Monthly Archives: June 2016

The Dream: a Train, a Frozen Prairie and Forbidden Knowledge

             The Dream:  a Train, a Frozen Prairie and Forbidden Knowledge
[thoughts from  ~burning woman~  by Sha’Tara]

I could hear the steel wheels clacking against steel rails, the sound made harsher by the intense cold of the Great Plains prairie in January.  Outside, snow had drifted and crusted in shallow drifts.  Here and there, shafts of brown grass stems poked through and small white birds clung to them, feeding in the killing cold, some twenty degrees below zero plus wind chill.  We went on and on across flat fields and frozen marshes and eventually night fell and only the rattling of the wheels remained.

It was a dream, one I’d had before and may well have again.

Dreams are funny ways for the mind to give itself reminders about important matters. 

This important matter is about grieving.  I realized coming out of the dream that I personally know nothing of grieving.  Oh yes, I’ve lost people, even close family people, but inside there was no such thing as what people call grief.  I don’t feel loss when someone dies, I just feel a need to organize the situation so things can get back to “normal” as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Don’t dwell on the oat crop wiped out by an early frost.  Don’t dwell on the dead cow that slipped through the ice of the pond and drowned.  Don’t dwell on the dead body in the next room.  Don’t wear black.  Remember… and record.  That’s what matters.

And from that dream on the cold wind-swept prairie, looking at the hard packed snow sparkling in the wan sun and those incredible little birds eking a living from dry grass stalks in such bitter cold, I also realized that I don’t know love.  I don’t know what is meant when people talk about love, any kind of love.  At best love seems to me to be a special type of friendship, at worst an annoyance; an impediment to the full enjoyment of life and a trap full of dangerous and debilitating attachments.

Grieving, loving: emotional entanglements.  People will say that it is necessary to take time to grieve for “their” dead or departed loved ones.  They will say that without love the world would be a terrible place.

But I don’t see it that way.  Grieving is admitting one’s insistence that death is an end of life.  It means that whomever has died is gone forever and nothing can bring that person back.  But why would you want them back?  Were they so precious, so important, so much a meaningful part of life that it now has a hole in it that can never be filled?  That isn’t true at all.  People are simply not that close except for very rare instances.  Rare indeed are those empathetic individuals who carry their loss through their entire life. 

And about love, seems to me that if people didn’t insist on promoting an emotion called love, they wouldn’t be so keen on expressing hate either.  These are symbiotic forces: hate cannot manifest where there is no love, just the same as “god” cannot exist without its arch-enemy, “Satan” or the Devil.  Duality.  Of necessity we live in a duality concept.  Everything is reciprocal, but why promote one over the other when all that means is that it amplifies the other automatically?  If shadows frighten, turning up the intensity of the lighting isn’t going to do the trick, quite the opposite.  Turn off the light and the shadows disappear.

Life should be engaged, yes, but never emotionally.  Emotional people are shallow beings.  They live on fumes and never really get to experience life in its deeper layers or its higher spheres, they’re too busy staring at the little surface ripples and blemishes on life’s surface.  They’re too busy examining their feelings and giving them politically correct terms to make them acceptable even when they are not.  Grief is surface stuff.  Love is surface stuff.  Hate is surface stuff.  Finally, faith is the most shallow emotion of all.  Faith, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – except for the fact that faith provides neither substance nor evidence, just wishful thinking.  Faith is assuring oneself that wishing upon a star will make it happen.  Do you have faith?  When was the last time you caused someone to rise from the dead?  Faith is believing that the wished-upon star is not only aware of our wish, but in a position to grant it.  All vices and corresponding virtues are emotionally-driven.  They can’t even overcome addictions – so what good are they?

Duality functions from reciprocity.  That is how all of man’s forces operate: push-pull.  Give-take, take-give.  All things being equal, that would work well enough.  But man’s world is a world in complete chaos, rife with inequity and injustice.  The give and take is neither honest, fair nor equitable.  Within man’s controlled status quo, reciprocity, or reciprocal energy isn’t a tool, it’s a weapon.  Every deck is stacked and the house always wins.

