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red jammies


Sunday night. Tomorrow's a holiday. I could pull down a new book to read. Two I want to get after: "The American South: a history", and "Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition". I wonder how many people have considered that, without the American South, there would be no American Civ. As for things medieval, I am a sucker for the time period. As one editor of Goliard poetry of the 13th C put it, the West was young then, had young eyes, had young skin responsive to the tingle of sensations. Failing that, I could surf on You Tube, ferret out all those delightful videos. Bobby Darin performing "Mack the Knife" in 1959, age 23, a particularly sweet find. Or Santana playing "Europa" with the great Gato Barbieri. What a trove of pop culture You Tube has become. A repository. Or, if feeling particularly brain dead, which I'm not, I could turn on the TV. I was 55 before a set was allowed into any of my homes. My several partners had a hard time with that one. Only got a TV because a friend felt sorry for me after a particularly devestating break up and gave it as a gift. But to me a TV is like the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. You tend to forget it is there. But I got a fun story to tell. And I can finally tell it, since, my friend is dead, has been dead for maybe five years.

Donald was one of the most generous men I've ever known. And with a wicked sense of humor. My senior by at least 20 years, there was somehow a brother sense between us. It can probably be explained, at least partially, by how we have both been devoted to women and forever chasing skirt. I think in the end I am smarter than was Donald. He only gave up after marrying 7 times. I took voluntary retirement after 4 liasons. Donald was also worldly and cultured. When a young man he was expat for awhile, living and teaching in an Istanbul of the 50s much friendlier to the American Empire. Returning to America he ended up working for various local affiliates of PBS and NPR. Mostly a music director. But he was involved in all the arts. Last place of employment was Bismark, ND. By the time we met he was confined to a wheel chair. The last couple of times we had conversation, either on line or on the phone, a stroke had debilitated him such that he could neither type clearly or talk.
  
I said he had a wicked sense of humor. One year he sent out a Christmas card to all his friends. It is a group photo. Donald is in the middle, sitting, and surrounded by young friends. They are all dressed in the garb of hillbillies or white trash, one young girl has a missing front tooth. Immediately behind them is an old camper trailer with green mold on its panels. The yard is littered with broken down cars and kitchen appliances. They are all carrying rifles. And they have all raised the middle finger to the camera. Caption simply reads: Merry Christmas. One Easter he sent out another seasons type greeting card. He is lying on a bed, on his side, butt naked, with one leg pulled up and over the other. He is wearing a Playboy bunny cap and that is all. Donald was corpulant. So you can imagine how grotesque the scene was. And still that simple caption: Happy Easter.

I also said he was a generous man. He must have sent me 20 CDs, books of poetry, and one gift I still can't figure out. Three antique silver spoons. The most precious gift he sent is a book called "Heloise and Abelard: a twelfth century love story". (Remember my love of things medieval.) An extraordinary story involving two extraordinary personalities. One of the greatest philosophers of all times who, until broken by one St. Bernard of Clairvaux, went toe to toe with both the Church and Scholastic philosophy. The crazy Frenchman, Antonin Artaud, said of Abelard something like he swatted at God as if at a gadfly. And then there was Heloise, the 18 year old girl Abelard seduced when he was in his thirties, and to whom he wrote poetry that got broadcasted and recited in Parisian streets by university students, and who proved to be his greatest student. Late in life, after Abelard was forced to recant, and after he renounced his passions, Heloise got pissed, really angry. In letter after carefully argued letter she reminds him of what he taught her and of what the life of the intellect means. No compromise, no cheating on the nature of truth. An incredible woman and I think possibly the greater thinker of the two. That book, its story, did a number on me. Something snapped. Damn near physically felt it was. Not long after I broke off a lousy relationship. Funny to think on the subversive impact a story can have on one. No wonder some people consider books dangerous.

I first met Donald through a mutual friend in an on line poetry chatroom. He had two screen names but I can't remember the one he used for conducting usual business. (I just remembered. PR Target.) red jammies, his second screen name, I remember better. Back in those days, 10 years ago say, poetry chatrooms were rife with trolls and trolling. Mostly it was done by men whose favorite targets were lonely, often recently divorced, women who had come to poetry for solace. Emotionally damaged women, that is. I remember one guy, a real SOB, possibly a psychopath, with a gift for the right kind of poetic come on, whose specialty was just that, emotionally damaged women. Boy. He had the predator's instinct for sorting out the hurting ones in the herd. One of his victims confided in me. Leaving out the sordid details here. I learned he was an educator associated with a church. And it wasn't just men. Women too. I got burned twice. Three times actually. But that is a different story. Funny to think on. People come to poetry for different reasons, not all of which are disinterested. Me, I come to poetry because without it I cannot live. But the trolls, the sexual predators, are in a class entirely there own.

