Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Following up on our previous story, "Tumbleweeds and Crabgrass," here's another one about bad parenting. Its author asked me to withhold it for the longest time, but was perhaps emboldened when he saw that he was not alone. In the intimate, soul-searching experiences I've had in men's circles over the years (25 of them, since I first started this challenging and rewarding work,) I have heard more stories about men failing the test of fatherhood than I can count. The wounds run deep, and last often well into adulthood. There are those, I'm sure, who never do recover. There are those who spend years in therapy--not to mention a ton of money!--as a result. And there are those, of course, who simply breeze past the experienced put it all behind them. As the author of "Tumbleweeds" wrote to me after the appearance of his story: "So long ago. Forgive and forget."
Monday, April 24, 2017
TUMBLEWEEDS AND CRABGRASS
Monday, April 10, 2017
Here's the image of a painting by Sam that I saw last time I visited his studio:
|Sam Erenberg, Study for The Battle of Los Angeles No.3|
acrylic, oil on canvas
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Anyway... I wanted to do this quick check-in, in part because I have been neglectful of this blog these past two or three weeks. I still have stories to publish, and will get back to them soon. But I'll confess to being somewhat discouraged by the response the blog has been getting--just a few visits a day, a handful of followers, and nary a "comment" since day one. I've used all the social networking techniques I'm aware of, but nothing has helped very much. So this is a plea to interested readers: would you be so kind as to reach out and recommend the blog to friends, whether virtual or real; or otherwise suggest ways in which the blog could be made more interesting to a wider audience. I still think the idea is a good one. I think it's a valuable exercise for us men to look back and rediscover some part of ourselves that we may have lost along the way.
Please let me hear from you, either in response to this post or via personal email (peterclothier at mac dot com) if you have any thoughts. Your feedback would be welcome.
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
|Theodore Svenningsen, "Bridge in the Electric Fields," 42" x 48", acrylic on canvas (this artist does not date his works)|
|Theodore Svenningsen, "Is This a Painting," 12" x 12", acrylic on canvas|
|Theodore Svenningsen, "We Came to Criticize," 12" x 12". acrylic on canvas|
Any other memories of school days and the influence of teachers would be welcome. Please let me know. In the meantime, this for today...
Thursday, February 23, 2017
|Here's Mark in an OC Register picture accompanying a review of his exhibition, "American Crazy: Life out of Balance".|
As a noted photographer, Mark uses satire...
|Mark Chamberlain, "Fashion Island: Future Fossil series," 1977|
|Mark Chamberlain, "Lip Service at Chicken Little's Emporium: Future Fossil series," 1975|
|Mark Chamberlain, "Dorothy's Dream," 1988, 5' x 15' Cibachrome photogram/Tellgram|
|Mark Chamberlain et al., "The Tell," 1989, 34' at high point x 363', plywood skinned sculpture with 200,000 collaged photographs|
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
|Here's Marco as a young man, in his native city of Florence, 1966|
No matter how different we might be as people, nor how quarrelsome or angry with the world, we found ourselves fraternally united in the great “Pietà” of Florence, washing and soothing the open wounds of the aching, lacerated body of a city brought to its knees. It is this vision I recall, as both spectator and emotional participant, as the most beautiful moment of an otherwise terrible and unforgettable event; and I will always thank providence for the privilege of living it.
|Marco Sassone, Aftermath, 1968, oil on canvas, 71x71 inches|
|Marco Sassone, San Francisco Marina Dusk, 1984, oil on canvas, 50x62 inches (private collection, Orange County, California)|
Monday, February 13, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Smoking was strictly forbidden at my boarding school, and punishable by "six of the best", if caught. So of course any rebellious teenager worth his salt took to smoking--behind the hedges, in the woods, in back of the chapel, wherever a safe place could be found.
It will seem strange to anyone much younger than myself, but in those days--the fifties--the seats in every cinema were conveniently provided with an ashtray affixed to the back of the seat in front of it. You could smoke to your heart's content throughout the movie presentation, without fear of recognition or discovery in the dark.
Unless I was particularly flush with pocket money and I could afford my preferred Dunhills, my usual cigarettes were the working class man's Woodbines. They were tiny, thin cigarettes, about half the size of your normal smoke, and they came in small green packages of ten, for what...? A shilling or so. They could be inhaled quickly, on a working man's break, and snuffed out with a tweak, if necessary, for relighting at a later grabbed moment.
