1.16.2023 – watched him tie his shoes

watched him tie his shoes
moment I knew never would
I be an athlete

Getting ready for a walk with my wife, I got my walking shoes on my feet and holding onto the shoestrings, I stretched out my leg and pulled the shoestrings tight and tied the shoestrings into a proper knot.

Watching the laces slide through the metal grommets on my shoes as I pulled them tight, a moment in my life came back to me.

It was a moment from when I attended the Grand Rapids Junior College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

GRJC, as it was known claimed to be famous as one of the first satellite two year colleges ever set up in the United States.

GRJC was established in 1914 as a joint venture between the University of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Board of Education.

From what my I remember, it was slated to be called the University of Michigan – Grand Rapids until the GR School Board felt that as they would be running the show, the name should reflect that and Grand Rapids Junior College would be more appropriate as well as more prestigious.

It was famous for having such a strict curriculum, set up by UofM, that students never ever had any problems with transferring credits to a 4 year institution.

It wasn’t until much later that it took on the more anonymous name of a Community College or GRCC.

To me it was and is GRRR-JIK or GRJC.

It was also known as Raider High or the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ 13th Grade.

It was where you went if you didn’t want to pay a 4 year college tuition for Freshman English 101.

I never gave much thought about whether or not I would be going there.

I think I heard those stories about 13th grade and just assumed I would show up on the first day of class and get my schedule.

I mean I knew I would END UP in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan but as there were 4 of my siblings currently enrolled at UofM, I also knew that I would be starting my college career at GRJC as my matriculation would be delayed.

It was in conversation with a friend of mine who I later ended sharing an apartment with in Ann Arbor, that I realized I had to apply and even be accepted at GRJC.

Even after that delay, it was no surprise at all to me that I walked into my first class at JC, CHEM 114, and saw most of my friends, Doug, Dan, Dave and Carl from Creston High School sitting in the same class.

This group of friends stayed together and for reason I have cannot recall, we decided to form a team and enter the JC Intramural Lunchtime Basketball League.

I must have pushed for it so my friends made me player / coach.

We named the team after our Chemistry instructor, Ms. Wurn.

It was a bit of thrill to see the Intramural League schedule posted around JC and find the name, WURN’S WORMS, listed.

These games were played in the GRJC Main Fieldhouse, at lunchtime.

It seems to me that we played two 20 minute halves on the main court of the fieldhouse.

The league was run by Gene Paxton, the head coach of the GRJC Varsity Basketball Program.

I was on the GRJC Collegiate, the student newspaper as a photographer, so I was familiar to Coach Gene.

The fieldhouse at lunch time was full of people as the fieldhouse had one of those multipurpose composite floors with a running track and people would be in there on their lunch hour jogging on the track or taking part in other basketball games on the side courts.

But the main court, the court surrounded by the running track, was our court.

And we showed up to play.

After we showed and got out on the court, any resemblance to any other organized basketball games ended.

What were we thinking?

If we got the ball off the opening tip, that would be the high point of the game and there weren’t many games that opened on a high point.

We were given possession of the ball after each basket by the other team but unless the other team set up their defense on their end of the court, we rarely got the ball over the time line.

We played games with scores like 62-10, 88-10, 102-10.

We were a bunch of guys who shot the ball around in our driveway’s once in awhile playing in a league of teams that took the game seriously.

It wasn’t that sad.

But it was that funny!

We would run around for 20 minutes and the horn would sound at the half (they used the real scoreboard and clock for all to see) and Coach Gene, who with two players from his team, ref’ed the games, would blow a whistle and look at me and say THE FIRST HALF IS OVER … SECOND HALF BEGINS IMMEDIATLY.

What was the point of delaying the inevitable.

After the game, I remember how joggers who been running on the track would look at us in the locker room and try to be positive by saying things like, “You guy’s aren’t that … well … aren’t … that … well … good.”

Hey, we knew that.

Ms. Wurn came to watch a game once.

She left after about 10 minutes.

The scores would be posted with the updated schedules in the fieldhouse hallways.

I think most folks felt it had to be typo.

It seems like we even had a following as people would see me around school and ask me if maybe we might break 20 points today?

