My visual, audio and literary stuff is free here, but my hold-in-your-hands books, prints, and CDs cost real money. If you want to buy something tactile from me, contact me at stujenks at gmail dot com, or message me on Facebook. If you simply want to look and read for free, that's fine too, but don't hesitate to send me your sofa change. My snail mail address is P.O. Box 161, Tucson, Arizona 85702. Keep those cards and letters coming. And sofa change too. Love and light, Stu.
Leashed: A Performance Piece by Stu Jenks, 608 Airport Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (c) 1978, 2016
(with Manfred the Wonder Dog at my feet. Inspired by the German artist Joseph Beuys.)
1) Find a good length of heavy jute rope. At least 15 feet long.
2) Tie one end around your waist, the other to the front porch.
3) Don't speak for 12 hours.
4) Stay tied up for 12 hours.
5) Play with Manfred The Wonder Dog from time to time.
6) Pee around the side of the house as needed.
7) Hope roommates bring you beer and food. Don't tell roommates before hand what you are doing. Smile when they laugh at you.
8) Have 35 mm camera around, loaded with Kodachrome slide film. Have 8mm movie camera close by as well. Silently give cameras to friends and roommates and beseech them, without words, to photograph and film you. Document fully the next 12 hours.
9) After 12 hours, untie self and go get ice cream with your girlfriend.
10) Develop slide film and movie film.
11) Show slides to your art teacher within a week. Show movie to your art class soon thereafter. Talk about the idea that we all are the ones who leash ourselves to things, that we are responsible for our own limitations.
12) Get a grade from your teacher.
"Joseph Beuys at Newgrange", 1974, photographer unknown.
I was a big fan of Joseph Beuys at the time of this piece. Still love Joe's work, even though I am fully aware he created much of his own life's story out of whole cloth. No sense letting the truth get in the way of a good myth of being healed of your war wounds by nomadic Tatar tribesmen. I loved his vision and his willingness to bring ecology and a love of the Earth into Contemporary Art.
Regarding my piece "Leashed," I now believe that there are many factors, other than ourselves, that limit humans in this world: race, gender, poverty, illness, nationality, religion, many outside, uncontrollable factors, but at the time, I was trying to think big thoughts and reason out the world. Not bad for a kid from the suburbs, but not great either. But I was trying. In 1978, I had little idea of the privileges I had, being the white son of an IBM middle manager. I now know that by being white and male in America, I was born on second base. Add being middle class puts me on third, ready to steal home.
Fun fact: I was silent for all 12 hours except for one slip, when I said to a roommate out of the blue something like, 'I agree with you.' All five of us on the porch that night feel silent, then all my friends laughed. I simply smiled and felt embarrassed. I felt ashamed a lot of the time back then.
Heading out tonight to shoot, equipped with battery-powered Christmas lights and with my grandmother Nannie's mirror. Wish me luck. I always go with some plan, that I tend to throw away once I'm in the space. Hope plan B works out, but you never know. I have high standards for my stock photography work. If it's crap, you won't see it here.
Also, I'll be talking more about politics on my blog.
One of the unspoken rules of being a working artist or musician or writer, who isn't rich to begin with, is to not to speak your political mind because a good 1/3 of our customers are conservative folk, that we don't want to insult, so they don't then buy our work. Well, screw that. There is too much going on in 2016 for me to keep quiet any longer.
Arizona is in play this election. Polls show Thump is only up by four points in Arizona, a Republican Goldwater state, mind you. Senator McCain might lose his re-election bid to a very competent Democratic woman. And a narcissistic businessman with orange hair wants to be the king of America.
No matter what any of the talking heads on TV says, there are really no undecided voters out there. It's all about turnout. If progressive people of colors, forward-thinking women, hopeful young people, and liberal and moderate white folk don't show up at the polls in November, Donald Trump just might win. If however we show up in force, it will be a landslide of biblical proportion. Ann Kirkpatrick will send John McCain back to Sedona, and we might actually get the U.S. Senate back in Democratic hands. (Sadly, due to gerrymandering, the U.S. House is pretty hopeless, but who knows. Maybe.)
So vote, ye moderates and liberals. The other side, those conservative white folks out there? They will show up, no matter how much they dislike Trump. They will vote for him. We need to vote for our side.
And if you hate or distrust Hillary Clinton and are a progressive, you need to get over that, hold your nose, and think of the greater good.
Three words, people.
The Supreme Court.
I frankly don't want to see one of the guys from Duck Dynasty on the Court. Or freaking Chris Christie either. Abortion needs to stay legal, Obamacare need to not be overturned, and voting rights needs to be restored, just to name a few important issues.
Politics may be athletics for ugly people, but policies matter. Laws matter. The Social Contract matters.
So here endeth my political message for today. If you disagree with me, fine. Just don't be a jerk and type troll shit back to me. It's not polite.
Wish me luck tonight. Hopefully I'll get some good images that I can make a little coin with, and that will make y'all smile.
I'll listen to what the land and the sky says to me, and I'll bring those voices back home.
1997, Photography Studies, Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona. 1979, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Studio Art: Sculpture, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Selected Solo Exhibitions:
2016, “20 Years: 1996-2016,” Wee Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2015, “The Little Ones,” Wee Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2014, “The Ancients,” Wee Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2009, "At-One-With," Jewish Community Center, Tucson, Arizona. 2008, "Nine Prayers," Hotel Congress, Tucson, Arizona. 2007, "A Very Large God," Unity of Tucson, Tucson, Arizona. 2005, "If There's a Heaven...," Endicott West Art Foundation, Tucson, Arizona. 2004, "Mystery And Magic,” Metroform Limited Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2002, "Circles and Spirals," Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2001, "Analog and Digital," Safehouse, Tucson, Arizona. 2001, "Circles and Spirals," The Image Gallery, The Screening Room, Tucson, Arizona. 1998, "Sacred Spaces," Hercules Florence Gallery, Pima Community College, Tucson, Arizona.
2016, Victor Mothershead: U.S. Secret Service by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press 2015, Step Zero (The Special Edition) by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2014, Balthazar and Zeeba: A Christmas Novella by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2014, A Rolodex Of Haikus by Tunafish Smith (Edited by Stu Jenks), Fezziwig Press. 2014, Air & Gravity by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2013, Pamela’s Baby Rocking Chair by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2012, Step Zero by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2012, The Fatal Figures (Or How I Got In Trouble With The Law In Art School), by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2011, The Transpersonal Papers: 1861-2010 by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2011, Bozo In Love by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2011, Dementia Blues by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2009, Hoop Dancing: More Journeys Through Nocturnal Photography, by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press. 2008, Flames Spirals: Journeys Through Nocturnal Photography by Stu Jenks, Fezziwig Press.
