Archive for the 'Personal' Category

Apr 07 2014

Peter Matthiessen

He died on Saturday. He wrote my favorite novel: the Mister Watson trilogy that culminated in Shadow Country. He lived a remarkable life. The first striped bass of 2014 will go back with a kiss and an ave atque vale for Peter, who thankfully has one more novel at the publisher, his final words.

Here is the remarkable New York Times Sunday Magazine profile, published the day before he died.

I’ve blogged here about Shadow Country and I am very proud that my Amazon review of the novel is ranked #1 by other readers. I have pressed more copies of Killing Mister Watson into more friends’ hands than any other book with the possible exception of Barry Hannah’s Geronimo Rex.

Here’s what I wrote on Amazon:

“For nearly twenty years I’ve been obsessed by Edgar Watson, the Everglades Planter known as “Bloody Watson” and “Emperor Watson” for the 50-odd murders attributed to him by a century of legend and myth.

Peter Matthiessen was way more obsessed than me, writing four novels about Watson. I read the first in 1990. The last just this past December. It, Shadow Country, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2008. It is Matthiessen’s masterpiece, and I have no qualms saying it is among the top novels in all of American literature, a book I would stack against Moby Dick, Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, Gravity’s Rainbow, White Noise ….

Matthiessen does several important things that won my admiration. First, his voice, his writing, is a very spare, zen language that is short on embellishment but poetic in its nature. Second, the structure that he brings to the narrative is very inventive. The first part of the novel is the tale of Watson’s death at the hands of more than two dozen of his neighbors who gun him down after a hurricane in the fall of 1910, hitting him with 33 bullets. That part, which formed the basis of Killing Mister Watson, is an succession of reminiscences by those on that Chokoloskee beach, a backwater Rashomon that bring some amazing vernacular, history, and drama. The book starts with the killing — and what follows is an utter mind-twister of why Watson was killed.

The second part of the novel is the story of one of Watson’s sons, Lucius, who tries to reassemble the facts and seperate them from the myths about his father, who, among other legends, was the reputed murderer of outlaw queen Belle Starr. Lucius compiles a list of those on that beach, a list which makes him a very suspicious figure to the survivors and their descendants, back-water plume and gator poachers who would prefer that Lucius not be asking so many questions. The detective work, the sheer genealogical complexity of Lucius’ quest is a reminder to the reader — this is a true story. Matthiessen’s research and attention to detail would shame a historian.

And finally, the true masterpiece in the three tales is the first person account by Watson himself, a story that begins with his childhood in the post-Civil War Reconstruction of South Carolina (in the most violent county of the state), and his subsequent abuse at the hands of a drunken white trash father, his flight to north Florida and from there a descent into the American frontier, and Watson’s lonely home on Chatham Bend, the only house between Chokoloskee and Key West, literally the end of America.

Read it. Matthiessen won my respect decades ago with Far Tortuga, The Snow Leopard, Men’s Lives, but Shadow Country is my candidate for the Great American Novel.”

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Jan 27 2014

Cool Tools

If you want hours of fascinating, informative fun, buy a copy of Kevin Kelly’s massive tome, Cool Tools.


Most everyone over 50 remembers the  Whole Earth Catalogue of the late 60s and early 70s. A big bible on counter-cultural tools that covered everything from yurt construction to VW engine repair,the Whole Earth Catalogue was the book to have hanging around for hours of stoned obsessing. I can remember hanging out at my hippie cousin’s shack in Cotuit and spending hours going through that book (I was 12 and was not stoned!).

Kelly, one of the original editors of the WEC along with Stewart Brand, went on to co-found Wired and has been a leader of the DIY – Maker movement. His passion for the best in tools and gadgets has come together brilliantly in this lavishly illustrated, well designed, brilliant compendium of the best stuff in the world. Best vest? Filson Mackinaw (I own one). Best tweezers, best chainsaw, best book on chickens, best productivity applications ….

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Oct 22 2013

I Guano Kill Em All

There’s this bird called the cormorant, also known as the “shag”, which has been a part of the local wildlife for the last decade or more, arriving from the south and taking up residence along with the gulls, terns and ospreys. They are big black birds with long necks and cape-like wings they hold open to let the breeze dry them off. They feed on the bottom on mussels and crabs, popping to the surface to shake their heads and paddle along until spooked, at which point they windmill and run over the surface until they achieve escape velocity and can get airborne.

I want them all dead.

Cormorants exist to shit on my boat. I have strung up old CDs on strings like the rearview mirror of a teenager’s first car to scare them away. I have spent a hundred dollars on bird spikes for the spreaders on my mast. I have festooned my boom with old plastic grocery bags until the poor boat looks like a tree on the Grand Central Parkway in Queens.

But they shit and they continue to shit. And then they shit some more. They deposit prodigious amounts of fish-imbued filth all over the decks, the wheel, the cleats, lines, seats, dodger, windows, spars, winches and lifelines, coating the boat with a thick coat of white guano mixed with undigested mollusks, pebbles, and some sort of toxic waste that is impossible to remove. Flies love the stuff and the whole affair is just an invitation to salmonella, shigella, giardia, diarrhea, MRSA and whatever other flesh-eating bacteria you care to contract.

Yesterday was pull-the-boat day, so Sunday I put-putted out in the motorboat with my son to get things ready for the pulling of the mast at Town Dock. My buddy Tom K. was standing on the shore and bore the bad news. “Good luck with the guano” he said. Sure, I knew they had found a little gap in the bird spikes on the lower starboard spreader and one had managed to spackle the dodger with a blast of ass vomit, but that was okay, I saw that mess the weekend before as I returned triumphant with a bucket o’tautog, but like an idiot I didn’t clean it up. Leaving it there was tantamount to declaring the Bald Eagle was now a designated cormorant port-a-potti and they took advantage of the invitation. It’s a matter of dwindling opportunities, sort of like musical toilets where as the days go by the music stops and they take away another boat to poop on. Stay in past Columbus Day and the ratio of bird butts to available boat toilets get worse and worse until the last boat standing is a heaping, stinking mess of avian fertilizer.

