Friday, July 5, 2013

I met a guy who shouldn't exist

The circulation of this page
in Germany is heartening, in
Poland and the Baltic nations
it is rare but very gratify-
ing. I met a guy lately whose
grandparents and great-grand-
parents were from Königsberg,
which doesn't happen to exist

All of these cultures met in
that magically beautiful ag-
rarian strip of ground on the
Baltic Sea where the kingdom
stood welcoming watch for cen-
turies, to be obliterated as
brutally as Carthage in the
lifetime of our fathers, by
not one but several equiva-
lents of the Khmer Rouge at
Phnom Penh: the RAF, the Red
Army, the Wehrmacht, the SS,
the marauding delinquent rab-
ble of no culture but anguish.

A ghost, you would say, in 
his middle 20s: one of the
young and stateless techies
of the internet, to whom I
was introduced to advance an
interest of mine. A fellow
with a green card, an Amer-
ican girlfriend, and the full
international vocabulary of
marketing buzzwords.

We shared a plate of pasta
al fresco with a nice white
from the Rhône valley, and,
fiddling with his telephone
as they all do, he looked up
and said, You know, this is
my living, this technology;
but I feel sometimes, it will
be the death of us one day.

An opiate of the masses, I
suggested. He winced with 
recognition of the phrase;
and he said, yes, I think
it is just like that.

In this country we commun-
icate in a culture which
exulted in the fratboy
President's promise that
history was erased in 2001.
Few ever knew it, few ever
cared for it, and it was
such heaven to be relieved
of its nuisances. My in-
terlocutor's world was
erased before he was born,
and by forces more horrify-
ing than any ever mustered
on this planet against us;
but not his history, not
his culture, not his deep
awareness of the tides.

Is it preferable to appre-
ciate the limits of one's
mastery toward the end of
toil, or early enough to
let perspective burnish it?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

In the republic of waiting

    Today my pleasure
    with my sparklers 
    is tempered by the
    crushing fact of
    official neglect
    of public obliga-
    tion, sadly enabled
    by almost stupefied
    permission, granted
    across the spectrum,
    for the highest of-
    fices to be wasted.

    Reaction holds sway
    by default, and it
    will prosper for it,
    in the inevitable
    revolt against ig-
    noring our people.

    Laboured excuses are
    more and more thread-
    bare, the mighty more
    petty, while the good
    plead stale embarrass-
    ment, the best of times,
    the worst of times, re-
    membered very badly.

    Koch brothers. But
    government by racket-
    eering is proving to 
    be unsustainable.

    We gaze squarely upon
    the dignity of all who
    duly convey their con-
    sent to be governed. We
    see the forbearance, the
    modesty and trust. 

    It takes the breath away
    to witness, does it not,
    and drives the youthful
    heart to sacrificing ends;
    unless, the patronising
    snicker, Suckers, seems
    the sounder sobriquet.
    There's just one thing
    about a republic of wait-
    ing. The generations do
    not keep. 



Elizabeth Drew
The New York Review

John Cassidy
The New Yorker

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

There will be golf

On my father's first birthday,
his father presented him with
a golf club; and today, still,
not far from this desk, his 
classic putter greets me at
my bookshelves. But this is
not the club I mean. I mean
a private golf course created
with friends, to circumvent
their wives' sometimes irri-
tating propensity to strike a
better shot. My grandmother
was a gifted athlete, but that
was not an era ruled by Title
IX, and couples took a dif-
ferent view of discretionary

Indeed, my father grew up in 
a plenitude of settings for
pursuing what clicked as his
lifelong passion - to all
who knew him, his lease on 
this life - and a surprising
space for solitude was pre-
served in his relationships.

This, I get. He would be 99
today, and his swing would
still outclass mine off the
tee. But, I can't presume
to share, so much as merely
to confess to our joy in the
refuge of this game: its won-
derfully fair genius for re-
warding form. It is a prom-
ise he accepted as a boy in
Latin School, and trusted be-
yond every seduction of al-
ternative reward, including
everything offering an anal-
ogy or proof of what counts.
Now, I apprehend an edge of
aloofness in this vivacious
attachment, which is probably
a defect of my own semantics.

He would manifest the beau-
tiful project of being, in
the most insouciant touch I
have ever seen behind an arc
of a radius upon a sphere. Of
many years ago, I have memory
of gaping, with his own peers,
at the mastery of the unnatural
stroke of golf, as the most ob-
vious remedy of the circle. A
filial resignation mixes often
with remembrance of bright fact.

This, too. I regret now to
hear it said, that the most,
as well as the least benefi-
cent dispensations of life
are indifferent to form. Of
course this is the signature
boast of decadent wealth and
vulgar envy, masquerading
these days as Conservatism.
And it is true, Ben Hogan
could have impoverished him-
self without the help of a
Greyhound bus, by simply
living as a man of trust.
He had, therefore, to be
better than those who were
not of belief, even in the
craft of playing well.

For golf, for Horace, for
an English dog, we do not
have to apologise. Against
a gentlemanly way in other
settings, brute authorities 
obtrude. The idea is not to
escape them, but to isolate

In most of his gifts to me, 
like his father's to him,
naïveté was seldom at play.
I think this is ordinary.
When my father, at the age
of 1, inherited a golf club
created in the image of one
aspiration, it was the one
he built into me, without
resistance. On his birthday,
I do not wish to give an im-
pression of summation, for
I renounce the thought. But
from his inner time it would be
unthinkably uncelebratory not
to salvage certain treasure,
which somehow can't help
sounding as if it had tumbled
from an Edwardian picnic ham-
per, like the ripened crenshaw
melon that was his cardinal
stipulation for our breakfast
on this day. But these are not
edicts, just inferences drawn
from observing his game - don't 
mistake an image for the matter;
hold to the form, rehearse it
even when it can't be seen or
heard. Study the lie, but play
the ball. 

And you may indulge yourself
a hug, in front of everyone.

Is that it?