Music And Audiobooks:
2003: The Three Surrenders: Soundtracks for Photographs, Vol. One, Fezziwig Press. 2005: West Of The Fires: Soundtracks for Photographs, Vol. Two, Fezziwig Press. 2008: Gladstone Mothershead: Soundtracks for Photographs, Vol. Three, Fezziwig Press. 2010: Hoop Dancing (The Audiobook), Fezziwig Press. 2011: Deaths & Injuries, Fezziwig Press. 2013: Pamela’s Baby Rocking Chair (The Audiobook), Fezziwig Press. 2014: Balthazar & Zebba: A Christmas Novella (The Audiobook), Fezziwig Press. 2015: Angel Ghosts, Fezziwig Press.
Selected Group Exhibitions:
2016, “Into the Night: Contemporary Art and the Nocturne Tradition,” Tucson Museum Of Art. 2016, “In Full Bloom,” Tohono Chul Park, Arizona. 2015, “Small Works,” Tohono Chul Park, Arizona. 2015, “Dia de los Muertos,” Tohono Chul Park, Arizona. 2015, “The Photographers,” Contreras Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2015, “The Sky Above,” Tohono Chul Park, Arizona. 2014, “The Trees: Myth, Symbol and Metaphor,” Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2012, "Vicios y Virtudes" (Vices & Virtues), Raices Taller 222 Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2010, "Night Moves: After-Dark Images," Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2009, "Print Pop," Lulubell Toy Bodega, Tucson, Arizona. 2009, "Curious Camera," ArtsEye/Photographic Works, Honorable Mention, Tucson, Arizona. 2008, "La Celebración y el Sufrimiento," Union Gallery, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona. 2008, "The September Show," Point Of View Gallery, Raleigh, North Carolina. 2008, "Big Ideas, Small Frames," Dinnerware Artspace, Tucson, Arizona. 2008, "Darkness, Darkness," Three Columns Gallery, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2007, "Salon Des Refuses," Dinnerware Contemporary Arts, Tucson, Arizona. 2006, "Big Deal 13," SOMarts Gallery, San Francisco, California. 2006, "Transcending Boundaries," Point Of View Gallery, Raleigh, North Carolina. 2006, "Tough Lovelies: Agaves and Yuccas in Art," Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2006, "The Art Of Photography,” Lyceum Theatre, San Diego, California. 2005, "Día de los Muertos: Contemporary Expressions," Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2004, "Hotshoe Salon" Studio 455, Tucson, Arizona. 2004, "Wildfire!", Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, Arizona. 2003, "First Annual Winter Group Exhibition," Metroform Limited Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2003, "Small Works Invitational," Metroform Limited Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2003, "46th Annual International Awarded Exhibition," San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, California. 2002, "Rocky Mountain Biennial," Museum of Contemporary Art, Fort Collins, Colorado. 2002, "Spite: Ten Years of The Toole Shed," Museum of Contemporary Art/Hazmat Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2002-2004, "Saguaro: Popular Image and Cultural Icon," Arizona Commission of the Arts Touring Exhibition (with Tohono Chul Park), Arizona. 2001, "Response," Tucson/Pima Arts Council, Tucson, Arizona. 2001, "In God We Trust," Zahorec Hughes Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio. 2001, "Michael Cajero, Stu Jenks, and Rudolph Nadler," Jewish Community Center's Fine Art Gallery, Tucson, Arizona. 2000, "La Petite VIII," Alder Gallery, Coburg, Oregon. 2000, "44th Annual International Awarded Exhibition," San Diego Art Institute, California. 2000, "Visions VI," Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Kentucky. 2000, "Nocturnes 2000," Pacific Media Arts, San Francisco, California, Curator's Choice Award. 2000, "Tucson/Pima Arts Council Fellowship Exhibit," Tucson/Pima Arts Council, Tucson, Arizona. 1999, "43rd Annual International Awarded Exhibition," San Diego Art Institute, San Diego, California. 1999, "La Petite VII", Alder Gallery, Coburg, Oregon. 1999, "Visions V", Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, Kentucky; Jury's Award. 1999, "Arizona Biennial '99," Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona. 1999, "Photowork '99," Barrett Art Center, Poughkeepsie, New York. 1999, "Miniatures," The Galleria, Bisbee, Arizona. 1979, “Bachelor of Fine Arts Show”, Ackland Museum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
2012, “Open Circle for Pamela,” Glow Festival of Lights, Oracle, Arizona. 2009, "Open Circle Plus Seven," Metanexus Conference, Tempe, Arizona. 2004, "Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice: The Mythic Journeys Art Exhibition," The Defoor Centre Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia. 2002, "The Open Circle Cairn Project," Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, Arizona.
Grants & Fellowships:
2000, Tucson/Pima Arts Council, Visual Arts I Fellowship Awards (Honorable Mention).
Selected Lectures, Juries & Workshops:
2011, Juror, Third Annual Curious Camera Competition, ArtsEye, Tucson, Arizona. 2010, Co-Executive Director, "All Souls' Procession 4th Annual Photography Exhibition Competition," All Souls' Procession, Tucson, Arizona. 2009, Juror, "Blue Nocturne," The Nocturnes, San Francisco, California. 2006, Presenter, "The Rhythm of Mythic Journeys '06," Mythic Imagination Institute, Atlanta, Georgia. 2001, Juror, "A Little Night Music," TheNocturnes.com, Pacific Media Arts, San Francisco, California. 1998, Guest Lecturer on Sepia and Selenium Toning, Photography Program, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
Below is a cover letter I sent to The White House with a handbound copy of my new book Victor Mothershead: U.S. Secret Service. Some of you will like this. Some of you will think I'm naive. Some of you will hate this letter. Do me a favor. Keep your negative internet opinions to yourself. I'm a sensitive soul who hurts easily, and when I get hurt, I get mad or sad. I'd prefer to just feel happy about sending a nice note to a President I voted for twice. If you want to talk politics with me in person or on the phone, great, but don't type shit to me, all right? All right. Enjoy the letter. Or not.
