And Other Slices of My Life

Who in the . . .

by Dee Newman

Early, on the morning of June the 22nd, 1972, while standing in the sanctuary of the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, just two blocks east of our nation’s Capitol, amidst a noisy throng of mostly women and children, suddenly, with some force, a woman’s body pressed up against me. As I turned to face her, feeling the warmth of her breath upon my face, I instantly recognized her.

It was Candice Bergen. Only six months earlier I had watched her on the big screen playing Susan opposite Art Garfunkel and Jack Nicholson in the controversial film, Carnal Knowledge.

After accepting her apology for bumping into me, I turned to my left and nudged my friend, George, with my elbow.

George and I had left Nashville only twenty-four hours earlier. We had not had a wink of sleep. It was, literally, a miracle that we were standing there at all, unscathed and alive.

Three days before, on June the 19th Agnes came a shore along the Florida panhandle as a category one hurricane. Moving northeastward, it weakened considerably over Georgia. As it did, my friend and neighbor, George Walker, a freelanced photographer for a number of national news publications, suggested that we drive to Washington, D.C., to cover what was later to be known as the women’s and children’s “Ring Around Congress.”

Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, after we were well on our way, Agnes began to regained strength and intensity along the eastern coast of North Carolina, ravaging the mid-Atlantic region as a tropical storm, killing 129 people and destroying $1.7 billion in goods and property. The worst damage occurred along a path from Virginia through Maryland and Pennsylvania to the Finger Lakes region of New York, when Agnes combined with a non-tropical low to produce widespread rainfall and severe flooding.

By the time we reach central Virginia, the rainfall had become extremely intense. Many rivers and streams were overflowing their banks. Eventually, around 9 o’clock that night, we were forced by local authorities to hold-up in the community center of a small town just west of D.C. The once placid stream on the outskirts of the town had become a raging river, rising several feet above the bridge that crossed it.

The next morning after the rains had stopped, we drove out to the bridge to survey the situation. We soon found ourselves stuck between two large eighteen-wheelers whose drivers had obviously decided to attempt the crossing. Fortunately, my little Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, literally, was suck across the bridge by the wake of the truck in front of us. To this day, I still believe that if it were not for George’s size (six-feet-four-inches) and weight (nearly 300 pounds), we would have easily been swept away with the river’s excessive current.

When we finally arrived in D.C. we went straight to St. Marks where the women activists and their children were to gather before marching to the Capitol. George gravitated towards a small group of photo journalists clustered in the middle of the church’s sanctuary. On a raised platform at one end of the church stood Joan Baez, the event’s coordinator, her mother and her sister, Mimi. 

I would later learn from Joan that the demonstration had been nearly cancelled, due in part to the weather which had prevented hundreds and thousands of women and children from arriving either by plane, train, or automobile.

I also learned that Marion Barry, Washington’s mayor, and a small group of the city’s Black leaders for some unknown reason, had been trying for weeks to sabotage the march and prevent it from happening. It was later reported that the Nixon administration might have pressured the mayor and other black leaders to use their influence to prevent the march from occurring.

If it were not for the weather and a series of peculiar and mysterious disruptions this symbolic act of solidarity with the women and children of Vietnam may have been one of the largest demonstrations Washington had ever witnessed. Unfortunately, in the end, there were no more than 2500 to 3000 women and children who joined hands that day to circle the Capitol and Congress.

Despite the fact that every Black leader in the country, including Coretta King, and many White liberal activists decided to stay home that day, due to the flood and/or pressure from Washington’s Black leadership, the demonstration was held. And, was covered by all three networks, numerous newspapers and publications including Time, Newsweek and the Associated Press.

Now, as I was saying, after accepting Ms Bergen’s apology, I nudged George with my elbow and softly whispered, “George, Candice Bergen is standing right beside me.”

“What!” George loudly retorted.

“Candice Bergen is standing right beside me,” I quietly whispered, again.

“Speak up, Dee! I can’t hear you.”

After softly repeating myself for the third time, “Candice Bergen is standing right beside me,” George shouts, loud enough for the entire assembled throng to hear:

“Who in the fuck is Candice Bergen?"

In a State of Utter Despair

By Dee Newman

It was two in the morning. I was lying there in the dark, stretched out on her couch with her cat curled up on the coffee table and her dog lying on the floor beside me. I was thinking . . . “You fool! You could be up stairs with Lynn right now, making mad passionate love. You’re an idiot! The woman is breathtakingly beautiful. She all but asked you to come to bed with her.”

