Ben Carson once rooted around in the brains of children and made a good reputation as a neurosurgeon. His own brain has enough bat crazy pathologies to merit his own wing at the Rubber Room Academy of Continue reading
As I sit down to write this personal statement in applying to the MFA program in writing at Brown University, I preface it with the knowledge that I have had to create a unique community when traditional ones have been too often closed to me. Having grown up in a time when learning disabilities and physical delays were seldom discussed, I had to remain quiet about my deficits or risk being marginalized. Though I sometimes was, I was fortunate to benefit from small classrooms and devoted faculty at St. Andrews School in Barrington, Rhode Island, when I enrolled there in 1974. Without St. Andrews, I would never have attended college of graduate school. Prior to St. Andrews, I was failing every subject at age 12 as indifferent teachers and administrators showed no inclination or ability to deal with a student like me. Naturally, I internalized this and blamed myself for it. As to the community I have just referenced, it was a baseball community and a very special one. In the next part of this essay, I hope you will see why.
For a child who has a love of baseball but has physical delays, he learns to love the game from a distance. As he tries so hard to catch up to his peers, who take to baseball like a Great Plains wind to a drowsy wheat field, the boy fights himself, tripping over his feet while trying to coordinate legs, arm and trunk into a serviceable throwing motion. His gangly, underweight frame imparts no power or snap to the throw, elbow flying out ahead while his greatly imperfect eyes fail to calculate the angle and velocity of a ball for the purpose of striking it with confidence.
The boy, blind for the first two years of his life, doesn’t grasp why the game called to him. Perhaps it was the rhythm of it, languid for innings at a time until the practiced restraint of the contest resolves itself in a riot of precision, power, strain, error, dumb luck or inevitable release from its measured progress. A tie is an insult to both player and fan. Baseball continues until a master and the mastered remain without the absurdity of a clock, returning the manicured diamond to the indifference of entropy until the ground crew beats it back with hoses and rakes.
What did the blind infant contemplate in his incubator? He could not see his mother’s herculean efforts to let him remain in life or his father’s clenched sorrow. The prematurely delivered boy could not comprehend his hyaline membrane disease, the same malady that took the infant Patrick Bouvier Kennedy after two days of life in August of 1963.
The father knows that this boy will not be an athlete if he ever sees at all. Where are the inchoate hints of eventual manhood here? He was born after JFK took office in 1961 with the blindness, the lung operation while only hours old, the sloping, fragile shoulders, the impossibly thin limbs, the brain damage for lack of air, the sunken little chest and dearth of coordination, the six weeks it required to learn to ride a bike long after his vision came at age two, long after his peers had triumphed on two wheels in a matter of days. Teammates are found in the schoolyard and he was rejected there, left to dream by himself of kind friends and patient teachers as opposed to the tormentors they actually were. Teachers were either too ignorant or too indifferent to the boy’s learning disabilities to try to address them. School was a place to build walls, hunker down and try to survive.
There were Red Sox games on television though and baseball cards, the prayer of a souvenir cap from Dad with the Boston ‘B’ sewn on to a separate, square patch over the brim when he was taken to Fenway Park. There was seldom money for such an extravagance. The transistor radio, tuned perfectly and perched at the one position to pick up a game from Boston, sat on the night stand near the boy’s eyeglasses. Ned Martin and Jim Woods, the Red Sox announcers, had voices full of kindness, color and patience. He wished they could teach him to throw.
His father was patient but largely absent. The boy’s skills were absent in spite of all patience. Imaginary games were played in his room, swinging a blue, wooden bat from Benny’s and catching countless balls tossed from a prone position on the bed. Picturing games on the radio described the writer he would become. A blank page required no permission to encroach upon it and you didn’t wait to be picked. Instead of bringing skill to writing, you were allowed to learn as you went while the stumbling, false starts and failures were strictly private affairs. Learning baseball with real boys was humiliation, as school was, as home was and as girls were too. Writing was hard but blessedly solitary. It gave no reward but the hope of improvement. That came in the doing, like a batter hanging tough on a 12 to 6 curve. It was humble and humbling, truly a game for a weak eyed boy’s life.
His older sister loved the game too and she cried when Leron Lee of Cleveland injured Carlton Fisk’s knee in a devastating collision at the plate in 1974. Fisk’s torn left knee ligaments were said to be career ending but Pudge returned a year later and played for 24 more years. The boy’s sister allowed him to talk of the game and learn it’s verbal cadences for himself. This was a game he could play. Baseball was a common tongue between father and son, even a son who could never snap Dad’s glove as the father did his, even at age 16. The boy’s parents divorced in 1971 when he was 10 years old. His mother delivered the news alone at the kitchen table and he cried. The father was the man who took him shopping for Christmas and was otherwise gone, save for the father’s voice coming out of the radio or TV at 6:27 p.m. The Red Sox not liking the Yankees taught the boy about universal constants.