Dear President Barack Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama,
Enclosed is the fourth book in my Step Zero series in which I write about The United States in the years 2079-2080. In this and in previous books, I created a fictional character named Sasha Obama Fulbright. I’m simply honoring the good work you and Michelle have done for our country, by making that character, a tough, sweet, elder, female President who has helped America also return from very tough times. I’m not crazy nor dangerous or anything. I’m just a writer and an artist with a good imagination. Hope you like the book.
Thanks again for the thank-you note and the lovely photo of you all and the girls, that you sent a few years back when you received the first book. (By the way, Mr. President, you make a brief appearance in the first book, Step Zero, as a loving ghost. Just saying.) The photo and note are framed in my house and are one of my most priced possessions.
Maybe in 2017 you might be able to read this book, after you leave office, but it’s not a big thing if you don’t. What is a big thing is the true and loyal service you have given to our country. I too believe, like you, that change is incremental, that justice and progress often happen slowly. But you have done much, Mister President, to kick the can of American Goodness down the road. Thank you for that.
I’ll miss you a lot, Barack, come January. I think Hillary will be a fine President, but frankly, she can’t tell a joke as well as you. She just doesn’t have your timing.
Much love and thanks again for all you have done.
Stu Jenks P.O.Box 161 Tucson, Arizona 85702 firstname.lastname@example.org
All photos by Stu Jenks (c) 2016. Top photo is a kaleidoscope image taken in front of The White House. Bottom photo was taken off my TV of the President crying after another mass shooting, in which children were killed. Again.
Below is a very kind review by David Moyer of my first novel "Step Zero." Book four of this series, "Victor Mothershead: U.S. Secret Service" will be coming out in early July of 2016. "Step Zero" is now available at a new low price of $1.99 on the Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks. Book two, "Air & Gravity" is now $2.99. Book three, "Balthazar & Zeeba" is also $1.99.
Start at the beginning is what I say.
"I wasn't sure at first if a book heavily influenced by and full of references to the 12 step program would be to my liking, but to my surprise, it added to, rather than detracting from the story. Stu Jenks has written a great adventure story that takes place in a very plausible future, and he has made it very intimate by bringing you all of the characters in the first person. I felt that I knew and empathized with his characters, even those I didn't like. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the sequel." - David Moyer.
[Pages from the uncorrected proof. To purchase the limited illustrated hardbound edition of this novel go to The Stu Store at Squareup.com. To purchase the non-illustrated ebook, go to those places where ebooks are sold.]
Arthur “Artie” Saum Monday, February 17th, 2076: 2:05 p.m. Giffords Adult Care Center Tucson, Arizona
“Hi, Martha,” I say. I like calling Mom by her first name. Don’t know why. Just do. “Arthur,” she says, looking up from her comfy old chair. The Flex-TV is on but the sound’s turned down. Looks like an old movie. Braveheart, I think. I hate Flex-TV. “Where have you been?” Mom demands. “I was here a couple days ago. I visit you twice a week or thereabouts.” “I haven’t seen you in forever,” she says, almost yelling now. I place my hand on her arm. My touch seems to calm her. “Why am I here?” she asks, like a scared little girl. “Well, Mom. You have this brain thing.” I tend to tell her the whole story about twice a month. The hard facts don’t seem to bother her. They seem to relax her. “You’ve been at Giffords Adult Care Center for about five years now,” I say. “Really?” Mom says. “Yep. Five years plus. You got sick when I was 16. You’re 50 now. Dad’s been dead almost 20 years. Died in Saudi. Nannie died during the 41 Nights. So did Poppa Ball. Or at least we think they did. Char is still alive in San Francisco. She loves you very much.” I talked with Char just a couple weeks ago on G’s Sat-phone. She sent her love to my mom. “Georgia loves you, too. She’ll come and visit you in a couple of days. And Mom, I love you.” Mom’s quiet, not in a good way. Her face has a passive affect like a barely awake infant. I really wish Mom and I could have a regular conversation, but we can’t. Mom’s been through enough. I’m glad she can’t remember and I’m glad the Feds provide good homes for people like her. More than glad. Profoundly grateful. “Mom, there’s something else I have to tell you.” “Yes?” “Georgia and I are going to go visit Char on the train,” I say. “We’re going to see her, and bring back Granddad’s harmonium. We’ll be away for a while. Probably a month. Maybe less. I won’t be here to visit twice a week for a while.” Martha is trying to puzzle what I’ve said. I can see the gears working. I’ve given her too much to think about. Let me try a different approach. “Mom, I’m going to San Francisco to visit Char. Char is sick. I’ve never met her in person, you know. I need to see her. And I need to pick up something of Granddad’s” “You’ve never met Chartreuse?” “Nope.” “And she has something of Peter’s?” “Yes, she does.” “Well, you need to go!” “I do.” “Are you taking anyone with you? I can go with you, you know.” “No, Mom. You’re too sick with the brain thing. Georgia is coming with me.” Martha smiles. “Oh good. I love Georgia.” “I know, and she loves you too.” Mom looks at the Flex-TV again. Looks like Mel Gibson has a sword in his hand and blue paint on his face. Weird. Mom looks back at me, as if she’s seeing me for the first time today. “Arthur! Where have you been?”