I met Lynn and her friend, Christina, six months earlier on the island of Maui in Hawaii at a place the locals call Ohe’o Gulch and tourists refer to as the Seven Sacred Pools.

I had spent the night before on the other side of the island watching the sunset from the rim of Haleakala Crater. I arose early the next morning long before sunrise to drive to Hana on Maui’s east coast. I had been warned by several people that “the road to Hana,” though awe-inspiringly beautiful, was extremely dangerous, and could, in fact, transport me to heaven or hell rather than to Hana, if I was not exceedingly careful.

I soon learned why the long narrow, often one-lane, winding road with dramatic hair-pin turns, perilous cliffs, towering waterfalls, and spectacular distracting views of the Pacific ocean hundreds of feet below had, over the years, witnessed countless numbers of careless tourists plunging to their death.

Taking the advice offered by a woman I met at the airport, I decided to use the return trip to absorb and take photos of the magnificent natural beauty of the unblemished landscape and not stop on the way over. Nevertheless, it still took me several hours to drive the 52 miles to Hana.

It was a glorious day, hardly a cloud in the sky, as the sun rose out of the ocean. After having an early breakfast in a small cafĂ© in Hana, I continue on to Ohe’o Gulch in Kipahulu. Fortunately, it was still early and there was only one other car in the parking lot when I arrived.

I decided to hike the 4-mile Papiwau Trail that winds up and along the stream with the same name, past numerous waterfalls and pools, through a dense mystical bamboo forest before eventually arriving at Waimoku Falls. The only other people I saw on the entire hike were a young couple who arrived at the falls just as I was leaving. Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the trailhead, the parking lot had become crowded.

After having a snack, I hiked over to the Gulch and scouted out several of the waterfalls and their pools. Selecting one that was nearly deserted, I took the plunge and swam over to the base of the waterfall. Before climbing up the rock face to the left of the falls, I thoroughly checkout the water’s depth beneath the falls for any obstructions.

When at last I reached the top, some thirty feet above the pool and turn around, two very attractive, bikini-clad young women were carefully laying out their towels on the black volcanic stone embankment on the opposite side of the pool.

I stood there for a good minute, pretending to take-in the magnificent view towards the ocean, allowing them to get situated so that they might observe my dive without being distracted. When I was sure their attention was completely focused on me, I executed a perfect swan dive from off the right side of the falls. As I surfaced I was met with a standing ovation.

I spent the next couple of hours – very-enjoyable hours – with the two of them. They were from Duluth, Minnesota, and had rented a condominium for a week on the west side of Maui near Kihei on Maalaea Bay. Though they were both very attractive and thoroughly delightful to be with, I had come to Hawaii to be alone, to meditate, and use the time to seriously reflect and think about my recent divorce. So, after having a late lunch with them, I decided to bid them adieu and get back on the road again. Besides, I wanted to stop and take some photos of some of those towering waterfalls and magnificent views I had only peripherally observed on the way over.

However, at my second stop, after finishing my photo taking and returning to my car, to my surprise, Lynn and Christina pulled up along side me and inquired if I had made lodging arrangement for the night. When I replied that I had not, they asked if I would like to stay with them at their condominium.

The days we spent together, before I flew to Kauai, were exceedingly comfortable and natural. It was as if we had known one another all our lives.

Weeks later, after we had all returned home, Lynn informed me by phone that her boy friend and her had reunited. Nevertheless, she continued to encourage me to come visit her in Duluth. So, it was not a complete surprised to her when she received a phone call from me, informing her that I was in Montreal, Canada, and would consider, since we were on the same latitude, driving over to see her. Though she was curious about why I was in Canada and so far from home, her response and invitation, after I informed her that I was on vacation visiting friends, sounded genuinely enthusiastic.

I arrived in Duluth two days later on a Friday around noon. The temperature was 105 degrees, the highest recorded temperature in Duluth’s history. Lynn was still at work and suggested that I head over to Lake Shore Drive where there was a large white sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Superior and cool off. So, I did.

The parking lot was full of cars. There was a large sand dune obstructing the view to the beach. When I crested the top of the dune I was shocked to see hundreds of people lying or standing along the water’s edge, but not a single person in the lake. As I said, the temperature was a sweltering 105 degrees.