Adulthood brought a halting college degree and a succession of jobs that neither satisfied, paid or stayed. Grad school followed and not long after that was done, he found a newspaper article about an old time baseball league in Long Island, New York. They played barehanded with 19th Century style uniforms. With sheer will and unaccustomed luck, the Providence Grays first took the field in the spring of 1998 to honor the original World Champions of 1884. In his 30’s, the formerly blind former boy pulled on a baseball uniform and trotted out to his position with his friends. The old sadness was still there but now, there was joy to fill that lonely space too. Some never get what they need, some get most or all of what they need, and others still get what they needed most very late. The boy couldn’t find a tribe, so he made one instead. He grew to love baseball and children even more in the doing.
For a child who has a love of baseball and physical delays, he learns to love the game from a distance. Thanks to creating what was denied him as a boy, as well as the friends who allowed him to do it, he has been gifted with a late chance to learn to love himself after all. Baseball can forgive that way. It happens every spring.
The above captures my childhood obstacles and my best hopes in a compact space. For too many years, I lacked a community of my own and making one was the greatest revelation I have ever had. It taught me that I could do more than be swept along in the tide of my weaknesses and pathologies. I learned that I could harness them and evade the worst of them while developing unique ways to emphasize my best assets. Otherwise, I cannot explain the stark difference between my undergraduate record and my MA transcript. I ask you to overlook the former and to emphasize the latter as a much truer reflection of what I can do. As an undergrad, I was unwilling to get the treatment and counseling needed to gain insight into my learning disabilities. Like many young people, I was too ashamed then to do the personal work to get to the root of them. I am happy to say that this is no longer the case. Beyond this, I am applying to Brown because I want to delve more deeply into my creative potential and to be challenged at a great university that is willing to let me do so.
I no longer see writing as only an escape but as a means to transcendent, yet methodical, self knowledge. As highly competitive as Brown University is, I hope there may be room yet for someone on a long and non traditional journey. Creativity has been and will be central to it and with this aspiration squarely in mind, I ask you to consider letting me join your university community.
At age 13, Joan of Arc began hearing voices. Only a peasant girl of slight build and known for her piousness and hard work, it is said that saints appeared to Joan and told her to aid the French in the fight against the English. In 2000, Tom Brady, a Michigan quarterback of large build and known for his super model prowess and hard work, was taken as the 199th pick by the New England Patriots. Tom heard desperate voices of the Patriots fan base and as a sixth string quarterback, predicted to owner Bob Kraft that he would be the best move that the Patriots ever made. Joan of Arc saw saints. Tom Brady beat the Saints every time they appeared on the NFL schedule.
Like Brady, Joan predicted to the Dauphin that the French letting her fight for them would be the best move that they ever made. Joan pulled on her armor and led a victorious French rout at Orleans. Tom Brady pulled on his helmet after Drew Bledsoe fell in battle against the Green Army of New Jersey and led his troops to Super Bowl glory in New Orleans in 2002. Joan grew up worshiping God and Brady, Joe Montana. Though God could terrify people, He could not run the West Coast Offense. Montana frightened NFL defenses and always came through in the clutch, unlike some deities.
After still more victories, Joan was captured by the English, sold into captivity by John of Luxembourg, discredited by the Church and burned at the stake on May 30, 1431. After three more Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady was sold out by the NFL, had piddling and unprovable charges of under inflating a football lodged against him, was discredited by the Wells Report and is currently being burned at the stake.
The high church that is the NFL only wants to reestablish control. Joan’s church hid crimes for centuries. Roger Goodell’s church goes easy on woman beaters but hangs players for a single football being two pounds PSI under, according to league rules. Joan’s punishment was severe. They burned the babe at age 19. The Patriot’s punishment was almost as bad with a million dollar fine, the loss of two draft picks and a suspension of four games for Tom Brady, another young martyr. Goodell’s suspension of Brady was upheld on July 28, 2015.
Joan of Arc’s fate has been long sealed but she was formally retried posthumously and exonerated in 1456. Brady and the NFL Player’s Union also seek exoneration in the name of setting history right. They had to lie to tackle Joan and they are making it all up to singe Tom Brady. John Oliver briskly comments on Goodell’s level of competence when you scroll down and if this is any indication, Tom Terrific will be cleared.
Way back in February, Ian Rapaport of NFL Media refuted ESPN’s Deflategate report, which claimed that 11 of 12 footballs used in the first half of the AFC title game against the Colts were under inflated. Rapaport wrote that 11 of the 12 were only, “a few ticks” below the minimum with only one ball being 2 PSI under. The very slight under inflation of the 11 could then be explained by the independent scientific testing that has already been done. Those tests concluded that the cold weather probably accounted for the difference, with the exception of that one other ball.
