"The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men's hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
-- Clarence Shepard Day, Jr., once-reknowned author, poet, artist, and outspoken supporter of women's rights
"My love for you is like the ocean: vast, volatile, and potentially deadly."
-- male cartoon character to his woman friend on a valentine card he's made for her
"The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."
-- Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), a Civil War veteran, political leader, and orator who presented what were then considered radical views on religion, slavery and women's suffrage
"For you shall go out in joy/ and be led back in peace./ the mountains and hills before you/ shall burst into song./ and all the trees of the field shall/ clap their hands."
-- Isaiah 55:12
"In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you."
-- Deepak Chopra, medical doctor, author and speaker, pioneer in the field of mind-body medicine and named by Time magazine among the "Top 100 Icons and Heroes of the Century" in 1999, "the poet prophet of alternative medicine"
Introduction --Death Becomes Her (The Flowering)
Chapter One -- Muggers (Robbers and Ruins)
Chapter Two -- Bad Timing (Beasts and Heathen)
Chapter Three -- Vampires (The Bloodletting)
Chapter Four -- Too Vile For Hell
Chapter Five --Breaching The Walls of Oz
Chapter Six -- Nekkid Et Thu Gate
Chapter Seven -- Atrocities and War Crimes
Chapter Eight -- The Theft Myth
Chapter Nine -- The Alcatraz Of The Truth
Chapter Ten -- Arsenic for Syphilis
Addenda -- Life to the Power of Infinity
Index -- OW!
Out There (Naked at the Gate)
"I'm feeling low, I tear out my hair/ Walking 'round in circles like I don't care/ One shoe off, the other one on/ Cause I threw the damn shoe the night that you were gone/ I'm in the mood, I'm in such a mess/ My heart is broken and I'm in distress/ Don't wanna eat, don't wanna sleep/ 'Cause I'm thinking 'bout the dirty way you treated me/ I'm in no mood for company/ You see I just don't want your pity/
"'Cause I call your name to drive me insane/ And I feel the need to make my heart bleed/ And baby I don't know why I'm drowning in tears/ 'Cause I don't wanna die/ So I find myself another way to learn to live another day/
Without you yeah"
-- Without You, sung by Tina Turner on the album Twenty Four Seven, music and lyrics by Wilson, Watkins and May
Caveat: In recounting and reading about experiences which destroyed for awhile my health, including financial to the tune of over $500,000 in actual fees and lost income for myself and contributors, it's important to keep in mind that I have now, and have had in the past, things that money and evil deeds can't buy: health and happiness; good friends, reknowned and otherwise, and neighbors; a wonderful physical environment and community; fascinating work and recreation; a lifelong history of producing positively and creatively for the benefit of many people, including myself, and with cross-country and worldwide acknowledgement and acclaim for excellence; wide-ranging education, experience, knowledge and travel; and triumph ultimately for truth, faith, devoted constructive endeavor, love, law, and the existence and many blessings of God -- including talents, intelligence, and attractiveness -- which will not appear on any traditional balance sheet. I wouldn't trade my life (mind/body/spirit/soul), now or in the past or hereafter, for that of any of those criminals for anything in the world and am grateful instead to be able to go to my grave knowing that I never did anything to anybody remotely like what was done to me. May you also be saved from that fate and enjoy eternity.
I survived five jailings emanating from the Shenandoah Valley and Commonwealth of Virginia consequent to requesting the Constitutional protections for myself and my property to which I was entitled and for which I had paid all my adult working life in various ways. Incarceration is basically frightening, uncomfortable, demeaning and unpleasant for everyone, even the guards. I thought of analogous situations, like being in summer boarding camp as a kid, which was all girls wearing uniforms and following proscribed activities, although they were a lot more enjoyable back then. I talked with officers and jailmates, made friends, was given or bought supplies for artwork -- cartoons and drawings of the environment and people, made and laughed at jokes, and maintained an interest in others and interactions, as well as new experiences. Some of which were very sad. There was a young woman in Shenandoah County Jail who was artistic and had been picked up sleeping in laudromats, which are clean and warm. (It was winter.) Another cried piteously at being separated from her little baby. One suffered for days with a bad toothache before she was finally transported in handcuffs and leg shackles to a town dentist. Ordered to a local clinic psychiatrist for evaluation, I sat in her full waiting room in the same condition with a guard for quite awhile before the doctor was free.
After about two weeks of incarceration, I requested blank forms for filing warrants against individuals in the Shenandoah Valley who had behaved proveably criminally toward me and my property. I filled them out against the following: Christopher French for claiming to have "the original Valley's home page" and refusing to compete fairly and legally in determining which website was dominant and deserving there (OSCR was and is); Hank and Laura Zimmerman for personal and professional harassment, collusion in criminal non-competitive practices, and slander; George and Dorothy Baillie for trespassing, harassment and slander; Sam and Paula Price for collusion in criminalities, harassment and slander; Gary and Jeanne Frink for collusion in criminalities and harassment and slander; John and MaryAnne Waybright for collusion in criminalities; Charles Edward Henry for kidnapping, rape, trespassing and theft of personal property. A few later additions as I've learned more include: George Blofield for storing stolen property from my house and "Punkin", his woman companion for over a decade, for identity theft in cancelling my credit cards with banking institutions by claiming to be me; Stan and Frank Slivinski for trespassing and collusion in theft of personal property. A good-sized, red-haired Deputy in Shenandoah Jail, probably in his mid to late 30s, refused to accept the warrants I filled out, saying they weren't completed properly. He refused to give me any more application forms so that I could fill them out and file them "correctly." When he saw one, he laughed and said, "Christopher French??!!" before throwing them all away. Obviously, in the Shenandoah Valley one was not allowed to file criminal charges against some people, no matter how blatantly illegal their activities might be or how detrimental to citizens and community.
Many, many years earlier, I'd been raped while living in Manhattan and that event kept replaying visually in my mind as criminalities against me, most particularly losing my freedom, abounded. I kept seeing the second one, a young dark-haired man who never succeeded in his assault, coming toward me over and over again as I lay helpless and naked on a single bed. Regaining strength somewhat, I pushed, fought him off and cried until finally he retreated to the other single bed at an angle from the one where I sat pulling on my clothes to stumble down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk below. The first, an all-American-looking redhead with freckles all over his face and what seemed like a nice personality, had put me out with what now would be called a "date rape" drug. All I remember/ed of interaction with him is leaning against a table in his small kitchen and watching as he started to boil water in a large kettle for cooking us a spaghetti dinner, after handing me a glass of wine, and a very hazy recollection of sitting on the couch in his living room with a plate on my lap, eating. He had suddenly snapped open a capsule of some kind right underneath my nose, and everything went blurry and then black right after that. Jeanne, my roommate at the time, exorted me to report what had happened to the police but in those days, and these sometimes, the victim was more on trial than the perpetrator, and I had no interest in subjecting myself to further trauma. As I walked, dazed and disoriented, on cracked asphalt interlaced with mud and broken glass down an upper East Side street, an old black man, probably a street person, called out warmly, "Hey, missy! You need to put on your shoes. You'll tear your feet all to ribbons!" His voice woke me back to reality, and I went home to my apartment and Jeanne, recovered, and returned to my job the next working day. A very famous and talented woman broadcaster was found not long ago on a California street -- dirty, insane and without her teeth. You never know who somebody is, or might have been, and life can be scary at times for anyone. That rape and its aftermath is the origin of my short story "A Season For Giving," and one reason I always find money in my pocket for street people whom, as a class, I dearly love, along with those who work to provide liveable shelters and necessities for them, and wish well in this world and whatever others there may be. You never know. Christ may be walking this day on a street somewhere, waiting for someone to notice and care.
