Pound it out

January 9, 2021 § 12 Comments

A little sunrise poetry

Last night I finished memorizing “The Cook’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer. It is the final poem in a set known as “Fragment I” of the Canterbury Tales, written in Middle English in the late 1300s. I’ve now memorized all five poems in Fragment I, a total of 4,424 lines, or about 39,816 words.

I do it because I like it. Every day I try to memorize ten new lines, though with skipped days and etcetera it actually comes out to about six lines a day over not-quite-two-years. My dream is that if the covids ever pack up and leave town and the world’s travel borders open, I will go to England, walk from the site of the Tabard Inn in Southwark to Canterbury, and recite the Canterbury Tales along the way. Maybe even do it by bike …

Memorization is hard but it is simple and fun once you have the thing pounded in. It may not make even the tiniest sliver in this pie chart of how Americans spend their leisure time, but so what? In a country where the overwhelming leisure activity is watching TV, you simply can’t expect Middle English poetry recitation to get much, uh, traction.

I look around and see a lot of people doing things that they don’t really appear to enjoy doing. Cyclists with Extreme Serious Face. Runners who look like they are dragging a log tied to a boulder attached to a sunken ship. Golfers with worry lines deeper than the Marianas Trench. Weekend gardeners who take weeds personally. And of course the bored visages of people staring at their phones.

Guess what? There’s nothing on your phone, and punching the little icons won’t change that.

One of the hardest things about a thing is admitting that you like it and not worrying about whether anyone else cares or thinks it’s weird. In fact, the weirder it seems to you, the more certainly there’s a group of people somewhere who like exactly the same thing.

I’m still looking for a Chaucer Middle English poetry recitation group. Will let you know when I find it.

In them meantime, here is a video of my poetry recitation so that you can see what you’re missing. The entire thing takes 6-7 hours depending on the speed, so I’m just posting a little snippet recitation of the General Prologue and part one of the Knight’s Tale, until the video memory runs out. I’m pretty nervous on camera and there are many glitches and fumbles … oh, well!

If you want to follow along you can visit this online transcription of the Canterbury Tales at the Harvard Chaucer web site.

General Prologue video
General Prologue continued video
General Prologue final and The Knight’s Tale Part I video
The Knight’s Tale Part I continued video

END

“In which he al the noble citee seigh”

Desperado

November 11, 2020 § 7 Comments

A friend sent me this amazing aphorism after I told him that my life plan was, over the next five years, to exit the practice of law and become an itinerant bicycle minstrel of medieval Chaucerian poetry who supports himself through blogging.

I don’t think that would make it as a corporate mission statement.

If you think it sounds ridiculous to read, imagine how ridiculous it feels to be the one saying it. And then imagine the chills you get when someone shoots you a quick aphorism from a giant like Bukowski to remind you that the magic is in the crazy, or, put better, in the fear.

The desperation.

I’ve written it elsewhere, but the great criminal defense lawyer Michael TIgar used to say this to his 1L students: “A trial lawyer is a giant mountain of ego teetering, terrified, at the edge of the bottomless chasm of failure.”

I had occasion to talk about this today with Tahverlee Anglen, who does a monthly podcast called “Bike Talk” for Warmshowers.org. The idea of a practicing LA lawyer pulling up stakes to live life on his bike was one that she wanted to find out more about, so I obliged.

In short, a lot of what we do in life is driven by axes of fear. In my own case, one axis was rooted in childhood, another axis was rooted in family problems, and a third was the axis of making it, of being successful, of fitting into the mold of a winner. With some hard reflection it appeared that each axis had led to trouble and hardship, for me and for those around me. Whether it was too much alcohol, a propensity for conflict and dispute, or plain old irascibility, my conclusion was that those fears were the source of my troubles and that they needed to be eliminated.

What I found when I started living life on my bike was something very different from what I had imagined. Instead of being free of fear, I had instead replaced one set of fears for the daily desperations of “Where will I stay? What will I eat? How will I endure the day’s hardship?”

