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Archive for April, 2011

Three blocks away from my house. The old abandoned Masonic Hall is  on fire, perhaps a cleansing rite of some sort played out on the akashic plane.  I lament it’s passing even though it was in decay. A two story stucco building  denuded of everything but the plaster square and compasses symbol above the  door. It reminds me of everything that was good about the Greatest Generation.

For me the Masionittes have held a fascination. My Great Uncle  Alvin McKiddy was a 33 degree and a Shriner and a volunteer fireman in our small suburban hamlet of Dallas, TX. When he died five older gentleman  in starched white shirts  wide  polyester tiesfashionable for the time, and grey wool pants wearing hand painted aprons  stood over his coffin and recited something  that reflected the esoteric beliefs of that bygone universalist age when the
hidden wisdom of the ages beckoned them with her dulce tones to be men of  service to a dedicated community of brothers, travelers, no seekers of truth  and in doing so perform some great work to aid the spiritual growth of  humanity.

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Peaches

PEACHES
I have felt all my life…. that life was a ripe succulent peach
Just out of my reach, just one limb away.
Just a few summer crinkled leaves away.

Achievable by leaning just…that much farther….
I’ll be careful I say.  While I test my footing  and balance myself.
I even think far enough to wrap my other are around the black brittle trunk.

In accordance with my life…..either the peach ripens Falling….while I make my assent….
or mom calls me to supper… or far too often the limb beneath me breaks.

Wind Stone peaches…that grow in central Texas; although they are hearty and
drought resistant.

(god knows they need to be)

They were always small and withered, or pecked into and ruined
by the time I caught up with one of them.

Now there were persimmons on a  tree in the hollow,
well watered by a drainage flu.

They were sour enough to make your eyes water.

They always seemed to ripen without incidence…..
On the tree in the musty forested hollow.

So as a child I tried to accustom myself to their bitter,
yet abundant presence in my life.

Telling myself that they were as genteel tasting as the majestic Clings of Georgia,
to an eight year old on any hot summer evening…. along the 33rd parallel.

I even half believed it….. Sometimes.

Peach trees In Texas are not tall ……and where I grew up….They’re stunted,
their roots can’t grow too deep in the Eagle ford shale beneath our house on Chalk Hill.

Poor things grew brittle, blackened and withered from the alkaline soil.

Like those pitiful trees trying to bare fruit under the lands’ impossible
constraints.

I think sometimes…. I am caught by the same starvation.

Unable to grow beyond the Chalk Hill of my situation.

Judith
Prueitt

05/03/96 10:08 AM Dallas, TX.

Written
at the home of childhood friend Evelyn Ann Frazer.

For
my Dearest ‘Evey Sue.’

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Gypsies

Gypsies:
A slight tinkling sound filled the air followed by the familiar whack of  the narrow wet broom. A sound heard and felt all to frequently  by the blonde blue eyed six year old. “Now cross yourself and pray to St. Hermis to protect you.” Old  Momma Aggie’s voice was emphatic. She was always emphatic when it came to learning to steal.
The old woman snatched the purse from the folds of the wire dress makers mannequin deftly without so much as  one chime of the silver bells Elesabette feared.  Her gnarled hand  opened like a claw revealing the small draw string purse and it’s contents. She had gutted the purse like a carrion bird in one swift move. She was a Gypsy.
“Old Dolly” was dressed as a society lady today. Although, it could be dressed as solider or farmer or anyone except another gypsy. You could get your finger cut off for stealing from the Family.

Agraphene kissed the relic she held in her hand.  The purse frayed from centuries of use. It had belonged to five generations of Gypsy grandmothers.

The velvet bag was only  five and a half inches tall and only a palms width across. Purple,  blue and  clear glass beads made a long fringe down the sides and bottom. Beads were stitched in a harlequin pattern across the face of the faded reddish-purple bag. Each  lozenge had a tiny silver bell at its center. Each stitch, bead and bell held symbolic meaning for the  gypsy band. It told of the trek across southern Europe. It held the fantastic tales of  the voyage to America. The history of a thousand council fires, of births, deaths. It held the soul of the tribe.  Momma  Aggie wrapped the purse in a  yellow silk scarf and thrust it in to the folds of her blouse.
“We should have sold you to that nurse in San Antonio for 300 dollars.” she barked at the child. “You are a danger to the Family.”  Old Momma aggies’ worst insult.