The Shenandoah Valley perpetrators of so many illegalities against me and my property, including remorseless verbal abuse and harassment over the past ten or more years, and despite my repeated pleas that they "leave me alone," had me arrested as behaving insanely in response to their behaviors and extradicted me back to Virginia for three months, March through May of 2003, confining me to Western State Hospital, Staunton, and Shenandoah County Jail and prescribing Abilify and Depakote for all but the first two-and-a-half weeks. Legal authorities in Jonesborough and East Tennessee had fought my extradiction which was finally secured, after two previous arrests, with a Governor's Warrant which allowed Virginia authorities to drive me, handcuffed and ankle-shackled, back to the Shenandoah Valley in a police car with a state investigator and woman officer sitting in the front seats, from my third mugging, fingerprinting, relinquishing of jewelry and clothing, showering, uniforming, and imprisonment in Washington County TN Jail. Nearly everyone cries at first, some piteously, on losing their freedom, and I did too. It was interesting to see later how different the women looked as they awaited in street dress their release from a group holding cell. One of my friends there -- an older woman who'd been held for over two years in regard to murdering a male companion who'd nearly killed her with abuse, including pushing her out of a moving car and dragging her for quite a ways, and was keeping a daily journal of observations and events under the monetary auspices of a commercial area press -- traded long-underwear with me for drawings I did, for which I also received other wants and needs from cellmates there and in the Shenandoah Valley.
In Shenandoah County VA Jail, I danced, as well as walking back and forth, for exercise. One of my cellmates told the others that they could just hope to be able to do that when they were my age! There was no outdoor area for breaks during the days and the sun never shone inside so everyone became "jailhouse pale." It was the first time I'd ever not had a tan, even during the winter months. There was a television and different ones chose each week which channel we'd watch, usually country music videos. As my mind went further south from confinement and prior events, I started talking out loud to people who were and weren't there. One time, a female guard came around and said, "Jeannette!" to snap me back into reality. I focused, shook my head, laughed because I hadn't realized I was doing that, and apologized. The social worker who managed to arrange for my transfer to Western State Hospital said, "I saw you getting worse and worse and kept trying to get you sent to Staunton," and she finally did. At one point, guards had forgotten I might need a shower and I'd gone without cleaning for quite a few days. My court-appointed attorney from Page County, Robert Downs, raised cane with jail employees, so they got me into a shower, locked me there, and then forgot about me for over an hour. Fortunately, I was able to talk with friends on the other side of the door, one of whom said she had been locked in there once for nearly six hours. At one time one of my Court-appointed lawyers suggested that I might want to appoint someone locally in place of my Goddaughter as having power of attorney over myself and my property, since sometimes people with that authority abuse it. With no doubt at all of her utter goodness and trustworthiness (the only daughter of my long-time best friend, she's a Criminal Justice and Drama graduate who works in management and sales health care for the elderly, as well as a well-regarded and awarded professional actress working on stage and in film, and mother of a young child), I absolutely, and somewhat shockedly, disagreed with the suggestion and insinuation.
My arrests and extradiction were covered in Shenandoah Valley local newspapers (my mother kept a clipping of one in her wallet, so she could show people easily and remind herself, perhaps, of her daughter's sudden and ignominious "fall from grace" by criminals there), as well as in Jonesborough's. They were also mentioned on television news programs, of which I saw a part while confined to Western State Hospital. Apparently no one in the region spoke up or out still to say that what was done to me and my property of two decades there was wrong and illegal, basically making all of the Valley's citizens complicit in incredibly diverse, wide-ranging, painful and nearly lethal illegalities -- not a place I ever again want to live or visit. It's a little similar to Nazi Germany where residents slid little by little into compliance and accommodation with fascism, the Gestapo, and torture-death camps on their soil, only later waking up to the horrendous horrors of the Holocaust in which they had participated and that because of determined outside Allied force.
I made friends with a diverse assortment of women, particularly, in Staunton's Western State Hospital and Shenandoah County's Jail. To amuse myself and them, I took to drawing realistic, abstract and surrealistic portraits of them, as well as fanciful cartoons reflecting realities of those two situations. At their request, the jailhouse G.E.D. teacher at first refused to make copies for them, saying that the cartoons were "too out there." So I drew one with a character amidst that regulated chaos saying, "This is too out there," and eventually their tutor agreed to give them what they wanted. One of my young jailmates who'd been there quite a few months with hormones rising and falling would occasionally allow one or another inmate friend to play with her as an expression of bliss slowly spread over her face. Once, when I looked at her afterwards, she shrugged, laughed, and said, "You gotta get it where you can." Short-haired and somewhat stocky, another of my first jailmates there was an unaggressive and active lesbian of male gender identification but not a "dyke." She genuinely liked woman nearly universally with affection and care, sexually and otherwise. Concerned, for instance, that I walked the floors barefoot, she drew a funny motherly/sisterly cartoon of why wearing the proscribed thongs was important, fussed at me about that off and on, and called me "the bomb," a compliment in street slang for speaking truth and acting upon it. The other uncloseted lesbian amongst us was a dyke who stayed pretty determinedly to herself and her long-distance lover by correspondence and occasional telephone calls, which are very expensive in that situation since they must be person-to-person collect and operator-assisted. One woman in particular from a local Christian church would visit weekly with the inmates. She told me that it was very difficult for her to make herself go to the jail each time but she felt it was a service to God and people that she was called to do. She felt that we were going through the end times predicted in Revelations, and I agreed with her that perhaps that was true.
One Friday evening, we didn't get our regular popcorn and my jailmates speculated sometimes wildly on the reason why. Finally, our favorite and popular guard, a tall thin man with a great attitude who said his life was like the movie "Groundhog Day," said, "Maybe it's something simple, like we just don't have any." One of my jailmates thought about that for awhile and finally said, "Couldn't you go out to Walmart and buy some?" I loved all my companions there, although I was a little wary of the stir-crazy young one who backed me into a corner of my cell one day, sort of blessing me out for something I said that she didn't like or agree with. The night before my final release, another jailmate and I were talking in her cell, sharing our "goodbyes" and "good lucks," when she suddenly blurted out, "Please don't leave me alone with her." But I had to. I really wanted and needed a cigarette.
When I asked Andrea, one of a few attractive and humorous young women, an off and on trustee who had been an exotic dancer previously and was my cellmate for about a week, what she was doing there, she quipped, "I followed an idiot to Virginia from Tennessee." She was from Knoxville, I think, and anxious to return home, gave me the bottom bunk bed, so I wouldn't have to climb a ladder to the second tier with my sometimes wobbly right ankle. In Staunton, unsequestered by gender except by roommate, one attractive young man appointed himself my boyfriend and brought me chocolates, apples, and other occasional treats he found now and again. He was not really mentally incompetent, just adrift in his life, and was released finally to a West Virginia cousin. As he walked through one of the two large gathering areas toward an outside door, he suddenly leaned over and kissed me hard, smack on the mouth, and grinned as he continued on out of there. His name was Paul.
Among my women friends in Western State Hospital was a young African American woman proficient in creating cornrows for herself and other patients who did my hair that way, with some arduous pulling and scalp pain, until after about a week when they needed to be undone. They were fun and I enjoyed having them. Another young woman called me "Farrah" for how my hair looked otherwise. One middle-aged and tall woman was a good haiku poet. Another, a roommate, had been married to a Jew and spoke Hebrew fluently. Yet another roommate -- I had quite a few switched in and out over two months -- was a married registered nurse who thought she'd figured out the perfect way to kill herself with medication but had failed, not her first attempt. One older woman believed there were electrode CBs implanted in her shoulders with which she could communicate with truck drivers. A very tiny woman from South America who spoke with a heavy Spanish accent had arrvied there via immigration authorities, begged to borrow my makeup, and then smeared it in grotesque over-emphasis all over her face. A small and delicate blonde French woman "techie" had been committed by her Northern Virginia husband for having an affair with her neighbor and was released back into his custody. The last I heard from her, they had moved back to France in the countryside near her family. A talkative and friendly older black minister had tried to kill himself with an automobile fluid after his wife of a lifetime died and had instead destroyed the health of his intestines, requiring heavy medication, as well as psychotropic drugs for depression.
