June 29, 2012

Correspondence / 5

It rains almost daily now, as is the tropical way come May. There's even a "storm statement" at the
bottom of the TV screen as we speak. I think a "statement" is just below a "watch" but above an

Tomaters, yes!  Can't live without them, and can't live without them. A couple of my neighbors grow
them out back. I think one of them is what is called an "heirloom." The tomato, not the neighbor. We
try and get them before the birds do. The tomatoes, not the neighbors. I like the "Campari" ones at the
farmer's market, sweet scarlet ping-pong balls, sliced in thirds, for my salad.

We're treating my face, one side at a time, for solar keratosis. My skin is not as Mediterranean as I
thought. It's a kind of chemical burn that makes me feel like the Phantom of the Opera, with leprosy,
but without the mask. I was reluctant to go out in public at first - but screw that. Then I was amazed at
how friendly everyone was! Extra friendly. As if I were the victim of a tragic accident. It doesn't hurt
much - but when it starts to heal there's a weird itch, as if a very fine hair or strand of a spider web was
drifting across my face. Maddening. After it all peels off you get brand new skin... looks pretty good.
I wear a hat now.

How come I have to read K.C.'s blog to know you went zip lining in Mexico? I admire her recipe for
world peace - mostly because she didn't shy away from those piquant ingredients. Smart cookie.  

Friends and neighbors are away - I've been hitching up my hammock by the river, casting in a line, or
just reading or thinking. It's not easy to leave. I think to myself - OK, it's getting late, and I have to
stop for tomatoes on the way home... and then I don't move.

Some insects, yes. God does seem "inordinately fond of beetles," as my favorite theologian once
observed. I'm crazy about fireflies, and lots of others have striking colors and designs. The Japanese
keep katydids in little bamboo cages - for their chirps. I'm not finding any love in my heart for
mosquitos, though. What are they for?

Snore Wife is in my queue at Netflix. I did see Prometheus on Monday. The 3D was ravishing in the
opening scenes of the film, but like everything else about the movie it too soon bogged down in the
ponderous story and flat, predictable characters.The striking ensemble dynamic and quirky characters
that were so engaging and innovative in Alien were not there. It was rather transporting, though.
Stepping out of the overly-cooled theater, it was good to be back on earth in the warmth of the
setting sun, surrounded by ordinary traffic and familiar shops. I kinda like life on earth, don't yeux?

June 25, 2012

June 21, 2012

June 19, 2012

June 16, 2012

June 13, 2012


In his novel “When we were orphans” Kazuo Ishiguro describes an old Shanghai in which people shove each other out of the way with scarcely a second thought. Nobody is offended. They take it in stride. I like this bumper-car ethos. What’s wrong with a friendly little push? It shouldn’t be limited to basketball courts and white sales at Filene’s Basement. Maybe I’ll get the ball rolling with art galleries and museums. See how it goes over. People stand for way too long in front of Vermeers I want to see.

June 10, 2012

June 7, 2012

June 4, 2012

June 1, 2012


I was listening to NPR, science Friday, in my car. Anthony Fauci was on and must have said, in
reference to a medical treatment, “modality” or “modalities” at least once in every other sentence.
He really likes that word. But wouldn’t “mode” have been sufficient? People like extra syllables.
Especially “ality and alities”. I heard a commentator on minority culture recently say “commonality” a
couple of dozen times. She really liked that word. The frequentality was striking. Did you know that
having skills will no longer get you anywhere? You need skill sets. It takes a lot of gut sets to
confront the challenges of the world these days.

This reminded me of something my friend Cathy, who teaches elementary school kids, said. “There are
certain words that kids like to say. Lady Gaga is really popular.” She recounted a conversation between
two second-graders she overheard recently:

“I really like the new Lady Gaga record.”

“Lady Gaga?”

“Yes, Lady Gaga.

“I don’t know if I’ve heard the new Lady Gaga record.”

“I like Lady Gaga’s new song a lot.”

“My sister really likes Lady Gaga.

“Lady Gaga’s my favorite.”

“Lady Gaga...”

I think it was Tennessee Williams who, when asked what he thought was the most beautiful word in
the English language, said “cellar door.” When pronounced with a southern accent. Celladoa. I was
determined, in my youth, to try to work it into a conversation, but could never find the opening -
so to speak.

I’ve settled for startling people with the British pronunciation of “again” (agayn), and “been” (bean)
when I remember to do it. Some affectations have great annoyance value. I have a cousin whose hair I
used to set on fire by working some showy, though hardly inaccessible, word into the conversation.
“My history homework is preposterous,” I’d say, and watch the steam drift out of his ears. Why this
inflamed his indignation, I have no idea. But I’d watch, nervously giddy, and fascinated.

“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to?”

“It’s preposterous. I’ll never finish it by tomorrow.”

The gauntlet had been thrown down. A wrestling match would ensue.

Nobody wrestles people to the ground anymore who use uppity words, trendy phrases, or extra
syllables. We should. I think it would be a tremendous commonality-enhancing modality in the
linguistic social stream.