We need something better.  For the living we need something better than love.  For the dead, we need something better than grief.  Grief is useless: it’s never stopped anyone from dying and it’s never helped the survivors.  Life goes on.  More often grief is akin to guilt.  “I should have been there.  It’s my fault.  I should have done more.  I should have been nicer to him…”  As for love, the living deserve better.  How long ago did man learn about love?  Thousands of years at least.  And during those thousands of years has the world been made better by love, particularly by institutionally mandated love, as in religiously, piously directed love?  That’s a rhetorical question, and I rest my case with these three condemning words: it has not.

In the dream sequel, I am an observer.  Years have passed over the earth.  Long ago the trains stopped running across the prairie.  People died off and no one serviced the tracks.  Gradually they sank into the ground and the marshes and now nothing remains to indicate that once there were trains taking people across those plains.  But the wind still blows, the snow falls and makes shallow encrusted drifts.  The harsh cold turns the snow to ice crystals and the sun still makes them sparkle.  Here and there tufts of dead grass still poke through the snow and as they shiver in the breeze flocks of small white birds still cling to the stalks and find their sustenance to survive the winter.

I found it interesting that these things survived man, without loving, without grieving.  They survived on instinct and a knowledge not made chaotic by useless concepts.  They survived where man could not because man wanted to know more than nature was capable or willing to reveal without correspondingly taking responsibility for what accrued from that forbidden knowledge.

“A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep, or taste no the Pierian spring…” (Alexander Pope)

But man has tasted that Pierian spring, and too few drank deeply of its waters.  I.e., man chose to build an entire civilization without taking any responsibility for the consequences. 


Canadian Folk Songs: a change of pace

Some Canadian folk songs – a change of pace for this blog because what with all the “dark” stuff I’ve been following, I need a change of pace myself.  I hope you enjoy these, and others you will find on those YouTube pages.

The first song I present is “LOG DRIVER’S WALTZ”  It comes with a great cartoon video.    (log driver’s waltz)

Long ago in another life (!) I heard many of these old songs from the French Canadian perspective (well, I was raised with those people after all, and learned much of their colourful history and traditions!), but the English translation takes nothing from it at all.

This second one is by Stan Rogers, a great Canadian folk singer.  (I’ve included the lyrics with this song because there is a fantastic message for all of us at the end.)  


She went down last October in a pouring driving rain
The skipper, he’d been drinking and the Mate, he felt no pain
Too close to Three Mile Rock, and she was dealt her mortal blow
And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low
There was just us five aboard her when she finally was awash
We’d worked like hell to save her, all heedless of the cost
And the groan she gave as she went down, it caused us to proclaim
That the Mary Ellen Carter would rise again

Well, the owners wrote her off; not a nickel would they spend
She gave twenty years of service, boys, then met her sorry end
But insurance paid the loss to us, so let her rest below
Then they laughed at us and said we had to go
But we talked of her all winter, some days around the clock
She’s worth a quarter million, afloat and at the dock
And with every jar that hit the bar, we swore we would remain
And make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again

[Chorus:] Rise again, rise again, that her name not be lost
To the knowledge of men
Those who loved her best and were with her till the end
Will make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again
All spring, now, we’ve been with her on a barge lent by a friend
Three dives a day in hard hat suit and twice I’ve had the bends
Thank God it’s only sixty feet and the currents here are slow
Or I’d never have the strength to go below
But we’ve patched her rents, stopped her vents, dogged hatch and porthole down
Put cables to her, ‘fore and aft and girded her around
Tomorrow, noon, we hit the air and then take up the strain
And make the Mary Ellen Carter Rise Again

[Chorus] For we couldn’t leave her there, you see, to crumble into scale
She’d saved our lives so many times, living through the gale
And the laughing, drunken rats who left her to a sorry grave
They won’t be laughing in another day

And you, to whom adversity has dealt the final blow
With smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again

Rise again, rise again; though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again

Rise again, rise again; though your heart it be broken
And life about to end
No matter what you’ve lost, be it a home, a love, a friend
Like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again


The Letter

“A lie is more comfortable than doubt, more useful than love, more lasting than truth.” —Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

A short story,   by Sha’Tara 

       She ran across the freshly ploughed field, bare feet digging in soft loam, long dress held up with one hand, the other waving a yellow envelope as she jumped uneven furrows.

     “Samuel, Samuel!”

