His shirt read: “Camp Howell Red Team.” Must have been some sort of sleepaway camp souvenir. How many softball games and tugs-of-war must have sweated through that thing? My first thought, after noting the appreciably tight fit, was, “Huh… what a coincidence that the shirt is also red.”
For a second or two too long, it did not occur to me that this was not a coincidence.
Oh, what good fortune that I was alone! Or I might have been tempted to point out my clever observation to someone. Funny how grateful one can be for not saying some things out loud. I’ve managed to pass myself off as a half-way intelligent person more times than I care to recall by simple virtue of keeping my mouth shut.
One wonders why there is a pair of boxer shorts politely hung from the black wrought-iron fence in front of the apartment building at my bus stop. But there they are, in the humid morning sun, half turned inside-out, as if hurriedly discarded, yet draped calmly over the spikes. Light blue they are, with a cheerful pattern of clouds or sheep or something soft-looking. Perhaps they are being returned to an occupant of the building, the borrower having forgotten the correct apartment number. They are flannel by the look of it, cozy, and far too warm for a day like today. Perhaps they were abandoned for some relief from the heat. Maybe this really is evidence of the Rapture. They appear to be about a size 34 or so. No one seems to notice them, or if they do, no one seems to be bothered. No one wants to appear to be bothered. In any case, no one wants to fold them up and take them home.
I’ve had a crush on Tony Blair from the beginning. He’s smart and I’ll even say cute. Then he got even hotter when I began associating him with Bill Clinton, who I would vote for in an instant if he could run for president again. But that’s not what I mean by “crush.”
People alternately make fun of me or express horror that I have an autographed photo of him on a bookshelf at home. Yeah, he’s not the man who was elected in 1997. He was Bushwhacked and hijacked and dragged into compliance with America, into a war his people will not forgive him for, and I hate that. He stands by his decisions, says he still thinks he did the “right thing,” but he acknowledges he may have fallen short of expectations and trusts his people to judge his performance.
The “right thing” may well have been to side with the States. Maybe he’d be equally reviled if he had not stood with our vindictive president, weakening the UK in the process. It was an untenable position for any British PM, and I think he heard the air leaking out of his own credibility the moment Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” on that aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida.
However, I still have a lot of respect for him as a politician who isn’t afraid to also be an intellectual. I can’t imagine most American congressmen going up against a British MP in a debate. American politicians don’t even debate anymore. They cram as many talking points into 30 seconds as they can, whether or not it actually addresses or counters their opponents’ points. And, shame on us, we don’t call them out on it. We accept it. But these are the people we have to choose from, so one of them wins and is rewarded for bad behavior and intellectual laziness.
One of the questions at the first Republican “debate” last week was, “What is the one thing you hate the most about America?” I think it was Mitt Romney who paused for a long while and said something like, “I’m at a loss. I love America,” and then went on and on about rolling hills and streams and the hard-working and innovative American people, bla bla bla…
Too bad so many of those hard-working American people can’t afford to keep themselves healthy — to enjoy the mountains and the streams, and to continue being hard-working and innovative. Our ridiculously lopsided and unfair health care system is one of the things I like least about America, but not one of the candidates would dare say something so substantive or meaningful.
But I don’t have a bratty constituency to placate, and I don’t have special interest groups and lobbyists to appeal to, so I can say those things. I don’t have to promise to fix America’s problems even as I paradoxically pretend that America is so great that it has no problems.
Tony Blair has also been accused of being a master of spin. He has been accused of governing like a center-of-attention, American-style president instead of a British prime minister. But I’d trust him before I’d trust many American politicians to carry out good policy. He can function simultaneously and seamlessly as a leader globally, nationally and locally; he can work with or against another president, he can defend Labour policies in his own Parliament, and he can speak to any issue in his home constituency of Sedgefield.
I think he lost more sleep than I did the night of November 7, 2000. And imagine his dismay on the night of November 2, 2004, at the prospect of getting back into the sandbox with us! (Myself, I had a “Tony Blair for President” bumper sticker on my car that year.)
Like most politicians, American or British, I am sure, he started out as an idealist and was driven to realism, even perhaps cynicism, by the forces of the world. I still believe that he has something salvageable of that old pre-Iraq Tony. He can return to idealism after leaving 10 Downing Street. He can run off with Bill Clinton and marry him. (A guy can dream.)