Elseabetta  had known for a long time how important the family  is.  It was all she had known since her mother Julianna had died trying to help  Roman steal  chickens  four years ago. Julianna  She was told, was clumsy, as were all gauchos”  and foolish. She had  screamed  and rushed the old farmer outside of San Marcus. Her mother: Not understanding the age old  dance between Gypsies and  farmers, had died needlessly.  Her father Roman, Prince and one day king of their gypsy  tribe, had gone against all custom to marry her.

“I didn’t mean to kill her, honest. I was just going to scare ya’ll off ma’ land. Hell, I didn’t even think it waz loaded.” The surprised  and dazed farmer said as he realized what he had done. Each Party  involved  went numb for a while. Then as reality began to sink  in. “She was my wife.”  was all that  Roman could say to the farmer.

The council of elders and the farmer  took only thirty minutes to decide Julianna’s fate as a corpse. Their decision, to bury her in an abandoned well.  She was not Family, so Agraphena  and the other wives  could cross them selves and  by doing so Cross out any Malefic  luck that accompanied  not adhering to custom of holding a wake.  They hastily dressed her in  a  fuchsia polyester print dress  and a yellow wool shawl  placed pennies over her life less eyes and lowered her into the well.

Roman’s depression lasted three days. Until, the tears of  his tiny daughter rinsed away his selfish feelings of  heart break.  He vowed someday her life would be better than the one he had offered her mother.

They broke camp at dusk and were well passed Austin city limits heading north  before  midnight.  Realdo Joseph was sure they were safe.   Julianna’s death was not the first time in his seventy three years on the road with the family he had   had witnessed  senseless tragedy. Experience told him the farmer would not talk as long as the body was safely hidden  in his deserted well.

The old Gypsy King was fond of the  young blond ethnology student Julianna. She reminded him  of  his youth  and  brought out the best in his son Roman  Joseph.  But, she had crazy ideas.  dangerous ideas  like his  first wife did.  Elesabetta Joseph taught the children  of the family to read. She had spent five years of her youth in a reformatory for petty theft and prostitution.  She wasn’t  a prostitute. She would lure men from bars with her charm  and  deliver them into the hands of  her uncles and cousins waiting outside to club the foolish gauchos and relive them of their wallets.

Reading. Well, the world was changing. Elesebetta Joseph was right. Reading was good for the family. It allowed them to  understand the changing world around them.  He found himself stealing  magazines from the groceries for their son  Roman. Once he even visited the library at UTA. He  had never believed his wife. So many books. What did people have to say that they needed so many books?  He stole  the  “Aradia  Gospel  of the Witches”  it was the only thing listed on Gypsies in the Card Catalogue said the librarian. The scowl on his face deepened as his wife read it to him. He cursed  and tossed the book into their camp fire. “Pigs filth!” he exclaimed as he watched it burn. The leaves of paper curling backward beneath the flames  like the passage of time.

“Perhaps gypsies in Italy are different papa.” said the young Roman Joseph.
“We are the first people” replied Joseph, “Never forget that we are the first people! Even before the Bible. Even before Moses.”
“Realdo!” cried his wife crossing herself  “do not blaspheme. It is bad luck.”
“You women are crazy!” he replied. His beloved  ‘Betta  had not been crazy.  She had understood  the Gauchos and their crazy ways; Building roads and fences that limited life’s possibilities. Once his tribe had been over hundred  strong just three years ago there had been fifty, now only thirty five remained.  “Every body wants a television.” “Betta had argued. “Joseph the world of the Traveling Gypsy is gone forever.” “Gypsies are god’s chosen” he had replied.

