flight from the cities

 

 

Please see my new post

 

 

“flight from the cities”

 

on my Sorokin site at

 

 

flight from the cities

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

the true intellectual …

 

 

 

Something brought the following thought to the forefront of my consciousness this morning.

That the true intellectual knows his or her strengths and weaknesses.

I would imagine that this is true of people in other fields — say, an actor or athlete whom everyone raves about, who knows better than anyone else what they excel at and what their weaknesses are — what they can and can’t do, so to speak.

Relatives — which is to say, people who know me well — have often accused me, unfairly, of braggadocio in my writings, in these posts.

 

 

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I was thinking this morning about intellectuals and writers I have known personally.

I became a close friend of Charles Pierre, a New York poet and author of five books of poetry, in my early days in New York. There was a meeting of minds, and there were many deep discussions. From Charlie, I learned much about poetry, and how little I knew. I also learned that some people are more well read than me. His reading was prodigious, deep, and wide in scope: poetry, classic and contemporary (I had never head of Hart Crane, Frank O’Hara, or John Ashbery); classical and modem fiction; and philosophy. There was no way I could ever match his knowledge of poetry. Or of contemporary literature, including the avant-garde and the poets who were reading their works in the bars of Manhattan at Sunday poetry readings. I had dipped into James Joyce’s Ulysses. Charlie was reading it when we were first becoming acquainted, assiduously.

He gave me a learned, extemporaneous “lecture” in one of our chats on the “Oxen of the Sun” episode. He told me about his admiration for the poetry of the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy (whom he was reading at the time) and how difficult it was to translate poetry. About what he thought the best translations of Dante (whom I had never read) were. About the Roman poet Sextus Propertius (whom I had never heard of) and Juvenal’s satires. About how much he admired the Romanian philosopher and essayist Emil Cioran (whom I had also never heard of).

And, then there was my therapist, Ralph Colp Jr. MD. I was a history major. Dr. Colp (doctor, scholar, and writer) was a walking encyclopedia. His knowledge of history was encyclopedic; his mastery and recall of the facts near total. He put me to shame. He caught me in faux pas, such as placing Frederick the Great in the wrong century.

And, yet, Dr. Colp once said to me, “There are great gaps in my knowledge,” by which he meant his knowledge in general (his book learning). He had the humility of a true intellectual.

Guess what. So do I.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    May 6, 2020

an island … a city surrounded by WATER II (update of a previous post)

 

 
There now is your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs–commerce surrounds it with her surf. Right and left, the streets take you waterward. Its extreme downtown is the battery, where that noble mole is washed by waves, and cooled by breezes, which a few hours previous were out of sight of land. Look at the crowds of water-gazers there.

Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?–Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep. But these are all landsmen; of week days pent up in lath and plaster–tied to counters, nailed to benches, clinched to desks. How then is this? Are the green fields gone? What do they here?

But look! here come more crowds, pacing straight for the water, and seemingly bound for a dive. Strange! Nothing will content them but the extremest limit of the land; loitering under the shady lee of yonder warehouses will not suffice. No. They must get just as nigh the water as they possibly can without falling in. And there they stand–miles of them–leagues. Inlanders all, they come from lanes and alleys, streets and avenues–north, east, south, and west. Yet here they all unite. Tell me, does the magnetic virtue of the needles of the compasses of all those ships attract them thither? … There is magic in it. Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries–stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water. … Yes, as every one knows, meditation and water are wedded for ever.

 

— Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; Chapter 1 (“Looming’s”)

 

 

 

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I love skylines, love dense clouds. New York City has wonderful skylines. You can’t really see them from Manhattan, but you can from the waterside and from the outer boroughs, which have lower buildings.

It is wonderful that Manhattan is an island bounded by water: the ocean (New York Harbor), the East River, the Hudson River, the Harlem River.

One thing this does is prevent urban sprawl and the development of a megalopolis ending nowhere.

It also gives the city an almost enchanted quality or aspect. It leads to dreamy speculation and reflection, as Herman Melville noted.

My departed friend Bill Dalzell alerted me to this special aspect of New York City some fifty years ago.

