Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, September 30, 2016

Reading, Listening, Thinking, ...


Last night, I attended a reading at Hiram College--something I've done many, many times. This one involved some of the twenty-three women who had contributed to From Curlers to Chainsaws: Women and Their Machines (Michigan State University Press, 2016), a work co-edited by my wife, Joyce, who also contributed an essay, "My Mother's Singer" (about her mom's sewing machine).

Last night's reading involved a half-dozen of the women, most of whom had a direct Hiram connection. I sat among the almost-full house in the Pritchard Room, a common Hiram College venue for readings, and chatted amiably with a few current students, one of whom had written a review/publicity piece for an online Hiram publication. I was shocked, of course, when they asked me when I'd graduated, and I had to mutter the words, "Fifty years ago." How can that be?

Anyway, after some fine introductory remarks by Mary Quade (a Hiram professor of writing, a noted poet, a contributor to the volume), the women took turns reading portions of their essays--a motley assortment of pieces that involved tractors, a curling iron, a grandfather's radio, the 1986 crash of the Challenger (was that really thirty years ago!?), a small stapler, and a mother's sewing machine.

The essays displayed a variety of tones--from nostalgia, to regret, to amusement, to hope. Virtually all tempted tears into my eyes at various moments.

But what I noticed last night? Well, this is not all that remarkable an observation, but I found myself sort of traveling on several different pathways of words, pathways that led not only into the minds and memories and hearts of the writers but also into my own memories.

I recalled ...

  • ... in the tractor essay: a story about my great-grandfather Dyer, who, a farmer himself, died while delivering milk in his horse-drawn wagon out in Oregon; the horses took him home ...
  • ... in the Challenger essay: a reminder that I had applied to go on that mission--the "teacher-in-space" mission--a process that required, among other things, seven essays and an application form that seemed to go on forever, like Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Dickens' Bleak House ...
  • ... in the radio essay: the memory of my own grandfather Osborn's wooden radio that stood, sturdy, back in his study; I can hear the Saturday matinee broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera (and see my older brother on the floor, listening); I can hear as well one of the Rocky Marciano-Ezzard Charles fights in 1954 (Grandpa had interesting tastes!); I was 10 years old ...
  • ... in the stapler essay: a reminder that I, too, hang onto things far longer than sense would dictate (the essayist had written about how she has had a little Swingline stapler since elementary school) ...
  • ... in the curling iron essay: ghosts of the bullies I encountered as a student, as a teacher ...
  • ... in the Singer essay: my memories of Joyce's mom, sitting at that machine, her later inability to use it (Alzheimer's), her daughter's superb companionship (with me) for forty-seven years ...
This is what reading and listening do: They remind you, transport you, liberate memories of all sorts, memories that once again illuminate, inform, define. And as you enter the literary world of the novelist, the essayist, you may find yourself, initially, as I said, on an unfamiliar path. And then--soon, soon--you notice that the pathway is lined with your loved ones, that your own memories dance in the air above you, once again in reach.

So ... so much thanks last night to the writers and the readers, to Hiram's Prof. Kirsten Parkinson (head of Hiram's Lindsay-Crane Center for Writing and Literature) for arranging it all, and to Hiram College itself. For being there. Again.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

"Gone is the hour ...."



I woke up this morning with a line from Wordsworth in my head. A line I couldn't quite remember. It's from his famous poem "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" (link to poem), originally published in 1807 (but finished in 1804, when the poet was in his mid-thirties).

The line is perhaps the most recognizable one in the "Ode"--the one about "gone is the hour ... glory in the flower." I've got an ellipsis there because this morning, when I first woke up, I could not recall the part that came before the "flower" business. I whirled the line around in my head for a bit--angry at myself for forgetting (not all that different from forgetting "To be or ... ? what? ....")--but then, perhaps fearing my rage, the phrase returned: "Though nothing can bring back the hour / Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower."

Got it!

I have no idea why I was thinking of that as Morpheus began to release his grip this morning, but I was. And almost immediately thereafter I remembered a movie from boyhood--Splendor in the Grass--a film which I remember as somewhat "naughty," as one I think I had to convince my parents to let me see when it came to the Hiram College Cinema. I would have bet a lot in this morning's wee hours that the film had starred Troy Donahue, one of the young men the Cinema Kings were trying to find to replace poor James Dean (1931-1955), who'd died in a car crash, putting many American youth into a period of protracted mourning, including a girl who lived near us in Hiram. Her room was a shrine to Dean.

Anyway, I just now checked the film on IMDB, and it was not Donahue; it was the young Warren Beatty! And it was his first screen appearance.

But there were more significant surprises. It was directed by the legendary Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront, etc.)--with a screenplay by William Inge, American novelist and playwright (PicnicBus Stop; Come Back, Little Sheba, etc.). That's fairly ... heavy.

Also in the cast: Natalie Wood, Phyllis Diller, Sandy Dennis.

I see that the film was released in early October 1961--my senior year at high school. The film would not have made its way to Hiram until some months afterward (can you imagine?!), so my memory of working my parents for permission is doubtless a false one.

I remembered nothing about the plot. But here's what's posted on IMDB:

It's 1928 in oil rich southeast Kansas. High school seniors Bud Stamper and Deanie Loomis are in love with each other. Bud, the popular football captain, and Deanie, the sensitive soul, are "good" kids who have only gone as far as kissing. Unspoken to each other, they expect to get married to each other one day. But both face pressures within the relationship, Bud who has the urges to go farther despite knowing in his heart that if they do that Deanie will end up with a reputation like his own sister, Ginny Stamper, known as the loose, immoral party girl, and Deanie who will do anything to hold onto Bud regardless of the consequences. They also face pressures from their parents who have their own expectation for their offspring. Bud's overbearing father, Ace Stamper, the local oil baron, does not believe Bud can do wrong and expects him to go to Yale after graduation, which does not fit within Bud's own expectations for himself. And the money and image conscious Mrs. Loomis just wants Deanie to get married as soon as possible to Bud so that Deanie will have a prosperous life in a rich family. When Bud makes a unilateral decision under these pressures, it leads to a path which affects both his and Deanie's future.