Michael J.Naughton, Chair of the Physics Department at Boston College, has gone on record in saying that cool temperatures made the difference in the ball pressure readings. It has been reported otherwise that exposing balls inflated in a warm room and then introduced to cold temps would have an effect too. I’m hanging my hat on ESPN’s bad reporting and the NFL wanting to run the Patriots off the road after Spygate and let’s face it. A life as idyllic as Tom Brady’s just screams for some rock throwing by fans without an NFL title to brag about.
History will show that Joan of Arc relied on visions, saints, dreams and inspiration, gleaned from her chocolatey, pious center to live out her destiny. The great advantage she had is that there are no tangible records of encounters with saints, unless you see Archie Manning in a bar and buy him a scotch and soda with your Visa card. Tom Brady destroyed his cell phone, purportedly to hide evidence from the NFL. If the league succeeds in lighting Brady up, as the English did to poor Joan, then it may be left to distant generations to retry him, long after his NFL Hall of Fame plaque has grown an even patina of age. Judge Joe Brown’s court has more credibility that the Roger Goodell clown car. Brady had to sit for four games in spite of his successful appeal but such is the nature of conspiracies.
After the NFL ignored a fresh Deflategate controversy involving the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017, even the most delusional Pats hater had to conclude that the mania to hurt New England on the part of Goodell and his owner masters was real. With any provable reason to hate the Patriots gone, all that is left is jealousy and resentment because they have been winning for 16 years. That kind of consistency was just not assumed to be possible and for the other owners, it isn’t desirable or profitable for them either. Let them seeth. New England is packing for Houston.
Joan of Arc is a saint and if Tom Brady is merely mortal, he should at least be held to standards that are tied to the Earth and not devised by an all knowing and all powerful NFL Commissioner. Gods are jealous, after all. If you were going to single out any man for ill treatment, wouldn’t it be Tom Brady? His very existence sparks envy. That is the cost of greatness.
Joan of Arc made history. Tom Brady and the Patriots are still writing it and only their critics have been burned at the stake by fueling this team’s competitive fire. They didn’t need the help but on behalf of my fellow Patriots fans, thanks. Sincerely. Thanks.
King vs. Burwell is dead and the Affordable Care Act required no time in the recovery room before springing out of the Supreme Court building and into a permanent place in American life. The Supremes ruled today, 6-3, that the brief words, “an exchange established by the state”, would not rifle a plan that has provided health care coverage for eight million people.
The no votes, were Samuel Alito, the fire spitting Antonin Scalia and his appendix and doorstop, Clarence Thomas. The majority held that the words, “..established by the state”, may refer to both individual state exchanges as well as states which rely on the federal government to administer the Affordable Care Act for them.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that it was “inconceivable” that the Affordable Care Act would be written to purposely exclude those who lived in states without state exchanges. The Majority also decided that other parts of the ACA as written made it clear enough that the law was intended to apply to all Americans eligible for the federal stipends that make the difference between millions having access to care and going without it. Had the law gone down, insurance companies would have ratcheted up rates to make up for people in 34 states who would have lost their care without those stipends. Like any insurance program, you need to have enough customers paying in to make the rates affordable.
King v. Burwell was cooked up by right wing think tanks and more than one named plaintiff in the suit was not even qualified to be attached to this desperate attempt to destroy the ACA. One named plaintiff was living in a hotel when she signed on and having no legal address, was not eligible. Scalia, never one to miss any opportunity to make an ass of himself, bitterly exclaimed that the ACA should now be called SCOTUSCARE.
The ACA has been declared safe for now, along with President Obama’s legacy. The next GOP President who soils the Oval Office with his presence will set about trying to tear it all down again and the American people deserve to know that they will not have to worry about seeing a doctor anymore, no matter who is accepting checks from insurance company lobbyists. The fulminations of The Heritage Foundation painted the ruling in apocalyptic terms, as zealots always do.
John Beohner began issuing threats only seconds after the 6-3 decision went public. He has vowed to appeal and those same right wing think tanks are already recruiting a passel of fresh dupes to attach their sorry names to another run at the Supreme Court. Lower courts had turned away Burwell and the Supremes took it on anyway. Many feared that they did so to administer the death blow but having ruled against the first challenge to the law, maybe they took on this recent case to affirm the ACA’s fitness to apply to all states and not only the ones with their own exchanges.
The Court could have easily looked to the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. That clause requires all federally passed laws to apply to “the several states”, in the words of the 14th. That means all of them, Justice Scalia. The ACA law gave states the right to turn away the federal money to establish state exchanges and in most red states, the money was rejected for partisan spite and not for the needs of the citizens in those states. Giving states the choice was illegal under the Constitution. There have been 50 votes to repeal the ACA since the law passed in 2010 with Obama’s veto pen at the ready. They were merely temper tantrums, exercises in spite, spleen venting, partisan stubbornness and ritual demonstrations of dirt kissing subservience to their corporate paymasters. Representative Jan Shakowsky points out the importance of the ACA for women in particular.
