Last day of March, 2020. Middle of a pandemic. Trying to comprehend such an enormous thing — and such an enormity — as watching the only planet we know, and all of us who inhabit it, be menaced, from West Bengal to Time Square and everywhere in between, by a potentially deadly pathogen, something bascially as UNhuman as a coiling, twisting vine multiplying and creeping up a wall.
It is giving us all time to think, and remember — especially if you’ve been on this planet for nearly three quarters of a century, like me.
And what do I do? I stay confined — though tending to a sick companion; sick not with the dreaded virus but with an inexplicably debilitating leg pain that has put her on a borrowed set of crutches following a painful trip to a clinic for an ultrasound and MRI.
And, with no “hook” to make it relevant, I suddenly scour the archives of my memory during this enforced leisure — and my letter file — and discover that I wrote a very accomplished composer some months back after chancing to see his credit at the end of the television series Biography. He wrote the music for that and, apparently, much, much more — and is a well-known composer of experimental and symphonic music as well. Continue reading “A TOKYO MEMORY”
December 12, 1939 my parents had a wonderful surprise. In those days you just didn’t know — and so they didn’t know — that they were expecting not one, but two sons. Twins. Wonderful brothers, handsome teenagers popular with the girls, which had a bit of a coattail effect for me. Just a little. ( I figured out I needed to make my own way in that world.)
Wonderful husbands, fathers, brothers. I want them around forever so I can prove that their “little” brother can actually make something of himself.
Of course, we will always remember the day Ron got off the subway in downtown Boston to find Doug’s summertime girlfriend on the platform. “Doug!” she said, in shock and jubilation. “No….Ron,” said Ron. She was crestfallen.
Or, was it really Doug, just saying he was Ron. I’m vague on that part of the story.
At any rate, there was a good reason that sweet girl would be surprise to see Doug in Boston that day. He’d told her he was leaving town for astronaut training. Actually, he had to go back to the seminary.
Ron has some good stories, too. I’m sure we’ll hear them someday.
Happy birthday, guys.
It’s good that I wrote this down, a white memory from a green spiral notebook.
The notebook turned up in the turmoil of a move; another move, foolish and dismal, leaving only a vision of the dim patch of coarse grass and weeds beyond the metal door to the shed of this new place.
So: an old notebook, things recorded barely legibly or consciously, dream scribble. It contains a memory of an incident in Seoul; an incident during G.I. times when I journeyed there from a Korean island at the edge of The Yellow Sea. Spring or maybe summer, long ago. Continue reading “RETURN TO THE WHITE ROOM”
I. The Attic Window
One day, an early summer’s day, I set out across the sea — on a Norwegian freighter, no less, bound for Europe. This fulfilled a youthful yearning born of a view out an attic window.
It was a small window in our small house, gray and modest, sitting on a small fenced-off rise above our neighbors below on Salina Road. The view was of the sea — though just a small blue wedge, barely visible over the McIntyre’s green two-story house and the three-decker that, over time, had been home to people like Mrs. Baylion and Jimmy Kinally and Freddie Ferguson. It was mostly a harbor view and bay view: Boston Harbor and Dorchester Bay. Small waters in the grand scheme of things. But that was sea water out there, no less enticing to the embryonic imagination of a would-be Balboa; the blue threshold to the deep ocean of legend — of vast ships and fabulous creatures. A boy of eight or nine would see it that way. I was that boy. Continue reading “A Continental Summer”