Paul finally managed to cross Hennepin Ave again,  walking this time very slowly, away from the sinister calm of the lakes (and it was disturbingly easy to imagine that all of the chanting drivers and flag-waving passengers in all of the honking cars he crossed in front of as he made his way toward the human side of the street were laughing at him). Everything Gold had gone (or come) to Shit, suddenly. There was a vivid unreality to it all. The poems he would one day get out of this were already forming in the service of no earthly purpose.

By fucking Candyce in the ass, Paul had unwittingly turned Candyce into a boy (just as men who buggered boys turned them into girls):  the age-old, priestly, alchemical flipswitch secret of buggery. A terrible mistake. He never wanted to see Candyce-the-boy again. Nor even his father.

Paul was wincing and muttering and air-punching his way like Jack in The Shining down 24th toward Lyndale when who should he bump into but Donnie Himmelfarb , with a pint of organic milk from Norwegian cows (sporting a classy engraving of Samuel Beckett’s face on its package, above an illegible quote in italics) which Donnie had shoplifted from the new Eden’s Market at 28th and Hennepin, a local fair-trade business that would be driven out of business in less than nine months because of  progressive shoplifting.  Donnie’s presence was somehow calming.

“Hey man!”


“Where you going? You’re all dressed up but your pants are ripped. They look P.A.F. Want some milk?”

“I know. Just trying out my Young Black Hobo look.”  Paul took the pint and swigged from it and handed it back.

Donnie swigged from the pint. “You want to absorb some blow-away musics?”

“Why not. But I only have time for a single or maybe a few tracks. One side at the most. I just caught Candyce cheating on me. ”

“Ouch. Well, it’s just an EP.”


“The EP is what we call eponymous. The group is GEE-RAF. German.” With a gesture and a facial expression, Donnie offered Paul another swig but Paul smiled and waved it off with mansalivaphobic horror. He said,

GEE-RAF. I like it already. But why do chicks cheat, Donald?”

“Same reason we do, pal.”

“Touché. GEE-RAF. I do like that.”

Donnie said, “You know what would be cool?”


“To fuck in Père Lachaise Cemetery.”

Donnie killed the pint and hooked the empty container over his head toward a municipal trash basket  they were just then passing, missing it by a yard. The city at that moment was littered with a few tens of thousands of objects that had similarly missed their targets and formed an accumulating physical metaphor for good intentions until the next of the staggered trash days.

“Can’t tell if you’re supposed to pronounce it GEE-RAF like a retarded version of giraffe. Or GEE then R-A-F, as in the Red Army Faction, right? Or maybe it’s a cryptic version of GRAF, as in the German word for count. Or like Graf like G-r-a-p-h, as in a paragraph like graf in graffiti. Or maybe it’s an ignorant abbreviation of graft, as in political corruption.”

“Damn. You deconstructed the fuck out of that.”


“Wheels within wheels.”

“It’s clever shit. The Germans are way ahead of us in naming shit. In The Movement in general.”

“Which is all kinds of ironic. Wait. What Movement?”

“You know, man.”

“Yeah, okay. What’s the sound?”

“I can’t really describe the sound. You have to hear it. But you know what they call it?”


“Punk Waltz!”

“No shit?”


“Damn. Sounds like just the thing for a boy to hear when a bitch called Candyce has cheated on you with your own father.”

“Really? Really? Heavy! But kinda sexy, too.  Yeah, it’s highly political shit. First track is called The Rule of Succession. It’s about the American use of the tool of assassination as the most expedient way to craft political outcomes. Like, the power structure here is addicted to that shit. Right?”

“I guess after they tried it the first time…”

“Like Lincoln or whatnot.”

“Yeah.  Or Caesar. After the first time they tried it and they easily got away with it… so… ”

“I know. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Wanna hear the lyrics? I know this shit by heart already and I only bought the EP yesterday.”

Paul felt better already.

They were in front of the side-door, in Donnie’s building, that opened on the carpeted stairs that led up to the second floor Duplex in which Donnie was staying with his sister and her boyfriend.  Donnie unlocked the door and they stepped inside of the skin-temp, soft music, muted light and vaguely-good smell of solid bourgeois living. Donnie’s sister had an administrative job at the University of Minnesota and was away from home until seven every evening, five days a week, leaving Donnie and her boyfriend to avoid each other, most of the day, from opposite ends of Bohemian culture: Donnie as the publisher of a samizdat Punk/ Rap/ Skating/ Fishing / Bowling Zine and her boyfriend Jun as a tiny, stick-thin, scowling dancer, who lived off of dance productions (which lived off of Arts Council grants) but mainly his girlfriend.

They stood in the soothing tabernacle of the wood-panelled walls of the lushly-green-carpeted stairwell, faintly redolent of creosote, and Donnie took one step above Paul and said,

“Check it out, they’re in English:  Georgie tried what Lyndon did/  But bungled it so Ronnie lived /Unlike that bastard JFK / Who fucked Monroe and had her slain/  So when the chickens came to roost/ they brought some karma home to boot. Wow. Isn’t that just about the most dangerous shit you ever heard committed to vinyl? What are the fucking Sex Pistols compared to that? What are fucking The Replacements compared to that? Fucking trick-or-treaters. Fucking incorrigible youngsters.” Donnie mimed spitting, producing a very tiny amount of spit.

They headed up the stairs. Paul had forgotten all about everything he’d been thinking eleven minutes ago. He said, sincerely,

“My mind is way beyond blown.”

“Right? Those cats in West Berlin don’t fuck around. Punk as fuck.”

“Is the song true? About Kennedy…?”

“If it weren’t true would you be asking?”

“So, like, GEE-RAF is a West Berlin band?”

“Yeah. If I had the money, I’d get my ass over to West Berlin ASAP.  From there I’d grease some palms at the border and cross over into the deepest parts of the radical East. You can live there well for a year on like a fucking thousand bucks.  Eat wild rabbits and drink rainwater. Right there on the front lines of the revolution.  No more yak yak yak and pose pose pose…  just do do do. You know? The scene in Minneapolis kinda feels like a naughty Sunday School class in comparison, don’t you think? Ironic songs about Lutefisk and shit? Songs about kissing on the fucking bus? Fuck the Replacements. Fuck the mythology of the Midwestern American suburbanite Oedipus-flavored white boy, you know? This is a petite bourgeois hell-hole, man.”

