, people I had loved and respected dearly. Some of them were with their new friends or family members. Everyone was in their fifties, instead of their twenties.

This all began when I dreamt that I woke up in bed with my girlfriend, after having one of our all-night squeeze sessions, It lasted about ten or eleven minutes in dream time. I have read that this is just a nano-second in real brain-time; I now doubt this, because this one was extremely detailed and thorough and searching and linear. In conversation with each of my old associates, we’d mention another one apparently missing, and then he or she would appear.

Joe Windish had been gay in his twenties, but had looked like a perfect potential family man. There he was, with a wife and kids.

Organizers had re-created the Horn of Plenty in its original location, at Bleeker and Charles, with as many original matchbook covers and artifacts as they could locate. The coat-check room was in its correct place, but now next door in a US Navy recruiting station. Our old owner, David Williams, true to form, had had enough clout to move the feds out for a night. One coat-check girl had made painted-cardboard theatre-set walls. She was still a dick-tease, and true to form – now a beautiful fifty – she sat in my lap with her hand hidden under her, but hidden not to me.

Ann McDougal arrived and came straight to me. Always an A-list front-room waiter, this was surprising, because I had usually gotten the no-reservation/problem tables. She looked fifty, now a Paris lawyer (in real-life also), but she was gorgeous still and she remained next to me.

I woke up because I needed to go to the bathroom and I was freezing. The house had cooled down during the close-morning hours because I had left windows open. At first I swore I’d never drink tea before sleep again; but now I’m not so sure about that.

All my theatre and dance friends were there, almost all of them now gone from HIV. They were healthy and funny and fine.

I should say that that had been the best job I’d ever had because all my associates – friends or not – knew me for my drawbacks as well as for my strengths. It is wonderful to be known well in that way good and bad.

In the kitchen, there was a delivery of laundry powder waiting, as always, in cylindrical tin canisters marked ‘One Hundred Pounds’. As usual, I swung one of them up on my right shoulder and carried it down the steep stairs to the basement. And Manny, our South Carolina chef, yelled across the steam table and said the same thing he’d said in 1977: “I hope when my son grows up he don’t turn out to be strong like you. Too dangerous!”

I’ve had dreams about my mother and father, and also love-erotic dreams, which would have to take precedence over this. But not by much.

Not even five percent of its emotional impact translates.

Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Sunday, March 22, 2009 9:31 AM
Subject: Prine

I am an old woman named after my mother,
My old man is another child that’s grown old,
If dreams were lightning, thunder was desire,
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

(Chorus):
Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery,
Make me a poster of an old rodeo,
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to,
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.

When I was a young girl well, I had me a cowboy,
He weren’t much to look at, just a free rambling man,
But that was a long time and no matter how I try,
The years just flow by like a broken-down dam.

(Repeat Chorus)

There’s flies in the kitchen, I can hear them in there buzzin’,
And I ain’t done nothin’ since I woke up today.
How the hell can a person go to work in the morning,
And come home in the evening and have nothing to say?

(Repeat Chorus)

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Monday, March 23, 2009 12:47 PM
Subject: La Vie en Rose

A stewardess on a plane from NYC to Paris played Grace Jones’s version just before we landed in Paris, late at night. I would have bet a lot that I’d never buy a Grace Jones album; but I did. Two copies.

1. 2. Literal Translation
Eyes that caress mine,
A laugh that looses itself on his lips,
This is the unaltered picture
Of the man to whom I belong

When he takes me in his arms
And speaks to me softly
I see life through rose-colored glasses,
He tells me words of love,

Everyday words
And that does something to me!
Some happiness has
Come into my heart,
Of which I know the cause.

It’s him for me, me for him,
throughout life.
You said it to me, you’ve sworn it for life!
And ever since I can feel inside of me
my beating heart

Nights of love that will never end
Happiness replaces
troubles and sorrows
Happy, Happiness to die for!

