Monday, September 30, 2013

Carrboro Music Festival, take 1

So I had never made it up there before, but yesterday was a beautiful day and I was determined to get up to the Carrboro Music Festival. I assumed that parking would be hell, so I rode my bike, which took a little cleaning, as she had been in the basement all summer, all year, just sitting there, getting a little dusty and moldy.  But nevermind about that.

So I got up there, and stashed the bike in the closet of an office building I conveniently have keys to, and set to galavanting about. There were many folx.  In front of Weaver Street, there was some pretty decent funk breaking out.  Imagine my surprise to go over there and see that the band that was belting it out was pretty much old folk, the woman on guitar was heavy set and maybe 50-55... but she was ripping.  And there was another woman up on stage painting on a black canvas with bright reds, oranges, purples and whatnot. That didn't do much for me.

Age would become a theme for the day.  Back in the day, it seemed like I would go to street fairs and all the people I would meet were young people. Now, everybody I know has grey hair or is balding, and sports a paunch or a poncho, or both. I just can't figure it out.

And many of the bands fit the bill.  Old grey-haired dudes belting out blues of ZZ Top songs or something.  Which is cool, but not all that exciting.  Many of them were accompanied by women of a certain age is day-glo tie-died stuff, dancing eccentrically with handsome-looking beers in plastic cups. Also kids,  and couples dancing together in that "I'm too old to care" way.  All good.

But I was yearning to get beyond just acceptance to a place of being actively stoked to be there. By Glass Half-Full I came across a band playing reggae and soul, with a guy with long dreads, a flute, a sax, and a fine singing voice.  This was the Tim Smith Band, and I thought, this is plenty good, I'll call it a day and go home and see my kids.

But as I was crossing main street, I espied a mini-donut truck over by Cliff's, which I had to investigate, so I crossed over to check it out.  They looked good but were overpriced and sold in too large a unit, but I looked past the truck and saw a bunch of folks clustered by a corner. And there, under a little bit of shelter, was a fine 4-piece bluegrass quartet with two guys who had great singing harmony.  I caught their last two songs, and over my right shoulder, on the roof behind Cliff's, I saw a duo rocking out.  So I went over there.

And it turned out it was Aussies.  A real small woman playing a stand-up base, and a guy, apparently her husband, on guitar, and they had beer in cozies, a couple of small amps, and were rocking out. And she could yodel.


I stayed for 5 songs, but, clearly, it wasn't getting any better than this, so it was time to head home and hang out with the kids.

On the way out of Carrboro, I ran into Glenn from Local 506, and he told me that I had seen the Red Hot Polka Dots, transplants to our fair shores.  Here's a better video.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The US of AA

Just got back from an AA meeting.  There's really nothing quite like it, those without substance abuse issues don't, can't get it, from the perspective of coming to an understanding of being a human at a very root level.

Today there were lots of shares from black women of limited means.  First, one I'll call D talked about being at a dance last night and feeling shy and embarrassed about getting out on the dance floor, because she always used alcohol and drugs to push through that, and then finally going out and dancing and having a great time.  And then she shared about how happy she was to have 30 days sober, having made it to 27 and 28 on previous occasions but never 30, and how proud she was to have gotten there, and I remember that pride too, how awesome it was to just get some days under your belt.

And then another black woman I'll call N shared.  I remember a few weeks back at this meeting, a pretty big meeting, a lot of people had their hands up and an older white gentleman I'll call X -- a sage fellow whom I always looked forward to hearing -- had had his hand up and was having trouble getting the attention of the chair.  And I thought of putting my hand up just to get the floor and then ceding it to X.  And N did just that.  She pushed up her hand with huge enthusiasm, got the floor, and then passed the mike to X. It was beautiful.

But today she held the floor and talked about what she was going through, and she shared about how she picked up trash randomly to do a good deed and to feel good about herself (I do that too), and that she had picked up a little black baby doll, which she bathed and combed its hair, and had gotten a little bed for it.  And that she had been sitting at a bus stop the other day and there was a baby bottle lying on the ground, and she thought, God has left that their for my little baby, so she picked it up and took it home.  All good in my book.

