Archive for category autobiography
Everything I know about good Gamesmanship, I learned from my older brother. He now has kids, and I tried playing a board game with my nephew, and niece, with help from our Dad, now Grandad.
Seriously, from my brother, I learned what it means to play fairly, to know the rules, to play by the rules, and to be ok with either winning or losing — as long as you were playing fair, and acting fair, whatever the outcome.
I had to report to my brother that my young nephew had disappointed both Grandad and myself by being a really bad sport after not-winning the third of three games he had actually won. Everyone, especially young ones, likes to win. No one, especially young ones, likes to lose.
But I had to tell my brother and his wife, soon after, that my nephew had up-ended the game board because he was upset that he had lost. My brother, as his father, was especially upset, being the person that taught me gamesmanship in the first place, 40 years ago, and had believed in it for at least that long. My nephew’s mother was equally upset. Except, my brother sounded upset on more than a fatherly, parentally level — he was incredibly not pleased on the level he was upset when he was six and I was three, when I wasn’t playing games level and fair and reasonable, and gracious in loss as well as win.
This is an incredibly important lesson. I hated to have to be a part of imparting it, but I realized all of this even as I ratted my nephew out to his parents, my sister-in-law and my big brother, being the guy who taught me that gamesmanship was important and, in a big way, moral. Morality is the big thing to teach.
So: Gamesmanship is the big thing that lets us still happily play games to this day, even with every Striving effort to best the other; with no hard feelings – and with all admiration – if the other guy achieves.
I started a few memory exercises years ago. People used to memorize poems, but I’ve never been one much for that. Even for my own poetry. (Which, I remind myself, I really ought to be able to recite, at least my favorites.) Come to that, I can’t even recite complete Beatles lyrics in the shower, even though I’ve listened to each of those songs a dozen thousand times.
One of my memory exercises was to recite all of the Presidents of the United States of America, forward and backward. Another was a long Monty Python sketch, forward-only. The third was to memorize and recite all of the winners of the Best Picture Oscar(R) award from AMPAS, not just backwards and forwards, but odds and evens years, random access, whatever. It occasionally comes in handy in crossword puzzles, when the clue is “Best Picture (year)”.
I’ve lapsed on all of these, in recent years. Last night, I decided to recite the Best Picture winners from 1980 to the present, and it went okay, until I got to the last three years, the elevensies. The aughts were hard to remember, I had nearly as much trouble for the thirties and the fifties and sixties, once upon a time. Got those down. But the recent ones are more and more difficult to remember.
2009 was The Hurt Locker. Okay. Got up to there. So, 2010, 2011, and 2012. 2012 was Argo, I remember that because I was like, “WTF? Argo? It was okay, but Best Picture?” And then I stuck on 2010 and 2011. For an hour. Eventually I had a brain spark and shouted, “The Artist!” But I couldn’t remember whether The Artist was 2010 or 2011; even so, there was one missing.
In vain, hopeless, I searched the “cable-channels-of-movies-on-demand” for help, and “The Descendants” (2011) came up, and its precis said it was an Acadamy-Award-winning movie. I recalled that it was nominated for Best Picture, but it didn’t seem stored in my memory as the winner for whatever year that was (just one ago, from this one).
Damn, dang, damn, damn, dang, damn, dang, dang, argh. What was the one?
I had this idea that there were two (or three?) “The _________” movies in a row. So, “The Hurt Locker” and “The Artist” were at least two, so the third “The ___________” was what? Or was it just two? So those were the only two “The ___”‘s?
Finally, 24 hours later, I looked it up, looked into it. “The King’s Speech”. FeCK! Right. Of course. That was 2010. “The Artist” was 2011. So there *were* three “The ___”‘s in a row.
It’s always easy to remember when you read the list, and then go “ohhhh yeahhhh.”
Now, I just need to remember how to recite my poems. I only ever wrote poetry for a year and a half or so, nearly 20 years ago. As if the Muse came and then fled. I wrote a bunch. All memorable, so I can take up the task of memorizing them, because they’re mine, my words, my poems, and I need something to recite while I’m in the shower.
Something else to put on the docket for 2014, besides the other stuff.
It surprised me to know how much active interest there was in my starting a regular blog. “Finally,” one supporter said to me, as just one word in a longer sentence expressing doubt about the venue I was seeming to choose for such a venture. In essence, he said, Rob’s finally going to have a blog, and he’s going to waste it on a flighty start-up blog thing?
Rob’s finally going to have a blog? As in, “Where was this blog years ago, so we could have started following it every day back then?” Why have you waited so long?
I have a very small audience, but I was forced, for the Nth time, to realize that I do, yes, have one. And what is a blog? Some guy’s take on things, posted regularly — daily, one hopes. Whatever that guy comes across that makes him think, let’s have it. Let’s hear his take on that thing. As a reader, I have my own take, or maybe I’ve never heard of it, so maybe I’ll read this guy’s take on it, then investigate it myself.
The important thing is, this guy, and his take on things. I want to read that. I’m interested in that. I’m amused and entertained by that. I’m challenged by that. I’m moved to thoughtfulness by that.
I honestly didn’t realize, until I started making noises about having a blog, that I had an audience who were happy to hear my take on things, in the form of a blog. As of now, I realize that I do.
It is enough to make me want to have and keep up and respect having an actual blog.