When he takes me in his arms,
He speaks to me softly
I see life through rose-colored glasses,
He tells me words of love,

Everyday words
And that just does something to me!
Some happiness has
Come into my heart,
Of which I know the cause.

It’s you for me, me for you,
throughout life.
You said it to me, you’ve sworn it for life!
And ever since I can feel inside of me
my beating heart

1. 3. Popular English Version
Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose

When you kiss me heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose

When you press me to your heart
I’m in a world apart
A world where roses bloom

And when you speak, angels sing from above
Everyday words seem to turn into love songs

Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

I thought that love was just a word.
They sang about in songs I heard
It took your kisses to reveal
That I was wrong and love is real

Give your heart and soul to me and life will always be
la vie en rose

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 3:48 AM
Subject: SM Prayer Warriors RESULT

Dear K & J,

Maybe you didn’t get my e-mails. I’ve been clean for months. No drugs, no alcohol.

I don’t count the days. It seems to be too much like staying inside the problem, embracing it.

I’m still weak and fatigued, and my bones ache, I’m cold all the time. My endorphin production has just BARELY begun to resume, first noticed this morning in fact, when I got a little burst of hope and gladness and gratitude. But I’ll take all this any day over where I’d been for two years with the French Rx narcotics AND alcohol. I eat well and hit the weight bench every other day. I’m getting stronger every day.

I see that you still have me down on the list as struggling with drug addiction. You might want to change that, chalk up a success for the SM Prayer Warriors. If it is possible to thank them for me, please do, because I definitely had outside help.

I’d spoon up me own barf before I’d go back to that. The alcohol is actually a greater threat; but I’ve had enough pain with that, too.

Am taking the big Honda to a dealership today to be sold through them. 44 years on motorcycles without a scratch. I know when my number is up.

Hope you and J are fine.
Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 10:46 AM
Subject: Please!

I tried very hard to forward this directly to you; but it ain’t happening.

PLEASE go up to Google and tap in:

santana live videos+youtube

…then hit SEARCH. A whole page will come up. The right one is the second one down, “Santana Soul Sacrifice Woodstock -1969″. Once you get that, it will play automatically. The screen will say “Michael Shrieve was only 19…” That’s the trap drummer. You pointed him out to me in 1971, said he was almost invisible behind the drums, just a kid. Yes, I have a lot of spare time. I’m retired. I hit a time clock a few times when I was younger, but that was a mistake. If I had it to do all over again, I’d retire at age five.

Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Wednesday, April 01, 2009 2:18 AM
Subject: FW: CANNON BALLS! DID YOU KNOW THIS?

It was necessary to keep a good supply of cannon balls near the cannon on old war ships. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was a major problem. The best storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem — how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others.

Answer: The solution was a metal plate with 16 round dimples, called, for reasons unknown, a Monkey. But if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls quickly rusted to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make the plates of brass – hence, Brass Monkeys. Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts more, and more rapidly than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey. And all this time, you thought that it was just a vulgar expression, didn’t you? You must send this fabulous bit of historical knowledge to at least a few uneducated friends.

[Black Orpheus Note: This is no doubt urban myth. Brass doesn’t shrink that much in the cold. Interesting, nevertheless.]

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Saturday, April 11, 2009 10:35 AM
Subject: [none]

April 11, 2009
La Richardière

I’m beginning to fall in love with the French countryside.

This is a terrible undertow, and it has got me. Apparently this has been happening for some time.

This morning I went out to the car and found it covered with white cherry tree blossoms, like huge snowflakes. I didn’t want to drive away and blow them off. But they were everywhere. The little road past here was carpeted with them.

After I did some errands in town, I got on the Autoroute, which is like the American Interstate, and went in the direction of Paris for forty-one miles, to an Aire, a french rest area, with an Autogrill restaurant. I did this trip just to sit in just such a place and get displaced, and to drink coffee and read a book. I could just as easily have been in Copenhagen or Baton Rouge.

The tolls were three Euros each way. A double espresso and a chocolate cookie was three-eighty, gas about five Euros; and none of this was anything I couldn’t have done at home.