The staff-to-patient ratio was one-to-one on three rotating shifts, including CNAs and RNs. Patients were provided with adequate, comfortable and attractive clothing, if needed which I did, from a storeroom in the facility, as well as toiletries that could be won during Saturday morning bingo games. What was called "running razors" in the over-capacity Washington County TN holding jail -- a huge new two-story facility with an outdoor atrium area, separate lock-down group cells for problem prisoners, and a lounge area with couches and television -- became individual requests for shaving materials, received and supervised by a CNA. In the mornings and afternoons, following informal meetings with a social worker for announcements and questions, there were diverse classes from crafts to group therapy led by a staff psychiatrist to which we were assigned variously according to perceived need. Overly distraught or out-of-control patients were prescribed pills or intravenous knock-out drugs, which yet another young woman friend specifically asked to have regularly. The staff provided me with materials for brightly colored drawings, requested a few for themselves, and once I found a piece of natural charcoal in the thrice-daily outdoor fenced-in recreation area, which had covered benches and flowers as well as grass, for sketching a female nude. For a few weeks, I had a private room and filled it with art materials and imaginings on the walls. Meals were copiously good -- including special dietary requests, like apples, delivered -- and there were two lounging areas with color televisions, books and magazines, tables and awkward chairs. When I questioned an aide about the seating, she said, "We don't want anyone to get too comfortable here."
Required by Shenandoah County officials to provide a written diagnosis, Western State psychiatrists said verbally to me that they couldn't say I was crazy, just that my mind worked differently than most. That's probably a fairly common observation of an artistic consciousness, and perhaps also of someone whose experiences have been as diverse as mine in locations, social strata, professions, education, interactional encounters and skills application. Finally, as an e-mail circulating maybe eight years ago through me from Carolyn Moore noted, "If your IQ is measured in the top one percent [mine has been repeatedly], that means that ninty-nine percent of the population doesn't really understand you at all."
My Shenandoah County Court-appointed attorney presented a possible plea bargain agreement, to which I acquiesced pretty quickly after the last two-and-a-half weeks in jail there. He then asked, "What happened to your wanting to go to trial so the truth would come out?" and I answered that I was too exhausted and debilitated from three months of incarceration and institutionalization, plus forced medication that dulled my wit(s) [e.g. I never created cartoons again from life after taking it, although I did keep drawing somewhat repetitive and frequently meaningless abstract designs] and being held without bond or bail possible, to stand any more of that level of minute restriction. And I really needed a cigarette. He actually and nonchallantly nearly postponed my final hearing for another two weeks, but I did have the remaining presence of mind at the time to insist on the date previously set and coming up in a few days.
Similar to one in the movie "Full Metal Jacket," the toilets in Washington County Jail are four somewhat separated in a row facing sinks and a mirror across maybe ten feet. The purpose, as with other behaviors like ankle shackling which forces short, awkward, shuffling steps and chains which cause the whole body to bow forward, is to humiliate and depersonalize. Jailmates maintained what they could of their privacy by ignoring each other as they used facilities. Three generously-sized showers there had curtains, and shaving was accomplished by what guards called "running razors." Being considered potentially dangerous, the activity was heavily regulated and supervised.
In Shenandoah County Jail, each cell had a toilet and small sink with two over-and-under bunkbeds with a small ladder in a narrow space. Every night bars were closed and locked on each and opened the next morning when breakfast was delivered in individual plastic trays along with a large foam cup of coffee. If there seemed to be a possibility of disorder, we were all "locked down," directed back into our cells and the bars closed upon them. There was one small shower with a curtain at the end of the longish common area, which was enclosed by floor to ceiling bars with a pass-through window for meals and supplies. As in Washington County Jail, the women tried to afford each other as much privacy as possible. One time I was sitting on the toilet, when a male guard happened by. I gasped and he said, "You're all right. Just stay put." It's probably a Civil Rights violation to have (all) male guards in a women's jail area, but Civil Rights law never stopped Valley authorities from doing anything criminal before. When refused paper and pen for drawing once as I waited in a holding cell for hours, I asked the guard, paraphrasing, if it turned him on to be so ludicrously powerful. From the neck up, his head turned increasingly red as he neither answered nor complied but simply stood, looking at me and flaming internally.
Tired of lack of privacy, I put myself in the solitary confinement cell and was assigned a single one on return from Staunton's Western State Hospital. Medicated, I thought of no more cartoons to draw but did sketch abstracts and some representational ones instead constantly to keep my mind and hands busy and to entertain and interest cellmates who requested copies or originals, all of them signed and with ACR's name and website address at the time. Before my final Court appearance, I was left handcuffed, shackled and chained, but in a dress, in a solitary room with a toilet and bench for two to three uncomfortable and boring hours without reading or drawing materials.
Dancing as a child in a ballet troupe, where the changing rooms allow no privacy amidst general comraderie and group purpose, also helped me acclimate to jailhouse conditions, whose duration was uncertain as the maximum sentence for charges against me was 36 years in prison. The stress of past, present and possible future realities was beyond measurement but alleviated in ways described. When first directed to the Luray Clinic, I was greeted as a substance abuser and nearly directed into those programs before I explained, with supporting documentation, that the presenting problems were psychiatric, not alcohol or drug related. Interestingly, when first arrested and jailed after calling 911, a Page County Deputy went out to my car, which my now ex-husband had driven and waited in for me all night, and, according to him, asked what I was high on. The answer, as I later told Sam Price, was adrenalin.
Being arrested, losing my freedom in every way and having criminal behaviors forced on me, as a reverse result initially of calling EMERGENCY 911 for help, was scary and sickening each and every time and day. My friend and ACR's Contributing Editor and Vice President, Carolyn Moore, once commented that I was on "an adrenalin high." My stress levels were off the charts of psychiatric and medical measurement as precursors for heart attack or stroke. I tried to lower them by therapeutic activities negated most particularly by continued verbal abuse and harassment from Sam and Paula Price and my mother and stepfather, as well as the continued existence of the spuriously-named "original Valley's home page," Shentel's shenandoah.com, with its obviously hypocritical, commercially and personally criminal history. They all seemed apparently to be trying to kill me and nearly succeeded as I had increasing heart problems all along.
A neighboring man who was in and out of legal trouble there and had once held a very responsible, good-paying job in the DC suburbs said, "Once they get you in the system, you can't get out." A middle-aged working man with four children, waiting with me and others to see our probation officer in Page County Courthouse, said he'd been convicted of drunk driving and served all his time but continued to be on probation for over two years because, with more in the future, he couldn't pay off his fine. When my four years probationary period was nearly complete, the officer assigned to me said, "We need to go to Court and request an extension of your probation, since your fine isn't fully paid." It had been set up on an installment plan by the first probation officer the day after I was released from Shenandoah County Jail at $40 a month. With alacrity, I said, "Oh, no. I'll pay it off." He looked surprised and somewhat doubtful, checking back with me once to reiterate the usual scenario. I assured him it would be paid and wrote a check for the remaining amount, over $1600 I believe, when the next and final payment was scheduled, showing him the receipt on a subsequent visit. I'm thankful to have had the lump sum resources to enable that. Otherwise, I'd have had over three sick years, if I lived, of supervised probation, including clinic attendance and deadening medication, left to fulfill.
A cogent legal argument could be made against forcing me through incarceration and terms of probation to take medication, and medical treatment, as a violation of my religious beliefs and civil liberties. I expect the Christian Science Church would be a party to that, as it has been previously and historically. The first quote for quite awhile and now in ACR/OSCR's "By Faith Alone" section has been "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons," as the primary tenet of that faith and mine inculcated since childhood and what I followed previously and subsequently as well as possible.
Toward the end of that period, I asked my probation officer, "Exactly what does the end date mean? Is that the last day I'm on probation, or the first day I'm not?" He looked worriedly hostile and answered, "The last day you're on probation. Why? Do you have plans for something?" "Yes," I answered. "I'm going to have a pina colada." He laughed with relief, along with the woman trainee accompanying him, who said pleasantly, "Counting the days, huh?" I agreed that I was and had my cocktail, as planned, for breakfast my first morning free.
My ex-husband, among others, knew I was very ill during the four years probationary period and did his best to take care of me and cheer me up with humor and fun activities, as did some others, until finally one morning, a few months after I'd been freed completely, he suggested that I move back to Jonesborough where I'd been happy and offered financial assistance for the transition, because in his own way he loves me and visa versa. I was too paralyzed and sick personally to think of or plan an alternative, more comfortable future for either of us, or anyone, but we just weren't meant for each other and we both agreed on that, that we were equally miserable living together on a day-to-day basis but remained good-willed and well-intentioned friends. In various ways, he's been as sick and sometimes suicidal as I and others have at the Valley's insistence on doing the wrong thing, for everybody and itself really in the long run. A losing game. A dead end. Benefitting no one and nothing ultimately. Just a waste of money, time, things, resources and people. Suicide.
