Growing up working-class in a small Southern city, I early acquired a racist vocabulary. This was by no means encouraged by my parents, who were mortified when, at four or so, I referred to a fellow customer at Sears as a nigger. I have no memory of doing that — I was told about it years later — but I’m sure I was baffled by the punishment I received. The kids in my neighborhood used the word “nigger” as a matter of course. To them, it was an appropriate term for a person of color, and I followed suit, even after the Sears incident. Why punish someone for calling a bird a bird? And why would a bird object? So, I think, my reasoning went.

At the time, I barely knew any black people, but that changed when I started school. On my first day of the first grade, a black classmate spoke out of turn and was made to stand in the trash can. I likewise got into trouble for, among other things, spontaneously performing the Tarzan cry, and though I was spared the trash-can treatment, my teacher must have decided I was going to be too much to handle, and quickly had me moved to another class. My new teacher, Mrs. Orr, was black, and she told me to have a seat when I arrived one morning in the middle of a lesson. I remained standing and stuck my tongue out at her.

“Why did you do that?” she asked.

I was positive she knew why. Kids and teachers were natural enemies: cats and dogs; mongoose and cobra. That’s what I’d learned from TV, but on TV it was funny, and kids who misbehaved were often the most beloved.

So I was shocked that the kids in Mrs. Orr’s class didn’t laugh or give me looks of complicity when I stuck out my tongue. Instead, they stared blankly: the same response I’d received in my first class when I performed the Tarzan cry.

“Class,” said Mrs. Orr, “is this any way to act?”

“Noooooooooooo,” said the class in unison, and, cowed, I sat.

Still, over the few next few days, I continued to annoy, sometimes without trying. For instance, we learned how to write our names, and, being besotted with American Indians, I embellished my name with Indian touches, such as turning the letter D into a bow about to shoot an arrow. I thought it demonstrated imagination — a trait my parents prized in me — but Mrs. Orr held my paper for everyone to see and said, “Class, is this the way we write our name?”

“Noooooooooooo,” said the class in unison. Even at six, I was clearly out of step with my generation.

One overcast day, for some infraction or the other, I was sent into the hall. I was often sent into the hall — a punishment that made no sense to me, since I preferred the hall to class. I suppose I was meant to reflect on the reason I’d been banished and return contrite, but this time I wasn’t invited back. Instead, Mrs. Orr appeared and told me to follow her, and we walked down the hall to another classroom. It must have been recess; the room was empty. There was a nearby stairwell, and Mrs. Orr sat me down on the steps.

“This is going to be your new class,” she explained, meaning the empty room. “I think you need a different teacher.”

“Is she a nigger, too?” I said.

I said it casually, curious. And Mrs. Orr cried. She cried quietly, and she spoke in a soft voice that pierced my hushed confusion.

“If you learn just one thing from me,” she said, “I hope it’s that I’m not a nigger.”

I don’t remember the name of my next teacher. I can’t even reconstruct her face, which has merged with the face of my fourth-grade teacher, who was young and white and mean. My first-grade teacher was all of those things, but she eventually warmed to me, and I remember the day I wrote a story about my father killing a water moccasin poised to strike, which so impressed her that she left class to show it to another teacher. (The story was a lie, though we’d been told to write an account of something that had really happened to us.) I was in her class for the rest of that school year, and Mrs. Orr had me for maybe all of two weeks; but her name is forever engraved in my memory, and so is what she taught me as I sat on the stairwell, as if arrested between levels on the scale of evolution.


A reedited version of this piece appears in the nonfiction collection Subversia.

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D. R. HANEY is the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and a nonfiction collection, Subversia, the inaugural publication of TNB Books. Known to friends as Duke, he lives in Los Angeles.

14 responses to “How I Became Human”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    I love this. Just love it.

  2. Zara the Commenting Fool says:

    Well. Now you’ve got three…

  3. Megan DiLullo says:

    No sulking. There is no sulking on TNB. Much like there is no crying in Hawaii (I actually overheard a dad saying this to his kid last time I was there).

    This is such a great piece of writing, Duke.

    And did you ever find that teacher and tell her what you learned?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I sulk in jest.

      Actually, I did learn that, as a of ten years ago, she was still at the school, but I haven’t managed to communicate with her. It’s been a difficult year, to say the least — kind of like dodging bowling balls. Which are still coming, harder than ever. But I do mean to get in touch with her.

  4. D.R. Haney says:

    Original comment thread:

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-30 14:17:00
    Since once I was a teacher, I would like to suggest that you try to write Mrs. Orr a letter. Include this piece. It will mean the world to her. She might be still reachable through the school. Really, try.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 14:21:10
    That’s an excellent idea, Irene, and one I’d never considered. I will definitely make an effort.

    Comment by John Dentino
    2009-08-31 13:48:49
    Nicely turned story…a gem.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 23:44:13
    Hey, John. Fancy seeing you here, though I’m not truly “seeing” “you” at all. Thanks for the read and comment. I’ll be sending you something before long.

    Comment by Ducky
    2009-09-11 08:26:56
    I agree. I used to teach as well and I think that’s a great idea.
    I’ve been thinking about visiting a teacher I recently wrote about (though not nearly so eloquently).

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-11 12:49:06
    Yes, I read your piece and wasn’t sure what to say, though I very much liked the idea of invoking William Blake under the circumstances. Surely he would’ve approved.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 14:31:06
    I loathe that word. Its been thrown at me and my family more times than I can count.
    I’m glad she got through to you. I hope she got through to more kids.

    Comment by D.R. Haney |
    2009-08-30 14:34:37
    I hope the same. I do, indeed.
    I won’t ask about that word being thrown at you and your family, except that, by saying I won’t ask, I suppose I’m sort of asking. Pardon my rudeness.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 14:50:04
    I suppose its not rude, since I brought it up. Most of my family is black…us coming from an island off the coast of Africa and all. Except on my dad’s side. They are all white..clean through. It took them a while to get used to us. But I grew up in a small town, surrounded by small minded people who weren’t quite comfortable with the idea of mixing races.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:17:36
    Ah, that’s so ridiculous — the reaction of those around you, I mean, though it’s alas to be expected.
    There’s no end to the reasons people will think less of you. I dealt with all kinds of nonsense as a child, and I’ve been physically attacked, even as an adult, for no reason. People are fucked, to make a wildly original statement.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 15:32:08
    You know what I say. People are assholes.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:36:15
    I do indeed.
    I keep saying that for some reason.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 15:43:23
    You do indeed.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:46:34
    Well, I’ll put a stop to that!
    Where’s my hobbit head, woman?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 15:49:54
    I have to agree with the sentiment. People are assholes. And they suck. But I suppose a little crap is to be expected when you aren’t the same as everyone else. Needless to say, I fought a lot as a child. Sadly, as an adult, I still do.
    “as if arrested between levels on the scale of evolution.” I like this a lot. I forgot to tell you that.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 15:56:19
    Hold your horses, Duke. It’s coming.
    Didn’t your mother tell you that good things come to those who wait???!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:57:35
    Well, you know, Debbie, as I worked on the piece, it struck me as it hadn’t before that this lesson took place on a stairwell, and, well, there you have it.
    I used the word “well” three times in that sentence. Am I not well?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 16:05:29
    Actually, Zara, my mother never told me that all good things come to those who wait, but she did — frequently — tell me to hold my horses.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 16:07:50
    I think its swell that you used the word well three times in one sentence.
    Now, whats this about a hobbit head?
    Poor hobbit.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 17:58:53
    See my exchange with Zara on her most piece. It would be swell of you to do so. It would really speak well of you.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:02:26
    People rarely speak well of me, but I’ll give it my best shot because its swell to be thought of.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:10:46
    Only you would want a *dead* hobbit. Or a hobbit head.
    Poor, poor hobbit.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:21:16
    What can I say? I fucking hate Lord of the Rings.
    There, I said it. Make fun. Throw things. I can take it.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 18:25:46
    Try living in the country where they filmed it! You know, for a long time, the city where I live was renamed ORCLAND.
    Fucking LOTR. I’ll gladly bring you a dead hobbit.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:28:08
    Yes! Another LOTR hater!
    Can you, like, torture the hobbit a little before killing it?
    Okay. That may have been beyond the pale.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:28:30
    I can’t stand LOTR either. It irritates me when people take perfectly good (childhood) books and ruin them by turning them into stupid movies that last too fucking long.
    Huh…I didn’t know I felt that way until now.
    But I’ll glad throw things. I’m just not sure you can take it.
    Zara…SERIOUSLY? ORKLAND?! I feel your pain. Wanna throw things at Duke with me?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:32:06
    Oh, but, Debbie, LOTR isn’t a children’s book, you know. I mean, fairies and dragons and elves and the like? Oh no, that’s see-ree-us literature, and see-ree-us literature deserves see-ree-us film adaptations.
    And please don’t encourage Zara to throw things, because I just know she will. But is that a beheaded hobbit in your comment? If so, grab a silver plate, Zara. Your work is done.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 18:33:45
    Yeah ORKLAND.
    DORKLAND would have been more appropriate.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:38:01
    HAHA!!! I’d love to live in a place called DORKLAND. I’d fit right in.
    She might throw things….but I might as well. so you have two women to worry about. Zara’s nicer than I am…..I doubt any of her things will actually hit you.
    Ugh…you know, I had this argument with the Scottish Bastard the other day. It IS a children’s book, I don’t care HOW MANY ADULTS claim it to be their FAVORITE. He claims it as one of his favorites. I think he clearly hasn’t read enough books.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:38:39
    Ha, Zara!
    And thank you for not throwing anything, despite Debbie’s exhortations, not to mention those of that beheaded yellow hobbit.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:43:09
    Debbie, if you’re going to throw things, can they at least be desserts?
    And you don’t even know how down I am with your last line: “hasn’t read enough books,” etc. I mean, let’s be honest about this stuff, shall we? I like, for instance, Homer Price, which I read as a child, but I don’t make any claims for it as being on a par with To The Lighthouse or some such.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:43:58
    I told you she was nicer than I am.
    I’m having this terrible debate with myself….and you should help. Should I have that second piece of pie?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:47:03
    You know, I totally agree with you. I mean, I loevd Judy Blume as a kid….but, you know, she doesn’t really hold up next to, say, Umberto Eco, Hemingway or Joyce.
    Its funny…I actually hit him with a James Joyce book. Trying to beat reading into his head, you know?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:51:55
    An excellent method, I’m sure. And I’ll help you with your problem if you help me with mine: should I have a drink when my night’s work is done?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 18:54:50
    Depends on what your drinking. But I think, yes. ONLY if you’ve worked hard and deserve it.
    Have you worked hard? (I’m probably distracting you from your work. Funny how that makes me smile)
    Do you deserve it?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:03:38
    At this point, no. But by the end of the night (which for me will extend will into the wee hours) — yeah, maybe.
    And the same to you and your second piece of pie.
    But which kind of pie is it?

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 19:08:05
    Well…I think I’ve worked hard. (400 eclairs just don’t make themselves. And the cream puffs!…good god if I never see either of these pastries again I’ll die a happy woman.) And since its already getting into the wee hours here…..
    Its strawberry pie.
    then I say, maybe, you have a drink when your finished. Or you just go to sleep. Which sounds like more fun?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:15:44
    Strawberry pie? Okay, a second piece for sure.
    I, meantime, am going to try hard to eschew the drink in favor of sleep. The problem for me is that long periods of writing make me crave a drink in order to sleep, though it sometimes backfires.

    Comment by Debbie
    2009-08-30 19:21:35
    Then you should sleep. Its good for you, you know? At least thats what people tell me. I rarely sleep anymore. Keep away from the top shelf. Its habit forming.
    I think I’m actually going to attempt to finish this stupid email and then sleep. Well, I’ll finish this one, and start a draft of the other three that I need to send out (including yours….sorry bout that) and then start that job proposal….ugh. It never ends, does it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:34:30
    It never, ever does.
    Oh, and there is no top shelf in this house. I’m a brown-paper-bag drinker, in spirit at least.
    Sleep, please. It’s the best. Really. Let the e-mails wait.
    But this is advice I should really give myself.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:04:44
    Sure, Duke and Zara and Debbie, it’s okay to hate HOBBITS. Wish for their heads.
    I’ll bet you wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one!
    (I would have put this up where it might’ve had more impact, but this was the first “” available! It’s not easy to give you guys grief when I can’t get into the fray!)

