July 31, 2007
PERSONAL/PHILOSOPHICAL REFLECTION OF THE DAY:
There is an aura of finality around my father's life now. One’s death gives one’s life a degree of gravitas that is strangely transformative. It confers upon the life the dignity that was always implicit (if inconsistently recognized) within it. It restores the life to its native status as something sacred. Set against the backdrop of radical and inexplicable absence, the person's life can be now be appreciated in terms of the fundamental mystery of its presence. The fact that there ever came to be this person. That this person shared the fabric of existence with you. Touched you, reached you and has now been removed from you. This is the difficult gift that death gives to life. Or at least that the dead give to the the living.
LITERARY REFLECTION OF THE DAY:
I sort of understand how, after countless years of dilettante-ism, Proust, a life-long momma's boy, started writing obsessively after his mother's death. It was the desperate, furious attempt of a childless, partnerless man to heal, through the alchemy of memory and the imagination, the traumatic wound to his childhood identity and world; to redeem lost time and the lost mother-sheltered space of his story. It was an effort that, once begun, was fated never to stop until his own death. Indeed, "Remembrance of Things Past" was a work that by its very nature was coextensive with the remainder of his life. Had he lived ten years longer, he would have been scribbling in the margins of the galley proofs, to the despair of his publishers, for 10 more years--painstakingly recreating the lost world and guaranteeing that the completion of the work perfectly coincided with the completion of his life.
HEADLINE OF THE DAY:
Cheney has heart batteries replaced.
It was actually written that way by some subversive scrivener--although it's probably been changed on the site by now.
UNLIKELY BOOK IDEA OF THE DAY...THAT HAS SOMEHOW BECOME A TINY BIT MORE CONCEIVABLE:
Dog Fights of the Rich and Famous.
BELATED POLITICAL COMMENTS OF THE DAY: (Notes on the Democratic Youtube Debate)
Liking the directness of the video question format. An implicit rebuke to all the politics as usual, endlessly rehearsed nonsense. Elicited at least an iota of spontaneity and passion from the candidates. Things that caught my attention:
Hillary and Obama ignoring each other. Bestowing their gracious regards on the lesser, unthreatening candidates but refusing to even acknowledge one another despite being at adjacent rostrums.
Edwards and Hillary like two contestants in a beauty contest. Edwards winning--with his bouncy hair and Breck Girl smile. He might be the first candidate to be discriminated against for being too attractive.
Speaking of good looking. Did you see Kucinich's wife? She was, for me, THE revelation of the debate. Absolutely gorgeous. And elegant. And smart. If he trotted her out on the campaign trail, his poll numbers would go way up. (Heck a lot of polls would go way up.) Although the spectacle of little Dennis gazing up admiringly at the bottom of his wife's chin might undermine whatever manly authority he gained by being able to claim her as his mate. The other liability from his standpoint I suppose is that if he always appeared beside her, he could very well be articulating a bold and brilliant plan for peace in the middle east and no one watching would hear a single word he said. All the men would just be thinking "God, DAMN!! is she beautiful! How the hell does a little ugly guy like that get a woman like her??!??! Dang...he must be hung like a horse. Damn, maybe I should go ahead with that penis enlargement thing after all. I know there are some nasty side effects some times, but hell, it's probably worth the risk. Then I could try to trade up from this old sow." And all the women would be thinking about whether she really loves him for his principles and decency or whether she is making a cynical career move. As he finally reveals his inspired plan to get troops safely out of Iraq and to create peace between Israel and the Palestinians, half of them would be thinking "Shameless self-promoting whore...allying herself with him to get herself in the public eye." and the other half would be thinking "Aww. That is so sweet. She sees his inner beauty." And, of course, a few would be thinking "Wait. How did he get a Russian mail order bride with a distinguished British accent?"
(For a glimpse of this odd couple: http://thinkprogress.org/2007/03/27/kucinich-interview/)
Also liked the Gravel guy ranting and railing about how American troops are dying in vain in Iraq as they did in Vietnam. "They are dying in vain"--he repeated with a degree of raw emotionality that seemed eminently un-presidential and reminded one of the reality of this shameful waste of young lives. But then Anderson Cooper asked each of the other candidates "Yes or no : are American troops dying in vain in Iraq? Did American Troops die in vain in Vietnam?"--and it was sort of amusing to watch them each dance around this politically suicidal assessment. In political discourse, saying "American troops have died in vain" is just beyond the limits of the admissible. The ultimate value and meaning of every military life lost is a fiction that must be maintained at all costs.
