Saturday Potpourri: Catching Up Edition

The new semester officially begins on Tuesday, but of course there’s been other stuff going along with that as well, so let’s get to it, shall we?

***

The pre-semester faculty in-service took place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and there was a general sense of optimism. We’re expecting record enrollment this year, not least because of our largest group of Freshpeeps ever — about 450 or so. While most of our growth in recent years has been driven by the addition of athletic teams, this year also marks our largest incoming group of non-athletes ever, so we seem to be appealing to potential students on a variety of fronts.

This does create a little bit of infrastructural strain, but we’re addressing that by adding new residential beds (having opened two residence halls in the last few years, with preparations underway for a third), and oddly enough, by adding lights to some of our athletic fields. This seems strange, I’m sure, but because the majority of our kids are athletes, lighting the fields opens up practice slots in non-daylight hours, which means more prime time will be available for classes, extracurriculars, and such.

The classrooms in my building have been renovated this summer as well, and there have been other significant improvements to the campus, including a new patio area near my office. So the college actually seems to have progressed from the hardscrabble survival mode it has endured for most of its 160-plus years toward a growth mode. As I said, morale seems to be improving around here.

***

Meanwhile, things are progressing nicely on the departmental front as well, with a new colleague (an Americanist) moving into the office across the hall, and of course, our new Writer-in-Residence for the Fall Semester:

Block Office

Photo: David Rachels

That’s right, the Dean of American crime writers has arrived, with an office down the hall from mine, and he and the lovely Lynne are safely ensconced in the house next door to the Mid-Century Mondohaus. They got into the area early on Thursday morning, and not even a three-hour train delay dampened anyone’s spirits. We’re still working on getting everyone settled in, but things are on a positive trend.

***

The Blocks were kind enough to being me a kind of housewarming gift as well — foreign editions of some of the anthologies in which my stories have appeared. I now have copies of some of my stories in Polish, German, Japanese, and Chinese, and that has sparked me to wondering a little bit. Toward the beginning of my story “Ampurdan” (from Alive in Shape and Color), a character muses about what we might call the punctuation of life, punning on Ampurdan and Ampersand, and dryly suggesting that he might “lapse into a comma.” Now that I see the translated versions of the story, I feel more than a little sorry for the translators who had to deal with that. (Yeah, I should probably feel sorry for the folks who had to read the pun to start with, but I REGRET NOTHING!)

In turn, I can’t help but wonder how much I’m missing because I can only read writers like Borges, Chekhov, and Camus in translation (I can hack through French to a point, but I know I miss nuance.) Heck, maybe one day someone will release an English translation of Finnegan’s Wake.

***

Meanwhile, in Maryland, the Spawn is flourishing. She seems quite happy in her new place, and is trying foods and activities she never had tried in Mondoville. Now, if she can just land one of the assistantships she’s interviewed for… But still, she seems to be in a really good place, and I’m thrilled to see how well she’s doing. She seems to be, too.

Em before interview

***

I’m pleased to report that I’ll be taking part (along with our abovementioned Writer-in-Residence, and several other fine folks) in Mondoville’s first Noir at the Bar reading on 10 October, at Bar Figaro in “Historic Downtown Newberry.” Watch this space for additional information as the time draws nearer.

I’ll also be acting as interlocutor for “An Evening with Lawrence Block,” at the Newberry Opera House on 7 November, so come on down for either event — or both — should you get the opportunity. Newberry’s a friendly town. And we even have two Waffle Houses.

***

I think that’s a fair amount of catching up for the moment, so I’ll leave you with a bit of music. Peter Fonda died yesterday, and while he’s best remembered for his role in Easy Rider, he was also the lead in 1966’s B-movie biker flick The Wild Angels, and so I’ll share that movie’s “Blues Theme”, as done by fuzz guitar hero Davie Allan and the Arrows. Dig that Hagstrom sound, baby!