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 14:02:25
    It’s the comments-sequence thing. But I hope you now consider yourself a part of the fray, because I sure do.
    Kill the hobbits!

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-08-31 18:56:20
    Like Irene, I couldn’t jump in earlier for some shared LOTR hate. I’ve only seen the first movie and after that complete waste of time I have banned the rest. What the hell is the point of battle scene after battle scene with no end or conclusion? Drove me crazy!
    Did enjoy the story though…The “n” word makes me cringe. I can’t say it, will never say it, I wish it didn’t exist.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 22:54:39
    Yes, but I’m glad I wrote this post. It’s one of those things that I’ve almost never discussed, and it’s liberating to get it off my chest.
    Glad you’re on board with hating LOTR. I almost didn’t think there were any others.

    Comment by Nicole
    2009-09-01 07:38:06
    Yes, I wasn’t trying to criticize you at all before. Your honesty is refreshing and appreciated. (Not only in this piece, but in your other posts as well.) What is the purpose of writing if you can’t bare your soul? I hope you are able to contact Mrs. Orr. You reflecting on this moment, I’m sure, would mean the world to her. Good luck.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 14:05:12
    I didn’t think you were criticizing; I said that for myself, always stating the obvious.
    I didn’t get a chance to call my former history teacher, Mr. Savage, yesterday, but I’m going to try him later today. As I said elsewhere, he may be able to give me good idea as to how to contact Mrs. Orr, having worked for so long in the same school system.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-30 14:38:22
    If only you could travel back in time, and Mrs. Orr would say ‘Class, is this any way to write a blog?’ Obviously, the Duke of the time would smirk and say ‘Noooooooo’, but the rest would agree that even with a bow-and-arrow D, it was exactly how it’s done.
    Poor Mrs. Orr (wow, there’s a country song in there). It sounds like she did a good job of helping on your way to humanity.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:25:41
    Well, you’ve certainly hit on my contrarian streak. I likely would have answered “Nooooooo” to any question that everyone else answered in the affirmative. Thanks for such an imaginative compliment.
    And Mrs. Orr — yeah, she done good. I wince every time I think about what I said. It’s going to follow me to the grave.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-30 15:36:50
    I had a couple of great teachers in high school; Mr. Wheat among them. He was a lanky Texan type, and once, when a guy named Brian was acting up, told us this story:
    ‘See, Brian, back in America, we’ve got this flag. It’s a simple flag, Brian. It’s just a snake, lying down. And above the snake, four words. Do you know those words, Brian? Four words. Don’t. Tread. On. Me. I’m like that snake, Brian. Don’t tread on me.’

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:39:17
    I agree. And the flag itself was pretty damned great, too.
    But how did Mr. Wheat end up in Oz? Just curious. I’m always charting potential paths out of the U.S., as you chart potential paths toward it.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-30 15:53:02
    He upped and moved out here, started a family. Great guy, actually. His advice about writing was to not be a teacher, because then you have no time to write left anymore.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:54:40
    And yet most writers are also teachers. I think more aspiring writers need to take Mr. Wheat’s class.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:09:29
    You know, Duke,
    even if, God forbid, Mrs. Orr has died, her family would get the letter and it would mean a great deal to them. You can’t lose here.
    You can do some good.
    (I’m afraid I’m taking it upon myself to hound you into doing this. I’m really quite relentless.)

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 14:04:11
    I agree completely, and I absolutely will try to get in touch with Mrs. Orr and/or her family. And I’ll be sure to report the results, even if I hear nothing. The attempt itself will surely prove interesting.

    Comment by James D. Irwin
    2009-08-30 14:41:35
    Lenore’s piece made me think about my early schooldays, which links with this piece (and, I think, SSE).
    My best friend when I was about six was a dark skinned Indian boy. I had a nickname for him: Chocolate face.
    It wasn’t racist, to my six year old self his face did indeed look as though it was made of creamy milk chocolate. Neither of us understood racism, as clearly your six year old self didn’t.
    Everything’s more innocent then. He wasn’t offended my the nickname, in fact he was glad to have one. But one day we had to go and see the Head Teacher and it was explained to us that ‘Chocolate Face’ was unsuitable as a nickname. It was never explained why, we were just told not to say it.
    Years later I had a friend whose parents came from Mauritius, who referred to himself as a ‘nigger’ and didn’t mind us using it.
    Nice post.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:30:26
    Thanks, Jim.
    I think, in my case, hearing black kids refer themselves by the n-word added to my confusion. Oh, and “chocolate drop” was another derisive name used by white kids for blacks, though that one they were conscious of being derisive. “Nigger,” as I wrote in the post, seemed to them appropriate.

    Comment by Lenore Zion
    2009-08-30 15:00:24
    i remember calling a female carpenter a “dyke” when i was a furious little girl. my parents had never been so ashamed of me. then i was ashamed. the next time the woman was at our house, i was a coward and i stayed in my room, instead of apologizing. i wish i’d have been a better person and faced her to give her the apology she deserved.
    this was thoughtful, duke. i agree with my mom – you should find an address for her and sent her a letter along with this post.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:10:51
    I hope she’s still alive.
    But why were you so furious with the female carpenter? — if I may ask.

    Comment by Lenore
    2009-08-30 15:33:09
    I think it had something to do with the noise she was making while doing the job my parents hired her to do. It was a weekend morning, and I probably did something the night before that made my head hurt. So I screamed at the poor woman and treated her like crap because I did too many drugs the night before. Heh.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:41:53
    Drugs justify almost anything. I just hope, when she dropped acid a few days later, she thought of you and instantly forgave you. Amid all the colors, I mean.

    Comment by Lenore Zion
    2009-08-30 21:42:29
    i’m sure she never even took me seriously. i was an obnoxious teenager. we probably bought our acid from the same person.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 21:51:34
    Oh, there are so many jokes I want to make. So many jokes. But none them pertain to you, and I’m going to be very good and keep them all to myself.

    Comment by Lenore Zion
    2009-08-30 22:00:55
    make them right this instant. unless you know better.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 22:04:20
    Off the board, off the board. On the phone, maybe. Can’t. Do. It. Here.

    Comment by Lenore Zion
    2009-08-30 22:05:27
    then call me, fool.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 22:07:34
    In a minute. I think I’m going to take a walk, even at this late hour, just to get out of the house. I’d meant to do it hours ago.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:15:46
    Those carpenter ladies were the best damn carpenters we ever had.
    This was the time when you were being hateful as a general rule.
    They overheard you one time.
    I told them not to take it personally, you were an all-inclusive misanthrope.
    They’d heard worse.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 15:04:27
    Drugs by themselves take a toll, Irene. Add adolescence and you’ve got, well, a teenager — or me.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-09-01 03:00:25
    I had several, actually, adolescence and drugs.
    What a whirl.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 04:10:45
    Oh, man, Irene. Please don’t make me Jones for drugs. Adolescence I’ve got covered.

    Comment by Don Mitchell
    2009-08-31 14:37:08
    When I was working with a bunch of tradespeople/craftspeople in Hilo, some of whom were lesbians and some of whom weren’t, they surprised me by referring to “wire cutters,” aka “diagonal cutters” as “dykes,” as in “hand me those dykes, will you?”
    I hadn’t heard that usage before, so I assumed that it would be spelled “dykes,” but no. It’s “dikes.”

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 23:01:28
    I wonder how they’d have reacted if you’d said those words first, already knowing the slang for wire cutters but them not realizing it?
    But I’m confused about the spelling issue you raise. Are you referring to the term for wire cutters or the lesbian slur or both?

    Comment by Don Mitchell
    2009-09-01 03:43:25
    Ah, sorry. The cutters. I learned from Wikipedia that the preferred spelling for the cutters is “dikes,” at least partly to avoid giving offense.
    It took a while before it wasn’t heavy on my tongue — you know, so that my pronunciation wasn’t exaggerated, as if to avoid sending the message that I might be thinking about the other meaning.
    Your piece reminded me of a letter I found when cleaning out my mother’s house. In our little town there were no African-Americans, except for the occasional Army guy passing through. None in the high school. Of course we had people from every part of the Pacific and Asia, so it was thoroughly multi-ethnic. Just no black people.
    I went to college in California, and in the letter I found (from 1960) I had written: “I have met a Negro.”

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 04:09:35
    Wow. Just as, at summer camp at ten, I might have written home: “I have met a Jew.”
    You know, Don, I feel I owe you an apology, because you wrote such a nice comment on your last piece, in response to a comment of mine, and for some reason I didn’t have time to answer right away, and it went on being one of those things I meant to do but didn’t. But it was read and appreciated.

    Comment by Don Mitchell
    2009-09-01 05:04:30
    No apology needed. It’s true that when you didn’t respond, I flung Banned for Life out into the garden. But it hasn’t rained much and so now I’ll go see if it’s still there, and finish it.
    But seriously. I’m almost finished, and I’m enjoying it. For the last month or so I’ve been reading fiction only at night, which means it takes me a while to get through anything.
    BFL brought back memories of 1979-1981 when I had my first punk students. Or, I should say, the first that I recognized as representing something new at good old Buffalo State College. As it happened, they were a brother and sister. Both were excellent athletes (I was briefly the women’s track coach, and the sister was my thrower-of-objects and high jumper). And they were both very smart, and also well-read (a rarity at BSC). And finally, they were from a smallish town on the far fringe of the Buffalo metropolitan area. Pierced, tattooed, dog-collared, colored-haired, and so on.
    By then I had learned that there was absolutely no correlation between appearance and intellectual ability. It was great fun having those strange-looking (for then) but wonderful kids around. I never did get into their music, though.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 14:23:19
    It’s interesting that the brother-and-sister punks you taught were both excellent athletes, since punk so often attracts geeky sorts. That was, at one time at least, part of punk’s appeal: the violent image it projected was compensation for physical (and social) weakness.
    It would have been difficult enough for punks in Buffalo in those days, let alone a smallish town on the outskirts, so your students must have been brave. Punks at that time were constantly being jumped and beaten, as per BFL. But I’m not surprised that your students were smart and well-read, since that was true of many early punks. It was, first and foremost, an art movement. You wouldn’t know that from its media representations, or from those today who call themselves punks, which to them is formula taste and attire, often accompanied by skateboards.
    I’m glad that you rescued BFL from the garden, Don, and of course I couldn’t be any more pleased that you took the time to read it. Do you drink? I’d like to send you a cyber-beer, though it won’t pack much of a punch.

    Comment by Don Mitchell
    2009-09-02 02:17:14
    Thanks for the offer – virtual would be best. I quit drinking in 1986.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 02:52:05
    Ah. Then it works out perfectly.

    Comment by Brin Friesen
    2009-08-30 15:05:53
    It was my favorite piece you’ve had.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:11:51
    Thanks, Brin.
    Why did you dislike my other pieces?
    I’m joking.

    Comment by oksana marafioti
    2009-08-30 15:09:57
    I have to say that nearly everything i’ve learned that is of any importance in my life came from my teachers. nice teachers, mean teachers, high teachers, insane teachers. they have such a powerful hold on people, it’s scary.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:22:00
    I’m still in touch with one of my teachers, Clayton Savage, who taught me history in the eleventh grade. He was one of the best I had, and, you know, I would include Mrs. Orr in that category, even though she only taught me for two or so weeks. I mean, the lesson I got from her was one for the ages.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-08-30 15:16:06
    You have to send this to your teacher. I totally agree with Mamma Z and Lenore. This made me feel very sad and hopeful. I’m glad you’re back.
    Great piece, Duke.
    The writing is good as well.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:35:19
    Thanks for the read and the welcome, Megan D. And I’m glad you cite the writing, because, if I may say, I did put care into it. I always try do that, but I did especially with this piece.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-08-30 15:47:35
    As you should have. It’s sensitive and gentle yet hard hitting and thought provoking.
    As we all know, and you learned here, words are very powerful things.
    You should read Alexander Chee’s Long Duc Dong piece a bit lower down on the home page.
    You are wonderful and this shows it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:53:03
    I’ve been meaning to read AC’s piece, and will, but there’s just so much stuff at TNB at the moment, and most of it so excellent!
    Oh, and did you ever hear the below? I think it’s much more accurate than the original:
    Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will fuck me up.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-08-30 15:53:46
    Oops, I meant Long Duk Dong.

