Allegiance Redux

A FEW YEARS AGO, I revised the Pledge of Allegiance — instead of stating support for a piece of cloth, it celebrates what that cloth stands for. In today’s hyper-partisan political and cultural climate, it’s important to be both precise and concise so as not to be misunderstood.

All that said and done, here once again is the revised pledge, on this the 243rd anniversary of our nation’s first Independence Day. May you say it in good health, and may that good health steadily spread throughout the Lower North American body politic. (Because we really, really need it.)

“It’s Just That…”

THERE’S A THING — WELL, LET’S call it a verbal placeholder-prefix — used by writers of audiovisual entertainments when they want a character to segue away from or into an awkward conversation.

My friends, meet: “It’s just that…”

You’ve heard it. Sure you have. Classic situation in point: Someone is being politely badgered into self-revelation. They’ll begin by saying, “Oh, it’s nothing” (or the like). On being pressed further, they’ll begin to spill their guts by saying, “It’s just that…”

I first noticed this while watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reruns.

First Graf: On the Road

HAVING FIRST (AND LAST) READ this shortly before a 1985-6 cross-country hitchhiking-and-bus-adventure, I’d forgotten how good it was until beginning to read it aloud to The Partner recently. A rollicking, crying-out-for-emulation 1957 work, what strikes me about it now is the spirit — at turns sacred and profane, funny and poignant. Kerouac’s descriptions, of the world and of the epic grandeur of some otherwise-mundane future cultural heroes (Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, William S. Burroughs, et al), are particularly of note. Because of On the Road I used to lie awake at night dreaming of crossing the country on my thumb and a wish, chronicling the epic grandeur of my own little peer group.

Words To Bring Back: “Reverie”

– Definition: n. Abstracted musing; dreaming.

– Used in a sentence: Since late 2016, my reveries have been somewhat disturbed.

– Why: Although it comes from an Old French word meaning “dream,” it also reminds one of “revere” or “reverent.” And aren’t dreams something to hold in reverence?

Let Us Sit Upon the Ground and Sing Glad Songs to the Memory of Groovy English Teachers

WHEN MRS. BOISVERT TOLD ME in ninth-grade English class that I had the soul of a poet, I grimaced.

“I want to be a scientist,” I said.

She had no answer to that. But she had answers to lots of other things: the importance of Shakespeare, how to compose a good headline, and to write both tightly and brightly. And always to show. Never tell.

Because of Mrs. Boisvert, and my eighth-grade grade English teacher, Mr. Sullivan, I have had a career in newspaper journalism and a modest pile of writing awards. (Also, this nifty blog.)

365 Names (sort of): The Fragility

“THIS IS WHY SOME PEOPLE drink,” I told my friend, provoking him into loud laughter.

We were talking about THE FRAGILITY: that immediate realization of the tenuousness of life, and its property of drastically changing in a cold heartbeat through death, incapacitation or other sad surprise. (So immediate is this experience that I’m listing it as one of the [unofficial] 365 Names of G?d.)

You’ve heard it before: “Live each day as if it were your last.” “Nothing is forever.” “It all goes by like that.” These phrases have become cliches, because they’re all true. What can we do about it?

“Free Moon Trips!”

THERE MAY BE NO QUICKER way to evoke reverent awe than by looking through a telescope at the night’s rich bounty.

I was 13 when I first trained a small refractor, a gift from my parents, on the planet Saturn. My jaw literally dropped when I saw that yellow disk floating in a golden ring. Just like the photos, I thought, only it’s REAL!

It is that reality, of actually seeing the moon and planets, which brings with it those tingling fingers of Wow running through our brains. It’s not necessarily a “religious” experience. But focusing on the vasty star-deep can be deeply spiritual. It’s also addictive and contagious.