Dad and I sat on my back deck and sipped vodka tonics. Foxglove surrounded us. Gulls flew overhead on their regular South Slope loop. Then an immature bald eagle soared by. Conifers swayed in the breeze. Gillnetters floated upon Youngs Bay. I wondered when deer might appear and had apples ready to toss their way. This is quite the back deck for thinking. I’ve been thinking there a lot this last year.

At one point during our conversation, Dad said something about me getting, “a PhD in the American criminal justice system.”

I didn’t disagree. I’ve conducted (lived) original research inside the system no criminologist could possibly imagine, let alone document (novelists did, though, a long time ago). My dissertation is coming, I assure you, a dissertation unlike any in the annals of such a literary genre. I expect to liven it up a bit.

Dad’s declaration made me think. I immediately began calculating all the PhDs I’ve earned the last year:

In the silent dissolution of friendships.

In the multiple physical and metaphysical benefits of building driftwood forts.

In splitting one’s self open.

In how to become an American pariah.

In inventing rock band names to mock my situation.

In George Simenon’s Detective Maigret novels.

In somehow inspiring people to deliver neurotic personal agendas to me like so many unordered pizzas from Domino’s.

In taking the high road.

In waiting, waiting, waiting.

In developing the fine art of patience.

In not getting jobs I’m overly qualified for.

In recognizing and implementing the creative possibilities of beaverwood.

In writing words that no one will will ever read.

In Bob Dylan’s early electric phase.

In the sociological effects of massive marginalization.

In experiencing the vertigo induced when your Bill of Rights are violated.

In reading and then applying Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass as a means of transcending dark moments in the lobby of the probation office.

In jettisoning things I needed later.

In performing an incompetent job of hospice care on myself.

In dying but not really dying.

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