Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lives of the Saints: St. Fulgentius

Adapted by Dan Leo (Assistant Professor of Comparative Religions, Olney Community College) from The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, by Rev. Alban Butler.

Luxuriously illustrated by rhoda penmarq.
A "penmarq consolidated™" production.

FABIUS CLAUDIUS GORDIANUS FULGENTIUS was the descendant of a noble senatorian family of Carthage: but much decayed in its splendour by the invasion of the Vandals. His prudent circumspection in all the affairs he transacted, his virtuous conduct, his mild carriage to all, and more especially his deference for his mother, without whose express orders or approbation he never did any thing, caused him to be beloved and admired wherever his name was known. He was chosen procurator, that is, lieutenant-governor, and general receiver of the taxes of Byzacena. But it was not long before he grew disgusted with the world; and being justly alarmed at its dangers, he armed himself against them by pious reading, assiduous prayer, and rigorous fasting.

His visits to monasteries were frequent; and happening, among other books of spiritual entertainment, to read a sermon of St. Austin on the thirty-sixth psalm, in which that father treats of the world and the short duration of human life, he felt within him strong desires of embracing the monastic state.

Huneric, the Arian king, had driven most of the orthodox bishops from their sees. One of these, named Faustus, had erected a monastery in Byzacena. It was to him that the young nobleman addressed himself for admittance; but Faustus immediately objecting the tenderness of his constitution, discouraged his desires with words of some harshness: “Go,” said he, “and first learn to live in the world abstracted from its pleasures. Who can well suppose, that you on a sudden, relinquishing a life of softness and ease, can take up with our coarse diet and clothing, and can inure yourself to our watchings and fastings?”

The saint, with downcast eyes, modestly replied: “He, who hath inspired me with the will to serve him, can also furnish me with courage and strength.” This humble, yet resolute answer, induced Faustus to admit him on trial. The saint was then in the twenty-second year of his age. The news of so unthought of an event both surprised and edified the whole country; many even imitated the example of the governor.

But Mariana his mother, in transports of grief, ran to the monastery, crying out at the gates: “Faustus! restore to me my son; to the people, their governor; the church always protects widows; why then rob you me, a desolate widow, of my son?” She persisted several days in the same tears and cries. Nothing that Faustus could urge was sufficient to calm her, or prevail with her to depart without her son.

This was certainly as great a trial of Fulgentius’s resolution as it could well be put to; but the love of God having the ascendant in his breast, gave him a complete victory over all the suggestions of nature; Faustus approved his vocation, and accordingly recommended him to the brethren.

The saint having now obtained all he wished for in this world, made over his estate to his mother, to be discretionally disposed of by her in favour of his brother, as soon as he should be arrived at a proper age.

(Published also in classix comix.)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Boswell's Life of Johnson: 1

Edited by Dan Leo (Assistant Professor of Philology, Associate Pep Rally Coördinator, Olney Community College).

Copiously illustrated by rhoda penmarqA "penmarq™ worldwide production".

To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous, and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task. 

Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion which he has given, that every man's life may be best written by himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition. Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.

As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance, and from time to time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility in recollecting, and was very assiduous in recording, his conversation, of which the extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first features of his character;

and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.

Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson have been published, the most voluminous of which is one compiled for the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, a man, whom, during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I think but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of books and literary history; but from the rigid formality of his manners, it is evident that they never could have lived together with companionable ease and familiarity; nor had Sir John Hawkins that nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious parts of Johnson's character. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous labours, I must acknowledge, exhibit a farrago, of which a considerable portion is not devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping, a very small part of it relates to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is such an inaccuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an authour is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very unsatisfactory.

But what is still worse, there is thoughout the whole of it a dark, uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable construction is put upon almost every circumstance in the character and conduct of my illustrious friend; who, I trust, will, by a true and fair delination, be vindicated both from the injurious misrepresentations of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions of a lady who once lived in great intimacy with him.

(To be continued, God willing. Published also, in a much more pleasing format, in
classix comix.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

“Railroad Train to Heaven”, Part 356: the last bar

In the black-and-white stillness of the Little Caesar Room, our hero Arnold Schnabel has hit on a plan to prevent his divine friend Josh from being dragged back to his father’s house by that irascible third person of the Trinity known as H.G…

(Please go here to read our preceding episode; if you are desperately in search of a new lifelong obsession then click here to return to the very beginning of this Gold View Award™-winning 71-volume autobiography.)

