Monday, October 31, 2011

Out of the Windswept Chaos

This weekend, the forces of nature dumped a big, wet, sloppy grey Nor'easter on the East Coast of the United States. It was the wrong weather at the wrong time of the year. I like that in a weather phenomenon.

George Augustus Williams: "A Snow Storm"
On Saturday morning, we awoke to a rainy grey that kept us snoozing with the covers up over our shoulders longer than usual. As the day continued, ice began falling, too, ticking on the windows when the wind gusted, and it started to whiten the colder surfaces: the hoods of cars and the tops of mailboxes. Little deposits of what looked like rock candy began to collect in the cups of dead leaves scattered across lawns.

It was a chilly, bone-deep gloom that kept people under quilts and in house coats for much of the day -- or in bed, altogether, well into the afternoon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hot Dog Man

The other day, I was rushing around for an end-of -the-day meeting at my school. The students were loudly and gleefully slamming lockers and scrambling toward the exits in buffalo-like heards and I stepped out of the side door with them. On the landing, a bunch of students had gathered into a crowd and were laughing and grabbing at pieces of paper handed to them from below. I looked to see what was up.

There stood a fellow dressed as a hot dog. He had a bun wrapped around him and a squiggly ribbon of mustard running up his belly. His face fitted into a little round hole and he wore thick black glasses. He was passing out brochures for a restaurant. The dialogue ran as follows:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Weight of Darkness

If time is a line, let's lift off of it and sail up above it, back past years and decades, over fields scarred with muddy trenches and flashing insanely with artillery fire; over revolutionary battlefields, where men fire in formal lines, and above great, concrete-grey cities that rose out of small brown towns nestled next to rivers -- rivers that have watched and watched and watched, bringing life and then taking away the refuse of the hundreds and then the thousands and then the millions as years worked slowly around them all.

Then, let's alight, somewhere far away from the city, at the edge of a great forest, on a night in high summer, in a time when there were no machines but those bound with rope and cobbled together out of wood and propelled only by tired beasts -- a time when a few carried steel and many laboured at the plow to pay tithes to those few . . .

by Arthur Rackham
Paint me, then, a man sitting in his small hovel, children sleeping, wife sleeping since sunset. See that man peering through a crack in the boards, fearful, as he watches golden lights among the trees, flitting around, blinking brightly and then fading and then blinking again. He knows who they are: the stealers of dreams -- fairies who fly into the mouths of sleeping innocents, to take out their souls and to fly them around the gaping night in order to gather dreams.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Delusional Peace

The wind is cool and alive with (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) the rustle of the leaves and I look skyward from a cushioned (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) reclining chair on my deck. It couldn't be a (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) more beautiful day and I (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) think of my sons -- how lucky they are to live in a pretty town with honey-golden (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) sun in the fall. Like Coleridge, I revel in their chance to grow up in a (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) place with woods and a stream by which (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) they can run, far away fro the constant sounds of (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) traffic and far away from the (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) screech of the railway line I'd (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) watch from my window as a boy.

My dog lies at my feet and my honeyed green tea steams up (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) into the cool air. A good book waits, so I pick it up and crawl into its (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) pages to escape, enjoying the quiet and the tea and the (RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR) warmth of fur under my fingers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Isivivable Are Among Women

When I was a boy, I saw Al Pacino in  . . . And Justice for All. Inspired by the film, I decided to be a lawyer when I grew up.

I was good with words, so everyone encouraged that. My mom, who always seemed to be convinced that one had to be handsome to be a lawyer (and seeing through the complimentary glasses that are standard-mom-issue), was sure that I was a double-threat.

What I saw in that film was a guy who was willing to sacrifice a career for what was right -- a guy who saw the flaws in the legal system and decided to stand up against them ("You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order!"), whatever the cost. The drama of this appealed to me, too -- as did the dramatic element of arguing a case in front of an audience.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Compulsion of Community

What I am about to say is going to be like trashing bunny rabbits. It's going to look like I have cleaned up dog vomit with Old Glory or tromped on the crucifix, to some. What I am about to voice my annoyance about is something that is part of our conditioning from birth -- a part that is so deeply embedded that I think many of us believe it is strictly human nature (though that is part of it, I'm sure) and, so, that going against it as a sacred necessity is nothing short of treason against existence. But I have to say it. Let the chips fall.

I'm sick of "community."

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Science of God

"Under Pier": Karen Matarazzo
I mentioned, a little while ago, that I have been reading C.S Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia to my youger son. As usual, Lewis's work has gotten me thinking about faith (as he meant it to).

I'm a firm believer that those who will, ultimately, find faith in a higher power do so by their own map -- not by getting force-fed someone else's beliefs. So fear not: I'm not going to try to get you to believe what I believe; but, as always, I am going to try to get you thinking so that you will draw (or continue drawing) your own map. Whether that map ultimately leads you to faith or the lack thereof is up to you.