And a bunch of other stuff, from a guy just out of the joint frustrated that he couldn't get a job and couldn't get back to Texas where he could, and a country white guy who took back a money order that had been made out for too much money and then bought a lottery ticket and won $75. Basically there are very few other places and circumstances where one can go and feel deep connectedness to people very different from oneself that are on par with AA, and in that it's a great blessing.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mr Johnson goes to Washington

It is 1931, and LBJ, having made it through college by a circuitous and curious path, after frenetically teaching public speaking and debate in Houston for one year, has over a few short years passed from Cotulla, Texas, in the middle of nowhere between San Antonio and the Mexican border -- to the US Capitol building.

At times Caro lingers, fairly wallows, in so much detail that you think, like your subject, that you may never move on, but when the tide turns, he generates momentum and interest like no other. So when Johnson's debating team improbably makes its way to the Texas State Championship only to.... (win? lose? I will not be a spoiler), and Johnson passes from nothingness into somethingness with improbable speed, Caro has you, or me, and each paragraph snowballs in importance.

I almost can't believe I took time out to write about it.  Back to the drama.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The gentle riddims of the suburbs, part N, v 2013

A somewhat rough day here at my desk, as down across the gully I am continually serenaded by chain saws and their accompanying base line, the chipper. So, I think, I'll go running, figure out where the sound is coming from, and calm the noggin.  And so I do, and as I'm in the last mile, headed back home, I am passed on the curvy road by a loud, slow-moving truck carrying... mulch!  And so on one side somebody's using a two-stroke engine to cut and break down tree matter, while on the other more carbon is burnt delivering the same, maybe 3/4 of a mile from the chainsaw.

And then, and here's the kicker -- as I come into my yard I see a bunch of deer -- whose numbers have multiplied of late, brazenly grazing in Mary's hard-tended garden, which is ostensibly planted with plants the bambi set don't like. Problem is, it would appear, that the expanded population is hungry, and there's not enough wild underbrush to support them on things they like, so they eat things they don't.  It's as if Graham was hungry enough to eat something he really hates, like, maybe, cooked cabbage.  That's tough to imagine.

All of this makes it difficult for the Grouse himself to really bite down on such tender fare as the tax treatment of partial annuitizations, or the use of Qualified Personal Realty Trusts in estate planning.

I know, I know, you may well be thinking:  what the hell did you expect?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Making peace with the rural church

Almost certainly it's because I spent too much time as a management consultant, but my mind increasingly turns to the concept of alignment (earlier ramblings), and the lack thereof, to explain many of our society's woes these days. I.e. we aren't forced to a shared conception of direction by an external threat (Nazis, Communists, etc.), nor do we have a strong internal mission (right wrongs caused by racism, sexism, etc.).  In this situation, we need leadership to galvanize us, and in a fragmented million-channel landscape of the internet, cable TV, etc., it's very hard to get there.

Amongst the clearest indications of lack of alignment is the profusion of big-assed tattoos all over people's bodies, and in particular in places where they can't be hidden:  necks, arms, etc. I can't back this up statistically, but they seem to occur most frequently amongst those that feel they have no hope of joining the corporate ruling class. Similarly, idiosyncratically-spelled Afrocentric names are a pretty big lifetime commitment to self-marginalization. It's as if to say:  "I have no hope or concern with ever doing something where I'm going to have to integrate with the homogenizing corporate norm, so I might as well BE MYSELF, ie. way outside of the mainstream."

And if you drive through the country, by which I mean the country, not places that are within the fields of influence of major metropolitan areas where pumpkin, plaid and cider is served quick as you like from farm to table, you can see that there is a hopelessness rivaling that of those in the urban center.  Schools suck.  Try listening to the radio, it's nothing but Christian music and talk and commercial country, pop and, yes, rap.

And sure, it's hard as hell to farm for a living, factories have been shutting down, it's all the stuff you hear about in country music. In the land of oxycontin and methmouth, the church provides a reasonable alternative. As in the inner city, where black churches often feed homophobia, and Latino churches probably espouse a whole lot of stuff white liberals would disagree with if we weren't too lazy to figure out what it was, there's much to not like about rural churches. They too often oppose gay marriage and women's rights and support other aspects of conservative agendas, but in the end, they're often the only well-established alternative to nihilism and Sportzone.

So Democrats need to figure out a way to build bridges to them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Read, pray, love

Just read the NYTimes magazine profile of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and other books, who (by coinkidink) has a new book coming out. So the article was pretty glowing, but I must say I'm buying.  She sounds like a rather energetic and cool human being.  Her new book (I'll watch for reviews) can join the queue with the many other books I've got to read.  I'm somewhere around the 3% mark of Caro's total published stuff on LBJ, but there will be many other tomes interspersed with each of those doorstops.