I couldn't have told you a thing about the plot--other than a vague memory about its having something to do with randy teens (a kind of redundancy, wouldn't you say?).



There was a made-for-TV remake of the film in 1981 with some notable names like Melissa Gilbert, Ned Beatty, Eva Marie Saint, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ally Sheedy. I don't think I'll look for that one, but I am going to look on Netflix right now and see if I can order the original ... [PAUSE WHILE I LOOK] ... Yep! Just found it and moved it to the top of my DVD queue.

So ... to be continued when it arrives ... and when I've watched it ...

PS--There's an adult film, too, from 2002: Splendor in the Ass, which, believe me, I have not ordered!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How Did We EVER Get Anything Done?



I'm retired, as many of you know. I retired more than once, actually. From the Aurora (Ohio) City Schools (January 1997), from Western Reserve Academy (June 2011).

But what I've been wondering about as I reel through the autumn of the year (and my life): How on earth did I ever get anything done when I was working full-time?

It seems I spend much of my time these days whirling around doing errands of various sorts, errands that are, of course, of enormous importance. Perhaps globally so.

This week alone (and we're just mid-week), look at what I've managed to accomplish, errand-wise:

  • I went to Marc's last night and bought some pomegranate juice and a couple kinds of baking flour (they have a nice selection of Bob's Red Mill products).
  • I just now mailed a letter to my mom.
  • I dealt with some computer/printer issues online.
  • I went out every night after supper this week to get a Diet Coke with Joyce.
  • I cleaned off the top of the dining room table--our Dumping Spot for mail, newspapers, assorted clutter, stuff-we-don't-know-what-to-do-with.
  • Yesterday, got a flu shot at CVS and--wimp! wimp!--nearly cried aloud (the tech was not the most ... tender I've ever met).
  • I filed some things I'd clipped from magazines and newspapers.
    • As I've written here before, I have no idea why I keep doing this--this routine I followed when I was teaching--clippings about books, authors, etc.
  • I baked bread on Sunday and some scones yesterday (I have one for breakfast every day; this week--cherry-walnut).
  • I  prepared and cooked all our evening meals.
  • I made our bed every morning. (Rule: Last one up does the bed, and Joyce heads out early to the health club, somewhat motivated, I'm sure, by leaving this chore in the hands of her barely competent husband.)
  • I paid some bills.
    • This, of course, is much easier than it was Back in the Day. Back Then, I spent some of each Friday evening writing checks, stuffing envelopes, addressing & stamping them.
    • Now, I use Quicken Billpay (and our bank site) and pay pretty much all of them by typing and clicking and sending.
  • We went grocery shopping for the week.
  • I looked at our recently mowed yard and whispered gratitude that I don't have to do it anymore: We have a lawn service now (very competent, reasonable with $$).
There's more. But I'm getting bored just typing it.

But (as I said) I wonder: How did I get anything done when I was teaching full-time, taking grad-school courses at night, dealing with our little son, trying to be a good husband (not always succeeding)?

Somehow, I did ... we did.

But now these wee things--these daily/weekly chores--threaten to overwhelm, to drown me in the Quotidian Sea, which, of course, is relentless.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Traitor Memory, Careless Internet ...


TWO RECENT MEMORY INCIDENTS

Incident One:

Okay, recently I mentioned that I'd had a bit of a shock. I'd just memorized W. H. Auden's poem "Autumn Song" (actually, it's part of a series from 1936, "Twelve Songs"; "Autumn" is no. VI). I'd used a text I'd found on the Internet on this site: link

And I was proud of myself: I learned it in about a day. Smirk, smirk.

But then, wishing to post the poem on FB, I again went to the Internet, this time using a different site: link

And there I found quite a few differences--and those differences (in version 2) were, I thought, much better than the "original" I'd found.

Well--oddly--we had no collections of Auden's poems (at least, not any that I could locate), so I ordered his Collected Poems; it came yesterday; I leapt to pp. 139-40, home to "Autumn Song."



And I learned ... the second version is the correct one.

Meanwhile, I'd already "re-learned" this second version, certain it was the thing to do. (Glad I didn't learn it, re-learn it, then have to re-learn it yet again!)


Incident Two:

I've written before about how I will occasionally realize, when silently rehearsing one of the poems I've memorized, that I've got a word wrong; sometimes, I even freeze up--can't remember what comes next.

Okay, in my head are two poems that allude to the earth cracking open. One, I thought used the word ground; the other, land. But, I realized this morning, I was no longer sure which was which. So ... I went to my trusty pile of index cards (on each card I've Scotch-taped the text of one of the poems I've memorized) and checked--and finding out which said "land," which said "ground." (And, for the life of me now, I can't remember which is which!)

Both poems were fairly recent (thus, on top of the pile), and when I was looking through them to find those particular two, I noticed a poem I memorized not all that long ago--but had totally forgotten the past few weeks (months?) to rehearse every week.

It was by Tomas Tranströmer, the Swedish poet (and Nobel laureate) who died last March--"The Half-Finished Heaven." I remember that I learned it when I saw Kenneth Branagh recite it in one of the final episodes of Wallander (he played the title role). Below, I've reproduced it (translated, of course).

It took me a little while to recapture this nervous bird of a poem. But after a few times going through it (using its card as a cheat-sheet) it came fluttering back, landing on my hand, then swirling back into my brain. Where I promise to take much better care of it in the future.



Autumn Song

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbours left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscaleable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.


The Half-Finished Heaven

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.

Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.


The lake is a window into the earth.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 120


1. AOTW--I know that self-congratulation is not a virtue, but I fear I am the winner of this week's AOTW. Last week I was at a two-way stop in Hudson (see map below), pointed west on Middleton Road, waiting for traffic to thin so I could turn south on Stow Road. Another car across from me stopped after I'd been sitting there awhile, but he waved me on, and so I turned left, not remembering that I hadn't checked (recently) to my right. I saw a car rapidly approaching, so I gunned the old Prius to avoid a collision, a collision that would have been entirely my fault. The guy who just missed me stayed well back until I turned west, a mile later, onto Aurora-Hudson Rd. and home. He went straight (whew), but I certainly earned some sign language from him, and I most definitely earned this week's AOTW award.