But I got far away!

The fields of yellow corzukept popping out beyond bends and hedgerows. They took my breath away. The first one made me inhale sharply and stare, impossible yellow and green.

My littering days are over. I can no longer throw a scrap of paper down. Instead, I pick them up.

I saw deer crossing signs along the way, and I was reminded that for years I had ceased to be surprised that wildlife was disappearing on this planet; I was more surprised that there was any wildlife left. But not here. I see the little river valleys and the woods going back for miles, and I know they’re making it just fine there. Flying in on a plane, you see that this country is mostly pastoral. People are a tiny minority. Good.

At the Aire de Lozay, on the way back, almost home, there was sign I’d seen before saying there was Roman art de Saintonge. This time I stopped. There was a pebble-paved drive leading to the parking area. I started seeing evidence of much money spent to make this place look calm and correct. Good.

They have used bequeathed funds to build a formal garden inside a hedge maze, open and free to the public, and it is full of eleventh-century Roman sculpture from churches all over this area. There are identification signs in four languages. In the center there is a huge herb garden, edible and medicinal plants. Other people must feel the same way I do about not sullying all this, because it was immaculate.

I had the thought that I was supremely happy here. I hadn’t had that thought in a very long time.

Below is a review of a fabulous new book by a dear friend, [on] Amazon:

[He was quoting Diann Blakely above. Zeus’ comments begin here:] Diann Blakely – Cities of Flesh and the Dead, April 9, 2009
By Zeus (France)

Very few volumes of poetry are real page-turners, but Diann Blakely’s new CITIES OF FLESH AND THE DEAD is, indeed, one of those rare things.
It is almost impossible to put down.

For five days I carried a copy around with me, to work and to play and to the cafés and on aimless night-drives in the car, and to the bedroom.

Ms. Blakely brings both joy and grief hurtling down in waves, a thoroughly accurate tincture of what it is like to live and bleed and laugh, and sometimes cry. But nothing about this is injurious. On the contrary, these 96 dear pages make us feel strong and proud and good just for having made it this far.

“Maybe that’s what we all look for in our lives, the worst possible grief, to make us truly ourselves before we die.” – Céline

Zeus
Charente-Maritime, France

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Monday, April 13, 2009 8:35 AM
Subject: SEALS

[Evidently pasted from a news story.]

MOMBASA, Kenya – In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew. MOMBASA, Kenya – In a daring high-seas rescue, U.S. Navy SEAL snipers killed three Somali pirates and freed the American sea captain who had offered himself as a hostage to save his crew.

3 shots
The stunning resolution to a five-day standoff came Sunday in a daring nighttime assault in choppy seas after pirates had agreed to let the USS Bainbridge tow their powerless lifeboat out of rough water.

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said Phillips, 53, was tied up and in “imminent danger” of being killed because a pirate on the lifeboat held an AK-47 assault rifle to the back of his head.

In an interview with NBC’s TODAY show, Gortney said it took only three shots to kill the three pirates.

Interviewed Monday from Bahrain, Gortney said the take-down happened shortly after the hostage-takers were observed by sailors aboard the USS Bainbridge “with their heads and shoulders exposed.”

Gortney described the snipers as “extremely, extremely well-trained.” He said the firing by the snipers was ordered by the captain of the Bainbridge after the pirates “exposed themselves” to attack.

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Wednesday, April 22, 2009 4:39 PM
Subject: [none]

Dear K and J,

Thanks for the pieces you’ve sent.

That quote – “Bomb them ’til the rubble bounces,” has always grabbed me. However, it may have been (Sir) Arthur Harris who said it, not (Sir) Winston Churchill (see material at bottom). Winston was – on record at least – very much against the bombing of civilian areas.

The screw up may be coming from either The Winds of War or War and Remembrance, both by Herman Wouk. In one of them Wouk quotes Churchill as saying “Bomb them till the rubble jumps.”

