Welcome Home Dad

Adisalem Abu embraces his twin daughters after meeting them for the first time in 18 years on the end of conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea. (Tiksa Negeri, wsj.com, July 18, 2018)

Flying over I-40 N. With Lav #1.

airplane-black-and-white

I just didn’t know. Or perhaps I didn’t care to know. Or maybe it’s just not possible to know. How could you possibly know?

And then there’s a moment or two, when you cross that line, from passively aware or passively engaged to actually feeling. And perhaps you only feel when the suffering is so high, yours or others, that only just then do you begin to give-a-sh*t.

I’m seated in an exit row on an Airbus A3215, 1 seat back and across from the airplane lavatory: ~40” long x 34” wide x 75″ inches tall. Inches.

A Mother walks down the aisle. She grabs the back of one seat, and then the next, and the next, to keep her balance. The plane tips left and right in soft turbulence. She makes her way down the aisle.

There are two hands gripping the tops of her shoulders. She’s slight, maybe 5’2”, and stooped under the weight of the hands. The hands are owned by a strapping 14-year old who towers over her. Mildly handicapped?

She enters the restroom first, her Son doesn’t let go. She lifts one hand off her shoulder and turns to him. She slides her arms under his arms and begins to tug him in. Won’t fit. Not possible. Two full size humans in 40 x 34 x 75.

There’s silence, five minutes or so, which is interrupted by a toilet flush. She exits, pulling him out with her arms under his. She strains to extract him from the box, her face red, filled with rage.

She extracts him and pauses to catch her breath. Her Son claws after her shoulders to grab on as the plane tips. They head back up the aisle. She settles him in.

She comes hurrying back down the aisle.  And into the Lav.

It’s quiet again, now for 5-7 minutes. Then a toilet flush.

She exits. Her right hand dries her eyes, now red and swollen. She catches my glance, offers a forced smile, turns, and heads back to her seat.

You just don’t know. No chance. Not close.


Notes:

Before Air-Conditioning*

Later on, in the Depression thirties, the summers seemed even hotter. Out West, it was the time of the red sun and the dust storms, when whole desiccated farms blew away and sent the Okies, whom Steinbeck immortalized, out on their desperate treks toward the Pacific. My father had a small coat factory on Thirty-ninth Street then, with about a dozen men working sewing machines. Just to watch them handling thick woollen winter coats in that heat was, for me, a torture. The cutters were on piecework, paid by the number of seams they finished, so their lunch break was short—fifteen or twenty minutes. They brought their own food: bunches of radishes, a tomato perhaps, cucumbers, and a jar of thick sour cream, which went into a bowl they kept under the machines. A small loaf of pumpernickel also materialized, which they tore apart and used as a spoon to scoop up the cream and vegetables.

~ Arthur Miller, Before Air-Conditioning (The New Yorker, June 22, 1998)


Notes:

  • *Inspired by temperature now in Dallas, TX: 103° F and Rising!
  • Photo: Radishes by El Oso Botas. “Madrid-based, Guatemala-born and raised, photographer, food stylist, chef and digital content creator. I’ve had a keen interest in art, colours, and shapes since I was a child.” More photographs here.

whereon thou standest is holy ground

One viewer who did not dismiss Millet was Vincent van Gogh. In 1875, he visited a large auction show of the artist’s late pastels. Van Gogh, who had not yet fully embraced his own artistic vocation, was smitten. When he entered the room, he later wrote his brother Theo, “I felt something akin to: Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Van Gogh was not alone in his reaction. Millet’s pursuit of humble subject matter and his skill as a draftsman would influence artists for decades. Pastels facilitated his innovations with perspective. Requiring no drying time, they were easy to rework, encouraging spontaneous expression. They also made him a virtuoso of green. “Path Through the Wheat” (c. 1867) abounds in sunlit grassy hues. Forest tones anchor two companion pieces, “Primroses” and “Dandelions” (both 1867-68), which Millet seems to have composed while lying on his stomach in the shade.