This is just the prelim version. The actual version starts and runs for the next year, I think I promised my faux-admin guy, who will help me out, but really wants me to learn to help myself. As if I could learn to fish and feed myself every day, without help. Hah.
“I like it. I’m proud of it,” Anthony said, one late night in 1996, after we’d just recorded the best tape recording of our career/lives. He added:
“Nobody else would’ve done that.”
It was a — how can I describe it? A re-creation of “War of the Worlds”, Orson Wells’s 1938 broadcast. It was an improvised effort, entirely unplanned, among three friends from high school, without the fourth (Grog) that made us a foursome, late into my and our friendship, but in 1996, that was all and enough.
It was the last tape and recording of Anthony, but we still sounded like we were just getting started on a podcast career, all of us. We just finally sounded like we could do it *for real*, but we never did it again, because …
Well, never mind that. “I like it. I’m proud of it. Nobody else would’ve done that.” Makes me laugh, every time, and smile, and know — no, nobody else would’ve done that, nobody else ever DID do that, we were the only ones who would ever *do* that, and we *DID* it, and the recording survives, telling that we did, did, did, do it, did it, done it.
Thanks to God, we were the only ones who would have done that, and we did it, and that we (thank you, Dave) recorded it, and so not only did we, were were, the only ones who did that; but that, people can hear what we done did, that one night, in 1996. So long ago, and such yesterday,
Good morning. This is maybe why I started a blog.
24 January 1998 – 5:33 pm
At Offices – Austin, TX
What to Do on Saturday Afternoons
There are nights followed by mornings-after when I’ve had it up to here with this place and its clientele and with coffee and especially with cigarette smoke. I wake on these mornings with a dry throat and no energy at all to rise and I feebly declare that “I shall not go there again today, perhaps never again!”
And then what happens is that tea time rolls around, and it seems that it would be splendid to have a warm cup of coffee and to read a book — perhaps even do some drawing — and then, here I am. I had more to say about the people who work here — who smile when I come in and wave when I leave, but didn’t notice at all that I wasn’t here for nine days. Why should I expect them to? Perhaps because I notice when they are gone for a few days. Oh, well.
Especially on Saturday afternoons, when the sunlight turns slanty and golden, this place seems just the thing, and often it meets my expectations. One is moved to think God created the coffee bean and tobacco leaf and the book, just with Saturday afternoons in mind.
I want to put together an interactive writing conference, in an unlikely place. I have looked into the future, and it is will have been having going to happened, so I know it will shall have worked out, but not yet.
Do you know how I should get the thing started. Does it take some sort of LLC to reserve a venue, or can you just do it with phone calls and emails. Would you be available to show up, a year from now, plus or minus.
Might I invite everyone I can, and who else can be there, and how do you do a conference, in a year?
I’ve seen that it is has was been happened, but it still could not happen. But, it might have been actually did.
For Uncle Al
2nd March 2o12
To all my Family,
I have not felt the pain of loss of a parent, or a spouse, but I do know the loss of someone inextricably wound into the fiber and pattern of my life. Someone closer to me than my dear Uncle Al–a childhood friend who did not make it to 40. It is a loss that still hurts.
I did not get to meet my Uncle Al past my infancy or early toddlerhood (at the latest). He appears in none of our home movies, and in precious few photographs. I always have understood how his professional career required him to live in another country most of his–and therefore my–life, but he was *always* a part of the family, actively, just as he still, in a new way, now, is. I wish, now, that we had spent a few minutes every family gathering that he could not attend sharing stories about him, that through hilarious anecdotes I could know him better, now.
My mother, who is a repository of family lore, has one favorite story about Uncle Al, that she often recounts; and I love to hear it, as it tells me so much about him. It goes like this:
At the Camp one summer, Uncle Al volunteers to do the grocery shopping. He returns with the beaming face of a little boy having procured the most awesome vegetable ever: a single head of broccoli, the size of a tree trunk, itself filling one whole paper grocery bag — the big kind. One can imagine him irresistably drawn to the most kingly stalk of broccoli in the world, delighted–while having no earthly idea how inedibly wooden a thing to cook for dinner the thing is going to be.
Smiling happily, having acquired vegetable awesomeness — that’s my Uncle Al!
I did get to hear Uncle Al’s voice on the phone, on one of my recent visits to the Camp. I was closest to the phone when he called for Aunt Kai. We spoke for fifteen seconds, but it was enough–to hear his voice, and to say hi–for it to be a small comfort now: Yes, we talked! How nice that is, how lucky. It makes perfect sense, in retrospect.
I searched my unconscious/pre-conscious memories — ie, I “let go” and just *felt* — just imagine-remembered — any and all feelings and impressions of my Uncle Al. I discovered definite avuncular feelings, fond and goofy, of this same man having chuckled with me, having read me a story, having rescued me from some bit of mischief or trouble that I was about to get into. A smiling face. Now being an uncle myself, to Andreas and Karen li, I know what an uncle’s affection feels like, and I always felt that from my Uncle Al, no matter how absent he was in person, from that time early on, until now.
Maybe, from Peter’s upcoming wedding on, we can use every family occasion from now on to share a few stories about Uncle Al, and about Grammy, and Grampy, and Winn Mayo, and indeed about all our family’s loved ones, and thus to help us all know them better, and love them always in the present tense, not in the past — because I know it will make them all still present with us, now and for ever after.