Now enter red jammies. Donald, lifelong lover of women that he was, got what was going down. So he created a persona. red jammies. She was 16 or so, in high school, loved poetry, loved talking about herself in her poetry, a real innocent, an engenu, a jeunne fille, all of the above. Always demure and grateful for instruction. I loved watching red jammies in the act. She was good at it. Measured in the way an angler is measured, feeling the slack, then the tension in his line, playing the line a little, then the bait taken and the hook set. I never asked Donald about the conversations that must have ensued in private chat. Didn't feel I had to. Besides, our friendship was of a different caliber. I knew what he was doing, he knew I knew, which was enough. But it was fun to watch. And I could imagine the degree of salivating going on every time the act got played. He never busted his victims. He couldn't. The game would have been up. red jammies would have had to retire. But then the scheme morphed into something larger.

It was a literary hoax. Not ready yet to give out the identifying particulars. But Donald created a young girl just out of high school and living in south LA. First name was Tonya. She was the product of a Catholic education. Her school was attached to the Cathedral of Saint Whogivesashit. She knew about priests, what they wanted. She knew about boys, and what they wanted. She knew about the sort of sadistic nuns I remember from my days in a parochial school. Tonya's Sister Constapatia is particularly memorable. She also knew about politics, the mechanisms resulting in poverty, and that her mother was forever lying to her about things, mostly about her chances for getting out. Quite the wise girl, Tonya was. Wit acerbic. I count 51 poems in all. Donald published it under the title "Wilted Visions". He let me play a small part in the production. First, he needed a forward. So I wrote one in which I liken Tonya to Rimbaud, Dickinson, Sexton, Dylan Thomas, even to the 18th C Thomas Chatterton. The name Donald gave me tickles still: V. Beauregard Aquila des Plaisis. Then he needed Tonya to intro herself. So I did or she did. I drew on all the young and old women I've known over the years who, by age 16, know that neither America or men make for a fit environment in which to live. All in 3 paragraphs, maybe the salient of which is that Tonya's only sense of direction comes from the outbound traffic noise of I 10.

Donald/red jammies/Tonya. Possibly I would not have liked Donald when he was in his prime. Since I didn't know him then it is not something I need to think on. We both got pilloried for the hoax, Donald naturally more than me. The times are so wierd, shrill and strident, getting more so every day. My riposte to Donald's critics has been: how does a novelist create a little world if he cannot get inside all of his creations or all of her creations? Donald dedicated his Tonya poems to a younger woman he met on line, who he said "kicked him back into the arena, commanded him to write." He ended it this way: I love you, Dear Sister. But, after his death, she put him down for his hoax, called it snarky. I think that is what broke his heart finally. I think all he was trying to do with his Tonya poems was to tell his sisters he finally gets it, gets their side of the divide.

Last edited by Terreson, May/30/2011, 1:43 pm
May/30/2011, 12:47 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: red jammies


Fun. I wrote this last night in one piece. No deliberation, no forethought. A true field note. Maybe something of a memorial as well.

Tere
May/30/2011, 2:10 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: red jammies


Tere,

This a fascinating story on several levels. I had no idea what a predators' paradise the poetry boards could be! I've got to re-read the parts about the hoax...I'll be back.

As for writing straight to the screen, sure seems to work for you.

Chris
May/30/2011, 5:41 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Thanks, Chris. Yeah. It was a real eye opener. Back then I came to the circuit like a kid walking into a candy shop. Wide eyed and idealistic even. A real rube. Anyway, I miss Donald. Likely he was a tarnished knight. But I think I am right in my assessment of him in his last days.

Tere
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Because brought back to mind, rereading Donald's Wilted Visions. I've decided something, at least tentatively.

So Donald was in his seventies when he created the persona of Tonya, a young woman living in south LA, at odds with her mother, with Catholicism, with the designs of boys on her body, with the stupidities of other girls, at odds even with her own body, then wrote poems in her voice. What was he actually about? Was it all a hoax, a trick played on the lit establishment and on men, the likes of whom he probably knew all too well, being one of them? Or was there something else at play.

Donald was not ambulatory in those years. Mind still sharp. I wonder. Was he driven to give voice to his anima, the feminine face of his soul, his inside sister, who he knew was trapped, had no other option, bound to die when he died. I think it possible.

Tere
Jun/5/2011, 12:06 am Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Christine98 Profile
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I think it just boils down to: folks don't like to be made fools of. Do you have any of Tonya's poems around? Could you post them here? How about the forward or introduction written by V.? What a couple of rascals.

His feminine face? Why not...we should all write from a radically altered POV on a regular basis... note to self...

Chris

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Thanks for the invitation, Chris. I was already considering posting a few of the Tonya poems. Your encouragement is all I needed. Poems to follow

Tere
Jun/5/2011, 2:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: red jammies


Here is a Tonya poem. Editor's note: "uncle" is Tonya's euphemism for the men who come to visit her mother late in the night.

