Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I've been doing this for a year now, writing about my life in the terrarium, the people and books in here with me, the animal and plant life, the contours of the proximate earth, trying to catch glimpses every so often of the outside world, the one in which Little People make Big Mistakes, and Big People are forced to clean up after them. The Little People are politicians and bankers, CEOs and techno-savants, money-grubbing preachers and for-profit health care providers, airhead pundits and real estate developers, SUV drivers and bigots, shysters and ideologues. The Big People who have to clean up are the janitors and teachers, minimum-wage earners, truck drivers and farmers, retail clerks and nurses, orderlies and soldiers, brothers and sisters, fire rangers and garbagemen, broken-family children and the elderly, those with nothing, the homeless, the bums, the addicts, the lost. You know, the ones who get shat on by the Little People.

You can see how badly I believe in the holiness, the sacred truth, of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. It's a failing of mine, along with the capability to be upended by a beautiful poem, or a snatch of birdsong on a winter's day, to be unmanned by the deep fragrant bow of June's peony or mesmerized by the reflection of the fiery red sugar maples rimming the lake. I love the world of the senses. Shoot, it's the only world I know. Into its folds I thrust my snout to drink deeply of its scent.

Makes no difference if it's rhythm-and-blues or Chopin, I'll dance just the same, from my calloused toes to the split ends of my gray hair. Call me the high priest of low comedy, or the carny barker hawking La Giaconda outside the Louvre, that's what it feels like sometimes to be selling books in the terrarium, where even the turtles are more literate than most people. But I've still got a functioning body and I've still got the vestiges of a mind, and sometimes I'm even capable of working them together -- Geppetto and Pinocchio both. Which means I'm not giving up on the human race, or me in it.

Finally, thank goodness for friends. Without friends there is no life, period. The men and women who took my hand after I got laid off and held it and comforted me, who listened and spread the word. Who read this shite and offered encouragement. I say you can't celebrate friendship enough, especially when times are tough, when, no matter how self-sufficient you think you are, in your belly you are simply a mess of jangly nerves and self-doubt. This year I've experienced the joy of getting reacquainted with old friends who matter more now than they ever did, living quietly all those years in the dark recesses of the heart, now fully come to light again. Like a miraculous break in the clouds on a stormy day. And finding new friends, those who somehow responded to some essential human attribute in me -- shocking! -- without me even knowing it, until one day, over a drink perhaps, I realized with a start that life doesn't get any better than to be sitting and talking to another person without any agenda. Imagine that -- actually communicating with somebody, in person, quietly knitting the social fabric without which we're dead meat. Friends are angels -- there is not a trace of religious sentimentality in the word -- truly angels, looking out for me, and me too stupid, too obtuse, to see it at first.

So this anniversary note is for my friends, many of whom have appeared here in not-too-clever disguise, some of whom I can never repay, all of whom have granted me a new lease on life, simply by being. It's a neat trick, guys, and much appreciated. Now, when I say getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me, it's only partly bullshit, because it stung like an effin wound at first. But the ensuing friendships -- new and renewed -- really have made it all worthwhile. Certainly worth more than any corporate job I can think of.

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