Saturday, September 7, 2013

Reflections on My Beloved Brother James
by Donna Dunn Livaudais

My earliest memories of life in the Dunn household included Jamie. I was only eighteen months old when he came along so I don’t remember life without him. I remember Mama being very upset because she was walking with him when he was a toddler and tried to lift him over a puddle with one arm and felt his shoulder pop out of socket. It didn’t really hurt him because he didn’t weigh much at the time which would be a lifelong trait. It was just one of those little snatches of memory that made an impression on me. We were both babies at the time.

We lived in a three room shack that had no indoor plumbing which hereafter will be referred to as the ‘old house’. I was still sleeping in a home-made crib that had been constructed from one by two’s and window screen. It actually had a locking mechanism, like a chicken coop so the baby could be secured. [We called it the “kiddy coop”. It was screened because we had no window screens. Mama and Daddy sprayed the house with Flit every night for mosquitoes.] It was probably mounted on ceramic castors and I suspect that Uncle Willie built it as he was a carpenter. The door which ran the length of the crib was hinged on the bottom and was always open. I suspect this furniture was passed down from Aunt Cleo to Mama because the youngest Savario cousin, Rosemary was a year or two older than our oldest child, Sharon. I’m also guessing that I graduated to the crib when Jamie was born. Jamie no doubt occupied the wicker bassinette, which was probably a hand-me-down from Aunt Cleo as well. Sharon and Danny, having once occupied the bassinette and crib in turn, now shared a pullout sofa bed in the living room. [Danny and I slept in the lean-to bedroom on a cot when Jamie was born. We got a sofa bed when Jamie was a baby and Daddy finally got a secure job at Gulf States Utilities, where he would retire 30 years later. The first thing he and Mama bought was a refrigerator. Before that, they had an icebox. Their next major purchase was a Naugahyde sofa bed. Danny and I moved to the sofa bed; Donna and Jamie took the cot; Valerie took the kiddy coop after she outgrew the bassinette. Rex was the only one born in the new house. He never slept in the kiddy coop. The new house had screens.]

Young DonnaYoung James

The old house had a front porch with a porch swing, a living room, a kitchen complete with a cold-water faucet, one bedroom, a tiny little nook that ran parallel to the front porch and served as a second bedroom that held a small cot which Jamie and I would share once Valerie came along. The house also had a back porch where we kept two chamber pots, a large one for Mama and Daddy and a small one for the kids, and Mama’s prized possession, a wringer washer.

We also had a number two galvanized tub which we used for family bath time. Bath time for us kids was always fun because it was an event. It only happened about once a week. Mama had to boil water to heat the bath so it was a real project to bathe a family of seven. It was during one of these family-bath times that Jamie revealed a certain racy wit which would become his signature. Mama, then a voluptuous young mother was the first to bathe. When she entered the room looking like a lovely pink Venus, Jamie having been recently weaned due to Valerie’s arrival, impishly blurted, “I want to suck your titties!” This shocking outburst seemed audacious to me but he brought the house down. [Donna forgot what Mama said, which was, “OK.” That’s one of the few times in his life Jamie lost his nerve. Mama shocked me more than Jamie did.] [I just realized I should clarify something. Daddy did not participate in family bath time, except to help out. He was a modest man and always showered wherever he worked. Mama didn’t have that option.]

Sharon, being the oldest, was often left in charge of the younger siblings while Mama was painting signs in her shop next door. She supervised games to keep us occupied. One day, we were playing hide and seek in the old house. Sharon was very tricky. It was Danny’s turn to find everybody. Jamie was wearing a pair of green overalls and he had a cut on his foot which had recently been medicated with iodine. She had Jamie and me to change clothes. I put on his overalls and Sharon painted my foot with iodine and “hid” me behind Mama and Daddy’s bed, kneeling with my head down and just my behind and feet barely visible. When Danny came into the room, he immediately spied the green overalls and the medicated foot and said, “There’s Jamie!” Ha! We were delighted that our cunning plan worked so well.