Wanting to die in safe and friendly territory, I immediately ordered money from a brokerage house, packed boxes, and found an affordable car, my red Grand Am. It's perfect for me, and that was a good sign. The morning I picked it up, returned to the "rental house," loaded it nearly full, and headed for Route 81 South, it seemed to make a strange sound. I patted its dashboard and said, "Please hang in there. Just get me to Tennessee." It's become my lifetime favorite car and been absolutely no trouble at all.
Friends in the Mountain Empire made three backup disks of the ACR site files and I divided the on-line ones into six free sites created through Geocities to keep the content on-line while I was confined to six counties in the Shenandoah Valley. During the final court hearing, they convicted me of four misdemeanors, two felonies, and gave me six years' probation, two to run concurrently, of supervision, restriction, medication and counseling. Physicians at Western State had sent papers supporting a "not guilty by reason of insanity" defense, but I hadn't wanted to take a chance on being constricted indefinitely, which may be from a few days to years however their administration deems appropriate, to Central State Hospital. During his presentation the prosecutor, Todd C. Gilbert, referred to menopause as its opposite, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). In referring to me as blaming "PMS" on behavior considered aberrant by aberrantly behaving Valley criminals -- rather than acknowledging the reality that I protested in addition to behaviors being illegal their detrimental psycho-physical affect on a woman of my age at the time -- the prosecutor chose to ignore the reality that at 59 years of age I was unlikely to be experiencing those symptoms of femininity, the average age for the onset of menopause statistically being 53. He is now Republican Representative to the Virginia Assembly for the 15th District, appointed to the Courts of Justice, Education, and Militia, Police and Public Safety Committees and has been Chief Patron of much legislation including HB2347, which "provides that the willful, deliberate and premeditated killing of any witness under subpoena in a criminal case when the killing is for the purpose of interfering with the person's duties in such case is punishable as capital murder, a Class 1 felony," and HJ787, "commending the Shenandoah County Sheriff's Office." The Judge, who had on my arrival called me into his office and given me a very witty article for reading and publication in ACR, questioned my understanding of the plea agreement briefly and said, "Jonesborough. That's where they have the International Storytelling Festival, isn't it?" And I smiled and answered, "Yes, and Pangaea, the International Music Festival, too."
Diagnosed as having schizo-affective disorder bipolar type in reaction to all the criminalities over a long period of time inflicted on me and what belonged to me, and at the insistence of Shenandoah County that my mentality be psychiatrically classified, I returned to Page County VA for four years' probation requiring regular medication (Abilify and Depakote, most particularly), biennial blood testing to measure possible liver damage from the drugs, individual psychiatric counseling, biweekly women's group therapy sessions, visits to or from a probation officer every three months, no alcohol consumption, and slept a lot at first. Ill physically as well as mentally, I saw one physician three times and had about $700 worth of tests done, which revealed no organic cause, in addition to having two absessed back teeth pulled. The symptoms of illness turned out later to be a common physiological fear response and went away immediately and without any treatment or medication upon my return to Tennessee and Jonesborough.
I lived for the duration in the small two-bedroom cabin we owned with my ex-husband, who had agreed to move my personal possessions into it, handle the situation, and take care of me while I was sick. Which he did, or tried to. He did most of the heavy housework, including cleaning my sterling silver pieces a few times, and reminded me of things that I needed to do. He made me a raised bed garden filled with rich river dirt and sowed it with vegetable seeds each year, but I was never interested in working it and attended satellite transmissions (History Channels, National Geographic, CNN, movies, Sirius radio music stations); read (Exodus, almost all of John Grisham's novels, The Bell Jar, The Creative Life, loaned to me by Mimi, our outgoing and honest clinic counselor); wrote over 20 short stories and one novel, in addition to participating in Zoetrope and three bulletin boards: one for those with mental disabilities, another for women exclusively, and the last a literary discussion site for readers and authors; played computer games (Spider, mostly); and painted 20 acrylics the last month there instead. I ordered meat, fish and potato deliveries, which were delicious but somewhat sparing in size, from Omaha Steaks, went regular grocery shopping weekly, paid monthly bills, and went out to area restaurants with him. My favorites were Luray's Mimslyn Inn for their Thanksgiving buffet and Christmas Eve dinner, chinese buffets in Front Royal and Harrisonburg which included fresh shellfish and sushi, and Golden Corral in Winchester. One of his relatives (who quipped memorably, "What was she going to kill them with, her mouth?") hosted a family pig roast, my first and very delicious experience of that, by the east riverside to which the rest of us brought covered dishes and desserts. I also gained a lot of weight(about 45 pounds) requiring a whole new wardrobe, so I took all my beautiful little small clothes, including fur jackets and my favorite multi-colored fitted fox one, to Luray's Page One Thrift Shop and exchanged them for some pretty interesting, colorful and comfortable plus sizes instead. New extra-large clothing had turned out to be very expensive and the styles generally unappealing.
The Luray clinic psychiatrist, Dr. Joyce, liked my "Gifts" and "Senedo Seasons" chapbooks so well that she kept signed copies on the bedstand and worried at first aloud that the medication was keeping me from writing. Mimi, my counselor throughout, encouraged the completion of Tapestry with steadfast interest and fascinated admiration for the process, which entailed my writing at least 1000 words per day whether I felt like it or not. The characters came alive for me and seemed in some cases to choose their own interactions and directions, which I described generally for her. She led an interestingly diverse bi-weekly women's group I attended regularly, during which Mimi shared her creative and inspiring expertise as well as herself. Once in the group therapy session we were discussing IQs and their measurement. I mentioned that Mensa had offered me a membership a few years previous without my taking any entrance examinations. In typical abusive and denigrating Valley style, one of the participants, a woman on Social Security disability diagnosed as having dissociative disorder and some other socio-psychological problems, commented, "I heard that they'd lowered their standards." One morning I traveled with a few other women, counselors and patients, from the clinic to Staunton in a comfortable small bus for an all-day conference, including breakfast and lunch, held by Virginia Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services with lectures and large-screen projections and which was very well-attended, concerning programs provided now and projected into the future.
All these illegal jailings, institutionalizations, medications, Court proceedings, Court-appointed attorneys, servings of warrants and transportations cost the taxpayers of Virginia around $100,000, plus lost business revenues, purchasing and tax-paying from me and employees of OSCR had it been allowed to proceed, and international positive recognition and potential purchasing from other Valley businesses, particularly those related to tourism and regional specialties like traditional and modern crafts by consumers worldwide, nationally and regionally.
Visiting with my dying mother, at her request, every other day to fix lunches, keep her company watching movies on her television and helping occasionally with housework, I asked her once to borrow a book, thinking of an escapist novel of some kind. A proselytizing "born again" Christian and conservative Republican, she offered instead Ann Coulter's bookTreason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism with the advice, knowing I'd always been a liberal Democrat by theory and practice, that it would probably make me mad. I read some random excerpts from about half Coulter's ravings and they didn't. I just thought she was out of her head. Another time, we were watching the original version of "Gone With The Wind," when mother turned to me, as Scarlett's black slave pulled back and together on her corset stays, saying wistfully, "Those were the days, weren't they?" I muttered something incoherent while thinking, "Sure, if you were in the top one-tenth of one percent holding most all of the resources in the South and elsewhere. White. Male. Preferably with hereditary position and money. Otherwise, as far as I've ever been able to discern or learn, it was pretty much hell everywhere."
