Monday, April 30, 2007

Here Comes the Queen

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is coming to pay me a visit on Thursday. Well, not actually me, in particular. Her Royal Highness is coming to Virginia to visit her former subjects. Well, not her former subjects exactly. The Queen is coming to visit the great-great-great, etc. grandchildren of the former subjects of King George III. George was not very nice man, but he did leave his country's Common Law for us to follow. And here in Virginia, we still do.

Anyway, Q.E. II is coming to the Capital of the Commonwealth to help us celebrate the 400th aniversary of the founding of Jamestown, a wretched little settlement down the James River aways. I suppose that I should be pleased that the Queen has decided to peek in and see how we're doing after a couple of hundred years on our own. She seems like a nice enough old gal. She's always been a good friend to America, and she keeps those wily Canadians in line. So, sure, we are delighted to have her stop by for tea.

Unfortunately, the world's biggest zoo is coming to town along with her.

I just got the list of streets and buildings in the vicinity that will be closed for her visit. Twenty of the buildings are within a block or two of my office. The streets that are closed surround me. If I get in at all, I won't leaving and time soon. They are expecting 18,000 people to congregate on the Capitol grounds. This means that the other 50,000 or so folks who have nothing better to do but gape at an elderly woman in a bad hat are going to be standing between me and my sandwich shop. Look, I know that she's the Queen of England and all, but sweet Jesus Mary and Joseph, it ain't like she's the Pope or anything. People need to get a life, and I need to be able to get a sandwich.

I suppose that I'll just have to muddle through it all somehow. Especially considering that I lost my chance to gawk at her myself.

By the way, that's Andy Warhol's portrait of the Queen. I've always liked it. But now it's also a cool refrigerator magnet!

I wonder if she's got one at home?

Friday, April 20, 2007

We Are All Hokies

We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness ... We are the Hokies ...

-- Nikki Giovanni, Virgina Tech University Distinguished Professor and poet

In Remembrance:

  • Ross Abdallah Alameddine
  • Christopher James Bishop
  • Brian Roy Bluhm
  • Ryan Christopher Clark
  • Austin Michelle Cloyd
  • Jocelyne Couture-Nowak
  • Kevin P. Granata
  • Matthew Gregory Gwaltney
  • Caitlin Millar Hammaren
  • Jeremy Michael Herbstritt
  • Emily Jane Hilscher
  • Jarrett Lee Lane
  • Matthew Joseph La Porte
  • Henry J. Lee
  • Liviu Librescu
  • Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan
  • Lauren Ashley McCain
  • Daniel Patrick O'Neil
  • J. Ortiz-Ortiz
  • Minal Hiralal Panchal
  • Daniel Alejandro Perez
  • Erin Nicole Peterson
  • Michael Steven Pohle, Jr.
  • Julia Kathleen Pryde
  • Mary Karen Read
  • Reema Joseph Samaha
  • Waleed Mohamed Shaalan
  • Leslie Geraldine Sherman
  • Maxine Shelly Turner
  • Nicole White

Monday, April 16, 2007


Yesterday seems too far away to comprehend today.

Yesterday, I stood with friends and family to speak to God for Aiden Patrick, all of nine months old, round-headed and cherub-cheeked, and to claim for him the promise of everlasting life.

There were six or seven other babies there to receive the holy ointments and water and prayers that signify baptism into the ways of Mother Church, and all of them were “dressed like girls” to the consternation of ten-year-old #2 son. Aiden, and Maizy, and Shamus, and the rest of the new flock cried and wriggled in their sparkling white taffeta and lace as the aging Priest lead the assembled through the ancient rite. All the while their siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles squirmed likewise. As I watched the babes brought to the font I remembered my own sister’s baptism, 47 years ago, and recalled how the whole thing was too long to expect a four year-old to behave himself, and it's still WAY too dull to expect much attention from any fourteen year-old these days – or any days prior.