A major milestone for our family was moving into the new house [built with our parents’ four hands]. We had really arrived. We had three bedrooms, a modern kitchen, and a bathroom. It wasn’t long before we got our first television. We had joined white bread America.

Though we all had our ups and downs at school, Jamie had the hardest time of any of us. For starters he had ADD before it had a name. He was also dyslexic and phonetically tone deaf. In those days, any child with learning disabilities just had to wing it because there was no intervention available. They were basically considered slow or lazy. His sixth grade teacher was a hateful woman who assumed that Jamie’s failures were due to his attitude. She was constantly sending notes home to Mama complaining about his behavior. When Mama questioned him about it angrily, he completely broke down. He sobbed pitifully that he didn’t know why she hated him so much. He told Mama that she asked him, “Why do you always have to be different from everybody? If everybody in the world is eating rice, you’d be eating oak leaves!” Who talks to an eleven year old child that way? Mama was bewildered. She struggled with Jamie every night for years. She would make flash cards for his spelling. The only way he could pass a spelling test was to memorize the shape the letters created. He never managed to learn how to read. He spent his entire life compensating for this disability. As a consequence of his unique learning strategy, he developed skills that the rest of us don’t possess. Though he couldn’t read a book, he was a mechanical wizard. He spent his adolescence under a car. That’s the environment that he understood and loved.

With this level of difficulty in learning, I secretly thought, “poor Jamie, he’s such a loser.” For me, in my limited understanding of the world, the only indicator of success was making straight A’s in school. Then something happened to Jamie that made me view him in a different light. At a certain point in high school, I noticed he had become one of the guys the girls liked. That was a real shocker to me because I thought of him as the annoying little imp who could never sit still and stop making those stupid monkey noises. Yet he was actually dating East Ascension High “A Listers.” He had suddenly become something of a catch.

After high-school, I went off to LSU and became sophisticated. Meanwhile Jamie was following a different path. He attended a trade school where he learned the skills that would eventually define him as a master machinist and support his family. I eventually moved to Salt Lake City with my sophisticated boyfriend and started my adult life. I was 22 years old and felt like a real grown up. Jamie would follow me to Salt Lake a few months later and crash on my living room couch. I had mixed feelings about having him parked in my living room but I had been very lonely and was also glad to see him. The first night he got to Salt Lake, he located the Mormon Church and went to a dance there. That night, when he got home, he introduced me to Trish, the most gorgeous California girl I’d ever laid eyes on. He let me know that she would be staying with us too.

Well I can tell you that this new development made me a bit uncomfortable. Trish was every normal woman’s worst nightmare. Drop-dead beautiful with tousled platinum blond hair down to her waist, enormous blue eyes, a perfect body and all the mannerisms of Marilyn Monroe. I protested that they were too young; they didn’t know each other, and bla-bla-blaaa. It fell on deaf ears. Jamie was totally smitten. They were inseparable from that first night and were planning their wedding within a matter of weeks.

You know the rest. Jamie and Tricia had their struggles. But one thing is certain. They had a love that endured. And Tricia, forgive me for those moments of envy when I doubted you. You were the light of Jamie’s life and for that I love you dearly.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Fabled Labels®

c. 1890. The original was badly stained and damaged.
In another country, in another life, I was called the Louisiana Label Lady. In 1975, I discovered a huge cache of trade labels in neglected files of a New Orleans printing company that had been in continuous operation since 1882. This collection represents a fascinating period in New Orleans history when the city was a vibrant commercial center and one of the largest, most important port cities in the world. I supplied antique labels to both The Historic New Orleans Collection and the Louisiana State Museum. I displayed labels in several galleries including the O.K. Harris Gallery in New York City. Numerous newspapers and magazines ran stories about the collection.

In 1984 I founded Archives and began reproducing label designs on fine porcelain gumbo bowls and coffee mugs. Archives sold these products all over the US and in several countries, including Argentina, England, and France. The bowls and mugs were manufactured in and imported from Japan. I ran the business on a shoestring and was unable to survive the numerous beatings the dollar took against the yen. Once costs doubled, I was out of business.

