Search This Blog

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Think, Don't Feel

The quote of the day is from Horace Walpole, the 18th century British writer and literary critic: "Life is a tragedy to those who feel and a comedy to those who think." So I am trying to think, not feel, as I read about the ongoing mayhem. The suicide bombing of subways and doubledeckers in London, the suicide bomber who kills 100 Iraqis by detonating next to a gasoline tanker truck, the nice lady who blew herself and several others to Kingdom Come on the shuttle bus in Turkey - I need to think about this. I am having trouble finding the comedy in all of this.

I don't understand very many things. I don't even fully understand myself. When I get boggled, I try to take comfort in fatalism - I am not important; in fact, the human race is not that important in the grand scheme of things. This old earth was around for a long time before the first human appeared and is likely to be around a long time after the last human dies. If you think about this for a long time, small glimmers of humor begin to appear around the edges of our most tragic human events. I think this approach is behind Douglas Adams' "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" books. It can all end, our physical existence may cease yet there will be something that continues - perhaps we continue to participate in the world after we are gone. Perhaps humans will continue to participate in the galaxy when if and when we destroy our planet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Independence Day

The recent long weekend began Friday night with a Mystery Band gig at my local blues bar. The Taste of Chicago was in full swing and lots of folks were out of town for the holiday, so the crowd was a little sparse. There were about 40 paying customers and 10 or so "comps." My beautiful wife and my two little girls came for part of the first set, which is smoke-free/family-friendly. The Mystery Band included Tom Crivello, a guitarist who never played with us before (Tony Palmer, my regular guitar man, had a death in the family and was forced to cancel). We were a little ragged at first with the new guy in the band, but it smoothed out after a few tunes. Tom is a great blues guitarist; we just had to get clicking. Playing the blues with unknown, but good, musicians is kinda like being with a new sex partner - you know how to do it, but you just haven't done it together, so there can be some minor missteps until you find the groove.

Sunday was a quiet day. Independence Day dawned with light showers - our first rain in ages. The vegetation in the Chicago area is dying from lack of precipitation. From May 20 through July 6, we have had less than one inch of rain in Chicago. This is the first time in the 135 years of recorded weather observations in Chicago that precipitation levels have been this low in late spring/early summer. This will be a bad year for Illiniois farmers.

As I was leaving the house for my bike ride on Monday morning, the telephone rang. It was my father-in-law, Gregorio. He was quite insistant that we come to his bungalow in Chicago (33rd and Ashland) for an Independence Day barbecue. His brother is visiting from Mexico - my wife's uncle. So we went and I met Lucadio, Gregorio's younger brother (Gregorio is 81, Lucadio is 80). Lucadio needs a walker to get around, and he seemed to be in pain. We took a look at his left leg and reeled back - it was red and swollen, from toes to thigh. My wife insisted on taking him to the emergency room at our hospital back in Evanston. The ER docs admitted him and hooked him up with IV's of powerful antibiotics. He is still there. I suspect that he could have lost the leg to the infection if it had gone untreated.

We had a wonderful dinner with our neighbors - Kim and Jean-Francoise. They are both porfessors at Northwestern and their brilliance would intimidate me if I thought about it. To close out the day, we watched "Taxi Driver" ("You talkin' to me?") the DVD player and walked down to the lake for the Evanston fireworks. We watched the show from a street near the lake, and the concussion from the fireworks explosions set off car alarms up and down the block. It was a collection of obnoxious sounds, but the visuals were good.

I like Independence Day. I am still a huge fan of the USA - its principles, the concepts behind the country, the intense energy of the place. We don't always live up to our principles, we make more than our fair share of mistakes, but we keep trying. I don't understand the "blame America first" philosophy, but I understand that in world affairs, we are everyone's problem and everyone's solution.