The unvarnished door to Donnie’s Duplex featured a lined index card, typed with the names  HIMMELFARB/ FUJIMOTO,  over the rough rictus of the unfinished mail slot.

“You want to come around and help me varnish this thing next Monday? I keep promising Katie. We just have to get it off the hinges and down to the garage and shellac the fuck out of it. I’ll keep you  neck-deep in pizza and Pepsi the whole afternoon and after  [he lowered his voice to a winking whisper] we can check out some nice new Japanese videocassettes I found in Jun’s stash in the back of their closet under the National Geographics. There’s a bald lesbian Samurai chick with nipple rings in six tits.

“I’m there.”

“Sweet. Check it out.”

Donnie fetched GEE-RAF’S EP’s sleeve off the kitchen table and handed it over to Paul, who was busy on the island of the interior welcome mat, which said WELCOME in Japanese script (Paul assumed, but maybe it said FUCK OFF), unlacing his shoes. Shoes unlaced, Paul reached for the EP and readied his discriminating eye. Album covers were the stained glass cathedral windows of the 20th century.

The cover of the GEE-RAF EP was a stapled color-Xerox of the trio standing on stone steps at twilight in front of a bulky grey West German police station, giving the modern mutation of the Nazi salute, left arms straight out while right index and middle fingers ran parallel under their noses.  The aura of the photo somehow captured the heroic ambience of the Ziggy Stardust cover, with Bowie in a jumpsuit near an electric light in the darkness. The guy in the middle of the GEE-RAF photograph, the obvious leader, looked like he could be Paul’s brother, or even his fraternal twin. The back cover was a black-and-white Xerox of the same trio in the same clothes (leather jackets over orange janitor jumpsuits) with their backs to the camera, standing in their own gold reflecting pools as they pissed on the West German Police Station wall, parts of the word POLIZEI reflected, upside down, in the piss. Lower left hand corner of the back cover was the indie label’s logo, KRK, white letters on a red square, except the “R” was black. Paul looked very closely at the lead singer again: they could have been brothers.  Paul had had no idea that there were brownies like him in West Berlin. He could picture himself learning the guitar and pissing on klieg-light-lit walls while Bowie sang Heroes and also fucking  tall, skinny, high-cheekboned, big-lipped German girls who spoke with throaty accents instead of sickening jezebel lisps. It was clear that the established order had to fall.

“Want a drink? I think I’m gonna let you hear side one now,” said Donnie.

“Glass of milk?”

“One glass of milk coming up.”

The kitchen was dark and unpacked looking. It looked very rough and new; the unpacked cartons all over the place (stacked on a thin layer of sawdust) were cartons from expensive wholesalers. In a few months this would be a kind of Yuppie dream-setting of bitter salads and exotic coffees. Donnie called, from off-screen, “So tell me more about The Candyce incident!”

“Not much to say, to be honest, man!” shouted Paul.

“How did you find out about it?! Friend tell you?!”

“It’s complicated! Where are you, man?!”

“Back here!”

Behind a patched and unpainted wall along which ran two as-yet-not-connected sinks and a very long marble countertop was a narrow and deep room, without a door, that might end up being a roomy pantry or the location of a walk-in freezer. But what the room featured now were dangling cables and a stack of mostly empty red plastic milk crates near the doorless doorway and sheetless, stained, futon mattress on the floor near the back of the room next to a reading lamp and a generic trophy with wings on it. Donnie was sitting on the futon with his knees up and his arms around his knees, smiling up at Paul, anticipatorily naked.

“Hey. Where’s my milk?” said Paul.

“You totally know I’m bisexual, right?”

“I do?”

“So don’t flip. Hear me out. I know you’re cool enough to hear me out.”


“I asked you many times to make an appearance in Cellar Door and you declined, which I respect,” said Donnie.

“Sure,” said Paul.

“But, off the record? This is not an Art conversation, at this moment. Man to man.”


“Nitty gritty.”


“What I’m saying is I just need the safe space required here to express to you that I am clinically burning up inside at the very thought of getting your cock in my mouth.”

“Well, see, Donald….”

“Let me finish.”


“Alls I’m asking is you can close your eyes and I’ll close mine and we’ll both pretend I’m someone else.”


“You don’t even need to cum even though I’m far from saying you shouldn’t. Straight up?  I just want to feel the weight and the heat of that bad boy on my tongue. Maybe just gag on it for a second.  See stars. You know what I mean? Something real.”

Paul was thinking:

“Female” and “male” are primordial categories that we each transcend, to some degree, or self-consciously join, because we’re joiners, but what do they mean and what Relatively Objective Qualities can they be reduced to?

A week is more than capable of being a life-time.

And so are three minutes.

Donnie made a gesture that Paul had never seen before but that he would invariably think of, in the coming years, as a signal to rap. Paul said,


“For my part I’m sworn to secrecy.”

“What if I can’t… ?”

“I’ll take my chances. You want to come over here or should I go there? Thing is, if you come over here I get to kneel on the futon.”

Paul walked over and unfastened and dropped and stepped out of his torn pants and closed his eyes and lifted his arms  as Donnie took Paul’s totally flaccid penis in his mouth without touching it with either hand. Paul remembered that there were striped recollections of Candyce’s arse on his penis but also realized it was too late to mentioned this. Donnie was respectful and didn’t attempt to arouse Paul by “milking” him or by otherwise using any embarrassingly sophisticated tongue or teeth techniques. He just held Paul’s flaccid, secretly shit-filmed, penis lightly in place like an arcane diagnostic of dubious efficacy.

The Mouth.

Paul saw the situation as a scene from a movie. He had an unnervingly vivid sense of the camera angle cutting from a close-up of the back of Donnie’s head to a shot from slightly behind and to the right side of Paul, in his bottomless secondhand vested grey flannel suit, showing just enough of Paul’s naked ass as the sybaritic “Ahhhh!” plus introductory power chords of Joan Jett’s cover of Crimson and Clover kicked in on the soundtrack. When Paul felt cool air on his flaccid, syrupy-slick penis he realized that Donnie was done.

Paul opened his eyes. “All done?”

Donnie was already back in his previous position, arms around his own knees, and, smiling up at Paul, Paul felt, in a subtly ironical way, Donnie nodded once and said “Yep.”

Paul pulled his torn pants on and up and zipped. “Yep?”


“But what do you mean, ‘yep’?”

“Just:  yep. Yep.” Donnie shrugged. “Yep.”

