Thursday, December 31, 2009

Proustian postscript for 2009

oh, and after reading Charles Simic's poems I spent several weeks reading Marcel Proust, the part about Albertine, the captive.

Some Proustian doses are good literary medicine.

hello goodbye hello

farewell, 2009

you tried to claim me, if not lame me

hello, 2010

(twenty ten)

if you please

or if you don't






year-end haiku III

toast and tea time steam

buttered toast, daily habit

slower taste blossoms

year-end haiku II

tick-tock countenance

measuring whatnot, this, that

another day turns

year-end haiku I

misty snowy night

ephemeral tiny drops

disappearing white

2009 Book List

Books that I read in 2009:
  1. Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
  2. Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles
  3. John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman
  4. Rabbit Remembered by John Updike*
  5. Fool by Christopher Moore
  6. Take This Bread by Sara Miles
  7. The English Major by Jim Harrison
  8. Indignation by Philip Roth
  9. A Most Wanted Man by John Le Carre
  10. Lush Life by Richard Price
  11. Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen
  12. Stone's Fall by Iain Pears
  13. The Underachiever's Manifesto: The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great by Ray Bennett, M.D.
  14. Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss
  15. Suites by Federico Garcia Lorca
  16. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon
  17. This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life by David Foster Wallace
  18. Searches & Seizures: Three Novellas by Stanley Elkin
  19. Sixty Poems by Charles Simic
  20. Good Hearts by Reynolds Price
  21. Willie's Boys: The 1948 Birmingham Black Barons, the Last Negro World Series, and the Making of a Baseball Legend by John Klima
* you might say this is 3.5 because it is from John Updike's Licks of Love collection; wanted to reread portions

About half fiction and half non-fiction this year. Two poetry collections. Some irreverent stuff; some reverent. Some more than 800 pages; some very, very short.

I showed you mine; now show me yours.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

best of the beast

By the count of, this is post number 666 on this blog, The Laughorist.

To some, the number 666 signifies the apocalyptic Beast, a designation of evil.

But here it's a "beast" of another kind; here it's more like the slang term meaning "one who excels or dominates," in a positive sense. As in, "She's a beast at cross-country." Or, referring to San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum: "Dude, he's a beast."

So, I hereby declare myself a beast of blogging.


They're something.

Or nothing.

Or some thing.

Or no thing.

(Disclaimer: Since my inaugural post on Bloomsday 2006, I've actually written and published more than 666 blog posts, but decorum and job-related issues and rare prudence have dictated that I delete some postulated posts every now and then. Eh?)

post-solstice haiku

darkest night shortest

day light whispering secrets

of summer orchids

Monday, December 28, 2009

why don't we do it in the road?

No, not that.

"It" here refers to walking in the road. I don't get it. A local columnist has written about snowswept, unshovelled sidewalks, as if that's the cause for kids walking in the road, or street. Well, snowy or icy sidewalks may indeed be a causative factor now and then, but how do you explain this practice in other seasons? Leaves? Litter? That's why the sidewalks go unused? What about when the sidewalks are as clear as a saint's conscience? How do you explain it when the nearby sidewalks are indeed shoveled?

I don't get it.

It is not uncommon for young adults -- not usually adults, but sometimes -- in Syracuse to walk in the road, especially in winter, when it is difficult for drivers to avoid pedestrians.

It sometimes seems to me to be a gesture of turf ownership or posturing or proprietary walking or challenge. I've tried to determine if such gestures fall along age, racial, or class lines but do not have enough data to make a sound conclusion. Maybe it is an ancient tradition; maybe it is a local Syracuse custom dating back more than 100 years. Maybe the pedestrians are under a druidic trance.

What do you think?

By the way, the term "anecdotal evidence" strikes me as mildly humorous, as if the scientist were saying, "A funny thing happened to me as I gathered data points" or some other anecdote, doting on truth or assumption.

snow what

lake effect with swirling wind followed by sunblast

much more preferable than december rain

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

a post about posting

I'm well behind last year's volume of posts and behind the number for 2007.

But there's still time.

But why should sheer number matter?

How ephemeral.

And superficial.

If not surficial.


is here

winter of our content?

[as in table of contents? how does one set that table?]

or winter of our discontent?

so confusing isn't it?

because if it is the winter of our discontent then it is the nadir isn't it? the most naked cold and lowest point of our discontent, meaning we can only get warmer or brighter or sunnier or more springward from here on in; more content, in other words


holiday malaise, take 1

so the protagonist of the story or movie doesn't do any consumer stuff at all doesn't shop doesn't make macaroni art doesn't participate just drops out and on the morning of December 25 with all the others partaking of the unwrapping binge he or she just sits there in a bathrobe and takes it all in even lets them hurl the epithet solipsist! but does open presents given to him or her but there's no give in the give-and-take or is that take-and-not-give? well anyway just awkward silences or what what else happens how else to complete the story or what do they call it now text how to continue with the text?

meditation on silver-mining

I just learned the slang term "silver-mining" from an L.A. Times piece about people who live in tunnels under Las Vegas:

...they made their way into the blinding sun and hustled for dope and food -- usually, by "silver-mining." They hovered at casinos, hoping slot players left them credits to play or winnings to cash.

A variant term is "slot-walking."

I've silver-mined, sure

Taken from others' bounty

And walked on

Or left some currency to spare

For others on a dare

Walking the slot

The narrow verge

Between this and that

The infinite space between jackpot and bust

Faith and trust

Diamond and rust


Some call it

Gambling others scavenging

What about grace

Left dangling

Like a participle


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent haiku redux

December cold sun

still, wide eyes ears alert too

deer caught in the lights

Friday, December 18, 2009

handmade heartily

for my birthday today [yes, let's go for the deliberate low-keyness of lowercase] i received among other things hand-crafted notecards from Kozo Arts on union street in san francisco [if you start with lowercase, you must stick with it and while we are being appropriately minimalist let's start dispensing with punctuation marks at least some of the time] from our july august sweetly memorable visit the very last day cards that are so simple and stark in their beauty you want to feel them and touch them and yes meditate on them rest your head on them inhale them not use them it would almost seem to despoil them in their pristine reverence then again for very special occasions of birth or death or some things in between the occasion would rise up to meet these altars of stationery these stationary stationery inner sanctums the Kozo Arts product description insert itself handsome talks of "Chiyogami silk-screened papers from Japan [they uppercased], bark papers from Mexico, sewn papers from India" and it sounds like an exotic delicious menu even an erotic temple how about saffron robes and incense curling like prayerpoems to the heavens hosanna hosanna of thanks is my chant to my beloved family who bestowed these upon me and to the minds that designed these Kozo Arts sacred objets d'art as well of coarse no fine the hands that made them amen amen awomen too and anyone forever more who will receive these blank slates hungering for haiku or koan

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Sententious Sentences on Sentencing

"Jesus wept." It is said to be the shortest sentence in the Bible. I first heard it as an exclamation from my friend Jeannie, from Enid, Oklahoma. Since the expression has biblical origins, one can get away with it as a mild expletive. You can almost hear the sigh that accompanies it. But what else is there to say about sentences? And to whom do I say it? Well, for starters, you can very legitimately start a sentence with "but" or "and," despite what Mrs. Rivers told us in seventh grade at Burdick Junior High School in Stamford, Connecticut. You can also end a sentence with a preposition. It's something you can live with. You can also decide to boldly split an infinitive within your sentence -- and do so with grammatical impunity. The other point I want to make about sentences -- I know, "sentencing" in the heading lured students of criminal justice to this blog under false presentences -- is that, despite a muddy river of digressions, or appositive phrases, or recursively recurring and redundant recasting of words to the point of annoyance, a perfectly grammatical and "correct" sentence is not limited to the soulful brevity of a lachrymose redeemer, but may also include such meanderings as incarnated in this sentence. So, I have said it before and will proclaim it again, "A run-on sentence is not one that 'runs on and on and on' in the impatient reader's mind; a run-on sentence, also known as a comma splice or fused sentence, is a punctuation error -- an error that has nothing whatsoever to do with the number of words or syllables in the sentence, be they running, walking, trotting, sprinting, galloping, sauntering, crawling, or strolling words. I'm done.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Poppin' the Cork (Ireland)

Through the technological wizardry of analytics, I discovered that someone from Cork, Ireland, or thereabouts, came to this blog after searching the term "Advent haiku."