    Comment by Megan DiLullo
    2009-08-30 15:58:49
    I haven’t heard that. But it is the truth.
    I have my own barrage of things I heard as a child and young adult that I still have to deal with to this day.
    And yes, this is heavy hitting week on TNB. Isn’t it so great?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 16:03:12
    It has for a fact been a great week at TNB. And I’m still bruised from various words flung at me as a child, and later (as with you), and I imagine I’ll remain bruised. I don’t think I’m shy by nature, but I became more shy due to stuff I went through as a child.

    Comment by Greg Olear
    2009-08-30 15:29:57
    Well told, Duke, especially for what is potentially a controversial subject. This is the sort of thing most of us, were we in your shoes, would keep locked away forever, and you’ve demonstrated courage to share it.
    I know from my days as an HR person (lots of diversity training) that the only way to transcend racial tension is to talk openly and honestly — something the PC-dominated culture makes difficult to do about race. It’s important to tell stories like this.
    “Pierced my hushed confusion” = gorgeous prose line

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:45:36
    You know, I considered sending the piece to Brad first, to see if he thought it might be too controversial. My mom thought so. I called her the other day to ask her a few questions about what she remembered about Mrs. Orr and the Sears business and all that. But it made such an impact on me, and I guess that’s the stuff that, as a writer, is hard for me to ignore. I hope it isn’t misconstrued.
    Thanks for citing the line you do. That whole bit caused me the greatest trouble, trying to pare down a moment so difficult to put into words in the first place.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 15:38:26
    Great piece, Duke filled with the perfect logic of a child. I agree with Greg, it was brave to share and as always you do it so incredibly well. Just wish it were longer!
    When I was six, I called my uncle a ‘fucking wanker.’ I had no idea what it meant. My grandmother promptly tucked me under her arm and took me into the bathroom where she washed my mouth out with soap. Thoroughly.
    It gave me such a fright, that I would eat slivers of soap every time I had a bath after that, to build up a tolerance, just in case it happened again.
    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:49:52
    I got my mouth washed out a few times, even though, weirdly enough, I generally wasn’t much for cussing. That came later.
    As to the length, I decided it would be good to do something short, after hogging so much space with my last post.
    Children do have a logic, don’t they? I always had my reasons, though they were wasted on most adults.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-30 15:55:05
    Ack! Now I’m remembering the taste of soap…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 15:59:53
    Yes, well. My grandparents used an especially gritty kind with the brand name Lava, and my grandmother once stuck a washcloth full of that in my mouth. It more than lived up to its name.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 15:55:43
    Children have a perfect logic. And I think I have said it elsewhere, and I know it’s wrong, but sometimes there’s nothing funnier than a little kid saying ‘fuck.’
    Juvenile, I know.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:02:16
    It fucking well is funny, isn’t it, Zara? South Park made a mint on the inherent humor of cursing children. And I, for one, continue to have a truly juvenile sense of humor.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 19:48:34
    I think it’s funny that you said ‘is’ three times.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 21:45:26
    “Isn’t” doesn’t count as “is,” damn you, so it’s only two times. And I’m now going to correct my typo, since you’ve made me feel so terribly self-conscious.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 21:49:42
    It does so count. But I apologise for pointing it out. I’d offer to write a haiku in penance but that would be silly.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 21:53:46
    Save the haikus for bank-bustin’ time, though I’m sure it will never come to that. Not this time.
    By the way, we’ve got to bust the bank on one of your posts one of these days. Like soon, huh?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 21:58:08
    And thank you for now making me terribly self conscious about my paltry comment boards!!! That’ll learn me….!!!!!!!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 22:02:59
    Uh, shit. I can see by your many !!!!!!s that I really did it.
    What I meant by “it’s about time” was that you’ve done me so many good turns, it’s about time I did the same for you, yes? I mean, I’d love to be the bank-breaker one of these days.
    Am I just digging myself in deeper? I have dimples, you know.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 22:08:10
    Saved by your dimples.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 22:09:54
    Ah. They finally did me some good.
    Have you decided what you’re going to read at TNB OTB?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 22:13:30
    Nope. Suggestions would be more than welcome. Maybe I should just give out chocolate bars instead….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 22:18:37
    Well, I’m a huge fan of “The Silk Parachute,” as you know. But I believe the general thinking is that funny is best, so maybe you should do the “Dallas” piece, or possibly the first of the two “Journal” pieces. All are excellent, as are others you’ve posted, but, again, everyone always emphasizes “funny.” Which I probably am not going to be.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 22:23:35
    You are very funny. Very.
    Hmmm. Boobs or boyfriends? It’s a tough choice.
    I might just do a haiku.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-30 22:38:31
    If only you could
    bring a BeDazzler, and shine up
    Everyone’s clothes.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 22:49:54
    If I only could
    then you know I surely would –
    bedazzle us all.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 23:32:32
    Oh it’s haiku time.
    It’s a tradition now, huh?
    Like bells at Christmas.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 23:40:50
    Simon started it.
    I just followed helplessly
    like a little sheep.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 23:53:30
    Do you mean a lamb?
    Not an Easter lamb, I hope.
    Does Simon eat meat?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-30 23:56:48
    What’s an Easter lamb?
    Is it a lamb for eating?
    NZ-land of sheep.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 00:25:18
    It’s a tradition,
    I know, for Greeks celebrating
    Easter to eat lamb.

    But why did I say that?
    You’re not Greek; you’re a Kiwi:
    different indeed.

    (You now owe me an extra haiku.)

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 00:30:07
    SSE indeed!
    For my father is a Greek
    guess that makes me one.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 00:31:41
    Haiku number two:
    Beware of Greeks bearing gifts
    that means hobbits too.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 00:42:22
    I should trust myself.
    I knew as I wrote those words
    you’d somehow prove Greek.
    But I won’t beware
    a Greek bearing a hobbit
    so long as it’s dead.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 00:54:44
    You knew I was Greek?
    It must have been my toga
    or maybe my nose.

    I will bring a gift
    of a wooden trojan horse
    filled with dead hobbits.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-31 01:21:40
    I indeed eat meat
    Although from time to time I
    Feel guilty for it.

    This post reminds me
    Of a story told to me
    Which I shall recount

    A girl I once knew
    While spending the day beachside
    Saw a giant wave

    It slammed her body
    It grabbed her by the ankles
    Shook her, lifted her

    Surrounded by kids
    Not thinking for a second
    She yelled ‘Whoa nigger!’

    She told me later
    That she has never, ever
    Been so mortified

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 01:29:31
    Is that story true?
    That it’s written in haiku
    is too impressive.

    Zara will agree.
    She’s written a longer work
    the same way, she says.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 01:32:39
    And now:

    Bring on your horse, Greek!
    Wood or not, we’ll welcome it.
    So it is in Troy.

    I pray the hobbits
    are truly dead, lest they rise
    and kill with elf talk.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-31 01:41:55
    That story is true
    She is a lovely Canuck
    I don’t see her much

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 01:45:44
    A pity you don’t.
    Canadians talk funny.
    And if they’re lovely…

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-08-31 02:04:04
    A pity indeed
    And she talks wonderfully
    But it’s not to be.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:23:15
    You’re in trouble now.
    Duke has DIMPLES!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 14:11:08
    But Simon may have the same, and he surely has much better to offer.
    Meantime, I owe Simon a haiku:

    Mortified or not,
    your Canuck sounds volatile:
    very un-Canuck.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 15:55:00
    I see Simon seeks
    to lift the Haiku King’s crown.
    regicide by stealth.


    I shall bring my horse
    filled with hobbit carcasses
    and a souvlaki.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 23:06:37
    The crown is Simon’s
    if he wants it, which I doubt.
    He’s haiku-savvy.

    And the souvlaki:
    Can you make it from hobbits?
    My plate is ready.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 23:11:49
    No. The crown’s still yours.
    Despite Simon’s showing-off

    as for the hobbits
    they do not make good eating
    tough and un-lamb like.

    I’ll bring you matches
    and a copy of tolkien’s
    Lord of The Rings book

    Forget the Trojans
    we can re-enact Guy Fawkes
    and burn the damn thing.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 23:41:20
    I’m tempted for sure.
    But burning books Nazi-style?
    Dare we take that step?

    You’re no doubt correct
    about the taste of hobbits.
    Would mint jelly help?

    Oh, probably not,
    though I’m tickled by the thought
    of an elf sandwich.

    These haikus exchanges
    are longer, thanks to Simon.
    He’s set a new pace.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-08-31 23:52:30
    Perhaps you are right
    book burning would not be nice
    I don’t think we dare.

    So back to Plan A
    A hobbit head on a tray
    It is the Greek way.

    As for mint jelly
    I think we call that mint sauce
    same taste, diff’rent name.

    Much like your name, Duke.
    You will need to accept JUKE
    from Simon and I.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 01:52:15
    The hobbits themselves
    I’ll burn, though not on a stove,
    since they make poor food.

    But what of your dog?
    Maybe dogs like hobbit flesh.
    They eat vomit, right?

    Mint sauce, mint jelly.
    Heads on trays, wooden horses.
    You Greeks are confusing.

    Please don’t feel a need
    to answer with four haikus.
    One will do as well.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 02:00:25
    Do you know? I think I may be all haiku-ed out.
    I think I will try my hand at rhyming couplets next.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 03:42:38
    These are words I never thought you’d say.
    Is our tradition at an end?
    Thanks, Grinch, for stealing Christmas.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 11:09:28
    A grinch? No, not that!
    I apologise right now.
    Onward! with haiku.

    I tried to rhyme lines
    over on my post (page two)
    it didn’t feel right.

    So now I am back
    poised and braced for haiku war
    tradition returned.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 15:06:26
    Now, that’s more like it.
    I’ve come to depend on these
    haiku exchanges.

    I said it before:
    They’ve become a tradition,
    like lamb at Easter.

    It’s strange, being Greek,
    that your Easters were lambless.
    What’d you eat instead?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 15:20:10
    Lucky for you, Duke
    I found an inner reserve
    of haiku power.

    The tank said empty
    but I stopped and filled it up:
    On the road again.

    As for being Greek –
    I confess I’m a quarter
    or so my blood says.

    Not enough, I think
    to partake in Easter lamb.
    It’s all Greek to me.

    Never been a fan
    of eating Mary’s little
    lamb. I prefer beef.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 16:21:44
    The ante is upped:
    a fourth haiku to my three.
    Well, four it is, then.

    But five? No thank you.
    I’ve never seen this as war,
    as you describe it.

    O truculent Greek,
    you’re full of contradiction,
    lamb and lion both.

    Whither comes the lamb?
    Surely New Zealand, where sheep
    outnumber people.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 16:47:22
    Oh you know us Greeks:
    quick to anger, quick to war-
    tricky with horses.

    But you do me wrong!
    truculent? I’m no Aries!
    more lamb than lion.

    Indeed, it is you,
    Ninja, who brought warring words
    to peaceful haiku!

    How fast you forget
    the sharp and dangerous stars
    you were so keen on!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 18:34:07
    I forgot fast, yes.
    I’ve too many distractions
    sharper than keen stars.

    It was wrong of me
    to war with peaceful haiku.
    I’m done with that now.

    Except with hobbits.
    They deserve my warlike lines.
    Surely you agree.

    Remember your words:
    “Quick to anger, quick to war.”
    Misleading, were they?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 19:18:17
    Contrary you are
    preaching peace then crying war
    against small hobbits.

    It makes me wonder
    whether you protest too much
    your hatred for them.

    Sometimes hate is love
    and you are Gemini, yes?
    two sides of the coin.

    Is there a secret
    fondness for woodland creatures
    that you are hiding???

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:09:28
    So. Instead of war,
    it’s psychoanalysis
    practiced in haiku.

    Two can play that game.
    I think you’re projecting
    with this “two sides” stuff.

    Meanwhile you forget
    that wolverines, hawks, and snakes
    are woodland creatures.

    And why gag at talk
    of bodily secretions?
    A secret fondness?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 20:19:29
    Oh wait! I’m laughing too much at this. I will need a minute to compose myself.!!!!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:22:12
    My work is done. Or isn’t, as the case may be.
    By the way, you do realize you broke 200, don’t you?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 20:32:44
    Okay then smart arse!
    turning the tables on me…
    thems fightin’ words, Duke!