“Enter the world of Arnold Schnabel and enter into a world containing multifarious and many worlds, worlds beyond time, worlds beyond worlds.” — Harold Bloom, in
Boys’ Life.

Josh and I got back to the bar, with Blondie and Bubbles still sitting there like two wax statues on either side of our two empty stools.

“We’ll have to put the Napoleon brandy back up on that shelf," I said.

“How about if we have a couple of shots first?” said Josh.

I looked at him.

But I didn’t say anything.

“Boy, you don’t fool around once you get serious, do you?” said Josh.

“I’ll go around and put the bottle back up on the shelf,” I said.

“Oh, heck, give it here, I’ll do it,” he said.

I looked at him without saying anything again.

“Seriously,” he said. “Hand it over.”

I handed it over. 

Who was I to say no to the son of God?

But then he performed another one of those small miracles he did every now and then, the kind of miracles you don’t really hear about in the Lives of the Saints or in Sunday sermons. He flicked the bottle up with a backhand motion, it turned end over end two or three times in an arc and then landed upright in the exact same spot on the upper shelf where it had stood before.

The bottle wobbled ever so slightly and then stood there silent and still in its place on the shelf, with its label facing forward.

“See?” said Josh. “Done.”

“Great,” I said. “Thanks, Josh.”

And so we took our seats on our barstools, arranging ourselves as best we could into the positions we had been in at the moment Josh had abruptly halted the flow of the river of time. Blondie’s hand was once again touching my neck, and Bubbles’s arm was once more draped over Josh’s shoulder.

“Hey, I just thought of something,” said Josh, and he tapped his cigarette ash into his ashtray in a thoughtful-looking way.

“Yes?” I said.

“Don’t you think Blondie and Bubbles will notice that our beer mugs and shot glasses have become instantaneously empty? Perhaps we should at least pour some more beer into our mugs?”

“Josh,” I said. “They’re not going to notice anything. Now let’s get the show on the road. We want to do this before H.G. wakes up, remember?”

“Oh, right. Well, can’t blame a guy for trying. You ready?”

I adjusted Blondie’s fingers on my neck. I took a breath.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m ready.”

“All right,” said Josh. “Let’s let it rip.”

I waited, but nothing happened. That is, literally nothing happened, because time was still frozen.

I looked at Josh. For once he seemed perplexed.

“What’s the hold-up?” I said.

“It’s not working,” he said.

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Now, don’t get excited. Give me a second here.”

I waited, staring at him, but all was still, all was silent but for the sound of my breathing and Josh’s, and, from across the barroom, H.G.’s snoring.

H.G. suddenly made a harrumphing noise, and then he mumbled something unintelligible.

“Josh,” I said.

“Arnold, I’m trying,” he said. “You know what? It must be the effect of that Napoleon brandy I drank. Well, that and all the other drinks I had tonight, I guess. Gee.”

“Keep trying,” I said.

H.G. had been silent for a few seconds but now he began mumbling again.

“Listen to him,” said Josh. “He’s probably dreaming about giving somebody a hard time.”

“He’s going to wake up,” I said.

“Okay, I’m really going to concentrate now,” said Josh.

He took a drag on his cigarette, exhaled, took a deep breath, let it out, and then shook his shoulders. He pressed his lips together and breathed in through his nose and held his breath.

I waited.


Nothing happened.

Nothing continued to happen.

Josh let his breath out, and then took a look around.

Everyone in the bar remained as motionless as mannequins in a department store window, and as silent, except for H.G., who was snoring again. 

“I hope I’m not losing my touch,” said Josh. “That would be awkward.”

“Try again,” I said.

“What if I’ve succeeded in becoming human? What if I no longer have divine powers?”

“No normal human could have tossed that brandy bottle up onto that shelf that way,” I said. “Not without breaking the bottle.”

“A mere parlour trick,” said Josh. “Restarting the flow of time, though, that’s serious.”

“Try closing your eyes this time,” I said.


“It won’t hurt to try,” I said.

“Well, okay,” he said.

He took another drag on his Pall Mall, and then closed his eyes.

I wondered if time was stopped everywhere, and not just here, but in every world and every dimension and universe. 

I wondered if time had stopped also in the next world, the afterworld, the world where Josh’s father and H.G. lived with all the saints and the angels, and in limbo and in purgatory and hell, and on the island of lost souls.