Although mother never had much good to say about my grandfather, and quite a litany of complaints centered on what she perceived as his stinginess and inferiority to my grandmother in social standing and educational background, the latter being somewhat well-founded but not an apparent problem between them, some part of her must have admired his business acumen and success because she always aspired, to the very last days of her life, to substantial profit and advancement through many sales avenues over the years. Although there were some earlier, the first I remember clearly was a matter of selling while I was attending my senior high school year and mostly on weekday evenings, china, sterling and crystal sets to brides-to-be and their entourage and other of their friends and families. She took a few private courses in sales techniques, but none of her ventures netted much more than a few drawers or closets full of unsold wares for herself and to give as gifts also. Almost all of the ventures required an initial financial outlay for display in personally-arranged sales presentations from which specific orders hopefully were made. In Florida she studied for and passed her test for an insurance license, but I don't recall that profession ever coming close to supporting her either. A later study and test for her real estate license yielded some minimal benefit as a seller of timeshares fairly briefly in Miami Beach. Her only truly profitable work was as a secretary and in some levels of administration, however she was not found compatible with management positions over other personnel and relieved of those duties on a few occasions, as her interpersonal skills tended to be slightly abrasive and sometimes insultingly and inappropriately overbearing. In her last decade or so, she attemped various get-rich-quick schemes related particularly to the internet, the last involving home cleaning products from which she also earned minimal amounts monthly for considerable effort. Some others required substantial monetary outlays upfront in promising results that never materialized so the net result was a sometimes considerable loss financially. It's interesting perhaps that her faith in conquering the mountain peak of sales, sometimes in a kind of Ponzi scheme, never really wavered over decades of failures, and after each one within a very short time, she was ready enthusiastically and energetically for the next "sure thing." Mother left, of course, no material inheritance for anyone except personal possessions that had been almost exlusively my grandmother's. Without weighting the relative value of differing philosophies, I've always wanted and worked to accumulate and leave a legacy of enrichment, material and otherwise, whereas I don't honestly believe that concept ever seriously crossed my mother's mind as either a worthwhile goal or attitude. I certainly never saw any evidence of it and, if her goal instead was complete and total consumption of everything possible, she did succeed extraordinarily well in that and tend to refer to herself also as a "consumer," however inept in handling extended credit multiply.
Mother wrote an article she showed me published in a local newspaper, the Harrisonburg one, extolling the virtues of volunteerism and going into detail about how she and my stepfather were involved in Habitat for Humanity. In point of fact, and its leadership would seemingly know this very well, my stepfather helped some on the very first house built by them and that was his total involvement over the ensuing years. Mother, on the other hand, volunteered with them for about a week at around the same time and then resigned without having done anything at all for or with them because, she said, she disagreed with the structure of their organization and couldn't work within it as she wished and thought appropriate. So her week and his month perhaps constitute their sole involvement of any kind in any volunteer organization there. But the article published took up a quarter of a page prominently displayed in a place where no one is telling the truth about themselves so a transparent and easily proven myth is promulgated, as ever, as fact and revered for what it says it is but is not and never was.
In a similar vein, two Valley women involved in the criminal abuse of my person and property were public proponents of protections and services for abused women. At its least, this is called hypocricy. Although never authoring any columns about it, I've been a volunteer and paid employee for charitable, cultural and political organizations since becoming a free adult in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Virginia, the states of my longest residence, as well as helping abused people personally and professionally, and do recommend it from a truly involved perspective for the learning, joy and companionship which are side benefits of helping worthwhile causes.
My disoriented mother had taken to promulgating the misinformation amongst people that I'd somehow mistreated her, which reminded me, among other things, of all the gifts I'd provided for her over the years on special occasions and otherwise. Peking Duck dinner for two at a fine Chinese Fort Lauderdale restaurant; a "singing telegram" delivered by a handsome young man bearing roses and a celebratory balloon and performing show tunes before a few of her Florida friends; a week's all-expense-paid stay at The Caverns Motel West complete with a small decorated Christmas tree and presents; a large basket of hand-picked gourmet tins and jars; theatre presentations and elegant dining excursions in DC, FL and VA; a 14-karat gold necklace; home-delivered flower bouquets and delicacy foods; a hand-knitted pink and white afghan with a teddy bear wearing earrings and a matching frilled dress; and presents from fine stores in Manhattan, Tennessee, and basically every place I've lived since becoming an adult. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to remember any of them in her later years, although they were a source of delight for her at the time of their presenting. Perhaps God's worst punishment is the misery of forgetting all the good things people and Divinity have given and done for somebody.
True epitaph for my mother, Dorothy Harris Scranton Gerlach Alterio Baillie
She was born into unusual New England wealth, comfort, culture, amenities and generous caring for her preferences and health. She died three times bankrupt of heart and lung disease in a curving backcountry dirt road unmodified A-frame at the top of hill paying a mortgage on her first house and quarter of an acre, supported by Social Security and her husband's earnings as a New Market Virginia factory worker. She never earned a college degree, associate or bachelor's, having attending a two-year Missouri women's college for nearly three years and majoring informally in equestrian pursuits. She dearly loved horses, household pets, and plants, having a "green thumb" in nurturing them, sometimes back from near-extinction, but was less enthusiastic about people. She could be fun and a good time when money and preferably fawning attention were lavished upon her. Once when I lived in New York City she sent me all her saved books of green stamps -- used back then in place of money to purchase from a wide variety of goods at their stores -- to help furnish my first apartment with my roommate, Jean, although she never visited me in any state I ever lived after moving from my childhood home, except Virginia. She was very concerned about looks -- makeup, hairstyles and wigs, clothes, jewelry and learned, acquired mannerisms to create the impression of beauty and grace -- in herself and everybody else. Once while watching the news, she commented that Martha Stewart never knew what to do with her hair and had only come in second during a prison baking contest. Personally, she preferred to serve Banquet frozen fried chicken pieces heated, although my stepfather made sure their four mongrel dogs had boiled fresh chicken daily for their meals. Generally a lifelong conservative Republican, she bolted from that to support the presidential candidacy of Ross Perot with avid and outspoken enthusiasm. In her later years, nothing was more essential to her happiness and well-being than letters she wrote and had published in area newspapers, all of which she copied and kept in three-ringed binders, now decomposed in that county's landfill.
My mother lived in a mythical world, identities and environments, of her own making that had absolutely no relationship to reality -- past present or future possibilities -- and which allowed her to justify many amoral and criminal behaviors over the years. Oddly perhaps, I truly loved her and tried to reach her many times throughout the decades but she was like a fortified castle to which no one, not even her mother or daughter, could open the doors. Once in my late teens I'd sent her a very long letter pouring out in words as honestly as I could my heart and soul in one of many attempts to find or create a bridge of affection and communication between us. She responded with a caustically critical epistle accusing me of "sophistry," which I had to look up in the dictionary, and it was another example of her projecting her personality and activities onto others, in that case me. She never "unconditionally loved" anyone, including herself really, and didn't know or experience the meaning of the phrase but was, rather, contemptuous openly or subtly of everyone around her, frequently those more intelligent, talented, ethical, accomplished and educated.
My well-beloved and delightful grandmother had died three decades earlier from complications of a massive stroke that left one eye closed and useless. I'm quite sure that was brought on from her completely losing control of her life and resources, confined against her will in a nursing home by my mother, who had managed to obtain, fraudulently, power of attorney over her decisions and assets. My grandmother offered her favorite nurse $10,000, saying to her, "I'm a wealthy woman, if you'll just get me out of here." That is verbal evidence that she was completely unaware that her daughter had gained control of her money and choices. Other than my mother and stepfather having moved into my grandmother's home due to their being broke and unable to pay for their own residence and necessities, there is no reason at all that my grandmother couldn't have returned to convalesce and recover or die amidst everything beautiful that she loved and cherished. The attorney who drew up various illegal papers at the time was a porcupine man with thin slick red hair who had been disbarred in New York and set up a quasi-legal practice on Florida's Atlantic Coast instead, a friend of my stepfather and business associate in selling bond securities through a scheme to avoid taxes. My grandmother died in a huge barren room with no decorations and quite a few other hospital gurneys. The last thing she said to me was, "There are beautiful things in the world, Jeannette." The Broward County Florida documents filed and probated in her name showed that she left this world with less than $2,000 and the badly-typed, single-spaced, 8-1/2 x 11 inch, one-page will in accompaniment ends with a very obviously forged signature in my mother's handwriting, not that well-recorded over eight decades of Marjorie May Harris Scranton.
My stepfather, George, was always very concentrated on the material, including money of course. Mother complained that she couldn't ever have a conversation with him about abstractions or ideas. He just didn't get it. Her example of that was that once she said something to him she felt was a fairly profound insight on life and the human condition. Waiting for a response, he finally said, "I think if I move that screw in the track a little to the right, I can make the sliding door move more smoothly." In its own way, it was a continual and absolute negation of her mental and spiritual existence, of which he may not even have been aware. She was a very physically beautiful woman, although she always found flaws in that natural presentation which few -- including George -- ever saw, with dreamy, blissed-out hazel eyes of changing shades and minglings of gray and blue and green.
