Monthly Archives: July 2021

a memory

 

“Well,” his father said, “reckon I’ll hoist me a couple.”

They turned through the swinging doors into a blast of odor and sound. There was no music: only the density of bodies and of the smell of a market bar, of beer, whiskey and country bodies, salt and leather; no clamor, only the thick quietude of crumpled talk. Rufus stood looking at the light on a damp spittoon and he heard his father ask for whiskey, and knew he was looking up and down the bar for men he might know. But they seldom came from so far away as the Powell River Valley; and Rufus soon realized that his father had found, tonight, no one he knew. He looked up his father’s length and watched him bend backwards tossing one off in one jolt in a lordly manner, and a moment later heard him say to the man next him, “That’s my boy”; and felt a warmth of love. Next moment he felt his father’s hands under his armpits, and he was lifted, high, and seated on the bar, looking into a long row of huge bristling and bearded red faces. The eyes of the men nearest him were interested, and kind; some of them smiled; further away, the eyes were impersonal and questioning, but now even some of these began to smile. Somewhat timidly, but feeling assured that his father was proud of him and that he was liked, and liked these men, he smiled back; and suddenly many of the men laughed. He was disconcerted by their laughter and lost his smile a moment; then, realizing it was friendly, smiled again; and again they laughed. His father smiled at him. “That’s my boy,” he said warmly. “Six years old, and he can already read like I couldn’t read when I was twice his age.”

Rufus felt a sudden hollowness in his voice, and all along the bar, and in his own heart. But how does he fight, he thought. You don’t brag about smartness if your son is brave. He felt the anguish of shame, but his father did not seem to notice, except that as suddenly as he had lifted him up to the bar, he gently lifted him down again. “Reckon I’ll have another,” he said, and drank it more slowly; then, with a few good nights, they went out.

— James Agee, A Death in the Family

 

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I sent the following email to my brothers and my sister this afternoon:

to my siblings

I am in a favorite bar near Carnegie Hall. The waitresses are so nice to me.

A guy just walked in with a little kid under five. They are sitting in a booth right next to me.

It triggered a memory which made me feel very sentimental. I have not thought about it for years.

I wound up at a bar with Dad, probably in Cambridge, when I was around six or seven.

I sat on a barstool. Everyone — the bartender and everyone else — was so nice to me. They treated me like an honored guest.

The bartender gave me a bowl of potato chips …. how I enjoyed them!

I was bathed in warmth and kindness.

miss Dad terribly

ROGER

 

— posted  by Roger W. Smith

    July 31, 2021

 

Walden Pond, Concord, Mass., early 50’s. My father, me, and my two brothers. I am the furthest to the left.

why New York is one of the greatest (in my opinion, the greatest) cities in the world

 

The water has a lot to do with it. It is a city surrounded and bathed by water: the Hudson and East rivers, the Atlantic Ocean. New York Harbor is one of the largest and most beautiful natural harbors in the world.

All five boroughs have shorelines and ocean or river views.

Having river and ocean boundaries prevents urban sprawl. It makes the City, as big as it is, contained.

It is a city made for walking. Sidewalks are wide, and pedestrians are seen everywhere at all hours of the day. Cars do not dominate. Many streets are clogged with traffic, notably at the bridge and tunnel crossings and on cross streets in Manhattan. But, elsewhere traffic is relatively moderate. This is true on major thoroughfares such as Fifth and Park Avenues.

It has a world class transit system that runs 24 hours a day, every day.

It is a city seemingly devoid of nature, one where nature doesn’t matter, where a rain or snow storm is a nuisance. This is true. And yet, there are ample parks everywhere; and some of them are magnificent. No other city has a park to match Central Park.

It is a city of neighborhoods: the Lower East Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Soho, Inwood, Astoria, Ridgewood, Williamsburg, Park Slope.

The admixture of races and ethnicities (in a polyglot city), the visibility and importance of the immigrant population, the concentration of people of varying educational and income levels who have many opportunities to interact continually is notable.

Show me a city that has richer cultural offerings. Take music. Several major concert halls (not just one, as is the case in most American cities), and this doesn’t count concert venues in museums, churches, etc.  Splendid concerts almost daily by the best musicians.

And art museums and galleries — I can’t keep track of them.

 

— posted by Roger W Smith

   July 2021

Walt Whitman; eyewitness to Lincoln’s second inaugural

 

Walt Whitman -NY Times 3-12-1865 pg 5

 

The attached is a PDF of an article by Walt Whitman in The New York Times of April 12, 1865.

Note the hints (foreshadowings) of Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” “The Western Star, in the earlier hours of the evening, has never been so large, so clear; it seems as if it told something, as if it held rapport indulgent with humanity, with us Americans.”

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   July 2021

a witness at the Nurernberg trials

 

Bunky Morrison letter 2-17-1946

Posted here is a letter to my father Alan W. Smith (“Smitty”)  and my mother, Elinor Handy Smith, from my father’s good friend “Bunky” Morrison, dated February 17, 1946.

My father served in the U.S. Army from April 1942 until January 1946 with the rank of First Lieutenant. Both my father and his friend Bunky (who was from Boston) lived in Massachusetts. My father served in Panama.

Also posted here below is a photo of my father with his Army buddies taken in New York City in September 1942. Bunky Morrison is the furthest to the right; to his left is my father.

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   June 2021

 

Photo taken in New York City, September 1942. “Bunky” Morrison to far right. Alan W. Smith on his left.