Wednesday, May 3, 2017

No one respects the flame quite like the fool who's badly burned.

I've written before about the idea that I sometimes very often have a strong desire for something that I know is Not Good for me. Like complicated brunettes (hi, Rachel Menken!*), for example. (Apropos of nothing, you will be Not Surprised to learn that the Inappropriate Crush Girl is a complicated brunette.)

So, what does this mean? Certainly one can't control what one desires, but what about pursuing that desire? One can, presumably, control that. But what are the consequences of giving in -- or in not giving in -- to desire? Where is the line between being a selfish prick who does what he wants without any consideration of the impact of his decisions on others, on the one hand, and deciding to act in order to be true to some part of oneself, on the other? Consequences, as an Imaginary Friend told me the other day, can be good or bad. And pursuing one's desire can lead to be good consequences for some and bad consequences for others at the same time.

This sort of conundrum is something that I perpetually wrestle with. I don't have an answer, and I don't suspect that I ever will.

However, all is not lost. A friend gave me a bottle of Michter's Small Batch as a gift not too long ago, and -- poured over a single ice cube -- it is a quite appropriate beverage to have while pondering such Deep Thoughts.    

*Should I update from Ms. Menken to Wendy Rhoads?

Ok, updated.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'll only buy a book for the way it looks.

I realize that it's been a little while since I've done a What Jackson Is Reading post, but I can't remember everything I've read in the Last Five Years (gratuitous use of an amazing version of "Still Hurting" by Tony winner Cynthia Erivo from a fundraiser earlier this month at Town Hall for the Brady Center) (or click here for the Anna Kendrick version from the movie, which I love). So here's a few that I've read or re-read recently. In no particular order ...

1. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.

Set in New York in the days of Watergate and crime and decline, McCann uses the amazing exploit of Philippe Petit, the French acrobat who in 1974 walked across a tightrope between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, as the event uniting the stories of a series of New Yorkers -- a disaffected Irish priest, his bartender brother, a prostitute, parents who lost children in Vietnam, etc. Amazing and moving and extremely well-crafted.

2. Everybody's Fool by Richard Russo.

If I were pressed, I would probably say that Richard Russo is my favorite author. It helps, of course, that he is from a town within shouting distance of The Ancestral Homeland, but it is really about the characters he creates. In his latest book, we get a chance to visit once again with Sully and Rub and the rest of the gang in North Bath. It's a worthy sequel, but if you haven't read any Russo, you really should start with Nobody's Fool (which was made into a very fine movie starring Paul Newman as Sully) and Straight Man first.

3. May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes.

I mentioned to one of my Imaginary Friends that I think of this book as the Great American Thanksgiving Novel. In it, Homes explores the family dynamic, suburban life In These Times, redemption, lust, and a host of other issues. I can't give too much away, but if you're still reading after the first 50 pages or so (a plot development bothered some people I recommended this book to, but don't listen to them), you are in for a treat. Bonus points if you like @dick_nixon -- our hero is a Nixon scholar.

Gather round, all you clowns.

From Lydia Davis:

Head, Heart
Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love.  They will all go.  But
    even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head.  Help heart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

And his original destination's just another story that he loves to tell.

Like the protagonist of Jimmy Buffett's Cowboy in the Jungle, I haven't yet made it to where I thought I would be. I've talked about this phenomenon here before (see Gotta get away from this day to day running around from, uh, eight years ago), and maybe my angst about this is simply a byproduct of what my old Imaginary Friend the Philalawyer calls the soft alcoholism of early middle age. The feeling does seem to appear most frequently between my second and third Bushmills, after all.

But I don't think so. And although I know that I may currently be stuck here in Portobello, I am certain that the pampas of Paraguay await -- I just need to figure out how to get there from here. Stay tuned.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Offer me solutions, offer me alternatives, and I decline.

I've really gotten tired about this year's presidential election and have decided to stop paying such obsessive attention to it.

Don't get me wrong -- I still believe that this is perhaps the most important election of my lifetime, and that what is left of the American Dream is at stake. It's just that I am going to try to stop following the constant horse race aspects of it. There is just too much information, flowing too quickly, to absorb in a rational way. I'm not the first person to note that the internet, social media, and a gazillion cable and web shows have all combined to pump content out at a high rate and volume -- feeding us so much information at such a high speed that it's like trying to get a drink of water from a fire-hose.

As a practical matter, I'm not sure how this will work. Will I only read stories from print newspaper and magazines? Will I give up reading the Twitter feeds of Ana Marie Cox and Matt Taibbi and Maggie Haberman and Alex Pareene and Jim Roberts? I will try.

Speaking of elections, for a variety of reasons, I have been reading some old posts. Here's one from 2008:
This is the first election since 1992 where I was genuinely enthused about my choice -- I voted for That One -- and I am filled with hope and optimism about what will happen over the next four years if he wins. And, needless to say, I will be seriously disappointed if he loses.

I'm realistic, though. I know that (to paraphrase Hilary Clinton's memorable remarks during the primaries) if Obama wins, we won't have celestial choirs singing, telling everyone will that we should all do the right thing. And the VRWC has made it known that they plan to pick up right where they left off in January 2001, so any progress won't be made without battles on every front. But I think that we are a very different country now than we were in the late 1990s, and that voters will have less patience for smears. I think that the country will welcome legitimate policy debates over some of his plans (Joe the Plumber's original discussion with Obama before the debate, for example), but I don't think that we'll see much tolerance for things like an Obama Death List. (He said hopefully.)

In short, I am cautiously optimistic. But I don't want to jinx anything. Fingers crossed! (emphasis in bold added)

Yeah, that worked out well, right?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Think I'll spend eternity in the city.

I lost a friend not too long ago, and when I think of her, I think of Spring and Fall by Gerard Manley Hopkins -- with that great opening line: "Margaret, are you grieving?"

I certainly am grieving. She was too young when she died - barely older than me. It wasn't cancer or a car accident or some act of violence. But she's gone, and I miss her.

She was smart and funny and attractive and interesting. We talked about books and music and movies and the ways of the world. We met for drinks a few times when she visited New York - she was the only person I know who preferred her Manhattan on the rocks. In one of those strange coincidences, although she had no ties to the area, she went to the college in the Ancestral Homeland that I almost attended. It was a small enough school that we would probably have known each other had I gone there. Her legal practice was in a field where she really did good for society.

Since she died, I haven't talked to anyone about her or about missing her or about what she meant to me. And that makes me a little sad. Although I guess I am telling you those things now, right?

Anyway, I'm having a Manhattan on the rocks tonight. Because it is Margaret that I mourn for. 

Spring and Fall

to a young child

MARGARET, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?  
Leaves, like the things of man, you       
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?      
Ah! as the heart grows older            
It will come to such sights colder          
By and by, nor spare a sigh      
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;          
And yet you will weep and know why. 
Now no matter, child, the name:               
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed          
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:     
It is the blight man was born for,           
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

And tell me what street compares to Mott Street.

As my regular readers (hi Mom!) know, I am a fan of the Manhattan -- that delightful synergy of whiskey (I use bourbon), sweet vermouth, and bitters. The ratio varies, but I am in the 3 (whiskey) to 1 (vermouth) camp. But, my friends, it is not a Manhattan without bitters. A dash or two makes all the difference in the world.

And there has been, as some of you may know, a problem with getting bitters. I an out last month, and was reduced to drinking bitter-less mixtures of chilled bourbon and sweet vermouth.

Until today. I have been looking for months and low and behold! I found a bottle at a local market. I am, as we speak, savoring the glow of a real Manhattan. I'll take Manhattan, indeed.