2. I finished three books this week--two from my nightstand (at a 10-pp/night clip). I'll do them first.

     - Mary Beard is a noted scholar of Ancient Greece and Rome (I've read a couple of other things by her), and her newest is SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015), a work she wrote for general readers, a work that features many illustrations. (The title is from the Latin Senātus Populusque Rōmānus--the Senate and People of Rome.) She dispels the clouds of false stories, tells us a lot about the lives of ordinary people throughout the Roman Empire (although she acknowledges that far less is known about them than about the wealthier, more powerful classes). She does not focus over-long on such things as the assassination of Julius Caesar, the doings in the Colosseum, and other things which many people know a tad about; instead, she shows how those events fit (or don't) with the patterns of Roman life. She is cautious throughout, as well, reminding us that people write things down for reasons--and some of those reasons are flattery (self- and otherwise), concealment, and the quite conscious attempt to revise the truth. Very good book. I should probably read it three more times to get more. But, lazy, I won't.

     - And speaking of Rome ... I finished (just last night) the first novel of Wilkie Collins (1824-1899), a writer best known for The Moonstone and The Woman in White (both of which I've already read). I liked those two novels so much that I read a short biography of Collins (Wilkie Collins: A Brief Life, 2015, by Peter Ackroyd) and then began reading his novels in the order that he wrote them. (He wrote many other sorts of works, too; I'm focusing on his fiction.) His earliest is the one I just finished--Antonina; or, The Fall of Rome (1850). It is the story of the Goths' siege and sack of the city in 408-410 CE. Collins follows the historical events closely, but he focuses on young Antonina, a Roman girl whose strict father expels her from her home when he blames the innocent girl for an indiscretion. Outside the city, she is rescued by a young Goth warrior, who sets her up in a distant farmhouse and visits her every day--no, not for that (not in an 1850 novel--the same year, by the way, as The Scarlet Letter).

Well, things don't go well. The Goth warrior, in violation of his trust, is discovered; Rome withers without food; a vengeful Goth woman pursues Antonina; and ... Aw, I ain't tellin'. Of course, the city falls, but what happens to Antonina and her father (with whom, late in the novel, she reconciles?).

Collins also deals with the clash between the "old" religion of Rome (the myriad gods) and the rise of Christianity--and the ensuing conflicts and bitterness. This is personified in the character of Ulpius, a former priest of the old ways who is willing to do anything to restore those ways. (He has a most appropriate end!)

I enjoyed this book a lot--though it does go on and on and on. But such is Victorian fiction ...

Oh, and tomorrow in this space, a surprising story about the actual copy of the book I read. Quite a discovery ...

     - The third and final book I finished this week was Richard Russo's 2009 novel That Old Cape Magic. Followers on this site know that I've been reading all of Russo's work--in the order he wrote it--except for Nobody's Fool (1994) and the sequel, Everybody's Fool (2016). The film of Nobody's Fool (1994--with Paul Newman, et al.) is what first drew me into Russo's work. I read those two books, one after the other.

Anyway ... That Old Cape Magic ...  This is a story of two weddings--and (as is customary in Russo) the deep history that precedes them. Jack Griffin is the son of two snooty professors (Dad is dead; Mom in decline), both of whom are frustrated because their careers landed them in Indiana, not at some prestigious Eastern college. Son Jack gets interested in screenwriting, has a modest career in Hollywood (very modest, actually) and ends up teaching at a university, as well. He has married Joy, who has an odd family (as if he doesn't), and when the stories commence, their marriage is somewhat ... stressed. Their own daughter, Laura, is about to marry as well.

Well, as we go through the story, truths begin to emerge, some not until near the very end, and, as is also necessary in Russo, you'd better be paying attention to the smallest details because they are often small in size only, not in significance.

Some usual Russo humor--including the man who marries Jack's divorced mother; the man's name is Bartelby, and several times Russo has Bartleby "preferring not to" do something! (And Melville fans will chortle.)

Russo writes often about family (its collapse, its enduring effects on those who belong), about the difficulty of love, about the need for the capacity to forgive. And this novel is no different.

I'm a little sad. There are no more Russo novels to read. There is a novella that's on its way to me (Interventions, 2012) and a memoir, already in the house (Elsewhere: A Memoir, 2012). And then begins the wait for something new ...

3. We're happy that a new season of Longmire is back on Netflix (streaming). We've watched the first one and are already realizing how much we've forgotten about last season. Oh well. (Link to trailer for new season.)



4. We're also watching a Netflix (DVD) documentary (2011) about writer/philosopher/cultural figure Paul Goodman (1911-1972): Paul Goodman Changed My Life. It's interesting to watch (I read a lot of Goodman back when), though not all that interesting (repetitive interviews with folks who knew him). We've watched (maybe) 2/3 of it and hope to finish tonight or tomorrow. A little bit goes a long way. (Link to trailer for the film.)


5. An interesting moment in Kent the other night. We'd driven over there and decided to take a look at the last house where we'd lived there, 114 Forest Drive (we sold it in 1978, the year we went to Lake Forest, IL). Well, as we were drifting by, we saw a couple of folks who looked as if they might be the current owners carrying some boxes of pizza into the house. I stopped, hailed them, and had a great chat about our time there in the 1970s, the changes. They invited us in--but we thought we'd pass. And did. (Maybe another time?)

114 Forest Dr.; Kent, Ohio
from the 70s, when we were living there
6. Final words ... from my various online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - poppism, n.
The act of making a smacking sound with the lips  Obsolete
Forms:  16 popisme,   17 poppism.
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymon: French popisme.
Etymology: <  French †popisme (1534–5 in Rabelais in Middle French) <  classical Latin poppysmus (also poppysma) <  ancient Greek ποππυσμός, in Byzantine Greek also πόππυσμα <  ποππύζειν to smack the lips, make a clucking sound, reduplicated form with expressive gemination, of imitative origin + -μός, suffix forming nouns (also -μα: see -oma comb. form).
Compare the following earlier use of the classical Latin word in an English context:
1601  P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World II. 297 Touching the manner of worshipping and adoring flashes of lightening, all nations..doe it with a kind of whistling or chirping of the lips. [margin] Poppysmus, in setting our lips close together, and drawing the breath inwards.
1653  T. Urquhart tr. Rabelais 1st Bk. Wks. xxiii. 104 The prancing flourishes, and smacking popismes [Fr. popismes], for the better cherishing of the horse, commonly used in riding.
1753 Chambers's Cycl. Suppl. at Adoration, The method of adoring lightening,..was poppisms, or gentle clappings of the hands.