“Well, wasn’t that what you wanted?”

“I guess.”

“You guess?”


“Donald. Fuck.




“Whatever. Can I borrow a pair of pants?”

“No prob.”

Donnie got up and squeezed past Paul without managing to touch or look at him and Donnie left the room naked, whistling (ironically?)  and Donnie eventually returned with a pair of white corduroy bell-bottoms with a built-in macramé belt.

“Only thing I’ve got that isn’t dirty,” said Donnie, without looking. “Sorry.”

Pants on, shoes laced up, Back down the carpeted Himmelfarb stairsteps of the side entrance Paul went in Donnie’s tight white corduroy bell-bottoms. On the way out of the duplex he passed Donnie’s sister’s scowling blue-haired Japanese boyfriend, who was on his way in with a long orange, purple and black plastic pennant  (with a large cartoony “Q” on it) from some recent sports event or other or maybe he’d stolen it as an ironic trophy. Jun totally ignored Paul as they passed one another on the narrow walk, too caught up in his own pre-suicidal drama of catastrophic third-party international-carrier phone-bill debt.

Paul was trying to sneak very hurriedly home in his ridiculous white corduroy bell bottoms plus the secondhand suit-top and homburg hat he’d purchased for a birthday dinner and/or surprise party that never happened and his bottom half and top half were now as unmatched as any centaur’s. He felt a Deity or Omniscient Entity of some sort was watching him and laughing its asses off.

Paul made it as far as the corner of Nicollet and 24th when what appeared to be a pipe-smoking African (relatively fit and of medium-height with a  pleasant, neat appearance  in a pressed shirt  and smart old blazer, black Levis and sober leather shoes) stopped in his progress across the corner to Paul’s left in order to walk right back and get a better look at Paul’s ensemble, his eyes bulging with overstatement. The bloke looked Paul up and down, puffing on his pipe, and said, in what Paul took to be a thick Nigerian accent:

“The only thing worse than being a slave is being a slave that nobody wants. Am I right, friend?”

“PJ!” called someone over the road and Paul spun on his axis.

On the other side of 24th, headed in the direction from which Paul had just come, idled Deadweight’s de rigueur converted hearse of a band wagon,  fire-engine-red with gold details, Jaye Zeus at the wheel, leaning across Tiara’s lap to shout out the passenger side window.

“Hey man! Where you going?”

PJ jogged across the street against the red light, dodging traffic,  and scooted onto the long white leather seat beside Tiara, who smelled of beauty. She was done up in her high-collared black vinyl raincoat and little round sunglasses. Silver lipstick.

“Hey!” said PJ, too embarrassed to say anything else.

“Hey!” said Tiara.

“I love that look!” said Jaye Zeus, pounding the steering wheel with his open palms. “That is wicked as fuck and I will have it! Fucking white corduroy bell bottoms with a goddamn vested grey flannel suit jacket ensemble and a homburg hat that’s entirely too bloody warm for the weather! You’re not a follower, you’re a leader!”

“Big compliment there from Jaye,” said Tiara, nodding gravely. PJ couldn’t read her.

“Thanks. Yeah. Where are you guys off to?”

“Back to the Bat Cave after scoring refreshments,” said Jaye Zeus as he accelerated fearlessly into the ’80s-style clamour of traffic. Aha, thought PJ:  that’s why they’re in this neighborhood. Junk.  “And you are hereby invited to share in the sensations, trend-setter.” Jaye Zeus’s fake British accent was stronger than ever.

Trend settuh.

“I’d love to.”

“That’s the spirit,” said Tiara.





As they rounded the corner of Jaye’s climbing street as it hugged the curve of the moneyed hill overlooking the Mississippi river from a cozy spot above and behind the Walker Art Center and Jaye’s Frank Lloyd Wright-ish ranch-style brown-brick digs swung into view, PJ was surprised to see a neatly radiant and unremarkable garden in front of what must be Jaye’s living room’s black-draped bay windows. A tiered display of cheerful flowers that looked time-consumingly fussy and bourgeois and dull in their brilliance: just flowers being flowers: gag. The unaccustomed daylight revealed so much. The house belonged to a banker with whom Jaye was affiliated, one of several purchases the banker  used to launder a surfeit of cash that had come in a thick dark spurt from rancid and bloody transactions related, via a paraplegic mob lawyer close with The Babbitzes,  to the Iran/Contra business.

PJ got out of the foppish red hearse and Tiara climbed out after him, unfolding to her full length and stretching away from her own fine shadow on the curved stone path beside the driveway wide enough for three vehicles while the hearse idled and woolly exhausts crawled over them. The garage door rolled up in a sequence of juddering convulsions, leaving PJ alone with Tiara for a long minute as Jaye inched the hearse into the cavernous garage packed with amps and drum kits and a huge old lighting rig; all that plus a vintage Coke machine and two billiards tables, each up on one end,  in opposite corners of the garage and a tarp-draped,  hundred-year-old, fully-functional replica of a Medieval Siege Engine that had been the pride of the Mankato State Fair of 1889.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” asked Tiara, with Jaye Zeus’ contagious fake British (and intermittently-Cockney) accent. In the impossibly tiny lobe of each perfect, perfectly tiny ear shone a pearl.

Loik thaht or Loik thawt.

“Like what?” asked PJ, likewise infected after being stuck for ten minutes in the hearse with the two of them.

Loik wot?





Sexy Badass PJ thought of Tiara as the child of a mixed-race, middle class Black mother and a politically-ambitious father from Pakistan, deceased. He thought he was in possession of this information because Tiara herself had given it to him but the information was garishly untrue. Tiara had been trained to lie autobiographically by her father himself, the man she didn’t begin to see regularly until her mid-teens. Her parents weren’t divorced but they had an unusual arrangement:  father was living “down south” for a few years, earning fantastic money and seeing his family on major holidays.

Tiara was the only living product of the union of a mulatto and a quadroon. The quadroon had been governor-of-Arkansas Cal Babbitz’ personal pilot and a flagship token of Arkansas’ stab at diversity during Babbitz’ reign, the only descendant of slaves in Babbitz’ employ who didn’t wear an apron or devil-red lingerie or hip-waders to work every Monday morning.