One friend of mine from Creston who knew about the team but was smart enough to not be on the team would yell out the latest score anytime he saw me on campus.

Well, if you are going down, go down in flames, I guess.

And goofy things beyond the score happened to us too.

One game, Carl went down screaming.

“My foot is on fire”, he screamed.

He lay on the floor and we removed his shoe and sock and the bottom of his foot looked like it fell off.

Somehow his skin had melded to his sweaty socks and when he turned to change direction in a single motion he twisted his foot inside his shoe and all the callous stripped off the bottom of his foot.

This one big creepy piece of skin, an exact match to his foot, fell out of his sock.

Coach Gene came over and looked and said that happens and he told Carl his foot might tingle or sting a bit for a couple of days.

Then he looked at me and asked who was coming in to the game to replace Carl?

I can’t remember how many games there were on the schedule, but we always showed up.

Until the last game and I realized we were short a few players.

I talked to Coach Gene and he looked at me with this big smile on his face as if to say you aren’t getting out of this that easy.

Coach Gene looked across the crowd in the fieldhouse and called out to two of his players, real players from the GRJC team, that he saw over in another part of the fieldhouse.

“Here,” he said, “you two play with these guys.”

One of the two was this massive round kid.

I don’t remember much about him but that he was BIG.

And looked really mean.

The other was a tall basketball player who later in life, I might describe as a younger, thinner Ben Wallace type.

My memory says his name was Walter Jordan.

For Wurn’s Worms, it was like we had won the draft lottery and got two players better than anyone else in the entire intramural league.

The game started and while it didn’t go great, it didn’t go too bad as we started getting some rebounds.

That big round kid would stand under the basket and grab the ball out of the air with one massive hand and hold the ball out of bounds behind him and dare anyone on the other team to come and try and take it.

No one dared and he would flip the ball to one of us to get the ball up to the court to Walter.

The other team would gang up on Walter so we didn’t score a lot but it seems to me that at the half it was something like 24 – 16.

The best score we ever had.

A couple of things happened at half time.

One, we actually got a 5 minute half time.

Two, Coach Gene called the other team over and said that he was the League Commissioner and he made the rules so in the 2nd half, they, the other team, had to play man to man defense.

This meant that the rest of us could really contribute as even though there was no way we were going to get the ball, someone had to guard us and that meant Walter would be playing 1 on 1.

And three, Walter tied his shoes.

I was sitting on the bench and Walter came over and put his foot next to me and untied the shoestrings.

He was wearing Nike white high tops and the shoestrings were laced through holes punched through the leather.

I was wearing Nike white low cuts also with shoestrings that were laced through holes punched through the leather.

When I tied my shoes and I pulled on the shoestrings, maybe the top of the laces pulled closed together but no other part of my stiff leather shoe budged.

If I pulled really hard, all I could do was tighten the top part of the shoe around my ankle in a way that made me feel like I had cut off the blood flow

No matter how hard I pulled, there was no impact below the 2nd or 3rd lace and that was that for tying them tight.

Walter had the leather high tops and he wrapped the end of each shoestring around his hands and slowly pulled back with the muscles in his arms that exerted, some unimageable to me, pressure on those shoestrings.

Have you ever seen someone shooting a compound bow and arrow.

How when they pull back on the string, the string is strung through all these little pulleys that all move in unison in response to the pressure on the bow?

That was Walter tying his shoes.

He pulled and the shoestring, snaking its way back and forth over the front of the shoe from the top to the bottom of laces moved together and the stiff leather shoe reformed itself to Walter’s foot.

I stared.

I couldn’t believe what I just saw.

I looked at the miserable way the laces looked on my shoes, all out of line.

And I looked at Walter’s shoe and the shoestring was as taught a bowstring and the entire shape of the shoe changed before my eyes.

Then he switched feet, and without any real sign of effort, did it again.

I was in awe.

All I did was watch someone tie his shoes.

Someone to whom, a properly tied shoe was very important, tie his shoes.

I marveled at how strong this tall skinny kid really had to be.

Not that I was wondering much, but at that moment, I understood why, I would never be an athlete.

The second half started and it was the Walter Jordan show.