Placing my towel on the beach, I made a mad dash for the lake and dove in. Immediately, my heart stopped beating; my gonads sought shelter within my body. To say that the water was unbearably cold would be an understatement. Though I had frolicked and bathed in glacial lakes at 13,000 feet, I had never experienced anything in all my life as excruciatingly cold as Lake Superior that day. My entire body went into shock. If the water had been deeper, I would have surely drowned.

The next day, Saturday, the temperature dropped into the high nineties. Lynn and I drove north up the west coast of Lake Superior to Cascade River State Park. It is well known for its seven cascading waterfalls. Lynn described it as an area not unlike where we had first met in Maui.

There are no descriptive words to adequately reveal the beauty, magic and charm of that day. To say it was merely enchanting falls far short of the pleasure experienced. The physical contact between us was innocent, playful, carefree, and uninhibited, yet left us desiring more. When we drove back into Duluth late that night along Skyline Drive with the lights of the city below us and a billion stars above, it could not have been more captivating. Later, as we sat in her kitchen talking, the physical contact became even more tender and intimate. Taking her shoes off and placing her bare legs on my lap, she asked if I wouldn’t mind giving her a leg massage.

Starting with her feet, I slowly move to the muscles of her calves and thighs. As the touching became more and more intimate, she moved closer, putting her arms around me. I could feel the breath of her on my face, as I continue to rub her thighs.

It was then, as it became obvious that we were both ready to move to her bed, that she whispered into my ear that her boy friend, Roger, who I had been told was backpacking in Montana, could possibility return home that very night.

“What!?!” I exclaimed.

“He is not suppose to arrive home until late tomorrow,” she whispered, “but there is a possibility, only a very slim possibility that he may get home tonight.”

As we slowly moved from her kitchen to the bottom of the stairs and kissed goodnight, I could not help but feel a bit foolish. As I said, she had all but asked me to come to bed with her. It seemed we were both ready and willing to consummate and gratify our desire for one another.

And yet, later, as I lay there in the dark, wide awake, stretched out on her couch, chastising myself for being such a fool, with her cat curled up on the coffee table and her dog lying on the floor beside me, suddenly, my earlier decision to forgo a night of passion and pleasure proved prophetic when the front door swung open and in walked Roger.

“Who are you?” he suspiciously asks.

“I’m Dee, Lynn’s friend from Nashville,” I replied.

“Oh yeah,” he hesitantly recalled, “It’s nice to finally meet you,” he said, shaking my hand before bounding up the stairs to his beloved.

Before long it became painfully obvious that Roger was taking full advantage of Lynn’s ready and willing body that I had, only an hour earlier, so thoroughly aroused for him. To top it off, as the sounds of their passionate love making increased in intensity, both her dog and cat lying right there beside me began to howl and harmonize with the shrieks of ecstasy emanating from the two lovers up stairs . . . leaving me, though somewhat relieved, in a state of utter despair. 

The names have been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

The God of Her Favorite Book

by Dee Newman

Recently, I was contacted by woman who expressed an interest in me. In the ensuing conversation she disclosed that her favorite book was the Bible. For those of you who know me well, I’m quite sure that you can easily surmise what the conversation was like and its ultimate outcome.

Though I knew (somewhere in the recesses of my brain) the possibility was slim to none, I mistakenly imagined that her interest in the Bible may be similar to mine, that is – a quest for knowledge and a desire to try and understand why so many seemingly intelligent and rational human beings in this day and time still are stuck in the "cave" with the Neanderthals, emotionally and morally unable to free themselves from fear and ignorance, unable to accept and take responsibility for being the evolved moral creatures we are, hanging on to a mythology that may, perhaps, have been appropriate during the “Dark Ages” when the mind of man remained limited in knowledge and understanding of the universe, but a mythology totally unacceptable today.

“Tell me,” I asked, “which books of the Bible are your favorites . . . the ones that describe our so-called creator as a manipulative and sadistic God with a serious personality disorder, demonstrating a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning, and aggressive behavior, using physical cruelty and violence for the purpose of establishing dominance, seeming to be amused by and taking pleasure in both the psychological and physical abuse and suffering of all living sentient creatures, frightening us humans with torture, intimidation, and terror in order to get us to do whatever "He" wants us to do, often for the expressed purpose of harming and inflicting pain on others (His and our imagined enemies), while at the same time directing us to live by a set of commandments that demand the opposite . . . Or, the ones that generally portray a loving God who sent "His" only begotten son to die on a cross and save us from our mortal sins, allowing us (as long as we believe and accept him as our savior) to disregard our responsibilities as evolved moral creatures?”

