Tuesday, September 30, 2008


The summer of 2008 was the summer of the hamburger for Troy's Work Table. Here are some of the highlights...


BOX CAR BURGERS - Ellensburg, Washington - June

This was a planned rest stop on the way home from eastern Washington. I believe that I am ordering the #5 Train Master, which contains a single 1/3 pound beef patty, but instead find myself saying #6. Number six is a Locomotive, which contains two 1/3 pound beef patties, or a total of 2/3 pound of beef. In other words, more than I bargained for.

Box Car Burgers contain 100% beef that is charbroiled, a bed of bib lettuce, vine ripe tomatoes, red onions, and Box Car sauce. My Locomotive also included Swiss cheese and bacon.

Half way through this monstrosity of a burger, I had to remove one of the beef patties or I would have never been able to "finish" it. The burger, however, was excellently executed. The Box Car sauce was the pièce de résistance.

The combo meal included fries and a Coke.

If you are ever in Ellensburg, then I highly recommend a Box Car Burger.


HAN'S BURGERS - Federal Way, Washington - July

Han's is one of the wife's favorite burger joints, and it is easy to see why. The burgers are well crafted and taste delicious.

The Bacon Cheeseburger consisted of a sesame seed bun, 1/4 pound beef patty, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato, lettuce. I added ketchup and mustard.

The burger was accompanied by perfectly deep fried crinkle-cut French fries and a Coke.


COPPER CREEK INN - Ashford, Washington - July

Copper Creek Inn is located a few miles outside of Mount Rainier National Park's Nisqually gate. For me, their Copper Burger was the summer burger par excellence.

My enormous Copper Burger included bun, burger, fried egg, bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mayonnaise, and rings of red onion. I removed all but a few of the red onion rings. I even kept the pickles on, which I am not prone to do. The burger was divine.

It was made even better with thick steak cut French fries and Big Sky Summer Honey Seasonal Ale.

If you head up to Mount Rainier to hike or camp, make sure you stop in at Copper Creek Inn.


DOME BURGERS - Seattle, Washington - August

The child and I were wandering around Pioneer Square and environs in Seattle and decided to get burgers for lunch. Dome Burger provided me with a simple classic burger that was perfectly charbroiled. The Bacon Cheeseburger consisted of a sesame seed bun, 1/4 beef patty, lettuce, tomato, bacon, cheddar cheese, ketchup, and mustard.

It was accompanied by thin cut French fries that were okay. I also ordered a root beer float, which meant I received a cup with a scoop of ice cream in it to which I then had to add fountain root beer. Fortunately, the burger was the standout of the combo.


MOUNT VERNON FOOD COURT PAVILION - Mount Vernon, Virginia - August

Now, you may think that a place that honors the life of our first President would take greater care with its cuisine, even in its food court. Such was not the case, however.

The burger wasn't bad. It just wasn't spectacular. And, I imagine that George Washington, if he wanted a hamburger, wanted a spectacular burger. I also imagine he wouldn't tolerate crabby slaves, er, food court workers. Well, TWT did. (If you really dislike your job that much, then quit!)

The burger was a bun, patty, lettuce, tomato, cheddar cheese, overcooked bacon, mustard, and ketchup.

The thick steak cut fries were very good. I also had a Coke.


WALLY'S DRIVE-IN - Buckley, Washington - September

Wally's served up a good solid burger in its Bacon Cheeseburger. It was 1/4 pound 100% beef patty on a bun, with mayo, onions, pickles, lettuce, mustard, ketchup, cheddar cheese, and bacon. I removed most of the onions, allowing a few for flavor, but otherwise ate the entire thing.

Thick, perfectly prepared French fries and a Coke made a meal.

The child enjoyed a corn dog, another "staple" food of the summer for the wanderings of Troy's Work Table.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Dear Reader:

Where am I? Why am I not posting? Why does something smell fishy?