It's a small world, owing to a semi-creepy sort of reverse virtual voyeurism.

But I don't know any more than that general data, which is all for the better.

Welcome, dear visitor from Cork. [Image from]

I loved visiting your breath-takingly lovely isle in 2006, mostly the northwest.

Hope to get to Cork next time.

Oh, and just for you, whoever you are, a brand-new Advent haiku:

snow-dusted evening
skeletal branches wind-whipped
I looked up -- and in

I fear you shall never return to The Laughorist, victim to the ephemeral whims of cyberworld.

p.s. Is based in Ireland?

Lake Effect Meditation

Windswept snow, coming from where or when we can only guess, just past the verge of light, on the other side of arid; the effect of the lake is fluff, moisture to moisture, lashes to lashes, spindrift spun, moody madness, baleful blizzard. Cause and effect, lake and effect, noun and noun, verve to verb, rippling through raptures of featherweight white affecting those who are showered by Ontario's halo by a lacustrine lustre. Lake effect: dust upon dust upon swirl upon silent upon crystal upon flake upon land upon hill and plain and dale and upon Onondaga upon stutter of wind and warp and weave. Lake effect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

December Haiku Triptych

nightsnow crunch footsteps
silent flakes falling freely
white upon silver

pawprints on parade
alabaster carpet walk
canine stain, mine too

soft wind in the pines
garlands lighting Burnet Park
festival of bright

Monday, December 14, 2009


Syracuse does not get much in winter


I need it

crave it

yearn for it


not artificial light

the ameliorating effects of light from "Here Comes the Sun" type of light

even on frigid days

the squint-inducing sometimes-blinding

like Saul off his horse


that kind

someone, send it


Sunday, December 13, 2009

December Night's One-Sentence Meditation

Call it a day on the verge [as Merriam-Webster puts it online: Etymology: Middle English, rod, measuring rod, margin, from Anglo-French, rod, area of jurisdiction, from Latin virga twig, rod, line Date: 15th century 1 a (1) : a rod or staff carried as an emblem of authority or symbol of office (2) obsolete : a stick or wand held by a person being admitted to tenancy while he swears fealty b : the spindle of a watch balance; especially : a spindle with pallets in an old vertical escapement c : the male copulatory organ of any of various invertebrates 2 a : something that borders, limits, or bounds: as (1) : an outer margin of an object or structural part (2) : the edge of roof covering (as tiling) projecting over the gable of a roof (3) British : a paved or planted strip of land at the edge of a road : shoulder b : brink, threshold] between rain and ice, inundation and danger, gray and black, leading into this vespers of frank thanks that, well, it is almost over, and I still draw breath, which sounds like mere survival but rather celebrates a prevailing, as in prevailing winds, billowing pulse and possibility.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

December Night's Walk One-Sentence Meditation

On a still, snow-crunching night with bright Orion's Belt (Three Kings or Three Sisters or Three Nothings or Three Anythings, take your pick) guiding us, the dog and I walked Burnet Park and its islands of nightshade green, its light show dotting the Happy Holidays (Unnamed) landscape of snow and ice and memories of June, both of us delighting in the jingly-jangly clip-clop clop-clip symphony of horse hooves, children's voices, and five ladies with Slavic accents in a cigarette-smoke-wreathed circle bidding us good evening.

Advent haiku 2

dishwater gray sky

hollow blank slate yearning cold

silent seed stirring

listening John Fahey's "The New Possibility..." CD. 12-string guitar.

Not many better Christmas albums.

Advent haiku

Sarum blue vestments
flickering wreath candles' flame
waiting for pink, still

Friday, December 11, 2009

holiday malaise?

Is it creeping in, my annual malaise, which may be more a healthy and spiritual sanctuary than a depression? It may be. Is it not sensible to retreat from that which is senseless? Or am I merely escaping responsibility? If Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us, late and soon;/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers," what would he say of rampant consumerism masquerading as religiosity?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

addition by substraction

I had a tooth pulled (i.e., extracted) today.

The pain of yesteryear called TMJ was likely the hairline fracture in the removed tooth.

Call it addition (improvement) by subtraction (extraction).

Went smoothly enough.

Versed, a brand name for the anesthetic midazolam, works wonders. At least for me.

I do not take the success of this "procedure" (the all-purpose medical euphemism) for granted.

Oh no.

I really don't.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

St. Nick

Today, on the actual Feast of Saint Nicholas, bishop of Myra, I played his part in church, with a bishop's miter on my head.

I gave out Hannukah geldt to kids, wide-eyed.

It was fun. I hammed it up without saying a word.

Tell me, how did this feast honoring someone who helped the poor become what it has become?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

O, Christmas Tree

We always go to a Christmas tree farm and cut our tree. "Always" being for all or nearly all the years of this marriage (1995), best I can recall. And it has definitely been an annual ritual since our daughter was born in 1997. Upstate New York has an abundance of these places, not far to drive.

About five years ago, I was having a hard time, huffing and puffing, with my daughter beside me, trying to saw down a tree. My wife, a nurse, was at work. I was lying on my side, almost on my back, in the snow. The blade almost got caught in the trunk. This was becoming strenuous, frustrating, and nerve-wracking. A guy walked by with a little electric saw. "Hey, um, can you help me out?" "No, my family's waiting for me." As if that were a reason. Gee, thanks! Merry Christmas to you, too. I persisted. The tree came down. Eventually. A few minutes later, when the guy with the electric saw came by again with two daughters and a felled tree, I saw he was accompanied by a woman from work. Gulp! Merry Christmas to you, too! No, I don't work there any more. The woman eventually married The Man With the Electric Saw. (Um, how's that working out? There's a case where you don't want to invoke the overused "cutting-edge" phrase.)

I once heard my former wife tell a Christmas tree story that may've been apocryphal, but it makes for a funny tale. Some friends of hers decided they wanted a Christmas tree from the woods, presumably from a tree farm. They didn't have a saw, but they had a shotgun. They allegedly managed to shoot down their Christmas tree that year. Yup, they bagged one.

This year there was no snow on the ground. None. Can't recall many, if any, years like that. We liked the first tree we spotted as we got off the tractor-pulled wagon. "You can't just cut down the first tree you see," my wife rightly said. Then we said how 'bout this one or that? too scrawny, too tall, too fat, too many gaps. I'd put my Tipperary Hill hat on a tree as a place-holder. Finally, we picked a Canaan. Had never heard of that before. Sweet smell, very soft needles. $25. totally fresh. Romagnoli's Christmas Tree Farm at Oneida Valley Acres [nice pix!].

Can't beat that.

It's up. I took a nap and let the girls do it.

It's a tad short but really perfect*. Full and splendid.


* Of course, it's not perfect perfect. That's the beauty of nature.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Twenty Adjectives

You know how the preacher shouts, "Can I get a witness?" Well, can I get an adjective?

You know how the gym teacher says, "Drop and give me twenty [push-ups]"?

Here's 20 adjectives:

  1. avuncular
  2. solipsistic
  3. psychagogic
  4. demagogic
  5. unctuous
  6. hoary
  7. wizened
  8. teleological
  9. epistemological
  10. tetchy
  11. querulous
  12. ambient
  13. stochastic
  14. sarcastic
  15. calm
  16. prosaic
  17. stingy
  18. generous
  19. riddled
  20. saucy

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Twenty Names

Sure, you're beginning to think of me as a Twenty Something HAHAHAHAHAHAAHA.

Today, let's try Twenty Names. I'm a bit of a name dropper (more than a bit; and does it not give evidence of a certain character flaw, an obsequiousness built on flimsy moorings?).