     - Flavescent  \fluh-VES-uh nt\
adjective
1. turning yellow; yellowish.
Quotes
A few flavescent leaves, shed during delivery, fell to weaving the carpet that would be finished by nightfall.
-- Patrick Chamoiseau, Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows, translated by Linda Coverdale, 1999 
Origin of flavescent
Flavescent entered English in the mid-1800s. Its immediate source is the Latin present participial stem flāvescent- “becoming golden yellow, yellow” from the verb flāvescere “to become golden yellow, yellow.” The verb derives from the adjective flāvus “golden yellow, yellow.”


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Quick Recall? What's That? I Forget ...



I'm getting frequent reminders these days that my Quick Recall is now my Not-So-Quick Recall. Just yesterday, for example ...

  1. I posted a couple of days ago on Facebook that--in honor of the equinox--I'd memorized W. H. Auden's poem "Autumn Song" (link to poem).* It didn't take me all that long--about a day, looking at it now and then, repeating it over and over. But there was one word--one damn word--that I kept forgetting. It's in the fourth stanza--"Trolls run scolding for their food." And scolding, for some reason, would not stay in my head. Then ... yesterday ... I hit upon a mnemonic device: "run scolding" I reduced to RSC, the letters of the Royal Shakespeare Company. How could I forget that! I proudly went in to see Joyce and announced my superb mnemonic. Then ... early the next morning ... running through the poem in bed, I could not remember that word. I remembered the SC business, but I could not come come up with the word that began with sc-. I confessed. Joyce laughed (gently, gently). Then I realized that troll and scold are words that sound alike, and so my problem was solved ... until this morning ... see the * below.
  2. Yesterday afternoon, walking around the indoor track at the health club, I was rehearsing in my head some sonnets by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one of which was "Only until This Cigarette Is Ended." (See below.) It's a poem I occasionally had my WRA students memorize, too. Well, yesterday, when I got to the 8th line (the one that ends with attended), I realized I was saying extended again--not possible: she'd already used that rhyming word. I assailed my memory, searching pitifully through its ruins for the word that really belonged. Could not come up with it and had to wait until after my shower when I could consult my trusty iPhone. This is a poem I have rehearsed thousands of times, by the way.
  3. Finally, last night, coming back from Szalay's (a farm market near us), Joyce and I--neither of us--could come up with the name of Truman Capote. I forget (!) how Capote came up in the conversation (we were talking, I think about the liberties a nonfiction writer can take?), but neither of us could name him--though both of us could describe him, could list his books, could imitate his voice, etc. I told Joyce after a bit that his name, I thought, started with a C because I could sort of "see" his books on our shelf. A moment later ... she had it! Whew!
So ... Time marches on, trampling my Quick Recall underfoot with the utmost disregard--even disdain.

*Okay, a bit of a shock this morning. When I was setting up a link here for readers who wanted to read the Auden poem, I discovered that the version I'd memorized is not, apparently, the accurate one. I just now ordered the scholarly edition of Auden's poems, so when it arrives, I'll be able to tell. I actually prefer the "newer" version I found online ... what do you think? (They're both posted below.) I'm gonna go ahead and "revise" what I've memorized ... and we'll see if I've done the right thing ...


MILLAY SONNET

Only until this cigarette is ended,
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,--farewell!--the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.


AUDEN VERSION I MEMORIZED

Autumn Song
—W. H. Auden

    Now the leaves are falling fast,
    Nurse's flowers will not last;
    Nurses to the graves are gone,
    And the prams go rolling on.

    Whispering neighbours, left and right,
    Pluck us from the real delight;
    And the active hands must freeze
    Lonely on the separate knees.

    Dead in hundreds at the back
    Follow wooden in our track,
    Arms raised stiffly to reprove
    In false attitudes of love.

    Starving through the leafless wood
    Trolls run scolding for their food;
    And the nightingale is dumb,
    And the angel will not come.

    Cold, impossible, ahead
    Lifts the mountain's lovely head
    Whose white waterfall could bless
    Travellers in their last distress.



AUDEN VERSION I FOUND TODAY (AND PREFER)

Autumn Song


Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse's flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

March 1936

Friday, September 23, 2016

Snug as a Bug ...


1960s Me would be incredulous about 2016 Me.. (Or, more probably, ashamed.) I usually head up to bed (these days in the autumn of my life) about ... 6:30 p.m. In earlier (and healthier and younger) days I would not head up until around 11 p.m., at which time I would watch the 11 o'clock news, maybe Nightline afterward, maybe Johnny Carson. I rarely slept more than six or seven hours.

Not no more. (I'll tell more in a bit.) Now we eat about five, go for a little drive (errands, McD's for Diet Cokes), then ... home ... and upstairs ...

So what do I do when I get all snuggled up in my bed? (I love that word snuggle, by the way: It sounds and looks like its meaning. Snuggle, says the OED, goes back to the late 17th century and goes back to an even earlier verb, snug: To lie or nestle closely or comfortably, esp. in bed; to snuggle. Snug also was a nautical term, meaning adequately or properly prepared, and we all know that old expression snug as a bug in a rug (which dates to 1769; I like its predecessor: snug as a bee in a box, 1707)).

I'm getting off the track. (Dotage! Dotage!)

Anyway, I'm snug as a bug around 6:30, so what do I do then?

Well, most evenings I read from a pile of books, 10 pp in each. (So ... in a thirty-day month that's, uh, 300 pages in each of the books.) I slowly, slowly finish (most of) them.

On my pile last night (listed in the order of my reading them--an order that does not vary until I finish one):

  • Wilkie Collins: Antonina; or, The Fall of Rome
  • Oscar Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Kindle)
  • Michael Harvey: Brighton: A Novel (Kindle)
  • Stephen King: 11/22/63
  • Mary Beard: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
  • Nathan Hill: The Nix: A Novel
  • Carl Hiaasen: Razor Girl
Last night, I finished SPQR, and I already have its replacement ready: I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Young (2016).