PROOF OF THE INSANITY OF RELIGION OF THE DAY:
The fact that, on 9/11, in their final moments alive, the terrorists and the victims screamed out to different gods.
WISH OF THE DAY:
To be--for a time--free from the twin tyrannies of the joke and the absolute.
WISH I HAD A CAMERA MOMENT OF THE DAY:
A store called "It's a Wrap" which had to close and was all boarded up.
GRATUITOUS INTERACTIVE FEATURE OF THE DAY:
Name the five polyps removed from Bush's Colon: Here are a few possibile quintets to get you thinking:
Numbskull, Dimwit, Turdface, Dumbass and Jesus.
Condi, Brownie, Rummy, Turd Blossom and Dick.
Pooh, Wilbur, Snoopy, Tinker Bell and My Pet Goat.
Democrat, Nucular, Strategery, Malfeance and Misunderestimate.
CONCEPTUAL JOKE SET-UP OF THE DAY:
So, a guy walk into a bar
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY:
I love Bryan Ferry. One of my favorite all time crooners. And I love pretty much all of his covers ("Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow", "As Time Goes By", "Miss Otis Regrets" etc.). I also--as anyone who knows me knows--love Bob Dylan. That said: I can't say I love Bryan Ferry singing Bob Dylan. The new album works fine on the songs that have romantic melody lines and lyrics. But, on songs that express some bitterness or rebellion like "Positively 4th Street," Ferry's quavering voice is almost comically inappropriate. "When you know as well as me, you'd rather see me paralyzed. Why don't you just come out once and scream it?" and " I wish for one minute, you could stand inside my shoes...then you'd know what a drag it is to see you." What's next: Enya covering Public Enemy?
NOTE TO SELF OF THE DAY:
When you deem it therapeutic to move from grief to rage, go to see "No End In Sight"--the documentary about the exercise in arrogance, incompetence and dishonesty that is the Iraq War. But until then, stay away. And by the way, Self: Don't feel self conscious about that swath of near hairlessness in the back right side of your head that you created by forgetting to put the plastic trimming extension on your beard trimmer when you tried to give yourself a buzz cut this morning. I don't think anyone will notice it.
DEFINITION OF THE DAY:
Misprision: misunderstanding or misinterpretation for pretentious people.
REDEFINITION OF THE DAY:
PDA = Pretty Damn Apathetic. How can you get outraged about the gross corporate and political malfeasance in our country and the hijacking of our fundamental values when you are perpetually mollified by the music, stock quotes, sports scores, instant messages, video games, youtube clips or porn on your iPhone or your Blackberry?
I'd love to have a PtDtA day. That is, Put the Damn Thing Away day. Right up there with Truth Day. Just two days a year to step out of the media matrix and be restored to the simple dignity of being holy primates on a spinning stone.
ATTEMPTED RECONSTRUCTION/RECOVERY OF THE DAY:
(Attempt to reconstruct from memory the saved text messages and photos that were lost forever with loss of my cell phone.)
"Crawford!" from a fantasy b-ball friend the night my player Jamal Crawford scored 52 points this season--temporarily putting me in the running for the league lead.
"Yes!" from a fellow sports-crazed friend after a big Mets victory during last years' playoffs.
"cabbie just peed into a cup. i'm traumatized." --from lady d.
"that (meaning the last text i sent) is easily my best text of the year so far." from friend--blowing sunshine up my kilt.
"Steve Nash is without question the all-time greatest Geico Caveman ever to play in the NBA."--non sports-crazed friend who tuned into the NBA playoffs:
Just can't seem to remember the remaining 40 or 50 that I saved.
My ex-girlfriend and I--during an attempted rapprochement 2 months after we broke up--at a video arcade photo booth where a couple sits for photos and gets to see a composite hybrid projection of what their child might look like. Very poignant. Very painful. Sort of glad it's been lost.
Just can't seem to remember the remaining 20 or 30 that I saved.
CARTOON WITHOUT ILLUSTRATION OF THE DAY:
Vis: A blind man with a cane yelling at someone who has just bumped into him on the street.
CAPTION: Blind man yelling: "What are you, blind?!?!?!
T-SHIRT IDEA OF THE DAY:
I need to change my life. But first I need a nap.
RANDOM SINGLE SENTENCE PORTRAIT OF THE DAY:
The couch looks empty without him.
JOURNAL OF MOURNING: DAYS 2 AND 3
Sharing the news makes it real again. Feeling the gasping sorrow of a friend with whom I have just shared the news opens the wound anew.