The answer to all three questions is: Les sardines, baby. My summer writing workshop has transformed into a writing group named Les sardines. Currently, there are seven of us meeting in Seattle twice per month to provide feedback, accountability, and support for one another as we write. Therefore, I am writing, reading, researching, reading, reading, and writing some more.

Why Les sardines? Why not? I didn't come up with the name, but I absolutely gave it my rubber stamp of approval. I like the strangeness and surreality and mystery surrounding the name. I like the semi-anonymity that it affords. I like the potential imagery.

Now, I need to find out what kind of beer goes well with small (sometimes salted) fish...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Palo Santo Marron, an American Strong Ale by Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

"Troy['s Work Table] doesn't drink beer, he adjudicates it."
—The friend D.

12 ounce bottle. Palo Santo Marron pours clear, bubbly, and black. A thick brown head appears in an instant and then disappears as quickly, leaving no lacing behind.

The nose is heavy of molasses and plum, moderate of brown sugar. The taste is heavy and rich, filling tongue, mouth, and throat. The initial drink is of malt and of wood. The wood flavor is not smoky per se, but it dawdles like a smoky wood. The finish is a good alcohol finish that lingers and lingers and lingers.

Everything about this ale is heavy, except for its "handedness," for this is excellent stuff. As it warms, the already rich and complex flavor intensifies and increases in complexity. The wood increases ever so slightly in "smokiness" and the flavor of varnish creeps in, which I attribute to the 12% alcohol content and its attendant flavor, warmth, "burn."

But, when I drank it, I was settling in for a long session of writing and feedback and laughter with other writers, so the buzz I got was never going to see the streets. Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008


"I met the walking dude, religious, in his wom down cowboy boots / He walked liked no man on earth / I swear he had no name / I swear he had no name."
—from "The Stand" by The Alarm

"He walked rapidly, rundown bootheels clocking against the paved surface of the road, and if car lights showed on the horizon he faded back and back, down over the soft shoulder to the high grass where the night bugs made their homes..."
—page 180, The Stand by Stephen King

The Puyallup Fair ended yesterday. The furnace kicked on multiple times this morning to fight against the overnight chill that gathered in the corners of our home. The smell of onion rings and hamburgers from Johnny's and the aroma of sweet-and-sour chicken from Happy Teriyaki is wafting through the cooling air, stronger due to the drop in temperature, a punctuation of sorts.

It is early evening on the first day of autumn. The child and I are walking on a paved trail alongside the Puyallup River, beneath a canopy of cottonwood leaves in ochre, olive, and orange. The leaves rustle in the chilly breeze, an occasional flash of gold against the Fabergé blue of the dusk sky.

I am wearing boots this evening and peer down at my feet as I walk, catching their steady rhythm in my ears, my mind. I think of Randall Flagg, the dark man, the walking dude of Stephen King's The Stand. I am not quite sure why. It frightens me a little, this identification with Flagg.

Nevertheless, I can picture him walking through the wild places along the highway from Idaho into Nevada. I imagine the dreams of those he calls to him in their fitful attempts at sleep—Trashcan Man and Lloyd and the collection of other misfits and criminals and miscreants. In some sense, I know these people, these characters.

I wrestle with my pace, to keep it mine, rather than Flagg's.

I can hear the song by The Alarm, inspired by the story: "Come on down and meet your Maker..."


I find that I cannot recall the names of the "good guys." I have to go and grab my copy of The Stand off its bookshelf in my library and scan for their names—Stu, Glen, Nick, Nadine, Frannie, Harold, Tom (M-O-O-N), and Mother Abigail—as well as the city they meet in. (It is Boulder, Colorado.)

Does this speak something of me?


The Stand was one of my favorite novels growing up. I read it many times. I was intrigued by the devastation delivered by the human-engineered superflu Captain Trips. I was enamored by the Manichean dualism and "cosmic" mythology of post-apocalyptic America that King envisioned. I saw the sprawling mess of the novel, with its vast expanse in the middle of the book, as a metaphor for America in its own right—a contemporary Moby Dick or The Grapes of Wrath.