In the interest of disclosure, I do believe in God. This belief is quite unfashionable in intellectual circles, nowadays, so I have taken my share of flack about it from grad school, on. Most intellectuals think it is illogical to believe in God. (Some readers might have just dismissed my credibility as a thinker, based on the statement above. Consider that reaction as you read on.) I have written before about the common smugness of both the non-believers and people of faith. But to dismiss the belief in God -- or anything else that defies the things we "know" to be "real" -- as illogical is, in itself, a foolish and short-sighted stance to take.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Evidence of Life

I stood, a few nights ago, in a line for the viewing of a deceased friend with whom I had worked for quite a few years -- a good teacher and a great guy who would lighten the mood in any room; even a faculty lounge on a bad day.

As we waited, I was struck -- as I have always been at funerals and viewings -- with the somber/giddy mix of demeanors. (As a teenager, when my grandmother had died -- my first real loss -- I was angered by the jolly laughter, just feet from her coffin; as I got older, I came to understand that the heart is too deep for us to worry about what's strictly appropriate on occasions of death. Sometimes it laughs harder and more loudly when it needs to cry.)

As we moved through the line, through a small labyrinth of halls in the funeral home; past rooms glowing with low light and rooms containing gothic-looking desks and a spooky-looking organ; over flowery carpets that clashed insanely with flowery wallpaper; past descending stairwells that I swore were burping up the faint scent of formaldehyde, I peered around corners, wondering when we'd get to viewing room and wondering how the family would be.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Big Ideas in Tiny Rooms

Yesterday, I had occasion to go to a radio station (a large, reputable and pretty popular one) where I recorded a voice-over for a commercial for my school. When I got there, I was shown around by a nice fellow (who assumed, incorrectly, that I wanted to spend time learning about their station as opposed to getting the job done and beginning the thirty-minute trek through construction-impeded traffic back to my school).

The Doctor is in.
What I was most impressed with was how unimpressive the place was. I had expected something more, I don't know, sparkly, I suppose. I mean, this was a big radio station. "The Spirit of Radio" and all that . . .

As we walked through the building to the studio I was to record in, my guide pointed out various locally famous personalities in sundry teensy rooms. And do you know what the rooms were? They were offices with sound equipment in them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Boy in the Banana Suit

Allow me to introduce myself: Chris Matarazzo, writer, drummer, philosopher, father, thinker, mender of fences (really, I fixed my fence once) and archaeologist of the human spirit. I am a master of English (because it says so on a piece of paper) and a vice-principal in charge of academics (because it says so on my office door).

Winslow Homer: "Snap the Whip"
I pay bills, play classical guitar and I have conversations with educational donors and deans of stuff for various important reasons. I read books -- lots of books. I have scads of them on shelves around my living room and when people ask me why I don't just borrow them from the library to leave room on the walls, I shake my head sadly, painfully aware of the decline of humankind.

I am grown, important chap who carries a briefcase and is forced to wear ties and uncomfortable, yet shiny, shoes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Four Kinds of Faith

The first kind: I believe in Santa because my parents do (or did). I hang the stockings, dutifully.

The second kind: I do not believe in Santa, but I really want presents, so I will pretend, in hopes that I will believe again, some day. I push away doubt, because doubt is the enemy of faith.

The third kind: If there is no Santa, then how come there are presents? Of course there is a Santa. I know it for sure every time I see a Christmas tree.

The fourth kind: I have heard the distant sleigh bells; I have felt the warm joy; I have seen the shadow of the sleigh on the snow on a moon-brightened night; I've heard his laughter in the winter wind. He's up there. He's got to be.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Worries of the Instant Hero

I was lucky to become an instant hero, nine years ago; and then, again, seven years ago. I became a hero the moment my boys were born.

You see, I was the best thing going, from the second they opened their eyes -- the strongest, smartest, funniest guy they had ever seen. Presto!

Then, after the first week or so, I became The Mysterious Adventurer who would step out into the dark of the morning -- into the mists of a world they had never seen -- and, then, who'd reappear at dinner time, smile and toss the lads into the air and snuggle with them and read them stories before putting them to bed. I'd sing a lullaby I'd written, just for them. I was the break in the daily routine; I was the goodnight kiss; I was the one who could help them defy gravity, effortlessly.

During my work day absence, their mom would deal with the crying fits and the day's majority of diapers and the naps and the mealtime struggles. She'd do all the hard stuff, then Daddy would whoosh through the door and prance about like a victorious knight come home to lead a merry parade of three around the living room.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Moments of Light for the Blind?

The day my wife, Karen, and I were married, everyone asked: "Do you feel different?" No, I didn't. She and I were married the day we fell in love, I always felt. My love for her, before and after the wedding day, until this day -- and, I'm sure, beyond it -- feels more profound than it did when we were all duded up and sweating under too much cloth in front of too many people who we wouldn't have invited if we had really had a choice. (By the way -- I'm not talking about the spiritual union; I'm talking about the trappings of the celebration and ceremony. The spiritual side has an importance beyond mere ceremony.)

My high school graduation? Didn't care in the least.

College gradation? Didn't go. Grad school? Got the diploma in the mail.

I was told by many wise people that I would regret not having attended these graduations. So far . . . um . . . nope.

Everyone, including me, always talks about living in the now. Maybe I do it too well -- that is, if having no real feeling of connection to ceremony is a fault. But it means little to me, especially ceremony that marks transitions. I simply tend not to care.

I can't make these occasions, with their canned speeches and their nearly scripted reactions and their homogenizing atmospheres, feel special.