Addressing the wind

Yesterday I was walking in town, and the air was frigid and the wind was stinging, and I was reminded of the times when I lived in Chicago, the coldest place I’ve ever lived, and although I am not known around town as a guy who talks aloud when wandering the streets alone, I found myself shouting at the wind, “Stop! Stop hitting me!”

The breakup: three tableaux

I was walking around a small town in Maine, and I passed a couple–a man and a woman–in their 20s, talking on the grounds of a brick-faced Customs House. It was in fact a museum, closed for the day, with a short brick walkway, a fair amount of lawn, and knee-high wrought-iron fencing.

They were . . . in the middle of something. They were talking–mostly the woman, rarely the man–in earnest, intense tones.

I passed them once, then again, and then once more. (It was a small town! There weren’t a ton of places to walk.) Each time I passed them, their bodies were arranged in a new tableau:

The woman sitting on stone steps, knees together, arms extended and crossed at the elbows; the man facing her, swinging slowly on a gate.

The two sitting next to each other on the steps, the man pressing a palm into his brow–and then the woman stepping down and kneeling in front of him.

The two sitting once more on the steps, the man crumpled against a pillar, face buried in an elbow, the woman with her spine straight, pulling at a blade of grass or perhaps the strap of her purse.

Honey on the comb

The other day I sent my kids to the farmers’ market, and they came back with a little container of honey on the comb.

Have you ever had honey on the comb? I had not. Nor had I understood that bee’s wax is, like, wax that bees make. They make wax! Little (or large?) catacombs of it. Into which the honey goes.

I know so little about bees. But what little I know makes me wish I knew more. They appear to be freaking geniuses.

Plus, the experience of eating honey this way was exquisite. A little square of the wax comb in your mouth, sucking the honey from it–dang. That is some sacred nectar. A friend said she had a love/hate relationship with honey on the comb; she thought it was “decadent and freaky.” Which is exquisitely put. More of that, please.

News that stays news

James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time. 1963.

“People are not terribly anxious to be equal (equal, after all, to what and to whom?) but they love the idea of being superior. And this human truth has an especially grinding force here, where identity is almost impossible to achieve and people are perpetually attempting to find their feet on the shifting sands of status. (Consider the history of labor in a country in which, spiritually speaking, there are no workers, only candidates for the hand of the boss’s daughter.) Furthermore, I have met only a very few people–and most of these were not Americans–who had any real desire to be free. Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels. Privately, we cannot stand our lives and dare not examine them; domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country; and, internationally, for many millions of people, we are an unmitigated disaster.”

Poem made of lines from other poems

The artist formerly known as my wife is the poet laureate of our town. A little while ago she hosted an event that featured a bunch of people reading poems by other people. And she added a wrinkle: during the course of the reading, audience members were to write down lines that caught their attention. After all the poems had been read, the audience would compose a poem made of lines we liked, spoken aloud in an order that made sense to us.

Such a great idea! I didn’t record the audience-generated poem, but I did keep the lines that J. (my 10-year-old son) wrote down. They are:

I went looking for my childhood.

Why empty the house when it can’t be emptied?

Why must we die to live and live to die?

We curse money.

A grand old heron, its wings spread to eternity.

A word about love

From James Baldwin, in The Fire Next Time:

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace–not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

The false step

Hugely inspiring lines from Agnes Martin, via Jennifer Higgie’s excellent Instagram feed, which is dedicated to women artists:

“Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous delays and wanderings off the track, I want to say that they are not what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic mistakes are not mistakes, all that seems like error is not error; and it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is the next step.”

Behold! My daughter!

She is in 8th grade. Two things she did today:

Thing one: At the end of her half-hour shift hosting a “youth radio” show on a community radio station, she attempted to play “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Mis, intending to sing along with it. But there was a technical glitch and it wouldn’t play–so she just sang the song on her own. If you’ve never heard your daughter sing a soaring ode to solidarity–a cappella!–on a local radio station, I’m telling you it’s pretty great.

Thing two: In math class, the teacher instructed the students to perform a certain set of tasks online–but there was a technical glitch, and for 50 minutes the entire class sat at their screens, attempting and failing to get online. At some point, during a moment of collective silent exasperation, W. said–in a mock-plaintive voice, not quite under her breath–“Is this hell?” And laughter echoed along the halls of the middle school.


My kids have been getting into Welcome to Nightvale. “Getting into” means “listening to an episode in the car if they remember they like it,” but also “making a sincere parody podcast called Nighty-Nightvale that in many respects is better than the original.”

The original is a news broadcast from a suburban Anywhere city that is also a staging area for existential dread and apocalyptic visions. Beneath or behind or within every banal symbol of bourgeois complacency (the bake sale, the Boy Scouts, the dog park) is evidence of a sinister shadowland (a glowing cloud, a line of silent hooded figures, a bloody ritual). A recent (recent to me, meaning like from 2012) “word from our sponsor” spent two minutes describing a hallucinatory spiral into an underwater nightmare, leading to the tag: “Welcome . . . to Red Lobster.”

The announcer sounds like a D-list actor playing a mildly zombified C-list actor playing a 1940’s radio newsreader. His tone is stilted and portentous. My kids can do an excellent imitation of him. They deepen their voice and do a little suburban/sinister mashup: “Bananas . . . do not love you.” “The morning sun . . . is a beautiful lie.”

For example (and this is the best example), J. once said, in that deep, stilted, portentous voice, “Everything inside you . . . eventually comes out.”

The man I am

Our public elementary and middle schools are full of hard-working, good-hearted people, none of whom teach languages other than English.

Yet at some point in his education, J. encountered a teacher who was brought in to teach Spanish for a few months. He remembers a few numbers, a few months of the year, and one sentence, which he sometimes says to me, regardless of what I may have said to him: “Hola, mi rosa padre.” Hello, my pink father.

I am fifty, and I work at a communications firm, and I like to play basketball, and I support restorative justice, and so on. But if I am one thing in this world, I am a pink father.