I will be linear this time and limit myself to those I have met or have seen in person, even en passant, say, on a Manhattan street, or in an elevator, or have somehow corresponded with. (I have tried not to include those I saw or heard merely as an audience member.)

Joseph Heller, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Willie Mays, John Updike, Telly Savalas, Hans Conried, Victor Borge, Bert Parks, Mona Simpson, Madeleine L'Engle, Suzanne Farrell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jerry Garcia, Regis Philbin, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Suzanne Vega, William F. Buckley Jr., Woody Allen, Sara Miles (the author), J. Walter Kennedy, Marc Brown, Henry Roth, Richard Ford, David Grambs, Bob Hicok, Peter DeVries, Ed Bradley, Meryl Streep, Andre the Giant, Tom Wolfe, William Maxwell, Peter Ustinov, Isaac Asimov, Beverly Cleary, Bob Mitchell, Dan Valenti, Jonathan Miles, Gordon Lish, Elliott Gould, Bobby Murcer.

Yeah, I know, it's more than Twenty Names. I got carried away.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Twenty Questions

. . . but not the usual, of course.

  1. Why do square bullets introduce each question even though a number shows up on my screen as I create each interrogatory?
  2. Why twenty, anyway -- is it related to 10 fingers and 10 toes?
  3. Why the sloppiness of style, not paying a copyeditor's (or copy editor's) attention to consistency regarding words versus numerals?
  4. Huh?
  5. Would you make it "healthcare" or "health care" as a noun?
  6. Does it bother you that the majority of Americans could not diagram a sentence on the blackboard or whiteboard or greenboard?
  7. When?
  8. What is my fixation with Soren Kierkegaard?
  9. When was the first time?
  10. When was the last time?
  11. Why do many readers immediately assume that questions 9 and 10 are latently associated with sex?
  12. Why is twelve, or 12, so rich in connotation, ranging from Apostles to months to inches to Steps to lists?
  13. When was your last act of not only random but anonymous kindness?
  14. Or mine?
  15. Why is it so hard to pronounce "anonymous"?
  16. What is 20 times 20 times 20, which would be 20 cubed, or does the cube melt in the dog days of August?
  17. Why don't they teach Latin in public schools?
  18. Who is "they"?
  19. Isn't it truly difficult to change ingrained habits?
  20. Are you relieved this is over?

Twenty Answers

Why stop with verbs? We started with the notion of Twenty Questions. Why not Twenty Answers?

  1. 1948
  2. 1970
  3. three
  4. 10,559, give or take
  5. goatee
  6. English, French, Latin
  7. grapefruit
  8. The Lay of the Land
  9. Freedom of Espresso
  10. "Between God and me there is no 'between.' "
  11. Turner to Cezanne
  12. solipsism
  13. Soren Kierkegaard
  14. Willie Mays
  15. Tipperary Hill
  16. 17 syllables, but not necessarily
  17. approximately six years
  18. the silk or satin borders of my childhood blanket, especially the notches formed where the sewing was done
  19. Marcel Proust
  20. Slovak and Polish

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Twenty Verbs, Redux Again

let's try the infinitive forms of verbs today
  1. to snow
  2. to freeze
  3. to shine
  4. to shiver
  5. to leap
  6. to skip
  7. to cry
  8. to surprise
  9. to cleave
  10. to cling
  11. to divitiate
  12. to surbate
  13. to aberuncate
  14. to venditate
  15. to surrender
  16. to melt
  17. to warm
  18. to inosculate
  19. to flob
  20. to indagate

Monday, November 30, 2009

Twenty Verbs, II

On this the fourth anniversary of my brother's death, some participles and other forms for parting and otherwise:

  1. grieving
  2. remembering
  3. raining
  4. sitting
  5. passed
  6. wondered
  7. said
  8. mourning
  9. missing
  10. moving
  11. breathing
  12. exhaled
  13. touched
  14. tapped
  15. laughed
  16. cried
  17. asked
  18. answered
  19. drifted
  20. held

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twenty Verbs

Hey, you've all heard of Twenty Questions, why not Twenty Answers [which is an answer enveloped within a question]? Better yet, since verbs are more cogent than nouns, why not Twenty Verbs?

This may already be an Internet sensation I am unaware of. Maybe it will become a FW:FW:FW:FW ad infinitum Internet sensation.

No matter.

Here goes.

Twenty Verbs to describe my day, not necessarily in order or proper tense or mode or mood or voice:

  1. awoke
  2. ate
  3. drove
  4. talked
  5. prayed
  6. thanked
  7. listened
  8. watched
  9. heard
  10. walked
  11. touched
  12. washed
  13. brushed
  14. communed
  15. sang
  16. napped
  17. meditated
  18. saw
  19. learned
  20. read

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Decarceration SitRep

Living without a car is doable, so far. I find that

  • I walk more
  • depend more on others
  • consume less
  • eat less junk food
  • feel more restricted
  • consolidate trips
  • use my wife's car more
  • buy gas for her car
  • save on car insurance
  • try to avoid self-righteousness over this condition

Friday, November 27, 2009

Pie in the (Not) Sky

The surprise of it all. The look on their faces. The initial suspicions. The relief. Simple and radical.

We started on Jamar Drive, just down the block from the church. Someone had suggested it as a gesture of radical hospitality. So, on the preceding Saturday, the Saturday before Thanksgiving, a group of older and younger members made a bunch of pumpkin pies, more than 20, I'm told. Then we distributed them Tuesday night. Jim drove slowly in his car, stopping as Win and I knocked on doors or rang doorbells on opposite sides of the street. Jim crossed off names of families who were home and made notes of those who did not answer the door in the darkness of an early November evening.

I can only report on what I saw and heard and felt.

People not showing fear or apprehensiveness toward a stranger ringing a doorbell or rapping on a door in the dark, though I surmised fear, or at least practical safety considerations. The flickering light of a television screen in a distant room; television sets: America's new-found hearths, as John Updike once put it.

If I recall correctly, I saw not one male answer a door. Is that possible? Is it only women who answer the door in suburban America? Has Dad, if he is there, popped upon a stereotypical beer or is he living out a cliche by watching a sporting event? Would it be different on Tipp Hill?

Three young girls. I told them I'd understand if they could not accept a pumpkin pie from a stranger, but, see, here's a card from the kids in church school. Then a few minutes later Mom came home, in a van, into the driveway, with another girl, and as I stood in the driveway I surprised the mother, telling her that was the last thing I wanted to do, scare her, and I just want to tell you, I gave a pie to your daughters a few minutes ago. We're just saying Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for being good neighbors all year round.

That was the message.


Oh, how nice of you! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.

What was your name again?

No strings attached.

No Bible or prayer card or schedule of services or "Come, join us" or encyclical or chapter and verse. None of that.

A gift is freely given, with no conditions.

Stopped them in their tracks, faces transformed from puzzlement to wonder and gratitude and delight.

What a blast.

Then Kurt and Jack joined us.

Four men, huddled in the dark.

Almost a quorum.

As if giving thanks had legislative requisites.

We knew without saying the motion, the movement, the tidal pulse, was carried.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

haiku redux

Endless Mountains' fog
Dutch Kitchen, Frackville: homespun
Beltway sunset bath

Saturday, November 14, 2009

a litteration situation

Walking illuminates life at a slower, detailed scale, and along Syracuse's West Genesee Street, with its largest former car dealers shuttered, I witness the lonely signs of the Great Recession, ending my pedestrian promenade at the joyfully libertine Freedom of Espresso on Solar Street, but not before seeing the detritus of American consumption, the litteroti of careless consumerism: cigarette cartons (why so many crush-proof boxes of Newport?), a cereal box, a can of Arizona ice tea, lottery tickets, a squashed plastic water bottle, and so much more lessening the landscape, aching for trash cans either missing or brimming over.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I turned in my license plates at the DMV today.

It was remarkably simple.

Just hand the clerk the plates and get a receipt for insurance credit.

Nothing else needed.



Evolution must have allowed the DMV bureaucracy to learn streamlined methods.