I love the curve of the bay at the bottom of Manhattan Island. Such a beautiful harbor.

Today, I walked along the water’s edge from 14th Street to the Battery. Such a wonderful stiff breeze off the river. Such a wonderful walk at a time of despair,

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

    May 4, 2020

 

 

 

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photographs by Roger W. Smith

 

 

 

New York Harbor 11-42 a.m. 10-7-2019

 

 

 

New York Harbor 11-11 a.m. 5-29-2018

 

 

New York Harbor 4-54 p.m. 5-4-2020

 

 

 

New York Harbor 3-28 p.m. 3-17-2020

 

 

 

Hudson River 2-52 p.m. 5-4-2020

 

 

211925055274824

lock jawed by ideology (thoughts about the Biden allegations)

 

 

 

The Allegation Is Against Joe Biden

 

 

 

LOCK JAWED BY IDEOLOGY

PEOPLE DON’T COUNT IN THE POLITICAL CALCULUS

 

 

These thoughts (in all caps here) immediately occurred to me upon reading

 

 

The Allegation Is Against Joe Biden, but the Burden Is on Women

Even with the progress of #MeToo, women are called upon to defend their male colleagues. In the 2020 election, that can mean putting the movement itself on the line.

By Jessica Bennett and Lisa Lerer

The New York Times

May 2, 2020

 

 

 

See Word document above.

 

 

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“I feel very trapped,” said Ana Maria Archila, the co-executive director of the progressive Center for Popular Democracy, of having to support Mr. Biden if he is the nominee. She was one of the two women whose confrontation of Jeff Flake, then a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, over how he would vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation went viral.

“What motivated me to join the fight against Kavanaugh was the threat that he represented to my country,” Ms. Archila said. Now, she added, “I feel like we’re in this situation where in order to protect ourselves, we have to do something that might feel morally incoherent — which is to vote for someone who was accused of sexual assault.”

 

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I don’t feel trapped.

People are not only entitled to think for themselves — they should. Using their intuition, life experience, insight, and common sense. Without having to wear an ideological straightjacket.

I am not a detective, lawyer, or investigator.

But my gut instinct (I realize that I could be dead wrong) tells me that the incident really happened.

I felt the same way about:

E. Jean Carroll

Paula Jones

Juanita Broddrick

At least you can credit me for my honesty.

I am not thinking what am I entitled to think or conclude? But what do I think the truth of the matter is (was)?

And, by the way, the denials so far by Biden and his supporters don’t prove anything. And the allegations have not been proven.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   May 2, 2020

Joe Biden is lying.

 

 

 

When Dr. Christine Blasey Ford made her allegations in 2018 against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, acknowledged sexual predator Donald J. Trump tried to muddy the issue, throw the bloodhounds off track, and defend Kavanaugh – in his (Trump’s) usual shameless manner of engaging in denial and deceit — by saying: Where is the police report? Why didn’t she report the incident to the police?

Ford was fifteen years old at the time. Kavanaugh was seventeen.

She said (during the 2018 controversy over the allegations) that she didn’t want her parents to know that she had attended a house party with older boys. And, at any rate, what fifteen-year-old would have the presence of mind to think — or to know that things could be handled this way — I have to go report this assault to the police? She left the house in sort of a daze.

 

 

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I am going to relate a long ago experience of mine, in the interests of illustrating something.

I had a similar experience, with a gay man making a pass at me, when I was in my late teens.

It was summer vacation after my freshman year in college. I went to a concert of classical music by the Boston Pops on the Esplanade in Boston. I loved those concerts. I always went by myself.

At some point, no doubt at intermission, a man who was what I considered to be an adult — anyone thirty or older, if not in their mid- to late-twenties — seemed like an elder to me back then — approached me and asked, “Do you come to these concerts often? Do you like music?”

He was dressed casually, but seemed respectable. He said something at some point about being a professor. I was flattered to be asked about my musical interests and concert-going habits. I was impressed to be talking to a scholar. And, I was always receptive to and interested in anyone who cared to converse with me.

 

 

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As I write this, some details come back to me. I believe the concert had just ended, and the crowd was about to disperse.