Gold-trimmed mugs with antique label designs.

I've maintained this collection for almost 40 years. Most of it even managed to survive Katrina.

Suffragette Coffee & Chicory, c. 1916, Shreveport, LA.
Click to enlarge and read the historically and politically interesting copy.

There are approximately 500 different labels in the collection and I'm toying with the idea of selling high-quality prints.

Woman's Club Coffee, c. 1890

There are several reasons why this idea appeals to me more than selling original labels as I once did.
  • The original labels fade badly when exposed to light.
  • Many of the originals are in fragile condition. Some are stained and damaged. I can repair the damage in Photoshop.
  • Prints can be sized and proportioned better for framing and display.
  • Since conservation is unnecessary, framing prints is substantially less expensive than framing antiques.
  • I won't run out of inventory.
  • Prints are a lot more affordable than antiques.
I hope this will morph into something that supports my writing habit. At this point, I don't have any idea how much the prints will cost. Maybe some of you have ideas about that. I'd love to hear them.

Included here are a couple of images I recently scanned and cleaned up. These labels weren't chosen for any reason other than that they were apropos of something friends and I were discussing on Facebook.

c. 1920

Please leave comments letting me know what you think.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Greatest Lesson in Genesis

For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

We are made of star stuff.
—Carl Sagan

Friday, March 22, 2013

Girls Are Smarter Than Boys

I grew up in a girl-boy-girl-boy-girl-boy family. Mostly, girls made good grades, worked indoors and liked to sew, draw, and play music. Mostly, boys made poor grades, worked outdoors and liked to hunt, fight, and work on engines. This is the way we defined the sexes: girls are smarter than boys; boys are tougher than girls. If girls could be overbearing smart alecks and boys could be brutes, well, that was just a flaw in an otherwise perfectly balanced system of non-overlapping magisteria.

In fourth grade my cousin Brenda and I were riding the school bus when she told me her brother was the salutatorian of Gonzales High School.

“What’s a salutatorian?” I asked.

“That means he’s the second smartest kid in school,” she said.

“What’s the smartest kid called?” I asked.


“No boy is smarter than me,” I thought, “I’m going to be valedictorian.” And I was.

My sister Donna has always had a keener sociologist’s eye than I do. For instance, I was twenty-two when she said, “Sharon, we were poor.” I literally felt the scales fall from my eyes. Imagine my shock when I discovered boys were not only tougher but also maybe even smarter than girls. No fair! On the upside, I was armored against certain types of abuse. Many men have tried and all have failed to convince me I’m stupid. (Only another woman can do that to me.) It burns me up how many smart women I know who think they’re stupid.

Several years ago Donna and I were regaling our late friend Franklin Adams, an artist and Tulane architecture professor, with tales from Cajun Dogpatch® when Donna mentioned—for hitherto unappreciated shock value—our default setting was: girls are smarter than boys. Franklin was gobsmacked! My friend Ruth Laney had a similar reaction when she visited a few days ago and my brother Jamie and I described Dunn family apartheid.

