Archive for the ‘religion’ Category


I know you are all on virtual tenterhooks about the state of my colon, so here is the report:

As I was lying on the skinny hospital bed on wheels, slowly rising out of the anesthesia, my brain in blackest smog, the curtain parted and in floated the angel of the Lord. I knew who it was, right off. Imagine Merle Oberon in 1939, in Wuthering Heights. Radiant vestments, tasteful wings, a glowing golden aura bleeding into pumpkin colored spires — what you would expect if you were a shepherd guarding your flocks by night, but something of a surprise in a Wyoming recovery room.

The angel saith (in a New Orleans accent): “Your doctor messed up. He ripped you a new anal cavity.”

I was stunned, poleaxed from whatever they’d used to knock me cold, so I kept my mouth shut. Besides, I’m kind of shy around angels when the backside of my gown isn’t tied shut.

“Lucky for you, though,” saith the angel. “God has decided to present you with a new asshole. For Christmas.”

The angel reached into the depths between her breasts and pulled out a black, lacquer box with a golden clasp in the shape of a map of Oklahoma. A key appeared, as if from heaven, and she opened the box to show me a royal blue Velveteen lining in which were set five brand new anuses. Anii. Whatever angels call bottoms.

“Which would you chooseth?” saith the angel.

I know what you guys are thinking: You’re thinking I was hallucinating from the drugs and the thrill of having a tiny camera and flashlight snaked up my butt. (I have full color, glossy photos of the dark chamber as a souvenir.) However, I am fairly certain that the angel was real. She had on flip flops. Hallucinated angels never wear flip flops.

The new anuses were nice, if you like that sort of thing, but the sizes were weird — frightening small or absurdly large. One was screwed so tight it had to be meant for a Republican. Another had that star shape, like the Vonnegut backside in Breakfast of Champions.

“Are these the only choices?” I asked.

“Of course not,” saith the angel. “God has created an infinite number of assholes in this world. Just look at Face Book.”


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When she was thirteen years old, Tanya Tucker had a big crossover country/pop hit called “Delta Dawn.” Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, she found herself famous, the Miley Cyrus of her day. Tanya went into a wild spell marked by extremes, outrageous behavior, and public delamination of the celebrity sort. Now, she’s grown into a respected icon of country music, which, goes to show you — survival is the most important element in becoming an icon. You, too, can become a venerated elder of your tribe, no matter what you did as a teenager. It’s a matter of not stopping till you get there.

Anyway, Tanya Tucker put together an anthology called “100 Ways to Beat the Blues.” In the book, 100 more or less well-known people talk about their personal remedies for fighting depression. Mostly, she chose country singer and movie stars, along with a smattering of politicians and sports guys. And me. Lord knows how I made the cut. I’ve never met Tanya, although I have enjoyed her music and she seems to have come through the too-young fame syndrome with some level of sanity.

There are a few writers in the 100— Wally Lamb, Kinky Friedman, Cathie Pelletier. Not many live west of Austin. George And Barbara Bush had to share a chapter. Willie Nelson’s advice is short — “If you don’t like the blues, play from the whites.” I’m thinking it’s a golf joke. Garth Brooks chapter is serious, sincere, and personal. Among other things, Garth says you should watch the news on TV every night. Whatever makes you happy, I guess. Roseanne said it’s uplifting to beat the tar out of your ex-husband’s motorcycle with a baseball bat.

An alarming number of the musicians recommend getting drunk. Personally, I found myself drunk a lot, back in the old days, and I don’t remember it ever making me perky, punctual , and positive.

A bunch of the your more artistic types say depression is not necessarily bad for you.

Here is my chapter:

Kurt Vonnegut says a person must be depressed to write a novel, which is probably true. However, when I am depressed I have a tendency to sit on the couch and stare at that four-inch gap between my feet for several days, until the spiritual catatonia grows boring and I get up.

Boredom is the cure for long-term depression, and anything that alleviates boredom short-term — alcohol, sex with people you don’t like, rage — only puts off the cure. So, after a few days of sitting there like an African violet in need of sunlight, I get up and fix a pot of Kenya AA coffee. Then I pop Shane into the VCR. It’s a scientific fact that a person cannot remain in the dumps throughout a full viewing of Shane.

Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur. Jack Palance.

“Shane! Come back! Mother wants you!”

The movie will renew your faith in the inevitability of good’s victory over evil, the dignity of beauty, and the inspiration brought on by a nice view.