We would cross half court, the big kid would park under the basket, the three of us out on the court went to the corner as far away as possible so someone had to cover us and Walter got the ball.

Layup.

Banker.

Jumper.

You name it.

Swish.

The other team kept rotating players on Walter but he could not be stopped.

And with the big kid, we even got some defensive rebounds.

I want to say that once, maybe twice, a missed shot hit me in the head and I was able to redirect the ball to Walter for an assist.

Possible the only stats I ever got in a game.

We were in the game.

Walter scored some 30 points and with under a minute left we were up 47-46 and the other team had the ball.

I called time out.

The team actually came over and looked at me.

From somewhere I don’t know where, I said, “stop the shot and get the ball to Walter.

Everyone looked at me then at each other and nodded.

Then the big kid said, “NO EASY TWO, they go for a layup … RACK’HIM GOOD!”

My first thought was, “U tawkin to me?”

My second thought was, “Look at me, then look at those other players.”

I weighed in at 110 lbs spread thin over 6 feet.

But I repeated “NO EASY TWO!” then yelled “LETS GO” as Coach Gene blew his whistle.

The other team inbounded and took the ball the length of the court.

As I remember it, one of the players on the other team drove the lane and laid it up and, boy oh boy, that big kid racked’him good, seems like he knocked him about 4 rows deep into the stands, but that player had dished off at the last moment and someone else put it off the glass for 2, we were down by 1.

I cannot remember who in bounded the ball but Walter had it in hand as the timer ran down.

The crowd in the fieldhouse all stopped to watch.

Walter crossed mid court faked a rush, bought some space, pulled up and let go a beautiful, Cazzie Russell, classic jumper.

I raised both arms and yelled YES YES YES!

I was dancing backward as I yelled and tripped over someone behind me.

It was Coach Gene.

He caught me but never took his eyes off the ball.

“OH OH OH”, he was yelling.

Time stopped I am telling you!.

The ball went in, hit the side of the rim, bounced up, bounced left, and bounced out.

“OH OH OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH … NO”, yelled Coach Gene.

And he steadied me on my feet and said, “Thought you had one Hoff.” and he slapped me on my back.

There was a collective “OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” from the crowd in the gym.

Coach blew his whistle and yelled “Game Over.”

Walter stared at the backboard for a second and then jogged off to the locker room.

I yelled, “HEY WALTER!” from across the fieldhouse.

He stopped and turned and looked me.

“GREAT GAME,” I yelled.

He looked me in the eye and slowly raised one fist and then nodded.

I am not kidding when I say that I thought of the sportswriter Grandland Rice and his, “For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game!

I had seen that today come to life, I thought.

Here was a guy who for no other reason played a great game because there was a game to be played.

I couldn’t even tie his shoes.

Boy, howdy, I couldn’t even tie mine.

And I knew, I would never be an athlete.

But I had seen one today.

1.15.2023 – how did dare expect

how did dare expect
so much of life and how could
act so stupidly

I was in the library the other day and as I do in libraries, I walked down the H aisle of fiction to see how many Jim Harrison books were on the shelf.

I was pleased to see 8.

I looked them over and the book titled, “The Summer He Didn’t Die“, caught my eye.

I knew it was on the shelf at home among the remaining titles in my hard cover library and I also knew I hadn’t opened it in years.

To sidestep into the discussion of EBooks, EReaders and printed books, I am 100% in agreement with those who say there is something to the printed page and holding a book in your lap.

But I also say, move several times and your thoughts on a personal multi volume library will change.

I still say I love print, but am very THANKFUL for electronic versions of any and all books.

But I digress.

When I got home, I took The Summer He Didn’t Die off the shelf and sat in my rocking chair and opened it.

There are, as usual with Mr. Harrison, three long short stories in the book.

The first one was the title short story, The Summer He Didn’t Die, and it is part of the Brown Dog oeuvre.

If you never read anything else going forward, I ask you to find a copy of Brown Dog (what you don’t a free archive.org account?) which has all 6 of the Brown Dog stories anthologized in one volume, and enjoy the trip to world you never considered.

It’s the same world we live in, but it’s not the same world we live in at the same.

You won’t be in Kansas anymore.

The 2nd long short story is titled, “Republican Wives.”

