Sunday, August 18, 2019

Papery Stalactites and Garbage

Meow Wolf

In the early 70's, I had a friend in Loveland who was a talented commercial photographer.  He was also something of a self-styled sage and philosopher, a middle aged hippy freak.  We had lots of fun conversations in between reading THE WHOLE EARTH CATALOGUE and the collected works of Jack Kerouac.

He developed a theory I still cling to today.  He posited that the only truly beautiful things were isolated pieces of nature that man had not yet despoiled and the garbage that Despoiler Man had thrown away.  To prove his point, he made a slide show alternating little slices of nature (a wildflower growing out of a crack in a rock, a mushroom sprouting at the base of a tree, etc.) with pieces of junk he found in the local dump (an abandoned medicine cabinet with surprising patterns of rust, an old tennis shoe juxtaposed to a pair of crutches, etc.) .  He set the whole thing to "Rocky Raccoon."  It not only proved his point, but it was a delight to watch and hear.

Meow Wolf in Santa Fe celebrates this idea in an interactive "museum" filled with the detritus of our culture.  It is like the creators of this place spent a few years scavenging discarded things out of local junk yards, used book stores, used record stores, basements and attics filled with the accumulated stuff of lives fully spent.  Then they took all this stuff and rearranged it into a series of rooms, corridors, closets, and secret passages by classifying it into as many categories as they could.  There is a room lit in flickering blue and green lights with papery stalactites hanging down around the heads of all the museum goers.  There is also an old dinosaur skeleton in the room and you can play a song on its ribs.  Of course, you really can't because there are dozens of people already playing their dinosaur tunes and refusing to give anyone else a chance.

There is a room in black and white with black tea dripping down the white cups and onto the white table with the black outline.  There is another room that is meant to look like the bedroom of some kid from years gone by.  The room itself is too dark to determine a dominant color, but there is a bookcase against a wall filled with old textbooks.  You know, textbooks are what kids used to use before everything got placed on line.  If they had only asked us, we had enough old textbooks littering our basement that we could have made our own room.  When Meow Wolf starts scavenging Denver for their new installation, they should give us a call.  I have a stack of Big Chiefs that would be perfect.

Kathie posted our trip to Meow Wolf on Facebook and she got dozens of enthusiastic reactions from folks who had been there and loved it and from folks who were desperate to go.  I'm sorry, but I don't share the enthusiasm.

While standing in line to get in with the 10:20 group, people who  had been there before told us that folks spend anywhere from 30 minutes to six hours in the place.  Kathie and I lasted 25 minutes, thereby setting a new record.

I appreciate why so many people want to go.  I see the attraction, but I shared the opinion of a lady standing next to me in the black and white room.  "I just don't get it," she said.

On further reflection, Meow Wolf seems like a combination of a terrific haunted house and an after-prom designed by a group of incredibly creative and resourceful juniors.  If I could have managed to walk through the place in that spirit, it would have been a much more rewarding experience.  If I had my grandchildren with me, it would have been even more terrific.

I guess the thing I'm reacting negatively to is that they call the place an art museum.  Just because something has been collected and displayed doesn't make it art.  I felt the same way about my photographer friend's slide show.  It was clever and well done, but I won't accept the idea that putting garbage in a slide show or in an all black and white room magically turns that garbage into art.

I guess I make a distinction between art and archaeology.  In my classes I used to initiate a discussion about Art with a capital A by taking an old hammer and pounding three nails into my classroom wall.  Then I would take the hammer, place it at a slant on two of the nails and from the third I hung an old frame. The transformation of the hammer from a tool  to a piece of art in that scenario is a little startling to anyone open to the experience.  And, if I say so myself, it was a clever way to get a conversation started, but I don't think an entire building filled with those kinds of "framed hammers" constitutes a museum that anyone past puberty really needs to see.

I'm glad I went to Meow Wolf.  When one opens in Denver next year, I'll take my grandchildren.  But for myself, if I want to see art I'll go to DAM.  There are no backlit, papery stalactites there to get in my hair.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Overcoming Nausea

We had a get together in our back yard for a group of about eight or nine former students  a week ago.  Corey was there and Kevin and Tenly and their kids.  There was Joann and Mario along with their spouses.  Joanna and Dan and their little girl, Victoria, completed the group.