Unlike the socially constructed fears of “Am I making enough money? Am I acceptable to those around me? Is my life a success?”, the daily desperations of food, shelter, and endurance were easy to understand and tackle. And even though each day the same desperations cropped up, I found that I, like all humans, was perfectly evolved to handle those three stresses, so different from the psychosocial pressures of status, job, social media, news media, and of course the car stresses of commuting from place to place in a vast metroplex like Los Angeles.

I also found this: Desperation works.

It makes you think and act in ways you never, ever could from the comfort of your home, your couch, your SUV, your bed. When your back is a few steps from the chasm, you push harder, you struggle more violently, you call on deeper resources than you ever can when the street you live on is named Easy. And for me, having to declare something as absurdist as “Watch me bike and blog and recite poetry all the way to my grave” is about as desperate as it gets.

This is a contrast to a guy I know who is an extraordinary artist. He has all of the magic in his elixir except the desperation. He lives on his parents’ estate overlooking the ocean, he doesn’t have any pressure to do anything at all, let alone paint, and the sum total of his artistic life at age sixty-something is a smattering of mediocrities–this from a person who could by now have created a towering, endlessly erupting volcano of life-and-mind altering art.

The things he could have done if only he’d had to do them.

My hero is Geoffrey Chaucer. In middle age, in the Middle Ages, he woke up with nothing. No job, no home, no family to speak of, and no security. He didn’t even have the possibility of a literary career, because those hadn’t been invented yet, not to mention the little things like literary agents, publishing houses and, oh yeah, the printing press.

From that rubble he wrote something that was known only to a few in his lifetime, but that, within a century or two, earned him the sobriquet “Founder of English Letters.”

My goal is hardly that grandiose. The English Letters have been found. The Great American Novel has been written–everything since The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a postscript. But even with goals as modest of mine, there’s solace and inspiration in looking at other people who faced desperation and used it to create things that gave meaning and pleasure to others.

The moral? Don’t think the magic will strike you on the couch.

In a few days I’m undocking and heading east. It’s 2,000 miles to Houston and more of the same back to LA. I got ready to plan out my trip yesterday but after half an hour looking at maps and reading on the Internet I gave up. Who the fuck knows where I’ll be at the end of any given day? Who wants to chart a course with timelines, deadlines, safe houses, refuge, hotel reservations, and the security of THE PLAN?

Not me.

I’m too desperate for that.

END

My first dollar

November 3, 2020 § 5 Comments

It isn’t as easy as it sounds, transitioning from a full-time lawyer to a full-time itinerant bicycling minstrel of medieval Chaucerian poetry.

Most people are like, “Dude, nothing to it. What’s taking you so long?”

I don’t know, but I think a five-year timeframe is reasonable, as I’m only about 4,000 lines into the Canterbury Tales out of more than 17,000.

Plus I have a lot more comments to respond to about whether a heavy bike is faster than a lighter one.

Any way, if you’re going to be a minstrel of medieval Chaucerian poetry there is no time like the present to start, and the present was actually in the past, several months ago, but I had taken a hiatus because of life.

Today seemed like a great day to go down to the Redondo Pier, put up my Chaucer banner designed by master artist Greg Leibert, and get into the practice of doing it every day. The total Canterbury Tales are over 17,000 lines long, and it’s taken me 22 months to learn 4,000 lines, so if I wait until I know the whole thing I’ll have been dead for five or six years when I’m ready.

It was sunny and the Pier was deserted except for a homeless lady. Kristie came with me. She is a former figure skater and has these fancy inline skates that allow you, by which I mean her, to replicate a lot of the moves you can do on ice, especially falling.

She began dancing around in skate circles.

I got going on the General Prologue, but after about half an hour my voice started to get rough. It is windy out there and dry, and even speaking very quietly it is hard on an old man’s voice. The last time I did this I couldn’t speak for a week, so it ran through my mind IF ONLY THERE EXISTED PORTABLE SPEAKERS WITH A HEADSET THAT WOULD ALLOW ME TO BROADCAST USING THE MIRACLE OF ELECTRICITY.