There is really no wealth quite like a fat backlog of reading material.

At the same time, I'm mindful of the curmudgeonly would-be sage and sometime Grousereader known as Blue who pointed out that, if you read other's stuff all the time, you don't do your own writing.  There is much truth to that, and it's one of those tradeoffs. On the one hand, you don't get to see your own ego and its yearnings objectified in words, and you don't get the so greatly desired attention and praise that comes from stroking by readers. On the other, there's just so much worth reading, and one is arguably more in the "flow" of the great stream of knowledge and being by continually dangling one's legs in it.

It is, as the tech geeks would say, about optimizing I/O ratios.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Carolina Way is Dead, pt II

There has been a lot of chatter on Facebook about the Chapel Hill Town Council or whoever giving a thumbs up to the long-awaited plans for the redevelopment of University Square. First off, University Square is no beauty, though I have plenty of fond memories of the place, esp. around Time Out and Looking Glass and soccer camp and what's the name of that ice-cream place where Brooke used to work?  But it ain't pretty.  So in the end, it's no big loss.

What is proposed for the site should be better.  Moreover, the loss of character is minuscule compared to what happened when U Square went in in the first place, after the old high school got ripped out and the new CHHS was built way out on Homestead, which was nowheresville back then.  And the town survived.

The larger discussion swirls around the question of whether Chapel Hill is becoming a less distinctive, less funky place to live, whether it's even cool any more.  From my perspective, it is clearly lost some of its character, is less distinctive.

But, you gotta remember, we, or at least I, used to be such snobs. I thought I was cooler than sliced bread in the 70s, when I could go to Fats for my birthday and get a big plate of nachos (minus the hot peppers, since I was after all only 10 or so) with a candle on it.  Getting beef teriyaki at street fairs, even eating at Blimpies, I thought it all proved that we were the worldly sophisticates and therefore inherently superior to those who had to go to McDonalds because there was nothing better.  And this from a guy who liked his McMuffin no less than anybody else.

And so, much of Chapel Hill's becoming less cool has to do with the more even spread of goodness around the state and the country.  Even Kinston now has an apparently innovative restaurant.  What's not to like about that?

And, yes, as new buildings and more chains go in Chapel Hill loses its groove and its sheen, and as rents get jacked up it will be harder for indie entrepreneurs to establish toeholds and interesting businesses. Such is life, we have to patronize the more interesting ones, that's just it, and/or landlords will need to be less market-driven themselves.

So the interesting stuff gets pushed out to Durham, Saxapahaw, Hillsborough, Pittsboro (where it may soon be flattened by the massive development proposed there).  I just read on Facebook about a new brewery in Clayton! Hopefully one of these days it will get to Roxboro (actually, there's even a somewhat ambitious restaurant that just opened there).

Anyway, before we wring our hands too much we need to stick to our knitting and focus on what's important to us, doing the right thing on a moment to moment basis.  Support local businesses to the extent that it makes sense, be wierd, and Chapel Hill will be just wierd enough.

Or maybe one day Pembroke State will become the seat of the state's cultural life.  Would that be all bad?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Carolina Way is Dead, pt 1

For those of you who haven't  watched this video, do so.  It's funny.  If you're not a Duke or Carolina fan, or don't follow sports, you may not get it all, but trust me, it's funny.

So the other day I was talking to a guy who works at UNC about retention.  Time was, when a Stanford or a Princeton would swoop in and try to buy up a UNC faculty member, UNC did pretty well retaining them.  Of late, the numbers have been slipping.  One of the big factors cited by departing faculty in why they left?  Athletic scandals.

And, indeed, they have been difficult.  They ended up besmirching a good Chancellor, who fell on a knife not of his own forging and skipped town for a less stressful job.

Meanwhile, up in Raleigh, another Carolina Way is threatened, not just with eclipse, but with extinction.  For all our lives NC has been the state that provided a winning formula of investing its own money in public education and attracting private money to exploit the synergies offered by its universities, thereby becoming a place where a range of educated people would like to live, allowing the state to rise up the value chain in its core exports, from tobacco to intellectual capital.

How does this all tie together, you may ask. Well, it ain't one neat package, but certainly there is a common theme of short-mindedness and narrow instrumental-functionalism to it all. The university has been too focused on the short-term glory of the light blue, as if Dean's great legacy was on the court more than off it, when I think the converse is, if anything, the case.  And the legislature, and the electorate with its support of Amendment One -- have turned their attention to restoring some mythical North Carolina of the past that has made us the laughing stock of the nation and the world.