Two months later  his wife  ‘Betta died from pneumonia.  The doctor in Jonesbourgh had refused to treat her. There was the matter of his daughter. She had come to ‘Betta for the ‘Cure’ for pregnancy.  The infusion of herbs  Elesebetta Joseph had caused the baby to be still born. Angela, the old Doctors  daughter was too afraid to tell her father she had misscarried and had almost died of infection and complications.  In the harsh world of the Family these things are  common. His Black eyes looked forward into the familiar night, Her cloak of darkness beckoning them to the safety of the road.
FIN

The DALLAS TIMES HERALD posted the usual warnings “THE GYPSIES ARE BACK IN TOWN” as they had for  years. The city would batten down like a village beset by  Vissagoths. I remember the Gypsies traveling through  Texas during the 1960’s. My memories of them  sent my imagination soaring. How did they live I wondered? How many of the stories I’d heard as a child were true?

Gypsy Town materialized each year like a mist one summer morning and  then dissolved. They  would camp under the VIA DUCT in painted wagons. We could see their campfires from the Trinity bridge. There they lived dancing, telling fortunes, selling charms and potions and of course STEALING anything from bicycles to children.. Well, that’s my mother said. We had to look the other way if they passed us on the street. But, I wouldn’t look away. Braving the pinching all good mothers gave disobedient children. I saw colorful people with a strong since of pride. There was a mystery about them as heavy as the sent of  the cedar wood fires they made in their river bottom summer home. They don’t travel the roads here in painted wagons any more.  Many have acclimated to the life of the city. I’m sure many have not. How many still keep to the road; who knows? Why does the Gypsy travel the roads? Because he must.

Who: Fictional band of gypsies, traveling through south Texas.
What :An intro. to their lives exploring a few  beliefs and the impact of those beliefs on the world around them.
Where: Texas
When: circa 1968 ad
Why: it could be informative.
How: a narrative

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The Ordinary Man.

There was nothing special about this man he looked like every other ordinary man in Manhattan. His features were nondescript. His eyes well, they were that brown that everybody else’s seem to be. But there was one special thing that nobody else around him seemed to have. He knew his place in the world. He knew who he was. That he had worked hard to get where he was and that he had done his best. He wasn’t proud of his achievements you see there really weren’t any. Nothing out of the ordinary.

How did he come to this realization? Well. walking past Lincoln center one gray nondescript day. There are so many in early fall or late winter when the sky warns you to carry an umbrella just so you can leave it on the subway. It was just such a day when our very ordinary friend looked up to see if that thing that went zinging by his head landing in a plop on the shoulders of his London Fog Mac really was a raindrop. He deciding that it was, had stopped to open his umbrella.

That’s when it happened a raindrop fell from an incredible height hundreds of feet up in the air landing squarely on the top of his head: Dead center of his nondescript middle age balding head. It was cold and made him shiver; although he didn’t shiver will the cold. No. His shiver was an awakening. He felt suddenly at peace with himself and with what was left of his ailing marriage. He stopped and called his wife to tell her thanks for the fried egg sandwich she had packed him for lunch, yes, he had always enjoyed them. Why he had never said any thing about it until now well he really didn’t have an answer. But he wanted her to know he loved her very much.

His next quarter was a call to the second job. He had worked cleaning Radio City Theater after performances. Yes, he knew he’d done it for years. It was his first real job, taking over for his father after his father had died. Yes, he remembered the manager had been his closest friend during the war, that they had saved one another lives as well as butts on more than one occasion but he’d just have to find someone else. With that he hung up the phone and walked toward the subway for his long ride to the ‘burbs.

“Well is this the story? What was so special about that rain drop has this ever happened before?”

Only once to my knowledge that same afternoon there was a plain couple, you know extraordinarily happy-to-have-found-one-another-in-this-sea-of-concrete-kind. One of those couples found on any given day at central park sharing hot dogs and a coke, and walking not far a way from our nondescript friend.

They were a little faster in opening their umbrella so the drops just ran down the black silk and perched on the silver metallic tips. Until one shook free hitting the young woman on the back of her brown suede hiking boots, it stayed there for a second and then seeped in to the leather disappearing in the next splash she made as she stepped off the curb heading from central park.

She never became aware of her life as our other friend but she knew she loved to wear those hiking boots; the world just seemed to be OK when she did.

Note: The happy couple is my friends Scott & Beth Simmons
Judith Prueitt April 95,
Exposition Park
#6, Dallas

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