I didn’t want to burn through my whole pack of vocal cords, and since it was just practice I figured I’d pack it in.

The homeless girl came up. “Hi, I’m Megan,” she said. “That was great!”

But she wasn’t talking to me. She was talking to Kristie. Why would anyone prefer a graceful, lithe, pretty person doing acrobatic skating to an old man with a scraggly beard mumbling a dead language?

Weird.

Megan handed Kristie a dollar, and Kristie handed it to me.

For a split second I thought about handing it back, but then I understood, and I pocketed it. “Thanks!” I said. “That’s the first dollar anyone’s ever given us.”

“I figured,” she said, smiling. “I’m glad it was me.”

Hope it’s not the last.

END

At Trumpingtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge

November 1, 2020 § 3 Comments

Trumpingtoun.

Trumpington.

This village was the site for one of Chaucer’s bawdiest stories, The Reeve’s Tale. In sum, two students revenge themselves on a thieving miller by screwing his daughter and his wife, and by beating him senseless.

Trumpington.

Why Trumpington?

Well …

Chaucer wanted to make the miller the butt of the joke. And so he carefully set up the story so that the reader would understand what a loathsome person the miller of Trumpington was.

The name “Trumpington,” likely of Germanic origin was almost certainly a Chaucerian pun on the French word “tromper,” to trick or deceive, “a town of scoundrels.” The biggest lout in Trumpington was the miller.

The miller was a crook. “A thief he was, in truth, of corn and meal, and also sly, and accustomed for to steal.”

His name? “deynous Symkyn,” with “deynous” meaning “proud, haughty, spiteful.”

He was ugly, too. “Round was his face, and flattened was his nose.”

He was a bully, a “market beater” who’d pick a fight with anyone, anywhere, over any imagined slight. “He was a market-beater in every way.”

People feared him because he went about armed to the teeth. “And by his side he bore a long sword with a razor’s blade.”

He was jealous and dangerous. “For jealous folk been perilous evermore.”

Or maybe he was just a poser? “At least they wish that their wives would think so.”

He was vain and dressed outlandishly. “And Symkin had pants of the same [scarlet red color of his wife’s gown.]”

He was obsessed with a woman’s virginity. “He wanted no wife, as he said, but she was well fed and a maid [virgin].”

He saw his wife and family as a tool to further his financial and family goals. He sought marriage with a high-placed woman “to protect his estate of yeomanry.”

He took advantage of other people’s misfortune. When he learned that the person at the college (Cambridge) responsible for checking on the accuracy of his milling was sick, he stole “a hundred times more than before.”

How much of a thief was he? “He stole outrageously.”

He was a liar. “He blustered (when accused of stealing) and swore it was not so.”

He was a schemer. When the students came to grind their grain and check on its accuracy, he sneaked off and untied their horse so it would run away, diverting them from their charge. “He stripped off the bridle right anon, and when the horse was loose then was it gone.”

He was a faker and posturer, slyly returning from his misdeeds and pretending nothing had happened. “The miller came again, no word he said, but did his work and with the students played.”

He conspired with others to further his evil schemes. Once the students ran off to find their horse, he stole their grain and had his wife make it into a cake for his own use. “He half a bushel of their flour did take, and told his wife to knead it to a cake.”

At the end, though, the miller got a severe beating from one of the clerks and from his wife, who mistakenly beat him in the head with a pole as he scuffled on the floor in the dark.

At the end, the miller was defeated by his most loyal supporters. His wife cracked his skull and his daughter, in love with the student, showed him where the cake made from the stolen grain was hidden.

At the end, the students, who had been cheated, though they took a bit of a beating themselves, learned their lesson and turned the tables on this conniving, thieving, ill-mannered, haughty and dangerous sonofabitch.

Did Chaucer see into the future? I don’t know. Happy election day tomorrow, and don’t forget to vote!

END

Making Medieval England Great Again

Fear of poetry

July 7, 2020 § 6 Comments

If you want to scare people, tell them that you would like to recite a poem. It’s worse than telling them you’d like to sing them a song, or telling them you’d like to show them an album of your drawings.