There will be talk ad nauseam of his legacy now. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, of course. (Great Britain doesn’t exactly have a great record when it comes to Iraq, by the way.) He weakened the House of Commons. He was a hero in Northern Ireland. He has admirably managed the transition of devolution in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland. He did nothing to reform the House of Lords. He had over-reaching domestic policies and didn’t keep his promises. His foreign policy is a disaster. Economic gains made in the last decade are down to Gordon Brown, not Tony Blair. I know little about politics in general and even less about British politics specifically, but whatever your opinion of Tony Blair’s performance, I think it really comes down to this: Is the UK better off now than it was 10 years ago? The general consensus from anyone except a British Conservative seems to be: “Yeah, sure. I guess so.”
He may soon no longer be prime minister of the UK, but he will always be the prime minister of my heart.
Sadly, my childhood heroes look very little like they did when they came packed in styrofoam blocks slipped into cardboard boxes. “Robots in disguise,” indeed. What happened to the Megatron I know and love? Where’s my Starscream? Where’s my Mirage? My Hound? Jazz? Prowl? Red Alert?
For God’s sake, where’s my Bumblebee?
OK, I know… so Bumblebee sucked.
But what have they done to Optimus Prime’s paint job?
Walking along the shoreline toward the parking lot at the beach yesterday, we saw a little kid and his dad fishing. They were standing on the beach like anyone else, but they had rods, hooks, and fishing line. It seemed unusual and dangerous to be fishing where other people were swimming, but what do I know?
Flounders are weird-looking. They swim sideways, and they have evolved to have both eyes on the top side of their bodies. I wonder if it’s always the same side. And who decided: right or left? Mother nature is a slow-poke, though: Their mouths are still sideways. [www.northfloridafishing.com]
As we passed by, the dad was stooping down to pick something up from the sand. It looked like a large, broad, flat, brown leaf. Some kind of fish, I figured. Sure was ugly. He carried it carefully with two hands and walked toward the water. The kid, maybe 6 years old, maybe 7, looked up at us and exclaimed, “We caught a flounder!”
Then, turning to the people walking just behind us, he added, “How unusual!”
It was this second part that caught my attention, his high-pitched voice, his stress on the second syllable: “How un-yoo-sual!” I started laughing to myself at his precociousness as I walked away.
He was beside himself with surprise, joy, pride. I heard him repeating it a few more times, probably to anyone who looked at him. A flounder! How unusual!
When I was a kid, catching any living creature was a thrill, from the smallest tadpole to the largest pike. I loved fishing as a kid — everything but breaking the worms apart with my fingers. (I usually used a knife. A clean cut seemed more humane. Certainly less messy for me.)
His dad must have said it earlier. Looking at the fish on the line, the kid asking what it was, he must have said something like. “Huh. A flounder. How unsual.” And that kid, so desperate to grow up and emulate his dad, was sharing the news with us all.
This morning, in the kitchen, brewing coffee and cobbling together a meager lunch, with windows open all over the apartment and no air conditioning on, I noticed a coolness in the cross-breeze that wasn’t there yesterday. There was a dry, still and cold aspect to the morning air that made my arm hair stand up and my insides go soft. I love the first time every year I notice this coolness. It didn’t last long. It may be wishful thinking, but there will be more mornings like this in the weeks to come. And one day, in mid-September, I’ll realize that it’s here — it’s really here. Autumn is knocking on the door now, and summer is too hungover to get off the couch to answer. But it won’t be long before the Tylenol kicks in and summer will step out for a Big Bacon Classic and let autumn in for a while in its absence.
… is that I don’t have to moisturize. My skin is plenty moist all by itself. If I did use any sort of lotion, it would only work back out of my pores and run down my face in great rivers of heavy, milky sludge anyway.
I’ve been showering three times a day at least during this heat wave. Normally, the soap would be burning my skin to a tight, dry, scaly mess. With conditions as they are, an hour after toweling off, my face has excreted a shiny, greasy sheen of salt and sebum. I could scrape my face with a strigil, like those ancient Olympians, and use the oil to read by lamplight tonight (thereby conserving electricity, thankyouverymuch, Mr. Bloomberg).
The downside is that my legs, unable to breathe under my oppressive chinos, are breaking out in a marvelous display of angry-looking epidermal eruptions. I feel pretty.