EM & G

   a story 

~  by Michael Dennis Mooney

I wonder how rash, bold, impertinent, vainly grand, and rather vilely self-important you’ll think me, Honored Sir. But I must ask you this. Will you consent to read my poems? Of course, I don’t mean all! Just a few. And you’ll be glad to hear this, They are all very brief, my little lyrics.

I have seen a number of your many deep spiritual writings in periodicals brought to us by our village librarian. She reserves them for me and drops them off at my kitchen’s back door. I know you are a reverend, a writer of sermons,  a confessor,  a classics professor,  and a university rector. I count on your discernment, sir. Will you tell me if I should print and publish these my poor obscure works? Poems that I think must have been writ under a bushel, we would say. As they so rarely come to light. They dwell in shut drawers and in storage trunks. They are like me, shut in, shut away.

Though you reside in a great port city by the sea in Eire-land and I dwell in a countryside farm village in Western Massachusetts, yet I feel we must be, as people say, kindred in spirit. Indeed, we might seem different in more ways, I fear, than similar. You are a Roman Catholic, a man, a scholar who trained at Oxford, a consecrated priest, a Jesuit, a leader, an educator, a learned explicator of Greek and of Latin literatures. You are a public man. Me, well, I bake gingerbread for my nephews. I garden. I serve tea to my father’s household guests. And I scribble my poems in pencil on scraps of paper bag at my baking table while watching for my pies to be done-up brown. But we both deal in matters of the Ultimate Reality . The Metaphysical, as our Mr. R. W. Emerson would call it.

Sir, May I call you G.? I know I’m expected to properly call you Father. Or, Reverend Father Gerard. But I am not a member of your Church. Indeed, I am not a member of my Congregation, here in the village. I am, I think, a non-believer by default. I have tried to believe and I have failed, repeatedly. I have no faith. I am the Poor In Spirit of whom we’ve heard. There seems no cure for me. I am melancholic, despairing, often unwell, and, these days, increasingly solitary. And I refuse, like a coal-digger on strike, to spend my livelong Sundays in the dank shadowy Meeting House. All morning at Services. Then after dinner, all afternoon at Bible Studies. Evening Revivals. It is too much to bear.  Too onerous a load of bituminous black rock. Too endless a task, and too purposeless. It brings no joy.

Well, That brings me to my poem. It’s my current one.  It shows what I’m occupied with immediately.



I ask you, What sort of Manse is this,

This Rude White Clabbard  Cow Shed?

Truly, Can we be Serious?

Call this a House for God?

It is so Plain! It is Hideous!

It might be A Railway Station.

Yes, The Comparison is Invidious.

It is a Scar on the Face of Creation.

Do any Wonder why I Stay Home

And Kneel in my Garden Rows

To Root-Out the Weeds ’round the Gloried Rose,

And to Hoe, and To Aerate the Loam?

Sundays, I Long to be On My Own.

I am At Ease here, and Alone.  – E.D.


As the Americans say, OKAY! I will allow it. You may call me “G.”

I will refrain from staid forms, and thus I shall not call you Daughter. You are more the age of a Sister, a contemporary, in any case. So “Daughter” would be too stiffly formal.

I will wish instead to Em-ulate your informality, dear lady. I’ll address you as “Em.” Miss Dickinson, Maybe that will cause you to smile?

I am not sure, Miss Em,  what to make of your complaints. They savor of such a bitter and biting sourness! Biliousness, really. Honestly, you seem out of balance with God’s Reality, with the Universe itself.

You are melancholic, you say, and I believe you. You should be able to view these matters with a more hopeful spirit. You should, at least, intend to. You might aim to “on general principles.”  Your humorist Clemens might put it thus, heh?

You think ill of your religious community. You find it oppressive and gloomy. Yes, I could concur heartily with you, I suppose. But should I? Is that useful? Or does that not further abet your usual umbrage?  What sort of confessor would I be, if I helped to make you more deeply unhappy?

I wonder if you have the right conception of God and his World at all? And I wonder if your poetry does not further your rebellion against reason? Should you be writing so unrightly, as it were, Em?

Should not you be seeing God’s Universe as being One with the Gloried Rose you prefer to celebrate?  Indeed, you do suffer a pervading unhappiness, but that is you, inwardly, that darkness, is it not?

You ought to seriously think of taking a different view. Seeing the shadowy dark in balance with the sources of light. Those sources of light are in our values. In what we most benevolently, passionately, and innocently aspire to. What we mean when we mean well!

Here is my meditation for you, Miss Em:



Maker of red roses’ brightness,

Of their many velvet petals’ touch,

Grow in me a radiance, a rightness, 

As I rest on thy garden’s green leaves sloughed.

Creator of roses’ slim stems tensile,

As like to the iron of wire or cable,

Upstand me, like stems, as head-held-high,

As steady in winds, unshakable.

O, Armorer of roses’ thorns, like razors

That must be handled steady, mindfully,

Make me as clawed, as fierce amazing,

Let me draw blood as bloody-mindedly

Should one try to rob my rich red rose!

Let him be marked red, so everyone knows.


Yea! Color me with with roses’ brightness!

Buoy me with the stems’ uprightness!

Bless me, happy with head-held-highness!

Banish all hanging-back and shyness!

Make my jubilations loud, so everybody knows!

As Faith, I, proud, I propagate the Rose!

~ G. M. Hopkins, SJ


Life's Enduring Mysteries

Spruce Hugh Pusey And Dandy Randy

A third installment in the “Randy On The Road” fiction sequence. The previous installment is in the August 2011 posting below.


Randy, the subject of the two previous essays here, has a longtime admirer, a gay man, Hugh Pusey, a lifelong acquaintance of both Randy’s and mine. Pusey has written-in to offer a spirited defense of Randy’s Randiness and of Randy’s, hushed pause, sexuality. This letter will be printed, below, as our first posted letter to the editor here at the weblog. Dr. Pusey writes-in to say this isn’t the Randy he knows, the one I’ve depicted in my essays. He also argues that what I’ve written aren’t essays at all. How could I call them such? (Pusey is a lit crit guy.) What sorts of essays are they supposed to be? And what sort of thesis am I working from?

My response is simple, “They are narrative essays of personal recollection.” My thesis? “I’d say they are about cheating and lying, a hurtful behavior, and a subject we are all familiar with. Spouses get hurt by these grievous ethical lapses. Their children can suffer, as well.”


I have personal recollections of Hugh Pusey. (Pronounced PEW-see.) Hugh was my English professor many years ago. He was also Randy’s professor. He was a formative influence in our styles of intellectual development and expression. Dr. Pusey is a teacher of literary criticism, an expert in the modern novel in English. And when we were college kids (we are now praying for Social Security) Pusey was probably the  best-liked faculty member in our school’s English Department up in Madison. Mad City, we called it.

He was so well-liked because he was accessible, inclusive, democratic, liberal, and humorous. He genuinely liked socializing with us only slightly younger folk. The older and more established faculty spent more of their time holed-up in their closed-door offices banging away at typewriters, or working at home and tending to family concerns and duties. Yet he was quite fancy free!  We, the students, were something of a family to him, and he was our cheerful gay uncle. One time a group of women students commandeered his kitchen and made a big spaghetti dinner and invited everyone, and he presided, smiling indulgently, over the whole thing, falling gently asleep at the head of the table after pasta, bread, salad and our cheap chianti. He and the girls were meeting boys together by candlelight in his elegant high-ceilinged dining room, but the girls were getting a lot luckier in garnering boys’ attentions. Oh well, the odds were against him.

At least, he’d established loads of good will. That was his modus operandi. Enable much good cheer with the red wine and the comestibles. We were being “wined and cheesed!” we’d say. And his shiny reputation had always derived from these little parties. They were most often held in the department commons at 4 p.m. and catered by the school, just as winter dusk was about to gather. The fireplace would be roaring later, as would the general conversation level, by 5 p.m., our enthusiasms stoked by soft cheeses, warm reds, sweet chilled whites, crudite, crackers, sour cream dip with chives, little slivers of pepperoni and ham. “Can I fetch you some sticks of celery?” “Uh, not necessi-celery!”