It is very unlike Wouk to make historical errors, however. Frankly, it is much more likely that I have something wrong. But I am not going to reread those two monumental masterworks to find out.

PS: I see the beginnings of some civil dissent regarding Obama. I thought you were a Democrat.

Not I.

But don’t worry about Obama’s ‘disarmament’ stance. Believe me, the Joint Chiefs are never going to let him or anybody else compromise us with the raggies (or anybody else), no matter what they tell The President or the public.

Zeus

(See Below)

Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Baronet – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – 1:02pm
8 Aug 2008 … Jump To: navigation, search. “Bomber Harris” redirects here. … Harris was tasked with implementing Churchill’s policy and supported the …. that they were going to bomb everyone else, and nobody was going to bomb them. … from the real task of making the rubble bounce in every large German city. …
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Travers_Harris

(…As a consequence Harris tended to see the directives to bomb specific oil and munitions targets as a high level command “panacea” (his word), and a distraction from the real task of making the rubble bounce in every large German city.)

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Sunday, April 26, 2009 2:23 AM
Subject: Oradour-sur-Glane

Sunday 26 April
Diann [Blakley? He’s quoting another work here.] –

Just a few minutes ago I was dreaming that I was talking with my father and he told me he had lost his job. His eyes were empty, normally so full of good things. He looked like a small child whose face hasn’t yet taken on any character at all, good or bad.

I tried to catch him as he had caught me so many times. I said ”Don’t even think about it. We’ll open a bakery or we’ll raise sheep just for the wool. This is what we’ve been waiting for! We’ll work together.” And in the dream I got to watch the life come back into my father’s eyes.

Oradour-sur-Glane was a village in southwest France which was annihilated by the Waffen SS on June 10, 1944. Everyone was murdered, the bodies mutilated beyond identification. The men were rounded up in three groups and hung, then hacked to pieces, partially burned, and stuffed down the village well. Every building was burned, in reprisal for Résistance activity in the area. The Nazis were not making an example of this village; on the contrary, they were trying to conceal the evidence. And still they kept typewritten sheets of the officers who carried out each of the mass executions. I read those names.

This happened nine years before I was born.

The hulk of the village has been left untouched since that day. I spent the afternoon there, during a black Atlantic squall.

I love every degree of urban civilization, from Manhattan Island to tiny hamlets in Europe. In a city of lights and skyscrapers I feel that I am being borne aloft, held, cossetted. In a small town, I am excited by just one café.

In Oradour-sur-Glane today I saw an electric tramway track four blocks long, its overhead power wires still intact, the outer walls of two ‘coiffure-cafés’ and two ‘centre-ville cafés’, and the School for Girls, which had shared a back yard and a well with the grocer’s next door. There were two garages, a big stone open-air market, a pharmacy, a bakery and a pastry shop, and the church. Most of the façades were still there, but no other wall was intact, and most of the stonework was scorched. I saw iron bedframes twisted to wire, kitchen stoves with utensils still hanging over them, and many sewing machines. Several cars and baby carriages were burned and twisted in the streets. There is no color at all.

Two days after the massacre, when the neighboring villagers first entered the town, they couldn’t find any trace of the women and children. But then all of them were found in the burnt hulk of the church, machine-gunned, then hacked, then burned. There are hundreds of bullet pockmarks in the walls of the nave and the sacristy. The roof is burned away. The wooden confessional and a wooden children’s folding bench are oddly intact. A perambulator is melted into the floor by the altar. The water would have boiled out of the font. As well it should. I tried as hard as I could to picture the scene under my feet sixty-five years ago, eyes open and eyes shut, but I could not do it, or I would not.

I had cut my hand badly when my umbrella ruptured in the wind and when I saw the first drop of my blood hit that floor I felt a ghastly surge of intimacy with what I knew was down there, as if that horror could jump into my veins.

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Monday, April 27, 2009 5:53 PM
Subject: [none]

[I am assuming he was quoting Diann Blakely here once again.]

