You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Friday, April 30, 2010


(Please refer to other "disturbing" posts of 4/19, 3/25, and 2/9.)

By most people's standards I get up really early. Maybe for a couple of weeks during the height of summer, I open my eyes and see sunlight. For the other fifty or so weeks of the year, it is dark.

I like getting up early. I make coffee and when the weather permits, I put the coffee in a thermos and retire to the screened-in porch on the second story of my house. And I read. I drink coffee, and I read.

I also, several mornings a week, hear my elderly neighbor, Mr. Ball, standing at his back door and hacking up what might be his lungs. I hear a long rasp, like knuckles on a washboard, followed by a good forceful spit that I am sometimes a little jealous of. Since elementary school I have been a pitiful spitter. I used to think that possibly Mrs. Ball had issued a "no spitting in the house" edict, but one day this ritual took place shortly after dawn and I could see that Mr. Ball stood at the back door as their ancient, runty dog did her morning business in the back yard.

I always thought it was funny that the entire neighborhood, or any portion of it that happened to be up, possibly jogging or walking their own dogs, could hear this performance from at least a block away.

But one morning it hit me. Any of my other early-rising neighbors get not one but two shows. They have the pleasure of celebrating the sunrise scored to my own chorus of coughs, farts, and belches. The acoustics from my second-story perch are probably even better than those Mr. Ball enjoys from his back door.

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