Monthly Archives: January 2008

I just don’t get it

With my overbooked schedule, I’ve resigned myself to the truth that for now, this will be the T.J. Maxx of blogs. By the time the news reaches my poor little blog, the news has already faded from prominence. I think I’m OK with this, or at least I will be. I have to be, since academic and professional demands take precedence right now.

Now that I’ve given my little treatise on why I’ve been so horrendously behind in my blogging lately, I bring you this news item from Monday’s New York Times. A group of more than 30 high school hoodlums broke into and vandalized a farmhouse in Ripton, Vermont once owned by Robert Frost. There is an excellent narrated photo essay that accompanies the story.

The incident happened in late December. The news travels slowly in and out of Vermont, I guess.

I feel sick about this. How odd that stories of killing and natural disasters around the world pass regularly in and out of my mind, but this story has lingered in my memory since Monday.

How could someone do this? I think of Frost as a kindly old soul not unlike a provincial minister. I have a used paperback containing selected poems of his, the sort of paperback with a cracking binding, yellowed pages and that slightly sweet, dusty smell associated with old books.

Long before I discovered Dante and Proust, Frost’s simple measured lines hooked me into the world of words. Were these vandals aware of the power of words? Probably not. They were too drunk to care.

What did Frost ever do to anyone? I can see a more controversial writer, a Salman Rushdie, or John Steinbeck, whose works were burned in front of the public library in my hometown. But I’m giving these derelicts too much credit. They were just looking for a party.  Get enough drunk minors together and bad things happen.

I might be overreacting, but this feels like a new cultural low.

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Filed under national news, New York Times

In the midst of a wet, dreary winter

After enduring a flooded basement, lagoons of trapped water in front of my porch, clogged rain gutters and a limitless supply of caked mud tracked across our hardwood floors, our Camellia bush and winter Crocuses bloomed. A brief respite from a wet winter, and a reminder that better days lie ahead.

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Filed under gardening, home life

From the back burner: Sacking Santa, resurrecting Christ(mas)

Courtesy absoJesus.com

Brilliant artwork courtesy ASBO Jesus

I’ve been waiting for a point of re-entry to this blog after my weeks-long hiatus. While there are no shortage of topics rolling around in this overgrown compost pile of a brain, I suppose a stale post-Christmas wrap-up is as good as the next idea.

The missus and I have been talking about having a gift-less Christmas for years. We’re at the stage in our lives where we can buy whatever gift-size item we want: CDs, clothes, books. It’s partly to make a statement. We rail against the commercialization of Christmas, although it’s nearly impossible to escape. If the L-O-V-E=G-I-F-T myth doesn’t trip you, the after-Christmas sales will. Yes, Virginia, I spent my Target gift cards buying more decorations for next year. No one escapes at least one teensy-weensy gift, plate of cookies, whatever. All have sinned.

And I appreciate the charity. The thing I love best about the Christmas season is that people act more hospitable. They display the sort of kindness one only wishes was displayed in, say, at the grocery store parking lot in July.

So, why was this Christmas different from all the others? It was a confluence of events: the poverty of first-time home ownership and responding to family members in need. I’ll skip the former topic for now so I can share with you the details of a Christmas day unlike any I’ve ever had.

My cousin, Adam, and his wife Connie have a son, Isaiah, who is battling a rare form of leukemia. Since my wife and her family are part of an evil communist conspiracy that celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve (Helloooo. Calendar, anyone?), we often have nothing to do on Christmas day. So, instead of mooring myself at my in-law’s kitchen table and drinking bad coffee all day, I opted to visit little Isaiah. My wife graciously offered to accompany me. My brother, Ernie, a Los Angeleno whom I was planning on visiting anyway, met us at the hospital.

More than a month later, so much remains with me from that day. The overwhelming gratitude with which we were greeted. Our shock at seeing Isaiah’s darkened skin caused by weeks of chemotherapy.

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The exhausted look on Adam’s face from 45 days of sleeping in a hospital bed next to his son. The delicious meal Connie prepared in the kitchen of the guest house.

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The surprise she received when we brought Isaiah out of the hospital for an approved two-hour visit with his family. How light Isaiah’s tired body felt when I carried him to his wheelchair after a long day.  The restful expression on his face as he settled in to sleep.

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The smile on his face after he opened one of his presents, a Transformer, and patted the box in perfect contentment.

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We did receive Christmas gifts from a few select members. But the afternoon with Isaiah, his younger sister and his family overshadows anything I received. We’ve all heard the clichés about the best presents being the sort of thing that doesn’t come in a box wrapped in shiny paper.

It’s true. It was absolutely worth eating homemade bean burritos and messing up my back due to a 6-hour commute so I could hang out with family and help bring a little cheer. I don’t know if we’ll keep this tradition next year and the years to come. I’d like to think we will.

Of course, if we have children and my parents move nearby, all of this piety will be tossed with the Christmas tree.

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Filed under Christmas, commercialism