Tuesday, November 30, 2004

farrellys and stooges

From a New Yorker article on the Farrelly brothers' new Three Stooges movie:

The brothers moved slowly, keeping within the bounds of a PG-13 rating but allowing themselves to go beyond the usual range of the Three Stooges, who never before squeezed babies to make them urinate.

Monday, November 29, 2004

autonomic love affair

Sometimes, waking at night, I find myself saying "I love you" to my wife, or smiling or humming or stroking that message. Part of it is because that's how I feel at the moment.

But partly it's something else. I've noticed that I have a definite sub-thought of looking ahead to a time when I've lost my senses or my sanity, a time when I'm much much older, and I want to have spent my life setting patterns of loving. I want to be able to say "I love you" when I can no longer say anything else.

My grandmother, on her deathbed, in a near-comatose state, having lost her ability to form sentences or recognize people, would chant along with my parents as soon as they started reading the Psalms to her. They were so deeply embedded in her, such a part of her, that they became her autonomic religion: her body itself breathed the scriptures, those great passages of forbearance and eternal love.

And, seeing my wife now, feeling her body next to mine, smelling her smell, I'm already aware that I'm becoming melded to her, even at this first stage, this first page, these early stirrings of an autonomic love affair.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

christmas lumberjack

Well, I cut down a Christmas tree for the first time in my life yesterday.

It wasn't what I expected, partially because what I expected wasn't realistic: I'd pictured us walking through a forest of huge pine trees and chopping one down. Silly me. Of course, the trees aren't huge at all. They have to fit in your living room. So we found us a nice little perfectly conical little tree, a Virginia pine, and made it our own. We brought it home to put up later, probably today — what fun, to build this household together!

Later yesterday, we went to the wedding of a good friend. It was in Parker chapel, the place we got married. Yesterday was the first time we'd been back in it since our own ceremony. We were struck again by its graceful, perfectly modulated modernism. And we thought of the last eight months' journey. What fun, to build our lives together!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

christmas tree rule of thumb

This morning, Catherine and I are going out to get a Christmas tree. We'll chop it down, carry it back, and set it up this weekend: a real actual treeish tree, not a plastic replica. For the past few years, I've had a plastic replica up, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the cost, both moneywise and environmentally. It's been set up constantly since Thanksgiving of 2002. Never taken down. Up all year.

A rule of thumb:

If you put up a Christmas tree on time, and take it down on time, you're married.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I'm getting ready to go over to Catherine's ancestral home to join about 25 people in a Thanksgiving feast. Tomorrow, a smaller crew gathers at my ancestral home.

So, what am I thankful for? The first thing that springs to mind is that I have found a wife who fulfills every dream I had of what my wife would be like. She's warm, witty, smart, healthy, tall and gorgeous, spiritual, gentle, and full of a ladylike grace that makes me melt several times a day.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

goodbye john ashcroft

Was the balance of truth and power the same in John Ashcroft's mind from the moment he took office to the moment he left? Decide for yourself: here's the most arresting sentence from his letter of resignation.

"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Fare well, John.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

st catchpole

Just a few weeks ago, we (the jazz protagonists) did a miraculous set or two at one of our favorite jazz clubs. Here's a clip from it, an original tune I wrote called "St. Catchpole."

Mp3 or Real Audio

Monday, November 22, 2004

china, silver, and company

The other night we had a dinner party, and used all the china and crystal and silver, as we like to do. My family has always cherished beautiful things, and has always had them to cherish. The china we used belonged to my great-aunt and has been in the family for nearly a century; same with the silver. The new crystal is for our grandchildren to cherish.

The act of drying the china and silver and polishing it to put away awakened memories of doing the same thing in childhood years, and of the Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, rehearsal dinners, birthdays, anniversaries, and special events that brought that china and silver out to be used. I found myself taking delight in what I'd once considered drudgework. Even the tingling sound brought back memories of grandmothers and aunts and uncles long dead but whose personalities still live in these molecules, who also cherished beautiful things, and who also believed that people who love each other should gather often and well.