I'm nearly done with both Collins and King, as well, and already have substitutes lined up for them. (I'm reading Collins' works in the order that he wrote them. Antonina was his first novel.)

Some nights I don't read from all of them--I'm too tired (lazy/), but I always try to read from Collins, even if he is the only one. Doing this was how I got through all 47 of Anthony Trollope's novels, all of Thackeray, too.

After I finish reading, about 7:30 or so (?), I'll watch some of an old Rockford Files (once again, I'm streaming my way through all of them--probably the 20th time or so). Then ... the best news ... Joyce arrives!

She's been reading and/or writing in her study, waiting, I think, for the Rockford theme, her signal (?) that it's time to get ready to join me.

When she arrives, we'll watch something on Netflix or Hulu or something--a British mystery. Last night we began a Netflix (DVD) documentary about the recently deceased Paul Goodman (Paul Goodman Changed My Life, 2011). We watched (and liked) a bit of it, then ended my conscious moments with some of an older Mike Birbiglia comedy special on Netflix. I began to drift a little before 9 ...

Joyce stayed a bit. We mumbled back and forth. Then, sensing I was just about gone, she headed back to "her" room (the spare bedroom), where she read another hour or so (she's more of a Night Person, does not sleep very much). 

And so ended another Night of Wonders on Church Street in Hudson, Ohio.

I would not trade such nights for anything ...



Thursday, September 22, 2016

I'm Pitching Today


I'm pitching today. I'm sure of it. I'm not too worried, even though I haven't pitched a game for more than fifty years. I pitched some in high school--when I wasn't catching (no, not at the same time!)--and I had a pretty decent curve ball, a "fast"ball I tried to keep out of the strike zone.

Once, when our Hiram High Huskies were playing a game down at the Hiram College field (of dreams), I allowed one to go right down the middle of the plate, and the Crestwood HS batter, Mike Cusak, hit it to dead center field, about a mile away. I didn't watch the ball. I watched our center fielder, Andy Krauss, who glided to the ball ... approaching the fence ... caught it! Andy was a good one.

After the inning was over, I strolled back to the bench as if I'd done something awesome. And feeling the greatest relief a human being can feel. I mean, Mike hit that ball a ton.

I don't know how I know I'm pitching today. But I do. I'm not even sure for whom I'm pitching . I don't seem to have a uniform. Do I have a mitt? I must have. Somewhere.

As I approach the diamond--which I both do and do not recognize--I see gathered there many players from throughout my boyhood--Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio. I call them by name. (I cannot remember a single one now.) They smile and greet me, as well.

I am loosening up a bit by throwing shadow pitches--"throwing" with no ball in my hand. I'm a bit stiff. But I should be okay. Shouldn't I?

I remember getting a sore arm for the first time when I was a senior at Hiram High School. It was a cool, wet spring. And my throwing arm hurt. My girlfriend rubbed some greasy stuff on it (was it Bengay? or that stuff my dad used to call "goose grease"?). It burned a little--but seemed to work. I remember thinking I can't possibly be hurt ... I'm Dan Dyer!

The game hasn't started. I still don't know where I am.

And then I do.

In my own bed. About 3 o'clock in the morning. I've been playing in the field of dreams.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Frankenstein Sundae, 243


No, I haven't forgotten. No, I haven't quit this project. (Hell, I've got 400+ pages of text; no way I'm going to forget about it!)

I'd stopped some time ago because I reached 1828, the year that Mary Shelley (a widow for five years) was approached by Frances Wright--a brilliant and radical (for her time) woman who wanted Mary to go with her to the United States to help her promote the experiment in Tennessee near Memphis--Nashoba, a community Wright had created to help teach former slaves (men and women she had purchased and freed) the skills and crafts they would need to "make it" in pre-Civil War America.

Mary declined. Wright very much impressed her, but Mary had grown a bit more cautious. She'd learned about the indignities that liberals and radicals had suffered (her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft among them); she'd suffered tremendous damage to her own reputation because of her 1814 elopement with Percy Bysshe Shelley, a married man. Back in England now (after her husband's 1822 drowning in Italy, near Viareggio), she was trying to live a quieter life. She had a son, Percy Florence Shelley (middle name indicates the Italian city of his birth), just about to turn 9 at the time of Wright's visit. Mary wanted him to have a quieter, more conventional life (which he did).

As I've written previously, Mary often heard from admirers of her mother, whose A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792--and other titles) had made her a polarizing figure in English society. These correspondents expected the daughter to be a bud on the same Wollstonecraft stem. She wasn't--at least not in her mother's way. She'd been devastated by the deaths of her own children in Italy (only son Percy had survived) and was now back in England, struggling to get by on a thin allowance from Sir Timothy Shelley (her late husband's father, a man who despised her; they never met face to face) and on the proceeds from her writing, which continued throughout the rest of her life (she would live more than thirty years after Frankenstein, 1818). But her writing did not earn her a lot, so until Sir Timothy died in 1844 (and her son became Sir Percy), she and her son were living very modestly.

So ... why did I pause (the last Frankenstein Sundae post was July 27, nearly two months ago)? Because I realized I needed/wanted to learn a bit more about Fanny Wright before I proceeded. I've acquired her book Views on Society and Manners in America, 1821 (an epistolary work) and am reading it--slowly (obviously). When I finish I will leap back into this account of my pursuit of Mary Shelley's story.

I've been fully aware, too, as I've gone along, that I have repeated myself, that I have sometimes drifted too much into biography and retreated too far from memoir. I will correct those imbalances when I revise.

But I can't revise till I finish. And I can't finish until I get Wright's story more fully/firmly in my head. Mary still has a little more than 20 years to live, and there are some other key stories of hers to tell. And I want to write some about her other novels and books. There are quite a few besides Frankenstein, and some of them are of great interest ...

So ... I have, as I said, not given up. Or quit. I'm on Pause. Play will come soon.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Clutter ...