It reminds me of the islands off the coast of South America in the Pacific Ocean that were so coated in bird shit that fortunes were made mining the stuff and shipping it back to the world as fertilizer. Guano was big bucks. But not my guano. No, my guano is my cross to bear.

So I get the boat into the town dock and start calling around for a power washer in the belief that I can use the dock’s faucet and some high pressure blasting to tidy things up before the kibbutzers and bored amateur wharfingers of Cotuit can point out the obvious and tell me it looks like birds have taken a massive dump (why are all dumps “massive?) on my yacht. I tie up. Test the faucet. Dry. The powers-that-be in the Town of Barnstable evidently believe the world stops on Columbus Day and have disconnected the pipes for the winter. Another boat arrives, also frosted with a nice layer, the owner asks me “Is the water on?” Nope. The term “shit out of luck” is invoked and I tie the end of a poo-covered jib sheet to the handle of a bucket and start hauling five gallons of sea water aboard every thirty seconds to try to soften it up and sluice it over the side.

The first helpful rocket scientist arrives with a cock-a-poo or a labra-dump on a leash and says, “Hey, someone got hit hard.” Ha ha. Very funny. Really? No fooling? You think? Scrub, scrub, scrub. Flies going up my nose. Backsplash in my mouth. The other boat owner has rubber gloves on. Not me. I just start rolling in the stuff and compose my obituary: he died a coprolagniac.

Six hours later and the sails are off, the turnbuckles on the rigging are loose, the neutral stop-switch in the throttle is fixed and the engine is running but the boat is still smeared with stalagmites of cormorant. I have been told to use lime remover, Comet, warm soapy water, screw-it-let-the-rain-wash-it-off, and to-hell-with-it–just-shrink-wrap the whole mess and pretend it didn’t happen. Being a nice day the dock was busy with spandexed cyclists, panting joggers, shoulder season tourists, local wise guys and friends and neighbors. Every single one of them expressed some rueful condolences over my messy boat.

Only one said anything that made any sense. I salute him.

“Next time put out mousetraps. All it takes is one and they get the word and won’t come back and if you’re lucky, you might see one trying to shake a trap off it’s claw.”

Thank you. I shall have my revenge.

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Aug 06 2013

The Car Plane

Published by under Personal

Texas. 1963. I was five years old, wore cowboy shirts with  pearl snap buttons, cowboy boots and a red cowboy hat.  The big kids in the subdivision tried to feed me cat turds because I was a “Yankee” and they were “Rebels.” JFK was shot in Dallas but we lived in Houston in a house with a checkerboard linoleum floor and a treehouse built on top of a phone pole because there weren’t any trees and my father decided his sons needed a tree house. The Mercury program was putting men into space and Houston had a NASA space center which made me obsessed with John Glenn. I played in a rocket ship at a playground near the Houston Ship Canal. My little brother rubbed a beached Portugese Man-O-War on his chest, went into shock and was placed in a bathtub full of ice at a Corpus Christi emergency room.



There were snakes in the back yard. We owned two Siamese cats. We had art on the walls that I have seen on the walls of rooms in Mad Men.

I was given a Kenner Car Plane because I learned how to read from Dr. Seuss and traffic signs.

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I loved my Car Plane. It was installed in the back seat of the Ford station wagon to keep me occupied during the long trip from Houston to Cape Cod when it was time to leave Texas and return to Massachusetts where my father was going to take over the family business. I flew it through Mississippi which scared me from the television news. I flew the plane past the Iwo Jima monument in Washington DC at five in the morning. And I flew it down the Mid-Cape highway, fighting for the right to play with it with my brother Tom.

It was the coolest thing I owned. I loved it. I mean I really, really loved my Kenner Car Plane. It was my Rosebud. The toy I’ve never forgotten.

And then it got smashed by an over-exuberant cousin whom I have never really forgiven.


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Jun 24 2013

Tanglewood – The Pops do Garcia

Published by under Personal

I’d never been to Tanglewood, the music venue in Lenox, Mass — way out there in Edith Wharton-Herman Melville territory off of Exit 2 on the Mass Pike near the New York border — but got my first chance Saturday night with my good college buddy T____ who invited me to join him for the Boston Pops’ Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration with Warren Haynes.


Gorgeous countryside, amazing music under the full moon, and me and a gazillion other paunchy Dead Heads arriving in German sedans unsure of whether to wear tie-dye or summer dresses.

Keith Lockhart, the post-John Williams/post-Arthur Fiedler heir to the conductor’s baton of the Pops, conducted the two-hour concert in tie-dye. The orchestra was in their traditional formal evening wear.

The arrangements were amazing, especially on Terrapin Station which was originally recorded with a symphony orchestra and thus fit the venue perfectly. As a tribute to Jerry it was very well done, had a very eclectic set list ranging from big classics such as Morning Dew, to more obscure stuff such a West LA Fadeaway and Russian Lullaby. Terrapin was amazing:

The song begins around 2:15 in the clip below:

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I was about ten rows back from whomever captured the clip. Haynes is repeating the event throughout the summer in Philly, San Francisco, LA and elsewhere.


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Mar 04 2013

Sterling Hayden: An Appreciation

One of the most influential books in my youth was Sterling Hayden’s autobiography: Wanderer.  For a young writer restless to get out of the confines of college and into the “real” world, his life’s story was an inspiration of boot-strapped pluck, luck, and determination to find some meaning on the deep blue sea. That he was a leading man during Hollywood’s Golden Era, married to starlets, called before the Communist witch-hunts of the House Un-American Committee, then revived in  the 60s and 70s as an actor’s actor in Dr. Strangelove and the Godfather was mere trim and icing on a life spent before the mast on a Gloucester fishing schooner and tall ships. Sterling Hayden was the real deal, a manly man who deserves a revival.

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Hayden wrote two books: Wanderer is still in print and a very worthwhile read. His one and only novel, Voyage: A Novel of 1896 is out of print, but worth tracking down from a used bookstore. It is one of the better maritime novels on my bookshelf. As for his films, other than Strangelove and Godfather, his other big contemporary film was The Long Goodbye. His early stuff — beginning in 1941 after he was discovered by Hollywood on the deck of a Gloucester schooner because of some newsreel footage shot at the annual schooner races in Boston — is pretty obscure, B-movie stuff. He hated the studio system which cast him as a pretty boy/beefcake but he put up with it to finance his expensive tastes in wives and boats. Hayden was a self-admitted bad actor.

