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Blue Star


By Scott Sullivan


Collateral Damage

Tom Brady is not the only celebrity I’m not mistaken for. Lebron James, Oprah Winfrey… who am I forgetting? So they’re rich and famous. Do they have a garuda from Bali, though?

Garudas are legendary birds with powers to go everywhere and protect people. A friend gave me a 4-inch wood one she bought in Bali because I needed it, she told me.

Now I’m 30 years nearer death folks still give me the bird but it’s not a garuda. We most need protecting from ourselves. But collateral damage is no fun either.

I love galleries. Water Street in Douglas hasn’t been on that Saugatuck street for years but retains the name because it is magic. When Gov. Whitmer fixes the damn roads, I may not join her with an ax but can tell her streets made of water never crack or have potholes.

Galleries that bear any name must bear me. When I stopped at Water Street last week to shoot pictures —Take an image, can you give it back? — I made like the Mayhem, the Allstate Insurance guy, turned, swung my camera bag … and SMASH!

Jan Thomas’ stoneware sculpture “Foremothers” wasn’t dead. But the 6-inch woman with a bird on her shoulder laid on the floor with parts of her frock and hood shattered. Nothing shows we love art like I breaking it. It’s that way with hearts as well.

“Collateral” is money pledged as security on a loan in case you default. It’s like eating escrow. I feel less secure knowing “collateral damage” inflicted in war and love cannot be recovered.

It’s not only sharp and/or fragile objects I can’t be trusted with. Words are worse. In marriage men learn whatever we say is wrong; if we don’t say it, it’s even wronger. Default on a loan, you pay. Default on a spouse, you’re alone and pay.

“Collateral damage” can be inflicted on any “facilities, equipment or personnel.” The latter is military-speak for people like you and me, dead, hurt bleeding. “Friendly fire,” a subset, affects only allied targets.

Friends don’t kill friends on purpose. Except when … How many murder victims are former or current loved ones? Death means you never have to say you’re sorry. Few mean to be mean, but assume a war theme — when I win only if you lose — and how does that make the world better?

Hindus view garudas as gods who can shape-shift into any form and, by flapping their wings, stop the earth from spinning.

Buddhists believe they have wingspans of 330 yojanas (2,300 to 3,300 miles) that can blot out the sun. Don’t mess with them.

India, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia have garudas as part of their state insignias. The Indian Air Force calls its special operations unit the Garud Commando Force.

It’s good having this guy, even a mini one, at my side. I also keep “Foremothers” — what is left of her — near my writing desk. One represents Freud’s Thanatos (the death drive, aggression, destruction), the other Eros (the life drive, love, sexuality, creativity). I wish I knew which was which.

Distinguishing between Tom, Lebron, Oprah and me is easier. They’re their own icons. Not so my late friend, Marcia. When she thought she was going nuts — Q. Why are all my friends crazy? A. They have to be to be my friends — she saw a shrink, who prescribed a poem.

“A poem?” I asked.

The late Saginaw poet Theodore Roethke’s “The Waking” — “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow … — bears Googling. It has that kind of protective power. Douglas poet Jack Ridl, who will roll out his new collection “Saint Peter and the Goldfinch” this spring, cites “The Waking” often.

Jack previewed “St. Peter” to a crowd last summer at his annual Red Dock reading. The title piece about knocked me in the water. I could have drowned or been baptized in one fell swoop.

It is more than a zero-sum game birth new works of beauty. Even when Mayhem smashes them, what animates us still lives.