But the priest was patient to the cacophony and ennui, and reminded each of those assembled of the incredible significance of the instant moment. We speak for this child, he said, who cannot yet speak, in order to claim his or her soul for God And by so speaking, he reminded us, that we professed our own responsibility to ensure that the little brat never wanders too far off the path. This is pretty heady stuff to swear to before God.

With unflagging hope, however, we all agreed to such conditions. And so the sacred questions were proposed – the same as those asked a thousand million times before – and once more, those that could speak answered for the eternal lives of those who could not :

“Do you renounce Satan?”
“I do.”
“And all of his works?”
“I do.”


Today, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute , the university to which I entrusted daughter #3’s future, a human being, without cause or reason, cut short the lives of at least 32 other human beings - the children of other parents - and permanently damaged the lives of uncounted numbers of their classmates. I will mourn this day forever.

There is nothing quite so profound as the shock that follows a news report hinting that your child might be missing, forever, and for nothing. There is no measure of fear, pain, or guilt that can grip you, even for mere moments, until you are SURE that she breathes yet, and that she hears your prayers for her safety. The incredible relief that knowledge instantly provides is then immediately smashed by the thought that other parents, and even your own kid, might still await bad news, or worse news, or no news, but no further good news. For a kid about to graduate to law school, it's a shattering end to innocence.

I thought, like so may of us, that the most unspeakable Evil in our lifetimes unveiled itself at 9/11. Not that unspeakable “evil” did not exist beforehand, but only that following that horror a permissive society might yet be able to gauge how “evil” Evil could be. We even gave that evil a name – al Qeda. That name still stands as my definition of the unspeakable, and it’s one that that I will always despise.

But after today, there exists another, less-organized and more pointless, Evil that rattles my soul and spirit. Forget Osama, Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and the other assorted great despots that we all concur constitute the essence of Evil in our experience. Imagine, now, Evil as simply the unorganized destruction of good. Imagine a force that proposes limitless power to its adherents without ideology, answer, salvation, victory, or peace, and yet unlimited enemies to choose from. Imagine no reason for being Evil, other than being Evil as an end unto itself.

Just a few days ago, Don Imus was evil incarnate. You want to change your bet?

Tonight I will watch with my family and my the nation and my world the horror that was unleashed at Blacksburg, Virginia, this morning, and I will weep at the thought that those that should have stood with my daughter at her graduation this May will be forever silenced by unspeakable, incomprehensible, Evil.

And then I will recall the simple affirmation I spoke not 24 hours ago on behalf of my innocent nephew.

I renounce Satan.
And all of his works.

God bless you, Aiden, for your life in this world.
May you never know Evil.
May you ever vanquish it.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Imus'nt in the Morning

I feel somehow obligated to post something about the Don Imus brouhaha before it becomes just another bone in the media graveyard. Not that I owe Imus anything other than a polite "What the hell were you thinking?" He no doubt would consider me a "dope" and a "lying weasel," two of his favorite epithets for his listeners and guests.

But, like many other New Yorkers, I spent a lot of time listening to Imus in the Morning (quack quack!) over many many years. For a brief time, he was even on the radio down here in Richmond (until he offended enough of we "chin-dribbling redneck crackers") to get replaced by someone less... controversial).

Still, I could sometime snatch a few minutes of the show on MSNBC between sips of coffee and scanning the WJS. He was part of the morning routine. His crankiness perfectly matched my own as I stood impatiently before the coffee pot waiting for the tawny nectar to at last save me from the cursed dawn. He skewered the high and mighty for us, and turned their sanctimony and self-righteousness back on them in the form of biting humor. Sometimes I cringed. Mostly I laughed.

Now he's off the air. A victim of his own stupidity and a 24 hour news cycle that consumes everything in its path. Some are making a case that the constitutional protections of free speech are being trampled, or that dropping Imus from the air is a form of censorship. I don't think so. This is how capitalism works. CBS and MSNBC are in the business to make money. Advertisers don't want their products associated with a program that is at the center of such an ugly incident. That would be dumb, and would take an awful lot of explaining to do to investors. Better to play it safe. That's business.