John Lennon also overheard an acid-tripping Fonda in 1965, and Fonda’s account of a near-death experience (which creeped the Beatles out) became the inspiration for one of my favorite songs, with amazing work by Ringo. It’s a song I’ve always wanted to cover, so from what I think may be the greatest record album ever, here you go.

See you soon!

 

Posted in Culture, Education, Family, Literature, Music | 2 Comments

Farewell to a Giant

David Bevington, one of the world’s leading scholars of early English drama, died on Friday, 2 Aug. He was 88 years old. While he is best known for his Shakespearean studies (I use his edition of the Complete Works for my classes, and have done so throughout my career. It is the most recent edition to have been produced by a single editor, and put him in the company of , among others, Dr. Johnson.), his work on the pre-Shakespearean drama (as seen in his 1962 From Mankind to Marlowe , 1985’s Homo, Memento Finis, and  his anthology of medieval drama, which I also use) is vitally important as well. He also co-produced a complete edition of Jonson’s works.

Bevington

David Bevington, 1931-2019

I was fortunate enough to meet him once, at Kalamazoo. He delivered a lecture, and in the process, demonstrated why he had won teaching awards at the U of Chicago. Afterward, since I didn’t really have what I thought would be a worthwhile question, I simply thanked him for his presentation, and told him how much I admired his work. He seemed pleased, even though he was surely used to it by then, and especially in the setting of Kalamazoo, where he was a genuine superstar.

Over on the Book of Faces, my friend Anne Brannen (who I also met at Kazoo — it’s that kind of a place), shared this story from her own impressive career at Duquesne:

 [T]he great scholar came to Duquesne and one of the things he did was visit my medieval drama class, in which we were using the text he had edited. In the question session, one of my students asked what he thought had been the greatest change in the study of medieval drama that he had seen. To my students on that Catholic campus, he said, it was the Catholics. We needed to hear from the Catholic scholars. The Protestants couldn’t see how the drama was working because they weren’t inside it. (Oh, David. Thank you for seeing that.)

He saw a great deal, and we were fortunate that he shared it with us. So long, Dr. Bevington — thanks for the works.

Posted in Culture, Education, Literature, Medievalia, Why I Do What I Do | 1 Comment

Sunday Potpourri: Terpville Addenda Edition

A few bits and pieces left over from the trip and other matters…

***

On the way back to Mondoville yesterday, we had the misfortune to get caught behind some sort of dump truck south of Richmond. It began to leak small pebbles from the tailgate’s lower left/driver’s side corner, allowing them to catch our windshield on the first or second bounce. A 3-5 second pelting left the windshield with a BB-gun-style circular crack, and a more dramatic, curving one on the passenger’s side of the windshield. Fortunately, our insurance means that we get a new windshield on Tuesday, but things could have been much worse. I’m just glad it wasn’t a bowling ball truck.

***

One of the things that Mrs. M and I noticed while we were in Terpville and environs was that driving etiquette there is different than it is down here, and by different, I mean relatively nonexistent. Mrs. M said she has never been the target of so much horn usage as she was on this trip, and our out-of-state plates were no defense. I got beeped at once or twice myself, but I’m sufficiently thick-skinned that I didn’t take it personally. I was able to recall my Cincinnati-area driving chops after a bit, and while that still put me on the conservative end of the driver behavior spectrum, I know I didn’t have to stomp the brakes too often, and I’m reasonably confident that I didn’t cause any accidents either.

On the other hand, we did discover that in parking lots up there, it’s a Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes. We stopped by a Walmart on Friday night to pick up a few more things for the Spawn, and it was like being dropped into an outtake from The Road Warrior. Three- and four-car convoys would run the wrong way down the parking lanes more or less at speed, and at one point, someone in a Canyonero-sized pickup nearly backed over us, trying to turn in the wrong direction while backing into a disability parking spot. That is not an exaggeration, and was even enough to force Mrs. M to lean on the horn. We were in a Kia Sorento, but I felt like I was on board PT-109. Or maybe the Pequod.