~ M.J. Anderson, from ‘French Pastels: Treasures From the Vault’ Review: Delicate and Delightful. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts presents works by Degas, Millet and others, rarely shown due to the fragility of their powdered surfaces. (wsj.com, July 14, 2018)


Notes:

  • Photo 1: ‘Path Through the Wheat’ (c. 1867), by Jean-François Millet
  • Photo 2: ‘Primroses’ (1867-68), by Jean-François Millet
  • Photo 3: ‘Dandelions’ (1867-68), by Jean-François Millet

Sunday Morning

HELP ME I murmur
as if I knew
to whom I speak
or what I’m asking for…

M.C. Richards, from “Morning Prayer” in Opening our Moral Eye

 


Photo: paramore.livejournal (via Nini Poppins)

Saturday Morning

– You know what I like to hear most?
– What?
– Solid quiet. Perfect unbroken quiet.

– Tennessee Williams, from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof


Photo: Anna Heimkreiter Photography with Give It Time. Quote: Violent Waves of Emotion

Riding Metro North. Walking backwards.

7:34 p.m. train. Grand Central station. Last peak hour train home. Standing room only. Heads down, glowing screens, wifi slow, thousands sucking on the same straw. Pages loading slowly, then stopping altogether. One head, after another, mine too, lifting in frustration.  Beach ball spinning, locked up. There’s a message in this. To thousands of us sitting on this train. Whether we are listening, now that is another story.

8:31 p.m. Walk home. Down the platform. Up the stairs. Across the bridge over I-95. Up the hill – and the last 1/4 mile stretch, before losing this tie, this shirt sticking to my back, and these leather shoes strapped around my feet for last 12 hours. Free me, please!

I see them in the distance. Two boys, 7 or 8 years old, kicking a soccer ball on front yard. Mom sitting on the porch reading. When’s the last time I’ve seen this? [Read more…]

It’s been a long day

Physics says: go to sleep. Of course
you’re tired. Every atom in you
has been dancing the shimmy in silver shoes
nonstop from mitosis to now.
Quit tapping your feet…Go to sleep…
Go to sleep. Let darkness
lap at your sides. Give darkness an inch.
You aren’t alone….
here are the blankets, layer on layer, down and down.

— Albert Goldbarth, from “The Sciences Sing a Lullaby” in The Kitchen Sink: New and Selected Poems, 1972-2007


Notes:

Back…back…back.

Am I as old as I am?
Maybe not. Time is a mystery
that can tip us upside down…
Who was I at age seven?

Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s
body without thinking of the time between.
It is the burden of life to be many ages
without seeing the end of time.

– Jim Harrison, from Seven in the Woods from Dead’s Man Float


Notes:

  • Inspired by – “We go back … and back … and back … through the layers of fear, shame, rage, hurt, and negative incantations until we discover the exuberant, unencumbered, delightful, and lovable child that was, and still is, in us.” By Melody Beattie (via Bright, Shiny Objects)
  • Photo: Ivanovo detstvo (Ivan’s Childhood) • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

Flying Over I-40 N. And leaning in.

bear-plane

4:15 am. In Uber, bleary eyed. Please, no small talk. Absolute silence will score a larger tip. I think about letting him know, the thought vanishing in 3 seconds. Inhuman.

Air conditioning dries the skin, sticky from the early morning humidity. It’s summer in Dallas.

SiriusXM is set to Symphony Hall, playing Bach or Tchaikovsky or Chopin. Wrong side of 50, and you can’t tell one composer from the next. Kyo Maclear: “Die knowing something. Die knowing your knowing will be incomplete.” Makes Sense. I sit in the back seat wondering why this is so difficult, how I’m so badly twisted. Keep running, or Die ignorant.

AA1150, DFW to LGA. 6:00 a.m. boarding. 6:35 am departure, 11:09 am touch down in NYC. And beat the soul sucking rush hour traffic. Home. Soon. Weekend. Body tired, let’s go, and softens.

First flight out. Airport opening. TSA agents. Airport personnel. A youth soccer team from Argentina. I find a seat outside of the Admiral’s Club, which does not open until 5 a.m. A Google alert flashes flight delay to 10:30 a.m. No!

I rush to call American Airlines to find another flight – the automated message says due to inclement weather, hold times are longer. “We will return your call in an estimated 38 minutes.” 38 minutes. You’ve got to be kidding me.

A second Google alert flashes, my flight is now delayed to 10:45 a.m. It’s 4:55 a.m. now.

I’m first in line as the doors are unlocked to the Admirals Club.

“Is it weather? Or is the delay due to an aircraft maintenance problem.”

“Sir, it’s aircraft maintenance.” Oh, no. Estimates for departure times on maintenance problems are notoriously bad. [Read more…]

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