Cal Babbitz had reached a point in his sexual journey that he couldn’t even get an erection for a naked individual white woman and was barely able to consider it worth fucking when situation involved merely an individual woman of any color and he would tell anyone he trusted that he wouldn’t bother to get into bed for anything fewer than two women, three being his preference, one tall African American woman with an outstanding Afro-style hairdo and two sleek little Thai girls, the Afro chick in the middle. And not always the same Afro chick. The Thai girls (with their basic English) changed all the time.

Babbitz and his entourage flew on junkets to Thailand on “state business” with Governor Cal Babbitz’ rotating roster of tall, Afro-brandishing secretaries. The trips were part of the Arkansas “Open Hearts and Coffers” initiative of the 1980s in which Little Rock and Phuket were declared sister cities, to the consternation of Cleveland, Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri, which had declared themselves the sister cities of Phuket, too. These trips between Little Rock and Phuket  were secretly underwritten by a conglomerate of the most macho, overlapping extremities of three intelligence agencies that were otherwise mutually inimical. The trip to Phuket was a straightforward affair from Little Rock to Phuket but the return trip was usually from Phuket to a stop-over at Potter’s Junction’s recently-extended (federally funded)  airstrip 134 miles west of Little Rock, at the edge of the Ouachita National Forest. After which surreptitious stop-over, Governor Cal Babbitz’ Gulfstream G-III would then leave Potter’s Junction and finish the trip at Little Rock National Airport,  1,500 kilos of contraband lighter.

Tiara’s father, the pilot, personally witnessed Governor Cal Babbitz and his best friend (at the time), Wynne Burke, receive standing blow jobs in open silk dressing gowns in the Gulfstream G-III piano lounge at 22,800 feet while the plane cruised on autopilot and the pilot played the piano; the kind of blow jobs known as “Trinities” in which the penis and testicles belonging to one individual are separately and  simultaneously  held in three  women’s gently-sucking mouths,  nostrils flaring like bunnies’, a specialty of Thai sex workers with tiny heads and hands and only really feasible when the erect penis is rather large and the balls are swinging.

Which is how  Babbitz really picked up the title “the first Black Governor of Arkansas” although officially it was his harmonica-playing that earned him the jokey distinction. The pilot saw Governor Cal Babbitz and his then buddy, Wynne Burke, each receive a humming Trinity standing with mouths alternately agape and cigar-sucking in the aisle of the piano lounge of the state jet at the same time. And that was not the only thing he saw while playing his Jelly Roll Morton role while the state jet skimmed the bulbous top hats of the clouds on autopilot and the co-pilot read old Playboy magazines with his bare feet in the window of the state jet.

When Governor Babbitz was finally (finally) impeached it was over the Thai sex junkets, a story salacious enough (“Caligula of the Ozarks!” screamed one headline)  to cover up the parallel and massive international drug-running entirely. Which had always been the intention, though not, of course, Babbitz’.  Babbitz, overcoming this heroically lurid disgrace, would eventually run for President and win. As perhaps might estranged friend Wynne Burke, two decades after Babbitz, running against Babbitz’ wife.

Tiara’s father, Randall, retired from service to Governor Babbitz long before the scandal popped. He hung up those tainted wings. He took a nice package of hush money while things were still creamy and Babbitz was still above the law and happy, a package that was bundled in a grisly mortal threat that came wrapped without a statute of  imitations.

Randall moved himself up from Arkansas to the upper Midwest to finally join the family in the nice house he’d bought in the suburb of Eden Prairie, where all of his neighbors were surprised to see him appear, suddenly, and tolerantly assumed he was of “Indian” or Indian or Spanish or Greek or Argentinean extraction. His surname (Bolasz) and complexion (ruddy) were mystifying, in a piquant way,  to the provincial Eden Prairieites. Randall’s mulatto father, half Hungarian engineer and half high-yellow African American school teacher, from Memphis, looked Mexican. Randall’s mother’s father (a retired postal worker when Randall was born) looked “Italian” when he was young and increasingly more Polynesian or Negroid as he aged, toasting under the browning rays of Time’s star, as he shrank and contracted and lost the hair that had always contradicted his African genes while his nose flattened. This maternal grandfather was Randall’s beloved, his closest, his idol, the man who taught him everything about the piano and cultivating rose bushes and wooing pretty women and the only living relative who looked sort of Black.

Randall Bolasz was ten years old in 1940 and there were places in Memphis (lots of places in Memphis; most of any part of Memphis it might be actually useful to visit) that his beloved grandfather “Gramps” couldn’t even get in unless Randall was holding Gramps’  hand…  a Black servant, apparently, being dragged rather adorably through the Department Store or the Public Library or the Zoo (during whites-only days) by his milk-white, burgundy-haired, freckled charge. If 66-year-old Gramps wanted to purchase a refill of Clifton Webb’s favorite fancy French toilet water he had to get Randall to take him to Bry’s for it, Randall in his church suit and Gramps in the overalls he did his gardening in. When Randall was young this was a game he enjoyed. As he grew he enjoyed it less and less until the days came (he was only twelve or thirteen when the penny dropped) that it filled him with rage. Owing to which…

Despite the fact that the usually-elegantly dressed, 56-year-old Randall Bolasz had the look of an exiled landowner of the pampas about him,  he talked Black, real Black, he dialled it up to a shocking extent, a wince-inducingly painful intensity if your ears were born in the North. He dialled it up to the obscene and embarrassing level that mass communication had tamed and blended and diffused from the face of most of the Earth by nineteen hundred and sixty nine but Randall Bolasz,  he just dialled it up, his Black Talk,  to the force of a physical assault, a violent performance that sounded, almost,  like a racist Burlesque,  like Klan-based Coonery,  like a backwoods Minstrel Show on speed,  especially if you saw him doing it, cackling at his own jokes and chicken-winging his elbows and doing a little twirl on the spot and calling you “Jack”.  “Dat’s tight, Jack!” he’d cackle and give you “five” and Tiara never could figure out who “Jack” was.

This patrician-looking guy with the aquiline nose and steel-gray Caesar haircut with all that incongruous sex and blood and Earth and bacon grease and whippings and shotgun-shack jive pouring off his tongue, repulsively copious, ultra-vivid and pigshit real, was her dad. Humiliating the hell out of his pretentious daughter whenever they were out in public, together, which was, thankfully, rare.

Because Randall Bolasz was paranoid as fuck.