***

Another thing we noticed is that Terpland is crammed full of geographically tiny municipalities. Some of the places we found ourselves passing through (on drives of 1-8 miles) were Adelphi, Beltsville, Cloverley, College Park, Hyattsville, Landover Hills, Riverdale/Riverdale Park, and likely a few more that have slipped my mind. Here in Mondoville, we have Newberry, about four miles of nothing, and then Prosperity, and a few more miles of nothing, and then Little Mountain. In another direction from Newberry, we have about fifteen miles of nothing, and then Whitmire. It’s quite a contrast. I don’t know if these are simply neighborhoods with attitude, or full-fledged, independent jurisdictions, but it felt odd to drive two miles and be three towns from your starting point, and I say this as a guy whose dad drove through three states (KY, IN, and OH via I-275) to get to a job for several years. But at least it took him 45 minutes or so. At the rate things seemed to go in Terpland, a 45-minute drive might put the driver in a different galaxy.

***

I mentioned yesterday that the Spawn made her first visit to the MVA (Maryland’s version of the DMV, because that acronym seems to refer to the District, Maryland, and Virginia). As I said, the supervisor was quite nice, but there was an amusing sidelight to the whole business.

A state cop was there at the office, and was the first person to speak to Mrs. M and the Spawn. Mrs. M began, “My daughter is moving here from South Carolina, and –”

Why? Why would you leave there to come here?”

The Spawn said, “I’m starting grad school at UMD, and –”

“I’ve been here for nearly twenty years,” the policeman said, “and I can hardly wait until my twenty is finished and I can leave, and go South.” He went on in that vein as he conducted the ladies to the supervisor. Mrs. M said, he just kept asking “Why would anyone choose to move here?”

I hope he’s kidding.

***

Well, I think I’ll wrap things up for the time being, but here’s a bit of music before I go. While lots of punk fans recognize the British band The Vibrators, there was a much more obscure band by that name a decade earlier. From Zebulon, KY (in Pike County, natch — just one county from where Mrs. M grew up), these Eastern KY boys (two of whom have been ID’d as Stevie Justice and Fonso Fields) did a free-form strip-mining of “Louie, Louie” and released it on their hometown Graco label in 1968, two years after the garage rock wave had crested. Some 51 years later, I share it with you. This is “Bad Girl”, as raw as a chunk of coal.

See you soon!

 

Posted in Culture, Education, Family, Music | 2 Comments

In Which the Spawn Moves to Terpville

About an hour ago, Mrs. M and I concluded ten hours on the road, coming home from getting the Spawn settled in her new apartment on the fringe of the U of Maryland. I’ve showered, and thrown a load of laundry into the washer. So this is how we became empty nesters, I guess.

Em dining room

The Spawn enters her dining room. Still life painting by the Main Squeeze.

***

Mrs. M had some professional development to attend on Monday and Tuesday, so the Spawn and I loaded up her new car and headed up via Charlotte and Durham, where we caught I-95 and did the usual stop-and-go from Richmond to Terpville. We had lunch in Charlotte, at the burger joint we visit every year at Heroes Con.

Her apartment is in a community that caters to grad students, and she and Mrs. M got a lot of the basics in place when they were up there the week before last. It’s a cute little place, much nicer than the one where I lived from 1987-89, or from 1998-2002, for that matter. The fact that it has a good air conditioner already sets it apart from my old digs.

After we unloaded the Spawnmobile, we went to a nearby Outback Steakhouse and grabbed a couple of burgers before returning to her place and calling it a night. We ran a couple of minor errands on Wednesday as we waited for Mrs. M to arrive. She got there around 4 p.m., having left Mondoville at about 6:30 that morning. The woman’s energy level is terrifying. Upon her arrival, we got the bulk of the Spawn’s worldly possessions unloaded, and then let her relax and prepare for the next day’s assistantship interview while Mrs. M and I went out for dinner. We drove to the restaurant at the nearby IKEA, where Mrs. M had salmon and I went for something equally traditional.

Dinner at Ikea

A Scots-Irish meatball consumes the Swedish version.