Georgia “G” Swann Tuesday, February 18th, 2076: 1:05 a.m. New Chicks Coffee Shop Downtown Tucson, Arizona
“Chessie, I’ve closed out the register and put the cash in the bank bag. You want me to drop if off on my way home?” I ask. “No, I’ll do it. Busy night.” Chessie says. “Yes, it was,” I say, doing the last couple things before I leave for the night. Chessie Dupree’s so pretty with that long black hair and hourglass figure. Wish she could find a good man. Not that she can’t take care of herself without one. She can. I just know she could use some loving, some good hard loving with a tender kiss at the end. Sigh. How did I get so lucky to find Artie? Oh, that’s right. He was that cute jerk I met a few years ago who broke my heart and now he’s not such an asshole anymore. Thank God for Craig and Bill, and their help in Artie’s transformation. Maybe a guy from A.A. and M.T.A. would like Chessie. Nah. That’s not what it’s about, and if sparks do happen between members, we just need to let it be, not push it. They are there to get sober, not get a date. I just love Chessie so much. She gave me a job and she cares for me like a sister, not a boss. Oh yeah. I’ve got to remind her about Artie’s and my trip. I told her last week, but I don’t know if she really heard me. Or if she just didn’t want to. “Hey,” I say to her, “I need to talk with you after we close. It won’t take a second.” “We are closed,” she says. “Hey, Sammy,” Chessie yells over to a big guy with brown hair and a beard. “Time to hit the streets. I need to sleep,” she says firmly, but with a smile. “OK, OK, Chessie. Hold your horses,” says Sammy, standing up and putting on his jean jacket. “I’m going.” “See you tomorrow,” says Chessie. “You bet. After the meeting,” says Sammy. He’s smiling now. I think he has a crush on the boss. Not her type. She goes for the skinny, tough type. What do I know? “Take care, Sammy,” she says. Sammy waves a hand and steps out the front door of the coffee shop. “OK. Just us,” she says. “I just wanted to remind you to not put me on the schedule for the month of March. Remember, Artie and I are going to visit his grandmother in San Francisco. I told you last week, I think.” Chessie looks down. Her long black hair falls in her face. “Yeah, I remember,” she says. She looks up and brushes her hair out of her face. “I’m just nervous for you,” she says. “You know the stories about the bodies in the desert, and you know Phoenix, or rather the hell that was Phoenix....” She stops talking for a minute. “Georgia,” she says, “it’s a long way to go just to have some alone time with your boyfriend.” I chuckle. It’s not that funny, but she’s trying. “He’s more than just my boyfriend,” I say. “Yeah, I know,” she says. “Well,” she says with a wry grin, “you’re going to take your pistol, right?” “You’re goddamned right I am,” I say. Now we laugh. “Need a box of ammo for the trip?” Chessie asks. I give her a hug. “Oh, Chessie. That’s so sweet. Yes, we don’t have much ammo.” Then I start to cry. “Oh Goddess,” I say through tears. “Don’t worry, honey,” Chessie says. “I got tons. I like .357s better than .38s anyway. I know you love the .38s for your LadySmith.” We hug. And both of us cry.
Arthur “Artie” Saum Friday, February 21th, 2076, 8:15 a.m. Bill Monroe’s House Tucson, Arizona
I pull out my phone, open it, and check the time. Twenty minutes before I have to be at The Instrument Shop for work. Not soon enough. “Have you lost your fucking mind?” says Bill, my A.A. sponsor. He’s not a bad guy. Just wound a little tight. OK, really tight. Well, he was a Master Sergeant in the Marines from ’54 to ’60, and he saw a lot of shit in Saudi, I’m sure. He’s only told me a little. You can always tell those guys who saw major action during the Oil Wars. They hardly talk about it at all, even A.A. guys. Anyway, Bill’s a good guy. Been sober a long time, over 12 years. He’s just a little short on communication skills is all. “Why am I asking if you’ve lost your mind?” yells Bill. “Because I know it for a fact! You’re getting on the train to travel to San Francisco to visit your grandmother so you can pick up your grandfather’s synthesizer?” “Harmonium, not a synthesizer. A portable hand-pumped organ that needs no electricity. Bill, I have to go to work.” I say. “Harmonium!” repeats Bill. He places his face in his hands and shakes his head. “Harmonium,” he says, or I think he says that. Hard to hear what he said as he’s now speaking into the palms of his hands. Sounds like ‘lost his mind’ but I can’t be sure.
Deputy U.S. Marshal Magdalena “Mags” Gutierrez Wednesday, February 26th, 2076: 8:14 a.m. Gate’s Pass, west of Tucson
A bite in the air. I breathe it in. Probably around 40°F . I love winter in the desert. And no one’s here. I like to be in the desert alone. Or with Stephanie. I don’t need to be here. Just want to be here. Nice way to start my shift. I open the door of my Flex-truck, get behind the wheel, and start it up. I check the batteries. Got a 90% charge. Cool. Well, time to serve and protect. God Goddess All There Is, be with me today.
Arthur “Artie” Saum Monday, March 2nd, 2076: 5:12 p.m. The Instrument Shop Tucson, Arizona.
“Tomorrow is my last day before I catch the train, you know,” I say. “Yeah, I know,” says Pete Rainer, owner of The Instrument Shop. A big man with a white beard. Around 50. Hell of a flat picker. ‘“Paul will do fine fixing guitars and such while I’m gone,” I say. “Yeah, but he’s not as good as you,” Pete says with a smile. “You know I think it’s great, Arthur,” continues Pete, “that you’re going to get your granddad’s harmonium. I understand your reasoning about not having it shipped, and that you want to meet your grandmother for the first time, but…” Pete looks at me with those loving, blue eyes. “...but I’m just worried for you. We’ve all heard the tales about things in the Mojave.” “Most of that stuff is just made up by Fox News, to wind people up.” I say. “The BBC says most tracks west of here are clear and safe most of the time.” “And the truth lies somewhere between Fox and the BBC,” says Pete. “You know that.” Yes I do. The BBC tends to not want to tell too much bad news and Fox News only broadcasts the bad and the ugly. “I know, just try not to worry,” I say. “Georgia and I are armed and her boss gave us a new box of .38 ammo.” “Artie, everyone is armed,” Pete says. I shuffle my feet. “Georgia is an even better shot than me,” I say. Pete doesn’t feel like laughing. “Arthur, you’re a shitty shot,” he says. “Do me a favor. Call the shop from time to time on Georgia’s Sat-phone and let me know how you guys are.” “I will,” I say. “And you know you are one of the few who knows Georgia has a Sat-phone, right?” Pete looks around the empty shop. “No one’s here, Artie,” he says. “No one’s heard.” “I’m just saying,” I say. He smiles. “I’ll be careful with that information,” say Pete. “And for Goddess’s sake, you be careful on your trip and get back here as soon as you can.” “Promise.” “Paul doesn’t have your confidence,” says Pete. “It takes him forever to service a Martin.” And with that, Pete walks from behind the counter and gives me a bear hug. I can hardly breathe. “Pete, I need to breathe,” I say. He doesn’t let me go.. “You know I love you like a little brother,” he says. “I know,” I say in a weak voice. I really do need to breathe.