I thought of my mom's mother and my dad's mother, very different women who shared the same belief that there's nothing that shouldn't be done well, and nothing that shouldn't be done beautifully too. I think of my great-great-great aunt Lizzie, whose gorgeous forks we used, and her husband's idea that there's nothing that shouldn't be done with a smile: it shows in the forks. (I'll tell you that story sometime.) I thought of the prayers they prayed over these molecules: Mothers' day 1936, weeks after my Dad's birth; Christmas 1959, weeks after my parents married; Thanksgiving of 1962, with their second son born and the Cuban missile crisis just over. Easter with cancer, Christmas without grandmothers. My first dinner with Catherine. Thanksgiving of 1942, and 45. I thought of laughs laughed, stories told again, old and young breaking bread together.

Turns out we had lots of company for dinner.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

thanks for the eagle

I was listening to the country station the other day when I heard that patriotic song by Aaron Tippin, "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly."

Don't you love that that noble, fierce creature the eagle still flies in America? If you are, thank a liberal activist.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

good articles in GQ

Everyone should go out right now and buy the current issue of GQ. Alongside the good articles about suits for under $500 and why you'll never have a threesome, there's a funny, balanced, interesting article about Stephen Baldwin, which draws an excellent sketch of a rather shallow guy having a very real and sincere encounter with faith in Jesus Christ.

Then, in the same issue, there's a truly arresting article called "The Wronged Man," by Andrew Corsello. (Here's a snippet from it that lingered in my mind.) It's about a man who was falsely accused and imprisoned for raping a young girl, and it's about what that time did to him: even as it removed his sense of time and space and his competence in everyday things (like how to choose a shirt), it deepened his faith in Christ, and it caused his sympathies and patience to expand. It's a jaw-dropping account of how the gospel can infect a person and the lives around him.

Why do articles this good have to be in places like GQ? Why are the articles that are presumably about the same subject matter so insipid in Guideposts and Decision, and even Reader's Digest? Maybe it's because those magazines flatten out the experience of life, avoiding the cuss words, avoiding the rape scenes, avoiding that which God indeed saves us from.

On the other hand, why shouldn't these articles appear in a magazine like GQ? I'm glad that the average GQ reader is treated to up-close pictures of two saints of God, with all their faults, foibles, shallowness, grace, sincerity, and realness. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. You'll cast a vote for this kind of journalism, and you'll enrich your own sympathies.

And, you'll get a look at some really good suits under $500.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

news from the road

Catherine and I are getting ready to spend a few days out of town, while she does some research. Her work has her do this occasionally, and I tag along — no one else in her office, remarkably, wants to do it!

Meanwhile, we had a dinner party the other night, the first night that we were to use this gorgeous crystal carafe some friends gave us for our wedding. It's simply stunning, with deep bevels all around. One of the bevels, in fact, is so deep that it actually goes all the way through, so that when we filled it with wine, there was a fountain coming out the side of the carafe. Ahhhh, dinner parties! You never know what's going to happen.

See you in a few days.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

are you a feminist?

Are you a feminist?

Before you answer, ask yourself some other questions. Do you think women ought to be able to own property? Vote? Sit on a jury? Do you think women should be able to go to college if they want to? Major in whatever they want to? Have a job? Earn money?

Do you think a gal ought to be able to marry the husband of her choice, rather than have it arranged for her, rather than have some man simply come up and drag her over to his place, rather than being the prize for a tournament? Is it OK for her to have some say in what goes on in her life? May she learn how to read?

If your answer is Yes to any of those questions, then you are a feminist. History calls you a feminist, whether or not you consider yourself one. Line up all the people who ever lived, and tell them you believe those things, and they'll call you not only Feminist but Dangerous. They may even try to kill you.

These days, most Americans in the mainstream of public life would say Yes to all those questions. Rush Limbaugh wants his daughters to go to college. Pat Buchanan is glad his wife can read. If you enjoy those freedoms, or your wife or daughter enjoys those freedoms, then you have some people to thank: those who had to be mighty shrill at some point; those who endured censure, mockery, vilification, were called all sorts of names having nothing to do with their pleading for basic rights. Those who paid unreasonably inflated prices for what you and I consider unremarkable things.

