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Monday, May 31, 2010

MY FRIENDS

bark



Judy and I went on a walk in the afternoon yesterday. Right away I found this tree trunk with bark I didn't recognize. I looked up at the leaves, way up there, and they seemed to favor wild cherry. Wild cherry bark makes patterns similar to this, but it's also very different. And beside it was a another tree I didn't recognize as native. It could also be that it's been so many years since I've spent time in the forest I've forgotten much, so much that everything looks brand new. It's like I've seen it all before, and it's fresh and new at once.



I like spending time with my friends. Lucas and Judy are my friends individually. It took a little while, in years, to get used to Judy, a Brooklyn Yankee, just cultural characteristics, the like of which she had to get used to with me, a Reb, and Lucas, also a Reb. Her Brooklyn accent made her an outsider in the South. They settled at Conyers, GA, east of Atlanta on I-20, and Judy has been in the public school system all the way along. She taught 8th grade for several years, burned out and took up counseling, which she's been comfortable with ever since. She intended to wait a couple years, but the administration at the school has changed, reverse racism is the standard and they want her out as much as she wants out. Wrong skin color. In Judy's experience of the South, she's assimilated well and gets along well. In herself, she feels neither Yankee nor Southern, just herself. The Civil War is no issue for her.



The Civil War is a very big issue for Lucas. He's read about it all his life, has shelves of books about it and picture books of b&w photographs. I happened to see the Civil War movie, GLORY, before he did. His first question when I mentioned it was, "How did they depict the Southern army?" I said, "Redneck farm boys." He said, "That's what they were." Lucas's other war fascination is VietNam. He has a lot of shelves of books about the war, picture books, fiction, the works. He went to a University in Belgium for a semester to teach a course on the fiction of the VietNam War. I believe he taught such a course at Oxford U in England, as well. He has taught the course at Emory too. His interest in the war has largely been inspired by his year of "duty" there. I don't believe he had any truly traumatic experiences, office work mostly. He didn't come home with post-traumatic stress, or if he did, I never noticed. Like me, his post-traumatic stress is with him all his life, the stress of growing up in the same house with a parent who came home from WW2 with it.



Lucas has done equally extensive reading in philosophy, literary criticism such as deconstruction and the other things they write about. Every once in awhile in extended conversation he will outline a line of development in a particular branch of lit crit and I love it. You might say he understands what he reads. He's a true intellectual in the real meaning of the word. He's not what Nixon and Agnew called an "effete intellectual," though they would have called him that. He and Judy were of a way of seeing that Ronald McDonald Reagan made into a bad word, "liberal," all of it coming to mean there is no place in the Republican Party for Lucas Carpenter. He thinks too much. He pays attention. He aint one of them, though he already knew it. He's not somebody those people fool easily, so they call him an effete intellectual and his voice is neutered by stupid politicians. Lucas is a Noam Chomsky kind of character who can read history and current events and see patterns of human behavior running through them, sees the propaganda for what it is. He's not fooled by shyster politicians, ever.



Lucas is not the kind of intellect to lose touch with his own humanity. He enjoys all kinds of people, likes knowing a wide variety of people, never holds himself higher than anyone just because he reads a lot, never talks down to anyone, ever, for any reason. And he's a popular professor, personable with the kids, actually appreciates them individually, just turned down an offer to be a Dean, because he'd rather work with the students face to face, the old-time way. He's about teaching, not administration. By now so many generation gaps have gone by that he feels in a foreign country with MP3s, iPods, iPads, kindel, blackberry, twitter. He doesn't get any of it and doesn't want to. But probably will. Like going from LPs to cassettes to CDs to downloads. Lucas would rather read a book. He golfed until a real estate developer bought the golf course and made a subdivision of it.



We were Dylan fans all the way along, included with us Lucas's sister, Jeanette, and her husband, Ty, in Atlanta, Norcross. They went to UGa in Athens. Ty became an advertising photographer and Jeanette teaches in a school for kids new here from other countries to help them with English at the same time they teach them so they can understand. Something along that line. I know she'd ammend that quite a bit, but might agree it's uneducatedly close. Like it missed, but it was close. When we were all much younger, before their kids were born, I forget how we all managed to come together for Dylan's first concert tour in Atlanta in whatever year that was, and the 5 of us went to the concert together. We had a ball. We were all such Dylan fans it was like a bonding event for all of us. To this day it rates at the top of the list of concerts each one of us has seen, before or since.



Lucas and Judy and I talked a good bit of Dylan this weekend, exclamations of how his most recent albums are the best ever. He started out making great albums, continued to all along the way. It was like he started at the top and got better and better. His last 2 albums are like beyond anything I've ever heard. Every song he writes, every song he sings is done with authority. Dylan is a phenomenon we have watched evolve and each of us appreciating him for our own reasons. Back when Lucas and I were at College of Charleston we talked meaning it that Dylan is rare as a Shakespeare, a Mozart, a Michaelangelo. We talked that way among ourselves. It didn't do to talk it too loud around people who don't listen to Dylan. I hold Dylan as one of the great artists of the 20th century with Brancusi, Duchamp, Rauschenberg. A poet the likes of Rimbaud. We always like to talk about Dylan and hear his music. Not exclusively, by any means. We sit on the deck with glasses of wine looking at the trees and sky, music playing inside the house behind us, every kind of music.

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