I wondered what it would be like to live for all eternity in a universe where nothing moved or breathed or made a sound. Except for me and Josh, of course, and H.G., who was now alternating between mumbling and snoring.

At least we would still be able to drink. How many millions of years would it take us to drink up all the booze and all the beer in all the bars in this completely paralyzed universe, and what would we do when we had drunk dry the last bar, the last tavern, the last taproom and the very last cocktail lounge?

But then time returned in a gentle explosion, and Josh opened his eyes, and smiled, and Blondie and Bubbles resumed their chatter where they had left off, Alan Hale the bartender continued walking to the beer taps, conversations struck up again all around the room accompanied by the music of the piano player, I think he was playing “As Time Goes By” oddly enough.

And I’ll hand it to Josh, he was indefatigable.

“Hey, Arnie, or Porter,” he said to me first thing, “how about another round? I’m buying.”

I knew I had to take matters in hand.

I turned and looked back at the booth where we had just left the sleeping H.G.

“Oh, hey,” I said, ignoring what Josh had just said, “look, it’s our old friend H.G. in that booth over there.”

“Oh,” said Josh. “Yeah. H.G.”

“Friend of you guys?” said Bubbles.

“Um,” said Josh.

“A very old friend,” I said.

“He looks weird.”

“He’s actually a very wealthy guy,” I said. “Just a little eccentric.”

“Very wealthy?” said Blondie. “Him?”

“Very, very wealthy,” I said. “Multi-millionaire.”

“That true, Josh?” said Bubbles.

“Yeah,” said Josh. “He’s about as wealthy as they come, I suppose.”

“Never even noticed him before just now,” said Blondie. “Is he asleep?”

“I think he’s probably just resting his eyes,” I said. “You know, you girls should meet him.”

“We should, should we?” Blondie said. But not in a sarcastic way. She knew what I meant.

For once I won’t submit the nonexistent reader to a second-by-grueling-second account of what happened in the next few minutes or so. Perhaps if I were a real writer I would, if I could, but I’m not, and I can’t, not with any more than a slight degree of verisimilitude, because it was all rather confusing, with what seemed at least three people always talking at once, and because I was more than halfway drunk, and because my leg was hurting a bit, as was my head, and because I was bored, and thinking about other things, who knows what.

To summarize then.

After some palaver about what a nice old guy H.G. was, and about how really fantastically rich he was, and after the girls quickly polished off their current cocktails, Josh and I and Blondie and Bubbles went over to the booth where H.G. was sleeping, and we woke him up and introduced him to the girls. Like a gentleman he started to try to stand up, which would have meant getting out of the booth, but Blondie gave him a little shove on the shoulder and got into the booth next to him. Bubbles slid in on the other side. Josh and I remained standing, though, and Josh raised his hand politely to a blond-haired waitress who was nearby collecting some empty glasses from another table and putting them on a tray. She came over.

“What’ll it be, sport?”

Josh already had his wallet out, and he took out another of those new crisp hundred-dollar bills of his and handed it to the waitress. I think she was Jean Arthur.

She held the bill up to an overhead light.

“Take care of my friends,” said Josh. “Bring the gentleman a quadruple Napoleon brandy and the ladies a couple of B&B-and-seltzers, and keep ‘em coming. But keep out fifty for yourself.”

“Big spender,” she said. “And what about you and your pal?”

“We have to go,” I said.

I took Josh’s arm.

“Yeah, I guess we have to go,” he said.

The waitress went off. On second thought I don’t think she was Jean Arthur. I think she might have been Carole Lombard.

H.G. wasn’t even paying attention. Blondie had taken off her white beret and replaced it with H.G.’s derby, and she was caressing H.G.’s bald pate.

Blondie was leaning over the table in a way that revealed most of her bosom, and she held H.G.’s little hand palm-upward in her left hand while she ran the index finger of her right hand in his palm.

“I see a long life for you, H.G.,” said Bubbles. “And I see good times in your very near future.”

Good times you say,” said H.G.

“Uh, look,” said Josh, “we just have to go meet some friends of ours upstairs.”

“What?” said H.G.

“We have some friends waiting for us upstairs,” said Josh. “But –”

“What else does my palm tell you?” H.G. said to Blondie.

“We’ll probably be right back,” said Josh.

“Don’t hurry back on my account,” said H.G.