During Ruth’s visit I asked Jamie if he grew up thinking boys weren’t as smart as girls. Turns out he’d never thought about it. This is what Donna had to say:
Jamie never thought about it because being smart was only a high value to us girls. The boys found other avenues for self-valuation such as guns, motorcycles, physical prowess, mechanical interests—and the list goes on. The broader culture in which we were born valued boys over girls. It still does. Herbie came over a couple of nights ago beaming with joy over the news that Nina and Yano are expecting a boy. Though he’d never admit to being sexist, it was apparent that this news was, in his mind, a victory. Sad to say, when I was pregnant for Ann, I felt a bit like a failure for not delivering a boy. The anticipation that my baby was a boy was fueled by a lot of unspoken pressure from the surrounding culture that says, somehow it’s better to have a boy. It was palpable then and it’s palpable now. We’ve come a long way since then but this cultural bias is still alive and well. We can pay lip service to being liberated and all that HH, but the bottom line is women are still regarded as the lesser sex despite our compensatory efforts.
During my immersion in second wave feminism, I remember being stunned to learn that girls outperformed boys in math and science until adolescence when the trend reversed. That had not been my experience. As hopelessly clueless as I was, I had won both the math and science awards at Gonzales High School. No wonder I was almost twenty before I started dating. When I asked my sister Valerie to comment, she said:
A memory comes to mind. I think the idea that girls are smarter than boys may have come from the community we lived in rather than our family. I remember a high school assembly where the principal, Mr. Gautreau, spoke before the top-achieving seniors. He praised the valedictorian Randy something for being the first or one of the first male valedictorians. He spoke briefly about how it had been a long time trend in Gonzales [we went to GHS grades 1 through 12] for girls to excel more than boys in school and he seemed pleased that things were beginning to change. Perhaps academic achievement was less valued in a more rural, agricultural area than it was in an urban area.
I disagree with Valerie’s conclusions about the origin of our family’s peculiarly distorted ideas on gender differences. In fact, to me, her anecdote is a perfect illustration that the high school principal was relieved his students were setting the natural order aright.

Ruth asked me to write here about how we came to grow up with a notion so out of whack with mainstream culture. This isn’t so easy. As the late Joe Bageant said somewhere asking someone to write about her own culture is like asking a goldfish to describe water. I went over to Joe’s site looking for inspiration. While Joe had described the Scotch-Irish culture of toughness well in Deer Hunting with Jesus, as far as I could find, he only made a passing reference to a “deep southern style of matriarchal family”.

We certainly grew up in one of those deep southern martriarchal families. My grandmother, the first postmistress of our rural family village, christened it Brittany. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Grandmother and two of her sisters, Mag and Rose, homesteaded the area with their husbands and there were mostly daughters in all three families. Grandmother and her oldest daughter taught school even though neither had high school diplomas themselves. The first college graduate in my generation was my cousin Diana who wound up teaching English at GHS. In our extended family Diana was something of a celebrity by virtue of her advanced education and prestigious professional calling. Aunt Mag had a daughter who designed crossword puzzles for a newspaper. Aunt Rose had several daughters who never married and were career girls. My mother was a highly skilled sign painter and ran a small business. Grandmother kept a small, private lending library for the locals. All the women were avid readers and excellent letter writers.

When we grew up, the evidence around us seemed to support the idea that girls were smarter than boys. When I asked my cousin Larry about this recently, he said, “I never believed that, but I can see how you might. Just look at the facts. Mama was smarter than Daddy; Aunt Cleo was smarter than Uncle Bill; Aunt Sue was smarter than Uncle Judge; your mama was smarter than your daddy.” The four sisters—Cleo, Pansy, Susie, and Gerry—were Mormon stalwarts who supplied the energy and momentum to hold the tiny congregation together while they humbly ceded status to their far less devout convert husbands—Bill, Clyde, Judge, and Dan. I’m not sure Larry’s right about who was smarter, but given the fact that he’s a Mormon grand poobah, I get why he thinks the better Mormon was the smarter one. In my true-blue Mormon youth, I drew similar conclusions for similar reasons.

If there’s a single reason religion didn’t take with Donna and me, this may have been it: maleness had higher value than smartness. In fact, from our point of view, a woman—regardless of what she may have to offer creatively and intellectually—could never be a full Mormon unless she was attached to a priesthood-holding man. For us, priesthood-holding men who weren’t close relatives were few and far between. Just this past Sunday, I attended a Relief Society meeting where the teacher felt compelled to construct an elaborate apologia for the lesson title: Brethren, We Have Work to Do. Read it and weep, Sisters.
Brethren, much has been said and written in recent years about the challenges of men and boys. A sampling of book titles ... includes Why There Are No Good Men Left, The Demise of Guys, The End of Men, Why Boys Fail, and Manning Up.... [A] common thread running through these analyses is that in many societies today men and boys get conflicting and demeaning signals about their roles and value in society....

