Sometimes, a fantasy comes upon me that takes on the character of a rhizome; it becomes a node from which another shoot of fantasy shoots. The fantasy fantasizes. It’s as if somewhere in the journey from the fantasy’s beginning and end, a piece of it musters its own mulish energy, peels away, and veers onto a side road that leads to elsewhere and otherwise.
I recently purchased a pair of Nike Air Force One sneakers, the kind of shoes Jax Teller wears in “Sons of Anarchy.” …
As it is nearly Halloween, it is time to praise that most desirable addition to the trick-or-treat bag: chocolate.
“The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain.” So said Thomas Jefferson, who perhaps had chocolate in mind when he declared that, along with life and liberty, an independent America would be dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. But, alas, Jefferson died too…
As they have annually for some time now, on or about October 10, the wasps arrive. Never in the summer. Only with the serious onset of Fall. At any one time, right now, in fact, anywhere from one to three elegantly slender, narrow-waisted, resonantly buzzing bodies congregate on the living room piano window. They construct a nest inside the house wall, tucked up near the front-porch soffit, and despite my past attempts to caulk possible ports of entry, I am, finally, unable to discover…Continue
The squirrels have been unusually active in recent weeks, scampering down the elm and maple trunks, venturing out across the backyard to scrounge out and secure whatever edible nuggets they can find, then scampering up again and across the skywalk of limbs to stock the larder of their nests. They are preparing for winter.
Soon, I, too, will be preparing, clearing eve troughs, raking the leaves, detaching hoses from spigots, transporting cans of paint from the garage to the…
The backyard view from the kitchen’s breakfast area looks out on one of the garden’s accent pieces, the butterfly bush. The shrub is easily five feet tall, and each shoot terminates in a panicle, a pyramid-shaped blossom consisting of tiny, densely-packed purple flowers. It is classified by botanists as buddleja davidii. Nurseries refer to it as the Harlequin variety. I prefer butterfly bush because that name bears witness to the reality my eyes see.
It seems to me…
When the protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’ novel “The Sirens of Titan,” Malachi Constant, America’s wealthiest man due to a purely random system for speculating in corporate securities, is asked to explain his “fantastically good luck financially,” he replies, “I guess somebody up there likes me.”
Apparently, somebody up there did not like a young Chicago woman who was struck dead on the sidewalk as she walked to lunch by a chunk of a gargoyle that fell from a church’s steeple. Nor,…Continue
The foods I eat on a more or less daily basis are the result of years of tinkered blending. To call what I eat for breakfast every day “oatmeal” is to feloniously assault the word. Sure, there’s oatmeal, but I add a half cup of Fiber One cereal (you know, to, uh, make my insides happy), a scoop of Body Fortress Super Advanced vanilla whey protein powder (vegetarians tend to not get enough protein, and merely advanced simply isn’t good enough), peanut butter powder (what can I say; I really…Continue
St. Antoninus Elementary School had two playgrounds: the girls’ “upper” playground and the boys’ “lower” playground. They were separated by a grassy incline of perhaps 30 feet. Both were simple expanses of asphalt, unsullied by even the most minimal gesture toward playground equipment. We brought our own equipment to supplement games of tag, leap frog, and red rover. For the girls, this equipment consisted mostly of jump ropes and chalk for marking out a hopscotch diagram. The boys…Continue
Crystal and I are talking in my office about her paper on rap music. I tell her I listen to rap, that I like the paralytic self-consciousness in Kayne West’s “All Falls Down,” the resolute hope in Common’s “I Have a Dream,” the history lesson in Rage Against the Machine’s “People of the Sun,” and the exquisite pathos of South Park Mexican’s promise to his mother “not to do no more shit no more” in “Drunk Man Talkin’.” Crystal’s eyes round. “I guess I thought you’d never listen to rap,”…Continue
Back in the day, I played a mean game of golf, good enough to win tournaments and club championships and attract local attention. I worked at it, spending countless hours on the practice range, often under the tutelage of the club’s professional. I even worked at the golf course, in the pro shop, and on the golf course, with the maintenance crew. To a large extent, being a proficient golfer comprised a good part of my identity.
