3.10.2023 – still, how strangely still

still, how strangely still
water is today, not good
to be still that way

Adapted from the poem, Sea Calm by Langston Hughes as it appeared in The Weary Blues (Alfred A. Knopf, 1926) .

How still,
How strangely still
The water is today.
It is not good
For water
To be so still that way

Langston Hughes was just twenty-four years old when his debut poetry collection The Weary Blues was published in 1926.

The first line of the introduction to The Weary Blues reads, “At the moment I cannot recall the name of any other person whatever who, at the age of twenty -three, has enjoyed so picturesque and rambling an existence as Langston Hughes.

Back in the day when I worked at WZZM13 TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I remember a newsroom discussion about travel and places to go and places gone to and plans to go to other places.

I looked up and said in what my wife calls ‘My Hoffman Voice’, you know, the voice you develop in a family of 11 kids if you ever want anyone to hear you – my kids say it cuts through concrete – my Mom said it was just like my brother Bobby’s (who was a baseball coach for 20 years), “I live in house 1 mile from where I grew up, 1 mile from the hospital where I was born and 1 mile from the cemetery where I will be buried.”

Then I said, “Oh am I depressed!”

At the time it was all true.

I lived near Kent Country Club on the North End of Grand Rapids.

It was less than a mile from my childhood home on Sligh Blvd.

It was about a mile to Butterworth Hospital where I was born.

And it was less than a mile from Fairplains Cemetery where my grand parents and parents are buried and where, most likely, I would end up one day.

I was about to turn 50.

Since then, I can say that I have enjoyed a picturesque and rambling existence.

Someone looked at my life and said it was still, too still.

And then that someone decided that it was not good for my life to be still that way.

I am reminded of a silly movie starring Steve Martin named Parenthood.

Mr. Martin watches his life come apart at the seams with the flu, bills, car accidents, kids fighting, job loss and everything else and is ready to lose it.

When his Grandma comes by and kind of in passing says:

You know, when I was 19, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster
Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride.
I always wanted to go again.
You know, it was just interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened,
so scared,
so sick,
so excited
and so thrilled,
all together.
Some didn’t like it.
They went on the merry-go-round.
That just goes around … Nothing.
I like the roller coaster.
You get more out of it.

The movie was written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel.

These two guys wrote a lot of movies.

One of those was, A League of Their Own where baseball manager Jimmy Dugan, played by Tom Hanks, says:

It’s supposed to be hard.

If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.

The hard… is what makes it great.

It is not good
For water
To be so still that way

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