The “professor” asked me casually if I would care to stop by his apartment in Cambridge for a chat. I found this welcome. I was flattered to be asked, and I associated Cambridge with being the place where intellectuals lived.

At his place, we chatted for about a half hour. The “professor” seemed to be a vibrant conversationalist. I did notice some erotic statuettes on a side table in his living room. I think one was what appeared to be primitive art: an abstract figure of a man and an erect phallus (?). I remember that it was black and was wood or Formica. The figure was of a primitive man.

I wanted to talk to the “professor” about music. He seemed a bit “aggressive” in introducing topics. He made some references, allusions, to sex that I didn’t fully comprehend. He kept making them, intermittently.

I was totally inexperienced sexually at this point in my life. But I had read a couple of erotic novels, had associated and talked with teenagers who had had sexual experience and didn’t like adults to tell them how to behave — smart, rebellious kids. Sex was raised as a topic in some of my church youth group workshops and discussion groups. But I had never had bull sessions, say, with male friends where they recounted sexual exploits in detail.

I felt uneasy with this part of the “professor’s” conversation, but I didn’t want to seem like a prude. So, I laughed uneasily. I tried to convey the impression that I was not uncomfortable with risqué conversation or topics and was used to them being talked about, if not actually experienced in sex.

 

 

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There is something else about me that was relevant at the time, and may have been somewhat similar to Blasey-Ford. I tended to be not only shy, but passive. The opposite of assertive.

The “professor” after a while asked me if I would like a back rub. Girls would give boys, including me, back rubs at our church youth group weekend retreats. That was the closest I had ever come to being physically close to a girl.

Being passive, and not wanting to be oppositional, looking up to the “professor,” thinking that perhaps this was something that was usual or normal — and anyway I was probably too rigid or uptight — I consented.

After a few minutes, I started to feel uncomfortable. I stiffened up. Then the “professor” started to reach under my belt and tried to slide his hands down my pants. At that point, I bolted. I made some excuse (I think I said my parents would be worried about me getting home late) and beat a hasty exit from the “professor’s” apartment.

What would Holden Caulfield have done?

 

 
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I drove home in our family’s second car (a 1953 Chevy). I felt very anxious, but relieved to have gotten away from the “professor.” I couldn’t get a handle on what had happened.

I was known for honesty and had always felt that honesty was the best policy; somehow, things always came out better that way. I didn’t quite know what to do, but, unlike Blasey-Ford, I told my mother (not going into detail) what had happened, immediately upon arriving home. It seems that I did this to relieve stress. Sort of like telling your shrink something. I thought to myself, I did nothing wrong. What do I have to hide? And, if I had done something immoral, would not my parents see that in that case I would not have told then about it?

I do not recall my mother’s response. I think she said little, because she did not know how to handle this confidence by me or what to say.

 

 

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I tried to put the matter out of mind, as one might a bad dream. I didn’t know what to make of it. The next day, I felt better.

But then my mother brought the matter up again. I don’t recall her exact words. But it was something like: Your father and I discussed your experience after the concert. We are sorry you experienced it. (My parents always feigned being advanced when it came to any sex issues — they had a copy of the Kinsey Report on the bookshelf in the living room — but, actually, I know this intuitively, the thought of having to deal with sexual issues or sexual behavior by their children terrified them.) Then, my mother said, if what you said was the truth, then you did nothing wrong.

Somehow, I could tell — intuited — that this experience, mine, had made my parents very anxious. More even than me.

I loved my mother and respected her. But she should NOT have said that. It made me feel bad about myself — or at least how my parents felt about me. They weren’t prepared to necessarily believe me. They were wondering if I had perhaps misbehaved with the “professor,” or had perhaps somehow been party to the event occurring. I never forgot this mixed message: My account of being the victim of a would be sexual predator was heard but was not deemed necessarily credible.

 

 

Roger W. Smith

   May 2020

more music for this time (May 2020)

 

 

 

 

 

Philip Glass, String Quartet No. 4 (“Buczak”)

last movement

 

For more about this quartet, see my previous post at

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2019/09/30/philip-glass-string-quartet-no-4-buczak-last-movement/

 
— posted by Roger W. Smith