Although mother had said in my stepfather's presence that everything in their house of hers and our family's belonged to me and that I should take them when she died, which she knew she would immanently, when the time arrived my stepfather took charge. My step-sister Diana made two trips up from the home in Florida she and her husband, both stock brokers and with an adopted Haitian daughter, own to sort through and collect mother's possessions. I was too ill to protest, argue or fight back for what belonged by right and mother's repeated declarations to me. Diana took the set of monogrammed sterling silver place settings that we had used all during my childhood and subsequent to that, all of the paintings, my grandmother's diamond wedding and engagement rings, and an antique 14-karat gold plated demitasse set enamelled with flowers that had been around since I first remember being able to see and focus on material reality. My stepfather tried to sell some of the old family books but wasn't offered reasonable prices for them, so allowed me a small selection. Strangely, George didn't recognize the potential market value of my grandmother's signed and numbered Tiffany bowl in the Favrille pattern of which there are examples, for instance, in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Art along with their Rembrandts and Reubens. He meant to leave it and some other items negligibly and without any appreciation for their true significance with the the house, which he sold furnished and "as is." When I realized that, I grabbed the smaller family heirlooms but hadn't storage space for others and couldn't heft the marble bust of a woman's head with wings, most likely someone in my family generations earlier, and that had been with someone in my family since I was first able to focus and acknowledge our surroundings. Before moving down further south finally and in with his daughter, he did insist that I accept a Christmas CD of Diana Ross recordings entitled, "Keeping Spirits Bright." When I opened the cover so many months later, there was nothing inside.
Having been good friends, although usually geographically separated by many miles, for over three decades, Diana called me several times and spoke at length about her life and that of her daughter, an African-Haitian orphan five years old at the time of adoption. She was very busy and involved as head of the Parent/Teachers Association in the Miami school her daughter attends and also working out of an office in her house professionally, as well as supervising an addition there to accommodate her father by adoption and his dogs. Diana kept the beautiful Italian last name of her first husband, a musician who plays guitar and sang singly and with his bands, most particularly when they lived in a trailer with many stray cats on Key West in the 70s. I believe she'll enjoy and take good care of the family treasures in her keeping now.
Amongst my families' very beautiful and frequently valuable possessions inherited as a legacy from my grandmother years earlier were two examples of Favrille pattern decorator pieces signed and numbered by Tiffany who became famous for his creation and mastery of a technique that resulted in translucently rainbow-colored glassware, examples of which are in the Smithsonian amongst other museums worldwide. In appearance it's somewhat similar to the carnival glass that's so popular and well-known throughout Appalachia but without the tangerine tinge. I had lent one while living in the Valley to a D.C.-area friend, partly for safekeeping and also because she enjoyed and appreciated fine antiques, and kept most of the remaining and irreplaceable examples of crystal, china, sterling and small art pieces, signed and/or monogrammed, put away out of sight for safekeeping from theft and/or accidental breakage in an area that is "rough" in many definitions of that word. In a stroke of inadvertent luck, I managed to save the other Tiffany from the avarcious hands of my stepfather, and stepsister, as he packed and moved back to Florida to live with her and her husband and their adopted Jamaican daughter. Unfortunately, other irreplaceable items of historic and connoisseur interest are gone forever. A favorite was a very small, maybe one inch by two inches, navy leather-bound Methodist hymanal with miniscule print, a latch and my great-great-grandmother's name embossed on it. A few others, including small 19th century framed deurogotypes and two-dimensional paintings of family members, I packed and sent to my Goddaughter as gifts before returning to the Valley more or less forcibly in 2003. A complete leather-bound set of all the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson with most of the pages still uncut was destroyed nearly completely in the geographic transitions forced on me by the Valley's insistent criminalities. Other representative volumes from earlier eras, interests and values survived more or less intact including relative photographs also from the 19th century onward. Others are framed in sterling silver, taken by a popular "society photographer" in Manhattan, carefully posed and signed by him. One black-and-white, for instance, shows me as a very young child gazing down in rapturous wonder toward a glass bowl on the rug of live goldfish, but there are many others equally artful of relatives throughout the years.
About a year before I moved back to Tennessee, we obtained an absolutely adorable male Jack Russell Terrier puppy, whom we named Hoss. Jack Russell's are very fast, bred to chase and kill farm rats and rodents originally. Hoss loved to run on a long chain in the yard, nap in the sun, and shake things until they were "dead." He had lots of toys, was carried around, talked with, petted frequently, and very well fed, including his favorite treat, dried pig's ears. He most enjoyed, though, curling up on my chest, even when I was sitting up, to sleep, sort of like my cat Monster used to like dozing on top of my head with all four paws entangled in my hair. Hoss was really hard to housetrain, though, and I finally hit him in exasperation, after cleaning up linoleum messes and trying unsuccessfully to remove carpet stains, for peeing on the kitchen floor. No other technique had worked, but he was so used to my cuddling and loving him, he never did it again really. It shocked him too much. I had to leave him in Virginia because my current living arrangement wouldn't accommodate his needs, but Hoss was a real joy to know for the time I was with him.
Physically ill, as well as plagued mentally by nightmares waking and sleeping, I ranged between varying degress of mute until perhaps the last six months there, when vivid recollections from throughout my lifetime suddenly filled my consciousness and became chatty verbalizations. During the last month I painted twenty acrylic canvases of somewhat surrealistic country scenes, abstract expressions, and one of humanity called Faces. I had also written fifty-three short stories between around 900 to over 4000 words, a few of which were published and liked in the website Zoetrope which also provided enthusiastic kudos for Liberty Enlightening The World in its graphic art section, in addition to the novel Tapestry during the first year or so there.
My ex was unable again to find or keep steady employment, causing financial duress which led to our sale of a jointly-owned five-acre property in Nelson County for $17,000. Under probation restrictions regarding geographic travel and living, I requested and received permission to drive there and back twice for the posting and sales closing of that lot. I also spent about $8,000 of my retirement funds, partly on house upgrades like lining the chimney flue, roof reshingling, replacement windows and installment of a small cement back door patio. At one point my ex suggested that I take a job he'd heard of from friends cleaning a railroad station in Front Royal. Unwell and weak anyway, I demurred, saying, "That would be a sad story for a college graduate to be doing that for a living." The next day, he mentioned it again, adding, "I'll help you." Since he did nearly all the household cleaning except dish washing, in addition to some cooking, the idea was kind of an anomoly. On the day I left the area, he started a full-time job cleaning lavatories for a Warren County campground.
He told me that he'd been "too good-hearted" in allowing me to live the past four years in the home we jointly owned, totally disgarding my "good-heartedness" in allowing him to live in the comfortable, riverfront home I solely owned for 16 years. Of course, I also shared my furnishings and excellent credit with him, as well as working at home and throughout the area, caring for him most especially when disabled and ill, handling all the finances and investment properties, entertaining his friends as well as my own, doing my best to keep him out of social, employment and legal trouble, and arranging a surprise party for his 40th birthday. And, of couse, I was jailed originally, after calling EMERGENCY 911 partly for refusing again to say anything that might cause his incarceration.
During those four years, we entertained a few friends in "the rental house" and stopped by the homes of others and the family of my ex off and on, including an elderly aunt of his who lived in a hollowed out two-story house with only the kitchen and living room, used as a bedroom, open and functional at all. She was bedridden and one of her neices, my ex's youngest sister, was paid $800 a month by the state to stay with her and make sure she had what she needed as well as possible -- something in earlier times a caring relative might do just out of filial duty and affection. The house had no plumbing or running water or air conditioning or indoor heat except for a small woodstove. A distant relative who was overly fond of chickens, but not in a way considered inhumane or criminal in the Valley, stopped by off and on also there. He'd been prosecuted previously for sexually abusing one of his daughters and survived on minimal welfare payments and food stamps, although he had been a skilled carpenter at one time. Another of my ex's siblings lived on considerable but dusty and rock-strewn acreage in a piled-up one-story older house, a family keepsake, with an unusable porch and a long trailer in disrepair rented out to various other family members. The husband had critically high blood-pressure along with diabetes and she took Prozac daily in large dosage, although she suffered from serious depression despite it. Both worked at a nearby area trailer facility and she always had a new car. They also owned a house in Front Royal and had evicted an older renter, having her belongings placed on the curbside by police. A son-in-law, the father of two of their young grandchildren, one autistic, hung himself while I was there in a dwelling they'd had built to rent out also.