    No projection here:
    I think you harbour secret
    love for Tolkien’s tale.

    You have covered well
    your deep, abiding soft spot
    for hobbits and elves.

    Don’t be embarrassed
    we all have our shameful lusts
    even for hobbits…

    And as for fondness
    for bodily secretions –
    a thousand times -NO!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:49:46
    No a thousand times?
    One would do. Talk about

    But it’s fine, you know.
    Don’t be embarrassed. We all
    have our shameful lusts.

    You have covered well
    your deep, abiding soft spot
    for snot and the like.

    No projection here:
    I think you harbor secret love
    for Tolkein’s boogers.

    But enough. That will do.
    I prefer peaceful haikus.
    Don’t make me be bad!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 21:35:56
    Stop! Enough! I beg.
    Your words have now done me in
    I wave the white flag.

    You have made me gag.
    I dry retch and surrender.
    I cannot bear snot.

    And nor can I spell
    the author, you love so well
    Tolkein not Tolkien.

    I should know better
    as a native of ORCLAND
    I am repentant.

    But I must protest
    I did not turn you bad, no.
    you did that yourself.

    Your ways, like Mordor
    (from the book you so much love)
    Don’t be a Gollum.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-01 21:41:19
    And really? I broke the bank again?? What is this strange power I have….??

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 22:02:53
    Weird, ain’t it?
    Haiku later. Like you yesterday, I’m all haiku’d out.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 02:47:09
    I know not Morder,
    nor Gollum, trusting you’ve spelled
    their names correctly.

    Tolkein was misspelled,
    as you yourself have mentioned.
    I follow your lead.

    But apparently
    I love Tolkein, since I don’t
    invert “i” and “e.”

    You faked your mistake,
    knowing I’d spell the name right.
    You’re so transparent.

    I’ll never confess
    to liking hobbits as you
    clearly relish snot.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 16:28:30
    Ha! I am the victor!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 17:38:04
    No you are not.
    I’m simply lulling you into a false sense of security.
    Watch your back, Ninja!!!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 18:25:53
    Transparent? Who Me?
    Such an elaborate ruse
    is way beyond me.

    But the game is up
    you need to come clean, my friend
    on your secret love.

    It is clear to me
    you have been confounding us
    by pretending hate.

    I suspect you have
    every edition made
    of Lord of the Rings.

    Maybe you collect
    the tiny figurines too,
    of hobbits and elves.

    You should not conceal
    your massive admiration
    for this epic tome.

    You should stop with your
    middle earth melodrama
    and embrace it, Duke.

    you will feel better
    if you admit it today
    there’s no shame in it.

    and please don’t say ’snot’
    it makes my stomach quiver
    not in a good way.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 19:19:54
    Don’t say snot, you say?
    Why snot? Its snot for you to
    say what I say snot.

    Saliva and boogers —
    I guess they’re forbidden too.
    And ca-ca, no doubt.

    And pee and earwax?
    And tears and blood? And still more
    fluids I could name?

    Dare I mention them?
    Would it cause you disturbance?
    I wouldn’t want that.

    This is a fair fight
    after all, and not to be won
    by psyching you out.

    Of course nine haikus
    Could be seen by some as a
    failed psycho-out attempt.

    I can write haikus
    till the cows come home. In fact
    the cows have arrived.

    Good. The steak dinner
    Will give me strength to scribble
    a haiku opus.

    This opus will have
    No wizards or elves: the types
    you clearly adore.

    But it’s me, you say,
    who adore those types. How sad,
    Madame Freud, how sad.

    Have you forgotten
    your freshman psych class? The one
    you narrowly passed?

    Consult your textbook.
    Heed the “projection” chapter
    and we’ll talk after.

    If this is cruel
    you have my apologies.
    I give as I get.

    I hope you’re not ill.
    It’s snot the effect I sought.
    Oops! Did I say snot?

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 19:25:56
    Oh! Oh! Oh!
    Just you wait….

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 19:31:46
    Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 19:44:06
    Spare me, fake concern.
    I have immunised myself
    against your fluids.

    Give it your best shot.
    throw your snot, your shit, your piss.
    I can take it all.

    I will not be cowed
    by any orifice, Duke
    or what comes from them.

    I did not take psych,
    No lay therapist am I,
    but you may need one.

    It is not healthy
    to deny your true feelings:
    Own your love of rings.

    Was it the mention
    of collecting figurines
    that made you so mad?

    It is quite alright
    to be a geek or a nerd
    with little statues.

    Make peace with yourself
    I know you have the soundtrack
    to that great movie.

    you should play it loud
    stand up for it and be proud!
    Lord of the Rings, fan.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 20:17:35
    What’s this? You answer
    my armada of haikus
    with a paltry few?

    The battle is lost,
    I’m afraid. Your bluster has
    been revealed as that.

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I wrote,
    for even then I knew I
    had you on the ropes.

    But I’ll give you this:
    You stick to your theme, which we
    know is dear to you.

    Do you fall sleep
    while listening to the “Lords”
    soundtrack you mention?

    Many times, in fact.
    It must be your favorite
    record of all time.

    And these figurines:
    Do they come to life and dance
    as the music plays?

    Do you dance with them?
    Is that your evening rite?
    They dance well, do they?

    Enjoy yourself, I say.
    It’s okay to dance with elves,
    even of the clay sort.

    And your elf nightgown:
    I’m sure it’s quite becoming
    to clay eyes watching.

    And your collection
    of “Lords” posters and whatnot:
    Hey, different strokes.

    Judgmental? Not me.
    And now to read Bukowski,
    which is more my style.

    Never heard of him?
    I thought as much. You’ll find him
    on the “adult” shelf.

    Good night, hobbit girl.
    May your soundtrack bring you dreams
    of more elf nightgowns.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 20:44:11
    An armada, huh?
    Quality not quantity –
    you know what they say.

    But it’s obvious
    that size does matter to you
    So here’s some length.

    You come out fighting
    it seems I have struck a nerve
    too close for comfort?

    You seem to know well
    the merchandise on offer
    not just a good guess..

    You wear the boxer’s
    like Frodo wears the one ring
    you want to be him.

    Your name betrays you
    your middle initial ‘R’
    just like your Tolkein.

    Is it rude to ask
    to show me your collection
    of figurines, Duke?

    How many are there?
    Do they fill your apartment?
    Or just your bedroom?

    I’m sure you have sheets
    with hobbits prancing about
    and wallpaper too.

    There’s no Bukowski.
    You try to cover your taste
    by mentioning him.

    I shall bring a gift
    of the hobbit trilogy.
    Oh what’s that you say?

    “No need to bring them,
    for I already own them
    and all the out takes.”

    But please do tell me
    are the fan club meetings fun?
    Fluent in elvish?

    I say it again
    come out of the closet, Duke
    and reveal yourself.

    We will not judge you
    (although you clearly need help)
    we will help you through.

    Hobbit addiction
    can be very hard to break
    but you will get there!

    I have faith in you
    to throw away the board games
    and the boxer shorts.

    You can keep the book
    even though you know it
    off by heart, don’t you?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 01:36:23
    I tire of this game.
    Another would amuse
    far better, I think.

    I wish I’d never
    mentioned hobbits, if I was
    the first to do so.

    I watched five minutes,
    maybe, of “Lords.” I was bored.
    That was it for me.

    A friend insisted.
    He showed me a battle scene,
    thinking I’d like it.

    Everyone is agreed
    but me, it seems, on kid stuff:
    fairy tales and so on.

    I like history
    as opposed to fantasy
    and allegory.

    You read my novel.
    Is it allegorical?
    Is there fantasy?

    No, there’s not a shred,
    and that’s me at my purest;
    at my most distilled.

    If you want to say
    you won this game, then say it.
    I’m not joking now.

    I’ve run out of jokes,
    at least of the hobbit kind.
    Others I can make.

    Or maybe it’s time
    for no jokes at all, at least
    with writing haiku.

    An intermission,
    in other words, though this post
    will soon disappear.

    Well, it won’t entirely.
    It will go where yours has gone:
    summer’s end, indeed.

    How appropriate.
    We’re indeed at summer’s end
    here in the U.S.

    Look: I’ve said “indeed”
    twice now, back to back, but I
    did it consciously.

    There’s a gentle joke:
    a new direction as the
    archive door closes.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-03 10:35:02
    Well played. I shake you warmly by the hand.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 11:48:48
    And I you by yours.
    Actually, your last volley was the funniest, I think, but I couldn’t think of any more variations on: “You secretly like hobbits”; “No, you do.” By the end, we’d kind of depleted the market.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-03 21:48:26
    Too true. The cupboard is empty, so to speak.
    Oh and welcome to page two. It’s a nice place -You’ll like it here.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 22:35:23
    Rather like purgatory, yes? Or the Island of Lost Posts.
    “Hey, I remember you! You were ‘The Velvet Curtains,’ weren’t you? How you doing?”
    “I’m bored fucking shitless, okay? And you–I don’t know even know you. What’s your name?”
    “‘How I Became Human.’”
    “Yeah? Maybe you ought to rename yourself ‘How I Became Forgotten.’ Now, fuck off. There’s a spiderweb growing on me–the most interesting thing to happen in weeks. And don’t steal my fucking spider!”

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-03 22:40:41
    I don’t think ‘The Velvet Curtains’ would say ‘fuck.’
    Maybe ‘People Are Assholes,’ but not ‘Curtains.’
    Curtains was curtains pretty quickly too.
    And hey, you might be gone, but you’re curtainly not forgotten.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 22:45:30
    You’re absolutely right. Should I, in my capacity as God (paraphrasing Lenore), amend that?
    On the other hand, sitting around all day with spiderwebs growing you might well cause you to say ‘fuck,’ as well as a few other choice words.
    As to curtainly not forgotten–did you catch my exchange of dreadful puns with Simon way below? But maybe you shouldn’t. Might cause nightmares.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-03 22:51:49
    Unfourtunately I did.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 22:59:51
    Because I told you to?
    Ha! You fell for it! Happy dreams, suckah!

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-03 23:22:32
    I thought we had brokered a peace deal.
    I extended the olive branch and you whack me with it?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 23:34:52
    Hey, I extended the olive branch. You acquiesced. But I’m glad you did, otherwise we’d still be accusing each other of being closet Tolkein fans.
    You know, I couldn’t think of any way to say this in haiku form, but during that exchange, I kind of felt like a kid who’s accused of liking another kid by a teasing sibling. You know what I mean:
    “You’re in love with Mary Callahan. You want to marry her.”
    “I do NOT!”
    I really did feel like making that kind of outburst. I couldn’t take it anymore.
    You must have been a hellacious sister.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 23:51:21
    That’s a compliment.
    And I was teasing about
    acquiescence, Zed.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:07:25
    Apparently I am STILL a hellacious sister.
    Having said that, being the younger sister you have to depend on the ability to annoy and rankle. Maybe that’s why my sister got so much joy slapping my face!!!
    Your comment above was funny – I still say that now. When my sister says she likes something, I will often reply with ‘Why don’t you marry it?”.
    I am a dick.
    I totally acquiesce to that sentiment.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:10:16
    I know you despite Lord of The Rings.
    I’m with you every step of the way.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:11:20
    DESPISE. DESPISE Lord of the Rings.
    See? I’m a dick.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-04 00:14:11
    Well, I certainly enjoyed whacking around my younger siblings. Sad to say but there was something really satisfying about the slap sound when a hand firmly connected with a cheek.
    By the way, Zara, you broke the bank again.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:19:11
    I don’t think I ever hit my siblings. My brother and sister used to beat the shit out of each other though. All I could do was watch nervously.
    I’d have to stifle my laughter just in case they turned on me – But it was fucking funny. To see two kids red-faced and deadly serious with their intent to kill each other.
    Did I really break the bank again? I’m going to collect one day..