The older faculty loved him because he freely volunteered to coordinate all the holiday parties for the department’s faculty-student community. As well as readings by visiting writers. He issued all his invitations to students personally, in conversation, he had the personable touch of a smiling starchy-chasubled Protestant minister at the church door. No doubt, there were some such actual clerics among his ancestors. Hugh is now 70, fit and healthy, and retired from active teaching. Thirty-five years ago he was 35, a thriving young assistant professor, a Ph.D, developing good repute and earning tenure. He was a celebrity in the commons room at our English Department. He would stop in, between classes, to get fresh hot coffee from the commons’ perking, steaming urn, he would visit with us students for a few minutes, and he’d usually illuminate the atmosphere with one of his quick-strike zingers. For example, on the subject of the evangelist, Oral Roberts, who had just founded Oral Roberts University in the 1970s: Please tell me he has a brother named Anal!”  he drawled wearily. Pusey always had a comment like this that left us chortling. He was my personal role model for wise-ass waggery. Everyone, this is my brother, the proctology doc!” “Why, you must be Anal!”

He’d cheer everyone up, as his own morale was being so bravely maintained. He was a social critic, a contrarian, a puncturer of pomposity, and his humor was, most often, a blow struck for democratic American common sense against the pretense, the stuffed-shirt moralizing, of the establishment. He was our very own latter-day G.B. Shaw, right in our commons room, a man with a determination to see things empirically, pragmatically, and progressively, without the sentimental claptrap of received ideas.


Unfortunately, all our teachers tended to be branded with flippant, even cruel, nicknames. As was our relentlessly sophomoric compulsion. Hugh Pusey was somewhat flamboyantly effeminate, a big tall bearded man given to chubbiness, with sparkling blue eyes, dark hair, scrubbed grooming, impeccable tasteful dress, his cheeks and mouth often puffed and pursing as he made his bon mot and did his comic take. So it was inevitable that he be nicknamed Huge Pussy! The nickname was, in fact, as outrageous as he was seeking to be.

“Mackey, What did Huge Pussy assign in Literary Criticism?”

Quoth Moi, “He wants us to read Seven Types Of Ambiguity, written by some other Huge Pussy. There’s three copies on reserve.”

A typical exchange.

“Mack, Why does Huge Pussy think Henry James was the greatest novelist of the post-Civil War era in the Nineteenth Century?”

I had all the answers: “Because Henry James truly knew what it was like to be a Huge Pussy. He showed us the way.”

“Okay, who was the greatest American poet?”

“Easy, Walt Whitman. A Noteable Huge Pussy. He seriously wanted Abraham Lincoln to ask him out on a carriage ride. They could review the troops and hold hands under the lap blanket.”

“Who was the best novelist of the Modernist Era in England?”

“Simple. First off, you know he was a Huge Pussy!  E.M. Forster. A Huge Pussy from the Bloomsbury Group. Along with Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, each one a World-Historical Huge Pussy in his field.”

“Modernist France?”

“The Ultimate Huge Pussy in France was Marcel Proust. N’est ce pas?”


“Thomas Mann. Death In Venice.”

We could go on like this forever. Or until Hugh Pusey came in to the room. Or one of the other faculty.

Then: “What did Big Hew Pew-see assign in Lit Crit?”

After the faculty member got his coffee and left: “Mackey? Weren’t there Huge Pussy women writers?”

I thought for a moment. “Gertrude Stein, but she was more an incredible dickhead. She liked to stick her Roman nose right into a Huge Pussy, though. It reminded her of her medical studies at Johns Hopkins.”

“Now, what about the Beat era?” A softball right in my strike zone.

That one I sprung to: “Allen Ginsberg. Truly a Huge One. Plus all his pally-pals, lying around on their palliasses, at Columbia: Kerouac, Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Peter Orlovsky, all those bums. Lying on their asses and singing work songs!”

“Our greatest modern poet?”

“Auden. The Huge Pussy Laureate. All in all, what we have here is a veritable Pantheon of the Huge Pussy in Litch-cha-choor!


[THIS STORY IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION. More when the story is published.]

Too Much Reality



The policeman Darren Wilson will almost certainly be exonerated,  he who shot and killed young Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9th. No jury will be able to convict Wilson. Brown, the teenaged black kid he was detaining for questioning, had disrespected him, resisted him, scuffled with him. Officer Wilson’s lawyers will say in his defense that Brown injured Wilson in the scuffle. And the white police officer was indeed injured, and fairly seriously, with a broken bone and swelling in his eye-socket area. The lawyers will paint quite a picture of Wilson fearing he was being overwhelmed. Being badly beaten. Being head-injured. Being stripped of his revolver. So he had to defend himself! Case closed, from their point of view. Open and shut. Brown should have respected the policeman’s authority.

Even with all the exquisite public pressure being brought to bear on the district attorney –ARREST DARREN WILSON!— there are better-than-even chances that the grand jury in St. Louis County will not indict the officer. Not with second-degree murder, not with manslaughter, not with reckless endangerment. Brown’s family will, at best, be able to sue Ferguson, Missouri for civil damages in a wrongful death action. The grand jury has begun to hear some first-hand witness testimony on the shooting, but they are not expected to finish their inquiry till October. The grand jury panel consists of three blacks and nine whites. Six of the whites are white men. White men in the south. The whites and especially the men are more likely to skew the grand jury in an authoritarian, traditionalist direction. They won’t be able to concur on an indictment.  And there will be more public outrage in Ferguson. Demonstrations. Rioting. Traditionalism dictates: When a policeman rolls down his window and tells you to get out of the road and get on the sidewalk, well then that’s what you do. If you resist him, you’ll be arrested. Detained and questioned, at least. This sort of prevailing wisdom will win out. Brown was on the wrong side of the law.

Officer Darren Wilson was responding to a 911 call about a store robbery when he encountered Michael Brown, a 290-pound, six-foot four-inch, eighteen-year-old, walking in traffic heedlessly, causing cars to have to stop and wait to see if he’d get out of the way. The officer didn’t know Brown was involved in the store robbery of fifty dollars worth of merchandise. What he could see, though, was that Brown was not respecting the traffic laws or even common sense, and he was “high” at midday. Perhaps he had illegal drugs in his possession. Wilson decided to detain him and question him. Brown was essentially stopped for walking while intoxicated at noon. Wilson stopped his police vehicle, rolled down the window, and told Brown to get on the sidewalk. Brown, reportedly leaning in the open car window, gave Wilson some objection to being stopped. At some point the officer is reported to have said, “Get the fuck on the sidewalk.” Soon there was a physical struggle between the two, as the officer decided to take Brown into custody:

Wilson, still in his car’s front seat, attempting to get his left arm locked around Brown and bring him down towards the vehicle. Brown giving plenty of push back. Wilson attempting to forcefully push the car door open and get up from the car seat. Brown getting slammed by the pushed-open door. Brown slamming back. Slamming Wilson with the door, closing it on his left leg. Also slamming Wilson in the eye-socket area, which later became swollen. Wilson with his weapon drawn inside the car. Threatening “I’ll shoot you.”

Wilson’s first shot was fired from in the vehicle and Brown retreated. Then Brown turned to face him with his hands up: “Are you gonna shoot me?” He moved towards Wilson. Six shots were then fired into Brown, hitting him first in the arm, then the torso, and then the last two in the head. That certainly finished him. He died right there. Policeman rarely fire their service revolvers, and Wilson, age 28, had never fired his weapon on the street in his six years of working as an officer, one with a clean record. No history of disciplinary actions. Six shots to the torso and head. All this from an incident of jaywalking! Walking in traffic and being heedless. Objecting to being detained. Being a handful. Being attitudinal and resistive. Being an uncooperative, antisocial jerk. Being mouthy and not following the officer’s direction. Being “high” –like a fairly large proportion of his fellow Americans out on the street that day– and “out of control.”