I had just gotten my "loaner" hearing aids and was pleasantly surprised to see that I could follow the conversation without asking people to repeat themselves.  Joanna and I had a nice side conversation and I remember telling her that I wouldn't bore her by listing my maladies.  Suffice it to say that getting used to the hearing devices was and continues to be number one on my list.  But the point I was attempting to make was that I had come to the conclusion that my maladies were the least of my problems.  They were not the reason that I get nauseated by almost everything, why I can't eat, or sleep, or get up the energy to do anything anymore.

When I told her that I thought I had just become overwhelmed by the state of the world and that nausea was the only sane reaction, I felt myself beginning to tear up.  I quickly changed the subject to life in Singapore, or something like that.

I was a philosophy minor in college.  I gobbled up all that existential stuff.  I read Sartre (Nausea, No Exit, and Being and Nothingness).  I read other French existentialists.  I switched to Nietsche (is that how you spell that?) and Heidegger and Mann and all those other German guys.  I understood the whole idea about existential nausea, but it was nothing more to me than an idea.  I was a husband, a new father, and a student teacher.  I was too pleased with myself to feel Nausea.

I understand it now.  Luckily, I have these new hearing aids to take my mind off all the existential dread that would normally occupy my attention.

My first outing with them happened at Chris' house.  Exactly what I didn't want to happen, happened. People assured me that they didn't even notice them.  Christian assured me that with my newfound ability to hear, people would be less likely to think me an asshole.  That was so comforting.  The thing Chris doesn't fully understand about me is that I've always been something of an asshole.  Hearing had nothing to do with it.  Just ask anyone I ever taught with.

I did have a lovely conversation with Christine's mom.  I think I shared a scrapple recipe.  I wouldn't have been able to do that two weeks earlier.

My best moment with the new hearing aids happened last Monday.  I was hanging out at the park with Willa and Jaydee, helping them swing, standing by while they tried to cross the monkey bars, the usual.  There was a moment when the girls were huddled up and looking at something on a catwalk leading from one slide to another.  I walked over to see what it was.

Do you know those sickeningly sweet commercials for miracle hearing aid companies?  There is always a distinguished looking, gray-haired gentleman in a cardigan sweater with pushed up sleeves. On his lap are two grandchildren looking at him adoringly as they whisper seven year old secrets to him.  He has a great big smile and if the picture moved he would be shaking his head.  His grandchildren smile, validated by their grandfather's new hearing.

That was me on that catwalk on Monday.  I sat between them and helped them investigate whatever it was, a bug I think.  I didn't once have to ask them to repeat themselves.  I didn't once pretend I heard them.

It would have made a nice ad.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

It's Even Weirder Putting On Hearing Aids In The Morning

Hearing Woes, Part II

Do you remember the scene in SINGING IN THE RAIN when Ms. Lamont, she of the squeaky voice, is miked up for her first foray into talking pictures?  You could hear her every move, the crinoline creaking, her too loud steps across the stone floor, her breathing.  That's what my world sounds like now.  The BANGING of the keyboard.  The ROAR of the air conditioner.  Anyone's CRASHING steps across our wood floor.  When the refrigerator turns on, it is agony.  I stepped outside to get the paper and when I went back inside, the SCREECH of the screen door made me look quickly behind me to see which of our sadistic neighbors was strangling his cat.

This experience will not last, the hearing lady at Kaiser assured me.  After some initial testing, some adjusting, and perhaps a cochlear implant, I will be pleased with the results.  Again, the hearing lady assured me.  I put a little pressure on her when I told her if my world was going to sound like this from now on, I would surely kill myself.  I was only semi-joking.

The thing is I developed tinnitus about 35 years ago when Katherine was going to grad school in Greeley.  I didn't really tell anyone; I just coped.  I've been coping all that time.  I did go to Dr. Kaufman a few years ago (maybe 10) and told him about my ringing ears.  He just laughed and said that it was just Nature turning up the volume.  Some consolation.

Lately, it has been getting worse.  If I am in  a crowded room, I can't make out anything anyone says. I have an impossible time hearing the speaker at the drive-thru at McDonald's.  Katherine has to translate almost everything to me.  My children, I am sure, are making jokes behind my back.  And the thing that drives me the craziest, the thing that probably drove me to the damn audiology department in the first place, is that I can't hear my grandchildren when I am taking them for rides in the car.

So, to make a long story short, I have loaner hearing aids and they are tuned as loudly as I can stand it in an effort to acclimate my brain to hearing things again.  After a month or so, I will go in for more consultation, get my little surgery (big surgeries), get new hearing devices adjusted and be good as new.  And they will look so attractive too.