He spent World War II in the OSS, working behind enemy lines in Yugoslavia with Marshal Tito’s band of resistance guerrillas fighting Nazis. That built some admiration for the Communists which got him into hot water after the war during the Hollywood witch hunts, a period in his life he long regretted after he uncharacteristically named names.

I met him once, in Sausalito, California in the early 80s, shortly before his death in 1986, when I was tending bar in San Francisco and writing as the Bay Area stringer for Soundings, a weekly boating newspaper. I read a profile of his first mate, Spike Africa, in the San Francisco Chronicle, learned Hayden was in Sausalito and tracked him down. I was 22 and the two interviews I had with him were my first experience with true hero worship. I never wrote the profile, the editors at Sounding weren’t interested and I was too flaky to freelance the piece elsewhere, a mistake I kick myself for.

There is a great appreciation of Hayden, the sailor and writer, by Captain Paul Watson at Sea Shepherd International’s blog. I’ll borrow his quote of Hayden’s because it was the kind of sentiment that fired me up as a confused and rudderless young sophmore:

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea… cruising, it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. I’ve always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can’t afford it.” What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of security. And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine – and before we know it our lives are gone. What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in – and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade. The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

– Sterling Hayden

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Feb 12 2013

Olympian Blunder: The IOC drops Wrestling

Published by under Favorite Things

I’m not a fan of the International Olympic Committee. I ran afoul of their ass-hattery in 2008 in Beijing when I was working at Lenovo, a one-time sponsor. I was dismayed at their decision after Beijing  to drop baseball from the Games — a strange decision given the global spread of the sport through Latin America and Asia — but the news in the New York Times that the IOC is dropping wrestling is truly jaw dropping given the legacy of the ancient Greek games where wrestling was most certainly one of the main events along with the usual Ur sports of running and jumping and hurling javelins and discuses (disci?).

This is a sport they painted on Greek urns.  A sport so essential, so basic that it would seem to be sacred. But no, the Red Bull generation must have their X-games and so while sports like water ballet and beach volleyball and BMX bicycling get their moment of glory, the true test of man versus man, a sport going back to the Bronze Age, is dropped in a secret ballot by a bunch of bureaucratic bullies more concerned with their television revenue than the Olympic ideal. As a former wrestler (high school) it’s all sadder to see it go.

Here’s a link to the New York Times story.

“When you think of the Olympics you think of wrestling,” said Cael Sanderson, the wrestling coach at Penn State and a 2004 Olympic champion. “It was a marquee event in ancient Greece and in the modern Games. After running, it was the next sport to be part of the Games. Like track and field, the Olympics are the highest level. Some sports, it’s just not as special.”

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Feb 06 2013

Fully charged

My daughter gave me a Duracell Powermat for Christmas and I’m loving it so much I bought a second one for my New York office. The system consists of a sleek base unit that can accommodate two devices, a case for my Samsung Galaxy S3, and a portable battery unit that can charge a fading phone away from the base. This is cordless charging, the same inductive technology used to recharge electric toothbrushes. I first saw it demonstrated in 2009 at Qualcomm, but it was a bit clunky and didn’t seem all that interesting at the time.

But in practice the system is awesome with a couple irritations. After fitting the case over the phone and plugging it’s male connector into the phone’s female micro-USB port (tight fit, which makes changing cases a bit of a hassle — more on that in a second) the phone can be placed on the charging base where it magnetically slips into the proper position with an audible confirmation that charging has started. I set the phone to go into “bedside” mode when its docked on the Powermat. Only two phones are supported — the Galaxy and the iPhone 4s — but the iPhone 5 case is expected sometime soon. The base units come in three, two and single device configurations. I thought the spare battery brick was a nice-to-have, not a need-to-have, but on a recent vacation it was pressed into use.

The hard plastic case isn’t as rugged as an Otterbox and has to be removed if I want to dock the phone in the car cradle. I imagine Duracell has a car unit in the works, but for now I have to peel off the Duracell case to use the phone in the car for the usual GPS/handsfree/Audible/music stuff.

Duracell is pushing the technology hard, painting a picture where charging bases will be available in coffee shops, nightclubs, airport lounges, stadiums, etc.. and apparently truly wireless charging is over the horizon.

Here’s the obligatory YouTube vision of Millenial bliss:

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The double-device mat is $90 at Amazon and includes the portable battery pack and a case for a single phone.. A one-device mat is $32.

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Oct 16 2012

Learn a poem

Published by under Favorite Things

I don’t have a photographic memory and can’t recite long soliloquies or famous speeches extemporaneously, but like being able to identify the stars I’ve always wanted to. Someone wrote that true genius is the being the first person to quote someone else, and I’ve always wanted a few great poems to be burned into my brain to be pedantically pulled out at the absolute perfect moment, thereby marking me as that jerk with the big mouth. One classic I’ve always wanted to memorize is Lord Byron’s The Dark, Blue Sea. The second verse will do just fine for those moments afloat when some noble sentiments are called for. Melville is good for such stuff, but Byron has the best sea poem of all in my opinion:

“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin-his control
Stops with the shore;-upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,
When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.”

Poetry astonishes me sometimes.

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Jul 23 2012

Embracing the Suck

Published by under Personal

Today’s trip to the gym was brutal — a fast intense workout called “Fight Gone Bad” which was developed for a UFC cage fighter, who, upon completing the routine was asked how it compared to an actual fight: “That was like a fight gone bad” was the reply, and so the name stuck for 18 minutes of fast paced work involving a rowing machine, a 20 lb. medicine ball, a 75 lb. barbell and a 20″ high box.

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As the clock counted down from ten seconds to kick off this morning’s FGB I had impending empathy with the masochism of those who do sports that have nothing but suffering to offer. Rowers know that every 2,000 meter race ends with a bad case of oxygen debt so bad you have to fight the body’s autonomic impulse to stop and save itself. A cyclist starts the Tour de France knowing that nothing but three weeks of hell lies ahead. I imagine no one starts the Boston Marathon expecting a good time to follow. A few days ago I watched a Crossfit video that profiled a top competitor; in it he uttered the great line that he guessed his success came from his “embracing the suck.”