    The team stopped and the man waited, leaning on the arms of the plough, sweat pouring down his dirt-streaked face and opened homespun shirt.

     “A letter from Timmy…! she cried, breathless from her race across the rough ground.

     “Now, easy, woman. How d’you know it’s from the boy?” he answered cautiously in a soft drawl.

     “I jes’ know! Please, Sam, let’s go have it read!” Her eyes danced with excitement.”

     “Now, Susanna? Ya know the preacher’s on his rounds and teacher’s off for the summer… and the notary charges for readings.”

     “Please, I’ve got to know how he’s doin’! Please?”

     He sighed heavily and looked up for a moment: “Alright, woman, we’ll go. Hitch up the gelding. I’ll bring these in and feed ’em. Reckon the ploughin’ can wait one more day.”

     As they rode their battered surrey into town, she tried to imagine the contents of the letter, all the things her son would be doing and seeing. Even though the war was raging, he’d have seen the mansions with their armies of servants, the women in their pretty getups, maybe even been to some fancy do… “I jes’ hope he ain’t fallen for none of them fancy types. Who knows with young un’s away from home so long? Two years, three months and nineteen days…”

     She was jolted from her dreaming when the rig stopped in front of the notary’s office. They went in, Susanna holding herself shyly, a distance behind Sam. They waited patiently until the rotund man sitting at a desk, a shade on his balding head, stopped shuffling the pages of a paper, took a cigar from his mouth, blowing the smoke to the low ceiling, and nodded for them to approach.

     “Can I help you folks?” He had studied them and smirked inwardly. He already knew what they wanted by the envelope the woman was now holding tightly to her breast. He savored the momentary power their ignorance and threadbare poverty allowed him.

     “We need a letter read, sir.” Sam said, matter of factly.

     “Sure, no problem.” He snapped his fingers, “You got the two-bits?”

     “Two-bits? Ain’t that a heap o’ money for a readin’?” The farmer was incredulous.

     “‘Tis the goin’ rate these days, folks, what with the war on an’ all.”

     “Look, please, Mr. Raines” she came forward, daring to interrupt, holding out the letter to him, “it’s a letter from my son in the army, sir, from the war, an’ I jes’ want to know what it says… please?”

     Pushing out his chair, placing his feet on the desk and looking past her at a rider on the street, he answered arrogantly, “This here’s a business, ma’am. Gotta have money to make it run. If I read your letter for nothin’ everyone’d want the same priv’lege an’ I’d be outta business, see?”

     “Please…” she hesitated briefly, then tried again, “would you take some eggs, or milk, or a chicken, maybe?”

     “Didn’t you read my sign? ‘Course not, you cain’t read! Look at these here big letters” -he struggled his bulk out of the swivel chair, stood up and poked viciously at the sign on his desk, then slammed his fist down -“How many times do I have to tell you people the same thing? NO PAYMENT IN KIND ACCEPTED. That means, cash, understand? Good day!”

     He went back to his chair, relit his cigar and exhaled with extra satisfaction. He flicked open his paper with a noncha­lant gesture, ignoring Sam and Susanna who turned and left the office, the droop of their shoulders accented by another of life’s endless defeats.

     “I tried to tell you, woman” Sam said to her, not unsympathetically, as he helped her into the rig. “Edjicashun cos’s money and Ben’s edjicated and we’re jes’ dumb farmers. Like preacher says, we gotta accept this from the Lord an’ not go put on airs. Jus’ wait ’til Timmy returns and he’ll read us the letter. By the look o’ that envelope, I reckon it’s a mighty fine letter.”

     Moved by her silent, bitter tears, he reached for her with his large, calloused hand and brought her close to himself, flicking the reins with his free hand. She turned her face to him for a moment, then leaned against him, holding the letter between them.

     She rode the rest of the way silently, crushed by her ignor­ance and shamed at having taken Sam from his work.  Approach­ing their homestead in the early fall twilight, she did not experience the usual sense of happiness and security which the sight always gave her. She could not articulate the deep sadness which held her as she disembarked and entered the shack.

     She placed the letter on the small wall shelf above the table, next to the Bible and the faded blue ribbon Timmy had won at school in a spelling bee.