After Shane, and a couple of cups of strong Kenya AA, I can return to my work, refreshed and ready to produce.

That riff is the closest I’ve come to a bestseller.

I once saw Tanya Tucker at the Cowboy Bar. She was with Glen Campbell, at the height of her public flame-out. Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears are flashes in the pan compared to a country singer gone off the steep side of the roller coaster. Tonya had taken some sort of strange pills and got herself stuck up against a wall in the Cowboy Bar ladies room. Folks went in and out of there for a couple hours, trying to peel her loose.

Then, suddenly, Tanya bounced on stage, grabbed the microphone, and belted out one of the most kick-ass sets I’ve ever seen or heard. She was a true professional, and a hot singer. I later used that scene in “Western Swing.” Nothing is wasted.

So far as I can make out, nine readers of the last blog submitted titles containing three different punctuation marks. My favorite was Hooper Humperdink . . . ? Not Him!, submitted by Jill, because it used the most punctuation in the least words, which was the point of the Go, Dog. Go! exercise. I should have outlawed quotation marks, apostrophes, and nonfiction, but I didn’t so you readers have all earned your copies of “The Pyms: Unauthorized Tales of Jackson Hole.” If you will send me an address, through Messages — not Comments or Blog Comments or anything public — I will, eventually, when I get time between now and Christmas, mail you an autographed copy of this near-but-not-quite classic.

The rest of you can actually purchase this wonder at timsandlin.com. It’s the perfect Secret Santa gift, suitable for toilet reading, as each chapter takes the exact amount of time to read as a healthy #2. They are ten dollars each, plus three dollars shipping no matter how many you buy. Handling is free. In my value system, it is immoral to charge for handling. Who came up with that scam anyway?

Today’s assignment: In thirty-two words or less, tell me how you beat the blues.

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My daughter, Leila, who is six and was named after a J.P. Donleavy novel and not an Eric Clapton song, has been pulling out the old books I read to her when she was two. Now, Leila reads them to me. How many of you are familiar with the plot of “Go, Dog. Go!” One dog insults another dog’s hat and they all end up at a big party in a tree. I learned a valuable lesson about containing conflict from “Go, Dog. Go!”

What makes the book interesting to me are the three different punctuation marks in the title. You hardly ever see punctuation in a title, except for that silly colon in nonfiction. “I Did It My Way: The True Story of Transgender in NASCAR.” Does anyone else out there know of a book with three different punctuation marks in the title? Am I the only one who cares deeply about this?

Here’s the deal. I will send a free copy of “The Pyms: (note the colon) Unauthorized Tales of Jackson Hole,” (available only on Timsandlin.com) to anyone who can find me a title with three different punctuation marks. I don’t count titles using punctuation to disguise dirty words — C;:ks?!ker!

Leila asked me to tell her a bedtime story last night and because this is Thanksgiving week, I told her the old Isuzu legend about the true meaning of Easter. The Isuzus were a splinter group of Arapaho that lived in Yellowstone after the Battle of Greasy Grass. Other Indians considered them the bastard spawn of Custer, and it is true many of the Isuzus had blue eyes and a tendency to self-promote. Their tragic flaw was the fact they were high-centered and prone to rollovers.

A missionary named Sister Leslie Gore converted the entire tribe to Christianity in 1888 by teaching them the alternate words to “Jingle Bell Rock.” But some of their Christian traditions intermingled with the Happy Hunting Grounds faith system, such as the belief Mary was impregnated by a geyser.

Leila didn’t believe me. Clutching her little Piglet stuffed pig, she said, “You’re making this up as you go along, Dad.” I said if she didn’t go to sleep the Sandman would rub dirt in her eyes.

Anyway, the true meaning of Easter in northwest Wyoming, according to Isuzu legend as told by me to my daughter:

Two thousand and whatever years ago, the established church and an occupation government conspired with the media to have Jesus put to death on a cross between a couple of telephone solicitors. Jesus’s last words, were, “Forgive me Father. I do not want to change my calling plan.”

Later, he was cut down and body was hauled off to a cave. While the Bible says he would be dead for three days, any first grader knows Friday sunset to Sunday sunrise is only a day and a half, but you have to suspend some disbelief here, to be a true Fox News Fundamentalist.

So, after three days, Jesus rolls away the rock covering the cave and rises from the dead. He steps out of the cave, and if he sees his shadow he runs back in and we get six more weeks of winter.

Leila sat up in bed. “Is that true?”

