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Lions Roar : March 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 34 1. Houma In Houma, Louisiana, there were big gray battleships every- where, bristling with howitzers, cannons, machine guns. They were made in Gulfport and Mobile, then anchored at the mouth of the Intracoastal Waterway, awaiting dispatch, bobbing in the gulf amid the deepwater oil-field rigs, on which all the men and women of Houma worked. It’s an old story: My friend Scott was small as a child growing up in Houma. He was not chosen for various teams. He had, for whatever reason, a tender heart and was appalled by the filth that came out of the mouths of his classmates. He imagined that there might be a better place, a place where children did not curse like sailors, a place where children could still for a little while longer inhabit the strange, wonderful, subaqueous world of childhood, with its beautiful muted melodies heard only by them and that strange and lovely shimmering light—the slow lulling dappling that seems to promise that everything that is good will stay that way forever and ever. In Scott’s mind, he imagined that farther north kids did not swear; northern kids did not sweat as much, did not roll around in the mud as much, did not splash through the black muck of a sinking bog with every step. He imagined that northern children carried a shining light in their hearts and concerned themselves only with doing good. When his father announced they were moving to Pittsburgh, to work in the steel mills, Scott was excited. He knew he would find peace and tranquillity in Pennsylvania. He just knew it. 2. The Steel Curtain It was 1976, the year the Pittsburgh Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl with Mean Joe Greene, baldheaded Terry Bradshaw, the elegantly named Lynn Swann, and Franco Harris with his terrible scowl. Every man, woman, and child in Pittsburgh had bought into the ethos that it was the natural course and order of things to hit one another as hard as possible: to knock out each other’s teeth, to gouge eyes, to crack heads. Scott came to be dis- appointed by his dream delayed. His cousin Rodney lived in Pittsburgh. Rodney was a seventh grader and a tough guy. Scott, in the fifth grade, had never really been introduced to his cousin but had watched him from afar and hoped that here was a potential friend and guardian, if only Scott could crack the code. One day he saw Rodney talking to the teachers—just shooting the shit with them, like a little adult— and he wanted desperately to connect and communicate. So, as Scott was riding past on his wobbly little bike, he cheerily gave Rodney the finger the way the kids back in Houma used to do. Scott meant it only as a gesture of solidarity, but Rodney didn’t take it that way. Rodney stared at him, then took off run- ning after him, a great blubbery bear of a boy. He couldn’t catch up with Scott, but Scott could hear him cursing and knew that at some point Rodney would catch up and that he would have to be ready.