30 April 2008

Who would have thought Death had undone so many?

It seems to me that too often I have had to address a death on this site. I hate it more every time, and this time, right now, most of all. A young boy at my daughter’s school went missing several days ago, and has now been found dead. I ache at the loss of this lovely, young life; I can’t now blot out from my memory the photo of his youthful face posted on the web sites when there was yet hope of finding him. I fear I may never feel that relief again. I ache for his parents who in hope and love sent their child off to college and now have to bring him home. And I ache for myself as a parent whose child is off at college where she yet feels hunger, and concern for her grades, and her social life. And where she lives her life making decisions.

Dylan sings, “We live and we die, We know not why/But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.” And that is supposed to be a relief. And I guess it will have to suffice, though it does not now relieve.

26 April 2008

Birthday party!

So, my fourteen-year old daughter is hosting a party for her birthday. Well, actually the birthday was last week, but we were preparing for Pesach and could not contaminate the house with chametz. Besides, we were headed into the Cities for Shabbat and Seder.

There are twenty-one thirteen and fourteen year old girls and boys here; there are forty two shoes obstructing entrance to my front door. If there should be a fire, the fire fighters will have to enter through an upstairs window and hopefully not have to exit through the front door.

I have eaten my pizza, and I have my beer, and I have been ordered to vacate the premises, not to return until about 10:00p except, of course, to clean up and to handle unexpected emergencies. Of course, the party-goers expect no emergencies; it’s the adults I believe, who are living on the edge here.

I remember when I was in high school, just a bit older than these adolescents. We would have Johnny Mathis parties—slow dancing and necking. Make out parties, you know. Today, everyone brings a loaded up iPod and we supply the base and speakers.

And I am banished out here in my cabin. Perfectly content, and very quiet and peaceful. Until I hear some screaming.

22 April 2008

The Wire

I’ve been watching DVD versions of the HBO series, The Wire. I know, I know: the program is ended and I missed all five years of its run. But as it ended I began reading interesting comment on the show in The Nation and In These Times, and so I decided to give it a try. I so enjoyed the time I spent catching up on The Sopranos, and then actually screening in real time the final season.

This is not a review. I am in the middle of Season Two, and watching episodes is like a secret pleasure. When I can create an hour I put the DVD in the player and spend an hour almost lost. The plot is rich enough to maintain my interest, and the characters are complex as round characters ought to be.

Of course, there is a part of me which feels always soiled by some of the characters: the corruption runs very deep on this show, and crosses all kinds of boundaries. Sometimes the cops are more corrupt than those they are meant to arrest, and sometimes the moral sense of the criminals highlights the venality of the cops and politicians who assume a false sense of indignation when corruption is discovered. I can’t distinguish between Stringer Bell and Lt. Rawls, between Barksdale and Lt. Burrell, and I ache for D’Angelo who tried in the face of inevitably powerful forces to be moral. I hope for him, but I fear for his moral and/or physical survival. The self righteousness of so many of the characters--legal, political, judicial on both sides of law appalls me. I am stained by it.

But in this series there are some wonderfully complex and good people, and watching them refuse to succumb to the pressures of the corrupt worlds in which they daily function offers me a real alternative to a sense of defeat. I admire McNulty and Daniels despite their human flaws. Detectives Griggs, and Freamon and Moreland are good people in a corrupt world, and they don’t know it; they just do their job because they believe in the moral value of what they do. Sargeants Carver and Hauk are admirable because they grow in the part. They actually become better cops and better human beings in the course of the show. Knowing there is no way that they will ever succeed, these characters never stop trying; knowing how everything is organized to defeat them, they persist in their belief that they will succeed not in cleaning up the world, but of ridding it of certain predatory elements. They are admirable because they are so self-aware of their flaws; they are admirable because they refuse to live as if these personal flaws should taint their public life. A part of them remains clean, clear, and incorruptible. They do not surrender their lives to their flaws, but distinguish between their private peccadilloes and their public purpose. Watching them makes me feel better, and I rise from the couch not clean, but unsullied. I adore this program. I grow stronger after each screening. I’m not perfect, but I’m not alone.

16 April 2008

Pesach 5768

We’re cleaning up the house for Pesach. Discarding our chametz, so to speak.

Now, almost daily we toss to a small community of crows who have learned to gather out our back door left hour bread crumbs. With remarkable regularity, they gather about 6:00am, perched atop our trees, the roof, even brazenly stepping up on the steps to the deck. If they think it is getting late (late for what, I wonder), they begin to caw as only a crow can caw. There are few scrawny crows in the vicinity.

But at Pesach there is a great deal of chametz to remove from the house; all of the stuff we haven’t finished, probably never would have finished but could not bear to throw away, and that tends to accumulate. So today we began the cleaning, and I took a great quantity of bread products, granolas, grains and tossed them out into the bird cafeteria. Well, they came en masse while I was tossing, and as a unit they cawed, “Have a good Passover.”

With all the strictures, Passover has always impressed me as very, very confining. I’m trying to see it as a holiday of freedom. I’m trying to relax and truly enjoy seder.

Was laid low with disease this week. On Wednesday I was wonderful, and on Thursday near death’s door. The PA at the clinic said that I had what was going around, but I told her that I thought it had stopped going anywhere when it ran into me. No medicine, just bed rest. I am slowly recovering, but I know I’m really sick when I can’t drink my morning coffee, my evening beer, and lift my head off the pillow ever.

I think its April, but I’m not taking any chances on saying it’s Spring.

06 April 2008


What does it mean that I feel most alive these days when I am writing? Or rather, what does it mean that I don’t feel alive unless I am writing? I’ve been working on the final chapter of my new book. The chapter addresses issues of immortality, an issue I am consumed by these days. At my next birthday I finish my sixty-first year; I would leave something of myself besides my children, perhaps. Though wouldn’t they be enough as a legacy? Alas, that isn’t what I’ve been writing about, however. And therefore, not enough. If, as I have been thinking, immortality resides in the moment, I want to fill my moments, and writing seems to be the way I most want to do so. The writing engages me always in the present; it helps me think, to occupy the minutes and hours, and lead me to tomorrow. Because I always want to leave the writing at a place where tomorrow it will be easy to begin again.

In the mid-west, people seem to willing to get in the car and travel. Oh, North Dakota, seven hours, no problem. Hey, meet me in Chicago. Its only six hours. I remember reading Allan Shawn’s autobiography--about being agoraphobic. He speaks of his horror in traveling distances in his car when suddenly, panic would overtake him and he would have to turn back and return home. His book is entitled, “Wish I could have been there.” I don’t travel much myself. I suppose I don’t like the temporariness of it, or even the temporality. I like having my feet on the ground, or perhaps serving as the anchoring place for my children.