When detaining a jaywalker, since when does the police shoot to kill? Albeit a belligerent jaywalker, one who was high, disinhibited. And one who was agitated.  (Because he had gotten into an altercation, only moments before, with the store employee he had robbed, menaced, and pushed around.) One who was guilty-minded, who feared he was being nabbed for robbery. It reminds me of the late nite comedian’s joke about some celebrity being arrested: “Well, they wouldn’t have arrested him, uh, if he hadn’t resisted arrest.” (Letterman) Here, the suspect wouldn’t ordinarily have been shot to death. — If he hadn’t objected to being stopped and questioned! But Michael Brown, fresh out of high school and due to start at technical school soon, didn’t want to get stopped and held in the back of a police car, likely taken-in for questioning. He feared, I’m sure, that Officer Wilson would discover that Brown fit the description of the store robber in the 911 call he was answering. How many other XXXL eighteen-year-olds in red hat, white tee, tan shorts, yellow socks, and sandal slip-ons, were there in the neighborhood? Ones with the actual stolen merchandise on their person? Brown undoubtedly knew his store robbery of a few minutes earlier was on store surveillance video. He was a star. He had gone viral. He was trending on closed circuit media. He knew he was caught. Brown didn’t want to be stopped. He’d end-up getting arrested. So he tried to object to being stopped, and he tried to resist.

The person who should have cooled his jets, showed restraint, in this matter was P.O. Wilson, of  course. He was the one who had, at least, been given much training in how to do so. …Much as the great basketball player Allen Iverson had once exasperatedly said, “This was practice! It was just practice!” … Well, this was just jaywalking! It sure didn’t call for a face-fracturing fistfight. And then lethal force! Once he started getting some stiff, stubborn resistance, Officer Wilson should have rolled-up his window and moved back a bit, slowly reversing  his vehicle. And perhaps called for additional men and cars, backup, if he was determined to stop and question Michael Brown. Or Wilson should just have let the matter slide, maybe. Win some, lose some. C’mon! This was jaywalking. But this situation had gotten away from Wilson already. Brown was leaning in the window, in Wilson’s face, objecting to being detained. The officer, angry, was telling him to get on the effing sidewalk. Both were able to get hands on each other and struggle to subdue and bring down one another. Wilson had let Brown get in too close. Now Brown could possibly reach, and grab, the officer’s revolver. Wilson soon had drawn that weapon. He threatened to shoot Brown. He fired –or misfired– and somehow missed, from inside the car, after grappling and scuffling and trying to emerge from the car’s doorway. Then, in moments, the horrible shooting death. The corpse of Michael Brown lying on the cordoned-off pavement for four hours, as the residents of the neighborhood mourned, posting their Facebook photos of the dead body.

After the misfire and Michael Brown’s momentary retreat, Officer Wilson had yet another chance to relent. Again, he could have simply kept his resisting-arrest suspect in view. Now an assaulting-an-officer suspect. He could have then radioed for help. But as Brown turned towards him,  it was already all-out war for Wilson. Brown approached him.  –This Was World War III !!!–  Wilson shot Brown to death. Wilson didn’t use a nightstick, a taser, or a judo throw to manage the “threat.” He used high-powered bullets to the torso and head! Kill shots. Game over. ~MDM


The Ego Is A Souffle


Lee, My Man! Usually I make a late night phone call with a story like this. I wail, piss, and cry about what’s become of my life, about what sort of screwed up  mess has befallen me. “How could things be turning out like this?” Often those calls involved a woman.  –That woman, yes.  She whom we no longer mention by name!– Because it tees you off that I got so Stuck On Duh! with her. This one is a bit different. She’s not part of this story at all. Nor anyone like her. Also, there’s no late night call in this case. Because this is a more serious foul up, a real disaster wreaking mayhem on my plans. So I’m writing it to you in a letter. Writing it out. Thinking it through. That has to be an improvement.

A few nights ago, I –yer ole pal Mackey– made a huge mistake in managing my money. It all happened in a few seconds of thoughtlessness. A disaster. A horror. And I lost all sense of being able to manage my life. Of being able to hope for reasonable outcomes from my efforts. Crushed like a bug. I had been saving money from my retirement income quite rapidly in the last year or two, by making very deliberate economizing decisions. Example: I would read the paper at the coffee place and never spend the actual $2.50 for the Times. I’d found a place where coffee was only $1 as well. Plus, I’d get two for a dollar. Free Refills. I’d get chicken sandwiches for lunch at Mickey D’s. Again, only one Mc Buck. I spared using the car and walked. When I drove, I chose the nearest dining spots or shopping venues. Ones with Wi-Fi. And I’d read the paper and magazines and book excerpts on the internet. I bought a Barnes & Noble NOOK reader, and I’d electronically read B&N’s books for free while sitting in their Starbuck’s cafe drinking my McDonald’s coffee refill. I’m that guy!

I bought all kinds of my food staples at The Dollar Store — frozen vedge, pasta, canned tomatoes, minced garlic, beans, turkey burgers, cans of juice, bottles of iced tea, cans of coffee, and on and on. I began referring to myself as The Dollar Store Economist. Has a ring to it. Even over-the-counter meds, for example. Analgesics like naproxen. Anti-allergens like cetirizine. Important vitamins like D for preventing skin cancer. Each for One U.S. Dollar. (At CVS generic cetirizine, an antihistamine treatment for environmental allergies, costs 18 dollars. I get it for One USD. This is how the Retired Economist piles-up savings.) I created my own personal anti-inflation program. (Having nothing to with the estimable Ben Bernanke and the Fed.) The program was, Buy everything on sale. The lower the price, the better the inflation fighting. I’d get two-for-ones at the Shop Rite and at the CVS Pharmacy. I’d get things for small fractions of the normal cost at a Walmart’s price-slash on generics. I’d get crazy bargains everywhere they could be found. At Save A Lot where you bag your own after ringing up your buys. At Boscov’s where the store’s expert knowledgeable buyers creating their inventory of great bargains are more hawkish than I am even capable of imagining,  brand name shoes for only twenty and khakis for ten. And at Ocean State Job Lots where I’d get pairs of summer shorts for five dollars apiece, shirts for four, big packs of socks for three, etc. I always knew where you could get something more inexpensively. I was The Economist. The Dolla-Stretcha. I’d stretcha dolla so hard it’d holla. I’d torture the bastard.  I’se Da Economiser! (Emphasis on miser?)

Then things really sped up when my car got paid off last year, after a six-year stint of payments. — That’s an extra $360 a month right there! — And the savings really started to make a pile. I became mildly rich. Not a millionaire. But, you know, a man with savings. (A thousandaire?) In probably less than eighteen months I had made a pile of over fourteen thousand in overall savings. And I did this as a retiree. Without going to work! At my leisure. Just by paying attention to what I was doing. At my leisure truly. While hanging out at the coffee place and reading. And hanging out at the local bar-and-cafe down the block and snacking upon the six dollar flatbread pizza while watching sports on tv of an evening. Life of Riley. Going for walks. Fully unemployed. Man of leisure on the stroll.

Reading in every area of human inquiry: Hegel on the dialectic of history? Einstein on relative time? Keynes on creating greater aggregate demand to effect full employment.  —-Why do I care anymore!–  Hume on deontological ethics? Karl Popper on the limits of claims to knowledge? Let me explain them all to ya, and much more. It’ll only take me a few hours of self-important disquisition. Soon I’ll be able to parse for you my studies –Bacon and Locke through Popper and beyond– regarding the nature of human understanding and its complex intersection with external reality. Taking naps. Dreaming great dreams. –Dreams are free– Playing tennis. –On the free public courts, n’est ce pas? But of course!– Writing letters to the editor, by email these days. –Save a stamp– So as to solve the world’s problems. As I am now so wise. I am now old enough to know everything. Just ask, I’ll tell ya.

So it was along this merry course I was proceeding, deluded, the other night, late Tuesday at about 9:45 p.m., July 1. On the way between my car and my place, a small black canvas money belt, holding more than eleven thousand dollars in newly-minted hundreds, dropped out of my pocket, unbeknownst to me, as I was bending and struggling to pick up this great-looking, old-style, high-backed upholstered living room armchair someone had put out by the curb. I was being a ‘freegan.’ I struggled with the damned unwieldy furniture piece — it was really heavy, oaken and substantial –and finally got it in the door of my place. Then realized in a flash!– The money belt wasn’t in my pocket, as I reflexively patted where it should be. I got back outside right away. I went up and down the sidewalk between my place and where my car was parked, a few doors down the block. Panick! I went back in and got a flashlight. I searched and searched the edges of the sidewalk, the hedges, the grass in other people’s front yards, under the bases of trees along the curb. I searched under the car’s seats, between the seats, behind the seats, under the car, all around the car. I searched like a fear-maddened father seeking a missing infant at a teeming carnival midway.