I am haunted by the shocking, screaming way the news was delivered. Two hours after having had a lovely phone call with my father, my sister is screaming, howling "Dad died! Dad died! He just collapsed and is lying here in the bathroom, dead on the floor" with no preparation, no mediation. The wailing and screaming of her mother in the background.
The imaginary fabric of my being has been ripped open. There is a daddy size hole in my heart.
I do not want the gaping truth of this reality to be reduced to another story by so many tellings.
I do not want to get used to the story that my father is gone.
The vast generality has become piercingly specific. The vague inevitability has been made devastatingly concrete. So this is how it would happen. This is how I would lose my father.
The way my mind reached into its file of fictional scripts in the face of the unthinkable. The way I found myself thinking of a television show at the surreal, life-redefining moment; much as my mind kept coming back to the sense that "it's like a movie" when the towers collapsed on another terribly beautiful day.
I return from CT to prepare for the funeral. The apartment now in situ--from the moment I got the call announcing I was fatherless.
I ascend the stairs for the first time as a man without a living father.
It is strange.
The just opened beer just where I left it.
The computer tracking the Mets game.
The unnegotiable, implacable truth: There will be no more new memories created with my father. I will not be seeing him again.
It is with some shame that I realize I have not been fully living my life. That for much of the time my father was in my life, I was not truly and fully in it myself. I wonder: Can the death of the man who gave me life restore me to life? Can my father, having given me life through my birth bring me back to life through his death? Can my father in essence give me life two times?
I pick out a black suit and a blue shirt. I never wear black and blue. But today I will. Today I am wounded. Today I am mortally wounded. When I was a child, my father cared very much about appearances. About proper dress and proper manners. I iron the suit and the shirt very carefully. I want to dress in a way that would have made my father proud.
More of the strange foreshadowings: The family sitting shiva next door to my father during my last visit.
When I was about 10 years old, my father returned to New York after attending the funeral of his father (my grandfather Max) and I remember thinking: My god...how does anyone ever get to be so grown up that they can deal with losing a parent? Today, over 30 years later, I realize I still have no idea. It feels almost as unimaginable to me today as it did to me as a ten year old boy.
The Memorial Service is a blur. As most of the guests are friends of my father from his second family, I grieve largely among strangers. There are a few people I recognize in the crowd. A few people I have not seen since my bar mitzvah and whose faces are almost unrecognizeably transformed due to the ravages of time. My father's brother-in-law eulogizes a man I do not in any way recognize. When I deliver my tribute, I sob. I don't feel ashamed to sob. I feel my father would have been proud to have heard me sobbing. To have known that he meant so much to me.
The magnitude of the love is commensurate with the magnitude of the loss. And this is somewhat consoling, as the loss feels immeasurable.
My father and I had such a warm and simple bond--like two old guys on a park bench. A comfortable alliance. Based on the fact that we had both sort of cashed out of life--he, of course, in a much more age- appropriate way.
Trying to honor my father's life by engaging more fully in my own.
Things that will stay with me on the day of my father's funeral:
Seeing his dog Daisy heartbreakingly lost and in search of her master when we returned to the house after the funeral-- which, ironically, was on her birthday. The devastating purity of raw, inconsolable animal grief.
The talk with the cold, touched Stranger. The way this man--this too tanned, hard-looking man with the slicked back hair-- came up to me at the post burial gathering at my father's house just before i left to head back to the city and said to me "I've been wanting to talk to you all day...but I know you've been busy and I didn't want to interrupt you. I didn't know your father. I'm only here because my wife plays golf with your father's wife. But even though I didn't know your father, I felt like I knew him all my life after hearing the way you spoke about him at the Memorial Service. And I just want to say...I'm a cold cold guy...nothing gets to me. Ever. You can just ask my wife. You can ask my kids. Nothing gets to me. But what you said...the way you said it...it really got to me. And I was telling my wife on the ride over here after the service. That the way you spoke...and what you said...I just couldn't stop thinking about it. And it just really really got to me. And like I say...nothing gets to me. So I don't want to bother you...i know you have lots of people to talk to here, but I just want to say...that ...and to say that I just have this feeling that things are going to work out for you....and you're going to be ok." And then he walked off.
Hearing of my father's name inscribed in the Hebrew prayer of mourning. The words Albert Harris Cohn popping out incongruously, unthinkably, unforgettably from this ancient sequence of vatic sounds.
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Posted on 7/31/2007
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