Archive for September, 2012

Karma, and the Worst Election Ever

The worst election I ever dealt with was probably the one where everybody got sick. Or maybe it was the one where Sid thought he’d won. There are so many different layers and types of worst that it’s hard to cut it fine enough. And there are too many ways to define awful.

But here’s one way. Stuff kept being stolen from my apartment in Petersburg. I hadn’t known my girlfriend that long and was starting to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have given her a key. But it turned out that someone had a key to the vacant apartment next door, and was climbing into that attic and through the connecting space. I finally found out what was happening after I nailed the windows shut. The thief couldn’t get out the windows, so he had to scramble back out of the tiny attic opening in the bathroom. He turned over a set of shelves on the way out, and left footprints on the wall, evidence he’d never left before when he was dropping in and walking out onto the top of a connecting porch.

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September 6, 2012 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

Julie and the Mayor

There is a woman working in the Charlottesville Old Navy who would look just like Jodie Foster if her hair were not black. I noticed her and knew I could do a couple of things. I could stalk her around the store until I figured out who she looked like, or I could ask her if she’d ever been told she looked like someone famous. She reacted with the appropriate embarrassment and said, yes, that actress in “Silence of the Lambs.” I saw it then, and would have figured it out except for the hair.

It made me think of Julie, who did look like Jodie Foster, light hair and all, or at least she did when she had the hair cut to just past chin length, except nobody ever noticed it. Maybe it was because she wore her hair longer when she was at the newspaper, or maybe it was because she was so self-possessed that she could mirror Elvis’s claim, “I don’t sound like nobody.” Or look, in her case.

Julie was technically beautiful, but it was rarely an issue on the job. (more…)

September 6, 2012 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

Absence of Motion, a story that’s not about Paul Newman

One of the best movies ever made about American newspaper journalism was a potboiler called “Absence of Malice.” And it had one major thing in common with “All the President’s Men.” It had somebody running up to a car. In the one movie, Paul Newman’s character ran up beside a car to find out who was following him. In the other, Dustin Hoffman ran to the corner where Robert Redford had stopped to pick him up. Neither scene had much to do with the plot of the movie, but both showed up in the movie trailers. In each case, the scene was used because somebody moved.

And there should be a law, and it should have a name, and it should be named after somebody who edits movie trailers for a living. It would say that in order to suggest or promise that somebody will actually move in a film about a profession where people talk on the phone and type, you’re going to have to pull something out of context. (more…)

September 6, 2012 at 9:04 am Leave a comment

Paying for “White Rabbit” – Again

(From November 2011)

If you had a good memory, and some ear for music, you might know just the right note to hit the button to switch tracks on an 8-track. The tune was just about over and you wanted to hear the first notes of the other one, and you’d learned just when to shift. If you were really good, you might know that hitting the track button twice would take you from the end of “Heart of Gold” to the beginning of “Old Man.”

On a cassette player, you learned when to hit reverse. On Patti Smith’s “Easter” I knew when to reverse it to hit the opening of “Because the Night.” I may never have heard that tape in the order it was recorded. I may never had heard the end of one side or the beginning of the other. (more…)

September 6, 2012 at 9:01 am Leave a comment

Orange Ken

Ken couldn’t wait for his 50th birthday.

Maybe that’s because he enjoyed it so much the first time.

(more…)

September 6, 2012 at 8:59 am Leave a comment

From worry to hate

It is all, need I say it, in your point of view. When you enter the story, or how much you know when you enter, or whether it’s a new story or a continuance.

For instance, Gus’s point of view in Trafalgar Square on July 21, 2005.

Gus was 16 the summer we visited London. There is no doubt he was old enough to ramble at will in the part of London we were in. Leicester and Trafalgar Squares and the areas between them held no danger, but a world of experience. There is also no doubt that I was not old enough for him to roam at will. A drawback, I suppose, to having only one child.

Gus carried one of the cell phones, Deb and I the other. Chris, her son, eight months older, was on his fourth trip to London and could draw the tube map from memory. He had gone to the hotel to read or rest, and Gus was wandering, a notebook and pencil in hand, with a book to read when he tired of writing his impressions of London.

He recited the conversation to me later. Although I don’t specifically remember it, it doesn’t seem out of character and he’d have little reason to make it up. (more…)

September 6, 2012 at 8:57 am Leave a comment

The Logistics of Illusion

Across the kitchen at the remote mountainside retreat center, a fellow Catholic was pouring rocks into the dishwasher.

We were on the side of Massanutten Mountain in northwest Virginia, preparing for another day of a retreat designed to recruit new members into a lay prayer group. Five years later, statistically, about a third of them would still be active in the group, but for this weekend, deep male camaraderie and an atmosphere laden with the rich symbols of the church helped us all see God in one another. He may have been there, or it may have been an illusion, fostered through forced isolation and enhanced brotherhood.

The rocks were part of the logistics of illusion. Chunks of landscaping marble, purchased in a heavy plastic bag at a local hardware store, went through the dishwasher. The cleanest and whitest were picked out and sent through again, so that each retreat participant would receive one during a candle-lit ceremony built around the text of Revelation 2:17: “I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” (more…)

September 6, 2012 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

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Eating the Bait

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