That is not to say that the Reverends Sharpton and Jackson have earned any points outside of their own well-established base for their blatant use of the situation to further their own agendas. No doubt Al and Jesse are disappointed that the situation didn't linger until they had successfully shaken down more advertisers and media outlets. There will be other chances for these two. They know that. But there are also a few million more former Imus listeners that are now hip to how the Race Game is played. No winners here.

The biggest losers here are the young women of Rutgers. That's what's so unforgivable, Imus. You can say what you want about public figures and politicians and any one else who would put himself in your way to hawk his new book. But you don't piss on a bunch of kids and ruin one of the best moments of their life. If one of them had been my daughter, I would have punched you right in the mouth.

That said, I don't believe it was your intention to cause a furor. That intention was supplied by the media and blogosphere. You were just grist for the mill. Once again, the media itself is always it own biggest story... until the next one comes along.

But, as one New Yorker told me: "My morning coffee will never taste the same again."

And neither, unfortunately, will mine.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all

Emily Dickinson

Sunday, April 01, 2007

It Happens Every Spring

While cleaning thinking about cleaning out my closets this afternoon, I was listening to my favorite Sunday afternoon radio program, hosted by the erudite and mellifluous-voiced Jonathan Schwartz. Besides being passionate about music of all genres (he's a walking encyclopedia of every note ever sung by the Chairman of the Board), and the voice of the once avant garde WNEW-FM radio station legendary in our youth, he's a lifelong baseball fan! And yes, as the Gods of Payback would have it, he happens to be a die-hard Red Sox fan, and no, I don't hold that against him, either.

It was of little surprise then--given the 2007 Opening Day schedule and all--that he chose to devote most of today's program to all things baseball from play-by-plays of long ago to Bob Dylan's ode to "Catfish," to a German version of "Take Me Out to The Baseball Game"--Gute Himmel-- followed up with a hilarious bit by the inimitable Bob Newhart pretending to be Abner Doubleday pitching his "invention" to a game manufacturer. I went searching for the audio of "Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball" to post but only found a transcript. Anyone familiar with Newhart's splendid timing wiill surely appreciate that a cut and paste version of one of his skits could never ever capture his deliciously droll delivery. Give yourself a treat and buy the CD.

So, in honor of baseball, and its loyal and hopeful fans, I'm including instead a favorite passage of mine from "A Day of Light and Shadows," by the very same Jonathan Schwartz, a jewel of a book about the now classic--and fateful--1978 playoff game between the Red Sox and Yankees (Destiny 5, Red Sox 4), and a heartfelt love letter to the game itself.

One last thing I think you should know, or at least consider.
Baseball is a game without a clock, an event as short as fifty-one minutes, or as long as eight hours. Its moments of stillness are contemplative for all who are in it, around it. It is wonderfully divided into nine episodes, with either sixteen or seventeen intervals for gossip, the purchase of meat and beer, the jostle and rumble of strangers.

The schedule itself is novelistic, each season a grand Dickensian work, with sad little moments of Didion or Cheever tucked away in the flow of events. The game is influenced by three seasons of the calendar, whose roles we have come to recognize as intrinsic and implicative. The pages of its book are published daily, the facts of its matter packaged starkly alone in a box score as essentially American as a New Hampshire primary.

That I was attracted to something as lovely when I was seven or eight was no childhood epiphany. Baseball is obviously magical, a game played in the mind as much as on the field. It is an intimate puzzle, rolling around the brain, in class, on a plane, in the theater, and now again. while making love. It will never age and never cease. The team that represents you, your choice at an early age, will, guided by your honor, remain a lifelong partner. It is you, you are it, in emotional business together. There is no other way.
So, then.
No regret

Perfect. Let's play ball.
(Posted by Portia)