Offering up something artistic or performancey uninvited is like an unattractive stranger saying “Hey, I’d like to take off my clothes and show you some stuff.” It’s almost criminal.

How did it get to be this way?

After (maybe) music, poems are the oldest form of art. In English, prose literature didn’t even come into being until, arguably, 1719, with the publication of Robinson Crusoe. Before that, the person who wrote about life and love was the poet.

Nowadays, of course, poets are strangely unfavorable people, never invited to the great feasts to recount an epic of love or war, never first (or even last) at the betrothal to speak a few stanzas from memory, rather they are oddball sorts somehow chained to an outdated thing called “poetry” that few understand, few read, fewer write, and fewest of all recite.

Yet poetry somehow soldiers on, clutching at the hearts and minds of people when they least expect it, like the time in a coffeeshop in Ventura when a cycling buddy recited a poem of Lord Byron’s that he’d learned by heart in high school. He claimed that he had learned it to “impress the girls,” but since I wasn’t a girl and since the days of being single were for him decades in the past, I was unconvinced, particularly as I listened to the cadence, inflection, and feeling with which he spoke.

In my own case, as I slowly close in on being able to recite the first 3,800 lines from the Canterbury Tales, it occurs to me that only two people have ever actually asked me to recite any of it. One is a friend; the other was a stranger who invited a recitation but made sure I knew that “just a minute or so” would be enough.

As Manslaughter put it, “Really looking forward to hearing something I can’t understand.” Which is a good point.

On the other hand, with poetry you don’t really know what you’re going to understand until you hear it. The things you might think are opaque can be brilliantly clear. The things you might think you know might be swirling, dark enigmas. This is in fact all, in my opinion, that poetry really is: Putting the best words to the right feelings.

In this way, all cyclists are more or less poets because bicycling is putting the best actions to the right feelings. Whether you’re stomping out your aggression, lazily wending a happy and carefree way, thoughtfully threading a cross-country course, or necessarily pedaling to the grocery store to quell a hunger, cycling has always been described as poetry in motion, not because the motion is always graceful, but because the motion always seeks to match itself to the way you feel.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to listen to my recitation the next time we cross paths on the bike simply because I’m a poet and you’re a poet. Unless, of course, you have five hours or so to spare …

END


Fear of poetry

July 7, 2020 § 6 Comments

If you want to scare people, tell them that you would like to recite a poem. It’s worse than telling them you’d like to sing them a song, or telling them you’d like to show them an album of your drawings.

Offering up something artistic or performancey uninvited is like an unattractive stranger saying “Hey, I’d like to take off my clothes and show you some stuff.” It’s almost criminal.

How did it get to be this way?

After (maybe) music, poems are the oldest form of art. In English, prose literature didn’t even come into being until, arguably, 1719, with the publication of Robinson Crusoe. Before that, the person who wrote about life and love was the poet.

Nowadays, of course, poets are strangely unfavorable people, never invited to the great feasts to recount an epic of love or war, never first (or even last) at the betrothal to speak a few stanzas from memory, rather they are oddball sorts somehow chained to an outdated thing called “poetry” that few understand, few read, fewer write, and fewest of all recite.

Yet poetry somehow soldiers on, clutching at the hearts and minds of people when they least expect it, like the time in a coffeeshop in Ventura when a cycling buddy recited a poem of Lord Byron’s that he’d learned by heart in high school. He claimed that he had learned it to “impress the girls,” but since I wasn’t a girl and since the days of being single were for him decades in the past, I was unconvinced, particularly as I listened to the cadence, inflection, and feeling with which he spoke.

In my own case, as I slowly close in on being able to recite the first 3,800 lines from the Canterbury Tales, it occurs to me that only two people have ever actually asked me to recite any of it. One is a friend; the other was a stranger who invited a recitation but made sure I knew that “just a minute or so” would be enough.

As Manslaughter put it, “Really looking forward to hearing something I can’t understand.” Which is a good point.