Randall had seen some spine-tingling shit on the Governor’s Gulfstream G-III and though he knew for a fact he’d never tell a soul, how did they know it? Wasn’t it easier to eliminate Randall as even the remotest risk?  Some people had big mouths when they drank but Randall never drank, for precisely that reason, but how would they know? How could he send them a reassuring signal without producing the opposite effect? He hadn’t told Ilse anything about it back then but his wife wasn’t stupid and he knew she knew  he’d seen some dangerous things (it was very strange in retrospect but most of it had merely struck Randall as decadent or mildly corrupt at the time; does Evil surround itself in a relativizing aura at its peak?) and thankthegods she was too smart to ask. He tried to live a normal life. He tried to live a family man’s life. He retired and his family saw him most of the day, every day.

He tried to pick Tiara up from High School a couple of times on foot (never in his Mustang or his wife’s Volvo because it was much easier to do you with a gun in a vehicle in a parking lot or on the open road) and the second attempt was an even bigger ordeal than the first…  for both of them. Tiara praying that none of her white friends would approach them innocently and get a load of her dad’s crazy ear-raping nigger routine and Randall praying that neither he nor Tiara would catch a bullet in the chest or a dart in the neck or get crushed at an intersection by an 18-wheeler.

Tiara loved her dad.

Tiara really loved her dad. But she just hadn’t known until growing up a little how kind of hide-him-in-the-attic sick he was and she was grateful she had a mother who was “normal” enough to lie about and around, sort of casually, without calling attention to the fucked up circumstances and much bigger lies the smaller lies were designed to camouflage. Tiara had been told that her dad suffered from Agoraphobia on top of everything else and Tiara was never so grateful for the existence of a pathological psychological condition after she discovered, from listening to tenth and eleventh graders telling dumb jokes at lunch and recess, that her dad, her agoraphobic dad, talked like a nigger. Her dad sounded exactly like the tenth-graders sounded when they were pretending to be niggers, only worse. And the tenth-graders could stop it whenever they wanted. Her dad couldn’t! He was stuck with it! It was like a witch had cursed his tongue!

“Don’t talk like that, Daddy!”

“Like what, Baby Girl?”  Lak wuuuht, Bebbi Gal?

“Like that!

Tiara had known about niggers since she was maybe eight but she would have been crushed, at that age, to realize the condition pertained in any way to her.  How could it? But it did! When she finally learned the truth it was like reading about leprosy in school and discovering, one day, heart racing, from the textbook, that you (you alone, of all your classmates) had it, were it… and everybody else had already known it, all along.  A condition she very quickly grew to associate both with her unusual skin color and her dad’s embarrassing vocal mannerisms.

She remembers.

They were learning about the Holocaust in fifth grade and everybody had to get a number “tattooed” on his or her wrist like in the camps (the summer camps? Camps for bad kids? it was confusing) but Tiara’s number wouldn’t show up even after the chubby blonde student teacher (on crutches) from Israel,  who had suddenly and wincingly grasped the problem at the moment the tip of the marker came within a millimeter of pretty little Tiara’s wrist (too late!), tried to compensate by writing extra large. Nope. After which Tiara earned the nickname “Inky”. Already at ten years old! Inky Bolasz!

Inky Bolasz at twelve years old standing in front of a bank of elevators in the IDS building on a class trip to the famous fiftieth floor and an old lady with sour milk breath not really much taller than Inky,  in a Dirndl and fake blonde braids for the Oktoberfest celebration that was going on downtown, just a block away…  this lady must have been about Inky’s mother’s age and witch-pretty in heavy makeup (white pancake,  black eyebrows and red circles on her cheeks) and a wrinkly brown neck with lines of dirt etched in it… had said, loudly, because it was supposed to be some kind of a compliment, “Goodness, you are the prettiest little girl of your race I have ever seen!” and then got right on the express elevator with the kids as if it hadn’t even been her original intention and stood right there in front of Inky smiling at her all the way up for fifty accelerating levels stroking Inky’s waist-long hair and cooing and asking her where she was from and all that and Inky wanted to rip her own face off and stuff it n the witch’s mouth to shut her up. The teacher was in the other,  slower elevator with the kids who were afraid of heights and Inky was alone in that mirrored room with five of her classmates and no adults but the old lady of Inky’s approximate height with the white face and dirt in the furrows in her neck from a nightmare.

Inky hit fifteen and shot up in height and her looks kicked in and she would not even look at a boy who was darker than a Greek. She was terrified of ending up with a nigger (like herself) but also terrified that her father might ever discover this so began hanging out with a beard, a Gay friend who didn’t seem too Gay and was nice and dark and spoke well while being clearly Black. Anthony.

Tiara would bring Anthony over for dinner on Wednesday nights and her father was delighted. Anthony found Randall to be the funniest grown up he’d ever known (his own father was a token hire at an Eden Prairie law firm and hadn’t laughed at anything except Richard Nixon’s impeachment since Anthony was born) and Randall found Anthony to be very son-like and always respectful of Randall’s daughter. Randall was certain that with Anthony as her first official boyfriend, Tiara was still a virgin and would stay that way.

And, well, yeah, sure, when it came to Nigger Dick, inky Bolasz was pure as the driven snow.  When it came to blonde jocks, however,  she was a world class prop-gobbler. She had no self esteem. She was grateful when the blonde jocks from good homes allowed her to swallow their acrid loads in the White Castle drive-through on Friday nights when the queue was backed up just long enough for her to do it and for Chris or Bradley or Layne to put it away again and pull up to the window and collect their sliders. It was Chris Banks who marvelled once, in that drive-through on Hennepin avenue in Uptown, while scooting back in the bucket seat of his graduation present to get his fly re-zipped:

“And the beauty of it is, if you were a White Girl, there’d be all kinds of pressure to marry you…”

That one stung for years.

PJ got out of the foppish red hearse and Tiara climbed out after him, unfolding to her full length and stretching away from her own fine shadow on the curved stone path beside the driveway wide enough for three vehicles while the hearse idled and woolly exhausts crawled over them. The garage door rolled up in a sequence of juddering convulsions, leaving PJ alone with Tiara for a long minute as Jaye inched the hearse into the cavernous garage packed with amps and drum kits and a huge old lighting rig; all that plus a vintage Coke machine and two billiards tables, each up on one end,  in opposite corners of the garage and a tarp-draped,  hundred-year-old, fully-functional replica of a Medieval Siege Engine that had been the pride of the Mankato State Fair of 1889.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” asked Tiara, with Jaye Zeus’ contagious fake British (and intermittently-Cockney) accent. In the impossibly tiny lobe of each perfect, perfectly tiny ear shone a pearl. Black skin and naturally straight black hair all the way down to her hips, pouring out of her head like molten vinyl.