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-04 00:22:43
    I am a pauper.
    And, yes, unfortunately, there is something funny about seeing two kids intent on killing each other, at least to an onlooking kid. It’s excruciating for an adult.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:25:56
    The best people often are.
    Oh, I have something weird to tell you. I may have to flick you an email.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-04 00:30:08
    That’s due compensation for the weird something I emailed you yesterday.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-04 00:33:30
    I’m proud of you for being able to solicit such a reaction. I know that’s probably not right, but hey.
    I’ll mail you on FB. Takes too long to log into my email and I’m lazy tonight.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-04 04:44:53
    I’m responding here, because if I check in at FB, I’ll feel racked with guilt over all the other messages awaiting responses.
    However, I read your message in my e-mail inbox, and yeah, that’s weird — much more so than the weird story I told you yesterday.
    The sun never sets on SSE.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-08-30 17:19:44
    In your defense, “fucking wanker” just rolls right off the tongue. It’s quite fun to say.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:02:56
    But it’s an oxymoron, yes?

    Comment by Stephanie St. John Olear
    2009-08-30 16:03:43
    Your teacher was very wise. Sometimes the best way to get through to kids
    is through just honest and vulnerable emotions – crying being the most effective – I say this as a parent who has bawled in front of her kids after each have hit me really hard – different times – and my crying was way more effective than if I had gotten angry.
    And also, when I was four at the grocery store with my mom, I said to the cashier lady,
    “Your hair is black like my dad’s but your skin is brown.” My mom got all flustered and hightailed it out of there like I had done this terrible thing, which just made me confused and self doubting.
    Anyway – you are human and your writing evokes human feelings in us humans – your honesty rocks it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:07:37
    Funny, Steph; I was just talking about this piece on the phone with someone who hasn’t read it, and I mentioned that the most effective parenting I can remember was when I saw hurtful I’d been, as opposed to having someone shriek “You really hurt me!” or the like. Also, just having speak to me in a quiet, serious way was infinitely effective than threats.
    As for your mom and the incident at the grocery store — that’s pretty much the way my parents reacted that time at Sears, or so I gather. And I’m sure it did confuse me further. Meantime, human to (a first-rate) human: thanks, and a belated happy birthday to Prue, who’s hopefully by now a regular Meg White.

    Comment by JB
    2009-08-30 16:54:11
    I’m probably wrong about this, and women seem to hate when you say it, but I just think kids are stupid short human beings. Doesn’t mean they can’t be occasionally wonderful and brilliant. But, hell, I once was a stupid short human being, I admit it. Now I am merely a taller somewhat not-as-stupid human being.
    Nice piece. Reminds me of spitting in a black boy’s eye in the fourth grade. I got punched in the face. Well deserved. A very stupid, stupid thing to do.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:19:17
    And cheers to you, Justin. (Though that’s really something that should be said at the end of a comment, huh?)
    I’m afraid we’re all, including children, a mix of brilliance and stupidity. For every bit of “progress” (note Tao Lin quotation marks) we achieve, there’s almost always a lot of resulting destruction. I’m alternately proud to be a part of the human race and disgusted by it. But I think it’s important to emphasis the pride bit, because the temptation for anyone quasi-educated (and here I include myself) is to cede too much to nihilism.
    But isn’t there something satisfying about looking back at stupid actions, such as your spitting in that kid’s eye, and acknowledging that the consequences were well deserved? I know there is for me.

    Comment by Kip Tobin
    2009-08-30 17:18:05
    Wow, that’s quite a brilliant little lesson in the nonchalance of your racial slurs/rearing as a child. What most struck me was the absence of over-explaining it, making it deductible through your posts language. You’ve obviously moved on, but the dichotomy of putting your self there, as a child, and then you as the matured narrator narrating your own self, well, that was pretty damn cool.
    That and the ending:
    “…as I sat on the stairwell, as if arrested between levels on the scale of evolution.”
    I don’t find too many good endings, and this one is a sledgehammer tapping you slightly on the shoulder before it drops on your head. Great image.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:37:15
    Thanks, Kip. Always a pleasure to hear from you. I trust all is well south of the border.
    I’d get into the mechanics, writing-wise, of how this piece (and the last line especially) came about, if I didn’t think (or know) how insufferably pretentious it would be to do so.
    I hope you post a piece of your own soon. I’m looking forward to it. Oh, and I’ve been listening to Handsome a lot ever since our last exchange six weeks ago.

    Comment by Doug Mulliken
    2009-08-30 17:24:30
    “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will fuck me up.”
    jesus fucking christ, man. i’m alternately in supreme awe and insanely jealous of all the people who now regularly write for TNB.
    i feel a little like “ole number 1/8″ eddie gaedel – no way i deserve to be here, but somebody thought it would be a good idea so i’m gonna stand there with my bat and act like i belong.

    Comment by Matt
    2009-08-30 17:32:49
    You got your bonafides, Doug. Don’t sweat it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:24:32
    You very much belong, Doug. I was just talking about you with Rich Ferguson the other night. He mentioned that you’d met once, and he spoke very highly of you. There was much talk of TNB, and we spot-checked Erika Rae — that is, Rich impromptu called her. She couldn’t have been sweeter. But I digress.
    Meantime, you’ll already no doubt have seen Matt’s corroboration above mine (since the comments continue post out of sequence).

    Comment by Matt
    2009-08-30 17:31:48
    Whereabouts in the South did you grow up, Duke?
    When I first moved to N.O., the biggest bit of culture shock I received was how prevalent–and socially accepted–white/black racism was. First job I took was at Tulane’s bookstore, and within a week I heard a tenured professor refer to one of my black coworkers as “one of those negroes.” Blew my mind.
    Highly enjoyable piece. Like the others, I especially admired the last line.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 18:51:28
    Well, I’m now glad that I substituted the word “arrested” in that line for whatever word originally used. I expect that made all the difference.
    I grew up in and around Charlottesville, Virginia — that is, after my parents divorced, my dad bought a farm in the nearby countryside and much of my time was spent there, as well as at my grandparents’ farm in the adjoining county. And Charlottesville, incidentally, is where Doug Mulliken is currently living. Some reject the area as truly Southern, but, hey, it’s only an hour’s drive from the seat of the Confederacy, and certain members of my family could have been extras in Deliverance.
    Meantime, as your experience in N.O. indicates, racism is alive and well, Obama or not.

    Comment by Doug Mulliken
    2009-08-30 19:36:00
    charlottesville is the most particularly southern of southern cities.
    it suffers from a certain inferiority complex – since it’s situated fairly close to the mason-dixon, the winters are colder, the summers not as bad as the real south. lacrosse dominates around here, so you don’t get pappy van whitey sitting on the stoop talking about the good ole days when the ‘hoos played the wishbone like you might in tuscaloosa or athens.
    so it tries harder to convince itself that it’s southern. i live a block from wayside’s ole time virginia fried chicken. what the hell is virginia fried chicken? but it exists here. and you can get shrimp and grits, even though you’re two hours from the water.
    and there is DEFINITELY segregation. mel’s is black. the corner is white. belmont is white. cherry ave. is black. that’s just how it is here.
    weird place. wants to be more southern than it is.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:56:25
    Ah man, I know how lacrosse dominates. It was always kind of the preppy game of choice, and I felt like such a plebeian (which I was) to know nothing about it. Yet, strangely, it was (and is) an Indian game.
    We exchanged one quick note about Charlottesville, and it was interesting for me to hear your take on it, as it is again. I can’t imagine someone from SoCal warming to it, with rare exception. It would typically be more along the lines of: “A nice place to visit but…”
    Belmont’s no longer white-trash, is it? I heard that in the last ten years or so, it became a desirable area to live. Which I can understand, since it’s older.
    By the way, the incident mentioned in this place took place at Burnley-Moran Elementary School, which is right off Locust Avenue.

  5. D.R. Haney says:

    Original comment thread (part two):

    Comment by Doug Mulliken
    2009-08-31 17:35:35
    yes, i know where that is. i doubt you are this old, but my mom taught english for three years at albermarle high in the early ’70s while my dad was in law school.
    no, belmont is the furthest thing from white-trash, now – in fact, it’s become the most snobby charlottesvillean place in the whole area, to the extent that i dislike going there. there’s a bbq place there that’s ok, but it’s owned by the same people as the restaurant across the street (a putumayo-mix-playing, shitty-service coffee house with a pan-central american theme) which is just so damn charlottesville volvo/subaru and TMB sandals and chico’s and FUCK!
    i find c’ville much more tolerable from a “foreigner’s” point of view (i’ve always considered myself a foreigner on the east coast, even though my passport says otherwise) than new england, but it’s really just “a nice place to visit…” not a bad place to be for 2 years, but 6 would be too many.
    i agree about lacrosse – i don’t understand it, and i think it’s kind of beautifully ironic that the most important game played by the american indians has been appropriated by the preps and turned into one of THEIR defining games… like, why don’t you just fuck my mom and kick my dog while you’re at it?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 23:22:12
    I wonder how it happened? Preppies adopting lacrosse, I mean. There’s a subject for a future Google search, assuming anyone has bothered to trace the history. Maybe the well-heeled were seeking a note of the “savage” in their lives.
    I’m glad you’ve remained a C’ville tourist, so to speak. I was last there a little over three years ago, for my brother’s wedding, which took place at the UVa chapel, and while searching for a place to park with my sister-in-law, I started to rant about snobbiness and so on. It irked my sister-in-law, who told me to shut up. But she wouldn’t understand, never having had much to do with the place.
    Oh, and I’m not old enough to have been taught by your mother, I’m relieved to say, though I wouldn’t have gone to Albemarle anyway. But it’s interesting that your dad also went to UVa. This means it’s something of a family tradition.
    I don’t suppose people in C’ville still speak of the Shiftletts: Virginia’s answer to Faulkner’s Snopes family. And speaking of Faulkner and Virginia, have you seen this?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 01:41:11
    I just got an e-mail with the subject line: Charlottesville is following you.
    This was to announce that C’Ville Scene, or something, is following me on Twitter. But still…

    Comment by David S. Wills
    2009-08-30 17:36:16
    That was a well written story. I’ve been thinking about racism more than I’d care to over the past year or so. I’d never known any black people before coming to Korea, but I don’t believe I ever held a racist vocabulary. Luckily for me my parents made sure I never said anything like that, and if I did, then I guess it predates my memory.
    I agree with an earlier comment about writing a letter. I’m also a teacher and every single day I’m called a ‘dirty foreigner’ by my students. Most of them like me, but in Korea you simply call non-Korean people ‘dirty foreigners’ or ‘ugly foreigners’. It’s a racist place.
    I’d love to receive a letter years from now that says ’sorry, teacher.’

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:07:33
    I think I’m going to call my old history teacher, Mr. Savage, tomorrow. He still lives in hometown, and he may have a lead on how to now contact Mrs. Orr, if it’s possible.
    Meantime, as renown as the U.S. is for racism, I’ve been consistently struck by how much more overt it is elsewhere. I mean, Eastern Europe, where I used to live? Whoa, man, the racism is off the map! And only a few days ago, I happened to read online, Madonna was booed in Romania for speaking out against the violence routinely inflicted on the Roma (or Gypsies).

    Comment by David S. Wills
    2009-09-01 03:33:06
    Yeah, it’s awful. In Spain and Italy it’s pretty bad, too.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 04:14:19
    Do you think historic dealings have anything to do with that? Spain and the Moors, and Italy and Ethiopia? Probably not. At one time, the largely Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn was infamous for attacks on blacks.

    Comment by Thomas
    2009-08-30 17:51:03
    My god what an interesting flashback. I’ve just been reading through about half of the comments here and, suddenly, recalled my own childhood act of racism (though, let me not imply that such an act is perfectly natural or perfectly inevitable). A simple enough thing, just knowing the word, “nigger,” and though not really understanding why it was wrong, I suppose I had it somewhere in there as something not to be said. And all I remember is a bit of shame, following a lot of anger, as a black boy and I argued out on the playground during one recess. And the word just, fell out. Oh, how embarrasing. That was probably twenty years ago, and we we’re friends all through school, but now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t follow-up with him and tell him how sorry I still feel.
    It’s a nice read, Duke.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:30:32
    An excellent way to meet, Thomas. Thank you.
    With kids, there’s a desire — even a need — to see exactly how far they can push things. It’s an experiment, really.
    It’s off-topic, but as an example, I remember trying to catch a bee when I was five or so, and lacking a container of some kind, I thought: Hey! Why don’t you just use your hands? I thought the bee would mistake my hands for a container and figure it was pointless to try and sting me.
    Well, of course, it stung the living shit out of me. But the point is, kids experiment, and they sometimes suffer the consequences.
    By the way, man, I read a comment you made on Lenore’s post about her penchant for gay vegans, and I was still chuckling about it days later.

