Lolliblog

Everyday, noted.

At This Moment Of Time (excerpt)

Disturb me, compel me. It is not true
That “no man is happy,” but that is not
The sense which guides you. If we are
Unfinished (we are, unless hope is a bad dream),
You are exact. You tug my sleeve
Before I speak, with a shadow’s friendship,
And I remember that we who move
Are moved by clouds that darken midnight.

Delmore Schwartz (1918-1966) epitomized the tortured artist. Brilliant, acclaimed, he was also an alcoholic, addicted to painkillers, and suffered from a variety of mental illnesses. According to the Academy of American Poets, The last years of his life Schwartz was a solitary, disheveled figure in New York. He drank frequently at the White Horse Tavern, and spent his time sitting in parks and collecting bits of work, quotes, and translations in his journal. He died penniless in a cheap Times Square hotel. I tried to find some connection between his tormented existence and soaring body of work but couldn’t. Then I read the last line of this poem. His life was painfully separate from his purpose; to move and be moved.


Ten years ago, Sam and I drove Jake to Moravian, a small college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which is when this photo was taken. I remember being sad, but relieved. We’d made it.
Jake attended a private high school that prided itself on sending all of its graduates to college. The headmaster called me into his office just before graduation to tell me that college wasn’t for everyone, and might not be for Jake, certainly not this year, maybe not ever. I listened, the polite smile on my face belying my ironclad conviction he was wrong. Actually, I was shocked. Here was a guy fronting an institution dedicated to preparing every student for college, which made his position, relative to Jake, an admission of failure.
For the first month or so, Jake loved Moravian. He bought a used recliner for his dorm room and infiltrated frat parties. He got his goody-two shoes RA drunk and subsequently fired. Good times, until his roommate’s video gaming addiction began to annoy him. The frat parties took their toll on early morning classes, which he began skipping before moving on to skipping classes in general.
One thing he did manage was going online, and the website he liked best was CollegeHumor. This didn’t help his GPA, which was 1.4. Moravian put him on academic probation. He came home, worked two jobs, and eventually moved into his own apartment.
We were still wringing our hands about his assuredly dead-end future when Jake decided to go to New York and knock on the door of CollegeHumor. He’d contributed some articles, and he said he’d like to work for them. He got hired. The rest is history.
I guess the headmaster was right about Jake and college, and if only we had listened, none of this would have happened. But on the other hand, had we listened, none of this would have happened.

Ten years ago, Sam and I drove Jake to Moravian, a small college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which is when this photo was taken. I remember being sad, but relieved. We’d made it.

Jake attended a private high school that prided itself on sending all of its graduates to college. The headmaster called me into his office just before graduation to tell me that college wasn’t for everyone, and might not be for Jake, certainly not this year, maybe not ever. I listened, the polite smile on my face belying my ironclad conviction he was wrong. Actually, I was shocked. Here was a guy fronting an institution dedicated to preparing every student for college, which made his position, relative to Jake, an admission of failure.

For the first month or so, Jake loved Moravian. He bought a used recliner for his dorm room and infiltrated frat parties. He got his goody-two shoes RA drunk and subsequently fired. Good times, until his roommate’s video gaming addiction began to annoy him. The frat parties took their toll on early morning classes, which he began skipping before moving on to skipping classes in general.

One thing he did manage was going online, and the website he liked best was CollegeHumor. This didn’t help his GPA, which was 1.4. Moravian put him on academic probation. He came home, worked two jobs, and eventually moved into his own apartment.

We were still wringing our hands about his assuredly dead-end future when Jake decided to go to New York and knock on the door of CollegeHumor. He’d contributed some articles, and he said he’d like to work for them. He got hired. The rest is history.

I guess the headmaster was right about Jake and college, and if only we had listened, none of this would have happened. But on the other hand, had we listened, none of this would have happened.

The Best Advice I Didn’t Take

When it comes to advice, I can dish it out, but I rarely take it. I think this is because I complain because I need to vent but I have limited interest in soliciting guidance. Still, over the years I’ve received some excellent advice that I subsequently ignored.

Here are five standout examples.

  1. Don’t dye your hair blond. I thought I could pull this off, with my fair complexion and blue eyes, but instead I looked like an aging hooker in a bad Halloween wig.
  2. Don’t smile before Christmas. This advice was given to me before I started teaching middle school. Still, I smiled from day one, because I don’t know how not to. Classroom management suffered. Often, I would ask myself, did I want to be respected or liked? The answer: I wanted to be loved.
  3. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Yeah. And it’s been decades, but for all those affected, sorry about drinking four vodka tonics, locking myself in my brother and sister-in-law’s bathroom, then passing out.
  4. Don’t wash lights and darks together. The fact I ignore this classic laundry advice is indefensible, unless you consider laziness a defense. My kids grew up thinking underwear came in two colors: pink and gray. Now that they’re older, I like to think my sloth incentivized them to do their own laundry.
  5. Don’t Let Things Get To You. Wise, indeed, and unlike the previous examples, I tried to follow this advice because I thought it would make things easier. Then I figured out that letting things get to you is how you go about actually living a life.

Kanye Reconsidered

Micah and I don’t always agree, which leads to debates during which I have a tendency to get emotional. I used to pride myself on passionately sticking to my guns, but through Micah’s use of calm logic, I have discovered that not only I can be swayed, but that being swayed is not a bad thing.