It may be time to read it again.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Pacifico Clara, a Pale Lager by Grupo Modelo

I am not a fan of pale lagers—American, Mexican, or otherwise. However, I was at a social gathering, and, against better judgment, decided to indulge in such a beverage.

I have to say that I was mildly surprised that Pacifico was better than I expected. I wouldn't seek it out, but I could have another one if it was the only drink of choice at a party. It lacked the skunkiness and over-the-top, off-kilter perfume (or, perhaps, rotting floral bouquet) of Budweiser, Miller, Corona, and their ilk.

This is one of those beers that would also serve the purpose of thirst quencher after mowing the lawn—along with a snack of chips and salsa.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


The child and I took advantage of the gray weather of the late-summer Pacific Northwest to hunt through the stacks of some of Tacoma's used bookstores on Friday.

McBEATTIE'S BOOK SHOPPE of the Sixth Avenue Business District is a store that specializes almost exclusively in mass market paperback genre fiction—science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, action adventure. I don't read mass market paperbacks anymore, preferring the larger book size and larger print of trade paperbacks and hardcovers. I like to feel the heft of the book in my hand. I like my aging eyes to be able to read the print of the book.

But this is the perfect place for people who prefer the smaller size of mass market books or want to get some great bargains on their favorite authors in their favorite genres.

Since most of McBeattie's shelves are sized to hold mass markets, the few trade paperbacks, and even rarer hardcovers, are allocated space on the top shelves as "oversized" books. I found that rather amusing.

CULPEPPER BOOKS of the Proctor District has a good selection of mass markets, trade paperbacks, hardcovers, first editions, and antiquarian books. They also had a good layout for their different sections.

Individual sections were easy to locate and books were neatly displayed. I didn't find what I was looking for—novels or short story collections by Jim Shepard—but, then, I didn't find them in any of the stores we visited.

TEACHING TOYS & BOOKS of the Proctor District is mostly a toy store, and contains no used books. Its selection of children's books is all new. We mostly visited it because we were nearby at Culpepper Books. We did manage to purchase a "rainbow-lead" colored pencil and a 24-piece myriorama (also known as The Endless Landscape, a picture puzzle that you can lay out in any order and still have it make visual sense).

HALF PRICE BOOKS of the Tacoma Mall District is the corporate giant of used books, with around 100 stores in fifteen states. They carry more books in their one location than any of the other stores we visited. But, they also function more like a Barnes & Noble or Borders than any of those other stores do, even though they sell used books, remainders, and bargain books. Troy's Work Table picked up a copy of Sherman Alexie's National Book Award winning teen novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and the child selected Quincy, the Hobby Photographer: The Complete Guide to Do-It-Yourself Dog Photography by J. Otto Seibold, author and illustrator of our favorite Olive and Mr. Lunch children's books.

(But they didn't have any Jim Shepard books, either.)

PARK AVENUE BOOKS of the Fern Hill District is the combination of the stocks of three previously independent used bookstores—Linda's Books, Fern Hill Books, and Boomerang Books. It was another bookstore heavily weighted toward mass market paperback genre fiction. It had a fair amount of trade paperbacks as well. It had a few categories of nonfiction that it specialized in, such as cookbooks, regional titles, and self-help, but nothing that caught my eye.

Park Avenue Books resembles my home library. There are books on shelves. There are books in boxes. There are books in bags and crates. There are piles of books stacked willy-nilly. Most of the stock is shelved, but the spines of almost every book, even the books stacked on the floor and leaning up against walls, could be viewed. It felt like home. I liked that. I just wish that more of the books were in categories that I read.