Peter Saum, Jr. Tuesday, March 3rd, 2076: 5:17 p.m. The Upper Atmosphere of the Planet Jupiter The Other Solar System
Whew. Killer left break around The Great Red Spot today. And Earl thinks he’s so cute when he cuts me off. Steal my wave again, buckaroo, and you’ll feel the rage of The South. “How’s your grandson?” Earls asks, after we back away from the surf. “Good. He and his girlfriend are taking the train to San Francisco to see his grandmother.” “Isn’t that still dangerous?” he asks. “It’s better, but not great,” I say. “I plan on staying close.” “Do,” says Earl. “Last September, my granddaughter almost shot a man for stealing a bottle of milk. I sent a big dose of the Love of the Ancestors and she decided not to kill him. Just shot him in the arm and he ran away. Lolly isn’t a killer and killing someone would fuck her up. I think your boy Artie is that sensitive too, right?” “He is. He’s never killed anymore and he’s a terrible shot,” I say. “Luckily his girlfriend’s pretty tough. She’s a great girl, Georgia, and made of steel. From Wyoming. She killed someone a few years ago. A Mormon Tea manufacturer who was raping a friend of hers. She didn’t think twice about popping a cap in the rapist’s head.” “Good,” says Earl. “Well, still stay close, Peter. She may be tough but she needs the Light of GGATI like everyone else.” “Ain’t that the truth,” I say. “We do more than we think,” Earl says. “Hey, another set’s coming in,” he continues. “I promise not to cut you off.” “You’d better not,” I say, and off we fly toward The Great Red Spot.
[Pages from the uncorrected proof. To purchase the limited illustrated hardbound edition of this novel go to The Stu Store at Squareup.com. To purchase the non-illustrated ebook, go to those places where ebooks are sold. Thanks, guys.]
Arthur “Artie” Saum Saturday, February 15th, 2076: 8:07 p.m. Downtown Alano Club Annex Tucson, Arizona
“My name is Artie, and I’m an addict and an alcoholic,” I say. “Hi, Artie,” say all the addicts in unison. “I had two years yesterday.” Lots of whooping and applauding. I rise from my chair and walk across the room to Michael, who is handing out the chips tonight. Michael hands me my two-year medallion. We hug. “Love you, brother,” whispers Michael into my ear. “Me too,” I say. “Anybody else celebrating multiple years of sobriety tonight?” asks Michael. He gave out two one-month chips tonight, a six-month and a few newcomer chips. I am the only birthday. “Well, give yourself a hand for staying clean and sober today.” The room of twenty plus addicts clap. Michael puts the chip box down on the front table and walks back to his seat. “Welcome to the Sunset meeting of Mormon Tea Anonymous,” says Roy, who is leading the meeting tonight. ”We are glad that you are all here.” He reads from the preamble of Mormon Tea Anonymous. Roy is a short, stocky man in his 30’s. A man you’d like to have beside you in a fight, that’s for sure, yet he has a broad smile and a spiritual glow about him. I was introduced to him at my first M.T.A. meeting. He gave me hope then and still does now. I know his story. It ain’t pretty, but he’s a different man from the one he describes when he shares about his life before he got sober. “Mormon Tea Anonymous is a fellowship of men, women and children who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and become free of Mormon Tea addiction,” reads Roy. “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using Mormon Tea and all other mind-altering substances including alcohol, and marijuana.” I look around the room. I see people I’ve known for two years. New faces, too. Some I like. Some I can barely stand, but all I love. Even that guy over there who I’ve never seen before. I love him, too. “M.T.A. is not allied with any sect, denomination, politic group, religion, faction, gang or government,” Roy says. “We are self-supporting by our own contributions. Our primary purpose is to stay free of Mormon Tea and all other mind-altering substances and to help others to achieve the same freedom.” Roy reads the Twelve Steps and some other stuff but I barely hear him. I’m lost in my thoughts, thinking about Michael, Craig, and Georgia and of just how grateful I am right now. I don’t often feel happy with my lot in life, but I do tonight. “Fifteen minutes before the end of the meeting, we’ll pass the basket,” says Roy. “Does anybody have a topic or a question regarding the program of recovery?” A moment of silence follows. “My name is Bob, and I’m an addict.” “Hey, Bob,” says everyone. “This is only my third meeting. I haven’t used Tea now for nine days.” A smattering of applause. “Right on,” someone says. “I really don’t know what’s wrong with me,” says Bob. “I was happier when I was using Brigham. Okay, maybe not. Fuck.” He pauses. He seems a little lost. That’s OK. “One moment I’m happy,” he says, “the next I want to take the head off the guy next to me.” He shakes his head. “No offense,” he adds, turning to the man seated next to him. The man smiles and shrugs, with a look of “I don’t care.” “I’m all over the fucking place,” continues Bob. “I feel crazier now than when I was smoking Tea every day, all day. Fuck. Anyway, I don’t know if there’s a topic in that, but I just feel nuts. I don’t want to use again,” he pauses. “But I’m afraid I will. I’m really afraid I’ll smoke Brigham again. I stopped nine days ago because I hit my little boy, and I’ve never hit my son before. Never. Fuck me.” Bob puts his head in his hands. He doesn’t say anything for a few seconds. None of us do. When you’re sharing, no one interrupts you. We give our full attention. We listen. What a gift we give to each other. You are heard and no one stops you from talking. Unless you go on for too long, but we members of Tucson M.T.A. will let you go on for at least five minutes or more before we kindly ask you to wrap it up. Bob lifts his head. His eyes are misty. “I don’t know. I’ve got a sponsor,” he says. “Craig over there. We’re working the Second Step. I just wonder if I’m going crazy or something. Am I doing something wrong? Christ. Thanks for listening. That’s all I got.” “Thanks, Bob,” say a few people. “My name is Craig and I’m an addict.” “Hi, Craig.” Craig is my sponsor, too. What a great guy. “I felt the same way when I quit Brigham five years ago. Tea kicked my ass,” says Craig. “At first when I smoked Brigham, everything was great. I didn’t dream about skulls in the desert anymore. I didn’t feel scared. I didn’t feel anything. It was great. Then, it turned on me. I went from feeling ten-foot-tall and bulletproof, to being paranoid that my girlfriend Peggy was plotting to turn me in to the Feds. And I wasn’t even doing anything that illegal.” Laughter. “Ok, Mormon Tea is illegal but I wasn’t making it. I wasn’t killing or robbing the rich people. I was just a Tea head. But I started to hear voices that weren’t there, and anyway, you know the drill. Stealing from my friends, not wanting to work, just staying home with my little Flex-TV. Then Peggy threatened to leave me if I didn’t get a job and stop smoking Brigham. So, I left her before she could leave me.” More laughter. “Then I did get a job, running with those boys in Santa Rosa. Things got really bad, fast.” He doesn’t have to name the boys in Santa Rosa. We all know. “A year later I quit. On day two I went looking for Peggy but she was gone. Took the train east. And it was great, being clean, for about three days.” Chuckles. “I felt like I was crazier than bat shit for about a month,” says Craig. “Then it got better. I got a sponsor and began to work the Steps with him. And I got lots of Flex-phone numbers of guys in the Program. It slowly got better. I slowly got better, with the help of God Goddess All There Is and from you guys.” “Now I know this is technically cross-talk,” continues Craig, turning in his chair to look at Bob, “but I think it’s great that you’re here and you’re working the Second Step. You really want this. I can tell. That’s great, man.” Craig turns and looks at me. “And congratulations, Artie. Fan-fucking-tastic. Two years. I’m so happy for you.” I smile and nod toward him. “Anyway, if you are new, keep coming back. We are all here to help. Thanks for letting me share.” “Thanks, Craig,” says the group.