While I was in graduate school, I did not have the…Continue
Emerging from a WalMart grocery aisle, I crossed paths with an elderly gentleman pushing a cart containing just one item: an 18 can pack of Miller High Life.
I’d like to think he’d decided that the best way to spend a pleasantly warm, sun-goldened, blue sky-hooding Sunday afternoon is on a shady porch, with a small cooler of some chilled MHLs, a bag of pretzels, and a Sunday Times crossword--or maybe no pretzels and crossword, just the MHL, listening to the bees buzzing in the…
I was born, raised, and educated in the bosom of the Catholic Church, which, of course, makes me wonder, not without a twinge of guilt, why I used the word “bosom.” My Catholic education began at St. Antoninus Elementary School. St. Antoninus was a Dominican who in the 15th century served as the bishop of Florence. “Antoninus” means “little Antony,” likely an affectionate reference to his making himself small through inordinate humility. The Dominican sisters who taught at St. Antoninus…Continue
My love of words is so ardent that, if some conservancy organization were devoted to their preservation, if some lexical equivalent of the Sierra Club existed, I would be a charter member. I would aspire to be the John Muir, the Aldo Leopold, of words. So, therefore, I take great interest in Lake Superior State University’s annual “List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use, and General Uselessness.” For 40 years now, LSSU has solicited nominations for its…Continue
Normally, I am the most indulgent of grandfathers, but, when the grandkids are visiting and we gather for a family meal, I impose two rules that unfailingly elicit their lamentation and woe, rules so draconian, so implacably baneful, so mulishly obstinate, that, judging by the grandkids’ simmering anguish, one could easily believe I was the Robespierre of grandfatherly tyranny.
And what are these rules that, from the grandkids’ perspective, don’t just traffic in despotism but take it…Continue
Hundreds of words in the English language derive from the names of people: boycott is an example, as are guillotine, leotard, dunce, poinsettia, mackintosh, Braille, and volt. Add to that list M & M's, the initial letters in the surnames of the candy's co-creators, Forrest Mars and Bruce Murrie. Actually, Mars created the candy; Murrie, the son of a Hershey executive, provided capital, chocolate, and sugar, the latter two of which were, at the time of the…Continue
Rummaging through a box of memorabilia from my youth that my mother collected and kept, I came upon the missal I used as a boy: the St. Joseph Daily Missal, the missal especially recommended for children and young adults. I remember being endlessly fascinated with the contents of the gilt-edged pages that lay between the faux-leather covers, using the ribboned bookmarks to ease my way to the liturgical calendar, the table of feasts, the mysteries of the rosary, the holy days of obligation,…Continue
I'm not quite sure how it happens. Perhaps it's some electromagnetic flux; possibly it's some excitation in the quantum field; maybe some quirky quark or nervy neutrino is to blame. Most likely, though, it results from the action of a less elemental, more familiar physics: the law of non-use shuffle and displacement. I'm speaking, of course, of the way little-used pantry items migrate to the backs of pantry shelves.
Recently, after a rather clumsy reach over something to get at…Continue
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” Emily Dickinson advised. For poets, that’s expected. For journalists, not so much.
In a recent New York Times story about…Continue
I have been watching a robin in the backyard garden gathering tendrils of dried-out flox for a nest. It repeatedly pistons its beak into the tangle, each time extracting a two-to-four inch sprig, until, beak-filled, it flies off. Using that flox, along with the grass and twigs and mud procured from hundreds of forays, the robin will weave and mortar the nest, shaped it into a bowl by pressing against it with its chest, and line it with soft grass. A wispy smile would play upon the lips…Continue
“The question,” Thoreau says, “is not what you look at, but what you see.” Standing before a class, I used to see students. I no longer do. As useful as category words like “students” can be, they abstract and obscure the individual; they make the individual present but not there. Category words conceal as much as they reveal, and what “students” conceals is the densities and textures of the individual persons before me. Though I often fail, I nonetheless struggle to “see” in the…Continue