Loik thaht or Loik thawt.

“Like what?” asked PJ, likewise infected after being stuck for ten minutes in the hearse with the two of them.

Not Lak wuuuht: Loik wot? Cockney trumping Ebonix.

“You know what!” laughed tall, skinny, cuprously-luminous Tiara of the blackmirror tresses.

Yew now wot!

“Then you know why,” laughed PJ.

“Then you know why you shouldn’t!”  laughed Tiara, sassy hand on skinny hip, eyebrow cocked most adorably.  Woi yew shu-int.

“Jaye is probably my best friend in the world,” said PJ, leaning in, speaking confidentially and in his “own voice”.

“But?” said Tiara.

“And there’s always a but,” said PJ.

“Or an ass.” said Tiara, with a thrill: she had very nearly adopted a Fake Black Accent. AA-YUS.

“A fine Black ass,” said PJ, who went there.

“Oh my god,” hissed Tiara, “Listen to us talking like…”

“Like Niggers,” smiled PJ. He seemed to have forgotten he was dressed in white corduroy bell bottoms with a goddamn vested grey flannel suit jacket ensemble and a homburg hat that’s entirely too bloody warm for the weather.

“Yes. Niggers.” said Tiara.

“Nothing wrong with talking like Niggers, is there?”

“Certainly not. Talking like Niggers is perfectly acceptable… and  I think I’m having an epiphany.”

“A what?” giggled PJ.

Jaye swaggered out of the garage licking his lips, the red hearse parked and cooling.

“What are you two crazy kids giggling about?”

The house was cool and gloomed within, all the shades drawn in the proper Goth manner, and Jaye led them through the front door and the entrance hall with its floor of vintage mosaics of zodiac characters, which Jaye sometimes covered with rugs when it felt too Hippy (the Hippy being the Goth’s nemesis) and they walked around the Lucite fountain next and from there the sunken living room opened, the retro-modernist French-designed biomorphic chandeliers, hanging low and softly aglitter like the morning sun refracted through eyelash-trapped tears, came on as they entered.

“Our theme,” announced Jaye Zeus, very loudly, as he swept into the elegant pit of the sunken living room behind them with a flourish of his shiny purple cape, heretofore unnoticed, “is Refreshment!” He pointed at Tiara: “Kneel. Eyes closed, tongue out.”

Tiara knelt where she was in the royal-blue (anachronistic) shag between facing white leather couches, each about a Cadillac long,  beside a marble-topped table with a massive speaker cabinet on it and a nearby display of stunned gladiolas, dying but in denial. Jaye Zeus swept across the room and placed something on her tongue. She swallowed and remained kneeling. Jaye Zeus then spun dramatically and pointed across the sunken living room at PJ: “Kneel. Eyes closed, tongue out.”

After PJ swallowed his sample he stood and Jaye Zeus said, grinning, with his hand on PJ’s shoulder, “My God, are you people always so fucking obedient? How do you know I didn’t just give you cyanide?”

“Sick, man.” said PJ. Tiara rolled her eyes.

“The sexual tension in the room is palpable, is it not?” said Jaye Zeus.

Tiara said, “Joel…”

“Jaye,”  cautioned Jaye.

Jaye, what are you talking about?”

“PJ knows what I’m talking about. Right, mate?”

“Jaye, man, do we want whatever it is you just gave us to kick in while we’re in the middle of a psychodrama?”

“No psychodrama, PJ. I’m a big boy. You want to fuck my lady Tiara and my lady Tiara probably wants to fuck you. Can we get real here for a second, Princess?”

“He’s right,” said Tiara. “We’re all grown-ups here.”

“You see? Clarity. That wasn’t so hard, was it? Tiara would be the first to admit that we’re not in love. We have an arrangement. I’m rich and she’s pretty: those two things go together. You’re pretty, too, PJ. But you’re not rich, which is why I’m not threatened by you. See? Clarity.”

“Here’s to clarity,” said PJ, toasting Jaye with an invisible wine glass.

“Would you be threatened by PJ if he were rich?”

Jaye Zeus thought about it. “No.”

“Why not?” asked Tiara in a way that indicated that she knew the answer to that question.

“You know why. ”

“I want to hear you say it. Clarity.”

Jaye Zeus shrugged and looked at PJ dispassionately. “Because he’s Black. Or mostly Black.”

“Ouch,” said PJ. “Clarity.”

“I’m not expressing my views on race or anything, man. I just know Tiara. Tiara wouldn’t leave me for a Black guy in a million years. Even if he were rich.”

“What if I’m different now?” said Tiara.

Jaye Zeus grinned. “Really?”


“Well then,” said Jaye, “Maybe you’re different. Maybe you’ve changed. But PJ still isn’t rich so I’m still not worried.”

“What if I’ve changed even more than you are now willing to imagine?” said Tiara.

“I doubt it.”

“Test me.”

Jaye Zeus laughed. “Okay, you two run off together, have babies, live a life of anonymous poverty, lose your looks and get back to me. Will, say, fifteen years do?” Jaye fingered his $6,000 Patek Philippe Calatrava as though it were a mere stopwatch and, looking up from the watch’s white gold face, eyed them each with a puckish twinkle.”Starting now.”

“It’s not even your money,” said Tiara.

“Who cares? It’s nobody’s money. It’s mine in every way that counts except that I didn’t earn it, which makes it perfect.”

“His brother is a filthy rich banker with corrupt political connections.”

“Or so I claim. The story goes that my brother makes Ronald Reagan look like Morrissey of The Smiths. But he’s my brother. Supposedly. He used to pee in my Captain Crunch when our Nan wasn’t looking. I guess he still feels guilty about that.”

“Clarity,” said PJ.

“It was a joke. Do you have a brother, PJ?”

“Nope. Only child. The illegitimate offspring of Travis Bickle.”

“You probably didn’t know that I knew that,” said Jaye.

“Knew what?” said Tiara.

“Nothing,” said PJ. “How?”

“Just another joke, Dahling” said Jaye. “Don’t worry about it. Clarity. Shall we adjourn for drinks in the gazebo?”

