By Stephen Dunn
If a clown came out of the woods,
a standard-looking clown with oversized
polka-dot clothes, floppy shoes,
a red, bulbous nose, and you saw him
on the edge of your property,
there'd be nothing funny about that,
would there? A bear might be preferable,
especially if black and berry-driven.
And if this clown began waving his hands
with those big white gloves
that clowns wear, and you realized
he wanted your attention, had something
apparently urgent to tell you,
would you pivot and run from him,
or stay put, as my friend did, who seemed
to understand here was a clown
who didn't know where he was,
a clown without a context?
What could be sadder, my friend thought,
than a clown in need of a context?
If then the clown said to you
that he was on his way to a kid's
birthday party, his car had broken down,
and he needed a ride, would you give
him one? Or would the connection
between the comic and the appalling,
as it pertained to clowns, be suddenly so clear
that you'd be paralyzed by it?
And if you were the clown, and my friend
hesitated, as he did, would you make
a sad face, and with an enormous finger
wipe away an imaginary tear? How far
would you trust your art? I can tell you
it worked. Most of the guests had gone
when my friend and the clown drove up,
and the family was angry. But the clown
twisted a balloon into the shape of a bird
and gave it to the kid, who smiled,
let it rise to the ceiling. If you were the kid,
the birthday boy, what from then on
would be your relationship with disappointment?
With joy? Whom would you blame or extoll?
From this week's New Yorker.
Wednesday was the last full day my parents had my kids in Virginia with them -- today they went to Jamestown and the waterpark -- so to keep myself from loneliness, I had a lovely afternoon with Gblvr. We went to Noodles & Company, then a bunch of stores (mostly browsing -- the only thing I bought was an on-sale pair of off-white Sassari Crocs). I failed in my quest to find the perfect place to keep my necklace cords but I did get to put on electric blue glitter eye shadow. And I got a number one parking spot in front of the suspiciously quiet Whole Foods -- guess that strategy to tell Americans we wouldn't need health care if only we'd spend all our money at Whole Foods (which will miraculously make us thin and fit, even those with congenital conditions and injuries) may have backfired, Mr. Mackey.
Me manning one of the guns on the SS John W. Brown, one of two surviving US Liberty Ships out of a fleet of nearly 3000.
The ship, which was built in Baltimore, was visiting the Inner Harbor last weekend.
Here's a view of one of the guns pointed toward the Maryland Science Center.
We were able to visit the flying bridge...
...and the battle bridge below.
Here are my kids in the engine room...
...and some of the controls and gauges of the triple-expansion steam engine, now a maritime relic.
This is the ship's chapel, with nautical pulpit and artwork.
Since we had no boys at home to quote the inappropriate parts, we watched Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, which I haven't seen since college -- I could never stomach the vomit scene on the big screen, and in general the gross factor is too high for my tastes, plus after the brilliance of the seas of high finance at the start of the film, it doesn't have the magnificent political edge of Holy Grail and Life of Brian -- but the good parts are still hysterical (sex ed, marching up and down, the tiger, farewell gifts in wartime). And then Jon Stewart blasting apart Fox News just made my night. Now can someone who understands the Commonwealth far better than I do please explain Turks and Caicos to me?