The new plates almost (with a little color correction) make us all look like San Francisco Giants fans, which is perfect with me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

expository exposure

While viewing the fine and appealing "Turner to Cezanne" exhibit today at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, I discovered that art historians are playing peek-a-boo with important works of art. Well, more than peek-a-boo. Scholars have peered at works via x-ray to determine what's under the paint. For example, the commentary on a Renoir with a woman wearing a blue dress ("La Parisienne") reveals that a doorway was penciled in in an earlier version, along with an object I can't recall. (But maybe an x-ray of my brain would jog my memory.)

This is slightly unsettling, this naked exposure of the painter's work in progress; this raw look at creative vulnerability and trial and error.

Imagine if this were done to writers!

Or bloggers!

Or dancers, sculptors, jugglers, orators, magicians, scientists, priests, and telemarketers!?

Yes, Word allows you to save various versions and drafts of a document or to undo or redo many edits.

But what if all this were left bare to see by simple x-ray? (Of course, libraries and archives are filled with fascinating drafts of works. For example, I've seen Ezra Pound's extensive markups of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" on display at the New York Public Library.)

Worse yet, what if our unfiltered or even our censored thoughts were left as on a palimpsest for all to see?

One word:


(Palimpsest: In college I wrote a paper on Thomas DeQuincey's "The Palimpsest of the Human Brain. Or did I?)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

mercurial authorial

So yesterday over a cup of tea (me) and Coke (him), Father Jim tells me of his longtime friend, "a terrific writer who writes every day." I immediately felt fraudulent and inferior in the sense of posing as an impostor writer. Sure, that's harsh. I make a living at it more or less (the "more or less" referring to "make" or "living," take your quick pick). But my penmanship and compositional habits are more mercurial than that quotidian standard. Alas, I am not a standard bearer (maybe a standard barer, one who finds it hard to resist a pun).

Is it laziness, lack of discipline (the zen word "practice" is so much more appealing), or natural rhythm? I mean, I can't even seem to manage one haiku per day. Being more of a binge character, I find my waves tend to ebb and swell dramatically. I'd rather give you thirty haiku bits in one day, with a long-winded essay on the side or a meandering prose stream, than a tightly regimented one of anythng per day.

Mercury: thief inconstant quicksilver merchandiser sprightly quick volatile unstable eloquent changeable moody rapid

Friday, November 06, 2009

meditation on de-automation

On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, Election Day, I elected to become decarcerated, de-automobiled, vehicularly divested, unincarnated, car blanche, carnally challenged.

You get the picture.

Unwilling (and pretty darn incapable!) to pay $1,100 to $1,400 or more to repair the timing belt and valve(s), I chose to hand the car, a 1999 Ford Contour (I believe it was made in Mexico) over to the repair shop for fifty dollars U.S. currency plus credit for the limited time spent trying to repair it or discern the need for repairs.

I am free.

After emptying the car of its Detroit detritus (sitting in a box on the porch) and depositing the check, I later walked home, from Freedom of Espresso, about 2.6 miles to Tipperary. "It's a long way to Tipperary . . . "

All kidding aside, I did feel a degree of liberation, a lightness anchored in humbling dependency, fewer responsibilities, simpler choices.

It's back to the future. As with most of us in the Fifties and early Sixties, we now are a one-car family.

We are only partially incarcerated.

I am driven, learning the passive voice.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

sayonara haiku

My friend-brother-seer-sage-compadre-bro-coffeemate-guru-buddy Warren (a.k.a. Joe) left town yesterday, on a new, more southern (less snowy) boulevard after some 40 years along these salty Syracuse streets.

I am already feeling the presence of his absence here at Freedom of Espresso at Franklin Square, not far from where he lived with his sparkling wife, here as I now tap the laptop keys, listening to Bob Dylan sing "Desolation Row," at the time of day we typically huddled, laughed, cried, cavorted, exchanged, narrated, gossiped, encouraged, wondered, reminisced, hoped, and bonded [note that serial comma, Joe].

tall skinny latte

conversation atmosphere

hot cinnamon truth

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Whether Report

Søren Kierkegaard is known for his work Either/Or. (After clicking on the link at Wikipedia, I discover that Either/Or is nothing like I had expected. [Obviously, I have not read it.] And, hey, the great Danish philosopher wrote Either/Or in Berlin, after a lecture he attended there proved to be "unbearable nonsense." Interestingly, grammatical purists might quibble over the use of the virgule, the so-called slash in the title, because of the type of relationship it tries to show. The original title, in Danish, Enten - Eller, we are told, used a hyphen.) But I digress.

"I get all the news I need on the weather report. I can gather all the news I need on the weather report." -- Paul Simon


"You don't need a weather man / To know which way the wind blows." -- Bob Dylan

So, which is it?

As for me, I find I benefit immeasurably from whethermen and other spiritual meteorologists in my life.

One such seer, known variously as Warren, Joe, or Mirthful Sage, is moving from these parts.

He will be sorely missed, but alas he will still be a personal whetherman.

And we will stay connected.

Deo volente.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Liar, Liar Pants on Spider

While on the phone attempting to make a semi-demi-quasi-para-business call, I heard a loud and frantic shriek from my daughter. It sounded as if she were [notice the subjunctive?] yelling,

"Fire! Fire!"

I hung up. I abbreviated my call, fearing incipient incendiary danger (IID).

Actually, she was yelling something about a spider, an apparently 5-inch wide, human-gobbling spider. So, it was panic over arachnid anarchic hyper-angst (AAHA).

This reminds me of a now-legendary family story.

According to my older brother, while he was at Saint Louis University in the Sixties, his friend apparently once wanted to engage in a conversation about the television show "Outer Limits," which was misheard as "Arnold Loomis," so Arnold Loomis forever became the Patron Saint of Miscommunication.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

meditation upon a leaf

a pale yellow of exquisite blond reduction: light straw dusted by sand; shield-shaped, serrated edges coming to a pointy crest at the top, two inches top to bottom not counting the stem; an inch across, if that; a network of veins mapping roads to nowhere or everywhere or anywhere; rusty freckles of decay ringed like a constellation in dusk drenched in desert tones; the first signs of curling along the outer edges, a natural rigormortis; the single solitary leaf poses for me as I sit in my car; a nude model; I stare at it as it sits in repose on my windshield; I resist the temptation to turn on the wiper; blade; I resist the urge to flick it off; arrested; the tiniest breath-breeze flickers the stubborn leaf, making it waver and waggle; a dry amber flame in daylight; don't leave me; let go; stay; let go; turning over a new leaf; not turning over an old leaf; gone when I return to the car; forgotten, except for a smaller leafy cousin, caught in a crack; waiting; waiting

Friday, October 16, 2009


WTF, I thought, upon encountering this in The Observer (of London, U.K.) dated October 11, 2009:

Sample question
One letter can be moved from the first word to the second word, to make two new words. The letters must not be otherwise arranged. Select the correct letter: SCARF & RAIL; GUILT & POND; BLIND & SAY.

This is for a grammar schools test.


I feel like an ee-jit. A dunce. (Okay, okay. Now I see it. Phew!)

Speaking of the euphemism WTF, it seems to allow the unspeakable, in many polite circles, eh?

Operation ElimComm

I hear that parents who wish to eschew the environmental pile-up (P-U) of diapers embrace elimination communication, or EC.

Elimination communication, which The Laughorist hereby paraphrases as "phew you," relies on parental discernment of various cues and signals of the infant or child to discover that an elimination of bodily waste is imminent, threatening, or -- oops! too late!

I guess it works. I can understand the theory. Maggie, our dog, walks and sniffs in identifiable patterns before peeing or pooping. not that my observation changes location, frequency, or tidiness. (That's two sentences now where I have applied use of my friendly little serial comma.)

Part of me applauds this elimination communication thing. (Environmental stewardship, etc.)

Part of me scoffs at the whiff of Operation ElimComm. (Elitist, naive sentimentality toward all things "natural.")

Then again, to each his own. To each her own.