I am sure I read the story when I got the book but I did not have any memory of it.

This was fabulous.

It was new ground or, at least, forgotten old ground, one of the few benefits of getting older.

Reading the long short story, on the 2nd page I hit this line:

How did I dare expect so much of life. And by contrast, how could I have acted so stupidly?

And I stopped reading.

30 minutes later I was still looking at that page.

In the book, The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk wrote about the hero, young Willie Keith, after a near death experience, sat back with a cigar and thought.

Wouk writes:

With the smoke of the dead sailor’s cigar wreathing around him, Willie passed to thinking about death and life and luck and God.

Philosophers are at home with such thoughts, perhaps, but for other people it is actual torture when these concepts – not the words, the realities – break through the crust of daily occurrences and grip the soul.

A half hour of such racking meditation can change the ways of a lifetime

How did I dare expect so much of life.

And by contrast, how could I have acted so stupidly?

More than saying, But for the Grace of God, go I.

Thank God, and I mean THANK GOD, for grace.

But daring to expect so much of life?

Deep in my soul I think of Prospero in the Tempest.

We are such stuff, as dreams are made on.

Dreams?

Expectations?

Dare to dream.

Dare to expect much.

But, don’t act so stupidly, can’tcha?

Gee Whiz.

1.14.2023 – people want to think

people want to think
everything’s back to normal but
going take longer

There is always something lately seems to be the new way to look at things.

Orange is the new black was the thing to say for a while.

Not following fashion too much, I have a 5 pairs of pants, khaki khaki’s, black khaki’s and 3 pairs of blue jeans, I am not much sure about what the old black was.

Black, maybe?

And trying to nail down the origin of the phrase, the closest I could find on the Google (after .6 seconds of searching) was that it showed up in the late-’70s, when the New York Times stated: “Colors are the new neutrals.”

Back in the day, when I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan and the hoi-polloi said they lived in EAST Grand Rapids, folks who couldn’t get property in EGR started saying Rockford was the new EGR.

(For fun just say hoi-polloi of Grand Rapids, Michigan out loud.)

I went around saying, that Sparta, it’s the new Rockford, just to watch Rockfordians get upset.

Its a Grand Rapids thing so don’t worry if you don’t get it.

In an article about New York Theater, ‘It’s a hard time’: why are so many Broadway shows closing early?, Mr. David Smith writes:

“People just got used to staying home and getting people back out and remembering how amazing live theatre is is taking time. Also people are still suffering and dealing with the trauma of the last few years. People want to think everything’s back to normal but it’s going to take longer for all people to feel normal after two and a half years of tragedy.”

I have to agree.

People want to think everything’s back to normal!

And I agree that it’s going to take longer for all people to feel normal after two and a half years of tragedy.

Normal.

It’s the new normal.

Tempora mutantur.

Times change and we change with the times.

And as Mr. Churchill said, or was reported as saying, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”

If Mr. Churchill was correct, and in saying that it is important to keep in mind that FDR said ‘Winston has 100 ideas everyday but only one is good. That’s okay as he will have another 100 ideas tomorrow, but as I was saying, if Mr. Churchill was correct, with all the change we have experienced in the last 2 and half years, we must be coming close to perfection.

There is that definition of perfection to worry about though.

1.13.2023 – old cowgirl, she seemed

old cowgirl, she seemed
like someone who had earned the
right to give advice

Seems like there is a story where young Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr. went to see Ralph Waldo Emerson to seek advice.

As I remember the account stated that Emerson respected individuals too much to ever give advice.

The story in my mind also recorded that Holmes gave Emerson an article he had written to review and while Mr. Emerson did not make any specific comments he did say that he sensed Holmes direction and that if he, Young Holmes, fired off enough buckshot, something was bound to come close to the target.

To me, this explained the writing of most Harvard academics and graduates.

There is a lot of good in there, somewhere, in all that chaff.

Maybe.

And I always liked Mr. Justice Holmes.

Any Justice who sat on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States with 5 gunshot wounds in their body from fighting in the American Civil War was for me, someone who had earned the right to sit on that bench.