The gazebo was an elevated part of the garden under an arch of motorized slats that could provide variable amounts of shade. There was a semi-circular bench capable of seating half a dozen people, comfortably, around a massive round table of painted iron that looked like lace. PJ had never been in the garden before and it was both lushly rampant and neatly trimmed, layered in varying tints and depths of green everywhere, rushing up every column or vertical support and spreading across the under-hangs like fire. The sun was still relatively high but in the gazebo, shaded and dewy and quiet as a mountainside, the crickets had already started.  PJ and Tiara sat first while Jaye went to get a tray and a pitcher.

“Defenses down,” said Tiara, quietly, to PJ beside her at the table. “Are we falling in love?”

“The possible answer to that question is terrifying.”

Tiara took PJ’s right hand in her left and pulled it under the table and held it in her lap. When Jaye came outside with the silver tray of glasses and pitcher she squeezed PJ’s hand and released gently as he pulled it back to his own lap, then placed both hands on the table.

“Lemonade,” said Jaye. “Homemade. Lemons from this very garden. Alcohol is not currently advised.”

PJ said, “It just occurred to me that I didn’t see you take one of those pills, man.”

Jaye poured out two glasses of lemonade and handed one each to Tiara and PJ and said, “I didn’t. I’m the designated driver, so to speak.”

“He’s the observer,” said Tiara.

Jaye sat down beside Tiara and said, softly: “Closer to being the moderator,  actually, Princess. How are you feeling, by the way? Drink up.”

Tiara drank up and so did PJ. “Tasty.”

“Sweetened with real maple syrup. They shipped a case to me from Vermont.”

“So what was in the pills, Jaye? LSD, right?”

“‘Fraid not. Those pills were a placebo. Sugar pills.”


“It was a test to see if you would swallow an unknown substance just because Tiara did. And you did. I needed to know… because if only one of you had taken the drug, the results would be disastrous, to say the least. I couldn’t administer the drug until I knew for sure you both would ingest at roughly the same time.”

“You said the pills were a placebo.”

Jaye laughed. “They were.”

“You’re starting to scare me.”

“Have no fear, Princess. This is going to be very cool, I promise. Just relax. It will be the coolest trip ever. And after it’s done, you won’t remember whatever happened after you swallowed that incredibly expensive lemonade, and whatever you do remember won’t make any sense. I’ll just tell you it was acid and you’ll accept that explanation and I’ll be done with you. And no one you know will ever see the film. And they’ll probably post me in Europe again as my reward. And they will make use of the data.”

“Joel, what are you fucking talking about?”

“Oh, just calm down. Listen. I’m going to give you all the information you should have, ethically. First, you should know: I’m a bit older than you think.  And, no, I am not some empty-headed, twenty-something poseur who believes in the transcendent validity of Goth music. God, how I hated that character.” Jaye chuckled. “Oh, and the man who owns this house is not my brother. We both work for the same company. A company that is very interested in you two. Everything that’s happened for the past year or so has been designed to lead to this moment. And now it’s here.”

“But how did you even know you were going to see me today, man?”

“Yes, true. I didn’t. The test was originally scheduled for next week. I improvised when we saw you on the street in that garish outfit. Never underestimate the Jungian logic of coincidence.”

“Whoa,” said PJ, apropos of nothing.

“Did you know that there are 102 modern races and that, between the two of you, you represent all of them? Genetically, I mean. Let that sink in,” said Joel. “You’re bursting with information. And you were only possible here.” By “here” he meant America.

“Poppycock,” said Tiara. With a little girl’s voice. Shirley Temple’s.

Poppycock, Tiara? How so? Are you feeling okay? How many fingers am I holding up? How about you, PJ?”

“Oh man. It is fair to say I am freaked. Out.”

“And are you freaked out, Tiara?”

Tiara’s chin was on her hands which were stacked, one upon the other, near the edge of the moisture-beaded table. Her eyelids were too impossibly heavy to lift and she was smiling against her will, it seemed, an enigmatically ironic  idol, her glossy black hair fanning out across her shoulder blades like a pelt. She knew it was a mixed metaphor. She couldn’t tell if the crickets she was hearing, and the distant shrieks and roars of lumbering carnivores, were real. She said, thickly,

“Yes. Thoroughly. Freaked.”

“No need to be. Guess what? I’m going to do both of you a couple of big favors while there’s still time. I hope so, anyway. Let’s see if this works. A bonus.”

Joel looked at his watch.

“Can you hear me? Tiara? Okay, you first: you are going to develop a craving for Black men. I’m going to snap my fingers once and this craving will bury itself in your subconscious, only to be activated when you hear a song that Prince will release in a few years. It will have an astonishing title. Sexy Motherfucker. Once you hear that song for the first time, your problem with Black men will be over, in a manner of speaking. And I don’t mean mulattoes like PJ here. I mean Black. Coal Black. Blackity Black. Make that: Black convicts. Let’s make you a Big Black Ex-Con Gang-banger Groupie. You will crave the coal-Black cocks of dangerously tattooed men. You will be self-abasingly insatiable.”

“And you. PJ.  Paul. Can you hear me? Lift the middle finger on your right hand if you can hear me. Good. Listen carefully. I’m going to snap my fingers twice and that will cause you to be a pretty good writer. You will start novels and finish them and get  many of them published at a fairly young age. Got that? It may come in handy later. Well, obviously, I’m a bit of a misogynist. Anyway. When I snap my fingers twice. One snap of the fingers for Tiara’s awful post-hypnotic suggestion, and two snaps of the fingers for PJ’s.”

Joel yawned, snapped his fingers once. Then he waited a goodly interval and snapped his fingers twice. Then Joel said,

“Oh and listen, you two. I’m curious.” He studied the second hand on his watch and waited. “What do you two suppose was going on around these parts, say, seven hundred million years ago?”

PJ jumped up from the table and plunged into the bush, running in a sort of paramilitary stoop as though he were carrying two rifles, one in each hand, head down, headlong and very fast. Tiara ran after, dodging through the startled leaves and bounding over roots and under low-swung branches and right on him, effortless, almost ecstatic, her haunches uncoiling springs, her breath a red wind. PJ was reddish brown, narrow in the shoulders, very narrow in the waist, buttocks like a fist, fur short and thinning around the shoulders and nearly bald up his long neck, the fur on his head just sparser and he couldn’t have stood more than five feet tall, probably closer to four foot eight or nine.