September 20, 2016
9:57 a.m.
Virginia Woolf wrote a little book--A Room of One's Own (1929--actually, a long essay based on some lectures)--about women and writing and having a space to write. I've actually had a space like that since very early in our marriage. The year our son was born (1972) we moved to a (rented) home, 214 S. Willow St. in Kent, Ohio, a place recently razed to make room for the Esplanade project there in Kent. (Oh, the shrines! The shrines we lost!) Both Joyce and I had studies there, though, I'll admit, mine was better. (It doesn't help to say that she insisted I take that space; I was still a jerk to do so.)

Anyway, in every subsequent home of ours--rented and owned--we've both had a room of our own. (Right now, as if to compensate for 1972, Joyce enjoys virtually all our upstairs!)

The picture above shows my current space. And--to put it mildly--it's cluttered. (Miss Havisham would blush with embarrassment.)

Rewind.

I was never all that good about keeping my room clean. I didn't get a room of my own until I was about 13. Prior to that I'd "shared" space with my older brother and then, later, my younger. My older brother terrified me with tales of The Man in the Closet in the mid-1940s when we were living at 1609 1/2 East Broadway, upstairs from our maternal grandparents, and I still kinda keep closet doors open at night. (Not really--but it's kind of amusing to think so, isn't it?)

In Hiram, Ohio (where we moved in the summer of 1956), I had a room of my own in the house we bought after we spent a year in college housing. It was small; it had no heat vent. (I had to rely on the kindness of my nearby brothers to keep the doors to their vented rooms open so that I could avoid freezing to death in winter; they didn't always comply ... can you imagine?)

And in that room (as I said, I was about 13 or so) I first learned that I was incapable of keeping my space uncluttered. (I rarely even made the bed.)

Our parents tried everything--warnings, punishments, sanctions, Oreos. My mom even tried a financial incentive: extra $$ on the allowance for a clean room. Little brother Davi snapped up the extra $$, as did my older brother. I, however, had principles and would not be bought! (Though, okay, I sometimes swiped money from my older brother, who kept it "hidden" under a little serape that covered his dresser--a serape that bulged in key places.)

I have gotten (somewhat) better over the years--I make the bed; I keep "my" part of the bedroom (somewhat) neat. The clutter throughout the house is (somewhat) manageable.

But in my room? My study?

Well, the picture above tells that sad, sordid story. I am a curious mixture of organized and messy. I know where stuff is--pretty much.

Back to the Future (well, the Present)

Today I am disgusted when I look at my room. So ... I am going to spend the next hour like Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee, whirling around my room, making decisions about things, decisions I've delayed for decades (in some cases) ...

... PAUSE WHILE I PLAY MARY/NANNY ...

Well, it's a little better, I guess--some things tossed, some things filed, some things hidden elsewhere (out of sight ...). So much more to do. But I'm tired of it. (Where's Mary Poppins when you need her?)

But Miss Havisham just stopped by, smiling.



September 20, 2016
11:28 a.m.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Poetry in Motion"


Last evening, once again, a song from youth popped into my head--and, so far, has refused to pop out again. I don't know how it happened. Joyce and I were driving along through the evening countryside (as is our wont)--perhaps we were talking about poetry?--and suddenly here came "Poetry in Motion"--the tune, the lyrics (well, almost all of them)--gently rocking through my head.

It could be, too, that I retained some wispy memories of a New York Times obituary I'd recently shared on Facebook. It begins: "Joseph B. Keller, an honored mathematician who figured out what makes a jogger's ponytail swing from side to side ...." (link to entire obit.) Maybe that's where the jiggle got into my head ...?

I could not have named that song's year very accurately last night--I knew it was from adolescence ... but when? Early? Late? I also could not come up with the name of the singer.

Home, I checked Google and discovered that the song, performed by Johnny Tillotson, released in the fall of 1960, reached #2 on the singles chart in November, the month of my sixteenth birthday.

I was a junior at Hiram High School that year and involved in so many things--sports, drama, choir, band, newspaper--that my schoolwork occupied a very low rung of my ladder. My high school transcript confirms this: a D+ in Algebra II (2nd semester grade), all B's in English.

Testosterone was the High King, and because of all the poetry in motion around me I was finding fidelity to a single girl an impossible standard to uphold. (It was my junior year that my long-time girlfriend, weary of me, spent the year dating ... my best friend. That was awkward.)

And so "Poetry in Motion" was a perfect song for these dissolute days. (See lyrics below.) I was noticing, believe me, the "gentle sway" of the girls in my school. I read online, by the way, that the songwriters had been "inspired" to write it when they saw groups of girls emerging from a nearby school. (Dirty Old Men!)

And who was Johnny Tillotson (TILL-ut-sun)? Born in 1939 (he's five years older than I), he had an archetypal and fairly swift rise from a modest background (his dad ran a gas station) to Grammy award nominations. He had some other hits--perhaps the biggest being "Heartaches by the Number" (1965). He stayed in the music business, has stayed active, has a webpage (link to Tillotson site).

YouTube has videos of an older Tillotson singing the song--but I found an "original" version (just with still photos). link to song

Well, I hope writing about this will evict the song. It was fun to remember it, not so fun having it continually dancing its way through my mind, the lyrics even moving my lips occasionally. Remembrance of things past can grow wearisome.



Poetry in Motion

When I see my baby
What do I see
Poetry
Poetry in motion

Poetry in motion
Walkin' by my side
Her lovely locomotion
Keeps my eyes open wide

Poetry in motion
See her gentle sway
A wave out on the ocean
Could never move that way

I love every movement
And there's nothing I would change
She doesn't need improvement
She's much too nice to rearrange

Poetry in motion
Dancing close to me
A flower of devotion
A swaying gracefully

Whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa

Poetry in motion
See her gentle sway
A wave out on the ocean
Could never move that way

I love every movement
There's nothing I would change
She doesn't need improvement
She's much too nice to rearrange

Poetry in motion
All that I adore
No number-nine love potion
Could make me love her more

Whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa

Songwriters
ANTHONY, MIKE / KAUFMAN, PAUL

Published by
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group








Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sunday Sundries, 119


1. AOTW--The city of Hudson for changing the turn-lane configuration on northbound Ohio 91 at the intersection of Ohio 303--with no warning signs. All they did was change the paint on the road. Some near collisions I saw yesterday--one involving me.

