March 27, 2019

Essay: Soul Seeing — At 69, I still find grace and God on the basketball court

The video of me playing basketball didn’t exactly go viral, but it did cause a bit of a stir among my Facebook friends.  And, later, it got me wondering about basketball and spirituality. It was during our usual Sunday afternoon pick-up game at St. Gertrude Catholic Church on Chicago’s Far North Side.  This game that’s been going on in one form or another since, at least, 1995, is for guys 40 and older although, on any given Sunday, one or more of the men will bring a son or daughter.  We like to see the kids because they run the fast break for us. Often, I’m the oldest guy on the court, and it was the week of my 69th birthday when my son took the video. In it, this tall old, overweight guy — me — takes a pass from the corner, turns to his right, dribbles under the basket and, without looking, flips the ball up over his shoulder, past the outstretched arms of another tall guy, to bounce off the backboard and into the basket.  Then, the old guy lumbers — and, I mean, lumbers — up the court to play defense. It’s a shot I’ve taken […]
March 25, 2019

Poem: “Rita”

Rita Locked in her leg braces, she smiles as though the act were a somersault. Patrick T. Reardon 3.25.19 This poem originally appeared in Sparrow magazine in 1977.
March 20, 2019

Essay: Complaining about just about everything

I want to complain about complaining. Wait, let me rephrase that.  I’d like to make some observations about the tendency of modern Americans to find fault with just about anything. First things first, I’m not lobbying for a Pollyanna-ish approach to life. Lord knows that there is enough pain, corruption, wrong-headedness, wickedness, oppression, lying and sheer stupidity in the world.  We all have to take up our cudgels against such evils with righteous anger and complaint — and action. Knee-jerk moaning What I’m looking at, however, is the epidemic of grumbling in American life, the way we’ve gotten into the knee-jerk habit of moaning and denouncing and criticizing.  I do it.  You do it.  We all do it. Many on the right contend that liberals are always getting offended and stamping around in high dungeon, but I’d suggest conservatives are very good at that as well.  Besides, this isn’t something restricted to politics. Think about it:  You’re standing in line at the grocery behind a family with two shopping carts full of stuff.  If the guy behind you strikes up a conversation, how likely is it that he’s going to comment on how pretty the song now playing on the […]
March 18, 2019

Book review: “Things That Go Trump in the Night: Poems of Treason and Resistance” by Paul Fericano

The final poem in Paul Fericano’s new biting, silly and fittingly sophomoric poetry collection Things That Go Trump in the Night: Poems of Treason and Resistance (Poems-For-All Press, 90 pages, $7), is titled “TRUMP CHANGE,” and it has a single line: what’s in your wallet? This is a play on Samuel L. Jackson’s ubiquitous commercials for a bankcard company with that punchline — a Jacksonesque-thundering assertion that, if you have the card of another company, you are guilty of financial stupidity and of being a seabottom-scouring loser. When it come to the application of this line with its subtext to an American electorate that, two years ago, voted in as President of the United States Donald J. Trump, well, if the shoe fits…. “Moochies and huckabees” For his 42 poems here, Fericano has mined the full range of culture, from pop to historic, as in his use of the traditional Scottish prayer that is likely to resonate with most readers, even if those not experts on Scottish theology.  The original reads: From ghoulies and ghosties And long-leggedy beasties And things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us! Kinda cute if you don’t believe in any of that […]
March 14, 2019

Book review: “The Jazz Alphabet” by Neil Shapiro

There are many pleasures in Neil Shapiro’s newly published The Jazz Alphabet — and you don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to enjoy them. This book by Neil — a friend — draws readers, whatever their musical allegiance, into the jazz world in vibrant and savory ways.  From the images he crafted and the words he put on display, I could almost taste the tang and sugar of this great music. “Brought it” As the title suggests, Neil builds his book, available for $35 at https://www.cognitoforms.com/SunriseHitekGroupLLC/thejazzalphabet, around the 26 letters of the alphabet, offering a two-page spread for a single music-maker for each letter. Thus, “R” is for Django Reinhardt (illustrated invitingly with smoke curling from the cigarette in his lips beneath a pencil-thin moustache as he plays his guitar), and “G” is for Dexter Gordon (a straight-head presence on the page, either just getting ready to play or just finishing). On the lefthand page of each spread are a few sentences from Neil, such as his comment on Billie Holiday: The tremulous vulnerability in Billie Holiday’s voice is unique.  Even while she balances on the edge of seeming despair, there’s a sly promise of pleasure in there.  How […]
March 11, 2019

Book review: “Eichman in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” by Hannah Arendt

Early in Eichmann in Jerusalem, her insightful, sober and controversial 1964 book, Hannah Arendt notes that Adolf Eichmann — tried, convicted and executed in Jerusalem for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity during the Holocaust — was a joiner. As a result, she writes that “May 8, 1945, the official date of Germany’s defeat, was significant for him mainly because it then dawned upon him that thenceforward he would have to live without being a member of something or other.”  Indeed, as Eichmann said: “I sensed I would have to live a leaderless and difficult individual life, I would receive no directives from anybody, no orders and commands would any longer be issued to me, no pertinent ordinances would be there to consult – in brief, a life never known before lay before me.” A leaderless life This, to me, seems to be at the heart of Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann and his import for anyone seeking to understand those who carried out the Nazi-ordered killing of six million Jews and millions of others leading up to and during World War II.  And not just who, but also how and why. When, on May 11, 1960, Eichmann was kidnapped […]
March 6, 2019

Book review: “Unnatural Axe” by Tom Huth

Published in 1969, Tom Huth’s Unnatural Axe is a time capsule from a moment — a very short blip — in American time. The innocence of the 1960’s idealism and freedom was beginning to sour, but no one could quite figure out what was going on.  Huth’s novel tells the story of the swaggering, hyper-cool winners in Ute City (a stand-in for Aspen, Colorado) and the footloose but not exactly fancy-free hippies of the nearby rural slum town of Puckersville.  These characters find themselves trying to maneuver in a startlingly new way of living the American dream that, unbeknownst to them, would turn out to be as wispy as the powder of a dandelion puff. Baffling uncertainty A half century after its publication, Unnatural Axe seems quaint.  Yet, anyone who lived through those times recognizes the baffling uncertainty these characters feel in the face of so much that is strange and unprecedented. Huth makes fun of the Ute City movers and shakers and finds kinship with the more anarchic freedom of Puckersville.  But his characters are very serious in trying to blaze new trails to happiness and fulfillment — to meaning. In an odd way, this underlying search for meaning […]
March 4, 2019

Book review: “Fluke, Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings” by Christopher Moore

In his 2003 novel Fluke, Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings, Christopher Moore gets all science-y on us. And more than a little science fiction-y (but without all those nasty aliens). And even a bit religious-y, what with the characters talking a lot about prayer and God and you know.  But not like Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Moore’s 2002 novel about, well, Jesus — but it wasn’t preachy, just kind of sad, but it was funny and raunchy a bit (but not Jesus being raunchy, although he is more than a bit confused about a lot of stuff [until the end when, oh — I said it was kind of sad, didn’t I?]). The Zodiac story There’s more than a bit of raunchiness in Fluke involving people in some cases and creatures in others — such as whales (including two big whale guys [whom, Moore informs us, are endowed with testes weighing about a ton each and a 10-foot penis] who mistakenly think a Zodiac inflatable boat containing two female (human) scientists is the object of their common affection and, well, act upon that assumption, if you get my drift. The two female […]