At this point in time, the university has a to lead and reestablish a tone. It should forget about trying to keep up with Duke on the court and focus on being a center of learning and strength.  Fire Roy Williams. Anybody who can compare a bad season to a catastrophe-ripped nation doesn't belong in Dean's chair.  Get a coach in with his priorities in the right place, and have the university turn back to its core competency.... blah blah blah

(this so often happens.  What feels like a cogent blog post in the morning degenerates in the afternoon into a half-baked rant.  Oh well.  At least the video was funny)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Caro in Texas

So now I'm reading the first volume of Robert Caro's magnum opus on LBJ, The Path to Power.  And it has all the great qualities of his bio of Robert Moses, the same exhaustive attention to detail combined with the grand sweep of history, except for the fact that it's not on Caro's home turf.  Caro, born of the West Side, schooled at Horace Mann and then Princeton, writes of the frontier life of hill country Texas, and it's hard not to detect a note of grand mythification, of the exotic other.  I have already compared Caro to Whitman for their shared revelry in the sheer mass and breadth of America, but they view it from the perspective of The Empire State.

Judging from his Wikipedia bio, for instance, Whitman doesn't seem to have traveled broadly, seeming to have ranged no further than the DC area during the Civil War.  Caro, surely, has spent much time on site in Texas working on primary sources. Or at least his wife Ina -- his sole research assistant -- has.

But what drew him there in the first place?  It would seem he is driven by his man, whom he follows to the end of the earth.

In other news, I need to diversify away from reading books by white guys.  I mean, I know I am one, and we do write many great books, but other people do too.

More joy

Sometime before Sophie got sick, Lucy apparently settled on the theme of "more joy" as a guiding theme.  I think Mary reported it back to me, I'm not sure I ever heard her actually say it, or just got it second hand, but it stuck with me, obviously.  I think it's right on.

But somehow it is hard to get there, it is hard for me to focus on consistently counting my blessings when so many challenges abound on a day to day basis, even when it is blindingly obvious that they are many, perhaps too many to count.  And the point may be that counting them is the wrong strategy altogether, that learning to be confident in their presence is where it's at.

But on the night that Sophie lay dying, and people were over visiting, saying goodbye, and doing our best to fill the house with laughter, Lucy and Niklaus were telling tales of the incredible feats of spirit Sophie had accomplished in her last days and months, I knew they were pointed in the right direction.

And so, more joy! Time to focus on volume 3 of the CFP course of study, "Income Tax Aspects of Property Acquisitions and Introduction to Property Dispositions."  As Natalie would say, "Woot!"

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Camry Wagon

Walking to meet Graham at the bus stop this afternoon  my keen eye espied a white, hubcap-less Camry wagon parked at the house next to ours.  This house has been a rental for some years, and had recently been occupied by some frat boys who had recently learned to shave, but they moved out after the hellacious rains of the summer kicked up a mold problem (developers looking for a tear down on an awesome lot, look no further).

Anyhoo, there have been signs of impending or actual reoccupancy in the last week or so, so when I saw that car in front of the house and it sounded like people were doing some work in there, I naturally assumed that the car belonged to some of our nation's newly welcomed hispanic population.  You see, over the years I have observed that Camry and Accord wagons, which are becoming ever scarcer as the years since Toyota and Honda discontinued them, are overwhelmingly owned by hispanics.  I attribute this to the natural thriftiness of this economically challenged population, recognizing that both of these awesome cars offer an excellent combo of good mileage, ample carrying capacity, and readiness of replacement parts owing to the ubiquity of their sedan counterparts.

But, as I came back from the bus stop with Graham's lunchbox (granny having ferried him off to Target to snap up some killer Ninjago Lego sets), I saw that it was a young Anglo couple in the car, thereby blowing my theory.

Graham turns 10

Every parent says this, but it is nonetheless true:  it's incredible how fast they age.

Today is Graham's 10th birthday.  I might here recount the day of his birth, but that would take to long.  A quick search of the blog seems to indicate that I haven't ever done so, so maybe I'll come back and do it some day.

In any case, as I was saying, Graham turns 10 today. In some ways, that makes sense. He shares much with his peers, Pokemon, a love of roughhousing, a fondness for war stuff (OK, a little overdeveloped in Graham's case). In other ways, he remains very different, most likely as a function of his position on the spectrum. He still likes to snuggle every night after reading in bed with me (or Mary, who is a decent substitute if I'm not available).