WOMEN DRIVERS

My mother was a petite lady, but she was a very strong driver. This was rooted in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties before the Interstates were built, when highway driving meant eighty-five miles an hour on two-lane concrete roadways in cars with drum brakes and leaf springs and no safety belts.

Twenty years after they were divorced, my father cited her driving as an example to me.

She, on the other hand, advised me that my workshop was not as well-organized as my father’s. But she never missed a chance to tell me when I as doing right.

When she was sick, at the end, in a coma, they brought her back from the Mayo Clinic in an ambulance. I followed in my car. The trip was three hundred miles, and that whelp of an ambulance driver kept pushing the speed limit and was not at any time in control of the vehicle, and furthermore was unaware of it. And my mother was in that vehicle. I passed him and slowed down and stayed in front of him for the rest of the trip.

At the memorial service, I stood on a pebble path, smoking, next to the hearse. It had big road wheels. I thought of my mother’s ninety pounds and her Pontiac, and how she would never smoke in public.

Just a few minutes ago I was dreaming that I was talking with my father and he told me he had lost his job. His eyes were empty, normally so full of good things. He looked like a small child whose face hasn’t yet taken on any character at all, good or bad.

I tried to catch him as he had caught me so many times. I said ”Don’t even think about it. We’ll open a bakery or we’ll raise sheep just for the wool. This is what we’ve been waiting for! We’ll work together.” And in the dream I got to watch the life come back into my father’s eyes.

Oradour-sur-Glane was a village in mid-south France which was annihilated by the Waffen SS on June 10, 1944. Everyone was murdered, the bodies mutilated beyond identification. The men were rounded up in three groups and hung, then hacked to pieces, partially burned, and stuffed down the village well. Every building was burned. All this was done in reprisal for Résistance activity in the area. But the Nazis were not making an example of this village; on the contrary, they were trying to conceal the evidence. And still they kept typewritten sheets of the officers who carried out each of the mass executions. I read those names.

This massacre happened nine years before I was born.

The hulk of the village has been left untouched since that day. I spent the afternoon there, during a black Atlantic squall.

I love every degree of urban civilization, from Manhattan Island to tiny hamlets in Europe. In a city of lights and skyscrapers I feel that I am being borne aloft, held, cosseted. In a small town, I am excited by just one café.

In Oradour-sur-Glane today I saw an electric tramway track four blocks long, its overhead power wires still intact, the outer walls of two ‘coiffure-cafés’ and two ‘centre-ville cafés’, and the School for Girls, which had shared a back yard and a well with the grocer’s next door. There were two garages, a big stone open-air market, a pharmacy, a bakery and a pastry shop, and the church. Most of the façades were still there, but no other wall was intact, and most of the stonework was scorched. I saw iron bedframes twisted to wire, kitchen stoves with utensils still hanging over them, and many sewing machines. Several cars and baby carriages were burned and twisted in the streets. There is no color at all.

Two days after the massacre, when the neighboring villagers first entered the town, they couldn’t find any trace of the women and children. But then they were found in the burnt hulk of the church, 450 of them, machine-gunned, then hacked, then burned. There are hundreds of bullet pockmarks in the interior walls of the nave and the sacristy. The roof is burned away. The wooden confessional and a wooden children’s folding bench are oddly intact. A perambulator is melted into the floor by the altar. The water would have boiled out of the font. As well it should. I tried as hard as I could to picture the scene under my feet sixty-five years ago, eyes open and eyes shut, but I could not do it, or I would not.

I had cut my hand badly when my umbrella ruptured in the wind and when I saw the first drop of my blood hit that floor I felt a ghastly surge of intimacy with what I knew was down there, as if that horror could jump into my veins.

In the new Oradour-sur-Glane I stopped at a tabac and a café and a bakery. I just wanted to see people. I was amazed by the sight of croissants and glazed tarts in a showcase, in color. After that, every hamlet and village for the next hundred miles looked just like Oradour. I think I saw a man staring at my hair. I was ashamed of every trace of German ancestry within me. But that’s not where the problem lies.

