Friday, January 30, 2015

sense of humor

Anecdotal research of online dating sites says 89.7% of all women seeking male companionship, friendship, relationship, dreamboat, or knight in slightly tarnished armour want said person to make them laugh, have a sense of humor. Sense of humor. It is a recurring theme. Now, why is that? Because they are sad and need a clown? Clowns are not funny. Because laughter is the best medicine, as Reader's Digest would put it? Medicine to cure what? Existential angst? Talk about giving men performance anxiety! Granted, laughter is salubrious. And, true, it is hard to make yourself laugh, just as it is hard to tickle yourself. But this obsession, this assumption, this given, that the man must have a sense of humor, must make her laugh? C'mon. I'm a funny guy, so they say. On paper and in person. I've even had pieces of my humor (or humour in the Commonwealth) published. Alas, those humor-inducing qualities have not saved me from 1.73 divorces. Oh, sure, you will argue that it wasn't the humor that did me in, but the lack of it at the right time or the wrong kind of humor at the wrong time. Whatever. And if you look a little closer, research likely indicates that comedians as a class are not privately the happiest of people. When you come to think of it, much humor, maybe almost all humor, has an undercurrent of tragedy. We laugh at the person slipping on a banana peel. We laugh at the crotch injuries and bodies flying off trampolines on "America's Funniest Videos." Sense of humor? Really? Be careful what y'all ask for. Yuck, yuck. (Now that was not funny.)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

hunger games, the questions

  • What do I hunger for?
  • Why?
  • What appetites drive my hunger?
  • What satisfies my hunger?
  • Do I know what makes me so hungry?
  • Am I more hungry tha others are? Or less? Or about the same?
  • Why are you, dear reader, reading these 'hunger games' questions?
  • And how would you answer them?
  • Are they not challenging queries?
  • And, like me, does a taste of 'speaker's remorse' tempt you to erase all these questions, to dodge them, dislodge them, evade them, eviscerate them, escape them, divert the conversation away from them, and on and on?


I like to start with titles.
They are seeds.
Or germs.
A minimalism.
Jorge Luis Borges wrote a book review of a book that did not exist. How's that for minimalism?
It's not quite titular but sort of.
So you might say I'm a titular man.
Go ahead, you could say it.
The word is replete with the ring of ecclesiastical hierarchy, or else suggestive of anatomical allurements.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

creating coincidence

You walk the path you trod, the air colder and the sky brighter. You go to this or that music, food, or lecture venue, this time alone. You tell yourself timing is critical. You picture the "coincidental" rendezvous, its texture, complexion, the reactions, the heartbeats. But you discover you cannot create coincidence, can you. It's not so shocking or surprising a revelation. The bigger and more cogent epiphany, however, is that you are content with the absence of so-called coincidence as you traverse your world, step by vigilant step.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

turning points

How many turning points do we get in this life? I do not know. You may say that every moment is one. Understood. But how often do we dare to disturb our own universe, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot? I concede there are the obvious turning points, the walking-down-the-wedding aisle moments, or the deciding not to do so. For all we know, there are even greater turning points, and we did not recognize them. Or perhaps we did. Firsts, as in kisses, cigarettes, drinks, drugs, days on the job, words exchanged, or silences. Lasts, of the same. And more. As well as less.

Life is a mysterious journey, is it not? Especially when we are in the thrall of turning points we may be blind to.

O Wisdom, O Wisdom, grant us wisdom.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Today I was several feet away from my boyhood hereo, Willie Mays.

I suppose I could have even shouted out a question, a compliment, a hello, a thank you.


It was like a reverent aura surrounded him.

Yeah, he is, you might say, a mere mortal, a baseball player. One of us.

Then, again.

But such elan!

And it is still there.

"Did you ever know you were my hero?" says the song.

When I was 9 years old or so, I tried to call Willie Mays in San Francisco across the country from me, on our Princess phone. I did not get through.

What would I have said?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

an infinity of the unnameable

"In other words, apart from the known and the unknown, what else is there?" 

-- Harold Pinter

Ah, who else but Harold Pinter, the renowned master of the white spaces of silence in conversation (or lack thereof)?  

To answer the question, an Infinity of the Unnameable.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Two billboards I've seen feature the word "Comfortable" and a picture of a comfortable sneaker. It's a local ad for the Vineyard Church. Well done. Simple. Understandable. Direct. Remember-able.

I salute the fact that the church is emphasizing radical hospitality.

"You are welcome here." 


That's always a great start, for any relationship.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

the walking cure

In the absence of talking, what is there? A silence of sorts. A sorta silence. A sordid stillness. Assorted illness. A walk in the park. Or in the dark. Or daytime stroll. Or jellyroll. A pleasant diversion. Or lucid immersion. A delicious excursion. Or slumbered encumbrance. This. That. The other.