In their zeal to promote opportunity for women, something we applaud, there are those who denigrate men and their contributions.... Some argue that a career is everything and marriage and children should be entirely optional... This cultural emasculation of males is having a damaging effect.

In the United States, for example, it is reported: “Girls outperform boys now at every level, from elementary school through graduate school. By eighth grade, for instance, only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading. Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college. … It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016. Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys.”

Some men and young men have taken the negative signals as an excuse to avoid responsibility and never really grow up. In an observation that is too often accurate, one university professor remarked, “The men come into class with their backward baseball caps and [their lame] the ‘word processor ate my homework’ excuses. Meanwhile, the women are checking their day planners and asking for recommendations for law school.” ...
Weeell... I’m sorely tempted to say, “Here’s a number to call: 1-800-BOO-HOOO.” Regardless of what a few books with obvious axes to grind have to say, I remember when girls got “conflicting and demeaning signals about their roles and value in society” from everywhere—and they still do. I also remember when girls switched from thinking smart to thinking sexy and when they were encouraged to go to college long enough to get their M-R-S degrees. Yeah, I remember boys who were urged to study science and engineering while I was urged to help them pass Biology 101 and college algebra. I remember when Donna told Mama and Daddy she wanted to be a doctor and they laughed at her. I remember graduating from high school with a 4.0 and winning every award and getting zero guidance as I stumbled around LSU in a daze with no idea what I was doing there. I remember trying to support myself as a student worker on 90¢ an hour while boys worked offshore for a single summer to pay for a whole year of college. So if we helped inflict all this damage on the male psyche when I supported my daughter while she got a PhD in medicine and Donna supported hers while she got an MBA in finance, I guess we’ll just have to plead guilty as charged.

Some right-on contributions from my man, Moe Labelle.

Wow! This might be the smartest boy ever.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Donna's Beautiful Girl

Ann Livaudais on her wedding day.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Mother Was an Artist

My mother was an artist. She was the only working mother we knew growing up. But...she really wanted to be a commercial artist...an illustrator. Mama´s sign shop was next to our house. She entered one of those drawings to enroll in a correspondence school in the forties and studied illustration and sign painting, a more marketable, practical skill. At one point the school sent Slim, an itinerant communist ... yes, communist ... sign painter, to teach Mama the trade.

While a student, Mama sent a dress design to Tillie The Toiler, a newspaper comic strip with world-wide syndication. Her drawing was published and attracted dozens of fans. (Her correspondence with an Australian woman lasted more than fifty years.) She traded original drawings in gouache, colored pencil, watercolor and pen and ink with other aspiring illustrators. The most talented of them was Betty Crampton of Aberdeen, South Dakota. I´ve searched online for Betty Crampton, but have never been able to find her.

Mama kept a scrapbook of those drawings and letters. My sister Donna and I pored over that scrapbook for hours on end. We worshiped Betty Crampton. We copied every drawing over and over. Needless to say, the drawings deteriorated. Donna decided recently to recreate some of the most damaged ones in Adobe Illustrator. This is her first...from a Betty Crampton original. Donna´s a Zen Master...like Mama.

Letters to Joe Bageant

Have you ever read something with such perfect pitch, you get the spooky sensation there must be music coming out of your ears? That´s what happened when I started reading Joe Bageant´s Blog in 2009. He inspired me to write my first fan letter ever while I was reading his first book Deer Hunting with Jesus. I never expected to hear from Joe in person when I began cyber-stalking him like a besotted groupie. But he called from Mexico and we talked for hours. Huh? I learned that Joe and I were born three days apart. Now that´s some woo woo!

Our relationship ended much too soon when Joe developed cancer and died March 2011. I developed cancer March 2012. So far I´m still here. Rereading this makes my heart ache.

Updated 3/4/2013 to remove references to a reclusive family member.

