Thursday, January 8, 2009


Billy Ray Barnwell here, I would be the last person in the world to tell you how to run your finances, there are plenty of financial planners in the world willing to do just that for a fee if you are dumb enough to let them, but I do want to pass along the best piece of financial advice I ever heard or rather ever saw, we had stopped to eat at a Stuckey’s just off the interstate years ago on the way to somewhere, I forget where, we were prolly in south Georgia or deep in L.A. which in my part of the world means Lower Alabama and I was checking out the souvenirs on the way back from the restroom, you know the ones, the baseball caps with the Confederate flags that say “Forget, hell” and the sets of shot glasses with somebody else’s favorite college football team logo on them and the beach towels that say Harley-Davidson and the salt and pepper sets that look like little outhouses, stuff you cannot possibly live without, and suddenly I saw this plaque that you could buy to hang on your wall that said If your outgo exceeds your income your upkeep will be your downfall, the plaque said it I mean, not your wall, and I was dumbfounded, I had this epiphany just like O. E. Parker did when he was in the tattoo parlor in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back” and saw this Byzantine Christ tattoo whose eyes said to him GO BACK, boy I wish I could write like Flannery O’Connor, either her or Pat Conroy, his prose flows and hers shocks, I guess if I had to pick just one it would be Flannery, but unfortunately the only way I know how to write is like me, anyways I knew I had to have that plaque, I wanted to buy it so bad I could taste it but I also knew we couldn’t afford it even though it was only $9.95 because we had saved for months just to make that trip to wherever it was we were going and we needed every penny we had for food and for gasoline to get back home on, so I did the next best thing, I committed that saying to memory instead, who needs a plaque on the wall when it is emblazoned in your heart is what I say, so for years that saying has been my watchword, well more of a goal I would have to say, as there have been many times when my outgo did in fact exceed my income and I was very much afraid that my upkeep was indeed going to be my downfall but somehow we always managed to make it through to the next paycheck, thank you Jesus, it’s always darkest just before the dawn is what my stepmother used to say, not the thank you Jesus part, that was me, and she would still be saying it too only she passed away last November in Texas at the age of eighty-nine years, seven months, and twenty-eight days, not that anybody was counting, and she was right, about the darkness and the dawn I mean, because dawn always came and that black cloud would somehow have a silver lining and life would go on, except of course for her it didn’t as of last November, but you get what I’m saying. It’s funny how at the most unexpected times I get a flashback to a story I’ve read or a movie I’ve seen like that scene from Funny Girl I told you about, the movie Field of Dreams has that effect on me too because my Dad moved from LaCrosse Wisconsin to Cedar Rapids Iowa when he was in junior high school, he joined the Navy from Iowa, he and I were such different people, we never threw a baseball to each other on more than a couple of occasions, he was always working at the factory and I was always reading a book or practicing the piano, I was never very good at sports but I did love baseball and except for the minor detail that I couldn’t hit, couldn’t catch, couldn’t pitch, couldn’t throw, and couldn’t run, I could have played baseball, I always rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers whenever they ended up playing the New York Yankees in the World Series, so I was drawn to a movie like Field of Dreams, I become a blubbering idiot every time I see it, Udella Mabry’s cousin Darlene Abernathy says well why do you watch it then and I really have no answer except that something grabs me in the pit of my stomach every time Kevin Costner which is pronounced Kevin Costner finally has that encounter with his father, the person he could never communicate with, and his father, who has been dead for many years but looks as young as or maybe even younger than Kevin, thanks Kevin for building the baseball field and says “It’s like a dream come true” and then asks “Is this Heaven?” and Kevin looks around at the baseball diamond and the cornfield and says “It’s Iowa” and his father says “I could have sworn it was Heaven” and Kevin says “Is there a Heaven?” and his father says “Oh yeah,” and after a short pause in which you can tell Kevin is thinking “What’s it like?” his father says “It’s the place where dreams come true” and Kevin looks around at his house and his wife and his daughter and says “Maybe this is Heaven” and he and his father finally have that game of catch and up on the front porch of the house Kevin’s wife throws the switch and the baseball diamond is lit up in the growing darkness and the camera pans back and up and you see all these hundreds of cars with their headlights on making their way in the twilight to the baseball field all because Kevin heard the voice saying “If you build it he will come” and “Ease his pain” and “Go the distance” and went to see James Earl Jones as Terence Mann and then the both of them went to see Burt Lancaster as Archie “Moonlight” Graham who gave up his heavenly baseball career to save Kevin’s daughter from choking to death on a hot dog and by this point I have been reduced to a puddle on the floor thinking about what never was and what might have been and what part of the fault was mine, Virgil Abernathy says he can tell from all the time he spent in rehab that I am way too involved with that movie, I’ve never been in rehab but he is prolly right, some other movies I especially like include Dances With Wolves which also has Kevin Costner in it, some parts are almost like looking at a painting in a museum, parts of the movie I mean, not parts of Kevin Costner, oh and there’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Some Like It Hot and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and Prince Of Tides and Out Of Africa and of course the incomparable Casablanca, and if you ask me, which I know you didn’t but I’m just saying, the motion picture industry is in a great decline nowadays with the notable exception of the three Lord Of The Rings movies, and this is Billy Ray Barnwell signing off.

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