Holmes, according to the legend, is the Union Officer who figured out that by standing with a bunch of short Union Officers in blue uniforms, Abraham Lincoln, dressed in black and a tall stove pipe hat, kind of stood out as an attractive target for rebel sharpshooters.

Once he figured it out, as men started dropping left and right, Holmes grabbed the President and pulled him down behind a wall with a shout of “Get down you damn fool!

I often muse how many people would love to have the opportunity to yell that at any President.

Lincoln later spoke of finding himself under enemy fire and said that it was a disagreeable experience.

According to history this was the only time an American President came under enemy fire while in office.

Justice Holmes would go on to be on a member of the Supreme Court for 30 years until he was 92.

AND SO what if at the end of his years of service he fell asleep on the bench from time to time.

A little nudge brought him back to the court.

Often with a waking shout of “Jesus Christ, where the Hell am I?

Just give the guy a break.

But I digress.

But who else can give advice?

Who else should give advice?

And who ever listens to advice anyway.

Still this line, “He got the advice from a 100-year-old cowgirl interviewed in the pages of a newspaper and soon adopted it as his own. She seemed like someone who had earned the right to give advice.” from the article, I’ve never forgotten the advice of a 100-year-old cowgirl: ‘Always check your own girth strap’ by Gabrielle Chan caught me eye.

Ms. Chan wrote:

… I was slightly relieved when I moved to a farm that my husband didn’t have much advice for me. He is a sink or swim type of person.

One of the only scraps he offered was “always check your own girth strap”.

The Farmer, as he is known, underlined early on in my unspectacular horse riding career that I should always check my own girth strap.

A girth strap, for non-horsey people, is the belt that holds the saddle to the horse.

In people, it might hold your trousers up, or separate the bottom and the top half of you, depending on what you need it for.

The Farmer, as he is known, underlined early on in my unspectacular horse riding career that I should always check my own girth strap.

He got the advice from a 100-year-old cowgirl interviewed in the pages of a newspaper and soon adopted it as his own.

She seemed like someone who had earned the right to give advice.

It is a great piece of sound advice that even sounds great to say out loud.

When I get tomorrow I am going to say to myself, “always check your own girth strap!”

I’ll remember to say as I have painted it on my bedroom wall.

Right under, “It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”

Another piece of sound advice.

1.12.2023 – secret of life is

secret of life is
honesty and fair dealing
fake that, got it made

Based on the Groucho quote, The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

And y’all thought I was going to comment on the Congressperson from New York.

Too late, the fellers is in Congress.

As Mr. Twain said, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Mr. Twain also said, “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”

It seems like it Will Rogers who worried about comic material running low if Congress adjourned.

It is what it is and we are stuck with it.

1.11.2023 – break any these rules

break any these rules
sooner than say anything
outright barbarous

I came across this the other day in my reading attributed to one Eric Arthur Blair.

Mr. Blair wrote some rules on writing.

He said:

But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English.

I love that last line.

One could keep all of them and still write bad English.

BTW, Eric Arthur Blair was much better known under the name of George Orwell.

1.10.2022 – its basically

its basically
an insurance company …
with its own army

What is the Government of the United States of America?

For the federal government is, as an old line puts it, basically an insurance company with an army. Other than military spending — only a small fraction of which, even now, goes to defending democracy in Ukraine — federal dollars mainly go to retirement and health care programs on which scores of millions of Americans, including many Republicans, depend.

So writes Paul Krugman in his article, Election Deniers Are Also Economy Deniers.

I kind of like that.

I have to admit that instead of thinking of government being those buildings in Washington and politicians and such, picture George F. Babbitt sitting behind a desk.

It works.

1.9.2023 – instagrammable

instagrammable
moments lacking are listed
don’t we need to pee?

Ginia Bellafante, writing in the New York Times (Must We Gentrify the Rest Stop?) about the changes at rest stops on the New York State Thruway stated:

Five years ago, the New York State Thruway Authority conducted a survey of more than 2,600 drivers to take measure of the customer experience at the service areas lining the 570 miles of road that make up one of the largest toll highways in the country, stretching from the edge of the Bronx up past Buffalo. Whether participants were traveling for work or for pleasure, they had needs that apparently were going unfulfilled.

The resulting report listed as chief takeaways that leisure travelers complained about unappealing interiors and the lack of “Instagrammable moments.”