Fri 2/12/2010 11:07 AM

Dear Joe, 
I'm reading Deer Hunting with Jesus. But it’s more important for people
like my brother...a machinist with a worn out body, a good mind, a poor
education, and dyslexia...to read it. Last July, I gave him an iPod loaded
up with Howard Zinn, Chalmers Johnson, Thomas Frank, Naomi Klein, and many
others, and he's absorbing it all like a dry sponge. His awakening
is a wonderful thing to see. 
Many of the people you talk about in your book would do the same if they
could read. I fantasize about starting a movement, Audio Books for Working
Stiffs, to pass out loaded iPods, as a counterweight to the miseducation
they get from Fox News, talk radio, and shopping mall churches. Please
let me know if there are any plans to turn Deer Hunting with Jesus into
an audio book. Heck, I'd be willing to read it myself, but it needs
your voice.
Best wishes,
Sharon Dymond

Fri 2/12/2010 12:59 PM

Dear Joe,
I've been reading your blog for awhile now and am currently reading your 
book. You speak to me, Joe. I believe we were both born in '46, and we're 
both from working class, white trash, southern roots a/k/a Dogpatch. I'm 
from, Brittany, part way between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA. Started 
first grade barefooted like the others. Growing up Mormon (those 
missionaries do get around), I was culled from the herd of Cajun Catholics
early. I went the only route for a weird girl with cooties, good grades. 
Graduated valedictorian of Gonzales High School and headed off to LSU, 
the only college around, for all I knew. LSU was a nightmare. Fraternities, 
football, fifteen thousand freshmen alone, doubled-up dorm rooms, civil 
rights, Viet Nam, drugs, sex and rock-n-roll. This, plus my own struggle
with Mormonism, consumed my energy and put the kibosh on my academic
Wrestling with the usual crap...bad marriage, single motherhood, making
a living...I re-invented myself often. Sharon Dymond 60.3 is the contract 
software developer version. Life as a contractor means getting flicked off 
like a booger on a routine basis. I've been knocking around since my house 
outside New Orleans was destroyed by Katrina and my insurance company went 
belly-up. Since then, I've worked on contracts in Houston, New Orleans, 
Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Lafayette, LA. I'm in Albuquerque now ...
Why am I writing to you? Because I've been out of work for months, have 
exhausted unemployment, and am now eking out a living selling what I 
salvaged from Katrina on eBay. This leaves me with a lot of time on my 
hands and a lot of stress. When I'm stressed, I suffer from acute 
hypergraphia and I need to write to people. (Can’t afford to drink.) I 
spend hours on blogs (where I found you on The Confluence or  maybe Chris 
Floyd) and Facebook, THE vacation destination for The Great Depression 
Redux. Hypergraphia often gets me in a lot of trouble as I'm prone to 
write former employers, executives, CEOs and such to give them the 
benefit of my advice. I need to stop doing that. I don't think I'll 
get in trouble writing to you, and it's why I love you, Joe.
Please take better care of yourself. I need you to live a lot longer.
Best wishes,
Sharon Dymond 

Sat 2/13/2010 1:29 PM


Your letter made my heart ache for you and the millions of others 
like you and me. I just wrote you a long reply by email, and hit the 
wrong key and lost the damned thing. If you want, send me your phone 
number and I'll call you this weekend. Use this email. It's my 
private email. 


Lo and behold! Joe called and we laughed and chatted like old friends for a couple of hours. I´d been yearning for some time to move to Mexico because I couldn´t afford to retire in the US with any dignity. We discussed the logistics of his move to Ajijic, Mexico where Joe was living comfortably on his Social Security. Another coincidence...our SS checks were the same to the penny. Alas, it was the only time I talked to him, but we (mostly me) continued to email back and forth while I kept him up on my progress packing up my roadshow to move to Mexico.

Sat 2/13/2010 4:05 PM

This is the brother (6 years younger than me) I told you about mesmerized
by an old clock in a shop on Magazine Street in NOLA. C. 1970. (6 of us
I’m the oldest.) When I got this print back, I saw for the first time
how beautiful he is. It took my breath away. A machinist that can make
anything out of any exotic metal, but cannot read. He has a phenomenal
memory that gets him over most hurdles in his work. Like a blind man’s
sense of hearing. He’s thirsty to understand what has happened to him.
Young James

Sat 2/13/2010 5:12 PM


... Please don’t let me overwhelm you. Just say, “Whoa Nelly!” if you 
feel inclined.


