Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last Day of Summer

The first day of school and the first early morning after a long summer brings a new season, a new year. The rain breaking all day wanted to wash away the sleepy dust from the roads. Susan has her first day with grades 2-8 Spanish. Now there are two Spanish teachers in the house. Everybody's taking it in stride, but I was alone in the house working on my doors while it rained. I start my first day tomorrow. I got the second door's frame mortises finished and rebates for paneling cut and now it's ready for glueing and clamping. The first door looks good, with oak frames and 1/4 inch diagonal pine paneling. I listened to Pandora while I worked, my own station playing Candyman. Yes it was the last day of summer. Afterward, on Dianne Rehm, I listened while a panel discussed A Room With a View, which made me think of going back to work, where I look out on the meeting of two sides of a brick building where the wind sometimes catches debris in a little swirl of current.

Come all you pretty women with your hair a-hanging down
Open up your windows, 'cause the Candyman's in town
Come on boys and gamble
Roll those laughing bones
Seven come eleven, boys, I'll take your money home

Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he comes and he's gone again
Pretty lady ain't got no friend
Till the Candyman comes around again

I come in from Memphis where I leant to talk the jive
When I get back to Memphis, be one less man alive
Good morning, Mister Benson
I see you're doing well
If I had me a shotgun, I'd blow you straight to hell

Come on boys and wager, if you have got the mind
If you've got a dollar, boys, lay it on the line
Hand me my old guitar
Pass the whiskey round
Won't you tell everybody you meet that the Candyman's in town

Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he come and he's gone again

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August -- Body Surfing

With the summer drawing to a close, these last family days together are like the fruit of the season, ripening nicely. The Atlantic water was 67 degrees, still bone chilling, but we stayed in for twenty minutes at a stretch, catching some nice bodysurfing waves, maybe 4.5 feet with the tide coming in at Wallis Sands. There's something exhilirating and refreshing about the ocean water, even when your teeth are chattering you feel like it is high adventure to be out there diving through the breakers, and the last thing on your mind is the summer drawing to a close and all the things you might have done, should have could have done. When time stops for you, that's the definition of feeling young. At the top of one curling wave, Michael and I were side by side, swimming to get out ahead, and as it broke, it sent us down with a clap into the sand. When we shot back up we both had ear to ear grins. As far as I'm concerned it's better than any water park.

That's our president body surfing on a Hawaiian vacation above. If I'm jealous, does that mean he's an elitist? Yes, of course it does. But you know what? I like a president who can body surf. That's a first for this country. It means he's in touch with things deeper than any polling could tap into. His position on the Ground Zero mosque has got him wading into the buzzsaw of class and race and religion and he's just riding through it like you would want your president to do. Hats off once again brother Barack, is all I can say. Just light the fuse and let the bigots blow themselves up with the hot air while you turn to the horizon, looking for the next set.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Three Stories

We do live in times of great change. We are responsible for bearing witness, for staying awake and alert to the great heroism displayed in the course of the fight. In the light of that charge, here are three noteworthy characters, moved by a common impulse to defend their honor and highest ideals. Their stories display what I would call the invisible hand of altruism, proof to me that we are not just material beings motivated by self-interest alone.
Pfc. Bradley Manning is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, charged by the military with passing secrets critical to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the New York Times, the Guardian and Der Spiegel. Most famously, the website Wikileaks posted Mannings files directly to the Internet, including an onboard military video of the helicopter strike in Baghdad in 2007 when soldiers heedlessly gunned down civilians, among them two Reuters employees. Although President Obama rightly noted that nothing in the files was a totally new revelation, it is Manning's impulse, nonetheless, to disclose the full brunt of the hypocrisy that passes for our country's notional effort at self-defense that should interest us. Branded a traitor for his efforts, and facing a life-sentence, if not execution in the military courts, Manning acted out of an impulse for truth telling honed by his years as a non-conformist growing up in Oklahoma and Wales. Think what you want of him, you have to admire the soldier who wears a customized dogtag of "humanist". That's clear thinking in a world gone mad.
Lt. Col. Terence Lakin, is an army doctor with a distinguished educational and military record, including six tours of duty in our country's South Asian and Middle Eastern battles, who now faces court martial for refusing orders based on his lack of confidence in Obama's status as a natural born citizen. Here is a man clearly not just a right wing nut, but someone who genuinely feels dismayed to the point of rebellion at what he perceives as the duplicity of a President who has failed to produce a document. To most of us, it is pretty clear that Obama was indeed born in Hawaii, not in Kenya, but Lakin, now the hero to the millions of Americans of the "birther" persuasion, wants the proof of the original birth document, which the state of Hawaii does not routinely provide. So the country now is looking at the court martial of an officer two grades below general, with 17 years of tremendous service and expertise, refusing to deploy and facing dishonorable discharge and up to two years in the brig, out of principle. I call him misguided, but millions would not. I have no doubts, however, that Lakin's rebellion would not have happened if the war effort were moving in a positive direction instead of being Obama's flush down the toilet of Bush's mess.
Anne Rice is a novelist best known for her gothic New Orleans vampire novels, the forerunners of this season's trendy vampiretas. She grew up a Catholic, became an atheist in her fashionable beatnik years and some years ago rejoined the Church. This week she announced she was "quitting Christianity, for Christ's sake." Unable to fathom the dictates of organized Christianity, including calls to reject abortion, gay rights, and a female clergy, Rice decided her disappointment was just too much to bear and went walkabout.
This is undoubtedly a complicated and personal decision. However, it leaves me with a feeling of anger. To me it is akin to saying "sorry, Jesus, dude. That cross is getting a little heavy. You're on your own." Yes, the Church is deeply flawed and this Pope is a man with questionable impulses, as was John Paul, in terms of bringing us into a truly enlightened communion. But you either believe we are the body of Christ or you're just intoxicated by the candle smoke and statuettes.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Change, the Greatest Show in Town

It's the best show in town, every 11 years, according to the scientists. As a result of the sun shooting off its plasma into space in our direction, causing ionized gases, I believe, to arc around the magnetic poles, we get these strange science fiction effects of the aurora borealis, or Northern lights tonight. They should occur as a greenish or reddish glow on the horizon, if the clouds dissipate from the muggy weather we've been getting. In ancient times, they say the Inuit and Laplanders encouraged their children to behave during these appearances, and one pictures the mischievous bands carousing by the eery glow suddenly growing quiet and reverent.

These cyclical celestial events always make me think we know less about how our lives intersect with the physical universe than we like to admit. From our limited perspective, not even death and taxes are certain; the first is so unpredictable we can't even think about it, and the second is subject to the whims of politicians, almost as weird as the aurora, and a lot more unstable. No, the only thing that's a constant presence in our lives and therefore as imperceptible as water must be to fish, is change. We all know what it's like to have a mental picture of ourselves at a certain age and be shocked by the image in the mirror that greets us at those unholy early morning junctures. Blake said eternity is in love with the productions of time. Well it works the other way also; as mortals; we yearn for some stability, and all of nature seems to be the same. Look at the oak leaves clinging to the branches through the fall and winter, refusing to take their place on the forest floor.

There are some days, though, that seem prone to the ground shaking, and this is one. Susan just got a job offer this morning teaching part time at a middle school in Chichester. For the last twelve years she has been a stay-at-home Mom. The times they are a changin', for sure. The kids are happy for her, but Eve, the peasant soul of the bunch, wondered to me if she would have to come home to an empty house. We will bend over backwards to make sure that doesn't happen, because that's what we do.