On the other hand, with poetry you don’t really know what you’re going to understand until you hear it. The things you might think are opaque can be brilliantly clear. The things you might think you know might be swirling, dark enigmas. This is in fact all, in my opinion, that poetry really is: Putting the best words to the right feelings.

In this way, all cyclists are more or less poets because bicycling is putting the best actions to the right feelings. Whether you’re stomping out your aggression, lazily wending a happy and carefree way, thoughtfully threading a cross-country course, or necessarily pedaling to the grocery store to quell a hunger, cycling has always been described as poetry in motion, not because the motion is always graceful, but because the motion always seeks to match itself to the way you feel.

But don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to listen to my recitation the next time we cross paths on the bike simply because I’m a poet and you’re a poet. Unless, of course, you have five hours or so to spare …

END


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One Chaucer at a time, or A Tale of Two Cities

June 15, 2020 § 7 Comments

On Saturday I rode down to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to do a Chaucer recitation. This would have been my first one since the covids closed everything down.

Pedaling through the city was surreal. It was a sunny, beautiful, cool summer afternoon and the place was empty. When I got to the Promenade, around 11:00, it was whatever is emptier than empty. I’m not kidding.

There were maybe a dozen people in three blocks. A lone guy was setting up his guitar and amp. “Are they still allowing street performances?” I asked.

“Who the fuck cares?” he snarled.

“Just curious,” I said.

“If they don’t like it they can tell me to leave or throw me in jail and confiscate my shit. Fuck ’em.”

I nodded. There were great swaths of that sentiment I shared. Still, today seemed like much too pretty a day to spend behind bars, so I sauntered along, looking at the boarded up stores. “Property and things,” I told myself. “That’s what makes America go ’round.”

I passed four old men in lawn chairs under a tree. “Wonder what they’re doing?” Then I thought about the old men who used to sit at Pearson’s Rexall Drug Store in Daingerfield when I was a boy. They sat there every morning from 7-8, drank coffee, caught up on all the gossip from the day before, then went home and shared it with their wives, who then broadcast it all over town via telephone.

One thing about four old men sitting under a tree, if I knew anything about old men, is they wouldn’t mind talking to someone new. So I turned around and walked over. “What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“We’re sitting here talking,” the oldest guy said. “Are you one of us?”

“Not yet but I’m working on it.” I had taken off my sunglasses, which are prescription, so I couldn’t see anything except talking blobs.

“No time like the present,” said the nearest guy. “Here,” he said, offering me a big blue book. “Take it. It’s yours.”

“No, thanks,” I said, and tried to refuse the proffered bible politely. I wasn’t going to become Christian on such a pretty day. It was awkward, though. Then the oldest guy started talking and I put my glasses back on. That’s when my eyes focused and I saw that they all had the same big blue book, and it wasn’t the St. James Bible, but rather AA’s Big Blue Book.

“Oh, hell yes,” I said. “I’m for sure one of you.” They all smiled big again and asked me for my story, like that part in Alice’s Restaurant where Arlo tells his fellow jailmates that he was arrested for littering, and they all moved away, and then he adds “and making a general nuisance,” and they all moved back again. I told them a few bits and pieces and then we chatted about other stuff.

“What you got in the backpack?” A big rolled poster was sticking out.

“Something no one here’s ever seen before.”

“Show us, then!” They were excited now. Old guys have seen everything, and the best thing about being told you’ve never seen something before is that you either get to say, “Oh, hell, I’ve got two of those in the garage,” or you get to say, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

I took it out and unrolled my giant Chaucer Recitation in Middle English vinyl banner. It was my turn to be surprised. They all knew who Chaucer was and were excited, genuinely excited, about my vanity project. “How much of it can you recite?” the guy nearest me asked.

“Right now I’m up to about 3,200 lines. Takes about five or six hours.”

“Oh gosh,” he said. “Let’s hear it. But not all six hours, if you please.”

“Yeah,” another guy said. “We could probably do with just a minute or so.”

I let loose. What with the Promenade being empty, the boarded up storefronts created a kind of sound tunnel, and the words boomed pretty big. The handful of people on the Promenade stopped to listen, which tells you how empty and devoid of anything to see the place really was. Anytime Chaucer wins out over the Apple Store, something is wrong in paradise.