Yesterday I stood in a church where 450 women
and children had been shot, hacked to pieces,
and burned by the Nazis

The wind ripped my umbrella and sliced my hand open
and when I saw my blood hit that charnel floor,
the ghast jumped up into my veins

And my lifelong terror
of cadavers
vanished

I used to have a buddy named Sammy Granito, an iron fireplug of a man who ran a car garage on Danny Thomas Boulevard near Chelsea. Sammy’s parents had run Tony’s Fruit Stand on the sidewalk, downtown Memphis, since the turn of the last century, before Furry started working there. But you can bet they knew each other.

I stayed in the garage one day when Sammy went off to do something and a nice, well-dressed older black man came in, hat in his hand, deferentially asking for help with his car, a gently-worn Cadillac. This was a neighborhood where nobody treated each other right, regardless of color. It had gone mean before the seventies. This was 1975.

I was careful to say ‘Yessir’ as I would to my best friend’s father, or even sometimes to my father, and to avoid any semblance of the deliberately mocking ‘sir’ of the Memphis Police Department, ad infinitum. It wasn’t hard to be right on that. In fact, that was what I noticed.

His car needed a minor carburetor adjustment, which I did, and the man was delighted. I tried not to charge him, but he said no take the five dollars anyway. When Sammy got back, he wouldn’t take it, either.

Shortly after that, my girlfriend Marcia Claire and I were at Alex’s Tavern at Jackson and Cleveland, and the bartender advised us that we should try to meet an older black man sitting there, because he used to be Joe Louis’s trainer.

I’m thinking his name was Mr. Edwards, but I could be wrong. I’ll e-mail Marcia Claire. Girls never forget anything.

It was the same old gentleman who had come into Sammy’s garage. He was dressed in a suit, again. Looking good, too, not even slightly peacocked. He looked good. About seventy-five. He didn’t appear to recognize me.

I told him that the bartender had told me he’d been Joe Louis’s trainer. He said yes he had. He used to drive in his car next to Joe while Joe ran roadwork miles in training.

But now he had a Cadillac, he said, and his wife had a new Lincoln.

He invited us to go to his house for a drink. We went outside and he got in the same Cadillac I had fixed and we got in our Corvair, followed him to a house in the 1880 block of Vollentine, four doors down from the house where I had gone from my first memories to the third grade. Where the open window had been. Right smack into my prime dreamscape to this day.

We pulled into the drivew at behind Mr. Edwards’ Cadillac, and saw a new Lincoln Continental in the back yard.

Mrs. Edwards did look at us askance when we walked in, because this had obviously happened before and, after all, Mr. Edwards has just come in from a bar latefor dinner with two strangers. White kids. Mrs. Edwards was no pushover.

But she pulled up a lot of graciousness very fast and offered us some homemade Muscatine wine made from a vine behind that house that I had known in its entirety from age three because it ran behind all those houses and it was my secret hideout. I can’t tell you how glad I was to know it was still all right.

We saw about fifty pictures of Joe Louis and Mr. Edwards on the wall.

Mrs. Edwards invited us to stay for dinner, and she meant it, but we wanted to respond to that immense grace by leaving them alone. After one glass we thanked them and left.

As we were walking out the door, Mr. Edwards said to me, aside, “That car is sure enough running right since you fixed it.”

(END)

——-

From: Zeus
To: Black Orpheus
Sent: Sunday, May 24, 2009 2:45 AM
Subject: FW: Emily

Mdme –

Now just dawn. Woke up to those wonderful poetry quotes. This time before the coffee or tea or tomato juice or smoked bacon and scrambled eggs or anything else.

Rather late in his life my father went out and bought a very snazzy Honda motor scooter – engine as big as a motorcycle – and used it to ride from Chester (NJ) into Morristown to the library and to his favorite coffee shop, in that order.

He said to me once “Son if you ever find out I bought it on this thing you can at least tell your friends your old man went out on a bike with Emily Dickinson in the basket.”