2. I finished two books this week.

     - I finally finished Richard Russo's wonderful Bridge of Sighs (2007), a novel which I read back in 2007 but had no memory of. (Not that I'm alarmed, mind you.) But since I've been reading my way through all of Russo--pretty much in sequence--I read it again, this time taking notes (which, given my handwriting, I'll probably not be able to read later on anyhow).

The novel is another of his tales of a small upstate New York town, a town in near economic collapse, a town whose water supply has been poisoned by the local (defunct) tannery, which once employed many people in town. (The title, which alludes directly to a famous bridge in Venice--it used to connect to a prison (thus, a reason to sigh!), also has other direct and metaphorical meanings in the novel. One of the main characters, as a boy, has an experience on a rough bridge in his small town.)



Russo gives us a variety of points of view here--some in first person by a young man, Lou, who has stayed in town after some time in college; he's taken over his father's mini-mart business (which is always on the edge of collapse, as well) and has married the young woman, an artist, with whom he fell in love in junior high school.

We also get her side of things from time to time--including the complications of her heart. But the other principal character is one of Lou's old friends from school--though Lou was always much for fond of Bobby than Bobby was of him. Sort of. Bobby has changed his name and become a famous artist, now living in Italy, who's about to have a big show open in NYC.

Well, what does this all add up to? The American family, sexual confusion, economic woes, the nature of art, marriage, fraternity (actual and metaphorical), parenthood (so many of Russo's characters--in this and other novels--have experienced personal implosions), the nature of "truth" of regret of failure of success of ... you name it. The splendid and terrible intricacies of the human heart.

This is a rich, enormously powerful, emotionally (and structurally) complex novel, and because I read virtually all of it in public places (coffee shops), I found myself, again and again, weeping in public places. I'm quickly becoming known in town as That Old Guy Who Cries While He Reads.

     - The second book I finished this week is the (much) shorter new novel by Ian McEwan--Nutshell. Based (loosely) on the plot of Hamlet, the novel, set today in London, is narrated by the Hamlet figure, who, here, is still in the womb, relying on what he can sense outside. His mother, Trudy (Gertrude!), and his uncle, Claude (Claudius!), are ... "carrying on" and decide they need to off the yet-to-be-born's father, known here as John Cairncross (!!). Cairncross is a poet, a publisher of poems, a man with a devoted following, a man without much money--though he does have a large (inherited) place which is now worth a lot. Another reason to off him, right?

The novel--only about 200 pages--is jammed with allusions to Hamlet (and to other plays by the Bard--including Richard II, another play about removing and killing a king, and Henry IV, Part 2, also about the struggle for the crown). Of course, the title itself is from Hamlet's witty conversation with his old "friends," Rosencrantz and Guildenstern--O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. (This serves, as well, as the novel's epigraph.)

There are also numerous allusions to other poems and literary works throughout--including the information that Cairncross has memorized about 1000 poems, a figure that makes my 183 seem awfully puny! (One of Cairncross', by the way, is "The Cremation of Sam McGee," a poem my 8th graders memorized my final half-dozen years or so at Harmon Middle School). Among the other poems McEwan mentions (almost never by name) are by Auden and Michael Drayton. (I Googled the Auden poem, "Autumn Song," and liked it so much I'm going to memorize it this week! Link to the poem.)

Just a few moments from Hamlet that McEwan reimagines and plays with here: Claude calls Trudy his "mouse"; the murder will involve poison (though not in the ear--but an ear poison is mentioned later); the baby has a vision of a ghost of his father; someone protests too much; Claude comments that death is common; and on and on ...

Were I still teaching Hamlet at Western Reserve Academy, I would definitely have the kids read this novel, too. They would feel like geniuses!

A wonderful novel, lyrical and wrenching, intelligent and allusive, with the building fury and momentum of a cyclone.

Last night, I inadvertently spilled to Joyce how the plot is tipped (excuse: I didn't know she was going to read it), and I'm not sure I'll be forgiven for a long, long, long time. So I'll say to more ...


3. Speaking of last night--we went to the Kent Plaza Cinemas (where we've seen films throughout our entire marriage) to see Hell or High Water, a modern Western set in west Texas (and some in Oklahoma), a sort of Bonnie and Clyde story about two brothers who rob some banks and are pursued by a Texas Ranger nearing retirement, played wonderfully well by Jeff Bridges. Strong performances as well by Chris Pine (who is almost too handsome to convince that he's a down-on-his-luck Texan) and Ben Foster. The cinematography alone is worth the admission price, by the way--such a contrast of vast plains vistas and the collapse of the small-town economies and cultures.

I ain't gonna say (my Oklahoma lingo returning!) how it turns out cuz I reckon lots of you are gonna see it. You should--though (surprise! surprise!) there is some violence. (Link to trailer for the film.)


4. Still trying to finish William and Mary (via Netflix DVD), the Brit series about the relationship between an undertaker and a midwife and their not-so-blended family. Losing interest, I fear ... but we're nearly done.

5. And we got word from Netflix this week that two of our favorites, Luther and Longmire, are up now (the former) and about to be up (the latter) for streaming!


6. Final Word(s): Some words I liked this week, words that popped up on my various word-of-the-day online services.

     - from the OEDommatophore, n.  Zool.   A part of an invertebrate animal, esp. a tentacle, that bears an eye; an eyestalk.
Forms:  18 ommatophor,   18– ommatophore.
Origin:A borrowing from German. Etymon: German Ommatophor.
Etymology: <  German Ommatophor (1878 in the source translated in quot. 1878 at main sense) <  ancient Greek ὄμματ-, ὄμμα eye (see ommateum n.) + German -o- -o- connective + -phor -phore comb. form.
1878  F. J. Bell tr. C. Gegenbaur Elements Compar. Anat. 354 The tentacle..which may be converted into a special eye-stalk (ommatophor).
1890 Cent. Dict. at Ommatophore, The ommatophores of crustaceans are called ophthalmites.
1967 Indo-Pacific Mollusca 445 The ommatophores are very long, and the tentacles..are extremely small and located just behind the distally-located eyeball.
1991 Acta Zoologica 72 233 The brain commissures and the innervation of, inter alia, the antennae, the palps and the ommatophores..are described.