Today’s ruling is heartening but make no mistake. You are not a real citizen of this country and neither am I, unless we have pockets deep enough to buy who we need to deliver the things we want. The GOP will continue to fight to take away your healthcare because you are not their client. You are in the way of their clients. For now, the Democrats were lucky for today’s decision because the ACA was not written tightly enough to ward off these ridiculous challenges. Most critics will never take it as a good thing that millions now have care where there was none before, that costs are coming down and The United States is no longer the only Western nation to not make health care available to its people.
Our system is rotten to the husk but the Supremes voted 6-3 to keep a health care life line in the water. Maybe Alito, Scalia and Thomas are drowning their sorrows somewhere tonight. If they end the evening unfit to drive, they will wake the next morning in the more embarrassing condition of being unfit to sport unflattering, black robes. They will continue to treat the law like their beverages of choice, a convenience to be used as the mood strikes and with little to no responsibility. When the tab comes for their reckless choices, they will leave that for the public, who must soberly live with their willful incompetence.
As to the GOP, their continued opposition to the Affordable Care Act is only a Band Aid covering their chronic wounds of ego, corruption, hyper partisanship and that jaundiced pallor that comes with sharing its collective sick bed with only the richest. The oligarchs need not worry about contagion though. They catch special treatment like a virus.
In the City of Light, Parisian workmen are taking a load off. Until very recently, the Pont des Arts Bridge was the site of true love and some clearly clunky symbolism. For many years, love drunk couples have inscribed their names on padlocks, locked them to the bridge, pledged their eternal love and then, flung the lock keys into the rolling Seine below. Reno, Nevada, is known as the divorce capital of the world. Reno stayed prosperous during the Great Depression by offering quickee, no fault divorces. The matrimonially shackled, mostly women, would get their walking papers at the Washoe County Courthouse, kiss a courthouse column for luck and then make the short walk to the Virginia Street Bridge. There, they would hurl the offending ovals on their left hands into the Truckee River below. Reno granted over 30,000 divorces in the 1930’s and was known to some as the Great Divide. If divorce can inspire nostalgia, here it is.
Be it Paris or Reno, marital hopes and regrets disappear into the watery depths eventually. It has been reported that the accumulated padlocks on the Pont des Arts Bridge weigh some 4.5 tons and are being removed for the good of the structure and the cooing duos upon it. Plexiglass will be installed on the sides and the only things able to be locked there will be a couple’s good intentions. Perhaps the padlock tradition could have remained if just under half of all of them had been removed each day to reflect the unions that won’t make it. Maybe the crowds could have been kept down by requiring speed marital counseling to get on the bridge and a three day cooling off period before couples are allowed to add their locks to the mass of ardently placed stainless steel, copper and tumblers.
This is mainly a political blog and nothing is more political than a marriage. To take part in that august institution requires making promises that cannot be fulfilled. It takes ceaseless campaigning, great expense and pleasing a distinct constituency by bending the truth as needed. The bride to be will perform field polling on her prospective husband with a hand picked focus group over Manhattans and dirty martinis. The prospective groom will be vetted for solvency and old skeletons will be dredged up, rattled and inspected if there are any bones to be found at all. Otherwise, he will make discreet inquires as to how his potential mother-in-law is holding up as a long term romantic barometer. Opposition research is never pretty. Some traditions must die and others evolve. As such, I declare that the Pont des Arts span will now be known as the Pinky Swear Bridge.
The Pinky Swear is a particularly awkward yet intimate mutual pledge. The sign of the hooked pinkies has formally existed in American culture since 1860 and is known in other contexts as “The Red String of Fate”. The legend says that the gods will tie an invisible, red string between two intended soulmates. With the new Pinky Swear Bridge, couples could have tied red strings to the sides but the Plexiglass won’t allow for that. The idea would have solved the weight problem while eliminating thousands of metal keys in the water below.
Christopher Morley once said, “The trouble with wedlock is that there’s not enough wed and too much lock”. This quote shall be displayed prominently at the rededicated Pont des Arts Bridge. In this oldest and most tempestuous of political unions, the red string will seal the Pinky Swear of devotion and fealty. Pledges will be made, the strings will float dreamily to their watery rest and coach tickets to Reno will be exchanged, along with the rings, at the altar as an open acknowledgement of the impermanence of the best of intentions. Guys, why pay a lawyer to help you divide your assets? Reno, baby! For the women, no fault and no baggage may have advantages over a good settlement. Is it really worth the fight? My solution is romantic, realistic, yet environmentally friendly. Come to think of it, I may be too pragmatic for Paris and padlocks are overpriced anyway.
So is that peculiar institution called, marriage.