December 24, 1940
AT THIS Christmastide of 1940 it is well for all humanity to remind itself that while this is in its name a Christian celebration, it is participated in reverently and happily by hundreds of millions of people who are members of other religions, or belong actively to no church at all. The reason is not far to seek. It is because the spirit of unselfish service personified by the life and the teachings of Christ makes appeal to the inner conscience and hope of every man and every woman in every part of the earth. It transcends in the ultimate all lines of race, of habitat, of nation. It lives in the midst of war, of slavery, of conquest. It survives prohibitions and decrees and force. It is an unquenchable Spring of Promise to humanity. Sometimes we who have lived through the strifes and the hates of a quarter century wonder if this old world of ours has abandoned the ideals of the Brotherhood of Man. Sometimes we ask if contention and anger in our own midst in America are a portent of disunion and disaster. Sometimes we fear that the selfishness of the individual is more and more controlling in our lives. When we are in those moods it is hard for us to keep from putting our tongues in our cheeks when we say "Merry Christmas"—for we think in thoughts of futility and not of hope. A few people are cynics all of the time; some people are cynics part of the time; but most people keep their faith most of the time. That is why we must keep on striving for a better and a more happy world. It is unintelligent to be defeatist. Crisis may beget crisis but 'the progress underneath does not wholly halt—it does go forward. In a century we have gained much. Aside from great areas stricken by actual warfare in the present moment, the lives of human beings are safer than they were in the olden days. Great and Spreading plagues take smaller toll; starvation of millions is less; the forces of nature are better controlled. There is in the civilization we recognize a greater security for the young, for the worker, for the aged. Charity in the narrower sense of the word helps the needy more usefully. Compared with the days when Charles Dickens wrote the Christmas Carol, we see a definite betterment. We do not claim attainment, and we recognize that there is much—oh, so much-to do. Most of all we ask a chance to do it—yes, a peaceful chance to do it. We want to do it the voluntary way—and most human beings in all the world want to do it the voluntary way. We do not want to have the way imposed on the world by the conquest of the world by the sword. That would not follow in the footsteps of Christ. That would not make for happier Christmases in the future of any nation. Mankind is all one—and what happens in distant lands tomorrow will leave its mark on the happiness of our Christmases to come. Let us make this Christmas a merry one for the little children in our midst. For us of maturer years it cannot be merry. But for most of us it can be a Happy Christmas if by happiness we mean that we have done with doubts, that we have set our hearts against fear, that we still believe in the Golden Rule for all mankind, that we intend to live more purely in the spirit of Christ, and that by our works, as well as our words, we will strive forward in Faith and in Hope and in Love. In that spirit I wish a Happy Christmas to all, and happier Christmases yet to come.
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
December 24, 1940
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Sometimes you forget that everyone didn’t grow up in Miami, didn’t worry about getting stung by a man-of-war or scorpion, didn’t have mango and tangerine trees in the yard and didn’t have to board up the house every year or two for a hurricane. Nor did they break coconuts, nor gasp when they grabbed a lizard and came up with only a detached tail which they dropped still writhing on the hot pavement. Nor did they see the lizards in your jar, particularly the one with the tail stub and the pale tip of a light new tail poking out.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thomas looked from the shore to his brother. Frederick, wide eyes glistening with the firelight, looked back at him for a moment of suspended time. They broke into a run and, upon reaching the shore, brushed past a small group of quarrelling men and hopped into their small boat. Thomas grabbed the oars and with a few strokes they were on their way. Some of the boats had just reached the schooner, the Caspar, and were endeavoring to climb aboard. Small arms fire echoed and the water plunked beside them. Frederick fumbled with a powder bag and his pistol.
Thursday, September 09, 2010
The column of smoke surprises the echo of your charm. You would have been elegant in your prime, had your prime been there when you arrived. But, as it is, it’s lucky me, because only I can put you in the right context. I’ve always admired columns of smoke. It surprises me how orderly a fire can be on a still day with no ceiling to spoil it. If I digress, it’s just an echo of your charm. You tore a page from your book and wrote me a note like this. In fact, you wrote me this note. Thanks.
Wednesday, September 08, 2010
“Sit, sit,” he motioned me to remain seated. He didn’t sit. Six-foot-three and about fifty years old, he was dressed in a blue shirt and tie, black pants and black sandals. Big Boy stood in the doorway beside him. “I’m sorry that I’ve brought you here this way; powerlessness isn’t pleasant, is it? Do you believe in freedom, Mr. Chandler?” After a thoughtful moment I “I’m sorry, I can’t figure out why you’d ask me such a stupid question.” Ten seconds later I was hanging over the edge of the boat, grateful that Big Boy had really strong hands.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
Wing Boy’s house was the only house between the Jewish Cemetery and what used to be the Pet Superstore. Wing Boy’s house was so isolated because Wing Boy’s father, Joel Anderson Thomas, refused to sell to the developer that made the strip mall that was anchored by the now defunct Pet Superstore. The developer offered Jat, as he was called, twice what his home was worth, but Jat would not budge. “If that’s how you want to live, well, then have a good life”, the exasperated developer finally told Jat. And by all accounts Jat had had a good life.
