By Robert Polito
City of Presidents,
City of the Granite Railway and Fore River Shipyard.
But city too of condoms ground into our pitcher's rubber,
and city of water rats and black leeches floating in the spring runoff.
City of the first Howard Johnson's, the first Dunkin Donuts,
city of Lee Remick modeling summer dresses for her father's store,
And city now where Beatles albums drop from the sky
as Mike the Winger speaks from inside a circling crowd --
Pockmarked, pimpled and blazing,
he looks, Tommy LeBlanc said, like someone set his face on fire
then stomped it out with golf shoes.
As he straddles his new Black Phantom,
as he rocks on his new red Keds,
as he pounds his wire basket of new LPs,
Mike demonstrates the legendary gesture that gave him his name.
"I play 'em once, then I wing 'em," he says --
Every afternoon Mike spins his own Top 40 from his bike
like a paperboy launching the Patriot Ledger across our lawn --
"Those Rolling Stones? Those Beach Boys? Those groups all you kids like?
They're OK. But man, I love them Beatles --
they wing up real good!"
What about his parents? Where does he grab all that cash?
Nobody stops to ask,
caught in the awe of the grander phenomenon --
Manna from heaven --
Records eased from their jackets and arced into air --
Records pristine and gleaming in trees,
records scratched and gritty on the streets,
Amid shouts of Go Mike, Go nuts, Go wingnut,
Come on Mikey baby wing one over here --
The hits just keep on coming . . .
The dead are everywhere,
but if Mike is still alive,
he'd be tracking retirement age --
Though how do you retire from something like winging?
Mere technological obsolescence? Mike frustrated by CDs,
casualty to a digital age?
Maybe winging records is like making movies,
or saying Mass,
your calling --
You do it until you can't do it anymore.
Mike worshipped the early Gods of rock 'n' roll,
Chuck Berry, Elvis, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly,
then he winged everybody else..
None of the records Mike tossed have ever gone away.
Who would have guessed that?
City of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, our 2nd & 6th Presidents.
City of Miles Connor, rockabilly singer & art thief.
City of Robert Polito.
City of Mike the Winger.
"The city of 'Mike the Winger' is Quincy, Mass., where I lived from age 8 through college," writes Polito in Poet's Choice. "The afternoons Mike appeared on his bicycle with a basket of new records at the foot of the South Central Avenue hill were rare and special, and rumors swirled about his circumstances, most of the stories at once confident and implausible. Was he a Korean War Vet, way older than he looked? A junkie? Retarded? Schizophrenic? A genius until some goons pounded his head with a pipe in a schoolyard fight? Mike loomed a bit of a phantom -- but so did Quincy, amid its granite quarries, ancient water tower, Vaudeville Mondays at the Wollaston Theater (into the '70s!), sad beach (despite twin yacht clubs) and Quincy Square disintegrating around its Richardson Library and historical Adams House. But Quincy Square also contained 'Remicks of Quincy,' the posh clothing store a few doors down from Sears, where, if you were lucky, you might see Lee Remick visiting her father, Frank, and Jason's Music and Luggage, your destination for sheet music, instruments and the latest LPs. I made a pilgrimage to Jason's every Saturday, and so did Mike." The poem is in Hollywood & God.
We were going to spend Saturday in Baltimore, winding up at the harbor for the Parade of Lighted Sail, but it started snowing before 9 a.m. and kept it up throughout daylight hours, so we stayed closer to home. It was the first really wintery day of the season, and we discovered that neither boy's coat still fit, so after Hebrew school we took them to Kohl's to get new ones -- a really good day for it, since the roads were pretty empty and so were the stores, given that Washingtonians tend to panic and stay home when snow is falling even though the temperatures never dropped below freezing so it never stuck to the roads. We got to take advantage of weekend bargain prices and get boots, too! Plus we stopped at the Alternative Gift Fair at a local middle school, where shoppers can purchase gifts to benefit others like jewelry made by women in developing countries. We found out about it from Star Gazing Farm, which was selling wool and plush animals there, but we had not known that they were bringing one of their bantam chickens and a sheep we'd met when we visited the farm, so that was a nice surprise.
Me, Adam, and cats keeping warm on the couch. We had put down the boys' old coats to be taken downstairs and put in bags for AmVets but they were taken over by the people who actually rule the household, and in fact are still being used as cat blankets.
Here is the snow shortly after it began around 9 a.m....
...and here is the same view a couple of hours later when the fluffy snow was starting to collect.
Great big flakes were falling, but they quickly became slushy as they landed, since it had rained for a long time and everything was very wet.
The view out back was beautiful and it was also very pretty driving into the snow on I-270, though we passed a few accidents and it was rather scary seeing how some people were driving.
This is Gruff the Sheep from Star Gazing Farm, visiting the Alternative Gift Fair. He got too warm in the school cafeteria so he was taken for a walk outside. (There is a photo of him from July here.
Daisy spent the day trying to get as humanly close -- er, as cattishly close -- to the vent as possible without actually sitting on it, since she gets lifted and dumped if we catch her on top of the warm vent cover.
Eventually she and Rosie decided to share the coats and stay warm in this yin-yang position smushed between me and Adam on the couch.
We watched the two parts of Merlin's "Beauty and the Beast" (hereafter known as "the Shrek episode), which we all enjoyed a lot -- okay, there are all the usual stereotypes about what make women attractive but it's all worth it to watch Tony Head play a man besotted with a troll, which he does with what appears to be great enjoyment. The troll is very Slitheen -- lots of icky skin and farting -- and Arthur is touchingly concerned about Merlin when Catrina accuses him of stealing (the "I thought you were going for a hug" scene alone would make the episode worth watching). And I love that Uther was having a handfasting, not a Christian wedding -- it has never been entirely clear to me exactly when this version of the legend is supposed to be set, let alone exactly where or how they get the polyester clothing, but I am delighted that the characters are officially pagan, even anti-magic Uther. Then we watched "The Witchfinder," which I think is the best episode of the season so far, and relevant politically in this era of witch-hunting though Uther has looked much too stupid and cavalier with the lives of his nearest and dearest far too many times during the run of the series.
I was going to root for Florida against Alabama because I hate Alabama, but I'm so sick of Tebow's eye-black Bible passages that I ended up not caring, which is just as well since Alabama won. I couldn't work up any enthusiasm for either team in the Texas-Nebraska match-up, either, but at least it was an exciting fourth quarter!