    Comment by Thomas
    2009-08-31 06:42:17
    Really funny, the hands around the bee. I feel like, had that been me as a child, I would have considered the stinging, and attempted to solve the problem by covering my hands with hot wax first or something, ie. find candles, light candles, poor hot wax on hands (screaming) etc, all in the name of prudence. Meanwhile (and oh my god, pardon the blatant self-promotion/friendly-sharing) but your mention of bees has reminded me of my recent trouble with the little buggers If bee’s are such idiots…

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 14:20:22
    More kid logic with your wax solution. That may well have occurred to me, had I not already tried the flesh approach and agonized afterward.
    Meantime, thanks for the link. Your bee dialogue had me in stitches. I’m a sucker for animal humor.

    Comment by josie
    2009-08-30 18:46:14
    Made a child stand in a trash can? This is supposed to be a story about improper behavior of a child but I can’t get past that line.
    I do love how, no matter how young a person is, immature, or ignorant – we can always sense meaning from one another. Even if your child’s mind couldn’t wrap around the details it sounds like you felt what she was saying.
    I think that is the difference between folks who evolve and those who don’t – the ability to feel others.
    Great blog, man.
    Well done.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:00:30
    Why, thank you, Josie.
    I was waiting (or hoping) for someone to remark on the trash-can punishment. I tell you, when that happened, I was fucking shocked! Fortunately, the girl didn’t take it in the least seriously. She stood in the trash can and made goofy faces at the class for the duration — but maybe inside she was all torn up about it.
    And, yes, I absolutely felt Mrs. Orr’s hurt. Her hurt was what really struck me, though it take a while to fully understand the why. I only wish I’d apologized at that moment. I don’t know why I didn’t. I think I was a little overwhelmed by this woman who’d seemed so stiff and unsympathetic suddenly crying in front of me. It was a lot to absorb for a six-year-old.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:33:20
    Yeah. The trash can thing. Unforgivable.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 14:01:05
    I hope that teacher later realized what a horrible thing she did.

    Comment by jmb
    2009-08-30 18:54:45
    Bad boys raised in the south,
    Been there too.
    I started to tell you a story but
    it’s best said via email.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:01:55
    As I owe you an e-mail, I’ll drop you a line a little later, my friend.

    Comment by Jim Simpson
    2009-08-30 19:05:36
    Mrs. Orr handled the situation with aplomb and dignity, which is probably why the incident made such an impression on you.
    Well crafted piece, you stinkin’ cracker!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:14:05
    Very dignified, yes. She was a lady — a word that I think (or hope) has now been rescued from its low status in feminist circles. As much as this piece may unfortunately indicate otherwise, I was very definitely raised to be a gentleman.
    But isn’t your final word best pronounced crackuh for maximum impact?

    Comment by Jim Simpson
    2009-08-30 19:40:23
    Muthafuckincrackuh. Sure.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:47:05
    Now, that’s what I call maximum impact!

    Comment by jmb
    2009-08-30 19:18:12
    Hey I love that No Age group.
    Good stuff.
    You ever listen to album Leaf?
    I write to them alot.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:31:51
    Yeah, No Age is maybe the most popular (semi) underground band in LA right now.
    I was going to cheat and Google Leaf, but, no, I don’t know it — not offhand. But if you hum a few bars…

    Comment by Doug Mulliken
    2009-08-30 19:39:40
    the album leaf is a dude out of san diego, synthesizers and beats and awesomeness. listen to the song vermillion. good stuff to read/write to.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 19:46:29
    I’ll have a listen to it before the night is done, I guarantee it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 13:53:03
    This is what happens when you present yourself as Mr. Underground Music Guy: stuff slips past you, and you feel like a charlatan for missing it.
    Anyway, as guaranteed, I did have a listen, and I can see how it would be good music for writing.
    My favorite record for writing is Sonic Youth’s NYC Flowers and Ghosts, Unwound’s Leaves Turn Inside You, and anything by Elliott Smith, Nick Drake, the Dirty Three, or Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

    Comment by Rich Ferguson
    2009-08-30 20:26:06
    How dare you exhibit any creativity when writing your name! Jeez! What were you thinking? That you’d maybe one day become a writer?
    Well, I’m glad you did think that way as a child, my friend. Cause you’ve turned into one damn fine writer, and I’m enjoying the hell outta your book.
    So you go ahead and write your name however the hell you please.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-30 20:30:42
    I’m glad the book is doing well by you, Rich. I’m always anxious about reactions.
    You were mentioned in the comments above, by the way. Rich? Oh, Rich? You there?

    Comment by Erika
    2009-08-30 23:56:50
    I love teachers!
    Bless their souls for putting up with all those kids with such little pay.
    However I can’t get past the teacher making kids stand in the trash as punishment. What a weird, unusual, traumatizing?, thing to do to a child. I would have fought it tooth and nail had I been made to that.
    I too concur with the masses on how you ended this piece…just beautiful.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 00:20:42
    The trash-can thing is something, huh? I only saw it done once, but it made a lifetime impression on me. I wonder if I was spared that punishment because I was white? I’m sure many would say yes, but, as I remember it, the girl kept talking after being ordered to shut up, while I instantly put a stop to my Tarzan call. Which of course doesn’t justify what happened to that girl. Jesus fucking Christ!
    I’m glad you liked the end. I was talking to Greg Olear on the phone the other day, and I told him I was working on the piece but didn’t know how to conclude it. And then it suggested itself. Which is always the best way, though sometimes you have to force things. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case this time.
    Hope the bright lights of Vegas are treating you well, you glamorous showgirl, you.

    Comment by Erika
    2009-09-01 21:25:48
    This is insane!
    You surely should be crowned the comment king of TNB.
    The lights of Vegas are always the unspoken “welcome home” sign.
    They always treat me well as long as I know my limit! Which after many years I do know now.
    Anyhow I might be heading to L.A. soon (for pleasure) and would love the opportunity to meet up if possible.
    However at this point this trip is still tenative but I if it does go through I hope to meet for a drink if your not put off by the white tigers that will be rolling with me as well as the many bubbles which will be consumed!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 03:01:01
    Brad’s the comment king. He’s just not making his former effort these days, being busy with other things.
    White tigers? Bubbles? Yeah, I’m pretty sure I can deal with them. Just don’t bring Carrot Top. And keep me notified of your plans.

    Comment by Irene Zion
    2009-08-31 03:36:09
    Your writing is so impeccable, Duke, that the story rises up in the air and is breathed in.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-08-31 13:55:38
    I’m still trying to breathe in being told as much, Irene. I still can’t, despite the time elapsed between reading your comment and trying to respond before I knew the server was down.
    Gratitude galore.

    Comment by Erika Rae
    2009-09-01 05:12:24
    Hey Duke, this piece was amazing. The ending – wow. I spent a couple of years in Hong Kong, where I experienced racial discrimination for the first time. Granted, it was different than what happens here, but I well remember instances is which I was made to feel like more of an annoyance than a human. I know that’s nothing compared to what some people have experienced (and experience) in our country, but it really hit home how sad and futile discrimination is. That may just have been my proverbial staircase. Anyway, great piece.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 13:45:53
    I remember reading elsewhere that you’d lived in Hong Kong. Weren’t you a child at the time? You traveled quite a bit with your family as a child, didn’t you? I never went anywhere, and that was part of the reason I was so anxious to leave my hometown as soon as I was able.
    Not to in any way trivialize the horrors endured by people of color in the U.S. (and here I include Asians and Hispanics, among others), but I’ve always thought that a change of location is all that’s required to experience racism. It happened to me routinely in New York and, later, in L.A., when I found myself in non-white neighborhoods: my race was the only thing that mattered. “Hey, white boy,” I’d hear, and I’d know I was in for it.
    Of course, it could be said that this was righteous payback for what my people had done to theirs, but it’s the way you’re stripped of individualism and made into a symbol that cuts, I think. I can honestly say that I at least try to deal with people free of labels; to give them the same chance that I hope they’d give me.

    Comment by Erika Rae
    2009-09-03 06:38:09
    I agree. Living outside of one’s “natural element” — and even just visiting– is often just the education people need to help them see outside of their own little worlds to understand race and culture better.
    Lived in HK in grad school – in my early 20s. Lived on a little ex-pat hippy island. Good times.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 11:58:07
    Well, at least I remembered accurately that you’d lived on on island. Funny the way we try to construct things based on bits of information. I knew you’d traveled with your parents and I knew you’d lived in Hong Kong, so I had the latter resulting from the former.
    I suppose, to some, Boulder, too, could be seen as a hippie island.
    As a kid, I always thought that was such a great name for a city: Boulder. Like something off The Flintstones.

    Comment by Erika Rae
    2009-09-01 05:42:20
    Hey – I just linked your piece to Face Stories:

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 13:08:00
    Ah, thanks, Erika. And I see you wrote an intro, too, and even mentioned my book. Very thoughtful. I may have to again call you at an inappropriate hour with Rich Ferguson.

    Comment by Erika Rae
    2009-09-03 06:34:26

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 11:51:08
    For us, yes.
    You’re such a sweetheart.

    Comment by Col. Hector Bravado – Denver Six Shooter
    2009-09-01 05:50:21
    Late chiming in, but this was fantastic. Honest and brave, really. I imagine it would be tempting for a lot of writers to make it all overwrought, but the way you trust your reader here brings through the power of the event. Hats off, Duke.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 13:57:30
    You’re not so late, Colonel; it only seems that way because recently there are so many new posts at TNB that something a couple of days old seems as if it’s been there for a week at least. Meantime, to be honest and brave about it, your syntax in our exchanges has always been flawless to the point of intimidating, so any praise from you is especially prized. Now, put your hat back on, sir, and post a proper piece at TNB. Time’s a-wasting.