The thing I am being a little shocked by is how horrible the world sounds.  I guess it has been 35 years since I've really heard the daily din assaulting us.  I have been blissfully ignorant of the true horrors of leaf blowers, and out of tune cars, and planes flying by overhead, and neighbors talking to each other, and laughing, and yelling.  Not to mention the droning electric sounds coming from our television.  Was Mayberry really that loud?

How did you all stand it all those years?

I live in constant fear that something will set off our smoke detector.

Oh well, I can't take the sound of the computer humming anymore.  I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

It's Weird To Wake Up Knowing You're Deaf

After my first round in the booth, the audiology tech walked in, took off my ear phones, and, looking a little paler than she did a few minutes earlier, said, "Well, you have a profound hearing loss!"

She used the same tone Richard Dreyfus used in JAWS when he examined Chrissy's body after the first shark attack.  "WELL, THIS IS NO BOATING ACCIDENT!"

She then asked me, the look on her face growing even more concerned, if I had ever had a hearing test.  I admitted that I couldn't remember.  She shook her head and put the head phones back on.  "I'm going to play a man's voice now.  I want you to repeat the last word he says in each statement."

So, I got serious.  I sat up straight.  Closed my eyes.  Concentrated.  I only got twenty per cent of the words correct, she informed me, now on the verge of tears.

I wanted to give her a little hug and tell her that it was gonna be alright.  Mostly, I felt guilty about being such a bad audiology patient.  I was also happy that she couldn't pull my license to walk freely around the world.  I mean with my hearing the way it is, there are a lot of things I could inadvertently run into without hearing them first.  Crying babies in carriages.  Angry honks from delivery trucks.  Buskers singing and dancing in the middle of the street.  The hazards are rife.

I didn't want to go to this appointment in the first place.  I knew what the results would be, but Christian, obviously growing tired of having to repeat everything he says when in my presence, made an appointment for me at one of those miracle hearing places that advertise on TV along with personal injury lawyers and Chia Pets.

I gave in and told him I would make an appointment at Kaiser.

All the loved ones around me knew I was not looking forward to the appointment.  Kathie even volunteered to rearrange her schedule so she could go with me.  Chris offered to hold my hand.  Christine said she would go if I really wanted her to.

I assured them that I was perfectly capable of taking myself to a medical appointment.  Just to prove it, I even managed to check in at a self-serve kiosk instead of going to the desk.  See.  Even high tech doesn't intimidate me.

I also kind of liked it at the Audiology Department.  Everyone there made it a point to look right at me when they talked and they pronounced their words carefully and loudly.  If everyone just talked and acted like that, we could all save a lot of money on hearing aids.  Maybe there are lots of people who could even lose their comfort dogs if we made a nation wide push for more articulation.

Finally, she told me to come out of the booth and have a seat.  She came in a few minutes later with two printouts of my hearing test.  She sat down with a sigh, looked me straight in the face, and shared her concern.

I couldn't help but laugh at the whole noirish feeling of the whole thing.  "I'll bet you're wondering how I manage to negotiate my world with my hearing."

"Yes, I am," she answered, holding back a sob.  "I have never seen anyone with hearing like this who could function without a hearing aid!   You have to promise me you'll come in for consultation.  I even think your loss is such that you would qualify for a cochineal implant."

At least that's what I thought she said.  I couldn't really make out all the words.

She went out and made an appointment for me and the lady at the desk spoke very slowly and clearly.

I couldn't help myself.  Before I left, I gave the tech a reassuring pat on her shoulder.  "Don't worry about me, okay?  I'm going to be alright."

She nodded her head as if to say I hope so and walked slowly away.

I meet with a doctor when I get back from Jenny Lake.  I'm going to take Katherine with me this time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

A Fire in the Morning; Ice in the Afternoon

I like to think I am easy to please.  Innkeepers and restaurateurs must like to see me walk in the door. When Kathie and I enter a place like Mizuna, everybody is happy to see us.  At Jenny Lake next month, staff members with smiles on their faces will give us hugs and welcome us back.

I remember a conversation we had in the lodge one evening before dinner with some friends who had some legitimate complaints about dinner (too many consomm├ęs), housekeeping, and the woeful job the concierge was doing.   Rachel, the sweetheart of a manager, was there with us and I said that I was easy.  Give me a fire in the morning and ice in the afternoon and I'm content.