     - from the OEDnoctambulate, v.    intr. To walk about at night.
Origin:Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: nocti- comb. form, ambulate v.
Etymology: <  nocti- comb. form + ambulate v., after noctambulation n., noctambulator n. Compare French noctambuler (1866). Compare earlier somnambulate vb. at somn- comb. form .
1955  H. Spring These Lovers fled Away 206 Now and then I would noctambulate through the city.
1988  R. Johnson Oxf. Myths 21 Right up until the nineteenth century the University police could arrest citizens for noctambulating.
1993  A. Lane et al.  Subterranean World(song) in  A. Lane Dirty Pearl (record sleeve notes), All the bushy brats turned out from The western burgs..Noctambulating around nowheresville.

     - from dictionary.comoverweening  \OH-ver-WEE-ning\  adj.
1. presumptuously conceited, overconfident, or proud: a brash, insolent, overweening fellow.
2. exaggerated, excessive, or arrogant: overweening prejudice; overweening pride.
Quotes
He was an envious and overweening man who resented the fact that Sir Balin had won the sword.
-- Peter Ackroyd, The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend; A Retelling, 2010
Origin of overweening
Overweening is formed from the verb overween meaning "to be conceited or arrogant." The older verb ween means "to think; suppose" or "to expect, hope, or intend." Overweening entered English in the mid-1300s.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Pesky Semicolon


I once had an editor who did not like semicolons. If I used them in something I submitted, they would disappear by the time the piece hit print. I think I know where they all went: into Emoticon World (where it means, I guess, a wink) and into Tattoo Land (where, the web tells me, it now means the decision to go on--not to stop your life because of depression).

It took me a long while to learn to use them "correctly." I have a few papers I wrote in college, and I seem to have used them whenever I had a long sentence. Almost every instance I've found is "wrong."

I place correctly and wrong in quotation marks, by the way, to indicate that correctness and incorrectness in usage and punctuation are, of course, things we have made up. Moses did not bring them down the mountain. The semicolon has evolved over the years since a printer first created it. (More below.)

Just flip through any Victorian novel. Dickens, Trollope, Austen--all of them just plop them in the way I did in college, almost willy-nilly--an expression, by the way, that the OED dates back to the early 17th century (will I? nill I? etc.).

But by the time I was going through school, the semicolon had calcified and now had several fixed functions:

  • To separate, sans conjunction, two or more independent clauses (i.e., groups of words that could stand together as a sentence).
    • I bought a car; it cost too much; I took it back; they refused to accept it; ...
  • To use in a list or series that includes commas; the semicolon helps prevent confusion.
    • To the party I invited Bob; Mary, his sister; Fred; and Billy the Kid.
  • To use in this kind of elliptical sentence.
    • George came early to party; Tom, late.
  • To use use between clauses of a compound sentence that are joined by conjunctive adverbs (therefore, however, etc.).
    • I went early to the theater; however, others had already bought all the tickets.
I got to thinking about this today because I'm reading (and hoping to finish this afternoon) Ian McEwan's latest (and terrific) novel, Nutshell (a contemporary story based on the Hamlet plot). At one point McEwan's narrator (an unborn child in the womb!) says, "I'll feel, therefore I'll be" (145). I started thinking about how a semicolon--which is "correct"--would ruin this sentence--would add a weighty mark that would drag down the buoyancy of the thought.

Novelists and other writers often play with "correctness," as we know ... poetic license and all that.

Trusty Wikipedia credits an Italian printer--Aldus Manutius--with the creation of the mark in 1494. (Hey, just two years earlier ... Columbus?) And I love the quotation the OED selected from Ben Jonson in its list of examples (Jonson's is the earliest they give--from 1637): A Semicolon is a distinction of an imperfect Sentence, wherein with somewhat a longer Breath, the Sentence following is included. Jonson, by the way, is often credited for popularizing the mark.

Well, I still use semicolons; and correctly, too. (Ha! Irony!)

Let's let Charles Dickens have the last word. This is from the second paragraph of Chapter 1 ("I Am Born") in David Copperfield. (I've enlarged the semicolons and made them red; I am so clever.)


In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighbourhood who had taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and spirits; both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants of either gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Here Comes the Sun



The sun is back in my face.

I know: Our earthly tilt is tipping us away from the sun--it will soon be the autumnal equinox, then the winter solstice, and it will be, in the words of Stephen King, "full dark, no stars" around here (at least on cloudy nights). Daylight Savings Time will disappear, and people will once again drive to and from work in the dark. And we'll all be grumpy and grousing. Depressed and depressing.

But at Open Door Coffee Co. here in Hudson, the sun is back in my face in the mornings. "My" chair and table point, generally, toward the east, up Aurora Street. I love sitting there. From 1980-1990 we lived at 120 Aurora Street. From 1990-1997 we lived in Aurora itself, the community where I taught from 1966-78 and from 1982-1997. So, as I said, I love looking east on the street named for the goddess of dawn. And for the community that has meant so much to me since 1966.

But beginning in September (and then again, from the opposite direction as the earth begins to reverse its tilt in the late winter) the morning sun peeks around the old bank building right in front of me and sends some brilliance from 93 million miles away to blind me. At first, it's tolerable. (I've become adept at shading my eyes while reading and writing.) But soon it will become full-blown annoying, and, for a half-hour or so, I will have to sit in the other chair at "my" table and let the sun blast me in the back for a while.

Conveniently, in the big eastern window there's a large Open-Door decal that blocks the sun for a bit. It's my favorite decal in the world. I'm imagining that the furious frustrated sun sends the shadow of the Open Door decal all over my body, and I become a sitting and breathing emblem of the venue I love so much. I'm not sure this happens. But I want it to. I'll check tomorrow and tell you--unless, of course, there is no shadow, in which case I (a frustrated ground hog) will leave things precisely as they are.

Which, as I think about it, is pretty much the way I want things to be before, you know, it's full dark, no stars for real for me.