An hour later, Craig, Michael and I are heading for New Chicks, the coffee shop where Georgia works. Georgia’s pulling espresso tonight. I wave to her as we walk in. She blows me a kiss. “What do you want? I’m buying,” says Craig. “Just a big ass coffee with cream,” I say. “Michael, you want anything?” asks Craig. “I’m good,” says Michael. “Thanks, though.” Craig walks to the counter to order, leaving Michael and me alone at a small table. “Have you told him about your trip to San Francisco?” asks Michael. “Not yet.” “Going to have to tell him sometime. Or not.” He laughs. “I’ll tell him in a couple days,” I say. “We aren’t catching the train for another two weeks.” “Well, he is one of your sponsors,” says Michael. “Then again, sponsors are the last to know anything.” We both laugh. “How’s it going with that newcomer who asked you to sponsor him last week?” Michael asks. “Haven’t heard from him since he took my Flex-phone number.” “Yeah,” says Michael. “Big gap between the sponsees I have on the books and the ones who actually call. Just the way it is.” “Yeah,” I sigh. Neither of us laugh at this hard truth. Craig returns with my coffee with cream. He bought himself what looks like a Big Legged Chick, espresso with synth mocha. Bet he got an extra shot, too. Craig does like his caffeine. “Thanks for the coffee,” I say. “You’re welcome,” says Craig. “So what Step are you on, Artie?” asks Craig. We laugh. He knows damn well what I’ve done in my recovery. I worked Steps One through Eight in my first two months clean. Been doing Ten, Eleven and Twelve every day since, and working Step Nine as best I can, making right the wrongs I’ve done, and I’m doing a lot of living amends for the good number of people I have no idea how to find. Craig’s mostly busting my chops and perhaps making a little fun of Bill, my A.A. sponsor who seems to always ask that question. “I’m working Step Fuck You,” I say to Craig. Craig laughs so hard I think I see mocha coming out his nose. He wipes his face with a brown paper napkin he gets from the dispenser on the table. “Artie, seriously,” he says, “I’m really happy for you. You’ve been clean two years. You and Georgia seem to be going great, unless you aren’t telling me something.” “We’re thick as thieves,” I say. “And I’m always not telling you something.” “I know,” laughs Craig. “Just pulling your chain. But you are living a great life now, Artie. You have a good job at The Instrument Shop. You’re playing real good. You’re writing some nice songs too, man. You aren’t the same person I met two years ago.” “Thanks, bro,” I say. “But...,” Craig trails off. “What?” I say. “Mind if I ask you a personal question with Michael here?” he asks. “No. Shoot,” I say. I love Craig. He has such good boundaries about this sponsor thing. Bill, my A.A. sponsor? Not so much. “Well, I just have a feeling you really aren’t telling me something. Something kind of important.” This time Michael laughs. “Fuck,” I say under my breath, looking down. “I’m not trying to put you on the spot...,” says Craig. “He was going to tell you in a couple of days,” says Michael. “Tell me what?” asks Craig. “Georgia and I are taking the train to San Francisco in a couple weeks to visit my grandmother,” I say. Craig looks down at the table. Thoughtful, not mad, that I kept this from him. He takes a long sip off his Big Legged Chick. “Have you told your mother yet?” asks Craig. “Tomorrow,” I say. “Good,” says Craig.
Peter Saum, Jr. Monday, February 17th, 2076: 3:11 a.m. Across from New Chicks Coffee Shop Downtown Tucson, Arizona
I love Tucson at this time of night. Always have. It’s great to see how the world has come back since the hell of the 2060s. Tucson is the same, but different. Sure, the old Unisource office building sits vacant and dark but Tucson City Hall, the two Pima County government buildings and the new Kino Federal Building glow bright with lights in their windows even at this early hour. The government is busy all the time. New Chicks is closed, but it’ll be open again in a few hours. I sit on the curb (or what we angel ghosts call sitting) and gaze toward the Kino Federal Building. My family and a lot of others would have been dead long before now if it wasn’t for the U.S. government. Thank you, Sasha.