The wonder then is that I end up in so many places and situations that go out of their way to please me, to make me happy.  Our recent travels are a case in point.

By our standards, the last two months have been pretty hectic.  We flew to Orlando for a four day weekend to see our grandson get married.  That was the end of March, beginning of April.  We flew back home for a few days and then got on another plane and traveled to Belize for two weeks.  Back home for another week and then off to New York City and then Ireland.

You have to remember that I hate to travel.  I think of all that money and I'd rather stay home and go out to restaurants.  But then when I am actually in the act of traveling, I end up having great times.  This is especially true of the last two months.

Let me make a list.

- After an easy cab ride from Orlando's airport to the Royal Carib just off Disney property, we met Chris and Nate at the bar for drinks.

-We had a great dinner with Nate and Ashley at Rick Bayless' place at the Disney Marketplace.

-We were at the pool hanging out with Chris and Franny and the grand girls.  Jaydee took off from one side of the shallow end and managed to somehow stroke and kick and squirm her way to the other side.  "Well, at least I didn't die," she said when she got her head above water.  I think that's my favorite memory from all of the travels.

-I liked giving Sage and Shannon a toast and reciting Sonnett 116.  I think I've got that sucker down pat.

-Kathie and I were walking the beach in Placencia one morning when we came across a golf cart that someone had managed to drive into the ocean.  A policeman and two others were surveying the scene, trying to figure out how to get the thing out of the ocean without getting wet.  The policeman motioned to me.  He pointed at my feet and said, "Bare feet.  Bare feet."  I told him that he was right and I was indeed barefoot.  I finally figured out that he wanted me to get into the  ocean and pull the thing out because I wouldn't be getting my shoes wet.  I gave it a try.  Finally, after a few fruitless tugs, the other guys jumped in and helped me pull it free.  I felt like a local and so useful.  And my shoes never got wet.

-We had a wonderful afternoon with Gavin at MoMA with a lunch afterward at The Warwick.

-I loved our walk through Central Park all the way up to the top of the reservoir and then down past all of the construction outside the Met.

-The fact that we were the only plane landing at Shannon at 6 in the morning made the entire experience easy.

-While our fellow passengers were looking for their tour buses or queuing up in front of car rental places, we were greeted by a gentleman in a vest and tie holding a sign with our names on it.  He led us to a black Mercedes.  The back seat had lap blankets and bottles of water to appease us during the fifteen minute trip to Adare Manor.

-Adare Manor!  Need I say more.  Our room was ready at 7 AM!  A friendly chap greeted us at a welcoming desk and led us through the maze of stone hallways to our room.

-Our room!!  Huge.  Two closets in their own hallway with mirrored double doors.  A bathroom with fluffy towels and robes and a rain head shower in a separate stall.

-Breakfast.  The breakfast at Adare was in the Great Hall, a giant room with two killer stained glass windows on either end hovering over the feast.

-Dinner at the Carriage House (day 2).  The Carriage House is at the golf course.  There is a bar, a golf shop, a rental shop, and a restaurant serving lots of fish and lamb.  The food and the service were exceptional, but the thing I most remember is an older couple (Read:  my age) sitting against the wall.  The woman was happily devouring her meal and drinking her wine.  The man, sitting grumpily with his arms crossed, was busily sending back every plate.  How could anyone be that sad in a place like this?

-Dinner at the Oak Room.  We were seated by a window overlooking the garden, the 18th green just on the other side.  A young Irish lad was our server.  He had a delightful sense of humor and timed the dinner perfectly.  I would have to say that the only meal I have ever had to equal this one was at Meadowood in Napa Valley about ten years ago.  Simply amazing.

-A different gentleman in a different Mercedes picked us up at Adare and drove us to the Ashford Castle.  Driving through the Irish countryside is fascinating.  The only other countryside not in the US that I have driven through has been in Belize.  The difference between the little towns and villages in a Western Democracy as opposed to a Third World Country, even a well developed one like Belize, is stark.  There is a lot to be said for infrastructure and a strong central government.  There, I had to get that in.  The Cliffs of Moher were certainly interesting, but the crowds there made me more worried than happy.  We told the driver that we would just as soon get on to the castle.  That made him happy.

-The arrival at Ashford was a lot like the arrival at Adare.  We were shown to a couple of velvet chairs and given drinks made out of gin.  We barely had our first sip when we were shown to a desk, signed in and ushered up to our room.

