Our Way: a Letter

Sometimes I wish I’d taken Ancient Greek at the university, but that might have been over the top. As it was, I got to take Aristotle in the philosophy department with a good old Jewish professor. One of my favorite terms in school was winter 1989. I was 22 years old and taking, besides Aristotle, Literature of the Renaissance and a psychology survey course. The English class was great, although I skipped a lot of the reading assignments. We studied Sir Philip Sidney, and I still want to sit down with The Old Arcadia and absorb the whole thing. I wrote papers on Thomas More’s Utopia and Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. Also we read John Lyly and Mary Wroth, and of course Shakespeare’s sonnet series.

The same winter we had a great dumping of snow in Eugene, but classes still were not canceled. My dad and I rode the bus up to the Campus on a day or two (he was the fiscal officer of the psychology department for twenty years) and on a Friday morning I remember being on the bus with other students. One of them was a music major girl who was busy sight reading a composition from a book. Her name was Dunia, and she’d been the girlfriend of a drummer I’d known. She didn’t recognize me. The afternoon of that day Dad and I waited at the bus stop a long time. My writing assignment was due Monday, on Thomas More, so I was rather preoccupied. On the bus again, we picked up two guys I remembered from grade school, Ron and David. They’d been playing in the snow together and asked each other if they were cold. I felt awkward because David probably knew me, but we said nothing. My education had divided us into different social classes, and even though we went to the same high school, I’d never seen them around. It happened with my nephews as well: we attended North Eugene together, but due to the differences in our coursework, our paths never crossed. I loosely belonged to the academic elite that took AP classes and tended to disregard those in a lower stratum of the school.

Thinking about that now, it was an awful circumstance to undergo for all of us. My nephews really resented me, and our families divided even more deeply as it was clear that I would go to college while they were stuck with manual labor. There’s a lesson in here somewhere, perhaps an epiphany for me: pride leads to a fall. And yet the school system is set up that way. I remember the insane amount of pressure that was applied to us students who supposedly had a promising future. I also recall a few students who objected to the whole situation, renouncing the opportunity to take AP English, and then sort of coasting out the year with less stress, but retaining their humanity and their sanity. And for that reason, I have to respect their decision. After all, look at what happened to me under all that pressure and stress. Was it really worth it even to graduate from college? And what is the quality that gives people dignity when all is said and done? Maybe with Sinatra we can sing that we did it our way.

President; a Poem

President

The lunacy presides in through my window

The full and pregnant orb of off white chalk

Is governor of all the gore we know

The fiery protests blazing in the dark

Such madness questing for equality

Or is the madness really crazy? Mark

Another definition of the moon:

Cool calculation, reason that reflects

True sunlight. And some cultures have the phrase,

“As beautiful as the moon.” Which view is right

Is likely both, depending on your sight

Power

No likes on the strophe about Ron yet. People really don’t like queers. It hits me as so sad, and further I feel so powerless to change public opinion. If one person could do it and that person was me, then hell yes I would. If only my words had such magic power! “What kind of difference can one person make? Cut to the chase…” “If I could wave my magic wand, I’d make everything all right…” “I’m young, I’m wild, and I’m free, I get the magic power of the music from me…” and so on. Just what if one person’s words started a whole new movement, as the writings of Jean Jacques Rousseau grandfathered the Romantic Period before the nineteenth century? What then? Who would be the wiser or the more foolish? “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts…” “We were just bubbling up from the slime…” “Deep inside the day’s controlling you and me…” I could argue either way, ie change is imposed from the top down or from the bottom up. Perhaps poets are not the unacknowledged legislators of the world? Which way does the wind blow…?

Memories of 2006

Six thirty 🕡. Hearing the old Lover Boy song about the weekend. Everybody’s working for it. I remember that lifestyle. The only freedom happened two days out of the week. Such a nightmare. It might’ve been different had I cared about making glasses 👓 for people on Medicaid. But I had no personal interest in the business. I believed in the cause that Optical supported, ie psychiatric rehabilitation, and I donated out of my paychecks each period. Still it was too hard to keep my focus on the greater good the while I had to drudge every weekday with the same street people I had nothing else in common with. Ron’s brain was the most disorganized thing I ever saw. His politics was an inconsistent stew of conservatism and gay culture, always discordant with itself. It hurt to have to work with him, and the only item we shared was alcohol addiction. In March or April of 06, when I walked in the door each day he was tuned in to Doctor Laura on the radio 📻. I asked him many times why he listened to that trash with his sexual orientation. He said it was something to get his blood boiling. But I could tell he was confused about which way to jump. Poor Ron lacked the ability to think logically, to discriminate what was important in an argument and draw a conclusion. He hadn’t the insight to pierce the details and pick up just what was being said. And this guy was my supervisor! I must’ve had too much caffeine, for these memories are painful. But I kept trying to help him choose what would benefit himself when it came time to vote 🗳. He was adamantly opposed to gay marriage, which I could never understand, because he was gay and being married to his partner would entitle him to the same protections as straight couples who were married. Ron was just beyond help. Over the years I came to care about this guy in spite of myself. But I also wanted to get away from him. I haven’t thought about him much since getting sober. Not in-depth. I remember hearing the old Beatles song in my head when I first learned that Ron was gay. I felt compassion for him that fall of 05. I was jobless then and looking for work with Alice’s help. Nothing was panning out. So when on Valentine’s Day of 06 Ron offered me day labor for him I took it. In only another month or two I was rehired in my old job as document scanner.