I said, “It’s Gospel.”

“What about the Easter bunny?”

“The Isuzus didn’t believe in a rabbit who hid eggs around the house and then forgot where he hid them until they started to stink in mid-summer. They bought into the rising dead guy theory, but they just couldn’t swallow a holiday hare.”

Leila hit me with her Piglet.

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Let’s say you’re hanging out in the campus Starbucks with a bunch of MFA students. You know the kind. The girls order their coffee decaf triple venti three Splenda extra hot stirred no-foam with double whipped cream and extra caramel. The guys call a movie a film. Some twit will jump down your throat if you use “party” as a verb. And these intellectuals (you can’t say pseudo-intellectual without being one) break out in a limerick reciting contest.

What you can do, after you’ve read this blog, is show them up by reciting the original limerick. Not only the first but also the most famous, it has nothing to do with Nantucket or Terlingua.

Here is God’s Own limerick.

Our Father who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.

Some dork will call you on the rhyme of the second line, but limericks are defined more by rhythm than rhyme scheme. Tell them when Jesus first created the poem in whatever form of Hebrew they spoke back then, that “name” and “heaven” rhymed. Not many can prove you wrong there.

Whoever actually did translate the prayer for the King James version must have done it limerick form on purpose. You don’t just fall into that 8-6-4-4-8 beat thing by accident. Maybe the old monk or whoever it was had been drinking with Irishmen who started conversations with, “There once was a girl from Regina.”

I heard a guy at Pearl Street Bagels tell this nice looking girl that Jesus spoke Yiddish. She said that wasn’t true, that her Jesus was a Southern Baptist and none of them talked in Yiddish at all.

I seem to be on strike. I went down to the Cowboy Bar looking for someone to picket, but they weren’t shooting any movies, so I left. People say this Hollywood drama is like pro football players striking— millionaires trying to cut other millionaires out of the cut — but I disagree. Writers of TV and movies are being shafted by the non-creative types at the top, who have been somewhat Draconian in this deal. As the saying out there goes for writers: “You can make a killing, but you can’t make a living.”

There’s also an old Polish/blonde/North Dakota/fill-in-the-blank joke about the woman who went to a movie set and she wanted to get ahead so she slept with the writer.

I’m on page 300 of the fourth book of the GroVont trilogy. For those of you who haven’t read the story so far, the first three books take place in 1963, 1973, and 1983. At the end of the 1983 book, Sam Callahan’s mother, Lydia, went into hiding after the Secret Service discovered she’d Fed Exxed a poison chew toy to President Reagan’s dog.

Now, in 1993, Lydia has been let out of prison. Her community service requirement entails taping an oral history of a 100-year-old codger named Oly Pedersen, who appeared in a paragraph or two of each of the other three books.

Did you follow that?

I’ve been searching for a title for a couple of years. At first it was “Oly and Lydia,” but that then Garrison Keillor started telling Oly and Lena jokes on his show and I gave it up. Then it was GroVont IV. I hate movie sequels that use numbers because no one involved was creative enough to come up with a name, so I threw that out. Then I read about this experiment where they hooked people up to a lie detector machine and read them lists of words, and the two words that caused the greatest emotional response were “Mother” and “Blood.” So, naturally, I named the book “Mother’s Blood.” My editor didn’t like it. He said a book with that title would not announce itself as a comedy. He said, “Mother’s Blood is dark.” Even though that was a straight line for the ages, I had to walk away.

So — drum roll. The new title of the new novel: “A Clean Catch.”

I can hear you now. “I don’t get it.” For some, the reference may not be obvious. “Clean catch” is a term used by people who are explaining the proper way to give a urine sample. Basically, you whiz two seconds, stop, position the cup, start again, and stop before overflow. This procedure can either be medical or legal. Everywhere you go these days, someone wants your pee.

Anyway, I told my good friend and internet guru (drop him a line if you need a web page designed) Curt the new title and here’s what he wrote back.

“To me the stream is a person. You start off full blast with a big hole to shoot for, but as time goes by, you come to a point where you suddenly have to stop and aim for the cup (society), without dripping, missing, or overflowing. Or the huge hole becomes a tiny cup whether you want it to or not. My dad’s simplification was ‘Piss on it.’ ”

Both of these explanations are brilliant. It’s like when a high school kid writes a paper on your novel and finds all kinds of symbols, metaphors, and motifs you never dreamed of. After you read the paper, you say, “Yeah. That’s what I meant. I just didn’t know it at the time.”

