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Sam Rockwell is an Academy-Award winning actor. Norman Rockwell was an illustrator who championed civil rights, most famously in a portrait of grade-schooler Ruby Bridges being escorted to a sanctioned-by-law non-segregated class by four hefty enforcers from the U. S. government. In contrast to these two gentlemen, George Lincoln Rockwell was the hate-mongering head of the American Nazi Party in the 1970s. On the laptop screen behind my drawing is a scene from the ROOTS saga featuring Marlon Brando as the Nazi Rockwell, who would have fit right in at that infamous rally in Charlttesville.

Here are the words to the quadruple acrostic:

See, some surnames make it rain and snow

And two fellows with a row to hoe

Make Art crafty on a carousel

And for our emotion’s sake excel

I drew Sam Rockwell from a freeze-frame from WOMAN WALKS AHEAD, starring Jessica Chastain and Michael Greyeyes. I drew Norman Rockwell from the canvas-sketch detail of his “Triple Self-Portrait.” I wouldn’t waste a gram of graphite drawing George Lincoln Rockwell, unless it was absolutely essential to do so for an image’s sake. Turns out it wasn’t in this case, so I cheerfully excluded him.

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The word “woebegone” is self-ironic. And tears leave the body.

Words to the minimal acrostic:

Whence Bardo

Or Omegan

Endgame

Friends, if you are Woebegone, though you may feel like the loneliest person on Earth, you are not alone and you are loved.

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My name is Gary, and I have a problem with gambling.

My problem cost me a lot of money, a lot of energy, and time that would have been vastly better spent doing something else, and very likely the relationship I had with the love of my life.

Late in 2010 my inner voice told me I would survive 2011 if I did not set foot in a casino, but if I did, I would “not be OK.” So I didn’t set foot in a casino; in fact, I didn’t gamble for more than six years. Good things and bad happened during those six years, but I guarantee you they would have been far worse had I indulged my addiction.

Around February of 2017 I fell off the gambling-sobriety wagon. The rationalizer in me says it was OK to do so, since I was not in a romantic relationship with anyone, and I didn’t let it interfere with my job performance, and I was lonely and getting strong intimations of mortality.

I know better, of course. As for not being in a romantic relationship, gambling addiction is a preventative. As for interference with job performance, that is true of my day job, but not of my REAL job, that of poet and artist. Gambling thieves time, energy and mojo. I have left numberless paintings, drawings and poems on the gaming table.

And as for intimations of mortality–the clock is ticking. What is the best use of the time I have left?

Odds are slightly better than even money, Friends, that I will be in a casino, pissing away a little more vitality, as you are reading this. I hope not. In fact, I’m writing this as a preventative. But I am a weak man.

The title of this post, “Getting a Little Bit Dirty,” is a riff on an old joke whose concept is “Getting a little bit pregnant.” You’re either pregnant or you’re not, and, in terms of addiction, you’re either dirty or you’re not. It’s been eight days since I’ve been in a casino. I am not dirty. That can change in a heartbeat, and that is 100% up to me. I cannot be rescued by anyone but myself.

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Mary Byrne, sister of Tom, has been my friend for more than 50 years. (She is only 35, but we met in a previous lifetime.) She is now Dr. Mary Al-Saleh, and I learned of so much of her joy and sorrow as we had breakfast at Kiss the Cook in Glendale, our home town.

First I caught her up, thus: Broke up with high school/college sweetheart Gayle in 1979. Some effort to get back together, but we didn’t. Next real girlfriend, 1985. Lasted three months. Engaged to be married in late 1987 to a woman from Iran. She broke our engagement in mid-January 1988 and two days later I met Joni, who would marry me on December 10 of that year. Our only child Kate was born in April of 1990, and Kate got her library card at the age of 3 on July 23, 1993. Joni and I ended our marriage amicably on December 19, 2011. New love sent me to the Village of Oak Creek in Sedona, and then Cottonwood, but, alas, we could not get along and I gave my girlfriend, despite my still having deep love for her, and my employer Sedona Winds, despite my still being a dependable worker in good standing, two weeks notice in mid January 2015, and then headed back to Phoenix that February. Stayed with my mom and younger brother a while, found my own place, found a new job, found a steady girlfriend and lost her, found a better job at Matt’s Big Breakfast, where I work to this day, found another girlfriend who ended up breaking up with me, getting back together with me, and yet again breaking up with me–March of this year. Now I call myself the world’s most ineligible  bachelor, and I see my daughter and ex-wife and former steady girlfriend fairly often, but have been ‘ghosted’ by my second girlfriend…

“‘Ghosted’? What’s that?” Mary asked.

“When someone acts as if you don’t exist.”

“Oh.”

Then Mary caught me up, and here I am plagued by memory issues, but I seem to remember her first child, who died tragically young, was named Laila, meaning Day, and her second child Noura, meaning Night, and they were indeed like Night and Day. A son whose first name is Ali, and two other sons, both of whose first names are Abdul. One is called Hobby. Mary briefly tried her hand at travel agency, then taught Nursing at the community college level for 28 years. Somewhere in there she earned a Ph.D. She also learned there is a lot of unpleasant politics in the teaching profession. She is now, I hope I got this right, a Certified Lymphedema Therapist…

which came at the end of a long journey involving Mary’s health issues, of congestive heart failure and of breast cancer. Congestive heart failure caused her legs to swell, and then caused her to collapse.  Her heart pumping capability was measured at 28, and it needed to be at minimum 55. (She is now a fine 55.) But then one day she was standing in front of a mirror. and for some reason she let her hand fall to her breast, and at the exact spot her hand fell, something did not feel right.