For a while there I was prejudiced against poor Emily because of her name. I hadn’t even read the stuff; but she just sounded too much like Rod McPoet, and I blew it off.

But that was a mistake. Rectified by Dit and his Honda.

It has actually gotten darker here since dawn. Like the night changed its mind and went back to sleep.

I’ve got to tell you, I miss that breakfast buffet at the Normandy so much I have come very close to jumping on a train or getting in the car and going there just for that. I decided this was ridiculous and so yesterday went out and bought all the makings of just such a breakfast and then realized I didn’t have any propane for the stove and you sure in hell can’t do all that with a microwave. So now I’m sweating the car keys again and wondering how quick I could get there – not quickly enough – and trying to be reasonable. This ‘trying to be reasonable’ stuff has caused me more grief than any other thing.

Besides, after breakfast I wouldn’t be able to walk down to WH Smith for a book or stand on a point over the Seine and dig the houseboats and their little tendrils of smoke from their own breakfast fixings.

I was in a tabac yesterday having coffee and a perfect stranger pointed at the book I was carrying and I showed him the cover – Occupation – and he did a cute little salute and said “Heil Hitler!”

This was a heavily occupied zone. The only recompense is that this was also the center of the greatest Résistance activity. The upshot is that you never know whose progeny you’re encountering. I ran across a hospital medical director one time in Normandie who said “You Americans fucked everything up!” I’d never been inclined to strangle a doctor before and besides it wouldn’t have gone down well with my passport andvisa issues, so I erred on the side of restraint and ‘being reasonable’ once again.

In the same town I found a German ‘pillbox’, a domed concrete gun installation overlooking the harbor. There was no sign or plaque or any identifying marker. I went next door to a little hotel and asked the owner if that was indeed a German pillbox thirty feet to the left and he said “Oh yes, but it was unnecessary.”

What?

Read a great piece about some French Résistance girls in this area whose specialty was sabotaging German trains. Those trains were trying to provide rapid transport for Panzer tanks to the invasion area, one of them on each flatcar. While some of the girls ‘distracted’ the German guards, some of the others sneaked underneath the train cars and drained all the oil out of the axles. Then they refilled the axles with abrasive paste, guaranteed to cause a massive bearing seizure within just a few miles, and debilitating an entire train and its load of lethal tanks.

They kept the oil they’d drained out and re-used it for civilian vehicles.

Somehow that last detail got to me almost as strongly as all the rest. Except: Imagine having to play friendly and cozy with a bunch of sons of bitches that you knew were out to kill your country and your father and mother and brothers and sisters. I would have had to be one of the ones underneath the train with the wrenches and the pails. I wouldn’t have had the balls to do the other thing.

Children, taught either years beneath their intelligence or miles wide of relevance to it, or both: their intelligence becomes hopelessly bewildered, drawn off its centers, bored, or atrophied.” — James Agee

Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: [Numerous People]
Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 5:24 AM
Subject: Important

Send notices to all these people if I don’t make it.

XXX
Zeus

——-

From: Zeus
To: [Same group of Numerous People]
Sent: Sunday, May 31, 2009 11:17 AM
Subject: Error

That was a mistake. I tried to send a blanket e-mail to my friend Janice T in case I died here. But – stupid me – I put all the names in the ‘TO’ (address box).

Sorry to worry you. Don’t send me no flowers. I ain’t dead yet.

Zeus

——-

From: Ken
To: Bernard
Sent: Mon, 1 Jun 2009 09:05:07 -0500
Subject: RE: Error

Yes, but are you healthy and clean?

——-

From: Bernard
To: Ken
Sent: Monday, June 01, 2009 10:13 AM
Subject: RE: Error

Yes but I wish I weren’t.

——-

From: Bernard Patrick
To: Blakely Diann
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 7:26 PM
Subject: Notify List

Mdme –

Horrible to put this burden on you. If I don’t make it, these people on this BCC list – which I should have done the first time – should be sent a blanket e-mail.