Defining the “suck” is a matter of individual taste. For me it involves accepting the fact that the gallon of sweat that is pooling underneath me is fine, natural, and to be expected. Yes I will develop tunnel vision, hear roaring sounds between my ears, get slippery hands and electrolyte-depleted leg cramps for hours afterwards. But, in comparison with anything else life will throw at me today, nothing will come close to sucking as much as a Fight Gone Bad.

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Jul 14 2012

The Helicopter is Departing

Published by under General,Personal

I spent the day yesterday at Northeastern University attending my son’s freshman orientation. He departs on August 23 for four months at the Dublin Business School, part of Northeastern’s program to spread around its incoming class and give a couple hundred of them an opportunity to start their college careers at affiliate campuses in Costa Rica, Australia, Greece, London or Dublin. This is a good thing I think. He will need to cook for himself, clean his own toilet, and deal with his own budget. I hope he returns with more than just good grades.

We were split up after the welcoming session. He went off with his cohorts to learn about making healthy choices, I went off with the parents  to learn about “letting go.”

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Jun 22 2012

E. Graham Ward – 1935-2012

Published by under General,Personal

E. Graham Ward was one of the first men to make a major impression on me. Yesterday I learned he passed away in May.

Graham Ward (I only just discovered the “E.” stood for Edgar in this appreciation penned by his colleague and another former English teacher of mine, Mark Shovan) was my English teacher, wrestling coach, and advisor during my three years at The Brooks School in North Andover, Massachusetts. He was the chairman of the English Department, the coach of the varsity wrestling team, advisor to the yearbook, but intrigued me enough to ask him to be my advisor by being the man of fewest words and driest wit I had ever met. Ironic that the man who instilled in me the desire to be a writer would say so little; but that was his style, and when he did speak it was with amazing effect. In reflection, his spare style was the one he taught me to aspire to in my writing: revise, omit unnecessary words, always favor a simple word over a complicated one and then revise and rewrite again.

He had an appreciation for the extreme, reserved and quiet as he presented himself. He was the man who pressed a copy of Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas into my hands in 1974, two years after its publication. One short story I wrote for him, which was published in the school literary magazine and has long been lost to me, I submitted three years later to gain admission to a college writing seminar taught by the legendary Gordon Lish of Esquire and Knopf fame. Lish singled that story out when he made the cut for the class, and specifically told me that whomever the teacher was that was progressive enough to draw such a story out of a 16 year old, was a genius in his own right. Graham Ward allowed me to be the writer I am, not who he imagined I should be.

I’ve never written without imagining his eyes on the page. He was, and still is, the ideal reader I write for. He indulged me when the class played “Word of the Day” and I would predictably submit some off-color medical term describing feces, perverse sex acts, or some unfortunate dermatological condition that always won the vote of my adolescent classmates. He called bullshit on me once when I introduced the word “tampion” which is indeed a valid word used to describe the wooden plug stuck in the barrel of naval guns to keep out salt spray. My creative definition was that of a ball of mud, grass and saliva used by hibernating bears to keep ants and other insects out of their sleeping anuses. E. Graham Ward turned to his faithful dictionary and shut me down then and there. If I had the Google then I could have countered with this example as proof.
When it came to wrestling, well, that’s a story of him telling me to man up. Come my junior year, or Fifth Form as it was known by the Brooksian anglophile conceit, I was too near-sighted to be of any use to the hockey team as a goalie once the word got out in the league that shots made on me from the center of the rink actually had a very good chance of scoring since I could only hear them, not see them, until it was too late to react. The embarrassment of being scored on from the red line was too much to bear, and being in a teen torpor, I decided I would fill my winter athletics obligation by becoming the manager of the wrestling team, a job that entailed running the clock and scoreboard during matches, showing up with box of cut oranges and a pail full of drinking water and a ladle, and then washing the mats once a week so the wrestlers wouldn’t contract a foul skin disease. This was my happy fate until the time came to elect team captains, and the squad decided I would make a good leader, if even from the sidelines.

Graham Ward was the head wrestling coach and would not permit his team to be captained by a lowly manager. I was ordered to put on the tights, strapped a set of ear protectors on my head, and laced up the curiously flat soled shoes favored by mat men. Being a large boy, I had the unfortunate task of wrestling last, in the “unlimited” weight class; typically against big pink baby Hueys or the occasional steroid-abuser-of-tomorrow who had a beard and the ability to rip phone books, and me, in half.

Graham loved wrestling not because it was so strenuous and tied to the classical Greeks (wrestling is strenuous and I’d argue a fierce six-minute match is the equal to, or even worst than a 2,000 meter rowing race), but because wrestling was a thinking man’s sport, mano a mano, and rewarded those who could keep their wits while being twisted and contorted. He was on the smaller side, (as shown in the team picture below, far right with me standing next to him in the back row) which meant he himself had wrestled at the super-competitive weight classes during his prep school and Harvard career when success was all about the catalogue of moves and escapes one mastered. He decided my simple strategy would play off of my aerobic rowing capacity to work hard and fast against opponents who favored bear hugs and wet, sopping, sweaty suffocation moves.

His plan was diabolical and it usually worked. I would dance around the fat kids, get them huffing and puffing, and then dart in, grab one of their legs behind the knee, and dump them crashing onto the mat for a “take down” which was good for a couple points. Rather than try to pin the elphantine opponent and risk having them roll on top of me, I would jump up, let them find their feet again, dance around some more, and then take them down again. Over and over and over; point after point. By the third period the opponent, if they were the typical high school Unlimited wrestler, would be out of breath and more than willing to let me pin them, an intimate act that involved me getting closely involved in their damp panic, an incentive for me to get it over with as soon as possible.
Graham Ward simply smiled when I came off the mat in victory, or delivered a wry pat when I crawled back in defeat. He never made rousing carnivorous speeches to psyche us up, just a quiet expectation that we’d be sportsmen and give it our best.On a few occasions the team score would be tied and come down to the unlimited match to determine the winner. That meant it was up to me to carry the day. In my last year, I won the match for the team four times, always moments of great personal triumph. I also cost the team two matches and my worst moment was wrestling a kid who looked like the prison version of Mister Clean and was able to pin me in an astonishingly brutal seven seconds, a league record.
Graham rode a little motorbike to school every morning as he preferred to live off campus in North Andover and spare himself the hell of running a dorm and having to play the role of disciplinarian. He wore a striped red, white and blue Captain America helmet, just like Peter Fonda did in Easy Rider.
I know he began his career at Philips Exeter Academy, and I always wondered when I read John Irving’s The World According to Garp, if there wasn’t a bit of E. Graham Ward in the novel. Irving was a wrestler, would have been at Exeter as student or assistant wrestling coach around the same time as Graham. I remember reading Irving’s description of Garp’s favorite teacher, Mister Tinch, and feeling a strong identification with Graham Ward.