     Sometimes, on sleepless nights, Susanna would take the letter and hold it tenderly, visualizing her son standing by her side. She saw his green eyes sparkle as her hand went through his unruly reddish hair, his freckled face open in that special smile he had always kept for her alone. She would cry a little, then put it back. She never again dared to have it opened and read, although the preacher passed through several times, and the schoolmarm returned for another year.

     Rumors that the war had ended began to circulate through the county, but it was only when some of the boys returned and Timmy did not, nor send any more letters, that Samuel realized he had not written the letter and that Susanna had always known.


A Short Story By   Sha’Tara

            Downtown Sloanville there’s an ancient six floor apartment building, slowly falling into its last years. It houses many unfortunates and derelicts, rejects, ex-felons, alcoholics, drug addicts, many of them single parents, and one entire floor is basically “reserved” for the hookers and their trade. And this old place also houses me. Down in the basement, next to the service room where the noisy heating system abides, and where the paraphernalia from years of maintenance has landed, sometimes being carried down, sometimes just tumbling down rickety stairs to land, the worse for wear, on the cracked cement floor. Gravity gets us all. The janitor, maintenance man – that’s me – would then drag this stuff into the service room and stack it wherever space could be found. Much of it should have gone to the dump years ago, but for that you’d need a truck, and some cash, both of which the place cannot seem to manifest any longer. So whatever is too big for the six garbage cans allowed per week, sits there, a constant reminder of better days, an accusation for allowing dreams to die.

            I’m Baldo. I’ve lived here since I left the joint, a felon marked for life, some thirty years ago.   How did I end up there? A combination of booze, pot and stupidity which got me into a fight that got out of hand. Someone was killed, I couldn’t remember doing it, in fact I was passed out from an uppercut long before the fight was stopped by the cops. I was dragged out of the bar and thrown in a paddy wagon, that I vaguely remembered later in my cell. I had no family, no friends, no money, no alibi, no memory – a perfect fall guy. They gave me a pimply faced lawyer just out of grade ten. I got twenty years, reduced to thirteen by the parole board “for good behaviour and good signs that I was rehabilitated.” When I came out, my parole officer said I could find cheap accommodation here until such time as I found a regular job.  

            I had been pretty handy in the joint and I found that job: here. It suited me. I had no life and didn’t want to attempt starting a new one, so this quasi entombment between seeping cement walls and stained brick partitioned dereliction seemed perfect. I became “Joe” to those who didn’t know me, or “Man, get the f—k up here!” and to the “lifers” (those with permanent residency status), Baldo. Why? I am bald, sure, but why not Baldy? Maybe I look Italian, with my short, hunched over stance, brown eyes and reticence to enter into any conversation lasting more than ten words. I guess they assume I can’t speak English very well and that too is fine by me. Oh, one more thing, I like classical music – can’t get enough of it. And I like religious books, any kind of book on any kind of religion. There’s something soothing about reading these stories of spiritual people and spiritual beings and events. I know I found a lot of comfort in those books and damned if I can find any contradictions in any of them. Some people, they’ll tell you these books are full of contradictions, and that may be, but I’m not reading to look for things that don’t add up and I’m not looking for vindication, or “salvation” as was pushed at me when in the joint. Some people, they see me pull out a Bible on the stairs during a lunch break and they immediately think I’m a Thumper, but I don’t say a word. So then they assume I’m not too bright, which I wouldn’t deny.

            Usually the manager – when there’s a manager – will give me money to go buy supplies for the building, cleaning stuff, paints, some lumber and trims, basic hardware to keep the place from totally falling apart. The problem is always finding somebody with a truck when there isn’t enough money to rent the hardware store rental van. But I manage, that’s what I do. And often, I manage more than just the maintenance: I manage the building, minus the money entrusted to an absconding manager, or one who is fired after a drunken binge on the fourth floor. Did I mention the fourth floor? Well, it’s the hooker floor. It’s the most lively and noisy floor in the place, as you can imagine. Anyway, I am rambling here because what I want to say, I really don’t want to say.

            I feel really old now. These old walls, they’re closing in on me. I’m going to die here, soon, I know that. All my post-joint days I’ve spent basically alone. At first, I visited the fourth floor, or one of the girls came down to my place, but I wasn’t entertaining, didn’t drink and bottom line, I can’t afford it. So I became a ghost, a handy one, but a ghost nevertheless. To say I am taken for granted would be the understatement of the century, no, not this one, but the other one, the full one hundred year one, the 1900’s – the century that saw me born, saw me go wild, incarcerated, then slowly go to seed. That century.

