February 10, 2010

Is The Olympic Flame Worth The Candle?

I'm already sick and tired of The 2010 Olympic Games.
And they haven't even started yet. Living so close to Vancouver
doesn't help any. The media over-kill is brutal. But at least
I'm not living on the Lower Mainland. Amid all the Hoop-la,
both pro and con, one has to ask the one big question-
                          "Is It Worth It?"
Is having the world (or those people in it who have access
to cable television) watch a two week long sporting event
worth what Vancouver (and Canada) have had to put up
with to put the damn thing on? In other words, what's in it
for us?  We know the drill > jobs during an economic 
slowdown > infrastructure > prestige > national pride
vs. the chaos and the clampdown. And the relentless
hype. Will the tourists flood our cities after this circus
leaves town? How much money will it cost to put on
the show? No one knows. 
  We do know that the "security costs" of 2010 are about 
a billion dollars. And who, exactly, pays for that?
The one BIG problem that everyone seems to agree
Vancouver has, above all else, is the number of people
"living" on the streets. For a billion bucks you could give
a thousand homeless people a really decent condo and 
a half a million dollars - EACH. It's nice to know we've got
our priorities straight.

   We are told that these are tough economic times,
which is why Arts Funding have been cut in British 
Columbia. As have School Board Budgets.
Sorry, our Government tells us, we just don't have 
the money. But 15,000 cops and soldiers brought into
Vancouver? Not a problem. Security you understand.

And if Canada doesn't win Gold in the hockey finals-
well, the terrorists have won.

  There are enough reports on VANOC's bullying 
antics to make most Canadian's cringe. 
  The most succinct critique I've read on what the Olympics
have done to the very spirit of Vancouver is written
by Vancouver's own Poet Laureate (and, please, 
don't let that scare you away) Brad Cran in this wonderful
article he's just written >
hope the link works and you get a chance to read it.

Like most Canadians I'll probably watch some of the show
on TV. Cheer when we win, and get a little lump
in my throat whenever I see some kids singing 
the national anthem. But I'll probably also wonder
who's paying for these fireworks?
How much for the smoke?
How much for the mirrors?

February 8, 2010

The Day J.D. Salinger Wrote Me A Letter

That would have been January 2nd, 1980.

Here's the story: I sent a birthday card to J.D. Salinger 
c/o General Delivery, 
Windsor, Vermont,
because I knew, from my research, that was where he picked up his mail.
I can't remember exactly what I wrote in the card, but believe I included a Japanese Haiku.
Awhile later I received a letter postmarked "White River Junction / PM 3 Jan 1980" 
with a 15¢ Oliver Wendell Homes stamp. My name and address typed on the envelope,
and a short hand written note inside that read (in it's entirety):

Windsor, VT
Jan. 2/80

Thank you for
your good wishes,
P. McKinnon. Returned
in full, surely.

That was it. That was all. That was enough.

Thirty years later JDS has passed on, just after his 91st Birthday.

***    ***   ***

What to say about Jerome David Salinger?

Here's the thing >
The last story J.D. Salinger officially published was in 1965.
He only ever published ONE novel.
He only ever published FOUR books.

"What's he building in there?"
- Tom Waits

What was Salinger doing since 1965?
Well, by all accounts, he was writing.
And that, apparently, was just about ALL he was doing.

He was a writer.
He wrote.
And he wrote.
And he wrote.
And he wrote some more.

He just never published anything after 1965.
He didn't have to.
The royalties from "The Catcher In The Rye" made him a wealthy man.
And he lived like a monk.
Cloistered away in a cell somewhere in the backwoods of New Hampshire.

Will any of his work ever see the light of day?
Will we ever get to read any more tales of The Glass Family?
Who knows?
Not me.

And what kind of stuff does someone write about when they've been
living in the woods for 40 years?
What would he have come up with after all that time?

One could never call J.D. Salinger an "ordinary" writer.
"Catcher" blew the doors off the 20th Century American Novel.
And things just got stranger from there.
I mean, what would you even call "Seymour: An Introduction", anyway?
Some kind of "Fictional Memoir"?
"Hapworth 16, 1924", Salinger's last published piece of writing
is, essentially, a seven year old boy's letter to his parents from Summer Camp.

"Hello Mudda/
Hello Fadder..."

Salinger's passing prompted me to start re-reading my copy of "Dream Catcher"
a memoir written by Salinger's daughter Margaret.
It's not very well written, and could have used a good editor, but it did
tell me a few things about JDS that put his writing into a slightly different perspective.
One of those things are the little details of his life that he sneaks into his stories.
The other is Salinger's experience during World War Two.
I knew he was in the war, that was no secret, but I didn't know how DEEPLY
he was in the war. He was a staff sergeant The Twelfth Infantry division,
and landed on Utah Beach on D-Day. He helped liberate Paris.
He was "in the thick of it" - taking part  in some of the most strategically 
important battles of the war. He saw some pretty brutal stuff.
And he suffered a nervous breakdown, known back then as "battle fatigue."
And he carried the scars long after the war.

Anyone who's read "The Catcher In The Rye" knows that, at one point in the story,
all Houlden Caulfield wants to do is find a girl, and go live in a cabin in the woods,
far way from everybody, and everything, and have a couple of kids.

In an amazing example of Life imitating Art, that's exactly what the book
allowed its author to do.
Things didn't exactly turn out as planned.
But that's another story.

Jerome David Salinger
Rest In Peace.

Thanks for the stories
...and the letter.