All in all, the day afforded me with the possibility of too many mass market paperbacks, too many mass market romance paperbacks, and too many mass market Regency romance paperbacks. Tacoma Book Center and King's Books will still be my two mainstay Tacoma used bookstores, since they both tend to carry broad and deep selections of trade paperbacks and hardcovers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MADNESS, part 1

Clockwise from upper left: (1) "The Bipolar Child" from the Sunday 14 September 2008 issue of The New York Times Magazine; (2) The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks; (3) a popular antidepressant, also used to reduce spinal nerve pain; and (4) Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

"The Lord will afflict you with madness, blindness, and confusion of mind; you shall grope about at noon as blind people grope in darkness, but you shall be unable to find your way."
—Deuteronomy 28:28-29a


The whole world seems to have gone mad.


I am in the middle of two books on madness. The first is the autobiography of Elyn Saks and her "journey through madness," The Center Cannot Hold. It is a harrowing firsthand account of her slip into moments of mania and depression and intense psychosis. The second is Hurry Down Sunshine, the biographical account of Michael Greenberg's daughter Sally as she is "struck mad" at the age of fifteen. This is a companion look at madness from the vantage point of an "outsider," a family member.


There are two main ideas that come creeping toward me as I read these two books. The first is the difficult of diagnostic criteria. The second is the need for control mechanisms.


The difficulty of diagnostic criteria is that the different forms of madness seem to overlap. Mania and depression seem to be polar opposites that play in many forms of mental illness—bipolarity and other mood disorders, schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders—as well as being mood disorders in their own right. Hallucinations and delusions can likewise occur in various forms of mental illness. So how does one distinguish between bipolar disorder and forms of schizophrenia? And, if there is difficulty in determining to which category the symptoms and signs of an individual's madness belong, then how can the disease that is the summation of those symptoms and signs be treated?


I have more questions than I have answers. I am talking to myself. I am thinking "out loud."


It seems important to me that control mechanisms are sought out. If order cannot be restored, then where is hope?


The control mechanisms that I have been able to identify in the two books, thus far, are (1) hospitalization; (2) physical restraint; (3) isolation; (4) individual therapy; (5) group therapy; (6) pharmaceuticals; (7) lobotomies, physical or chemical; (8) strong family structure; and (9) religion. I am sure there are more to come and some that I have overlooked.

Some of the control mechanisms have worked well, some fairly well, and some not at all. There seems to be a need for more than one, a willingness to adapt to fluctuating symptoms and signs by either adopting or abandoning control mechanisms, as needed.


In his short story, "Classical Scenes of Farewell," Jim Shepard shows us the power of religion to act as a control mechanism. In this particular case, it is used to curb the murderous appetite of Lord Gilles de Rais as he rapes and kills the children of peasants. It functions as a legal system to convict him and curb his pychosis and its attendant crimes. In this case, death is required as punishment and thus ends his madness.

In Hurry Down Sunshine, Michael Greenberg also shows us the power of religion to act as a control mechanism. In this particular case, it is used to rally around a mentally ill individual and recognize that they are gifted by God in ways that we cannot fathom. A group of Hasidic Jews takes care of a stricken relative, believing him to have "achieved devaykah, the state of constant communion with God." His madness is absorbed into their religious beliefs and protected, perhaps even fostered, in a circle of strong family support.


"When Moses announced the penalties for disobeying God's laws, madness was first, before blindness and poverty, before the death of children, before war. Like the Hasid, I try to improvise my own area of protection around Sally. But I have little faith to draw from, either in medicine or God."
—page 57, Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

What happens when the control mechanism fails? What happens when the despair and the depression and the madness become too much to bear? It seems that a new control mechanism needs to be put in place, such as institutionalization; the madness has to run its course; or, perhaps death ends the need for another control mechanism.

On Friday 12 September 2008, novelist David Foster Wallace chose the latter. Death became preferable to the darkness of the absolutized moment. Therefore, he took his own life by hanging himself.