So, all you Blog Commenters — and you know who you are — this is a challenge. I’d like to hear your interpretation of the metaphor behind a novel entitled “A Clean Catch.” Go wild (although keep it short. The rest of us have to read these things).

Years from now, after the strike ends, when I’m interviewed on “The View” and one of those vibrant women says, “Tell us the meaning of the title,” I may go into your very own rap, and you can e-mail your friends and loved ones and say, “Tim stole that metaphor from me.”

How about this: If the title stays till publication, I’ll put the best one you guys come up with in the Acknowledgments. It can’t get more exciting than that.

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Friday night I drank a glass of red wine and Saturday morning I woke up with the stigmata. Not full blown stations-of-the-cross stigmata, I grant you, but I had big red blisters at the base of both my palms.

For those of you not familiar with the term, stigmata is a Catholic thing where beatific vision types bleed from the spots where Christ got himself nailed. It’s considered a miracle, if you are devout, and if you pull off three miracles you qualify for sainthood. For those of us who aren’t devout, it’s a reaction to the histamines in red wine. Francis of Assissi had it. Catherine of Siena didn’t bleed any more than me. These saints with stigmata were all from France and Italy, as far as I know. They probably drank a lot more than one glass of red wine, so it’s no wonder their blisters broke.

Elmore Leonard wrote a fine book about a non-Catholic with the stigmata. His characters made a big deal out of it. The hero was so sensitive a high-quality woman fell in love with him. Nobody genuflects when I bleed. My wife feeds me an antihistamine and tells me to drink white next time.

But then my stigmata doesn’t stream down my wrists. Maybe I should drink more.

I used to drink more. From 1977 to 1987, or so, I got drunk six nights a week. The drink itself changed every few years, but it was never red wine. Like all good hippies, I made the transition from drugs to alcohol by way of tequila. Anyone who’s ever snorted a dark powder only to find out he has Maxwell House Instant crystals up his nose — another mistake I’ve made — will tell you don’t buff the stuff, so I started on straight, pure shots with a lemon chaser. Slowly, I worked my way through sunrises and bloody Marias, although I never sank so low as the yuppie margarita. From tequila, I went on to whiskey. I always figured I wasn’t a true drunk because I avoided scotch.

I did waste a year or two on Grand Marnier. I was working in a terrible Italian restaurant — “Nobody Eats Here Twice” — that closed at midnight and every night at ten I chugged a coffee cup full of Grand Marnier. If tequila is the missing link between booze and mescaline, Grand Marnier is the Quaaludes of the alcohol kingdom. Taken in large quantities, it’s a rank concoction. These days, I put a dollop in pancake batter, but that’s my limit.

I ended my run on Jim Beam with a splash. Bars in Wyoming closed at ten on Sundays, back then, and the band didn’t play that night, which means I didn’t dance, which means I didn’t drink on Sunday. I can’t remember what I did do. Movies, maybe.

I finally quit after I married an alcoholic and saw what a stupid maneuver self-destruction is. The world over people argue about which is worse: being an alcoholic or being married to an alcoholic. To me, that’s like choosing between death by cancer or emphysema. It’s more academic than practical.

Emily is dead now, which is a drag. I’m not shooting for false pity here. I hadn’t seen or heard from her in fifteen years when she died. Her niece, who didn’t know who I was when she first sent messages to my web site and only a couple years later discovered I used to be married to her aunt, told me the news. One more weird irony in the life of a writer.

My doctor told me more alcoholics die from lung problems than liver or heart disease, because most alcoholics smoke and the cigarettes kill them before the alcohol. I think that’s what happened to Emily, but I’m not sure. She got pneumonia. I’ve found cigarette and alcohol addicts often die before they have to because they’re afraid of doctors and hospitals. Being sick is bad enough without withdrawal, so they put off seeking help way later than the rest of us would.

Here’s a tip you won’t find in the standard writing manual. Recovering alcoholics should never go on a book tour. It is almost impossible to spend six or eight weeks flying around, sleeping somewhere new every night, living though hours of boredom between moments of exposing yourself to strangers, without resorting to mood enhancement. It’s the only time I drink more than one glass of wine a month. I can name more than one writer whose tour ended in rehab.