Monday, September 06, 2010
He followed his brother, Frederick, through the darkening wood. Over the rustle and crunch of hidden feet, his heart beat large in his chest.
The sound of surf rose among the rising tide of the now grumbling crowd and the sky lightened. He pushed through a pair of bushes and stepped onto the beach, the sand blue in the general gloaming, red in the halos around the crackling fires. One hundred yards out to sea, a British revenue schooner had run aground and the people of Warvey, Rhode Island climbed into anything that floated and headed out, meaning them no good.
I had been sitting in the stateroom of the yacht for ten minutes. It was dim and cool, just like me and the rocking of the sea no longer nauseated me. In fact it kind of relaxed me, which explains why I wasn’t properly petrified. That situation was rectified in a hurry at the first sight of my host and his companion. The eagle came first. I don’t know if you’ve seen the claws of a really big predatory bird, but the sight combined with the full bodied flutter of its wings got my attention. Then came the Big Man.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
The feeling can be outrageous.
The dedication to the complications,
From the pulling of the strings.
I have begun to resent your action verbs.
I understand how random you’ve become.
I clear my throat
Because that’s important.
A butterfly lands on a leaf and his wings open and close
Not fully folding or extending
So slowly as if great power is being harnessed
All something I scrape off the concrete.
After the strings break.
The sky can be a blue of bliss
Let’s say the sky is a blue of bliss
And go on our way.
Friday, September 03, 2010
This is the story of Wing Boy. I’m going to give you a few minutes to think about how Wing Boy got his name (Did he earn it or was he born with it?) while I tell you a little about who Wing Boy was before he became Wing Boy. It's a good way to show you just how reliable I will be.
Wing Boy was born John George Thomas in a small Midwestern town, in his parents’ house between the Jewish Cemetery and what used to be the pet superstore. From the start his name caused him great distress.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
“He’s a wonderful child, honestly. Wonderful. It’s a shame he’s not yet been taken home. You can see how healthy and attractive the young man is. No, I’m sorry, I don’t believe it would be wise to put your fingers in his mouth. Well, for one thing it’s very unsanitary. Show him your teeth Peter. One moment Mr. Peterson. As you can see Mr. Peterson, good strong, healthy teeth. No, sir I never meant to imply you were unsanitary, it’s just that the boy can become unexpectedly, and uncontrollably…carnivorous, at which time any meat, dead or alive, may be…in peril.”
I remember my Uncle interrupting a conversation I was having about comedy teams by interjecting “Laurel and Hardy!” It is incidental that he was likely quite elegantly drunk as was his custom, because his warm smile came from the substance, not the circumstances, of his comment. The gentle, nostalgic satisfaction, combined with the indisputable confidence of his delivery stuck with me, even though I’m sure my worship of the Marx Brothers led me to dismiss him with a superiority reserved for the passionately young. Now, at my advanced age, and in a state of nearly complete sobriety, I agree.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
You may choose from 108 custom shades of sky towards which you will turn your palms. You may not rise for the first three months in which you occupy my mystical opulence. You’ll find my mystical opulence has a quick, quirky pace which appeals to today’s mystically inclined consumer. Don’t attempt to paint while under the influence of my mystical opulence. To hold a franchise, you must be able to allow my mystical opulence to be seen for a minimum of 8.5 hours and a maximum of 13.5 hours per day. Very well, you may now turn your palms upward.
Monday, August 30, 2010
As a consolation prize, I grabbed a plastic bag with some papers inside which Concrete Jesus held. When I reached the surface I found myself abandoned with no shore in sight. This time I was rescued by a boat driven by Mrs. Harper who was accompanied by Big Boy, Lambda Polk’s former henchman. When I pressed her, Mrs. Harper declined to engage in exposition, promising answers would await me in the boat which we were now nearing. It was a beautiful glossy wooden affair, festooned with a replica of the first American Navy Jack sporting eleven red and white stripes.
I caught a glimpse of more pro-Confederate paraphernalia at the old house before I was thanked by a mysterious ‘benefactor’, knocked out and sent on an all-expense paid trip to Key Largo. My luck with landladies held up as Mrs. Harper, my polyglottal, but seemingly deaf, hostess presented me with my purloined key, some money and a ticket to John Pennekamp National Park. At the park, I took a boat trip out to snorkel the reef, which featured a sunken statue of Jesus. There I lost my lunch, then lost a mermaid in an underwater chase ending at the statue.