Sui generis.

Speaking of phrases, in Latin or other lingua franca, elimination communication as a term offers rich possibilities:

"All due respect, get used to these concrete underwater hiking boots, pal." (The Sopranos version)

"This casket will cost you $12,999." (Unctuous funeral director version)

"Children, seven minus seven equals zero." (Elementary-school teacher version)

"And with that loss our playoff hopes were dashed like so many broken bulbs on a Times Square marquee." (Sportscaster cliche version)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Maybe I'm paranoiac, as well as solipsistic, but it's unnerving to check on who is visiting my blog and then see that someone on Road Runner came to the site from "United States."

That's it:

"United States."

It's just creepy, to have the location specified no more than that.

Even when Google visits me, I know it's Mountain View, California.

Kind of spooky.

Am I being spied on?

How could harmless, naked-to-the-world, little ol' me be a threat to anyone?

Then again, I suppose it is equally creepy that I have at least some capacity to see who my readers are.

Carry on.

Laugh. Or.


Sign of the Ties

I've taken up this habit of going out of the house occasionally without tying my shoes.

Sometimes. (Can something really be a habit if you only do it now and then?)

Especially early in the morning when driving my daughter to school. I'm just walking to the car and back.

Or maybe stopping to buy something called a newspaper.

It must look awful.


Is this a sign of some old-age decrepitude, an icon of shabby decay?

Or is it a sign of saucy, youthful insouciance?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

SEO Madness

The following is a test. In the event of a real disaster, you would be asked to turn to a designated station on your radio dial and listen for further instructions, if your radio has a dial, or if you have a radio. Thank you.

Wackyjackystees Cafepress Wackyjackytees shop ADHD Age Quod Agis serial comma commandos my country right or wrong lobal warming most imporved speller i leap for Kierkegaard be nice or I shall smite thee Tao Jones Average Joe how now tao wow just your size you need a meeting intelligently designed by evolution G.K. Chesterton I Link Therefore I Am laughorisms to go my cellphone is a vibrator t-shirts wackyjackystees cafepress shop I LEAP FOR KIERKEGAARD wanted serial comma killer wackyjackystees ADHD serial comma you need a meeting laughorisms to go lobal warming intelligently designed by evolution age quod agis most imporved speller be nice or I shall smite thee just your size how now tao wow my cellphone is a vibrator i leap for kierkegaard tao jones average joe lobal warming i link therefore I am my country right or wrong wackyjackystees wanted serial comma killer serial comma commando recovery redressing my adhd laughorisms to go cafepress shop marketplace I leap for Kierkegaard serial comma t-shirts serial comma mugs serial comma stickers serial comma hats serial comma humor serial comma college serial comma messenger bags serial comma thongs I serial comma leap serial comma for serial comma Kierkegaard serial comma wackyjackystees shop original ADHD just your size thong just your size boxers smite serial commas wackyjackytees tao jones average joe laughorisms to go

Thank you, for your patronage.

Arbitrary Obituary Somnolence (AOS)

Late on Sunday nights I used to loll myself to sleep sometimes by reading the wedding announcements in the Times. It was mindless entertainment highlighted by the fact that in many ways it was always about the same people, the same clubs, the same lineage, the same celebrity-mongering, the same square-jawed celebration of power, prestige, and position (3P).

Last night, not having yet gotten to that section, I browsed the obituaries at the end of Section A.

You learn things.

A finely written obit is an art.

It tells a story.

I learned about Marty Forscher and Shelby Singleton.

The paid obits are another story (other stories): more heart-braking (stopping the heart) as well as heart-breaking, less objective, more celebratory.

Still, you learn things.

I saw the name "Chast": two paid obits for Elizabeth Chast, 97, and thought of Roz Chast, one of my favorite cartoonists in The New Yorker.

Sure enough, Roz Chast is listed as one of the survivors.


This is probably a tiresome and old-fogey thing to say, but I don't think you find information like that by browsing the Internet. Granted, you find different information.

But I don't think I would have ever made such obituary discoveries with my laptop on my lap in bed. No, there's something about droopy eyes, paper curling downward or slipping out of your grip, and reading the last dregs of Section A.

A Buried Truth

Headline, The New York Times, Sunday, October 11, 2009:

'Number of Unclaimed Bodies Increases as Families Can't Afford Burials'

To be honest, aren't there two sorts of readers: those who will read an article like that and those who won't?

(Well, maybe there are three kinds of readers: those who do a little bit of both. I skimmed it. Scanned? What's the diff?)


I was clotheslined by an article on clotheslines (that's hard to say; it gives one a syntactical lisp; also, how do you like my use of the same word as a verb and as a noun?).

Using a clothesline saves energy, the kind of energy consumed by dryers and their high-temperature swirling and tumbling.

Using a clothesline to dry your clothes also has the potential to offend neighbors who view the airing of one's formerly dirty laundry as unsightly and unseemly (undies! bras! T-shirts! Y-fronts! seminally stained satin semantics!). There goes the formerly lily-white neighborhood, some say, fearing a splash of rainbowed raiment and a bust of their unbrassiered real-estate booty.

I am old enough to remember our backyard clothesline, one that twirled like an umbrella. It worked fine. Ironic, isn't it? The Fifties, remembered as so prim and white and monolithic and orderly and righteous, were really sloppy and multicolored and raggedy, the era's clothes flapping in the wind or in the hot summer sun for all the world to see -- unlike the decade's private lives and private thoughts.

There is a semantic delight to all this, one that The Laughorist is always wordie wordiliciously keen to share with his or her readers:

wind energy drying devices.

That's the term some local legislators are using to legislate in favor of clotheslines.

Yes, indeed. A clothesline is a wind-energy drying device [hyphen added by Mr. Redactor].

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Manatea, anyone?

Browsing through the free USA Today at the hotel, I spotted "mentee" in a headline and outwardly and inwardly frowned.

The story was about mentors and, um, mentees.


Merriam-Webster cites "mentee" dating to 1965 at least.

I'm so old-fashioned.

Mentoree, anyone?

Probably not. No sponsors.

Or sponsees.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Things matter.

Small things can matter a lot.

Staying at a hotel (courteously unnamed here) this weekend, I noticed the push-button console for the elevator in the lobby was askew, slightly off-kilter. In a bathroom off the lobby, a faucet was installed not-quite-parallel to the line of the sink (its top rim). An amber light attached to a hair dryer flickered in the dark of night. The television set in our room had a mysterious wire with what looked like a computer chip dangling from its front, more obviously than a dangling participle.

None of these matters proved fatal, not even severely anxiety-producing.

But they were unsettling to the careful (or even almost-careless) observer.

And the same applies to language.

A few mistakes here and there, a few verbal tics, and the reader gets nervous, distrustful.

As an editor, I frequently tell clients that readers start to distrust your data if you make some seemingly trivial blunders. The readers start to think, "They got that wrong; what else is wrong?"

An example: I received an impassioned plea for church stewardship pledges with "alter" [initial cap] instead of "altar" at the heart of the request. The writer's sacrifice of accuracy was like Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son Isaac. Not quite, you rightly say. After all, there's an infinite gap between sacrifice and near-sacrifice. (And didn't Mark Twain say the difference between the right word and the wrong word is like the difference between "lightning" and "lightning bug"?)

Of course, many don't care about such minutiae.