-Breakfast at Ashford, while not in a room nearly so glorious, was even better than Adare.  The best smoked salmon of my life.  In fact, all of the food was spectacular.

-I loved the walk along the river into Cong, the little village that doubled as Innisfree in THE QUIET MAN.  We stopped at Pat Cohan's pub more than once.  Good conversation; okay fish and chips.

-We spent one memorable morning walking the entire property.  We walked by the skeet shooting range, hoping that the rifles were pointing away from us.  Then we passed the archery area.  After that was the equestrian center.  Finally, the falconry range.  We ended up on a narrow wooded lane that somehow led to a series of gardens.  There was a hidden garden, yes there was.  A walled garden.  A terraced garden.  Each one was more secret, more impressive than the last.  What a place.

-One final thing that made me happy.  We were flying back to Denver and there was a couple in front of us who acted like they were returning from a honeymoon.  They held hands, and kissed a lot, and the girl rested her head against his shoulder.  Very sweet.  That's not what made me happy.  About half way through the flight (the five hour mark), the girl started running her nicely manicured nails through the guy's hair.  He wore his hair short.  She didn't do it once or even twice! She kept on doing it!  The rest of the way back to Denver!  The fact that it was his hair she was doing that to and not mine made me happy and the rest of the flight bearable.

I'm home now.  Except for Jenny Lake and one two night trip to Santa Fe in August, there will be no more travel in my life for a year.  I don't really need to.  As Buckaroo Bonzai said, "Wherever you go, there you are."  Besides, there are all kinds of things around here to make me happy.

Monday, June 3, 2019

We Were Eight Years In Power

Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is the other book I read on the plane rides between Ireland and Denver.  I love Coates.  I think he is the best polemicist currently writing in our country.  He has taken that mantle from James Baldwin and has proved his equal and that is saying a lot.

I didn't check the book out when I bought it, so when I opened it up somewhere while flying west over the Atlantic, I discovered that it was a collection of the pieces he has written for The Atlantic over the past decade.  I had already read them all, especially the Case for Reparations that catapulted him to the fame he currently enjoys.  Except for the reparations piece, which I had already read about five times, I read all of his essays again.  Reading then in the context of a Trump (the first white president, according to Coates) presidency gave the pieces even more urgency.

They held together and offered a powerful indictment of the racist history of this country.  The effect on me after reading this book along with all the other political things I've been pouring through lately has convinced me that White Supremacy has always been and continues to be the dominant story of our republic.  Every great political accomplishment or setback can be seen in the context of our country's uneasy relationship with race.  I mean EVERYTHING.  The biggest stumbling block to universal health care (something Truman tried to accomplish as his contribution to The New Deal) was the realization that people of color would not only get the lion's share of the benefits but such a health care scheme would mean that black and brown people might end up sharing hospital rooms with white folks (insert Gasp).  Evangelical types didn't get involved in politics until Nixon took away the tax exempt status of religious schools that refused to admit black people.  It wasn't the evil of abortion, but the fear of black people in their all white classrooms that drove them over the political brink.  Some 40% of self-identified Republicans still believe that Obama was born in Kenya.  If the football players taking knees during the anthem were mostly white instead of black, no one would be outraged about their supposed lack of patriotism. This list of outrages could go on for pages and pages.

The best thing about this book is that Coates has written a short introduction to each essay talking about the writing process and the difficulties he had conducting some of the interviews.  I found all of that fascinating and, as someone who would kill to get published, quite helpful.

There are three or four quotes from the book that are illustrative of the direction and quality of Coates' work:

"America is literally unimaginable without plundered labor shackled to plundered land, without the organizing principle of whiteness as citizenship, without the culture crafted by the plundered, and without that culture itself being plundered."

"Studying the 2016 election, the political scientist Philip Klinker found that the most predictive question for understanding whether a voter favored Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump was 'Is Barack Obama a Muslim?'"

"The racial and ethnic isolation of whites at the zip code level is one of the strongest predictors of Trump support."

"So when Packer [George Packer] laments the fact that 'Democrats can no longer really claim to be the party of working people--not white ones anyway,' he commits a kind of category error.  The real problem is that Democrats aren't the party of white people--working or otherwise.  White workers are not divided by the fact of labor from other white demographics; they are divided from all other laborers by the fact of their whiteness."