            I don’t do news, that’s another thing. No TV, no radio, no newspapers, except it’s not a rule. I often read old papers and magazines I am hauling to the recycling bins. I do like reading. I have quite a few books here, collected from garage sales and open market stalls.   Just about anything. It doesn’t have to be English either. Sometimes I’ll buy a book in Russian or Spanish and go through it, reading as if I understood. I think that deep down inside me, there’s another me that understands this stuff.   Maybe many “me’s” even. I can imagine a Chinese me, walking the Great Wall, for example, or a Pakistani me climbing a mountain in the Karakoram range just to see what China looks like on the other side. I can be Hawaiian or Tahitian, and paddle a long outrigger canoe far out away from land, and stay out there for days, fishing and enjoying the cool, clear drinking water stashed in a water tight container tied below the prow. It’s not what I can drag out of the sea that I care about here, it’s just being here, alone, totally alone, and watching the stars move so slowly across the sky at night. Or the great birds, the albatrosses gliding past at times. Such majestic views. And I wonder, while I’m here, why I’m so lucky to have such a charmed life.

            And that’s what I hesitate to write down. By the standards of this world I live in, my life is considered worthless, a failure. I haven’t done anything, except that one stupid thing that got me in jail. After, I cleaned up after people and was responsible to keep a roof over the heads of people who are considered even greater failures than I. But as I consider it all, and realise how close I am to dying, I increasingly believe that I’ve been blessed. So incredibly blessed. I haven’t suffered. That’s one thing. And, I have lived, albeit vicariously, so many interesting episodes from all the people come and gone of “Block 1900” as we call this place. It’s in the 1900 block, Aspen avenue, you see. There probably hasn’t been an aspen anywhere near this place for 90-plus years, if there ever were any, but that’s how it is, isn’t it? I have to get back to my story here.

            Not only did I always have a place to sleep in, and stash a few personal belongings important to me, but I got to help others find a similar place when a breath of wind would have blown them over. I remember “Mrs. Jones” – that’s the only name I ever knew her by, she didn’t want anyone to know who she was. Those of us trained by joint secrecy can keep another’s secret better than any Catholic priest doing confessions and we know better than to ask.   She and her little girl Annie came to the building late in December years ago, down and out, no place to go. The child was crying, the mother was desperate.   I answered the door and let them in – how could I not? When I saw the state they were in, I led them down to my place and made some room in the infamous utility room for them to crash for the night. I shared left-overs from my supper with them and gave the little girl milk I kept in the old brown Kelvinator fridge – long gone now. I smiled inwardly – not one to show feelings me – as she put down the glass and showed me her white milk moustache. “Mrs. Jones” offered to exchange sex for the hospitality, which I denied, not that she wasn’t extremely attractive once cleaned up and in her dress. But I have personal rules, and one of them is unbreakable: never take advantage of someone who’s in worse shape than you are. We talked instead, and I mentioned the possibility of the Fourth Floor. She was afraid for her little girl, so I said she could bring her down to me when she entertained upstairs. So I set her up and she did OK, knowing she was under no pressure to accept questionable clients. Did I feel good doing this? Yes, I did.   I knew I was doing something good, and it showed, perhaps to no one else but me, but inside, I felt it, like the famous balm of Gilead if you know what I mean – and that’s what I mean about reading, I learned things, important things like that.

            For me, religious books were like old newspapers. What does it matter if the news you read is four days old, or four thousand years old? I think the older it is, the more reliable it becomes. It stands the test of time, you see. It’s like remembering past lives. I know, I wasn’t going to mention that, but it’s all part of the picture I’m painting here, on this page of foolscap with this dollar-store pen. If you can remember your old stuff, it makes you that much more real, and that much more rich. You can be more than you are, more of a fool perhaps, but still more.   Remembering, or reading old news makes you think. Daily news are no good, no good at all. You don’t have a rat’s ass chance to figure out what’s going on before another load of “news” is dumped on you. If I were editor of a newspaper, I’d have it come out once a month, certainly no sooner.   Once a month, people could read “news” that meant something, something they could savour, analyse, think about.   Not being buried under an avalanche of pulp crisscrossed with ads for stuff you don’t need and can’t afford or have no place to store.