The Cymbalta is doing something, anyway. Now I’m down to five 60mg capsules 3X a day, which seems to be the cause of a steady trickle of blood out of my ears. Not enough to worry about, though.

If I did decide to split, could you do what I asked you to do on your friend’s suicide: Respect my decision? And be glad I made a successful break.

I just wasn’t made to be old. Maybe if I’d had chirren. But the weeks are hurtling past, my memory is weakening, and I can’t whistle or laugh or cry any more. There is no ‘getting better’.

Jesus what a depressing bastard of a letter this is. Just tell me you’ll send out the blanket list. If you file it in your computer, you won’t even have to retype it; just hit SEND.

My ashen remainders will be sent to Newcastle, to Munindo, who will put them in a hollow wall built just for that purpose. I doubt if they write epitaphs on the urns. But Munindo’s favorite is “I told you I was sick,” and mine is “I knew this was going to happen.”

He has agreed to have a non-somber gathering with no wailing or gnashing of teeth. Since he has chosen – for his own swan song – Joe Cocker’s version of ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, I have settled for Joe Cocker’s ‘Bird on a Wire’.

You say that you have something else for an edit? Let it fly. It keeps me moving.

More Later,
Bernard

——-

From: Ken
To: Bernard
Sent:
Mon, 15 Jun 2009 08:29:36 -0500
Subject: RE: Notify List

Here is my concern…

It is clear that upon becoming clean (or close to it) you are now feeling for the first time in years. It is perfectly natural to be suicidal at this point. You are getting older, and that makes me long for death also. Yet, you need to give it time so that your natural chemistry can come back into balance.

Don’t do anything. Just wait. It can take a while.

——-

From: Bernard
To:
Ken
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 4:15 AM
Subject: RE: Notify List

Ken –

You’re correct. That memo went out – by accident – to about 50 people, and you were the only one who ‘got it’.

Thank You,
Bernard

——-

From: Ken
To: Bernard
Sent: Tue, 16 Jun 2009 10:09:23 -0500
Subject: RE: Notify List

Tell me the story, please.

——-

From: Bernard
To: Ken
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 2:43 PM
Subject: RE: Notify List

Ken –

Maybe Five percent biochemical, ninety-five percent real-life.

I have the feeling I’m just waiting it, what ever it’s going to be, cancer or emphysema or cardiopulmonary or a stroke. They all run in my family. Both my parents died bad, and slow.

I’d rather avoid that helplessness, handle it my way, while I still can.

The ‘real-life’ stuff is suffocating. Antidepressant meds (I hope) causing impotence, no volition to do anything. French bureaucrats on my ass about visa, driver’s license.

If there’s reunification with loved ones after death, good. But that would infer cognizance on their part on what is happening here on Earth, which God would not condone (for their sake). If there is a reunification with absolute or universal Love, that covers it all. I’m hoping on that one. I’m betting on it. If what happens is lights-out oblivion, that’s not so good, but it’s better than suffering. I’ll take it.

That means I’ll ‘take’ any of the three scenarios above.

Hell? Nonsense. Somalia is Hell, Vietnam, World Wars, cancer. Hell is HERE. Can anyone seriously propose that another one awaits.

I’m about pooped. Hope this answered your question. Thank you for your concern. You know I’m not a Christian, and that I’ve TRIED, so take it easy on that as an answer.

BCP

——-——-——-

I never heard from him again. Bernard was found dead on July 2nd, 2009.

——-——-——-

2 Responses to “Zeus Speaks From The Bell Jar”

  1. mike powers Says:

    bernard and i are/were old friends met in a prison bus fall 1992 spent many hours together worshiping the english language and cars in a trustee camp yankton, sd all e-mails welcome, the thing about doctor bernard he always kept in touch…

  2. And now,
    I’m glad I didn’t know
    the way it all would end
    the way it all would go
    our lives are better left to chance
    I would’ve missed the pain
    but I’d of had to miss
    the dance
    -Tony Arata

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