Living with his parents off and on in consequence, a cousin had become addicted to crack cocaine, been unable to maintain his employment -- a successful painting business at one time, and lost his comfortable brick home to creditors. His ex-wife and mother of their two children had become a closet alcoholic previously, which had turned out to be the primary reason for their separation and divorce subsequently. Another cousin -- there were many and they ranged in personality and interest and accomplishment -- ended up back in prison for the third or fourth time, after eluding deputies in a game of hide-and-seek for several months, where all agreed he was most adjusted and comfortable having spent the largest portion of his adulthood there. A neice --with her tattooed and earringed, affectionate and funny, good-looking husband --rented a converted chicken house with low-ceilinged small rooms, a woodstove, and a very large-screen television. She home-schooled their only child, a tween son, with too much assistance that left him in fact behind on the learning curve for his age and official progress, and raised purebreed terriers for sale along with buying and selling on eBay. The husband had been badly injured at work and medical bills uncovered had bankrupted them legally. Physicians prescribed for her what is known as "hillbilly heroin," for aches and pain partly attendant on her excessive weight gain where once she'd had a very comely and attractive figure and now had difficulty with even moderate exertion and exercise. I gave her one of my newer acrylic paintings before moving from there to sell or keep as she chose.
The "Minister of Light" who'd gone along with the trashing of my home and life and business there -- apparently because she wanted my property but failed to offer the price agreed upon by realty assessments, and stipulating that I hold the mortgage without a downpayment on the assumption she'd be able to pay on it monthly from rent plus some profit for herself, and having consigned her second husband, who'd raised her children by another man with generosity and care, to a small trailer and then a run-down small home, while she lived in their remodeled "manse" -- had had an automobile acccident some time after I'd moved away which had left both of her arms broken. As my best friend noted later, that meant she couldn't wipe herself in the bathroom without assistance from somebody else. She did, however, manage to build another home there to rent out and sold hers, and what had been her husband's also, for around $200,000, allowing her to purchase a home in the criminal capital of Luray, where no doubt she felt completely at home, having failed to turn a "hunter's paradise" into a PETA-zone.
Elizabeth Cottrell, who'd desktop-published "Shenandoah Seasons" -- a compilation of stories and articles and cookery from which OSCR had by permission and for mutual benefit in promotion and recognition also published a few on-line -- served for awhile as Tourism Director of the Town of Woodstock, I believe. I visited in her home a few times during that period and we also met for restaurant lunches there occasionally. She mentioned once that her publishing enterprise was in danger of bankrupting her husband, a physician, and served briefly on the Board of Directors for Shentel as it was claiming, unbeknownst to me initially and for quite some time, to have "the original Valley's home page," all the while all knowing of their own criminal complicity and duplicity in professional business and personal behaviors. After moving to Jonesborough, she wrote once of her discomfort that a teenage son had been removed from his sports team for being discovered as a user of marijuana and related a few of their discussions in that regard. She disappeared from the official list of Shentel Board members sometime after I pointed out discrepancies in past and present official participations and, later still, embarked on a commercial enterprise selling her skills in helping others express their real emotions in cogent and coherent linguistics. A neighbor and acquaintance of Hank, she'd sent him a sympathy card on the occasion of his sons' near-fatal automobile accident years earlier also.
Like my ex, a few of his cousins had criminal records for larceny, grand and petit, and drunk driving and/or narcotics possession and selling. One lesson learned is that one should never there consort with or marry anyone believing one will be able to uplift them with any assistance at all from officials or neighbors blindly incognizant of realities actually well-known and well-documented for years -- in the process, of course, behaving criminally themselves.
The two times I moved away from the Valley, I really couldn't wait to be wholly gone. In early spring 1998, John Waybright wanted to arrange a going-away party for me, at the Caverns or Parkhurst Inn Restaurant most probably, with folks who'd contributed to the content of OSCR, but I declined, citing time and energy demands of moving all my stuff while continuing site updates. In late summer 2007, my ex and his best friend, an excellent mechanic, poured over rag sheets of used vehicles for sale all over the Valley, thinking to find the best and cheapest for me by intense area travel and examination. Instead, very anxious for release, I insisted on visiting local used car lots, which are somewhat more expensive, and at the third one lucked into a perfect gem. I paid cash for it, waited two days for the dealer to have an important repair made, and finally claimed it.
Years earlier, my third husband had caught a baby turkey maybe two days old for me to raise. I put it in a wooden box with a chicken wire cover, laid a little straw on the bottom and scattered chick feed on that with a small bowl of water, all of which I kept in an outbuilding. The chick would never eat or drink, but almost seemed to mourn and died within a few days. A somewhat similar phenomenon has been related of native peoples on occasion put behind bars who refused sustenance and withered away in silence. One commentator suggested that was because they could not imagine past or future but lived totally "in the now," and that "now" was too discomforting and distressing for them to survive. Interestingly, while I was on probation no one ever mentioned a day when I might be free of restriction and medication. Instead the message was, "We've caught you in our trap and you'll never escape and we'll never let go." Fortunately, that was a mistaken conception on the part of some, and I was able to get away from those people and that place to either pass on amidst friends or recover in an area and atmosphere that I've loved since the 60s.
The morning I left I dreamed that Hank and I were sitting on the ground on the side of a hill or mountain in a very large field and forest just talking about everything that had happened. That seemed a good omen of things to come and I was anxious to get going. On my way out of town for the last time, I stopped by a small insurance broker's office and took care of that responsibility before heading back to the "rental" property. Making quite a few trips between it and my sweet, comfortable and cheery "new" vehicle, I discovered its capacity was greater than it appeared and quit when I was too tired, not when it was too full. A little while earlier so distracted by events, I'd nearly driven off from a self-serve gas pump without paying, startled at the thought that I might have been caught in that unforgiving atmosphere and thrown yet again into jail, or at least booked for a crime I certainly hadn't intended and didn't commit. But God and the angels were watching over me, so I was soon on the road again, over the Massanutten one last time, and headed with thanksgiving and some speed toward that blissful state line of Tennessee.
It's interesting to remember that some decades earlier, I'd also refused to take my mother to Court despite sound and prestigious legal advice to the contrary. My grandmother, a lawyer's daughter, had admonished repeatedly during my childhood particularly never to go to Court over disputes, and of my own volition I've followed her advice with my lifelong respect for her and her education, intelligence and expertise. The philosophical theory is that, if those most intimately acquainted with circumstances and individuals involved can't resolve their disagreements with some equity, why should disinterested strangers with no profound knowledge of persons and facts of a situation be able to do that effectively and fairly either. In calling EMERGENCY 911, I had no intention of inviting legal employees into my personal life, or that of anyone else, but merely to uphold my Constitutional rights and guarantees of peace, safety and security in my house with protection and service for which I'd paid generously over many years through various tax levies.
Most men and women are afraid in jail and prison of being raped, but I was actually safer with my generally friendly, often funny and helpful cellmates, and fellow patients at Western State Hospital, than I had been with criminals loose in the Shenandoah Valley, who had subjected me -- mind, body, soul and property -- to forcible rape of multiple variants, verbal and physical. While confined, criminally and against my will of course, none of my ever-increasing possessions were ever stolen and every sexual interaction I knew of in those environments was consensual, respectful, affectionate and occasionally amusing. Of course, I've never had any problems with aggressive force of any kind from the outstanding and congenial, enlightened and lively citizens of the Mountain Empire. Recipient of many gifts of goods, travels, parties, meals, friendly conversations and companionable visits, I've experienced instead behaviors toward me and my possessions exactly the opposite from what I knew in the Valley, providing contrasts of every kind and extreme. Mountain Empire people have gone out of their ways to make me feel welcome, safe and blessed with multiple bounty, natural and man-made. The result of these esteemably healthy and positive directions for citizens, material and community is fairly universal admiration and awards, respect and endearment in the hearts and minds of many, including me.