He was a very devoted fisherman, and like me, had a passion for chasing bonefish in the Keys and stripers in the Sound. I regret we never wet a line together. After his retirement he lived full time here on
Cape Cod and became a writer for the Falmouth Enterprise. His account of the Sippewisset oil spill is a masterpiece.

As an advisor, I couldn’t have asked for more. Classmates would make fun of him for his laconic style. His nickname was E. “Grunt” Ward. But I learned more from him about how to comport one’s self in the world, how to turn a decent sentence, and how to love literature than from anyone else. He will always represent the best of my high school years to me.

The Boston Globe


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Jun 18 2012

Father’s Day Kiting

Published by under Favorite Things

I spent Father’s Day weekend on the Delaware shore at the quintessential beach town, Rehoboth Beach, with my wife and her family.  This was my fourth visit and I love the place as it is everything Cape Cod is not: boardwalk, honky-tonk, and big surf as opposed to stately WASPy-ness, calm bays, and no real concentration of the whole saltwater taffy-caramel corn dog thing that I’d expect from Coney Island on south.

Every evening, around 5:30, when the beaches slowly emptied of roasting sunbathers and the umbrellas and chairs were stacked and put away, when the lifeguards climbed down from their perches and packed it for the day, a huge armada of kites and wind-driven stuff would suddenly appear in front of a little shop on the ground floor of a boardwalk hotel. A few people would unfurl little kites and start to actually fly the things, in the literal sense of the word, doing more with two strings and a little triangle of sailcloth than I ever dared imagine back in the old days of buying a vinyl bat kite and six rolls of cheap cotton string and then getting a charge out of letting it get so high there was no way in hell any one would waste the time to haul it back down.

So we parted with $35 and came away with a kite that provided three hours of instant fun. The next morning we were back and bought kite #2, this one touted as the most advanced of the advanced “a bee on amphetamines” as the label claimed. And by nightfall we had kite number 3, which you don’t want to know the price of.

My son finally found an outlet for all those years of video gaming in the analog world and blew away the learning curve in minutes. He is a kite maestro. Me, not so much. I am more into the sedate than the extreme.

We now own:

  1. Osprey Premier (our first and easiest to fly)
  2. A Prism Micron (the hardest to fly)
  3. A Prism E3 — a very good kite

Here  in the video is my son and my brother-in-law, who decides about two minutes into the video that it would be a good idea to strafe the camera man. The tail was zipping across my face. Apologies for mis-aimed videos, it’s hopeless trying to see the screen of a smartphone in full sun, let alone through polarized sunglasses.

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I highly recommend checking these things out. Now to figure out where to fly them on the Cape that won’t put them over the water.

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May 04 2012

Adam “MCA” Rauch 1964-2012

Published by under Favorite Things

In memory of the man and the band that gave me one of the best final-500-meter-sprint-to-the-finish-in-glory ergometer songs, one that has always been, and always will remain in that playlist simply called “Erg:”

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Feb 12 2012

The Meaning of Churbuck

Published by under General,Personal

I’ve written a long explanation of the name “Churbuck” and how it came to be from its original form, “Chubbuck.” Those interested can click through here.

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Jan 12 2012

An unexpected experiment in disabled computing

Published by under Personal

A 45-minute MRI inside of what felt like a 110 degree microwave oven, and an examination by the guy who does Tommy John surgery on Red Sox pitchers, and it has been confirmed that I ruptured my bicep tendon on Dec. 30; the muscle was ripped off of the bone in my forearm by my messing up a move in the gym called “toes-to-bar” and now needs to be surgically reattached as soon as possible before the tendon retracts too far up inside of my upper arm.

This is what happens when 53-year old men try to do things meant for 23-year old men. It happens to 3 out of 100,000 people, mostly men who lift weights in their 50s or 60s, and has an elevated risk for smokers (which I am not) or anabolic steroid abusers (which I am also not). There is some suspicion that anti-cholesterol statins may also play a role in weakening the tendon, but I have ceased taking those in a three month experiment to see if I can hold my HDL/LDL levels where they are today with a strict paleo diet.

Yes, I am depressed that this happened right on the eve of the annual indoor rowing season. No Cape Cod Cranberry Crunch at the end of January, no CRASH-B sprints in February. I’m looking at four months of rehab and another five months of work before I can return to 100%. The good news is I will return to 100%. Eventually.

Fortunately for me, there is a great online forum of distal bicep tendon rupture survivors with a lot of amassed wisdom on how to cope with the procedure and ensuing rehab.  And I am also lucky not to make my living through manual labor, but I won’t be able to drive while in a splint/sling and I am going to have to adapt to life with one arm, my non-dominant one at that.

I anticipation of being out of commission, I’ve installed Dragon Naturally Speaking on my ThinkPad to allow me to use the PC and continue “writing” with my voice. I’ve never had much luck with voice recognition software in the past, mostly because I haven’t been willing to put in the time to adequately train the system, and because I am such a fast typist. Blogging will either be drastically reduced for a month, move to Vlogging (I don’t like cameras), or be voice driven. We’ll see next week following Tuesday’s surgery.

Thanks to YouTube I can watch some orthopedic surgeons narrate examples of the procedure. I’m not squeamish, but it looks like pretty delicate and major surgery involving two incisions on my forearm and the back of the elbow.  The severed tendon is cleaned up and then anchored into some pins drilled into the forearm. The bone grows back, the tendon is re-anchored, and I’ll be doing heavy deadlifts by summertime.