            I have to stop procrastinating here and tell you the rest of the “Mrs. Jones’” story. Getting my chronology straight now, let’s see. We spent Christmas together, “Mrs. Jones,” Annie and I.   It was the best Christmas I ever had, not a word of lie. Annie was four years old then, and I got her a doll from the street. It was a bit shabby, but her mother washed and patched the clothes and I scrubbed the little doll body until it was spotless.   I used a bit of blue enamel paint to fix the eyes, and her mother used real makeup on the doll’s face. With a container of eggnog on the table between us, we watched Annie’s totally absorbed happiness as she interacted, mother to child, with her doll. From that time “Mrs. Jones” plied her trade upstairs and Annie did her homework and sometimes even helped me as she got older. The years passed. Not surprisingly, Annie was brought into the family business, so to speak, and did very well for herself, making good money, enough to take her from here to college.   Happy times all around until that night, Christmas eve, when Annie was coming to see her mother, having taken a taxi from a modelling job. A freight truck lost control on some ice on the by-pass and crushed the taxi. Both Annie and the driver of the cab were killed instantly. “Mrs. Jones” came down to me that night and we cried together, long, long into the night.   “Mrs. Jones” lost the will to live that night. She died of complications two months later. And I put on a few years I had been holding at bay. And that’s life, isn’t it.

            I think that people should all experience two things: a year or more in jail, and the life of a janitor in an old decrepit tenement building for at least five years. Never mind all the other stuff. Never mind university degrees, and jaunts to other parts of the world, combining “help” with adventure and romantic curiosity. It’s all right here, practically under your feet. But you have to look for it. And it’s scary. You can’t buy your way into my life, there isn’t enough money in the world to get yourself here. You have to have an inordinate amount of luck, and, I dunno, some kind of horse sense because it’s very dangerous. I’ll tell you what got me to where I could “see” a “Mrs. Jones” and her daughter.   After my stint in the joint, I was left without a shred of judgement regarding other people. They were just people, and no matter how badly they had wrecked their lives, they were still better than I. And that was the key to my success.

            Now, if you’ve read this far into my ramble, you will probably have a hard time accepting that I am successful. And I don’t blame you either. It’s how you are raised, and trained, you see. You probably believe, and can probably come up with the proof, that you are as good as some and better than most. Well, that’s what you need to succeed in your world. You need to believe in yourself. To assert yourself. To take advantage of every door that isn’t locked. Push, push, push. You need that glitzy resumé that will cause excitement among those who want to hire you. You need to convince them that if they give you that chance, you’ll make them richer, perhaps even famous. You have to have your angle and the right bait.

            Here, well, it’s quite the opposite I think. Here you do. You take all that you know and you put it to work and then you wait for the results.   If you are honest, hard working and maintain your innocence in the midst of the endless problems, never losing your cool, always proffering solutions to the problems people create for themselves, standing quietly aside when being thrown verbal abuse or even material objects then sooner or later, something slips into your heart from the stairs, from the walls, from behind those cheap doors with the fading and cracking paint.   Something so wonderful, it has no words, but as your heart expands, it brings tears to your eyes. And it opens your eyes too. You see and you know, and then you realise you no longer need anything.   You have everything you could ever need, right here, right inside you.

            I don’t know what else I could tell you. I suppose I should continue, but I am not feeling so hot right now, so I’ll just leave this here and go to bed. I might have another story to add to this tomorrow.


            One of the toilets on the third floor, in Jose Melendez’ apartment, developed a bad leak during the night, and Jose called the manager in the morning.   Darwin Barker, the manager, went down to Baldo’s room to wake him up and found his body on the floor, with the above “story” on the old metal table he used for a desk. The ambulance came and took the body away to be cremated. Mr. Barker read the notes and decided to take them to a friend of his who worked for one of the local papers. That’s how the story got out. That’s how I came across it. So I thought I’d share it with you. I found it not just a great human interest story, but somewhat troubling. It’s not what it says, but the reams of pages left blank that bother me – all that Baldo never tells us, but leaves us to ponder.