Never having been to an IKEA before, I wandered around a bit, and found some items I think I’d like, though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t assemble them.

Ikea recliner

I would have been willing to pay rent to reside in this recliner.

When we got back to the apartment, Mrs. M ironed curtains for the kitchen and bedroom, and I caught up on some e-mail. And that was Wednesday.

***

The next day, while the Spawn geared up for her interview, Mrs. M and I went on a quest for a chest of drawers at a nearby thrift shop. We were unsuccessful, but that may have been just as well. It seemed as though every such item weighed at least 13,000 pounds, and the Spawn lives up a flight of fifteen stairs. On the upside, I found a few books, including a Patricia Highsmith and a recent printing of Iceberg Slim’s Pimp.

By the time we had finished looking around, it was time for lunch, so we tried a place called Krazi Kebob, which advertises itself as an Indian/Pakistani/Mexican restaurant. The concept seemed a little odd, but I can attest that the beef keema wrapped in garlic naan with tikka masala, mint chutney, and assorted other goodies made for a very nice burritoesque experience. Mrs. M went for a bowl of rice with chicken tikka, and was equally pleased. The staff were quite amiable, and made us quite welcome, even offering tips about places the Spawn might want to visit and giving Mrs. M a bonus chocolate-chip cookie.

Then it was time for the Spawn’s interview, which she thinks went well, but we won’t know until at least Tuesday, so feel free to send those requests to St. Jerome. And since she was already dressed for the interview, she went ahead and got her student ID. Then she realized that she was so nervous about the interview that she had overlooked the fact that her name was misspelled on the ID, so she went back and got a new one. After that, the Spawn settled in with her home cooking (and a phone call with the Main Squeeze), and Mrs. M and I went to another place that yokels like me don’t usually go — the Whole Foods Market in the Riverdale Plaza (a shopping center marked by a nifty sculpture of a cartoonish airplane with windmill propeller. For some reason, I think I may have written either about that sculpture or a similar one during my magazine days. Either way, it was neat.)

We decided to eat at their ready-made foods bar, and upon fixing myself some spaghetti and meatballs, I discovered that even this humble meal can come with some sticker shock. It was good food, though. And that was Thursday.

***

Friday was marked by an unsuccessful effort to get the Spawn a Maryland driver’s license. While we had a copy of her birth certificate, apparently the original version with embossed seal was required, and that was back in Mondoville. However, the supervisor on duty was quite nice, and told the Spawn to ask for her when she came back.

The Main Squeeze was coming by that evening, so Mrs. M and I made ourselves scarce, having dinner at an Italian place we had discovered the year before on the Spawn’s campus visit. Then it was back to the apartment for an early night before our trip home today.

***

We came home via Fayetteville, NC and Florence SC, and as I said, we got home late this afternoon. And now I’ll talk a little about what I’ve been putting off all the way through this post, just as we tried to put it off during the trip.

For 22 years less one semester, the Spawn has been a continual presence in her mom’s and my daily lives. And she will remain such, of course, but less frequently in a physical sense. Like Flitcraft in The Maltese Falcon, who adjusted to a world in which one could be killed by a random, falling beam, only to readjust to the world in which they no longer fell, Mrs. M and I adjusted to a world with this girl’s presence in it, and now that she will live and thrive at a greater distance, we have to adjust to that as well.

Sure enough, that’s why we raise them, and I’m not foolish enough to think that we’re the first or last to have to make this adjustment, but right now it’s our turn, and once again, the three of us are going to have to find a New Normal. This is no Big Noise, of course — this is a cause for celebration, and for reflection on how fantastically fortunate the three of us have been (and are) to have each other. But it’s still a change, and a big one for us, and I find myself thinking of the end of Paradise Lost:

Some natural tears they dropt, but wiped them soon;

The world was all before them, where to choose

Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:

They, hand in hand, with wandering steps and slow,

Through Eden took their solitary way.