With five days remaining I need to figure out how to clothe myself, put away enough meals in tupperware to sustain me until the splint is removed seven-days post-op, and clear my decks for the nasty, pain killer filled fog  that always follows surgery. My iPad and Kindle will be key to fighting off insanity. I’m already putting together a training plan to keep me in semi-shape during the recovery — lots of air squats, box jumps, sit-ups, and one-armed work for my good arm — but was advised by the surgeon that I would not be running or lifting much of anything for a while.



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Jan 04 2012

Physical and mental diets: my resolutions for 2012

Published by under General,Personal

Nick Bilton blogged at the New York Times yesterday about the experience of trying to photograph a San Francisco sunset with his iPhone and realizing that he had squandered a sublime experience trying to capture that it by messing with filters and settings and watching the dramatic fireball through a 3.5 inch screen.

On Sunday morning, the first day of 2012,  I woke to this front page:

Look closely at the photograph across the middle four columns: a mob of New Year’s Eve revelers experiencing the ultimate NYE experience — the drop of the ball in Times Square — and how are they seeing it?

Through their screens, like little computerized periscopes our grandparents used to see over crowds at parades, everyone “capturing” the moment and then selecting “share” to send it to FourSquare, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, Google +  and on and on. I’m happy for them. Everyone is smiling and having a great time.

But it’s gone too far.

In 1988 I wrote my first cover story for Forbes Magazine on the topic of information overload. In the course of researching that piece I came across the work of the MIT professor, Ithiel de Sola Pool (the man who coined the term “convergence”). He tracked the growth of information over time — the massive explosion of media brought about by what the critic Walter Benjamin called “Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”  The net impact of this is, to quote Wikipedia, that “the modern means of production have destroyed the authority of art: for the first time ever, images of art have become ephemeral, ubiquitous, insubstantial, available, valueless, free.”

Edward O. Wilson, the renowned Harvard professor of biology, wrote in Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge that a man of letters in the late 18th century — the age of Franklin, Jefferson, Priestly — could reasonably consume most of the published information in any given year across all fields. It was expected that an intellectual in the 1700s would not only be familiar with the classics, but would also have an interest in the sciences. The result was an amazing consilience of knowledge, with the concept of a “renaissance man” exemplified by the leaders of the era. Today? We’ve fractured into specialists and all we hold in common is some familiarity with the latest pop star, blockbuster movie/tv show, or world news event.

To state that there is more information available today  than could ever be consumed is trite and obvious. Just stating the fact is existentially depressing as I’m engaged in the very act that I’m bitching about.  I’m referring to so-called authoritative information produced by experts, not my nephew and neighbor who suddenly have, in theory, the same means of production that the Sulzbergers had to themselves 100 years ago when the New York Times was truly dominant.

I found an amazing list on time management, by Dr. Donald Wetmore (I guess the “Dr.” means he’s an authority. It’s an interesting and depressing list. Here’s some highlights:

  1. The average working person spends less than 2 minutes per day in meaningful communication with their spouse or “significant other”.
  2. The average working person spends less than 30 seconds a day in meaningful communication with their children.
  3. The average person gets 1 interruption every 8 minutes, or approximately 7 an hour, or 50-60 per day. The average interruption takes 5 minutes, totaling about 4 hours or 50% of the average workday. 80% of those interruptions are typically rated as “little value” or “no value” creating approximately 3 hours of wasted time per day.
  4. 95% of the books in this country are purchased by 5% of the population. 95% of self-improvement books, audio tapes, and video tapes purchased are not used.
  5. The average worker sends and receives 190 messages per day.
  6. The average American watches 28 hours of television per week.
  7. 78% of workers in America wish they had more time to “smell the roses”.
  8. 49% of workers in America complain that they are on a treadmill.

Hence one of the more popular memes in contemporary life is “lifehacking” or the art of “getting things done.” I won’t point to the obvious manifestations, but check out David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” or the excellent for examples.

Being early January, it is resolution time.  I sense the rising meme in resolutions isn’t quitting smoking or losing weight (although the new mob at my CrossFit gym would suggest the new year is indeed a cliche in terms of gym memberships), but in “Information Diets.”

I’m getting on the Information Diet bandwagon. My life of screens — this laptop, my iPad, the television, the Android phone — is driving me closer to a state of attention deficit disorder than any prescription for Adderall or Ritalin could ever cure.

It’s time to become a Stoic again and starting doing more with less. Time to cowboy up, spit on my palms, and get tough.

For the past year I’ve been engaged in a physical transformation through two “primal” committments. The first was adopting a so-called “paleo diet” in the fall of 2010  following the embarrassing mime attack outside of the Duomo in Florence. I weighed 280 pounds, felt like shit, none of my clothes fit, and I was beset with aches, pains, and prescriptions.

I read some stuff by Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, and Loren Cordain and came away convinced by their theory of dieting that basically agreed with the controversial hypothesis that my body is the result of 2 million years of evolution, yet my diet is the result of 10,000 years of modern agriculture. Too much processed food, grains, dairy, sugar, etc. and I was going to get fat no matter how hard I exercised.  In a year of totally going organic, cutting out all grains (no bread, no pasta, no rice), legumes (no beans), dairy (no cheese, no butter), and sugar I lost 35 pounds without “dieting” in the sense of going hungry. I basically exist on chicken, fish, beef, broccoli, tomatoes, lettuce and good fat like nuts, avocados and olive oil.  I eat, in essence, like a caveman.

With nutrition follows exercise and I renewed my commitment to CrossFit, the “open-source” school of functional movement and exercise that was started by gymnast Greg Glassman in Santa Cruz in the early 2000s.  As the t-shirt says, I am the only machine at my gym (except for the ergometer). I do short, intense burst of work lifting up heavy things and putting them down again, and lifting my own weight through sit ups, push ups, pull ups, rope climbs, handstand push ups, box jumps …. etc. The Crossfit method is, in 150 words:

“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, clean & jerk, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouetts, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.”

Now to do the same for my mind.