Each furred hand appeared to snatch at the air in front as he ran, right hand snatching and releasing behind then left hand snatching and releasing behind. He was only a little faster than Tiara, who couldn’t seem to close any tighter than twice an arm’s length between them. It was a game. How perfectly could she match or even anticipate his sudden veers and feints through flashing gaps, green gullies, tunnels in the bush? How long could she keep up? She was right on him. It felt like thirty or forty miles per hour for as long as she could cling to those units of measure. She tried to shout the ABCs as they ran and only made it half-way through. She shouted “J! K!” and they went dead and cold and jagged in her mouth as flint-chips or cracked teeth and she spat them.

What is language?

The low canopy opened to a sky higher and more gold and less blue than what she was used to. The sun was there in a hot-spot polishing the back of his sparsely-fuzzy skull and she could almost touch it, the brilliant spot at an elevated angle along the meridian dividing his ears, floating on his skull like the sun in a pond. The sheltering bush was gone and they were speeding across a field of knee-high yellow, very dry grass. The very dry grass was cutting the leathery black soles of their big feet and whipping their big feet and knees and fingertips thrashing the grass reminded her of high winds in hotel flags before a storm or, no, the sound of dozens of sprinklers on a golf course very early in the morning, until she forgot what sprinklers and golf courses and hotels were. What is a flag? It was only a minute before their running had rinsed Tiara’s mind of all but the thinnest traces of the world of deranged gasoline and raped electricity, scrubbed pure by the unexpected return of nearly a billion years of lost ur-mud and proto-root and young sun. The sun was mellow and high in the sky. The sun was warm but not punishing.  What is punishment? What is a minute? Why?

The air:  now streaked and creamy and asizzle with odors: rampant breeze-exploding stinks of ooze-gold and  brown-purple wind-blimps of shit and green gouts of mulch-gust they ran through laughing and shrieking as though these odors were steaming cloudbursts, storms in the nose and mouth,  to smell is to taste, the bad odors were not bad or menacing, they zigged in formation, a slalom through sudden crusted runs of mammal shits piled high as their hips, the crispy near-recent middens of giants plus inevitable berry-sized flies in ropey vortices they punched through squinting, tight-lipped, swatting and waving and scooping the flies from bristling air.

Then up together a gentle rise climbing pitched curves between boulders,  horizon tilting, running harder now,  an effort,  breaths deep, legs heavy yet over the highest rill of the upheaval-curve you could see that long easy concave drop to the river,  the young river, silver snake in glitter foam, both banks of the churn lined with reddish-brown, fuzzy-furry super-intelligent proto-humans like Her and Him, looking no bigger than bipedal mice from where She and He loped along the high edge of the promontory until finding a humble path through gods-carved menhirs,  black obelisks of old shattered natural castle, a beaten trail down very long concave slope of valley to the spontaneous gathering at the bowl-bottom’s river. Down the slope they accelerated,  they whopped and canted, aided by now-clement gravity. Whooshing down together with She now the lead.

His thick little twig of a glossy black dick was now permanently erect. It would remain erect until discharge, just as her tiny tits were berry black above a sopping sorrel bush under her own dickish clit, a bush so wet now until discharge that it even lubricated the running, the thighs rubbing in flight, the squish and suck of a run so wet to the orgy on both banks of the ribbon river. Ten thousands down there just like them and hard at jubilant super-fuck already.

There was a plateau of stripped shrubs down in the dust above the final approach to the river bank and they paused there hunched, hands on knee-tops, hard-breathing and all smiles, open-mouthed smiles, eyes everywhere but incessantly back on each other, her sopping bush and his straight-out  dick, a pause above the torrent-sounds and whoops and singing immediately below, so close a few down there were calling up to them in high voices, not words but sounds, waving and shading their eyes.

Kweeeee! Kweeeeeee!

She could feel the warp and waft of His thoughts and He Hers but only vaguely. So they each stuck a finger in the other’s mouth and sucked to ease into a clearer reading. Gazing deeply in His eyes, Her finger in His mouth, His finger in Hers, they nodded. A wet kiss, a long wet kiss, saliva-slick membranes pressed, electro-psychical circuits closed, would bring communion. But they savored the Before, the sharp thoughts moving as though behind two soft wet adjacent sets of scrim, two parallel sets of arras, the shapes coming in and out of high relief to bump a bit in pre-communion contact. The big black mirror of each unfathomable eye reflecting the other as they faced. She took Him in Her arms and they kissed and their minds jolted and spun and recapitulated to join in the full communion of the long wet,  lips-fused, electrolytical-spit kiss.

Yes, there are Races, now,  but not three or four (and nothing to do with the curl of your hair or the thickness of your lips or the slant of your eyes):  102. There are 102 modern human Races of the post-Hominid. But for Her and for Him there was only one Race and they had gathered on the rocky banks of the churning baby river for an orgy on a bright day in Pre Time to release a trillion sperm cells into the river in a rapturous celebration of the Universe’s immortal leitmotif of glorious WASTE. With their tiny dicks and tits and the winking camera-eye arseholes. Their tarsier eyes and nearly unisexual bodies and their IQs of 410. The only intelligent Life in the Universe.

The ultra-Fluke.

The Universe very largely (unless you happened to accidentally look in a minuscule section of a tiny far-flung region of a small section) inanimate.

The dumbest among them so intelligent that they’d pity Einstein as a well-meaning low-grade moron and give him simple celestial-mechanics-tasks to keep the German busy while they fucked in slow peace and bliss beyond human understanding. Their vast instinctual knowledge of the local universe and its parochial structures and forces was so complete that the sweet joke of existing at all is so sacred, so clear, so stark and recurrently random and funny: technology pointless. Ambition pointless. Power pointless. Dominance an absurd obscenity. We are already God and all there is, all that is worth speaking of,  is Communion and Play and the occasional treat of the lightning-roasted nuts of the ancestor, five-hundred million years removed, of what He and She would both one day learn to call a Hickory tree. Humor is the Highest Value in this incredible sex comedy of Existence.

Have some nuts?

The sun would grow closer and hotter,  the moon would grow distant and the children of their children, 700-million years and seven clock-resetting cataclysms (three natural)  removed,  would be low-grade morons, cut off, somehow, from the information normally flowing directly into everything in the world with a mind. The universe is electricity and electricity is information and information is peace and it is everywhere, unending, so why can’t you access it naturally, anymore?

What’s wrong with you?

What have you become?

Why have you become?

Is it true that wherever you begin is the beginning?

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [letters are vetted for cogency and style]

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