I grew up on a farm in Indiana, which is the most wonderful thing that can happen to a child if the child is able to overlook certain facts of life and death.  Well, it would be more honest if I said I ‘squatted’ on a farm in Indiana, and the owners were too kind to call the town marshall.  The things I learned there!  For instance, if someone says, “We’re having eggs and brains for breakfast,” that is no metaphor.  If one is told to “pick that dead cat up by the hind leg and toss it over the fence”?  Also not poetry.

These days, though, I live on my own farm and I thought you’d like to see some of what goes on here.

This is the bunny coop, where the rabbits lay their eggs.  The rabbit you see here is named Joseph Mitchell, and she hasn’t been much of a producer for a long time, but we keep her for sentimental reasons.

This is the pig, goose, and chicken village.  Unfortunately, my back is to the camera but that’s my sister, Melinda, with her favorite bucket and her red patent leather apron

We have one head of black Angus, organic, no hormones.
This is a little man in our employ.  He carries two black sticks at all times, in case he needs to beat the Holstein.  I have never learned this man’s name, as he speaks no English and his face is almost entirely covered by a moustache.
Here I revisit the goose, chicken, and pig village to point out this pig of worrisome size.

So there you have it, our own little rural enterprise.  We will only lose money on it until we die.



Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 4:17 pm  Comments (1)  

State of the Nation

Like most Americans, I have been deeply concerned with the effects of tabloid culture on our youth.   Children who formerly spent their time in wholesome activities such as ‘riding the rails’ to see our great nation, now smoke the cracks.  Because of ‘rock’ shows like KISS and Jane’s Addiction, many children are completely deaf by the age of twelve, and they must take up a trade, such as the noble attempt to recreate the extinct Syrian Wild Ass.

But the true ‘state’ of our nation became clear to me recently when one of my closest and dearest relatives, Cletus Junior Kimmel, came from his home in Grygla, Minnesota (pop. 297) to spend some time with me, and to get a taste of city life.  At first everything was great fun and there was continued wholesomeness, such as corn, and Cletus experienced the joys of plumbing and wearing pants.  Then one day in the supermarket he asked if he could have a magazine, a ‘rag’ if you will, and because he was so bright-eyed I foolishly acquiesced.  In a very short time he was sneaking in at night to watch programs on the television set, and managed to find magazines at the homes of my ‘friends’ as well.

I think you know where this is going.  Soon he was dissatisfied with the color of his hair, and believed his little pants were too tight.  He began to call himself ‘fat’ and ‘fatty,’ and other words that suggested he didn’t meet the ‘Twiggy’ standard of starvation.  Once he even referred to himself as ‘the fatness,’ something that made no sense to me at all.  I took him to specialists, to no avail, and indeed not only was his weight an issue, he no longer could accept the shape of his face and believed his eyes were globular.  His parents innocently sent him funds which he used for cosmetic surgery.  The surgeries were, on the whole, disastrous.

I sent him back to Grygla, Minnesota (pop. 297) with a note that read, “My Dear Cletus Junior Kimmel.  I hope this letter cures you of your terrible sickness and that you begin attending church once again.  At least read Our Daily Bread rather than the magazines that have made you go from my most precious little monkey to a nearly unrecognizable sad thing.  Put your pants back on, and always remember that when you are at the beach, that is when I carried you.  I love you, Auntie Haven.”

Parents and others:  no foreign literature.  No water with carbonation.  No hand lotion.

Below I include before and after photographs, in order to warn other close relatives of our naive young.

Cletus when he arrived:

Cletus when I put him on the Greyhound bus back to his parent’s macadamia nut farm:

Published in: on April 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm  Comments (2)  

Haven’s First Law: Never Quote A Better Writer Than Yourself.

I see this time and again in books sent to me for a blurb request.  The author will be prattling along about her search for love or the perfect hamster, and suddenly will insert a line from To The Lighthouse.  I want to send the young woman (or man) a note and say, “No.”  

And yet I myself am obsessed with epigraphs.  I put epigraphs everywhere — not just at the beginning of my books, but in the middle and sometimes taped to my refrigerator.   And always, always the epigraphs are written by authors so vastly superior to me we do not exist on the same plane of Being.  I have quoted Emerson, St. Augustine, Thornton Wilder, Pablo Neruda, and Johnny Cash.  Just today I discovered the perfect epigraph for the last chapter of my new horror novel — perhaps I wasn’t clear just now when I said ‘horror novel’ — and it is by Mr. Ralph Waldo again.  A minister, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the American Romantic era — a man of sublime and highly evolved spirituality.  His sentence structure alone is enough to make an alpha gorilla weep.  And yet I did it, I most assuredly did quote a writer better than myself.