Soon she was tested, including a biopsy, and then she found herself facing an oncologist. The oncologist, aware of Mary’s CHF, said almost immediately, “Yours is a difficult case.” And that did not sit well with Mary at all.

Her search for a good fit for healing somehow led her to Houston, Texas. Suddenly she had a team on her side that she could believe in, and so she underwent a course of chemotherapy and then of radiation. And it was in the enormous room where the radiation was done, when Mary was surrounded by arcane apparatus telling her that desperate measures were being taken, that Mary realized that she was very, very sick.

Sick she may have been, but her spirit was robust. Her game was on. She took a radiative beating that left her so exhausted that at one point she did not have the energy to move her toothbrush up and down. So she crept back to bed and slowly gathered strength. And she recovered from all the ghastly things that some Stage 3 cancer patients must endure, to survive.

And now she is a grandmother, and proud to say that many of her progeny have pursued medical careers. One son is a nurse. Another is a doctor.

And Mary’s journey continues. She is full of life, full of giggles, full of fun and lovingkindness. Long may she thrive!

Friends, it’s the Third of September, and a long time since my last post. Before the end of the month I hope to get back up to daily posts. Meanwhile, must start somewhere, so here’s an ink sketch, just a little inspired by local hero Alice Cooper.

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brian and his dog

My brother Brian Clemens Bowers, seen here with his dog Fluster, died peacefully of natural causes last Monday. Here is the obituary I wrote for him, with help from my family:

Brian Bowers, 61, crossed the finish line of his life’s journey peacefully in his home in Phoenix, Arizona on August 6, 2018.

Brian gave of himself generously, with no thought of reward, throughout his life. Street people were his sisters and brothers. And he was a vagabond Santa Claus to his many nieces and nephews, despite being dirt-poor, because he tirelessly searched in thrift stores, swap meets and yard sales for the perfect gift for each individual.

He was also an outstanding caregiver, first for his grandfather “Papa” during the last four months of Papa’s life in 1987, and more recently for his mother Jane Bowers Stoneman, from the time of her husband Marty’s death in 2014 up to the very week that Brian died. He performed numberless household and yard chores, and 24/7 caregiving, for Jane, despite his own medical issues, which included severe back trouble, liver problems, and two major cancer surgeries.

Brian loved music, and in his handwritten Last Will and Testament directed his mother to take her pick of his many CDs and concert DVDs and then offer them to his nieces and nephews. He also expressed hope that none of his other possessions, including the food on his shelves and in his refrigerator, would go to waste.

Brian’s life’s journey led him to a stint at UPS; a glorious championship season as a Little League coach; an all-too-brief yet joyous marriage to Lira, the love of his life, who died tragically young; at least two years of homelessness due to hard drug use; a stay at Joe Arpaio’s Tent City; and then the triumph of becoming clean and sober with the great and gracious help of faith-based Streets of Joy and Victory Outreach. In Brian’s final years he became a committed member of Faith Assembly of God. Christianity became his salvation.

Brian met the enormous challenges of his circumstances with great courage, immense love in his heart, and an unquenchable sense of fun. Those who survive him include his mother, Jane Bowers Stoneman; brothers Harold and Gary; stepbrothers Cary, Dan, Tod, and Glenn Stoneman; his beloved Aunt Diane; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. He leaves these loved ones with a fine set of remembrances of his love.

Here is Brian’s handwritten Last Will and Testament:

brian last will

Here is the transcript, mildly edited by his loving and grieving brother:

Last Will and Testament, November 24, 2012

I, Brian Bowers, being of sound mind, body, and spirit, do hereby appoint my mother Jane Bowers Stoneman to receive everything I own. One 1979 Datsun 260Z; one 1987 Nissan Pulsar NX SE; everything in the back house at [address] as well as everything I may own in the storage sheds and cabinets.

My wish is that she would direct the distribution of my assets; allow each of my nieces and nephew, one at a time, to choose any of my CDs and concert DVDs that they may want (of course, that’s after Mom takes what she wants); then allow blood kin to choose anything as remembrance or enjoyment. My Mother is in charge of any distribution of anything. I would hope that any of my food not go to waste.

My computer and TVs may be given or kept by my mother.

I would hope my brothers would get something as well.

Thanks

signed Brian C. Bowers
November 24, 2012

Here is an array of medications Brian kept at his bedside:

brian pills

Finally, here is a poem I wrote this morning, meant to go with the above image:

no refills

1

let’s check you out

your lumbar grinds
you tend to seize
your bp is up there

you had this operation
so you need this this and this
and that procedure
so here is that and that

and now you have side effects
so here’s this for logy
that for grouchy
and the other just because you hurt

take them once and twice and thrice a day
with and without food

diet? exercise?
not our department

2

let’s check you out

you are calm–good
zero chance of seizure–excellent
no pain whatsoever–truly fine

and non-instruments detect
waves and waves of love
washing over you and through you

your reward awaits

you won’t be needing these any more