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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.

Nighty-Nightvale

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.

The end of disruption

I was staying at a sassy little hotel chain called Tru. It’s a Hilton spinoff. It’s got a pool table and board games in the lobby! It’s got hand-written messages about local activities on whiteboards facing the elevators! The walls are painted mint and teal and other fizzy colors, and the floors are made of something that looks like recycled plastic wood, if that’s a thing.

The attendant at the desk was wearing a bright round Tru nametag that said “Hey there!” and her name. She also wore a Tru fleece vest, on the back of which was the message: “Disrupt with a smile.”

Let us pause to honor, with pleasure, the passing of the meaning of all forms of the word “disrupt.”

Why haven’t I written?

Because blogging is dead.

Because the WordPress blogging interface changed and I’m old and don’t want to deal with it.

Because I don’t know what to say.

Because The Thing That Is Happening In Front Of Us is so distracting, so depressing, so consuming, that to write about anything else feels like a declaration of ignorance.

Because to write about The Thing That Is Happening would be personally indulgent and professionally inappropriate. Unlike the many, many times I’ve written about my hilarious children.

Because everyone is already writing about The Thing That Is Happening, and everyone has said the same things a thousand times, and no one needs me to say those things one more time in a corner of the interwebs that no one visits anyway.

Because I am trying to live a more mindful life, OK? And the constant demand for new blog material is breaking my back, all right? I’m not a content machine! What happened to silence? What happened to reflection? What happened to walking aimlessly? (There is no demand for new blog material.)

In the middle of World War II, E.B. White would write in the New Yorker about his domestic life: his sheep, his daily routines, the sun coming up, etc. When I first encountered those essaylets, I thought the disjunction between global catastrophe and quotidian observation was grotesque. But you could make the case (someone has, in some distant blog) that his apolitical writing was a political statement. He was writing on behalf of timeless life, the life that outlasts war or social upheaval or cultural chaos.

But I’m not making that case. I don’t know what the hell to do, I really don’t.

But “I don’t know what the hell to do” is a luxury. You do what you do. You ask yourself if you can do more. You ask yourself if you can do something different. Not-knowing is a luxury–but it’s also a beginning.

13th doctor positivity

My kids are watching the new season of Dr. Who. It’s not my thing (lasers! time travel! futuristic “wit”), but I watched an episode at my kids’ behest. And I love, love, love the new doctor. Who is a woman. Which is a first for the show. (There have been 12 doctors, all male, before her.) (Because, um, they’re all incarnations of the same person.) (Don’t ask me!)

What I love most about her is her spirit. She’s indomitable. But not in a grim, humorless way. In a brisk, giddy, deliriously curious way. She encounters a robot army (or whatever), and her response isn’t a clenched one-liner. Her response is: This is interesting! Let’s figure this out! My son calls it “13th doctor positivity.” And for at least one day this week, he went to school–which he’s usually depressed about–with that spirit . . . and it worked! He had a good day!

The next day was meh. But, you know: That’s interesting! We’ll figure it out. Good on you, doctor.

Superlatives

The yearbook staff at my daughter’s middle school sent around a survey asking students to nominate superlatives.

Her responses to a few categories:

Best Dressed
Style is subjective.

Most Popular
I refuse to contribute to the toxicity of popularity. In my opinion it only lowers self-esteem and makes school less fun.

Most Competitive
and
Loudest
This question is negative and whoever won would feel bad and thus I refuse to answer.

Most Likely To Be on a Reality TV Show
I don’t watch reality TV shows.

Most Likely To Be a Model
The modeling industry is toxic and I refuse to judge my classmates’ “hotness.”

I love that girl.

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