I quickly came to think: While I had been in the house for just a two or three minutes wrestling the cursed unmaneuverable armchair through the narrow entryway, some newly blessed happy-camper pedestrian passerby had picked up my money belt from the middle of the damn sidewalk and walked off, all smiles, ear to ear, realizing what they’d discovered. It was so fat with cash, they’d of tripped on it! –Almost all my money. Gone. Shit! How had I fucked up like that?! Shit!– That pedestrian who found the cache of cash could have been anyone. Given my rather “mixed use” neighborhood, edge of the low-rent part of town, Who had my money? A booze hound staggering to the next bar. Or a bad news gang kid.  Or a hard-studying grad student from a foreign country. Or a senior citizen.  Even an octogenarian riding in a motorized wheelchair on the sidewalk, from the Seniors Residence in the next block. Or some struggling young minimum wage worker who’d just got off the bus from the shopping mall. –She’s my nominee! Most Likely To Find My Money!– Or someone on disability who never has more than a few bucks to spare. (So many of them here in the city and living near my nabe.) Or someone on welfare who never has any extra money to spend on their kids’ wants and needs. Every dollar of theirs already spent, so to speak, before it comes into their hands, money was so tight. –And I lost it all. All the cash. In a second. Without any awareness. Could not believe it. Indeed, I refused to.

Alternative theories. Maybe I hadn’t taken the money belt out of the car’s glove compartment. So back to the car. Damn. No. Twasn’t in the glove box. Maybe I’d dropped it somewhere in my entryway. Place is such a mess. Things strewn around on the floor. Not picked up. I pawed through all the household detritus on the floor inside the doorway  over and over. Shoes, boots, old snow shovel, magazines, mail, a trash bag waiting to go out.  I got down  on my knees and pawed through it all again. It must be here. That was my mantra. But nothing could be turned up. I raked my hands through the closets of the entry hall where I had quickly shunted things out of the way, when dragging the armchair by. Dark in the closets and in the hall. I got out the flashlight again to light-up every square inch of floor and I scratched away like a rooting animal at the stuff on the floor. Nothing. I searched under the dining table just past the end of the hall. Again tearing through things, books and papers and shopping bags I had left there, snapping on floor lamps and ceiling lights to make everything clear. Not a thing. I tore through some laundry piles I had taken the chair past. Nothing. I had mislaid things before. But had always recovered them. I could not believe I had lost my savings. There was, at least, about three thousand left in my check-writing accounts for paying rent and car insurance, etc. So I’d survive, and I’d have “cash flow.” But I was devastated. — My ego was on the line: I had made such a big deal of acquiring the pile.

It had set me apart, I felt. It meant I could be a Good Provider Dad. I had means. I could help my young son, Zach, when he needed me. It gave me interesting options. I could buy things and not worry about the money. Zach was renting his first apartment –at Independence Weekend!– One giant step for Zach-kind! I could buy him and his roommate air-conditioners. (I, of course, knew where to get them for a steal.) A perfect, um, “house-cooling” gift. Beginning of summer. But there was so much more: I could pay down on, and begin to buy, a distressed city property. Zach could inherit it. Or I could start a great business with some of the money. I could help the Young Lad Zach with school tuition. I had enough for several semesters of community college or state university. (If he wanted he could take up more studies in a new area. Or do further work with his music studies of recent years.) Also, anything I really needed I could easily afford now. If I wanted a big high-capacity desktop computer, it’d be easy to afford. I could lease a new Honda for 4,000 down and $59 a month. (Fifty-nine a month is half of what one pays for car insurance.) I could give Zach my paid-for car. Some of those things were now out the window. Like George Bush’s surplus in 2K3.

I lost the savings pile, but I would not give in. I took the flashlight back outside and searched again methodically. –I was possessed, I was looking for human remains, scraps of bones and hair under leaves and mould in the woods, in a forensic search.  That’s how it was for my miserly soul. I had to succeed.– Then I came back inside and searched my place again. I kept thinking of a new place to search. I went outside and searched the car again. Over the next few hours, between ten and one, I’d sit, panicked, head in my hands, listening idly to something diverting, a concert on tv, sweating in the night’s humid swelter, going over what might’ve happened, alternate-theory-wise. I went back out several times with the flashlight and with a new angle on how to search. No avail. And then over and over again inside the house. Maybe over by the bedroom door? Or near the bookcase where there was such an upheaval of books piled on the floor. Denial springs eternal in the human ego.

The one thing that could not have been true is, I had fucked-up, I’d been a real dumb ass. But it was true. I really wanted to bawl hysterically. I could feel the tears welling, but I could not weep. I had a lot of plans that were in wreckage now, but I was too allied to denial. I couldn’t let the sorrow come. I wasn’t that kind of guy. But, boy, could I hate! And I hated my life right now! Always had, really.This, now, was a new low. I hated my life. I wanted, as much as I wanted anything, not to live. With the money left I could just get a gun and get it over. Why pay bills? Why try? Why aim for anything? Everything I had ever hoped for had gotten crushed like this. Why continue? Why not resign from the human race?

[THIS STORY UNDER CONSTRUCTION. More when the story is published.]


“C’Mon, All The Doctors, Make Those Ole People Well!”


I am looking, for inspiration, at this unlovely medical encyclopedia image of how literally intertwined are stomach, pancreas, liver, and bile ducts. I’m winding up to tell you the story of my stay, with much bellyaching, in the hospital this past Monday thru Friday. Stomach, pancreas, liver, and bile ducts. I had an apparent attack, an acute inflammation, of them all. Therein I discovered life inside a hospital. And it is, unless you’re dying, or having surgery, a place you’d not want to be. I wasn’t dying. More sort of “livin like I was dyin,” as per country music.  “But I’d a rather die, I’d say, /than go through much more a that.” I’d take a different tack next time, I’m certain. Could a would a should a.

‘Twas late the evening of Superbowl Sunday. A little while before Beyonce Knowles and Destiny’s Other Children did their Kung Fu Thighs dance for our halftime, uh, mmm, delectation. Yeah! Those are some thighs! They’ll surge the powergrid! Know what I’m sayin? And this dance she does, yeah, it goes good with snacks. And lemonade. Goes with everything that makes a man merry. The Ravens were crushing my team’s hopes — this is what the Ravens do, they crush your team’s hopes, its bones and sinews too — and I was stickin to lemonade. Wyler’s no-cal powder mix in a big koolaid fridge jug.

Made no matter today was a major amateur drinking holiday. I was being sober today. I was also in no mood to have anything to drink of my usual evening beers, nor in any mood to go out for a half case of brown longnecks, as I was ill. Also hungover and ill. Hungover from whatever I was doing Saturday. Don’t remember now. But it involved tavern food, pasta and meatballs, garlic bread, sports on TV, and having quite a few beers. More than a sixer, short of a twelve, I’d say about nine max. What the writer John O’Hara called getting “steamed up.” (Like the windows of a car in a bar parking lot? Or as a mighty engine of barroom yackety that exhales steamed hot air? Don’t know.) In any event, alcohol abuse.

Yeah. My name is Mack Maroney, and I’m a drinker! Though not much of one. You’ll never see me throw back a shot, for example, nor drink for more than a couple of hours; by then I’m buzzed thoroughly  and I’ve toddled off to bed. I’m never more than a mile or so from home, I just go home and retire. Often I’ve brought a six-pack home for “just a couple more” while surfing the net or watching the late night news, chucklin at every incongruity in the world, before sleep. Eventually I give it up and go to snoozin. I think you could say I’m a closeted drinker who acts — the other 22 hrs of the day — like he thinks he’s normal. A musician I know wrote a parody song, Secret Drinkin Man (to the tune of Secret Agent Man.) That’s me.

I was quite ill too this particular Sunday night, more than I knew. I thought I was just somewhat hungover from Saturday and extra-ugh, blah. Disgusted would be a good word. I was “treating” my supposed hangover with weird nutrition — jalapeno nacho cheese plus smoked oysters, from a tin, stuffed into split open salty green pimento olives, also succulent dill pickles — just the snack a sixty five year old with practically lifelong hypertension should be having. Next time, some light cottage cheese, maybe some berries, some hot mint tea with honey. A little reason, please.