But, to paraphrase Grace Slick's refrain in the 1960's, "Go ask Isaac."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nettlesome Meddlesome

Hoping to be one of the "gentlemen of brave mettle," and at the same time gainfully employed, last week I ventured to take a battery of exams at a recruiter's place, spurred on by a personal revenue stream reduced to a trickle, a creeklet almost as bereft of water as this blog has been absent of words recently. (I just love the luxury of meandering words scheming to stream into syntactical straitjackets, don't I? Yes, I do.) A battery of exams. Let me say tests test me like an assault, an affront to my front; a disappearance of appearances. They undress me. They always have had that effect on me. So, just the thought of taking a test ups the anxiety quotient. ("Ups"; now that's a curious verb to describe performance anxiety.) When I discovered, at home, the night before the test date, that the testing software would not work on a Macintosh (the only computers we have at home), I felt both relieved and justified. The next day, while filling out enough paperwork to duplicate the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), I nearly returned the cheap ballpoint pen to the attractive receptionist and almost walked out. My surrender to dignity consisted of my refusal to fill out certain sheets of paper, e.g., detailed instructions to call so-and-so to rat on me, I mean, serve as a reference. (It turned out not to matter, boys and girls.) Isn't there a poem somewhere that begins, "Terrance, this is stupid stuff"? Remember that great story by Alan Sillitoe, "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner" and its terrific cinematic portrayal by Tom Courtenay? I mention this for its uber-humanity, its staunch and angry defense of individual personhood, which must apply here somehow, or else I wouldn't mention it, would I? First test was Microsoft Excel. After about two questions, I skipped out of it. (The receptionist-headmistress had granted me permission to do that a few moments earlier.) Then the Microsoft Word test. The software was a little quirky; it took me a while to get it; then I did okay. Then the reason I came: a so-called copywriter test. It wasn't bad. It was kind of fun. Stuff like "cite" vs. "site" vs. "sight" and "affect" vs. "effect" (which was wrong in the health and safety video presentation that soon followed). I have to admit I goofed on a "copywriter" question involving "meddle" as a verb. It was nettlesome. I lost my (heavy) mettle. And as I clicked, I knew I clicked wrong. I knew it. Know that feeling? (Why do we do that? It's like saying the precisely wrong thing in a social situation just as your brain is forewarning you.) Then a grammar test. I got results saying I was in the 90th percentile for the copywriter and grammar tests (if I recall, the test affirmed the serial comma), though I was peeved at myself for not getting 100% in each case; mostly a matter of overthinking and trying to outfox the test and its invisible taskmasters. It's always been my problem. Then during a keyboarding test, the whole network froze. I only needed to type two more characters, too.

In the subsequent interview, the pleasant young lady sheepishly declared I was overqualified and offered to share my paperwork (the OED, remember?) with "our professional side," as she nodded to another side of the building. I sheepishly smiled a woolly frown.

The "professional side"? This, after two hours?

And then you wonder why I've been depressed?

Chalk it up to overqualified, overfoxed, hyperanalytical experience.

What would Kierkegaard do?

He'd cry, but those Danes are just so stoic.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


"You have to live in the now, and you make your now."

-- Suzanne Farrell, as quoted in The Washington Post, October 5, 2008

A profound observation, really. And the quotation has two provocative and evocative elements: the part before the comma and the part after the comma.

It reminds me of someone I knew 20+ years ago in New Jersey. He was a member of a 12 Step program. He would say, "The now. N.O.W. There's no other way." It took me in my denseness a while to get it.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

'This Is Water'

Bookstores grant me a galvanic pleasure bordering on the manic, or the erotic, or both. I want to draw in the delight of delicious words: by digestion, in morsels or by the mouthful; by injection; by osmosis, by obsessive-compulsive-disorder savant memory; by paper or electronic note taking. I am the kid in the candy shop with eyes as big as donuts.

Tonight I borrowed from the shelves a collection of W.S. Merwin poetry, a collection of poetry by Amber Tamblyn (Bang Ditto), The Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne (Everyman Library edition), and This Is Water: Some Thoughts Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, by the late David Foster Wallace.

I sat down in the cafe and read some of Amber Tamblyn's poems. Very witty. Telling. Scathing. Confessional. I truly enjoyed one poem about hating haiku (not necessarily what you think) (actually, I read that while standing by the shelf, just as I earlier pored over Dinesh D'Souza's What's So Great About Christianity?, an apologia, as we used to say in Latin) as well as Amber Tamlyn's "Hate, A Love Poem," if I remember its title correctly.

But finances and time being what they are, I read David Foster Wallace's "manifesto" in one sitting. Was I borrowing? Or stealing? Rest assured, I felt little guilt. After all, I first encountered reading in a bookstore at City Lights Books, in San Francisco, in 1974. (You lie, Pawlie, or else why would you be writing about such issues?)

This Is Water is adapted from a commencement address David Foster Wallace gave in 2005 to the graduating class at Kenyon College. He never gave another such address, the book-jacket flap says. Someone decided to publish it, handsomely, after his death in 2008.

I had browsed through the book once before; this time I felt an urgent need to read through it. Not sure why.

And I freely confess I was rather floored by its title, This Is Water. [Some versions of this still float around the 'Net, but I felt better about linking you to a site for purchase of the "authentic" version of this pamphlet.]

Was it serendipity or unconscious connection to pick up this book, following on the heels of my last post, on water?

I once met David Foster Wallace very briefly, which is a semi-humorous story in itself for another time.

He died last year, a suicide. I found out about his tragic death after returning from a friend's wedding, in Ithaca, on a day that also happened to be my son's birthday (which is how I remember the exact day).

Many of those who eulogized David Foster Wallace (who happened to have Ithaca connections), this year and last, in The New Yorker, and on a PRI radio feature, spoke achingly of his gentleness and wit and understanding of American culture.

All of those things come through in this little gem of an essay, made all the more haunting and sad by its references to suicide.

I will not dare (or be so rude) to summarize This Is Water. I already feel like a cheapskate in not having bought it. I do not want to cheapen its message, or its delivery. (Not to say I can't buy This Is Water at some point, for myself or someone else or shave my head and give copies to pedestrians on South Salina Street.)

I can, however, report that I am glad I read it tonight, sitting in that cafe. Yes, it made me rueful (hey, if one can be rueful, can one also be rueless?). But it also made me a bit wiser.

Wrong word.





Thursday, September 24, 2009

L'eau de lune

"I read the news today, oh boy . . . "

Actually, I didn't read the news; I heard it on NPR. (Who reads news anymore anyway? Sad.)

The news I refer to is that scientists studying stuff brought back decades ago from the Apollo missions have found molecules of water (water-bearing minerals, more accurately).

One scientist said, "This is not your grandmother's water." It's not oceans, or even puddles, or even liquid. Nor is it solid or gas. It is something else.

And surprising.


One scientist said she was so surprised she thought her instruments needed to be calibrated.

Water. We thought we knew you. We thought we understood intimately this building block of life. In our thirst for knowledge, we thought the word "water" in its infinite connotations and denotations quenched something. We were cocksure that, well (pun intended), water was at least wet, and close to solid in the frozen north, as solid as "meaning." But, alas, Water, we hardly knew you.

Water. Just a word, just a concept.

And how many other watery definitions will slosh down the drain of certainty as our world, our cosmos, rocks us with surprise?

How many other words turn out to be just like, um, water?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
-- William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), "Hamlet," Act 1 scene 5

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Continental Drift: A Giantific Obsession

