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Salvador Dalai Llama

Because for Zen surrealism, you can't beat living in the Bible Belt...

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22 October
My birth certificate to this day maintains that I was born in El Paso, Texas, obscuring the fact that I was actually born in Juarez, Mexico, the great-grandchild of Pancho Villa's daughter and Ambrose Bierce, and smuggled over the border from Juarez to a better life in the United States. Of course there's no proof of this, because the government simply doesn't want you to know. If you want to believe the U.S. Government, you go right ahead. It doesn't cost a cent.

After a year and a half, my family moved back to my maternal homeland, Tennessee. In being born in Texas and growing up in Tennessee, I became thus a reverse-Davy-Crockett. Whether I shall escape his sad fate of being a congressman is still unsure, but I do my best to stave off the possibility.

These efforts included a steadfast campaign of drinking and obscenity, carried out in and near the town of Cookeville, Tennessee in the late 1980's and early 90's. Somewhere in that span of six years, I got a degree in English. I think I won it in a card game, but that doesn't explain the accompanying minors in mathematics and the history of science. Those were obtained during an abortive attempt at a degree in physics which I unfortunately had to leave off as it promised a future of possible material success. Many of my cohorts from this time are still alive, and have positioned themselves in key locations in central Tennessee, awaiting the day of revolution and libation to come. Patience, brothers. The time will be at hand. Viva La Winona.

Pursued by a nameless dread and the promise of further student loan monies, I absconded in the dead of August for Knoxville. The year was 1993. I remember it well, the heat would hit you like a barber's towel thrown in your face just before the guy planted a fist in your gut and a foot on your back as you hit the floor. And then it would all go black. You'd wake up the next morning somewhere between Market Square and the Old City, your ribs aching, your head spinning, your jaw sore and not even shaved. And you knew it was all because of her. "Just a few more courses, honey, and I'm yours." "I love how you teach. Teach some more. You know you like it too." "Not yet, baby. There's an exam. Just an exam, that's all. And then we can be together. Here, have another drink." And then there were no more excuses. She couldn't put you off any longer. The next morning, you woke up empty. You had her, but what did it mean? What good was any of it? And so you figured you'd head east, back to where it all began, back to the first public university in the country. She could come with you, or not. It didn't matter. You realized too late it was all in the getting, not in the having. Others would come and go. They'd have her just the same, and where would they go? Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts. Parts unknown and all points in between. She'd go with each of them, but she wouldn't belong to any of them. No more than she did to you. She was always like that. Yeah, I remember M.A. I remember her like the back of her hand, coming at my face.

I hadn't escaped all Knoxville connections, however; for a year, I was relentlessly pursued and ultimately engaged by a dame who shoulda known better. I tried to explain to her that it was no good, that they had their hooks in too deep, but little did I know she was working for them, too. For seven years, she did nothing but aid and abet, supporting me in my reading habit and my Ph.D. work. Think of it like Leaving Las Vegas, but with books instead of booze. Don't think I didn't try every trick I could think of: volunteering at marxist/anarchist bookstore collectives, fomenting graduate student movements, taking the laurels in bad poetry contests, lost weekends at triathlons on the Outer Banks, drinking at local hipster hangouts and sports bars/taprooms twice a week, writing a novel, having Iron Chef parties every week, and fathering a child. All to no avail. One afternoon, I walked into a room and was ambushed by five so-called "professors" who all claimed to have a completed copy of my dissertation. There was nothing to do at that point but start drinking tequila.

Now, I've hunkered down in a bungalow outside Knoxville, Tennessee. I've got a wife who's back in grad school, two kids who're both too smart for their own goods, and enough tequila and gin to last me a couple of weeks. Check back in for updates.

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