The world is all before my daughter, and I trust Providence to guide her, but I hope I may be forgiven those natural tears, as I leave the Eden of the baby, toddler, child, and teen where I’ve spent much of the last 22 years.

Upstairs on my refrigerator, there is a photo Mrs. M took on the last day of the Spawn’s kindergarten year in Muncie, a few weeks before we moved to South Carolina. The picture is of the Spawn waving at the camera, but entering the frame from the left, you can see my right hand holding her left as we walk together. It will be a challenge having to reach so far now.

Your mom and I love you, Em — and we’ll see you soon. Now go succeed.

Em chairs

Posted in Education, Faith, Family, Literature, Why I Do What I Do | 2 Comments

Saturday Afternoon Potpourri: Ticking Clock Edition

The Spawn moves to Terpville this week. She begins classes late in August, but has an interview for an assistantship at the end of this week. Landing it would make a very big difference in her grad school experience (and in its cost as well), so if you’re of a prayerful persuasion, seeking some intercession on her behalf (perhaps from St. Jerome, patron of librarians and archivists) would be welcome.

***

I’ll be chauffeuring the Spawnmobile for this trip, bearing the kid and whatever supplies we can wedge in. Mrs. M (who has in-service training early in the week) will catch up a day or two later, bearing additional stuff. Meanwhile…

Well, meanwhile. The three of us in Clan Mondo have been rather a tight group over the years. Part of this is the result of the Big Noise and its accompanying refining fires, and part of it, I think is from the fact that both sides of the family come from rural, working-class-to-poor, backgrounds — backgrounds that tend to foster tribalism (although I grew up in the burbs, I’m really only about a generation removed from Middle Tennessee dirt farmers). And then there’s the fact that we like each other.

But while we do like each other, this sort of thing is what we’ve raised (or reared, if you’re persnickety — I remember my paternal grandmother saying that one rears children and raises cattle. Of course, she also drank a lot of cough syrup; we all have our strengths and weaknesses.) the Spawn to do. So we’re confident that she’s going to do well in her new habitat. But it’s still a big step for all of us, regardless of the brave faces we select, so while we wish the Spawn well, some good thoughts for Mrs. M and I would be good as well.

***

I’ve done a bit of reading this week — some for entertainment, some for edification. Taking these in reverse order, I read The Smallest Minority, Kevin D. Williamson’s new book on “Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics”, as the subtitle tells us. Williamson’s book is welcome stuff to folks like me, who have fled the current bimodal political scene. In particular, it’s aimed not so much at the middle-of-the-road types as it is at those of us who think that both Team Blue and Team Red are repugnant, and that it’s ridiculous for people to try to demand that we choose between (in Williamson’s words) “the salted or the unsalted shit sandwiches.”

What we have these days seems to be what KDW calls ochlocracy, a $20 word meaning “mob rule”, and the end point of populisms left and right. Williamson argues for classical liberalism, and like John Stuart Mill observed when he helped get classical liberalism rolling, that means respecting and tolerating the individual, even if you don’t much like him or her. (Indeed, the book’s title is lifted from Ayn Rand — because, Williamson says, “She doesn’t deserve to have it.”) He goes on to note that corporations have become arms of the ochlocrats as well, as people seek the safety of fitting in by deriving identity from workplace status. But when someone surrenders his or her identity to the mob, they will reserve particular hatred for folks who refuse to fall into line. Those bastards have to be smashed, and the act of smashing empowers the members of the mob, giving them a sense of accomplishment: “Yes, I’m just another fingernail paring of the body politic, but we showed that sumbitch what he can’t make jokes about.”

Now, we may say we only do that smashing in extreme cases — Charlottesville Nazis and the like. But as Williamson observes, once we get the taste for that sort of thing, we can start defining extremity down. Given sufficient time, any oddball can be a menace, and so off we go to pre-emptive smashing of folks who might be provocative at some point.

