I didn’t have a speech problem when I was little. I started stammering, slurring, and stumbling over my own words towards the end of elementary school. At around the same time, my hands decided to commiserate with my tongue and stutter whenever I write.
Start, stammer, stop. False start.
The start might have been a bang. An explosion on the evening of September 18, 1931: the start of Japan’s invasion of China. Were it not for the invasion, my grandparents would have continued their separate lives hundreds of miles away from each other and never met. If it weren’t for the invasion, the Democratic Party in China at the time would have continued making progress, leaving the Communist Party little opportunity to rise up. In that alternative universe, Taiwan would be an insignificant island and I would not exist.
Stop. That’s not my story to tell.
The start of Moby-Dick: “Call me Ishmael.” I used to walk around and imagine how I would start my imaginary novel. I came up with a few first sentences–don’t remember any of them–but never got past the start. The start is exciting to think about. The start is easy. The rest–to continue day after day, to carry through the start–is hard.
“Call me Shawn”. A yawning start.
The start of 2012: my wife and I were woken up by a newborn wailing and the muffled boom of fireworks. Twenty-four hours ago we were in California vacationing with our older son, when the unexpected phone call came. We had to make a decision–yes! We booked the next flight back to New York City and rushed straight from the airport to the hospital to pick up our second child, who had been waiting for us, without a name, for two days. I held him to me and felt his heartbeat.
Each heartbeat is a start. Start, start, start–
Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life! Before succumbing to the intoxicating warmth of that promise, it’s critical to ask, “Who, exactly, benefits from making work feel like non-work?” “Why should workers feel as if they aren’t working when they are?”
That’s a great compliment, coming from Kobe. I feel the same way about him.
I recently consumed an excellent book, “The Trip to Echo Springs” by Olivia Laing. It’s a travel memoir on the subject of writers and alcohol, told through Laing’s journey to eight cities meaningful to her subjects: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Tennessee Williams, and John Berryman.
Her journey ends in Port Angeles, Oregon, where Raymond Carver lived for most of his last years. I have heard of Carver’s struggle with alcohol, and its effect on his first marriage. Before reading “The Trip to Echo Spring”, I wasn’t aware how violent he was towards his long-suffering wife, Maryann Burk Carver–he once hit her with a wine bottle, severing an artery and nearly killing her.
Incidentally, during the week when I was reading about Carver and his violent past, an athlete named Richard Sherman was in the news because he made some emotional remarks after an intense football game. This resulted in him being referred to as a “thug” on television for over 600 times the next day.
I wonder: would we call Raymond Carver a thug for beating his wife? Perhaps it was a different time. I imagine if he were to smash his wife’s head against the sidewalk today, he’d be in jail. Or at least I’d hope so. Or perhaps if Carver were alive today, he would move to Florida and join the force–apparently the winning combination to get away with domestic violence.
What has gone over me? It’s Super Bowl Sunday–a day for us to suspend our moral judgements and agree to celebrate a game of lethal violence!
I learned a few things about opossums from reading The New York Times today.
Fact #1. Opossums are more related to kangaroos and koalas than they are to rodents.
I think of all annoying city animals as rodents. Aggressive squirrels that can’t leave our strollers alone? Rodents with big tails. Overweight, fast-food loving pigeons that fly too low and shit too much? Rodents with wings. I’ve never given opossums much thought, but if I see one rummaging through a trash can, I’d call it a big white-faced rodent.
Contrary to what I’d like to believe, opossums are marsupials, which have a distinctive characteristic: they carry their young in a pouch. I just looked that up on Google Images and nearly fainted. Speaking of fainting,
Fact #2: Opossums play dead as a defensive mechanism.
Against an aggressor, an opossum’s strategy is to growl and hiss, and if that doesn’t work, it faints. According to The New York Times article, this little distant cousin of kangaroos isn’t bluffing:
…an opossum actually faints from stress. Physiologically, the opossum shuts down, balls up its front feet and goes limp. It may even drool from its open mouth.
That sounds funny until you watch this two-minute video of an enormous possum that’s just fainted. Holy hell.
An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein shee lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young.
There you go. The more you know.
Was reviewing last year’s reading list – finished less books than I imagined. Read just two novels: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Driving on the Rim. Reread one short story collection: Saunder’s In Persuasion Nation. Four memoirs – Swimming Studies, Mumbai New York Scranton, Townie, This Boy’s Life. There were probably a few more books, but I can’t remember.
Outside of work, sleep and family, I spent most of my time with written words on dead trees. What have I been reading, if not books? My guess: NY Times, The New Yorker, and a shit ton of comics. It’s been a good year with indie comics, and I still have a stack of zines from Comic Arts Brooklyn.
Keeping an eye out on this year’s reading. Making sure I finish some books. My first read novel of 2014: Noah Cicero’s Go to Work and Do Your Job. Care for Your Children. Pay Your Bills. Obey the Law. Buy Products.. Short read. A little depressing. Sometimes funny. And there are some tender moments, like this one, about Monica thinking of her father:
She thought about all of his little habits, from drinking too much coffee to eating an excess of powdered donuts, to leaving barely any orange juice and milk left in the cartons and putting them back in the refrigerator anyway. She loved how he watched baseball games from beginning to end. Even though she did not love baseball, she would pretend she liked it so as not to upset him. She felt worried about him.