Really, I think I was in the beginnings of some acute liver inflammation already, as I now can see, and not just hungover. I thought I was just a little ill, like tummy ache ill. I had taken an extra Prilosec, and was hoping for a popped pill solution, a wipe away of distress.  Instead, I became really ill throughout the ballgame. Though I caught every play and every iconic commercial. My fave: The elderly eating Doritos while breaking bad, havin a good ole time tearing up the town, in the style of don’t give a shit gang delinquents, even attracting police suspicion, while on an outing away from the retirement home. I even caught the post-Beyonce power outage of about forty five minutes duration between halves.

The tinned smoked oysters were very unfamiliar and odd tasting “food,” and this ugly snack was not going well with my stomach ache. My stomach was getting to be a hot zone! It was goin nukey leer!, as G.W., our clown prez, mighta put it. And I was starting to get weird persistent hiccups. I never get hiccups. I was “dry” and constantly drinking water. During the halftime power blowout I tried some more “treatment” from the bat room medicine cabinet. Damn, outta Zantac. Mighta really helped to take a good double dose. Will need more. Tried a couple Simethicone chewables. Considered the milk of mag, which might have been best, but I wasn’t thinking slowly and calmly enough, and demurred, not sure. Distracted. Didn’t know what was to come. And I don’t mean San Francisco’s stunning second half resurgence. (Maybe the coach had had them catch Beyonce’s act ?? )

I was getting quite ill, I was a right sick Ole Mackey D. Maroney. Sick as a dog. Sad Maroney Dog. Woof! Morose Mackey Doggy. Dull Woof. No wag. YUCK!  Hic! Hic! By the time of the postgame analysis — Fuckin Ravens! They iced my SF Forty Niners and crushed their hopes in the last ten minutes! — I was in the bat room vomiting yellow stomach bile, something I never do. None of that awful “food” came up.  That would have been such a relief, but no.

I felt I was maybe having some kind of stomach flu like the dread norovirus of this season, the one you can’t prevent with the flu vaccine. Not sure. But I was feeling flu like, aching back, over-warm, heavin, hiccin and yuckin. Though it was midnite I bundled myself into the car real quick like and tootled the mile to the all nite grocery. The outdoor air felt good. Didn’t even think about the beer shelves, went straight to the OTC meds, and got economical small packages of Ranitidine (Zantac), Simethicone, and a new cherry mint Maalox which seemed to offer hope.

I took two Zantacs the moment I got in the car. I swigged the Maalox, a double,  as soon after. Ewww! Nothing makes this stuff tastes good! At least not today! I almost threw up right there. Gag. A half hour later, now back at the abode, I was in the bat room throwin yellow rains of stomach bile, across the tiles, waterward. Ahoy!  It was like LIFE OF PI with Three-D Chrome Yellow Bile Rain! God, I was sick. Also panicked.

When I’d been out on the road for a minute I had thought about going to Urgent Care. I live right in the hospital district and I’m a retired hospital worker, and I’m very familiar with the emergency rooms of numerous local hospitals (from my many years in social work assistant roles, also mental health aide work.) Four of them, ER’s, within a mile or two of me here on Park West.

Tried to lie down. Could not get peaceful. I was agitated, scared. Searing abdominal discomfort. Lower back pain as discomfiting. Maybe those awful smoked oysters were “bad.” Not good, I’m sure. What had possessed me to try them? After lying down and then sitting up repeatedly, I could not settled down at all, I got up again to pee, for about the fourth time, and to drink more water. I got to the tiles and yucked again. “This is getting bad!” I bundled up again, resolving to go to the big metro hospital closest by, to its nifty handy 24 hr Urgent Care which I had never used as a patient. By the time I was in the car, defrosting the windshield of its pointillist dots of rime, I decided, uh, “Nah!  I’m not going to that zoo. Always very busy there on a weekend late night,” I knew.

I redeployed ! I went to the quieter and more orderly Catholic hospital, Santa Rita’s Family Health Partners, a little further up the same road. “Well played,” I told myself, as I parked in the car garage and entered a waiting room that had in it … no one waiting. This waiting room! It’s waiting only for me.“Is it possible for me to see Urgent Care?” I had my  netbook with me, I’d get a little online work done, while I was consulting and being assessed medically. I thought I’d get a good quick Dx — then a licketysplit Rx! — then jet outta there and fill the script at the all nite CVS pharm. (I like to call it the pharm and to think of the pharmacy students who work there assisting as “pharm hands.” I like to picture them in blue jean bib overalls and straw hats, harvesting the pharm produce of Big Pharma.) I’d be back in bed and comfy before dawn, as it was about 0230 or so.

Uh, not so. I was seen right away. And seen right away to be in a dire medical crisis. And I did not see the out of doors for a week. I was interviewed and examined, and I told all about the whale in my abdomen, Reverse Jonah, as above. I was candid about my usual evening diet of heavy foods and beers. They knew they were looking at someone who never comes to the Emergency Department. Last time I’d been there as a patient was fully twenty two years earlier. I had also been in the building for elective surgery — in and out, same day — a couple years ago. They had records of those history blips in their system. I had never had a real hospital stay for acute illness, though as a retired health care worker I had witnessed hundreds of such up close. My god, I was unprepared for what it’d be like. Only the actual patient really knows the experience.

They did my labs, vitals, an EKG. And an abdominal sonogram depicting organs of my epigastrium. Who knew men had abdominal sonograms done? So unexpected. I really liked the sonogram lady, she was indulgent and practically holding my hand. She seemed a kind of needy lonesome plump Catholic temptress. Our Lady Madonna of the Sonogram. She’s rubbing jelly on my belly, squeezing up next to me on my gurney, and running the electronic wand around in the jelly. I wanted a date, my hand on her fine fanny. My hand, in fact, was resting awkwardly athwart her haunches as she would unexpectedly squeeze up against my hip with hers and manipulate the sonogram wand way around The Other Side of Pot Belly Mountain. My hand was trapped, mute, against her ass, between us. I remained “appropriate,” motionless, but sort of secret smilin, lovin it, feelin would-be pervy. Wand me, maybe! Wand me, baby! I was like Carlie Rae Jepsen, just a little exhilarated! I wanted my hands on that ass. She was my type!

I was telling her jokes, “If you find a baby in there, I want at least half the money from The National Enquirer.” She lol’d for me and her hips were shakin and jigglin against the back of my hand. And she never stopped talking, chippering away, normalizing what could have seemed quite awkward. That bustling heinie of hers! It got into your path, and in a real nice way. Not a perfect Beyonce exemplar Size L tush –but an honest XL fanny, a warm and lively one all the same. Not a XXXL  enormity, though. Moderately XL, and awful nice. Really my type! Her biology-chronometer was a ticking-fast timebomb of need. She was nearly forty and “truly beautiful” in my codger’s eyes.  My codger’s eyes/ Saw paradise/ My shakin hands/ Was, uh, in her pants… Well, they coulda been.

In no time I was admitted to the hospital. I barely had time to say I had Medicare. Parts A, B, and D. And I lost track of Miss Sonogram 2013. I have to find a way of looking her up.  But how to explain to her now how I knew her? “Hi, I’m Mackey, the guy you completely restored to sexual functioning by having me on my back covered with jelly, while you rolled over me a hard plastic wand in the jelly for about forty minutes. If it had been four hours, I’d a still been lying there smilin and murmurin jokes. Are you sure what you do is covered by Medicare? — ‘Cause I want it done to me all the time; I want redundant needless billings for your services constantly! Whatever you’re doing with that wand thing, it’s really good for me.”

My Admitting Dx — PANCREATITIS! — Whoah! And I was told by the night doc, “You’re being admitted for inpatient treatment. ” “Pancreatitis? I had a brother in law who died of that,” I quailed. (What to hell is pancreatitis?“No joke, he flat-out died at about age 50, I think.” “Don’t worry, you’re not that sick, Mr. Maroney”  Like he cared! I said I did not, you know, really “get” what pancreatitis even… is ?? It was explained: “Your drinking is slowly killing the cells in your pancreas.” Straight talk! “One of the essential things to do is quit using alcohol.”  Catholic therapy! Also true, I learned. The only treatment is to go dry, to stop consuming, once such an organ failure is found. “You know,” I said, ” …Well then I will quit completely, permanently.” One of my rarer, seriouser moments. I am usually not thus straightforward, earnest. I usually “tell it slant,” and with tongue in cheek.

