In The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck (kaput!) shows the lives of ordinary people striving to preserve their humanity in the face of social and economic desperation. When the Joad’s lose their farm in Oklahoma, they join thousands of others and wander towards California and the “American dream.” At its core, The Grapes of Wrath captures the horrors of the Great Depression as it probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America.
Julian Cannon used to confess to being a black man in a white man’s body. “I love working too much not to have the spirit of a nigger,” he’d say. All of his friends, aside from Flannery O’Conner and the owner of the drugstore downtown, were black. There he was, the wealthiest man in Milledgeville, getting his hair cut by the black barber. Eating with the “coloreds” in the town’s diner. He even helped them pick cotton in spring and peaches in the summertime.
The story goes that my Great Grandfather once killed a man because he spit in the face of a little black boy. Well, it’s not like he shot him or hung him from a tree; he was the town’s doctor, after all. He simply prescribed the wrong drug to a gentleman suffering from Pneumonia (kaput!).
Tom Joad would’ve been proud.
I was nineteen the first time I ever drank alcohol. It was beer. Cheap, freshman-in-college beer. It didn’t take. I didn’t know I was supposed to “feel anything,” so I didn’t. But I sincerely liked it. I’ve heard people say that alcohol is an “acquired taste.”
It seems I acquired my taste from Julian Cannon. Have I mentioned that although he was a well-respected doctor, he was also a drunk? It’s true. He loved his “firewater.”
My father wouldn’t touch the stuff. Surely there was the occasional frat party or social function where a few beers or a glass of Merlot seemed appropriate, but I can’t recall ever seeing him take a single drop. And Mother, well let’s just say that “thou shalt not partake of the devil’s juice,” is just about the only thing her father ever said that stuck with her. She despises alcohol and what it can do to those who are “entranced by Her seductive prowess.”
I used to write poetry when I was drinking. I have closets full of poems. Here goes:
The smoke lifts slowly, rising high, and the ashes’ glow turns black
The addiction seems to be ablaze, but the source is not in tact.
He grins with pain as the pouring rain rolls off his aching back.
Genesis. The morning sun. This blaze, it too, will fade
The burning, burning sticky-hot returns with each new day.
Revelation. Turning red, a Love that always stays.
Heaven and earth, above and below, full of love and light.
The hours grow shorter: A breath in time. The days go by and bye.
The addiction returns. The love it burns… consumes in mind and sight.
The Temple is burning. The man, he is yearning. The soul is dead and gone.
Guilty of committing crimes of the heart. The battle is yet to be won.
Light it up with a grin and a tear, get on your knees and speak to the Son.
“Father, take care of me… Please, no more therapy… Put me together again.”
A stinging. The burning: The Temple is burning, despite the falling rain.
My Mother is beautiful. She always has been. She was Miss Fulton County, Georgia in 1962. Aside from a few sags and a couple of gray hairs, she looks the same today as she did that glorious Sunday night my father lost his virginity. She is 5 feet-5 inches tall, and weighed about 105 pounds the night they met. Her hair was blond as the day is long (whatever that means). Her skin was tanned from the many hours spent each day “saving lives” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. (kaput!) Community Swimming Pool.
Mother’s favorite color is yellow. It is not often that she doesn’t have something yellow on her person — whether it is a handkerchief or a silly bow in her hair. She says yellow reminds her of sunshine. Father used to call her “Sunshine.”
He said that she was his Sun and he, her Jupiter.
The Sun is a star around which the Earth and the other components of the solar system revolve. It is the dominant body of the system, constituting more than 99 percent of its entire mass.
Jupiter contains the rest.