I talked to a former colleague this morning about attention deficit disorders and he said he manages his through a combination of prayer and exercise.  Since he is a man of faith, I can see how prayer fits in his life, but for atheistic me, where is that period of nothingness in my thinking? When do I simply watch the sunset and don’t photograph it? Or sit in a chair and stare into a fire with only my thoughts for company?

I’m hanging some things up this year. Here’s my information diet:

  1. No phone in the car. If it rings it goes to voicemail. If I must call I will pull over. I am strongly in favor of an outright ban on phone use in cars. Every moron motorist moment I’ve experienced is inevitably made by an oblivious idiot with a phone held to their head.
  2. News once a day, in the morning, over breakfast. From the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Cape Cod Times.
  3. One hour of moving pictures per day. That includes YouTube, Netflix, network television or sports (with the exception of baseball)
  4. One email check in the morning. Another in the evening. No emails longer than 100 words. Anything longer: phone call or memo.
  5. Instapaper all articles and read them in one sitting at one prescribed session. No aimless “surfing.”
  6. Two three-hour periods of focus per day.  One in the morning. One in the early afternoon. Writing and thinking. Making, not consuming.
  7. Books dominate. I will make a list of 100 books I need to read before I die and start tackling it.
  8. No games. I’ve outgrown them. I’ll play Words With Friends once a day, not on every notification.
  9. Face to face trumps email every time. Phone call is second.
  10. No PowerPoint in 2012. It is the Blackberry of our times: doomed, terrible, and pointless.
  11. Learn something new in 2012. A language? A skill? I am open to suggestions.

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Dec 02 2011

Modern Muzak

Muzak, also known as Elevator Music, has always been a great joke. Hearing a Steely Dan tune like “Do It Again” while leafing through a six-month old issue of Field & Stream at the dentist is its own special circle of hell, especially when the mind starts getting infected and singing along silently to the bowdlerized tune (“Back, Jack, Do it Again ….”). And many a great movie has used elevator music to great comic effect. My favorite being Dawn of the Dead (yes, it’s Zombie week at

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Muzak, at least the true commercial version, is supposed to have a specific effect on the listener. According to the Wikipedia:

“Elevator music is typically set to a very simple melody, so that it can be unobtrusively looped back to the beginning. In a mall or shopping center, elevator music of a specific type has been found to have a psychological effect: slower, more relaxed music tends to make people slow down and browse longer.”

Which brings me to my constant musing about the effect that background music has on certain behaviors. I’ve written in the past* about the way that certain music can improve my ergometer results while other songs effectively kill it. This isn’t your usual athletic lockeroom get-psyched cliche music.  I’m not referring to Eye of the Tiger or House of Pain’s Jump Around. That Rocky soundtrack stuff isn’t what gets my 500 meter splits down an additional two seconds. Indeed, there is some academic research that confirms that some music can improve aerobic results but I’m too lazy at the moment to hunt it down.

When I tended bar it was a given that loud music drove alcohol consumption higher.  At some point in the evening the manager would always step in back, find the big volume control, and crank it when the joint was good and buzzed. Of course the din made it impossible to hear some desperate dipsomaniac shout an order over the heads of her fellow patrons for a pina colada, a peach daiquiri and a sloe gin fizz shortly after midnight on a Saturday night when the only thing that would keep the bar out of the weeds was sloshing wine into glasses and pulling drafts out of the taps. “What?! What?!” we’d shout, handing over a napkin and a pencil with a shrug and the implied suggestion to write it down. Obviously loud music made it difficult to conduct a conversation and all that shouting of “WHAT?” led to a subtle anxiety that could only be slaked by another drink and another drink after that.

Silent restaurants are spooky. I suppose a low volume soundtrack gives one the illusion of being in a sound bubble where one’s conversation can’t be overheard by the next table.

When I was writing unpublished novels and short stories in great earnest during college, I found I could only enter that special creative zone if there was music playing. Loud music. Something about writing to rock and roll got me into a typing groove. I can read fiction with soft music in the background — jazz, etc. — but can’t concentrate on academic level stuff if there are lyrics involved — the word absorption gets mixed up.

My big revelation, and this goes to the post’s headline, is my re-discovery of the Ambient genre and how perfectly it suits a day of concentration. In the mid-70s, when I was a college student, I had two roommates with very eccentric tastes in avant garde music. I’m talking stuff by Morton Subotnick, Sun Ra, Stomu Yamashta and most memorably, Brian Eno, in particular his Ambient 1: Music for Airports. For some reason, ambient is way back on my personal playlist these days.

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I think of Eno as the father of ambient music — he’s a genius at elevating background noise from elevators and waiting rooms to high art. Another godfather of ambient has to be Vangelis, particularly his soundtrack for Blade Runner:

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So, it’s strange as I age that my taste is music is not the chestnuts from my youth; one more rendition of Freebird or Green Grass and High Tides Forever and I’ll lose it. What’s surprising me is how my tastes have swung to utterly obscure musicians I would never have encountered were it not for the random intelligence behind So, with that said, here’s some names that deserve to be checked out. This is great music to plug into in the background when you’ve got other things to do.

  • Aphex Twin
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  • Eskmo ( a favorite video)
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  • Lorn
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  • Boards of Canada (note the YouTube comment, “The Ultimate Homework-Doing Music”)
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  • Carbon Based Lifeforms
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  • Loscil
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  • Stendeck
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  • Totakeke
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  • Monolake
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  • Robot Koch
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*: My erg playlist, from 2006 pretty much is holding firm. Suggestions always welcome as “erg playlist” seems to be a top search term driving people to this blog.