Sometimes an epigraph is so good one is forced to read the entire book simply to understand it.  I’m thinking now of a truly miraculous collection of poems by Sarah Messer, The Bandit Letters.  If you read this blog entry and then read the following epigraph and you do NOT rush out and find the book, then you are perhaps suffering from scurvy or the bursitis:

Please search hotels and keep general lookout around railroad depots, saloons, gambling resorts, etc., and inquire of yard or train masters for his having applied for employment and of railroad trainmen for his having “beat” his way on freight or passenger trains; also search pawn shops and jewelry stores for jewelry having been pledged or sold.  Also inquire of ministers, class leaders, and at Young Men’s Christian Association rooms for trace of him.

He is likely to be traveling as a woman.

— Pinkerton Circular, circa 1895

Published in: on April 23, 2008 at 4:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Varmint Problem

I am a lifelong Quaker.  My best friend Augusten says I wear that claim like an old sheep-skin, whenever it suits me.  He says, “Oh, better trot out your I’M A QUAKER, I CAN’T WASH MY OWN DISHES, AUGUSTEN.”  Things like that.  But really I’m a very good Child of the Light, in my way, which is a secret.  I  mean the ways I am good are secret ways.

My study is in a barn.  Half of the barn is mine, half of it is still a barn.  There is something big living on the other side, up in the rafters and the stored screen doors which are forming a ceiling.  I hear it every day.  Today I said to J., “When I go home to Indiana at the end of May, I’m borrowing one of Mark’s guns.”  Mark is my dead brother-in-law, so he is good at lending.  J. asked what for and I said, “Because I’m going to kill whatever is living in my barn.”  He said, “How do you plan on going about it?”  This is the sort of question a man raised by academics asks.  I said, “I wait until it rains.  I stand in the dark.  I listen for it to begin moving.  I shine a bright light on its eyes, I fire.”  He said, “What if you miss?”  Again.  Academics.


I discovered yesterday that the creature wreaking havoc on the roof of the barn is some overgrown tree limbs.  Nonetheless, I intend to shoot them.


Published in: on April 22, 2008 at 4:38 pm  Comments Off on Varmint Problem  

What Is Up With The Austrians?

Lately I’ve been unable to stop thinking about a quotation from Wittgenstein, “A picture held us captive, and we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.”  This particular line has been given the old exegete by photographers and lay philosophers and those crazy unwashed undergraduates in humanities departments, and now there’s a book out about Wittgenstein and the New Testament.  I know I should read it but I’m really quite tired.

UPDATE:  I decided to do some more investigation into that haunting statement of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s, and so I went directly to the most scholarly source on his work, Wikipedia.  I discovered some very disturbing things about him:  for instance, he is Austrian.  His work is primarily in the foundations of logic, the philosophy of language (duh), the philosophy of the mind (whaa?), and the philosophy of mathematics.  What you have when you combine these things is a recipe for disaster, because ‘logic,’ ‘the mind,’ ‘language,’ and ‘mathematics’ are all mutually exclusive.  They not only cancel one another out, they fight like little children and sometimes build secret apartments in their basements.

All of the Wittgensteins (and by the evidence of one photograph, the family seems to include the young Adolf Hitler, who was, forgive me, a hideously ugly child) were geniuses and could play musical instruments like the angels themselves.  Ludwig himself had perfect pitch.  Add that to his ‘crazy’ life’s work and my friend, you have a disaster.  Such as:  three of his four brothers committed suicide.  That is 75%.  Wittgenstein became interested, after University (or ‘gymnasium’) in studying with Ludwig Boltzmann, who was an expert in aeronautics, but before Wittgenstein could reach him, Boltzmann had committed suicide.

“Whilst in Cambridge, Wittgestein often liked to go to the cinema.”

In 1913 W.,’s father died and left him a fortune, which W. donated anonymously to Austrian writers and artists, including Rilke and George Trakl.  In 1914 he went to visit Trakl, as his benefactor, but Trakl committed suicide before Wittgenstein arrived.

After writing one of the greatest works of philosophy in Western history, he did some INTERESTING things, like serve in World War I, and become a Christian, and do those weird things Christians do like decide to work as a janitor instead of a professor, and design a house (although he had no training as an architect), but aaaaaalso it turned out he liked to have some dalliances with the young mens of Vienna, and he chose to do so in a place called the Wiener Prater.  I only wish we could be so honest in America, and call our locales of homosexual encounters Weiner Places.  I believe Wittgenstein would agree, being a philosopher of language.

There is so much more I could say about him, as he did go on and on and on (although, in all seriousness, he did write one of the most important philosophical sentences in history:  “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent”), but I’d like to end with this tragic bit of his history.  Not as tragic as the suicides, OBVIOUSLY, but sad nonetheless.  Part of the reason Wittgenstein spent so much of his life in philosophical agony (it looks like agony to me, anyway) was because of a rare Austrian condition he tried to keep hidden.  The only people with whom he shared the truth were Bertrand Russell and the young men of the Weiner Places.  In German it is called “Affe-Klauen,” and I present here an example of its ravaging effects. 


RIP, Brilliant Gay Monkey Foot.


Published in: on April 21, 2008 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)