The only novelist I know personally who can pull the totally drink-free book tour off is Chris Moore. Chris has the self-discipline and willpower of a Samurai. When you’re on the road, the publisher pays for everything. An ex-professional dishwasher and spare change artist like me tends to wallow in hog heaven, to the point where I gained fifteen pounds on the Sorrow Floats tour. Chris, when faced with the endless possibilities of dinner on someone else’s tab, chooses Caesar salad.
Imagine that.

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My friend Meg died last week and we held a remembrance for her Saturday. Rocky Mountain dead social get-togethers are nothing like the ornate, formal wallowings of the South, or the drunken melees of Ireland, or even the celebrations of life they put on in California. Western events tend to be more low-key neighborhood potlucks.

Meg’s remembrance was a cookie exchange. Leila made fudpuckers, which are Reece’s cups dropped into shells made from peanut butter cookie dough. The occasion was sad and dignified, without the outward pretensions of sadness. The Wyoming way is to feel deeply but keep it to yourself. Keep the smooth side up and the rough side down.

Afterward, I hiked up Taggart Creek to my favorite thinking rock — the place where we scattered Mom’s ashes a couple of years ago — and worked out the percentages of this death thing.

You should know that about me. I work out percentages on any given problem. There’s a fictional detective — Hercule Poirot, I think, but I’m not about to go look up it up. Blogs should not need research — who likes to say, “Rule out the impossible and what you are left with will be the answer, no matter how unlikely it appears to be.” Or something like that.

So I discarded the after-life theories that struck me as impossible and looked at what was left, which wasn’t much.

First off, I think of the Great Mystery out there beyond what we can see as the internet, and the various faith systems floating around as browsers and search engines. For instance, Christianity is the AOL of spiritualism, because the user’s manual says one thing and the practitioners do the exact opposite. How Pat Robertson can pray on TV and make all that money is totally bizarre to anyone who has read Jesus’s parables. But, whatever. If it gets you into the Web, it works.

Personally, I use Safari, which is a bit like the Cheyenne Medicine Wheel. It’s only useful if you are Cheyenne or own a Mac. Everyone else is out of luck. You could stretch the hell out of this thing and equate Muslims with Internet Explorer and Buddhists with Firefox, but what the hell. You get the idea. It comes down to access.

As I sat on my rock, watching the leaves change color, I wasn’t concerned so much with the door as to what lies on the other side. Odds-wise (what a cool word, odds-wise) you would figure a white-out would be logical. No sequel. Ashes to ashes. But, for me, the void doesn’t compute. I look back at eternity, stretching forever and ever off one way, and forward, at eternity stretching forever and ever off the other way, and then compute the odds against this moment, a dot in an eternal number of dots, just coming up. These odds are way beyond the odds against streets of gold, or happy hunting grounds, or recycling, or any of the Wishful Thinking theories. The odds against Wishful Thinking being true are one in the number of digits of pi, but the odds against this random moment appearing on its own, compared to the number of moments randomness implies, are way the hell and gone past that.

Which means, either time does not exist — Tralfamdorianism — or there is something going on that is unlikely. Compared to nothing going on which is impossible.

My personal theory is we’re in a computer game. Reincarnation only with a physical machine somewhere instead of a spirit that leaves the body, wanders the Whatever until it attaches itself to another body, and comes back. This religious belief doesn’t take a smart person to figure out. There are hordes of books and movies based on the idea that we are nothing but bits of information — from Matrix to Cyberchase — but I personally haven’t read or seen a story that takes it all the way into a theory as to why time does not exist and therefore eternity does. They’re probably out there. I don’t read much science fiction, myself. Or religion.

Look at the guy running around in Final Doom. If we take him far enough, he becomes aware of himself (“I think, therefore I am”) but is he aware that he is in a game? The question I haven’t nailed yet is this: Am I the space marine in the game or the kid playing the game? And how do you know if you won? Most kills? Most love? Longevity? I hope to hell the scoring is more subtle than Final Doom.

Here’s what might be possible, and, if it is possible, then by Hercule Poiret’s theorem, it is trruth: The goal of each game is for the society within it to progress to the point of creating the game itself, before we destroy our environment and make a bell go off somewhere, a screen go blank, and some kid with bad skin say, “Shit.” The he goes to bathroom, gets a Coke from the fridge and comes back to push the Replay button. If we create the Existence game where thousands and thousands of lives can be played out in a short time, some of them leading to the creation of their own Existence games, whoever is at the top of the heap can go on forever.

Should the folks from “This I Believe” ever give me the call, that’s what I’m going to tell them. I’ll call it Timianity.

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