Meanwhile, the sacred cows Williamson vivisects include the notion of democracy as an end, rather than a means, particularly when it leads to the sort of repressive tolerance argued (in different forms) by Herbert Marcuse and Karl Popper. To wit:

The implicit proposal that human beings have more value in corporation, that masses grow more valuable and more legitimate the larger they are and the more demanding they grow, and that the individual must always in the end be answerable to the collective, is pure barbarism—it is might-makes-right thinking metathesized from authoritarian political principle to authoritarian cult. It is a virtual guarantee of social and cultural stagnation, ugliness, stupidity, repression, bigotry, illiberalism, narrow-mindedness—and, inevitably, violence. That kind of democracy is the cult of the modern primitive, whose object of veneration is the modern primitive himself.

These days, that modern primitivism (limned in part in Idiocracy, for example) takes the form of argument via meme (as strong an indication as any that we live in a post-literate society) and social media mobs, which Williamson describes as reducing its participants to monkeys who

[…]jerk off and fling poo all day, generally using the same hand for both, and they don’t do a hell of a lot else, unless there’s McDonald’s. All day: jerk off, fling poo, jerk off, fling poo, jerk, fling, jerk, fling.

Twitter, basically.

In this respect, Mr. Williamson (who has experienced the wrath of the monkeys in the past — he alludes to it in the book, even devoting an entire chapter to the episode) is in the company of folks like Heinlein, Mencken, Anatole France, and H.D. Thoreau, not to mention Devo.

I don’t agree with everything in the book (nor, I suppose, would Williamson want me to — the point here is that one should think for himself); for example, Williamson takes a Blakean view of Milton’s Satan (that Milton was “of the devil’s party without knowing it”), whereas I would contend (along with C.S. Lewis) that Milton knew exactly what he was doing, and was showing the reader how seductive it can be to rebel against God. But on the big idea — that vox populi is a long damn way from vox dei — I agree that the best course of action is to declare, “Non serviam” to the idolators of 21st-C. instant culture.

Williamson’s style is also worthy of some discussion. He is one of the most erudite writers on the scene, and sent me scrambling to the dictionary a few times, which doesn’t happen a lot. He’s also perfectly happy to quote Greek and Latin passages in the original. But he’s also wildly and wonderfully eclectic, footnoting sources ranging from The Annual Review of Sociology to punk band Bad Religion in the service of his arguments. He’s able to leap from a Ciceronian high style to rank vulgarity with whiplashing celerity. It’s pretty gonzo stuff, but it’s also smart and entertaining.

My principal complaint with the book is directed less at KDW than at his publishers. Apparently, the folks at Regnery have decided that proofing and copy editing are dispensable. There are numerous errors, ranging from spelling glitches to what I suspect are autocorrected word changes, and they mar the effectiveness of the work. I hope this will be corrected by the next printing.

But as I told a dear friend earlier in the week, if you are interested in understanding those of us who have rejected the current political agon, you could do a hell of a lot worse than read The Smallest Minority.

***

Another book I read this week was Fredric Brown’s first novel, The Fabulous Clipjoint (1947, winning the Best First Novel Edgar in ’48). It’s one of the books on Mr. Block’s syllabus for this fall, and I hadn’t read it before, so there we go.

The book follows the adventures of Ed Hunter, an 18-year-old apprentice pressman/typesetter in Chicago, and his uncle Ambrose, a carnival worker, as they try to solve the murder of Ed’s father. The book incorporates aspects of the amateur sleuth and the hard-boiled novel, and (as Block notes) even sneaks aspects of Hamlet into the work. But the part that struck me the most was that Fabulous Clipjoint is also something of a bildungsroman, as we see Ambrose opening Ed’s eyes to other ways of understanding the world and its possibilities. It’s the dynamic between Ed and his new father figure Ambrose that makes the book really work for me, and it apparently worked for a lot of other folks as well — Brown wrote another half-dozen books about the pair.