They invited me to one of their meetings before we parted, and I said I might come, although that type of fellowship has never exactly been my thing. Trying can’t hurt, I guess.

The next day I rode down to the pier at Redondo Beach, and let’s just say it was … different.

The covids were every bit as active in RB as in SaMo, but the people in Redondo weren’t scared of no covids. The beaches were thronged and the pier was packed. “People are so over the covids,” a friend had said.

I wondered what he meant. How do you get over a covid unless you get sick from it and recover? I think he meant that people have priced in the risk of getting bitten by a covid (high), the risk of getting sick from the covid bite (moderate), and then the risk of having them write “Murdered by the Covids” on your death certificate–low.

They then compare that combined risk, which they get by listening to Fox News, and compare it with the risk of going stark raving mad at having to stay home without football. That risk? Very close to 100%. So they do the logical thing, which is go to the Redondo Pier, eat junk food and get drunk. People are a lot of things, but they are not irrational.

I parked my bike on the pier, cleared out a little space, and belted out the first part of the General Prologue, up to the end of the Franklin’s introduction. Took about 40 minutes. I had to quit because my voice was giving out. Turns out that speaking at top volume for that long is, um, hard. But what was amazing is how many people stopped to listen. Of course people will stop to look at a car wreck too, and I must admit that there were a few, ah, shall we say, distractions that helped them focus on something other than the unintelligible Middle English gibberish, but even so, Chaucer would have been pleased to see that people in the 21st Century were appreciating his poetry in their own way, washed down as it was with deep-fried rat tails and beer.

I got home and started reading about voice care. The first thing I learned is that although the leg bone is connected to the shin bone, mostly none of it is connected to the larynx. Maybe that’s why the covids haven’t gotten to it yet. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

END


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One Chaucer at a time, or A Tale of Two Cities

June 15, 2020 § 7 Comments

On Saturday I rode down to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to do a Chaucer recitation. This would have been my first one since the covids closed everything down.

Pedaling through the city was surreal. It was a sunny, beautiful, cool summer afternoon and the place was empty. When I got to the Promenade, around 11:00, it was whatever is emptier than empty. I’m not kidding.

There were maybe a dozen people in three blocks. A lone guy was setting up his guitar and amp. “Are they still allowing street performances?” I asked.

“Who the fuck cares?” he snarled.

“Just curious,” I said.

“If they don’t like it they can tell me to leave or throw me in jail and confiscate my shit. Fuck ’em.”

I nodded. There were great swaths of that sentiment I shared. Still, today seemed like much too pretty a day to spend behind bars, so I sauntered along, looking at the boarded up stores. “Property and things,” I told myself. “That’s what makes America go ’round.”

I passed four old men in lawn chairs under a tree. “Wonder what they’re doing?” Then I thought about the old men who used to sit at Pearson’s Rexall Drug Store in Daingerfield when I was a boy. They sat there every morning from 7-8, drank coffee, caught up on all the gossip from the day before, then went home and shared it with their wives, who then broadcast it all over town via telephone.

One thing about four old men sitting under a tree, if I knew anything about old men, is they wouldn’t mind talking to someone new. So I turned around and walked over. “What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“We’re sitting here talking,” the oldest guy said. “Are you one of us?”

“Not yet but I’m working on it.” I had taken off my sunglasses, which are prescription, so I couldn’t see anything except talking blobs.

“No time like the present,” said the nearest guy. “Here,” he said, offering me a big blue book. “Take it. It’s yours.”

“No, thanks,” I said, and tried to refuse the proffered bible politely. I wasn’t going to become Christian on such a pretty day. It was awkward, though. Then the oldest guy started talking and I put my glasses back on. That’s when my eyes focused and I saw that they all had the same big blue book, and it wasn’t the St. James Bible, but rather AA’s Big Blue Book.