I cannot imagine the loneliness, the aloneness, the despair that he must have felt, even though I have been ravaged by my own share of depression and anxiety and panic attacks at times. Having known a certain level of debilitation, albeit minor in comparison to what I guess DFW experienced, I know those things and the power that they can have. However, I still find it difficult to fathom the depth of the abyss that he must have stared into that would press him into the hands of death.

When I heard the news of DFW's death, I was stunned, paralyzed.


I didn't know David Foster Wallace. I had read a few of his essays here and there, but have never tackled his postmodern magnum opus Infinite Jest. I have often intended to purchase it and read it, but instead thumbed through it and glanced at a few sentences or paragraphs or footnotes. Then, I would think about its dense and rich and chewy 1,100 pages and place it back onto the shelf from whence I grabbed it.

Instead, I knew him through the other authors and writers that he influenced. I knew him through the work of his contemporaries, even if I didn't directly know his work, except in fragments.

So, why did it affect me so? I am sure that it is due to the craziness of the current climate of our culture—vapid celebrity politicians of all stripes, reality television stars whose fifteen minutes of fame was really sixteen minutes of unbearableness (you do the math!), the entertainment "news" of CNN and Fox and MSNBC—all while our country is bogged down in an unpopular war in Iraq, we are being led by a unpopular fundamentalist idiot of a president, the greed of Wall Street is bringing our economy to a screeching halt, the price of staple foods is soaring world wide, and natural disasters are looming due to our reliance upon fossil fuels and our unwillingness to acknowledge our addiction. And, in the midst of all of that, I see a bit of myself reflected back from David Foster Wallace's own struggle with madness and depression.


Carl Jung would call it synchronicity. Some would call it the work of the Holy Spirit, others coincidence. I think it was perhaps due to heightened awareness to madness simply because I was surrounded by it, immersed in it's presence. But, there, on the cover of The New York Times Magazine of Sunday 14 September 2008, were the words "The Bipolar Kid." Opening up the magazine and delving into the article, I discovered that the same stories I was reading in two books on madness were being told again. Yes, the names and circumstances were different, but the stories were the same.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The PuckerFest! Sour Beer Tasting was held tonight at 99 Bottles in Federal Way. For five dollars, participants received two ounce samples of six sour beers. All of the beers were new to me, with the exception of Monk's Cafe, which I have had before and enjoyed. All were quite good.

Petrus Oud Bruin, a Flanders Oud Bruin by Brouwerij Bavik
Clear, red-brown body and an off-white head. Aromas of beef broth, vinegar, wood, and leather. The flavor was similar.

Monk's Cafe, a Flanders Oud Bruin/Red by Brouwerij Van Steenberge
Clear, orange-red body and an off-white head. This tastes what dyeing Easter eggs smells like—namely, apple vinegar. There is also a light cracker taste hiding behind the acetic acid. This was drier than I expected, which added to its sourness.

Duchesse de Bourgogne, a Flanders Red Ale by Brouwerij Verhaeghe
Clear, orange-red body and an off-white head. Probably the most complex flavors of the evening. It seems to shift and change with each drink. Some of the various flavors included a sourness that mellowed rather quickly, meatiness, a sweet and sour Chinese dish, coleslaw, oak, a leather jacket. Some good stuff.

Oud Beersel Gueze, a Gueze by Brouwerij Oud Beersel
Hazy, yellow body and a white head. The aroma was of dough and lemon juice. The flavor was extremely tart and very dry, with an especially dry finish. It felt as though all moisture was sucked out of my mouth. With the exception of being so dry, it was as though I had spilled a bottle of lemon juice, added the same amount of water to it, soaked up the puddle with a paper towel and then sucked on the paper towel. The combination of lemon juice and wet paper flavors were odd, yet I was strangely attracted to it. Probably my least favorite of the tasting, but I would try it again.