So, when I said to my older brother Richard, "Who is your favorite team?" sometime around the winter of 1954-55, and he said, "The Giants," that was it. Little did I know it was fresh after the Catch and the World Series upset sweep of the Cleveland Indians. Little did I know of the nascent obsession this would engender. Little did I foresee the frustration, angst, passion, and excitement. Willie was the key. It wasn't hard to be galvanized by his free-lance style, the basket catch, the cap flying. The elan. The sheer boyish abandon. I put up Willie Mays stickers on my bureau, began a scrapbook. When playing neighborhood baseball, I chose to be number 24 and was taunted. "But he's a nigger," the other kids would say. It stung. (I was already teased for being skinny with buck teeth.) I outwardly brushed it off: "I don't care. So what." I ran from the outfield (a hillock in a housing project) with my shoulders haunched, as if it was slightly painful to run like a gazelle. My arm was good. My outfield Mays fantasy was just that, a fantasy, though Adolphus Hampton once turned to me, a few years later, when we were hitting them out, and paid me a high compliment: "Boy, you got an arm on you." I was in reality more like Charlie Brown, with the ball sailing over my head. I imitated Willie Mays's grip of the bat, the thumb overlapping, his dug-in stance, his almost-one-handed swing. They left after 1957. "Stay, Giants, stay." The clipping in my scrapbook. Was it 11,000 fans at the Polo Grounds against the Pirates? I fought back tears. 1958. They left but I stayed with them. Mostly because of Willie. But where else would I go? as one of the disciples said to Jesus. I ordered brochures from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. I was a virtual San Franciscan when we didn't say "virtual" like that. Three hours' time difference. Frustration. Morning paper. No late scores. Fortunately, the Stamford (Ct.) Advocate was an afternoon paper. WINS 1010 New York carried re-creations of the games. Les Keiter. I listened either on a transistor or at the Bendix that had tubes that had to heat up. Kenny Viola and I would call each other. "Did you bring out the rosary beads?" McCovey. Cepeda. 1962. Cuban missile crisis. Trouble at Ole Miss. Giants in the World Series against the hated Yankees, my other brother's team, my father's team. Watching Sunday afternoon Series games in a sea of AL fans who were open about their disdain of the NL's racial composition. WS rain delays. This after an exhilarating playoff win against the dreaded Dodgers, my friend Michael's team. We all really did argue over Mantle, Mays, and Snider. 1962. Everyone talks about Willie McCovey's line drive to Bobby Richardson, but I remember a catch by Tom Tresh before that as the killer. They carried Ralph Terry off the field. I was speechless. I don't recall my brother Jack taunting me; gallant of him. Many games at Shea. Marichal. Mays hits a homer at my brother Bobby's first Major League game. He tells me years later that he remembers Masanori Murakami's debut. road trips. A game in 1971 in Cincinnati. A trip to Candlestick in 1974. Autographs. I once sent a check for five or six bucks to Giants owner Bob Lurie, to give a seat to a poor kid. I was ashamed of those shamefully small crowds. Under 1,000? Get someone in those stands! A laughably quixotic move. Can you believe they cashed the check? Bud Herseth stops a move to not-so-far Toronto. 1978. Press pass to Pittsburgh. A copy editor playing reporter with a Giants hat on! No wonder Vida Blue, recently returned McCovey, Altobelli, Terry Whitfield, Montefusco were engaging and warm. No pretense of objectivity from me. My son Ethan and I having a catch ("Field of Dreams" got that phrase right near the ending) in the back yard; he misses, glasses flying off, imprint of the stitching on his forehead, ending his athletic career then and there. 2002. All set to write an emotional tribute, long-lost World Series love letter. Publish it somewhere. Finally. Nope. No such luck. 2003. With such a great wire-to-wire year, high hopes. Dashed by Marlins. And then a pilgrimage to 24 Willie Mays Plaza this year. 2009. Something overcame me when I heard that sentimental Tony Bennett song in the late afternoon, the water in the bay sparkling, the crowd filing out, buoyant. The bridge stoic and iconic. Something part arrival, part Mecca, part frustration, part holy. All parts gratitude. A sense of place. Not a stranger among strangers 3,000 miles away. A communal camaraderie. My wife, Beth, and my daughters Adrianna and Evelyn say, "What's wrong?" as I catch up with them, my face red and contorted. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just...It's good. It's all good." Eugenio Velez gives Adrianna an autograph. When I get back, I buy that Tony Bennett song on iTunes. It is said that the author John Updike moved from New York to Boston just to see Ted Williams play. I'd move to San Francisco just to see Tim Lincecum play, whose jersey my daughter wears, free of the taunts I had heard back in the "Father Knows Best" "Ozzie and Harriet" "Amos 'n' Andy" Fifties. 2009. You never know. Still alive. And kickin'. I am there. My DNA floats somewhere along Third & King, or DeHaro Street or Sacramento or Clay or Montgomery or California. Still alive.

Friday, September 11, 2009

hygienic errata, et cetera

Call me Neologist-Come-Lately (not Ishmael), but I am just learning a term dating back to 2001 or earlier:

data hygiene

I learned of a former colleague, now apparently very successful in a mercantile pursuit, who declares that she is "passionate about data hygiene and consistency."

Although you will charge me with non-data-related snickering (NDRS), I myself declare my affection for the term data hygiene. (I'm too lazy to care whether it should be italics or quotes or neither.)

Data hygiene is a bright and shiny, if slightly self-important, neologism. Apparently data hygiene refers to updating names and addresses of databases used for direct-mail.

Why, of course!

I'm sure it has branched out metaphorically into other meanings, its tendrils of connotation creeping like a verbal vine. (Stop vining! It's like kvetching!) (Who'd be interested in data hygiene? Well, accountants, bankers, the CIA, political spinmeisters, and pornographers, who would more likely lean toward unhygienic, or dirty data [UODD].)

Like me, this former colleague is a former copy editor, so who better for scrubbing data?

You might say that editors are verbal hygienists. Or hygienic redactors. Logocentric hygienists. Syntactical parers.

Mark Murphy said, "I myself brush my megabytes three times a day."

This a good one for Wordie.

Words. We'd be almost speechless without them. Or at least at a loss for words.

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Fruits of Their Labors

May all workers enjoy respite from their labors on this Labor Day. (The link provides a good precise history of Labor Day. We might subtitle this as "An Ode to Matthew Maguire" or "An Ode to Peter McGuire.")

Of course, not all get respite from work today in Labor Day America. I am at this moment surrounded by nurses, nurse's assistants, doctors, housekeeping staff, doctors, food staff, nurse practitioners, and a host of others who work today. Many others can't manage a day off or aren't allowed one: clergy, journalists, editors, newsroom folks, chefs, wait staff, servers, food service providers, convenience store clerks, gas station attendants, pilots, flight attendants, baggage handlers, toll collectors, police, sheriff's deputies, EMS personnel, the military, state troopers, maintenance staff, repair staff, taxi drivers, retail associates, software trainers, customer service reps, dispatchers, farm workers, rehab staff, entertainers, athletes, carnies, lifeguards, public transit workers, air traffic controllers, grocery store employees, artists, bloggers, on-air media staff and their support, power-generation staff, and countless others. Forgive all omissions.

I am grateful for the fruits of their (our) labors.

We are grateful.

And we should be grateful for the labor union movement.

It is fashionable to bash unions these days, especially from the right and from management types. The suits. The owners. Those in comfort in comfortable exurban enclaves.

And unions get bashed a lot in the health-care reform debate; they're a whipping boy. Sure, excesses have occurred, hence some imbalance, some resentment.

Imbalance? Resentment? Without the labor union movement, imagine the workers' life of the good old days, the less "socialist" days, the days of unfettered capitalism. So let us give thanks for paid holidays, paid vacations, 40-hour work weeks, sick leave, personal leave, and, um, health benefits. I'm sure all these benefits and more were called "socialist" and other words by those in power at the time they were proposed. Now we ALL benefit from these things, even union bashers, even management. (Incidentally, "socialist" countries led the way on Labor Day itself [we got the idea from Canada, and Europe was ahead in its worker reforms].)

Happy Labor Day to all.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Pthe Pawline Pneumonia Pchronicles

So around 3 a.m. today one white-haired Emergency Department (ED) doctor, Dr. Seely, placidly pronounces the words "a touch of pneumonia" as the raison d'etre for my being admitted to Crouse Hospital, and minutes later the similarly white-coiffed, Brooklyn-born Dr. Kaplan sounds a shade more doubtful, using words like "infiltrate," as a noun, to describe stuff in my lungs, stuff which induced gagging, air-inhibiting, breath-obstructing coughing, which were the reasons for the trip to the ED way back at 10:15 p.m. Friday. Breathing is such a simple and effortless and shall we say natural thing -- when it works. Struggle with it for just a few moments and its currency rises faster than the price of gold during financial tumult (cf. my choking incident earlier this year). Not being able to breathe because of coughing, stamping one's feet, chasing, chasing for the unfound way to stop the spasm of repetitive coughing evokes fear and panic for the participant and those around him. To the point when it was my young daughter, crying, who insisted on some real action here, folks, c'mon! Insisted. Rightly so.