So at every opportunity--my school gave half-holidays on Saints' Days, for example--when we were allowed off school grounds for the length of an afternoon, I would choose to go to the cinema. No matter what the movie, I would light up as soon as the lights went down and chain-smoke through the end of the performance. No matter that I'd return to school feeling sick to my stomach...
God knows what damage to heart and lungs was caused to movie-goers those days. I remember, the air was thick with tobacco smoke. It took me another forty years to begin to undo the damage to myself that I cheerfully started during those teenage years. If it hadn't been banned, would I have chosen a less destructive, and eventually less addictive path to rebellion? Who knows?
Thursday, February 9, 2017
hillbilly country of the Appalachian mountains. Remarkable is the fact that he survived it, despite the odds against him, ending up at Yale Law School starting out on a successful career as an attorney.
It's not easy to read about such a painfully dysfunctional boyhood. Vance's father was an alcoholic (and later an evangelical Christian) who left the family when he was no more than a tot, and his desperately unstable mother teetered for years from one disastrous relationship to the next. Addicted to the (mostly) prescription drugs she was able to purloin as a nurse, she was unfit for motherhood and unable to provide the kind of home that any child needs. Any halfway healthy parenting the boy received came from his feisty, gun-toting grandmother, Mamaaw, and her not-quite estranged husband, Papaaw, who lived separately nearby.
And yet... the erratic, insecure hillbilly family and the community of the poverty-ridden small town in which he was raised inspired a fierce kind of loyalty in the boy, along with a shared suspicion and resentment of the world beyond its limited horizons. It offered him an identity to which he clung in a kind of stubborn, desperate bid for survival in an alien and unpredictable environment. If you're nicely brought up in the American middle class and even moderately well educated in a functional school system, this book will open your eyes to "how the other half lives"--the working class that was until recently a truly "working" class but has lately been deprived not only of work but also the dignity, the economic security and the hope that go along with decent and reliable employment.
How to escape such a culturally deprived environment? Vance joined the Marines. I myself am no fan of the "military-industrial complex", which wields far too much power in this country; but I have great respect for the men and women who have served in it. I never fail to be impressed with the stand-up quality, whether of leaders like General Colin Powell or those who served less prominently, but equally honorably in their way. I think it has to do, in part, with the whole idea of service--the experience of having to come to terms with something greater than oneself to which to pay allegiance, the understanding that one is no more than one part of a functioning whole. When you know that others depend on you, you learn to respect their needs as much as, perhaps even more than, your own.
It has also to do, surely, with simple discipline--something is that too frequently ignored in both family life and school these days. For Vance, after a life unconstrained by social convention or effective educational requirement, the Marine experience provided an invaluable lesson--one that instilled in him a kind of assurance and self-confidence he had lacked before. It was this, too, that equipped him with the persistence and determination he needed to step out of the life that otherwise awaited him--a life of ignorance and poverty--and into the experience of university and law school, where he learned more than what the books and professors had to teach him; he learned how to expect, and demand for himself, a functional life, a stable relationship, and a professional ladder to success. He grew a spine.
Vance's book offers a valuable insight into the rage and resentments that fuel today's political revolt amongst what used to be the working class. He learned to despise the dependency and seemingly willful ignorance of those unable--and eventually unwilling--to find work, even as he identified with them. He learned what threatened to develop, for him too, into a destructive self-hatred, resentment, and eagerness to cast blame on a system and a historical trope that left his family and community feeling neglected, unheard, and betrayed. For those of us mystified and dismayed by the rise of Donald Trump, this is a needed education.
Monday, February 6, 2017
I thought it might be a good idea to get back to fathers for a while. Good dads, bad dads. Absent dads, doting dads. Fearsome dads, loving dads... We all had them. Dads, I mean. Some good, some not so good. For most of us, they had an enormous influence on our lives, whether as role models or, in some cases, the cause of great pain or aversion. I've heard some horror stories, some inspiring stories, some stories of lasting love or lasting anger.
If you have a father story to add to my collection, I'd love to receive it.
For the moment, here's one I found particularly moving. It's a complex story, combining not only the memory of a strong father brought to tears, but also a boy's relationship to his dog--and the larger theme of death. The feeling of guilt, too, plays a role... My thanks to Stuart Balcomb, the musician and composer, for submitting it.