Instagrammable moments?

Instagrammable moments!

When I was studying history back in college, I was taught over and over, in lectures, in statements, in LOUD RED LETTERS WRITTEN on term papers, to AVOID A SENSE OF PRESENT MINDEDNESS.

What was an instagrammable moment 10 years ago?

What will be an instagrammable moment be ten years from now.

Since the beginning of time people traveling from point A to point B have hoped for a clean, well lighted place to answer a call to nature.

And if it wasn’t too much trouble, maybe a decent cup of coffee and a bun or a biscuit or a doughnut maybe.

Why do these two things do not figure in as the chief takeaway on a survey of customer experience of service areas?

As Ms. Bellafante writes: In a society so casually stratified that major airlines now offer five classes of service and airport security lines can be bypassed for an annual fee, rest stops remain one of the few spaces in modern life that can be generally counted on to level us. 

As my Dad would have put it, “Everybody has to pee.”

That won’t change but if it comes it to that, spare me anything instagrammable that captures that moment.

1.8.2023 – spontaneous and

spontaneous and
natural not requiring
of so much effort

“In an ideal world it is not good to put limits on museum attendance as going to a museum should be spontaneous and natural and not requiring of so much effort,” he said. “Adding yet another barrier is not a good idea.”

So says Guillaume Kientz, who served for nine years as curator of Spanish and Latin American Art at the Louvre and is now the director of the Hispanic Society Museum & Library in New York.

Mr. Kientz was talking about the recently announced 30,000 people a day who are allowed tickets to get entrance to the Louvre.

He was quoted in the article, Looking for Elbow Room, Louvre Limits Daily Visitors to 30,000, by Dan Bilefsky, in the New York Times (Jan. 6, 2023)

Back in 2019, it was noted that “Some 80 percent of visitors, according to the Louvre’s research, are here for the Mona Lisa — and most of them leave unhappy.”

Today, according to the article, “Attendance at the museum in 2022, she added, had bounced back to 7.8 million people, 170 percent more than in pandemic-battered 2021 but 19 percent less than 2019, before the coronavirus hit. The renaissance, which Louvre officials attributed to tourists from the United States and Europe, was emblematic of the extent to which the Louvre had recovered after coronavirus travel restrictions buffeted museums in Paris and across the world.”

And most of those folks want to jostle and push and stand in line for a glimpse of one painting so they can tell friends that they jostled and pushed and stood in line to glimpse this one painting and maybe they have a selfie to prove it.

Going to a museum should be spontaneous and natural and not requiring of so much effort.

Growing up in Grand Rapids, it wasn’t too hard to talk my Dad into taking us downtown to the Grand Rapids Public Museum on a Sunday Afternoon.

The museum was never crowded.

There was easy parking though my Dad would look for something within 50 feet of the front door and wonder out loud if the trip was worth it if we had to park at the medical supply building across the street.

We had been to these museum 100s of times and we knew the way around the place front and back.

The diorama’s of stuffed animals.

The oldtime gas light village that represented Grand Rapids in the late 1800’s.

The odd furniture museum up the back stairs.

The Roger B. Chaffee Space corner and Planetarium.

Sometimes we might go the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

The hardest part of a spontaneous and natural visit not requiring of so much effort to this museum focused hitting that magic time when it might be open and there seemed to be no published listing of hours

You just went, it was in an old house, and if it was open, it was open.

Then there were trips to Chicago and Detroit.

Most of my family went off to college at Ann Arbor.

My sister Mary went to college in Chicago for two or three years.

Also my Aunt and Uncle live there.

When ever some needed to be picked up for Thanksgiving or Spring Break my Dad would arrange to take one of two of us kids along and leave early and spend the day in the big city at any of their museums.

Chicago had the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago Institute of Art while Detroit had Greenfield Village and the Detroit Institute of Art.

I guess I was raised on the concept that going to a museum should be spontaneous and natural and not requiring of so much effort.

I stayed with that as I got older.

History of Art was my minor in college,

Through this course of study, I had unusual access to the Detroit Institute of Art and a sort-of defacto membership in a group of museum guests that was a little bit above the norm.

