C.J. Gall’s essay “Thank You for Last Wednesday” [July 2014] is possibly the most accurate depiction of marriage in midlife that I have ever read.
My husband and I are retired and together most of the time. We’re very conscious of each other’s irritating habits — and of each other’s irritation with those irritating habits. I think we’re both pissed off at being seventy-eight, arthritic, and poor. At our age we can still hear the siren call of passionate adventure but are unable, or too tired, to heed it. Perhaps we’re pissed off at still being alive.
I want to thank C.J. Gall for her essay “Thank You for Last Wednesday.” I read it about eight times. Now I find it easier to be kind to my husband.
Five years ago I bought a house that was built in 1926. The inspector failed to point out that the attic floor was covered with mouse droppings underneath the insulation. Even after having all the insulation ripped out, the floor vacuumed, and new insulation installed, I can still smell the feces in the summer when the humidity is high.
Sparrow [“My Mice,” June 2014] needs a wake-up call regarding household pests. A mouse turd in the center of a dish of sea salt? A mouse climbing on his head while he meditates? Give me a break. Like him, I agree with Thich Nhat Hanh: “This plate of food, / so fragrant and appetizing, / also contains much suffering.” But for God’s sake, he needs to clean his house and plug the holes.
Clean my house? Plug up holes? What’s next — get a job?
The quotation attributed to Mark Twain in the June 2014 Sunbeams struck me as suspect. I’ve since found a number of websites that confirm my suspicion: although the quotation may have an amusing, Twain-like flavor, the attribution is bogus. In the words of A. Lincoln, “Only half of what you read on the Internet is true.”
The Sun responds:
Michael Bishop is correct. Mark Twain did not say, “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” The quote is actually from the book The Peter Principle, by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. The Sun regrets perpetuating the error.
I read the reprint of Howard Jay Rubin’s interview with Pete Seeger [“The Word Gets Around,” May 2014] with delight.
For years I’ve held the same philosophy Seeger espouses — that the only way to save the world is one neighborhood at a time. Fifteen years ago I decided to put that idea to the test. So, in Stillwater County, Montana (population 9,131), a group of friends and I launched a nonprofit to offer assistance and food to anyone who asks for it. We are not funded by any government entity and make no judgment of the people who ask us for help. Neighbors and friends have supported our efforts by volunteering and donating money, goods, and services.
We operate on the teachings of Jesus, who said that the more you give, the more you receive. This has proven true for us, and it is my hope that more people will give it a try in their own county, city, or neighborhood.
When I was a high-school sophomore in 1965, I worked with several other student-council members to establish a foreign-exchange program at our school in Beacon, New York. We had no funding and had to raise all the money ourselves.
I’d once seen Pete Seeger lead a singalong at his daughter’s elementary school, and it occurred to me that he could probably fill our auditorium for a benefit concert. I called, and he said he’d be happy to do it.
I had no idea what kind of firestorm the concert would unleash. Right-wing leafleters and John Birchers showed up to protest Seeger’s appearance, and the Catholic monsignor warned parishioners not to succumb to the lure of this communist who delivered his insidious message through music.
As the time of the concert drew near, a picket line formed outside the school. The other organizers and I were nervous about some sort of showdown, possibly even violence, but Pete was smiling and unflappable. The auditorium was filled to capacity. (The controversy surrounding the event might even have helped ticket sales.) When Pete started singing, the audience grew hushed. He got everyone to join him on the familiar songs and taught new ones through call and response.
More and more people slipped in the side doors. Even some of the picketers were drawn to listen. By the time Pete sang “America the Beautiful,” eyes were wet. As people filed out, I heard someone say, “He might be a communist, but you can’t deny the man’s love for his country.”
I think Tony Hoagland [“Selected Poems,” May 2014] is our finest living poet. He has an amazing ability to lift the ordinary into the metaphysical, much as Robert Frost so often did.
I had to read Laura Maylene Walter’s essay “In the Twelve Years Since You Died” [May 2014] in three sittings. I could manage only a few paragraphs at a time before my heart couldn’t take anymore. She brings to life the utter devastation of losing someone close.
I read “In the Twelve Years Since You Died” on Mother’s Day. It was the fortieth Mother’s Day since the passing of my own mother.
Like the author, I lost my mother while I was in college. The essay captures the thoughts I had in the years after her death and the conversations I had with her in my mind as I matured and came to understand things I hadn’t understood while she was alive.
Working for a rural hospice program has made me realize that every day is a gift not to be taken for granted, and that we all, in our own way, must eventually learn to let go.
In “Beautiful Trouble” [May 2014] Steve Lambert says that “no one wants to watch a drum circle” and refers to the drummers as “self-indulgent dipshits.”
Sheesh. I suspect a couple of his chakras are blocked, or maybe he’s just a jerk with a big ego.
If the drumming is too loud, Lambert should move farther away. If the park is too small, he can go to a different one. Or, even better, he could try looking at the expressions of pure joy or utter tranquillity on the faces in the circle as the inevitable unifying trance takes hold. See if he can feel the moment when all become one. The last thing the drummers are there to do is judge each other.
Lambert seems to pat himself on the back for being unable to see the beauty in such a simple activity. He comes across as the most irritating kind of professional activist: a righteous one with an extremely limited perspective.
Drum circles are activism personified. They pull people in and spread love through visceral rhythms that resonate throughout our bodies, whether or not we are conscious of it. Imagine a world in which everyone (except Lambert, of course) comes together once a week to participate in a drum circle. How violent or judgmental a place do you suppose that would be?
Steve Lambert responds:
At first I thought Ginger Chulack missed the point of my essay, but then I read her letter more closely, and I’m almost embarrassed to say that I have made a complete 180. Let me explain why. It’s not because I love drumming. Point taken, I get it, it’s fun. But, honestly, what I like is having sex in public places. I mean, I like it a lot. I’m a guy who is not afraid of public displays of affection: some kissing, some necking, sliding into second base, a little dry humping — and when it escalates further, I think, Let’s just go for it right here at the bus stop or the playground. Why wait till we get back to the car?
Yes, a good, sweaty love-making session in full view of everyone is the ultimate expression of pure joy and visceral rhythm. I don’t understand why people have such hang-ups about sexual pleasure. It’s as if self-gratification were something we needed to balance with how civilization works. But civilization is just part of the oppressive system that holds us back! The way to solve our problems is to do whatever makes us happy, whenever and wherever we feel like it, whether it’s drumming or fucking. Am I right?
I seriously want to thank Chulack. If she had not taken the time to explain drum circles to me, I would still be the irritating, self-righteous, narrow-minded jerk I was yesterday.
Your March 2014 Readers Write on “Being Alone” features a piece by John Catanzarite, a man serving a fifty-year prison sentence for rape and robbery. He spent a year traveling through five states raping, assaulting, and terrorizing women. From the Lodi News-Sentinel, June 17, 1992: “Catanzarite entered a small store, usually a business like a video store or yogurt shop, where a lone female clerk was at work. He spoke to her briefly, then pulled a knife, asked for money, and demanded she undress. At times he would rape the clerk or fondle her.”
He says in Readers Write, “I literally haven’t touched another human being since April 2000.” That’s because in April 2000 he was put in isolation housing for attacking a female medical technician. He held her hostage for two hours and threatened to set her on fire.
Yes, the justice system is flawed, and yes, solitary confinement is cruel in some cases, but not in this one.