I Used To Work on Illuminated Manuscripts

At least that’s what it feels like in memory, from an era before Evelyn Berezin made the typewriter an antique. Doing papers in college was hell — I could type fluently since I had learned early in grade school because my handwriting was mere scribbles, but there would always be enough typos and lame-ohs to require at least one edit. Meant marking up the manuscript with a pencil and typing the whole damned thing again. Good that I was young, with boundless energy. Did I mention the last time I stayed up all night was 12 years ago?

There Goes Simon’s Rhymin’

We voted this morning (Yes, Yes, Yes and Mr. Baker is toast and even better there was no doughnut table to guilt-trip you about not donating something to the polling-place school).

Then I did my initial listen to what, for now anyway, is Paul Simon’s final album, In the Blue Light. And it felt like closing a circle.

Back in Park Senior High, the simpering set adored Simon & Garfunkel, but I thought “Parsley” puke and even “Sounds of Silence” too quivering-nerve. “Bridge Over” was impossible to scoff away, however, and did provide my first revelation: the simp set was in love with Artie and Paul was ready to divorce all of them.

I think the Dean has had a damn-near-perfect ear for Simon through the decades and we responded to identical same tracks. Except that I always adored “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor,” which came out the year I became an official adult and started living in my own apartment. Yeah, here’s somebody mirroring my mind. But I did have trouble with “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” — thought it was abstruse. I have not checked to see how much lyrics were modified, but sure enough, this is now a masterful metaphysician operation.

Biggest stinko of the whole set (I’ve listened to it twice and realized I did not even grok this cut the first time through) is that “Love” is track #2. It’s a plain regression to S&G manners and mores and even language. Worst of all, it confirms that part of Simon still respects simp swill. And if “The Teacher” is clearer than it used to be, I still can’t bother to pierce its opaque. It is abstruse.

“Darling Lorraine” is a casually complex example of the Simon the old pimple farms would never grasp — he became an adult, even a weathered adult, not just a pop star with years heaped on him. “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns” pulls back every lonely era of my life and best of all “Can’t Run But” delights me anew as a twittering and trumpeting machine that radiates the sensibility of the saints.

Thanks for the trip.

R.I.P.: Dr. Larry Martin

Which is what we called him when I took his BU disinformation class in 1979.

As you can tell, very witty, yet made sharp, even corrosive points. One story I remember is that he mentioned learning Elvis Presley songs on acoustic guitar “so young people would trust us at parties.”

One of the most informative and enlightening classes I ever attended.

Historic Mistakes

Sometimes you know full well the topics of history you were not taught properly. Even as a young teen I knew I’d gotten miserable explanations of race and Commie hysteria in America. But other items loom large only later — much later, maybe.

I understood that Warren Harding was the worst POTUS of the 20th century. A genuine diddling doofus. However, the overall thrust of the lesson was: “Boy, was that ever an embarrassment. But don’t worry, it will never happen again.” Only reservation I had back then was that I had an unsatisfactory sense of how he got in the office. If it could never happen again, though, that wasn’t so important.

One aspect I did grasp (I have not done any additional research other than my grade-school history-class memories) suggests some parallels with Bush Jr.: the Roaring 20s were never going to end and times were so good who cared who was Prez? But the side of things I wish had been filled in more was that Republican corruption was out of control and Harding was selected as the tool least likely to do anything about it. And (like Unca Ronnie) he looked real Presidential. That’s exactly why the multiple corruption investigations seem so on-target and so many GOPers are tolerating outrageous nonsense: they know today’s Teapot is about to boil.

On Privilege

I cannot remember exactly where or when or who even explained this to me (or if I read it or whatever) but this is how I came to understand the pleasures of straight-white-male privilege in the United States of America:

No matter how poor and powerless you were, you were still more powerful than the most powerful nonwhite person in the country.

No matter how lonely and loveless and a screw-up with women you were, you were still innately more important, more in control of all the storylines, than any woman in the country.

Sexual desires for members of your own gender was a disease or a perversion. It was something sickos chose to do. Even though nobody could identify when they “decided” to be heterosexual.

Everyone, I mean everyone, aspires to be a straight-white-male.

Fortunately, I had a strange family, touched by tragic death and mental illness. And even on the grade-school playground I knew I could never be straight-and-narrow conventional enough to fit into the Big Narrative.

A kid threw a rock at me in the fourth grade. Hit me in the head and I needed stitches. I didn’t even know who he was. He was forced to mumble some apology a couple days later and that’s the last I ever had to do with him. But that taught me more about the nature of our little charade on this planet than the Big Narrative ever did: he could have killed me.

They’re BAAACK!

When I first moved to Cambridge, the rhythms of returning to classes in the fall were still fresh in my system, so the flood of students in August/September felt not only natural, but comforting. Harvard Square was still Harvard Square. Cheapo Records was the coolest music store in the world. The city was an Eden for the young. (Somehow it didn’t get to me that it was a lot more crime-ridden than it is today.)

I’m amazed at what a get-offa-my-lawn type I’ve decayed into. I hate the freakin’ traffic insanity that ruins timing on drives. I hate the Jaywalkin’ Jackasses thick on the ground everywhere.

But what I want to really talk about is a strange perception phenomenon. For a long time, into my early 30s, the students looked like younger and younger peers to me. Then suddenly one autumn — bang! — they looked like kids. Eventually almost children. This year — wham! — the parents started to look like kids. Guess my senses have gone into full senior mode.