Oro de Calabaza, a Strong Golden Ale by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
Sparkling, yellow body and a fizzy white head.
My favorite of the evening. A spiciness that I couldn't quite place (Coriander? Nutmeg? Cinnamon? Another spice? A combination of two or more?) was present in the nose and on the tongue. The spice led into wood varnish, green apple, yeast, and ended on a spicy, dry finish. The spiciness lingers. This was the driest of the six beers, and also my favorite. It reminded me of a "fruitier" version of Duvel, which I snubbed almost two years ago. Perhaps it is time for a reassessment, as well as an acknowledgment of a maturation and evolution of my ever expanding beer palate.

Fantome Saison, a Saison by Brasserie Fantome
Cloudy, yellow body with small particulates and a white head.
The aroma is an intense green apple scent, almost like a green apple Jolly Rancher, with a hint of a bundle of freshly pruned and gathered green twigs that hovers just beneath. The flavor moves from musty book to light green apple to light spiciness.

Credit has to be given to the crew of 99 Bottles for their wonderful selection of beers—in general, and, specifically, for the tasting. They also receive many kudos from Troy's Work Table for their wealth of knowledge of the beers they served. Their passion for the finest of beverages is obvious!

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Have a great day of "Epic Fun" roaming around the Puyallup Fairgrounds with thousands of other people.

Chickens and horses and sheep, oh my!

A bounty of produce from a "dead" concept—the grange.

Rides—in this case spinning bears, with riders contained in their bellies.

The clowns Topper Todd and Li Li Zucchini of Jest in Time Circus with a recruited audience member, Circus Suzie.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


This is what $10 of fair food looks like.

This is what $14 of fair food looks like (addition of $4 Krusty Pup!).


The Puyallup Fair & Rodeo parade kicked off the 2008 Puyallup Fair & Rodeo. Parades in Puyallup are "required" to contain particular elements.

The cattle run. This is unique to the Puyallup Fair & Rodeo parade, but each Puyallup parade must include some form of livestock other than horses.

An entry toward the beginning that declares the intention of the parade. This entry usually also contains officials of the event or of Puyallup. More officials will be scattered liberally throughout the rest of the parade entries.

Military color guards. Once again, usually liberally scattered throughout the parade.

Local high school and junior high school bands—Puyallup, Rogers, Sumner, Bonney Lake, Kalles. At least three of the five listed will make an appearance, with others as necessary.

A touch of the absurd or goofy, for good measure. In this case, it was the juggling Elvis unicyclist. And clowns.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


She phones me from her mother's house and we talk every day. This is better than nothing. She says she has fallen out of love with me. She says she is confused. She says she feels lost, sort of like the way she felt when she was younger. I told her that everybody feels lost when they are young. But she says there is a difference. She tells me that at least when she was younger she felt lost in her own special way. Now she just feels lost like everyone else.
—pages 137–138, Life After God by Douglas Coupland, from the short story "Gettysburg"

Bush refers to his time in office as "a joyous experience," a phrase that seems jarring. A satisfying experience, pursuing important goals maybe, or a vital experience, to be at the center of so many historic moments. But joyous? With all the heartache, the wars, the political attacks? "You know, obviously there's some good days and some bad days," Bush tried to explain at a forum in Missouri in May. "I feel so strongly about my principles and my values, and I'm an optimistic guy."
—page 30, "The Final Days" by Peter Barker, from The New York Times Magazine, August 31, 2008


It started with an observation. The stepmother-in-law looked at the illustration by R. Kikuo Johnson on the cover of The New York Times Magazine and commented that it was very intriguing. So we peeked inside to peruse his other illustrations that accompany an article by Peter Barker on the final days of the presidency of George W. Bush.

Therein was a fascinating illustration of President Bush floating on a pink air mattress in a pool of brilliant blue water, hands clasped on his chest, staring up at us (above left). The image immediately resonated with me. I thought that it was a play on the jacket photo by Robert Earnest that adorns the cover of Douglas Coupland's short story collection Life After God (above right). But, I guess I didn't quite remember the photograph as it actually appears, for even though the illustration of Bush echoes the photograph, it simply is not what I remembered.