    Comment by Rachel Pollon
    2009-09-01 11:50:23
    This made me cringe (the trash can punishment), gasp (”Is she a nigger, too.”)… and then tear up with the last line. Oh my gosh, so finely executed, Duke.
    The way you write about yourself as a kid is so well done. It just gets it. The bewilderment, the brashness. Good stuff!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 14:02:22
    Have I mentioned lately that your hair looks great, Rachel? And does it speak poorly of me that I remember very well how I thought as I kid? I’m still bewildered and brash by turns. I’m afraid, in some ways, I’ve never grown up.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-01 12:41:00
    Great post!
    I grew up in a multi-cultural family, celt indian, french indian, bohemian prussian jew, african-american indian, mexican indian, a lot of different ethnic peoples married into our mixed lines. I did a lot of fighting due to racism and never considered myself to be a racist. Then one day when I was twenty something I was made aware that while I may not be a racist I did in fact have racist sterotypical thoughts:
    Black friend: Hey can I bum a smoke?
    Me: I’m sorry I don’t smoke menthols.
    Black friend: Girl you is crazy, not all blacks smoke menthols. I smoke Maulboro reds same as you.
    Me: Oh man do I feel stupid.
    Black friend: Well you aint stupid no more is you?
    Me: Nah Sir I am not. I have been informed proper. I wisely thank you kindly.
    Black friend: Pass it on when ya can til then give me a cigarette and we’ll call it paid for.
    I was escorted from kindergarten class to the principal’s office for staging a re-enactment of domestic violence during show and tell that I had witnessed happen in my beer drinking neighbor’s front yard the night before. My mother had explained that it’s never right to get drunk and beat someone up because you can. I only wanted to pass on that newly learned information but was abruptly interrupted by the teacher who freaked out about it.
    My mother was promptly called and asked to pick me up from school. Kids are natural born spongeheads soaking up the world a million miles a minute. Then spending into adulthood sorting it all out.
    Cheers to learning my man.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 14:43:20
    For a California girl (aren’t you originally from California, Sheree?), you sure sound Southern when you say: “Nah Sir I am not. I have been informed proper. I wisely thank you kindly.” This sounds like something I might have said to my grandfather when threatened with a belt.
    I marvel at your ethnic lineage, but, then again, we’re all mongrels, to borrow a term our president has applied to himself. I remember seeing a piece on 60 Minutes about people seeking their roots by having their DNA analyzed, and they’d burst into tears when told there were many DNA matches in, say, Ethiopia, only to freeze in confusion when they learned, a second later, that there were matches in Scotland and Egypt and Siberia and so on. How could it be otherwise? Or has the “Eve” theory, that has us all descending from the same original mother, now been discredited?
    Your kindergarten story made me laugh. Oh, man. One day I’ll have to post about the time I took a picture of a naked woman to school and showed it off in the coat room, only to have to snatched and taken, first, to our teacher, then to the principal.
    But something just occurred to me regarding your “spongehead” comment: Do you think kids respond as they do to Spongebob Squarepants because his physical state mirrors them psychically?
    Yes, cheers to learning. It’s been the one constant of my life, and I hope it so continues.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-01 15:00:30
    I’m second generation Californian. My kinsmen were forced from the southern areas westward over a 100 year migration. My life has been divided between The Indian Territory where everyone in my lives arrived from the south and California where some landed during the dust bowl era. Yes the DNA factor is very amazing. My kinsmen were asked to donate DNA about ten years ago for a genographic study. The results were very interesting as we suspected they would be.
    As for Spongebob, I havent got a clue.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 16:37:30
    Nor do I. That’s why kited a theory. I mean, cartoon animals — that makes perfect sense to me, because kids relate very strongly to animals. So, for that matter, do primitives — which, in a sense, kids are.
    That’s so classic, that you have relatives who arrived in California during the Dust Bowl era. It’s right out of Steinbeck. Most of my family has remained in Virginia, where it’s been since the early seventeenth century. We’re pretty much British all the way, meaning English, Irish, and Scottish, though there’s a branch of my family with Cherokee blood. I always envied them.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-01 18:15:49
    It’s often a hard row to hoe being Indian and white. At least it was for my immediate elders. It was somewhat easier for my generation because it was so much more common. Still there was a lot of bigotry and what not. Being seen as the off spring of dust bowl okie mixed white trash was the hardest of all. People seemed to think they could do as they liked to you without any real worry. I was born in the area The Grapes of Wrath was set in. The mexicans and the blacks in my kinsmens lines had it way worse than I ever did.
    I was raised by four generations of Hospitaller Bushyhead Baptist Cherokee women. Southern in hospitality and backwood deadly when self preservation was being put to the test. It’s been a long life that I am happy to be retired from.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:34:20
    “Southern in hospitality and backwood deadly when self preservation was being put to the test.”
    That could easily be said of certain of my family. Also, like you, I dealt with cries of “white trash” and all that.
    This is a trailer for a movie entitled Exiles that might interest you. It was filmed around 1960, and re-released a couple of years ago, but so far it has yet to appear on DVD. I missed it, alas, but I’m waiting on the day I can finally see it. The subject? Indians living in L.A. Looks amazing.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 09:54:34
    You can buy the dvd but its 300 bucks. My father talked about the boys on Bunker Hill when I was a kid. I was born about a hundred or so miles North of there. My father spent a lot of time serving time at a logging camp for wayward boys from all over southern Ca in the 50’s and 60’s. Some of the Bunker Hill boys spent time in the same logging camp.
    I think my parents generation was called Boom Town Rats. Children of the Dust Bowl Okies. I think the reason things were easier for my generation was because of the civil rights movement, more people were refusing to stand by and let racism expand and destroy humanity.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 12:58:21
    So now I know where Bob Geldorf stole his band name. And I’m sure you’re right about the civil-rights movement, which of course had its Indian branches. AIM was probably the most celebrated — or notorious, as it were.
    Bunker Hill is completely gone now. It shows up in a lot of Bukowski’s stuff, as well as that of John Fante. And I didn’t see that you can buy Exiles for three hundred bucks. I want to see it, but I don’t want to see it that badly.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 14:49:12
    You ever hear: Hot Walker by Tom Russell? Or the works of Thomas Jefferson Kaye the self titled album.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 16:27:00
    I did not. I am really receiving a musical education with this post. And, with typical hubris, I thought I knew it all.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 20:57:25
    Heh, speaking of music: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29013026/
    Now you can say you know it all.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 23:22:15
    Now, those guys I’m aware of, though I haven’t seen Heavy Metal in Baghdad. But it’s on my Netflix list.
    I’m happy they got out.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-01 18:22:55
    Duke, this post has made me wonder – being the keen student of both good writing and all things Native American that you are, do you/have you ever read much Sherman Alexie?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:18:37
    I’ve only had the pleasure of encountering Sherman Alexie in interviews. So many books, so little time.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-01 18:28:40
    There’s gonna be a fry bread riot. God I love the words of Sherman Alexie. His words soothe my soul.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:21:13
    I love fry bread. There was a time when I used to go to a lot of powwows, and I always gorged on Indian tacos.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 09:43:05
    I been whippin’ up fry bread since I was ten years old. We have a slightly heavier version made with bucked wheat called “Field bread” I grew up on the three sisters: Corn, squash and beans. Fried potato wild onions, roasted rarebit caught in snares or run down by one of 14 dogs. When I was very little my grandfather had a hunting bird who’d swoop down on rabbits. That bird died during mating season when I was about 6 or 7. Turtle soup from hand raised turtles and frog legs from freshly gigged frogs. Fish caught with ground nuts and even squirrel stew a time or two. Those days are gone now. The old ones have passed on. My gerneration got caught up in Taco Bell and McDonalds. Shame how the times have changed. I still make field bread and roasted chicken on holy days.
    I’ma shush my pie hole for now. Been right nice making time pass with ya though. Good luck with the new book you have in the works.
    You deserve mass readers.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 12:50:37
    I went gigging once or twice. It freaked me out, spearing frogs. It probably wouldn’t now, though, having eaten frog. I refused back then.
    And squirrel stew: my cousins once stirred up a pot of it, and again I wouldn’t touch the stuff. Interestingly, those particular cousins were the ones with Cherokee blood. The matriarch looked like an obese Loretta Lynn.
    Did you ever have zeppole? It’s a kind of Italian street food — gobs of dough dropped in boiling oil and served with powdered sugar. Anyway, zeppole reminds me a lot of fry bread.
    Thanks again, Sheree, for your generous words. And I do for a fact need luck with the new book, which is, to say the least, not coming along swimmingly, so thanks on that account, too.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 14:27:47
    Never had zeppole but I’m on about it now. Gonna have to look up a recipe for it. Ever had Chipino? I make the best. Got the recipe from my mother in law who was born and raised in San Francisco.
    Chipino=seafood in a tomato broth served in a bread bowl.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 18:27:43
    That sounds like something I’ve had, but even if I haven’t, it’s right up my alley. Seafood, tomato, and bread: three of my food favorites. Seriously, I love them all — especially shellfish in the first case. I would eat shellfish every day if I could afford it.
    Oh, and I’m taking it your mother-in-law is Italian, right? From North Beach, by any chance, or someplace close?

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 22:36:37
    Nah she’s an Austrian Sephardic Jewess Scottish highlander of The Dagger blood lines born in Berkeley Ca 1930’s. She’s second generation American. Her family invested heavily in the first electric company in San Francisco.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 23:25:54
    Wow. Even your in-laws have astonishing bloodlines.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-04 10:37:39
    Scottish Jews are more common than you think. Mexican Jews are also pretty common. Crypto Jews for the world!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-05 12:23:08
    I’ve met Mexican Jews, but none from Scotland.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-05 20:07:32
    Scottish Jews have names lke Macpearlwitz. Heh I kid of course.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-09 13:52:08
    I’m reminded of Ricky Ricardo as a Scot during a dream sequence on I Love Lucy.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 09:45:08
    You’re the coolest guy evah evah for giving me a missing E! Heh Thanks.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 12:42:04
    I’m really embarrassed that you noticed. I do that kind of thing sometimes at idle moments. I do it with myself, mainly. I’m a fixaholic.

    Comment by sheree
    2009-09-02 14:19:11
    Dude, i so loved you when I saw that E. You’re the best.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 16:25:23
    At last, the words I’ve longed to hear. Thank you, Lord, for sending Sheree my way. The finger I promised in return is forthcoming.

    Comment by Sadie
    2009-09-01 20:22:26
    I did some serious reading while in Serbia. The Sheman Alexie book “the absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian” and yours. Good trip. Time for some seriously delicious Rakia. Let us know when you around…will discuss with the L.Z. Take care.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-01 20:25:58
    Ah, good to hear from you, back from the country where I used to live so happily!
    Simon? Is this freaking SSE or what? Sadie, friend of Lenore, read my book and Sherman Alexie’s while in Serbia.
    Sorry this makes no sense to you, Sadie, but the L.Z. will explain. And guess what book I‘m reading right now?

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 12:35:15
    The SSE is clearly unstoppable. It will roll over the world in a rising tide. And Matt and I will be kings.
    You will all, of course, be welcome to hang out at Castle Smithwin. Or Baldson. We’re still working out the details.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 12:40:16
    You’ll be co-kings? That’s weird. I never heard of that. I’m kind of jealous, actually. Why can’t I be a king, too? And what’s to become of our bar and band? Kings don’t own bars or play in bands.
    The more I think about it, the more I don’t like this king business. Remain with the people, sir. You’ll be much happier for it in the end. Otherwise you’ll be all lonely and stuff, trapped behind your castle walls and surrounded by sycophants and so on.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 12:42:35
    Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Simon. Don’t do it!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 12:52:50
    Heed the people’s cries, Simon! Stay among us! Don’t turn into Caligula!

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 14:54:48
    My donkey will make a wonderful senator.
    And my cat, an even-handed Supreme Court Judge.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 14:57:28
    Oops, missed the earlier comment:
    Much as the army wouldn’t miss the chance to have Major Major, I don’t think we could go past the idea of having Duke Duke. What’s happened is that Matt and I have realised that, for all intents and purposes, we are the same person. Which is great, because if I’m ever angry with him (unlikely), all I have to do is slap myself in the face.
    Also, kings can absolutely have bands. I would like to point your attention in the direction of King Ad-Rock.

    Comment by Zara Potts
    2009-09-02 15:00:57
    Folie a deux?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 16:23:33
    Do you mean, Simon, Ad Rock of the Beasties?
    I regret to say that I do not share your view that you and Matt are the same person, but perhaps partaking of your joint company will persuade me otherwise.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 16:45:32
    Ad Rock of the Beasties is exactly who I mean. As he himself might put it:
    ‘Well I’m King Ad-Rock/and that’s who I ay-am/listen alla y’all/I’m not the Son of Say-am’.
    Profound, Ad-Rock. Profound.
    We’re a little worried there’s going to be an explosion of some kind when we meet. I’d hate for anyone to be injured.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 16:54:01
    Um, Simon? Remember Peewee in BFL? Did you know that his background was based a little on…?

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 16:59:08

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 17:05:40
    Yep. I’d spell out the details but won’t here, because I got an earload, so to speak, earlier today for comments made on Lenore’s board about a public figure — by the public figure.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 17:06:50
    I’ve often wondered if captains of sinking ships ever raise their fists to the sky and scream out ‘Curse you loose-lipped sons of bitches! This is all your fault!’

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 17:18:55
    My friend Duke says they do.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-02 17:56:30
    He’d know. That guy’s pretty switched on.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 18:26:10
    He says thank you and hi to your friend Simon. Those guys would really get along, huh?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 19:23:49
    Oh, and your Supreme Court judge? It’s so easily bribed. A can of tuna, and you’ll get pretty much any verdict you want.
    I think yours is going to be a very troubled kingdom, Your Majest(ies).

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-03 13:59:24
    I think they’d have a lot to talk about. Hopefully they wouldn’t badmouth us behind our backs.
    Be that as it may on the judicial front, ‘Tunagate’ makes for such a wonderful scandal name.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 14:53:16
    Agreed. But the judge can make amends by going into rehab and emerging tuna-free.
    Also, your arrangement with Matt is going to lend a whole new meaning to the royal “we.”

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-03 17:50:31
    Unfortunately, the judge can probably be bribed with cold turkey too.
    Wow, a truly gestalt ruler. I call the Western Hemisphere!

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 18:22:21
    A quarter of my brain just answered; therefore this comment will only be a fourth as potentially funny as my usual.
    But I’ll let the judge decide. I’m heading now to the can opener.