I was asked, “Mr. Maroney, have you ever been told you have elevated blood glucose levels?” “I have never had high glucose.” I am blown away again! My mother and both her parents had had various degrees of diabetes, from mild and age related to severe and lifelong. But not my dad. I always thought I had his genetics. Fortunately, my mom had had the mildest and most late onset case, which she managed with her very abstemious dietary customs. Woman ate like a bird anyways, figure conscious, always slim and fitting into fashion. Someday soon I’ll have a bizarre dream of Mary S. Maroney at the backyard feeder nibbling on a single seed held in her elegant pale steno’s  fingers, her bony aquiline nose alert to the taste and smell, and eyes vigilant.

I have another brother in law, Ole Murph, still thriving, who has very difficult, very severe, hard to manage problems with diabetes. “Yikes! I was just told I’d need insulin coverage. My God!”  “Your pancreas is having a breakdown today, and it’s not making insulin as it should,” quoth my smug expert interlocutor, Basil Exposition (docwhatshisface of the ER night shift.) “I get my labs done every 90 days or so, by my prescriber Dr. Schlomo Fuhrlicher,” who also works at an Urgent Care affiliated with  Santa Rita’s, who has to be reminded he knows me — he has known me more than a decade — by looking me up in the chart records. I guess I’m unremarkable medically thus far. I guess he has too many patients he doesn’t know. This is not a reassuring experience for the patient, I can say. “He has never found high glucose.”

He’s supposed to remember everyone he’s digitally examined for prostate health? “If I see BOTH your hands on my shoulder, I’m screaming! You know, we haven’t even been out to dinner.” Heh heh. He chuckles, fingering. “You like me! You really like me!” “Heh!” Then Fuhrlicher starts in with his cracks, wiping his hands after ungloving,  “I lose all my best friends like this,” he fake-laments, woeful. Jerk! He can never even recall my name, let alone my history, without the records in front of him, and he always gets the nuances way wrong. “He’s a doctor like a foot doctor’s a doctor!”

He’s on the outer margins and lower slopes of medical acuity. He’s an urgent care clinic owner and administrator, a money maker who offers every imaginable service. He’d clean your ears or trim your toe callouses if he could charge your health care plan for the work. And he has done so!  But for all his eagerness to get involved in the minutiae of my medical care…. “My doctor has never found elevated glucose levels!”  I repeated, insisting. I was asked, Did I know my BP was elevated at about 157/99?Christ!” At Santa Rita’s one feels inclined to prayerful ejaculations this day! Though I ain’t no real religionist, for a certainty.“My BP is always well controlled. Fuhrlicher prescribes me two blood-pressure meds, Amlodipine and Lisinopril. Two, not just one. Mix and match. Take em both every day upon arising. Like a sacred rite, never fail.”  

I remained in the Emergency Department for almost 18 hours (they were having trouble getting a bed freed up in med-surg.) During my time in the ER, 0230 on early Monday a.m. to 2030, when my bed’s previous occupant ultimately got taken home by family — or died ? — I went through every kind of med test. “Open Donut” CT Scans of the chest and abdomen, my somehow strangely erotic sonogram, a Full Body MRI Scan, which was very damn strange, being sealed inside a cylinder for a half hour. (I really hated it, but I managed to tolerate it sufficiently well. Ugh.) I also had to drink quarts of “contrast” for the full scan — it tasted oddly like my Wyler’s lemonade, come to think of it, and I sucked it down in no time. Plus I did repeat blood labs and repeat glucose fingersticks.  A permanent “dwell,”  an intravenous line, was put in my right arm vein near the inner elbow. I was given a med for nausea, Zofran, via the dwell. (They didn’t want me throwing up on their nice expensive hospital.)

I was also told I had signs of liver inflammation — a hardened, painful, and distended liver was palpated for me on the right side of the abdomen, see! — and of dilated bile ducts and of possibly migrating gallstones. “Mom always said, ‘You gotta lotta gall, Mackey!'”  I was told I had been Rx’d a choice of Oxycontin  or IM Morphine for pain — “My God!”— as they didn’t want me taking Nsaids or Acetominophen, the latter being particularly bad for one’s liver at a time of inflammation, I’m told. It was then said I had elevated liver enzymes on my lab results and signs of a fatty liver on the scans — “I’ve never had lab results of that kind!” …not in all my years with Fuhrlicher. Today was a day of reckoning. A day of the proverbial hitting bottom, running aground. I was The Wreck of The Hesperus. “I have, though, recently been treated for a fairly sharp rise in triglycerides. Too much laying around. My only exercise is jumping to conclusions. I take Fenofibrate every day to keep my triglycerides normal.”

I took note of the oxycontin and morphine mentally, but I couldn’t really imagine taking narcotic substances. Why couldn’t I? Well, it seemed out of the question to me, as I never had used them in the past. They seemed quite unnecessary. I was miserably uncomfortable, yes, but I didn’t need such heavy duty pain meds. I was also told I had been Rx’d Ativan. Why was I being offered ativan? I guessed my elevated BP was being seen as a sign of withdrawal from alcohol. I knew so, because I had done such evaluations myself in my working days, charting an alcoholic in withdrawal’s heart rate and blood pressure, and telling a nurse in charge that a person’s pulse and BP were rising. They were getting this all wrong, though. I hadn’t had anything to drink all day, and I was not in withdrawal. I also knew my lifelong high blood pressure could spike simply because I was “stressed out” emotionally. I knew I had never experienced withdrawal symptoms of any kind, and I wasn’t very likely experiencing them now. I had no shakes, for example, nor sweats. No delirium tremens, whatever that is exactly. And I had never taken a benzodiazipine, nor ever needed to.

When it got to be about bedtime up on the med-surg floor, though, I was firmly urged to try the morphine and the tranquilizer, urged by a nurse that was so “permissive” with her med arsenal she was practically throwing a party, it seemed. I hadn’t slept well the previous night in the ER, due to terrible degrees of discomfort and restlessness and I had been sleeping poorly at home, too — so I gave it a try. But I should have simply requested a sleep med, such as Ambien or even Benadryl. Boy, was I surprised, as the morphine made for bizarro, crazy-vivid, briefly psychotic dreams; and the benzodiazipine (ativan) made for a pure blizzard of calcium snows! I was now officially a hospital patient! I was snowed in! “I was out of it!” These were treatments I had never tried before, and they made for extensive recreational snoozing, but also for some degree of loopy disorientation, which I eventually learned to dislike heartily. People woke me up repeatedly at all hours, checked my intravenous line carrying water and NaCl, tested my blood glucose, did repeat labs, measured my vitals with finger clips and pressure cuffs, listened to my bowel and breathing sounds via stethoscopes, whatever, and then I’d roll away again into the whacked out fun house mirror distortions, the insane morphine dreams. I was allowed to sleep and sleep, way past breakfast and  lunch — I was allowed no food nor fluids by mouth anyhow, as I was being “watered” like a hydroponic lettuce through an IV line — and I really didn’t do my re-entry of the ward until Tuesday afternoon.

By that time I truly smelled and looked like a bum. Unshaven, wild bed hair, dressed in this short exam gown rag with — yikes! — openings everywhere like low rent ghetto lingerie, and in bare feet. A most unseductive nightgown wearer, I got myself unhooked from the watering can — Lettuce Alone!  Laissez Nous Faire!  — I struck a blow for lettuces everywhere! — and went down the hall to find a shower and I watered myself, quite self-sufficingly, and got all the rust spots off. I showered sitting down on a chair, being a little weeble wobble in bare feet on soapy tiles. I shaved, brushed teeth, and mouth-washed, all while sitting, and I combed my terrible long hair, now clean yet much in need of a trim. God, I looked awful! Damn, if I wasn’t …YELLOW! Jaundiced! … in the unforgiving fluorescent light of the shower room. Another symptom I had not had before. These past two days! I won’t soon forget.

