Thursday, December 25, 2008


Well, it's Christmas, devoted readers, and, yes, like all great writers (I'll pause while you clean the coffee you just coughed up), I write every day, including Christmas Day. And I thought that, being as it's Christmas, I'd write about the subject of friendship and what my three closest friends mean to me.

Aristotle likened a friend to "another soul", and he believed that friendships stood as proof that altruism rather than egoism was the norm in human affairs. For my part, I prefer the old adage that there are two kinds of friends: the ones who will help you move, and the ones who will help you move bodies. I am very fortunate to count three such people in the latter category: Geoff, Shirley, and Alison, and while it's unlikely that I'll ever be phoning them from some seedy roadside motel in the middle of the night and explaining that the whole thing was a terrible accident, it's comforting to know they'd be there in a flash, with shovels, bleach, and plastic bags, if I did.

More than two decades ago, Shirley was my first real girlfriend (take note, young people, it is possible to successfully make the transition to "just friends") and has been unstinting in her friendship over the years, even in proportion to my (unintended) neglectfulness. Alison is like the sister I never had, and I derive immense solace from knowing that I am never more than a phone-call from her insight into the vagaries of life on topics ranging from B-class 80s horror movies to educational pedagogy. As for Geoff, well, he is the only blonde I've really loved and, I mean this quite sincerely, one of the smartest people I've ever met. They are, all of them, better friends to me than I have been to them; they would be worthy companions for anyone, so I feel blessed — in the secular sense of the word, of course — to count them among my own. A curious thing: I met Geoff in elementary school and Shirley and Alison in high school. Our friendships now span not years, but decades, and it is in such fires that real friendships are forged.

I admit that I botched the opportunity to make several solid friends in graduate school. I blame myself, but, then, I've always believed that real friendship requires that all measure of pretense be dropped, and, in my experience, at least, graduate school was all about maintaining pretensions. Only once and with only one person did I successfully manage to jettison that baggage while in school, but I went on to marry her, so her case is the exception to the rule. Amanda's is a lifelong companionship that transcends friendship in its ordinary meaning.

In the years since then, I've managed to settle down, become more-or-less comfortable in my own skin, and I am very glad to have made some new friends. They look like a promising bunch, and, who knows? If they play their cards right, they might just find me calling them at midnight from a Motel 6 some day.

Oh, and to all my friends, comrades, colleagues, acquaintances, and unknown readers of this blog, a very sincere Merry Christmas to you.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I'm back earlier than expected, but only because I have an important message about the crisis facing our nation. I'm speaking, of course, about the fact that my Trek 7300 has gone missing. If you see it, drop me a line.

I oppose capital punishment for several reasons. Still, some people deserve a good killing. Bicycle thieves, for instance. I got home yesterday afternoon to discover that our shed had been broken into and, yup, my bicycle was gone. Amanda's was still there, curiously, which leads me to believe that either there was only one thief or that it was an inside job. I think that the latter is extremely improbable. So that means that somebody with a sizeable pair of bolt cutters hacked his way into the shed (which is at the front of our house) in broad daylight and took my bike. As friends and devoted readers of this blog know, I don't drive, and so my bike is my primary method of transportation when the weather is a good. It wasn't yesterday, so I took the bus instead. Big mistake, it turns out.

The bicycle is one of the great democratizing inventions in human history. It provides reliable and relatively inexpensive transportation for hundreds of millions of people around the world. In my case, it gets me to work in about the same amount of time as driving at rush-hour, and in about half the time it takes to ride the bus. It's fun, on paths it's safe (and on roads, too, with a little care and, for me, unaccustomed automatic deference to others); I get some exercise out of it, and I get the satisfaction of not contributing to the global warming experiment that the rest of you are conducting with the only planet we have. So, bicycle thief, you've not only taken something that didn't belong to you, you've hastened the end of the world. Well done. If I knew who you were, I'd karate chop you.

Anyway, now I need a new bike. And more money. I liked my old bike just fine. It wasn't low end. It wasn't high end. It was just right. With a few repairs (it needed a fairly expensive one – take that, bike thieves!) it got me through the last ten years without a hitch. We had some good times, including some substantial bicycle trips. The photo, above, is me on the Niagara Parkway, the time Amanda and I cycled from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Falls. My only consolation is in hoping that maybe, just maybe, my beloved bike will be sold to somebody who needs it, too. Some slightly addled graduate student who is too dumb to figure out how to operate two pedals and steering wheel at the same time, for instance. There are plenty of those, at least.

Here's a test, by the way, of anyone who claims to be a Marxist. Steal his stuff and see if he really believes in the abolition of private property. If he catches you, just say, "Hey, I had the ability to take your stuff, and I really needed it, too."