Obama haters' insistence that their antipathy was not based on race was and continues to be laughable.  It was always about race.  It always has been.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

If We Can Keep It

Michael Tomasky

I managed to squeeze in two books on the plane rides between Ireland and Denver.  The first was IF WE CAN KEEP IT by Michael Tomasky, my favorite pundit.  It falls right in line with all the other stuff I've been reading lately (THESE TRUTHS, THE JUNGLE GROWS BACK, FREDERICK DOUGLAS).

After the constitutional convention, someone asked John Adams to comment on the strength of the thing they produced.  He said the constitution was good (or words to that effect) "If we can keep it."

That's quite an admonition and Tomasky's book suggests that we haven't been keeping it very well of late.  The subtitle adds "How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saved."  And that's exactly what the book does.  It offers a tidy history of the US, focusing on the early seeds of polarization and how they grew and currently flourish.  He then offers suggestions to get us back on course.

The book starts with a really handy six page chronology of the events that got us to our current state of polarization.  This list starts with the Connecticut Compromise of July 1787 where the strange equations of representation in the legislature created the inherently unrepresentative United States Senate.  August, 1987 is another big date.  That is when the FCC, during Ronald Reagan's presidency, repealed the Fairness Doctrine.  The result was a proliferation of right wing talk shows.  And, of course, November 1994.  That is when Newt Gingrich becomes Speaker of the House, a black day in American history.

Tomasky also offers a fourteen point plan to reduce polarization.  It is listed there right at the beginning of the book and elaborated on in the last section.  None of his points are particularly new or surprising, but they all make sense.  Seven of his points are aimed at revamping the way our politics work by getting rid of Gerrymandering, reintroducing at large congressional elections. eliminating the filibuster, getting rid of the Electoral College or making it obey the popular vote, etc.  The other seven are geared to society in general and most of those involve tinkering with the educational system, especially things like civics education and cultural exchange programs.

Like I said, the book doesn't really offer many surprise solutions, but it does offer a crystal clear explanation of the situation and it sheds new light on certain portions of modern history that we might have forgotten.

It also has some great quotes:

"Today, most of us, whether we like to admit it or not, are consumers first, citizens second.  In the 1930's most people didn't see themselves that way."

"The American Friends Service Committee found that segregated private schools were opened in 31 percent of counties in five Deep South states.  Because they were religious academies, they enjoyed a tax exemption.  But in 1969, some black parents sued and were granted an injunction, and then in June 1970 the Nixon administration unexpectedly ended the schools' exemption.  And that's what originally got the religious right into politics--the fact that they had to start admitting black children to their school."

"Most people resist introspection; whole societies are no different.  Liberals,  however, tend to welcome introspection, and liberals and Democrats of that era [Carter years], starting with the pious man in the Oval Office, did quite a lot of reflecting on what was happening to the national character.  So surely one of the great secrets perhaps the great secret, of the conservative movement's coming success, of Ronald Reagan's success in particular, was to free people of this responsibility of introspection, to release them from the guilt in which liberalism makes them wallow."

"My civic self has rarely been more depressed than it was after September 11 2001, when President Bush, New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani, and others said that if citizens want to help the country, they should go shopping."

"Since 1990, not a single Republican House member or senator has voted for a tax increase."

"Before too long, the kind of car one drove, music one listened to, and salad greens one preferred were taken as indicators of political preference.  . . . The simpler, more straightforward choices (Branson, iceberg lettuce) were the preferences of 'real' Americans, while the fussier alternatives (Sonoma County, arugula) marked their adherents as elitists."

"Liberals want to fix the house up.  Conservatives want to burn it down and build a new one."

I've noticed, after rereading some of my recent book "reviews", that I keep mentioning the quote where James Baldwin says that "the world is held together, it really is, by the love and devotion of a very few men."  When I first heard him say that in a talk show interview years ago, it spoke volumes to me.  I always showed a tape of Baldwin's life with a clip from that interview to my AP classes, and I think it arrested them.

After reading the cross over history stuff I've been fascinated by lately, I see even more powerfully the truth in Baldwin's statement.  Jill Lepore's THESE TRUTHS,  Robert Kagan's THE JUNGLE GROWS BACK, and now IF WE CAN KEEP IT by Tomasky all tell the story of a country populated by selfish and venal men willing to stop at nothing to have their way.  These despicable human beings are consistently opposed by all those devoted and loving men and women that Baldwin talks about.  These are the people who somehow manage to, in John Adams' words, "Keep it."

I'm desperately looking around for more men and women like that.  They are hard to see and hear amidst all the noise.