I scrounged some real hospital clothing items from the staff, some scrubs pants — “All people need to wear pants!” I demanded, a tinpot Hammurabi on a dripping shower chair, and the staff complied with my lawgiving. I also got some of those great traction socks, and a decent scrubs shirt. YAY! Joining the human race, though in the merely provisional category. I no longer looked exactly like a street person. I looked “like a surgeon” in scrubs, a Weird Al Yankovic parody of one, a “surgeon” who had taken quite ill, one who had an intravenous line in his arm, one who had a jaundiced complexion (and outlook), a bad hairstyle, and weird socks for footwear. Clearly not a real medico. You can’t dress this stuff up, try as you might.

The previous afternoon I’d texted Shannie, my former wife, and Zachy, my young son, saying I wouldn’t be able to attend Zachy’s performance — guitar and vocals — at a local cafe, his first, at age 21, because I was ill and I was “visiting the Urgent Care.”  So sorry. And I texted Shannie’s sister Chris to say I couldn’t help with her dog’s vet visit. Tuesday I sent texts saying I was admitted to Santa Rita’s — my texted headlines were coming about a day after what they were announcing — and, no, I didn’t want to see people really. I was feeling “out of it” and unlikely to be cheered up by visits. I’d just fall asleep in the middle of conversations, that kind of thing.  I was in no mood. And I looked like hell! I’d be out in a day or two, I said. I asked how Zachy’s night at the cafe had gone. He had had a great time being a performer, something he had finally screwed up the nerve to really do! And he had partnered with a friend, they gave each other courage. Sorry, I missed it. ‘Sokay, there’d be more such evenings in the future, he assured. He was gracious. Nice.

Shannie texted back, Did I want anything? Didn’t immediately realize what to ask for, so I let that pass. A word to all readers about hospital stays:  What any person admitted to a hospital wants, whether they quite know it or not, is something decent to wear (the full kit, p.j.’s, robe, underwear, socks, slippers) and something serene and pleasant to listen to, a radio. They don’t want any damn magazines or flowers, as nicely intended as those might seem. Naturally, Shannie showed up the next afternoon unauthorized, flowers and magazines in hand.  She’s a good egg. The nurses, especially the foreign ones, were impressed: “She wants you to be her Valentine!” Their reading of the red flowers, heart shaped tulips. Shannie is a flower person. She would’ve welcomed flowers, it it were her in the Big House of the Sick. She is a painter, and she had just completed a sequence of 26 flower blossom paintings ala O’Keefe. She had flowers on the brain, and she has always been an avid gardener. She didn’t need no stinkin Valentine! Certainly not this bum.

I had brought with me my smart phone (I’d rate its IQ as undistinguished), my netbook, and my device chargers, but I couldn’t focus to read on the internet. I’d get tired and “out of it” right away. “Out of it”  was my heraldic motto, a discharged dripping morphine syringe needle rampant, leaning insouciantly against a bottle of tranqs, that was my coat of arms on a field of gold stars, silver moons, shimmerin auroras in a dark blue Klondike skyscape of 24 hour midnight. A little of my roommate’s TV news channel, between my tossings and turnings, and soon it was night again. I was passive, and I again didn’t ask for a mere “sleeper.” I took oxycontin and ativan. Hmm? What was I up to in acquiescing to this hospitalism, this g’night my snoozy baby routine?  I was asked, How would I rate my pain? What to say? “Uh, about 7 or 8 out of 10.”  Whatever! I was on the snoozed cruise, after having been sleepless a lot in recent days at home. It seemed the pragmatic opportune thing to do, take the proffered pills and erase my discomfort. Turn out the lights. Maybe, while thus resting and being watered, I’d get better. Lettuce Hope!

Communicants of Santa Rita’s, Lettuce Pray! Pray for improved labs upon the morrow for all our old and abandoned sons of the working class, and especially for one Mackey Maroney!  May he be discharged into the Lettuce Fields of the Lord where he will want for nothing — except for beer, it is a serpent’s poison — as he harvests the bounty of the Social Security and the Medicare. Parts A, B, and D. And may he have pajamas with him, slippers, drawers, socks, robe, maybe a nice sleeping cap with tassels —  and, lo, comprehensive cable TV! —  next time he’s in these precincts. Ora pro nobis.

Ora pro nobis. Nunc et in hora mortis. Ave Santa Rita! Benedicta tu in mulieribus!


THIS STORY UNDER CONSTRUCTION.  More when the story is published.


Cliff Notes

The Cliff! The Cliff! The Fiscal Cliff!

It’s now a matter of when, not if,

We go over the rim. Pay Deductions will rise.

Public Budgets will trim. Millionaires’ eyes

Will well to the brim, hypothetically.

Workers’ too, more pathetically.


Costs then increase. GDP slows.

Unemployment surely grows.

This is not the time

For this dumb debt-reckoning.

No matter the drama,

The cliffhanger beckoning.

Boehner’s dumb Thelma,

Obama’s tectchy Louise,

These are not the roles

They should be in, puh-leeze!

They should not refuse funds

For governance. Nor grant funds

For debt service all at once.

To both I say, Art Ye A Dunce?!


Their elaborate game of chicken

Truly starts to sicken.


Hey, who says you can’t write a poem about stalling GDP growth, increased payroll deductions, decreased public spending, slow job growth rates, and austerity program debt-bombs, the whole damn macro picture of our stagnating national economy under our leaders’ timid middleroad guidance? ~MDM

Invasive Procedures

The Warrior Presidency

Does anyone remember President Obama when he was a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination and an underdog?  He was a supposed Peace Movement candidate, chanting ‘Bring The Troops Home’ to entranced young supporters, first-time voters, and he was an insurgent seeking to challenge front-runner Hillary Clinton who had voted for war with Iraq, he said.

Where I live in New York State we all voted for Hillary in the primary, and we wondered who Senator Obama was. We soon found he was the leader of a new kind of campaign and the leader of a mass movement, a children’s crusade made up of innumerable passionate young supporters, that overtook Hillary, much the way Eugene Mc Carthy and Robert Kennedy overtook Lyndon Johnson in the Vietnam War era.

MoveOn.Org paid for many an expensive ad campaign on Obama’s behalf.

The minute Senator Obama defeated Hillary Clinton and became the party nominee his campaign shook-out the Etch A Sketch, and he began to position himself as more reliably a stalwart of the Defense Establishment than even many Republicans could hope to be.  He had had MoveOn.Org‘s support when he needed it, then he moved on.

The next phase of campaigning wasn’t about winning the support of anti-war youth, it was about winning among “independent” voters in rather unenlightened conservative “battleground” states, where he felt he needed to out-Republican the Republicans.  Places like Ohio. Places like Florida. Like Pennsylvania. The Benighted States Of America. These voters were not so much “independent” as dithering really, but in any case they were not aligned with either party, “undecideds” –and “uninformeds” as well, I’d say. Often “uneducateds.” I could go on.

Plus, the Great Candidate of Hope had the Recession of 2008 —  it could be argued it was another Great Depression actually, as the financial system had to be rescued from near-collapse–  to distract everyone from the fact that … he never mentioned his anti-war message again.  Suddenly investors’ 401Ks were becoming 101Ks, and now people weren’t thinking about the folly of George W. Bush’s invasion of an already-crushed Iraq– they were losing their shirts!

Senator  McCain’s campaign was hopeless on the Republican side on all issues, foreign and domestic, and when Mr. Obama easily became President, the first thing the supposed anti-war candidate did was to authorize a big expansion of the United State’s arguably illicit program — one of George W. Bush’s patented follies– to launch drone missile strikes into Pakistan, a sovereign nation, often killing Pakistani civilians along with purported terrorist targets. Such strikes have been launched in Afghanistan, much to President Karzai’s horror, on the Arabian Peninusla in Yemen, and in Africa. The United States somehow had arrogated to itself the right to make armed incursions anywhere we announced that we are fighting terrorism.

The second thing Mr. Obama did was to plump for a big increase– a surge– in American troops in Afghanistan, another foolish Bush war aim. We have now been in Afghanistan for more than ten years, after going there to chase Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar across the countryside, which took but a few weeks. (The Pottery Barn rule had applied, once we “broke it,”  we then “own it,” and Afghanistan  and then Iraq became Fifty-First and Fifty-Second States we were administering, with budgets of billions.)

