Other lives

Yesterday I did not write of the houses along and off of East Fond du Lac Street in Ripon. I did not know how to speak of them. In the grey morning these blue collar houses glowed. They glowed and hummed and vibrated. They glowed and hummed with stories wanting to be known, waiting to be told. The ordinary world is full of extraordinary stories, if we’d take the time to see them, to listen to them, to record them. I could see them shimmering there, just on the edge of my vision, just at the edge of consciousness. I think I must start to find these stories.

The Middlewesterner


Has anyone sung how rich and fine and satisfying a good obituary is? Especially the obituary of a long, long public life that so bestrode the century as to seem a metaphor for it? We’ve had three such, quickly: Marlon Brando, Philip Johnson, and now [Arthur] Miller. Figures who broke into prominence in their 30s, then rode the bronco/elephant/bitch of fame across the decades until they wound down, as gracefully as possible, and were finally still.

Creature of the Shade


This old gal’s mouth gets my attention even before she says a word, though, because of the large quantity of azalea-colored lipstick she’s wearing–expertly applied with a brush, very Arlene Dahl. She’s a bit bent and feeble-looking, and her grey hair’s a mess, but she still exudes . . . what is it? . . . ah, I know! It’s glamour. Even all rickety, she’s glamourous.

She dumps a pile of returns on the counter, cocks an eyebrow right at me, and croaks, “Ya got anything good, Honey? I’m desperate.”

Write Out Loud


He’s determined to hang onto the idea that he lives in a community, and that we all matter to each other.

I tried to tell him once that this is crazy. I told him, “Hell, you ain’t Jesus, preacher!” and I think he kind of heard me back then, but he keeps forgetting and trying to be Jesus again. There is a kind of wonderful but sad sickness in the hearts of many ministers. They try to let everyone matter to them. They let people inside their hearts, down on the inside where they feel things. They can’t do this, of course. Things have a way of unraveling and falling apart when you try to be all things to all people.

Real Live Preacher


The difference between the truths we extrapolate from the coyote’s fall is precisely the difference between Warren and me. Examine the competing laws, stated succinctly here.

My Law: The coyote won’t fall until he looks down.

Warren’s Law: The coyote won’t fall unless he looks down.

Get the distinction? I understand that the gag works because the coyote will fall. Warren, on the other hand, sees the possibilities.

Slow Reads (Feb. 12)


Her eyes were green, flecked with bits of apricot yellow, and I loved her most, maybe, when she gathered herself up in indignation, like a wave about to crest, an eloquent rush of wry humor about to come foaming down. Her wit would disarm her own indignation, and she would finish in delight. Then she would lock her gaze with mine — in my memory she is always moving suddenly from beside me to place herself squarely in front of me, and staring right into my eyes — and then she would seize my neck and kiss me.

I hope she has a happy Valentine’s day, wherever she is.



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