Neighbor Boy

April 21, 2007

My wife worries about the boy,
says she doesn’t want to see him fall and break his head.
He is an odd child, like a pen-and-ink illustration
in a children’s book from last century.
Small feet, narrow body and limbs,
and a too-big head with adult features.
Every day after school he climbs the tree
across the road from our kitchen window.
He plays up there; his own mother doesn’t seem to mind.
Today he is as high as he’s ever been.
His shoulders and head are above the leaves,
and I think again that he is such a little boy.
The wind is gusting, and he flaps in the yellow air.
The rain might come soon, and lightning.
I want to go outside in the gathering storm
and watch with the boy for the breaking point.
But my little ones are inside with me, and I stay with them.
He holds his profile still for a long time—looking right into the wind.
I watch his head and wonder if he is a pirate in the crow’s nest,
or a rider on the plain galloping into the wild west.
Now I begin to worry about him for the first time.
What if he falls? It is so windy. These things can happen.
But he is not my child to correct.
In his tree, on this day, he belongs to no one.


I officiated at a wedding yesterday evening at a fancy event venue styled to look like a Tuscan villa.  The bride’s family had spared no expense in making the event memorable and swanky.  I was miked by the DJ, a real professional guy who had me do a sound check and everything.  He helped me clip on the lapel mike and tuck the transmitter behind my stole and in the cincture of my alb.  And the sound during the service was clear and at a perfect volume.

Then, after the service, the DJ uttered the best comment that has EVER been paid to me at a religious function.  He came to take my mike off, and he said, “That was great.  You sounded like a rock star!”

Thanks to the DJ for being the one to finally notice how much I rock.


April 16, 2007

I was tagged by We Do It Too:  name 6 things that are weird about you.

1.  I have a freaky tolerance for reading boring material.

2.  I’ll eat them to be polite or for their nutritional value, but I don’t really like raw tomatoes, even fresh from somebody’s garden.

3.  The  middle toes on both my feet are a little shorter than the two adjacent toes.

4.  I’d be ok with it if cellphones became illegal because they found that they actually cause brain cancer.   You may think this isn’t weird, but the woman who tagged me will think it is very, very weird.

5.   Even though I got good grades in math in high school, I can barely do it now, especially percentages.

6.  I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate.  (Nader, Nader, Kerry)  I think this is sort of a personal policy now:  I vote only for losers.

Sense of self

April 4, 2007

Someone named Parr wrote:

An animal without appendages cannot touch himself and thus cannot through feeling become acquainted with his own body. Though long, sinuous creatures such as snakes or eels–or long-necked ostriches and giraffes–can turn around and see a large proportion of their bodies, a more rigid animal, like the mackeral [sic], cannot see itself at all. There are, of course, mirrors in nature and an animal may occasionally chance upon his reflection; yet he lacks the powers of deduction to realize that the reflection is a counterpart of himself. This relative ignorance of self has its social implications. Having no adequate concept of his own body, an animal can have no clear conviction that his associates are of his kind. He does not consciously recognize his companions or even his offspring as being “birds of a feather”; his mate may be only a foreign object that has a special allure.

Of course, to move this kind of thinking to humankind would assume that we humans know the world only through our senses–a pretty defensible assumption.

This raises a few questions:

  1. If a man were born blind with no arms and no legs, could he ever truly know what it means to be human?
  2. If I don’t know myself very well (because, for example, I’m not very inquisitive or self-reflective), does this mean that I am more likely to find you to be “a foreign object”?
  3. Since I know my exterior best through feeling myself and seeing a reversed image of myself in a mirror, does this mean that I can best know you by either feeling you or seeing a mirror-image of you?
  4. What about the internal eye? How do I know what is in my heart, my mind? How can I be sure what I find inside me correlates to you in any way? Maybe you are a foreign object, though I do find you strangely alluring.
  5. If we lock a man in solitary confinement for long enough, do we stop being related to him? If I put him in a dark room in a strait jacket, how long will it take for him to forget who he is?
  6. Who are you, anyway?

(The image is “Kissing Mackerel” by Lou Partridge, 2006.)


April 3, 2007

Only recently have I realized what a great thing a haircut can be.  I love to get my hair cut.  Since I’m balding both in front and back, I get my hair cut as short as possible–my current complement of barbers have a special clipper that gets my pate clean and smooth, at least for a day or so when the stubble starts to emerge.

I used to cut my own hair or get a friend to cut it at home.  I didn’t want to “waste” the money on the little I have to work with.  But I’ve reformed.  I’ve begun to think of my haircut at the barbershop as a unique opportunity for human touch and contact, for male pampering, and for a few minutes of rest.

The barber’s touch is firm and gentle.  He turns my collar inside my shirt with a steady hand and wraps tissue paper and then a cape around my throat.  As he cuts off successive lengths of hair, his fingertips hold my head in place; he uses a soft brush to remove the little hairs.  Sometimes we talk a little, but I keep my eyes closed through the whole cut.  I can’t see anything without my glasses anyway.

My favorite parts come at the end.   First, he smudges my neck and ears with warm shaving lather and neatly trims my hairline with a straight razor.  The warm lather always made me feel like a man when I was still an unshaving boy, and now it still makes me feel like a man.  He wipes away the excess lather with a cloth and then shakes the aftershave into his hand.  The barbershop uses bay rum, and it smarts when it hits my bald head and neck, but the barber takes a hand towel and fans the aftershave on my head, which gives both a cooling sensation and a rush of the perfume up and over my face.  After this, with his smooth barber’s fingers, he massages my temples and the crown of my head.  Finally, he puts a massaging-machine over his hand that makes his fingers pulsate.  He rubs down my head, neck and shoulders for a few minutes.

The whole thing costs $14, including tip.  I think I’d go every day if my hair warranted it.