I sure wondered whether MoveOn.Org was considering their ad money well spent at this point, but MoveOn.Org had, well, moved on pragmatically, as Americans do.  Their new ads were about something else, I forget what, but I was stuck where I had been all along, my mouth gaping open,  wondering what happened to ‘Bring The Troops Home,’ with all that had implied about focusing on domestic priorities and the arts of peace. I had been had!

I had voted for the Great Candidate in the general election and I really hoped he would fight to reverse the direction of the Bush presidency, which had given me the shudders, it was so demented.

I have come to realize that in foreign policy we have two Republican Parties. One is the Democratic Party!  I think of the Dems as the Democratic Republican Party. And I see President Obama as very interested in being an honorary Republican or a Repub Lite, so to say.

In fact, the president’s re-election campaign now wants to make hay with the idea that his administration made an armed incursion into Pakistan and killed Osama Bin Laden, the financier-sponsor and inspirational leader of the September 11th attacks on New York and Washington. The president is a bold man of action, a warrior.  Who knew? Last I had known he was a professor and an organizer. Again, he accomplished one of Bush’s aims– to move heaven and earth to “get” Bin Laden– damn the consequences to our domestic programs budget, to international law, and to the world’s opinion of the U.S.

Plus, due to the Arab Spring of 2011, Mr. Obama had the great good fortune of helping to “get” Col. Kaddafi of Lybia, as the U.S. authorized bombing of Kaddafi loyalist positions in the Lybian civil war. Another terrorist bites the dust!  George Bush really has a lot to be proud of in his Young Republican Mentee,  Barry Obama.

Recently the Obama administration leaked to the New York Times’ David Sanger that they had disabled the Iranian nuclear development program for years, until 2010, via a cyber-attack, a virulent computer worm named Stuxnet,  at first something our proxies the Israelis had supposedly done. Now, though, in the election campaign, the administration is eager, via leaks, to take credit for the attack, for being more effectively Republican than Bush,  more real-world experienced than Gov. Romney– and very prone to acts of war, undeclared war. And these acts of war will result in retaliatory cyber-attacks on our critical infrastructure. The genie has been let out of the bottle (just as with weaponry) and cyber-security experts in other nations can now study our C.I.A.’s Stuxnet and learn to replicate it and improve on it. They spend a couple million dollars in development money and they have their own Stuxnet Two aimed at our power plants, water treatment facilties, you name it. This is the new nuke. Writers of ripped-from-the-headlines sci-fi thrillers, nota bene.


I’ve gotten used to all these shocks, but recently I read the Spring issue of Foreign Affairs, in which it was argued that now is the time to bomb Iran !!!  This year.

A serious realpolitick proposal was laid-out  arguing that there is little time after this year to destroy Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, before it becomes too well-secured in underground bunkers. The article argued the U.S. should launch a pre-emptive attack on Iran, before Israel has a chance to attack Iran, so as to help prevent a Middle-East conflagration between Iran and Israel, which might involve other Arab League states joining in on Iran’s side.

And I got to thinking… this year !!!

This year is an election year, and the President isn’t doing so well in the polls of likely voters, approval ratings, that sort of thing, because of the anemic economy. Hmmm. Mitt Romney is looking like a kind of new improved soap for sale to those supposedly independent — or  just out-to-lunch– independents, and he is surging ahead in polls. Hmmm. Plus, Romney is outdoing the Obama campaign in fundraising and spending.

If these kinds of proposed war scenarios are being made public by serious establishment journals like Foreign Affairs, certainly the president gets presented confidentially with real world options of this kind, as well.

I fear — but I wanly hope it is not true — that we may see a big showdown with Iran this summer,  just before the fall campaign swing, the president acting very, ahem, Republican and confronting Iran over the nuclear issue, and Mitt Romney having to stay in Obama’s shadow and agree with the establishment opinion, all in a bid to present Mr. Obama as out-hawk-ing the right-wingers. If it takes the threat of war, so be it. And if it takes the launching of missiles…?  Well, it has been done before. The Bill Clinton administration (also of the Honorary Republican Persuasion) launched missiles into jihadist training camps in Afghanistan without any regard for that nation’s sovereignty, and without any concern there might be dissent at home.

How different really has President Obama’s take on Iran been from President Bush’s? Well, he didn’t trump-up an “axis of evil”  meme, I’ll give him that, but he’s been just as hard-line. He’s just more polished, more presentable really, than George Bush. And rather more deceptive and disappointing on foreign policy. We knew Bush was transparently a fool, but with our new president we had to discover gradually how much he had quaffed the Defense Establishment Koolaid. 

If such a dangerous, costly, and murderous bombing attack is in the cards, you can almost count on the Iranians to offer plenty of provocation, such as proud announcements about how they are developing new missile-launching capabilities and improved warheads to protect Iran from Israel. The U.S. need only seize on these, magnify their “significance,” and make a big public opinion campaign on U.S. and European television, do some grandstanding at the U.N. in New York, and then launch a bombing attack, thus completely obscuring the Republicans in the campaign.  Wag the Dog!

Maybe even Colin Powell can be trotted out for a little bipartisan dog-waggin exhibition.

Also, as U.N.-ratified trade embargoes are really hurting Iran — does this remind anyone of the lead-up to our senseless attack on Iraq? — Iran has, at times, talked provocatively of using its naval patrol boats to close the strategic Strait Of Hormuz. And of mining it!  But, as it is a strategic route for oil exported from Saudi Arabia to the West, this is merely talk of retaliation, because U.S. Navy ships based near the Persian Gulf, including aircraft carriers and mine-sweepers, could completely outdo any Iranian efforts there, and will. They want to find mining of the Strait so badly, it’s their reason for being.

Foreign Affairs in its article estimated  a bombing and missile campaign of several weeks would be necessary, in order to destroy Iran’s air defenses (its Air Force, its Navy in the Persian Gulf, also its ground-to-air missile installations.) Huge bunker-buster bombs would be needed to get at the Iranian nuclear facilities.

What the journal did not immediately assess is the attendant cost to the reputation of the United States, throughout the developing world, of such a preemptive assault. I hope against hope that our very own Nobel Peace Prize winner, Barack Obama, doesn’t bring us to such a crisis. Why was it he won the prize? Yes, for  keeping Israel from attacking Iran.

And, of course, we’d have new Pottery Barn breakage on our hands, the great and ancient nation of Persia in ruins, if this proposed attack came to pass.


We desparately need another party to vote for, I’d opine, wearily. Hope and Change, the 2008 bywords, were always too flimsy to carry the freight and get us to the kind of social change we need.

Let’s not move on, let’s get back to basics. Did anyone ever hear of  not getting into entangling war-alliances? Of Swiss-style neutrality? Of minding our affairs and staying home? I say we go without alliances, not in West Asia, not in the Middle East, not in Europe, not in the Far East. We’re on a separate continent and we have our own free trade zone. Why should we be attempting to rule the world? We should simply treat all nations with some even-handed fairness and stop adopting our allies’ enemies as our enemies. We should have none– malice towards none– and we’d set an example that would be brilliant.

Certainly Ron Paul of the Libertarian Party is earnest when he states he would argue for withdrawing from all foreign war committments, but he’s a Rightist, a genuinely more radically conservative Republican than the Republicans. We need a Ralph Nader sort of candidate, someone whose ideas are well thought-out and can be taken more seriously.

This year I’ll vote for the Greens or for The Working Families Party. We need  a Working Families Whose Sons Were Sent To War Party.

Long name but it says it all.

~ by Michael Dennis Mooney


A few corrections to my rhetoric above:

Pottery Barn has no such actual rule as, “You break it, you own it.”  It was simply a catch-phrase among Bush Administration officials debating various courses of action, mainly whether to just attack and leave — or attack and occupy. Attack and occupy seems to be costing us alot. Attacking at all seems poorly thought-out. So how about some new policy options and a new catch-phrase, which could save us trillions in U.S. Dollars over the decades. And we should save our servicemen for something far less experimental than trying to make Afghanistan a modern nation.

MoveOn.Org continues to support many Obama Campaign positions, such as on health care, but they remain quite silent on the ten-year Afghanistan War.

Later issues of Foreign Affiairs do include responding letters and articles that argue against the proposal of attacking Iran, but I had written this when the Spring issue was just out. My jaw had hit the floor.