Thursday, October 29, 2015

Maggie (poem for a friend)


“Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

No man can tell in what arch-farrier’s fire,
Or in what blessed blacksmith’s forge some morn,
Or how by that great Girlsmith’s good desire,
Those smoldering dark eyes of hers were formed.

With hair like darkest wood she was endowed,
But textured with the grace of flowing silk,
That formed a dark and brooding glory cloud,
To frame a face as smooth and white as milk.

For any man who struggles to be chaste
(And such a man I was and am today),
A danger clear, she was, in form and face;
A most bewitching alloy, I assayed.

But then, as prompted by the Paraclete,
I took a deeper look at her and saw,
The fire of her holiness complete,
And all her beauty, tempered by the law.

So let this lady’s power here be known,
That makes me ever truer to my own.

-- © Paul Erlandson, 2015

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Litany for Users of Social Media

Remember not, Lord, our social media offences, neither take thou vengeance of our mis-postings.  Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, and be not angry with us forever.
Spare us, good Lord.

From propagation of internet hoaxes; from sharing without verifying; and from posting things we simply wish to be true,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From using thy name in vain to guilt-manipulate others into sharing the crap we post,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From paying for our own joy with the tears of our friends,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From the posting of inappropriate images, of the seen which cannot be unseen,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From the mindless amping up of our vapid words by use of the f-bomb,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From cowardly blocking of those who have offended us,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From capricious unfriending of good people,
Good Lord, deliver us.
From sharing of drivel which happens to support our own political views,
Good Lord, deliver us.

In all time of our schadenfreude, in all time of our snarkiness, and in the hour of logging out,
                Good Lord, deliver us.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Stood Up By Tall Girls

I think their names were Pam and Tracy.  The fact that I'd remember that 38 years later says something about the effect these two girls had on my mind.  The two very tall girls I never met.

For the 1976-77 academic year, the powers that be at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) made a very foolish decision.  Their dormitories on West 27th Street were not filled to capacity, so they agreed to let some engineering students from Cooper Union stay in their dorm rooms.  Bob and I were roommates at FIT that year.  It was a great deal for us, if not for the school and its students.  We were on the meal plan, which was an all-you-can-eat affair for both breakfast and dinner, which had to result in an economic loss for FIT in our cases.  And all the more so since we stayed and ate longer than absolutely required by our appetites, simply to watch the splendid walking fashion show put on by the female students of FIT, who were mostly knock-outs, and who never wore the same outfit for both meals.

But, some stuff happened.  I'm not sure about the statute of limitations for some of those things that we allegedly did, but we were not invited back for the Fall of 1977.

Bob and I occupied Room 814 during the 1976-77 school year.  Back then, there weren't cell phones.  There were two pay phones in the hallway of our (co-ed) 8th floor.  If someone (e.g., parents) wanted to get hold of a dorm resident, they called the 8th Floor pay phone and whoever was nearby (or could hear it ring from her/his room) answered it and then fetched the person being called.  So, anyhow, we had this number memorized.

This is how it came to pass that, in September of 1977, Bob and I (being lonely and desiring female companionship) dialed up the 8th Floor pay phone, and asked to speak to either of the girls in Room 814.

"Pam or Tracy?" asked the girl who answered the phone.

"Either," we said.

And so Bob and took turns talking to Pam and Tracy.  Probably they should have hung up on us right away, but were too nice.  We told them that we had lived in their same room (814) the year before.  They asked what we looked like, and we told them.  As far as I can remember, we told the truth.  We asked what they looked like, and they told us:  they were both slender; one of them was 6'0" and the other was 6'1" tall.

Our jaws dropped.  I was 5'9" and Bob was 5'7", so by all societal standards of which guys belong with which girls, it was a mismatch of epic proportions.  Still, they talked to us for more than 30 minutes.  And, even when we called back a different day, they answered and talked to us further.

You have to understand how primitive the dating scene was in those days.  There were no chat rooms, no dating sites, no eHarmony or the like.  But, as relatively unattractive males, we needed a way to interact with girls without them immediately becoming aware of our physical unimpressiveness.  Without knowing it, we were trying to invent the internet.

One day, we asked them to go on a date with us, and they agreed.  It surprised us, honestly.  The date was set for a Saturday around noon, just under two weeks from the time we called to ask.  In the intervening time, we assembled spiffy outfits.  We planned.  We drew pencil marks on the wall to graphically illustrate how tall 6'0" and 6'1" girls would be.  Our two other roommates thought we had gone off our rockers.

Finally the day came.  It was a gorgeous sunny September day in Manhattan, and we were to meet them in Central Park.  I had donned a lavender dress shirt, and we both had corduroy vests which we had purchased at the open air market on Orchard Street the previous weekend.  I think we had each doused ourselves with about half a bottle of Old Spice.  We went to the appointed large rock in Central Park and waited.  Of course, they never showed up.

What to do?  Of course, there were no cell phones, so we couldn't call to see if they'd gotten lost.  In the event, we took the subway down to FIT to see if they were in their room.  Maybe they had forgotten our date?  I don't remember how we got past the guard desk and the entrance to the FIT dorm (perhaps he remembered us from the year before), but we did. We rode the elevator up to the 8th Floor and knocked on the door to Room 814.  For a decently long while.  Of course, they were not there.  Probably, they had agreed to the date knowing that they'd both be out of the city that weekend.  Even then, I hoped that they hadn't had to skip town just to avoid meeting a couple of short guys.

We never bothered them after that. and they didn't call us.  As I began to write this memoir, it occurred to me for the first time that possibly they had lied to us about their heights and appearances.  Perhaps Pam and Tracy had actually been rotund little short girls.  I know we still would like to have met them.

If my memory serves me, we then headed down to McSoreley's Old Ale House.  There are very few wounds or sorrows that cannot be alleviated to some degree by sharing a few dark ales with a good friend.