I lost my dad four years ago. He was an exceptional teacher, a really good man, and one of my closest friends. I have the annoying habit of playing DJ around friends and family. Even during his last weeks of hospice, I put together little mixes of Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, JJ Johnson and Kai Winding. This spiritual reminds me of singing in choirs at Interlochen, but I also love the metaphor of campground. Some place at home away from home. Some place you carry with you. Some place along the river of time where you stopped with the best people. Some place perhaps more permanent than the brick you live in today.
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”—E.L. Doctorow
Despite the chest-thumping quality of Paul Ryan’s recent tweet, it begs a closer look.
“Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.” – Paul Ryan, Feb 21.
- Bernie Sanders points out: “What good is the freedom to buy the health care you want if you can’t afford it?”
- Charles Gaba has noted, the point of health insurance is that you don’t know what your needs might be in the future.
- Choosing between healthcare and other critical expenses isn’t the kind of freedom that the majority of us desire.
But you have to admire the power of language, though, right? He sounds like he is writing an elementary school poem:
- Freedom is running down a hill
- Freedom is …
And that’s the power of a politican’s rhetoric: making you wish away fundamental services because it will somehow make you more free.
I just learned that the poet, Thomas Lux died yesterday. I first learned about this lion from Faith, who was a student in his Sarah Lawrence University MFA program. We invited him to teach at Cranbrook. He was all outsized energy. The lines of his poems strutted like a Sonny Rollins solo. The man was fun. He pitted the poets against the fiction writers in softball tournaments. He yelled out the names of specific poets to make Faith swing harder: John Ashbery, James Merrill! In Detroit, he and John Skoyles took us to Tigers games in the old and new stadiums. At dinner, he pulled his chair up to the table and knocked his long mane out of his eyes. He fulfilled the David Lettermen requirement for success: he always arrived with a story. At Sarah Lawrence, he was allowed research assistants who would delve into science and history to pluck out details that delighted him: slugs, plague victims, and god particles became the topics of poems. At his readings, he was all readiness. He could be loud hitting those lines. He could be beseeching even when he wasn’t asking for something. He was protective. He knew to nurture. He marveled at misspellings-spray-painted-over-highway-overpasses. He cared about the condition of things. He cared about the street corners where we miss and meet each other. What a goddamn loss for the planet.
“If you think you don’t want to read any more about Vietnam, you are wrong,” critic John Leonard of The New York Times wrote when “Dispatches” came out.
“Dispatches is beyond politics, beyond rhetoric, beyond “pacification” and body counts and the “psychotic vaudeville” of Saigon press briefings. Its materials are fear and death, hallucination and the burning of souls. It is as if Dante had gone to hell with a cassette recording of Jimi Hendrix and a pocketful of pills: our first rock-and-roll war, stoned murder.”
Last night, Faith and Mavis and I were swimming upstream through people on Commercial Street towards our parked car. The moon was pressed, nearly full, above the harbor. And out of an open window at the Crown and Anchor, the whole bar appeared to be singing Moon River together.
Evening swim in #badflorida resort pool. 10 year old in dripping bathing suit tunelessly sings All I Want for Christmas to wild plastic chair karaoke applause. Then 70 year says farewell to his snowbird season by crooning At Last breathily into the mic. His wife kisses him on the tip of his nose in praise. I float across the pool on my back.
Check out my friend Matt’s new album: Discontinued Perfume from The Caribbean on iTunes. Great lyrics, layering of sounds and melodies. They Might Be Giants meets Hunky Dory. This is Wilco challenging Sufjan to a thumb war. No it is not. This is totally cool and original.
It has been years since I heard this poem. Tonight, blasting it from the biggest speaker in the house. Mavis hearing it for the first time. A poem about anxiety, transfixed by things that could go wrong, listening to the mermaids singing each to each, measuring days in coffee spoons. And that fog making itself comfortable, while everything else is way too clear.
Intense Cindy who rules the reading and writing pages: I thought she was crazy to teach Dante’s Entire Trilogy but that stuff turns out to be damn interesting.
Three Latin teachers who fire her up in three entirely different ways: I think Doc Rosenquist would have been proud.
A Java instructor in South Dakota who communicated in three word sentences.
A drawing teacher in Shepherdstown who revels in anything Bigfoot.
A math teacher who is literally also a paid comedian.
Ron who sells produce and zen from his truck.
Ann at Subway who has raised a lot of children and sneaks in free ice-tea when no one is looking.
So many teachers.