Sat 2/13/2010 7:34 PM

Joe, the story of our lives…

This Was Once a Love Poem 

by Jane Hirshfield
from Given Sugar, Given Salt (Harper Collins)

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

It spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.

When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them-one, then another-
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.


Sat 2/13/2010 8:12 PM

Hi Joe,
My resume is online at www.sharondymond.com. My Facebook page is under 
Sharon Dymond. I was born Sharon Dunn. Married and became Sharon Dinkins. 
Married again and became Sharon Dymond. (Now single and plan to stay that 
way.) I have some great conversations going on my Facebook page amongst 
my huge, scattered family. (Turning sentimental in my dotage. Aargh!) 
My father was a Welsh coal miner’s son from Pittsburgh who was stationed 
briefly in Louisiana during WWII and spotted my mother riding her 
bicycle on Airline Highway and brought his Jeep to a screeching halt. 
My mother was “Scotch-Irish” with almost white hair. Daddy had never 
seen anything like it. Her father farmed his homesteaded acres and ran 
a little general store and post office that my grandmother, the post 
mistress, named Brittany. I’m having some great conversations with my 
long-lost Pennsylvania cousins. Getting to know my neighbors again via 
Facebook. Wish you would join us as you really are part of the family 
whether you know it or not....

Sun 2/14/2010 8:47 AM

Joe on his patio in
Ajijic, Mexico

Lake Chapala, Mexico
Ajijic, Mexico
Ajijic Church
Joe´s wife Barb
in their house in Ajijic

Sun 2/14/2010 10:51 AM

Thanks for the pictures. The Garden of Eden. Your place, a palace compared 
to ours. I love the Mexican sense of color. I’m an artist who hasn’t done 
art in years because I can only do one big thing at a time. Painting, 
reading, writing…whatever it is, it’s total immersion. Pharmaceutical 
science has given us a name for the artist’s condition, OCD, and a drug, 
Prozac, to treat it. When I work, I take Prozac, which makes me 
indifferent, so works like a charm. I’m tired of that shit. I want to 
feel what I feel. Do you know what I mean? I’ve fantasized for years of 
dropping out to paint. I can hardly believe it’s possible…and on social 
security. Thank you, FDR.

I have some stuff to clean up in Louisiana. I’m going down there in a 
couple weeks. Don’t know how long it will take. If all works out, I may 
actually come away with a few thousand bucks, which would be pissed away 
in a year here, but would set me up in Ajijic. My kids are a little 
stunned, but they see the upside. They feel connected to Mexico. 
Their boarding school in AZ sent them on extended field trips there 
to plant beans and work in orphanages and such. They lived with 
humble folks who had no plumbing (the way I grew up until age 12): 
they loved those people; the people loved them. ... We’re hopeful.
I was thinking of what you said of the corruption in Mexico. I wonder 
if it’s worse than here or just more primitive and transparent. Our 
politicians are all bribe takers, but they’ve codified, legitimized, 
sanitized it. One of the biggest bribe takers of them all won the Nobel 
Prize. Under the radar, he took the early lead in bribes from Wall 
Street. In politics, it’s the early money that makes the difference. 
Dick Cheney is not the puppetmaster, but we still have a puppet, I fear.
For your entertainment, I’m sending you a picture of my Mormon family, 
summer of ’64, standing in front of Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
We made the pilgrimage to be “sealed” . All turned out in our 
home-made finery, all shiny and clean. I’m the tall one. What were 
you doing summer of ’64?
The Dunn family in Temple Square 1964

Mon 2/22/2010 4:57 PM

Dear Joe, 
I’m seriously jonesing for some new stuff on your blog. I’m going 
through it trying to find the point where you quit Belize and move 
to Ajijic. You were so committed to that community in Belize, I’m 
curious to know why you left. Do you write about that? If so, 
could you point me in that direction? 
I’m seriously working on getting my ducks in a row to move to Mexico.
... I assume you’re in Ajijic on a tourist visa since you
come and go so often. That’s probably what I would do since I have 
a dear sister in Houston I cannot live without for any length of time.