And will you dare to disparage that shrillness again?

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Tihs is apaperlnty a wlel-kwnon ltlite tinhg taht gtes fwoarderd a lot, but taody's the fsrit tmie I saw it:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer inwaht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are; the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt!

A friend's retort:

Crartnoy to the duoibus cmials of the puoivers eiaml, a slpmie ioisrevnn of ianretnl cretcarahs oetfn csufenos msot rredaes. I slitl tnihk taht it is naet tguohh.

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

now that's a metaphor

Has tenor become vehicle, or vice versa? Which is worse?

The current issue of GQ has an article about Stephen Baldwin's born-again experience. He said, "God is my Tony Robbins."

Monday, November 8, 2004

happy 45th anniversary

Yesterday was my parents' 45th wedding anniversary. As I get more experience in life, I notice more and more what I never noticed before: that my family was really healthy and stable. I say "was" — it still is, but during one's formative years, that's incredibly important. I see all around me people who have to get over, or who never manage to get over, their relationship with their parents, or, crucially, their parents' relationship with each other.

Of course, by the time you're an adult, you're responsible for your own actions, and certainly society is full of healthy enough role models if you bother to look for them. We don't have to live by the scripts that are handed down to us. But if by chance you are given a good script, then be thankful. The scripts that I saw played out as I was growing up were redemptive, grace-filled dances: healthy argumentation, dedication to making things work, an often unstated but always present faith that the relationship will stick, a hand reaching over to take the other hand.

In looking back over my parents' relationship over the 30 or so years I've observed them, I keep being haunted by a phrase Peter Ustinov uttered back in 1958, shortly after my parents became engaged. He was about my age when he uttered it, and he was talking about love: "a tender look which becomes a habit."

Thursday, November 4, 2004

election stats

Here's something notable: Bush got roughly 59,244,977 votes, and Kerry got 55,709,633. In the 2000 election, Gore got roughly 50,999,897 votes, and Bush got 50,456,002.

So, not only does Bush have bragging rights for getting the highest number of votes of any President (though percentagewise Nixon still wins), but Kerry actually got more votes in 04 than either Bush or Gore did in 2000.

Now *that's* meaningless. But interesting.

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

things ain't what they used to be

Catherine and I were at North Star Mall, one of the better malls in the country for sheer atmosphere and the pleasure of strolling — the exact opposite of those grey carpeted boxes stacked everywhere.

Unfortunately, one junction where there used to be a beautiful plaza with a fountain has now been renovated, with exactly the faux marble tiles that you see at cheap awful malls, and the fountain has been replaced by a vendor selling furry slippers that look like tennis shoes with college team logos on them. Sic transit gloria mundi.

In that same area, there was a belt guy, who makes buckles with whatever message you want in rhinestones or whatever. The five belts he had stacked on display said, in this order:


Catherine's response was, "Can I get one that has *all* those, all around it?"

Tuesday, November 2, 2004


Last night Catherine and I had just finished a romantic pizza-wine-candlelight dinner, and I was in the kitchen doing something when I heard a bump in the dining room, followed by a mighty crash of glass, then another and another! A wave of crashes.

I raced in and turned on the lights, and NO — the blinds were waving in the window we'd opened for fresh November air, and the gorgeous Thai serving bowls were knocked off the sill, shattered on the floor. Those bowls were our wedding present to each other. We never even got the chance to use them. Foolishness, keeping them there.

We didn't have the heart to clean up last night. They're still there, waiting for us to pick up the shards, sweep the floor, and move on.


Monday, November 1, 2004

travel tickets

My dear friend and ex-girlfriend Misti just wrote to say she's a sailor now. She entered a yacht race, as one of only 4 crew and a total newcomer to the sport. She's a world traveler and world resident who, she told me, owes her travel bug to my brother — several years ago, he gave her the remarkable birthday gift of a round-trip first-class ticket to anywhere in the world.

A gift indeed. The fact is, that is essentially what we've all been given, to do with as we decide. Wherever you go, whether it be Timbuktu or finally home, here's to catching the bug.