He even still likes to hold my hand when walking.  I know that I should be trying to wean him from this habit, probably more forcefully than I have been. When I meet him at the bus stop, I first put my arm around his shoulder, really as a way of deferring when he will reach for my hand until the bus pulls off.  I'm pretty sure this is not like most boys his age, and he's gonna get picked on if not beaten up at some point in time in his adolescence for being out of step with the other boys, and he's not gonna understand it.  The schools do a good job of suppressing bullying, but in the end, nature will have its way.  I don't have the heart to push on him a bunch of tough love:  "You gotta be a man" kind of stuff.

Natalie, by way of contrast, had stopped snuggling with me sometime around when she was 8, around the time her precocious puberty kicked in.  I'll never forget when she told me at bedtime that we were done.  I asked why, and she said "because I'm growing up."

Monday, September 16, 2013

Making it (not) happen

While I was cleaning some mold and dirt off of our doors and porch the other day, I found myself pondering a theme which recurs in my head pretty frequently:  the astonishing proportion of our time, effort, and $ that goes into trying to mitigate risk and make sure things don't happen. I kinda think this may be a book brewing.

Think about it, we're talking about:

  1. Insurance
  2. Health maintenance (exercise, fatty food avoidance, tooth brushing)
  3. Paint and cleaning, to a point
  4. Police
  5. National defense
  6. Regulation (seatbelts, airbags, lead paint
  7. and so on, and so on
At a certain point in time and process, all of these things fold over on themselves and stop being exercises in keeping the negative at bay and all of a sudden become just flat out productive of value.

It doesn't sound sexy, but with enough Grousing (and copious editing), it could become Gladwell or, even better, Atul Gawande like. I think I've done my statutory 10,000 hours of writing.

There is so much nominal focus on Making Things Happen, but making them not happen is a big part of the game.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Good options

Of late, when I have been harried and pressed for time, I have been working to remind myself that what I perceive as a scarcity of time is actually more a reflection of an abundance of good options for what to do with myself. And that this is something for which I should be truly thankful. Lots of people don't have this "problem," therefore we get daytime television.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Weak post

I keep meaning to post and I keep getting maxed out and not getting to it.

I had a lot of deep thoughts leading up to the celebration of Sophie's life, and in the end it was a very moving day.  For periods of it I kind of broke open and was grieving for my dad in ways I hadn't since his own service, where I had to perform and therefore wasn't really able to process at as root a level as I might have liked.  But then we kept going, with hanging and dining over at Sarah and Randy's and then study study study to prep for my second CFP exam on Tuesday.  Which I slammed.

And I thought more about the old themes of entropy, contingency, and flux as I swept leaves off the deck and realized how much of that bad boy was covered with mold and how very badly indeed it is in need of a powerwash and then, sadly from the perspective of the ducats, a coat or two of something to seal it.

Today finally I had some time.  And I made good on a promise I had made to the old Volvo, a 2001 that was once the new car -- our automotive puppy -- and is now the elder statesman. So I went to the nearby auto parts store and had them read the code for the pesky check engine light and I bought some goo remover to help get off the legacy of one of those magnets that aren't supposed to stick to your car, but oh do they ever.  And some windshield wiper fluid, and a bulb for the front left light which is mysteriously not just not working but, when you get right up close to it..... MISSING.  Like however did that happen. And then I took her through the carwash and then when I got home I used the pants from one of those pairs of Hannah Andersen jammies that belonged first to Daniel, and then to Caroline, and then to Natalie, and finally to Graham, until at last the holes in the knees were pretty much bigger than the garment itself, and used those old jammies to wipe the brake dust off the rims of that car, so that she shines bright and happy in the driveway.

Friday, September 06, 2013

New pictures on my desk

The pictures of my kids that I've had on my desk have been pretty dated for a while, showing them while they were younger and, in some very textbook sense: "cuter."  The other night Natalie was up here scrounging around one of the many plastic bins in which Mary houses our enormous collection of photographs (what do you expect from a photographer, anyway), and she had unearthed a very recent school picture of herself for some purpose.  I realized that I didn't have one of those, so I cut one of them out and stuck in into the most awesome picture display pencil holder she had made for me as a craft project for Father's Day or something.