  1. Scum of the Earth: Rob Zombie
  2. Who Was in My Room Last Night: The Butthole Surfers
  3. Jesus Built my Hot Rod: Ministry
  4. Ain’t my Bitch: Metallica
  5. Rusty Cage: Soundgarden
  6. Sex Type Thing: Stone Temple Pilots
  7. New World Order: Ministry
  8. Hey Man, Nice Shot: Filter
  9. My Own Summer – Deftones
  10. Astro-Creep: White Zombie
  11. Them Bones: Alice in Chains
  12. Time Bomb: Godsmack
  13. Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards: Scissorfight
  14. Du Hast: Rammstein
  15. God Save the Queen: Sex Pistols
  16. You Think I’m Not Worth a Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire, Queens of the New Stone Age
  17. Jump Around: House of Pain
  18. Liberate: Slipknot
  19. She Sells Sanctuary: The Cult
  20. California Uber Alles: The Dead Kennedys

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Nov 28 2011

Favorite Things: Turnbull and Asser shirts

Published by under Favorite Things

When I was in college my girlfriends tended to dress me, and one in particular, decided that my preference for rowing shirts won off the backs of vanquished opponents, Grateful Dead concert t-shirts, and frayed collar button downs carried over from my prep school dress code days needed to be replaced with a new standard “Dave Look” based on white Brooks Brothers button downs and well faded blue Levi’s 505 classic jeans.  Brooks Brothers was different in the 1970s, still the standard bearer of the iconic American Ivy Traditional look, and because of my allegiance to all things Yale, I expanded to include a few button flap pocket J. Press shirts as that shop was the classic Dink Stover haberdasher of New Haven.

After thirty years of Brooks Brothers I finally decided enough was enough. The quality of the oxford cloth was deteriorating, everyone and their brother owned the same shirts, and button downs simply aren’t fashionable enough for someone in the digital creative world. I’ve always been accustomed to life spent in coat and tie thanks to my years in boarding school. Forbes was a good place to indulge in bow-ties and suits. But once I arrived at McKinsey at the nadir of the dot.bomb revolution I realized the older partners were lost trying to repurpose closets full of $8,000 Brioni suits into something resembling business casual. The pit of sartorial despair was Lenovo — the computer industry is the worst dressed collection of pleated Dockers, golf-shirt wearing conformists in the world. As one former colleague despaired, the look was pure Greg Norman.

One headhunter last summer gave me shit for showing up in a bowtie and said I needed to go more digitally hip. For example? I asked. Carry an iPad and dress like Bradley Cooper the guy said. I didn’t know who the hell Bradley Cooper was, but I had visions of being a tan-in-a-can douchebag in distressed fashion skinny jeans with a collarless shirt, hipster fedora, and some wasp waisted velvet blazer with a pink lining.

Feh. No thanks.

A couple years ago I sucked it up and went English, specifically Turnbull and Asser, and haven’t looked back since.  I can’t afford custom shirts — hell, in its annual “Living Extremely Well” index pegs a dozen bespoke T&A shirts at $4,380, a mere $365 a shirt. Me, I am content going off the rack, and being an American preppy at heart, can’t bring myself to go to french cuffs and cufflinks, so my cost per shirt is considerably less. Sure, a custom shirt would be a fantastic luxury, but I’m not living at that end of the sartorial closet where I have the right to insist on hand tailored suits from the likes of Huntsman, Thomas Mahon, or Gieves and Hawkes (someday, but not now).

One thing to be said for the Jermyn Street school of shirtings is the British don’t shy away from plumage and do a wild job with color and patterns. So, goodbye boring blue, white and pink Brooks Brothers, and hello to tattersalls, university stripes, spread collars and those nice little gussets that beef up the tails.  The shirts simply feel better and feeling good is the first step towards looking good. And thank heavens for the current office environment in Manhattan, something about working out of a mid-town townhouse behind the Museum of Modern Art demands a little more fashion effort than a Research Triangle office park.

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Sep 13 2011

Me and Borges

A couple weeks ago Google’s doodle celebrated the 112th birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian writer who wrote such fantastical modernist works of literature as Ficciones, The Labyrinth, and The Aleph.  I was introduced to his writing in college by my roommate, who was a student of Spanish literature, and while dense and difficult, found a certain strange attraction to the stories. Borges is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century — a shame he was never awarded the Nobel prize in Literature — on an order of Nabokov, Joyce, Barthelme and other modernist authors.

In 1985, when I was a cub reporter at a daily newspaper in northeastern Massachusetts, Borges visited Philips Andover Academy — the prestigious prep school — and gave a lecture there. The city editor at the paper wanted someone to interview the blind writer, but his name drew a blank in the newsroom except for me, who became very excited at the thought of meeting such an eminence.

He was staying at the Andover Inn on the Philips Andover campus, attended to by his assistant (and later wife) Maria Kodama. A photographer from the paper accompanied me, thoroughly bored and glazed over by my breathless attempt to convey the fame and impact of the little old man and his complex surrealistic stories that prefigured hypertext.

He was old (he died the following year in Switzerland of cancer), short, and dressed impeccably in a dapper suit. He shook my hand, welcomed me to sit on the bed beside him, and asked, in a heavy accent, if I would like a cup of tea or water. The photographer’s flash popped a few times, and Borges’ face was startled by the sound of the camera shutter, a little perturbed it seemed at the thought of being photographed without warning. He didn’t cover his blindness with sunglasses, and cocked his head slightly to better hear my questions.

I knew instantly that there was nothing I could ask the man that he could answer and that I could then quote in a story of any possible interest to the 40,000 readers of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, most of whom were more engaged by the debate over whether the city garbage-men should continue to drag household trash barrels onto the street or if the homeowners should do it for them. It was, in a perverse way, like being in a Borges story, where the protagonist is lost in a library looking for knowledge that can’t be expressed.

We talked about his books, me expressing my fondness for specific stories, especially The Garden of Forking Paths, and his puzzling themes of labyrinths and diverging, non-linear thoughts. Keep in mind I was only three years out of  Yale, where my head had been filled with the Deconstructionist theories of Derrida by Paul de Man, J. Hillis Miller and Geoffrey Hartman.  We talked about Pynchon, Paul Theroux (who visited him and wrote about the meeting in The Old Patagonian Express) and my college writing teacher, Gordon Lish. I didn’t take any notes in my spiral reporter’s notebook. What was the use? And after 30 minutes his assistant gently interrupted to say Mr. Borges needed his rest.

I thanked him, posed for a picture of him that is probably in the Eagle-Tribune morgue somewhere, and after shaking his hand, made my goodbye.

I went to the newsroom with the photographer and wrote a brief, superficial 100 words about Borges’ visit. I regret not having brought a copy of one of his books for him to sign.

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