Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Story of 821

Did you ever just feel like having a big old sloppy bar cheeseburger for dinner? With a beer or two, just to take the edge off some Shostakovich. One Friday night L. and I were going to a concert, so we thought we'd stop at a slightly (and I do mean slightly) upscale watering hole we knew of, and have a couple of the aforementioned burgers, plus fries. Well, it had been a long time since we'd been downtown, and we discovered to our dismay that our watering hole had closed. What to do? Nothing seemed to be open but "821," a very upscale eatery. Well, we didn't have a whole lot of time, but I figured we could get something quick in the bar. We found a table, but the menu was the same as the sitdown. I looked at the prices-- I didn't feel like paying $24.95 an entree, the cheapest thing (plus it was a la carte), especially not when I had a cheeseburger in mind. So we wound up ordering wine and appetizers. That, I was hoping, should hold us. I have to keep my wife happy, you know. L. is a girl of strong appetite, vital in a very appealing sort of way. Frankly, I was feeling like the Three Stooges-- you know, when they walk into some ritzy joint by mistake and try to keep up appearances, hoping they don't wind up washing dishes.

Well, the appetizers didn't do it. I can't even remember what they were, but there wasn't enough. In all fairness, the bartender warned us they were just "conversation starters." He knew what we were about (we shabby interlopers). He was sympathetic but maintained his profesional distance. Genteel poverty can be so disconcerting.

We poured the last of the wine and desperately scanned the menu--and L. found it. It was a cortini, Barkeep informed us, a side dish: sweet potato, quick fried in nice long strips in honey and ginger. It was delicious, and there was a lot of it. For $4.95! And I think we only ordered one dish! Anyway, we left sated and happy, ready for Socialist Realism.

And that's the story of 821--one of those little survival tales that couples treasure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fine Lines

"The human predicament is here presented neither as divine comedy nor fully blown tragedy, but is seen from a viewpoint located somewhere between Olympus and Gethsemane...(Seamus Heaney in the foreword to The Canon : the Original One Hundred and Fifty-four Poems by C.P. Cavafy).

Another haiku:

The portulaccas,
Now a heap of tangled vines;
Still-- tongues of color!

And this is good:

Friday, September 5, 2008

Labor Day Haiku

Drunken, heedless men
And mindless insect chorus
Praise September's moon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer haiku

Bagpipes on the beach!
Of all the things! At sunset--
Aye, those pipes did wail!

That's it-- one summer haiku. My haiku-writing period extended from late summer into fall, in a long-ago year. So most of them are autumnal. But I really did see a guy playing bagpipes on the beach.

I always stuck to the five-seven-five syllable rule. Dover Thrift Editions about 20 years ago put out a dollar edition of Japanese haiku. It was a very nice job with good explanatory notes written by I've forgotten who. Multiple translations of the same haiku were often included. Also the Japanese transliteration. I later found out from a co-knowledge-worker, though, that Japanese transliterations do include silent syllables. So, unless you know which are silent, you can't read them to get a sense of the sound.

Another good book is A Net of Fireflies by Harold Stewart. He renders traditional Japanese haiku into rhyming couplets, believing they are a more natural poetic expression for English speakers. Harold Stewart was a very interesting fellow, about whom more later.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where Read

OK, so let's start afresh. Thought of the Day doesn't work. Continued work on Why I am no Longer a Buddhist doesn't seem particularly fruitful. I will blog only when I have enough time and will try to be somewhat literary.

I really do write for the printed page. I don't think it's possible to read something really reflective on the computer. I feel like my neck is frozen into place, or something. You can't look up, put your finger in the book, and think. You have no sense of reading something in a place. D. Keith Mano once related how he not only could recall especially moving or eloquent passages, but the exact physical circumstances in which he first read them. I love reading outdoors, on the deck, or in the garden. Here's some stuff from my old Upsouth days:

Last weekend I noted the energetic music of the purple finches. Before that, the swifts had made their reappearance high above, tirelessly scouring the dome of sunlit sky free of insects. The catbird, always heard before he's seen, shyly sounds his sweet and dreamy song from amidst the wild bushy places. The clematis and the climbing rose are in abundant blossom, and now that the nights as well as days are warm enough, we've hauled the heavy lawn chairs out for sitting. My summer study's furnished and ready, how about yours?

Haven't had much luck reading on the beach, however. The multitudinous sensory experiences are too compelling, at least at first. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea says the same thing. A magazine or two, maybe, but War and Peace will always be for fireside.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A year!

I'm going to Wernersville again, so I've been blogging here a year. Sobering thought. I thought I'd take along Ronald Knox's Captive Flames, some of his sermons on Christian saints recently put out by Ignatius Press. Anything more systematic would be too daunting. I want something with that odd sparkle that illuminates everything else.

I think that's a worthwhile way to approach intellectual study. Quirky interests can be good--they show a certain love for the world. And they should lead to reflection on greater things.
Often today, students go backwards. We fill them full of Grand Theory before they've had a chance to be captivated by the facts of the world. See E. D. Hirsch, The Knowledge Deficit.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Thought of the Day Tangentially Involving Super Tuesday in a Non-partisan Way

Remember when executives and administrators used to "spearhead projects" and "lay foundations" with "heavy lifting" and even "establish beachheads"? Now we have "servant-leaders" who listen and "nurture growth." That's fine if you have ultra-committed team members who are itching to do their own thing anyway. Most of us just want to make a living and contribute to the smooth operation of something worthwhile [with our households being the most worthwhile thing of all]. Maybe we're not 100% invested: our work, while important, is not the sum total of our lives. Just tell us what you want done and we'll do it--but tell us! I think real leadership is neglected. Instead of leaders we have listeners. And more time is spent probing the psychological states of workers than on actually directing people's efforts. We need leaders who take us outside ourselves, in short.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Thought of the Day #2

How about that Superbowl? Or, as L. calls it, "The Guacamole Bowlie." Which we did consume, along with two bags of fancy chips. We enjoyed the game immensely, staying awake for the whole thing. I sometimes think the only way I've affected L.'s life is that now she watches football.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Thought of the Day

Since I stopped working on Thursday nights, I don't get much time to blog anymore. So, with some trepidation, I hereby launch "The Thought of the Day."

I think--as I was shelving some Norman Mailer--that we tend to make too much of artists. Of their biographies, I mean. We idolize them, and the more whacked out they are, the better. Plato warned us about the poets! When I was in college, Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and the Beats--all those guys we admired for their lifestyle as much, if not more, than for their poetry. In recent times we've seen Mozart, who was probably a fairly conventional sort, transformed into a wild genius and eccentric by "Amadeus." Before, people who listened to Mozart were considered stuffy--now they are thought to be "with it" and sort of rebellious. For every weird artist, however, there are sober and thoughtful ones who also produce great art.

The herd mentality of this adulation first hit me when I read Dan Wakefield's New York in the Fifties. He describes people standing five and six deep at a Greenwich Village bar-- watching Dylan Thomas drink. It struck me as very silly.