My current reading (started last night) is the first Ellery Queen novel, The Roman Hat Mystery (1929). It looks like a fine example of the puzzle whodunit — of course, that was a major selling point for the Queen books, with the authors eventually informing the reader that all the clues had been revealed, and that the reader should be able to solve the case as well as Queen himself. That’s not really my bag, so this may be a bit of a slog for me, but I’ll see how I do.

***

And I should probably get back to that book, so I’ll go ahead and wrap it up at this point. But why not have some music? Virtually nothing is known about The Hustler’s [sic], though we suspect that the group hailed from somewhere in Illinois, as the track was cut in Chicago. But this is a nifty, moody little number, and worth your attention. From approximately 1967, here’s “The Sky Is Black.”

See you soon!

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Doing Better When You Can…

Thirty-two years ago, I was not quite 22 years old, and was about to become the first member of my family to go to grad school, at the U of Kentucky. I drove a 1972 Chevy I called the Monte Karloff, because it was big, green, and scary looking. I had bought it for $500 a year earlier, after my brother totaled my first car on a joyride. I moved into a University-owned efficiency apartment, furnished with a sleeper sofa, a rollaway cot, a dining table with four chairs, and a desk. There may have been one other chair for lounging, but I don’t remember for sure.

Twenty-one years ago, Mrs. M, the Spawn (age 15 months), and I moved to a University-owned townhouse in Muncie, Indiana, as I prepared to start work on my doctorate at Ball State U. We had a 1993 Chevy Cavalier that we got for a good price because it had been in a flood — but we didn’t know that until later. We just thought we had gotten a good deal, and since the car lasted until we moved to the Greater Mondoville area, I suppose we did.

My family helped as much as they could each time around. When I had an exhaust problem in the Monte Karloff (which I discovered by nearly asphyxiating myself on a drive from Lexington to Northern KY — seriously, my head hurt for three days afterward), they gave me my late grandfather’s 1974 Ford Gran Torino, which got us through a few more years. And on any trip home, I was assured all the leftovers I could fit in my refrigerator when I got back to Lexington, along with various other groceries. My folks carried me on their car insurance through most of that first stretch of grad school. But their resources were limited — a combination of some years living beyond their means and other years of medical debt that stemmed from my brother’s congenital heart problem. Still, they did what they could.

Now it’s the Spawn’s turn for grad school — she’ll be heading to Maryland in a little over a week. This past weekend, she and Mrs. M went up and did some initial setup work for her apartment, on the fringe of campus. Her standard of living will be higher than mine was — unlike either of my grad school apartments, hers is air-conditioned, for example, and we were able to help her with some furniture and other household supplies.

But of course, last week our mechanic informed us that the Spawnmobile might be adequate for Mondoville grocery getting, but that its prospects of making it to College Park were dubious at best. So she needed a fresh ride. Fortunately, we’ve been in a position to help on that front as well, which brings us to today.

Mrs. M and I made about a 100-mile drive today, to a car dealership on the other side of the state line. We drove up together, but came home separately, as I piloted the Spawn’s new ride.

Em's new car

The fact that it’s nearly a Kentucky blue doesn’t hurt either.

It’s neither new nor fancy, but it probably won’t suffocate her, either, and I feel fortunate that we can give her a boost as she gets started on the next part of her life.

I think my folks would be pleased as well.

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How Twigs Get Bent: A Late Night and A Long Trip

I wrote this nine years ago, but it’s a piece I’ve always been proud of. Happy anniversary.

Professor Mondo

Forty-one years ago today, I was almost four years old, and men walked on the moon.

I had gone to bed already, but my parents woke me up for the occasion. It was nearly ten o’clock, Nashville time, but my parents and I sat on a black leatherette sofa bed, watching the television in the corner of our living room. Dad was 26; Mom was 25, ages that now I still see as being a kid in our ever expanding adolescence, but that then seemed impossibly grown-up. It was our first house, in a working-class neighborhood near Dad’s office and the drugstore where he bought his science fiction paperbacks and the comic books we’d both read. And we knew that we were watching the stuff we had read about in those books and comics, but that now it was real, and it was adventure, and even if we weren’t there…

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