“Ya know what this is?” said Bubbles to H.G., and she ran her long dark fingernail along some random line in H.G.’s soft little palm. “It’s your pleasure line.”

“My pleasure line?” said H.G.

“You got such a cute head, H.G.,” said Blondie. And she rubbed her knuckles on his bald head.

“Well, we’d better take off then, Josh,” I said. “Our, uh, friends will be wondering where we are.”

“Oh, do hurry back,” said Blondie.

“I see untold pleasures in your near future,” said Bubbles, to H.G.

“Untold you say?” he said.

I gave Josh’s arm a pull and without another word we headed for the entrance.

The big bouncer Maxie was still there. He was standing in our way, right in front of the door.

“Leaving so soon, gentlemen?” he said.

“We have to meet some friends,” said Josh.

“Who’s that little bald guy in that booth there?” said Maxie. “With Bubbles and Blondie. I don’t remember him comin’ in.”

“How very odd,” said Josh.

“It’s really odd,” said Maxie. “I’m wonderin’, am I finally goin’ punch drunk? Is this the end of Maxie?”

“No of course not,” said Josh. “I’m sure it’s just been a busy night and you just, you know –”

Josh glanced at me.

“Forgot,” I said.

“Yes, forgot,” said Josh.

“It ain’t like me to forget,” said Maxie. “And it ain’t been that busy. The boss don’t like it to get too busy.”

“Well, uh,” said Josh.

“Well, we really have to go,” I said. “Thanks a lot.”

“It ain’t like me,” said Maxie, and he remained standing there, between us and the door. He was a really big guy.

Josh put his cigarette in his mouth, took out his wallet again, took out another hundred-dollar bill, handed it to Maxie. He put his wallet away, then took the cigarette out of his mouth.

“Thanks so much,” he said.

“For what?” said Maxie.

Again Josh looked at me for help.

“Thanks for being so welcoming,” I said.

“Welcoming,” said Maxie.

“Yeah,” said Josh. “Well, I guess we’ll be going now.”

“Oh,” said Maxie. “Right.”

He reached over, turned the knob, opened the door. Josh stepped through and I followed. The hall outside was still dark, that hadn’t changed.

I glanced back over my shoulder. Maxie was holding Josh’s hundred-dollar bill up to the light. Then he closed the door, and Josh and I were out there in the hall, in not quite total darkness, there was a very faint and fuzzy pale yellow smudge way down the hall, from that one and only lightbulb hanging from the ceiling somewhere back around that far-off curve of the passageway, and there was also Josh’s cigarette, he took another drag from it, and its lit red end cast a soft pink glow on his face. So we had left the world of black and white.

“Well, that went smoother than I expected,” said Josh.

“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”

“Shall we go then?”

“Yes,” I said.

And slowly we started walking down that dark hall, towards the light.

(Continued here, because there’s no turning back now.)

(Kindly look to the right-hand column of this page for a rigorously up-to-date listing of links to all other legally released chapters of
Arnold Schnabel’s Railroad Train To Heaven©. Now published also in the Collingswood Patch™: “South Jersey’s finest literary journal, at a price you can afford.”)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"The Aging Hipster"

"the aging hipster"

by Dan Leo

illustrations by rhoda penmarq, for penmarq studios™

I am the aging hipster,
and everyone despises me.
Yes, I’m just an aging hipster
and everyone’s finally wise to me.

It’s horrible to be old
when you peaked at twenty-five,
And I’ve no need to be told
that no one cares if I’m alive.

I only thank God for the internet
For Facebook and for Youtube.
I comment and chat all fucking day and yet
To these brats I’m just a boring old boob.

I’m thinking of making up a new Facebook account
and pretending that I’m young and cool again;
I’m tired of being called a superannuated cunt
By every callow smart-ass hooligan.

Don’t they know I once shook hands with Iggy,
and even shot up once with Basquiat?
And, yes, I even once got jiggly
with Patti Smith when she was drunk at

Max’s Kansas City.
So why do I feel so shitty
when I look in the mirror?
I’d even settle for some pity,

but the contempt could not be clearer
in the eyes of the young fops
in the bars and coffee shops;

to them I’m barely visible,
and if I am at all I’m risible.
I’m just an aging hipster

with my moth-eaten black beret.
I’m just an aging pathetic hipster.
And, I know, I should just go away.

(Published also in "feiuilleton 13".