I am unsure where the image I imagined actually resides, if it even does, but that is somewhat beside the point. The illustration of Bush was so intense and so strong that it set off a small chain of strange coincidences and explorations.


Having a very intense interest in Abraham Lincoln at the moment, especially after bearing witness to his monument in Washington DC and visiting the Manassas battlefield, I was immediatley drawn to the short story "Gettysburg" in Life After God when I perused its table of contents. I knew that the story had nothing to do with Lincoln other than the association of him with the city and his Civil War era speech. Nonetheless, I found myself reading it again and experiencing the loss of relationship that it relates.


The narrator of "Gettysburg" states that his estranged wife "says she doesn't want us to become dreadful people who do dreadful things to each other because there will be no one to forgive us." What happens when that level of hopelessness rears its ugly head? If there is no one to forgive, then it must truly be "life after God." And, if there is no God, then there is also no judgment. No judgment means no law. No law means lawlessness and chaos. Chaos means that everyone is on their own. It seems to be a brutal way to navigate the world. Alone. Lonely.


I like to believe otherwise. I like to grasp on to hope, to God, to love. I just don't readily admit it.


That seems rather optimistic for me, especially as I watch marriages of people that I care about collapse—a relative, a neighbor, a couple of friends. The wives of these friends, like the wife of the "Gettysburg" narrator, have each declared that they are lost, empty, searching for something that they can no longer seek with a partner. They have declared themselves devoid of love for the person that they took vows to love in perpetuity.


And, what of President George W. Bush? It seems that he is also mourning the loss of his "wife." The country of which he is commander in chief has essentially turned its back on him and walked away from their relationship. I can't say that I don't blame America for walking away from him and his policies. I can claim to disagree with him on most issues. But, it still seems like a relationship in collapse on a macrocosmic scale. And, it still seems to me that it is somewhat unfaithful and unfair and therefore sad.


And, what of President Abraham Lincoln? He seemed to also have been left behind in his marriage to America. She tore herself in two and cannibalized herself, while he looked on, trying to keep her as one person. Both halves seemed to hate him. In the midst of that hatred, he clung fast to his beliefs, and delivered some of the most memorable, amazing, and fascinating speeches and writings in American history—the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, his Second Inaugural Address, among others.


Bush, in my estimation, is no Lincoln. He is, however, a president who has been abandoned by the one he loves, one who no longer loves him. Therefore, my heart grieves for him, even though I don't like his policies.


Is there life after God? Perhaps. If so, then it seems that it will be lonely. Do we have the fortitude to peer into the mysteries of the universe and survive? Or, will we destroy ourselves before we even begin to glimpse those mysteries? The latter seems more likely to me. Chaos, xenophobia, inferiority complexes. It only takes one bully with no fear of his or her own death, with a nuclear weapon in hand, to set off a chain of events from which there may be no turning back.


Personally, I hope we don't find it necessary to really explore the question. I would prefer that we just keep God in the equation.


Is there life after a marriage collapses? Perhaps. But I imagine that the person left behind is never quite the same. I imagine them to be haunted by the questions of what could have been. I am sure that the person who leaves, who claims the love to be at an end, is also never the same, is also haunted, although they may claim otherwise.


Is there life after the presidency? Perhaps. Many presidents continue to build upon their legacy after their years in office. Speaking engagements. International diplomacy. Political party power brokers. Elder statesmen. I can only hope that President Bush will think long and hard about the damage he has done to the political process, the environment, the law, the people who elected him, the soldiers he sent into Iraq, the Constitution during his time in office. I can only hope that he will repent and receive forgiveness for his national sins.


The imagined image still resonates. It still has life. It is powerful because it is vague yet intense. It is the cover of Life After God and it is not.