The story so far: After having snatched an antique key from a Manhattan meeting, I fled to the Poconos where I attempted to let a room in a house owned by Lambda Polk, an old lady who had a thing for the Confederacy. When Big Boy, her henchman, tried to throw me out of a window, I grabbed her, jerking her headlong to her death. Big Boy booked, I grabbed the key and Mrs. Polk's vintage .45 and headed for the train station. Unfortunately, my taxi driver had a different idea and I ended up at a mysterious mountain retreat.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
A ride yesterday with my son the drummer gave me a different angle on my recent Steely Dan re-fascination. I put the Greatest Hits album on random play trusting my thrash-metal middle son would be tolerant on a short trip. Halfway through Peg he said, “You know that drumming sounds simple, but it’s really hard to do. Steely Dan has some good musicians.” As Bodhisattva he said, “Now this one I know. It’s the only song I’d rather play on guitar than drums in Rock Band. Lots of great solos.” Then I remembered that Rock Band has made everything contemporary.
Friday, August 27, 2010
I kept my mouth shut for a change. Big boy was as talkative as ever, but Mrs. Harper surprised me by her smiling silence. She scanned the horizon and headed away from shore, which seemed counterintuitive to me. Then again what had intuition gotten me so far. “All right, I’ll go first,” I said finally. “What exactly was the point of stranding me, then picking me up? Why not just take me for a ride?” Mrs. Harper nodded. “I do believe some answers are at hand, Mr. Chandler.” I was amazed that I hadn’t seen the yacht we’d come upon.
It’s hard not to feel old, uncool and very white when I consider how much I enjoy listening to Steely Dan on my commute. But, I feel none of that. I just sing along in a key I can’t get near. That is until I sit down and write about it and realize that it’s been over thirty years since I pulled Aja from it’s glossy black cover and put it on the stereo. Deacon Blues, Peg, Aja—this was exotic and glamorous to a Miami boy who had no idea that one day Miami would be exotic and glamorous.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Cre8, don8, str8, rel8, extermin8, col8, devi8, concentr8, radi8, sati8, st8, reinst8, defenestr8, levit8, gr8, excori8, ingrati8, ovul8, fr8, inund8, exagger8, dissemin8, castr8, ab8, cr8, elev8, h8, inculc8, m8, intim8, opi8, undul8, vener8, w8, educ8, expi8, devast8, candid8, valid8, frustr8, feder8, g8, ham8, inveter8, colleg8, gest8, insens8, don8, be9.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
My son thinks he’s dying again. He’s got a pain in his abdomen that he is certain is a result of the four beers he had at a party three days ago. I assured him that I’ve never heard of anyone dying of four beers after three days of functional health. It did remind me of my freshman year in college in Philadelphia when my Uncle graciously indulged me by taking me to see his doctor. I was convinced I had testicular cancer. All I had was achy balls. Perfectly normal, apparently, for a young man afraid of the world.
Monday, August 23, 2010
The boat nearly grazed me, slowed and circled round. The waves rocked me and I got a good dose of salt water, but my nausea was tempered by suspicious hope. The boat came up beside me and a rope dropped overboard. I grabbed hold of it, then someone grabbed hold of me and flipped me onto the deck. After I restored my shorts to some dignity, I saw that the captain of the ship was my concierge, Mrs. Harper. I looked over my shoulder and, backlight by the flaring sun, I made out my savior, Lambda Polk’s Big Boy.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I pointed myself in the direction of what I took to be land, but it didn’t take long for me to reassess and I decided instead to apply reason. I could try swimming for it and drown, I could give up, or I could act as if rescue were just around the corner and plan my next move. Choosing the latter, I pulled the baggie from my trunks. I pressed the plastic against the paper inside and made out the words ‘…Of The Lost Cause’ just as the sound of a motor announced the white hull bearing down on me.
The sky was iridescent this time, but I remained unmoved. And that’s not just because I can’t see it. My mystical opulence makes sight secondary and the amazing is reformed to the ordinary. The lotus position doesn’t come easy today and I am forced to grab my feet and wedge them under my legs. I tremble to rise but remain earthbound. Potatoes grow in the hollows of my upturned palms. I clear my thoughts and shake the earth from my hands. I decide to open my real eyes and I see what I’ve been missing. My mystical opulence now abounds.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I carry a 40 cd case in my car, organized by frequency of play—most played in front, least in back. The front page of 4 discs is my Top Of The Pops. So today’s post is my current top 4:
1) Blowup—Bomba Estereo Latin rap excellent for the post coffee morning drive.
2) John Prine—John Prine This guy’s a country riot. Pinko lefty anti-war, pro-drug folkie with an edge.
3) The Way Out—The Books For twisting your melon, man.
4) Masters of Chicha Vol. 1—Juaneco Y Su Combo Psychedelic combination of surf guitar and cumbia from the seventies.