Fairly soon after returning to Jonesborough and the Mountain Empire, the Page County Sheriff was indicted on federal charges (that salary of around $100,000 per annum plus liberal benefits is largely federal and state grant-funded in an area where the cost of living hovers at the 86th percentile and a substantial proportion of the working-age population is unemployed or underemployed and/or recipient of welfare assistances as a matter of course for decades if not longer). Outstanding amongst a long list of crimes to which that twice-elected official later plea-bargained for 20 years incarceration in a federal penitiary were accepting bribes to allow the popular, long-time criminal sport of cock-fighting as evidenced freely by rows of gamecocks chained by one leg to reconformed 55-gallon drums lined along main country roads, and extorting sexual "favors" from female residents caught, however innocently or not, in notorious speed traps for instance. Attorneys there are purported believably to engage in similar transactions in exchange for representation against criminal charges or to correct criminal situations through their influence with a complicit Court and "law enforcement" system that feeds on itself in a loop of questionnable at best attitudes and activities. The highest fee I heard reliably to be paid was $20,000 to keep one non-violent offender from serving a longer sentence than he might have otherwise as charges piled against him. There's no good reason I can think of for the self-respecting who wish to maintain their health and property from harm and horror to live or work in that criminally compliant community where the general atmosphere is one of complicity and acceptance amongst the majority of residents who are predominantly both sexist and racist in their profoundest pronouncements and behaviors, some of them unusually brazen and blatant in my experience, and wish to remain that way as well as be a refuge for those who believe and act similarly. It and they are punishing severely, if illegally, of those whose natural instincts and knowledge are in factual conflict with all of that. The area itself is supported to a substantial degree by federal and state funding, at the expense of Northern Virginia residents most especially, for its roads and schools and governance.
Better for it to sleep.
Let it doze.
Let it weep.
Let it fall gently
into that endless deep
from which there is
and no recovery,
in this life
and on this earth.
Let it go
all the poor in spirit
and in heart,
to that eternal No
of which it is a part.
There are people, some of them ministers, who believe that sex as an activity is evil,... but everything else is sort of okay. Minor little sins like rape, robbery, theft, forgery, torture, beating, slavery, murder, perjury, "bearing false witness against thy neighbor," libel, slander, lying, prevarication, fleecing, scamming, misleading, denying, contortions of the Truth and The Word. No problem. At least we didn't sin today. Sex is our physical attribute: XX, XY, XXY, XXXY, YYX, YYYX, appearing male or female or hermaphrodite. Gender is our identification with male or female or both (bi-gendered). Sexual expression and satisfaction is heterosexual, homosexual, or bi-sexual, hedonistic or sado-masochistic, and may be procreative or not. Other less-common expressions like beastiality also exist and probably always have.
Misguided "fundamentalists" and "conservatives" believe that if you "go through the motions" of church (or synogogue or mosque) attendance, Bible (or other scripture) reading and recitation, and even tithing, you'll be saved. But if you don't know, experience God and The Word, and follow the teachings every day, you're as lost as if you'd never done anything but pray. "By their deeds ye shall know them."
The Golden Rule has nothing whatsoever to do with chastity and that misconstruction is a total misunderstanding of the message of Genesis, the fall from paradise and innocence to cursed humanity with its wars and sufferings for material power and, and over, things. The benighted belief of the Catholic Church, for instance, that real service to God and Christ is sexual negation and denial is not based on the Gospels, or the Old Testament. Jesus never said anything like that, nor did the prophets preceding him, nor any commandment of God.
"Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets." Those don't distinguish between sex, gender, ethnicity, background, wealth, position, skin color, physical attributes, language, expression, or locality, but are universal. Jesus also said, reiterating previous instructions to God's people, "Go, and sin no more."
Jesus has been the subject of a very long-lasting smear campaign, also, to distort and damage his identity and reputation, most particularly by the Catholic Church initially and continuing through other denominations of the faith. He was not, for instance, a pale-skinned gentile with blonde hair, or meek and mild. He was tough, courageous, bold. A man (with all the normal human male physical attributes, including body and facial hair and finger and toenails) who walked, traversed many, many miles, leagues, talking with strangers, enraged by the temple money-changers, a lover most probably, with younger brothers and sisters as well as parents and friends, devoted acquaintances, supporters and followers, powerful enemies and disdainful disbelievers. Maybe his nose ran from the wind and sand and his eyes, when not closed, reflected, expressed his soul. He had ears, of course, too to hear the rain and God whispering or thundering through it. Jesus confronted the wilderness, desert, cities, towns and countrysides, and contended with Satan. He was tempted with riches and material power, chose immortality instead, and fought, fights to deliver his message of serving God and man and thoughtful, conservative husbandry of all God's creation. We don't have a clue what he and other Gospel figures looked like, maybe because it isn't important really.
We do know that he was mortified -- mocked and crucified, undignified in a loincloth, with a crown of thorns on his head and a jeering sign proclaiming "King of the Jews" over it. From that he returned, walking the earth again with friends to prove that he was and is just that, then and still, always and forever the warrior king, the prophesied Old Testament Messiah who promised he would return to the world of men, the Second Coming, for the believing faithful, a healer who'll reign in peace and justice "for a thousand years" (whatever that is in "the eyes of Divinity") in the name of God over His creation on this small, spinning planet in the infinite universe He brought into existence with and through The Word, the mystery central to all that is and was and ever shall be. לעולם ועד (Hebrew). Κόσμος χωρίς τέλος (Greek). a da `do `lis do `ti `ga lo `ne `da (Cherokee, tsa la `gi, literally worship/pray to Christ). Świat bez końca (Polish). Por siempre (Scottish). Mundo sin extremo (Spanish). Welt ohne Ende (German). Mondo senza estremità (Italian). Dunia bila mwisho (Swahili). Umhlaba ngaphandle isigcino (Zulu). Mundo sem extremidade (Portuguese). Världen without avslutar (Swedish). Wereld zonder eind (Dutch). Verden uten slutt (Norwegian). 没有末端的世界 (Chinese). Mundial sem fim (Brazilian Portuguese). Svet beskrajno (Serbian). Lefase esegoka sekuba (Northern Sotho). Od veka do veka (Slovenian). Dünya sonrasız (Turkish). Byd heb darfod (Welch). Daigdig wala tapusin (Filipino, Tagalog). Veröld án endir (Icelandic). Világ nélkül vég (Hungarian). Maailma ilman häntäpää (Finnish). Jord uden slut (Danish). åååøìã ååéèäååè òðã (Yiddish). Navždy (Czech). 끝 없는 세계 (Korean). Svjetski dan sa kraj (Croatian). Thế giới không bị mẩu thừa (Vietnamese). Dunia tanpa akhir (Indonesian). Selama-lamanya (Malaysian). Світ без кінчати (Ukrainian). Wêreld sonder einde (Afrikaans). Свят без край (Bulgarian). Wओर्ल्ड् wइतोउट् एन्ड् (Hindi). جهان بدون پایان (Farsi). عالم دون نهاية (Arabic). 端のない世界 (Japanese). Lume fără sfîrşit (Romanian). Universitas saecula saeculorum (Latin). Le monde sans la fin (French). Mondo sen fin (Esperanto). World without end (English).
"Home -- that blessed word, which opens to the human heart the most perfect glimpse of Heaven."
-- Lydia M. Child (1802-1880), abolishionist, activitist, novelist, journalist, and poet who wrote extensively on justice issues for Native Americans, African Americans, and women
"Our life is frittered away by detail.... Simplify, simplify."
-- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), writer, dissenter, transcendentalist jailed for tax-resistance to the Mexican-American War and author of Civil Disobedience, arguing that conscience should be one's ultimate guiding light and influencing Gandhi and King
Meditations/prayers from Silent Unity's 2008 On Sacred Ground calendar:
"I am always in the presence of God, the presence of peace."
"The abundance of God is everywhere present and flows to me in fulfilling ways."
"I have instant access to the mind of God, and I am divinely directed in all I do."
"I am safe and secure in the presence of God."
"Through the life of God within, I am strengthened and renewed."
"With the love of God in my heart, I radiate peace to the world."