Lou Rowan

          L intended to marry his college sweetheart and that didn't work, but after he dropped her she produced their son, who failed to interest him. He became president of his family's company, which went south, his career with it, and his relatives, alleging improprieties, pursued him like balance sheet furies. He tried writing, but failed to keep his children's-books free of his bitterness. He studied the history, ecology, and the political economy of his region as, dependent on the girlfriend who materialized while he was president, he became more and more expert on how the world works.

          He damned his lineage and his luck. When he reached 50 he went on a diet and worked out rigorously in Gold's gym. His hair receded but his musculature was that of a college boy. His girlfriend was promoted, and they moved to a suburban house from which she could commute downtown to her actuarial duties. His files of crucial information filled the house, and it became embarrassing to entertain-not a problem because her work busied her so, and because his bitterness increased with his knowledge, and he felt himself constantly on the edge of the discovery his mental and physical exercise brought ever nearer.

          His relatives believed he was addicted to cocaine. The closer we get by blood or involvement, the less we know L, a principle governing the acuity of L-awareness from relatives to siblings to his mother, who disowned him, and to L himself.

I am his brother; I am struggling with my poverty of emotional insight. But I am a protestant brought up to believe that effort is its own reward, and I have persisted to the brink of putting my brother's case to bed.

          In June of 2004 our collective western culture absorbed a shock worse than a body blow. Bob Dylan, whose purity of intentions is a pillar or at least a brick in our cultural edifice, sold out, lending his wrinkled grizzled image to advertisements for underwear covering while uncovering the breasts and pelvises of women young enough to be his grandchildren. My brother believes deeply in Bob Dylan.

          Secondly, my wife was a textile designer before computers outsourced her work to themselves, and she designed the tissue paper that nestles against the underwear to which Bob Dylan scandalously lent his haggard visage.

          My wife has two pairs of panties from this company, one purple, one emerald. Each sports a small bow in line with her navel. The flesh around her navel is softer and smoother than my dreams of flesh. The panties have remained fresh and shapely since l993, unlike any other panties in our collection of underwear-I'm certain because I wash them.

          My brother works at home, like me. His girlfriend's name, like that of many of her upper-bourgeois protestant coevals, could be a man's name, and it is associated with the finer grades of a precious metal. Bob Dylan is a pseudonym. If you look at the covers of his early legendary acoustic albums, you see the pleasantly hermaphroditic image of Puer, or of a clown.

          My wife's name is very feminine, as is its diminutive, and it is associated with British royalty, with intercessory religious icons, and with a wealthy American colony.

          When Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan's icon, wrote about the famous river he so fluently and movingly sent to "roll on" through our hearts, he was in the pay of Uncle Sam, whose engineers were blasting and scraping to dam that river, inundating lands and caves sacred to the humans closest to native on this continent.

          I cannot say that I have made a surplus of overtures to my estranged brother, but I have made all the overtures, and when we are together it is painful, for as he makes his points about political economy, about his luck and his lineage, he hits me on my biceps and triceps with the backs of his fingers.

          It is clear to me as I ponder these clues that my brother's crisis, or stasis, stretching back to before the record bull markets we have enjoyed, has to do with his substituting Bob Dylan for his father, confusing Bob Dylan with his brother, putting Bob Dylan between him and his son, between him and his lover.

When I graduated from college, I went to a liberal protestant seminary in New York; I always intended to do good. My use of cocaine back East was minimal and unsatisfactory.

I do my best to forgive my brother for his malevolence towards me, and towards my sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles and cousins. I thank God for inventing secular humanism during the renaissance and the reformation, for it has freed me to worship the fertile field of my wife's belly--and not the false prophecies of a commercial icon the condemnation of whose repulsive image is inevitable to anyone who beholds it adjacent to the exposed flesh of once-innocent maidens sacrificed to the Moloch of our popular culture.