“Oh, hell yes,” I said. “I’m for sure one of you.” They all smiled big again and asked me for my story, like that part in Alice’s Restaurant where Arlo tells his fellow jailmates that he was arrested for littering, and they all moved away, and then he adds “and making a general nuisance,” and they all moved back again. I told them a few bits and pieces and then we chatted about other stuff.

“What you got in the backpack?” A big rolled poster was sticking out.

“Something no one here’s ever seen before.”

“Show us, then!” They were excited now. Old guys have seen everything, and the best thing about being told you’ve never seen something before is that you either get to say, “Oh, hell, I’ve got two of those in the garage,” or you get to say, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

I took it out and unrolled my giant Chaucer Recitation in Middle English vinyl banner. It was my turn to be surprised. They all knew who Chaucer was and were excited, genuinely excited, about my vanity project. “How much of it can you recite?” the guy nearest me asked.

“Right now I’m up to about 3,200 lines. Takes about five or six hours.”

“Oh gosh,” he said. “Let’s hear it. But not all six hours, if you please.”

“Yeah,” another guy said. “We could probably do with just a minute or so.”

I let loose. What with the Promenade being empty, the boarded up storefronts created a kind of sound tunnel, and the words boomed pretty big. The handful of people on the Promenade stopped to listen, which tells you how empty and devoid of anything to see the place really was. Anytime Chaucer wins out over the Apple Store, something is wrong in paradise.

They invited me to one of their meetings before we parted, and I said I might come, although that type of fellowship has never exactly been my thing. Trying can’t hurt, I guess.

The next day I rode down to the pier at Redondo Beach, and let’s just say it was … different.

The covids were every bit as active in RB as in SaMo, but the people in Redondo weren’t scared of no covids. The beaches were thronged and the pier was packed. “People are so over the covids,” a friend had said.

I wondered what he meant. How do you get over a covid unless you get sick from it and recover? I think he meant that people have priced in the risk of getting bitten by a covid (high), the risk of getting sick from the covid bite (moderate), and then the risk of having them write “Murdered by the Covids” on your death certificate–low.

They then compare that combined risk, which they get by listening to Fox News, and compare it with the risk of going stark raving mad at having to stay home without football. That risk? Very close to 100%. So they do the logical thing, which is go to the Redondo Pier, eat junk food and get drunk. People are a lot of things, but they are not irrational.

I parked my bike on the pier, cleared out a little space, and belted out the first part of the General Prologue, up to the end of the Franklin’s introduction. Took about 40 minutes. I had to quit because my voice was giving out. Turns out that speaking at top volume for that long is, um, hard. But what was amazing is how many people stopped to listen. Of course people will stop to look at a car wreck too, and I must admit that there were a few, ah, shall we say, distractions that helped them focus on something other than the unintelligible Middle English gibberish, but even so, Chaucer would have been pleased to see that people in the 21st Century were appreciating his poetry in their own way, washed down as it was with deep-fried rat tails and beer.

I got home and started reading about voice care. The first thing I learned is that although the leg bone is connected to the shin bone, mostly none of it is connected to the larynx. Maybe that’s why the covids haven’t gotten to it yet. That’s what I’m hoping, anyway.

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Vanity project

March 7, 2020 § 17 Comments

When I got the invoice, Greg said, “It’s a bit pricey for a vanity project.”

Actually, it wasn’t. It was the bargain of the century. Greg Leibert had designed from scratch, then hand-drawn, then created with his own calligraphy, then integrated my text with his own artwork to make this amazingly wonderful brochure:

Of course the words lingered, “Vanity project.” Ouch! And it reminded of a dig that Patrick Brady once sent my way, “Sadder than a self-published book.” This was shortly after I’d … self-published a book.

But then I thought about it a bit, and this piece of wisdom from the Book of Ecclesiastes popped into my head: “All is vanity.”

If you think about it, the rest of the passage sums up, well, everything:

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

King James Version

In other words, life is a vanity project, so I suppose the questions are 1) Is it meaningful to you? 2) Does it harm anyone?

If the answers are “Yes” and “No,” I figure you’re good, and if the artwork is great and the price is right, well, so much the better.

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