Sunday, March 26, 2017


Oliver Sacks in early years

Oliver Sacks is one of my most beloved writers and certainly not mine alone.  Many love his books and did even before Robin Williams impersonated him in order to tell an early part of his story.  As more unfolded, we gaped at the photo of him on his motorcycle, looking very leather, and then again gasped at his exploits as a lifelong power swimmer.  Thus I was pleased to discover this lyrical, loving account of his most recent years before death.  He had not had a partner before Hayes and he needed one, as much to explain the world to him as to embrace him, which Hayes must have done both delicately and firmly.

Then I read a story about Bannon in VICE.  My Safari has suddenly gone prudish and refuses to open VICE (among other venues it disapproves of — their checks must have bounced), but I went to Foxfire.  It was worth it as John Saward’s corruscating analysis of Mr. Dark is both entertaining and valid.  Somehow one ends up sort of sympathetic with this resentful, vengeful man, but watch out when googling for Saward because there’s another author by that name who is pastoral, a married man with three daughters who got a special dispensation to become a Catholic priest, which is not granted to anyone like Bannon — nor probably not like the Saward who was published in VICE either.

The next item that popped up on my feed was from Truthfinder, a data base scraper that promises to tell you the real facts about your friends and neighbors and to find long-lost people in your life.  So I entered myself.  It consists entirely of legal records of offenses: arrests, defaults, demographic facts, divorce and marriage.  As you ask about your subject, the website records your own “facts” but provides no way to make corrections.  I’ll say right off the top that I have never used the pseudonym “Skrivner” and Scriver is my married name anyway.  

Yesterday I went to Cut Bank to do the laundry (write that down) and Carl Old Person was there to wash his car.  “Miss Strachan!” he exclaimed, surprised to see me.  He pronounced my maiden name properly.  He was in the Browning High School English classes I taught in the early Sixties, and I haven’t seen him since, but evidently I haven’t changed that much.  You would not find this information on Truthfinder, though the moment would tell you a lot more about me.  

I didn’t pay money to see what my crimes were.  There are two very old ones that might show up, but only one would be in Montana.  Both were speeding: five miles or so over the limit, both on gorgeous Sunday mornings with no traffic on my way to preach.  (Truthfinder doesn’t know that.)  There are no records in Truthfinder about my career as a sheriff’s deputy with the specialty of animal cases ranging from scraping up squashed pets to cautioning a motorcycle gang to stop chaining dobermans to their parked bikes.  I never did get a case of someone using a dog as a deadly weapon, but such cases exist.  I did get rabies shots.  None of this is in Truthfinder.

Nor am I anxious to be found by people I offended in those days in uniform.  I had guns pointed at me twice, but no actual shots.  Also one of the dark sides of the ministry is that people tend to project all sorts of things onto you, esp. if you’re female.  They range from the “Whore of Babylon” to “Mom”.  My years in the ministry do not show up on Truthfinder, nor do my academic degrees.  The most incendiary days of my life, shared with Bob Scriver as Blackfeet ceremonialists, brought me a recent raving comment on my blog, which I deleted unposted.  It was anonymous and evidently a reaction to a paper posted on Researchgate, an open academic online journal.  It did not use Blackfeet terms.

If you really want “truth”, I urge you to buy “Bronze Inside and Out,’ which is my biography/memoir of Bob Scriver.  One local reader was surprised that it had so much about me in it.  They don’t think women or authors really exist, I guess.  I should put them in touch with the local person who said, “I don’t know what you taught these kids, Mary, but they won’t forget you.”  Carl didn’t.

But the most obvious source of info about me is my blog:  “”  I could never hope to have anyone write about me with the love Bill Hayes shows for Oliver Sacks, but anyway few people are as extraordinary as Sacks.  On the other hand, I have known — still know — people nearly that remarkable and love them intensely.  They don’t show up on Truthfinder, partly because some are indigenous and the website doesn’t compile reservation records — nor reserve records for that matter.  (Reserves are Canadian reservations and some of these people are Canadian.)  Some of my beloveds don’t commit traffic offences or anything else a web-crawler would pick up.

Ten years of daily thousand-word posts like these will tell you more about me that you probably would ever want to know, but you’re on your own when it comes figuring out the Truth in them.  Some of them are plainly labeled fiction, because I post short stories.  (Never poetry — I stash that unpublished.)  But I may have misremembered, may have plumb forgotten some of the story, might have written something that another witness would flatly contradict.  There’s a lot of controversy right now about what’s actually True anyway.

Recently I watched a remarkable film called “Match,” which is a story that reflects the consequences of getting DNA matches to discover relationships.  The idea is that Patrick Stewart (in QUITE a different role from StarTrek) is an old ballet teacher (very convincing, though he doesn’t dance) who is visited by a man and his wife because they think he is the father of the man from an encounter in youth that prevented the deceased mother of the man from having a career in dance.  The story goes along through reversals that change everything.  

In the process the real truthful moment is a short tour de force pas de deux between the old man and the wife, in which Stewart explains that knitting (which he does) and cunnilingus are similar.  (Don’t try to google this on Safari.)  It’s not the subject, but the open understanding between two dissimilar people that is quite wonderful.  A “Truth,” one might say, in an ultimate sense.

In these times, so much a fulfillment of Bannon’s vision of the world, one feels truth fleeing away from us.  But then while doing some mundane task, someone walks in the door and hands you a true moment from the past without so much as demanding a credit card.

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