President Sasha Obama Fulbright, the 54th President of the United States and the daughter of the 44th, inspires Americans even more than her father Barack. Sasha is one of the great problem solvers of her time. In those first weeks after the bombings, rather than continue the initial attempt at martial law, she asked gun owners to contact local law enforcements and see how they could help. The Feds hired many of them to be Deputy U.S. Marshals. She engaged people to work together. And she has stayed involved. Sasha chats to America every week on the Flex-TV. “America will never be what it was before the Seven Sisters. We all know that,” she said in one address, years ago. “We who have survived are struck with profound grief from the deaths of our families and friends, and we are fueled with rage to avenge their murders and senseless deaths. You have my permission to seek revenge, but it won’t make you feel any better. What will heal you, what will heal us, is to help one another, not kill each other. We need to build a new nation. Smaller, poorer, yes, but perhaps happier and closer to God Goddess All There Is. And closer to each other.” Sasha helped a lot. We’re lucky to have her. So in the late 2060s, America went to work. With caution, yes, but with a great deal of faith and hope as well. Food, water, power and some degree of public safety were the first priorities of the Fulbright Administration. President Fulbright asked for things and she got them. The Congress was one of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans, so they passed all the laws Sasha asked for. Trains brought emergency food to those who survived. The interstate system of roads was destroyed during the horrors of the 41 Nights, but we still had the trains. All public works, water and sewer were nationalized. Money and time was spent to get the water flowing in the cities and towns and to help rural communities drill wells. Septic tanks came back and sewers were renovated. We didn’t have much oil but we had coal, wood, cement, and Flex technology. You can do a lot with just wood, coal, Flex tech, cement and trains to carry them. And America did. Ownerships of the large deposits of coal in the West and in Appalachia were kept privately owned, as were most large corporations. Sasha made a deal with them. “You can keep your companies, dig your coal, make your computers and cars,” President Fulbright told a meeting with the captains of industry in July of 2063. “Provide phone service, make electricity, produce food, and you all can make a good deal of money. You will be regulated but not strictly.” The captains smiled at that. I was there. Hundreds of angel ghosts hovered above Camp David that summer. “Here’s the deal,” the President continued. “We are going to tax the living shit out of you. That’s just the way it’s going to be. The rich and powerful will pay their fair share again. Frankly, you will pay more than your fair share. Most Americans have nothing but their faith, their courage and their friends and families. They have no money, nor will they have any real wealth for a very long time. But you do. You own the factories, the natural resources, the farms. So, you may ask, what do you get in return? Well, you get your freedom and you get your stuff. You can build your houses high in the hills and have your own militia to guard you. The U.S. Government isn’t going to protect your crap.” “My U.S. Marshals will be protecting the poor and middle class people of America. You, my rich friends, are on your own,” she said. “I won’t meddle in your personal affairs, however cruel, depraved, and kinky they are. I need your goods, your food, your coal, and your phones, and I need your wealth to pay for it. And here’s the kicker.” Sasha smiled. I remember that smile, that day, like it was yesterday. ”You either agree to this right now,” she said, “or I nationalize your phone factories, your coal fields, your power companies, your food processing centers, your factory farms, your salvage yards and I then make you lie down with the common folk. I’m not asking you, sirs and ma’ams. I’m telling you. Congress will introduce a new tax bill next week. I’ll sign it the week after. Prepare to open your wallets, ladies and gentlemen. Open them wide.” “Oh, Bob?” Sasha said, looking over at Bob Walker, the president of Blue Cross & Blue Shield. “You’re done. All healthcare will be national healthcare in a couple of months. We are bringing back Medicare. Sorry, Bob.” Bob shook his head in disgust. He began to speak but the President cut him off with a hand. Sasha didn’t suffer fools well. She still doesn’t. “Mr. Walker, I don’t need any shit from you today,” she said. “I could ask the Bank of England to freeze your personal fucking assets right now, so don’t you shake your head at me! The King of England and I are friends, don’t you know.” Walker looked down and didn’t say another word. He knew he was rich and could fly himself and his family anywhere he wanted, and that’s just what Bob Walker did a month later. What a great summer of ’63 it was. I fell in love with Sasha Fulbright that year. And she says the word ‘fuck’ better than me. A new amendment was made to the U.S. Constitution to repeal the 22nd Amendment so Sasha could run for a third term in 2064. She ran a fourth in 2068, then a fifth in 2072. President Sasha Obama Fulbright is 75 years old now. She has hinted she won’t run for a sixth term. Vice President Florence Biden has made sounds she may run. We don’t know yet. President Fulbright has no children. No husband. He died. I suppose Americans have been her children, and her lover too. No, that’s not entirely true. I forgot about Bill Wilson. In her twenty years as President, the United States has gone from a country of starving, hopeless, and sick people, to a nation of survivors, with humble hopes for their children, food on their tables, and with good work to do. Americans are healing from their mental and physical wounds with a renewed spirituality and a greater resilience. On the small fenders of bicycles and scooters to the backs of big coal trains, bumper stickers read Sasha’s favorite two words: Be Nice. I look down Stone Avenue. A horse-drawn wagon and a Flex-truck or two bring produce in from Benson and Vail, and milk and cheese in from Camp Lowell. Dawn is just a few hours away. I see the lights on at Mo’s Bakery just down Pennington Street. I smile. Life is good. I feel pretty OK in my own skin tonight. I chuckle. Skin. I wish I had skin. There are only a few cars on the streets of Tucson. The streets themselves are a patchwork of old asphalt and new concrete. A bumpy ride for an old 20th century automobile, but not for the new Flex-cars and -scooters with their big tires and tiny bodies. Bicycles are the most popular form of transportation in Tucson, and the horse and wagon has made a comeback, what with all the horse country surrounding downtown now. Downtown is the core of my city, with Miracle Mile to the north, Ajo Road to the south, Barrio Anita to the west and the Sam Hughes neighborhood to the east. The University of Arizona is mostly vacant. A small college of agriculture and another college of arts, crafts and music have reopened at the U of A in the past couple years. Towns and cities all over America have shrunk, with the new centers of town being the railroad stations. Everything revolves around the trains. Tucson is no different. The old warehouses that used to rent to me and other artists 50 years ago are true warehouses again, housing food, supplies, coal, goods, clothing, and everything you might want to buy from California, Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, and Florida. Most of the high rises are vacant, but any building within a mile of downtown that is one story tall and has windows that can open is good property. Home ownership and renting are cheap. Everything else is pretty expensive. Electricity, Flex stuff. Some goods and services are subsidized by the Federal Government, but real estate is ridiculously inexpensive. It’s supply and demand. There are thousands of homes throughout the Tucson valley that are empty, many used now as scavengers’ treasure troves. If you need a few studs to repair your house in Armory Park, just take your Flex-truck up the road to the suburbs up north. Pick up an old toilet if you need one too, while you’re there. You can buy a house downtown for a year’s wages and homes in the suburbs are free to squatters, though few live out there. Working water lines don’t go out that far. And it’s still a little scary after dark outside of downtown. It’s safe downtown because most of the populace are now armed with handguns and the U.S. Marshals are loved and respected due to their heroism and fairness in the last few years. Yes, there are still bad people, really bad people, both in and out of town, but most have moved out to the desert, living in houses with solar panels and rain tanks or huge mansions with deep wells bought with drug money. There are hardly any dogs anymore, most eaten during or after the 41 Nights, but cats are still around. Damn cats. Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them. And the U.S. Marshals? Goddess, I love them. All Tucsonans do, man, woman, child, and angel ghost. Why, I do believe that’s Marshal Magdalena Gutierrez walking toward Mo’s Bakery right now. I bet she’s getting some scones before her shift. God, I wish I could smell. I used to love the smell of fresh baked goods. And I haven’t smelled the coal exhaust of a train since I worked at Tweetsie Railroad in North Carolina in the 1980s. Wish I could smell these new coal-fueled trains. Price I pay for being an angel ghost. No big deal. We’re allowed so much from God Goddess All There Is. It’s a wonderful thing. I think of Trey. I feel sad but not like the other night. Maybe someone’s shining some Light on me this morning. Mags walks into the bakery. Mo’s wife, Josephine, is at the counter. The two women hug. God bless you, Marshal, Mo, and Josephine. May GGATI’s Light shine on you today, as you protect and feed Tucson. And may Light resonate in your hearts, healing you and your’n, letting you forever know you are never alone. Never. I raise my eyes to the night sky and gaze upon a sea of stars. I see no moon but I can sure see the Milky Way. I drop my head and look around. Here and there, I see the movements of a few angel ghosts floating near the Kino Federal Building and drifting above this corner of Pennington and Stone. Three angel ghost friends sit on the curb in front of New Chicks. I’m not alone. None of us are.