Take last night. I was talking about Kanye West, who apparently stopped his concert in Australia, refusing to continue unless everyone was standing. Two people weren’t so he called them out, only to discover they were in wheelchairs. “Can you believe he’s such a jerk?”

“I’m sure he apologized,” Micah said.

“The article didn’t say.”

“The media likes to portray him as arrogant, because people like to think of him that way.”

“He is arrogant. And since when did you become such a fan?”

“I enjoy his music. And he’s got style. He can wear a pair of shoes and the next day, those shoes will be flying off the shelves. When it comes to fashion, he can drive the market. That’s powerful.”

“Powerful? Seriously? A guy who spends four days of his honeymoon retouching an Instagram photo?”

“The way things look, that matters to him. That’s his thing. I mean, you spend hours trying to find the perfect word, and lots of people would say that’s no big deal. But it’s what matters to you.”

Weirdly, this mild-mannered dismantling of my self-righteousness felt borderline okay. Kanye West may be my polar opposite, but my judgment felt like misplaced energy, energy better spent finding the perfect word, or being grateful for my sweet resident devil’s advocate, his foot in the door to keep my mind from closing.


I came across this in the New York Times Magazine and thought, wow, that explains everything. Everything, that is, except Timothy Wilson’s conclusion.

I came across this in the New York Times Magazine and thought, wow, that explains everything. Everything, that is, except Timothy Wilson’s conclusion.

My mother is the girl in the photograph sitting straight-backed and bright-eyed, looking directly into the camera. The year is 1940, and she is with her parents, Billie and Rip, her brother John, and her sister Jean on Boston Common. My daughter Hannah, artist that she is, fanned the spark of memory, set brush fire to canvas. My mother’s gaze doesn’t waver, like she knew all along it would turn out this way.

Still.

I’m having a hard time bouncing back from the news of the day these days. Between Ray Rice KO’ing his then fiancée, now wife, in the elevator, Oscar Pistorius shooting girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times yet being acquitted of murder, the South Carolina father deemed by Child Protective Services “overwhelmed” who goes on to kill his five kids and stuff their bodies into garbage bags…

Still, I know my shocked disbelief will fade. It has a shelf life rounded by the next horrendous thing that comes along. I used to think this can’t get worse, but then, I’ve learned, it does.

I keep thinking of Anne Frank, who, at age 15, stared down the gaping maw of the Holocaust and wrote, “in spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” I used to believe that. But my faith gets worn down one terrible news story at a time.

What I believe now is most people are maybe not so much good at heart but potentially decent. That being said, addiction, untreated mental illness, and ideological fanaticism can obliterate any trace of decency.

But I also have to acknowledge the profound human goodness I see around me every day, in my family, both nuclear and extended, in my beautiful, caring friends. I’ve watched good Samaritans changing tires at the side of the road, and had the guy who owns the corner store put an extra bagel in my bag with a wink and the words, “for you”. Malala survived! And yesterday, when I was standing on my corner, I must have looked confused, because a stranger asked me very gently if I was lost.

I shook my head, though truthfully, I am. But just a little bit. I know I am not Anne Frank, but I also know that in spite of everything, I still want to be.

5 Similes You Didn’t See Coming

  1. Boredom pooled like butane.
  2. Kindness relentless as kudzu.
  3. Wrapped in complacency like a burial shroud.
  4. Showered with love like napalm
  5. Clutching hate like rosary beads.

I spent some time yesterday thinking up unconventional similes, which makes for a somewhat nerdy, somewhat twisted writing exercise. Kind of like doing the Times crossword puzzle in blood.

Time is Kind to Us

camazon:

While I was driving earlier this week, I caught an NPR show on The Great Gatsby, the famous novel from the 1920s by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I turned it up because I remember loving this book as a sophomore in high school.

A very informed and smart woman whose name I didn’t catch talked about the…

Not only is Cameron’s post wonderful in its own right, it blew my mind that just yesterday I had just been discussing Gatsby with one of my daughters and I couldn’t remember how it ended other than tragically. This made me feel better, and like I’m not alone.

Flush and Blush

We are getting a new roof put on our house. High time, seeing that the existing one is an atrocious baby poop brown covered in moss clumps.

The two guys working on the roof are lovely, aside from the fact they chain-smoke and one likes to fart to make the other guy laugh. I guess it’s a good way to pass the time, laying roof shingles, smoking, farting, and laughing. They’re doing a great job, plus they seem to be having fun, though they might just be complaining cheerfully. I wouldn’t know because they don’t speak English.

The first two days they were here I offered them something to drink. I told them the roof looks wonderful. Outside of that, communication has been sparse, but I was happy to have them around. That was before yesterday.

Our roof is complex, with several dormers. I figured the game plan was to work from one side of the house to the other, but as it turns out, they are going dormer to dormer. Our bathroom is next to a dormer. You can see where I’m going with this.

Thankfully the toilet is kind of off to the side, and the guy was just coming up the ladder. Maybe he didn’t look into the window. My guess is he did. I had just flushed and was zipping up my pants and there he was, not two feet away.

Now everything is awkward. Before, we shared an unspoken but congenial interest in the roof job, but now, we share a secret shame. Today, I left a pitcher of water on the back porch, and darted outside only when I was sure no one was looking.

I once read someone’s high school yearbook quote that said smiles are like passports to foreign countries, and I always thought it was a terrible quote but also pretty accurate. Before this incident, we were all smiling up a storm. But my smile passport got revoked by Embarrassment, which feels like an electrified border fence topped by barbed wire. For me at least, there’s no getting over it.