    Comment by Simon Smithson
    2009-09-03 18:46:28
    Thank you for being so fourthcoming.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 20:12:27
    You two.

    Comment by Kris
    2009-09-02 04:36:39
    This was beautiful. And well-written. You made me want to start following this site.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 04:45:47
    I’m a bit taken aback to have such a nice message from a stranger. Thank you. And I daresay the site is worth following. I count myself lucky to be surrounded by so many talented colleagues.

    Comment by Brad Listi
    2009-09-02 05:49:32
    My folks come from the Deep South. Lotta racism in my clan, particularly in the older generations.
    Memory: Sitting on the front porch of my grandparents’ house in Louisiana. Watching some black kids go by on their bikes. I was probably three or four years old. I called them “chocolate children.” Look at the chocolate children! I was raised in Wisconsin and so was not subjected to the overt racism and tensions of the South in any kind of consistent way. I’m grateful for that. (I envy certain other aspects of Southern culture, but the ugly racial thing is not one of them.)
    Anyway. Chocolate children. My grandparents laughed about that one. Told that story for years. Kids might see color, but they don’t see it with hate until…when? That’s sort of an interesting question. At what point does the innocence get replaced by real ignorance and intolerance?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-02 13:08:54
    I suppose when the us-versus-them idea is implanted. It’s one thing to hear the words, another to be told that people of another color — or class or country or custom, or what have you — is the enemy.
    It’s irrelevant, but your talk of chocolate children reminds me of this song by Beat Happening. I hadn’t heard it in a while before going to find the clip. Man, I’m nostalgic. Beat Happening…sigh.

    Comment by Colleen McGrath
    2009-09-03 02:19:55
    Mrs. Orr sounds like a good lady, although I’m not sure why she passed you off one more time. Shuffling kids around doesn’t help the behavioral stuff all that often. (I speak now as a pre-school teacher, granted only a music one but…) To be honest, you rowdy kids are often the most intelligent and creative. Also a pain in the ass but likable none-the-less.
    Listen, kids will say anything. I think I’ve mentioned in the past my favorite comment from two of my students. “Colleen, did you know you have a big, fat bottom?”, “Yes, Colleen, you do have a big, fat bottom.”, at which point they patted it. Can’t blame them. They are kids and don’t know what it means to be socially awkward. Mrs. Orr taught you something important but I’m certain she doesn’t blame you in any way for having that vocabulary or not recognizing its inappropriateness. I agree with Irene about sending a letter. You’ll make her cry again only in a good way this time.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 12:11:42
    It doesn’t seem like Mrs. Orr was all that responsive to creativity, as indicated by the Indian-lettering episode. She was a bit of a martinet, I think. That may have been another reason I was so baffled when she cried: it seemed out of character.
    But I’m relieved to hear that rowdy kids are often the most intelligent and creative. I think may parents may find that a relief as well. They didn’t know what to do with me as a kid, at least half the time. I was, as they say, challenging.
    It takes guts to tell people that you’ve had children say, “Colleen, did you know you have a big, fat bottom?” And they patted it! Anyway, I commend you. And as I’ve said before, I do for a fact hope to get in touch with Mrs. Orr, if it’s still possible.

    Comment by Colleen McGrath
    2009-09-03 22:45:39
    She may not have seemed responsive to creativity and it could be because she was not. But trying to control a room full of 15-30 small people leaves the only adult in the room in a very precarious position. Without the illusion of absolute control, you are toast. So she may not have been as hard-lined on that as you thought. Or maybe she was, what do I know?
    I love my rowdy kids but I can’t have their behavior disrupt the learning for the rest of the group. Last year I tried to allow for more “creativity” by allowing them to express themselves as they felt they wanted. It was a total disaster and I lost all control very quickly. This year I’m a big hard ass. More kids get more out of it but yes, the creative rowdies have a harder time. Learning control is as much a part of what we’re taught in school as anything, I guess. I just wish there was a way to allow for more flexibility as well but without other teachers involved in classroom control, it’s not possible.
    I don’t know if it takes guts to tell that story. It’s not a wonderful thing to hear but at the same time, my ass is a prominent feature on my body. The men that date me like it, those that are into other things, like huge breasts, don’t. Kids are honest and say what they want. In this case, they weren’t trying to be defamatory or mean. They saw an ass bigger than most German women sport (body shape is more commonly tall, thin, big boobs) and they commented on it. What can you do? Certainly I can’t deny what they said and it’s pointless to get upset. Plus it was kind of funny. Probably prepares me for eventual parenthood, should I be so lucky.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-03 22:58:23
    Well, some people would probably never tell that story, from which I derived my “guts” remark.
    My mom, on the other hand, used to love to repeat something I, as a kid, once said to her: “Mom, were you born before or after the Civil War?”
    Oh, and by the way, as a teenager, while standing in line for the high diving board at the neighborhood swimming pool, a (male) kid of maybe seven said, “Hey, you’ve got a great ass!” and squeezed it. I was so startled, I didn’t know how to respond.
    I can very much appreciate your position as a teacher, wanting to allow for greater flexibility but meantime needing to maintain control. But do you find teaching exhausting or inspiring or both? I like kids, but I also see them as vampires. They feed on attention like blood, and they’ll continue to feed even when you’re nothing but a husk. So goes my experience, anyway, which I’m sure is nothing compared to yours.

    Comment by Colleen McGrath
    2009-09-04 23:23:56
    Got your ass squeezed at the high dive, did you? Well, well, well…all just a foreshadowing of squeezes to come I’m sure. Very funny!
    Yes, it’s both. I love kids and definitely want one of my own. They can be vampires I guess, in the sense that they are self focused but we all went through that and most people never get away from it at all. Kids are also loving and clever and inspiring and funny. I think being a parent is vastly different than being a teacher but I’m sure it’ll also be exhausting. After all, you can’t send them home at 3pm. I guess that’s what grandparents are for! Teaching has its gratifying moments and some very frustrating ones also. What job doesn’t?

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-05 12:26:39
    I find my nephews a delight to be around maybe thirty percent of the time. The rest, I feel like I’m losing my mind. Since thirty-percent parenting is a bad idea, I don’t see kids of my own in the future.

    Comment by Brin Friesen
    2009-09-05 05:45:47
    Did you ever read Jimmy Carter’s Law Day speech? HST, to my knowledge, personally recorded the only audio copy of it.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-05 12:28:12
    I heard a snatch of the speech in the HST documentary Gonzo. Remarkable.

    Comment by Ducky
    2009-09-11 08:25:07
    I love this piece. So much to love about it.
    Even at six, I was clearly out of step with my generation.
    I sat on the stairwell, as if arrested between levels on the scale of evolution.
    I’m grateful you were out of step.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-11 12:47:02
    Thanks very much, Ducky. Ultimately, I’m grateful as well.

    Comment by Jason S
    2009-09-17 09:58:16
    I want to read the bookend of this story — the one where you meet and befriend your first black buddy and find out the two of you are different…but really the same.
    Preferably accompanied by James Brown’s “I Feel Good”.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-19 01:06:47
    Maybe a better bookend story is the one about my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Robinson, who was black and obsessed with a trip she’d taken to Hawaii shortly before the start of the school year. I spent a lot of the third grade hearing about Hawaii, which was great fun. Mrs. Robinson was, hands down, my favorite teacher other than Mr. Savage, who taught me American history in the eleventh grade.
    Alas, I can’t cause “I Feel Good” or any other song to play over my TNB pieces, though I would if I could.

    Comment by Kymberlee
    2009-09-19 12:09:11
    This is a wonderfully crafted, poignant story. I went back to see what you called this piece after I read it and it made my heart open a bit wider. Bless you for writing it and bless Mrs. Orr for showing you her humanity so you could find yours.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-20 04:23:23
    And bless you, Kymberlee, for this comment. How strange, to me at least, that those moments on the staircase continue to reverberate all these years later. And to think that I almost didn’t post this piece, on the advice of a relative who thought it would reflect poorly on my upbringing. Your comment helps to convince me that I chose well to post in spite of that advice.

    Comment by Kymberlee
    2009-09-20 07:51:24
    I’m very glad you followed your own inner wisdom. I have art I’ve created that I was afraid to show people and art I have yet to create that I am afraid to show myself. This gives me a bit more courage.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-09-23 03:13:33
    Then it’s served its purpose. Thank you for saying so.
    There’s very little that I’d hesitate to put into writing, but showing it is another matter entirely. I’ve had friends get upset at some of things I’ve posted at TNB, so I now try to avoid stepping on toes, though hopefully never at the expense of honesty. Without that, I think, there’s no point in writing anything at all.

    Comment by Kymberlee della Luce
    2009-10-24 06:09:12
    One of my recent mentors has convinced me that stepping on toes is okay. Politeness has no place in art. In diplomacy or politics perhaps, but not art.
    I haven’t read all of your work (yet) but what I have read shows deep-seeing, honesty and the ability to pry us out of our complacency. I look forward to more of that, even if my toes get stepped on in the process.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-10-25 20:31:20
    Trying to inspire people, including myself, to shake off complacency is in fact an ongoing goal, so it seems you understand me very well, and once again I thank you.

    Comment by Kymberlee della Luce
    2009-10-26 17:39:41
    On another note, I just ordered two copies of your book from Amazon. One for me, and one for my little brother who is a lifetime punk rocker. I am very much looking forward to reading your work.

    Comment by D.R. Haney
    2009-10-27 01:33:21
    Talk about lovely.
    I’m honored, and I hope the book does well by you — and by your brother. Got to fear them lifetime punks. Their philosophies tend to be pretty firm, but I got a pass on the punk sections of the book from MaximumRocknRoll, which gently rapped me for political incorrectness without identifying it as such — speaking of politeness having no place in art.

  6. […] his mind goes to dark places; he’s only human, after […]

  7. Nancey says:

    Did you write that note to Mrs. Orr? You should, I just sent off a letter to my favorite teacher – English Lit, he just brightened the room by being in it, just a wonderful man, but he’s getting older now and if I didn’t write it now I feared it would be too late. 20 years out of college and he was no spring chicken then either. Great story by the way, thank you for writing it. Your writing is wonderful in the way it really puts you there, I felt like I was in the hall, in the empty classroom with you.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I never could learn her present-day whereabouts. Honestly, I even thought about trying to contact Oprah to see if she could effect a reunion. I thought this story could conceivably be in the Oprah line, you know? I, on the other hand, am not in the Oprah line, so, finally, I don’t believe it was a good idea.

      Did your letter reach your teacher? Did he write back?

      I very much appreciate, of course, what you say about my writing. I trust and hope that, unlike me, you never found yourself in the hall for disciplinary reasons, or at least not as often as happened with me.

  8. Les Brown says:

    Hey, D.R. Haney I have just discovered your presence on the internet and am reading all (most) of your blogs. Regarding “How I Became Human,” You had no overt racist inclinations by the time we met because I don’t recall, in our eight-grade friendship at Walker Jr HS, any inklings of such. In fact, we always spoke about the “rednecks.” This is your old running buddy Lester, from Virginia. It is so interesting to discover your life after Charlottesville and it’s quite a story. I guess I have a story to tell (not nearly as interesting as yours) also. I, too, was so unhappy and misfit growing up in that town, and felt the need to get the hell out as soon as possible as you did. My flight was to Chicago where I still reside. I have written about some of it as well.
    Would love to get in touch with you on a personal e-mail to swap life stories (thought yours is quite public). Meanwhile, I will catch up with you through your memoirs online. –L.B.
    PS. We both started our academics at that horrible Burnley Moran, and it still, unfortunately, exists

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Hey, Lester, it’s quite a surprise to hear from you. I’m sick at the moment with a sinus thing that makes coherence a challenge, but I received your private message, and I’ll respond to that when I’m out of the woods health-wise.

  9. Les Brown says:

    D.R., first, I’m glad that you remembered me; of the many roads we have travelled, sometimes some of it fades out. Also, it’s been at least five years since the last comment here. But as I indicated, I just found you.

    I’m glad the blogs are still online so that I can re-acquaint myself with you. When I read this: Comment by Jason S 2009-09-17 09:58:16
    I want to read the bookend of this story — the one where you meet and befriend your first black buddy and find out the two of you are different…but really the same. I think that individual may have been me?

    I hope that your health improves very soon, get in touch, whenever you feel it.

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