And so, now I have a 12-year old Natalie staring at me on my desk, and somehow it changes the mood, brings it up to date.  It shows quickly how deeply nostalgic the older pictures are, somehow out of touch with the reality that they are, in fact, growing up. This child here will be going off to college soon, perhaps getting in trouble, causing me great heartache, and potentially getting grounded much sooner (though there are no actual hints of that).  Certainly, it points up the financial timeline:  we gotta pay for college for this one pretty soon.  Better keep that in mind.

I guess I need to get more of these recent pictures.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Lonely battle

I am locked in a lonely battle right now.  It is just me, my desk, a bunch of books, and, on occasion, a trip out onto the so-called Interweb.  Studying for one of the many CFP subject-matter exams.  Not exciting, am not seeing much.

In the evenings, I exercise, and I also remember to eat food, lest I fade into nothingness, or, which is more likely, pass out.

But it ain't bad. Over the years, I have proven myself able in this kind of combat. Right now, the son is shining, and yesterday, when it was pouring down rain, it was even better. It was great to watch the butterflies who hang out in Mary's garden flying through the downpour. Not that I had ever thought about it much, but I didn't realize they did that. They seem to fragile, the little guys.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Web sites being nice

Was just over at Khan Academy seeing if that guy had done explications of some finance topics I'm currently grinding into my wee brain.  He has not.

But on the way in it half forced me to do a diagnostic test of my math skills, and then offers little tutorials/mini-quizzes to help freshen those skills up.  I could not resist.  Why am I such a sucker for being measured by computers?  It is my perverse, nerd idea of fun.

It will, in fact, also help me be able to help the kids with math homework, which is a fine thing.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Sins of the critic?

I've been digging through a pile of New Yorkers, looking for stuff worth reading, and I came across James Wood's review of memoirs by the kids of famous American white male authors which focus on their dads:  Susan Cheever, Janna Malamud Smith, Alexandra Styron, and Greg Bellow.

According to Wood, Cheever, Malamud Smith, and Styron all basically offer up exculpatory narratives:   dad was in one way or another caught up in his own greatness and a difficult person, but it's OK in the end because he was a great writer and that's what he was put on this earth for, that was his calling, and he preferred to live sub specie aeternitatis than to focus on his kids. Wood is down with that.

But he devotes most of his review to ragging on Bellow, who was really angry at his dad.  And I get that, several hundred pages of somebody excavating the grievous misdeeds of their parent for all kinds of perceived ills gets old.  But it also got old in the review, and I had to ask myself, why is Wood -- who has been called the greatest living literary critic and who basically lives the dream as Professor of the Practice of Literary Criticism at Harvard, contributor to the New Yorker, and who knows what other cool stuff -- so focused on this, and why does he need to defend Saul Bellow against his son with such gusto?  I kept reading, really, only to try to figure that out.

And I had to wonder, is Wood being defensive because someone has accused him of being a bad parent, or because of guilt in thinking that he might be?  Or has someone leveled the same charge at his wife, Claire Messud, who is herself an extremely and justifiably successful novelist and -- as someone who I went to college with and of whom I remain fond, though I haven't seen her for years -- is someone that I just can't see being a bad parent.  Don't get me wrong, I get the guilt part.  I feel a little guilty that I'm up here writing now and not down doing something with Graham or the rather reclusive Natalie.

Ultimately, we all have to make choices in how we allocate our time.  Do we strive to be "great" and see our names reflected in lights and in the broader swoop of history, or do we focus down on the young people we bring into the world, should we choose to breed?  It ain't an easy question.  And it's a loaded one for me, as someone who's dad drifted off when he was about my age and tried to carve out his own path as a poet and really craved the recognition of the value of his art from others, though he could never figure out or acquiesce to the stark realities of the blocking and tackling it would take to actually gain wider acceptance.

It's a tough one for me.  I think about focusing on my writing, now and again.  But the fact is, Natalie needs braces and we need to upgrade our HVAC ductwork in the basement, and I'm pretty much signed on for the parent thing.  Time to go shoot some hoops across the street with Graham. Maybe go buy some new sneakers.  And trim his hair around the ears.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


Was just reading the most excellent Squirrel Power article in the Sunday Times, when I heard a rustling above and behind me. Given that we've been battling some pesky microorganisms in the house this week (more on that later) I thought, "Oh great, this is just what we need, critters in the attic."  And then I realized it was our shy but sweet cat Leon, perched in the back of Mary's photo shelves, which are behind my reading chair.