I surrendered.

Hearing the doctor's (or doctors' if you figure in the broader analysis of both snow-cropped docs) diagnosis was actually a relief. (Why a "touch" of pneumonia and not a splash or dash or stain or Everglades swamp, huh?) Even more so, being ordered to stay in the hospital provided more relief, despite the fears of structural and procedural errors and the abundance of even newer germs to be found in the place. Relief because there are worse things than hearing "pneumonia" as your problem. I shall not list those. Granted, the Big P is serious stuff, and in yesteryear, before antibiotics (the triumph of science, Ethan!) were common, pneumonia claimed many, especially the young and the old. So, I respect it and do not belittle its power. Just ask Jim Henson. But, the diagnosis could be worse, far worse. Call it the Lung Is Half-Full Theory. HAHAHAHAHA! I experienced relief also because quite honestly I was loath [corrected, thanks to Mark Murphy, from the earlier wrong word, the verb "loathe"] to return home, frankly afraid to face the specter of another violent coughing jag. Wife and young daughter and I were not going to settle for some fake palliative. So this is the right place to be.

I must report I was a little cheesed off (thank you, Beatles -- John? Paul? -- on VH1 airing of Beatles Anthology for that expression reminder) by the triage nurse in ED who had earlier remarked glibly, "You're not going to die" as I was gasping for air in front of her unable to answer her administrative questions, sounding like a drowning sailor in Leonard Cohen's plaintive ballad "Suzanne." On the one hand, I can accept that her words were meant to pacify my panic, but it came off as dismissive. Excuse me, Ms. ED RN. You are not the Big Cosmic Cheese and do not have permission to make such breezy declarations about the breezy wheeze trapped inside my chest. Melodrama may not be called for on my part, but I do happen to have a pretty good sense about my body. Shucks, Ms. ED RN, be not so cavalier as I gasp in front of you like the common New Yorker magazine cartoon of the guy crawling in the desert looking for water but who sees a mirage. In this case, I was crawling for air and it was not a mirage. So there.

That was then. This is now. Respiratory therapy treatments have helped, as well as IV antibiotics (more to come at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., ugh), as well as the care of nurses Allison, Cori, Amy, Carolyn, Allison, Amal, Maryann, Priscilla, Pauline, and Oksana (hope no one has been omitted), and Dr. Masood, as well as the calls by caring friends and family, and the heart-warming visits by Beth, Adrianna, Ethan, Jenny, Evelyn in absentia, Warren, Win, and Timmy [sorry I missed you] (hope no one has been omitted).

I expect to go home Monday.

This from the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1603, from Mod.L., from Gk. pneumonia "inflammation of the lungs," from pneumon (gen. pneumonos) "lung," altered from pleumon "lung," lit. "floater," from PIE *pleu- "to flow, to swim" (see pulmonary). Alteration in Gk. perhaps by influence of pnein "to breathe."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Luscious Luddite Lassitude

Ah, the joys of a news blackout. . . .

Many a summer I indulged in a self-imposed blackout of any news while vacationing on Brantingham Lake, in New York, in the Adirondacks. For me it cooled the fever of obsessive-compulsive attention to world events, the kind of fever that feeds the illusion that says, "This level of attention actually influences the course of events," which is not only a fallacy and nonsense but hubris of the silliest sort. Anyway, the blackout, which got to be a bit of a family-tolerated game (averting my eyes from newsstand headlines when in Lowville, or almost clapping my ears to avoid hearing anything about the baseball strike of '94 [was it '94?] on the radio in a store in Old Forge), did seem to recharge my batteries -- but not cure the obsession.

However, the tragedy of a so-called news blackout is that it is a joy, a respite, a sane retreat, a Luddite pleasure, only for news junkies.

When the vast majority of the population delights in willful ignorance or obtuse one-sidedness -- in other words when a news blackout is the daily norm -- there is no joy in Muddville or Topeka or Pittsburgh or Skaneateles or Solvay or Encino or Hibbing or Bemidji or Greenwich or Syracuse or Pittsburg or Manhattan or Springfield or Darien or Saint Louis or Collegeville or Stamford or Warner Robins or Scranton or Wilkes-Barre or Portland or Los Gatos or San Francisco or Crawford or Honolulu or Salem or Erie or Conklin or Santa Barbara or Albany or Otisco or Kalamazoo or Flint or New Canaan or Bismarck or Dickinson or Mott or Phoenix or Santa Fe or Del Rio or Bridgeport or Kirkville or Kirkwood.

"All the news that's fit to miss."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Sounds of Summer

Crickets, fans, leaves rustling, grass sleeping, more crickets.

Their absence will echo like a gong during December's silent snows.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Doggone It!

Now that the Dog Days* of summer are ending (July 24-August 24, by some counts), and a reign of lassitude or howling frenzy is coming to a close, I offer the salubrious effects of my serial-comma-laden, I Leap for Kierkegaard-promoted, super-hyphenated blog.

* Caniculares dies, at whose start the Romans, it is said sacrificed a dog to appease the rage of Sirius, the Dog Star, brightest in the firmament except for the sun.

With the Dog Days behind us, we now don't have to take things so Siriusly, eh? (woof! OUCH!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dewatering Hole

As I strolled through Burnet Park this evening, I was greeted by the shock of emptiness, an alabaster rectangular hole with black crosses painted at the far end. The pool was empty. Stark empty! On August 19! No lifeguards? (Back at college?) No cash? Where did all the turquoise madness drain to?And what did all the kids do as they approached the railings only to find this stark absence of cerulean-emerald shimmering in the heat?

Empty. Gone.

And summer, rudely hanging around, sweating.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Noble Wireless & Other Tightropes

I am sitting at Barnes & Noble Booksellers Cafe, in DeWitt, New York, decaf coffee at my side, having just finished a Warm Granny Smith Apple Purse pastry (rather dry). The good news is that AT&T wifi is now "complimentary" here, which to me spells f-r-e-e. I'm not saying that makes B&N all virtuous and all that. I'm sure they finally figured out that it's better to lure customers with free wifi. But that's cool. I'm here. My daughter purchased (actually not yet; I'll buy it later) a notebook she is already sketching in, sketching the design of her Vera Bradley purse. Who knew I'd find two such very different meanings of "purse"? A few moments ago, while paying for my coffee and purse (is "purse" truly a name for a type of pastry? I guess so), I saw someone who appeared to be a colleague from 2003. I hesitated. When I spoke, I figured if it was her [she, for you grammatical purists], she'd respond upon recognizing my inimitable voice. She did not. When she spoke, I recognized her apparently inimitable voice and began an "Is that you?" conversation. Her face blushed. Why? Was she essentially planning on avoiding me -- a plot I had foiled? We traded some stories of mutal former colleagues. She told me what she was doing, after my initial wrong guess. She never asked what I was doing or have been doing since 2003. This does not rankle me as much as you might think. [Dr. Freud: Then why are you blogging about it, Pawlie? Screw off, Sigmund.] Reciprocity. It ain't that one needs to keep count or keep score. No, not at all. But civility demands at least the appearance of reciprocity. Reciprocity, such as, "Oh, and what have you been up to?" would at least provide the pretense of mutual interest. No big deal. I hardly had the conversational momentum or verve to explain the last six years, or even the last six weeks, or six minutes. So be it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Serial Comma Society

Hats, gloves, bras, shirts, sandals, and socks off to The Serial Comma Society on Facebook.

We are not alone!

Carry on!

As you were.

March on, Serial Comma Commandos.

(Yes, yes, we struggled over whether to hyphenate between serial and comma. We sided with poetic license, available at the city clerk's office, for a nominative fee.)

Monday, August 10, 2009


After having counted thousands (more like thousandths) of votes, I can share this:

I say, "I have a
pebble in my shoe" to describe an objet d'art, or object de natura, bothering my step.

Others report saying "stone" or "rock," both of which strike me as akin to saying "boulder."

Sui generis.

Age quod agis.

(What would Kierkegaard say?) (WWKS)