I remember that I had a meeting scheduled with one of my professors to see some early Tuscan Renaissance works there at the DIA and I was late.

Never mind how I arranged to get a car to get to Detroit or how I got the gas money to get BACK from Detroit but that’s for another day.

Not knowing when I would be back at the DIA, I had to run upstairs and look at their 3 Van Gogh’s.

As an aside, with Vincent back in the news with this new modern exhibit, and the big show in Detroit, I did a little research to see close the nearest Van Gogh is to me where I now live.

Sad to say I’d have to drive to the National Gallery in Washington.

But I digress.

I spotted my professor waiting in the lobby and ran over and apologized for being late.

“Sorry,” I said, “but I had to go and see the Van Gogh’s.”

My professor smiled and nodded and then looked over his shoulder, took my by the arm and leaned in close and said, “I have real doubts about that self portrait.”

I smiled and nodded.

See, I was in the club.

This may have been the same visit that the professor and I were sitting on a bench in the center of a gallery and the professor pointed out the habits of most of the patrons.

“They come in with their guidebooks, check to make sure they are in the right gallery, look at the guidebook, look back at the plates next to artwork THEN they look at the work itself.”

He clucked his tongue, shook his head and said, “Why should that make such a difference?”

But he knew it did and he taught me that it did, but he still wondered.

He also once more looked over his shoulder and then leaned over and said to me, “And I know of enough times paintings and plaques got messed up.”

Reminded me of story told by the great Tom Wolfe of being at a Picasso exhibit and seeing a man who had rented one of those audio tours that back in the day was on a tape cassette player with a headset.

Mr. Wolfe noted that the man was getting more and more frustrated as he walked through the exhibit until the man finally yelled out loud, THIS IS NOT PICASSO’S BLUE PERIOD.

A docent came over and together they figured out that the man had been playing the wrong side of the tape.

So everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa.

I understand that.

But there are more paintings and other Museums.

Close to me is the Telfair Museum in Savannah.

I haven’t been yet but I do want to go.

It its where the the statue of the young lady feeding birds, known as the Bird Girl Statue, is now located.

Sad to say that after being featured in the movie, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the statue got so much attention and had to be removed from its location in a cemetery and placed in the art museum.

Maybe sometime access to art can be too spontaneous and too natural and should require a little effort.

I also want to see the EK le by Josef Albers.

It is listed as being part of the Telfair Museum Collection.

Going to the Telfair museum for me can be be spontaneous and natural and not requiring of so much effort.

Alas, the online listing for EL le states, “STATUS – Not on view”

Well, there you are.

1.7.2023 – America is

America is
a disappointment only
because it is hope

In his best book, “American Politics: The Promise of Disharmony,” published in 1981, the political scientist Samuel Huntington distills the tension in his final lines:

“Critics say that America is a lie because its reality falls so short of its ideals.

They are wrong.

America is not a lie; it is a disappointment.

But it can be a disappointment only because it is also a hope.”

So writes Carlos Lozada in his New York Times Opinion Piece review, I Looked Behind the Curtain of American History, and This Is What I Found, of the book, Myth America, on January 7, 2022.

Cards and letters may be coming on this one and boy, howdy, do I wish I would stick to the my avowed purpose of this blog and stay away from political comment.

But how can I not?

Maybe a way to get the point of today’s haiku across is to quote Amerigo Bonasera when he said, “I believe in America. America has made my fortune.

Those are the opening lines of the defining American film, The Godfather.

For Amerigo Bonasera, because he had hope, America was a disappointment.

Sad to say that Mr. Bonasera also said, “Then I said to my wife, ‘for justice, we must go to Don Corleone.'”

Don Corleone succeeded when hope failed and disappointment took over.

Disappointment because there IS a hope.

And that hope, bless it’s heart, continues.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible,

who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time,

who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

So said Barack Obama in Chicago’s Grant Park in 2008 on the night he won the presidency.

Not sure how that can be so long ago.

Hope sure has been kicked around a lot since that night.

I still have hope.

I still have hope that America is the city on the hill where all are welcome.

The problem is, I am not so sure that is what America wants anymore.

Maybe it was all just a hypocrisy.

But it was a useful hypocrisy one.