Disillusioned

Sometimes relatives (I'm not counting uncles
that visit late at night) will take me aside and ask
"Tonya, when are you gonna get married? After all,
you just turned twenty and you're kind of cute."
Married? My mother dragged me to a wedding
up at Father Zlotnik's church. It was a real hot
day and the wedding was supposed to start in
the late afternoon. The church was packed with relatives
(I am one of them, but won't admit it).

The music starts. "Here comes the bride."
In this case it should have been,
"Here comes the cow, following the plow."
But it was just bridesmaids and ushers
who were so drunk they couldn't have walked
if the girls hadn't been holding them up. One
of the ushers stumbled and his hipflask
bounced along the aisle (I picked it up
and didn't give it back).

Then came the flower girl who peed her pants
so bad that the ring bearer had to try to walk
around the puddle. And then the music got louder
and down the aisle comes Elsie the Borden Cow
on the arm of her current father. He was
more loaded than all the rest.
And the bride? My God, she was seven
months pregnant I swear, unless she broke
her contract with Wheight Watchers.

Somehow Father Zlotnik and the groom
hoisted her up the altar steps (she had walked
through the flower girl's puddle and her train
was ruined). The rest is history, I guess.
The marriage lasted two years.
Not for me, thank you.


Tonya Thibadaux
Jun/5/2011, 4:22 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: red jammies


Can't resist. Here is the intro I made in Tonya's voice. I think I got her right.


Introduction

It is so hot here. What makes them think I know anything except I want to leave Bayou Teche and my brothers? That man in town who saw me writing and wanted to see my poetry now says my voice is like the red of the river. But I don't know what he means. Cousin Felicity said she knows, but when I asked her to explain she went quiet and looked at her baby. I just know I am hot and I am not in the mood to say something about my poems tonight.

I read somewhere that a poem is only finished in despair. So, is that why so many people write poetry? Anyway, it doesn't make sense. I know when I have finished a poem. It is something I just know the way you know when the band closes down and you stop two stepping on the dance floor. I guess music makes more sense somehow. Besides, Sister Robaine showed me the last lesson in despair I need to know. I never got the G in writing class right. When she gave up, so did I, and my hand no longer got rapped with her ruler.

The man in town says I should talk about myself. He says it will give people something to go on when reading my poetry. But I don't know what to say. I don't know about me. I'm hot tonight. I like better when a hurricane comes up from the Gulf. The interstate noise gives me a sense of direction. The library doesn't have enough poetry books. And I guess I see things Felicity says are strange to her. Well, really, I don't want to be anymore personal than that. He will just have to be satisfied.

I don't think about my poetry. It is the lagniappe* of my soul.

*Acadian for something extra, like a baker's dozen.


Tonya Thibidaux
Jun/5/2011, 4:44 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: red jammies


Hi Tere,

You have a gift for capturing and conveying unique characters, as this portrait of Donald demonstrates. This sketch has the added bonus of revealing a bit about the unique character of the narrator as well. Reading this field note made me realize that in order to create interesting characters, the writer probably has to be one him/herself!

The asides in Tonya's poem are pretty funny:

(I am one of them, but won't admit it).

(I picked it up
and didn't give it back).

(she had walked
through the flower girl's puddle and her train
was ruined).

As is the ending:

The rest is history, I guess.
The marriage lasted two years.
Not for me, thank you.

I like the introduction you made in Tonya's voice. Judging from the one poem by Donald you posted, you did a fine job working with the character he created, and I hope it isn't sacrilegious to say I found your version of Tonya's voice a smidgen more believable.

Red jammies, red river and a literary hoax all rolled into one online escapade, you say? emoticon Fun stuff all around, except I guess for the people who felt punked. They must never have heard of Marianne Moore's "imaginary gardens with real toads in them."

Last edited by Katlin, Jun/5/2011, 8:17 pm
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Christine98 Profile
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Thanks for posting the poem and intro, Tere. She is a wonderful character.

Chris
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Terreson Profile
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Thanks for indulging me, board buddies. As for my intro in Tonya's voice, Donald didn't give me much to go on. I asked for some of her poems. He sent me maybe 4. That was the extent of my dossier on her. But I got enough to get she was a misfit, an idealist, and, what is always uncomfortable, a thinker. More Tonya poems to come.

Tere
Jun/6/2011, 7:03 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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An example of Tonya's sense of humor, and maybe of her rebellious instinct.

Anarchy

I am thinking of starting a sin-in at the church.
You have heard of sit-ins and sing-ins, but a sin-in
would be an endless line of sinners who would
tie up the confessionals (there are two) with
weird confessions. After the good old Bless me father
or, in the case of Father Zlotnik, bless me fatso
there would be confesssions of raping nuns in the mall,
peeing in the font, writing dirty words in the hymnals,
decorating the altar with condoms...stuff like that...
I bet some of the bums would create doozies.

And after all that, when the doors are closed,
the church is always locked, it would be
business as usual.

Tonya Thibidaux
Jun/12/2011, 5:20 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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