“. . . hearty Laugher and name rememberer, Proud me . . .”

Stuart Dischell was born in 1954, which makes him 60. Hardly old enough to be thinking about what he used to be.

My little job as shipping clerk

My little job as shipping clerk

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me . . .
(1).

Poor guy. Wait nine years and see how much he misses of himself. He won’t remember half his list. In some box of the stuff I’ve kept over the past 45 or 50 years, I have a photo of myself lying on the floor on an oriental rug. My late ex-wife took it to haunt me. I fell asleep drunk. Again. The photo is one of my favorites, not because I remember the rollicking good time but because it’s not possible to tell I’m drunk. I look like a healthy 25-or-so-year-old graduate student.

We had not yet entered the phase of love beads and hair/beard not trimmed for a year and brownies that now would be legal in Colorado. When people from California, Iowa, or Boston or St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmers Branch, TX, say they miss me, that boyish guy lying on the floor is whom they miss, in my mind. Never mind he was drunk and sans PhD. Or many other accomplishments I’ve learned to value over the years.

Note I did not say the accomplishments were valuable, but that I valued them. Some were of value, but most of less value than I paced on them.

Fortunately, I don’t remember—I assume—much (most?) of what I’ve done that is of real value. If I did, I’d “think of [myself] more highly than [I] ought to think, [rather than to] think with sober judgment,” as frumpy old St. Paul said in Romans 12. I remember–not as “accomplishment” but as simple experience—too much scripture for my own good. My mother quoted that Bible sentence to hold over my head so it would not swell inappropriately. Thanks, Mom.

A bit of sarcasm. I thank her for that in the same way I thank her that whenever someone says “Dr. Knight,” I look over my shoulder to see to whom they are speaking. My PhD still sits uneasy.

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a [PhD]

(Shakespeare, William. History of Henry IV, Part II. III.1)

Lest anyone think I think I don’t deserve my PhD, I hasten to say that’s not what I mean. Those three years of seminars, that intense study for qualifying exams, and the 367-page dissertation were my accomplishments, no one else’s, and they are the required hoops through which one jumps to be called “Doctor.” Just as getting old is now my full-time job, so were those hoops between 1974 and 1988. Fourteen years? you ask incredulously.

Helping people live by testing their blood

Helping people live by testing their blood

I wish I knew the name of the Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Iowa in 1987—and if he is still alive. I’d like to say “thank you” to him F2F. By the time I was ready to take my qualifying exams, I had been away from the program physically—I was in Massachusetts by then—and chronologically—it had been more than the seven years allowed to finish after residency without taking many seminars again.  The Dean allowed me to finish—to write my dissertation and defend it—because I told him I’d finally sobered up, and several people—including the Rector of the church where I directed the music—wrote letters of support. I did the work, but my PhD is something as a gift.

I don’t remember if I’ve written about that before. After all, this is the 633rd posting I’ve made in my two blogs since September, 2009 (about one every other day). I read those earlier postings now and think, “Who wrote this?” Not because they are such bad (or good) writing, but because I can’t believe I ever knew or thought most of what’s in them.

This morning at 4:30 when I got up, a small group of men were down in the street finishing a job they began yesterday. Apparently repairing a water main leak or some such heavy, unpleasant (and thankless) work. Last night water gysered from the hole they had dug in the street for quite awhile. When I looked out this morning, the gushing had stopped and the hole was nearly filled. In the time I’ve been writing they have finished the job and taken away the machinery.

I wonder if those workmen will bring their grandchildren to this corner and say, “This is where I helped keep the water supply of Dallas flowing on March 1, 2014.”

I’m not someone who flails about talking about the value of good hard work. I’ll leave that to Bill Maher (whose job hardly keeps Dallas—or any other city—in running water). However, I know that my little jobs as shipping clerk at the (now disappeared!) Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana, CA, and as a night shift technician in a lab at L.A. County Hospital, while I hated them at the time, are an important part of “Me, the old me, the great me.” Not the kinds of things Stuart Dishell calls up from his memory. I’ve had plenty of those, too. (Three men, however, not three women, and never handsome and hirsute In soccer shoes and shorts.)

Those jobs, as clearly as my PhD studies, are my preparation for being a

Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.

I’m nine years closer to the “frameless door” than Dishell. Who, by the way, also has a graduate degree from the University of Iowa.

Days of Me,” by Stuart Dischell

When people say they miss me,
I think how much I miss me too,
Me, the old me, the great me,
Lover of three women in one day,
Modest me, the best me, friend
To waiters and bartenders, hearty
Laugher and name rememberer,
Proud me, handsome and hirsute
In soccer shoes and shorts
On the ball fields behind MIT,
Strong me in a weightbelt at the gym,
Mutual sweat dripper in and out
Of the sauna, furtive observer
Of the coeducated and scantily clad,
Speedy me, cyclist of rivers,
Goose and peregrine falcon
Counter, all season venturer,
Chatterer-up of corner cops,
Groundskeepers, mothers with strollers,
Outwitter of panhandlers and bill
Collectors, avoider of levies, excises,
Me in a taxi in the rain,
Pressing my luck all the way home.

That’s me at the dice table, baby,
Betting come, little Joe, and yo,
Blowing the coals, laying thunder,
My foot on top a fifty dollar chip
Some drunk spilled on the floor,
Dishonest me, evener of scores,
Eager accepter of the extra change,
Hotel towel pilferer, coffee spoon
Lifter, fervent retailer of others’
Humor, blackhearted gossiper,
Poisoner at the well, dweller
In unsavory detail, delighted sayer
Of the vulgar, off course belier
Of the true me, empiric builder
Newly haircutted, stickerer-up
For pals, jam unpriser, medic
To the self-inflicted, attorney
To the self-indicted, petty accountant
And keeper of the double books,
Great divider of the universe
And all its forms of existence
Into its relationship to me,
Fellow trembler to the future,
Thin air gawker, apprehender
Of the frameless door.

A hard night's work

A hard night’s work


One Response to “. . . hearty Laugher and name rememberer, Proud me . . .”

  1. Pingback: “. . . Above the eagle a serpent was coiled about a shield and in the spaces between. . .” (Flannery O’Connor) | Me, senescent

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