"Altar of Repose, Maundy Thursday, Tucson, Arizona" (c) 2000, 2016 Stu Jenks.
(From my hardbound book, Flame Spirals. Also available as an e-book, wherever they are sold.)
The Altar has been stripped. The crosses in the sanctuary are draped in black cloth. The choir chairs are now stored in a closet somewhere. The church is dark. It's 2:00 a.m. on Good Friday and it's my watch. The woman I relieved has just left. My camera and tripod are in a pew, and I'm standing in a side chapel at the back of Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church. I have an hour to pray and shoot. Better get to it.
I was here earlier tonight for the Maundy Thursday service. Some Christians live for Easter, or for Christmas. I live for Maundy Thursday, the most meditative service in the Episcopal liturgy. We arrived in the evening and heard the story of the Last Supper, of how Jesus told his disciples that they should love everyone, serve many, and be humble to all. The story goes that after bread and wine, Jesus washes the feet of his followers. Symbolically, the congregation of Grace St. Paul's washed each other's feet. Back in the day, the priest used to wash all of the feet of the parishioners, he being Christ, we being the disciples. I preferred the old way. Now, first I'm Jesus, then I'm a disciple, and we now only wash one foot per person, which seems just down right silly to me. Both feet or none at all, I say. But I'm just an artist, a mystic, an odd duck who comes to the church of my birth infrequently. I really shouldn't criticize them. The Washing of One Foot is about as experiential as most Episcopalians get. They are doing the best they can, but sometimes I do wish I had been born Black Southern Baptist. Now those folk know how to raise the roof for Christ.
Sometimes I think the reason I like Maundy Thursday so much is simply because of an experience I had as a child. Mom took me to the Maundy Thursday service at Zion Episcopal Church in Upstate New York in the early 1960's. I guess I was around seven. After the foot washing and the communion and the stripping of the altar, they turned off all the lights, and then they rolled in this cannon. Yes, a cannon like the one they shoot off at football games when the home team scores a touchdown. Well, they rolled in this cannon, pointed it right up the center isle, and shot it off. KA-BOOM. As a seven year old, I thought that was the neatest thing. Usually I had to be quiet in church, but that night they were shooting off fireworks. Neat-O.
No cannons at Grace St. Paul's tonight. Strong incense but no cannon. Pity.
Tonight, after we delivered the Host to the Altar of Repose in the side chapel, we were instructed to leave the church silently. No coffee hour. No shaking of the priest's hand. Just go thoughtfully and quietly to your car and go home.
But for the hard core among the faithful, there is the Watch of Gethsemane.
As soon as tonight’s service ends, someone will be praying in the side chapel until Noon on Good Friday. This is the Watch of Gethsemane, the pulling-an-all-nighter-for-Christ.
On the night prior to being arrested, Jesus went to a Garden at Gethsemane to pray and he asked his disciples to come and pray with him. They came to the garden but soon fell asleep. This made Christ mad. Then the Romans came, the boys woke up, and ears were flying off people, ears were being miraculously reattached to people. Jesus was dragged away by the Romans, and Christ had one hell of a bad day on Friday. You know the story. But before the Romans came, Christ prayed and really wished his disciples had stayed awake. So, today, modern Anglicans stay awake. Well, sort of. At least some of us lose a little sleep on the night before Good Friday.
I'm here at two in the morning for a number of reasons:
1) I love being in the church alone, late at night and this is the only time I have the chance to do that.
2) I like praying and meditating in general. I pray all the time. OK, not all the time but a lot. And,
3) I’ve got a photograph in mind.
I turn from the large sanctuary and enter the tiny side chapel. It's so beautiful, with white candles lit all around and white lace meticulously hung on all the windows and walls. A one-person kneeler is positioned in front of the small altar that holds the bread and the wine, the Host. I close my eyes, open them, close them again. I can see it in my mind’s eye. I know what to do. I go and get my Rollei and tripod and set them up and compose the shot. Focus 2/3 back. Set the f-stop to 5.6. Get out the Zippo. There is a ton of light here. Half a minute exposure time tops. I open the Zippo and go to work. I flick the flint. I make a spiral. I snap the Zippo shut with a loud clack. I repeat the process. Once, twice, six more times. Time becomes timeless as it does sometimes when I'm shooting. Not always, but it is tonight. I take a deep breathe and close my eyes after the seventh exposure.
"You have a shot," says The Small Voice Within.
I pray the voice is right.
I'll take it on faith.
I open my eyes.
I still have to pray and experience the wondrous dark of the church before the next Watcher arrives at three. I quickly pack up the Rollei and the tripod and place them in a pew outside of the side chapel. I slowly walk around the sanctuary. Down the center aisle. Up by the pipe organ. Around the main altar. Back down a side aisle. I breathe it in again and again.
I return to the side chapel and the Altar of Repose. It’s got to be close to an hour now. Time to do a formal prayer. I kneel on the single kneeler, close my eyes, lazily clasp my hands, and pray.
I pray for my ancestors. I pray for my mother and father. My sister, too. I pray for Annie and all the past women in my life. I pray for the recovering addicts and alcoholics, newcomers and old-timers alike. I pray for friends, near and far. I pray for the healing of strangers and the healing of loved ones. I pray for healing for myself. I pray for the best possible outcome for everyone. I pray with words. I pray with no words at all.
My eyes open after a time and I see the Altar of Repose above me, with its crystal white light and its sheer white lace. I smile. “And, God,” I say quietly, “Thanks for guiding my hand and my mind tonight so I didn't catch the lace on fire.” I chuckle. “That would be a bad thing.”
I hear a soft knock on the outside door to the church.