Friday, January 16, 2015

the talking cure

Is talking a cure? A cure for what? Can the cure from talking be quantified? And a host of other questions. So, I've talked. And talked some more. And left some barbs. And been stung. Just like everybody else. "What I meant to say" is what we resort to." As T.S. Eliot put it in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," "It is impossible to say just what I mean!" He added: "That is not it at all, / That is not what I meant at all." So, today, right now, I am feeling as if talking in fact ruined some situations. It would have gone better without the talking. That's how it feels. Of course, this goes against the tenets, the premises, of modern life. You can't go silent. You can't hold it in. You've got to talk. Really? This moment, I'd feel better not having talked out, as they say, some situations, though that's naive, sure, because it would have been inevitable, wouldn't it, the talking? Talking? Naw. Give this blabbermouth touching or tasting or feeling or smelling any day of the week. (But, psssst, don't tell my therapist.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


On days of frigid clarity, how do you name the sky, its "blue" that is not blue (why resort to that adjective?), nor cerulean or cyan, but a higher register, a squint-inducing celestialness, brighter than beryl or azure or ultramarine, not sapphire or turquoise or teal, but something sky-ey, something beyond words, something clear and cold yet invitingly warm, something heavenly, just for today, this moment?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

life skills coordinator

I see where the Washington Nationals baseball organization has hired Rick Ankiel as "life skills coordinator," to mentor their minor leaguers.

Where was such a coach when I needed one? 

Would I have listened (i.e., practiced what he or she preached) if such a mentor were assigned to me?

Does anyone ever listen to such advice when young?

It is an intriguing title.

Life Skills Coordinator.

What skills get coordinated?


And is it too late for me to receive (and act upon) such guiding, coaxing, coaching, nudging, encouraging, admonishing, ameliorating, correcting, rectifying, advising, pushing, and coordinating?

Friday, January 09, 2015

solo inherent vice

I went to the movies, by myself.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Is there?
I saw "Inherent Vice."
Rather liked it, not sure why; maybe because of its mix of comedy and film noir. Some combination, eh? (And I enjoyed the acting performances. Does acting by itself ever carry a film? And if you have to remark on the acting, doesn't that count as a negative for the movie as a whole?)
Make of it what you will: a man goes to the movies solo on a Friday night, and the movie he sees is "Inherent Vice."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

internal medicine

I saw a sign on a doctor's office:


What is that? Does a priest practice internal medicine? Is it what a metaphysician looks into? And then what would external medicine consist of?

Monday, January 05, 2015

benevolent amnesia

"The thing I really cherish about the work is the done-ness. When it's finished I tend to develop a benevolent amnesia." 

-- Leonard Cohen, as quoted by Rob Sheffield (@robsheff) on Sept. 18, 2014 on Twitter.

Don't you love that phrase "benevolent amnesia"?

Who doesn't need or want some benevolent amnesia now and then?

Sunday, January 04, 2015


I make a living through the caress, postulation, positioning, embrace, and fondling of words. But they are mere words. Paltry. Nothing. They never quite say it, do they? All words, however you jumble them, miss the mark, to some degree.

Has any pair of words ever said as much as a pair of eyes?

Saturday, January 03, 2015

If I were a rich man...

Good song, entertaining play. "Fiddler on the Roof." Saw it on Broadway with my older brother and my parents. A Christmas present. Something tells me my younger brother was at home watching a famous football game in which the Kansas City Chiefs lost.

If I were a rich man:
  • I wouldn't necessarily be happier.
  • it might be harder to live sober.
  • perhaps I'd be less, not more, generous.
  • my life would be more complicated.
  • other people would view me differently.
  • I might employ the personal pronoun "I" more often.
  • I might forget what it was like to be a poor man
  • I would dress differently.
  • I might speak differently.
  • my circle of friends and acquaintances might change.
  • I might eat differently.
  • I would travel.

Friday, January 02, 2015

If I were a sociologist . . .

. . . I would tell my students to think big, and originally, even if they started small, and unoriginally. I'd challenge them to come up with a grand research project, something like: why do groups of humans flock to do certain things and why? Oh, I know, studies have already explored that. But dig deeper. Watch people at a store or at a mall. What are the influences of smell or building design or age or race or clothing or crowdedness or gender? There's lots to explore. And lots to learn about humans as individuals and in groups.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

happy new you

The phrase "happy new year" strikes me as odd, though understandable. I say "odd" because we do not live a year at a time. For that matter, we do not live a day at a time, but that quotidian scale is more manageable. You never hear "happy new decade" or "happy new century." Or maybe you do. "Happy new minute"? "Happy new second"? How about "happy new now"?

Happy new you.