In a stimulating essay (“The Sex Drive, Idling in Neutral”) in today’s New York Times, Meg Wolitzer says she cannot imagine women like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice having sex. This led me to thoughts I shouldn’t have had, of other people of either gender whom I cannot imagine likewise having sex—e.g., Golda Meir and Lyndon B. Johnson (too wrinkly); Michele Bachmann and Joan Crawford (too arch)); Mr. Rogers and Justin Bieber (too chipper); Pee Wee Herman and Conan O’Brien (too many uncoordinated limbs); Alan Cumming and John Boehner (in spite of their names); Barbara Bush and Queen Mum (evidence to the contrary); and, thank God, Pope Benedict XVI and Mother Teresa. So, who’s on your list? Excluding me, of course.
Listen to Paul’s interview.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. And then the whining school-boy… the lover, sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
Although I’m calling this website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think. — Paul
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Jersey Shore’s “Snooki” got $32,000 last night for talking to a thousand undergraduates at Rutgers University about hair styling and “lessons for life,” while Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison will get only $30,000 to deliver the university’s commencement address in May. Snooki offered her audience the following advice: “Study hard, but party harder.” I don’t mean to poop on Snooki’s party, but what price fame and fortune? Hair today, gone tomorrow.
Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association, the Kansas Legislature has now approved a bill that would allow the use of silencers for hunting, fishing and fur harvesting. Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign the bill with no loud outcries from the air, nor from the field and stream. So now we can kill all them critters quietly. And maybe also that hawkish neighbor across the street who drinks like a fish and behaves like an ass.
The Associated Press reports that Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, believes that the devastating earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan are “a punishment from heaven” because the Japanese have become greedy. Who knew that Fred Phelps has followers in Japan? He’s probably there right now with his placards and picket signs: “Wasabi=Death!” “God Hates Sushi!” “Man Does Not Live on Ramen Alone!”
In some ways, what Col. Moamer Kadhafi is doing to his own people in Libya seems kinder and more honest than what Gov. Scott Walker is doing to his own constituents in Wisconsin. While the Libyan dictator simply shoots and kills those who are against him, the Republican strongman tortures his opponents by cleverly stripping them of their rights as Union members, leaving them to die a slow death as Wisconsin weeps. Meanwhile, the rest of America watches it all on television before turning its attention to more important matters, like what’s going to happen to Charlie Sheen now that he’s not even the half of Two and a Half Men.
I’ve just read The Sunday New York Times. There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is, that Frank Rich is gone; he’s now writing for New York magazine. The good news is, Maureen Dowd has inherited his usual place in the paper, with more column inches. I guess that’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for womankind.
The Republican mantra during the midterm elections last November was “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS” by way of fixing the economy; and yet, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow keeps pointing out night after night on her show, all the Republicans seem to be fixating on the past couple of weeks are stricter anti-abortion laws. I do think there’s some method to this GOP madness.
If we get more BABIES, BABIES, BABIES, then there will be more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS for baby-sitters, to say nothing of all the industries related to the care and feeding of babies. So let’s not pooh-pooh the ability of baby wipes to power up small business even as the bottom falls out of our economy. It’ll be a new day for the Grand Old Poop.
I thought I knew Maura Piekalkiewicz (1933-2011) fairly well, but at the service held at Lawrence Chapel Oaks on January 29 in her memory, I found out a great deal more about her activism for civil rights and social justice from personal stories shared by her son Andrew; her daughter Ellen; her friends Laura Gassen Templet, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, and Tony Backus.
Everyone laughed when Tony said that, as a couple, Maura and Jarek Piekalkiewicz functioned beautifully together, but were incompetent when one was without the other. After the laughter subsided, it hit home that Jarek, of course, was now without his Maura, so Tony urged us all to fill in the void not just in days and weeks but also in the months and years yet to come.
For me, the most moving part at Maura’s memorial service, beyond all the wonderful stories which were told about her, was the moment when everyone was asked to read out loud a poem which Maura had herself written. Her family found the poem in one of her journals, and they wanted to share it with everyone. Here’s Maura’s poem:
“O Heavenly Father,
O Great Spirit,
O Mary, Our Blessed Mother,
We thank you for food and
Remember the hungry.
We thank you for health and
Remember the sick.
We thank you for friends and
Remember the friendless.
We thank you for freedom and
Remember those who are not free.
May your gifts to us
Be put in the service of others.”
At the service, everyone talked about how Maura loved all the arts—poetry, fiction, theatre, music, dance—but the one art which no one mentioned, the one she and I shared passionately, was the cinema. Not surprisingly, her taste in movies was catholic, both with a small “c” and a Capital “C.” And of all the movies we talked about, the one we returned to over and over, was Luchino Visconti’s 1963 adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel, The Leopard.
Maura loved the movie, all 183 minutes of it. She was rhapsodic about the long ballroom sequence at the end of the film, when the elderly Prince (played magnificently by Burt Lancaster), in poor health but keeping up a fine facade for the sake of those closest to him, wanders from room to room at the festive palace, looking at all the partying guests, bemoaning the passing of the old aristocracy but, at the same time, celebrating the birth of a new middle class. At the conclusion of the evening, the weary Prince finally wanders out into the night, alone, where he sees a priest and some acolytes hurrying into a church, as he himself disappears into the darkness.
In life, Maura Piekalkiewicz lit up whatever room she was in, and for those among us who were fortunate to know this wonderful woman, her memory continues to light up all the rooms in our minds. She may have now wandered into the night, but she is not disappearing into the darkness.
Today, for the first time ever in my memory, because we had six or seven inches of snow, the United States Postal Service did not deliver the mail in my neighborhood in Lawrence, KS. I called them up to ask about their official creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And they said that the United States Postal Service has no such official creed or motto.
So I did some checking, and they’re right. Apparently, the quotation in question is merely an inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City; and this, in turn, is attributed to Herodotus, the Greek historian who, in his Histories, was referring admiringly to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire.
Oh, that our pony express should be outfoxed by camels!
For two weeks now, ever since the shootings in Tucson, Arizona, I’ve wondered what life must be like these days for Suzi Hileman, the 59-year-old woman whose idea it was to bring nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to that “Congress on Your Corner” which ended so tragically for the child. An article in The New York Times today tells us about the awful nightmares Suzi Hileman has been having; and I was happy to learn that some of the parents in her neighborhood “have already volunteered to take their children to visit Ms. Hileman, lest she get bored or worry that she is no longer trusted,” that “the Hilemans have already reconnected with Christina’s parents, Jon and Roxanna Green,” and that “when Mr. Green drove by with his son the other day, Ms. Hileman vowed that there would be more backyard water gun fights.”
Backyard water gun fights? Really? Is that an ooops, or is that an ooops?