At this point, Joe quit emailing me back. I don´t know if my intensity spooked him or if it was something else. I do know he did a European book tour during this period. It didn´t matter. I kept right on pouring my heart out. I think this is called emotional incontinence. Aargh!

Fri 2/26/2010 5:36 PM

I’m reading your latest post…and weeping. You’re so hopeless. While 
I was reading Deer Hunting, it occurred to me that maybe minds like 
yours and mine were hard-wired by our fundamentalist upbringing to 
accept and expect End Times even though we’ve rejected Christian 
fundamentalism on every rational conscious level. Sometimes I hope 
against hope that my hopelessness is nothing more than habit of mind. 
I guess that’s hopeful in a cockeyed way. But then I think of the 
handful of Jews who left Germany before the holocaust and of the 
millions who did not. Many, of course, didn’t have the means or 
mobility to leave, but many did and chose to stay, undone by hope.
Leaving Sunday or Monday for Brittany, Louisiana…my return to 
Winchester. Trying to get my life organized to move to Mexico…or 
Costa Rica or Ecuador... I promise I won’t show up 
like a stalker on your doorstep.

This is Joe's essay that had me blubbering: Round Midnight: Tortillas and the Corporate State

Fri 2/26/2010 6:00 PM

It’s astonishing how much we’re on the same wavelength. I had only 
read a couple paragraphs when I sent you my take on hope and now I’m 
reading your take. It’s eerie.

The music must have been coming out of my ears again. Following is the passage in Joe´s essay that made the hair on my neck stand up:
Americans are hope fiends. We always see hope somewhere down every road, chiefly because honestly looking at the present situation would destroy just about everything we hold as reality. Personally, as I often state and catch readership hell for, I do not like hope. When Obama ran it up the flagpole for us to salute, and so many saluted, my blood chilled. Made me feel that we were all in deeper shit than I had supposed. (Nevertheless, I reluctantly voted for Obama. At the time it seemed it was either Obama, or continuing war, debt, and diminishing civil liberties. Ha! Hope is magic thinking, believing that somehow, some larger unknown force is in motion to set things right.

The world is what it is, and its injustices are set right by peoples and nations morally intact enough to challenge its malevolent forces.

Hope is political pabulum for an infantilized nation.

Tue 7/13/2010 10:25 AM

My sister read and loved Deer Hunting. I’m right now reading it to my 
machinist brother…the one I told you about who can’t read…and he’s 
enjoying the hell out of it. Really speaks to him. I hope you’ll make 
it to some Baton Rouge, New Orleans, or even Houston book store to do 
a book signing when Rainbow Pie comes out. I’ve been reading a lot of 
Kunstler on your recommendation and also stumbled on The Long Descent 
by John Greer at The Oil Drum. Greer loses me in the last chapter, 
but other than that, a valuable book with some really solid advice. 
Also planning to read Vaclav Smil, Tainter (The Collapse of Complex 
Societies), The Limits of Growth, and Overshoot. Phew!
Based on study so far, I’ve influenced my daughter to consider going 
to vet school after she completes her biochemistry doctorate next spring. 
I’ve decided to buy the old farm house I grew up in because there’s lots 
of acreage and we can build a sustainable life here. We plan to start a 
livestock vet practice…something sorely needed in the area. Right now 
selling stuff to get the $. She recently talked me through set up on 
Skype (as you suggested) and my sister and I had a blast watching 
chicks hatch in real time. I intend to enjoy these tech riches 
while they last.
I’m so glad to see you posting again.

Sat 1/15/2011 8:56 AM

I read the horrible news. I can’t think of anything comforting to say to 
my selfish self, let alone to you. I don’t pray, but I do hope, and I’m 
hoping fervently that you’ll pull through this. I love knowing you and 
your work and I crave much more of you and of it. You’ve helped me so