As you can well imagine, her response was rather defensive, offering a few lines of scripture to support her opinion that the God of her favorite book “is ready to pardon, is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.” Nehemiah 9:17

In addition, she suggested I read Hebrews 13:5 and Deuteronomy 31:6: where the God of her favorite book had promised that “He” would never leave her or forsake her.

I, of course, had to reply. I told her that I recognize that no one can form an honorable and accurate opinion about anything without first thoroughly examining it. I assured her that, yes, I had read her favorite book from cover to cover.

I went on to say, as someone who has existed on this planet nearly 66 years, I recognize through experience that many, if not most, folks, for whatever reasons, continue to develop their opinions (attitudes, beliefs, and judgments) about much of what they believe to be true through fear and ignorance. But, not me! Fear and ignorance sustain bigotry, I told her, which is an intolerable mind set that has caused much pain and suffering throughout the ages and will, perhaps, ultimately lead to the same fate for our species experienced by the pterodactyls.

Years ago, I told her, back in the 1950's in the little town of Norris, Tennessee where I was raised, I use to stay up with my mother late into the night and listen to WOR out of New York City and Long John Nebel's radio talk show. A frequent guest of his was a man by the name of Khigh Dheigh (pronounced "Kye Dee"). If you ever saw the original Manchurian Candidate, he was Dr. Yen Lo or if you ever watch Hawaii Five-O, he was Chinese agent Wo Fat.

Khigh Dheigh was not just an actor. He had a doctorate in theology and in his later years was the Rector for a Taoist Sanctuary in Tempe, Arizona called "Inner Truth Looking Place." Though there were many, the one phrase I heard him speak back in 1958 when I was only 14 years old that I have never forgotten was, "If you only know one religion you know none." From that point on I began a life quest to learn as much as I possibly could about all of the world’s religions.

So, as someone who is not unfamiliar with the Bible, I too, like Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) have found that "it ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."

For example, I asked her, (except for Noah and his family) why in Genesis 6-8 would a loving and compassionate God  drown the entire population of the world (an estimated 200 million men, women and innocent children),  along with millions and millions of other innocent creatures and make them suffer when a much less sadistic method of extermination was at “His” command? After all, an omnipotent God could have easily just snapped “His” fingers and made them all disappear.

Why, I asked, throughout the history of the world, has the “Omnipotent One” (if he truly exists outside the mind of man) chosen time and time again to not only exterminate millions of innocent men, women and children, but to do it in such a way that they must, before they die, endure unimaginable pain and suffering?

Why would an omnipotent God torture people, physically and emotionally, when “He” could easily change things to the way they should be in the blink of an eye? That is, unless, “He” really enjoys watching innocent men, women, and children (and other innocent creatures) suffer unspeakable agony.

Offering to her another example, I recounted the story of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 2:1-2, 6, 9, 10-12) where God orders Abraham to kill his son, Isaac, and present him as a "Burnt Offering." Though, I was sure she would be familiar with the story as any avid reader of the Bible would be, I continued with the narrative, describing how after Abraham ties Isaac to an alter (as he was instructed to do by God) with knife in hand, ready to kill his son, suddenly an angel appears and stops Abraham just in the nick of time, allowing Abraham to kill an innocent ram instead. I then asked her if she thought this story was about love and mercy, or about a very sadistic God trying to manipulate Abraham through fear . . . since in verse 12 the angel says, "now I know that thou fearest God"?

Speculating a loud, I wondered . . . how many people who believe in the God of her favorite book, The Holy Bible, would kill one of their children if God told them to? And, for that matter, what God, worthy of our respect and admiration, would ask anyone to do such a thing?

I asked her if she had ever read Romans 13: 2, Psalms 2: 8, or Deuteronomy 7: 1-2 and 20: 10-17 where the God of her favorite Book ordered and authorized genocide and the pillaging of others?

Or, if she had ever read the entire book of Jerimiah where the God of her favorite book ordered and authorized torture, dismemberment, pestilence, and cannibalism? If not, she should read it and then tell me with a straight face that the God of her favorite book is a kind, merciful, and loving deity.

By now, it should be obvious to anyone reading this account that, though this woman and I may have had much in common, any attempt to establish a meaningful relationship with her would have been for naught.